Friday, February 28, 2014

Black Sabbath - Master of Reality (1971)

Seeing the cover to Black Sabbath's third album, "Master of Reality", you would think that the band was high when creating the album. Then you would be partially correct. The first song on the album, "Sweet Leaf", was recorded while the band was stoned and the song itself is an ode to marijuana. Also, the coughing you hear on the intro is in fact Tony Iommi, who started to cough a hell of a lot when Ozzy offered him a joint. Well, high or not high, "Sweet Leaf" is still a pretty sweet song to listen to.

I do not know however if the rest of the album was created under the influence of marijuana, but at least it follows the same lines as in its predecessor "Paranoid". "Master of Reality" stands steadily on a foundation of groovy beats, sudden tempo shiftings and dark riffs. And even if the play time of the album is once again pretty short, the band is making the most out of it with a good variety of songs.

The most notable song is of course "Children of The Grave", not because it is one of Black Sabbath's most famous songs, but because of the darkness in it. The doom like riffs, the dark lyrics, the heavy groove and the down tuned bass makes this song special in oh so many ways. But "Children of The Grave" is far from the only reason to why "Master of Reality" is one of Black Sabbath's most acclaimed albums. We also have "After Forever" that blends doom metal vibes with melody loops that could have been very fitting in a Sonic The Hedgehog game. Then we have the smooth and soothing "Solitude" that just cleanses your soul with its flutes and smooth Ozzy vocals (who would have thought that he could sing so smooth). I also have to mention the last song "Into The Void" that is just a typical Black Sabbath track. A simple, but effective, riff, Ozzy singing with the beat and some cool tempo shiftings.

I do think that "Master of Reality" is slightly overrated, but it is still a pretty cool Black Sabbath album. This album helps defining the band's style and does so with a couple of effective and groovy tunes. This album got a very high low point, but not so high high point, which could be seen as strange since the band was stoned during the time of making this album.

Songs worthy of recognition: Children of The Grave, Sweet Leaf, Into The Void

Rating: 8/10 Embryos

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Júlio Stotz - Suspended In Reverie EP (2014)

If you think that the cover suggests that this is not a metal release, then you have obliviously forgotten the old saying "Do not judge a dog by its hair". The Brazilian music composer Júlio Stotz have in "Suspended In Reverie" created a four song instrumental EP that mixes the delicacy of the piano with several djent/progressive metal beats. It is a slightly weird combination, but Júlio is doing a really nice job of balancing the different components together.

All four songs are pretty slow and beautiful, but thanks to the heavy djent riffs, they also have some edge that gives them an extra level. Well, except for "An Der Elbe" that only has piano loops. And of course, as a metal lover, I feel that the songs lifts when the guitars enter the stage. Especially the steadily increasing epicness in "Dreamlike Perceptions" gets me rocking my head back and forth every time I hear it.

The EP as a whole is very even, but short. I would have loved to see one more song in it, or keep the same amount, but making one long and epic song to see how far the artist can take it (the longest song by the way is around 5 minutes). Júlio himself describes his music as instrumental progressive metal with a djent touch and piano/orchestra vibe, but I do not see very much progressiveness in the music. Of course, I would also label this as progressive music, but I think he can take it even further to really show off something impressive.

I would definitely love to see a full album of this kind of music, and I am certain that if Júlio ever gets the tools to complete this full length album, he will do a marvelous job. "Suspended In Reverie" is unique, beautiful and very interesting. A nice choice for both lovers of progressive metal and more classical music.

Songs worthy of recognition: Dreamlike Perceptions, From A Restive Slumber

Rating: 8/10 Essences of Thought

http://www.youtube.com/stotzjulio
http://www.soundcloud.com/j-stotz

Monday, February 24, 2014

Vanden Plas - Chronicles of The Immortals: Netherworld (Path 1) (2014)

The German progressive metal band Vanden Plas are no beginners when it comes to making an epic concept album, so it was no surprise that their seventh full-length album would be another epic saga. But this time, they have embraced the stories told by the German author Wolfgang Hohlbein (who happens to be a fan of the band) and put his writing into a more musical form. A project so big that it was not enough to fit in only one album (second album has no set release date yet).

"Chronicles of The Immortals: Netherworld (Path 1)" is a story about an immortal man and an evil god creator. The immortal man goes out on a quest towards Pantheon (under the influence of the god creator) to seize the throne against the old gods. But in order to do so, he has to give up his humanity. I am sure I would know the story even deeper if this tale would have been released in English or Swedish (almost all of Wolfgang's books has only been released in German), but what I can come across is that the story is really intriguing and unique. This story has also been portrayed in a theater play entitled "Bloodnight" that is made, and performed, by the band and has been displayed several times in the German town Kaiserslautern. (btw, the show has sold out around 25 times with an audience amount of 750 people per night).

But what really matters is if the band has succeeded in transforming this story into a Vanden Plas album. And I can assure you all that they have done just that. This album is Vanden Plas all the way through with its epic melodies and well constructed song structures. Well, except for "The King And The Children of The Lost World" that sounds more like a Dream Theater tune, but that does not stop me from liking this track a lot. But if you are well known with the band, then you will probably know what to expect from this release.

This album is best experienced in its entirety, but the band has also succeeded in making songs that can stand strong by themselves. One good example of just that is "Godmaker", a track that was released earlier this year together with an interesting video. It fits neatly together with the other tracks in this album, but it is even stronger on its own with its heavy riffs and ultra epic chorus. I loved this track the first time I heard it, and I still love it to this date. "Godmaker" stands out a little more because together with "Soul Alliance", it is the only song that puts its focus on the heaviness, while other tracks like "The Black Knight" and "New Vampyre" are more progressive and epic, which I think is more fitting for both the story and Vanden Plas's style.

And when it comes to the band itself, they do a really good job on their respective positions, but I am still a little two sided about Andy Kuntz's singing style. He is certainly unique, but is his voice good enough to lift the songs to its maximum potential? I am not sure of that, but he is far from the worst vocalist in the business, so I wont complain.

The second part of this saga will probably be released during 2015, which is a shame since I cannot wait for it to be released. This album is a very even album with no bad song anywhere in sight. It is instead a strong concept album that is definitely worthy of being a part of Vanden Plas's impressive discography. I am still baffled that this band has not gotten more recognition for their work, but I hope that more people will realize that this band is one of the top progressive acts in metal. But for the next album, please do not put Vision 1ne, Vision 2wo and so on in front of the tracks. It looks incredibly tacky for an otherwise professional and impressive album.

Songs worthy of recognition: Godmaker, The Black Knight, The King And The Children of Lost World, Soul Alliance

Rating: 9/10 Visions

Friday, February 21, 2014

Adrenaline Mob - Men of Honor (2014)

Holy shit was my first thought when I heard the intro to the opening track of the super group Adrenaline Mob's sophomore album "Men of Honor". An insane chaos with crazy riffs and blasting drum beats is what is opening up "Mob Is Back" and that is representing what I want to see from this band. Adrenaline Mob has well skilled artists like vocalist Russell Allen and guitarist Mike Orlando and even if their debut "Omertá" was an interesting effort, I still felt like the band could put in an extra gear into the music. So when that intro started I was thinking "yes, maybe they will skull fuck some people with their skills this time". But sadly, I was wrong.

The rest of "Mob Is Back" just chugs a boring beat that reeks of both overly loaded musicians and a motorcycle gang attitude. And that is how most of the songs on "Men of Honor" works. They have one or two things that is really impressive, but are not enough to take the song up above average quality. It also breaks my heart that they have a potential that shows from time to time, but just ends up as a bad mix between Disturbed, Nickelback and Black Label Society.

The only song on "Men of Honor" that feels overall good is "Dearly Departed" that impresses with a nice Foo Fighters beat, a catchy chorus and a sweet technical Orlando solo. Definitely the best song the band has done together with "Undaunted" and "Believe Me". I can also enjoy the sheer force of "Come On Get Up", the harmonies in "House of Lies" and the nice guitar work in the title track.

The rest of the songs however just makes me sick. The band has a couple of really bad ballads that does not work at all with their image. The only acceptable ballad on "Men of Honor" is ironically the slowest song "Crystal Clear" with its beautiful mood. Then we have "Feel The Adrenaline", a title that should suggest that this track will get you hella pumped, but instead makes you wanna face palm. The song is just a horrible celebratory anthem towards motorcycle riders, but I am not sure if they even want anything to do with this song. What was these guys thinking when creating these songs? No wonder why Mike Portnoy left the band.

Adrenaline Mob has a potential, but after listening to "Men of Honor" I am getting doubtful that the band ever will reach that potential. If they want to get the big recognition, they have to create something new, something bold, something that does not sound like any other American rock band. If they will keep up this style, then I will just wish that Russell Allen starts working on a new Symphony X album, John Moyer takes a break until Disturbed reunite and that this band will ultimately just give up. And just like the band heard, I took one in the face while listening to "Men of Honor". But it felt more like a gentle breeze than a bitch slap.

Songs worthy of recognition: Dearly Departed, House of Lies

Rating: 4,5/10 Judgment Days

Monday, February 17, 2014

Black Sabbath - Paranoid (1970)

After only four months since the release of their debut album, Black Sabbath went into the studio again to write the material for the sophomore album. This album was initially meant to be named "War Pigs", but Warner stopped it since the title was a critical remark against the ongoing war between Vietnam and USA. So instead, the album was named "Paranoid", after the last song that was written for the album (took around 25 minutes to create according to the band).

This is probably the most well known Black Sabbath album, mostly because several of their biggest "hits" are in this album. "War Pigs", "Paranoid" and "Iron Man" all make an appearance on this album and they all deserve the praise that they have gotten through the years. "War Pigs" is an excellent song about corrupt politicians that sends out the poor to war instead of themselves, "Iron Man"'s simple riff and epic ending makes it irresistible, and "Paranoid" is just groovy as hell. It stands clear, only after one or two listening sessions, that this album would be a lot more boring without this magical trio of songs.

But just like with Iron Maiden's "The Number of The Beast", "Paranoid"'s strength is also its greatest weakness. The three well known songs are almost so good that the listener can easily forget the rest of the tracks, which is a shame since "Paranoid" has some other sweet songs that makes this album very diverse. Take for instance the soothing melodies in "Planet Caravan" or the infectious beats in "Hand of Doom" and "Fairies Wear Boots". I am sure that this album would not have its status if these songs were replaced by some bad copies of "the big three".

The only thing I do not get along with in ""Paranoid" is the instrumental "Rat Salad". First off, what kind of a name is "Rat Salad"? Secondly, all I can think of when listening to this song is how much of a show off the drummer Bill Ward can be during this song. The random drum solos just makes the song sound like a broken record. And even if the song is the shortest in the album (2:29), it still feels like it is too long. Remember kids, when you are going to make an instrumental, do not let the drummer be the main attraction.

I can honestly say that "Paranoid" clearly deserves its legendary status, but it is not only because of "Paranoid", "War Pigs" and "Iron Man". It is because this album has an impressive variation and a timeless sound that both young and old metal heads can enjoy. It is impressive that this album was release within a year after the band's debut album, but what is more impressive is the significant development that has happened to the music during that short time. The music is more well constructed and the length of the album is not too short. So if "Black Sabbath" marked the birth of metal, "Paranoid" is a prediction of what great things this genre was about to unfold.

Songs worthy of recognition: War Pigs, Paranoid, Iron Man, Fairies Wear Boots

Rating: 9/10 Rat Salads

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Black Sabbath - S/T (1970)

Known as the band that more or less created heavy metal, Black Sabbath was conceived in 1968 under the name Earth Blues Company in Birmingham, England. Looking to escape a boring life of working in a factory, Anthony Frank "Tony" Iommi, John Michael "Ozzy" Osbourne, Terence Michael Joseph "Geezer" Butler and William Thomas "Bill" Ward started to play together, but it wasn't after Butler's brief encounter with the black arts that the band found a mysterious and interesting direction to follow. After that, Black Sabbath continued as the sort of polar opposite of The Beatles. Instead of happy melodies, the music was darker and more progressive. And the rest is, as we call it, history.

And that history could just as well have been released today. "Black Sabbath" sounds just as good as I think it did in 1970. The production is dark and mellow, and together with some blues influences scattered here and there, "Black Sabbath" is just as underground as you almost can get. I can only imagine the amount of jaw drops when the people got a hold of this new type of music.

The most notable song is without a doubt the legendary "N.I.B." (loosely rumored as Nativity In Black) which shows the band's ultimate potential. A groovy and simple riff together with Ozzy's psychedelic voice gives this song a special mood that we today know as the typical Black Sabbath groove. And I swear to Lucifer, if it was not for the amazing riff and solo work of Tony Iommi, then this song would be so much worse.

But it is the darkness in this record that makes it truly stand out. The demonic vibes in the title-track just chills my bones, while the ballad like "Sleeping Village" is something out of this world. Then the band also finds other ways to impress, like with the harmonicas on "The Wizard" or making the songs "Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games With Me)" and "Warning" sound like their own creations (originals made by Crow and Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation)

However, this album is only 38 minutes long, and if we take away the two covers, the play time of their own songs reaches a length of around 24 minutes, which makes me longing for more. I know that it only took one day to record this album and that the band played it live together, but did they not have anything more to fill up the album with?

This self-titled debut saw the light of day the 13th Febuary in 1970. 44 years ago today. It is hard to believe, especially since the band is still active today, that some youngsters from Birmingham would create the greatest music genre in the history of mankind. But when you are listening to "Black Sabbath", it is all starting to make sense. It may not be the perfect album, but it had that special "it" factor that laid the foundation for heavy metal.

Songs worthy of recognition: N.I.B., Black Sabbath, The Wizard

Rating: 7,5/10 Sleeping Villages

Monday, February 10, 2014

Van Canto - Dawn of The Brave (2014)

One of the great things with heavy metal is the wide range of different genres, and one of the oddest of genres in metal is without a doubt power a capella. The creators of this genre is the German band Van Canto and they consist of two vocalists (one male and one female), two "rakkatakka" vocalists, one "dandan" vocalist and one drummer. So yeah, no guitar, bass or keyboard as far as the ear can hear, this band is all about the power of the voice. "Dawn of The Brave" is the German's 5th offering to the world and if we have to guess from the cover, they want to save the world from evil instruments that plays horrible music.

You may ask, how can this combo not sound like shit? Well, all five vocalists are technically skilled, especially the "rakkatakka" and "dandan" vocalists knows how to deceive the ear that it is listening to the real deal. Of course, they can not perfectly mimic a real guitar, but they are pretty damn close to make it sound like a cheap and worn out fake Fender. Besides, when you listen to this band, the only thing you will be thinking of is how good the music is.

The music itself is mostly fine, but since the band is trying to play power metal without any string instruments, some of the initial power is lost. I definitely think that if they tried a different kind of metal style, like progressive metal, this band would gain more benefits from it. My personal favourite from "Dawn of The Brave" is "Fight For Your Life" since it is the only song where I can feel the power surging through my ears. I would have also appreciated "Badaboom" more if it was not for the corny lyrics. some other notable tracks are the fast "The Awakening", the epic "To The Mountains" and the heavy "My Utopia".

Van Canto is other wise mostly known for their covers of famous metal (and non-metal) songs. There are four covers on "Dawn of The Brave", Europe's "The Final Countdown", Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For A Hero", the Lord of The Rings soundtrack "Into The West" and Black Sabbath's "Paranoid". None of these covers really match some of their better ones, but they are not horrible. The intro on "Paranoid" makes you laugh out loud, but that is it. The only one that I really enjoyed was "Into The West" because they got to focus on the voices and not bringing as much power as possible.

"Dawn of The Brave" has one of the worst album covers ever with that cheap Batman rip-off, but the album itself is not that bad. Sure, nothing can beat the real sound of guitars and some of the lyrics still makes Van Canto one of the biggest laughing stocks in metal, but when you see beyond that, you can truly appreciate the work and care that the band has done in this album. "Dawn of The Brave" is not their finest effort, but it will still confirm that Van Canto is the best (and only?) metal band that only uses the power of the voice (and a drum kit) to create some sweet music.

Songs worthy of recognition: Fight For Your Life, To The Mountains, My Utopia

Rating: 6,5/10 Badabooms

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Raubtier - Pansargryning (2014)

From the northern wilderness comes the heavy industrial trio Raubtier (German for predator), a band that has been compared as Swedens answer to Rammstein. Just like the legendary Germans, Raubtier sings in its native language and brings a heavy and unique sound to the table. With their love for singing about war and death, this trio from Haparanda has conquered Sweden very quickly. "Pansargryning" (armor dawn) is the band's fourth album in just five years (and that does not include the two albums they have released in their country band Bourbon Boys), just one of the evidences that this band does not sit quietly in their boat and waits for the fame to come to them.

For those of you who have heard this band before, you will instantly recognize their sound in "Pansargryning". It is heavy and determined industrial metal with catchy choruses and lyrics about war and misery. It is definitely comfortable to know what you will get from Raubtier, but of course, there is a thin line between being reliable and being boring. I feel that they have shown us what they got in all their albums, but not how much they have evolved. Maybe I am speaking too soon about that since this band has only been around 6 years, but you cannot just simply put that fact away.

The most impressive tracks are the ones that are most memorable. It could be one distinctive thing, like the brutal power in the opener "Dieselrök" (diesel smoke) and the extreme speed in "Raptor", or just a good chorus, like in "Qaqortoq" or "Innan Löven Faller" (before the leaves fall), that makes a Raubtier song stand out. But the most impressive thing is that Raubtier has a ability of making the most out of every track. Even the worst track "Skjut, Gräv, Tig" (shoot, dig, shut up) sounds decent thanks to the band's passion and dedication.

Then there is also some songs that actually makes this album a little more versatile than its predecessors. "Opus Magni" (grand opus) is one of their most epic songs while "Bränder" (fires) and "Innan Löven Faller" is probably the closest to a ballad we will see from this band. This makes me hopeful that this band can progress and develop their sound further in the future, but they still have to show that they can write different types of lyrics. But as said, I am hopeful.

I would not rate "Pansargryning" as Raubtier's finest album to date, but it is definitely coequal with its predecessors. The catchy and heavy songs makes sure that Raubtier's rank as one of the most popular acts in Sweden does not decrease. They still have some way to go to reach their full potential, but these guys are determined, so I am certain that they in the end will win the war.

Songs worthy of recognition: Innan Löven Faller, Dieselrök, Qaqortoq

Rating: 7/10 Bränder

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Best of Devin Townsend

Another discography reviewed and I gotta say, I did not know that Devin had this much experience. The total number of full-length album is 20 for the Canadian and almost everyone of them is great in one way or another. Only one thing left to do know, summarize!

Best albums

Best Strapping Young Lad album: City
It ultimately stood between "City", "Alien" and "The New Black" since they all got the same rating, but I went with "City" because it has a brutality that very few bands on this earth can match. Besides, it is also the most even record in the Strapping Young Lad discography.

Best solo album: Ocean Machine: Biomech
Technically, this is a Ocean Machine release, but who gives a damn, "Ocean Machine: Biomech" is still an amazing record. This album is filled with waves that cleanses your mind and soul. A beautiful record that almost makes me a little sad, since I wanted to see what this Ocean Machine project could have done if it had a longer career.

Best The Devin Townsend Band album: Synchestra
That honour goes to the magnificent and the versatile "Synchestra". It is a very melodic album that almost covers everything, from metal to polka. A good album from a very short lived project.

Best Devin Townsend Project album: Epicloud
I know, the cheese factor is almost through the roof, but that does not matter when the musicality is out of this world. Devin makes the most of out the choir in "Epicloud" and creates his grandest album to date. Effervescent quality!!!

Worst album: Devlab
I do not know what Devin was thinking when he released "Devlab". This stupid ambient album is a complete waste of time, unless you do want to hear low frequency sounds from a city street. This is not music. Hell, this is not even shit. This is the shit that shit shits. Stay away from this horrible offering at all costs.

Best songs

5. Almost Again
This is an unusual Strapping Young Lad song, but I cannot help but loving it. It is a genius move in pretending to almost being a ballad only to introduce an ultra heavy chorus to the plot twist.

4. Planet of The Apes
Out of all the songs on "Deconstruction", this is the most versatile one. A long, heavy, epic piece that accuses everyone of ripping off Meshuggah and reveals that it has a little boner. Nice appearance by Tommy Giles Rogers is also included.

3. Color Your World
An intense 9+ minute ride through the mind of Ziltoid tops of this fantastic concept album. A ultimate proof of Devin's amazing story telling skills.

2. Force Fed
This is without a doubt Strapping Young Lad's most underrated song. It got the typical SYL heaviness and also a fantastic epic chorus to top it off. An amazing song from a mediocre album.

1. The Death of Music
I have never found any song more beautiful than this amazing track from "Ocean Machine: Biomech". Despite consisting of mostly low whisperings, "The Death of Music" is probably the only song where Devin has put out his heart and soul out on the line. The goosebumps are inevitable when listening to this song.

Best album cover

Ziltoid The Omniscient



It is impossible to not like Ziltoid, and this comic inspired cover makes this coffee drinking alien even cooler. It is a cover that says "Here I am. Worship me. Bring me your finest coffee bean.". Hail Ziltoid

Total discography verdict

Quality: 8/10
"Devlab" and "The Hummer" drags the rating down, but you can otherwise count on that when Devin releases a new album, it is going to be worth a listen.

Creativity: 10/10
Devin Townsend is so creative that he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. That is not a joke, that is the truth. Devin can almost create any type of music in almost no time. His ever changing mind is seemingly bottomless.

Musicality: 9/10
There is no doubt that he is a guitar wizard and that he has one of the most unique vocals in the metal world, so why does he not get a 10? He does not play drums.  Otherwise, he is a high quality musician.

Lyrics: 7/10
An over use of the word fuck and some cheesiness drags the rating down, but he has some nice qualities in the lyrics department. For instance, he is the best on making a humor filled concept album.

Album rating summary
Strapping Young Lad
Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing: 6,5/10
City: 8,5/10
S/T: 7/10
Alien: 8,5/10
The New Black: 8,5/10

Solo
Punky Brüster - Cooked On Phonics: 5/10
Ocean Machine: Biomech: 9,5/10
Infinity: 7,5/10
Physicist: 7,5/10
Terria: 8/10
Devlab: 0/10
The Hummer: 2,5/10
Ziltoid The Omniscient: 9/10

The Devin Townsend Band
Accelerated Evolution: 8/10
Synchestra: 8,5/10

Devin Townsend Project
Ki: 7/10
Addicted: 9/10
Deconstruction: 9/10
Ghost: 6/10
Epicloud: 9,5/10
: 8,5/10
Transcendence: 9,5/10

Casualties of Cool
S/T: 7/10

Average rating: 7,2954545454545454545454545454545/10

Next band up against the wall is one of the oldest still active metal bands out there. Yep, my next discography review will be on Black Sabbath's great career.

Stay Metal
Sharkruisher

Monday, February 3, 2014

Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud (2012)

What is this? Was not Devin Townsend Project supposed to be a 4 album series? Well it was, but I have not found out why Devin chosed to continue under this name even after the four albums (if any of you know, feel free to inform me in the comment section). Anyhow, "Epicloud" was conceived during a time where Devin felt he was over thinking and over doing things, especially in the work of "Z2", so he had to make a record that was "naked". A simple record that he could make while on autopilot.

This is indeed a simple album. Very few solos, few places for any of the band members to hide, but that does not have to mean that the music is flat. On the contrary, it is just as epic as the title suggest. Devin has surely created some lovely tunes, and together with the gospel choir, the music reaches epic heights that should be impossible to reach. I also like that Devin uses former The Gathering singer Anneke Van Giersbergen as much as he does (that sounds very wrong).

Even though I would say that this is a pop metal album, "Epicloud" has some heavy moments. The two fast songs "Liberation" and "More!" comes with an impressive assault with great riffs and an intensity that is hard to match. Then we also have "Kingdom", which some of you might recall from "Physicist". Compared to the original, I like this version better since it has a cleaner production and it also feels more epic now then what it did on "Physicist". No matter what, I like this song, and I like that Devin wanted to bring it up in a album he does not hate.

Besides from the heavy part, "Epicloud" displays other sides of Devin. The single "Lucky Animals" shows a really silly side of Devin that is almost worthy of being a Monty Python sketch, while the more epic "Save Our Now" feels like a song that could easily go well in the clubs. Then we also have more calmer songs like "Where We Belong" and "Divine". But it is the epicness that stands out in this album, and boy, there is some epic tunes here. And even if most of these songs are cheesy and has lyrics about love, Devin does a great job with the music. For instance, "Grace" is the grandest of the grand with the screaming choir and heavy riffs, while "Hold On" instead relies on Anneke's strong, emotional vocals.

"Epicloud" truly deserves the name that it has been given. Sure, the lyrics are corny and far from perfect, but the pure epicness makes you forget all about that. Devin, Anneke, the choir, everyone makes an amazing effort to make this pop metal album one of the best Devin Townsend records up to date. This album makes you happy, and I can almost guarantee that not even Ebenezer Scrooge could listen through this album without smiling. Effervescent quality!!!

Songs worthy of recognition: Liberation, Lucky Animals, Where We Belong, Save Our Now, Kingdom, Grace

Rating: 9,5/10 Angels

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Within Temptation - Hydra (2014)

It is without a doubt that the Dutch band Within Temptation is one of the most successful and most influential bands in the symphonic metal scene. Since the start in 1996, the band has gained huge recognition for its symphonic sound and the excellent singing styles of Sharon Den Adel. "Hydra" is the band's 6th album (7th if you include the cover album "The Q-music sessions", which I do not) and this record would answer my question if this band still has what it takes to be one of the front runners in the symphonic metal scene or if they are has-beens.

The most notable thing is the four guest artists that all comes from different corners in the music industry. We have the opera singer and former Nightwish member Tarja Turunen in "Paradise (What About Us?)", the former Killswitch Engage singer Howard Jones in "Dangerous" and the Soul Asylum singer Dave Pirner in "Whole World Is Watching". But the one guest artist that probably raises the most eyebrows is the rapper and former Pimp My Ride host X to da Z Xzibit. He makes an appearance in "And We Run". The song itself is quite neat and Xzibit does not make an ass out of himself, but it is still one of the low points of "Hydra". The rest of the songs that has a guest in it are pretty nice, especially "Dangerous" that impresses with its speed and determination. Definitely the most addictive song in "Hydra".

The rest of the songs? Well, it is no doubt that it is Within Temptation songs. It is symphonic mainstream rock with very few surprises. The only really impressive piece is "Silver Moonlight" that feels like a groovy Nightwish song that is both catchy and heavy. It is otherwise a boring song line-up that the band has put out on "Hydra". I know that this band is better than this, so why does it seems like they are not even trying? Are they too comfortable with their current sound or are they just out of fresh ideas? I definitely feel like "Hydra" would have been better if the band had put some more power in the music so that it would not sound so average. This is a shame since I know how good these musicians really are.

"Hydra" is not an improvement from its predecessor "The Unforgiving", but it is not a big step back for the band. There are glimpses of awesomeness here and there, but it certainly feels like Within Temptation would do good with a make over. They are getting some what predictable with their sound, even with the guest artists, so I would not mind if they took things in another direction. Their current sound is boring, but it will more than likely please most of their fans (for now).

Songs worthy of recognition: Dangerous, Paradise (What About Us?), Silver Moonlight

Rating: 5,5/10 Dog Days

My votes for Metal Storm awards 2013

For those of you who do not know what Metal Storm is, it is sort of a mix between a metal encyclopaedia, rating site and forum. In other words, a good site if you want to dig deeper into metal. I mostly visit this site for release dates, but I have learned to enjoy several other things, like the interesting Clandestine cut's, the well written reviews and also the funny stuff section with unbored album covers and other shit.

Each year, all the contributors and staff members in this site comes together to organize a massive poll to see what has been the best in metal the past year. I really enjoy this idea since it gives a small hint on what the metal community enjoyed the most. I have been active to check out the polls and vote myself, so here are my votes on the various categories.

Alternative metal: Rob Zombie - Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor

Death metal: Carcass - Surgical Steel

Djent/Math metal: TesseracT - Altered State

Folk/Pagan/Viking metal: Finntroll - Blodsvept

Gothic/Symphonic metal: ReVamp - Wild Card

Hard rock: Clutch - Earth Rocker

Hardcore/Metalcore/Deathcore: The Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us Is The Killer

Heavy/Melodic metal: Ghost - Infestissumam

Industrial/Cyber/Electronic metal: Mechina - Empyrean

Melodeath/Extreme Power/Gothenburg metal: Children of Bodom - Halo of Blood

Melodic black metal/Metalgaze: Summoning - Old Mornings Dawn

Post-metal: The Ocean - Pelagial

Power metal: Hammerforce - Access Denied

Progressive metal: Ayreon - The Theory of Everything

Thrash metal: Death Angel - The Dream Calls For Blood

The best video: Dream Theater - The Enemy Inside

The biggest letdown: Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals - Walk Through Exits Only

The biggest surprise: Drowning Pool - Resilience

Drama of the year: Joey Jordison leaves Slipknot

There are more categories, but I did not vote on all because of bad knowledge of the genre or I did not find any album worthy of my vote. btw, the voting goes on until the end of Febuary, so take the chance and vote for your favourites.

http://metalstorm.net/awards/