Monday, April 30, 2012

Cannibal Corpse - Torture (2012)

With their trashing guitar riffs and deathly vocals, Cannibal Corpse is at it again with their new album, entitled “Torture.” The five piece from Buffalo, New York have continued to show off their wicked talents with this twelve track massacre. From deafening solos to muddy chugging guitars, the album hits you from all angles.

The album opens with “Demented Aggression” sending wicked fast guitar riffs blaring in your face. Lead vocalist, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, wastes no time with his violent death metal growls as they chop away with a murderous deliver knocking you right on your ass. Devilish guitar riffs fly through the air with wild distortion and constant chord progression. “Sarcophagic Frenzy” keeps the motions going with exploding drum fills and massive amounts of punishing growls. Monstrous guitar riffs will have you up and moshing right from the beginning. Later you’ll come across a guitar solo that will send chills down your spine. The final verse carries you right into the deadly “Scourge Of Iron.” This is one song you don’t want to miss. The tempo slows down just a tad as chainsaw guitar riffs come through with aggressive chugging riffs as you’ll find yourself bashing your head immediately. Fisher cuts your throat with his sharp vicious growls. Meanwhile the drums jump in and out with complex drum fills and insane double bass pedal patterns. Another hell raising guitar solo comes through and completely destroys the musical scale as you hear nothing but reckless notes flying at all directions. Don’t be surprised if you catch yourself quickly hitting the replay button for this track. I had a hard time getting past it myself.

“Encased In Concrete” and “As Deep As The Knife Will Go” are a couple of powerful tracks that really provide a backbone for the album. They’re only about three minutes long but since they follow each other they fit perfect in length and are just enough of what you want. Pulverizing guitar riffs saw through you with monstrous distortion combined with booming drum rolls and non stop double bass action. Crashing cymbals fill up the background perfectly with their wretched screams. Another vicious track is “Followed Home Then Killed.” It opens with muddy guitar riffs that blast away with deafening chords. The tempo quickly picks up as the verse comes in with a wave of demonic growls. Guitar riffs are constantly changing pattern leaving you at the edge of your seat the entire time. You are then consumed by a deadly solo that contains a mixture of reckless violence and psychedelic sound effects.

The album stand strong all the way through to the end as you pass insane tracks like “Caged…Contorted” and “Torn Through.” The bass lines alone run straight through you gutting you from the inside out. Fisher’s growls echo throughout the tracks with harsh aggressiveness and sick lyrics. Meanwhile the drums continue to constantly change up double bass patterns and throw relentless snares and cymbals at you. As they beat you into the ground, you’re then eaten alive by more mind blowing guitar solos. With this album, the killing never stops.

“Torture” is a reckless bloodbath that keeps you kicking and stomping throughout its entirety. Each and every track is aggressive and over whelming. Cannibal Corpse continue to prove they are the kings of death metal with their sick lyrics, punishing guitar riffs and wicked solos. The album grows on you very quickly and you’ll find it hard to turn off. Definitely make sure you check the album out. It’s well worth it.


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Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Podcast: Episode 44 (I don't care about reviews, I only care about guitar!)

Yes, for those of you who caught it, the title is, in fact, stolen from Brendon Small's "Home Movies." A while back, we discussed some of the drummers that stand out from the pack. And while the men with the sticks mind be the ones to drop the beat, the guys with the guitars in hand are the ones that keep us on the edge of our seats. We take this opportunity to talk about some of our favorite axe men. From Akerfeldt to Loomis, Wylde to Small, these guys know how to rip, wail, and shred their way to glory.

Download that shit right here, dawg.

And the second part of that shit is here, son.
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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Valkiria: The Interview

The man behind Italian gothic doom two piece Valkiria, Valkus, has a vision for his music. With humble beginnings as a one man band, and rising to his current position over the course of a 15 year career, he has never been short on ideas or execution. He sits down to share his thoughts on their new album, "Here The Day Comes," the thought of life as one long day, and where the Italian metal scene may have gone wrong. Special thanks to Angelo at Scarlet/Bakerteam Records for setting this up.

First and foremost, we want to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about your work.

Thank you for giving us this opportunity.

Your influences are very broad, including Katatonia and My Dying Bride. What is it about those bands, and others, that inspired you to create music, and what effect do you think they have had on your sound as it is today?

I started playing Black metal in the 90’s, the sound I used to play included melodic parts, then I started to slow down the rhythm of the songs. I am a big fan of the bands you mentioned, in a certain sense they influenced my style mostly at the beginning of the new millennium. It seems to me they lost their primordial gloom, even if they keep on doing good music, but the 90’s “doom feeling” is definitely gone. With H.T.D.C. I also wanted to resurrect those unforgettable sensations.

Your new album, "Here The Day Comes," breaks the day up into seven sections, each represented by a song. How did you come up with this concept?

I began to compose a long, unique song. After a lot of variations the song has been divided into the seven tracks you find on the cd. Therefore all songs are interconnected, so I came up with the idea any songs could represent a single moment of the day, a day that synthesize the entire life. If only we could perceive life just as one long day, everything would be easier.

The artwork for the album is a pure representation of that concept, with the sun rising over the trees. Where did the artwork come from, and who is responsible for the image itself?

Originally I created a cover by myself with a lot of images pasted together. I imagined a room in a cemetery with an old man and a young woman, but after all I wasn’t satisfied with the final result, so we decided to change it in a more impressive one. I found that picture on internet and I immediately felt in love with it, I just added a little photoshop “ice” layer on it. The photographer gave us the right to use the entire series of shoots, so you can find other amazing images like that inside the booklet.

Did you have specific ideas in mind for each stage, and how do you feel that each song fits the time that it was named for?

I used to take my guitar, I had in my mind the concept I wanted to represent, sometimes it was like entering in a sort of trance, my mind was completely separated from the rest of the world. That was all, I just knew every riffs would have created the perfect atmosphere of this strange day. The only exception is the entire beginning of dawn, I started writing it thinking consciously of a quiet introduction, somebody commented that the light break forth vigorously in the dark of night, but in my opinion the day promises to be just as gently as in my "dawn".

We often ask about the challenges for one man bands. I imagine there is a list of challenges and benefits for being a two piece, as well. What are some of the best, and worst, parts of being part of a metal duo?

I started as a one man band even though it was not my intention. I have always looked for capable musicians who could join the band, because I firmly believe that union is strength. So we are willing to add other permanent members in the band, because we believe that sometimes to be two is a limit. Obviously more thinking minds could mean possible disagreements, but I have now developed a foolproof method: in case of divergence I’m the boss, I decide and .. go to hell with democracy!

Traditionally, you haven't used the services of a live drummer for your music. What led to the decision to employ a drummer, and how did Novembre's Giuseppe Orlando come into the fold?

I always asked myself how Valkiria could play with a real drummer, so when Mike proposed to contact Giuseppe Orlando I just answered that it could be cool to have him with us. Giuseppe accepted, so the only step left was booking the studio. He is a very talented drummer, he gave each song a boost. We worked on the drums for one week, we had a drum machine demo, I realized as accurate as possible, so everything was very simple.

You are far from a new band, having been around for 15 years. How would you say labels, distribution outlets, and the pure "business" of music affected your work, from an artistic standpoint?

I've always been making music without thinking of the consequences (searching for a label, distribution, selling…), that’s the most important thing and the reason why, the previous works are downloadable for free on our official site. The opinion of people, whoever they are (fans, journalists or labels) doesn’t affect me very much. I am adamant about this, if I made music influenced by these pressures would be an extreme failure.

After enduring all of those trials and tribulations, all in the name of your music, how would you say the music industry has changed you as people over your career?

The music industry has changed a lot over the last fifteen years with the advent of Internet, that has played in our favour. We never had bonds so we didn’t tie with a label until last year.

We kept up with the promotion evolution, since Internet has spread we caught the ball. In 2001 we created our official website, which was the first step to restart, after the stop that followed the first demo in the late nineties. So far internet was our only channel of promotion, and without internet we wouldn’t never get the will to publish and promote our music, cause the old system didn’t work for us.

From our work on the site, it would seem the Italian metal scene is extremely diverse, and growing by the day. Where do you think Valkiria fits into that picture, and how do you feel about the crop of new bands that are emerging?

You define Italian scene “diverse” I agree with you, in the sense that this diversity shows that speaking of German, French or Italian scene makes less sense nowadays. No nation has its own specific style in making Metal music anymore. Certainly the temptation to divide musical styles by geographic areas is strong, but it is a phenomenon that could have meant years ago. It seems that globalization has also taken place in the music and that’s good, the music has to break down the boundaries, not create new ones. Valkiria is a band that belongs to the world.

The new album is on the way, seeing a release through Bakerteam Records on April 16th. What comes next in the world of Valkiria?

The next step will be to complete the line up and play live. We are working on this, we understand how difficult these days are, promoters that don’t pay or even ask for money to the bands, poor organization, etc. ... If there is demand, all these problems will be cleared up, so everything is on fan’s hands.

Thank you again for the time, and your honesty. We appreciate your efforts. Looking forward to whatever comes next!

Thank you for your support!
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Friday, April 27, 2012

Danny Grawbarger - Deep In Space (2012)

Sooner or later, it will come time for the old guard to step aside and let the next generation of guitarists into the spotlight. At the young age of 21, Canadian progressive metal guitarist Danny Grawbarger is already standing, stage right, waiting for his turn. With influences ranging from traditional metal to classical and jazz, he has garnered a lot of attention for someone who only has five years under his belt on the instrument. But as the eight tracks on his debut album, "Deep In Space," prove, time is all relative.

A surprising burst of synths and strngs opens "Apollo Opus," a rarity for a very guitar driven album to be bookended by something other than a solo or opening riff. The immediate use of layered melody shows the song writing ability at work. But before long, Grawbarger cuts through it all with powerful, yet cohesive riffs. The beauty of his style is that is can play both sides of the genre, as an instrumental or as the backing for a vocalist (though that second option isn't tested here). The power metal atmosphere on display is invigorating, to say the least, and not wasted on lazy string work. On that same note, "Collision Course" once again sees a great deal of thought put into the synth and percussion portion. Flashes of guitar excellence come and go, with some portions more successful than others, though part of the issue lies in the mix rather than the playing itself.  Grawbarger seems to have an intuitive style, playing what feels right, rather than cramming too much into a tight space.

As things slow down, "Rising," fades into existence. This is, by no means, a sappy guitar ballad. His guitars squeals with harmonics at every turn, with a tone that would make Zakk Wydle proud. Atmospheric keyboards and synths only aid in building the mood, one that is the most restrained on the album. The melody is smooth, without being overly so. Instead, the classical influence comes through loud and clear. The first guest appearance, courtesy of UK guitarist Ben Wilshire, comes on "Conspiracy Theory." The track takes on a deeper sound, in both scope and octave. And while the rhythm section keeps it tight and to the point, the solo work takes a giant leap forward, with a wailing solo stealing the spotlight not once, but twice. The dueling guitar work is solid, with each taking a lead. The melody here may be the most catchy, running up and down the scales. And while a soft, clean guitar opens "Secret Endeavor," it isn't long before you hit the symphonic wall. With keys, synths, strings and horns all coming together in a wall of orchestrated sounds, that leaves the mix ready for a expertly crafted bit of lead work. Grawbarger gives you exactly what you need, with an almost bluesy bit of shredding that seems to fly by.

As the title track, "Deep In Space" has some lofty expectations attached to it. Serene strings welcome you to the fold, then are joined by a twisting guitar solo. The switch is flipped, and distortion comes from all angles. A rolling double kick drum pounds away with Grawbarger soars over the top of it all in true virtuoso fashion. What you end up with is a symphonic metal attack that many bands would love to achieve, with a guitar player that many would be envious of. With a little help from former Megadeth guitarist Glen Drover, "Home Bound" proves to be a space age wonder. Darting keys accompany the two axemen as they weave their notes in and out of one another amidst a wave of synthesizers. Each has their own sound, standing apart from one another, while simultaneously coming together to form an army of notes and chords. The finale, "Treasure Chest," is exactly what the name implies. A veritable bounty of flowing riffs and melodies awaits, in what could only be described as a three minute public service announcement for following your dreams.

It is so easy to look at Danny Grawbarger, and his age in particular, and think that this will just be a throwaway album. After all, what could a 21 year old kid possibly have to offer a world of aging metal guitar Gods? Well, a simple question deserves a simple answer. "Deep In Space" isn't the work of a child. Grawbarger has a talent that comes naturally to few, one that will only get better with age. He didn't record this in his garage, as a way to show off his friends or get laid. Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to think about passing the torch. And Danny Grawbarger may just be the right man for the job.


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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Great Sabatini - Matterhorn (2012)

Sometimes strange and weird is a good thing right? Well it is for The Great Sabatini. This four piece from Montreal keeps shows off some unique melodies and song structures in their new album, entitled “Matterhorn.” The album contains six tracks, each with their own odd melodies keeping things refreshing throughout it’s entirety. It’s tough to categories this band as far as genre goes however you will definitely find a good mix of stoner, psychedelic and progressive tones.

“City Limits” opens the album with scratchy guitar riffs overwhelming distortion. Relentless snares pound away as muddy bass lines shake up the background. The vocals consist of faded screaming growls that play more as an instrument than a vocal. The mix keeps the guitars up in front through most of the track. The slow chugging guitar riffs that blast away violently is what really makes this song worth while. You’ll find more of this in “Zacios.” Strange guitar melodies lead to even more odd sounds as you’re hit with complicated patterns. The vocals rip right through you with its wicked performance. Meanwhile you’re ran over by complex drum rolls and splashing cymbals. Unfortunately the song is only three and a half minutes long so you’re probably gonna want to hit the replay button.

Deadly chugging guitars really shake things up in “Null And Void.” Layered guitars open up the song with screeching chaos. Reckless shouting takes over the background while the snares and cymbals go insane with detailed patterns. The guitars are relentless with their chugging riffs and over the top distortion effects. Their wild slamming guitar chords share a similar sound to that of the band Gojira. “Wagons” knocks you on your ass with its wild guitar riffs and random melodies. Once the vocals come in, they pretty much suffocate you for the rest of the track leaving you no time to even catch your breath.

The album comes to an end with “Sad Parade Of Yesterdays.” This nine minute long track starts out with psychedelic acoustic riffs that are slowly accompanied by distorted guitars. This shows a strong progressive side to the album and provides you with some time to collect yourself after just being pulverized by the previous track. About three and a half minutes in is when the monstrous chugging guitars come in. They are combined with reckless muffled vocals. The drums are constantly changing patterns with thunderous kicks and high hitting cymbals. Muddy distorted guitars consume you deep into the track as you become lost in its trippy tones. Get ready to fall off you seat because the last three minutes of this track is filled with explosive drums and relentless screeching guitars that scream deafening sounds in your ear. They really end the album with a bang with this track.

Aside from the crummy recording, “Matterhorn” is definitely worth listening to. The vocal delivery is excellent and provides that stoner metal sound you love to blast. The guitar riffs are constantly destroying you with each and every wild note. The structure in each song keeps changing leaving the album diverse and unpredictable. As long as you can get over the shitty recording quality, the album can become very addictive.


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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Heavy Metal Ninjas - Heavy Metal Ninjas (EP) (2012)

When we were in our early teens, the combination of metal music and ninjas would have been enough to send us into a testosterone induced rampage. Maybe it still can. The Heavy Metal Ninjas, hailing from New Zealand, are ready to test the "forever young" phrase. Despite a name that seems hokey and cheesy, this five piece instrumental outfit is anything but. With bonafide guitar Gods Richie Allan and Stu Kora at the helm, there is nothing silly or childish to be had here, but rather a four song offering of pure guitar metal, with some of the most eclectic riffs you could want.

While the stigma surrounding acoustic guitars in metal may never go away, the riffs that open "The Author" aren't any less impressive. A combination of picking and strumming, they come accompanied by a faint chanting voice. As the electricity kicks in, those same riffs, done with massive distortion, blow the speakers apart. With whammy bars and strings bending at their will, you find yourself floating in the sea of a surprisingly well crafted song. Sure, there are some solo portions that may seem more like showing off than playing a coherent track, but it all works as a whole. The base riff that plays throughout will easily become your soundtrack for hours to come. Lost so often is that direct correlation between blues and metal, something that "What If" puts on display. It, like the previous track, starts clean before moving into the heavier direction. Some deft finger work, in both the guitar and bass areas, contributes to what plays out as a solid track. Not to be missed, the backing band lays down the optimal tempo and sound to build upon. The guitar whines over top of it all, until the background fades away, leaving the shriek of bending strings alone to the finish.

The space age feel of "M45" isn't exactly a new one, but it works as a launching point for the most dynamic track on the EP. There is a more driven feel here, with a more clear beginning, middle and end. rather than a barrage of solos, the guitars take on the role of the vocal line, something that is easy to conceive but difficult to achieve. Compared to the other tracks, this one feels more complete, like more of a composed metal offering, instead of just guitars and a backing band. With the addition of some true vocals, you could have an instant classic. And while there is something to be said for writing a complete track, "Redshift" may boast the most intriguing guitar work, even if it is slightly disjointed. With an endless array of shredding techniques, the fourth and final track becomes a monster of metal riffs, bordering on that classic new genre of djent. The drumming takes on a life of its own, crushing and crashing through kick and snare fills that will leave you dizzy.

It wouldn't be entirely wrong to say that the music presented on this EP is the instrumental embodiment of what a ninja is: high flying, fast, flawlessly skilled. The Heavy Metal Ninjas have certainly lived up to their moniker, one that could have been disastrous. But while these four songs all held water, both on their own and together as an album, it remains to be seen if a full length effort would be as captivating. After all, sixteen minutes of guitar leads is hard enough. But constructing and perfecting forty minutes or more, that could prove to be more difficult than achieving Total Victory at Mount Modiriyama.


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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Paradise Lost - Tragic Idol (2012)

The dark doom band Paradise Lost is back with another extraordinary album. “Tragic Idol” brings back a lot of their older sound yet with a refreshing new tones. It’s the bands 13th full length studio album and contains 10 trains of gorgeous death/doom metal. It contains more aggressive vocals combined with some softer clean singing that goes together perfectly.

Heavily slammed guitar riffs crack open the first track, entitled “Solitary One.” The eerie tones fill the air quickly as booming drums rumble their way in behind them. The vocals enter with a much different approach then some of their recent work. They have more of a shouting vocal that echoes high over the guitars. The refrain has a nice mix of mellow singing that goes back and forth with the shouting. It adds a soft side to such an aggressive track. Haunting piano riffs follow behind each chorus consuming deeper into the song. Meanwhile blaring guitars step right back in to crush you. “Crucify” starts out slow with heavy chugging guitar riffs that slowly open to a fast paced melodic meltdown. Detail drum rolls fill the background with energy as double bass patterns run right into massive cymbals that shatter right through you.

“Fear Of Impending Doom” and “Honesty In Death” have got to be two of my favored songs on the album. The song structure is constantly changing with tons of different instruments and melodies keeping you guessing the entire time. Gorgeous melodic solos are layered together with perfection in each track leaving you no choice but to hit the replay button. I had a hard time getting passed these songs with all of the different elements that they have to offer. “Theories From Another World” also leaves you speechless with its beast of an opener. Chomping guitar riffs rip through you as complicated drum rolls smash into echoing cymbals. The vocals step in with harsh raspy tones throwing a more violent sound in your face. The guitar solos will knock you on your ass as they come out of no where every time. This is a great track to bash your head to.

Songs like “To The Darkness” and “Tragic Idol” really keep your blood pumping as screeching guitars and high speed tempos force you to move around. Relentless snares and cymbals destroy you with their punishing explosions along with wild double bass pedal patterns. Deafening vocals jump out and grab you by the throat as you constantly gasp for air. Then the album slows down drastically to their more dooming sounding material. The closing tracks “Worth Fighting For” and “ The Glorious End” contain depressive guitar riffs and weeping solos that scream with sadness. However the insane drumming continues to do with it does best and that is to beat you down into the ground with pulverizing drum fills. These track give you just enough yet at the same time, will have you dying for more.

Paradise Lost is far from losing their touch as they have proven themselves with another excellent album. “Tragic Idol” is explosive, energetic, depressing, and just heavy as all hell. The vocals are well balanced between aggressive shouting and bone chilling clean singing which helps each track have their own sound. If you are new to this band then this album is the perfect album to start with. It’s captivating and addictive in every way.


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Monday, April 23, 2012

Burning Shadows - Gather, Darkness! (2012)

The American metal scene is one full of gaps, often poorly represented by the countless metalcore bands that inhabit our cities. Burning Shadows, however, is part of the solution, not part of the problem. Combining their love of traditional metal with a melodic sensibility akin to the European power metal community, this four piece from Washington, DC, has more lofty aspirations. Their new album, "Gather, Darkness!" is a science fiction concept album, based on the novel of the same name, written by Fritz Lieber. With a taste for the theatrical and talent for the fantastical, these eleven tracks, divided into four subsections, might make you forget that "core" bands ever existed.

The beautiful orchestration that fills the opening track, "Overture: Hymn To Sathanas," is enchanting, to say the least. The richness of each piece, from strings to horns, makes for an introductory track that gives an extra accent to the album that follows. It flows and sways, moving directly into the first chapter of the story, "A Thousand Lies." Broken down into three pieces, this is the statement. The hammer of percussion comes down immediately on part one, "A New Dark Age," with the thump of a kick and the tingle of the cymbal. The guitars wind and weave themselves in and out of the rhythm section, surgically precise, but not robotic. Vocally, you have something that is more to the folk side of things than you may expect. They become a vessel for the story, as do the riffs themselves, telling an ominous tale.

Rather than give each track a distinct separation, they run together, with "Intra Vires" launching immediately. The classic metal influence, from bands like Judas Priest, shines through here with a more subdued vocal taking over. The instrumental is relentless, with a nonstop wave of double kicks and fills, provided by David Spencer, taking every moment of silence away. As "Onward" begins, you begin to hear the evolution of the chapter, giving a bit of understanding to the structure being used. The guitar work here is exceptional, darting up and down the fretboard with uncanny speed and timing. Even with the absence of vocals, the story doesn't stand still. It's as if each snare hit, every devastation chord advances things in leaps and bounds. Tempo changes and a variety of rhythms keep it fresh, and keep you hanging by a thread. This track stands out above the rest, with the sheer strength of the instrumental alone.

The second chapter, titled "To Ruin & Divide," takes a decidedly different stance, with a much darker feel to the music as a whole. The first part, a two minute intro called "The Witchmark," sets an entirely new arc into motion. A diabolical laugh, reminiscent of one from 2011's 'Human Remains" by Hell, bridges the gap between the former, and "Man From Myth." The guitars are powerful, in both rhythm and lead capacity, complete with some creative chord changes. Again, the drums are, quite literally, driving the track forward. Each flurry of kicks brings the momentum to a higher level, pushing the band, and the listener, to a possibly breaking point. At the midway point, and things take a sharp right turn, you are treated to some powerful, yet wholly atmospheric sections. The addition of light synths may come from nowhere, but it adds a dimension that makes the sound even more cohesive.

With an outro that takes the guitar playing to a new stratosphere, you run head first into "Cast The Down," another short but memorable interlude. Vocalist Tom Davy gives his best performance here, finding the perfect range for his voice. The movement concludes with "Kingdoms Fall," a track that could make the current Dream Theater lineup a little jealous. The writing may be good, but the execution is even better, delivering a punch that would seem impossible from a track that takes a more reserved stand. The story, which has begun to unfold before your eyes, is sandwiched between some great melodic guitar work, and the more progressive instrumental side of the genre. The rhythm section holds it own, carving out a path for solo after solo to fill in. For a track that spans over seven minutes, you are left wanting so much more.

The final stanza, "Breaking The Sanctuary," begins with "Abandonment," a eerie piece. As Davy enters, paired only with an effects laden guitar, the mood has changed drastically. The rest of the band enters, but the explosion has to wait until part two begins. Part one fades with the line "I've exacted vengeance.." and dives into a stomping rock track, "To Assent The Fall." Drum fill after drum fill welcomes you to the body of the track, a rumbling affair that brings back that classic metal aesthetic. The percussion is relentless, battering and beating you from every angle. The harmony formed with each band members singular voice is welcomed, tying all of the numerous pieces together. A blazing solo says goodbye to the previous track and hello to the finale, "The Infamous Dawn." Davy's vocals once again take on a folk inspired feel. Playing as reprise to the opening track, it is one last call, one more shout for fists in the air. Vocal melodies sit atop guitar melodies, building into a mile high wall of sound and fury. A fading keyboard is all that remains, until silence takes over.

The challenge of turning a work of literary fiction into a cohesive, not to mention good, metal album is one that would seem to be second nature. I mean, power metal is almost always tied to themes of fantasy and science fiction. But it is so much more complicated than it would seem on the surface. Burning Shadows take the work of Lieber, and turn it into an extraordinary journey. Regardless of your knowledge of the book itself (I had none prior to listening), you will find yourself immersed in the storytelling abilities. If audio books were more like this, "Gather, Darkness!" would be a sure fire New York Times Best Seller.


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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Podcast: Episode 43 (M is for Metal)

We have had our fair share of amazing albums to reviews lately, and what better time than right now to talk about them! While Darrell found himself floating in a sea of Jeff Loomis, Cyclopian, Balam and Borknagar, Justin took a different route. His reviews of Futility, Locus Neminis, Atoma, and In Mourning are worth a mention. We talk about these albums, and unveil the latest, greatest sex act.... The Varg.

Part 1, mate.

Part 2, sir or madam.

Part 3, you son of a bitch.
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Friday, April 20, 2012

Cimmerian - Infinite Perdition (2012)

Out of a small town in Illinois comes a fresh new death metal band by the name Cimmerian. They have released their new album, entitled “Infinite Perdition” which shakes the ground with relentless double bass pedal drumming and monstrous growls. The guitars are fierce and full of energy however the band also manages to use acoustic guitars within some of the tracks as well.

The album starts off with “Deafening Admission” which contains calm soothing acoustic guitars combined with light keyboards that float in the background. After this short period of time, hell raising guitar riffs come blaring through with distortion. Monstrous death metal growls begin to echo through the air as double bass pedals rumble violently beneath you. Relentless snares and cymbals blast away as they take you to the refrain. The vocals in the refrain switch to a more evil sounding growl while a wicked guitar solo follows right after. The final minute returns to the mellow acoustic guitars and strings surrounding you with beautiful tones.

You’re shaking with the heavy opening chords in “Desolate.” As the chugging begins, a catchy melodic lead will step in with wicked tones. You won’t be able to help but bob your head to this. On top of that, double bass pedals come rolling in with quick speeds and high shattering cymbals. A harsh growl is placed in the background and plays more as an instrument than a vocal. The muddy tones leave an aggressive sound in the mix. About halfway through the song the growls step towards the front as they echo over the vicious drums and guitars. Shortly after follows another catchy guitar riff full of heavy distortion. The song structure is quite impress. Definitely make sure you check this track out.

“Confounding Delusion” and Haunting Contrition” keep the aggression going with their wicked fast guitar work and devilish growls that lye in between. Meanwhile the double bass pedals throw thunderous beats with rapid speed. The drum rolls are full of detailed snares and toms combined with more relentless cymbals. These tracks will have you up and moshing in no time.

The only issue this album are the vocals in “Barshnee A Ba” and “Sincere Beginnings.”Aside from the fact that the guitar work and drum rolls are insane, the vocals seem to completely rip off the vocals of the band Dethklok. You don’t run into this problem until these two specific songs. The delivery in the growls are in that quick chomping speed that almost sounds like its word for word with a few Dethklok track. This was a big turn off to the album. Musically it stills stands pretty strong but it’s the vocals that make you take a step back.

Overall “Infinite Perdition” is worth the listen. It’s got some gorgeous acoustic riffs that really show a bright side to this dark album. The ominous guitars and booming double bass pedal drumming keep things evil and violent. If you think you’re gonna be turned off by the vocals I suggest you at least listen to the first four tracks. Those are what make the album what it is.


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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Burning Point - The Ignitor (2012)

Maybe we are farsighted, but it feels as though Finland and traditional power metal don't come together very often. Burning Point, a four piece from Oulo, have been around the block enough times to represent their home country well. With a firm grip on all of the various elements that make this genre so great, they bring "The Ignitor," an eleven track offering of high flying guitar riffs and wailing vocals, to the masses. On this new album, it looks like they are ready to light the candle, and carry you through the darkest caverns.

The earliest moments of "Eternal Flame" give you a clear indication of what this album is all about. Fast, precisely delivered riffs and raucous drums blanket you immediately, with a soaring male vocal flying over the top. Light keyboard work peaks through the mix from time to time, just enough to make an impact. The speed is fast and furious, taking a four minute track and making it feel like a two minute burst. The same can easily be said about "In The Fires Of Myself - Made Hell," which is a pretty interesting play on words. The beauty of the music comes in the vocals, but not just in their almost operatic delivery. The way they command the music, leading a charge of heavily distorted guitars, is admirable. And with some of the more deft guitar work the traditional power metal world can offer, you have a one-two punch that would be hard to ignore.

Even as the pace slows for the stomp worthy "In The Night," the guitars continue to twist and turn in intricate patterns. The lyrical content is a notch about the majority of current metal, sticking to themes of an emotional nature. And, not to mention, the catchy riffs and delivery in the chorus is enough to keep you hooked. The solo that falls here is sure to turn a few heads, warranting a repeated listen. The title track, "The Ignitor," is fittingly the track that may put this album over the top. With it's combination of dense, chugging guitars and melodic vocals, it would be hard to keep your fist out of the air. Even as the solo section kicks in, the hard edged sound stays true, provided a platform for some organized chanting. Not to be forgotten, a rumbling bass line begins "Silent Scream," a song that is anything but silent. Playing out as a ballad of sorts, the verse sections set the table, and the chorus serves the feast. The only issue is that the tempo here saps some of the strength created to this point. The song stands on its own, but might not necessarily fit into the arc of the album.

Quickly returning to form, "Heaven Is Hell" brings the sound back to a rolling boil. Guitars build in both speed and power, giving you every reason to bang your head and sing along. With one intoxicating riff after another, paired with drumming that is just as fundamentally sound as it is invigorating, the momentum shift comes in a tidal wave. Refusing to quit, "Loosing Sleep" builds on that same foundation, adding a layer of keyboards to the mix to expand the overall sound. Each piece serves a purpose, whether it is the distorted guitars as the backbone, or the drumming as the perfect accent. The vocals, once again, take charge, leading the band into sonic warfare. It is right around this point that the band truly find their balance, a middle point between aggression and melody. That sense of delicate mix is honed even further on "Demon Inside Of You," along with a heavy dose of operatic vocal melodies. Locking in step with the guitars and keys, you are greeted by  a multifaceted attack of voice and instrumental. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that the most inspired guitar work comes here, with a solo and outro that seem to rival some of the more established bands of the genre.

Sticking to their roots, "Everdream" is a melodic metal power, seeing the higher register vocals come to life in a flash. The subject matter of dreams fits perfectly into the sound and spectacle the band have to offer, giving even greater validation to the style of delivery they employ. Despite keeping things heavy, the riffs have a lighter quality, dancing in and out of the mix, alongside some steadfast bass work. If you miss some of the gang chanting that power metal often features, "Lost Tribe" will bring you to your knees. With a more gritty verse approach, and a catchy-as-hell chorus, you may find yourself, sitting alone, singing at the top of your lungs. The gallop of the rhythm section props up the guitar work in the solo. Finishing things up neatly is "Holier Than Thou," which sees the band at the aggressive best, slamming right into things. The album has come full circle, traversing all of the tenets of power metal, only to end up back where it all began. With winding guitars, seemingly flawless drums, and a vocal pitch that could shatter glass, you have the total package.

Power metal, be it the European or traditional sub sect, really only has room for two groups: those who are good, and those who aren't. For Burning Point, it is very easy to lump them into the former, simply because they do everything the right way. The songs are well constructed, well performed, and, most importantly, easily entrenched in your mind. Sure, there are areas that could use a little bit of polish, but only in minor ways. This is a band that has all of the tools and talent to continue a rise to power... no pun intended. If "The Ignitor" started the fires, then the next album might just burn the place to the ground.


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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In Mourning - The Weight Of Oceans (2012)

I must say it’s been a while since I’ve come across a band with such incredible and refreshing sounds of the progressive death metal genre. All the way from Fulen, Sweden, comes the band In Mourning who has recently released their newest album, entitled “The Weight Of Oceans.” This is the bands third full length studio album. It’s got everything from monstrous growls to angelic clean singing and reaches out to all metal heads musically. You’ll find wicked solos along with cut throat breakdowns and exploding drum rolls.

The album opens with “Colossus” as eerie keyboards glide in. Catchy drum fills take over the background as you’ll find yourself bobbing your head to the rhythm. This is followed by a thumping bass line with groovy tones making this intro irresistible. A basic guitar melody fades in keeping the music calm and soothing. After about two minutes in, melodic guitars come in with heavy distortion. As you’re swept off your feet with this gorgeous sound, you will find it hard to get up when vicious chugging guitars come through and completely beat you into the ground. Domination growling vocals jump in delivering a phenomenal performance. Following the structure of the song and the many pieces of guitar riffs that are mashed together, the band definitely has strong similarities to Insomnium. The refrains are built with strong guitar riffs, relentless drum rolls, and monstrous growls. You will find it hard to move on to the next track as you replay this song over and over again.

The tempo picks up with “A Vow To Conquer The Ocean.” Chomping guitar riffs chug away while you’re hit with consistent snare and cymbal patterns. The vocals waste no time as they jump right in with punishing growls that echo throughout the verse. The guitars split up the song between raging hammered guitar riffs and soft melodic riffs that almost play as a clean singing vocal. You’ll have each melody stuck in your head for days. The song really jumps around from violent guitars at high speeds to calm tempos with cry guitar riffs. On top of all of the high flying solos and melodies, they also manage to provide you with a beast of a break down towards the end of the song. Shattering cymbals and fast chugging guitars blast away. You won’t be able to help but to bash your head to this one. More growls echo throughout the rest of the song ending things on a powerful note.

“Celestial Tear” opens with a soft melody that shines by itself with basic and yet beautiful sound. Angelic clean singing vocals step in with gorgeous lyrics and soothing tones. The deliver is a lot like Jonas Renkse of Katatonia. The song contains deep lyrics which you should definitely check out. Mellow guitars take over the background as they help guide the vocals throughout the song. After having some time to catch your breath, “Convergence” takes it away with its deathly growls and fast pace guitar riffs. The drums pound you into the ground with exploding riffs and shining cymbals that brighten up the background. What you’ll notice about the vocals is that although they are aggressive growls, the lyrics are still decently clear to understand. The tempo of the guitar slows down to a depressive beat in the middle of the song allowing the growls to really roar with deep bass. This eight and a half minute masterpiece ends with a progressive guitar melody that gives of a psychedelic vibe towards the end. This is followed by “Sirens” which is a ravishing piano instrumental that paints a captivating image with its sad and yet beautiful melodies.

Songs like “Isle Of Solace” and “The Drowning Sun” Give you everything you want in a death metal album. The vocals are incredible as you’ll find their sound different in certain part of each track. They go from death metal growling to wicked black metal screams. It definitely keeps things refreshing. Besides that you’re met with wild guitar riffs and crazy melodic solos that will take your breathe away. On top of that, the drum rolls become even more detailed as they continue to beat you into the ground. The album comes to a close with “Voyage Of A Weaving Mind” which displays a solid mix of vicious guitar chugging and booming drum rolls that completely destroy the background. Devilish vocals finish you off with powerful growls that’ll make you shit yourself. This is definitely the way to end such a perfect album.

“The Weight Of Oceans” is the kind of album that you keep on repeat and could listen to for hour on end. There are no bad tracks or tracks that you need to skip. Each song delivers a unique sound and has its own special something that helps it stand out. This is progressive melodic metal done right. If you’re looking for an album that will blow your mind, this is the album that’ll do it.


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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Balam - Balam (EP) (2012)

Leave it to Rhode Island could churn out a psychedelic outfit like Newport's own Balam. The smallest state in the behemoth that is the United States contributes to the metal scene in a big way with this five piece act. With influences and output ranging from blues to doom, these guys aren't short on style or substance. On their new self titled three track EP, you may hear some familiar sounds. Don't be surprised if you hear echos of Ozzy and Iommi. Floating neatly in the haze of distortion is some of the most classic metal you could hope to find in the 21st century.

The name of the game here is simplicity, but not in the dumbed down sort of way that a lot of modern metal seems to go. The first single from the band, "Soul Scour," builds from a single repetitive bass line. As the drums and guitars explode onto the scene, the aura of doom is apparent, but not overwhelming. Even in the repeating riffs and snare hits, there is a distinct groove. The vocals are airy, though melodic, bringing to mind, for some, classic era Sabbath. Amidst the changing tempos and tone, you will find something a touch to the evil side of things, without a single scream or screech. The melodies, both vocal and instrumental, are haunting, with a ghostly hint to both. The beauty of the track lies in that simple approach, allowing each riff, each bass note, each cymbal/snare combo to speak for itself. Singularly, each one may seem flat or lacking. But together, rumbling through ten minutes of down tempo metal, they carve out a sound that is worthy or a head nods or hair swinging.

Slowly down even further, "Dark Door" comes out of the gate moving as sluggishly as you could imagine, each kick and cymbal crawling through the speakers. Joined by the dynamic duo of bass and guitar, and soon by the soothing vocals line, you may find yourself lost in the bluesy wonder on display. The guitar float in and out, slightly tinged with effects. Vocalist A.C. has a sound unto himself, sounding like a throwback to early psychedelic metal. The guitars chug along, tied at the hip to the rumbling bass. But the piece that caps it off, the part that ties it all together is that voice. It sounds as though he sings from the other side, his voice coming from some otherworldly place on the other side of your headphones. The choreographed stop/start section fools you into thinking it is over, but continues on, until a chant to the dark Lord himself begins. Building from scratch again, the guitars chug and whine in unison, strengthened by the devastating low end of bass and drums. Screeching solo work seems to arise from nowhere, adding another wrinkle to a stellar performance.

The final track is also the shortest one, clocking in at a lightning fast eight and a half minutes. However, it is also the slowest one. "The Followed" starts with chaos, each piece doing whatever it is it feels like, until they meet in a loud crash. It grinds through the first half with little more than a thunder clap. The true tune kicks in shortly after the midway point, once again drawing comparison to the boys of Birmingham, UK. It isn't even that this track, or any of the others, mirror what Sabbath did. But they embody the same tone and definition. Whether it is in the ominous sounding guitars, the never flinching bass groove, or the graveyard vocals, there is something for everyone to look back on. The band is equally strong when the tempo picks up, hammering out an iron stomp that could get any pit or crowd moving. Once again, the stop/start patterns only help to build the momentum, bringing things to full tilt just in time for everything to come to a crashing finish.

Balam has done something here that is worth noting over and over. They wrote and recorded three songs that are entirely their own, a sound that is as much theirs as anyones. But they used their influences in a way that gives the album life beyond 2012. Yes, this album is, in fact, new. It was recorded in the here and now. No, really. I swear. Three tracks, over thirty minutes of epic, classic era sounding metal that could have come from some of the all time greats, from countries that are oceans away. But it didn't. It came from a five piece band from Newport, Rhode Island.


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Monday, April 16, 2012

Atoma - Skylight (2012)

Now if you remember any of my earlier reviews that I did about bands that mesh metal with techno then you’ll remember the results that I have come up with. Some bands, like Inner Fear, can pull it off perfectly while others, like Promises Lie, should be arrested for the sounds that they have created. Well there is a band that has completely mastered the mesh and not of only these two genres but many more as well. The band is known as Atoma. They have recently released their new album, entitled “Skylight.“ The band lists it as experimental post metal but they reach far beyond that. The album mixes so many different types of genres together it really cant be categorized. You’ll find everything from ambient post metal guitar and vocals to catchy techno synths to deathly growling vocals and heavy chugging guitar riffs. It’s the ultimate package.

The album opens with a four minute intro called “Atoma.” The instrumental is not your average heavy metal opener. It fills the air with atmospheric sounds and thumping toms and snares. Multiple layers of synth sound effects float on top of one another while a vibrant synth sound takes over with techno features. The music builds and builds for the full four minutes until you finally reach the song “Skylight.” This gorgeous track starts off quietly with unclear radio sound effects that quickly shift to distorted guitars and thunderous drum rolls. You’re blown away by an unexpected growl full of deep bass and haunting sounds. The vocals soon switch over to beautiful clean male vocals that echo across the constant guitars and heavy double bass pedal drum patterns. You’re then revisited by the vicious growling vocals that come through and destroy everything in its way. The orchestral instruments and keyboards are captivating as they surround you with angelic tones and allow the clean vocals to completely consume you. This track will have you head over heels for this album, and you haven’t even gotten to the meat of the album yet.

Techno melodies glide through the air softly in the beginning of “Hole In the Sky.” Distorted guitar slowly sneak in with heavy chugging riffs and destructive drum fills. The verses are full of clean vocals delivered in a loud yet soothing manner. The guitars continue to blast away throughout each verse leaving you barely enough time to catch your breath. It ends with beautiful keyboards and strings delivering epic melodies on top of violent guitar riffs while the vocals enter one last time. “Highway” slows down the mood with ravishing keyboards and slow basic kick and snare drum patterns. The vocals are almost at a whisper as they move through the track with ease. Soothing guitar riffs shine throughout the track with glorious moods and uplifting tones. The vocals awaken a bit during the refrain as they step up in volume but continue to keep their steadiness. The last minute ends with a whispering vocals repeating, “I need you” sending chills down your spine.

“Bermuda Riviera” drastically slows down the flow of the album at first with its practically silent entrance. Eventually futuristic synths fade their way in followed by a slow drum pattern slamming snares in your face with deafening snaps. The lead guitar comes in with soothing melodies acting as a vocal throughout the track, It cries to you in the most angelic tones. Things pick back up with “Resonance” as heavily distorted guitars jump back into the scene with catchy melodies and complex drum fills. The eerie synths take over the background leading you right into the verses. Soft singing vocals float through the air almost as if it were just another instrument adding a beautiful layer of sound to the mix. Cymbals colliding heavily keeps the track at an aggressive state but it still has its moments of relaxation.

“Solaris” is a short three and a half minute track that sounds like it came straight off an Armin Van Buuren techno album. The instrumental uses creative sounds and melodies to capture a catchy and unique tone. This also gives you a minute to embrace everything that you’ve heard so far. “Rainmen” sticks to the calm mood of “Solaris” with soft synths and catchy keyboards as the vocals run gently along side them. The only thing remotely close to violent are the drums that are busrting in the background. You can tell that they have been somewhat turned down in the mix however keeping its mellow sound throughout the track. The performance of the vocals are phenomenal and will have you wanting to hit the repeat button immediately. This shows the strong post metal side of the band. “Saturn & I” continues thing post metal sound with its soothing guitar melody and atmospheric keyboards. The instrumental sounds like it could be used as a score in some sort of sci-fi film.

The album comes to an end with “Cloud Nine.” the song runs for about four minutes and 40 seconds as beautiful synths pave the way for light guitar riffs to slow fade in with soothing melodies. The vocals take you by surprise as they introduce female vocals that lay gently across the keyboards and guitars. Her angelic voice delivers tons of emotion while you’re also hit with catchy strings and other orchestrated instruments at the same time. The song leaves you wanting so much more. You won’t be able to help but to replay this specific track a few times in a row before going back to the beginning. It’s just that addicting.

“Skylight” is not only unique but it is also completely different from any album I have ever heard. Atoma is refreshing with their mashed up genres and strange sounds and melodies. The album is well balance with every sing element that it has to offer. It mixes up the vocals on almost every track and throws in a few instrumentals as well. The atmospheric sound effect really pull you into a whole other world as you then come across different elements such as vicious growling, gorgeous clean vocals, violent drum patterns and futuristic sound effects. From beginning to end, this album will indeed have you hooked for a long period of time.


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Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Podcast: Episode 42 (Behind every metal band is a woman...)

One of the bands that brought Justin and Darrell together in their love of metal was Nightwish's "Dark Passion Play." Female fronted metal, in all its forms, seems to be a perfect gateway for new listeners to experiment with heavier music. We all know about bands like Nightwish, Epica, and Within Temptation. But we wanted to take the time to talk about the next generation of female led metal bands; the ones that have caught our ears recently.

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Diabulus In Musica: The Interview

We, at heart, are just metal fans, giving our opinion to you, our readers, five times a week. When we have a chance to interview a band that we admire, it is a thrill for us, both as writers and fans. So, as keyboardist Gorka Elso and vocalist Zuberoa Aznárez sat down to answer some of our questions, we were like the proverbial kid in a candy store. See what they had to say about their emergence as a symphonic metal powerhouse, their classical inspirations, and where things go from here.

First and foremost, we want to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to answer some questions for us.

Thank you for the interest! We really appreciate it!

In the formative days of the band, who were your major influences in crafting the sound that has been so synonymous with your name? When did you realize that your music was... special?

Our main influences are all kind of metal and classical music, but we don’t have only a musical influence. Our music is eclectic, we like different stuff and we have no boundaries in creating music. Besides, all of us have a different musical background… You can’t imagine how many different music styles we listen to!

It sounds like a cliché but we do what we want to do and we don’t think whether it’s going to be too hard, too poppy... We only think if we like what we have done or not. I have never thought our music is special, but what I can say is that is ‘honest’ if you see my point. Music is above all ‘expression’, and you don’t feel always in the same mood, so does happen with our music…

We are lucky that the five of us are very open-minded in this matter. We all like to experiment with music and sounds and you easily can see that when you are listening to ‘The Wanderer’.

In my particular case, I like Early Music, folk and world music a lot, so it is easy to find some ethnic winks in some of the songs. I actually played some Celtic whistles and the baroque flute in this album too.

The name of the band carries a lot of weight. What led to choosing this name, Diabulus In Musica, for your project? And what do you think the name conveys to your listeners?

‘Diabulus in Musica’ is a Latin mediaeval music term that means ‘the devil in music’. It was like that as they called the triton or the interval of the augmented fourth in the Middle Ages. The medieval ear was used to hearing perfect fourths and perfect fifths. The augmented fourth, being halfway between these two most common intervals, was about the worst discord imaginable. That’s why they thought that the devil was inside the triton.

As Early Music is my favourite style in classical and actually is what I usually sing, I chose this name. It was perfect for us not only because of the meaning it has to me, but also because it sounds a bit dark, as our music sometimes. We like this ‘dark romantic aesthetic’ as well as Early Music, so we thought Diabulus in Musica was the name that fit us the best. 

All of you made the decision to make Diabulus In Musica your main musical focus, leaving other bands to stay together full time. What was it about the music you were making together that led to that decision?

For me it was clear, because in the band I sang before I didn’t have the chance to write songs. I had to adapt my voice to the songs that were already written for a male voice. I wanted to express my own ideas so I started to write my own songs in the style I really felt like. Gorka played with me in that band and also with Adrián in another different one, but the future of both bands wasn’t clear. Also, the way they worked wasn’t the best, so we decided to create something more serious. We immediately saw that together the songwriting process flowed better and that we complemented each other very well. We have grown together as musicians and realized that we are in the same way even if we are very different also in our music tastes! There is a kind of magic among us!

How do you think your sound and songwriting evolved from the release of "Secrets," to your new album, "The Wanderer"? How have you all grown as musicians in the span of two short years?

I think we learned a lot during the recording process of our first album. Even before Secrets was released we started to talk about the following album. We were very happy with the result of Secrets but it had been recorded more than a year before it was released, so we were looking forward to develop new ideas and improve some things.

One day we sat all together and started to think about the new album. We wanted to write a conceptual one, because we didn’t want to record just a collection of songs. It was challenging and exciting to work that way, also like an experiment. We enjoyed the experience a lot, I think that feelings express themselves much better through music if you have something clear to tell before. We also had a very clear idea about how the songs should sound. That’s why we decided to do the production by ourselves and I think it turned out really well! We are very happy with the result.

In short, we wanted to create something more like a ‘soundtrack’. Music had to fit what we want to tell in each song, it had to recreate the atmosphere we had in mind in each ‘scene’. I think ‘The Wanderer’ is a very passionate album. All the feelings are perfectly captured. I would say that ‘The Wanderer’ is denser, more bombastic… but also more refined than ‘Secrets’. To achieve all this we have worked a lot on the arrangements, we introduced new instruments and even folk or ethnic touches. It has been a very enriching experience and for sure we have grown a lot musically wise!

On both albums, you had the services of some huge names in the metal community, from Sascha Paeth (On "Secrets") to Epica's Mark Jansen (On "The Wanderer") to name a few. How did these collaborations come to be, and how do you feel they put their unique stamp on the work?

In the case of Sascha, it was Ad Sluijter (who mixed ‘Secrets’) who contacted him. They know each other very well and Ad was sure he would do a great job in the mastering process so he proposed him and accepted. Both did a great job! For the Wanderer we decided to work with Jacob Hansen because we wanted to have a more aggressive approach in the sound that fitted better the new songs. He has done an amazing job too!

As for Mark, we wanted to have a collaboration of a “grunter” because all the collaborations until then had been “melodic”. We thought about him because we like their music and also because of our friendship with Ad. I sent Mark the whole song to ask him if he would like to sing and he immediately accepted. We felt honoured as he said he only does this when he really likes the music, so it was a honour for us and we are very happy to have him!

One of the more intriguing aspects of your music is the way you blend classical and metal music into one singular sound. To an outsider, that combination seems odd. But how difficult was it, really, to come to that balance of old and new?

It’s not easy, as you have to equilibrate all the elements and let each instrument have its own “space”, underlining what you think it’s the most important sequence in each song. Anyway, it’s kind of a natural thing for us to do. I mean, Gorka and I are metalheads since teenagers but both come from the classical field, so symphonic metal is the style we like the most and we feel comfortable with. We have grown listening to both styles so the combination was clear when we started with the band. I love metal because I think it’s a style you can blend with many different sounds, the same happens with classical music. As you say, the combination can be odd, but at the end, classical music and metal are not so far away from each other and both are so passionate!

On the new album, vocalist Zuberoa Aznarez comes into her own, often times commanding the tracks in a way few singers can. What is it like working with a singer with her talents, and her unique style?

It’s really a pleasure. I think that a big percentage that makes people likes a song is the voice, because it’s what you could hear more clearly and what gives you the bigger difference among other bands. It’s a pity that some singers try to imitate other singer, but Zuberoa has and wants to show it’s particular “color”. Also her voice can express a wide range of emotions that helps a lot to achieve the right sound on each song.

The new album features some of the most ambitious songwriting the five of you have been a part of. With only two years between albums, how did you manage to write 12 more intense tracks, and create such rich soundscapes?

Thanks for the compliments! I’m not sure… as I said before we changed the way of working in the moment we decided to write a conceptual album. After we decided the story and the kind of songs we needed to tell it, each one of us started to work on a song or two by our own. When we finished it, we forwarded the song to the other band-members and then started to work together on the final arrangements when needed. We all had to feel that the song was completely finished and that it really expressed what we wanted. It is not easy when we are 5 people with different points of view, but fortunately we all agreed! We make a good team hehe

I was surprised that sometimes the song came itself, maybe it’s because it’s easier to find the inspiration after feeling or believing on what you try to tell…

As you tour and play the festival scene (the Metal Female Voices Festival being a prime example), the response has been overwhelmingly positive. What has the experience been like for you thus far, and has there been any single show that stands out from the rest?

Playing MFVF was an amazing experience, we shared many great moments with fans, organizers, stuff and other bands. We are very grateful that Phil, promoter, gave us that chance. There is a very special atmosphere there, a very direct contact with the audience and everybody at Oktoberhallen is so lovely! We cannot wait to come back for the 10th anniversary this year, it will be blast!

Every show is special, but I have very good memories from our show in Mexico. The audience was so warm! I remember they started to shout a lot when we went on stage and I thought that something bad was happening haha but it was only the way they enjoyed the shows!

In an interview a few months ago, American symphonic black metal musician Dan Klyne asserted that metal musicians should be looked as "composers" instead of just guitarists and song writers. Based on the music you make, would it be safe to say that you agree with that contention?

Haha, well somehow yes, but, I wouldn’t say that I’m a “composer”. I feel that “compose” an opus is something more complex and reserved to a few people, if you see what I mean. But I totally agree that we are not just players or song writers, we have to be also arrangers and sometimes sound engineers, producers… we have to know about musical aspects that are not exclusively from our instrument. We write music for orchestra or choir and this is something that not all the bands do. Maybe in every “symphonic metal” style you need to have a clear overview of what you want to write, otherwise you are in risk of writing a mess! I mean, it’s not only take your guitar and play a riff and then add the voice and the drums, you have to be more careful as there are lot more instruments.

To that point, you have worked with some of the most prestigious choirs and orchestras along the way, something that few true metal bands can say. For a group that specializes in classically influenced symphonic metal, what did those collaborations mean to you on a personal level? How did they inspire your work?

We have studied music since years and for me, a lover of metal and classical music, it was like a dream that becomes true to have the opportunity to work with such a professional musicians. I wouldn’t say they inspired our work, haha, they just play what we have written. Seriously, it’s really important to record with so talented musicians because they understand and can express perfectly what we expect from them.

With the new album out everywhere music is sold, thanks to the folks at Napalm Records, and shows booked throughout the year, what comes next for Diabulus In Musica? What can we expect from the next album?

For the moment we are focused on playing as much as we can. “The Wanderer” is still too recent and we haven’t think anything about the next album, but you could expect anything ;-)

Thank you so much for taking this time out for us. We appreciate it greatly, and can't wait to see what comes next.
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Friday, April 13, 2012

Jeff Loomis - Plains Of Oblivion (2012)

The death of Nevermore, or so it seems, played out in public, with half of the band departing. Among the leaving faction was guitar great Jeff Loomis, a man who is no stranger to fans around the world. Wasting no time, he wrote and recorded his new album, the follow-up to 2008's "Zero Order Phase," and embarked on a tour to showcase his work. Featuring numerous guest appearances from the likes of Ihsahn and former Megadeth guitarists Marty Friedman and Chris Poland, "Plains Of Oblivion" is loaded with a lot more than just names. This is a solo album to remember.

Like the lead in to a Hollywood action blockbuster, "Mercurial" screeches and whines into existence. As the guitars explode, there is little doubt as to who the man behind the strings is. Loomis' sound is one unto himself, with a striking balance of technical ability and writing prowess. Paired here with one time Megadeth axeman Marty Friedman, the two form a dynamic duo of shred and melody. And while the main focus is, clearly, the winding solo work, Dirk Verbeuren steals the show at times with his battery of kicks, snares and cymbals, often going note for crash with Loomis himself. And while the racing scales are impressive, the sense of melody and cohesion is key, especially on "The Ultimatum." With an assist from solo guitar wizard Tony MacAlpine, the track is an exhibition on balance and speed. Whether they are trading passages or dueling together, the guitar work never shows any sign of weakness, nor slowing down. Even during the later portions, when Verbeuren falls into a nearly impossible black metal tempo, Loomis and MacAlpine soar over it all with amazing prowess.

As the speed builds, "Escape Velocity" takes its fitting place in the order. It is often harder to tell who is playing at a higher tempo, Loomis or Verbeuren. The two have a report that results in some of the most fluid playing either has ever exhibited. But in the breakdown, there lies a sweetly touched melody that is the perfect counterbalance to all of the aggression. The first guest vocal spot comes on "Tragedy And Harmony," courtesy of Christine Rhoades, who lent her talents to the classic Nevermore tune "Dreaming Neon Black." And while it would be impossible to downplay her strength, the vocal line never seems to fall in place here. Her tone, the lyrics, the delivery are all spot on, but they feel tacked on in parts. Not to be slowed down, Loomis commands the track full speed ahead, carrying the load on his frets. Helping to shoulder the weight on "Requiem For The Living" is Attila Voros, who played live guitar in the recent Nevermore era. This is the most stripped down track on the album, something that is, obviously, relative. The drumming takes a back seat to the guitar work, a combination of high powered riffs and dazzling notes. The outro portion almost plays like a classical concerto, something that is both intriguing and mystifying.

And with one former Megadeth guitarist on the album, why not go for two? Chris Poland lends a hand on "Continuum Drift," a song that is beautifully written and performed. This might be the long lost instrumental ballad that so few have accomplished. The story is told through clean and distorted guitars, both carrying a lyrical quality in their delivery. In some aspects, they are more successful than the real vocals present on the album, sans for the Ihsahn led performance of "Surrender." One of the more imposing voices in the progressive black metal movement, Ihsahn takes Loomis' composition into a dark new place, screeching ahead as only he can. Even the clean vocals have a tinge of evil, making the most of every layer of guitar, drum, and bass. Verbeuren shows his mettle, rolling through double kicks with an ease that is unsettling.

But as Ihsahn bows out, and Rhoades rejoins for "Chosen Time," things change in numerous ways. The tone is quiet and subdued, and the vocals are more sultry than before. Loomis squeals with harmonics, but this is a down tempo affair. This is the softer side, the more plush side of the man, choosing to go with grace over power. The short, but amazingly sweet, "Rapture" is a chance for Loomis to show off some of that aforementioned technical ability. It isn't all about speed and brutality; there is a subtlety and emotion to guitar that gets lost in reverb far too often. His clean chops are just as good as his more electric ones, floating up the neck in a blitz of finger movements and bending strings. Take a breath. Exhale, and let "Sibylline Origin" wash over you. The sliding riffs and sizzle of cymbals are only the beginning. This final track takes in to account everything Loomis has done throughout his career, and brings it all into one flowing journey. This is where the evolution of the musician becomes evident, with so much more than solo after solo.

There are many things that set Jeff Loomis apart from his peers, both technically and creatively. But his ability to be two men, one solo musician and one (now former) band member, is a feat in itself. These weren't the scraps from "Obsidian Conspiracy," and these certainly weren't half baked solos fleshed out into an album. His thought process isn't lost in a sea of recycled nonsense, but rather spotlighted in ten tracks of mastery. With a little help from his friends, Loomis has fired the first shot, post-Nevermore. Your turn, Mr. Dane.


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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Locus Neminis - Weltenwanderung (2012)

Locus Neminis is an unknown band from Austria that is stirring up a beast of an album. Their new album, entitled “Weltenwanderung,” brings bone chilling black metal screams and growls straight to you served on a platter of evil guitar riffs and wicked fast double bass pedal drum patterns. They consume you with dark synths and strings destroy you with heavy chugging guitar riffs at lightening speeds.

The album opens with eerie atmospheric sounds that glide gently through the air in “Spiegelbild Der Vergangenheit.” After about a minute into the track comes flailing guitar riffs at top notch speeds and overwhelming kicks and snares. The guitars scream with demonic chords while jack hammering double bass pedals crush you into the ground with booming energy. Horrid black metal vocals enter in the verse with devilish tones and aggressive sounds. Later you’ll also come across another set of vocals only this time its more of a deep deathly growl that rumbles heavily beneath you. In between verses the band adds haunting piano riffs that are evil and gorgeous at the same time. As the song fades you’ll run right into “Weltenwanderung” which has a mix of wretched guitars and creepy piano riffs that are meshed together. Deeping heaving growls join in knocking you straight to the ground. The instruments even out a bit as the piano steps forward and plays a dark catchy riff. Wild guitars follow running up and down the scales with quick speeds and eerie melodies. Meanwhile the drums are constantly beating you down with relentless double bass pedals and shattering cymbals that echo throughout the track. The speed of the double bass pedals are absolutely astonishing. This is definitely a track you’ll wanna really play a few times.

Later you come across another chilling track, entitled “Wanduhr.” Machine gun double bass pedals and chugging guitars plow through you with vicious melodies as the keyboards come in the more eerie notes as the frightening deep growls come back in delivering large huffs are devilish lyrics. The high pitch screaming joins with more ominous sounds. The double bass pedal drums blast away with complex details and violent rolls. Towards the end comes an intense guitar solo full of high string action and hell raising melodies. “Totes Licht” follows up with rumbling guitars and double bass pedals with relentless snares that snap away in the background forcing you to throw up your devil horns and bash your head recklessly. The high black metal screams continue to stab at you with sharp screeches and aggressive tones. The guitar riffs deliver high powered melodies that seem as if they were written by the devil himself. Don’t be surprised if your speaker burst in this one.

The closing track on the album is called “Die Begegung” and it shows a few more elements then the rest of the album has. The keyboards play a much bigger part as well. Immediately you come across a wall of vicious guitar riffs that are surrounded by evil strings and pulverizing drums. For a brief moment, all of the instrument drop except for a calm acoustic guitar when suddenly distorted guitars rip right through them with electrifying riffs. This reminded me of an Opeth sort of style. Booming drum fills completely destroy the background with detailed rolls and explosive energy. The vocals stay wicked and demonic with devil growls and poisonous screams. The detail in structure keeps this ruthless track unique as it constantly throws different melodies and instruments at you from all different angles. Definitely make sure you follow through this fully loaded masterpiece.

Little is known about the symphonic black metal band Locus Neminis however the album shows just how vicious and relentless they truly are. “Weltenwanderung” reaches all aspects of black metal and gives you a taste of multiple set of vocals leaving you hooked and always waiting for what’s next. Perhaps it’s too soon to tell where this black metal band will go but I would definitely keep an eye out for them in the near future. This is just the beginning for this young talented band.


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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cyclopian - Cyclopian (2012)

London based four piece Cyclopian don't seem to be interested in showing you how fast they can play, or how high their voices can go. None of the frills of modern metal even cross their mind. So, as they prepare to release their debut album, a self titled affair, is it any wonder why they are compared to the glory days of Isis? With simplistic, well conceived songwriting, and a focus on emotionally heavy, but honest, tracks, this post-metal outfit seems to be rooted in the pure truth of making music: it is done for yourself. And, for better or worse, not everyone will appreciate what you do.

Despite the more airy beginning to "Of Raven And Snake," the crushing growls that follow take the music down a decidedly heavier road. But that aside, the more ambient middle passages are inspiring, creating light soundscapes to ride along the way. The unfortunate side effect of being so diverse is that the flow is, at times, hard to handle. The segue from screams to rich, melodic guitars is not evident, making it feel as though there were two separate tracks, chopped up and pieced together. Each section does, however, stand triumphantly on it's own, giving you the view from both sides of the divide. The buildup of sound in the last two minutes of this behemoth gives you the perfect blend of both, with massive distortion and density cruising to the finish. For a track that spans over nine minutes, time flies.

That knack for the atmospheric is well represented in "Pyramids," a track that layers those same brutal screams on top of a bed of post-metal guitars. The combination isn't quite "sludge" in nature, but it elevates what the band does so well. Amidst the bending of strings and bruising drums, there is an inherent beauty to the sound, compounded by short, clean guitar passages. Wandering back into the more epic, "The Dark Rift" could easily be tagged as the soundtrack to a gloomy day, one complete with a hail storm. From the opening guitar melody, directly into the crashing cymbals and coarse screams, it seems to be the representation of some of our darkest, most sullen emotions. The droning riffs that inhabit this track are minimalist, choosing to ride the power of each singular note, rather than flooding the mix with unnecessary additions. The simplicity of it all is amazing, especially when paired with the sheer length of the track. Within those bouts of distortion and grime is a world of subtleties at play.

The shortest effort on the album, the not-quite seven minute "Radiant Sea," is a stand out of its own right. The drumming is a little more intricate, leading the way in the intro portion. The guitars shift from heavy to heavenly, with clean picking and slides at work, over top of a beautiful bass line. It is all shattered in an instant with one blood curdling scream, but one that starts a separate wave into motion. Like the work of Isis, the depth of field is so important hear, even aside from the aggressive vocals. The sound is layered in such a way to give each piece just due, but bring them together in a single tide. The ambitious "Eventide Void" brings every facet of their sound into one devilish long opus, with the whine of a guitar providing the perfect opening stanza. What evolves from these simple patterns is a prime example of what melodic post-metal can be, building from nothing to a solid mass of guitars, bass and drums. If there was ever a place to call this style "artsy," it would be here, with some areas reminiscent of bands like dredg. And while every second of this track seems well conceived and well put together, the staggering fifteen minute duration could be enough to sway listeners away from it.  

For a debut offering, there is a lot to celebrate and commend. Cyclopian have done themselves proud with this album, despite several shortcomings. The band may be a little rough around the edges, but not in a irreparable way. Hell, I think it would be crass for anyone to say they need to change what they do, or refine how they sound. What you have here is an album that gives you a sampling of many of the "post" elements, without leaning on any one too often. And when your first album draws comparisons to the density of Isis, the atmospherics of Rosetta, or the sensitivity of dredg, you are doing a lot of things right.


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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Futility - The View From Here (2012)

Deep in the heart of Australia, comes a young death doom band by the name of Futility. You don’t really hear of too many doom metal bands from Australia but this wicked group is taking over in the underground scene. The band has recently released their new full length album, entitled “The View From Here.” They provide dark surroundings with depressive guitar riffs and harsh vocals. This all follows vicious drum patterns and bone crushing drum rolls.

The album starts out slow with “Drowning” which has haunting keyboards and a calm guitar melody that floats softly in the dictance. This fades in little by little over the course of the two minutes. Then comes the violence. In come heavily distorted guitars slam with demonic chords in a slow tempo. Double bass pedals quickly introduce themselves with thumping kicks and shattering cymbals. Snares follow with explosive patterns as the vocals begin to chime in. The verse releases a frightening growl that runs right through you with its low heavy tones. Depressive melodies set around you consuming you deep into the track. The drum patterns are exciting as they constantly change with unique drum rolls in between certain vocals. This will keep you at the edge of your seat at all times. The tempo picks up towards the middle of the song as muddy guitars begin chugging away with monstrous riffs. This forces you to bash your head to the rhythm. This ten minute monster is an awesome way to start off the album.

This is followed by another ten minute track by the name of “Another Black Day.” It starts with ominous guitar riffs that blast away at you with heavy distortion. The drums jump in and out crushing you with each and every deadly fill as the vocals begin to rip you apart with its harsh tones. The track contains some violent breakdowns towards the middle of the track as a wall chugging guitars surround you with evil chords. Later a lead guitar comes in with hypnotizing notes completely grabs you and pulls you deep into the music. Pay close attention to the drum rolls also. Their complex fills explode at the end of every vocal knocking off you feet. High cymbals collide over the chugging chords completely filling the background with sharp spikes. Towards the end you’ll come across guitar mellow guitar part where all other instrument drop out leaving you with this soothing melody. Drums fade back in but stay with a basic pattern allowing you to focus on the beautiful guitar riff. The transformation that this song takes throws you in a completely different direction. It gives you a side of darkness and violence and at the same times, a side of passion and emotion.

Heading towards one of their shorter songs, “Nothing,” which runs for about eight minutes and 50 seconds, fades in with a booming entrance as a light guitar riff plays repeatedly as mesmerizing drum rolls fill the air with pulverizing fills and complex patterns. The double bass alone will have you hooked. After about into the song comes blaring guitar riffs full of screechy wretchedness. The vocals have sort of a different approach as they are performed in more of a melancholy cry that turns into a scream. It took me a few listens before it finally grew on me. You won’t be able to help but want to hear more of the eerie guitar melodies that fill the air with miserable tones. This is some solid doom at its best. Let the vocals grow on you and follow through the entire track. The final few minutes are absolutely incredible. A little before the six minute mark comes a rush of demonic yet gorgeous guitar riffs that chug away violently as cymbals begin to smash together recklessly in the background. The catchy riff will have you wanting to hit the repeat button immediately after the song ends. Dominating growls come back towards the end striking you with fiery tones. The song continues the catchy riffs as the some begins to fade to an end. The drum is well delivered all the sway to the final seconds mixing up toms and snares in rumbling fills. You don’t wanna miss out on this track.

Towards the end of the album you come across a cover of the song “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd. When I first saw this I thought they were just going to completely change their style and try to play and sing the song like Pink Floyd but I was completely wrong. This cover absolutely blew me away. Monstrous guitars dive in with wicked distortion sweeping you right off your feet. Cymbals are constantly crashing as the kick and snare jump back and forth repetitively. Then the verse starts. Vicious growls echo into the air sending a chill down my spine. The deliver in this song is just phenomenal and will absolutely blow your mind. Definitely make sure you check this cover out.

“The View From Here” is an extraordinary album that takes you to a whole other world of darkness and beauty. Each song is loaded with tons of melodies and detailed drum fills and runs anywhere from eight to 15 minutes long. Each song has a specific feel to it separating them from each other and yet constantly delivers the death doom sound you know and love. Definitely make sure you check out Futility!


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