Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Attila - About That Life

Attila has always been on the edge. Their first two albums were pretty shitty, and then Rage came along and got a lot of attention due to the musicians actually doing a good job on it. Then Outlawed got released and their popularity skyrocketed (well, sort of). I love Outlawed; I understand it, although the lyrics on it are corny as hell, the music in itself is really catchy, interesting, and badass. They literally took the whole overly cocky rapper attitude to the limit in a deathcore fashion. But what made Outlawed so good was that they did such a good job of keeping it metal and not letting it all go too far. I actually ended up buying that album on CD, and I still jam it every once in a while because…well…it’s fun to listen to! There’s nothing bad about it! Okay, two years later, Attila have grown in popularity, but are still fairly underground. Pretty much the only reason for them being popular is that they have such an upbeat, fun, and energetic sound. I was very excited to hear what Attila would release next.

The Georgia deathcore band did what very few bands have done. That is releasing their worst album right after releasing their best album. I’m sorry, I’m not even going to gradually lead into this, I’m just going to start right off with this is possibly one of the single worst albums of 2013 along with Goliath, Super Collider, and possibly some others that I don’t know about. But really, there were two main reasons why I loved Attila, the first being what I stated above; they don’t take the silly cocky rapper attitude too far, and the second reason being that they have a lot more to their music than constant breakdowns. The second reason was actually the #1 reason I gave them the thumbs up because all other bands with their theme are all about the breakdowns.

And now that the party-themed deathcore band are at the top of the pile, they go with the lowest common denominator and take those two reasons I liked them so much and turned them inside out. Even the fact that they’re better-than-average musicians isn’t enough to make up for what they’ve done here. This is how bad it is: IN THE FIRST FIFTEEN SECONDS OF THE FIRST SONG, they manage to take both those things. In the first five seconds, tell me you didn’t roll your eyes at least once, then at the ten second mark, after shaking your head and rolling your eyes, you get angry. You do that “REALLY, GUYS? COME ON!” sigh when you hear the Emmure-style playing that they did such a good job at avoiding on the past three albums. But no, they really took things to the extreme when it comes to the breakdowns. Seriously, the title track on Outlawed has one of the catchiest breakdowns I’ve ever heard. But you won’t find any of that here. It’s the same breakdown after breakdown thing that Emmure is so infamous for. In fact, this is pretty much just Emmure, except much more egotistical and with slightly better musicians.

Thankfully, it’s not 100% lost because the Georgians still manage to toss in a few fancy fast breakdowns (like in Hellraiser) to show that they’re still an instrumentally tight band. But really, after that, the most interesting breakdown you’ll hear on this album is the one at the beginning of Callout. Seriously? Is this what you’re going to call THE Attila album? You did better both musically AND instrumentally on all of your other albums, and Soundtrack to a Party was a complete load of shit! I probably should’ve seen this coming because they were going further in this direction with each album, finally going to the limit with Outlawed. But then again, there are so many things that they could have avoided to make About That Life at least TOLERABLE.

This album is making other rap-influenced metal bands look a lot better than they really are simply because of the predictable songwriting and the uninteresting structure. The majority of the album is four chords, most of them sounding like the same one. You listen to Break Shit and turn around and think “Well, at least Limp Bizkit actually had a catchy sound to their horrible song Break Stuff”. The monotony of Unforgivable makes 311’s Down sound like an anthem. Yes, it’s that bad, they make LIMP BIZKIT sound legit. And I bet Fronz has taken a lot of inspiration from them. It’s just so fucking stupid!

One of the unique things about Attila is their lyrics. The ones on Outlawed (sorry I keep using it as an example because it’s the only Attila album I really know well) are actually really funny. They’ve got some cockiness and some stupid party-themed stuff, but they were at least interesting and original (for the most part). I don’t pay attention to lyrics in death metal very much because I usually can’t understand them. But I looked up the Outlawed album’s lyrics just out of curiosity. The fucking problem with About That Life is that there’s a lot of rapping (yes, RAPPING) where you can hear every word crystal clear; AND THE WORDS ARE FUCKING RETARDED. THIS GUY IS TURNING INTO LIL WAYNE, THE GUY WHO RELEASES ALBUMS ABOUT HIS DICK AND HOW HE’S ABOVE EVERYONE ELSE.

I don’t like lyrics, because they usually suck. But these are on a whole different level. I can see it now, someone is going to get the inspirational lyrics “You can do whatever you want in life, just don’t be a fucking bitch!” or “Punch that bitch!” tattooed across their back. And I’m just a metalhead, so I don’t really know a whole lot about the thug life, but I’m pretty sure the thug life isn’t about drinking, women, partying, and drugs. I’m pretty sure a thug is a criminal, robber, or murderer by dictionary definition. But rap music has sort of twisted the meaning, but even then, 2pac and NWA would know that Fronz isn’t living the “thug life”. And even then, the rappers that Fronz is obviously taking inspiration from can make the whole gangsta/thug life thing interesting in their lyrics, but this guy just has to make it as cheesy and as white as possible (no offense to the good white rappers out there). The first section of the song Thug Life is about rolling blunts…INSTANT loss of credibility. BOOM. Just like that.

I’m done with this. About That Life is one of the worst metal albums I’ve ever heard. This album makes me very embarrassed and ashamed to have been such a big fan of Attila and their Outlawed album. Now, every time I listen to Outlawed, I’m going to be reminded of what they released in 2013. The ideals and themes that Attila have going are extremely immature and very easy to grow out of. Although I do get Attila’s style and I can get past most of the cheesiness, this is just too much. And even when I do get past enough cheese slime to see the actual music, all I see is moldy shit. The only positive moment I had was the first 15 seconds of Callout; I don’t know what it is, but I really loved that breakdown. But that’s it. About That Life gets 2/20. 

Acranius - When Mutation Becomes Homicidal

Acranius is a German deathcore band. They’re not really that well-known here in America, but they did get the attention of some Europeans with their EP from a few years ago. What first caught my interest about this album was the artwork. But this album is proof that an incredible album cover doesn’t always mean incredible music. These guys are from the realm that Annotations of an Autopsy, Oceano, and Whitechapel are from; the realm that is a little more on the heavier side of things. Although for some bands, this may be true, that statement is an outright understatement in the case of Acranius. People that are fans of the most extreme and the most brutal deathcore band out there NEED to have this band, because there are VERY few deathcore bands that I’ve heard that are as brutal as these guys (let alone more brutal). Where do these guys get their brutal sound from?

Well, once you take a look at some of the band’s photos, you’ll see that all the members are pretty much almost always wearing brutal death band shirts (Abominable Putridity, Vulvectomy, Guttural Secrete, Cephalotripsy, that kind of shit). Seeing that this isn’t something that you would normally see on the chests of deathcore musicians, these guys probably have their own unique twist on the genre. Obviously, that twist is the slamming brutality that comes from bands like Devourment, Guttural Secrete, Pathology, Nile, Aborted, etc. But after listening to this album for a few weeks, it’s turning out to not be that much different than any other really heavy deathcore record.

In fact, these guys are pretty much a carbon copy of bands like I Declare War, Oceano, Thy Art is Murder, and Aegaeon, except with twice as many breakdowns, no screaming (just growling), and a bit more brutal. Pretty much everything on this album is a breakdown followed by the same breakdown, only slower, and then a different breakdown, followed by THAT breakdown, only slower, and so on. There are a few parts here and there that keep up a heavy pace. Songs like Life Sustainment to Continue Mutilation and Low Budget Autopsy have some pretty fucking catchy riffs with really fancy drum fills. But other than that, it’s the same thing, and although the brutality is mesmerizing at first, it gets old and even annoying after a few songs.

And it’s not even that, because the musicianship isn’t bad. It’s just that everything is WAY too predictable. There are several bands that use A LOT of breakdowns that I like because they keep things unexpected and unique. Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya, and Delusions of Grandeur are MASTERS at keeping that kind of shit interesting. But Acranius is one of the biggest failures at it. There are times where you can predict the exact pattern of the next breakdown before it happens; it’s that ridiculous. Plus, these guys have the same problem that I Declare War and Aegaeon have; monotony.

Monotony in deathcore is an automatic buzz kill no matter how brutal or technical your band is; it just ruins everything. There is literally no way to tell the songs apart; all of them sound identical. It’s like listening to a repetitive song 12 times in a row, it just annoys the fuck out of you. I don’t know why these guys are so fucking monotonous when it’s crystal fucking clear that YOU ARE ALL GOOD MUSICIANS. WHY WOULD YOU RELEASE SOMETHING THAT IS LESS THAN YOUR FULL POTENTIAL?? The drummer is awesome! He’s got a lot of skill, technicality, and he NEVER falls out of time. He’s probably the only thing about this album that stays interesting from start to finish!

The vocalist is probably the worst part of this bunch. First off, he sounds constipated…literally. Second, he does the EXACT SAME FUCKING THING THE WHOLE FUCKING TIME. The growls are VERY brutal, and they sound cool. But not when it’s the only type of vocal on the entire fucking record. The pig squeals don’t even count because they sound so similar to the guy’s growls. This guy needs to do more than what he’s done here, because this is pathetic. I wouldn’t be so hard on him if his growls had more of an emotional sound to them. But they don’t even change in pitch. But what also makes the vocals bad is the rest of the band. The monotony in the guitars and in the song structures. The reason why I’m able to listen to bands that have monotonous vocals like Visceral Disgorge, Ezophagothomia, and Disentomb is because the music behind the vocals is so interesting and mind-melding that it makes up for the monotonous vocals.

Deathcore fans are guaranteed an enjoyable experience with this album. If you’re way into deathcore, chances are that you’ll dig this. But if you’re someone that requires brutality that’s interesting and attention-grabbing, just skip this one, it’s not really worth your time. Although this is one of the single most brutal deathcore albums I’ve ever heard, it’s also one of the most boring. Acranius have reminded me that there’s still a lot of boring deathcore stuff out there and that the generic base is still there and being abused. So if you’re looking for just straight-up brutal deathcore, give these guys a listen because they’re not shitty. But for me, this album gets an 8/20. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Invasion - ...And So It Begins

Looks like we have a new thrash metal debut on our hands. This time, it’s from the Swedish trio called Invasion. The actual band has been around for almost seven years, but due to other musical groups among the members, Invasion only released two demos and weren’t able to put together and release a full-length until now. Judging from the promo photos of the band and the artwork, these guys appear to be a band that’s true to the genre in its most basic form. The logo looks cool, the artwork is that of a city in apocalyptic ruins (the most common album cover in thrash metal), and the song titles represent the typical themes about war, destruction, and politics that pretty much every other thrash metal band writes about. But since I don’t let any of that shit distort the quality of the actual music, let’s jump right into …And So It Begins.

The guitars have a very broad, metallic sound that’s similar to the guitars on Overkill’s Ironbound record. The guitarist’s playing style is minimalistic, but not in a thrash metal sense. There isn’t very much really fast tremolo picking at all. If there is any really fast guitar playing, it’s a little short bit or a small section like in 50 Megatons Later, Incoming, and Dystopia Arise. This major of absence of fast guitar playing helps us appreciate the lesser-thought-about slower and choppier style of thrash metal guitar playing. But after you get about ¾ of the way through this Invasion record, you really start to notice and feel the absence of the faster guitar playing. But for some people, this style of guitar playing is just what they’re looking for, so if that’s you, this is something you should check out. Why do the guitars seem so simple and slow? Well, part of it is the drums.

I’m not quite sure how this is, but their drummer’s stage name is “Metal”. Not that stage names really mean anything, but that’s like having a musician with a stage name like “Munky”, “Dead”, “Bug”, “Clown”, or “Head”. But before I go off on a ramble about nu metal and all of the silly stage names that went along with it, let’s talk about this drummer guy, because he’s the issue I’m having. I know that he isn’t doing this on purpose, but I hear fatigue in his drumming. He’s a very chaotic drummer. If you were wondering where all the speed and chaos from the guitars disappeared to, the answer is the drummer. This guy is constantly blasting out ridiculous fills, solos, blast beats, constant double-kicking, and some of the most over-the-top thrash metal drumming you’ll ever hear. But he isn’t a good drummer. Why? Because he can’t keep time. He’s overworking himself to where I can hear him slowing down and falling out of time. And not only is it obvious and very noticeable, it’s way too frequent. Once or twice is fine, but if you’re constantly fucking up like that, you either need to re-record all of the drumming or find a record label that won’t rush you as much, because this is disappointing.

Drumming is the #1 most known trait of thrash metal. Some of the most legendary metal drummers are/were thrash drummers. Some of the most recognizable names, Lars Ulrich, Dave Lombardo, Andy Galeon, Paul Bostaph, etc. are some of the biggest drummers in the metal and rock world because of the thrash metal shit that they did. The Invasion drummer NEEDS to improve and make a more solid recording for the next album. I’m letting this one partially slide because this is Invasion’s first album and this guy shows immense skill and creativity. All he needs to do is lift some weights and work on keeping time and keeping up with what he’s trying to play.

Invasion’s only unique trait is the vocalist. His vocals are VERY rough and are borderline mid-ranged screaming. Think of a low-pitched Rob Dukes, and you’ll have a good idea of what he sounds like. Or an even better example would be the vocals on the first few Sodom albums. The grittiness of the vocals does an excellent job of bringing up the brutality of the rest of the music and giving Invasion a much edgier sound.

Other than the vocals, there isn’t really very much left to say about Invasion; everything is just as you would expect from a 21st century thrash metal band. All of the songs sound pretty much the same, but In the Trace of the Warhead, Dystopia Arise, and 50 Megatons Later each have their own catchy riffs that make them stand out a little bit from the others. If you’re a thrash metal fan, I would highly recommend this to you because there’s definitely a possibility that you could get quite a bit of enjoyment out of this brutal thrash metal record. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s surely nowhere near being bad enough for me to hope that none of you hear it. I would give this 11/20 (the extra point being added for the unique vocals and brutality). Invasion are just another thrash metal band to me. But in this album, although they’re not headed in the right direction, they sure as hell are facing in the right direction. So if they fix the drums and improve themselves, I’ll look forward to hear what they bring next. 

Destruction - Spiritual Genocide

It’s surprising how much Destruction has gone under the radar lately. Ever since the release of Inventor of Evil in 2005, you don’t really hear a whole lot about them in the media or anything, which is unfortunate because they’re one of the few old school legendary thrash metal bands that are still great. Well, Nuclear Blast Records made sure to do A LOT of promotion for Day of Reckoning before its release in 2011, so that was something that a lot of people heard about. But the majority of the people that I’ve talked to had no idea that since Inventor of Evil, the German thrash masters have released four albums, including their new one, Spiritual Genocide. Not even an entire year after the release of Day of Reckoning, Destruction is back with another full-length that I wasn’t even aware of until three months after it was released. But nevertheless, here it is, Spiritual Genocide.

The thing that lots of thrash metal bands have done is lost energy. And it’s not just that they’re not as heavy as they were back in the 80s and 90s, you can literally feel an exhausted, worn-out vibe in some of these band’s recent albums (i.e. Anthrax, Tankard, Venom, Megadeth, etc.). And it’s sometimes really difficult to listen to these types of albums coming from the bands that released Rust in Peace, The Morning After, and other timeless classics. But Spiritual Genocide is proof that Destruction is far from losing any amount of energy. I personally thought that the brutality and energy that Day of Reckoning brought was ridiculous for a band as old as Destruction, but here they are, less than a year later, with another record just as creative and heavy.

Destruction doesn’t spend very much time fucking around with different styles and other shit like Overkill and Exodus have been doing. Destruction has kept their music raw, pure, and heavy as fucking hell in the same way that Slayer has done. So what you should be expecting is a lot of speed, a lot of really fast double-kicking, and a lot of simple guitar riffs. But the guitar work on Spiritual Genocide is much more interesting than other similar records you might hear. The guitar solos are very colorful and are each strikingly unique. Even the simple guitar riffs are consistently keeping you engaged because the riffs almost always end up not being what you expected. It seems that age has induced wisdom in this band because everything about the guitars that I have a problem with when it comes to new thrash metal bands is solved on this album. In order to keep guitar riffs from growing repetitive, the guitarist either starts playing the same riff in a different key (something I would like to hear more often in this genre because it really intensifies the music) or just completely changes everything altogether.

The vocals can get a tad bit irritating after a while, but that’s only if you’re not a huge fan of the really high-pitched yells (I’m not too keen on them). Even though that may be true, the vocalist does a PERFECT job of matching the intensity of his vocals with the intensity of the music. Also, something that I know the vocalist has experimented with in the past is being used in every song on this album. The vocalist takes his signature yells and overlays it on deep growls. And to be honest, it sounds really cool; because other bands that have done this absolutely butcher it due to not having the right-sounding voice (not exactly their fault). In songs like City of Doom, To Dust you will Decay, Carnivore, and Under the Violent Sledge, the addition of the growls act as the perfect element to lower the intensity and increase the brutality of the music. So this is definitely something that we will be hearing from these guys in the future.

It’s important to have one or two breaks from all the intensity on a thrash metal album, even if it’s not a complete break and not that long. That’s the one thing that this album is missing, because after I’m finished listening to it, I’m mentally drained from the constant bombardment and speed. But from another perspective, is that really a bad thing? But if they threw in a song or even a section of some more melodic stuff; that would make Spiritual Genocide a complete thrash metal record. But regardless, this is proof that Destruction are still going at full force and are still at the top of their game. If you’re not aware of this album, listen to it; it’s an album that NEEDS to be heard. I’m going to give Spiritual Genocide a high score of 17/20. 

Havok - Unnatural Selection

Havok is my favorite thrash metal band, so it’s more than obvious why I was so excited for this album’s release. Unlike most other thrash metal bands that I would make a big deal out of (Slayer, Testament, Kreator, Destruction, Overkill, Exodus, GWAR, Metallica, etc.), this is only Havok’s third album. And they have quite a bit to compete with this time around considering that last year, Kreator released a monster of an album and Overkill released an album that landed on the #2 spot on my “Best albums of 2012” list. But to most other people, Havok is just another better-than-average thrash band. But nearly constant touring over the past two or so years has really paid off; causing Havok to be among the biggest 21st century thrash metal groups with Warbringer, Bonded by Blood, Municipal Waste, Black Breath, and a few others. So here we are, the third full-length from the mighty Havok, the magical third that, if good, will both solidify their reputation and their sound.

If you’re already a fan of these guys, don’t expect anything you haven’t heard before; these guys are a fairly generic thrash metal band. The thing that’s special about Havok is how much fucking energy and variety they put into their music. It’s not only the same old tremolo picking, those intros that start off with one guitar playing one power chord really fast, really fast punk-influenced drum patterns, etc. They have more than just that (I’m not saying they don’t do all of that generic stuff). Havok is known to take those generic traits and simply pound them into different shapes; sort of like what Kreator, Warbringer, Destruction, and other thrash bands have been doing recently. Nothing new, just the same thing presented in a new way.

The artwork on Unnatural Selection is strikingly similar to the Time is Up album cover, some weird-looking fellow sitting at a desk. But although political themes have always been present in Havok’s music, they seem to be the main topic on Unnatural Selection. With quotes such as “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny, when the government fears the people, there is liberty” and politically biased song-titles, it’s obvious that this is the primary theme of the album.

When compared to the majority of thrash metal, Unnatural Selection stands as one of the stronger records of the past year or two. But when compared to the two previous Havok records, Unnatural Selection doesn’t quite live up to expectations. As far as creativity and catchiness goes, everything’s fine; there’s nothing wrong there. It’s the energy where I’m having issues. This collection of songs just isn’t getting me as hyped up as Burn and Time is Up do. But that’s in the overall music. The vocals have increased with intensity; often times to the point of screaming instead of yelling. But if we took those vocals and applied them to thrash metal with the same energy that songs like The Root of Evil and Scabs of Trust, then we would have one hell of a fucking thrash record. So I’m enjoying the direction that the vocals have taken, but the overall energy and the apparent lack in variety really brings all of that down.

So in other words, Unnatural Selection acts as a disappointment when compared to other Havok material. But really, in general, this is nowhere near a bad thrash metal album; Havok still know how to bust out some fucking heavy music. So I would recommend this to thrash metal fans only that have already heard Havok’s other stuff, because this isn’t their best work. But trust me, if you’re a thrash fan that doesn’t have ridiculously high standards, this is something that you should give a listen. Unnatural Selection gets my score of 16/20.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sleeping with Sirens - Feel

There are always two or three bands in the screamo/metalcore genre that are just taking over. Pierce the Veil and Sleeping with Sirens are exploding with fame right now. So, in response to noticing that, I gave the newest Pierce the Veil record a listen and wrote a review on it recently. So now, it’s time for Sleeping with Sirens! Their new album, Feel, was released almost three months ago, and was literally an instant hit. I mean, it’s not super often anymore that a metal/rock album sells over 60,000 copies in its first week of release (20,000 more than the new Marilyn Manson album, 8,000 more than the new Lamb of God album, see what I’m talking about?). So obviously, Feel’s predecessor was the band’s major breakthrough, because well…why else would have these guys been so fucking huge last year? But the amount of reception and attention Feel has caused puts anything these guys have already done to fucking shame, it just doesn’t even compare. So after witnessing all of that, and after a month’s hesitation, I decided to give this a listen on the off-chance that it might end up being like Pierce the Veil and not be a pile of shit.

Categorizing Sleeping with Sirens is actually harder once you’ve listened to them (which is usually a good sign). But basically…I guess a way to put it is to imagine Saosin with occasional screaming. These guys definitely have a screamo feel, but the predictable dark and heavy feeling that comes with so many of these bands can’t be found here. In fact, literally in the first two seconds of the opening track, you’re drowned in a wave of an upbeat melody filled with all sorts of colors. I’m not one that normally pays attention to lyrics, but even the lyrics of this song paint pictures of life, realization, and recovery instead of the hopelessness and sorrow most would expect. We’re not even halfway through the first song and there’s almost nothing generic about these guys. But remember, that’s not always a good thing, because it’s much easier to fuck things up.

It’s not too hard to see what the major problem people have with Sleeping with Sirens is, and that’s their singer. If you’re on the internet and don’t live under a rock, you’ve heard the name “Kellin Quinn” at least twice in some way or another. Why is this guy so fucking unbearable to some people? It’s because of his EXTREMELY high-pitched singing voice. We’re talking higher than Styx, Coheed and Cambria, Michael Jackson, Robert Plant, A Skylit Drive, and anything else you might consider to be very high-pitched. But the thing is, he doesn’t have a girly tone to his voice like many singers in his range. It’s that difference that bothers people so much. Now that I’ve said that I can understand how that bothers a lot of people, I feel comfortable with saying that I’m the type of person that can get used to that kind of singing fairly quickly. And on top of that, Mr. Quinn has almost everything that I look for in a singer.

He’s never out of tune, he puts all of his energy into his singing, he demonstrates an ability to maintain a good dynamical range (is not always loud or always quiet), he never overdramatizes anything, he has a unique sound, and most importantly, the amount of emotion in his voice is so immense I can’t put it into words. The only issue that I have is that he never steps into lower pitches for more than ten seconds. I mean, he obviously knows that he has a very uncommon ability because that’s almost all he does, but the constant high-pitched singing gets very irritating after a while, even after I get used to it in the beginning.

The rest of the band doesn’t leave me with much to say because…well…there really isn’t anything special or really bad about them. None of the members are outstanding; they’re just average and get the job done with the minimum. The drummer’s patterns are okay, but they get very boring and agonizingly predictable after the first minute of each song. I can’t even hear the bassist except for a few bits and pieces where the guitars aren’t going at full-force. Although the mood of the music is very strong, most of the emotion is just coming from the vocals, which in the end leaves the rest of the music being bland and unmemorable.

Rise Records made a big fucking deal out of the four guest appearances on the album, which include the Memphis May Fire vocalist, Fronz of the deathcore band Attila, Shayley Burget of Dayshell, and one of my favorite rappers, Machine Gun Kelly (aka MGK). They really didn’t need to make as big of a deal out of it as they did, but I will admit that I was very surprised with how well the MGK appearance turned out. MGK’s very emotional and intense rapping met very well with the energy of the song. But to be honest, the other guest appearances don’t really make any sort of contribution whatsoever, making them not even necessary.

Sleeping with Sirens isn’t the band that the arrogant elitists are describing. If they even listened to this album once, their description would be completely different. The most positive thing that I can say about this album is that the vocals are outstanding. They have flaws, but I was fucking surprised with how great they are. Besides that, the album is filled with unmemorable songs with unique melodies that grow unbearably predictable way too fast, repetitive song structures, and overly simplistic instrumentals. There really isn’t anything that this album leaves behind that I can consider to be memorable. There are, though, three particular songs that I still thoroughly enjoy, which are Feel, Alone (ft. MGK), and Déjà vu. Other than those three songs, this album is enjoyable, but easily forgettable. I would give Feel a barely below-average score of 9/20, which is a much higher score than what I was expecting to give them. But this album is definitely worth at least one listen, even if it’s just those three tracks.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Immolation - Kingdom of Conspiracy

Immolation is one of the few remaining old school death metal bands that are still strong as hell. Along with Grave, Cannibal Corpse, Jungle Rot, Sinister, Vader, Suffocation, and a few other death metal bands that have been around since the early 1990s and before, Immolation have remained fairly consistent and are still blowing people into the dirt. In fact, Immolation is probably one of the single most consistent death metal bands ever because of how they’ve never released a bad album. The closest that they’ve ever come to that was with Harnessing Ruin and Shadows in the Light, which aren’t even average records, so that doesn’t really mean much. Especially since the album that came after those two is considered to be one of Immolation’s best albums, that album being Majesty and Decay.

So while in the middle of a shitload of touring (during which I had the pleasure to see them open for Nile with Krisiun and Abigail Williams), the band released what I personally consider to be one of their best releases ever, a five-song EP titled Providence. In my review of that, I simply stated that it’s pretty much a continuation of the growing intensity and energy that Majesty and Decay left behind. Well, here’s the mighty follow-up to that record, and it’s not quite what we all expected.

Let’s start off by taking a short moment to look at the artwork. There’s nothing too significant about it besides the fact of how fucking cool it is. It’s probably one of the best album covers the band has ever released. It’s also just one of those covers that instantly ties in the album title with the imagery. But as amazing as visual art is, we need to look at the auditory art that Immolation just released.

The song structures on Kingdom of Conspiracy are much more interesting and intricate than before, so the band is obviously doing some pushing and exploring. It’s mainly the increased variety in style on Kingdom of Conspiracy that makes it different from the rest of their albums. The same drum patterns that Harnessing Ruin and…well…just about every other Immolation album besides Majesty and Decay brought us are nowhere to be heard on this album, so it’s somewhat of a relief. Although Immolation have finally chosen to move on from their old sound after perfecting it, there are some issues that are starting to pop up on this particular record. The biggest issue is that although the song structures are more complex, they aren’t as solid as they should be. Let’s do a bit of comparison work with Majesty and Decay because this is actually really interesting. In Majesty and Decay, the much more complex song structures were very solid; the band moved on to the next part of the song at just exactly the right time. But in Kingdom of Conspiracy, these transitions are irregular and don’t feel quite as right. There are some parts where the band decides to move on to the next section right when you’re just starting to get into the previous part (annoying) and other parts where everything is dragged out to the point of being really over-repetitive.

This is actually quite a blow because of how high Majesty and Decay and Providence [EP] set the bar. But in all honesty, the uncertain sound of the album is the only con; everything else is exactly what you can expect from Immolation. The guitar and bass lines are casual, but devastatingly brutal, there’s always that underlying groovy feel to everything that they do, and the musicianship is outstanding. Instrumentally, the biggest improvement that Kingdom of Conspiracy brings is the drumming. The drumming is a thousand times more interesting to listen to than on other Immolation records like Unholy Cult and Harnessing Ruin (just to throw some examples out there). What I still would like to hear is some more interesting bass, which is probably not something that will happen since it’s just not the Immolation-thing to do to put the bass out on the frontline like that. But with the increasing complexity of the drums, it’s starting to look like we could possibly see the other members make their parts more complex as well.

Kingdom of Conspiracy is yet another strong album from Immolation. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the expectation that Majesty and Decay and Providence [EP] set, but it’s Immolation, they still have yet to put out a bad album. Fans of pure death metal, you’ve probably already heard this record. But if you haven’t I would recommend it after you listen to some of their other stuff. I would give Kingdom of Conspiracy a score of 15/20.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pierce the Veil - Collide with the Sky

Pierce the Veil is one of the more recent huge sensations in the screamo genre. How do I know this? Well after hearing their name everywhere, I saw that one of my local venues posted a concert date for them months ahead of the actual show. The show sold-out within weeks of the day the tickets went on sale. That’s pretty ridiculous. The Black Dahlia Murder, a band MUCH bigger than Pierce the Veil and with more album sales scheduled a show at that same venue along with Nile and Skeletonwitch. That show never sold out. There has to be A LOT of hype for something like that to happen that fast. So, like a lot of other people I know, without listening to them first, I just passed Pierce the Veil off as just another mediocre screamo band that got lucky. Well, I was flipping through a list of random YouTube metal music videos (not quite sure why, I don’t even like music videos that much in the first place), I saw the music video for the song Hell Above by Pierce the Veil. It was one of those “what the hell” moments where I decided that it most likely wouldn’t kill me to watch it. After completing the video that included both the intro track from the album and Hell Above, I was speechless because it was everything that I WASN’T expecting…well, maybe not EVERYTHING.

The most surprising thing about these guys is that they’re not shitty! After reviewing countless of boring metalcore and screamo bands that all sound the same and bring the exact same thing to the table in the exact same fashion, this is a fucking relief. Don’t take that the wrong way and think I’m saying this is amazing, because I’m not; Pierce the Veil haven’t amazed me in the same way that The Word Alive did. There are certain turn-offs that I hear way too often in these types of bands, these turn-offs include auto-tuned singing, the constant use of simple breakdowns, a shitload of really corny-sounding synthesizers, shitty screams, and stuck-up attitudes. I would say shitty lyrics but I can’t because I almost never even pay attention to those. Anyways, Pierce the Veil has NONE of the turn-offs that I just listed. I need to ask: where the fuck did these guys come from?

Really good intro tracks that are more than 5 seconds long are hard to make interesting. It’s easy to say that this is one of the most energizing and coolest intro tracks that I’ve ever heard in my life. The amount of electronics used is minimal, which means it’s all dependent on the rest of the band to make it work. Probably what hit me first was how fucking tight the band is. Even in some of the better screamo bands, you can hear slight screw-ups in parts like this. The slightly random drum hits are lined-up EXACTLY (not an understatement) with the guitars and bass. And then right after they hit you with that, they slide into a lead guitar line backed with muted guitars and drums so indescribably energizing that it still sends chills down by back every time I hear it. It’s pretty ridiculous and surprising how a band surrounded by so many shitty groups managed to pull off something like this.

Hell Above is the song that’s going to be talked about the most in this review. So after the intro track seamlessly blends into Hell Above, the band goes on full-force while following the same guitar melody that was played in the intro. What come’s next is the highly-acclaimed vocalist’s high-pitched singing voice. I have to admit, I’m not usually one that enjoys this style of singing, but this guy is GOOD. He’s good not because of his vocal range or the sound of his voice, it’s the energy, power, and emotion that you can hear and feel in his singing. His voice moves with the music instead of sounding like it just got laid on top of it. Anyways, Hell Above can be described in one word: energy. This song has energy, which is something vital that the screamo and metalcore genres are severely lacking. Because of how tight the band is on literally everything, the already intense amount of energy is increased.

After the first chorus, the bassist gets to be the center of attention by playing a really catchy bass line before exploding into the next chorus. Oh yeah, I’m not one for choruses because bands sometimes like to put too much focus on them and forget about the rest of the song, but the chorus on Hell Above is something else. One last thing, when you listen to the song, how many breakdowns do you hear? If you listened to it, you heard ONE breakdown during the second half of the song. Again, this is an action that goes against the stupid trend and defies one of those major turn-offs I mentioned before.

The drummer is probably one of the most unique and experimental drummers in the screamo genre. The number of generic drum patterns that are played on this album is so small that you don’t even notice them unless you’re listening closely the whole time. As far as skill and technicality goes, the drummer is pretty average; there really isn’t any excessive skill or anything. It’s how perfectly he keeps time and how much he DOESN’T sound like any other drummer that makes him great. Also, what I always noticed was how when he made those seemingly random cymbal/snare hits, the rest of the band would emphasize those hits right along with him using so much precision that I notice it every time.

Everything seems to be going beyond perfectly. This album is on its way to getting a perfect score from me and getting all of my love…that is, until about the seventh song or so. After Props & Mayhem, everything starts to decline. The songs start to gradually decrease in energy, the melodies and choruses become less memorable, the music’s initial glow starts to grow dull, and everything starts to grow dull. By the time Stained Glass and Colorful Tears comes around, you feel ready to reach forward and press the button with the big square on it that says “Stop”. In other words, this album’s intense performance isn’t as lasting as the album itself is. On the first half of the album, each song is completely unique, every single track has its own little gem, and they each tell a different story. But the rest of the album, although not even close to bad or even mediocre, just blends together. So it’s the fact that this group of carbon-copies is being placed right next to a group of extreme individuals that makes the second half of the record grow so unbearable.

Pierce the Veil is not what a lot of people say they are. They aren’t shitty, they aren’t talentless, they aren’t generic, and they sure as hell aren’t bad musicians. In fact, this is one of the better screamo records I’ve heard in the past four years or so. The amount of energy in the first six songs is so immense that it even challenges the energy that Underoath has in their music. If you’ve turned down this band because of what you’ve heard about them, drop everything and look up the music video for Hell Above, because you might be surprised. But beyond the first half of the album, there isn’t really anything memorable for me to talk about, so I’m going to end the review here and give Collide with the Sky a score of 15/20.