Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best of 2013: albums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to: Nabataea, Burning Sun, Asshole

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

Listen to: Halo of Blood, Transference, All Twisted

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

Listen to: Unbreakable, Stand My Ground, Halcyon Days

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

Listen to: Chronic, The Valley, Contaminate Me

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to: Agony, Undertow, Holding On

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

Listen to: Ashes of Chaos, Falling, Mechanical Chaos

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

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

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

Listen to: Templates For All, Mass Media, Fugitive

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to: all 4 phases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay metal

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Devin Townsend Band - Synchestra (2006)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 8,5/10 Vampolkas

Friday, December 20, 2013

Best of 2013: songs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay metal

Monday, December 16, 2013

Strapping Young Lad - Alien (2005)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 8,5/10 Possessions

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Best of 2013: special awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best album cover: 

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

Ugliest album cover 1: 

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

Ugliest album cover 2:

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Metal

Monday, December 9, 2013

Rhapsody of Fire - Dark Wings of Steel (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 7/10 Angels of Light

Friday, December 6, 2013

Devin Townsend - Devlab (2004)

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

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

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

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

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

Song worthy of recognition: HA HA, good one there

Rating: 0/10 Shitlabs

Monday, December 2, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/10 Dark Skies