Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dead Elephant - Thanatology (2011)

Attacking from all angles of genres, the experimental sludge band Dead Elephant has released a brand new album, entitled "Thanatology." This is the bands third studio album and has a lot of unique characteristics. Here you will find dark and eerie sounds mixed with monstrous chugging guitars and vicious growling vocals. They somehow manage to fit all of these elements into four lengthy tracks.

The first track on the album is "Bardo Thodol," which runs for just under 13 minutes long. Distorted sounds fade in as you're waiting for the music. One repetitive chord enters as it is constantly being hit over and over again. This is accompanied by haunting clean vocals that almost sounds like a priest praying in a very plain, monotone voice. Slowly, the drums start to roll in with snapping snares and shimmering cymbals in the background. This is interrupted by harsh growling that echoes over the guitars and bass. You will also notice some interesting effects used on this section of growls where a lot of the high frequencies have been cut leaving a staticy and unclear sound. The structure changes frequently keeping you hooked the entire time. There are some slower gloomy parts in between that may turn boring at first but give the track time as you will see that it is all used to set up a creative and dark image to the music. When the drums come back in, they are followed with exploding chugging guitars as distortion fills the air quickly. The riffs will have you bobbing your head. There is also more demonic growls with a lot of power that follow as well. The quiet breaks in between were definitely worth waiting for once you get to these magnificent parts of the song.

"On The Stem" is the next track on the album and plays for a little over nine minutes long. Eerie synths take over the atmosphere as guitar notes are picked at little by little. This definitely takes you more towards the quiet, calm side for the first half of the song. Similar to the first track, you need to be patient as you'll find it becomes heavier towards the middle of the song. Booming bass lines and demolishing guitar riffs come plowing in over the drums. The vocals go from soothing spoken word to violent and relentless growls and screams in the matter of seconds. The time signature is interesting later in the song as the instruments change up their timing. You'll also notice that there are two types of vocals going on at the very end. There is a lower heavier vocal which is combined with a louder and more destructive scream on top

The shortest song on the album, "Destrudo," has a lot more action and excitement to it. You are immediately hit with dirty guitar riffs and ground shaking drum fills. The growls are insane as they constantly beat you down with rapid lyrics. Meanwhile, cymbals are crashing all around you as you are lead by hell raising guitars. Also the bass lines are absolutely ridiculous. This is definitely the heaviest track on the album.

This brings us to the fourth and final track, entitled "A Teardrop On Your Grave/ Downfall Of Xibalba." From the way the title is split, it seems like this was, at one point, two separate pieces. The overall total length is 16 minutes and 22 seconds long. The first 8 minutes of the song is mostly dark dreary sounds and synths. After that comes violent guitar riffs blaring with distortion while deafening drums blast away with snare and cymbal combos layered with heavy kicks. Later, you will also hear some more devilish synths in the background as the guitars continue chugging. The only issue with this track is that there are no real solid vocals like the other tracks. There are one or two small clips of muffled growls that sound more like instruments that vocals. I'm not sure if this is what they were going for or if the vocals just weren't well mixed. Either way, it would have nice to hear a little more of the reckless growling vocals that were delivered earlier in the album.

Packing a psychedelic punch of mixed sounds, "Thanatology" is by far one of the most unique albums that I have heard all year. The song structure is genius and the image that the album produces is dark and strange at the same time. Dead Elephant did a terrific job on twisting and mashing different tempos and melodies together while being able to put calm, eerie, and destructive tones in as well. Whether you like this style of music or not, this is definitely an album to check out.


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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

After Forever - After Forever (2007)

Unfortunately for most bands, good things must come to an end. And in 2009, the symphonic Dutch metal band After Forever split up. The last album that the group released was their self titled effort in 2007. The band was lead by female vocalist Floor Jansen and her high pitched and powerful voice. The album is a mixture of symphonic and gothic tones that have a dark yet beautiful sound to it.

The opening song is called "Discord." This starts with very heavy strings and other orchestrated instruments. Slowly creeping behind them are monstrous distorted guitars that come fading in violently. As the verse starts, guitarist Sander Gommans comes in with low demonic growls. Jansen follows with her angelic vocals as the two go back and fourth. The drumming is upbeat and will have you rocking your head immediately. The chorus comes blaring in very strong as epic strings soar threw the air guiding the vocals through the deafening cymbals and snapping snares. The last verse has some destructive double bass pedaling and detailed drum fills. You're definitely going to want to listen to this track a few more times before moving on to the next track. When you finally do, you will run into "Evoke" which has a very consistent refrain that has catchy lyrics and loud guitars chugging away. Jansen really shows off her reach in pitch as she flies high over the distortion and swoops down low over the calm piano riffs. The song structure is constantly changing leaving you sitting at the edge of your chair not knowing where the music will go next.

"Energize Me" is one of the most memorable songs on the album. The chorus is very catchy and easy to sing along with as you'll find yourself joining right in. The guitars are heavily distorted and the drums are booming. You will also here some interesting synth sounds that give a futuristic effect during certain parts of the song. The electrifying guitar solo towards the end of the track that will shock you with its rapid melodies. The only issue with this song is that it only runs for about three minutes. Hitting the repeat button will have to do.

Another big song off of the album is "Equally Destructive." The beginning has tons of energy as you are met with vicious guitar riffs and explosive snares and kicks. This also has unique synth sound effects which in this case, help build up the verses. The refrain has Jansen belting gorgeous lyrics as the drums continue to beat you down with the heavy guitar riffs. "Withering Time" follows with chanting vocals layered over one another as symphonic strings pull you into the verse. Jansen delivers operatic vocals in this one. You'll also be hit with Gommans bone crushing growls in between the verses and refrains. The demonic guitar riffs give great imagery to the song as the melodies run along side the devilish grunts. This song definitely has that Nightwish feel to it. "De-Energized" is similar in the beginning with its orchestrated instruments. It sounds like part of the score from the movie "Lord Of The Rings." the verse kick in with relentless growling filled with anger and evil. The kick and snare pound away as a wall of guitar riffs fall on you. There is an awesome guitar solo later in the song as it is accompanied by a groovy bass line and more detailed drum rolls.

Things slow down with "Cry With A Smile" beautiful strings and calm guitar riffs during the verses. Jansens vocals will hypnotize you as you fall deeper into the track. Blaring guitar riffs follow later during the refrain. The strings gently carry her voice higher and higher with each note. The piano catches you at the end as the rest of the instruments drop.

Towards the end of the album you will come across a beautiful masterpiece, entitled "Dreamflight." The song runs for over 11 minutes long with an interesting story to tell. Definitely check out the lyrics to this one. You'll find clean vocals not only from Jansen but also guitarist Bas Maas. Together they create an angelic sound. Of course there is also some wicked growling that follow later in the song. The mood of this track constantly changes from happy to sad and light to dark leaving a mixture of incredible tones and melodies.

Even though the band is no longer together, "After Forever" is still an amazing album both musically and lyrically and will always stay in my library of metal albums. For those of you unfamiliar, definitely take the time to listen to this album and check out the bands earlier work as well. As far as some of the band members go, Jansen has a new band called Revamp and Gommans started a project called HDK. It would be awesome if After Forever got back together though!


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Monday, August 29, 2011

No Mercy - Epic (2010)

As much as it pains me to say, bands like Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica won't be around forever. Hell, some may say that Metallica disappeared four albums ago. We need the younger generations to step up to the plate, and craft a new metal legacy. For North Carolina three piece No Mercy, their home spun brand of melodic thrash could be the answer. After sharing the stage with several major label acts, the band look to take the next step with "Epic."

The opening track, the Metallica-esque "Awake," has all of the promise and potential you would expect. The thrashing verse sections are headbanging delights, despite the murkiness of the production. The trouble lies in the lyrics and their subsequent delivery. Too many words, too quickly. Each vocal passage seems forced, as if the lyrics took precedent over the flow of the song. It is truly unfortunate because, musically, this is the strongest track on the album. The guitar solo seems natural, even when the vocals do not.

This remains a constant throughout, especially on "Fall Into The Sky." The Hetfield-style delivery in the verse is weak, whereas the more down tempo bridge and chorus lyrics fit. The band execute the slower portions with true precision, which would be a victory of massive proportions if this were not a thrash record. Unlike its predecessor, the guitar solo here feels tacked on, as if it was an afterthought. The outro portion, however, is well crafted, allowing a powerful bass line to make an appearance.

The production issue is most evident on the opening drum fills on "Cold Shoulder." The one dimensional thud of toms is disheartening. But even more troublesome is the lack of quality control on the vocals. Even the heaviest of thrash bands have powerful singers, from the aforementioned Hetfield to Slayer's Tom Araya. Screams, grunts and coarse singing all require in depth thought into tone and tempo, something that is sorely lacking here. The choreographed chugging stops in the breakdown section seem to reveal some missed editing and volume touches, which unfortunately only succeeds in burying a worthy solo.

The album ends with two songs, each clocking in at over six minutes each. "Under Dying Eyes" has some of the best musical work on the album, with a repeated clean section that features a crystal clear bass line that somehow was lost before. Minus an ill placed solo, and struggling vocals, this would be an instrumental nugget of gold. The closing track, "Eye Of The Storm," is the most complete piece on the album. From the heavy intro to the hair swinging guitar riffs, this one is the realization of musical potential. The soft, clean riffs in the breakdown are refreshing, even if the clean singing is not. This is the track to hang their hat on, a sign of good things to come.

Unfortunately, the album feels more like a handful of thirty second riffs and vocal ideas hashed out into full tracks, without any thought or care. There is very little cohesion, both within the tracks, and moving from one to the next. The lack of core production values only exacerbates this problem, highlighting the flaws rather than the victories. A dedicated vocalist and a trip to the studio may be just what the doctor ordered. But for this young group of metal hopefuls, "Epic" was anything but.


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Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Podcast: Episode 18 (A fist pumping Scenario)

Murmaider and Hell22 are proud to welcome another guest to the headquarters this week. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome The Scenario! We had some great new albums to discuss this week. Hell22 had a good week with ICS Vortex and An Autumn For Crippled Children. Murmaider was blown away by Edguy... then torn down by Promises Lie. Techno and metal... together? This just doesn't make much sense. So we bring The Scenario in to discuss techno, and all the shit that just doesn't mix with metal. Stumpf fiddle? Yeah. YouTube it.

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Arafel: The Interview

Helge Stang, lead singer for Israel-based Arafel, took some time to answer a few questions for us.

What inspired this album, lyrically and musically?

The musical background of "For Battles Once Fought" is old death metal combined with slavonian folk music. One might expect some middle eastern or arabic stuff since most of the band lives in Israel, but you won't find that. The lyrics on this album are mostly about old russian history and sagas ... which have quite often something to do with war.

In the US, very few Israeli bands are truly well known. Orphaned Land seems to be one of the biggest. So, what is the metal scene like in Israel? Is metal a growing genre?

I wouldn't say "growing". It's there and it  gets neighter smaller nor bigger. But like almost everywhere Metal is not well accepted by "normal" people. Talking about the band scene, there is a huge potential of extreme death & grind bands there. Dammit, if they would start playing here in Europe they would conquer the whole continent within a night.

Your style is so varied and eclectic. Would you say that geography and your roots helped to mold your style?

Naa, geography does not help anybody. Its your roots, your family and friends, the people and their mentality that influence you. No matter weather it's next to a palm tree or a snow man. And of course a big part
goes to all the bands we listend to, when we started ... and what we listen to today of course. Never stop learning, never stop playing!

How did you come to join forces with the band? And how has working with Arafel differed from your work with Equilibrium?

In fall 2008 I got an email from our violin player Nasha, which I knew before, she told me that Arafel is looking for a singer. I said by myself "hmm, why not, sounds cool, sounds like adventure:" I'm on board!

The work inside the band is similar to Equilibrium, but not that dictatorship like. The music comes much more from the all people, not like the Equilibrium One Man Army. I like that very much.

Do you have plans on touring in America?

Hmm, not yet. The jump over the big lake is always kind of ... expensive. But we will see!!

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

Of course: Spinal Tap!!  All the other bands have a "checked" next to their name already!

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?

Good question: I think if you wanna hear a song more than once than you should buy it instead of loop it on youtube or just download it. I mean, in the old days we checked out new records at the store (the player only had a Forward button, no pause, no backwards). Why not bring that system into a modern shape? If I like a  song I mostly buy the whole record. But I also "tried" stuff I really did not like.

BUT: What people should know: it barely helps a band to sell records. If you wanna support a band: buy a t-shirt!!

What does the future hold for Arafel?

Chicks & beer I hope!!! (you see ... I have no clue!!)
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Infinita Symphonia - A Mind's Chronicle (2011)

This is an album of European symphonic power metal. Wait. Don't stop reading because you think you've "heard it all before." Infinita Symphonia may sound like "just another band" doing "the same old thing." But for a band that is merely three years of age, it isn't safe to assume anything. This Italian four piece sound like masters of the genre, and they have two guest vocal spots that may have you believing "A Mind's Chronicle" is a power metal album for the ages. Don't let your preconceptions fool you. Just listen.

The album opens with strings and horns aplenty, in the short but blaring "Intro(verted)." The melody could be torn straight from a movie score, each measure building into the next. It leads directly into the double kick beatdown of "Lost In My Own Brain." The guitar riffs are immense, paired alongside a tight bass line. The soaring vocals of frontman Luca Micioni are operatic when necessary, but containing the proper amount of grit and power. The keyboard melody in the breakdown is the perfect compliment to the screeching guitar chords. The air of triumph scattered throughout the outro is breathtaking.

What asserts this album into your consciousness is the ability to be versatile, as in the opening moments of "Mighty Storm." A rather blackened scream accompanies the normal winding guitar parts and thumping drums.Then all is quiet. Short bursts of bass, drum and guitars are the foundation for a vocal melody. Micioni's vocals are daring, bringing to mind the best the genre has to offer. His finesse is remarkable. Layered guitars and keys come together in a charging breakdown, driving the tempo into overdrive. The taste of the melodic comes full circle in "The Illusion," a track that begins with an acoustic passage so delicate, you would expect it from masters of folk rock.

There is something so invigorating about the precision the band displays on "Planet Universe." This is the progressive splash you have been waiting for, with syncopated drum beats and dodging keyboard solos. The vocals are rich with harmonies, all placed on top of the bed of guitar mastery. Nothing pretentious about a good, rocking solo. A pair of incredible features await in the next two tracks, the first by vocalist Fabio Lione of Rhapsody of Fire fame. His signature tone graces "Here There's No Why," a stunning vocal duet that will bring chills. This is pure power metal, stacked on top of power metal. The unity of keys and chords is dazzling, the perfect background followed by the perfect lead. The second track, featuring Tim "Ripper" Owens, is a lesson on the heavier side of power metal. Owens voice, honed from years with Judas Priest and Iced Earth, tears the track to shreds, with his high pitched screams and raspy growls shattering your preconceptions of the genre.

Things slow down, an inspiring piano and keyboard solo opening "Lost And Found." The use of pure emotion is what sets the good bands apart from the mediocre, and Infinita Symphonia have that in spades. Micioni's talent is clear, especially here, when his voice stands alone. No distortion to hide flaws. As the track builds again, you may feel a slight sensation in your heart. Don't worry, that is normal. This is what ballads were meant to sound like. An acoustic guitar makes the transition to "From Earth To Heaven," another soft reminder of the beauty this band has to offer. Even as the drums come crashing back to life, it is the delicate guitar and keyboard tones that command your interest. A ripping electric solo erupts, driving this piece to a close.

Don't be fooled with the early orchestration on "The Equation Of The End," this one will not be a quiet affair. Guitars and drums roar in, and we are taken back to the power. The fills in this track will leave you dizzy, with kicks, toms and snares getting abused with the sheer thunderous blows. Underneath it all, the tickling of the ivory keys keeps the track from getting out of hand. However, the ridiculous drum roll that leads to the guitar solo may leave your hair standing on edge. All good things must come to an end, and "I Believe In You" is the perfect way for it to happen. Driving guitars, pulsing drums, and those staggeringly power vocals are here to take you home. The undercurrent of keyboards is just enough to be impactful.  In a mere seven minutes, you are treated to everything you need.

Sitting here in the Sorrow Eternal headquarters is like sitting at a veritable buffet of music. We digest so much, so often. But when a band like Infinita Symphonia comes along, it becomes clear that we need to push ourselves away from the musical table, and just enjoy. "A Mind's Chronicle" is satisfying in so many ways. It goes beyond cookie cutter power metal, and dances in the realms of symphonic glory and progressive punch. It isn't enough to say this one is good or bad. This album is special.


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Friday, August 26, 2011

Edguy - Age Of The Joker (2011)


After releasing their greatest hits album, entitled "The Singles," Edguy has released a new album with fresh power metal material that we've all been waiting for. The name of the new album is "Age Of The Joker." It's got symphonic refrains with flying vocals and beautiful melodies mixed with a twist of interesting lyrics and of course, electrifying guitar solos.

"Robin Hood" opens the album with over eight minutes of pure energy and excitement. Organs and deafening guitar chords start it off as uplifting string glide up and down behind them. Lead singer Tobias Sammet wastes no time, as he jumps right into the verse with gorgeous clean singing. The chorus is full of catchy riffs as the lyrics carry you deep into the story of the adventures of Robin Hood. There is a quick scene in the middle of the song as epic strings take over with light guitars rocking underneath. A narrating voice enters briefly while sound effects of arrows and running footsteps are played in the background. Meanwhile the guitars and strings build up louder and louder until Sammet comes flying back in with high vocals as booming drums fill the air. A monstrous solo comes spinning its way in with wild guitar notes going in every direction. Before ending, the refrain repeats one last time pretty much guaranteeing it to be stuck in your head for days. Honestly, it took me four or five replays before I finally moved on to track two. I'm sure you'll be stuck for a while as well.

"Nobody's Hero" means business, as the beginning starts with blasting guitar riffs and rapid kick and snare action. This is when your head will bob as your devil horns rock in the air. The guitar riffs are very bright and soar high next to Sammets incredible vocals. You'll find similar elements in "Rock Of Cashel." A destructive guitar solo starts this one off as cymbals crash heavily after every drum fill. The guitars cut out when the verse starts as the bass and drums carry the lyrics. You will find the verses to be very catchy and you aren't even near the refrain yet. You definitely won't be able to help but to play this one over again.

You might be a little thrown off by this next one but hey, what more do you expect from these guys. "Pandora's Box," surprisingly enough, actually starts with a southern twang type of tone in its guitars. This quickly gets heavier after the first verse as blaring guitars chug away with aggression. The country melody comes back in each verse after this. The refrain has a great build up as Sammet soars over the instruments with his powerful voice delivering a likable melody that grabs your ear and pulls you close. The guitar solo towards the end is absolutely phenomenal as the southern country tones take over the background gently. When you hear the vocals in the last section of the song, you are going to be blown away with the notes the Sammet holds and the pitch that he reaches. It's truly remarkable.

"Two Out Of Seven" is typical Edguy, telling another hilarious story. As for the instruments, there are some catchy little synths in the beginning that come back later in the chorus as you'll find the melody of the vocals to go along perfectly with it. This is another song that I had a hard time getting away from. Definitely make sure you take some time to look up the lyrics to this one. You're going to love it. Leaning towards the end of the album, track ten, "Behind The Gates To Midnight World," has got a little bit of everything. From fast upbeat refrains to slow emotional verses. The instrumentation is interesting as you'll hear everything from pianos to organs, and distorted guitars to angelic orchestrated strings. The solo in the middle of the song is gorgeous with its soft delivery and soothing melody.

After this nine minute masterpiece comes the final track on the album, entitled "Every Night Without You." It definitely falls towards the ballad side of things as the beginning sounds like it could be part of a Disney soundtrack. It's definitely got some emotional lyrics, and you can feel the passion in Sammet's voice as he belts the chorus. You might as well get the repeat button ready because it's just that catchy. The lyrics will ring in your head for weeks. You're also hit with a beautiful solo that you're going to want to hear again as well.

For those of you who don't know Edguy, this is the perfect time to check out their material. This is another epic adventure created by none other than Tobias Sammet and his crew. With fun lyrics and upbeat melodies, "Age Of The Joker" is fit for everyone. Metal fans young and old can agree, this is an album you have to hear. It will be awesome to see Edguy perform these songs live!


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Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Autumn For Crippled Children - Everything (2011)

Hailing from the Netherlands, post black metal three piece An Autumn For Crippled Children are ambassadors for the new school. Moving away from traditional black metal, the band are following in the footsteps of some of the more daring new acts, such as Alcest. They have created a fusion of styles, borrowing some of the best aspects of post, progressive and black metal. Somewhere in the chaos, "Everything" finds time to be surreal and ethereal.

From the soft acoustic guitar opening on "Forever Never Fails," you know you are in for something more than a dark, dreary offering. Even as the hammer drops, and the harsh screams of pain enter, there is a background beauty in the dulcet keyboard tones. Much like Alcest, the music forms a progressive post rock style, but with faster black metal drumming. Cutting back and forth between the grating and the peaceful only helps to assert the contrast. The vocals are muffled in the mix, but serve their purpose as communicators of emotion.

As the clean, serene opening of "Formlessness" commences, softly played string manage to hover around the base of each note. With each passing screech, the music builds to greater heights, in a dark triumph of sorts. The bass line commands things, with the light patter of snares and cymbals serving as punctuation. Things cut out, and a delicate melody begins, clearing your mind for one last blitz. "The Absence Of Contrast" is a song that could not be further from the truth. Contrast is what shines brightest here, with an ethereal use of instrumentation, including a piano melody that will tickle your ear drums. The guitar work is simple, yet so effective, underneath a chorus of screams. It's as if they took indie folk styles and mixed them into generous portions of blackened post metal. The result, without a doubt, is glorious. The final minute of this song is a genre bending blend of light and darkness.

That same mix of dark cloud and silver lining is in full bloom on "We All Fall," with alternating passages of acoustics and thrashing distortion. There is so much to take in, with a crushing wall of guitars, bass and drums constantly pouring forth. As guitars climb through the high, clean notes, soft, organ tinged keys shine through and set a decidedly brighter mood than the vocals convey. Those same key tones are used on "Nothing/Everything," a track that could tear the roof off of any small venue in the world. The drumming is stellar, with blasting snares and the roll of thunderous kicks. This track sees a more liberal use of the screaming vocals, but it fits like a glove in the beautiful songwriting. "Her Dress As A Poem, Her Death As The Night" pairs the sublime with the subhuman, descending into harsh screams and growls on top of that almost somber music. The tone is dark, but the execution is near flawless, cutting through guitar chords and darting clean notes.

The slow building of sound on "I Am The Veil" may bring a chill with it. But don't let that haunting opening chase you away from what is, otherwise, a more lighthearted offering. It remains uptempo, with the patter of drums coming fast and forceful. Even through the violence of the screams, the light shines. However, the opening of "Cold Spring" sees some of the heavier instrumental moments, with kick drums firing on all cylinders. The bass carries throughout the track, moving up and down the scales gracefully. Even casual acoustic strumming makes it into the meat of the track. The album comes to a close with "Rain." What can be said about a track that is so fitting, so well constructed. It is as if the song was based on the slow, falling rain. The imagery created by the distortion and percussion is amazing, leaving your body shivering. A brief interlude of bass and light drums will make you feel as though the rain has tapered off into mere drops. But a storm approaches, and guides you to the end.

It would seem that a movement is beginning. Black metal has begun to evolve, change, and find its way down paths never worn before. As progressive and post metal elements further permeate the roots of black metal, someone will need to be a voice for the new school of thought. With "Everything," An Autumn For Crippled Children show that they may not be innovators, but they are in a leadership role. With some sparkling production work, their next album might change music as we know it.


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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

ICS Vortex - Storm Seeker (2011)


Let me throw a few names out there. Dimmu Borgir. Borknagar. If you have your hands in both cookie jars, you must have something special to offer. So, as ICS Vortex ventures out to release his solo effort, "Storm Seeker," there are certainly high hopes around the world. But the real question is: What the hell is this album going to sound like? Dimmu Borknagar? One, both, or neither, it is sure to entertain.

Right out of the gate, you are blasted with progressive black metal. The kicks are fast and furious, while the guitars climb the scales on "The Blackmobile." The fusion of traditional black elements and psychadelic seventies rock vocals is a little strange at first, but comes into its own as the track progresses. As you come crashing into the solo in the breakdown section, it all begins to make sense. The drumming is the constant, beating down the doors of your perception. "Odin's Tree" introduces the bass into the mix, having been drown out in the opening track. The music is very one dimensional, rarely deviating from the basic chord progression. The vocals are well delivered, but lacking variation or true melody until the closing seconds.

The turn the album takes on "Skoal!" is a curious one. It's like a seventies prog rock anthem traveled forward in time to chill us out. There is a noticeable groove, and the presence of organ styled keys is truly trippy. Do I detect the twang of a mouth harp? Strange, but true. The bass line driven "Dogsmacked" is a step back to the progressive, but falls short of that fine line. The track is highlighted by the bass and guitar work in the breakdown, with darting notes flying back and forth across the spectrum. Unfortunately, the rest of the instrumental work falls flat, save for a rattling drum outro. The opening notes of "Aces" are promising, giving the darker sound to it all. And while the guitar work is precisely delivered and distorted, the vocal pattern has worn out it's welcome. The progressive, bordering on post-metal instrumentals are refreshing, taking a heavier turn with a bass backed solo. Even as the bridge harmony begins to win you over, a higher octave "wooo hooo" brings your smile back down.

"Windward" and "When Shuffled Off" do very little to reignite the flame, sounding more like b-sides from ancient Deep Purple or Blue Cheer than new compositions. There is simply no punch. The aptly titled "Oil In Water" is a track that describes itself perfectly. As we all learned in basic science, oil and water simply do not mix. And such is the case between the vocals and instrumental work, unable to blend together in a cohesive fashion. Even in the strongest of musical pieces, the vocals do nothing to help the cause. The eerie keyboard intro to the albums title track, mixed with lighter guitar tones is reassuring. As the bass joins in, you have a somewhat optimistic feel to the track. If only the track was a six minute instrumental. Gang vocals and old school prog rock harmonies dominate the track, burying the adept work in the process.

There is little more left to hear. "Flaskeskipper" is a barely tepid psychadelic jam fest. The opening riff is strong, with a sizable jump in the kick snare volume. But as the clean singing enters, the track grows stagnant, repeating the same measures over and over behind the caterwauling. The closing track, "The Sub Mariner" begins with some interesting midi-like synths. Perhaps you have, indeed, fallen into some alternate reality. But, as you soon realize, in this dimension or another, the track still goes nowhere. It builds with midi files on top of synthesizers, and more midi. It begs the question that Henry Rollins has asked of techno styled music: What came first, the drugs or the music?

To say that "Storm Seeker" is a disappointment isn't fair. For your expectations and reality are always completely separate entities. If this had come out sounding like a Dimmu b-sides release, it would be bothersome. If this was little more than recycled Borknagar riffs, it would be a travesty. So, I applaud ICS Vortex for striking out, and making an album that separates the man from his previous work. But has the apple fallen too far from the metal tree?


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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Baroness - Blue Record (2009)

Baroness left their mark in the music industry in 2009 with their latest album, entitled "Blue Record." This album will, in fact, crawl through your mind and play on for days. The progressive sludge metal band from Savannah, Georgia have really put some thought into the melodies and structure in this album. They've managed to mix strange, eerie, and reckless tones into there heavy guitars and harsh lyrics. This album has got it all!

The first track slowly fades in with dramatic guitar melodies that float on top of each other with interesting effects. After the short introduction comes chugging guitars and pounding drums in "The Sweetest Curse." There are some amazingly harsh vocals that you are greeted with immediately. The violent cymbals surround them with shattering crashes and powerful kicks. Layered in the middle of the song is some intense guitar riffs that shift from chord to chord in a psychedelic movement. "Jake Leg" follows with explosive drumming and more dominating vocals. The guitars fly from left to right with hell raising riffs and reckless distortion. The melodies are upbeat and wild as complicated drum fills keep the instruments tight. A lot goes on in this one so make sure you pay close attention.

"Steel That Sleeps The Eye" is an acoustic track with lots of soothing vocals layered together in beautiful harmonizing tones. The lyrics are deep and you should definitely get familiar with them. The song does include some distorted guitars toward the end which build up the following track, entitled "Swollen And Halo." The kicks and snares will have you rocking your head to the beat from beginning to end. You'll notice the drums getting more and more detailed with the snare and cymbal patterns as you fall deeper into the song. The guitars really communicate with high and low melodies constantly through the song. Meanwhile the bass hovers heavily in the background. This is a real power track that keeps the album running smoothly.

Later you'll run across a beast track, entitled "A Horse Called Golgotha." The drums are absolutely mind blowing as you are hit with complicated fill after complicated fill. The guitars are relentless as well as the patterns constantly change and keep you at the edge of your seat. Towards the end of the song you will collide with a vicious guitar solo that destroys the scales violently. The drumming keeps up with heavy cymbals and thunderous snares while catchy chords conclude the track. "O'er Hell And Hide" teases you with its soft and beautiful guitar intro. As it lures you in you eventually get slammed with a wave of melodic guitars that soar over the heavy drum rolls. You'll hear unclear clips of eerie talking throughout the song as the electrifying guitar continue to draw you closer and closer to the music. This is a very strange yet incredible track that you definitely need to check out.

As you fall towards the end of the album you find an interesting little tune called "The Gnashing." It's got relaxing guitars in the first minute of the song, as the drum kick and snare slowly join in. The guitars produce a very upbeat melody that gets faster and faster throughout the song. You are eventually met with rough vocals for a short period of time as the guitars are going crazy in the background with some pretty awesome riffs. Cymbals later fill the air as the track comes to an end.

"Blue Record" shows a very interesting angle of progressive sludge metal. You'll be left wanting to replay the album from the beginning as you will find it hard to pick a specific favorite track. If you happen to pick up the deluxe edition of the album you will also get a couple of live tracks from their performance at the Roadburn Festival. Definitely check these out as well. And as for Baroness, they are still very young in their career and I am definitely looking forward to which direction the go next.


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Monday, August 22, 2011

Promises Lie - Distance (2011)

As you all know, techno and metal just do not mix. However, the band Promises Lie try to mix them anyway. They list themselves as a progressive metal band from Russia, but I don't think progressive is the word. Honestly, I don't know what I would categorize them in. They have released their new album, entitled "Distance." It's got some interesting parts that are melodic and heavy yet the album is also very electronic.

The intro sounds like the beginning of a DJ Tiesto album with futuristic sounds and repetitive synthesizers. This builds up the second track, entitled "Thorns." With exploding drums and blaring guitar riffs you'll be bobbing your head immediately. The verses are clean with semi decent vocals. The refrain has got some good double bass pedal parts that really get the track pumped with energy. There is also a lot of different types of stringed synths and piano riffs that consume the background giving that outer space feel to the music. This follows with random screaming that, unfortunately, really takes away from the song. Besides this everything else isn't that bad. The structure is great and the recording sounds good. This is definitely one of the better songs on the album.

It starts to go down hill from here. "Freak" is the next track and it starts with a corny synth melody that sounds like they got from an old Tetris game. This automatically makes it hard to take the track seriously. They try to add some heavy elements like distorted guitar riffs and more screaming, but when the refrain kicks in, that annoying synth starts up again as well. On top of this, the vocalist seems like he's having a hard time hitting some notes as you'll hear a lot of flat lyrics. This is followed by "Nothing Nowhere." you would think Owl City was featured in this one when you hear the intro. Futuristic synths and soft clean vocals are drenched in reverb and delay effects. And of course they manage to include the weak screams with distorted riffs in the background. At this point of the album you'll notice that the vocalist went from singing to whining. But don't worry, they try to save things with a short "solo" using three or four notes over and over again. I know at this point you're asking yourself, "Will this song ever end?" and the great news is YES it does... but not before one last whiny chorus. Feel free to hit the "skip" button.

Now I'm sure by now you're wondering why you're still listening to this album. Well this is one track that is definitely worth hearing. "Backyard Desert" is the name of it. It's a one minute and 20 second instrumental with angelic piano riffs and beautiful soothing strings in the background. It's not metal, but it does lean more towards the calm classical sound. I think Promises Lie would be a lot more successful if they stuck to this kind of music. Seriously, you're going to find yourself listening to this short track more times than the 10 tracks on the album. So make sure you check this song out before you delete the album off your hard drive.

"Distance" is just a roller coaster ride that starts at a decent height and has a really steep drop. Promises Lie have proven that techno and metal are just not meant to be. It's time they start working on their solos and distorted riffs, and leave Tiesto and Owl City out of it!


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Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Podcast: Episode 17 (Our first single...)

Murmaider and Hell22 spend lots of time digesting new bands for you to hear. Hell22 has been taken for a ride by Morito Ergo Sum and Svartsot. Murmaider thinks you should give Jon Schaffer's side project, Sons Of Liberty, a shot. But hey, some guy asked us "When is the last time you loved an album, start to finish?" Well, the answer is simple. All the fucking time! Kinda makes you wonder what kind of music that guy is listening to. Oh wait, we know exactly what he listens to. And that means a discussion between the business of hip-hop vs. the business of metal.

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Blizzard At Sea: The Interview

John, Steve and Jesse from Iowa City sludge titan Blizzard At Sea took the time to sit down and answer some questions for us in the latest Sorrow Eternal Interview. Check out the review, and hear what the band has to say about "Invariance," the Iowa metal scene, and so much more.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Paradise Lost - In Requiem (2007)

Back in 2007, gothic doom metal band Paradise Lost released the album "In Requiem." This was their eleventh studio album and by far one of their best. The vocals are a little heavier while orchestrated strings and pianos leave a more soothing tone to the album. The guitars have some great melodies and are combined with some punchy bass lines.

"Ashes And Debris" starts out with eerie strings that get broken up quickly by heavily distorted guitar riffs as the vocals follow. Clean aggressive lyrics fill the air as the drums pound away in the background. The refrain has got deafening chords that are surrounded by shattering cymbals and detailed drum fills. Uplifting orchestrated strings take over as a light piano melody floats behind them. This creates that dark yet beautiful feel to the song.

Dark female vocals enter at the beginning of "The Enemy" carrying soothing melodies layered with blaring guitar riffs. The verse kicks in with dark vocals and rapid guitar chugging. The haunting female vocals jump in again after each verse only this time they are accompanied by explosive double bass pedals. You are later met with a pulverizing breakdown that will knock you on your ass immediately. Definitely make sure you check this song out.

"Requiem" starts with eerie synths and demonic guitar melodies. The drumming behind this is remarkable. The fills are booming with bass and complicated fills. The verse takes over with scratchy distorted guitar riffs that chug away while lead singer, Nick Holmes, delivers some harsh clean vocals. The chorus is full of catchy lyrics and melodies which will of course, be stuck in your head after the first time hearing it. This is followed by hypnotizing guitar riffs and rapid kick and snare action. This will leave you bobbing your head for sure.

"Unreachable" is an awesome track that leans a little more towards the gothic genre as the beginning gives off a Lacuna Coil feel. The vocals in the verses are not as harsh as some of the earlier song on the album. Guitars chug away as soothing piano notes carry on through the background. The chorus is extremely catchy and will have you bob your head to the drums. The drum rolls in between are very impressive. There is also an electrifying guitar solo that will blow you away. "Prelude To Descent" follows this with similar elements. Its got slow heavy drum fills and thunderous guitar melodies. The vocals change up from soft to harsh half way through the song as another monstrous solo flies through the middle of the track. The refrain is another catchy one as melodic guitars back up the clean vocals. These are definitely two track you don't want to miss.

Paradise Lost is one of those bands that just keep getting better and better with every album. "In Requiem" has definitely shown that they have taking their music to the next level. The song structure was well written and the lyrics were incredible. Make sure you take some time and listen to the dark and beautiful masterpiece.


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Friday, August 19, 2011

Sons Of Liberty - Brush-Fires Of The Mind (2010)

Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer has been working very hard on his solo project, called Sons Of Liberty. He's released the first full length album, entitled "Brush-Fires Of The Mind," and has got a lot to say. The album is all about the corruption of world leaders and governments and how we need to stand together to save our freedom. The lyrics are deep, the guitars are heavy, and the drum fills are incredible!

The opening track, "Jekyll Island," runs a little over seven minutes long and is full of overwhelming guitar riffs that will will rattle your brain from start to finish. It starts with mellow notes and soft drums while words echo in a whispering tone. Harsh guitar riffs enter with fast snares and booming kicks. The lyrics in the refrain scream from left to right as Schaffer smashes both high and low notes. There is a short speech in the middle of the song with a crowd of people cheering in the background. Schaffer is really trying to push his political views on this one. The guitars continue to beat you down with catchy patterns and melodic riffs. This runs right into "Don't Tread On Me," which starts with rapid guitar chugging as cymbals crash everywhere. The verses are filled with aggression and emotion. The mix between catchy riffs and solid lyrics will have you singing along. This is definitely the time to start pumping your fists in the air. A vicious solo follows between refrains giving an extra burst of energy towards the end. Get ready to the repeat button a few times.

"Our Dying Republic" starts out with mellow tones as soothing strings accompany simple bass lines and light drumming. The verses are clear with deep meaningful lyrics. Definitely make sure you look them up. The chorus contains some chanting lyrics that will get stuck in your head. The melody is very catchy. Also a little solo follows after each refrain hitting rapid notes but with a calm feel to them. Overall, the song is very relaxing yet filled with passion. Things fall more towards the Iced Earth sound in "Indentured Servitude." The beginning has a 40 second intro of a recorded speech that immediately jumps into head bobbing guitar riffs and drums. The verses are awesome with aggressive vocals. However, the song is broken up in between with more old recorded speeches from past presidents and other world leaders. As interesting as it is to hear what is said, is kind of takes way from the music. So definitely listen to this a few times so you can catch everything.

"Tree of Liberty" and "Feeling Helpless?" are both very strong tracks to the album however they sort of blend together and sound identical. The verses are solid and the refrains contain chanting lyrics with catchy melodies. It's good music but it could have probably been combined into one track. "We The people (We Surround Them)" is the final track on the album and the guitars and drums really explode in this one. There is so much energy in the music along with thunderous vocals. Also check out the lyrics. The message is very motivating.

Schaffer really goes out of his way to spread his message and delivers it well with heavy guitar riffs and punchy bass lines. "Brush-Fires Of The Mind" has got some impressive structure and interesting lyrics. If you love Iced Earth and you're wondering what Schaffer has to say about the government, then this is definitely the album for you!


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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Andrew W.K. - I Get Wet (2002)


Metal isn't all Satan worship and depression. There needs to be a lighter side, one with a fun twist. Enter the king of party metal, Andrew W.K. One part musician, one part television host, and ten part enigma, he made a huge belly flopping splash on the music scene with this, his debut album. And whether you are a frat boy, sorority girl, high school dropout, or just a metal head with a sense of humor, "I Get Wet" will give you something to smile about.

The first track is an announcement, and invitation to join in. The simple but effective "It's Time To Party" is a minute and a half of straight ahead punk metal, with Andrew W.K.'s raspy vocals convincing you to follow him into "Party Hard." The first single, and biggest song of his career, this one is fun from start to finish. The sound is huge, with multiple layers of guitar, bass, drums and piano keys. Lyrically, there are no surprises. You work hard, and so when the time is right, you must party hard. This will be the one to start your night. The surprisingly poignant "Girls Own Love" follows, with those signature vocals taking harmony to new places. It has all of the appeal of an 80's piano rock classic, but with a harder edge. This is like a sonic mullet; business in the front, party in the back.

You might feel you have fallen into a Nintendo game in the opening moments of "Ready To Die." But a strong kick drum beat leads the way, a constant thumping to urge piano and guitars forward. While the riff may sound familiar (the same basic structure is in nearly every song on the album), it never ceases to start a pit. "Take It Off" plays like an anthemic masterpiece, with the band creating a massive wall of distortion and melody, all at the same time. What can be said about "I Love NYC"? This is a true confession, in the catchiest form possible. And with  a simple lyrical hook, you will be singing along in no time. "I love New York City, Oh Yeah, New York City!"

Leave it to the master of partying to write an upbeat love song. On "She Is Beautiful," there is a short but sweet message, without becoming a sappy tribute track. A short guitar riff becomes a fountain of harmonies and melodies, built on the stability of that hammering drum. Even sharing the piece with Kelly Osbourne on his Ozzfest stint couldn't diminish the enjoyment. Possibly the heaviest track on the album, "Party Til You Puke" urges you to.... well, party until you puke. High speed and high energy are the name of the game. I challenge anyone to keep their fists out of the air on this one.

The final third of the album is exactly what you would want or expect from man in the dirty white t-shirt and jeans. Of course, a song called "Fun Night" isn't mysterious, nor does it have to be. Nothing intricate or wild, just good, straight up rock. "Got To Do It" and the title track, "I Get Wet" keep the ship moving full steam ahead. What stands out in this latter portion is that heavy piano riffing that may surprise many people. The final track is Andrew W.K. imploring you to live life at full speed at all times. "Don't Stop Living In The Red" is a summation of everything you my have learned from the album, complete with big finish organs.

Though his subsequent albums took a noticeably jazzy turn, Andrew W.K. chiseled his name into the metal scriptures with this one. His influence stretches far and wide, from the Ke$has of the world, to the new wave of American sludge in Blizzard At Sea. It doesn't matter if you are a beer enthusiast or someone straight out of "Revenge Of The Nerds." With the twelve songs of pure listening satisfaction, "I Get Wet" proves that anyone can party.


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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Svartsot - Maledictus Eris (2011)

Denmark may not be the home to all things brutal, but Svartsot may change that soon enough. With a name that translates to "black sickness," their signature brand of Danish folk is sure to turn a few heads. They attack your ears with all of jauntiness of their contemporaries, but with a decidedly heavier vocal edge. And after two successful full length efforts, it is time for the next step. They release "Maledictus Eris" to a growing fanbase, in hopes of making the leap from folk band to folk heroes.

A baby cries. A family speaks. The short intro track, "Staden" leads you to "Gud Giv Det Varer Ved!" There is no hiding the influences here, with flutes and whistles carrying the bulk of the early load. The guitars, while distorted, have a certain melodic attribute that gives a razor sharp appeal to the vicious vocals. The vocal hook in the chorus may induce a head nod or three. The drumming is consistent, with the constant pounding of kicks and snares filling every available gap. A raspy cough ends the track, and launches you straight into "Dodedansen." This is a gritty affair, with the vocals bordering on blackened folk. But the use of whistles and, oddly, mandolin keeps the track lighter. The mixture of lighthearted native instruments and and twirling guitar work is well conceived and well delivered. Even amidst near death vocals, a rich guitar solo reignites the folk flame.

Those growls continue through "Farsoten Kom," but find themselves paired with chants that will convince you to raise your glass high. A wicked mandolin melody, however odd it may sound to say that, is the highlight of sounds like a bar room classic. The sporadic use of double kicks, normally done to death, reinforces the power in each thud. A sound that many would perceive as bagpipes infiltrates "Holdt Ned Af En Tjorn," creating a dancing sensation in your legs. The guitars chug away, with deep, forceful growls commanding each verse. The breakdown portion must be heard, with a bass line becoming tangled in the sea of pipes and whistles. A black metal vocal spurt pushes things back to heavy, before a light outro.

A distorted guitar echos as "Den Forgaengelige Tro" begins. This track leans back and forth between heavy and sublime. One second the whistles take over, light and airy. mere moments later, the growls crashing of cymbals seize control. The give and take creates a balance that separates a good folk band from a mediocre melodic death band. The drums in the early stages of "Om Jeg Lever Kveg" provide some interesting fills and rolls, but the whistles play the starring role. The rousing march is heightened by the impeccable timing of each flute portion. A more minimalist appraoch is taken on "Kunsten at Do," which fills a storytelling role. The verses are vocal dominated, with little going on musically. As you crash into each bridge and chorus, the band assert themselves, in a flurry of strings and pipes. The breakdown becomes more aggressive, leading to a fierce finish, drums crashing in every direction.

Nowhere on the album is the folk presence felt more than on "Den Nidske Gud." The vocals, while strong and dirty, take a backseat to the instrumental carnage. There is a great mix of folk elements and metal roots, coming together in a dynamic harmony. While the acoustic "ballad" of "Spigrene" is a complete departure from the rest of the disc. The clean, Danish vocals are inspiring. It is difficult to put into words the inherent beauty of a song crafted this way. The grand finale, "Og Landet Ligger Sa Ode Hen," is a victory in so many ways. The merging of the hard and the heavy with the rich and radiant is perfected. They now blend, seamlessly, in one final assault. The growls are the beast of it all, maintaining their strength in a what plays as a more lighthearted offering.

We have sung the praises of the folk genre numerous times. But not all folk is created equal. With so many different cultures, styles and instruments to absorb, it can be difficult to provide something that is both original and true to your roots. It is a mountain that takes time to climb. Svartsot are not yet at the pinnacle with "Maledictus Eris," but they are well on their way. When they reach the top, the flag of Denmark can join the legion of countries that have a seat on the folk metal throne.


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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chimaira - The Age Of Hell (2011)

The relentless Chimaira is finally back with some new intense tunes. They have released their sixth studio album and man, does this one pack a punch. The album is entitled "The Age Of Hell" and basically focuses on how the end of the world is near. I have to say the lyrics are pretty powerful in this one. And the performance of the instruments is a real rush. Get ready for some skull crushing songs.

The first track, entitled "The Age of Hell," is all about preparing you for the end and that this is the age of hell. It's a decent opening track. There isn't anything too special that jumps out, except for the chainsaw guitar riffs towards the end that help build up the suspense for the furious guitar solo that follows. "Clockwork" gives you a better view of what is still to come with its incredible double bass pedals and intriguing drum fills. The album really starts to pick up with the third song, "Losing My Mind." This track opens with almost a full minute of head thrashing guitars that chug away constantly. The monstrous riffs are backed by explosive double bass drumming. The vocals are aggressive and harsh during the verses. There is a bit of clean chanting during the refrain, which is followed with quick blast of massively distorted guitar riffs. However, this doesn't compare to the end of the track. It closes with a huge breakdown that includes some interesting synth sounds that add a futuristic feel to the music.

"Year Of The Snake" is another beast track that you'll want to check out. It starts with deafening guitars and quiet snares that build louder and louder as you are met with a violent growl. The chorus has devilish clean singing with eerie tones. With about a minute and a half left in the song, a destructive breakdown drop kicks you in the face with deep bass waves and crazy drumming. I can only imagine what the mosh pits will look like when they perform this one live. "Beyond The Graves" slows down with haunting guitars and crashing cymbals accompanied with booming snares and toms. You won't be able to help but bob your head to these nasty riffs. Also, the style of vocals are unique as you will hear a blend of growling and yelling together. It sounds awesome together. The song ends with a melodic solo as violent chords are blaring in the background.

Don't even think about taking a break now. "Born In Blood" carries the rage with its incredibly fast double bass pedaling and tense guitar riffs. The drums will pound you to the ground while you bleed from your eyes and ears. They also include a melodic solo that jumps from octave to octave rapidly. After this, it's right back to head bobbing with "Powerless." The band gets a little more technical as their verse contain heavy chugging layers with detailed melodic riffs all combined with vicious vocals. The double bass keeps the song in a steady motion while the cymbals and snares crash in all directions.

If you're looking for some more relentless drumming check out "Scapegoat." The beginning alone will grab your attention immediately as you hear nothing but speedy kicks and snapping cymbals. Demonic guitar riffs come flying in giving a dark feel to the song. The refrain is catchy and follows with some dirty guitar work. This is definitely another headbanger. Following this is the final track on the album which is entitled "Samsara." Running for about 6 minutes long, the instrumental starts out very calm with soothing guitar melodies. This of course changes quickly as monstrous guitars enter with lots of double bass action. Emil Werstler, one of the guitarists from Daath, is featured in it and shows off some of his hell raising melodic solos. Between the amazing guitar work and pulverizing drum rolls, this ending track will have you begging for more. Not to mention you're probably going to shit yourself. It's that insane!

Chimaira has really stepped things up this time. "The Age Of Hell" is full of energy and excitement. It's got low earth shaking breakdowns and high flying guitar solos for all to enjoy. So make sure you check this album out. You won't be disappointed!


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Monday, August 15, 2011

Morito Ergo Sum - I Die, Therefore I Am (2010)

Traditional doom is an art form. Sure, you can go a little to the left, or a little to the right. But the straight and narrow road of doom, as it is and always will be, is one rarely traveled. Sweden's Morito Ergo Sum are walking that fine line, with violin in hand. On their debut offering, "I Die, Therefore I Am," the haunting melancholic tones are the star, and they will leave you stirred, not shaken.

The album begins with "The End," an intro track of pulsing bass and screeching strings, but all awash in various effects. One minute of eerie instrumentation and sounds, flowing directly into "Gone." This is traditional doom metal through and through, with the slow distorted guitar work creating a somber atmosphere. The drum patterns barely move above a crawl, providing only a beat at most times. An occasional fill rolls through, tying together bridge to chorus. The vocals are ghostly, but beautifully melodic. Much like Aaron Stainthorpe, lead singer of My Dying Bride, Walter Basile has a "doom and gloom" quality that cuts through to your core. A few moments of double bass and heavier guitar work reignite the fires of the track. But this isn't a headbanger. This is pure sadness.

Out of the ashes of "Gone" comes the title track, "I Die Therefore I Am." The guitars have a distinctly darker mood here, winding through chord progressions. Basile's voice comes to you from beyond the misty graveyard. He chants along to a downtempo tom beat, with guitars showing intermittent chugging ability. The greatness of the track is in the simplicity. The power is in the vocal delivery, calming, yet somehow unnerving. The violin enters, first in solo form. But as the guitars and drums build back, the strings take over as the melody. The lightly distorted guitars that dominate the breakdown portion are stirring, with darting notes layered on top of massive chords. The bass rumbles through your speakers, with only drums to back it, paving the way for a violin outro that may leave a single tear hanging from your eyes.

Morito Ergo Sum, which is Latin for "I die therefore I am," provide a short but long-lasting impression. From Basile's voice to the simple yet satisfying musical accompaniments, everything falls into place on this EP. In fifteen glorious minutes, you are taken into the depths of sadness. No death metal pieces. No forty piece orchestra. This is doom. No ifs ands or buts.


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Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Podcast: Episode 16 (Prepare. The. Saaaauuuuccceeee.)

The guys are feeling good, with a new site at in the works. Murmaider gushes over Amanda Somerville and Michael Kiske's duet album, and the latest album by Black Sun Aeon. Hell22 wants to share Blizzard At Sea with the world. Now, we have to ask you. Have you seen the Vegan Black Metal Chef yet? Well, we sure have, and we are fans. Check him out, buy a shirt (or knife) on his site.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Edguy - Rocket Ride (2006)

In 2006, The German power metal band, Edguy, released "Rocket Ride." This has been one of their most successful albums of their career. It has got tons of epic refrains and thunderous guitar solos mixed with funny lyrics and a good time.

The album starts off with the eight minute long "Sacrifice" which is the longest song on the whole album. It opens with angelic piano riffs and echoing guitars chords. Melodic strings following over the blaring guitars as the drums start to explode. The verse gets quiet as all of the instruments fade except for the piano. Lead singer, Tobias Sammet, comes in with soothing lyrics as his voice flows over the piano gently. Aggressive guitars roll in as the pre-chorus builds toward the end of the verse. The refrain hits with high flying vocals surrounded by loud crashing cymbals and deafening guitar riffs. The song continues with some hard chugging followed by electrifying guitar solos hitting every note on the scale. The instruments fade again for a brief second as the next verse starts off. Sammets constant change in pitch is incredible as he soar to the heavens with his high notes and comes gliding down with his medium and lower vocals. There is tons of speedy synthesizers and catchy melodies throughout the song keeping you hooked from start to finish.

"Wasted time" starts out interesting as strange bass waves roll through the first minute as the guitars add short notes in the background. After the first minute in the drums drop with a basic kick-snare pattern as blasting guitars jump in with massive amounts of distortion. You're going to want to pump your first for sure. The verse starts out quiet with nothing but soft acoustic strumming combined with Sammet's soothing vocals. The refrain constains catchy lyrics delivered with power as Sammet belts with high flying layered vocals. You'll find similar vocals in the next song, entitled "Matrix." The flange and reverb effects give an amazing futuristic sound to the song. Even the bass lines have an interesting sound effect to it. This is definitely a song you will want to listen to a couple of times.

The futuristic effects don't stop there. "Return To The Tribe" opens with catchy guitar riffs loaded with delay and reverb. The chords echo off the walls as heavy distorted guitars chug away. The double bass pedal drumming keeps a fast tempo as you'll find yourself bobbing your head immediately. Sammet flies over the guitars in the refrain hitting unbelievably high notes. It's mind blowing to hear his pitch jump so high. The drums are rapid with detailed fills and constant cymbals breaking everywhere. After, a melodic guitar solo follows. This song is a solid backbone to the album.

Later in the album you will come across the infamous song "Superheroes." The verse starts with detailed bass lines as Sammet sings with aggression. Constant kick-snare patterns take over the drums as monstrous guitar riffs chug away. This all sets a great build up to the refrain. The chorus contains catchy lyrics that you won't be able to resist. Gorgeous piano parts flow in and out of the guitars and are surrounded by soft orchestral strings. Definitely get ready to throw your fists in the air for this one. Especially since you're going to be hitting the replay button a couple of times.

"Rocket Ride" is definitely a party album. The lyrics are fun and the music offers a good time. This of course, is what Edguy is all about. If you're looking for upbeat music with catchy hooks and refrains than this is the album for you!


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Friday, August 12, 2011

Black Sun Aeon - Routa (2010)

Have you ever looked into the metal underground scene in Lahti, Finland? Well I have and Black Sun Aeon is what I've come across. Formed in 2008, this 4 piece doom metal band has come together and released a full length album in 2010, entitled "Routa." The album has got everything from depressive vocals to heavy growling. The instrumentation is phenomenal with dark chords, explosive drumming, and soothing orchestral stings as well.

The opening track entitled, "Core Of Winter," starts with atmospheric strings and chugging guitar riffs blended with bone crushing drums and sizzling cymbals. Melodic roffs are layered on top as it prepares you for the verse. The first verse consists of slow depressive clean vocals similar to the style of the band My Dying Bride. The drum patterns in the background are filled with detail as kicks, snares, and drums jump in and out rapidly. A short breakdown fills between the gap of the first and second verse with exploding drum rolls and deafening guitar riffs with blaring distortion. After the second verse of depressive clean vocals comes a storm of devilish growls that will have you shitting your pants immediately. The refrain at the end of the track has both the clean singing and vicious growling layered on top of one another giving that beauty and the beast feel.

"Frozen" is the next track on the album and starts out with muffled guitar riffs which quickly become clear as the drums drop. The aggressive riffs will have you bashing your head with the beat. Violent growls enter in the verse as the clean vocals take care of the chorus. Following this track is "Sorrow Song." This is where the progressiveness kicks in. The first minute is heavy chugging and demonic guitar riffs. Cymbals are crashing everywhere while the kick and snare run back and fourth between chords. Wicked growls pulverize the verse as the tempo of the guitars stay steady. The melodies in between in the verses and refrain are very catchy and yet gloomy at the same time. This is a solid track you won't want to skip.

"Routa" has got a lot going on in the beginning. Rapid double bass pedals are layered with shattering cymbals, punchy bass lines, and violent guitar riffs. With the evil growling in the verse, the song has a strong black metal tone to it. The double bass action really puts some speed into the album. The orchestrated string really surround the rest of the instruments keeping everything balanced and together. Another amazing track is ""Dead Sun Aeon." Booming guitar riffs chug away in the beginning while depressive strings float in the background. Be prepared for a change up in vocals as you hear a beautiful female voice from Janica Lonn enter with quiet guitar notes in the background. Her melodic voice pulls you into the song as the instruments build up to the end of the verse. Powerful guitar riffs blast away in between the verses knocking you on your ass only to be lifted by Lonn's vocals in the second verse. A gorgeous melody runs through the strings after the verse as deafening growls enter in the end. The structure of this song is magnificent and is definitely one of my favorites on the album.

"River" and "Wanderer" are two powerful tracks that will run right over you the first time listening. They've got monstrous double bass pedaling, fast tempos and roaring growls that hit you in the face lyric after lyric. The breakdown in "Wanderer" is full of overwhelming bass and will definitely have you pumping your fist. The guitar work is incredible as they switch between melodic notes and piercing demonic chords. "Apocalyptic Reveries" is the final track on the album and runs for 7 minutes long. Its more of a two part ending as the first part starts with muffled clean vocals that enter the verse as wretched guitars are slammed in the background. The vocals give a haunting vibe to the song. Double bass pedals take over as the guitars are constantly chugging along. Layered on top is a wick guitar that almost plays as a vocal itself with its melodic tones. This fades about 4 minutes in as the last three minutes consist of a beautiful melodic acoustic guitar. Honestly I could listen to this all day!

Overall "Routa" is a mind blowing album that really took me by surprise when I first listened to it. The recording quality is excellent and the song structure is magnificent. Black Sun Aeon is definitely another young band with lots of potential and is heading in the right direction. Looking forward to their next project!


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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos (2007)

Let's face it. You either like Dream Theater, or you don't. There are very few that fall into that middle space. Progressive rock and metal fans from across the world have spent more than two decades marveling at the musicianship that this American based band have put on display. While others, like it or not, think their albums are little more than "musical masturbation." The argument is impossible to win. Regardless of your opinion, "Systematic Chaos" is an album that needs to be heard and dissected.

The tangled web of drums, guitar, bass and keyboards is woven into the fabric of "In The Presence Of Enemies - Part 1." The song has two distinct parts, with the first half being completely instrumental. The intro sounds like each instrument is playing a solo, but all to the same beat. They merge well despite the chaos. But as things slow, the true cohesion begins. This is where Dream Theater shines brightest. Petrucci, Portnoy, Myung and Rudess play so well off of one another, creating rich melodies and harmony, with layer upon layer of sound. The second half allows room for James LaBrie, the lightning rod for most Dream Theater detractors, the chance to enter with his clean vocals. His in-studio vocals are above average, but passive. The music is the star, and he is a supporting actor.

The soft piano that introduces "Forsaken" is a light appetizer. As soon as Petrucci's guitar comes screeching in, this evolves into a progressive rock work. Myung's bass rumbles in, while LaBrie carves out the beginnings of a story. The full band comes together here, with each member providing a necessary element to complete the effect. A choreographed stop/start is perfectly placed, launching the second half of the song with a fury. Petrucci takes over with a commanding, shredding solo, on top of Rudess' atmospheric background keys. The drumming over Portnoy isn't overbearing, but rather powerful. The track ends where it begins, in the deft hands of a keyboard master.

Fans of the band were prepared for the shred fest of "Constant Motion," with each member of the band showing off their respective talents. There is an odd similarity to old Metallica, as if Dream Theater were giving us a quick taste of what the metal legends would have been like had they not fallen off so terribly. The mesh of guitar and drums in the bridge section will leave you dizzy. The breakdown section is filled with high octane fret work and firing drums, but is capped by a dynamic keyboard solo. "The Dark Eternal Night" is a stomping track, which might catch you of guard at times. The melodies in the chorus are the strength, while the odd vocal structure in the verse is a low point. The instrumental work is all top notch, featuring some ridiculous dueling guitar and keyboards. The old time silent movie soundtrack breakdown portion is light-hearted and fun. But there is plenty of heaviness to absorb as well, with pounding drum beats urging the band along.

There most interesting composition on the album comes in the form of "Repentance," a mainly instrumental track with spoken voices confessing sins of their past. The song is emotional and moving, as the mood of the music shifts from dark and ominous, to a more piano-laden somber one. Even after nearly eleven minutes, you may still find yourself swaying from side to side with each passing drum fill or cymbal crash. LaBrie has a rare chance to take center stage in the opening minute of "Prophets Of War," as his voice is heard over only the pulsing keys. As the drums enter, one kick at a time, the track builds into an anthem of change. layers of guitars, drums and bass come together, a call to action against tyranny. There is an air of triumph in the pre-chorus, leading to a chant of support in the chorus itself. The strength of the instruments is outdone only by the strength of the message itself.

The fifteen minute melodic epic that follows, "The Ministry Of Lost Souls," is a mixture of everything you have come to love (or hate) from Dream Theater. Soft, clean guitars with soothing vocals begin the track. The refrains have all of the lighter inducing fair of a rock ballad, complete with Rudess' ringing piano chords. But the chain of solos that follow are signature moves, with Petrucci screaming ahead with brute force. His guitars wind in and out of the pattern; on time, off time, on his own time. Rudess' keyboards take command, only to be seized by a tremendous drum fill that steals the show for Portnoy. Myung's bass is the constant, tying each section together with his atomic clock of sonic low end. The guitars inevitably win out, with a raucous solo hitting pitches up and down the scales. At last, the band reunites, coming back to the songs course, welcoming LaBrie back, and cruising to a prog rock finish.

The closing number, "In The Presence Of Enemies - Part 2," starts as soft and delicately as it could, before taking a noticeably dark turn. "Dark master within, I will fight for you. Dark master of sin, now my soul is yours." Disturbing at first, perhaps, but there is so much more. The light is yet to come, with ripping solos coming from every direction. This is a track that adds fuel to the fire of the "haters." Some of the instrumentals will seem unnecessary, especially to someone unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the band's epic desires. But each note has a place, each instrument takes a swing at the piƱata of a successful song. And when all four (five including vocals) connect, there is a spray of confetti that is not easy to explain.

There is simply no denying the talent levels that the members of Dream Theater possess. Two and a half decades of success is proof of that. This band is a juggernaut, and not soon to be stopped. But what one hears as a cohesive, well constructed progressive metal masterpiece, another might characterize as a mish mosh of solos and "look what I can do" attitude. "Systematic Chaos" is both and neither. All at the same time. There, I said it.


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