If you have found this blog, it probably means you were searching for something that isn’t in the public eye. My intention is to promote awareness of artists that you would otherwise likely never know existed. If you like what you hear, support the artist by purchasing their music so that they can continue to create, and enjoy the release in the quality they intended.

Over the years this has grown into my own personal project, reviewing the artists that I discover and interest me. If you wish to see more of my work, particularly my more metal-orientated material, you can find me as a regular contributor for the online magazine
Axis of Metal.

Golden Dawn - The Art of Dreaming

Posted by T. Bawden Wednesday, 24 December 2008 0 comments

Golden Dawn - The Art of Dreaming 2.5/5

More like the art of mis-labeling. Somehow I think this might have garnered more attention if it was labeled as symphonic black metal then extreme gothic metal, but I suppose that even the great Metal Archives makes mistakes, or that could just be my prejudice against the idea of gothic metal seeping through into my writing. Mainly the efforts of one man, Stefan (Dreamlord) TraunmÃller, other artists often joined or contributed, to this band, regrettably only one is of note: Moritz Neuner, of Graveworm, Abigor, Atrocity, and many, many others. It is a shame though, especially considering this was released way back in 1996, and if it were better known, I would say that bands like Apotheosis or Antestor drive some influence from these Austrians.

Now, I can admit, I am at a loss for how to start describing the various instruments here. The music is largely keyboard driven, so I suppose saying that the playing there is above average, but I acknowledge I don’t have a large backing to support that. It is quite good though, and blends with the drumming styles of black metal exploding blasts and the more somber folksy style that often incorporates odd instrumentation. The keys often are the only instrument present for lengths of time, and give Dreamlord lots of spotlight for his nimble fingers, and various tastes in organs, horn sections, and other styles. The guitar parts have largely been reduced to rhythm and atmosphere duties, and so I have little to say on his technical abilities. He is efficient at his job, though I would appreciate some more virtuosity form him. The vocalist doesn’t really venture outside the comfort zone of normal black metal vocals, save for some clean chanting appearing sporadically throughout the pieces.

Yet, through some generally sub-par showings from the artists, the songwriting has some depth, considering the keys and drums are the only highlighted parts. Lyrically, this leaves little to be desired, with some spacey, well-written poetry of the sub-conscious. I consider this to be lower quality black metal then classics like Limbonic Art or Emperor, but above some of the dreck of bedroom black metal, so I suppose average is a fair assessment. With some more effort put into stressing the guitar work or giving the vocalist some depth in his styles. Even the occasional growl or solo could add so much to the depth of the pieces, and take the pressure off the Dreamlord to perform something spectacular constantly. Luckily for all of you, he will improve much in the coming years, culminating with his 2003 experimental masterpiece, Masquerade.

Highlights: Ideosynchronicity, Sub Species Aeternitias, Per Aspera Ad Astra, The Majesty Of My Kingdom Afar

For those wondering why I reviewed this album instead of the later one; It is a lot easier to write something with criticism then a long list of fanboi-esque praise.

By C.J. Ulferts

ADRIAN – One step into the Uncertain

Posted by T. Bawden Tuesday, 23 December 2008 0 comments

ADRIAN – One step into the Uncertain – 4/5

This is a real forgotten gem I stumbled upon by accident on a blog, with the words “you need this.” I’m glad to say that they were right. Only existing on vinyl, the quality is thus lower compared to most modern albums being produced, and this is a terrible shame as what we have here is a brilliantly constructed power metal album deserving of better.

Kicking off with the sound of a plane, a riff addictive enough to put riot to shame and with enough variety in the sound to keep even those with short attention spans hooked, it only gets better when the vocalist gets to do his thing. The song meanders through a mid-paced masterpiece, featuring a solo not distracted by sounding fast, but rather melodic and reeking of individuality. Possibly the strongest track on the album, though given the consistent level of music being produced that’s almost impossible to determine, giving no ease into the album, but rather get it going with a kick up the backside.

The vocals themselves draw a lot of focus with their catchy lyrics (just try not singing along to “Reach the Sky” or “Love Dies in a Painful Way”) and his distinct voice. Not detracting from the music, but rather distinguishing itself from the herd a real asset to the musical force present on the album. Often, you’ll be encountered with a situation where you’re torn between the air guitar or singing along, creating a conflict between what’s more deserving of your attention, the guitar riff or the vocals. The solo’s don’t let them down either – fitting perfectly with the tone of the track, full of emotion and not concerned with playing quickly unless required, but rather focussing on playing well. Even the drums succeed in producing something interesting to add to the mix.

And there is certainly no shortage of variety on this album, with two faster paced, speed metal tracks, “Never Again,” a maiden-esque track of speed bliss, and “White Death,” which successfully manages to slow down for a ballad-like chorus mixing it up. Then there’s the two slower paced ballad tracks, “Dreamer” and “Love dies in a painful way,” both featuring a style of guitar almost reminiscent of Floyd, yet on every track they have succeeded in infusing a great groove that keeps you nodding your head.

If this band continued producing music of this level, we may well have found ourselves mentioning their names in the same breath as Blind Guardian or Iced Earth, Its main drawback being the quality of the recording. Nonetheless I offer you the same advice I found on the blog; if you’re a fan of power metal, you need this.

Highlights: Reach The Sky, Love Dies in a Painful Way, The White Death

By T. Bawden

Amarna Sky – Rising Heresy

Posted by T. Bawden Sunday, 21 December 2008 0 comments

Amarna Sky – Rising Heresy - 3/5

It always amuses me that that the majority of Ancient Egyptian themed bands are not from modern day Egypt. Here is another example, in the 2006 release by Brazilian two-man group, Amarna Sky. They play a style of doom metal that often incorporates folk elements from the Middle East. This is solid material, with some superficial flaws that end up really hurting the experience overall. Their main problem lays their lack of focus. They get carried away with the Egyptian themes and stop showing their somber emotion of sorrow in their music. That is not excusable, especially from a band that shows early on they can have guitar solos while keeping that doom-laden feeling.

As can be anticipated from any band that is labeled doom, what you can expect is slow tempos, simple heavy riffs, and solid pounding drumming. I did not like the vocalist at first; I thought that his style of reverbed chanting ruined the atmosphere that had been built up. After a few listens, the vocals do add to the pieces, even if they do not sound as enthused as I think they should. This might be one of the few times I’ve thought a band would be better off as strictly instrumental, and the music alone could definitely support such an album. The band has a nice sense of flow, and the songs all work together without blending into one unremarkable sound. This is mostly because they spend a third of the album building up the upcoming track with three minutes of Egyptian themed anticipation compositions.

Their riffing style deserves a special mention. On tracks like ‘Rising Heresy’, the riffs sound like a continuous breakdown, while rarely loosing their depressive groove. Their folk elements are not really folk instruments, but rather normal instruments played in an Eastern fashion, giving them a folksy feel. These range from jangling Eastern cymbals, clapping, keyboard trumpets, and a sitar. These are also backed by occasional industrial elements that are both subtle, and give a sense of depth.

I have never been a fan of the idea of the ‘highlight reel’ when it comes to a record. That attitude leads to the idea that a bands entire worth can be driven from the market value of their first single. On the other hand, I see it is worth in a piece like this where every other track seems to be mere atmospheric emotive build-up for the next track. The band would do much better to sticking to their straight up tracks, or combining their atmospheric build-up into the songs. The track layout they use now just feels half-assed. Overall this is solid work, but has a problem in that they lack spectacular, and in an attempt to remain memorable, they over-do their Egyptian gimmick. Amarna Sky has lots of potential, to not only become a strong act that releases solid doom metal, but also give some credibility back to the gimmick that Nile has beaten like a dead horse.

Highlights: Rising Heresy, Psychostasia, Divine Glory

By C.J. Ulferts

The Chasm - The Spell of Retribution

Posted by T. Bawden Saturday, 20 December 2008 0 comments

The Chasm - The Spell of Retribution (2004) - 5/5

It's amazing how long The Chasm have been churning out masterpiece after masterpiece. Since 1992, this Mexican three-piece powerhouse, fronted by ex-Cenotaph guitarist (now doubling as a vocalist) Daniel Corchado, have been playing an interesting style of death metal that features progressive, black, and classic metal influences. Their latest achievement, "The Spell of Retribution" shows them decreasing some of the black metal influences and upping the classic a bit more. It is the most blatantly melodic of all their releases and the most accessible, but it is by no means the weakest. They have not forgotten the importance of songwriting, and they retain their style of epic, melodic, and progressive death metal combined with mysterious, mythological lyrics and heavy amounts of ingeniously implemented influences outside of death metal. The end result is one of the greatest death metal albums ever released.

As usual, The Chasm's greatest strength is not in their raw technical talent or aggression, but rather their songwriting. Yes, they have the chops to keep up with anyone, from Coroner to Dream Theater, but their secret weapon has always been Daniel Corchado's ability to create songs that felt like miniature universes in a constant state of evolution. The great opening salvo, "From the Curse, A Scourge", a three-minute track and the shortest on the album, gives you a wonderful idea of how The Chasm rolls. Starting off with a tapped-solo, it then turns into a mid-paced jog of galloping Maiden riffs and powerful leads over a shifting rhythm. The main solo is reintroduced later on to keep you oriented. And this is only a minor example compared to the songs afterwards. "Retribution of the Lost Years" is a mournful, crawling epic that features melodic, doomy riffs accompanied by incredibly well done acoustic guitars, that while they are simple and most would write it off as "LOL OPETH WANNABES", follow their distorted counterparts like reflections in a mirror. In fact, the real star of this sonic slaughter is the usage of acoustics. Of course, like the rest of the album, this song does not get caught in one speed. As the song continues, the rhythm section subtly adds more tension speed, yet manages to keep the acoustic guitar leads (which feel like they're guitar solos) on the same playing field. It never goes full-out-riff-attack like some of the other tracks, but the numerous twists and turns allow The Chasm to build up a song that does not climax in an epic shred solo, but rather, the most epic acoustic section ever. Then, the band slows it down to Candlemass-speed and lets the acoustic guitars do the talking over slow, gloomy riffage and Daniel's haunting howls. "Conqueror and Warlord" goes right at your neck with percussive riffing that feels like a mix between Suffocation and Coroner, suddenly lunging out at you from the murk of the distorted guitar fuzz intro. The aggression doesn't let up as the drumming speeds up to a fast thrashy pace and subtle guitar evolving guitar melodies are introduced. Suddenly, it's mid-paced time and Corchado even throws in a simple yet tasty solo, avoiding the usual over-the-top shred-tactics of most progressive metal bands. The pacing of the song grows increasingly frantic, and out of nowhere comes a slow, eerie break from the action, punctuated with more leads and yet another solo that builds upon the simple foundations of the previous, with more dynamics thrown in and pseudo Opeth-esque acoustics that are almost whispering to you underneath the death/doom riffs that hearken back to the days of "Deathcult For Eternity: The Triumph". The above are basically what The Chasm does: creating micro-metal-universes. Basically, you get a rainbow of variety here, from doomy epics to speedy no-nonsense death metal, all with a strong sense of melody.

It takes more than just stellar songwriting to make a good album. The Chasm is an experienced band and their playing style has evolved alongside their songwriting, showcasing their improved playing abilities and increasingly inventive songwriting tendencies. This might just be their most technical album, although I wouldn't put it on the same technical level as say, Illogicist or Gorguts. In fact, maybe technical is not the best word. The Chasm play a very different style of death metal than the aforementioned bands. "Well-played" is a better example. You can tell these guys are experienced and have quite a few tricks up their sleeves, but the moderate technicality is used as a means to the end of atmospheric, powerful music rather than technicality being the end. The bass, due to production issues, is pushed a bit back into the mix. You can feel it supporting the guitars but you cannot really pick out much in the way of riffs. Which is a shame, because good guitar riffs are best supported by a good bass ones, and I can only imagine how much better this album would be if the bass work was as creative as the guitar work. "Eternal Cycle of Delusion" features some good bass licks, but aside from that, they're few and far in-between on this album, the majority being a bit hard to hear and even then, they're only passable at the end of the day. The drumming has grown and matured as well. Sure, they'll never be matching the efforts of Sean Reinert or Steve Flynn, but fills, rolls, accents and so on are all pulled off at those exact right moments. Antonio Leon handles time signature changes like a pro, and knows how to accent the atmosphere through the careful placement and execution of double bass runs, fluctuations in rhythm, and when he needs to, he can pull off furious yet organic (no drum triggers here folks) blasting. The guitar-work has changed a lot since their previous outings. The old-school death metal and black metal influences are a bit subdued on this one, and while this IS still a death metal album, it feels like the band was listening more to Maiden and Priest than Dismember and Immolation. This isn't to say you will not get stuff instantly recognizable as death metal. "Fortress", the most aggressive and straightforward song on the entire album, features lots of tremolo picking that is similar to early Morbid Angel, and a bunch of the riffs off "The Omnipotent Codex" almost sound like something Death would have done on "Symbolic" or maybe even "The Sound of Perseverance", although Death's sense of sharp technicality is replaced with a more NWOBHM-influenced sense of melody. Corchado, while he may not be Chuck Schuldiner, actually has a couple of good solos on this one. In particular, "Remains of the Covenant", containing the fewest lyrics but the most guitar solos, show him and Juan shredding it away as if it's the 80's. While the soloing was held back on earlier songs, where the solos were more atmospheric and meant to fit the mood, for a somewhat longer period of time, Daniel and Juan really let it rip on this one...albeit in a rather controlled fashion that you'd only see The Chasm doing. Maybe that's a good thing, as if they went Cacophony-death-metal-styl

e, the atmospheric feel of the song would have been sacrifice.

Daniel's vocals can easily match his sharp riffs. He has a somewhat higher voice than most other death metal vocalists, but he can stay at the upper bits of the mid-range section. His vocals are comprehendible, while sounding like some elder entity from beyond reciting ancient incantations to the listener. He could sing black metal if he wanted to, really. Speaking of black metal, influence from the genre pops up now and then, mostly in the form of eerie, less distorted riffs. "Conjuring The New Apocalypse" has quite a few of these, interspersed between the normal Chasm-riffing, and the beginning of the nine-minute epic "The Eclipse: Monument to the Empire" (split into three parts) shows bits of those, alongside the bass-imitating-a-piano (one of the few moments when the bass sticks out). Some of the open chords have that cold BM feel to them as well, but ultimately, fans of The Chasm's older material might miss the influence of the frigid Norse form of music on this album. I personally feel that a bit more BM style harmonies/riffs would have been great, as they worked so well on "Deathcult", but are now a smaller part of the riff-architecture. Not that The Chasm is not atmospheric; much the opposite. The diminished BM influence is only a marginal set-back to a titanic album. Melancholy, sorrow, redemption, triumph...the eclectic mix of acoustic (Mexican folk?) riffs, death/thrash influences, the somewhat-marginalized black metal influences, all put into these grandiose evolving song structures, evokes all kinds of different atmospheres, from fury to mourning, determination and introspectiveness. This is another big plus: this album can be epic, relaxing, gripping and moving, all at the same time, due to the great variety in the songwriting.

Songwriting and playing aside, this album benefits from great production along with the band's interesting lyrics. The guitars have a rich, crunchy tone to them, one that almost sounds like Satan's "Court in the Act", but louder. The tone feels like it could fit both a classic metal band and an early 90's death metal act. The bass has had a similar treatment, although it seems to have been pushed a bit too far behind the guitars. The drums, while not having as good as a production as the guitars, have an interesting production, being somewhere between "clean" and "gritty". The bass drums have a nice "blunt yet sharp" sound and each stroke of the snare often feels very sharp, except for those occasional moments when the other instruments blot it out a bit, usually in more intense moments, like on "Fortress". Daniel's vocals occasionally echo, and are not very high up, usually hanging a bit over the guitars and drums, with the echo actually adding a bit of atmosphere. Lyrically, The Chasm have a very esoteric feel to their lyrics. Songs like "Conqueror & Warlord" use a lot of blatant symbolism, but when wrapped in the mysticism of their music, helps to add to the mysterious feel of the album. I've heard that they sing about Aztec mythology, and while it seems like they use some kind of figures as archetypes, it is interesting to try to pull some sort of deeper meaning one can relate to out of some of their more openly-interpretable songs. "The Eclipse: Monument to the Empire", details a tale of punishment, soul-searching and redemption, that while it is drenched in weird fantasy imagery, can still be related to and fits in with the grandiose and epic style of death metal the band plays. Of course, some songs, like "Retribution of the Lost Years" just seem to be tales of mythology, rather than some soul-searching journey.

"The Spell of Retribution" is a masterpiece, a modern-day titan of death metal. Standing proud and tall over quite a few of death metal's later efforts, there are few bands out there that have a similar sound. Ridiculously good songwriting, perhaps the best death metal has to offer, is present even on the shortest and simplest of compositions, and these compositions are further supported by a crispy production and powerful musicianship, that is not overly-technical, but simply well-played without using too much in the way of technicality. Add in some interesting and mysterious lyrics that add to the album's mystic atmosphere and you have a flawless masterpiece of death metal. This is one of the most uplifting extreme metal albums I have ever heard, and any fan of metal, from fans of Dream Theater and Quo Vadis to fans of Emperor and Morpheus Descends, should do themselves a favour and give this monolith a spin. The spirit of the death cult that is death metal still lives on, in the form of "The Spell of Retribution", an album that shall stand forever as a stellar example of how to create death metal. A highly recommended album, among the best of metal.

By J. Chan

Slipknot – All hope is gone

Posted by T. Bawden Friday, 19 December 2008 1 comments

Slipknot – All hope is gone – 3.5/5

As hard as it is to find a good review for poorly known music, it is probably even more difficult to find an honest review on a band that is well known. Mostly conducted by rampant fans who would love it even if they had produced an abomination undeserving for use as a frisbee, or so called “elitists” who often wouldn’t even bother to listen to it before condemning it. My aim is to bridge the gap between these two extremes.

Im sure a number reading this are probably surprised by the comparatively high score. For all the other reviews, I compare the end result to other bands within their genre, and not doing so here would naturally be biased against them. In all honesty, this is not anywhere near as bad as I was anticipating.

Firstly, onto the business of what genre do they play? I’ve heard a number of different people placing them in different sub-genres, the worst offenders probably being either thrash or death metal. I can assure you, this is not the case. The term best fitting would be nu-metal; the combination of rock, metal, hardcore, post-hardcore, grunge and post-grunge, containing enough influences to prevent it from being associated with any of the broader genres of music. However, there can be no question that the vast majority of the sound comes from metal and rock, with the occasional hardcore, post-hardcore and almost grunge-like vocals.

The album kicks off with a two minute intro, consisting of incomprehensible static and bland drumming. Why they decided on this is beyond – id have much preferred they squashed all the creativity in that minute long drum intro into a good 5 seconds of creativity and gone straight to the second track with a bang. Though having said that, the second track consisting of a derivative bass riff, bland blast beat drumming, overuse of the pinch harmonic and bad hardcore vocals leaves a lot to be desired.

I’m sure a number of people will have heard the song ‘psychosocial’ as it seems to be plaguing the airwaves rather a lot recently - another good example of a slow derivative bass, bland drumming and bad vocal work. I have no qualms point out that this is not a good example of this bands work here. Instead, consider ‘dead memories.’ Fans of the old slipknot style will no doubt dislike it, being more akin to Stone Stour’s work than of slipknot’s, achieving a simplistic but nonetheless interesting guitar riff, which manages to capture the mood of the track fairly well. This is definitely swaying on the rock side of their sound, featuring heavy use of post-hardcore vocals, this is a song only spoilt by the solo featured towards the end, quick-paced, derivative, and a complete contrast to the rest of the track.

Whilst the vocals I felt were poorly done, the variety of tones he manages to produce is fairly impressive. Deep hardcore vocals, rasp-filled aggressive rock vocals, emotional post-hardcore vocals, and even a cobain-influenced grunge drawl can be heard at times. Unfortunately, in each case the power, the emotion behind the vocals seems to be missing, though this is probably hampered by the backing work.

The drumming shows little in the way of creativity, only seeming to have a limited number of blast beat speeds, the bassist largely sticking to low ended notes, rarely doing much more than following the guitarist who in turn tends to play a basic chord-based riff with maybe a quick couple of notes played in between. The solo’s are split between the derivative scales played quickly, and the times he slows it down and shows he is able to produce something creative (‘Sulfur’ shows a good example of this, mixed with him playing the scales in between periods of creativity).

Instead, they do manage to succeed in varying slightly throughout the album, resulting in a number of different styles, some of which work surprisingly well. ‘Snuff’ is an example of this, where all these four aspects seem to come together wonderfully to create a track I wouldn’t have believed this band capable of producing. I would comment on the rest of the band members, but I can’t honestly work out what they contribute to the end result.

The range of different sounds, and the fact they often succeed in creating catchy chorus are their greatest strength in this album. I just wished they would stop pretending to be a metal band more often, and instead produce something of value. Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of the genre, don’t go in expected a flash of brilliance, and be prepared for a slipknot that has evolved their sound and you shouldn’t be disappointed.

Highlights: Dead Memories, Gehenna, Snuff

Note: No link will be provided, since id be surprised if many would want to download this :p If your interested, I’m sure there’ll be tonnes around anyway.

By T. Bawden

Dark Age – Dark Age

Posted by T. Bawden Wednesday, 17 December 2008 0 comments

Dark Age – Dark Age Ep 4.5/5

Its 1984, in LA, and a bunch of kids got together and wrote a mini-album on a record label that did not give two shits, and created something on par with works by bands like Griffin, or Jag Panzer. That is not just a comparison in sound, but quality, and yes, it is that good. I loved this little demo, it is energetic, enduring and the only real problem with it is the time. If these guys had had more material or monetary support, maybe they would have had enough of a fanbase to catapult them into the top of the USPM scene. As it is, these guys are virtually unknown and unmentioned, and that is a real shame.

The album intros with 30 seconds of solos atop a moody bass and drum rhythm, and a wicked laugh leads into the first song. The vocalist reminds of King Diamond with his high tenor and yelps. He has moments where he sounds like a pre-pubescent, but also manages to sound serious and mature in select spots. Because he is not growling, I can say his clean vocals are some of the greatest and most ranged I have reviewed. The guitarists manage wicked riffs while throwing in steaming hot licks, giving a quick-paced feel, and the solos, while not the greatest I have heard, are easily in my top 50. Drumming is fairly standard, and is given some spotlights over the record. What really drew me to the album was the audible bass throughout the album. It is one thing to enjoy a bass that just does the rhythm duties, but this is not a simple follow-the-leader style of playing. The bassist (Jeff Exx) actually has me torn between listening to his bass lines and the guitarists’ (Alan Foley, Johnny Ljissacs) riffs. Everything has a general NWOBHM feel of youth and fun, but with an addition of technicality and aggression.

What is truly surprising, besides those majestic bass lines, is the lack of filler material. Based off such trivialities as song titles, I can see why this might have been passed up by the lactose-intolerant (read: cheese haters). Metal Axe? Rock Revelation? I know you guys could have done better. If I could catch all the lyrics, I bet they would reek of that same kind of cheese, but thanks to this superb musicality, I feel no need to judge their words. Shockingly, these are some of the strongest tracks, and considering the material that is being compared, that is saying something. As for whether the amount of cheese hurts the overall feel, I would not say so, but if the album cover is enough to make you grimace, then maybe this is not for you. As for the highlights, listen to the whole thing. It amazes me the band managed to fit all the different things they have done into this little ep, and if you get bored listening to this, you have no soul. Highly recommended obscure USPM and you will listen to it!

By. C.J.Ulferts

Inked in Blood – Awakening Vesuvius

Posted by T. Bawden Saturday, 13 December 2008 0 comments

Inked in Blood – Awakening Vesuvius - 3/5

There is a lot of stigma surrounding what is popular these days, both in the heavy metal scene, and even in the mainstream. Recently, I caved in to two such ‘popular’ trends, the first being the recent smash “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer, and the second being this review, of metalcore act Inked in Blood’s EP Awakening Vesuvius. The similarities between the two astounded me when I took time to consider them. Neither would have garnered by attention if someone did not request I give them a fair shot, and neither was as bad as I mentally prepared myself for. Both have received some opposition, either direct or indirect, for being so popular without just cause, and because they might receive more attention then they deserve. Finally, though the list could go on, I found that beneath some of the hype and counter-criticism, there was an enjoyable experience, if not a classic that I would re-visit anytime soon.

However, you are reading for the music, and not my little revelations, so onto the review. First off, the individual artists are much weaker then I am used to appraising, and they do not blend or work together the way that they could. The guitar ‘riffs’ are often broken playing a few notes, stopping, playing a few more, and ends up being redundant after a while. When the guitar is not struggling to play fluidly or chugging along, they manage to create some simple, if unmemorable, melodies. The bass is buried, as is tradition. The drumming is quite interesting, and competent. He keeps the beat, throws in energizing fills, and keeps up the numerous time changes. The drummer has the least flaws. The vocalist is another story. I can force myself to enjoy his clean singing and little speeches, but the pathetic growls he uses make me cringe. Even when his voice is backed by a ‘rousing’ chorus of similar shouts, the vocals feel weak. What is worse is the occasional strong moment he has, such as the growls during the melody of ‘The New Empiricism’, or “We’re not just faces and names…” in ‘Where the Enemy Sleeps’, that raise my hopes only to dash them when they eventually fade back to feebleness.

What they do right, is they have impeccable taste in groove. I found myself swaying in time to well-executed breakdowns and tempo changes. They can create melody, and when they bother to do so, it really adds to the mood, giving the band a bit more then the appearance of posing tough guys. I also believe that the relative shortness of this recording adds to the score, as if it had gone on longer, I guarantee the boredom would have been a bigger factor in my score. The production is not an issue, and is on par with most full-length releases. As, is becoming increasingly common, I tell you, if you like metalcore, you will like this, and if you do not, you will not. If you are on the fence, give this its shot, and do not trust in the hype. Check stuff out yourself, you might be surprised what you enjoy.

By C. J. Ulferts

Enchained Souls – Tears of Silence – 3/5

This was a band posted by the lead vocalist in the facebook group “Addicted to metal for life.” Now im sure regulars reading this are probably thinking along the lines of ‘since when were good bands ever posted there,’ – this was my thought as well – so you can only imagine my surprise when I gave them a listen and found something better than I expected.

They were advertised as a gothic band, fronted by an ‘operatic’ female vocalist, sounds like another Nightwish clone doesn’t it? They certainly draw influences from there, but they cant be put down as another clone that easily. The sound is very much more gothic, more atmospheric, dark, sinister and delicate, and it results in a fairly unique twist on the genre.

After the gothic intro is done away with – nicely done, but nothing particularly special – we find ourselves with “Misfortune” featuring a quick, if simplistic guitar riff which whilst not adding to the atmosphere, it doesn’t confuse it, and creates an interesting riff to draw you in to the song, which quickly gets under way with vocals that shockingly, actually are fairly operatic in sound, working with growled vocals for the chorus. This a very good attempt, even if the final result feels a bit odd – it doesn’t gel properly, something doesn’t quite work, though its hard to pinpoint precisely what.

Unfortunately, as we progress a lot of these elements seem to disappear. The guitar work fades into the background, the harsh vocals seem to vanish, and were left with a fairly bare sounding piece. Don’t get me wrong, the vocals are done well, but they simply cannot sustain interest for the length of the album, and this is an album of considerable length - unnecessarily long in my view. Clocking at 72 minutes, I cant help but get the impression that it could have done with a trim. Usually, we find ourselves with a number of filler tracks, acting as ‘padding,’ but here there isn’t one that stand out as being particularly bad (though it must be said, “Manifiesto Revolucionario,” definitely feels out of place). Nothing too different from what preceded it perhaps, but instead the problem is the tracks themselves are longer than they need to be. A perfect example of this is “Innocent,” which could easily be the strongest track on the album if not for a minute at the start of intro, consisting of a simple, repeated piano riff. Again, a similar situation with “Torturandome con tus recuerdos,” taking nearly two minutes for the vocals to appear, and whilst I liked the intro, felt it went on longer than was required.

This is certainly not an album without its problems. Many of the instruments aren’t given as much presence as id have liked to see – there are keyboards heard which on most of the tracks would work wonders at enhancing the atmosphere, the violins which occasionally make themselves known too could offer this on many of the tracks, working with the vocals rather than in tandem with them. The growls could create a new experience but seem to have vanished, and the guitarist proves his ability but then rarely gets to perform. Each of the musicians are clearly capable at wielding their instrument, but needs to be worked into the music, and given more presence, rather than relying on the vocals to simultaneously carry the atmosphere and draw in the listener.

Highlights: Innocent, Moon Tears, Manifiesto Revolucionario

By T. Bawden

Les Fragments de la nuit – Musique des Crepuscule – 4.5/5

I welcome you to the final section on my brief stint, flirting with ambient music. This French band, whose name means “The Fragments of the Night” in English, play a heavily dark and gothic brand of ambient music. Evil yet delicate – it wouldn’t feel at all out of place as the soundtrack for a film noir, or for a phantom of the opera type theatrical production. For those less familiar, the best I can do to describe their sound is imagine Nightwish, if they dropped the vocals, and recruited the violinist from Apocalyptica and the Keyboard player from Old Mans Child in order to create a soundtrack for a particularly evil and tragic film.

It has long been my opinion that the violin is an incredibly underrated instrument, unparalleled at creating an atmosphere. Here I am proven right, with tracks such as “Assault” and “Devenons Demain” making heavy use of the violin to create a sense of tension and despair, laden with emotion and a suicidal gothic tone. The keyboards work tremendously at adding to this, especially in “Entre Ciel et Fer,” adding another layer to all the work present, and creating a thicker atmosphere. And as we progress further through the album, we land on “La Chambres des Fees,” whose gratuitous use of choral notes (there are no lyrics, using the voice as another instrument) on their own provide an eerie sound, and is once again revisited with “La Chateau Enchante,” this time working with the keyboard and violin to create a sound so spine-chilling, it feels like the perfect accompaniment to a horror film.

This is not an album to bring you out of depression. The thick atmosphere of evil, and the tension created, is so powerful, so carefully constructed and so easily overwhelming that its not recommended that you listen to it for extended periods, even though it has an incredible replay value. Despite its simplicity, each track yields a different pace, a slightly different brand on the atmospheric evil they so successfully create, that it can endlessly hold your attention. But at no point does it feel like it demands it - the music can easily flow over you as you do other things, providing a tremendous sense of atmosphere whilst you work.

I couldn’t honestly see myself enjoying an ambient album as much I have this one. It has performed beyond any expectations.

Highlights: Assault, Solarisation, La Chateau Enchante

By T. Bawden

Karl Sanders – Saurion Meditation

Posted by T. Bawden Friday, 12 December 2008 0 comments

Karl Sanders – Saurion Meditation – 3.5/5

Now, I expect the name Karl Sanders means little to the majority of people reading this, but if I mentioned the band ‘Nile,’ I’m sure many more would feel more familiar. What we have here is the result of the Nile frontman’s Ambient side project, with a heavy Egyptian feel as you may have expected. Now it must be said, I am not a fan Nile, but nonetheless I was curious to see what he could produce.

The main aim of the piece is to sound atmospheric, complete with acoustic guitars tuned to an Egyptian scale, prominent drum beats, and subtle keyboard work, he performs his objective beyond any shadow of a doubt. It is not hard with this music to be transported back to a time wrought with oppressed slaves at the hands of evil pharaoh’s and where sacrifices to the sun god Ra were common. This has such a dark, oppressed nature that it came as a shock, but even more of a shock is its submissive tone – completely contrasting his work with Nile.

The album opens with “Awaiting the Vultures,” which acts a perfectly descriptive title for the song, as you find yourself with a good acoustic riff, and most notably a heavy drum beat, which creates a slight amount of tension within the track, the sound of a silent fear for what lies ahead, which works well in preparing you for the rest of the album. This drum beat would prove vital to the sound in many of the tracks, working most successfully with the acoustic guitar in order to create the atmosphere, especially noted on “Of the sleep of Ishtar,” working with choral vocals which sound like a form of chant.

But the album does have its flaws. The use of the electric guitar, notably on “the elder god shrine” doesn’t fit. It draws you away from the world he so successfully immersed you in before, and whilst it still sounds fitting to the song, undermines the atmosphere the rest of the track creates. Furthermore, a large number of the tracks begin to merge together. Because of its consistently dark and foreboding atmosphere, and the lack of a variety in the instruments and the way they are used, many of the songs quickly begin to sound very much alike. This severely hampers its replay value. There are a few notable exceptions to this, for example “contemplations of the endless abyss” is performed entirely by vocal work, adding something of a break between tracks.

Essentially what we find ourselves presented with is an atmosphere, which is perfectly fitting for a soundtrack, or for listening to quietly in the background whilst doing something else, but under sustained listens finds itself severely lacking. It doesn’t demand much attention, and whilst in some cases this is a good thing, more often than not I want to find myself unable to stop paying attention to the music reaching my ears.

Highlights: Of the Sleep of Ishtar, Dreaming through the eyes of a serpent

By T. Bawden

Machinae Supremacy –The online promo’s

Posted by T. Bawden Thursday, 11 December 2008 0 comments

Machinae Supremacy –The online promo’s – 4/5

Legion of Stoopid
Attack Music
March of the Undead
Fighters from Ninne
Missing Link
Hubnester Inferno
The Wired

So I uploaded this for a friend recently, and thought perhaps it was overlooked. By no means a badly known band now, Machinae Supremacy have come up with a distinct sound and at no point in their career does it sound as good as with their first work.

Their unique sound derives from their use of an SID chip, the sound card used in a very old computer, the commodore 64. It filters their sound and converts it into a comparatively poorly sampled 8-bit sound. This creates an unnatural sounding consistent pitch for the note being played. Its fairly difficult to describe, in that its not some ‘tinky dinky’ sound reminiscent of the original Mario theme tune, nor does it sound heavily electronic, it simply sounds unnatural.

Due to the fact this is a compilation of early tracks, openly released on their website prior to obtaining a record deal, and not an album, there is no defined order to them. But rather than play like a collection of demo’s the production on them is as good as you could expect, and it plays rather like a ‘best of,’ even the weaker tracks being superior to most of what would follow.

The drums are fairly basic, and serve to create a framework, but beyond that aren’t anything special. The keyboards add a touch of creativity, something different in a sound that could easily become repetitive, but this is very much vocally and guitar driven band. The guitars are given plenty of time to play great riffs, and the solo’s are of a high standard. The vocals are an oddball - their incredibly unusual in their sound, but I honestly can’t imagine anything else working with it. Lyrically, they aren’t one to take themselves too seriously, singing about stupid fans (legion of the stooped), “destroying the system” (attack music), and fighting ‘John-Woo Style’ (fighters from ninne), but that’s nothing particularly bad. It fits with the sound they’ve created.

If you already know of the band and like them, this is something you shouldn’t miss. If you haven’t heard the band, all I can suggest is trying them and seeing what you think. There isn’t a band I can make a comparison to in order to help you gauge whether you will like it, because there’s simply nothing that sounds alike to them.

P.S. Thought I should note that given a more coherent format, a defined beginning and end as so in albums, this would have received a 4.5/5. I felt It couldn’t be given the incoherent nature and flow.

Highlights: Attack Music, Legion of the Stoopid, March of the Undead

By T. Bawden

Lich King – Toxic Zombie Onslaught

Posted by T. Bawden Wednesday, 10 December 2008 5 comments

Lich King – Toxic Zombie Onslaught 4/5
{Link Removed at Request}

Lich King is a relatively new band that helps make up the ‘thrash revival’ we’ve seen in recent years. If I was to liken them to an 80’s band, my first thoughts go to Bonded by Blood-era Exodus, or maybe Vio-Lence. Frenzied riffing, and a ridiculously reverbed vocal performance with a great sense of humor and enough charisma that the jokes aren’t dropped. Actually, humor might be the most important weapon of Lich King’s repertoire. These people know their instruments, and can write a song, but what makes them stick out in the sea of thrash acts is their over-the-top lyrics and subject choice. That’s great, but it also limits how far the band can go, at least in my opinion.

I never really got the popular way of describing bands by their song titles, but here it’s a very accurate descriptor. F.E.: Attack of the Wrath of the War of the Death of the Strike of the Sword of the Blood of the Beast. They are that over-the top. This is one band I’d look up lyrics for, just because they’re that good. “Black Metal Sucks” being the key perpetrator in mind. The only problem that comes to mind is the thin line the band walks by basing their sound around their humor. Lich King pulls off the first example with flying colors, but “Black Metal Sucks”, while hilarious, is the weakest song here musically. It suffers from an extremely simple riff, and instead of a solo, the band supplies a faux black metal burst at the end of the song. It’s funny, but it’s not good metal.

The albums opener deserves some mention, if only for the punch line of “For the Lich king is fierce and wicked awesome.” Those of you who check out Necromantic Maelstrom in addition to Toxic Zombie Onslaught will notice that the key difference between these two releases is that the band has become a tighter unit over all. The guitarists (Rambo and the Hulk) have really worked on their flow and it show. Fucking Tyrannosaur (the vocalist) has improved his variety, and Hulk Hogan (their drummer) is still quite a force. There are enough tempo changes and new riffs that the music never gets boring. They’ve kept that Bay Area taste in riff style and production is still properly raw and crunchy. My main complaint is that Darth Bassist is buried.

In spite of this heavy praise, there are problems present. I wish there were more solos, or if not more, just an improvement in solo quality. I’m still wondering where the bass is. I’d like to warn LK that they can only go so far with this funny stuff, and if you guys ever stop taking your music as seriously as you do now, a quick trip to the annals of the forgotten is in order. Until then, any fans of Gama Bomb, ExMortis, or Municipal Waste should do themselves a favor and give this a spin.

By C.J.Ulferts

Dawn of Tears - Descent

Posted by T. Bawden 0 comments

Dawn of Tears - Descent 3/5

It’s been a long-standing belief of mine that melodeath is nothing more than a shoddy compilation of the extreme tendencies of the mainstream scene, and the boring bits of the underground. I wish I could say that this album proved that wrong, but it didn’t. I should make myself clear though; fans of melodeath will probably enjoy this. The players know their instruments, and don’t do anything wrong, it’s just that they don’t do anything right in my eyes.

Don’t get me wrong, this is better then the majority of the Gothenburg crap, probably because of the thousand plus mile distance from that overly predictable, cookie-cutter bull. The melodies are driven by neo-classical guitar riffs, in spite of keyboard appearances. The vocalist tries to keep this interesting by varying his growls, but doesn’t succeed in persuading me. He might have been better off trying to use more clean vocals, as it seems they might have fit the concept better. The bass is buried, but he’s just following the guitar, so you won’t be missing much. The drums are quite solid, and they are perhaps the most energizing instrument present. In fact, this might be the first time I’ve considered the drums to be the highlight of a band.

This merely strikes me as the pinnacle of average. I commend the band for avoiding the pitfalls that surround their chosen genre, but I would have enjoyed hearing something that hasn’t been done before by a band like Dark Tranquility. The guitarists can create melodies, but their riffs and solos won’t be creating memories anytime soon. If any of this seems too harsh, take some solace in that it’s written by one who would like nothing better then to throw a little hate toward this genre in general. I want to stress that the music itself isn’t very bad; it strikes me in person as boring.

While doing due research on this, I’ve found that the band encourages you to download the album off their blog for free. That might be the most convincing thing this band has done, and it show the passion they harbor for the business. It also show a great level-headedness, after all, how long will it be before the album is pirated anyway? A free download is a great way to present your debut to a fanbase. However, with all things free, sometimes, you get what you pay for. Personally, three full listens, then I couldn’t wait to be done with this.

By C.J.Ulferts

Atrocity – Hallucinations

Posted by T. Bawden Tuesday, 9 December 2008 1 comments

Atrocity – Hallucinations - 4/5

So, the first review I’ve picked up from the forum in a while, posted by Julian Chan. Regulars on the board will realise we often differ in musical taste, so naturally I was apprehensive about what id find. Thankfully, I need not have worried.

Before taking it, I did my background research on this old Death Metal band, to give an indication of what I should expect. What I found was that I should expect a good, if unconventional progressive death metal album. Right, so something along the lines of Atheist or Cynic then? Wrong. Whilst both of them experimented with other genres Atrocity very much stick to death metal. They play around with the limits of the genre, without straying from them, creating a sound that is both unique and constantly changing, yet feeling almost like a “best of” in terms of different styles within the genre.

Usually, the release date doesn’t get a mention, opting rather to take a modern ‘how well does it hold up now’ attitude, but here it deserves it. The production for the time it was released is phenomenal. It has aged incredibly well, retaining that raw sound whilst remaining crisp and clear, and seeing as it was released almost 20 years ago now, the progressive nature rivals many of today’s prog/death bands in terms of its chaotic nature, rapidly changing styles and sheer aggression. The fact it has aged so well deserves mentioning, as this is not just an album to appeal to those who preferred the old sound, but to those who like the modern equivalent.

The vocals are a definite low point on the album. They’re mid-ranged, unenthused, lacking in aggression and highly monotonous. In fact, its only in the bonus tracks do we hear something different. It is, however, fitting with the sound, and doesn’t detract from the work done the rest of the band. The drumming is easily heard without sounding overpowering, working with the bass and rhythm in most sections as a backing for the vocals, broken up by quick aggressive guitar pieces. Both are highly varied in tempo, style, and aggression, allow for a wide variation in the chaotic atmosphere, sometimes slower and more doom-filled, other times sounding like a pounding cacophony of sadistic brutality.

However, there are times where all this becomes overwhelming. It sounds like there is too much going on – everything begins to blur. Conflicting tempo’s between guitar riffs, drumming and vocal work leads to an incoherent sound, as though they aren’t really paying attention to each other. This can lead to it getting very boring very quickly, and there were times I felt my attention wane.

This is one that should definitely appeal to fans of Atheist and later Death, a well constructed album not without its flaws, but undoubtedly a forgotten gem of the past.

Highlights: Fatal Step, Abyss of Addiction, Humans Lost Humanity.

By T. Bawden

Ballistic – Ballistic

Posted by T. Bawden 0 comments

Ballistic – Ballistic - 5/5

A quick foreword: Some might say I’m a bit lax when it comes to perfection. I don’t expect to find an album that’s timeless, because I don’t believe anything is truly timeless. I’d be happy if something created today is still smiled on ten years later. I don’t expect every album to be great, because my definition of great is something that drastically changes the way things are done when it debuts. For me, a perfect album needs just one thing: to be really fucking good! Luckily, that’s the case here.

MA defines Ballistic as Speed/Power metal. Wikipedia doesn’t even have a page for them. I call them Thrash. The band itself is a glorious collision of everything that made thrash great, and salutes both its origins and where it’s gone today. But what’s the whole without the sum of its parts? Illustrious former members include Tony Taylor, of Twisted Tower Dire, Harry ‘The Tyrant’ of Jag Panzer and Riot, and Chris Broderick, the current lead guitarist of Megadeth.

The current line-up might not have the same credentials, but what they lack in fame, they make up for in moxy. Tom Gattis, current vocalist and frontman, uses a wonderful power/thrash style for the majority of his work, but also does an admirable deathrash growl and a good forthright shouting style. Peter Petov, current guitarist, employs the same versatility in his playing, and is one of the most accomplished soloists to not be recognized. Seriously, this kid shreds. In fact, the entire band performs fantastically, and without delving into that tricky mire of over-technicality.

Anything a thrash fan could desire is present. There’s dozens of solos, riffs, bass lines, drum solos, aggression, melody, charisma, tempo changes, energy, chugging, and even a few (tasteful) pitch harmonics. Shout-along choruses and structural song progression dare you to be bored. Not only that, but I had to look this release up before I believed that wasn’t released in the eighties of early nineties. That’s some of the strongest praise I have.

There really isn’t a weak song on the album, and any of these could be a highlight on a different album. Do you like the Teutonic, almost deathy style of thrash? Check out Corpse Stacked High, or Dissection/Into the Sever Chamber. Like a more melodic NWOBHM or power/thrash style? You want Silent Killer. Punky or metalcore-esque fan? Call Me Evil or Call to Armageddon is for you. Remember Judas Priest’s ‘Painkiller’? Threshold to Pain will certainly jog you’re memory if you forgot. Finally, if you enjoy your thrash in an epic anthem-like way, Undefeated is your song. Be sure, this band isn’t genre hopping; they just show these influences the most in selected tracks.

Now, I’m sure your thinking “Well it’s great that the band knows its stuff, but does it bring anything new to the table?” Collision Course, Bloodbath!, Watch Me Do It (my personal favorite) and Gone Ballistic are strictly in their own unique style. Important note: The bass solo in Gone Ballistic is the most blistering I’ve heard since Quorthon’s in ‘Twilight of The Gods’. In short, no fan should be without this release. In fact, why are you still reading? Go get it!

In an ineffective attempt at criticism, I hate the album cover. Okay, to be honest, it's cheesy, and when I say it, I mean both the cover, and the music. However, it's my view that cheese is one of those strict matters of personal taste, and I find that it adds to the piece, in a Manowarish sort of way. The music just wouldn't be the same if it was any more serious. If your still hung up on the cheese issue, just focus on the technicality.

By C.J. Ulferts

Labyrinth - Return to Heaven Denied

Posted by T. Bawden Sunday, 7 December 2008 0 comments

Labyrinth - Return to Heaven Denied - 5/5
[pass - heavymetalbreed]

On "Return to Heaven Denied", Labyrinth have basically found the perfect balance between power and progressive metal. Songs are progressively played and structured, having the type of time signature/theme-changing and sudden dynamics you'd expect from prog and Euro-style power metal's hyper-melodic, speedy riffage and drumming, as well as bombastic keyboards.

Despite of all of this, they never descend into silly, boring wankage nor do they turn into another Sonata Arctica/Rhapsody clone. They straddle the line between power and prog perfectly with none of the negativities of either genre as a part of the package.

Lots of juicy riffs and leads, beautiful solos that are both soulful and shreddy, breathtaking vocals and songs that just take you to some far away, dreamlike fantasy world.

By J. Chan

Galneryus - The Flag of Punishment (2003) - 4.5/5

Not the most unique of European-style power metal bands, as you can hear lots of Sonata Arctica, Dark Moor, Rhapsody/Rhapsody of Fire and Stratovarius and so on in their sound, but they pull off power metal better than most others.

The riffs aren't that agressive or heavy, but make up for it by being lethally melodic and creative for power metal. They aren't sticking to the same riff-set for the whole song; no, they vary it up a bit. Guiar leads are nice as well and mesh with the riffs great, as well as having the same tasty variety. They also manage to refrain from getting to wanky, another big plus.

The drumming has a lot of the type of fast, double-bass heavy, speed metal-ish drum work we've all come to expect from Euro-power, but the man behind the sticks fortunately doesn't just blast away and keeps things interesting through tastefully used drum rolls and actually just resorting to standard heavy metal drumming (no crazy machine-gun double-pedal/bass)

Being a Japanese band, you can clearly hear the singer's noticeable accent, but it only adds to the band's charm, and he can maintain a high, yet powerful range, unlike bands like Sonata Arctica. His pronounciation is sorta awkward though.

Slap on a great production, and you've got one the best power metal efforts of our modern day.

By J. Chan

Sabbat - Dreamweaver

Posted by T. Bawden 0 comments

Sabbat - Dreamweaver (Reflections of our Yesterdays) (1989) - 5/5

A hidden masterpiece of the "proto-death metal" style of thrash that bands like Dark Angel, Kreator and Slayer pioneered.

On this album, Sabbat play like Dark Angel and and Kreator, but with increased amounts of technicality and noticeable progressive influence. Time signature and theme changes go all over the place while razor sharp, ripping riffs are fired out like machine gun bullets at varying speeds. A pounding, tank-rampage drum-beat adds to the ferocity.

Martin Walkyrier, while he uses a harsh shrieky type of vocal style, somewhat similar to Michael Petrozza of Kreator, manages to have a subtle amount of melody in his voice. Lyrically, this album is just as gripping, telling the story of a misguided Christian missionary going off to "save" the pagans, only to have his reality deconstructed right before his eyes.

If you love thrash and enjoy the works of Kreator and Slayer but wished they were more technical/progressive, check this album out.

By J. Chan

Manticora - Hyperion

Posted by T. Bawden 0 comments

Manticora - Hyperion (2002) - 5/5

A great, modern day progressive power/speed metal album. It's not as complex as say, Dream Theater or Watchtower, but often way more memorable and just as good. While it may sound like straightforward Euro-power metal at first, fluffy D&D silliness it ain't.

Vicious, sometimes almost thrashy, yet melodic riffs are near constant in this band's sound. Keyboards take a second stage to the beautiful guitarwork, often being used more for atmospheric purposes over stereotypical Sonata-Arctica-esque noodling. Not suprisingly, just like the guitars, the drumming is fast, vicious and prone to lots of sudden changes. The singer's vocals aren't very high compared to say, Timo Kotipelto, staying at the lower reaches of higher-ranged vocalists, and thankfully avoids high-pitched vocals.

Manticora often break up different sections of their songs through using drum rolls connected by technical guitar-key-leads, and while it does feel repetive at times, it helps keep the songs feel very organized and helps keeps things clear, unlike other prog bands, who often just suddenly go from one main theme to another.

A great prog/power album, recommended for fans of both speedy Euro-power and complex DT/Symphony X style prog metal.

By J. Chan

Pagan's Mind - Celestial Entrance (2003) - 5/5

Of all the albums by Pagan's Mind I've heard (haven't heard their last one, "God's Equation"), this one is the closest to Dream Theater. Now, before you got off labelling this Norse prog-outfit as another DT-wannabe, there are some major differences. Yes, you can hear some Petrucci and Portnoy in there, but Pagan's Mind are more atmospheric and "spacey" than their American counterparts. They may not have the raw technical power of DT, but a lot of the time, they can be catchier, more acessible, and have somewhat more "soul" in their music. Not that DT doesn't have that, it's just that PM tend to outdue DT when it comes to that.

There's also some minor power metal influence, but it fortunately doesn't turn the album into Sonata Arctica, although their previous album was basically prog/power, but very very well done prog-power. Like DT, their songs are pretty long, but never go into the double-digits for song-lengths, and while they aren't quite as complex, the alien atmosphere and sci-fi lyrics will draw you in, along with the amazing solos and bizarre, yet soothing vocacls.

A must have for any prog-fan.

By J. Chan

Carnival in Coal – Vivalavida – 4.5/5

Here we have an Avant-Garde band for the longest time I have been dubious about trying. Their combination of jazzy disco-like sequences and aggressive Death Metal, with perhaps more than a hint of Grind present sounds so bizarre that I couldn’t fathom it working. But heres the kicker – it does. Wonderfully in fact. The fact that one instant you could be listening to a couple of guys harmonising in a barbershop quartet over a disco backing, only to have it abruptly change into Bert and Ernie blast beats (Link here for those who haven’t seen it) and vocals that make most death metal growls seem comparatively high pitched ends up being their major strength, and they make no hash of exploiting it.

The album opens with a soft keyboard intro giving you your first juxtaposition in sounds as blast beats and a heavy bass isn’t far away. Unfortunately, both the main styles featured are repetitive, bland and alone would make for a terrible track. This track is one of the worst offenders at overusing one particular sound without a transition, though a variety of bizarre sounds are placed into the mix to help alleviate this. The use of these bizarre sounds (which are too numerous to fully list, but include xylophones, organs, electro effects, as well as spoken sections by “mad scientists,” the sound of someone urinating, and so on) helps to break up the main body of the style they’ve created and add something unique to each track.

The drumming and bass work is largely uninteresting, but works brilliantly and differentiating the styles. Despite the huge difference between them, they manage to keep the flow by simply removing them for the softer sections. This leaves the keyboards, which were always present, to continue with the atmospheric approach, whilst simultaneously removing most of the aggressive sound prevalent before. The vocals vary from a high pitched black metal scream, a deep death grunt – sometimes literally grunts and growls as opposed to grunting lyrics – and the barbershop quartet harmonised vocals. They are all done incredibly well and serve to accent the lyrical themes of the tracks, which I consider fairly important in enjoying the album.

With track titles such as “Got Raped,” “Urine Facewash” and “She-Male Whoregasm” its clear there’s some lyrical theme, some amusing story at the core of the song. Make no mistake about it, this is not an album your parents would enjoy knowing you listen to. In “Yeah, Oystaz,” The story is a man walks in to a restaurant, orders some oysters to be told by some pathetic snivelling employee their out, which sends the customer into a demonic fit of rage, Or in “Narrow-Minded Sexist Pig,” a track about a scientist studying the effects of metal on the female form. Lyrically, its well constructed, full of amusing fictional stories that serve to add another aspect to an already enjoyable album.

This album is beyond bizarre. I still can’t understand how it works, but understand that it does. And so long as they’ve continued beyond this debut to explore amusing stories in their unconventional style, I’m sure I’d be pleased to explore what else they have to offer.

Highlights: She-Male Whoregasm, Entrez le Carnaval, Got Raped

By T. Bawden

Virus IV – Dark Sun

Posted by T. Bawden Saturday, 6 December 2008 0 comments

Virus IV – Dark Sun – 3.5/5

Anyone remember Beautiful Sin that I raved about a few weeks back? Welcome to Luyten’s main project, Virus IV - a Heavy/Power band that certainly delivers a kick, the music is standard affair. If anyone remembers Artch from a while back, same concept is present here.

The album kicks off with one of the better intro tracks I’ve heard. I really do like it, it perfectly sets the mood for the rest of the album, not through music as it’s a spoken track, almost as though its been yanked from a film. We get an explanation from Luyten, (with her delightful Belgian accent I might add – sort a hard-edged French accent) playing a scientist proud of her work on this “virus IV” until naturally, an American bloke comes on the scene and releases it. This isn’t really a concept album though – more of an album with a consistent fictional lyrical theme running through it.

After this intro we get a second “intro” as it were, melodic, emotional and abruptly turns into a deep heavy riff, which is fitting, and has a great beat to bang your head to, even if pretty bland. There are solo’s, but again they seem rather simplistic and bland. The riffs succeed in varying from one mediocre but fitting riff to another. Perhaps im sounding harsh, they aren’t bad, they do what they’re intended to do – keep an atmosphere. Most metal utilises another guitar or a keyboard attack to create an interesting riff overlay to complement the vocals. This isn’t the case here, the job of keeping me interested is placed entirely on the abilities of Megali.

Luckily, she happens to be saving grace for this album. After hearing her work with Beautiful Sin, and now here, I have no qualms pointing out that she is climbing her way up in my mind as one of the best vocalists in the metal genre. She sings with power, without resorting to either trying to sound overly butch and masculine (e.g. Angela Gossow) or over feminising herself (e.g. Nightwish and relevant clones), and I cant think of many vocalists that succeed in displaying emotion without getting lost at either extreme. And yes, she succeeds in displaying emotion, and like Beautiful Sin she manages to pull off two distinct styles of vocals - The powerful power metal style, and the deeper hard edged Heavy style, which was less prevalent in Beautiful Sin. But there was also less of the soft emotional melodic present, and the few points where it does raise its head, the backing does nothing to support this, chundering along with their heavy riffs. The ballad track, Silent Arrows went some way to alleviate this problem, but placed so far along the album its hard not to have let the band lose hold of your attention.

Id be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with this album. I was hoping for a band, not “Megali Luyten and her backing.” It manages to showcase her voice off well, and theres nothing really done wrong, it simply doesn’t feel too original, and is missing something. The vocals are the only thing bringing this out of mediocrity.

Highlights: Frightening Lanes, Dark Sun, Such a Shame

By T. Bawden

Naildown – Dreamcrusher -3/5

Neo-classical solo’s? Check
Gutteral Vocals? Check
Catchy simplistic riffs? Check
Virtuoso Keyboards? Check.

Yes, I thought I had a Children of Bodom clone too at first, but I soon realised this wasn’t to be the case. Hell, this is the band Bodom wishes they were.

I am referencing here more what Bodom have become, rather than their earlier material, as this is the closest well known band I can use to describe their sound. But rather than try to emulate the sound, they’ve taken it and blended it with some hard rock. We hence get some slow melodic passages, and plenty of clean singing, but rather than sound like they’ve diluted their sound for mainstream popularity, it sounds natural. They never reach the same level of aggression, opting for a more atmospheric and emotional brand on the old style, and they do a decent job of it. (If anyone’s heard of the band ‘Engel,’ its not too dissimilar).

The vocals are largely clean, and to be honest not especially brilliant. He attempts soothing melodies, thrashy heavy metal style vocals, as well as guttural vocals, and there is a sign that he attempts emotion in all these area’s, so points for trying, even if he missed the mark. The guitars aren’t bogged down with playing quickly, and there is great variation in speed, both in riffs and solo’s, but a key improvement over Bodom’s newer work is the way the riffs are constructed. There is a constant harmony between the guitar and the keyboard, both working in unison, though one naturally dominates, the other playing something simpler for atmosphere. At times there is a bass laying a decent riff, over an atmospheric keyboard riff, and over all this is a guitar solo, all harmonised, working together to provide a sound that at no point sounds confusing or contrasting.

The album kicks off with “Dreamweaver” which is probably the most Bodom reminiscent, and one of the most aggressive points in the album. I like how they decided to kick the album off with a kick – it worked well – but as you continue to listen, the entire album gets slower in pace. This is by no means a bad thing, as around “Lame” or “P.I.B” they reach what I’d consider the perfect medium between power infused aggression and emotion. Which means yes, it continues to get softer, with “Like I’d Care,” which as you may have guessed sounds like a whiny teenager. “Deep Under the Stones,” continues along these lines, but has hit a certain level of emotion equating it somewhat to the ballad of the album. The last couple of tracks pick up the pace a bit, but are still nothing special.

Altogether, you could do a lot worse, and they do a number of things right. This is a band that still needs time to develop into their own sound, but the creativity, and variation in each track certainly shows that something more promising may be coming from them.

Highlights: Judgement Ride, Lame, P.I.B

By T. Bawden

Spiral Architect - A Sceptic's Universe (2000) - 3.5/5

If Psychotic Waltz met Watchtower, Spiral Architect is most likely what would result out of the fusion of the two. The most noticeable similarities are in the vocal and melody department. Øyvind Hægeland sounds like a near-exact clone of Buddy Lackey, but SA has a less developed sense of groove, or at least a weirder one. Throughout the entire album, each Spiral Architect song, despite how mind-numbingly technical it is, often keeps a good, subtle sense of grooviness or hook. Just listen to "Moving Spirit", which alternates between nice sudden Sabbath grooves, but like a lot of other songs, suddenly interrupts these grooves with technical displays of instrumental mastery, similar to Watchtower or Toxik. In fact, a lot of the bass lines feel like Watchtower, and are even more prominent than any Watchtower bass-work. The bass-guitar might as well be the lead instrument, as the basswork feels like its constantly running circles around the guitarwork.

The grooviness is the album's greatest strength. One of the problems of technical or prog. metal is that it can get carried away in the technicality or progginess, and while the complex changing song structures and jaw-dropping displays of mastery are there, the sense of melody and coherent flowing structure is still there. The problem here though, is that sometimes the band gets a bit too carried away in various songs, suddenly making the tech-runs a bit longer or too drawn out than necessary. This can suddenly cause normally groovy songs that will still impress both the casual headbanger and the Watchtower fanboy to bore the casual headbanger while giving the Watchtower fanboy a massive hard-on.

All in all, this is a pretty good prog/tech. metal album that fans of Cynic, later Death, Atheist, Behold...The Arctopus, Watchtower or Psychotic Waltz will enjoy. If you can get used to the band occasionally getting carried away, the hyper-technicality, and maybe the uncanny resemblance to Psychotic Waltz, you will probably enjoy this one heavily.

By J. Chan

Emplyver – Wood Woud Would 3/5

Emplyver are an oddity in my experience in metal. It’s not just the genre they play, though doom-laden folk with a severe case of black metal schizophrenia isn’t the most common thing out there. It’s not that they manage to play all their instruments, which include violin, flute, accordion, keyboards, and bagpipes, in addition to the ‘traditional’ metal instruments. It’s not even the range of techniques the vocalist and guitarist display. Somehow, this band manages to display all of these attributes, yet still come off as boring.

The songs tend to last between over one minute and up to five. This includes a curious trend where the band tacks on an unusual, semi-related sound for the last thirty seconds of most of their longer songs. They also are a band that enjoys making numerous odd interlude tracks. For example, ‘Dead Brook’ has a jazzy bass intro and an upbeat accordion. ‘The Winter’ has a sweet flute and clean vocal duet. Don’t get me wrong, there is potential here, it’s just not being used correctly. Even the longer songs display some true originality. ‘Died in Finland’, a mostly somber piece has a dance beat in it. More importantly, it works with piece, it blends, and contributes. I wish I could say the same for the dives into black metal that often feel tacked on.

The vocalist, as mentioned earlier, is talented, but uses a simple technique for most of the album. He simply mutters his lyrics. This is very disappointing, not only because of it’s repetitive nature, but because the vocalist shows that he can employ solid black metal shrieking, and has a superb death growl. I get the impression that he simply isn’t trying. The guitarist has a similar problem. I can hear that he can play a great range of style, including black tremolos, folky acoustic, doom-laden riffs, and I’m positive I heard a power metal-esque solo in ‘Sail to Kajamin’. Yet he spends the majority of the record hidden either beneath the folk’s spotlights or in a sea of distortion.

As a final note: there is a multitude of little problems with this album. The songs start to get repetitive as tracks go on. Namely, Castle in the Air feels like Oldboy Pt. 2. Why is ‘Another Piece of Wood’ separated into two tracks? The band hasn’t shown any resistance to tacking on different sounds in the same track before, but these pieces are quite similar, and divided. Why nearly three minutes of dead silence between the beginning of the last track and the music? A little editing could have given this album a lot of help. This band is above average simply for being different, here’s hoping they working on being better then other bands in the future.

By C.J.Ulferts

Hollenthon – Opus Magnum

Posted by T. Bawden Sunday, 30 November 2008 0 comments

Hollenthon – Opus Magnum – 5/5

I’ve always stated that in order for a band to attain a perfect 5 out of 5, they need to create a perfect album, being both unique and original, whilst remaining flawless in its conception, production, and finish. It’s no wonder so few bands attain it from me, but if anyone deserves it, these guys do. Ive literally been listening to it for two weeks now, looking for something I don’t like, and every time I think a particular section has been going on too long, it changes. Every time I think it needs a more kick, or bite to it, heavily distorted guitars will come in with a killer riff. Its like they're inside my head, responding to my wishes, and doing a far better job of it than my mind could.

The sound is a fairly unusual sounding blend of Folk, Melodic Death Metal and Orchestral work. Folk/Melodeath is becoming more common with the likes of Ensiferum and Finntroll, but this is a whole different breed from all that, with orchestral chanting, deep deathly growls, and quick addictive riffs transitioning into a superb orchestral symphonic piece, affirming the mood of the track. The closest I can come to comparing this band is Disillusion meets Opeth meets Eluveitie meets Wagner, and even that makes it sound far more awkward than the reality. In truth, it’s so wonderfully worked together that at no point does anything feel out of place, or unusual. It retains a sense of familiarity whilst being unique enough to stand out of any crowd someone tries to place them with.

The first track opens with a combination of carefully orchestrated violins, double bass (?) and blast beating drums, before swiftly changing into a satanic sounding chant and the first addictive riff of the album. And right before it gets old, it stops suddenly, fading into the main verse, where more demonic sounding spitting-at-you aggressive deathly growls with superb elocution (you can hear every word said with ease) over the main riff. Half way through, we get more orchestral symphonies over choral singing before ending with the lead vocals. This track was based upon the concept of nuclear war, beyond that im unsure as to the full meaning, but this doesn’t detract from the lyrics themselves. They’re graphic and detailed, and serve as good imagery. In fact, I like the mystery to them.

The guitars are atmospheric and fitting, remaining interesting whilst not focussing on a virtuosic style of playing (with the exception of the guitar solo in ‘Dying Embers’). The drums do an excellent job of providing an interesting beat without overpowering the overall sound of the track, the orchestral work adds a layer of atmosphere beyond anything a keyboard can do alone, and the vocals retain a clarity of expression whilst sounding demonic and aggressive. Often raw (e.g. Son of Perdition), sometimes catchy, almost poweresque in that sense (e.g. Once we were kings), mixed with choral chanting (e.g. On the Wings of a Dove), even using female power vocals in one track (Son of Perdition). Every song sounding different from the last retaining the same core sound, with so many options and influences working together in each track the amount of ground they can explore is impressive.

This album is quite simply phenomenal, and I don’t expect to tire of it any time soon.

Highlights: Son of Perdition, Once we were kinds, Misterium Babel

By T. Bawden


Posted by T. Bawden Saturday, 29 November 2008 0 comments

Buffalo – Volcanic Rock – 4.5/5

Are you getting tired of your old Deep Purple and Sabbath CDs? Fear you may be over-listening them? Or wish people would remember to solo as well as they used to? Then you probably need this.

Hailing from the land of the aussies, only a few years after Sabbath formed, comes what quite possibly might be the first Australian heavy metal band. With Sabbath-esque riffing, solo’s to put blackmore in his place and a perfectly capable vocalist this band kicks off with A quick introductory solo to a decent beat and bass line before getting underway with heavy metal bliss.

The classic rock sound is prevalent, with a dollop of stoner rock (which is actually really odd, as this came out 15 years before the first stoner bands started emerging. But it describes the sound) and maybe a hint of prog at times, there isn’t really a weak point to mention.

Their heavy blues-crunch (see the start of freedom) works wonderfully with the beefy, gritty rock vocals. And right now, im honestly running out of things to say. The riffs are at times reaching Iommi level of good, the composition is like an overly aggressive Zeppelin, the solo’s are approached in a similar style as Deep Purple, and the vocals are best described as like the vocalist for clutch. In fact, the only negative I have is that the opening track neither acts as a slow intro track, nor an all out fit of aggression. It sounds like your coming into the album halfway through.

This album should be up there with the best from Sabbath or Zeppelin, and anyone reading this who’s failed to mention this band to me, you really suck. Hard.

Highlights – Sunrise, Pound of Flesh, Shylock.

Buffalo – Only Want you for your body – 4/5

Here we have more of the same hard rock attitude, with less emphasis on the prog. It doesn’t slow down in pace, but this leads it to get a little bit repetitive at times, and something wasn’t as memorable as on volcanic rock. Still, good album, if not terribly very different from their last.

Highlights: Im a skirt lifter not a shirt raiser, Whats going on, United Nations

By T. Bawden


Blog Archive


Guide to the Ratings
0/5 - This caused me physical pain
1/5 - This is really bloody awful
2/5 - This was below average
3/5 - This was above average
4/5 - This was pretty darn good.
5/5 - I cannot fault this epitome of perfection.

I cant guarantee all reviewers adhere to these guidelines, but work as a general guide.

Author's credit is given on all posts.