Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Year in Review: The Metal Advisor's Songs of 2014

"Dancing on Your Grave" just narrowly missed the list. Darn.
What surprised me most about this list was how tough it was to limit myself to 20 songs. The sheer amount of music that comes across my plate each year is ridiculous--and most of it is wasted time because it isn't worth more than one listen. But once a gem of an album or song reveals itself, that wasted time is quickly forgotten, especially when one has a selection as good as this.

From Babymetal to Lvcifyre, we'll hit a selection of the high points from this year. Without further ado, let's dig into The Metal Advisor's songs of 2014 (in no particular order, of course!).

---

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Year-End Catch Up: Horrendous, Edge of Haze, Cleaver, MindMaze, Misericordia

Horrendous - Ecdysis

Needless to say, Horrendous is tremendous. No, seriously. As corny as that sounds, they're as brilliant as can be in an age where the classical side of death metal is experiencing a surge of bands that quite simply don't do enough to stand out from one another. Horrendous has everything: traditional heavy metal-inspired instrumentals, raunchy death-thrash numbers, the Swedish razorblade guitar sound, and vocals that remind vaguely of Chuck Schuldiner. Put it all in a pot, give it a quick stir, and out pops something that just works. And it's beautiful.

While it's hard to say Horrendous' sophomore effort, Ecdysis, is completely flawless, what it does an excellent job at is sounding coherent for its 44-minute runtime. Every song has a link to the next, whether it be with the guitar's meaty, slow-to-decay aesthetic, fluid songwriting, or the instrumentals that do nothing more than required--this is death metal as it should be with no gimmicks, flamboyant attention grabbers, or studio tricks. The old days are alive and well and, with a retooled formula, just enough to make Ecdysis one of the best records of 2014.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sodom - Sacred Warpath (2014)

Cover art of the year?
2014 has been an excellent year, there's no doubt about that. Riot gave us a very Reale-esque record despite losing the man to Crohn's disease almost three years ago, and Morbus Chron, Benighted, and others dropped masterpieces that may take high honors on best-of lists (or at least this one!) all across the metal blogosphere. But one release, lurking quietly in the shadows and from a veteran band no less, is positioned to join them--Sodom's Sacred Warpath.

At a glance, the EP isn't impressive. One new track surfaces in the roster, with three live cuts taken from their most recent tour following suit. But a closer look reveals a treat: Sodom appears to have captured a piece of their past with the new material and discarded a portion of the melodic mysticism found on their latest full-length, Epitome of Torture.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Evergrey - "King of Errors"



Nine times out of 10, I enjoy music videos for what they are and leave it at that. They serve their intended purpose of painting a picture of the band's lineup or a song's subject mattter, but sooner or later I forget about them and focus on what matters most--the music. But sometimes, long after the fact, they manage to leave a lasting impression on me, even as the music quitely creeps back into my collection, jettisoned from the daily listening rotation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review-ish Ramblings of a Madman: Alterbeast - Immortal (2014)

Of the mass of swirling, chaotic metal released this year, Alterbeast's Immortal is among the best, and here's why: 1) while they take considerable influence from The Black Dahlia Murder (vocally in the higher registers, at least) the music is a totally different animal. Think melodic death metal meets technical death metal, and you'll have a good handle on the concept. It's nothing new, but it's 2) engaging, expertly written, and, best of all, entertaining, something that can't be said of many technical death metal bands--most of which place self-absorbed technically over hooks, well-crafted songwriting, and musical ideas that flow logically to and from one another.

That's a feat in and of itself, but what's more is that there isn't a single piece of filler in the track listing. Perhaps some songs are stronger than others, but that can be said of even the most "perfect" albums universally praised from one music enthusiast to the next. Consistency, variety, and no end of concise ideas are what makes this possible--for instance, "Flesh Bound Text" opens pleasantly enough, puzzling listeners with a classically-inspired intro, but just as the 45-second mark comes around, the music hits like a slap across the face with a barrage of notes and pummeling drumming.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Dawnbringer - Night of the Hammer (2014)

Silly cover art, but don't be fooled: the music is excellent.
Dawnbringer's previous album, Into the Lair of the Sun God, was arguably the high point in the band's career, being praised for having all sorts of twists and turns that made the music a joy to absorb and pore over. With little indication, the instrumentals would morph from a drawn-out, distorted passage--with enough harmonization to make Iron Maiden jealous--into a clean acoustic section with chanted vocals. ...which was one of their biggest strengths.

2014's Night of the Hammer draws back the flamboyance, however, and is only similar in that it retains its traditional heavy metal flair. Much of the music is steeped in a primitive doom metal-based template that, for better or for worse, adds a bare bones feeling to the mix and helps enhance the patented Dawnbringer formula--that of big, basic hooks and memorable songwriting. Indeed, historically, the band has been known for particularly well-crafted choruses and melodies that retain replay value surpassed by very few in the business, and Night of the Hammer amplifies that by slowing the pace (which, in turn, makes the songs easier to follow).

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Narrow House - "The Midwife to Sorrows"

Back in May, Narrow House and their second full-length, Thanathonaut, appeared on The Metal Advisor and received a positive to review thanks to varied and clever songwriting. Since then, the band has concocted one of the strangest music videos of the year, but the music itself still has the same melodic, doom-esque trudge to it that made me fall in love in the first place. Have a look below at the newest addition to the Narrow House library below.

-TMA

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Video Premiere: Mary Todd - "THC/Consensual Cannibalism"

Although Brooklyn-based trio Mary Todd have quite a bit on their plate these days, they show no signs of slowing down. The band's debut EP, Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel, hit virtual shelves last month and, today, The Metal Advisor is excited to unveil their first-ever video in celebration of their success.

Entitled "THC/Consensual Cannibalism," the video combines two of the five songs from the band's EP and still manages to fly by in the blink of an eye. As their Bandcamp page proudly proclaims, Mary Todd knows how to shred and quickly--at just over two minutes, the video and music are short bursts of intensity, meaning you better make use of that replay button.

Look for a review of Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel in the coming weeks.

For more on Mary Todd, head over to their Bandcamp and Facebook pages.

-TMA



Video directed by Micah Weisberg and Bill Dvorak (Young Heart Productions)
http://www.facebook.com/youngheartproductions

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sister Sin - Black Lotus (2014)

With Sister Sin's latest record, Black Lotus, now on shelves, I feel it's appropriate to direct you toward their newest video for "Chaos Royale." My thoughts on the record itself are generally very good because, even at their worst, Sister Sin is still extremely fun and worth a listen of two. Music like, say, Accept meets Motley Crüe needs no introduction, and I'm sure you can envision exactly what it sounds like.

I will say, however, that Black Lotus is experimental--by Sister Sin's standards--and breathes new life into their brand of music, which has remained largely unchanged since their inception in 2002. Orchestral synths are thoughtfully sprinkled over at least one track, longer instrumental sections appear here and there, and the material feels more mature than it has in the past. Songwriting has steadily improved, despite being a bit underwhelming at first, and a handful of stunners surface--"The Jinx" is almost bluesy in its approach to balladry, while "Count Me Out" is more or less typical Sister Sin, though amplified by 10 on the epic scale.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Riot - Unleash the Fire (2014)

Branded Riot V everywhere but Japan and South Korea.
When Mark Reale succumbed to Crohn's disease in 2012, the metal world reeled in shock. Two months earlier, Riot had just released the well-received Immortal Soul, and the five-piece was on their way to the top, welcoming old-time mates, Tony Moore and Bobby Jarzombek, back into the fold. But when Reale suddenly passed away after slipping into a coma, all fame and fortunate suddenly flew out the window, causing the band's future to hang in limbo. Could Riot really go on without its most constant, founding, and essential member?

Many blurted a resounding "no," noting Reale's role in forming and maintaining Riot for the [then] past 37 years. He was the music's backbone, after all, and usually stood at the helm of decision making, guiding the band just as he would his own child (in many ways, it was). Taking a closer look at Immortal Soul, however, reveals a few startling facts, one of which suggests the band is perfectly capable of channeling Reale's spirit, while soldiering on in his memory at the same time. Only four tracks from the record bear Reale's signature guitar bite because his illness prevented him from entering the studio to indulge in his passion of the past three decades--a sad state of affairs, yes, but the dedication to record in the first place is demanding of respect.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Who'd a Thought it: Looks Can be Misleading

Prime example of a metal album cover, isn't it?
Don't let their appearance fool you: Destrose is as heavy metal as can be and perhaps even more true to their roots than bands known for shouting their "metalness" from the rooftops. These days, metal artists emerging from Japan--Destrose's home country--are admittedly funny creatures and better described as anomalies when placed within a worldwide context. Many are comprised entirely of women who look nothing like what their chosen style of music suggests and are downright feminine in presentation, which is a bit misleading with a roster of songs titled "Headless Goddess," "Sword of Avenger," and "Skykiller."

Consider, though, the widespread influence Japanese pop has had on popular culture. The adorable, bouncy aesthetic that goes along with the music has created crossover between genres and traveled as far as metal, just as Destrose, Aldious, Cyntia, and others demonstrate on a daily basis. Consider, too, that metal is recognized as a style of music where looks are largely irrelevant. Why, then, are sub-genres like black metal first and foremost known for corpse paint and traditional heavy metal for leather jackets and motorcycles?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

MindMaze - "Dreamwalker"


My backlog is growing at a pace I cannot keep up with, but one record I'm specifically making time for in the next week is MindMaze's Back from the Edge. I want to keep things brief, though, so I'll tell you that the music is incredibly memorable, with the kind of chorus that burrows its way into your mind for days on end. The song, "Dreamwalker," was the track the band had lead the charge prior to the album's release, and it was an excellent choice.

Feel free to leave some thoughts below. Or, you know, enjoy the music and forget the rest.

-TMA

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wolf Blood - Wolf Blood (2014)

One of the sharpest doom-stoner combos to hit The Metal Advisor's inbox this year is Wolf Blood's self-titled full-length, a catchy, bombastic affair with all the right ingredients to make it something great. Contrary to their peers, Wolf Blood takes the path seldom traveled and, instead, ditches the plodding, substance-less music popular across metal as of late. They're a better band for it, too, because there's no dreariness or stagnation to be found--tempos only slow when necessary, and most of the tracks hover around mid-paced and measured grooves that feel wonderfully organic and natural, just as well-crafted songwriting should.

Strictly speaking, feeling (re: originality) is an essential aspect of Wolf Blood's music because, without it, their album risks being lumped in with other doom metal artists who do little to distinguish their work. As of now, fewer and fewer bands endeavor to stand out from the pack, only to ride the coattails of others in hopes of getting a sliver-sized taste of success; which is very much like the artists who rode the glam rock trend in the 1980s. B-grade bands and worse became so similar sounding to one another that they essentially were disposable after their 10-minutes of fame, which is, in a way, exactly what we're seeing with doom metal today.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Liv Kristine - "Love Decay"

Photo taken from Liv's facebook fan page.
Some of you may know Liv Kristine. Some of you may also know that her last album with her main band, Leaves' Eyes, was pretty shitty, too.

Seeing as that album was released last year--November 15, 2013, in fact--it's about time that Liv put out new music. Titled Vervain, her latest solo effort hits shelves in a few days, but we have this tidbit to bite down on in the meantime as we try to hold back the anticipation (By we, I mean fans of her project. I have no opinion of her solo work--as a whole--one way or another.). And, boy, is it a weird one because the man stares emotionlessly into empty space, while Liv seems unfazed by the general oddity of the situation.

I assume the video was meant to appear this way and, if so, that's fine and dandy. But, goddamn, make the actual content interesting and worth watching. The only saving grace here is music's main melody, which is, all things considered, above average (despite being generic).

Props for being filmed in a graveyard, though.

-TMA

Friday, October 17, 2014

Aldious - Dazed and Delight (2014)

It's hard to believe Aldious is four full-lengths into their career--their first two records were absolute monsters in terms of crunchy heaviness and creativity, while the most recent two are somewhat middling in quality, largely due to vocalist Re:No (formerly of pop duo Suitei Shoujo) being ill-suited for the band. But, to be honest, it's hard to place all the blame on her because Aldious has struggled with adhering to their roots since original vocalist Rami's departure and continues to straddle a fine line between metal and rock-pop. Yes, the band's identity has been compromised for two albums now, which results in a roller coaster of ups and downs. Quality falls as quickly as it rises, and that doesn't bode well for the majority of Aldious' latest record. Let's take a closer look.

With the release of Dazed and Delight, Aldious returns to some semblance of what made their first two albums magical, but those stylistic traits are often mixed with a heavy preference for pop music. Indeed, while a handful of tracks are quality power metal rockers--"Butterfly Effect," "シャンデリア," "Imagination," "Dominator," and oddball "The Breeze at Dawn"--Aldious generally favors accessibility and simplistic chord progressions over the relative complexity of their first two records. Suffice to say, it's not inspiring to see the band take a step back for more mainstream sounds when their career looked so promising early on.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Frosty Eve - 心像领域 (2014)

As much as we hate to admit it, the dreaded sophomore slump is a very real phenomenon. Case in point: a band may release an exceptional debut record, chock full of creativity and great songwriting, but come their second effort, all will go to hell. And, for Frosty Eve, that's very much the situation they're currently faced with. .... or is it?

Frosty Eve's second full-length, 心像领域 (literally translated as Like the Field of Heart), is what any serious music listener would classify as a grower. At first listen, the music isn't particularly inspiring, owing is prosaic nature to an energy-zapping production and instrumentation uncomfortably close to a band that the Chinese five-piece calls their biggest influence. But arm yourself with a shovel and a few hours of downtime, (yes, dig deeper and spend more time with the music) and you'll see that there's much more than meets the eye. The once-unimaginative songs begin to shimmer and sparkle, the vocals pop against the comparatively dull-sounding instrumentation, and the level of memorability fostered between listener and music grows stronger with each spin.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Metal Advisor on Instagram

With TMA's Facebook page getting more useless with each passing day, I figured it was time to create an Instagram page for the blog. Follow for the latest metal happenings and buffoonery.  It'll be a good time.

-TMA

Username: TheMetalAdvisor
http://instagram.com/themetaladvisor

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sabaton - Heroes (2014)

DISCLAIMER: I realize now that I was a bit too hasty in writing this review. The album is merely good and lost its luster rather quickly. It hasn't held up to repeated listens, save for a few tracks, and while the new band membership is excellent, Sabaton still has work to do.

One aspect, in particular, makes Sabaton's latest effort, Heroes, a departure from previous albums: each track is based on individual fighters, rather than specific battles and historical events. But is the lyrical shift as radical as critics suggest? On paper, it certainly seems so, but listening is a whole 'nother story, as Heroes, like other Sabaton records, focuses primarily on WWII and related happenings important to the band's identity. Yes, there are discrepancies, but real-world experience often tells a different tale. Like in the case of a car's specifications laid out on paper, the driving experience can be a totally different animal, and the situation is usually very much the same for music.

Indeed, it's dangerous, and perhaps idiotic, to judge an album before taking a listen and, as it turns out, Heroes handily tops Sabaton's previous record without breaking a sweat. A number of highlights are spread across the track listing--opener "Night Witches, "No Bullets Fly, "Resist and Bite," and "Far from Fame"--and make the album worthy of a look on that basis alone. But what's even better is how the album flows as a complete piece, a trait far too undervalued today, as many artists focus on individual songs and independent musical ideas instead. Neglected a cohesive product goes when bands put emphasis on singles when it would be far more advantageous to their career--in the long run--to aim for quality across a greater body of work.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review-ish: Coprocephalic - The Oath of Relinquishment (2014)

Brutal death metal is oft lambasted for croaked and squealed vocals, unintelligible and/or primitive song structures, and a blur of notes smooshed into as little space as possible all for the sake of being brutal.

And for good reason.

Much of the sub-genre is admittedly one-dimensional, meaning, once you've heard one band, you've heard a good chunk of them. But you'd have to be quite dense to assume that all bands play by the same rulebook and sacrifice originality for the sake of a br00tal moment.

Yes, there are exceptions.

Coprocephalic, an international project comprised of members from the United States and Taiwan, pack everything stereotypical about brutal death metal into their newest full-length, The Oath of Relinquishment. But, against all odds, the goddamn thing works. As it shouldn't be, the music is fluid. Savory. Smooth. And the vocals, like nails scraping malevolently across a chalkboard, are somehow charming in their delivery.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sinister - The Post-Apocalyptic Servant (2014)

Much can be said of Dutch death metal outfit Sinister, particularly about the glacial pace at which they continue to evolve. Over the past 26 years, the band has enforced strict adherence to the Floridian death metal aesthetic and, for better or for worse, shown little deviation from it with their latest full-length, The Post-Apocalyptic Servant. One might inquisitively ask if that's a truly a bad thing because sticking to a one-dimensional sound often suggests consistency. Sinister has, after all, explored every nook and cranny of death metal and grown comfortable enough with the style to have the planets align for strong release after strong release.

But will they yet again?

With The Post-Apocalyptic Servant, Sinister serves up the expected wall of sound, but a fundamental flaw surfaces shortly after the album kicks off: the songs are too similar to one another. Looking to past and recent Sinister material for inspiration, the track list makes it no secret that it borrows heavily from what has been done before, which normally wouldn’t detract significantly from the final product. Here, however, the inspiration is so deep seated that one would be hard pressed to find an aspect of the record that hasn’t been beaten to death by the time the first track lays down the album’s direction.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tormentress - Operation Torment (2014)

Fact: very few metal bands from Singapore enjoy making it big and even fewer enjoy worldwide exposure. With the exception of Wormrot, the majority of acts aren't fortunate enough to buck the trend and continue chug along unnoticed, playing for only one reason--the love of music. Indeed, for them, it's more about the high putting out an album brings, the passion conveyed on recording, or being part of a genre that transcends borders and boundaries.

As luck would have it, one of Singapore's newcomers, Tormentress, does just that, all while being unique in two ways: first, their origin, and second, their lyrical focus. It's not often that one stumbles across a band so invested in the feminism that the music is overwrought with libretto about women's rights, but Tormentress has the theme down to a T. And as off putting as it may seem--and it's sure to have some listeners, both male and female, scowl in disgust--there's no denying that it's unusually fresh in a genre of music that could use a curve ball now and then.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Immortal Frost Productions Round-Up Part One: Hellhate, Atra Vetosus, Apnea, Astral Winter

A few months back, Immortal Frost Poductions reached out to me with a dozen--yes, you read that correctly--albums for review and, looking back on it, I wasn't up for the task. I mean, 12 albums at once? That would take some serious listening on my end, and it could be months before a single word was written about any of the albums (as my site's contact conveniently section notes).

But Surtur, the label's head, was persistent and offered me the opportunity to explore his roster not once, but twice. And I eventually gave in to his pleas, knowing exactly what I was getting into. I assumed that very few of these albums would be my cup of tea; some so unlistenable that I wouldn't have anything nice to say about them. And I was right. But here's the thing: a deal is a deal, and because I have twelve freshly-pressed CDs sitting next to me as I type this, they must appear on my site, regardless of what I think of them.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Break Time... Over!

Tomorrow, my break from blogging will end. Hope you've all had a great past few weeks. Looking forward to getting back at it and exploring more music with you.

-TMA

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Samsara - Into Oblivion (2013)

Musically, Calgary-based four-piece Samsara doesn't appear to borrow from anyone in particular, but vocally, they're a different story. You see, the act's front man, Reed Alton, sounds eerily similar to former Queensrÿche vocalist Geoff Tate and makes one wonder why he wasn't asked to join Seattle five-piece following Tate's dramatic split from the band.

But, of course, one must keep in mind that Samsara is extremely obscure, which is a crying shame considering the effort Alton puts into emulating Tate's vibrato and tone. If you recall, Queensrÿche recruited Todd La Torre for vocal duties within in the last few years and, while he does a good job of mimicking Tate, his attempts don't even begin to match Alton's, which are on the mark every time he opens his mouth. You constantly ask yourself, "Is this really not Tate 20 years younger and with a different band?" Surprisingly enough, it isn't, and what's funnier is that, today, Tate can't hope to match that kind of power. If you've had the "pleasure" of hearing his latest effort, Frequency Unknown (or seeing him live, for that matter), you'll know that time has taken its toll.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

EPs Galore!: Metal Round-Up with Angist, The Old Man's Wisdom, and War Messiah


While it's great to see death metal re-emerging en masse, the generic music that inevitably comes along with it isn't particularly enjoyable and can be irritating to sift through. Sadly for Angist, their material is really no different, save for Edda Tegeder Óskarsdóttir's gloomy rasp, which is capable of hanging with the best in the sub-genre.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back Door to Asylum - Cerberus Millenia (2014)

Technical death metal can go one of two ways; the music can be technically challenging to the point that it has no structure or hooks, or it can be done right, in that it's like any other type of music and has depth to it. But, sadly, more and more bands are choosing to focus on instrumental chops instead of songwriting, and the number of artists worth giving a look is dwindling as a result. And fast.

This is where Back Door to Asylum comes in. At first glance, their music is chaotic, lacking form, and devoid of melody, but remember: that's only the first impression. Technical death metal has never been accommodating on the first listen, and often the music seems like a combination of spastic notes, like a standard death metal band tossed into a blender for one or two passes. It makes mincemeat of listeners inexperienced with its unpredictable nature, and the falling, rising, and fickle nature of the compositions isn't for the faint of heart, either.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Alestorm - Sunset on the Golden Age (2014)

Once set in their ways, people are resistant to change. Alestorm is no exception, either, because, over the past six years, they have famously chugged away releasing albums too similar to one another to justify the expense of splurging on their music. 

Sunset on the Golden Age is an exception, however, because it's the first record to truly rework the band's patented combination of pirate banter and heavy metal. On top of that, too, is improved musicianship, tighter songwriting, and none of the slop that plagued their previous three albums. Yes, Alestorm finally sounds professional, and although none of the frilly humor is gone, the change is more marked than one might think.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Dagger - The Dagger (2014)

Death metal musicians digging '70s hard rock and metal isn't as unheard of as once thought--members of Dismember, Grave, and Necronaut formed The Dagger in 2009 and hit the ball out of the park, capturing the decade's iconic sound with finesse and mastery. Their self-titled debut is the result of a group of musicians enjoying what they do, and it's glorious to hear, and see, right down to the retro cover.

Production-wise, the album is like a step back in time and, despite the slightly over-boosted sound, holds its own against other bands attempting the same kind of stylistic throwback. Remember Orchid, a band featured on The Metal Advisor's 2013 best-of list? Well, The Dagger easily outdoes the San Francisco four-piece in terms of sound quality, and quickly sees them fade in the rearview mirror as they pull away victoriously. A meticulous engineer took the time to perfect the sound, and it's a touch that anyone can appreciate, when a band is set on capturing what is possibly the most important decade in hard rock/metal music.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bölzer - Soma (2014)

When Soma first exploded on social media, one couldn't help but question if praise for the release was yet another fad or genuine appreciation. Because the EP's two tracks were so disproportionate to one another--the first at five-and-a-half minutes; the other at nearly 13--common sense would say that the latter relies heavily on filler to reach its seemingly bloated runtime. First impressions are often everything; as expected, Soma, in particular "Labyrinthian Graves," rambles incessantly and rivals another band known for needlessly lengthy songs, Dream Theater.

At 13 tedious minutes, "Labyrinthian Graves" is the perfect example of what's referred to as the "Dream Theater Syndrome," a prioritization of instrumental chops over clean, fluid songwriting. Musically, the two bands couldn't be farther apart, but a good trimming would benefit both, making their songs leaner and less fluffy. Cutting out the fluff is only half the battle, however, because one must link together the bits worth saving in a way representative of decent songwriting and, for "Labyrinthian Graves," that's a tall order because major restructuring is necessary to bring the music up to snuff.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Terminal - Heavy Metal Lokomotiva / Slovo (2014)

As I've said before, traditional heavy metal will always be my favorite because I grew up with it. I distinctly remember Maiden, Priest, Dio, and others being played throughout my childhood, and there was, and still is, something special about how well their songwriting holds up 30-odd years later. It takes a special kind of artist to create timeless, anthem-like music--and traditional heavy metal is often the place to do it, because it has the ability to be over the top and serious at the same time, which is a quality very few genres of music can pull off with any sort of ingenuity.

In recent years, traditional heavy metal has made a comeback--though it never died--and one act in particular, Enforcer, has made big waves in the metal community. They've done so well, in fact, that the members have taken part in other projects, the most recent being Terminal, a band with lyrics entirely in Slovenian as a tribute to '80s heavy metal played under the Iron Curtain. Fascinated, I tapped into that last year, when I interviewed Gaia, of Baltic Metal Division, but I never went any farther than that, despite having good intentions of doing so.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I HAVE OPINIONS: Best Metal Albums of 2014 So Far


I know, I know; if you wanted arbitrary, poorly-substantiated nonsense, you would go to the Supreme Court. So, let’s keep this brief.

It’s worth noting that formative bands like Mayhem and Pretty Maids have again released new records not worth the time it takes to skip through them. The latter basically re-recorded a bunch of Pretty Maids classics and called it a full-length. Think Exodus’ Let There Be Blood—yeah, it’s that bad. Then again, Mayhem’s latest abomination achieves a feat scientists previously thought impossible by sounding both uncomfortably strained and remarkably lazy. I think there’s Grammy for that. The new Burzum, for its part, isn’t worth these words I’m typing, and Varg’s run-ins with the French police are less entertaining than Niklas Kvarforth’s tumblr. Speaking of Shining, that traveling spectacle of high art is sure to announce a co-headlining tour with Butcher Babies any day now.

My therapist told me to vent more. So, with that satisfying bit of snobbery out of the way, I’ve realized that this year has actually been most killer in terms of both full-lengths and shorter releases. The whole motörcult black thrash thing is still going strong and, with so many classic and upstart acts simultaneously firing on all cylinders, there hasn’t been a better time for traditional heavy metal records since the '80s. Who cares about filling stadiums? Less posers. Now your glass is half full, ain’t it?

Let’s begin.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Protestant - In Thy Name (2014)

Last year, when Cory mentioned that In Thy Name would sound positively dark (interview here!), he wasn't kidding. The record is thoroughly blackened sounding, giving bonafide black metal bands a run for their money, and the music aggressively claws at the jugular of listeners, threatening to finish them quickly as it does them in one blistering track at a time. It's really quite an accomplishment because Protestant was already vicious. They just up the ante one, two--hell--even three notches.

As with previous Protestant records, there's a chaotic, grab-you-by-the-seat-of-your-pants feeling surrounding the music and, as long as the four-piece churns out new tunes, that's guaranteed. Big or small, regardless of a shift in style, that much will stay the same because it truly defines the band, their chosen genre(s) of music, and each composition. One can easily blacken a musical genre by tossing in a few tremolo-picked sections and diminished triads here and there, but it really takes a mastermind to make two contrasting styles coexist, as they tussle back and forth for dominance in the writing process.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Concert Review: Black Label Society + Wovenwar + Kyng @ The Vogue, Indianapolis, Indiana - July 30, 2014

Black Label Society living up to their legendary status.
After wrapping up a disappointing Mötley Crüe show a few weeks back (Opener Alice Cooper was great, as always!), a friend of mine excitedly mentioned that he wanted to see Black Label Society, who would be playing at The Vogue near the end of July. Although I'm not the biggest fan of the band, I agreed to go because 1) a show is a show and, more often than not, they're a blast, regardless of the artist performing, and 2) this would be my second time seeing them, and I wanted to see how they compared almost 10 years later.

Never did I anticipate how loudly Black Label Society would project across The Vogue's tiny floor space: the sheer force of the bass overpowered everything but the drums, and filled the room with a rumble only an adrenaline junkie could love. In terms of sound, the four-piece certainly took the crown Wednesday evening, and I don't think that could be contested. Kyng was very good, of course, and the most entertaining of the night, but Black Label Society's sound reached another level, so much that I moved to the back of the room after the third song. Even with earplugs, it was a bit much.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Overkill - White Devil Armory (2014)

2014 sees Overkill return with yet another record, in a time often referred to as a creative resurgence for band. Indeed, since releasing Ironbound four years ago, the five-piece's following has burst at its seams because the music returns to thrashier, bombastic roots, instead of the rhythmic groove implemented for the better part of the 1990s and 2000s.

In many ways, the newest installment, White Devil Armory, follows the same one-dimensional formula introduced in 2010, but what one must understand is that Overkill has never been about furthering their sound with each successive record. In fact, the band has always been quite the opposite, being about consistent, well-written music that bolsters a discography and instills confidence in a dependable group of musicians.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Un-Metal!: Autograph

Bands like Autograph were, and still are, subject to vitriol by the metal community--in the 1980s, they occupied a space dangerously close to hard rock, but were often confused with metal by mainstream media, not unlike what occurs with -core music today. Of course, much of the music that incorporates -core influence is in no way, shape, or form metal, and the same goes for Autograph, being that they were essentially glam rock with AOR tendencies, high distortion, and lots of shredding guitar solos.

Autograph's 1984 debut, Sign in Please, was, unsurprisingly, the pinnacle of their career. Their best-known track, "Turn Up the Radio," gained momentum only a few months after its release, but fell shortly thereafter, when the five-piece's follow-up hit shelves a year later.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Atrophy - Violent by Nature (1990)

Clinging to what was left of mainstream thrash metal by the nineties, Atrophy released their second full-length, Violent by Nature, to quiet acclaim, thanks to shifting tastes in the music world. Playing in a metal band into the nineties was no easy task; in fact, many chose to throw in the towel, take cover underground, or change style all together, in hopes of riding the next musical trend to stay relevant. Some, like Atrophy, however, were just getting their feet off the ground, but found their shoes firmly stuck in the same spot each time they tried to progress to the next level.

Rapidly emerging as the newest aural obsession, grunge made metal appear woefully outdated, and bands that chose to soldier on with no stylistic changes experienced inconsistent success rates. Naturally, Atrophy was one of those unfortunate souls, and while their first record, Socialized Hate, appeared to do relatively well, the follow-up, 1990's Violent by Nature, eventually tanked, despite receiving receptive press. Unsurprisingly, it would be their last before they called it a day.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Harakkkiri - Deadly Katana (2014)

According to Dictionary.com, a ruse is best described as "a trick, stratagem, or artifice" and, indeed, Harakkkiri fits the definition to a T. Posturing as a band with Japanese origins, Deadly Katana certainly looks the part, but the thing is, Harakkkiri hails from Chile, despite appearing authentic down to the deceiving makeup and black-and-white cover. The music has little, if anything, to do with the aesthetic, so if you find yourself thinking, "what gives?," you're not alone.

To make it simple, Harakkiri is essentially a tribute to classic, Japanese metal bands and wear their influences on their sleeves with the utmost pride. Loudness, Damzell, and others were clearly sources of inspiration, but if you dig past the cover art, a dash of early Sodom and various punk acts from outside of Japan also made the cut. It's an interesting combination of influences--a bit like a melting pot--but it's charming and works, at least for Harakkkiri's purposes, which admittedly aren't deep or very thoughtful.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Vinyl Feature: 3 Inches of Blood/Angelus Apatrida's Self-Titled Split


Recently, I found myself in deep discussion with a friend about the supposed merits of vinyl, specifically modern vinyl. Some portray the medium as the path to nirvana, proudly proclaiming that every record sonically outperforms CDs, while others realize that it depends, largely, on mastering. And don't even get me started on poorly pressed vinyl with low bitrate MP3s slapped onto the wax--it sounds like total shit, as you probably expect.

Well, that got me thinking. Sadly enough, I'm no stranger to truly poor sound, because I've added a number of records to my collection over the years that I, quite literally, wanted to toss out of a window upon first listen. Thinking back on one in particular, it was a good learning experience and taught me a valuable lesson--to approach 7-inch records with caution--but I never quite got over the trauma. Yes, it's been languishing in my collection, and there's no urgency to play the damn thing ever again.

The record in question, 3 Inches of Blood and Angelus Apatrida's split, is a hot mess. It's fuzzy, grainy, and generally not an enjoyable listen, so, if you're one who values the extolled virtues of vinyl and "perfect" sound quality, this won't be up your alley. It doesn't help, either, that it's a 7-inch record. More often than not, those aren't particularly good examples of sound quality, anyway.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cyntia - Limit Break (2014)

In the grand scheme of things, Cyntia is an odd bird. It's not often that one sees a bunch of girly girls playing metal, and it's even rarer that they actually excel at their instruments, instead preferring to spend time perfecting their looks in lieu of practicing. But the thing is, Cyntia isn't like most other glitter bands and defies the stereotype, sounding incredibly accomplished, like an ensemble who has been grinding away at the path to success for years on end.

The music certainly speaks for itself: Euro-sounding power metal, the occasional cushy J-pop melody, and, at times, a progressive tinge spit forth some of the catchiest metal this side of pop music. Cyntia has the chops to back it up, too, displaying the sort of dexterity expected of a band playing an entirely different sub-genre of metal and punches well above what Limit Break's rather underwhelming cover suggests. Vocals reach heights unbeknownst to all but the most accomplished frontmen (in this case, women!), and the performance stands as a testament to how far Saki has come since Cyntia's debut, in both raw talent and willingness to adventure outside her comfort zone. Indeed, listening to her hit the notes during "Night Flight's" chorus is one of Limit Break's defining moments and, without it, the song's climactic point would fall flat on its face.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Metal Round-Up: Kever, Gaped, Grey Skies Fallen


One of the best death metal releases from last year that missed a review on The Metal Advisor is Kever's Eon of Cycling Death. Simply put, the music exceeds expectations, being made up of an assortment of grinding riffs, pummeling drumming, and primitivity matched only by death metal's earliest years. Eon of Cycling Death is a release perfect for listeners planted firmly in the old-school mindset, and one worth checking out because, next to other bands churning out death metal evocative of the late '80s and early '90s, Kever is cream of the crop.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

When a Metalhead Talks Watches

Moeris Advertisement (1931)
Hodinkee is one of my favorite blogs on the internet, regardless of subject matter. I find myself captivated by mechanical watches and, as the subject of many posts, I can't help but be drawn in as a regular reader, mesmerized by their inner-workings and beautiful designs. I often ponder how I can combine two of my favorite hobbies--music and timepieces--into a post appealing to my readers but, regrettably, my efforts tend to fall short.

Until now, that is.

Recently, Ben Clymer spoke with Eric Singer (current drummer of Kiss), during an installment of Hodinkee's "Talking Watches," where the musician waxed lyrical about his love for watches. Prior to this, I had a good idea of the extent of Eric's obsession--thanks to his endorsement of Ball, an American brand gone Swiss--but my jaw dropped when I learned how far the hobby went for him. As such, I analyzed his collection with great interest: from his magnificent Patek Philippe and its serious provenance, to his sublime LeCoultre moonphase inherited from his father, the man has seriously good taste in timepieces.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Metal Advisor Interviews Hogbitch

The Metal Advisor sits down with Sanford, Patrick, Suzy, and Chip of Hogbitch for a brief interview, where the band tells all about their origins, members' previous projects, recording, and the kookie term, Ur-metal.

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Give us the backstory on Hogbitch. How did you form? Was it a spur of the moment thing?

Patrick: I think it was due to us all being longtime friends and [being] used to working in other projects together. Chip, Sanford, and I all played in an industrial noise band in the '90s called Evil Mothers. We did a reunion tour together around 2011, [and] then ended up putting together a short lived three-piece project for a benefit show shortly after. Later, we spoke about doing a more metal-inspired band, and Suzy was the natural choice for vocals.

Sanford: Patrick and I also were in a band called Boxcar Satan for years; sort of a mash-up of angular post punk and blues, and we occasionally collaborated with Suzy. We'd backed her up on some recordings, and she'd added vocals to a song or two on our CDs as well. It seemed logical to take that collaboration to the next level.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

From TMA's Inbox: A Message from a Confused Reader

Image courtesy of http://coverlandia.blogspot.com/
Months back, in December 2013, an anonymous (not to mention confused) reader sent me a ridiculous email. I meant to post it as soon as it hit my inbox, but it slipped my mind. Hopefully you find it as humorous as I do.

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Dear Metal Advisor, High Exalted Lieutenant of Lucifer,

I would like to formally request that you take time and review my new favorite metal album, Lady Gaga's ARTPOP, as it is the greatest compilation of metal music that has ever graced the pointed, demon-like ears of metal fans around the globe. Listening to songs such as "Sexxx Dreams" really make the poignant message of Lucifer stand out in a way that all worthless, scathed low-life vagabonds around the world can relate to. Further, deeper into the maelstrom of rage and anger that is ARTPOP is the song "Swine," which is a testament to the inferiority of using dirty animals to worship our beloved Dread Father. Just look at this beautifully synchronized chorus, containing moving lyrics like:

Tesla - Simplicity (2014)

As the follow-up to 2008's Forever More, Simplicity more than meets its match, in both quality of songwriting and production values. That's not to say the former is Tesla's best effort of the 21st century--that honor belongs to Into the Now--but the material depicts a powerful, unyielding band with excellent attention to detail and little patience for filler. Indeed, Tesla's adherence to strict quality control over the past 28 years, at least for their distorted hard rock songs, is remarkable, and it's not unreasonable to expect better. The quintet's knack for timeless, catchy anthems essentially vanishes with Simplicity and, sadly enough, that means the album is toast, as far as a well-rounded package of music goes.

In other words, Simplicity is the complete opposite of Forever More. Lacking uptempo grooves found on previous records, the music feels lethargic, which contradicts the album's thematic focus on Tesla's golden age and should, in theory, be just the opposite: electrifying rock in the vein of their last two records and classic material. No doubt is Tesla's mindset in the right place, but that enthusiasm doesn't always translate into real life, making for less than satisfying results.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Uriah Heep - Outsider (2014)

In 1969, Mick Box and David (Garrick) Byron formed Spice as the predecessor to Uriah Heep.  Since its 1970 debut album, …Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble, critics and fans have long overlooked Heep.  Yet Heep, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin ushered in heavy metal in what was the first British wave.  Although Heep has not gained the notoriety of their compatriots, a 45-year history, 24 studio albums, and 18 live albums stand the test of time.  With their June 2014 release, Outsider, Uriah Heep has upped their game in the face of tragedy.  The May 2013 passing of long-time bassist Trevor Bolder caused many to question vitality of Heep.  However, the core of founder member Box, long-time vocalist Bernie Shaw, and keyboard-wizard Phil Lanzon have been together since 1986.  Only Bolder's death and the forced physical retirement of drummer Lee Kerslake in 2007 have caused changed personnel.  That group of musicians has proven to be polished and exceptional.  The addition of Dave Rimmer on bass has gelled a modern and precise rhythm section that recalls earlier Heep incarnations.  Outsider is the finest Heep release since the golden years of 1970-76 and the classic Heep lineup of Box, Byron, Ken Hensley, Kerslake, and Gary Thain.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Amberian Dawn - "Magic Forest"



Of my discoveries this year, Napalm Records and its dynamic roster of symphonic metal bands remains a solid favorite six months into 2014. My introduction to the label's lineup, Delain's The Human Contradiction, caught me by complete surprise and likely won't be topped until 2015, but that doesn't mean there aren't other treasures to be found. In fact, while surfing YouTube last week, I happened upon Amberian Dawn's "Magic Forest"--the title track from their upcoming record--and find myself looking forward to hearing more from them with each passing day.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Metal Round-Up: Carbon Black, Khmer, Hooded Menace


Self-released a few months back, Principium sees Rob Giles and Damon Bishop jump ship from Nekrofeist to a form new band, Carbon Black. Staying true to their roots, the music is largely unchanged from the two members' previous endeavors, save for a melodic edge reminiscent of heavier radio rock, which is excellent for attracting new listeners and elevating Carbon Black to heights unknown by Nekrofeist.

Principium's single, "Fade Away," is not only catchy--it's the best representation of Carbon Black's sound, a smattering of chugged guitars coupled with vocal melodies that, strangely enough, grow more appealing with successive listening. To be sure, though, this kind of music isn't for everyone. In fact, a sense of melody placed over Pantera-esque riffing is a real turnoff. But you know what? One can't help but root for the underdogs and hope they surpass Nekrofeist in every way possible.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Moloch/Haggatha - Moloch / Haggatha 7" Split (2014)

Chances are, once you've heard one sludgey doom metal band, you think you've heard them all and, to be honest, that's extremely tough to argue against. The issue with music slowed to a grinding halt and engulfed in distortion is that, unless a particularly creative mind is behind it, there isn't much one can do to stand out from another artist following the same criteria.

Thankfully, that doesn't mean great bands in a similar vein don't exist, because it's actually quite the opposite. Haggatha and Moloch, two sludgey doom metal acts sharing space on an upcoming split, don't exactly bring anything new to the table, but they do display dexterity with their craft and clearly know their way around both sludge and doom metal. And while they differ radically with their respective approaches to the music, their two-track split is very much worth seeking out because, at least for Haggatha, the material is fluid and easy to get lost in.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Night Ranger - High Road (2014)

The main problem with Night Ranger is that they don't know when to throw in the towel. Playing music out of love and only for yourself is admirable but, at some point, one has to sit back and face reality--High Road is a record on life support, gasping for air. It ain't pretty.

With most albums, I can find something to enjoy, even if the majority of the music is rubbish, but that isn't the case for the standard edition of High Road. Because close comparison with other recent releases is inevitable, 17 years ago, Neverland showcased the band sounding exponentially better, and even Hole in the Sun, a record released a mere seven years before High Road, proves that time can take a crippling toll on one's voice and creativity levels--gone are many of the lively, sugary bursts of memorable melody that made the band so great in the first place.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Agalloch - The Serpent & the Sphere (2014)

After a slew of records regarded as masterpieces, Agalloch had anywhere but up to go with The Serpent & the Sphere, their fifth overall full-length and a much anticipated album at that. You see, very few bands make it more than a handful of records before releasing something markedly lower in quality and, unfortunately for Agalloch, The Serpent & the Sphere is the one to break the mold. Whereas previous efforts were bursting with life, creativity, and unique ideas that differentiated them from their predecessors, The Serpent & the Sphere feels empty, lacking the distinct, innovative shimmer that fans have come to expect of Agalloch. Indeed, grasping at straws is a better way of putting it, because the band desperately attempts to recapture that sense of freshness, but only so many "perfect" records can come in succession before something gives.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Concert Review: Tesla @ Old National Centre, Indianapolis, Indiana - May 30, 2014

To be honest, seeing a concert in Old National Centre's Egyptian Room is never fun: it's often too hot, too packed, and the setup is so poorly laid out that you wonder how the lack of professionalism enabled the venue to book big acts in the first place. Knowing this, I approached Tesla's Friday showing in Indianapolis with trepidation, but in the end, I left quite pleased with their performance. For a band going on some 30-odd years of existence, they sounded remarkably good and let me tell you--Frank Hannon is one hell of a guitar player and Jeff Keith has maintained his vocal range exceptionally well.

But, despite that, the set list felt a bit subpar in parts. Lackluster numbers like "Signs," "Paradise," "The Way it Is," and "What You Give" marred otherwise great beginnings, and I would have liked to see "Edison's Medicine" and additional cuts from Into the Now, Forever More, and even Bust a Nut in their place. In my humble opinion, Tesla's later material has always been among their best and, even though the earlier work is what the fans want, being more adventurous with song choice is something I can certainly appreciate. Still, the band's composure and tightness made up for this and making the move to cross Tesla off the bucket list proved to be a worthwhile choice.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Chaos Order/Werewolf Congress - Order of the Wolf (2014)

Rarely do I review anything other than metal on the The Metal Advisor, but when I do, I make it no secret.

Tomorrow, Chaos Order and Werewolf Congress are set to unleash a four-track split, Order of the Wolf, on Blasphemour Records, and the bulk of it is a nice attempt at the tried-and-true hardcore sound; meaning the majority of the material is nothing new if you've looked at hardcore with any interest. Particularly with Werewolf Congress, however, do small differences pop up, and you're sure to take notice if you've spent any amount of time with hardcore music. They feel a bit more modern--if that makes sense--with gang shouting, melodies, and the occasional riff structure that seem to probe post-hardcore, of which I'm admittedly not a fan. But even so, Werewolf Congress' music isn't entirely post-hardcore, and it shouldn't be treated as such. After all, there's enough (re: nearly all) traditional hardcore influence floating around that you'll never feel like you're listening to Silverstein or the like.

Monday, May 19, 2014

High Spirits - You Are Here (2014)

High Spirits is clearly the antithesis of modern day's metal mainstream. Skim over their latest release, You Are Here, and you'll find loads of hooks, uplifting melodies, and lyrical content applicable to every day life with little trouble.

The band has an excellent handle on what made the 1980s so great and, as part of what many coin the traditional heavy metal revival, is at the forefront the sub-genre's reemergence in numbers. Since the conclusion of the 1980s, when acts like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and others thrived, heavy metal, in its most basic form, has sat seemingly dormant underground, with releases trickling in surreptitiously until rabid fans furiously dig them up to get their fix.

Chris Black, known for his tenure in Dawnbringer and Pharaoh, has perhaps the best grasp on the sub-genre from the plethora of bands trying their hand at the style. Rocking riffs, upbeat tempos, and choruses that ripen with each listen--growing deliciously golden as they finally reach their full potentials--typify Black's songwriting and make a sound argument that traditional heavy metal never died, despite the claims in the nineties.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Narrow House - Thanathonaut (2014)

One of the better doom metal releases to hit my inbox this year is Narrow House's Thanathonaut (try saying that three times fast!), a mishmash of sounds culled from metaldom's best styles. You see, Narrow House and fans alike liken the debut, A Key to Panngrieb, to funeral doom metal with various influences, but Thanathonaut elects to take a wholly different path, incorporating everything from traditional heavy metal-like guitar riffs, to tinny-sounding saxophone, to a bow's staccato swipe across a cello. The end result is something of an anomaly and, as a result, pushes doom metal's envelope as we know it.

Thematically, Thanathonaut is an oddball as well, making use of a variety of vintage radio broadcasts and movie clips. The thing is, these aren't just any old broadcasts and clips--they're specifically focused on the United States and what appears to be World War II's thrust for new, state-of-the-art weaponry, the atomic bomb, and a bitter distaste for war. Of course, without an album booklet handy, correctly deciphering Thanathonaut's overarching message is nearly impossible, but gut instinct says that the above is correct or, at the very least, on point.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Metal Round-Up: Abysmal Torment, Morbus Chron, Hammerdrone, Snowblind


Released by Willowtip Records on April 29th, Cultivate the Apostate positions itself in Abysmal Torment's discography as their third full-length and delivers a walloping punch as one traverses the album's hour-long runtime. To make a long story short, the record is an absolutely insane and merciless ride, as it attacks with ferocious riff after ferocious riff and a shower of ruthless drumming. Multiply your favorite death metal band by, say, about 10, and out will pop Abysmal Torment and their latest offering--it's really that unforgiving and, as cliché as it is, brutal.