Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lost Society - Terror Hungry (2014)

One of the bigger bombs last year was from the new crossover thrash band Lost Society. These Finnish lads made a big splash with their debut album "Fast Loud Death" that was fast, crazy and a whole lot of fun. So I was not surprised with the announcement that the band would release its sophomore album "Terror Hungry" as soon as one year after the release of their debut. I can tell this is a band that does not want to sit still, they want action and they want it now.

For those of you who listened to "Fast Loud Death" will definitely recognize "Terror Hungry". The album is packed with crossover thrash that goes faster than the speed of light, but I can tell some improvements here and there. The lyrics are not as juvenile as they were in "Fast Loud Death". You will not find a song like "Piss Out My Ass" on "Terror Hungry", but the band still has some way to go until they can write grand and meaningful lyrics. But then again, it is a crossover thrash band, so I do not expect Lost Society to create the next "Bohemian Rhapsody".

No, the band lets the music do the talking instead, and compared to the predecessor, the songs on "Terror Hungry" are a lot longer. Only 3 songs goes under 3 minutes while the same amount of songs goes over 5 minutes, which is surprising since crossover thrash is famous for their short, fast paced songs. But the band manages well to keep the intensity in every track they throw at your face.

And it is some good music that we are treated with. From the fast shredding "Game Over" and the "old-school" song "Lethal Pressure" to the bone crushing "Overdosed Brain" and the rocking bonus track "You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll", you will experience a vast variety of thrash in "Terror Hungry", although I still think that the variety was greater in "Fast Loud Death". No matter what, there are 14 songs to pick from, and it is hard not to find at least one song that you will highly enjoy.

"Terror Hungry" lives up to the hype that "Fast Loud Death" created. It is another fast paced steamroller that shows as much thrash down your throat that is possible until you either throw up or shit it out. This album is just another proof of who is currently the kings of crossover thrash. And I do not know about you guys, but this album makes me terribly hungry for even more music by these crazy Finns.

Songs worthy of recognition: Game Over, Attaxic, Lethal Pressure, You Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll

Rating: 8,5/10 Brewtal Awakenings

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Black Sabbath - Sabotage (1975)

After some experimentation in both "Black Sabbath Vol. 4" and "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", Black Sabbath chose to go back to the rock sound they had in their earlier albums. Their 6th effort, entitled "Sabotage", is a more straight forward album from the band, a album that let the band pull off some steam since they were being sued by their former management during the time they recorded the album. This difficult time weakened the band in general later on, but it might have strengthen the band in this perticular album.

It feels again like the band is making music they want to play, and you can definitely hear it. Tony Iommi's riff are not only memorable, but they are groovy as well. Ozzy does a good job on the vocals and Bill Ward's drumming is just how you want it to be like. Could have wished for more of Geezer's bass, but it does not bother me that much.

Altough there are no songs in "Sabotage" that has gotten a world wide recognition, the album still has some nice gems in it. The most famous song from this album is probably the 9 and a half minute long "Megalomania" that is almost two songs merged into one. It starts of in a slow psychadelicmood which eventually evolves into more of a straight forwards rock song with a nice groove and an awesome riff. Also kinda like the keyboards in the end. Another personal favourite is the fast and thrilling "Symptom of The Universe", which is probably the fastest song the band has made during that time.

Those two songs stands out a little extra in "Sabotage", but the album itself contains 7 high quality songs ("Don't Start (Too Late)" not included since it is a useless intro track) that have different personalities and strengths. "Supertzar" is a spiritual instrumental with cool riffs and a heavenly choir, "Hole In The Sky" is a simple riff based song with no complications, and"The Writ" is a long smooth song that closes the album in a fine way. These are just some of the types you will encounter while listening to "Sabotage", and this versatility makes "Sabotage" a very exciting album, that just presents surprise after surprise. No songs are the same, but no song really skew off from the general direction the album is heading towards.

Except for the clothing choices on the album cover, everything works perfectly fine in "Sabotage". The good selection of songs and the more straight forward approach makes this one of the best Black Sabbath album up to date. There is very little to dislike about this rock album, and I can also feel that the band itself was very pleased with making this record. Definitely one of the band's finest records during the Ozzy era.

Songs worthy of recognition: Megalomania, Hole In The Sky, Symptom of The Universe, The Writ

Rating: 9/10 Supertzars

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Lacuna Coil - Broken Crown Halo (2014)

The Italian band Lacuna Coil came out during the late 90's as one of many gothic metal bands with a female lead vocalist, and it is safe to assume that they now a days are one of the more successful bands from that era. But the band has become more and more mainstream rock for every album and leaving their gothic heritage behind them. That trend continues on "Broken Crown Halo", the band's 7th album. So if you expected a album that took the band back to its roots, then you are sadly mistaken.

There are definitely some dark elements in Lacuna Coil's music that shows where they are originally from, but it is the simplistic song structures and the catchy melodies that dominates "Broken Crown Halo". And unfortunately, this album is not a step forward for the band. I highly enjoyed the predecessor, "Dark Adrenaline", for it's good variety and its personality, and even if "Broken Crown Halo" is technically a darker album, it miss some attraction to make me really excited over it. The only song that really stuck to my mind was "Infection". The song has an interesting flow and it is one of few songs where the male singer Andrea Ferro does not feel either useless or in the way for the female singer Cristina Scabbia.

There are some other songs that persuades me to liking them after some time. "Hostage To The Light" , "Victims" and "I Forgive (But I Won't Forget Your Name)" are all examples of songs that grows inside one's mind. And that is one of "Broken Crown Halo"'s biggest strength, it has a good life length which makes it not feel boring after a short time. Sure, the catchiness is not as great as it was on other Lacuna Coil albums, but it is still pretty easy to remember most of the songs.

The only thing that is missing in "Broken Crown Halo" is some kind of a punch. Most of the songs in the record have been done before by the band, but in a better way. I think that the album would have gotten a bigger impact if it had one very heavy song or one faster song, so the variety would not feel so left out in this album. And also, even if Andrea Ferro probably does some of his best work here in "Broken Crown Halo", I still think he takes too much of the attention. For instance, he tries to imitate Rob Zombie in "In The End I Feel Alive", which makes you focus on that instead of Scabbia's impressive work on the chorus. He will probably never leave the band, but I would appreciate it more if he stepped back and let Scabbia do more of the work.

"Broken Crown Halo" is far from broken, but it is obvious that the band has followed the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". The album is a mix of already used up ideas and some dark layers that gives the illusion of that the band is still gothic. There are still some intentions that are interesting and the band definitely know what they are doing, but they do not evolve very much and something tells me that they are satisfied with their current state, so the next album will probably sound a lot like this one. So if you did not like Lacuna Coil before, do not bother with "Broken Crown Halo", let the fans enjoy it instead.

Songs worthy of recognition: Infection, Hostage To The Light, I Forgive (But I Won't Forget Your Name)

Rating: 6/10 Zombies

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Wine review: Crimson XII

Let me first clear up one thing. I am far from a wine taster and I am sure that my taste buds are either not fully developed yet or they have been damaged in one way or another. Also, since I am still in my early 20's, I have not experienced every different wine sorts that the world has to offer. I cannot tell the difference between a Merlot and a Shiraz, and I have no idea what wine goes perfectly well with what sort of meal. So if you want a opinion by someone who knows his wines, please go away. However, if you want to read what a young metal head has to say about this wine that was distributed by a metal band, then be my guest and keep on reading.

Anyway, the Swedish power metal band Hammerfall is just one of many, many bands that has taken up the trend of distributing a own brand of wine. Why has this been such a trend? I do not know, I have always felt that beer and whiskey is more metal than wine, but I guess not. But for me, it just felt right that Hammerfall's wine would be the first heavy metal wine that I would review. Hammerfall was one of my first true loves when it comes to metal music and I have been a fan of the band ever since "Crimson Thunder". And since it stood clear that there probably wound not be any more making of this wine, I thought to myself "I should buy it, taste it, and make a review of it".

So here we are. Crimson XII is a Italian 13,5% red wine made in the year 2011. It comes in 75 cl bottles and costs 120 SEK (around 18,5 USD or 13,5 Euro) per bottle. And I can assure you that it taste like a wine should taste. It is fruity and I think it would fit very well with a medium-rare steak and some potato wedges. And compared to other metal wines in the market, it stacks up pretty good both prize wise and taste wise. And yes, you do get drunk if you drink enough of it. So I would say that it is a must buy for fans of the band. But hurry, the last bottles are out on sales right now and all points towards that there will be no more making of this excellent alcohol product. Bottoms up.

Rating: 7/10

(and for those who wonders, yes, I was slightly drunk when I wrote the review, but you should be if you try a alcoholic product. Stay Metal!)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sonata Arctica - Pariah's Child (2014)

It has not been easy being a fan of the Finnish power metal band Sonata Arctica these last couple of years. Since the release of "Unia" in 2007, the band has tormented its audience with unsuccessful experimenting and weak song writing. However, we might finally see the light at the end of the tunnel with the release of "Pariah's Child". Just the fact that the band has gone back to its original band logo (which they have not had on a album since "Reckoning Night") is a good signs for the old fans.

And sure enough, most of the music sounds more like the old Sonata Arctica on "Pariah's Child". Even if we do not get treated with a album filled speedy and true power metal song, it still shows some nice intentions that makes you remember what made you like Sonata Arctica in the first place, like the fast pounding in "Running Lights" and "Blood", the melodies in "Cloud Factory", and the brittleness in "What Did You Do In The War, Dad?". Even the winter and medieval feel that the whole album reeks off just makes you feel all warm inside.

It is an overall coherent album where all the songs feels like they belong in it. There are a lot of catchy tunes that makes it a power metal album, but the cheesiness is not so high that it makes the album sloppy. You can easily tag a long on tracks like "The Wolves Die Young" and "Cloud Factory" while other tracks, like "Take One Breath" and "Love", instead grows on you. The variation in the record is also very splendid and the band performs like professionals. And even if most of the tunes are somewhat predictable, it does not spoil anything, it is still pretty enjoyable for the listener.

However, all is not well with "Pariah's Child". There are also parts in "Pariah's Child" were it just feels so wrong that it is there. The track "Half A Marathon Man" is a weird mix of gospel, loud keyboards and heavy rock that just does not suit the band. Then we also have "X Marks The Spot" that is musically a decent track, but lyrically it is just way too corny for the band's own good. And then also the random preachings from the American gospel priest. What is even the meaning with that? Totally useless waste of space.

Even if "Pariah's Child" does not reach up to the same heights as Sonata Arctica's strongest works, it is still the band's best album since "Reckoning Night". Gone are most of the weird progressive experiments and they are instead replaced with what the band does best, melodic power metal. So welcome back from the darkness Sonata Arctica, we have missed you.

Songs worthy of recognition: "What Did You Do In The War, Dad?", Cloud Factory, Blood

Rating: 7,5/10 Marathon Men

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Gamma Ray - Empire of The Undead (2014)

There were much uncertainty if Gamma Ray's eleventh album, entitled "Empire of The Undead", would even see the light of day. On the 18th of November 2013, Kai Hansen and Dirk Schlächter's studio "Hammer Studio" was burned to the ground in a massive fire. Luckily, most of the recordings was unharmed and the band could eventually complete this album with an album cover that looks like a microscopic close up shot of a bed bug.

Kai has said that "Empire of The Undead" is more of a thrashy album than its predecessors, and it is a statement that I can agree on. This album is probably Gamma Ray's heaviest effort yet and some of the tracks could have also been fitting in a thrash metal band's repertoire. The most obvious thrash influence is in the title track, who has a main riff that is ripped out from Metallica's "Hit The Lights". It is a good speedy track indeed, but when the similarities are that huge, it just kills the song. Another thrashy tracks is the determined, but cheesy "Hellbent" that still has some good riffs, but a very boring and generic chorus.

But do not be afraid power metal fans, Gamma Ray has not completely forsaken its ideals. "Empire of The Undead" is primarily a classic power metal album that do kick ass and gets you pumped up. Most of the tracks, from the soaring "Born To Fly" and the epic "Avalon" to the steam roller "I Will Return", makes sure that "Empire of The Undead" is a true Gamma Ray album to the core. And it is some really good power in these songs indeed.

Sadly the band takes a couple of crooked steps through out this album. Besides from the obvious "Hit The Light" similarities in the title track, the band has also recreated the Queen classic "We Are The Champions" on "Time For Deliverance". It is a disgusting rip-off of a ballad that just makes me sick. And even if I like the heavier sound of this record, it helps making "Empire of The Undead" feel like two albums fused into one. It misses an all important red line throughout this album, which makes it more uneven than it should be.

But despite some of the mistakes throughout this album, I still think that "Empire of The Undead" is still a strong outing from Kai Hansen and his crew. The album packs a powerful punch that is not easy to get rid off and the band does, as usual, a solid work in the performance. The "Master of Confusion" EP gave us a good taste of what was coming, and "Empire of The Undead" definitely delivered.

Songs worthy of recognition: I Will Return, Avalon, Master of Confusion

Rating: 7,5/10 Demonseeds

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Demon Hunter - Extremist (2014)

Do not take the album cover nor the title as hints of what the album will sound like, because you will only get disappointed. Demon Hunter is not anywhere near extreme metal or anything like that, they are instead performing very likable, but generic metal core that tries to be tougher than what it is. "Extremist" is the band's seventh offering, and it is once again a album that will please their fans, but not make them gain more in any significant number.

The problem I have with Demon Hunter is that every time they release an album, the same thing happens. 2-3 songs are really good while the rest of the pack are just fillers. The same goes with "Extremist". Out of the 12 songs in the album, I am only taking a liking towards 3 songs. The first one is "Artificial Light". It is almost sounds like a cover of a Soilwork song, but the band still manages to make it their own with a really nice chorus that is captivating. The second song is "What I'm Not", a song that is Demon Hunter to the bone. It is these kinds of songs that originally got me into the band. If the band did more of these powerful and modern songs, then I would appreciate their work even more. The third song is "Cross To Bear", which is the hardest song on the album (besides from the short opener "Death"). It has a great amount of punch and if you did not listen to the rest of the album, you would think that Demon Hunter was a lot harder of a band than what they actually were.

The rest of the songs are just either boring ballads ("I Will Fail You", "Hell Don't Need Me") or pure fillers ("In Time", "Beyond Me") that wants too much. Is it too much for the band to make a full album with high quality songs? They have the know hows, so why do they not use it on all of the songs? I don't know, maybe they want to please too many at the same time, a move that has kept many bands from truly evolving.

However, I will give credit to the band that they stay true to their sound and at least tries to evolve. "Extremist" is in fact a small step forward from its predecessor, "True Defiance", and it could also be the band's best album up to date. But that does not mean that "Extremist" will be on my top list at the end of the year.

"Extremist" is not a disappointment, but it is neither a pleasant surprise. Just like its predecessors, it has some songs that stands out and shows the band's full potential. However, the majority of songs are just boring fillers that makes you shrug and shake your head. For every album that goes by, I am getting more and more sure that Demon Hunter will never be a world class act. They will just be known as the band that has some good songs and some albums that are good, but nothing over the ordinary.

Songs worthy of recognition: What I'm Not, Artificial Light, Cross To Bear

Rating: 6,5/10 Gasolines

Friday, March 21, 2014

Gus G. - I Am The Fire (2014)

Most of you probably know Kostas "Gus G." Karamitroudis as the guitarist and founder of the power metal band Firewind and also as the current guitarist for the Prince of Darkness Ozzy Osbourne. So that he would take his skills and try to make it with a solo album was to me far from surprising. The only question was what kind of a tactic he would take when going in to this album. Was he going to make an instrumental album? Would he invite a bunch of guests to help him? Would the music be the same as in Firewind or completely different?

Most of the questions were answered almost instantly. Gus G. has invited several guests to this album (Mats Levén, David Ellefson, Jeff Scott Soto, and more) and the album is a mix of both normal and instrumental songs. However, I am not sure about what musical direction this album wants to take. It has a serious issue with split personalities, just like with Slash's self titled debut (although it isn't as bad as it was on "Slash"). It mixes between pure rock ("My Will Be Done", "Just Can't Let Go"), some metal core ("I Am The Fire", "Long Way Down") and some technical instrumentals ("Vengeance", "Terrified"). There is no red line that connects the tracks together, which makes "I Am The Fire" to a sprawling album. The only thing that was really missing is a power metal track, which surprised me that there were none on this album.

There aren't many tracks that impresses me, but the ones that does also shows Gus's qualities with the guitar. The opener (and first single) "My Will Be Done" has a good memorable rock riff and the two part solo is both technical and flows good with the song. The two instrumental tracks ("Vengeance" and "Terrified") are both nice songs that feels well composed and does not contain too much of the good stuff. I also enjoy "Just Can't Let Go" that shows that Gus also know how to play a slower song were the riffing does not take over.

It is when the album goes to more modern metal where Gus G. loses the edge. The title track, who also includes the entire band Devour The Day, is just a generic modern rock song that could as well have been performed by any American wannabe metal band. We also have "Long Way Down" in this category, but it is not as bad as "I Am The Fire", but it is not good either. Alexia Rodriguez may have a decent voice, but listening to this track is an overall boring experience. You have heard this song before, and you damn sure will hear it again soon enough.

If Gus G. ought to be making more solo records, I feel that it would be wise for him to do what Slash did, assemble a permanent crew to help him with the song, not just invite a bunch of guest artists here and there. Because stability is the one thing that "I Am The Fire" is missing, and a stable line-up would solve that problem. Even if the album shows Gus G.'s versatility as a song writer and guitar player, it is not enough to make it lift up to the higher altitudes. So "I Am The Fire" is a decent start for a possible solo career for the virtuoso from Greece, but it makes me longing for a new Firewind record rather than its follow up.

Songs worthy of recognition: My Will Be Done, Vengeance, Just Can't Let Go

Rating: 5/10 Dreamkeepers

Metallica might be up to something... nice

One of the biggest heavy metal bands in the history of man kinds have done a shit ton of stuff the last 5 years. They have started a record company and a music festival, they have released all their songs to Spotify, they have played in Antarctica, they have featured in a 3D-movie and they have collaborated with Lou Reed. The only thing missing is the band's 10th full length album ("Garage Inc." and "Lulu" not included). But we might finally be getting there.

On the first show of their ongoing "By request" tour, the band has presented the new song "The Lords of Summer", a song that is very much alike several songs from their latest album, "Death Magnetic". With its 8 minutes of play time, this song is a meaty, riff filled power package that jumps into the fire without hesitation. And despite the some what boring lyrics, I kinda like this song. I think that "Death Magnetic" was the best album the band has made since "The Black Album", so it only feels natural that the band would continue on the same track, especially since they have taken a lot of sharp turns musically before "Death Magnetic".

I know that it is way too early to say that this is gonna be a great album, but there is no denying that the band is on a roll. The band feels tighter than ever and the only problems so far seems to be the usual things. The band can hit harder, but doesn't and Lars Ulrich is far from a master drummer. But those are things that most Metallica fans have learned to either ignore or accept.

When it comes to the tour, I am expecting it to be some what of a "best of" set list every night the band performs with no surprises what so ever. I will personally not go and see them myself at their only show in Sweden, the new one day festival STHLM Fields (even though I was very tempted since also Mastodon, Ghost, Gojira and more played the same day), but all I hope for the fans that will attended is that the band gets a set list filled with pure thrash and no ballads a la "Nothing Else Matters". They had a set list like that the last time they visited Sweden (Gothenburg 2011, during "The Big 4" tour), I was there and I loved it.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Conquering Dystopia - S/T (2014)

One of the fastest evolving genres in metal right now is the instrumental metal music. Several bands like Animal As Leaders and Scale The Summit has gained some good recognition thanks to their fine musicality and ability to create a story without any lyrics. Then we also have the already established artists like Steve Vai, Buckethead and Joe Satriani that started the genre and has helped it move forward. One of the newer exciting acts in instrumental metal is Conquering Dystopia, a death metal band formed by former Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis and current Merrow and Demisery guitarist Keith Merrow. Together with the bassist Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse) and the drummer Alex Rüdinger (The Faceless, Ordinance), they create a hard hitting quartet that takes the instrumental genre to new undiscovered territory.

Since there are already well experienced artists in Conquering Dystopia, you can be sure that the instrumental skill level is good enough. Keith and Jeff shares brotherly between the solos while Alex R. charges with fast double base and crunching blast beats. And Alex W. is also doing a very solid work, even if he is not as prominent as his companions.

My main concern before listening to the album was if the band could make different types of songs so it all would not sound the same. That concern disappeared quickly after the first listening session. "Conquering Dystopia" offers a good range of songs, from the neck breaking "Inexhaustible Savagery" to the more delicate "Lachrymose". This diversity makes the album a whole lot easier to listen to, and it is also allowing the members to show off their whole registry.

Musically speaking, I would say that "Conquering Dystopia" consist mostly of technical death metal beats with some very small intentions from the djent scene. And the musical structure is clearly stable enough support the songs both individually and as a whole album. But somewhere in the music, I can almost hint that this project initially was considered as a "normal" band with vocals. I am ultimately glad that they did not add a vocalist to the line up since this instrumental approach feels more original and more interesting.

I for one, welcome Conquering Dystopia's arrival and its music. It felt like it was only a matter of time before death metal would do its debut on the instrumental scene, and it feels good that someone has finally made it happen. "Conquering Dystopia" is a very promising start for this newly started project, and I hope that this band is the start of a new era in the instrumental metal scene.

Songs worthy of recognition: Inexhaustible Savagery, Prelude To Obliteration, Lachrymose, Destroyer of Dreams

Rating: 8,5/10 Doomsday Clocks