Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Emmure - Speaker of the Dead


Emmure has become one of the biggest and most recognizable metal bands of the 21st century. I’ve known about them since 2009, when they released Felony; of which I was minimally impressed by. Even there are a lot of people that absolutely despise Emmure for obvious reasons that I will lay out in detail in this review, their fan base has encircled the globe at an inconceivable level considering that they’ve only been known (by most) for about five years. When I first heard Felony, I was kind of turned away by the creepy voices made by the vocalist (I was 14 at the time). But then it started to grow on me, and it was all I could listen to...for about a day or so, then it got boring.

Why is there such a clash of extreme opposite views on Emmure? Most of this question can be answered by taking a look at the ages of the listeners. The whole “deathcore” and “metalcore-styled breakdown” thing has only been around since the turn of the century, making the younger generation that was born in the 1990s (myself included) the most vulnerable victims. And if you listen to Emmure, it doesn’t take very long to figure out that the songs are pretty much just breakdown after breakdown with some abstract fills placed here and there. This is the exact same problem I have with Meshuggah, except the thing about Meshuggah is that they have amazing musicians, just poor songwriting skills. Emmure has generally mediocre and average-skilled musicians and poor songwriting skills, but better production (i.e. more bass).

The reason why I don’t COMPLETELY hate these bands is because they’re perfect for when I’m just in the mood for breakdowns (I know a lot of you have those odd moments; some more than others). So this album especially is good for those moments because the breakdowns are superb. If quality song structure, musicianship, and creativity is what you’re looking for, this is not what you want.

Unfortunately, the fact that all of the songs sound almost exactly the same (which is good if you just want it as background music) makes it extremely difficult to point out songs that stand out to me…well, because none of them do! There are some songs that have really annoying sounds that drone on for the majority of the length like Demons with Ryu and My Name is Thanos with that high-pitched guitar sound, Solar Flare Homicide with dubstep sounds that unfortunately are underdeveloped and crappy, and the high-pitched tone that keeps popping up in Drug Dealer Friend (not to mention the retarded song name).

The vocalist is pretty average; not much to say about him other than that he does a lot of normal/clean speaking. The drummer does some fancy footwork in some of the songs, but other than that he just hits the symbol and occasionally hits the snare; I honestly rarely hear him play anything other than those three drums (kick drums, symbol, and snare). If you ask me, that’s not something that I would say fully deserves the utter fame they’ve been receiving.

Overall, this album grows old and gets boring after the seventh song. This album has a whopping total of 15 tracks (a.k.a. breakdowns). But I’m not saying that this is a total disaster; in fact, this is Emmure’s best album yet! There’s just not much to it other than breakdowns and huge ear-splitting bass booms. This album totals out at 9/20 on my scale. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Obscura - Omnivium


I discovered Obscura literally weeks before the release of this album. So after I checked out Cosmogenesis and Retribution, I was excited for Omnivium! There isn’t much background information at all concerning this album other than that their godly bassist left the band for reasons unknown. There wasn’t nearly as much promotion and advertising as there was for Cosmogenesis, most likely because all they needed was to get the world’s attention with Cosmogenesis and just let things flow on their own from there (which is exactly what happened). Since I had just discovered Obscura right before this album’s release, I looked at other reviewer’s opinions on Cosmogenesis and especially what their hopes for Obscura’s next album would be, and almost all of them said “less guitar ‘wankery’” and “more fusing of other genres”. The first track on this album proves that Obscura did all of this.

Septuagint starts out with an acoustic intro that sounds like Opeth with a mixture of folk. The hardest part about having one of these kinds of acoustic intros is making the transition to the distorted guitars/metal part of the song and making it go smooth and not sound abrupt. Obscura pull this off PERFECTLY by jumping into a gothic-sounding melodic death part that only further sucks you into the 55 minute tech death ecstasy known as Omnivium. There is also a part of the song that has acoustic background guitars that are led by the sweet smooth sound of Jeroen’s fretless bass.

The musician that improved the most during the writing process of this album would definitely be the vocalist. His sandpaper-rough screams pierce the wind with the precision of a lazar. His vocals sounded a little bit underdeveloped in Cosmogenesis and even sounded like he was straining his voice at times. In Omnivium, he sounds a thousand times more confident and powerful. But here’s the thing that bothers me: the amount of emotion that is contained within his screams is much less now; probably because the band is now using their music more of a money maker and a creative expression than as an emotion output.

The reason why it seems the bassist got turned down is because he set his guitar at a deeper, fatter pitch to give the album more body on the lower end since it was lacking in that area on their other albums. Some of those that LOVED Cosmogenesis’ high level of technicality and speed were somewhat disappointed with Omnivium’s much lower technicality rate. I don’t really see why this is a bad thing at all because it’s a way of showing that Obscura isn’t totally dependent on extremely high complexity levels and are fully capable of making amazing death metal without having loads of it. Of course though, technicality is a big part of Obscura’s signature sound, so it’s definitely possible to have Obscura songs that are too simple and slow.

Ocean Gateways is my favorite song off this album. This is one of Obscura’s most complex songs ever. But most of the complexity doesn’t lay within the guitar solos or the drum lines; it lies within the overall song structure. Just listen to all of the smoothly transitioned tempo changes and mood alterations that take place throughout the track! It’s amazing! Also, the thing that got me hooked on this song is that their vocalist does super deep growls that send chills down my back instead of his traditional mid-ranged scream.

This is an album that is impossible to turn down and is a must-buy. Obscura shows major changes in their sound while still managing to keep high levels of speed and technicality to make the fans happy. Omnivium is what some might call “tech death ecstasy.” I would give this a score of 18/20. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Obscura - Retribution


Obscura already had fans from across the globe by the time they came out with their debut full-length, Retribution, in 2006. The general public/professional feedback was…well let’s say they all loved it. Obscura would then go on to tour for two years, make some money, and rest at home before releasing their second album three years later in 2009. Coming from the country that is the home to more metalheads than anywhere else in the world, Obscura already had TONS of fan support and love to help give them that extra boost that every band wishes for in order to climb to the top. I personally love this album A LOT, but I will say that this is their least impressive album.

Obscura is made up of mainly musicians that were previously (or currently) in other big-name metal bands such as Blotted Science, Necrophagist, Defeated Sanity, Spawn of Possession, and Pestilence. Just because of that note, you can tell that this is a band made up of mature and serious musicians that know what they’re doing. So after lots of promotion and countless weekend performances that went on for roughly four years, Obscura felt that it was time to release the full-length that their fans had been desperately waiting for. When you look at the list of former members, you will see that Obscura has had over eight bassists, six guitarists, three drummers, and two vocalists. How the hell does a band like that burn through so many musicians so fast?? That’s a question that I will probably never be able to answer unless I get the opportunity to ask the band myself.

The overall sound quality of the album isn’t amazing, but it’s not bad at all. The drums are what annoy me. The kick drums have that clicking sound instead of the fat meaty sound that they’re supposed to have. But other than that, the drums aren’t too loud and it’s clear enough to easily be able to tell that they have a high-end musician on the throne. The sound of the distortion that they have put on the bass is really interesting and it’s actually what gives the lower end of the album tons of crunch. I love it when death metal bands (especially tech death) put some kind of distortion or effect on the bass guitar because it’s what gives the music that trippy/psychedelic technical death sound it’s supposed to have. There really isn’t anything special about the guitar distortion; it’s not annoying at all, but there really isn’t anything about it at all that speaks out to me.

The album starts off by showing you just how brutal and chaotic these guys can get with the track Humankind. The vocals that seem to be slightly out of time are what I like about this track along with the huge complex guitar chords and the unrelenting blast beat drumming. The thing about Retribution that makes it completely different from Obscura’s other albums is that there are more abstract and complex chords and less shredding. These abstract chords give the music a really ambient and sometimes even creepy feeling to send chills of utter satisfaction down the spine of the listener. There is a nice mix of tracks with unrelenting brutality and technicality and slower tracks to cool things down a bit to let the recover and prepare themselves for the next bombardment.

Usually I’m not one that would like to see covers on a band’s debut. But because Obscura covered these three songs so well, I have to say that this album wouldn’t be as amazing without them. They cover three classic death metal songs: Lack of Comprehension by Death, Synthetically Revived by Suffocation, and God of Emptiness by Morbid Angel. Their lead guitarist reflects Chuck Schuldiner’s licks with crystal clear clarity and understanding like a mirror fresh out of the factory. Obscura then opens the floodgates and lets loose the brutality in their cover of one of Suffocation’s first songs; making sure not to leave any survivors. They then strive to cover a more traditional death metal song by choosing a track off of Morbid Angel’s third album.

This album is an outstanding piece of work that fully and clearly expresses that these German metalheads are serious and mean business. This is not what I would recommend to someone who has never heard Obscura before. If you are new to this band, get the album Cosmogenesis (I’ve also written a review on that album). Eventually evolving into one of the most technical and most famous technical death bands on earth, this marks the beginning of Obscura’s journey uphill. I’ll tell you this, Retribution is amazing, but it’s Obscura’s worst album by far. I would give this album 17/20. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Aborted Fetus - Fatal Dogmatic Damage


It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed an underground brutal death album, so I thought I should let you know about a young brutal death band known as Aborted Fetus. This band is one out of many bands I discovered via Brutal Bands’ website along with Element, Arsebreed, Putridity, Lust of Decay, Melting Flesh, Insidious Decrepancy, and tons of other bands with the ability to demolish your eardrums. It seems that most of the Russian bands I hear tend to be on the brutal and gore side of things (i.e. Katalepsy, ). Although from Russia, most of Aborted Fetus’ fans are located in Germany, America, and The Netherlands.

Aborted Fetus is one of those ultra-pure brutal death bands with not too much else added on. I love how so many of these obscure death metal bands have such professional and high-quality recordings! Seriously, all those black metal guys are saying that they “can’t afford” adequate recording equipment (and I know they do that somewhat on purpose) and these death metal bands are coming out with albums that have the production quality of Century Media bands! Aborted Fetus is one of the best examples of that pristine and crisp sound quality that makes audiophiles like me very happy faced.

Their drummer doesn’t stick to blast beats. In fact, he rarely even does them at all. He does keep the fast (but not super-fast) double kick going for the majority of the record to keep the adrenaline of the listener going and to keep the pit moving at their shows. I honestly don’t know if the drummer is off-time or not during some parts because he has times where he starts doing random shit out of nowhere and it doesn’t seem like it fits, but at the same time it’s something that one could consider predictable. But at least the drummer doesn’t seem TOTALLY lost; he’s a good fit for the band and he’s what I would consider an “average, but good for the genre” brutal death drummer.

If you know what your average brutal death/death grind vocalist sounds like, that’s what this guy sounds like. For those of you experienced and knowledgeable brutal death fans that want details on what this guy sounds like; he does inhales like all the others do, his inhales tend to be more of a growl than a pig squeal, but there’s still an obvious amount of pig squeal sound. This is actually my favorite type of inhaled vocals because it isn’t a super annoying pig squeal, but it’s not so deep that it sounds like the vocalist drank too much root beer before entering the studio.

The guitars are very deep and EXTREMELY crunchy (you won’t hear the entire crunch until you listen closely for the first time). I have no idea how the hell these guys managed to get that rough of a sound out of the guitars without completely demolishing the low-end. The best answer I can come up with is that they turned the bass guitar up really loud and they gave it a super smooth and soft sound to even out the crunchiness of the guitars.

There’s only one bad thing about this album and that is that the songs are WAY too similar. For some people, an album like this seems to take FOREVER to get through and amazing albums seem too short. For me, albums like this aren’t as engaging and they don’t hold on to your attention for very long. And since I have ADD, my main attention goes elsewhere and then when I look back at the album to see how much of it has passed by, it’s on the last song and it feels like I just turned it on five minutes ago!

Other than that disappointing factor, this is pretty good for an obscure brutal death album. I would honestly recommend this primarily to those of you that are more experienced in this area of metal, mainly because this isn’t anywhere near what I would want to have as a first impression for someone who isn’t familiar with the really brutal metal. I would give this album 14/20. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

OPETH TOUR

Mastodon just announced in an interview that they will be headlining a tour and will be bringing Opeth (my favorite band) and Ghost as opening acts! I'm not much of a Mastodon fan, but Opeth is enough to make me pre-order tickets.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Random - Todo.s Los Colores Del


For those of you that love progressive metal, this is the thing for you. This appropriately-named band is one of the best new progressive metal bands I’ve heard since Mutiny Within. I’m not saying this band is flawless, because it’s impossible to be experimental and progressive and not make some sucky decisions. I received a promo copy of this album months ago. The reason why I waited so long to write the damn review was because this album took so long to fully comprehend and understand. There’s a lot of stuff about this album that I can’t seem to get. Unless I interview the band, I’ll probably never know why the hell this band chose to combine some of the genres they did. I can’t give you an overall summary of the sound this album puts out because it doesn’t just give off one sound, it gives off…I don’t even know, I can’t think of how to put it, just read on.

As few of you already know, I listen to a lot of the mainstream metal stuff like Korn, Godsmack, Breaking Benjamin, etc. In the first song, after the 40-second intro made up of a single high-pitched guitar harmonic, the first word that came to my mind was “Korn”. I’m not kidding, Korn has been one of my favorite bands since I was 13 years old, and never in my days have I heard an underground metal band use Korn’s crunchy sound as an influence. I’m not saying that’s bad at all (and I might be wrong about the whole Korn influence thing all together), but that’s not something I was expecting at all. I guess I judged them too much when I saw their name; expecting them to sound more like Iwrestledabearonce or Dir en Grey.

That’s not to say that Random wasn’t a good name to put on top of their music, because every single track is something completely different. Of course, they successfully stick to a signature, recognizable sound that they use as a blueprint for all the songs on the record. But other than that thin layer that every song shares, each track is its own type of cake, each with its own type of frosting.

The vocalist is fucking weird; that’s all I can think of to say about him. He’s not bad at all, he’s just really weird and has one of the most unique voices I’ve ever heard in the progressive metal area. I have no idea what the hell is going on in the drummer’s head because he seems to be in a different world; but at the same time he is a major contributor and perfect addition to this album. The lead guitarist does some crazy shredding that seems to instantly switch into a David Gilmour sound therefore earning my applause. Random is one of those examples of a band where when you look at each individual member, you think “Where the hell did this guy leave his brain? He’s completely lost!” But when you put them together, it sounds amazing!

The second song has a little more of an industrial-sounding twist to it. I guess you could describe it as being a combination of Sevendust, Korn, and Marilyn Manson (all of which I love). Not only that, this song is extremely abstract (which is stupid for me to say because isn’t the whole album??). For the rest of the album you hear stuff sounding like Meshuggah, Hypocrisy, Mushroomhead, Kreator, Opeth, Primus, Soundgarden, Mudvayne, and Hellyeah. Overall, this isn’t an album I would recommend to people that have a hard time keeping up with really diverse music. The reason why I’m saying that is because there are only half a dozen other examples of so many different types of music compressed into one album; it was even too much for me at first! But other than that, I would highly recommend that you support this band and get this album because it’s truly a one-of-a kind experience. I would give this record 15/20. 

Amon Amarth - Twilight of the Thunder God


Amon Amarth is one of the most famous extreme metal bands of all-time. They have album sales and concert attendance that has dominated that of Death, The Black Dahlia Murder, Dimmu Borgir, Epica, DevilDriver, Whitechapel, Behemoth, Arch Enemy, Meshuggah, and many other metal giants. This alone has proved to the world that they are one of the most successful and biggest death metal acts in existence. There’s only one problem when I get involved in a conversation about Amon Amarth, and that is that this is literally the only album that they have put out so far that has truly impressed me (let alone blow me away). I got this album around the time of its release in 2008; which was around the time where I really started getting into the more extreme metal genres. So this is an album I’ve been listening to for a little under five years. About two years ago I decided to get some of their previous albums and, to be honest, I wasn’t really that satisfied with what I heard. But the album I’m here to talk about is Twilight of the Thunder God.

When people ask me what “pure” melodic death sounds like, this is one of the first albums that comes to my mind. Some of you out there probably haven’t realized this yet but how can you get any purer of a melodic death metal sound than this? But I’m not saying that all the songs sound the same. In fact, there is a great amount of uniqueness and individuality that each song holds that keeps the listener engaged. When you look at the album as a whole, you can see a perfect balance of melodic areas and heavy areas as well as a balance of slow tempos and fast tempos. But when you look at each song individually, there isn’t much of a balance at all; it’s pretty much either one or the other. And of course there are a few songs that have a little bit of everything mixed in.

My absolute favorite thing about this album is the sound of the guitar distortion. I know I talk about this in pretty much all of my reviews and that some of you find it annoying and pointless; but it can actually have a huge influence on how much I enjoy the record. The guitar distortion on this album is extremely crunchy and rough; anyone with ears can hear that. But it also seems extremely smooth and even mushy. I absolutely love it and I don’t really know how many filters and effects they put on the guitars but it sounds really cool and it’s not something that can be found on any other album.

The song on this record that speaks out to me the most is the title track. The song has an intro that contains the epic lead guitar line that every Amon Amarth fan knows by heart. This is part of why this album and song was so successful, because the opening guitar riff gets stuck in your head so easily. The term “epic” is extremely difficult to truly define. It’s one of those things that can’t be put into words, but you know what it is after hearing it for a bit. I get questions like that from music “noobs” that ask questions like “what is melodic?” and “what is brutal?” The only way I can think of to answer those questions is to just play examples of “brutal” or “melodic” music and compare it to other songs that are less melodic/brutal/etc. The word I use to describe the title song (and actually the majority of the album) is “epic”. The best way I can describe it is that it’s filled with lots of tension and power, but still sticks to a relatively melodic sound.

An example of this album’s heavier side would be Where is your God? This song is the core of all the anger and rage that this record holds inside. If you want to hear a really angry melodic death song, look no more because this is the song for you. Before I got in the habit of listening to entire albums, I would only listen to a couple of songs off an album (minus a few records). For me, the only songs that I listened to off of this record is Twilight of the Thunder God and Where is your God? So obviously because of that, those are the songs that I’m most familiar with.

I stopped listening to this album for about a year or two because I was so distracted with all the new music I was discovering. Now that my music library contains over 22,000 songs, I can’t just choose one album to listen to; I chose a genre and put it on shuffle. Or I will often times combine three or four genres, put them on shuffle, and then just let my Zune play all throughout the day. I was re-introduced to this album in late 2009 when I was shuffling all my melodic death stuff. I had a big happy face on for the rest of the day.

When I got home from school that day, I decided to give Amon Amarth’s older material another go. Once again, nowhere near as impressive as this album. I don’t want to call this a fluke, but through my eyes, it kind of is. This album is truly a monstrous landmark in death metal history and an instant classic. In early 2010 this album received a gold certification after selling over 500,000 copies and has continued to surpass that number more and more since then. I would not be surprised if it eventually sold over 700,000+ copies. But album sales aren’t something that a band should be overly concerned about. The only reason why I told you the amount of success this album has received is to prove to you that I’m not just one of the few random guys that for some reason think this album is outstanding. This album is truly outstanding and gets my score of 17/20.  

Carnifex - The Diseased and the Poisoned

2006 was the year that I was fully introduced to deathcore. Although the amount of deathcore bands in my collection didn't rapidly expand until 2008 when I heard All Shall Perish’s Awaken the Dreamers, there were a handful of deathcore bands I had already been listening to for a little under two years. Those bands were Suicide Silence, Despised Icon, Bring me the Horizon, Lamb of God, Whitechapel, and Carnifex. Now most of these hadn't even released their first full-length albums when I discovered them, giving me that happy feeling that I’m one of their “true” fans since I've been listening to them since they first started. Carnifex is not a traditional deathcore band though. They stuff a lot of other sounds in their music.

Deathcore is a mix of metalcore and death metal. Sometimes it’s just really heavy metalcore, sometimes it’s just death metal with extreme breakdowns, and sometimes it’s a perfect mix of the two. Carnifex isn’t all the way on one end or perfectly in the middle, but they’re more on the death metal side of things. So if you’re looking for a deathcore band that has a lot more death metal than metalcore, Carnifex will end your search. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get into them until this album was released because their debut was good, but not really that impressive. The Diseased and the Poisoned is where they decided to step up and crush their listeners until they were satisfied. And I’ll tell you what; they certainly crushed me beyond satisfaction.

A good deathcore album always has good breakdowns; isn’t that practically 60% of the genre’s definition? Although it is very possible to overdo the breakdown like other bands have done like Emmure, Suffokate, and Meshuggah; Carnifex implements a perfect amount of breakdowns that keeps the crowd happy. I do think that they should have added a bass boom at the beginning of a few of their breakdowns to make them sound more extreme and goddamn serious.

The vocalist is amazing. He primarily does death growls that remind me of David Vincent, and has an underdeveloped scream that he ends up perfecting in 2011. His stories of apocalyptic destruction and atheistic-based hate have the ability to paralyze the minds of any helpless Christian that happens to come across his words. Known as one of the darkest and angriest deathcore bands, Carnifex have been reaching their arms above the surface of the deep trenches of the underground metal scene to become one of the most prolific and true deathcore bands alive today. Carnifex has never gone downhill, and this album is just the beginning.

The guitar distortion is REALLY deep and has loads of crunch to obliterate the eardrums of their audience. The drumming is the exact opposite of the stereotypical “blast beat, breakdown, repeat” deathcore drummer. He always has extra tricks under his skin to surprise you with when you are expecting something less impressive. Even though it’s obvious that a bassist is present due to the unrelenting amount of bass, I can’t hear the bass guitar unless I really concentrate and block everything else out; which is obviously not something that I want to have to do every time I listen to this album.

There are a lot of really brutal bands that only sound brutal when you see them live. This is mainly due to low production quality and the choice of distortions and effects in the studio. Ever wonder why Suicide Silence and Whitechapel sound so brutal? It’s mainly because the guitar distortion is extremely loud and crunchy and because they have the bass practically dominate everything else. If you did that to this album, you probably wouldn’t be able to listen to this album and come out in one piece. I can see that you don’t believe me, so go see them in concert and try to live through the moshpit AND THEN tell me that I’m wrong.

I don’t really have a favorite song off this album because unfortunately, the songs sound too similar to the point to where I can’t really tell them apart. This is an album that is great to listen to as a whole, but not one where someone can easily say “That song is my favorite!” This is my second favorite Carnifex album next to Hell Chose Me. I would highly recommend this to loyal deathcore fans and anyone who has been searching for a deathcore band with loads of death metal packed inside. I would give this album 15/20. 

Forgotten Land - Imbolc-Winter


There’s something about Forgotten Land that has always puzzled me. And that is that he’s known only amongst the metal community, primarily that of the fans of depressive black metal (like me). The thing is…he’s nowhere near metal at all. He only has ONE song that even has guitars. The rest of his material is all pure ambient keyboards and nature sounds; pretty much new age/spa music. And I do listen to that kind of music, but I would never expect to see an artist of that genre on Spirit of Metal, which is where I discovered him. But that aside, I still put Forgotten Land under depressive black metal (don’t ask me why ‘cause I don’t fucking know), and he produces the most beautiful music that has ever reached my ears. This is part three of a four part series where Forgotten Land would touch base with all four seasons. Unfortunately this is the last that we’ve heard from him. I don’t know where the hell he is now.

He started his own record label after receiving a good deal of success after releasing his first demo, Ancient Runic Sorcery. It has released a couple of albums from some other bands that I’ve never heard of (primarily ambient and depressive black metal artists), but otherwise there isn’t much else to it. Forgotten Land made one printing of 50 shirts, which all sold out within a week. Other than that, all that there is to buy from his record label are his CDs that come in a thin DVD case. I have already bought all of them and they’re beyond amazing.

The first song is what inspired the name of my depressive black metal solo project, Gethen. This song is very slow and very simple with few notes that eventually build into huge complex chords. This is a song that really touches me because of the entire atmospheric beauty it encircles me with whenever I listen to it. I don’t get all jittery and excited like I do when I listen to other stuff I like (i.e. Opeth, Augury, etc.); instead, I am put into a state of complete Zen and relaxation. For those of you that like to meditate at all, this is the PERFECT record for you.

Beneath the Glacier is an example of a Forgotten Land song with tons of nature sounds; starting with the intro filled with the sounds of water dripping off cave walls. This song takes you under the ice and puts you through absolute peace and serenity; leaving you very happy. The album continues to put you through a state of meditation and peace, and then comes the song I always look forward to whenever I listen to this record.

Snegurochka for some reason is my favorite song off this album. The reason why it doesn’t seem like it should is because it’s literally the same two notes throughout the entire song. But before you turn down this track, turn it on and close your eyes and imagine yourself walking through a forest covered with untouched snow, and let the music make everything around you more beautiful than it already is. This is the prettiest song off the album and if you want me to name a specific song that you should look up first, Snegurochka would be that song.

This is a MASTERPIECE regardless of what genre you want to place it in. Most of you may not know this but even though metal is my favorite kind of music, I listen to literally everything out there; and Forgotten Land has become one of my favorite non-metal bands. I would give this beautiful record a perfect score and would put it on full volume to show the world. I highly recommend that you pick up a physical copy of this because I don’t know how much longer it (and the rest of Forgotten Land’s albums) will be available. 

Please be aware that this is not the original album cover, this is my version of it. 

Dystrophic - Dystrophic [EP]


Dystrophic is a young technical death band that has huge potential. And they have done far more than demonstrate that potential by releasing their self-titled EP last year. If I could find a way to get my hands on a physical copy of this, I will. So please if any of you know where I can find this CD or can send it to me, please leave a comment! I want this record so bad! That’s how damn good it is and I suggest that you should listen to it and buy this hard-to-find EP. There are some extra unnecessary tracks in this album that I think should only be put in a full-length album, not an EP. But regardless, this record is more than enough to make a fan of extremely technical death metal happy.

Another reviewer on Spirit of Metal gave this album a fairly average score and wasn’t majorly impressed by it. I can understand why because he made it clear that really technical death isn’t really his cup of tea. I respect that because there’s no such thing as “good” music. Whether something is good or bad is 100% opinion. And my opinion is that Dystrophic is more than satisfying. Well I think I’ve done enough gushing over this band. You’re here to hear me go into this album’s details.

Dystrophic isn’t the kind of tech death band that has a lot of high-pitched complex lead guitar licks. Most of Dystrophic’s technicality and complexity lies within their drummer. Their drummer is pristine and obviously experienced in the metal music industry because he has the same skill and creativity as the drummer for The Faceless and Psycroptic. But don’t get the idea that the drummer is the only musician going crazy; the guitarists switch chords at unimaginable speeds in the lower down-tuned end of things.

The lyrical themes are obviously apocalyptic and space themed science fiction stories. The vocalist tends to focus more on the destruction of alien worlds and extraterrestrial apocalypses rather than focusing on stuff happening on Earth. This is something that I like to see because they’re expanding the sci-fi themes that more and more metal (primarily progressive and tech death) are choosing to use in their music.

I don’t feel that the interlude and the outro are needed at all. The intro is a bit dull but it has a quick build up at the very end that gets you ready for the explosion of chaos and fury in Total Existence Failure. Dystrophic then continues to constantly bombard you with unrelenting brutality and speed to then lead you into a relieving interlude…to then afterwards continue to bombard you until the end of the record. There’s one problem with their music. And that is that there’s no breaks in the fury, it’s just pure constant brutality and anger and it gets a little boring after listening to it for a while. Of course I have a level of understanding with them since this is their first official release and they’re still getting the hang of the songwriting business.

But as a critic, I’ve developed a habit of comparing every band with someone better. And even when I do that with Dystrophic, there are a lot of things about them that impress me. Believe it or not, this is a self-released album. The reason why this surprises some people is because of how professional the record’s production quality is. As a result of what this album has presented to me, I have become addicted to this band and will be the first person to buy a ticket to their concert and to pre-order their debut full-length release. I would give this record 17/20. 

The Contortionist - Exoplanet


The Contortionist is a band for deathcore fans that are tired of the traditional deathcore sound put out by Suicide Silence, Whitechapel, and Carnifex. There have been some other somewhat “progressive” deathcore bands that have been rising out of the crypts like Winds of Plague, Born of Osiris, and Veil of Maya; but none have been nearly as progressive and experimental as The Contortionist. If you think that these guys have always been progressive, listen to their earlier demos and EPs because they sound like pure deathcore. Even though I was especially impressed by their Apparition EP, their debut full length Exoplanet proves to be far more impressive and mature. Don’t get me wrong, deathcore can sound extremely mature, but it can also sound kind of premature, especially when it’s compared to a band’s latter release that has more of a practiced and confident sound.

Of course anyone can listen to this album and hear deathcore. But there are tons of other recognizable and unrecognizable sounds that The Contortionist decide to throw in. For some reason I keep hearing Oceano peeking their head out here and there. What I mean by that is that some of the breakdowns have that really spooky mystical sound where there’s no muting of the guitars and a slow ambient lead guitar riff perfectly laid on top. Probably the most unique thing about this record is that there are soft progressive rock sounds with singing. Depending on how you look at it, it kind of seems like the modernized-deathcore version of Opeth.

Most of the songs give off the same vibe. The bad part about that is that…well…it shows a slight lack of creativity (although not always). The good part about that is that the vibe those songs give out is amazing and never gets old! When I saw these guys open for Periphery, the crowd was absolutely nuts with me right in the middle of all the action that was going on (primarily in the pit). Watching them perform a flawless 20-minute set with my own eyes and ears proved to me that they truly have what it takes to become huge.

Although I have them listed in my library as “progressive death”, I never use that description when verbally describing them to someone else. I always describe them as “progressive deathcore.” And I know that a lot of you don’t give a crap about all the different genres and whatnot; and be aware that I’m not someone that thinks less of a band if they don’t stay within the walls of a certain genre. I prefer that rather than completely stepping outside the walls of a genre, that bands push and further expand the realms of a genre like The Contortionist has done.

I’m not going to spend too much time describing individual songs because I’m sure to unintentionally leave something out if I do. If Opeth went deathcore, this is most likely what they would sound like. And I would be sad if Opeth did, because they’re perfect where they are; but I’m very glad that finally there is a band that is doing this! Not only is The Contortionist the most experimental and progressive deathcore band out there, they do the best job at it too. I have my physical copy of this album coming in the mail as we speak. Hopefully you can say that too sometime in the very near future. I would give this album 17/20.  

Six Feet Under - Death Rituals


Chris Barnes pretty much had his new band under way by the time he left Cannibal Corpse. Metalheads from around the globe had their attention on Cannibal Corpse and Six Feet Under in 1995. Cannibal Corpse had to release an album to prove that they could go on without the mastermind Chris Barnes behind them; and Chris had to prove that Cannibal Corpse wasn’t just a fluke. In my opinion, Six Feet Under won that battle in 1995 with the release of Haunted. Vile is definitely Cannibal Corpse’s weakest album because they were still getting their grips on things due to being so used to having Barnes practically run the whole band and writing process. After that year, Cannibal Corpse went uphill and Six Feet Under leveled out for a bit to then go downhill with their third album/disaster.

Ever since then, Six Feet Under has released more disasters (that they call albums) than any other death metal band in history. Six Feet Under is responsible for producing some of the worst death metal songs of all time like “Snakes”, “Dead and Buried”, “Deathklaat”, and “One Bullet Left”. Although this is true in the minds of thousands of metalheads worldwide, there is quite a large group of people that have stayed loyal and actually legitimately love Six Feet Under’s post-Maximum Violence albums. For those of you that don’t believe that there are so many people that have been turned away by this band’s later albums, take a look at the other reviews on the net, and go see Six Feet Under in concert because the only CDs they have on sale are their first two (which are really good albums). And here comes 2008, right when I really start getting into death metal and the extreme music world, when Death Rituals is released. This was my first Six Feet Under record.

Honestly, this record is a huge comeback. This is the best album they’ve released in over 10 years. Even though there are quite a few faults contained in this album, it’s a really enjoyable listen that was good enough for me to pitch in some money to buy a physical copy. Just so that this review doesn’t seem completely negative, I’m going to talk about the good stuff first.

Chris Barnes is, hands down, one of the best death metal producers I’ve ever heard. The first time he completely produced an album, it was Commandment, the disasterpiece previous to Death Rituals. The entire production and sound quality that this album holds has everything that makes me happy. The volume of the instruments is perfectly balanced, very clean but crunchy guitar distortion, lots of deep booming bass, and everything is very crisp and clear. If the sound quality of this album wasn’t as good as it is, I probably wouldn’t enjoy listening to it as much.

The music behind most of the songs is outstanding. The band does a perfect job of keeping the listener engaged and happy. The majority of what the band does is pretty simple; but remember, that’s NEVER a bad thing. I never believe that a band’s music has to be technical and complex in order to be interesting. The only times that simple music can be irritating is when it’s repetitive or when the riff is uninteresting. Six Feet Under keeps the album interesting from beginning to end. There isn’t really anything special I have to say about any particular musician because none of them speak out to me as being better than average.

And I’m pretty sure that if you have gotten this far in my review that you’re waiting for me to talk about Barnes. My personal opinion is that Chris Barnes has one of the best death growls of all-time. You may not realize it, but Barnes is primarily the one credited for traditionalizing the deep, guttural death growl that we think of whenever we are asked to describe what it sounds like to someone who doesn’t know. He has one of the deepest growls that send chills down the spines of the weak-hearted; that perfectly fits the Catholic description of what a true demon sounds like. There’s one thing that he does that is absolutely repulsive and makes me laugh every time I hear it. It’s not something I’m going to even attempt to describe, but you can hear it in about 40% of all of Six Feet Under’s repertoire. The songs on Death Rituals that have this disgusting sound are Involuntary Movement of Dead Flesh, Seed of Filth, None will Escape, and Into the Crematorium (there are probably a few others I forgot about but this will get you an idea).

My favorite song off the album is Death by Machete. This is a perfect example of a traditional death metal band throwing in some extra stuff to spice up the sound, but still sticking to a pure death metal sound. I always show this song to people that hate this band and it almost always causes them to gain some respect for Six Feet Under. There’s one example of a major lack in creativity and that is this: listen to Death by Machete, then listen to Into the Crematorium and tell me, what does it sound almost exactly like?

Shot in the Head is another favorite of mine. Every good death metal album has at least one good headbanging track. This is Death Ritual’s headbanging track that can put a smile on anybody’s face. A little piece of trivia for those of you that want to know is that the voice on the telephone in the intro is Chris Barnes. The third song that I never turn down is the last song, Murder Addiction. Death metal in its absolute PUREST form is displayed by this song. For those of you that are looking for something PURE, this is the album for you. Even though this album has many downsides, the “upsides” make up for them…for the most part. This album earns my score of 16/20. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Orbseven - Fall Below the Earth


Orbseven is a one-man death metal act from Texas performed by a guy known as Zeven. I’m used to solo “bands” being a one-time thing, usually putting out only one or two albums. But this guy has been doing this for almost eight years now! For those of you who don’t like reading long reviews and just want a short description of Orbseven’s sound, it’s mainly old school death metal with a bit of industrial sounds thrown here and there and some parts of ambient keyboard parts. Other than that, there isn’t much else to say besides the fact that this guy is really unknown considering the quality of the music he puts together.

Of course since this an extremely underground project, the sound quality of the recordings suck. But remember, that’s never a bad thing. I’m not sure if this was his goal or if he just had some shitty equipment, but it sounds exactly like some old school death metal album from the late 80s! Even though I’m a huge fan of the old school death metal sound that bands like Grave, Immolation, and Bolt Thrower have been putting out, it’s kind of something that’s hard to still make and sound good. In other words, the majority of the album seems to sound exactly like a death metal band from the 80s. Notice that I said the “majority” of the album’s sound is like that; the record does contain tons of progressive elements that take a couple of listens in order to be heard.

Zeven notes everywhere that he incorporates ambience and black metal into his music. I think this is relatively valid considering that there are several parts of ambient industrial keyboard sounds, but doesn’t give off much of a black metal vibe. The songs go on for quite a considerable length, oftentimes ending up getting repetitive and boring. There are some Incantation-influenced breakdowns in some of the songs that give the headbangers something to do. I don’t know if there is any bass guitar at all in this album, if there is, I can’t hear it; so that’s something that kind of bothers me. There’s this weird effect that Zeven puts on his vocals that struggle to fit in with the rest of the music most of the time. It sounds almost exactly like the voice of the Master Control Program (MCP) from Tron (not the new one kids, the original one). The fifth song, The Void is a Mirror, is apparently what would happen if Vader and Marilyn Manson made love. If you don’t know what I mean or if you don’t believe me, listen to the song and let the sound of the vocals prove the truth.

It’s hard to believe that one person could do something like this! I mean, most of the time when you have a solo act, it’s usually all one or two instruments with tons of keyboards and digital effects. But Zeven here has completely outdone himself by successfully tricking me into thinking that I was listening to a full band, not just one person. So basically my overall opinion on this album is that it’s definitely worth having in your collection if you’re someone foraging for something new. The album’s pretty good, but not something I would scream to the world. I would give this album 12/20. I will be watching this guy waiting for his next release. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Update

Hey everyone, as you may have noticed, the amount and frequency of album reviews I've been posting has been becoming less and less lately. In case you didn't know, I'm still in high school, so I have A LOT of work to do especially since its the end of the semester. I will be taking a week or two off so that I can focus on school work and other issues that I need to work out. I will start posting again as soon as I can. Thank you all for your support. Keep spreading the word about my reviews!

Regards
+Crinn

Sunday, January 8, 2012

DevilDriver - Beast


I came across DevilDriver about the time of the release of their fourth album, which was generally well-received by the majority of the people that have heard it. Although there are many people claiming that DevilDriver has turned into a “sellout” band, I think that they’re getting better and better with each album. I don’t see why people let the amount of popularity a band has influence their opinion on them. Of course I’m aware how fucking huge DevilDriver is; they had Suffocation as a fucking opening act when I saw them! But I don’t let that change my opinion about them at all; my opinion about them would still be the same if they were an opening act for Visceral Disgorge. Anyways, this is the best album they’ve released and this band shows no signs of slowing down.

First of all I would like to give my appreciation to whoever made the album cover because it’s awesome. This album has much more of a breakdown-like sound to it; making it one of the best headbanging albums of all time because they pull it off perfectly while keeping the extremely recognizable DevilDriver sound. The sound that is emitted by this album has more rage and tension than any other DevilDriver record. Although I would still call DevilDriver thrash death, this is the album with the least amount of thrash metal, and even has a tad bit of raging metalcore (obviously due to the breakdowns). The distortion on the guitars is fairly crunchy, perfectly fitting the sound of the album. If they had chosen to stick with the ultra-clean guitar distortions from Pray for Villains, it would have turned out as a disasterpiece rather than a masterpiece.

After years of gradually evolving their sound, DevilDriver decided it was time to do what every good band does at some point in their career, and that was to add a new element to their music, and that was the sound of Soilwork. When I say the sound of Soilwork, I don’t mean the melodic part; I mean the heavy headbanging part in sons like Late for the Kill, Stabbing the Drama, and The Pittsburgh Syndrome. Other than that, this beast of an album (pun intended) is pure DevilDriver; just what I like to hear.

The drumming has improved drastically. The album mixer did a great job of making the drums sound powerful and unrelenting without making them overpower the rest of the band by drowning everything out. The vocalist that has a tattoo for a beard (that I still can’t get used to) has one of the most unique mid-range growls that have a strong yelling sound (which is part of what contributes to their thrash metal sound). Honestly, the vocalist sounds better in this album than in Pray for Villains; which is saying a lot because he was pretty much flawless in that album. The one thing that bothers me is that I can hear the bass and the notes the bassist is playing, but I can’t hear the sounds of the bass guitar. Another thing I forgot to add is that the vocalist obviously feels that he has perfected his scream because he screams a lot more in this album than in the previous ones.

Now let’s take a look at some of the songs. One of the best metal songs of 2011 is Dead to Rights. This is one of the best headbanging songs ever written and is a song I continue to shove in others’ faces because I will do anything to keep this song from going under and being forgotten. Seriously, LISTEN TO THE FIRST SONG OFF THE ALBUM, it’s not something that will disappoint you. And if you say that it sounds too “mainstream”, guess what, there are going to be a lot of people tearing up your ass for putting down that song because it has become a favorite to hundreds of people worldwide (actual statistic). Sometimes I just listen to that one song and forget about the rest of the album, that is, until Hardened starts playing.

The music never stays the same; it’s constantly changing for the duration of the album, keeping the listener interested and engaged, which is what a good album is supposed to do, right? The band is tight and never falls out of time, there are occasional bass booms at the beginning of breakdowns, there is an obvious amount of hard work and effort that was put into the writing process, you can tell that the band cares about what they did and that they didn’t just slap a bunch of random shit together and call it good, and the sound of the album is filled with unrelenting rage and unmerciful power that will blow you away. This album deserves my score of 19/20. 

Meshuggah - obZen

This was my first Meshuggah album. I actually got it a month or so after it came out when I unintentionally got caught in the middle of all the hype that was going on about this record. Most of the people that I’ve talked to have said that obZen is Meshuggah’s best album; which is a statement that I fully agree with. There is one problem I have with this album and Meshuggah in general, and that is that they’ve been doing the same exact thing for almost 20 years. I hate to break it to you guys, but even though these guys possess some of the most amazing technical and instrumental skills, they are one of the least creative metal bands I have ever heard.

For those of you that aren’t super familiar with deathcore, I would suggest that you listen to some bands from that genre like All Shall Perish, Born of Osiris, and Veil of Maya. The thing that those bands have in common is that their version of that sudden drop in tempo commonly known as a breakdown is extremely complex and technical. Meshuggah is like that, except that’s all they are, one big breakdown that changes into another breakdown. Here’s the problem I have with that; the best breakdowns have a really fast part that leads into a buildup of tension that then drop in tempo going to the breakdown. The problem I have with Meshuggah is that there is no buildup at all (with the exception of a weak buildup as the intro in a couple of songs); it’s usually just a breakdown from beginning to end. It may sound awesome, and it does; it’s awesome! But it gets old and repetitive very quickly.

There is a small group of people that consider this constant breakdown style its own genre, giving it the name “djent”, which is a term that I haven’t come to accept or use. Although more and more bands are using more breakdowns in their music, Meshuggah still dominates them with the amount of them used; being considered by some to be the “inventors” of what we consider today to be a metal  breakdown.

Now that I’m done whining, I’d like to say that although these guys have next to no creative abilities, they are some of the best metal musicians I’ve ever heard. Their songs are so technical and abstract that I can’t tap my foot or bang my head in time with the song because all the abstract and off-beat riffs this band does throws me off. Of course once I pulled out a metronome, it was proven that these guys are actually keeping perfect time throughout the song. Those of you musicians out there that have tried to play or write stuff like this know that it’s not easy at all and that the stuff Meshuggah pulls off is nearly impossible for everyone except Meshuggah (ever wonder why no one has ever covered a Meshuggah song?).

The best musician in the band is one of the best metal drummers I have ever heard. Those of you that know anything about a band should know that the drummer is the motor of the group that keeps the band on-tempo. Not only that, he has one of the best set of legs in the world. If you don’t have a perverted mind, you should be able to figure out what I mean by listening to the song Bleed off of this record. When most people hear the name Meshuggah, they think “I love their drummer!” which is what made me listen to them again after I was minimally impressed with them when I first heard them in 2008.

I will admit that their vocalist makes one of the best faces I’ve ever seen (click the link at the bottom of the review to see it). He doesn’t growl, he doesn’t sing, he doesn’t scream, he doesn’t yell, he doesn’t belch, he doesn’t even “Trollololo”. The sound that you hear flowing out of his mouth is the unfiltered sound of rage and anger from an unknown being. In other words, there’s no way to verbally describe the sound of his vocals, they’re that unique.

Overall, this album sounds no different from any of their other albums. The only thing that makes this album stand out to me the most is that there is more variation in tempo and technicality throughout the record. But otherwise, it’s just one long breakdown that drags on and doesn’t have any build-up, eventually disappointing your expectations for something bigger to happen. There isn’t any low point, it’s all at the highest point; the tension is literally unchanging throughout, therefore making this an album that is extremely addicting and enjoyable to listen to once, but will sound dull and boring after the first listen. So I only listen to Meshuggah like once every other month because of that. I would give this album 13/20.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Blutklinge - Call of the Blackened Woods [EP]


Unfortunately Blutklinge ceased to exist when their vocalist committed suicide. Even though that happened after I discovered them, they have come to be one of the biggest sources of influence and inspiration for my music. Until about three months ago, I had no idea that they had a full-length album; I thought they just had this EP and a couple of demos (all of which I have acquired). All of the songs and lyrics were written by the vocalist, who is known only as “S”. If you want to look into the mind of a truly depressed person with mixed emotions about pretty much everything, this is an album that you should listen to because it’s very powerful. And on top of that, even though the lyrics are very depressing and powerful, the music is very moving as well.

The overall sound of the album is that of your typical ambient black record. Extremely poor sound quality, little-to-no production work/mixing, atmospheric, slightly out of tune guitars, songs that usually last more than six minutes, and containing an emotional and depressive sound. One of the unique things about this record is that it’s definitely one of the more melodic ambient black records out there. I can’t say that it’s one of the MOST melodic ambient black albums because there’s so much from the genre that I haven’t heard; but it’s certainly one of the most melodic out of the ambient black albums in my library.

I absolutely love the sound of the lead vocalist. He has that really rough gravely sound that doesn’t have that high-pitched tone, but it doesn’t sound like he’s choking on a duck. The extremely fuzzy guitar distortion isn’t the type that is unpleasant to the ears; in fact, it’s the opposite. Some of the drumming that is done during some parts of the song is a bit unnecessary, mainly with the overuse of the symbols.

The first song off of the EP is my favorite; I sometimes end up not getting through the album because I get stuck on this one song. The vocals are crisp; there is an excellent mix of depressive highly-distorted parts and soft semi-acoustic parts. The lead guitar line does get a bit repetitive during the second half of the song that starts after the raining sounds. Adversary is one of those songs that really touches me and makes me feel a sense of connection, being someone that has been living with depression my whole life; so this song is very powerful for me and is something I always go back and listen to. Although it’s obvious that the two members spend a great deal of time writing and practicing this song, there doesn’t seem to be much structure within the song; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means that the song is completely unpredictable unless you’ve listened to it hundreds of times like I have.

Probably my least favorite thing about this EP is the opening scream in the title song. It’s obviously not the lead vocalist making that horrible cry, but it still sounds extremely unattractive (which was probably their intent). This is the most melodic song on the record, having some keyboard-simulated choir voices giving the song an extremely beautiful atmosphere and ambience. The drumming in this song isn’t really that good; but other than those two downers, this song is amazing.

The third track is an instrumental that has a complete absence of drums and distorted guitars. When I say that this album has a lot of ambience and emotion, this is the song that best describes the melodic, soft, delicate, and beautiful side of that. The acoustic and soft electric guitars are the instruments that back up the slightly repetitive melodic keyboard riff that still sounds pretty even though it doesn’t really change at all throughout the song; but that’s where tolerance and patience comes in.

The final track on this EP has a strong traditional black metal vibe with some obvious old-school Darkthrone influence. This shows that the band has at least some diversity in music styles that they can play as well as having outside inspiration from bands that don’t fit in the exact genre that they do. After about three or so minutes of this classic Darkthrone sound, the music fades into the sounds of rainfall and wolves howling which then transitions back to the signature Blutklinge sound.

Overall, this is one of my favorite EPs. This band has influenced the music I write ever since I started three years ago. So for those of you that like the melodic side of black metal, this is definitely a four-song piece you should look up. There isn’t anything else quite like it and gets my score of 15/20. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Oh, Sleeper - Son of the Morning


This was my first Oh, Sleeper album, and for some reason still remains their most unknown album (as far as I know, I don’t know many people that listen to them). After releasing their 2007 debut that reached the ears of thousands of kids across the globe, they had to further demonstrate their songwriting and creative abilities by creating an even better record; and they did. Even though they just recently released their best record yet, Children of Fire, Son of the Morning is still a metalcore landmark in my book. There are a lot of changes that they made in their music in the two years after they released When I am God, which is what I’m here to tell you about.

Oh, Sleeper is an openly Christian band, and the reason why I’m making a note of this is because of the album cover, which was the first place where they used their know widely-known symbol. For those of you that can’t quite tell what it is, it’s a “broken pentagram” with the horns missing. Many people perceived this as being a Satanic symbol, but that misconception quickly died out after about a year.

When I saw and heard Oh, Sleeper for the first time in September, 2009, I was blown away. This was before their vocalist apparently cut his hair, because his hair was nearly down to his waist when he walked on stage. Regardless of that, this band doesn’t really fit the rest of the bands that their fans like because they have a more mature and progressive sound than other metalcore bands like Atreyu, Miss May I, and Killswitch Engage. But honestly, that doesn’t really matter because Oh, Sleeper has proved themselves to have the ability to stand out from the metalcore stereotype.

 Now since I’m writing a review on this album from the perspective of someone who has heard all the changes they’ve made in their music in the album after this (Children of Fire), I’m going to do a bit of comparing between the two before I start diving into the hardcore details of Son of the Morning. The biggest improvement that the vocalist has been making with each album is his singing. His screaming has always been top-notch, but his singing really wasn’t that impressive until Children of Fire. There is this one song off Son of the Morning that really bothers me because of the repulsive harmonization during the singing parts; that song is In All Honesty. The amount of technicality in this album is substantially greater than that of Children of Fire, demonstrating that they have tons of creative abilities on top of the technical skills.

The most notable feature of this album is obviously the seemingly constant technical riffs the lead guitarist plays. But that’s not the only thing that makes this album great, even though it’s a huge part of the album’s sound. The overall songwriting that was done on this album is astonishing compared to When I am God, which had really good songwriting to begin with! The song structures are extremely complex (depending on what you’re focusing on when you listen to it) compared to most other metalcore and screamo bands out there. Even though there is a lot of anger and fury contained within the fast parts and the breakdowns, there are frequent moments that are filled with melodic bass lines and huge atmospheric guitar chords that I’ve never heard before.

A band’s second album is always the most important (you’re probably sick of me saying that now). It’s the record that shows that the band has the ability to progress, be even more creative, and to prove that their first album wasn’t JUST a compilation of old songs, that they could actually put together great songs and have them ready for the public ear within a few years. Oh, Sleeper passed with flying colors. In all honesty (pun intended), this album is fucking great; and the Texas metalcore band known as Oh, Sleeper will only continue to get better after this. This earns 16/20. 

Oh, Sleeper - Children of Fire


Oh, Sleeper is extremely underrated amongst the metal community; getting the most attention from kids who primarily listen to screamo, metalcore, and some deathcore. Although the amount of metalheads that listen to them is gradually increasing. This was another band that I was introduced to when I saw Bring me the Horizon in September of 2009; they were the second band to come on after the British metalcore band Architects. I’ll tell you that I was blown away by their professionalism and performance when they were on stage. The instant I got home I downloaded (which at the time was) their new album, Son of the Morning, and was attacked by the same opening riffs that I first heard them play at the show. And just so you know, I have bought their CDs after I decided that they were amazing and deserved my money. Every one of their albums is great, but their sound gets more professional, more creative, and more mature with each album to the point to where they aren’t what some of you people call “crappy scene kids”. This album was just released and it’s called Children of Fire.

The record is filled with emotion, color, and technicality from the first opening line to the ambient guitar feedback at the end. One thing that I should mention is that Oh, Sleeper is one of the most technical metalcore bands out there; having more complex song structures and guitar lines than bands like The Devil Wears Prada and August Burns Red. Most of their technicality lies within the minds and hands of the guitarists. One of the best examples of this technicality would be the title song from Son of the Morning. And even though their technicality is their most prominent and well-known feature, it’s not the only quality they hold.

Children of the Fire uses Son of the Morning as a blueprint; and instead of just creating a whole new sound, they just build off of their 2009 album, making it into something bigger. One of the new sounds that the band has added to their music is the ultra-soft melodic parts with blissful singing and exceptional vocal harmonization. This is even added onto the technical sound of the guitars in Hush Yael, which is immediately followed by the one minute acoustic track to add a touch of melodic beauty and diversity to the record; perfect for those of you that like to hear more than one sound on an album.

And of course what would metalcore be without breakdowns? This album is filled with perfect breakdowns that aren’t that brutal, but still can conduct the heaviest headbanging. My favorite examples from this album would be The Marriage of Steel and Skin, Hush Yael, Endseeker, and the heaviest track on the album, Dealers of Fame; which is where the heaviest breakdowns are released. In other words, the breakdowns are purely amazing.

I remember Son of the Morning not having quite enough bass, making it kind of difficult to listen to on my earbuds at high volumes. The production work on this album is much better. All of the sound levels are perfectly balanced out with a little boost of the vocals. None of the instruments drown out the rest of the band (another sign of professionalism).

My favorite songs off this record are Endseeker, The Marriage of Steel and Skin, Dealers of Fame, and the title track. Let me tell you what I like about the last song on the album, which is also the title track. The part that really spoke out to me is a part that contains my absolute favorite kind of breakdown that always gives me chills and creates a smile on my face; and that is the slow breakdown that is accompanied by the lead guitarist hammering high-pitched technical guitar lines. One of the best breakdowns like that is in The Human Condition from Desolation of Eden by Chelsea Grin. But even though that’s the best one on the album, there are a couple of breakdowns like that in songs like Endseeker and The Marriage of Steel and Skin. Oh, Sleeper couldn’t have chosen a better opening track than Endseeker. Until you hear that song, you have no idea what you’re up against; Endseeker takes all of the different sounds of this album and compresses them into a three minute song. I highly suggest you listen to the other songs I listed above and the rest of the album

This album is definitely the best metalcore release of 2011; showing mind-blowing creativity, maturity, and technicality. Even though I highly recommend you look up this album, I also would suggest that you look up their other two albums because they’re awesome too! I would, though, like to see this band do a little more progression and change on their next album than what they did on this record. This album earns a highly deserved score from me of 18/20. 

Rest in Peace Oceano


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Architects - Hollow Crown


I was introduced to the Architects when they were the first band to play when I saw Bring me the Horizon in September of 2009. Now just to let you know, I love everything BMTH released prior to their 2010 disaster. But Bring me the Horizon isn’t what I’m here to tell you about; that’s for another time. The Architects came on with Early Grave and the whole crowd started going absolutely nuts with headbanging and jumping. The next day I looked them up and got this album and it was awesome. After a couple of months I listened to their other albums; and now I’m back to only having this album. If you don’t see what I’m getting at, I’m saying that their other albums SUCK! Because of this, Hollow Crown is one of the biggest flukes in the history of metal.

Before I jump into talking about the album, I would like to say that Architects and BMTH have been brothers since the beginning (they’ve both been around for about the same amount of time, BMTH still puts the Architects as an opening act on almost every one of their tours). They both have influenced each other’s music in some sort of way; the biggest influence is what I will talk about next.

The biggest reason why so many people despise Bring me the Horizon is because Oliver Sykes started doing that retarded-sounding yell. Now it’s gotten to the point to where you rarely hear him scream or growl (unless of course they are playing an older song live). You know where I think Oliver got that idea from? Listen to this album, and then listen to the other Architects albums. Although that vocal style sounds better in this album because the music style differs from that off BMTH’s albums, it still gets irritating after a while of listening to it.
The biggest problem that I have with this band is the same problem that I have with Meshuggah; and that is that the album seems like a constant breakdown. Fortunately, there are some sped up parts to get the pit going and there are some more melodic parts backed by slightly better than average singing. But it just seems like there is a lack of creativity (which is why this is a fluke, because they had no creativity in any of their other records).

For those of you that love to headbang, this is going to be a great album for you. You’ll turn on the first song and say “Oh Hellyeah!!” The first track is filled with thick and heavy breakdowns with enough bass to make a dubstep fan happy and even has some melodic parts. The beginning of the next song sounds almost exactly like Early Grave, but I mean, there’s nothing wrong with doing the same thing more than once; it’s just when you do the same thing too many times when there’s an obvious lack of creativity and commitment. Dethroned is more of a moshing song that has extreme drops with tons of meaty bass within the kick drums; definitely something that puts a smile on my face. But after that, the albums gradually gets more and more dull.

The sound quality of this record is astonishing compared to the albums previous to it. The guitar distortion has tons of treble and an inconceivable amount of bass, but with very little mid-range; therefore creating a unique sound perfect for the metalcore genre. When you hear this album, instead of hearing a bunch of musicians, you hear a band; which is EXACTLY what I want to hear. But it seems that now they’ve gone back to mediocrity; which is why this album is a fluke. I still listen to this album and enjoy it, but it’s the only good album that this band has put out so far. I would give this record 13/20.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Xasthur - To Violate the Oblivious


Unfortunately Xasthur and the rest of the ambient black metal scene has had the least success out of all the metal genres in existence. Although there have been some semi-successful ambient black artists like Xasthur, Elffor, and Woods of Desolation; the majority of the ambient black (sometimes referred to as depressive black metal) population has continued to be extremely underground. But the people that do enjoy it (myself included) are diehard supporters that listen to numerous bands from that area. Xasthur has become one of my favorite bands next to Opeth, Breaking Benjamin, and Decrepit Birth. Now anyone can listen to Malefic (the sole member of Xasthur) and be able to tell that he is not an amazing musician that holds unusual technical skills. In fact, he’s a pretty mediocre musician as far as metal standards go. The reason why people like me enjoy Xasthur and other similar artists is not because of the musicianship, but because of the ability the artist has to stimulate intense emotions within the listener. Believe me, it’s not something that you will instantly appreciate; it took me over a year before I truly came to appreciate and enjoy listening to Xasthur.

Ambient black can have many different sides. One of the sounds it has is a very melodic sound created with slow tempos and highly distorted guitars that sounds beautiful. Some bands that do this would be Woods of Desolation, Gris, and Blutklinge. Another one of the sounds is that really out-of-tune, dark, depressing sound that seems like an auditory brain scan of Charles Manson. There are also some bands like Velvet Cacoon that mix in amounts of traditional black metal with their music. Xasthur literally reaches out to all of these areas plus others. To Violate the Oblivious is an album that covers many different sounds and moods rather than primarily focusing on a certain sound like many of Xasthur’s other records.

The two minute intro track is Malefic demonstrating a beautiful improvisation on the keyboards. The root chords in the second song are very melodic. But the lead guitar parts cover more of a traditional black metal sound with some abstract licks. The drumming is faster than what you would normally hear from other ambient black artists, but it doesn’t take away the relaxing vibe from the music. To Violate the Oblivious is also where Malefic starts using a lot more keyboards to back up the music.

What I may have described before about Xasthur’s basic sound probably sounds a bit unpleasant. Honestly, melodic music touches everyone in some way or another. Xasthur’s music is one of the most beautiful sounds ever to reach my ears. Although it has a thick layer of low production quality, bad tuning, and high distortion disguising it, after listening to it over and over again, you start to notice the downsides becoming more transparent and eventually seeing the beauty within the core.

The only reason why I like this album better than Subliminal Genocide is because it doesn’t have those seemingly pointless and overused interludes throughout the record. Since the album doesn’t have those obstacles that appear, it becomes a constant flowing river of beauty, ambience, and relaxation that pulls you in as soon as you turn it on.

The guitar distortion on this album is my favorite out of all the other Xasthur records. It’s not too high-pitched, there’s not too much fuzz, not too narrow sounding but not too wide either, and even though it has a low sound quality, it still sounds clear and crisp. There are some songs where the guitar drones on for the entire track that create the atmosphere that completely encloses you and shuts you out from the outside world. There is one song that touches me the most and creates the most intense emotions within me, and that is the last track, Walker of Dissonant Worlds.

Walker of Dissonant Worlds is an instrumental track that consists completely of guitar tracks. The only official Xasthur music video is one of this song that has someone walking around with a camera following Malefic himself through his house and out onto a train track. The most unique thing about this video is that after the camera finishes following Malefic, it travels through parts of downtown Los Angeles and shows the homeless. I’m going to be honest and say that this video is very depressing and unfortunately true. None of it was staged and the homeless men and women filmed are sometimes high or obviously insane. A sign that one of the people holds up has a very rebellious and angry message that reads “The pain Jesus experienced is nothing compared to mine”. Some of you may be asking why Malefic would choose this to be in his video. The answer lies in the lyrics that he writes. The song also sounds completely different and creates an entirely different emotion in the video than it does when you’re just listening to it.

This album is filled with depression, anger, beauty, bliss, relaxation, hope, regret, and melody. This is one of my favorite albums of all-time and I would suggest that you look it up. I will warn you that you shouldn’t be surprised if the music speaks out to you as being repulsive; so try to be understanding that this has an acquired taste and possibly isn’t your cup of tea.  I would give this album a perfect score. Xasthur is a project I will never forget and I will never stop listening to even though it is no longer in existence.