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Whichever tier of thrash metal you consigned Sacred Reich back in the 80's/90's they still had their moments.  "Ignorance" & "Surf Nicaragura" did a great job of establishing the band, whereas "The American Way" just got a little to comfortable and accessible (the title track grates nowadays) for my ears.  A couple more records better left forgotten about and then nothing for twenty three years.  2019 alone has now seen three releases from Phil Rind and co.  A live EP, a split EP with Iron Reagan and now a full length.

Notable addition to the ranks for the current throng of releases is former Machine Head sticksman, Dave McClean.  Love or hate Machine Head, McClean is a more than capable drummer and his presence here is felt from the off with the opening and title track kicking things off with some real gusto.  'Divide & Conquer' and 'Salvation' muddle along nicely, never quite reaching any quality that would make my balls tingle but comfortable enough.  The looming build to 'Manifest Reality' delivers a real punch when the song starts proper.  Frenzied riffs and drums with shots of lead work to hold the interest.


There's a problem already though (I know, I am such a fucking mood hoover).  I don't like Phil's vocals.  I never had if I am being honest.  The aggression to them seems a little forced even when they are at their best on tracks like 'Manifest Reality'.  When he tries to sing it just feels weak though ('Salvation') and tracks lose real punch.  Give him a riffy number such as 'Killing Machine' and he is fine with the Reich engine (probably a poor choice of phrase) up in sixth gear.  For every thrashy riff there's a fair share of rock edged, local bar act rhythm aplenty too.

Let's not poo-poo proceedings though, because overall I actually enjoy "Awakening".  It is stacked full of catchy riffs that are sticky on the old ears.  Whilst not as raw as perhaps the - brilliant - artwork suggests with its black and white, tattoo flash sheet style design it is enjoyable enough.  Yes, 'Death Valley' & 'Something to Believe' have no place here, saved only by Arnett and Radziwill's lead work but 'Revolution' is a fucking 80's thrash heyday throwback to the extent that if you turn the TV on during it you might catch a new episode of Cheers!

3/5
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I
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https://www.metalforum.com/blogs/entry/52-vltimas-something-wicked-marches-in/
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https://www.metalforum.com/blogs/entry/50-queensryche-the-verdict/
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https://www.metalforum.com/blogs/entry/48-candlemass-the-door-to-doom/
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Full length number 19 from overkill certainly makes a splash in the energy stakes, I mean there's some modern thrash bands that are a good two decades younger than Overkill who can only hope to achieve the levels of spunk that New Jersey's finest produce here.  That in itself is an achievement, for a band of Overkill's stature and reputation to be able to still sound relevant four decades into their career is no mean feat.  Even in the albums weaker moments it never gets redundant and the energy levels remain high.  There's a real sense of a band in a state of some renewed vigour, helped in no small part by the addition of Jason Bittner on drums.  The former Flotsam & Jetsam skinsman is nothing short of superb throughout "The Wings of War" and seems to have squeezed a little extra out of the rest of his peers.

The album kicks of with a great build to opening track "Last Man Standing" and for the first 4 tracks of the album the Overkill crew stomp, bash and groove their way to a solid level of consistency.  The lead work is of particular note and Blitz sounds as sneery and scathing as ever.  The album is well produced and mixed too with all parts of the thrash machine audible as the five piece hammer away at your skull with the usual blend of chugging riffs and infectious anthems.  


There are weak moments as mentioned but they are more a victim of how good the strong tracks are.  In it's own right "Distortion" is a solid enough - if not slightly varied a journey from the last offering - but it just doesn't stand up well against a "Bat Shit Crazy" or a "Head of a Pin".  As the album draws to a close you get the increasing impression that the last few tracks are rescued really by some great solos and stomping skin work which is a shame because trimming of a couple of tracks may have made this less obvious. 

4/5
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It is fair to say that the Greek stalwarts of the Black Metal scene now have a sound that rarely ventures into the territory so well tread on "Thy Mighty Contract" and "Non Serviam" but it is also fair to say that "The Heretics" sounds from start to finish like a band who firmly stamp themselves on the metal map for 2019.  What album number thirteen from Rotting Christ does is take a measured approach to variation and repetition to build a memorable and lasting experience.

The sound itself goes from dark and brooding metal and hard rock to almost Gothic metal proportions.  Yet at the same time that familiar melodic warmth remains in situ throughout.  More often than not there's that big soaring melodic riff riding the vocals like a surfer with his board.  "The Voice of the Universe" does this superbly as does "The Sons of Hell".  The overall feel the record as a whole leaves me with is one of ritualistic allure, tracks like "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and "Fire God and Fear" build well like powerful incantations being cited from voluminous tomes, flooding forwards intermittently with flowing dark melodies.


It does remind me a lot of Behemoth ("The Satanist" Behemoth, not last years pompous bollocks Behemoth), with the theme of religion so heavily referenced but at the same time it feels like a much more cohesive effort than recent Behemoth keeping a level of consistency and restraint to the songwriting which holds the attention well.  Only once does the album visit anything like Black Metal on "I Believe", here they base a poem by Nikolaos Kazantzakis at the centre of the chaotic and frantic pace and sadly it fails miserably on my ears, coming across as just filler.  My only other criticism is that it does get a bit samey in places (namely the intros to each track).  Otherwise it is a perfectly respectable piece of dark metal.  C'mon, we can't this black metal anymore folks.

 

3/5
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So here I am reviewing the new Drudkh album...oh...wait a minute...no apparently it isn't Drudkh, it is Windswept.  A quick look on the internet tells me that Windswept are Drudkh minus keyboards in terms of members.  Therefore Windswept is just a less atmospheric version of Drudkh?  That's not really a question as I have heard "The Onlooker" and I know it is in fact a statement of truth.

I don't get it.  If I want to hear a Drudkh record I will just put one on.  Similarly, if I was a member of Drudkh and I wanted to make a new record, I'd just pick up the phone to my bandmates and start the writing process.  The fact that the majority of the band have made a different band just to not have atmosphere seems a little grandiose to me, although I get that the stylistic integrity of Drudkh is maintained. 

It isn't that the album is bad.  Perfectly solid and driving, melodic BM cleverly framed by a music box intro and outro is what you get here folks.  It just sounds so much like Drudkh I can't get my head around the fact that it is just a below par Drudkh offering.  The one thing the record is crying out for is some atmosphere - THE FUCKING IRONY!


If you can forget the existence of a Ukranian BM band called Drudkh, or perhaps have just been born into the world of BM and have no previous concept of the 3 band members here being involved in anything else then you will no doubt easily spot the merits of "The Onlooker".  For me it served no other purpose than to give me a really short review to write this week (and to put some Drudkh on).

Based on it's merit as a standalone album = 3/5

Hideously critical mind of a Drudkh fan rating = 2/5
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When it comes to death/doom, variety is not necessarily top of the average listener's appeal list.  Usually when I review such a release I find myself typing "doesn't reinvent the wheel but does the genre justice with this solid offering" or words to that effect.  Ossuarium's debut full length falls under that banner most definitely.  Nobody is fucking around here with a saxophone to make the offering standout with some eclectic and unnecessary deviation from tradition.  If you like your death metal doomy or your doom metal deathy then chalk up a tick in your respective box folks!

Click the link for more:
https://www.metalforum.com/blogs/entry/44-ossuarium-living-tomb/
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The roar has always been approaching.  As far back as three years ago when Altarage dropped their debut full length 'Nihl', this scribe could already hear the threat of their ability, feel the menace of their presence from over hills far away and sense the nefarious intent as the raw fury howled over my skin...
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There's life in the old dog yet it seems.  It terms of original members only Phil Fasciana remains in the ranks of Malevolent Creation now and after the passing of Brett Hoffman last year you could almost forgive fans for thinking the curtain had fallen on Malevolent Creation.  The fact is that whilst "The 13th Beast" reinvents no wheels it does exhibit the sound of a band in the throes of something of a regeneration phase.  There's nothing tired sounding here, no dull interludes to build unnecessary atmosphere.  As soon as the spoken word intro to "End the Torture" finishes it is straight up thrashing death metal until the very end, some 11 tracks later.

Although all debuting in the Malevolent full length stakes here, the 3 musicians that join Fasciana on this record are all clearly capable and qualified purveyors of their art form.  Again, I highlight that this is not far above your average DM record yet it is so assured and solid you can easily forgive it to some degree.  Lee Wollenschlaeger gives a good acquittal of himself as an established and competent vocalist, filling Hoffman's shoes nicely.  Phil Cancilla is a machine on those skins, blasting his way across the soundscape yet also using the percussion well when the occasional let up in the pace permits.  Fasciana and Wollenschlaeger work well together to keep the chug of the riffs motoring along whilst Gibbs plonks, twangs and rumbles his way through every track, allowed to be heard in the mix and show his variety without ever showboating.  For a band together for only 2 years as a four piece they sound tight and committed.

There's no metal fan worth the denim their patches are sewn onto that doesn't look at that album cover and mouth a "fuck me, dude!"  I mean, come on, it is fucking awesome.  Like a more ornamental Predator head on a ghostly green background.  I love it when album covers are matched by the content of the record inside, and whilst there are obviously some shortfalls here, still in the main "The 13th Beast" delivers.  When they keep the track length short and succinct, Malevolent Creation are at their best.  "The Beast Awakened", "Agony for the Chosen" and "Knife at Hand" all kick serious ass.  By the same token "Born of Pain" at nearly 7 minutes long doesn't really do anything or go anywhere to justify the length attributed to it.

Overall, I would have preferred a shorter record.  At 11 tracks the band cover a lot of ground in under 50 minutes but not all of it really needs treading.  That withstanding, never does it get grating and still the accessibility factor remains consistent enough to forgive the extra excursions present.

So, having started slowly, January 2019 has finally delivered something worthwhile and a first physical purchase also of a new release for this year.  3/5

 
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Variety is the spice of life, so they say.  Someone might want to mention this to Legion of the Damned.  Picking up right were Venom left off last week in the the generic stakes, "Slaves of the Shadow Realm" churns out a largely unvaried, unremarkable and unmemorable thrash metal with the odd splash of death and black metal smatterings here and there.  To give you some idea of how hard going this is I have to wait three whole tracks to here a lead guitar!  I love good chug fest as much as the next man but when it is the only flavour in the dish its impact on the palette diminishes quickly.

I can't honestly tell if the album is supposed to be one long song accidentally edited to give gaps to give the illusion of it being several tracks?  Some tracks just start very lazy (Slaves of the Southern Cross) whilst others just allude to some slight break of pace from the previous track before going off on the exact same pace, in the exact same direction (Nocturnal Commando).

The frustration is that when they get it at least half right and vary things just a touch, they can put together some enjoyable pieces (Warhounds of Hades) but the memorability factor still struggles to register much above a 0, even in these moments.


By far the pinnacle of the record is "Black Banners in Flames", a menacing thrasher of a track that allows for some relent in the ferocity stakes to apply some melody to create that aforementioned menace.  Otherwise I feel that I have had a sub par meal at a restaurant.  The chefs are perfectly competent (no Michelin stars here though folks) and the ingredients are all of reasonable quality, sourced responsibly enough, but there's little attempt at seasoning and so everything just seems bland.  It sounds like the vocalist is holding this together really.  Swinkels performance on all tracks is obviously a notch up from his band mates' which is a shame because he deserves better really.



2/5 (2019 is not starting well)
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37 years on, can Venom still cut it? Find out here:
https://www.metalforum.com/blogs/entry/40-venom-storm-the-gates/
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At the start of pulling this list together I had thought it to have been a "light" year for BM releases.  It was only when I got into compiling my "Best of 2018" that I realised it had in fact been quite a good year.  2018 in BM saw the return of some well established acts, some of them doing what they have always done well whereas others took to the recording studios minus long standing members.  When all is said and done, I think it all turned out rather well.

Click the link to read more.

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It was 2014 when Corpsessed released their debut full length and mighty fucking good it was too.  Some 4+ years later and it is time for the sophomore release to land in my music stream and seek my attention.  When I say seek I actually mean possess my attention.  Although the album is by no means perfect, this record grabs hold of you by your very soul, dragging it off on a journey littered with horror, darkness and crushing heaviness to boot.  One of its main successes is the atmosphere that is obvious from the opening of "Impetus of  the Dead" and plays an integral part over the remainder of the release.

It is a very well structured album too, with strong song writing that layers tracks up to behemoth size and proportions.  Yet at the same time there's a real sense of balance too, for every cavernous and mammoth like structure there's shorter and more intense bursts that whilst moving the pace slightly away from the heaviness, don't distract too much from it.  "Paroxsymal" and "Sortilege" are great examples of this, two well placed tracks that add a variety to the pace and increase the memorability of the whole experience.


The album only has two weak points for me.  The penultimate track on the record seems just a random and not altogether necessary inclusion, especially given the quality of "Forlorn Burial" before it and the vast ending of "Starless Event Horizon" after it.  Secondly, the production does seem to give off a muddled sound on some tracks although the horror of the atmosphere and those lead guitars certainly do rescue the day on more than one occasion.  In a year that has struggled overall to bring many standout DM records, "Impetus of Death" will be a welcome addition to any fan's Top 10 DM Albums of 2018 no doubt.  It is one of the stronger records of 2018 and also a fine step up from their debut offering also which makes me excited for album number 3.

 

4/5
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Behemoth "I Loved You At Your Darkest"
The first song I heard ahead the full 2014 release ("The Satanist") from Behemoth was "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel".  It immediately peaked my interest, setting the tone nicely for what was to become one of my favoured full lengths of that year.  This time around I heard "God = Dog" (which I think means the band are more cat people?).  It sounded blunted and frankly restrained.  Yes, there was a brief passage of some interesting string work towards the end but generally it just passed me by.  Sadly, just as my experience of the lead song/single from 2014 was an excellent benchmark for my expectation of the full length, the same has happened in 2018 but with a very different outcome.

"I Loved You At Your Darkest" rarely achieves touching distance of the band's previous full length.  There's lots of things that stop it from doing this, indeed the list is as long as either one of my lanky and lengthy arms.  The songwriting is poor, it lacks any real structure the majority of the time.  As a result there is a constant sense of this just being a very hastily written, rush of ideas.  Tracks like "If Crucifixion Was Not Enough" and "Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica" show this in abundance, the former nailing the lid down on its own coffin with one of the laziest attempts at a menacing riff I have heard in a while.

When we do actually settle into some sense of structure it actually works well.  "Bartzabel" is a sole triumph in the songwriting/structure stakes here and this is almost ruined by the annoying double layered, chanting backing vocals.


Next on my list of grumbles?  The sound.  It is one of the most sterile and strained sounding mixes I think I have ever heard on a record.  The drums sound like they were tracked for a completely different purpose on some of the tracks, "Wolves ov Siberia" and "Rom 5:8" in particular.  I can't believe that this was the intended sound the band wanted to achieve.  I follow Behemoth on Instagram and they make much majesty and menace over their theatre and general pomp when performing live it seems.  Surely then they haven't listened to the final playback of this record?

Now then.  I don't recall chanting children on a record ever working well?  But there's a couple of tracks here of children chanting their disdain for Christianity alongside Nergal and co.  It sounds frankly fucking ridiculous and trite even over only two tracks!

In summary, this is a massive disappointment whether you enjoyed "The Satanist" or not.  Hastily put together, poorly arranged and mixed terribly to boot.

1/5 
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On July 27, 2018, Redemption released their seventh full-length album, Long Night’s Journey Into Day. The release was mastered by Jacob Hansen, who has also worked with Amaranthe, Doro, Primal Fear and Volbeat. It is the first album to feature Evergrey vocalist Tom Englund on vocals, replacing longtime frontman Ray Alder, also of progressive metal institution Fates Warning. Englund’s highly emotional, husky vocal style could lend a rougher edge to Redemption’s simultaneously melodramatic and contemplative approach. It is also worth pointing out that in the band’s new promo shoot (https://www.redemptionweb.com/) he looks quite a lot like the 30-year-old Boomer (https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/30-year-old-boomer).

It’s a good choice, however, considering that Evergrey and Redemption are strongly reliant on their vocalists to define their sound. The Art of Loss was the band’s most eclectic effort, but Alder’s singing provided the basic foundation that defined it as a Redemption album. Englund could be better off in Redemption, given that Evergrey have been meandering for the last couple releases while the former band have been musically top-notch for most of their oeuvre. Chris Poland, formerly of Megadeth, returns for this album, having appeared on The Art of Loss for a very noticeable shred outing on the title track. He will be joined by Italian guitar veteran Simone Mularoni, of Empyrios and the estimable prog-power heavyweights DGM. Also, after an extensive coma after a 2014 aneurysm (https://www.facebook.com/Bernie-Versailles-379611832240834/), the band’s longtime lead guitarist Bernie Versailles returns to the lineup.

Long Night’s Journey into Day tracklist
1. Eyes You Dare Not Meet in Dreams
2. Someone Else’s Problem
3. The Echo Chamber
4. Impermanent
5. Indulge in Color
6. Little Men
7. And Yet
8. The Last of Me
9. New Year’s Day
10. Long Night’s Journey into Day
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Glen Benton is 51.  Fuck I feel old now too.  Deicide are 30 years old (32 if we count the Amon era).  Album number 12 from the fathers of Florida death metal is a strong effort considering yet another change of personnel has occurred.  It is bye-bye Jack Owen, hello Mark English of Monstosity fame taking up guitar duties and ironically I like "Overtures of Blasphemy " a lot more than Monstrosity's effort this year.

Whilst it can never make the "beast of a DM record" title I would give to the debut or"Legion" for example, "Overtures..." is entertaining.  Whether it is the melo-death passages that litter the streets and alleyways of this record or the more familiar sacrilegious blasting fury of Deicide at their (old) best, there's plenty to balance the experince over these 12 tracks.  Take "Seal The Tomb" for example, it goes immediately for the jugular, relentlessly chugging riffs alongside Benton's usual demented growls only to be tempered by menacing and interesting leads and sonics that carry the song along well.  Listen once to this track and it is in your head for literally days after.

Then there's the vehemence of the lyrics of "Compliments of Christ" were you can feel the spittle from Glen's lips splattering your ears as he spews forth the vitriol he is best known for.  "Anointed in Blood" opens like a lead jam session recorded mid flow before developing into a hellish gallop of fiery hooves, again perfectly completed by some well placed and well timed leads.

This is were Morbid Angel went wrong with "Kingdoms..." safe DM with little if any attention paid to the sonic wizardry of their sound.  Take a leaf out of Glen's book Trey!

It is clear that this is no nonsense DM that is not out to reinvent any wheels it still has enough equal measure of extremity and assured and unapologetic attitude to hold it's own against most of the DM records released this year.  It is not perfect by any means.  I lose it on more than one occasion if I am honest ("Crucified Soul of Salvation" in particular hits my 'standby' button really nicely) and it is a couple of tracks too long making for an almost excessive feel to the running time.  Whilst it is a well paced record there's definitely some "filler" present.  But very any turkeys in here there is still thankfully the brilliance of tracks like "Consumed by Hatred" to snap you back to attention.  "Flesh, Power, Dominion" is one of the strongest things Deicide have ever put to tape btw.

3/5
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Winterfylleth "The Hallowing of Heirdom"
Okay, so I will admit that the prospect of an acoustic only Winterfylleth album didn't exactly fill me with joy.  The pagan, black metallers have long existed on the fringes of my radar but never somehow managed to make much more than a fleeting blip historically. 

The fact is that this is one of the most heartfelt records I have listened to in quite a while.  I have more than once found myself stood stock still, completely captivated by the atmospheric beauty of what I have heard on this record.  The album opens up with "The Shepherd" a track which starts with a rendering of the Christopher Marlowe poem "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" and this is an indication of what you are in for as a listener.  There's not one bit of BM on this record and it doesn't need any in any way, shape or form.  "The Hallowing of Heirdom" is more folk than anything even remotely resembling metal.  Imagine if Fleet Foxes dropped the irritation of that constant "hippy" vibe and showed some actual capable instrumentation also and you are loosely on the right track.

 


There's variety to it which is as unexpected as it is welcome and it means you never get bored despite the record clocking in at 55 mins plus.  Over 12 tracks you are actually taken on a journey that stays with you long afterwards, which is what all good journeys should do, be memorable for all the right reasons.  But don't get me wrong, it isn't OTT on the emotion front, that's not the strength on display here.  No, this is one of the most balanced releases in my recent memory.  It's like a picture album where the first picture is given to you (that cover) and then it takes over your head with numerous captures of the very essence of the land itself.  You can smell the pine of the trees, the earthy tones of the fields and almost feel the breeze on your face even though you are sat in your front room with all the windows and doors shut.

As usual with Winterfylleth there's a theme of the old ways being lost, the album title itself harking back to the importance of "heirdom" as we all exist with clear ties back to people stretching far back into history but seem to rarely give that much thought.   "The Hallowing of Heirdom" seems a fitting tribute to the ways of yore regardless.

5/5
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I invite you to come with me to a time before 2008. It may surprise you to learn that at this point, Circle II Circle was actually a pretty damn good band. They did eventually become prog Godsmack, as history will record with bitter regret chronicling the storied tale of Savatage. For now, however, let’s make like boomers and complain about how things used to be better.

Burden of Truth sounds like sentimentalism, at times. It feels rather like Skid Row filtered through Phantom of the Opera, in that characteristically Trans-Siberian Orchestra fashion. The difference, though, is that Circle II Circle crank the technicality and bite of their music significantly higher than TSO’s comfortable bombast. It’s certainly a little saccharine, but performed with such conviction and talent as to make that nearly irrelevant.

Zak Stevens’ voice is vital to this whole undertaking. His overbored bass resonates unstoppably through every song, an unmistakably mature vocal delivery that dignifies even the album’s most banal emotional turns (“How can we learn to live as one…” “I walked by the church and saw the children, and the world through their eyes…”). Moreover, it is very identifiably American, and that’s the biggest selling point of this album. It’s worth noting he layers very nicely with his backing vocalists. The “The Black” and title track have particularly good harmonizing.

One might be tempted to snicker at some of these lyrics and the melodies. How antiquated the notion of melodic music without dizzying rhythmic changes or production magic out the ass. Yet, the sheer power behind it all is impossible to deny. The piano line on “Heal Me” would be insufferable if it didn’t drag you in immediately. Despite the sugar content, Burden of Truth is largely fat-free. It doesn’t fall victim to most metal tropes, including the prevalence of vibrato. It’s endearing too, in a sort of Andie McDowell in Five Weddings and a Funeral kind of way, or perhaps of Joy Davidson in Shadowlands – very American.

The opening to Revelations? Badass. The crunchy riffs of A Matter of Time? Some slick shit. The entirety of Evermore? One of the most masterfully tight, pointed pieces of prog metal out there that still pounds away at the ears like a cannon blast. If you wanted an aspirational American soundtrack, this is it. Songs for an endearing everyman with more behind his ears than you might guess.
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Ministry "AmeriKKKant"
No matter how much you dislike Donald Trump, Ministry's overt and constant attack on his administration doesn't mean that "AmeriKKKant" is actually a good album.  I mean it isn't entirely a terrible album either but you will struggle to remember of of it after even a couple of listens, beyond the endless stream of frankly confusing and almost barrage like snippets of Trump audio bites that is, they are the only really memorable part.

It isn't really an industrial metal album either.  It sound s more like a nu-metal band got sealed into a steel drum with their instruments and got rolled down a big hill.  It doesn't come across as particular caustic or aggressive though, just a bit of a racket made in a Republican nightmare.  

Not long into the record the message you are constantly force-fed just gets bloating.  There's no rescue or reprise from it as the pace of the album is so inconsistent and frankly repetitive you have nothing else of worth to focus on as a distraction.  I mean you can be really angry and pissed off and still transfer it to audio without being boring (Body Count "Bloodlust" is a great recent example of this).

Even if Donald Trump is listening, the message of this record is that it is too mediocre a response to the true horror of his administration.  The facepalm on the cover of the album is unfortuantely all too indicative of the quality of the record itself.

2 horns out 5
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Judas Priest "Firepower"
 


When I was 14 I witnessed the video on Raw Power TV to the title track from Judas Priest's "Painkiller" album.  "Painkiller" blew me the fuck away!  I mean, what was not to love?  Thunderous drums, a mix of gruff and shrill vocal antics and duelling lead guitars.  I went straight out that afternoon and bought the album on blasted it for consecutive days for the next 3 months.  All in all, not a bad gateway album to the band. 

The real draw of "Painkiller" was the memorability of the experience was that one run through the record left seared scorch marks across your brain.  For years after I could run through the entire album in my head note for note.  "Firepower" is exactly the same.  A mere 24 hours after it coming into my life and I can sing along with the lyrics, air guitar to near note perfection and bash my fingers bloody to the drums on my desktop.  It's full of anthemic choruses and simple yet effective hooks that just pull you in.

Try and not headbang to any of the opening six tracks, if you can achieve it you are almost certainly dead inside.  Try not to make ridiculous gurning faces to any of the lead work on here and again if you succeed, check your pulse!  Sad though it maybe that Glenn has confirmed his Parkinson's is now progressed enough to stop him from touring there is no doubt that he can exchange blows, pound for pound with Faulkner and barely break a sweat.

There's no point doing a track by track description here, if you have read the review to this point you'll get the idea.  Criticisms?  It is too long, by about 2 or maybe 3 tracks.  However, you can easily suffer the dips in the quality here and there as you are rarely away from some truly great music.  It does get a little samey at times too but that's forgivable to me as nobody is looking to reinvent any wheels here this may cause issue with the longevity of the record though for me.  Right now though I love it, I fucking love it.

5/5
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Portal "ION"
One of my favourite urban myths is that you will go blind if you masterbate too much you will go blind.  Listening to Portal might make you go blind as you ears frantically take resource from your brain that was needed for mundane tasks such as vision and bladder control as they try to cope with the relentless auditory assault of "ION", however pulling your pud won't affect your eyesight boys.  Science bit over, on with the review.

"ION" seems instantly more refined than previous outings.  Don't get me wrong here, there's no slick production values been applied and there isn't any venture into clean vocals for example.  It just seems that this time around things are more calculated.  "Phreqs" is like being attacked by a swarm of wasps, as chaotic as it seems there's some well thought out structure to the attack to maximise the impact.  One of the only criticisms I could draw against Portal of old was that sometimes the mental factor was up over 11 and things did tend to get lost.  "Vexovoid" remedied this a lot with its more "Horror" approach and "ION" seems to take that on a notch further combining dark alchemy and atmospheres perfectly.  The build of "Crone" for example is full of creeping dread and menace, finally arriving and proving to be as ghastly as I had hoped it would.

For all the scientific intimation of the cover things are still more on the experimental as opposed to technical side of death metal.  There's still that pit of the stomach sensation of being dragged into some fathomless void by the spiralling darkness of those fucking guitars and the taunting evil of those drums - they are not just about all out assault folks.  The layers do genuinely seem to be being applied with more structure this time around and the instrumentation is used better than ever to produce real atmosphere.  Favourite release of 2018 so far.

5 horns out 5

 
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Machine Head "Catharsis"
Fucking hell.  Where to start really?

Nu-metal is apparently alive and well in 2018 and I don't like Nu-Metal, so the prospects for positive words in this review are slim.  It is not that I don't like Machine Head.  I mean I am not one of the mindless internet troll brigade who respond to every release with "These guys made "Burn My Eyes" and listen to this!".  Get over it bell ends, there's no more "Burn My Eyes" nor is there anymore "The Blackening" left to come.  Whilst I will openly admit to enjoying most releases since "The Blackening" there is no denying that the sound of MH has become increasingly diluted over the albums since their "comeback".  "Catharsis" is the end point for me.  It is so diluted it is like wearing my once dark black hoodie after it has been bleach hand washed and then boil washed - it kind of has lost all substance.

The rapping is back, as if the first time round wasn't enough of a fucking car crash.  "Triple Beam" is without doubt one of the worst pieces of "music" I have ever heard.  When we aren't being treated to poor attempts at lyrical rhyming we are drowning in dreamy, hazy clean vocals that seem to be aiming (yes actually aiming) for harmony.  Yep, there's some catchy riffs but who fucking cares if you have to drink from the toilet to realise all you'll ever find in there is shit?

Why this all has to go on for 15 tracks is a mystery?  I'll be honest, the skip button got used at least 13 times in writing this review.  For all the (frankly excessive) marketing that has been done for "Catharsis" I don't think I could feel anymore of an anti-climax.  Robb Flynn is all over every mag cover, web and video interview defending "Catharsis" and that's his entitlement, he didn't write any of this for me.  It is still terrible though.

0 horns out of 5

 
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Watain "Trident Wolf Eclipse"
Watain's last album "The Wild Hunt" got slated on one internet review for being "Nu-Dark Funeral with the heart of Bon Jovi".  Whilst a certain amount of butthurt contributed the scribe of aforementioned review choosing such a frankly ridiculous statement, it was unfortunately indicative of the direction change of the album that saw the raw and ferocious nature of the band be trimmed back to make way for more melodic, progressive and accessible aspects.

"Trident Wolf Eclipse" is a return to that more traditional sound.  Although melody is obvious throughout, it is more restrained.  We have more Gorgoroth here than we do Bon Jovi that's for sure.  No wheels are reinvented on Watain's sixth studio album.  It is pretty standard BM fare, full of raw production values, tremolo leads and drums that can peel flesh from faces.  You won't find a lot here that hasn't been done by Watain before but then again the fan base has been crying out for a return that more "underground" sound for four years plus now.  As opposed to innovation let's just look at this albums raison d'etre as being to rectify the imbalance in their discography.

Even the album is more BM than your average Bandcamp BM demo release nowadays.  Straight out of a 13 year old boy's maths jotter who gave up on trigonometry weeks ago.  So, depending on whether the kvlt legions of troo black metal want to put their sacrificial goat carcasses down for long enough to give them a chance, Watain are back.  Average at best, but back at least.

3 horns out of 5. 
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