2012-10-31

Review: Tiamat - The Scarred People


Band: Tiamat
Album: "The Scarred People"
Style: Gothic Metal
Release date: 2012-10-26
Origin: Sweden

Tracklist:
1. The Scarred People
2. Winter Dawn
3. 384
4. Radiant Star
5. The Sun Also Rises
6. Before Another Wilbury Dies
7. Love Terrorists
8. Messinian Letter
9. Thunder & Lightning
10. Tiznit
11. The Red Of The Morning Sun

The good old Swedes in Tiamat are back with a new album, more than four years after the band's latest offering "Amanethes" (2008) - which in turn came five years after "Prey" (2003). So to say that the band are in a hurry is to overstate things. Thankfully, mastermind Johan Edlund & co. makes the most out of this long absence and (mostly) gives us quality over quantity.

Tiamat has always been something of a musical chameleon, constantly changing something on each new album. But this time, the surprises aren't actually that many. Instead, there's something of a familiar feeling all throughout the duration of "The Scarred People". We get the gothic uptempo/pop-ish parts from "Judas Christ" (2002), the surrealistic prog-like moments from "A Deeper Kind of Slumber" (1997), some heavy, dreamlike doom-ish crunches á la "Wildhoney" (1994) and "Clouds" (1992) and even some country- and blues-influences that sounds weirdly out of place at first listen. I would say that on a whole - "The Scarred People" sounds like a combination of "Judas Christ" and "A Deeper Kind of Slumber", which in my book is a damn good grade.

Tiamat 2012: Lars Skjöld, Anders Iwers, Johan Edlund & Roger Öjersson
The first five tracks are all equally impressing in their own way - from the uptempo soon-to-be-classic title track (which is impossible not to stomp your foot along to), to the ballad-like drug trip that "The Sun Also Rises" is. Another thing which might be familiar to long-time listeners of the band, are those goddamn annoying instrumentals - here represented by "Before Another Wilbury Dies" and "Tiznit". Think "Kite" and "Diyala" from earlier albums and you know what I mean. Pointless, but thankfully it doesn't destroy the flow of the album. And that is one thing that "The Scarred People" succeeds in, whereas "Amanethes" failed utterly; the ability to flow along, leaving the listener in a cozy state of mind where Tiamat are gods.

Lyrically, Edlund does his usual thing; ranging from funny stuff:
"In Hamburg suburbia
With a girl from Serbia
With all God's crystal methedrine
And a train to take me back to Berlin

All was spoken, all was done
And a little swedish lady came along"
to Bob Dylan-thefts:
"The times they're a changing"
to his usual downright embarrasing lines:
"Make your wishes, put your spell
But don't fuck with my hell"
If you've heard anything from the band's back catalogue from 10-15 years back, this shouldn't really come as a surprise. It's there because it's Tiamat basically.

I am actually having a hard time trying to find anything negative to say about this album and I am truly surprised that the guys managed to craft such an impressive album. I think that the new guitarist/keyboardist/mandolin-player Roger Öjersson must have been a real vitamin-injection for the band -  he's also written a good deal of these new songs. Perhaps he is that something that, in my opinion, has been missing since "A Deeper Kind of Slumber". It sound like a new, revitalized Tiamat whom has not only managed to write a couple of really strong songs - but also sounds like as if they have had a lot of fun whilst doing it.

RATING:
9/10



Top-10 songs with a suicide theme

10. Cradle of Filth - Suicide and Other Comforts
from "Bitter Suites to Succubi" (2001)
In all honesty, not one of the best songs I've heard. But still it's ok.



9. Empyrium - Dying Brokenhearted
from "Where at Night the Woodgrouse Plays" (1999)
One of the least good songs from this album.


8. At the Gates - Suicide Nation
from "Slaughter of the Soul" (1995)
Great song from an absolutely classic album.


7. Metallica - Fade to Black
from "Ride the Lightning" (1984)
Classic semi-ballad from a classic album and a classic band.



6. Unanimated - Die Alone
from "Ancient God of Evil" (1995)
The second best song from this album. The best is higher up on this list.


5. Anathema - All Faith is Lost
from "All Faith is Lost" (1991)
Completely under produced demo-track back in the days when this band was all about doom and nothing else. I absolutely adore this one.



4. Tiamat - The Sleeping Beauty
from "Clouds" (1993)
Classic song from this band, although the lyrics kind of make you cringe.


3. My Dying Bride - Deeper Down
from "A Line of Deathless Kings" (2006)
Fitting, though quite pointless video. Great song though.


2. Candlemass - Solitude
from "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" (1986)
One of the greatest doom-metal classics ever done.



1. Unanimated - Life Demise
from "Ancient God of Evil" (1995)
Fuck me - I cannot stop listening to this amazing song! One of the best melodic black/death-metal songs ever made. Seriously!

2012-10-30

Review: Cradle of Filth - The Manticore and Other Horrors


Band: Cradle of Filth
Album: "The Manticore and Other Horrors"
Style: Symphonic Black/Gothic Metal
Release date: 2012-10-29
Origin: UK

Tracklist:
1. The Unveiling of O (instrumental)
2. The Abhorrent
3. For Your Vulgar Delectation
4. Illicitus
5. Manticore
6. Frost on Her Pillow
7. Huge Onyx Wings Behind Despair
8. Pallid Reflection
9. Siding With the Titans
10. Succumb to This
11. Sinfonia (instrumental)

A couple of days ago, I found two used copies of Cradle of Filth's masterpieces "Vempire or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein" and "Dusk and Her Embrace" on CD. Since I like both albums and they were really cheap, I decided to buy them. Now, this got me in a CoF-listening mode and I revisited some of their older works. It then dawned on me that I had read somewhere that they were releasing a new album this year.
I enjoyed the band up to and including "Midian" (2000) and to a lesser extent, "Bitter Suites to Succubi" (2001). Since then, I've only heard a couple of songs here and there during the 10+ years that have passed by since. And apart from "Swansong for a Raven" from "Nymphetamine" (2004), nothing I've heard since have impressed me in any way.
Back when I listened a lot to the band (late 90's - early 00's) it was popular to bash both Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir due to their immense popularity. I still stand firm that Cradle of Filth managed to produce quite a number of really good songs back in their heydays. And to a much lesser extent, Dimmu Borgir managed to do so as well. But things have changed a lot since those days and while the Norwegians have become larger than ever, Cradle of Filth it seems have taken a more obscure road into the periphery. Fuck it - I now let my prejudices and opinions of old stand aside as I prepare myself to be completely digested in the Filth's latest offering "The Manticore and Other Horrors".

Beginning with a most pointless intro (almost as ugly as the cover) which fails to add any atmosphere whatsoever, I can't say that I have to much hopes for the rest of the album.
But I am convicted once the ferocity of song such as "For Your Vulgar Delectation", "Frost on Her Pillow", "Pallid Reflection" and "Siding With the Titans" hits me in the face. Musically, it seems like the band has focused a lot on putting the guitars in focus and this is both positive and negative. The idea is great, but there's actually way too few cool keyboard-passages present on the album (something I never thought I would write about CoF). Then there are both solid riffing - ranging from punk-ish to old-school thrash attacks - as well as NWOBHM-melodies which is good and all. But there seems to be a bit too much solo-masturbation here and there which doesn't fit the rest of the music at all.
CoF 2012: Marthus, Dani Filth & Paul Allender

Vocally, it is impossible not to compare it with the Cradle of Filth of old. You all know this. Recently I saw a live-video with the band performing quite a lot of old songs and it is most certainly apparent that vocalist Dani Filth has lost the ability to belch out those gut-wrenching yells that was one of his and the band's most distinguished trademarks. This is also very apparent on "The Manticore and Other Horrors".
You see, there are very few of these yells on this album and when they do appear - they are a far cry from what we got used to on classic songs such as "Queen of Winter, Throned" and "Heaven Torn Asunder". Then we are also greeted with attempts of "clean singing" which is utterly dreadful - evidence of this can be found well into the title track "Manticore".
At the beginning of "Pallid Reflection" I realize that I miss the once ever-present female vocals on a Cradle of Filth-album. And much to my surprise, it does show itself in this song and someplace later. But it is not as "dominant" as Sarah Jezebel Deva's voice. Like her or not, one cannot deny the impact that she had on the old classics. And while the female vocals nor the choirs here are not necessarily bad, they are just inferior to what we've heard in the past.

Now, it might seem as I am giving this album somewhat of a bashing - but I really enjoy "The Manticore and Other Horrors" to a certain extent. Sure, it doesn't come near anything the band did prior to "Damnation and a Day" (2003) but it is far better than said album. I miss some of the classic vocals and I do think there's a tad too few keyboards present here, but on the whole, it is an album that is above OK and even might be a grower. Time will tell.

RATING:
6.5/10

2012-10-16

Review: My Dying Bride - A Map of All Our Failures


Band: My Dying Bride
Album: "A Map of All Our Failures"
Style: Gothic Doom Metal
Release date: 2012-10-15
Origin: UK

Tracklist:
1. Kneel Till Doomsday
2. The Poorest Waltz
3. A Tapestry Scorned
4. Like a Perpetual Funeral
5. A Map of All Our Failures
6. Hail Odysseus
7. Within the Presence of Absence
8. Abandoned as Christ
9. My Faults are Your Rewards (bonus track)

When a new album from My Dying Bride hits the shelves (yeah, people actually used that phrase aeons ago - when albums first came out in record stores. You know that place where you go and buy physical copies of an album) I am always quick to pick it up. The good old bride is one of few bands that has never disappointed me with any of their releases. At least when it comes to actual full-length albums (so I don't count those tedious rework "Evinta"-albums in the math) they haven't.

MDB 2012: Shaun, Andrew, Aaron, Lena & Hamish
As usual, they come up with the most joyful album- and song-titles and of course - "A Map of All Our Failures" is no exception. Lyrically and musically, the album also reeks of despair and hopelessness. In other words, just as it should be. The opener "Kneel Till Doomsday" was released online a couple of weeks earlier than the album and I instantly enjoyed the song. It had the same feeling as last year's "The Barghest O' Whitby" EP (containing one song close to 30 minutes) which in turn, gave a few nods to the bands earlier works, such as the "Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium" EP and the band's debut album "As the Flower Withers". In other words, a sort of "rustier" guitar sound and a few death-metal outbursts. There were many of us that then thought the forthcoming album would sound more like the band's past.

But strangely enough, "A Map of All Our Failures" feels more akin to latter albums such as "The Dreadful Hours" and "For Lies I Sire". There's all the usual ingredients that fans of My Dying Bride has come to demand from each new album; the feeling of despair, the slow and crushing doom-riffs, the powerful drums, the subtle bass-lines, the acoustic outbreaks, the weeping violin, the screams of terror and the haunting voice of frontman Aaron Stainthorpe.

The problem with an album that has all the ingredients that one is used to, is that there's very little surprises to be found. I guess that My Dying Bride ceased to amaze and surprise people after the experimental "34.788%...Complete" back in 1998. Still, this is exactly the type of music that really gets me going and because of the band's impressive history, they do their same old thing with such precision and excellence that I am just as amazed each time. And as long as it's not boring, why change an obviously winning formula? I assume that this album will grow the more I listen to it and slowly creep towards the top of the best albums of 2012.

RATING:
8.5/10

2012-10-01

Review: Therion - Les Fleurs Du Mal


Band: Therion
Album: "Les Fleurs Du Mal"
Style: Symphonic Metal
Release date: 2012-09-28
Origin: Sweden

Tracklist:
1. Poupée de cire, poupée de son
2. Une fleur dans le cœur
3. Initials B.B.
4. Mon amour, mon ami
5. Polichinelle
6. La Maritza
7. Sœur angélique
8. Dis-moi poupée
9. Lilith
10. En Alabama
11. Wahala manitou
12. Je n'ai besoin que de tendresse
13. La licorne d'or
14. J'ai le mal de toi
15. Poupée de cire, poupée de son
16. Les Sucettes

About ten years ago, I made the dreadful decision to actually tattoo symphonic/operatic metal band Therion's kliffoth-star on my right arm. Although the tattoo itself doesn't look entirely like horseshit, had I been given another chance, I sure as hell would have chosen another motif today. It is now obvious that I must have been drugged...
Anyway, me and Therion go way back and I have sort of enjoyed all their different phases during the years, some to a little less extent than others, but I've always managed to find something salvageable on each and every album they've done. That is, until "Sitra Ahra" was released in 2010 - because that album was one of the most boring experiences I've ever endured - the entire Opeth-discography included.

Well, now they are back with a new album, that apparently is self-released (without the help of a label) and is only being sold at concerts (as of right now at least). I have always been comfortable that Therion never does the obvious and I have been able to accept the weird choices they've done over the years. But I never imagined the band going completely bonkers and make an entire album (that's 16 songs and 45+ minutes) with only covers of 60s/70s French pop music! Sung in French!
But now here I find myself sitting and listening to an album called "Les Fleurs Du Mal" (which apparently means something like "Flowers of Evil") and I'm sure there's a really interesting concept behind it all, but I want to focus purely on the music - because that's what I did that summer back in 1996 when I first heard "Theli" and the music blew my mind away.

Therion 2012
First of all, let me point out that I have zero to none experience with the French language in metal music, but at least it's better than listening to an album sung in German. I am still haunted by the first time I heard (the otherwise great) Empyrium's "Weiland". Sometimes the French works, such as in the quick opening track but it becomes embarrassing on tracks such as "Initials B.B." where the female vocalist just "moans" the lyrics, making her sound like a drunken, horny 16-year old. And no, that's not meant as something positive... Oh yeah, there's apparently some English here and there, at least on track 10 where I can decipher the line "Up on the hill, in the cottonfield"(!)

As the case was with the band's last travesty, "Sitra Ahra", here they also try to cover as many spectra of music as possible and they're ranging from power metal to progressive to pop and just plain weird. There are some redeeming qualities here, such as the opening track which actually manages to sound a little bit like Therion and the beautiful "Sœur angélique" which kind of makes me want to hear the original. But there are way too many parts where you can hear that these tracks originally were pop music, thus draining the guitars or either just ends up sounding so far from metal as you can get. For example, "Wahala Manitou" does it's best to fuse jazz with metal and the result is plain dreadful. Thankfully, at least the songs are short - the longest clocking in at 4.35.

I can enjoy Lori Lewis' voice to some extent, but here it just becomes too much to hear the same operatic whining in track after track - especially when it's sung in French. Thomas Vikström is a very overrated vocalist and will perhaps always be best remembered for singing on the album that most Candlemass-fans dislike to this day. His voice works at some places, but for the most part he just sounds out of place, check out the dreadful track 12 for proof of that. Snowy Shaw makes a guest appearance on track 8, but what's the point in hearing a "fresh" voice when the music to said track are as exciting as watching seagulls fight over food.

I could go on and on about the embarrassing music on "Les Fleurs Du Mal" but I'll spare you the rest and proclaim this:
The biggest problem I have with the album is the fact that it is an entire cover album, even though it's a bit different due to the fact that the original music is French pop music from the 60's and 70's. Metal or no metal (and I am no stranger to other genres) still doesn't change the fact that the majority of these songs are plain boring and gives me very little sonic pleasure. Whether it's the songs chosen to cover or if the band's reworking of these is the main problem, I have no idea. All I know is that somewhere along the line, things went downhill very fast for Therion. The last truly good and consistent album the band released was "Secret of the Runes" and that was in 2001. You can easily die without shame not ever having listened at all to this crap.

RATING:
3.0/10