2012-08-29

Henrik lectures in ... My Dying Bride

In this section I will do the exact same, but also the complete opposite as I do in the "Tries to understand"-section. Confusing? Not really. Here I will choose one of my favorite bands and pick one song off of each of their albums and lecture all you less fortunate beings who haven't yet understood the greatness of the band in question. Get it? Good.

Before I begin with the story of my personal relation to My Dying Bride, I just wish to thank the Danish Swede Tobias Nilsson for coming up with this idea. Cheers!

So here goes:
As I briefly mentioned in the Monument-section where I covered the band's second album "Turn Loose The Swans", I first discovered the band (and said album) when I was 16 or 17 years old and it was truly love at the first listen. I mostly listened to Swedish punk back then and that was basically my musical diet at the time. This band more or less opened a door to slow, depressive metal overfilled with emotions. Due to my age at the time, this naturally spoke to me in a way that it might not be able to do today. Therefore, I will always be grateful to my old friend Jesper Sjöberg who introduced me to the world of My Dying Bride at just the right time, even if no one of us knew it at the time. Be sure to check out Jesper's amazing movie blog Dead Moon Night.

The first album was released in 1992 and is called "As the Flower Withers". Musically, it is the only album where the band leans this much towards death metal, even though they still stand on firm doom metal-ground. It is a quite uneven album where the most known song probably is "The Forever People", which in my opinion is easily the most boring song. It's just a plain short, death metal song without any finesse at all. No, then you should rather listen to the amazing doom metal songs "Sear Me" or, as in this case, "Vast Choirs".
Beginning with keyboards, adding some evil sounding death metal-shredding and then an even more evil laughter - the song soon turns into a slow headbanging song full of pure doom. Vocalist Aaron's growled vocals are in their prime here and it's a joy to growl along to (I know I do). They slowly pick up the pace, section by section and by the time the keyboards joins the fight of the melody, I get shivers down my spine. 
But as I stated, this is primary a great doom metal song with some death metal-parts here and there. There's even a crazy guitar solo in here. And though it sounds oddly out place, it always brings a smile to face.

To give you an idea of just how different this band sounded one year later, I hereby present the amazing "Sear Me MCMXCIII" - which is a new take on "Sear Me" from the previous album. I said it all when I dissected "Turn Loose The Swans" in my Monument-section so I will just copy the text from there - OK?
A lonely piano. A hauntingly sad violin. Aaron's deep, dark voice. Beautifully emotional lyrics. That's the entire recipe for this masterpiece. No guitars, no bass and no drums. This is so unadorned and stripped off anything unnecessary. I remember when I was something like 16-17 years old and heard this for the first time - I knew that I had found a lifelong love in My Dying Bride.

Third album "The Angel and the Dark River" from 1995 is violin player Martin Powell's greatest moment, since the entire album reeks of that beautiful instrument. If "Turn Loose The Swans" was miserable and depressive - this album is an abyss of despair, a pitch-black hole of no hope. Much of this is due to the fact that Aaron's voice has changed into an almost weeping sound, which I know many people criticized back then and still do. He never did them on any other later album, so I guess the band kind of shunned them as well. Personally I love them and couldn't imagine the album without them.
This is where we find the most famous song made by My Dying Bride - the epic "Cry of Mankind", which although good, I am a bit tired of. So here's the incredibly beautiful "Two Winters Only" instead.
It's more or less a ballad that lasts for 9 minutes. But despite being a ballad that more or less carries the same guitar melody over and over, it does not tire the listener due to the fact that the drums are adding dynamics and Aaron's vocals and lyrical delivery never gets boring. And close to four minutes, it stops being a ballad and get's incredibly haunting with it's doomy riffs and weeping violins. That first time when it stops is so majesticly powerful that time stops. Then it reverts back to what it was in the beginning. Think of it as My Dying Bride's version of "Fade to Black" - only much different. And better in every way.

This next album "Trinity" is not really an album per se, but a compilation of the three EPs the band had released between -92 and -94. But I felt it was necessary to let you guys know how they sounded there as well. Being very different from "The Angel and the Dark River" as it generally is more old-school doomy and almost lacks any clean vocals, it is an important landmark in the band's discography.
The opening guitar melody is pure gold and I love how it fights with the violins to get recognition. "I Am The Bloody Earth" was originally released in 1994 and was the last of the three "classic" EPs. If you listen to them i chronological order, you can hear how they gradually improved since the first one. That means that I favor this one above "The Thrash of Naked Limbs" and "Syphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium". Not to say that those tracks aren't any good, but the dynamics in this one is superior. From pure slow, doom metal to some faster (as in My Dying Bride-fast that is) moments - complete with a little bit of distorted clean vocals.

The band's fourth full-length "Like Gods of the Sun" from 1996 was a little bit of a breakthrough for the band. The album followed after a tour with Iron Maiden and the it consists of shorter, less doomy songs (but still quite slow though). It features some classic songs with The Bride, such as "A Kiss to Remember" and "For You". While both are good song, I decided to go with a different approach. So without further ado, here's "Here in the Throat".
First, exactly 30 seconds of ambient sounds. Then all instruments and vocals kicks in at once and you might be surprised that the tempo is slightly faster than one is used to when it comes to My Dying Bride. Those "verses" really gets my feet going. They are connected via a slower part with beautiful violins and a short monologue from Aaron. The lyrics are obviously about Christ - a topic that the band successfully have written about since the first album, and still are doing today. Then the tempo increases again and we are introduced to some really nice guitar melodies. The part towards the end when they change from said melody back to the "verse" and then the slower part again. Masterfully crafted!

In 1998, the band lost a few members, among those were keyboardist/violin player Martin Powell who quit to focus on a rather lengthy career in Cradle of Filth. The finished result was given the cryptic title "34.788%...Complete" which was heavily criticized for it's lack of violins (which wouldn't return until 2009), it's use of weird lyrics and unorthodox song writing. It was a huge departure for the band and they even included a trip-hop song called "Heroin Chic". I could have chosen that one, but it would have felt too unfair so I decided to go with a more traditional metal song called "Apocalypse Woman".
Honestly, "34.788%...Complete" isn't such a weird album (if one doesn't count the aforementioned "Heroin Chic") after all. Yes, there are no violins and no depressive, sad or romantic lyrics anywhere in sight and the band has clearly taken a more "urban" approach than they've done before. But it is bad? Hell no! Just give the album an honest chance and you'll find out that there are some quite intriguing songs there such as "The Whore, The Cook and The Mother" and "Der Uberlebende".
Anyway, the beginning bass-lines and drums are a true joy to listen to and I also love those sirens in the background. This is essentially the verse of the song and it might take a while to get used to. Soon you'll hear the chorus which almost sounds like a nursery-rhyme, only done faster.
This is a very overlooked album, and although far from being in the top-5 of The Bride's discography, there's really nothing wrong with it. As I said, give it a fair chance.

For My Dying Bride's last album of the 90's, they returned to a more old-school sound and the result was "The Light at the End of the World". In my opinion, this might be the weakest of all their albums although it contains some varied song writing, giving us both long, droning romantic doom-metal songs (the title track), short, fast death metal ("The Fever Sea") and something more mid-tempo in between ("The Isis Script"). But I've chosen something called "Into the Lake of Ghosts". Why? I have no idea.
As you immediately hear, this is very much mid-tempo metal - with a drum pattern that in my opinion sounds quite...corny. There are still no violins present, only some boring keyboards here and there. I really don't know why I chose this song to represent the album since it's quite bland, without really going anywhere, though there are some nice melodies and riffs here and there. Perhaps that's why I chose it since I feel that the entire album is quite bland and I wanted that to be heard? In reality, I think the entire band was quite bored after the experimental "34.788%...Complete" and wasn't quite ready for a full-on doom-return.

2001 and time for yet another full-length. "The Dreadful Hours" is most certainly a step up from the mediocre "The Light at the End of the World". I know some MDB-fans class this one very high, but in my opinion, they only did better and better with each succeeding album after this. The album is dark, brooding and very much gothic doom metal and I chose the marching "A Cruel Taste of Winter" to represent it.
Here we go immediately! It's a doomy mid-tempo song which easily is my favorite track on the album. Why, you ask? Well, for one thing I love that "lazy" riff that more or less goes on and on through the entire song. Another thing is that the song is wonderful to sing along to. Then there's the parts where Aaron starts to growl, which gives a nice break from the rest of the "laziness" that occurs. Love it!

"Song of Darkness, Words of Light" is a misguiding title indeed. Yes the songs are dark, but so is most definitely the lyrics too. The opening track is the best that you will hear on the disc, so I decided to go with that one.
"The Wreckage of My Flesh" is sinister, dark and give me vibes of things that are forbidden. I don't know why, but the entire aura of this song gives me the creeps. It's 8.45 minutes are most definitely doom metal, but without growls. It might feel a bit droning to some people when the main riff enters the soundscape, but once you get the song's feeling - it'll be stuck with you forever.

Now we're beginning to see the end of this My Dying Bride-extravaganza as we write 2006 in the calendar and enter "A Line of Deathless Kings". I assume that "Deeper Down" is one of the more "known" songs here, since it was granted a video of it's own - and I can understand why.
Though the video might not be much to write home about, the music is. At least the video is fitting to the music. I love the fact that the drums are so goddamn fast (again, with MDB-measurements) and the rest of the instruments drone along in a more usual tempo. During the middle and ending, everything comes crumbling down in sinister doom, complete with haunting church bells. Also, once you learn the lyrics, "Deeper Down" is also a joy to sing along to. Yes, I know it's weird how I mention the word "joy" when the lyrics are so utterly depressing and hopeless, but it really is.
Please note that this is the edited video-version and that the "real" album version is much longer (06.28) and vastly superior.

The latest "real" full-length album from My Dying Bride (before they release their new one in October 2012) is from 2009 and is called "For Lies I Sire". It was the triumphant return of the violin and I cheered and applauded every goddamn minute of it. I know that there are some fans that felt cheated by this album and complains about it being more gothic and less doomy. I can understand why some people complain, but in my opinion - this is easily the band's best effort since "Like Gods of the Sun" (1996), which coincidentally also was the last album with violins ;-) This is "Santuario Di Sangue" - meaning "Sanctuary of Blood" in Italian(!).
First of all, the guitar melodies are to die for! Honestly, they really gives me the chills! The vocal melodies are also very fitting to the song, but what I really like the most is how Aaron's clean vocals have improved a lot compared to all of the prior albums. He reaches much higher notes than he has ever done before - even though he's clearly no I.C.S. Vortex.
Musically, this is a masterpiece. Period. OK, so the "silent" part - with some random sounds and even more random violins - might not be the best the band has ever done. But apart from that, this song is a showcase in what My Dying Bride does best - doom metal with gothic overtures. Sure, there might not be any growls here, but Aaron hasn't really been able to execute them real good since 1994.

MDB 2011: Shaun, Andrew, Aaron, Lena and Hamish
So to sum things up, these may not be my exact favorites off of each album, but they should give MDB-beginners a rather good insight in the band's discography. If you want to go safe, you could check out "The Songless Bird", "Cry of Mankind", "A Kiss to Remember", "For You", "She is the Dark", "My Hope, The Destroyer", "The Prize of Beauty" and some other songs that are considered more "classic". I hope that this has been of some interest and joy to all those not yet initiated into the music of one of the greatest bands upon this planet. And for all you My Dying Bride-fans that agrees or disagrees with me - you are more than welcome to share your thoughts in the comment-field.

2012-08-25

Metal Monument: My Dying Bride - Turn Loose The Swans


Band: My Dying Bride
Album: "Turn Loose The Swans"
Style: Gothic Doom Metal
Release date: 1993-10
Origin: Great Britain


Tracklist:
1. Sear Me MCMXCIII
2. Your River
3. The Songless Bird
4. The Snow in my Hand
5. The Crown of Sympathy
6. Turn Loose the Swans
7. Black God

Record cover:
Some album covers are iconic and classic. Some are beautiful to look at. Some are plain weird-looking, but have some sort of aesthetic beauty to them anyway. Some are plain ugly. And then there's the cover to "Turn Loose The Swans"...
For My Dying Bride's debut album "As the Flower Withers", they chose an artist who did a collage of different stuff and the result was very good. For their follow-up, vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe chose to do the cover himself and the result was surely breathtaking, but in just the wrong way. Everything is wrong here. From the idiotic idea to place the logo vertically, to the annoyingly huge spaces between the words of the title and finally to the main picture which looks like a statue of a woman with her palms placed in a prayer, completely covered in seagull-shit. I am as astounded as I am disgusted.




1. Sear Me MCMXCIII (07.24)
A lonely piano. A hauntingly sad violin. Aaron's deep, dark voice. Beautifully emotional lyrics. That's the entire recipe for this masterpiece. No guitars, no bass and no drums. This is so unadorned and stripped off anything unnecessary. I remember when I was something like 16-17 years old and heard this for the first time - I knew that I had found a lifelong love in My Dying Bride.




2. Your River (09.24)
Yes, I could agree that the acoustic guitar at the beginning is a little too long for it's own good. But the song gets going with those insanely crushing guitar riffs in combination with the wonderful violin-melody - it's pure gold. The band changes from mid-tempo to fast and then to the utter despair-doom they're known for. The lyrics are pure fucking ace as well - poetic without coming off as corny or embarrassing:
"Your bloodied body is what I cling to. In
powerful rain, they laid their heads to
die. Let your dark, thirsty eyes drink deep the
sights of me. It's sad that, in our blindness, we
gather thorns for flowers."
Back in 1993, Aaron's growls were as fierce and as deep as hell and I'm so sad that he cannot seem to pull them off today. It's spine-chilling towards the end when the band almost goes into full death metal.




3. The Songless Bird (07.00)
I have always felt that this song is sort of a cousin to "Your River", what with it's changes in tempo and melody: The slow and doomy parts in the beginning, the acoustic part with the weeping violin and then the furious death metal part. This song has it all and it's no wonder it is a true My Dying Bride-classic. There's absolutely no flaws anywhere to be found and I can only give this a full score.




4. The Snow in my Hand (07.09)
This is the song that is the last part of the "River-Bird-Snow"-trio and also follows a similar formula with doomy parts in the beginning, then some death metal and finally goes back into the doom-extravaganza.
I realize here I could go rant all day about the lyrics of each and every song on "Turn Loose The Swans", but I promise that this will be the last time. But oh, how I love those lyrics at the end:
"I had watched the snow all day. Falling. 
It never lets up. All day falling. 
I lifted my voice and wept out loud,
"So this is life?"."




5. The Crown of Sympathy (12.15)
The longest song on the album is quite different from the three we've just heard. The main guitar-melody that begins right away and continues for the most part of the song is, in combination with the catchy vocals, a true wonder to listen to. But 12+ minutes is often a bit too long for my taste if nothing spectacular happens. Sadly, this is not the case with "The Crown of Sympathy".
After 5 minutes, the song goes into some sort of ambient section where Aaron delivers a monologue. And while there's nothing terribly wrong with the part, it just drags on for too fucking long. When there's three minutes left, the song changes back to the great song it was for the first 5 minutes. So as you can understand, I am a bit ambivalent to this one. The good parts are fantastic and the not-so good part goes on forever. Still, I cannot deny the sheer brilliance of the songwriting here.




6. Turn Loose the Swans (10.08)
The title track is also a bit different compared to the rest of the material on the album, most notably due to the fact that there's very little clean vocals present here. It's a pure doom metal-track that is considered the "classic" My Dying Bride. And while I absolutely love that part of the band, the style with just a little bit more dynamics pleases me more - even though there ARE dynamics here. I realize that I am contradicting myself here, but there's less change in tempo on this one and it drags it down just a little.




7. Black God (04.52)
Now, here's a real challenge for me. I cannot remember the last time I even bothered to listen to the shortest track on the album. It's more of an outro than a real song and contains only ambient sounds, piano, violins and Aaron's voice. Oh yeah, there's also some female vocals here that adds a nice touch. And while that description sounds similar to the incredibly beautiful "Sear Me MCMXCIII" - it doesn't hold the same class. Had any other band done this song, I would class it at one of the band's best, but this is My Dying Bride we're talking about. Their compositions holds so god damn high standard and I have to compare it to the other songs here. Still, while I rediscover "Black God" now - I realize it's much better than I thought. Kind of ironic...




End rating
To sum things up, "Turn Loose the Swans" is nothing short of an amazing album and especially when one considers that they released the vastly inferior debut album "As the Flower Withers" only one year earlier. All of the compositions holds very high class, even though it gets slightly, slightly worse towards the end of the album. When looked at soberly from a perspective - this is a landmark of gothic doom metal and nothing that Paradise Lost, Anathema, Katatonia or similar bands have done, comes close to this one.
From beginning to end, My Dying Bride takes us on a journey filled with misery, despair and the feeling of hopelessness. But in a good way. Also, I will always be surprised that the band managed to do this as early as 1993, so young they were.


TOTAL SCORE:

"We are without excuse. 
We burn in our lust. 
We die in our eyes and drown in our arms."


2012-08-24

Henrik tries to understand ... Enslaved

In this section I will try to understand the greatness of a certain band that many people within the metal community seems to like. Or love. I will really try to get into the music and to listen to one (or more if I feel like it) song from each album the band has done. I don't have any real hopes that it will change my perspective or the way I feel about the band - but it could just remove some grudges or perhaps burn away some preconceptions that I might have. Some of these bands I have tried to understand before and some will be entirely new to me. Read and you'll see...

So here we are again. Compared to the previous bands I've covered in this section (Opeth, Sabaton & In Flames) I have much less of a relation with Norway's Enslaved. But the funny thing is that - compared to the others - I actually own a record with Enslaved (more of that mystery later) which never really got me hooked, so they kind of drifted off into the periphery. I know that they started out playing some sort of black/viking metal and have later drifted into a more progressive field. I also know they have released a shitload of albums and that's basically all. Oh, I also know that someone in the band is called Grutle. And I wouldn't be surprised if there's a Rune in there as well - there usually is when it comes to Norwegian bands...

So let's start this, in chronological order as usual, with the band's first sign of life; the apparently Icelandic titled album "Vikingligr Veldi" from 1994. It seems as though all the titles are written in the same language as well, and since my knowledge of Icelandic is zero to none, I just chose the first song - "Lifandi Liv Undir Hamri".
First thing I realize is that this song is 11½ minutes long. Woah, I kind of get the Opeth-vibe here before it has even started. The riff that begins the song is good indeed and in combination with the weird keyboards it gets really good. The vocals (screams) are nothing exceptional since they sound totally incomprehensible. I am usually quite good at deciphering black metal screams, but here it is close to impossible. I realize that it could have something to do with the fact that they are in Icelandic. Or are they? When I search the web, I can only find them in English. Oh, nevermind - the vocals are too low in the mix anyway.
Musically, I can understand why the band got the tag black/viking metal early on, because it doesn't sound anything like the black metal from Norway that was current at the time. Still, it manages to sound very Norwegian at the same time, which is kind of impressive I guess.
The riffs and the musicianship is alright, but nothing too special and I wonder how they are going to keep my interest through the entire song. Because here I am, just waiting for the mandatory acoustic guitar-interlude, but it never comes. Instead, what I get is 11½ minutes of, basically, the same riffing all the time and no breaks or breath-takers. Sure, there's a doomier and slower part in there, but the song just keep dragging on and on for fucking ever. As I mentioned in the beginning, I get the Opeth-vibe here and there, only these guys doesn't quite have the same progressiveness (at least not yet). Still, I kinda prefer this over Opeth's "Orchid".

Their second album shares name with the drummer of Satyricon and thankfully, "Frost" offers more and shorter songs than the viking-debut. Anyway, for the previous song I completely forgot that I asked a guy - who's very into Enslaved - which song I would choose from each album. So the next 10 songs (Fuck me, 11 albums to go through!) are actually his choices. I thought this would make it a bit more fair to Enslaved and even though the songs here are his favorites - at least I wont be choosing any intros or weird interludes or shit like that. So thanks a lot for making it easier for me Vegard!
But for "Frost" I noticed that he chose a song from the band's 3rd album (maybe he's not such a big fan as I thought, hehe), so I guess I have to choose this one myself. This is "Yggdrasil" and it starts very different from the debut album with acoustic guitars, mouth-harp and deep, chanted vocals in Norwegian. It sounds very folk and I like it. I would probably have loved this if I had heard it back in the late 90's but nevertheless, I find myself enjoying the melody and nod my head along to the music.
At first, I thought this would be an all-acoustic folk song but the electric guitars enters after 1½ minute or so and it sounds remarkably close to Isengard and Storm, sadly without Fenriz on vocals though. They add more layers to the vocals to imitate a choir, but the sound of the vocals are sadly way too loud.
I realize I have probably chosen a song that could very well be far from how the rest of "Satyricon's female drummer-guy" sounds like. So I take a quick listen to another track from said album and as I guessed, it's very fast-paced black metal with keyboards here and there. But I'm glad that I went with "Yggdrasil", because it actually sounds better than the band's attempt at black metal has. At least so far.

Time for their third album "Eld" and here is Vegard's (my personal Enslaved-lexicon) first choice. It's called "For Lenge Siden" and I sit back, relax and prepare myself to be amazed.
Before I listen to the song, I just have to point out that that album cover is so legendary ridiculous it's amazing! The guy's gaze is almost hypnotizing and I'm betting my left ball that he must be Grutle.
Anyway, the song starts with some spoken word (from a movie I guess) and then turns into a cool mid-tempo song with a really annoying drum-sound. I find myself enjoying the melodies a lot, but I cannot look past the sound of the drums which sounds really out of place. Sadly, once again it takes too long before I hear any vocals and I wonder why some bands make these 8.10 minutes long songs when for three minutes they basically play the same thing over and over?
Anyway, I recognize the vocals straight away, sounding quite similar to the vocals on the debut album. I'm having a hard time enjoying this type of screamed vocals - same as I have with Ihsahn and Emperor [dodging for incoming punches]. I would like to hear a slightly sharper pronunciation and a little more "personality".
Still, this ain't bad in any way - it's contemporary 90's Norwegian black metal with a Nordic folk-touch that I really enjoy. At about 6 minutes into the song, we get to hear a guitar solo that really isn't a solo but more of a melody. It totally slays and I actually raise my eyebrows in disbelief. I can most definitely hear the potential here, but they really don't deliver the goods in my opinion. Too bad, because this could have been really good. Now it's just around average.

One year later (1998), Enslaved released their fourth album "Blodhemn" and the cover seems less rushed than past albums, even though it again features the band in viking outfits. Sorry if it sounds like I'm bashing the band now, because I really don't. I just find it funny today, but had I seen this cover in 1998 I would probably have thought it looked absolutely awesome - as I'm sure Enslaved did back then.
Vegard has chosen the sixth song "Eit Auga Til Mimir" which is relatively short and starts with furious blast beats and a great black metal melody. The screams - which still is something I do not prefer - thankfully have those deep chanted clean vocals to compete with here and there. That adds a lot of dynamics in the vocal-section and the song is also thankful to listen to since it changes pace a few times. Despite (or is it because?) being only 4.26 long, this is easily the best song I've heard with Enslaved so far. Good job Vegard!

Before I listen to the song "Større enn Tid - Tyngre enn Natt" I just want to point out that I think this was the album when Enslaved kind of left the black/viking metal sound behind them and moved towards a more progressive metal field. I'm not sure though, but I just wanted to get it written down before I listen to the song. Get it? Oh, this is from the album "Mardraum - Beyond the Within" (first album title partly in English).
This song is over 10 minutes long (thank you for that Vegard :-P) and I brace myself for some serious Opeth-technicalities and my preconceptions of guitar-wankery. Here we go!
It begins in a very calm and soothing manner and once the guitars gets angrier, it kind of reminds me of In The Woods... during "HEart of the Ages"/"Omino". But then, the similarities ends as Enslaved goes into a groovier, almost death metalesque sound. Then they break that off with acoustic guitars and drumming that actually reminds me of Opeth. But I really like what I'm hearing so far. Over four minutes into the song there's still no vocals, but compared to what they did on their first two albums with long songs, it doesn't bother me here. That's because they've changed the structure and the riffs during the song a lot already. It feels so much more refreshing.
Enslaved 2012 (I think)
Once the vocals starts, it's once more a mix between clean- and screaming vocals. Dynamics rules again! Also, I should point out that whoever is singing those clean vocals (probably that Grutle-guy) have really improved A LOT since "Blodhemn". Gone are the classic mid-90's chants and you can really feel that he's a lot more comfortable here. There's also some growling here and there which fits the song during the death metal-parts.
When the song is over, it feels like only 5-6 minutes have passed and that my friends, is a really good grade in my book: When a 10+ minute song feels like it's only half of it. In this case, it has much to do with the fact that the song keeps changing all the time and it never gets old or tiring - I applaud the band for making this happen. I should also point out that the ending with the spoken vocals are fucking ace and again, the band topped themselves from the previous song! "Mardraum" is definitely an album that I seriously will be checking out if all the songs are this good.

Now here comes the tricky part for my Enslaved-guy Vegard (hope that didn't come out too weird): The band's 6th album "Monumension" is an album that I actually bought when it was released back in 2001. I picked it out of the blue without having heard one single note from the band before. I had heard that they played some sort of black/viking metal and I thought that it would be perfect for my taste. I really wanted to like it and I have tried listening to it for about 6-7 times during the years, but it always ends up sounding like drug-infused shit without any clear aim or purpose and I absolutely hate every second of it. Also, the band has a lot to live up to after listening to "Større enn Tid - Tyngre enn Natt".
The song is called "Vision: Sphere of the Elements - A Monument Part II" and the title alone gives me the suspicion that things have weirded out completely in the Enslaved-camp. It actually starts with a riff that doesn't sound like horse-shit and I am surprised that anything off the album sounded this good. Though I seriously question each song that begins with a guitar solo before you've heard any vocals. That doesn't sit good with me at all. The song itself might very well be the best song off the album and has some cool melodies and riffs here and there, but as I mentioned in the preamble - it lacks any real direction. Also, when compared to the previous song I heard - these close-to-5 minutes sounds like the double and I sit and yawn. Booooring!
Note: A funny thing is the current top comment on this song on YouTube reads:
"When I have a bad day at work I come home and I listen to Enslaved, Opeth and Emperor and it cures my stress:) These 3 bands are the best in their class."
These are the 3 bands that I have always had a problem to understand. Coincidence? I think not.

Next up is "As Fire Swept the Earth Clean" from "Below the Lights" and the title alone promises more structure and better songwriting than the previous disaster.
I like the fact that I get to hear the band from many different angles (thanks again Vegard) and this mid-tempo semi-black metal gives me shelter from the shit-storm I just heard (See what I did there? I just referenced Bob Dylan in a text about Enslaved. Give me some credit at least). But I must say that it still is a bit too much weirdness (read: progressive) for my taste. Also, due to the clean vocals having improved so much over the years, I'm disappointed that the screams haven't. It's still that boring Ihsahn-style (IMHO, the most overrated black metal-vocalist ever), but at least the growls are prominent enough to give me some satisfaction.
Not the worst song I've heard from the band, but I'm beginning to feel a little anxious now that they've dropped so much in quality since the fantastic "Større enn Tid - Tyngre enn Natt". Yes, I will be comparing each following song to that one until I hear something equally as good.

Their eight album is called "Isa" and Vegard has chosen the song "Return to Yggrasil" which seems fitting since I chose "Yggdrasil" for their second album.
Once again, we get some mid-tempo semi-black metal with good groove. Combine that with some (for once) thoughtful acoustic guitars that actually adds to the song's overall feeling. I immediately like this better than the two previous tracks and I also feel that I must give an extra plus to the cool drumming here. The part where the clean vocals come in adds extra atmosphere and the decision to go back into the mid-tempo with screams right after is a really good move.
I actually feel like I'm running out of things to say about Enslaved's music right now as I kind of think I've figured out what they are all about right now. I feel I almost know how what the general direction of the following three albums might be, but I will listen to them anyway.

Well, here's the video to "Path to Vanir" from "Ruun".
Not sure if this is the band's first video, but it's the first that Vegard has chosen anyway. The main riff is kind of weird compared to what I've heard from this band earlier and I both like and dislike it. On one hand - it has a really cool groove that you instantly feel. On the other hand - it's more hard rock than metal and feel kind of lame. But combined with beard-Grutle's screams, it feels very much like Enslaved. That same main riff is a bit too repetitive for my taste though.
But the clean vocal-part and the melodic black metal that comes after it, saves the song a little bit. Too bad they only used that supreme riff a little bit towards the end. It annoys me when a band does that; comes up with an awesome part in a song and more or less throws it away :-(
And much to my surprise, I see here that the keyboardist - and not Grutle - is the one doing the clean vocals. I guess that's how he improved them ;-) You learn something new each day.

Tenth album "Vertebrae" was released in 2008 and Vegard has chosen a song called "New Dawn". Hopefully, it's more interesting than it's title.
This starts very promising with a main riff that makes me handbang straight away. Add to that, that Grutle's vocals actually have changed a little bit. Having added a little snare in his voice, he's now sounding like a mix between Ihsahn and Abbath.
Musically, it is much more interesting than the title comes off as. Here's much more dynamics and changes in the song than the previous one had. Also, there's even more dynamics in the vocal-department which I find really entertaining. Overall, this is the second best song I've heard from the band. Still, it's nothing that makes me want to rush out and buy any Enslaved-album.

Here we are then, at the end of all things. Enslaved's latest offering at the altar of the gods is called "Axioma Ethica Odini" and the song Vegard has chosen is called "Giants".
This being the last song, I'm hoping for something out of the ordinary now. An epic chorus with clean vocals would easily make my day. What I'm hearing so far is progressive metal in the vein of Opeth - though without being as boring as the Swedes.
Surprisingly, my wishes almost comes true in the chorus - there's clean vocals and some screaming in there. But since the music by that point has turned into one big heap of porridge, I'm having difficulties deciphering what's verses and what's the chorus. The song kind of just drags on and that really doesn't do it for me. But again, I have to applaud the drumming which I think is really cool and fits the music perfectly. Too bad I don't orgasm to this sort of music though...

I actually enjoyed Enslaved much, much more than I thought I would. That of course had a lot to do with my past encounter with the dreadful "Monumension". But my main complaints still remains and should come as no surprise to anyone who's read the entire text above here:

  • Grutle's screams are too monotone and boring for my taste.
  • The music has the tendency to drone on without any direction for too long - giving the band that Opeth-problem without really sounding anything like Opeth.
  • Some of their earlier stuff are not well balanced enough and just becomes half-boring half-black metal.

What I do like is the fact that they are (at some points) very good when it comes to create dynamics between the vocals and the music. They can conjure some pretty fucking good guitar melodies here and there and they also know how to keep things heavy and groovy. It's just too bad that I find them a little to uneven. They are able to keep me really keen and interested for many long minutes (such as on "Større enn Tid - Tyngre enn Natt") and in the next song bore me to death for five minutes. And as you know by now, I really enjoy "Større enn Tid - Tyngre enn Natt" and I stand by what I wrote earlier - I will most definitely take a serious listening session of the entire "Mardraum"-album. This is something I never thought I'd do before getting acquainted with Enslaved.
The band had my respect before I heard this much from them and I'll be damned if that respect hasn't gone up a little bit more now. This far into their career, Enslaved can pretty much do what they want and if they want to snowball themselves into an even weirder progressive landscape for their next album, I think they have their fans' blessings to do so.

2012-08-21

Henrik tries to understand ... In Flames

In this section I will try to understand the greatness of a certain band that many people within the metal community seems to like. Or love. I will really try to get into the music and to listen to one (or more if I feel like it) song from each album the band has done. I don't have any real hopes that it will change my perspective or the way I feel about the band - but it could just remove some grudges or perhaps burn away some preconceptions that I might have. Some of these bands I have tried to understand before and some will be entirely new to me. Read and you'll see...

Having never heard of this band before, I decided to check them out on Metal Archives. An interesting thing is that, for a band of this size, they have incredibly low average scores on the album-reviews there. I assume this has to do with the fact that so many fans have felt betrayed in one way or another during the years.
Apparently founding member Jesper Strömblad formed the band in 1990 with an intention to combine "the melodic guitar style of Iron Maiden with the brutality of death metal". Well, either his intentions were a complete failure or they have changed their music style a lot over the years. Because the few songs that I've heard (yes, that was a lame joke at the beginning of this text. Get over it) have not had anything to do with neither Iron Maiden nor death metal. Well well, let's see who's right shall we?

The first sign of life from the band (apart from a demo in -93) was the self-produced "Lunar Strain". I have my doubts already - production-wise - and the fact that the album cover is one ugly thing. I choose to digest the title track because it's the title track. That's how crafty I am.
The sound quality might not be the best, but it sounds so 90's (it may have something to do with the fact that it was made in 1994) and who can not smile of nostalgia when thinking about those years? If I have understood things right, the vocals here are provided by Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquillity. I've always liked the man's voice and he does a really good job here. You can actually hear that he (probably) was a teenager and that just adds to the charm. Musically, I have to say that Strömblad's intentions came out alright, since this song reeks of Iron Maiden-melodies combined with just death metal. I really like what I hear. Even more than I thought. There's both intensity, aggression and melody. My main problem with this song is that it doesn't really go anywhere. I think this has to do with the fact that they were so young when this was recorded and they really didn't know how to put their riffs together in order to make a song interesting for 4+ minutes. As I mentioned, it's good but I kind of lose interest after a while.

 On to their second album then - the incredibly praised "The Jester Race" from 1996. Apparently, this is sort of the iconic album of the entire Gothenburg-melodic-death-metal scene. I realize I have to choose a good track here and my choice fell on something called "Artifacts of the Black Rain" - because I have heard OF this song before, yet never actually listened to it.
Hey what do you know? I think I chose right, because In Flames actually made a video to this song. Happy days! This was the first recording with their now current vocalist Anders Fridén who sort of swapped places with Mikael Stanne. Unfortunately, Fridén's voice is sub-par to Stanne's even though he does a decent job. It's more of a standard screaming voice and lacks the depth and emotion that Stanne can pull off. Every time I've heard Fridén (be it screams or clean vocals) I've always been annoyed by the fact that you can hear him breathe just before he's about to sing. Not all the time, but enough to make me irritated. The song has a much better production than "Lunar Strain", but the biggest difference is most definitely that the band's song-writing skills have increased about a 200%. The main riff is catchy as fuck and I can see why people like this sort of music. It's most definitely a seminal melodic death-metal hit and had I heard this in 1996 I think I would have liked it even more. But back then, I listened to Swedish punk and had just discovered bands such as Therion, My Dying Bride and Moonspell - that was (and is still) more my cup of tea.

 I have always loved the album title "Whoracle" - why I don't really know because it sounds rather 1997 to me now. Oh, that's right - the album is from 1997. And so is the song "Gyroscope".
This starts a bit more mid-tempo and remains so for the entire song. It's alright, but nothing very special. The acoustic parts here and there does not fit with this sort of music at all and adds zero to nothing. For the third time I heard the chorus it actually tired me and did not drag me into the song (as I suppose the idea was). And it was all over before I even wrote this sentence. After those 3½ minutes, the song should have picked up pace in order to get my juices flowing. After "Artifacts of the Black Rain" (weird title btw) this was a real let-down. Boring!

 Up next is "Colony" - last of the albums made in the 90's. This time I went with the first track since bands tends to place their best songs there. Hopefully, "Embody the Invisible" will be better than "Gyroscope".
After a few seconds, I knew I'd like this better. But as always, I am a bit skeptic to the over-jolly guitar solos that enters here and there. Fridén's screams sounds better than ever though - there's a raspier "bite" to them and he sounds more like Tompa Lindberg (At The Gates) rather than some generic vocalist here. Goodie good! Still, no sign of any clean vocals. I never thought that In Flames did 4 albums without them, but that made me positively surprised. And here is the part where some In Flames-fanboy comes and corrects me by saying there's clean vocals on this and that song on "Colony". Yeah, well that might be - but there's none here and I like it. In fact, this might be the best song I've heard with In Flames ever.

 New millennium. New album. "Clayman" it's called. "Pinball Map" is the name of the song. And yes, I chose it solely based on the stupid title.
The first thing that grabbed my attention on this song was actually not the music or the vocals - it was the lyrics: "As I aim for that bright white day  Conflict serum is my aura  It seems that life's so fragile  I guess I'll fly some other time  I lack from superhighway thoughts  Won't live as long as the city lights  Soaked by underwater times  Electric splash on a midnight drive" OK, is this supposed to make any sense or did they just throw some random sentences together? I'm sure that In Flames are one of those bands that says something like; "The listener will have to figure out the meaning behind the lyrics themselves" God how I hate that! But many of my favorite bands does the same annoying thing so I'll let that criticism pass. Musically it sounds like I'm used to now; melodies all over the place, guitar wankery and screaming. Oh wait, here comes the grand entrance to the clean vocals - the nightmare of every In Flames-fan that discovered them with the first demo. Honestly, them clean vocals are not as horrid as I remembered them. They do add a little dynamic to the music and I can understand that the band wanted to try something new and progress further. However, I would personally have enjoyed it more if they had ventured into some other territory - say something like At the Gates did. All in all, "Pinball Map" is a solid song with stupid lyrics. 

I'm assuming that 2002 and the album "Reroute To Remain" was something of In Flames' big breakthrough. I'm assuming here, because I've actually heard the song "Cloud Connected" before and I get why they made a video to this song and why it became so popular.
The addition of keyboards might sound a little off-putting at first, but you get used to them hanging around that insanely catchy riff so fast that you soon forget they're even there. Musically, this is a very good song. Vocally, I think this is the first album that Fridén started with his insanely annoying whine-voice which sounds absolutely horrendous. I've also heard that these sort of vocals have influenced like a billion American bands to whine in the same way. I'm not sure, but if that's true, I feel utterly ashamed to be Swedish. Also, towards the end, we're served one of the most useless guitar solos I've heard since I listened to Sabaton yesterday. 

Once again, I chose a song on random from an album - this time it turned out to be "Like You Better Dead" from "Soundtrack To Your Escape". Deal with it.
If I thought the lyrics to "Pinball Map" was weird, then this is plain pathetic. "I can be as angry as I want to be Just watch me burn (need to be motivated) I think you're way too cold Just watch and learn" This is the first time I had to fetch my embarrassment-pillow whilst listening to In Flames. The keyboards sounds really out of place during the verses and the song itself is actually quite weak. Thankfully, Anders' vocals aren't as whiny as they were on "Cloud Connected". What's the deal here? Am I missing something by choosing songs on random or did he suddenly improve his clean vocals AGAIN after the dip with said song? No, I haven't got the patience to listen to an entire album by In Flames - they might be decent and even good at some points - but I am no masochist. But I have to know. So I do the only sane thing here and try yet another song from the same album - this time I chose "Trigger" - solely with the knowledge that it became a single.
I remember watching this on ZTV way back in the days (2003 or 2004 I assume). The video shows us Soilwork looking all ugly while In Flames are performing. The song follows the exact same formula as I'm used to the band doing now. It's a perfectly decent song with a boring chorus and Anders' vocals sounds exactly the same as on "Like You Better Dead". So yeah, he must have slapped himself in the face before recording clean vocals for this album. Good good.

 For 2006's "Come Clarity" I just chose the song that sounded most metal - "Crawl Through Knives". And again, it turns out the band has done a video for this one. I'm fucking Nostradamus reincarnated!
Here we go again with another patented melodic metal song. God how boring it is when almost every song follows the exact same formula. Not that the music is bad in any way, but it would be refreshing to hear something just a tad more exciting. Here we are presented to another new clean vocal-style by Fridén. It's actually better than anything before and you can tell that he is much more confident here. But it's definitely nothing out of the ordinary and as I mentioned earlier, I would have preferred more aggression instead of streamlining one's sound in order to attract more listeners. Or is this a part of growing old? I mean, I listen to many different music styles, but when I listen to metal - I prefer when you can actually hear it's metal. Here the band comes dangerously close to sounding Eurovision. Once again, I curse thee Lordi!

 Now we write 2008 in the calendar and would you believe it? Another album from In Flames! As I said, I'm beginning to grow tired of the same formula all the time and I sincerely hope that "A Sense Of Purpose" will bring something new to the table. I just chose the first song "The Mirror's Truth", and it made me Nostradamus all over again.
I'm having a hard time to hear the actual song, but that has more with the fact that my girlfriend asked me to turn down the volume since she is trying to read in the same room, rather than the quality of the music. Actually, it doesn't matter anymore. This sounds exactly like "Crawl Through Knives", "Trigger" and a little like "Pinball Map". It feel like they don't even try anymore. And how short was that song? Under 3 minutes? Hell, I thought I was listening to metal - not radio music. But I must say I am a bit confused. I thought that their most extreme "fans" started bashing them because they changed so god damn much during the years. With the exception of the ever-changing clean vocals and the very subtle keyboard additions - this sounds terribly similar to everything I've heard from this album down to "Whoracle". There is very little difference and absolutely zero effort in song writing. Either I got it all wrong or I'm in the Twilight Zone. I vote for the latter.

 Finally, I've arrived at the latest In Flames-album "Sounds Of A Playground Fading" (that's one of the most stupid album titles I've ever heard). I just went with the first song to get it over with.
Acoustic guitars - here's something different at least! But the melody is bloody awful and doesn't say anything at all. After a minute or so, it is over and the patented formulaic melodies begins once more. How many of these similar-sounding riffs can a band come up with? I realize I've had enough of In Flames' music when I start to watch videos with Bloodhound Gang (sound muted though) instead. I've always hated Bloodhound Gang and their so-called "humor music". Still, it's more interesting than hearing the same thing over and over.

In conclusion, I always thought that my biggest problem with In Flames would be the annoying vocals - which in reality weren't as annoying as I thought. Either that or the much to melodic and gradually softer approach to the music. But no way. Turns out it was the fact that EVERY SINGLE FUCKING SONG SOUNDS THE SAME! I'm impressed that this band still can draw such big audiences to their shows and sell so many albums when they have done the same thing since 1997 - more or less.
Yeah, I know I might be wrong and I'm sure there's an acoustic semi-interlude and some slower songs here and there on each album. Still, their singles, videos and "popular" songs are all written in the exact same way - you can't deny that. Or rather, you can deny it, but I'm not agreeing with you.

2012-08-20

Suggestions welcomed!

I just wanted to let you guys know that suggestions are very much welcomed as to which bands I will try to understand the next time. Also, if you have suggestions of albums that you think would qualify into the Metal Monuments-category, please let me know in the comments-field.
Thanks!

Henrik tries to understand ... Sabaton

In this section I will try to understand the greatness of a certain band/artist that many people within the metal community seems to like. Or love. I will really try to get into the music and to listen to as much songs from as much albums (from said band) as possible. I don't have any real hopes that it will change my perspective or the way I feel about the band - but it could just remove some grudges or perhaps burn away some preconceptions that I might have. Some of these bands I have tried to understand before and some will be entirely new to me. Read and you'll see...

Bear with me here, as I don't know just how popular this band is around the globe. If you're into metal, you should have heard about this band. I do know that they are immensely popular here in Sweden and if I would have to classify their fans with a tag; I would say that it's your average redneck/white trash/pop-metal guy. And please bear in mind, that these tags are MY OWN PERSONAL preconceptions. I might be wrong and I might be right. The thing is that I don't think we'll ever find out, with me torturing myself through six of their songs (as they've released 6 full-length albums when this is written). Anyway, I've seen and heard enough people screaming the band's name and/or sporting their t-shirts and they either look like this:
Or like this:
Or, like this:
OK, I think you get the point by now. Before I throw myself head-first into Sabaton's debut album "Primo Victoria" from 2005, I'll just clean my head first by listening to "Somewhere In Time" and looking at images of cute kittens to rid my brain of the images we've just seen. Done. Now let's start!

I chose the song "Reign of Terror" since it was one of the first songs with the shortest playing time on the album. I don't know enough about Sabaton to decipher the "best" or the most famous song on each album. Bear with me or sue me.
The song actually starts way heavier and more aggressive than I thought and I must say that I love the murky production. The production-issue probably has more to do with the money-factor rather than that sound was what the band wanted. They were less popular back in 2004 (when I assumed it was recorded). This was a positive surprise to say the least. Then the vocals start.
I don't really know how to describe it, but it sounds like Lemmy is trying to sing melodic while... No wait, that came out way too nicely. It sounds like a weak power metal-vocalist is trying to growl at the same time while doing clean vocals. That came out a little bit better, but it still does not justify the sheer terror that my ears are subjected to. You have to hear it for yourself. I'm no good vocalist myself - and I am the first to admit that - but this is just ridiculous. And the sonic raping continues once the guy pronounces the letter "R" with an accent so mannered that I have to bring my embarrassment-pillow along for the ride. I shove my face in there deeply and try to breathe and calm down. Oh, there's also a boring solo thrown in just for the sake of it.

I continue this train of fun-o-rama with a song from their second album "Attero Dominatus" called "Rise of Evil". This time I chose the longest song, thinking I am about to hear something no quite so fast as the previous one.
The bass-intro sounds suspiciously like something that Swedish cult-band Onkel Kånkel have done in the past, but Windir has done exactly the same with the exact same bass-lines so nothing wrong with that. Actually, make that one bonus point to Sabaton.
The song is, just as I thought, much slower. It's fist-banging friendly metal with some added samples here and there (which I assume is from WW2) which doesn't sound like absolute horseshit. Then the "vocalist" tries to sing more epic and dramatic - at least compared to the former song. And if the vocal delivery on "Reign of Terror" was embarrassing, it's nothing compared to the way he sounds here. I just realized that I haven't mentioned anything about the lyrics yet, but they seem to be written in a hurry just before the band went into the studio. I mean;
"Burning books to spread, anti-semite propaganda
Who will stop the madmans reign?
Night of broken glass, send the jews to Dachau death camp
On a path to certain death"
A 9-year old with a history book could have come up with that in 5 minutes or less.

Musically, the main riff is alright, but it is used to exaggeration and soon becomes repetitive. The keyboards are mainly there for atmosphere, but actually works very well with the music. And once again, the band decides to play one of the most uninteresting guitar solos I've ever heard. In short, Sabaton might be the antithesis to a band like Opeth.

Their third album is called "Metalizer" and from what I understand, is some sort of compilation of old songs or stuff like that. Anyway, I chose a song called "Hail to the King" just because it sounds just as gay as Manowar.
Cool drums begins this song. A really lame-ass folk metal riff that stink of Finntroll follows. When the vocals come in, you can clearly hear that this was recorded a while back ago. The vocals are still real shitty, but they sound shitty in a different way and it was actually refreshing to hear the guy aim for a different style when you've heard the two previous songs. Also, here he doesn't seem to pronounce those "R's" in that ludicrous way. In conclusion: this must have been something that he (and I guess the rest of the members) thought sounded cool and so he decided to go with it. Honestly, I am at a loss of words here...
The song itself is a standard power metal song with a chorus that could have sounded really good with a different vocalist and a better production. Especially the keyboards and the choirs suffer from the bad production, but as this is an old-school recording, I'll let that complaint slip. I do my best to try and enjoy the song, and if I imagine a better vocalist here, it actually sounds pretty good. This is also the first guitar solo I've heard with the band that actually does something for the song and adds a bit of epicness to the entire cake.
I wonder if it is just a random flux that I've chosen the absolute worst songs from Sabaton's two previous albums or if they actually were this much better in the beginning? If so, this must be the first band I've ever heard about that gradually got worse and worse in quality and gained more and more fans. Actually, there might be more of those bands now that I think about it.

Anyway, on to the next album to see if I was right or not. I really want this next song to be better than "Hail to the King" and thus, be proven wrong. Here's "Cliffs of Gallipoli" from "The Art of War".
I chose this song because I remember reading about it in some old interview with the band. And what do you know? There's even an official video to this song. That's good, because it makes me hope that I've chosen the "right" track from this album.
The more "classic" piano sound in combination with the heavy riffing actually makes Sabaton stand out a bit. It does sound weird at first, but my ears soon get used to the combination and I actually find myself stomping my foot along to the music. Uh-oh, am I slowly morphing into a Sabaton-fanboy? Will I also dress in warpants and tunics in a near future?
Nah, I wouldn't count on it - but the vocals have actually improved a lot from the previous album in their discography and it does not rape your ears in the same way it used to. Either that, or I'm slowly becoming familiar with the man's vocals. In reality, I think the clear production have helped the guy's voice a lot here. That, in combination that he actually tries a little harder. The annoying "R" is still there and the pronunciation is sometimes over-top Swenglish, but I can live with that.
Since I actually can stand and almost appreciate the verses this time, I was hoping for greatness once the chorus showed up. But sadly, the chorus and the build-up to the chorus sound way too much Eurovision-metal for my taste. Then I realize it; Sabaton is music for those people that actually listens to Eurovision music most of the time. Then they hear this and call themselves metal-fans. I curse Lordi and their likes for that abomination. Sabaton should stick to faster power metal songs and leave their quest for epicness in the dark. But I realize that it is songs like "Cliffs of Gallipoli" that makes them even more popular. Combined with their tiresome lyrics of war, battles and fighting, they do everything right. The video, although somewhat uninteresting, is nicely shot.

"Coat of Arms" from 2010 is up next and I chose the song "Metal Ripper". I know that they have a "metal" song on each album - it's lyrics consisting of classic song titles and lyrical rip-offs. I guess they do that as a fun thing but I fail to see the humor even before I've heard the song.
With a title like "Metal Ripper", I thought that we would be in for some fast heavy metal with pounding drums, but no way - here we have that Eurovision mid-tempo sauciness again. Just check out the chorus and you'll know what I mean. The choirs are so goddamn 80's and there's no edge whatsoever to the guitars. The sound seems like it was streamlined to gain more attention from those people who normally doesn't listen to heavy metal. Success for Sabaton again!
Honestly, their "real" songs - that are in no way any heavy metal classics - are so much more interesting than this travesty. I'm so embarrassed by this that I have to take a shower and get rid of the filthiness. I hope my neighbors doesn't think I actually listen to this normally.

For the band's latest album "Carolus Rex", they decided to sing in Swedish. I am genuinely interested to hear if the vocalist has kept the annoying "R's" when he sings in his (and my) mother tongue. For this listening session, I just chose the first song that isn't an intro - "Lejonet Från Norden".
Before I get into the actual song, let me first point out a few things:
As a Swede, the entire package with the over-the-top cover with Swedish flags and the entire concept about Karl XII + the embarrassing lyrics, kind of sends that doubtful racist-thoughts into my brain. And before you start the bashing, hear me out; I don't think that the guys in Sabaton are racists or nazis in any way - they just happen to be interested in all things war and bases their entire concept around that. Nothing wrong with that at all, but if you like I grew up in Sweden during the 90's - you cannot take the mental image of the racist-morons in Ultima Thule out of your head when you see the song titles. If you don't know who they are, just take my word for it: Don't Google them. That will save yourself from the mental images you'll get from seeing grown men in outfits so ridiculous that the Sabaton-outfit looks like the latest fashion.
Whoa, that became longer than expected. Now on to the music.
It starts in the typical Eurovision-fashion, this time resembling Nightwish a lot. The vocals actually works much better than I thought they would when I read the truly poor written lyrics. Still - can you guess it by now? The fucking "R's" are there to only make things worse. But he has thankfully skipped some of the worst semi-growls, making the vocals sound much more confident and "cleaner". Perhaps this only apparent on the faster tracks and not when they go into their mid-tempo grandeur. Anyway, it is so much better than anything else I've heard in their discography - both vocally and musically. The song itself is quite fast and as I just mentioned, reeks of some of Nightwish's better compositions. Just when I think that "this is actually pretty good power metal" a female choir comes out of the fucking blue and starts singing a nursery rhyme which sounds so awkward that I once more bring out the embarrassment-pillow and finally go to sleep.
Cool guys wearing cool outfits. And a cigarette.

At last, I am fucking done with this exhausting journey. It's been a long and hard road filled with sweat and tears and facial expressions that made my girlfriend laugh out loud more than once. Me and Sabaton will probably never be friends, even though I can somewhat appreciate them when they're doing fast songs that are rooted in heavy- and power metal. But it seems that they are stuck in this Eurovision-mode (why they still haven't been in that competition is a mystery to me) which I mentioned earlier - is probably the best thing fan-wise. But even when they hit the right buttons, the vocals destroy much of the heavy metal power that could've been. Even so, I am not so stupid that I don't understand that the vocals are as much an eternal Sabaton-trademark to some, as it is one of the world's biggest turn-offs to others.
And even if it may not sound like it, this musical journey has actually made me respect the band a little, little more than before, when I've just read interviews with some seriously embarrassing answers. I doubt the members in Sabaton cares the slightest though, as they are too busy on their way to glory. To the brave. For the king. In war. Hail the sword. Must stop now.