Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best of 2013: albums

Despite having a strong start, I think 2013 was a weaker year than 2012. Mostly because I did not give any 10's this year, only four 9,5's. But all in all, I still consider 2013 as a pretty good year with several positive surprises, like the latest albums from Drowning Pool, Black Sabbath, Soilwork and some others that actually made this list. I also consider 2013 as the year where power metal bands conceived some great albums while the thrash metal band lacked some valuable punch in their releases. But enough with the stalling, here are my favourite albums from 2013.

20. Queensrÿche - S/T
If it was not obvious enough, this album is the ultimate statement to which of the two bands is most worthy of calling themselves Queensrÿche. Going back to the roots and hiring Todd La Torre as new vocalist was just the moves that these guys needed to put Geoff Tate in his place once and for all. Let us hope that the court do not fuck shit up.

Listen to: Where Dreams Go To Die, Spore, Don't Look Back

19. Summoning - Old Mornings Dawn
I am not the typical black metal fan, but I certainly enjoyed Summoning and their atmospheric album "Old Mornings Dawn". I shall definitely follow their musical journey in the future.

Listen to: Flammifer, Old Mornings Dawn, The White Tower

18. Avantasia - The Mystery of Time
This album is just another proof of the fantastic song writing skills of Edguy singer Tobias Sammet. An interesting story of a watchmaker and his journey to understand time and all of its mysteries. Surprisingly large amount of double bass in here.

Listen to: The Watchmakers' Dream, Black Orchid, Saviour In The Clockwork

17. Helloween - Straight Out of Hell
With a power that reaches out to space and an attitude that can get away with calling you an asshole, Helloween makes an enormous impact in 2013 with one of their best releases in many years. Just one of many good power metal releases this year.

Listen to: Nabataea, Burning Sun, Asshole

16. Children of Bodom - Halo of Blood
It may not live up to some of the band's greatest hits, but "Halo of Blood" is a huge step forward for the Finnish band after slips like "Are You Dead Yet? and "Blooddrunk". A healthy mix of heaviness and melodies brings together one of the nicer surprises this year.

Listen to: Halo of Blood, Transference, All Twisted

15. Stratovarius - Nemesis
A surprisingly good effort from the well experienced Finnish guys, that shows both their power and their musicality. Who would think that they would make another amazing record even without Mr. Tolkki (and even beat him and his Avalon).

Listen to: Unbreakable, Stand My Ground, Halcyon Days

14. Leprous - Coal
Leprous certainly has a unique progressive sound, and I am not pleased with myself that it took this long for me to find this band. Definitely love the fact that they can both create really heavy shit and more beautiful and atmospheric music.

Listen to: Chronic, The Valley, Contaminate Me

13. White Wizzard - The Devil's Cut
This was a huge surprise since this band cannot for the sake of their lives keep the same line-up through two consecutive albums. "The Devil's Cut" may have a butt ugly cover, but the music is fast, edgy and sweet. And yes, there will be another line-up when the next album comes along (they fired the vocalist in October this year).

Listen to: Strike The Iron, Lightning In My Hands, The Sun Also Rises

12. Keldian - Outbound
Calling themselves a Sci-fi metal band, Keldian keeps their mind in space with their third album "Outbound". It is a epic power metal album with some nice instrumental work and interesting lyrics. It also contains the best song this year.

Listen to: Never Existed, Kepler and 100 000 stars, F.T.L

11. James LaBrie - Impermanent Resonance
A hard hitting melodic record that shows all of the Dream Theater singer's best sides. An album that contains both speedy monsters and beautiful beauties. Would have been better if it was not for the over use of the electronic keyboards.

Listen to: Agony, Undertow, Holding On

10. Ashes of Chaos - Eye
These Italian newcomers really surprised me with their grand and progressive sound, and what is even more impressive is that they have come up with one of the best concepts this year. Cannot wait to see what the future has in store for these guys.

Listen to: Ashes of Chaos, Falling, Mechanical Chaos

9. Lingua Mortis Orchestra - LMO
At first, I was not sure if this orchestra project was the right way to go for Rage, but the album "LMO" proved me wrong. Great symphonic metal with clear intentions from the main band. I also like the concept about the witch burnings.

Listen to: Cleansed By Fire, Scapegoat, Witches' Judge

8. Hammerforce - Access Denied
I do not know if vodka had a big part in the writing of "Access Denied", but the Russians in Hammerforce did certainly create some awesome, futuristic power metal. Not a boring second to be found here.

Listen to: Templates For All, Mass Media, Fugitive

7. Rob Zombie - Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor
Despite the long ass names, Rob Zombie has finally created a album that matches his works from the White Zombie era. There is no fillers in sight on this album and the groove is better than saying ging gang gong de do gong de laga raga.

Listen to: Dead City Radio And The New Gods of Supertown, Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga, "Behold, The Pretty Filthy Creatures!"

6. Hell - Curse & Chapter
The debut "Human Remains" reintroduced us to Hell, but it is the follow up album "Curse & Chapter" that states the fact that the band do belong even in the 21st century. Great NWOBHM sound with a slightly modern touch.

Listen to: The Age of Nefarious, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Faith Will Fall

5. Ayreon - The Theory of Everything
This album is not for the weak, "The Theory of Everything" is the ultimate definition of epicness. 4 phases that each reach a time of about 22 minutes ultimately creates an intriguing and amazing journey that only Arjen Lucassen can create. Best concept album from 2013.

Listen to: all 4 phases

4. Holy Grail - Ride The Void
We got a hint of their great potential in the EP "Improper Burial", but that potential was not fully revealed until the release of this, their second album. "Ride The Void" is filled with high speed riffing, amazing melodies, top notch vocals and with a variation that no one else can match, Holy Grail delivered a great knockout blow.

Listen to: Ride The Void, Crosswinds, Rains of Sorrow

3. Alter Bridge - Fortress
The best decision this year may have come from this band. "Fortress" is Alter Bridge's heaviest album yet and all the similarities with Creed are finally gone. The 12 killer hard rock songs that are packed in this album makes "Fortress" a sturdy and impermeable building that the band can look back at with a big smile.

Listen to: Cry of Achilles, Peace Is Broken, Farther Than The Sun

2. Clutch - Earth Rocker
Clutch shifts to the sixth gear with the groovy assault known as "Earth Rocker". A album filled with catchy riffs, groovy drum beats and a Neil Fallon that sings (and laughs) like a complete maniac. This is indeed a m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-magnificent album.

Listen to: Earth Rocker, Unto The Breach, Cyborg Bette

1. Ghost - Infestissumam
With the release of "Infestissumam", Ghost goes from being a big hype to being the real deal. This album shows that "Opus Eponymous" was no fluke, these guys are here at the top to stay. Their doom like 70's rock is both infectious and exciting. With songs like "Year Zero", "Ghuleh/Zombie Queen" and "Monstrance Clock", it is impossible to fail. Without a doubt my favourite album from 2013.

Listen To: Per Aspera Ad Inferi, Ghuleh/Zombie Queen, Year Zero

Other honorable mentions: Carcass - Surgical Steel, Gama Bomb - The Terror Tapes, Soilwork - The Living Infinite, Drowning Pool - Resilience, Haken - The Mountain, Kalmah - The Seventh Swamphony, Persefone - Spiritual Migration

Well, happy new year everyone. Let us hope that 2014 is another great year for the greatest music genre man has ever created.

Stay metal
Sharkruisher

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Devin Townsend Band - Synchestra (2006)

After a visit in outer space, Devin decided to come back down to earth and write some more material with The Devin Townsend Band. Okay, that did not happen literally, but it is still a true story since the Strapping Young Lad album "Alien" was a crazy record that probably fits better in Uranus than on earth and the second album from The Devin Townsend Band, named "Synchestra", is more of a mellow album that feels more at home on earth. This was also the intention that Devin wanted.

Compared to the band's first album, "Accelerated Evolution", "Synchestra" is more of a sane and calmer album, but it still has its moments of playfulness, like the some what random banjo solo in "triumph" or the sweet groove in "Notes From Africa". However, Devin and the gang goes completely bonkers on the two songs "Vampolka" and "Vampira" where the band mixes metal, polka and vampires (the real ones, not the sparkly ones) in one big gumbo bowl. It is without a doubt weird, but in a highly enjoyable way. A tip is that you also watch the hilarious music video for "Vampira". Just seeing Devin in a devil outfit and a poorly drawn French mustasche is just so god damn funny.

Besides the polka, we also see other musical styles in "Synchestra". Everything from ambient music and Devin's patented "pop"-metal to more complex and progressive metal. "Synchestra" is like a goody bag with sweet and sour candy, chocolate, gummybears and other sorts of candy. It is pretty easy to pick one favourite that you will always eat firstand then some other sweets that are also good, but there are also some pieces that you will ignore because you either hate it or you are just too full at the moment. That is why I cannot help it that I always will listen to "Triumph", "Vampira", "Gaia" and "Notes From Africa" while I skip songs like "Babysong" and "A Simple Lullaby" whenever I come back to the record for another listening session.

The only big downside with "Synchestra" is the amount of interludes in this album. I count 4 on this album, and that is at least 2 too many for my taste. I also feel that the production could have been better at some points, but if we speak on the musical aspects, there is not much at all to complain against. Good variety, nice groove and a clean work from each musician. Maybe a couple of songs could have been more exciting, but I could not care less about that.

Out of the two albums that The Devin Townsend Band has released, I would say that "Synchestra" beats "Accelerated Evolution" thanks to its wide variety and its unique style. It may have some bumps on its road, but "Synchestra" have several parts that makes the road highly enjoyable. And even if it is a little sad that the story of The Devin Townsend Band was so short, it brings some joy that it ended on a high note.

Songs worthy of recognition: Vampira, Triumph, Gaia, Notes From Africa

Rating: 8,5/10 Vampolkas

Friday, December 20, 2013

Best of 2013: songs

Man, this list has been a pain in the ass to compose. When I started on this list, I had just over 100 songs that I felt had a chance of making it. It has been though cutting those hundreds down to "only" 50 songs, but it is done. Here are my favourite songs from 2013.

50. Kataklysm - Elevate - Waiting For The End To Come
Nice melodic track that fits perfectly well in the album. Like that they changed the pace a couple of times.

49.  Death Angel - Fallen - The Dream Calls For Blood
One of few great thrash songs from this year. The chorus definitely got the blood that the dream called for.

48. Lost Society - Lead Through The Head - Fast Loud Death
I have never experienced this much intensity in a crossover thrash band in many, many years. Simply put, it is metal up your ass.

47. Lingua Mortis Orchestra - Scapegoat - LMO
Even under another name, the guys from Rage still does their thing. But I have to admit that the orchestra brings an extra dimension to the music.

46. Korn - Prey For Me - The Paradigm Shift
This heavy and psychedelic track is something I want Korn to do more of, but I am just happy that there is no more dub-step in their music.

45. Amorphis - Shades of Gray - Circle
Great to hear that Amorphis has not left their death metal past completely, especially with these kinds of tracks where old and new comes together nicely.

44. Annihilator - No Way Out - Feast
I love it that Annihilator shows that good old thrash never dies. Reminds me of their excellent album "King of The Kill".

43. Queensrÿche - Where Dreams Go To Die - S/T
This old school Queensrÿche track is just one of many reasons why this version of Queensrÿche is superior to the Geoff Tate version. Like the dark touch of the song.

42. ReVamp - Wild Card - Wild Card
These are the kinds of songs that makes me fall in love with ReVamp and Floor Jansen. Great mix between the technical and the beautiful.

41. Alice In Chains - Stone - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
There is never a bad time for some good old grunge from the legends Alice In Chains. That riff has just the right amount of heaviness and groove to make it infectiously good.

40. Motörhead - Going To Mexico - Aftershock
Sickly good groove on this run away song, but isn't it a bit like "Ace of Spades"? Probably, but I do not care one bit.

39. Tarja - 500 Letters - Colours In The Dark
A beautiful tune that gives Tarja's stunning voice a chance to shine. Probably her best song since leaving Nightwish.

38. Serenity - Wings of Madness - War of Ages
The most beautiful symphonic duet this year is performed by Serenity. With a magnificent team work and a grand sound, "Wings of Madness" is an impressive force to be reckon with.

37. Gloomball - Blown Away And Gone - The Distance
Now this is some great, speedy hard rock. Reminds me of the 90's for some strange reason.

36. The Ocean - Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish In Dreams - Pelagial
The instruments on this song are just incredible, and the singer Loïc Rossetti impresses a lot. Sounds like a mix of Tool and Mastodon.

35. Finntroll - Ett Folk Förbannat - Blodsvept
There is few bands in the world that can play great folk metal like Finntroll. For some reason, some of the instrumental parts reminds me of the game "Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex", which makes me smile.

34. Helloween - Burning Sun - Straight Out of Hell
A song of astronomical proportions that gets your blood pumping with ease. One of the more powerful efforts by the Germans in a long time.

33. Five Finger Death Punch - Watch You Bleed - The Wrong Side of Heaven And The Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1
This is how I want 5FDP to sound like. "Watch You Bleed" is angry, catchy and has a structure that is very hard to beat. The best song from two albums.

32. Avantasia - Black Orchid - The Mystery of Time
Great epic track that fits very well in the album. You cannot get more theatrical feelings from any other track than what you get from this one.

31. Anvil - Shut The Fuck Up - Hope In Hell
Lots of swears in this song, but the Canadians show a humour that cannot keep me from the floor, laughing my ass off. Great song despite the one dimensional tempo.

30. Amaranthe - Theory of Everything - The Nexus
This song has a lot of small, fine details. Great harmonies, catchiness, fine musical work and good forward momentum. Pop metal at its best.

29. Joe Satriani - The Weight of The World - Unstoppable Momentum
A smooth and soothing song by the virtuoso that shows once again who is the front runner in instrumental music. I also like the video game keyboards, which gives this song a personality.

28. Gwar - Bloodbath - Battle Maximus
This is bone cracking, head banging, gory metal music. In other words, it is a typical Gwar song.

27. Hell - Faith Will Fall - Curse & Chapter
Awesome heavy metal from the British guys. A good proof that they still can write great new material.

26. Deals Death - Facing The Echoes - Point Zero Solution
If I didn't know better, then I would say that Children of Bodom made this song. Absolutely love the guitar work here.

25. Sirenia - My Destiny Coming To Pass - Perils of The Deep Blue
This song has many dimentions to study. The doom quire, the beautiful chorus, the headbanging bridge and also an impressive heavy bit in the middle. A versataile track indeed.

24. Children of Bodom - Halo of Blood - Halo of Blood
The title track is one of the heaviest tracks the band has done in many years, which we of course love to hear. That constant blast beat is pure metal goodness.

23. Gloryhammer - Amulet of Justice - Tales From The Kingdom of Fire
The medieval theme may be somewhat boring, but this assault from Alestorm member Christopher Bowes's new band is anything but boring. Classic power metal at its best.

22. Black Sabbath - Loner - 13
A track that makes you think of the good old days, when Black Sabbath was the rulers of earth. Classic Black Sabbath magic that we all know and love.

21. The Resistance - "I Bend - You Break" - Scars
Jesper Strömblad's new band brings a groovy heaviness that is hard to resist, and "I Bend - You Break" is just a marvelous mosh monster that gets your head going in full speed.

20. Alter Bridge - Peace Is Broken - Fortress
It feels good to know that Alter Bridge has gone to the heavier side, and this song was just one of many high quality songs from "Fortress". Great riffs and chorus.

19. James LaBrie - Undertow - Impermanent Resonance
This heavy, modern side of James LaBrie is surprisingly good, even if the synths takes a little too much of the show. And I honestly think that James's voice is more suited for this sort of music.

18. White Wizzard - Strike The Iron - The Devil's Cut
The constant member changes kills the band, but that does not take away the fact that "Strike The Iron" is hell of a roller coaster ride. A big positive surprise, just like the rest of the album.

17. Amon Amarth - Deceiver of The Gods - Deceiver of The Gods
This song is nothing new for fans of Amon Amarth, but it is still their typical mix of death metal and fine musicality that makes it as good as it is. This is probably Loki's and Tom Hiddleston's favorite song.

16. Black Veil Brides - In The End - Wretched And Divine: The Story of The Wild Ones
Only song with balls on their latest record. If it wasn't for the make-up, I would actually endure this band.

15. Rivera/Bomma - In Blood - Infinite Journey of Soul
Christian metal  band that surprises with a strong and heavy song with a ultra epic chorus. Jesus's favourite metal song from 2013.

14. Clutch - Unto The Breach - Earth Rocker
This is without a doubt the grooviest track from 2013. Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-magnificent musicianship.

13. Leprous - Chronic - Coal
This song has a lot of progressive goodness. Technical playing, powerful singing, and a chorus that gives you goose bumps. I do not even care about the long outro.

12. Drowning Pool - One Finger And A Fist - Resilience
A power package that shoves its finger and fist so far in your skull that you need brain surgery to fully recover. Not to shabby for a "one hit wonder".

11. The Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us Is The Killer - One of Us Is The Killer
Surprisingly soothing jazz music from the excellent (and sometimes insane) mathcore quartet. Would definitely not mind if they would create more music like this.

10. Soilwork - Parasite Blues - The Living Infinite
Heavy ass blues that is a blast to listen too. Just everything with this song is so freaking amazing. Soilwork really knocked this one out of the park.

9. Holy Grail - Ride The Void - Ride The Void
Great guitars, awesome singing, nice groove, what more could you ask for. Holy Grail show a potential that they have not shown since their EP "Improper Burial".

8. Gama Bomb - Terrorscope - The Terror Tapes
This is how crossover thrash should sound like. Fast, heavy and funny. And who can forget that bitching solo. This song is deadlier than an A-bomb.

7. Stone Sour - Do Me A Favor - House of Gold & Bones Part 2
Powerful and angry song that shows all the good sides of the band. Clearly the best song from both "House of Gold & Bones" albums.

6. Stratovarius - Unbreakable - Nemesis
Awesome modern power metal song from the Finnish band. Probably their best song during the new era. Still love that "falling rain" part.

5. Mean Streak - We Are One - Trial By Fire
If anyone asks you what power metal is, play this song. It can't get more power metal than this smashing track from the Swede's third album.

4. Within Temptation Feat. Tarja Turunen - Paradise (What About Us?)
A dream duet from Sharon Den Adel and Tarja Turunen that should make every symphonic metal fan extremely happy. A great teasing before Within Temptation's coming album "Hydra".

3. Ghost - Year Zero - Infestissumam
Never have a song about the devil been so epic and so infectiously good that it almost made me convert into Ghost's beliefs. The ultimate sermon for the fans of these masked rocker.

2. Dream Theater - The Enemy Inside - S/T
A heavier version of "On The Backs of Angels" that kicks a lot of ass. A clear star in an otherwise not so extra ordinary album.

1. Keldian - Never Existed - Outbound
Epic and powerful song about a man's inner struggle to get through with the lie he calls life. The song is so moving and I could not help but to sing-a-long with the chorus after only one listen. If you do not get pumped when you here this song, then there is something wrong with you.

Other enjoyable tracks: Volbeat Feat. King Diamond - Room 24, Scar The Martyr - Mind's Eye, Hammerforce - Mass Media, Carcass - Mount of Execution, Killswitch Engage - The Call

So, which track is your favourite from 2013? Let me know in the comment section below.

Stay metal
Sharkruisher

Monday, December 16, 2013

Strapping Young Lad - Alien (2005)

When I saw that the fourth album by Strapping Young Lad was entitled "Alien", I hoped for music that was out of this world (or at least that it would have more personality than its self-titled predecessor), especially after the amount of pain I had to suffer for listening at "Devlab". But I already knew what this album was going to present before me, a heavy death/thrash/industrial assault that would blow my brain out.

And not surprisingly, "Alien" delivered just what I was expecting. It delivered typical Strapping Young Lad metal that had enough power to run over me with a steamroller. You would think that the pure energy in the song (with the fitting name) "Shitstorm" would be enough to power up the album, but the band did not think so. Instead, they packed almost every song in this album with a lot of determination, hard hitting force, and, of course, comedy. There is so much of it that there is plenty to spare for the next album.

And the chaos continues in several other tracks, like "Skeksis", "We Ride" and "Possessions". Actually, the only song on the album that seem to have a stable and clear musical structure is "Love?". With an infectious riff, a epic chorus and surprisingly interesting lyrics, "Love?" impresses me a lot. It is the most well controlled song in this album that is filled with chaotic craziness. A clear leader that will lead its equals towards victory.

But then came the shocker at the end of the album. The band ended "Alien" with three calm songs. Okay, I know that "Zen" and "Thalamus" are not technically calm, but compared to some of the other songs in "Alien", they sound like something out of a Lionel Richie album. But the third song, "Two Weeks", is a slower song that probably would have been more fitting in one of Devin's solo projects, but I will allow it this time since it give "Alien" some much needed variation. Besides, it is a nice song that is easily likable, and I guess that even the biggest of Strapping Young Lad fans needs a break from the angry assaults sometimes.

I have heard that "Alien" is considered as a very different Strapping Young Lad album, but I do not see much difference between this record and any other SYL album. It has all the elements that defines SYL, and together with some important variation, I would consider this to be one of the better albums by the band. But even if "Two Weeks" is a good song, I would like Devin to keep these kinds of songs in his solo project and not in SYL. That is the only baggage that this album is carrying with.

Songs worthy of recognition: Love?, Shitstorm, We Ride

Rating: 8,5/10 Possessions

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Best of 2013: special awards

So we have once again reached the end of a year. Geez, it feels like the years keeps on flying by faster and faster. Despite that the time has once again sprung by way too fast, we still have some things from 2013 that we probably will look back at and either laugh, cry or smile at. Here are some of those things.

Best Newcomer: The Italian band Ashes of Chaos impressed me a lot with their concept album "Eye". A nice mix of progressive metal, death metal and several other styles. And the story is also very interesting and intriguing

Worst album: That honour goes without a doubt to Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals's horrible debut album "Walk Through Exits Only". This is not music, this is pure shit. I respect Phil Anselmo as a musician, but this is way below his normal standards. He does not even sing good. This record should have been scrapped from the start.

Biggest disappointment:
I can see that the death of James "The Rev" Sullivan may have inhibited the song writing process, but that is not an acceptable excuse. "Hail To The King" is just a boring album filled with plagiarism and sloppy song writing. Some songs, like "Planets" and "Coming Home", makes the album somewhat interesting, but it is still a huge step back from the great predecessor "Nightmare".

Biggest surprise: I did not expect much from Drowning Pool when they presented "Resilience", but they kicked me in the stomach with heavy and catchy songs that proofs that their super hit "Bodies" was not a lucky shot. And the new singer Jasen Moreno brings the band to another level.

Memorial award: Not a day goes by without me being reminded that the riff master Jeff Hanneman is not with us anymore. After couple years of illness, he eventually passed away thanks to a alcohol-related cirrhosis on the 2nd of May. May you forever live south of heaven, reigning in blood.

Best genre: I am pretty surprised that the power metal genre had so many great releases this year. Stratovarius, Helloween, Avantasia, Hammerforce, Týr, Battle Beast, they all released some high quality albums. Good job there.

Best music video 1: Despite the fact that most of the instrumental parts gets voiced over by army veterans, the music video for the Dream Theater song "The Enemy Inside" is a stunning tale of the aftermath that every homecoming soldier experience. Definitely one of the most moving videos I have watched in several years.

Best music video 2: I just cannot stop laughing at Gama Bomb's video of "Terrorscope". The half crappy effects and seeing the band act like English nerds gives the video a unique touch of craziness. The best part though is the happy ending.

Best album cover: 


I am a sucker for a couple of things, and the grim reaper is one of them. Kataklysm's album "Waiting For The End To Come" is not only well detailed in the music, but also on the cover. Not sure though what I should feel about the naked child in the middle. No matter what, it is still a cool album cover.





Ugliest album cover 1: 


The cover to the White Wizzard album "The Devil's Cut" is just a complete mind fuck. Besides the hideous green/purple color combination, we have a nun skeleton riding a naked, ball gagged priest in front of a pentagram. I seriously don't even know how you can come up with this stuff.





Ugliest album cover 2:

The cover to the Megadeth album "Super Collider" is not ugly per se, but they have just stolen the picture from the Internet and Photoshopped in some stupid effects. The one who created this cover must be lazy as hell. And where the hell is Vic?





Best instrumental album: No one can beat the master Joe Satriani when it comes to instrumental music, and "Unstoppable Momentum" was just another proof of that. Such diversity and skills cannot be found in any other instrumental release.

Best comeback: Sorry Black Sabbath, but I give this award to Carcass. Their latest album, "Surgical Steel", was a excellent performance that showed of Carcass's wide range, and the music was executed with surgical precision. They show once again that they are the greatest band that have come from Liverpool since The Beatles.

Unfinished Business: The fight between Queensrÿche and Geoff Tate is still unfinished and I cannot believe that it takes such a long time only to decide who gets the rights for a band name. The matter should have been resolved this Autumn, but for some reason, Tate succeeded to postpone the verdict to the 27th of January next year. I guess he knows that he is losing and I am not surprised, he deserves to lose. I just hope for the sake of the metal community that the judge grants the right Queensrÿche the full rights to the name.

So what is your favourite moment of 2013? Let us know in the comment section below.

Stay Metal
Sharkruisher

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rhapsody of Fire - Dark Wings of Steel (2013)

I have never understood the greatness with Rhapsody of Fire. I should like their theatrical and grand power metal sound, but for some unknown reason, I never really get turned on with their music. Maybe this was the time to finally love the band now that one of the founders and main composers Luca Turilli have left the band to further develop his "movie music" in Luca Turilli's Rhapsody.

"Dark Wings of Steel" is the 10th album by the Italians and even if Luca has left the band, I consider this album as slightly more theatrical than its controversial predecessor "From Chaos To Eternity", mostly because there is no song here that screams metal like "Aeons of Raging Darkness". But the music is not so theatrical that it could be seen as movie music, which is the last thing I want to hear. I believe that movie music belongs on the big screen and not in a CD format.

The overall standard is pretty high on this album and I cannot find a single filler here. Everything here sounds really nice, like the beautiful Italian ballad "Custode Di Pace" (means peace keeper), the epic "Angel of Light" and the symphonic "A Tale of Magic". But just like with any other Rhapsody of Fire album, I cannot point to a individual song that could stand high and pride by itself. These songs creates an stable and good album together, but they are not very special at all individually, which is of course a shame since "Dark Wings of Steel" is a very solid piece of fine musicianship.

However, the biggest problem with "Dark Wings of Steel" is the lack of memorability in the songs. The only chorus I can remember after the first two listening sessions is "Fly To Crystal Skies", and that is only because of Fabio Lione's weird pronunciation of crystal (or as he says it, criestel). As soon as one song is done, I have to go back to it only to remember what I was listening to, even if I have heard the album several times. And no, I do not suffer from Alzheimers disease if you wondered that.

But even if the album has some slight problems, it still exceeds my expectations. "Dark Wings of Steel" does not convince me that Rhapsody of Fire can create world class music, but it keeps me interested with its unique sound and fine craftsmanship. Actually, I think it is one of the better Rhapsody of Fire albums made so far. But is the band better than Luca Turilli's Rhapsody? For now, yes, but Luca can still catch up if his next album is a killer (an album that is set for an release during next year). But for now, "Dark Wings of Steel" will have to do for the fans and the ones that despises Rhapsody of Fire may have to keep looking at other directions for something they will like.

Songs worthy of recognition: A Tale of Magic, Custode Di Pace, Fly To Crystal Skies

Rating: 7/10 Angels of Light

Friday, December 6, 2013

Devin Townsend - Devlab (2004)

This is "Devlab", a dark ambient album made by Devin Townsend. So no, this is not a metal album, frankly, I would not even consider this to be an album. It is just around an hour with random background noises packed into a CD with a palm of a hand as a album cover.

I tried to stay as opened minded as possible with this release, but I still just sat there with one raised eye brow and an open mouth thinking "what the fuck did I just listen to?". Just the fact that the songs are just named "Devlab I", "Devlab II" and so on is just super weird. I also know that Devin has done some crazy shit during his career, but he must have lost his mind when he decided to create this abomination.

The only track that was even close to be labeled as music is the 8th track, but it is still boring as hell to listen too. There is nothing to grab on to in this record, nothing to reflect about, and I do not see any resemblance between the tracks (except that they are all hideous). I do not see any meaning at all with releasing an album like this, and even more, I do not understand why such a fine artist like Devin Townsend go so far from his musical styles to create this abomination. Because there is nothing in this album that is even close to anything from Devin's previous efforts. I know "Terria" had some ambient in its music, but that was justified, this is just plain shitty.

Do you know how many times I listened to this album? Not one, not two, but THREE times. That makes it a total of 3 hours, 17 minutes and 48 seconds that I have wasted with this album. What was I thinking? And what was Devin thinking? This is not music. This is random background noises. I think Devin is trying to show some diversity and display his knowledge with ambient music, but I am not buying it, I am burning it down to the ground. "Devlab" is not music, it is a nuclear meltdown with no survivors.

So it is with great sadness that I give Devin Townsend and his album "Devlab" my first ever 0. There is nothing good about "Devlab", only a CD with sounds that can easily be replicated downtown at a big city. So whenever I see a copy of "Devlab" in real life, I will steal it, burn it, crush it, humiliate it, teabag it and vomit all over it until the end of time (or at least until my death).

Song worthy of recognition: HA HA, good one there

Rating: 0/10 Shitlabs

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Hero For The World - Winter Is Coming (A Holiday Rock Opera) (2013)

Few bands this year have been as productive as the power metal band A Hero For The World. First they released their self-titled debut album in march this year, then they released the EP "On Fire" (that contained too much music for its own good). And despite an earthquake and the typhoon Haiyan attacking their recording location in the Philippines, they still managed to record a winter album just before the holidays.

"Winter Is Coming" is a two act opera containing both new material and some classic winter tunes in a new musical style. Frankly, I was not very excited with this release since I have heard thousands of metalized Christmas songs. Everything from Twisted Sister's holiday album to a black metal version of "Silent Night". But only so few of these versions are any good (my personal favourite is Ronnie James Dio and Tony Iommi's version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"). The only thing that kept my hope up was that I have not actually heard a power metal band do any Christmas music, so it would be interesting to see how that would sound like.

The first act starts with a 8 minute long song called "Gloria In Excelsis Deo" that is a medley with "Hark The Herald Angels Sing", "O Holy Night" and more. It is a nice medley indeed and it is one of my favourite tracks of the album with its diversity and stable power metal foundation, but I was just wondering why the songs in the medley also appears in the end of the second act? I could see the point with it if they put those songs in a deluxe CD or so, but it is otherwise so unnecessary.

Besides from the medley, most of the songs here are just slow songs that is supposed to get you in the mood for Christmas. While some are quite enjoyable, most of these slower songs are pure sleeping pills. It is instead when the tempo is higher where the power metal influence is used at its best. Some proofs of this are "Good King Wenceslas" and the original song "Winter Is Coming". Some sweet power metal with winter coating.

Sadly, the down sides with this albums are more obvious than the up sides. Besides the sleeping pills, I think that there are too many songs on this album. There are 20 tracks in this album, but I think 15 would have been enough for comfort. Then there is the singer Jacob Kaasgaard, whose voice I still have a problem with. He definitely tries to adapt himself , but his voice is still too weak to nail those high notes. He is a nice keyboard player and there are weaker vocalists out there, but I feel that he should let the singing over to someone who has the capability to front a power metal band.

This is certainly one of the better Christmas albums I have heard for some time, but it is still a Christmas album, which means that it is almost impossible to get it completely right. The original songs in this albums are pretty good and some covers holds up nicely, but just like with all other Christmas music, I will probably be tired of this record around St. Lucy's day (13th December). Nice try guys, but put more of that effort in making a normal album instead of something we only will listen to one month a year (at max).

Songs worthy of recognition: Winter Is Coming, Gloria In Excelsis Deo, Good King Wenceslas

Rating: 5/10 Dark Skies

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Almah - Unfold (2013)

Starting as a side project, Brazilian power metal band Almah was created by the Angra front man Edu Falaschi in 2001, but thanks to the growing success with the band, Almah became a permanent band that Edu now focuses on 100% since he left Angra last year. For every album that Almah have released, they have taken one step further with the heavy sound, and it was very successful in their latest installment "Motion" in 2011. "Unfold" is the fourth album by the band, and I expected that they would take everything that made "Motion" so good and develop it further. Sadly, they did not.

I will admit that "Unfold" have some similarities with its predecessor. There are several parts where there is a perfect mix of heavy metal and power metal, but it feels like Almah does not go with this sound to 100% like they did in "Motion". Instead, they put in some more smooth and easy notes in the music, which gives some more variation, but also loses some strength.Why would they do that when they had a perfectly good and original sound at their disposal? Instead, they experiment with typical power metal ballads ("Warm Wind"), stupid rock groove ("You Gotta Stand") and some U2 shit ("Wings of Revolution"). Not okay man, not okay.

But there is still some elements in "Unfold" that definitely works. Like the frenetic drum work in "In My Sleep", the chorus in "The Hostage" (but not that god awful Black Label Society verse), the beautiful "Raise The Sun" and the powerful "Believer" (the only power metal song in this album that actually works). But they only make up for some of the faults with this album. They cannot help that the production is not perfect nor the weird experimental tracks that drags the album down. It is a shame since the members are all great and professional musicians that makes a great effort to make "Unfold" as good as it can be.

The final nail in the coffin for "Unfold" spells "Treasure of The Gods". A nine minute long epic that picks out every power metal cliche in the book. A slow start, epic chorus and some technical instrumental work along the way. Even if it is one of the better tracks in "Unfold", I still want to just vomit bile all over the place. What happened to the originality? What happened with the excitement?

This was a big disappointment, maybe one of the bigger ones in 2013. I expected "Unfold" to be a continuation of "Motion" and securing Almah's place as one of the more interesting power/heavy metal bands in the world, but instead, they experimented so much that they lost themselves on the way. "Unfold" shows some glimpses of greatness, but it is overall an unpleasant record. So please Almah, skip the whole "let's be a typical power metal band" act and keep the heavy hard rock sound instead. It fits you much better and it feels more original.

Songs worthy of recognition: In My Sleep, Raise The Sun, Believer

Rating: 4,5/10 Cannibals In Suits

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hell - Curse & Chapter (2013)

As being one of the front runners in the underground culture of British metal music during the 80's, but never catching a big breakthrough because of a series of setbacks, it was a big surprise that Hell announced a comeback in 2008 (over 30 years after their break up). Three years later came their long awaited debut album "Human Remains", a album that was celebrated as an amazing album, both by fans and critics alike. But it is now time for the next test. Could they create another astounding release with their sophomore album?

So here we have it, the follow up to "Human Remains" that is entitled "Curse & Chapter". A album that works great as a follow up since it is very much alike its predecessor. We still have the devil and the occult as the main theme, and the sound is still heavy with influences from the 80's NWoBHM movement (even if it is more modernized). So no, nothing has really changed during the time between the albums, but I see it as a good thing that the band shows some continuity with their music.

Just like in "Human Remains", some old demo classics arises in "Curse & Chapter", but they are in a minority this time. It is the songs "Deathsquad", "Land of The Living Dead" and "Deliver Us From Evil" that has been remastered for the 21st century. Now I cannot compare the demo track with the album version, but I can definitely sense that the songs have an aura from the 80's, especially the instrumental "Deathsquad" that takes my mind back to the earliest works of Iron Maiden and "Deliver Us From Evil" reminds me of Mercyful Fate. However, I feel that there are stronger creations in this album than these three particular songs.

It is fun to see that it is the new material that takes the most space in this album, but it is even funnier to see that they exceed my expectation and take over completely. Songs like "The Age of Nefarious", "Faith Will Fall", "Darkhangel" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes" are just so god damn good that it actually makes me mad that this band did not get an honest chance in the 80's. Well I guess God (or Satan) works his magic in mysterious ways. But it is a relief to see that this band still has the ability to create some great and impressive tunes.

If "Human Remains" was a album to declare Hell's triumphant return, then "Curse & Chapter" is the statement that they still know how to write fantastic metal. The album is just the fantastic NWoBHM assault that you would have hoped for from this band. Another proof of Hell's great excellence.

Songs worthy of recognition: Faith Will Fall, Something Wicked This Way Comes,  The Age of Nefarious

Rating: 9/10 Deathsquads

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Devin Townsend Band - Accelerated Evolution (2003)

You are all probably wondering why this album is under the name The Devin Townsend Band, and not under Devin Townsend? Well, even if "Accelerated Evolution" is technically Devin's sixth solo album, This was the first album where Devin had a dedicated band line-up. Besides from Devin, we had Brian Waddell, Mike Young, Dave Young, and Ryan Van Poederooyen (Ryan would also become permanent drummer in Devin's coming project, Devin Townsend Project). The reason Devin did this was that he wanted to create a counterpart to Strapping Young Lad. And thus was "Accelerated Evolution" created.

Musically speaking, I would say that the album mixes the playfulness of "Infinity" with the mature nature of "Terria". It is a uplifting album that explores both commercially attractive vibes with heavy metal. I definitely like where it is heading towards, especially since the memorability factor is higher compared to both "Terria" and Strapping Young Lad's latest self-titled release. And even if some of the tracks balances on the thread between rock and pop, it is still a pretty joyful listening session for metal freaks.

The best prof of the previous statement is the opener "Depth Charge". With an impressive determination and drive, Devin and the gang plows through with speed, epicness and a sound that is as hard as it can be without being completely metal. Definitely my favorite track from the album. The rest of the album never reach the same heavy level (although "Random Analysis" is fairly close), but that does not mean there is nothing more to appreciate with "Accelerated Evolution". Take an extra listen to the soft rock song "Traveller" and the Blink-182 inspired "Slow Me Down", two songs that will surely put a smile on that grim face of yours. Also take a look at the space oriented "Suicide" that may be the most sad song in the album, but it has some strong points like the frenetic guitar work and the mood settings. Then we also have the semi-instrumental track "Away" that may be too long for its own good, but still brings a sense of delight to the soul with its cool and ambient sound.

The only real problem with "Accelerated Evolution" is that it may scare some of the more heavier metal fans away. There are no crazy solos nor not many times where Devin screams his lungs out, which is a proof that Devin has succeeded with his plan. He wanted to create a band that was the complete opposite to Strapping Young Lad, and The Devin Townsend Band is just what it was supposed to be.

"Accelerated Evolution" is a very chill album that should not appeal to the more hardcore metal fans, but if you enjoyed "Terria" and even "Infinity", then I would suggest that you would give this album a chance. It is not the overall strongest album in the Devin Townsend catalog, but just like any other album by the Canadian, it is one of a kind.

Songs worthy of recognition: Depth Charge, Suicide, Slow Me Down

Rating: 8/10 Travellers

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Strapping Young Lad - S/T (2003)

It is pretty strange to believe it, but the follow up to Strapping Young Lad's critically acclaimed "City" came six years after "City"'s release. The band was placed on hiatus by Devin between 1999 and 2002 so that he could focus on his solo career, and one of the few reasons that made him get back to SYL was because he had "creative anger" as his motivation after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. So SYL was back in action and "Strapping Young Lad" would become the first album by the band where all the members was active in the song writing process.

So has the years changed SYL any significantly? Actually no, the heaviness and anger is still a big part of SYL's music, but it is more of a controlled anger instead of this bat shit crazy anger where Devin says fuck every three words. Now that I think of it, Devin only says fucking 5 times throughout this album. Anyway, the music may be more down to earth (or mature), but I miss that extra level of craziness that "City" had. Sure, some parts in this albums are pure WTF moments (like in the end of "Dirt Pride" where Devin screams "Wash my fucking balls"), but it is not enough to make this album stand out. Not so good when the album is only 39 minutes long.

There are not many songs that catches my attention in "Strapping Young Lad", but two songs are definitely interesting enough for me to notice. The first one is the bone crushing "Relentless". It is the only song on "Strapping Young Lad" that would fit nicely in "City" with its heaviness, speed, and epic chorus. The other song is "Force Fed", that impresses with an excellent mix of epic musical quality and doom-like groove. But I think it would have been better if it was slightly shorter. We also have songs like "Rape Song", "Aftermath", and "Dirt Pride" that may not impress me completely, but still satisfies my urge of great SYL metal.

Despite the fact that the quality is decently high, I still feel that "Strapping Young Lad" needs a personality. It is overall a slightly bland album for a SYL album. I mean, "Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing" had its silliness and "City" had speed and heaviness. What does "Strapping Young Lad" have? The answer is nothing in particular. The band does what they are good at, but nothing more.

It is without a doubt that I say that "Strapping Young Lad" is a great album, but it could have been even better with something that personified the album. There is a good couple of songs in the album, but nothing overly impressive. However, it is still a good album with the fact that the band was inactive for three years. But it is not enough to make me wash the band's fucking balls.

Songs worthy of recognition: Force Fed, Relentless, Aftermath

Rating: 7/10 Consequences

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Alcohol review: Motörhead Bastards lager

We all know that metal bands have in later years tried their luck on the booze business to make some money, but British legends Motörhead was probably first with the trend with their release of Motörhead Shiraz. The band has also release a rose type of the wine and also a vödka. But I am today going to try out their own brand of beer that is Bastards, named after the 1993 album with the same name. The beer comes in a 330 ml bottle and has a alcohol volume of 4.7%. The cost of the beer at Swedish distributor Systembolaget is around 19.90 SEK (or around 3 US dollars) per bottle, which is a pretty decent price. Not overly expensive, but not the cheapest one in the store either.

I gotta be honest, I did not have much hope for this beer at all before trying it. I thought that it was going to be like the Shiraz, or the last couple of albums that the bands have released. Good, but not overwhelming. But it was a pleasant surprise tasting the beer. According to Systembolaget, it is a malty beer with hints of oranges, honey and crispbread. I have no idea where they tasted crispbread in this beer, but I can back up the orange and honey parts since it is a sweet beer with a little fruity hint. Definitely not your average beer. And even if I feel the strength in it, it does not take over so much that you must take a long break between your sips. It is fairly easy to drink. However, I feel that if a beer is named Bastards, then it should be either a strong, angry beer, or a beer that makes the drinker an asshole. I only drank one bottle, but I do not feel madder. Whatever, a beer is a beer.

I can definitely say that Bastards beats both the Shiraz and the bands latest album "Aftershock", but we will just have to see if it beats the vödka (I am not a girl, therefore I will not try the rose). But does it live up to its name? No, it should have been stronger then it actually is. Is it a must buy for fans? Definitely.

Rating: 8/10 Snaggletooths

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Five Finger Death Punch - The Wrong Side of Heaven And The Righteous Side of Hell - Volume 2 (2013)

Three months have gone since the first volume of this double album was released, but the time has finally come for the hard hitting quintet from LA to reveal the second half of "The Wrong Side of Heaven And The Righteous Side of Hell" (I still think that the title is way too long). So what have changed since? For starters, there are no guest artist in this second volume, only Ivan Moody, Zoltan Bathory and the rest of the band. We also have a new color palette on the cover and no questionable covers of any rap songs (only a cover of a traditional folk song). So it looks pretty good from the start, but with the strong song line-up from the first album in mind, it would be obvious that this album had to knock it out of the park to triumph over its predecessor.

Musically speaking, there is not much that separates the two album apart from each other. We got fast and catchy power songs, some slower and more delicate tunes, but sadly no ultra heavy song that has only one goal, to crush your brain into smithereens. Now, I understand why the band made these albums similar to each other, but I would have appreciated it if they tried to make two different albums that would have shown the band's diversity. The only real difference I see between the albums is that it feels like Ivan Moody is not as angry in this album as he was in volume 1. If that is supposed to represent the albums as a "good" and a "evil" album is for you to figure out.

One thing that makes this volume superior compared to its predecessor is that it is more even in its performance. There is no real shit song to be found here, but there is also no real masterpiece here either. The best picks from this album is the fast crunching "Wrecking Ball", the fast starter "Here To Die", the beautiful "Battle Born" and the nicely paced "Cradle To Grave". This evenness brings however a big flaw to this album, and that is that it does not take much time before you get tired at the album. That is the main reason why I believe that the band should have put in either "I.M.Sin" or "Dot Your Eyes" from the last album to give this album some much needed variation.

Then we also have that cover of the traditional American folk song "House of The Rising Sun", a song that has been covered several times in the past by The Animals, Dolly Parton and others. Compared to the horrible cover of "Mama Said Knock You Out" on the last album, this is at least 50 times better. 5FDP really made this song their own with the blasting double bass and the smooth riffing. The only problem is that most of the younger audience will probably think that this is a 5FDP original, something that has already happened with their cover of "Bad Company".

In the end, I think that the two volumes are good, but that the first volume is the superior one. The first volume had more power and more of a personality while the second volume was more even in its performance, but it also has a shorter life span. Both albums have their strengths and weaknesses, but even if they are two good individual albums, I would have liked it more if the band had made one big album with the great songs and left some good songs on hold so they could be included in a future album. Anyway, both "The Wrong Side of Heaven And The Righteous Side of Hell" albums are worthy a check for fans of both angry/powerful metal and more commercially approached rock. But for the next album, please keep the title at 20 characters maximum.

Songs worthy of recognition: Wrecking Ball, Battle Born, Here To Die

Rating: 7/10 Weights Beneath My Sin

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ayreon - The Theory of Everything (2013)

Those of you who are familiar with Arjen Lucassen and his solo project Ayreon knows that he is not afraid to go the full distance when it comes to creating a grand and fantastic epic. And now it is time again to really open your mind and clear out several hours of the schedule. "The Theory of Everything" is a epic piece that consists of 42 songs, which together creates 4 bigger songs or phases, and the total play time of the album is a whooping 1 hour, 29 minutes and 58 seconds, So yeah, this is not a album for the busy guy nor the impatient guy.

As always, Arjen gets some help from several guest artists from the metal world. Some of the big names this time are Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot), Janne Christoffersson (Grand Magus) and many more. And with this well experienced crew comes some good musical performance, even if there is a significant variation in styles.

As far as the story goes, it is just like any other Ayreon album where every singer is a character. The only difference with "The Theory of Everything" is that Ayreon is starting from scratch with a new story (the rest of the albums, from "The Final Experiment" to "01011001", portrays one giant saga). It is about a man who tries to figure out the theory of everything (if you are wondering what it is, look it up on Wikipedia. I got an headache just by trying to figure out what it was about) just because he is having trouble of living an "ordinary" life. It is certainly an interesting story, and the lyrics and vocalists really brings it to life.

But it is the music that is the main ingredient to really make a great concept album, and Ayreon's characteristic epic sound works every time. It is both a beautiful and grand sound that also morphs into different sounds from other eras and regions, like in "Phase 1: Singularity" we get sounds from the middle ages, the Arabian region and also some futuristic tunes. The music is truly versatile and brings true depth to the album, but I feel like this is a album that you must listen to in its entirety. I cannot just pick a couple of songs or one specific phase that stands out from the others, because they are all linked so strongly together that it would be a risk just picking out one from the link. But I see it as a strength since it makes a more cohesive album.

But are there any weaknesses with "The Theory of Everything"? Well, the album demands its listener, which means that people with a small amount of patient will not only have a harder time enjoying the album, but also might not even listen to the entire thing in one sitting. Otherwise there is nothing wrong with this album, but I do feel that the musicality does not last very long in my head. There are only few small parts in every phase that I remember well, but I think that could have been fixed if Arjen would have done eight 10+ minute songs instead of four 20+ minute songs.

I can honestly say that Arjen Lucassen has made another great epic. "The Theory of Everything" is Ayreon out to the fingertips and fans of the band will probably put this album instantly on the top of their "end of the year" list. And even though I also loved the album and its story, I still feel that there are things that could have improven, especially the memorability factor. None the less, "The Theory of Everything" is a magnificent album that is the definition of epic.

Phases worthy of recognition: all of them

Rating: 9/10 Symmetries

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Devin Townsend - Terria (2001)

The last couple of albums by Devin Townsend had been mostly fast, aggressive and just simply insane, so it was a little surprising that the 5th studio album "Terria" was the exact opposite of "Infinity" and "Physicist". Devin was inspired to do this album since he felt that he ostracized some of his fans on "Physicist", so he took the chance on making a personal record that also was a dedication to his homeland of Canada.

It is instantly obvious that "Terria" is sort of a follow up to "Ocean Machine: Biomech". Both albums have the same humble and soothing sound, but whilst "Ocean Machine: Biomech" was a joyful and happy album, "Terria" has some darker elements in its music (but it is still a positive album though). No matter what, the perfect mix of ambient rock and progressive metal is very exciting and helps lifting the album up to great heigths.

But this is not a album that you will love instantly. It takes a couple of spins before all the songs sets in and presents themselves towards you. Believe me, cause it happened to me. I first thought that the intentional silent parts were slightly annoying and that most of the music was nothing that was impressing. But now I see why Devin put those in, and I got to say that it takes some talent to really get the most of the music and silence, which Devin does. But even if the silence is a big part of "Terria", it is the loudest song that catches most of my attention. "Earth Day" is a great track that mixes the groovy feeling of "War" with the epicness of "Seventh Wave". It still gives me the chills when Devin screams recycle and eat your beets.

It is the epic parts that makes "Terria" such a great album. Some of the great parts are the instrumental rumble plus the quire in "The Fluke", the sensitivity in "Nobody's Here" and "Stagnant", and the doom like part about jury duty in "Canada". Unfortunately, there are also some parts that does not make any sense at all. For instance, the opener "Olives" is just a three minute long haul to the real album. Do not understand why that song is in "Terria" at all. There is also a one minute long complete silence in the end of "Mountain". I can see that silence would be good at the end of the song, but one minute of it is too long.

This is certainly a epic piece that should make every progressive metal fan ecstatic, but compared to the masterpiece "Ocean Machine: Biomech", "Terria" does not have the same quality. Sure, Devin makes the most of the ambient sound that dominates the album, but I do not feel like the impact is as big as it was in "Ocean Machine: Biomech". None the less, "Terria" is an excellent album that feels down to earth and works perfect in the Sunday morning when you are recovering from a hangover. And do not forget, eat your beets and recycle.

Songs worthy of recognition: Earth Day, Nobody's Here, The Fluke

Rating: 8/10 Tiny Tears

Monday, November 4, 2013

Motörhead - Aftershock (2013)

Reviewing a band like Motörhead is not the easiest thing in the world. During the 30+ years that the band has been active, they have more or less played the same music over and over again, a trend that is more or less impossible in today's society. Cause if a newer band tried to make it just like Motörhead, everyone would in one point or another think that it is a boring band that cannot evolve and has no talent what so ever. Motörhead however, have done this for so long that most of the metal community would be pissed if the band tried something new. So there is no surprise at all when I take on Motörhead's 21st studio album entitled "Aftershock" only to find out that it is very much alike album number 20, 19, 18 and so on, and there by I could easily stop this review right here.

But I chose to continue since there is more below the surface. We all know Lemmy's recent health problems, and unfortunately, they are present in this record. His voice is not particularly strong and it helps dragging down the album slightly. It is sad since the rest of the gang is holding up their part nicely. This of course makes me ask the question if this is the last Motörhead album we will ever witness? I sure hope not, but it clearly seems like it if Lemmy's health situation does not change.

Even with this health situation, I still find some go in this album, especially in the speedy "Heartbreaker" and high rolling "End of Time". It is still clear that Motörhead knows what they are doing and the overall song quality is actually not that bad, even though I found more variety in their last album, "The Wörld Is Yours". One other notable thing with "Aftershock" is that the band has gone back to some of its blues roots in this album. Pretty nice, even if it is not my kind of taste.

Otherwise it is the same old story. Stable rock 'n' roll with great riffing, groovy drumming and Lemmy's characteristic whiskey voice. Also, there are few and small things that gives the songs a own personality. Like the heavy drumming in "Death Machine", the insane riffing in "End of Time", the attitude in "Silence When You Speak To Me", the clinky keyboard in "Crying Shame" and the lyrics in the "Ace of Spades" like "Going To Mexico". And that is also why I think Motörhead still gets this attention even though they play the same music as they did 30 years ago. They still find ways to make the songs standing strong on their own.

If you have listened to any Motörhead album in their career, then you probably know what "Aftershock" has to offer. It is not an innovative album, it is Motörhead from top to bottom. Just like Winter comes after Autumn, Motörhead does not surprise at all. So "Aftershock" is just like the band's own wine. Good, but not even close to being extra ordinary.

Songs worthy of recognition: Going To Mexico, Silence When You Speak To Me, End of Time

Rating: 6/10 Heartbreakers

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Korn - The Paradigm Shift (2013)

The American Nu-metal band Korn has gone through some drastic changes these last couple of years. Their latest album, "The Path of Totality", was a weird experiment that can only be described as the birth of dub-metal. And after that, the band was re-united with the original guitarist Brian "Head" Welch. So the questions about Korn's 11th studio release, "The Paradigm Shift" were many. Could "Head" bring the band back to its glory days? Was the dub-metal experiment a one time thing? Would I see the South Park version of the band before my eyes when the songs starts playing?

First off, Let me ease your minds with the fact that there is no sign of dub-step in this album (well, maybe a little on "Never Never"). With the entrance of "Head" has come a more classic Korn sound that may not have the same mystical touch like back in the days, but it still feels fresh and interesting. Several details are very interesting, like the catchy riffs, the passionate drumming and Jonathan Davis's fine vocal work.

Cause it is the small things that makes "The Paradigm Shift" a good album, not the whole experience. There are 11 songs in this album, but none of them are really surprising nor really impressive. I like the more aggressive songs like "Prey For Me", "Punishment Time" and "Love & Meth", and some of the melodic melodies ("Spike In My Veins" and "Mass Hysteria") are nice, but they are not strong enough to make "The Paradigm Shift" a complete winner. It is obvious that the band have found a new strength during the last years and the performance is more or less flawless, but when a album is mixing between good songs that both the band and fans can be proud of with boring and pointless fillers like "Never Never" and "It's All Wrong", it is impossible to fully appreciate all the hard work that the band has spent to make this record happen.

I can however still confidently say that this is the best album by Korn in some time. It is obvious that Brian's return has helped the band in the right direction and if this form is continuing like this, then I would not be surprised if the next album will not only be better, it also could potentially be a future classic. "The Paradigm Shift" will probably not be remembered as the highlight of Korn's career, but it is still a album that has some really neat quality in it.

Songs worthy of recognition: Prey For Me, Love & Meth, Punishment Time

Rating: 7,5/10 Spikes In My Veins

Friday, November 1, 2013

Devin Townsend - Physicist (2000)

This may seem like a Strapping Young Lad release, and it even has the same line up as the band, but "Physicist" is in fact a solo release by Devin Townsend. It was initially meant to be a album with a new project called IR8 that consisted of Devin and Jason Newsted (Ex-Metallica, Ex-Voivod, Newsted). But since the rest of Metallica did not like that Jason was not fully focused on the band, the project was scrapped and Devin continued writing the album on his own.

"Physicist" is a harder and faster version of its predecessor, "Infinity", and it is a album that does not give a shit. It has a specific sound and it sticks with that sound throughout the album, creating a red line that follows through every song. But it also feels like the variation gets somewhat left behind when everything has the same generic sound.

One of the flaws with the album is that the speed and aggressive sound makes the album sound shorter then what it actually is. The album is approximately 46 minutes long, but it feels like it is 35 minutes instead, which ends up with the sensation of being half full. In other words, you want more after the last song has been played. Now you are probably saying "Is it not a fun album since it made the time go faster?". You could definitely see it that way, but I rather see it as glass half full then half empty. "Physicist" would have felt good with another song or two, and that is that.

The clear star of "Physicist" is the epic "Kingdom" (a track that also appears in the Devin Townsend Project album "Epicloud", but more on that in its review). It is the only song on the album that has a consistent structure and it has some fine musicality, like in between the two choruses and the verse. A memorable song that is also easy to sing-a-long to. It is otherwise the heaviness or speed that most of the other songs rely on. And it works great on songs like "Namaste" and "The Complex", But I cannot help but feel that the sloppy production drags down the quality quite a bit. "Physicist" is a good album, but it could have been a lot better with a better production to support it.

Compared with "Infinity", I would say that "Physicist" is a marginally weaker album because of the weak production and the small variety. But I still think that there are some sweet moments in this album that defines Devin's ever evolving mind. However, it is obvious that Devin did not care for this album as much as some of his earlier works, and I can without a doubt in my mind say that this record would have been more fitting as a Strapping Young Lad release, since the whole ensemble helped conceive this record.

Songs worthy of recognition: Kingdom, Namaste, The Complex

Rating: 7,5/10 Victims

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Live review: Lillasyster at James Rockbar, Halmstad, Sweden

Most of you who lives outside of Sweden probably have no freaking idea of who Lillasyster is. Let me give you some background information. First off, the name is Swedish for little sister and the band was conceived in 2006 by former Lok members Martin Westerstrand and Daniel Cordero. They play heavy hard rock in Swedish with mostly humours lyrics and have released three albums ("Hjärndöd Musik För En Hjärndöd Generation", "Det Här Är Inte Musik, Det Här Är Kärlek" and "3").

The gig was held at James Rockbar in Halmstad, Sweden. It is a good place for metal heads if you are searching for cheap beer and great music. But the best part (besides the live gigs) is that they accept musical requests. That is enough for me.

So about the show itself. The setlist was mostly filled with their most popular songs, which was predictable, but I was surprised that they played several Lok songs like "Lok Står När De Andra Faller", "Lokpest" and "Sug Min". But there was two things in the setlist that pissed me of. First off, I think that they did not play any song from their second album. If they had put in like "Rad Efter Rad" or "Tid För En Idiot", it would have given the setlist more diversity. The second thing that made me angry is that they played their popular cover of the Rihanna hit "Umbrella". It is certainly a good cover, but I do not see the point with playing it live. Put in a own product there instead please.

The show was otherwise awesome when it came down to the performance, but it was the audience that made the show special. The crowd was truly wild and the singer had a really hard time to even try to make some conversation between the songs. The audience was infact so good that we got a couple of stage dives and the band was even willing to join in a small run of "Seven Nation Army". By the way, I think there was about 250 people in the bar (which is not completely its maximum capacity).

So it was a nice concert that lasted for an hour and a half, but it was far from perfect. The setlist could have been better and the band was infact one hour late. But in the end, if you leave the concert with a sweatty body and sore (or alcohol drenched) feets, then you know that it was a great concert.

Best: Great audience and "Hårdrock"

Worst: "Umbrella"? Really?!?!

Rating: 8,5/10 Lokpester

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Devin Townsend - Infinity (1998)

You can probably tell by looking at the cover, but it is a stone cold fact that after the release of "Ocean Machine: Biomech", Devin Townsend checked himself into a mental health hospital after he started to see humans as "little lonesome, water based, pink meat, life forms pushing air through themselves and making noises that the other little pieces of meat seemed to understand.". Fortunately, Devin was discharged a while after he was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder (which could explain how he could create Strapping Young Lad and Ocean Machine around the same time).

From this "madness" came "Infinity", a album that Devin described as a "parent project" between "Ocean Machine: Biomech" and SYL's "City". Is it a accurate description of the album? Well almost. It does not have the same heaviness that SYL stands for, but it is certainly a good mix of heavy and epic in this album. You know what else there is a lot of in this album? Loudness. This is a album that takes up a lot of space with its grand sound, and even with the volume set to a low level, you can clearly hear the music with ease (although it is unnecessary with low volume).

And it is the first half that makes the most of the noise. After the epic starter "Truth", Devin kicks into gear with "Christeen", a spiritual and smooth flowing song that is easily likable. After that, the album becomes more groovy with the jazzy "Bad Devil" that takes your mind to some country western bar in the middle of Transylvania. Sounds weird? Well, it is, but in a really good way. Then we probably have the most well known track in "War". A pretty stale song that still has a hooky riff and some interesting lyrics. It also becomes very silly in the later half when the quire and Devin starts sing "doo wop boddum" in some kind of Can Can style. Oddly enough, it is still fitting nicely with the rest of the track, making it one of the better songs on "Infinity".

The second half of the album is leaning more towards the epic side, especially in songs like "Wild Colonial Boy", "Life Is All Dynamics" and "Soul Driven Cadillac". But it also contains a track that is just completely wild. "Ants" sounds like the mice from Cinderella where high on Red Bull and crystal meth. This song is all over the place, so the end result is not very good. It makes me laugh, but as far as the listening experience goes, I did not like it one bit.

There are some madness in "Infinity", but there is even more brilliance in it. The grand sound makes the album an exciting piece, and even though I feel that the overall standard could have been higher, it is made up for with some fine musicality work and atmospherically feelings. So you will not loose your mind if you listen to "Infinity", but you will probably find some epic quality in this record. 

Songs worthy of recognition: Bad Devil, War, 

Soul Driven Cadillac


Rating: 7,5/10 Unities

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dream Theater - S/T (2013)

When a well experienced band is releasing a self titled album, that can only mean one of two things. Either the band has lost all of its inspiration, or it is a mark of a new beginning for the band. And even though Mike Mangini made his debut on the last record, "A Dramatic Turn of Events", he did not contribute in the song writing process and he did not get enough room to show his full potential. So I was very curious of how Dream Theater would approach this album and to see how a big chocolate cake sounds like.

I can instantly say that "Dream Theater" is a bolder piece than its predecessor. "A Dramatic Turn of Events" was a album filled with safe bets so Mangini would feel comfortable in his position. Now that he has some more complex pieces to deal with, he can really show what he is made of, just like the rest of the band. Petrucci's riffs are spot on, Myung's bass lines are groovy, Rudess's keyboard tones are nice and LaBrie sings at his usual level. So the performance is, as usual, superb.

I understand that "Dream Theater" is supposed to be the new starting point for the band, but I cannot help to see that this album could be described as the Dream Theater discography for dummies. We have "The Looking Glass" that reminds me of the band's "worst" album "Falling Into Infinity" (also reminds me of the Canadian trio Rush), the heavy instrumental "Enigma Machine" fits right in "Train of Thought", the epicness of "Surrender To Reason" reminds me of "Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory" and the first single, "The Enemy Inside", is a heavier (and better) copy of "On The Backs of Angels" from "A Dramatic Turn of Events". Even with these resemblances, I still see "Dream Theater" as a individual piece in the epic Dream Theater discography, instead of a indirect "best of" album.

One part of the album that I actually think is original is the ballads. Sure, the two songs that are ballads on this album are just like typical Dream Theater ballads, but the quality of them is stepped up a bit. "The Bigger Picture" is actually one of the best ballads the band has ever created. Good lyrics, beautiful melodies and a emotional chorus. Three ingredients that makes a great Dream Theater ballad. The other ballad, "Along For The Ride", is one of the weaker tracks of the album, but I have heard worse ballads made by the band.

Another noticeable thing is that there is only one mastodon song in this album, which is the first time for the band since "Awake". But to compensate the small amount of giant epics, the band made this mastodon over 22 minutes long. The song is called "Illumination Theory" and is the closer of "Dream Theater". It is definitely fitting nicely in the end of the album, but it is pretty uneven on the performance. Some instrumental parts sounds great while others (like the silence in the end) are just weird. I give this mastodon my approval, but it is a proof that just because it is longer, it does not mean that it is better.

"Dream Theater" is far from a masterpiece and with its overall quality, I would put this self titled release somewhere in the middle of the pack against the rest of the discography. Sure, it has some highly enjoyable moments, but it is still a pretty anonymous release without a real clear sense of direction. It is a nice album. No more, no less.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Enemy Inside, The Bigger Picture, Surrender To Reason

Rating: 7,5/10 Illumination Theories

Sunday, September 22, 2013

GWAR - Battle Maximus (2013)

Our favourite obnoxious aliens are back for more carnage, this time with this "celebration" album for their fallen band mate Flattus Maximus. "Battle Maximus" is the 13th installment by the Virginia band that has charmed (and disgusted) the world with their costumes and vile lyrics for almost 30 years. So let us see what Oderus Urungus and the rest of the gang has come up with this time.

For those of you who are well aware of GWAR's sound and style, you will definitely not be dissapointed with this record. There is loads of heavy riffs, groovy tunes and upp your ass attitude, but unfortunately, the band has still not covered up their weakness of the small variety. The album is packed with either fast or semi-fast songs that has similar song structures. There are of course variation in musical styles on this album. From straight forward heavy metal to more rock oriented tracks, but it is not enough to make me satisfied.

Another weak point with "Battle Maximus" is that you get tired of this album pretty quickly, especially the later half of the album has several spots where you can easily skip. One song that is just painful to listen at is "Falling" that fits more in a Papa Roach album. If GWAR made this is a joke, then I did not think it was funny at all. Just a waste of space.

But let's be honest, the strong point of GWAR is not the music, it is the lyrics and the humour that makes the aliens shine. And I can guarantee that there is lots of it in "Battle Maximus". However, that does not mean that GWAR has no musical skill at all. Some fine moments are the groovines and speed of "Madness At The Core of Time", the intoxicating riffing in "Bloodbath", the heaviness in "Torture" and the mood settings in "They Swallowed The Sun".

One thing that surprised me with "Battle Maximus" is the title track, a instrumental song that is a tribute to their fallen band mate Flattus Maximus. The band has not made a instrumental since 1999 ("A Short Story of The End of The World" from "We Kill Everything") so I did not expect this at all. The song itself starts violently fast with lots of shreding and fast double bass beats that eventually is replaced by a steady beat and some solos. A good instrumental, but nothing extra ordinary.

"Battle Maximus" is surely an excellent album and a great way to pay tribute to Flattus Maximus, but it is not the best effort that the band has made. The variety is low and it does not have a long life span. But I still think that Flattus Maximus is looking up from hell and is proud of what his band mates have made without him. Am I proud of the band? no, I expect more from them.

Songs worthy of recognition: Bloodbath, Madness At The Core of Time, They Swallowed The Sun

Rating: 6,5/10 Pig Childrens