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As They Burn – Will, Love, Life

Posted in 'Core, CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , on 19th March 2013 by Paul

As They Burn
Will, Love, Life
Released February 19th 2013
Deathcore/Death Metal
Released via Victory Records

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Deathcore has undergone a noticeable evolution in recent years. Gone are the “BREE BREE” pig squeals, needlessly misogynistic imagery inherited from gore metal and the pseudo thug attitude from hardcore, at least for the most part – as is evidenced in this latest effort from French band As They Burn. In its place has come more of an emphasis on groove riffs and quirky song structures that are more inspired by Meshuggah and Between the Buried and Me than the original Death Metal meets Hardcore and Screamo style, moving more towards the progressive metalcore and djent sounds.

Will, Love Life is an example of this more mature breed of death core, with the harsh vocals and groovy riffs leading the way and a strange amount of atmosphere incorporated in this style. The fate of this album may be that it is too much of a transition between styles, being neither fast or aggressive enough to be in the purely hardcore camp (and too well polished in production values perhaps); not musically complex or “Lovecraftian” enough to be considered straight up Death Metal and the guitar work here is also not start-stop-meshuggah-style-palm-muted enough to be in the Djent genre. As a result, this album occupies a grey area between genres that makes it sound more like the logical conclusion of the so-called “New Wave of American Heavy Metal” genre that dominated the early 2000s. I imagine this would appeal to those who want something that treads the line between Death Metal influenced Lamb of God style Groove Metal and the Progressive Metalcore bands that have come to prominence in recent years such as the previously mentioned Between the Buried and Me.

The band is clearly aiming at something new and progressive but get a little stuck trying to incorporate all that makes the modern Death/Metalcore scene interesting and end up sounding generic. The album manages to be more avant-garde in a way than the average Deathcore release most have come to expect in elements such as its interesting song titles but does not seem to have to have a unifying theme or message that more developed genres easily incorporate. This album is interesting because it is a bridge between the current state of Metal along the “core” spectrum and wherever it may be evolving and maturing to in the future. It very nearly manages to get itself written off as being a product of its time, but I think there is enough here for this to be popular among fans of this particular style.

3/5

Paul Gibbins

 

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Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to release Heavy Metal album

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on 15th March 2013 by Paul

Surprising news this week as controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, whom Salon.com calls “the most influential artist in the world” has announced plans to release a Heavy Metal album. The BBC reports that the album will be entitled Divina Commedia – which is the epic poem Divine Comedy by Dante, a typically heavy metal concept, and is written by musician Zuoxiao Zuzhou. The content however, is said to be political with at least two songs being about Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese activist and friend of Weiwei who recently took refuge in the USA, causing concerns over human rights in China. Weiwei also stated that some of the songs would be “more punkish” and “more pop” so I suppose a blackened funeral doom album is out of the question.

This news follows other strange happenings in the world of Metal in recent years, such as Metal album releases by Christopher Lee, Friar Brother Cesare Bonizzi, as well as the humorous news reports about the granddad who listens to Heavy Metal. This also has implications for Metal on the international stage, with the genre becoming popular in such far-flung and politically turbulent areas as Israel and Baghdad. Is Heavy Metal a useful political tool for activism in countries with oppressive regimes and political strife?

With Heavy Metal now in its fourth decade of existence, showing no signs of slowing down, and having attained a dedicated international cult following; perhaps the time has come in which the genre will be accepted as less of a passing trend but a fully-fledged musical style such as Jazz, Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll (all of which were derided as the Devil’s music in their time). After all the founders and innovators of the original Heavy Metal genre – Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and so on are now well into the third or fourth decades of their careers, or split-up/retired; with the majority of their fans being of older generations and much of their musical style being categorised as “Classic Rock” despite being extremely dissonant, heavy and largely rejected by the mainstream in their prime.

With Heavy Metal occupying an increasing awareness in the public consciousness, is Heavy Metal – at least in its broadest sense and it’s more mainstream, arena-rock style being more accepted by the world at large? And should it be? Perhaps only time will tell, but this announcement certainly adds to the ever increasing recognition of Metal in the world today.

 

Monolithe – Monolithe III

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , on 19th December 2012 by Paul

Monolithe
Monolithe III
Released: November 16th 2012
Doom Metal
Released via Debenmur Morti Productions

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Monolithe are a Funeral Doom band hailing from Paris, France. To date, they have produced three full length albums, titled simply Monolithe I, Monolithe II, and now Monolithe III. Each album features one 50 minute track, named after the album. This is a band that doesn’t mess around.

Monolithe III is 52 minutes of epic, crushing doom. Like Sleep’s renowned Dopesmoker album, it rolls onward from riff to riff, somehow managing to get heavier as it goes along. This is intermittently broken up by numerous atmospheric interludes, as the album gradually fluctuates from heavy to light, fast to slow. The album slowly builds and builds as the song becomes more immediate and fast as time rolls on, and the ending is incredibly dramatic, though still retains its dark, menacing sound as the journey comes to an end and the song fades away. Whilst a lot of Epic Metal such as this attempts a sound that is more emotionally moving, like the sound of a great battle, Monolithe instead create a huge and mysterious sound that is more distant from the listener. This is more guitar based and less keyboard-laden than a lot of atmospheric metal, but there is a haunting sparseness to much of the music which conjures up mental images of the vastness of space and the ominous monolith that adorns the album artwork.

The band’s lyrical themes are listed on Metal Archives as “Origin of Mankind” and by taking a look at past album lyrics, and bearing in mind the band’s chosen moniker, I suspect there may be a Stanley Kubrick/Arthur C Clark influence here. Either way I find this far more interesting than the usual self-pitying doom and gloom lyrics that the Funeral Doom genre is saturated with. It’s this conceptual integrity that holds everything together, despite its ambitious scope and allows the band to tell a surreal story through their music. I wouldn’t recommend this to the average listener, but this album is a rewarding journey and I only wish more bands had this kind of singular focus.

4.3/5

Paul Gibbins

 

The Sword – Apocryphon

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 4th November 2012 by Paul

The Sword
Apocryphon
Released October 22nd 2012
Metal
Released via Razor and Tie Entertainment

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I’m a bit of a sucker for 70s and early 80s Heavy Metal. Simple riffs, guitar solos, silly lyrics about space and dragons and such; artwork that looks like a Molly Hatchet album cover, and so on. It seems that Texas band The Sword feel the same way, and their brand of retro metal has been among the most noteworthy examples of the past decades wave of retro bands. You probably have a good idea of how this band sounds by this point. Stoner Metal with an emphasis on simple and catchy riffs with no frills and a lot of fun. It is simple and it works; and manages to sound mellow and heavy at the same time which means it is quite a fun listen, especially if you spend your days listening to extreme metal.

The band have slowly adopted a more Classic Rock approach over time, though they no longer seem to have the energy they once had, and very few of these songs are anywhere near as memorable as their great debut Age of Winters. My favourite track is the title track, which somewhat unconventionally appears at the end of the record. It’s an album full of well-constructed hooks and riffs, and the songs do their job although but most of them are not as memorable as they should be. The song writing is tighter and more controlled but it lacks the vitality of previous releases. It doesn’t help that the production on this release is more polished than the more raw sound of their earlier work. Still this is an enjoyable effort that should please fans of the band. The Sword seems to really enjoy the kind of music that they make and it shows. They are now well-versed in this particular niche and continue to produce this no-nonsense music. An enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes.

3.4/5

Paul Gibbins

Nine Covens – On The Coming of Light

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , on 11th October 2012 by Paul

Nine Covens
On The Coming of Light
Released November 12th, 2012
Black Metal
Released via Candlelight Records

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Nine Covens are a Black Metal band from the UK, a place not known for a particularly vibrant Black Metal scene, despite one or two hidden gems scattered here and there for those with an interest in this particular scene. Are Nine Covens one of those gems? Perhaps. I have yet to listen to their previous effort “…On The Coming of Darkness” in full yet, but I have read mixed reviews and heard enough to gain a general idea of what this band are all about: a more or less traditional, no nonsense Black Metal band with a lot of ideas and interesting lyrical themes. This release feels like a much more straight forward and focussed effort. Gone are the unnecessarily long song titles and now the band are represented by a much more slick piece of album artwork that wouldn’t look entirely out of place on the cover of say – Behemoth’s next release.

By glancing at the album cover and somewhat unconventional song titles, it might be a good guess that this is a band trying to emulate the new wave quasi-religious, occult avant-garde Black Metal, mostly centred on French acts Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega. Well not quite. Whilst I can’t really guess at what half the lyrics are (this is Black Metal after all and the lyrics aren’t entirely discernible), I can tell you that musically this is much closer to the traditional fair that your average Black Metal fan will expect. Aside from a few interesting flourishes here and there, it is a more or less straight forward take on the genre that has been done a thousand times. Every now and then an unorthodox riff will kick in or the vocalist (/s?) will incorporate some deeper vocals more in the style of Death Metal than the typical shrieks – which are done quite well – that are present throughout this album. At its best, it’s quite interesting; at its worst it is boringly average (though it is simply average and never actually bad). A standout track for me was “White Star Acception”, but there is plenty for listeners to find here.

Although played at a fast pace for much of the album, The band do quite a good job of creating an often droning sound that slowly shifts the song forward, lending the songs a feeling of mystery and longing; however very few of the songs cross the five minute mark and the pacing of this album never feels self-indulgent, as a lot of bands that incorporate these droning tremolo riffs tend to do. At times there is a feeling of something more epic and supernatural. This rarely feels like “angry” or “blasphemous” Black Metal on display here, instead it seems to be trying to communicate something much more hypnotic and profound, and I think that for the most part it succeeds in this.

The band have chosen to remain anonymous, letting the music do the talking. It more or less pays off. I am sometimes left wondering if this band might achieve a more noteworthy style if they pushed the boat out a bit more. There are obviously some interesting ideas here and a lot of thought has been put into the crafting of this release, however not all modern Black Metal should be completely unpredictable or avant-garde. Obviously meant as a sequel to …On The Coming of Darkness this is a record defined by confident song writing and interesting themes. Time will tell whether or not this becomes a cherished classic of the genre, but it is certainly one of the more interesting Black Metal releases I have heard from the United Kingdom.

3.6/5

Paul Gibbins

Master – The New Elite

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , on 2nd October 2012 by Paul

Master
The New Elite
Released July 5th, 2012
Death Metal
Released via Pulverised Records

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Any other band releasing an album under the title of “The New Elite” might come off as being a little silly, but if any band deserves such a title, it is Chicago veterans Master. After all, this is a band who named their sophomore effort “On The Seventh Day God Created…Master” back in 1991 and got away with it – rightfully so: it is now a genre classic. This is a band that to this day retains their technical flair that sets them above the rest. However that is not to say that this album is fully what can be described as “Technical Death Metal” – there are no unnaturally complex riffs or flamboyantly difficult solos here (well – maybe a little), but for the most part this is pleasingly no-nonsense Death-Thrash without too much intricacy. Indeed, this album is as much a solid Thrash Album as it is a Death Metal one, with a few typically twisted Death Metal riffs thrown into a whirlwind mix of Thrash played at a blistering pace with Death Metal vocals and a dark guitar tone along with some impressive soloing. Its fast, it’s brutal, the production is heavy; everything is in order to make this a very competent release. Whilst not as…”Masterful” (sorry) as their classic albums, this is an album filled with tenacity and I sense that the band is really enjoying themselves here. The bass rumbles along under shredding guitar work, whilst the drums carry the rhythm of the song along in classic early Death Metal style. The production is modern but the music is only half so; which is a good thing – if like me you have a penchant for Death Metal that still shreds and rips in the old way. Paul Speckmann has taken this band through thick and thin, and fortunately is firmly in control with this album, as ever. The New Elite? Perhaps “The Old Elite” would be more pertinent title here. I’m tempted to say this is a return to form, but in truth it is more a raising of the bar for a band that has always been more or less on form. If you like your Death Metal played at a reckless pace in the style of the genre’s early beginnings; that pays homage to the Death/Thrash Possessed and Slayer influenced sound (and even early Master themselves), then look no further – this is probably the best example of such a release this year.

3.5/5

Paul Gibbins

Khroma – Chariots

Posted in Experimental, Industrial, Metal on 27th September 2012 by Paul

Khroma 

Chariots

Released 19th September 2012

Metal/Darkstep/Ambient

Released via Inverse Records

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Khroma’s new single “Chariots” begins with a thin and raspy guitar intro that would seem to signify that start of what might be a Sludge Metal album. Only a few seconds later the electronics kick in and suddenly I find myself transported to that gothic nightclub that Neo visited in The Matrix. Trance like synths dance around the listener whilst haunting whispered vocals begin to play. Industrial, eerie, and…wait what’s this? Suddenly the band erupts into a crushing guitar breakdown reminiscent of a sludgier Meshuggah – or at least one of the numerous Meshuggah inspired Groove Metal bands that are everywhere these days.

The music then continues with this heavy guitar centric sound, more breakdowns than they are riffs; interrupted with a creepy atmospheric electronic interlude until the song is brought to its climax with a powerful, plodding outro. The vocals alternate between whispering and harsh, shouting. This is an interesting combination of synth laden industrial music and what might be described as modern Groove Metal, but I will admit I am not sure what this band is trying to communicate. The band hail from Helsinki, Finland and describe their music on their Facebook page as “metal, trip hop, electro, darkstep”. A quick search online reveals their page on Inverse Records, which states:

“2012. The Year of the Dragon. Societies on the brink of collapse. Natural resources scarce. The threat exterior, a campaign based on consumption and fear. Be it the ever more frequent floods or the burden of debt – all shall drown. Helsinki-Based Khroma conveys this decline in the 2010s into an assaulting soundtrack.”

I can see now why the band attempt to produce a chaotic sound infused with more electronic genres such as darkstep and electro. A 21st century soundtrack to the end of the world as we know it. Not really my thing, but if you like any of these genres, you might want to try it, particularly if you like the sound of electronic influenced Groove Metal.

2/5

By Paul Gibbins