Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Black Dahlia Murder - Everblack

The number of bands out there that are as dependable and consistent as The Black Dahlia Murder is so small that it’s almost irrelevant. Ever since their sophomore release in 2005, the technical death behemoths have yet to release a less-than-amazing record. Each album has only made them bigger, each one doing more than its predecessor. If you’re a loser like me and track all the big metal labels on SoundCloud, you probably remember how quickly Metal Blade racked up the numbers when they posted the first single off the new Black Dahlia Murder album. I remember looking at my dashboard on SoundCloud and seeing that Metal Blade Records posted the “title” track from the new album 2 hours ago and the play count already being more than 9000. I know that may not seem like much, but considering how small the metal community on that site is, that’s a fucking hell of a quick response. The title of the new record, Everblack, once again continues their trend of using only one word (Unhallowed, Miasma, Nocturnal, Deflorate, Ritual, and now Everblack).

The Black Dahlia Murder is known for a lot of things. One of these things in particular played a big part in everyone’s thoughts on what this record might sound like. When you listen to just about any Black Dahlia song, especially Black Valor, Necropolis, Carbonized in Cruciform, A Selection Unnatural, and a few other select titles, you hear one of the most unique-sounding blast beats known to humans. The speed, technicality, skill, and utter tightness is literally unlike anything I’ve ever heard before with the exception of a FEW (very heavy emphasis on FEW) drummers/gods. But even then, none of the drummers that I’ve heard have a blast beat that sounds even CLOSE to what Shannon Lucas does. When I first started listening to these guys back in 2007 (the year that their legendary Nocturnal album was released), I only liked them because of the drums. I didn’t start to realize that the rest of the members also had talent until I saw them live for the first time in 2009. Even today, every time I listen to these guys, the drums are almost always what I end up focusing on (especially if it’s their Deflorate record).

So taking that into consideration, you can probably imagine how I might have felt when I saw the video on YouTube of Shannon Lucas, my favorite thing about that band, announcing that he was leaving The Black Dahlia Murder. Seriously, you can’t listen to Black Valor and not be able to tell how fucking unique his blast beats and…well…overall playing style is! I was almost totally convinced that there was no way that they could find a replacement that was HALF as good as Lucas. When the song Into the Everblack went live, I actually didn’t listen to it until over a week later out of fear that the Black Dahlia Murder that I’ve grown to love and respect was not going to be the same and would have less-impressive drums. Well obviously, if you’ve already listned to Into the Everblack, you can probably guess how fucking embarrassed I was with myself for having even considered that these guys wouldn’t have high enough standards to never settle for a musician that isn’t top-notch and one of the best at what they do. This is the fucking Black Dahlia Murder. So yes, the drums on this album are fucking amazing. The blast beats are SOMEWHAT similar to Shannon’s, but definitely not the same. Regardless, it doesn’t bother me because this guy is just as good as Shannon in everything else, and his blast beats are similar enough to Shannon’s that I can let it slide and not let it bother me.

Who is this drummer? Well he’s only a few years older than I am. From the minimal research I did on him, the earliest thing he did was for some metalcore or deathcore (I didn’t bother listening to their music) band called The Breathing Process in 2008. The other bands he’s played with are very recent bands or ones that he just joined in the past two or three years. The only “notable” band that he’s played for is Abigail Williams, which was from 2011-2012. Although I honestly wouldn’t count that because he didn’t do any recordings with them that I’m aware of. So basically, this guy is pretty new to the scene and has to have a hell of a lot of talent and skill to have a band like Black Dahlia say “that guy right there, we want him on drums”.  

As for the rest of the overall sound of the album, it’s pretty much like every other album they’ve put out. Everblack continues the change that the band made in Ritual by not having the blistering speed as constant. But the difference between the two records would be that the mood of the songs are much more like Nocturnal and Miasma than Ritual, which was a good decision for them to make. So a simple way to think about it would be to imagine the Nocturnal album, only a tad slower and not as much blast beat drumming. The vocalist has gotten a lot better at hitting the low growls, which has always been an issue before because of how fucking high-pitched the shrieks he does are. There’s nothing at all about this album that will let you down.

Everything about this is just yet another example of how consistent and dependable The Black Dahlia Murder is. Despite almost constant touring, these Midwesterners have managed to craft another masterpiece that I can say is on my favorite albums of the year list. If you’re very familiar with this band’s sound, you already know that this is one hell of a fucking beast of a record. Even if the band’s sell-out reputation has distorted your opinion on them, I would highly recommend that you listen to this album, or at least Into the Everblack. Anyone that loves extreme music can find something on this to love. This gets 19/20. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Albums of 2013

This year, I'm going to do more than just a "best of 2013" list. I'm also going to include a "Best EPs", "Worst Albums", "Biggest comeback/reunion albums", "Best Debut full-lengths (gotta give the new bloods some recognition)", and a list of the best.....yeah pretty much my favorite songs from the year...the ones that I went back to specifically the most.

I'm doing the Best Of list differently this year. I'm going to have the top 10 in order, and then the rest aren't going to be in any order at all because it's just way too much work deciding. SOOOOOO.....

10. Korn - The Paradigm Shift (Nu Metal) (Prospect Park)

8. letlive. - The Blackest Beautiful (Metalcore) (Epitaph)

7. Black Sabbath - 13 (Heavy Metal) (Vertigo/Republic)

6. Psyclon Nine - Order of the Shadow: Act I (Industrial) (Metropolis)

5. Mutiny Within - Mutiny Within 2 - Synchronicity (Progressive Metal) (Self-Released)

3. Soilwork - The Living Infinite (Melodic Death) (Nuclear Blast)

2. Portal - Vexovoid (Progressive Death) (Profound Lore)

1. Watain - The Wild Hunt (Black Metal) (Century Media)

The following is the rest of my "Best albums of 2013", except they're not in any specific order

Deicide - In the Minds of Evil (Death Metal) (Century Media)

Locrian - Return to Annihilation (Drone) (Relapse)

Happy Days - Cause of Death: Life (Depressive Black Metal) (Funeral Industries)

Joe Satriani - Unstoppable Momentum (Progressive Rock) (Epic)

Children of Bodom - Halo of Blood (Melodic Death) (Nuclear Blast)

Killswitch Engage - Disarm the Descent (Metalcore) (Roadrunner)

Bring me the Horizon - Sempiternal (Metalcore) (Epitaph)

Fyrnask - Eldir Nott (Black Metal) (Temple of Torturous)

The Black Dahlia Murder - Everblack (Technical Death) (Metal Blade)

Mortal Decay - The Blueprint for Blood Spatter (Death Metal) (Comatose)

Eternal Tears of Sorrow - Saivon Lapsi (Melodic Death) (Massacre)

Below is an ordered list of my personal favorite EPs from this year

5. Pyrithion - The Burden of Sorrow (Death Metal) (Metal Blade)

4. Fuck the Facts - Amer (Grindcore) (Self-Released)

3. Fallujah - Nomadic (Progressive Death) (Unique Leader)

2. Waning - Feeding of Fragments (Black Metal) (Self-Released)

Below are a few albums from this year that are pretty much shit..

Waking the Cadaver - Real-Life Death (Brutal Death) (Amputated Vein)

Turisas - Turisas2013 (Folk Metal) (Century Media)

Lil Wayne - I Am Not A Human Being 2 (Rap) (Cash Money)

Megadeth - Super Collider (Thrash Metal) (Universal)

Snoop Lion - Reincarnated (Reggae)

Best Debut Full-Lengths

Essence of Datum - Event Horizon (Progressive Metal) (Self-Released)

Suicidal Causticity - The Spiritual Decline (Brutal Death) (Ghastly Music)

Wormlust - The Feral Wisdom (Progressive Black) (Demonhood)

Cerebrum - Cosmic Enigma (Brutal Death) (Amputated Vein)

Rivers of Nihil - The Conscious Seed of Light (Death Metal) (Metal Blade)

Boal - Infinite Deprevation (Technical Death) (Sevared)

Heretic Cult Redeemer - Heretic Cult Redeemer (Black Metal) (Iron Bonehead)

Lost Society - Fast Loud Death (Thrash Metal) (Nuclear Blast)

Grue - Casualty of the Psychic Wars (Black Metal) (Eternal Death)

Best and/or Most Memorable Songs of 2013

Suffocation - As Grace Descends
Fall Out Boy - My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'em Up)
Children of Bodom - Waste of Skin
Bring me the Horizon - The House of Wolves
Mutiny Within - Falls to Pieces
The Dillinger Escape Plan - Prancer
Soilwork - Spectrum of Eternity
Kvelertak - Spring Fra Livet
Deicide - In the Minds of Evil
In Solitude - A Buried Sun
Born of Osiris - Machine
Holy Grail - Bestia Triumphans
Black Veil Brides - In The End
Joe Satriani - Can't Go Back
Korn - Prey For Me
Black Sabbath - God is Dead?
Killswitch Engage - In Due Time
Watain - Black Flames March none of those are in any sort of order...but there is one particular song that I would consider to be (to me) the best song of the year. I have listened to this specific track more times than anything else all year. There is nothing that has been released this year that has as much pure energy as this one song. And you can listen to this song by clicking HERE

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Born of Osiris - Tomorrow We Die Alive

Saying that Born of Osiris set the bar extremely high with their last album would be a major understatement. Their 2011 release, The Discovery, was the #1 album of the year for hundreds of people across the globe. One of those people just so happens to be yours truly. Although Fleshgod Apocalypse’s Agony was close behind, nothing that was released that year added up to The Discovery. Not a single album that was released that year left me as satisfied as that album. When a band releases an album that successful and that good, how the hell does one manage to write even a half-decent follow-up?? It’s obvious that critics are going to be referring to the next record as “the follow-up to The Discovery” or something along those lines. But for me, I’m doing to do my best to stay away from that mindset. Because what if the band decided to make a major shift or progression in their style? Would that be fair of me to still compare it to The Discovery like they were both the same exact sounding deathcore? But being the type of band that they are, it’s pretty unlikely that they’re ever going to stray too far from their base style that they’ve helped make popular since the beginning. So after months of not really writing many reviews at all, I’ve been meaning to write a review on this album for quite some time. Born of Osiris’ highly anticipated 2013 release, Tomorrow We Die Alive, is finally upon us; which means that it’s time to dissect this fucking thing and see if it’s worth a rat’s ass.

The Discovery record had many huge progressions in itself, so there’s not really a huge need for the band to get ahead of themselves and make more drastic changes to their sound again. After all, this is only their fourth album (if you consider The New Reign to be a full-length); they’ve laid down a nice path to move along comfortably for the next album or so without having to worry about their sound growing old too fast. These guys are good at what they do; they have a lot of creativity and can write a lot of songs of the same general style without overdoing anything or getting too repetitive. That was the reason why the album Veil of Maya released last year sounded so different from all of their previous works. They most likely didn’t feel that they could write another record like [id] and Common Man’s Collapse without it sounding identical to them. Thankfully, the outcome worked in their favor and landed a spot on my favorite albums from 2012.

I can’t remember exactly when it was, but I remember looking through my RSS feed and seeing that Sumerian Records had posted the first track off the new Born of Osiris album on YouTube. I must’ve just caught them minutes after they made the announcement because the views were still in the single digits when I went to the video. It wasn’t anything special; just one of those “videos” where it plays the song and it shows different parts of the album cover…except the album cover is moving (interesting concept). One look at the artwork and I knew it was the work of Cameron Gray. The guy is an amazing digital artist, but all of his shit looks the same. In the past three or so years, I’ve seen more and more metal bands (primarily deathcore, metalcore, and technical death bands) releasing albums with his art as the cover. If you want examples, some of these bands include Fallujah, Ascariasis, Within the Ruins, Wintersun, and Dead Letter Circus. Tomorrow We Die Alive is the second Born of Osiris record in a row to use this guy’s art.

Anyways, back to the topic at hand. The band had hinted at an increased presence of the keyboards and synths on the new record, which put some people off. So when I noticed that Sumerian had posted this track, the first thing that popped into my head was “oh this had better be fucking good or The Discovery is going to be the biggest fluke in history since Appetite for Destruction”. And I wasn’t kidding either, although I wasn’t going to set my standards as high as a lot of other people, they still had a lot to live up to if they were going to prove that they were actually as good as The Discovery made them sound.

The song posted, titled “Machine”, started with a symphonic intro played by their keyboardist. The melody of the synthesized horns sounded like something the band would write. Then the snare kicked in on top of that with the basic pattern of the polyrhythmic firestorm that was to follow. Then not even 30 seconds in, all of the orchestral sounds come to an abrupt halt, leaving only the guitar chugging out the lead melody. Next, the vocalist leads the rest of the band that releases a sudden drop on you like a comet hitting the earth at full-force. The INSTANT that the song started with this explosion of power, all I could do was smile and think “they fucking did it; they actually fucking pulled it off”. The overall structure of the song itself was that of any other average Born of Osiris song. You hear parts that remind you of “Follow the Signs” and others bringing back guitar sweeps similar to ones heard in A Higher Place. But this song…this one song brings so much force with so much confidence that I was absolutely blown away. I couldn’t stop listening to that track and I HAD to get my hands on the rest of that album the instant it became accessible.

The overall production of Tomorrow We Die Alive is much cleaner and more balanced than any of their previous albums. The New Reign didn’t have enough treble and too much bass, A Higher Place had the opposite problem…too much treble and almost no bass, the guitars in The Discovery tended to drown out the rest of the band at some times when they shouldn’t have. But this time, they finally nailed it. The guitars have a great place in the mix, the distortion is very crunchy, but not too high-pitched and gritty, the kick drums are nice and deep, and everything can be heard at all times. A lot of bands that use keyboards tend to use them in a lot of layers, which in effect drowns everything out. Either that or they use a bunch of layers, and then turn up the guitars, therefore drowning out the keyboards and pushing them too far in the background (this was the reason Agony lost to The Discovery for the #1 spot in 2011). In this album, the keyboards are fairly simple; never more than three layers (as far as I can hear, I’m probably wrong though so don’t take anything I say word-for-word, do your research). The fact that the guitars aren’t super noisy like they were in The Discovery and Agony makes it so that they’re not fighting for the spotlight; the keyboards and guitars can work alongside each other without much trouble.

There aren’t a whole lot of particular “issues” that this album has. It’s more so things that just aren’t enough that makes this not as good as other albums this band has put out. The only thing that I didn’t like about this was the clean singing (i.e. the song “Exhilarate”). I like the idea and I’m glad they decided to try it out, but I just don’t think it works with their sound; they’re much, much better at only doing growls and screams. Maybe down the road, future progressions that they make in their music will allow the clean vocals to sound better with the rest of the music. But for now, I don’t think it really worked out as much as they had hoped. The songs are very tight and have everything you could ever expect from these guys, but the catchiness just isn’t there as much as it was in the first track. Aside from the first song, which is definitely something you should listen to, the album just isn’t as memorable as one would hope. The first track of the record gets the listener hyped up and ready to dive into the rest of the record. And then after the album is finished, the only thing that really stuck to the listener was that first track. But despite that, this album is a more than acceptable follow-up to their 2011 masterpiece and gets my score of 16/20. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mari Leaving Eluveitie

It really bothers me how few zines and sites are bothering to even mention the departure of Eluveitie violinist/vocalist Meri Tadic. Also, why the hell would she leave a band that she had such a key role in? Considering the unique vocal contributions she's made on Helvetios and Everything Remains, I can't imagine it being easy at all to find a replacement. After missing them numerous times, I finally got to see them live at the end of 2012 when they headlined a very successful tour with Wintersun (their first ever tour of the states) and Varg (the German band, not the Norsk guy), where they played their (at the time) new album, Helvetios, all the way through....and then playing two or three of their really famous songs from previous records (I was upset they didn't play Thousandfold, which surprised me). But the one thing I noticed about their performance was the amount of focus that was put on Meri Tadic.

If you've listened to the album, you know what I'm talking about when I say that she was a big part of the album's sound. Because these folk metal bands like to have these drawn-out, atmospheric interludes during their performance, Eluveitie pretty much had Meri lead all of them. During every interlude or whatever you want to call them (there were several all throughout their set, one of them had to be AT LEAST five minutes long), the whole band would exit the stage (sometimes the guy with the beard playing the bagpipes would stay) except for Meri. All of the lights would go out except for the ones pointed at the spot where she was standing. And during these interludes, she would just stand there and belt out these ridiculous and amazing celtic-style melodies and chants. It was one of the most unforgettable things I've ever seen at a metal show.

So now that her role in the band has become much more important and unique.......she just leaves?? Her reason for leaving must have been very, very big and made her really feel cornered. I know that neither Meri or the band explicitly stated the actual reason for her leaving, but when you look at how much those fuckers tour, it seems like a very possible reason for someone to feel forced to leave. A lot of members quietly leave bands (it was hard to do that with Eluveitie considering how famous they are) due to tour exhaustion. A lot of members of Soilwork ended up leaving purely because they physically couldn't handle the amount of touring that they had to do (that band tours A LOT by the way). So I can't think of any other reason she would choose to leave other than tour exhaustion.

In case you don't know what I mean, I have included two tour shirts. The first one is the Everything Remains World Tour shirt, which has every concert from 1/11/2010-1/23/2012....that's over two years of straight touring...and then the Helvetios World Tour (second shirt) starts not even a week after the Everything Remains Tour ENDS. So that's not even a break! The only reason they're two different tours is because a new album was released! The shirt actually only shows the first half of the Helvetios World Tour 1/27/2012-10/21/2012). But actually, the tour continues on until the final date in their home country on 9/28/2013.

So the Everything Remains World Tour goes from 1/11/2010-1/23/2012 and the Helvetios World Tour goes from 1/27/2012-9/28/2013. During that time, the band never took a break lasting more than 1.5 weeks, with the exception of four separate 1 month-long breaks. I don't really consider 1-2 weeks off from touring as time off from touring in the case of Eluveitie because someone that tours as much as them is going to require more than a week to recover and recharge. So basically, with the exception of those 4 breaks, Eluveitie have been touring constantly from January 2010-September 2013. Um...that's drawing pretty damn close to FOUR YEARS of straight touring. Look at me and tell me that you wouldn't feel tired after that.

Reasons aside, Mari was a very big part of Eluveitie and will be missed dearly by a lot of people, myself included. I didn't know she released a solo album, so I'm going to be checking that out in a few days. I also plan on posting a few reviews before the end of the year since fall quarter just ended.