Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Podcast: Episode 14 (The POW in Power Metal)

So, here we are again. Hell22 wants to shed some light on The Howling Void and Echoterra, and the gang fawns over Alcest once again. Murmaider gets all warm and fuzzy talking about the new Mastodon track, "Black Tongue," and we wonder if the rumors are true.... is there really no growling or screaming in the new Opeth album? "The Devil's Orchard" seems to indicate exactly that! Near and dear to our hearts, we feel the need to talk about power metal. Whether you love it or hate it, power metal is the gateway to so many other things. Murmaider wouldn't be the metal maniac he is today without the symphonic, operatic, and empowering themes. Right? Right.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Slayer - World Painted Blood (2009)

For those of you wondering if Slayer still has it in them to deliver a monstrous album, well "World Painted Blood" screams "hell yes." After getting some negative feedback from a lot of fans about their previous album, "Christ Illusion," Slayer has really bounced back with this 2009 release. It's the bands 11th studio album and they've gone through a lot of different styles to get to where they are today. This album has a little bit of everything, yet still offers their original sound keeping everyonem both new fans and old, satisfied.

The album starts off bursting with massive amounts of bass in the song "World Painted Blood." This is over five minutes of Slayer doing what they do best. The build up in the beginning introduces the song perfectly as it quickly picks up the tempo with violent guitar riffs and fast vocals. The chorus will ring in your head for days as the lyrics are followed by a catchy melody of distorted notes. There is barely any rest between kicks as they are constantly pounding away in the background. The bridge does, however, slow down for a brief second as lead singer, Tom Araya, speaks in an angry tone as he delivers some harsh lyrics. The final verse picks up as the song speeds up again. The chorus gets louder and more reckless each time its repeated. Such a solid way to start off this monster of an album.

The next couple of tracks will completely knock you on your ass as "Unit 731" is nothing but blaring guitar riffs layered with shattering cymbals and rapid kick/snare action. This is two and a half minutes of pulverizing thrash metal. And the great thing is, it's followed by "Snuff" which starts off with a hell raising guitar solo keeping the structure unique and mind blowing at the same time. The verse fly through the song like a tornado lyrically destroying everything in its way. Repetitive lyrics like "Murder in my future" just gives you a chill down your spine yet a smile on your face at the same time. So much anger and hate is felt in the delivery of the vocals. Also, be prepared for a couple more solos towards the end. Each one climbing higher and higher on the scales. Very impress guitar work, I must say.

One of my favorite songs on the album is the following track, entitled "Beauty Through Order." It's got so many different elements involved as far as tempo, vocals, and mixture of melody. The song starts out slower with a catchy guitar riff built up by rolling double bass pedals. Araya's vocals have a little more melody. They are still delivered in an angry tone, yet it's got more of a melodic touch to it. This, of course, changes as the song goes on. The violent thrash vocals come out when the explosive drumming picks up. Electrifying guitars fill the air giving a more demonic feel to the song. This is definitely some great head banging music. And the solos are just flying everywhere. Get that "repeat" button ready!

"Hate Worldwide" goes right back to the monstrous thrash metal. The drum fills are incredible, as you hear so much detail within every roll. The vocals go back and forth with short little solos which really keep you attached the entire time. Wicked notes layered with deep bass lines will consume you as you are crushed by constant snares in the track. "Americon" is another powerful track with lots of energy. Slayer shares strong lyrics about the government and basically how they're fucking everything up. The vocals are, again, delivered with such passion and anger which draws a great picture of the message they are trying to get across. Definitely get ready to pump your fists to this one.

"Playing With Dolls" starts with a basic guitar riff layered with clean vocals as the drums slowly enter. "Die in front of me" is shouted in the refrain making this another one of my favorite song on the album. Lyrically, it doesn't get any more metal than this. The drum fills get a little more light as most of the song is a basic riff repeated with little distortion giving a clearer view of the drum rolls. Certain parts do pick up a little with layered guitars towards the end, but for the most part the tempo runs at a slower speed than most of the songs. However, things do pick up yet again with the final track "Not Of This God." Immediately intrigued by the title, the song follows with a solid punch. It's got a heavy breakdown towards the middle of the song where the bass and drums just explode through the speakers. The guitars are fast and aggressive throughout leaving you bobbing you're head constantly. This is a great way to end the album.

Of course after hearing this album, you're going to want to replay it from start to finish. There is definitely a lot of shit going on that you might miss the first time through. Being known as one of the kings of thrash metal, I can only imagine how tough it is to stay unique yet sound the same album to album. Clearly this isn't an issue for Slayer as they prove yet again that they still have what it takes. Hopefully they will release another incredible album soon!


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Friday, July 29, 2011

Alcest - Le Secret (2011)


The quiet, clean guitars tones that open "Le Secret" are soothing, leading to the sizzling of cymbals and the addition of the kick/snare drumming. The bassline is not overstated, yet powerful all the same. This is progressive rock, played beautifully, in the same realm as Porcupine Tree. But the aural assault is soon to follow, with guitars ringing out distorted tones, and the light tapping of drums building to a thunder. Soft vocals enter nearly five minutes into the song, yet keeping the same rapid fire drumming that has come to be synonymous with black metal.

You may feel as though you have spaced out, because time is simply not important anymore. Everything flows together perfectly, and you may find yourself lost in the haze. The instrumentation is fragile, with each pillar standing, delicately, on it's own. But the strength of all these pieces together is unreal at times, with the thumping of kick drums propping up a melody, or a high energy bass line forming the glue between kick and snare. An interlude of almost punk fervor comes dashing to an end with an acoustic tinged portion. The full band sound reenters, but with little more than a whisper. The gasp of vocals peeks through, but only to guide the song to an end.

The second track, "Elevation" is aptly named and well performed. The heavenly sound of keys may bring a tear to your eye, as the darkened clouds part and expose a shining sun. This passage would be as at home in a church as it would in a garage studio. But with the greatest beauty, comes the strongest crash. With the ringing of a cymbal, the high speed drumming begins, complimented by distorted, yet clear, guitar chords. The sparkling low end of the bass is enough to tie it all together. The screeching, hoarse vocals enter, in such a sharp contrast to the music being performed. They scream forward, over top of the building energy. As the distortion fades, clean guitars return. But not for long.

The effects build, the thump of a kick drum sends your woofers in motion, a some fancy string work leads you into a post-metal blitz. To say the music is "atmospheric" does not to it justice. It surrounds you. The layers and layers of distortion and low end rumbling form a wall around your head. Even as the harsh vocals take command again, you can't help but feel relaxed. The crashing of cymbals only strengthens the emotions that will run through you. It all fades away, and those eerie keyboard tones return, laying you down amongst the clouds. And as quickly as it began, it all fades away.

This re-imagining of the original work was well executed, and much needed. Included on this re-release are the original versions, recorded in 2005. Contrary to the early recordings, these have a production value that allows us to see the vision. I find it hard to describe the imagery created. In fact, I struggled to stay alert during this album, choosing, rather, to slip into a state of consciousness where only the music existed. The first time you hit play, don't read. Don't drive. Don't eat. Just Listen.


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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Arch Enemy - Doomsday Machine (2005)

Looking for Hell raising solos and constant melodic riffs with monstrous lyrics delivered by a chick? Then look no further, as Arch Enemy is the band for you! In 2005, the Swedish melodic death metal group released their sixth studio album, entitled "Doomsday Machine." This album hit the metal scene hard as everyone was talking about it. Pure flawlessness.

"Enter The Machine" is the intro to the album and it is such an electrifying way to open up a killer album. This intro had me hooked from the start as it built up the suspense to the rest of the album. Following this is "Taking Back My Soul." Voilent drums come rolling in with sharp cymbals smashing from left to right. The guitar riffs are extremely wild and will blow you away. Angela Gassow enters in the verse with her haunting growls and completely destroys everything. The double bass work, by drummer Daniel Erlandsson, is incredible as his destructive rhythms knock down anything in its way.

"Nemesis" starts off with speedy guitar riffs as Gassow releases an evil growl that might make you crap yourself. Her aggressiveness gives so much more feeling to the song and will really pull you into the music. The refrain is very catchy with its melodic riffs and solid lyrics. You'll be singing along in no time that's for sure. The Amott brothers to all the guitar work in Arch Enemy and this is song really shows off their talent and song writing skills. The guitar solo towards the end its absolutely beautiful.

This next one, entitled "My Apocalypse" is one of my favorites. Gassow's wicked vocals soar over the rapid double bass pedaling. The guitar riffs are demonic and full of anger. The song later breaks down to just bass, drums, and melodic guitars with no distortion. This is where the solos come in. After hearing these angelic solos. Gassow comes back in with more violent vocals as the guitars get louder. This is definitely one of those songs that will make you bob your head from start to finish. You may want to prepare to hit replay as well.

"Hybrids Of Steel" has got some crazy guitars right from the get as high flying notes come soaring in. The constant kick and snare will have you rocking your head to the beat the entire time as the Amott brothers tear up the musical scale over and over again. "Mechanic God Creation" is another song towards the end that you won't want to miss. Distortion constantly fading in towards the beginning will have you at the edge of your seat as you're waiting for what's next. Gassow releases some devilish growls that make you wonder just how a hot chick like her can produce such evil sounding vocals. The guitar riffs are just as vicious as Gassow's lyrics are. Also the solo at the end is insane and will definitely blow your mind.

Arch Enemy has never failed us as they always deliver fast, aggressive guitar riffs with moving lyrics carried by the amazing Gassow. "Doomsday Machine" is, by far, one of their best albums that the band have ever released. As long as their solos continue to be explosive and their guitars stay melodic and heavy, Arch Enemy fans will always be waiting for more!


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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Echoterra - Land Of The Midnight Sun (2011)

Something special happens when the right pieces come together. Formed in 2007 by guitarist Yan Leviathan and keyboardist Jonah Weingarten, Minnesota's Echoterra were a progressive symphonic metal puzzle missing a center piece. When Melissa Ferlaak (Visions Of Atlantis) replaced original vocalist Suvi Virtanen in late 2009, things changed, leading the band on the path to greater success than ever before. With the coming release of their second full length effort, first with Melissa at the lead, there are bright skies ahead in "Land Of The Midnight Sun."

The darting of keyboards leads off, welcoming in a screeching guitar and the powerful thud of kick drums of "After The Rain." The vocals, bordering between gothic and operatic, enter. There is no denying the power possessed by Melissa, bringing to mind Nightwish's former songstress, Tarja Turunen. The orchestrations are deep and rich, culminating in an impressive solo. The majestic keyboards remain the outright star in "The Best Is Yet To Come." They remain versatile, whether it be providing the lead melody, or simply atmospheric tones in the background. The headbanging guitar chords are the perfect fit. Together, it provides a clean slate for the vocals. And though the lyrics may fall short, the delivery is clean, crisp, and emotionally charged. The outro section has all the flare and energy of Dragonforce, but with the intelligence and skill Stratovarius.

Melissa's operatic talents shine through in the early verses of "Midnight Sun." The tempo has seen a jump, with guitars and drums racing one another. The breakdown shows the heavy side, guitars chugging away while the haunting vocal tones climb over the top. A keyboard solo of epic proportions steals the stage, running up and down the scales, precise and powerful. The sound of delicate keys somehow carries weight over distorted guitars and the crashing of cymbals, a theme for "The Ghost Within My Heart." The use of ethereal synths is perfect, creating a mood that would otherwise be lost. Another lightning fast solo leads this one to a ghostly finish.

The first chords of "All The Lies" may catch you off guard, giving off a dark, heavier energy than the previous tracks. But as Melissa's voice takes hold, you will find yourself soothed by her warmth. The keyboard work in this track is top notch, providing every necessary piece of the puzzle, all the while remaining fresh. The drumming is steadfast, though lacking a real change of pace. The robotic precision of the opening drums on "Unleash The Flood" is welcomed, opening the door for the winding operatic vocals to build. The slight grit of the guitars is much needed, allowing the keys, chords and voice to play off of one another. The piano melodies are astonishing, and will leave you in awe.

The most well rounded track, "A Different Story," offers a little piece of the spotlight to each member of the band. The guitars come through, a little stronger than before. The orchestrated pieces are perfect, locking together with the enchanting vocals. A strong bass presence helps to accentuate the drumming, something you may have been searching for earlier. The gray beauty of "Welcome My Friend Of Misery" and the spacey keyboards of "Memories Of Another Time" are the perfect one-two punch; so different, yet fitting together so well.

The vocals are ambitious on "From The Gutter To The Throne." The shackles are off, and Melissa takes a more aggressive approach. Her voice echos the melody, with wonderful tone and accuracy. It shows its greatest strength when paired with the clean piano, voice and ivory coming together in a glorious harmony. The rapid kicks and snares are flying about, shrouded in cymbal crashes and keyboard rhythms. The album ends with a bang, the symphonic thrashing of "Genes Of Isis." This is operatic symphonic metal at it's finest, with every element playing their role to perfectly. The keys remain the backbone, with layer upon layer of sounds. Vocals are glass shattering, with range and restraint. The drums are unleashed, providing that low rumble we yearn for. The light guitar distortion is just enough. And the piano outro is a classic, fluttery and airy.

The world of symphonic metal is a crowded one, with so many artists trying their hand at the genre. But Echoterra has something that so many others do not. They have a keyboard virtuoso in Jonah Weingarten. He is the vessel through which the music must flow. And with the proper pieces in place around him on "Land Of The Midnight Sun", Echoterra has a course set for success. With a light coat of polish, and a few edges smoothed, the pride of Minnesota could become the symphonic kings of the nation.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Avanstasia - The Wicked Symphony (2010)

Here's some true symphonic power metal at its best. Avantasia, the side project of Edguy's lead singer Tobias Sammet, has released "The Wicked Symphony" which is his fourth studio album. This album is the second part of the "Wicked Trilogy." The first part being "The Scarecrow" and the third part being "Angel Of Babylon." Each of these albums have amazing lineups as far as guest musicians go. This truly is a metal opera!

The first track, entitled "The Wicked Symphony," starts out quiet with soft orchestrated strings that build up to the chugging guitars. The verses are deep with moving lyrics. Tobias Sammet shares the mic with Jorn Lande, lead singer of Masterplan, and Russell Allen, lead singer of Symphony X. Together they form an angelic sound in vocals that will blow you away. The chorus is stunning with its symphonic build up and echoing lyrics that are hit in the highest of notes. Such powerful deliver in every word. Get ready to learn the lyrics because you are going to be singing along often. And that goes for the entire album. "Wastelands" is another amazing track full energy as the drums are constant following the heavy chugging of guitars. The solo towards the end of the song is electrifying as it runs up and down the scales rapidly. The vocals are shared between Sammet and Michael Kiske, ex-vocalist of Helloween. The amount of talent on this album is just astonishing.

"Scales Of Justice" starts off a little more aggressive with rough guitar riffs being slammed against booming drums. The vocals are done by Tim "Ripper" Owens, former lead singer of Iced Earth and, more famously, Judas Priest. Strong lyrics that are well delivered. Also pay attention to some of the drum fills in the song. So much technical detail and impressive double bass pedal action. One of the first singles released off of this album was "Dying For An Angel" which featured Klaus Meine, lead singer of the Scorpions. Together they created a powerful mix, using reverb and flange effects in certain parts of their vocals giving off sort of a futuristic sound. The chorus will grab you with its catchy melody and memorable lyrics. The soaring guitar solos are phenomenal and smoothly copy the melody of the refrain in a detailed way. This is definitely a song that you are going to want to put on repeat for a while.

Another track with pure epic tones is "Runaway Train." This eight and a half minute masterpiece is absolutely stunning. It starts with soft piano and soothing vocals. About one minute in enters wild guitars and rapid snares blasting away. The vocals are split between Sammet, Lande, Kiske, Allen, and Bob Catley who is the lead singer of the rock band Magnum. The lyrics in the chorus just take you into a while other world. The break down in the middle of the track with rapid piano riffs is pretty awesome as the instruments build louder and louder. This all leads to an incredible solo that will completely take your breath away. Following the solo comes a small verse with just the piano and vocals with beautiful lyrics. As this fades, Sammet comes back in with the chorus as it is repeated for the last minute of the song. It's going to be the fastest eight and a half minutes of your life, so you're probably going to want to replay it.

Catchy synthesizers open "Crestfallen" as heavy guitar chug along with the melody. The chorus to this song is huge and really blows up when it drops. Distortion is everywhere, while the drums pound away at the snare and shattering cymbals. Together, Sammet and Lande take care of the vocals. Lande also contributes to the following song, "Forever Is A Long Time." This song has got some overwhelming guitar work. Ripping guitar riffs screaming with distortion. Double bass in the chorus will have you bobbing your head for sure.

And if you like this track then you'll love "States Of Matter." The vocals in the first verse are done by Allen and he really shows of his talent in the chorus with his high notes. Sammet takes over in the second verse for another magnificent performance. The solo is perfect, the verses are solid, and the refrain is catchy as hell. The only problem with this song is that its only four minutes long! But don't worry, your greeted with "The Edge" as the album comes to a close. Sammet delivers the vocals alone in this one. Gorgeous lyrics fly though the air in this one. The verses are soft with a smooth bass line and a couple guitar riffs. The chorus build with deafening distorted riffs and constant kick-snare action. The melody of the chorus will be stuck in your head for days.

Keep in mind that "The Wicked Symphony" is only one of three amazing albums put together to form this epic trilogy that the musical genius Tobias Sammet has created. With the help of his friends and other talented musicians, these albums will be known and listened to for a very long time. Now all we need is for Avantasia to do a U.S. tour!


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Monday, July 25, 2011

The Howling Void - Shadows Over The Cosmos (2010)


Hailing from San Antonio, Texas, The Howling Void is more than just another funeral doom band. Having been (self) described as a "glacial, wandering meditations on Chaos, Time, and Light," you are surely not in for a metalcore scream fest. This is truly doom at it's core; low, slow, and depressive. Throw in a healthy dose of symphonics, and you have "Shadows Over The Cosmos."

Those stunning symphonic elements are on display in the opening to "The Primordial Gloom." Keyboards are a featured instrument, playing a soft melody over the reverb of guitar and the slow crashing of drums and cymbals. Unearthly growls overflow the low end of the spectrum, a staple of traditional doom. The atmospheric syntesizers contribute to the ever darkening mood. While the track remains heavy, it somehow seems delicate. After the repeated bangs of drums, things fade away, leaving only keyboards and running water.

The albums title track is similar in scope, relying on the predictable, albeit powerful, percussion to keep your head moving. The ringing distortion of guitars comes and goes, each strum bringing it back. There are few words to describe the tempo at which the song flows, leaving only "creeping." The piano keys are well used, providing a melody for an otherwise somber affair. The deathly roars will leave you questioning whether you are, in fact, still among the living. Clocking in at nearly 15 minutes, there is little variation, leaving things feeling stale by the halfway mark. While the length may be a typical trait of the genre, it is unwarranted in this case.

The formula remains the same throughout the second half of the album. "Wanderer Of The Wastes" sees a short burst of aggressive from the drums, before falling back into the aforementioned sludge. The use of orchestrated synths leaves an ethereal mark on "The Hidden Sun," a welcomed interlude. The delicate tingle of piano, coated by organs and the sounds of nature is soothing, findng beauty in the wasteland. However, the beauty is immediately burned to ash by "Lord Of The Black Gulf." While it remains formulaic, the guitar does see a brief change in direction, delivering some clean, single notes as opposed to the chugging norm. The rain enters, and the keys take you home, through the dark and desolation, into the light.

This album falls into a category that is hard to get out of. It contains so many things to celebrate, but the quantities are simply off. This is funeral doom, through and through, but it would be just as effective if the tracks were a mere six to eight minutes long. The repitition becomes hard to swallow, leaving the symphonic work to rescue each song. And while they are beautiful, sullen, and eerie all at once, that is a tall order.


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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Spotify (An alternative to The Podcast)

Murmaider has been fighting a bug this week, so we didn't get to record our usual weekly podcast. We will return next week, of course, with more bands, more topics, and more nonsensical banter. Until then, enjoy our previous episodes, in streaming and download format. And don't forget to listen to Light & Darkness Radio, on the Live365 network, for great tracks from great bands. Every Sunday and Wednesday at 8 pm EST, you can hear our podcast there, as well.

Anyway, we suggest you head over to check out Spotify, and get yourself on the invite list. This service is going to change the music industry, hopefully for the better. Over 15 million tracks at your fingertips, at all times. For free, you can stream all you want, in high quality audio. Upgrading to a premium  ($5 a month) or unlimited ($10 a month) account basically let's you do whatever you want with their entire library.

This isn't a limited selection of pop/punk bullshit. They have entire catalogs from bands like Opeth, Mastodon, Amorphis, and so many more. New albums, EPs, singles, soundtrack appearances, and everything in between, organized and ready for your consumption. And it is only going to get bigger. Create playlists, and share them with all of your friends with the click of your mouse. Sync it up with Facebook, and see what all of your friends are listening to.

We are not salesmen. We don't work for Spotify, or anyone related to Spotify. We are audiophiles: people who love music and seek to consume everything there is to hear. And this is the best way to do just that, while also supporting the bands that we love. Do yourself a favor, and check it out.
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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Black Label Society - Mafia (2005)

The infamous Black Label Society released one of their most powerful albums, back in 2005, entitled "Mafia." This is the bands sixth studio album. Zakk Wylde and his crew really went above and beyond in the album delivering nothing but solid heavy metal music with massive amounts of distortion and bone crushing guitar solos.

The first song off the album is "Fire It Up" which really had me hooked after the first time I heard it. Nothing but heavy guitar riffs chugging away throughout the song. This is definitely that fists pumping, head bashing music that we all love. The vocals are loud aggressive yelling by Wylde. Constant kicks and snares keep the tempo even while smashing cymbals fly everywhere. The guitar solos are intense and full of energy. They will leave you begging for more. Good thing this is only the first song so you know there's more to come.

"What's In You" is the next track on the album and it holds some pretty powerful tones to it. The chorus is catchy yet simple and easy to remember. You're probably going have it stuck in your head for a couple of days. The guitar riffs are screechy and melodic. You'll find similar features in "Suicide Messiah." Detailed drum fills and constant cymbals will have you bobbing your head immediately. The heavy chugging of guitars will pull you into the song as the chorus hits. Also the guitar solos are absolutely ridiculous. Each note soars through the air, while drums provide a solid bottom to the track. The fills and rolls are godly as they follow up to each and every riff.

"Forever Down" starts off softly with beautiful piano notes. This quickly changes however, as electrifying guitars coming rolling in with a bang. The chorus is, again, very catchy, followed by a mean solo that will sweep you off your feet. The song is only three and a half minutes long, but its solid and gives you no time to rest. The following track is the popular "In This River," which was dedicated to "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, former guitarist of Pantera. The song has mainly piano riffs with some guitar notes layered on top. You can really feel Wylde's emotion in his lyrics and performance.

The build up in the beginning of "Spread Your Wings" really keeps you at the edge of your seat as your waiting for it to drop. Melodic guitars come flying at you with heavy distortion and aggressive tones. "Been A Long Time" has some pretty dirty riffs as well. The structure is unique as the beginning goes back and forth between slammed guitars and vocals. The solo is extraordinary as each note screams with violence. Things quiet down however, with "Dirt On The Grave" which incorporates piano and acoustic guitar riffs. Another moving ballad from Wylde. You find the final song to be full of deep lyrics as well. Make sure to check it out.

"Mafia" is another incredible album that was well written and well recorded. It's got some party songs as well as some emotional ballads, and has a solid range of variety in genre. Black Label Society has had their ups and down in the metal industry, and this album was by far one of their ups. This is an album of theirs that you won't want to miss!


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Friday, July 22, 2011

Midnattsol - The Metamorphosis Melody (2011)

Midnattsol has done it again. The band from Germany and Norway has released their third studio album, entitled "The Metamorphosis Melody." It's got a mix of symphonic sounds and folk tones. Midnattsol is a very diverse group and has really reached out to their listeners with this album. It's got lots of exciting riffs and drum rolls that are full of energy.

The album kicks off with a beautiful introduction, entitled "Alv," which is filled with epic strings and flutes that build up to heavier guitars and drums. It sounds like the intro to a Lord Of The Rings Movie. This quickly jumps into "The Metamorphosis Melody." Rapid double bass pedaling and catchy melodic riffs come flying into the song. Lead singer Carmen Elise enters with her soft operatic vocals. Her melody carries well with this song. However, there are a few songs on the album where it seems that her vocals just don't belong with the background instruments. For example, "Spellbound" has some amazing guitar and bass work. The guitar riffs are heavy as they chug away throughout the song. The drums are explosive and provide a solid bang to the track. The only thing that doesn't seem to really fit well is the vocals. They seem to be too soft for the track. The guitar riffs are monstrous and aggressive and the vocals seem to cover that up and put you to sleep. Definitely pay close attention to the impressive guitar work in this song. Don't let the vocals put you down.

Now, on the other hand, their are songs like "The Tide" which are perfect for Carmen's vocals. Things slow down with this song, as acoustic melodic guitars take over. The soothing, clean vocals slowly make there way to the verse and provide a gorgeous atmosphere. As the refrain kicks in, beautiful synthesizers float in the background of the distorted guitars and deafening drums. You'll also find piano and different types of string instruments in the song as well. As the ending fades, heavy melodic guitar riffs come right back in starting off the song "A Poet's Prayer." The structure of the guitars and how they are layered together is incredible. Unfortunately, this is another song in which the vocals really take away from the momentum. The chorus isn't bad, as it builds up and everything is at the same level. But during the verses, the vocals hide the music. Even "Kong Valemons Kamp" has similar issues. Listen to the mindblowing solos in this song. So much power in the guitars and bass. There is a small part in which the instruments fade out during the refrain and her voice is perfect for it. It's just her and soft guitars. However, once the distortion comes back in it just overpowers her vocals and seems like she isn't aggressive enough to keep up.
"Forvandlingen" is a well rounded song providing a little bit of everything. The riffs in the beginning add beauty while it builds up to the distorted melodic riffs. This is definitely the time to pump your fists in the air. The same issue arises with the vocals being weaker than the music, but you should be used to it by this point. The drum fills are marvelous as they constantly and change are always filled with different details. The solos hit all the high notes and really brighten up the track. "My re-creation" Is another beautiful track that starts off slower and softer with acoustic guitars, strings and Carmen's soothing voice. Awesome drumming enters and is subtle yet, at the same time, puts some bass in the song. This all builds up to louder riffs and crazy cymbals splashing everywhere. The double bass after the refrain is absolutely insane.

Overall the album is pretty impressive musically. The guitars were impressive and the drums were on point in every track. As far as the vocals go, Carmen is a great singer, the band just needs to figure out how to incorporate her soft voice in such energetic music. I feel like they try forcing her vocals in certain parts that just don't go together. To sum things up, "The Metamorphosis Melody" is a very moving album and is definitely worth having a listen to. So check it out!


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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Iommi - Iommi (2000)

Tony Iommi. Anyone who claims to be a metal fan knows this name. Hell, there wouldn't be a metal genre today if not for the dark, devilish tones of this Burmingham guitar God. When the days of icons Black Sabbath had passed, and before the Dio-led Heaven & Hell had begun, we had Iommi. This ten track monster features a veritable "who's who" of vocalists. But let's not kid ourselves the star of this self titled disc is man himself.

There is no nonsense. "The Laughing Man (In The Devil Mask)" goes from 0 to 60 in seconds, with the deep, rich guitars that made Iommi famous. A punchy drum beat sets things up for guest vocalist, and punk icon, Henry Rollins. Though seemingly an odd team, Rollins' bordering on "talking" style syncs up well with the chugging chords. A true metal solo caps this one off. Skin, vocalist for alt-metal band Skunk Anansie, lends her talents to the screaming "Meat." Her voice, sultry and larger than life, is the perfect compliment to the bending strings and thumping bass. The guitars whine, but in a low roar. The signature pick work gets the spotlight, but Skin is as strong a companion as Iommi could get.

Even Dave Grohl, he of many projects, gets into the act on "Goodbye Lament." The song feels like a true collaboration, one half Foo Fighters, one half straight evil. Bass and guitar lock up, a constant kick/snare pattern padding out the background. The song is upbeat, or at least as upbeat as it can be in a dropped tuning. The aptly titled "Time Is Mine" is a mindblower. This is, by far, the strongest track that Phil Anselmo has appeared in since the glory days of Pantera. The verse finds him with a low, dark crooning. But as the chorus hits, his screeching, heavy voice is back with a vengeance. Iommi is at his hellish best, keeping it low, slow and demonic.

After tremendous success with System Of A Down, Serj Tankian penned the winding, whirling "Patterns." This is a more minimalist approach, instrumentally. More simple, stripped down guitar and bass dominate the track, allowing Tankian some lateral freedom with his delivery. The breakdown portions sees some chunky riffs crashing down amongst the pounding of drums and spoken passage. The track that seems to struggle for a place is "Black Oblivion," performed with bald-headed phenom Billy Corgan, sounding more like a Smashing Pumpkins b-side. Even the production stands out from the rest, as if recorded at a different level from the rest. The effects used on Corgan's voice are weak, and leave the track searching for a backbone.

Ian Astbury, most famously from The Cult, sees action on "Flame On." While there is certainly an electronic feel to the track, the classic metal stomp begins anew at the first chorus. It's as if Iommi has already written every heavy riff known to man, and he can dish them out at will. This is no exception. Late Type O Negative mainman, Peter Steele, won a duel with Cold singer Scooter Ward to get his voice featured on "Just Say No To Love." His voice, deep and dreary, comes to you as if delivered from the grave.

In a reunion of sorts, Ozzy Osbourne and Iommi come together on the track "Who's Fooling Who?" It may not rekindle the fires of "Paranoid" era Sabbath, but this is enough to make any metalhead smile. The ringing of church bells leads, before a roll takes you into the low end blasts of Iommi's guitars. There is no need for treble. You are in the darkest night, wandering through a graveyard. Ozzy's voice is unmistakable, in both ominous speech and acceted singing. But the uptempo breakdown section is a blast from the past, with the thumping of drums and bass providing the foundation for another classic, blazing solo.

The album's finale, "Into The Night," is everything you could want to end an album. Voiced by Billy Idol, of all people, it has all of the evil that a zombie apocalypse could offer. Lyrically, it is a gem, featuring such lines as "All the undead souls who walk the night, they can suck my dick." Gritty chords take the lead, up and down the neck. The uptempo midsection is a headbanger's dream, a clinic for up and coming bands. Iommi's guitar screeches through another solo, left to ring out pairs of clean notes, echoing one another as the album fades to a close.

The man who practically invented modern metal hasn't lost any of his bravado. This isn't a cash grab album, or a plea for attention from an aging rocker. Young or old, there is much to appreciate. It isn't just the demonic tones, or the visions of upside crossed. On "Iommi," you find nine well crafted, well thought out songs from someone whose hands should be bronzed. And decades after he created the most well known guitar riff in history, "Paranoid," his fingers haven't slowed one bit.


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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Aiumeen Basoa - Iraganeko Bide Malkartsutik (2010)

 Much like other subgenres, folk metal has seen an explosion of bands in recent years. From bands like Switzerland's Eluveitie to Argentina's Tersivel, no country has been left out. Enter Aiumeen Basoa. From the Basque region of Spain, they spent the better part of 16 years building and crafting their sound. After a split CD in 2001, the band are finally ready to make their mark on the world, with this, their debut album. And on "Iraganeko Bide Malkartsutik," they attempt to breathe new life into Spanish folk.

The call of birds launches a stunning acoustic intro to "Kantauriko Trabain Erruak." A whirling, winding violin enters, becoming tangled with the guitar plucking. A medieval melody emerges, before the full band joins. The drums are wild, crashes from all angles, descending into chaotic delivery. Vocals come scraping through, as harsh as can be, raw and violent. The clean singing is perfectly harmonized, offsetting the boorish screams. The beauty of the musicianship is clear, fading back and forth from fast paced to the more serene acoustic portions. A clean guitar solo serves as the outro, coming to a silent end.

On the opposite end is the blinding fury of "Jentil Odola," where the screams become so dangerous, they must be tamed by the smoothest bass line. The mix on the song is slightly skewed, leaving the guitar dangling amidst a sea of drums and vocals. But the addition of a keyboard melody saves the day, intertwined with bass. The female led midsection is enchanting, well sung and endearing. It is the fitting bridge to a sullen passage, filled with synths, acoustic guitars and strings. The heat is applied slowly, and eventually boils over into a black metal tinged assault of drums. The song ends as it began, fast, furious and frothing at the mouth.

The symphonic side is revealed in "Aintzinako Guduen Oroimenak" with keyboards fluttering through it all. This is a folk march at it's core, with the constant cymbal crash tied to a a background melody. Even the dirty vocals of the verse cannot derail this track, slipping right back to the cleaner side of things. The strings and flutes that end the track are outstanding, and could easily pass for classical composition. The true treat of the album lies in "Akelarrearen Sua," which is a genre bender. The airy flutes and rumbling bass somehow snap together with distorted guitar chords and thrashing drums. The choir of vocals commands the track, before passing the reigns to the instrumentals. And just when you think you have it all figure out, a jazz breakdown begins. To say that the jazz/blues/funk displayed here is anything less than surprising, would be an understatement.

There is something awe inspiring about "Ekaitzaren Begitik." The beauty and simplicity of it all just seems to transcend the music as a whole. Symphonic, operatic, classical, all rolled into one piece. The guitar work is stellar, though not overstated in any way. They seem to forgo the idea of a "lead," and merely focus on the big picture. With the combination of all of the elements resulting in a success of this mganitude, it is hard to argue with that ideal. Even the growling vocals are focused, well delivered and powerful. The album concludes with "Arlekina (Aiumeen Basoa)," a song that seems to feature the pacing of a black metal opus, but condensed into a more listener friendly folk number. The drums are lightning quick when necessary, but slow to a roll at opportune times. The constant back and forth is a lot to take in, especially when there are so many things packed into what is the album's shortest song, clocking in at just over six minutes. The bass line, however, stands above the rest, often dueling with the guitar.

With such a strong offering, it seems clear that Aiumeen Basoa are destined for something. Within these six tracks, they have displayed both a talent and a sensibility that many bands of the folk persuasion lack. They have defied conventional folk stereotypes thus far, and I would imagine intend to keep it that way. With a little polish on the production side, the band will surely deliver album after album of blackened folk chaos.


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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Swallow The Sun - Plague Of Butterflies (EP) (2008)


Often lost in the immense growls and threatening screams of metal is the delicate storytelling. The delivery may be harsh, but the tales told are often intricate and endearing. Swallow The Sun have always been a band focused on the content, rather than just the "brutality" of their music. And with their 2008 EP, titled "Plague Of Butterflies," they have chosen to carve a sorrow filled story into the tomes of doom.

Divided into three chapters, the story begins with "Losing The Sunsets," where our protagonist loses his beloved in the coldest winter. The sound of a freezing wind blowing through the trees opens the door for a light guitar melody. A second guitar, along with a keyboard, enters to complete the sound. The first iron fisted drum beat brings the distortion out, an immense roar of pick on strings. While the vocals begin soft and crooning, they convey a sense of loss. Low bass notes echo through a light tapping of cymbals. But the growls of pain are on their way, and things take a decidedly heavy turn. Double bass pedaling is a constant, thumping around the alternating vocal passages, from clean singing to screeching. The airy keys blow by like that chilling wind.

Chapter two, "Plague Of Butterflies," brings on the darkness. The man returns after his day of searching, only to find everyone in his town has been killed by a plague. He remains as the sole survivor, living amongst only butterflies. The lightning quick kick drums are the perfect compliment to chugging guitar chords. Frontman Mikko Kotamäki demolishes your eardrums with scream after scream. But the blaring guitar work is the star, from the crushing stomp to the screeching harmonics. The mood is taken to an evil place, caught up in the flapping wings of swarms of butterflies. It would be difficult not to find your mind drifting to that village, with the devilish music delivery carrying you through the forest. With each reentry of keys and chords, the pain of lost time will weigh on you. The cold winds return.

The final chapter, "Evael," is both beautiful and heartwrenching. After so long alone, Evael returns to him, barely alive. She collapses into his arms, cold and hollow, and they find peace in death together. In beltween crashing cymbals and a flurry of toms and snares, you will find the most deathly growls metal has to offer. This is no longer a story. Picks slide down the neck of the guitar, and you are living this nightmare. Deep, empty spoken words accompany the howl of distortion. An ethereal, albeit simple, guitar melody cuts through the darkness. The pain and longing comes to a head, driving the music and lyrics forward. From the emotional clean vocals to those harsh screams of pain, the band bring the story to a close. You find that, in this village by the woods, he would rather die with her, than live without her. A powerful performance culminating in a powerful message.

There is no division between the masterful writing and the precision of the music created. The two come together, flawlessly. The imagery found on this 35 minute epic is truly haunting, and will stick with you for days. Despite the heavy nature of the subject matter, I suggest you tackle this twice. The first time to take it each element. Read the lyrics, read the story, then go back for another listen. The second time, allow yourself to get lost in the woods in the frozen winter.
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Monday, July 18, 2011

Samael - Lux Mundi (2011)

The industrial heavy metal band from Sion, Switzerland is back with another bone chilling album. "Lux Mundi" is Samael's ninth studio album and is full of energy and talent. If you love double bass pedal drumming and heavy bass in your face then this is an album you're going to want to pick up.

The opening track is "Luxferre" which contains some amazing instrumentation. They include tons of orchestrated stings backing up the heavy chugging of distorted guitars and exploding drums. The song is full of action from start to finish, forcing you to bob your head to the fast tempo. The verses are overwhelming with bass while rough vocals are layered on top. The lead vocalist, Vorphalack, displays some unique growling that sounds deep yet with a scratchy tone. For some people, this may make or break the album. If you enjoy these vocals then it's only going to get better from here. "Let My People Be!" is another great headbanger. The guitars chug away in the beginning as melodic string take over the background. The vocals are delivered in a choppy way that works well with the double bass and the deafening guitar chords. The song has got insane rolls and fills that are just mind blowing.

"Antigod" is probably one of the heaviest tracks on the album. Booming drums enter in the beginning with punchy bass lines and captivation guitar riffs. The riffs provide such an explosion throughout the song, especial in the breakdown towards the end. Your definitely going to bash your fist to this one. The vocals are filled with rage carrying lyrics like "I am the antidote, I am the antigod" echoing through the refrain.

"In The Deep" has got some demonic riffs that you won't want to miss. There are some operatic strings that accompany the guitars, giving a great epic feel to the track. The double bass kicks are constant and rapid throughout, leaving no time for rest. Even the song "Mother Night" has got some impressive double bass pedal action even though it starts off a little lighter than most of the other songs on the album. The melody in the beginning is subtle and catchy but is quickly disrupted by devilish guitar riffs and monstrous drumming. The vocals are heavy and have a little bit of a melody in the chorus. The delivery is excellent.

As the album comes to an end you're going to come across "The Truth Is Marching On." Samael really went out with a bang on this one, as you'll notice how much bass that they've thrown into it. Relentless kicks and snares will constantly knock you down as you try to keep up with electrifying guitars. The verses contain more strings creating a great atmosphere for the vocals to come through a destroy everything. There's even a little melodic bridge towards the end with catchy synthesizers. This is a great ending to such a powerful album.

Samael has out done themselves yet again with another incredible album. "Lux Mundi" has got some of the bands greatest work that they've ever come up with. It's good to see that they can keep putting out heavy albums and not drift to far away from what they are known for. Definitely make sure you check it out.


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Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Podcast: Episode 13 (Catch it live!)

Tying up loose ends from last week, we lament over the decisions of Zakk Wylde and Alice Cooper. Murmaider likes what he hears from Heavenwood and Hell22 warns you about the dangers of a bad cover song on the latest Biomortal EP. The live experience can be well worth the money spent to get there. We discuss the good and the bad of the concert scene, and share some memories from our history of shows. From Bro-peth to a tough kid at a Symphony X, you get some crazy characters.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sepultura - Kairos (2011)

Well known Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura has hit the studio yet again. Their new full length album, entitled "Kairos," is the bands twelfth album of their career. The band has managed to keep changing their sound little by little and still keep their fans coming back for more. There are definitely some new elements that they have added in this album compared to their older stuff that really keep a fresh sound.

The first track on the album is called "Spectrum." Heavy layered guitar riffs come barreling in as haunting vocals enter on top. I must say, the song drags out a bit as you 'll notice the same chords over and over again and nothing really changes up too much. You might lose interest after the first minute. Unfortunately, even the next few tracks like "Kairos" and "Relentless" don't really have that monstrous power that you might be looking for from Sepultura. Even though they do have some decent riffs and screaming guitar solos, the other parts of the song kind of get lost in the repetitiveness.

It isn't until track number five, "Just One Fix," that the album really drop kicks you in the face. The tempo will have you bobbing your head immediately as the chugging guitars will consume you. You are rapidly hit with the kicks and snares. About two minutes in comes this awesome breakdown with lots of reckless drum fills and aggressive guitar riffs. This is then followed by a hell raising guitar solo that runs up and down the scales with detail and speed. Definitely check it out.

"Dialog" is another monstrous track with wicked guitars throughout. Get ready to move because the riffs in this song will take over your mind. There is an electrifying solo towards the end of the song that will blow you away. The drums sound like machine guns going off behind the harsh vocals. "Seethe" starts out with stomping guitars and bass lines combined with demonic growling which echoes throughout the track. The double bass pedaling is very impressive as the fills constantly change with detail. The only problem with this song is that it's only two and a half minutes long. You're going to want to hit the repeat button for this one.

"Embrace The Storm" starts out with some insane drumming and deafening guitars. However, the vocals don't quite sell me on this one. They could have done without a lot of the yelling. There are a few strong points in some of the screaming, but overall isn't able to keep you hooked throughout. They do manage to ending the album with a solid bang. "Structure Violence(Azzes)" stands out big time from the rest of the album. Mainly from the different sounds that they use with the drumming in the beginning. A lot of unique sounds fly through the air keeping you at the edge of your seat as you're waiting for more. The guitars are dominant and barely give you any time to rest. The vocals become a lot more aggressive and rough sounding towards the middle of the song. The different sounds that are thrown at you throughout the song really draw you into the track. Definitely check this song out a couple of times to catch all of the little details.

Sepultura has been around for many years now and have definitely had their share of wicked albums. However, I wouldn't say that "Kairos" is the bands best work. It does have some impressive structure and sound in certain areas though that make this album worth checking out. It just needs some time to grow on you.


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Friday, July 15, 2011

A Storm Of Light - As The Valley Of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade (2011)


Combining the grit and determination of sludge with the down tempo elements of doom, A Storm Of Light has arrived. They have created a soundscape of bleak, ominous instrumentals with this, their third full length recording. On "As The Valley Of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade," we reach the eye of the proverbial storm, surrounded by darkness. Can we find our way through the driving rain?

The pacing is deliberate, with alternating periods of chugging excellence and winding instrumentals dominating "Missing." The drumming is the constant strength, with glorious patterns emerging from the fold. The kick drum locks in perfectly to the rattling bass line, while the howling vocals are delivered with no regard for tone. And while the track stacks up to a robust six minutes, it seems to fly by in a low end explosion. In steep contrast to the album opener, "Collapse" begins somewhat daintily, in a way that many outsiders may regard as a Tool-esque sound. But the introduction of the deep, earth shaking distorted guitars shakes that similarity to its core. The aggressive moments are devastating, while the somber moments are dreary. Both sides of the coin will leave you vibrating from the lows.

The band waste no time building up in "Black Wolves," choosing to unleash the crunching riffs and drums from the onset. The sludge/stoner styled vocals are the perfect fit for the track. They are simplistic, yet equally emotional. The brief acoustic passage shows off the talents of the band, creating a docile interlude before a blasting roll takes us back to the coarse tones. "Destroyer" takes an opposite approach, beginning as a walk on the softer side, driven by a bass line that as smooth as silk. Acoustic guitar melodies cut through the hammering drums. The vocals remain off key and down, yet carry more weight amongst the less abrasive backing. The track builds to a fury, and the beasts are unleashed, with cymbals resonating for seconds after each crash.

We are treated to the barrage of kicks, snares, cymbals and toms that commands "Wretched Valley," a rare feat of having the drums take the lead in a song. The guitars, strong as they may be, play second fiddle to the percussion. "Silver" is, perhaps the very definition of sludge, grinding forward in a mess of distortion, guitar chords, bass notes and drums all thumping through your speakers in crushing unison. The more conventional drum patterns of "Leave No Wounds" may seem out of place among the other material presented, but they serve their purpose, allowing the vocal track to be delivered without resistance. The sizzle of cymbals layered with a clean bass part is a brilliant combination.

The bowel releasing low end of "Death's Head" is frightening. It is as if the band turned off the mid range and treble completely. The addition of light synthesizers is well placed, albeit faint. The singing style is raspy, almost yelling. The effects used on the vocals may seem distracting at times, but they are important to the overall aesthetic. The nearly eleven minute closing track, "Wasteland," is far from barren. It is a flourishing field of all things sludge, doom and post-metal. From the heavy distortion to the punishment of constant drum assault, all of the elements of a dirty, dirty track are here. But it isn't all doom and gloom. A few brief sections of acoustics and keys lend themselves well to lightening the mood. The song fades away, as does the album.

To take in "As The Valley Of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade," you have to imagine yourself sailing through an ocean oil spill, assaulted by waves from all directions. This is not an album for the faint of heart, or the weak willed. But, to be clear, the reward far outweighs the risk. Despite the title to the contrary, your memories of this album will grow stronger with time. For A Storm Of Light, the future does, indeed, look bright.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Within Temptation - The Heart Of Everything (2007)


Before there was the spectacle of "The Unforgiving," Dutch gothic metallers Within Temptation were a band trying to stand apart from the rest. The vocals of Sharon den Adel had evolved into a force, equal parts sultry and powerful. After numerous albums and tours, the band finally broke through. With the release of their 2007 album, "The Heart Of Everything," they earned the commercial success that they deserved. But they also stayed true to their sound, their dream, and their talents.

"The Howling" is a statement of intent. The guitars are crushing, the drums are booming, and all of the symphonic elements are present. They layer den Adel's vocals into a beautifully harmony, providing her own backing. The keys provide all of the strings necessary, giving the impression of a large orchestra. The quiet bridge section is splendid, allowing the subtle vocal talents to shine through without clouding. The album's first single, "What Have You Done" features Life Of Agony frontman Keith Caputo in a daring, and successful duet. The moments where both singers share duties, playing off one another, are captivating. It was as if they had been singing together for years, building to this moment. Call it a ballad if you choose, but the heavy music provided might argue that point.

The symphony returns in full force for "Frozen," an inspired, emotionally heavy track. You can feel every ounce of sorrow with each perfectly sung lyric. But there is not a sacrifice of beauty for pain, and the contrast of heartfelt words combined with a sonic wall becomes so much to bear. While the guitars remain simple, they are consistent, and never fail to keep the tone. The operatic "Our Solemn Hour" sees den Adel at her finest, delivering in so many ways, from the standard clean singing to the effects laden falsetto. Strings take the lead, with smashing drum fills tying together chorus and verse. The melodies flow in ways rarely heard in gothic metal albums. The depth of sound created is impressive. A short, but daring guitar solo finds its place, leading the track to its blasting finish.

The heavier side comes out in the chugging, pounding title track. Even the vocals gain some grit, though they never lose their delicate glory. The piano and string combo that introduces "Hand Of Sorrow" is as life affirming as an instrumental can be. This is the one time that a Nightwish comparison would be fair, if not for the glaring vocal disparity. Guitars chug away, while drums provide a constant tempo, throwing in snare heavy rolls to keep your head moving. The flow from song to song is impeccable, from the massive sonic assault of "The Cross" and "Final Destination" to the beautiful acoustic "All I Need." Surrounded by the dulcet tones of strings and keyboards, den Adel's voice is even more breathtaking, with each breath that she takes seemingly taking one from you. Things build to a boil, and distortion kicks in, but she manages to light the darkest cloud.

The strength presented in "Stand My Ground" makes it ripe for the next metal anthem. Songs like this have given life to the female fronted bands of the world. Lyrically powerful and musically aggressive, the track is one that so many can identify with, and find peace with. The seven minute epic "Truth Beneath The Rose" is an operatic gem, from the fitting use of strings to the layered chanting vocals. It could be torn straight from the pages of Broadway, with the band ripping through verse and chorus with surgical precision. Again, there is nothing outrageous, nothing outside of solid musicianship. The album ends with a piano and string accompanied ballad in "Forgiven." It provides you with one last taste of what Within Tempatation do best; pull on your heart strings.

Everything falls into place for Within Temptation. The ease the band displays is awe-inspiring, with every note, every syllable, every thought pouring out effortlessly. Each song is crafted with such strength and character, and executed to perfection. From the sterling vocals of den Adel, to the crystal clarity of the production, "The Heart Of Everything" embodies all of the good that the genre has to offer. And Within Temptation deserve every ounce of praise that it garners them.


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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Heavenwood - Abyss Masterpiece (2011)

I must say, Portugal is one of the last places that i would look for gothic doom metal but sure enough there is a band known as Heavenwood who has a lot to offer. The six piece metal group has recently released their newest album, entitled "Abyss Masterpiece." These guys have managed to throw a little bit of everything into their album. From deep growling to mellow clean singing and nasty distorted guitars to angelic strings, this album carries a lot.

Sounding like an introduction to a movie, "The Arcadia Order" starts with horns, strings and other orchestrated instruments. This opener is full of energy as the deafening guitars come flying into play. The lead singer lets out a blast of deep heavy growls in the verses. The guitar work is great, as wicked melodies follow the verse glide over the intense drums. Next up is "Morning Glory Clouds (In Maus Tuas Domine" which starts with a heavenly echo of a choir. Chugging guitars come crashing in with heavy kicks and bright cymbals. The guitar riffs are catchy and repetitive all throughout the song as they are layered with clean vocals that you'll be singing along to in no time.

Things really start to pick up with the song "Goddess Presiding Over Solitude." Monstrous guitar riffs come tumbling down as you're crushed with massive double bass pedaling and sharp snares. The vocals are full of power as godly growls soar through the verses. Eerie strings fill in the background and accompany the guitars to provide more darkness to the music. Rapturous melodies enter towards the end of the song with such beauty. This is definitely a song you'll want to listen to a couple of times.

"Once A Burden" slows down the tempo with slow chugging guitars combined with some lighter notes played behind them. The vocals of the verse starts out a little different than what you've heard so far. Clean singing enters in the beginning with relaxing tones. However, this quickly changes back to the overwhelming growling that you've been hearing in the first few songs. Shattering cymbals fill the air as more of the heavy guitars chug away during the bridge. The refrain incorporates the devilish growling with the soft clean vocals layered on top. The sound that this produces is astonishing, giving mixed feelings of anger and sadness. "Winter Slave" follows, packing a powerful punch. The guitar work is absolutely dominating, especially since it's layered with deep demonic growling throughout. You will also find the drum fills to be quite impressive as the tempo constantly changes speed. This song song will have you pumping your fist from start to finish.

"Fading Sun" has got some thrashing guitars in the beginning mixed with soothing strings. The structure of the drums are pretty impressive as the details of the fills change constantly. More thunderous guitars chug away in between verses with dark demonic chords and soft synths in the background. "September Blood" is another song you won't want to skip. It's got destructive guitars mixed with epic strings right off the get. The refrain has interesting vocals as you'll find it to be a type of melodic growling. The change up really keeps you at the edge of your seat. And for those of you who can't get enough of the growling and are looking for another headbanger, check out the next song, entitled "Sudden Scars." This track has got some of the best growling of the entire album. The delivery is incredible and filled with emotion. This is definitely a "must hear" track.

Packed with excitement, "Abyss Masterpiece" has so much to offer and really comes though with its melodies and structure. It's great to hear such power mixed with both heavy and relaxing riffs. Heavenwood has been able to provide a little bit of everything, so that anyone who picks it up will find something that they'll enjoy. And with an epic orchestrated outro like "Her Lament," this is truly a masterpiece.


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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dimmu Borgir - Enthrone Darkness Triumphant (1997)

Looking back at Dimmu Borgir's 1997 album, entitled "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant," it's interesting to see the differences of this album compared to their newer ones. In certain aspects, they've continued to incorporate specific elements throughout their career. For instance, they always manage to capture that symphonic orchestrated image in almost every album. Also, lots of fast double bass drumming continue to carry on the rhythm of their music. However you will notice a couple of changes as well. For example, lead vocalist, Shagrath, put out some harsh growling in "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" but he's slowly been able to produce more wicked black metal vocals in their latest album, "Abrahadabra." The change has definitely impacted the bands sound in a positive way however there is still so much to love from the 1997 album.

A dark melody of string start off the album in "Mourning Palace." This is followed by pulverizing guitar riffs as Shagrath lets out a roaring growl. The drums explode into detail with constant snares and rapid kicks. You'll be bobbing your head immediately. The vocals offer some monstrous growling full of rage and evilness. The guitar work is really catchy throughout the entire song and even have a couple piano parts that run up and down the scales. "Spellbound (By The Devil)" is the following track that automatically starts with rumbling drums. Cymbals are splashing everywhere while the toms and snares come rolling through destroying everything in sight. Demonic guitar riffs carry through the verses and provide the dark background the Shargrath needs to set an eerie image. The instruments are interesting as you will find a lot of different synthesizer mixed with the distorted guitars to add a dark yet beautiful sound. There is even an organ in certain parts that completely consume you. About two and a half minutes in there is a bridge that has nothing but melodic synths in it. Then heavy toms come flying in echoing from ear to ear. The overall structure is just phenomenal.

"The Night Masquerade" has got some depressive strings that give such feeling to the album. There's so much double bass in this one that there's just no time to even breathe. Dominating snares hit you in the face constantly. The verse is full of echoing screams and growls that are layered with roughly distorted guitars and gorgeous orchestral strings.It's definitely another head banging track. Bente Engen is a female vocalists who was given a guest spot in this song. She jumps in on the last 30 seconds of the song with evil clean vocals provide some great imagery. At the very end, a horrific voice enters as the song fades out that will literally make you shit yourself the first time you hear it. Lyrics like "Blood is life and it shall be all ours!" will throw an immediate chill down your spine.

Another great song is "Master of Disharmony." Devilish riffs fill the air while you are beaten down by the ridiculously fast double bass pedaling. The speed of the drumming is absolutely mind blowing. Even "Prudence's Fall" starts out like this. Nothing but rapid drum rolls right off the bat completely knocking you off your feet. The strings in the verses surround Shagrath's deep growling while the guitar provide a solid punch of energy behind them. Its awesome to see the album to go from this to "A Succubus In Rapture" which opens with beautiful orchestrated instruments and a slow tempo. Even the vocals go from reckless growls to eerie spoken word in between. This keeps the songs unique and refreshing. They also include an awesome guitar solo at the end giving off beauty and excitement all at the same time.

Overall, "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" is one beast of an album and is definitely one of my favorite's from Dimmu Borgir. Comparing this to their newest album, I'm glad to see that they haven't had the need to change to much in order to continue making fresh and original music. Being able to mix the dark sounds of demonic guitars and growls with soaring strings and epic piano riffs and organs is incredible. This is symphonic black metal at its best.


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Monday, July 11, 2011

Biomortal - Breathe (EP) (2011)

Biomortal, a synth driven industrial metal band, hails from London. Started as a one man side project by Paul Theobold, the band have filled out a line-up and come back with a new EP to show off what they have created. A collection of four new songs, and a cover that must be heard to be believed, this four piece are making a play for a label with "Breathe."

Bending guitar strings and strong, calculated cymbal crashes move straight into double kicks as "Drowned Out" begins. Screams are gritty and well focused, but they quickly dissolve into whispers and off-key warbling. Background keyboards prop up the simply guitar melody, before the song crashes back into technical industrial death style. The use of the double kick is liberal, often going full passages without a reprieve. It only seems to blend together by track's end.

The band show off their softer side on the delicate "Abyss," with that effects-induced singing searching for harmony over a whining guitar and bass line. It feels like an intro, drawn out for a full three minute track. You may wait for the other shoe to drop, but unfortunately, it never does. The most successful track on the album, "Fate's Calling" shows a little versatility, with the drum beats changing pace and power throughout the song. The vocals come back, harsh and edgy, but actually find a balance with clean singing in the chorus section. The keyboards are ghostly, but too often get lost in the pulsing drum track.

On the flip side, "Ticking Timebomb" is an interesting combination of styles The vocals in the verse sections could easily be mistaken for early 40 Below Summer. The bridge/breakdown section is strong, allowing the synths to shine through it all. Even the drums take a different route, switching from the death style kick rolls, to a black metal kick/snare/cymbal assault. The grand finale of this EP is a misguided cover of Berlin classic "Take My Breath Away" (Complete with cat singing music video here). Done in the tradition made popular so many years ago, the band reinvent the song. Gone are the cheesy synth melodies, replaced with distorted guitar chords and keyboards. The vocals range from the coarse screams to the attempt and soulful, delicate crooning. The track is a novelty, and seems to be a questionable choice to include when you are seeking to cement your place in the metal community.

While this EP is certainly a jumping off point, it isn't quite a deal maker. The talent is there. The vision is there. But something has been lost in translation. The production isn't perfect, but solid in most areas. The problem, however, lies in the mix. The synths, the band signature, get lost amidst crashing drums and guitar riffs. And without that strong presence, the tracks seem hollow.


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Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Podcast: Episode 12 (Pretenders to the throne)

Hell22 talks about the pagan metal fury of Kromlek, while Murmaider likes the "scrowls" from Asphagor. But there is a problem. The word "metal" is used too damn often, to describe bands that simply don't deserve it. Has anyone ever said to you "Disturbed is, like, the heaviest band in metal today!" Well, we've heard it all, from Disturbed to Slipknot, Nickelback to Godsmack. And you know what? It kinda makes us mad. So, rather than pay for a therapist, we use this time to let off a little steam.

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