Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Valkiria - Here The Day Comes (2012)

After making great strides over the course of the last 15 years, Italian gothic doom two piece Valkiria are poised to take the next big step in their career. After signing with Italy's own Bakerteam Records, the duo are set to release their fifth studio album, titled "Here The Day Comes." Broken down into seven tracks which, not coincidentally, identify the different stages of day, the album is their first to feature live drums, provided by heralded Novembre drummer Giuseppe Orlando. Throw in some rich, dark tones, and you have an album that is as unique and varied as the day itself.

The soft, atmospheric tones that open "Dawn" fit the ideology perfectly, giving you the feeling of that early morning moment. The buildup involved here is key, allowing the layers and the sound to grow naturally. The use of live drums immediately pays off, with each booming kick pouring through your speakers. The vocals aren't one dimensional, either, with deathly growls slamming head on into blackened screams, only to end with clean crooning. The doom metal influence is apparent, with a slow, deliberate tempo dominating the track. As the day progresses, we come to "Sunrise." With the sun now peaking out over the horizon, the music kicks into a new gear. The melodic passages are stunning, creating great imagery. Offset by the heavier moments, the track is ripe with a more dynamic guitar lead than its predecessor. Even including a small piano melody does wonders for the overall arch of the song, which plays out as an instrumental, with the rare scream from frontman Valkus.

But as "Morning" begins, we come back to the death/doom style that the band executes so flawlessly. Orlando's drums are key, pounding and pulsing throughout. The density of the guitars grows, along with the vocal layers. An interesting component that comes into play is the fractured harmony that comes from the vocals themselves, with two distinct deliveries on top of each other. Atmospheric keyboards cut through the mix, adding an eerie feel to the overall sound. That darkness penetrates into "Afternoon," drawing a sharp contrast from one passage to the next. Clean, echoing guitars fade in, then erupt into a flurry of distortion and drums. The storm passes, making way for another melodic section. Here, the band's strength is apparent, crafting numerous melodies, and bringing them together in a cohesive and effective way. Playing the harshness of the vocals of the richness of the music is a bold move, one that pays dividends over and over. It also allows for an equal split of the focus between the vocal line and the musical story.

As we turn from day into night, beginning with the track "Sunset," there is a decidedly darker feel to the music itself (no pun intended). It is often overshadowed by the devastating guitars, but the bass shines through here, adding a depth to the music. the ability to move back and forth between a more post-metal oriented attack and the traditional death/doom sound is impressive, and allows the band to show off multiple facets of their work. Never is this more evident than on "Evening," where contrast and compare is the name of the game. One moment, you are thrashing away with speed and power, and the next you are immersed in a delicate piano melody. It may seem like second nature to be able to make those pieces fit, yet so many bands pass on that, looking to simply bludgeon you to death with riff after riff. As we fade into "Night," there is one last assault to muster. With a three headed vocal monster, you are treated to everything this duo has to offer. This is a standout track, and could be the one to turn head across the world. With a mix so crisp, musicianship that is so clean, and writing that is deeper than many others, this track speaks volumes. The haunting outro will stay with you after the music has stopped.

With influences ranging from Katatonia to My Dying Bride, it is no wonder Valkiria have created such a diverse and inspired sound. Sure, you may have heard albums like this in the past. Perhaps even recently. But rarely does an album follow it's story arch so well, and yet not find itself stale by the midway point. With each passing time of day, you are treated to something slightly different than the offering before it. The subtleties encapsulated in these seven tracks are numerous, and it would be a travesty to only listen once. "Here The Day Comes" would be a welcomed soundtrack to any day of the week.


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Monday, February 27, 2012

Freedom Call - Land Of The Crimson Dawn (2012)

The symphonic power metal band, Freedom Call, is back with another amplified album, entitled “Land Of The Crimson Dawn.” The German outfit delivers monstrous guitar solos and catchy refrains throughout this epic adventure of an album. It contains 14 tracks that you won’t be able to get enough of after you hear it.

The album opens with the energizing “Age Of The Phoenix.” The verse kicks right in with powerful clean vocals that fly high over blaring guitar rifts and fast double bass pedal drumming. Layered vocals build up the chorus as cymbals constantly smash in the background. The refrain holds catchy lyrics and guitar riffs and will have you bashing your head to the melody throughout the track. Wild guitar solos follow after each refrain throwing melodic notes at you that will remain stuck in your head for days. This leads right into “Rockstar” which starts with rapid chugging guitar riffs with epic layered guitars on top. Strings and synths float in the background consuming you deep into the song. The verses are delivered with aggressive singing vocals that slowly turn into layered vocals that chant into the chorus. This refrain will grab you the minute you hear it. I played this song over and over again the first few times I heard it. It’s just that damn good. They include insane guitar solos that will knock you on your ass. Meanwhile the double bass pedals and snares come through and beat you to the ground.

“Crimson Dawn” jumps in with gorgeous piano riffs and hell raising guitar melodies. The verses contain galloping bass lines and soaring vocals that make you want to throw your devil horns into the air. The chorus comes through with more catchy lyrics and guitar riffs as wicked drum fills rumble beneath you. Violent cymbals destroy the background through most of the song as they relentlessly shatter away. The bridge consists of a gorgeous piano riff that is accompanied by soothing strings and light vocals. It then runs right into heavy chugging gutiars and dark growling vocals. Yes that’s right I said growling vocals. It through me off as well but you’ll find that it goes perfect with the track.

Another powerful track on this album is “66 Warriors.” It opens with a creeping synth sound effect as they chant, “Warrior Oh Warrior” in the background. The verses are filled with fast guitar riffs and quick double bass pedals as cymbals echo behind them. The chorus delivers super high pitched vocals that really put the “pow” in “power.” The guitars stay aggressive throughout the song as they mix it up between melodic chords and beastly chugging riffs. The song ends with a mind blowing guitar solo that has wicked noted thrown in every direction. This is definitely one track you do not want to miss.

After playing these four songs for the first time you might find yourself restarting the album. That is just how good these first four tracks are. Each one is unique and catchy in their own way and definitely become stuck in your head for a while. However don’t stop listening here. There’s still a couple awesome tracks to hear. “Hero On Radio” reminds me of an Edguy song the way its got a corny title and lyrics but is catchy as hell. The chorus contains soaring vocals with simple lyrics that you’ll start singing to right when you first hear it. The track has a very uplifting mood and seems like it would be fun to see live.

Towards the end of the album you will come across a song called “Eternity.” It opens with heavy strings and ravishing piano riffs. Double bass pedals destroy the background as punishing guitar riffs come flying in. The verses are calm and begin to layer with more vocals. This builds up the chorus perfectly as double bass drumming continues to roll through while catchy guitars and bass chug away in the background. You’ll be humming along in no time. This is one song you don’t want to miss.

Freedom Calls has been up and down with past albums like “Dimensions” and “Legends Of The Shadowking” but neither compare to “Land Of The Crimson Dawn.” This is a phenomenal album from front to back giving you catchy riff after catchy riff and upbeat lyrics that will have you singing along throughout its entirety. This is definitely gonna be on everyones top 5 for best power metal album of the year. Make sure you pick it up and check it out!


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Et Moriemur - Cupio Dissolvi (2011)

From the majestic city of Prague, in the Czech Republic, comes a band that is putting their own spin on the death/doom style. Et Moriemur have a clear purpose, a very distinct content to present. Contained in the nine songs of their new album, "Cupio Dissolvi," are true stories of suicide. The darkest of endings is not lost in the most dire of musical styles, but rather brought to life through the music and lyrics. And while this isn't your typical death/doom offering, it does embody all of the more prevalent keystones of the genre. Throw in the use of six different languages, and you have yourself a worthy change of pace.

The somber tones that open "Deliverance" are exactly what an album of this nature demands. Immediately, you are greeted with two completely opposite vocal deliveries, jumping from the clean singing into deathly growls. Singer Zdeněk Nevělík dominates the low register, shaking you to your core. His presence, whether it be during the heavier portions or the light, clean guitar passages, is undeniable. And while his vocals are sharp, his keyboard entries are precise and well crafted. The layers of sound that emerge are crisp, even when the mix is not. The follow up, "Deep," takes a similar route, building from light melodies into something much larger, much more dense. The keyboards add a demented fun house feel, tying together the pounding of drums. But contained here are stories of sadness, the overwhelming feeling of helplessness felt by the people who lived the stories. The explosive chorus sections cut through the tension like a knife, even unleashed a flurry of double kicks. Nevělík's voice takes on another facet, a raspy, harshly delivered scream. The thrashing guitars and drums disappear, leaving only a piano melody to carry the breakdown. The air of beauty comes through, even when all is bleak. The quiver in the vocals is all the proof you need of the emotional weight being carried here.

A more conventional track, "Insatiable Wrath" brings to mind some of the best of the genre, from Helevorn to newcomers As Autumn Calls. The dueling guitar parts are perfectly intertwined, with one playing slow notes over the distorted chords of the other. The flood of atmospheric keyboards syncs perfectly with the rumbling of drums and guitars. It isn't often that one 30 second clip can give you chills, but you may find just that in the breakdown here. The vocals remain dark, growling ahead over clean guitars. The title track to the album, "Cupio Dissolvi," has the most innocent of beginnings, with  xylophone sound echoing through the air. But by the time Nevělík's blackened vocals enter, all of the purity of those sounds has gone. The drums are seemingly endless, and the guitars gain momentum with every chugging chord. But a break in the distortion reveals a keen sense of melody and morose. There is a more traditional doom feel to this track, finding a romanticism of sorts in the dark subject matter. It is hard to convey in a lifetime all of the sadness that the band pours into each note, and there is no better representation of that than in the waning moments of this track.

The longest track, "Cross And The Rose," brings back the dynamic mentioned earlier, throwing Nevělík's growling style over clean music, this time including a melodic bass line that may seem to come from nowhere. The constant changing of tempos and patterns keeps the flow fresh without disturbing the delicate balance of harsh and heart breaking. The return of atmospheric keyboards hammers home the sorrowful lyrics, while the constant thunder of drums, guitars, and bass keeps the track on point. As clean guitars take over, whispered vocals float by, only to be dashed to bits by the oncoming storm. But with each gray musical cloud comes a silver lining. In this case, "Vanity In Vain" is just that. The xylophone sound returns, with screeching, but whispered vocals layered on top. There is a simplicity to the construction, but a clear sense of timing and melody as well. It would be hard to deny a similarity to My Dying Bride, especially in the latter stages of the song. And by no means is that an insult in any way. The doom elements on display are impressive, and the extreme contrasts take the song to a different arena entirely.

The more heavily played "Abstain" jumps back to the deathly side of things, erupting from the opening moments with more of Nevělík's deepest growls. Double kicks fly by you from all angles, enveloped in rapid chugging guitars. And while things do slow down, musically, the torrential rains of emotion never stops. From the clean vocals to the growls, each word seems to take you deeper into the stories of these lost souls. The beautifully constructed and aptly titled "The Last Poem" builds from a solemn piano, backed by light keys. Even as the guitars enter, distorted and crunching, the piano continues on, adding in a layer that is rarely utilized in this style of music. This variation on the traditional formula opens the door for more instruments to come through. After building to a boil, the track comes back down in a heap of strings and piano tones. Without breaking stride, "ªal" begins. If the previous eight tracks haven't moved you, this one will. Light, clean guitars and synthesizer produced woodwinds accompany softly spoken words. A fitting end to the album, and a fitting end to the story.

The common misconception that metal is devoid of emotional investment rarely seems to be challenged by the more mainstream metal acts. But Et Moriemur have proven that metal, in any form, can be more than blasphemous stories and Satanic undertones. They are heavier in places than a traditional doom band, but more heartfelt at times than death metal usually allows. The combination of the two results in an album that is powerful in so many ways. And while it is nearly impossible to convey all of the sadness, hopelessness, and sorrow that surround the thought of suicide, "Cupio Dissolvi" is successful in bringing the darkest days to light.


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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Podcast: Episode 38 (Rocket ride to Planet Piss)

No need for introductions this time. We jump right into the fray to discuss some of our reviews. Justin sticks to the flat 50 this time around, with two American bands in Fister and Spiral. Darrell wanders abroad once again, visiting Russia to check out Svartby, and France to get his first listen of Kells. But we are preoccupied tonight. We were once told that the Metalocalypse had begun. Well, a new wave is coming. Season 4 is on the way, accompanied by a new album by Brendan Small's Galaktikon. What the hell? Well, we know very little, but we have a lot to say about the man, the band, and the show.

Part 1, son.

Part 2, dawg.
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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Svartby: The Interview

Alexander "Giftsvamp" Ostanin, keyboardist, concept creator and lyricist for Russian brutal folk metal band Svartby gave us some great insight on the band, the music, and what it feels like to be lumped into that same old folk metal genre. Great info, great read, great band.

First and foremost, thank you so much for giving us this opportunity. We are grateful for the chance to discuss your music.

Giftsvamp: Hi! It's not very usual to us, to give an interview to the guys from across the ocean :)

You make it a point, via your bio and your Facebook page, to separate yourself from some of the more cliche sub-sects of folk (Viking, Pagan, etc). Throughout your career, have you found that being lumped into the folk movement has had an impact on how people perceive your music?

Giftsvamp: Now, come on! When people see us tagged as folk-metal they expect much of the common folk stuff from our music. And all the trve-folk stuff is indeed dull. When the next “folk”-band you listen to sings about the same old “battle”, “viking”, “axe”, “sword”, “beard” and every boring thing like that, you think that it's not better than power metal cliches with all of their emerald dragon swords of the trve elvish glory of the angel's wing of death of the throne. Same shit. You're just fapping for the other object like hundreds did before you. So we're just happy when this or that band has enough balls, brains and sense of humor to do something unusual. Like Trollfest did – I didn't like much their arabian motives on the latest cd, but they're to be respected for that, it's just incredible. So are we, since Svartby's founded in 2004, we try to invent smth. unusual every time.

The world of "folk metal" is getting crowded and stale, as more and more bands release albums. Somehow, you manage to stand out from the rest. What is it about what you do that makes your sound so unique?

Giftsvamp: It's keyboards I think. I'm always (always) playing solo-parts, and I'm trying to keep the sound not serious. Being a fan of 8-bit and eurodance music (among everything else), I'm always trying to make it bouncy, playful, not true-folkish or true-symphonic. While other guys insist on and promote the hard metal sound, it reminds how several people pull one blanket to each one's side :) The blanket becomes stretched as a string :) So this thin balance makes the point.

The new album, "Elemental Tales," contains so many rich synthesizers, in the form of orchestral instruments, that keep the music light, even when the music around it is so heavy. How did you come across that balance?

Giftsvamp: Well, each member participates in music making process. Someone brings some theme (a pair of riffs or a keyboard tune), and upon it we are building a song slowly, and everyone invents his own parts. When we have arguing, we vote what is to be expelled from the song or what shall we let be.

Can you give us a little insight into the lyrical content, and, in particular, the magical creatures that the songs follow throughout the album?

Giftsvamp: Each Svartby's album is conceptual to some extent. We have the main theme, that is “Svartby”, a mystical imaginary “Black Village” where mischievous and merry creatures dwell. They're playing dirty and evil tricks on human villages (just for lulz), regaining the rights of nature from them (it happens to be a side-effect actually). And every new album is devoted to another magic folk doing so. First one was about witches, second one was about dwarves, and for the third “Elemental Tales” we chose elemental imps. Obviously we have Water, Earth, Air and Fire imps. Wood is more or less classical too, met in few concepts. And we added Mushrooms. Our spoiled generation thinks about psylocybe ones at once, but we mean every mushroom in the forest. As for ourselves, we use only edible ones in our common lifes :)
The song "Sleepy Devils," for one, stands out as a strong track on the album. With clean, acoustic guitars, and a great synth-supplied melody, you have found a great contrast between heavy and light. What is the writing process like for you, and how do you go from an idea to a finished track?

Giftsvamp: Thank you! Well, I've already unveiled few things. The process looks like this: someone brings a cool riff or a keyboard tune. We have many of them in cellars, but song is usually built upon a fresh one. We work in Guitar Pro program, it's the most convenient to change ideas. I have even forgotten the common piano notes, but I fluently play keys on guitar tabs :) So each one adds to the song, we discuss and when everyone is pleased, we learn the song and come with it to rehearsal. There we usually do drums and some necessary changes. And then I write lyrics, working with vocalist.

You are very open with your opposition to ACTA, PIPA, and SOPA. You even offer your music up for free, hoping to spread the music across the world. Why do you think people are so stuck on the "old ways"?

Giftsvamp: It's always a challenge to change your way of thinking. But the world is changing rapidly. Our kids will not know the connection between an audiotape and a pencil (do you?)), they'll scratch their heads when someone mentions “bootable floppy disc” and so on. How can you use the same old rules to the new world? They don't really have new convenient ways of purchasing music, so until they do, free spreading and sharing of information must stay free. Music is information. When you come to the library, it costs you nothing, and thousands of readers can read one and the same copy of a book or watch a movie, but no one pays for it. Society thinks it's ok, but when you download an album to get acquainted with it, you're a criminal. What's the big difference between libraries and music sharing? It's very convenient now to deliver ideas, to share things through the internet, and if you're opposing the progress, you're an idiot.

And while those movements haven't impacted Russia to this point, how do you think they have affected your rise, as a band?

Giftsvamp: They didn't. I've just thought about an idea that every official at the customs can ask me to show my phone and when he finds illegal tracks, he can sue me. Damn it, how can he know, whether I downloaded it from the web or ripped from my own cd? It makes me feel bad when I think about it. So we just want you to have as many Svartby's tracks in your mobile devices as you want. No one can sue you for them, and we support sharing our music.

In that same vein, how do you think your use of social media sites like Facebook has helped to spread your music, your message, and your story?

Giftsvamp: Every social network helps in promotion, it's the most great instrument to share and communicate. Though we deleted our first foreign profile, MySpace, recently :) The site is NOT convenient, it's very clumsy and it makes me sick. We didn't update it and finally got rid of the profile. By now, Facebook (and its Russian equivalent are our main playgrounds :) Well, too.

The most interesting aspect of our work is the ability to hear music from all over world, and get insight on how the local scene affects bands. That said, what is the metal world like in Russia in 2012?

Giftsvamp: Lots of bands, and practically every style possible. But it may vary from city to city ) For example, Moscow is most known for its heavy/power, pagan and black metal bands. Our St.Petersburg tends to brutal death/mdm, grindcore, metalcore and scandinavian folk-metal. There are lots of perfect bands, you just only start listening to them in style you like most. The latest trend in Russian metal world is somewhat enormous popularity of stoner rock and groove metal.

Finally, a question of language. Your songs are done in Swedish and English. What led to the decision to use those languages, in particular, on the album? And how important do you think those lyrics are to your popularity in English speaking countries?

Giftsvamp: From the very beginning we sang in Swedish. When we started Svartby, I've been learning Swedish, and when you are excited by anything new, you put it everywhere: your social network status, your mottos, you put some words in you common speech. New band's lyrics were not an exception :) And ton the third album I've just wanted to write lyrics easily, to do some wordplay. My level of Swedish doesn't let to do that yet, it's always a bit an effort. So we did this album in English. I don't know about popularity. We publish translations for all of our Swedish songs at our official homepage, so everyone can get the point. Though it may be easier to sing along now :)

What can we expect from Svartby in the months to come? With a new album out, and an ever-growing fanbase, what comes next?

Giftsvamp: The main goal now is to start playing live. We have few gigs planned for Summer, so we rehearse hard these weeks – moreover, we have new band members, and we can't wait to test their skills on stage :) As for a new release, we must relax a bit and think where to go next.

Thank you again for your time, and your insight. We appreciate your efforts, and we look forward to what is next!

Giftsvamp: Thank you for the interesting questions! It was a real pleasure to answer.
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Friday, February 24, 2012

Eluveitie - Helvetios (2012)

Eluveitie, the masters of folk metal, have finally returned with a brand new album, entitled “Helvetios.“ The album contains an outstanding 17 tracks and gives you everything you want and more in a pagan folk metal album. They include wild solos from unique instruments such as the flute, the violin, and even the hurdy gurdy. You’ll also find violent guitars, dominating drum rolls, and beautiful piano riffs throughout this pagan masterpiece.

It all begins with a “Prologue” of a man telling a story while ocean sound effect drift in the background. This fades into “Helvetios” which storms in with melodic riffs by the infamous hurdy gurdy and monstrous guitars that chug away violently. Thunderous drum rolls accompany this epic sound as female vocals chant loudly in the background. The first verse comes in with roaring growls and fast guitar riffs. The chorus contains fast pace double bass pedal drumming and aggressive growls as female vocals chant in the background. Later you’re met with a wild solo by the hurdy gurdy. This solo will absolutely knock you on your ass. It’s melodies make you want to get up and dance while the guitars and drums make you want to bash your head recklessly.

One thing that you can always count on with Eluveitie is how clear their growling vocals are. Usually it’s so hard to understand what death and black metal growls and screams are actually saying, but with growls as clean as these you can pretty much hear everything that is said. Songs like “Home” and “Santonian Shores” are some perfect examples.

Towards the middle of the album you will come across “Meet The Enemy” which jumps at you immediately with heavy chugging guitars and exploding drum fills. The verse starts off right away with demonic growls that echo throughout the entire track. Meanwhile a little flute melody jumps in the background giving an uplifting feel to the song. You’ll run into this flute again in the middle of the song as it delivers a mind blowing solo that will make you want to replay this song for sure. Double bass pedal drum rolls rumble heavily in the background keeping an upbeat tempo. The end ahs an interesting surprise and female vocals step in with spoken word. This spoken word quickly turns into a bone chilling growl that will definitely make you shit yourself. More female vocals show up in “Neverland” as well only this time they are in the chorus and accompany the male growls giving a strong beauty and the beast type of sound. Later you’re met with a catchy violin solo that will have you dancing in circles in no time. Double bass fills shake from underneath you with detailed rolls and shattering cymbals.

If you like the use of female vocals so far then you’re gonna love the song “A Rose For Epona.” It opens with gorgeous piano notes and angelic flutes and hurdy gurdy melodies. The female vocals take full control of this song as you‘ll find only short clips of growling lyrics. The chorus is filled with ravishing vocals and aggressive guitar riffs. Make sure you pay close attention to the drums on this one because that are insane. Constant double bass also opens up the song “Havoc.” This is followed by relentless snares and cymbals that constantly smash away in the background. Monstrous growling vocals step back into the picture and completely pound you into the ground with its viciousness.

“Hope” is a short piece that is strictly instrumental. Gorgeous flutes soar high over bag pipes and acoustic strings. The melodies are catchy and definitely leave you wanting more. Two and a half minutes just isn’t enough. Of course, you’re reawaken by the devilish growls in “The Siege.” This is one of the more violent song on the album for sure. You greeted by both male and female growls throughout the song and booming drum rolls as well. They include an upbeat violin solo that carries jolly melodies that really mix up the mood of the song. “Alesia” is another track you don’t want to miss. Beautiful female vocals open the first verse as the reckless growling vocals follow. The chorus contains both vocals layered on top of one another. Meanwhile quick kicks and snares beat up the background and carry heavy distorted guitar along with them. Another flute solo steps in during the bridge forcing you to get up and dance. This is another one of those “must play again” kind of songs.

Over the years Eluveitie has used the female vocalists more and more through each album. They really play a big part in this album and it definitely adds more diversity and balance to the band and the music. As far as the instruments go, everything mixes together perfectly. Refrains are catchy, guitars are heavy, and the drums are punishing. There are times you will want to dance and times that you will want to mosh. When an album gets you moving as much as this one does you know you’re in for a treat!


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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kells - Anachromie (2012)

Living in the United States poses problems for the avid metal listener. We often miss out on some of the best and brightest new acts, who seem confined to touring and releasing albums in Europe, thanks to our crumbling recording industry. Case in point, France's Kells. This female fronted band has already gained notoriety across the pond, touring with and opening for the likes of Tarja and Apocalyptica. Led by Virginie Goncalves, whose vocal talents have all the grace of Simone Simons, with all of the grit of Angela Gossow, this French four piece has us curious. "Anachromie" is waiting, and we are ready.

The sound of a music box opens "Bleu," a sound so delicate that you feel as though breathing might disturb it. But before long, distorted guitars chug into frame, and drums pound ahead. Goncalves' voice, singing in French, hits you on a such a profound level, with an outpouring of emotion. The light sound of bells echos through the background, creating a stark beauty and beast contrast. This approach finds a home anywhere and everywhere on the album, as you find in "Se Taire." This time, however, it is Goncalves herself that provides the differing styles. In one breath, she is screeching in an evil tone. In the next, she is serenading you with all the beauty and grace you could ever expect in a metal track. The musical approach is standard, but not watered down. There is no shortage of riffs, no lack of destructive fills. The only downside becomes evident in tracks like "Illusion d'une Aire," where the nu-metal influence in the guitars becomes a little cumbersome. And while the vocal performance is enough to lift up the instrumental, it can be a tricky balance. A ethnic inspired interlude breaks up the density, with Goncalves chanting softly over the top, before the music explodes anew.

Some more intense and inspired guitar work inhabits "L'heure Que Le Temps Va Figer," a track that embraces the light vs. dark intricacies that make this style so effective. A sliding bass line takes the spotlight in the verse, giving way to some deft chord work and vocal patterns in the chorus. The blood curdling scream that Goncalves lets out leading into the second verse is enough to elicit chills. A short break comes in the form of "L'asphalte," a simple guitar melody, drum beat and vocal track. Enjoy the chance to relax, because "Emmures" is prepared to squeeze the breath out of you. A dynamic burst of riffs and rolls, the track is the most complete offering on the album, including some keyboard action to round out the mix. Each scream is unexpected, even when you seemingly know it is coming. The beauty in the verse leaves you with a false sense of security, only to have it torn away. And while "Quelque Part" may seem like a safer track, one that is easily accessible to fans of female fronted rock and metal alike, that is not to say it doesn't have its moments. It is stripped down, a bit more simplistic.

The unfortunate return of nu-metal comes with "Le Manege Dechante," boasting an opening riff that could have come straight from a Korn song in the last five years. And while Goncalves' voice is as enchanting as ever, even she can't be a crutch for the unfortunate backing music. Aside from some interesting piano work, there isn't much else to celebrate here. The moshing guitar breakdown and scream fest that follows can't save it. It is too far gone. Immediately taking a more melodic approach, "Cristal" hopes to redeem the prior track, and does so with some success. It scales back some of the band performance, and allows the vocals to shine through more clearly in key spots. Some of that unnecessary riffing remains, cluttering parts of the chorus, unfortunately. But Goncalves manages to salvage the track with a vocal melody. Cloudy and convoluted, "Addictions" is only as successful as the vocals can make it. With a guitar lead that is one dimensional and oddly timed drum patterns, there isn't much left to talk about here.

A surprising use of strings catches your ear, only to be dashed to bits by more nonsensical chugging. "L'Autre Rive" has the lateral movement you have been waiting for, with keys and strings sharing time in the mix. But the monotone guitars simply don't do their cohorts justice. The riffs sound recycled, as if you have heard them before on songs past. This becomes the story of the latter trio of songs on the album. Even the deep, rich screams that begin "Nuances" seem lost at this point. There is just no change in the action, no reason to keep listening outside of the desire to hear Goncalves do her best to carry the band. Her scat rap into scream in the breakdown hear might be enough to hit the stop button. But, if you do press forward, the closing track, "L'Echo" may give you reason to try again. From the more delicate, melodic opening to the more aggressive later sections, there is something inherently moving to be had, especially given the emotionless performance of the previous tracks. The string accompaniment is well placed, and helps to hammer home the movement.

A band's worst nightmare is when their music becomes predictable. And Kells has fallen victim to that very fear, with track after track of the same old thing. And while some bands have built an entire career over the power of a single, charismatic frontwoman (see Lacuna Coil, Evanescence), they actually do themselves a disservice by covering her talents with an overflow of distortion and dysfunction. If there is a lesson to be learned from the now defunct Luna Mortis, it's that you need to build around your star, not try to build under her. And while "Anachromie" isn't a complete failure, it needs a breath of fresh air.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spiral - The Traveler (2012)

Step into a unique and odd mixture of sounds in the album, “The Traveler,” which is by an ambient group known as Spiral. The album leans towards a psychedelic post rock genre with very ambient progressive tones. It’s got four tracks total but each track is pretty lengthy averaging at over 12 minutes a song. The band consists of two musicians, however they have listed a couple of different guests on this album as well.

The album opens with warm bass lines in “The Red Giant Stirs.” The song itself runs for over 15 minutes long and has tons of different transitions throughout. Scratchy melodic guitars layer of the bass in a calm, soothing way. As the drums come in, distortion kicks in on the guitars and will have you bobbing your head in no time. Shouting spoken word fills the air and shows off an interesting style of vocals. These vocals are short as most of the song is all instrumental. Progressive guitar riffs take over as double bass pedals jump in and out of the background. Snares and cymbals are constantly crashing to the beat as the riffs change melody. About six minutes in, all of the instruments drop as you hear a faded synth floating in the background. Wind sound effects draw you in as you’re waiting for what’s coming up next. Eventually calm organ notes and other synths come together and give an atmospheric tone to the song. The aggressive guitars and drums don’t pick up until about 12 and a half minutes in. In the end you are met with more wild vocals that are followed by upbeat guitar melodies that are very catchy and groovy.

“An Epiphany Near Vega 9” is a very psychedelic track that opens with gorgeous keyboards and light guitar riffs that will take your breath away. The vocals are completely different from the first track. They consists of soft clean singing with captivating reverb effects. The verses start out nice however there are a few parts that are a little pitchy as his voice occasionally falls off key. Progressive guitar riffs take over in between verses and play over a catchy drum pattern. The last few minutes of the song contain a lengthy guitar solo that sounds amazing for the most part however just like the vocals lean a little off key to the rest of the instruments at time. It’s an emotional track that you will definitely enjoy as long as you can get over the one or two vocal and guitar errors.

The third track on the album, entitled “The Caves Of Anamnesis,” is the longest song on the album running at over 19 minutes long. It starts out slow with a light guitar riff and whispering vocals for the first two minutes. As synths start to fade in, they also add some whistling sounds that sound pretty relaxing. Eventually distorted guitars come rolling in with a catchy lead solo on top. The drums rolls start to become explosive as each fill becomes more aggressive and complex. Vocals return later in the song as the music slows back down. This time they are shouted with interesting effects adding a futuristic tone to the song. A lot more electronic sounds and synths enter towards the end as they go hand in hand with the distorted guitars that blare along side them.

The final song on the album is called “R.I.P. Rip.” Ambient guitars and keyboards surround you as gentle vocals slowly fade in. The lyrics carry a depressive tone in the vocals going perfectly with the keyboard melodies. A guitar solo steps in shortly after destroying the musical scale with beautiful notes from left to right. After the second verse comes some basic acoustic guitar riffs and more synth sounds. The next verse comes in more clearly as if someone turned the vocals up in the mix. Heavy guitars are slammed in the background while kicks and snares rumble beneath you. Later you’re hit with another impressive guitar solo and detailed drum rolls. The song closes out with acoustic guitars and clean vocals as light keyboards play in the distance. A short guitar solo plays as the track fades to an end.

Although “The Traveler” doesn’t really fall under the heavy metal genre, the musicianship is outstanding and definitely keeps you hooked throughout its entirety. It’s calm and emotional and yet it carries some incredible guitar riffs and catchy bass lines. Although the songs are so long, the music changes up so much that you won’t even notice that you’re listening to the same song. Definitely check this album out if you’re looking for something new and different.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Svartby - Elemental Tales (2012)

The reach of folk metal knows no bounds. Saint-Petersburg, Russia based band Svartby are doing things a little differently, which is a blessing for those who are sick of the same ol' grind. With a touch of synth and orchestral tones, they have branded themselves a "brutal folk metal" outfit, with not a single song about trolls. And while the lyrical content does follow the goings on of imps, dwarves, and witches, there is a merry melody to it all. On "Elemental Tales," this five piece do things their own way, an idea that pays off in spades.

That air of merry mayhem leads of "Impby," a jolly little tune that takes the sounds of nature, and pairs them with a mischievous laugh. Throw in some synth powered melody, and you have a track ready to burst at the seams. And, I assure you, the seams are torn apart in the opening moments of "Scum From Underwater." The first blood curdling screams cut through the mix, heavier than anything the traditional folk metal branch has ever given us. The drums are pure insanity, crashing from every speaker. The riffs are thrashing violently, while the keyboards paint a completely different picture. The dainty tones keep the track lighthearted, somehow, amidst all the musical chaos. An unexpected, but very welcomed, guitar solo cuts off the keys, and puts an exclamation mark on a three minute chainsaw of a track. That stunning contrast between dense, thunderous metal and the almost circus melodies behind it continues through "Boulder Massacration."  Who knew hard edged folk metal could be so... fun? Even the guitars take on a lighthearted tone in the breakdown, only to erupt again in a devastation flash of chugging riffs and solid drumming.

The appearance of acoustic guitars to open "Sleepy Devils" sets the track up for success. Even as the full band joins in, complete with whispered, raspy vocals, the layers of the mix each have their own distinct sound. The vocals don't stay quiet for long, but rather build to a chant, and then further into deep growls. There is definitely something to be found in the lyrics themselves, which may require some side reading to fully understand, but it will be time well spent. The short xylophone style interlude that splits the track up is as enchanting as anything you will hear in the realm of metal. Followed by another deftly played solo, this is the track that could get anyone hooked. It is immediately followed by "Mushroom Rings," with a lyric video here,a track that caught many an ear since it was released. This is a story track, with an eighties feel to the synths. It may be difficult to sit still during this one, as the riffs and rhythm may get you moving very quickly. The drums are relentless, always pounding out a perfect tempo for the flurry of guitars and bass. The keys tickle your ears while the pure metal output keeps you wanting more.

The stomping madness of "Done With The Wind" is a showcase of what this band can offer that so few others can. The organized chaos that you find here is a force to be reckoned with. The guitars are huge in scope, switching from fret work to chugging in no time. The drums are heavy, but not in the normal sense. They are captivating with every roll or fill. The keys are airy and light, and the vocals continue to grind through you. Separately, they are good. But smashed together in a track like this, and they are gold. In sharp contrast, "Ash And Dust" has that delicate feel that may catch you off guard. The keyboard supplied woodwinds and strings are delightful, barely coming to a low roar. This is a well conceived and wel executed break in the action before "Flaming Balls" comes flying your way. Much like the name suggests, this one is pure fire. Raging forward with high speed and high levels of aggression, it quickly becomes the proverbial bull in the china shop. The whirlwind of keys and synths take the lead role, backed by a hurricane of wild drums. The vocals are chock full of devilish growls and screams, grating on your ear drums.

With a twirling, winding melody leading the way, "Morning Wood" begins your landing on the final tracks of the album. If you haven't begun to dance by now, this is the time, with the synths alone eliciting a toe tapping response. But make no mistake, friend. With the combination of distorted guitars, low, rumbling bass and equally abusive drums, this isn't a teeny bopper type of dance party. In the span of 210 seconds, you may find yourself slamming into things with all of your might. And what that track started, the title track, "Elemental Tales" will finish. The slamming of the kick drum finally breaks the sound barrier, coming down on you with a massive thud. The keys mimic an accordion sound at times, arguably the jolliest of all instruments. The track builds and builds, until everything explodes into an outright beatdown of musical proportions. The closing track, "Imp Slam" is... well, the track should speak for itself.

I never knew it was possible to headbang with a smile on your face. Svartby have crafted an album that makes you feel good, without removing the best elements of metal itself. But this isn't one dimensional, musically, unlike some of the more widely known folk bands. There is a focus on songwriting, but also creating a diverse depth of field. Adding multiple synth sounds turns this into some more than "folk metal,"a fact that is apparent by the time you get halfway through the album. No trolls, no vikings, no problem. "Elemental Tales" stands up on its own.


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Monday, February 20, 2012

Fister - Violence (2012)

Falling under a mixture of doom and sludge metal tones comes a band by the name of Fister. They are a three man band from Saint Louis, Missouri and have released their new album, entitled “Violence.” The album consists of five gruesome tracks that throw everything from vicious screams and muffled growls to monstrous guitar riffs and exploding drum rolls all into one big mess of sound.

The album starts off with “Violence I: Forced Extinction.” It fades in with a screechy sound that makes you want to skip the track immediately, however, you should continue to listen through because it’s worth it when the music kicks in. About 30 seconds into the song comes muddy distorted guitars that rumble in with heavy chugging patterns. They are accompanied by relentless cymbals that smash in the background while booming kicks and snares keep the tempo at a slow speed. Vocals soon follow as the lead vocalist delivers reckless and unclear lyrics that are full of rage and fly high over the distortion and bass. After six minutes of violent punishment you run into “Violence II: The An Lushan Rebellion.” The vocals pick right back up with rough growls that are layered with swampy guitar riffs that chug away with tremendous distortion. The tempo stays at a slow speed but with guitar riffs like these you’ll be bashing you’re head to the melody immediately.

“Violence III: Trail Of Tears” is nothing but three and a half minutes of calmness. You don’t really hear much but gloomy sounds and haunting effects. Although the quietness is nice to take in, the track doesn’t really serve any point to the album. If anything it breaks up the flow and momentum of what was heard in the first two tracks. “Violence IV: Global Nuclear Annihilation” however jumps right back into a chaotic mess with aggressive guitar riffs and wicked melodies and chugging patterns. Cymbals shatter heavily in the background while thumping kicks and bass lines roll recklessly underneath. The vocals come shouting in with raging delivery and maniacal lyrics. The guitars will completely destroy you with their heavy dosage of distortion as they are constantly slammed giving your ears not one second to rest.

The final track on the album, “Violence V: Megabolide (Returns To The Heavens)” jumps in with strange sound effects and eerie synth noises. The monstrous guitar riffs don’t actually start until about two minutes into the song. That’s already half of the song which kind of bums you out since you’re looking forward to a powerful ending. Not to say that this track isn’t powerful, it’s just shorter than you’d hope for. The final two minutes are basically nothing but brutal chugging guitar riffs that will have you bashing your head all the way through to the end. Constant cymbals are blaring in the background as you’ll come across some interesting snare and kick fills. They’re tough to hear so you might have to replay this track a couple of times. Before you know it the album is over and you’ll be looking to hit the repeat button.

“Violence” has an outstanding mixture of doom and sludge metal tones that collide in a thunderous way. The recording quality is clear instrument wise however the vocals seem to be a bit muddy throughout the album. This actually works out great though as it gives that dark stoner type of sound to the mix and really gives the album that unique sound that separates the band from others. I would definitely check this album out. It leaves you wanting much more.


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Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Podcast: Episode 37 (We march to the beat of a different drummer...)

Back again for another round! This week, Darrell and Justin sit down to talk about Chester, and his latest medical issue.... then some new reviews, as usual. Justin has some things to say about Your Tomorrow Alone, as well as some praise for Opera IX. Darrell was lucky enough to stumble upon a hidden gem with Arke's new EP, "Shatner," and the latest effort by Italian power metal band Drakkar.

But this time around, we wanted to talk drums. Not the physical drums themselves, but the guys who sit behind the kit and do the dirty work. We all know there are some beasts out there, but these guys are the ones that we can call our favorites.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Black Sabbath - Paranoid (1970)

Sometimes, a band transcends the genre that they helped to create, standing on a pedestal above the rest. For any follower of metal music, young or old, Black Sabbath is and will always be atop that pedestal. And no album will ever be as revered, as universally respected, as their sophomore release, "Paranoid." Containing some of the most iconic tracks ever written, this album defines what metal is. After all, the modern metal acts wouldn't even exist if it were not for this dark four piece.

For an amateur such as myself, it is often hard to find the words to describe things that are wholly above me. From the first drop of the needle onto that fresh vinyl album, you have every characteristic of music that would be considered "evil". "War Pigs" was the perfect beginning to a perfect album. From Tony Iommi's rich, original riffs to Ozzy Osbourne's signature vocal style, every piece is locked together in a perfect mix. The rhythm section of Geezer Butler, who is also the lyrical wordsmith, and Bill Ward can not be shaken. The title track, arguably one of the most recognizable songs written to date, is an anthem for all true metalheads. There are no tracks that surpass it, no song to challenge it as THE classic metal tune. The guitar lead is as beautifully crafted as any has ever been.

The underrated "Planet Caravan" finds itself sandwiched between a legendary track, and one that you would be hard pressed to find ears that hadn't heard it. "Iron Man" transcends the band, the genre, and music itself. From the comics, to the feature film, the song has been broadcast to the masses, metal fan and hater alike. The B-side of the album, otherwise known as the second half, is chock full of gems that may have been lost in the shuffle of greatness. From the screeching of the aptly titled "Electric Funeral," to the ominous "Hand Of Doom," there is not one ounce of filler. Every note, every skillfully prepared harmony has a purpose. Even the closing track, "Fairies Wear Boots," has its own place among metal lore.

It is certainly a challenge to put into words the impact that a single album has had on my own musical path, let alone the world. "Paranoid" has inspired so many people, young and old, male and female, black and white. On eight tracks, and a mere 42 minutes, one band changed the face of music for generations to come. Those men, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, and Ozzy Osbourne, are true Gods among men. Every time you listen to a new album, know one thing: those riffs, those drums, those vocals would never have been possible without Black Sabbath.


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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Opera IX - Strix - Maledictae In Aeturnum (2012)

The year of 2012 brings us another powerful album by an Italian band known as Opera IX. The symphonic black metal band has been around for quite some time now, and has just released their new album, entitled “Strix - Maledictae In Aeternum.” This is the bands seventh full length album and contains 12 violent tracks.

After a haunting intro with church bells and distant chanting in the background, “1313 (Eradicate The False Idols)” comes in with blaring guitar riffs and harsh growls filled with evilness. Double bass pedals connect each riffs while shattering cymbals clash heavily behind them. You’re hit hard with wicked solos in between each verse as the screechy melodies rip your face off. Dark piano riffs join in on the third verse adding strong gothic tones. The tempo starts to pick up towards the middle of the track as double bass kicks rumble quickly beneath you. Meanwhile relentless snares pound away at you forcing you to bob your head to the beat.

Your greeted with rapid snare rolls in “Dead Tree Ballad.” The monstrous guitar riffs will have you throwing your devil horns up immediately. Eerie strings consume the background complex double bass drumming kicks in. Violent growls take over each verse and echo loudly throughout the song. More machine gun snares are shooting in during the middle of the song where the tempo picks up. The refrain consists of growls and screams layered together giving a more fuller effect to the heavier part of the track. Things change up drastically towards the end of the song as chugging guitars and catchy melodies begin along with low muddy growls. Definitely make sure you check this song out.

“Vox In Rama” is an eight minute song that the band split into two separate tracks on the album. Part one starts out with bone chilling sound effect and light chanting in the distance as ominous guitar riffs come whipping in throwing wild solos at you right off the bat. Roaring growls shout in the background but are very difficult to hear. Evil strings fade in with dark melodies that fade into part two. This is where booming drums and more distorted guitars come in. devilish growls come in loud and clear unlike the first part. The delivery of the vocals are perfect in this one. Towards the end you’ll come across some interesting drum solo patterns that will blow your mind. Then follows low chugging guitar riffs and jack hammering double bass pedals that really end the track with a bang.

Another beast track that really stands out on this album is “Nemus Tempora Maleficarum.” It’s a six minute song that’s wastes no time getting started as aggressive guitars begin chugging away. Strings surround them with melancholy tones while double bass pedals go crazy in the background. This is where you’re going to want to start moshing. Harsh demonic growls fill the air and completely destroy everything in its way. Slow chugging riffs step in during the bridge while wild drum solos explode behind them leaving you shaken up throughout the rest of the album. The song closes out with depressive strings layered with wretched growls and minor chords blasting in your face all at once. It’s a lot to take in but after hearing it once you’ll definitely want to hear it again.

“Strix - Maledictae In Aeternum” leaves you with chills rolling down your spine with its haunting lyrics and evil tones. Scratchy guitar solos will haunt you in your sleep as the evil growling vocals play in your head over and over again. Opera IX are considered veterans in the world of metal and their new album has proven that they can still deliver incredible music.


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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Drakkar - When Lightning Strikes (2012)

The world of power metal is a tricky one, divided into so many waves and styles. But one of the stalwarts of the genre has always been the storytelling ability to comes along with the most energetic subsect of metal. Italy's Drakkar have crafted an album that may be 15 songs in length, but the story that is unfolded in front of you is so much more than that. "When Lightning Strikes" tells the tale of fighter pilot Hal Gardner, and his face to face encounter with alien life forms that come to Earth. Call it science fiction, or call it fantasy. But tangled in the lyrics and musical backing is a tremendous story of fear, courage and hope.

Right from the onset, you are being assured that this isn't the recycled power metal that has flooded the market in recent years. "Hyperspace / The Arrival" is symphonic in the truest sense, full of orchestrated instruments and horns. Leading right into "Day Of The Gods," a song which is rich in story telling, launching the story into motion. Softly played acoustic guitar are layered in between keys and synths, allowing vocalist Davide Dell'Orto to spin his tale. Without warning, you are immersed in the pulsing drums and shredding riffs of the first full track, "The Armageddon Machine." The raspy, yet almost operatic vocals in the verse are complimented perfectly by the deep chanting in the chorus, backed throughout by triumphant keys. Double kicks are not in short supply, forming the backbone of the rhythm section. There are some monstrous riffs to be had, especially when playing tag with equally large keyboard melodies. Followed closely by a short but telling interlude, "In The Belly Of The Beast," the story begins to unfold.

Playing out like something akin to an Iced Earth song, "Revenge Is Done" is chock full of high speed guitars and drums. Dell'Orto shows great vocal prowess, keeping you wrapped up in not only his style, but the words themselves. Borrowing words from the powerful "V For Vendetta" protagonist, this becomes a rallying cry for future battles. The title track may be the most complete effort on the album, in both content and delivery. The bending of keyboard notes that accompanies the distorted chords is excellent, layered with multiple vocal tracks. The chorus reminds us of why power metal has been named as such. The music is empowering, cause for your fist to be lifted into the air, fuel for your fire. With efforts like this, and "Winter Soldiers," the band give us a taste of what power metal used to be, and what could be again. Operatic vocals take hold, and deliver words of victory, or words of fear. But tied to the ever growing rumble of the drums and the ever increasing speed of the guitars, this is an anthem for a new era of metal.

The Asian inspired intro to "Salvation" is quickly overcome with the shredding guitars of Dario Beretta. And while his work is sometimes drown out in the mix by keyboardist Corrado Solarino, both men have their say here. The song is successful in so many ways, both musically and lyrically. The same could be said for the two tracks that follow, as well. "At The Flaming Shores Of Heaven," oddly the more understated of the two, is the perfect blend of symphonics and metal aggressive. On the other hand, "We Ride" features a vocal hook that may bring to mind the work of Avantasia/Edguy frontman Tobias Sammet. Both tracks feature an excess of energy and craftsmanship, something that will not be lost in any mix. Following another short interlude, titled "The Awakening," the band launches into an even more guitar based attack with "My Endless Flight." The riffs are only growing in strength, whether they chug along with deep distortion, or while they fly above it all, screeching with harmonics. Returning to that traditional vocal pattern, Dell'Orto gives cause for hope, soaring over the top.

As the album follows its arc, two more interludes come into play. First, "Aftermath / The Departure," which is a reprise of the opening track. The march is over, and this is the summation of battles once fought. The storytelling aspect is so important here, which makes the lyrical delivery all the more surreal. The second burst comes in the form of "Engage!" which is exactly what you would imagine to be. Twirling guitars set you back into motion, building up speed and momentum for one last flight. Flowing seamlessly into "New Frontier," you are already at top speed when the tracks switch over. But Beretta doesn't stop there, he breaks the sound barrier with his finger wizardry, saying as much with his riffs as Dell'Orto can with his voice. This is the true triumph of the spirit, starting over with unity and power.

Much like some of the works of power metal godfathers Blind Guardian, "When Lightning Strikes" is heavily story based. This is not to say that story trumps style, but the focus is very clear. Through 15 tracks, you are treated to power metal standards in vocals, guitar work and drumming. And while Drakkar are certainly not yet in the upper echelon of the genre, they remind us that there are more than a handful of talented bands to be heard. If nothing else, you are almost certain to leave this album with a smile. And in power metal, that says a lot.


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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Your Tomorrow Alone - Ordinary Lives (2012)

A new bands takes the stage in Italy known as Your Tomorrow Alone. The six piece band has released their new album, entitled “Ordinary Lives.” Although the band lists themselves as a doom gothic metal band, the album contains a wide variety of sound that falls under everything from heavy progressive to depressive gothic metal with both clean vocals and death metal growls.

The opening track, entitled “Renaissence,” immediately jumps at you with monstrous growls and heavy guitar riffs that chug away in the background. Clean vocals follow as guitars layer on top of each other while the drums become louder and more aggressive. Make sure to pay close attention to the drum fills as you will notice the insanely detailed rolls towards the end of the song. It‘s absolutely mind blowing. “Praise For Nothing” really shows their progressive side as you will hear multiple changes in the song structure as well as multiple guitar riffs and melodies. It starts with rumbling drums and bass while guitar chords are slammed in the background. There is a beautiful piano riff on top that hypnotizes you deep into the music. The verse opens with more clean vocals that reach out and grab you leading you right into a mess of powerful guitar riffs and wicked growls. The second verse has the growling vocals and clean vocals layered on top of one another giving a solid beauty and the beast type of feel. This is definitely a track you don’t want to skip.

Soothing strings open up “The Essence Of Gloom” as calm guitar riffs fade in on top. Clean vocals float over the melodies with gentle lyrics. Meanwhile light drum patterns take over the background keeping the song upbeat and yet mellow at the same time. Soon after comes a wave of vicious growls and blaring distorted guitars that will completely knock you down. “Bursting Hope” is another track that really keeps things changing between slow sad emotions and wild growls with reckless drumming. The verses contain light clean vocals with little guitars and basic drum riffs that are surrounded by gorgeous strings and synths. The refrain comes rolling in with demonic growls and booming kicks and snares that will knock you on your ass for sure. They throw in a ravishing piano solo after the first chorus that really takes your breath away. On top of that they add quick double bass pedals to keep the track moving at a smooth speed. This is definitely one of the more emotional songs on the album.

“One Last Breath” begins slowly with dark keyboards and piano riffs. Clean vocals take over the verse with clear lyrics and thumping bass lines. This quickly changes when harsh growling comes flying in destroying everything in its path. The refrain consists of the growling and clean vocals going back and forth showing a mixture of anger and sadness. This is followed by an interesting keyboard melody that will ring in your head for days.

The finals track to close out the album is “In Silence.” It starts out with clean vocals immediately jumping right into the first verse. It stays at this pace for the first half of the song then changes up out of no where with exploding drum fills and monstrous guitar riffs that chug away violently. Also, aggressive growling vocals step in and completely rip your head off. The vocals and song structure of this song is as if Stratovarius wrote the beginning and end of the song while Opeth wrote the middle. With an awesome description like that you just have to check this track out. You’ll definitely need to go back and play it a few times to catch everything.

“Ordinary Lives” is a very moving album with a lot to offer. Emotional keyboards and strings leave you depressed while hell raising guitar riffs and wild drum rolls make you want to mosh. The album reaches out to so many different genres it’ll have you hooked for days as you re listen for all of the little details. Your Tomorrow Alone shows a good balance of clean singing and violent growls throughout the album keeping you at the edge of your seat. This is definitely a band I suggest keeping an eye on in the future.


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Monday, February 13, 2012

Arke - Shatner (EP) (2012)

Groove metal four piece Arke has a good grip on what it takes to make some booming tracks. With musical influences ranging from Black Sabbath to Dinosaur Jr., Deftones to "your dad," this collective are not short on talent or humor. With the release of their new EP, titled "Shatner" and graced with a picture of the spoken word genius, this Manchester, UK based band are sure to confuse, confound and impress you with 23 minutes of arching vocals and various groove oriented riffs. Time to boldly go...

The opening riffs on the title track, "Shatner," are some of the most catchy we have heard to date. Every step on the kick drum pedal pulses through your speakers with a resounding thud. Combining the "widdly guitars" of frontman Taz Dirania with the "strummy guitars" of Craig Ross, you have a two headed monster to contend with. The rhythm section is as tight as it is punchy, towing the line from start to finish.With a grit and distortion level that rivals late era grunge, this opener is a freight train of momentum. Throw in some raspy, but melodic vocals and and everything comes together in a beautiful harmony. The more simplistic, but equally rocking "Seething" is refreshingly so. The riffs aren't crazy, but each note finds the perfect home. The devastating low end remains, padding the way for those same vocals. The rhythm guitars are comprised of repeated notes, up and down the scales, topped with some lead passages that are sure to get you moving. The choreographed stop/start patterns are the perfect place for a swing of the hair, or a bob of the head. This is the style of music made for a live setting.

Without belaboring the point, the grunge sound that emanates through "Reward" is hard to miss, but mixed in the proper proportions with more modern metal sensibilities, it creates a sound that is so unique, even if familiar. The heavy downstrokes on the drums keep the constant pounding in your head, each snare and cymbal carrying tremendous weight in the mix. The aforementioned groove is as strong as ever, particularly in the vocal realm, with Dirania showing off his pipes in a low register harmony. The hard and fast outro portion, complete with ripping solo work, is the perfect means to an end, driving into the final track. And fittingly, "Excitor" is the crowd pleaser, giving every listener the chance to growl along in the chorus. Again, the rhythm section shines through it all, surgically precise and equally aggressive. The drums alone are relentless, always busy, always pressing forward. The solo is bluesy, without losing the hard edge. There is something to be said about the soul that pours through every note. The impending breakdown comes, complete with group dynamics and the opportunity to shot "yeah" one last time.

With the EP returning as a viable showcase form up and coming artists, Arke make the most of a short run time to display what they have in their arsenal. Encompassed in these four tracks are elements of so many different subgenres of metal, from prog to sludge and back again. But tying them all together is a constant groove, a common thread throughout each song that keeps your head moving. They make metal that is bruising at times, but always catchy, always lodging itself in your brain one riff at a time. And with "Shatner," they may become part of your consciousness, like the Canadian superstar who shares it's name.


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Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Podcast: Episode 36 (Hi, my name is....)

So, after 35 episodes, we have decided to make an effort to be more professional. No, that won't stop the fart jokes or the actual farting. But, we can now reveal to you our true names. Justin, the artist formerly known as Murmaider, talks about the new albums by Zgard and Vinterblot. And Darrell, that guy with the numbers in his name, gives his take on the album by Valtari and Dakesis. Another great week for music.

More random shit comes next. We talk the album sales of the new Van Halen, the pending Black Sabbath reunion, minus drummer Bill Ward, the new album by Slayer, and why you never need to read another review on When someone can give that new Lacuna Coil an 8.5/10, you know they don't care.

Part 1 for you, folks. Here.

Part 2 goes here, just for you.
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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pursuing The End: The Interview

After the release of their new opera themed EP, "Withering," we would have been crazy not to sit down with Pursuing The End to talk shop. Stefano, keyboardist and composer extraordinaire, takes to the hot seat to answer our questions about past, present, and future endeavors. A big thanks to Giacomo, Stefano, and the entire band!

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Inner Fear - First Born Fear (2012)

Now we’ve come across bands in the past that have attempted to mix techno with metal and the results were pretty bad. But perhaps we were too quick to judge. Martin Marthus, drummer of Cradle Of Filth, has an interesting side project known as Inner Fear. The gothic black metal band has released their new album, entitled “First Born Fear.” Some of the riffs and vocals sound very similar to that of Cradle Of Filth however they also add some unique keyboards to the mix. Believe it or not, a lot of these tracks have a good amount of electronic melodies that actually go really well with the music.

Sobbing strings and gorgeous piano keys open up in the “I.N.T.R.O.” The instruments flow together smoothly and run right into “Fear Proclaimed.” This six minute track jumps right in with symphonic strings and epic keyboards along with upbeat distorted guitars that gets you rocking your head immediately. The snares are relentless as they constantly pound away at you while double bass pedal rumble heavily underneath them. Harsh black metal growls chomp into to verse and echo throughout the song. The refrain contains a mixture of growls and gorgeous female vocals that mash together perfectly as a beauty and the beast type of tone.

“Imprisoned In Forgotten Dungeon” is shockingly refreshing and shows how electronic sounds actually can work with black metal. It starts with synthesizers playing techno melodies that sound like they came off of an Armin Van Buuren album. This builds up right into blaring guitars and and thunderous drum rolls. Cymbals are shattering left and right while strings glide smoothly in the background. This gives off a very epic and dark sound. The verses are full of devilish black metal screams that will haunt you for days. The refrain is delivered with more back and forth vocals between growls and angelic female singing. Her vocals really shine in this one as she soars over the guitars and drums with beautiful melodies. This is definitely a song you’ll find yourself going back to.

More catchy keyboard melodies open up “Lustmistress” as drums coming rolling in heavily shortly after. Snares fire away with an upbeat tempo and insane double bass pedals that completely beat you into the ground. Guitars are constantly chugging away as you run into the verse. The vocals are delivered in more of a chanting style with multiple layers of voices. This is of course, followed by violent screams and growls. There is also a part in the middle of the song that consists of male singing vocals that back up the female vocals as they are both performed in a whisper type of tone. Then it jumps right back to the aggressive guitars and growling vocals. “I Watch The Blood Forever” and “Inner Fear” throw tremendous drum rolls at you with quick speeds and punchy double bass pedals that will have you moshing in your own home. The detail in the patterns are just incredible. They also display a great range of symphonic frustrated sounds in the background that keep album epic and unique.

“Love Is A Poisonous Cunt” is a song you just have to listen to. Besides its ridiculous title, the song is gorgeous as it holds lots of strings and synths that build up around the ravishing female vocals. Meanwhile the demonic growls echo over the guitars with devilish tones. They include a massive breakdown in the middle of the track that will shake you violently. This is definitely another track that will make you want to hit the replay button to.

Inner Fear has really proven that techno tones and electronic melodies actually can play a positive part in heavy metal. Besides these groovy techno sounds, they also display a well rounded mix of instruments and vocals. The female vocals are absolutely astonishing and will definitely sweep you off your feet with her melodic pitch. The guitars stay dark and gruesome while thumping bass lines and double bass pedals rattle from underneath you. “First Born Fear” has everything you and more when it comes to symphonic black metal. Definitely take some time to check this album out!


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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valtari - Fragments Of A Nightmare (2012)

The Australian continent has already proven to be a home for all forms of extreme metal, something we have witnessed time and again. Marty Warren, multi-instrumentalist and sole member of melodic death metal band Valtari, is prepared to show that not only can the Aussies do everything the Scandinavian bands can do, but they may even do it better. With his new album, "Fragments Of A Nightmare," he gives you all the grit and grime of Insomnium, with an added dose of black metal influences. Those cuddly commercials be damned, I hope this is the real Australia.

From the opening riff to the first crash of drums, "Sweet Tragedy" is the thrashing beginning you always wanted. The vocals enter, as abusive as anything Niilo Sevanen has ever put onto recorded media. Part scream, part unearthly growl, Warren gives you all you can handle. The guitars are the driving force, whether in the heavy riffs or the colossal chugging portions. But the melodic sensibility is where the track really shows it's mettle, incorporating some light piano tones. The first real showing of black metal comes, fittingly, on the track "Black Sun Rising," where the screeching verse sections come straight from hell. But, unlike his Scandinavian counterparts, Warren maintains a high production value, which allows you to enjoy each separate layer, rather than straining to discern one from another. Placing the earthquake of double kicks underneath a twirling guitar attack, there is a depth of field, giving you more to hear than just distortion and feedback.

Tracks like "Judas Lie" epitomize the melodic death style, with quick shifts from chugging to fretwork and back again, keeping the sound heavy, but evolving. The massive chords in the bridge and chorus sections are sure to induce a case of whiplash. But not to be lost in the shuffle is the rhythm section, packing a punch that the music demands, leaving the abrasive vocal lines to do their dirty work. For those looking for a heavier stomp to their music, look no further than "Mistress Of Madness," which gives you another wrinkle to appreciate. Some of the more intricate guitar work can be found here, almost taking on a folk style with the melodic passages. This is not to say that you'll be breaking out into a spontaneous dance, because the backbreaking drum rolls and fills may leave you unable to do so. But combined into the mix is an ability to be uptempo and dense at the same time. The shortest track on the album, "Always Remember," boasts the biggest drum sound, with a kick drum that may loosen the foundation on your home. With each pounding bass drum, you are pulled deeper into the song, surrounded by waves of guitars and coarse vocals. The deathly growls that follow are deafening, but rich with lyrical content.

The in-your-face "Traitor's Smile" may bring to mind work from Insomnium's latest opus, but this is far from a clone or rip-off. Warren manages to keep each passing song and note fresh with his own blackened twist. By incorporating some more detailed guitar work, he strays from the oft tread path of melodic death, and leans into the progressive realm. fear not, for he does not wander too far. "Inside My Darkness" contains all the evil of black metal in a tightly wound deathly package. The layered vocals, one growl, one screech, form a fractured distorted harmony, one that the music demands. The machine gun snares, straight from the catalog of Burzum and the like, cut through it all, enriching the wall of bass and guitar. The guitar melody that leads the outro is exactly what the metal doctor ordered. Even the surprising emergence of synth sounds in "The Awakening" is welcomed. With each layer played expertly by Warren, he is able to lay one atop another, building from the ground up. The light keys that inhabit the bridge are surprisingly effective, especially when followed by a thrashing of drums and screaming vocals.

It would be difficult to find a track on the album that manages to be heavier than "Dying Light," a song that is pulverizing drum fill after another. if you have managed to deny the black metal influence up until now, prepare to eat crow, as this becomes an all out metal clinic, minus the tin can recording. From the seemingly endless double kick assault to the snare/cymbal crashing, this has all the elements of the darkest art form. The sole chunk of melody comes from the guitar riffs, distorted yet flowing. And, unlike some of the more cliche artists, Warren manages to infuse a dose of reality into his lyrics. The album's closer, "The Final Call," is just that: one last opportunity to get your fist in the air. The haunting synths are the perfect foundation for the crushing chords to build from. The vocals, as forceful as ever, burst out, filled with every bit of emotion and strength. The instrumental work is spot on, from guitars to bass and drums. Each snare is in the right place, each note, every chord shift perfectly timed.  

For Marty Warren, this is a crowning achievement for his Valtari moniker. To put out an album of this quality, this intricate, is a task in and of itself. To do it as a one man band, with each individual piece coming down on you, and you alone, is extraordinary. This is an album ripe with diverse influences, but unique enough to separate it from them. The notion that geography plays a large part in developing your sound may have been debunked. From the land of those furry things that bounce around in herds, "Fragments Of A Nightmare" may be one the best Scandinavian metal albums in a very long time.


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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Zgard - Reclusion (2012)

Guitarist Yaromysi, from a Ukrainian folk metal band called Goveria, has been working on his one man side project, Zgard, and has recently released his newest album, entitled “Reclusion.” Opposite from his main band, Yaromysi delivers his musical talents through atmospheric black metal melodies and tones.

Eerie wind sound effects display a haunting image in “Ice Indiffernce.“ It’s accompanied by layered synthesizers and strings. This dark intro sets the mood perfectly for “Reclusion.” This is where the aggressive guitar riffs kick in. Running at over eight minutes long, the heavy tempos and thunderous drum fills will have you bobbing your head throughout the entire track. Vicious growling vocals take over the verses with ominous tones. Some of the guitar riffs sound like slowed down versions of what would normally be fast Viking melodies. They hold an epic sound even though they are demonic notes and melodies. This is similar in “Winter Withcraft” as well. Heavily distorted guitar riffs come blaring at you right off the bat. They’re accompanied by complicated drum rolls and rapid double bass pedal drumming. Yaromysi’s growling vocals lean more towards the black metal genre leaving you with chills in every lyric. Eerie synthesizers consume you deep into the music as more monstrous guitars come over the top and crush you with their harsh riffs.

“Eternity” fades in next with catchy guitar riffs and gloomy strings in the background. Hell raising growls coming rushing in for the verse as synthesizers surround them with hypnotizing melodies. The snare cracks off constantly making you want to throw your devil horns in the air and rock out to the tempo of the drums. The instruments pick up speed in the middle of the song as the guitars start to chug faster and faster while the snares and kicks become relentless beating you into the ground with every hit. “Rise Of Coldness” brings you into a more depressed state with its slow drum patterns and minor guitar chords. The vocals are performed in a slow speed display sadness and emotion. The track is ten minutes long and make sure you listen to the whole thing because the end has a nice little treat of a gorgeous flute solo that will make you want to play the track over and over again.

Synthesizers open up “Despair” with futuristic electronic sounds that echo off into the distance. Soon after comes rumbling double bass pedals and beastly guitar riffs. The vocals are delivered at a slow pace while the drums go crazy in the background. Each pattern changes in every fill keeping you at the edge of your seat waiting to hear whats next. The only thing that takes away from this song is the synthesizers. They are used a little to much. It they were replaced with piano notes it would sound a little more realistic. The electronic sound effect take you out of the music. However, “Weeping Goddess” brings you right back into it with dominating guitar riffs and wicked black metal growls that will make you shit yourself for sure. Eerie strings consume you while machine gun double bass pedals come through and completely destroy you with its quick kick patterns and exploding cymbals. This is one track you don’t want to miss out on.

“Reclusion” is a solid album with a lot to offer. The drumming is absolutely incredible with the double bass pedals mixed with detailed fills and high clashing cymbals. The synthesizers keep the album dark and cold while the guitar riffs shake things up with constant tempo changes and evil tones. If you’re looking for some new atmospheric black metal with strong vocals then definitely check this album out.


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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dakesis - Trial By Fire (2011)

There is never a shortage of up-and-coming bands to discover, a fact we know all too well. Some of them fall short of expectations, and simply fade away. Others rise to the occasion, making the most of their opportunity. The latter is where you find Dakesis, the Birmingham, UK based five piece that seems to have a knack for combining the emotional with the ridiculous. This progressive power metal outfit have all the guts, all the attitude, and all of the talent to become scene leaders. On "Trial By Fire," they put all of that to good use, and move one step closer to the spotlight.

The intro track, "Shield Of Achilles I," sets an early tone, with the use of atmospheric keys and orchestrated horns and strings creating a dark, rich background. Pounding drums enter, sending the music into a rolling thunder, leading directly into the albums title track, "Trial By Fire." There is no disguising the style or influences here, with vocalist Wayne Dorman displaying tremendous range and power. Yes, the production may seem a tad muddled, failing to give that crisp division in sound. But despite that, there is no lack of bravado, with multiple solos trading blows with one another. It becomes evident quickly that this track is the weakest to be had. "Liar" is all the proof you could need that this band is for real. With equal parts Jack Black and Bruce Dickinson, Dorman delivers his unique blend of satire and charisma. Backed by keyboardist Gemma Lawler, they create a vocal duo that is both delicate and dynamic. The guitars are fast and furious, with drums filling in every available gap. The outro section sees Dorman hitting all the high notes, soaring over the top of yet another high speed solo.

The keyboard work on "After The Storm" is exactly what you would expect from a progressive power metal band, but delivered expertly. The layering of sounds is almost overwhelming, with each instrument seeing equal time as the lead. Lawler takes center stage with her vocals, also boasting a depth that is refreshing. For those looking for a straight up power metal track, "On Wings Of Steel" has been waiting. From the opening riffs, to the operatic vocals of Dorman, you have a veritable buffet of metal delights to dissect. Keyboards dart from left to right, drums shatter each moment of silence, and guitars slice through the air. There is nothing to hold you back from throwing your fist in the air, and swinging your hair (how much, or little, you have). The necessary ballad plays out in the form of "Broken," a piano and bass driven track that sees Lawler crooning with heart and soul bared. The guitar work isn't lazy, as is the case in so many half baked metal ballads. rather, it plays into the aesthetic of the song, creating and amplifying the mood.

And to say that "Into The Light" takes hold as the heaviest track on the album, is an understatement. Complete with some deep, guttural growls in the latter stages, it takes the sound to new places. A key to making this song such a standout is the bass work. Keeping up with a flurry of guitars and drums, bassist Amie Chatterley refuses to go unheard, rolling through bass line after bass with grace and skill. The dense chugging sections are welcomed, and will surely please a crowd. From the dual vocals of "Valhalla," to the harder symphonic edge on "To The End," there is simply no stopping the momentum that has been gathered by this point. The latter is a showcase of technique and skill, featuring dueling solos on guitar and keys, ones that may leave your head spinning. With a mainly instrument take in the form of "Shield Of Achilles II," the band cruise into the home stretch. This isn't a means to an end, however, as the tongue in cheek "440 King Of The Road" is your parting shot. When you have forceful grasp on your audience, even the lighter side, lyrically, can be enjoyable as well. And, let's be honest. With some ripping good guitar work, a splash of keys and some over the top vocals, you could write a song about puppies and kitties, and still keep the heads bobbing.

Through the eleven tracks, there simply is no weakness to be found in the band itself. Dakesis have crafted a blend of power and speed that will never go out of style. The only downside remains in the production side of things. Normally, it is asking a lot to ignore production values, and focus on content. But when the content is as strong and well conceived as "Trial By Fire," it becomes easy. With a master craftsmen working the knobs and levers of the mixing board, this album goes from great to an instant classic.


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