Archive for March, 2016

Ihsahn – Arktis

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , on 25th March 2016 by mickbirchy

Ihsahn
Arktis
Symphonic Black Metal, Progressive Metal
Released: 8 April 2016
via Candlelight Records

I’ll admit this wouldn’t usually be my cup of tea. However I do love listening Emperor and since Ihsahn embarked on his solo journey in 2006,  I have been inclined to listen to his music in the same way. I wouldn’t call myself a fan per say, but I do listen to his music every once in awhile and I like what I hear. So when his new album Arktis fell in my lap, I was curious to hear the next chapter in his evolution. Ihsahn should need no introduction to the metal community, he is a pure force to be reckoned with.  His writing is slick, matching heavy tones with brutal melodies like it was child’s play and believe me there is no difference with this record.

Arktis, sounds really nice straight from the get go. Ihsahn wastes no time in with the opening songs Disassembled and Mass Darkness, it just has that overpowering grandeur, that we have come to expect from his music. The heavy verses bleed into the melodic choruses and the production is on top form nothing feels out of place.  The music surrounds you and you can really get lost in the sounds. Ihsahn’s vocals have a heavy impact and the guttural vocals scream with power whilst the clean vocals are a little unsettling, in a good way. I think Ihsahn want to make you feel unsettled in parts of this album, like on the track South Winds, mixing the heavy metal with that mind-melting progressive stylings. Everything about this album speaks to his talent for writing and producing great work. When I was listening to the album, I got the same feeling of listening to Emperor’s Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise, I’m not saying it sounds anything like that album but I get the feeling that I’m listening to something that will stick with me for a long time, which that album did (and still does).

The melodies a beautifully crafted and entrancing.  Designed to keep you hooked to the album, with great riff work too.  My favourite riff on the album being Until I Dissolve Too, purely for it’s catchy sound and distance from the rest of the song, so it sticks out more. The more progressive moment on this album somewhat lose me as it’s a little too jarring to my ear, however, for someone who is used to progressive metal will probably love the way the sound twists and turns around in the production.  The guitar work is superb it always sounds good when it comes in. The keys and synth are a little too overused for my liking and sometimes they don’t really fit the music at times like on Pressure, again maybe that’s just me but it’s quite distracting.  However when the keyboard parts work, they really work.

Is this a great album.  For me it’s good and certainly will be on my playlist for the majority of 2016. For the average music fan who may not be really into this sort of music I really couldn’t recommend it.  I would say start with Ihsahn’s earlier work then work their way to this or just stay away from this type of music in general.  It was definitely something different and I’m glad that I have returned to his work after a bit of a break.  If you’re a fan or someone that may like this type of sound then I would say check it out.

3/5

Mick Birchall

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Remain in Silence – …And The Soul Goes On

Posted in CD, Rock with tags , , on 22nd March 2016 by izaforestspirit

Remain in Silence
…And The Soul Goes On
Released 18th March 2016
Wave Wave/Dark Wave/Goth Rock
Released via M.I.G Music GmbH

‘…And The Soul Goes On’ is the long-awaited new album from the dark wave pioneers Remain in Silence. The band was originally formed back in the mid 1980s and they were amongst the first bands in the German dark wave scene.

My knowledge of dark wave is very limited. I’ve seen a handful of dark wave bands at Lumous Gothic Festival, but other than that my only experience with the genre are a few songs by The Cure along with the early albums by Lacrimosa, The Crüxshadows and Blutengel, which is often classed as synth-pop rather than dark wave. All of these have certain characteristics in common: the dark, Gothic atmosphere, melancholic tones and emotionally profound lyrics. Remain in Silence is no exception to this and they fit the genre description very well.

In many ways, if melancholic and melodic Goth music is your thing, then this is the album for you. While I have no problem with the gloomy atmosphere, I did have some issues with the slow pace of the songs. Let’s just say that I like my Goth music to be one of the three options: more dance/synth-pop -like (an example could be Blutengel), the catchy Goth rock variety akin to the likes of Two Witches or symphonic/orchestral Goth rock style of modern Lacrimosa. This album has only a handful moments like this, most notably the catchy, electro pop track Wrapped in Ice which is one of the few songs on here that I could actually dance to. Another one is the new edition of an old Remain in Silence classic, Hope in Fear in which the guitar tunes have a bizarrely pleasant and uplifting vibe to them despite the overall depressing tone of the vocals. Then finally there’s the eerie yet beautiful instrumental Endless Sea, which is the perfect track to end the album, summing up the dark atmosphere that was present throughout.

Technically speaking there is nothing really wrong with this album. It’s clearly well written and executed by highly experienced and skilled musicians. Yet despite this I struggled to get through it and really focus on the songs. Even for some who enjoys Gothic atmospheres and the odd bit of melancholic rock or electro, this was an album that was just too slow and ponderous for my liking.

3/5
Iza Raittila

Grimner – Frost Mot Eld

Posted in CD, Folk, Metal with tags , , , , , on 20th March 2016 by mickbirchy

Grimner
Frost Mot Eld
Folk-Metal, Viking Metal
Released: 25 March 2016
Via Despotz

So I’ve found myself in this predicament.  Reviewing an album in a language that I don’t speak and trying to discuss a sub-genre that I enjoy but don’t fully understand.  This should be a treat. Well before I get started, I will underline this review with this statement: I like this album, I think Grimner are a good band with a lot of potential.  There, with that being said.  Let’s discuss this album.

Grimner for the uninitiated are a Viking folk metal band from Motala, Sweden. They have been around for the better part of a decade and their music consists of mixing metal with folk instrumentation. The only real experience I have of this is with the bands Turisas, Korpiklaani and Ensiferum and even that is limited. All of those bands I enjoy just fine but however I think there is a fine line between this music being good and it just not working and all of these band cross that line from time to time. However I think Frost Mot Eld is a perfectly acceptable effort.  The production is nice and there is a really nice balance of the metal elements and the folk instruments all the while nothing feels overshadowed everything just hits the right note.

The melodies a beautifully written and well arranged.  The music encompasses you and while listening to the record I got caught up in the musicianship as I am sure anyone would be.  The music is great.  The more “metal” elements are catchy and give the album an intensity and harshness which counters the pleasant, clean tones of the folk instrumentation.  The only thing that I’m not a fan of is the guttural vocals, don’t get me wrong, they’re not badly executed or anything but when compared to the clean vocals on the album they seem a little lackluster. Even the big choir like vocal stylings shine in comparison.  If you’re into that type of vocals with this music then fine.  However I feel the clean vocals are just too nice to be pushed to the side for the heavy guttural vocals.

Anyway, I’ve been enjoying this album a lot lately and maybe I need to get into it a little more.  I like the sound and it’s certainly different to a lot of music I usually listen to. The music is nice and the songs are very well written.  I find myself humming the melodies long after I’ve turned it off.  If folk metal is your sort of thing and what I’ve described sounds good to you then go check it out.

3/5

Mick Birchall

Scarlet Anger – Freakshow

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , on 18th March 2016 by izaforestspirit

Scarlet Anger
Freakshow
Released 18th March 2016
Thrash Metal
Released via Hänsel & Gretel Records/M.I.G Music GmbH


The Luxembourgish thrash metal band Scarlet Anger are back with the second album ‘Freakshow’. This release comes four years after their successful debut album ‘Dark Reign’. The band cites classic ’80s and 90s comics and horror stories as the main inspiration for this new piece.

Horror stories and thrash metal tends to be a good combination. The best examples I can think of are classic, old Metallica songs such as ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’, inspired by the tales of H.P. Lovecraft or Iced Earth’s ‘Horror Show’ album. Speaking of H.P. Lovecraft… It seems that Scarlet Anger are also fans of his work, or at least the comics that his stories inspired, since the opening track on here is titled Awakening of The Elder God.

The horror themes continue with the suitably eerie-sounding The Haunted Place – House of Lost Souls which lives up to its namesake. Yet whilst the coarse vocals and the overall tone of this track have that dark and creepy atmosphere, some of the guitar parts are actually fairly melodic. The title track Welcome to the Freakshow is a completely different animal however, reflecting the band’s more aggressive style with ferociously fast guitar riffs and abrasive, shouting style vocals being the key features. Luckily there’s a good mixture of both the harsh, raw and the melodic thrash metal styles which gives the album enough variety to keep the listener interested. After all, it’s not easy to tune in to nearly fifty minutes worth of non-stop thrashing guitar riff barrage and shouting. Therefore it is good that you get the occasional slower, ballad-esque and melodic track such as An Unbelievable Story of A Stupid Boy to provide some relief to sore ears.

Overall, ‘Freakshow’ is a testament to how Scarlet Anger have developed and grown as a thrash metal band. Horror themes aside, the album essentially continues along the same path of modern thrash metal that was audible in Scarlet Anger’s debut.

4/5

Iza Raittila

Counter-World Experience – Pulsar

Posted in Alternative, CD, Experimental, Metal on 18th March 2016 by mickbirchy

Counter-World Experience

Pulsar

Jazz-Metal, Experimental, Progressive

Released: 18th March

via Hänsel & Gretel

Counter-World Experience have returned with their fifth album, Pulsar.  The German experimental metallers consisting of Benjamin Schwenen (guitar, guitar synth, programming), Sebastian Hoffmann (bass) and Thorsten Harnitz (drums) have clearly been up late in their music laboratory again to produce another album that sounds like it’s from the future.  Pulsar is a vibrant, dynamic album that oozes with energy and creativity and I have had a blast listening to it.

The album really is a fascinating specimen combining the heavy electronic tones with genuinely beautiful melodies that grab your attention.  It really is something when at one minute you’re listening to a metal tune then the next it breaks down into electronica.  Also the album just flies through other genres like nothing else I’ve ever heard.  From jazz through funk and to blues, whilst always being encapsulated in the heaviness of metal.  Everything blends together so nicely and it’s over just like that, so obviously you want to listen to it again! It’s the perfect example of what I like to call “TARDIS” music, when listening to an album/song that feels like a short time but you’ve actually been listening to it for 2 hours.  Pulsar’s production is simply beautiful, nothing feels out of place and it’s all well balanced at every point.

I also like the idea behind the concept of Pulsar, in how every song is named after a star. It has this great sense of grandeur to it, it’s one of those albums that I could just sit and listen to, not caring for the rest of the world. Very similar to how I am with Mike Oldfield or Felix Martin songs. It only gets better when you look look at the featured guest list. Big musical legends such as Steve Di Giorgio (Testament, Sadus) on “Alpha Serpentis” and Hannes Grossmann (Blotted Science & ex-Obscura) on “Cygnus”, it all stands out like a who’s who of technical music and that’s only mentioning a couple of them.

Is this album going to be for everyone? Well… Ultimately no.  Not everyone can get behind music like this and I completely get that.  Some people just like music that follows a typical structure and they don’t like deviating from that.  However, if you’re looking for something different from the norm and you want to listen to musicians that truly care about pushing the limits of metal and creating a unique listening experience for the listener then I would definitely recommend this, in fact I’d recommend all of their albums.  If you’re like me and you need something different and interesting to spice up your music collection then it’s worth, at least, checking out.

4 ½ / 5

Mick Birchall

Epitaph – Fire From the Soul

Posted in CD, Rock with tags , , on 17th March 2016 by izaforestspirit

Epitaph
Fire From The Soul
Released 18th March 2016
Hard Rock/Prog-Rock
Released via M.I.G Music GmbH

‘Fire From The Soul’ is the new album from the legendary German hard rock band Epitaph. The band was originally formed back in 1969 and in 1974 they became famous as the first German rock band to tour the USA promoting the ‘Outside The Law’ album. They had a hiatus during the 1990s before reuniting in 2000. This album features a handful of guest musicians including Tim Reese (Truckstop), Pete Sage (Santiano) and Klaus Henatsch (Nektar).

Starting off is Nightmare which has that stadium rock feel to it. Everything about that track is practically an invitation to join the overgrowing crowd of fans gathered at some open air show on a warm summer’s day and sway or air-guitar along to the catchy twin-guitar melodies. There’s nothing nightmarish about this so far. In fact I’m actually enjoying it. Man Without Face is another, infectiously catchy, guitar-driven track with a chorus that sticks in your head and makes you want to get up and dance. It’s not all about the guitars here, though. Singer Cliff Jackson’s melodic vocals and the additional choir on some of the tracks such as No One Can Save Me and Spark To Start A Fire create this positive vibe and overall pleasant atmosphere.

There are also the occasional retro, ’70s prog-rock elements on here with keyboards, a violin, acoustic guitars and epic ballad -style vocals being at the forefront. The title track is a good example of this style. Luckily this doesn’t sound dated but rather it puts a new spin on the genre while paying tribute to the band’s roots. The bonus track Love Child also caught my attention due to the memorable chorus and the uplifting guitar sounds.

Overall this was a very pleasant first encounter with Epitaph. I was apprehensive about it due to the band being often described as “prog-rock” – a genre which I’m not particularly fond of. Fortunately ‘Fire From The Soul’ proved to be a very accessible and enjoyable hard rock album.

4/5

Iza Raittila


Man.Machine.Industry – Box Of Horrors

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , on 16th March 2016 by Pieni

Man.Machine.Industry
“Box Of Horrors”
Metal
Release: 4th March 2016
Via KMP

 photo 004_mmi_box of horrors_cover art copy_zpsfad9ra91.jpg

Man.Machine.Industry’s new album “Box Of Horrors” gives you a little of everything the band stands for – all strains of metal.

Even though their sound has always been braided with an industrial thread, frontman Jhonny Bergman is a pretty old-school soul. I believe “Trend Killer” is the one song – not only in this album but in all M.M.I.’s discography – that mirrors it, thrashing away like there’s no tomorrow.

Now “Let It Burn” has the aforementioned industrial twist to it, not compromising the aggression at all. It just adds some texture, that’s all. It’s go the same vibe of the previous (and my favorite) LP, “Lean Back, Relax And Watch The World Burn” and the chorus is catchy, not in a melodic way but in the sense that will make you want to scream along with it. Powerful!

“20.000 Horns At The Sky” may not be as speedy, but its marching beat and groovy bass line make it quite belligerent just the same. As for the exquisite melodies that M.M.I. have gotten us used to, in songs like “Vivete et Sinete Mori” or “Colours”, take a listen to “Rise Above”. Plenty of melodic exquisiteness there.

Living up to its name, the title-track is a creepy ballad, heavy on guitars. Some string arrangements, acoustic notes and somber choirs make a hell of a combination.

I was surprised to hear another ballad right after this one, but “Destroyers Of Gods And Man” carries such a sadness and despair that you’ll put aside the slow pace and will keep in mind just its weight.

The rhythm is spicy again in “Too Close To The Sun”, with hints of Arabian cadences. “Rise Of The Fallen” is one of those in-your-face kind of songs and the album closes up with yet another ballad, “Heading For Nowhere”, with some keys that somehow remind me of R.E.M. “Everybody Hurts”, so yeah, a ballad in the full sense of the word.

So now you know what I meant by “all strains of metal”. “Box Of Horrors”, like its predecessor “Lean Back…”, is a diverse and solid album, better appreciated if listened to at a high volume.

4,5/5

Renata “Pieni” Lino