JANUARY 2002. Printable Reviews.
If Onward’s first release, Evermoving, sounding like an outlet for Toby Knapp’s guitar gymnastics, this album sounds more like a classic metal band with a hot guitarist. From the opening of the CD and throughout, Onward are a tight unit. Frankly, I was expecting another standard classic metal release with the standard riffs, solos, ballads, and so on. What I got was a total surprise; that is, an album that didn’t just impress me, it excited me. And with this album this band distinguishes themselves as candidates for the position of new metal icons. They may just achieve a status equal to greats like Iced Earth, Nevermore, or maybe even Judas Priest. But don’t dismiss my opinion as naive optimism (I am 33 after all!), give it a listen and you’ll hear just what I mean. Also, listen for the cover of Loudness?“Clockwork Toy.?#060;p> Coming soon: Warmen.
LAMENT “Breathless?(10 tracks. 42:18).
Endurance is a sign of excellence. And if any band has had obstacles to overcome, it is definitely Lament. From labels to band members, Abel and Iram Gomez have weathered some trials and emerged stronger than ever. Now they return with their third and finest album yet. Breathless contains everything that I personally loved about Through the Reflection, only better. While the descriptive term “Death Metal?seems like an appropriate way to describe their music, it needs some clarification. First, Lament’s music here, while very oriented to the Death Metal scene, it is very melodic and atmospheric. On the previous album, Through the Reflection, there were many passages where the guitar parts alternated between heavy and acoustic, and the bass work of Iram served to provide much of the movement and melody. The same is true here, but on top of that, new guitarist, Benjamin, adds lots of dual guitar melodies on top of the bass movement. This adds a stronger feel to the music and adds a greater sense of legitimacy to the band. What am I saying here? Well, I’m saying that Lament doesn’t sound like some cheesy flavor-of-the-month nu-metal crap from your local Christian bookstore. They sound like a METAL BAND. They have purposely created an album that could be sold alongside any secular atmospheric death metal album. Second, if you thought Abel’s voice was brutal on Tears of a Leper, and harsh on Through the Reflection, now you will hear that he does sing with a real voice. In many places on this new album Abel shows that he has a clear baritone voice that adds to the music quite well. So you see, not only does this band persevere, but they also make advancements.
The question was once asked about Jesus, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth??(John 1:46). Perhaps you doubters may be asking the same sort of question about Lament: “Can any good death metal come out of Mexico?? Well, in the words of Phillip said to Nathanael, “Come and see.? The longstanding prejudice against metal from south of the border needs to end, because Americans and Europeans will be the poorer for it. You have my word on it.
STONER KINGS “Brimstone Blues?(10 tracks).
Perhaps I am a little thick, but I cannot understand why I have read a few reviews of this band where people cast a negative view on their name. What’s wrong with the name? Is there a band of the stoner rock genre that isn’t a little pompous sounding? Isn’t that part of the appeal of this somewhat flamboyant style of music? Frankly, this band sounds quite comfortable in their genre, and while whether they are the kings or not is a matter of preference, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, nor a band by its moniker. In the words of Aerosmith, “let the music do the talking.?#060;p> Musically, while the Stoner Kings fit snugly in the musical category suggested by their name, they sound much like an amalgam of the Cult and Trouble, Rose and Lowrider, and some of Cathedral’s more psychedelic-disco moments, and an occasional hint of Judas Priest. Above the tight playing of the band are the sassy vocals of Starbuck, a man whose voice sounds just like what you would expect from someone with a past in pro wrestling (hence the element of flamboyancy!). He is something of a blend of Robert Plant, Dale Thompson, and that guy with the Black Crowes, old what’s-his-name. But underneath it all is a seriousness that can be detected in the lyrics. Listen for them, they may just be a challenge to you.
TORMAN MAXT “The Foolishness of God?(12 tracks).
It’s kind of funny that as I write this review, my wife is watching the movie Blast from the Past on television in the next room. This album, the second from that oddly named band, Torman Maxt, is like a blast from the past. Specifically, they sound a lot like a blend of Boston and Supertramp. This trio, composed of the Massaro brothers, play a very commercial form of progressive rock/metal and sound very adept at it. The comparison to Boston and Supertramp is not, by the way, a close comparison in terms of horseshoes and hand grenades, but rather a very accurate description of their sound. But of course, bands with this sound today exist and appear mainly on labels like Magna Carta. In a more modern sense, perhaps comparisons to Mullmuzzler, Spock’s Beard, and Transatlantic are appropriate. So what makes this talented band different? It is their message. Torman Maxt is a band that unflinchingly expresses their faith in Jesus Christ and does so in an intellectual form appropriate to the style of music they play. The title, “The Foolishness of God?is taken from the writings of the Apostle Paul which describes the message of the Gospel as seeming foolish to the world. Once again, how appropriate as many who listen to metal think the message of the Gospel is foolishness. Perhaps those who feel this way should listen and judge for themselves, that what may seem like the “foolishness of God?may in actuality turn out to be the “power of God.? I recommend it.
Find Torman Maxt at: RADROCKERS
After all these years, Entombed still sound mad as hell, and this undeniably talented band return with one of their strongest albums to date, Morning Star. While the days of Clandestine and Left Hand Path are gone and lamented by some, it seems to me that Entombed aren’t really much different from their early days in terms of sound or aggression, though the style is obviously different. Morning Star has done nothing to take the edge off of these Swedish veterans, nor has it found them to be any more musically correct. Conversely, it could be regarded as a bit of a return to former aggressiveness. But again, I’m sure the Death Metal purists will complain because it isn’t the same as the old Entombed music. (They would probably be complaining if it did sound like the old Entombed.) The one thing that I would take issue with is the lyrical content. I never cease to be amazed at how some bands can write 10 to 12 anti-Christian songs a year. If there has ever been a bandwagon trend in metal, this is definitely it. In an ironic way, it is a “safe?subject to write about, though it exhibits a lack of creativity after about 5 albums and 50 or so songs! Look, I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but I see no reason to launch a crusade against him. Sooner or later people will either get the point or tire of such lyrical unilateralism. Anyway, all that said, Morning Star is a very satisfying album musically, one that will rank high among their best. And as usual, dedicated to old El Diablo!
You would have to be pretty unimaginative to not know what this band sounds like. The title, “Rawk n?Roll?says it all. But if you just need confirmation, here is a clue: Roadsaw play a gritty style of American hard rock which is a near cousin of stoner rock, yet maintains more of a classic rock vibe. In other words, fans of Solarized, Atomic Bitchwax, Scene Killer and the like will be quite pleased with the plodding, fuzzy bass, chunky guitar riffs, and gritty vocals this band pulls off. And as a matter of fact, there are some downright groovy moments here. I think Lenny Kravitz ought to be jealous at some of the funkier riffs. But of course, Roadsaw are heavier than LK. This band/album is also for fans of Meteorcity bands like Lowrider and the Mushroom River Band. But the key word with this band is attitude. That attitude is summed up in the title, “Rawk n?Roll? Sassy, witty, funky, and catchy, that about sums it up.
Now THIS is cold, Norwegian metal! It is the best I’ve heard in a long time. I haven’t heard much of Immortal’s music up to this point, and much of what I’ve heard has been long ago. But if this album is any indication of their previous works, I’m going to buy them all. I do have one of their previous albums, Damned in Black, and from listening to that album, it sounds like these guys put in a little extra punch for their Nuclear Blast debut. (I assume that is great news to those of you who are more familiar with this band.) I realize that each Norwegian band has their own strength and appeal, but for me, Sons of Northern Darkness is a much more satisfying album than the latest from Zyklon, Emperor, etc. In my opinion it is an obvious trend that the majority of Norwegian bands are moving back towards death metal, but while these two Immortal albums of mine have a definite death metal production (a la Peter Tagtgren and Abyss Studios), both are unmercifully cold sounding. I imagine that Immortal’s only real hindrance to greater success up to this point is that their previous label was so horribly run here in the U.S. Now on a more reliable label, Nuclear Blast, and with a killer release such as this, I can envision this band gaining some real recognition.
Coming soon: Hypocrisy and Defaced.
Despite my lack of ability to understand the German language, the atmosphere on this CD brings to mind reminiscences of the Weimar cinema. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, the Weimar cinema was roughly the period between WWI and WWII when such films as Metropolis (Fritz Lang), Nosferatu (Murnau, recently parodied in Shadow of the Vampire), and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari were made. Where those films lacked the budgets and the sophisticated technology available to filmmakers today, they made up with visual ingenuity. Thus the Weimar Cinema became the greatest expression of German Expressionism. Could it be, then, that Bethlehem have taken this German art form and melded it with Metal? It seems so. Whatever the case may be, the music is very dark. At times it is soothing and at times it is harsh. It is heavier and much more interesting than gothic, but it really isn’t black metal by my definition, so I think it could best be described as progressive dark metal. As a sort of bonus—or maybe consolation!—the American release includes a bonus disc of just musical soundscapes, themes from the album itself. It itself is over an hour long! I have no doubt that this is a concept album, but it is practically impossible for me to decipher what that is. Whatever it is, it sounds good anyway.
If you are like me you like a challenge, and Scholemance more than fits the bill in those terms. Infinitely complex musically, with disturbing lyrical imagery, Scholemance paint quite an unsettling picture, one that is hard to decipher. And the artwork, with a CD cover that hints at self-inflicted stigmata, the overall feel of the album is oppressively dark. Further, it defies simple categorization. Is it black metal or death metal? Progressive perhaps. Imagine Dimmu Borgir with very odd rhythms and Chopin on the keys. Or perhaps Arcturus in a really bad mood! Regardless, this band reminds me that not all of the exceptionally great metal bands hail from Europe. Frankly, I would pit them against any of Europe’s prized metal possessions. But confound it if I just can’t find the right words to describe their music. Suffice it to say that if you thought their last release, A Treatise on Love, was something, prepare to graduate to the next level. Finally, notice too that the album comes with two discs. Disc one is the actual album. Disc two is a sound track containing some of the songs on the first disc minus the harsh vocals, and a few others. In a phrase: mind-boggling!
VADER “Armageddon?(20 tracks. 73:03).
So the kings of Polish Death Metal make another label move, this time to System Shock, distributed here in the U.S. by The End Records. This is the band from Eastern Europe that rivals Morbid Angel, and if you have not heard them, you may have never heard real death metal. This is because few bands in my opinion have truly been able to blend such brutal and heavy death metal with such clear production and memorable riffs. There is no compromising and no commercializing with this band, and frankly, they don’t seem to get stale either. So they have doubtless been inspirational for other Polish bands like Hate and Decapitated. Anyway, what we have here is a compilation of songs from Vader’s sixteen year career including some rare trax. So whether you are a fan of the band or a curious consumer, I unhesitatingly suggest it to you. You would have to be a poseur not to like it.
Also available: VIRGIN BLACK (*****) and GREEN CARNATION (*****), two very impressive albums.
Marduk may be better known, but Belphegor of Austria may actually be the most blasphemous of all bands. One doesn’t even need to hear the raw but brutal black/death metal on this album to know this, just look at the artwork. It is quite sick. And when I get a release such as this one I am always torn between telling you how great the music is, and objecting to the imagery. Frankly, Belphegor is an excellent black/death metal band, but their imagery goes beyond decency in my opinion. I’m not referring here to the inverted crosses or pentagrams, but to the naked woman holding an infant with a slit stomach, draining its blood into a cauldron. I find this unacceptable.
This re-issue is specifically for the United States and contains bonus tracks from the demo which preceded this, their first album.
BELPHEGOR “Blutsabbath?(Re-issue). (9 tracks. 35:37).
Once again, we have an album with some awesome black/death metal and great production. Belphegor’s brutal sound is not a matter of speed, but of versatility. They play equally well at any tempo. And while the usual trappings of inverted crosses and pentagrams reappear—imagery which carries little shock value anymore, the front cover depicts the very kind of image that make parents paranoid and hysterical. It features a woman who has slit an inverted cross into her chest and has blood smeared all over her. While I find it hard to believe that it is real, it certainly looks real. I assume that this band uses such imagery because they want to push the envelope a bit, but also because they probably could care less about opinions like mine. It is up to you, the listener, to decide if the excellent music is worth the disgusting imagery.
DAWN OF DREAMS “Darklight Awakening? (9 tracks. 40:10).
If you could mix Morbid Angel with old Paradise Lost, you might come up with a band like Dawn of Dreams. Their sound is describe as black/death metal, but to me it is just death metal. But it is also melodic, in a brutal way. So if you can imagine Paradise Lost’s Gothic album played faster, without the violins, and with more blast beats, then you have an idea of how good this band sounds. If only Paradise Lost had moved in this direction the world would be a better place!
DETERIOROT “In Ancient Beliefs? (14 tracks. 63:57).
I do come out of my cave from time to time, but I confess that I’ve never heard of this band. Anyway, Deteriorot come from the eastern part of the United States and play some brutal, grinding death metal. While black/death seems an appropriate designation, their music seems to warrant a new amalgam: black/grind. They are, in fact, quite unique. Their play very fast and very slow, but rarely mid-tempo. They have a raw, almost Darkthrone production, but they don’t have that high end hiss. No wonder the promo info says they remind of Incantation, Bolt Thrower, and Death. They certainly do that. But they also bring to mind Darkthrone and Horde. Can you imagine that? To me this is cool. I like it and recommend it heartily. My only criticism is that the name is silly and doesn’t really fit the music.
DIABOLICAL “Synergy?(8 tracks. 34:39).
The designation “Swedish death/thrash metal?is pretty self-explanatory now days. You pretty much know what to expect. Diabolical fits in a category with bands like The Haunted and all the offspring of the At the Gates era. With such descriptive words, you can be sure that the band is composed of excellent musicians and the CD has great production. Additionally, they also have great riffs, great solos, great fills, and some downright catchy tunes. So if this is your cup-of-tea, I heartily recommend it. But if you feel like you are weary of “Swedish death/thrash? while I sympathize, I urge you to reconsider on this one as it is exceptionally good in my opinion.
ENTER MY SILENCE “remotecontrolled scyth?(9 tracks. 34:46).
This is definitely one of my favorite releases on Mercenary Music. Enter My Silence strike me as a Finnish version of Carcass crossed with Witchery. While the comparison to Carcass is a little overused, I think it is fitting here. EMS straddle a thin line between death metal and rock, sounding like a distant cousin to the Gothenburg sound. Thankfully, EMS maintains some distance from the Gothenburg sound, and yet they are both heavy and melodic. They would be a good band to tour with In Flames or Dark Tranquility.
MYSTIC CIRCLE “Infernal Satanic Verses?(8 tracks. 50:28).
Fans of Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth should check out Mystic Circle in order to find out what the German version of triumphant black metal sounds like. Musically they are equally good as those bands, and they have one added advantage: a female vocalist to counterbalance the Shagrath inspired male vocals. This brings immediate comparisons to Tristania and The Sins of Thy Beloved to mind as well. And if the comparisons are any indication of this band’s talent, then I don’t imagine you will need much more convincing. It is kind of comical, though, to read that this band chose as their mission to “honour their gods, ‘Satan?and “Wotan?by making antichristian music.? Okay, if you say so. But I would be willing to be they don’t take it any more seriously than I do.
NEPHASTH “Immortal Unholy Triumph?(10 tracks. 31:10).
Nephasth have positioned themselves squarely in the Brazilian stream of brutal Death metal in the lines of bands like Rebaellium and Clemency. But there are other bands in other lands that fit in the same musical strata. Bands like Pandemia, Hate (also WWIII), and Burial also come to mind. Perhaps there is even some similarity to Vader. If you aren’t sure what that means, it means heavy brutal guitars, blast beat drumming, and deep gutteral vocals. The production on this album is excellent with each instrument clearly distinguishable. If this sounds like your kind of music, I’m sure you will not be disappointed by it.
TOTTENKORPS “Tharnheim: Athi-Land-Nhi; Cicopean Crypts of Citadels?(16 tracks. 63:30).
Unless I am mistaken, this band is composed of descendants of German immigrants to Brazil. As such, their music has something of a European mixture in it. They play a sort of mid-paced death metal mixed with some slower, sometimes thrash oriented, and occasionally doomy parts. It is sometimes over-the-top with blast beats and faster tempos, and at other times it is slow and deliberate, even melodic. So there is a little bit of something for everyone here. A quick glance at song titles like “Avohej: The God-Dog of Nazareth?and “The King of Hell Reclaims his Throne?tells you that the lyrics are pointedly blasphemous, though few of us would take them seriously. Finally, of the sixteen tracks on this album, the last five are from the “Our Almighty Lords?mini-CD from 1993, an added bonus.
VARIOUS “Mercenary Music 2001. Episode I: Compilation Sampler?(13 tracks. 65:21).
VARIOUS “World War III Sampler 2001?(12 tracks. 56:41).
Why am I just now getting around to reviewing these two samplers? Well, when I first received them a few months ago, I e-mailed the label(s) for some information as to whether these samplers were only for reviewers or if they would be available in stores, I got no response. Still no response. So, here are two samplers which I assume are available if you look for them. I am also assuming that they are at a reduced price. Both are well worth getting if you are interested in hearing some prime black metal, death metal, and black/death metal bands. Both of these labels (or this label, I’m not sure) are signing and releasing a ton of music, much of it previously unavailable in the U.S. The Mercenary sampler contains tracks from Headhunter D.C., Nephasth, Aborym, Diabolical, Enter My Silence, Throes of Dawn, Astral, Carpathian Forest, Dawn of Dreams, Mystic Circle, Keep of Kalessin, and Belphegor (Austria). The WWIII sampler includes tracks from Hate, Fog, Thy Primordial, Imagika, Avulsed, Centinex, Cage, Perverseraph, Engrave, Nokturne, Prototype, and Belfegor (Poland). Both CD’s represent some albums that have already been released, and others that are due to be released. So, If my reviews for each of these individual releases have not been helpful enough, I recommend checking out the samplers to get a better idea.
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