Thursday, February 15, 2018

Therion - Beloved Antichrist (2018)

If you had three hours to spare in your precious short lived life, what would you do to fill up that time? Maybe you would watch an American Football game, or perhaps write a kick ass song, or maybe take that special someone to an experience you two would never forget. Or you could just waste those three hours by picking up Therion's latest full length effort, and press play. It sounds insane, almost out right impossible, but Therion has taken the epic concept record to a whole new level, going longer than any other band has ever gone. You thought Dream Theater's "The Astonishing" was long? Well, wait until you get a load of THIS!

This madness of a record is Therion's 14th effort (not counting the compilation album "Crowning of Atlantis" and the cover album "Les Fleurs Du Mal"), and I know it has been 7 years since they released their latest original opus, but did they really have to release ALL of the songs they wrote during that time? "Beloved Antichrist" is a religious concept opera record that spans just over three hours, is divided into three acts, and contains a total of 46 songs. 46 SONGS! WHAT ARE THEY THINKING!?!? I can barely count to 46, and they decide to cram in every single one of these songs into a single record! Why not split it up into two or three records like a lot of other bands have done, like Blaze Bayley, Vanden Plas, Between The Buried And Me, or Scar Symmetry (btw, where is part 2 and 3 of "The Singularity" guys?).

With this amount of songs, it becomes incredibly hard to decipher what song is what, how it sounded, connecting the dots from hook to title. Let me make this clear from the get go, "Beloved Antichrist" has a lot of great ideas within it, solos that are fantastic, vocal harmonies that are exquisite, instrumentation that is very close to perfection, but when you have so much of it in one place, it is very easy to get lost among it all. Nothing in here truly stands out, so it all becomes an enormous blob of operatic prog metal that does sound pretty good, but you get tired of it pretty quickly.

As for the concept, it is kind of cheesy, but just as with "The Astonishing", there is a lot of work put into it, and it certainly is noticeable, so you kind of automatically respect it just for the amount of hours that has been spent on it. But while Dream Theater did an amazing job in creating a story that was original and well thought out, with dialogues within the album and a massive internet library they shared with the fans so that they could understand it more, Therion's concept is harder to take in, not only because you do not always understand what they are singing, but also because it is kind of more muddled in the shadows. It is based on "A Short Tale of The Antichrist" (short?) by Vladimir Soloviev, speaking about satanism and religion in itself, so you can get more information that way, but still, judging by the disc alone, it does not come through well enough.

The biggest problem with this record though is that it is just not as dynamic as it needs to be. Close to every song has sort of the same tone to it, being moderately fast and has a lot of symphonic elements to it, which just makes this album more confusing. Sure, some songs do turn up the speed and insert some heavier guitar work, and others slow things down a lot, but there is not enough variety or enough special moments in "Beloved Antichrist" to elevate it higher. The only tracks that I sort of remember from the top of my head is the epic power metal speed of "Anthem" and the main riff of "Night Reborn", that has some similarities to the classic Dio song "We Rock". Remembering 2 out of 46 songs is not very good, that is only 4,3% of the album.

This saddens me, because there is so much great stuff in here that would have gotten the credit it deserved if the band just would have had the common sense to split this album into three 1-hour pieces released around 2 months apart. Therion is an incredibly skilled band, they know how to handle their instruments and how to write engaging music, but their own vanity just takes over here ten fold. This is the most pompous, over bloated, overly long, excruciatingly boring album I have ever come across. It is incredibly frustrating to put a simple number to this album, because none of them makes it justice. Do I give it a high rating because the quality of the craft is fantastic? Or do I give it a low rating because the length completely kills it? In the end, I land somewhere in between, but maybe more towards the negative side, because an album is first and foremost supposed to be enjoyed in its entirety, and I simply do not have the patience or the strength to get through this brick wall of sound. If you decide to test out this album, make sure you have a snack and lots of beverage by your side, because you are gonna be staying for a while.

Songs worthy of recognition: Anthem, Night Reborn, Temple of Jerusalem, Shoot Them Down!

Rating: 4,5/10 Daggers of God

www.megatherion.com/
twitter.com/_therion

Friday, February 9, 2018

Saxon - Thunderbolt (2018)

Okay, I may not be suffering from OCD, but I have to start off this review with my uncomfortable feelings of that album cover. It is a cool piece of art, but the way the focal point of the cover is slightly skewed to the left just does not feel right. Sure, the bird might not have looked as intimidating if it was centered (unless it was magnified), and maybe this is a more dynamic take to the image, but it is still kind of annoying.

So with that stupid nitpick out of the way, how does the 22nd Saxon album sound? Well, if you have listened to any of the other 21 albums, you probably know how this one will turn out, it is just classic heavy metal that somehow never seems to get old. The guys keeps on reinventing the wheel, and still make the crowd roar cheerfully. There is just something with these types of bands that have created their own niche that is so admirable, and makes you appreciate them a little bit more, because you never know how long they will be around for.

Judging from "Thunderbolt" though, it seems like Saxon will be here for quite a while longer. They still have a drive that is as strong as it has ever been, and still find some neat tricks to make every song interesting (although I do think it was kind of weird that Biff tried some growling in "Predator", stick to what you do best man). The knack of creating a catchy and engaging song is certainly still there, and they add some sort of epic element to it all with this record. Songs like "Nosferatu (The Vampire's Waltz)", the title track, "The Secret of Flight", and "Sons of Odin" just adds a grand persona that raises the album a whole new level.

The lyrical content is also fun to discover, dealing with both Norse and Greek mythology, vampires, wizards, but there are two tribute songs that does catch my attention a little extra. First we have "They Played Rock And Roll", which is a clear homage to their fellow countrymen Motörhead, and one of the better ones to this date. Saxon carbon copies their style pretty well, while still keeping their own core sound, and the small nods here and there are fantastic for fans of both bands. Then we have the ending song "Roadies' Song", a tribute to the hard working man behind the stage that makes every show happen. This is not something new either (Motörhead and Tenacious D did it, just to name a couple), and the song is not my favourite in the record, but still a very nice tribute to the guys that never gets enough praise.

So yeah, "Thunderbolt" is nothing that will surprise you, and the second half might not be as exciting as the first, but the quality of the craft is still really good, and you will surely find a couple of new favourites in here. Biff Byford and crew has put together another really solid record with great heavy metal in their typical style, and keeps on trucking without slowing down even a little bit. It is surely a banger, and hopefully not the last one we will hear from the group.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Secret of Flight, Thunderbolt, They Played Rock And Roll

Rating: 7,5/10 Predators

www.saxon747.com/
twitter.com/saxonofficial

More reviews of Saxon
Sacrifice
Battering Ram

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Opeth - Watershed (2008)

If traveling back ten years to the past, one can only wonder how many Opeth fans would have believed you if you said that the then brand new record "Watershed" would be the last Opeth record with death metal elements to it. Just imagining their reactions, everything from laughter to pure despair, is just fun as hell. To be perfectly honest though, I am not sure even Mr. Åkerfeldt himself knew this would be the last "old school" Opeth record, even if he had mixed in a lot of more calmer rock elements to his band. Is this truly a final hurrah to the heavier side of the band, or just another high quality piece of art?

It certainly starts very calmly with "Coil", where Mikael not only get some help from the new members, guitarist Fredrik Åkesson and drummer Martin Axenrot, but also from the latter's current girlfriend Nathalie Lorichs, who gives a helping voice. It is an atmospheric start to the album that is certainly welcoming, but that all changes when "Heir Apperent" attacks. This is the exact opposite, a heavy and dark track that oozes of early Opeth, crushing you with some of the heaviest parts you have ever heard from the band. It is an instant classic that definitely sets the bar for the rest of the tracks.

Those two opening tracks do represent what I think is the strength of "Watershed", the contrasts. Most of the album is fairly calm and collected, but when you least expect it, Opeth smacks you in the face with a blast beat or a monster riff. This album is playing with you, leading you somewhere, just to suddenly swing you around and go in another direction. It never stays still, evolving into different shapes that are stranger and stranger. You might be sitting there, enjoying some quality metal, when suddenly it transforms into something more rock oriented. This makes "Watershed" one of the most versatile Opeth albums to this date, but it is not always a good thing, because it does feel a little disjointed at times, not following that red line.

Fortunately, there is a lot of quality music that you can enjoy to distract you from the fact that "Watershed" might have a pretty schizophrenic personality. All of the seven songs in here has something to offer, whether it be the the pure brutality of "Heir Apparent", the harmonies of "Porcelain Heart", the oriental vibes of "Hex Omega", or the beauty of "Coil". All songs (except for "Coil") are quite lengthy too, so there is a lot to discover in this album even if it only contains seven tracks, which is just great for your replay experience.

Also, may I recommend that you all pick up the special version of this album, because it does have some good stuff to offer too. The bonus track "Derelict Herds" has a strange guitar tone to it that makes it so intriguing, and also some really nice rhythms too. The two covers (Robin Trower's "Bridge of Sighs" and Marie Fredriksson's "Den Ständiga Resan") are also really neat, showing even more sides of the band.

While this album might be a little to uncohesive for some people, I just find that the quality of the craft outweighs its differences. "Watershed" impresses on so many level that it can make your head spin if you try to get it all in, but it certainly makes every listen exciting, because you might find a new favourite time and time again. It has killer track, great production, and impeccable performances, what more could you really ask for? Okay, maybe one or two of the songs in here could be more refined to stand out more, but that is basically it, "Watershed" is a brilliant record, which makes it even sadder that this was the final stand of Opeth's origin, before being left in the shadows for (probably) all eternity.

Songs worthy of recognition: Heir Apparent, The Lotus Eater, Porcelain Heart, Hex Omega

Rating: 8,5/10 Coils

www.opeth.com/
twitter.com/officialopeth

More reviews of Opeth
Orchid
Morningrise
My Arms, Your Hearse
Still Life
Blackwater Park
Deliverance
Damnation
Ghost Reveries
Pale Communion
Sorceress

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons - The Age of Absurdity (2018)

With Lemmy laying beneath the ground in peace and Motörhead being disbanded, it feels really strange to see both Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee in any other musical project. It was definitely expected that they would take their talents elsewhere, but still, imagining them playing something different than "Ace of Spades" or "Overkill" is weird. Well, Mikkey has certainly not been lazy, quickly subbing in with Thin Lizzy on a tour and eventually becoming a permanent member of Scorpions. Phil has taken some more time to reflect his future career, but it is now finally time for him to unveil what he has been working on the last year or so.

Together with The Bastard Sons, Phil Campbell strikes us with "The Age of Absurdity", an album that more or less has nothing to do with Motörhead at all besides some very small bits here and there. This group sounds more like a hybrid of Mötley Crüe, Shinedown, The Offspring, and maybe some Aerosmith as well, it is a mix that do go together well enough, but it is not all that original. It actually comes out as a very standard modern rock band that any rock station would welcome with open arms, playing their singles frequently. I honestly did not expect much more beside of that, so I am not that disappointed, but something heavier would have been more welcome for sure.

Besides, the music is quite nice to listen to. It is easily likeable rock that may not have much substance to it, but it is some groovy shit, so you can definitely dig it. This band is sort of like Slash's solo project, with the backing band laying the foundation and our main guitarist adding that special touch. While I do think Phil does not take as much space as Slash does (honestly, can anybody do that?), he still has some shining moments in this album. He adds a punch to the music that is definitely much needed if any of the songs are going to stick with you. Songs like "High Rule" and "Welcome To Hell" are much more engaging thanks to Phil's nifty work.

How about the rest of the bastards? Well, I cannot say all too much unfortunately, because with such basic music as this, it is very hard to really stand out from the pack, but I do love however that Phil keeps his traditions within the family. 3/4 of the remaining members are all sons of Phil (Dane on drums, Tyla on guitar, and Todd on bass), with the only one being "adopted" is vocalist Neil Starr, making this band a real family business. It is great to see these guys get along for the sake of rock and roll.

As said though, it gets kind of predictable in the end with all of this decent rock songs. Some speedy ones, some heavy ones, some ballads, and even some blues and country to complete the picture, which certainly gives some nice variety to the album, but most of the tracks are just not strong enough to accentuate these differences, not giving this album the dynamic edge it could have needed. This is an album where it is just better to pick out the better tracks, and leave the rest in the dust, creating a nice little EP of material.

So "The Age of Absurdity" is not the most revolutionary thing out there, but it is a good little album of comfort rock. You can just put it on anytime, and get in a fairly good mood in a quick beat. There might be enough small crumbles of greatness in here that could lead to something spectacular in the future, and I just have to hope that they do take the same path as Slash's solo project, with a debut record that is uneven, but with a clearer understanding on what they want to do in future installments. Motörhead fans should absolutely take a listen, but do not expect Phil to carry Lemmy's torch with his new band. This could have definitely used some more absurd elements, but it works for what it is.

Songs worthy of recognition: Welcome To Hell, Gypsy Kiss, Step Into The Fire

Rating: 6/10 Ringleaders

www.philcampbell.net/
twitter.com/MotorheadPhil

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Machine Head - Catharsis (2018)

Apparently, the leader of Machine Head, Rob Flynn, told his fans countless times to lower their expectations when it comes to their 9th studio album "Catharsis", at least when it comes to the more thrash oriented bits of their sound. That was the first warning sign to what this album would be, and more of those signs were to come. Close to every song released prior to the album got fans wondering "What is this? Is this even Machine Head?", and the album art was not promising either. Now, the band has had a rough past when it comes to quality, but would they really dip after releasing a bunch of really good albums like "The Blackening", "Unto The Locust", and "Bloodstone & Diamonds"?

Yes, yes they would, and it is not like they took a step back, it seems like EVERYONE agrees on that they fell off a cliff. How is that, and why so? Well, let us start by looking at the biggest problem of "Catharsis", the length of the record. It contains 15 tracks all leading up to a run time of 74 minutes. Why is this album so long? It is not a concept record, this is certainly not a progressive metal album, and Machine Head has definitely not written 15 killer tracks. It overstays its welcome by a hell of a lot, making the torment unbearable.

Yes, I said torment, because "Catharsis" is incredibly hard to enjoy, and it is not only because of the run time. Flynn was not kidding with his warnings, the groovy thrash onslaught that Machine Head is known for in recent years is here, but it is literally buried by all this other shit. Close to every song in this record has some sort of golden nugget within them that is genuinely good or interesting, but they also have something annoying that overshadows the good, either a dumb clap intro, a lame chorus, or some shitty lyrics. This makes this whole experience incredibly frustrating, because the band cannot complete a single track.

Let me prove this by explaining two of my favourite tracks of this record. First we have "Volatile", the opening track. It is a fantastic track, it has power, drive, and it makes my head go banging all of its 4 and a half minutes. However, this is a Slipknot song, so it comes off a big old ripoff that I cannot convince myself that it is Machine Head I am listening to. Then we have "Kaleidoscope", that opens with the corniest intro ever, with clapping and Flynn shouting "Get your metal fingers in the air", face palming is imminent here. But if you can muster up the courage to get past it, you get rewarded with a pretty nice track actually, with some classic Machine Head groove tricks and a weird, but satisfying, chorus.

What just feels weird about the record is how outdated it sounds. I do not know if Mr. Flynn is going through some mid life crisis or something, but it seems like he is trying WAY too hard to connect with the younger listeners, with lyrics that are so blatantly silly and cliche that you cannot take it seriously for five cents. Even if most of the stories told here are about drugs, abuse, tragedy, and overall dark stuff, it is presented in such a dumb and obvious way, just take a step back man. And then there is the fact that they steal a lot of stuff from other bands, like Slipknot, Stone Sour, Mastodon, Opeth, Korn, and I think I even hear a little Weezer in "Bastards" as well. God, what a mess.

It certainly does not help either that Flynn himself is literally all over the place with his vocal performance. I have never seen him as one of the great ones, but I have always loved his vocals because they balance the line between clean and harsh so well. Not in this album though, he goes over the top way too often, sounding like some form of hormonal teenager sometimes. It is truly a shame, because the rest of the performances are of typical standard. The guitar play is great, the drums slams on, and the bass does its job too.

I really cannot believe how many missteps this album has, this is supposed to be a band that had found their niche and become a force to be reckoned with, delivering great record after great record. "Catharsis" simply does not make any sense at all, it is an overly long gumbo of outdated nu-metal shit, small nuggets of Machine Head brilliance, and themes that are so overly serious that they become overly goofy. This will most certainly be a big contender for "disappointment of the year", and even fans of the band should take precautionary actions before even attempting to listen to it. Your beard may smell of snatch Mr. Flynn, but your new album just flat out stinks.

Songs worthy of recognition: Volatile, Kaleidoscope, Behind A Mask

Rating: 2,5/10 Triple Beams

https://www.machinehead1.com/
https://twitter.com/mfnh

More reviews of Machine Head
Bloodstone & Diamonds

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Anvil - Pounding The Pavement (2018)

I gotta be honest, I was very unsure if this was an Anvil album that I was witnessing. It certainly sounded like an Anvil record, and the logo was on full display on that brilliant album cover, but it did miss something that literally defines the band, THE anvil. I could not find it for the life of me, so I started to wonder if they compensated for having two anvils in their last album "Anvil Is Anvil" (both in title and cover). Finally I found it, somewhere among that thick smoke, fully confirming a fact that was already confirmed by logo and music (I really need a new pair of glasses... and maybe a new brain while I am at it).

So now that that is settled out, I can confidently tell you that Anvil's 17th outing is simply another classic Anvil release, an album you would expect from these Canadian legends. It is yet another record filled to the brim with catchy choruses and good, fun heavy metal for the entire family. The band does what they do best, and they really do not bullshit around that fact, delivering an album that we have practically already heard, but still wanna hear.

So what are the topics these guys tackle this time around? Well they open up the album... with a song about GPS. Yes, "Bitch In A Box" is all about that little device I thought the rest of the world had ditched in favour for the Google Maps app. But that is the charm with Anvil, they can sing about anything, and still get a good chuckle out of you (even if the song is a little too slow for my taste). Further down the song list we find "Nanook of The North", which is actually a song about the native Canadians and their history. A neat little song that opens with classic Nanookian... beat singing? I do not know what it is called, but it is a really nice touch from the band. So they really go high and low in the lyrics, nothing surprising, but welcome none the least.

Musically speaking though, it is all over the place. Some song have a great drive, almost like the guys winded back the clock to their hey days, like the adrenaline pumping tracks "Ego", "Warming Up", and "Black Smoke". Kudlow's guitar play is especially impressive, dominating with several kick ass solos, and even a title track that is fully instrumental. Best of all though, is that the band seem to still enjoying themselves, even if they really are "Pounding The Pavement".

But as said, this album is pretty uneven, taking quite a few dips throughout its run time. Most of the time, it is just the fact that the songs are boring and predictable, not adding anything special to the album itself. There are also a couple of really weird ones out there, like the incredibly cheesy 70's rock opus "Rock That Shit", which simply just does not fit in at all, or "Smash Your Face", a song that is very slow and tries to be heavy, but I do not feel any smashing here at all, which just sucks. I still think there are more good and interesting stuff here than bad, but the bad bits do take over more than I like to admit.

No matter what I say though, it is quite clear what your own opinion of "Pounding The Pavement" will be, even without hearing the album. Because if you have heard of any Anvil music before, you know exactly what you are going to get, and that you either love it or hate it. The Canadians does what is expected of them, and that is admirable in its own little charming way, and as long as they still can find joy in what they are doing, I am satisfied whenever a new album hits the market. So the title is very fitting, the band keeps on pounding that pavement, and they do a mighty fine job doing so.

Songs worthy of recognition: Black Smoke, What I Want, Warming Up

Rating: 6/10 Nanooks of the North

http://my.tbaytel.net/tgallo/anvil/
https://twitter.com/AnvilMetal666

More reviews of Anvil
Anvil Is Anvil

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Opeth - Ghost Reveries (2005)

In the Opeth discography, "Blackwater Park" is generally seen as the band's highlight, their grand masterpiece that they can never recreate, no matter how many times they try. Well, I am not one of those who think that, because to me, that effervescent masterpiece is "Ghost Reveries". The 2005 release has always had a special place in my metal heart, combining everything that makes Opeth so good into an atmospheric experience that few bands can match. When it comes to brilliant Opeth music, no other album can reach this level of quality.

It all starts with the opening track "Ghost of Perdition", probably my favourite Opeth song of all time, and I am not saying that only because it was extremely fun to play on Rock Band (that drum chart is simply marvelous). This 10 and a half minute track has an impeccable flow to it, sweeping through the heavy and the atmospheric, while also giving every instrument and band member enough room to shine, displaying every strength that this fantastic band possesses. And that ending, THAT ENDING, just damn.

So obviously, the album goes downhill from there, but not as much as you would think. Sure, there is no song after that has the same, gut wrenching punch to it, but the rest of the tracks on "Ghost Reveries" helps a lot in establishing the spooky character of the record. The album was first meant to be a concept record about the occult and evil in general, but that idea was scrapped when Mikael wrote some songs that did not really fit in lyrically, but he simply could not leave out of the record. This album still have a lot of these dark themes in it that does make the album cohesive, they just do not have a red line that goes through them all.

The biggest strength of the album is without a doubt the smooth flow that courses through your ears with the easiest ease that has ever eased. While the length of the record might seem kind of daunting (1 hour and 6 minutes), it certainly does not feel like it is that long. It is very easy to just lose yourself into the record, drowning in its never ending ocean of sweeping melodies, mixed vocal work, and sudden hits of crushing riffs. You almost reach some sort of metal nirvana, just enjoying the hell out of every second that has been put into this disc.

Song wise, Opeth certainly has had a stronger line up, but because they all fit together so god damn well, it really does not matter all that much how they are individually. Of course we have the juggernaut "Ghost of Perdition" as the front runner, but a good second can be found in "The Grand Conjuration", a song that is just playing with you, throwing some odd, simplistic riffs here and there, mixing in some strange and evil whispers to make you uncomfortable, but interested. The other two giants of the record ("The Baying of The Hounds" and "Reverie/Harlequin Forest") are also really cool songs, really showing that Opeth has truly mastered the art of making 10+ minute songs close to perfection, and while those tracks that are under 10 minutes are not bad in any way shape or form, they do take more of a side role in the album, still contributing good things though.

Yep, there is no question here as far as I see it, "Ghost Reveries" is Opeth's magnum opus (magnum Opeth?), an album that just feels complete in every sense of the word, while actually not being it. Sure, it would have been fun if they would have fulfilled the concept, and the individual quality is not the best, but the complete picture of this album is simply awe inspiring. It is 1+ hour of Opeth candy that will leave your ears with new holes, but it is totally worth it. So while I do understand why most people see "Blackwater Park" as the best by the band, I say to them that they have not listened to "Ghost Reveries" enough, the true Opeth masterpiece.

Songs worthy of recognition: Ghost of Perdition, The Baying of The Hounds, Reverie/Harlequin Forest, The Grand Conjuration

Rating: 10/10 Hours of Wealth

www.opeth.com/
twitter.com/officialopeth

More reviews of Opeth
Orchid
Morningrise
My Arms, Your Hearse
Still Life
Blackwater Park
Deliverance
Damnation
Pale Communion
Sorceress

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

White Wizzard - Infernal Overdrive (2018)

It is hard to predict when White Wizzard will churn out a new album, just because of the sad fact that this band literally has no stability. Founder Jon Leon never seems to find the right pieces to make the band a stable tour de force, for reasons that we only can speculate about, but it is quite telling that in their current state, the band does not have a permanent drummer, and that the other two members James LaRue and Wyatt Anderson are back in the fold (this is in fact Wyatt's 4th run with the band). Despite the rotating doors, White Wizzard has still managed to come up with some nice speed metal albums over the years, but can "Infernal Overdrive" meet the expectations that comes with 5 years of album absence?

Well, it is perfectly obvious that "Infernal Overdrive" is White Wizzard to the core, 80's influenced speed metal with tons of catchy choruses and meaty riffs. However, it seems like Mr. Leon is getting ambitious these days, because out of the nine tracks that makes this record, we got four that goes beyond the eight minute mark, including the finisher "The Illusion's Tears" which clocks in just over 11 minutes. It is not like White Wizzard has gone the long road before, but doing so time and time again in this record is really stretching the whole term speed metal, because these 61 minutes does not go by very fast.

And that is exactly my main problem with this album, it feels surprisingly sluggish. I expected this group to put the pedal to the metal, that they would channel that guy from "Mad Max: Fury Road" who wields a flame thrower/guitar hybrid and transform his energy in album format (the cover art certainly hinted that), but they never do. It feels like the hand brake is still active, keeping the band from reaching their full potential. Every element that makes White Wizzard so good is here, but the length of the record works against it. It shows the most in "The Illusion's Tears", which is is way too long and slow for me to care really, just end the album already.

Not to say there is no quality in the record at all, there is some really interesting ideas in some of the longer songs like "Chasing Dragons", "Voyage of The Wold Raiders", and "Critical Mass". Not sure if they fit the band, but it could be the start of an exciting evolution. The guitar play is as playful as ever, wanking its way inside out in the solo bits, and Wyatt's voice was made for speed metal, crushing those higher notes with ease. So the performance can definitely not be blamed for this album's shortcomings

While I do admire White Wizzard's will to expand their sound and bring a lot of music to their dedicated fans, "Infernal Overdrive" does come out as a drag, overstaying its welcome quite a bit. It really would not be all that bad if they would have just crammed in one more fast burner, say something that matched the intensity of "Storm The Shores", just to bring some good and much needed variety. It still has a lot of interesting ideas, and the execution is on point, so fans of the band will surely enjoy this effort, but it just does not have the bite that the previous records have. Let us hope that Mr. Leon has finally found some stability within the line-up, and that the next album will be a killer thanks to the improved chemistry.

Songs worthy of recognition: Critical Mass, Storm The Shores, Chasing Dragons

Rating: 6,5/10 Pretty Mays

whitewizzard.bandcamp.com/
twitter.com/WHITEWIZZARD

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Opeth - Damnation (2003)

5 months after the release of "Deliverance", Opeth unveiled the second half of their epic double trouble pack, the Yin that would match the Yang, the twin brother that came in second place out of the mother, the... you get the point. "Damnation" is the other half of the recordings from 2002, showing off the calmer side of the band. Gone are all the harsh vocals, the distorted guitars, and the aggressive beats, all that is left is an (close to fully) acoustic ensemble that plays 70's inspired rock. You could say this album was "Heritage" before "Heritage", exposing the common Opeth fan to something different, maybe even uncomfortable.

To make this album work as an Opeth release, everything has to be nailed perfectly, and it all starts with the production. Together with the band's main man Mikael Åkerfeldt, we got help from Steven Wilson, whom we all know from Porcupine Tree, his solo project, and a bunch of other bands. Steven is the perfect man for the job in my opinion, because since he also loves 70's prog rock, he knows how to make a compelling record that would also speak to the metal crowd. Mikael and Steven is certainly a match made in progressive heaven, a duo that could make some special magic happen.

And there is certainly magic in here, some smooth, mellow magic. The band goes seamlessly from song to song in its own tempo, taking their time to develop every melody into something great. While it is all rooted into the 70's, it still has that touch of modern Opeth that keeps it from being out of touch. It actually got a lot in common with "Morningrise", except for the obvious bits that we have already discussed about.

One thing that I think "Damnation" does better than "Deliverance" is featuring Mikael Åkerfeldt and his wonderful vocals, and I guess it could be because this music fits his clean vocals extremely well, but it is also because he gets much more room to work with here. With very minimal instrumentation in play, Mikael takes over and guides us through this journey, calmly leading us to a secure place. It is a comforting voice, one that you can trust in any weather.

But as you would expect from an album like this, it does get kind of boring after a while, since all of the songs have sort of the same tempo and mood. It is certainly a record that you could fall asleep to if you listen to it in the middle of the night. However, the boredom never becomes a chore, it is not like I want to skip any track and simply give up, it is more like "this part is not very exciting, but let us see what they can offer next". The hypnotizing vocals and the fine tuned guitar playing helps in keeping your concentration levels at reasonable heights, continuing to amaze with its delicate techniques.

So yeah, "Damnation" might not be the most exciting Opeth album out there, but it is still one with several good qualities, a different experience that works perfectly as the counter part of "Deliverance". It is easy to see that those two were recorded at the same time, and they certainly make a great double feature when listened to back to back. I do find this one as the superior album, because it tries new stuff, while still having that Opeth style that we all know and love. It is a special little album that stands out in the discography, and while it still has some way up towards the highest of levels, it sits nicely as a pleasant break from the madness. Simply marvelous.

Songs worthy of recognition: Death Whispered A Lullaby, In My Time of Need, To Rid The Disease

Rating: 7,5/10 Windowpanes

www.opeth.com/
twitter.com/officialopeth

More reviews of Opeth
Orchid
Morningrise
My Arms, Your Hearse
Still Life
Blackwater Park
Deliverance
Pale Communion
Sorceress

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Opeth - Deliverance (2002)

With the success that "Blackwater Park" produced, Opeth was obviously on a roll, and the band made sure to keep up with the momentum. To do so, the Swedes opted to quickly enter Studio Fredman once again, this time to make a double album release, something that their current record company, peaceville records, was not willing to do. So it became a compromise, the double album was split into two separate records that were released 5 months apart, both being recorded at the same time.

We will eventually get into the twin brother "Damnation", but first up was "Deliverance", a pretty sensible follow up to "Blackwater Park" that saw the band continuing with their unique style of progressive metal. This album focused on the long version of the band, containing only six songs, and all of them (except for a small instrumental titled "For Absent Friends") were over the ten minute mark, making "Deliverance" pretty meaty with a solid run time of just over an hour.

This album is also one of the band's heavier efforts, almost completely ignoring their rock influences that has become such a vital part for them. It is kind of a risky move that surely makes this and "Damnation" a nice double dipper in a long listening session, but on its own, it becomes a little stale. Not to say that this album is a complete waste, the quality is surely there, and it definitely sounds like Opeth from start to finish, but it just does not have that gut wrenching punch that normally turns a good Opeth record into a magnificent one.

As said though, there is still a lot to like about "Deliverance", especially the title track that is just pure Opeth candy. The second half is almost purely instrumental, with a really catchy rhythm as the main star, digging deeper and deeper into your brain for every cycle it repeats. That song is worth the price of admission alone, but there is a lot of great instrumentation in this album, you just need the patience to find it, because they are mostly buried in the middle or end of the songs. Some of the best bits can be found in both "Wreath" and "A Fair Judgement", making the first half of the album really excellent. Of course, Mikael does another stellar vocal effort too, but this is his most anonymous performance to date.

But even if the album is only six songs long, I still find two that are more or less unnecessary. The short instrumental "For Absent Friends" has no real meaning to it besides giving a comfortable break, and while "Master's Apprentices" is a fairly nice track, it take an obscene amount of time to get somewhere. I am all about opening long songs slowly, but this is just flat out ridiculous. Then we have the ending song "By The Pain I See In Others", which has the opposite problem, the final four minutes is more or lest silence, which is not a good way to end an album. Still really like the song though.

Ultimately though, "Deliverance" is a neat little album that has some good Opeth magic to it, but I do not think it is enough of it for it to be able to match the band's previous works. The rift between the first and second half is quite big, and only getting 5 and a half songs is not really worth it in the end. Still, there is enough meat on the bone to really appreciate what Opeth did here. After all, it is the first half of a double header, with the second one promising some more proggy goodness from the Swedes. A nice appetizer for what is hopefully the main course.

Songs worthy of recognition: Deliverance, Wreath, A Fair Judgement

Rating: 7/10 Absent Friends

www.opeth.com/
twitter.com/officialopeth

More reviews of Opeth
Orchid
Morningrise
My Arms, Your Hearse
Still Life
Blackwater Park
Pale Communion
Sorceress