Album Review – Answer With Metal / Centralia (2019)

The answer to all your problems in life in the form of nine songs filled with speed, melody, powerful vocals and ear piercing solos, courtesy of one of the best names of the underground Canadian scene.

It’s time to return to Stouffville, a municipality in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario, Canada, approximately 50 kilometers north of downtown Toronto, to raise our horns once again to the classic and exciting Heavy Metal blasted by a five-piece group known as Answer With Metal, who are releasing now in 2019 their fourth full-length album, entitled Centralia, a fantastic follow-up to the band’s latest releases Handling the Blade (2015) and Return to the Gates (2016). Comprised of pretty much the same lineup from their previous installments, which is Dan Nielsen on vocals, Andrew Jarvis on the guitar, Jon Stallan on bass and Alejandro Gonzalez on drums (with the exception of rhythm guitarist Matt Hadaway, who left the band in 2018 for personal reasons), Answer With Metal are back to prove there’s no better answer to all problems in life than our good old Heavy Metal, having Centralia as their powerful weapon of persuasion.

Featuring a futuristic, eye-catching artwork by Brazilian graphic designer Caio Caldas from Cadies Art (who has already worked with DragonForce, Raven Lord, Soulspell, Hammerdrone and Xenosis, among several other bands), and mixed and mastered by the band’s own guitarist Andrew Jarvis, Centralia offers the listener nine songs filled with speed, melody, powerful vocals and ear piercing solos, delivering a blend of 80’s traditional metal with heavier thrashing elements in order to give it a rawer  sound. As a matter of fact, the title of the album is a reference to Centralia, a city in Pennsylvania, in the United States, which became a near ghost town due to the Centralia mine fire, which has been burning underground since 1962, giving you a very good idea of how hot and incendiary the music found throughout the entire album can be.

Slashing riffs a la Judas Priest kick off the frantic and very traditional No One’s to Own, a true headbanger where Andrew and Jon are in absolute sync with their stringed weapons, before Dan begins firing his high-pitched, metallic vocal lines for our total delight. In other words, the album couldn’t have started in a better way, and the band puts the pedal to the metal to make things even more thrilling in the fantastic Wild Hunt, exhaling old school Heavy Metal with an additional and very welcome Thrash Metal touch. I’m quite sure this is Alejandro’s favorite song to play due to its speed and fury, while Andrew and Jon keep crushing their strings beautifully, not to mention its absolutely catchy lyrics (“The huntsmen ride strong / The hunt goes on and on / The hounds of hell lead the way / Black as night you’ll die today”). And blending elements from the music by renowned acts such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween and Primal Fear (which obviously translates into awesomeness), Answer With Metal fire the excellent Stand and Fight, proving they do not need to play at the speed of light to sound amazing, with Dan stealing the spotlight with his strong voice.

Again focusing on heaviness instead of speed, the band delivers a powerful performance in Jenova, especially Andrew with his soulful riffs and solos, followed by the title-track Centralia, a marching/headbanging tune also inspired by the NWOBHM showcasing those old school lyrics we all love so much (“Fear not our fate rebirthed / Enter the reset – flood out the earth / Altered in restless dreams / Rise from the ashes of Centralia”) and a precise Ale on drums, effectively dictating the song’s rhythm. Then it’s time to speed things up once again just the way we like it in Power Metal with Don’t Know Why, perfect for hitting the highway (and get a ticket for over-speeding, of course), with Jon and Ale blasting thunderous and intricate roars from their respective instruments throughout the entire song.

And the Heavy Metal party has no time to end, as we’re treated to more of their classic musicality in Cry Wolf, where the entire band does a great job in what’s in my opinion the best song of the album, blasting sheer rage, speed and electricity, not to mention Andrew’s awesome shredding form start to finish. In No Heights a Home the band ventures through the realms of Thrash Metal one more time, which becomes even clearer in the vocal lines and riffs as the music progresses, also presenting a great chorus for singing along with the band, intricate bass punches by Jon and rabid beats by Ale, adding to the whole song tons of potency and stamina. Lastly, closing the album we have the mid-tempo, semi-ballad Last of You, a very good song but slightly below the rest of the album in terms of impact, creativity and feeling. There’s still a lot to enjoy though, such as Dan’s excellent vocal lines.

It’s time to join Answer With Metal in their journey to the obscure Centralia, and in order to do that simply grab your copy of the album (also available for a full listen on Spotify) from the band’s own BandCamp page or from iTunes. Also, don’t forget to follow them on Facebook for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their gripping music, showing your true support and admiration for this excellent Canadian band that has been proudly carrying the flag of traditional Heavy Metal since their inception, never giving up and always loyal to their foundations. And that’s how you make true heavy music, my friends.

Best moments of the album: Wild Hunt, Cry Wolf and No Heights a Home.

Worst moments of the album: Last of You.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. No One’s to Own 4:06
2. Wild Hunt 4:55
3. Stand and Fight 4:40
4. Jenova 4:36
5. Centralia 3:59
6. Don’t Know Why 4:06
7. Cry Wolf 3:34
8. No Heights a Home 3:56
9. Last of You 4:57

Band members
Dan Nielsen – vocals
Andrew Jarvis – guitars
Jon Stallan – bass
Alejandro Gonzalez – drums

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Album Review – Venom / From the Very Depths (2015)

Unfortunately, a huge lack of depth is what you will find in the new album by the trailblazers of Black Metal.

Rating6

venom_from the very depthsThe beginning of the 80’s witnessed the birth of the most obscure form of extreme music, Black Metal, thanks almost exclusively to British Black Metal pioneers Venom. For instance, Heavy Metal icons such as Slayer, Cradle of Filth, Kreator, Candlemass, Paradise Lost, among several other Thrash, Speed, Black Metal and NWOBHM bands, were heavily influenced by their music, with songs like Welcome To Hell, Black Metal, Witching Hour, In League With Satan and Countess Bathory becoming legitimate satanic anthems.  Now with From the Very Depths, the fourteenth studio album by this Newcastle-based band formed in the distant year of 1979, Cronos and his crew want to keep the fire of their venomous kingdom burning and disturbing the minds of the weak.

However, if Venom’s first two albums, Welcome to Hell (1981) and Black Metal (1982), are the epitome of this devilish subgenre of heavy music, pretty much all of their following releases lacked innovation, intensity and, consequently, importance (I doubt you can name a relevant song of any of their other albums). From the Very Depths is no exception to that, with its musicality being so rudimentary they seem more like an amateur garage band than those trailblazers of Extreme Metal with so many decades on the road. Cronos, La Rage and Dante stick to the very basics of heavy music, with not a single moment of creativity showcased throughout the album. That would not have been an issue if they were as good as Motörhead or AC/DC, but their extremely limited skills make From the Very Depths an album with absolutely no depth.

But is From the Very Depths really that bad? Well, if you keep your expectations really low you might enjoy some parts of the album. After the intro Eruptus, which really transmits a sense Venom are rising from the very depths of hell, we have the title-track From the Very Depths, which despite not being Black Metal per se (it feels more like Thrash Metal) it’s a very good exhibit of dark and extreme music, with the resonant bass lines by Cronos setting the tone during the whole song. The following track, The Death of Rock ‘N’ Roll, has a dark Hardcore/Punk Rock atmosphere, with lyrics that couldn’t sound more Venom than that (“We met the devil at the gates / Not at the crossroads or by humiliate / The man of blues can sell his soul / We’d rather party with the demons… down below”). In addition, its nonstop instrumental helps enhance the electricity of this song, which in my opinion is the best of the album.

venomAfter that satisfactory start, the issues start to appear in From the Very Depths. Smoke is not only generic, especially its lyrics, but it also lacks that wickedness so necessary in Black Metal and it goes on for grueling five minutes. A song so long should have presented more variations or at least a minimum of energy in its riffs, don’t you agree? Temptation sounds like a rip-off of Venom themselves, where the bass lines mess its harmony instead of boosting it, turning it into another disposable track. Leastwise, Cronos’ harsh voice is still in good shape and the song doesn’t go on for torturing five minutes.

The band sounds a lot more cohesive and tuneful in Long Haired Punks, a tribute to Punk Rock and Heavy Metal that connects the heaviest and most deranged aspects of both music genres, with Cronos singing how Venom (and all other metal bands) are punks too (“Fight for survival, hitting the road, get out my way, time for a show / We blast metal, no hip hop or funk, demons from hell, long haired punks”), while Stigmata Satanas, with its very old school sonority, might be nothing outstanding but it’s quite nice, with its crude riffs and vocal lines blending really well with the lyrics, in special with its extremely simple but demonic chorus. On the other hand, Crucified is an awfully uninspired track with a flat rhythm that almost forces you to skip to the next song. The drums by Dante are sadly elementary, sounding like Meg White from the White Stripes without Jack White to salvage the song with more elaborate guitar lines.

Maybe with a more complex (or less monotone) instrumental, Evil Law could have been a really good song, because it contains that trademark devilish aura by Venom, including the wicked noises in the background. In regards to its lyrics (“Fakaa enday yay badah / Urka temeway tado / Coorza onyay femlay / Keelay spray ohapa do”), the only thing I can say is: what the hell is this supposed to mean? Anyway, Grinding Teeth brings back a decent mix of Thrash, Speed and Black Metal, which might sound interesting if it’s chosen for their live performances. Moreover, the band finally tries some different riffs and breaks, helping making the song more delightful.

After another short intro, Ouverture, we have another example of how amateur Venom still sound in Mephistopheles, which despite having a badass attitude it doesn’t offer anything really exciting to the listener. The same can be said about Wings of Valkyrie, a boring track where drums and riffs are negatively overshadowed by the extremely loud bass lines. Lastly, the good song Rise closes the album with the live audience in the background making it sound a lot more organic. If only they had added more of that rawness and brutality to the whole album, From the Very Depths could have been one of the best Extreme Metal albums of the year.

From a technical standpoint there’s almost nothing to be analyzed in From the Very Depths: it’s an album as basic and bland as it can be, with no memorable songs or fresh elements offered in its more than 50 minutes of music. As already mentioned, if you lower your standards (or if you love Venom more than your life) you will actually have some fun listening to From the Very Depths, but it’s hard for anyone else to get thrilled by an album that above all things lack any real depth. Sad to say, after almost 40 years of existence it looks like Venom will continue to be known just as the band who recorded Welcome to Hell and Black Metal.

Best moments of the album: From the Very Depths, The Death of Rock ‘N’ Roll and Long Haired Punks.

Worst moments of the album: Smoke, Temptation, Crucified and Wings of Valkyrie.

Released in 2015 Spinefarm Records

Track listing
1. Eruptus 1:01
2. From the Very Depths 3:54
3. The Death of Rock ‘N’ Roll 3:09
4. Smoke 5:01
5. Temptation 3:52
6. Long Haired Punks 4:02
7. Stigmata Satanas 3:26
8. Crucified 4:06
9. Evil Law 5:03
10. Grinding Teeth 4:11
11. Ouverture 1:16
12. Mephistopheles 4:06
13. Wings of Valkyrie 4:00
14. Rise 4:34

Band members
Conrad “Cronos” Lant – vocals, bass guitar
Stuart “La Rage” Dixon – guitar, backing vocals
Danny “Dante” Needham – drums, backing vocals

Album Review – Monolith / Against The Wall Of Forever (2015)

A remarkable album of pure heavy music that will take you on a journey back to the glorious early days of Heavy Metal.

Rating3

cover1400x1400There are bands that are born to play more progressive or introspective music, with thoughtful lyrics that will make you reconsider some aspects of your life. Other groups focus on a more theatrical side of business, relying heavily on their outfits, makeup, corpse-painting and/or stage production to differentiate themselves in the market. And there are American Heavy Metal saviors Monolith, which had only one thing in mind while crafting their superb brand new full-length album Against The Wall Of Forever: 100% pure Heavy Metal.

Founded in 2013 by guitarist Doug Walker (The Hookers, Nixon), with current and former members of MF Ruckus, The Embalmers and Zombie Cartel and having already played with names like The Dwarves, Sepultura and Electric Wizard, Monolith do not want to start any revolution in heavy music. What those talented guys from San Diego, California really want to offer us all headbangers is honest and electrifying heavy music inspired by their idols from the mid-70’s/early-80’s era of Heavy Metal, such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Metallica, and they simply nailed it with their new album, a serious contender for top metal album of 2015.

Against The Wall Of Forever is a huge kick in your face right from the start with the spectacular old school Thrash/Heavy Metal anthem The Emperor (The Suffering Of Fools), especially due to the excellent vocals by Aaron Howell and the exciting guitar duo comprised of Doug Walker and Jared Bliss. Their traditional riffs and solos remind me a lot of some Iron Maiden classics from the 80’s, and I don’t need to say how positive that is. Following that metal music havoc we have the title-track, Against The Wall Of Forever, which showcases more influences from the NWOBHM such as its thrilling galloping rhythm thanks to the great job done by drummer Ben Pincock and bassist David Ortuno.

The next track, Caravan, comes with a very simple question: are you ready for some intense circle pits? It’s amazing how they managed to create such polished music without losing that rawness needed in classic Heavy Metal, and you’ll feel pumped for screaming the name of the song together with Aaron during its chorus. Furthermore, none of the guitar solos sound out of place in this song (nor in the entire album). And can we call the dark ballad Kindly Dr. Jest (The Interrogator) as “Blues Metal”? Well, call it the way you prefer, as long as you acknowledge the incredible job Aaron does by impersonating the character of “Dr. Jest”, which based on my online research is an alchemist and chief interrogator of Melnibone who is a connoisseur of torture, and his life’s work is to elevate the infliction of pain in to an art form. It can’t get any better than this!

Monolith PicDie With Your Master, another of the top moments of the entire album, is a terrific tribute to the good old times of Metallica, inspired by masterpieces like “Whiplash”, “Metal Militia” and so on: it’s as raw and fast as it can be, and more than perfect for some furious mosh pits with your friends. Then a more progressive vein arises in The Prophet, with lots of breaks and variations nicely inserted amidst all the sonic madness.

The heavy music celebration  goes on with another very solid track named The All-Father And The Chaos Lords, which focus heavily on its headbanging riffs blended with the screams by Aaron. If you’re a fan of frantic metal music, the last part of this song is tailored for you. And last but not least, sounding even more Iron Maiden-ish than ever (apparently inspired by the all-time classic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” or any other track from the flawless album Powerslave), Monolith offer us the excellent Elusive Prey (The Hunter), where Doug and Jared are kicking some serious ass on the guitars with their awesome riffs and solos.

Even the album art, by illustrator Matthew Haas, transpires Heavy Metal and perfectly represents how impactful the music by Monolith is. So go like them on Facebook, visit their YouTube channel, listen to their music on their SoundCloud page, and order your copy of Against The Wall Of Forever at the official Funeral Noise Records webstore (they have some cool bundles available). Although we’re already in 2015, Monolith will take you on a journey back in time, more specifically to the early 80’s when heavy music was beyond glorious and mighty.

Best moments of the album: The Emperor (The Suffering Of Fools), Kindly Dr. Jest (The Interrogator) and Die With Your Master.

Worst moments of the album: Honestly, it’s really hard to find something bad or uninspired in the whole album. Maybe The All-Father And The Chaos Lords?

Released in 2015 Funeral Noise Records

Track listing
1. The Emperor (The Suffering Of Fools) 5:02
2. Against The Wall Of Forever 3:34
3. Caravan 3:11
4. Kindly Dr. Jest (The Interrogator) 4:27
5. Die With Your Master 3:22
6. The Prophet 4:21
7. The All-Father And The Chaos Lords 3:54
8. Elusive Prey (The Hunter) 3:41

Band members
Aaron Howell – vocals
Doug Walker – guitar
Jared Bliss – guitar
David “Gordo” Ortuno – bass
Ben Pincock – drums