Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Review: Inflextion - demo (2004)

Inflextion [ MySpace ]

Inflextion  is a burgeoning 5-piece extreme metal band from Detroit, Michigan, whose first demo is sure to turn some heads. Citing influences from Mudvayne to Hatebreed, Inflextion has put together three outstanding atmospheric death metal songs to showcase their abilities.

The first track on the demo, "Know Yourself", is a heavily In Flames-influenced composition with the highlight being the catchy and melodic riffs from Jay and Mike (no last names in the press kit or on their website). Time changes are used effectively to create an interesting listen, and Steve's vocals infuse the song with a sense of absolute rage. This song definitely has the potential to be a hit, even in the over-saturated aggressive metal scene that permeates radio and MTV2. "Sea Of Gray" opens with a haunting intro that carries throughout the song. Steve lays on the screams with a more hardcorish slant, and the riffs are of the nu-metal bottom tuned stop-start variety. Finally, "72nd Hour" shows the bands industrial influences with a multi-tracked spoken intro and heavily effected guitars. Again with underlying atmospherics, the ferocity of the track is tempered with melodic riffs which, for each song on the demo, makes it fresh and absorbing.

While most new bands today, especially in the metal underground here in America, go for balls-out brutality with minimal use of melody, Inflextion already display a talent for blending the two and making their extreme metal accessible without sacrificing fierceness. Do yourself a favor and stop by their website, and if in the Detroit area stop by a show and support these guys.

Track Listing
1 Know Yourself
2 Sea Of Gray
3 72nd Hour

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Review: Celtic Legacy - Resurrection (2003)

Celtic Legacy [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]

With a name like Celtic Legacy, you'd probably assume this band to be of the European power metal type heavily influenced, both in lyrics and music, by the myths and history of the Celts. What the band offers on their sophomore album Resurrection is instead a solid slab of melodic metal in the tradition of Iron Maiden, Dokken, and Def Leppard. There are occasional Celtic references, such as the wonderful instrumental "Slóidephuch Dóin" and in the lyrics of "Children Of The Sky" (the band's rendition of The Children Of Lir, a saga from Irish mythology), but overall the disc is just good ol' classic metal.

The riffs and leads of co-founder Dave Morrissey and guitarist Darren Maher are top-notch throughout the album. "Live By The Sword" serves as the opening showcase for their talents, as the crunchy riff is simple yet catchy and the solo is quite expressive. The title track is by far my favorite of the album, and clocking in at over 10 minutes it's also the most epic. Right away the lads hit you with the addictive melody that carries through the tune. The anthemic, Irish-inspired riff is uplifting and haunting all at once. Vocalist Mark Guildea traverses his awesome range faultlessly, delivering an emotionally gripping performance which envelops you in the lyrics and heightens the mood created by Morrissey and Maher, whose twin-guitar harmonies are noteworthy and well-executed. Lyrically, "Resurrection" speaks of the reunification of Ireland - at least that's my interpretation - which I suppose for me makes the song a little more emotionally weighty. Celtic Legacy have outdone themselves with this highly dramatic piece. Another favorite of mine is "Slóidephuch Dóin", a guitar-driven instrumental track with distinct Irish flavor. This quick-paced little rocker will get your head to bangin' and your foot to stompin'. "Shine" first appeared on Celtic Legacy's debut album, but I am not familiar with that version so am unqualified to offer comparison. It is, however, a track where the bass of co-founder Dave Baylan comes to the fore and carries the song in tight synchronicity with drummer Stephen Cash. The choruses are excellent as well, hinting at the band's significant AOR influences. The heavy, chugging riff of "Emania - Shadows Of The Moonlight" brings to mind the works of Deep Purple and Rainbow, while the flute interlude lends a traditional Irish ambiance.

The story behind the making of Resurrection is just as intriguing as the music itself. In 2001, Celtic Legacy was over as a band because of the lack of support shown by metal fans in Ireland and abroad. A fan in Germany, however, took it upon himself to personally launch a fund-raising campaign to finance the reformation of the band and the recording of a new album. Thanks to his tireless devotion, Celtic Legacy reformed and created this wonderfully produced gem of metal. Now that's supporting the underground!

Track Listing
1 The fallen
2 Live By The Sword
3 Guardian Angel
4 Resurrection
5 Children Of The Sky
6 Timeless
7 Slóidephuch Dóin
8 Shine
9 Always The Hero
10 Emania - Shadows Of Moonlight
11 When A Stranger Comes

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Monday, January 19, 2004

Review: Battle Ram - Battle Ram (2003)

Battle Ram [ Website | MySpace ]
Battle Ram

Italian metal purists Battle Ram came together in 2001 as a cover band playing tunes from metal legends Omen, Cirith Ungol, and Manilla Road. Less than two years later they've released their first demo of original tunes (and one cover) and their adherence to those who've inspired them is commendable.

This self-titled demo recording is an ode to the aforementioned bands and the era in which they reigned. Singer Daniele Di Loreto is no Tim Baker, but his higher range style, and occasional soaring falsetto, fits the music like a glove. Never sounding strained or forced, Daniele delivers the goods in the spirit of Steve Bridges (Witchfynde) and Kevin Heybourne (Angelwitch). The twin guitar assault from Davide Natali and Gianluca Silvi is above average and drives the music home. The crushing riffs of "Dark Command" are particularly noteworthy, as are the anthemic leads of "The Vow". The ominous and threatening mood set at the beginning of "Battering Ram" belies the thundering riffs and soaring wails from Daniele as the song progresses. This is my pick as the standout track, as much for the changing tempos as for the fervid guitar solo and gang chorus. The final track of the demo is "Join The Legion", a cover Cirith Ungol's timeless song. I have mixed feelings about Battle Ram's version, as musically it is a fine rendition but vocally leaves something to be desired. Perhaps it's just that Tim Baker is, well, Tim Baker. To me it's sort of when you hear "The Trooper" you expect to hear Bruce's distinctive voice, and anything else just falls terribly short. The production of this demo is quite raw, but that plays right in to this sounding even more like it was recorded in 1983 rather than 2003 - and in this case it's a good thing.

Should Battle Ram continue churning out metal of the sort displayed on their demo, then classic metal fans take note. Equally exciting as a band breaking new ground within the genre is a band who can add a touch of freshness to the tried-and-true sound of days gone by, which is exactly what Battle Ram appears to be able to do.

Track Listing
1 Burning Lives
2 The Vow
3 Dark Command
4 Battering Ram
5 Join The Legion

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Thursday, January 15, 2004

Review: Funny Money - Skin To Skin (2003)

Funny Money [ Website | MySpace ]
Skin To Skin

In order for this review to be meaningful, we have to set the "way back" machine to 1988 when East Coast glam metallers Kix released Blow My Fuze, making singer Steve Whiteman a household name - at least among '80s hair band fans. Having been relatively successful in their own region, the radio & MTV hit "Don't Close Your Eyes" propelled the band into the national spotlight. Now fast forward to the grunge explosion of the early '90s. Kix, as well as just about every other hair band, is suddenly finding themselves cast to the wayside and eventually breaks up. Whiteman is committed to carry on the sound he loves, though, and forms Funny Money. Back to the present day and we have Funny Money's latest studio release Skin To Skin. If you're at all familiar with the Kix sound, and that of other contemporaries such as Poison and Fastway, then you know exactly what Funny Money is all about.

Overflowing with bluesy riffs and crunchy guitar leads, songs such as "Bad Luck" and "Just One Dance" bring back the party rock of days gone by. Former Kix axeslinger Ronnie Younkins even drops in to deliver a wild solo on the lead-off track. Whiteman is true to form throughout the album, not having lost a step since the good ol' days. He even belts out the harmonica solos with gusto. Guitarists Dean Cramer and Louis Coppola (who has since left the band) deliver the catchy hooks with precision while Mark Schenker works the groovy bass lines with style. The title track, as well as "Do Ya Wanna?" and "Bump & Grind", delivers that southern-style boogie rock reminiscent of late-'80s Aerosmith and Flesh & Blood-era Poison. My favorite song on Skin To Skin is "Good Boy Gone Bad". Whiteman's catchy vocal melodies are the best of the album you and get you singing along with the chorus. Pretty straightforward drum lines from former Kix skinpounder Jimmy Chalfant blend seamlessly with Schenker's bass. This is just a good, solid party rock tune that you can get up and groove to.

The one spot of tarnish on this little good-time rock gem is the production. Certainly raw and at times muddy, it's not bad enough to detract from the album and is really just a nitpick from me. Besides that, and the annoying sound effect kicking off "You Rub Me The Wrong Way", Skin To Skin is sure to be a hit for all the fans of '80s hard rock. Stop by their website and pick yourself up a copy.

Track Listing
1Bad Luck
2Do Ya Wanna?
3Skin To Skin
4Good Boy Gone Bad
5Just One Dance
6Sharp As Knives
7Ain't Standin' Still
8You Rub Me The Right Way
9I'm Your Whore
10Bump & Grind
11I Don't Care About Everything
12She Turns
13Nice Guys Finish Last

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Friday, January 9, 2004

Review: Týr - Eric The Red (2003)

Týr [ MySpace ]
Eric The Red

One word - magnificent. Týr have literally come from the middle of nowhere (the Faröe Islands, to be precise) to deliver a genre-crossing album of epic proportions. A relatively young band with one full-length album already behind them, Týr combine progressive, folk, power, and viking metal elements to create a unique style of folk metal accessible to fans of many styles - doom, black, and Gothic in addition to those already mentioned.

Influenced by bands such as Black Sabbath and Dream Theater, Týr founders Heri Joensen (vocals, guitar), Kári Streymoy (drums) and Gunner H. Thomsen (bass) set out to create metal inspired by their influences while also paying homage to the Norse, Danish, and Irish heritage of their homeland. While their debut album How Far To Asgaard featured solid prog/power metal with folk-inspired lyrics, Eric The Red has main songwriter Joensen incorporating traditional Faröese melodies and language to conceive a one-of-a-kind sound (how many bands do you know of sing in Faröese?). Despite its uniqueness, Eric The Red has enough catchy melodies, wild guitar hooks, powerful vocals, and sing-along choruses to appeal to a wide variety of metal lovers. This is genuinely an album of standout tracks, each with much to set itself apart from those before and after, which of course results in a very interesting listen.

Leading off the album is "The Edge", which perhaps best exemplifies what Týr is all about. A heavy, doomy riff from Joensen and guitarist extraordinaire Terji Skibenæs overlays the fine skinwork of Streymoy to open the track. Soon enough, Joensen displays his exceptional vocal range and melody. Whether singing in a traditional metallic style or a more bardic one, especially on the traditional arrangements, Heri is an amazingly impelling singer who can make the lyrics not only heard but felt. Able to sing passionately in English, Faröese, and Danish, I consider him to truly be a bard of the modern age. "The Edge" continues with group-sung verse in English and Faröese, evoking a medieval feel. Wrapping things up is one of many transcending solos from Terji. The first of three songs sung in Faröese, the lyrics of "Regin Smiður" tell a traditional Faröese tale. Terji begins the song with a haunting lead that conjures up an image of early medieval Scandinavia. On this track, Heri sings with a traditional cadence and is backed by group choruses. Gunner's bass is up in the mix as the band breaks into some quite progressive interludes - illustrating their skill at combing both traditional folk and modern metal influences to create a rare style of music. "The Wild Rover" is a traditional Irish tune which Týr have given a metallic makeover (in the spirit of Cruachan). With an inspiring solo from Terji, this track is one of many gems to be found on Eric The Red. I really couldn't choose a favorite, but "Ólavur Riddararós" is certainly in my top two. Another traditional Faröese tale, this song is the most up-tempo on the album and really gets the head banging. With a sing-along chorus and a furious guitar solo, I imagine this could easily be a favorite at live shows. Closing out Eric The Red is the title track. With a somewhat jazzy intro, Satriani-like leads, and occasionally funky bass lines, the diversity of style displayed with this song is a fitting finale to a great album.

My affinity for folkish metal aside, Eric The Red marks Týr as a band that is both innovative and accessible - qualities essential not only to achieve success, but also to further the metal genre. With something to offer just about every metal fan, Týr is capable of accomplishing both.

Track Listing
1 The Edge
2 Regin Smiður
3 Dreams
4 The Wild Rover
5 Stýrisvølurin
6 Ólavur Riddararós
7 Rainbow Warrior
8 Ramund hin Unge
9 Alive
10 Eric The Red

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Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Review: Bloodroot - Bloodroot (2002)

Bloodroot [ Website | MySpace ]

Formerly known simply as the Johnny Young Band and releasing two albums under that moniker, Brooklyn-based Bloodroot has delivered a self-titled MCD of commercially viable, groove-laden hard rock. Garnering significant exposure through extensive touring and rotation on cable music channels, the band is posturing themselves for a mainstream breakout.

Bloodroot the album is a blend of Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, and Creed held together by mainman Johnny Young's powerful voice and excellent guitar skills. Normally operating in a lower range akin to Scott Weiland or Layne Staley, Johnny sounds remarkably like Colin Hay of Men At Work on the first track "Strength". An interesting sound for this type of music, but as both bands produce catchy melodies it works pretty well. Having learned the rock ropes under the tutelage of guitarist Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones), Johnny's six-string skills are evident throughout the album expressed in the form of tricky leads, groovy riffs, and first-rate solos. The bass of Jairo Ruiz is distinct and up in the mix, giving the music a dose of modern heaviness. Karl Wilcox, former drummer of NWOBHM legends Diamond Head, is flawless behind the kit. The standout track on Bloodroot is "Earth Below", featuring the use of a tablas to complement the overall Eastern vibe of the music. Johnny belts out a solo that, while not blistering, is one of his most expressive of the album.

Bloodroot is a band awash in talent. They possess the ingredients necessary for success, so it's just a matter of time before they're picked up. Modern rock fans are advised to give these guys a listen.

Track Listing
2Destination Unknown
3Weighed Down
5Earth Below

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