Monday, December 9, 2013
"Dark Wings of Steel" is the 10th album by the Italians and even if Luca has left the band, I consider this album as slightly more theatrical than its controversial predecessor "From Chaos To Eternity", mostly because there is no song here that screams metal like "Aeons of Raging Darkness". But the music is not so theatrical that it could be seen as movie music, which is the last thing I want to hear. I believe that movie music belongs on the big screen and not in a CD format.
The overall standard is pretty high on this album and I cannot find a single filler here. Everything here sounds really nice, like the beautiful Italian ballad "Custode Di Pace" (means peace keeper), the epic "Angel of Light" and the symphonic "A Tale of Magic". But just like with any other Rhapsody of Fire album, I cannot point to a individual song that could stand high and pride by itself. These songs creates an stable and good album together, but they are not very special at all individually, which is of course a shame since "Dark Wings of Steel" is a very solid piece of fine musicianship.
However, the biggest problem with "Dark Wings of Steel" is the lack of memorability in the songs. The only chorus I can remember after the first two listening sessions is "Fly To Crystal Skies", and that is only because of Fabio Lione's weird pronunciation of crystal (or as he says it, criestel). As soon as one song is done, I have to go back to it only to remember what I was listening to, even if I have heard the album several times. And no, I do not suffer from Alzheimers disease if you wondered that.
But even if the album has some slight problems, it still exceeds my expectations. "Dark Wings of Steel" does not convince me that Rhapsody of Fire can create world class music, but it keeps me interested with its unique sound and fine craftsmanship. Actually, I think it is one of the better Rhapsody of Fire albums made so far. But is the band better than Luca Turilli's Rhapsody? For now, yes, but Luca can still catch up if his next album is a killer (an album that is set for an release during next year). But for now, "Dark Wings of Steel" will have to do for the fans and the ones that despises Rhapsody of Fire may have to keep looking at other directions for something they will like.
Songs worthy of recognition: A Tale of Magic, Custode Di Pace, Fly To Crystal Skies
Rating: 7/10 Angels of Light
Friday, December 6, 2013
I tried to stay as opened minded as possible with this release, but I still just sat there with one raised eye brow and an open mouth thinking "what the fuck did I just listen to?". Just the fact that the songs are just named "Devlab I", "Devlab II" and so on is just super weird. I also know that Devin has done some crazy shit during his career, but he must have lost his mind when he decided to create this abomination.
The only track that was even close to be labeled as music is the 8th track, but it is still boring as hell to listen too. There is nothing to grab on to in this record, nothing to reflect about, and I do not see any resemblance between the tracks (except that they are all hideous). I do not see any meaning at all with releasing an album like this, and even more, I do not understand why such a fine artist like Devin Townsend go so far from his musical styles to create this abomination. Because there is nothing in this album that is even close to anything from Devin's previous efforts. I know "Terria" had some ambient in its music, but that was justified, this is just plain shitty.
Do you know how many times I listened to this album? Not one, not two, but THREE times. That makes it a total of 3 hours, 17 minutes and 48 seconds that I have wasted with this album. What was I thinking? And what was Devin thinking? This is not music. This is random background noises. I think Devin is trying to show some diversity and display his knowledge with ambient music, but I am not buying it, I am burning it down to the ground. "Devlab" is not music, it is a nuclear meltdown with no survivors.
So it is with great sadness that I give Devin Townsend and his album "Devlab" my first ever 0. There is nothing good about "Devlab", only a CD with sounds that can easily be replicated downtown at a big city. So whenever I see a copy of "Devlab" in real life, I will steal it, burn it, crush it, humiliate it, teabag it and vomit all over it until the end of time (or at least until my death).
Song worthy of recognition: HA HA, good one there
Rating: 0/10 Shitlabs
Monday, December 2, 2013
"Winter Is Coming" is a two act opera containing both new material and some classic winter tunes in a new musical style. Frankly, I was not very excited with this release since I have heard thousands of metalized Christmas songs. Everything from Twisted Sister's holiday album to a black metal version of "Silent Night". But only so few of these versions are any good (my personal favourite is Ronnie James Dio and Tony Iommi's version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"). The only thing that kept my hope up was that I have not actually heard a power metal band do any Christmas music, so it would be interesting to see how that would sound like.
The first act starts with a 8 minute long song called "Gloria In Excelsis Deo" that is a medley with "Hark The Herald Angels Sing", "O Holy Night" and more. It is a nice medley indeed and it is one of my favourite tracks of the album with its diversity and stable power metal foundation, but I was just wondering why the songs in the medley also appears in the end of the second act? I could see the point with it if they put those songs in a deluxe CD or so, but it is otherwise so unnecessary.
Besides from the medley, most of the songs here are just slow songs that is supposed to get you in the mood for Christmas. While some are quite enjoyable, most of these slower songs are pure sleeping pills. It is instead when the tempo is higher where the power metal influence is used at its best. Some proofs of this are "Good King Wenceslas" and the original song "Winter Is Coming". Some sweet power metal with winter coating.
Sadly, the down sides with this albums are more obvious than the up sides. Besides the sleeping pills, I think that there are too many songs on this album. There are 20 tracks in this album, but I think 15 would have been enough for comfort. Then there is the singer Jacob Kaasgaard, whose voice I still have a problem with. He definitely tries to adapt himself , but his voice is still too weak to nail those high notes. He is a nice keyboard player and there are weaker vocalists out there, but I feel that he should let the singing over to someone who has the capability to front a power metal band.
This is certainly one of the better Christmas albums I have heard for some time, but it is still a Christmas album, which means that it is almost impossible to get it completely right. The original songs in this albums are pretty good and some covers holds up nicely, but just like with all other Christmas music, I will probably be tired of this record around St. Lucy's day (13th December). Nice try guys, but put more of that effort in making a normal album instead of something we only will listen to one month a year (at max).
Songs worthy of recognition: Winter Is Coming, Gloria In Excelsis Deo, Good King Wenceslas
Rating: 5/10 Dark Skies
Saturday, November 30, 2013
I will admit that "Unfold" have some similarities with its predecessor. There are several parts where there is a perfect mix of heavy metal and power metal, but it feels like Almah does not go with this sound to 100% like they did in "Motion". Instead, they put in some more smooth and easy notes in the music, which gives some more variation, but also loses some strength.Why would they do that when they had a perfectly good and original sound at their disposal? Instead, they experiment with typical power metal ballads ("Warm Wind"), stupid rock groove ("You Gotta Stand") and some U2 shit ("Wings of Revolution"). Not okay man, not okay.
But there is still some elements in "Unfold" that definitely works. Like the frenetic drum work in "In My Sleep", the chorus in "The Hostage" (but not that god awful Black Label Society verse), the beautiful "Raise The Sun" and the powerful "Believer" (the only power metal song in this album that actually works). But they only make up for some of the faults with this album. They cannot help that the production is not perfect nor the weird experimental tracks that drags the album down. It is a shame since the members are all great and professional musicians that makes a great effort to make "Unfold" as good as it can be.
The final nail in the coffin for "Unfold" spells "Treasure of The Gods". A nine minute long epic that picks out every power metal cliche in the book. A slow start, epic chorus and some technical instrumental work along the way. Even if it is one of the better tracks in "Unfold", I still want to just vomit bile all over the place. What happened to the originality? What happened with the excitement?
This was a big disappointment, maybe one of the bigger ones in 2013. I expected "Unfold" to be a continuation of "Motion" and securing Almah's place as one of the more interesting power/heavy metal bands in the world, but instead, they experimented so much that they lost themselves on the way. "Unfold" shows some glimpses of greatness, but it is overall an unpleasant record. So please Almah, skip the whole "let's be a typical power metal band" act and keep the heavy hard rock sound instead. It fits you much better and it feels more original.
Songs worthy of recognition: In My Sleep, Raise The Sun, Believer
Rating: 4,5/10 Cannibals In Suits
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
So here we have it, the follow up to "Human Remains" that is entitled "Curse & Chapter". A album that works great as a follow up since it is very much alike its predecessor. We still have the devil and the occult as the main theme, and the sound is still heavy with influences from the 80's NWoBHM movement (even if it is more modernized). So no, nothing has really changed during the time between the albums, but I see it as a good thing that the band shows some continuity with their music.
Just like in "Human Remains", some old demo classics arises in "Curse & Chapter", but they are in a minority this time. It is the songs "Deathsquad", "Land of The Living Dead" and "Deliver Us From Evil" that has been remastered for the 21st century. Now I cannot compare the demo track with the album version, but I can definitely sense that the songs have an aura from the 80's, especially the instrumental "Deathsquad" that takes my mind back to the earliest works of Iron Maiden and "Deliver Us From Evil" reminds me of Mercyful Fate. However, I feel that there are stronger creations in this album than these three particular songs.
It is fun to see that it is the new material that takes the most space in this album, but it is even funnier to see that they exceed my expectation and take over completely. Songs like "The Age of Nefarious", "Faith Will Fall", "Darkhangel" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes" are just so god damn good that it actually makes me mad that this band did not get an honest chance in the 80's. Well I guess God (or Satan) works his magic in mysterious ways. But it is a relief to see that this band still has the ability to create some great and impressive tunes.
If "Human Remains" was a album to declare Hell's triumphant return, then "Curse & Chapter" is the statement that they still know how to write fantastic metal. The album is just the fantastic NWoBHM assault that you would have hoped for from this band. Another proof of Hell's great excellence.
Songs worthy of recognition: Faith Will Fall, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Age of Nefarious
Rating: 9/10 Deathsquads
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Musically speaking, I would say that the album mixes the playfulness of "Infinity" with the mature nature of "Terria". It is a uplifting album that explores both commercially attractive vibes with heavy metal. I definitely like where it is heading towards, especially since the memorability factor is higher compared to both "Terria" and Strapping Young Lad's latest self-titled release. And even if some of the tracks balances on the thread between rock and pop, it is still a pretty joyful listening session for metal freaks.
The best prof of the previous statement is the opener "Depth Charge". With an impressive determination and drive, Devin and the gang plows through with speed, epicness and a sound that is as hard as it can be without being completely metal. Definitely my favorite track from the album. The rest of the album never reach the same heavy level (although "Random Analysis" is fairly close), but that does not mean there is nothing more to appreciate with "Accelerated Evolution". Take an extra listen to the soft rock song "Traveller" and the Blink-182 inspired "Slow Me Down", two songs that will surely put a smile on that grim face of yours. Also take a look at the space oriented "Suicide" that may be the most sad song in the album, but it has some strong points like the frenetic guitar work and the mood settings. Then we also have the semi-instrumental track "Away" that may be too long for its own good, but still brings a sense of delight to the soul with its cool and ambient sound.
The only real problem with "Accelerated Evolution" is that it may scare some of the more heavier metal fans away. There are no crazy solos nor not many times where Devin screams his lungs out, which is a proof that Devin has succeeded with his plan. He wanted to create a band that was the complete opposite to Strapping Young Lad, and The Devin Townsend Band is just what it was supposed to be.
"Accelerated Evolution" is a very chill album that should not appeal to the more hardcore metal fans, but if you enjoyed "Terria" and even "Infinity", then I would suggest that you would give this album a chance. It is not the overall strongest album in the Devin Townsend catalog, but just like any other album by the Canadian, it is one of a kind.
Songs worthy of recognition: Depth Charge, Suicide, Slow Me Down
Rating: 8/10 Travellers
Sunday, November 17, 2013
So has the years changed SYL any significantly? Actually no, the heaviness and anger is still a big part of SYL's music, but it is more of a controlled anger instead of this bat shit crazy anger where Devin says fuck every three words. Now that I think of it, Devin only says fucking 5 times throughout this album. Anyway, the music may be more down to earth (or mature), but I miss that extra level of craziness that "City" had. Sure, some parts in this albums are pure WTF moments (like in the end of "Dirt Pride" where Devin screams "Wash my fucking balls"), but it is not enough to make this album stand out. Not so good when the album is only 39 minutes long.
There are not many songs that catches my attention in "Strapping Young Lad", but two songs are definitely interesting enough for me to notice. The first one is the bone crushing "Relentless". It is the only song on "Strapping Young Lad" that would fit nicely in "City" with its heaviness, speed, and epic chorus. The other song is "Force Fed", that impresses with an excellent mix of epic musical quality and doom-like groove. But I think it would have been better if it was slightly shorter. We also have songs like "Rape Song", "Aftermath", and "Dirt Pride" that may not impress me completely, but still satisfies my urge of great SYL metal.
Despite the fact that the quality is decently high, I still feel that "Strapping Young Lad" needs a personality. It is overall a slightly bland album for a SYL album. I mean, "Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing" had its silliness and "City" had speed and heaviness. What does "Strapping Young Lad" have? The answer is nothing in particular. The band does what they are good at, but nothing more.
It is without a doubt that I say that "Strapping Young Lad" is a great album, but it could have been even better with something that personified the album. There is a good couple of songs in the album, but nothing overly impressive. However, it is still a good album with the fact that the band was inactive for three years. But it is not enough to make me wash the band's fucking balls.
Songs worthy of recognition: Force Fed, Relentless, Aftermath
Rating: 7/10 Consequences
Saturday, November 16, 2013
I gotta be honest, I did not have much hope for this beer at all before trying it. I thought that it was going to be like the Shiraz, or the last couple of albums that the bands have released. Good, but not overwhelming. But it was a pleasant surprise tasting the beer. According to Systembolaget, it is a malty beer with hints of oranges, honey and crispbread. I have no idea where they tasted crispbread in this beer, but I can back up the orange and honey parts since it is a sweet beer with a little fruity hint. Definitely not your average beer. And even if I feel the strength in it, it does not take over so much that you must take a long break between your sips. It is fairly easy to drink. However, I feel that if a beer is named Bastards, then it should be either a strong, angry beer, or a beer that makes the drinker an asshole. I only drank one bottle, but I do not feel madder. Whatever, a beer is a beer.
I can definitely say that Bastards beats both the Shiraz and the bands latest album "Aftershock", but we will just have to see if it beats the vödka (I am not a girl, therefore I will not try the rose). But does it live up to its name? No, it should have been stronger then it actually is. Is it a must buy for fans? Definitely.
Rating: 8/10 Snaggletooths
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Musically speaking, there is not much that separates the two album apart from each other. We got fast and catchy power songs, some slower and more delicate tunes, but sadly no ultra heavy song that has only one goal, to crush your brain into smithereens. Now, I understand why the band made these albums similar to each other, but I would have appreciated it if they tried to make two different albums that would have shown the band's diversity. The only real difference I see between the albums is that it feels like Ivan Moody is not as angry in this album as he was in volume 1. If that is supposed to represent the albums as a "good" and a "evil" album is for you to figure out.
One thing that makes this volume superior compared to its predecessor is that it is more even in its performance. There is no real shit song to be found here, but there is also no real masterpiece here either. The best picks from this album is the fast crunching "Wrecking Ball", the fast starter "Here To Die", the beautiful "Battle Born" and the nicely paced "Cradle To Grave". This evenness brings however a big flaw to this album, and that is that it does not take much time before you get tired at the album. That is the main reason why I believe that the band should have put in either "I.M.Sin" or "Dot Your Eyes" from the last album to give this album some much needed variation.
Then we also have that cover of the traditional American folk song "House of The Rising Sun", a song that has been covered several times in the past by The Animals, Dolly Parton and others. Compared to the horrible cover of "Mama Said Knock You Out" on the last album, this is at least 50 times better. 5FDP really made this song their own with the blasting double bass and the smooth riffing. The only problem is that most of the younger audience will probably think that this is a 5FDP original, something that has already happened with their cover of "Bad Company".
In the end, I think that the two volumes are good, but that the first volume is the superior one. The first volume had more power and more of a personality while the second volume was more even in its performance, but it also has a shorter life span. Both albums have their strengths and weaknesses, but even if they are two good individual albums, I would have liked it more if the band had made one big album with the great songs and left some good songs on hold so they could be included in a future album. Anyway, both "The Wrong Side of Heaven And The Righteous Side of Hell" albums are worthy a check for fans of both angry/powerful metal and more commercially approached rock. But for the next album, please keep the title at 20 characters maximum.
Songs worthy of recognition: Wrecking Ball, Battle Born, Here To Die
Rating: 7/10 Weights Beneath My Sin
Thursday, November 7, 2013
As always, Arjen gets some help from several guest artists from the metal world. Some of the big names this time are Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot), Janne Christoffersson (Grand Magus) and many more. And with this well experienced crew comes some good musical performance, even if there is a significant variation in styles.
As far as the story goes, it is just like any other Ayreon album where every singer is a character. The only difference with "The Theory of Everything" is that Ayreon is starting from scratch with a new story (the rest of the albums, from "The Final Experiment" to "01011001", portrays one giant saga). It is about a man who tries to figure out the theory of everything (if you are wondering what it is, look it up on Wikipedia. I got an headache just by trying to figure out what it was about) just because he is having trouble of living an "ordinary" life. It is certainly an interesting story, and the lyrics and vocalists really brings it to life.
But it is the music that is the main ingredient to really make a great concept album, and Ayreon's characteristic epic sound works every time. It is both a beautiful and grand sound that also morphs into different sounds from other eras and regions, like in "Phase 1: Singularity" we get sounds from the middle ages, the Arabian region and also some futuristic tunes. The music is truly versatile and brings true depth to the album, but I feel like this is a album that you must listen to in its entirety. I cannot just pick a couple of songs or one specific phase that stands out from the others, because they are all linked so strongly together that it would be a risk just picking out one from the link. But I see it as a strength since it makes a more cohesive album.
But are there any weaknesses with "The Theory of Everything"? Well, the album demands its listener, which means that people with a small amount of patient will not only have a harder time enjoying the album, but also might not even listen to the entire thing in one sitting. Otherwise there is nothing wrong with this album, but I do feel that the musicality does not last very long in my head. There are only few small parts in every phase that I remember well, but I think that could have been fixed if Arjen would have done eight 10+ minute songs instead of four 20+ minute songs.
I can honestly say that Arjen Lucassen has made another great epic. "The Theory of Everything" is Ayreon out to the fingertips and fans of the band will probably put this album instantly on the top of their "end of the year" list. And even though I also loved the album and its story, I still feel that there are things that could have improven, especially the memorability factor. None the less, "The Theory of Everything" is a magnificent album that is the definition of epic.
Phases worthy of recognition: all of them
Rating: 9/10 Symmetries