Category Archives: Metal

Bret’s top albums of 2014

Here are the bands I listened to endlessly throughout the year.  The music that stirred my soul, got my blood racing and made me drive fast on the freeway.

Cheatahs

Cheatahs

CHEATAHS BY CHEATAHS (WITCHITA RECORDINGS)

Cheatahs‘ S/T first album amazed me with their take on gloriously noisy shoegaze. I bought up their first EP’s and eagerly await their The Sunne EP in February. They’ve have already released lead track Controller on Soundcloud.  The feelings these Brits evoke are blissed out and energetic with a heady mix of melody and distortion.  Listening to  Cheatahs all these months later I’m still blown away by the immediacy of their performances.

[Cheatahs] hit all the notes that turn me on with heavily distorted guitars and quiet vocals as counterpoint to the noise.  With all the effects and volume you’ll also find a sense of pop melody throughout, with some exceptional instrumentation.

Further Deeper

Further/Deeper

FURTHER/DEEPER BY THE CHURCH (UNORTHODOX)

The Church return with Further/Deeper, their first without founding member Marty Wilson-Piper and their first with new guitarist Ian Haug.  Every song is lush, with a subdued beauty and menace. The mostly mid-tempo songs possess an energy that is undeniably captivating.  They’ll be on tour in the States in  February and the Highwire Daze boys will be at the El Rey Theater show singing along.

cynic_album__cover__kindly_bent_to_free_us

KINDLY BENT TO FREE US BY CYNIC (SEASON OF MIST)

I somehow missed the release of Cynic‘s Kindly Bent To Free Us after reviewing their three previous releases.  How these two guys combine metal, jazz, electronica and clean vocals with progressive arrangements is simply magical.  The new album is another example of emotional and rocking music performed by intelligent and talented musicians.  On Youtube you can watch their evolution from Florida death metallers through to the amazing genre-defying band they are today.

Engineers

Engineers

ALWAYS RETURNING BY ENGINEERS (KSCOPE)
Mark Peters and his Engineers band  come back after several years with Always Returning.  Peters recorded the songs in analog for a warm organic feel.  He’s also done two albums with electronic producer and Engineers member Ulrich Schnauss that are worth seeking out if you appreciate the meeting of these two talented and thoughtful musicians.

Always Returning is full of pretty songs that would float off in the clouds if it weren’t for the talents behind their making.  There’s a sense of sadness and longing permeating the album giving many songs a compelling emotional weight.”

exodus cover

BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT BY EXODUS (NUCLEAR BLAST)

Exodus kicked my ass this year with Blood In, Blood Out, a return to focused form by the Bay Area thrashers.  With founding singer Steve “Zetro” Souza back in the fold, the band are at the top of their game.

Food For The Worms is how you’ll feel after being battered and bruised by the last song on Blood In, Blood Out, a go-for-broke song that alternates between stupid-fast beats and heavyosity that still remains accessible.

 

Fairweather

Fairweather

FAIRWEATHER BY FAIRWEATHER (EQUAL VISION)

DC’s post-hardcore darlings Fairweather dropped out of  sight for a decade only to rise like a phoenix fully formed, as if they’d never left.  Though the members may be older and wiser, the songs on their Self-Titled return still contain the fire and passion the band instilled in their sound from their beginnings.

[On the song No Flags Fly] “The band surprise with a soulfullness in their instrumental interplay as well as a bare-it-all vocal performance by [Jay] Littleton.

The Glitch Mob unmasked

The Glitch Mob unmasked

LOVE DEATH IMMORTALITY BY THE GLITCH MOB (GLASS AIR)

The evil beat scientists that are The Glitch Mob crafted Love Death Immortality in their dark basements, feeding off the Big Beat spirits of their ancestors to make one of the funkiest albums of 2014 with some excellent vocal contributions from Metal Mother, Aja Volkman, Yaarohs and Sister Crayon.

“…[T]he trio of ediT, Boreta and Ooah have punched up the more visceral elements of their past efforts, bringing to mind The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers and The Crystal Method.  If you hear the young punk vitality of Liam Howlett, then the trio are doing something right.”

Photo credit: Wil Foster / rockcandyphoto.com

Information Society Photo by: Wil Foster / rockcandyphoto.com

_HELLO WORLD BY INFORMATION SOCIETY (HAKATAK International / MVD

_hello world is the fun(ky) return of Information Society, less interested in hairstyles and splashy music videos and more focused on moving booties.  Even if you didn’t care for their 80’s pop  hits, if you’re a fan of synth pop, Information Society show the youngsters how it’s done right. Not with auto-tune and computers cutting and pasting preset sounds but by actual drive, heart and talent.

There’s a techno dance party you might want to go to, and if Arnold Schwarzenegger tells you to ‘Get your ass to Mars’ you should listen.  The Prize is all pumping beats, buzzing synths and popping bass, with Kurt Harland singing ‘I’m coming up from the ground with my eyes on the prize’ like he’s trying to overcome some herculean challenge.  If the challenge is to get the listener to dance, then he’s succeeded.

J.D. and Jessica Wilkes of the Dirt Daubers Photo by Bret Miller

J.D. and Jessica Wilkes of the Dirt Daubers Photo by Bret Miller

WILD MOON BY J.D. WILKES AND THE DIRT DAUBERS (PLOWBOY RECORDS)

J.D. Wilkes and the Dirt Daubers started out the year right with their jumping rhythm and blues album Wild Moon. Wilkes also heads Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers but this is his new baby.  Joined by wife and bassist / vocalist Jessica, drummer Preston Corn and guitarist Rod Hamdallah (also of the Shack Shakers) , Wilkes sings, plays guitar, bass and harmonica on a collection of riveting and rocking songs about good love gone bad, bad love gone worse and all the things that make life worth living with an understated aw shucks delivery that is inviting and enjoyable for even people that aren’t normally fans of the sound he’s keeping alive. And Jessica’s sass and sway is a wonder to hear, and pleasantly surprised at this new voice in roots rock.

Here’s what Wilkes had to say in an interview we did at the beginning of the year when asked who he was thinking about when writing and recording Wild Moon:  “I guess Little Walter, Ray Charles, a little Creedence, a 60′s rock and blues and R&B thing.  There’s something intangible, there’s something like a Ouija board: you never know what you’re going to get out of it.  All these personalities coming together in the middle.  There’s something odd and cool about this record when you listen to it.  Its a weird, dark feeling you get in the end, you can’t put your finger on it.  I get that over and over, even though I took a trip back after recording it because I was sick of hearing it.  Then I went back and listened to it and it gave me a weird, cool feeling, its kind of dark and strange and dreamlike.  I’m glad that still comes through, even after hearing it to death.

Days of the Fallen Stars

Days of the Fallen Stars

DAYS OF THE FALLEN STARS BY JUNIUS (PROSTHETIC)

On Days of the Fallen Stars, Junius inspired my to write a short story instead of a standard album review.  Their uplifting yet dark rock sound is epic in scope and in a live setting absolutely thrilling.  Play their music loudly and revel in the soaring vocals and muscular performances of Junius.

He breathed in deeply the smells of freshly cooked meals, of perfume and musk, felt a pleasant chill as the trees and plants exhaled their life-giving oxygen.  Then the trumpet announced the arrival of the night and the audience got to their activities with a crash of cymbals.

Lightfoils Photo by Shawn Brackbill

HIERARCHY BY LIGHTFOILS (SAINT MARIE RECORDS)

On Hierarchy Lightfoils wrapped me in a warm blanket of lush melodies and female vocals.   Lightfoils excel at blissed out vocals and guitars set to punky and punchy bass and drums, the band manage to bring something new to the shoegaze genre.

Here’s what drummer John Rungger said in our interview:  “The basic tracks for the album were recorded with us all in the same room, playing the songs. Something that doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should nowadays. I think it gives it an organic base that translates through to the rest of the music.

Machine Fucking Head 2014

Machine Fucking Head 2014

BLOODSTONE AND DIAMONDS BY MACHINE HEAD (NUCLEAR BLAST)

Machine Head continue to amaze with Bloodstone and Diamonds, their first on Nuclear Blast and with new bassist  Jared MacEachern.  It’s also their highest charting album to date.  Epic doesn’t even begin to describe the songs on the album.  Progressive in the best sense, Robb Flynn and band leads the listener on a journey through hate and hope, with heavy yet fast instrumentation and intelligent lyrics and impassioned vocals.  Bloodstone and Diamonds reveals new facets every time you listen.  

Photo Credit: Shawn Brackbill

Nothing Photo by: Shawn Brackbill

GUILTY OF EVERYTHING BY NOTHING (RELAPSE RECORDS)

Coming out of the hardcore scene, Nothing‘s Dominic Palerno wanted something different for his new life after his time in prison.  Inspired by the shoegaze bands of the 90’s he began Nothing.  With the release of Guilty of Everything music fans the world over are sure Palerno is on the right musical track with his beautifully noisy new songs.  They’re touring constantly so be sure to be on the look out for this amazing new band.

B&E begins in a pleasant mid-tempo, their wall of sound getting knocked down to an anxiously mellow segment reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Animals album before tearing into their instruments for a heart-wrenching finale that will leave you gasping for breath.

seasurfer band

Seasurfer

DIVE IN BY SEASURFER (SAINT MARIE RECORDS)

Since learning of Saint Marie Records this year I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every album I’ve bought and reviewed (see Lightfoils, SPC ECO).  Their Static Waves compilations are a treasure-trove of excellence, now there’s three editions to delve into, the third physical release including a third disc of Slowdive covers.  German trio Seasurfer’s Dive In was my first purchase and I immediately fell in love with their drama and flair and dynamic arrangements. Singer Dorian E.  has range and control of her voice and her delivery is confident and sassy, the perfect foil for band leader Dirk Knight’s textured guitars and Mikel Wegener’s chunky bass.

Rose Berlin Garcia of SPC ECO

Rose Berlin Garcia of SPC ECO

SIRENS & SATELLITES BY SPC ECO (SAINT MARIE RECORDS)

In a year of amazing music SPC ECO has been busy. They released Sirens & Satellites, The Art of Pop, The Art of  Pop Remixes+ and the Nocturnal EP and 2+2=5 free downloads plus many singles.  The duo of  Dean Garcia, formerly of Curve, and artist daughter Rose Berlin juxtapose ice and fire throughout the songs on Sirens.

Make Me Say is brutal and bloody guitar slashes and crunchy rhythm loops, Rose purring and cooing like a mantis before taking off your head.”

Terrestrials

Terrestrials

TERRESTRIALS BY ULVER AND SUNN 0))) (SOUTHERN LORD RECORDS)

Terrestrials is an EP credited to Ulver and Sunn 0))) featuring contributions from multi-instrumentalist Daniel O’Sullivan, who performed with Sunn 0)))’s Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley for the band’s 200th show in Oslo, Norway in 2008.  The band jammed at Ulver’s studio and Ulver’s Krystoffer Rygg pieced together the performances with bassist Anderson, O’Sullivan adding trumpet and keyboards and Rygg contributing vocals along the way.  O’Sullivan has since joined Ulver. The end result is an  atmospheric, ominous and involving journey through the psychedelic reaches of space.

Eternal Return puts some of Ulver’s atmospheric dark beauty into the alloy with O’Sullivan’s languid keys softening  O’Malley’s sharp guitar strums and drones.  As the music surges, violins and trumpet float in.  At about the halfway mark the arrangement segues to a looping and vibrant synthesizer and Rygg’s velvety voice.  The finale drifts in with sawed violins, percussive guitars and menacing atmospheres.  Quivering strings fade out at the end.”

Eddie Spaghetti Photo by Bret Miller

Eddie Spaghetti Photo by Bret Miller

GET THE HELL BY SUPERSUCKERS (ACETATE RECORDS)

The Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band in the World, The Supersuckers, are back with their most rocking album in years, Get The Hell.  Their first without founding guitarist Rontrose Heathman, and first album with current drummer Christopher Von Streichan and new guitarist Marty Chandler.  Singer/bassist Eddie Sphaghetti and Dan “Thunder” Bolton lead the charge and wail on the future classics Something About You and Pushin’ Thru.

Supersuckers’ Get the Hell is focused on boot kicking, middle finger raising and sing-along anthems sure to please the most jaded of music fans.

Family photo by Cassandra-Bialek

Walking Bicycles family photo by Cassandra-Bialek

TO HIM THAT WILLS THE WAY BY WALKING BICYCLES (HIGHWHEEL RECORDS)

The Chicago quartet Walking Bicycles are back with their most focused, angry and cathartic album to date in To Him That Wills The Way.  Noisy, catchy, danceable music, Walking Bicycles sound like no one else.

Here’s what guitarist and founder Julius Moriarty said in our interview about Walking Bicycles’ balance of noise and pop: “We have always tried to walk the line between weird and catchy.  If both exist within a track then there can’t be too much of either.”

Loco and "Weird" Al Yankovic

“Weird” Al Yankovic

MANDATORY FUN BY “WEIRD” AL YANKOVIC (RCA RECORDS)

There are a few constants in pop culture: talentless “artists” appear daily with a flick of an auto-tune machine and synthesizer preset to sell clothes and fast food, and one “Weird” Al Yankovic will make fun of the pop songs that these supposed singers and bands churn out.  He’ll also write some funny “homage” songs played in the style of someone, on 14th studio album Mandatory Fun Al tips his hat to Southern Culture on the Skids and Foo Fighters, as well as hoary oldies Crosby, Stills and Nash and Cat Stevens.  My favorite though, is First World Problems done in the style of The Pixies.  When Al rants about how the barista forgot to make a design on his banana latte you just have to laugh.  One of the best lyrics Yankovic has ever written is to Blurred Lines, here called Word Crimes, a song that is both hilarious AND educational.  Sample lyric: “You should never/ Write words using numbers/ Unless you’re seven/ Or your name is Prince”.  “Weird” Al Yankovic makes pop music palatable for those with intelligence, humor and self-awareness.

Photo by Jeff Elstone

Zola Jesus photo by Jeff Elstone

TAIGA BY ZOLA JESUS (MUTE RECORDS)

One of the most stunning albums of the year came from 25 year old Nika Rosa Danilova, aka Zola Jesus.  Her most accomplished album to date, Taiga references the coniferous ancient forests that cover 1/5th of the world and over northern Russia and Siberia.  The album is filled with soulful and textured electronic and live instrumentation and Danilova’s bold and emotional vocals.

Dangerous Days is catchy and often light, yet has a delicious and dark under current of churning and scraping synths that bring solidity to the song.  Danilova sings sultry and soaring, drawing you in to her world.”

diothisisyour1_375x164

This Is Your Life expanded album cover

RONNIE JAMES DIO – THIS IS YOUR LIFE BY VARIOUS ARTISTS (RHINO RECORDS)

Anyone that calls themselves a metal head or fan of rock’n’roll should know the name Dio.  Ronnie James Dio passed on to the great stage in the sky but his legacy lives on in the lives and spirits of musicians the world over.  This Is Your Life is a tribute to the great man and a thrilling listening experience.  The album is also a great introduction to bands in the heavy metal arena as they all do a fantastic job of channeling the soul and positive energies of Dio.

I confess to knowing nothing of Adrenaline Mob but their take on Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules is killer.  I mean, this song wails, kicks ass, all those metal clichés.  The song was Sabbath’s attempt to remain relavent in the punk era is clear in the fast pace and raw power and the suitably named band distill all the fury of the original and spit out flames. Amazing guitars at the end too.”

(by Bret Miller)

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WALKING BICYCLES RELEASE TWO NEW VIDEOS FOR “SO” AND “BADADA” ON YOUTUBE

walking-biycles_xray_digitalWalking Bicycles have two new videos up at Youtube for So and Badada.  Both songs are from their latest album and the videos incorporate live footage filmed at their record release show this past summer at the Empty Bottle in their hometown of Chicago.  The visuals capture the controlled chaos and intensity of Walking Bicycles, and the energy singer Jocelyn Moriarty gives out both onstage and in the studio.

Walking Bicycles balance noise and pop elements with cathartic dynamics and these two songs and accompanying videos are just a small sample of what the band are about.

Walking Bicycles released their latest album To Him That Wills The Way via their label Highwheel Records in August, their first in four years.  The band was forced into hiatus when guitarist/songwriter Julius Moriarty was sentenced to three years in prison on marijuana charges.  Moriarty opened up about his experiences with Noisey back in August.  It’s an inspiring read and it shows Moriarty and wife Jocelyn coming out of the experiences stronger for having been through them.

Walking Bicycles are currently working on tracks for a new album and I, for one, am excited to hear where the revitalized band is going next!

LINKS:
So video
Badada video
Noisey Interview
Highwheel Records
Highwire Daze Interview

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In Flames

siren-charmsSiren Charms by In Flames (Epic Records)

There’s plenty of bands that started out metal and went on to something else: The Gathering turned their back on metal adding influences from Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins to their style, Anathema evolved into a more atmospheric rock band and Cynic turned into a progressive, ambient, jazz, rock amalgam that is a thrill to hear. On their two most recent albums Opeth channels pastoral and psychedelic bands of old without losing their own past heaviness. And there are plenty of bands that incorporate pop elements into their metal.  In Flames want to be catchy and accessible and metal all at the same time.  After two decades of causing neck damage they continue to experiment with textures, vocal approaches and rhythms searching for that one (or, hopefully, an album’s worth) great pop metal song.

in-flames-2014-640x400On Siren Charms  the band sounds eager to bring in new ears. In Plain View balances heavy & hard with a softer side in Anders Friden’s varied vocals, swinging from anguished clean singing to gut-punching screaming in the chorus, it’s all crisp and shiny and razor sharp.  Everything Is Gone combines several tempos, Daniel Svensson showing off his skills, speed punk one second, double bass kicks the next, then slamming into an all-out brutal metal part.  Paralyzed sounds like In Flames’  version of a post-apocalyptic love ballad with Orjan Ornkloo’s buzzing synths and Friden’s singing about being out on our own in a wasteland.

With Eyes Wide Open begins with harmonized guitars leading to a very catchy rock ballad, the keyboards way in the background, Friden singing clear and strong, Bjorn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin’s guitars shining through for maximum uplift.  When Worlds Collide remind you In Flames can do dangerous and they don’t disappoint. Swedish opera singer Emilia Feldt joins in with her sexy croon and angelic fills to add a sense of wonder.

Creeping up towards the end of Siren Charms, on Monsters In The Ballroom, In Flames tempers what’s mainly a soaring and heroic rock song with screamed vocals and chugging and harmonized guitar riffs. The crunchiness and double kick drum finale is especially satisfying for the headbanging.  To wrap up the album, Filtered Truth features Peter Iwers’ bass, carrying the melody along with Ornkloo’s keyboards, Friden screaming about the rage inside as the guitars and drums burn and crash.

In Flames will be on the Siren Communion Tour with Red Fang and Opeth this winter and will play the Hollywood Palladium on December 9th.

(Review by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
Inflames.com
Facebook
Twitter

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Slipknot

greychapter1.5: The Gray Chapter by Slipknot
(Roadrunner Records)

Slipknot

What can one say about them? Since their break into the music scene in 1999 with their genre changing Self Titled album, to the extremely sadistic Iowa, toning it down a few years later with Vol 3. The Subliminal Versus, to the there amazing comeback in 2009 with All Hope is Gone many people have asked what more they could do? With the death of beloved bassist and co-founder Paul Gray in 2010, and the departure of powerhouse drummer Joey Jordison in late 2013, many, including myself thought the band was finished and over with. I can’t even tell you how wrong we were.

A few months back after the drama had subsided, all of Slipknot’s social media had literally, gone black. There was nothing. Out of nowhere random words started to be posted. With this tease everyone began to regain hope that the Knot would return. On August 1st 2014, the nay Sayers sure had to bite their own tongue with the release of their first song in 5 years, The Negative One. Every Slipknot album to date has been extremely different from one another each having its own special factors. With the release of only one song, The Negative One takes every aspect of Slipknot that we all love and crams it into one song. The pure energy emitting from the lyrics sparks feelings of anger and sadness almost instantly. After a few more weeks, a music video was released for the first official single of the new album; along with a music video for the song The Devil In I which metaphorically punched everybody in the face. With heavy riffs to strong and meaningful lyrics the first single of the album is sure to make every new and old Slipknot fan happy. The music video also features two new members on bass and drums, the identities of which are still to this day unknown, and Slipknot plans to keep it that way. Although the bassist has been pretty much guaranteed, we will keep the name to ourselves out of respect to Slipknot.

A lot of times when reviewing an album it is hard to get through, not because the music is bad, but because ever so often the music sounds so repetitive and the same as the bands last album. With the release of Slipknot’s fifth album .5: The Gray Chapter, it is sure to shock everyone. This record has given me no trouble in writing about it due to how solid it is from start to finish.

slipknot2014The first song  XIX is more of an intro into the album. With bagpipes and what sounds like solders marching in the background, Vocalist Corey Taylor sings with such grief and anger that it immediately puts you in the mood to listen to a Slipknot album. With lyrics such as “Nothing appeals to me, no one feels like me, I’m to busy being calm to disappear”, the song is a perfect intro in the record.  Continuing with the slow sounding intro but this time with a soft guitar riff the second song Sarcastrophe begins, after a few seconds a powerful distorted band comes in. With a particularly impressive drum fill (WHO IS IT?!), the band comes in with a fast paced classic Slipknot riff. The emotion that comes to mind with Sarcastrophe is panic. The intense screams of Corey Taylor and the riffs by guitarists James Root and Mick Thomson, this song will definitely hit you in a way you would never imagine.

In the middle of the album a song by the name of Skeptic plays. This song is most likely very special to the band because it is obviously about Paul Gray. With lyrics such as “There will never be another crazy mother fucker like you” and “You were the best of us,” a dedication to Paul Gray this song surely is.

A song that stood out to me that was particularly different was Killpop. Emitting emotions of grieving, sadness and depression, you really hear the pain that this band is feeling. Towards the end of the album you hear some truly classic heavy Slipknot with my two favorite songs, Custer and Nomadic. These two songs really bring the band together as a whole. These two songs really bring the remaining members into the picture. With percussionists Chris Fein and Shawn “Clown” Crahan, and DJ’s Sid Wilson and Craig Jones, these two songs scream aggression. Going all the way back two Iowa, which many say is Slipknot’s most aggressive and heavy album, these two songs are as hardcore Slipknot as it gets. Prepare to go crazy when you hear them. Sid Wilson and Craig Jones surely add a side of crazy to this album. Any band can be 2 guitars a drummer and a bassist, but with these two it brings a sense of insanity to the music that helps define what Slipknot truly is.

All in all, Slipknot’s fifth album .5: The Gray Chapter is absolutely perfect. Front to back this album puts you through every emotion that is possible to feel. I will say that a lot of people were worried that the new drummer, who ever he (or she?) is, would not be able live up to Joey Jordisons style. Let me assure you that although it is not Joey, whoever this guy is the perfect choice besides Joey. This record takes old and new Slipknot and puts it together in sweet, sweet harmony. With amazingly heavy songs, heartfelt lyrics this will take you through a wild ride. When listening to the album, don’t be bitter because its not him, because trust me, this guy is great. .5: The Gray Chapter hits stores on October 21st. Be prepared for a ride through hell and back. This album will not disappoint and makes me proud to be a Slipknot fan.

(Review by Edward Brandon)

Slipknot on Facebook

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Exodus

exodus coverBlood In, Blood Out by Exodus (Nuclear Blast Records)

The tenth studio album by Exodus grabs you by the throat and throws you into the mosh pit from the opening minutes of their new album Blood In, Blood Out.  Guitarist and leader Gary Holt has paired down the Exodus sound and this is their best album in years, if not their whole career.  While Exodus hasn’t enjoyed the success of some of their peers they have sold over five million records in their 34 year career and they continue to create compelling and complex metal that is both visceral and violent and a whole lot of head-banging fun.  Original singer Steve “Zetro” Souza also returns to the fold bringing even more energy to the songs that Holt had written.  Souza’s vocals are a thrill to hear, as he wails, growls, chants and raps his way through the songs.  Sparks fly off the guitars of Holt and Lee Arbus, solos attack  you like the chest-bursting Alien, Jack Gibson’s bass sounds like he’s using bridge support wires and Tom Hunting excels at both a fast punk beat and the slower tempos, a powerhouse of a drummer.  Kirk Hammett offers a guitar solo for the anthemic Salt The Wound, Testament’s Chuck Billy roars over the end of BTK.

(Photo by Bruce Getty)

(Photo by Bruce Getty)

On Black 13, the title track, Salt the Wound, Body Harvest  and the rest of the album the band play like men half their age, seemingly revitalized and ready to prove to themselves, if not the rest of the world they’ve still got what it takes to blow minds and speakers.  This is driving music, metal to kick-start your heart, audio defribullators to remind you you’re alive.

Exodus get more complex  in their arrangements for the second half of the album, slowing down only a little, crafting a convoluted yet powerful middle section for Wrapped in the Arms of Rage, with also features many awesome guitar leads.  Food For The Worms is how you’ll feel after being battered and bruised by the last song on Blood In, Blood Out, a go-for-broke song that alternates between stupid fast beats and heaviosity that still remains accessible.

Blood In, Blood Out is a career high for Exodus, joining  fellow thrashers Testament and Anthrax who have both recently released their best albums to date.

(Review by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
Exodus’s website
Facebook
Nuclear Blast
YouTube

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Heliosaga

towersinthedistanceTowers In The Distance by Heliosaga (Self-released)

One chance encounter with Heliosaga, and you would thoroughly believe this collective to be the next great European symphonic metal band in the grand tradition of Nightwish and After Forever.  Surprisingly, Heliosaga hail from the Midwestern town of Isanti, MN – clearly showing that Europe does not hold a monopoly on one of the most magical sub-genres in the metal arena.

Towers In The Distance by Heliosaga is a stunning collection of songs that will set the imagination in flight, complete with emotional operatic vocals and wondrously imaginative musicianship. You’d have to go as far back as the vastly underrated Aesma Daeva to find an American symphonic metal band so vibrant and inspiring.

heliosaga2014The glorious adventure begins with the epic A Tower So Tall, where one immediate notices the gorgeous lead vocals of Chelsea Knaack weaving gracefully through the fiery metal soundscapes. Scarlet Sphere is so vast and memorable, one could imagine the track all over radio airwaves – if stations ever played anything this sweeping and mystical. Lost then rages at the listener with a feral intensity that will tingle the senses.

Hideaway is a power ballad that has the operatic vocals spiraling into the stratosphere – such a wonderful showcase for all musicians on this evocative piece. To Heal All Wounds then sends Heliosaga into sonic overdrive with its bombastic melodies and hard rocking dynamics. Memorativa will haunt the senses with its tragic opulence permeating throughout.

Hunter’s Moon cleverly shows a mixture of classical music and driving metal that should capture the hearts of many a music aficionado. Edenscar is sure to have the genre fans waving the metal fists high in the air while Luminary is destined to enrapture all who encounter its darkly enchanted reprieves. The grand finale then commences with the staggering unleashing of All Souls, showing true artists at the very height of their creative genius.

Towers In The Distance by Heliosaga present an intriguing magnum opus that connects with its audience on a deeply personal level. Chelsea Knaack’s vocal performance is captivating, ranking right up there with the likes of Tarja Turunen and Vibeke Stene. The guitar artistry of Damien Villarreal is absolutely adventurous, leading the material into such majestic heights. Jordan Ames delivers a tremendously solid performance on drums. Bass guitar tracks were recorded by Chad Novell (Fibonacci Sequence) and a guest guitar solo was performed by Gilbert Pot (Elegy). Superb tech credits include Michael Hansen (Phonomik, Chainfist) handling the mix at Phon Studio and Jacob Hansen (Epica, Volbeat) supplying mastering duties at Hansen Studios. With a debut this magnificent, it will be exciting to see what the future has in store for the monumental Heliosaga.

(Review by Ken Morton)

Heliosaga on Facebook

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Meshuggah

meshuggah i coverI (Special Edition) by Meshuggah (Nuclear Blast Records)

Ten years ago this past summer Meshuggah released the 21 minute epic I to commemorate the beginning of their friend Jason Popson’s Fractured Transmitter label. While fans are hungrily awaiting the next Meshuggah full length, we’ve got this re-release of I to sate us. As disjointed as the various parts may have been prior to mixing, they all sound of a single ear-melting piece. The band didn’t have to appeal to their present label, given release for one song to support Popson, the band still had the pressure to continue to impress their fans.  Every member an imaginative musician, I feels like classic Meshuggah: downtuned guitars and insane solos, harsh vocals, the percussion of three men in one, multiple rhythms and tempos and movements within songs among other elements. Turn it up loud and revel in the ambient guitar string plucking, followed by double-bass kicks, guitars locked into tight circles leading to a chugging and angry section, then a slow yet menacing guitar segment building to a futuristic “protecting the world from extinction” vibe that would make Geddy Lee smile.

Also included in this special edition is a live version of Bleed, taken from their 2012-13 tour.  The band play with such precision I wonder if they’ve been bionically augmented to be able to keep up their style of playing. Dancers To A Discordant System follows, also from the same tour and released last year as a free promotional release for Scion. Dancers is a slower song yet no less thrilling for it, the band playing variations of the same riff, the groups coming to an agreement at the halfway point then getting down to a truly godlike headbanging session for the ending, mountains crumpling at the power.  Pitch Black ties up the EP. Recorded in 2003 and previously released on the Scion download with Dancers, Pitch Black reveals a more accessible yet still brutal side of Meshuggah.  beginning with a downtuned guitar chug accompanied by tribal drum tattoo, mysterious guitars pluck in the shadows, Jens Kidman’s vocals a smoky and subtle chanting, a guitar solo crashes down, at first sounding like a hard jazz saxaphone.  Later, the quiet segment features a guitar part that is bluesy and played with soul. Then to bring it all to a destructive conclusion, the band combines performances from all the previous parts for one serious pit-stomping party.

(by Bret Miller)

LINKS
www.meshuggah.net
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Twilightfall

energyofcover1The Energy of Soul by Twilightfall (Svarga Music)

Twilightfall is a melodic death metal collective based out of the Ukraine, featuring a former member of the notorious Nokturnal Mortum within their ranks. Guitarist / vocalist Wortherax played lead guitar on Nokturnal Mortum’s legendary Lunar Poetry and Twilightfall releases and has made appearances in noted Ukrainian bands such as Munruthel and Khors.  Fans of old school In Flames and Children Of Bodom will be thoroughly enraptured by the dynamic compositions Twlightfall has to bestow to the world. The Energy of Soul is the triumphant debut for Twilightfall – a stunning collection of songs that will envelope your senses with it’s heavy yet majestic reprieves.

The magnum opus rages into supersonic gear with the staggering title cut The Energy of Soul, demonstrating at once the supreme musicianship to found within the Twilightfall experience. Spirits of Ancestors is spiraling and mystical, weaving intrigue throughout the powerful European death metal soundscapes. A Mirror of Dreams and Reality continues the spellbinding odyssey followed by the epic sonic declarations to be discovered within Welcome To New Day.

twilightfallphoto1Your Chance will make the listener want to wave their fists in the air and jump into the nearest mosh pit. Go A Long Way To Each will haunt the senses with its gorgeous serenity merging into a sweeping wall of intensive sound. The grand finale then commences with the magnificent Storm leaving a lasting impression upon all heavy metal adventurers.

The musicians who present the Twilightfall manifesto include the aforementioned Wortherax on guitars and vocals, Aywar on guitars, Odalv on drums, and Freyr on bass. Svarga Music may also be counted upon to present the very best in extreme metal from the Ukraine, and with The Energy of Sound by Twilightfall, the label has issued a genre classic that many will wish to revisit throughout the grand and glorious metal ages ahead.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Zgard

contemplation1Contemplation by Zgard (Svarga Music)

There’s black metal, there’s Pagan metal, there’s epic metal – and then there’s the grand and majestic tapestries of the mighty Zgard -combining the three influences, coming up with a masterwork that is absolutely stunning to behold.  Contemplation is the fourth magnum opus presented by Zgard from the mystical and troubled Ukraine, seven absolutely visionary tracks that will set your imagination in flight. Yaromisl is the mastermind behind Zgard, and the compositions he has bestowed upon the world at large present a thrilling auditory odyssey that you’ll want to revisit time and again.

After the freezing winds and haunting chants prepare you for the sonic perils ahead, Contemplation opens with the gigantic refrains of Highlands, enrapturing the listener with its sheer magnificence and vibrancy. It is then time to ring the Underworld Bells, a sweeping track that will transport you to the darkest of places with its absolutely cinematic refrains.

zgard2014_1The title track Contemplation is then unveiled, a staggering epic where spoken word and intensive vocals are mixed with a mesmerizing wall of sound. Wedge Of Cranes soars into the stratosphere with its captivating sense of intrigue, complete with thunderous guitars and assorted exotic instruments.

An ominous reprieve is then found within Silence, an instrumental piece demonstrating an ambient side to the Zgard experience. Incarnation Memory then places the metal into overdrive, where bombastic choirs, impassioned vocals, and even more folk instruments render this track a celebrated standout. And then closing out the spellbinding journey is Through The Forest, commanding and ambitious in scope, showing a true artist at the very height of his creative prowess.

One of the most exciting entities within the Ukrainian metal scene and beyond, Zgard is sure to fascinate music aficionados all across the world with the splendid Contemplation. An underground classic of epic proportions, Contemplation is sure to wind up on more than a few Top Ten lists when 2014 spins to its conclusion, It will be exciting to see what adventures Yaromisl and Zgard has in store for us all next…

(Review by Ken Morton)

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ACCU§ER

Who Dominates Who? 2014 cover art

Who Dominates Who? 2014 cover art

Who Dominates Who? (2014 version) by ACCU§ER (Red Shift Records)

The triumphant comeback for the mighty thrash metal collective ACCU§ER continues to rage on with an all-out vengeance. And now, we look to the days of the past – 25 years ago to be exact – the underground classic Who Dominates Who? was originally unleashed in 1989 – and remains highly regarded as crucial thrash metal. In modern day 2014, the German ACCU§ER has chosen to re-issue Who Dominates Who? on this significant anniversary – and not only did they remix the original recording – but they revisited each of the songs, presenting all new versions that are wondrous to behold. So we have both editions of Who Dominates Who? in one single package – rendering this one absolutely required listening for all thrash metal connoisseurs looking for a collectable they’ll want to replay time and again.

Who Dominates Who? 1989 cover art

Who Dominates Who? 1989 cover art

Two of ACCU§ER’s very best are featured on this special release – the relentless Master Of Disaster and the scathing Who Pulls The Wire? remain two of the most compelling tunes the genre has to offer, and in a remarkable contrast, both versions dazzle the senses with their vibrant intensity. Another grand standout is the driving Bastard, heading straight at the listener causing a sonic version of blunt force trauma. Comparing all 9 tracks both old and new is pretty exciting, resulting in an exhilarating auditory experience that is not to be missed!

accuser1The combustible new version of Who Dominates Who? has been newly recorded by the current line-up with producer Martin Buchwalter (Destruction, Suidakra, Perzonal War) at the helm. This is the chance for fans to get the songs with Frank Thoms on vocals, who was the guitarist on the original album. Included in the release is the old as well as new artwork, rendering this double CD a must have for thrash metal fans all across the world. Be sure to check into this, and the many other ACCU§ER releases, and get ready to bang your head into the realms of oblivion and beyond.

The 21 Century ACCU§ER assault force consists of Frank Thoms on vocals and guitar, Dennis Rybakowski on guitar, Frank Kimpelon bass, and Oliver Fechner on drums. Here’s hoping the mighty ACCU§ER make their way to their States one day!

(Review by Ken Morton)

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