Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mastodon - Once More 'round The Sun (2014)

When it comes to the Atlanta band Mastodon, there is only one thing to expect when entering a new album from them. The unexpected. Since its creation in 1999, Mastodon has spoiled us with a massive variety in both musicality and creativity. You never know what the band will throw at you next, which is only one of the things that has helped them gain the fame and reputation that they currently possess.

"Once More 'round The Sun" is album number 6 from the band, and at first, it seems to be a continuation on what the band started in their last album, "The Hunter". A straight forward album that puts its focus on heavy riffs and memorable songs. But the more you listen to the album, the more progressive it seems. And that is what makes "Once More 'round The Sun" so special, progressive and high soaring melodies are mixed with simple memorable choruses. The first single "High Road" is a perfect example of that. The main riff is simple, but effective, and it does not take much effort to learn the chorus, but then we have the solo part that takes the song to a totally different level. It is controlled madness at its best.

The crazy thing is that even if I love "High Road", it is actually one of the weaker songs in the album. Because just like almost every other Mastodon album, the biggest strength with "Once More 'round The Sun" is that all of the songs have a ridiculously high standard. And most of the credit for that goes to the amazing instrumentation by the band, especially the drumming (and some of the singing) by Brann Dailor is exceptionally awesome.

Another strong point with the album is that it shows a big variety in songs, but it still has a red line that makes the album feel like one cohesive piece. "The Motherload" is a very simple, but highly addictive song that could be a potential live favourite, while the title track sounds like a classic Mastodon track mixed with some Rush melodies. Then we have "Chimes At Midnight" that shows the classic Mastodon madness with a main riff that will haunt me for weeks, which I do not mind at all. I also enjoy the nice groove attack that "Halloween" brings, the rapid fire attack from "Tread Lightly" and the calmer moments in "Asleep In The Deep".

Is "Once More 'round The Sun" Mastodon's strongest album up to date? No, it is not, but it is hard to deny that it is another fantastic high quality piece from the band. It may be the band's most commercial album up to date, but that does not mean that the band has sold out themselves. "Once More 'round The Sun" is still Mastodon to the bone and it is a fantastic roller coaster ride for both old and new fans of the band. This album (and its crazy cover art) will definitely be one of the top contenders of "Album of the year" when I summarize 2014 in December.

Songs worthy of recognition: Chimes At Midnight, The Motherload, Once More 'round The Sun, Asleep In The Deep, Halloween

Rating: 9,5/10 High Roads

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Arch Enemy - War Eternal (2014)

There were probably a lot of you that were shocked when you woke up to the news that Angela Gossow, the female front figure of death metal band Arch Enemy, had left her position, after 14 years of excellent service, to instead focus on being involved in the band's management. Not only has Angela been the singer for one of the biggest death metal bands out there today, she paved the way for female vocalists to show that even they can execute brutal vocal melodies with their voices, so who ever would take her place, would have a tough job ahead of them.

Eventually, it stood clear that it was Alissa White-Gluz who would be the new queen of Arch Enemy. Alissa is mostly known for her work in The Agonist, where she mixed both harsh and clean vocals, and she has definitely done some good work there (the latest album for example, "Prisoners"). So with in mind of what she has done in the past and what capacity she has, I think Alissa is a good replacement for the band.

And that becomes even more evident in the band's 10th studio offering, "War Eternal". Alissa does a great job behind the microphone with her large vocal range. And no, she doesn't use her clean vocals once throughout the album (except for one small part in the chorus of "Avalanche", but it is non significant), which is of course an instant plus (could you imagine? Arch Enemy with clean vocals? eww).

Besides from Alissa, there is not much that has changed with Arch Enemy between this album and its predecessor, "Khaos Legions". Although Cristopher Amott left the band once again in 2012 (replaced by Nick Cordle), it is still his brother and founding member Michael Amott that rules the guitar playing with his mix of melodic and heavy riffs. And together with the intense drumming by Daniel Erlandsson and the deep bass rhythms by Sharlee D'Angelo, the band has created some impressive work in "War Eternal".

Some of the strong points of the album are the fast paced title track, the dark and heavy "As The Pages Burn", the melodic "You Will Know My Name" and the apocalyptic "On And On", but there are also some parts of the record that just does not seem right. One thing that bothers me the most is the large amounts of neo-classical music, a thing that fits more into a power metal band or a Yngwie Malmsteen album. Guess that Micheal took some inspiration from the wrong sources. I also do not like how the album itself is build. The first half is considerably better than the second half, so it would have been better to even out the field, and don't even get me started on that boring instrumental "Not Long For This World" that ends the album.

Just like most of the later albums by the band, "War Eternal" will create some controversy. Some will love it, others will hate it. I myself think it is one of the stronger albums by the band, but that its inconsistencies keeps it from being a masterpiece. No matter what, the band still does their thing and Alissa's solid performance makes it seem like nothing significant has happened to the band. The new queen has made her first appearance, and it seems to be the start of a new, strong regime in Arch Enemy.

Songs worthy of recognition: War Eternal, You Will Know My Name, On And On

Rating: 7/10 Avalanches

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Black Sabbath - Mob Rules (1981)

Just like its predecessor, the 10th Black Sabbath album "Mob Rules" had a original member leaving the band. Bill Ward left the band and was replaced by Vinny Appice behind the drum kit. But other than a new drummer, everything was more or less the same with this album as it was with "Heaven And Hell". Dio, Iommi and Butler wrote all of the songs together and Dio wrote all of the lyrics.

So is "Mob Rules" a believable successor to "Heaven And Hell"? Yes, indeed it is. Just like its predecessor, "Mob Rules" have a more straight forward rock attitude that may not appeal to those who like the early Sabbath records, but it definitely fits well in the time and age where the album was released.

I definitely feel like this album has several successful parts that the band has brought from the last album to this one, but it also has its retro moments. The title track is edgy and has a nice tough riff to accompany the attitude. "The Sign of The Southern Cross" however is more progressive and darker, a type of song that is originally associated with the band. Then we have "Falling Off The Edge of The World", that mixes the edgy speed and the progressive melodies perfectly in a song that screams Iron Maiden before Iron Maiden even learned to write these kinds of songs. So there are a bunch of different songs to chose from, and it is not hard to find at least one you will love.

Unfortunately, "Mob Rules" does not have the same evenness that "Heaven And Hell" had. The opener "Turn Up The Night" has some speed, but it is a hollow track that wears out quickly, and "Slipping Away" just feels misplaced in the album with its stale 70's rock rhythm. Those two songs drags the album down a bit, which is sad since the rest of the album holds a high standard.

Therefore, I would say that "Mob rules" has a little bit more of variety than "Heaven And Hell", but I do not consider this to be the superior album. The album definitely has its moments and it shows what a fantastic song and lyric writer Dio really is. Too bad this was his last album with the band (until the 1992 album "Dehumanizer"), because I am sure that Black Sabbath would make even more classic albums with Ronnie by their side.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Mob Rules, The Sign of The Southern Cross, Falling Off The Edge of The World

Rating: 8/10 Country Girls