Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Evile - Skull (2013)

Out of all the bands that has emerged from the new wave of thrash metal in the 21st century, I feel that Evile is the band that has captured the perfect combination between old and new in their music. With the mix of skillful guitar playing and raw strength, Evile has been one of my personal favourites in the thrash world. They have so far in their career released three albums. The ground breaking "Enter The Grave", the stable (but slightly boring) "Infected Nation" and the more versatile "Five Serpent's Teeth". Three album that have different shapes, but still has a bond that is recognizable as the Evile sound. "Skull" is the family's fourth member and I for one could not wait to see what Evile had in store for us this time.

"Skull" is straight from the start coming forth with typical Evile thrash in the lovely track "Underworld". A song that headbutts you with hard hitting riffs, a catchy chorus, and a very fitting guitar solo. A marvelous track that kicks off "Skull" in the right direction, even though the band could have put in a little more aggression into the track to make it complete. That aggression is instead found in the following title track together with fine musicianship.

But there is only one track on "Skull" that holds a mountain high standard, and that song is "The Naked Sun". A speedy beat, great riffing and a chorus made for sing a longs. These are the three reasons to why "The Naked Sun" stands out and shatters the competition. It may not be the hardest song nor the fastest, but it is a killer of a song. Only complaint here is the unnecessarily long outro.

After that, the six remaining songs shifts in quality. From the heavy, but slow, "Head of The Demon" to the adrenaline rush "Outsider", Evile is showing their full register in "Skull", just like they did in "Five Serpent's Teeth". They even fit in a Metallica ballad called "Tomb", and it is surprisingly good since Evile is not so associated with that sound (they did however release a similar track called "In Memoriam" as a tribute for their deceased band mate Mike Alexander in FST, and it was also surprisingly good).

Even though I like when a band is showing some variation, I still feel that there is something missing in "Skull". I cannot put my finger into it, but one theory is that this record is a lot like its predecessor, which takes away a lot of the thrill. In conclusion, "Skull" does not have a strong enough personality too make it stand out for it self. It is just a album among others.

"Skull" will not disappoint any fans of Evile, but it will probably not make you do a back flip out of shear joy either. The band is, more or less, going on pure routine and tries to make their existing sound as perfect as possible. Nothing wrong with that, only problem is that the song material is slightly weak and predictable. Still, "Skull" is enjoyable and if you are a fan of both old school and new thrash, then "Skull" is a good choice.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Naked Sun, Underworld, Outsider

Rating: 6,5/10 Tombs

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us Is The Killer (2013)

Mathcore is probably the genre I understand the least in the metal world. Not only does the bands in the genre play a sound that seem more random than a sheep in a living room, the usage of Jazz and Fusion in their music is kind of weird. That is why I have not listened to so much mathcore in my days. However, there is one band in the genre that I have some knowledge off, and that band is the New Jersey quintet The Dillinger Escape Plan. And yes, I recognize them as a mathcore band even though they have a broad sound and style register.

"One of Us Is The Killer" is the fifth studio album by the band and as always, the band treats us with a high variety of songs. From the heavy "Prancer" to the Muse like title track, "One of Us Is The Killer" is a display on how far variety can take you. That is also one of the reasons to why The Dillinger Escape Plan is a band where a certain genre cannot explain their music. The variety that they create makes the band unpredictable, but it is also interesting to never know how the band is going to sound next.

The overall performance on "One of Us Is The Killer" is good and it is the irrational drumming style of Billy Rymer that is taking most of the glory. His jazz like style is perfect for the band and hearing his odd beats is always fun. The rest of the band has their moments as well, but I feel that the guitars could have been more prominent.

It is, surprisingly, when the band is slowing down that they show their best sides in this album. Songs like the title track and "Nothing's Funny" sound more well composed and more thought out than other songs in this album. However, that does not mean that the "crazier" songs suck. On the contrary, they also have their sweet moments, especially the progressive "Understanding Decay" where the singer Greg Puciato finds a Ozzy Osbourne like tone in his voice that just increases the interest factor. Other interesting songs are the doom like "Paranoia Shields", the heavy "Prancer" and the enjoyable "Hero of The Soviet Union".

The strength of "One of Us Is The Killer" is, of course, the irrationality and the skills of the band, but I feel that they have developed their song writing (even though some of the songs could as well be made by Muse). But am I fully convinced of the greatness of this album? No, I do not think that this record is of world class quality, but it is a fine album that shows the good sides of mathcore. The Dillinger Escape Plan is once again proving that they are one of the biggest names in their genre.

Songs worthy of recognition: One of Us Is The Killer, Nothing's Funny, Understanding Decay

Rating: 7/10 Crossburners

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Battle Beast - S/T (2013)

I always have a bad hunch when it comes to self titled albums that is not a debut. For me, it is a sign that the band has lost most of its inspiration and fantasy, so they just put up some fillers and make an album out of them. So you can understand that I was a little worried when I found out that the sophomore album from Finnish metallers Battle Beast was self titled. Their debut, "Steel", was a great show of power, youthful passion and... well, more power, so I still held my head high when I took on this album.

The biggest reason on why I had a bad hunch for this album was not for the title, it was for the fact that the band has changed singer. Out with Nitte Valo (I do not think that she is related to HIM singer Ville Valo) and in with Noora Louhimo. I did not think that Noora could take over the power that Nitte brought, but Noora proved me wrong more or less instantly. Noora has about the same strength in her voice as Nitte had, and she can also tone it down and sing beautiful. So in conclusion, Noora has a huge vocal range and she is the perfect replacement for the band.

So we have a new singer, but the music is the same as it was in "Steel". Energetic power metal that takes no prisoners. I have to say though that the band has increased their influential width. For instance, I notice some classic 80's sound in "Into The Heart of Danger" and I hint some inspiration from Lita Ford in "Out On The Streets". And even if I like the fact that the band is trying out new sounds and styles, I feel that they have some way too go before they can master the fine arts of musical variation.

But just like in "Steel", it is the powerful and fast songs that is stealing the show. The opener "Let It Roar" sets the bar with a fierce scream and some good work on the synth while "Neuromancer" keeps the momentum with a adrenaline kick that is highly addicting, but the true top speed is measured in "Fight, Kill, Die" where the band is speeding faster than a Formula 1 car. There is, however, some songs that does not stand out for its speed, but for its great musicality. The mid-tempo track "Kingdom" has probably the best musical performance in the album and the solo is also pretty sweet. Then we also have the groovy "Over The Top" that is simple, but effective in its performance. It definitely shows that Battle Beast can write other styles than just powerful songs.

But all is not well in "Battle Beast". "Black Ninja" may have some nice Nightwish vibes (a attribute that "Out of Control" also have), but the chorus is way too boring to even care about, and "Into The Heart of Danger" is about thirty years late. That songs is stinking so much 80's that it is ridiculous

"Battle Beast" is very much alike its predecessor, but it has some better variation and the new singer impresses with her vocal range. I still like "Steel" a little better since it has more of the unstoppable raw force that the band is so good at creating, but I cannot deny that this follow up is great and that it strengthen the band's position as one of the biggest rising stars in the metal world.

Songs worthy of recognition: Kingdom, Let It Roar, Neuromancer

Rating: 8/10 Black Ninjas

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Iron Maiden - Somewhere In Time (1986)

After such an amazing album as "Powerslave", how would Iron Maiden tackle their next release? Well first off, Steve Harris thought that it would be a good idea to experiment with synths, a move that did not affect the album significantly. The next move was to come up with a concept that was as good as the Egyptian theme. The band chose time and space as the main theme. Not as exciting and original as the Egyptian theme, but still an interesting concept. Finally, the band had to simply create great songs with amazing lyrics and awesome musicality. Did they succeed with it? Hell yeah they did.

"Somewhere In Time" is the ultimate proof of Iron Maiden's range, technicality and talent. Instantly when the opening track, "Caught Somewhere In Time", screams out of the speakers, you get hit with a wall of futuristic sound, galloping riffs, a melodic bridge and a Bruce Dickinson that sings his heart out. And that is how most of the songs are in "Somewhere In Time", fast or semi-fast songs that brings out every little inch of passion from the band members.

Despite the magnificent performance, this album is the most underrated album in the Maiden discography. The only real hit from this album is "Wasted Years", a beautiful song that may not be that spectacular, but it still brings some good variation to the album. So "Somewhere In Time" is not a album that shines with its success in radio or its appearances in live shows, but the quality is there, and it is high. From the catchy and powerful "Heaven Can Wait" too the more progressive and delicate "Stranger In A Strange Land", "Somewhere In Time" shows a good variation and the low point of the album is still very high.

But the best part of "Somewhere In Time" is when the band is going fully epic, and they do that in two songs. The first one is "The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner" that opens up with a simply awesome riff and then evolves to a fast and aggressive tune. And then comes one of the best choruses I have ever heard. The chorus in "The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner" is simple, but so epic and great that you cannot just sit down, you have to stand up and scream out the words together with Bruce. Then we also have a great solo that completes one of the best, and most underrated songs in Maiden's career. The second really epic tune is the album closer "Alexander The Great (356-323 BC)", a epic tale about the great emperor that conquered such great regions as Egypt and Persia, and ruled one of the biggest empires in ancient history. God, I love it when bands are singing about historical events. But the lyrics are not the only part that makes this closing song so great, it is also the delicacy and the care that the band has put in every beat and chord that makes this song such a great finisher to one of the greatest albums ever made.

You can try to convince me that this or that album is better, but according to me, "Somewhere In Time" will always be the greatest Maiden album up to date. This album shows no weaknesses and mixes genius simplicity and technical epicness with such perfection that you can just stand there and wonder if it even is possible that there ever will be made another album like this. Perfection, you have a name, and that name is "Somewhere In Time".

Songs worthy of recognition: The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner, Caught Somewhere In Time, Heaven Can Wait, Alexander The Great (356-323 BC), Stranger In A Strange Land

Rating: 10/10 Deja-Vus

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Valkaria - Skylines EP (2013)

Australia may be a continent of its own and have a population of over 22 million, but what have the country Down Under contributed to the heavy metal history? Well, some of their biggest names are Parkway Drive, Airbourne and Midnight Oil. Oh, and I almost forgot about AC/DC. But there are new kids on the block, and these kids are called Valkaria. This band has its origins in Melbourne and consists of Tyler Kelley on vocals, Matt Bast and Justin Downs on guitar, Wyatt Wood on drums and Jon Ramos on bass. The band was officially established in early 2012 and one year later, they were done with their debut EP entitled "Skylines".

The band's music style is a little mix of death metal and metalcore, which sounds alright from time to time. You can clearly hear the influences from their fellow countrymen Parkway Drive with the heaviness and the constant use of harsh vocals, but I also find similarities to Texas In July. Unfortunately, I cannot hear the vocals very well. It could possibly be so that SoundCloud makes the songs sound worse than what they really are, but the mixing for this album is not the best. The vocals are weirdly blended into the music and it all ends up in, more or less, a mess. This is a shame, since I can feel that the potential of Valkaria is higher then what "Skylines" makes it justice.

Another thing that could be a flaw because of the production, is the vocals. Tyler Kelley knows how to sing, but I am wondering if his voice is too dark for the band. But as previously stated, the production could have made it worse. The only time where the production is doing the band justice is in the last track, "Solus". Here we have great drumming that enhances the song and gives it a bigger depth, and together with the laid back guitars and a good vocal performance, this song makes a very good ending track.The other track in this EP that should be noted is "IO" that has a very interesting and mesmerizing intro, but it is the rest of the song that shows all the good parts of metalcore. Complex time signatures, slamming drums and no real verse and chorus.

The rest of the songs on "Skylines" ("Sleeper Cell", "Grievance", "Luna" and "Enlighten") are not so special, but they make "Skylines" bearable. The biggest weakness with metalcore is that the music can easily be very confusing with the lack of structure, so to make the songs stand up you have to have something that will make you remember it. I will not say that any of the songs in "Skylines" is catchy, in fact, it takes a couple of listens to really take them into your memory, but it could have been much worse.

Valkaria is indeed an interesting band, but I believe that they may need one more year or two to improve their band chemistry and to find a good balance between the death and core in their music. "Skyline" suffers from poor production and I am not sure if Tyler Kelley's vocals really fit into the music, but there are some parts in this EP that shows the band's potential. So in the end, "Skylines" is a even album that works as a starting point. Let us now hope that these guys keep playing and continue to improve their bond with each other so that they may show the world that Parkway Drive is not the only metalcore band from Down Under that can make it out in the metal world.

Songs worthy of recognition: Solus, IO

Rating: 5/10 Sleeper Cells

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/valkariafl

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ValkariaFL

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Iron Maiden - Powerslave (1984)

Just by looking at the cover of Iron Maiden's fifth album "Powerslave", you could already sense greatness in the making. It is something with seeing Eddie as an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh that is both appealing and neck hair rising. This is truly one of my all time favourite album covers. But let us stop talking about the artwork masterpiece and focus instead on the musical masterpiece. And you guessed it, most of the songs on "Powerslave" is about ancient Egypt. It is truly a shame that not all songs follow the same track since it is a really interesting concept to sing about the Egyptians.

The song that definitely does not follow on the Egyptian trail is the starter "Aces High". Prove me wrong, or is not "Aces High" about fighter pilots? It is still a great song with a highly memorable chorus, but it does not fit perfectly in this particular album. The rest of the songs on "Powerslave" follows the concept more or less.

There are two notable things with "Powerslave" that probably made it the great classic that it is today. The first thing is that "Powerslave" is the first Iron Maiden album with the same line up as its predecessor, "Piece of Mind", which have led to a improved group connection. The second thing is that "Powerslave" includes Iron Maiden's first real epic. The 13 minutes and 35 seconds long "Rime of The Ancient Mariner", a song that may not be fast, but thanks to its simple, but awesome, riffing, tempo shifting, incredible singing and theatrical lyrics, "Rime of The Ancient Mariner" is not only highly memorable, but also exciting. That song was the definite proof that Maiden have had that progressive vein straight from the start of their career. And even today, this song is considered as one of the best epics made by the band.

Another notable thing with "Powerslave" is that it contains Maiden's latest made instrumental track. The song entitled "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)" is a highly enjoyable instrumental that has a memorable riff and also sound slightly Egyptian. But it is understandable why the band has not done any more instrumental since then because it is the weakest track on this album. If the band is going to do a new instrumental for the future, I would love to see Murray, Smith and Gers battle each other and really push themselves to the limit, like they do (minus Gers) in "The Duellists".

I would love to talk more about the more lesser known songs in "Powerslave" (like "Back In The Village" and "Flash of The Blade"), but I just cannot left such classics as "2 Minutes To Midnight" and the title track without something to say about them. "2 Minutes To Midnight" was, oddly enough, the first Maiden song I discovered and still to this day, I highly enjoy its memorable verse riff and powerful chorus. But it is the solo that is the star in this song and I still think that it is one of Maiden's best solos in their entire career. I just love the shredding in the start that slowly turns into a more atmospheric sound and then, thanks to the hard hitting drums, bursts out into the verse riff. Simply awesome. But the best song on this album is the title track. The simple galloping riff, the epic bridge, Dickinson's extra ordinary voice, the doom quire in the background, the long and beautiful solo and that huge, ultra epic ending that just makes your bones shiver. "Powerslave" has it all and it shows it in HD quality.

The concept itself deserves a perfect score, but with the help of some great tunes and impressive instrumental management, "Powerslave" shows the band's full potential. The riffs, the beats, the singing, the lyrics, yes everything makes "Powerslave" a true masterpiece and I would have given it a perfect score if they would have gone all the way through with the concept (you can blame "Aces High" for that error). None the less, this is a must own and listen for every metal fan around the world, no matter of age, gender, sexuality or species.

Songs worthy of recognition: Powerslave, Rime of The Ancient Mariner, 2 Minutes To Midnight, The Duellists

Rating: 9,5/10 Big 'Orras

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Joe Satriani - Unstoppable Momentum (2013)

The world have seen many guitar virtuosos come and go, but no one is more respected then Joe "Satch" Satriani. Not only has he learned big names like Steve Vai and Kirk Hammett to play, but he has also a own signature guitar called the Ibanez JS Series. His skills on the guitar are only matched by his amazing ability to catch the listeners attention with his marvelous melodies and riffs. He can play cool songs, slow songs, fast songs and several other types. "Unstoppable Momentum" is Satriani's 14th studio album and his latest effort, "Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards", was a delight to listen to (even though I felt that it was a bit uneven in the musical department).

Just as the title hints, "Unstoppable Momentum" holds a stable momentum through the album that does not stop entirely. It keeps on truckin' until the very end. Now, this album may not be a new "Surfing With The Alien" where Satriani is pushing himself to the limit, but sometimes is simplicity better then fast shredding. What really matters is how good the end product sounds and "Unstoppable Momentum" sounds very pleasing overall. One great example of the simplicity is in "A Door Into Summer". Soothing tempo, soft riffs and beautiful solos. Just enough to create a good song.

Most of the song has the same tempo and style, but the duo "Jumpin' In" and "Jumpin' Out" has some sort of Fusion Jazz style that both seems weird and enchanting. The main reason why I like these two songs is that they are shifting in shape several times which makes them very interesting and not so dull. But the high point of the album is the following song "The Weight of The World". It is a beautiful song that has a distinct and memorable riff that you can hum all day long. And even though the keyboard sounds sligthly weird, it still gives you the sensation of that you are playing a classic game from the 90's. So the nostalgia factor is the reason to why you should listen to this song.

Strange enough, some of the songs in "Unstoppable Momentum", like the title track and "Can't Go Back", actually reminds me of Buckethead, another awesome instrumentalist. I do not know if it was meant to be a celebration to the man with a KFC bucket on his head or an influence or if it is a pure coincidence, but either way, it throws me off a bit and it ultimately does not feel like something Satch have done by himself. So it does not matter that it sounds good, it feels like plagiarism, but it does not mean that I wont still listen to it.

All in all, this album is still a blast to listen too. Satch shows once again why he is one of the best guitarist and instrumental song creators on the planet. Joe does not have to shred like a maniac to show off his skills, he has already done that and can instead focus on improving his song writing technique, which is already good. So even though this album has some problems with identity issues, "Unstoppable Momentum" is sure to be one of the best instrumental efforts in the year of 2013.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Weight of The World, Unstoppable Momentum, Jumpin' Out

Rating: 7,5/10 American Dreamers

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Gama Bomb - The Terror Tapes (2013)

Northern Ireland thrashers Gama Bomb are a crazy bunch of guys. Not only do they play music that is faster than the speed of light, but the lyrics in their music are just as ridiculous as the thrash genre they are playing. With those two elements, they have become a personal favourite of mine. Not because they are the best, but because they are a blast to listen to. You just have to take a look at the song titles to notice their weird sense of humour. Some of the best titles in this album are "Smoke The Blow With Willem Dafoe", "The Wrong Stuff", "Shitting Yourself To Live" and "Metal Idiot". Craziness straight from the start.

It has been 4 years since the last album, "Tales From The Grave In Space", but very little has changed since that album. Gama Bomb still spoils us with speed, riffs and humorous lyrics. One difference I sense is that the band seems tighter and that they have improved on almost every aspect on both instrumental skills and musicality. The songs are still mostly superficial, but not as much as on previous records. This time, I can actually tell the difference from the songs after the first listening session. And the song that makes the most impression is the powerful "Terrorscope" that takes you in a stranglehold and shakes you wilder than an earthquake with its wild riffing, awesome guitar solo and intoxicating chorus. And let us not forget that this song has a music video that is one of the funnest metal videos in years.

So the band can make some good music, but is it really necessary with this occasional short song? "Shitting Yourself To Live" is 21 seconds long, and it is so short that I could almost count the amount of riffs in the song. At least try to make something memorable in that short amount of time, like they did in the 1 minute and 17 seconds long song "Smoke The Blow With Willem Dafoe".

But let us ignore these tiny distractions and let us focus on the rest of the songs. I have always felt that Gama Bomb is at their best when they take their lyrical level towards the sci-fi world. One of these songs are "Beverly Hills Robocop" that speeds through with a surprisingly clean guitar sound and a truly robotic chorus. I do not know if it is supposed to sound cool or just be silly, but I love it none the less. Sadly, there is a lot less science fiction in this album than it was in "Tales From The Grave In Space", but to make it up, the band is making the tunes more individual then ever before. Songs like "We Started The Fire" and "The Cannibals Are In The Streets" are recognizable, great songs that should without a doubt tingle your thrash nerve and make you bang your head.

So overall, this album is one of the better album that the Northern Irishmen has created in their career. With  improved song personalities and great riffing, Gama Bomb has now developed themselves as one of the best existing acts in crossover thrash. Their speed and passion has showed several times that these guys never stops having fun, and I always have fun when their adrenaline pumping songs blasts out of the speakers. "The Terror Tapes" may not be a true terror, but it is a album that is terrifically good.

Songs worthy of recognition: Terrorscope, We Started The Fire, Beverly Hills Robocop

Rating: 8,5/10 Metal Idiots