Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lancer - S/T (2013)

The last couple of years have been pretty quiet when it comes to new forces in power metal. Sure some new bands show up but there are few bands these days that is making a big impression. One of those bands that has gained quick recognition in Sweden is Lancer. So what methods have the newcomers to attract a big audience? They are simply going old school with music that has influences from Helloween, Stratovarius and Iron Maiden. Sounds good right? Well it is not that simple. Taking influences from such great bands really demands some great craftsmanship behind the music if the band  does not want the music to sound flat and like a rip-off. So Sebastian Pedernera, Fredrik Keleman, Peter Ellström, Isak Stenvall and Emil Öberg has quite a name to live up to.

First thing I listen to in a power metal album is the structure in the music since most power metal band play in a same or similar rhythm. Mostly bands in that genre play at 100 km/h or faster without any hesitation and with the double bass pounding. Luckily, Lancer is not that type of power metal band. Sure we got some speedy tunes like "Mr. Starlight" and "Purple Sky" but their speed is not ridiculous, just fast enough to make the most out of the songs. No it is the guitars and the vocals that is stealing the show on this album. The twin guitars sounds well tuned and are played tightly together and the singing styles of Isak Stenvall may not be very original but it is still effective none the less. Isak has a good vocal range from high pitch to lower registers (btw, on some parts on the lower registers Isak sounds a little like Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson (check "Between The Devil And The Deep")).

Most of the song on "Lancer" hold a high standard but there are a couple songs that stands out a little more than the others. I like "Young And Alive" for its epic sound and purely awesome chorus, a song that reminds me of Black Majesty, one of my favourite power metal bands. Another song that sticks out is "Seventh Angel", one of the more soothing songs that has a killer keyboard riff in the chorus. The last song that I want you all to check out is the more modern power metal song "Don't Go Changing".

In the last song, "Between The Devil And The Deep", Lancer is trying to recreate a classic Iron Maiden epic. I would not say that the song sucks (it does not) but the band bit more than they could chew. It just does not have the same intensity and the sam great epicness as when Iron Maiden does it. It may be so that the band will in time be able to master these kinds of songs but for now it is missing some key moments to really make these kinds of songs as epic as they could have been.

Now is there any song I would give a warning to for not holding a high enough standard? The only song I would give such a warning to is probably "Deja Vu", A song that is not horrible but does fall behind the rest of the tracks. It is also the only song where I feel the singer is not capable to make the song rise. The chorus just sounds like a lot of complaining and it is also boring.

This is a great effort for a debut album. Clean power metal with straight NWOBHM influences is rarely unsuccessful which this album proves. Lancer does without a doubt have a bright future. But even if I enjoyed the bands self titled debut I still feel that there is more to take from this band. This record tends to be slightly boring after a couple of listening sessions. But if the band keeps it up they will definitely gather some great recognition in no time.

Songs worthy of recognition: Young And Alive, Mr. Starlight, Seventh Angel

Rating: 8/10 Dreamchasers

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mechina - Empyrean (2013)

Mixing two different metal genres is always a gamble. Either you succeed with the mash-up and gain great recognition in no time or the mash-up fails miserably and the band puts its chance on the music life in great risk. When I heard about Mechina, a band that mixed industrial metal with death metal, I was first sceptical of how good they actually was going to be. But I am open minded so I took the opportunity to listen to the bands third album "Empyrean" and hoped for the best.

After a spiritual beginning in "Aporia" the album kicks off with more spirituality in "Asterion". A nice death metal effort with rough vocals and slamming drum beats. But before I know it, I am already at the next track "Interregnum". This is the biggest problem with "Empyrean", The transitions are so smooth that the album could actually be considered as one big song. Nothing wrong with that but the cuts between tracks is in some really awkward places. I think that if the band worked with this album for about another week or two these problems would be gone. But for now it just sounds sloppy.

Anyway, back to the music. "Interregnum" introduces the cleaner vocals and does it with such a strength that it makes me really impressed. David Holch definitely has talent on harsh vocals but when he goes clean he is on a whole different level. Those clean vocals gives the songs a whole new dimension that benefits the band. And that is not only shown on "Interregnum" but also on "Imperialus", "Anathema" and "Infineon". But if we ignore the vocals and instead focus on the instrumental parts I find that Mechina puts the main focus on the drums and the programming to really blend the orchestral sound with heaviness. The bass is almost nowhere to be seen and the guitar only takes over at few spots since there are no solos what so ever, something I could have wished would have appeared on "Empyrean" to get more variation to the songs.

There are no particularly bad songs on "Empyrean" but there are songs that easily goes past the radar unnoticed. The title track is one of those songs. It does not have anything that makes it stick out from the rest of the crowd which instantly makes it a song that you take less interest in. Still not a bad song but far from breathtaking.

"Empyrean" ends with its longest song "Terminus", an 10 minute long epic that is heavy, melodic and epic all in one good mash-up. But I still feel like there is something missing. I could have wished that the band would have made this song different from what we have heard from the other songs on "Empyrean", something that made this song stand out besides from its length. It is a fine song , no doubt about that, but it is not a song worthy of a bigger recognition.

Overall I really enjoyed "Empyrean" with its outer space feeling and fantastic drum beats. I did not find too much industrial metal in their sound but I am glad over that since I think the industrial part would have taken over if it gotten too much space. But if you are going to listen to "Empyrean" yourself then please take my advice. Listen to the whole album in one piece. This is not a album where you can pick out certain tracks and listen to them alone, it is a album best experienced in its entirety.

Songs worthy of recognition: Interregnum, Anathema, Catechism

Rating: 8/10 Asterions

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Helloween - Straight Out of Hell (2013)

There are few bands that has showed the same continuity as power metal pioneers Helloween. With a sense for catchy choruses and great riff work the band has become more or less legendary in the heavy metal universe. So when their 14th album entitled "Straight Out of Hell" was announced there was no doubt that it was a album that I would look forward to. But after a unusually aggressive assault in "7 Sinners", I was scratching my head to figure out which direction the Germans in Helloween would go in "Straight Out of Hell". Would they stay in a aggression that is admirable but only effective in mostly short periods of time or would they go back to their roots with pompous power metal, a style that the band masters all too well?

Anyhow, Helloween starts off where they left with the first track, and first single, "Nabataea". A song with an aggressive riff but also a very melodic and epic chorus. Another thing that makes "Nabataea" so special is the fact that it shifts tempo around 5 times or so which makes this song a little more interesting. But brace yourself, next is a sentence I thought I would never write. I find the edited single version sligthly better since the unedited version is a little too sprawling. It does not have a straight direction. Still a great song though that works as a great starting point.

And that is also the main problem with "Straight Out of Hell". It feels like the band does not know in which direction they want to follow. I mean, variation is always a good thing but nothing is worth overdoing. We get everything from ballads, pure power metal, modern metal, melodic rock and even battle hymns. Fortunately that problem is weighed up with a pack of spectacular songs and some great musicianship.

My absolute favourites from "Straight Out of Hell" are "Asshole" (Big attitude, memorable chorus and cool title. Plus heaviness), "Far From The Stars" (Gives you a "outer space" feeling and has a awesome chorus), "Burning Sun" (see previous description) and "Make Fire Catch The Fly" (awesome, modern power metal. A big stand out from the rest of the pack). But there are songs that could have broken in to that quartet. The ending song, "Church Beats Down" builds up magnificently but ends in a weird and weak chorus. The battle hymn "Wanna Be God" is actually good but it is way too short and the music does not lift. And last, but not least "Live Now!" could have made a big impact on be if it was not for the intro riff. That riff is very similar to the intro of "Forsaken" by Dream Theater. Normally I just shake it off and remember that it is a new song but this time the similarities on that intro was way too huge too be ignored. Except for that, "Live Now!" is a very enjoyable song.

This is a great album but I hate the fact that it could have been even better if the band just knew what they wanted with this album. The differences from song to song is bigger than it should be. But overall the quality of the songs are great and "Straight Out of Hell" is an improvement from "7 Sinners" (which I also enjoyed btw). Helloween keeps their position as one of the most stable and consistent bands in heavy metal and if they keep up in this tempo there will be no doubt that the next album could be a future classic.

Songs worthy of recognition: Burning Sun, Asshole, Far From The Stars, Nabataea, Make Fire Catch The Fly

Rating: 8,5/10 Years

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dream Theater - Octavarium (2005)

Man, Dream Theater did really take the album order  seriously into their last albums. Their sixth album was "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" (contained six songs and has six in the title) and "Train of Thought" was the seventh album (seven tracks). That leads us to "Octavarium", Dream Theaters eigth album. And were do we find the number eigth on this album? Well, were should I start? The number of tracks is eight, octa means eight, there are a total of eight marbles on the albums front and back side and more connections to the number eigth is shown in most of the songs (do not worry, I will tell when we come to the songs I am speaking of). One thing that separates "Octavarium" from its two predecessors is that the band now tried to make "a classic Dream Theater" record. So gone is the heaviness from "Train of Thought" and the complexity from "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence". It would be an album that would remind us of their earlier years.

"The Root of All Evil" kicks off this album and you can instantly hear that classic Dream Theater sound. It is melodic and well composed but it also contain a dark vein in both the music and lyrics that is really interesting to follow. A good way to start of a new album. Next song is "The Answer Lies Within", a ballad that is not innovative nor impressive. The lyrics are good but it only takes you so far. The only interesting with this song is the bell at the beginning that tolls eight times. Luckily my interest is regained on "These Walls", the highlight of "Octavarium" It is an epic song that is glistening with its musicality and delicate fragility. It may not be the hardest the band has ever put out on the market but it is one of their more thought-out tracks. Then we also have "I Walk Beside You", or what I would like to call, "Dream Theater's attempt to copy U2, Coldplay or similar band". Not a bad try but it just feels wierd. Way too commercial for my tasting.

Out of all the tracks on "Octavarium" there is only one song that I knew from first to last beat and that was "Panic Attack", and that is only because it is on Rock Band 2 (a great game for gaming and rock geeks). It is  technically a great song and I like the scary mood that the band is setting up but easily the best part is the instrumental part were every band member (except James LaBrie) + instruments get a chance to go close to ape shit. One of the best instrumental parts of the bands entire career. Still wished though that the keyboard would have gotten a little more room on that part or at the ending where the band is repeating the same final note a total of eight times at the end. After that horror show we are led into "Never Enough", a song I have split opinions on. I like the chorus, the build up á la Muse and LaBrie's vocal work but the overall performance feel a little sloppy, like the band is saving up for the big finale.

So far has "Octavarium" been free from mastodon songs but then, with out a mastodon there would simply not be a true Dream Theater album. That thirst is put out on the last two tracks "Sacrificed Sons" (clocked at 10:44) and the title track (clocked at a whooping 23:59). Both are definitely listenable but not something you would press replay for over and over again. They both have a really slow start before shifting to about third gear and starting what Dream Theater is best at. Progressive and technical music with a clear idea all the way through. Not the best songs in this league but certainly not the worst either.

A lot of eight's on this release so it would be fitting if I put an eight as rating right? Sadly, "Octavarium" does not deserve that high of a rating. It is a good album, no doubt about that, but I feel that the distance between top and bottom is way to big for a band like Dream Theater. And even though the lyrics are great I find the concept on this album highly confusing and hazy. None the less this is a album that could have gotten some extra improvements but it is still a good and listenable album. It is just not an album that stands out in the bands catalogue.

Songs worthy of recognition: These Walls, Panic Attack, The Root of All Evil

Rating: 7/10 Sacrificed Sons

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Holy Grail - Ride The Void (2013)

Since the release of the EP "Improper Burial" in 2009, I have been a real fan boy over Holy Grail. Their mix of traditional heavy metal, power and modern influences is just astonishing. And even though their first full-length album "Crisis In Utopia" did not deliver all the way I was still excited about this new release entitled "Ride The Void", a album that the band proclaimed to be darker and more metal influenced. Already a pretty good sign that this album would be great.

Now two songs from "Ride The Void" have already been presented and lyric videos have been made for both of them. The songs are the title track and "Dark Passenger". Out of the two I would say that "Dark Passenger" is the worse of the two because the riff is way too simple and it feels like the band is not unleashing their full potential here. Still a hooky song that I approve of even though too many listening sessions can make this song boring. The title track is a completely different story. The song is modern, epic and has great riffing and singing (James-Paul Luna is really on top this time around). So the band definitely set the bar high for themselves before the release of the album.

The album itself starts out with a pretty short instrumental piece called "Archeus" that eventually leads us to the first real song "Bestia Triumphans", A good and innovative song that has that mix of traditional and modern heavy metal that made Holy Grail to who they are today. And the solo is long but it does not become good until the second half of it. The first half is pretty sluggish. We also have "Bleeding Stone", a song that is showing the same weaknesses as many songs in "Crisis In Utopia" did. It is groovy and so but it feels like the band is holding something back or leaving out a part that should be in. If it is speed, a riff or something else I do not know but it is not a feeling that I want to have when I listen to music. I want to feel that the band went 100%  into every song, riff, beat and word. Thankfully, this is the only song I feel that the band only went around 80% on. The rest of the songs have a fully committed Holy Grail.

Out of the remaining songs there is 4 that is keeping my interest at its peak. "Too Decayed To Wait" is the power charger with its double bass and fast riffing but it still got some melody which is nice. "Crosswinds" is the most modern song in the album and it is a great song with fantastic melody and overall superb instrumental qualities. A song that you can not sit down to while you are listening. "Take It To The Grave" is probably the grooviest song on the album and with that beat it is impossible not to rock your head back and forth. And the last chorus of that song always gives me goosebumps. Just plainly awesome. Lastly we have "Rains of Sorrow", a smooth and soothing song that ends the album. A song that shows that the band also can handle the calmer version of metal and it also bring some variation to the album.

"Ride The Void" was everything that I hoped to be. True f***ing heavy metal without any complications or cheesiness. It is metal all the way baby. Holy Grail have made a fantastic album with power, melodies and catchy choruses that makes you just stand up and make a mosh pit. Besides from "Bleeding Stone" there is no song that is particularly weak. And even though "Ride The Void" is not completely perfect it is sure that it will be a album that I will bang my head to for a long time.

Songs worthy of recognition: Ride The Void, Crosswinds, Bestia Triumphans, Take It To The Grave, Rains of Sorrow

Rating: 9,5/10 Dark Passengers

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mutiny Within - Synchronicity (2013)

After a promising, but mediocre, self titled debut in 2010, Mutiny Within from Edison, New Jersey was a band that at least I thought was going to be a force to be reckoned with. A solid mix of melodic death metal, power metal and even some core was well enough for me to get interested. Unfortunately, the band took a one and a half year long hiatus starting in the beginning of 2011, an inappropriate hiatus that stopped the band from growing their fan base. But now the band is back with renewed strength and their second full-length release "Synchronicity". A album that I hoped would be an development of the predecessor and that it would keep the exciting, musical abilities.

The first thing I notice with this album is that the power that the debut showed is almost completely gone. Not even a hint of power in any of the song. That was one thing I loved with the last album, the power gave most of the songs another dimension and raised them higher. Without the power, the music became somewhat bland. Another thing I was missing was the intentions that I felt from the last album. They were gone and so were the excitement. Without those two elements, Mutiny Within sounded like a slightly better version of 30 Seconds To Mars, and no, that is not a compliment for Mutiny Within. Most of these songs feel forced and lacks originality which made every listening session, more or less, excruciating.

But there are some light in this otherwise dark tunnel. Some of the songs still shows a small sign of death metal and those are also the songs that stands out in "Synchronicity". Songs like "Falls To Pieces" and "Become" feels interesting and the bands cooperation is at its best on those songs. But the death metal does not get the lead role until the song "Machines" where the bands potential is really showing off, especially Chris Clancy is really making a great work here with his vocals. Such a shame that they did not make more of this kind of music on "Synchronicity". The last notable song in this record is also the best of them. "Life To Dust" has the best song structure, best vocal work and best chorus in this album. The only song that is even close to reaching as high as the best songs from the bands previous album.

Otherwise there are not much more in "Synchronicity" that is worthy of any notice. The whole experience is nothing more than a sigh followed by a "of well, it is okay I guess". "Synchronicity" is not glistening and it shows a side of the band that I would be more than happy to get away from. As in their debut, the intentions are there but the whole idea is far from perfect. So please come back when you have something interesting to show, otherwise it would probably be best if you would return to that hiatus.

Songs worthy of recognition: Life To Dust, Machines

Rating: 4,5/10 Signs

Friday, January 11, 2013

Dream Theater - Train of Thought (2003)

I always say that a band can never be legendary without expanding their horizons and not trying to evolve their music, something Dream Theater really did not try until this moment. "Train of Thought" is the bands seventh full-length release and is probably one of the most controversial releases Dream Theater has ever made since it is an album that is much darker and heavier than its predecessors. The band itself explained that they wanted to be exposed to another kind of metal fans and expanding their music further into the music universe. But did that mean that they left behind all the characteristics of what made them so great and abandoned their old fans? Well, not entirely but I would understand if a fan of the bands earlier works would think twice before listening to this album.

As stated before, this album is very much different from the rest of the albums in the Dream Theater catalog. We still got a lot of long, epic songs but most of the musicality is gone and is replaced by true strength powered by heavy riffs and a fast tempo. The regular Dream Theater sound is still there even though it is taking less space than usual.

The opener of "Train of Thought" is "As I Am", a very weird song even for Dream Theater.A heavy mid-tempo riff goes into a fast and groovy verse just to fall back to the mid-tempo sludge in the chorus. It takes some time to appreciate the song but it stands very clear that "As I Am" is one of the weakest opener in any Dream Theater album to date (competing with "New Millenium" from "Falling Into Infinity"). So not a great start for the heavier Dream Theater but the band shapes up instantly in "This Dying Soul" A great heavy and progressive song that is both exciting and groovy. But the most interesting part of this song is around 7:15. Is it just me or does that part sound like the Metallica song "Blackened"? You may say rip-off, I say that it was awesome.

The third song is "Endless Sacrifice", a great emotional track that gives me shivers every time that chorus is played. An to top it off it has a fast solo that shows of Petrucci's shredding abilities. Probably the song that showed the best mix between the early and the new Dream Theater. That good mix continues onto the next track, "Honor Thy Father". This track may not be as exciting and thrilling as "Endless Sacrifice" but it is still a groovy and heavy song that shows that the band is in an element they can control.

Now there is only one useless song on "Train of Thought" and, not surprisingly, it is the shortest song. "Vacant" is a slow and meaningless ballad that is just a filler. Actually, I think the only reason that "Vacant" is on here is to make this seventh album seven songs long. Fortunately, it is a small part of this album with its short playing time (2:58, almost five minutes shorter than the second shortest song). The last two songs on this album, "Stream of Consciousness" and "In The Name of God", are pretty pale against the rest of the songs on this album. Sure, they are good songs but they have their weaknesses. "Stream of Consciousness" is over ten minutes long, a little too long for a instrumental, and "In The Name of God" is epic and so but I do not think the solo is as good as it could have been. Such a shame for such a good track.

Controversial or not, I absolutely love this album. The fact that the band has baked in all these heavy elements into six tracks (plus one without any heaviness) is not only brilliant but a perfect way for the band to expand their music. "Train of Thought" is without a doubt the most unique album the band has made so far into their careers. But the new influences have its price. The lyrics and the settings are not as strong as in previous releases. Still, I find "Train of Thought" appealing and amusing. An album that any metal fan, progressive and heavy, should take a shoot at.

Songs Worthy of Recognition: This Dying Soul, Endless Sacrifice, Honor Thy Father

Rating: 8,5/10 Streams of Consciousness

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Black Veil Brides - Wretched And Divine: The Story of The Wild Ones (2013)

I know what you are thinking. Why the hell would I listen to this band? Well, I agree that Black Veil Brides image is pure shit but the music they make is actually not that horrible (but it is still not world class) and if you had the endurance to check on your right and read the description of myself you would know that I listen to anything in the rock industry. I even listen to some Fall Out Boy, Limp Bizkit and even two Nickelback songs (not proud of that though). So giving Black Veil Brides third full-length album a chance was pretty much natural for me, especially since I enjoyed their last album, "Set The World On Fire". I will not blame you for hating my choice of music and you do not have to read this review. So stop hating and read this review or f**k off.

Anyhow, "Wretched And Divine: The Story of The Wild Ones" tells the story displayed on the film "Legion of The Black", a movie that follows the rebel group The Wild Ones as they defend against the evil group F.E.A.R. So yeah, this could be considered as a concept album but it is not a very exciting concept. A classical big evil force against a underground rebel group that tries to create a revolution. Well you have not heard of that story before! (notice the sarcasm).

The band describes this album as Social Distortion meets Metallica, a comparison I am not willingly to agree on. I would say that this album is a mix between pop-rock and light-metal. Sort of like Papa Roach meets Avenged Sevenfold. A mix that screams mediocrity and it does not help that this album contains one of my favourite hate songs.The interludes. The reason why I hate them is because they are useless as individual songs. Why cannot bands bake them in together with the normal songs. I know I am being petty about it but I still hate those tracks. So according to me there are not 19 songs on this album, there are 13 songs.

The songs that is worthy of being labeled as songs on this album is overall okay but not astounding. Two of the characteristics that Black Veil Brides had on their two previous albums was punk-speed and some glistening guitar work, two characteristics I am missing from this record. The guitars are more or less anonymous and the attitude the band is showing is not convincing. The only time when the band is showing some what bad ass attitude is in "In The End", the only song with some shredding in it. Unfortunately, that is the last normal song in the album so the band is waking up way too late. The remaining songs are just completely bland and uninteresting with just minor interesting intentions ("Shadows Die", "Days Are Numbered" and "Wretched And Divine").

A boring concept, some uninspiring songs and some young guys with make-up. Yeah, that is how I would sum up "Wretched And Divine: The Story of The Wild Ones". There is nothing with this album that is innovative nor very interesting. So I would suggest to Black Veil Brides that they would take a minor brake on song writing and find a new direction in their music. A direction that is new, exciting and will take the band to the next level. Until then, the only song from Black Veil Brides I will listen to is "In The End", the only song that has some balls.

Songs worthy of recognition: In The End,  Wretched And Divine

Rating: 5/10 Devil's Choirs

Monday, January 7, 2013

Dream Theater - Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (2002)

With one of the best concept album made by any band behind them, Dream Theater went in to the 21st century as one of the biggest bands in progressive metal. But there was one problem. How would they top "Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory"? Well the band thought that the only way to follow up such a fantastic conceptual album is to write a bigger conceptual album. "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" is over one and a half hours long and extracts itself into two separate discs. Although there is only six songs on this albums the title track takes up one disc itself with a length of 42 minutes which makes this song the longest song the band has ever written. So yeah, this album is not for the weak listeners.

The overall concept of the first half of the album is the struggles we sometimes face in life which includes alcoholism, death, self-isolation and more. In the second disc, we get to follow the journeys of six individuals with different illnesses. I definitely dig the concept but I feel it is still a little weaker than the concept on "Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory". It just does not have the same dazzling strengths. Never the less it is still a concept worthy of digging deeper in to.

Out of the two discs I would say that the second disc is the stronger but the first disc has it moments. It starts of great with "The Glass Prison", a dazzling song that continues on where the last album ended (literally since "The Glass Prison" starts with the same roaring Noise that ended "Finally Free"). Such a great epic and a perfect way to kick of this album. The following song "Blind Faith" also makes a decent impression on me with a good structure and fine work on the keyboard by Jordan Rudess. But after that it goes somewhat downhill since no other song on the first disc holds the same standards. Do not get me wrong, the tracks 3-5 is no horrible songs but you will probably not be blown away by them. For instance, "Misunderstood" is overall a good song but it feels like some kind of a whining is going through. Also add a annoying ending that is completely useless. There are some good intentions in all these songs on disc 1 but no one (except "The Glass Prison") reaches all the way through.

So let us all jump in to the second disc instead. It is there the magic truly lies. And if you can not stand a song that reaches over 10 minutes then you will probably be pleased to hear that the title track is divided into 8 individual songs that together creates one of the meatiest songs known by man. Individually the songs differ from beautiful and spiritual slow-tempos songs ("Solitary Shell", "About To Crash") to more fast paced and technical metal ("War Inside My Head", "The Test That Stumped Them All"). A good mix of songs that makes the whole disc diverse and unpredictable. Just as we all want it to be. I think that the faster songs are the better parts of the title track since they really reflect on the struggles that the characters on the songs is experiencing. It is also on those song where the band is showing a great amount of skills.

A great overall concept but I am missing that true Dream Theater magic that we experienced on the bands greatest albums. The overall quality of the songs is lower than normal and I have a really hard time to enjoy this album completely. But I still think this is a valid effort from the band but with the quality Dream Theater possesses I know that they got an extra level or two to put in to their music.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Glass Prison, The Test That Stumped Them All, Blind Faith

Rating: 7/10 Solitary Shells

Friday, January 4, 2013

Tiamat - The Scarred People (2012)

2012 has been a great year for Gothic metal. Bands like Katatonia, Woods of Ypres and Gojira (Gojira is not completely Gothic but they have their tendencies to slip into the genre) have released some of the best albums in their carriers. But for some reason I totally missed out on another great Gothic release. "The Scarred People" by the Swedish band Tiamat was released in late October, a busy time in music every year. During that time I listened to new releases by Cradle of Filth, Parkway Drive, Kamelot, Cauldron and Geoff Tate (all albums also reviewed on this blog) but totally missed this great release from one of Sweden's finest metal bands. Well that is what late December and early January is for, looking back on the albums you have missed during the past year.

Anyhow, during the bands 23 year long carrier Tiamat has gone from being one of the bands that founded black metal to a more Gothic style of metal. Personally I am more fond of the later version of the band mostly because the music is more well composed and more emotional. It may not be very unique but the band is doing their music with such finesse that it works just great.

"The Scarred People" starts off in a great pace with the title track. A great epic that sets the bar very high for the coming songs. The mood and darkness is just delicious. A feeling that is preserved through the entire album. But something that not every song has is the same pace. Most of the songs in "The Scarred People" are cool, slow songs which is more Gothic but there may be one too many of them here. Fortunately, most of these songs are actually quite enjoyable like the bonus tracks "Born To Die" and "Paradise".

It is the more mid-paced songs that is stealing the show in this record. Besides the title track I also love "Love Terrorists" (note: I do not love terrorists) and "Thunder & Lightning". There is a groove in these songs that I am digging. But there is not all good on "The Scarred People". I got a hard time remembering most of the songs on this album mostly because they are either very anonymous or they are just plainly mediocre songs. Such a shame that there are quite a few songs like that cause this album had a huge potential.

Overall I like "The Scarred People" but it is not the strongest album from 2012 in the genre. It is a uneven album where the highs are like mount Everest and the lows are about half the depth of Grand Canyon. But I do not think the band should be dissapointed with this album. It is still an enjoyable album and the band is solid in their work. But I think they could have done a little better with this release.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Scarred People, Paradise, Love Terrorists

Rating: 7,5/10 Winter Dawns

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dream Theater - Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory (1999)

After the failing success of "Falling Into Infinity" the record company finally let the band be themselves and stopped pushing them to write more commercial material. So what would Dream Theater do with this opportunity? The band decided to go back and give the track "Metropolis - Part I "The Miracle And The Sleeper"" from "Images And Words" its awaited conclusion (even though there was no initial plans on having a second part. The Pt. 1 was actually more for jokes then a hint of what to come.).

"Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory" is set up like a movie or a play, in acts and scenes. Act 1 is the tracks 1-7 and Act 2 is track 8-12 and the scenes are the tracks themselves (note that scene 2, 3 and 7 contains two songs instead of one). I do not really know why they did divide the album in acts and scenes but I could not care less. It is the songs that matters. So let us get cracking shall we?

The album opens with a spoken word part that is probably trying to hypnotize you. Did not work on me but I still got tired from the first track "Regression". After the slow opener the tempo is raised in the second scene which contains the songs "Overture 1928" and "Strange Deja Vu". The first part is acting like some long intro to the second part which got me to think "Why did they not bake them together to one song". I mean, together they measures up to around 9 minutes which is nothing for a band like Dream Theater. Anyhow, scene two is groovy and melodic and when James LaBrie steps in the scene takes a more serious turn. A good start for the album if you ask me. The next scene is also divided into two songs which leads to a darker and sadder part of the album. At first I did not care for this particular scene but after a couple of listening sessions I have found myself enjoying this scene, especially the second half of "Fatal Tragedy" which is fast and challenging.

Next song is the first out of three that is over 10 minutes. "Beyond This Life" is great since it does not loose you during the long drive with its exciting riffs and astounding musicality. It has everything a good mastodon song should have. Some tempo shifting here and there, a edgy main riff and, of course, an irregular and unpredictable pattern. But "Beyond This Life" is not the best among the mastodon's. That throne goes to the oriental sounding song called "Home". It feels more epic and is one of the most intriguing songs Dream Theater has ever made. How about the third mastodon then? The last mastodon on this album is also the last song which is "Finally Free", a song that feels grand straight through the 12 minutes of playing time. A great epic and a perfect song to end this album and its concept. But the last 2 minutes felt a little weird for some reason (maybe cause the music stopped I don't know).

We also find two instrumentals on "Metropolis Pt. 2". I have already mentioned the first one ("Overture 1928") but it is the second one that is just fantastic. "The Dance of Eternity" is for me one of the best instrumentals ever made with its challenging rhythms and blistering usage of the instruments. There is not a dull moment on the entire song. And also ad that it is pretty unpredictable as well (for instance, in the middle there is some sort of western piano bar style music). A great recipe to make a world class instrumental. Also have to mention the emotional and spiritual "The Spirit Carries On". One of the best ballads the band have ever made.

There is so much to take in when you listen to this album but it is easy to see that this is a conceptual masterpiece. The story is interesting and the band does a great job telling it. And do not forget about the musicianship, which is some of the bands finest throughout their career. This is almost a perfect album but the problem is not that it lack something, it is that it almost contains to much of the good stuff. This album could have easily cut off some useless parts in some songs where they are taking their music a little too far. But who cares, this is a sweet album that every progressive metal fan should have on its shelf.

Songs worthy of recognition: Home, The Dance of Eternity, Strange Deja Vu, Finally Free

Rating: 9,5/10 Fatal Tragedies