Archive for 2012

Skálmöld – Börn Loka

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , on 28th October 2012 by underthenorthernstar

Skálmöld
Börn Loka
Released: October 26th
Folk Metal
Napalm Records

Skálmöld, the Icelandic folk metal band, have just released their second album, Börn Loka, following the critically acclaimed Baldur of 2010. They’re an interesting band; instead of dressing up in furs and kilts, like a huge margin of the Folk/Viking/Pagan metal scene do, they play in the guise of unassuming, smartly-dressed guys, who just happen to be playing songs about Vikings. They are unique, especially in this particular scene.

Well, this album. It’s pretty impressive how different Skálmöld manage to sound without actually differing too much from the archetypical Viking Metal sound; they sound somewhat… bigger. The album doesn’t often branch out into the realms of the 9 or 10 minute song (Only the epic closer, Loki, does this), nor does it feature huge orchestration. It does, however, feature 3 guitarists and 4 members who regularly do vocals, with (the fantastically named) Björgvin Sigurðsson being the main vocalist – not to mention a keyboard player, who often uses choir or even Hammond organ (such as on Gleipnir) to boost the sound’s vastness.  It’s really immersive without being pretentious, or, indeed, very slow.

As for musicianship, the band members are absolutely splendid musicians. It was a joy to listen to these songs, it made think about what was going on, while carrying me through the story of the album effortlessly. A folk melody here, a vast choral passage there, a thrash riff thrown in for good measure… there are many twists and turns on this album, which, instead of making the album inconsistent, seems entirely appropriate.  Another thing that the listener should be acutely aware of is the flawless production; the album sounds clean, but also organic, in the sense that there feels like the album has not been meddled with using technical studio wizardry. The mix is good too, nothing feels lacking, nor anything overbearing.

Overall, damn good. It’s just a shame that the album came out at the same time as the colossally hyped new Wintersun album (admittedly a fantastic album, but nonetheless), as it is unlikely to get the attention it very much deserves. I’d advocate the listening of this album very highly; Folk Metal done seriously, done without cheese, done (dare I say it) right.

4.7/5
Alasdair “Scotch Egg” Dunn

 

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Dragonforce – The Power Within [2012]

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 17th April 2012 by underthenorthernstar

Band: Dragonforce

Album: The Power Within

Release Date: 15/04/2012

Genre: Extreme Power Metal

Label: Electric Generation Recordings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Review is dedicated to the memory of Vadim Pruzhanov’s Hair. RIP.

It’s been 4 years since the release of the last Dragonforce album, “Ultra Beatdown”, shortly after which singer ZP Theart left. It’s been a fairly brutal 4 years for the London-based Extreme Power Metallers; a new album in the works, a GARGANTUAN world tour freshly completed, and the singer, beloved of the fans, is gone? Surely, a bell tolling death for most bands? Not Dragonforce. Since footage of “Cry Thunder” was leaked, having been filmed by fans watching the band support Iron Maiden, I have been far more than enthralled. As for new singer Marc Hudson, I could hug the man. He is everything ZP was and more, and his entrance has injected huge amounts of life into the band once more. The songs are far more varied in structure, and thus make for a much more enjoyable listen, but every single one still manages to soar to the octane-guzzling heights of Glory of previous albums.

“The Power Within.” There could not be a more appropriate title. The whole album is overflowing with POWER. Herman Li and Sam Totman’s epic guitar shreddery is prominent in everything the band does, their mastery being an album’s worth of an air guitarist’s wet dreams. Drums are utterly insane; while restrained on tracks like “Cry Thunder”, the 220 bpm monster of “Fallen world” (fun fact: Dragonforce’s fastest ever song, beating “Cry of the Brave” at 215 bpm) shows off Dave MacKintosh’s insane skill. There are even a couple of moments where Bassist Fred Leclerq gets to show off his talent in several extreme bass passages. And one Mr Vadim Pruzhanov (God rest his hair) is one of the greatest musicians to ever mangle a keyboard. Wizardry is the only way to describe it. But Marc Hudson’s vocals are ridiculously good – he far surpasses the expectations of any of the fans, many of who would, in normal circumstances, be winging and pining for ZP. He has stupendous amounts of talent, and with layered vocals, he sounds positively majestic.

One of the main criticisms of Dragonforce with regards to previous works was that “all the songs sound the same.” It was often insisted that they relied purely on technical ability to make interesting songs, and that was included in every song. This is not a criticism that has any grounds on this album – the songs have for the most part been shortened to be more digestible by the listener (most previous songs were around the 7 minute mark), and not every song is a hyper-speed blast to the end. “Seasons”, “Last Man Stands” and “Cry Thunder” are all fairly different to the usual Dragonforce way, but in no way unwelcome. Songs like “Die by the Sword” also mark a return to the Lyrical style of fantasy, swords and battles, not seen truly since 2003’s “Valley of the Damned.”

This album… blew me away in a way I’m quite sure most of the albums released this year will fail to do so.  All the apprehension is gone, and we should welcome the new Dragonforce with open arms. Utterly, utterly stunning, utterly, utterly brilliant.

5/5

Alasdair Dunn of Norderobring

Job For A Cowboy – Demonocracy

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , , on 24th March 2012 by colmcasserly

Band: Job For A Cowboy
Album: Demoncracy
Release date: 10 April 2012
Genre: Deathcore
Label: Metal Blade Records

I’m about to eat my words here… In the past I have heard people heap praise on Job For A Cowboy for either being a good Deathcore

band or for their successful transition into a more traditional Death Metal band and I have simply written them off. That has changed since I heard their latest foray. Christ on a stick is it a far cry from what they started as and most surprising for me how satisfying it is to listen to.

Demonacracy the third album by JFAC, and it is fast. Very fast, and heavier than an articulated truck full of elephants. The songs are intense and really pack a punch, Jason Seucof really is becoming a go to guy for great production, and again they take a more traditional approach on Death Metal with a twist of tech thrown in for good measure. It all flows together very well and that flow is at a break neck speed, some very interesting guitar riffing and crazy double bass work drive this album. The lead work and solos are really well written and they never seem to just be there for the sake of it, nothing seems like filler or unnecessary. The vocals just sound huge, I can only imagine the layering and mastering that went into them my only gripe is that they are standard Death Metal vocals, incomprehensible as I don’t have the lyric sheet, and that’s it. But all this would mean nothing if the production wasn’t crisp and clear and sweet zombie Jesus is that the situation here. Every last note, cymbal hit and even the bass work is completely audible. I can’t stress enough how good this album sounds.

This album has forced me to review how I think about JFAC, and that is the best thing any band can hope for when making changes, its epic, punchy and so very satisfying to listen to. I’m probably gonna get beaten for saying this but this is what the last two Deicide albums should have sounded like.