2012-09-27

New album added to the collection

Well, as I said in an earlier post, I just knew that once I saw that wonderful album on vinyl - I just knew I had to own it. And now I went and bought the beauty.
If there is such a thing as a god, he must surely been involved in the creation of this wonderful piece.

My Dying Bride - Turn Loose The Swans
Originally released in 1993. This is a re-release on gatefold blood-red double vinyl in 2010.
Limited edition, number 631 out of 2000.

If I ever get a mantelpiece - this one will surely adorn it.
Click to enlarge

2012-09-21

Metal Monument: Iron Maiden - Somewhere in Time

Band: Iron Maiden
Album: "Somewhere in Time"
Style: Heavy metal
Release date: 1986-09-26
Origin: United Kingdom

Tracklist:
1. Caught Somewhere in Time
2. Wasted Years
3. Sea of Madness
4. Heaven can Wait
5. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
6. Stranger in a Strange Land
7. Deja Vu
8. Alexander the Great

Introduction:
After reading both the unauthorized biography "Iron Maiden - 30 Years of the Beast" by Paul Stenning and the authorized "Run to the Hills" by Mick Wall, I naturally felt a big urge to listen to some Iron Maiden. I've always had "Somewhere in Time" as a personal favorite and even though it is considered among the classic Maiden-albums, it has still got it's share of critcisim over the years and is constantly overlooked in comparison with it's follow-up "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" - which I personally don't care for that much. So it is with a great pleasure that I present the Metal Monument that "Somewhere in Time" rightfully is.

Record cover:
When I spoke about Candlemass' legendary debut "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" I said that the album cover was considered iconic. While that word might be wrong for the mighty Maiden's sixth full-length album cover - it is in all ways considered a classic one. Legendary Maiden-artist Derek Riggs is here at his best what with the futuristic Eddie and all. But of course this cover is all about the details. There are numerous websites out there that really goes into a nerd-in-depth-frenzy while it covers all the hidden stuff in the background and what meaning it has to the band's history etc. I wont go through all that though, but you should all take a moment and look at it a bit more carefully. Click me to do so.




1. Caught Somewhere in Time (07.26)
Straight from the opening guitar melody one can hear the difference in the production compared to the predecessor "Powerslave" (1984). It's slicker and more "modern" - well, at least it was back in 1986 - and the bass guitar is of course always the thing you can hear the most. But it's Steve Harris for f's sake! That bass, in combination with those ever-present twin guitar melodies is to me what Iron Maiden is all about. Not 10+ minute-long songs filled with progressiveness just for the sake of it, as the case is with the present incarnation of the band. Here, we are thankfully saved from the über-dork Jannick Gers and we can solely focus on the craftsmanship of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith.
The verses are fucking ace on this song and even though the chorus on paper should be quite boring with it's constant repeat of the title in the vocal-department, it sure as hell isn't. So basically, this song reeks of everything we've come to expect from the classic Maiden, except it isn't as worn out and played forever in their live sets, such as the case is with some of the other classics - and that is why this particular song always seems so fresh when I hear it. I also have to point out that despite being almost 7 and a half minute long, this demi-title track never gets boring or dull. It's a constant attack of instruments and no boring interludes either. Pure gold!




2. Wasted Years (05.07)
If I remember correctly, this was the first single from the album and I totally get why. It's more "mainstream" than the rest of the songs present here and it's easy to get why the band (and manager Rod Smallwood) thought that "Wasted Years" would be perfect for a single.
While the song itself ain't bad in any sense, the more mainstreamed sound - especially in the chorus - gets old quite fast and it's almost too sing-along friendly for my taste (now there's something I never thought I'd write). The guitar solo present in the track is also a tad to icky for my taste.




3. Sea of Madness (05.42)
This is one of the songs I keep forgetting about when I listen to "Somewhere in Time" and I thought I would analyze it a bit more thoroughly now to see why. The first thing I notice is that "Sea of Madness" is a tad more "rockier" and less epic than most of the songs on the album and that the bass guitar really sticks out (even more so than the rest of the songs), especially while listening to it with headphones.
The vocal melodies in the verses are quite mediocre when it comes to Maiden and they feel more akin to the band's older albums. The chorus then tries to be more epic than the rest of the songs, but it actually feels a bit forced and don't even get me started on the "oh-oh's" in the pre-chorus. It's no wonder why I don't remember this particular song so well when I think about "Somwhere in Time".




4. Heaven can Wait (07.22)
The song begins with one of those infamous keyboards (or guitar-synths?) that this album is perhaps most famous of. But since they are constantly in the background and only adds an extra layer underneath the sea of guitars, bass and drums - one cannot wonder if the album would have sounded any different without them.
Anyway, "Heaven can Wait" has a really memorable verse where Bruce Dickinson shows exactly how godlike he is when it comes to gabble many words at once. Sure, the constant repeat of the title in the chorus might get old quite fast, but it's nevertheless a joy to sing-along to. And when you get to the part where the band shifts tempo and Bruce begins to sing: "Take my hand..." always gives me goosebumps. The "woh-oh-oh" that comes after, while a bit tacky on it's own, actually brings me back to the 80's with a smile on my face.




5. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (06.31)
I have no idea why this song seems to be one of those less revered when it comes to "Somewhere in Time" as I always keep hearing journalists and writers look down on this. The beginning with it's somber atmosphere and fantastic guitar melody is so masterfully done that I always sit and hum along to it. I love how the entire verse sounds like one long pre-chorus, slowly building up to a climax and then comes that wonderful pronunciation when Bruce takes his time with singing the title and finally gets to the word "runn-er" - I absolutely love that small moment.
Lyrically, it might be a bit more corny than the rest of some of the lyrics present, but that is a minor thing that, in my opinion, one can easily overlook.




6. Stranger in a Strange Land (05.45)
Hell yeah! The bass-lines in the beginning are a joy to behold (I vote for the word "behear" to make it's entry in the English language). The build-up here is a bit different to say the least and "Stranger in a Strange Land" at one point seems more progressive than the rest of the lot here and on the other hand, it's also a bit more mainstream. I really like the fact that those two feelings so successfully are combined in this song and it's no wonder why this became the second single off the album.
As I said, it is very different from the rest of the material on "Somewhere in Time" and I also must point out that it takes a genius to actually place this song between "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" and "Deja Vu" where it sits so perfectly. I often feel that too few reviewers point out that particular thing when it comes to classic albums. Sure, all the songs here are good songs on their own, but whilst listening to an entire album from start to finish - one badly placed song on the tracklist can ruin the entire flow. "Somewhere in Time" is a great example of how to decide a tracklist.




7. Deja Vu (04.56)
Together with "Sea of Madness", I find that "Deja Vu" is one of the weakest points on the album, though not really weak. Strange? Well, let me explain then:
 It's most definitely not a bad song and I love the more faster tempo here and the fact that the song is the only one under 5 minutes. A longer playtime would have easily resulted in a lower score from my side. The verses, and especially the pre-chorus "Cause you know this has happened before. And you know that this moment in time is for real. And you know when you feel deja-vu", is marvelous to say the least and it also saves the song from it's quite boring chorus. So what should have been a great climax, now only feels awkward and I cannot help myself from removing a few points because of that. Otherwise, it's a great little rocker. Had I given out half points, "Deja Vu" would have received 7.5 because I'd rather listen to this than "Wasted Years".




8. Alexander the Great (08.35)
The song begins with it's infamous lines "My son ask for thyself another. Kingdom, for that which I leave is too small for thee?". After that, there's a small part of acoustic guitars and march-drums which slowly settles the mood before the "actual" song starts. From verse to chorus to bridges to solos and everything in between  "Alexander the Great" is just... great. Also, I have to revoke some parts from my earlier comments regarding them infamous guitar-synths, because you can really hear them well.
Honestly, I feel it is an outrage that this song isn't regarded in the same manner as "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" or "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" (the song) since it is equally as good. And when was the last time the band brought this one in for a live-performance?




End rating
It is quite hard to rank a particular Maiden-album due to the fact that they've done so god damn many and even those albums which are considered as "weaker" all still contain at least some good songs (except "No Prayer for the Dying" which I absolutely loathe). But I still stand firm behind my statement that "Somewhere in Time" is the best Maiden-album out there, simply because it is so much more consistent than many of the other classics. "The Number of the Beast", "Piece of Mind" and "Powerslave" - how good they may be, still has some songs that are considerably worse than the weakest tracks here - here's looking at "Gangland", "Sun and Steel" and "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)". Still undoubtedly a Metal Monument - "Somewhere in Time" isn't a full score affair.

TOTAL SCORE:
"Make you an offer you can't refuse
You've only got your soul to lose
Eternally.... Just let yourself go
Caught somewhere in time"



2012-09-20

New albums added to the collection

Just felt the need to share that I purchased a couple of records today - and damn cheap too. All the albums were used copies but all of them was also in mint condition.

Borknagar - Quintessence (2000, Century Media)
I have no damn idea why this album always have been so damn difficult to find in Swedish webshops. And when I have found it, it has always been so much more expensive than any of the band's other albums. Weird.
But today I was super excited to finally find a digipak for only 60 SEK (roughly around 7 €) and I never once hesitated.

Cathedral - The VIIth Coming (2002, Dreamcatcher)
This is a band that I've never payed that much attention to, even though I dig a few of their older albums. But this one was so cheap (3.5 €) that I couldn't resist buying it.

Guns N' Roses - Gn'r Lies (1988, Geffen)
One of my old teenage-loves, this was the only album in their discography that I missed (no, I don't count "The Spaghetti Incident") and since this one also only cost me 3.5 €, you can imagine that I was pleased. I used to own this back in the days, but I did something incredibly stupid in the past and sold off a couple of albums. Apart from "Gn'r Lies", that also included stuff such as "Master of Puppets", some hard-to-find Refused albums, the first one from Rage Against the Machine and some other stuff that I've forgot.

I also found a very nice copy of the incredible Metal Monument "Turn Loose the Swans" by My Dying Bride on vinyl - the one with the grey-ish swan on the cover - but it would have cost me over 38 € and I sadly couldn't afford that today. It really aches in my fingers though, since I just found out that this re-release was only printed in 2000 copies and features the original artwork as well as new liner notes from founding member Andrew Craighan. I am dying to get this one asap!

And while on the subject of albums (big surprise in this blog aye?), I'm really psyched writing a rant about my collection in some way, but I'm not just sure exactly how to approach the subject. I'll just have to think about this one and get back to it in the (hopefully) near future.
Above is a very small part of my albums - check out the entire collection at Rate Your Music

Review: Down - Down IV, Pt. 1 - The Purple EP


Band: Down
Album: "Down IV, Pt. 1 - The Purple EP"
Style: Southern Metal
Release date: 2012-09-18
Origin: United States

Tracklist:
1. Levitation
2. Witchtripper
3. Open Coffins
4. The Curse is a Lie
5. This Work is Timeless
6. Misfortune Teller

Down is a band that I've never heard before, though I've certainly heard about them a lot and I am quite familiar with the members' other CV's including Pantera, Corrosion of Conformity, Eyehategod and Crowbar, to name a few. The genre they operate within sounds quite corny to my ears, but I reckon that since I got used to genres such as "epic heathen metal", "avantgarde art metal" and "Hollywood metal" (hello, a certain Italian band), I might as well accept "southern metal" as well. I think I have an idea of how this will sound though; I'm betting my money on some sort of doom metal, combined with stoner-, heavy metal and a healthy dose of Black Sabbath - done in some sort of southern Louisiana-drug-hazed style.

As the first track "Levitation" slowly comes crushing into my speakers, I hear that I wasn't completely inaccurate in my crystal ball-telling. It's doomy alright, and it doesn't sound very modern either. It's more in the stoner-direction of doom rather than somewhere near My Dying Bride or latter-day Candlemass. So yeah, it's all catchy and things are grooving along alright, but there's nothing outstanding with the basic slab of music in my opinion. I've always liked Phil Anselmo's voice and here he sounds more vital than I've heard him in a long time, but them vocals are quite high up in the mix. I sort of prefer that though, but I can imagine that there's tons of people that will complain about that. Anyway, once I've heard the track a couple of times, the chorus kind of got stuck in my head which is always a good thing in my book. Too bad the verses are quite boring though.

For a band that does this sort of metal, the average length of the songs here are quite short and "Witchtripper" is with it's 3.49 minutes the second shortest. The song itself is kind of built up the same way as the first one, since there are quite boring verses in where Phil rather talks than sings. The chorus is simply built up by the man repeating the title a couple of times. I would have thought that "Witchtripper" would be a more up-tempo rocker compared to "Levitation", but it is just more of the same, just only like 2 minutes shorter. There's a boring guitar solo in here as well, but it does not grab my attention like it should. Which could be said about the entire song as well.

The 3rd track begins straight away with a much anticipated groove in where Phil sings really good. Although pummeling away in the same tempo all of it's 5.43 minutes, the band manages to keep me interested all the way through - I assume this has to do with the fact that the members should be quite the songwriters by now. Given their combined CV's that is.

"The Curse" starts with nonsense-riffing which sounds completely pointless. As the song eventually grows into some meaningful doom metal, it's still quite plodding and lacks any real direction in my opinion. It's skillfully played and all, but talent means only so much when the music isn't any more interesting than this.

On "The Work is Timeless", we finally get a little bit more uptempo which feels like a breath of fresh air after hearing four songs with basically the same tempo. Not much though, but this actually felt like a slow Pantera-song - minus the shredding from Dimebag of course. It's somewhat of a curse that Phil's voice is so deeply connected to the biggest band he's been in. At least to me it is, so I will always hear a little Pantera here and there, apparently oblivious to the fact that it doesn't.

Down decided to end this EP with a 9+ minute-song called "Misfortune Teller". I sincerely hope it is good, because that might be the only salvation here. It begins very groovy and pummels along in a nice midtempo and here Phil manages to break free from my ludicrous Pantera-comparisons. With a song being this long, we are naturally greeted with some really slow doom-parts here and there and a spaced-out guitar solo, but on the whole, this is actually the best song that "Down IV, Pt. 1" has to offer. Also, take away the part where I wrote about the song being over 9 minutes, since basically the last 2 minutes consists of silence. That was perhaps a cool touch in 1996, but it's not in 2012.

On the whole, this was a lot more doomier and contained less heavy metal than I thought. This EP could easily have been labelled "stoner metal" in my opinion. A little less stoner, a bit more classic doom-riffing and some more uptempo to vary thing a bit, would have given this a higher rating. But I cannot look past the fact that the members are gifted at what they do. This is not just my cup of tea I guess.

RATING:
6.0/10

2012-09-19

Henrik lectures in... Vintersorg

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.

The year was 2000 and I was visiting Gothenburg, Sweden with my class in school. I don't exactly remember what the hell we were doing there, but that is of less importance. What is important is that we visited a record store and I just happened to pick up an album out of the blue. I just liked the name of the band and the title, so I decided to invest some of the little cash that I had. That was one of the best decisions I've ever made and I haven't looked back since that day.

For you see, the artist was Vintersorg and the album was "Ödemarkens Son" and that started a lifelong worship of everything Andreas "Vintersorg" Hedlund has done. Sure, I haven't liked everything he's done as much as Vintersorg (with perhaps the exception of Otyg) but from Cronian to Waterclime, there's always been a certain quality-stamp that I can't deny. If you haven't heard this incredible band before, it is kind of hard to explain. In the beginning, Vintersorg was a metal band that mixed black- and heavy metal with folk-influences, hence why many people refer to this as viking metal or pagan metal. Later on, the band ventured into a more progressive metal field, without loosing it's identity. But enough talk about the past, let's revisit it right now!

Before I dive further into the classic debut album "Till Fjälls" from 1998 - be sure to check out the EP "Hedniskhjärtad", released in the same year. If you like the music on this album, you'll be sure to enjoy the EP as well.
Apart from the classic title-track, there's only one song here that is worthy of the title "classic", and that my friends, is "För Kung och Fosterland". Starting with an immediate punch and going from harsh black metal into one of those choruses that this guy is so incredibly talented at making is nothing but pure awesomeness. We're also served a really cool bridge in the form of "Hall of the Mountainking" by Edward Grieg.
On the downside, the music is left suffering due to the poor production and the somewhat dissatisfying drum-programming. If you can look past this - you have one hell of a song to enjoy.

The year after, Mr. V released the album that I talked about in the beginning. "Ödemarkens Son" is superior in production and instrumentation and on the same level of incredible songwriting as "Till Fjälls".
The incredible "Svältvinter" opens with beautiful acoustic guitars and keyboards before morphing into a mid-tempo metal song where Hedlund's vocals go lower and deeper than we've heard before. Cia Hedmark (from Otyg) joins him in the chorus and the dueling of these two voices is a true joy for the ears. Both the lyrics and the music gets darker after a while and the part where Hedlund starts to use his grim voice always makes the hair stand up on my arms.

During the year of the new millennium, the first major changes in the Vintersorg-camp took place. The one-man project became a duo when Mattias Marklund joined Hedlund on guitars. And many of the lyrics came in English instead of Swedish. On "Cosmic Genesis", the keyboards play a larger role.
And this is quite evident on the amazing "A Dialogue with the Stars" where the keyboard-frenzy reaches new peaks - though always in a wonderful symbiosis with the guitar-riffs which goes hand in hand with the even better vocal-melody. The verses are great on their own but what really gets me going is the absolutely insane chorus. "These myriads of stars, ah-oah-oh-ah-oah-oh". I need not say anything else.

On "Visions from the Spiral Generator", the duo brought in the bass-wizard Steve DiGiorgio (known from Death and Sadus amongst others) and the equally amazing drummer Asgeir Mickelson (ex-Borknagar) and the result is the most technical and progressive work from the band up to that date. Which was 2002 by the way.
(unfortunatley, this YouTube-version of the song suffers from some seriously annoying changes in volume at some points. Have faith - the album version is much better)
On "Visions...", Hedlund have used the English language for 6 of the songs and the remaining 3 are in Swedish. I choose the Swedish "Universums Dunkla Alfabet" since it is a fast-paced song with less progressiveness than some of the other songs on the album. This is more a "rocker" - if I am allowed to use that word - than most of the other songs here. It does contain a few time-changes here and there and becomes a bit more "weird" towards the end, but the almost evil-sounding verses and the wonderful chorus - which is made for singalong - is what I truly love about this song.

2004 was the year when the band released "The Focusing Blur" - which today still remains the only V-album where all the lyrics are written in English. For me personally, this is among the weakest albums the band has ever done, but it is still a very good album nevertheless. If you are into weird changes in music and heaps o' progressiveness, then this album might be for you. Steve and Asgeir are still hired hands on this album and the band has also added Lars Nedland (Borknagar and Solefald) for some spoken monologues and hammond on this very track.
The band immediately begins with some weird keyboard-noises and Lars' really cool voice. Then we get to hear heavy metal in combination with some odd changes and vocal-melodies which at first doesn't seem to fit the music at all. But I've come to conclusion that "The Focusing Blur" is one of those albums which you really have to listen to a lot of times to quite get the whole picture. Also, the album should really be listened to from start to finish and not cut-out like I just did here. Nevertheless, I really enjoy "Matrix Odyssey" for it's weirdness. And though there are weirder tracks evident on the album - see the Arcturus-influenced "Curtains" for evidence - this one just has the right amount of metal combined with weirdness for my taste.

Mr. Hedlund kept things quiet in the Vintersorg-camp for a few years and returned in 2007 with "Solens Rötter", which was a combination of the older, more-nature based albums and the two latest more progressive works. This is also not one of my favourite V-albums since it feels quite unfocused at some points and lacks some of the "grandeur" that most of the earlier albums had. Still, not a bad album of course.
This time, I went with a choice of a song that wouldn't seem too obvious. Sure, I could have gone with "Spirar och Gror" or "Att Bygga en Ruin" which are closer to my personal taste, but I felt that it was time for all you non- V-fans to hear one of their infamous ballads. There have been one on every album since "Cosmic Genesis" and while "Strålar" might not be as good as "The Enigmatic Spirit" (from "Cosmic Genesis") it has a flow and a feeling which is unmatched by most of them ballads. I really love the acoustic guitars and how the vocal-melodies intertwine so effectively during the 5+ minutes.

An ever longer break then came in the V-camp but by the time we wrote 2011 in our calendars, the return was mightier and better than ever before. "Jordpuls" is a solid nod towards old classics such as "Till Fjälls" and "Ödemarkens Son" - without sounding remotely like any of those. It is an album that can stand on it's own and perhaps the most fresh-sounding albums the band has ever done.
I mean, how can one not completely fall in love with those verses which keeps shifting effectively in tempo? And then that insane chorus, which, although we've heard the band do many times before, still manages to sound fresh and exciting. Towards the end, we also get that classic nice "break" in the music where things slows down and Hedlund soothes us with his beautiful voice. But these words really can't do justice to this mighty song. Seriously, I might consider "Världsalltets Fanfar" as one of the best songs the band has done on this side of the millennium and I always keep getting back to it.

I barely had a chance to catch my breath with "Jordpuls" until Vintersorg announced it's follow-up "Orkan" this very year (2012). In short words, it is a continuation of the previous release - just with new amazing songs done just the way I like it.
I am aware that this particular song has received some criticism and even ridicule for it's weird keyboards, that at first listen, doesn't seem to fit at all with the rest of the music. But I say, just let it sink in and you'll soon realize that "Myren" is a great song. The chorus is definitely one of those goose-bump inducing moments and the part where Hedlund holds his own little solitary monoluge, immediately brings one back to the ending of "Månskensmän" from "Ödemarkens Son". As I said, you really have to let this song sink in a few times before it becomes so ungodly great as it is.

Vintersorg 2012: Hedlund & Marklund
As the case is with my lecture in My Dying Bride, the songs here might not be my particular favourites from the band, but I think it gives a good representation of what the band is all about. If you are a Vintersorg-newbie and I've just made you interested in the band (if I have managed to do so with just one person, it's been worth the effort I put into this), then I recommend that you start with either picking up "Ödemarkens Son" or perhaps even better "Cosmic Genesis". Then you'll have to do the rest of the exploring for yourself, but here's my top-list of Vintersorg-albums anyway at the current time (September 2012 that is). They are all amazing in their own way, so it's been really difficult to place them in an order, but I did my best.

1. "Ödemarkens Son"
2. "Orkan"
3. "Cosmic Genesis"
4. "Jordpuls"
5. "Till Fjälls"
6. "Visions from the Spiral Generator"
7. "Solens Rötter"
8. "The Focusing Blur"

2012-09-06

Review: The Gathering - Disclosure


Band: The Gathering
Album: "Disclosure"
Style: Atmospheric Rock
Release date: 2012-09-12
Origin: Netherlands

Tracklist:
1. Paper Waves
2. Meltdown
3. Gemini I
4. Heroes for Ghosts
5. Missing Seasons
6. See for Miles
7. Paralyzed
8. Gemini II

Okay, so this isn't metal in any way, but The Gathering used to play just that, even if it was many years ago. Their debut album "Always..." from 1992 is an underrated gothic/doom metal oldie, the follow-up "Almost a Dance" (1993) is a disaster. With "Mandylion" (1995), The Gathering got their big breakthrough when Anneke Van Giersbergen joined with her wonderful vocals. I still think that album is really over hyped and one can really hear that the music wasn't written with her voice in mind. But the follow-up "Nighttime Birds" from 1997 is nothing but a masterpiece. This is the only album the band has ever released where every song is written with Anneke's voice in mind and still manages to be metal. After that, me and The Gathering sort of drifted apart. Okay, I bought "if_then_else" when it was released in 2000 but by then, the magic was gone. They have since released three more albums - four including this one - and Anneke has quit and been replaced by Silje Wergeland (Octavia Sperati). So I dive into their new album "Disclosure" with the only knowledge that I've never heard this woman sing before and their music is apparently labelled as "atmospheric rock" these days...

First track "Paper Waves" sure enough gives me rock - no question about it. But is it atmospheric? What does that mean anyway? I think that the word "atmosphere" might be different for each listener, but to me - just adding keyboards and some effects doesn't make it atmospheric at all. "Nighttime Birds" was (and is) full of atmosphere. Oh well, nevermind. But the song is not actually bad and after hearing it a couple of times, I think I "get it".
Ms. Wergeland has a very good voice, but there's nothing special about it. I cannot get past without a comparison to Anneke and Wergeland doesn't come close to it. As it is now, I don't feel that "special something" and a vocal identity so she just becomes another good female vocalist in an ocean of voices.

"Meltdown" features some really uninspired male vocals and the music has too much of keyboard effects for my taste. After two minutes I wonder when it is going to end and I realize that there's 6 minutes left. Much of the music, both the annoying keys and the horribly distorted guitars - which I assume is there to give the music some sort of "hard rock" feeling - fails to give me anything but a headache. But in the midst of all crap, a trumpet comes in and saves the day. I really enjoy that part and hope there's more of that further on. The song eventually gets better when things slow down and becomes more "atmospheric pop" rather than "atmospheric rock".

The close-to 11 minutes long "Heroes for Ghosts" is at least 6 minutes too long and becomes background music so quick that I forgot that I was actually listening to an album.
On the other hand, "Paralyzed" gives me some serious Massive Attack-vibes, which in my book is something good.

And so it goes. The Gathering is at their best when they play things a little slower - such as "Paralyzed", "Missing Season" and "Gemini I" - and let much of the instruments stand back in favor of Wergeland's voice. By all means, this is not a bad album in any way. It's just that this is the sort of music that I cannot immense myself in, since I'm having a hard time to actually get any feelings for it. Thus, it becomes background music. But very good background music mind you. The Gathering is obviously very good at what they do - it's just that "Disclosure" to me, feels quite boring.

RATING:
5.0/10


2012-09-05

Review: Korpiklaani - Manala

Band: Korpiklaani
Album: "Manala"
Style: Folk metal
Release date: 2012-08-03
Origin: Finland

Tracklist:
1. Kunnia
2. Tuonelan Tuvilla
3. Rauta
4. Ruumiinmultaa
5. Petoeläimen Kuola
6. Synkkä
7. Ievan Polkka
8. Husky-Sledge
9. Dolorous
10. Uni
11. Metsälle
12. Sumussa Hämärän Aamun

So here we have some folk metal from Finland, usually this is the type of folk metal that I really don't like. But I am willing to give this an honest chance and I really, really want these Finnish guys to change my mind. Though I must say, they don't make things easy for me when I take a look at the cover. Honestly, there's a swan swimming in a river of lava and an old guy with a helmet that has elk-horns on it! Okay, I don't know what drugs these guys were on when choosing this as a cover for their latest album. But when I look through their discography, I see that basically all of their covers comes with an elk-horned guy. Consistency is a good thing, even when your album covers look like shit.

On to the actual music then. When I look at the tracklist of "Manala", I see that most of the songs are quite short and that is a positive thing right there. This sort of music would suffer immensely with 5+ songs (even though there's actually three of those here).
The first song starts with what basically is punk rock with an accordion and vocalist Jonne Järvelä sort of yoiking on top of it. To me, there's no folk metal present anywhere. Folk metal for me is melodies, melodies and once more melodies that has that certain folk-ish feeling. I hear none of that here. Think Storm, Isengard and Otyg - which in my opinion - perhaps along with Skyclad - were the originators of folk metal as we know it today. Is it qualified as folk metal when there's just folk instruments added over music that could be everything from death metal (*cough cough* Eluveitie) or as it is in this case - punk rock? I guess so...

Korpiklaani 2012. I wonder how old that guy
(2nd from the right) really is? About 150?
Anyway, after a while, Jonne starts to sing with a voice that's also reminiscent to a few punk bands that I know of - further adding to the mystery as to why this is called folk metal. Okay, there's some riffs that are more straight heavy metal and the chorus even gives us some of those tough-male-choirs that I really cannot stand. The yoiking comes again and then the travesty it's over.
The next track starts a little bit heavier and has less of that ridiculous punk and more metal to it. Vocalist Jonne also sings with a lower tone in his voice here which suits the music much better than his punk-vocals would have. Oh, but they obviously enter the soundscape once it's time for a chorus. Even though this is nothing that I'd normally listen to, I can appreciate the instrumental parts and stomp my foot along to the music. It's also, thankfully, about a 1000 times better than the first track.
I'm assuming that the music present on third track "Rauta" is why this band is labelled as folk metal. Because here you actually have a real folk melody. Too bad it sounds like a nursery rhyme that most definitely never should have been played by an electric guitar. I just realized that I'm only at the third track and I'm already more than tired of this sort of music.

Well, I'm grinding my teeth in despair and let the fourth track sink in. As soon as Jonne sings a bit darker, it gets infinitely better. Too bad that usually only lasts a few seconds. A violin enters the soundscape and it's a joy to be rid of that ludicrous accordion for some time and to listen to an instrument that I really enjoy. This is easily the best song so far with some good ideas, riffs and melodies.
Then we get some more punk rock, combined with thrash metal and folk instruments. On "Petoeläimen Kuola" mr. vocalist actually sounds as if he's really drunk. Next.
The sixth track is one of those longer songs and it begins beautifully with acoustic guitars, violins and percussion. Not metal so far, but now we're talking folk music at least. Then the vocals come in and absolutely destroy everything that was good with the song. This is a good demonstration of how to effectively rape what could have been a damn good song.
When I get to the embarrassingly titled "Husky-Sledge" I can't take it any longer. Seriously, what the fuck is going on? Husky-sledge!? Are you kidding with me? It's an instrumental track that's absolutely crap, but couldn't they come up with something better than "Husky-Sledge"!? I guess not...
But then the band surprise me positively with "Dolorous" which is an instrumental slow song with a great use of the violin. Honestly, this alone I could almost give like 6 out of 10. But I don't grade songs individually here.

Then there's more punk rock, pop melodies, thrash metal, heavy metal and polka all thrown into a soup that most definitely doesn't taste good at all.
I think I get why people like this sort of music. Good for them and all, but this is most certainly not anything that I can take seriously and sit down and enjoy. Sure, there are some good ideas and cool melodies here and there, but on the whole, this album is nothing I ever will listen to again. And no, those melodies, ideas and riffs is not enough to get a higher score.

RATING:

2.0/10



2012-09-04

Review: Testament - Dark Roots of Earth


Band: Testament
Album: "Dark Roots of Earth"
Style: Thrash metal
Release date: 2012-07-27
Origin: United States

Tracklist:
1. Rise Up
2. Native Blood
3. Dark Roots of Earth
4. True American Hate
5. A Day in the Death
6. Cold Embrace
7. Man Kills Mankind
8. Throne of Thorns
9. Last Stand for Independence

I cannot really say that I've ever been into much thrash metal at all. That is, apart from the mandatory Metallica-worship that I went through as young. And yeah, I've listened to a couple of Megadeth-albums and tried to understand the greatness of "Reign In Blood". But neither Megadeth nor Slayer did anything in particular for me. Yeah, that's right - I don't care very much for Slayer. So sue me.

Testament I've come across once in the past - namely the album "The Gathering" from 1999 which got a lot of praise when it was released so I decided to see what the fuzz was about. Sure, it was a solid album and everything, but I never quite got immersed into the music the way I should have. Even though that album from -99 sounded fresh and "modern" (back then at least) - it still somehow managed to sound 80's, simply because that's when thrash metal was at it's peak.

Their new album "Dark Roots of Earth" continues to worship at the altar of thrash and I assume this band has done little over the years when it comes to straying far from that path. Please correct me if I'm wrong though.
As with "The Gathering", this is also a solid thrash metal album which manages to vary it's songwriting enough to keep me interested. The band is very gifted when it comes to changing paces, varying the vocal-approach and inserting a solo here and there. "Native Blood" has a really interesting approach since it goes from almost mainstream-ish choruses (read: Metallica-mainstream) into galloping riffs and weird solos. It is easily the best Metallica-song I've heard from a band that isn't Metallica since 1991.
The title track is a slower thing that marches forth in a sluggish tempo - complete with vocal-harmonies as well as almost macho-like choirs - sort of what Biohazard effectively did in the early 90's. It is refreshing and cool at the same time, although the song might be a little too long for it's own good.
Testament 2012
The title "True American Hate" makes me cringe a little bit, but Testament is soon forgiven due to the fact of the sheer fury and tempo and they conjure forth. If I had had any hair left on my head, I would have headbanged like crazy during this song.
I must say that I really enjoy vocalist Chuck Billy's voice a lot. If there's ever anyone that's made for singing on a thrash metal song - it's this guy. He's got the perfect mix between melody and aggression in his voice. In other words, he neither sounds as whiny as James Hetfield nor does he do the little dog-bark á la Tom Araya.
I have to say something about "Cold Embrace" as well. When I first saw that the song was close to 8 minutes, I had serious doubts as to whether a thrash metal band could pull off something like that. Keeping me interested for that long when it's not one of my favorite genres is not an easy thing to do. But fuck me, Testament actually pulls it off! Chuck Billy once more shows his varied vocal-approach and the flow from the ballad-ish moments to the heavier ones fits like a glove. It gives me some serious "Master of Puppets"/"...And Justice For All"-vibes - but without the dreadful production the latter one had. Yeah, I know that I am a thrash metal-newbie since I keep comparing Testament to old Metallica, but I really think the comparison actually does some justice here.
I of course knew that the band had to follow up "Cold Embrace" with something faster and more aggressive and "Man Kills Mankind" does it's job just right. I get some serious 80's-vibes here - in a positive way that is.

In conclusion, this is better than anything that Slayer, Megadeth and (the extremly overrated) Anthrax has ever done and also better than anything post-1988 when it comes to Metallica. But if I remember correctly, "The Gathering" had a higher tempo overall and felt more aggressive which is more to my liking. "Dark Roots of Earth" is a good album indeed, just not a great one.

RATING:
7.5/10

Metal Monument: Candlemass - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus


Band: Candlemass
Album: "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus"
Style: Read the title - Epic Doom Metal ffs
Release date: 1986-06-10
Origin: Sweden


Tracklist:
1. Solitude
2. Demons Gate
3. Crystal Ball
4. Black Stone Wielder
5. Under the Oak
6. A Sorcerer's Pledge

Record cover:
If there's one album cover that can be considered classic and iconic, it is this one. The story about the misprint that inverted the colors is also legendary. But it is actually good looking? The idea to put a cross through a skull with small devil horns is good. If you were around during the mid-80's, it would probably be considered great. But I am not so satisfied with the overall execution - the colors is one thing, but the skull itself looks a bit weird to say the least. Also those horns are too small. But as I said, it's so god damned iconic it's almost ridiculous.




1. Solitude (05.37)
From the beginning acoustic guitars to the soul-crushing doom that soon enters the frame of sound - this is pure classic Candlemass in it's truest form. The lyrics reeks of misery and despair and no one else but Johan Längqvist could have done them justice. Forget that fat monk - this is without a doubt the greatest vocalist ever to front this band. An instant classic that does nothing wrong.




2. Demons Gate (09.12)
The song begins with a down-pitched voice, giving an "evil" speech that sounds quite ridiculous (even mastermind Leif Edling says so himself). But once that's over, a truly epic doom metal song takes form and never once during it's 9+ minute would I dream of looking at the time. Unlike some of the contemporary doom bands at the time (St. Vitus, Pentagram etc.) Candlemass don't look to the blues for it's inspiration, but rather at classic heavy metal which actually makes this album sound quite unique.




3. Crystal Ball (05.21)
From it's opening lines, via the highly addictive chorus and all the way to the the bitter end - "Crystal Ball" is another gem of epic doom metal-perfection. I really don't know what else to say here but I really like the fact that the band has managed to stop the song when it should be over, rather than drag it out for 5 minutes more just because we're talking doom metal. It's really impressive considering their young age at the time.




4. Black Stone Wielder (07.36)
This is mainman Leif Edling's story about the three wise men and how they discovered the son of God, with his own little twist to it. Really interesting lyrics to say the least.
I love this song because it's melodies are just ace and then the vocal melodies are even more addictive. Also, this one manages to be a little more dynamic when the band ups the tempo. And speaking of melodies, can you hear which classic Christmas carol they've ripped off completely?




5. Under the Oak (06.55)
Though there's absolutely nothing wrong with this song (or the 1989 version of it) it's one of my least favorites on "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus", simply because the rest of the songs are so damn strong. But it's still better than anything they did between 1990-2005.




6. A Sorcerer's Pledge (08.20)
During one of the behind-the-scenes from the band's "20 Year Anniversary Party"-DVD, guitarist Mats "Mappe" Björkman gets the question which his all-time favorite Candlemass-song is and he answers by saying "A Sorcerer's Pledge" - because it has everything. And I really couldn't agree more.
The song is divided into three parts, the first one beginning with acoustic guitars and Längqvist's enormously haunting voice. They then add crushing guitars for some doom metal deluxe and later morphing it into the fastest part of the album - I really love that part. In the end, they slow things down again and we have gone back full circle since "Solitude".
And to further compare this one with the opening track, this is easily a full-score spot-on song. In other words; the crowning jewel in the band's entire discography.




End rating
The band never outdid their first ever album from 1986, even though they did other good albums - the follow-up "Nightfall" from 1987 and 2009's "Death Magic Doom" for example. "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" is a solid album from start to finish and there's no fillers whatsoever. It is a prime example of a band's youthful innocence and ambitions that really came into fruition. I cannot really give anything below a full score.

TOTAL SCORE:

"Hate is my only friend, pain is my father
Torment is delight to me
Death is my sanctuary -
I seek it with pleasure
Please let me die in solitude"

2012-09-03

Review: Katatonia - Dead End Kings


Band: Katatonia
Album: "Dead End Kings"
Style: Gothic rock/metal
Release date: 2012-08-27
Origin: Sweden

Tracklist:
1. The Parting
2. The One you are Looking for is not Here
3. Hypnone
4. The Racing Heart
5. Buildings
6. Leech
7. Ambitions
8. Undo you
9. Lethean
10. First Prayer
11. Dead Letters

Katatonia is a band that I have an ups-and-downs-past with. I discovered them with the album that became the big change for the band, namely "Discouraged Ones" from 1998 so we definitely have a past together. Nine full-length albums into their career, I have always regarded them as a hit-and-miss band due to some uneven songwriting. For example, I do like "Tonight's Decision" (1999) and "Viva Emptiness" (2003) quite a lot but I never got the hype for "The Great Cold Distance" (2006) and I didn't like their last album "Night is the New Day" (2009) at all.

As we write August 2012 in the calendar, it is time for "Dead End Kings" and the first thing I have to say is; what a fucking spectacular cover. I won't bother looking it up, but I assume it is Travis Smith who once again has outdone himself.

The album starts with "The Parting", which is a good choice for an opener with it's signature Katatonia-guitar work and Jonas Renkse's instantly recognizable vocals. The second track features Silje Wergeland (from The Gathering) on guest vocals, which I guess is nice and all. But ever since Renkse started singing "clean" - like in 1998 - there have never been a need for female vocals in Katatonia in my opinion. And add to that, that Renkse's vocals are layered together with Wergeland's - and she actually becomes quite useless here. To make things worse, the song itself is really sub-par and sounds as if it was put together in half an hour during a rehearsal. I'm not impressed.
"The Racing Heart" begins very ballad-ish with only vocals and keyboard-effects. After a while, it turns into a groovy track which undoubtedly sounds as if it was intended for a single. It's nothing breathtaking or anything - we've heard the band do this many times before - but it is a good track nevertheless.

Katatonia 2012: Per, Daniel, Jonas, Anders & Niklas
I wont deny that Katatonia are really good at what they do, but there's really little new ideas here and I've heard the band do this much better before. Songs such as "I Am Nothing", "Strained", "Teargas", "Sleeper", "Criminals" and "My Twin" have had some little twist that made them stand out. Also, I wish for something little more up-tempo such as the band did on one of their best songs ever; "Ghost of the Sun".
Next up is "Buildings" and it has a little more edge to it with some heavy riffing and although it sounds refreshing, there's really nothing that grabs my immediate attention or sticks out of the ordinary. After that comes a song that slow things down considerably and actually bores the shit out of me. Anathema can do this sort of music perfectly and although Katatonia has showed (more than once) in the past that they also are capable of this - "Leech" is not one of those.

The album continues on like this; lots of their patented mid-tempo songs with some changes here and there when it's time for a chorus. But it seems like the main focus and the keywords this time around has been "softer" and "slower". I like the opening track, "Buildings", the more heavier "Lethean" (which has a chorus that's quite addictive) and the last track "Dead Letters" that manages to bring something different to the table - and actually sounding a little like something off of Opeth's latest album "Heritage". Though I must admit it's a very small resemblance, it is still there lurking in the shadows.

All in all, this seems like "just another day at work" and "just a new album" for Katatonia. But I must admit that I had no high expectations for this album and it actually managed to sound exactly the way I thought it would. It's an alright album for a band that are very good and professional at what they do, although they keep doing much of the same thing album after album. Had "Dead End Kings" had a few more up-tempo songs I would probably enjoyed it more. As it is now, I cannot give a higher score than 6.

TOTAL SCORE:
6.0/10