Thursday, June 30, 2011

Leaves' Eyes - Meredead (2011)

Get ready for another mystical adventure as the symphonic Leaves' Eyes have done it again. The German-Norwegian gothic metal group have released their fourth full length studio album, entitled "Meredead." Full of unique sound and beautifully crafted structure, the album puts together magnificent epic tones for all to enjoy.

Subtle "marching band" like snares start at the beginning of the first track, entitled "Spirits' Masquerade," which is followed by a chanting choir and smooth orchestrated strings. A short melodic burst of bag
pipes jumps in and out in between the chanting. The lead singer, Liv Kristine, lays her angelic vocals softly over the melody as the verse kicks in. Bass and snares are constant, giving you no time to rest
along with high cymbals that glide over the rest of the instruments, setting up a gorgeous image of bright sounds. There is a ravishing flute that later enters the song with hypnotizing notes which pull you
deeper. Kristine layers her voice on top of the flute flowing perfectly up and down the scale. You can barely tell that it is her voice as it is used more as an instrument at the time.

Another beautiful waterfall of strings fade in on track two, “Etain.” The album gets a little heavier in this one as the guitar levels are cranked up with high distortion giving the song a full sound. The chorus is layered with multiple vocals singing marvelous lyrics with great harmonization. Incredible instrumentation thoughout. There is also an interesting use of the xylophone in the beginning of “Velvet Heart,” combined with first pumping drum fills, dark piano, and a remarkable violin. The unique mix of instruments are truly fascinating. An electrifying guitar solo comes in following the bridge, making this song an epic masterpiece.

“To France” opens with calm acoustic riffs immediately grabbing your attention. Its got a likeable melody to the verse and the refrain is full of catchy riffs and lyrics. Don’t be surprised when you start singing along after only a listen or two. Another great guitar solo enters towards the end, really pushing the song over the top. Running for only 4 and a half minutes, it is definitely going to leave you wanting more so make sure you get this track set to “repeat.”

To change things up a little bit, you will come across a mixture of clean vocals and ominous growling in “Sigrlinn.” This sets up the beauty and the beast feel perfectly, as you will even hear the two vocals singing on top of each other at certain parts of the song. Instrument wise, the double bass pedaling is outstanding, mixing
multiple patterns of heavy blast beats while monstrous guitar riffs come crashing down over the verses. More gorgeous violins follow through the middle of the song which lead right into the bone shattering guitar solo. You will also notice heavy amounts of orchestrated strings surrounding the solo providing a full background of energy.

A machine gun of guitars shoot off in the beginning of “Nystev.” The song quickly quiets down as string slowly fade in accompanied by Kristine. The verses are absolutely beautiful and are sung with such passion. As the song builds up, the mood becomes more upbeat and jolly almost making you want to dance. A fast violin jumps in after the lyrics giving strong positive tones to the song. The structure is insane as it keeps going from fast to slow teasing you with heavy riffs but the relaxing you with soothing verses. The track is a real rush overall and keeps your ears locked in from start to finish.

From mellow acoustics to deafening distortion, “Meredead” provides different sounds from all angles and reaches out to all kinds of genres. Leaves’ Eyes has grown and improved so much throughout each
album. Clearly, after hearing this record a couple of times, they have developed their own sound and really set themselves apart from a lot of the other symphonic goth metal bands that are in the metal world. Definitely pick this album up as soon as possible!


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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Symfonia - In Paradisum (2011)

Sometimes, when it comes to heavy metal bands, members must come and go. Sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Not every line up stays the same. But don't think that those who leave are not busy stirring up new projects of their own. The power metal band Symfonia is made up of four guys who all had their share of success and, for whatever reason, are no longer with those bands. Including Timo Tolkki, former guitarist and songwriter in power metal favorites, Stratovarius. They have combined their musical skill and talent to create a new name in the power metal world and they have released their first studio recorded album entitled "In Paradisum."

The album begins with "Fields Of Avalon," which contains deafening guitar riffs that are full of screeching distortion. Booming drum fills follow through with rapid snares and deep kicks. Lead singer Andre Matos comes flying into the verse with symphonic clean vocals, hitting some impress high notes. The melody of the refrain grabs you immediately, as the speed of the guitar riffs will blow your mind. You will even notice the wicked double bass drumming flowing smoothly underneath the cymbals. This leads to a hell raising solo towards the end of the song that completely demolishes the musical scale.

"Come By The Hills" is track two on the album and has a very catchy little introduction. This leads to heavy guitars chugging along to the melody. It is very fast and upbeat in the beginning but calms down at the start of the verse. Things slowly build up to the chorus which keeps you at the edge of your seat while your waiting for it to drop. The structure of the song is great and really keeps you guessing from start to finish.

If you're looking for something a little more calm, track four, titled "Alayna," is a beautiful ballad for all to enjoy. Soft acoustic guitars accompany gorgeous vocals and are followed by a hypnotizing electric guitar solo that really captures you in the middle of the verses. Another solo also enters toward the end with electrifying energy. As the chorus keeps you at ease, the song slowly fades into the song entitled "Forevermore." Blaring guitars jump out in front as they are backed by relentless drum fills and terrific bass lines. You will also hear some impressive synthesizer melodies in the background that is constantly hitting note after note giving the song more fullness and a brighter feel. Organs take over towards the end giving off great orchestral tones. This, of course, is followed by another insane guitar solo. Lots of feeling and emotion in the lyrics as well.

Get ready to pump your fist for this nine and a half minute masterpiece. Track number seven, "In Paradisum" is full of heavy rock and roll guitar riffs combines with epic strings and a choir creating an interesting atmosphere. This all builds up in the intro, but quickly drops to a quick moment of silence as Matos slowly enters with the first verse using a soothing angelic voice. It quickly picks up again with reckless pounding of the drums and monstrous guitar riffs. There is a chanting choir in the middle of the song that gives it a real symphonic feel. Catchy guitars keep your ears glued to the speakers all the way through. And the guitar solo follows right behind it, pulling you in even deeper. Make sure you check this one out.

It's amazing to see what happens when members from different bands get together and put out a monster of an album. "In Paradisum" is excellent, exciting, emotional, and breath taking. The use of different orchestrated instruments in each song keeps the music refreshing through every track. It's a good mix of music and unique sound. I am definitely looking forward to more albums from Symfonia in the future.


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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Draconian - A Rose For The Apocalypse (2011)

When last we left Sweden's Draconian, they had blown Murmaider away with their 2005 offering, "Arcane Rain Fell", and left me with a heavy heart after 2008's "Turning Season Within." Now, staying on their "every three years" schedule, the band are set to release their newest and most complete album to date. And with "A Rose For The Apocalypse," the band take their sound to new heights, and your emotions to dark, new lows.

The apocalypse begins with a double bass attack, something "The Drowning Age" carries throughout. Dark, distorted chugging accompanies the otherworldly growls of frontman Anders Jacobsson. But, as with past releases, he is so often offset by the beauty of Lisa Johansson. The music slows to a doom styled crawl, with ominous spoken words layered on top of whining guitars and a booming kick drum. Following the solid writing and structure, we end where we began, and acoustic guitars fade out.

Dialing back the aggression slightly, "The Last Hour Ancient Sunlight" leads with Johansson's angelic tones, before drums build and Jacobsson takes over storytelling duties. His screams have grown in depth, cutting through the heavy drums and guitar work. He takes the track into the depths of Hell with each growl. A guitar melody brings you to "End Of The Rope," guided by blasting snares and rapid kicks. Dueling guitars form the body of the verse, allowing Jacobsson to deliver his lyrical power. Don't get lost in his harsh presentation, for their are well crafted lyrics contained therein. Johansson soothes your sonic wounds in each of her divine passages. A soft, echoing keyboard carries you out.

Johansson voice, too, has grown in power and passion, as is evident on "Elysian Night." Adding some effects to her backing vocals proves key, creating a ghostly feel when combined with keyboards and synths. Layer after layer, coming together in glorious, evil harmony. Drums continue to hammer away, clearing a path for deafening growls. A soft interlude featuring lightly spoken words caps things off. "Deadlight" does something you rarely see throughout the bands catalog. It pairs both harsh and clean female vocals together, on top of one another. The contrast is breathtaking. Blistering double bass work and high speed bass lines enter in "Dead World Assembly," coming to an abrupt halt when vocals enter. The tempo drops, the volume evens out, and Johansson leads. Like a dance, she then allows Jacobsson to spring forward with a thundering build of instruments and violence.

Acoustic strings introduce "A Phantom Dissonance" before the guitars tear down the walls. The band balance beauty and brawn, cutting back and forth flawlessly time and again. The song builds to a fury, then cuts back to a flowing work of art. There is an ethereal haze created in "The Quiet Storm," a track with a most fitting name. Acoustic strums are all Johansson needs, as her effects-tinged voice comes through like old time radio. Even as the destructive voice of Jacobsson enters, the music slowly descends to madness. he welcomes the oncoming storm, as do you, knowing that gritty guitars will aid you.

The album moves to a finish with the chugging work on "The Death Of Hours," a track that combines the dirty, sludge guitar work with darting melodic picking. The harsh male vocals are at their devastating best, destroying everything in sight. That low, hollow kick drum that has become a Draconian signature is always there, like thunder before the lightning. Brilliant, depresssing spoken words hand off the outro to a guitar solo. A fitting end to a emotional journey. Unless, of course, the digipak version of the album is in your hands. In that case, "Wall Of Sighs" will be your finale, with a beautiful violin solo that is as impressive as it is saddening.

Once again, Draconian assert themselves at the head of the class. One crushing track after another, the band prove that this is not a stale genre. They have honed their skills, developed their craft, and come back better than ever. There is always a shared concern among fans when bands take so much time between albums, especially when there is limited touring in between. But is simply not a problem for these Swedes. If this is what the apocalypse has in store for us, then bring it on.


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Monday, June 27, 2011

Alestorm - Back Through Time (2011)

What do you get when two crazy Scots and two Irishmen get together to form a band? You get true Scottish Pirate metal. No, this isn't a joke or a gimmick. This is Alestorm. You get all the energy and catchy tunes of folk metal, but with a nautical theme. And with this, their third full length album, the drunken crew travel "Back Through Time" to kill the Vikings. Avast, ye landlubbers!

The album's title track, "Back Through Time" sets sail this journey of metal. With shredding keyboards and guitars intertwined with lightning quick drum fills, these are no messy riffs. Unique instrumentation accentuates everything this band has to offer. Catchy chanting choruses will bring a smile to your face, while the punishing blast beats keep your head moving. Lyrical content is hilarious, but well written. The Vikings best beware. Evil guitar shredding launches the first single, "Shipwrecked". An accordion plays the melody while distorted guitar chords ring out. Raspy, accented lyrics are unleashed in droves, telling the tale of a shipwreck on a far island. Keyboards provide horns and synths, which are the perfect addition to this folk piece. The band showcase heavier moments with a chugging, thrashing, chanting breakdown.

"The Sunk'n Norwegian" is a track that would delight fans of the pure folk stylings of Korpiklaani. A jaunty tune, giving you something to do a jolly dance to. Gang vocals in the chorus could be a karaoke night gone wild. All the while, guitars crunch through verse and chorus, lead by pipes and horns. The dangers of drinking are clear! Leave it to these crazy pirates to work in a song about little people with the drum heavy "Midget Saw." These drums rolls and beats could fill in any thrash band across the world. Winding guitar chords and slamming bass highlight the uptempo stomp. A blazing solo ties it all together, putting a bow on this tiny tale.

The band powers through punk thrash tracks, like "Buckfast Powersmash," as well as the epic sea tale of "Scraping The Barrel." They kick through their favorite topic in "Rum," a song that is, in fact, about the drink itself. Guitars chug away through the horns, drum fill after drum fill. They proclaim, "The time has come, the time for a drink!" This is the type of song that could fill the pirate bars of the world. Guitar licks of the highest order take the spotlight on "Swashbuckled," with some boldly melodic results. The song has an air of triumph, of victory. Upbeat, uptempo and fun.

The band manage to a seven second song, titled "Rumpelkombo." This is a one breath affair, leading right into "Barrett's Privateers." This is pirate folk at it's best with gang vocals, precise drum beats and flowing guitar riffs. But, above it, it is a song to raise your drink to, in the style of so many brilliant folk pieces before it. A heavier midsection, complete with blistering guitar solo, makes this more than just a pub favorite. "Death Throes Of The Terrorsquid" starts as if it were a Blind Guardian track, blaring horns and shredding guitars first. But this is an epic tale of a deep sea beast, complete with the Scottish accent. Storytelling is a delight, albeit a farfetched kind of story. Keyboards are the star, providing everything from horns to strings.

Bands like Alestorm are often dismissed as a joke taken too far. But there is more than meets the eye here. You just have to be willing to hit play, sit back, and enjoy a different side of metal. For as heavy and emotional as death, doom, or black metal can be, there is still a place for the lighter side. And, every now and then, it is worth taking the time to enjoy a good yarn about wenches, brew, and beasts.


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Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Podcast: Episode 11 (Here waits thy DOOM)

Murmaider gives us his take on Ghost Brigade, and Hell22 talks about Odd Dimension and October Tide. The gang discusses the elements of Doom metal, and some of the bands you have to hear. Plus, Chester realizes his worst fears: a doctor inserting multiple fingers into his rectum. Don't miss out on this one!
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Edguy - King Of Fools [EP] (2004)

Straight from Fulda, Germany, Edguy is one of the most epic power metal bands to hit the metal scene. The band has released eight full length studio albums so far and are planning to release their ninth album this coming August. As awesome as these albums are, this review is actually on an EP that they released back in 2004. The EP is called "King Of Fools" and as amazing as it is, it could probably stand as an album by itself.

The first song, entitled "King Of Fools," kicks off the album with catchy synth notes which are quickly taken over by monstrous guitars that are full of reckless distortion. Lead singer Tobias Sammet jumps into the verse with aggression as his lyrics deliver a solid punch. This leads right into the chorus which has tons of energy. Cymbals are crashing everywhere while the guitar riffs are being slammed in the background. Sammet takes his vocals to an impressive operatic style and really helps the song hit its max. You will be singing along in no time!

Epic strings take over in the beginning of "New Age Messiah" which almost sounds like a score to a movie. The beautiful orchestrated stings are soon interrupted by booming snares as guitar riffs follow immediately after. The fast rapid chugging really keeps you moving. The guitar solo towards the end is electrifying and very impressive. The vocals echo throughout the verses in an up beat tempo. Your going to want to read up on the lyrics for this one as you will find them to be entertaining and at times, very funny.

They get a little more serious with "The Savage Union." Melodic guitar riffs hit the beginning layered with relentless drumming. One major part I would like to point out is a piece of the lyrics. Sammet sings the words "We don't give a fuck" in such a beautiful manor that you don't even notice that he's cursing. He's done this before in a song from his side project, Avantasia, as well. It's great how he can make curse words sound so epic and angelic. Music wise, the instruments are great. There is another magnificent solo that really destroys almost every note in the book. As the song fades, "Holy water" comes in with catchy guitar notes followed by layers of distorted chords and explosive kicks and snares. The verse breaks down into a drum and bass combination while vocals soar over them. The refrain is very likeable with its symphonic reach to the higher operatic notes and thumping bass lines. You'll be whistling the melody for days.

The final song on the EP is "Life And Times Of A Bonus Track" and yes, the title is quite literal. Jolly piano riffs are played throughout while Sammet puts tremendous passion into the song as he sings about what it is like to literally be a bonus track. The lyrics are hilarious and after hearing this song I now know exactly what it's like to be a bonus track. Gotta love that good old Edguy humor.

When a band releases an incredible EP such as this one, it goes to show the kind of talent and dedication that the group puts into their music. Edguy gets better and better with every new project that they release, whether it be a short EP or a full length album. From front to back, you will be rocking out and bobbing your head to the beat. This is definitely "must hear and repeat often" material.


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Friday, June 24, 2011

October Tide - A Thin Shell (2010)

During a temporary Katatonia break-up, singer Jonas Renkse and guitarist Fredrik Norrman launched October Tide. After one album together, and a second which saw Renkse replaced on vocal duties, the group disbanded. But in 2010, they rose from the ashes, with Norrman as the sole founding member remaining. Surrounded by a new band, including two members of progressive death metal outfit In Mourning, October Tide has returned to unveil "A Thin Shell."

With the pacing of strong death/doom, "The Custodian Of Science" wastes no time getting your head moving. A low, raspy growl builds from the fog. Even when the music fades back, those screams continue at their deafening best. Distorted plucking and the repeated thud of a kick drums are the car, the distressed vocals are the driver. A short, ethereal interlude offers a breath of fresh air, before having it crushed from your lungs. The aggression does not fade in "Deplorable Request," with guitars taking a chugging route through the verse. Sometimes lost in the overwhelming distortion is the intricate chord work, which becomes more evident in the more delicate midsection and the rare solo. The screams range from the guttural to the abrasive, with thunderous drum beats giving support.

Changing things up, "A Nighttime Project" plays to the more restrained side, allowing some of that impressive writing to shine through in a brilliant dual guitar intro. One plays an acoustic progression, the other whines over the top. The light tapping of drums enters, creating a noticeable groove. The beauty fades, and "Darkness Devours" begins, which is definitely a fitting flow. The slow, deliberate chugging returns, and the vocal abuse takes a hold of you. There is a detectable pain in the lyrics, delivered in a powerful manner here. The music explodes as the chorus begins. The violent pairing of screams and growls draws you in, while scaring you senseless.

The tempo increases on "The Dividing Line," letting the guitar drive the music forward. The drumming is rock solid, but never wavers from the pattern. Only an occasional roll or fill stands out from the rest. The vocals seem to grow more deafening with each passing track. Some blistering solo work sets "Fragile" in motion,  a track that is anything but. Even during the lighter portions, there is nothing delicate about this. Guitars chug through with distortion, but are not restricted to the lower registers. Smooth bass work gets a starring roll during down times, while guitars command attention.

The closing track, "Scorned" is death/doom at it's core. The drum beat is slow, almost crawling along. Kick, snare, cymbal combinations are all you need. The guitars are dreary, sucking the emotion out of you with each note. Vocals enter, every bit as draining to hear as they are to deliver. These are not songs of happiness and life. These are songs of depression, songs of loss and pain. And delivery is key to conveying that. It is a down tempo, torturous style. And "Scorned" embodies all of those things. Bang your head, but not for pleasure.

It is certainly possible to read the history of this band, and think you will be getting a Katatonia clone. But that could not be farther from reality. With Norrman no longer in Katatonia, and Renkse no longer in October Tide, the similarities are simply nonexistent. With this album, the band have entered the death/doom fray, one that seems to be growing in popularity. And among the titans of the genre, they may seem to fall short. But, I hope, we can crack through "A Thin Shell" and be treated to something more substantial.


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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini (2010)


They say Rome wasn't built in a day. The same goes for Enslaved, the ever present progressive metal band from Norway. Formed in 1991 by then teenagers Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson (13 and 17, respectively), the band has certainly dealt with their fair share of growing pains. But with the release of their eleventh album, Axioma Ethica Odini, the band show that all of the trials and tribulations were worth it. Produced by the now legendary Jens Bogren, the album is the crown jewel of the Enslaved discography.

The sounds of an oncoming storm approach, and before long, you are thrown head first into the fires of "Ethica Odini." Drums are unwavering, blasting forward with cutthroat precision. The guitars strum rapidly, and black metal shrieks break through the wall. The band waste no time is showing you what they have to offer this time around, from the crystal clear production to the dramatically improved clean vocals. Beautifully sung refrains are reminiscent of Opeth, demolishing any preconceived notions that Enslaved are one dimensional. Brief periods of soft bass work compliment the harsh shredding.

There is no mistaking this for an album by any other band. Chord progressions and the thunder of well played drum fills are Enslaved staples, and both are featured heavily on "Raidho." The vocals grind away in the verse, before becoming sublime in the chorus. The bridge sections are atmospheric in nature, with a strong bass groove leading the way. Diversity strengthens the whole, and a ripping solo in the outro is the icing on the proverbial cake. A deathly scream opens "Waruun," before double bass rolls take over. The band stomp away with pinpoint accuracy. Delicate acoustics and the light patter of cymbals introduce deep crooning. But, before you get carried away, the band come right back with damning screams and growls. The grit and emotion poured into every word is astonishing.

"The Beacon" is a black light in the darkness. High speed slashing and pounding lead off, providing the foundation for the screeching vocals. A short melodic piece in the middle turns down the heat, only to be burned to a crisp in the ending fury. This is progressive death at it's finest. It manages to be brutal without sacrificing talent and skill. Keyboards and an almost robotic spoken word haunt the short interlude "Axioma," a short respite before "Giants" crushes you. The intro is heavy and dark, painting the sky black. Even clean vocals can convey a sense of sorrow and dismay, and they do exactly that as the verses move forward. Deep, gutteral growls awaken the sleeping beast, and the drum patterns accelerate to match the chugging guitars. The brilliant back and forth tempo changes put an exclamation mark on each vocal passage, be it clean or dirty.

The vocal styles collide in "Singular," playing a call and response roll. The screams call out, and the clean, airy singing answers. The headbanging highlights rest here, with guitars strumming away from chord to chord, up and down the scales. The kick drums will shake your rib cage, especially when paired with a daring bass line. This rhythm section is to be reckoned with. The band shred away, setting the mood with each note, each cymbal crash. They show off raw power, with beautifully polished restraint.

"Night Sight" starts as if it came from the seventies progressive rock movement, with soft, smooth vocals and guitar melodies. The hammer drops, and peace and love give way to harm and death. Inner peace descends to unbridled aggression. The crushing wall of sound builds up anew, only to be torn down time and again. As important as an opening track is to an album, a fitting closer maybe more so. And this one is no exception. "Lightening" is a firestorm of blast beats, relentless guitar work, the low rolling bass lines and a combination of vocal deliveries. This song is the complete package of progressive metal goodies, giving you everything you came for, and more. The contrast created is inspiring.

Enslaved isn't a new band. This isn't their first rodeo. But they have managed to do something on "Axioma Ethica Odini" that many would argue they haven't done in more than a decade. This album is strong, start to finish, and everywhere in between. They have created a balance of power. This is not to say the album is half heavy and half mellow. But they found the proper percentages to make it flow. That is an accomplishment on it's own. But throw in excellent song writing and structure, and you have yourselves a winner.


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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Odd Dimension - Symmetrical (2011)

Hailing from Italy, Odd Dimension have made a bold statement with this, their first album. "Symmetrical" is a foray into the world of progressive power metal, taking a Dream Theater approach to a Stratovarius album, in a way. The band has all the talent necessary to make a splash. But in this game, momentum is the key. Can this Italian five piece keep up the pace, or will they lag behind?

A snare roll gives the cue for guitars and keys to wind their way up and down the scales. "Farewell To The Stars" is the promise. It makes a statement from the first note, one that is built around the fundamentals of progressive power metal: high speed drumming, powerful guitar licks and a bass line to drive it all home. A darting keyboard pokes through the foundation to provide extra melody. All the while, a slightly limited vocal range is on display. An acoustic midsection leads the way to a barrage of solos, from guitar to keys. Orchestrations provided by the synths are a focal point, carrying the melody to it's conclusion.

Standard rock riffs and a bass line that would make any jazz musician jealous kick off "Rising Through Light." But the strings must step aside and let the keyboard do it's work. The low kick drum provides the beat, with sizzling cymbals punctuating the count. The slowed tempo allows for some heavy chugging and drum combos before reintroducing the keyboard for some brilliant melodies. The vocals are hit and miss, sometimes failing to match the power delivered by the instruments. Slick guitar work takes you to the finish, and right into "The Ecstasy Of Hopes." Beautifully played piano leads off, submitting to the will of shredding guitars. Precise drum fills introduce the vocals, mid range and slightly raspy. Double kicks reveal themselves later on, each meeting of mallet to drum letting out a solid punch. Few delicately played keys serve as the outro.

"Another Shore" dips into some heavier moments. More drum fills, more distorted guitar work, but not in the dominating way. A soft interlude breaks in, slowing the pace to a slow crawl. When the beats picks up, you hear the first of the growls. They will catch you off guard, and will be immediately followed by screeching vocals. They serve as a bump in the road, throwing you off the trail, only to be jolted back with some tremendous solo work. "The Day Meets Night" may feel like a speed metal track at the start, but quickly loses steam. It goes from guitar thrash to a piano infused ballad, back into the keyboard driven progressive power metal style you expect. The clean vocals struggle to not be outdone by the music, but they thrive in the acoustic pieces, such as the breakdown portion found here.

"Lightspeed Journey" is a keyboard and guitar clinic that seems to slip and fall into an uptempo ballad. Multiple time signatures play off of one another, changing things up at the perfect time. The major issue is the vocals feel tacked on. The track feels as though it was written to be instrumental, but had a change of heart at the last moment. This only hurts the flow of the song. "I'll Be Back Once More" is a fitting ending to the journey. Jaunty and upbeat, it is a fulfillment to the promise made at the beginning of the album. Keyboards are atmospheric and spacey, padded by a thumping bass line. Drumming is spot on throughout, without ever stealing the spotlight away from the blazing solos.

Despite the occasional misstep, Odd Dimension manage to hammer out a dynamic mix of progressive and power metal elements. Guitar and keyboard work are stellar, and the rhythm section is precise, almost to a fault. There is so much to celebrate on the album, which unfortunately serves to highlight the lack of vocal polish. A slight tweak of the singing style and pattern made be needed. But I certainly do hope that, as the album's finale promises, they'll "be back once more."


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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Symphony X - Iconoclast (2011)

Progressive metal band Symphony X is finally back with a brand new album entitled "Iconoclast." This is the eighth full length album that the they have released. The album is full of progression mixed with symphonic power metal tones. From heavy bass lines and distorted guitar riffs to operatic strings and piano keys, this album has it all.

The album kicks off with the song "Iconoclast," which is over 10 minutes long. This track has got everything. Monstrous guitar riffs fill the air immediately as Michael Romeo shreds the scales up and down. He is accompanied by high cymbals splashing everywhere and constant kick/snare action. This is then surrounded by heavy orchestrated strings, giving the melody a warm background as you jump into the verse. The lead vocalist, Russell Allen, soars over the guitars with aggressive clean singing. Putting so much energy and passion into his voice, he really draws you closer to the music. Half way through the song enters a beautiful guitar solo that destroys every note in sight. The guitar work is absolutely magnificent. Also, pay close attention to the drums as you will notice the constant change in pattern and how smooth each roll is as it flows right into the next one.

"Electric Messiah" fades in with distortion, leading right into a wall of guitars towering over you with catchy yet complicated riffs. After hearing the refrain a couple of times, you will be singing along, as I'm sure you'll find it as likeable as I did. The song also has a melodic breakdown that will have you bobbing your head straight through. The way the drums play off the bass and guitar riffs is incredible. This is followed by a beast of a solo that will leave you breathless as the notes grab you by the throat!

"Heretic" is overwhelming with crazy double bass pedals and constant snares cracking off left and right. The fills that are played between the verses are mind blowing. The guitars are massive as they chug away in heavy melodic patterns. As the verses take over, Allen throws more aggressive vocals at you as he hits both operatic and mid range tones. You'll also find similar elements in "Children Of A Faceless God." Quick guitar riffs accompany booming bass lines giving tremendous power to the lower end of the song. Allen fits in perfect as his vocals fly over top with angelic lyrics. This is a "must hear" song!

Just when you thought things couldn't get any better, you will run into "When All Is Lost." This song starts out soft with ravishing piano riffs and gorgeous lyrics sung with Allen's marvelous vocals. Heavier distorted guitars enter later on. However, they continue to keep sort of soothing feel throughout. Later, an astonishing piano bridge enters layered with consoling strings. This is then followed with an electrifying guitar solo keeping you at the edge of your seat all the way to the end. This is truly a stunning masterpiece with great structure and meaningful lyrics.

After listening to the album straight through, its leaves you begging for more, almost as if they could offer you some sort of encore. Well guess what, Symphony X offers a special edition of "Iconoclast" which includes three extra bonus tracks! I highly suggest you pick this up if you are looking to fill your metal addiction. The album is astounding from front to back. This is a CD you'll want to keep in your stereo for days.


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Monday, June 20, 2011

Ghost Brigade - Isolation Songs (2009)

As great as it is to see Swallow The Sun putting out awesome albums, it is even greater to see that certain members of the band can manage to work with incredible side projects at the same time. Aleksi Munter, who plays keyboard for Swallow The Sun, is part of a band known as Ghost Brigade, which is a progressive doom metal band formed in Finland. Their second studio album, "Isolation Songs," is a dark and beautiful masterpiece that was released in 2009. The album has everything from dark, cruel growling to soft clean singing.

The album starts with a soothing guitar melody in "Suffocated." The soft notes are short, as they are disrupted by demonic riffs that come barreling down over deafening drums. The double bass work is quite impressive as it is surrounded by sizzling cymbals. Fist pumping guitars chug away through the verses full of energy and rage. The vocals enter with a roar. Deep growling accompanied by melodic guitar riffs give a catchy yet devilish feel to the refrain. "My Heart Is A Tomb" will put you at ease with its calm verses which contain quiet guitar riffs and light singing. The drums become heavier as the song builds up to the chorus. The rich sound of melodic riffs rush into the refrain leaving no time to breath as you are pummeled by the deep pounding waves of kicks and snares. Dark growling is layered with clean singing during the chorus giving off a unique and beautiful sound.

Track three, entitled "Into The Black Light," contain ravishing vocals, deep with lyrics. The verses have gorgeous melodies that will lure you in. The vocals in the refrain are sung with such beauty and are very catchy. The end carries out with crying guitars that are sure to be ringing in your head for days. "Lost In A Loop" keeps things dark again with its violent growling and aggressive guitar riffs during the verses. The riffs during the refrain are repetitive and will surround you with sadness. The bridge consists of slow soothing violins which help create the dark depressive tones even more.

"22:22 - Nihil" is one of the most beautiful instrumentals to ever hit your ear. Full of progression, the guitar riffs repeat the same melody as they add more instruments and effects to build a larger atmosphere. Piano follows along with the guitars while they play simple notes in the beginning. Distortion is later added when the heavy chords enter followed by booming drums. As the build up reaches its peak, heavy layered guitars chug away in two separate patterns giving the music fullness. The lead guitar work captures you with its angelic melody. Major double bass pedals come stomping in with wicked cymbals as rapid bass lines keep the ground shaking constantly.

If you are looking for that one solid epic song that is full of progressive riffs, "Birth" is what you're looking for. The song runs for over 9 minutes long and includes electrifying guitars and captivating piano parts. Quiet guitar melodies enter in the beginning filling the air with a depressive feel. Later enters loud guitar chords with evil features. The vocals are reckless growls throughout the verses and refrains. The piano towards the middle of the song is absolutely marvelous. You're going to want to replay this track a few times to catch all the details.

With its diverse style and constant change from light to dark sounds, "Isolation Songs" provides a little bit of everything for everyone. It is a well written and well rounded album for all to enjoy. Ghost Brigade has many different elements in their music that they have mashed together to create an epic and unique sound. This is definitely one of those album that you do not want to miss.


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Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Podcast: Episode 10 (I've got your Dimmu RIGHT HERE!)

Pagan's Mind has left Murmaider unimpressed, while Hell22 has nothing but good things to say about UneXpect. Chester has returned with a new outlook on life, and ready to finally complete his homework assignment. Dimmu Borgir is our focus, so we talk about how they have twisted their genre to suit their sound. And damn, it works for them!
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Helevorn: The Interview

What inspired  "Forthcoming Displeasures", lyrically and musically? And what is
the story, if any, of the album artwork?

"F.D" was inspired of the world’s global situation we’re now living, it’s a realistic and misanthropic concept. Talking about the past as the best thing that happened to us doesn’t make any sense and is unreal but talking about wrong things we are doing to build up our future suggests us a little more, all of this is embodied in the album cover and in the video of "From our Glorious Days". When we were making the album we were conscious about it.

Robert Hoyem (cover artwork artist) soon captured the artistic idea, human race represented by six bodies without face, walking through a path full of obstacles and stained with blood, at the end of this path there’s a big black hole and we all are heading it without asking ourselves why. It was a great opportunity to create a pessimist criticism.

As metal fans in the US, we come across very few true metal bands from Spain. Darkmoor is one that comes to mind. What is the metal scene like in Spain? And how have your roots played a part in the music you've created?

A few years ago, when we start with Helevorn in Spain there were only 2 or 3 “big” metal bands like Avulsed, that were able to make interesting music or with the capacity of touring. Nowadays, we have tons of new metal bands working hard outside our borders. Anyway we have lot of work to do.

So often, bands feel the need to do something crazy to sell records. They add a second (or third) singer, tune the guitars even lower, or invent some crazy gimmick. You guys have perfected your music, without resorting to any tricks along the way. How have you managed to continue to grow, without throwing away your identity?

When we write a song we also think on playing that song live and is really important for us to be faithful to the recorded version. It’s crazy to think that adding more and more instruments or 17 voices to a song you would sell more records.

The Death/doom genre is exploding, thanks to bands like Helevorn, as well as Draconian, Swallow The Sun, etc. What is it about the music you, and you brethren, create that draws so many people?

Maybe is the mix between the atmosphere and the aggressive sound of guitars, clean voices, etc.

Do you have plans on touring in America?

Not for the moment, but we are opened to any suggestions! We would love to tour in America. At this present moment we are promoting ourselves around Europe.

Do you have any bands (big or small) that you would want to tour with?

Britney Spears! Hehehe. Seriously, lots of them, but personally I think that Officium Triste or The 11th Hour would be nice. They are great people and good friends so what can be better than tour and party together?

What are your thoughts on the downloading of music? Do you see it as a problem, or is it helping to spread great music across the world?

I think that is a good chance for little bands like Helevorn to get extra promotion than a problem. We do not sell millions of copies and internet is a real important tool for bands like us to be promoted.

What does the future hold for Helevorn?

Perform as much as we can to promote “Forthcoming Displeasures” and start working on the new songs also. We are looking and moving forward for the new Helevorn album.
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Insomnium - Across The Dark (2009)

When last we left Finnish melodic death heroes Insomnium, they were taking the world by storm with their breakout album, "Above The Weeping World." Three years and countless tours later, the band find themselves at a unique crossroads. Do they continue down the path they forged over the course of 10 years, or do they do that which so many bands before them have done: "progress"? Thankfully, the choice they made was easy. No time for a 50 piece orchestra. No room for fluff. "Across The Dark" is Insomnium at that intense, in your face best.

There is no intro, no preparation for the slaughter to come. The band crashes into their own brand of high speed thrash, with the first riffs blastin g through your speakers. Drums, guitar and bass are in perfect unison with one another, laying the framework on which the deafening vocals will be built. Harsh, violent and abusive, the screams are relentless. Even as the music slows, the growls only grow more intense. A short, but stunning acoustic portion gives you moments of reprieve. One final attack commences with a piano outro.

A headbanging anthem follows, with "Down With The Sun" giving you all you can handle. Rapid double bass and crashing cymbals are a constant, sharing time with jabbing guitar notes and distorted chugging. It may seem impossible for screams of agony to be considered "beautiful," but you may change that opinion here. Often lost in the senseless screams of death metal are the emotional lyrics contained. Don't let them pass you by, or you will regret it. The soft tones of an acoustic dominated "Equivalence" are followed with booming kicks and a roaring bass line. The grating vocals have their moments, guiding the track to an end.

Whispered lines are replaced with overwhelming cries of pain. Guitars are uptempo and precise, but only half as bludgeoning as the lightning speed of kicks and snares. A rare, but short lived, solo flies by, giving light to the darkness of "Into The Woods." The track ends with a bang, and slows nonchalantly into the next, "The Harrowing Years." The low, almost hollow punch of the kick is the perfect compliment to the bass line. Clean, melodic singing, though not used often, becomes a powerful tool on this track, especially when offset with the grit and grind of the normal vocals. A down tempo outro section pairs those same harsh screams with a clean guitar tone, creating a surprisingly great marriage of light and dark.

Running for nine minutes, "The Lay Of Autumn" isn't your typical metal epic. It starts delicately enough, but quickly chooses the sound of distortion over the clean strings. The acoustics return, with melodic chords being played in partnership with a strong bass. Back and forth, from clean to dirty, the song holds your attention, leaving you marveling at talent on both sides of the spectrum. A dazzlingly depressing title, "Weighted Down With Sorrow" is a delivered, as advertised, with hopelessness throughout. Unreal amounts of emotion are poured out, not only in the defeated vocals, but in each guitar note, bass line and drum beat. You will share in their pain, if only for six minutes.

There is not time to feel bad, no time to hang your head. "Where The Last Wave Broke" is as strong a closer as you will find. Versatile and downright impressive, thrashing guitars are force fed. Blast beats and fills consume your ears, unseated only by the deep growls. Stunning clean vocals pair with the screams in a harmony none thought possible. With every ounce of energy spent, the band give everything they have left in a drum filled, string tinged outro.

There is something so empowering about a band sticking to their guns, continuing to make the music that they, as musicians, can be proud of. Insomnium are true superstars of melodic death, time and again creating tunes that are as catchy as they are punishing. From their formation in 1997 until now, so much has changed. But even more has stayed the same. Like a candle in the darkness, Insomnium are lighting the way to the higher ground.


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Friday, June 17, 2011

Ava Inferi - Onyx (2011)

Formed as the brainchild of former Mayhem composer Rune Eriksen and Portuguese singer Carmen Susana Simões, Ava Inferi has influences that stretch far and wide. But the one truth that stretches throughout their discography, albeit a small one, is the constant gray of life. Whether it be through the misery of everyday life, or the fascination with death and the hereafter, each track on their latest offering, and follow-up to the criticially acclaimed "Blood Of Bacchus," is ripe with pure, unadulterated gloom.

Dark riffs ring out, followed by operatic chanting and increasingly powerful drums. The title track, "Onyx," is chilling in it's female fronted verses, which are light on instrumentation. However, the choruses leave room for a flurry of solo guitar work. Quiet whispers create a mood that will leave goosebumps on your arms. It remains heavy, dark and brooding. Effects laden guitar leads you into "The Living End," before distortion kicks in. The clean vocals throughout are beautiful, yet emotionally draining. An eerie male voice enters in the refrain, gloomy and melancholy. Drumming is persistent, not tearing your attention away from the lyrical message, but not weighing down the composition.

Shortened, distorted scales take hold of "A Portal." The tempo never moves past a low roll, but momentum is not an issue. The song flows seamlessly from verse to chorus and back again. Brief keyboard induced orchestration only help to accentuate the gray clouds and their silver linings. No intricate guitar work, no crashing drum breakdowns. Only smooth, structured gothic style. "((Ghostlights))" could not have carried a more fitting title, sprinkled with recorded paranormal investigations. To say frontwoman Carmen Susana Simões' voice creates imagery of "the other side" is an understatement. Her tone will haunt your dreams, especially when paired with some more aggressive doom metal chugging. Slow, deliberate and otherworldly.

After a brief intro, "Majesty" sees some heavier guitar work, sliding up and down the neck. Drums enter, with a roll of toms. Vocals range from the somber, low range to the sublime, higher octaves, delivered with power and conviction. Bass work is a constant, never overpowering the leads. Spoken words and crashing waves provide the perfect opening for "The Heathen Island." In the nine minute track, you get a taste of everything the band has to offer. The bass gets a starring role, flowing through spoken passages. Guitars enter and exit, distorted riffs trading with harmonic picking. The drums throw a few unexpected fills at you, knocking you off balance. All the while, smooth, soothing female vocals put you at ease.

"By Candlelight And Mirrors" sees the band enter the realm of traditional doom at times, with a crawling pace and the typical kick/snare drum patterns. Guitars finally screech forward, on top of blazing double kicks. But the vocal patterns remain unchanged, soaring over the top of the chaos. A dark angel, delivering line after line of pitch perfect opera. Soft guitars and orchestration takes over in "Venice In Fog," building toward an unearthly finish. You may find that the delicate vocals provided by Ms. Simões will stay with you, long after the music has stopped.

It is an accomplishment to be so dark, so dreary, and yet so melodic. Ava Inferi does not sacrifice structure and flow, simply to throw in a head banging breakdown or air guitar inducing solo. The music created comes off as very organic and effortless, in the best possible way. It seems as though, three albums in to what promises to be a long and successful career, the band have recorded what will be known as their seminal offering. Much like its namesake, "Onyx" stands as a truly magnificent gem.


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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Finntroll - Nifelvind (2010)


Created in the midst of an alcohol fueled tirade, Finntroll have lay claim to the pagan metal crown. Their mission was to fuse the raw, larger than life sounds of black metal with traditional Finnish music (which could be called "Hoedown"). Over a decade and six full albums later, you think you have this band figured out. On  2010's "Nifelvind," Finntroll are here to tell you to sit back, and enjoy musical fusion at its finest.

A strong tribal drum beat builds into chanting and orchestrated strings and horns in the intro track, "Blodmarsch." But calm gives way to calamity, and "Solsagan" is unleashed. A flurry of kick drums and a deafening growl give you a taste of what is to come, a battering array of blast beats and high speed chugging. Background chanting keeps the aura of pagan folk metal intact, but only as support. The screams are powerful and, at times, tense. This creates the darkest of imagery for the album.

A set of toms with varying tones helps to pave the way for distortion and dismay. "Den Frusna Munnen" pairs hypnotic keyboard melodies with flowing, yet crunchy, guitar work. Vocals are coarse, demanding attention amidst the well timed snare/cymbal punch. The outro portion is a head bobbing success. Ethnic strings introduce you to a blood curdling scream in "Ett Norrskensdad," a track that is equal parts playful and painful. Even with instrumentation that seems upbeat, the vocals delivered are gritty. Is it possible to dance and swing your hair at the same time? "I Tradens Sang," on the other hand, leaves no room for celebration. The brutal double kicks are ever present, with lyrics pelting you in a harsh manner. Guitars take the fore, beating you down with distorted riff after distorted riff.

With a taste for the epic, Finntroll carve out the down tempo hammer of "Tiden Utan Tid." Rolling thunder and chants kick things off, with a constant chugging guitar emerges, only deviating to throw in a partial scale. The drum rolls are slow, in comparison to the previous tracks, but no less damaging. Things get violent as the track draws to its end, highlighted by the presence of tormenting keys and chants. "Galgasang" steps away from the bloodshed long enough to deliver a folk acoustic ballad, of sorts. Beautiful vocal melodies emerge for the first, and last, time. Don't get too comfortable, though, as "Mot Skuggornas Varld" returns the band to the heavier comfort zone. Synthesizers play the lead through most of the song, with a jaunty bass line cropping up at opportune times.

The musical carnival of "Under Bergets Rot" is as amusing as it is enjoyable. So many instruments, so many happy little notes emanating from your speakers, but only three minutes to catch them all. "Fornfamnad" seems to be a continuation, before it breaks away from the happy and dips into the harder side of life. Back and forth it goes, trampling the line between somber and sublime. The seven minute closer, "Drap" ties the album up in a dirty, choking knot, taking the chugging and slashing guitars and giving them a full two minutes to fade away into silence.

Finntroll manage to, once again, deliver an album worthy of the pagan metal moniker. Combining the raw with the refined, they have written, and subsequently rewritten, the text book on the genre. They have succeeded in their goal of combining two styles that would seem to be at odds with one another, and creating something that is mysterious, yet somehow soothing. Though, at album's end, you may also be telling the tale of the Finntroll.


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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pagan's Mind - Heavenly Ecstacy (2011)

After waiting almost four long years, Pagan's Mind has finally released their fifth studio album, entitled "Heavenly Ecstasy." The power metal band from Skien, Norway has gone over the top with electrifying solos and mystical lyrics.

The album starts with a short introduction of eerie synth sound effect giving off a dark feel that builds up into the next track. "Eyes Of Fire" fades in with shattering cymbals and powerful drumming. The refrain is full of energy as Nils K. Rue soars over the blaring guitars and heavy drumming with his angelic clean vocals. The song grabs a hold of you with chugging guitars that later enter the song. An insane guitar solo follows towards the end that will absolutely blow you away.

"Intermission" is the first single released off of the album, and you will see why, as catchy up beat guitar riffs lure you into the song. This fades into a calm verse as the instruments fall back and slowly begin to build up again. The chorus will hit you hard, as the vocals are loaded heavily with reverb effects. The melodies mixed with the gorgeous guitars will consume you with its catchy sounds. The song will leave you bobbing your head from start to finish.

If you're looking for something a little more aggressive, check out "Follow Your Way." Tons of distorted guitars layered on top of each other blast catchy chords at you, combined with detailed drum fills and fast bass lines. You will definitely want to hit the repeat button a couple of times for this song. "The Master's Voice" is another track that shows off their true power metal sound as the vocals in the refrain echo over the catchy melodic guitars. Thick bass lines are used to connect the verses and choruses smoothly. Epic strings accompany the explosive drums in the middle of the song which lead to a quick solo hitting every high note that there is. This song stands out a little more from the album because the vocals switch up and get a little darker at times, as you will hear in parts of the verses a more screechy high pitch vocal that differs from the regular power vocal you are used to hearing. Also, the drum solo that concludes the song is extraordinary as rapid change in patterns keep you at the edge of your seat the entire time.

Overall Pagan's Mind has much potential and definitely write some memorable choruses and detailed solos. However, that's about all you will find in "Heavenly Ecstasy." There are a lot of generic riffs and a lot of the songs sound the same. The album is average for what they have to offer. A little more musical creativity and a little less reverb on the vocals could improve their sound, and help them gain a little more attention. Check out the record if you get a chance, but I wouldn't put it at the top of the list of "must hear" albums.


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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mastodon - Leviathan (2004)

Loosely based on Herman Melville's novel "Moby Dick," Atlanta, Georgia's Mastodon have shown their creative and deeply imaginative side once again with the incredible "Leviathan." This is an earlier album of the progressive group that shook the metal industry back in 2004. For those of you who are unfamiliar, each of Mastodons albums have, so far, represented an element. This album represents the element of water.

It kicks off with a heavy dose of violence with the song "Blood And Thunder." Groovy guitar riffs immediately fill the air through the verses. The refrain has tremendous amounts of aggressive vocals that include a unique mixture of yelling and growling. The drum fills are phenomenally performed by Brann Dailor. Loudly distorted guitars surround Troy Sanders' monstrous vocals during the last verse. This is an amazing opening track full of energy and excitement. And no, it doesn't stop there, "I Am Ahab" continues the fast pace, with deafening guitar riffs and vicious drum work. The vocals are violent and mixed with dark emotion. Unfortunately, this magnificent song runs for less than 3 minutes long, leaving you wanting more. Hitting the replay button is a must!

"Seabeast" starts out a little slower with eerie melodic guitars. Things pick up in the verse, with uncontrollable drumming and overwrought vocals. The song ends with stormy guitar riffs chugging away heavily layered with punchy bass. The opening guitars in "Iron Tusk" contain turbulent riffs that will be stuck in your head for days. Harsh vocals enter for the verses and are accompanied by deep bass lines and relentless drumming. The structure of this song is unique as its constantly changing melodic patterns.

One of the most appealing songs on the album is "Naked Burn." Brent Hinds takes over the vocals, singing catchy melodic lyrics throughout. You can hear so much passion in his voice during the refrain. "Aqua Dementia" contains wicked vocals that might make you flinch. The guitars are reckless and groovy all in one, and will probably make you want to dance to its catchiness! However things slow down again with "Hearts Alive" which is one of Mastodons most epic and progressive songs. Running for well over 13 minutes, it starts with the sound of the ocean as soothing guitars and insane drum fills fade in. Dailor is one of the most talented drummers in the metal industry, as you will hear some of his complex fills and snare patterns throughout the song. The structure is truly different as the riffs switch up in tempo and get heavier and softer without notice. Loud yelling vocals start off the verse while demonic clean vocals follow. The guitar work throughout this song is astonishing and at times, hard to keep up with. Considering the lengthiness of the track, its still a song your going want to hear a couple of times in a row to catch every little detail. "Joesph Merrick" is the final track that ends the album on a calm, relaxing note. It is a simple three and a half minute instrumental that gives great imagery to the end of the album.

With every album comes great surprise and amazing results, as Mastodon grows and changes their style each time. "Leviathan" is a well rounded album offering everything from catchy refrains to heavy progression at its best. The album also contains beautiful artwork done by graphic designer Paul Romano. Who would have thought that the element of water could be so metal?


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Monday, June 13, 2011

UneXpect - Fables Of The Sleepless Empire (2011)

UneXpect, the kings of the bizarre, are making a comeback after a five year absence. With their new album, titled "Fables Of The Sleepless Empire," the band look to reassert themselves, and assure you that they have not changed. A trip to the wild side awaits you, one that you will be hard pressed to describe, but you won't soon forget.

Angelic female vocals are the perfect intro to "Unsolved Ideas Of A Distorted Guest," immediately fulfilling the "beauty" side of the band. A strong drum beat keeps the pace, supported by a up and down bass line. Lightning fast guitar work, in the form of picking and plucking, breaks down to distorted chugging. The soft voice disappears, unavailing devilish screams and deep, guttural growls. Now the beast is unleashed. The instrumentation seems chaotic at times, with keys tying all the pieces together. Harsh screams take you down a dark path to the conclusion.

Smooth bass and passive strings join that same heavenly voice to begin 'Words," a track that quickly turns. Dark symphonics peek through, yearning to take over. The bass and guitar move at lightning speeds, leaving the drums to fill the gaps with roll after fill. Vocal diversity is a key here, borrowing from every possible style, from clean singing to death styled growls, and everything in between. Keys are demented and spacey, creating an atmosphere that will frighten you. "Orange Vigilantes" has all of the drumming prowess of the best black metal has to offer, but relies heavily on immediate tempo changes and a hint of the wicked. You are not afforded time to rest and catch your breath in the dulcet, female lead vocal passages. Seconds later, piano keys and jazzy bass work take you into another realm. Variety is the spice of life.

The band blaze through odd time signatures and equally strange instrumentation on "Mechanical Phoenix" and the aptly titled "The Quantum Symphony," a track which will leave you trying to hash out new mathematics to figure out what beat this band marches to. "Unfed Pendulum," a taste of the bizarre, combines shredding strings with robotic chants and screams that could come from Satan himself. That is, if Satan likes to boogie. Dust off your dancing shoes, because there is a jazz swing breakdown that will have you on your feet. "In The Mind Of The Last Whale" is only three minutes in length, but not short on creativity. A short instrumental to cleanse the pallet.

"Silence This Parasite" highlights the drum capabilities and solidifies the "beauty and the beast" vocal stylings the band is known for. The drums punch ahead, with brilliant string work and frightening vocal passages. "A Fading Stance" is a welcome interlude, with sweet vocals and layered strings, almost dreamlike in its harmony. The album ends on as bizarre a note as it begins with crushing "When The Joyful Dead Are Dancing" and "Until Yet A few More Deaths Do Us Part," with the latter being a demented set of wedding vows.

Fans of the same old same old will be instantly turned off by everything this album has to offer. There is simply no way to take it all in with only one listen. Being unique is not always a recipe for success. Different isn't always better. But in the case of UneXpect, strong musicianship and creative writing make being strange seem like a good idea. The circus is in town, and it is time to enjoy a taste of the bizarre.


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Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Podcast: Episode 9 (Birthday Dethday)

Can you believe it? Nine weeks, nine podcasts, and Mastodon mentioned in each and every one. New artist spotlight focuses on Hell, Infestus and While Heaven Wept. And to celebrate Murmaider's birthday, we go off on a tangent of Black Metal. How do the stereotypes represent the black metal scene as a whole? And how do break away from them, and form your own identity? Not every black metal band wears corpse paint and burns churches, guy.

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Fans of black metal, unite and leave us your comments!
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Skogen: The Interview

Let me start off with how honored we are to have an interview with Skogen.
Thank you very much! Always good with an interview.
What inspired  "Svitjod", lyrically and musically? Are the lyrics written from a personal perspective, or are they just simply lyrics? And what is the story, if any, of the album artwork?

Lyrically it's a mix of the dark parts of old Swedish history, like witch burnings, the bubonic plague and torture, and just cold, long winters, solitude and nature. Musically we did riffs and melodies that we thought would set the mood, and that we like ourselves. We always look for the right atmosphere.

Black metal stereotypes paint all people in the genre as Satan worshippers, who burn churches. How do you feel about that? Is black metal all evil and darkness?
Well, we do not play satanic black metal. We play the music we like, and people just categorize us. The music itself it rooted in black metal though.
The black metal I listened to, and still listen to the most, is satanic. Bands that I looked up to back in the days, are now less satanic and have stupid outfits. Take Dark Funeral for example. Their first mcd and "Secrets of the black arts" are amazing! Blackmoon certainly knew how to make evil riffs. But now it's all about speed, they're posing with their instruments in the photos and the singer looks like Skeletor from He-Man. People might think that it doesn't matter, but it does.
When it comes to church burnings, I think it just adds more feeling to the mystique. Christianity is a filthy religion filled with hypocrisy and lies, and that so many millions still worship it in 2011, is just a proof that mankind's stupidity is only increasing. I'm not against church burnings, but I wouldn't do it myself.

How important was it to maintain that raw, black metal sound?
It can't be too easy listening, but not too low-fi either. There are too many shitty bands with shitty sound out there, that can't even play their instruments properly. I think it's important to have a sound where you can hear all instruments perfectly, and that sets the mood. I have alot of cds at home with bands that have bad sound, and with one of them I actually couldn't hear if the drums were playing grind or a slow, steady beat, because of the poor sound. So to sum it up: raw, but clean and listenable.
What is the typical recording process like for you? What kind of studio or equipment do you use?
For "Svitjod", we recorded the drums in a nameless studio in our hometown. Then we recorded all guitars, bass and vocals at Mathias' studio, like we also did with "Vittra". We are pretty fast in the recording process, we just have alot of material and take our time to get it exactly how we want it to be, before recording it. All three of us can play guitar, so everyone's making riffs and stuff. As for the recording, we use Cubase 3, and the equipment we used are Gibson guitars, Engl head with a Marshall amp, Ashdown amp for the bass, and Tama drums.
Who were some major bands that have influenced you?
It's everything from the obvious bands like Drudkh and Walknut to maybe less obvious like King Diamond.

What bands/artists do you enjoy listening to in your spare time? Are there any other genres besides metal that you like?
We listen to alot of different stuff. Without revealing who's listening to what, here are some bands: Rush, Deicide, King Diamond, Drudkh, Queensrÿche, Exodus, Graveyard, Depeche Mode, Marduk, Ghost, U.K., Funeral Mist, Testament, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Walknut, Mercyful Fate, Strebers, Immortal, Black Sabbath, Possessed, Emperor, Autopsy, Windir, Megadeth, Repulsion, Watain, Fleet Foxes, Metallica, Morbid Angel, Slayer, Dissection.   
Obviously, black metal fans across the world are finding your music online. Do you see downloading as a problem, or is it helping to spread great music across the world?
I think Lars Ulrich is the only one who actually cares and fights it nowadays. We think it's great that our music is available for everyone. The genre we play is not very broad, and not every store care to sell it, so it's only good. But we also want people to buy our albums, of course!
What does the future hold for Skogen? When can we expect an American invasion?
We're rehearsing new songs at the moment, for a new release in the future. An American invasion sounds good! Maybe it's not so easy with our Swedish lyrics though. We haven't play a single show yet, but sometime, somewhere in the future we will! We haven't gotten any requests yet.
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