Sunday, September 29, 2013

Live review: Lillasyster at James Rockbar, Halmstad, Sweden

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

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

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

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

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

Best: Great audience and "Hårdrock"

Worst: "Umbrella"? Really?!?!

Rating: 8,5/10 Lokpester

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Devin Townsend - Infinity (1998)

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

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

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

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

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

Songs worthy of recognition: Bad Devil, War, 

Soul Driven Cadillac

Rating: 7,5/10 Unities

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dream Theater - S/T (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 7,5/10 Illumination Theories

Sunday, September 22, 2013

GWAR - Battle Maximus (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 6,5/10 Pig Childrens

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Katatonia - Dethroned & Uncrowned (2013)

It was only a mere year ago since the Swedish gothic doom band Katatonia released a album. That album was "Dead End Kings" and was a excellent display of the band's capability. Before I listened to this new record entitled "Dethroned & Uncrowned", I had to go back to "Dead End Kings" and remember the songs from there. Why? Because this album is practically "Dead End Kings". Katatonia has taken the song names and the lyrics from "Dead End Kings", got rid of the drums and the heavy guitars and given the songs a acoustic sound. Yes, these are re imagined versions of the songs in "Dead End Kings".

What are my thoughts of this album? Well I personally feel that the band is covering them self. It is a pretty neat idea, but I feel that the band should be focusing on writing new material instead of reinventing their old. Then again, it is exciting to see two sides of the same coin I guess.

To continue this review, I thought why not have a battle, song versus song. Sounds good? No? Well fuck you too. My blog, my rules. Here we go.

The Parting Vs. The Parting
This song was pretty good in both albums, although I think that the guitar part near the end of the song has more effect with the string instruments on Dethroned. A very close fight that Dethroned wins in Sudden Death.

The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here Vs. The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here
This is one of the more boring songs on both of the albums, so I am going with the version that has the most "action" in it. So the winner here is the original from "Dead End King".

Hypnone Vs. Hypnone
This is a powerful song, and I think that powerful songs like this need a clean and determined guitar to really pop out. So this is a no brainer for me. "Dead End King" version wins.

The Racing Heart Vs. The Racing Heart
Very few differences between these two songs. There may be some faster beats in the end of the "Dead End King" version, but it is not enough for me to see them as two individual versions. So this match up ends in a tie.

Buildings Vs. Buildings
This is one of my favourites from "Dead End Kings", so I did not expect that the Dethroned version would top it, which it did not. However, I still liked that version very much with its maracas beats and mellow mood. Still, one more point for "Dead End Kings"

Leech Vs. Leech
This is one of my least favourite songs in both versions. Do not like the overall feel that the song brings. But the Dethroned version is better because it feels right too keep the same slow tempo throughout the song. One point for Dethroned.

Ambitions Vs. Ambitions
This is another close match up. Both versions captures the pain and misery that the song stands for in their own unique ways. So the only way to separate them is to see which song is more metal. That win goes to the original version.

Undo You Vs. Undo You
Did not like this song last year, and I do not like this song this year. So no points for neither of the albums.

Lethean Vs. Lethean
The acoustic version is fine, but it is not the same without the nice guitar solo. So it is a easy win for the original version.

First Prayer Vs. First Prayer
This is a pretty bland song, but it gives a even match up between the two versions. Both versions have valid reasons to win so the winner is the one that came first.

Dead Letters Vs. Dead Letters
My favourite song from "Dead End Kings". Really love the Tool vibes I get from this song. How about the Dethroned version? No, it does not have the same powerful effect, so it is another clear win for the original.

Final Score: "Dead End Kings" 8 - 3 "Dethroned & Uncrowned"

Not surprisingly, "Dead End Kings" is the superior of the albums, but "Dethroned & Uncrowned" has its moments where the acoustic sound really makes an impact on the listener. But I still feel like this album is a cover album that comes way too soon after the original. If you liked "Dead End Kings" you will probably learn to enjoy "Dethroned & Uncrowned", but I see it as a unnecessary waste of time for Katatonia and their talent.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Parting, Ambitions

Rating: 4,5/10 Leeches

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Devin Townsend - Ocean Machine: Biomech (1997)

Once upon a time, there was a band called Ocean Machine, a band that was created by Devin Townsend and also included JR Harder and Marty Chapman. Together they created a little fine piece called "Biomech" that took the world by storm and made them rulers of the earth during the remaining years of the 20th century.

Okay, that little story is only half true. This album did not take the world by storm (although it sold 12, 000 copies in Japan during the first week), but this album was actually originally released under Ocean Machine. Today, this album is known as a work by Devin Townsend since the little side project only lasted a year before the brake up, and the album is now named "Ocean Machine: Biomech".

Unlike the sound in Strapping Young Lad, "Ocean Machine: Biomech" is a album that is filled with soothing riffs and uplifting music that creates a bubble for the listener where there is no stress. The riffs over flow your mind like soft waves, but it still makes a great impact on you. I can also sense that there is more passion and effort put into the music then on the SYL material (Devin have also said that the music on this album was really close to him).

The standard is incredibly high on "Ocean Machine: Biomech" and even if there is no speed freak of a song in here, I still think that the variety is at its top. The fastest song is probably "Night" that impresses with its addictive keyboard sound and Devin's different vocal settings. A diverse song that works well on so many levels. We also have "Life" that is the most positive song on the album, and it can easily be seen as a song made by Good Charlotte or Blink-182, but with better lyrics and deeper music. But the heaviest piece is definitely "Regulator". The main riff has some resemblance towards Strapping Young Lad, but instead of going bat shit crazy, the song holds back its wild side and comes instead with a well constructed and well balanced song that does not let the heavy nor the progressive side take over. It is like Yin and Yang, but for song genres in one song.

Then we have "Bastard", a song that is a fusion between two other songs ("Not One of My Better Days" and "The Girl From The Blue City"), but still feels as one big fantastic 10 minute piece. That riff is so simple, but oh so genius, and the drums during the "transition" between NOoMBD and TGFTBC are just amazing. It is both a beautiful and hurtful song that really brings out all the emotions, especially the euphoric ones. But the most emotional piece is the giant 12 minute piece "The Death of Music". Musically, there is not much happening in the song (except the amazingly beautiful keyboards), but the emotions that the tormented Devin puts out are almost too much to handle, and I freaking love it.

The only complaint I have with "Ocean Machine: Biomech" is the uneventful middle part of the album, which includes the songs "Sister" and "3 A.m.", but this is other wise a magnificent album with flawless production and some solid instrumental work. The mood is well set in every song and there is a red line that flows through the whole album, making it a complete work of art.

For those of you who like your Devin heavy and hard, step aside from "Ocean Machine: Biomech" if you do not want to be disappointed. But if you prefer his more progressive and uplifting side, then you are highly welcome. "Ocean Machine: Biomech" brings a calmness to your mind that is easy to take in, harder to fully understand and impossible to not enjoy. I have never heard this kind of progressive music before, and I would definitely love to hear more of it in the future. So do not only dip your toes in this ocean. Step back, run, do a cannon ball into the water and enjoy this album and its soothing waves. See you on the other side!

Songs worthy of recognition: The Death of Music, Bastard, Night, Regulator

Rating: 9,5/10 Funerals

Monday, September 9, 2013

Strapping Young Lad - City (1997)

As you know, Strapping Young Lad's debut, "Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing", was more or less a solo effort by Devin Townsend. But for the band's sophomore album, Devin recruited permanent members to officially make Strapping Young Lad a legitimate band. The new band members were Jed Simon on guitar, Byron Stroud on bass and Gene Hoglan on drums. So now that SYL was a band, the guys were ready to record the second album entitled "City".

It is instantly noticeable that "City" was much more of a team effort then its predecessor. The sound is pretty similar to what it was on "Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing", but it feels more organized and more well structured now, which makes it easier for the song to reach full potential. The humour is also toned down here, but one thing that has not changed since the last album is the excessive use of the word fuck. Devin screams fuck more than 30 times in this record. I am not against the use of swear words in music (I actually encourage it to some degree), but use too much of it and it loses all its meaning.

After a short intro in "Velvet Kevorkian", "City" starts in a furious tempo with "All Hail The New Flesh". A song that is perfect for speed freaks and together with the epic chorus, this song stands out as one of the leaders on this album. But the madness does not stop there. "Oh My Fucking God" keeps up the momentum, but it does not reach the same level as "All Hail The New Flesh" (even though it is a entertaining song).The album takes a more thrash oriented turn on "Detox" with its galloping riffs. Also "Underneath The Waves" is another proof that SYL can do some real competent thrash metal.

The overall standard is certainly very high on "City". I would actually say that the only real filler on this album is the slow and doom like "Room 429". It is not a horrible song, but it feels misplaced in this album that is filled with fast and heavy pieces. I would also say that the variation factor could have been a little higher, but who cares. I am enjoying this album too much to actually give a crap that the variation is lower then recommended and the fact that this album is only around 39 minutes long. This is a great thrash/death metal album. Period.

By most SYL fans, "City" is proclaimed as the highlight of SYL's career, and after some consideration, I will have to agree with the fans (at last until I hear the remaining three SYL albums). "City" is heavy, crazy and groovy, three things that more or less makes SYL such a strong force. The band is tight and Devin's voice is as great as ever. However, I still feel that "City" has one filler that drags down the rating and the short play time leaves you hankering for more, but that does not take away that "City" is a hell of an assault that every metal fan should hear at least once in their life time.

Songs worthy of recognition: All Hail The New Flesh, Detox, Underneath The Waves, Oh My Fucking God

Rating: 8,5/10 Aaas

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Devin Townsend - Punky Brüster - Cooked On Phonics (1996)

I like to refer Devin Townsend as the Jim Carrey of metal, mostly because he can come up with some really crazy shit, and this album is one of those crazy shits. "Punky Brüster - Cooked On Phonics" (the names are puns of Punky Brewster and Hooked On Phonics) is a concept album about a Polish death metal band named Cryptic Coroner. The band is struggling to make a living out of their music. But one day during a show, when one of the members brakes a string, the band finds a more punk rock style. After that, their career rises like a rocket and they also change their name to Punky Brüster, but the price is that they have sold their souls and now creates music that they do not give a shit about.

This is definitely a fun concept, but it also has some truth in it. Think about it. The music industry today works that people like Miley Cyrus and Lil Wayne, who does practically nothing, gets tons of recognition while artists that writes their own music and really works passionately for their music does not get squat. Yeah, the music industry is pretty fucked up, but we already knew that.

The music on this album is, not surprisingly, punk rock, so do not expect any developed metal madness from this record (except for the first part of the opening track "Recipe For Bait"). There is a big lack of variety in this album and if it was not for the dialogues, this album would be a big mash of fast riffs and easily digestible rock. In other words, a very bad album.

The only two good punk songs on this album is the classic old school punk song "Wallet Chain" and the fast and hooky "Fake Punk". I can also enjoy "Heinous Anus" and "Ez$$" from time to time. But it stands clear that the music is best when it leans more towards old school punk a la Sex Pistols instead of the more skate punk oriented style.

It is the comedy and dialogues that are the star of the show, and hearing Devin interpret the story in a pretty silly voice is just hilarious. But what is even more funny is following Cryptic Coroner's transformation from being heavy metal guys with dark and growling voices to lame punk guys with squeakier voices than Alvin and the chipmunks. It is also easy to feel sorry for the guys who have sold their souls and all they end up to show for is squeaky voices, a Grammy award and fake groupies who are not willing to go all the way when they discover the band's "horrible" secret.

As a concept, this is an excellent album, but as a musical piece, "Punky Brüster - Cooked On Phonics" is pretty weak. The variation is no where to be found and the cheesiness level is through the roof. But this is a album that you should not take seriously. Instead, you should embrace the theme and see the silliness in it. If you do that, then there is a slight chance that you will enjoy this album, but I would not count on it though.

Songs worthy of recognition: Fake Punk, Wallet Chain

Rating: 5/10 Heavy Metal Mamas

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Annihilator - Feast (2013)

Annihilator is one of those bands that I have a love/hate relationship with. They are a cool band and has the talent to make some great crunchy thrash metal, but sometimes they just get too corny from time to time. Their latest self titled album was a great example of that. Some songs kicked ass while other just left me sitting there thinking "what the fuck did I just listen to?". That has always been a problem for Annihilator, they have a thing of making uneven albums that makes it really hard too fully appreciate them.

This leads us to "Feast", Annihilator's 14th studio album. And just like previous releases, "Feast" is mixing between high and low quality songs. The opening trio "Deadlock", "No Way Out" and "Smear Campaign" starts the album off with some great groovy thrash that is just typical Annihilator. But it is "No Way Out" that stands out the most with its fast tempo and power filled chorus

One song that caught me off guard was the surprisingly good ballad "Perfect Angel Eyes". It is a very beautiful song and the band performs the song with such delicacy, which I did not expect from a band like Annihilator. The songs after this ballad are not half bad either. There is some good demonic sounds in "Demon Code", the attitude in "Fight The World" is tough and the big finisher "One Falls, Two Rise" gives "Feast" an extra sharp edge when it is crunching and punching through your mind. It is impressive to see that Annihilator can write these types of songs.

Then we also have those songs that are screwing up the album. "No Surrender" has a cool chorus, but the rest of the song fits better with some jazz lounge band. "Wrapped" has a guest appearance by Danko Jones (singer and guitarist of Danko Jones), which is cool, but the song still feels misplaced in this album and the chorus is way too corny for my taste.

The good news however, is that the amount of bad songs are less than what I expected. It is actually some decent quality going through the entire album this time and there is no song that I completely hate. Still, I would like one or two songs that really went full throttle, but that is weighed up with the excellent variety that "Feast" is bringing.

"Feast" is a surprisingly even album by the Canadians and it certainly restored some of my faith that the band some time will make a album without any shit songs. "Feast" is still however not a world class album that will sore up in the top of my end of the year list, but it brings some good old thrash that is both fun and heavy. It is a great album, just like its cover.

Songs worthy of recognition: No Way Out, Perfect Angel Eyes, "One Falls, Two Rise"

Rating: 8/10 Deadlocks