Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The World Cup of Metal: Group C

It is now time to get to know one of the stronger groups of the metal World Cup, with two up and coming European countries, the only Oceanic team (even if it qualifies through Asia), and a South American team we have been dying to welcome back. Let us go.

Australia

The Socceroos have once again made it to the world cup, but it feels like the hype around the land down under has died down for quite some time. They had to beat Honduras in a final play off to get here, and it does feel like the weakest team in a long time. Their long time legend Tim Cahill is in the squad once again, but that is evidence on just how weak this team really is. They do have some nice players still, like Mile "The man with the beard" Jedinak, Aaron Mooy, and a good keeper in Mathew Ryan, but it will take a tremendous effort for this team to get any points out of this competition.

So we all know that AC/DC comes from Australia (and also AC/DC light, aka Airbourne), but in recent years, the Aussies have developed some great and inventive death metal bands. The most hyped up band right now is Ne Obliviscaris, the extreme progressive metal band that has made the violin one of their most deadliest weapons. It is a band I, and many more, have hailed ever since the release of their debut "Portal of I" back in 2012, and their development have been very good so far, taking step by step to become one of the biggest progressive acts out there. Not far behind though is Be'lakor, a melodic death metal group that have yet to disappoint so far in their14 year career, with 4 great studio efforts and a very nice live show reputation.

There are even more great bands from down under. The acclaimed metalcore group Parkway Drive is one of few driving forces around the genre, while Caligula's Horse is a quick riser in the progressive metal heaven. We got one of the more experimental death metal bands in Portal, a great blackened thrash group in Deströyer 666, the popular deathcore group Thy Art Is Murder, and also some underrated hard rockers in Wolfmother. Let me also throw in three personal favourites of mine, the epic power metal group Black Majesty has put together a solid number of good records lately, the progressive doom outfit Rise of Avernus is a band with a bright future, and not least, the progressive power house Teramaze needs some more love from the masses.

So yeah, Australia has a great, diverse group of metal bands, showing that the Young brothers are not the only ones representing their country.

Denmark

The obvious starting point when it comes to Danish metal is our favourite royalty, King Diamond. Together with the rest of Mercyful Fate, Kim Bendix Petersen rose up as one of the more prolific bands of the 80's, with the classic albums "Melissa" and "Don't Break The Oath". Might be fair to say though that the King has had even more success with his solo project, with the first four albums ("Fatal Portrait", "Abigail", "Them", "Conspiracy") as big proof to the man's greatness. In recent years though, the world has learned to love the "Elvis metal" band Volbeat, a group I do not personally get since it feels like they want to be heavy, yet still do not want to be heavy. Even I can agree though that they have created some great music over the years, and the fame is definitely not without its reasons.

Denmark has a few more gems though, more than one might think. It is mostly in the power metal genre where the Danes do the work, with bands such as Pyramaze, Royal Hunt, and Iron Fire, but they do have a good genre diversity across the board. We got black metal from Myrkur, thrash from Artillery and Hatesphere, industrial from Mnemic, classic heavy metal from Pretty Maids, and a good deal of progressive metal from Manticora, Evil Masquerade, and my favourites, Anubis Gate. The King showed his people the way, and the people followed.

France

I hold France as the main favourite in the competition, simply because there is a ridiculous amount of talent in this team. Sure, you can only chose 11 to play the game, but they could really put up anyone, and they would still be competitive. Here is just the sample size of talent they have, Griezmann, Pogba, Giroud, Varane, Lloris, Mbappe, Kante, Matuidi, Dembele, Fekir, and many, many more. God damn, the French are coming, and they are looking for revenge after losing the Euro final two years ago.

While the talent pool of metal bands may not be as large, there is still a good amount of talented bands to find, all lead of course by the environmentalists Gojira. The popularity of this progressive death metal band seems to be endless, and it is easy to see why. Their highly unique, crunchy style is one that no other band can match, a highly addictive sound that has spell bound a whole metal world.

Otherwise it is the black metal market where France has proven to be a force in, with highly respected bands as Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega, Les Discrets, and Alcest. Don't really know why black metal (and shoegaze to some extent) has become so popular here, maybe because they like misery and death? It is still interesting, and while the pickings are a little slim in other genres, we still have some quality bands here and there, like Adagio, Nightmare, and the instrumental duo The Algorithm. Still a fairly good amount, don't you think?

Peru

It has been 36 long years, but Peru is finally back in the World Cup, and it feels like the whole country is already celebrating like they won the whole thing. Just like any country from South America, football means a lot for Peru, and it certainly shows with their energetic style. Their attack is certainly exciting, with players like Guerrero, Farfán, Cueva, and Carrillo. It is a group of players that will certainly play with passion, and hopefully steal some hearts along the way.

Now, there is not too many bands of notice from Peru, but they do have one of the earlier death metal outfits. Formed in 1986, Mortem is one of the more important bands for South American extreme metal, creating some real demonic music that would not see the light of day in album format until 10 years later. The band may not be one of the front runners of the genre today, but they are still relevant, with the latest album released in 2016.

Otherwise, there is not much to gather from this country. Peru does not have a single style that defines them, so they instead have a bunch of bands in a bunch of genres, and no one has so far taken that huge leap towards the top. So while the numbers might be there (over 400 band entries in Metallum), the impact is yet to happen.

Thoughts on group

Australia is obviously the power house of the group, but France and Denmark also have a good deal of quality metal. Even if Peru does drag the group down a little, group C is still one of the stronger groups in the metal World Cup, at least in terms of the overall average

Prediction on the competition

France should have no trouble going through, and I do think their European buddies Denmark will go through with them. Eriksen will be the difference maker for the Danes.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The World Cup of Metal: Group B

Onto Group B in this World Cup series, a group that has been described as a 50/50 group, with two huge nations, and two smaller ones. Is it the same when we look at their metal scenes? Let's find out.

Iran

We first saw Iran in the last World Cup, and while they did not really impress at all back then, they have gained some much needed experience that could be useful in this year's competition. With the core of the squad returning, this team will not be beaten all that easily thanks to a rock solid defense, and a strong will. I will certainly keep an eye on the talented striker Sardar Azmoun, and as a Swede, I will definitely root for the Östersund player Saman Ghoddos to make a good impression.

Just like any other Arabian country, the sample size of metal bands are not that big. There is still a good amount of progressive bands here though, like Mordab, Kahtmayan, and Explode. None of them might be in the class of what we are used to, but still some nice attempts. There is obviously a good amount of other genres represented, like death/thrash band Arsames and black metal band Ekove Efrits, but none seemed to really peak my interest. It is a good step on the way for the country, but they do have some way to go.

Morocco

Seems like a lot of people have hyped up this team, and looking back at their qualifying, I cannot blame them. Morocco did not allow a single goal to be conceded throughout the qualifying rounds, so be sure that the defense will be tough to get through. This is a more technical team though, with a huge majority of the players being born in Europe, they have been thought football from the best academies. With interesting players like Benatia, Belhanda, and Ziyech, there is certainly a lot of positive vibes for this African team.

Well, I wished I could say the same about the metal scene though. I guess they might have a underground scene that might be growing, but nothing that has shown its ugly face so far for us. With only 22 entries in Encyclopaedia Metallum, Morocco is one of the poorest countries in this category. The only band that seem to have some sort of a career is the symphonic band Analgesia, and the nicest thing I can say about them is that they are a very poor man's version of Nightwish. Sorry, was not much to be found here.

Portugal

So Portugal are the reigning European champions and are going to try to accomplish what Spain did 8 years ago, follow it up by winning the World Cup as well. It is gonna be tough though, because their team consists of mega star Cristiano Ronaldo, and 22 other guys. In a way, they are like the Dream Theater greatest hit album of the World Cup, the other players are by no means bad, but it feels like no one is even close to where Ronaldo stands, which could hurt them in the end. They can absolutely win it all, but they might crash and burn as well if they have the same start as in the Euros two years ago (they ended third in the group and was lucky to even get through).

The question is though, which band is the equivalent to Ronaldo? The clear answer here is Moonspell, a band that has been in the game for almost 30 years, starting out as a black metal band, but has changed its sound multiple times, to folk, to gothic, and even a bit symphonic as well. It is a band that is just oozing of great quality, which their last two albums "Extinct" and "1755" are a great indication to. A masterful band who knows how to entertain their fans.

While no other band is at the same level as Moonspell, we do have a good bunch of nice doom bands, like Process of Guilt, Before The Rain, and Painted Black. Then we have Heavenwood, another gothic band that has created some great music ever since the 90's. So there is a good amount of bands to be found here at the western side of the Iberian Peninsula.

Spain

So Spain has been talked up as one of the favourites to win it all, but after the sudden sacking of manager Lopetegui, chaos reigns in the Spanish camp. Let us be honest though, will that really disturb the team? With a team that is bursting with talent in close to every position, Spain should go through to the play offs with ease. Then again, they have failed to go past the group in the previous two championships. I still believe in them though, with players like Silva, Isco, De Gea, Iniesta, Costa, Ramos, Pique, Alba, Busquets, and many more, how can you not succeed?

But while Spain is bigger than their little brother Portugal, that does not translate in the metal side of things. There is certainly a good number of interesting bands out there, like the symphonic power metal band Dark Moor, the thrashers in Angelus Apatrida, the up and rising symphonic band Diabulus In Musica, and the heavy metal legends Mägo De Oz, but none of them are of world class standard. It definitely feels like the Spanish metal scene is there, but it is not growing at a noticeable rate. They would need a band that could make that gigantic breakthrough.

Thoughts on group

Not much to say about Iran and Morocco, both understandably have very small scenes. Spain and Portugal are both pretty decent, even if Portugal may rely more on Moonspell, while Spain has more of a broader array of bands to count on. So while no country in this group may not be any of the big guns in the metal world, they still offer something to the table.

Prediction on the competition

Everything is leaning towards Spain and Portugal going through, and I do think it will end this way. Do not be surprised though if Portugal somehow screw this up...

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The World Cup of Metal: Group A

Every fourth year, the football maniacs of the world gather in one of the most massive events we humans know of, the World Cup. 32 countries who have fought with all their might have now gathered in Russia to determine which of them has the best skills to kick a ball with their feet. It is a month long battle of blood, sweat, tears, tactics, and dives, and we are all invited to this party to witness history in the making. To celebrate this occasion, I have taken quite a task on me, to not only dissect each country, but also how their metal scene is. So get ready for a journey around the metal world, and let us hope that we discover some gems along the way.

Egypt

So we start out with one of the tougher countries to examine, the kingdom known as Egypt. Since they have not qualified for a World Cup since 1990, the happiness was seemingly endless when the national team finally managed to do so by winning their group in the African qualifier. Led by their own pharaoh, Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah, and their own mummy, 45 year old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, the Egyptian squad is hoping to make their people proud by playing some exciting football.

As for the metal scene, there is not much of it, with only 35 bands officially listed at Encyclopaedia Metallum, but there are still some interest to be found here. Arguably the most well known band from the country, brutal death metal group Scarab has certainly caught the attention of the rest of the world. Formed in 2001, the band has released two studio efforts, "Blinding The Masses" in 2009, and "Serpents of The Nile" in 2015, two nice records that really showcases the band's connection with their own heritage, fusing that recognizable Egyptian tone with some nifty death metal. So if you have not heard of these guys yet, go listen to them now.

The Arabic influences does not stop with just Scarab though, other bands like black metal duo Odious and the more progressive group Sand Aura takes full advantage of it with their music, creating some really captivating music. So while the sample size is not too big, there is still some tasty bits to enjoy here.

Russia

On to Mother Russia, the hosts of the 21st World Cup of football. While I am certain Putin and his crew is doing everything in his might to make his country look at his best, he unfortunately cannot do anything about his national team. Russia is said to be the worst hosting nation of all time, with a squad that has very few stars, with most of the more well known names (such as Akinfeev, Dzagoev, and Zhirkov) not being in the best shape of their career. I believe Russia should be happy if they even get one win out of this competition, even with a relatively easy group.

In metal, folk and doom are the more dominating genres, with bands such as Arkona, Kauan, The Morningside, and Alkonost leading the charge. Just as Egypt, Russia uses a lot of their own culture in their music, mostly through the fact that they use the Russian language in their music, to evoke a different style from what we in the western world are used to. We got some other genres emerging through too, like the death metal band Katalepsy and nu metal band The Slot.

There is one band I would like to lift up, and that is the power metal band Hammerforce, a really exciting and relatively young band that completely blew me away with their sophomore effort "Access Denied" (which was released in a Russian and a English version). Their futuristic take of the genre is really fun, and the debut record "Dice" is not too shabby either. Been a while since I heard any news from the band though, so their status is a little up in the air, but I do recommend you guys to check them out if you love power metal.

Overall, Russian metal is certainly on the rise, unlike their football team.

Saudi Arabia

It has been a while since we saw Saudi Arabia in the World Cup stage, 12 years to be exact, but it feels like very little has changed since that 2006 competition. The country had its glory days during the late 90's, but has slowly but surely lost leverage in the football world. Close to all players in the squad plays in the Saudi Arabian league, and the few who play in the Spanish La Liga have not had much play time to speak of. I would be very surprised if they did anything spectacular in Russia, maybe steal a point from the hosting nation, but no, not even that seem likely.

As it turns out, the metal scene in the country is not that great either, with only 12 entries in Metallum. Not surprising really, since the whole Arabic region is not too keen with metal in general (as Egypt also showed). Most popular act seem to be black metal band Al-Namrood, and they play quite a weird style with some Arabic influences and a singer who sounds like he has marbles in his mouth. A strange band that did not peak my interest at all.

Rest of the bands are not much better, with most focusing around death and thrash metal. So sorry for all of you Saudi Arabians out there, I am afraid that you need to work a little harder.

Uruguay

Finally, we have Uruguay, the only country in Group A that has good experience from the World Cup, and seem to have a shot at success this year as well. With an electrifying attack starring Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani, Uruguay has the opportunity to be one of the dark horses of the competition. South American teams always delivers some great football, and with a Luis Suarez on the field, we may never know what to expect. Goals? Mistakes? Biting? You never know when Uruguay plays.

The underground scene in Uruguay is quite big, but there are still no band that has managed to break through so far. Just like Brazil, thrash and groove metal is a good representation of the country, but there is also a good deal of basic heavy metal. Through my brief research, I did find a couple of bands that might interest some. Thrash metal band Epsilon delivers some nice meaty thrash in Spanish, Horror On Black Hills has some good black metal to offer, and then we have Elarcos, a progressive metal band that mixes in a lot of fusion influences too, creating a uniquely strange sound, one that you might have to hear to believe.

Thoughts on group

From a metal stand point, this is certainly not one of the stronger groups of the lot, might be one of the weakest actually. No real high profile band to be found here, but there is some interesting underground scenes that we hope will grow larger in time. So it is just like the football side of things, maybe not the sexiest group, but still worthy of investing some time at least.

Prediction on the competition

The strong attack of Uruguay will propel them forward towards the play offs, together with Mohamed Salah and his Egypt.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Metallica - St. Anger (2003)

Everyone handles setbacks differently, trying to tackle the hard times as good as possible, but in almost any case, it ends up changing yourself in one way or another. Metallica certainly experienced a lot of hard ships between "Reload" and their 8th studio effort, "St. Anger", starting with bassist Jason Newsted leaving the band, then singer James Hetfield was forced to enter rehab because of drug and alcohol issues, which eventually sparked a lot of internal struggles within the band (and let us not forget the whole Napster thing, which forced this album to be released 5 days before the intended release date). Out of these dark days emerged a rugged Metallica, a more passionate band that had a ton of anger to ventilate, and they used their new record to do so. But as Kratos from the "God of War" series would tell all of you, anger can cloud one's judgment.

Over the 15 years that "St. Anger" has been out for the world to see, it has gotten a very rotten reputation, one that I hoped would try to counter at the end of the day, but nope, I can only agree with most of the negative criticism that has been spewed all over it. Let us tackle the two most common complaints first, the drumming, and the lack of solos. Now, an album certainly does not need solos to be good, and with the more punk vibe that this album has, I kind of get why the band did not add any, but I think it is a waste of talent when neither Hammett or Hetfield get to show their chops. As for the drumming, I have been trying my hardest to stay away from it in previous reviews, because it is like beating a dead horse, but here, it just cannot be ignored. The ringing sound of Ulrich's drums sounds like those modified oil drums you find on Caribbean calypso bands, and they do stick out like a sore thumb. God damn it.

But there are more problems with this album, unfortunately. Just like with the last two albums, the length is a huge issue here, but unlike "Load" and "Reload", where the albums where filled with dull fillers, "St. Anger" do have a good amount of energy, but a lot of repetition that feels completely unnecessary. Several songs just repeats themselves way too much, making you feel like you are stuck in an endless loop. "Invisible Kid" is the perfect example of this, a pretty fun song actually, but it has a length of 8 and a half minute, every line in the verses start with the title, and it goes on and on and on and on, IT NEVER ENDS! A good idea completely wasted.

And that is probably the saddest part about "St. Anger", that there is some amount of good, or at least interesting, ideas in here, once again showing that Metallica is not afraid to experiment with their music. Even if most tracks in "St. Anger" feels really strange coming from Metallica, like they do not belong at all with this band, there are still songs like "Frantic", "The Unnamed Feeling", "All Within My Hands", and even the title track have some really neat tricks that certainly works, but I feel like the anger of the band kind of ruins the quality of the craft. Hetfield does not sound as crisp as usual (in fact, he sounds really, really bad in some places), Hammett does not get any room at all to shine, and Lars... is Lars. It is perfectly obvious that this is not a band in harmony, a group that still needs some healing before being 100% again.

With all said and done though, there is one thing that I do not agree with most naysayers about "St. Anger", that it is a candidate for the "Worst metal album of all time" award. Sure, "St. Anger" is a rotten album, it is a record only a mother could love, and it is without any shadow of a doubt the worst Metallica record out there ("Lulu" not included, because it is more of a Lou Reed album), but it does at the very least have some neat ideas that might not have been given the best opportunities to shine, but they are still there to behold. This is an angry record that tries to maul everything in its path, without any real sense of direction, which makes it difficult to get a grasp on. So let us all do what Hetfield say in the title track, flush it out.

Songs worthy of recognition: Frantic, The Unnamed Feeling

Rating: 2,5/10 Sweet Ambers

metallica.com/
twitter.com/metallica

More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
Master of Puppets
...And Justice For All
S/T
Load
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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Ghost - Prequelle (2018)

It has certainly been a bunch of eventful years for Ghost since their last full length release. Besides releasing an EP (which contained the magnificent track "Square Hammer") and a live album, the mask behind the band was finally pulled off after several former members took the leader, Tobias Forge, to court for not getting enough compensation for playing. This probably would have hurt the reputation of any band out there, but the shining star of Ghost is as high as ever, with the band now seen as the future main act for arenas alla across the globe, so the legal mumbo jumbo just seems like a small speed bump for a band that has turned into a monster truck. No, the bigger concern lies instead in the mystery behind the band, because even if most rumours already pointed towards Tobias Forge being the leader of this entity, we still enjoyed the spectacle that the band presented, so would we now see this band with different eyes once that we got confirmation on who was all of the Papa's (and the new front man for this record, Cardinal Copia) up on that stage?

Obviously, it does give you some other perspective on things, but Ghost is still mainly about the image of the band, not necessarily the music. It is a band that lures you in with its albums, but offers the live shows as its main course, so I do not think it will make that much of a difference, because in the end, you will still enjoy the spectacle around it, with each show serving as a satanic mass that is yet another stepping stone towards world domination.

But to get people to the shows, you need good music, and Ghost has certainly delivered so far in their career, and their fourth album "Prequelle" opens up promising. After the small intro "Ashes", we get treated with the lead single "Rats", a classic Ghost tune with great riffing, some brilliant drum beats, and a catchy as hell chorus that will go down really well in a live setting. It is a song that sticks with you instantly from first listen. "Faith" follows it up with what could have been a guest appearance from Yngwie Malmsteen, but much slower. It is still the heaviest track on the record, and it has a very nice flow to it, a flow only the first instrumental track "Miasma" can match, a song that fluently moves to different styles and tempos, even throwing in a sexy saxophone solo at the end.

The first half of "Prequelle" is fantastic, definitely matching what the band has done previously, but it all turns sour once the second single "Dance Macabre" enters. From here on out, the band goes a little too much ABBA, emphasizing the pop aspect of their sound way too much, which will certainly make a lot of trve metal fans cringe. Ghost has shown that they can incorporate pop into their music in a good way before, so the problem is that they become too cheesy for their own good, especially in the lyrics, like being with someone in the moonlight, or how about this horrid chorus line from "Pro Memoria".

Don't you forget about dying
Don't you forget about your friend death
Don't you forget that you will die

It continues on with "Witch Image", which is a nice little tune in it self, not taking too much attention, but enough to be enjoyable. Another instrumental kicks in after that, "Helvetesfönster" (Swedish for "Hell Window"), and I find it to be quite dull, but serviceable for a ending track... if it had been that. Nope, the band crammed in another song after it called "Life Eternal", and it is an okay song with some religious emotion behind it, but why is this the last song of the record? It feels misplaced here, probably would have worked better a little earlier in the album, or maybe just as a bonus track.

I get that Ghost is in this state where their fan base is extremely big, and it consists of almost any type of music fans, from metal lovers to casual radio listeners, so they feel like they have to please everyone, which is why we get an album that is basically schizophrenic. The first half is classic Ghost stuff, great, groovy, and spooky doom rock that you can put on anytime and enjoy the hell out of it. The second half is more for those who enjoyed "He Is" and "Cirice" from "Meliora", in other words, the more poppier side of the band. I am afraid that this album will not really speak to anyone without them finding a part that they will not like, and most fans will probably label "Prequelle" as the worst Ghost album thus far, which only confirms how damn good those first three albums are. However, it is not likely that it will affect the popularity of the band negatively, their place as the metal juggernauts of the 2010's is still secure, and will be so for some time to come.

Songs worthy of recognition: Faith, Rats, Miasma

Rating: 7/10 Helvetesfönster

ghost-official.com/
twitter.com/thebandghost

More reviews of Ghost
Infestissumam
Meliora

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Lordi - Sexorcism (2018)

The Finnish monster band Lordi has certainly established a place within the metal sphere, and by most they could be seen as the "80's slasher film" of metal. They are pretty corny, their effects are far from the best, and they are not scary at all, but damn, they are entertaining. Their original brand of unoriginal metal works quite well most of the time, and in recent releases they have been incorporating some new elements here and there to gain an extra spark, but just like any slasher film, the countless of sequels tend to be one of two things, forgettable or out right ridiculous.

Well, I would say that "Sexorcism" lands somewhere in between that scale, because most of the lyrics are really strange, but the music is surprisingly laid back, not at all showing any real interest. Let us start with the lyrics, because they are more fun to talk about. Just like the album title hinted, "Sexorcism" is without a doubt the dirtiest Lordi album to date, singing a lot about making people (and beasts) cum, keeping girls locked in the basement, and other stuff the band has not really touched on before. It is dangerously close to Steel Panther level of sleazy sexism (the album cover itself is just disgusting), but they do balance it out with some horror puns and mentions of Satan, so it is all good.

Just such a shame that the music is mostly stale and predictable. Sure, Lordi may not be known for their ability to twist and turn a song structure, but at least they have shown some growth in later records, especially in the instrumental department with some nifty guitar work and haunting keys. Both of those are still the strong point of the record, but there are not many sections that I can truly remember, so they are not exactly helping the album to become memorable.

This makes "Sexorcism" a very flat lined album, not really bringing out any real emotion out of me. The entire record is okay song after okay song, with close to all of them not really standing out. The band is obviously trying, but the material is hard to work with, like how can you take an awful pun like "Poterchrist" and make a good song about it, or how about the horror swing known as "Hot & Satanned", a very strange song, even with Lordi's standard.

Fortunately, there is always a couple of songs that do have enough power in them to save the record, and "Sexorcism" has its fair share as well. The title track is a great opener that really sets the bar, and I also love the comedy that "Romeo Ate Juliet" brings (a play I would love to see). Both "Hell Has Room" and "Naked In My Cellar" has some nice power to them so that you will not fall asleep, and "Haunting Season" ends the album well with a nice creepy atmosphere. None of these songs will most likely not be any future classics, but they do offer enough quality to a record that is starving for some.

So while "Sexorcism" is not in the embarrassing levels of an album like "Deadache", it is definitely not gonna go down in history as one of Lordi's proudest achievements. It is an album that tries to be shocking with its dirty humour, but the music just does not match up, over shadowing the lyrics to give this record a very grey aura. I would not say this is a disappointing album (it sounds like Lordi after all), but i definitely hoped for more since they had a good streak going. I really sure hope the demon who possessed that poor lady had fun, cause I was only mildly amused.

Songs worthy of recognition: Romeo Ate Juliet, Naked In My Cellar, Sodomesticated Animal

Rating: 6/10 Polterchrists

www.lordi.fi/
twitter.com/LORDIOFFICIAL

More reviews of Lordi
To Beast Or Not To Beast
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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Metallica - Reload (1997)

If it is something that I really dislike about the summer, it is that there is nothing to watch on TV. Sure, you are supposed to be outside and enjoy life, but when it rains (which it does quite often here in Sweden), the TV will not be of any use since every channel just show re-runs all the time (unless there is some sporting event going on). What does this have to do with "Reload"? Just check the first syllable of the album title, it explains close to everything.

"Reload" is exactly what it say it is, a re-run of its predecessor "Load", with the same style of music, around the same play length, and even the album cover is more or less identical. And with each album being released just a year apart from each other, it is easy to get a deja vu feeling over the two records. Sure, there are differences between the twins, but they are so minimal that you need a magnifying glass to spot them. So let us bring out our inner Sherlock Holmes and find them.

On the musical side of things, "Reload" still has some country influences, but not as much as "Load", instead we have more of the straight out rock that was some of the better parts of the predecessor. While it does not take over the album, it does make "Reload" a little more dynamic in its approach, even if there is a lot of slow, uneventful songs that makes the long run time even longer. Another thing "Reload" has over its brother is that it has a better highlight in the speedy opener "Fuel", a song that blows fellow opener "Ain't My Bitch" over the water with its furious riffs and solo, and also a James Hetfield that is having a little too much fun. It also has a great chorus to scare the crap out of Drive-In cashiers (Give me food, give me fries, give me salad on the side!).

I do also think that the extra year of work that was put into this record only benefited it, because it sounds overall more crisp. Fine songs as "Devil's Dance", "Prince Charming", and "Where The Wild Things Are" got an extra pop to them, so even if they are no show stoppers, they do gather some attention here at least with a neat production, and some good performances from the entire crew.

Although, it does not salvage the overall bleak aura that surrounds "Reload", because as previously stated, there are simply too many songs in here that are either boring, uninteresting, meaningless, or all of the above. We got "Slither", which feels like a strange Alice In Chains cover, the overly corny "Bad Seed" and "Attitude" does not help things either, and while "Low Man's Lyric" might have had some good potential, it is thwarted by its 7 and a half minute length. Also, while "The Unforgiven II" is one of the main highlights of this record, why the hell did the band feel like they needed a sequel for one of the singles of "The Black Album"? You just had to squeeze in yet another track in here, didn't you?

Now, while I do think that both "Load" and "Reload" are both over bloated and bland, I do admire the band and their urge to push themselves musically, because there is some genuine good music to be found. The problem is that they felt like everything had to be included, so the gold is easily lost among the dirt. If Metallica just had some restraints, taking a couple of songs from each album and fuse them into a 50 minute album, then you would have a great record. Sadly, we are left with a lot of fillers, and while "Reload" is a slight step forward, it is not nearly enough to make it acceptable. So stop wasting my time and bring me something... angrier. Oh wait...

Songs worthy of recognition: Fuel, The Unforgiven II, Where The Wild Things Are, Prince Charming

Rating: 5,5/10 Bad Seeds

metallica.com/
twitter.com/metallica

More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
Master of Puppets
...And Justice For All
S/T
Load
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Amorphis - Queen of Time (2018)

I do not know if I am beginning to get old and grumpy, but I have not found many records of high quality this year. 2018 so far has been disappointment after disappointment, with very few real highlights. Hopefully, it all might change now, since last week's releases did at least spark some interesting albums. No, I am not talking about the new 5FDP album, instead I want to focus on two other giants that just keeps on giving us some great music, one being death metal legends At The Gates delivering another face crusher in "To Drink The Night Away", and the other being the Finnish juggernaut Amorphis.

While Amorphis has never been one of my all time favourites, these lads have still produced quality work with each new record, and "Queen of Time", lucky number 13 for the band, is of course no exception. It is yet another Amorphis release that takes their patented brand of melodic folk death metal to new territories. Sure, it is not that much different from its predecessor, 2015's "Under The Red Cloud", but everything here feels more refined, perfected just a tad bit more to elevate it further.

With its 57 minutes divided into 10 songs (all between 4:50 to 6:40 minutes), "Queen of Time" certainly is a meaty record, but the flow is just so god damn fluent, it never feels tiring or stale. Amorphis does a good job in balancing all of the tracks, giving each and every one of the songs something that the listener can connect to, whether it be a catchy melody line, or an Anneke Van Giersbergen who pops up in "Amongst Stars". It also helps a lot that each song is of good quality, each one holding up on its own without any problem.

The performances are crisp as well, with the dual guitar attack of Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari as the show stoppers. Some of these riffs that they line up here are so addictive, and kind of unreal as well, like they should not be coming from a guitar. The opening riff of the opening track "The Bee" sets the bar, and it just gets lifted higher in "The Golden Elk", and "Wrong Direction", there are so many fantastic riffs and licks in here. Obviously, singer Tomi Joutsen deserves a shout out as well, ever since he joined the band in 2004 he has been flat out brilliant.

So this is just a wall to wall fantastic album, with no filler, all killer. The only remark I might have against it is that they could have used Anneke in a more interesting way in "Amongst Stars", and maybe put in one or two songs that were more different, to diversify the album even further, but that is just petty remarks for an album that is sure to be one of the front runners in the race for the number one spot of the year end lists. There are so many epic moments in here to fill the listener up easily, and it leaves a lasting impression on you. But do not stare at the album artwork for too long, or you might be able to see time itself and its frightening sight.

Songs worthy of recognition: Wrong Direction, The Bee, Daughter of Hate, The Golden Elk, We Accursed

Rating: 9,5/10 Grains of Sand

http://www.amorphis.net/
https://twitter.com/amorphis

More reviews of Amorphis
Circle

Monday, May 21, 2018

Five Finger Death Punch - And Justice For None (2018)

So I am still sitting here wondering why the hell the immensely popular Five Finger Death Punch chose "And Justice For None" as the title for their 7th full length record. The band claims that they ended up with the title after the legal battle they have had with their previous record label Prospect Park, which sort of makes sense since that event did influence the album, but did they really have to be this close to the classic Metallica record "...And Justice For All"? Why not name it "Justice For The Blind", "Justice Inc.", or "Give Me Justice Or Give Me Death", just do not make people question your title!

Well, the title does serve one purpose at least, telling the listener what you should expect of this 13 song disc. It is more or less the exact opposite from the Metallica record, so instead of being a complex and innovative album with piss poor production, "And Justice For None" is a very straight forward album with very predictable 5FDP material, all presented with sparkling clean production. In other words, it is exactly what you would expect from the band, even with the chaos that has surrounded them in recent years.

Seriously, there is very little evolution here from last album, it is the same type of macho metal that we have gotten to know from the band, only that it is not as impactful as before. The impact is gone because the band is using the same techniques over and over again, without making any significant changes, which steers the mind to better, similar tracks from the guys. You will definitely not find anything in here that will match up to what songs like "Lift Me Up", "Hard To See", and "Under And Over It" achieved.

Now, I would not say that the entire album is under qualified, we got a couple of songs in here that certainly stand strong. "Will The Sun Ever Rise" and "When The Seasons Change" are two great tracks, with some real nice emotional performances that do show what the band is capable of at their best, and "Top of The World" show the other end of the spectrum, a heavy party track with some nice weight behind it. I would also recommend "Fake" in that latter category, but only if you ignore the extremely juvenile lyrics that uses the word motherfucker more often than Samuel L Jackson. It is one thing when a band like Strapping Young Lad, a very childish and angry band, does it, but these guys are supposed to be serious. God damn.

In some way, I almost wished that they would just go full "fun mode", because you never know how it will turn out when the band goes more serious in its expression. Some times it works, some times it does not, and some times it is all over the place, like in "Sham Pain" where they try to hit back at all their haters (including Prospect Park), but it has this rap aura over it that makes it kind of... interesting, to say the least. If they would just ease off a bit more, then it probably would be easier for us to swallow their music.

What makes me the most mad about this album though is not the macho style, not the uneven quality, not even the childish lyrics, but the two covers. 5FDP feels more and more like a cover band in the making, because they do make some great covers, but it starts to take over from their own music a little too much, and it is very telling when the two covers ("Blue On Black" by Kenny Wayne Shepherd and "Gone Away" by The Offspring) are arguably the best tracks of the record. They have passion, great instrumentality, everything you would love to see in any original material they make, which is just strange to think that they put all this heart and work for two useless covers. It would be one thing if they were a part of the deluxe version of the album, but nope, they sit nicely in the official release as well, taking up two spots that could have been used for something more original instead.

So yeah... this album is sort of a mess I am afraid, but it is a step forward at least from the really lack luster "Got Your Six". It feels more and more like the band's original style is being watered down more and more for each release that surges up to the surface. It probably will not affect the band's popularity, but they do secure their spot as the 10's perfect gateway band for young and hopeful metal heads, and that is not too bad at all. Another positive thing, President Knucklehead has a bigger button than Trump, and more muscles too.

Songs worthy of recognition: Will The Sun Ever Rise, Top of The World, Blue On Black

Rating: 5,5/10 Rock Bottoms

fivefingerdeathpunch.com/
twitter.com/FFDP

More reviews of Five Finger Death Punch
Wrong Side of Heaven And The Righteous Side of Hell - Volume 1
Wrong Side of Heaven And The Righteous Side of Hell - Volume 2
Got Your Six

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Metallica - Load (1996)

With half of the discography reviewed, we now step into the stranger part of Metallica's career, where the band started experimenting more and leaving their thrash roots. While the departure from thrash did sort of start in "The Black Album", it was fully realized in the middle of the 90's with the release of the double trouble known as "Load" and "Re-Load", a duo of records that today are seen as the two outliers of Metallica's discography, not even considered as metal records. It is a strange duo that we will now dive deep into, so let us start with the first of the twins.

So knowing how incredibly successful "The Black Album" was, Metallica probably knew that it was going to be hard to follow it up, so they opted for going all in, write a ton of songs, and put them all in two albums, a tactic that is really risky, because it is so easy to go for quantity over quality, and unfortunately, that is exactly what happened here. With a play time of 79 minutes, "Load" is the band's longest album to date (yes, even longer than "Hardwired..."), and it is very much notable, being very tough to get through in one sitting, not because it feels long, but because the setlist is filled with fluff.

With a total of 14 songs, "load" is simply just loaded (hehe), mostly with blanks though. This album is filled with songs that simply does not feel like Metallica songs. At times, you wonder if the group wrote this songs, or if they stole them from Guns 'n' Roses and slapped a Metallica sticker on top of it. Most of this album consists of hard rock and country rock, with only "King Nothing" having some type of metal element to it, and most of these songs are mediocre at best, confusing at worst.

Now, just because the band completely changed sound direction, it does not automatically have to be a bad thing, and I could have certainly enjoyed this experiment if the song quality was up to par. "Load" certainly has some neat tracks, like the possible "The Black Album" outcast "The House Jack Built" where the band creates a nice mood and uses Peter Frampton's guitar effects to some good use. Then we have "Bleeding Me", a mellow tune that sits just right in your ear. Finally, the two most stand out singles "King Nothing" and "Until It Sleeps" are a nice double header at the end of the first half.

But as previously stated, there are just too many fillers in here for one to muster through. There is not any song that makes me mad, or any song where the performance or song writing is embarrassing. It is just a bland mess of songs that does not really give you any reasons to be mad. I was kind of annoyed that James Hetfield had a couple of spots where he did not seem fully focused (Adoobalee adoobalee!), and "2 x 4" just baffled me in every sense of the word, but otherwise "Load" left me quite indifferent, or at least kind of bored.

So even if the album cover looks like the inside of a lava lamp, it does describe the album quite well actually, it is a gooey mess that one probably could stare (or in this case, listen) for hours and do not get anything significant from it. "Load" is definitely not a good album, it is way too long, does not have enough stand out tracks, and the experimentation is far from bulletproof. However, I do not think "Load" is a bad record more than it is a forgettable one. Close to nothing in here is memorable, and since nothing makes you mad either, I just suggest that we just let it slide by and do not care too much for it. Onto its brother it is.

Songs worthy of recognition: Bleeding Me, Until It Sleeps, King Nothing

Rating: 4,5/10 Cures

metallica.com/
twitter.com/metallica

More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
Master of Puppets
...And Justice For All
S/T
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct