Album Review – Death Angel / Humanicide (2019)

A solid and entertaining album of old school Thrash Metal that marks the band’s return to the wolves alongside a survivalist pack mentality.

Since their return from a long hiatus in 2001, American Thrash Metal wolfpack Death Angel has been on a constant and solid roll, releasing a series of albums that, although might not be considered masterpieces, are extremely high-quality albums of good old, classic thrash. If their 2016 installment The Evil Divide is in my humble opinion their strongest album of this new phase of the band and one of their all-time best ones in terms of creativity, speed and rage, we can say their brand new opus Humanicide, the ninth studio album in their career, continues to pave their thrashing path and keeps the band more than just relevant in the current metal scene, therefore keeping the flames of old school Thrash Metal burning brighter than a thousand suns.

Recorded and mixed at Audio Hammer Studios in Sanford, Florida, with additional recording at Spiderville Studios in Oakland, California and mastered at Sterling Sound in Nashville, Tennessee, Humanicide is the band’s fourth album in a row to be produced by Jason Suecof (Charred Walls of the Damned, Crotchduster, Capharnaum) and also to have the same lineup comprised of vocalist Mark Osegueda, guitarists Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar, bassist Damien Sisson and drummer Will Carroll. In addition to that, Humanicide also marks Death Angel’s return to the wolves alongside a survivalist pack mentality, which is also reflected in the album artwork designed by renowned American artist Brent Elliott White (Megadeth, Trivium, 4ARM, Thy Art Is Murder, Amon Amarth), who already worked with Death Angel in their 2010 album Relentless Retribution and in their 2013 album The Dream Calls for Blood. Having said that, are you ready to join this unrelenting wolfpack in their quest for Thrash Metal?

An epic intro ignites the bold title-track Humanicide, with the strident guitars by both Rob and Ted morphing into a shredding feast while Mark’s vocals sound piercing and acid just the way we like it, thrashing our souls mercilessly for almost six minutes before we’re treated to Divine Defector, devastating form start to finish thanks to the pounding beats by Will, and albeit not a brilliant song it’s still classic Thrash Metal and a good option for slamming into the pit. And more melodic but utterly aggressive, Death Angel put the pedal to the metal in another feast of classic guitar lines, nonstop drums and raspy vociferations in Aggressor, with Rob and Ted doing a very good job with both their acoustic lines and electrified riffs.

I Came for Blood, my favorite of all songs, is a fast and infuriated explosion of old school thrash where its guitars couldn’t sound more thrilling, while Damien and Will bring sheer thunder with their respective instruments, not to mention the song’s aggressive, take-no-prisoners-like lyrics (“The bloody nose of victory / Fueled by seeds of hate / Make peace with my enemies? / No chance, not today / I’ve traveled through the unknown / That is where I thrive / You chose to say my name aloud / So I shall never die”). Featuring the smooth piano by Ukrainian guest musician Vika Yermolyeva, Immortal Behated is a pensive and beautiful metal tune, very detailed and full of layers and nuances, and also presenting crisp guitar solos, intricate drumming and endless darkness to heighten our senses, whereas in Alive and Screaming they get back to their trademark berserk mode, with Mark being on fire on vocals supported by his bandmates’ potent backing vocals, showcasing once again a demolishing job done by Will on drums. And The Pack, as Mark himself says, is a call to arms, sounding as if the band wants to gather all thrashing wolves to fight side by side with them, with Rob and Ted stealing the spotlight with their flammable riffage.

Children Of Bodom’s own Alexi Laiho delivers a vibrant guitar solo in Ghost of Me, another fast-paced, high-octane tune with Mark firing his trademark screams, bringing to our ears riffs and solos played at the speed of light, therefore inspiring us all to slam into the pit like maniacs. Next, it’s time for Jason Suecof to fire a guitar solo in Revelation Song, focusing on the melody rather than the speed and offering another blast of dark poetry by the band (“Watch for their people dawning / Watch for their evil task / A negative space revival / A negative faceless mask, hey / A child to be so wicked / Coming to steal your mind / Lost in a destructive space / Lost in a revolting time”), with Damien’s bass sounding truly ominous in the background. Of Rats and Men is a generic version of their own music, which despite Mark’s efforts to make it more engaging the music never really takes off, while The Day I Walked Away, some sort of a “bonus track” included in all versions of the album (and that’s why I don’t understand why it’s called a bonus track), is one more not-so-exciting song by the band with a bland sound and vibe, but still presenting some good moments such as the guitar solos blasted by Rob and Ted.

In summary, as already mentioned Humanicide (available for a full listen on YouTube and on Spotify, and on sale from several locations as you can see HERE) is far from being a masterpiece, but it’s still an above average album of old school thrash that definitely deserves a shot. To be honest with you, I would love to see Death Angel go back to the more diverse and crisp musicality found in The Evil Divide, but of course I wouldn’t complain at all if they decide to keep following the same formula and deliver to us another ten albums on the same vein as Humanicide in the coming years. And for a great band like Death Angel, who have always crafted first-class Thrash Metal since their beginnings, that’s more than enough to keep us happy.

Best moments of the album: Humanicide, I Came for Blood, Immortal Behated and The Pack.

Worst moments of the album: Of Rats and Men and The Day I Walked Away.

Released in 2019 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Humanicide 5:42
2. Divine Defector 3:24
3. Aggressor 5:11
4. I Came for Blood 3:12
5. Immortal Behated 6:08
6. Alive and Screaming 3:36
7. The Pack 3:33
8. Ghost of Me 4:34
9. Revelation Song 5:33
10. Of Rats and Men 4:08
11. The Day I Walked Away 3:29

Band members
Mark Osegueda – vocals
Rob Cavestany – guitar
Ted Aguilar – guitar
Damien Sisson – bass
Will Carroll – drums

Guest musicians
Alexi Laiho – lead guitars on “Ghost of Me”
Jason Suecof – lead guitars on “Revelation Song”
Vika Yermolyeva – piano on “Immortal Behated”

Album Review – Soilwork / Verkligheten (2019)

One of the biggest exponents of the Swedish Melodic Death Metal scene returns in full force with a fresh, groovy and addictive album of first-class heavy music.

Although most people consider Helsingborg-based metal masters Soilwork to play a fusion of Metalcore and Melodic Groove Metal nowadays instead of the Melodic Death Metal we got used to from their early albums, I personally still see them as one of the biggest exponents of the Swedish Melodic Death Metal scene, having influenced (and still inspiring) countless bands worldwide, like for example Trivium. And to prove how relevant and ass-kicking the band is after all these years on the road, frontman Björn “Speed” Strid and his henchmen David Andersson and Sylvain Coudret on the guitars, Sven Karlsson on the keyboards and newcomer Bastian Thusgaard on drums are releasing upon humanity the superb Verkligheten, the eleventh studio album in their undisputed career.

Verkligheten, which by the way is the Swedish word for “reality”, is not only the first Soilwork album to feature Bastian on drums as the replacement of longtime member Dirk Verbeuren (who left the band to join Megadeth a couple of years ago), but it also marks the longest gap between their studio albums to date, with their previous installment, The Ride Majestic, having been released nearly three and a half years earlier. Well, at least the wait was absolutely worth it, because if there’s one word that can be used to describe the music found in Verkligheten is “addictive”. You won’t skip any song from the album, and as soon as it’s over you’ll go back to the first track and listen to everything all over again, which in other words means we’re undoubtedly facing a very strong candidate to be elected one of the best albums of 2019.

The title-track Verkligheten, a Western movie-Tarantino-inspired instrumental intro, flows smoothly and serene, inviting us all to join Soilwork in the realm of Melodic Death Metal with the crushing Arrival, presenting some pulverizing elements from Black Metal added to their core musicality, in special the demonic blast beats by Bastian, all enhanced by its classic lyrics beautifully declaimed by Björn (“The sky reflects in my hands / You took my world ’cause you can / Is it just me or is the light / Oh read me, you dust ridden seer / And prepare for the night”). The album couldn’t have started in a more thrilling and vibrant way, I might say. Moving on with the music, speed and violence are replaced with heaviness and an enfolding melody in the headbanging Bleeder Despoiler, where both David and Sylvain are on absolute fire with their scorching riffs, not to mention how the background keys by Sven and Bastian’s rhythmic drums complement each other flawlessly, and the band keeps blowing our speakers with their very melodic and fierce music in Full Moon Shoals, where once again all instruments are thoroughly connected, resulting in a dense and visceral sound complemented by another shot of their pensive and poetic words (“Anyone would cure it with blindness / There were moments where I thought I could be / A man who’s aching for the hour of closure / Darkness clearly kept on covering my needs / But it’s not what it seems / It’s just an inner endless shriek”).

Blending the most slashing elements from Rock N’ Roll, Melodic Death Metal and even Industrial Metal, Soilwork offer us an amazing composition titled The Nurturing Glance, perfect for banging your head, singing along with the band or simply enjoying Björn’s flawless vocal performance accompanied by the precise beats by Bastian, whereas in When the Universe Spoke  a serene intro explodes into top-notch Melodic Death Metal infused with Metalcore and Groove Metal nuances, with both Björn’s clean vocals and harsh growls being potentialized by the strident riffs by the band’s guitar duo (as well as the insane drumming by Bastian). Futuristic waves ignite what feels like a hybrid between contemporary Arch Enemy and Soilwork entitled Stålfågel (or “steel bird” from Swedish), featuring the stunning Alissa White-Gluz from Arch Enemy as a guest vocalist. Björn and Alissa vigorously kick some serious ass together, while David and Sylvain hypnotize us with their riffs and solos in one of the top songs of the album without a shadow of a doubt, and putting the pedal to the metal this Swedish institution fires more of their razor-edged metal music in The Wolves Are Back in Town, showcasing headbanging beats, extremely melodic and sharp guitar lines, and yet another demolishing performance by Björn, spearheading his skillful horde like the true frontman he is.

Verkligheten Digipak CD Cover

Witan also presents a nice balance between harmonious and aggressive sounds, with Björn focusing slightly more on his clean vocals, flowing like a fast arrow until The Ageless Whisper comes ripping our hearts and minds in a solid display of modern-day Melodic Death Metal. Moreover, Bastian pounds his drums like there’s no tomorrow, while the band’s guitar duo continue to grind their axes with a lot of precision and energy. Then featuring guest vocals by Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis), Needles and Kin is classic Melodic Death Metal presenting a vibrant fusion of rage, electricity and harmony with the intricate beats by Bastian dictating its rhythm and pace, all boosted by David’s superb guitar solo, before the closing tune You Aquiver, with guest Dave Sheldon (Exes for Eyes, Annihilator) on the guitar, brings to our ears a good mix of their more ferocious side with the whimsical and ethereal sound of the keys by Sven, with best metal (and even non-metal) albums of 2019. Furthermore, what Mr. Björn “Speed” Strid & Co. did in their new album might not be a revolution in music (as some very demanding fans always expect from their favorite bands), but it’s indeed a solid statement that Melodic Death Metal is still alive and kicking, and that Soilwork will continue to be a reference in the genre no matter what happens to the band. Fortunately for us fans of heavy music, the band is far from calling it quits, which means we’ll certainly have the pleasure of enjoying more of their crisp and vibrant metal with their future releases, and if they’re just half as good as Verkligheten we’ll have a very good reason to celebrate and to keep banging our heads together with those Swedish metal icons.

Best moments of the album: Arrival, The Nurturing Glance, Stålfågel and The Wolves Are Back in Town.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Verkligheten (instrumental) 1:44
2. Arrival 3:47
3. Bleeder Despoiler 3:36
4. Full Moon Shoals 4:46
5. The Nurturing Glance 5:24
6. When the Universe Spoke 5:22
7. Stålfågel (feat. Alissa White-Gluz) 4:25
8. The Wolves Are Back in Town 3:24
9. Witan 3:48
10. The Ageless Whisper 5:01
11. Needles and Kin (feat. Tomi Joutsen) 4:57
12. You Aquiver (feat. Dave Sheldon) 4:03

Band members
Björn “Speed” Strid – vocals
David Andersson – lead guitar
Sylvain Coudret – rhythm guitar
Sven Karlsson – keyboards
Bastian Thusgaard – drums

Guest musicians
Alissa White-Gluz – guest vocals on “Stålfågel”
Tomi Joutsen – guest vocals on “Needles and Kin”
Dave Sheldon – guitars on “You Aquiver”
Taylor Nordberg – bass (live)

Album Review – Immortal / Northern Chaos Gods (2018)

The Gates of Blashyrkh have finally opened again to the sound of the pulverizing new album by the Northern Chaos Gods of Black Metal.

The Gates of Blashyrkh have finally opened again now in 2018 thanks to Bergen’s own Black Metal institution Immortal, who after nine long and excruciating years of the release of their 2009 album All Shall Fall are back in action with a brand new opus titled Northern Chaos Gods, a beyond fantastic comeback for one of the trailblazers of Norwegian Black Metal. The first album after the departure of founder, frontman and guitarist Abbath from the band in 2015, Northern Chaos Gods marks the longest gap between two studio albums by Immortal, but the wait was definitely worth it as Immortal sound extremely sharp and vile throughout the entire album, proving once again why they’re still an unstoppable force of frost and ice.

Featuring a dark and straightforward cover art by Norwegian artist Jannicke Wiese-Hansen, Northern Chaos Gods showcases an inspired Demonaz (Harald Nævdal) on vocals and guitar (for the first time since 1997) and a brutal and extremely precise Horgh (Reidar Horghagen) on drums, accompanied by guest bassist Peter Tägtgren. In an interview before the album’s release, Demonaz said he wanted to make the album as “grim, dark and cold as possible”, and Immortal more than succeeded in their quest for extreme music, delivering a raw piece of Norwegian Black Metal that takes the band right back to its early sound. Each and every song in Northern Chaos Gods is a lecture in darkness, pointing to a bright (or I should say obscure) future ahead of a band that might have suffered a few losses since their inception in the far, far away year of 1991, but that stands triumphant and loyal to their roots no matter what.

The title-track Northern Chaos Gods comes crushing mercilessly in an absolute sonic devastation blasted by Demonaz with his fulminating riffs and Horgh with his classic Black Metal blast beats, resulting in a truly old school tune but without sounding obsolete or cheesy, not to mention the excellent job done by Demonaz with his infernal roars. As violent and somber as its predecessor, Into Battle Ride is an ode to Black Metal with highlights to the lancinating guitar lines by Demonaz and the thunderous bass lines by Peter, also bringing inspiring lyrics vociferated by Demonaz (“The sword of thunder and lightning is on the rise / From the north the gods of wrath descend / The storm of war nearing, black in its sign / Now vengeance shall enter again, feared by mortals / Our yearning steel strong hands / Thundering hooves strike above dying men / Down the black valleys arise through the haze / From the mountains, hear battle and death”); whereas Gates to Blashyrkh is a lot more melodic and rhythmic, perfect for banging your head and raising your horns to the hellish duo Demonaz and Horgh. Put differently, simply ride together with Immortal to the Gates to Blashyrkh and enjoy a huge dosage of top-of-the-line Melodic Black Metal invading your senses. And Grim and Dark is another cadaveric and sinister creation by this Norwegian entity, led by the slashing riffs by Demonaz while Horgh keeps crushing his drums nonstop, flowing majestically until its crisp and ominous ending.

There’s no time to breathe with more traditional Black Metal in Called to Ice, with Demonaz’s visceral riffage being effectively accompanied by the galloping sound of drums and bass in five minutes of classic Norwegian Black Metal for diehard lovers of the genre, before a smooth and melancholic intro quickly explodes into a lecture in modern-day Black Metal in Where Mountains Rise, a headbanging tune where Horgh’s beats sound amazingly crisp and heavy while Demonaz keeps slashing his strings with sheer precision and vocalizing the song’s beautiful, poetic words (“For the mighty mountains I ride / Through the woods beyond the snow / Like a fire among the stars, beyond the clouds she rise / There’s no fire from the sun, in this dark under the moon / My blackened sight beholds the stars, and fallen suns below”). Back to a more extreme and piercing sonority we have Blacker of Worlds, where Horgh presents his violent bulldozer mode and with Demonaz and Peter delivering a storm of blackened sounds through their stringed weapons, hammering our heads until Mighty Ravendark strikes our minds like a thunderbolt, exhaling malignancy, darkness and evil. Moreover, Horgh and Peter generate a massive wall of sounds with their drums and bass, respectively, while the hell raiser Demonaz keeps growling and gnarling in a devilish manner during the song’s over nine minutes of Epic Black Metal, putting a majestic ending to one of the best comebacks in the history of metal.

In summary, Northern Chaos Gods, available in different formats from the Nuclear Blast website, is more than just a comeback as already mentioned, but the rebirth of one of the biggest exponents of classic Black Metal even when no one else believed the band could get back on track after such turbulent period in their career. Well, they’re not called Immortal in vain, and after such pulverizing album we can rest assured Demonaz and Horgh will keep the flame of Norwegian Black Metal burning bright wherever they go. Because in the end we’re talking about the true “Northern Chaos Gods of Black Metal”, and they’ll keep riding into the battlefield side by side with us, fans of extreme music, until their final and bitterly cold breath.

Best moments of the album: Northern Chaos Gods, Where Mountains Rise and Mighty Ravendark.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Nuclear Blast

Track listing    
1. Northern Chaos Gods 4:25
2. Into Battle Ride 3:50
3. Gates to Blashyrkh 4:38
4. Grim and Dark 5:27
5. Called to Ice 5:06
6. Where Mountains Rise 5:51
7. Blacker of Worlds 3:43
8. Mighty Ravendark 9:14

Band members
Demonaz – vocals, guitars
Horgh – drums

Guest musician
Peter Tägtgren – bass (session)

Album Review – Dimmu Borgir / Eonian (2018)

Uninspired, lame, generic, way too orchestral and utterly boring. What happened to our good old Dimmu Borgir?

I honestly don’t know how to start this review for Eonian, the brand new and extremely boring album by Norwegian Symphonic Black Metal icons Dimmu Borgir, the tenth in their career following their 2010 album Abrahadabra, which was also quite bad. Well, first and foremost, I don’t think the low quality of the album is due to the several lineup changes the band suffered through the years, with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Shagrath and guitarist and bassist Silenoz being the only original members left, and with guitarist and bassist Galder being already a longstanding member. In my humble opinion, their biggest mistake in Eonian was trying to be way more symphonic than they should, resulting in a bland and confused version of the music by Nightwish or Epica with extremely uninspired harsh vocals and generic lyrics.

Featuring an interesting artwork by Polish artist Zbigniew M. Bielak (Deicide, Ghost, immolation, Paradise Lost), much better than some of their previous installments by the way, Eonian has everything we don’t want to listen to in a Dimmu Borgir album, from totally out-of-place orchestrations to a lame background choir. I don’t know how keyboardist Gerlioz and drummer Daray survived another round of pedestrian metal music with Dimmu Borgir after Abrahadabra, and I hope for the sake of their careers they do not accept to participate in another explosion of sheer mediocrity with Shagrath and his horde in the near future. Should the band call it quits after Eonian, or will they keep recording tedious album after tedious album while at the same time they cash in some decent money from their live concerts and merch? In the end, it seems that’s what several renowned bands only care about, right?

An orchestral and imposing start evolves to a heavier version of the Symphonic Metal played by Nightwish with Black Metal vocals in the opening track The Unveiling (and that will happen with pretty much every song of the album), not even close to their classic sonority, getting utterly tiresome after a while despite its not-so-bad lyrics (“Become through earned / And granted liberation / Rise above the secrecy / And silent deception / Clarity is determined / At the depths of murky waters / The potion of black earthed blood / Is the sludge draining the conscious”). Then yet again we have another tasteless tune that seems taken from the worst of all Epica albums, the first (and boring) single titled Interdimensional Summit, which might have worked for other Symphonic Metal bands, but definitely not for Dimmu Borgir. Moreover, as already mentioned the album’s background choir doesn’t bring any potency to the music, not to mention how low the guitars by both Galder and Silenoz sound compared to the orchestrations. In the good Ætheric, the drums by Daray finally appear amidst the excessive orchestral sounds, as well as the riffs by the guitar duo, in what’s probably the best song of the album (with even Shagrath sounding more devilish on vocals). Put differently, this might be far from being a masterpiece by Dimmu Borgir, but at least it’s Symphonic Black Metal.

In Council of Wolves and Snakes a cinematic, horror-like intro morphs into a macabre sonority, bringing a touch of Doom Metal to their dark symphony and with guests Mikkel Gaup and Martin Lopez adding a demented twist to it with their shaman vocals and voodoo beats. There’s nothing truly outstanding in this case, but it’s still a decent song, which is definitely not the case in The Empyrean Phoenix. I’m not sure what to say about this song, as it has an interesting and vibrant vibe while at the same time its instrumental pieces are again way too orchestral, lacking more aggressiveness in the end. After such unstable song we have Lightbringer, where the band shows a spark of their glorious years in a promising start that grows in intensity spearheaded by the beats by Daray, morphing into a hybrid between the band’s classic Symphonic Black Metal and the lighter Symphonic Metal that “poisons” the entire album, but fortunately in this case Shagrath and his horde sound a lot better and more cohesive.

In the horrendous I Am Sovereign, while the music itself tries to be symphonic, it feels more like a soundtrack to a very unexciting circus act, with all that’s already bad getting even worse due to its generic lyrics (“Perseverance doesn’t mean anything / Unless it’s for eternity / The real powers that will ever be / Is freedom and liberty”). Where are the guitars? What happened to Shagrath’s voice? These are just a couple of questions raised in what’s probably the worst song of all. And Archaic Correspondance doesn’t get much better than that, not knowing if it wants to be a heavy or orchestral (or even pop) song. At least Shagrath’s voice sounds slightly heavier and more demonic than in the previous tune, but the choir once again makes the whole song too soft and tiresome. In short, this is a total waste of almost five minutes of your life. Alpha Aeon Omega presents a relatively better balance between the band’s Black Metal and the infinite orchestrations in the background, with Daray’s drums sounding crisp and piercing; however, once again the guitars are almost nonexistent (which is a bummer for any fan of heavy music). And the instrumental piece Rite of Passage would have been great if the rest of the album wasn’t such a disappointment. Anyway, it’s as decent as it can be, ending the album in a somewhat whimsical way.

In my opinion, one of the biggest issues in Eonian, if not the biggest one of all for a huge part of fans of metal music, is that pretty much all songs drag for way too long. There are countless bands that can make a 15-minute song sound like if it had only a minute or two so compelling their music is, but in the case of Dimmu Borgir they managed to do the exact opposite in Eonian, with almost every song in the album being an endless torture even if they have less than five minutes in duration. Furthermore, after surviving listening to Eonian for a couple of times (trying to find something good in it), I was going to give it a 2.0, but after listening to the first single from the upcoming album by Eric Peterson’s furious and epic Symphonic Black Metal project Dragonlord, the sensational title-track Dominion, I was “forced” to lower Eonian’s rate to 1.5. I have no idea if you agree with me or not, perhaps I’m being too demanding, but if you truly think Eonian is a good Symphonic Black Metal album I highly recommend you go take a listen at Dragonlord. Then I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Eonian unfortunately sucks big time. Needless to say, I’ll never listen to it again of my own free will.

Best moments of the album: Ætheric and Lightbringer.

Worst moments of the album: The Unveiling, Interdimensional Summit, I Am Sovereign and Archaic Correspondance.

Released in 2018 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Unveiling 5:47
2. Interdimensional Summit 4:39
3. Ætheric 5:27
4. Council of Wolves and Snakes 5:19
5. The Empyrean Phoenix 4:44
6. Lightbringer 6:06
7. I Am Sovereign 6:48
8. Archaic Correspondance 4:55
9. Alpha Aeon Omega 5:18
10. Rite of Passage (Instrumental) 5:16

Band members
Shagrath (Stian Tomt Thoresen) – vocals, bass, keyboards, orchestral arrangements,
effects
Galder (Tom Rune Andersen) – lead guitar, bass
Silenoz (Sven Atle Kopperud) – rhythm guitar, bass
Gerlioz (Geir Bratland) – keyboards, additional orchestral arrangements
Daray (Dariusz Brzozowski) – drums

Guest musicians
Mikkel Gaup – shaman vocals on “Council of Wolves and Snakes”
Martin Lopez – voodoo percussion on “Council of Wolves and Snakes”
Schola Cantorum – choir vocals
Francesco Ferrini – orchestra
Gaute Storås – choir and orchestral arrangements

Album Review – Exodus / Tempo of the Damned (2004)

Thirteen years ago Exodus returned with another incredible lesson in Thrash Metal.

Rating2

Tempo of the DamnedSometimes excellent bands go on a huge musical hiatus due to unforeseen reasons, making their fans at the same time really sad and anxious for a possible return someday. However, some of those bands return with very low-quality material and the damage to their careers is almost incurable, as for example what happened with the disappointing comebacks of Running Wild, with the weak album Shadowmaker, and Guns N’Roses, with the controversial Chinese Democracy.

Fortunately, that’s not what happened to Thrash Metal masters Exodus. Quite the contrary, when they got back to life with their first new album since the interesting Force of Habit, from 1992, they kicked some serious fuckin’ass. Tempo of the Damned might not be the best Thrash Metal album in the history of music, but it’s probably the best of the past two decades in terms of creativity, riffs, and of course, violence. With the return of Steve “Zetro” Souza on vocals, Tom Hunting smashing his drums, and especially an inspired Gary Holt absolutely on fire, Tempo of the Damned is the epitome of what’s best in modern Thrash Metal.

Are you ready for a sonic massacre? Well, the first track, Scar Spangled Banner, is even more than that. For over 6 minutes, we have a perfect representation of the “new” Exodus: extremely politicized and intelligent lyrics (“We the people, for no people / Secure the blessings of tragedy / Do ordain we have established / The scar spangled banner”), awesome riffs and solos, creative variations, and a lot of speed. The second track of this brilliant album, War Is My Shepherd, is another fuckin’ carnage, perfect for an intense mosh pit with Zetro doing a pretty good job on vocals.

Then we have the incomparable hit Blacklist, my favorite track of the album and certainly on my top 5 songs in the history of Exodus, with the best vengeful lyrics in Heavy Metal (“You’d better start runnin’ / Cause you know that I’m comin’ / Cocked and loaded and I never miss / I’m onto your game / And I’m layin’ the blame / And I’m addin’ your name to my blacklist”) and a riff that is beyond perfect for banging our fuckin’ heads until we drop. Shroud of Urine keeps the album at a high note, followed by another pure Thrash Metal song called Forward March, where Gary Holt and Rick Hunolt deliver us some truly amazing solos.

Culling the Herd is slower than the previous tracks (maybe for us to take some air), but it is also a great Thrash Metal song. The shortest song of the album, Sealed with a Fist, focus on all the “beauty” of marriage and it’s highly recommended for a friend’s wedding if you like to play pranks on people. The next track, Throwing Down, shows us why Gary Holt is one of the most underrated riff masters in the world, with outstanding riffs and solos. Seriously, when are people going to recognize Gary’s unparalleled contribution to the world of music?

Exodus2004The album ends with the good song Impaler (written by Metallica’s own Kirk Hammett, and it should have been feature in Bonded By Blood if Kirk Hammett hadn’t taken its main riff with him to be used on “Trapped Under Ice”), and the title-track Tempo of the Damned, which can be called a “musical beast” due to its boisterous rhythm, crazy riffs, fast percussion, and of course its very controversial lyrics paying a “tribute” to all types of religions and churches. And if your neck is still attached to your body when this brutal song is over and you have the special digipack version of the album, you can relax and enjoy a very nice cover for AC/DC’s classic Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, where Zetro simply nailed it with his visceral voice.

Finally, did you notice the length of the songs in Tempo of the Damned? Most of them surpass the 5-minute barrier, something unimaginable for almost all Thrash Metal bands in the world, with some songs having even over 7 minutes. That’s why after this album was released many people started calling Exodus as the “Pink Floyd of Thrash Metal”, and also fans started demanding that Exodus were included in the “Big 4”, making it more like a Big 5 (or even a Big 6 with Testament included too), due to the undeniable quality of their music. I honestly don’t care if they make it a Big 5 or Big 6; what really matters to me is that Exodus keep on delivering us many more “lessons in violence” such as Tempo of the Damned in their career.

Best moments of the album: Scar Spangled Banner, Blacklist and Tempo of the Damned.

Worst moments of the album: It’s hard to choose a bad song in the album, because there are none. I would select Impaler as the “least amazing” tune, though.

Released in 2004 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Scar Spangled Banner 6:41
2. War Is My Shepherd 4:27
3. Blacklist 6:17
4. Shroud of Urine 4:52
5. Forward March 7:32
6. Culling the Herd 6:07
7. Sealed with a Fist 3:36
8. Throwing Down 5:01
9. Impaler 5:25
10. Tempo of the Damned 4:22

Digipack bonus track
11. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (AC/DC cover) 3:52

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Rick Hunolt – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass
Tom Hunting – drums

Album Review – Cradle of Filth / Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay (2017)

UK’s most visionary and hellish outfit returns with another blast of malignancy and eroticism in the form of the twelfth studio album in their undisputed career.

After their 2015 majestic and imposing album Hammer Of The Witches, British Extreme Metal institution Cradle of Filth had the arduous task of maintaining such high level of malignancy, electricity and eroticism in their brand new opus, stylishly titled Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay, the twelfth studio album in their undisputed career. Despite not being as fantastic and cohesive as its predecessor, Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay still brings forward the classic sound by Cradle of Filth we all learned to love through the years, solidifying even more their already distinguished reputation among fans of extreme music.

The band’s iconic mastermind and vocalist Dani Filth said the album “is deeply infused with Victorian gothic horror and thus the title is a reflection of that.’Cryptoriana’ implies the Victorians’ infatuation with the supernatural, the grave and the ghoulish. And the subtitle, ‘The Seductiveness of Decay’, further cements this attraction to death and the glittering lengthy process of self-annihilation”. In addition to that, one very interesting fact about Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay is that this is their second album in a row with the exact same lineup, which for an ever-changing band like Cradle of Filth is a huge milestone. The artwork was also created by the same artist from Hammer Of The Witches, Latvian designer Arthur Berzinsh, and form that you can have a very good idea of how similar both albums are visually and musically speaking, although as aforementioned the band had an almost impossible mission to surpass Hammer Of The Witches in regards to its exceptional quality.

Exquisite Torments Await can be considered a 2-minute “expanded” intro, showcasing demented and dark noises together with the band’s characteristic melody and potency, already bringing forward their usual blast beats and devilish orchestrations. Well, Dani’s first high-pitched scream says it all. The following tune, the first single of the album titled Heartbreak and Séance, kicks off at full speed with the gentle but powerful guitars by both Richard Shaw and Marek “Ashok” Šmerda bringing balance to the havoc led by the flammable Dani and the insanely talented drummer Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka. In other words, it’s classic and modern Cradle of Filth united in a solid and exciting manner (and don’t forget to check the uncensored version for its official video, it’s definitely worth it). And in Achingly Beautiful, an esoteric beginning quickly explodes into Cradle of Filth’s unique Black Metal, feeling like two or three songs in one due to its complexity and all breaks and variations, with the keyboards by Canadian beauty Lindsay Schoolcraft generating an amazing vibe in the background, not to mention her always pleasant backing vocals.

The main riff in Wester Vespertine reminds me of some of the guitar lines from their 1998 cult album Cruelty and the Beast, more specifically from the classic “Thirteen Autumns and a Widow”, proving Dani knows how to blend the past, present and future of his band in a very cohesive manner. Moreover, Marthus continues his sonic onrush with his potent and unstoppable beats and fills, enhancing the song’s potency considerably. Then it’s time for Richard and Ashok to lead the epic intro in The Seductiveness of Decay, before the band speeds up the pace delivering a neck-breaking, smashing tune tailored for both old school fans and newcomers to the world of Cradle of Filth. Dani has an absolutely flammable performance with his demonic growls and screeches, with the music becoming a symphonic devastation halfway through it with highlights to the awesome solos by Richard and Ashok. And featuring Liv Kristine as a guest vocalist (turning it into some sort of “beauty and the beast” duo with Dani), Vengeful Spirit maintains the album at a high level of seductiveness, vileness and darkness, with Marthus being totally diabolical on drums whereas Lindsay continues to deliver delicate and whimsical key notes to bring more balance to the music.

Despite bringing the trademark wicked lyrics by Dani (“Purring the sweet tempered soughing / Of lucrative Savannah wind / Stirs the great flotsam of clouds that are vowing / To usher the evening in / Affecting the set of the reckoning sun / From burnished gold to crimson hue / Before this night is quite sorely undone / The Devil is coming for you”), You Will Know the Lion by His Claw doesn’t sound as inspired as the rest of the album, presenting generic guitar lines and no gripping moments at all; whereas a beyond imposing beginning, full of symphonic elements, opens the gates of hell for Dani and his bandmates to blast the mysterious and funereal tune Death and the Maiden. Furthermore, a somber shadow remains above the band from start to finish, with Dani spearheading the musicality with his satanic growls, while Marthus and Lindsay craft a truly powerful atmosphere with their respective beats and keys until the song’s hellish finale.

And if I were you I would certainly go for the special edition of the album, which contains two amazing bonus tracks that are worth your additional investment. The first one, named The Night at Catafalque Manor, brings more of Cradle of Filth’s renowned Symphonic Black Metal, with highlights to its amazing orchestrations and the rumbling bass lines by Daniel Firth. Then closing the limited edition we have a flawless cover version for Annihilator’s biggest classic Alison Hell (if you’re from another planet and has never listened to the original version, you can take a shot at it HERE), from their 1989 cult album Alice in Hell. This is indeed a superb tribute to this Canadian institute, and Dani simply nailed it like what he did in the past with other all-time metal hits like Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, Slayer’s “Hell Awaits” and Venom’s “Black Metal”.

Dani and his Cradle of Filth still have a lot of fire to burn in their career, and Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay is a strong statement that they’re still relevant to the world of heavy music, being capable of producing excellent material year after year. Simply visit Nuclear Blast’s official webstore to pick your version of the brand new album by UK’s most visionary and hellish outfit in the history of extreme music, and be more than prepared for when Dani and his devilish horde take your city by storm with their live performances (if they haven’t done so yet).

Best moments of the album: Heartbreak and Séance, The Seductiveness of Decay and Alison Hell.

Worst moments of the album: You Will Know the Lion by His Claw.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Exquisite Torments Await 2:15
2. Heartbreak and Séance 6:24
3. Achingly Beautiful 7:02
4. Wester Vespertine 7:24
5. The Seductiveness of Decay 7:38
6. Vengeful Spirit (feat. Liv Kristine) 6:00
7. You Will Know the Lion by His Claw 7:22
8. Death and the Maiden 8:48

Limited Edition Digipak/Vinyl bonus tracks
9. The Night at Catafalque Manor 7:31
10. Alison Hell (Annihilator cover) 5:01

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Richard Shaw – guitars
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda – guitars
Daniel Firth – bass
Lindsay Schoolcraft – female vocals, keyboards
Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka – drums

Guest musician
Liv Kristine – female vocals on “Vengeful Spirit”

Album Review – Accept / The Rise of Chaos (2017)

Let total chaos and destruction rise to the sound of the brand new album by the unstoppable Teutonic masters of Heavy Metal.

I guess I might have already said that with different words in my review for the excellent Blind Rage, from 2014, but I can guarantee you that you can buy any album by German Heavy Metal institution Accept from the Mark Tornillo-era without even listening to a single second of it, and you won’t regret your decision at all. Quite the contrary, you’ll always be treated to the cream of Teutonic metal music, just like what happens with pretty much every new release by traditional German acts such as Rage, Grave Digger, Kreator, Primal Fear and Helloween, and that trend goes on in 2017 with another sensational release by Wolf Hoffmann, Mark Tornillo & Co., titled The Rise of Chaos, the fifteenth studio album in their unparalleled career.

The Rise of Chaos, which by the way was released just one day after their memorable performance at Wacken Open Air this year, is their first album with guitarist Uwe Lulis (Grave Digger, Giftdwarf) and drummer Christopher Williams (War Within, Blackfoot), replacing Herman Frank and Stefan Schwarzmann, respectively. The album is also the first of their career to feature the amazing art by Hungarian artist Gyula Havancsák, from Hjules Illustration and Design (who has already worked through the years with iconic bands like Grave Digger, Destruction and Annihilator), perfectly representing the chaotic and desperate situation our society has been through lately, as well as all the power and electricity flowing from the top-tier Heavy Metal played by Accept.

The initial guitars by the flammable duo Wolf and Uwe already send a clear message of the old school feast that’s about to start in Die by the Sword, showcasing classic kick-ass Accept with a modern twist to avoid sounding outdated. It’s simply impossible not to raise your fists and sing its blackened, catchy lyrics together with the band (“We’re sinking deeper in a world of darkness / It’s kill or be killed from the day we are born / We’re an evil seed from the soul of a serpent / An evil breed in a valley of thorns”), I should say. In Hole in the Head the whole band keeps blasting sheer awesomeness in the form of our good old Heavy Metal, with Christopher being precise and groovy on drums while Mark sounds, as usual, fantastic with his raspy, melodic vocals in this mid-tempo dark tune. And the title-track The Rise of Chaos, an apocalyptic hymn poised to become a classic, could be considered the epitome of the new Accept that was reborn with the superb Blood of the Nations, from 2010, bringing fast and thrilling riffs, spot-on bass and drums, and a classy performance by Mark on vocals.

Inspired by the November 1978 Jonestown deaths, in which over 900 members of the Peoples Temple, who were followers of Jim Jones, died, many of whom committed suicide by drinking a mixture of a powdered soft-drink flavoring agent laced with cyanide and prescription drugs Valium, Phenergan, and chloral hydrate, while the rest of the members, including 89 infants and elderly, were killed by forced ingestion of the poison, the rockin’ tune Koolaid is a beyond fun composition by Wolf and his crew, perfect for their live performances or to sing by yourself while driving on the highway (“Running through the jungle / Way back in ’78 / Here’s the story of the people’s temple / And my great escape / Communing with a madman / The promise of utopia / White nights, suicide drills / Shades of things to come”). Perhaps the most important message in the end should be: don’t drink the Koolaid, no matter what the preacher says! Anyway, back to the album we have No Regrets, one of the heaviest songs of all where Christopher speeds up the pace while bassist Peter Baltes keeps his bass rumbling in the background. This is traditional and straightforward German metal the way we like it, with highlights to the excellent guitar solo face-off between Wolf and Uwe; followed by Analog Man, a song that’s not only an ode to the 80’s, but it definitely feels it was actually written in the 80’s. What a fun metal hymn to sing along with those “old school sons of bitches trapped in this digital hell”, with Mark’s amazing vocals being effectively supported by the song’s traditional backing vocals. There’s no way not to get addicted to its cheesy lyrics (“I was born in a cave, when stereo was all the rage / Gatefold vinyl and eight tracks ruled the world / Now there’s flat screens in 3D / My cell phone’s smarter than me / I can’t keep up, my brains are beginning to burn”), and what to say about the dial-up internet sound at the end?

And Wolf, Mark and the rest of the guys are absolutely on fire, delivering another powerful tune full of electrified riffs, potent drums and a true headbanging rhythm, titled What’s Done Is Done, which can be described in short as four minutes of top-notch Accept for our avid ears, whereas the trademark guitar lines by Wolf ignite one more blast of awesome Heavy Metal named Worlds Colliding, with Mark putting his heart and soul into delivering the message from the song’s lyrics in the most beautiful way possible. Moreover, the guitar solos provided by Wolf and Uwe throughout the song are just superb, adding a lot of electricity to this already kick-ass composition. But if you’re a fan of their faster creations, then Carry the Weight is tailored for you, with Christopher keeping the energy level really high while Wolf and Uwe continue their slashing attack, resulting in a more-than-recommended alternative to cheer you up when facing tough times and situations (as Mark says during the song, don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders). And closing another flawless album by this iconic German institution we have more old school Heavy Metal in the form of the solid tune Race to Extinction, where an imposing intro turns into a dark and harmonious display of classic metal sounds led by Mark’s vigorous voice and the sharp riffs by Wolf and Uwe.

What else can be said about Accept and their unstoppable Heavy Metal killing machine that hasn’t been said yet? They have delivered to us, crazy metalheads, four first-class albums of old school metal music in a row since Mark joined the band back in 2009, and based on the amount of passion they put on creating each one of their electrifying songs it doesn’t seem that they’re planning to call it quits anytime soon. If you want to add The Rise of Chaos to your Accept collection (and you certainly should), there are several awesome options available at the Nuclear Blast webstore, all of them bringing to you the best soundtrack imaginable to watch all the chaos and destruction caused by mankind rise. And if the world as we know it is indeed coming to an end, can we ask it to “wait” until Accept release at least one more album of superior Heavy Metal like this one?

Best moments of the album: Die by the Sword, The Rise of Chaos, Koolaid, Analog Man and Worlds Colliding.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Die by the Sword 5:00
2. Hole in the Head 4:01
3. The Rise of Chaos 5:16
4. Koolaid 4:58
5. No Regrets 4:20
6. Analog Man 4:10
7. What’s Done Is Done 4:08
8. Worlds Colliding 4:28
9. Carry the Weight 4:33
10. Race to Extinction 5:24

Band members
Mark Tornillo – lead vocals
Wolf Hoffmann – guitar
Uwe Lulis – guitar
Peter Baltes – bass guitar
Christopher Williams – drums

Album Review – Battle Beast / Bringer Of Pain (2017)

Bringing to our ears and hearts first-class music inspired by the golden years of Heavy Metal, the most electrified metal squad from Finland are ready to storm the world once again with their brand new kick-ass classy album.

Rating3

battle-beast_bringer-of-painAfter listening to Bringer Of Pain, the fourth full-length album by Finnish metallers Battle Beast, there are two immediate conclusion that come to my mind. First, that the motto “100 % Heavy Metal – 0 % Bullshit!” couldn’t be more precise to describe the electrified Heavy and Power Metal compositions by this Helsinki-based squad. And second, the entire album feels like it was recorded back in the 80’s or 90’s due to its sensational old school aura, but only released now in 2017. And perhaps paying a tribute to the golden years of heavy music was the original goal of the band with Bringer Of Pain, starting with its impactful name. “The title is more than just a catchy punchline,” bassist Eero Sipilä explains. “’Bring the pain’ as a phrase means ‘giving your best’, stepping up against the odds, something that really sums up the spirit of this band and this album. The fact that the name also brought to mind a certain Judas Priest album definitely didn’t hurt either.”

The album’s classic album art, crafted by the specialist of realistic fantasy art Jan Yrlund (Darkgrove), is the perfect depiction of what Battle Beast have to offer their fans this time. “The cover art is mainly involved with the title track of the album, “Bringer of Pain”, which is obviously about this super evil female character destroying stuff. We brainstormed a little around this topic and then sent some sketches to Jan, who returned with the picture, some mean-looking woman who appears like she’s coming through the box art to kick your ass. And since ‘kicking ass’ is pretty much exactly what this band is about, we considered it a very fitting cover.” In addition to that, the main change from their previous album, the flammable Unholy Savior, is the departure of guitarist and main songwriter Anton Kabanen, but that doesn’t mean the band couldn’t maintain their signature sound alive, with newcomer Joona Björkroth fitting perfectly to everything Battle Beast stands for.

The first track of this rousing album, Straight to the Heart, brings to the listener pure upbeat Heavy Metal from the 80’s with the electrified keyboards by Janne Björkroth and the flawless vocals by the fiery metal goddess Noora Louhimo turning it into an instant classic. Put differently, it’s that type of metal music that will put you to dance right away while you scream its chorus from the top of your lungs together with Noora. Albeit the name of the album and its cover art bring the unbeatable Painkiller to our minds, the title-track Bringer of Pain actually reminds me of another high-octane classic by the almighty Judas Priest, “Freewheel Burning”, which obviously means it’s beyond awesome. Furthermore, the frantic performances by Pyry Vikki on drums and both Juuso Soinio and Joona with their blazing guitar riffs and solos, together with the song’s epic background vibe, turn it into the best of all tracks in my humble opinion. Whereas the first single of the album, King for a Day, unites classic Heavy Metal with old school Hard Rock, feeling at times like a modern metallic version of Survivor’s hit “Eye of the Tiger” with another blast of the sensational keyboards by Janne, not to mention its catchy chorus, which will certainly stick inside your mind for a long time (“King for a day / He kills the truth and looks away / King for a day / Lives like the world would end today / King for a day / What do you hide, why do you lie? / Who made the rules for this game? / Who is paying your champagne? / All the mercy in the world / Cannot save you anymore / King for a day”).

battle-beast-2017In Beyond the Burning Skies, Battle Beast deliver a beautiful and inspiring musicality, with Noora stealing the spotlight with her powerful and precise vocal lines while the rest of the band maintains a high level of energy flowing from their instruments. Needless to say, listening to this classy chant will make your day better for sure. Then we have Familiar Hell, a song about our inexplicable fear of change and how change can actually bring happiness and joy to our lives, with Janne and bassist Eero Sipilä keeping the adrenaline running from start to finish (if this song had been written in the 80’s, it would have definitely been a top-chart hit); followed by Lost in Wars, a mid-tempo composition showcasing an epic atmosphere with Noora and guest vocalist Tomi Joutsen sounding like the beauty and the beast, boosted by the song’s heavy riffs and thunderous keyboards. And Bastard Son of Odin might have the cheesiest song name, lyrics and rhythm of all, but that ends up working really well as Battle Beast are masters in crafting this type of music. In a nutshell, their “Viking mode” sounds absolutely great, especially the raspy screams by Noora and the galloping bass and drums à la Iron Maiden by Eero and Pyry, respectively.

We Will Fight, an potent Power Metal hymn tailored for singing along with the band while holding your fists in the air, is another mid-tempo tune that enhances Noora’s vocals through its mystical aura and steady beats, while Dancing with the Beast is a very good surprise amidst so many heavy tunes. The first time I saw the song’s name, I honestly thought it would be more ferocious like any song with the word “beast” in it. However, it’s a smooth 80’s Hard Rock ballad with very gentle instrumental pieces, with the sexy voice by Noora leading its pleasant sonority. On the other hand, Far from Heaven is just a below average song that’s way too mellow, sounding like a lame ballad from any of those generic “top 40” artists, which obviously means it’s the worst of all songs hands down. It’s well-played and very melodic indeed, but it lacks punch and electricity. anyway, if you go for the digipack edition of Bringer Of Pain (which can be purchased HERE), you’ll be treated to three amazing bonus tracks, all displaying the band’s trademark high-voltage Power Metal, with Rock Trash being by far the most awesome of them. This is a superb metal hymn that should have been part of the regular version of the album, perhaps its closing tune instead of that boring ballad.

We can never get tired of the indomitable Battle Beast, right? That’s why the band is always willing to share more of their music and their lives with us, which in the case of Bringer Of Pain comes in the form of three entertaining official track-by-track videos from the band that can be seen HERE, HERE and HERE. And Valentine’s Day might be dead and gone this year, but I’m sure if you give your significant other the “Bringer Of Pain special bundle” (for guys or for girls), his or her love for you will only grow stronger than metal. Or you can go to the official Nuclear Blast webstore and choose your favorite option from several versions available. Battle Beast are more than ready to storm the world once again with Bringer Of Pain, bringing to our ears and hearts another shot of their first-class heavy music, and we should be more than thankful for that, as well as for the band not giving us any sign at all of slowing down or giving up metal. Quite the contrary, it seems that their battle will rage on for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: Straight to the Heart, Bringer of Pain, Beyond the Burning Skies, Bastard Son of Odin and Rock Trash.

Worst moments of the album: Far from Heaven.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Straight to the Heart 3:31
2. Bringer of Pain 3:04
3. King for a Day 4:33
4. Beyond the Burning Skies 4:39
5. Familiar Hell 4:04
6. Lost in Wars (feat. Tomi Joutsen) 4:34
7. Bastard Son of Odin 3:34
8. We Will Fight 3:26
9. Dancing with the Beast 3:42
10. Far from Heaven 4:20

Limited Edition Digipack bonus tracks
11. God of War 3:56
12. The Eclipse 4:30
13. Rock Trash 3:13

Band members
Noora Louhimo – lead vocals
Juuso Soinio – guitar
Joona Björkroth – guitar, backing vocals
Eero Sipilä – bass guitar, backing vocals
Janne Björkroth – keyboards, backing vocals
Pyry Vikki – drums

Guest musician
Tomi Joutsen – male vocals on “Lost in Wars”

Album Review – Kreator / Gods of Violence (2017)

We shall praise the best Teutonic Thrash Metal institution of all time, as the gods of violence come alive.

Rating1

kreator_gods-of-violence_worldwideFrom the triumvirate of Teutonic Thrash Metal, comprised of Destruction, Kreator and Sodom, the band led by the iconic Miland “Mille” Petrozza has always been my favorite, delivering top-of-the-line, enraged and apocalyptic music since their inception in Essen, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany in 1982 when the band was still called Tormentor. And it might have taken almost five years for Mr. Mille Petrozza and his loyal bandmates to release new material since their 2012 opus Phantom Antichrist, marking the longest gap between two studio albums in their career, but after listening to the breathtaking Gods of Violence, their fourteenth studio album, you’ll see the wait for the greatest Thrash Metal band in the history of European metal was definitely worth it.

Featuring an ungodly artwork (both the worldwide and the American versions) by German graphic designer and illustrator Jan Meininghaus, who has already worked with bands like Bolt Thrower, Sacred Steel and U.D.O., as well as Kreator themselves in Phantom Antichrist and their 2013 live album Dying Alive, Gods of Violence is a brilliant lesson in Thrash Metal that, at least for the year of 2017, will change the world capital of the genre from the famous San Francisco Bay Area, in California, to the city of Essen. One might ask how Gods of Violence can be so fantastic if it’s not a revolution in music, as it brings the same old Kreator we’re all used to. Well, that’s the beauty of it, as Kreator didn’t try to be different than what they are in essence. Quite the contrary, they sound more old school than ever in the new album, always drinking from the endless fountain of evil named man, and the amount of passion, aggressiveness and energy they put into each and every song is all that’s needed for Gods of Violence to become a contemporary classic.

The epic marching intro Apocalypticon builds up the expectation of the listener for this Thrash Metal masterpiece, and that’s exactly what Kreator bring forth starting with the sensational, belligerent World War Now, a true high-octane thrashing work-of-art that will sound thunderous when played live, with Mille and Sami Yli-Sirniö blasting their infuriated riffs while Jürgen “Ventor” Reil shows how drums should be played in this type of music. Moreover, it also contains their trademark European melody that makes their music so captivating, which can also be seen in Satan Is Real, a headbanging hymn with all the elements that made the band what they are today. Not only that, Mille sounds menacing with his raspy vocals during the song’s devilish chorus, leading us all to believe that Satan is indeed real.

kreator_2017Totalitarian Terror, a song about the fight for freedom and the war against oppression (and the best song of the album in my humble opinion), is a thrilling, bestial composition where the guitars by Mille and Sami will pierce your mind beautifully. Furthermore, this Teutonic Thrash Metal anthem is filled with fiery solos, frantic beats and a powerful, insurgent chorus (“Totalitarian Terror / Welcome the strike / Wielder to strike / Totalitarian Terror / Feeding the oppressor / Resistance must rise when freedom has died”), or in other words, the perfect combination of elements to turn it into a classic. After a  serene acoustic intro, the title-track Gods of Violence brings forward more traditional Kreator, perfect for going absolutely mental during the band’s live concerts, with Ventor having an outstanding performance on drums while Christian “Speesy” Giesler brings thunder to the musicality with his metallic bass lines.

Get ready for a sonic tempest named Army of Storms, another excellent option for their live concerts presenting poetry in the form of Thrash Metal (“For tornados and hurricanes / Will not hold us back / Ultra void as the ultimate deception / Ride the winds broken free / Now revolt and you will see / Nations and empires reborn / Beyond the blood red horizons you’ll hear us”) and sounding very melodic thanks to the brilliant guitars by Mille and Sami; followed by the mid-tempo classy composition Hail to the Hordes, where Kreator pay a kick-ass homage to their loyal fans (“If night will fall black shadows / Are taking our sight / We carry each other through the darkest / Moments of life, stronger than hate / Stronger than fear, stronger than all / We are one / Hail to the hordes”). Simply break your neck to the pounding drums by Ventor, with the epic sound of guitars inspiring us all to raise our fists in the air to this mighty German thrashing horde.

Kreator’s shredding has always been superb, and the metal whirlwind Lion with Eagle Wings is no exception to that rule. Not only it has a sophisticated and potent name, but the band also sticks to their foundations with a pinch of modern metal music, with the result being obviously awesome; whereas Fallen Brother showcases one of the most touching metal videos (and songs) ever made, a tribute to all our deceased heroes including Lemmy, Dio, Jeff Hanneman, David Bowie, Prince, Chuck Schuldiner, Scott Columbus, Bon Scott, H. R. Giger, Leonard Cohen, among many others. In regards to the music itself, it’s beyond powerful, vibrant and cohesive, a lesson in heavy music by Kreator that will stick to your head forever.

kreator_gods-of-violence_north-america

Gods of Violence North America Cover

Then we have Side by Side, where violent riffs and supersonic drums build the perfect atmosphere for Mille to vociferate the song’s lyrics against all types of prejudice and how we should unite to eradicate that from our society (“As we crush homophobia / Side by side / And we’ll never let the shame / Turn our vision to ice / And I’ll remain by your side”). It amazes me how such brutal album can contain so many references to brotherhood, friendship and unity, proving how high-quality metal can make our lives better. Lastly, Death Becomes My Light might be a melancholic and introspective creation by Mille and his horde, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as heavy as hell presenting crushing riffs and drums, while Speesy keeps galloping his bass guitar. And when the song is over, you’ll just realize there’s not a single moment in Gods of Violence that’s below excellent, as simple as that.

You can get a lot of extra details about Gods of Violence, including tour dates and news, at the special microsite created for the album, and grab your desired version of it at the Nuclear Blast webstore, including the amazing special edition with the bonus Blu-ray/DVD “Live at Wacken 2014”. It’s already a great moment for heavy music in general whenever Kreator release new material, but when the album is as splendid as this, we know it’s our duty to listen to it nonstop and  praise the best Teutonic Thrash Metal institution of all time, as the gods of violence come alive.

Best moments of the album: World War Now, Totalitarian Terror, Gods of Violence, Hail to the Hordes and Fallen Brother.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Apocalypticon 1:06
2. World War Now 4:28
3. Satan Is Real 4:38
4. Totalitarian Terror 4:45
5. Gods of Violence 5:51
6. Army of Storms 5:09
7. Hail to the Hordes 4:02
8. Lion with Eagle Wings 5:22
9. Fallen Brother 4:37
10. Side by Side 4:19
11. Death Becomes My Light 7:26

Band members
Miland “Mille” Petrozza – vocals, guitar
Sami Yli-Sirniö – guitar
Christian “Speesy” Giesler – bass
Jürgen “Ventor” Reil – drums

Guest musician
Boris Peifer – bagpipes on “Hail to the Hordes”

Album Review – Sepultura / Machine Messiah (2017)

“Sepultura do Brasil” are back with an exciting, multilayered journey through countless music genres and styles, proving there’s still room for innovation in heavy music.

Rating4

sepultura_machine_messiahIf you’re one of those diehard fans of Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal icons Sepultura that doesn’t accept anything the band has done after the departure of Max Cavalera, you can stop reading this review right now as that version of Sepultura is long gone. Machine Messiah, the fourteenth studio album by the most important band in the history of Brazilian Metal, is not only their best release since their 1998 album Against, but also (and more important than that) their most experimental album since their 1996 classic Roots, completely different from that basic Thrash Metal formula from their early days, therefore offering admirers of innovative music an exciting, multilayered journey through countless music genres and styles.

Machine Messiah, which features a stylish artwork designed by visual artist Camille Della Rosa that feels like a play with the cover art from their 1991 cult album Arise, is also the band’s first studio album in over three years since The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart, from 2013, marking the longest gap between two studio albums in their career. In addition, this is the second album with Eloy Casagrande on drums, who’s definitely a lot more comfortable now with the band and, consequently, he ends up adding a lot more intricacy, electricity and groove to the music by Sepultura. And regarding Mr. Andreas Kisser, well, nothing I write in this review will be enough to describe what he did in Machine Messiah with his superb technique.

Venturing on new lands never before explored by Sepultura, the title-track Machine Messiah is a dark, slow and atmospheric tune where we have Derrick’s clean and somber vocals complemented by Andreas’ unique riffs and soulful solos, showcasing elements from Doom and Stoner Metal that increase the song’s obscurity; whereas I Am the Enemy, with its rebellious lyrics (“Powered by thoughts of revolution / Building all bridges of error / Search and destroy my sick innerself / To realize I’m not a fraud”), gets closer to the brutal Hardcore found in albums like Against, with Eloy smashing his drums while Andreas and Derrick emanate sheer violence in this excellent high-octane hymn. And in Phantom Self, an experimental Groove Metal composition with hints of Alternative Metal, regional elements from the Brazilian and Middle-Eastern cultures are nicely added to the musicality, enhanced by the song’s thoughtful lyrics (“The crash. Flash backs. Carnage the blood keeps on flowing / Killing me. Trapped inside this tragedy / Can’t see the road in front of me / Replay this nightmare over and over”).

Alethea is another distinct composition in such diverse album, albeit not as crisp and exciting as the previous songs despite its progressiveness and experimentations. Once again, it’s Andreas who delivers the best pieces of the song with his flammable guitar, which also happens in Iceberg Dances, a kick-ass instrumental extravaganza where Andreas, Paulo and Eloy are in perfect sync, firing powerful riffs, thunderous bass lines and groovy beats. It reminds me a lot of the music by Mastodon, which means it’s at the same time insane and harmonious, with its Deep Purple-inspired keyboards and Flamenco acoustic guitar lines bringing even more awesomeness to the overall result. The symphonic and sometimes epic Sworn Oath, the longest of all songs, is not just another good surprise in Machine Messiah, but also in my humble opinion the best sonority for Derrick’s voice when he’s not singing fast-paced Hardcore. Moreover, if played live with a proper orchestra, it should sound simply astounding.

sepultura_2017In the dark Resistant Parasites, Paulo delivers sheer heaviness with his bass lines, taking the song’s modern Groove Metal to the extreme, exhibiting a powerful and innovative vibe without losing the band’s characteristic aggressiveness, followed by Silent Violence, another track that reminds me of the craziness blasted by Mastodon. It’s fuckin’ heavy and complex at the same time, a tune to break your neck where Derrick fires madness and anger with his growls while Andreas continues to deliver pure creativity and feeling through his riffs and solos. Eloy and Andreas speed things up in the thrilling mosh pit-generator hymn Vandals Nest, bringing forward tons of creativity, complexity and groove (needless to say, I can’t wait to feel this song played live), before Cyber God gets back to the doomed sonority found in many parts of the album. This is a beautiful, somber ending to the regular version of the album, displaying low-tuned bass punches and piercing guitars, and blending elements from several styles such as Industrial, Groove, Gothic and Doom Metal, among many others, being extremely hard to define its style. And of course, if you go for the special edition of Machine Messiah, you’ll be treated to two top-notch bonus tracks, in special their cover version for Ultraseven no Uta from the cult tokusatsu science fiction TV series Ultra Seven, originally recorded by The Echoes & Misuzu Children’s Choral Group, not to mention the version that comes with a DVD with the making of Machine Messiah available at the Nuclear Blast webstore.

After Machine Messiah, I wonder where Andreas, Paulo, Derrick and Eloy will go next with their music. It’s such an experimental, intense and elaborate album it’s hard to imagine those four guys will be able to top it in terms of complexity with their future releases. But who am I to doubt what the iconic Sepultura will offer the world in the future? Andreas keeps getting better and better in what he does, putting his heart and soul into his music and uniting with his guitar in the most perfect way imaginable, with the other band members supporting him with precision and stamina. Sepultura are and will always be Brazil’s most prominent metal band no matter what, and with Machine Messiah they’re sending a solid message to the world there’s still room for innovation in heavy music, always keeping their core essence heavy and electrifying.

Best moments of the album: I Am the Enemy, Iceberg Dances and Vandals Nest.

Worst moments of the album: Alethea.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Machine Messiah 5:54
2. I Am the Enemy 2:27
3. Phantom Self 5:30
4. Alethea 4:31
5. Iceberg Dances 4:41
6. Sworn Oath 6:09
7. Resistant Parasites 4:58
8. Silent Violence 3:46
9. Vandals Nest 2:47
10. Cyber God 5:22

Special Edition bonus tracks
11. Chosen Skin 3:17
12. Ultraseven no Uta (The Echoes & Misuzu Children’s Choral Group cover) 1:18

Band members
Derrick Green – lead vocals
Andreas Kisser – guitars
Paulo Jr. – bass
Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion