Thursday, May 29, 2014

Appalachian Winter - Silence Before the Great Mountain Wind

Epic black metal is probably my favorite of all genres because of the way it's constructed. It's more like classical music than anything else and it's that classical sound that gives certain bands that epic feeling. Then we have the lyrics of this type of music and they are usually based on nature, especially winter and the colder more grim aspects of nature. I currently live in the mountains of western Pennsylvania which is part of the Appalachian range and it just so happens that I found a one man band from not far from me that actually creates epic and cold black metal, with lyrics that relate to the mountains that we both call home.

Appalachian Winter is the brainchild of Schellsburg, PA resident Daniel Klyne, who plays all instruments as well as the vocals. His music is provided to metal fans for free and his first album, Silence Before the Great Mountain Wind, was released in August of 2008. The music is epic black metal, and is sometimes considered symphonic black metal but, to me, this band has more in common with Moonsorrow than with Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir. So what we have here music that just reminds you of the frozen mountains with lyrics that match the music to provide the total experience. The album opener is the title track and you immediately feel the cold and winter in this music. A slower more melodic song we do see some blasts and melodic tremolo riffs interspersed throughout the song. Ten minutes in length this song tells a story of how living in this region in the winter can be unforgiving and desolate. The keyboards provide the atmosphere as well as the backing vocal chants throughout the song. Appalachian Winter is not just a cool band name, that is what this band and album are all about.

The music on this album can be hypnotizing as it segues from soft, acoustic passages to blasting metal but it does it without sacrificing the melody and it's the melodic riffs and vocals that truly take this album to another level. "Into the Abode of Wolves" is a straight up black metal song that starts with an acoustic passage then blasts right into the tremolos with the grim vocals sounding like something straight out of Norway in1992. "Windstorm" hits you the same way with it's cold, grim sound that blasts you as if you are in the middle of a blizzard. In contrast you have "Forest of a Thousand Ghosts" that takes you on a journey through the wilderness that makes up this forbidden landscape. As you listen you feel yourself there in the story the song is relating to you. The riffing goes from some thrashers to melodic tremolos and the keys adds another dimension to this song. Clocking in at a little over eight minutes this epic song is one of my favorites of the genre due to the sheer beauty of it. "The Mountain in Stone" is a cool concept because the lyrics are basically the mountains speaking to you. More of a straight up metal number, you can still feel the sheer epic nature of this band. Once again, you are part of the music, not just listening to it.

Every once in a while you come across a band that can bring something special to the table and this is one of those bands. Mr. Klyne lives in the Appalachian mountains and it shows in his music. Like his Scandinavian counterparts, he creates music and lyrics that speak of his environment. I love it because finally you don't have to live in Norway to feel the icy cold of winter in black metal but instead I can relate to the harsh landscapes and unforgiving lands that made the music from across the pond so special. Winters in this region are now immortalized by this amazing and special music. I love it, you should too.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Misery Index - The Killing Gods

Misery Index is a band from my hometown of Baltimore that, for some unknown reason, I never paid much attention to. I was introduced to drummer Adam Jarvis by Evan (MDF organizer) several years back but still didn't decide to pick up anything by them. From the little I had heard they were a death metal/grindcore mix that just didn't grab me enough to get any of their releases. With the release of their fifth full length, The Killing Gods, I can now say that I will be paying more attention to this band. It seems that a lot of the grindcore elements have been stripped away leaving us with some relentless, riff driven death metal. Not only did this album make me notice this band, this album is now, at the very least, going to be in my top ten come year end.

This album is just a full out onslaught of huge riffs, killer solos and even some cool melodies that made me really stand up and take notice. This album even goes into epic territory with the way they wrote the first five songs that constitute a mini concept within the album. Starting with "Urfaust" as an intro they come out with all guns blazing with "The Calling" and right away you get the idea that this is a pure death metal album. The riffs are driving this song and some are brutal and pummeling while the tremolos are providing just a slight bit of melody. The solos are all metal are just amazing with lots of melody and enough technicality to make them believable. You get the idea here that this is not just another death/grind album but a musical statement. The vocals remind me of Johan Hegg for the most part and just fit this crushing music perfectly. The highlight of the concept portion of this album is "The Harrowing." This song begins with blasts, crushing riffs and a lead that is just punishing. This may even be my favorite song on the album. The solo is, once again, godly and melodic and just makes the song even better.

The remainder of the album is a good balance of death metal and some grindcore elements so this album will appeal to fans of both genres. The production is modern but not too polished or compressed but has the perfect mix. The title track has some interesting grooves in the riffing and is the longest song on the album. But the time is not wasted as the aural assault just keeps coming throughout the song. Songs like "Gallows Humor", "The Weakener," and "Heretics" are further examples of the cool grooves that they put into the riffing while still maintaining the brutality. Then you have "Sentinels" that just beats the living fuck outta you for two and half minutes with serious blasts and massive riffing. These are just some examples of the variety of songs that you have here on this album. These guys aren't fuckin' around here, they are here to kick your ass. But they do it with finesse and with huge amounts of technicality. Oh, and did I mention the solos, yet? Well I'm doing it again because they are a huge reason why this album is so good.

So now that I have finally picked up my first album by this band, I will be revisiting the remainder of their catalog. All I know is that this album made me finally take notice of this brutal but technical band. So if you like your death metal with a hint of grindcore, serious grooves, and killer solos then get this album.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Hoth - Oathbreaker

Some bands defy genres to create a sound that may not fit into a certain box and there seems to be some controversy over the genre and lyrical themes of Seattle's Hoth. Yes, their name is the ice planet from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Yes, their new album, Oathbreaker, is a concept album that could be the tale of the life of Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader). Yes, their name is also the modern Anglicized version of the ancient Norse god Höðr and their lyrics do fit a certain fallen heroes theme. But there is enough ambiguity there to let these things be decided by the listener. Some say their music is melodic death metal when others say it could be melodic black metal. Once again, let the listener be the judge.

Instead of focusing on all these things that, in the end, do not matter I will focus on what does matter...the music. This band plays epic metal that is spellbinding and, at times, entrancing. I think they have a more epic melodic black metal sound to them with a bit of folk in there as well. The songs on this album are more like compositions and are long in length with many different dimensions. Going from blasting riffs and beats to softer, acoustic passages this band takes you on a journey with the music and their lyrics putting you right there as if you could visualize the story being told. The musicianship here is incredible and the songwriting is just amazing. The band is just a duo and the line up is even ambiguous as it just says Eric Peters and David Dees with nothing telling you who plays what. This only adds to the mystery of this epic band and makes them even more intriguing. Listening to this album, you do get a cold, almost frozen vibe to the music as well as the story being told here.

"The Unholy Conception" starts things off here and there is no shortage of riffs and melodies going on here. Part speedy and blasting with an acoustic part in the middle this song is all epic as it starts the journey off on the right foot. The vocals have a black metal sound and compliment the music well. "A Blighted Hope" is actually a little more than half acoustic but when the riffs kick in you can feel yourself becoming part of the story here. Blasting riffs along with some keyboards to provide a beautiful melody within all of the cold and grimness. It's one of the shorter tracks on the album it's no less epic than the rest. Then you have a song like "Acolyte of the Tenebrous Night" that is all business in the riffing and blasting. The song has that lead riffing that reminds me of Windir, with the keys just slightly there to provide the atmosphere but not to drive the songs. If I had to pick one song to be a favorite, it would be this one. However, this is not a "song" album because if you take any song away or add anything to it, the feeling would not be there. This album must be wholly consumed to be able to totally appreciate what's going on here.

If the album thus far doesn't tell you that this band defies genres, then "Unending Power" will seal the deal. This song is all over the place starting off with killer thrash riffs and low guttural death growls to the slower part in the middle that reminds me of Opeth in a way. Then it gets progressive with the riffs playing to some odd time signatures then going balls out into just sheer ass kicking blasting. The songwriting is so good that even though there is a lot going on, the band is not overreaching nor sounding pretentious. They are just that amazing. The album closer and longest song on the album, "Despair" again shows what this band is made of. Clocking in at just under nine minutes you can tell this is the climax of the album. Going further than to fuse several sounds into one song, it appears to end in the middle only to begin again as a slightly psychedelic outro for the remaining two and half minutes or so. What a perfect way to end this brilliant and amazing album.

So at the end of the day, all that really matters is the music. Trying to pick this album and this band apart to pigeonhole them into a specific category is useless. The only category you could give to this album is amazing. From beginning to end this album is the epitome of what an epic metal concept album should be. The sounds create the mood for the story that's being told here. Get this album, plug in your headphones, put it on and let it take you away. You will not regret it.


Ambush - Firestorm

So traditional heavy metal is making a come back. Yeah, I know, it never left. What makes this new crop of heavy metal bands different is that fact that they not only is their music reminiscent of the early 80s but he finished products actually sound like they were produced in 1984. Sweden has produced two of my favorite bands of this movement, Enforcer and Screamer. Now we can add Ambush to that list of Swedish bands that take me back to my youth when heavy metal was taking form creating it's own identity and not just an offshoot of hard rock. This album reminds me of my high school days and makes me remember what made me fall in love with heavy metal to begin with.

The band was formed in 2013 and has released their debut album called Firestorm and they could not have picked a better title because this is truly a firestorm of balls to the wall traditional heavy metal. The band's influences are easy to see as they take from Judas Priest and Accept all the while adding their own identity. Yeah, there are some major cliches here but that's the beauty of it all. They come out firing from both barrels with the title track. A fast headbanging track that reminds me of both of the aforementioned bands. At times the vocalist has an old Halford vibe to him but it's not a ripoff (*cough Ralf Scheepers cough*). The song is loaded with trad metal riffs and hooks with a chorus that is catchy all the while adding in the "gang" backing vocals. The solos are what you would expect, blazing and somewhat technical. This is your typical heavy metal album opener and it just takes me back. This is heavy fucking metal at it's finest. No, there is nothing original or earth shattering going on here just well written heavy metal songs that take me back to the old days.

These guys write good catchy songs and I guess that's what makes them stand out from other bands that are emerging doing the same things these days. "Hellbound" is another catchy song that sees vocalist Oskar Jacobsson going in Halford territory and doing it well. He can hit some serious high notes. A mid paced number, the song itself kinda reminds of an old Saxon song. In contrast, the next song, "Don't Shoot (Let 'Em Burn)," is almost a speed metal song that is riff laden with soaring vocals and another amazing solo. The guitar work on this album is absolutely brilliant. Not overly technical or with too much wankery going on but instead used to complement the song. The main riff as well as the "gang" vocals in the chorus of "Molotov Cocktail" reminds me so much of Accept but with enough of it's own identity to be a song that actually pays homage to their influences. And for them to be able to do that but at the same time write songs that are catchy as fuck makes this album that much more enjoyable. The chorus and backing vocals on "Natural Born Killers" is actually worth getting this album in and of itself! Another song where everything just fits together perfectly.

I can listen to this album over and over again all the while reminiscing about the old days. Even the album's length is a throwback being only thirty-seven and a half minutes, about the average time for any metal album from 30 years ago. This band and album is much more than a throw back. Any band can be a throw back band but to do it while creating songs that are good and catchy is a sign of a band that is serious about heavy metal. Everything I love about metal is packaged in this album. This is a young band that is full of energy and I'm excited to see what they bring to the table in the future. If you love heavy metal at all then this album is essential.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Vinterbris - Solace

Norway's Vinterbris is a band tagged as melodic black metal but there seems to be so much more to this band. Active since 2008, this quartet from Bergen released an EP in 2010 and their full length debut in 2011. My first exposure to this band was with their upcoming second full length album entitled Solace. To say that this is just a melodic black metal release is really not doing this band any justice. If I were to describe them I would say that they play epic melodic black metal but with many other dimensions to include progressive, folk, melo-death, and traditional metal. All these elements combined with the epic music they create to make this band one of the most unique bands I've ever listened to.

The sounds on this album flow between acoustic parts to tremolo riffs over blast beats to traditional metal riffing with some progressive elements as well. For instance, the album opener, "Dysphoria," starts off with a beautiful acoustic guitar with some atmospheric sounding guitars added in almost reminding me of Opeth in a way. The main riff is tremolo with blast beats. Then it goes to a more progressive sound back over to the acoustic guitars again. The vocals are a typical black metal vocals that suit the music perfectly. They add some lower growls here and there but for the most part just black metal shrieks. Adding all these elements into the song this band is capable of taking a three and half minute song into epic territory leaving you wanting more when it seems to end rather abruptly. All the dimensions that make up this band makes it hard to actually describe the music going on here. Amazing could be one word.

The album only gets better as we go along with "Ash Alight" combining blasting tremolos and progressive elements adding so much atmosphere to the song. Midway through there is a solo that even takes this song to another level. This is a band that takes you on a musical journey rather than just play you a song. They play with so much emotion that you can actually feel their music. Every song being a particular part of the journey. "Fathoms" reminds me of Dissection in places as they manage to take the song in so many directions. The acoustic part in the middle adds beauty and passion. Sometimes a band like this can try too hard and wind up overreaching but this is not the case here. They execute their brand of metal flawlessly.  But then you have a song like "Gazing at a Fallen Sky" that just relies on being a riff heavy rocker with only touches of the epic atmosphere in the solo. The solos on this album are incredible as their not wank fests but instead add beauty and melody into these songs.
This is a rather short album with six songs coming in just shy of thirty-six minutes but they manage to use that time very wisely. The song times very but most are between six and eight minutes long. The production is nice and clean so that all instruments come through in a perfect mix. The drums can sometimes overpower during the blast beats but for the most part this is a perfect mix. One of the highlights of this album is the eight minute opus, "The Aurora of Despair."  This song is just about as epic as it can get starting out with electric and acoustic guitars creating this beautiful atmosphere leading to a main riff that is just infectious. The vocals almost feel as if they are narrating a story. The song has so much depth and feeling. The solo is absolutely amazing adding so much more melody and atmosphere to the song. Another highlight is the closer, "Euphoria." This song has so many dimensions and layers but the execution is amazing. The beginning has some folk elements added in with the acoustic guitars coming in just under the the electric guitars in some areas adding yet another layer to an already epic song.

To me, it doesn't get any better than this. This is a band of supremely talented musicians that write songs full of epic beauty and musical landscapes. Each time I listen to this album I hear another layer...another dimension that I didn't seem to hear previously. This is already one of my favorite albums and one that is a leading contender for album of the year. Every song, every note put together perfectly to create a masterpiece. I truly can not find one flaw with this album. I'm already anticipating what will come next for this talented young band.

Special thanks to Joel Costa and Nordavind Records for the digital promo.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Sinister - The Post-Apocalyptic Servant

Sinister is a band from The Netherlands that have been in existence since 1988 and is one of the more well known of the early 90s death metal surge. Even though they are Dutch, they have very little to do with any death metal coming out of Europe but instead have much more of a Florida sound. They're actually a rather inconsistent band having some all out classics as well as some really bad albums but for the most part they are a veteran death metal band that's is capable of putting out good albums. Their new and eleventh full length, The Post-Apocalyptic Servant shows a mature band but still more than capable of making a stand out death metal album.

This album is full of monster death metal riffs and amazing soloing as if this was 1992 all over again. The riffs go from tremolos to monster thrashers that just pummel you. The album opener, "The Science of Prophecy" is the perfect example of the excellent riffing in a catchy song. It starts off with a voice over then leads to crushing riffs. The vocals are the low, evil and angry growls that define the genre and fit the music. This is a great song to open the album. The solo is amazing and I love a good solo. "The Sculpture of Insanity" is another song that just rips from beginning to end with crushing speed and riffs to infinity. The title track is more of the same with blasting speed and the tremolo riffing adds to the sound putting a hint of melody in the chaos. But besides the speed and blasting is what makes this album stand out...that it's not just all speed and chaos but it has a lot of elements of thrash that was prominent in the early 90s death metal.

Songs like "The Macabre God" and "The End of All That Conquers" are two songs where the band slows it down just a bit and has those thrash riffs that just pound you. The solos are as they should be, speedy but with enough technique to be believable. "The Art of Skin Decoration" is another song that just starts off with this cool groove in the beginning then just crushes you with these massive riffs. This is probably my favorite song on the album. This is just catchy as fuck and the solo just makes it grab you even more. This is nothing's just good songwriting. It's good to see that after all these years and the fact that they had such an inconsistent career that they still have an album like this left in them. They are serious on this album and it shows.

The album clocks in at just under forty four minutes with only a couple of songs breaching the five minutes plus mark which is just perfect for this album because then it doesn't become too drawn out. The production is ballsy and perfect as it's not over polished nor does it sound too compressed. This seems to be the year for death metal because there's been an overwhelming amount of quality death metal released this year so far and there is more coming. This album is right up there with them because this time Sinister got it right. The riffing combined with the songwriting and supreme musicianship shown on this album is how death metal should be done.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Absolva - Anthems to the Dead

UK's Absolva is a band formed in 2012 by members of Fury UK and has had a strange history. After releasing one full length in 2012 they released a live CD and live DVD in 2013, which is strange for any band. Lead guitarist and lead vocalist Chris Appleton is the brother of Luke Appleton who, along with being a member of Fury UK with brother Chris, is the current bass player for Iced Earth. So now Absolva has released it's second full length album, Anthems of the Dead and what you get is some melodic riff driven traditional metal. Guest appearances on this album by bassist brother Luke on a few songs as well as Saxon axeman Doug Scarratt tells you what should be expected.

This band is not going to be known for creating anything groundbreaking but instead they just play heavy metal that's catchy and loaded with riffs. It seems that Chris Appleton is the star of this show being two of the best parts of this album, the vocals and the lead guitars. Vocally he sounds a bit like Jonny Lindqvist (Nocturnal Rites) with a touch of Andi Deris (Helloween), although he has much more of a range than either when he wants to and only sounds like those guys in his mid register. The solos on this album also stand out because of his sheer technical abilities as well as the fact that they are catchy and tasteful. The opener, "The Devil's Mouth" starts things off with massive traditional metal riffs and blazing melodies. Mid paced for most of the song there are some impressive speedy parts and the bridge before the solo has a great melody and a high note by Mr. Appleton worthy of Daniel Heiman. As a lead guitarist he reminds me of Criss Oliva a bit in his execution.

The songs here range from the more speedy power metal types to songs that have those mid paced gallops but each song is unique in and of itself. This album does not get boring because of the variety of songs on here.  The title track is one of the more speedy to mid paced songs that has riffs that are crushing and melodies that are infectious. The bridge leading to the chorus has both clean and acoustic guitars that is melodic and catchy slowing down in the middle to a beautiful passage right before the solo comes in and takes you away. This is how I like my metal...varying sounds that compliment and add dimension to the songs. "The Alter & The Cross" is an acoustic number that is only two and a half minutes long but is one of the better ballad type songs I've heard from any of the big named traditional/power metal bands of late and a nice way to bridge the first and second half of the album.

The second half of the album kicks things right back into high gear with "Live for the Fight" which is an ass kicker from start to finish with some impressive riffing mixed with great melodies. This half of the album also sees the band going in a more epic territory with longer songs like "Soul Remains" clocking in at around six minutes but with enough going on to keep you interested...and headbanging! The solos are fucking godly full of melody and feeling. "Silent Sacrifice" ends the album with a combination of galloping tempos and slower acoustic passages with great melodies. This seems like the only time on the album where the band seems to be overreaching a bit. The song clocks in at just over seven minutes and there are a few spots in the middle that could have been axed to make the song a bit shorter but the solo that follows kinda makes up for it.

All in all this is a balls to the wall heavy metal album. It has everything that a fan of traditional metal could want, soaring melodies, classic riffing, and monumental soloing.I'm not all that familiar with their parent band, Fury UK, but I do know that I like this band. With only two full length albums, I'm hoping there will be more from this band in the future.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Timo Tolkki's Avalon - Angels of the Apocalypse

In the mid 90s, during the infancy of the "Information Age" is when I discovered the European power metal scene that was taking off, and one band in particular stood out. Stratovarius was a band that made me develop such a love for the genre that at one point it was all I listened to. In his prime, Timo Tolkki wrote some of metal's finest compositions (for lack of a better word because song won't cut it.) What he wrote during the 90s will be forever hailed as classics of the genre and no one can deny his talent and the sheer perfection in which he played his instrument. However, it seems that after his infamous meltdown he had around 2004, something is terribly wrong.

So in 2008, Timo Tolkki walked away from the band he started leaving the rights to vocalist Timo Kolitpelto and became involved in projects of his own including Revolution Renaissance which was pretty much disastrous, Symfonia which was just awful, and his current namesake, Timo Tolkki's Avalon. Their second album is called Angels of the Apocalypse and this sees not just Tolkki but a slew of power metal heavyweights sounding washed up and just phoning it in. Guests vocalists included were Fabio Lione, Zak Stevens, David DeFeis, Simone Simmons, Floor Jansen, know big names of the genre. With this talent this should be absolutely amazing, right? Well it's far from it. I actually wonder why they even accepted the offer to sing on such uninspired songs. Slow, plodding and just endless one note riffs and chugs even Tolkki's solos couldn't polish this turd.

After the obligatory intro there is the first proper song, "Jerusalem Is Falling," The first minute seconds sound epic and promising, then the verse comes in and the sheer lack of riffing and low E chugging that seem to go on forever until the chorus. The keyboards try to cover the bad songwriting but didn't do a great job. Half way through the song you're bored out of your friggin' mind. Tolkki can still play a mean lead solo, I gotta give him that but when they just become part of uninspired songwriting, you can't even give him credit for that. Fabio Lione sounds like himself...nothing new there. It's when the other "talent" shows up is when I start to fear that we are seeing the sad decline of these people right in front of our faces and it's not pretty. Floor Jansen sings the vocals on "Design The Century" and she sounds adequate. I can't put it all on her, the song is just not catchy at all. Another bad song so Tolkki can play a good solo.

This brings us to the most disappointing part of the album, David DeFeise's turn to lend his vocals to "Rise of the 4th Reich." If it were not for vocal effects, this would have been even more dreadful. This scares the shit outta me...does this mean Virgin Steele is done? This is getting serious folks. And, of course, another shitty song for Tolkki to show off to. Who does he think he is, Yngwie Malmsteen? At this point, I'm just done but I need to give an honest and total review of the entire album so I'm going to keep going here and finish this out. "Stargate Atlantis" is actually a decent song and maybe the only truly good song on the album. It's a mid paced rocker with some clean guitars and a catchy melody. The title of the song's sad because it's a decent song. The background vocals should have ended up cut out of the song but other than that it's not as offensive as the previous songs.

"Neon Sirens" means it's Zak Stevens' turn to perform and this isn't that bad either. It's nothing to jump up and down about but the song does fit Zak's voice. He sounds the same as always, adequate to great depending on the song. It's a rocker and less of a power metal song that has a decent groove to it. I'll say I like it so there's a couple of decent tunes here. The long "epic" number that usually graces an album like this is the title track of the album and is nine minutes of absolute boredom. I'm sorry but all it would have taken was some riffage and maybe throw some hooks into the song and it would have been bombastic and epic however with Tolkki phoning it in for most of the album, the song just ended up flat. Sad because this could have been so much more if they just tried a little harder.

I'm not sure if Tolkki's out of ideas or is in enough denial to really think that he can stamp his name on something and it automatically means greatness. All I know is that I feel like he and some of the major players in this genre are putting their signature on something that is lower than sub-par. Did they listen to this before they put their stamps of approval to this rubbish? Sad.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Delirium Tremens - Read My Fist

In the world of thrash metal there are usually two scenes that come to mind...the Bay Area and the German scenes. I seem to be drawn more to the German scene for some reason as I find that brand of thrash to be heavier and more aggressive than it's counterparts on this side of the pond. So needless to say I was quite happy when I discovered Delirium Tremens, a German quintet that's been in existence since 1996 and plays thrash metal in the style of the German scene while also bringing a lot of other influences into the mix, but with their own signature sound. Their third full length, Read My Fist, is pure thrash from beginning to end that is dirty, nasty, and a whole lot of fun.

This band does not bring anything new to the table, they just play fast and nasty using speed, pile driving riffs and godly solos to make their statement...and their statement is that they will kick your ass with their brand of thrash metal. If I were to say that they are similar to any band I would say early Destruction but they also have an identity all their own. The songs on this album are ferocious riff fests that pummel you from beginning to end. You seem to get the idea of what you're getting here just seeing the title of the album. Yep, there are a bunch of cliches here including the album opener, "Rough Ride" starting off with the sound of a muscle car starting up and squealing wheels upon take off. Of course the ass whippin' begins immediately after with driving riffs and vocals that are just fucking angry but not obnoxious screams or yells that can sometimes ruin it for bands of this nature. The production is really good as this album is not over produced nor does it suffer from sounding too modern. Instead the mix is just perfect keeping certain instruments from drowning out the other.

The songs are fast and speedy with a rhythm section that pounds you into the ground. The lyrics are nothing new, drinking, thrash, and ass kicking but it's the music that keeps the cheese from making the album seem ridiculous. Their attitude almost gives off a punk vibe but the riffs make all the difference as with the song "Get Fucked" which doesn't let you forget that this is thrash metal. You have songs like "Thrash or Be Thrashed" or "Irön Gäng" with the specifically placed umlauts to add to the cheese factor but since these songs are so fucking catchy the cheesiness just adds to the fun. I don't think this band takes itself too seriously. I mean, how can you take this band seriously when they have a song called "Backyard Wrestling?" But when it comes to the music they get serious, really serious, as shown on "The Kids Kick Ass." This song just slays from beginning to end and has a solo that is simply amazing.

It has to be mentioned here that they do an absolutely monstrous cover of a punk and metal icon, Wendy O. Williams' "Hoy Hey, Live To Rock" that shows that their influences lay not only with German thrash but with some punk in there as well. I even hear some Motorhead influence. This is a monster of an album by a really good band. Don't let the cliches keep you from listening to this album. If you like your thrash dirty, gritty and a lot of fun, get this album. The only thing sorry will be your neck!


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Brainstorm - Firesoul

Germany's Brainstorm is a band that has been in existence since 1989 but didn't seem to be able to release a full length until almost a decade later. I'm not sure why because in the world of German power metal this band is criminally thrown to the back burner in favor of the more popular and successful acts. I do believe that the more serious metal fan is well aware of this band's brand of power metal that actually has an emphasis on power. I actually had the good fortune to meet them about a decade ago at ProgPower V and they were down to earth guys that played a set that absolutely slayed! So now we have their tenth full length album, Firesoul, an album that is actually one of my favorite albums of the year.

As I said, this band is considered power metal but their sound does not resemble many of the bands that are considered definitive bands of power metal. They do use some keyboards and symphonic elements but what makes this band stand out from the rest is the riffs. This band uses a crunchier guitar sound with heavy as fuck riffs that seem to fit in more with USPM than with the bands to whom they they share a continent. The opener, "Erased by the Dark" are typical of the Brainstorm sound. This song may have symphonic keys but they do not drive the song. Instead riffs, riffs and more riffs drive this song as well as all the songs on this album. Vocalist Andy B. Franck actually sounds like Harry Conklin on a lot of the songs on this album. This is the best I've heard his voice sound from all the albums I've heard by this band. The title track kicks off with a more traditional flare with the main riff reminding me of old school metal but with that heavy guitar sound that gives this band a heavier feel. The chorus is catchy and the remainder of the song is full of hooks and massive riffs.

The remainder of the album sees the band throwing some variety in the mix with their signature pounding riffs, soaring vocals, and classy solos leading the way but with enough melody to not be a one trick pony. "Descendants of the Fire" seems to kick your teeth in with it's powerful riff work and blazing speed while "Entering Solitude" is a more melodic number with it's traditional metal intro riff and softer parts in the verse. "Recall The Real" is another melodic number with a catchy as fuck chorus that you can not help but sing along to. The keys are subtle but still enough to add that dynamic making this one of the band's best songs in a while. This is Brainstorm doing epic anthems as only they can. This variety is typical of this band as they seem to rely on writing both heavy metal anthems as well as heavy as fuck riff fests so there's something for everyone on this album. Then there is a song like "Feed Me Lies" that combines the heavy riffing with the infectious melodies in the chorus making this another song that will stick in your head. This song's vocals has that Harry Conklin vibe going on again.

There seems to be an energy on this album that may have been missing with the previous couple of albums giving you this feeling like the band has been rejuvenated. Solid songwriting and flawless execution is the formula here making this album by this veteran band an album that is not only worth getting but essential. This is power metal with actual power but with a melodic side that gives this band a very unique sound. Once again this year, a veteran German band has released a quality album. If you are a metal fan and let this album slip by you, you are doing yourself a great disservice.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dead Congregation - Promulgation of the Fall

Once again we have a band that is labeled old school death metal, which seems to be a popular term these days. As I said in a previous review the term usually doesn't add up. In the case of Greece's Dead Congregation we have a band that truly lives up to the definition of the term. The twist with Dead Congregation is that they put a slight modern take on it to make this an extremely interesting and killer band. Their second full length release, Promulgation of the Fall, is proof that this band can truly live up to the hype. Their first full length, Graves of the Archangels, received tons of praise by fans of death metal and critics alike and it seems that this band is not slowing down.

What we have here is riff laden death metal that slays at every turn. The riffs are heavy and pounding. "Only Ashes Remain," is the perfect album opener as the opening riff just pounds you into submission. The vocals are low and guttural and sound fucking evil...just what I want in my death metal. The solos on this song, as well as the rest of the album, are killer with just enough technicality to make them interesting but not pretentious. The speed of the song varies from just thrashing at first to a more doomy sort of riff in the middle of the song. This song leads right into the title track that has an almost psychedelic feedback sound in the beginning. This leads into more heavy doom riffing that sounds like pure evil. They even throw some tremolos in there for a deeper dynamic. The song almost comes off as an interlude as "Serpentskin" comes in and kicks your ass at breakneck speed. Monstrous blast beats and crushing riffs is what this song is about until the halfway point where they just go balls out doom with heavy as fuck downtuned riffs. Being my first experience with this band, I am most impressed with the variety of sounds displayed here.

The production on this album is old school without that modern compression sound that can sometimes make or break a recording. This actually sounds like a mixture of the Florida and Swedish scene from the early 90s. It seems that this band takes from each scene but refines it enough to make it their own. As far as the slower parts they throw in, it seems to work for these songs like they way they add them in on "Immaculate Poison," even though most of that song has neck breaking speed and massive riffs. "Nigredo" is the same way, killer riffing and plenty of speed slowing down only towards the build up at the end leading to what is my favorite song on the album, "Schisma." This is almost seven and a half minutes of sheer brutality but with an epic twist at the same time. Twenty years from now when people talk about classic death metal songs, this one will be one of them. Huge riffs and a huge sound from this diverse and monstrous song. The slow parts are, once again, heavy as fuck and the fast parts are just riff laden. "From a Wretched Womb" closes out the album with more speed and riffs from beginning to end with just plain evil sounding leads and massive solos that almost sound like early Slayer.

As I said, this is my first experience with this band and I'm immediately a fan. This album is how death metal should be done...period. Every song on this album is done with precision and pure talent due to great songwriting and musicians that are professionals in their craft. Anyone who thinks that OSDM is just four letters that do not mean anything need to get this album....quick! This is essential.