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Requiem

Marduk

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Edited to include Viktoria.

Can't believe there's no Marduk thread. 

Marduk are without doubt one of the great miracles of black metal. They've lasted over 25 years and are still producing incredible albums. They have a style, but are not locked down so much that they get repetitive. This band has become one of my favourites from any genre. Would love to hear some opinions of this infernal Swedish institution. 

Requiem's Ranking of Marduk's Albums from Infantry Stooge to Panzer Division Commander:

13. Plague Angel (2004)

Firstly, I should point out that there is not a Marduk album that I dislike. I like them all to a certain extent. It might seem weird to have Plague Angel as my least favourite Marduk album given all the carry-on it seems to receive. The first album with Mortuus feels to me like they're adjusting to each other's styles. While I do like it, I tend to find it a little too dense and one dimensional, especially after the absolutely cracking World Funeral. The first three songs are very good, and there are moments here, but I just don't reach for this very often. Cover is pretty good. 

12. Serpent Sermon (2012)

Similar scenario to Plague Angel, this is an ok album but I just can't remember much from it, despite repeated spins since I purchased it around release day. The most memorable thing about this is the brilliant title track and a huge booklet that has surprisingly little in it. Cover is fairly unexciting. Boring in fact. There must be treasures waiting to open up in this, but it's been 6 years now and I haven't really found them. 

11. Rom 5:12 (2007) 

This is another from that group of three fairly empty sounding albums. They're sonically dense, don't get me wrong, but a lot of the darkness and mood feels generic to me. They're so bogged down in death and decay that I don't feel the listening experience has anywhere to go. Again, I like it but I don't love it. This got stunning reviews everywhere, but I just don't feel it, even after ten years. Cover is ok but again, random death imagery is random. 

10. Dark Endless (1992)

The debut is a lot more fun than the three albums listed above. Even though this is very death metal heavy, there's a great vibe here. It's an enjoyable listen. Features one-off vocalist Andreas Axelsson who I can't say would be missed, but he does a decent job. Very early this is, at 1992. Original cover is a bit silly and very death metal. 

9. Heaven Shall Burn When We Are Gathered (1996)

I have to be honest and acknowledge that this is the album I know least of all. I don't own it (it's the only one not in my collection) and have only heard it a few times. I liked it though. It's their first with Legion on vocals, and I'm a big Legion fan. Take its ranking here with a grain of salt. Probably their worst album cover. 

8. La Grande Danse Macabre (2001)

This is a solid album. The remastered version, which I have, sounds brilliant - the guitar tone is razor sharp. The songs have some great moments for sure, and 'Summer's End' is a brilliant little oddity. Legion's voice is a little bit repetitive and the lyrics are quite daft, for some reason, especially when compared with the albums before and after it. It almost feels like it was a bit rushed because there aren't as many melodies going on. There's a lot of riffage that plods a bit. Morgan is definitely not pushing boundaries, that's for sure. I think the worst thing about this album is that it sits awkwardly between two classics and I overlooked it for years. I need to give it more time. 

7. Wormwood (2009)

I wrote this off when it first came out, thinking it was like Plague Angel et al, but I was wrong. This is a really great album. 'Funeral Dawn' is the track I think of here, and it embodies the creativity that would later make Frontschwein their masterpiece. Mortuus' voice is stunning. I should give Serpent Sermon another listen to see if he's as good there. I could move that album up a bit if it is. I'm thinking out loud so I'll shut up and move on. Pretty cool cover. Interesting name too. 

7. Viktoria (2018)

Scandalous when you think how great this album could have been. It’s come off the back of Marduk’s greatest release in ‘Frontschwein’, but what we have here are 33 thin minutes of underwhelming black metal written by a bored songwriter. Mortuus does his best, but bland riffs rule the day.  It’s good, but.... meh. Cool cover and booklet. 

6. Nightwing (1998)

We're hitting greatness. Whether it's the fast paced first half or the slower second half that focuses on Vlad the Impaler (and forms the 'Blood' part of their "Blood, Fire, Death" trilogy in honour of Bathory), this album is quality all the way through. Pretty good album cover of a Carpathian looking night-horror.  

5. Opus Nocturne (1994)

Now we're talking. This is the first of the five albums of Marduk's that I consider to be classics. The atmosphere and style here are brilliant, with Joakim dropping drum duties to focus purely on vocals. He has a rad voice, that's for sure. The riff in the title track stays with me for days afterwards. Album cover is not really my thing, but it's interesting to look at. 

4. Those of the Unlight (1993)

What a great album. The melodies here are so infectious and the vocals from Joakim are next level. He just spits them out like an anguished corpse. 'Wolves' is a masterpiece black metal song - one of the best of all time. B-War's first album on bass and he nails it. This has that Swedish melodic sensibility running through it with large dashings of true darkness. An exciting album. Amazing album cover. 

3. Panzer Division Marduk (1999)

Speaking of exciting. Panzer Division Marduk cannot be overrated if you ask me. From the World War II style soundbites to the insane speed that is also oddly catchy, this is a masterpiece. The original artwork of the tank barrel pointing right out at the viewer still haunts me. When Marduk do WWII they are untouchable in my opinion, and I think they are much more authentic and menacing than when they're just being naughty satanists. 

2. World Funeral (2003)

This could surprise a lot of people, but to me this album slays Plague Angel and the follow-ups. This is Legion's last album and he is on fire. Listen to his delivery in 'With Satan and Victorious Weapons' (incredible title by the way). Listen to the riffs and Legion's voice in 'Bleached Bones'. Listen to that crazy riff in 'Night of the Long Knives'. I think this album is far more menacing than almost all of their other albums, not due to speed or anything like that, but the aura. The change of pace is brilliant and 'Blackcrowned' that ends the album in a funeral march is perfect. Evocative red album cover and a great booklet. 

1. Frontschwein (2015)

Here it is. Not just Marduk's best album, but one of modern metal's true classics. The WWII themes are back, and Mortuus has stepped up to reveal himself as the best black metal vocalist in the world right now. They are also at their most creative. Check out that marching beat in '503' where Mortuus yells out the names of the towns that are being rolled by the Germans. Spine-tingling. 'Thousandfold Death', the final metal song, is stupendous and beyond comprehension. The final song proper, 'Warschau III' is so good it hurts. Fitting album cover that is such a breath of fresh air from the generic darkness of the recent past. 

 

 

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10 hours ago, Requiem said:

2. World Funeral (2003)

This could surprise a lot of people, but to me this album slays Plague Angel and the follow-ups. This is Legion's last album and he is on fire. Listen to his delivery in 'With Satan and Victorious Weapons' (incredible title by the way). Listen to the riffs and Legion's voice in 'Bleached Bones'. Listen to that crazy riff in 'Night of the Long Knives'. I think this album is far more menacing than almost all of their other albums, not due to speed or anything like that, but the aura. The change of pace is brilliant and 'Blackcrowned' that ends the album in a funeral march is perfect. Evocative red album cover and a great booklet. 

I loved this album, but do not listen to it as much as I should (it is the only of their albums that I own).  I think what made it so enjoyable for me was its blend of aggressive speed and heavy, deliberate, and slow passages.  You forgot to mention "To the Death's Head True" - one of their best songs (in my opinion).

Despite this, I agree that Frontschwein was their best work.  So many amazing riffs, and simply phenomenal vocals.

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10 hours ago, Balor said:

I loved this album, but do not listen to it as much as I should (it is the only of their albums that I own).  I think what made it so enjoyable for me was its blend of aggressive speed and heavy, deliberate, and slow passages.  You forgot to mention "To the Death's Head True" - one of their best songs (in my opinion).

Despite this, I agree that Frontschwein was their best work.  So many amazing riffs, and simply phenomenal vocals.

Agree totally regarding ‘To the Death’s Head True’. All those slow tracks are just crushing. It’s a combination of the songwriting and the tone of the guitars. Morgan just nailed the sound.

Frontschwein is just next level, isn’t it.

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11 hours ago, Requiem said:

Agree totally regarding ‘To the Death’s Head True’. All those slow tracks are just crushing. It’s a combination of the songwriting and the tone of the guitars. Morgan just nailed the sound.

Frontschwein is just next level, isn’t it.

Definitely.  While I really like the riffs on Frontschwein, I think that the vocals are what make it so good.  The singer has a phenomenal voice - perfectly suited for both fast and slow songs.

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5 hours ago, Balor said:

Definitely.  While I really like the riffs on Frontschwein, I think that the vocals are what make it so good.  The singer has a phenomenal voice - perfectly suited for both fast and slow songs.

It's a phenomenal release. As I'm (clearly) in the middle of a Marduk obsession I'm doing a lot of listening, and I'm trying to figure out why a lot of the albums from 2004-2012 don't seem to have many riffs at all that I can get behind, yet 'Frontschwein' is absolutely full of them.

I would argue that while 'Plague Angel' through to 'Serpent Sermon' are the most suffocatingly extreme releases (and some people love this about those albums) they have ever put out, they are strangely devoid of memorable moments and hooks. I guess it's personal taste, firstly, but also that phenomenon bands have of just missing the mark repeatedly until they suddenly have a spark of creativity. Although in a different genre, Moonspell showed this on '1755'. 

For me, 'Frontschwein' contains a lot of elements that they are suddenly doing better.

1. Songwriting, primarily. Unlike previous releases, there is a huge degree of quality control going on. Many riffs lift the hairs on the back of my neck etc. 

2. Mortuus' voice with the choked off yell at the end of some lines. He's brought that technique in and it's amazing. I've mentioned it before and I'll probably mention it again. 

3. The experimentation and creativity on tracks like 'Blond Beast' and '503', partly down to Fredrik Widigs' drum patterns. Also things like adding the tambourine(?) beat in '503'. When that comes in I can't believe what a stroke of genius it is. There's nothing comparable in the 2004-2012 material really, perhaps apart from 'Funeral Dawn' on 'Wormwood'. 

4. A focus, and this is really important for Marduk. I think when Morgan has a theme that he's working with he is just that more inspired. Again, this is just personal taste and only my opinion, but when he's writing for an album about standard black metal motifs the riffs come out fairly unispired and standard. I've been pumping those albums lately and I can't believe how boring many of the riffs are. Then they amp up the fuzz, drop Mortuus' vocals in the mix to make it sound more extreme, and the songmanship is running short. When they have a theme, like WWII or Vlad Dracul, things just pop and spark with creativity. The lyrics fall in line, and suddenly you have a 'Frontschwein' or a 'Panzer Division Marduk'. 

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18 hours ago, Requiem said:

It's a phenomenal release. As I'm (clearly) in the middle of a Marduk obsession I'm doing a lot of listening, and I'm trying to figure out why a lot of the albums from 2004-2012 don't seem to have many riffs at all that I can get behind, yet 'Frontschwein' is absolutely full of them.

I would argue that while 'Plague Angel' through to 'Serpent Sermon' are the most suffocatingly extreme releases (and some people love this about those albums) they have ever put out, they are strangely devoid of memorable moments and hooks. I guess it's personal taste, firstly, but also that phenomenon bands have of just missing the mark repeatedly until they suddenly have a spark of creativity. Although in a different genre, Moonspell showed this on '1755'. 

For me, 'Frontschwein' contains a lot of elements that they are suddenly doing better.

1. Songwriting, primarily. Unlike previous releases, there is a huge degree of quality control going on. Many riffs lift the hairs on the back of my neck etc. 

2. Mortuus' voice with the choked off yell at the end of some lines. He's brought that technique in and it's amazing. I've mentioned it before and I'll probably mention it again. 

3. The experimentation and creativity on tracks like 'Blond Beast' and '503', partly down to Fredrik Widigs' drum patterns. Also things like adding the tambourine(?) beat in '503'. When that comes in I can't believe what a stroke of genius it is. There's nothing comparable in the 2004-2012 material really, perhaps apart from 'Funeral Dawn' on 'Wormwood'. 

4. A focus, and this is really important for Marduk. I think when Morgan has a theme that he's working with he is just that more inspired. Again, this is just personal taste and only my opinion, but when he's writing for an album about standard black metal motifs the riffs come out fairly unispired and standard. I've been pumping those albums lately and I can't believe how boring many of the riffs are. Then they amp up the fuzz, drop Mortuus' vocals in the mix to make it sound more extreme, and the songmanship is running short. When they have a theme, like WWII or Vlad Dracul, things just pop and spark with creativity. The lyrics fall in line, and suddenly you have a 'Frontschwein' or a 'Panzer Division Marduk'. 

I think that their older albums lacked the ability to sustain interest (at least for me).  They would have a few songs that were of particular interest, but would then degenerate into typical and non-evocative bm riffing.  They needed a stronger, more unified vision.  You identified their thematic interests as the source of their more complete albums, and I think that that is correct.  "Frontschwien" (and "World Funeral") both presented shifting sound textures and speeds that helped to break up the constant aggressive playing, and thereby were able to grab and hold the attention of the viewer to a far greater extent.  They also kept the listener in a state of anticipation - constantly on edge, on the lookout for some new, as of yet unheard sound.

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Requiem's Assessment of 'Viktoria' (2018)

I've now been in possession of 'Viktoria' for a week or so and feel able to make an informed comment on it. I delayed listening to the album until I had the CD version in my hands. I've since purchased the album on itunes as well. 

My first impression was of an album that is much more stripped back, straightforward and undercooked compared with the immortal 'Frontschwein' from 2015. At 33 minutes, 'Viktoria' is extremely short for a modern day full-length, coming in a massive 20 minutes shorter than 'Frontschwein'. Aurally, the other immediate difference is that while 'Frontschwein' contains a lot of layering, textures, and sounds like a lot of work went into it, 'Viktoria' sounds like it could have been knocked out over a long-weekend. 

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It is bad when comparing it to 'Frontschwein', which is an inevitable thing to do, but the album itself stands up pretty well. Let's see what we have here. 

The songs are generally quite straight forward, although, strangely, the more I listened to it the more I realised there was quite a bit of complexity going on nevertheless, with some of the arrangements at least. There is quite a lot of straight riffing, and the sound is very stripped back. The songs are also fairly punchy and easy to listen to. True Belief called this their "black album", and while I'm not entirely sure about that, he's in the right ball-park. This could be seen as a fairly accessible black metal album for curious children. It's not a very challenging listen. 

Some of the guitar riffs sound like they could be from one of the recent Satyricon albums, and I wonder if Morgan has taken any influence from Satyr, especially on the slow stuff where the guitar alone is the focal point. It's a good sounding guitar, but I can't escape the conclusion that some of the riffs simply aren't as spine-chilling as they could be. I think if you're going to take 3 years to produce a 33 minute album (11 minutes of songwriting per year!) you need to have solid gold material, right? I'm not sure we have this here. 

I'm going to point to the two slowest songs as culprits. 'Tiger 1' has nearly the exact same riff as '503' from 'Fronstschwein', except where that song wins through the off-kilter tambourine led march and creative chorus, 'Tiger 1' just sits there as a guitar based plodder with some fast moments. It's a pretty shoddy rip-off to be honest. Listen to 'Tiger 1' and '503' side-by-side and you be the judge.

The final track 'Silent Night' is of a similar vein. It's slow, and doesn't do a whole lot to generate atmosphere, especially as an album closer. It's just too straight-forward. I need some more metaphorical bells and whistles please if a track is just going to plod. Marduk are the masters of slow black metal tracks. Look at '503', 'Bleached Bones', 'Funeral Dawn' etc. None of the songs here come remotely close to those masterpieces. Well, 'Tiger 1' comes close to '503' but only due to the exact same riff being used. 

Vocally, Mortuus is doing his best, although there is less experimentation. Sadly, he doesn't do that final syllable drop off strangled gargle. He does his best, though, to jazz up the songs over Morgan's subdued riffage. 

Faster tracks like 'June 44' and 'The Devil's Song' are just great though. While Mortuus doesn't experiment like he does on 'Frontschwein', he does do a few different things with his voice, like 'growling' along with the riff for a few seconds in 'June 44'. It sounds amazing. My favourite track would have to be the opener 'Werwolf', with the air raid siren and children's chorus sounding exciting and creative. I wish there was a bit more of that sort of experimentation elsewhere on the album. Getting those kids to yell 'Werwolf' in the chorus is spectacular in my opinion. 

The theme is firmly World War II. Through studying the lyrics and using the internet I've been able to conclude that 'Narva' is about the Battle of Narva, a town in Estonia, between the Germans and Russians, while 'Silent Night' is about a German unit that committed war-crimes against American and Belgian soldiers and civilians (very interesting story actually with their leader serving time then working for Porsche post-war before being murdered in the 70s), while 'Equestrian Bloodlust' is about the 8th SS Cavalry Division 'Florian Geyer' (named after a medieval German peasant-revolt leader). 

Album art is great - the cover looks creepy and tasteful. The booklet is plain black with lyrics and an admittedly amazing band photo in black and white in the double page spread. It was created by the same company that put the 'Frontschwein' package together. And like the songs, it's stripped back and basic by comparison. 

Overall, I do really like this album. But it's also pretty disappointing. True Belief thinks that they just recorded the only 9 tracks that they had, and I can't escape this feeling too. I get the feeling Morgan hasn't put his heart and soul into this like he did the previous release. It's short, minimalist, unambitious. It's also great to listen to, despite all this, especially with alcohol in your veins. Too bad it needs a few beers though. 

Anyone have any thoughts on the album? 

 

 

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17 hours ago, Requiem said:

This could be seen as a fairly accessible black metal album for curious children. It's not a very challenging listen. 

This is the impression that I got after listen to the album.  It is sort of disappointing for me that a band that was always on the verge of controversy (never going over the edge, though) would domesticate themselves in the way that they had.

My biggest complaint, however, was the lack of inventive riffing.  "Frontschwein" changed the way that I looked at bm riffs (see "Doomsday Elite").  "Viktoria" was simply too uninteresting.

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On 7/3/2018 at 2:30 AM, Balor said:

This is the impression that I got after listen to the album.  It is sort of disappointing for me that a band that was always on the verge of controversy (never going over the edge, though) would domesticate themselves in the way that they had.

My biggest complaint, however, was the lack of inventive riffing.  "Frontschwein" changed the way that I looked at bm riffs (see "Doomsday Elite").  "Viktoria" was simply too uninteresting.

You're right about this. I was listening to 'Viktoria' again today while I was mowing the lawn and it sort of makes me feel bad because, while it's pretty good, pretty good was less than I was hoping for.

Some of those riffs... man, Morgan's quality control is low low low this time around. He does do this from time to time. 'La Grande Danse Macabre' is another album where this is the case. It's all ok, but sometimes he's the best in the world and I want to see him at level all the time. Pretty high expectations on my part, I admit, but I know he has it in him! 

 

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I haven’t heard “Frontschwein”, in my “journey” with Marduk I am only at “Opus Nocturne” really, but I will still give “Viktoria” a listen as part of my 2018 roundup at least.  

Props though @Requiem for doing some actual research into the record and the song subject matter.  Good review.

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23 minutes ago, MacabreEternal said:

I haven’t heard “Frontschwein”, in my “journey” with Marduk I am only at “Opus Nocturne” really, but I will still give “Viktoria” a listen as part of my 2018 roundup at least.  

Props though @Requiem for doing some actual research into the record and the song subject matter.  Good review.

Thanks Macca. 

You’re at a sweet spot with your journey after ‘Those of the Unlight’ and ‘Opus Nocturne’. 

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4 hours ago, Requiem said:

You're right about this. I was listening to 'Viktoria' again today while I was mowing the lawn and it sort of makes me feel bad because, while it's pretty good, pretty good was less than I was hoping for.

Some of those riffs... man, Morgan's quality control is low low low this time around. He does do this from time to time. 'La Grande Danse Macabre' is another album where this is the case. It's all ok, but sometimes he's the best in the world and I want to see him at level all the time. Pretty high expectations on my part, I admit, but I know he has it in him! 

 

After "Frontschwein" high expectations are justified.  I think that it was an entertaining, but nevertheless unremarkable album.

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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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