Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nevermore - The Obsidian Conspiracy (2010)


Seattle, Washington, has always been known as a hotbed for all things rock. From grunge to indie, the rainy northwest is home to the hard and the heavy. But none are more unique than progressive metallers Nevermore. For the better part of two decades, they have carved out a niche, taking everything we know about thrash, and turning it upside down.

A winding guitar played atop a labyrinth of crushing drums kicks things off. "The Termination Proclamation" is a statement of intent. Guitarist Jeff Loomis ties you in knots, while Warrel Dane punishes you with his own signature vocal style. Tempos shift from the high speed chase to the headbanging mid range, accompanied all the way with double kicks and blast beats from hell. The finger and foot tapping assault of "Your Poison Thrown" is a surefire crowd pleaser. Loomis steps back, allowing the charismatic Dane to lead the charge, asking "what do you want from humanity?" The whine of a solo brings the song full circle.

The bruising continues into "Moonrise (Through Mirrors Of Death)," a double kick packed rollercoaster ride. The oft forgotten rhythm section batters the listener into a state of shock, from one staggering roll to the next. The syncopated beats of "And The Maiden Spoke" may catch you off guard, especially when delivered alongside the ominous spoken word. Dane is at his melodic best, with vocal melodies that simply cannot be duplicated. A light guitar in the chorus merely serves to harmonize, before coming back to life.

The band dial things back slightly, offering a song that begins as a standard rock song. "Emptiness Unobstructed" is a rhetorical question of life's purpose, leaving Dane searching for the answers. Verse crashes into chorus, which comes to a chugging halt, tagging the verse back in. Fear not, the mighty Loomis gets his lick in at the end, delivering a blazing solo over a chorus of toms. A dark ballad follows, in the form of "The Blue Marble And The New Soul". They slow to a crawl, delivering a lyrically powerful lesson. The poignant "Without Morals" follows, revving the engine back to speed, preparing for the home stretch with Warrel Dane's voice taking the fore.
Bass and drums unite to form the backbone of "The Day You Built The Wall," which provides the stomp of the album, without losing the lyrical power. Diverse vocal delivery, from melodic crooning to the low growls,  helps to drive things home. Even at the slower pace, Loomis still dishes out a well crafted solo, choosing to work with the flow of the song, as opposed to against it. The acoustic tinged and sexually charged  "She Comes In Colors" starts out like a lamb, but quickly changes over to a beast, with high speed riffs rolling over heavy snare work. The title track serves to end things where they began, melting faces with solo after solo. The onslaught will leave you battered, beaten and ready for more neck breaking drum work. The unit play off of one another, building to a dramatic conclusion.

Originality becomes harder and harder to come by, with each new band simply ripping off those who came before, in some twisted homage to their heroes. Yet, somehow, Nevermore's sound has gone untouched by outsiders. It seems far fetched to think that no one has tried to steal any aspect of their style. It is more likely that many have tried, and failed, to replicate it. Bravo, Nevermore.

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Crimfall - The Writ Of Sword (2011)

Finland's Crimfall have charged into war head on, looking to tear down the walls of the "same old" folk metal. 'The Writ Of Sword," the followup to 2009's "As The Path Unfolds," doesn't abandon all that came before, but rather embraces it. After becoming an official five piece after the release of their debut album, the band have grown in more than just number. They have returned, focused and more efficient than before.

A perfect opening for the album, "Dicembre" finds you traveling through the cold, accompanied by strings. A short but fitting introduction to the initial assault of "Storm Before The Calm." Here is where we find the band at their best, both musically and vocally. Alternating periods of thrashing and chugging, kept in motion with sizzling cymbal crashes. A sharp contrast in vocal styles, delivered in a point/counter-point fashion at times, finds all gaps filled with backing chants. Horns and strings are a strong addition.

Displaying one of the most identifiable traits of folk metal, the use of ethnic chants, "Frost Upon Their Graves" is a step toward the epic. Crisp, clean and well executed, the song is a building block to bigger and better things. "Cahceravga," a short, chilling interlude, gives you the feeling of walking along a battlefield, littered with the fallen. "Shackles Of The Moirai" is a five minute folk masterpiece. Everything good about the genre is present; from the gutteral screams, to the beautifully crafted instrumentals, padded with a heavenly female voice. Heavy and bruising, yet somehow soft and moving.

The albums title track, complete with the dark call to arms, builds to a fury, making you feel as though the battle is upon you. A driving, yet smooth bass line compliments the orchestration, with blood curdling screams coming over the top of it all. The clanging of bells draws the track to a close, and leads us into a breathtaking instrumental, titled "Geadgai." Layered and textured with an array of sounds, including the darkest of chanting, musicians of all background will find something to worthy of tapping your foot.

Beautiful acoustic guitars and female vocals thrust you into the fray, the symphonic battle of "Silver And Bones." Each bridge and chorus, a battle. Each verse a reprieve. This is as grandiose a song as you will ever find in the folk world. Delicate interludes break the track up, allowing for a breath before plunging in head first again. Eerie strings take you to your final march, the somber yet up tempo "Son Of North." As the battle ends, and the music fades, you may feel empty.

As battering as it is refreshing, the album covers the entire 360° scope of folk metal, without diluting it to a blur. However, while it clocks in around the 45 minute mark, it almost seems too short. In the sea of folk metal, this is often a good thing. But, seeing the evolution of Crimfall unfold on this disc, you may be thirsty for more. Prepare for the next battle. The frozen north has a new shining star.


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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Katatonia - Night Is The New Day (2009)


Everyone is entitled to a bad day here and there. Sometimes things just don't turn out the way you wanted. In the case of Katatonia, it was a bad day that lasted the better part of three years. Following the success of their acclaimed 2006 album, "The Great Cold Distance," the band suffered through periods of writers block that had fans wondering if a new album would ever be completed. When things appeared to be at their darkest,  "Night Is The New Day" was released.

Equal parts inspired and somber, "Forsaker" leaps off the page with a taste of the trademark sound that Katatonia is known for. Singer Jonas Renkse is at his bleak best, with a voice that is emotional and vibrant. A well oiled rhythm section and layered guitars set the tone for the tracks to come. Dialing back the aggression, if only temporarily, "The Longest Year" begins gently. Before long, the track is at a boil, a perfect balance of emotion and fury.

Strings and acoustic guitar greet you at the doorstep of "Idle Blood," allowing a smooth bass line to take the lead. Renkse finds the opportunity to provide a stirring vocal accompaniment. "Onward Into Battle" isn't the iron clad fight song you might expect, but rather a call to action as life fades away. The distortion of chugging guitars open "Liberation," which boasts a chorus that you will not forget. The high pitch cry of a guitar and synthesizers open "The Promise Of Deceit," a bass heavy song with precisely timed snare hits and cymbal crashes.

Dark and ominous, "Nephilim" promises that he will come for your son, in the darkest of night. Soft, padded verses give way to chunky refrains, laid out in a doom style. "New Night" has the air of a song of victory, with Renske's vocals having an edge not detected throughout the album. But it remains lyrically dim and depressing.

The heavier moments of the album fall in "Day And Then The Shade." Well executed in its arrangement and delivery, it brings things to a head. "And every waking hour is part of the lie." Uptempo and flowing, it is the perfect contrast to the album's closing track, "Departer." Soft, slow, bleak and emotionally charged, this collaboration with electronic artist and singer Krister Linder is pure beauty in so many shades of gray. The vocal melodies achieved are breathtaking.

Described by Opeth mainman Mikael Akerfeldt as "possibly the greatest 'heavy' record I've heard in the last 10 years," the album has become the crown jewel in the extensive Katatonia catalog. They have, once again, raised the bar for all others. In the darkest night sky, this star always burns brightest.


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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Children Of Bodom - Relentless Reckless Forever (2011)

Known for their multiple layers of godly guitar solos, Children Of Bodom is back again with another headbanging studio album entitled "Relentless Reckless Forever." The melodic heavy metal band from Finland has taken a step in a different direction with this album. Of course, listening to their older albums, you already know that they like to change things up in almost every album. Somehow they always manage to keep their sound unique and likable.

"Not My Funeral" is the first song off of the album, and really gives you a taste of what this album is all about. Constant blast beat drumming keeps you rocking your head from start to finish. Screeching guitars fill the air, while they are layered with a touch of soft strings in the background. Alex Laiho, the lead guitarist and lead vocalist of the band, shows off his amazing talent as he destroys scales with his shredding solos.

Another song that really deserves some attention is track three, "Roundtrip To Hell And Back." This leans a little bit more towards their older work, with the use of their synthesizers and keyboard action. No solos from Janne Wirman, the keyboardist, however his melodies do manage to provide more color to the mix and a more epic sound to the overall song. But don't worry about the solos, Laiho takes care of that with another mind blowing melody.

The title track, "Relentless Reckless Forever," has an awesome build up in the beginning. It starts with rapid drumming, followed by a groovy bass line and catchy melodic guitar riffs. The vocals consist of aggressive mid-range growling that really stand out through the verses. "Was It Worth It" is another kick-ass track that follows a similar pattern. This song carries lots of bass and loud crashing cymbals. The guitar riffs are excellent and are layered with wicked vocals. This is all followed by another effortless solo. You will definitely want to repeat this song a couple of times.

The album didn't really include to many keyboard solos like they usually do, but again, having drastic changes like this is what really keeps their albums unique. You never know what you're going to get when you open up a new album. One thing is for sure; you're always going to be at the edge of your seat as you listen to see which direction they choose to go next.


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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Orphaned Land - The Neverending Way Of ORwarriOR (2010)

Music transcends all. The recent documentaries "Global Metal" and "Heavy Metal In Baghdad" were eye opening, in depth looks into the world of metal around the world. And, time and again, showed us that in the most oppressive, politically charged regions, music is the fiber that ties us all together. Never has this been more evident than in self described "Jewish Muslim Metal" pioneers Orphaned Land, who have taken ethnic folk metal to the Middle East, and thrived.

"The Neverending Way Of ORwarriOR," a concept album of epic proportions, was recorded over the span of 5 years, and 600 studio hours. It combines vocals in four languages with a host of both traditional middle eastern instruments and Oriental soundscapes. Simply put, the words "exotic" and "diverse" don't do the album justice. Divided into three distinct subsections, the album tells such a lyrically compelling story, that it must be read to appreciate at its core.

From the start of the opening offering "Sapari," you are treated to some of the more infectious grooves the album has to offer. Upbeat, uptempo and uplifting, the insanity of the drum fills alone will have your foot tapping. "From Broken Vessels" delves into the progressive, with alternating periods of growls and pitch perfect harmonies. A wailing guitar intersection slows things down before the stomp begins anew. A fitting ethnically charged interlude starts a screaming end, before an all out stop.

One of several acoustic tracks follows, with "Bereft In The Abyss" serving as an introduction to the two part tale that is "The Path." Equal parts heavy and heavenly, Orphaned Land are flawless in their execution here, with melody and purpose coming together to form something greater than the sum of its parts.

From the softer offerings of "Ola Ha'Tamid" and "The Warrior," to the aggressive, yet captivating "Disciple Of The Sacred Oath II" and "Vayehi Or" this is an exhibition of musical proficiency. Every note is played with the utmost expertise, but also with the vigor that comes with the attached message. "Barakah" let's a dark narrator take the fore at times, backed by orchestrations and a single acoustic guitar. Melodic vocals delivered so passionately draw you in, as if you are a child, hearing the stories of your people.

"Codeword: Uprising" starts with a flurry of drums, only to be complimented with a flowing guitar and some of the deepest growls to be had. Various sounds interject, with short bursts of instruments and vocal samples darting in and out. The guitars chug away, tangled with dark, fast paced screeches. The tempo builds as the story comes to its peak. The epilogue, "In Thy Neverending Way" is a work of guitar mastery, almost concluding the tale in solo form. Beautiful female vocals enter, fluttery and light. And the last words are spoken. "Go in peace, and find thy faith/Evolve thy self, and lose all hate/So a heaven you may create."

This is more than a fusion of metal and Middle Eastern culture. Orphaned Land have created a masterpiece that overshadows the unrest of a region. They have chosen to tell a story that is profound on its own. But paired with a musical outing that is both brutal and subtly empowering, it becomes a story for the ages. And no amount of soldiers, guns and bombs can change that.


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Monday, April 25, 2011

Arkan - Salam (2011)

You don't see too many death metal bands with a solid middle eastern twist now-a-days. Out of the bands who do attempt it, there are only few who truly stand out from the rest. Arkan just so happens to be one of those bands. Breaking through to the metal world, they release their second studio album, entitled "Salam." The album contains unique Arabic instruments and sounds that surround their deathly tones and ominous guitar riffs. The vocals are clashed together between deep, monstrous growls and ravishing clean female singing.

The album is immediately introduced with "Origins," which enters with melodic acoustic strings giving off Arabic vibes and soothing tones. This is followed by heavily distorted guitars and aggressive drumming. The verses are filled with the compelling growls of Florent Jannier. The refrain is then met with the gorgeous vocals of Sarah Layssac. Her voice is layered gently over heavy distorted chords. Towards the end of the song comes a short solo, giving you a little taste of what is still to come.

"Inner Slaves" is the second track off of the album and changes up throughout the song. It includes bone crushing guitar breakdowns layered with colossal growls and powerful bass lines. It also consists of subtle verses lead by Layssac's alluring lyrics. The song falls back and forth through these drastic changes, giving no sense of direction. This will have you hooked as you await for the next interesting change within the song. Excellent song structure really separates it from the rest.

If you enjoy the massive distorted guitar riffs behind the astonishing female vocals, then be sure to check these out. Songs like "Blind Devotion" and "Jeruselam - Sufferpolis" are full of bass filled drums and gory guitars that are met with stunning, melodic vocals. They, of course, contain Arabic like instruments that add so much detail to the image portrayed. Even "Sweet Opium" gives that image of being lost in the desert. Malevolent growls and rapid double pedaling are also incorporated throughout this track.

Late in the album you will come across "Lightened Heart," a 1 minute instrumental which is short, yet as you will see, is packed with so much action and aggressiveness. Cymbals are constantly crashing as snares and toms fill the air. This is all surrounded by a repetitive melodic guitar riff that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. You will wonder why they kept this song so short. You will then stumble across the next track entitled "The Eight Doors Of Jannah." Then you will see that the instrumental before it was only a mere warm up track that builds into this song, one of the heaviest on the album. It contains everything from fast double bass pedaling to slow soothing bass lines and right back to dark, deafening breakdowns. There are even verses where the deep growls sing with the clean vocals that add beautiful edge to the song.

Overall, Arkan has touched on a little bit of everything when it comes to their genre. "Salam" is full of surprises and leaves you wanting more within each and every song. The album is an impressive work of art and deserves much attention.


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Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Podcast: Episode 2 (Why So Serious?)

Episode 2 finds the gang with a variety of topics to discuss. Includes a breaking artist segment, discussing the albums by Brymir and Blackguard. Chester turns in his homework assignment, after listening to the Nightwish album "Dark Passion Play." Metal discussion, plain and simple.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dethklok - The Dethalbum (2007)

Do anything for Dethklok. That is the mantra of the world's biggest death metal band, and stars of the hit Cartoon Network epic, "Metalocalypse." The group combines the talents of Skwisgaar Skwigelf (taller than a tree), Toki Wartooth (not a bumblebee), William Murderface (Murderface Murderface), Pickles the Drummer (doodily doo ding dong doodily doodily doo) and of course, Nathan Explosion. More accurately, this album is the brainchild of Brendan Small, recorded with a little help from his friends, including the legendary Gene Hoglan on drums.

Ever wanted to commit mermaid murder? Now you can! With the assist of the opening track, titled "Murmaider," that is. From the planning, to the execution and subsequent revenge, this song gives you a list of necessary steps to follow in your quest. Dark chugging and the signature death metal growls kick off the album with a blast. "Go Into The Water," tells the story of a changing world, one where we will all go into the water to live and die. Taken from the band's "Dethwater" album, it is not to be taken literally. After all, the album was intended to be for fish only. Skwigelf's guitar work is top notch, with a hook to envy.

The band bring to life the evil Mustakrakish, the lake troll, with there high octane, double kick laden "Awaken." Played at the speed of light, every note, every snare, every tom is delivered with precision and force. Better watch out, Finland. Explosions vocals are highlighted in the scientific masterpiece, "Bloodrocuted," which might serve as the precursor to the aptly titled "Go Forth And Die." Certainly a commencement speech to remember, and a reminder that while you may be smarter, more beautiful or more wealthy, we are all dying.

"Fansong" finds the group thanking us, the fans, for not only buying their albums, but also giving them something to hate along the way. From the metal gallop of "The Lost Vikings" and "Thunderhorse," to the Monday through Friday workplace  thrash in "Briefcase Full Of Guts," all of your favorites are here. The old fashioned, boring rendition of "Happy Birthday" is out, replaced with the high speed, growling "Birthday Dethday." A story of birth through death, it is as heavy as it is festive. RSVP, please.

A fight song of the highest order, "Face Fisted" gives us the lyrical genius that is "I'm so fucking tough, I'm so fucking tough, That's right." Almost sounds like a Hatebreed song. At this time of year, when tax season looms, "Dethharmonic" is the anthem you have been searching for. Paired with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at a major charity event, the band ponders the merits of taxes. The tempo slows to half speed, with crashing cymbals ringing over exquisite strings.

The deluxe edition of the album comes complete with a bonus disc of hits, from the "Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle" to the theme to their very own movie flop, "Blood Ocean." Remember when Dethklok learned the ways of the blues from good ol' Mashed Potatoes Johnson? Relive that dark time with the not-quite-bluesy "Murdertrain A Comin'," including a blazing solo from Skwigelf, the world's fastest guitarist.

Brendan Small has crafted something that is both brutal and hilarious. The album will appeal to die hard fans of death metal or metal in general, as well as anyone looking for a tongue-in-cheek laugh. Fictional or not, I find myself wanting to do anything for Dethklok. The Metalocalypse has begun.


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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Draconian - Turning Season Within (2008)


The gothic doom powerhouse known as Draconian has returned. The dark, dreary landscapes remain as such, but they are now manicured and and revitalized. This is an album of love songs. But before you go into cardiac arrest, look deeper. For so often, love is nothing more than longing, hopelessness and loss. And on "Turning Season Within," you are led, hand in hand, down the shadowy road that is love.

A thunderous bass drum welcomes you to the fold, and "Seasons Apart" immediately weighs on your heart. A dazzling vocal contrast emerges, pairing the violent verses of Anders Jacobsson with the dreamy passages of Lisa Johansson. The time has come for these lovers to part, and every heartbeat can be felt in the poetry. The crushing drums and guitars become the soundtrack to this tale of woe.

Unrelenting, we march. "When I Wake" is an anthem of the hopeless. A guitar hook provides the foundation, while sparse keyboards set the mood. Their pain is conveyed, clearly, throughout the track. Anders utters "But as you cry something inside me dies." Double bass enters, and vocal parts dart in and out of one another, crashing to the end. "Earthbound" starts fast paced and aggressive, breaking for delicate keys and heavenly voice. With its down tempo breakdown, it becomes a morbid search for closure through death.

The beauty of the gothic doom classification is felt in the chilling melodies of "Not Breathing." Slow and deliberate, each strum of the strings highlights each keystroke, each ding of a cymbal, each booming kick. "On my own, by the world outside, where love lies starving on the ground." Fantastic, powerful guitar work leads the way in "The Failure Epiphany," where regret now takes hold of our lovers. A bass line accents haunting synths, "And there in that moment we'll at last find solace." Downtuned chugging in a traditional doom style  clear a path in "Morphine Cloud."

Heavy distortion and ferocious vocal passages occupy most of "Bloodflower," before giving way to an enchanting piano outro. Your heart may be heavy, but the end is near. "The Empty Stare" has a beat that will induce a bout of whiplash. Your are now fully engrossed in the story, feeling the pain and sorrow.

"September Ashes" provides the eulogy, spoken words over delicate piano. A tragic tale of lovers come to a devastating end. The band haven't abandoned the epic storytelling of their previous works, such as "Arcane Rain Fell." They have chosen to embrace it, fine tune it, and develop it into something undeniable. This tale of love and loss is one for all seasons.

"So when I scream for you, do not answer me. When I beg you to hold me, just walk away."


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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kamelot - The Black Halo (2005)

Based off of the shores of Florida, comes the infamous Power metal band, Kamelot. Their 2005 album, entitled "The Black Halo," is full of epic stories and symphonic musical greatness. It's the second part of their concept album following their 2003 album, "Epica." It's hard to choose a favorite album when it comes to kamelot, but this is definitely one you will want to check out.

Let me start off by saying that you might have a difficult time getting past the first three tracks, because they are absolutely magnificent and beautiful. The first song on the album, "March Of Mephisto," fades in with eerie sounds and snares that lead into distorted guitar riffs that will have you throwing up your devil horns immediately. Lead singer Roy Khan does an excellent job in the verses and choruses of the song. The special guest featured in this song is the great Shagrath, who is the lead vocalist of the Norwegian black metal band Dimmu Borgir. Shagrath accompanies Khan during the chorus, leaving a chilling feeling down your spine as you hear the "beauty & the beast." The track also includes a mind blowing solo towards the end of the song, thanks to the electrifying guitar work of Thomas Youngblood.

The second song on the album,"When The Lights Are Down," is a fast paced, heavy guitar track, layered with quick drumming and rapid bass lines. The chorus really takes over this song, as you will eventually start to sing along due to the catchy and melodic lyrics. Khan shows off his impressive vocals throughout this song, as he hits both high and low notes smoothly and without effort.Unfortunately, the song comes to an end in under four minutes, leaving you with the immediate thought of hitting the "repeat" button

Don't be afraid to move on, for their is much more beautiful power metal to be heard. "The Haunting (Somewhere In Time)" is the third track on the album and is packed with tremendous amount of beautiful lyrics and melodies, full of meaning. It starts out with the first verse full of eeriness, in both the instruments and vocals alike. They also include guest singer Simone Simons, the Dutch lead vocalist of Epica. As it builds, his voice begins to rise and snares and cymbals fill the air. The choruses carry so much feeling as Khan is accompanied by a light layer of a female voice in the background. Powerful guitar solos follow behind each chorus, bringing you to your knees in amazement.

Moving forward, "Abandoned" is a great power metal ballad that really balances the album out. It is full of heavenly piano notes and soothing strings as they are met with the vocals of Khan and also, another guest vocalist, Mari Youngblood. Together, they produce a ravishing touch to the song and its importance to the album.

"Moonlight" is where the album picks up and becomes a little heavier, as it starts of with deafening guitar riffs and crashing drums and cymbals. Again, the chorus is full of feeling and heart as Khan belts each lyric. There is an interesting us of different instruments within the breakdown. This includes violins and other stringed orchestral instruments that are followed with a quick guitar solo. A couple of other songs to check out are "The Black Halo" and "Nothing Ever Dies." These consist of similar fast pace action and astounding guitar structure.

Just under 9 minutes long, track 12, "Momento Mori," is a glorious song that you won't want to skip. It starts out as a stunning ballad but slowly opens up into a loud drumming and fast heavy guitar chugging masterpiece. It features both Shagrath and Mari Youngblood. The use of symphonic instruments and melodic lyrics define the true power captured within the song.

This album is dark and yet uplifting all in one, as it tells a great tale through and through. The songs are well written and well performed, and give great inspiration to those who hear it. It is also a real treat to see such great artists featured on the album. This is a marvelous album that will take your breath away from beginning to end!


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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dimmu Borgir - Abrahadabra (2010)

Is it possible to be the face of a genre, yet defy so many of the cardinal rules of the same genre? Black metal has become Norway's chief export, with it's raw production and heavy distortion. But Dimmu Borgir have transcended their classification as a pure black metal outfit. For they have a taste for the theatrical, in a sense that so few can possibly hope to duplicate.

When you enlist the services of 101 musicians for the recording of an album, including a 51 piece orchestra and 38 person choir, you are not trying to be subtle. This is a production of the highest magnitude, as is immediately spotlighted in the masterful work of "Xibir." But let the beauty be silenced in the assault of "Born Treacherous," a black metal track in so many ways, yet symphonic at its core. High speed drumming that will leave your head throbbing, guitars that are played with the utmost precision, and vocals bordering on the insane. How can the orchestra be the lead alongside traditional screeching, tied to lower octave spoken words that seem to create something far bigger than the genre allows?

The scope of their vision already realized, "Gateways" is nothing short of amazing. The use of choir and chanting vocals, keyboards, and a ghastly screech that will make you shiver, all come together in horrifying harmony. The ominous delivery of a key passage, "Be the broken or the breaker," is offset by the completion of the line by a female choir, "be the giver or the undertaker." This back and forth ends the track, leaving you breathless.

The epic scale of production is evident throughout, from the almost viking tinged "Chess With The Abyss" to musical journey of "Dimmu Borgir," a track which begins with a chant and a call to the "forces of the northern lights." There is something about the strength in the vocal delivery that commands your attention, but it is impossible to miss the musicianship presented. These are not amateurs. The most blackened of the albums tracks, the dark and yet powerful "Ritualist" hearkens back to bands roots, but with a modern sensibility attached.

With an arsenal this large, you rarely hear the same sound, the same voice, the same structure from one song to the next. The opening vocals to "The Demiurge Molecule" is unlike anything the precedes it. An orchetral breakdown, joined by shredding guitars and the omnipresent drums fills and rolls of a seasoned professional. "A Journey Traced Through Coal" starts like a horror movie theme before quickly descending into madness. Even at the speed of sound, the instrumentation never falters. The cohesion between rhythm section, guitar, orchestra and vocals is uncanny. "Renewal" is a sonic slugfest, with some of the most innovative keyboard leads you will ever find in metal of any kind.

Fitting to complete the opus with the showcase that is "Endings And Continuations," the band put the beast to rest, complete with a hollow echoing of the albums name, "Abrahadabra," which roughly translates into “I will create as I speak.” Certainly the band has created something both enchanting and terrifying. The boundaries of genre and style simply can not confine Dimmu Borgir. The have forged new territory with this, their evil symphony.


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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blackguard - Firefight (2011)

If you are looking for some good ol' melodic death metal, "Firefight" is a great place to start. It is Blackguard's most recent album, and most refreshing to say the least. The Canadian based metal band has really put together a solid album. They are faster, heavier, and more melodic than they have ever been before.

After going through the short introduction track, the album breaks the first song entitled "Firefight." This fast pace, double bass pedal filled track gives a solid definition to what this album is, and what is to come. Immediately opening up with rapid kicks and snares, followed by layers of insane guitar notes shredding up and down the scales, making you want to thrash your head back and forth. It's filled with aggressive mid-range growling throughout the verses and choruses. Five minutes of incredible sound and song structure to start off the album.

As you are going through the album, you see that some of the tracks sound as if they came right out of a score written for a movie. A great example of this is track four, "Wastelands." It carries multiple string instruments and what sounds like a choir chanting in the beginning. What a great orchestral entrance to the song. The verses are filled with massive amounts of low, heavy growling, followed by blasting guitars chugging away. The song also carries impressive guitar solos that really keep you at the edge of your seat. It contains tons of thick bass lines accompanied by solid drumming and fast foot action. The strings come back into the song towards the end, as they are layered with another magnificent solo.

If you enjoyed the use of the chanting choir in the last track then you will definitely enjoy "Cruel Hands" and "The Path." These are both filled with epic greatness. The use of orchestral instruments are also included in these songs as well. They actually lean a little more towards the viking metal genre with melodic guitars and deathly toned vocals.

The album slows down for a few minutes with "Iblis." It contains mainly acoustic guitars and soft strings in the background. It is then accompanied by a beautiful female vocal that really completes the song. It is used more as an instrument than a deliverer of lyrics. The song gives a dark and eerie feeling to the album.

"The Blinding Light" is an absolute "must hear" song on the album. It delivers loud, powerful vocals and symphonic orchestral instruments that flows over their melodic guitar riffs and blazing solos. It is definitely the catchiest song on the album, incorporated with epic strings throughout the song. The drums will have you bobbing your head, without a doubt. Make sure you turn up the volume when you come across this melodic art work.

Blackguard has always been an well opening act, as they've opened for bands like Ensiferum, Epica, and Korpiklaani. However, after releasing this new album, it would not surprise me if they did a headlining North American tour. They definitely deserve one, that's for sure!


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The Podcast: Episode 1 (Introduction)

The inaugural podcast. The gang discusses the mission of the site, and some of our work thus far. Special guest Chester, with an outsiders view of the metal world.

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My Dying Bride - For Lies I Sire (2009)

"Doom metal is an extreme form of heavy metal music that typically uses slower tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much "thicker" or "heavier" sound than other metal genres. Both the music and the lyrics intend to evoke a sense of despair, dread, and impending doom." The very definition of the genre seems to best describe what My Dying Bride does, time and time again. Sporting their best production work to date, "For Lies I Sire" is a great starter kit to the band's catalog.

This isn't mood music for a sunny day, as is evident from the opening track, "My Body, A Funeral." From the first words, you are treated to a distinct style of vocal delivery. Best described as "dark crooning," it is the best vessel for the hopelessness portrayed in the lyrical content. Three mini drum solos bring the music to a simmer. Violins, straight from the funeral procession, chime in.

The vocals rarely stray from their pattern, but are delivered with such gloomy conviction on "Fall With Me." They aren't constricted by rhyme scheme or timing, but rather come out naturally, as if spoken. Dark chugging and a welcomed guitar melody pick up the tempo for a brief instrumental interlude, before completion. Combining the emotionally charged lyrics with the imagery provided in the album's cover, "The Lies I Sire" could be a graveyard serenade. The pace and tone of the music takes the word "haunting" to new musical heights.

The vocals deviate from the norm on "Bring Me Victory," with a more coarse growl and ghostly whisper being incorporated into the rotation. A strong drum track provides an excellent buildup. The mainly instrumental "Echoes From A Hollow Soul" is stirring, introducing a delicate piano to the mix. It sets a mood that can only be called "unnerving." Drums and strings are the stars of the earlier half of "Shadowhaunt," passing the torch to some crunchy guitar work later, accompanied by devilish growls.

The higher vocal range is tested on "Santurio Di Sangue," in what may be misconceived as a bright moment. Despite the sound, it is certainly not the silver lining to a dark cloud. Perhaps it is the calm before the imminent storm of "A Chapter In Loathing," High intensity guitar, blistering double kicks and effects laden screeching vocals are abundant, taking the normal doom and gloom to another place entirely. The album closer, "Death Triumphant" is a sampler platter of all that you have seen from the band thus far. Equal parts abrasive and fragile, it serves as a pocket guide to all things doom.

Forging an identity as the godfathers of doom isn't easy. But time and again, My Dying Bride do just that. The sound has changed and evolved as the years, albums and members go by, but at its core, it has stayed the same. Often imitated, never duplicated and certainly not for the faint of heart. If a rainy day makes you smile, the funeral procession awaits you.


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Officium Triste - Giving Yourself Away (2007)

DOOM, DOOM, DOOM! That’s what Officium Triste is all about. Their 2007 album entitled “Giving Yourself Away” contains 6 tracks of nothing but pure Doom metal. I know you’re probably thinking, “Well 6 songs doesn’t seem like a lot." However, don’t let the number of tracks fool you. The album is a lot longer that it looks, considering each song averages out to be about 8 minutes long.

The album starts off with the song “Your Eyes,” which has a lot to offer. Given its length alone, 9 minutes and 48 seconds, which happens to be the longest track out of the 6. As the song begins, minor chords fill the air with blaring distortion on the guitars in a slow tempo, giving it darkness yet beauty at the same time. The track carries mostly clean, depressive vocals throughout the verses. However, there is some deeper growling towards the end of the song. This, of course, is accompanied by aggressive guitar chugging and high clashing cymbals.

Track two, “My Charcoal Heart,” is probably the most epic song on the album, despite being the shortest song on the album. The verses consist of dark and eerie chords and blasting drums that will have your head bobbing. The verses go back and forth between heavy growling and clean vocals with a real depressing taste to it. Not to mention the lyrics are very deep and emotional. About halfway through the song, a beautiful piano breakdown followed by a guitar solo that gives so much feeling to the song. The song is concluded with a final verse filled with aggressive vocals. The only issue with this song is that it is simply too short.

"Signals" is another solid track that deserves some attention. This is the song that really leans toward the darker side in this album. The piano intro starts off with demonic keys as the drums slowly kick in. Heavy guitars fade in followed by dark vocals spoken over the top. A slow guitar solo follows, one that takes over most of the song. The only thing missing is the heavy growling vocals. But don't worry, their is plenty of that in "On The Crossroads Of Souls" and "Inside The Mind."

"Master Of Your Own Demise," the final track off of the album is more of a long outro than it is a song. It starts of with a beautiful piano piece accompanied by uplifting strings. The drums slowly start to fade into the song, along with heavy distorted guitar chords. A few short words are slowly spoken over the repeated instruments. Then the instruments slowly fade out, one by one, the way they came in. This is all over the course of 8 minutes and 13 seconds.

Overall the album is well written and provides darkness and beauty all in one. That's everything one hopes for in a Doom metal album!


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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mastodon - Crack The Skye (2009)

This album is one of the most moving, most inspiring, most amazing albums I have ever heard in my life. Mastodon, the progressive heavy metal band from Atlanta, Georgia, has returned with what may be their best work yet. Their new album, “Crack The Skye,” reaches further into the universe than any of their previous albums have ever gone. It tells a story about a paraplegic who uses astral travel to go where ever he wants in the universe. However, when he gets lost in space after being separated by his golden umbilical cord, Rasputin’s soul is sent to help him find his way back to his body before the boys’ parents bury him, thinking is has passed away. Check out the lyrics to learn what happens.

So, “Crack The Skye” opens with what is known as their first single off the album, called “Oblivion.” What a great opener to this album. The verses are all sung by the drummer, Brann Dailor, who delivers such a dark, outer space like feeling that really puts you into the story. Not to mention Dailor’s drum fills are just incredible. The chorus to the track is sung by lead guitarist, Brent Hinds, who carries such a unique, distinctive voice; one that cannot be forgotten. He also does the amazing dirty work on the guitar solos, something I, for one, can never get enough of. This is just another one of those songs that you wish were longer than the 5 minutes that it is because it is just so damn good!

The second single chosen off of “Crack The Skye” is “Divinations,” which is also the second track listed on the album. This song leans a little bit more towards their older style, from their previous album “Blood Mountain.” The guitar rifts are heavy and are accompanied by more aggressive vocals. Very cool effects on the guitar solo in the middle of this song.

As you’re listening through the album, you’ll come across a nice little 11 minute song called “The Czar: Usurper/Escape/Martyr/Spiral.” This explains the side story to Rasputin and how he comes into play with helping the boy back to his body. The structure to this song breaks up into 4 mini songs combined into one. I love the creativity of the instrumental melodies and how they collide with the vocals. It begins with a dark keyboard melody, which is followed by a bass melody that is the main backbone of part one. The verse comes in with ominous vocals that really pull you into song, almost like you're being hypnotized. About 4 minutes in, the song shifts to a faster tempo and catchy vocals. There are constant drum fills leading perfectly into every section of every verse. Towards the end, Hinds fills the gaps between the verses with some outstanding solos. You’re definitely going to have to play this one again to catch every little detail thrown at you.

As sad as you’ll be when you reach the last track, don’t worry. You’ve got 13 more minutes of amazing music to enjoy, which is also plenty of time to grab the mouse and set your iTunes to "Repeat all". “The Last Baron” is astounding in every way possible. The lyrics and vocals will absolutely blow your mind. Every line and every note has so much meaning, and really tops off the album. This is definitely another one of those tracks that you’ll have to go back and listen to a couple of times in order to take everything in.

It starts off calm and eerie while Hinds begins to sing. Basic chords are intertwined with amazing drum fills that really build up the beginning of this epic masterpiece. About 3 minutes into the song, the tempo increases, as it throws rapid distortion. The change in structure really keeps you hooked. The song is also filled with guitar shredding solos that are just absolutely phenomenal. Around the 8 minute mark, they use a reverse reverb effect on the vocals that really give you that trippy "space travel" feeling. The images that the song creates are incredible and provide such an unreal experience.

“Crack The Skye” holds a lot of meaning within the lyrics and even within the album cover. Mastodon clearly put a lot of personal feelings into this album and have really out done themselves. This is by far, a top ten favorite in my book!


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Forest Stream - The Crown Of Winter (2009)

Bands are formed in many ways, and for many reasons. The old fashioned view of "sex, drugs and rock & roll," while still applicable today, isn't the mantra of all. In the case of Russia's Forest Stream, the journey was long. While studying jazz as a teenager nearly ended his desire to play music, band founder Sonm found the inspiration to continue on. He was introduced to the music of Metallica, considered evil when compared to the flute and saxophone he had been forced to learn. While listening to "...And Justice For All", he thought to himself "This riff could be slower and guitars should have been tuned much lower as well!" And so, the concept of Forest Stream was born.

From the onset, it is clear that this is not a Metallica clone. The influence is barely present at all. The keyboard and symphonic elements take the fore, with the stunning "Intro (Feral Magic)," with strings layered throughout. A flawless segue into the most powerful track, "The Crown Of Winter" builds from a somewhat dainty piano, before the powerful kick drum starts the beat in motion. Delicate keys pad out the opening vocal melodies, and continue to play a lead role. Clean, almost chant-like vocals give way to first round of growling screams. The drums build to a more aggressive pace, but are always lined with the orchestral undertones.

Percussion is a strong suit for the band, with thunderous fills and rolls scattered through "Mired." The band is at their best in the middle passages, achieving a great blend of all elements, including a noticeable bass presence not felt on every track. The synthesizers return to provide an outro, making way for the headbanging, fist in the air "Bless You To Die." Black metal mastery is obvious, from the screeching vocals, to the double kicks, and on to the atmospheric keyboard. By far the heaviest track, the band do themselves a disservice by trying to incorporate clean vocals.

The tempo continues with "The Autumn Dancers," a song in which the drums simply do not stop. A chanting vocal breakdown is welcomed, creating a haunting stir. The outlook is bleak, the lyrics are dark. "The Seventh Symphony Of Satan" would be right at home on an album by Kampfar, Emperor, or Dimmu Borgir. The vocals are top notch, from black metal screeching to effects laden speech. Excellent keyboard placement helps to build a mood, both dreary and emotional.

"Beautiful Nature" begins with a call to awaken. "Good morning, just woke up" speaks an accented voice as the piano begins. A guitar whines in the background, as the song grows into a greater outburst. Sparse chunks of heaviness, mixed with an ever present keyboard solo, all topped with spoken, somber lyrics. It fades away, and leaves you where you started; orchestration, piano, and a sense of sadness. And just like that, it ends.

There is a tremendous amount of talent and creativity to be had. Forest Stream have put together an impressive collection of songs. However, use of clean vocals holds the album back at several key moments. Momentum is so important, especially in an album of this length. Growth will place a major role in where the group goes from here. The journey to this point was long, and well worth the wait.


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Chimaira - Resurrection (2007)

The all mighty Chimaira from Cleveland, Ohio came out with their most powerful album in 2007, called “Resurrection.” This album consists of aggressive vocals, heavy breakdowns, and tons of blast beats that’ll make your speakers rattle for days. Nothing but pure metal core at its best.

Sharing the same title as the album, track one starts off with a heavy guitar riff that immediately has you bobbing your head to the tempo. This, of course, is layered with quick double bass pedaling and screaming cymbals. This song is filled with angry lyrics delivered by dark growls that provide great background for the mosh pit. The vocals in the bridge even carry a little melody, filled with darkness. What's even better about this track, is that it provides both solos and breakdowns, reaching out to all metal fans. This is just an absolutely great way to kick off a metal album.

The song "six," not to be confused with TRACK 6, is a 9 minute work of art. This is a "must hear" song, for sure. It fades in with eerie sounds and quiet vocals, almost like a whisper from a demon. Then it drops with a few melodic riffs as it speeds up, and is layered with more double bass pedal dirty work. The breakdowns in the song are great, because not only are they low and heavy, but they also provide detail in melody, unlike your average metalcore breakdown. You'll definitely be hitting the "Repeat" button after listening to this one.

The album has a lot of great songs to offer, like "The Flame" and "Empire." These tracks both carry melodies in minor that really give the album a dark image. Track 10, "Needles," gives a whole new meaning to the word "heavy," providing some of the heaviest breakdowns on the entire album. The only downfall about this track is that it's only 3 minutes long, leaving you wanting so much more.

"Resurrection" is definitely one of the better metalcore albums released in a while. If you are a fan of all things hard and heavy, you won't want to miss this one!


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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dragonforce - Inhuman Rampage (2007)

Hailing from the U.K., Dragonforce are a lightning rod. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who listens to metal or plays video games who doesn't have an opinion of the high octane six piece. Descriptions ranging from genius to cheesy, talented to show-offs could all come from the same conversation. "Inhuman Rampage," their breakthrough album, is certainly fuel for the flames.

If you have touched a Guitar Hero game, you already have one song memorized, scrutinized and idolized. "Through The Fire And Flames" quickly became known as the arthritis inducing feature track in the popular music simulation. It plays out more as a 7 minute dueling guitar solo where other band members got bored, rather than a composed song. The drumming, played in overdrive just to keep pace, seems to be forgotten. Vocally, it walks the dangerous line of 80's hair metal and current power metal, with a hint of irony in every word. But oh, those solos.

"Revolution Deathsquad" is more of the same. Band guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman are in command at all times keeping the gas pedal to the floor, delivering note after note at 100 mph. Li makes his guitar produce sounds that guitars simply weren't ready to make. There is something empowering in the cookie cutter lyrics, delivering a message of unity in a very over the top way. Spacey keyboards add another layer to the mix.

"Storming The Burning Fields" and "Operation Ground And Pound" do little to change the pace. Formulaic and chaotic all at once, the songs start to simply link together. By the time you realize what you've been hearing, the next three songs have come and gone. You look down at your iPod, thinking you must have hit a single 32 minute track of guitar wankery, only to find you just digested half an album without blinking.

The brakes are applied. We are now obeying the posted speed limit with the ballad "Trail Of Broken Hearts." Somewhere in a Hollywood retirement home, members of Poison are leaning back in their rocking chairs and smiling, thinking about the good ol' days. The lighters come out, and it is time to sway together. An out of place guitar solo puts the song out of its misery.

Dragonforce is not a band. They are a drug. They are the marijuana of the music world. And I applaud them for one simple reason. They are a gateway to bigger a better things. Fans of all genres of music know this band, and in particular, these songs. And when they are so carelessly lumped into the power metal label, it becomes more likely that an emo kid who plays Guitar Hero may explore other power metal bands. If it takes 4 or 5 listens of "Inhuman Rampage" to get a Blind Guardian, Stratovarius, Helloween or Iron Maiden album into someones hands, so be it. You have to start somewhere.


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Monday, April 11, 2011

Tersivel - For One Pagan Brotherhood (2011)

Pagan Folk metal is attempted by so many bands now-a-days. It’s so hard to keep up with the groups that provide true meaning to the genre versus those who claim they are, yet sound nothing like it. Stepping into the light of true Pagan Folk metal stands a band from Argentina by the name of Tersivel, with their first studio album entitled “For One Pagan Brotherhood.” With the bar of expectation set high, this band seems to shoot through the roof with their traditional folk instruments, Viking-like chants, and catchy, melodic riffs.

Right off the bat, the first track, “Cuzat Beer House Song,“ makes you feel like your on a ship getting drunk with a bunch of Vikings and singing catchy chants all night long. What more can you ask for to start off a Pagan Folk Metal album. This is topped off with a nice little solo played on an acoustic guitar to really complete the picture.

However, don’t be fooled. Moving on to track two, things get a little heavier with the song “As Brothers We Shall Fight.” It starts out with blaring horns and aggressive drums and vocals. About halfway thought the song enters compelling guitar’s chugging away while accompanied by eerie, symphonic strings. This is the perfect build-up that leads to bone crushing vocals as the song comes to an end.

Another great aspect of this album is that the band throws in these little 3 to 4 minute tracks like “And Fires Died Away” and “Aeolian Islands” that consists of traditional pagan sounds and melodies that really keep you locked into the feeling of the album and the whole Pagan scene. These basic little instrumental songs really set the mood, especially when the following tracks are full of really low vocals and really strong distorted guitars that’ll knock you on your ass!

Aside from these instrumental tracks, you also have songs like "We Are The Fading Sun" and "Far Away In The Distant Skies" that are filled with dark, violent growls and loud chanting vocals which are, at the same time, mixed with verses that are clean and clear. This adds so much depth to the album and really moves smoothly through the transition of styles. You’ll also notice that even with these heavy changes they never lean away from the folk sounds that they’ve grown accustom to throughout the album.

“For One Pagan Brotherhood” is truly a great experience to the ear and an epic adventure for the fans who hear it. So grab your mugs and hop on board for the voyage of your life!


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Dotma - Sleep Paralyses (2011)

In the world of metal, one flooded with sub genre upon sub genre, no band wants to merely fit in. There is the ever present desire to stand out, to emerge from the tapestry. "Sleep Paralyses," the debut album from Finnish female fronted fantasy metal hopefuls Dotma, is ripe with all the elements of a fairy tale. With each note, each keystroke, each drum fill, this looks more like a dream come true than a tall tale.

Layered guitars and keyboards provide a fitting introduction to an atmospheric opening track, titled "Legend Of Blackbird." Frontwoman Johanna Lesonen has a voice that is both assertive, yet delicate. She is capable of strong, over the top vocals, but can also exercise subtlety when necessary. Beautifully played keyboards accent what is a drum heavy track, with double kicks scattered throughout. Epic and well constructed, all in the span of a short five minutes.

"Reborn" is an example of operatic metal done to perfection. Both female and male vocals, delivered with strength and conviction, backed by a choir of 5, which could pass for a group of 20. Crystal clear, each vocal passage feels like an act at The Met. The guitar work deserves mention, taking center stage at opportune moments. It is not overbearing, but rather becomes the backbone of the composition. "Silent Sunshine" sees a pair of solos, delivered with magnificent accuracy and depth. Ghostly keyboards set the tone, as if they are the canvas which the track will be painted to.

Things slow down in an soft acoustic tune, the flute powered "Indian Fall." Lesonen has the spotlight on this one, with extra layers being added as the track progresses. Each time the drums build, you wait for the heavy explosion, one that does not arrive fully until the closing. With a somewhat ironic title, "Whispering" is a symphony of guitar, bass, keyboards and drums, weaving in and out of one another, dancing alonside a powerful vocal addition.

Strings lead in to what is definitely a track on the folk end of their spectrum, "The Cave." Double time chugging and cymbals give way to keyboard induced horns. Storytelling is at its best here, with a spoken passage delivered at the midpoint. It is culminated by the grandest of illusions. The keyboards deliver the sound of delicate strings and bells, which become the launching pad for a well timed guitar solo.

The uptempo "Kingdom Of The Sky" is an epic masterpiece. The well oiled machine that is Dotma shines in all aspects, with a performance that would bring any opera house to its feet. Flexing their musical muscles, they create a backdrop that is as sonically stunning as can be, with seemingly endless layers of instrumentation and choir style vocals. To dissect each piece would take days. The albums epilogue, "Memory Worth Dying For" is the perfect closing act. It remains gentle, but all the while forceful.

As the curtain comes down on "Sleep Paralyses," the crowd while rise to their feet. While the play has ended, this journey is far from over. This is more than a thread in the tapestry of metal. When you consider that an album of this quality, this potential is merely a debut offering, you can be certain there is more ahead. And it will only get better from here. All that is left is to take a bow.


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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Blind Guardian - At The Edge Of Time (2010)

Pioneers. Visionaries. Masters. When the topic is symphonic power metal, Blind Guardian is all three. Those who doubt the connection between classical music and metal need only pick up any album by this German four piece. Flawlessly combining strings, horns and the standard guitar, bass and drums, the band has enjoyed success for more than two decades. Symphonic perfection is not common, but it seems to come easy.

Seconds after pressing play, you are treated to a flurry of strings and woodwinds, comparable to any symphony of the greats of yore. But Richard Wagner himself could not have conceived "Sacred Worlds" with such awe inspiring vividness. The orchestra does not fade, but rather melds with the band, creating a wall of sound like no other. Empowering and beautiful, the song is a story in itself, a call to action against evil.

The sonic assault that is "Tanelorn (Into The Void)" proves to be formidable. The vocal delivery is nothing short of monumental, showing both range and accuracy. All the while, drum fills blast forth, fast and furious. Guitar solos radiate outward, hitting you early and often, making it nearly impossible to sit still. A solemn drum march and chorus lead you onward, to "The Road Of No Release," an ominous warning of what lies ahead. Beautifully crafted backing vocals make it seem as though an entire choir accompanies the band on this quest. A piano melody ties the track up in a neat bow.

"Ride Into Obsession" is just that; a ride through the genre of power metal. Everything that has made this style so popular and accessible is presented for your approval. Orchestration, instrumentation, melodies both vocal and otherwise, and the pin point accuracy of each note. In sharp contrast comes the Renaissance modeled "Curse My Name," with all of its imagery sprouting forth. This offering would delight the most stubborn of kings. The quick fire tempo changes of "Valkyries" get the blood pumping, the heart beating and your mouth moving to the words. Air guitar is perfectly acceptable, and often hard to resist.

Questioning the right of ownership, "Control The Divine" is as lyrically powerful a piece as you will ever find. This could be the song of a movement, a call for freedom. It is followed by the down tempo, acoustic piece called 'War Of The Thrones." Another brilliant use of instrumentation, thinking outside of the proverbial power metal box. Since there is a noticeable lack of true metal radio, the choice of a single is often made to provide a cross section of an album prior to its release. This makes "A Voice In The Dark" the perfect choice for that honor. An unmistakable masterpiece of melody and substance, it gives just the right amount of each component to savor.

An epic adventure to close the album, "Wheel Of Time" is a movie theme waiting to happen. The fantastic use of horns takes this album to heights reached by so few. But it does not overpower, merely accents, the guitar and drum work. A string and percussion intermission creates visions of far off places, waiting to be explored. Surreal and life affirming, all at the same time.

The genre of power metal, in general, is one of few true superstars. This isn't for lack of opportunity, but rather because nearly everything has been done, perhaps to death. Only few can break new ground, set the others down a new path. When a band responsible for albums titled "Nightfall In Middle-Earth" and "A Twist In The Myth" has unnatural talents at their fingertips, rest assured things will never get stale. If their worlds were to collide, I think Beethoven, Mozart and Bach would beg for an audition. Maybe that is what they are looking towards when they named this album "At The Edge Of Time."


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