Saturday, May 23, 2015

Thoughts from a metal mind: Eurovision 2015

Okay, so I know that I should probably not speak about the Eurovision Song Contest since I run a metal blog and so, but it should be noted that I am a general music fan. Sure, Metal is my main subject and I dedicate almost all of my time into it, but that does not mean that I completely ignore all the other things that happens in music. And when it comes to ESC, I have followed the competition deeply for about 7 years, so I think I should speak my mind over what happened during the competition.

Anyway, not surprisingly, Sweden won with Måns Zelmerlöv and his song "Heroes". He and his little stick figure friend (named MP, representing Måns' younger self) got out on the stage with a bunch of accusations against them. Some said that the song was a copy of David Guetta's "Lovers In The Sun", others have bashed him over one anti-gay comment he did in some Swedish television show, and then we have the overall fact that some were bored of Sweden being the favourite once again. But in the end, the people of Europe made their voices heard, and Måns stood as the winner.

But let us back the tapes to the start of March this year, when the final of the Swedish tryouts (Melodifestivalen) had its final. I personally attended the event together with my Mother and my Little Sister, and was pretty impressed overall. The line-up of finalists was pretty decent, but Måns was already there favorized heavily. A lot of people had about the same opinion, the song was right in its time, the lyrics was inspiring, and the show itself was new and unique. Måns defeated several of Loreens previous records, like most points and most votes from the people, but it was one thing that made Swedes hopeful that history would repeat itself. In 2011, Eric Saade came in 3rd place in ESC, the year after, Loreen won with "Euphoria". Last year, Sweden came once again third, this time with Sanna Nielsen, and look here and now. History has repeated itself once again.

Måns definitely deserves the win, the song has very few similarities to "Lovers In The Sun", but not enough to make it a copy. In the end, it was the performance that I think gave the victory. None of the entries could match up to it, and Måns did all of the bits perfectly (except the fist bump). So congratulations Måns, you made Sweden proud.

Other notable stuff

Sweden won with 362 points, Russia came in 2nd with 303 points, and Italy got 3rd place with 292 points, so the expected favourites all came in the top 3.

Russia actually led the competition after half of the countries had laid out their votes.

Germany and Austria finished last without any points at all. I personally thought that the British entry deserved last place (they finished 24th with 5 points).

The special guest Australia ended 5th in the competition with 196 points. Good for them, thank you for coming.

Who came 4th? Belgium did with 217 points. Did not think they would end up this high, but I did like the song, and I think they deserved the place they got.

Azerbaijan came outside of the top 10 for the second year in a row. I hope that they from now on skips the Swedish song writers and competes with a song that is written by native writers.

The amount of ballads this year was way too many. But since Europe goes with the flow, I expect next year to be a uptempo year since Sweden won.

This year's overall set list was one of the most boring overall, probably the worst since 2011.

My personal favourite this year was Finland's entry, Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät and their song "Aina Mun Pittä". Those guys were simply awesome.

Worst song this year was Hungary, Boggie with "Wars For Nothing", simply because it was such a boring ballad and the artist was named Boggie. OH THE IRONY!

The stage was spectacular, especially the LED-screen was impressive. Made some cool effects.

Besides from Conchita, the overall production was just mediocre. The hosts were bland, but good looking.

I might try to get a ticket to next year's competition since it goes in my home country, but we will see how my situation is in the future.

If you have questions, wheter it be about a specific entry or any other general ESC questions for me, comment here or send me a tweet @FATGreviews.

Stay Metal
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Friday, May 22, 2015

Amon Amarth - The Avenger (1999)

The road to perfecting Amon Amarth's sound continued on, only one year after the full length debut "Once Sent From The Golden Hall" was released, the Swedish vikings unleashed their sophomore effort, known as "The Avenger". Even if it has not been spoken much about it in recent years, it is still a milestone in the history of the band, because this record was the first one with the line-up that lasted all of 17 years (1998-2015). Drummer Martin Lopez and rhythm guitarist Anders Hansson was replaced by Fredrik Andersson and Johan Söderberg, completing a line-up that would last longer than most band would ever dream of being active.

And with the line-up ready and set, Amon Amarth would really begin their journey to create their own unique sound. "The Avenger" is much more like the Amon Amarth we know today than its predecessor. It has more melodies, it is catchier, and the Norse mythology theme is amped up here. The album still has a strain of the dirty, black metal esque sound that was prominent in "Once Sent From The Golden Hall", but it hides in the background and lurks. Really, the only thing that ties the two albums together is the dark production made by Peter Tägtgren (should be noted though that "The Avenger" does sound a lot clearer than its predecessor).

Despite being a more melodic record, "The Avenger" does not quite have the same number of memorable songs as OSFTGH. The album definitely has some show stoppers in it, but they do not deliver as much force as I would have wanted. It is the riffing that really lifts the material in this album. Mikkonen and his new partner Söderberg delivers both heavy assaults and melodic complexity, but it is when they create these long, swooping rows of notes that gives me the chills. A classic Amon Amarth tactic that the band still uses to this date.

The album is fairly short in length, only filling around 36 minutes of material, so it is very east for one to feel that the band could have put in more. However, since this album came only 1 year after the predecessor, I feel like the band does not have any real valid reason to fill in more than what they did. Sure, another song or two would have been better, but the risk of those songs being pure fillers would have been very high, which would have hurt the album more than it would help. The material in this record is still fairly decent, but it does not blow you away from your chair. If you against all odds would still fall off your chair, it would probably be because of Hegg's mighty vocals, mixing between black metal screams and pure growling.

"The Avenger" is a fine album and a worthy follow up to "Once Sent From The Golden Hall", but there is not much for me to really grasp for here. None of the songs are strong enough for me to really remember them, making them pretty weak in their lone state. However, put those songs together, and you get a good, enjoyable melodic death metal album. The components are there, so all that is left is for the band to come back swinging with a mind blowing record.

Songs worthy of recognition: "God, His Son And Holy Whore", Bleed For Ancient Gods, The Last With Pagan Blood

Rating: 7/10 Metalwraths

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Cain's Offering - Stormcrow (2015)

When Jani Liimatainen parted ways with Sonata Arctica in 2007, a band he was one of the founders of, the metal world eagerly waited for what would come for both Jani and his former band. While Sonata Arctica have more or less changed direction in their sound, Jani decided to carry on his legacy in a new project called Cain's Offering, a band that also includes Stratovarius singer Timo Kotipelto and keyboardist Jens Johansson, Paul Di'Anno drummer Jani Hurula, and former MyGrain bassist Jonas Kuhlberg. A nice mix of Finnish power metal veterans creating powerful music.

"Stormcrow" is the band's sophomore album and it contains what you would expect from a album that Jani have been creating. It is classic European power metal at its absolute best, powerful, grand, and melodic. Even if Jani originated from Sonata Arctica, I do feel like the music in "Stormcrow" sounds more like Stratovarius, which really is not that much worse. I think it is that way because two current Stratovarius members are in the band. Not sure if Timo and Jens was a part of the song writing process, but the Stratovarius vibes are pretty hard to miss. And for those of you who expected Sonata Arctica influences, do not worry, those are present as well.

The entire first half of the album is filled with high quality songs, all of them showing excellent abilities of their own. From the epic and grand "A Night To Forget", and the galloping title track that opens up the album, to the melodic and close too cheesy "I Will Build You A Rome", and the classic Sonata Arctica assault in "Constellation of Tears", "Stormcrow" is displaying an impressive variety, showing off all of the weapons that this genre has. The album never gets stale, and you are kept on the edge all of the time.

But if I am lifting the first half so up into the skies, surely the second half must be flawed, right? Absolutely not! Even if it does not have the same quantity of high calibre songs to offer, it still packs a lot of punch. The beautiful, but yet fast, "Rising Sun", the well constructed "Antemortem" and the instrumental "I Am Legion" are really enjoyable, but if I had to chose one song from the second half that would be the best, it would definitely be "My Heart Beats For No One". Even if this song does have a slightly awkward chorus, the music makes up for it and then some, especially in the build up before the chorus where Kotipelto really shines with his voice. And the keyboards by Jens are just mesmerizing.

This really proofs that the so called "super" group stamp does not always have to be bad. Sure, about 90% of the super groups that come and go are more or less trash, but when the influences fits together like pieces of a puzzle and the ideas are strong and clear, you can be sure that the experienced musicians can create some high quality music. Cain's Offering is exactly the exception to the rule that we as listeners need, but I really hope that it does not have to take another 6 years for the guys to create another album. If they keep producing this kind of quality, then I do not want to wait for it, I want it as soon as possible.

Random reader: "So Robert, how does this album stack up against what Sonata Arctica has done after Jani's departure?"

My answer is that "Stormcrow" literally kicks the ass out of all of the 4 SA albums that has been released without Jani, because this is what power metal should sound like. The melodies are addictive, the performance is flawless, and the production is as clear as day. Personally, I thought the debut "Gather The Faithful" was decent, but nothing special. This album however is just amazing in so many ways. A fantastic power metal album that is bound to be in my "end of the year" list.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Best of Times, Stormcrow, Antemortem, My Heart Beats For No One

Rating: 9/10 Rising Suns

Friday, May 8, 2015

Korpiklaani - Noita (2015)

The folk metal genre contains a hand ful of really interesting and great bands, and then, there is Korpiklaani. The band can certainly create some great folk metal, but does it with a sparkle in the eye, playing with groovy rhythms, the insane Finnish language, and using their fondness of alcohol to their advantage. There really is not much to dislike with Korpiklaani, so whenever the band releases another record, I start to smile and start preparing for what to come.

"Noita" is more or less just like any other Korpiklaani release. It is fun, groovy, and pretty addictive. It is hard to just sit still while listening to songs like "Viinamäen Mies" or "Luontoni", the urge of wanting to dance just takes over your body. The only thing that takes away some of the groove factor is the Finnish language. Finland does have an interesting (and complicated) language, but for a dude who is born and raised anywhere else than in the land of the thousand lakes, it is hard to sing along to any Korpiklaani tune. It is always fun to try of course, but it is more fun to sing along to a song that actually uses a language you are familiar with.

With that said, I do still love the fact that the band stays true to their native language, which gives the folk aspect of their music an extra dimension. I can see the endless woods of the north before me when listening to Korpiklaani, which makes it so much easier to enjoy the music even more. I also like that the band can still sing about alcohol since some of my favourite Korpiklaani tunes are about alcohol (like "Vodka" and "Tequila". The song "Sahti" is about the beer sort with the same name, a beer that uses juniper berry instead of or as a complement to hops. Never tried it personally, but it sounds pretty good, and the song is nice as well.

But I am starting to think that the band had a couple of Sahtis too many when swapping ideas for the album. I would really like to know who came up with the not so bright idea of turning the classic Tommy James & The Shandells song "Mony Mony" into a folk metal song in Finnish. "Jouni Jouni" does have some humour to it, but it is just too similar to the original (and to the excellent Billy Idol version) for me to enjoy it. A weird experience that ultimately left me speachless. I would also liked it if the band had amped up the diversity of the album, even if the single "Lempo" does it to some extent, it is not enough for me, especially since the band has not shown many proofs of evolving their sound. But it is as the saying goes, why fix something that is not broken?

I may only be able to say kiitos (thank you) and yksi, kaksi, kolme (one, two, three) when it comes to my knowledge of the Finnish language, but I understand Korpiklaani as bright as daylight. The Finns brings to the table another solid folk metal release that should go well in the cabins. Even if "Noita" is far from perfect, it is still a very fun listen and well worthy of your time. So take out your booze, turn up the volume, start drinking, and enjoy some good, groovy folk metal.

Songs worthy of recognition: Pilli On Pajusta Tehty, Viinamäen Mies, Sahti

Rating: 7/10 Luontonis

Monday, May 4, 2015

Amon Amarth - Once Sent From The Golden Hall (1998)

In 1988, a bunch of Swedes with Finnish origin created the band Scum, a sort of grindcore band that based their music on dark atmospheres, jagged riffs and a whole lot of mead. This band did not get any notable recognition at all until around 1992 when the band changed vocalists. Out went Paul Mäkitalo (whom later joined Dark Funeral as Themgoroth for a short period of time) and in came Johan Hegg, and it was his presence and his mighty voice that changed the band into a direction that would make them stars. The band focused their song writing on the Norse mythology and changed the name Scum to Amon Amarth, named after the Sindarin name for Mount Doom in the J.R.R. Tolkien classic "Lord of The Rings" trilogy (a.k.a the volcano in which Frodo throws the ring into).

After a couple of low quality demos and another pair of member switches (ultimately making Olavi Mikkonen the only remaining founding member), the band finally released their first full length album in 1998, 10 years after the creation of the band. "Once Sent From The Golden Hall" was the name, and lyrically, it is not much different from the Amon Amarth material we are hearing today. It is songs about battles from the Viking age and stories about Thor, Odin and the rest of the gods and creatures in the Norse mythology. The big change is instead in the music itself. It is darker, rougher, and much muddier in the production, but you can still hear that this is Amon Amarth you are listening too. The melodies are definitely there, but not as clear or prominent as you can hear in albums like "Surtur Rising" and "Twilight of The Thunder God".

Let us focus instead of the pure quality of the work, which is actually quite nice. The twin guitars cooperates well together, the drums are blasting through, and Johan Hegg's voice is like a thunder storm, roaring through your speakers and blowing you away. The production does hurt the band in some degree, but it is not bad enough to make the listener miss the talent that lies behind the instruments.

The quality of the song material in "Once Sent From The Golden Hall" is quite even. All of the songs are certainly enjoyable, but none of them are any number one hits in my books. It all comes down to how good the melody lines are and how much they stick to your brain. The most memorable part in the entire album is the opening riff to "Amon Amarth". It is a slow, haunting riff that chills your bones to its core, and together with the songs steady pace, the sound effects from a grand battle, and Johan's darkest of vocals, it helps creating a fantastic setting that fits the band so well. I also get struck by the power and fury in the title track and the sweet head banging beat in "Victorious March"

You can definitely hint in this album what would come to happen with this viking group, even if the production could have been much clearer. Nonetheless, "Once Sent From The Golden Hall" is a great, even piece that offers a lot of nice, original music. Amon Amarth brings out a force that is incredibly strong, but still very melodic and well thought out. It does still needs some more polishing before this piece of coal turns into a big, shiny diamond, but the band has the drive, the sound is there, so all that is left is just to evolve and execute it all in the future.

Songs worthy of recognition: Amon Amarth, Victorious March, Once Sent From The Golden Hall

Rating: 7,5/10 Friends of The Suncross

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Kiske/Somerville - City of Heroes (2015)

The Primal Fear guitarist Magnus Karlsson is known to be a pretty generous guy when it comes to lending his abilities. He has written material for a bunch of projects during the years, like Allen/Lande, Scheepers and his own little solo project Free Fall. So when it was announced that he would write songs for the two fantastic vocalists Michael Kiske, mostly known for his time in Helloween and his current band Unisonic, and Amanda Somerville, a woman who have guest starred in bands like Avantasia, Kamelot and Edguy, it was all set up for success. Sadly, the first album they released ("Kiske/Somerville" from 2010) was a big disappointment. A big bland blend of uninspired and power less power metal.

So you could sense that I was not overly excited that the trio would once again release a album together, but to my surprise, the sophomore album "City of Heroes" does actually sound quite nice. The biggest difference from "Kiske/Somerville" is without a doubt the quality of the songs. It seems like Magnus has given up to create songs that both Michale and Amanda could do a duet on and instead puts the focus on their individual strengths, which is just the right tactic since I felt that the two vocalists did not really match each other well enough to share the load in a chorus. Or maybe it was the half crappy production that made it seem that they did not match up, I don't know.

Anyway, as I said, the music in "City of Heroes" is a big step forward from the last album. It is straight forward modern melodic power metal, a style that we have heard so much of before, but still is enjoyable when done right and professionally. Michael and Amanda delivers some good singing and Magnus controls his guitar exquisitely. I could wish that the choruses could have been stronger and more memorable, but it still sounds good to my ears and it is fairly easy to sing along to songs like "Lights Out" and "City of Heroes", while other songs, like "Breaking Neptune" and "Ocean of Tears", impress you with its great craftsmanship.

However, is "City of Heroes" enough to stand out in a genre that is more or less overfilled with bands and projects? It definitely is a album that is above average, but it is far from a dazzling experience. You listen to it some times and enjoy the music, but I highly doubt that I will still listen to this album in a couple of months. Fans of the artists and classic melodic power metal should certainly get this release and will most likely enjoy it very much, but do not expect something mind blowing. After all, this is just a side project, and side projects RARELY comes out with anything that would top the works of the main band.

Songs worthy of recognition: City of Heroes, Breaking Neptune, Ocean of Tears

Rating: 7/10 Salvations

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Best of Megadeth

Another discography review is done, and boy, this one was a wild ride. Ups and downs, lefts and rights, glories and shits, this discography offered quite a lot. Megadeth has sure had an incredible career, but how incredible is it really? Well, let us find out, here is the best of Megadeth.

Best album

3. Endgame
This mix of speedy thrash and modern metal was the tip of the iceberg that was Megadeth's second golden age. It is a fantastic album that mixes extreme fury, awesome riffs and solos, and sweet song writing. If you lost faith in Megadeth in the 90's and have not dared to get back into the band, get this one now. I promise that you will not regret it.

2. Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?
The album that launched Megadeth's career, a tightly packed thrash sandwich that just consists of great songs, endless solos and riffs, and a weird, but fun, cover. Definitely more attractive than peace.

1. Rust In Peace
Easily, one of the most ground breaking records of all times. A album filled with solos, riffs, beats and melodies that never seems to end. This thrash orgasm is something every metal head should listen to in their life at least once... or twice... ah, fuck it, at least one hundred times. A time less classic.

Worst album

Risk
I think any commentary here is unnecessary, you probably get why I chose this as the worst. If you don't, then consider yourself lucky to have not heard this album.

Best song

5. Hangar 18
This song consists only of 16 lines of lyrical material, which leaves lots of room for the twin guitars going ham at each other. Some may think that "Hangar 18" got too much of the good stuff, I say that I only want more. An amazing barrage of riffs and solos that just hits you hard and fast multiple times.

4. A Tout Le Monde
Still feels incredibly weird to hear such a heavy band play this fragile ballad, but it is still a perfect, beautiful piece that shows that Dave is more than riffs and solos. Just do not listen to the remake that came out in "United Abominations", it is not worthy of your time.

3. Holy Wars... The Punishment Due
The opening riff gets you hooked and banging at full speed, but it is the excellent song writing and the smooth structure that keeps you along for the full ride. This song starts of one of the mightiest albums ever created and sets the bar for the rest of the tracks. An instant classic.

2. In My Darkest Hour
Starting off beautifully and slow, this track from "So Far, So Good... So What!" lures the listener into a false sense that this could be a ballad of some sorts. But when Dave starts singing darker and deeper, and the guitars starts to pick up some speed, the song completely changes personality. One of the most versatile tracks I have ever heard.

1. Good Mourning/Black Friday
If someone would get the crazy idea of making a horror film based on a Megadeth song, I would suggest them this one as an inspiration source. "Good Mourning/Black Friday" is a dark experience that picks up speed along the way, attacking the listener with riffs, solos, aggressive drums and lyrics about a manic butcher. A magical song that gives you the feeling that it could go on forever, and you would not mind at all. It doesn't get more thrash than this.

Best album cover

Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?

Seeing Vic as a real estate agent trying to sell a UN headquarter that lies in ruins is just candy for the eyes. A picture that fits perfectly with the album title, giving it an iconic cover that is very memorable. This also helped Vic to become what he is today, a iconic mascot for the band.

Total discography verdict

Quality: 6/10
When it is good, it is amazing, but when it is bad, it is out right offensive. The uneven form that Megadeth has shown us during the years is frightening since you do not know what you will get next. Fortunately, there is more good than bad music... for now.

Creativity: 8/10
Dave is known for his experimentation, so he is without a doubt creative, but he has always had a core heart in his music that makes it recognizable as something Megadeth would do. Just listen to his versatility on the riffs and you will see what a creative person he actually is.

Band chemistry: 4/10
Let us be honest here, Megadeth is more or less just an alibi for the Dave Mustaine one man show. He is Megadeth, and the people he has recruited over the years have not had the skills/patience to stay in the band for an essential amount of time (except for Ellefson, but he left one time as well).

Musicality: 6/10
Dave is an amazing guitarist and most of the band members that has been in this journey has put in a certain amount of touch in the Megadeth brand. However, the band, and especially Mustaine, is far from the best live musicians in the world. Also, Dave's voice is far from flattering.

Lyrics: 7/10
Dave is a master of writing some controversial stuff, wheter it be about politics, war, global disasters, you name it, he can turn it into something aggressive in musical form. He can write about other stuff as well, but it is often a hit (like "A Tout Le Monde") or miss (like "Public Enemy No. 1").

Album rating summary

Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!: 8/10
Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?: 9,5/10
So Far, So Good... So What!: 7/10
Rust In Peace: 10/10
Countdown To Extinction: 6/10
Youthanasia: 8/10
Cryptic Writings: 5/10
Risk: 2/10
The World Needs A Hero: 5,5/10
The System Has Failed: 7,5/10
United Abominations: 8,5/10
Endgame: 9/10
Th1rt3en: 6,5/10
Super Collider: 5,5/10

Average rating: 7/10

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Megadeth - Th1rt3en (2011)

We all know that Megadeth can change their musical and mental mood in a dime, and judging by the cover of the band's 13th album, they turned a couple of other things as well. I mean, why in god's name would you turn around your beloved mascot so that his back is shown on your cover? It just doesn't make sense, and neither does the title. Who in their right set of mind would name their album "Th1rt3en"? Sure, this is album number 13 for the band, but just because your band has reached a impressive goal in your career, it does not mean you can do anything to boast that achievement. This makes Megadeth look like fools, which unfortunately is not the first time.

So it could have been a better start for the return of bassist David Ellefson, and it didn't turn any better when it was discovered that most of the set list in "Th1rt3en" consisted of old songs that has been previously released in deluxe editions, b-sides and video games. For the common man, these songs might be new, but not for the hard core Megadeth fan, which ultimately takes away some of the excitement that comes with a new album.

So let me go through which songs are "old". Both "New World Order" and "Millennium of The Blind" appears as bonus tracks in the 2004 remaster of "Youthanasia" ( "New World Order" is also featured in the Duke Nukem soundtrack from 1999), "Black Swan" was released as a bonus track for those who pre ordered "United Abominations", and "Sudden Death" was originally special written for the game "Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock" (A game that also includes "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due" and "This Day We Fight!", all three songs are incredibly fun and difficult on guitar). Out of these 4 songs I would recommend 2 of them. "Sudden Death" is a fantastic shredding piece that fits perfectly in the game it was written for and the solos are just a blast to listen to (the chorus is pretty wimpy though) and "Black Swan" is a great song with fine musicality and sweet catchiness.

The new songs holds a great variety when it comes to pure quality. Some songs does succeed in standing its ground and delivers a pretty good mix of thrash beats and more commercial melody lines, while others could more or less be described as train wrecks, especially when you look it from a lyrical stand point. The first single, "Public Enemy No. 1", may be a cool catchy tune about Al Capone with a galloping main riff, but I just face palm when I hear Dave trying to find as many words as possible that rimes with one, and why is the band bragging so much in "Guns, Drugs, & Money"? Just why? Then we have the out right weak songs, like "Whose Life [Is It Anyways?]" and "Fast Lane" that just makes you want to hit the skip button as soon as they come up.

Fortunately, "Th1rt3en" is not completely filled with awful songs. I really enjoy the aggressive, but still very melodic "Never Dead" that brings one of the coolest solos the band has made in the 21st century, and the ending "13" is a nice way to end the album with its slow and hauntingly beautiful tempo. These songs together with the old material definitely makes up for some of the inconsistencies that this album is displaying, but it is obvious that the band went a little too experimental with "Th1rt3en", even if it at first sounds like a normal modern Megadeth album. I miss the anger, I miss the fury, and most of all, I miss the guitars that only gets the spotlight in like two and a half out of the thirteen songs.

So yeah, "Th1rt3en" is a step back for the band in a lot of points, but the overall image of the album is still pretty decent, just not fantastic. Several songs in here are good and worthy of giving a listen to, but to each good song in this album, there is at least two bad/mediocre songs to accompany it. It might have been because of that Dave Ellefson is back in the band and influenced the song creating process enough to steer it back into the 90's direction, but I really do not care since it would have been difficult for the band to top "Endgame" anyways. "Th1rt3en" will always be a decent album that just happens to have a really stupid name and a cover that doesn't make sense. Not Megadeth's finest work, but far from their worst.

Songs worthy of recognition: Black Swan, Sudden Death, Never Dead

Rating: 6,5/10 Wreckers

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Lancer - Second Storm (2015)

The Swedish power metal band Lancer made quite a big impression on me with their self titled debut album that was released around 2 years ago, mostly because they successfully mixed the power in power metal and the melodies in NWoBHM so well that it turned into a new and refreshing sound. But for their second full length
effort, conveniently named "Second Storm", they leave the NWoBHM in the shadows to put all of their earnings on power. A interesting decision that may not be a innovative one, but could help the band in getting more fans quickly to discover what they bring to the metal world.

I do not think that it might have been the wrong decision to change their direction, especially since the change is not that huge, but it definitely makes Lancer more unoriginal. They often sound like a Stratovarius cover band, especially since the vocalist Isak Stenvall sounds a lot like Timo Kotipelto. This really makes "Second Storm" a uneasy experience, cause even if you like the music, you still got a thought in the back at your head that says this could as well have been stolen from Stratovarius.

So it may not come as a surprise for you that I recommend fans of Stratovarius to listen to this album, not because the music has many similarities with what the Finns do, but also because the quality of the craft is quite good. The songs "Fools Marches On", Running From The Tyrant", and "Behind The Walls" gives you the power and speed that you would expect from a power metal band, while "Children of The Storm" and "Masters And Crowns" gives the album more musicality and depth. The set list does have a good amount of diversity, and the red thread goes visibly through all of the songs, which connects them together, making this a more solid piece. I also recommend the epic chorus in "Eyes of The Liar" and the solo work in "Steelbreaker".

But just like in the debut album, "Second Storm" tend to become a little boring after a couple of listens, making its life length disappointingly short. Lot of the songs in this album definitely holds a great standard, but I cannot see myself listening to them for too long, too often. The band also have to work on being more even in the song writing process. The old school "Iwo Jima" is just plain boring and "Aton" does have some neat ideas, but ended up as a close to 10 minute long AOR song that I have trouble with listening to in its entirety. It is way too long for its own good.

So Lancer does not quite reach up to the standards that their self title debut did, but "Second Storm" is still a quite good power metal album by a band that does have a future in this business. The overall song quality is enjoyable and the band knows what they are doing, but to reach the next level in their career, they have to fine tweak some key components, including getting their musical image a lot clearer. Otherwise, they do have several things that makes a great band. A good bunch of musicians, a nice logo, and a cool and menacing ostrich that fonts every album cover. So keep on working guys, and make your coming third storm your biggest yet.

Songs worthy of recognition: Children of The Storm, Masters And Crowns, Fools Marches On

Rating: 7,5/10 Steelbreakers

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Megadeth - Endgame (2009)

I have said it before, and I say it again, the career of Megadeth can be compared to a roller coaster, where it starts going up until you reach the top, which is "Rust In Peace", then it goes down hill until you hit the bottom, which is "Risk". Now here is the second high point of the Megadeth hell ride, the 12th effort known as "Endgame", a album that took all of the things that made its predecessor "United Abominations" so successful and cranked it up another couple of notches. It was a album that was the main weapon in the Megadeth arsenal to reclaim there place among the thrash gods.

And holy crap, talk about thrash candy literally everywhere. It is almost like in the good old days, were the typical Megadeth song consisted of 60% riffing, 30% solos and 10% what ever could fit well into the song (lyrics, intro, more riffing, etc.). But it is not like the good old days, 20 years have passed since, the line up is different and the songs have gotten a modern make over, but it is still pretty good since Megadeth evolves, just like almost everything else in this world.

The biggest thrash steak that "Endgame" offers is the war tank known as "This Day We Fight!", a song that contains one of the meanest and fastest riffs Dave Mustaine has ever played on his six string, and together with a speed that matches Sonic The Hedgehog and the motivational skills that would match a hundred William Wallace's (the main character in the movie classic "Braveheart"), this song is a force to be reckoned with, and it works perfect together with the opening intro, "Dialectic Chaos". The first single "Head Crusher" is also a nice thrashy tune that... well, crushes heads. Pretty good for a song that is just about a medieval torture device.

There are also some songs that have more of the modern touch in it, and still works pretty well thanks to good musicianship. Some examples of that is the well composed "How The Story Ends", the slow and interesting title track and the surprisingly melodic and beautiful "The Hardest Part of Letting Go... Sealed With A Kiss". This definitely gives the album more depth and makes the whole record sound like a mix of the old and new Megadeth, without sounding cliche or stupid. The band really hit all the right notes on this album.

But no matter how much I love this album, I cannot stop thinking on how some of the songs could have been much more cooler and tougher if the band would have changed some minor details here and there. The main problem is that some of the choruses are far too weak, like the one to "1,320'". It is a nice, speedy song that really captures the racing mentality perfectly, but the chorus could as well be non existent, because it is so similar to the verse. The same could also be said to "Bite The Hand" and "Bodies", and all of those three comes after each other, which means "Endgame" has a three song long span without a good chorus, which really annoys me. The band knows how to write a great chorus, so why didn't they apply those skills to those songs?

Despite that, "Endgame" is still a fantastic album that is among the top in the Megadeth discography. The speed, riffs and attitude in this album is over flowing into rapids and you do not want to stop it, you just want more and more and more. This is the ultimate sign that Megadeth is back where they belong, playing thrash that just crushes everything in its path. Even with that modern vibe in it, "Endgame" is still a amazing piece that beats out about 90% of the opposition. This is a game that I would not want to end at all.

Songs worthy of recognition: This Day We Fight!, The Hardest Part of Letting Go... Sealed With A Kiss, Head Crusher, How The Story Ends

Rating: 9/10 Bodies