Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hypocrisy - End of Disclosure (2013)

To say that Peter Tägtgren is one of the busiest men in metal is an understatement. When the Swede is not mixing or producing an album he is playing in two bands. The industrial Pain and the more melodic death metal oriented Hypocrisy. "End of Disclosure" is the 12th installment from Hypocrisy and with four years since the last album, "A Taste of Extreme Divinity", makes "End of Disclosure" the album in the Hypocrisy discography that has had the longest time to be made.

The first thing you take notice with "End of Disclosure" is the grand and pompous sound that lays as a ground for the heavy and dark music that Hypocrisy stand for. It is more epic music that is brought to the table which means that everyone in the band have to bring their A-game to make the best out of this album. So does Hypocrisy perform as masterly as the album demands? I find some times that the drums disappears behind the big guitar sound but overall it is a great performance by Hypocrisy. The timing is great, the guitar is doing splendidly and Peter's dark voice is perfect as always. So no complaints on the performance department.

When it comes to the song material however, it is just simply extraordinary. Most of the songs in "End of Disclosure" holds a high standard straight through and there is a red line through the entire album (except maybe for the fast "Living Dead" that sounds like a Pain song in death metal clothing). But there are songs that stands out from the pack. "The Eye" impresses with a strong chorus and a glistening guitar work while "United We Fall" takes a more aggressive approach with slamming drums and a more apocalyptic sound. Then we also have the title track that shines with its epicness but lacks a lasting punch that is needed for a opener.

No bad song anywhere in sight but I feel that the song "Hell Is Where I Stay" could have been a little more melodical and that the chorus of "44 Double Zero" could have been more memorable if the band had laid in more heaviness into it. But I am not going to bitch about it since there is no song in "End of Disclosure" that Peter Tägtgren and the rest of the band should be ashamed of. All the 10 songs creates a very solid and stable record that is probably the best album that Peter has made since Pain's "Cynic Paradise" that was released in 2008.

In the end, "End of Disclosure" is a highly enjoyable album that is worthy the standard that Mr. Tägtgren has set since he started Hypocrisy in 1990 but I could wish for at least one or two songs that would make a big impact on me. But it is the whole picture that matters and "End of Disclosure" is a grand and proud picture that should make most of the death metal fans very pleased.

Songs worthy of recognition: United We Fall, The Eye, Living Dead

Rating: 8/10 Soldiers of Fortune

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Movie review: The ABCs of Death

The idea of putting together 26 horror stories from 26 different directors into one 2 hour long movie is a brave, but risky decision. The movie gains a bigger chance to be jerky and uneven when you get thrown from one place into another. So when I first heard about "The ABCs of Death", I imagined that it would either be a successful concept that would show that there is a lot of unknown talent out there or that the movie would be one complete mess. Either way I was excited to see what these director had cooked up for us.

There is no straight story line in this movie but still, spoiler alerts from here on.

While there is no straight plot in "The ABCs of Death", the movie keeps a red wire through the alphabet. Every director has been given a letter and made a short film about a word that begins with that letter. This leads us to a cavalcade of blood, gore, nudity, animation, mystery and comedy. And we have directors from all over the world. From Spain and England to Japan and Canada.

Now most of these shorts are suffering from the fact that they are short. Making a good horror story that lasts for only around five minutes is challenging but when a director succeeds with the task the short becomes better than most of the famous horror movies that is coming out now a days. One of my favourites are "Q is for Quack" where two directors is arguing on what they should do with their letter and ultimately comes up with the idea of shooting a real duck. After that the first director backed out of the shooting the second director does the attempt but the gun is jammed. While trying to fix it, he accidentally shoots the other director, who then accidentally shoots the first director, leaving the camera man and the duck left standing. "Q is for Quack" is fun and I like how they cooperate themselves in the film. Good show. Another favourite is "T is for Toilet" made by Lee Hardcastle who got in this movie through a competition. He uses clay stop motion technique and his story about a scared boy who tries to use the "big boy" potty is really fun and well made.

There is really nothing in "The ABCs of Death" that gives me nightmares but "X is for XXL" is the closest with its story about a fat woman who gets harassed all day and finally decides to loose some weight. What is hear method? Cutting of bits of flesh with a kitchen knife. The last look of her stepping out of the bathtub is the most horrific scene in the entire movie. No there are more funny moments than scary moments. Stories like "J is for Jidai-geki" and "N is for Nuptials" makes me burst out in laughter.

Then we also have the disgusting stories. In "L is for Libido", we get to encounter with a guy who is in a bit of a predicament. He has to masturbate and ejaculate before another gentleman otherwise he will get a large metal spike up his ass and through his body. I was this close [showing small space between thumb and index finger] to throw up and jump to the next story. It was just sick. Then we also have "F is for Fart" where a Japanese school girl (in a typical Japanese school girl outfit) smells her female teachers fart only to get sucked in a smelly, disgusting doom (while making out with said teacher). A perfect story for those of you who have that kind of fetish but not for me. And speaking of fetish, "H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion" is perfect for those of you who are weak for furries. But unlike the two previously mentioned stories, I actually enjoyed this one with its cartoony humour.

Finally, we have the bad shorts. "W is for WTF" is just plain WTF. They try to do like the guys in "Q is for Quack" did but it ends up in a big bowl of random shit. Then we have "G is for Gravity" where absolutely nothing happens. A guy rides to the beach, takes out his surfing board, swims out to surf then drowns. Even I can write better story lines then that. And finally we have "M is for Miscarriage" where a woman is taking a shit but the shit is a unborn fetus who then clogs up the toilet. Both disgusting and boring.

The overall quality in "The ABCs of Death" is not that great and the fact that you get thrown into a new story every five minutes or so gives you no room what so ever to reflect over what you just witnessed. So if you are looking for a movie that will scare your pants of then "The ABCs of Death" is not the right choice but if you are curious of seeing underground horror directors work then watch this movie, go on the Internet and search what more films they have done and then watch them. That is the only advantage I see with "The ABCs of Death", a stepping stone for new, unknown movie makers.

Stories worthy of recognition: Q is for Quack, N is for Nuptials, T is for Toilet, Y is for Youngbuck

Stories not worthy of recognition: F is for Fart, G is for Gravity, L is for Libido, M is for Miscarriage, W is for WTF

Rating: 4/10 Dogfights

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Clutch - Earth Rocker (2013)

Have you ever felt the feeling that a album is so groovy and delicious that your mind is completely empty afterwards? Only a few albums can create such a feeling and the newest instalment from the Germantown, Maryland quartet Clutch is one of those albums. "Earth Rocker" is the tenth album from Clutch and it contains 11 tracks filled with groovy rhythms, addictive beats and psychedelic emotions. And it is no surprise that Clutch had the capability to create this sort of album. During the 20+ years that the band has been active they have released several high quality records and "Earth Rocker" is just one of those albums.

Starting in a furious tempo with the title track, Clutch is putting the pedal to the metal instantly with groovy riffs and a laugh so evil and insane that not even Dr. Evil could do it better. An instant proof that Clutch do not know what limit is 'cause they have none. The grooviness continues in "Crucial Velocity", a song that swishes through like a formula 1 car and keeps it momentum even in the tightest of turns. After another groovy, but short, assault in Mr. Freedom, the album is taking a more blues oriented route in "DC Sound Attack". Not one of my favourite songs from "Earth Rocker" but I will say that the harmonica and the cowbell is doing a great job on this tune.

Clutch is then going back to full speed with the powerful "Unto The Breach" that is like a bitch slap to the face made by a groovy stutter. You just cannot sit still while "Unto the Breach" blasts through the speakers. M-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-magnificent. Then suddenly I am being transfered to a small, dark jazz basement in New Orleans. "Gone Cold" is the song that stands out the most on "Earth Rocker" but it stands out for the wrong reasons. The rest of "Earth Rocker" is groovy and rocks your world and I can agree on that a small break could be nice but "Gone Cold" is taking it way too far.

After that unnecessary break, the album is going slower but still keeps a valuable momentum. Songs like "Oh, Isabella" and "Book, Saddle And Go" is showing that Clutch also masters the slow groove to a high enough degree. Only time that Clutch is accelerating is in the excellent and Wolfmother reminding "Cyborg Bette". This variation ultimately leads to a great experience and a album that grows with every listen. And to feel that the band is playing every note with such passion and care just makes me smile a lot. The muscicianship is great and the drumming is especially awesome

So in conclusion, if you are searching for a album this year that can make even the dullest moments fun or if you are looking for a album that could enhance the effect of LSD or Ecstasy then "Earth Rocker" is up for the job. Clutch is once again hitting all the right buttons and this time is the songwriting on top and the band is performing like clockwork. And even better, this album grows for every listening session. So with the risk of being a spoiler then I would say that "Earth Rocker" will be at the top of the list when this year is over. It may not be a perfect album but "Earth Rocker" is just that kind of album that is so great that you do not care about your surroundings, you just have to listen or some life's will be taken. And just like the Wolf Man, I kindly request this album.

Songs worthy of recognition: Unto The Breach, Earth Rocker, Crucial Velocity, Cyborg Bette, "Book, Saddle And Go"

Rating: 9,5/10 Sound Attacks

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Amaranthe - The Nexus (2013)

It was no high odds that the Swedish/Danish collaboration Amaranthe would be a huge commercial success. With their self titled debut released in 2011 they conquered the world with their symphonic pop metal. I have during the two years since that album been a little two sided about Amaranthe. I love this kind of music and I think the triple vocal harmonies works like a charm but the debut is a lot of the same thing. So I really hoped that the band would show a little more variation in their sophomore album entitled "The Nexus" (nexus is Latin for connection).

If you did not like Amaranthe's debut then you will most likely not enjoy "The Nexus". The similarities between the albums are clearly visible and they are many. Just like in "Amaranthe", we get spoiled with screams, electronica, blasting drum beats and choruses so commercially attractive and sweet that it makes sugar taste sour. So what happened to the variation? I wonder that too. If you have no variation then it does not matter if you have written 14 similar, amazing songs. The band does have skills and the song writing is great but I wished that they tried to develop their music instead of going on routine. The only thing that right now is keeping me from stop listening to "The Nexus" is the fantastic musicianship, especially the vocal segment. Andy Solveström brings much needed heaviness to the band, Jake E Berg is doing a solid work on the clean vocals and Elize Ryd proves once again that she is one of the strongest female singers out there.

But even if the variation is below acceptable I still think that most of the songs hold a class that is acceptable and could have gotten more appreciation if it was put together with another album with variation. It is after the three first songs when the album really lifts. When "Theory of Everything" enters the stage I get struck by Amaranthe's true potential. "Theory of Everything" has that perfect balance between catchiness, epicness and power. I felt the same for "1.000.00 Lightyears" and that song was the best out of the previous album. After "Theory of Everything" the band continues on the right track with the futuristic and beautiful "Stardust", the strong and moving ballad "Burn With Me" and the powerful "Future On Hold". Also a small shout out to the title track and "Razorblade", two tracks that is easily enjoyable as well.

Unfortunately, the three ending songs are no pleasure at all, especially the horrific "Electroheart" who mixes 90's pop and disco beats to make a horrible leech that infiltrates your brain and never leaves na na electroheart... GAH I even write that shit!!! The other two songs, "Transhuman" and "Infinity", are not nearly as horrible but nor are they the strongest songs in the pack.

This was a hard album to rate. One side of me wants to give "The Nexus" a high rating for its great craftsmanship, clean production and the catchy melodies while the other side of me wants to give a low rating for the lack of variation and the horrible 90's pop song "Electroheart". But in the end I gave the album this rating for even if "The Nexus" is another proof that Amaranthe is here on the top to stay I find this album more of a deja vu feeling than a great new album. I still think that "The Nexus" is a good album and it is a small step forward for the band but it is not enough for me to put "The Nexus" at the highest of peaks.

Songs worthy of recognition: Theory of Everything, Future On Hold, Burn With Me

Rating: 7/10 Razorblades

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lost Society - Fast Loud Death (2013)

Finland is not well known for its thrash metal legacy but out of nowhere comes the confident quartet Lost Society. Originating from Jyväskylä in central Finland, the band is coming at you with classic old school "play as fast as we can while still having a comical side"-thrash in their debut album "Fast Loud Death". 13 songs filled with adrenaline pumping and mosh pit friendly thrash metal landing in on around 35 minutes should make sure to get that approval from every old school fans.

One important ingredient in this type of music is the attitude and self confidence, two attributes that Lost Society has more than enough of. the band is blasting through the album in a great way and the instrumentality are spot on. I could have wished that the bass was more prominent but the overall production is still great (no wonder since this band is signed by Nuclear Blast, my favourite music label).

If we look more closely to the material in "Fast Loud Death" I feel that the maturity level on this album is pretty low. With titles like "Piss Out My Ass" and "Bitch, Out' My Way" the band is more likely to be taken as a big joke than seriously. Sure, the band members are young and most bands in this genre has some immature humour in their lyrics as well but this is a little more than most can handle in one album. But if we put the lyrics aside and instead look into the music itself then you will most likely be struck with brilliance. The music is fast and it makes your head move through instinct. And together with the band's youthful spirit, there is a big chance that you will enjoy "Fast Loud Death".

Unfortunately, as usual with bands like Lost Society, the song are way too short to be really appreciated. Songs like "Toxic Avenger" and "KILL (Those Who Oppose Me)" are good creations but the short length is a real handicap. Before you know it, the song is over and the next one is playing. Fortunately, it is the longer songs that rules the album. One of the few 3+ minutes songs are "Thrash All Over You" that is charging you with great guitar playing and furious drum beats. Then add that the band is backing up Sammy Elbanna's voice perfectly and we have our self a great thrash song. Other tracks that is impressing with its shredding abilities are "Bitch Out' My Way", "Braindead Metalhead" and the title track.

One big advantage that "Fast Loud Death" possesses is that the album does not get boring, an attribute that way to many albums in this genre has. Yeah sure it is 70% speed and 30% guitar show off through the album but the variety Lost Society is showing is astounding. In "Lead through The Head" the band is shifting down a couple of gears to bring forth a straight forward chorus that fits well with the rest of the song and "Escape From Delirium" has some small punk influences that surprises.

So far I have listened to around 10 debut albums this year and as usual it has been ups and downs but the overall strength of the newcomers this year is surprisingly high and Lost society is just another band in the row that is showing that 2013 will be the year of the newbies. "Fast Loud Death" is a really fun listen with some great craftsmanship and a killer singing performance. There is no doubt that Lost Society has a future in the music industry and with the signing of Nuclear Blast I think they could be the next big thing in thrash. The band just have to gain some experience to wash of the immaturity in the lyrics department but that will come in time. These guys is bringing retro-thrash into the 21st century in big style.

Songs worthy of recognition: Lead Through The Head, Braindead Metalhead Thrash All Over You, Bitch Out' My Way

Rating: 9/10 Toxic Avengers

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Iron Maiden - Killers (1981)

They say that the second album is the hardest, especially when your band have done a fantastic debut album. So when Iron Maiden tackled the mission with writing their sophomore album "Killers" I think everyone in 1981 that had heard the band's debut hoped for another killer album. But since this album was released more than ten years before I was born I have no idea what the metal community's expectations was so let us put those thought aside and instead focus on the album.

"Killers" is very much alike its predecessor. It is fast, has some progressive intentions, has a instrumental track ("Genghis Khan") and a rough, but still great, production. The only real difference I can find  between "Iron Maiden" and "Killers" is that "Killers" does not have any song that would be considered a hit. "Iron Maiden" has "Running Free" and "Phantom of The Opera" but "Killers" does not have songs that has that immediate striking force. The two songs that are closest is the catchy opener "Wrathchild" and the edgy title track but they do not reach all the way to be instant hits. They are still two of my favourite songs in the album but they are not single material.

One advantage with the missing of a hit is that the album seems more consistent and whole. I find several songs in "Killers" that hold a really high class when it comes to both musicality and structure. One of the songs that holds the highest standard is "Murders In The Rue Morgue" with its great balance of speed, musicality and lyrical excellence. Other noticeable songs are the fast "Another Life", the instrumental "Genghis Khan" that gives a small hint on Maidens future, the head banging friendly "Purgatory" and the bonus track "Twilight Zone" where Paul Di'Anno sings out some of his best vocal register.

But not all songs hold "Killers" up on its toes. I find "Innocent Exile" fun but a little too repetitive for my taste and "Prodigal Son" sounds more like a mix up between Dream Theater and Rush then a Iron Maiden tune. It is these two tracks that ultimately puts "Killers" below "Iron Maiden". I find that "Iron Maiden" has more character and edge while "Killers" has its consistency and improved musicality. But when it comes to the performance I find the two albums evenly matched. The band is tight and Paul sings as good as he can but I am happy that he was kicked out of the band before the third album since I think that Paul does not have all the attributes to unleash the ultimate potential of Iron Maiden.

Ultimately I find "Killers" to be a worthy follow up to the successful debut album "Iron Maiden" but it is not a step forward for the band. "Killers" has a better consistency but the real overall edge is missing and the memorable factor is weak. "Killers" is a good album that is definitely worth a check or two but it is not one of the bands absolute highlights.

Songs worthy of recognition: Killers, Murders In The Rue Morgue, Purgatory

Rating: 7,5/10 Twilight Zones

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book review: Trust me, I'm Dr Ozzy - Advice from Rock´s Ultimate Survivor

Disclaimer: I am Swedish so I have read a translated version of this book. Even though I do not think there is much difference in the Swedish and the original version but I still think it should be noted.

Even though it is an all known fact that heavy metal legend Ozzy Osbourne should have been layed down in a coffin and buried under ground many years ago because of his lifestyle I still could not believe that he got his own column in the English magazine Sunday Times where he would answer questions about people's love life, illness, drug habits, exercise, diets etcetera. He may be a hell of a survivor but was it really a good idea to let him answer questions that only a fully licensed doctor should hear? Apparently, Ozzy had the same thoughts going through his head when he got asked to be a part in this column. But I had to admit that after reading this book, that samples some of the craziest, most common and weirdest questions The Prince of Darkness have received, that Ozzy knows what he is talking about.

The book consists of 12 chapters that answers almost any medical question that you could imagine. From how to cure a common cold and what is the best way to loose some weight to why am I getting bruises from excessive headbanging and if masturbation is good for your prostate. In other words, if you have a weird symptom or question then this book will probably already have the answer you need. But seriously, this book is mostly for those of you who search for random medical facts and a good laugh once in a while. If you are sick, contact a doctor (you do not believe me? The book gives the exact same advice as I did).

Even though Ozzy is not a real doctor he still has several useful advice, especially when it comes to the psychological questions like how to quit smoking or to deal with the death of a loved one. But the best part with Ozzy is that he knows when to be dead serious or when to just troll the people. An example is a gentleman who has constant pain in the feet after a long working day and wonders why he has it and if you can cure it. What was Ozzy's respond? Learn to walk on your hands. Genius!!! And in most of the answers Ozzy gives he also shares a little personal anecdote of a similar experience which is both fun and interesting.

You think just reading questions and answers are a (more) boring way to read? Well luckily this book has more elements that gives some much needed variation from the Q and A's. At the end of every episode we get challenged with a quiz of the subject in the chapter. The questions are a lot like Ripley's Believe It Or Not. Weird ass questions with even weirder ass answers. Here is just one of the weird questions. A dentist in North Carolina was accused of injecting what in his patients mouths? Is it A) LSD, B) His own semen or C) A home made anesthetic gel made by dog liver? Of course I am not going to give you the answer but this is just one example of these crazy questions. Another part in the book that is also interesting is Ozzy's astonishing medical curiosities and Ozzy's inconceivably useful tips.

The book is just under 300 pages long and it is a perfect book to take along on a vacation or a car ride (not while driving obviously). The anecdotes and the random facts helps the book to become a very pleasant and fun reading and most of the tips from The Prince of Darkness could probably be very useful depending on the issue and situation. But as stated in the book, go to a doctor for some real medical consulting. The only thing in the book that will give you a longer life is the laughing that comes from it.

Rating: 8,5/10 Bats

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kongh - Sole Creation (2013)

Is it just me or is four songs not enough for a full album? Well if you ask the Swedish doom/sludge metal band Kongh then they would say that four songs is enough. I am not going to bitch about the play time (44:44) but even if the songs are about ten minutes long I expect at very least six songs. Other wise you can call your so called album an EP.

Anyhow, Kongh has its origins in Nässjö, Småland and consists only by drummer Tomas Salonen and multi instrumentalist David Johansson. "Sole Creation" is the third album from the band and just as you would expect from a band in the doom/sludge metal genre, we are dealing with heavy song that are slow and dark. But the thing in Kongh's music that is standing out is the impressive guitar work that never sounds to powerful nor to quiet. But there is one problem I always seem to find whenever I listen to stoner metal and that is that the mellow sound can make me impatient since it takes some time before something changes in a song. And when the songs here are over ten minutes I get the urge to fast forward to a more exiting spot. It is this characteristic in me that is the main reason to why I do not listen to much music in this genre but from time to time I try to expand my horizons and listen to this genre for example.

Out of the four songs I would say that "The Portals" is the song that appeals me the most since there is something happening through the entire song. Especially like the guitars and David's vocals on this particular track. The other three songs ("Sole Creation", "Tamed Brute" and "Skymning" (Swedish for twilight)) have their own special charm but they do not impress enough to make a long lasting impression on me. They all have at least one part that is so slow that I fall asleep which definitely ruins the experience for me. The main problem with "Sole Creation" is that it does not keep my interest, it just shows some greatness from time to time but it does not hold a consistent standard throughout the album which ultimately leads to that my attention is focused else where. And no, I do not suffer from ADD if you are wondering that.

You probably will like this album more than me if you are into doom and stoner metal but "Sole Creation" is just not my cup of tea. It is still a listenable album and I have heard far worse stoner albums in my days but the fact that the songs are as slow as a Sunday driver and have the typical length of a Dream Theater song makes me fall asleep before the end of the album. I will still listen to at least a couple of albums a year in the stoner genre in case I actually find something that I like but this album is not the chosen one for me. Sorry stoner lovers but "Sole Creation" is not an album that is memorable to me.

Song worthy of recognition: The Portals

Rating: 5/10 Tamed Brutes

Friday, March 8, 2013

Saxon - Sacrifice (2013)

You would think that after almost forty years and twenty full-length album that a band like Saxon would know what they are doing... and they do. After Motörhead, I feel that Saxon is the most stable British metal act that still is active today. I have at least not found a single bad album in Saxon's discography yet (have not checked through the whole discography, will do that some day) and their last offering, "Call To Arms", was a surprisingly heavy and strong assault that really got me into the band. So naturally, I expected no less from "Sacrifice".

As always, there is very little that separates Saxons albums apart from each other but I feel that "Sacrifice" has a little hint European power metal in it which is a nice clean touch and it does not take away too much of the band's original sound. But something that surprised me was the big variation in the lyrics. We have songs about bravery and fighting spirit ("Stand Up And Fight"),the tragic fate of Titanic ("Made In Belfast"), the thrill and excitement in racing ("Warriors of The Road") and, I cannot believe I am saying this, a song about standing and waiting in a line ("Standing In A Queue"). How the hell would anyone write a song about one of the most boring things you can do in your life? And I know what you are thinking, is the music in "Standing In A Queue" at least decent? I wish I could answer anything else but no but I cannot lie to you readers, the song is as boring as... well, standing in a queue. The only up side of that song is the guitar part that felt relatively fresh.

But besides of  that unnecessary closure song I would say that the rest of "Sacrifice" is holding a good standard. Some of my favourites are the fast and highly intoxicating "Warriors of The Road", the mystical and epic "Guardians of The Tomb" and the heavy and rifftastic title track. Then add the fact that the band is as good on their instruments as they always have been and we get a really enjoyable bunch of tracks. Even the iconic singer Biff Byford has a voice that is making him ten years younger. It is definitely good to see that these old men still has the mind and strength of young boys that is ready to take over the world.

One downside with "Sacrifice" is that it initially seems like a strong and fast album that could be a future classic. But after a couple of listening session I loose that feeling and the empty space fills in with a sense of that the band is just going on routine and do not care to work on the songs out to full extent.

So yeah, the durability is a big issue for "Sacrifice" but it is still a worthy listen for all of you who enjoys classic British heavy metal and for those of you that are more laid towards the European power metal scene, I would suggest that you gave "Sacrifice" a slow but steady try. This album may lack a long lasting punch but it still stands as a proof that Saxon is still going strong even after reaching that magical 20th album mark. Continue the good work lads.

Songs worthy of recognition: Guardians of The Tomb, Warriors of The Road, Sacrifice

Rating: 7/10 Wheels of Terror

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Iron Maiden - S/T (1980)

One of the biggest bands that has ever stepped a foot on this earth is without a doubt British heavy metal band Iron Maiden. In over thirty years the band has created timeless music that has influenced more than thousand of bands around the world and it is hard to believe that these legends have also been beginners in the business one time. Iron Maiden's self titled debut came in 1980 and consisted of still existing members Steve Harris on bass and Dave Murray on guitar. The rest of the band was Paul Di'Anno on vocals, Clive Burr on drums and Dennis Stratton on guitar.

In several interviews, Steve Harris has said that he, and the rest of the band, hates punk and that Iron Maiden has nothing to do with this fowl genre. I agree on that punk is the ugliest kind of rock originating from the 70's and 80's but the fact that Iron Maiden does not have anything in common with it is, according to me, completely wrong. You can clearly hear small intentions to punk in several songs in this album. One of the clearest signs is the title track that has the typical punk speed but also contains a technical guitar work, something that you do not see in any known punk song.

But this album is, fortunately, not punk. It is rough NWOBHM with some complexity and progressive influences and it is when the progressive influences emerge from the dark that the album really hits its high point. The tip of the iceberg is the magnificent epic "Phantom of The Opera" that shines with its many tempo shiftings and awesome musicality. Hell, even Paul Di'Anno is doing a great job here and I am not even a fan of his work in Maiden (I do not say he is bad, I only mean that his vocal range does not really fit in the band). I have also always wondered if this song could be cooperated into the show with the same name. That would probably be cool as hell.

But one song does not make an album and so is of course the case with "Iron Maiden". Some parts of the album contains speedy songs with hooky riffs and a memorable chorus. One perfect example of that is "Running Free", a great song for all of you who enjoy to sing-a-long. Other songs that is showing some muscles is the sluggish but still intoxicating "Prowler", the initially soothing "Remember Tomorrow" that later kicks of with a fast ass solo. And let us not also forget the riff filled instrumental "Transylvania", a type of song I wished Iron Maiden would do more frequently (only made three instrumentals during their entire carrier).

I got to say this is pretty solid and good for a debut album. The production is rough and some songs could have been polished up a bit too but there is overall no real holes in this album. The only complaint I could have is the short play time (another punk resemblance he he) but it does not bother me that much. And even though the album is solid, it is still just under world class because I feel that Paul Di'Anno is not fitting into the band very well. He is missing that extra level in his voice that is necessary for the band. None the less, this self-titled debut is a great album that is worthy of a listen or two... or a hundred.

Songs worthy of recognition: Phantom of The Opera, Iron Maiden, Running Free, Remember Tomorrow

Rating: 8,5/10 Prowlers

Monday, March 4, 2013

Soilwork - The Living Infinite (2013)

"The first double album in the history of melodic death metal". That is the slogan for the ninth full-length album of Soilwork entitled "The Living Infinite" and it stands clear that Soilwork is raising the bar extremely high with this giant of an album. Twenty songs in 84 minutes makes this one of the meatiest albums in modern age.

My own experience with Soilwork is that folk in the metal community either love them or hate them. I myself definitely like them but I am after all Swedish and I have grown up with this melodic death metal sound. But I can agree on that Soilwork has seen its better days but they still flinch here and there with some great tunes (for instance, "Deliverance Is Mine" from the last album, "The Panic Broadcast").

Soilwork has had its highs and lows but one thing that is consistent with the band is Björn "Speed" Strid's great vocal work. He weighs up both the clean and harsh vocals to a perfect amount in every song and his repertoire of both the styles is amazing. I would not say he is one of the best singers in metal but he is one of the most skilled and professional vocalist in the community. The rest of the band is also very skilled and especially the double guitar assault signed Sylvian Coudret and David Andersson (his first album with Soilwork) is impressive with the rich amount of exciting riffs and killer solos. But let us now talk about "The Living Infinite" and just like the album, I will split it into two parts.

Disc 1

The first disc starts off in a furious tempo with "Spectrum of Eternity", a song that should please old Soilwork fans. The opening scream and blast beats gives you an immediate adrenaline rush that only wild headbanging can cure. A perfect way to start of this disc. The rest of the songs are not nearly as heavy as "Spectrum of Eternity" (With the exception of "Let the First Wave Rise") but most of the songs weighs it up with some great melodic abilities like in "This Momentary Bliss" and "Realm of The Wasted". However other songs like "Tongue" and Vesta" takes your mind towards bands like Killswitch Engage which does not feel entirely wrong but it is a little unpleasant. The overall variation on the first disc is good and it gets better with the atmospheric songs "The Windswept Mercy" and "Whispers And Lights". A good way to round of the first disc.

Disc 2

The big difference between disc 1 and 2 is that disc 2 is a little more progressive than the first disc. Songs like "Leech" and "Antidotes In Passing" reminds me of something Devin Townsend would do. Good songs but it does not quite feel like Soilwork to me. Disc 2 is contains without a doubt more of the newer Soilwork. The music does not get heavy until the end of the disc starting with the short but interesting instrumental "Loyal Shadow" followed up by "Rise Above The Sentiment" that has the most beautiful chorus the band has ever made but also a great melodic guitar solo. One of my personal favourites in the album. But the heaviness is definitely showing its ugly face in "Parasite Blues". Almost everything in this song is perfect. The groovy drum beat, the epic chorus and the amazing guitar work. I only wished that the solo could have been a little more complex but it does not matter since the song still kicks ass with the existing solo.

If we compare the disc against each other I would say that it is a very close call but the first disc wins it. But I would advice you to give both disc a listen since they are surprisingly even together, something that is really hard to accomplish in an album that has this many songs. Sure there are a few fillers here and there but they are a very small minority and the overall standard of "The Living Infinite" is much higher than I anticipated.

I am pretty sure that if you are against Soilwork and their current sound then you probably will not scream hooray for "The Living Infinite" but if you are like me and actually like the 21st century Soilwork then you will, just like me, take this double album with open arms and hug it. It is hard to make twenty songs without cutting corners and I find a couple of fillers but "The Living Infinite" exceeds the expectations and delivers an assault of twenty songs that does not get boring anywhere along the way. This is definitely the best album Soilwork has made in more than five years and it is a proof that the band is not done yet with their heavy roots (even if those roots still hangs out mostly in the background). Double album = double joy.

Songs worthy of recognition: Parasite Blues, Spectrum of Eternity, Rise Above The Sentiment, Whispers And Lights

Rating: 8/10 Tongues

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Lordi - To Beast Or Not To Beast (2013)

To say that the time after the victory in The Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 has been a nightmare for the Finnish monster band Lordi is an understatement. Do not get me wrong, I loved "Hard Rock Hallelujah" and I was stoked when they won the competition (the first victory ever for Finland by the way) but the attention the band got after the win has been bad for the band. The two following albums, "Deadache" and "Babez For Breakfast", was just awful and I and many others lost all respect for the band. I still cannot look into a Lordi album without questioning myself if the band is ridiculous or just acts that way. For example, the video to their latest single "The Riff" is a hot model wearing high heels, a busty corset and panties in a convenient store being chased by brain hungry zombies. The model made me horny but the ridiculousness in that video was just... well, ridiculous. A big fucking joke.

But how about "The Riff"? "The Riff" is easily the best single the band has released since "Hard Rock Hallelujah" and the story about the devil and his band is both fun and interesting. The song itself is groovy and edgy but it also has one of the coolest text lines in 2013 so far (that also explains the bands journey after ESC pretty well).

"So the devil's out of touch / and he cannot smell a hit / 'cause he has lost his mind / in all that Hip-Hop shit".

Lordi humour at its best.

The big difference that Lordi has brought forward since the last album is a new born attitude that is a good mix of horror and cockiness, an attitude that is very crucial for the band's performance. The adrenaline starts pumping when you hear Lordi's self confident in "We're Not Bad For The Kids (We're Worse)" and "I'm The Best". And with that self confident also comes a better imagination, a ingredient that the band missed in the last two albums. For instance, the band is trying their best to impersonate a hockey quire in "I Luv Ugly", an attempt that gives the song a much needed lift.

But after around half of the album we really get to know Lordi by their true colors. In "Horrifiction" we get references from every famous horror movie together with a riff that fits better in "No One Like You" by Scorpions. Then we also have the way too groovy "Happy New Fear" that has a fucking awesome intro but the song is completely ruined as soon as the wimpy chorus kicks in. But the worst song is "Candy For The Cannibal". I dig the concept and the lyrics but is it really necessary to stutter out the chorus? That part drives me c-c-crazy and it is giving me a r-r-rash. Not even that great guitar solo could save this song. Such a shame. If you should listen to one track from the latter half then "Schizo Doll" is the obvious choice with its good keyboard work and frightening children quire. If Chucky from Child's Play ever had a own theme song then this would be it.

So do I chose to beast or not? I actually chose the first alternative but that is only 'cause of the fact that "To Beast Or Not To Beast" is the best album since "The Arockalypse". It is good old Lordi all the way through and the craftsmanship in this album is not too shabby but it is still Lordi and it gets a little too goofy from time to time. I still hold other monster bands like Slipknot, Mushroomhead and GWAR higher but Lordi will always have a place in my playlist. After all, it is hard to say no to monsters that comes from Santa's home town Rovaniemi.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Riff, I Luv Ugly, Schizo Doll

Rating: 7/10 Horrifictions

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Rockford Heroes - Edge of The Silverthorn (2013)

Now I was not meant to do this review in the first place. Why? Well it is pretty easy, the Swedish quartet The Rockford Heroes have insisted to only release short EPs in a pretty high rate. But when the band discovered that the songs they made for an upcoming EP fitted well with the songs from "The White EP", they decided to create this album entitled "Edge of The Silverthorn". The Rockford Heroes consists of Jonas Arvidsson on guitar, Dan Hultstrand on vocals, Marcus Johansson on drums and Eric Carlsson on bass. The band makes mostly classic 80's hard rock but the band has great variation in both sound and influences. Or what do you say about Iron Maiden, System of A Down, Styx, My Chemical Romance and Edguy with many more.

"Edge of The Silverthorn" starts of with "No Reason To Believe", a song that simply screams 80's hard rock. With its vocal harmonies, screeching guitar and tinkling keyboard, this song is a perfect album opener and you can tell that the band has put a lot of hard work into the music. In the next song, "The Day of Return", the band is changing to a slightly faster pace and the guitar plays a heavier set of riffs but the song is still melodic and has a power created by the awesome vocal work.

A good 80's record would not be complete without the mandatory rock ballad and "Forever" is doing a good work to keep the tradition even though it is not as appealing as most of the songs on "Edge of The Silverthorn". But the band is doing a great job and makes the most out of this (and every) track.

After "Forever", the album changes to a more modern hard rock sound starting with "And There Was Temptation" that reminds me of a Edguy song. It is melodic and the speed is fast and nice. A song that show that the band is capable to master many different styles. And the variation continues with the symphonic and grand "Gold Encircles The Altar", the NWOBHM inspired "Capricious Arrows", the almost operatic "A Split Second Goodbye" and the hooky "The Fools Realm".

The variation is the clear strong point in "Edge of The Silverthorn" and unlike many other bands, The Rockford Heroes variation still has a solid ground to stand on. Without that ground the variation has a big risk to make the album very fragmented and unclear. But that is not a problem we get to experience in this album. The only real weak spot is that a couple of songs does not live up to their full potential but overall is "Edge of The Silverthorn" a very pleasant experience. The band is very tight and clearly knows what they are doing. "Edge of The Silverthorn" is the perfect album for those who wants to soar back to the 80's but still wants a little modern influence in the nostalgic sound. In other words, this album fits both for old and new hard rock fans.

Songs worthy of recognition: No Reason To Believe, And There Was Temptation, Capricious Arrows, The Fools Realm

Rating: 8,5/10 Days of Return

Website: www.therockfordheroes.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/therockfordheroes