Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lancer - Mastery (2016)

I have followed Lancer from the start, or at least from their first full length release and onwards. Their first two releases of NWoBHM influenced power metal are really good and very enjoyable, but still lacked something to elevate the band to the next level. Well, they have at least made a move to make that leap, signing with Nuclear Blast right before the unveiling of their third release. It still does not have to mean anything though, because it is the music that speaks the loudest in the end.

So has anything changed since "Second Storm"? Well, the sound is still fairly similar, but the NWoBHM influence is taking more of a backseat ride here, and the band turns up the heaviness instead. This makes "Mastery" sound more like a mix of Stratovarius and HammerFall, blending heavy hitters with soaring melodies. It is a parable that makes even more sense when you hear the vocalist Isak Stenvall, who sings with a high pitch that is not too far off from either Joacim Cans or Timo Kotipelto. In other words, he fits very well with the music.

Even if you cannot unsee these parables, it is pretty hard to not enjoy the music in "Mastery", because most of it pumps your adrenaline in just the right way, while also being really catchy. The title track roars on in an astounding way, with the band showing off all of their power, while both "Widowmaker", "Envy of The Gods", and "Future Millennia" leans more on the melodies, while still maintaining a fast momentum. While I feel like not all of the power songs in this record does not work (looking at you "Dead Raising Towers" and "Iscariot"), it is still enough quality here to make "Mastery" an excellent power metal outing.

What does surprise me though is that the two slower songs on this record, "Victims of The Nile" and "World Unknown", not  only brings some good variation, but actually shines really bright in comparison to a lot of its brethren. Especially "Victims of The Nile" is a great moody song that may be the longest song on this record (7 minutes and 36 seconds), but the band manages to hold it together in an impressive way, changing tempos and intensity throughout its run time. It reminds me of some of HammerFall's finest ballad moments, only this one is more versatile and exciting.

While the band is doing a really nice job on this record, I feel like the guitars are almost getting lost in the mix, never really standing out. It is pretty hard to extinguish that Lancer is a double guitar band, and the production is definitely to blame here. I find this especially odd in the song "Freedom Eaters", a song that has a long solo part at the end where the guitar sure gets its moment, but I remember the following bass and drum solo more. Still a great song, but it is exhibit A in why the guitars are not getting the love they deserve in this album.

Nonetheless, I think that "Mastery" not only holds the same standard as both "Lancer" and "Second Storm", but it might even be their best record so far. Sure, it has its flaws, and the band still has some kinks to work through, but they are on the right path. This heavier style works really well, and if the band keeps evolving in this direction, then the recognition will probably be even greater. Great job lads!

Songs worthy of recognition: Mastery, Future Millennia, Victims of The Nile, Freedom Eaters

Rating: 8/10 Iscariots

www.lancermetal.com/
twitter.com/lancermetal

More reviews of Lancer
Lancer
Second Storm

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Grave Digger - Healed By Metal (2017)

"Healed By Metal". Let that title sink in for a bit. Yes, it is one of the cheesier ones out there, but what can you really expect from a band like Grave Digger, who has been in the game for a lot of year, doing their own thing. The point is, as long as the band holds its own weight, you know that the end result will be a good one, which is usually the case with these Germans.

Well, not much has changed since 2014, which is when they last released an album ("Return of The Reaper"). It is still catchy German heavy metal with its roots planted in the medieval age. The music is familiar, the themes as well, leaving no fan disappointed. Sure, it is cheesy here and there (especially in the title track), but it works really well.

What ultimately defines a Grave Digger record is the quality of the songs, and we got several ones that has the potential to knock you off your feet. "When Night Falls" is an instant classic, a powerful charge with sweet riffs, solos, and an epic chorus that was made for loud mouthed metal heads. Another mauler is "Call For War", and even if it might be stolen from Sabaton's classic recipe of bombastic power metal, it is still a blood pumping song that suits the band very well. Then we have "Hallelujah", which... well.. do I really need to mention that it makes you a believer? Thought so.

There are a couple of songs though that are more reminiscent of classic rock than pure heavy metal, and the consequences for the album is that it becomes less cohesive in its sound. While the bonus song "Bucket List" does not make any sense at all, I do think that this different sound worked to a small extent. "Free Forever" has a really nice catchy chorus that does not take too much space, but it just does not have the punch to make me love it. Punch is something "Kill Ritual" do have in its chorus, which is arguably the catchiest one in the album, but there is something about it that makes it feel stolen. Possibly from some late 80's band or something. Oh well, it is a really fun song, and the band truly shows it with their playful performance.

While the album does have several nice outings here and there, I almost feel like "Healed By Metal" had the same main problem as its predecessor, that it just lacks the momentum to carry through the entire playtime. Songs like "Laughing With The Dead" and "Ten Commandments of Metal" tries to change up the tempo, but it ends up holding the album back instead. I guess this is a problem only a few of you would agree with me on, but I just feel like it is a missed opportunity here, they could have done it better. With that said though, it is still obvious that the band has a lot of fire left in them, so they will probably not hang up their instruments just yet.

So yeah, "Healed By Metal" may not truly possess any healing powers that would revolutionize the medical system, but it eases the pain that we all experience when we go on for a prolonged time without our favourite type of music. It is an enjoyable album with several good hits here and there, nothing too ground breaking or anything, but comfortable enough for your everyday listening session. Yes, Grave Digger delivers yet another good, solid album with good German heavy metal.

Songs worthy of recognition: When Night Falls, Call For War, Kill Ritual

Rating: 7/10 Lawbreakers

www.grave-digger.de/
twitter.com/GRAVEDIGGERclan

More reviews of Grave Digger
Return of The Reaper

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Slayer - God Hates Us All (2001)

There is no surprise that Slayer chose "God Hates Us All" as their next album title. While I do not think it is a direct reference to what they did in their last album, I can imagine that God did not like that one all too much (or anyone else for that matter). No, the title stems instead from the track "Disciple", and it is both an impactful slogan and a good hint at what the band is speaking about in the lyrics. No matter what, it is also a sign that the band was back at their old tricks again, making millions of fans breath a sigh of relief.

Yes, "God Hates Us All" is no weird 90's nu-metal experiment, it is straight up Slayer thrash instead. While it may not have the same furious spirit as some of their early releases, it is still good thrashing fun for the entire family, just what you want from a band like Slayer. The guitars are angry, the vocals are angry, the drums are angry, and the bass is as happy as can be... just kidding, it is angry as well. You can just feel the anger that fuels this album, and it is a very lovely feeling.

The band is obviously in the hunt for redemption with this album, and they do get it to some extent. I do think that the songs here though are ranging between good to mediocre, and the lack of a true knock out punch makes "God Hates Us All" feel a little more lack luster in its approach. There is still a lot of songs to enjoy here though, like "Disciple", "Exile", "Cast Down" and "War Zone", so you can tell that the band has not been lazy in the song writing process.

With that said though, I feel like "God Hates Us All" is an album that could have been done even better if the band had cut out a couple of songs. The album is not really too long (roughly 42 minutes), but it is packed with 13 songs, which is the most we have seen in a single Slayer album still to this date. With some of the fat trimmed away, this could have been a fantastic album. It is still a pretty damn consistent album from start to finish, but that makes me want a more compressed version even more. After all, the best Slayer albums are short and sweet.

What more can I really say here? This is the Slayer that we want, not that weird band we got in "Diabolus In Musica". "God Hates Us All" is angry, heavy, and overall a really solid album where the band never really shines, but delivers the goods in a very admirably way. It is a comeback that was much needed, and it shot the band into the 21st century with some good momentum. All in all, it is vintage Slayer, no more, no less.

Songs worthy of recognition: Disciple, Cast Down, War Zone

Rating: 7/10 Paybacks

www.slayer.net/
twitter.com/slayer

More reviews of Slayer
Show No Mercy
Hell Awaits
Reign In Blood
South of Heaven
Seasons In The Abyss
Divine Intervention
Diabolus In Musica
Repentless

Monday, January 9, 2017

Mechina - As Embers Turn To Dust (2017)

Another year, another Mechina album on the 1st of January, a tradition that has gone on for 5 straight years now. Usually, when a band spits out albums in such a frenetic pace, it starts to wear out after a while, sounding sloppy for every oncoming release. Somehow, Mechina has not fallen into this trap yet, because even if all of their albums are fairly similar in sound and style, they still hold an incredibly high quality to their music, with no visible cracks so far in its foundation.

I think the main reason for the band's continued success is their drive and focus, basically ignoring any tours or shows to make every new release as good as possible. The concept helps a lot too, a concept that has been ongoing since 2011 and has only reached the halfway point with the release of "As Embers Turn To Dust". It is hard to take the whole concept in, but it seems like it tells us about the colonization process for one of their previous albums... I mean one planet, probably "Acheron" since this album has a lot of similar features. Some Vanguards leads these humans to a new planet, where the cyborg Vanguards ultimately starts eliminating all organic life on the planet, creating a fully mechanized era on the new planet. Granted, I could be awfully wrong here, so it might be better if you check out their Wiki page to get some more sense into all of this.

The music is clear cut at least, and it is as epic and heavy as ever. The band thunders on with their unique mix of industrial, death, melodic, and sci-fi metal, carrying the album through time and space. It should come as no surprise that not much has changed in the sound itself, but I notice that we have more songs that sticks with you instantly. The opener "Godspeed, Vanguards" is a good proof of that, containing an epic aura that is created by a grand arrangement and David Holch's apocalyptic voice. That voice of his is awesome at creating the right emotions, like the despair he has in "The Tellurian Pathos" is a hair riser of the highest level, and his harsher vocals in "Creation Level Event" has that frantic madness that simply works in this kind of song. It has been a main concern in the past that the songs does not stand out, so I am glad to see that is not the case with this album.

The performances on this album is great as usual, and we once again get a healthy dose of Mel Rose here, bringing some extra beauty to the music. I especially love her performance in "The Synesthesia Signal", where her fragile voice is in the middle of this chaotic madness, creating an incredibly tense song. I still wish though that the guitar could step forward more often, since it is very rare that I find riffs that grabs a hold of me. Oh well, it is how the band has always done it, and it is just a minor complaint for me (and probably a more major complaint for someone else).

Even with this impressive song catalog, "As Embers Turn To Dust" has one thing that is kind of off putting, and it is that this album has several long instrumental parts that builds atmosphere, nothing new to the band in any way, but they are bigger than before. Still, I do not think they take away an awful lot from the experience, but it does make it harder for me to give a complete opinion of the album, because while it works as beautiful transitions, the momentum suffers from it.

So, halfway into this epic multi album saga, where do I put "As Embers Turn To Dust"? The band keeps on evolving in several ways, especially in both song writing and production, but is it enough to make it last through the rest of this fresh year? Probably not, but it is still a great achievement to put out new music every year, without losing too much of the quality in both music and story. Mechina never ceases to amaze, and while it will be hard to acquire any new fans from this record, it is still a welcome new year's tradition that I hope will continue on for at least one more year. Godspeed, Mechina.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Synesthesia Signal, "Godspeed, Vanguards", The Tellurian Pathos

Rating: 8/10 Impact Proxies

www.mechinamusic.com/
mechinamusic.bandcamp.com/

More reviews of Mechina
Progenitor
Acheron
Xenon
Empyrean

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Slayer - Diabolus In Musica (1998)

Looking into the Slayer discography, "Diabolus In Musica" is probably the album that stands out like a sore thumb, an ugly mark on an otherwise excellent retrospective. Now, why is this so? The obvious answer is that the album is different, very different from what a typical Slayer album is. Okay, not that different, but different enough to make one cringe.

"Diabolus In Musica" was released in 1998, in a time when the nu-metal scene dominated, something that is most certainly reflected into the album (and the new band logo for that matter). This album is a full on experiment, it takes the classic Slayer sound, throws it in a blender together with some Pantera groove, creating some weird, murky 90's metal humbug (plus some dust, don't breathe this). This description is awful in itself, and unfortunately, it does not sound much better.

The classic Slayer sound is there, buried deep behind a couple of C# tuned guitars that are taken straight from hell's trash bin. I do not know if it is the production or the actual guitars that makes them sound so awkward. There are some great riffs here and there, but it simply does not hold up. Araya also sounds weird here, probably because there are a lot of different effects that skews his voice. He tries, but he can't help it here. The only one that sounds fairly normal is Bostaph and his drums, and thank god for that, because without them, this album would be a complete mess.

So are the songs any good though? Well, the before mentioned stuff makes it harder to appreciate them, and there is none that is anywhere close to the best Slayer songs, but there are some that is noteworthy. "Stain of Mind" actually gets the groove thrash right, making a weirdly enjoyable Rage Against The Machine beat that suits nicely with Araya's aggressive style. "Scrum" might be short, but it is sweet as hell, blasting through in an impressive manner, something that "Point" also points out nicely.

Slayer (or should I call them §LL^YER?) tried to show that they could keep up with the young folks and their music, and to no one's surprise, they failed miserably. It might have been an album that worked for the time being, but it just does not hold up today, mostly because the effects and production is just garbage. There is some glimmer of hope here and there, but not nearly enough to save the album. So yes, this is without any competition the worst Slayer album out there, because of the simple fact that it sounds like a cheap copy of Slayer.

Songs worthy of recognition: Scrum, Stain of Mind, Point

Rating: 4,5/10 Desires

www.slayer.net/
twitter.com/slayer

More reviews of Slayer
Show No Mercy
Hell Awaits
Reign In Blood
South of Heaven
Seasons In The Abyss
Divine Intervention
Repentless

Friday, December 30, 2016

Best of 2016: Part 3, top 20 albums of the year

Well, here we are, at the end of another year, and as usual, I release my top list last. I know that December is an extremely slow month for music, but I like to take that time to catch up on what I have missed (why nobody else seems to do that is beyond me). While there are albums that I simply have not had the time for, I am pretty confident they would have not ended up on this list. Oh well, I will get around to them eventually, but for now, here are my favourite albums of this year.

20. Alter Bridge - The Last Hero

It may not have as strong of a foundation as "Fortress", but "The Last Hero" still has a lot of fire power to it, with excellent songs like "The Writing On The Wall, "Island of Fools", and "Show Me A Leader". Myles Kennedy still sounds awesome, and so does Tremonti and his guitar work, solidifying the band's rough edge sound. They are most certainly my favourite rock band right now.

19. King Goat - Conduit

King Goat's debut album must have been made through some sort of witchcraft, because I get in a trance when I listen to it, which is really interesting since doom metal is not normally my cup of tea, but this album has so much magic to it, capturing your full attention with its great guitar sound and emotional vocals. Definitely a band to look out for in the future.

18. Be'lakor - Vessels

I am pissed at myself for not discovering Be'lakor earlier, especially since the band has gotten good praise in the past, and I simply ignored it for... reasons. Well, I am not doing that mistake again (at least for this band), because "Vessels" is an awesome melodic progressive death metal record that has an atmosphere taken from some beautiful alien planet. I really need to listen to the rest of their catalog now.

17. Insomnium - Winter's Gate

When a band does an "one song" album, they better make that song fucking incredible, otherwise it is all to waste. Fortunately, Insomnium rarely disappoints, something that my 2014 list also proves with "Shadows of The Dying Sun" being in it. "Winter's Gate" is a dense record/song, and it will take time, but you can be sure that it will grow on you, showing all of its talents as it unravels.

16. Thrawsunblat - Metachthonia

The full length debut "Thrawsunblat II: Wanderer On The Continent of Saplings" was interesting, but lacked that extra edge, something that this album certainly does not miss. Thrawsunblat takes their sound and evolves it further with tighter song writing and stronger instrumental work. It still feels like they have another gear in them, so I hope we get to hear that in the next album.

15. Testament - Brotherhood of The Snake

While building my list, I was surprised to see that Testament was the only thrash band that did make it in here, because that genre had an amazing year. With that said though, Testament simply made an amazing record. It is true Testament thrash at its best, more than holding up to their current era releases. In a year that showed so many different new sides of metal, "Brotherhood of The Snake" stays true to the band's sound, and delivers big time with a great knockout punch.

14. Allegaeon - Proponent For Sentience

I do not think there is any other technical death metal band out there that is as fun as Allegaeon. Not only do the guy have a sense of humour that is just wonderful, their musical style reflects it too, mixing catchy riffs and blast beats that is a blast to listen to. Also, when you have a song that fully celebrates science, you are almost guaranteed a spot on my list.

13. Witherscape - The Northern Sanctuary

When Dan Swanö is steering the boat, you know that quality is abound, and there is plenty of it on "The Northern Sanctuary". After a mediocre, but promising, first effort in "The Inheritance", Witherscape goes for the skies with this album, delivering a pack of great songs that are equally beautiful, catchy, and heavy. It is an uplifting album, even with its apocalyptic feeling.

12. Fleshgod Apocalypse - King

This band has always been one of the bands that I have found interesting, but have also had a hard time loving. Well, long story short, "King" convinced me big time. This is a symphonic death metal gold mine, a bombastic record that just pounds your face to the table over and over again. And while the band has done that before, "King" does it with more finesse, getting a more stable mix of the symphonic and the heavy. It also helps that FA contains some of the most technically skilled musicians in metal, and concept writers for that matter.

11. Moonsorrow - Jumalten Aika

I honestly did not think I would love this album as much as I did, and I did not after the first initial listens, but "Jumalten Aika" grew on me, unraveling its many roots and branches all over me. It takes time to love it, especially since the average length of a song here is around 13 minutes, but give it the time it deserves, and you will be rewarded with stunning black folk metal, straight from the darkest forest of Finland.

10. Mistur - In Memoriam

Just like "Jumalten Aika", "In Memoriam" is a dark and long record that takes time to fully appreciate. The thing that takes it up to my top 10 though is that Mistur finds way to bend in these epic melodic sounds into their epic black viking folk metal. The whole album is rock solid, never missing a beat, never taking a side step. It simply attacks head first into battle, and does so with great success.

9. DGM - The Passage

The Italians of DGM really delivered a progressive masterpiece with "The Passage", and it comes with all of the elements you need to make one. An epic two part song? Check. Awesome songs that shows diversity? Oh, absolutely. Cool guest appearances from Tom Englund (Evergrey) and Michael Romeo (Symphony X)? You bet! DGM just nails everything with this release, and does so with extreme confidence and determination.


8. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Dissociation

If this will ultimately go down as the swan song of this band (which everything points towards), it is a hell of a mess they leave behind. "Dissociation" is one of the most chaotic records, not only in 2016, but for at least the last decade. It's got metal core, thrash, death metal, ambient, and even fucking electronic music. Everything that TDEP has done has led to this very moment, an album that takes it all to the very extreme. It is a frantic ride, and you will not be the same when it is over, but it is an extremely fun journey. Such a shame they had to end this early.

7. Dark Tranquillity - Atoma

This is the year when Dark Tranquility finally convinced me of their greatness. Yes, I do like the band, and believe that they have made some important albums in the past, but I was not in love with them. Well, I would not say that I love them now either, but it is not too far away. "Atoma" is a stunning album, with songs and melodies that is simply astonishing, and a Mikael Stanne who mixes his soft and harsh vocals with such finesse. Simply put, a wonderful album that blows away every other Gothenburg band out of the waters.

6. Fallujah - Dreamless

Man, talk about missing out on something. Fallujah has been one of the most innovative bands in recent years, and it took me to this year to truly discover them, making myself feel really ill for knowing that I missed out on this amazing music for so long. Well, Fallujah is not old per se, but "Dreamless" is a perfect testimony of what they are about, a technical death metal band that has the gift of taking out the beautiful from the roughest of edges. Jesus Christ, this is a beautiful album, almost hard to believe it at first.

5. Katatonia - The Fall of Hearts

Katatonia continues down their path on making their sound more and more gothic ambient, escaping their heavy roots completely. The end result for this stop is an incredibly beautiful album that is filled to the brim with high quality songs, all of them creating an album that must be listened from start to finish to make it justice. The tone and sound of the album is very easy to take in, but it needs multiple listens to fully understand it all. And just like I said in the review, it is a fall of hearts, but certainly not a fall from grace.

4. Sunburst - Fragments of Creation

Debut album of the year goes to this band from Greece, who takes a little bit of everything from the power metal history book. "Fragments of Creation" is an incredibly diverse record, with tons of exciting things in it, mostly coming from the blazing fingers of guitarist Gus Drax and his insane riffs. As said though, it is the diversity that makes "Fragments of Creation" such a magnificent effort, showing that the band has a lot of different talents at their disposal. Firewind better step up their game, or Sunburst will soon take the crown as kings of Greece.

3. Devin Townsend Project - Transcendence

You guys know how much I love Devin Townsend and his work, so it is no surprise that he once again rises into my top 20. Despite his impressive back catalog, I still believe that "Transcendence" is the best album by him since "Ocean Machine: Biomech". It is just so organic and so uplifting, and it shows a versatility that is simply incredible. While not being the most original album Devin has done, it got enough amazing stuff in it to make everyone smile. I also love that the rest of the project was more involved in the song writing process, making this album a true band effort. That Canadian bastard (and his friends) simply does not know how to disappoint you.

2. Haken - Affinity

To follow up such a magnificent album as "The Mountain" is a tall task in itself, but doing so with an album that is inspired by the 80's prog rock movement, and with a cover that even looks like a cassette tape, Haken truly blew me off my chair. "Affinity" is extremely enjoyable from start to finish, and it contains 9 great songs, from the hectic "The Endless Knot" and the uplifting "Initiate", to the massive mastodon (and official "Song of the year" winner) "The Architect". Yes, "Affinity" is a prog lover's wet dream, and it solidifies Haken's status as one of the biggest prog metal acts today. Not bad for an album that sounds like it is 30 years old.

1. Astronoid - Air

2016 have most of all been a year where we had to question ourselves what metal really is. There were so many bands that pushed the boundaries of our beloved genre, and no other band did that more so than the Boston band Astronoid. Their debut album "Air" is smooth as silk, even angelic at times, but the beats in it are still heavy, blasting through with ease. This album could easily be associated with tons of genres, like shoegaze, punk, metalcore, alternative, and progressive metal, but this is an album that does not need a genre identification, it is just as perfect as it is. Brett Boland, Daniel Schwartz, Casey Aylward, Matt St. Jean, and Mike DeMellia are all leading the evolution of metal, and it sounds brighter than ever. Thank you guys so much for making 2016 that much better, and may you have the best of luck in the future.

And those lucky wishes goes to all of you readers too. Thank you for visiting Forsaken At The Gates, may we see each other again in 2017 (hopefully with less death and misery).

Stay Metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Monday, December 26, 2016

Best of 2016: Part 2, top 50 songs of the year

Every year, it is the same old story. I take on the challenge to pick my top 50 songs of the year, and it ends up with two empty Jack Daniels bottles, chocolate smeared all over my face, and the feeling of complete self hatred. Knowing this, why do I keep putting myself through this torment every year? Simple, to remind myself of all the great music that the previous year has offered us.

To go through all of the music I have listened to and like over the year is really soothing, a nostalgic peace to my soul. It is when it comes to cutting them down to only 50 songs and then rank them when my cool starts to wear off. But hey, it is still worth it, and I only have to do this once a year, so that is something.

This year's list is a lot like previous years. The top was not hard to chose at all, and most of them was long and epic songs that has stuck with me over the year. Only real rules here are one song per band, and only songs that are included in albums or EPs that were released this year (sorry Overkill). The list also includes some choices even I am genuinely surprised over, some that might even anger you all (I guess that you will hate me for number 50, 44, 34, 7, and possibly a lot of other ones too). So read at own risk, and feel free to leave your opinions and questions in the comment section below, or on Twitter (@ForsakenGates).

50. Amaranthe - Boomerang
It is weird, I know, but it keeps coming back, like some kind of weapon made by some Aboriginal tribe.

49. Sirenia - Dim Days of Dolor
There is always that one Sirenia song in an album that sticks with you. Needless to say, this is that song from the last album

48. In Flames - Through My Eyes
Through my ears, this is one catchy song, with a very interesting and weird verse riff.

47. Headspace - Road To Supremacy
It may be a discount Threshold, but it is still really good

46. Bloody Hammers - Stoke The Fire
A groovier song about witch burning is very hard to find

45. Fleshgod Apocalypse - And The Vulture Beholds
This is probably as symphonic as it can get without involving Mozart, and with a touch of metal, it is pure magic.

44. Lordi - Demonarchy
It beats the American democracy system, that is for sure.

43. Kvelertak - Nattesferd
There is nothing stopping this groovy nattesferd... wait, what the hell is a nattesferd anyway?

42. Astronoid - Tin Foil Hats
This is truly a spiritual song, and unlike real tin foil hats, it does not make you look crazy.

41. Killswitch Engage - The Great Deceit
One of the bigger surprises this year, KE being heavier than the average thrash metal band.

40. Bombus - Repeat Until Death
Don't mind if I do! That main riff is stuff that groovy dreams are made of.

39. Thrawsunblat - In Mist We Walk
These guys sure knows how to create epic and wild progressive death metal, as organic as the trees in your yard.

38. Anciients - Ibex Eye
One of the biggest rising stars search for their inner Tool, and delivers a grand strike.

37. Witherscape - The Examiner
Dan Swanö... Do I really need to say more?

36. Borknagar - Winter Thrice
A great emotional song that will give you the chills, so be sure to sit by a fire place so hypothermia doesn't catch you.

35. Volbeat - The Loa's Crossroad
With that "Seventh Son..." bass line, you simply cannot fail, even if you play Elvis metal.

34. Pain - Call Me
Joakim Brodén singing about prostitutes instead of war is extremely weird, and extremely fun. This song also has the best music video of this year, because Puppet Tägtgren is simply the best.

33. Katatonia - Passer
Could literally chose any song from "The Fall of Hearts", because it is so even. Ultimately though, it was the beauty of this song that spoke to me, and that opening helped out a lot too.

32. Mob Rules - Dykemaster's Tale
This tale is about some dykemaster, and it is a really nice speedy tale that might be one of the most epic and impressive creations we have ever seen from Mob Rules.

31. Evergrey - Passing Through
One song that did not pass me through was this one from Evergrey, a band I have not fully appreciated all the time. I really love the catchy groove the verse possesses, and the classic Evergrey emotions tops it off nicely.

30. The Algorithm - Pointers
A futuristic techno djent instrumental, hacking with ease into your head.

29. Anthrax - Breathing Lightning
An electrifying performance from one of the big 4 of Thrash, with some great riff and an amazing (but short) solo.

28. Sunburst - Out of The World
I think the name speaks for itself, it is simply a song that is not Earth bound.

27. Nemesea - Forever
That epic chorus and those choirs will most certainly stick with you all... forever

26. Meshuggah - Clockworks
There is no other band in the world that can make a song like this, without it ending up as a big, sloppy mess. Meshuggah is not like any other band, they work like a well oiled machinery that pulverizes boundaries and common sense.

25. Textures - Timeless
When the going goes technical, you know that I will be there and enjoy it. Textures delivers a beautiful strike, one that is not unique in any way, but still really satisfying. Yeah, that is it, this song is satisfying as fuck.

24. Dark Tranquility - Atoma
Choosing anything from "Atoma" is hard, but the title track just stuck with me, mostly because of that fantastic keyboard melody, but also for Stanne's brilliant performance, mixing his harsh and soft vocals with perfection. The whole sound image is just so striking, so fascinating, so beautiful.

23. Oceans of Slumber - Suffer The Last Bridge
Oceans of Slumber, lay that name to your memory, because I got a feeling we will hear more from them in the future. This song alone is a clear evidence of that, a magical, almost doomy and groovy progressive effort that sticks out from the crowd. So wonderful.

22. Fates Warning - The Ghosts of Home
Like the two last albums was not enough to declare the return of Fates Warning, they had to make an amazing mastodon song to shove it down our throats. These guys truly acts like prog legends, delivering a magnificent song that shifts and turns as it well pleases.

21. Epica - Divide And Conquer
Even if Epica was one of my major disappointments of this year, they still made sure to deliver at least one great song. "Divide And Conquer" is just what we want to hear from Epica, it is a grand epic that takes space, doing just like the name suggests. Man, that orchestra is just amazing in itself.

20. Allegaeon - All Hail Science
If you did not believe in science before you heard this song, then you might reconsider afterward. Allegaeon does what they do best, fast and technical death metal with some sparkle in the eye. Science, gotta love it.

19. Holy Grail - Black Lotus
Damn, there are a lot of great 10+ minute songs this year, and to think that one of them comes from Holy Grail... that is just insane. The last album was kind of mediocre, but this is an exhilarating ending to it. There is a lot of action put in here, and if it had not been for that dumb metal core breakdown ending, I might have declared it my favourite Holy Grail song to this date.

18. Fallujah - Dreamless
It is so hard to chose a single song from the latest Fallujah effort, but the title track is simply magical, a new emotion that words or sense cannot easily explain. The beauty of this song is blended perfectly with the pummeling drums and the heavy guitars towards the end, fusing it all to something truly special.

17. Artillery - When The Magic Is Gone
What is Artillery talking about here? I can clearly sense the magic in this smooth, 80's inspired rock melody. It is a hypnotizing rhythm that pulls you in, relaxing your body into a lumpy mess, taking away all of your worries. In an album that is filled with fast thrash candy, we have this little gem that changes things up just the right amount.

16. Megadeth - Fatal Illusion
"Dystopia" may not be the new "Endgame" that I hoped for, but it does have some great thrash in it. "Fatal Illusion" is vintage Megadeth at its finest, with some nice bass lines from Ellefson, and a nice synergy between Mustaine and newcomer Loureiro. That second half is just amazing, but it also leaves me with this question. WHY DO WE NOT GET MORE OF THAT?!?!?!

15. Alter Bridge - Show Me A Leader
Alter Bridge is truly hitting their stride right now, and the opening track from "The Last Hero" is quite possibly their most powerful outing yet. "Show Me A Leader" takes no prisoners, showing off every last bit of Tremonti's wild guitar skills and Kennedy's fantastic vocal range. If this song is leading the charge, then I know that I would be safe.

14. Amon Amarth feat. Doro Pesch - A Dream That Cannot Be
Amon Amarth singing about a love story, with Doro Pesch as the female lead? Now that is something I think no one expected or ever wished for, but it turns out to be a match made in heaven. It is a catchy and epic tune, and Doro is lovely as always, bringing out her inner Viking Amazon. Most certainly a better love story than Twilight.

13. Ihsahn - Celestial Violence
Ihsahn arguably put out one of the most diverse records of the year, and it all ends in a dramatic and grand epic in "Celestial Violence". It is one of the most emotional songs this year, and it strikes you through the heart multiple times with its pain and suffering. The guest appearance from Einar Solberg of Leprous enhances the experience even further.

12. Avantasia - Let The Storm Descend Upon You
Tobias Sammet really knows how to utilize his guests to their full potential, even when the songs are 12 minutes long. Together with Jorn Lande, Ronnie Atkins, and Robert Mason, "Let The Storm Descend Upon You" becomes one of the focal points of "Ghostlights", truly starting up the story that acts as a sequel to "The Mystery of Time". Simply incredible that none of the 12 minutes here are dull.

11. Testament - Brotherhood of The Snake
Testament is doing Testament things in the title track of their latest full length effort, and you cannot do anything else but to love it. Skolnick and Peterson shredding it out, Chuck Billy rambling in his unique and lovely way, and Gene Hoglan bashing that pigskin like it deserved every hit. Simply put, it is the sweetest of thrash candy we are being spoiled with here, a taste you want to get back to a lot of times.

10. Abbath - Fenrir Hunts
I do not know if it was the rage from his split with Immortal, or that he was just in the mood, but no matter what the cause was for Abbath's debut being so furious, I cannot stop loving it. Chosing a song from "Abbath" was not easy, so I just went with the one with the most fury in it, which is "Fenrir Hunts". This is just pure awesome black 'n' roll, faster than a Formula 1 car, and wilder than Bigfoot, Abbath unleashes an unstoppable monster that is out to destroy everything. Brutal.

9. Subliminal Fear - Evilution
This band made a huge evolution to their sound in "Escape From Leviathan", and it paid off real good. "Evilution" is a fast and thrilling ride that takes you through many highs and lows. It is an exciting song that shows off just how good cyber metal can truly be. I sure hope that the band continues down this path, because if this song is any indication at all, they might have found something really good here.

8. Devin Townsend Project - Failure
Do not get fooled by its name, "Failure" is as far from one that you could go. It is one of the more unique songs off the album "Transcendence", relying on its heavy riffing, while Devin delivers one of his most fragile vocal efforts in recent times, creating an atmosphere that is unlike anything else. And to top it off, we got something that is quite rare for the Canadian, a guitar solo that takes one of the bigger roles, and is not just a side step from the main path. A clear win in my books.

7. Ghost - Square Hammer
The Ghost hype train does not seem to have a break, because they keep delivering great stuff in an inhuman pace (well, they are ghouls after all...). "Square Hammer" is arguably their grooviest song up to date, but it is still Ghost to the core, having that demonic aura that they have presented since they started. It is a hell of a farewell anthem, or at least I think so, from the third Papa Emeritus.

6. Be'Lakor - Withering Strands
This song probably wins the award for "most beautiful guitar work" for this year, because the melodies in this songs are so god damn perfect. They flow seamlessly to one another, twining together an amazing song that clocks in at just under 11 minutes. The really heavy part towards the end might be off putting at first, but it works as an effective tempo changer, giving the song that final edge that sets it towards the top of the charts.

5. Gojira - Silvera
It is kind of funny that "Magma" is the most experimental Gojira album thus far, and the best song out of it is the one that looks back to the past the most. "Silvera" has the crunchy, polyrhythmic riffs that we all know and love from the band, and together with an epic chorus, it might change your view on how we can bring change to the world. Vintage Gojira at its absolute best.

4. DGM - The Secret Pt. 1
DGM is a better Dream Theater than Dream Theater these days, and this opening master piece from "The Passage" just confirms it. It is just how you want a progressive metal song to sound, it is diverse, long, and filled with so many sparkling details that it takes a lot of listens to even catch half of it. The second part of this song is nice too, but the first part is just so magical, a masterpiece indeed.

3. Cloudscape - In Silence We Scream
This song did not really strike me that much at first, I just saw it as a really nice ending to a very uneven album. But as time went by, I kept coming back to it, loving it more and more. The slow beginning might have been the reason to this, but it does set the mood nicely, building up the emotions further and further into the song. But it is the climax that is simply the best thing about this song, a long solo followed by what I think is the absolute best riff melody of all year. They could play that alone, and I would still love this song and never get tired of it.

2. Mechina - Starscape
There is always that one song in every new Mechina album that just blows me away and stays with me during the entire year. "Progenitor" does not disappoint, delivering "Starscape", a beautiful song that might be the band's most memorable one. It also is one of the nicest lyrics the bands have created, not only going well together with the album's concept, but also as to what we are doing to this planet as well. The words of the bridge part will stick with me forever.

1. Haken - The Architect
I have stated my love for this song so much, and even after listening to it consistently since "Affinity" was released in spring, I still love this song as much as I heard it the first time. This 15 minute monstrosity is quite possibly the greatest progressive metal song in the last decade, bringing together so many elements of both the genre, and the band's musicality. We have the heavy riffs, the soaring vocals, the sing along friendly chorus, a huge solo part that is exciting from start to finish, and a guest appearance from Leprous' Einar Solberg (his second on this list!). And like that was not enough, we have an ultra epic ending that will not only give you goosebumps, but maybe even an angelic out of body experience.

If you are curious to what all these songs sounds like, then look no further, I have gathered them all in one single Spotify playlist, which you can find just below this very text.



I'll see you all for the final part of the "best of 2016", and remember to stay metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Best of 2016: Part 1, 2016 in review and honorable mentions

Man... what a fucking year.

In more ways than I could ever imagine, 2016 became one of the wildest rides I have ever experienced. Close to everything that could go wrong did, and even more to that. It has been very hard to endure it all, but we have finally reached the end of this year, now ready to look back at all this craziness that has happened. And it all started, with a little golden statue that broke the Internet.

Leo finally did it

After several nominations, and becoming a meme that grew to epic proportions, Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his Oscar. While I cannot say that he do not deserve it (he does), I am not sure if it was right to give it to him for his performance in "The Revenant". Do not get me wrong, he is awesome in this movie, but he has had so many more performances over the years that is even better. Just to name a few, we got "The Wolf of Wall Street", "The Departed", "Catch Me If You Can", "Blood Diamond" and "The Aviator". To say that it is a crime that he has not gotten that Oscar sooner is an understatement. And hey, no more "Leo has not won that fucking Oscar" memes, which is something.

And if you all wonder, my personal favourite movie from this year is, not surprisingly, "Deadpool". I love the character, and Ryan Reynolds is simply perfect for the role. Yeah, the plot is far from the strongest, but the humour, action and self awareness more than makes up for it. Should be noted though, I have not seen "Arrival" yet, which has gotten tons of great reviews. I have high hopes for it.

2016, the serial killer

Jesus Christ, this year has taken away tons of famous stars and idols, it is close to ridiculous. We in the metal world have been fairly saved from this plague, but we were not without our own casualties. Guys like Nick Menza (ex-Megadeth), Jimmy Bain (Rainbow, Dio), Adam Sagan (ex-Circle II Circle) and James Woolley (Nine Inch Nails) all died this year, and will all be missed.

But we saw several other major deaths from other mediums. The most notable ones happened in the beginning, with the passing of both Prince and David Bowie. While I personally have little to no real connection to them (being too young and all), I still have tremendous respect for them, and for the music they created. Both of them were incredibly unique in their approach, and they always pushed themselves to create something we have never heard, or seen, before. Just the fact that Prince used a still photo from a Dave Chappelle sketch in which he act as Prince for one of his singles is just amazing (and it also helps that the sketch itself is extremely hilarious).

Those two were not alone though. We also lost Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, Arnold Palmer and Gordie Howe this year, and there are probably several others that I forgot. It is sad and all, but what is even sadder is that somehow, a GOD DAMN GORILLA is more remembered than any of these celebrities (although, most of these "mourners" just want to show their dick, so I do not take them all too seriously).

'Murica is (maybe) screwed

Donald Trump... President Donald Trump... still feels weird saying that.

We are definitely not gonna go and assume in advance that Trump will be the trigger to World War III, because technically, he has not done anything yet. Yes, his whole candidacy was one big controversy after another, from recreating the Great Wall of China, to grabbing pussies, but ultimately, it is his real decisions that will truly show if he is any good. Hell, Politicians lie all the time, so why should Trump be any different? Oh right... he is not a politician... he is a business man.

Still, it was a choice between AIDS and Ebola for Americans, as I think Hillary would not be that much better. Sure, she has more experience, but can we really trust her? I definitely feel sorry for all of you Yanks, and secretly, I rooted for Bernie Sanders, because he seems genuinely nice, like a sweet grand father that takes care of you and wants what is best for you.

Oh well, these next 4 years will be a hell of a lot interesting, that is for sure.

The resurgence of my childhood

To think that we would still talk about Pokemon in 2016, and that it is hotter than ever, is honestly baffling to me. I was among those who was in just the right age when those weird creatures first emerged into the scene, and just like everyone else at the time, I was hooked. I made my parents buy cards and figurines, and we would later battle and trade with them in the school yard (well, battle as in throwing the cards to a wall, and the one closest to the wall would win, not the actual card game battling). And then we had the video games and the anime. Oh my god the video games and the anime! Good times indeed.

Fast forward to today, and I still play with Pokemon, but on my smart phone now. Pokemon GO was an instant hit, and it struck my heart. Yeah, it has some flaws, and it is not completely accurate to how it works in the games/show, but it is a good way to get my ass off my chair and get some fresh air. It definitely beats Candy Crush 7 days a week.

It is simply amazing that these little fictional animals has stayed relevant for so many years, and that it keeps drawing in newer generations. Hell, my little sisters are drawn to the craze now too, and every time I get home, they jump on me and ask if I have caught any new ones. Pokemon, bringing generations together since 1996.

At least we got some great music

Despite all the negativity that has plagued 2016, I will look back to this year with memories of some great music. Metal has had a great year, with tons of great releases across all the genres. Yeah, it is like this close to every year, but this year was literally loaded with great albums, and they never seemed to end. My yearly top 20 was hard to make this year, forcing me to cut some albums that would have easily made it into last couple of year's lists. Let us analyze some of those who did not make it.

Honorable mentions

Abbath - S/T
The first solo record of the black metal legend is a fun one, a fast joy ride through blast beats and pitch black riffs. It is black and roll at its finest.

Amon Amarth - Jomsviking
For a first try at a concept record, Amon Amarth made a valiant effort. It is far from their best album, but it has its moments of brilliance, showing once again that these vikings are as ravenous as ever.

Anciients - Voice of The Void
An up and coming band that is only at the beginning of their journey, Anciients are getting some serious momentum with the release of "Voice of The Void". A fantastic record, showing metal has a bright future.

Dream Theater - The Astonishing
Yes, this album is way too long, and the songs are not too memorable, but I truly admire Dream Theater for pushing themselves, creating one of the meatiest concept records I have ever heard. Still think it would have been better as a play though.

Fates Warning - Theories of Flight
Their last album, "Darkness In A Different Light", was a return to form, but "Theories of Flight" takes it even one step further, showing off some magnificent progressive metal. That end song "The Ghosts of Home" is truly something special.

Flotsam And Jetsam - S/T
One of the biggest surprises this year, F&J delivered a really fun thrash record, one that is as far away from the albums they have done in recent years. Nice to see them back at their right element.

Ihsahn - Arktis.
The former Emperor member has created one of the most unique albums this year, and that is saying something. From the dark black metal roots, to the more ambient melodies, "Arktis." is for sure one of the most versatile records of this year, showing off every bit of Ihsahn's vast musicianship.

Mechina - Progenitor
You guys know that I love Mechina, so I do not think I need to say much more about them. After all, it will not be long until their next album shows up.

Metallica - Hardwired... To Self-Destruct
It did not suck! Was not great either, but anything but a "St. Anger 2.0" is a win in my book.

Oceans of Slumber - Winter
"Winter" is probably one of the smoothest records of this year, blending silky smooth riffs with a Cammie Gilbert that works her way through the corners with her wonderful voice. By no means the heaviest album you will ever hear, "Winter" is still one that everyone can enjoy.

Source - Return To Nothing
While waiting for Tool to stop procrastinating, Source works as a sweet substitute. This debut album has some rough edges here and there, but is overall a really enjoyable effort that gives us hope about the future for this band.

Textures - Phenotype

I am always a sucker for technical, ethereal, progressive metal, and Textures does it really damn good. "Phenotype" is truly a beautiful record that takes you away to a different place, a better place.

Vektor - Terminal Redux
Most will probably put this in their lists, but I am still not fully convinced. It is a great record, that is for sure, but it is so much to take in here, making it a chore from time to time. And I still cannot stand the singer, his style is not gentle on my ears. Nonetheless, it would be unfair of me if I did not put this record among my honorable mentions.

So that is part 1 done. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 in the coming days

Stay metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Slayer - Divine Intervention (1994)

Whenever a band lose a founding member, or a member that has been with the band for a long time, there is surely going to be changes not only in the line-up, but in the chemistry as well. While it seems like the separation between Dave Lombardo and the rest of Slayer went without any particular hick ups, the first album without him was a clear showing that Slayer had been shaken up to its core.

It is obvious from the beginning that "Divine Intervention" is not a future classic, because the production here is really gritty (and not the good kind). I guess the band and Rick Rubin wanted to create the same sound that they got from "Reign In Blood", but they over thought their design here, spending so much time to perfect it that it just becomes stale. There is no heart behind this production, and it hurts the album a lot.

Deep inside though, it is the classic Slayer that we get treated with. It is evil thrash with rabid riffs and demonic vocals. Still, there is something missing, something vital. I really cannot put my finger on it, but there is something (besides the sub par production) that just makes "Divine Intervention"... mediocre. The band tries their best, pummeling on and on with all their might, but they just cannot seem to get past the wall they try to break.

Some songs does punch a hole or two though, and it makes the album much more bearable than it would have otherwise been. "Dittohead" is one of the most aggressive pieces I have heard from the band, blazing through every part of their register in just over 2 and a half minutes. "SS-3" is a nice song about the German Schutzstaffel, and is also one of few songs where Tom Araya does not sound like he has a sandbox down his throat (he truly sounds hideous in several songs). Finally, the opener "Killing Fields" have some nice bite to it, while "Serenity In Murder" and the title track tries to recapture what the band did in "Seasons In The Abyss", and does so fairly successfully.

Other than those songs, "Divine Intervention" is just an album filled with bland songs that simply does not hold up. It is just one long shoulder shrug after another, and just like I said before, I cannot really put my finger on why it is so.The aggression is there, the fire too, and the lyrics are nice as well, depicting the evil that we see almost every day on the news. Could it really be that the production takes away so much? Nah, it might be more that it just does not match the quality that we are used to hear from the band, not in the musical structures or the memorability factor. It just does not stay put in your mind for any prolonged time.

"Divine Intervention" is a hard album to get your head around. It is still Slayer, and it is aggressive and all, but the  quality is just not there. There is very little in here that stands the test of time, and while it might be a decent album to just mindlessly listen to time and again, it is still far inferior to all of the other Slayer albums that I have covered thus far. Not a bad record per se, but very far from a brilliant one.

Songs worthy of recognition: Dittohead, Killing Fields, Serenity In Murder

Rating: 6/10 Mind Controls

www.slayer.net/
twitter.com/slayer

More reviews of Slayer
Show No Mercy
Hell Awaits
Reign In Blood
South of Heaven
Seasons In The Abyss
Repentless

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Freedom Call - Master of Light (2016)

There is no question that power metal is a stand out genre in the ever growing metal tree, because it is close to the only one that genuinely sounds joyful, rarely using any darkness at all. There is no other band that shows this better than Freedom Call, the happiest metal band in the universe. Whenever I feel down or sad, I just put on this band, and their angelic anthems instantly brings a smile to my face. It never fails.

"Master of Light" follows on the same tracks as its predecessors. It is fast, powerful, epic, and cheesy, exactly what you would expect, and want, from a new Freedom Call record. The Germans certainly does not disappoint, this album will get your head banging and force your frown to turn upside down, even if you like it or not. Seriously, how can you not smile to this? It is like telling a kitten that it is ugly, it is just impossible (unless it is a hairless cat, then it is a little bit easier).

But what is it that makes Freedom Call so different from other power metal bands? What is it that makes them this happy pill? Personally, I think it is a combination of two things. The first one is the choruses, that are not only really catchy, but the band often uses choirs to amp up the epicness even further, and it works so god damn well. The other part of this recipe of happiness is the band's passion. You can truly feel that the band love what they are doing, giving 110% in every millisecond of this record. That passion is highly infectious, and a big reason to the drive of the record.

With that said, there is one thing that makes me a little bummed out over "Master of Light", and that is that it is nothing special. The band has done this before, showing little to no evolution in neither music nor lyrics. It is quite obvious that the band is comfortable in their sound, and that they have no intentions on changing it any time soon, but write some different lyrics at least, just do something to stir the pot up.

The monotony is annoying, but there are still several songs in here that stands really strong, showing the band's full potential. All you Liverpool fans will love "A World Beyond", where singer Chris Bay states that we never have to walk alone in a really inspirational way. We also have "Ghost Ballet", where the loud keyboards intertwine with some really heavy guitar riffs, creating a play that would make "The Swan Lake" look ugly. "Metal Is For Everyone" goes without saying that it is a metal anthem that should be sung for the ages, it is a potential fan favourite just for the title itself. And while I personally do not like it, "High Up" ends the album with one of the cheesiest vocal melodies I have heard in a long time. Some of you cheese lovers might appreciate it.

Despite looking like a discount Manowar album, "Master of Light" is Freedom Call through and through. It is happy metal at its best, energetic stuff that has the power to power entire cities for weeks. Yeah, it is not much different from any other record the band has done, but it gets the job done well. It is simple and epic power metal that might not stick in your mind for all too long, but for the moment, it is a happy pill with a 100% success rate. If you excuse me, I need to take my recommended daily dose now.

Songs worthy of recognition: A World Beyond, Metal Is For Everyone, Ghost Ballet

Rating: 7/10 Masters of Light

www.freedom-call.net/