Friday, October 31, 2008

Review: T-Virus - Horror Thir13teen (2005)

T-Virus [ MySpace ]
Horror Thir13teen
Blood and Guts Records

Six years ago a computer salesman and a janitor joined with three welders to form a Gothic metal band called My Own Kingdom. It took only a year for these five blue-collar Swedes to retool their sound and adopt a variation of punk 'n' roll that allowed them to hang on to a little bit of a Goth edge, and so T-Virus was born. Released in 2005, Horror Thir13teen was their debut (and so far only) album.

T-Virus' sound can be summed up as a mix between Bad Religion and Rancid, with subtle synth tricks blended in to lend an eerie ambiance. They certainly have a more metallic edge than the standard punk revival group, largely due to the meaty riffs and quick solos from Patrick and Micke Persson. Another element that sets them apart is the lyrical content which, except for one sexually-charged track ("Your Little Princess"), revolves around horror movies. Hell, the band took their name from the Resident Evil series of movies and video games. With song titles like "Resident Evil", "Living Dead Doll", and "Kill Her Tonight" it should be fairly obvious that these guys have a thing for zombie splatter.

The song "Your Little Princess" stands out not only because the lyrics buck the trend, but also because it's the heaviest and most "metal" track on Horror Thir13teen. Seppo Pykkö's thunderous blast beats set the pace for an assault of riffs that give the song a very '80s speed/thrash sound while the little bit of a porn voiceover at the end ensures the song remains one of the most memorable on the album. One of two tracks that standout for me is the catchy - but all too brief - "Horror Night", the piano accompaniment helping to make it sound as if it's straight out of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The other notable song is "The Curse", which is the most Gothic sounding track on the album. With memorable synth/riff harmonies mixed together with some noodling solos and a dark piano piece, it's sure to be a favorite around Samhain bonfires.

Horror Thir13teen is an enjoyable album of hooky punk 'n' roll that fans of the aforementioned Rancid and Bad Religion will enjoy, provided they can tolerate the sometimes campy lyrics. Horror rock fans that get a kick out of bands such as Electric Frankenstein and Murderdolls will also be intrigued by this release. While by no means groundbreaking, this album is still a fun listen.

Track Listing
1 They Came Marching Out of Hell 2:49
2 Living Dead Doll 3:31
3 Resident Evil 4:09
4 Horror Night 1:58
5 Your Little Princess 2:39
6 Monster 3:59
7 Caroline 2:31
8 Playing Chess With the Grim Reaper 2:55
9 You're Not Alone 1:48
10 Born a Bastard 2:34
11 Kill Her Tonight 2:25
12 The Curse 4:23
13 The Cannibal Song (We Eat People) 2:13
Total Runtime 37:54

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Review: Held Under - The Catastrophe of Creation (2006)

Held Under [ MySpace ]
The Catastrophe of Creation

New York's Held Under were a metalcore band from Albany that formed in 2000 and released a handful of albums (2 demos and 2 full-lengths) before closing up shop in 2007. The Catastrophe of Creation  is the last album released by the band and, although consisting mostly of the run-of-the-mill drivel found on practically all albums of this genre, the disc does have a few points of originality to offer.

Frontman Jeff Andrews spews the lyrics forth in metalcore-conforming style, alternating between raspy shrieks, guttural growls, and cleanly sung choruses. He differs from most, however, when he sings cleanly. Unlike the nasal, whining approach most *-core vocalists take, Andrews has a voice that reminds me of early thrash frontmen like James Hetfield and Joey Belladonna. Unfortunately, Andrews uses this style sparingly. "The Endless Hours" and "Left With The Wreckage" both stand out due to an above average use of clean vocals. Musically, The Catastrophe of Creation has all you would expect from an album of this genre - copious breakdowns, bottom-tuned riffs, and frantic but brief solos. Rarely deviating from this formula, though, the disc quickly becomes monotonous. Guitarists Dave Matthews and Dave Seacord are technically proficient, delivering some razor-sharp licks and intricate riffs, but in the end they fall victim to the limitations inherent in any *-core formula.

The Catastrophe of Creation is not an album that appeals to me because of my personal tastes in metal. While it may be of a bit more interest to metalcore fans than the average genre album, in the end it fails to significantly rise above others in this overcrowded scene. After the breakup in 2007, Jeff Andrews and Dave Matthews went on to form a new project called Dryheeve.

Track Listing
1 Tears Fell Into Ashes 4:09
2 The Endless Hours 4:31
3 Force Fed Cancer 6:33
4 Sleepwalker 4:55
5 Inherit The Loss 6:10
6 Collective Degeneration 3:24
7 Left With The Wreckage 4:17
8 Blood Must Turn To Black 7:40
9 Feeling The Scab 4:16
10 Waste Of Life 8:26
Total Runtime 54:21

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Review: Moonshine - Songs of Requiem (2006)

Moonshine [ MySpace ]
Songs of Requiem

Quite some time ago Songs of Requiem, the sophomore release from South Korea's Moonshine, made its way to me and for reasons unknown got lost in the shuffle. With my recent move to Kentucky, many such things that had been lost have now been found. While I am disappointed at having missed reviewing this disc when it first arrived, I'm nevertheless grateful for having uncovered it because it is a very enjoyable Gothic/Doom album.

Metal bands from South Korea are few and far between, though I imagine they are still more numerous than bands of any genre from North Korea. Seoul's Moonshine formed in the mid-1990s as a two-man gore/grind outfit going by the name Deathrasher. A well-advised name change also saw the duo adopt a much more melodic and symphonic style of extreme metal. Expanding their ranks to include session musicians on bass and keyboards, Amon (vocals, guitars) and Giga (drums) released their debut full-length in 2001. Five years later came Songs of Requiem, an album brimming with dark imagery and lush atmosphere.

An epic piano-driven intro, sounding like something off of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra album, sets the stage for the experience to come. "The Other Side (of Me)" opens the album proper with frantic blast-beats and furious Black metal riffs and is one of the speediest tracks on Songs of Requiem. As fast-paced as it is, the song nevertheless manages to blend in melodic keyboard riffs to offset Amon's growls and tortured shrieks. Such is Moonshine's core formula - ferocity tempered by melody. Every track blends various metallic elements without losing sense of harmony or intensity. Keyboards are used heavily throughout, but they are well-placed and never distract from the other instruments. Classic metal riffs are also to be heard in abundance, adding yet another level of interest to Moonshine's music. Amon's vocal style is primarily a quite phlegm-y growl which works well to make the lyrics comprehendible, though at times he does adopt a menacing baritone.

Listening to Songs of Requiem I am reminded a lot of early Amorphis. While certainly not cloning the Finns, Amon and Gira possess a similar ability to craft well-structured songs that draw on a variety of influences. Their skill is most evident in the fact that none of the songs on the album sound repetitive or monotonous. All are enjoyable listens, though the brooding "The Song of Retrospect" comes off a little forced - like the band was just going through the motions. Another song that manages to stand apart, but for more positive reasons, is "Dying Agony". This track has a very '80s Goth-wave sound to it, yet it remains distinctly metal due to Amon's growls and crunchy riffs. He also tosses in a couple of brief old-school solos for good measure. Definitely a highlight of the disc.

From start to finish, for the most part, Songs of Requiem is an album of interesting and enjoyable Gothic metal that will appeal to a wide audience. Recommended.

Track Listing
1 Ouvrir La Porte 2:03
2 The Other Side (of Me) 5:33
3 Hallucinating With Shadows 5:18
4 The Ghost Who Mourns 5:25
5 Endless Fall 4:59
6 Domesticated Creatures 4:15
7 The Song of Retrospect 6:01
8 Dying In Agony 5:35
9 Nocturnal Halls 1:53
10 Lady In Black 5:02
11 The Memorable Tide (Remixed) [bonus] 4:58
Total Runtime 51:02

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