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.

Moon' Doc - Realm of Legends

Posted by T. Bawden Thursday, 30 July 2009 0 comments

Moon' Doc - Realm of Legends - 4.5/5

A continuation on a theme that my partner Mr. Bawden started, this album is yet another project featuring the stellar guitarist Herman Frank jr.. A key member of ACCEPT during their glory period - featuring on both "Restless and Wild"(quite possibly my favorite metal album of all time) & "Balls To the Wall" - as well as a current member of the reformed group sans arch belter Udo, Frank is truly one of the most prolific and tasteful metal guitarists to have entered the scene. MOON' DOC was yet another of his many collaborations, and is ripe for rediscovery.

Roping in VICTORY and SINNER cohort Fritz Randow for the crucial position of beat master, this album is really a showcase for both he and Frank, and an exciting proposition for drum and guitar enthusiasts. Both musicians propel "Realm of Legends" into classic territory, as they put in excellent performances that are woven beautifully into the tailor made tracks. Frank's guitar tone is crackling, as he slashes and scorches through each song, creating highly evolved and thrilling solos. Riffs are red hot and in complete servitude to the gorgeous melodies that caress almost every track. Randow keeps up his end, actuating the album with his double bass barrages, and stunning the listener with his imaginative fills. Loping and bombastic at once, he puts on a clinic in drum mechanics. Masterful.

It must be said that Frank and Randow aren't the only notable branch of this albums collection of musicians. Vocalist Jürgen Wulfes makes a deep impression as well, his bellows being an integral component of "Realm of Legends" assemblage. Barrel chested and leather lunged, he sings in a full on power metal style, but minus the frequent high pitches heard throughout the genre. The best way to describe his style is that he is a he-man's metal powerhouse. Throaty and expressive, one is reminded of David Coverdale at times, but more often his voice is reminiscent of the many raw yet authoritative speed metal vocalists that seem to grow on trees in Germany.

The production is full bodied, with the mix being clear and balanced. It is typical of the consistent Teutonic metal engineering, rarely have I heard an album from that region sounding inadequate. These guys know what they are doing, and it shows in the product. "Realm of Legends" is an excellent metal album for heating up ones amplifier, no doubt about it, the high class melodies souring out over the scorching playing beneath. The album sounds regal and crunchy in elegant union.

If I have a problem with anything on this splendid outing, it is that it closes out with a bit of a whimper. Next to last track, Point of No Return, is nothing more than a Hair Metal standard, one easily seeing it as a WHITESNAKE single, and then the album closes with a fairly uneventful instrumental. But this is small complaint, as the previous nine stormers more than elevate this jaunt into "must have' status.

The third MOON' DOC testament, and having never heard the bands previous two, "Realm of Legends" impels me to dig back and check them out(interestingly featuring vox by FREEDOM CALL's Chris Bay). A triumphant end to an interesting chapter in Frank's career, this is an album that bears fruit upon repeated listen, and never grows tired. Highly Recommended.

Highlights: Welcome To The Show, Iron Tears, (In The Name of) The Lord

Kono Michi – 9 Death Haiku

Posted by T. Bawden Tuesday, 28 July 2009 0 comments

Kono Michi – 9 Death Haiku – 4.5/5

It wasn’t long after re-discovering Rob Dougan that I became curious: Surely there were other artists who had tried something similar? Before too long I had uncovered Kono Michi and was captivated. The gentle Folk (both Eastern European and Japanese) overtones on simple – perhaps trip-hop inspired – back beat, lavishly complemented by her own beatific classically inspired violin work and abstract pop vocals conjuring images of Bjork. This is not only fairly unique in tone, but superbly performed with a deep set emotion that oozes out of every note sung, every drawn out violin note and every beat.

A concept album based around 18th and 19th century Japanese monks, or more specifically the haiku they wrote before their death; their final message to the world before the parted from it. Raised by both Japanese and Polish-American parents, she before long took to the violin and since has performed in a number of orchestra’s including the New York and LA Philharmonic, all the while becoming more intrigued by more conventional rock. Presented here is an odd blend of them all that seems so simple when heard that you can’t imagine them being apart.

The backing supplies the basic beat which to work from, prominent in their slow and delicate pace, using a combination of percussion instruments from xylophones to drums and double bass. On top of this are the lead violin, often working on top of cello’s, in tandem with viola’s weaving in and out of each other in seamless fashion, performing more than simple riffs, succeeding in providing something heartfelt and emotional. Twinned with this is the sublime vocal work, curious in their manner, thick yet softly sung with an odd sense of rhythm to them, never overused, relying on the combination of vocals and violin to form her music rather than favouring just one.

With a subject matter as woeful as this the result could easily be striking a single emotional chord, but that’s not where she ends it. She doesn’t prey on any single aspect of the demise of her subject matter, but takes a broader view of their final words, exploring the tragedy of it, the beauty of their last message, both chaotic and calm tones, depressing and uplifting atmospheric work, all the while being performed in subtle manner that never fails to be both beautiful and interesting. This is an album that you can’t help but become emotionally involved with, as the tones seep out, and my only complaint is that it feels too short; at less than 30 minutes, I can’t help but wish for more.

Highlights: Cherry Blossoms, Child, Festival of Souls

Pink Punk – Zombie god Delicious

Posted by T. Bawden Monday, 27 July 2009 0 comments

Pink Punk – Zombie god Delicious – 3.5/5

Whilst hip-hop isn’t my normal listening, for those who caught the review of this artists debut you’ll have realised I developed something of a soft-spot for this experimental artist. Combining slam-poetry with industrial rock influenced hip-hop beats, and more prominently this time around, a more trip-hop backing style; it was his no holds barred lyrics, hard hitting and powerfully worded to point out the seemingly obvious in a persuasive manner. Whilst much of the backing work has seen considerable improvement, I find it is the vocals that are lacking.

With a more lavish backing, he once again uses a variety of electronic effects to provide a variety of beats to work over. Once again occasional use of guitar and frequent use of drums present themselves, in terms of maintaining a melody they have easily surpassed previous efforts and provide an unconventional industrial rock infused hip-hop beat that feels complex compared to many other rap artists I’ve been exposed to, though still simple enough to not draw focus from the vocals.

With the occasional clean vocals, and even featuring Yap himself singing at occasional points, whilst both performed well, providing a ‘pleasant’ sound, that shouldn’t be what the artist is aiming for. Before there was an anger, a frustration as he screamed his mind at you as though you were a moron and in doing so a passion presented itself. Initially I thought it was the lyrics that led to the lack of memorability, but with more intent listening they feel as strong as before, instead it his lack of passion. Feeling too content he lends no specific emphasis to certain words and phrases which clung to your mind in his past effort, leading to a lack of impact.

Whilst many may entertain the notion of a more elaborately constructed back beat and tamer vocals, for me the passion came from the simplicity; there were no frills, bells or whistles. It was simple and said what he wanted to say, but here he feels as though he is meandering, unsure of what he’s trying to say himself – a lack of focus and direction poorly compensated by the backing work – the final track featuring a bonus track absent of backing, far more intriguing than anything else presented here. Despite this, he is still producing a fusion of styles that is unique enough to provide intrigue, and the lyrics well worth paying attention to. It simply feels somewhat disappointing by comparison.

Highlights: Old Enough to Die Old Enough to Listen, Calling Time, Outer Space

Peste Noire - Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor - 4.5/5

I know this album isn`t big news to most of you but I`d thought I`d write the review anyway, since those that are on Metal-Archives provide a remarkably predjudiced and, I feel, innacurate description and opinion of the album. For those of you who don`t know, this is the latest album by the relatively well-known French Black Metal band.

In typical Peste Noire fashion, there`s no talk of straight-forward Black Metal endeavour in this album, instead we get a unique brand of "Avante-Garde Black Metal". These French Nationalists have, once again, delivered an album that`s, in my personal opinion, worthy of praise. Famine once again blesses us with his unusual vocal stylings, a screech that exceeds standard Black Metal vocals and almost damages the sound equipment because of it`s sheer power and pitch. In fact, if the high-pitched screams of 2 year-olds could be well-executed, this is how they`d sound. Joining him on vocals, as always, is Sainte Audrey, with a soprano voice that at times perforates the ear-drums like a ghostly howl, but at other times becomes relaxingly beautiful.

As can be expected, the guitar work is not typically Black Metal, taking the lead among the instruments: delivering enjoyable riffs and solos, piercing through the music like an electric needle, while keeping that wondefully distorted sound that Black Metal strives for. The drumming is very muffled, but provides the perfect foundation on which to build the rest of the sound. There is also an apt usage of additional instruments, such as the Hammond Organ in "Vespre" and a Harmonica in "Rance Black Metal de France", which contributes to the completeness of the sound.

Being Peste Noire, on cannot expect the album to be purely Black Metal, instead it switches from the blackest of the black ("Rance Black Metal de France") to traditional-sounding chants ("La France bouge - par K.P.N. (chant de l'Action française)") and back again very often - first making you proud of being French (even though you`re not), then giving you the hatred to murder the monarchy and then reminding you that you killed for France again. All-in-all they have succeeded in making me very pro-French, whilst also maintaing the angry sound that made me fall in love with them in the first place.

I would heartily and gladly reccomend this album to anyone, knowing that it`s not only a piece of well-developed Black Metal, but also damn catchy at times. To be honest, I cannot think of anything on this album that I didn`t enjoy, except MAYBE the production values. But even that has managed to grow on me.

Highlights: Soleils couchants - de Verlaine, La France bouge - par K.P.N. (chant de l'Action française)

Forgotten Darkness - Nacht aus Blut

Posted by T. Bawden Saturday, 25 July 2009 0 comments

Forgotten Darkness - Nacht aus Blut - 3/5

"Lyrical Theme(s): Anti-Christian, Death, Hate, Pain, Anger". Actually, I don`t really need to say anything further. This is the perfect summary of not only the band`s lyrics, but also the music. If you`re in a hurry, I wouldn`t bother reading the rest of the review, but for the sake of thoroughness, I`ll continue anyway.

I stumbled on this band per chance one day and, given my ongoing fetish with all things German, I gave it a try. I`ll try to describe what happened next. The album very duly opened with a thunderstorm and the voice of a man saying "Es war zur zeit des schwarzen Todes" ("It was at the time of the Black Death"). And there all intelligebility ended. The album is created to make you lose all sense of sanity and drop into the abyss of pure metallic lunacy. Raw and dirty. I think I just jizzed in my pants.

Musically, you cannot get anything "new" from listening to this band. What you do get is this: Astyanax abuses his drum set like the finest in Black Metal do; two guitarists (Corvus and Mortum) provide the atmospheric brutality that can only be provided if you suffered some sort of abuse when you were young, I`m sure; and the lovely high-pitched screeches, exactly the sort that I like - those of a madman waiting to butcher his next victim in a wood cabin in some dark forest - are made by Alazrail (who left the band in 2007); there is also a bassist on this album, but, after hearing it, you`ll know why he left.

Production wasn`t too high on the priority list, but wasn`t entirely neglected and I believe this schezophrenia led to the album retaining it`s raw sound, whilst not sacrificing any of it`s listenability.

What further can I say? What they do is what all Raw Black Metal bands do. Just well. Tremelo picking; blast beat drumming; high-pitched, angst-ridden screeches; effects (bombs dropping, storms etc.); the all too necessary acoustic track ("Ausklang"). Everything that you expect in a Raw Black Metal band is there, and it doesn`t sound like it was made by an eight year-old playing around in his fathers garage, either. It`s in no way bad, just too plain. Like repainting the Mona Lisa, they have ceated something beautiful, but not something unique or especially memorable.

I wouldn`t call this album anything more than average, but if all Black Metal albums sounded like this, I would still be dead happy. Check it out.

Highlights: Ausklang, Pesthauch

Professor Fate – Dante's Inferno

Posted by T. Bawden Thursday, 23 July 2009 0 comments

Professor Fate – Dante's Inferno – 4/5

A one man side project of "Mick Kenney", mostly known from "Anaal Narthakh", "Professor Fate" can only be best described as Symphonic Darkwave. Having done all the instruments on the album and all the vocals except on two songs, "Limbo" and the "Violent", "Kenney" brought us a unique vision and representation of "Dante's Inferno". "Kenney" focused here on creating an atmosphere, and he did it will. From a great representation on the feelings of "Limbo", something only a "Dante" reader would know, to creating a satire of some circles, like with "The Glutonous". It should be noted that there are two guest vocalists, "Garm" (Arcturus, Borknagar, and Ulver) on "Limbo" and "Dirty Von Donovan" {Exploder (UK), Mistress (UK)} on "The Violent".

In all honesty, I didn't expect much from this album considering Kenney's musical background, but as soon as "The Gates of Hell" started playing with its powerful rhythms, the choral work, and the haunting keyboards and melodies, all my expectations became different. It showed me how diverse a musician can be. The guitar work is secondary in this album, something I saw is appropriate, but it did had its special touch on "Limbo", the most emotional song of the album, and what I consider to be the best song. The keyboards and synthesizers were used to create an atmosphere that I am sure can't be done with without them. In some songs we can notice he is trying to convey the feelings of the circle, such as in "The Wrathful", and in other songs we can notice a more satirizing feeling like in the feelings of "The Glutonous", which the song's representation is the opposite of that in the poem. I enjoyed the drums. They were used strongly, to create a powerful rhythm in the background, like the one armies used in ancient battles. Although basic, not that technical, and slightly repetitive at some songs, the drum work did what it was supposed to do. We can notice a classical touch on this album, from the piano pieces to some choral parts, which was appropriate for such a work.

The main downturn of this album is the vocals, 'Kenney" is clearly not a vocalist. While he had his good moments, mostly it was weak and raspy, which slightly hurt what he tried to convey. "Donovan" did an alright job on "The Violent", but it wasn't that memorable. If "Garm" sang on the entire album, the whole album would be much greater! "Without hope, we live in despair." This was the description of the state the souls in "Limbo" lived in, and this was the feeling "Garm" with his vocals and the melody of the song brought to me. I so far I've listened to this album more than once, and didn't get bored of it, with "Limbo" on my mind.

The album is a recommended addition to anyone's collection, for diversity. Maybe those who are more familiar with "Dante", such as I, will appreciate it more, but that doesn't mean no one will welcome it. I am anticipating future work, hoping "Kenney" would continue on the path he started and make albums for "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso". I don't think anyone would be disappointed by this.

Highlights: The Gates of Hell, Limbo, The Glutonous, Heretics, The Wrathful and Sullen

Elder - Elder

Posted by T. Bawden Wednesday, 22 July 2009 0 comments

Elder- Elder - 4/5

Due to the lack of good Doom reviews recently, I have decided to share this little gem with all of you. The aspect of the album that shocked me the most was that this album is the band's debut. Although there are only 5 tracks on the album, it clocks in at just under 42 minutes. Not too bad. Elder's influence is apparent throughout the album, and there is very little that separates this album from all-out Sleep worship. However, it is not necessarily a bad thing.

Although the riffage could have been written by Matt Pike himself, there are a few things that set the band apart from being simply another mediocre Sleep clone. Aside from the crushing riffs, the band incorporates several semi-psychedelic bridges and bluesy guitar solos, which were seamlessly integrated into the tracks. Also the band utilizes subtle and tasteful use of keys in just about every other track. These aspects keep the music incredibly fresh, while not letting up much in the intensity department.

The only disappointing track on the album, was Ghost Head. Simply because it seemed a little bit more superficial than the rest of the album. It is not a bad song by any means, it just seems a little out of place. Unfortunately, the track shows off a little of the band's immaturity by shoving an angst ridden anthem between two epic songs about Conan the Barbarian. This and the length of the album were kind of a let down. It was kind of like finishing the last piece of good dessert. Damn.

Overall, this is some of the best modern Stoner/Doom I have heard in a while. These guys are really talented and definitely a band to look out for in the future. It is the perfect album to cheef on. Plus, who doesn't like music about Conan The Fucking Barbarian? Recommended for fans of Sleep or Electric Wizard. Make sure to let me know what you think!

Highlights: White Walls, Hexe, Riddle Of Steel Pt.II

Band: Requiem
Album:Requiem Forever
Rating: 3.5/5

I’m going to be brutally honest here; this has been a particularly tricky album to review because even by stereotypes of Power Metal, it’s impossible to stash it into a particular style. This goes to the credit of this Finnish band though; unlike some Power metal bands from Finland they haven’t tried to copy an already coined style like that of CoB (except in the keyboards). With that being said this is undoubtedly a piece of work, which screams a lot of experimentation, but breeds just above average results.

Now on with the music; and the first thing you might perhaps notice is the excellent production quality and that’s an important aspect considering the fast pace with which some of the tracks are played, particularly Shadowhunt and Possessed by Power. The next impression, which I got, was the one that made me dock a point off this album and that came through the vocals. The vocalist is not bad but there seemed to be something a bit lacking in the vocals, variation of the notes and specially the screams, which perplexed me to several degrees. The lyrics are also sometimes borderline cheesy but at times come off as meaningful. Whatever is the case, they do justice to the songs though.

Which brings me to the instrumental aspect of this album, and this is where the album redeems itself greatly. From the artistic melodies of the keyboards to the fast paced drumming everything is executed well with minimal flaws (I use the word minimal for the faults of the guitarist). The bassist also deserves some credit here because he carries the pace of the songs very well along with the drums, in fact at times the bassist adds more colour to the vocals themselves. Onto the lead guitarist Arto, and this is where I end up being puzzled, I have no qualms about his riffs for most part of the songs because they are excellently executed but he tends to fall short for solos (which is why he hasn’t done too many on this album), he does a short solos extremely quickly almost half heartedly it seems and then lets Jukka, the keyboardist, take over.

Jukka seems to be the most skillful of the band members here. Not only does he create a mystical atmosphere with his keys in the songs but also does speedy melodic solos to please the ear. The style is very reminiscent of Wirman from Bodom, this can be ignored however when you’re enjoying his melodic solos. All in all he blends in perfectly with the guitars, taking over when needed and relegating himself to the background to provide atmosphere with low keys.

On a final note, I definitely do recommend everyone to listen to this album, it may take perhaps several listens to get used to it but once you get the hang of it, especially the vocals, you start to enjoy yourself more and more to this speedy power metal.

Despite their faults you cannot argue that Requiem produced some very solid power metal and their third album Requiem Forever was a mark of their consistency. The style they played was a very experimental one and it still could have been perfected. It’s a shame the band decided to split-up instead of continuing to advance their work.

Highlights: Shadowhunt,Tower,Vindictive Heart

Herman Frank – Loyal to None

Posted by T. Bawden Tuesday, 21 July 2009 0 comments

Herman Frank – Loyal to None – 5/5

The first solo album of the legendary Herman Frank (Accept, Saeko, Victory, Hazzard), teaming up with fellow German legends Pichl (Running Wild) on bass, Schwarzman (Accept, Running Wild, Helloween) fronting the drumming attack and the sublime vocals of Parcharidis (Victory), this concludes a line-up of heavy metal titans that could only end in something spectacular, or a dreadful simple reminiscence of the glory days. Whilst I must confess, I was expecting the latter – as seems so common with such line-ups – but from that very first riff, soaring vocal line and pounding drum beat they have shocked me, surpassing all expectations I had of them. Its not often something comes along and blows me away, but this has succeeded in doing just that.

As you might expect the guitars themselves have a notable presence, performing superbly with the bass work to provide a hard-hitting aggressive heavy metal rhythm, it is the solos where he really excels. Performing as though he still has something to prove, this is possibly some of the best work I’ve heard him produce, hurtling headlong into a climactic groove, soaring and addictive with a variety and pace proving once again why he is revered. Throughout all this is the bass performing far more than your basic beat, providing addictive riffs to complement the rest of the instrumentation throughout.

Even the drums don’t let up, prominent in all their hard hitting explosive glory, furiously pounding, and constantly adding subtle varieties to the beats being performed his talents feel overshadowed by the wealth of talent surrounding him, but is heard giving it his all. The vocalist – the only one I didn’t really know about here – keeps up the high standard with an aggressive rasped unique tone, soaring above the instrumentation to deliver emotional yet addictive chorus lines, with plenty of power he cements his place as an equal to the classics.

It’s been a while since I’ve even considered referring to something as ‘perfect,’ but ill be damned if this doesn’t fit the bill. Forget your pretentious ballads or long epics, this album proves you can satisfy both conditions and still deliver balls-to-the-wall German precision, with plenty of variety in the pace it retains an unrelenting quality throughout its 45 minute length. It may have taken him almost 30 years to get around to his own solo project, but he hasn’t reached his ‘sell by date’ by any stretch of the imagination. Here’s to hoping the next one comes a lot sooner.

Highlights: Moon II, Heal Me, Hero, Bastard Legions

Ahmed Ali – Broken Glass Reflection

Posted by T. Bawden Monday, 20 July 2009 0 comments

Ahmed Ali – Broken Glass Reflection – 3.5/5

It’s all very well for many of us to criticise, but something that is perhaps forgotten is the effort that goes into producing such an album. By one of our very own “Lifer’s,” comes an instrumental album that sits somewhere between Stoner/Doom and Thrash, with slow and crunchy riffs pleasantly interspersed with a thrash guitar attack he goes a long way to overcoming one of main difficulties in producing a solo piece, successfully creating a number of tracks that feel distinct from another.

The drumming is all done using a drum machine, and whilst programmed relatively well to provide more of a ‘completed’ feel, it fails at producing much more than a solid backbeat. It inevitably feels mechanical and lifeless and whilst perhaps this was foreseeable there were times where it felt attention was drawn to it, where instead far more focus should have been devoted to the guitars. With a pounding rhythm, often simplistic they are nonetheless effective and addictive, with enough variation within a track to prevent them from becoming overused, flowing seamlessly between passages. With an unusual stoner crunch they tread a fine line between a deep and dirty tone and retaining a clarity enabling each note to come across. And with no shortage of solos, often providing a delightful southern twang, my only criticism is the occasional over-use of speed, resulting in fast-paced but altogether muddy and repetitive sounding result, the slower and mid-paced sections displaying a variety of tones and emotions far more effectively.

Despite this, something feels sorely missing; there is one effective component here yet the end result still feels somewhat thin. The bass often feels woefully underused (e.g. the almost impossible to hear bass solo in the title track) and could go a long way in ‘filling the gap,’ if worked with the guitars in their own manner to provide a rich, thicker backdrop for the guitars to work in. Another element that seemed rarely used was dual guitar work, one providing short little fills in between slower passages, lending further variety to the proceedings.

There is certainly promise here (most notably in the riffs that were produced) but is in need of some other alternate interest to provide the rich backdrop for the guitars to work. The other small gripes – the well integrated but excessively long sound clip in ‘T-800,’ serves as an example of this – seem relatively minor by comparison, and what perhaps makes this all the more depressing is the occasional demonstrations of just how fleshed out a simple song can sound with just a few effects and additional guitar lines – the closing track and majority of ‘T-800’ shine in this regard. There is potential here, but sadly this isn’t quite there yet.

Highlights: Broken Glass Reflection, T-800, Tremors

Band: Melancolia
Album: The Dark Reflection of Your Soul
Rating: 4/5

Here is another one man black metal project for the metalheads to enjoy, except that this album is far too different from many Melodic Black metal works. Imagine delving deeper and deeper into the scenic melancholy of a dark and cold night amongst the mountains, the eerie yet emotional feeling that slowly sinks down into your very soul. Thats exactly the effect this album achieves through its brilliantly atmospheric Black Metal.

Now speaking musically there’s very few actually amiss in this album. Particular note has to be given to the ambient influences in this album as they have been extensively used in a lot of tracks. The keyboard work is another aspect worthy to be noted in this album, as Eric really seems to blend the keys to bring about a most dark and haunting atmosphere. The drums are also fairly impressive and interesting although here, there is a faint suggestion that perhaps Eric is using drum machine - but this is merely afterthought because in any ways the drumming does justice to the tracks. The beats are not too fast but keep up with pace of the songs and blend in well with the guitars roaring along.

The guitar work is also fairly impressive - nothing groundbreaking if compared with other Black metal bands. But impressively done, the riffs are technically sound, aggressive and just about diverse enough. There has been no pointless prolonging of the guitar playing in any track as most of it has been aimed purely to blend in to the atmosphere.

On first listen perhaps one may find nothing wrong with the album. But there is one fault which I find, some of the tracks sound a bit similar to each other, perhaps this impression comes off the fact that maybe Eric is creating the same dark atmosphere in each track. But be as it may none of the tracks disappoint if you’re looking Black metal with enticing complexity.

On a final note, I also think that it does this album a great amount of disservice to just stash into one genre, because a lot of elements from different sub genres such as progressive and ambient have been used. Then again the essence of music in this album really is difficult to describe in words so I suggest leaving it to your ear to get the feel of it. The album is certainly worth listening to, aggressive and yet emotional, simple and yet so intricate. A grand debut indeed by Eric Saumier.

Highlights: Rain, November, In My Memory

Wytchcraft – I Taste Your Fucking Tears of Sorrow - 3.5/5

This is a good debut for the independent Epic Doom Metal band, "Wytchcraft". Lasting for around 50 minutes, I honestly didn't notice the time passing. It had all the elements that we'd expect in an Epic Doom album, from the strong guitar riffing to the clean and powerful vocals. The vocals is what interested me the most in this album, "Kai Tubbesing" did a good job mixing the clean vocals with the grunted vocals at some songs like the self titled. He reminded me in a way of "Nick Varsamis" of "Litany".

We can easily detect that the band is still a beginner. Although they delivered a good album, it didn't have that touch found on albums like "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" or "Into the Depths of Sorrow", but I won't discredit them, the album is enjoyable. The guitar riffing was one of the best features of the album, so were the solos. It goes from those thick doom riffs to a faster pace at times. The bass I barely heard. In this style, a galloping background I feel would make the album stronger, like with "Resound the Horn" by Doomsword. The drums were strong, but I think the production of the album lowered its effect. As I said, the vocals were my favorite aspect of the album; I don't think I need to clarify more on that. There is something I enjoyed about this album; it's the introduction of a folk feeling at songs like "Winterland", but without straying too far from the bands main goals.

Considering that the band is independent, and that they released the album themselves, they did an alright job with the production. Yes it won't increase their rating, and yes it bothered me at times, I didn't waste my time with listening to the album. Another thing that bothered me, neglecting the ones mentioned, is the guitar equipment they had. I liked the playing, this I won't deny, but mostly I felt the guitars weren't fit for a Doom album. After all, I don't think this genre is called "Doom Metal" if we didn't feel that doomed at certain times. For Epic Doom, I am sure the majority agrees with me that bands like "Candlemass" utilized that feeling well.

This is a good addition to those into Doom, and Epic Doom to be precise. It was good to listen to and it was enjoyable. I don't think it's pointless to check out new bands every now then, including this one. Overall, this is a good start to "Wytchcraft", and I hope in their future release improve on what they did, to bring something better. This band has potential, and I think it's a shame to waste it.

Highlights: I Taste Your Fucking Tears of Sorrow, Winterland, Apocalyptic Visions

Thy Majestie – The Lasting Power

Posted by T. Bawden Sunday, 19 July 2009 0 comments

Thy Majestie – The Lasting Power – 4.5/5

Separate from European Power Metal, the Italians – led by ‘Rhapsody (of Fire)’ – have emerged with their own distinct style of Symphonic Power. Often with fantasy inspired lyrics, medieval-folk tones and a light ‘flowery’ tone, this is an artist that have clearly drawn strong influences from those before them, but have overcome one of their major shortcomings; the overuse of keyboards. Often you will find the guitars become lost in the lavish keyboards, used to create an ‘epic’ tone it lacks a sense of versatility. This debut features a guest choir on many tracks, and is not shy from plenty of shorter instrumental tracks, serving as a wonderful introduction to the lighter side of the genre.

Perhaps the largest commendation should go to the keyboards, proving the old belief that they can lend multiple layers to a piece; varying from the more traditional affair backing to piano, flutes, violins and a number of other instruments, they often provide riffs rather than simplistic chords. Despite a hefty prominence, due to their versatility it never feels overused, capable of holding the rhythm alone. It is nonetheless accompanied by guitars – both acoustic and electric – aptly performing majestic riffs and solos, played with an emotional focus over a neo-classical one. Both the drums are bass are solemnly heard, but oddly in this rich tapestry of layers created rarely feel missed.

It is perhaps the use of the Massimo Theatre choir that distinguishes this from those who rely on keyboards for their backing, for whilst it results in an earthier, almost ‘folk-like’ tone at times, it also lends a unique element, a broader spectrum of pitch to enrich the backing rhythm as well as allowing the keyboards to perform their own riffs, frequently harmonising with the guitar work. The lead vocalist, too, has a unique sense of emotion about him; largely staying within the upper register he performs a delicate and soft melody to accompany the tracks, perhaps at times only lacking a certain power.

Whereas ‘Rhapsody (of Fire)’ overloads you with thick keyboard work to provide an epic tone, working in a bombastic manner, this album embraces the gentler side and provides something far more emotional and majestic. With a stronger emphasis on riffs over chords, and plenty of variety in short instrumental passages (often with narration) it feels like a story being told rather than a mere collection of tracks with a similar theme flowing into each other in a seamless fashion. This is the Italian response to Blind Guardian’s “Nightfall in Middle Earth,” taking their riff theory and incorporating Rhapsody’s orchestral arrangements, producing something more than equal to them both. What you find here may not be the most original, and is certainly not the most aggressive the genre has to offer, but is simple lightly toned power metal written to near perfection.

Highlights: March of the Damned, Under Siege, Mistry of the Forest, Sword of Justice

Sun Ra

Posted by T. Bawden Friday, 17 July 2009 0 comments

Sun Ra

A jazz musician that slipped through my fingers when I did the special outlying my initial foray into the genre, this is an artist more proficient at releasing material than the likes of Zappa or Merzbow (at last check he’s accredited with some 160 albums, mostly with entirely original material), and indeed makes them both appear completely sane by comparison. Much of this introduction will deal with him a more biographical sense, which whilst fascinating and helpful in understanding his work, is not entirely necessary to understand the reviews that will follow of a few of his releases.

His birth certificate will tell you he was born in Alabama in the early 1900s, but he would have told you otherwise. It was at university in the mid 1930s that he was studying classical piano that he disappe
ared; he stopped attending classes and was unheard from for weeks. It was only later that he emerged, claiming to have been visited by his real parents from Saturn with a message as to what he should strive to accomplish with his music. Whilst many now would dismiss this notion as insane, consider the context of the time. This was before Roswell in the 50s, before the space race was conceived, decades before flying saucers and abductions were common notions, and thoughts as to extra-terrestrial life forms didn’t really exist in any medium. He was possibly amongst the first to explore the notion of alien life, and this space motif can be heard throughout his work.

It wasn’t long before his attention moved onto j
azz, working with experienced hard-bop musicians and even here was noted for vying for a change, pushing for a continually more experimental style. It was in the 50s that the world really saw what Sun Ra had planned for us, starting his own record label called ‘El Saturn’ Records, he went on to pioneer both Free Jazz and Avant-Jazz, rejecting such traditions as suits for big bands (opting instead for bizarre Egyptian-esque ‘space-like’ costumes), and pioneered an early method for ‘conducting’ big bands through improvisational pieces. It was this constant forward thinking, his controversial style, (and not in the least the gratuitous use electric keyboard in later pieces, of which the creator [Moog] showed him an early prototype he liked so much that he never gave back, and can be heard in much of his work since) and attitude that led to his wide recognition. As much a philosopher as a musician, this is a man that for all his insanity, seems to been decades ahead of his time, and likely has influenced – either directly or indirectly – much of the experimental music today.

Sun Ra – Atlantis

Perhaps the more observant of you will have noticed the absence of a rating for this album. The reason for this is simple, this is an album so unique, so bizarre that I have no frame of reference; nothing to make a comparison to, so then how can it be judged on competency? What does it aim to accomplish? And does it succeed? Even with most Avant-Garde bands there is some form of rock basis do give it some sort of shape or form, but with this free jazz piece it isn’t constrained, and has a dynamic and constantly shifting form. As technical sounding at times as anyone else you could care to mention, this never feels complex for the sake of it. Frequently meandering but with a certain sense of purpose, utilising poly-rhythms (multiple tempo’s from different instruments) this results in a confusing and altogether bizarre outcome, and one that even after multiple listens I cannot decide whether I enjoy listening to, but is certainly a constant source of intrigue.

The first part of the album is dedicated to a small number of instruments, showcasing their capabilities in short and – by comparison – simplistic pieces, including two (rather different) versions of ‘Yucatan,’ performed almost entirely on conga drums, the latter of which features multiple musicians performing on them in a chaotic sounding rhythm which only gets more so by the tracks conclusion. Describing each of the instrumentation as anything but unconventional seems erroneous, yet without entirely understanding what they are attempting to accomplish it simply sounds other-worldly – as though foreign but trying to convey a message (which in fact, may well be his intention anyway).

Concluding with the 20 minute epic title-track, this albu
m may well be worth the download for this alone, easily surpassing the rest of the material presented. Ranging from quiet flutes, to bizarre noises from the electric keyboards, eccentrically performed in an almost random manner, it is these keys that dominate, and quite simply there is nothing like it. Not quite simplistic ‘noise’ but not coherent either, like a David Lynch film that’s confusing and impossible to comprehend but still succeeds in finding you mesmerised. Oddly aggressive and chaotic interspersed with abrupt soft interludes, this is not something to be forgotten quickly.

If this review comes across vague or confusing, that would be because the subject matter too is confusing, and this is one of the more difficult reviews I’ve written. The words to adequately describe this either don’t exist, or aren’t in my vocabulary. Some may find the likes of “Diablo Swing Orchestra” or “Carnival in Coal” weird, but they are a mere shadow compared to this. Completely and utterly insane music from a man who came from beyond the stars.

Highlight: Atlantis

Sun Ra – On Jupiter – 4/5

And onto another piece by the man with an other-worldly plan, a more recognisably melodic showcase of work separated into three distinct tracks, showing a soft lounge-like spacey groove, a healthy dose of funk and a smoother sax-dominated style respectively. In each case his experimental nature rears its head in the form of a continual ‘free’ feel, an unconventionality that succeeds in producing a unique tone to a familiar atmosphere.

Perhaps the most easily accessible of all the works I have heard from him, “UFO” shows a superb bass-laden groove over-layed with multiple saxophone melodies, simplistic yet catchy vocal work and even an addictive guitar solo, it feels not only out of place in this album, but out of place with his more common avant-garde style. The rest of the album works in far more expected manner, maintaining a certain smoothness despite the ‘crazy’ keyboard and unconventional keyboard work, frantically changing pace and pitch, contrasting with the slow backing work and seamlessly moving from slow and harmonious disquieted manner to an intense chaos, when combined with the sax work lends an unpredictability, a bizarre sense of unfamiliarity sustained by the important backing work maintaining the shape of the track.

Each instrument performs aptly – particularly Sun Ra himself on the keys – in creating multiple layers with an odd dissonant rhythm about them, equally capable of being slow and moving as they are chaotic and unpredictable, the drums on the opening track providing an addictive beat for saxophone to swoon and keys to perform fills for. Those who have yet to explore this artist may well find solace in the knowledge that this seems to show a more restrained outlook than much of his work. Filled with smooth grooves, and a cheery upbeat tone, perhaps the only argument against is its often tiring nature; the repetitive nature of some of the lines wearing thin by the tracks conclusion, resulting in limited replay value. Not that this is too much of an issue, for with a discography as large as his there will always be something else for me to explore.

Wynton Marsalis - Angel Eyes - 4/5
Part 1:
Part 2:

This was the first Jazz album that I ever bought. When reviewing a Jazz album one is faced with many difficulties: how to describe the sounds without sounding cliché; giving it a fair rating; finding the element that distinguishes it from other Jazz etc. I must admit I am at a loss as to how to do this, so, with my eyes shut tightly, I will jump right into it.

In 'Angel Eyes' the famous trumpeter has, once again, managed to capture the essence of good Jazz - that contradictory quality that is so elusive in most artists' work: a relaxed energy. From the start one is made almost painfully aware of the instrumental prowess of all the members: the pianist, the drummer, the bassist and trumpeter himself. All instruments get a fair chance to show what they`re made of, none being supressed, none being favoured. A good example to illustrate this is 'Time Will Tell', where all instruments, even the bassist, are given centre-stage for a good part of the song.

On the album one will only find one form of music: fast-paced, acoustic jazz. Basic Jazz drums. Basic bass. Basic piano. Basic trumpet. It`s all composed of basic bits. But just because the Eiffel Tower is made of steel doesn`t mean it`s the same as a jungle gym... It really pulls together to create a comprehensive, powerful album that I can listen to over and over again.

There is also the ever-present atmosphere which the music creates - relaxed and calm, yet imposing and clear. This is the sort of music I imagine myself buying stainless-steel kitchenware and silver refrigerators to for my state-of-the-art kitchen in my New York penthouse. I can`t really explain it any further, unless you want me to specify the design. It`s not the type of music that you get emotionally attached to. It`s cold and dead - almost 'metallic' in it`s precision and 'silver' in it`s clarity.

But, all that being said, Jazz was never meant to be 'weighed down' by something as ephemeral and mundane as emotions. Where Robert Johnson is the therapist of the music world - speaking to the heart - Wynton Marsalis is, in my mind at least, the assassin of the music world - ruthless, goal-oriented and VERY cool.

The first Jazz album that I ever bought: I had seen this man playing on David Letterman (yes, it seems mainstream media DOES do some things right from time to time) and instantly fell in love with him (in a completely homosexual manner, of course :P). This album did not dissappoint.

Editors Note: Apparently there are two versions of this, one claiming Wynton Marsalis as the musician responsible, and others Art Blakey. As I found no evidence of a front cover attributing it to Blakely, I have used Marsalis as the proprieter, though Blakely was most likely the drummer in this piece

Disaffected – Vast

Posted by T. Bawden Wednesday, 15 July 2009 0 comments

Disaffected – Vast – 1.5/5

Recommended to me by fellow lifer, though for the life of me can’t figure out why, for this fairly concisely sums up just how badly an experimental prog death metal band can go. Now whilst I can’t fault them inherently for trying, neither can I fathom how they thought this was the way forward, seemingly experimenting in a dissonant and staccato fashion for no apparent reason, disrupting any flow the song may have formed, forcing myself to wade through this piece at his request, I find myself wondering, just where do I start?

Much of the ‘rhythm’ (using the term loosely) is carried by the guitars that tend to perform in a similar manner for each track. Consisting of a palm muted ‘chugging’ followed by a couple of high pitched notes or perhaps a random pinch harmonic (or ‘squealie’), despite this inherently bland style they succeed in varying tempo relatively well, and perform the occasional neo-classical, or unmelodic ‘random note bashing-ly’ complex, toned solo. The solo’s feel completely out of place with the rest of the track, and results in something bizarre and counter-intuitive but as a stand-alone are mediocre. The drumming I take little issue with, occasionally abusing use of cymbals he performs a repetitive steady beat with little in the way of fills, but successfully keeps the beat as required of him.

The keyboards disappear for the most part of entire tracks, providing basic chords in what I assume is an attempt to create a background atmosphere (though im not sure of what tone they were going for). Occasionally, abruptly stopping so he can play some ambient/classical stuff for seemingly no apparent reason beyond ‘to be experimental,’ occasionally playing something almost folk-inspired, it feels like a child got loose in the recording studio and performed whatever he felt like without letting the rest of the band know. The vocals, however, are the really dire aspect here. With a monotone mid-ranged growl, he tries to combine both the icy whispered tone of BM with the aggression of DM, and instead comes off sounding like he’s losing his voice.

The entire album comes off experimental for the sake of it. Throw some oddly-placed pinch harmonics to break up the chugging, maybe a randomly constructed ‘complex’ solo, some generic piano instrumental sections and techno vocals and suddenly you’re unique! It feels pointless, but at the same time this band has reminded me of a fact perhaps I was just beginning to forget; sometimes, when a particular style works, it’s best not to fuck around with it.

Note: Clearly in a case such as this where two vastly different opinions come through (the person recommending the album clearly of a different disposition), it seems one of us is likely missing something. I stand by my view, but offer you to sample for yourself and – by all means – give your own thoughts.


Odious - Mirror Of Vibrations

Posted by T. Bawden Tuesday, 14 July 2009 0 comments

Band : Odious
Album : Mirror Of Vibrations
Rating : 4/5
Link :

Odious is a melodic black metal band with oriental influences hailing from Egypt. Mirror Of Vibrations is their first studio album, and an impressive one it is. What makes this album shine out is the use of oriental instruments like Oud, Tabla which add a new refreshing sound.

The guitars have a raw sound with some fast yet memorable solos here and there, very catchy and melodic riffs are heard throughout the whole album. With the use of the Oud ( which is very much similar to acoustic guitars but much more oriental sounding ) giving the music a sort of different sound. The keyboards are very audible and play an important leading role in this album, along with the guitars. The drums are very good and well played throughout the whole album, some times they're quite fast, at other times their mid paced, which gives a sense of variation to their sound; One of the other oriental instruments used is the Tabla which has a very distinct sound but hard to describe, you'll know when they're being used, trust me.Vocals are mostly low pitched rasps, nothing too special, but fits the music perfectly.

The production - surprisingly - is quite good, all the instruments are audible and yet it managed to create a dark oriental sounding atmosphere.

If you're expecting a solid melodic black metal album, then this wont fail you, plus it has well used oriental instrumentation which always adds an interesting touch to the music, but in this album, plays a vital role.

Highlights: For The Unknown Is Horrid, Poems Hidden On Black Walls, Invitation To Chaotic.

Toxik – Think This

Posted by T. Bawden Saturday, 11 July 2009 0 comments

Toxik – Think This - 5/5

Now why would I listen to an album I already listened to before? Am I just wasting time? Do I have nothing new to listen to? But actually, I listened to it all over again because it's that good! "Think This" by "Toxik" is a hidden gem in "Thrash Metal", not often we see or hear of people praising this album. This is "Technical Thrash" at its best, what's also great about this album is that we don't get lost with mindfucking technicalities, on the contrary, the album is quiet memorable with each song possessing and aura of its own. I don't think I embellish the album with unnecessary praise by saying this is what any thrasher desires it to be.

Now, where to begin with such an album? Basically every aspect in this album is great, but I choose to talk about the guitars first. With "Josh Christian" on lead and the addition of "John Donnelly" on back-up, "Toxik" emerged in a mightier wall of sound unlike their previous work. The riffing style can be seen similar to "Watchtower", but it's quiet "Toxik". They basically were an epithet to the song name "Technical Arrogance", some jaw dropping songs were delivered, yet no song was just a showing off their talent. The lead solos were the perfect mixture of classic and fast shred, with some well done dual solos here and there, not to forget the acoustic and classic breaks and fills we notice, similar to bands such as "Heathen". Each solo can be considered a signature. The vocals by "Charles Sabin" were really perfect to this album. Unlike many thrash vocalists that rely only on hitting high notes with their falsetto, which sometimes don't go too well with the guitars, "Sabin" was able to hit these high notes and was able to actually sing well! To me, my vote goes to "Spontaneous" or "Machine Dream" for best song from vocals wise. Any fan of the bass work by "Jason Newsted" when he was with "Flotsam & Jetsam" would definitely enjoy the work of "Brian Bonini" here. He is asserting his presence in this album. "Tad Leger" managed to bring a solid performance with drumming from beginning to end with highly accurate and complex work, just one listen to "Technical Arrogance" is enough to tell us his story. The lyrics were thoroughly enjoyable, with social and political commentary as the main themes here.

The production in this album is perfect for a "Thrash Metal". The bass is loud and clear, yet not too loud so we won't get annoyed. The way the guitars and vocals are synchronized together is neat, in a way it reminded me of the style found in 80s "Power/Speed Metal". I can't, with all honesty, think of anything wrong in this album. Every musician here is gifted and great, yet knows one is trying to show off. The songs in this album are diverse, from the thrashy "Shotgun Logic" to a ballad, not like "Nothing Else Matters", called "There Stood the Fence", to technical destruction with "Technical Arrogance". I wasn't bored, not a bit, while listening to it in the second time.

"Think This" is a must to any thrasher. Fans of bands like "Watchtower", "Voivod", "Flotsam & Jetsam", or "Spiral Architect" without a doubt shall enjoy this. "Toxik" were ambitious in this album, an their ambition wasn't wasted, but they delivered one of the best "Thrash Metal" albums I heard, and a really refined addition to metal in general. Each song is great; there is no filler in this album. I don't think any one shall be disappointed by checking this out.

Highlights: Spontaneous, Shotgun Logic, Black and White, Technical Arrogance, Machine Dream

Sun of the Blind – Skullreader

Posted by T. Bawden Wednesday, 8 July 2009 0 comments

Sun of the Blind – Skullreader – 4/5

Another album that grows on you, over the course of subsequent listens having it transform from an unusual tone that you enjoy but too readily lose track of, all the way an enveloping barrage of thick distorted black atmosphere. The solo work from the man responsible for the vocals in ‘Darkspace,’ his work there is readily observed here in its highly distorted (and almost reminiscent of the tone created by Albini for ‘Big Black) theatrical space tone. This is black metal of a new variety, certainly not a simple Burzum clone, it could almost be considered ambient, except it’s in no way content to sit in the background. Rather than leaping at the listener as with conventional black metal, it instead works around you surrounds you in a thick darkness, with laborious use of the eBow (a device used to play a guitar like a violin) and almost electronic-toned guitar harmonies, it results in an array of sounds to lose yourself in.

Composed entirely by the one man, its suffice to say he has done a remarkable job. The vocals are used lightly for emphasis, with a breathy, icy tone they lie in the back, performing everything from harrowing screams to deeper growls, heard yet lost behind the guitar work where the focus clearly lies. It is here he is not content to go for simplicity, providing layer upon layer of spell-binding black magic. With the intensely distorted eBow backing providing a smooth and epic tone in much the same way as keys can for other symphonic BM acts. Working with the rhythm guitar in harder hitting manner to create a pulsating flow and then on top of all this is a cleaner, thinner toned layer, cutting through the thickly smothered sound like a knife, piercing with subtle rhythm.

And there’s no shortage of variety either, frequently working without one of these aspects only to give a sudden rush when everything comes together, creating an almost oriental sounding piece in ‘Thirst and Fire,’ or a more doom-like crawled pace in ‘Ornaments,’ no track quite sounds like another. Certainly black ambient fans should find much here to their liking, but I expect those with a liking for unconventionally thick, atmospheric and epic monstrosities in the same vein as Agalloch will also find something to their liking.

Highlights: Cursed Universe, Ornaments

The Project Hate MCMXCIX – The Lustrate Process

Posted by T. Bawden Monday, 6 July 2009 0 comments

The Project Hate MCMXCIX – The Lustrate Process – 4.5/5

Since discovering their unique brand of industrial death metal, with distinct beauty and beast vocals, yet making no compromise on aggression, I have sought out more of their back catalogue, finding little truly distinct or performed in a unique enough manner to warrant an update, seeming contently stuck within the unique niche sound they’d created. That is of course until this – their newest offering – struck my speakers, and with Dan Swanö producing it comes as little surprise that they have succeeded in delivering what is possibly their finest work to date.

What this album does is less of a modification to their old style, but rather a pushing outwards towards the extremities; with more abrupt transitions between death metal fury and soft keyboard interludes, a tone thicker than ever before oozing with a fiery intensity, retaining a uniquely catchy sound with riffs to sink your teeth into, this sees them begin to stray into more experimental territory without ever feeling like an outcast of an album in their impressive discography.

Unquestionably in my mind the largest commendation goes to the guitars, successfully topping their work in every way imaginable, combining a thick tone which only serves to make the transition between the more expected raw aggressions of the death metal portions greater in contrast to the softer trance-like interludes. Once again with no shortage of pulsating riffs, he goes one step further and provides some of the most carefully created solos I’ve heard emerge from the genre. The bass also makes his most notable appearance to date, combining with the drums in a whirl of hard hitting energy supplying a sold base with which to work from, if neither are top of their game its at least comforting to hear them giving it their best.

The keys are less successfully integrated within this wall of sound, relying more heavily on the guitar work but perform with a majestic manner providing soft piano interludes, as well as the more noted industrial trace-like style. The female vocals feel thin, which whilst an excellent contrast to the thicker guitars, lends a less prominent feel, if not for the backing perhaps feeling too unenergetic and lacklustre, certainly not performed poorly but simply not to the standard she is capable of. On the other hand, the beast of the vocalists once again proves his worth, roaring with an intensity that lives up to his impeccable reputation.

This album is one that will rapidly grow on you. Different enough to revive interest in their work, yet familiar enough to feel like a natural evolution of their sound, and it is their sound that has been pushed beyond what it ever was before. The riffs are thicker, bass deeper, growls more aggressive, the interludes paint a more majestic picture than ever before and once all that sinks in their past work simply feels tame by comparison.

Highlights: Descend into the Pits of Eternal Possession, The Locust Principles, The Burial of Gods

Litham – Dhal Ennar

Posted by T. Bawden Saturday, 4 July 2009 0 comments

Litham – Dhal Ennar – 3/5

Not often we come to find a "Death Metal" band from "Algeria", but I came to find "Litham" with their 1999 release "Dhal Ennar". One of the things I liked in this album is the use of oriental melodies in the guitars, accompanied by the Arabian singing brought to this album a cool atmosphere, like in the song "El Djamra." They can be seen similar to bands such as "Orphaned Land". To bring the oriental feel to this album, they relied on using only on using only the guitars and drums without introducing oriental instruments such as the "oud". I kind of think it would have been better of they used some of the traditional instruments, since they're not hard to get in "Algeria".

The riffing in this album isn't that technical. It's catchy, simple, and direct with some groove and rhythm to it here and there, like in "Empire of Ebliss" and "Ila Youm Eddine". The solos were probably the best feature on this album. They are a good mix of melody and shred, not to forget the cool sound they bring to this album. The dual work between "Yassine" and "Lamine" is fine, though the song structure needs work. I enjoyed the drums. Some interesting beats are used, like "Ila Youm Eddine", but I think it needed some more fills and contributions. The vocals were done well, ranging from "Corpsegrinder" influenced vocals to "Lindberg's" vocals on "The Red Sky is Ours." The "Algerian" accent in the "Arabic" songs easily grabs our attention. I felt that the bass needed to have more contributions than just playing along in the dark. The lyrics were cool. They were about themes such as "the end" and "judgment day"; half of them were in "Arabic", though I would've appreciated if they wrote them in fluent "Arabic" rather than the "Algerian" dialect and accent. I have to say that the guitar and drum work here reminded me of "The Red Sky is Ours"; they conveyed a similar feeling + a weird feeling that only through listing to any of their material we would understand the word "weird".

Some of the downturns of this album are the equipments used. We can easily know they weren't the best guitars, for example. This is probably because they couldn't get the expensive equipments that majority of the bands use. The guitars sounded amateurish, as if they were a garage band, same thing for the drums. At one point, I think a drum machine was used. The production isn't great either; sure we can hear the instruments and distinguish them, but nothing special. We are able to enjoy the album though. The production on "Seven Churches" wasn't that great, but that doesn't mean many people didn't enjoy it.

I don't think these technical difficulties should stop people from enjoying this album. It's not that hard to get into, heck, I didn't feel the 38:29 albums pass boringly. The band has potential, and with the right equipment and experience they can truly advance. The album is recommended to any wishing to add something different to his/her "Death Metal" collection, and metal collection in general.

Highlights: El Djamra, Ila Youm Eddine, Elixir

Horrific – Your Worst Nightmare

Posted by T. Bawden Friday, 3 July 2009 0 comments

Horrific – Your Worst Nightmare – 3/5

With a striking introduction leaving absolutely no illusion that this albums primary influence lies beyond any metal genre, and harks back to the days of 80's B-Movie Horrors, with plenty of cheesy tones and cliché sound effects the most apt genre to place it would probably be Death Metal. Except it doesn’t fit; its too upbeat, too fun and catchy, perhaps more attuned to a “Death ‘n’ Roll,” label instead. But whatever genre it is best placed, it somehow screams, why has nobody done this before?

Performed entirely by one man, introduced as ‘Slasher Dave’ by the opening track, he seems competent at a number of instruments whilst perhaps being expert at none. The bass often follows the guitars, though can often be subtly heard in the back, coming forward at opportune times. The guitars often provide a basic chord or tremolo based riff, overlaid with plenty of guitar screams. Sometimes slowing to a crawl, there is a visible attempt to vary tempo between tracks, though it sometimes falls a little short. The solos come in no short supply, but once again feel rather basic, upbeat and shredded, fitting once more with the B-Movie cliché. The drumming is competent, and the growls feel perfectly suited to the style at hand. A little monotonous at times, but with a catchy rhythm and deep growl, interspersed with maniacal laughter, high pitched shrieks, my only real complaint in this regard is that the lyrics can often be hard to make out, and after the promising (and rather amusing) opener, I’m sure I would be able to expect more of the same.

Despite the apparent mediocrity of many of the instruments being performed, it all works cohesively to provide the perfect atmosphere required for such an endeavour. This truly feels fitting for a background for a 80s horror, it’s not hard to imagine the ‘Ash vs Henrietta’ (Evil Dead II ) to the tune of ‘Ride on the Lunatic Side,’ or ‘Brain Drain’ playing behind the legendary lawnmower scene (Braindead). You won’t find any flashes of brilliance, or unbridled creativity here, but that’s never what it intended to accomplish. Instead, this short release provides some damn catchy ‘horror-ific’ music. This is precisely the sort of album Dethklok’s “Dethalbum,” should have been, and any fan of 80s horror would do well to pick it up.

Highlights: Death Rock, Brain Drain, Metal Cemetery

Kawir - Dei Kaberoi

Posted by T. Bawden Thursday, 2 July 2009 0 comments

Kawir - Dei Kaberoi - 4.5/5

It`s not often that I find a Black Metal band that can incorporate symphonic elements in such a way that it doesn`t sound pretentious or even patheitc. The all too common term "...Black Metal`s biggest salute to Classical..." mostly gives me the impression that Metalheads seem to think that Metal is somehow inferior to other genres and try to compensate by being symphonic. After this, I`ll feel much more comfortable with the idea of Symphonic Metal.

I won`t consider Kawir Symphonic Black Metal, though. Instead of mashing it all together in a bid to salute Wagner, Kawir cleverly splits the different elements of the music to produce clearly distinguishable sequences of Symphony, more traditional Black Metal and Folk. This gives the band a much more intelligeble sound, making it possible to highlight certain emotions and ideas and thusly producing a very comprehensive work. This means that more aggressive, nostalgic, mystical etc. parts are more clearly seperated from eachother and better emphasized.

'Dei Kaberoi' is a Best of/Compalation album and, in keeping with the general themes of the band, is almost exclusively about Greek gods and goddesses. The aforementioned technique of splitting the different sections of the music is therefore a very handy method of describing the personalities of these deities. Almost all the songs have titles like "Hymn to Zeus" and "Artemis" but all have very noticeable, distictive qualities. A myriad of methods are employed to create a mental picture of the gods ranging from the completely acoustic, archaic-sounding "Hymn to Zeus" (using only some very subtle percussion, a whisper and a flute), a song to which one can get VERY relaxed to, to the very aggressive "Eumenides", the type of song to which murders are committed.

As I have metioned, many songs are largely, or even entirely, composed of instruments such as flutes and traditional drums; keyboards are also used to great effect, for instance in "Dei Kaberoi", where the intro includes only keys, closely resembling a trumpet ensemble, that further contributes to the ancient feel of the band`s music. There is also a good use of synthesized effects albeit very subtle i.e. the wind in "Hecates & Ianos". There is also a smart use of the spoken word in the music ("Hymn to Seline"; "Hermes"), performed by both male and female members of the band, which would all, I`m sure, be beautifully poetic and expressive, if I could understand them.

The more traditional Black Metal instruments (guitar, drums, vocals) are also used with great aptness and skill and are by no means inferior to the acoustic sequences. The guitarwork is done very well and very solidly, with mostly nothing out of the ordinary save a few parts, i.e. the last song ,"The Adored Cry of Olympus", which includes something of a (very well-executed, I might add) solo. The drumming is varied and very intelligently done, never seeming over-eager or too subtle, always fitting perfectly with the rest of the song. The vocals are just as well done, ranging from whispers ("Hymn to Zeus") to shrieks ("Daughters of Night") to all-out, blunt screams ("Eumenides"); but, above all, they are never too much or too little, proof of the bands adeptness at knowing when to stop, a very scarce quality in all of music.

The only factor keeping me from awarding them with a well-deserved 5/5 is the fact that the music seems to dissappear in the background all too easily. It takes tremendous concentration and patience to be able to appreciate it the way I`m sure it was intended. This one, sad fact will unfortunately have the consequence that many will never be able to enjoy it the way it should be enjoyed. They might "like it" but they`ll never "love it".

Paradox – Product of Imagination

Posted by T. Bawden Wednesday, 1 July 2009 0 comments

Paradox (Ger) – Product of Imagination – 4/5

1987 was a glorious year for "German Thrash". It saw the release of albums such as "Persecution Mania", the self-titled of "Mekong Delta", and "Terrible Certainty" among others. It also saw the release of the album I am now reviewing. This album is an archetypical "German Thrash/Speed Metal". It get's thrashy with songs such as "Death, Screaming, and Pain" or "Paradox", and it moves to a speedy territory, like that found in "Helloween's" or "Running Wild's" early work with songs such as "Pray to the Godz of Wrath".

The guitar work is the best aspect of this album, and the one I liked the most, with each song delivering riff after, satisfying every thrasher. The solos I enjoyed, I didn't see them neither over the top nor plain boring. I see that they are similar to the works of "Flotsam & Jetsam", with two or three songs clearly influenced by "Van Halen's" tapping style such as "Continuation of Invasion", a short cool instrumental which I reminded me of "Eruption". The bass is strong and clear, something other bands need to pay attention to. I enjoyed the drum-work, although it was your typical thrash/speed drum work, with some fills in some songs, it was good and gave the songs the drive they needed. The vocals aren't your typical "German Thrash" vocals; they are more "American" sounding, like that of the "Bay Area Thrash". Also good for "Speed Metal". The production was similar to the other album being pumped out that time,

The major down-turn I found with this album is that it gets boring after a while. I'm not discrediting its musicality, but this is what differentiates a good album from a great album. Though the song length varies, I found the basic structure to be the basically the same.

This album definitely deserves a listen to any fan of "German Thrash/Speed". I enjoyed it, but I won't listen to it fully again. I'll probably put on some songs from it every now and then.

Highlights: "Paradox", "Death, Screaming, and Pain", "Product of Imagination", "Pray to the Godz of Wrath"

Warlock - Hellbound

Posted by T. Bawden 0 comments

Warlock - Hellbound - 3.5/5

So Warlock take their first unsure steps into the big leagues, signing with a major label eager to capitalize on the popularity of mid-'80's metal. Well, the results are mixed at best, the extra money adding a new sheen to Warlock's fiery brand of Teutonic thunder, but also removing some of that indie rawness that made the debut such a winning head bang.

Doro herself shines as usual, adding a little breathy raunch to her usual arsenal of vocal assaults. She does occasionally seem to stretch her range a bit, but otherwise turns in an exhilarating performance. The axewerk is precise and exacting once again, both players turning in another clinic in traditional metal fireworks. As for the drums, another less than perfect sound is produced, a victim of stilted '80's recording techniques popular at the time. Performance wise, they are bang on and serve the songs well.

If I had a major complaint about this release, it would lie within the production. The band comes off as a little dulled and toothless. Much of the aggression is lost in the glossy production values. It just sounds to me that a bit of bite is smoothed off in the audio upgrade. But no big deal, as the songs are well constructed and a joy to listen to as they heat up the old amp.

Overall, Hellbound isn't an upgrade over the debut so much as it is a side step and continuance of a tried and true formula. Tuneful melody, speed metal tirades, and the occasional enjoyable ballad combine to show that Warlock are indeed a metal force to be reckoned with. An enjoyable romp yes, but not fulfilling the potential shown on Burning The Witches, this album is a righteous head shake performed by a band that seemed a little subdued, but pursuing metal perfection. Still, recommended.

Standout tracks - Hellbound, Wrathchild, Time To Die

Warlock - Burning The Witches - 3.5/5

It is no secret that I have lustfully wished to be woven into the fabric of the skin tight leather pants of one Doro Pesch. But outside of being the object of my desire, she was also the highly talented centerpiece of German metal mavens Warlock. An excitable and solid speed metal unit, Warlock burst onto the scene with the promising debut, Burning The Witches.

I say promising, because while this album is stuffed full of twin guitar pyro, the soaring siren call of Doro herself, and a typically perfectionist German engineered mix, it does suffer a bit from a few songs being doomed to the regrettable "filler" status. But please, don't let this deter you from trying out this offering, because when it flies, it flies proud and strong.

As I stated, the guitar work on this album really shines. Rudy Graf and Peter Szigetti simply sizzle, as they slash and burn each track with high science soloing, and dependable riffing. Doro's sonorous and distinct vocals are clear and powerful, her presence a notable factor in the metal magic contained in the grooves. The drums are a little stiff for the speedy might attempted on the disc, and are also slightly hampered by that synthetic drum sound common in many '80's offerings at the time. But this is small complaint, as the album as a whole sounds great.

If one chooses to investigate this strong debut from Warlock, think the heaviest of the Scorpions, or about par with Accept in terms of whomp. A great kick off to one of those unsungs, Burning The Witches is a crunchy metal feast for the ears, and a good foreshadowing of much exciting wallop to follow. Pre-power metal at it's finest, a traditional metal fan would be much pleased with the sonic might this album emits.

Standout tracks - Sign of Satan, Without You, Burning The Witches

Power Metal: The Jap Attack!

So welcome to the next in line for my specials, a review of the Japanese Power Metal scene. Like both European and US Power Metal, the Japanese have a slightly different way of doing things. Though still fairly small, the influence Yngwie Malmsteem has had on this scene is rather profound, with exceptional neo-classical shredding something of a normal. The keyboards aren’t used as lavishly to smother the sound (as in EPM), still retaining a guitar focussed core, though the guitars themselves are often played in a lighter or softer manner. The vocals are often sung in overtly smooth manner, utilising their native Japanese tongue, and it is here that female vocalists seem almost as common as male.

Contained in this special are the following:

Ferrets Picks:
Fumihiko Kitsutaka and Friends – Never Ending Story
Saeko – Life (and “Above Heaven, Below Heaven”)
LaCroix Despheres - Dernier Paradis
Minstrelix – Reflections

The Rest:
Dragon Guardian – Dragonvarius
Iron Attack! – Savage Flames (and Devils Daughter)
Ancestral – The Beginning
Ark Storm – The Everlasting Wheel
Sulfuric Acid – Sulfuric Acid
Balflare – Sleeping Hollow
X Japan – Vanishing Vision

» Click to show other artists considered for this special «

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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.