Friday, October 4, 2019

So about this abscense...

Hi there

You might have noticed that I have not posted a review for over a month or so, actually been completely quite for that time as well. I feel like I need to explain myself here to why this is.

So ever since 2019 rolled in to our lives, my urge for writing these reviews have been iffy at best. No, I am not losing interest in metal in general, I just felt that I was stuck in a rut with these reviews, stating the same opinions, writing the same sentences and phrases, and getting stuck way more often than I would like to admit. Simply put, piecing together these reviews was more like work than a simple hobby. I was hoping this was just normal writers block, that some sort of ketchup effect would happen eventually, except it never did, not even during the summer (which is the time of the year that gives me the most opportunity to listen to music). I finally reached a point where I just said to myself "take a break, just enjoy whatever is coming out during this time, and re-evaluate your situation later".

While I have not really reached a conclusion of the future of this blog and my opinion stating yet, it feels more and more likely that Forsaken At The Gates is nearing its end. I am actually considering a move to other platforms, such as YouTube and Twitch, but those ideas are still in the planning state, and might not even happen at all.

This is what is going to happen though. I will release my usual top 20 albums and top 50 songs of the year at the end of this year, but do not expect any new normal sized reviews coming out until then. Maybe a bunch of "Rapid Fire Reviews" might arrive, but no promises are made. I am also considering making a massive "Best of the 10's" list of both albums and songs, which I think would be a nice send off to this blog, which by the way will celebrate its 7th birthday this Sunday.

So while we wait for that, here are some quick thoughts on recent big releases that I have listened to.

HammerFall - Dominion
Solid as usual, my childhood heroes rarely disappoints. 7/10

Tool - Fear Inoculum
Despite 13 years of abscense, Tool is as mysterious and magnificent as ever. 9/10

Sonata Arctica - Talviyö
Boring. 5,5/10

DragonForce - Extreme Power Metal
Ridiculuos, but fun as hell. That Celine Dion cover is glorious! 7/10

Opeth - In Cauda Venenum
Rivaling "Pale Communion" as the best late Opeth record. 9 /10

A big thanks to all of you who have visited the blog, whether it be once or more, and seen what I had to say. If nothing else, see you at the end of the year.

Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Slipknot - We Are Not Your Kind (2019)

A new Slipknot release is now seen as a spectacle, a chance for every metal head, fan of the band or not, to raise their voices a little higher than usual over their opinions. The Iowa group has certainly reached a level very few bands can reach, and with so many minds working simultaneously in the band, it must be difficult to keep things grounded and not go completely haywire. Well, let us see if the insanity has anything worthwhile to say this time around, or if it is just a jumbled mess of masks, jumpsuits, and artsy stuff.

At first glance, it seems like "We Are Not Your Kind" is your average Slipknot release, a predictable follow up to the uneven ".5: The Gray Chapter". However, unlike its predecessor that had a good initial impact only to fade further away for every subsequent listen, this album is most definitely a grower, where you find new cool little nuggets every time you take that disc for a spin. And while we of course get most of the Slipknot tropes in here, such as heavy grooves, radio friendly choruses, and a lot of anger, there is actually some new bits in here that excites.

One of these things can be found in "Critical Darling", an extremely groovy track that has a great build up to a very melodic chorus, almost like it was stolen from Lacuna Coil, leaving an end product that is one of the better Slipknot songs in some time. "Orphan" is also in that league, taking back the intense speed from the band's early days and add a splash of those marvelous "Vol. 3..." choruses, while the single "Unsainted" is following the Slipknot single formula perfectly, this time adding church choirs to spice things up a bit. The highlights of this album are truly stellar, showcasing a hungry band that is once again pissed off at everyone and everything.

There are still more experimental moments in this album that flexes the band's more atmospheric side. "Spiders" act like it is in a horror movie, creeping up slowly with all of its eight legs, while "My Pain" is more like a somber lullaby sung by Pennywise. We also venture a little into Stone Sour territory again in both "Not Long For This World" and "A Liar's Funeral", which just ends with mixed result, as does the various instrumental interludes that are sprinkled throughout the album. I get that they are trying to create an atmosphere, but I want music man, just get to it already.

Then we have the odd decision of not including the first single "All Out Life" at all in this album, which is a crying shame because that track is one of the most furious tracks the band has done since the "Iowa" days. Speaking in "Spotify Metal Talks", Shawn "Clown" Crahan explains that he wanted the track to be its own entity, and that the fans would still find the song and listen to it regardless if it was in the album or not, ultimately giving way for another song that otherwise would have not made the cut. Fair enough, but I still think this album would have been even better if "All Out Life" was in instead of one of the calmer songs (not to mention that the album title is spawned from this track). By the way, Shawn called "We Are Not Your Kind" a masterpiece roughly 10 times during that whole talk, making hims sound a little pretentious by the end.

So "We Are Not Your Kind" might not ultimately match up with any of the first three Slipknot records, but it definitely beats down "All Hope Is Gone" and ".5: The Gray Chapter" by quite a margin. It still has its problems here and there, but when this album gets going, it gets fucking going, showing that Slipknot still has enough energy in them to rally the maggots into some brutally groovy heavy metal that when it is at its best, it is impossible to resist. Well, this review probably do not matter since most of you who are reading this already have a firm opinion of the band, but if you happen to be open of giving this band another chance, I suggest you do so, and add "All Out Life" into the setlist as well.

Songs worthy of recognition: Critical Darling, Unsainted, Red Flag, Orphan

Rating: 7,5/10 Spiders

More reviews of Slipknot
.5: The Gray Chapter

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Gojira - From Mars To Sirius (2005)

While the first two Gojira records created buzz, it was not until the third record "From Mars To Sirius" in which the band hit their stride and became real famous within the metal community, taking their craft to a whole new planetary level. It is with this album where Gojira finds that perfect balance of groove, atmosphere, and brutality, fusing together to make a true juggernaut of metal music. Let us do like Pinocchio and get inside the whale to find out what makes this album the pinnacle of Gojira.

So this is a concept record, depicting a race who tries to resurrect a dead ocean planet so it can be habitable again. This obviously has a lot of connections to what we are doing to our world today, an environmental message of what our future might be like if we do not change our way of living. It is kind of a tough subject, because while it is important, it is really easy to be too on the nose, being obnoxiously preachy about it. Fortunately, the French group does weave in their message really neatly into their story, while still being crystal clear over what they are trying to tell us.

To go together with this environmental theme, Gojira serves us with their patented style of complex progressive death metal, but this time it acts like an onion, where you find layer after layer after layer of awesome music. Every instrument helps in the building process of each song, adding some incredible depth that we did not hear in the first two record. It also helps that the production is the best one yet, highlighting each member just as much as they need to really make each track stand out. It is true, clean music poetry.

The biggest improvement from the last record is that "From Mars To Sirius" is just so god damn diverse in its delivery, not only nailing those dark, ultra heavy moments, but also manages to shine in the more ethereal moments like in "Where Dragons Dwell", "Unicorn", and "Flying Whales". It is still the heavier moments that do steal the show. "Backbone" crushes your eardrums before the following track "From The Sky" does a blood chilling scream of the title. Then we have the appropriately named "The Heaviest Matter of The Universe" that technically might not be the heaviest track of the record, but everything here comes together so insanely good that it leaves the heaviest impact on you. Let us also not forget the closer "Global Warming", where Christian Andreu and Joe Duplantier flex all of their finger muscles with this technical guitar lick that is played through most of the songs, which is just under 8 minutes long. Closes off the record in a horrific, yet cool, way.

Really, there is very little to complain about here. Some moments might be dragging on a little too much, and the 1+ hour run time is a bit on the long side, but there is no question that "From Mars To Sirius" is still a masterful record of progressive excellence, taking the listener through a journey of a life time. Gojira finally find their winning formula that they still use to this day. Yes, this album is amazing, and it does not even matter if it does sound like Korn at times even (looking at you "World To Come").

Songs worthy of recognition: From The Sky, Ocean Planet, The Heaviest Mater of The Universe, Flying Whales

Rating: 9/10 Backbones

More reviews of Gojira
Terra Incognita

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sabaton - The Great War (2019)

Thanks to the second World War and all of its horrors, the first edition (also known as The Great War) is kind of forgotten in today's age. It may seem like primitive warfare with very little happening, but at the time, this war saw humanity invent all kinds of new ways of killing each other, whether it be on the ground, in the skies, or through biochemical means. It is an event that now, just over 100 years later, is depicted once again, this time through the sound of metal war veterans Sabaton, an opportunity to further immortalize this important event in human history.

The Swedes have gone more in the concept direction in later records, telling war stories in a certain category, but this is the first time the band takes a specific war and fills a record with stories from it, and it is a strategy that I like a lot. The band's strength has always been in the lyrical department, having a knack to telling these tales in a colorful way that peaks your interest, so focusing it all to one specific point in time instead of several different periods gives it more of a story book feeling, having a smoother flow to what is happening.

And as always, the band has this massive energy to them that is really infectious. Everything from the pummeling drums of Hannes Van Dahl to the grand vocals of Joakim Brodén is larger than life, which helps them immensely when they step on the live stage. Tracks like "Great War", "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", "The Attack of The Dead Men", and a couple of others were made for playing live, being catchy and epic as all hell. There is no question that this album will suck you in thanks to the lyrics, the energy, and the passionate performances, just like most other Sabaton records.

The problems are still the same though, mostly that "The Great War" is not very versatile in its execution. The band does try to spice up some things, like the insanely groovy "The Red Baron" features the keyboards (also performed by Brodén) a lot, "Fields of Verdun" is more classic power metal than what we are used to see from Sabaton (more like Stratovariaton there), and "The End of The War To End All War" is as epic as an ending can be, but it is still not enough to make "The Great War" significally stand out from its brethren. This also makes the album pretty tiring, even if it only clocks in at 38 minutes. Sabaton is still best in small doses, and this record further exemplifies that.

Ultimately, "The Great War" is just another Sabaton record, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I believe Sabaton only makes new records because of 2 reasons. 1. they want new songs to play live, and 2. they want to tell new stories. We listen to these records for the tales the band tells, so we can learn more about the violent historic nature of humanity, and it also helps that the music is still pretty good, even if it is very much predictable. So yes, there is not much new on the Western Sabaton front, but it is still entertaining enough to get you hooked.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Attack of The Dead Men, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, The Red Baron, Great War

Rating: 7,5/10 Devil Dogs

More reviews of Sabaton
The Last Stand

Monday, July 22, 2019

Turilli/Lione Rhapsody - Zero Gravity (Rebirth And Evolution) (2019)

My relationship with the ever changing entity known as Rhapsody has always been complicated. At one hand, I appreciate the grand unique spectacle that the band usually give us, but I also feel like they cross over the cheesy line more often than not, making every listen extremely frustrating. It does not help either that the band is different every time they pop up on the news feed, whether it be a new name, a new line up, or a combination of both. So here we have another branch on the Rhapsody tree, with founder Luca Turilli leaving his own Rhapsody on the sidelines for now, to once again collaborate with former Rhapsody (and current Angra) singer Fabio Lione in a project called, what else, Turilli/Lione Rhapsody. Just had to stick in that Rhapsody at the end, didn't ya?

To be honest, I do not blame their branding decision here, because this is as Rhapsody as it can become, all of that glorious epic symphonic cheese metal in an all you can eat buffet. It is grander than an ancient gladiator fight at the Coliseum in Rome, and it is more dramatic than the biggest of drama queens. Needless to say, if you have any interest in anything of Turilli's and Lione's previous Rhapsody work, this will most likely suit you nicely.

It is still teetering dangerously on that thin line between brilliance and cheese, but the duo fortunately ends up successful more often than not. There is this overwhelming confidence going through this record that wins me over time and time again, a multi layered sound scape of fantastic musicality that is just wonderful to behold. A track like "Decoding The Multiverse" is a prime example of this, a song that should have been over the top with its ridiculous premise, symphonic overload, and an over acting Lione, but it is all performed so expertly that it churns out pure quality instead of Gouda.

The whole first half of the record is overall top notch stuff. Opener "Phoenix Rising" sets the bar nicely with its Middle Eastern spices and catchy chorus, which is then followed up by "D.N.A. - Demon And Angel", where Lione is doing some excellent duet work with Amaranthe's Elize Ryd. Turilli gets his moments too, like the apocalyptic "Fast Radio Burst", and in the solo of the title track.

So it all seemed well and good, and my hopes of finally starting to love a Rhapsody album started to peak out, only to go right back to its hideout at the midway point. The second half has some questionable choices that makes this record slightly front heavy, like why are they suddenly changing between English and Italian? Just a weird choice that does nothing to benefit the album as a whole. There is also more classical influences in here, which is not utilized to its fullest potential unfortunately, it just becomes overly dramatic for my taste. "I Am" and "Multidimensional" saves this second half from being complete confusion, but it does not help my view of any Rhapsody project.

Despite that disappointing ending, "Zero Gravity (Rebirth And Evolution)" is still one of the more powerful Rhapsody records I have heard in some time, showing off the brilliance that both Luca Turilli and Fabio Lione can do when they bash their collective minds together. It makes you miss the good old days, when there was only one Rhapsody out there and not three. Bravissimo to the both of you.

Songs worthy of recognition: Fast Radio Burst, D.N.A. - Demon And Angel, Decoding The Multiverse, Multidimensional

Rating: 8/10 Origins

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Equity - Financial Metal. (2019)

Metal never ceases to amaze me, showing that you can take some of the most mundane and sterile things in existence, and still make it relatively cool through some riffs, beats, and growls. Enter Equity, a thrash death band/solo project that is all about one thing, and one thing only, finance. The entire gimmick of Equity is taking everything that is about economy, accounting, stock markets, or anything close to that, and turn it into metal. This is just complete insanity, and I am not really sure if this is just a gimmick, if it is a joke, or if this 100% serious, because I literally know nothing else about the band. Seriously, this album just popped up out of nowhere, there are no members tied to it, and there is no link to the band what so ever. No YouTube, no Facebook, no Bandcamp, no Twitter, nothing at all, and this is only confirmed by the Metal-archives (if there is no info there, then there just is no info available). Only reason I found this is thanks to the podcast Heavy Metal Hangover, who featured it (and made silly jokes about the band throughout the episode).

Okay, enough about Equity out ghosting Ghost, let us talk about the music. As previously stated, this is a death metal record with some thrash thrown into the mix, and it is... fine. Yeah, this is far from mind blowing stuff, most of the music in here has been done before, and there is no real surprise to be had at all. With that said, the band does stick to its sound pretty well and delivers some solid metal all around. Riffs are chunky, drums hits hard, bass is deep, and the growls are textbook stuff. Do have to give some extra credit to the guitars, who at times do manage to cram out some nice solos.

The thing that do make Equity shine is obviously the lyrical content. We hear Equity speak about Brexit, the Panama papers, debt, taxes, stocks, disposable income, liability and more. This group talk like true suit wearers from Wall Street, talking in terms that I kind of understand, but do not really understand, and it is just hilarious that it is all growled. Makes you imagine how it would sound like if you hear your economic advisor speak to you like that when you meet him at the bank.

Other than that, there is unfortunately not much more positive I can say about "Financial Metal.". Well, that is half a lie, I do think it is funny that the instrumental track "Brexodus" is the longest track of the record, sort of stating that Brexit is taking forever, but it backfires because the song itself is not interesting enough to warrant the 9 minute run time. Besides from that instrument wanking, there just is not much from this record that truly stands out music wise. "Blue Chip Liability" and "Buy Low Sell Die" has some great solos, and "Figure It Out" has this cool start stop strategy that works, but everything else is pretty much similar to one another. I really wished that they had included the bonus track "Disposable Income" in the real setlist, because it would have brought some much needed speed into this record.

So revisiting my calculations, Equity is a fun, but limited, listen. The whole gimmick certainly gets you hooked, and it is worth a listen or two, but "Financial Metal." as a whole has a short life span, not lasting all too long in the minds of those who seek innovative metal. The question now is what will happen to Equity. Was this a one off thing? Will we ever get to know who created this band? Are the members actual accountants playing metal for a hobby? No matter if these questions gets answered or not, Equity is an experience, and just more proof that anything is possible with metal. It may not be worthy of a full time investment, but I suggest you keep a look out for this group in the future, just to see if their stock starts to rise.

Songs worthy of recognition: Blue Chip Liability, Buy Low Sell Die, Figure It Out

Rating: 6,5/10 Panama Papers

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Gojira - The Link (2003)

If "Terra Incognita" was Gojira's equivalent to crawling, then the sophomore effort entitled "The Link" is displaying a band who is taking their first, unbalanced steps to become a full grown entity. It is a record that takes every lesson the band learned through its predecessor, both good and bad, and improved upon (so no more double trips to Belgium). Still, with such complex patterns and rhythms at hand, the evolution was still slow, so let us see how far the band has come with the release of this album.

The biggest difference is obviously the production, which is much slicker this time around, allowing more freedom for all the beats and riffs to roam and show themselves how strong they are. This does mean that the band do not get the opportunity to create another dark and eerie record like the last one, but they do take full advantage of what they have, giving "The Link" a life of its own. It is still a little stiff in its performance, but it does its job well enough.

The (sorta) improved production also helps in making each track stand out more, and we got ourselves a hand full of impressive treats. "Remembrance" makes quite an entrance with its fast paced groovy rhythm that has a nice mix of crazy double bass and tribe like riffs that puts you in a headbanging voodoo trance. That middle part especially is the first taste of true Gojira magic, but not the last, because "Indians" shifts tempo with impressive precision, "Wisdom Comes" crushes with no mercy, and "Embrace The World" does a little of everything right.

Every member of the band also goes in the right direction. Mario's drumming is tighter, Joe and Christian's guitars show off more techniques, Jean-Michel's bass is more vibrant, and Joe expands his vocal range further. It is a complete team effort that makes "The Link" a natural progression for the band, and while it has its blemishes with a trio of instrumentals (with the best one being the closer "Dawn", which got some cool parts, but is far too long and repetitive), several sluggish parts, and a stagnant production, it still manages to entertain enough to get the listener to the very end. The highlights are high, and the lows are not on an embarrassing level, so "The Link" is definitely not the weakest of its kind.

Songs worthy of recognition: Remembrance, Indians, Embrace The World

Rating: 7/10 Inward Movements

More reviews of Gojira
Terra Incognita

Monday, July 8, 2019

Teramaze - Are We Soldiers (2019)

The Australian group Teramaze is a band that I instantly fell in love with when I first heard them on the 2014 effort "Esoteric Symbolism", and the follow up "Her Halo" was not too shabby either. They have a heavier and more futuristic take on the classic progressive metal formula that really speaks to me, and it also helps that the men behind the music are pretty skilled as well. It has been a while though since the last album (4 years to be exact), so do they still have that magic touch, or are they on the decline?

The sixth full length effort is entitled "Are We Soldiers", and it gives us a lot of metal for the money, one hour and nine minutes of it. I am usually not against a prog band going over the hour mark, but this is a dense album with a lot of quality, but also some unnecessary moments. The closer "Depopulate" is the perfect example of this, starting off strong with determination and a catchy pronunciation of the title, but the back half of this song that goes for just under 12 minutes is completely different, and does not add anything significant really. Why not split up this song into two? Would make much more sense. Also do not like the title track, an obvious single track that does not have any impact in its delivery.

At first, the density made me kind of numb about the record, not feeling too excited about it, but the more I listened, the more I started to love it. Teramaze has this copyrighted style that is incredibly infectious, adding small thrash hints into their music to give it more depth. The band is also great at packaging these songs so that you never feel bored, either by the mesmerizing guitar symbiosis of Dean Wells and newcomer Chris Zoupa, the excellent keyboard melodies of Jonah Weingarten, or the passionate vocal performance of Brett Rerekura. It is an all out team effort at an high level.

It is ultimately the song craft that is the strength of "Are We Soldiers", a mix of melodic and heavy songs that all show off their individual power. Pacing is especially strong in this record, with songs like "Control Conquer Collide" (or as I like to call it, triple C), "Orwellian Times" and "Fact Resistant Human" take their time to settle in, not rushing getting to the point, leading to some highly enjoyable moments. Then there are the more intense songs like "Weight of Humanity" and "Fight Or Flight" that offers something special to this record. My favourite of the bunch though is "From Saviour To Assassin", an awesome high paced track with great riffing, epic chorus, and a second half that gives you chills all the way through. It is songs like this one that only Teramaze can do, and a major reason to why I love these guys.

"Are We Soldiers" is another stellar performance from the Aussies, a record filled with progressive goodness that will last for quite some time. The band keeps their wheels rolling with their signature sound and lyrics about the social issues the world is facing today, giving us an album that is both catchy, interesting, and thought provoking. It may be a little on the long side, and some of the songs might not stack up to its peers, but "Are We Soldiers" is still a solid gem that you should dedicate some time into. Simply put, this album is Teramazing.

Songs worthy of recognition: From Saviour To Assassin, Fight Or Flight, Control Conquer Collide, Weight of Humanity

Rating: 8,5/10 M.O.N.S.T.E.R.S.

More reviews of Teramaze
Esoteric Symbolism
Her Halo

Friday, July 5, 2019

From Worst To First: Black Sabbath

Out of all the discography reviews I have done over the years, I am probably the least happy over the one I did on Black Sabbath. Not only did this one take an ungodly time to complete (sure, there are 19 albums to get through, but I was still slow as hell on this one), but I feel like I never gave most of these albums their due. After all, this is the band that started it all, the group that every other metal band who has ever existed has to thank to get this thing called metal rolling, so it is just silly with me being so hap hazard with this particular series (especially the ending, god damn). Well, hopefully I regain some respect back with this ranking, and while most of my thoughts and feelings for these albums are mostly the same, it still gave me a chance to revisit and rethink over what every record tries to do, and what they ultimately accomplish. So strap yourselves in, and watch me rank all 19 studio records of Black Sabbath.

19. Never Say Die!
The end of the original Black Sabbath was far from pretty, and nothing exemplifies that better than "Never Say Die!", the last record Ozzy, Tony, Bill, and Geezer did together. If "Technical Ecstacy" was a full on experiment, this one was just the product of a band that was more than ready to dissolve, with no direction what so ever, and songs that just leaves you clueless. Most of these songs are very much forgettable, or even out right dumb. What is even stranger is that this record, one of the worst ones in the band's entire existence, might have one of the best opening one-two punches of any Sabbath record. If the rest of the record had the same infectious qualities as the title track and "Johnny Blade", maybe the gang would have been together for at least another year or so.

18. Forbidden
I will always be a defender of Tony Martin and his time in Sabbath, he is a great singer who never really got the recognition he deserved, never seemed to step out of Ozzy's and Dio's shadow. With that said, I just cannot defend his (and long time seemingly Sabbath's) last effort "Forbidden". This album is boring in every sense of the word, not improving at all on the sound the band had established during this era, instead leaning on mediocre radio rock with bland riffs and questionable vocal performances. "I Won't Cry For You" and "Rusty Angels" are acceptable, the rest are not. Also, you wanna know what is the most interesting part of this record? Ice-T's cameo in "The Illusion of Power". Now that is a crossover.

17. Seventh Star
I still hate the fact that we have to judge "Seventh Star" as a Black Sabbath record, because this is obviously not a Black Sabbath record. It was originally planned to be a solo album by Iommi (for gods sake, he even fronts the cover art alone), but he was persuaded to release it under the Sabbath moniker. So if you ever wanted a Sabbath record with a generic 80's rock sound that has hints of Yngwie Malmsteen and The Scorpions, then congratulations, you got it... you sick bastard. It still got some nicely crafted guitar work at least, and it shows that Iommi has more under his song writing belt than one might think, but this is as forgettable as it goes. Next please.

16. Born Again
The Ian Gillan era of Black Sabbath was short, but was it sweet? Well, let us call it strange instead, because "Born Again" was exactly that, strange. It is a dark and eerie album that is sort of reminiscent of the band's early work, but because they had Ian on the vocals, it kind of got this glammy vibe to it that got you out of the moment. Do not get me wrong, Ian is a fantastic vocalist, and I love his work on Deep Purple, but he just did not fit in with Sabbath. It did not help either that "Born Again" was a murky enigma of an album, with unclear production and uneven setlist. It has its moments, and there is a section of the fan base that absolutely loves this record, I am just not one of them.

15. Cross Purposes
So I wrote in my old review that "Cross Purposes" had some grunge vibes to it, which made me think "what the hell was I smoking while writing that? Sabbath going grunge? No freaking way". Well, I quickly listened to this album to jog my memory, and sure enough, there is grunge in here ("Virtual Death" could just as well have been an Alice In Chains song). Besides that, there is not all that much that differentiate this album from previous Tony Martin era albums. It is still fairly dark and fairly heavy, but the song writing in here is way more inconsistent, which instantly makes it inferior to the three records before it. It is a strange one, let us just leave it at that.

14. Technical Ecstacy
This is a weird record on so many levels. From the artwork, to the songs, "Technical Ecstacy" makes you wonder if you accidentally ingested said drug before pressing play. There are so many strange elements to this record that should not really work, but somehow it pulls it off quite well with some interesting techniques and fun melodies. Just the Beatles inspired ballad "It's Alright" where Tony plays the piano and sings makes you go "what the hell?", but you can't deny the excellent craft that is behind it. Sure, this is not a metal record what so ever, it is barely a rock record, but it has a charm to it that peaks your interest.

13. 13
This is the only Sabbath record released that I was knowingly aware of during my life time, and looking back at that time, I was definitely bit by the hype bug, enjoying this record more than I should have had. That's not to say that "13" is a bin filled with garbage, it still has some nice energy to it (how Rick Rubin managed to squeeze it out of those oldies I will never know), and it is cool to see the band going back to their roots. Still, this is a spotty record, with some great highlights ("Methademic", "Loner", "God Is Dead?"), and some lows ("Damaged Soul", "Dear Father"), but at this stage of the band, we did not really need much more. This is a fairly solid record, and a worthy final effort for the band.

Also, I swear to god I did not purposely put it on this spot just because of the name, it just happened lol.

12. The Eternal Idol
The Tony Martin era of Sabbath started out with one thing in mind, reestablish the brand of the band. "The Eternal Idol" did just that, giving the band a new identity to evolve on for the future. The album itself is solid, but not much more. It has several cool moments, like the ominous opener "The Shining", the groovy "Hard Life To Love", the fast paced "Lost Forever", and the nostalgic title track. It is not an album that grabs your attention all that much, but it does its work well enough to leave you with some hope for what's to come. It is a start for a band reborn, and it is a good one for sure.

11. Black Sabbath Vol. 4
Out of the first six records, "Vol. 4" is the one that has never clicked for me. It has some amazing tracks like "Supernaut" and "Tomorrow's Dream", and it is daring of the band to try their hand at a traditional ballad in "Changes", but overall it just does not have the star power that the other early records has. It is more inconsistent in its quality, and it also feels like sort of a transitional album, knowing that the first three records are different from the two coming after this one. It is the typical middle child of the original Sabbath era, an album that is perfectly fine and has its moments, but is also easily forgotten.

10. S/T
The album that started it all, the grand daddy of the bunch, the old geezer that will aimlessly tell its life story to all of its children. Okay, that was silly, but there is no denying that "Black Sabbath" is an interesting debut that shook the world in 1970, sending a shock wave that spawned a mad, musical earthquake that has not settled yet. Some songs are definitely dated, but tracks like the title track, "The Wizard", and "N.I.B." still hold up today, almost 50 years later. It may not be a perfect record, but the historical impact this album had on generations to come is something no one can take away from it.

9. Headless Cross
As far as progression goes from the predecessor "The Eternal Idol", "Headless Cross" did not exactly do much different, but the band did amplify the sound enough to make this a natural follow up. It gave the people some more taste of the new singer Tony Martin, and he delivers with power and confidence, seemingly determined to prove the doubters wrong, with the rest of the band helping him out with some stellar performances all around. For the era being, "Headless Cross" is a nice little album, although I do remember enjoying this album more when I first listened to it, and while I still think "Headless Cross" is a solid contribution to the band's discography, it does not stack up to the absolute best of the best.

8. Mob Rules
Following on the wave of the predecessor, "Mob Rules" is another stellar Dio effort that packs quite a punch. From the slow epic "The Sign of The Southern Cross" and the high accelerating "Falling Off The Edge of The World", to the almost thrashy title track, this album has enough awesome moments to spare, showing just how good this group could be. Sadly, this album is a little too uneven for me to fully appreciate it, mixing the previously mentioned classics with completely different tracks, losing the identity of the album in the process. Still, there is enough good bits to make it through the record, and having Dio and Iommi at the wheel helps a lot too. The mob does indeed rule.

7. Master of Reality
There is not much that can go against "Master of Reality" and its A side, including the terrific trio of "Sweet Leaf", "After Forever", and "Children of The Grave". It is a first half that is as banging as any other part of the Sabbath discography, letting everyone shine in all their glory. This does make "Master of Reality" quite front heavy since the B side is not as strong, but there is enough quality on the other side of the LP to make this album another stellar inclusion in Sabbath lore, keeping the fire burning as hot as ever during that early stage of the band's career. Also, Toni's coughing in "Sweet Leaf" might be one of my favourite Sabbath moments of all time, it's so good.

6. Dehumanizer
"Dehumanizer" will always be "that one forgotten Dio album" in the Sabbath discography, and even if it had more of a side project feel to it being squeezed between the Tony Martin albums, it still has enough quality to it to make an impact. Dio by himself makes the album pop, but it is the futuristic feel of the record that truly makes it one to remember. Songs like "I", "Letters From Earth", "Master of Insanity", "Buried Alive" and "Sins of The Father" are classic Dio bangers that makes everyone happy. This one gets the highly coveted "my own personal favourite" award, so while it might not be one of the best ones, it is still a cool album that I keep coming back to.

5. Tyr
Yeeeeeeeah, looking back at my review of "Tyr", I might have been a bit generous with the score, and that I also found this to be the second best Sabbath record is quite laughable. You know what though? "Tyr" is still a brilliant album, and is easily the best one among the 90's records, hammering you with a Mjölner made of expertly crafted songs and slick production. It is an epic onslaught of a band that was finally back at full speed again, showing off some mighty and creative tricks that they had not shown in years. If you are one of those unfortunate souls who dismiss the Sabbath records of this era, then you are sadly missing out on a gem that is not getting enough credit, one that is played regularly at the halls of Valhalla.

4. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
There is no denying that "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" is an excellent album, one that has a solid track list of memorable songs. It is very easy to sing along to tracks like "Looking For Today, "Killing Yourself To Live", and the title track, while "Sabbra Cadabra" makes you wanna boogie in a voodoo like trance. It seem to have a strong reputation among the metal crowd, and while I am ultimately not THAT enthusiastic of this record, it is still one of the more solid ones Sabbath has put forth, with no pot holes to drive over to bumpen your experience.

3. Sabotage
The cover of this record probably scared away a ton of people from giving it an honest chance, but it fortunately does not reflect the sound of the record. "Sabotage" might have been the most progressive effort of the band thus far, highlighting some long ass songs like "Megalomania" and "The Writ", while also improving on what worked in the predecessor "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath". The end result is a classy experience of interesting twists and turns that never makes the album dull, offering you new little bits and pieces every time you run through it. Cool album with highly questionable fashion choices (those god damn red pants are an eye sore).

2. Paranoid
This is probably the only album since the discography review that has actually grown on me, weirdly enough. I long felt like "Paranoid" had the "The Number of The Beast" syndrome, with the best songs ("War Pigs", "Paranoid", "Iron Man") being so much better than the rest of the record. Nowadays, I have learned to appreciate tracks like "Planet Caravan", "Hand of Doom", and "Fairies Wear Boots" much more, which has increased my appreciation of the whole album immensely. It is an all time classic that everyone should hear and experience, an assault of excellent early heavy metal. However, "Rat Salad" can still take a hike, will never understand why that instrumental track is contributing to this album.

1. Heaven And Hell
Whenever someone mentions Black Sabbath, I will always look back to that original line-up, to those 8 albums they did together, everything after that is just a remix of the band that started it all. Still, there is no denying that adding Dio after Ozzy's departure was the best thing the band could have ever done. Not only did they get one of the best singers and song writers of that time, they also got some new, fresh blood that could revive the band, and he did that and more with "Heaven And Hell", an album that is a complete master class of how brilliant these musicians were.

It sets the tone instantly with the speedy "Neon Knights", and shows its range just as quickly with the second track, the calmer and moodful "Children of The Sea". The amazing tracks just keeps on coming after that, like the epic title track, the groovy "Wishing Well", the aggressive "Die Young", and the closer "Lonely Is The Word". This is a record I keep coming back to time and time again, because it just delivers on all fronts, displaying music made by devils, for angels. Pure excellence from start to finish.

And as a bonus, here are my ten favourite tacks from the band, in alphabetical order

Children of The Grave
This song has such good riffs that it do not even need a chorus

Heaven And Hell
Pure Dio magic

Iron Man
You can almost not get any more iconic than this

A groovy joyride of high level insanity


The genius in the simplicity is unreal here

Ward and his drums takes the charge in this groovy gem

The Mob Rules
Stop listening to fools, and listen to this instead

The Sabbath Stones
If you are only going to listen to one 90's Sabbath track, listen to this one

War Pigs
The sound versatility in this song is ridiculous

So what are your thoughts? Is this ranking correct or would yours be different? Let me know in the comment section below, or leave a tweet (@ForsakenGates).

Stay metal

Monday, June 17, 2019

Rapid Fire Reviews: Episode 5

Rapid Fire Reviews is a series where I give some quick takes on some albums I recently listened to and did not have enough thoughts on to make a full scale review, but still garnered enough interest from me to give them acknowledgment. In this episode, we look at some prog, some more prog, and even more prog... and also some other band.

Aeon Zen - Inveritas

This group managed to sneak into my top 20 of 2014 with their last album "Ephemera", so naturally I was interested in what they would do with their fifth full length effort "Inveritas". The result? A much lighter and more organic record that still had the band's technical touch, so not much is lost. "Inveritas" is a great, varied product of some talented minds, displaying some excellent progressive metal that has tastes of Dream Theater, Scar Symmetry, and Symphony X. I do miss some of the djent influences that we saw on "Ephemera", and I am not fully sold on Andi Kravljaca and his new vocal style, but "Inveritas" is still a nice, competent record that prog lovers should check out. If for nothing else, just listen to it for the out of nowhere line in "Disconnected" (classic wtf moment).

Rating: 7,5/10 Rebel Theories

Avandra - Descender

You can seemingly find small prog gems anywhere you look, and fortunately for Avandra, I caught a glimpes of them, a band from Puerto Rico who released their sophomore effort "Descender" earlier this year. This album is filled to the brim with some beautiful stuff, a harmonious aura of excellence that creates several magical moments, like the exhilarating mid part of "The Narrowing of Meaning" and the angelic ending to "Beyond The Threshold, Pt. 1 (Helios Awakens)". There is this soft Cynic vibe to this group that works exquisitely, certainly making them stand out amongst other bands. Although there is some dead meat on this album, there is still enough fresh flesh to feast on for days. Definitely worthy of a look or two... or three.

Rating: 8/10 Derelict Minds

Mother of Millions - Artifacts

On to another atmospheric prog metal group, the Greek outing Mother of Millions and their third record "Artifacts". This band must certainly has Leprous as one of their main inspirational bands, because this record has a lot of that blend of harmonies and spaced out sound scapes that the Norwegians are known for. The only thing different here is that Mother of Millions are consistently mellow, rarely raising the volume or the tempo for anything, which is both a strength and a weakness. It may not be the most dynamic album out there, but the clear cut vision of the band is definitely showing, and it leads to some fantastic melodies. It does leave me wanting more though with only a run time of 40 minutes, but it also means that I can spin the records more often, so it still works out for this promising group of musicians.

Rating: 7,5/10 Rites

Savage Messiah - Demons

It sucks to see talented bands fiddle around with a sound that has no real direction, and Savage Messiah is unfortunately a prime example. They have all of the elements to be successful, a great vocalist, good riffs, and solid production value, but the band seems indecisive in if they want to be a thrash metal band, or more of a melodic heavy metal band, so they settled somewhere in the middle. "Demons" is a step forward from some of their previous works, having better song writing and more memorable songs ("The Bitter Truth" is a banger), but this 50/50 approach is rearing its ugly head again, sort of pulling the band apart, making them unable to unleash their full strength. My hopes on the band completing this symbiosis to something that works are still there, but it will have to wait at least one more album for it to come to fruition.

Rating: 6,5/10 Parachutes