Friday, September 26, 2008

Mefisto - The Puzzle

Sometimes, I wish that the intro to Mefisto's "The Puzzle" would last for the length of a drive across the emptiness of Monument Valley's roads and highways, erupting into the chaotic extremity of it's bulk only while finally reaching the wasteland I had been searching. I could imagine opening the trunk of my rusting used vehicle and grabbing the shovel I had purchased shortly after I had murdered the random prostitute on the side of the road and burying her dismembered and beaten corpse deep in the dry earth beneath the shadows of the buttes.

There is clearly something special residing in the the first track of this demo - a somber memory of a time when everything was simple. The eruption of distortion is welcome however and "Hunting High, Die" is a fitting opening to the album. Without mentioning the excellent melodic base tormenting the underlying structure, Omar Ahmed rips through some excellently executed leads and solo material, proving himself an expert with the bar. Sandro Cajander's bass playing is appreciatively audible and well played as well. While he fails to do anything of major merit bass-wise, his vocals are another beast entirely. As close to black metal as anything you would hear in the mid 80's. Venom have clearly been an influence on his voracious appetite for his snarling nasty vocal approach.

Although a minute into the demo's title track I detect a slight change in tone, it is roughly at the same time I recognize that I've never heard a snare sound like the punch effect from a cheap action movie before. It might just be me though it has a distinctive "ka-pow." This is even more noticeable on fourth track Underground Circus. Returning to title track, The Puzzle, the exceptional solo section escapes being just a tad too long due only to its varied and building internal structure. The riff beneath it is simple and rather stale. A mediocre effort during this length would prove destructive to the song. The more melodic and melancholy harmony section closer towards the end of the track is welcomed however, providing a more interesting underlying structure - more depth of melody and rhythmic variation.

Another beautiful acoustic introduction into Os Liberty cements Ahmed's position as a criminally underrated and unknown yet incredibly talented guitar player. He flawlessly skims through what could be one of the finest and most mature moments on this demo. His ear for harmonious disharmony once the lead kicks in is just another bullet on his resume of guitar tricks. Roberto "Thord" Gornath's drumming stands out on this track. He displays an ear for dynamics and percussion composition. Sandro's bass playing is my only gripe on this track, as I feel he has ultimately taken the easy way out of the song, playing what is expected and not providing anything exciting to the four minute instrumental.

Underground Circus, the final track is a long, eight minute attempt at something epic though I feel it fails halfway there. I get the instinctual notion that it would work better as two shorter songs though Neither half have the riffs to be good enough for a song each. This is the one track I don't think works on the demo. Yes, it shows the band can play but it isn't as in your face, attacking, and effective as the previous three tracks. It suffers from sub par writing on my part with little direction. It has moments of inspiration but they fizzle shortly after.

Eliminator - Breaking The Wheel Released!

Get it at Suffering Jesus Records.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

News: Sept 2008

Lethal Strike:

Everything except vocals are done. Shouldn't be long now.


A little note about images that are not available at the moment, those images are linked from the Metal Archives website and therefore when Metal Archives is having issues with their image database the images will not show here. Upon the resolution of the database problems, the images will become available again.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Human Remains - Using Sickness As A Hero

Circus sideshows, industrial ventilation fans and a whole heaping load of mad-scientist-experimentation gone terribly wrong, "Using Sickness As A Hero" is seemingly influenced by random objects and, in the case of Paul Miller's vocal approach, Patric Mamali and John Tardy's lovechild. Ultimately seven songs of recklessly composed fragmented riff ideas and bizarre transitions that never develop fully.

Sludgy guitar tones and a penchant for bending virtually a note in every riff, clearly Jim Baglino and Steve Procopio were moving towards a goal of shunning any notion of pretentiousness or virtuosity. Dave Witte shines amidst guitar sludge and Teddy Patterson's furry bass. It seems Dave had the opportunity to basically use any part of his kit and his playing is in stark contrast to his drumming in Municipal Waste.

"Swollen," starts the album for me. Yeah, its the fifth song but its the first one that actually made me curious. It's the first song on the EP that actually made me want to hear the rest of the song. I can't say that I enjoyed where the song went - ultimately the song dissolved into a platter of out of place riffs all connected with those aforementioned transitions. "Human" contains Pikmin voices in the intro and a bass so fuzzy that Jame's peach was jealous. "Rote's" initial genetic make-up is equally awash in guitar widdles, like scraping the strings with a paper clip at varying speeds.

A massive amount of consideration was put into the last track on this EP. "Beyond Human Perception," if my copy serves me correctly, is, ultimately thirty nine seconds of silence. You be the judge on that attempt at musical philosophy.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Metal Inquisitor - Doomsday For The Heretic

While Metal Inquisitor is certainly their own band with a certain classic style, I believe it isn't outlandish or without (crystal) logic to say that Doomsday for the Heretic can best be described as a more thrashed and, definitely far more British (shhhh... I know they are German), version of a band that rhymes with "vanilla code" and comes from Kansas. El Rojo's vocal style is definitely reminiscent of Mark Sheltons with a healthy dose of Saxon's Peter Byford's own, anthemic style mixed in.

The tone suits everything that this album is about. The guitars are edgy with lots of treble and mid range, allowing the bass to really fill up the low end audibly. The drums are basic in sounds and in technique. Don't expect blast beats, crazy fast double bass or a four minute long drum solo halfway through the third track.

A lot of the band's sound is a clever reworking of other influential acts. The short acoustic intro immediately reminded me of the intro to Fight Fire With Fire though with a more romantic-era underpinning than Metallica could ever muster although Restricted Agony sounds like a less interesting throw-away song from Kill Em All right down to the Seek and Destroyish "ALRIGHT!." Vocally this one sounds much more like Bobby Blitz on Taking Over than Shelton or Peter Byford leading me to believe that El Rojo seems to still be finding his own style.

Although Thane of Cowder's opening riff reminds me of "Losfer Words" and other parts remind me of the chorus in Blind Guardian's "Don't Break the Circle," I find that the this and the next two songs are the strongest part of this album. Star Chaser - though somewhat Priesty in its naming and even more Halfordesque in its possible connotations) is catchy and easily singable. El Rojo's voice becomes more distinct at times during these songs. Midnight Rider continues with the memorable riffs and Priestisms.

Throughout this album though there is no doubt about what era Metal Inquisitor wished they were in. The entire album reeks of forgotten high tops, patched denim and leather, and mullets. Hell, Metal Inquisitor make me wish I was around during the heyday of metal. The album's title track is one of the best fist pumping and air guitar playing tracks I've heard in a long time. The last song on the album is a CD only track (the LP has an LP only track) with a guitar tone that I would compare to AC/DC on The Razors Edge album.

Now, don't go thinking that this is a modern day, flawless representation of what 80's metal sounded like because this album has its flaws. Infamia is the "epic" twin guitar dueling track on the album and yet, for its memorable melody falls short due to a haphazard structure which rears its ugly form most noticeably in the guitar lead section which, though interesting at first, ends rather sloppily with an awkward transition back into the main song section. Legion of Grey, though the shortest track suffers from the inclusion of a strange instrumental section and Logan's Run has some excellent sections though it could use some lead riff boostage. It has a great chorus and a great solo section but is thin otherwise. The inclusion of a sample mid song doesn't do much for me either.


Edit 2012: This album has become one of my absolute favorite albums and in hindsight this review is not accurate. This album is as close as we've gotten to a modern day classic in most regards. GET THIS AND BUY IT TONIGHT!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Beast - Power Metal EP (1983)

The Beast's Power Metal EP, their first recording, epitomizes the energy and passion of punk infused metal. While I would never say that The Beast are entirely a metal band, I would neither say they are entirely a punk band. For me, they reside as both, maintaining the best qualities of each; the simplicity and edge of punk and the raw power and attitude of metal. Songs like Enemy Ace and The Shape - which also appeared on the Born To Metalize split (I may upload the track from this split as well for a comparison for anyone interested) - are expertly crafted classics with all the necessary qualities needed to be perfect examples of the hybridization of the two base genres.

One of my favorite aspects of this release is the moment you first hear Scott Ruth's vocals. They cut, like glass against the sole of your bare foot or against the wrist of a suicidal drug addict. Neglecting the fact that I prefer a more traditional vocal approach, Scott's vocals are miles ahead of his Ripping Corpse vocals. Its also refreshing to hear how important the bass is in the recording. It really ties so much together. Without Jeff Gross, this EP would really deteriorate into an unpleasant and amateurish quagmire. Even with such excellent drumming on the part of Doug Ryan and wild, yet reserved, guitar playing on the parts of Jack Pitzer and Ron Ace, Jeff Gross' bass playing is vital.

Opener "The Beast" forces you straight into the release, no release, no bullshit. No, epic elongated and abstract intro with mood setting purposes. Hell, there is no mood here. No attempt at pretentiousness. While "Radical Man" passes me by, almost always completely disregarded, "Enemy Ace" demands my attention. From the opening chug, to the growing intensity up to the awesome lead before the verse, Ruth's vocals ooze tension, especially during the masterful middle section. As well as having the greatest example of perfectly panned guitar effects, the section is fierce. Aggressive vocals, perfect return to the introductory riff which, once again, builds up to a memorable solo... and the Sabbathly intro of The Shape. While another great tune, with little to complain about, The Shape on this EP is nowhere near as metallic sounding as on the Born To Metalize split.

For a release that runs the same length it takes to listen to Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner once, you are given a heaping quality of material. Hell, if I had to choose between the two, I would choose "Power Metal" over the classic Maiden track.

The Beast - Power Metal EP (1983)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bloodbath - Unblessing The Purity

Bloodbath have unleashed upon our virgin ears a deadly force composed of rotting remains and reanimated souls. There is no doubt in my mind that this is what modern death metal is meant to sound like - crushing, relentless and yet blessed with embalming melodies. Relentlessly Swedish in every way, Unblessing the Purity is demanding of attention. Demanding those who claim death metal has no new gold to pan retract their statements and grab their pick-axes.

The combination of Anders Nystrom and Per Eriksson is awesome. They manage to create some brilliant harmonies and riffs. The album would have benefited from a slightly dirtier, rawer guitar sound however and at times, I am wondering if the Katatonia relation has had an impact on the choice of guitar tone. Martin's drumming is tight and expertly played though, as I normally feel of his work ultimately un-noteworthy. Jonas Renske is soon becoming one of my personal favorite bass players. His rich tone on this album really helps dirty up moments that would sound tame and possibly empty (bass section in Sick Salvation).

Blasting The Virginborn reminds me of Grave mixed with Iniquity-esque tricks and treats. The ghoulish and haunting intermission is somehow more deadly than the fierce main riff. While the main riff leaves a single bullet in your skull, the subtlety of the slow, drowning interlude is more akin to being slowly crippled with disease. Eaten by maggots, you watch your own limbs fester and fall away. Weak Aside is torturous. Hidden amongst the rich tones are staccato bursts of shrapnel. Akerfeldt's vocals leave me wondering why he doesn't do Bloodbath full time instead of Opeth. He is clearly having a good time cleaning out his esophagus and sounds refreshed.

Sick Salvation blasts as well, though it has one condemnation - that being the inclusion of what I would consider a novelty transition halfway into the song. It seems like Bloodbath took the easy way across that particular moment. I would have like to hear something more in line with their abilities. The wicked solos and leads constituting the ending of the track work double time afterwards though. I think that my displeasure for the transition comes from a general annoyance on my part of each song having some segment of a slower melodic moment. Neither of the four songs really crush on straight through. Luckily for Bloodbath, these segments are not ill received as they are expertly written and consistently fluid however that small irksome quality is, nevertheless, there.

Mouth of Empty Praise seals the coffin for me. It may be my love of twisted rhythms in death metal but this song has some twisted fucking shit - like an evacuating centrifugal test-subject forgotten in his cage, gravitational forces crushing his internal structures. The empty chanting and fly buzzing closing the album is one of the more unique outro's an album has divulged in my listening years. I appreciate the mood setting of the outro and find it suits the song as well as the album.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Grand Magus - Monument

Grand Magus have been a band that has sought me out and crushed me last year with the release of Wolf's Return. Being my first foray into the music of this Swedish trio, after one listen I was hooked. The power they produce as well as the shear lack of pretentiousness their attack is constructed of is a welcome change to mass of bands that are trying to use Albert Einstein -like equations to write riffs that are then compressed into a dizzying blur of four hundred notes in the span of four seconds. Thats a note every hundredth of a second. Though I enjoy bands such as Decapitated and Necrophagist (Intestinal Incubation is brilliant) and all their ilk, its a blessing to hear the other end of spectrum. Wolf's Return, with brilliant songs like the title track, Blood Oath and Nine along with the opener Kingslayer and second to last track Light Hater makes this album not only an enjoyable listening experience, but as far as I'm concerned, an album that blows away mostly everything else that was put out last year (2005).

The album that Grand Magus released previously is, much like its follow-up, a brilliant boulder of doom that, when unleashed from its position, rumbles onward crushing anything in its path.

To start, the tone of this album is beautiful. Every instrument is mixed perfectly. Fox's bass shakes landscapes. Janne's guitar rips through the air like lightning spreading charged riffs all over the space with Trisse's drums pulling the entire package together. Janne's vocals are, without a doubt, some of the best in metal. Band's would be hard pressed to find someone with as much versatility as he has in range and effect. In some ways, he reminds me of a more metalized Chris Cornell. What I really like about his vocals are that words are easily distinguishable but still heavy as a beached whale. The mixing of all these elements is spectacular, nothing overwhelms anything else with the bass and guitar sounding almost like one instrument. Though I would have liked to see some of the solos a little higher in the mix, this doesn't impede on anything and they still stand out memorably.

With seven songs clocking in at forty three minutes, the album is neither too long nor too short. If Grand Magus could write an album which started in April then ended in July, I don't think I would turn it off except when I slept and only so I can press play when I wake up without missing anything. Regardless, for mere mortals, forty three minutes is a fine album length. The first song, is Ulvaskull which, though I don't speak Swedish, I would guess means "First of Seven Destroyers." Song two, Summer Solstice is a mid-tempo rocker worthy of much head banging and boozing. Brotherhood Of Sleep and Baptized In Fire continue in this style continuing to employ the wizardry of the mid-tempo-groove-masters. Chooser of the Slain, with its sick intro and bridge riff, iron-like verse and archaic atmosphere is a mid-album masterpeice. The fastest track - though still barely topping a residential speed limit - Food Of The Gods mercifully leaves us unscathed however doom-struck in a "wow, that was faster" sort of way, after an album of slower doomsterpeieces. The last track is the album "epic." Clocking in at ten and a half minutes, He Who Seeks... Shall Find erupts like Hawaii's constantly-slow flowing yet unfaltering volcanoes after a minute of drone. Half-way this drone picks up again, alone with a well placed bass solo from Fox. Though a hell of a track, a faster track may have been a more suitable closing track however, this track better represents the band's style and, though by far a mid paced album at most, selective sections of speed burst forth at places to up the tempo and also hint at the band's next, faster, album.

In all, this is a great album for any doom lover and even for those who have yet to take a dive into the sub-genre. Though I'm not going to go into depth about their lyrics, I will say that lyrically, this band also exceeds the vast majority of bands. Lyrically, they destroy whole swaths of the metal-genre. Incredibly reflective, personal and yet also socially conscious lyrics - much like Wolf's Return. For me, this album, more-so entire band, are making me yet another doom-aholic. Their blend of doom, groove, and tone is a truly powerful sound, unconquerable and beautiful.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dragonforce - Inhuman Rampage

Unlike "Valley of the Damned" which boasted excellent songwriting and a pure power metal foundation, "Inhuman Rampage" has rendered Dragonforce's excellent debut sheer luck. The problem with "Inhuman Rampage" is the myriad and unnecessary studio effects, and gimmicky tricks. Almost every song has a section that makes little if any sense in the grand scheme of the song. For instance, opening track and, thanks to Guitar Hero, every wide eyed guitar-hero fan's favorite song, could have been on par with a song such as Disciples of Babylon yet amidst all the excellent material exists a ton of needless crap. Both the beginning and end of the song are awful- beginning due to what is clearly studio created drum-placement and the end is longer than the closing to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Revolution Deathsquad, the following song, starts out with what sounds like a spaceship flying overhead and sprinkling fairy dust upon the world. Between each fragment and riff there is a multitude of guitar squeals and frills. Totally neglecting the fact that at two points ZP sounds like Cher, his vocals sound forced and even though he does do a second rate version of Tobias Sammet (Edguy) he doesn't seem to portray an ounce of fun such as he did on the debut album. The elongated solo section almost totally destroys the second half of the song but instead of relying entirely on wankery, they instead opt for the most un-metal of song destroyers - the Cher voice - again. The riff three minutes and change into the song (shortly after the first Cherism) flows awkwardly and showcases nothing but that Li and Totman can write a groove riff.

Storming The Burning Fields and Body Breakdown are totally forgettable. Probably because they are composed of the same terrible Ideas. Body Breakdown does sport some really questionable verse composition with random keyboard effects and singing that would make George Michael stand at attention. I am still concerned whether the guitar noodles that exist in these songs are pure unadulterated "studio dares." I can imagine Totman and Li sitting together in the studio - possibly in each other's laps - and Herman daring Totman to make a noise that sounds like an alien spaceship decorated by the Queer Eye guy flying into space. Also, I dont think that bassist Frédéric Leclercq is giving enough space to play. I would claim he is wasting his obvious talent being hidden behind the obvious guitar duo's need for spotlight.

Mentioning the other songs is really not too necessary. Operation Ground and Pound is long... too long. Although it would have the album's best intro if there were no keyboards, it becomes more of the same when the song starts - long drawn out solos and noodling. And what the hell is that slow, low chug riff with the keyboard solo? Cry For Eternity is also too long. Also, repetitive. A lot of the same melodies and harmonies, just not a lot of stand out moments for me. I continue to feel, throughout this album that the most memorable moments are the moments that are really not even part of the song. The Pac Man noise, the slap bass section... etc. Thats not a good thing. The Flame of Youth is simply the topping on the cake. It sounds like every other song, every other section, constant whammy-pinch harmonic experimentation, more alien saucer espionage. The placement of Trail of Broken Hearts is terrible. It should be in the middle to break up the tracks.

The album is very tiring to the ears. There is little variance in tempos, to much gimmicky effect noises and guitar lead work that in beneficial in no way. I'm left feeling that Dragonforce are now at a point in their career where they want to be known not as a good band but the band that is better than Dream Theater. I rarely say this, but Dream Theater is better. Dragonforce wont ever be better if they keep writing songs with little individuality and too much blatant masturbation.