Monday, August 22, 2016

Only for the week: Part 29

All songs on this segment are gathered in a Spotify playlist, you can find it here

The Classic: Rainbow - Stargazer

There is no secret that Ronnie James Dio had a soft side for fantasy, and he really got to live it out in Rainbow. Together with the fantastic guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, they created magic that still holds up to this date, 40 years later. "Stargazer" is the most well known song from the Rainbow discography, and that is not a coincidence. The futuristic production completes the song, and enhances the iconic riffs, the spaced out drum beats, and of course, the powerful vocals of Dio. If you gaze at it for too long, you will be blind.



The Newcomer: Sabaton - Rorke's Drift

"Rorke's Drift" is old school Sabaton, a powerful mauler with heavy riffs and a rock hard attitude. While it may not be as bombastic as present day Sabaton normally is, it comes in as a fresh air and lifts the new album "The Last Stand" to a higher ground. And dare I say that Joakim Brodén has never sounded better? I think I do.

Check out my review of the album this song is from, "The Last Stand"

Sorry, no video :(

The Personal Favourite: DragonForce - My Spirit Will Go On

DragonForce. Love them or hate them, you cannot ignore that there is no other band like them. The insane power and speed that they can produce is impressive, even if they milked the hell out of it in the early stages of their career.

Taken from "Sonic Firestorm", "My Spirit Will Go On" might initially come out as a typical DragonForce song, but I find this one to be a hell of a lot more epic, more innovative in its riff work, and overall a lot more pleasing to listen to. It just has a better flow to it than "Through The Fire And Flames", "Fury of The Storm", or any other similar song. This song's spirit will most certainly go on for all eternity.



Stay metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Sabaton - The Last Stand (2016)

Despite having trouble with remaining a stable line-up for more than a couple of years, Swedish power metalers Sabaton keeps their flag held high, and continues to be one of the leaders in the genre with their bombastic songs about war and... more war. Joakim Brodén leads his army with an iron fist, delivers great live performances, and makes sure to give us some good history lessons every time a new CD is released. Yet, I still am having a hard time to fully appreciate the band, mostly because they keep re-inventing the wheel, never bringing anything new to the table.

Which leads me to the new album, entitled "The Last Stand", which is yet another Sabaton album that is sing along friendly, epic, powerful, and extremely predictable. The band is not doing anything wrong per se, their performance is spot on, the production is just as big as it should be, and they stay true to their sound, but when a band has done more or less the same thing for 8 albums in a row, you cannot help to feel full, that you cant stand it for any long periods. It is just not exciting enough.

Even the lyrical department have not changed one bit since the start, yet it is that part of Sabaton that will always be the most intriguing. In this album, Sabaton takes us all over the world to famous battles that turned out to be decisive for their respective wars. We get to know about Leonidas and the 300 of Sparta, the first war of Scottish independence, Japanese samurais, and a hell of a lot more. No other band out there can make you go on to Google and do some thorough researching. This also follows the line in which the band has gone for the last couple of albums, settle with a sort of theme and go with it. We had Swedish history in "Carolus Rex", stories about heroes in "Heroes", and now this. A neat strategy that works really well.

Comparing the song material here with the predecessor "Heroes", I feel like "The Last Stand" has a lot more bite to it, more songs that stand out and catches your attention. Simply put, it is better. Well, the variation is, as usual when it comes to Sabaton, close to non existent, but there is nothing wrong with the enthusiasm the band is showing. It is the little things that makes the songs stand out, like the powerful OOH AAH in "Sparta", the more metallic approach in "Rorke's Drift", or the bagpipes + keyboard solo in "Blood of Bannockburn". While it may not be enough to revolutionize Sabaton, it does help to keep the sound fresh, even if that freshness wares off fairly quickly.

The quality is there, the power as well, and the performance is flawless, so why am I not loving this album? The reason being is that I have heard this before, Sabaton is not bringing something new to the table. "The Last Stand" is most certainly an album with lots of positive qualities, and it is one of the better albums the Swedes have made, but I need to see more from this band to raise that rating even higher. This will most likely not be Sabaton's last stand, and that is good, because they still got a lot of fire arms to fire at all of us. However, they gonna need a lot of ammo to get me down, that's for sure.

Songs worthy of recognition: Rorke's Drift, Sparta, Shiroyama

Rating: 7/10 Lost Battalions

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Flotsam And Jetsam - S/T (2016)

My knowledge of the American thrash metal band Flotsam And Jetsam is... okay (at best). Formed in 1983 in Phoenix, the band had some initial success with their first two records "Doomsday For The Deceiver" and "No Place For Disgrace", the later being what many consider to be a milestone, not only for the band, but for thrash metal in general (which is why the band re-recorded it in 2014). After that? Well, the founding bassist Jason Newsted left to become a member of Metallica, otherwise nothing else has been too memorable of the band's career, or that is at least how I have seen it.

As stated before, my experience with the band is not that great, so I really did not know what to expect when I finally got around to listen to their 12th studio effort which was self titled. It has gotten some good praise since its release, but was still a bit skeptical. Their last two albums, 2010's "The Cold" and 2012's "Ugly Noise", were mediocre to say the least. Far from thrashy and overall not very interesting or innovative.

But 4 years has since past, and the band certainly feels refreshed, ready to take the metal world by storm again. Because when you release a self titled album, it usually means one of two things. 1. You are releasing your first album, or 2. you are marking the beginning of a new era for the band. "Flotsam And Jetsam" certainly puts a big red stamp on your forehead that the sluggish ways of the past are over, and that the band is ready to kick ass again, once again. The production in itself feels refreshed, modern, and helps lift the music just the right way. It is fairly clean, which usually hurts thrash albums, but for some reason, this has the opposite effect on this record.

The music itself is, to be honest, not the most exciting. It is really good, a lot better than I expected it to be, but there is something with the music of Flotsam And Jetsam that misses that last knockout punch, a nitro button to kick it into overdrive. It could be the main reason to why the band had fallen behind a lot of other thrash bands in the pecking order, but it does give them a sound personality that is unique. Still, I am having a hard time figuring out how to turn this sound into something that is out of this world.

But what "Flotsam And Jetsam" lacks in punching power, it makes up for it with great consistency and well crafted songs. Guitarists Michael Gilbert and Steve Conley spits out several groovy riffs through out the record, bassist Michael Spencer gives the songs more depths, and singer Erik Knutson just delivers time and time again with his powerful vocals. The band's chemistry with one another is top notch, and it seems like they have not had this much fun in a very long time. And that is even more evidence in the song material, especially songs like "Seventh Seal", "Iron Maiden", "Life Is A Mess", and "Monkey Wrench" (no, that is not a cover of the Foo Fighters song with the same name) where the enthusiasm is just over flowing.

"Flotsam And Jetsam" marks a new fresh start for Flotsam And Jetsam, a chance to re-discover what made them get into this in the first place. This album is a great thrash piece that rocks you to the core, displaying some great craftsmanship and passionate playing that the band has not shown in some time. It may not be the strongest, the most thrilling, or for that matter, the best kind of thrash metal that the band is playing, but it is still really good metal that we are getting here. Definitely one of the more positive surprises of this year.

Songs worthy of recognition: Iron Maiden, Seventh Seal, Life Is A Mess, Monkey Wrench

Rating: 8/10 Tasers

Friday, August 19, 2016

Thoughts from a metal mind: Don't screw this up Metallica

After a long wait, a long excruciating wait that honestly should not have been this long, we finally got some confirmation. Metallica IS releasing a new album this year.

There has been 8 freaking years since Metallica released "Death Magnetic". Remember 2008? It was the year when Usain Bolt got his big breakthrough, winning the 100m, 200m, and 4 X 100m dash at the olympics in Beijing, all in world record times. It was the year Barack Obama became President of The United States. The awesome movie "The Dark Knight" had its premiere. And in the music front, we metal heads got Amon Amarth's "Twilight of The Thundergod", Scar Symmetry's "Holographic Universe", Gojira's "The Way of All Flesh", and Opeth's "Watershed". Feeling old yet?

It has been a long road for Metallica to create "Hardwired... To Self-Destruct". During those 8 years, they have made a full length movie, starting up their own record label and music festival. They have toured a lot, including Antarctica. But the thing they have done the most is bragging. I cannot count the amount of interviews and articles where the guys have said "The chemistry in the band is at an all time high", "We got so many riffs and riff ideas for the new album", "We cannot wait to get in the studio", and my personal favourite, "We are really close to completing the album". So complete it then, don't sit around there and waste time, get in!

With that said, I am very relieved that they have finally stopped procrastinating and complete their 10th album ("Garage Inc." not included). However, I do have a fear that the album will suffer from the so called "Chinese Democracy syndrome". That is when an album takes so long to complete that the anticipation and the expectations for it grows to an unbelievable amount, making it close to impossible for it to meet them. Now, it may not have taken Metallica 15 years, but 8 years is still a long time.

Let us take a closer look at what the guys has presented us with.

The album cover



Well... what do you even say here?

Apparently, this looks like all of the guys have merged together into an incomprehensible mess, a little like that monster from the first Spy Kids movie (remember Spy Kids? That was the shit in the early 00's), only more colorful. Seriously, it is like they hired a guy, and then told him to use ALL of the tools in Photoshop. This is an insane cover, but fortunately, it is not the ugliest the band has put out (I am looking at you "Load").

The setlist

Disc one
1. Hardwired
2. Atlas, Rise!
3. Now That We're Dead
4. Moth Into Flame
5. Am I Savage?
6. Halo On Fire

Disc two
7. Confusion
8. Dream No More
9. ManUNkind
10. Here Comes Revenge
11. Murder One
12. Spit Out The Bone

Yep, this is not a miss print, Metallica is releasing a double album. 12 songs totaling up to a play time of 1 hour and 20 minutes. Jesus Christ dude! Vektor pushed their boundaries when they created their latest technical thrash album "Terminal Redux", which also over an hour long, but that at least had a purpose. When it comes to "Hardwired... To Self-Destruct", I just think that Metallica had too many ideas. Yes, 12 songs are not that many, but I can guarantee that most of those songs are gonna be really long, even longer than most of the songs in "Death Magnetic". It will all come down to execution to see if this works, but I have my doubts.

And for those of you who want even more, then congratulations, because if you buy the deluxe version of the album, you get the riff origins of... I don't even know what, those are not titles of previous songs. Maybe it is the names of the riffs? I am genuinely intrigued by this. Also, you may have noticed that "Lords of Summer" is missing here. That song is also in the deluxe version, kind of a bummer there, but it does sound like a B-song out of the "Death Magnetic" sessions, so I could not care less.

Also, what is with these titles? Some sound kind of cool I guess, but others are just stupid. "ManUNkind"? "Murder One"? "Am I Savage?" (a nod at the Diamond Head classic "Am I Evil?" perhaps)? You may had tons of ideas for riffs, but get your title game up guys.

The first single



"Hardwired" is the first song out of the album we get to hear, and it is surprising in a lot of parts. The length is just over 3 minutes (lengths the band has not even been close to since the early days), it is simple, it is old school thrash, and it sounds really good. I am not overly impressed by it yet, but it does get your thrash nerve going, which is always a positive sign.

However, I do feel like the production is kind of crappy, which is not unusual when it comes to Metallica. It is okay I guess, but the first thing I noticed was the incredibly loud drums, which almost drowned the guitars. Lars has, once again, had some of the saying in the production, and I can not think that anyone else but him turned up the drums to eleven. Well, at least they do not sound like the drums in "St. Anger"

Overall, it is a good song, but the riffs are far from impressive, and father time has not been too kind to James and his voice (he still sings great, but it just does not have the same power). A promising start

Conclusion

My hopes are that "Hardwired... To Self-Destruct" will continue in the same spirit as "Death Magnetic", taking the old school thrash element and mixing it up with modern metal, delivering tons of awesome riffs. I personally loved "Death Magnetic", even if it did have some flaws, so this new album makes me excited.

However, knowing what the band has been through during these 8 years, I am not so sure that the album will become a future class. It is a given that it will not be a new "Ride The Lightning" or "Master of Puppets", but we can certainly agree on that they should have enough material to not make a new "St. Anger".

So in conclusion, "Hardwired... To Self-Destruct" may look ugly as hell, but it has the opportunity to evolve and burst out as a beautiful thrashy butterfly. You got the chance of a life time to redeem yourselves for the long wait Metallica, do not fuck this up!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Only for the week: Part 28

All songs on this segment are gathered in a Spotify playlist, you can find it here

The Classic: Testament - Electric Crown

"The Ritual" is one of the more controversial Testament albums out there, and certainly one of their more experimental. There is very little thrash metal in it, and the band is using a lot of influences from the modern music of the 90's. I can still enjoy the album, especially since it has a couple of fantastic gems that should not be missed.

"Electric Crown"Has a fantastic groove to it, a beat that is infectious and right for its time. Alex Skolnick produces several high quality riffs here, and also a fantastic solo that does not disappoint. Yes, it is more modern than the average Testament supporter would have liked, but it is still a great song, showing that Testament is way more than a mere one trick pony.



The Newcomer: Equilibrium - Eternal Destination

Equilibrium is an odd band. Like, really odd. When you think you have them figured out, you get thrown in the face with video game beats or some polka music. They are unpredictable, but in an amazing way. Weirdly enough though, it is one of the more beautiful songs of the new record "Armageddon" that dominates. The closing song "Eternal Destination" is a grand, epic finale where the band just shows yet another side of themselves, a side that may be more serious, but is also so god damn epic. An impressive finish on a album that was overall neat.



The Personal Favourite: ReVamp feat. Devin Townsend - The Anatomy of A Nervous Breakdown: Neurasthenia

Some duets in metal are simply amazing, pure heaven made matches. Putting together ReVamp singer Floor Jansen with the Canadian madman Devin Townsend sounded like a great idea from the start, and the execution delivered big time. "Neurasthenia" is the last part of the 3 part song "The Antomy of A Nervous Breakdown", a breakdown that reaches its climax in an astounding way. The epic qualities of this song are immense, helped even further by the powerful voice of Floor whom delivers an extremely strong performance. Add some (Dev)insanity to the mix, and you got yourself one of the coolest tracks out there, one that grows on you with every listen.

Check out my review of the album this song is from, "Wild Card"



Stay Metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Halford - Halford IV: Made of Metal (2010)

The fourth, and to this date the latest, Halford album saw the Metal God return to what first made his project Halford so awesome, pure and classic heavy metal with a modern touch to it. While the title of the album is really unoriginal and the cover, which features the front of a Nascar car sponsored by Metal God Records, is a little too American for my, and should be for Rob's, taste, it was ultimately the music that spoke to me, and the music really knew how to persuade.

The album was released in 2010, a time when my interest for metal started to grow larger and larger, exposing me to all kinds of new exciting music. I got a hold of "Halford IV: Made of Metal" after hearing the title track, and watching its music video. I still get some good nostalgia watching that video, but I have to admit, it is a really corny video. An Alien coming down to Earth, transforming his spaceship into a Nascar car, competing in a race, all of which was computer animated. Yeah, the video flat out sucks, but you still get a good laugh out of it, and it does not really help that the song fits right in. While having a catchy chorus and some great instrumentation, the songs gets ripped to shreds thanks to the added effects. A good first single, but way too overproduced.

So my nostalgia did not answer back here, but there were other moments in the album that made me go "Oh yeah, I remember this one, and I still love it". "Halford IV: Made of Metal" contains a good package of great songs, showing great variety in the sound. While most of the songs lean towards a more metallic sound, there are a few nods to Rob's Judas Priest days. "Speed of Sound" is the perfect example of that, a classic NWoBHM anthem that is simple, but extremely enjoyable retro metal that would go well with "British Steel" or "Stained Class".

Another nostalgic tune is "Hell Razor" and this one REALLY sounds like it was taken straight from the 80's, even the mix here sounds old but gold. It almost makes me a little bummed that Rob did not go full swing and create a full album with nostalgic tunes, but I do understand that it would not work in full scale. If he did that, then the album would sound like it came out 25 years too late. A clear evidence that while Rob glimpses back to the past, he still has his mind set to the future.

When it comes to the more modern stuff, "Halford IV: Made of Metal" sways like a pendulum, from really good, to simply awful. The opener "Undisputed" kicks ass, a explosive start and a knockout punch already at round 1, while "Matador" tires out the rest with its grand performance towards the end of the album. "Like There's No Tomorrow" is another highlight, and one of Roy Z and Mike Chlasciak's finest moments in Halford history (they are doing some amazing work in this album). But songs like "Thunder And Lightning", "Heartless", and "I Know We Stand A Chance" drags down the momentum of the album, and the overall mood.

One songs stands in the middle of this ever rocking pendulum, and that is the final song of the album, "The Mower". Just like any other Metal God fan, I get a freaking huge boner of Rob's screaming falsetto, and he truly nails it in this song. However, the song falls completely flat thanks to its extremely sluggish tempo and mediocre riffing. What is the point of using this amazing voice if you don't have a song that can match up to its furiosity? Such a shame, this song could have been the icing of the cake, but ended up as burned toast.

When this album first came out, I loved it, and I still do 6 years later, although not as much as before. "Halford IV: Made of Metal" will forever stand as the second best Halford album out there (after "Resurecction"). It has some inconsistencies here and there, but overall, it is a well oiled machine that runs on pure metal, and Rob runs it with an iron fist.  It may not be a pretty album, but it is still pretty good.

Songs worthy of recognition: Speed of Sound, Like There's No Tomorrow, Hell Razor

Rating: 7,5/10 Matadors

Monday, August 8, 2016

Only for the week: Part 27

All songs on this segment are gathered in a Spotify playlist, you can find it here

The Classic: System of A Down - Chop Suey!

While it may be most famous for the opening lines, for sounding like complete gibberish, and its extreme main riff, "Chop Suey!" is a surprisingly diverse song, containing some calm parts where Serj Tankian can really shine, and deliver some heavy messages. That has always been the strength of the band, delivering such world criticism in music that is extremely unique.Still, the best part is the parts you can scream along to.

WAKE UP! GRABABRUSHANDPUTALITTLEMAKE-UP!



The Newcomer: Witherscape - The Examiner

With the release of "The Northern Sanctuary", Dan Swanö took another step forward in making Witherscape one of the most interesting projects out in the metal world, creating songs with grand emotions. "The Examiner" is simple in its structure, but extremely diverse in its execution, displaying some fantastic instrumentation and marvelous melodies. Be also on the look out for the subtle solo that makes your skin crawl, in a really good way.

Check out my review of the album this song is from, "The Northern Sanctuary"

Sorry, no video :(

The Personal Favourite: The Omega Experiment - Furor

Where has this band gone? Seriously, when the love child of Dan Wieten and Ryan Aldridge blasted into the scene in 2012 with the self titled debut, I was seriously shocked of this fantastic quality that it contained. "Furor" is the ultimate highlight of the album, combining pure force with extremely epic melodies. One would think that this was taken from some B-side of a Devin Townsend release, because it has almost everything that the Canadian is known for. Hell, Dan even sounds like Devin!

My research tells me that the duo is working on a follow up, but no official word is out yet.I really hope that it matches the quality of "The Omega Experiment", and especially the fury of "Furor".

Check out my review of the album this song is from, "The Omega Experiment"



Stay Metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Witherscape - The Northern Sanctuary (2016)

The name Dan Swanö has always been a sure stamp of pure quality in metal, a man that takes an album to the next level. During his close to 30 year career, he has been a part of countless bands, such as Edge of Sanity, Nightingale, Infestdead, and many, many more. He has also contributed as a guest musician for bands like, Threshold, Therion, Novembers Doom, Omnium Gatherum, and Katatonia. So yeah, there are few people in metal that works as hard as Mr. Swanö. His latest project is Witherscape, a progressive death metal band he fronts together with guitarist and bassist Ragnar Widerberg. They emerged in 2013 with the release of "The Inheritance", a nice album that still felt a little flat, because I had a feeling that it was just an appetizer for what would come.

Three years have gone, and we are now here with Witherscape's sophomore release "The Northern Sanctuary", and let me tell you all, the duo has taken a big step forward here. Just like the album cover, "The Northern Sanctuary" is a grandiose album that takes the listener to a epic adventure, where Dan blends almost every essential element available. The heavy, melodic, epic, fast, slow, and catchy are all in this album, getting a good piece of the spotlight. It is impressive how Witherscape can take all of these ingredients and create a fantastic meal out of it, without turning it into a big, messy soup.

Every aspect of "The Northern Sanctuary" is so beautiful and uplifting, and the flow of the album is just marvelous, making it easy to get through this album in one sitting. The individual songs are strong by themselves as well, showing off some great creativity with different tools. It could be classic metal, excellent prog, or just an epic mastodon that spans over 13 minutes. Every song on "The Northern Sanctuary" has a purpose, a goal to fulfill, and a story to tell, and they all succeed in a fantastic way.

One of the highlights is most certainly the title track, a 13 minute behemoth that gives the album a more than worthy grand finale. It is as epic as it can be, treating us with what could be best described as a summary of the rest of the record. It has a little of everything in it. My personal favourite though is "The Examiner", a really beautiful song where Dan delivers a passionate performance, pushing his vocals to the limit, and Ragnar helps out with fantastic guitar work (that solo i subtle, but extremely effective). But really, every song on this album is of good quality, so do not miss out on any of them.

It is truly a shame that this album only consists of 8 songs (not counting the under 2 minute outro "Vila I Frid", Swedish for rest in peace) and a total play time of 46 minutes. Just as you are getting the most enjoyment out of the album, it ends. Another 10 minutes would not have hurt, but then again, the consistency that this album has is pretty hard to beat, so squeezing in another song would put that consistency in jeopardy. I don't know, "The Northern Sanctuary" is still an amazing album that further solidifies Swanö's legacy, but I wanted even more from it. It is strange, I feel like this project has yet another gear to put in, and hopefully, they do so with their third installment. Can't wait!

Songs worthy of recognition: The Examiner, In The Eyes of Idols, Marionette, The Northern Sanctuary

Rating: 8,5/10 Rapture Ballets

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Subliminal Fear - Escape From Leviathan (2016)

In my search for a substitute for the now disbanded Sybreed, I stumbled upon Subliminal Fear, a melodic death metal band from Italy that have gone through some changes during their 15 year long career. Their first two albums, "Uncoloured World Dying" from 2007 and "One More Breath" from 2012, could almost be classified as thrash metal, relying on fast paces, frenetic riffing, and a lot of elements that are close to cliche in the genre, ultimately ending in mediocre outings.

Fast forward to 2016, and not only had half of the band changed, but the sound was completely transformed as well. Their third album "Escape From Leviathan" is more of a cyber metal album, relying a lot on futuristic sounds and ideas. If you listened to the band's first two albums first, you would have a really hard time figuring out that this was Subliminal Fear, and it is a change that is, at least to me, welcome.

While I should state that the sound on "Escape From Leviathan" is far from original, it is still a good step forward for the band, revived as something that certainly will raise more eyes around the globe. The production helps in this process as well, sounding much cleaner and stronger than on its two predecessors. It definitely feels like the band has taken all of their routine into this record, and diminished every flaw available. The flow is extremely smooth, and the two vocalists Carmine Cristallo and Matteo De Bellis are doing a tremendous job in the classic "good cop, bad cop" approach, creating a intriguing dynamic.

Even with this luxurious exterior, the band still needs killer songs to further widen their fan base, and to my disappointment, they fail here. Not saying that the songs out right suck, most of them are just bland and hard to remember. The whole album holds a similar tempo throughout its 50 minute run time, so the choruses must do extra work to make the songs stick out, but they cannot handle the pressure. It is a bad sign that the catchiest song of them all is a cover of Talk Talk's "Living In Another World", and while it is a good cover, you would not want this as the album's highlight.

Fortunately, a couple of songs does raise the standard of the album, even if they do it in a more anonymous manor. "Nexus" has a great flow to it and an intriguing build up that may not have the epic climax you were searching for, but it still works. "Dark Star Renaissance" was the song that certainly tied together my comparison of this band and Sybreed, because this is pure cyber metal. A great futuristic and epic sound that gives you a sneak peak of the potential that this band has. But my favourite is "Evilution", not only because it is the heaviest of the bunch, but because it has a drive that is really awesome, giving you the feeling that you are in some apocalyptic world in the future were everything is coming down. Jesus, that is both terrifying and accelerating.

While "Escape From Leviathan" could be seen as a complete revolution, maybe even a sign of a band that is not sure of where they are heading, it is still a cool album that could be a fresh start for Subliminal Fear. Sure, it is unpolished and rough around the edges, in the need of better song writing here and there, but the Italians are on the right path, and if they just take their sweet time to perfect their sound, they might get the result that they want. I will look back at "Escape From Leviathan" as a neat little record, and I hope that in 10 years, I will also see it as the album that truly launched the career of Subliminal Fear. Only time will tell.

Songs worthy of recognition: Evilution, Nexus, Dark Star Renaissance

Rating: 7/10 Self-Proclaimed Gods

Monday, August 1, 2016

Halford - Halford III: Winter Songs (2009)

It was no surprise that Rob Halford's solo project would get in some kind of a break once it was clear that the Metal God was back in Judas Priest, touring and releasing the albums "Angel of Retribution" and *gulp* "Nostradamus". So when he finally got the time to create another album with Halford, he gave us another great curve ball, by making a Christmas album instead. That is right, Rob made a freaking Christmas album. I guess I should be glad that the rest of Judas Priest did not tag along for this ride, but still, weird as hell.

"Halford III: Winter Songs" consists of half original material, written either solely by Halford or together with guitarist Roy Z and producer John Baxter, and metalized versions of classic Christmas songs. All of this brings up one single question. Why? Why would he want to do this? It is pure fact that metal and Christmas rarely go along, especially not for an entire album. During my life, I have heard some good renditions of Christmas songs, like King Diamond's "No Present For Christmas", or a black metal version of "Silent Night", but when someone tries to bring metal into this jolly holiday, it usually ends in a crash that is worse than a Christmas light tangle.

As it turns out though, "Winter Songs" is not completely horrible. By all means, it is not a great record, but it does stay afloat. In fact, if you just listen to it, not thinking about the lyrics or the theme at all, you barely would notice that this is a Christmas record. Halford made sure that the heavy attitude were in the front, and that the jolly spirit would get its space, but not take over completely, making this a true metal record. Sure, we have some slip ups here and there where Christmas takes over too much, but they are few, especially when compared to what others have done. So this is indeed a Christmas record, but the music does not suffer because of it.

Let us start with the re worked songs, which all 6 are more or less well known christian psalms that is often heard of during the holiday. Who has not heard of "Oh Holy Night", "Come All Ye Faithful" and "What Child Is This?"? Not surprisingly, these re works are fairly dull, just the same songs with some heavy guitars added to them. The only one I really dig is "We Three Kings", a song that Steve Ouimette already proved could be metalized brilliantly. Only differences between these two versions are that the Halford version has vocals, and that it has a lot less shredding, but it is still really enjoyable when Roy Z and Mike Chlasciak battle it out. Clearly the front runner among the re worked songs.

When it comes to the original songs, we got a really mixed bag of different styles and sounds. There are only 4 original songs, but they are all completely different from each other. "Get Into The Spirit" starts off the album, and is the heaviest song of the album, only utilizing Rob's patented falsetto in a fairly slow, but heavy, tempo. A cool song that does what the name suggests. Skipping to "Christmas For Everyone", and we got a complete rip off of classic, christian Christmas music. It is hard to believe that this is an original song, but it is, and it is so weird. "Light of The World" could also be considered as a classic Christmas tune, but it is more normal, more modern, and it suits the band much better. Finally, we have "I Don't Care", which could be best described as Alice Cooper in a Santa suit. Yep, not what you would expect from Halford.

If you are tired of "White Christmas", "Do They Know It's Christmas", or that Christmas song by The Darkness, then "Halford III: Winter Songs" might be a suitable substitute for you, but just like any other Christmas themed album made by a rock or metal band, it is kind of meh. Sure, it is one of the better albums I have heard, but it is still far from a master piece, especially since there is no sensible reason to even make it. Maybe Rob tried to play Santa and give everyone a lovely gift, and the thought really counts here, but I am sure that we all would have loved a real album underneath our Christmas trees instead.

So from all of us here at Forsaken At The Gates, to all of you, a very merry Christmas... 5 months in advance.

Songs worthy of recognition: We Three Kings, Get Into The Spirit, Light of The World

Rating: 6/10 Faithfuls