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.