Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ghost - Meliora (2015)

The Swedish hype phenomenon Ghost has just gone up the ladder of success in an astounding rate. Whether it is because of the secrecy of who the guys really are or because of their cult like act that made them stand out, it is ultimately the music that has kept them on top. Their soft, dark, and groovy style has really captured quite a following for the band, making them one of the strongest forces in this current age of metal music. They also brings something new to the table with every release, which makes them exciting and unpredictable. And even if it is pretty corny that they keep "changing" singers, or popes, they still hold a presence that is hard to match.

So after the riff cavalcade in "Opus Eponymous", and the vocal focused "Infestisumam", Papa Emeritus III decided to go on a different route than what his predecessors went. Well, not really, since "Meliora" actually takes the best from both worlds, mixing some groovy and demonic riffs together with more pop infused melodies. The album is immensely diverse diverse, having a broad range that should please those who liked one of the previous albums, but not the second one. It makes it clear that this is a band that is going for a unique experience every time they present a new chapter to their satanic tale, and it has certainly worked so far.

The musical inspiration is also incredibly immense, ranging from Blue Öyster Cult to Black Sabbath and even ABBA. I find it amazing that they are able to mix all these different elements and turn it into something truly original. You hear the inspiration in the music, but you recognize it as the sound of Ghost, which is just damn impressive.

What is also impressive is that the band can truly capture the listener into a devilish trance that no other band can. Just listen to that fantastic bass line in "From The Pinnacle To The Pit" and you will get hooked immediately. It certainly is my new favourite song from the band, with its simple, but effective, chorus and extra ordinary guitar and bass combo. There are several other highlights in the album, like the heavenly soft "He Is", the epic opener "Spirit", the evil groove in "Mummy Dust", the old school feel in "Absolution" and the nice and steady "Cirice", but none of them come even close to "From The Pinnacle To The Pit". I just really, really love that song.

But even if "Meliora" is Latin and stands for better, there is at least one thing that "Infestisumam" has in advantage over its successor, and that is the lasting impact. "Infestisumam" had a great bunch of songs that together combined into a full on experience that blew me away and has still stuck on with me since the first time I gave it a spin, a feeling I doubt "Meliora" will give me, mostly because the songs just does not stick to my mind as much. Besides from the two interludes, there is no track that I really dislike in the album, but songs like "Deus In Absentia" and "Mummy Dust" just does not have the power or presence to strike me. It really makes the overall album sound a little like it looks, a little muddy.

No matter what, "Meliora" is just another statement that Ghost is one of the leaders in the heavy musical scene right now. The band keeps on progressing and evolving with their constant changes of popes, and does it with the honor. Every Papa brings something fresh to the band, keeping them from being stale and boring. And while "Meliora" may not be entirely better than the amazing "Infestisumam", it is still a album that holds world class standard. The success, and secrecy, may continue.

Songs worthy of recognition: From The Pinnacle To The Pit, Spirit, He Is, Absolution

Rating: 8,5/10 Majesties

Monday, August 24, 2015

Disturbed - Immortalized (2015)

I did not think of it at the time it happened, but coming out of the shock and starting to think about it, I realized that it was a great decision for Disturbed to take a break from each other. Even if the band have done some amazing work and never released a bad album, they were kind of stuck in a vicious cycle of releasing about the same album over and over again every two or three years. Yes, there are things that does separate the albums apart, but those were only small details. So after a four year long hiatus where the band members have had the chance of relaxing and working on other projects (such as Device and Fight Or Flight), they are now back to bring back their patented bombastic metal style to us all.

But even with this hiatus in mind, it is like the band has not been away at all when you are listening to "Immortalized". The sound is still the same and the band itself is not doing anything hugely different from before. It sounds good and crisp at first, but you eventually remember that it is the same old story going on again. I am not saying that Disturbed are a complete "copy and paste" band, but you cannot get away from the fact that they have not evolved their sound an awful much since they released their debut, "The Sickness" from 2000. five albums and 15 years later, and the band keeps on going in their own, secured and well tested path.

I will give them this though, they are truly acting like full blood professional in their works. The production is big and bold, which fits the music perfectly to get as much power as possible from every beat. Their lyrics are still very interesting and well written, dealing with several different subjects from the evil power of media to the benefits of smoking weed (singer David Draiman have said earlier that about 95% of the songs he has written was done so while being high). Speaking of David, he and his signature vocal style does its thing as well, using it to create melody waves, both hard and soft. And let us not forget the occasional WRAH-AH AH, although those were rare in "Immortalized".

And just like any other Disturbed record, the band is cramming the better songs in the beginning of the album. Not to say that the second half only contains fillers ("Who" and "Never Wrong" does certainly not deserve such a shameful description), but the album is definitely front heavy. The title track leads the assault with its heavy, Corroded like approach, only to burst out into a epic, rebellious chorus that brings those ten thousand fists back up in the air. "The Vengeful One" sure catches your attention without really shining, while "The Light" feels more like it came from the 90's American skate-punk movement, but those two songs does speak to the more commercialized part of the fan base. The other part of that base should appreciate "Open Your Eyes" and "What Are You Waiting For" more, with their power and clear Disturbed vibes. So yeah, listening to the first half of the album is enough to get the full on Disturbed experience, but it is not an excuse for skipping out on the rest entirely, just one or two songs from there is enough to go on.

Lastly, I have to talk about the cover of the album, the Simon and Garfunkel classic "The Sound of Silence". Disturbed has done some impressive covers back in the day (for instance, "Land of Confusion"), and I do think it is an interesting interpretation of the song, but does it fit the band? I am not completely sure on that. The voice of David Draiman is a little too dark to give the song an extra dimension, which is so important since the singing is a big part in the song and the emotions it brings out. However, the band did manage to give the track a great, epic orchestral coating that seems fitting, and this cover certainly helps in giving the album some variety. It also helps in making the following song, "Never Wrong", seem tougher and heavier than what it actually is. So I do think it ultimately was a good fit in "Immortalized".

The hiatus have not changed Disturbed one bit, and that is both a good and a bad thing. The good news is that they hold the same quality as they did before the temporary break up. The bad news however, is that the band is still as predictable as always. Disturbed has certainly became the Nu-metal movement's answer to AC/DC and Motörhead. They practically makes the same album over and over again, only with slight changes here and there. It still sounds terrific, and "Immortalized" is certainly a more lively album than its predecessor, "Asylum", but the band does not take any risks at all. The hiatus has served them well, and I am glad that they are back at full swing, but this album could be the start for the band to end up in their old ways, which will probably lead to another hiatus in another 10-15 years, or even worse, a permanent break up.

Songs worthy of recognition: Immortalized, The Vengeful One, Never Wrong

Rating: 6,5/10 Lights

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bullet For My Valentine - Venom (2015)

It is more or less the same old story for the Welshmen in Bullet For My Valentine now a days. Everyone wants the band to get back to their origin, more specifically, their two ground breaking records "The Poison" and "Scream Aim Fire", and it is also something the band has wanted to. Their last effort, "Temper Temper", had the intentions right, but the fairly hollow song material left me and many others longing for something more meaty, something that would last longer than just 5 seconds in your head. So with the path laid out, it was just for the band to piece it all together, which they seem to have done.

Because "Venom" is more or less the album the fans have been waiting for. The band's fifth full length effort is clearly their hardest record since "Scream Aim Fire", which most of the thanks there goes to Matthew Tuck who is fully fit to consistently scream without hurting his voice significantly. But it is also Tuck and Paget's wicked riffs that gives "Venom" its hard edge and aggressive attitude. It got that overall feeling that both of the two first album have, so the band succeeded in their quest to reestablish the good side of their signature sound, something that should win back some of their older fans.

When it comes to the songs themselves, I can instantly say that none of them will get the same amount of commercial impact as some of the band's biggest hits, but who gives a rat's ass, I do not think that would have happened anyway, even if they wrote the 21st century equivalent to "Nothing Else Matters". It is unmistakeably the band's style that is shown here, a album mixed with aggressive maulers and softer, melodic ballads that together twines a versatile record. And with this pack of songs, that holds quite a good standard, it is a strong package that the band is presenting us.

In this record, I think I have found myself two songs that I will listen to a lot in the coming future. We have the strong and emotional anthem "You Want A Battle? (Here's A War)" were I give the choir big props for giving this track its epic feel. I also love "Army of Noise", a song that holds the speed and thrust of a space shuttle. It is definitely the meanest and most powerful creation the band has created since "Scream Aim Fire", and together with a sing along friendly chorus, it hits the nail on your head instantly, leaving a lasting impression on you.

Those two songs alone brings the album up there along the first two albums quality wise, and several other songs like "Broken" and "No Way Out" is helping out to make "Venom" enjoyable, but the album does lose its steam the further it goes, leaving me to think if the band ran out of ideas and just slammed in fillers to make the fans happy. Let me tell you this guys, you do not make your fans happy by rushing out half finished work. If songs like "Hell Or High Water" and "Skin" would have been worked on a little more, then they could have turned out fine, but in their current state, they are pretty boring and bland. So maybe the band should take a little longer working on their next album so this unfinished feeling does not repeat itself.

So yeah, the band keeps on improving, taking step by step to reach the same heights that they reached in the early stages of their career. Because even if "Venom" does not have enough material to make a great, solid album, it still holds a couple of highlights to bring a smile to the listeners. The band sure has evolved from their struggles, and I am sure that this progress will keep on going at least another album. But for every album that goes by, I get more and more doubtful of the band ever exceeding their first two albums. Let us hope that they prove me wrong.

Songs worthy of recognition: Army of Noise, You Want A Battle? (Here's A War), Broken

Rating: 7/10 Pariahs

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fear Factory - Genexus (2015)

As a reviewer, I sometimes find albums that I initially did not intend to write about, but after giving it some time and listens, I find it so god damn good that I could not resist the urge to let the world know of what I feel. This is without a shadow of doubt one of these rare moments. While I do know about Fear Factory's existence, I have not really gotten into the band, getting the feeling that they are more machines than humans that control the music. I did listen to the band's previous effort, the 2012 "The Industrialist", but did not really care for it, so I thought when going into "Genexus" that it would be around the same thing, and same experience. I was dead wrong.

"Genexus" shows up the band and all of its strength in an impressive way, and in a production filter that just pounds you like a jack hammer. Mixing the ultra heavy groove of Strapping Young Lad with dark industrialism, Fear Factory comes out way more focused and passionate than when I heard them 3 years ago. It is almost like I am hearing a completely different band. And the quality the members put out is just stunning. Burton C. Bell's perfect blend between clean and harsh vocals, Mike Heller's powerful drum beats, and most importantly, the bone crushing, face melting riffs of Dino Cazares all help out to make this album a stronger mechanical force than Terminator.

Even with the amazing delivery, it is the songs that define "Genexus", making it the force it has become. Almost all of the songs balance perfectly between being both heavy and almost commercially attractive, mostly thanks to the melodic and catchy choruses. But the thing that impress me the most is the extremely high consistency. No song suck, all of them is worthy of a good, long notice, and in addition to that, we have a couple of tunes that makes the peak of the album as high as it almost possibly can go. "Genexus" is just pure quality from start to finish.

All of the songs are clearly related to each other, but they still got their own personalities that makes them stand out. From the über epic "Protomech" to the super groovy "Regenerate", "Genexus" is flexing all of its different muscles, showing all details in perfect lighting. And even the weirder parts of the albums sounds like they fit perfectly (a perfect example of that, the chorus to "Anodized", which somehow reminds me more of Morrisey than anything metal related). Everything just feels so well thought of, nothing placed haphazardly.

I also have to give the band credit for their lyrics. Because even if almost all of the songs speak about humans turning into machines or something similar to that, they still manage to not make it too stale or boring. Choosing their words wisely, emphasizing the darkest and heaviest part with harsh vocals. It is also this song writing that even makes a sleeping pill like "Expiration Date" a interesting listen. Just watch for yourself in this small outtake from said song.

You're blind to what's in front of you
What do you know about the truth
Devalued as soon as we're cast
We were never made to last
Just bodies made and fabricated
We're fighting towards our life extension
We're living for expiration

Simply amazing.

This really makes me wonder, was "The Industrialist" not a true showing of Fear Factory? My first full experience of the band almost hindered me from giving "Genexus" a chance, but fortunately, I had the sense to give the band a second chance, and it paid off big time. "Genexus" is a industrial metal fan's wet dream, a heavy, groovy, and mechanized mayhem that runs like clockwork, never wasting a second of ones life. I never thought a single album would completely turn my view of a band, but this one did. It had made me curious over what the band has done in the past and I want to know if they have made anything else that has the same amount of quality to it. So thank you "Genexus" for reinstating my respect for Fear Factory, and for making 2015 a lot more interesting.

Songs worthy of recognition: Regenerate, Autonomous Combat System, Anodized, Dielectric, Protomech

Rating: 9,5/10 Soul Hackers

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Symphony X - Underworld (2015)

There is no metal band in the world that can mix progressive structures with heavy and technical riffs as good as Symphony X. The band really brought the metal to the progressive music scene when they emerged back in 1994. Sure, Dream Theater was more or less the first band to have metal influences mixed with prog, but it was Symphony X who took it to the next level. So whenever the New Jersey boys brings forth another album, I celebrate, especially this time since the lead singer, Russell Allen, has scattered away several times during the 4 years since the last album took place to do some side work, both successful (Allen/Lande) and not so successful (Adrenaline Mob, Level 10). Feels good to see him back again in his rightful element.

Following the 2011 release "Iconoclast" (one of my favourites from that year), the band's 9th effort "Underworld" does have some resemblance to it, making it a very logical follow up, but it has enough own intentions to make it strong and independent among the other 8 Symphony X creations. The heavy, hard hitting attitude that defined the predecessor is certainly back, but it is being mixed with a couple of slower ballads to give the album more dynamic. I do like these songs ("Without You" and "Swan Song") and think that they show a new nice side of the band, but I came for the metal, and it is the thing that appeals to me the most in the end.

The band sets its foot down instantly with the song "Nevermore", a heavy assault that shows exactly what Symphony X knows and does best. And even if the song does have some similarities to Adrenaline Mob, it just goes to show how good that band could have really been if they just got their head out of their asses. The band keeps hammering on in the same style in a title track that contains a bone chilling chorus. "Underworld" is certainly not as heavy as "Iconoclast" was, but it is still a heavy piece that has more melody mixed into it.

Another thing I notice is the reoccurring theme of hell and darkness in this album, and that is because the whole album is loosely based on the all time classic "Dante's Inferno" by Dante Alighieri. It is not a pure concept album, but the theme is still clear to see and easy to recognize, especially in songs like "To Hell And Back" and "Run With The Devil". The band manages to keep a strong, cohesive sound throughout the album, a dark sound that still has a glimmer of light in it, making it hauntingly beautiful. A strong imagery that suits the band extremely well.

Overall, this is another strong outing by the X, and surprisingly, a step up from their latest effort. "Underworld" shows a nice variety, and also still contains a good, cohesive thread throughout all of the songs, making "Underworld" a very pleasant experience. The band shows once again why they are one of the top dogs within the genre, and will be for the years to come. The high quality records keeps on coming, and I do not mind if they keep coming up with some more, even if I have to wait another 4 or 5 years.

Songs worthy of recognition: Underworld, Nevermore, To Hell And Back, Swan Song

Rating: 8,5/10 Legends

Friday, August 7, 2015

Gus G. - Brand New Revolution (2015)

You cannot accuse Gus G. to be a typical Greek. Unlike most of his fellow countrymen who helped getting Greece into the financial situation they are at today, Gus G. takes action and keeps himself busy, never stopping, just keeps on rolling. Together with his main band Firewind and his partnership with Ozzy Osbourne, the guitar virtuoso revived his own solo project last year with the professional, but straggly "I Am The Fire". Now he is back with another attempt, trying to make a "Brand New Revolution" and hopefully give this project a real boost.

For those of you who listened to the last album, "Brand New Revolution" should not surprise you one bit. This album is like a trimmed down version of its predecessor, lowering the number of guest artists and putting more focus in making a more cohesive album. Even if these guest artists, including Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), Mats Levén (Candlemass), Jeff Scott Soto and Jacob Bunton, are doing a good job, it is still Gus himself who rightfully steals the show. The man knows how to handle a guitar and he does it with quite the honor, wheter it is in a exquisite solo or in a breathtaking instrumental.

However, it still surprise me that Gus still seem to show what a talented show writer he is instead of showing his true skills as a guitar player. Because it is like this, that the only instrumental in this album, "The Quest", is the best song of the album. One reason to this is that most of the songs here are rather bland, but it is also because Gus riffs and shreds with such ferocity and heart that it really comes through the speakers. I would give a lot to hear a full instrumental album by the man (There is one existing called "Guitar Master", Gus's first solo album, but I would not recommend it to anyone since it is extremely primitive, he has grown a lot since that was released).

The rest of the songs variates between standard hard rock songs, light metal, and half cheesy 80's-esque rock ballads. A weird mix that did not work in the last album, and is not working here either. I do like a couple of songs though. Elize Ryd fits perfectly in with "What Lies Below", a half Amaranthe, half Lacuna Coil creation that feels genuinely original compared to its brethren. The title track has a nice hooky chorus, that could have been faster and have more edge to it, but still works as it is (especially with that excellent solo). And while "We Are One" might have worked better for Papa Roach, it is still a decent and easily likeable tune that comes down without any resistance.

Most of the songs are just bland, forgettable tunes that goes in one ear and comes out the other. It is like a Teflon pan, it does not stick, what so ever. How can a man that has created such catchy tunes as "Head Up High", "I Am The Anger" and "World On Fire" write such boring material? I get that he does not want to take the Firewind sound into his solo project (even though he took the band emblem and made a similar copy to himself) and that he wants to spread his wings, but he must surely be capable of writing better stuff than this, right? Well, one could only hope...

No, this did not really appeal to me either. "Brand New Revolution" has the same problems as "I Am The Fire", only in a smaller scale. This is an improvement for the Greek, but he still has some way to go to make a good solo record. I suggest adding more instrumentals, which showcases his skills, and invite only one guest artist to do the vocal work, or even better, hire one so he can do live shows as well in the future. It worked for Slash, and it should work for Gus. One thing however I would not change is Gus' drive, and I hope that drive and passion brings out a new Firewind album soon enough, its been too long since the last one. Bring the fire!

Songs worthy of recognition:What Lies Below, The Quest, Brand New Revolution

Rating: 5,5/10 Demons Inside

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Joe Satriani - Shockwave Supernova (2015)

The instrumental land scape has changed fairly drastically in about the last decade or so, seeing a bunch of bands blooming out, trying to take it as far as possible with complex rhythms, technical playing, and reinventing the genre again and again. Fortunately, there is at least one thing with the genre that has stayed the same since the 80's, and that something is Joe Satriani. The American guitar virtuoso has been working in a steady pace throughout his career, releasing new material every other year, and shows with each release that he not only masters the guitar like no other, but also know exactly how to make a great instrumental album come to life.

Judging from the cover and the name of the man's 15th studio effort, I almost thought that "Shockwave Supernova" would be a very different Satriani album, a more powerful and heavier effort. But no, he fooled me there. It is the same Satch boogie that has been dazzling us for years, with a broad range of inspirations from the worlds of jazz, blues, rock and more. This broad range can be tough for some listeners who has limited taste in music, but it definitely shows just how well diverse the man really is.

There is an overall nice flow to the album, but I did wish that it had some more personality to it. The overall structure is awfully similar to the one in "Unstoppable Momentum", making it seem like Joe just used a "paint by number" approach to the whole song creation process. But in the end, it is the quality of the craftsmanship that really matters, and you know that Joe will bring out a stunning display.

There are a couple of songs that stands out from the rest of the pack in this album. The opening title track has a really good flow, almost telling a story without uttering a single word. Then we have "On Peregrine Wings", that is just a stunning track where Joe is showing off a bunch of different techniques and styles, but still manages to make the song sound like one whole piece. And that beautiful riff on the "chorus" is just magic. "A Phase I'm Going Through" shows just how good of a shredder Joe is, giving us the most technical riffs and solos he has done in years. Also listen to the beautiful "Lost In A Memory", the crystal clear "Cataclysmic", and the sweet cruising "If There Is No Heaven".

Yep, Joe Satriani has created another well constructed effort here in "Shockwave Supernova", a album with great variety and fantastic showmanship. But there is something with this humongous variety that bugs me, because I want to see Joe create a full album that focuses on one main style, instead of just showing his whole tool box album after album. We know you are a well rounded artist Joe, and that is fantastic, but now I want to see some concepts, a album filled with songs that steers in the same direction. Can you do that for me please? Of course you can, I believe in you, but it is ultimately up to you if you want to do it or not, and to be honest, I am fine with it either way, just do your thing and bring out some stunning music.

Songs worthy of recognition: On Peregrine Wings, Lost In A Memory, A Phase I'm Going Through

Rating: 7,5/10 Scarborough Stomps

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Live review: Paul Di'Anno at James Rockbar, Halmstad, Sweden

Soooooo... how did it all come to this? The original voice of Iron Maiden, the greatest and biggest heavy metal band ever emerged, coming to Sweden, 34 years after he got kicked out of the band, for a 4 day, 4 stop mini tour where the main set list consisted of the two albums he contributed with? The metal gods sure work in strange ways, but it is safe to say that Paul Di'Anno has not had it easy since he was replaced by Bruce Dickinson. He has done a series of different project, without any real success, which has almost forced him to live on that he was a part of Maiden's two first albums ("Iron Maiden" and "Killers").

So I had no expectations at all going into the show in James Rockbar, Halmstad, a show that would not have happened if not the HFL festival in Motala canceled out. No matter what, I was ready for a night with some old school Maiden tunes, probably the last time he would ever perform these gems. But first, the opening act.

Opening act: Revelations

Opening up for Paul is the Stockholm band Revelations, who plays classic 70's heavy metal, of course heavily inspired by such bands as Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden (huh, what a coincidence).

They played around 6 or 7 songs during the 40 minutes they were on stage, and it was a fairly solid set that may have started out a little cautious, but improved more as the show went on. Since I have not heard of the band before, it was also the first time I heard the songs, and it was the darker, heavier songs that got to me the most. Especially Sun of Morning and Grip of Darkness impressed me a lot with their dark atmosphere and hypnotizing musicality. Definitely got me interested in what else the band could do.

The band itself did a great job, squeezing the most out of the few that dared to step towards the stage (est. 30 people). I especially liked the singer, Lasse Gudmundsson, who not only did look like a rock star, but sang as one as well. His voice is kind of a mix between Joacim Cans and Rob Halford, which for me spells instant success.

The band did an overall nice job, but since they were opening up the night, they did not play for such a big audience, which is a shame since they deserved more. Oh well, the band is working on their debut record, which should be out soon enough, and you can be sure that I will listen to it whenever it comes. If all of the songs performed this night is in that album, then I am sure it will be a nice listen.

Best: "Grip of Darkness" and "Sun of Morning"

Worst: The band deserved a bigger crowd

Rating: 7,5/10

Set list (not necessarily in this order):
Grip of Darkness
Strange Dreams
Sun of Morning
Time Bomb (think it was called that, idk)
+ 1 or 2 more songs

Main act: Paul Di'Anno

Let me first tell you about the beginning of this night, the 25th of July 2015. Some time before Revelations even started, I was at the bar, having a beer when this peculiar short, sort of fat and bald fellow came into the building, walking on crutches slowly across the floor. I was just thinking "who is that guy? How is he gonna get through the night?" when it suddenly occurred to me. That short, sort of fat and bald dude was Paul Di'Anno himself! Yep, you read that correctly.

And if it was not obvious that he was hurt before, it got crystal clear when he entered the stage, barely making it over 3 steps of stairs, and slowly walking to a chair that was placed in the center. Apparently, he was suffering from a bad knee or something and was waiting for surgery back in England, but instead of sitting home and, in his own words, watch TV and scratch his balls, he might as well be out touring. Should once again be noted that this was the last stop of a 4 day, 4 show tour. That is freaking nuts, the man was in serious pain and he still got up there, ready to deliver a show. Respect!

The beast arises... slowly
Anyway, not surprisingly, the whole set list was focused on the only thing we remember Paul Di'Anno from, his contribution in the two first Iron Maiden albums. All the hits was played during the evening by Paul and his supporting band (couldn't remember what they were called, but they were from Norway), everything from the instrumentals "Genghis Khan" and "Transylvania", the blood pumping "Running Free", and the amazing and versatile "Phantom of The Opera". Only two songs from Paul's career after Maiden was represented in the set list, and both "The Beast Arises" and "Children of Madness" was received mildly by the close to half full local (est. 200 people perhaps). It was clear that the audience wanted Maiden tunes, and nothing else.

The only song that was left out was, a little surprisingly, "Iron Maiden". The excellent punk attack would have been the perfect way to finish the show, but instead, the ending of the show was more or less a cover medley. Starting with the Ramones classic "Blitzkrieg Bop" and some Sex Pistols song I did not recognize (it was definitely not "Anarchy In The U.K."), it really started to go down hill from there, but the ending was saved with two Judas Priest classics, "You've Got Another Thing Coming" and "Breaking The Law". The crowd seemed okay with it and sang loudly together with Paul. Still, feels dumb to make other musicians songs as your grand finale.

But how did Paul perform? Well, I hate to say this, but it is obvious that he is on the final stretch of his career. I barely heard his voice throughout the concert, and the few times I did hear him, he did not sing all too well. It was obvious that he was exhausted and tired, but I still want to give him kudos for sticking it all the way through, wanting to give the people a show. His small talk was great, not giving any fucks over dicks on the dance floor or about whiny pop stars that cancel shows for a common cold.

Who said you have to stand up to rock?
Understandingly, there was no encore, Paul had given his all throughout the around 1 and a half hour show that went on to about 2 am. He got himself some much needed rest, and I really hope that he gets better soon. If he does not, then how the hell is he gonna handle his new musical project Architects of Chaoz? No matter what, this evening was memorable for a lot of reasons, but the thing that probably will stick with me the most is the man's fighting spirit, his drive to give the metal heads in Halmstad a great show. Yes, the show had flaws, but the upsides of it definitely outweighs the downsides. So thank you Paul Di'Anno, for coming here and playing for us, and not sitting in front of your TV, scratching your balls.

Best: "Phantom of The Opera"

Worst: What's with that big cover medley as the big finale?

Rating: 8/10

Set list (all Iron Maiden songs except noted):
The Ides of March
Murders In The Rue Morgue
The Beast Arises (Killers song)
Children of Madness (Paul Di'Anno's Battlezone song)
Genghis Khan
Phantom of The Opera
Charlotte The Harlot
Running Free
Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones cover)
some Sex Pistols song
You've Got Another Thing Coming (Judas Priest cover)
Breaking The Law (Judas Priest cover)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Amon Amarth - Fate of Norns (2004)

After a massive assault in "Versus The World", Amon Amarth took a small step back in their 5th attempt, entitled "Fate of Norns". I instantly notice that it does not have the same ferocious will to bombard the listener with crushing riffs and blast beats like the previous 4 albums have. But what is it that had been changed during the two years between this album and its predecessor? Hegg himself says that the album is more mature, which does explain the more toned down approach, but it does not explain why the album just feels so lack luster.

Call me Sonic The Hedgehog, but I mostly like things fast. I want action, something to get me going, and Amon Amarth has given me just that with their previous releases. But on "Fate of Norns", they give me something else, a new direction that does not necessarily show a new side of the band, but instead proves that the Swedes are versatile and can make albums with unique personalities. It may not have worked towards my full approval, but I still think it is a bold, nice step for the band, which prevents them from the so called "Motörhead" syndrome, which basically is making the same album over and over again, changing very little.

Even if I was sceptical of the change at first, several strong songs did make me appreciate the album a lot more. The most obvious one is of course "The Pursuit of Vikings", a Amon Amarth classic that still to this date has a permanent slot on the band's tour set list. The tempo and attitude of the song is quite mediocre, but it is the nice lyrics and the fantastic riffs that really lifts the song, making it stand out. The opener "An Ancient Sign of Coming Storm" also shows some great riffing, while the title track has some of the band's best lyrics so far, about a father, watching his young child die and later bury him. Strong stuff that fits so well with the mood of the music.

The only song I would consider to be closely related to the band's early work is "Valkyries Ride", a dark song where especially Fredrik Andersson and Johan Hegg shows their evil side, bringing out a true demonic performance. Certainly one of the better songs in this album, especially since it is the only one in that category that comes out of "Fate of Norns". I do wished that "Fate of Norns" showed some more anger, because it just feels sort of stiff, like the band is too comfortable with their current situation. If the band had gone a little more buck wild, both in performance and in production, they might have turned this into another true master piece.

I am definitely two sided over "Fate of Norns", mostly because it is a different album from its predecessors. I still enjoy it, but I feel like a junkie whom has not gotten a fix in a while, I got the withdrawals for something fast and fierce. However, it cannot be easy for this album to follow up such an amazing piece as "Versus The World", having a whole lot to live up to, but it still holds up fairly well, thanks to a couple of great, stand out songs, and a fresh intention that shows a forward drive. The fate still shines bright for the band, even if this is a slight slip up.

Songs worthy of recognition: Fate of Norns, An Ancient Sign of Coming Storm, The Pursuit of Vikings

Rating: 6,5/10 Arsons

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cradle of Filth - Hammer of The Witches (2015)

When Cradle of Filth first was formed back in the early 90's, the band was one of the pioneers and creators of extreme metal, showing off a evil the world has never seen. Now, over 20 years later, they are about as harmful as a cup of milk, especially compared to all of the endless black metal and satanic acts that is out there today. But is it possible for the English band to gain back some of the fearful respect they acquired in the early stages of their career? This new release could make the answer to lean towards the yes side.

It is not that the band's 11th effort "Hammer of The Witches" is their most terrifying record yet, but it does contain a sort of self awareness, in which the band seem to understand that they have to stop focusing on the horror and the darkness, and instead focus on what really matters, the music. And they really seem to do just that, even if some of the songs here are on the lighter side, "Hammer of The Witches" still holds that Cradle of Filth vibe that we know all too well. It is fast, technical, dark, but not as heavy as several of their previous efforts.

The quality is there though, and it is shown instantly with "Yours Immortality...", a track with a lot of mean riffing, blasting beats, and a wide diversity. And the strong attacks from the band just keeps on coming. With songs like "Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess" and "Blackest Magick In Practice", the band has a great foundation to stand on, and to build upon.

But for some odd reason, the band loses momentum further into the album, making "Hammer of The Witches" a "are we there yet?" experience. The record is generally a pleasant listen, but it would not have hurt the Cradle to cut one or two songs to make it tighter. And the fact that I got a version which includes two bonus tracks (both fairly mediocre) does not help the matter.

Despite being a little too long, "Hammer of The Witches" is an interesting album that certainly fulfill your needs for a daily dose of good, demonic metal. It definitely seem like their move to Nuclear Blast has served the band well, first delivering a nice offering in "The Manticore And Other Horrors", and now this. I do not think that Dani Filth and the rest of his crew will ever relive the time when they were one of the more evil acts in the business, but they should gain back some recognition with this excellent release.

Songs worthy of recognition: Blackest Magick In Practice, Yours Immortality..., "Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess"

Rating: 7,5/10 Christian Soldiers