REVIEWS 2003 VOL. 3

Ratings for releases reviewed here are based on my mood and emotions as much as any technical criteria I may employ!  Remember too that genre considerations must be made (i.e., primitive black metal should be primitive sounding!).  The top picks this time around are Green Carnation “Blessing in Disguise” and Elis “God’s Silence, Devil’s Temptation.”

 

BATTLELORE  “Sword’s Song” (12 tracks).  NAPALM.

Rating:  9.

          Of all the Lord of the Rings oriented metal bands, Battlelore are by far the most inspired.   I realize that this will be considered heresy to all the Blind Guardian fans, just note that while I have about five or six BG albums, this is the only Battlelore CD I own.  But I have not made this statement lightly.  They smoke!  Their music is epic, majestic classical/power metal where gruff male vocals and beautiful female vocals.  A great combination in my opinion.

 

BRAVE  “Searching for the Sun”  (11 tracks). DARK SYMPHONIES.

Rating:  7.5.

          This review is well overdue, being delayed by my self-imposed hiatus (late 2002 – early 2003).  I was weary of the writing process and just shelved everything for a while.  Anyway, Brave is a new name for Arise Among Thorns (released on Dark Symphonies in 2001).  The new name indicates a new direction in sound, though the change is not that dramatic in my view.  Admittedly neither “dark” nor “symphonic”, Brave are nevertheless serious music, not pop per se.  They exist in a category loose enough to hold bands of various degrees of heaviness/softness such as the Gathering, Lacuna Coil, Edens Bridge, and Six Pence.  But perhaps the nearest approximation would be the Gathering.  From the sweet soothing strains of “Falling into Bliss” to the more metallic “Trapped Inside”, Brave demonstrate songwriting as a craft that includes dynamics and finesse, though it can get to be a little to lulling.  This is the sort of music you may want to turn to for ease after a few hours of brain pummeling death metal.

 

DARK SHIFT  “The Assault”  (10 tracks.  55:15).  SELF-PRODUCED.

Rating:  6.

          The Assault is a pretty decent example of American thrash metal.  It has that late 90’s sound which everyone associates with Metallica’s “black” album for lack of any other reference point, but is a lot less mainstream than Metallica.  My guess is that these guys may have been more into bands like early Anthrax, and if they are into Christian metal, bands like Deliverance and especially Eternal Decision.  Dark Shift, in fact, sound almost exactly like Eternal Decision right down to the vocals.  The riffs are chunky and crisp and are accented by some tight drumming.  Joel Wanasek is no doubt the hero of this band.  He plays lead guitar like one who is well-experienced and has done a commendable job in the area of production.  Thus, the Assault is an example of what can be done well with limited financial resources.  Nevertheless, there is one area in need of improvement.  Lewie Snyder’s vocals are not bad, but the growling parts will not pass as recorded here.  Perhaps experience or experimentation will help him find a sound that better fits the music.  I may be nitpicking here, but it is a distraction.  Overall, though, I suspect that Dark Shift make for a good live show.  Time and experience may be key to their success.

          The Assault can be ordered online for $10 at www.darkshift.com.

 

DEATH MACHINE “Death Machine” (12 tracks).  SENSORY.

Rating:  8.

          This is some heavy duty, complex death inspired metal.  Of course, this is what you might expect from a band better known as Zero Hour.  So what you have here, basically, is a prog. metal band playing death metal, thus the alternate name.  It is heavier than Zero Hour and the vocals are much more extreme, but otherwise the complexity of the arrangements sounds like ZH.  It doesn’t really move me, but I think the intricacy of the musicianship deserves at least an 8. 

 

DRAWN AND QUARTERED  “Extermination Revelry”  (10 tracks).  MORIBUND.

Rating:  8.5.

          It’s been a while since I’ve heard a band with this much death metal conviction to warrant the phrase “serious grindage.”  But grind it does.  Chainsaw guitars, blast beats, and deep gutteral vocals make DaQ a solemn reminder of what metal was back in the day.  And that is the value of this album for me, that is, it is not an attempt to be intelligent or inventive, it just kicks ass.  Produced by none other than James Murphy—which should tell you something.  They are formerly known as Plague Bearer.

 

ELIS  “God’s Silence, Devil’s Temptation” (11 tracks).  NAPALM RECORDS.

Rating:  9.5.

It is introduced to us as gothic in the promo sheet, but their similarities to bands like Nightwish, Sins of Thy Beloved, Tristania, Therion, and Edenbridge make Elis sound more like a hybrid of classic/progressive metal and goth.  Frankly, I think they lean more towards the classic metal end of the spectrum.  Nevertheless, the angelic female vocals contrasted with the gruff male vocals, along with the art and subject matter speak to gothic tastes.  The guitars are very much there, but the real musical highlights are the melodic keyboards and incredibly beautiful female vocals (thus the comparison to Edenbridge).  I really like this album and expect to be listening to it for a while.  Formerly known as ERBEN DER SCHOPFUNG, Elis will likely be getting more really great press.

 

ENCRYPTOR  “Sermon Decay” (8 tracks).  Dysmorphic Records.

Rating:  Primitive!

          Some bands take pride in their sheer brutality.  Encryptor is surely one of those bands.  Track after track plods on a Godzilla-like path of grinding guitar sludge, blast beats, and deep, gutteral vocals.  No doubt fans of Mortician and Vomitorial Corpulance will kill for a copy of this CD.  It is definitely an acquired taste.  Band contact:  Felipe Diez. Eastern University Box 3051.  1300 Eagle Rd., St. Davids, PA. 19087-3696.

 

FREAKHOUSE  “Beautiful Misery” (11 Tracks).  REALITY ENTERTAINMENT.

          This modern heavy hitting rock band is the sort of thing emerging from the post-grunge/alternative shift back towards metal.  It’s not my type of music but I can see how many would be drawn to it.  It is co-produced by the mighty Joe Floyd.  It is in a league with Kabang (see below).

 

GREEN CARNATION  “Blessing in Disquise” (12 tracks).  SEASON OF MIST.

Rating:  10.

          Last year’s “Light of Day, Day of Darkness” continues to be one of my favorite albums.  Composed of Tchort (Emperor, Carpathian Forest, etc.) and members of In the Woods, what more could you expect than pure artistic genius.  Yet for some people, “Light of Day …” was a bit overwhelming, because it had only one track at over 60 min. (Weaklings!)  Well on this new album you can experience a true metallic classic from this band in 12 easy to swallow, bite-sized chunks.  And it’s all good!  Make that, great!

          Blessing in Disguise maintains their Green Carnation’s penchant for mixing dark mood and childhood innocence in a slightly different way from the previous two albums.   The sound is still recognizable, but they opt for a sort of Katatonia framework, maybe with a touch of Amorphis’ Elegy. Overall it has a kind of heavy Moody Blues vibe.  On the press sheet Opeth is mentioned as a comparison.  This is not too off the mark if you are thinking in terms of the Damnation acoustic album.  But I prefer the Katatonia/Amorphis comparison. 

          An album like this should seriously win a grammy.  It is the kind of CD I would buy if I weren’t doing this website and getting the promo version.  (In fact, I did purchase the first GC CD after hearing Light of Day).  Season of Mist are lucky to have them!

 

JEZEBEL  “Legiones Del Sur”  (12 tracks.  63:04).  CRUZ DEL SUR MUSIC.

Rating:  8.

Cruz Del Sur has done well with this aggressive Argentinean band.  You might almost take them for a Swedish band because of their very polished use of melody, dual lead guitars, and clean vocals.  Of course, the Spanish lyrics will tell you otherwise, but I am “okay” with that.  The only gripes I have with Jezebel are the same I have with all bands in this category:  first, their music is almost too perfect.  Second, the vocals can get a little monotonous after the hour mark.  Still, this album has a good amount of excitement to offer the classic/power metal enthusiast.

 

KABANG  “Equilibrium” (7 tracks).  TRIBRO RECORDS.

Rating:  7.

          When I first saw the name “Kabang” I was expecting some sort of nu-metal album.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Kabang are something of a modern band who are way to heavy to be called alternative.  They make me think of bands like King’s X, Dust for Life, and Extreme.  It’s almost commercial, but in a gritty blue collar sort of way.  Contact the band by e-mail:  KABANG1@aol.com or P.O. Box 772344 Orlando, FL. 32877-6359.

 

LEVIATHAN  “The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide”  (10 tracks).  MORIBUND.

Rating:  8.5.

Words like “progressive” do not apply here.  Leviathan revels in that dark, primitive void created by the likes of early Bathory and Darkthrone and inhabited by other ghosts such as Judas Iscariot, with maybe a little Satyricon and Mayhem influence here and there mixed with some atmospheric passages in the vein of Burzum (Filosofem).  In other words, there is a great deal of synthesis of black metal styles taking place here, very well done and convincing to be sure.  The big difference between Leviathan and their influences is production, The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide has excellent production—remember that in this type of metal good production means clarity of instruments rather than lush sounds!  Imagine The Return of Bathory meets Burzum’s Filosofem and you’ve got this album.  Before signing to Moribund, single-member Wrest produced 6 demos and 9 CD-R’s for a total of 15 releases averaging 7-12 songs each.  Some of the best of those releases were put out in 2002 on 2 CD’s by Tumult Records.  But now, after honing his chops, Wrest has given his newest to Moribund.

 

MACABRE  “Murder Metal”  (13 tracks).  SEASON OF MIST.

Rating:  ??

          Frankly I don’t feel right rating this release.  It isn’t my thing.  I find it hard to take seriously on the one hand, and hard to listen to on the other.  For those of you not in the know, Macabre write songs about serial killers and the like.  But the songs are rather tongue-in-cheek.  If this sounds like your kind of thing, check’em out.

 

MONSTROSITY  “Rise to Power”  (11 tracks.  47:53).  CONQUEST MUSIC, INC.

Rating:  8.

          When I first started reviewing CD’s it was mostly for the doom and black metal stuff I enjoy so much.  I had little use for death metal.  For me, most death metal was this chaotic and blurry noise that occupied 30 some odd minutes on a CD.  Many releases sound like one long song because there is practically no distinction in songs.  But bands like Monstrosity make death metal appealing to me, because they have the following concepts down:  clarity of production, diversity of tempo, catchy riffs, and meaningful solos.  In other words, they put the “metal” back into death metal.  Of course there are other fine death metal bands I enjoy, but of the distinctive Florida sound, Monstrosity are among with the best.

 

SARGEIST  “Satanic Black Devotion” (9 tracks.  41:34).  MORIBUND.

Rating:  8.

Now a band entity and no longer a solo side project of Shatraug, Sargeist makes their Moribund debut with “Satanic Black Devotion,” an album that embodies the true essence of dungeon black metal.  Taking a nod from Quorthon’s tortured vocal delivery on the early Bathory albums, Shatraug belts out 9 extreme tunes which makes you wonder if the guy drinks gasoline for fun.  Musically, Sargeist is pretty straight-ahead black metal with noticeable affinities to early Bathory and several of the better Bathory-inspired bands of the recent past.  This is a good thing because Sargeist has done an excellent job of embodying the spirit of nascent black metal without compromising production (contra Darkthrone).  The songs have discernable structure and do not sound like one long blur—a problem with a lot of primitive sounding bands. 

 

SIEGFRIED  “Eisenwinter” (10 tracks).  NAPALM.

Rating:  9.

          When I first heard Siegfried I had guessed they were a collaboration between members of Vintersorg, Morgenstern, and Sins of Thy Beloved, all Napalm artists.  I found out instead that this band was founded by Bruder Cle (a.k.a. Hagen) and Daniel Bachmair (a.k.a. Orwin) previously in Sarcasm Syndrome, but are supplemented by Roland Wurzer (Darkwell) on bass, Moritz Neuner (Darkwell, Abigor) on drums, Sandra Schleret (ex Dreams of Sanity) on vocals, and a third vocalist, Werner Bialek.  So what can a band with three vocalists and an arsenal of mostly Napalm talent create?  How about an epic release of Wagnerian/Teutonic power?  That’s it.  Believe me, fans of Vintersorg, Morgenstern, and Sins of Thy Beloved will love this album.

 

SILVER MOUNTAIN  “Breakin’ Chains” (13 tracks).  REALITY ENTERTAINMENT.

Rating:  8.5.

          This album is deliberately aimed, in my view, at the fan of 80’s Metal.  It says at much in the tray insert.  But of course, with a name like “Silver Mountain” and an album title like “Breakin’ Chains” how could you miss the point?  It is commercial but edgy and totally lives up to the expectations.  Listening to this album transports me to my adolescent years of hearing bands like Malmsteen, MSG, Deep Purple, the Scorpions, and the like on the radio and Night Flight videos.  Guitarist—and vocalist, incidentally—Jonas Hansson more than once reminds me of one of my favorite guitarists, Uli Jon Roth, on this disc.  If this is your thing you shouldn’t miss it.

 

UNDER THREAT  “Behind Mankind’s Disguise” (12 tracks).  CONQUEST.

Rating:  8.5.

          I lost the promo sheet on this one, so I cannot remember if they are American or German (or otherwise).  Anyway, Under Threat conjure up memories of At the Gates and early In Flames.  The emphasis here is on both excellent production as well as killer riffing.  Melody is not a “softening” agent here either, but it exists to give the music a sense of identity much like in In Flames songs.  In my opinion Behind Mankind’s Disguise is a strong album with some great, memorable songs.  Fans of Gothenburg bands will find UT a near cousin. 

 

WWIII  “When God Turned Away”  (  ). 

Rating:  9.

With legendary guitarist Joe Floyd (Warrior) and vocalist Mandy Lion could there ever be any doubt about what a powerful release this is?  From beginning to end it smokes.  It even has a new version of “Fighting for the Earth” on it.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

THE NEW MEGALITH CD IS RELEASED!  MP3 Track at www.megalith-online.com!

Megalith, the new Band of former Agathodaimon-Guitarist Hyperion, have released their new CD "Spirit Soldiers / Soldaten des Geistes". It comes with a professional production, a 28-page booklet and a full-colour cover. "Spirit Soldiers" features 16 Heavy-Black-Metal Songs (10 Songs plus 4 Bonustracks plus 2 Intros) with a total playing time of 70 Minutes. It can be ordered at our website for only 10 Euros plus postage. This CD might very well create a scandal!  "Spirit Soldiers" can be ordered at www.megalith-online.com for 12 Euros or 12 Dollars including postage and packaging, or by post at:

 

Carl Lang

Hegelstr. 45, 16. Stock

55122 Mainz

GERMANY

 

PROG-METAL EUROPE FEST. 2004

"Well, it took us a while but the line-up for this year's ProgPower festival is complete. The last 3 bands are ELEGY from The Netherlands, AT VANCE from Germany and Swedish EVERGREY, who will headline the festival on Sunday October 5, 2003. This will be an exclusive gig for Evergrey, which means that they do not do any other shows around that date in The Netherlands, Belgium or Germany.

 

So the complete line-up in no particular order is:

EVERGREY (swe), VANDENPLAS (ger), AT VANCE (ger), NIGHTINGALE (swe), GREEN CARNATION (nor), ELEGY (hol), PAGAN'S MIND (nor), NOVEMBRE (it), CHROME SHIFT (dk), ANDROMEDA (swe), SYMMETRY (hol), XYSTUS (hol)

 

Ticket sales has already started and so far we got orders from several countries in Europe like France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and FInland. So again the crowd will be very international, which immediately shows the unique character of such a festival. So better order your tickets right away before it's too late, we only have limited number of tickets for sale."

 

Free Black Metal from SORROWSTORM

This is Felipe Diez "Ogrus Storm," informing you that our website http://www.mp3.com/sorrowstorm has 11 full length songs on it for you to download!!! If you are hungry for black metal (or not), then it would definately be a treat for you to download these songs!

 

The Funeral Oath EP has been practically sold out. All but 4 copies out of the 250 that were pressed are now in the hands of fans, webzines, and radiostations. Due to the low number of copies, I have placed ALL 3 SONGS FROM THIS EP at http://www.mp3.com/sorrowstorm  THOSE OF YOU who do not own this EP can now listen to these 3 songs fully. Here's what you can do.

 

1. You can download them all, so that Sorrowstorm (a christian band) can go up in the black metal charts,

thus telling the black metal world that Christians can and will succeed. You will be helping a great cause

while listening to brutal black metal with good production!

 

2. You can burn as many copies of these mp3s into CD as you want. Pass them out to your friends, etc. Have them on your hard drive so that you can listen to them every time you go to the computer, and burn them so you can put the songs in your car or stereo!

 

3. If you have a zine, radio, or some form of media, you can review the mp3s!

 

Those of you who have not downloaded all 8 songs from the "Caverns of Grief" debut album should do this also, to see our first works and burn them onto cd also, that is if you don't already have the cd, which was limited to 300 copies and now totally out of print. No more of these will be made, and I cannot burn copies for anyone, due to time constraints. BUT DOWNLOAD THOSE 8 SONGS PLUS THE 3 NEW SONGS, and burn them yourselves :):):)

 

Don’t forget to visit Metal Maniacs on the internet:  www.metalmaniacs.com.

 

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