Monday, April 30, 2012

What to expect this week

Here are some of the bands that I hope to do some album reviews on:

Six Feet Under (death metal)
Severe Torture (death grind)
Cattle Decapitation (death grind)
Spawn of Possession (technical death)
Krypt (black metal)
Bonded by Blood (thrash metal)

Before the Dawn - Rise of the Phoenix

Roughly a year after releasing one of the best albums of 2011, the Finnish melodic death powerhouse known as Before the Dawn is back with a strong follow-up known as The Rise of the Phoenix. I’ve actually known about this release for several months now, so obviously, I’ve been eager to hear it for quite a while. A little over a week ago, I went on the Nuclear Blast website to check the status of the album. I went to Before the Dawn’s page to discover that one of the tracks off the new album had been posted for streaming! Although their overall sound hasn’t gone through many HUGE changes since the release of Deathstar Rising, there are quite a few differences Deathstar Rising and Rise of the Phoenix (I don’t know if they purposefully put the word “rise” in both of those albums).

Let’s start out with the first track I heard off the album, which turns out to be the “title” song off the record (which is also not the EXACT title as the album, just like the title track off Deathstar Rising). The thing that stuck out to me the most was the extensive use of black metal-influenced higher-pitched chords. What I’m talking about are those really atmospheric melodic chords used primarily in the more melodic variations of black metal (although they run through all black metal in some way or another, tracing all the way back to the earliest black metal bands from the late 80s). But of course, these chords are being used in a melodic death fashion rather than in the black metal style that most people are used to hearing them in. The amount of blast beats being used throughout the faster parts of the song has gone up as well as the overall style of drumming.

If you strip away the layer of gothic influence and sound, Before the Dawn’s music is in fact the precise definition of melodic death in its purest and most generic sense. Before the Dawn removes their highly recognized gothic layer in some parts of this album, showing the rawness and pureness of their music. But even though this may SOUND like a disappointment, this album still earned the same score from me that their previous album did (even though I still like Deathstar Rising better).

The growls emitted from the throat of Tuomas aren’t quite as deep and spine-chilling as they are in previous albums, but this was probably done on purpose because it fits the less-gothic sound better. Here’s probably one of the most noticeable changes that Before the Dawn has made: there isn’t nearly as much singing. If you’ve heard Soundscape of Silence (my first Before the Dawn album), then you should know that there’s actually a tad bit more singing than growling. In Rise of the Phoenix, there’s next to no singing; which (fortunately) doesn’t decrease the quality of the music in any way.

In Phoenix Rising, Before the Dawn decides to turn down the opacity of their widely recognized layer of gothic sound and expose the rawness of their music to their listeners. To be honest, I’m extremely glad that the gothic feel hasn’t COMPLETELY vanished, but the atmospheric and epic sound that they use to make up for the hole that they left completely blew me away. I would recommend this to everyone and I guarantee you, Rise of the Phoenix does not disappoint.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Behemoth - Demigod

I first saw Behemoth play live at the Mayhem Festival in 2009. Before then, I had never even heard of Behemoth. A couple of days after I was left speechless by the power of Behemoth’s performance and the level of violence of their moshpit, I got my hands on the first Behemoth album I could find, and it turned out to be Demigod. This is one of the first extreme metal albums that I can remember that blew my mind the FIRST time I heard it. And not only that, my feelings for this album have grown exponentially since then.

Believe it or not, there are actually quite a few people out there in the world that consider Behemoth just to be black metal. Although black metal is very evident in Behemoth’s music, these guys are just simply WAY too fucking brutal and insane to just be black metal. The only way to make black metal THIS extreme is to throw a hell of a lot of death metal in there. The main thing that makes Demigod unique is that it doesn’t seem to mix in death metal…it sounds more like brutal death. And I’m not talking about the “slamming” brutal death stuff that’s BRUTAL, but not SUPER barbaric, I’m talking about the kind of brutality that’s created by bands like Hate Eternal, Aborted (particularly Goremageddeon), and Nile.

As difficult as it is, I’m going to put the sheer brutality and chaos aside and see what lies behind it. This album’s (and actually Behemoth’s) most recognizable trait is the seemingly forced out growls performed by Nerghal. Ever since I first got this album, Nerghal’s growls have been the thing that I’ve always recognized the most…those absolutely demonic vocals. Nerghal’s growls ARE NOT the deep, guttural kind that I have a major soft spot for. They sound very strained and forced out with a lot of voice; which could make “mid-range” a fairly (although not totally) accurate description of the pitch of his growls. Here’s why I particularly love the vocals on the Demigod record: the other guitarists does deep guttural growls and/or mid-ranged screams right along Nerghal’s unique vocals. This altogether makes one hell of a powerful vocal package.

The drumming is so breathtaking that it’s indescribable. Although he didn’t to this either of the times that I saw them, but I’ve seen live videos on YouTube of the drummer breaking out into a massive solo that left the audience paralyzed. Just the fact that he has the confidence to even DO a solo onstage makes him a fantastic drummer! But regardless, he is the spine-chilling growl of this Behemoth that has the power to consume the stars in the night sky. Ok, now let’s look at the bass. You can’t hear the clanging of the bassist picking the strings, but his bass is so deep and so loud that you can hear every note that he’s playing; which (yet again) only adds to the immense power of this Demigod. The reason why you can’t hear the higher-end of the bassist’s guitar is because the two guitars have so much power, crunch, and volume that they pretty much swallow it all up. Any other case, this would be a bad thing; but the vocals and drums have enough power to smash through the barbaric sound of the guitars in order to be heard clearly.

Speaking of guitars, one of the best guitarists of all-time is featured on the most extreme and brutal song on this album, Karl Sanders, who plays on the song Xul. Basically, if you want to hear the definition of mayhem, play this song and it will jump out of your speakers and relentlessly take you by the throat. Honestly, even though there is a large amount of black metal that has been incorporated in this album, the term “melodic” fails to describe any part of this album; it just simply doesn’t exist within this Demigod. Although some of the songs are much more brutal than others, the “less brutal” songs still manage to surpass the brutality of Suffocation, Cattle Decapitation, and Skinless; as well as MATCHING the brutality level of Hate Eternal, Devourment, Nile, and Fleshgod Apocalypse.

Overall, this album couldn’t possibly be any better. Behemoth needed to spend some time in the realms of extreme brutality to give a new twist to their sound that was starting to become monotonous. I would give this album a perfect score and would consider it an absolute essential for ANY metalhead’s music collection. There’s only one other Behemoth album that I’ve given a perfect score to, and that’s Pandemonic Incantations. After this literally grabbed the attention of the mainstream rock and metal media, Behemoth then released their most famous and bestselling album, The Apostasy. My favorite song off of this album is the HEAVY headbanging track which is the last song off the album as well as Before the Aeons Came and the title track, Demigod. 

I See Stars - Digital Renegade

Michigan’s I See Stars first reached my ears when I saw them in 2009 with Asking Alexandria, Attack Attack!, Breathe Carolina, and a couple other screamo bands. At this time, I See Stars (and most of the other bands on that tour) were pretty new; most of them having only one album out. To be honest, I don’t really remember their set at all from this show, which probably implies that I wasn’t hugely impressed or disgusted by them (making them unmemorable). In 2011, after I had almost completely forgot about them, I saw someone wearing an I See Stars shirt and decided that it was time to look them up. I decided to listen to their two albums in chronological order and found 3D to be very rough and not solid at all. It was the first song off End of the World Party (you can read my review on the album) that really grabbed my attention. Since I am very aware of how Sumerian Records treats their bands, I’m assuming that the label spend a lot of time working with them and helping them to solidify their sound and tighten everything up. In other words, their second album was quite an improvement. Now less than a year later, here comes I See Star’s newest product, Digital Renegade.

I’m not going to do TOO much comparing here, but I will say that the amount of dubstep and techno elements used is far greater than ever. Most of the dubstep sounds occur during breakdowns; acting as background effects behind the crunching guitars and drums. Also, there is A LOT more screaming in this album than in the two previous records. I guess the biggest change in the overall sound is that it sounds less atmospheric; it doesn’t have as much of that mystical/trance feel that End of the World Party had.

I already know that the occasional auto-tune that the singer uses is purely for effect. Why? Because he can sing perfectly without it; he can do it in the studio and on stage. And here’s the reason it doesn’t really bother me: it’s not used during the metal parts, only the techno parts, and it fits the music because it has that electronic/digital sound that I See Stars is known for. I did make this pretty clear in my review of their second album: there isn’t really that much about I See Stars that I DON’T like, it’s just that the things that I DO like aren’t good enough to get a super high rating. The unfortunate thing about Digital Renegade is that most of the good qualities are starting to deteriorate a bit.

The biggest problem I have with this album is that even though the songs differentiate a LITTLE from each other, they still sound WAY too much alike. I had a hunch that this would be a problem before I even started listening to Digital Renegade because it’s hard to be this prolific in songwriting and still maintain a very high quality in the new material. In other words, I feel that I See Stars rushed to put this album together and finished with a product with less quality than End of the World Party. Fortunately, it’s not a disaster; but they’re really going to have to make a big step to make up for this loss.

Overall, this album has plenty of memorable moments and vibrant colors within the music, but not a lot of quality. I would recommend this album only to true screamo fans because this is far from being one of the best releases in the genre. I would give this 10/20. But if you are curious to hear this; by all means listen to it!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Summer Slaughter 2012

Will you be going? Because I sure as FUCKING HELL will be buying my ticket the DAY that they go on sale this Friday!!
Although I'm super pumped for ALL of the bands on this bill (even though Periphery isn't really what I would consider to be a Summer Slaughter band...I hope that there aren't more bands this soft in the future..), here are the bands I am most excited for:

Exhumed (second time seeing them)
The Faceless (third time seeing them)
Cannibal Corpse (second time seeing them)
Cerebral Bore
Between the Buried and Me
Goatwhore (third time seeing them)
Veil of Maya (second time seeing them)
Periphery (third time seeing them)
Job For a Cowboy (fourth time seeing them)

Monday, April 23, 2012

1349 - Hellfire

For those of you that are new to black metal, 1349 stand amongst the Norwegian  PURE black metal monsters/masters that are Immortal, Darkthrone, Mayhem, Gorgoroth, Carpathian Forest, Taake, Burzum, and Satyricon (no, I did not miss any). My favorite 1349 album has always been Hellfire. 1349’s sound is for someone who wants a very pure form of black metal, but with a bunch of melody mixed in to give it some extra color. I guess a band that would compare to 1349’s sound would be Watain, but Watain isn’t nearly as fast and chaotic as 1349 (even though I like Watain more). But as far as the quality of the music goes, there are only a few traditional black metal bands that can surpass the quality of Hellfire.

I think I might have under exaggerated the amount of melody this album has. It seems that when you look at just plain black metal all by itself, some of the variations include simple, but extremely gritty and rough (Darkthrone, Mayhem, Drowning the Light), complete insanity and chaos (Gorgoroth, Immortal, Dark Funeral), a bit of a rock n’ roll feel at times (Carpathian Forest, Ravencult, newer Darkthrone), and a traditional sound that’s farther on the melodic side (Watain, Dark Fortress, Drudkh, Burzum). 1349 is more in ranks with Watain as far as HOW MUCH melody they incorporate into their music; but like I said before, the speed and chaos is easily comparable to Gorgoroth. But then again, some of the songs on this album have as much melody as Wolves in the Throne Room.

The general sound that this album has can be accurately described with just one word: POWERFUL. Not only does the music alone make it powerful, but how all the instruments are mixed and produced. In volume, the drums surpass the vocals and guitars to act as the dominant instrument as well as the base. The guitars have a very fuzzy distortion that is as far away from crunchy as you can get. This is one of the characteristics that only make black metal sound more powerful; it weakens the music if it’s put in any other genre. I don’t really know how to describe the position of the vocals…the place where they stand isn’t as obvious as it usually is. It seems more that the vocals are weaved and spread throughout every single layer of the music rather than being on their own layer.

I don’t know what song off this album is the most famous, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s I Am Abomination. This song was the first thing that put the word “melodic” into my head. After that cheesy voice, the music literally erupts like a frozen volcano into one of the best black metal intros I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s one of those things where you KNOW that these guys are going to have a powerful sound INSTANTLY after they play the first chord. Containing some of the tightest and strongest blast beats played by the (possibly superhuman) drummer, the mix of brutality on the drum set and epic melody on the guitars create a black metal masterpiece that introduces you the album known as Hellfire.

Although I’m a fan of all but one of 1349’s albums, Hellfire is what I would recommend to everyone, especially as a first impression. I would give this album a perfect score for creating a huge smile on my face with the first chords and keeping it there until the guitars fade to raindrops at the end. This is an absolute essential (not just for the black metal collection) for any metalhead that enjoys black metal in any amount. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Update 4/21

Hey guys, I know my reviews have been getting less frequent recently. The school and work load alone has been enough of a stress as it is, and hearing about the tragic suicide of one of my good friends yesterday hasn't made things any easier. There will be more reviews, I just don't quite know when. I just got a listen of the new Before The Dawn album and it's absolutely killer, so that will probably be one of the next reviews that will get posted.
Other than that, my April concert spree has been amazing with the Metal Alliance Tour on the 1st, The Black Dahlia Murder w/ Nile, Skeletonwitch, and Hour of Penance on the 2nd, Protest the Hero w/ Periphery, The Safety Fire, and Today I caught the Plague on the 3rd, Sepultura w/ Death Angel, Krisiun, and Havok on the 13th, and last night: Behemoth w/ Watain (wearing my new shirt of them right now), The Devil's Blood, and In Solitude. The last concert left in this series is on the 30th and includes my favorite band ever, Opeth.

I plan on posting some reviews of:
1349 (black metal)
Behemoth (black death)
Semblant (gothic metal)
Shroud of Distress (depressive black metal)
Severe Torture (death grind)
I See Stars (screamo)


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Onatra - For Your Soul [EP]

I don’t think I’ve ever heard very many (if any) horrible symphonic metal records. The interesting thing is…this is one of my favorite types of music, and one of my FAVORITE bands is from this particular genre, Epica. Yet I don’t know of a whole lot of symphonic metal bands. Over the course of maybe two months, I discovered almost all of the symphonic metal bands I listen to today: Nightwish, Epica, Therion, After Forever, Edenbridge, Within Temptation, and Apocalyptica. The only other symphonic metal bands that I’ve discovered since then are newer groups like ReVamp, Whyzdom, and Tarja. All of these symphonic metal bands are AMAZING and each have a special place in my collection, but I’ve been curious to find some brand new symphonic metal acts out there to impress me. Onatra is the band I’m going to tell you about today. Earlier this year, Onatra released a three song EP that is apparently available to the public for free, which most likely means that this is being used as a teaser to get the community hyped up and excited for a debut full-length. This EP isn’t an outright perfect record; it is, though, EXACTLY what I wanted to hear.

This EP is more than good enough to keep my eye on Onatra for when they release their debut album. But because it’s not AMAZING, it leaves a whole lot of room for improvement to make the upcoming first album seem so much better. Honestly, most of the flaws that this record has aren’t in the music itself; the majority of the flaws lie in the production work. This album is better produced than most self-released EPs I’ve heard, but there are several things about it that make a lot of the elements seem unbalanced and make the music much harder to flow smoothly. Probably the biggest issue that I have is the drums. In this kind of music, the drums NEED to be at the front of the line; if the drums have no volume and punch, the music has no power. If you listen to songs like See Who I Am by Within Temptation or Discord by After Forever, it’s easy to hear that the drums have parts where they’re more in the background, but most of the time they almost completely stick out and rise above the rest of the band. I know that the drums aren’t the ONLY thing that give this kind of music its power, but it certainly is the absolute biggest contributor.

The first track of this EP has a fantastic intro! But the reason why it has next to no power is because the drums have next to no punch. Once again, there isn’t much that can be done musically to help this (except for the use of more cymbals in the tighter parts to make them more powerful). That’s the one single thing that’s almost completely holding back the music, MORE DRUMS! The drums need to be LOUDER and have more damn POWER! Although I have a generally easy time seeing through this and seeing the mass amounts of musical creativity and potential, it does act as a huge obstruction. But don’t let that turn you away, because in the middle of the first track…a guitar solo erupts seemingly out of nowhere to pierce the skies like a rising phoenix. This is one of the better solos I’ve heard in this kind of music in a LONG time. After that solo grabbed my attention and almost pulled me in completely, the song then exploded with power that apparently was there the whole time; I guess it was the guitar solo that did to me what the intro SHOULD have done. That’s the big thing with this type of music, the attention grab of the intro needs to be almost INSTANT, or it will make the music seem dull until something interesting happens (that is, IF something interesting happens).

The second track is a fantastic headbanging song and has most of the grab in the beginning that the first song was missing…but the drums could still use to have more volume and power. The singer is obviously going to be the highlight among audiences once this band REALLY takes off (just like in almost every other symphonic metal band). If you’re curious about how she sounds, she perfectly nails the operatic singing style, but it doesn’t fit the powerless sound of the rest of the music. Another thing that this album is missing: the guitars need more crunch. And by that I mean a much heavier distortion.

Overall, this is actually a fantastic EP, but the numerous production flaws limit the music a lot. This EP shows that this band has talent, skill, and creativity. It also shows that there is plenty of room for improvement that they can fill by the time they release their first full-length album. I would give this 15/20. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Am Ghost - Lover's Requiem

Still to this day, I have seen I am Ghost live more times than any other band (six times). Not only has this album become an absolute favorite of mine since its release, it’s an album that musically and emotionally is a definitive classic. Although I’m not nearly as big on the screamo genre as I was two years ago, there are still a small handful of bands that I consider part of my VERY favorite bands group: Underoath, Alesana, and I am Ghost (my favorite out of the three has always been Underoath). It’s easier for other metalheads to understand why I love Underoath, but much, much harder for them to understand my appreciation for Alesana. The reason for both of those is because both of those bands are HUGE; it’s hard for a metal fan not to have heard them at least once in their lives. I am Ghost is a different story because they’re not nearly as popular; some people actually consider them being JUST above the underground level. But why the hell do I LOVE this band (and this album especially) so much?

The first quality of this album has the ability to impress anyone, and that’s the beautiful singing and harmonization. That’s the FIRST thing that I heard, because the intro track is a gothic-style vocal track with two male vocalists (one of them being the lead vox on the rest of the album) and the female singer/violinist. I know I might be making a big deal out of an introduction track, but I CANNOT stress enough how beautiful and paralyzing the singing is on this song! Once this track is done setting the mood and putting you in a relaxed state, it leads into one of the heavier songs on the album. The guitar distortions aren’t too crunchy, but have enough to efficiently weave in the anger. Even in this song, the singing and harmonization is breathtaking! On top of that, the screaming isn’t super high-pitched, but it has a really good, strong sound.

All of the musicians have above-average skill, creativity, and talent; but they’re not like…Opeth status. Some of the things that the guitarists and bassist play could probably be considered along the lines of “generic”, but even that would be somewhat inaccurate. The drummer has a lot of energy and never fails to keep what he plays interesting and attention-grabbing. The harmonizations that the guitarists play vary from being a generic metalcore sound to something completely abstract and (sometimes) gothic…sort of like Scary Kids Scaring Kids, but with a much cleaner sound.

Once again, I’m going to try and get my point across that THE VOCALS ARE AMAZING! My two favorite songs off this album are what I would consider to be the best examples of the singing potential this album has; but it comes down to the point where every song on this record is FILLED to the fucking TOP with some of the best vocal harmonization I’ve heard since…I don’t even know. This style of gothic vocal harmonizing gives the music an extremely melodic sound no matter how heavy and crushing the rest of the music gets; it’s something that even I have trouble understanding. One thing that I like about I am Ghost (and the majority of the screamo genre in general) is that you rarely get an album where all the songs sound EXACTLY the same. On this record, the songs are so different that it’s impossible to mistake one of the songs for another. But even though all of the songs are very different, most of them have that same depressive, melodic, gothic sound; which is ok because they do it perfectly.

Favorite song number one: Killer Likes Candy. This song has great vocal harmonizing, but not the most complex (so it’s harder to notice sometimes). The lead guitar parts don’t seem very complex, but when you get the general complexity of the lead guitar parts and you add on a violin that’s supposed to play the EXACT same thing, you get a pretty amazing sounding lead riff. Favorite song number two: Pretty People Never Lie, Vampires Never Really Die. If you want to hear more of that singing that you heard in the intro track, this song will give you plenty more. This is a heavier song that has a similar mood as Killer Likes Candy; but with more of a gothic sound. Both of these songs are COMPLETELY flawless and surpass my expectations by light years.

Lover’s Requiem is one of my favorite albums and I’ve been listening to it since its release. Unfortunately the lead vocalist quit the band and the group decided they were going to continue on, but under a different name (basically starting a new band). Each of the times I saw them on stage in venues with barely any people at all, I was completely blown away. I would give this album a perfect score and would recommend it to EVERYONE, especially to fans of melodic metal.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Impending Doom - Baptized in Filth

Even though The Serpent Servant got the attention of a large group of people, Impending Doom and their label made sure that EVERYONE saw the news about the release of Baptized in Filth. Not only did it succeed in doing so, but it also brought in a lot more worldwide support. Probably part of what caused that big jump in popularity for Impending Doom is that they decided to join in on the trend that monsters like Meshuggah, Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya, The Faceless, and Animals as Leaders are on. In other words, Impending Doom has gone back to putting a lot of dependence on breakdowns. But this time it’s different, the breakdowns that they use now aren’t generic and super simple, they’re fairly complex in nature and have a lot of diversity. The big question is: will this new sound work for Impending Doom?

The answer to that is yes, it has worked very well with them. But the thing is that Impending Doom doesn’t have a unique, recognizable sound…which is pretty much the definition of a “generic” band. It is true that Impending Doom has gone farther from the generic deathcore sound than they ever have before, but they are still more generic than most other deathcore bands out there due to them not having COMPLETELY adapted to this style. But this new sound has brought Impending Doom out of the super limited realms of the generic deathcore scene and into a much larger area that has more room for creativity.

The sounds of the instruments on Baptized in Filth are different than any other album they’ve ever come out with. Impending Doom is known for having the treble turned down, extremely thick and heavy guitar distortions, shitloads of bass, and drums that sit behind everything else and work as a backbone. This time, the drums stand at the front of a line with a powerful, punchy sound that doesn’t have nearly as much bass as the drums in There Will be Violence and Nailed Dead Risen. I don’t know if I like this or not…it sounds good with the sound, but those thick and deep drums were the only (somewhat) unique trait that I could find in Impending Doom, and now it’s gone. The guitar distortion has also lost almost all of its thickness and crunch and has tightened up a lot to sound really technical with the drums.

One big improvement that they’ve made is that I can actually hear the bass guitar in this album! That’s probably what I hate the most about deathcore, the fact that you can’t hear what the bassist is playing most of the time. On Baptized in Filth, the bassist stands out with the drums and encases the listener in paradise. The vocalist now has a very solidified and developed mid-range growl that he seems comfortable with and he finally perfected his screaming!! That’s what I’ve been waiting for the vocalist to do this whole time, perfect his vocals! This is definitely an improvement on his part.

Baptized in Filth proves that There Will be Violence is NOT a fluke and that Impending Doom can really make above-average deathcore. The reason why I still like There Will be Violence a little more is because of the difference in style. So in other words, the style change that Impending Doom makes in this album isn’t bad at all and they do it very well, I just like the style that There Will be Violence carried more. I would give this 15/20. 

Impending Doom - There Will Be Violence

This is the first album that Impending Doom released that was ACTUALLY GOOD! Their debut is completely mediocre, their sophomore release is a disappointment, and now…There Will Be Violence (I fucking love that album name!). I think I’m now to the point where I really don’t enjoy having a minute-long breakdown as the opening track for an album. The reason why I’m saying that is because Impending Doom does that on all of their albums. Here’s the most unique thing about this album: it has THREE guitarists on it! Now, why the hell would you need THREE guitarists on an album that’s not that technical? The answer: it gives the sound more power. And I’ll tell you this, they did just that.

The first actual song album is what completely blew me off my feet. A lot of pure deathcore out there (especially these guys) isn’t really that powerful and crushing. But once the buildup at the beginning of There Will Be Violence had reached its peak, what came next was like something huge had shaken the earth. What the hell happened to these guys?? The first positive thing that I noticed was how fast the drummer was hitting the snare during that initial buildup at the beginning of the song, but I still wasn’t anywhere near prepared for the violence that this song threw at my face. After the album finished, the first thing that I asked myself was “where did THAT come from?” Where did all of that brutality and fury come from? And why did they do such a better job on this than on The Serpent Servant? WHY AM I ASKING ALL OF THESE QUESTIONS!?

Although I’ll never know for sure, here’s what I’ve noticed: after The Serpent Servant, the band got a new drummer and the addition of two new guitarists. My guess is that the new members were a lot more committed and interested in making GOOD music. So with new members, that probably meant that the band got along much better and created a more committed atmosphere. Not only that, but the new drummer is better than any that they’ve ever had.

Impending Doom’s debut so far still remains the heaviest album they’ve ever written, but this one has come pretty close considering the driving brutality minimal use of weak breakdowns. The song structures are much less predictable and also much more creative, but still stay completely true to the PURE deathcore sound. The most unique quality that this album carries is how smooth the music transitions in and out of breakdowns. Don’t think that a rough transition in and out of breakdowns is a bad thing, because sometimes it’s actually what the music requires. But in this case, the smoothness of the transitions is like almost nothing I’ve ever heard before (I’ve heard transitions this smooth before, but it’s VERY rare and very hard to pull off). The general sound of the songs vary from being a slow chugging style to being a constant driving wave of brutality to almost having a complex Meshuggah-ish sound (Peace Illusion).

Something obviously clicked in the band that caused them to get serious about actually making music and being connected to it. This album is the best release that Impending Doom has come out with so far and I will never forget the wave of brutality the second track brought upon me. I would give this album 16/20 for winning my support and appreciation to this band. Still, I wouldn’t suggest to anyone who isn’t very appreciative of the generic and traditional forms of deathcore, but if you want to hear something by Impending Doom, There Will Be Violence is what you want to hear first. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Impending Doom - The Serpent Servant

I saw the ads for this album, but never listened to it. If you want to know my personal history regarding Impending Doom, read my review of their first album. So instead, this is mainly going to just be about the album because I only just recently started listening to it. Word didn’t get out about the release of their first album because the amount of deathcore albums from that year was so overwhelming. When you look at sales, attention, and popularity for Impending Doom, The Serpent Servant was their major breakthrough album. The thing is, it’s my least favorite album by them.

Here’s the quick summary: the musicians improved, but the music declined. Let’s start with how the musicians have improved. The vocalist’s growls sound much more developed and strong, but they’re still not developed enough. His growls have lost most of their power; they sound tasteless and somewhat weak. The drummer is the one that’s improved the most. I’m now hearing him double kicking at lightning speed and being much more creative with his fills and blast beats; not to mention how much tighter he is during breakdowns. The guitarists have also stepped up their game, now being able to follow the drums in a much more organized and innovative fashion. Just like the previous album, I can’t hear the bass guitar (there’s tons of bass so it HAS to be in there somewhere).

The songs on this album are almost completely tasteless and bland. It’s not that they’re bad in any sense; none of them are bad at all. It’s that there’s nothing interesting or engaging about them AT ALL. Everything on this album lacks the attention-grabbing qualities that I expect to hear. Yes, the musicians’ improvements have made the music have much more texture, but there is no emotion present at any point in the album. Heaviness alone just won’t do it for me, there has to be emotion behind it; if it’s going to be brutal, there had better be a hell of a lot of fucking anger and ferocity behind it because without that, it’s empty.

A lot of lineup changes occurred after this album’s release. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, to be honest. There’s nothing that I can think of about this record that would cause it to be thought of as being “amazing” or “special” in any sense. I would give this 9/20. 

Impending Doom - Nailed. Dead. Risen.

Impending Doom was one of the deathcore bands that released their debut in 2007, which was the year deathcore exploded. I’m not going to talk a whole lot about the whole history of deathcore and about the 2007 era because I do that in plenty of my other reviews. In case you’re new to deathcore, Suicide Silence, Whitechapel, Attila, Emmure, Carnifex, I Declare War, Born of Osiris, Rose Funeral, After the Burial, From the Shallows, Impending Doom, and countless other huge and underground deathcore bands ALL released their first album in the year 2007. Yes, 2006 was a fairly active year with debuts released by Burning Skies, Bring me the Horizon, As Blood Runs Black, and Veil of Maya; but with the long list of bands I have from 2007 above, it’s obvious enough that 2007 was that year. Ok, now that I’ve given you the ultra-basics of deathcore history, let’s talk about one of the first deathcore albums that I ever listened to, which is by Impending Doom.

Here’s an interesting thing, I don’t ever remember absolutely loving this album. But I don’t have any negative memories regarding this album except for almost temporarily losing my voice after I learned the lyrics to the title song. So even though I’ve never been MAJORLY impressed by Impending Doom, there’s still a very strong sentimental connection that I have with this band because this was one of the first albums that I listened to when I first got that spark of extreme interest and hunger for this angry, extreme music. One last background thing before we talk about the actual album itself. I actually quickly lost interest in Impending Doom about a year or so after getting this because they never stuck out to me as being amazing and I was discovering (literally) hundreds of other metal bands every two months, so I was distracted from them. I was aware of their sophomore release when it came out, but I never bothered to listen to it. After that, I almost COMPLETELY forgot about these guys until I saw advertisements this year showing the release date of their fourth album. What inspired me to go back and listen to this album (and the rest of their discography) was when I saw them play an absolutely crushing show this year on the Metal Alliance Tour just a couple of weeks ago.

Impending Doom has always been pure, generic, traditional deathcore. So if you’re looking for something new, go away, you won’t find it here. I, personally am a huge fan of the better generic deathcore bands out there, so the fact that these guys aren’t progressive doesn’t pose as a disappointment for me. I will tell you that out of all the deathcore albums that were released in 2007, this was definitely one of the heaviest. So this album is more on the heavier side of things. The guitars on the album don’t have a really tight and choppy sound at all. Instead, they have an extremely big and thick sound that’s actually really powerful and crushing. The song structure is what you would expect out of deathcore; a mix of fast buildups that explode into brutal breakdowns. Some of the tracks have more breakdowns than others, but none of them are completely composed of simple and repetitive breakdowns. Also, due to the immense brutality that the music ends up releasing, none of the breakdowns are super bland and disappointing; all of the breakdowns pound you into the ground.

The vocalist was not ready to be on this album when they recorded it. The reason why is because his exhale growls are extremely underdeveloped, and he uses way too much inhaled growls and pig squeals. Although his vocals match the brutality of the music, they aren’t what I would consider to be exceptional and professional deathcore vocals. And yes, there are other cases where I enjoy growls that have a bit of a yelling sound, but not here. You can tell on this album that this guy isn’t doing it on purpose; he’s doing it because he can’t get that really deep and powerful sound out that the music demands of him.

Other than that, everything is generic and traditional deathcore sound and style. I would only recommend this to fans of PURE deathcore and people who want to hear something from deathcore’s early history. Even though I still have a strong sentimental connection with these guys and still would go crazy if they played at a show I was at; from a critical point of view, this album is mediocre. So 10/20 for this one. But that does not mean it’s bad at all, it just has nothing special about it other than being a part of one of the most important years the death metal genre has ever seen. 

Severe Torture - Misanthropic Carnage

Misanthropic Carnage is Severe Torture’s sophomore follow-up to their highly acclaimed debut, Feasting on Blood. This album was what put them as being one of the masters of the death grind genre with Dying Fetus, Cattle Decapitation, Misery Index, Carcass, and Exhumed. For those of you that are already aware of how Severe Torture’s first album sounds, they didn’t really change the sound much in this album except turn up the brutality a couple of notches. The lineup on this album isn’t any different on this album, so that means whatever improvements and/or deteriorations the members have made.

When you talk about brutality, there are the brutal bands that use certain types of guitar distortion and manipulate the volumes and sounds of the different instruments, and there are brutal bands that actually write fucking brutal music that doesn’t need enhancements. But, there are some bands that write some of the most brutal music out there AND turn up the bass and guitar distortion and make other changes here and there to make it sound even MORE brutal. Misanthropic Carnage is an album that has the brutal music without all the other major effects and production work. In other words, this album has an extremely raw sound, which is part of why these guys remind me so much of Dying Fetus.

Are there any improvements present? I would say so! The first thing that I noticed is that the drums are MUCH more solid and sound a lot more confident (yes, drums have feelings too). The blast beats are much faster and more complex than average, and the fact that there’s no reverb or any special effects on the drums make them sound extremely technical. The kick drums don’t have any bass at all, they sound like someone tapping chopsticks on the dinner table. Most of the time, you can’t even hear the kick drums because they don’t have any bass or volume; but the rest of the drum set has a good amount of volume.

The guitars are very generic to the death grind standards and stay true to the traditional sound without much experimentation or excessive technicality. Just like in Feasting on Blood, the bass guitar is where all the technicality is. First of all, the bassist plays at an incredible speed with an incredible level of complexity. What he plays varies from following the guitars to going really slow and simple to being outright crazy and technical. There are several places where he has solos made up of pure slapping that get people’s attention. The lower frequencies on his bass are turned way down with the midrange and the treble turned up to give the music an even more raw sound (as well as to match up with how the other instruments sound).

This is a fantastic album that I would recommend to all Dying Fetus fans and fans of death grind and brutality in general. I would give this album 17/20 for being an amazing and solid follow-up to their awesome debut. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

What to Expect This Weekend

Here's a list of possible reviews I will be posting this weekend. I might not get around to all of them:

Severe Torture ((the rest of their discography)) (death grind)
Spawn of Possession (technical death)
Bonded by Blood (thrash metal)
Death Angel (thrash metal)
All Shall Perish (deathcore)
Impending Doom (deathcore)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Severe Torture - Feasting on Blood

I’ve been aware of Severe Torture for years, but I’ve never bothered to look them up. When I last saw Dying Fetus play live about two weeks ago, John Gallagher was wearing a Severe Torture shirt. I don’t know exactly why it was THAT which made me look them up once I got home, but I told myself to do that when I saw him wearing that damn shirt. Here’s the funny thing: I was really surprised at how much Severe Torture sounds like Dying Fetus! But that aside, these guys are actually really good! This is one of the best death grind bands I’ve heard since I got ahold of Exhumed’s discography. Although all of Severe Torture’s albums are great, this one has the crunchiest feel to it.

A quick summary of what Severe Torture sounds like is that they sound like Dying Fetus, but without the technicality. So that means that this is a band for when I’m in the mood for something brutal, but not ultra-technical. The overall sound of the album and production work is fairly good, but not amazing. The guitars have a really crunchy distortion, but they’re not overpowering like you would expect in brutal metal music. The bass is set on its completely raw sound and can be heard very easily since the guitars don’t cover it up. The drums sound pretty good, but I would like them to have more power. But if they had more power, it would drown out the rest of the band. So with everything as it is, the drums fit in just fine.

The bassist has his own abstract style and does quite a bit of improvising throughout the album. He’s one of those bassists that like to harmonize with the guitars instead of playing the root-note of whatever guitar chord is being played. The guitarists are what I would consider to be generic death grind guitarists that stay true to the genre and tend not to experiment a lot. In the case of Severe Torture’s sound, I would actually prefer the guitarists to have a pure and generic style because the bassist is doing enough crazy shit anyways, so the guitarists do a perfect job at making the music easy to swallow. Aside from the general sound of the music, the vocals REALLY resemble John Gallagher’s inhaled growls (at least I think they’re inhales). Like I said before, if I’m in the mood for Dying Fetus, but not technicality, Severe Torture is there to save the day!

Severe Torture is one of the better bands that I’ve discovered recently and I would highly recommend that you check them out. I would give this specific album a score of 17/20. The people that would have the easiest time enjoying this are diehard Dying Fetus fans. I’m not kidding, this band is the Fetus twin. But regardless of that, this album is great and solid in its own sense and I highly recommend that you look it up because it is amazing. 

Disfiguring the Goddess - Sleeper

I’ve known the name Disfiguring the Goddess for a couple of years, but I haven’t bothered to pick up their music until a week ago, when I got ahold of Sleeper. This guy has clearly and explicitly identified himself as brutal slamming death metal. I know that the whole slamming brutality thing just recently got “popular”. I can tell because most of the bands with this much brutality formed after the millennium, and often times only have one record out. Another thing that I’ve noticed is that these bands tend to be short-lived. There are several bands of this genre that have released one amazing album and haven’t given any recent update or sign of activity or life. I’ve always wondered why so many of these awesome bands just seem to disappear out of thin air! Some of these bands include Bloodboil (released an album in 2006), Guttural Secrete (released one album in 2006), Pyaemia (only album is from 2001), and Eden Beast (debut released 2008). Disfiguring the Goddess is one of those bands that have stayed consistently active and informative to fans regarding updates and new material. I personally think that Sleeper is Disfiguring the Goddess’ best album to date.

Disfiguring the Goddess is part of the new brutal death wave that uses exaggerated breakdowns. Although some people would call it deathcore, remember that the metal breakdown didn’t originate in metalcore, it actually was first created and used by (please correct me if I’m wrong or if I miss a critical band) bands like Suffocation, Dying Fetus, and Atheist. Ever since the turn of the century, this temporary extreme drop in tempo that metal bands use to release all the built-up tension can be found in so many albums that I can’t even name a fraction of them. The really technical and complex breakdown that Meshuggah is credited for perfecting is what Disfiguring the Goddess uses.

This album uses an extensive amount of atmospheric keyboard samples and electronic/digital effects to give the music a unique feel. There seems to be a lot of digital effects used on the guitars; primarily to make them sound choppier and tighter, which gives the music a much more technical feeling. There also is a slight overuse of the bass boom at the beginning of breakdowns. On top of that, there are points in this record where everything sounds somewhat…artificial. This is what happens when there are too much digital effects and the album is literally overproduced (or “over-perfected”). I guess that’s the big downer that this album holds; it’s overproduced.

Like you would expect, the vocals consist of deep, nasty inhaled growls. There are some exhaled screams thrown in here and there. The growls are very powerful and don’t have an emotionless and tasteless sound like so many other brutal death vocalists. This album is extremely experimental, especially on the electronic/digital side of things, but it still delivers the ultimate SLAMMING brutality Disfiguring the Goddess is known best for. I would give this album 12/20. I would recommend this to fans of slamming brutality that are curious to hear some experimentalism. I don’t know where this sound will go, but it’s certainly something new. 

Linkin Park - Meteora

We all know that Linkin Park totally lost it when they released Minutes to Midnight, so I’m not going to spend any time on that. I’m going to be honest and say that I have been in love with this album since I was 13 years old (maybe even younger, I can’t really remember). Although I have been majorly distracted by all of the new music I’ve been discovering since then, I still go back to Linkin Park’s first two albums and feel nothing short of satisfied when I listen to them. Like many metalheads out there, when I was much younger, I was relentlessly bullied at school constantly, and that’s part of what attracted me to heavy metal. Also, like many metalheads, there is a group of bands I’ve been listening to forever that I used to come home from school and listen to so that I could have something to help release my anger. Well, the deep and angry sound that Linkin Park produced was one of those things that I listened to during that time. Now that I’ve become much more knowledgeable about metal (and music in general), I’ve come to the unfortunate realization (and disappointment) that a lot of the “mainstream” metal bands I used to listen to actually suck. Linkin Park isn’t one of those bands; now that I can look at music from a critical perspective, I still find Meteora and Hybrid Theory to be FANTASTIC albums. Out of the two, Meteora is my favorite.

Lately, I’ve been spending some time listening to the rock and metal albums that I used to (literally) overplay during my middle school/junior high years. Although plenty of them SUCK, there are quite a few bands that still stick out in a positive way to me. My favorite from that list, Breaking Benjamin (which used to be my favorite band) is right behind Opeth on my VERY favorite bands list. There are so many people that always think about Minutes to Midnight and the album they released after that (I didn’t bother to remember the name). When I think of Linkin Park, I think of Meteora; I never even think about their crappy material unless someone else mentions it. By this time, you’re probably asking what it is I love about this album?

Let me “start off” by saying that the sound production quality is some of the best I’ve ever heard in my entire life. The guitars are EXTREMELY heavy and have a lot of crunch to them. The bass is enough to make any bass junkie happy, which is partly due to the guy that’s responsible for all the industrial/electronic sounds and effects. When it comes to the drumming, there is a guy at the drum set, but the guy that does all the electronic sounds makes stuff that basically acts as an additional (electronic) drum set. It seems like this because not only to the drummer and the electronics follow similar parts a lot of the time, but I actually confuse the two because they sound so similar in most of the songs. This album has two vocalists: one of them, Chester Bennington, sings and screams; the other raps. Chester (the only name I can remember from the band) has one of the best sounding screams I’ve ever heard in nu metal. Depending on who you are and what type of singing is your favorite, Chester’s singing might take some getting used to because it (understandably) can sound really cheesy to some people. Their rapper has a strong voice and annunciates clearly, which is what I like to see in a good rapper.

The guy who does the turntable and effects work does a really good job at adding that strong industrial feel to the music. Although most of the songs on here are crushing and heavy, there are some softer songs. The softer tracks on here tend to mainly have the rapper doing the vocals along with the turntable guy and the others playing at lower volumes. On the rest of the album, the guitars are REALLY loud; even the songs that aren’t SUPER heavy have the guitars on full-blast open-fire mode. The diversity that this record contains is really hard to put into words and can only be truly understood by listening to the entire album.

My favorite song…Don’t Stay. I know that this isn’t the most famous track off the record, but if you play the intro track, it blends into Don’t Stay, which has more power than any living creature. The melodic, but edgy singing from Chester is laid out PERFECTLY on top of the surprisingly heavy music built up by the guitars, bass, and drums. The turntable guy (that’s what I’ve always called him) add in the very strong industrial vibe to give the music its uniqueness. The first song that I heard from this album is actually one of the HEAVIEST songs off the record, Lying from You. Don’t let the trippy keyboard sample at the beginning trick you, because the unrelenting and merciless amount of distorted guitars and crushing bass will surprise you. The reason why this isn’t the HEAVIEST track off the record is because of the melodic chorus; but the majority of the vocals are done by the rapper. I really like this song because of the really thick beat that the hip-hop influence creates and the smooth transitions between the heavy verses and melodic choruses; and just pretty much how everything falls together perfectly! The next song, Hit the Floor is THE heaviest song off the album. This song has much less of an industrial sound, therefore giving the metal side the upper-hand. Not only that, this is one of the only songs where I feel a strong connection with the lyrics and the general message of the song, which is pure hate. If I had to make a list of songs with the most clever and strongest messages of hate, Hit the Floor would be on it. Other highlights include Faint, Somewhere I Belong, Figure.09, and the voiceless industrial track, Session.

This album does have some songs that seem tasteless and dry and leave me feeling like I just ate some stale crackers; to me those songs are Numb, Breaking the Habit, and From the Inside. There is a track on this album that’s pretty much an old-school rap sounding song, nothing much else I can think of to say about that other than it sounds like a rap song from the early 90s. Overall, I consider this album to be not only amazing, but a classic. I would give this album 18/20. If you haven’t bothered to look this album up or haven’t listened to it in a long time, give it a listen; it might surprise you. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Eat a Helicopter - Descend into Darkness [EP]

I think it’s obvious enough that the thing that created that initial attraction to most of their listeners was their ridiculous name, Eat a Helicopter. That’s got to be one of the most random band names I’ve EVER heard along with Iwrestledabearonce, We Butter the Bread with Butter, Anal Cunt, Job for a Cowboy, Super Happy Story Time Land (a local band for me), and The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza. I’ve been listening to Eat a Helicopter since early 2010, a little while after they released their debut Pessimist EP. At the time, I actually really loved it, but now that I’ve heard better, I would actually give it a 9/20 rating, just below average. Usually, a band will release a debut EP so that they can have a CD to hand out at shows and to get people excited for a full-length. Two years later, they release…another EP? You wait two years to release a fucking EP?? I was expecting a full-blown album! This either means that the members of this band are very busy with lives/school/work (which would make sense because they’re very young), or they have a really hard time writing songs. I know it’s not because they’ve been touring constantly because they’ve never come through Seattle (where I go to concerts) as far as I’m aware. Well, the only way that they could make up for this disappointment is for this new EP to be pretty fucking amazing; I’d better be BLOWN AWAY.

I’m going to warn you, don’t expect anything you haven’t heard before; this is deathcore in its purest form. Being a fan of all the “generic” artists of almost every genre I listen to, this isn’t a problem for me at all. But if a band chooses to be generic/traditional, they had better be amazing. I’ve always wondered why so many people consider generic qualities and traits to be a negative thing. I mean, it can’t ALL be progressive, because then it won’t be progressive! People need to have a good amount of the bands that play their styles in a traditional and PURE form in their collection; even though I always prefer progressive music over generic, I can’t imagine being fully musically satisfied without those core and traditional bands being present.

Now it’s time to ask the question: well…how good is Eat a Helicopter at playing PURE and TRUE deathcore? My answer to that question would be that Eat a Helicopter’s 2011 EP is one of the best TRUE deathcore releases I’ve heard in years. Don’t get the idea that I think they’re AMAZINGG, because they’re not, but they go above (not above AND BEYOND) the requirements needed to make a solid deathcore record. I will admit that it’s harder to impress me without having any progressive elements; and even though I’m not amazed, I am impresses by what Eat a Helicopter has given me. I’m also very impressed by how much they’ve improved since the release of their Pessimist EP. But they haven’t improved enough. There are plenty of things that need to be worked on and fixed.

The sound/production quality of this album is perfect; nothing at all that I would change about that. The guitarists have nothing unique about them whatsoever; what they play is extremely generic and true to the deathcore genre. The bassist does play some fancy riffs in the last two songs on the record, but other than that, it’s all generic deathcore riffs that follow the kick drums and the guitar harmonization. The drummer is really good, but he screws up a lot in some of the songs. The reason why I’m saying that so harshly is because the ways that he screws up isn’t the kind of screw up that can go unnoticed; it’s a screw up that is VERY noticeable. One of his screw ups (which I will talk about later) is when he’s the only one playing! That’s got to be pretty embarrassing! The vocalist is okay, I’m not really fond of his vocals. His growls are a little high-pitched and have a lot of voice. I tend to like the REALLY deep and guttural growls that have a little bit of breath instead of voice. I’m going to admit that his screams kind of suck. His screaming isn’t HORRIBLE and they don’t pose as a major negative distraction, but they could definitely use a lot of work.

The drummer is one of those “hit big or miss big” kind of guys; he either is freaking awesome, or he completely butchers the part he’s playing. His kick drumming is pristine, but could still use to be a little more complex in some parts. He overuses the china cymbal in almost all of the songs; and even though the china sounds cool, it’s easy to make it an annoyance. The thing he needs to work on is his blast beat. His blast beat in general is great, but it’s going into it that he completely screws up. In the first track, there are two breakdowns where he throws in a blast beat in a very tight spot. The way he butchers it: it takes a second for him to get the blast beat going, so it sounds very sloppy. If he can get to the point where he can just explode RIGHT into the blast beat without having to start out slow, he’ll be just fine.

Overall, this is an EP that I would only recommend to fans of pure deathcore. Don’t expect anything progressive in any sense here. As far as generic deathcore goes, this is fantastic and it’s one of the best TRUE deathcore albums released in the past two years. I would give this 15/20 (which is basically 75%). I really hope to see a FULL LENGTH out of these guys next because I was annoyed by the fact of this release being their second EP in a row.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What to expect this week

A band that I've been listening to since middle school is Impending Doom. I almost completely forgot about them until I saw them last Sunday on the Metal Alliance Tour with other bands such as Dying Fetus, The Faceless, 3 Inches of Blood, Six Days of Darkness (the local opening act), Job for a Cowboy, and others. Seeing this band that I realized I have a sentimental connection to inspired me to write a review series on every Impending Doom album. So sooner or later (it might not be this week depending on the back to school work load) I will get around to that. Here are some other bands I will most likely get to:

Animals as Leaders (progressive metal)
Eat a Helicopter (deathcore)
Severe Torture (death grind)
Disfiguring the Goddess ("slamming" brutal death)
Onatra (symphonic metal)
Garbage (alternative)

Cannibal Corpse - The Wretched Spawn

DISCLAIMER: Due to the extremeness of the original album artwork, I have made this post with the alternate album cover. There is a link at the bottom of the review in case you want to see the ORIGINAL album cover. 

Despite majority opinion, The Wretched Spawn is actually one of my favorite Cannibal Corpse albums. Before I first heard Torture, which is now tied with this album as my favorite “Corpsegrinder-era” CC album, this was my favorite Cannibal Corpse album with Corpsegrinder behind the microphone. The Wretched Spawn isn’t a Cannibal Corpse album that you hear about very often. For the past year or so, I’ve been trying to figure out why this album has developed such a mediocre reputation. Since Cannibal Corpse is the most famous and bestselling (at least traditional) death metal band ever, I feel that I should make an effort to get the word out about this album because IT NEEDS TO BE HEARD!

The Wretched Spawn was the first Cannibal Corpse album to feature the much more mature sound that’s in all of the albums that have come after it (Kill, Evisceration Plague, Torture, etc.). I’m not going to say much about Cannibal Corpse’s pre-1995 sound because I talk about that enough in my reviews of Butchered at Birth and Tomb of the Mutilated; but I will mention that during that time, Cannibal Corpse was one of the death metal bands that helped define what a “mature” death metal sound was supposed to be like. Well, when Cannibal Corpse got Corpsegrinder as their vocalist, they went on to release their weakest album, Vile. I’m pretty convinced that Vile wasn’t as strong as their other releases because Cannibal Corpse were still a little scatterbrained and were still trying to collect themselves and get their footing. This isn’t something I hold against them because everyone knew that they were under A LOT of pressure and had people from around the globe waiting to see what the “new” Cannibal Corpse was going to sound like.

After Vile, the band quickly got most of their footing to release the follow-up, Gallery of Suicide. This was a HUGE step up from Vile, but still not what I would consider a completely mature and strong death metal sound. Three albums later, The Wretched Spawn was where Cannibal Corpse came out as strong as titanium and as brutal as a meat grinder. Although Cannibal Corpse’s sound has continued to grow in maturity, musicality, and creativity, the sound that The Wretched Spawn brings still speaks out to me more than the albums that have come after it. Don’t get the idea that I’m saying Cannibal Corpse is going downhill because in fact, they’re going uphill. I’m just saying that I enjoy the songs on The Wretched Spawn more than the others. But why?

The Wretched Spawn has the crunchiest sound out of any other Cannibal Corpse album besides Butchered at Birth. When I’m talking about “crunchiness”, I’m talking not only about the really gritty and rough guitar distortion (which this album has TONS of), I’m also talking about the brutality and the tones the different instruments have. Usually, Cannibal Corpse is known for playing in very low tunings, especially in albums like Tomb of the Mutilated and The Bleeding. But it seems that in this record, Cannibal Corpse is doing some experimenting by writing songs in higher guitar tunings. Even though the guitars have a lot of treble, the bass guitar gives the entire sound a HUGE lower end. This is what creates that CRUSHING brutality, the highly distorted treble in the guitars and the booming deepness of the bass guitar at high volumes.

In the albums previous to The Wretched Spawn, I’m not so fond of the sound of Corpsegrinder’s vocals very much. I guess that the low-quality production of the music made it so that things didn’t match up. So obviously, Cannibal Corpse needs to have very loud, high-quality sounding albums with extreme amounts of bass to help make the vocals be a positive element rather than a negative one. Also, I think that Corpsegrinder really improved his vocals a great deal after Gore Obsessed, the album previous to The Wretched Spawn. This album also has some of the fastest drumming Cannibal Corpse has ever had in their material (it was considered their fastest album until Torture came out and blew it away like sand).

This is one of my favorite Cannibal Corpse albums and would recommend it to any metalhead on the streets. This should be considered a death metal classic, just like several other Cannibal Corpse albums. I would give this 19/20. I would like to mention that in case you haven’t noticed, this album has the most offensive, sick, disturbing, and inappropriate cover out of Cannibal Corpse’s entire discography. Enjoy. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Demon Hunter - Summer of Darkness

Talk about metal albums I’ve had for what seems like forever…this is an album I’ve had since before I REALLY got into metal (especially the extreme styles). I did have a growing appreciation for the more extreme styles of metal at the time, but it wasn’t something I looked for until about a year after I picked this CD up. This was about the time where I was really getting into a lot of the more mainstream styles of metal like alternative metal, nu metal, metalcore, and some areas of the melodic death genre. And in case you were wondering, I actually wasn’t into screamo at this point of my life, that interest didn’t come until years later. I didn’t know this until someone told me, but Demon Hunter is actually a local band for me (therefore one of the first local metal bands I discovered). For those of you that can’t quite put your finger of what style Demon Hunter plays, it’s pretty much a thrash-influenced metalcore. I’m not someone that even pays attention to lyrical themes (let alone letting a band’s lyrics affect my opinion on them), but it’s very widely known that Demon Hunter is an openly Christian band. I honestly couldn’t care any less what their religious/spiritual beliefs are and don’t plan on it; that’s all I’m going to say on that matter.

I stopped listening to Demon Hunter (and almost completely forgot about them too) a little bit after the release of The World is a Thorn when my musical interests branched out in an explosion of diversity (primarily in the metal world). I’ve gone back and listened to them every now and then since, but not thoroughly. I’ve mainly just been listening to Not Ready to Die, Collapsing, and Lifewar. I’m not sure what caused me to want to listen to this album in its entity again a couple days ago; but it seems that I’ve COMPLETELY forgotten how amazing this album is! Probably the reason why I consider this album to be Demon Hunter’s best is because of its large amount of intense emotion it has. Although there are several other albums out there that have a much angrier sound, Summer of Darkness is one of the few that have a soft side that shows immense beauty.

Part of what makes Demon Hunter’s general sound so angry is the strong thrash metal influence (more noticeable in The World is a Thorn, but still obvious in Summer of Darkness). It’s the thrash metal part that makes the heavier parts even heavier, leaving the rawness of the metalcore side for the softer parts. So with this mix, you get two extremes, which is actually one of my favorite types of metalcore. But the thing is, it’s VERY hard to pull off without the transitions sounding abrupt or out of place. Demon Hunter is one of the best metalcore bands at making those perfectly smooth transitions from the absolutely crushing verses to the melodic, heart-touching choruses and vice versa.

The distortion on the guitars is very crunchy, but with a lot of mid-range and less treble to cut down the annoyance. The way the drums are set up is ok, it doesn’t bother me TOO much, but the kick drums seem to be a little too far in the background most of the time. I’ve never heard another vocalist that has mid-range screams like this guy. Here’s something that’s always puzzled me, his vocals have never sounded as good in any other Demon Hunter album; it’s like the producer had a fluke when producing the vocals. But better than his screams, this guy is one of the best metalcore singers I have ever heard in my entire life. It was actually his singing that first got me hooked on this band when I heard the beautiful chorus from Not Ready to Die.

Remember before when I was talking about how Demon Hunter is REALLY good at smoothly transitioning back and forth between a REALLY heavy and REALLY melodic sound? Here comes the disappointment this album brings. The first seven songs off this album are purely breathtaking. But after the seventh song, you notice the difference between the heavy and melodic parts getting smaller and smaller. This isn’t necessarily BAD…but it does lower the quality of the music dramatically and even ends up getting bland and tasteless by the time you finish the record.

I’m going to recommend this album to you, but only the first seven songs. The other tracks are very special and have their own good sound, but they don’t even come CLOSE to comparing to the first half of the record. I would give this album 16/20. Definitely a must-get for metalcore fans!!

Carpathian Forest - Strange Old Brew

Carpathian Forest is always on the list of Norway’s biggest black metal bands which include Immortal, Darkthrone, Burzum, Gorgoroth, Taake, Mayhem, Satyricon, and 1349. Although not being one of my VERY favorites, I have fully recognized and accepted Carpathian Forest’s impacts and influence on the black metal genre. Carpathian Forest continues to have one of the more unique sounds in the traditional black metal fields (which I will describe later on in the review). I’m a big fan of Carpathian Forest’s entire discography, but none of their albums speak out to me as much as Strange Old Brew. From my perception, the band’s creative juices were flowing much stronger during the writing process of this album than their others.

Just so that this doesn’t come off as a TOTAL surprise when you first put this record on the player, this is one of the most unique sounding traditional black metal albums I’ve ever heard. The most unique thing about the sound is that there is a huge heavy dark rock influence that is very obvious. The songs where this is most obvious are Mask of the Slave, The Suicide Song, and He’s Turning Blue. You know what? This is probably the album that sparked the curiosity in the minds of Darkthrone that eventually led to their major shift in musical style in their 2006 release, The Cult is Alive. The reason why I think this is because the current mix of punk rock and black metal that Darkthrone has been doing since 2006 sounds a lot like Strange Old Brew by Carpathian Forest….except with A LOT more rock and punk.

Although this isn’t a totally negative thing, the vocals are the most generic form of black metal vocals you can come up with; that high-pitched, croaky sound. There’s not much else I can say about the vocals other than that they fit the genre and the album’s sound just fine. The bassist seems to be a lot better than the guitarists at playing complex chord alterations and just speed in general. That’s something that I really love about this album; not only is the bassist awesome, but you can actually hear his guitar! He has several bass solos all throughout the album that continue to pleasantly catch me by surprise every time.

As far as individual songs go, all of them stick out to me in a positive manner; there aren’t any songs that cease to impress me…which is what Carpathian Forest does best. I would give this album 18/20. I would recommend this to all black metal fans that haven’t already heard it or are new to Carpathian Forest. I like to keep this review short and sweet because the rest of what I could say about this album would just be a description of pure, generic Norwegian black metal.  

Buckcherry - Black Butterfly

I didn’t discover Buckcherry until years after their breakthrough album, 15, was released. By that, I mean that I found out about them the year that Black Butterfly was released…two years after 15. Being part of the metalhead community and subculture, I’ve seen and heard countless rants about Buckcherry and whatnot, but they’ve always been a group that I’ve strongly appreciated and respected as being one of the better bands in the modern hard rock scene. Although I will admit that after getting completely used to hearing the EXTREME complexity of extreme metal, it has been much more difficult to see technical and instrumental skills in rock (and pretty much most non-metal) musicians, it hasn’t impaired my ability to see creativity in the minds of these musicians; especially in the minds of Buckcherry.

I wouldn’t say that Buckcherry has a heavier rock sound like other hard rock bands like Kutless, Disciple, Point 1, and Motorhead. I would actually consider Buckcherry to have a much more upbeat and sometimes poppy sound. I guess I haven’t been completely worn out of this sound yet because I seem to be the only person I know that still enjoys it. But regardless of that, this album has the traditional upbeat hard rock sound that Buckcherry is known for, except it starts to go in a couple different directions during certain points of the album; which is none other than a sign of experimentation.

In 15, Buckcherry’s sound either went to a much heavier punk-oriented sound in songs like Crazy Bitch, Broken Glass, and So Far; or in a traditional soft rock ballad sound. Black Butterfly almost completely leaves the areas of the 90s punk sound and goes into a hard rock sound, which is a place that Buckcherry hasn’t ever visited before. There seems to be different types of hard rock; most of them coming from the mid-70s to late 80s. Black Butterfly has a sound that lies almost perfectly in between a really heavy sound and a really poppy sound; sometimes sliding off more in one direction or the other at times. This sort of transitioning sounds with each song is what I like to see in rock albums because a lot of today’s hard rock bands seem to stick to only one sound for each album.

Not only that, some of the songs have a more continuous, smooth flow like Rescue Me, Tired of You, Imminent Bail Out, and Fallout. And some of the songs have a more choppy, groovy feel like Talk to Me, Too Drunk…, and A Child Called “It”. There are some songs that have a unique sound of their own that set them apart from the rest of the album like Cream, which strongly reminds me of Green Day. For those of you that like the ballads from 15, there are numerous ballads that aren’t as soft sprinkled throughout this record.

Josh Todd’s voice is one of the most unique and easily recognizable singing voices I’ve ever known. It’s one of those voices that I would be able to recognize no matter what the situation was; whether it be the national anthem at the beginning of a sports game or a guest appearance in a jazz album or an Escape the Fate song. The guitar work isn’t what I would call AMAZING, but it is better than average rock guitar work. The drumming is generic but still fits the bill to make this album as strong as it is. The one musician that I wish would have more of a part is the bassist. First off, you can rarely hear what he’s playing. Second, I think that it would make the entire sound of the music sound catchier if he threw in some short bass solos/riffs here and there to keep the music more interesting. But other than that, there isn’t much that I would change about Black Butterfly, I would give this record 16/20. 

Wintercult - Neverending Selfhatred

Wintercult is a depressive black metal solo act from Russia. Just to clear up any possible misunderstandings, the fact that depressive black metal is my favorite kind of music doesn’t mean I set low standards for the genre’s artists. Depressive black metal actually has more shitty artists than most other genres out there; the ones having the most being grindcore/goregrind/pornogrind, American folk, and country. Wintercult is definitely one of the best depressive black metal bands I’ve heard in quite some time, which made sifting through plenty of other depressive black metal bands on this one website worth it. Want to know why? Please read on.

Probably the main reason why there are so many depressive black metal (DBM) artists out there that are absolutely repulsive to me is because the vocals are atrocious. There don’t seem to be very many good black metal vocalists at all in general! Well, this Russian nature-worshipper has a vocal style that I’ve only heard from one of my favorite artists of all-time: Malefic, the sole member of Xasthur. There have been plenty of other DBM vocalists that sound similar to Xasthur’s vocals, but none are closer to that sound than Wintercult. The way his vocals sound is EXTREMELY difficult to put into words…but it’s not that really croaky sound you hear from bands like Immortal, older Darkthrone, and Drowning the Light. It’s more of a REALLY filthy vocal fry scream that’s been heavily distorted. That’s probably the best description I can come up with at the moment. But the nice thing is that the vocals don’t overpower the rest of the music, so they have a much less chance of becoming irritating over time.

Usually, when a DBM “band” has only one member doing all of the instruments (guitars, vocals, drums, etc.), it’s not that uncommon for there to be an issue with all the instruments being in synch with each other. I don’t know exactly why, but there seems to be a recurring problem with the drums repeatedly falling in an out of time and the guitars being in a different world. But with Wintercult, the music can be easily mistaken for a full band because of how tight all the instruments are. It’s actually a HUGE refresher to hear DBM of this much clarity because it’s hard to listen to such crappy music come from a genre you have such a strong passion and love for. So to sum that up, everything is on time and in synch; just what I wanted to hear.

Traditional depressive black metal tends to be played at a much slower tempo. The first song off of this Wintercult album starts out with just the guitar playing a traditionally slow line to then have the drums come in and almost double the pace, but still keeping that extremely depressive mood that I love to hear (therefore giving the genre its name). Most of the sound that Wintercult has during this album is made up of traditional DBM guitar lines with faster (and sometimes driving) drum tempos to bring a unique and memorable sound. The other side that Wintercult has is more of an extremely atmospheric sound by using huge chords that remind me of Lost Inside’s 2011 album Mourning Wept Beside Me and Genevieve by Velvet Cacoon (no that is not a typo).

From what this record has given me, there aren’t any flaws at all that I can see. Although it is completely understandable how this album might not speak out positively to people not as familiar with the depressive black metal genre, it will eventually be considered a classic to the genre’s name because the majority feedback of this album has been accurately positive. I would give this album a perfect score and would recommend it to all depressive black metal fans as well as fans of really ambient and melodic music. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Upcoming reviews this weekend

Hey all, here's a quick list of bands that I plan on reviewing over the weekend (I most likely won't get through all of them). I'm trying to branch out and do more than just metal bands as well:

Wintercult (depressive black metal)
Shining (depressive black metal)
Firewind (power metal)
Artist vs. Poet (emo)
Cannibal Corpse (death metal)
Buckcherry (hard rock)
Carpathian Forest (black metal)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sepultura - Kairos

Because of my age and the point in time that I got into metal, my first Sepultura album was A-Lex. And I think that’s the reason why I don’t find the post-Cavalera Sepultura as atrocious as most others seem to. But now that I’ve heard the Cavalera era of Sepultura, I have become aware that those are Sepultura’s best albums. But that doesn’t mean I can’t stand the newer Sepultura. I still listen to A-Lex and I enjoy it too, especially Moloko Mesto, probably the heaviest thrash metal song ever created. Here’s the thing with Kairos, it’s not amazing by itself, but it’s AMAZING compared to all the other post-Cavalera Sepultura records. For most thrash metal fans, this isn’t easily enjoyable. There is one group that could easily find this album to be amazing, and that is the group that has been looking for a SLOWER thrash metal record. I know how weird and impossible putting the words “slow” and “thrash metal” into the same sentence seems, but Sepultura make it possible with Kairos.

The really tall black guy that replaced Max Cavalera as the front man has an extremely rough yell that sounds like the monster from your childhood nightmares. That’s why I like this guy’s vocals, the smooth, yet dirty sound his yells have. And although his vocals have a very powerful and angry sound, that angry sound is monotonous. There isn’t much diversity in his vocals at all; at first, his yells sound completely enraged and emotional, but they quickly turn really bland after not changing at all. That’s why I don’t like this guy’s vocals. But fortunately, the tastelessness of his vocals doesn’t act as an obstruction.

This album is pretty mediocre, but it’s not generic in the slightest sense. For those of you that want a headbanging thrash metal album that has a lot of Pantera-influenced grooves and heavy downbeats, Kairos is something you need to hear. My favorite headbanging track is Just One Fix, which is probably also my favorite song off the album. The guitar solos aren’t anything more than just basic thrash-style shredding, although the solo in Just One Fix is actually really cool and shows the guitarist’s experience and skills. But other than that, this album is one of those that starts out awesome and then goes dry because it doesn’t change.

It seems that Sepultura hasn’t lost their ability to play crushing shows (I will find out for myself on the 13th of this month). But it’s obvious enough that they’ve run out of the rich creative juices and that they’re now simply just throwing out any cut n’ dry guitar riff they can come up with, make it long, put vocals on top, and throw in some shredding solos. This is one of those bands that are trying to create something that they don’t have the materials for. It’s like building a house out of plywood; it works, it stands up on its own, but it’s very weak and can be knocked down easily. It looks like Sepultura has officially run out of hardwood and is down to making albums with the leftover scraps. I would give this album a rating of 14/20.