FEBRUARY 2002. Printable Reviews.

In January I thought I was doing so well keeping up with reviews that I expected to do two updates. But here it is the end of February and I am only now getting the update on. The reason for this is that I have been swamped with CD’s to review. Since it is the start of a new year, all the labels are unloading a slew of stuff. This also means that they have saved up some really good stuff for the first quarter of the year. So, while there is a lot of good stuff represented here, you can expect another really large update soon—I hope!. -Criticaltom.

BEER CITY RECORDS

VERY METAL “Hit and Run?(14 tracks. 23:44).

I’m a little out of my element here, but I think this band, despite their name, is something of a thrash punk metal band. In my opinion—and again, I feel a little disqualified on this one—Very Metal are something of a throwback to early Suicidal Tendencies and maybe early Corrosion of Conformity a la their Eye for an Eye album (a record I listened to once, loaned to my cousin, and never though about again until now!). All the elements of early thrash punk are there: the social commentary, the upbeat tempos, the fuzzy bass, and the quirky guitars. In other words, no Green Day, pop-punk, crossover, flavor-of-the-month music; just straight punk/metal. Not being very savvy in this department, I think this is as accurately as I can describe the music. But one certainly feels like we have the genuine article here.

CENTURY MEDIA

WEBSITE: CENTURY MEDIA

WARMEN “Beyond Abilities?(11 tracks. 46:42).
Whoa! is a great way to begin a review of this killer CD. Regardless of whether or not critics will mention this CD at the end of this year as one of their favorites, I guarantee that it will get a lot of rotation in my CD player, just as it already has. For years we have been calling nimble-fingered guitarists shredders, and now it seems appropriate to apply this term to Children of Bodom keyboardist, Janne “Warman?Wirman. And thanks to the ongoing U.S. distribution deal Century Media has with Spinefarm Records, this treasure of a CD will make its way into our country.

To the uninformed, Warmen is a solo project headed up by the aforementioned Janne Wirman, famed as the keyboard wizard for Finland’s Children of Bodom. He has surrounded himself with some of Finland’s greatest metallic warriors—and one American, Kimberly Goss—to create a real gem of a record. The overall sound is one that draws comparisons to Uli Jon Roth, the Edgar Winter Band, and some great Finnish classic metal bands a la Stratovarius, Sinergy, and so on. It also warrants comparisons to last year’s Avantasia “Metal Opera.? It even has some of the same players, singers. Frankly, I like Beyond Abilities even better than Metal Opera. So from my perspective, if you liked Avantasia, you’ll love Warmen.

Click here to read my interview with Warmen: WARMEN

EARACHE

WEBSITE: EARACHE

DECAPITATED “Nihility?(8 tracks. 35:07).

I have a take it or leave it attitude about death metal. Some bands really impress me and draw me into their sound. Others bore me. I can honestly say that Decapitated’s “Winds of Eternity?was one of the more recent death metal CD’s that really captured my interest. The thick sound of the guitars was clearly mixed with the drums and bass, unlike many blurry death metal albums. But not only that, they lead guitar work was dazzling. Their sound is an incredible blend of technicality with brutality, topped off with superb production. Surely this band deserves all the comments they have received about what a promising future they have. But then comes the concern: can they do it again? Can they beat the sophomore jinx?

Yes they can and yes they did. While I wouldn’t accuse them of charting new territory—and I don’t think a lot of death metal fans like experimentation—I would say unequivocally that they have produced an album that is more mature, even stronger than their debut. You may wonder when some writers claim that Decapitated have surpassed Vader, but after hearing them, you may be convinced. As for me, I’m tempted to agree, but I’ll reserve judgment for now. Just remember, Decapitated is one of the youngest bands in metal. If this is what they sound like now, just imagine what the future holds . . .

EPHEL DUATH “Rephormula?(13 tracks. 73:20).

Yes, keep bringing us the Italian metal. The Italians have been overlooked for too long and Ephel Duath are a great example of the excellent music that has been produced on that peninsula. Ephel Duath represent yet another incarnation of black metal. Their sound is a cross between the cold post-industrial black metal sound of Mayhem and Aborym, and the more triumphant form of black metal exemplified by bands like Dimmu Borgir. Thus ED oscillates between the harsh and beautiful. And like Aborym, the band uses a drum machine as opposed to live drums. However, the programmed drums are not intended to sound like a real drummer, but instead create an industrial sound. But unlike Aborym, ED are more melodic, not relying wholly on the harsh guitar, but using both guitars and keyboards to make memorable and diverse music. If this sounds odd to any reader, then I would suggest the reader is not too familiar with the larger world of black metal. Many bands have been drawn to the opposite extremes of industrial/ambient and black metal, bands from Aborym to Burzum Cadaver Inc.’s guitarist who spent time in Apoptygma Berzerk, and so on. I personally have felt drawn to both types of music and don’t feel their combination to seem unnatural. This band, in fact, combine these opposites quite effectively and interestingly. Finally, this CD is called “Rephormula?because it is a remastered version of ED’s second release, “Phormula,?with added tracks from their original demo, Opera. It also contains two remixes. This release marks their debut on Earache Records which is also the introduction to the world at large of the band’s music.

INDEPENDENT BANDS

SPARROW’S POINT “How Can You Blame Me??(12 tracks. 38:19).

I’m in the habit of reviewing practically anything that comes my way. I really don’t mind. But Sparrow’s Point represent something of a challenge to me as they appear to be something along the lines of alternative and nu-metal, styles I rarely engage. It sounds like a cross between Korn, Henry Rollins, Marylin Manson, and, at times, Prince. Weird as that may sound, I’ll stand by it. Lyrically they sound like candidates for people haters anonymous. It is a combination of adolescent whining (“Product?and “Down the Drain?, tough guy posturing (“Everywhere?and “Step to Me?, blasphemy (“When I Grow Up?, and loose sexuality. In other words, it is the nu-metal soundtrack for an unfilmed episode of MTV’s “The Real World? For this reason, I’m not a good candidate for reviewing this, and maybe that’s why I’ve been so slow about reviewing it.

But in order to be fair, let me say that the music is tight and well produced. This band has progressed beyond the “my parents bought us guitars for Christmas, let’s become a band?stage. They have a fairly uniform sound that they maintain throughout the record. But in the end, it is not my cup-o-tea.

Finally, I think there is a good message in the theme song, “Product.? While it is a bit of a “whine-fest,?it asks the question of parents: “How can you blame me? You fucking made me.? If the message is, “do you see me as a bother and an embarrassment? Do you wish I was never born? I AM your kid.? I think it is a question that many parents should be accountable to. God forbid that my two boys ever feel this way about me. On the other hand, if this is just indicative of a rebellious attitude by spoiled rich white suburban kids—like the Columbine idiots—then I have no sympathy. In the final analysis, as I have this tendency to wax philosophical about bands from time to time, let me end by saying that Sparrow’s Point has a lot to say about who they don’t like and what’s wrong with this world. My question is: where are you going with this? Are you just writing the kind of lyrics that are going to sell CD’s, or are you seeking answers to problems? Have you ever though about it?

URSHURARK “Architecture of Perfect Damnation?(8 tracks. 52:09).

If you haven’t heard too many death metal bands from Italy, it may be because Italian bands are only now getting recognized by the rest of the world. Several really good death metal bands hail from there including Arkenemy, Gory Blister, and this band, Urshurark. Urshurark, in fact, come across as a very violent and heavy, but also atmospheric death metal band with similarities to Polish and Swedish bands like Hate and Belfegor (not the Austrian Belphegor) and Carnal Forge. All the elements are here: blast beats, gutteral vocals, fast heavy guitars with chunky riffs, and some atmospheric keyboards in places. At the same time, this band clearly sounds like no other death metal band exactly. Unlike many death metal bands, they prefer to make their arrangements longer. This album is nearly twice as long as most death metal albums. Also, while the music is quite heavy and violent, it also contains a good deal of emotion. While I wouldn’t say they are totally unique, I would say that they are quite good and worthy of your attention. The production is excellent too. Fans of this kind of music would be quite satisfied with this product. Now if only the major labels would pay attentions . . .

To order, contact: Luca at Urshurark @ libero.it.

LIMB MUSIC PRODUCTS

WEBSITE: LIMB MUSIC PRODUCTS

HUMAN FORTRESS “Lord of Earth and Heaven’s Heir?(11 tracks. 50:46).

For the most part, I have been amazed and thrilled by the releases put out on LMP. Once again, I marvel at the discoveries this label has made. It seems that LMP exists for the purpose of discovering bands just like Human Fortress. Most impressive about this band is the voice of Jioti Parcharidis, who sounds like a young David Coverdale. He possesses a distinctive voice that possesses character, a voice that could become this band’s trademark. But he is not the only star in the band. Guitarists Torsten Wolf and Volker Trost, combined with keyboardist Dirk Marquardt, bassist Pablo J. Tammens, and drummer Apostolos Zaios form one of the tightest sounding classic metal bands I’ve heard. Of course you are thinking, “but there are so many great classic metal bands,?and I would have to agree. I could probably name twenty-five or thirty on the spot. But don’t sell this band short, Human Fortress have a great combination of elements that sound like more than just another classic metal band. I can’t say, for instance, that they are trying to imitate anyone, or ride on anyone’s coat tails. They just sound like a confident group of musicians who know what they want to do. These songs are great. In a word: talent.

RHAPSODY “Rain of a Thousand Flames (7 tracks. ).

From the first moment I heard them, Rhapsody has been one of my favorite bands. So any new release that comes along from this truly great band is like a Christmas present to me. But what is even better is that this album length release is just a “tide-me-over?until the next album comes out. Interesting, because all seven of these songs are new and contain all the expected Rhapsody elements: Luca Turilli’s godly guitar work, Alex Staropoli’s equally impressive keyboards, Fabio Lione’s divine vocals (you know the other two musicians are also great), the choirs, and the strings. And yet, this is not to be known as Rhapsody’s album for 2002. How about that? So aside from enjoying this awesome new release from Rhapsody which sounds like a great combination of their previous three albums, I have another one to look forward to before the end of the year. Life is good!

LOST DISCIPLE

WEBSITE LOST DISCIPLE

DUSK “Mourning . . . Resurrected? (11 tracks. )

Until hearing this disc, I might have said that November’s Doom or Morgian were my favorite American doom metal bands. But after FINALLY getting to hear Dusk, I may have to change my mind. Fans of the aforementioned doom masters, as well as fans of Divine Eve and Paramaecium (Australia), could not be more satisfied than with this album. It is heavy, thick, atmospheric, and doomy with a very grinding edge to it all. It is one of those albums where the band will get on a certain riff and you want to go, “yeah, this really kicks ass!? Originally, the material which appears on this album are from the band’s two releases, “”Dusk,?(1994) and “Majestic Thou in Ruin?(1995), and a bonus track from the Visionaries of the Macabre compilation put out last year on Lost Disciple. The cover art is a combination of the covers from those two albums. I know now why Rich at Lost Disciple did not want to let this album fade into obscurity, because it is absolutely essential to all purveyors of true atmospheric death/doom. Don’t pass it by.

NUCLEAR BLAST

WEBSITE: NUCLEAR BLAST

HYPOCRISY “Catch 22?(10 tracks. 41:46).
Here’s another triumphant return from the band that won’t go away despite their own best intentions to give it up! I guess Hypocrisy is a habit that Tagtgren and his buddies just can’t give up. Catch 22 sees the Hypocrisy boys continuing along the path charted on last years?Into the Abyss. In my humble opinion, that means taking Hypocrisy’s very brutal death style and giving it a melodic feel. The result is something like Paradise Lost meets Megadeth meets Death (e.g., “Destroyed?and “Uncontrolled?. What is especially refreshing about Hypocrisy is that every song has a sense of identity that is independent of the other songs. Catch 22 is just one of those kind of death metal CD’s where you can actually remember the individual songs and say, “yeah, I especially like track number six on the CD,?whereas with other death metal bands, distinguishing between songs is an exercise in subtlety.

RED STREAM

WEBSITE: RED STREAM

JUDAS ISCARIOT “To Embrace the Corpses Bleeding?(9 tracks. 38:16).

Akhenaton could not have chosen a more appropriate name for his black metal project. Reading the words printed on the inside cover of this CD reveals that if this guy is serious, then he is one of the most poisoned individuals alive today—a modern day Judas to humanity. It is also possible that his words are all talk and indicative of the sort of propaganda he supposedly disdains in order to gain the approval of black metal elitists who have a “screw you?attitude towards anyone who doesn’t share their interests. In other words, I’m saying that all his “tough talk?may be aimed at impressing a segment of the music buying population who claims to not be impressed by trends. (Is it possible for two people to agree on a style of music without it becoming a trend?) Regardless, he certainly belongs in the same club as Varg Vikernes. That being said, it seems to me that To Embrace the Corpses Bleeding is Akhenaton’s finest accomplishment musically. It sounds like he has made a very conscious attempt at creating an album to rival Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. The sound, the production, even the riffs hint at Euronymous and Hellhammer influence. And vocally, Akhenaton sounds like a more sane version of Attila Csahir. Throw in a little early Bathory influence and a tip of the hat to Celtic Frost (“Spectral Dance of the Macabre? and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what this new album by Akhenaton sounds like. It certainly blows his last two efforts, Heaven in Flames and Dethroned, Conquered, and Forgotten away. Lyrically, it is inspired by his time spent in Romania, particularly in Skagburg and Kronstadt, places where Vlad the Impaler once roamed. I wonder if it has ever occurred to Akhenaton and people like him that Vlad, while certainly insane, saw himself as a defender of Christendom? Perhaps this inconsistency also explains why Akhenaton never returned the interview questions I sent him over a year ago. Whatever the case may be, I applaud him for his music, but not for his views.

KRIEG “Destruction Ritual?(11 tracks. 43:58)

Krieg’s battle ready version of black metal is harsh and barbaric like a non-stop bombing attack. While some would question the musicality of this primitive one-man band, I find it strangely fascinating. Without knowing anything about Imperial, the man behind this madness, I think it is safe to assume he is a fan of early Bathory (The Return and Under the Sign of the Black Mark) and Darkthrone (Transylvanian Hunger). At least these are the comparisons that Destruction Ritual brings to mind. Imperial’s raw, tortured dungeon vocals certainly bring to mind some of Fenriz’s most agonizing moments, and the song structures more resemble Bathory. Many of the songs, in fact, make me think of Bathory tunes like “Call from the Grave? In terms of production, Krieg sits clearly between the two; that is, its high end treble, with absolutely no bass guitars whatsoever, brings Darkthrone to mind, yet it is fuller than Darkthrone, more like Bathory. All this is obviously intentional as the information printed in the booklet indicate. Statements like, “sheer audial (should be, aural) torture?and “independent of fancy equipment?informs the listener that Imperial has no desire to create something polished or musically correct. Like I said, strangely fascinating. I’m sure I’ve heard Krieg before, but I don’t remember the music being quite so harsh. Regardless, this is definitely a genre piece that’s not for the weak!

SENSORY

WEBSITE: SENSORY

EDENBRIDGE “Arcana?(12 tracks. 60:03).

Edenbridge’s first CD, Sunrise in Eden, really enchanted me last year. Let’s make that a ditto for this year. Arcana is another superb platter of very commercial classic metal with Sabine Edelsbacher’s sweet vocals. She has a real lovely voice that sounds like she has been trained to sing. Certainly comparisons to Nightwish and Lacuna Coil are deserved, but Edenbridge have a more neo-classical sound. And they are also very radio friendly while still sounding metal. But don’t miss the heart-wrenching ballad, “A Moment in Time.? To me, they are the perfect combination of band and vocalist, composition and lyric. I expect their popularity to grow tremendously. And if it doesn’t, I will personally be offended. It should also be noted that this album was mixed by Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, producer of Adagio). He has a masterful ear. Those of you who want to hear something on the light side of metal which will enchant you could not do any better than to pick this one up.

THE END RECORDS

WEBSITE: THE END RECORDS

Click Here to read an interview of Sleepless by my friend, Mark1340 of 1340mag.com. Go to home page

Go to archive page

Go to New Reviews Page 1