It’s a slow day in the Metalopsy workshop. I have a few new records to share with you, but until then you will have to get through the day by watching this charming video of the making of Fragments Of D-Generation by Disarmonia Mundi. I mentioned the band in my “Songs in abundance” post, and I stand by my view that they are a really cool melodic death metal group.
Some records you love right from the get-go: others need more time. aXiom (no, I don’t know why it’s spelt like that) is one of the latter, and that is because of its progressive nature.
The word “progressive” is thrown about a lot when describing music and, I think, metal specifically. I don’t know if there is a universally applicable definition of the word, but for me it has come to describe music that is the opposite of old-school or “classic” (e.g. “old-school death metal” and “classic heavy metal”). It’s intricate without necessarily being technical. It’s something that holds more than first meets the eye (or ear) and on an album you often have to work a little to discover or understand its essence.
I spent some time with the album for reviewing purposes at first. I gave it a pretty good score, if I remember correctly, but it wasn’t until further listening that I really came to connect with it. At that time the review had already been published, but the work of reviewing is always subjective and things can change in a person to make them develop new tastes and preferences.
Where at first I thought the album pretty incoherent (even though it’s actually a concept album, about mental suffering) it finally transformed into this remarkable melodic journey of harmony, heaviness and playfulness that the album represents for me now. Although I do get a warm and pleasant feeling when listening to it, it’s really not a positive sounding album.
The concept of mental health is something the band worked very hard to describe. They even interviewed patients at mental institutions to be able to understand how a sick psyche thinks. That shows dedication to the art, and speaks for the authenticity and deep nature of aXiom.
To describe the music in more than abstract terms is a bit difficult. Imagine the more soulful and softer bits of System Of A Down and you will know a little of what Boil sounds like. The reason that I use this strange reference first is because Boil‘s singer sounds a lot like Serj Tankian (when the latter is not on screaming craze) and the intro track on the album sounds like something that SOAD could have done, if they didn’t have the need to be so flipped out. For more influences on Boil‘s sound, we stay in America, and most of their heavy rock contemporaries. I won’t namedrop, because I think that already the mention of SOAD would scare people away from listening to aXiom. Not that SOAD are bad, but what Boil do sound like on this album is just part that, part radio-friendly American rock music, both blended so well together and then turned metal in a way that makes it recognizable, approachable (hopefully for most), heavy but still melodic, haunting and beautiful, gripping but never grasping.
Hopefully I haven’t negged this wonderful album. Please listen to it. Please like it, and let me know if you don’t. Unfortunately the band called it quits toward the end of 2013, so we won’t be getting new music from these guys in a while. But at least they went out on a high note.
- TBOJ score: 5/5
- DR score: 11
Holy fork! I really liked Phantom Antichrist, but that Kreator would follow up with such a smash as Gods Of Violence was beyond my expectations.
It has been spoken about a thrash revival for some time, and last year culminated in quite a few high profile releases. Nothing whets my appetite as news of new Kreator however. They have been iconic since the very beginning, being one of the oldest and most important bands in teutonic thrash metal since their debut in 1985. I have not dug into mid-era Kreator yet, it’s on my to do-list, but all their early material as well as their latest efforts have all been great. Pleasure To Kill is my personal favorite, but damned be my sock drawer if Gods Of Violence is not taking the second spot.
Everything about this album just exudes thrash and heavy metal. There are lyrical choices made to comment on our current world and the vocal performance by Mille is probably his best work yet. He sounds so good; angry yet with a harmony to his screamed vocals. The compendium of riffs that this record holds is the next best thing. Every song is memorable and has its own identity. The drumming is energetic and does not over-complicate anything. A perfect example of how it should be done for a classic thrash metal album. The bass is the weakest instrument. It’s present, but not remarkable in any way, but that is also to be expected. So, while it’s mostly unnoticeable, it’s also perfect in a way.
As I said, every song is memorable. The in-your-face thrashers are delivered with more fervor than I was expecting. But I was also surprised by how the band have approached the slower parts and incorporated classic heavy metal influences so well with more than one example of dual lead guitars à la Iron Maiden. We are served some epic moments, where the title track stands out, and every song on here has a chorus that is ready to be screamed by the audience at future gigs.
Kreator have done it! To me, this is the best new thrash album in quite some time, and I won’t be alone in hoping for a shorter lead time before the release of the next one than this time. I only wished they would have made a proper song out of the intro, because that lead is the catchiest thing on here. And that’s saying something.
- TBOJ score: 4.5/5
- DR score: 6
I got the tip to check out this Icelandic outfit a few years ago, but the person who recommended them has a tendency to proclaim every record a masterpiece so I didn’t take it to heart. But while I did not make an effort to listen to any of their records, I did sign up to follow them on Spotify and later on Bandcamp. And so it was that on a fateful night in late January in 2017 that I got an email saying that Árstíðir Lífsins had just released a new album.
As I said in the preview post there are only two songs on this release, but they are both monumental: the total running time is almost 44 minutes. And while it’s short compared to their other full-lengths I find it pretty strange that people would call this an EP.
Heljarkviða is built up just how I like it. There is a soft introduction, but it’s part of the first song. There are ebbs and flows, but always interesting. There are harmonic parts, and there is straight up demoncy. There are lots of nuances. There is a true sense of authenticity and there is some really great musicianship. I really like the level of folk/pagan flavors because it’s never over the top, but serves so well to complete this production of atmospheric black metal.
Speaking of production however, one could wish for a lot more separation of the instruments. In the most condensed parts of the recording there is just so much sound that I have actually had to lower the volume a few times during my listening sessions. This kind of music would really be in favor of a mix and master with more air to it, and I’m sad to say I have found a new victim of the Loudness War. I’m usually not that perceptive of these things, but my copy and the online stream of the album both even crackle at times.
So, the overall result is suffering from bad production, but Heljarkviða is still an enjoyable experience. I have no idea what they are singing about, since I don’t understand Icelandic, but for me it comes across as an introspective journey. And not a very bright one.
- TBOJ score: 4.0/5
- DR score: 6
20 years ago today the second album by Strapping Young Lad was released. By many considered their best album, City refined everything from the debut – which basically is just a noisy hodge-podge (I guess I’m failing the “Sweet City Jesus” test) – and made it more to the point.
Main man Devin Townsend has since reached superstar levels and is now a veritable tour de force of progressive music and his antics both on and off stage are well known.
I am partial to City amongst all his work (though I must admit, I haven’t kept tight control of his releases the latest years) so I’m happy to shine the light on this oldie but goodie this day.
Thrash or trash. That’s always the question. Not the spelling, of course. The music that Defiatory defines is thrash metal in its most cliché form. What I mean is, is it good or bad?
Extinct hit me square in the face, now over half a year after its release. First impressions didn’t stay with me long, however. After a few spins I started to get bored with the vocals and formulaic riffing. There just wasn’t anything new to find on this platter.
But after a few more replays I started get hooked again, and the vocal harmonies that had rubbed me the wrong way was suddenly the most interesting thing on the record, and my overall sense was that this is a pretty solid piece of thrash I have gotten served.
The guitars are riffing away in the same manner as every Exodus rip-off band has done for decades, but – coming up to speed – now the cliché has turned novel and I really appreciate the honoring of the good ol’ times of classic Bay Area thrash. The drumming is top notch and although the vocals are full of force and sound positively raunchy I think they should have been dialed back just a little in the mix.
Extinct is a pretty coherent slab of thrash metal, so it’s difficult to point out any specific songs, but the one that has made me look at the playlist the most is track three, “Aeon’s End”. I have yet to find out if Defiatory share any members with now defunct death metallers Aeon, but the title looks like a nod towards them.
Go check it out for yourselves!
While fetching the code for the Bandcamp player I read the description of the album more closely and found this:
After the departure from Aeon, Ronnie started up Defiatory in early 2015. […] A new demo was recorded at Garageland Studios during the summer of 2015 called ”Aeons End”. A three song demo that started the whole writing of the debut album.
So, there’s that mystery solved.
- TBOJ score: 4.0/5
- DR score: 5
I didn’t know I was missing folk metal. Midvinterblot almost gave me a boner the first time I heard them.
Skymning is the debut full-length of this Swedish band, and they are keeping very true to the musical heritage of our nation. I am not schooled enough to recognize the any traditional arrangements, but the flutes and violins sound perfectly authentic.
The album starts off with your usual totally pointless instrumental intro that only serves to (almost not at all) build up to the intro of the first real song. Even though I can get heated about such foolishness, the anger quickly subsides when Skymning proper is in effect.
This is a great album, and a stark contrast to the modern trends of metal where guitars sound like they are being played by a thirty-fingered machine, and a bass should have no fever than six strings.
But, however organic this record sounds, I would like more rawness to the guitars. The guitars are mostly the weakest part of the whole experience. They are not as colorful as the wonderful folk instruments, the heady drums and the kitchy interplay between the male and female vocals. The growled vocals are OK, not much more. The real gems are the folksy choirs.
So, here we have a blinding example of subjectivity. There are things on Skymning that should make me stop listening to it, but I can’t keep away. I stumbled across it at just the right time.
- TBOJ score: 4.5/5
- DR score: 10
Árstíðir Lífsins just released a new record. Some call it an EP because it only has two songs, but it’s over 40 minutes long so I will definitely refer to it as a full-length. Árstíðir Lífsins are an Icelandic band that play atmospheric black metal sung in their native tongue. I will review the album once I have had more time with it, but for now everyone can listen to Heljarkviða in full on both their Bandcamp page and on YouTube.
New from Slightly Satanic! Well, not new exactly. This is a three song EP with old recordings, as stated in the description on Bandcamp:
Three old western swing remnants of the pre-“Club 666” era, recorded live at a stage rehearsal in march 2012.
If you haven’t heard Club 666, I don’t blame you, but it’s a real gem in the realm of nekro lounge music. The band turns metal on its head. They have kept the lyrics and evil connotations, but channel it through the appearance of well-clad gentlemen and the music of a hotel restaurant Saturday day night live act.
As the description hints, these old recordings are no way near the professional production of the album, and the western thing is not something that has come to mind while Club-ing. But it it’s evidently the same band and it works.
If Slightly Satanic were are more established group on a major label, this had probably been released in a very limited vinyl format to bleed us consumers, but now it mostly serves as a reminder of a band that pretty much doesn’t exist.
- TBOJ score: 3.0/5
- DR score: 8
As hard as it is to pick out one’s favorite albums, to try to create the perfect playlist of your favorite songs is even more taxing. I have been scrobbling much of what I have listened to for a few years to Last.fm (I have been registered since 2006, September 9th), and at times I have been pretty active using the “love” toggle on standout tracks. This has led to the creation of a playlist of sorts, consisting of 1925 songs (and counting).
Now you might be wondering where I’m going with this. I can’t possibly start to analyze that list track by track, but I might be able to choose one song from every page and thus end up with an incomplete, yet graspable excerpt of my favorite songs.
Are you ready? Here we go!
- Mephorash “Riphyon – The Tree Of Assiyah Putrescent”
I didn’t hover long when I saw this entry. This song is without a doubt one of my favorites. It’s so massive, and it has everything! After a short atmospheric piece it goes heavy as a led football with a bombastic chanting backed up by reverberating drum hits. From there it rumbles on into a groovy verse and after some more time everything breaks loose with blasting drums and tremolo guitars. The song is masterly crafted with ups and downs of intensity, but it keeps a dead grip on me all throughout its run time every time I hear it.
- Kataklysm “Frozen In Time”
Dammit! Already on the second page I was overwhelmed with the crazy amount of crazy good songs. I picked this song because it’s strange that it was “loved” so recently. It’s been a go-to song for brutality since somewhere around 2000-2001.
- Abysmal Dawn “Night’s Blood”
Not an original by Abysmal Dawn, of course, but their note by note cover of the Dissection classic is just amazing. Not in small part due to the brilliance of Dissection, naturally.
- Archaea “Sol”
I just wanna throw all these songs in a blender together with some whisky and mainline the cocktail. Archaea is a local band which I came across through a mutual friend, and although they are a melodic death/thrash band with a knack for harmonies it’s the a cappella outro on their debut that’s the most brilliant.
- Engel “Hollow Soul”
I’m a real sucker for this song, but it was not without competition that it claimed the spot among the others on page five.
- Leprous “The Valley”
Amazing vocals. Amazing song. Amazing album. Amazing band.
- Fleshgod Apocalypse “In Honour Of Reason”
As old-school as FA gets, and by many considered their best.
- Wuthering Heights “The Road Goes Ever On”
I am sorely awaiting new material from this band, but their guitarist and main composer is suffering from long drawn back problems, so the horizon is looking dark (and that’s a negative in this context, just to be clear).
- Dark Tranquillity “Punish My Heaven”
Wetting pants in Gothenburg since 1995.
- Wintersun “Sons Of Winter And Stars”
- Dew-Scented “Unconditional”
I heard this song on a compilation from Nuclear Blast when it was fresh, and then I managed to win a copy of the Japanese version of the album in a competition somewhere. All their albums are named I-something, so I don’t remember its name right now, but it has an outstanding amount of awesome intros. Every song kicks off with escape velocity.
- The Forsaken “Beyond Redemption”
The title track off their latest album. I was so floored by it when it arrived after an extended hiatus. That was a few years ago now, and I hope they are improving their form even more as long as we keep getting squat from them.
- Metallica “Blackened”
Apparently we have reached the period where I bought my Metallica albums. I had kept from doing so because I didn’t want to support the band, but then I bought the first five albums – the classics – in used format. Win-lose, in my favor.
- HammerFall “Heeding The Call”
The first CD I ever bought was the Heeding The Call EP.
- Luciferion “The Apostate”
Luciferion only released two albums, and doubt we will live to see a third. I could have waited for songs from the debut to show up, but this one is a monster.
- Satariel “Chifra”
If there is one band that needs a kick in the ass, it’s Satariel. And Necrophagist. And Wintersun. Oh, and The Forsaken.
- The Haunted “Hate Song”
An homage to my undertaking of choosing only one song per page. I hate it.
- The Arcane Order “Death Is Imminent”
The Arcane Order is an extremely interesting band that has released three majorly qualitative albums. On their page on Metal Archives I can see that I’m not alone in my adoration of them. Users reviews give them an average over 95/100 % on all three records.
- Mercenary “New Desire”
I could have picked any song by Mercenary. Their melodic death metal with alternating clean vocals and growling is right up my alley and they have been a clear favorite of mine since the 2004 11 Dreams album.
- Darkane “Third”
I first heard this song on a local radio show and I remember the host was upset that he had received a promo where the songs were jumbled. But “Third” is the second song on Insanity. The promo pictures that were sent out and used by magazines around this time were mostly of the band all enveloped in plastic wrap. I went so far that I convinced a classmate to do the same with me for our year book funny photo.
- Dismember “Dismembered”
Old-school Swedish death metal, class 101. Like An Everflowing Stream is mandatory. And also the name of a friend’s network after I got access to it.
- Behemoth “Slaves Shall Serve”
Nergal pointing out the obvious.
- Grotesque “Incantation”
The original death metal band from Gothenburg.
- Entombed “Left Hand Path”
Finally an easy choice. When they play this live… Magic every time.
- Soilwork “Blind Eye Halo”
I bought Stabbing The Drama while in Germany for vocational work. I got very homesick while staying with a family for a few weeks, but they lent me a stereo and I played STD on repeat. “Blind Eye Halo” did really sink its teeth in me already the first time around.
- Katatonia “Forsaker”
The opening track off Night Is The New Day. The record that made me love (new) Katatonia.
- Edge Of Sanity “Crimson”
The biggest stroke of genius a group of people have ever had. Crimson has it all.
- Helloween “Midnight Sun”
A metal classic with one of the most powerful main riffs ever. I remember hearing this song on a burned CD. I knew it was Helloween, but did not know its title, so I had to browse through their discography in the record store to find the song and then buy the album, Better Than Raw.
- Terror 2000 “Terror 2000”
Terror. Terror. Terror. Terror. Terror. Terror. Terror 2000.
Terror! Terror! Terror! Terror! Terror! Terror! Terror 2000!
TERROR. TERROR. TERROR. TERROR. TERROR. TERROR. TERROR 2000.
TERROR! TERROR! TERROR! TERROR! TERROR! TERROR! OAAAAHHH!
- Bloodbath “Iesous”
Holy turd, this is a hard hitting song!
- Blind Guardian “Majesty”
I remember so clearly how me and a classmate put on his copy of Battalions Of Fear and this specific song after the regular music class had ended while in 8th(?) grade. It was only us two together with our teacher and he instantaneously flipped on the nearby keyboard and found a carneval sound and just started playing along with the intro. Then he changed to electric guitar and played along in one of the leads. To our knowledge he had not heard this song before, and his improvisation skills and acute hearing just blew our minds.
- Stonegard “At Arms Length”
I had this song as an alarm ringtone for a while. If you haven’t heard of Stonegard and you think rock-tinged thrashy heavy metal is your thing, you need to check them out.
- In Flames “Pinball Map”
We are slowly reaching the end of the list, and since I discovered In Flames with ClayMan (that’s how I write it) I had “Pinball Map” and its neighbors on repeat for quite some time. I still really like the song.
- Dream Evil “In Flames You Burn”
The choices of artists are diminishing, but I’m really happy to include “In Flames You Burn” on the list. It’s amazing to me that a band that plays their music so tongue-in-cheek writes so much better songs than their dead-serious counterparts. Talking specifically about the power metal genre.
- Keep Of Kalessin “The Divine Land”
These norwegians had to make the list, and “The Divine Land” is one of my favs on a fav record: Reptilian.
- Disarmonia Mundi “The Isolation Game”
A largely unnoticed(?) melodic death metal band featuring Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork) on vocals. This song is really catchy. (Avenged Sevenfold “Unbound (The Wild Ride)” appeared on the list at this point. I thought I hadn’t heard the band before!)
- Pathos “Inhale”
I just mentioned this specific song the other day. But it’s so good you get it again.
- Centinex “Deconstruction Macabre”
I can’t get over the fact that when Centinex re-formed they started playing 90’s death metal again, when their last album before the break sounded like this.
- Satariel “For Galaxies To Clash”
The very first song I “loved” was Bloodbath “Ominous Bloodvomit”, on September 9th, 2006 at 8:17pm, but I feel a need to kick Satariel in the ass one more time.
And there it is!
Maybe I’ll do this again sometime. There are a lot of songs I would have loved to included on every page.