Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Heavy Metal Tuesday: March 29, 2011

The highlights this week pick up the pace a bit over those from last week, though another female-fronted outfit makes its way into the top albums to watch for (go figure). Here they are:

The Best of Week 13, 2011:

Amon Amarth: Surtur Rising
(Metal Blade)
Swedish melodic death metal masters Amon Amarth are back with their eighth long-player and it's just as brutal, infectious, and groovy as you'd expect an Amon Amarth album to be. Surtur Rising will please long-time fans of the band and is also a good gateway album for those looking to hear what these Swedes are all about.

Havok: Time Is Up
The second album from Colorado's Havok is a furiously-paced, blistering package of old-school thrash the way thrash was meant to be played. If the Bay Area sound of the '80s gets your heart (and fist) pumping, then stop at nothing to get your hands on a copy of Time Is Up.

Within Temptation: The Unforgiving
The Dutch symphonic/Gothic metal powerhouse Within Temptation deliver their fifth studio album of sweeping melodies and soaring vocals. The band ventures dangerously close to the mainstream on The Unforgiving, but still has just enough of an edge to warrant attention from fans of Lacuna Coil, Nightwish, etc.

And now the rest:
Benighted: Asylum Cave [ grind ]
Blackguard: Firefight [ black metal ]
Bloodiest: Descent [ doom ]
Cavalera Conspiracy: Blunt Force Trauma [ thrashcore ]
Gridlink: Orphan [ grind ]
The Haunted: Unseen [ modern rock ]
Mercenary: Metamorphosis [ melodic death ]
Obscura: Omnivium [ progressive death ]
Of Legends: Stranded [ metalcore ]
Pale Chalice: Afflicting the Dichotomy of Trepid Creation [ black metal ]
Whitesnake: Forevermore [ hard rock ]

Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: Crystal Viper - Legends (2010)

Crystal Viper [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
AFM Records

Like it or not, the enduring trend within the female-fronted power metal scene has been to blend flamboyantly operatic vocals with speedy, keyboard-dominated orchestral music. There was a time, though, in the not-so-ancient history of metal when bands like Warlock and Hellion (and of course the Metal Queen herself - Lee Aaron) mixed what we now consider to be "traditional" metal with gritty vocal performances that would have Rob Halford nodding in respect. With Legends, Poland's Crystal Viper - fronted by the charismatic Marta Gabriel - looks to resurrect that heavy power metal of yesteryear without fully abandoning what passes for Euro-styled metal these days.

Legends is the band's third studio long-player so they've had some time to refine their particular brand of metal, and from what I've heard of their previous works this album is the most contemporary-sounding of the lot. Tracks like "The Ghost Ship", "Blood Of The Heroes", and "Night Of The Sin" feature galloping riffs, anthemic gang choruses, and scorching solos from Andy Wave, giving much of the album a distinctly Running Wild and Helloween ambiance. While Crystal Viper belts out the modern power metal flawlessly, the band really shines when evoking the days of yore through twin-guitar harmonies and a strong bass guitar presence. Wave joins with Gabriel (who not only provides the vocals, but handles her six-string with considerable skill) to open "Blood Of The Heroes" in fine Iron Maiden style, a trait repeated on "Night Of The Sin" and "Black Leviathan". Tom Woryna's bass pushes to the surface on the more mid-tempo tracks like "Greed Is Blind" and "Secret Of The Black Water", adding yet more traditional depth.

The most notable "retro" aspect to Crystal Viper's sound, aside from Gabriel's vocals, is the absence of keyboards. With the exception of the piano-driven ballad "Sydonia Bork", where the keys are present they are discreetly buried in the mix and easily overlooked. The band instead relies on Gabriel and Wave to create atmosphere, which is a very refreshing concept that power metal bands have lost sight of over the last several years. As for Gabriel's vocals, she is definitely a singer that can deliver the goods at all points within her impressive range. She attacks the lyrics with a kick-ass style that foregoes polish for impact. Her strongest performances are on "The Ghost Ship", "Night Of The Sin", and "A Man Of Stone", where she adds just a bit more of a snarl to her delivery than elsewhere on the album. "Sydonia Bork", on the other hand, clearly falls outside of Gabriel's comfort zone and as a result comes across a bit awkwardly. Legends definitely would have benefited from the exclusion of this track, as well as the rather pointless spoken-word intro track (featuring Rhino from Manowar). The album closer, a cover of Accept's "TV War", is a fine nod to one of Crystal Viper's influences and a decent way to wrap up a solid album.

Power metal fans who miss the days when Lee Aaron and Doro Pesch defined the feminine side of heavy metal will want to get their hands on Legends, as well as Crystal Viper's previous two studio releases. Provided the band doesn't drift too far towards a purely modern power metal sound, they look to be a band worth keeping track of for all fans of old-school metal.

Track Listing
1The Truth (Intro)0:42
2The Ghost Ship4:23
3Blood Of The Heroes4:43
4Greed Is Blind4:10
5Sydonia Bork5:00
6Goddess Of Death5:45
7Night Of The Sin4:26
8Secret Of The Black Water4:52
9A Man Of Stone4:58
10Black Leviathan4:39
11T.V. War3:31
Total Runtime47:09

Search eBay for Legends:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: Grey Skies Fallen - Along Came Life (2010)

Grey Skies Fallen [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
Along Came Life

A couple of years ago I reviewed Grey Skies Fallen's album Two Way Mirror (read it here), a remarkably enveloping collection of moody prog. I was most impressed by the New Yorkers' sense of songcraft and ability to construct emotionally charged melodies, traits that Two Way Mirror left me eager to hear more of long after the last notes of the final track had faded into the distance. The band is back with Along Came Life, a digitally released EP that seeks to bridge the ambiance of their previous release with the Doom/Death stylings of their earliest days.

The band's debut album The Fate of Angels was rooted in the Gothically shaded doom of bands like My Dying Bride and Katatonia, albeit with a budding sense of progressive awareness that demanded further exploration. Almost entirely absent on Two Way Mirror, the band's more aggressive tendencies return on Along Came Life in the form of harsh vocals from frontman Rick Habeeb and gritty, imposing riffs from guitarist Joe D'Angelo. Of the four tracks on the EP, Habeeb growls his way through just two of them ("By the Wayside" and "Forever and a Day"), providing enough of a contrast to his distinctive croon to keep the vocals interesting. That's not to say that Habeeb's clean singing, which comprises the majority of his delivery, is lackluster by any means. I actually prefer his clean style because I think it blends more naturally with the atmosphere put together by D'Angelo's riffs and Craig Rossi's piano.

This atmosphere - which will appeal equally to fans of post-rock, doom, and prog - is the bedrock upon which Along Came Life is built, and it's as solid as any Midwestern storm shelter. There's so much variety at work, so many subtle nuances sprinkled throughout the album, that each listen is akin to peeling back a sonic onion to reveal layer after layer of complex rhythms and harmonies. As intricate as the songs are, not one is difficult to digest and all are, in fact, highly infectious and gripping. The pleading leads of "The Grand Scheme of Things", the Tarantino-esque bluesy melody that opens "Forever and a Day", and the mournful seven-minute title track are just the most memorable moments of a very memorable album.

Grey Skies Fallen are an underexposed band that deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as outfits such as Evergrey, Lake of Tears, and Novembre. The appeal of Along Came Life is wide-ranging, making it an ideal vessel with which to familiarize yourself with the band while waiting for their next full-length to hit the streets.

Track Listing
1 The Grand Scheme of Things 4:54
2 By the Wayside 6:01
3 Forever and a Day 5:35
4 Along Came Life 7:37
Total Runtime 24:07

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Heavy Metal Tuesday: March 22, 2011

It's a pretty typical week with releases covering a broad spectrum of metal. My picks are mostly on the doomy side of things, but the new Crystal Viper album does a fine job offsetting the melancholy. Check 'em out.

The Best of Week 12, 2011:

Astrosoniq: Quadrant
Holland's Astrosoniq unleash their fourth album of fuzzy, sci-fi stoner rock that gleefully recalls the days of Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, and the mighty Led Zeppelin. Quadrant is a trippy, mellow, soothing journey through an audio kaleidoscope of psychedelic influences.

Crystal Viper: Legends
Listen up fans of galloping power metal - Poland's female-fronted powerhouse Crystal Viper is back with a third studio album of anthemic choruses and fist-pumping riffs. If you like your Manowar with a touch of estrogen, Legends is for you.

Woods of Ypres: Woods IV: The Green Album
Canadian doomsters Woods of Ypres return with their fourth album of Gothically styled melancholy. Deep vocals, a crushing groove, and a dismal oppressiveness mark the band's style making them perfect for fans of outfits such as Type O Negative, Paradise Lost, and Katatonia.

And now the rest:
Agnostic Front: My Life My Way [ hardcore ]
Art of Dying: Vices and Virtues [ modern rock ]
Bloodshot: Murder the World [ deathcore ]
Born of Osiris: The Discovery [ deathcore ]
Dodsferd: Spitting With Hatred the Insignificance of Life [ black metal ]
Dotma: Sleep Paralyses [ power metal ]
The Georgian Skull: Mother Armageddon, Healing Apocalypse [ thrash ]
Odd Dimension: Symmetrical [ progressive metal ]
Protest the Hero: Scurrilous [ progressive metal ]
Straight Line Stitch: The Fight of Our Lives [ metalcore ]

Friday, March 18, 2011

Video: Semargl - Tak, Kurwa

Baltic blackened Gothic metallers Semargl have released a video for the song "Tak, Kurwa". Warning for you kiddies and prudes - this uncensored video does contain nudity. "Tak, Kurwa", which translates to "Yes, Bitch", appears on the band's fourth album Ordo Bellictum Satanas - released last year via Twilight Vertrieb.
SARCASTIC UPDATE: The fine folks over at YouTube, who only have our best interests in mind since we obviously cannot think for ourselves, have removed this video. Hey YouTube, I have some dirty dishes in the sink. Wanna clean those up too?

For more info: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review: Cruachan - Blood on the Black Robe (2011)

Cruachan [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
Blood on the Black Robe

As founding members of the folk metal genre, Ireland's Cruachan is a band often used as a reference point when describing emerging artists that incorporate cultural instruments and melodies into their core sound - particularly those with a Celtic flavor. After 1995's Tuatha Na Gael, Cruachan released a series of albums that drifted from the blackened folk metal of their debut toward a more traditional heavy metal sound, though still heavily influenced by the legends, mythology, and music of their native land. As much as 2000's The Middle Kingdom was a shift away from Cruachan's origins, the band's latest release Blood on the Black Robe is a return to it. The tin whistle, bodhran, and bouzouki are still very much an integral part of the band's sound, but gone (mostly) are the female vocals and "classic" heavy metal elements.

Of the changes, the absence of Karen Gilligan's vocals is the most profound. Her throaty style and distinctive cadence served as a fitting contrast to mainman Keith Fay's incensed snarls and enhanced the mysticism of Cruachan's message. Though no longer an official member of the band, Gilligan does make a number of appearances on Blood on the Black Robe - all of which benefit the album. "An Bean Sidhe", a beautifully sorrowful track that builds from a lone tin whistle to cantankerous double-kick and frenzied tremolo riffing, is where Gilligan first appears on this album. Besides being a musical highlight, the song stands out for the familiar vocal interplay between Gilligan and Fay. Such complimentary vocals return on the title track, this time in the form of dual chanting atop some pummeling beats from drummer Colin Purcell. Gilligan's last appearance on the album comes during the very medieval sounding "The Voyage of Bran", where she delivers the lyrics in her characteristic storytelling style. Her vocal contributions being one of the aspects of Cruachan's music that set the band apart from many of the others who've hit the scene over the years, I'm hopeful that Fay will continue to include Gilligan (or another equally impressive female singer) on future releases.

Those familiar with the band will find Fay's harsh vocal style to be unchanged from previous releases. Only once, while chanting along with Gilligan on the title track, does he forgo the snarls. Unlike many extreme vocalists, Fay does a fine job enunciating the lyrics so that his tales of ancient Ireland - and more recent nationalist struggles - can be fully understood. Along with his vocals, Fay's grinding riffs combine with Purcell's furious double-kick to give Blood on the Black Robe that heightened sense of aggression that the band wanted to return to. "Primeval Odium", with its near-perfect blend of Irish melody and blackened hostility, stands as one of the most aggressive and memorable tracks on the album. For those who prefer more black metal and less folk metal, the swirling riffs of the aptly titled "Pagan Hate" will be quite a treat.

Although Fay has been very clear in the press about wanting to take Cruachan back toward the raw black metal of the debut album, it's the abundant use of Irish instruments and melodies that makes the band such a unique entity in the genre. The lilting pace of the tin whistle on "The Column", the traditional instrumentation of "The Nine Year War", the driving instrumental "Brian Boru's March", and even the Middle Eastern melodies of the fiddle and riffs on "Thy Kingdom Gone" are just a handful of the many highlights liberally sprinkled throughout Blood on the Black Robe. The bottom line with this release is that Cruachan have once again put together a solid Celtic folk metal album that can - and will - appeal to fans of the band's earliest recordings as well as those whose attention had been grabbed by albums like The Middle Kingdom and Pagan.

Track Listing
1To War2:04
2I Am Warrior6:28
3The Column8:21
4Thy Kingdom Gone5:35
5An Bean Sidhe6:59
6Blood on the Black Robe7:48
7Primeval Odium8:27
8The Voyage of Bran5:29
9Brian Boru's March4:38
10Pagan Hate6:21
11The Nine Year War8:30
Total Runtime1:10:40

Search eBay for Blood on the Black Robe:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Video: Graveyard - Hisingen Blues

Swedish stoner rock outfit Graveyard has released a video for "Hisingen Blues", the title track of the band's forthcoming sophomore album.

For more info: MySpace

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Heavy Metal Tuesday: March 15, 2011

There's a lot of brutality to be had this week, if you include the handful of release by a few of the metalcore kids, but only one album really stands out from the seething, aggessive masses. Check it out.

The Best of Week 11, 2011:

Serenity: Death & Legacy
Austrian symphonic power metallers Serenity are back with Death & Legacy, their third full-length release. With more power than pomp, and featuring alluring vocal performances from guests Ailyn (Sirenia), Amanda Somerville (Avantasia, Epica), and Charlotte Wessels (Delain), Death & Legacy is an album that will appeal to a wide range of rmelodic metal fans. Read Harvest Moon Music's review.

And now the rest:
Across The Sun: Before the Night Takes Us [ metalcore ]
As Blood Runs Black: Instinct [ metalcore ]
Assaulter: Boundless [ blackened thrash ]
Crucified Mortals: Crucified Mortals [ thrash ]
Deadlock: Bizarro World [ melodeath ]
Gorgasm: Orgy of Murder [ death ]
Near Death Condition: Disembodied: In Spiritual Spheres [ death ]
Onward To Olympas: The War Within Us [ metalcore ]
Rotten Sound: Curse [ death metal ]
Salt The Wound: Kill the Crown [ metalcore ]
Trap Them: Darker Handcraft [ metalcore ]
Weedeater: Jason... The Dragon [ stoner ] (Read Harvest Moon Music's review)
Visions of Atlantis: Delta [ power metal ] (Read Harvest Moon Music's review)
Vreid: V [ black metal ]

Monday, March 14, 2011

Video: Hell - On Earth As It Is In Hell

Occult-themed British heavy metal outfit Hell released a video for "On Earth As It Is In Hell", the second track from the band's forthcoming first full-length Human Remains (due out May 13th via Nuclear Blast). Although formed in 1982, the band broke up in 1987 after the death of singer/guitarist Dave Halliday having never released their debut long player. Now reunited, with legendary metal producer Andy Sneap filling in for the departed Halliday, the album was re-recorded and will finally see the light of day.

For more info: Website | MySpace

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Interview: Greg Edwards of Necronoclast

Necronoclast, the one-man black metal force from Scotland, recently released a fourth album of stark atmospheres and spine-numbing metallic aggression in the form of Ashes (read the Harvest Moon Music review) via Moribund Records. Greg Edwards, the man behind the metal, graciously devoted part of his schedule to answering a few questions about Necronoclast, Ashes, and what spawns his creativity.

[HMM] Please tell us a little bit about Necronoclast. Not so much from a historical perspective, but from a more personal and emotional one. What drove you to taking the step of forming the entity, and for what purpose does Necronoclast exist?
[Greg Edwards] Necronoclast has always been essentially for myself.  It is a way of connecting with certain aspects of life and existence which are often buried beneath mediocrity and routine in most people's lives.  Many people find music and particularly metal to be ways of immersing themselves in these elements, but I found that I was not satisfied unless I was creating the havoc which I sought.  Necronoclast is an exudate of my reality, it is a tool for me to connect with myself.

Do you foresee a time when Necronoclast will no longer be a sufficient vessel for you? If so, will you experiment with another musical outlet?
I wouldn't ever rule something like that out, but I don't foresee it at the moment.  Since Necronoclast is directly linked to myself, it will evolve as I evolve.  I don't envisage any massive shifts in musical style since Necronoclast is designed to reflect certain elements of reality, but the manner in which this darkness is presented is not set in stone.

To what extent do your physical surroundings influence the music and lyrics of Necronoclast?  Do you draw solely on humanity (and the lack thereof) for inspiration, or do the historical and social aspects of Scotland affect your writing?
I think everyone's physical surroundings influence them in many ways, some conscious and some less apparent.  No doubt the reality I live in has influenced my mindset and creativity greatly.  However I do not take lyrical inspiration from my surroundings.  The Scottish Highlands might make a good setting for some kind of fantasy metal, but I have no interest in fairy tales or reverie.  The cold realities of life and humanity are a universal language, crossing borders and seas of all civilisations.

Are you pleased with the feedback that Ashes, your most recent release, has been receiving?
To a degree.  I haven't seen anything negative really, there has been a lot of positive feedback and also some ambivalence, probably from people who don't connect with or understand what I am doing and why I am doing it.  I am always intrigued by reactions and impressions, but feedback is not that important to me.  I have achieved that which I sought to do with Ashes, so I move onto whatever comes next.

In terms of atmosphere, how do you feel Ashes compares to your previous works?
Different.  If I had to sum up the previous album Haven briefly, I would use the words "isolation" or "solitude".  There was a lot of hopelessness on that album.  This time, there is more anger, more power, more forcefulness. Haven has a palpable bleakness to it, but Ashes is more morbid, more suffocating.

I've read that you attribute the mood of Ashes to such dark subjects as nightmares and superstition. To what degree, if any, to you feel that the actions of "society" are driven by superstition?
Where do superstitions end and religions begin?  You could argue that modern society lives and dies by superstitions.  The power that can be contained within fables which are entirely devoid of logic and reality is quite incredible.  If you removed superstition and that type of belief from the world, what would you be left with?  These are fundamentals of existence, whether or not we are followers, or even interested.

The last track on Ashes, "Kajicnicke Saty", stood out to me due to the doomy riffs and admirable solos. What is the meaning of the title, and from where did you draw inspiration for the song?
"Kajicnicke Saty" is a Czech term.  The track was inspired by a museum I visited in Prague which is devoted to all mediaevel torture of various forms and presentations.  The kajicnicke saty was an item of clothing worn as a mark of public humiliation, so that someone who had committed a crime could be easily singled out by the public and pilloried.  The track is based on the premise that our lives are bathed in such criminality through the ways in which society is structured and the way it has evolved.  The true mark of shame is a human face.

The cover for Ashes was done by American artist Gabriel Byrne.  How did your collaboration with him come about, and do you feel that his is an accurate representation of the mood Ashes is meant to convey?
I worked with Gabriel on Haven, and will do so again in the near future. He had done some previous work for my label Moribund Records, and so they put me in touch with him.  On Ashes, I took a concept to him and he added his input and shaped it into the final result.  I think the cover works very well with the album.  There is chaos in the image, there is fog, there is cloud, there is ash.  The only clarity in the image is the face of death.

Have you begun writing for the follow-up to Ashes?  If so, will you be shifting musical directions at all?
I have some concepts and have begun some writing, but it is at a very early stage.  I never want to feel like I am writing the same album twice, so you can expect some variation.  However the core elements of Necronoclast will surface once again.

Please describe your writing process.  Is there any particular element (guitars, keys, etc.) that you start with?
I need a mood first of all, a focal point for the song.  At that stage there doesn't need to be any lyrics or title, just the correct feeling. Guitars are always first, built up in layers to paint the picture in my mind.  The lyrics are always written last, which allows me to give them the required depth to describe the completed musical creation.

I appreciate your time and look forward to the next chapter in the Necronoclast story. Are there any parting words you wish to share?
I thank you for your recent review and interest.  Hail!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Review: Weedeater - Jason... The Dragon (2011)

Weedeater [ MySpace ]
Jason... The Dragon

For those unfamiliar with the band, Weedeater is essentially the spawn of the defunct coastal North Carolina sludge mongers Buzzov•en. Manifested by vocalist/bassist "Dixie" Dave Collins in 1998 after the Buzzov•en split, Weedeater has steadily carved out a place among stoner circles for their reverb-laden riffs and bottom-end groove. It's been four years since the trio (Dave, Keith Kirkum behind the kit and Dave Shepherd on guitar) last released an album, heightening anticipation within their fanbase for 2011's Jason... The Dragon.

The new album is prototypical Weedeater and deviates only slightly from the overall fuzzed-out style the band's genre is known for. The guys do a fine job of varying the pace, however, alternating between ponderous tracks like "Hammerhandle" and those with a bit more of a trotting groove to them - "Mancoon", for instance. The upliftingly groovy riffs on "Homecoming" are catchy as hell and, combined with Collins' grumbling bass, make this track really stand out as the best the album has to offer. Kirkum is a bit more energetic on this track as well, skillfully flailing away at the crash cymbals as he lays down a fine beat pattern. Kirkum also shines on "March of the Bipolar Bear", a short track that is essentially just a drum solo. Collin's vocals are still of the raspy, croaking style which distinguishes Weedeater from their peers. While some may find his delivery distracting, I think it adds character.

The two tracks where Weedeater ventures far beyond the typical stoner comfort zone are "Palms of Opium" and "Whiskey Creek". The former features a plucky, soulful bass line that, together with a rather Appalachian guitar melody, does well to capture the humid, sluggish pace of the Carolina lowlands. Collin's vocals are coated in effects that are oddly contagious as they enhance that familiar Southern drawl. "Whiskey Creek" is an instrumental banjo piece set to the backdrop of rainwater splashing on what I assume to be a covered porch, again evoking Southern imagery - this time of a verdant Appalachian holler. A little more than two-and-a-half minutes into the song, there's a moment of silence followed by a bluesy piano performance. Somewhat of an odd end to Jason..., but the contrast with the overall sound of the album isn't as jarring as you'd expect. In short, it works.

Jason... The Dragon definitely avoids becoming monotonous yet it never ventures beyond a slow jog, so there are no sudden jolts to contend with. Even considering the minuscule runtime of just over 34 minutes, stoner and sludge fans will eat this one up while those curious about the genre should find Jason... to be an adequate gateway album.

Track Listing
1The Great Unfurling1:05
4Turkey Warlock3:02
5Jason... The Dragon5:58
6Palms of Opium3:47
7Long Gone3:56
8March of the Bipolar Bear0:59
10Whiskey Creek5:42
Total Runtime34:14

Purchase Jason... The Dragon from these fine e-Tailers:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Video: Vains of Jenna - Fuck You

Swedish rockers Vains of Jenna have released a video for their cover of the Cee Lo hit "Fuck You". The track will appear on tha band's forthcoming album Reverse Tripped, due out on April 5th via Deadline Records.

For more info: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Video: Terminatryx - Virus

The South African female-fronted industrial outfit Terminatryx has posted a video for the song "Virus", which appears on the band's 2008 self-titled debut album.

For more info: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Heavy Metal Tuesday: March 8, 2011

There's a pretty solid crop of albums hitting the streets this week, making it tough to choose a handful that stand out from the rest. See what you think.

The Best of Week 10, 2011:

Ava Inferi: Onyx
(Season Of Mist)
The Portuguese Gothic doom outfit Ava Inferi is back with Onyx, the band's fourth album. Mesmerizing, weighty, soothing - all terms that can be used to describe Ava Inferi's style of melancholic beauty. For fans of Katatonia, Theatre of Tragedy, etc.
Jag Panzer: The Scourge of The Light
For lovers of Americanized power metal, the wait for a new Jag Panzer album is over. The Scourge of The Light is just about everything fans of the band, and the style, expect from one of the nation's premier metal outfits. The Colorado metallers may have taken their collective foot off the accelerator just a bit on this, their ninth outing, but it's still a worthy purchase.

Lifelover: Sjukdom
The fourth full-length from Swedish depressive metallers Lifelover is an interesting affair. Hints of black metal anger permeate what is mostly a doomy, almost Gothic atmosphere bearing similarities to later-period Sentenced and Tiamat. An interesting underground pick for those more darkly inclined.

Turisas: Stand Up And Fight
(Century Media)
The Finnish Viking metal horde Turisas are back with their third studio album. Stand Up And Fight may distance a number of the band's early fans, for gone almost entirely are the harsh vocals to be replaced by clean crooning and triumphant choruses. While most of the music still retains much of the aggressive folk melodies, there's a palpable shift to a more standardized power metal sound. In fact, fans of bands like Dark Moor and Falconer may be more impressed with Stand Up And Fight than will fans of Ensiferum and Eluveitie.

And now the rest:
Beehover: Concrete Catalyst [ stoner ]
Benedictum: Dominion [ heavy metal ]
Children of Bodom: Relentless, Reckless Forever [ melodic death ]
Condemned: Condemed 2 Death [ thrash ]
Destruction: Day of Reckoning [ thrash ]
Dornenreich: Flammentriebe [ black metal ]
Hemoptysis: Misanthropic Slaughter [ thrash ]
The Human Abstract: Digital Veil [ progressive metalcore ]
Maruta: Forward Into Regression [ grind ]
Trust Company: Dreaming in Black and White [ hard rock ]
Wino: Adrift [ acoustic ]
Withering Soul: No Closure [ black metal ]

Monday, March 7, 2011

Video: Amaranthe - Hunger

The Nordic project Amaranthe, which features ex-Dream Evil six-stringer Jake E and Nightrage's Olof Mörck, has released a video for "Hunger". The song is the first single from the band's upcoming self-titled debut album which is due out in Europe on April 13th via Spinefarm Records.

For more info: MySpace

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Video: Kypck - Alleya Stalina

The Russian-speaking Finnish doom band Kypck, featuring ex-Sentenced guitarist Sami Lopakka, have released a video for "Alleya Stalina" ("The Alley of Stalin"). The track appears on the band's sophomore album Lower, which was released in February via Yellow House Recordings.

For more info: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Review: Visions of Atlantis - Delta (2011)

Visions of Atlantis MySpace | Facebook ]
Napalm Records

With the symphonic power metal style of Nightwish serving as inspiration, Austria's Visions of Atlantis came together in 2000 and put forth their debut effort two years later. Almost immediately the line-up shuffles began, with two of the original members leaving the band. Two more albums were released as band members came and went, but through it all Visions of Atlantis managed to deliver consistently good - if unremarkable - power metal. For Delta, the band's fourth full-length, Greek chanteuse Maxi Nil (ex-Elysion) steps behind the microphone to share vocals duties with Mario Plank. Although the band's sound is rooted in the Nightwish style, they are anything but a clone.

What most sets Visions of Atlanta apart from the genre leaders, in a good way, are the vocals. Plank and Nil have a chemistry consistent with that of Scabbia and Ferro of Lacuna Coil, sharing vocal duties about equally and each possessing a range complimentary to the other. Nil's style isn't as operatic as some singers in the genre, but remains soothingly strong as she exercises her versatility. The song that best exemplifies her abilities is "Memento", where she flawlessly soars above her typical mid-range and shares an interesting operatic interplay with Plank. For his part, Plank has a decent mid-ranged style with just a hint of gruffness to it. He briefly delves into a harsher style than normal on "New Dawn", a nicely paced rocker with some sweeping interludes, and delivers a gritty performance on the aggressive "Elegy Of Existence". The heaviest song on Delta, "Elegy Of Existence" also stands out for some tantalizingly chunky riffs courtesy of Werner Fiedler.

What bothers me most about Delta is the fact that Martin Harb's keyboard work is front-and-center on practically every track, too often relegating Fiedler's six-string activities to the background. Harb does a fine job creating a lush atmosphere through some very majestic and triumphant-sounding passages (check out "Black River Delta" and "Conquest Of Others", not to mention the instrumental "Sonar" which would be a perfect fit for a James Cameron film), but on tracks like "Twist Of Fate" it's frustrating to have to strain to pick up Fiedler's noodling leads beneath the keys - however passionate and catchy they may be. It's a minor gripe for sure, rooted in personal preferences, and one that most fans of European-styled power metal won't likely share.

Delta isn't a groundbreaking album, but in my opinion that's not the only stick by which an album should be measured. As a contribution to the symphonic power metal style, Vision of Atlantis' fourth album is a solid effort that more than warrants attention from genre fans.

Track Listing
1Black River Delta4:34
3New Dawn2:59
4Where Daylight Fails4:11
5Conquest Of Others5:37
6Twist Of Fate4:31
7Elegy Of Existence3:36
10Gravitate Towards Fatality5:55
Total Runtime43:44

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Acquisitions for February 2011

Inspired by Steve's CD Scavenger Hunt posts at his Heavy Metal Addiction blog, I've decided to run a monthly feature chronicling the growth of my own CD collection. The promos and review copies I receive from various labels and bands are not going to be included, as this is all about my personal hunting and gathering successes. For the past several years, my collection was neglected while I tread water in the Michigan economy and then made the financially painful move to greener pastures in Kentucky. Now, a couple of years later, things with the farm and other various ventures have reached the point where I can once again devote some resources to fulfilling my passion for collecting music. So here's what February brought to my shelves:

Bon Jovi - New Jersey (1988)
Ok, before you rush to judgement, hear me out. I am by no means a Bon Jovi fan, but if (like me) the '80s were your teenaged years then listening to his music was unavoidable if you planned on spending some time with the opposite sex. Am I wrong? The only Bon Jovi cassette I ever owned was this one, and it made it's way into my personal belongings as I shipped off to basic training after graduation. Many homesick moments were spent listening to New Jersey, among others, so there's a certain nostalgia attached to this album. Seeing an original pressing on eBay, not the remaster, going for cheap I just decided to pull the trigger and pick it up.

Cauldron - Burning Fortune (2011)
I'm a "classic" metal junkie and eagerly look forward to new releases from bands that still wave the flag of true heavy metal. Canada's Cauldron is one of those bands that plays old-school metal and plays it well, innovation be damned.  I'm all for it, and even though I missed their debut I was sure to pick up their sophomore effort when it was released. Don't be surprised if you see Chained To The Nite on one of these posts in the near future.

Dropkick Murphys - The Meanest of Times (2007)
Irish punk/rock is one of the many non-metal genres that I really enjoy, and Dropkick Murphys rank atop my favorite bands of the style. I've been eagerly awaiting the March 1st release of their new album, Going Out In Style, so when I came across a nicely priced used copy at Lexington's CD Central I snapped it up without a second thought. You can bet Going Out In Style will be on March's acquisition list.

Flotsam and Jetsam - Dreams of Death (2005)
One of the glaring embarrassments of my collection is the number of bands whose complete catalog I should own, but don't. Arizona's Flotsam and Jetsam is one of those bands, and though their primary claim to fame was Jason Newstead on bass (for the first album) they're still a solid thrash outfit that I first got into back in the day. Dreams of Death, the band's ninth long-player, doesn't really stand out from the pack but is nevertheless an enjoyable entry to the genre and fills a gap on my shelf. Another eBay victory.

Lacuna Coil - Comalies (2002)
If been a fan of this Italian Gothic metal outfit since I purchased their debut in 1999. I was quick to grab the follow-up Unleashed Memories, but failed to keep up with Lacuna Coil's output. Despite the band's sharp veer into the commercial mainstream, I still enjoy the music they put together. Both this release and the band's most current album, Shallow Life, where going for cheap from the same seller on eBay so I nabbed 'em both. Now only Karmacode remains....

Lacuna Coil - Shallow Life (2009)
See above.

Lita Ford - Wicked Wonderland (2009)
You can rest assured that a number of Lita Ford posters adorned my walls back in high school. Whose didn't? One of metal's original bad girls, I've always enjoyed her music even if much of her popularity was due more to charisma than anything else. Wicked Wonderland piqued my interest when it was released, but the album didn't generate a lot of positive press so it drifted down my priority list. A cheap used copy caught my eye on eBay so I picked it up, but I do have to admit it was a rather disappointing purchase. Definitely not up to par with her classic solo work.

Goblin Cock - Come With Me If You Want To Live (2008)
Ridiculous name aside, San Diego's Goblin Cock is a pretty decent stoner doom outfit with a great sense of humor. I do enjoy me some High On Fire, Priestess, and Orange Goblin so Goblin Cock's style is right up my alley. I'd never heard of the band before I stumbled across this, their sophomore release, while trolling eBay but it was more than worth the few bucks I spent to snag it. The downside to the score, being the completist that I am, means their debut album has been added to my want list of back-fills.

Saxon - Crusader (1984)
These NWOBHM legends are one of my all-time favorite bands, and I am ashamed to admit that I haven't yet completed replacing my Saxon cassettes with CDs. Crusader, though the band's sixth studio release, was my first exposure to this veteran outfit. The cover art caught my attention as I was browsing the dingy bins of Rock of Ages in Garden City, Michigan, at that time a grungy hole-in-the-wall metal shop and a favorite hangout of mine. As the years went by, my cassette copy wore out and for any number of reasons Crusader was never replaced with a CD - even though it always topped my want list. I finally committed to picking up a copy and leveraged a $2-off coupon from MovieMars.com to get it. The album sounds as good as it did when I first heard it twenty-six years ago.

Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy - Návaz (2011)
This Czech outfit's style of folk-inspired Gothic metal has always held my interest, though I've never owned one of their albums. Návaz, the band's sixth album, intrigued me enough to drop few bucks to add it to my collection. Sung entirely in the band's native language, Návaz may put some people off but I find that it adds significant depth and mystery to the dark, Gothic atmosphere.

Warrant - Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich (1989)
Again, a bout of nostalgia led me to pick up a remastered copy of Warrant's debut album (at a rock bottom price) from Blow It Outa Here. My cassette copy bit the dust decades ago but this one was never high on my priority list to replace. With a number of the band's follow-up releases in my collection, I figured it was about time I roped this one in. Hair metal is one of my guilty pleasures and the only excuse that I can offer is that I am simply a product of my generation.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Video: Artillery - Warrior Blood

Veteran Danish thrash metallers Artillery have recently released a video for "Warrior Blood", the first single from the band's upcoming sixth album My Blood. Due out in North America on April 5th via Metal Mind, My Blood will feature ten new tracks and a remake of "Ain't Giving In" (from 1992's Mind Factory demo).

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