Archive for Nuclear Blast

Kataklysm – Unconquered

Posted in Review with tags , , , on 21st September 2020 by Pieni

 

Kataklysm
“Unconquered”
Melodic death metal
Release: 25th September 2020
Via Nuclear Blast Records

 

unconquered

Kataklysm’s studio discography has grown more or less every two years and, despite the pandemic, 2020 didn’t miss the mark. In fact, “Unconquered” was written based on the current struggles the world is facing and the band describes this album as “a rebirth of aggression”, as a response to said struggles. In all honesty, I don’t think this is THAT much more violent than before, but it’s pretty clear we’re listening to a more elaborate work, richer in features – both modern and old-school – that enhance the melodic part in their melodic death metal nature. Also Jean-François Dagenais gave 7-string guitars a shot, and that alone offers new textures.

“The Killshot” lives up to its title, such brutality embedded in that riffing and double bass drumming – and yet its musical pattern lingers in your ear. That’s probably why it was released as first single, but for similar reasons, so could have been “Defiant” – the latter somewhat fiercer and more straightforward.

It’s funny how Kataklysm consider “Cut Me Down” a “haunting and melodic” song (featuring WolfheartTuomas Saukkonen, by the way), when I think those words best describe “The Way Back Home” (one of my favorites). But it’s the doomsday vibe of “When It’s Over” that makes it the most ominous track (and therefore another favorite of mine).

I won’t say this is their best record so far, but I can assure you the Canadian quartet is right to feel proud of it.

8/10

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Paradise Lost – Obsidian

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 10th May 2020 by Pieni

Paradise Lost
“Obsidian”
Gothic metal
Released: 15th May 2020
Via Nuclear Blast 

obsidian

I believe that in all 17 studio albums Paradise Lost have released so far, this is the one with the most accurate title – its songs are deep dark and their refinement pretty clear-cut, just like an obsidian rock. And since we use the word “rock” in a metaphorical sense to describe something strong we can rely on, and “Obsidian” is, in my humble opinion, the strongest record these guys have done in years…

Paradise Lost have always managed to write sorrowful songs that will otherwise bring you elation rather than depression, and just a few seconds into that acoustic intro of “Darker Thoughts” will prove this statement right. Nick Holmes sings in a heartfelt clean pitch here, and as the electric, heavy part kicks in, so does his harsh growl. There are orchestral arrangements in the background throughout the whole song – violins, if my ears got it right – which a sucker for details such as me must point out. And as the two following songs are the ones I already knew from YouTube – the stricken “Fall From Grace” and the homage to The Sisters Of Mercy “Ghosts – it was already clear I was facing a masterpiece. A lot of “old school PL vibe” revamped, which I admit probably helped with the impact it caused on me – but I still think “masterpiece” is the right word.

The keyboard line and guitar work of “The Devil Embraced” are particularly riveting, while “Serenity” bears a more straight-forward and rawer heaviness that turns out quite catchy. And while the melody of “Ending Days” bears the beautiful sadness that I’ve implied before, “Ravenghast”’s nature is gloomier, almost ominous.

Saying “all gothic metal fans” may sound presumptuous, so I’ll stick to “the majority of gothic metal fans” will fall in love with this record; but for those whose lives were touched by “Icon” and/or “Draconian Times”, “Obsidian” will also be a blissful revival of the past.

9/10

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Testament – Titans Of Creation

Posted in Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 1st April 2020 by Pieni

Testament
“Titans Of Creation”
Thrash metal
Released: 3rd April 2020
Via Nuclear Blast

Testament - Titans Of Creation - Artwork copy

“Titans Of Creation” isn’t just a powerful title; it’s also the definition of its songwriters. Not that it took 13 albums to recognize their grandeur – in all honesty, none of Testament’s members has had anything else to prove to anyone for a long time – but the fact they could push the envelope just a bit further this time is impressive. From what I gathered reading the press release, it seems the writing process was more dynamic, hence the little tweaks that are making all the difference.

I’ve always admired Peterson’s and Skolnick’s classy guitar work, but now it sounds even more elaborate – check out the solos and general riffing in songs such as “Children Of The Next Level”, “WW III” or “Symptoms”… hell, check out those in ALL tracks and you’ll see what I mean. It’s more diverse, so you get a better sense of what they’re capable of doing with those strings.

Peterson shows another side of him as he voices some parts of “Night Of The Witch” and “Curse Of Osiris”, in a demon-like pitch. The contrast between his and Billy’s tone is just perfect for the songs in question.

You’ll recognize the catchy chorus of “Dream Deceiver” as pure Testament, but the ominous vibe of “City Of Angels”, enhanced by its slower tempo and somber bass line, that will be new. But then again, as the lyrics refer to serial killer Richard Ramirez, it had to be something dark…

“The Healers” also sound somewhat different, with a more intense approach rather than a feisty one, its beat prone to become an earworm as well. It talks about Billy’s personal experience with his past cancer, but given the Corona pandemic situation the world is going through at the moment, it will probably become a hymn of hope to many metalheads.

8/10

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Marko Hietala – Pyre of the Black Heart

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 19th January 2020 by mickbirchy

Marko Hietala

Pyre of the Black Heart

Heavy Metal, Progressive Rock

Released: 24th January 2020

via Nuclear Blast Records

I have never claimed to be the biggest fan of Nightwish. However, I have always appreciated the vocal talents of Marko Hietala. He’s a spectacular singer and musician. So, imagine my surprise to find out that he’s releasing his debut solo album this year. Pyre of the Black Heart is a pretty mixed bag of material. I guess he wanted to throw a bunch of different styles at the wall to see what stuck. The album is a mix of prog-rock, heavy metal and some clear folk inspiration here and there. It feels quite personal and hits pretty hard.

Right from the opening track “Stones” Marko shows everything that he’s trying to do on the album. You can really feel that forceful presence that has made him such a fantastic performer over the years. The tone of his vocals is damn-near perfect and really hit you in the gut. Songs like “The Voice of My Father” and “I Dream” grab your attention and the emotion just took hold of me when I was listening. The production is simply outstanding with every part of the arrangement shining. The bombastic bass and drums, with the heavy electric guitar, is really gut-busting and coupled with Marko’s pure intense vocal performance really made this a larger than life album. Even the quieter, acoustic sections hit hard due to the purity and richness of the production.

His use of poetic license suits this music well. The weary and emotional language used kept me engaged throughout. It’s almost like dark-twisted lullabies in the quieter sections. The heavier moments it feels like dark prog-rock epics of the past. The passion and conviction that this album presents certainly delivers, with Marko giving his all with his commanding and forceful voice. It gives the words a great sense of urgency and left me speechless at times.

I think if you like rock or metal music of any sort you’ll like something here. It’s progressive rock without the fluff, folk-rock without going overboard, heavy metal with more complexity and almost has a stoner rock vibe to the riff. I think the only thing that most people wouldn’t like about the album is that it moves a little slow. There aren’t many songs with a lot of vibrant energy, the one exception being “Runner of the Railways” which definitely rocks. It’s definitely an album that takes some time to digest. I mean, it’s not a power metal or thrash metal record. So, if you’re looking for something with a lot of fast-paced, in your face metal, then this isn’t for you. However, I think there’s enough energy and heaviness that most rock and metal fans will be impressed.

Overall, a solid album from a man that has earned his place in the annals of heavy metal history. If you’re in the mood for something powerful and captivating, then this might be right up your ally.

8/10

Mick Birchall

Nile – Vile Nilotic Rites

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 29th October 2019 by izaforestspirit

Nile
Vile Nilotic Rites
Released 1st November 2019
Technical Death Metal
Released via Nuclear Blast Records

Nile - Vile Nilotic Rites

Regardless of whether you love or hate them, there is no denying that Nile have left their mark on death metal music. For over two decades now, Karl Sanders and the gang have treated the metal community to their signature sound – their own unique blend of technical death metal and ancient Egyptian themes or “Ithyphallic metal” as they call it. Personally I have a somewhat complicated relationship with their music. As far as death metal goes, I like them but they have never been a favorite of mine and I like some of their albums more than others. My favorite album by them is ‘In Their Darkened Shrines’ and ‘Ithyphallic’ is the one that I like least. I quite liked their previous effort though, so I decided to give this new album ago.

Well, the good news is that Nile have managed to successfully replicate the same level of brutality and technical guitar work as they have done in the past. Sanders’s growling sounds just as vicious as ever and shredding guitars are just as savage. Yet that is not what makes Nile stand out. If all I wanted was to hear some growling and shredding guitars, there is no shortage of brutal death metal bands that do the same thing. What makes Nile so memorable is the atmospheric instrumentals and the prominent Egyptian themes. For that you have to skip to the fourth track Seven Horns of War. The intro really sounds like an ancient army on the march, complete with war horns and battle drums . Then mid-way through, they slow the pace down and the song adapts to an atmospheric tone with keyboards, eerie whispers, choirs and chanting audible in the background. For a brief period you can still hear the battle horns just as the death metal guitars and growling re-emerge.

Seven Horns of War isn’t the only track to feature atmospheric instrumental parts. There are many others on here. For example, the short ambient instrumental Thus Sayeth the Parasites of the Mind deserves a mention. Nice work Mr. Sanders! The melodic sounds of the bağlama and ethereal voices almost made me forget that I’m listening to a death metal album. On the opposite end of the spectrum there are tracks such as Snake Pit Mating Frenzy which is just pure, brutal death metal.

In summary, ‘Vile Nilotic Rites’ is a multi-faceted and complex technical death metal album that might take a few listens to get into. I cannot say that I enjoyed all the songs but I would be happy to play most of them again. As far as Nile albums go, this is one of their better releases.

7/10
Iza Raittila

The 69 Eyes – West End

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 14th September 2019 by Pieni

The 69 Eyes
“West End”
Gothic rock
Released: 13th September 2019
Via Nuclear Blast Records

The 69 Eyes - West End

Over the past 30 years, The 69 Eyes have developed such a characteristic sound that they’re at a point in their career where one can identify a song as theirs, even before Jyrki 69’s unique voice comes through. Yes, 30. The dark balloons on the cover? Best decoration for a goth’n’rock anniversary party.

They’ve also invited a few friends for such party. You’ve probably seen the video for “Two Horns Up” by now, featuring Dani Filth. Those ominous church bells in the first few seconds which lead to that rough bass intro and melt into a rocky melody spiced up with piano keys… that’s the catchy trademark of the Helsinki Vampires.

Curiously enough, “27 & Done” is a lot merrier, despite its dark theme (that apocalyptic age at which so many rock stars have died). Same formula, but merrier.

“Black Orchid” was also released as a video, probably because it has one of the most beautiful guitar solos in the whole album. It took me back to “Dance D’Amour”, believe it or not – so much bolder, so much sharper, and yet my mind brought it up. Go figure.

Then there’s the orchestral arrangements on “Change”, giving a classy touch to an already dandy ballad. It’s like they say, “the devil’s in the details”.

I was surprised they didn’t film a video for “The Last House On The Left”. Jyrki 69 himself says it’s “the perfect Halloween horrorpunk song for this year”. Honestly, I think it’s perfect for any festive occasion. It also features Dani Filth and Wednesday 13 and Calico Cooper as well, making a hell of a vocal mix! I wouldn’t call it punk, though, but definitely rock’n’roll. By the way, “Outsiders” gives away that vibe too. Dancing is not really my thing but I caught myself doing so while writing this review.

These are just a few remarks. I could’ve picked many more but I think you’ve got the picture. I’ll wrap it up with a cheesy but heartfelt “happy anniversary, keep it rollin’!”.

8/10

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Cellar Darling – The Spell

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on 24th March 2019 by mickbirchy

Cellar Darling

The Spell

Progressive Metal , Folk-Metal, Symphonic

Released: 22nd March 2019

via Nuclear Blast Records

After being really impressed with their 2017 debut album, This Is The Sound, Cellar Darling have returned with their new record, The Spell. After that debut, I was hoping for another record and I was hoping that they would attempt something a little different. Well, they must have heard my wishes because their second record is a very different beast from the first album. The Spell is a much heavier and more progressive album than This Is The Sound. It feels like a lot more care and attention to detail was put into this album. I mean they improve on their sound in every way conceivable here. There is also an audiobook of the album, which offers more context for all of the songs and where the lead vocalist Anna Murphy adds another layer to this album’s meaning.

This album is just a tonne of fun from the first few notes. Immediately hitting you with those sharp tones and sweet melodies that were present on the last release. The production on this album real super slick and everything feels really tight with all of the instrumentation standing out and playing its part. When it all comes in together, it just sounds so grandiose. This sound can only be described as progressive rock with enchanted whimsy thrown in. The beautiful compositions with excellent sound mixing give the album an other-worldly vibe to, what would be, just another progressive folk-metal album. Then you have the immense vocals of Anna Murphy. She just has an amazing presence on this album, it really is a star-making performance. It baffles me how she isn’t usually brought up in the discussion of the best female rock-vocalists by the fan community. She has so much range both, in vocal technique and in, emotional presentation.

There is a really nice variety of musical styles presented here. From eerie and atmospheric to heavy and “in-your-face”. The Spell will captivate and entrance listeners. I immediately wanted to put it on again and again as this album rewards repeated listens as there is a lot you can miss on your first play-through. There are just so many subtle little things in the music that you only catch on repeated listens. I would say the songs that are really worth your time on this album are “Burn” with its excellent riffs and exciting chorus, “Love” & “Love Pt II” also “Death” & Death Pt II” both of these two-part songs make for excellent companion pieces and really show the strength of Cellar Darling’s songwriting abilities. Also, my personal favourite on the record is the haunting ballad “Sleep” which reminds me of those old progressive tunes where the music sounds like random instrumentation but it really perfectly calculated musicianship.

Yep, I would definitely say this is worth your time. I really didn’t know how they were going to follow up that first album but I truly wasn’t expecting this. The Spell is one of those perfect records to accompany your imagination. It’s enjoyable and enriched with wonderful lyrical content. This one gets a big thumbs up from me.

5/5

Mick Birchall

In Flames – I, The Mask

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 24th February 2019 by Pieni

In Flames
“I, The Mask”
Metal
Released: 1st March 2019
Via Nuclear Blast Records

inflamesithemask

It’s been a while since I’ve stopped considering In Flames “melodic death metal” (even if I labelled them as such when I reviewed “Battles”, after going with just “melodic metal” on the previous one, “Siren Charms”). The truth is that they’ve developed such a characteristic sound that one would either come up with a genre described in a whole sentence or just fit them in one that pretty much covers it all. Let’s go with “metal” then (which, whoever runs their Facebook page, seems also okay with).

I believe I’ve said this several times – not just regarding In Flames – but I don’t see toning down the aggression as a bad thing; in this case, losing the “death” angle. All I care about is listening to quality music, whatever its nature, and “I, The Mask” is full of that.

Out of the three songs they’ve chosen to promote the album with, the title-track was the one which least impressed me. Curiously enough, one of the fastest tracks. It’s not a bad song, don’t get me wrong. It’s just too straight-forward in the middle of the richness that the rest of the album turned out to be. But then again, come to think of it, maybe that’s precisely its strength. “Burn” is up there as well, but with a less catchy chorus.

“(This Is Our) House” is sort of anthemic, with all that talk of standing your ground and the teen choir’s they’d already used on “The End”. At first I thought a spunkier chorus would sound better, but after hearing it a few times, this one is just right. In fact, this album needs a couple of rounds to grow on you as a whole.

“I Am Above” and the ballad “Stay With Me” are my favorite, as they’ve got that something-I-can’t-put-my-finger-on that just enthralls me. Perhaps the attitude of the first and the depth of the second, but I believe is much more than that, as it usually is when a song hits you hard.

There’s another ballad in the form of “Follow Me”, where you’ll certainly hear an echo of “Come Clarity”, but only on a musical level – the message in it bears a sense of hope that their old classic misses. And even though I can’t remember a title to compare – in a good sense – “Voices” with, you’ll see that the opening track is very much an In Flames song. Not so much with “Deep Inside”, the Arabian hints catching me somewhat off guard, but it worked out in the end. The only song I skip when it comes up is “In This Life”. I’m sure it will be someone’s favorite, but for me, it’s annoying as hell.

When I’ve first listened to this album – their 13th – I’ve automatically given it a “4”. Then, as aforementioned, it started growing on me and I thought a “4,5” would be more accurate. Now that I’ve put into words what I think about it… hell, it deserves a “5”!

5/5

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Soilwork – Verkligheten

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 8th January 2019 by Pieni

Soilwork
“Verkligheten”
Melodic death metal
Released: 11th January 2019
Via Nuclear Blast Records

soilwork - verkligheten - artwork

When I reviewed “The Ride Majestic”, about three and a half years ago (damn, feels like yesterday!), I said something about being surprised with how Soilwork could still impress me. Well this time they didn’t catch me off guard: I’m still impressed but I was counting on it.

A fellow reviewer said they’ve gone more melodic but I don’t think that’s quite it; I mean, sure, “Verkligheten” is a more melodic record, but I don’t think it was intentional. I believe they’ve just focused more on being intense than actually heavy, and such deeper sound enhanced the melodies which have always been a part of Soilwork. Take the latest single, “Stålfågel”, for instance; those initial synths bearing an Alan Parsons whiff, the growls of someone who Wikipedia claims to be Alissa White-Gluz (but it’s not) a mere shadow in the background of the chorus and the so straightforward solo result in an enthralling combination that’s way more than just “melodic”. it’s still my favorite song, by the way, even if I stood a bit disappointed when the lyrics didn’t match the title’s tongue. In fact, despite the Swedish album title, all songs are sung in English. Shame. At least one should be pretty interesting.

Tomi Joutsen was also invited to snarl over “Needles And Kin” but his presence is much more highlighted – the own nature of the song enabling it. I dare saying this is the heaviest song (“Arrival” right behind it), the riffing and drumming even reminding some black metal refined act, but the chorus always featuring some harmony to go along with the rest of the album.

I really hope “The Ageless Whisper” makes it to the live shows as it’s a very anthem-like track which I already imagine everybody clapping their hands to, in sync with the drums in its intro and later on, right before the solo. But several others, and for several reasons, are prone to turn the crowd into a bunch of happy campers ‘cause I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one loving “Verkligheten” as a whole.

5/5

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Edguy – Monuments (A 25 Year Tribute to Edguy)

Posted in Editorial/Opinionated, Review with tags , , , , , , , on 9th July 2017 by mickbirchy
Edguy
Monuments
Power Metal, Hard Rock, Progressive
Released: 14 July 2017
via Nuclear Blast

It’s been 25 years of Edguy. Yes, this band has been going as long as I’ve been alive on this earth. So, I thought that I would pay homage to one of the greatest metal bands that I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. What better way to do that than going through the newest release from them. Monuments is a carefully and passionately selected collection of the band’s greatest hits from the last 25 years. Not only that, but the release has five brand new songs from the band. Along with one previously unreleased recording. Mounting up to a staggering 28 track album that will be more than enough to indulge even the biggest fan of the band.

I first discovered Edguy back in 2008 with the album Tinnitus Sanctus. I bought it after reading about them in a Magazine calling this album “the strongest of their career yet”. At this time, the metal press was buzzing around them. I listened to the album and something stirred inside of me. I instantly wanted to hear more from them. So in very quick succession I looked their history in music. I was completely blown away and I think this was the start of my obsession with power metal. As listening to them got me into fellow contemporaries: Blind Guardian, Sonata Arctica and Hammerfall. I know I was a little behind but believe I’m caught up now with them all. Yet, there was something different about Edguy and it was all in frontman, Tobias Sammet’s vocals. He sang with such power and conviction still to this day his voice gives me goosebumps. If anyone ever asks me what a metal or rock vocalist should sound like I just turn and point to Tobias. Everyone has their own favourites that they immediately associate with the genre. He’s mine.

Yet, I don’t want to do a disservice to the band that back him up. Edguy has some incredible talent in there. Unlike a lot of bands that go this long; Edguy have had a pretty consistent line up having the same lineup from 1998 onwards. Giving them a fantastic consistency. This is reflected across all their albums. Jens Ludwig and Dirk Saur have been their from the very beginning on guitars. Always producing fantastic riffs and melodies that compliment the tone of whatever album. They were going in to. Be it the more power metal centric albums or the winding twisting more progressive sound. No matter how flamboyant or heavy the song. Ludwig and Saur really deliver in getting music stuck in your head. As for the rhythm section Tobias Exxel on bass and Felix Bohnke on drums has always given Eduy that weight and power to their tunes. There’s just such a commanding presence to their music. When Edguy plays, you listen.

Monuments, includes 5 brand new songs from the band. You’d think that they may get lost amongst all of the classic songs. They sort of do, I don’t necessarily see that as a band thing. I just see it as these songs just feel as good as their iconic work. Which can only be a good thing. All five of the songs are big triumphant anthems and their played with just as much conviction as the big hits. With massive sounding production and the tight musicianship that we’ve come to expect from Edguy by now. Is it any wonder that they sound this good! They fit so nicely on this package of their hits. They feels like songs that have always been here. I guess that’s the real strength of Edguy. Making songs that fit so well into the collective consciousness, making tunes that just sound right.

As for the unreleased song “Reborn In The Waste”. Recorded back in 1995, as part of the Savage Poetry recordings. Savage Poetry being one of their demo albums in the early 90’s. I can understand why it wasn’t included. I don’t think it’s wholly representative of the band’s skill or style. In all honesty I think it’s a pretty lackluster tune. It’s got a nice hook to it and I think if they remade the song today it might be better but I don’t know. I guess I like it just for the fact it’s another piece of Edguy nostalgia more than anything else.

In all honesty. This has been a fun one to look at. Just looking back through Edguy’s back catalogue and remembering the great tunes from yesteryear. They are certainly a band that has stood the test of time with 10 albums under their belts and some of the most enthusiastic fans I’ve ever met. Going through this greatest hits compilation has really made me appreciate how good this band really is. From the heavy hard rock tunes, to their soaring ballads they make some of the finest metal music around. They may not be on the same level as the all time greats of the genre, but they always hold a special place in my music library. I will always think back to the time I first heard them roar into gear with “Ministry of Saints”. If you have never given them a chance do yourself a favour grab Monuments and get acquainted with one of the best metal bands in the world. At least according to this reviewer. Yeah, this might read as a bit of a fluff piece or it could read as a little self-indulgent. I really don’t care. I just wanted to look back on one of my favourites to celebrate 25 years of this band.

5/5

Mick Birchall

The Charm The Fury – The Sick, Dumb & Happy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 15th March 2017 by mickbirchy

The Charm The Fury

The Sick, Dumb & Happy

Metalcore, Groove Metal

Released: 17 March 2017

via Nuclear Blast

This is an album that I have been particularly excited for. I first caught wind of The Charm The Fury a few years ago via an article in Metal Hammer magazine.  I looked them up and I was really blown away by them.  I hadn’t heard anything like them before.  I would go on to discover a lot of bands in with this sound and I do have The Charm The Fury to thank for that. Their first album A Shade of My Former Self was an exciting bold record with a lot of passion and intensity. It was genuine smash of an album. So, I’ve really been getting into their new album The Sick, Dumb and Happy. They have made some interesting stylistic choices with this album to keep things fresh without losing their core appeal.

This album is more of a groove metal album then metalcore.  The gritty riffs the, groovy bass lines and more of an appealing tone. It fits them it really does. I think every member of the band carries their weight very well on this album. The sound is massive and all of the songs have the potential to be crowd pleasers.  From the old school sound of “Down on the Ropes” to the more modern sounding, “Weaponized”. They hit the mark nearly perfectly.  The production is bold and really gives a firm punch when the tunes get going. On this album the band feel way more palatable. These are songs more likely to get airplay in more mainstream and that’s really not a problem. They sound great doing it and I would say that these songs deserve the attention.

This is a major step in the right direction for The Charm The Fury. It’s really nice to see a band evolve like this.  It proves you can make your songs appealing to a wider audience without selling out.  They have just made a natural step forward with their music. There’s really not much else to say if you want a great album with a fun sound with some truly pump-up choruses, the look no further that this album.

5/5

Mick Birchall

Kreator – Gods Of Violence

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 24th January 2017 by Pieni

Kreator
“Gods Of Violence”
thrash metal
Released: 27th January 2017
Via Nuclear Blast Records

godsofviolence_zps28ifmxs8

“Gods Of Violence” or how to make the same thing and still sound fabulous.

When “Phantom Antichrist” was released, I used keywords such as technique, melody and elaborate guitars; now, almost five years later, the same words pop up in my mind. Yet it doesn’t leave a taste of repetitiveness but of… familiarity.

Living up to its name, “Apocalypticon” is an epic promise of war, a promise that starts being fulfilled right afterwards, with the fierceness of “World War Now”. Some sharp melody in-between makes it both classic and classy.

“Satan Is Real” is the other side of the coin – still belligerent, still menacing, but the rhythm is more grinding than shredding. There’s even some symphonic elements here and there to emphasize the throbs.

“Totalitarian Terror” is something I’ll love to hear live, a thrash hymn, with a catchy, sing-along chorus.

Okay, I admit some of the acoustic chords of the title-track are a subtle reminder of Metallica’s “Fade To Black”, but the rest of the song is very Kreator-like and another strong candidate to a live favorite.

The spunky spirit of “Army Of Storms”, the force of “Hail To The Hordes”, the mischief of “Lion With Eagle Wings”, the militant “Fallen Brother”, that weeping solo of “Side By Side”, “Death Becomes My Light” brings over a little more semi-acoustic moments – these not similar to any other band’s – before galloping away at full speed… Kreator are able of pulling out sophisticated tweaks off their sleeves, delivering exactly what is expected of them, both as a thrash metal band and as a veteran, professional act.

5/5

Renata “Pieni” Lino

In Flames – Battles

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 10th November 2016 by Pieni

In Flames
“Battles”
Melodic death metal
Released: 11th November 2016
Via Nuclear Blast

 photo battles_zpsc8tejepy.jpg

When “Siren Charms” was released a couple of years ago, I complained about “its lack of ability to embrace my senses and leave a positive remark” (review here). Well I’m happy to say that ability has returned. Not that “Battles” is a masterpiece, but it features some memorable tweaks, in both ear-worm and impressive meanings of the word.

I remember a lot of people complaining when Anders Fridén gave up on growling. I wasn’t one of them not only because I appreciate Fridén’s current tone but also because I don’t think that measures a band’s level of heaviness – listen to all those pop-metal acts with a growler and you’ll know what I mean. Plus, the desperate inflection his voice carries is just as brutal; the opener “Drained” will prove me right.

Still on a vocal analysis, but the teen choir’s in “The End” and the ballad “Here Until Forever”. I’m a sucker for gang backing vocals, but the cheer of this 2.0 version of it has been growing on me; it’s just as catchy and it will have a hell of an effect live, as I doubt anyone will be able not to sing along. That and the march-wise clapping hands in “The Truth”.

There’s a loud guitar work in here as well, but that has never been an issue for In Flames, so it’s really no surprise. Still I’d like to mention “Underneath My Skin” and the 2-minute dark, almost experimental instrumental piece featured in “Wallflower”. Oh, and the seduction of “In My Room” – no sexual pun intended. It just gives away this enthralling vibe.

So again, no, this isn’t In Flames best work, but it definitely has its moments – lots of them.

4/5

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 27th October 2016 by Pieni

Testament
“Brotherhood Of The Snake”
thrash metal
Release: 28th October 2016
Via Nuclear Blast

brotherhood-of-the-snake

Formed in 1983 as Legacy, Testament were forced to change their name – the usual there’s-already-a-band-with-that-name thing – and that change happened three years later. So even if their whole history is a bit older, Testament turn 30 this year. What better way to celebrate than releasing a pure thrash metal record, probably the best they’ve done in years?

‘Cause that’s what “Brotherhood Of The Snake” is – a thrash metal bliss. We use the expression “breath of fresh air” whenever a band adds something new to the genre, but it’s just as refreshing when a band manages to stay in character and makes it sound like a novelty.

The fierceness and excellence of their songwriting is surely well known, but you still won’t be expecting the blow that your ears will take with the title-track or “The Number Game”.

The machine-gun speed with which Chuck Billy sings “Stronghold” will remind you of songs such as “Over The Wall” and the gang chorus has the same power as the one in “Into The Pit”; similar formula, including the hit-potential, but you won’t feel like you’ve heard it all before. “Refreshing”, remember?

Same with “Seven Seals”, where they go for something less aggressive but still heavy, like they did with “Souls Of Black”, or the headbang-friendly “Neptune’s Spear” that’s as catchy as “Electric Crown”, but it’s just the nature that’s comparable – “The Brotherhood Of The Snake” offers ten distinctive, killer songs which will renew your faith in thrash metal.

5/5

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 14th October 2016 by mickbirchy

Sonata Arctica
The Ninth Hour
Power Metal, Symphonic Metal
Released: 7th October 2016
via Nuclear Blast

The last time I talked about Sonata Arctica on this site I gave them a relatively positive review. I enjoyed “Pariah’s Child”, it was a fun record with a lot of good tunes. It got me into the band and I’ve considered myself a fan ever since. So I snapped up the opportunity to take a listen to the new record, “The Ninth Hour”.

Straight from the first song, “Closer To An Animal”, I knew I was listening to a bolder product with more focus and solid songwriting.  Every element of the album is alive and energized. The synth is just uplifting and makes for a nice atmosphere with its diversity. The songwriting is beautiful and is filled with emotion and passion. From slow and somber songs to the heavy and faced paced straight up metal songs. They just make an impression on every song.

The lyrical content is pretty simple when you think about it. The message of the album is life a good life, be kind to people and stop killing the planet. It sounds simplistic and something you’d sing to your kids. Yet, just because you learned it when you were young it does make these morals false. Sometimes you need simple things just said to you and Sonata Arctica really sell it. Tony Kakko’s voice sounds absolutely amazing on this album. He always seems to manage to match his voice to the emotion of the song and it sounds so sweet every time.

This is an excellent album. In my opinion, Sonata Arctica are the undisputed kings of power metal. If I were to recommend songs from the album, firstly “Life”. This is a belting track with a genuinely inspiring and cheerful chorus that sounds glorious. The other song I’d recommend is “We Are What We Are”, which sound sorrowful and passionate.  It’s a beautiful album that really live up to their reputation as one of the best. I love it

4/5

Mick Birchall

Crobot – Welcome To Fat City

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 27th September 2016 by mickbirchy

Crobot
Welcome To Fat City
Hard Rock, Glam Rock
Released: 23rd September
via Nuclear Blast Records

The third album from the hard rockers Crobot brings us more well-constructed riffs, thick funky bass lines, and just a feel-good feeling all around. The American foursome made some absolute belters over the years and the new album Welcome To Fat City, is just more of what they’re so good at, if not a more focused and refined version of it. The album shifts gears from blues, funk to hard rock and beyond without so much a batting an eye. I first heard Crobot in the run-up to this year’s Graspop Metal Meeting when I was listening to all of the band playing the festival.  Then I watched them perform and I was truly blown away by the musician and skill. When they announced that they were bringing out a new album I knew I had to have it.

Welcome To Fat City, is a really well-made album the production is fantastic.  It really is a great sounding album, everything sounds crisp and powerful. From the booming basslines to the shrieking guitars, the groove of every song is so well controlled and has an energy to them that sounds wonderful and keeps you in high spirits. The riffs are enjoyable and engaging and with lyrics that keep you entertained.  For me, I found this to be the most accessible album from Crobot, not that they haven’t been in the past but this album just feels easier on the ear and the production is spot on. It’s just all really likable.

The hazy funk sound is a lot of fun matched by the intense powerful vocal performance that sounds excellent but I felt at times gets lost in the music, not in a big way but just enough to be noticeable. The best songs on this album, in my opinion, are “Temple In The Sky” for it big noisy chorus and it’s grooved up riff.  Also, I’ve really enjoyed “Easy Money” for the weird guitar effects and maddening smooth bass. In fact, the guitar weirdness is something that crops up a lot in Crobot’s music, sound like the guitar has broken mid-riff. It actually a nice technique that gives their music a unique little stamp and separates them out from the plethora of riff-rock out there today.

Overall, this is an insanely catchy and fun record that has all the right ingredients to not only please their core fan base but does enough to bring in newcomers. It’s unique, intense and above all… fun.  Something you’ll want in your record collection.

4/5

Mick Birchall

Brujeria – Pocho Aztlan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 17th September 2016 by izaforestspirit

Brujeria
Pocho Aztlan
Released 16th September 2016
Grindcore/Death Metal
Released via Nuclear Blast


The Mexican-American death-grind band Brujeria are back with a new album ‘Pocho Aztlan’, their first full length release in sixteen years. ‘Pocho Aztlan’ follows ‘Brujerizmo’ which was released back in 2000. The band was originally formed in 1989 but they have been on hiatus various times due to line-up changes and the members being involved in other bands.

Now, before I start the review, I would like to clarify what exactly is death-grind metal. Well, the biggest clue is in the name “death-grind” combines the brutality of death metal with the ferociously fast speed of grindcore. So it’s loud, brutal, aggressive and fast; and about as melodic as a chainsaw… In Brujeria’s case, the grindcore elements come from Juan Brujo’s shouting and the overall feel and the speed of the music. There’s not a hell of a lot in the way of death metal on here, with the possible exception of drumming style and the odd guitar riff. These guys clearly just have a habit of bashing their instruments as hard as they can. The closest comparison I can think of would be Napalm Death – only in Spanish and with a slightly irritating vocal style.

As with their previous albums, the lyrical themes are pretty much the same: crime, drug use and smuggling all laced with a sizable amount of (possibly Mexican) slang, swear words and insults. For example Plata o Plomo is a clear reference to drug trafficking originally used by the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar. Bruja stands out as one of the very few tracks to feature a slight groove metal tinge in the guitars which makes it more tolerable than the majority of the album. Oh, and by tolerable I mean listenable – it is not great or even good by any means. The only decent song on here is their cover of The Dead Kennedys’ California Uber Aztlan which suits their style remarkably well.

In summary, to call this a death metal album would be a gross misunderstanding of the term. Brujeria’s chosen sound is primarily grindcore with the very occasional death metal tinge. As far as grindcore goes, it’s no match for bands like Napalm Death nor is it as fast or technical as The Berzerker nor as dark and creepy as Anaal Nathrakh.

2/5

Iza Raittila

Pain – Coming Home

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on 8th September 2016 by Pieni

Pain
“Coming Home”
Industrial metal
Released: 9th September 2016
Via Nuclear Blast Records

 photo Pain - Coming Home - Artwork_zpsomrno2ec.jpg

After Peter Tägtgren’s adventure with Till Lindemann last year, I thought he would focus on his “metal side” and release something with Hypocrisy. He didn’t. He stayed on the industrial track and Pain’s 8th studio album, “Coming Home”, came to life. Not that I’m complaining – I’m not included in the “you” that the opener “Designed To Piss You Off” targets – as this record is quite something. With big emphasis on orchestral arrangements, the melodies achieve a new level of dynamics; not enough to come up with a term like “symphonic industrial metal”, but its presence is strongly embedded – from the background of the grinding beat of “Pain In The Ass” to the highlights in the chorus of the acoustic, title-track ballad.

“A Wannabe” is also a ballad that starts up acoustic but has more spirit to it, very Pain-ish; and “Starseed”’s slow tempo sounds… haunting, like the soundtrack of old horror movies.

“Call Me” and “Final Crusade” are the heaviness prime ambassadors here, the former featuring Sabaton-Joakim Brodén to enhance the metal vibe – which doesn’t affect the catchiness of the chorus -, the latter literally marching down our ear canal. The aforementioned “Designed To Piss You Off” follows suit, although a great part of it is more rocky than heavy, with a whiff of American Old West. “Absinthe Phoenix Rising” is a nice rock tune as well.

And then “Black Knight Satellite” (ha, Peter and his alien conspiracy theories…) and “Natural Born Idiot” deliver some fetching electronic pieces, with that infectious rhythm your body just can’t resist to.

But despite all this diversity, all tracks blend together and fit naturally as “a part of the whole” that is “Coming Home”. Tägtgren and friends – including his own son Sebastian on the drums – took Pain one more step forward, introducing new elements without compromising the original identity of the project. Go Pain!

5/5

Renata “Pieni” Lino

Twilight Force – Heroes of Mighty Magic

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 26th August 2016 by mickbirchy

Twilight Force
Heroes of Mighty Magic
Power Metal
Released 26 August 2016
via Nuclear Blast

This is one spectacular album to try and sum up, but I’ll try my best. Twilight Force bring us their second offering in the form of, Heroes of Mighty Magic. With shades of Tobias Sammet’s Avantasia, Sonata Arctica and DragonForce, Twilight Force have crafted an epic and bold album that completely plays to their strengths. It’s ultimately a fun record that has the right balance of dignified quality and having that sense of fun. I’m not a fan of when power metal bands take themselves too seriously.

The album covers the usual topics that you would expect – mythical warfare, questing and just your usual dungeons and dragons template lyrics. You know, all that good stuff. So not a tonne different in this department. It still works though, without getting tiring. Vocalist, Chrileon just sells what he’s singing with such conviction that it’s hard to think he’s from another dimension.  The production does everything to make him sound awesome and when the choir comes in on the choral parts it really gets you going.

The music is really good as well, don’t think that I’d forgotten. Not only is the metal instrumentation excellent with belting guitar solos and well incorporated synths. When the orchestral instruments swell around the songs it just makes them so much more epic. Seriously there isn’t a dead spot on the entire record. Everything in the production truly comes together to make an entertaining epic. I also have to briefly mention how good the album art is. The design is amazing and the colours just leap out at you. The artist Kerem Beyit has really crafted something beautiful and imaginative

Overall. Wow, just simply wow. This album took (and is continuing to take) my breath away. It’s entertaining in all the right ways. I’ve not wanted to put this album down since the first listen.

5/5

Mick Birchall

Equilibrium – Armageddon

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 24th August 2016 by mickbirchy

Equilibrium
Armageddon
Folk Metal, Symphonic Black Metal
Released 12 August 2016
via Nuclear Blast

Equilibrium’s fifth album, Armageddon is everything that you want out of them. It’s big and bold. It hit’s really hard and gets you going. You will have to understand, going into this album, that I’m relatively new to their work and have only looked up them quite recently. Coming into this review I was completely blown away by the sheer scale of the album. Every part of the production is massive in delivery and even manages to have its fun jaunty moments. All of the songs are good and the writing really shines, even if I did have to look up some of the lyrics online.

The part of this album that I feel lets it down slightly is where is mushes the sounds together to get this muddied sound that’s a little too reliant on the guitars’ distortion. I feel this bogs the sound down somewhat and the guttural vocals aren’t helping. So what you get is this heavy mess of distorted noise. What saves it is the symphonic elements. The big orchestra sound really pulls the album together and gives the songs context. Along with the folk instrumentation, it highlights how fun and exciting Equilibrium are. In fact my favourite parts of the album are just the instrumental parts where there are no vocals.

For me personally Equilibrium’s Armageddon is a mixed goody bag. There are odd thing in it that’s just disappointing and I just don’t really like. Then you have the good moments that I find really impressive and interesting. I do feel the good outweighs the bad, as there is a lot of instrumental sections that have that epic quality to them. Overall I do enjoy this album and it definitely made me curious to check out their older material, so I can recommend it as a jumping on point for their music. It’s intricate enough and has a strong enough sound that you’ll want to listen to it a few times.

3.5/5

Mick Bichall