Album Reviews


AlbumMASTODON – ‘Emperor Of Sand’
///  Date : 01st April, 2017  ///

Emperor of Sand‘ is the seventh studio album by American metal band Mastodon. The album was released on March 31, 2017 through record label Reprise.

Track Listing :

01. Sultan’s Curse (4:09)
02. Show Yourself (3:03)
03. Precious Stones (3:46)
04. Steambreather (5:03)
05. Roots Remain (6:28)
06. Word to the Wise (4:00)
07. Ancient Kingdom (4:54)
08. Clandestiny (4:28)
09. Andromeda (featuring Kevin Sharp) (4:05)
10. Scorpion Breath (featuring Scott Kelly) (3:19)
11. Jaguar God (7:56)

ALBUM REVIEW –

‘Once More Round the Sun’ left Mastodon fans with a number of questions regarding the future of the band. Following their most “mainstream” effort to date, the Atlanta quartet received a fair amount of praise and criticism. Enter ‘Emperor of Sand’, Mastodon’s seventh studio album. Whether they meant to or not, this new album clears up some lingering questions. The direction of the band lies somewhere between full-blown mainstream and a return to roots. Mastodon has brought back the narrative-driven album, last seen on ‘Crack the Skye’.

‘Emperor of Sand’, begins with a “Curse”… and for good reason. Modern metal’s fiercest four-piece suffered a litany of tragic personal events leading up to the album’s writing process. Bassist-vocalist Troy Sanders’ wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, drummer-vocalist Brann Dailor’s mother endured chemotherapy, having battled cancer for the last 40 years, and guitarist Bill Kelliher’s mother passed away from a brain tumor.

Instead of outer space and tsarist Russia, ‘Emperor of Sand’ is set in the desert. Our protagonist is delivered a death sentence and is left to wander the endless arid landscape, representing the all-too-real hell of chemotherapy. Despite the gravity of this album, “Sultan’s Curse” immediately takes fans to riff heaven. Every note that Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds strike feels essential, as does Brann Dailor’s brilliant choice of cymbals, adding to the song’s distressing mood.

Though the lyrics to “Sultan’s Curse” are very abstract, ‘Emperor of Sand’ promptly becomes more straight-forward as “Show Yourself”, “Precious Stones” and the sludge-trudging “Steambreather” hit listeners’ eardrums. It’s Dailor, who emerges not only as Mastodon’s strongest pure singer, but one of the most refined vocalists in rock and metal’s current landscape. His soaring highs and somber crooning within “Roots Remain” are jaw-dropping, as is Dailor’s gorgeous chorus in “Word to the Wise”.

It only takes until the halfway point of ‘Emperor of Sand’ to realize how progressive the album is. Despite the album’s grievous subject matter, ‘Emperor of Sand’ shines with extreme moments of triumph on cuts like “Ancient Kingdom” and “Clandestiny” thanks to some of the highest notes Troy Sanders has ever reached for.

Much like most of Mastodon’s previous albums, ‘Emperor of Sand’ features a guest appearance from Neurosis’s Scott Kelly. His help on “Scorpion Breath” continues a tradition of Kelly on the band’s albums that started back on ‘Leviathan’. Additionally, “Andromeda” features guest vocals from Kevin Sharp of Brutal Truth. These two songs are some of the heaviest moments on the album. Everything concludes with “Jaguar God”, a fitting end to a powerful album. An eight-minute track that morphs from an acoustic ballad to a cosmic banger by its conclusion.

‘Emperor of Sand’ has been 17 years in the making. Since the turn of the century, Mastodon has been one of the most prolific metal acts to come around. They have evolved from a relentless sludge band to a progressive force and now into a critically-acclaimed mainstream act. Throughout it all, the same four men have stuck together as brothers through thick and thin. This album stands as much of a testament to the band’s personal cohesion as it does the evolution of the band’s sound. Consequently, this has resulted in the band’s strongest material in a decade.



AlbumOBITUARY – ‘Obituary’
///  Date : 18th March, 2017  ///

Obituary‘ is the tenth studio album by American death metal band Obituary. It was released through Relapse Records on March 17, 2017.

Track Listing :

01. Brave (2:14)
02. Sentence Day (2:49)
03. A Lesson In Vengeance (3:07)
04. End It Now (4:02)
05. Kneel Before Me (3:04)
06. It Lives (3:24)
07. Betrayed (3:01)
08. Turned To Stone (4:13)
09. Straight To Hell (3:57)
10. Ten Thousand Ways To Die (3:16)

ALBUM REVIEW –

These guys are among the top tier of bands that ushered in a new chaotic age of ferocity and aggression. With each record Obituary has proven that they have no intension of ever slowing down. The new album contains all the best parts of the band, revving the excitement and adrenaline all the way. Both Kenny Andrews and Trevor Peres bring in corpse crushing grooves, with Andrews ripping sick solos at times. Terry Butler makes for some funky lines throughout and Donald Tardy delivers drumming with blistering precision. John Tardy provides solid vocals that aid flow and blend screams and grueling lows.

“Brave” begins and takes off with a standard drive. It’s a fun way to start the album and get the muscles warmed up in the pit. “Sentence Day” kicks things up a few notches thanks to some brilliant guitar moments. Andrews adds in little moments of flair that come through like lighting, all backed by berserk drumming. Towards the end Andrews goes off on this absolutely fucking wild solo that soars, swooping in at the right time to bring a crunching end. “Lesson In Vengeance” mixes up styles of the first two titles, taking its time in pace. One of the more forward jam tracks, it pops from time to time with electric excitement. “End It Now” is a balls to the wall thrash out fest. Harsh vocals pounce through crunching speeds, at times dropping into brutal growls.

In “Kneel Before Me” we get more of the same ideas found in “End It Now”. Obituary surely has their stunning moments of technical mastery, but the attitude here is more one of an immediate punch to the face. The album embodies aggression through varying means of relentless speeds, or with a slow heft that crushes the listener. From time to time there are even elements of horror like tones surrounding the music, noticeable towards the end of “Kneel Before Me”, and the beginning of “It Lives”.

Picking up with some brighter notes that carry some swing to them is “Betrayed”. It feels good with a band to let the bass get some attention, and while the record does that well in general, it came through strong here. Not only does the guitar find its way into another cool solo, but there is a funky rhythm that flows throughout, adding a splendid switch up to the chemistry.

“Turned To Stone” also caters to a beat down structure, and while this structure is common, it is never repetitive. It helps that the material at its core is full to the brim with excitement and solid fun. The two closers “Straight To Hell” and “Ten Thousand Ways To Die” set off the fire works for a terrific ending. With a range of variety in sound, both keep the listeners on their toes, while tearing at their eardrums.

Obituary have put out one hell of a record. With everything to please fans and old school death metal heads, the self-title ‘Obituary’ is a killer jam. Structure can become a little common, but not once does it ever take away from the pure bliss of rage. Devastating drive, flying solos, and harsh vocals create a whirlwind of death metal chaos that will please everyone from the beginning to the end.



AlbumSIX FEET UNDER – ‘Torment’
///  Date : 25th February, 2017  ///

Torment‘ is the twelfth studio album from American death metal band Six Feet Under, released on February 24, 2017 by Metal Blade Records. It is the first album to feature drummer Marco Pitruzzella.

Track Listing :

01. Sacrificial Kill (3:55)
02. Exploratory Homicide (2:45)
03. The Separation of Flesh from Bone (4:52)
04. Schizomaniac (3:54)
05. Skeleton (3:43)
06. Knife Through the Skull (3:40)
07. Slaughtered as They Slept (4:55)
08. In the Process of Decomposing (3:50)
09. Funeral Mask (3:28)
10. Obsidian (4:14)
11. Bloody Underwear (3:41)
12. Roots of Evil (4:02)

ALBUM REVIEW –

‘Torment’ is the first Six Feet Under album with some of Barnes’ touring musicians laying down the riffs and beats. Jeff Hughell (guitars) and Marco Pitruzzella (drums) have been in Six Feet Under for quite a bit. They did not however record with Barnes’ on ‘Crypt of the Devil’, with Barnes instead collaborating with Cannabis Corpse members.

Opening title “Sacrificial Kill” makes for a slow intro, only picking up just towards the end. It primarily consists of that standard chopping effect with these evenly paced vocals, leaving nothing extravagant behind. Tracks like “Exploratory Homicide” and “The Separation of Flesh from Bone” carry a bit more, allowing the guitar to go off and play with tempo. These two songs set the course for the next three tracks however. The beginning material marks a difficult time for the album, as there is a large lack of diversity. These songs cater to patterns we’ve come to already have heard, only playing around with speed ever so lightly. In the beginning the strongest part of the band is the drumming, having the most range in sounds and composition.

The second half of the album is where things begin to pick up for them. “Slaughtered As They Slept” is the first time the band brings out a killer groove. While Barnes’ vocals are somewhat tolerable here, the guitar work really takes the lead in driving this track with a fun jam. “In the Process of Decomposing” and “Obsidian” introduce haunting tones that give a strong horror vibe. Both make for some of the best drumming on the record as well, providing well timed delivery that keeps up the adrenaline. It is in this later portion where the band as a whole really shines and comes through clearer and louder. With each title the album offers something fresh, the intensity at great highs and the music grooving with eeriness.

‘Torment’ is far from the best thing that Six Feet Under has ever done. It suffers from an odd opening that requires listeners to get acquainted with a new sound unlike anything from previous work. Once one works their way to the halfway point, Six Feet Under hone in on what makes them a great death metal band. The sinister grooves, tone, and hectic delivery make for good times that are surely to rip at some skin. It is a shame however that the whole album could not provide the same energy found in the later portion.



AlbumOVERKILL – ‘The Grinding Wheel’
///  Date : 11th February, 2017  ///

The Grinding Wheel‘ is the eighteenth studio album by American thrash metal band Overkill. It was released through Nuclear Blast on February 10, 2017.

Track Listing :

01. Mean Green Killing Machine (7:29)
02. Goddamn Trouble (6:21)
03. Our Finest Hour (5:49)
04. Shine On (6:03)
05. The Long Road (6:45)
06. Let’s All Go to Hades (4:55)
07. Come Heavy (4:59)
08. Red White And Blue (5:05)
09. The Wheel (4:51)
10. The Grinding Wheel (7:55)

ALBUM REVIEW –

Aside from adding a heavy dose of groove back in the early 90’s, the band have never really deviated from their no-frills brand of gremlin-voiced, hook-driven thrash. The very appeal of Overkill is that they act as a stalwart anchor in an ever shifting metal landscape, where artistic credibility is often judged these days in experimentation, often to a degree where the end product ventures further and further from anything properly metal at all.

‘The Grinding Wheel’ is, remarkably, the group’s 18th studio album – consider the output of other contemporaries like Metallica (10), Anthrax (11) and Testament (11) – and the even more remarkable thing is that the band have yet to lose their step. A big part of that vitality no doubt lies in the occasional fresh injections of new talent : singer Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and bassist D.D. Verni are the sole remaining original members, with the next most elder member of the band joining in 1999 and the newest in 2005. Which means that this current incarnation has been playing together for well over a decade, and the chemistry shows.

Ron Lipnicki kicks off album opener “Mean, Green, Killing Machine” with a propulsive double kick drum beat that almost demands the exact riff that Derek Tailer and Dave Linsk soon swoop in with. The deluxe edition boasts a cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Emerald” that features some pulse-racing dual guitar action, and the start/stop groove of “Our Finest Hour” gives D.D. Verni a chance to pair with Lipnicki on some nifty fills. Throughout it all Ellsworth wails over the top like a man deeply pissed off, but just Dyonisian enough to have fun with it all.

Since there isn’t a lot of musical variation from one Overkill album to the next – the best way to assess one Overkill album against another is in the number of instant classics it adds to the catalog. The band have been on a tear this past decade, so it’s difficult to say this record is objectively better than the few preceding it, but with a wealth of anthemic songs like “Goddamn Trouble”, the low-key bravura of “Shine On”, and the epic, old school build of the 8-minute title track, ‘The Grinding Wheel’ is every bit the equal of late period fan favorites ‘White Devil Armory’ and ‘The Electric Age’.

Why Overkill has remained relegated to the second tier since thrash’s beginnings is perhaps attributable to the revolving door madhouse that once plagued the band. Overkill has long been on solid ground, and, if anything, the band has proven this lineup can take on, much less defeat just about anyone in its way. ‘The Grinding Wheel’ well surpasses the recent offerings by the Big Four, noble as most of the latter’s recent offerings have been.



AlbumKREATOR – ‘Gods Of Violence’
///  Date : 28th January, 2017  ///

Gods Of Violence‘ is the fourteenth studio album by the German thrash metal band Kreator. It was released through Nuclear Blast on January 27, 2017.

Track Listing :

01. Apocalypticon (1:06)
02. World War Now (4:28)
03. Satan Is Real (4:38)
04. Totalitarian Terror (4:45)
05. Gods of Violence (5:51)
06. Army of Storms (5:09)
07. Hail to the Hordes (4:02)
08. Lion with Eagle Wings (5:22)
09. Fallen Brother (4:37)
10. Side by Side (4:19)
11. Death Becomes My Light (7:26)

ALBUM REVIEW –

More than three decades into a career, it would be easy for a band to rest on its laurels and live on past glory and reputation. But that’s not how Kreator are wired. The Teutonic thrash titans don’t take anything for granted, striving to release new material that’s worthy to stand alongside their impressive body of past work. And that’s exactly what they have done with their latest album ‘Gods of Violence’.

After a short cinematic intro track, Gods Of Violence‘s first proper song is “World War Now,” which begins with an uptempo dose of old school thrash with galloping riffs and thundering drums from Ventor. It eases back into a more moderate pace and a memorable chorus. When it comes to pacing, Kreator realize you don’t have to play at a thousand miles per hour all the time. They are fully capable of a bludgeoning thrash attack with screaming solos and no restraint, but also dial it back when needed into a moderate groove, which gives the album a lot of texture and variety.

That’s exemplified on the title track, which has an acoustic intro with some Middle Eastern flavor before the thrash kicks in. There’s a killer guitar solo as well, with Mille Petrozza and Sammi Yi-Sirnio bringing a high level of musicianship throughout the whole record. Petrozza’s vocals are edgy, whether he’s delivering harsh thrash style barks or singing melodically. Some may find the repetitive melodic chorus of “Satan Is Real” to be ominous, but even if you find it cheesy, Petrozza’s delivery is convincing.

“Lion With Eagles Wings” is the album’s most dynamic composition, moving from a mellow intro to a blazing thrash section to a melodic groove and back again. The album closes with the impressive “Death Becomes My Light”, an epic seven-plus-minute track with both subtle and soaring moments and even a hint of prog.

It had been nearly five years since Kreator’s last studio album, and even though there have been a couple live albums and a compilation released since then, fans have been hungry for new material. It was worth the wait, as ‘Gods of Violence’ adds to their long and successful legacy, and Kreator remain a vital and relevant musical force.



AlbumSEPULTURA – ‘Machine Messiah’
///  Date : 14th January, 2017  ///

Machine Messiah‘ is the fourteenth studio album by the Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura. It was released on January 13, 2017 via record label Nuclear Blast.

Track Listing :

01. Machine Messiah (5:54)
02. I Am the Enemy (2:27)
03. Phantom Self (5:30)
04. Alethea (4:31)
05. Iceberg Dances (4:41)
06. Sworn Oath (6:09)
07. Resistant Parasites (4:58)
08. Silent Violence (3:46)
09. Vandals Nest (2:47)
10. Cyber God (5:22)

ALBUM REVIEW –

For more than three decades, Sepultura have been flying the flag for Brazilian metal. ‘Machine Messiah’ is their 14th studio album, and the eighth of the Derrick Green era. This time around they worked with producer Jens Bogren (Opeth, Kreator).

Sepultura have always explored a lot of different styles and genres, and that trend continues on ‘Machine Messiah’. They throw a bit of a curveball with the album opening title track. Instead of blasting out of the gate, they stroll slowly, easing into things with a mellow intro and reserved melodic vocals from Green. The song does eventually kick in and incorporate potent growls. The second track “I Am The Enemy” would have been the obvious choice for an opener, a ripper with galloping riffs, passionate vocals and a run time just over two minutes. Throughout the album, Sepultura shift from straightforward old-school grooves to more progressive and experimental compositions. The clouting percussion and synthesized cinematic swirls opening “Phantom Self” ring like a bell from a James Bond flick.

One thing that doesn’t change is Kisser’s skillful guitar work. Whether he’s blazing along at maximum velocity or exploring progressive territory, it’s creative and flawlessly played. Songs like “Alethea” and the instrumental “Iceberg Dances” that incorporates acoustic parts really showcase his chops. This is drummer Eloy Casagrande’s second album with Sepultura, and he has stepped up his game this time around. The cinematic “Sworn Oath” has Green’s harsh vocals front and center, while “Vandals Nest” features some excellent singing along with his growls.

Paulo Jr.’s tickling bass gives “Resistant Parasites” skulking groove a ticked-off snarl. The heaping guitars and orchestral plants elevate the song higher than anyone could’ve expected within its first few bars. It makes the switched-up thrash and mosh madness of “Silent Violence” even more powerful. The closing track “Cyber God” incorporates a plethora of vocal styles and metallic grooves.

While there are some epic moments on ‘Machine Messiah’, it’s relatively streamlined at 47 minutes. The disc is a step up from 2013’s ‘The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart’, and it is one of Sepultura’s best releases during Green’s time with the band.



AlbumLAMB OF GOD – ‘The Duke’
///  Date : 21st November, 2016  ///

The Duke‘ is an EP by the American heavy metal band Lamb Of God, featuring 2 new studio tracks + 3 live recordings. It was released through Epic Records on November 18, 2016.

lamb-of-god-the-dukeTrack Listing :

01. The Duke
02. Culling
03. Still Echoes (live from Rock am Ring)
04. 512 (live from Bonnaroo)
05. Engage The Fear Machine (live from Bonnaroo)

EP REVIEW –

EP’s are often rushed out as filler releases with the sole purpose of reassuring fans that a band still exists, but groups of Lamb of God’s stature don’t exactly need to appease a restless fan base. ‘The Duke’ is actually a fundraiser release to benefit the late friend of the band, Wayne “The Duke” Ford. To that end, complaining that this EP only offers two new tracks and a trio of live run-throughs would be to miss the point.

All three of the live cuts – “512”, “Engage The Fear Machine” and “Still Echoes” – are culled from last year’s ‘Sturm und Drang’ studio release, but again, these are completist material that only the most diehard fans will listen to more than once. The real meat is in the two new studio offerings. “The Duke” is obviously a tribute to Mr. Ford, and features some interesting, uncharacteristically clean vocals from Randy Blythe. There’s a real 90’s vibe to this song, but the riffs deftly sidestep any dubious nu-metal trappings that might have sandbagged the track. Blythe even indulges in screamo affectations on the bridge which suit him immensely. “Culling” is a more traditional NWOAHM affair, a mix of mid-paced thrash and old school groove metal that features the band effortlessly rocking out. Could make a fine concert staple.



AlbumMETALLICA – ‘Hardwired… To Self-Destruct’
///  Date : 19th November, 2016  ///

Hardwired… To Self-Destruct‘ is the tenth studio album by the Bay Area thrash metal band Metallica, released as a double album on November 18, 2016 by their vanity record label Blackened Recordings.

metallica-hardwiredto_self-destructTrack Listing :

Disc One –
01. Hardwired (3:09)
02. Atlas, Rise! (6:31)
03. Now That We’re Dead (6:59)
04. Moth Into Flame (5:50)
05. Dream No More (6:29)
06. Halo on Fire (8:15)

Disc Two –
01. Confusion (6:41)
02. ManUNkind (6:55)
03. Here Comes Revenge (7:17)
04. Am I Savage? (6:29)
05. Murder One (5:45)
06. Spit Out the Bone (7:09)

ALBUM REVIEW –

Take metal’s most successful band, couple that with an eight-year gap between albums, and add in almost universally positive response to the singles released so far and you have sky high expectations for ‘Hardwired…To Self Destruct’. But the expectation are always high for Metallica, who don’t pay much attention to outside influences and work at their own pace. While their early albums were fairly streamlined, they have all been at least an hour long since 1988‘s ‘…And Justice For All’. The new effort, ‘Hardwired…To Self Destruct’, is actually a double album, with its 12 songs clocking in at more than 77 minutes. Only 1996‘s ‘Load’ is longer.

The opening track “Hardwired” is by far the shortest, blazing by in just over three minutes. The song’s lyrics weren’t meant to describe it, but the refrain “we’re so f–ked, s–t outta luck, hardwired to self destruct” resonates with many after the presidential election. All three of the songs released so far (“Hardwired”, “Atlas Rise!” and “Moth Into Flame”) are on the first disc, which is stronger and more straightforward than the second disc. “Moth Into Flame” is one of the album’s best songs. The deliberate “Dream No More” has a similar intro to “Sad But True”, and also mentions Cthulhu, a reference longtime fans will recognize. The first half of the album wraps up with the eight-minute epic “Halo on Fire,” which alternates between straight-up rock and intense metal, and sees James Hetfield crooning in places, and singing in his more typical aggressive style in others.

This the first Metallica album where Kirk Hammett did not contribute to the songwriting since he joined the band. However, his presence is felt throughout the album with his creative solos. Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich carried the load when it came to the songwriting, with bassist Robert Trujillo receiving a co-writing credit on “ManUNkind”.

The second disc is longer than the first, with a more progressive but darker vibe. Opener “Confusion” is a mid-tempo groover packed with great riffs and killer solos from Hammett. “Murder One” is a tribute to the late, great Lemmy Kilmister, name-checking numerous Motorhead song titles. The album is a bit too long with some filler (especially on the second disc), and could have benefited from cutting a song or two. However, for the most part it does hold the listener’s attention, and any fatigue from the previous 70+ minutes is instantly erased by the ripping closer “Spit Out the Bone”. It’s a dose of intense thrash that has galloping riffs and thundering drums from Lars Ulrich. It’s the heaviest track on the discs, the perfect bookend to the opening song “Hardwired”.

While their last album ‘Death Magnetic’ was criticized for sounding overly compressed, that’s not an issue with Hardwired…To Self Destruct. Greg Fidelman, who was an engineer and mixer on ‘Death Magnetic’, was the producer this time around. He has worked closely with the band over the past several years, co-producing Lulu and overseeing the live soundtrack to “Through The Never”.

One song that’s not on the album is “Lords of Summer,” which was released as a single in 2014. However, the deluxe edition of the album includes a third disc with a re-recorded version of the song that’s a bit shorter than the original. The deluxe edition also the “Ronnie Rising Medley” that originally appeared on a 2014 Ronnie James Dio tribute album.

Covers of Deep Purple’s “When a Blind Man Cries” and Iron Maiden’s “Remember Tomorrow” are part of the deluxe edition along with remastered versions of nine songs performed live at Rasputin Music in Berkeley, Calif., during this year’s Record Store Day. The final track is a live version of “Hardwired” recorded at the inaugural concert at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

‘Hardwired…To Self Destruct’ finds Metallica building on what they did on ‘Death Magnetic’ instead of starting from scratch, while also incorporating elements from earlier albums ranging from ‘Kill ‘Em All’ to ‘Master Of Puppets’ to ‘Load’. The result is an album that’s familiar and comfortable, but also propels the band forward.



AlbumDARK TRANQUILLITY – ‘Atoma’
///  Date : 07th November, 2016  ///

Atoma‘ is the eleventh studio album by Swedish melodic death metal band Dark Tranquillity. It was released through Century Media on November 4, 2016.

dark-tranquillity-atomaTrack Listing :

01. Encircled (3:32)
02. Atoma (4:20)
03. Forward Momentum (3:41)
04. Neutrality (4:17)
05. Force Of Hand (4:22)
06. Faithless By Default (4:32)
07. The Pitiless (4:09)
08. Our Proof Of Life (4:23)
09. Clearing Skies (3:33)
10. When The World Screams (3:57)
11. Merciless Fate (4:23)
12. Caves And Embers (4:31)

ALBUM REVIEW –

Dark Tranquillity balances the dark and the light, the heavy and the gentle, and stands strong as pioneers of melodic-death metal. Dark Tranquillity has created a solid body of work in its career; and now with their eleventh studio album ‘Atoma’, the band delivers a record that proves that they deserve the title of talented musicians. ‘Atoma’ is a mix of previous works while also being able to stand on its own as an individual.

Opening track “Encircled” acts more as a preparation for the general sounds that are to come. There isn’t anything that truly sets it as unique, but just a very general “This is a Dark Tranquillity song”. Where things do become optimistic is the title track “Atoma”; it is here that we get our introduction to what will be an incredible balance of sung vocals and growls. Together they help for each other to stand out just as strong, and accompany the gothic keys and somber rhythm. There’s a dip after that which gives off the same vibe as the opening track when we reach “Forward Momentum”; but that becomes a thing of the past when we reach “Neutrality”.

With a fast death metal strong opening, the drum tempo is a solid drive that eventually leads the song to one of the coolest solos that will be found on the record. It is here that it must be made clear that the strongest parts to this record is the lead guitar work and balance of vocalization. Together they both make up the diversity in the coming tracks that make this record stand out.

Starting with “Neutrality” we find ‘Atoma’ in its strongest stage that includes a few of the songs that are to follow. “Force Of Hand” has a slow but heavy build up that lead to a head banging happy melody and unique growls that have more of a calculated punch with each note to them. It makes for the most diverse sounding song on the record, mostly thanks to the guitar that switches back and forth from your typical death metal chugging to moments of brightness with an echo and twang. “The Pitiless” stands out with some of the best growls and melodic guitar that will make for a great song in the pit. In “Our Proof Of Life”, it is after a few heavier songs with growls that the singing makes a spotlight return and shift in energy, again with the lead guitar acting as the main drive.

It is after that the rest of the album returns to an energy similar as in the beginning, but just a little bumpier. By bumpy that isn’t to say the songs are bad, but really come to a coin toss of preference depending on the ear. What helps them is diversity in the guitar: its moments of darkness and brightness. What adds to this blurring of the lines are the keys; where they have moments where they can help the right song stick out, they then have their moments where they all sound the same. The record closing on “Caves and Embers” was a good decision seeing that it truly embodies that mix of dark and bright that has appeared throughout since the beginning.

If we look back at the body of work Dark Tranquillity has laid out before ‘Atoma’, we see their ability to create a variety of sounds and emotions that makes for a solid balance. ‘Atoma’ has terrific high moments when it comes to the lead guitar work, the drive of the drums, and the balance found in the vocals. The beginning doesn’t necessarily get in the way of enjoying what is to come, but it would have been nice to get that diversity found in the middle also included more towards the end. And again, many of those songs will depend on a specific ear, for they are crafted well, but miss moments of being their best dynamic. That being said, ‘Atoma’ is a pleasing body of work, and with amazing moments of composition that demonstrate the skills of great musicians.



albumreviewsTESTAMENT – ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’
///  Date : 31st October, 2016  ///

Brotherhood Of The Snake‘ is the eleventh studio album by American thrash metal band Testament, released on October 28, 2016 via record label Nuclear Blast.

testament-the_brotherhood_of_the_snakeTrack Listing :

01. Brotherhood of the Snake (4:14)
02. The Pale King (4:51)
03. Stronghold (4:00)
04. Seven Seals (5:38)
05. Born in a Rut (4:57)
06. Centuries of Suffering (3:34)
07. Black Jack (4:21)
08. Neptune’s Spear (5:27)
09. Canna-Business (3:47)
10. The Number Game (4:38)

ALBUM REVIEW –

Testament are one of those early thrash bands that have been releasing albums since the ’80s. Four years after the very well received ‘Dark Roots of Earth’, they are back with ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’. It’s the first Testament album for bassist Steve DiGiorgio, who rejoined the band in 2014, since 2001‘s ‘First Strike Still Deadly’. Gene Hoglan is back behind the kit for the second straight album, with the lineup rounded out by vocalist Chuck Billy and guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick.

‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ has a lyrical storyline running through it. “There’s a connection between the alien world and religion, and the whole storyline came from it,” Billy says. “There’s a story of a Sumerian race 6,000 years ago that went on crusades to basically dethrone religions. The earth was basically the place where their leader, The Pale King, set people to be imprisoned and mine for gold. It got the ball rolling.”

The album’s ball gets rolling right out of the gate with the title track, a heavy, ominous song with urgent riffing, ample grooves and a ripping solo. Using a singsong delivery for the first half of the track, Billy switches to a growl for the song’s latter part, adding extra brutality to the proceedings. His melodic singing is at the forefront of songs like “The Pale King” and while he’s no Rob Halford or Bruce Dickinson, Billy gets the job done. The guitar work of Peterson and Skolnick is stellar throughout, delivering a seemingly endless supply of killer riffs and memorable solos.

For those who have a hankering for thrash, you’ll find an amply supply on ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’. In fact, Peterson asserts that they haven’t had this many thrash tracks since ‘The Legacy’, their 1987 debut. “Stronghold” gallops along at lightning speed, as do “Centuries of Suffering” and “Black Jack”. Testament balance that with darker, mid-tempo songs such as “Seven Seals”. The album ends on an intense note with “The Numbers Game”, which Billy wrote with Exodus frontman Steve “Zetro” Souza. It’s one of the heaviest tracks on the record. ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ is an album that can crush you like a boa constrictor or sink its fangs into you like a rattlesnake. Thankfully, the only venom is that in Billy’s voice, and the antidote is to play it repeatedly at maximum volume.



albumreviewsAVENGED SEVENFOLD – ‘The Stage’
///  Date : 29th October, 2016  ///

The Stage‘ is the seventh studio album by American heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold. It was released through Capitol Records on October 28, 2016 after a live stream event on the band’s Facebook page.

avenged-sevenfold_the-stageTrack Listing :

01. The Stage (8:32)
02. Paradigm (4:18)
03. Sunny Disposition (6:41)
04. God Damn (3:42)
05. Creating God (5:34)
06. Angels (5:40)
07. Simulation (5:31)
08. Higher (6:28)
09. Roman Sky (5:00)
10. Fermi Paradox (6:30)
11. Exist (15:41)

ALBUM REVIEW –

Not every artist can successfully pull off a “surprise” album. It has been done before, usually by superstar artists. Avenged Sevenfold, whose last two albums (2013‘s ‘Hail To The King’ and 2010’s ‘Nightmare’) debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart, have the history and fan base to be able to do something like that. And while ‘The Stage’ wasn’t a complete surprise, the timing of the release was earlier than most expected. A few weeks ago the band released the single “The Stage,” and there was a supposed leak by a friend of the band, Fozzy frontman and WWE superstar Chris Jericho, that the disc was going to be called Voltaic Oceans and be released Dec. 9.

Its eleven songs clock in at just under 75 minutes, the band’s longest release to-date. It’s also their first release with drummer Brooks Wackerman (ex-Bad Religion), who replaced Arin Illejay. Wackerman’s style works really well on this album. ‘The Stage’ is epic in both length and ambition. It’s Avenged Sevenfold’s first concept album, with the theme of artificial intelligence. It was inspired by the works of Carl Sagan and Elon Musk and includes a spoken word piece written and delivered by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famed astrophysicist.

The title track, aptly enough, sets the stage for what’s to come. It takes a while to kick in, and there are plenty of detours, instrumental breaks and shifts in the track’s eight plus minutes. “Sunny Disposition” has a different vibe provided by a horn section that augments the guitars. “God Damn” is the album’s shortest and most straightforward song, while “Creating God” features an extended guitar solo. Throughout the album, axemen Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance deliver memorable performances, whether it’s flashy solos, creative fills or basic riffs.

“Angels” and “Roman Sky” are the requisite ballads, with the latter including strings and a cinematic atmosphere. They are contrasted by plenty of heavy songs. While some streamlining would have benefited ‘The Stage’, the lyrical concept is compelling enough to overlook a little self-indulgence. After working with Mike Elizondo on their past two albums, this time around A7X co-produced the record with Joe Baressi (Chevelle, Coheed and Cambria). The production is rock solid, as the album sounds crisp and dynamic. The album closes with the nearly 16 minute “Exist”, an opus that runs the gamut from thrash to ambient to power ballad to arena rock anthem and wraps up with deGrasse Tyson’s spoken word part. ‘The Stage’ has plenty of what Avenged Sevenfold fans expect, but the band also stretches themselves to explore new musical territories.



albumreviewsMESHUGGAH – ‘The Violent Sleep Of Reason’
///  Date : 08th October, 2016  ///

The Violent Sleep Of Reason‘ is the eighth full-length album by Swedish metal band Meshuggah. It was released on 7th October 2016 on Nuclear Blast.

meshuggah-the-violent-sleep-of-reasonTrack Listing :

01. Clockworks (7:15)
02. Born in Dissonance (4:34)
03. Monstrocity (6:13)
04. By the Ton (6:04)
05. Violent Sleep of Reason (6:51)
06. Ivory Tower (4:59)
07. Stifled (6:31)
08. Nostrum (5:15)
09. Our Rage Won’t Die (4:41)
10. Into Decay (6:32)

ALBUM REVIEW –

Meshuggah have miraculously managed to remain aloof from the oft-maligned genre they are credited with inventing – the onomatopoeic “Djent” – largely through an ingenuous adherence to quality and songcraft. This in spite of the fact that the band’s work has relied less on novelty than sheer consistency the last decade and change; what was once a revolutionary sound has arguably settled into staid formula, although the old adage “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” ought certainly to apply to these inveterate Swedes.

Cockily starting off the album with its longest song at over seven minutes, Meshuggah turn “Clockworks” into a clinic of what has made the band so revered over time : brutal tech-savvy riffs, wailing guitar solos seemingly time-shifted from another dimension, Tomas Haake’s incomparable octopus-like drumming. “By the Ton” shifts the emphasis away from sheer brutality – not entirely absent, by the way – and complex instrumentation toward a fitful, staggered groove, with “Ivory Tower” splitting the difference between the two approaches with a true block-leveling guitar riff.

While lacking in true surprises, ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’ does what it’s supposed to do: scratch a familiar itch while staving off any hint of stagnation. At this stage of the band’s history it becomes more and more difficult to play favorites among a reliable catalog not necessarily known for its diversity; most Meshuggah fans will likely favor whatever the first couple of albums they heard by the group. Which is fine; not every band needs to toss out the playbook and blaze new trails, and if anyone should be exempt it ought to be the ensembles that actually wrote the damn playbook to begin with. And so while any band can technically do whatever the hell they want, it doesn’t matter much if the results do not resound with listeners. 30 years in, Meshuggah prove that, for them, that will never be a problem.



albumreviewsOPETH – ‘Sorceress’
///  Date : 01st October, 2016  ///

Sorceress‘ is the twelfth studio album by the Swedish band Opeth. The album was released on 30th September 2016 via record label Nuclear Blast and the band’s own imprint Moderbolaget.

opeth-sorceressTrack Listing :

01. Persephone (1:51)
02. Sorceress (5:49)
03. The Wilde Flowers (6:49)
04. Will O the Wisp (5:07)
05. Chrysalis (7:16)
06. Sorceress 2 (3:49)
07. The Seventh Sojourn (5:29)
08. Strange Brew (8:44)
09. A Fleeting Glance (5:06)
10. Era (5:41)
11. Persephone (Slight Return) (0:54)

ALBUM REVIEW –

Opeth’s first major foray into progressive music was 2003‘s ‘Damnation’, featuring all clean vocals and ‘70s inspired prog rock. They returned to death metal for another couple albums, but 2011‘s ‘Heritage’ brought them fully back into the progressive realm, where they remain today. With their latest release ‘Sorceress’, Opeth continue to refine their progressive chops, building on elements from ‘Heritage’ and 2014‘s ‘Pale Communion’ and becoming even more comfortable in this incarnation and evolution of their sound. Frontman Mikael Akerfeldt had a goal when writing the songs for the album : “The only thing I was thinking about with this record was to write that songs didn’t musically connect. I made sure if I had a song that was new sounding for this record, I’d make the next song completely different. I think the songs are very different from one another. It’s very diverse.”

He’s absolutely right that this is a diverse album, and even though the songs are different from each other, things still flow very smooth. That’s evident from the first proper song, the title track, which shifts from upbeat prog to slower and more somber with heavy guitar. Speaking of heavy guitar, there’s a tasty solo in the middle of “The Wilde Flowers” before the intensity drops dramatically. The first half of the album is definitely the heavier half, with tracks like “Chrysalis” keeping the tempo quick.

‘Sorceress’ mellows out in the middle, as both “Sorceress 2“ and “The Seventh Sojourn” are pretty subdued. The next two songs have plenty of quiet moments, but a little pep in their step as well. The last full song (before a brief closing instrumental) is “Era”, one of the album’s strongest. It’s another heavier track, blending rock urgency, progressive flourishes and a memorable chorus. There are still holdouts who won’t listen to an Opeth album without death growls, but they are missing out. ‘Sorceress’ finds the band’s progressive ambitions fully realized, delivering an album of compelling and engaging songs with a minimum of self-indulgence.