Sunday, March 29, 2015

Megadeth - United Abominations (2007)

After the successful comeback to the thrash sound in "The System Has Failed", Dave had gotten himself a complete line up for the new album, the 2007 release "United Abominations". Besides from Dave himself, we have the brothers Glen and Shawn Drover that took care of the guitar and drum work, and also James LoMenzo who became the bassist. We also have a updated Vic Rattlehead in the cover with the hair that resembles of the dub step artist Skrillex. Not the coolest of hair styles, but it was a part of a fan competition to reinvent the mascot and Dave seemed to like it (he chose that one over the actual fan voted winner by the way).

This album takes the band another step forward in making the band sound heavier and it is probably the most provocative record yet written by Mustaine. Songs about the American government, the UN and tons of other stuff, all just to stir the pot up, as Dave himself has said. It is nothing surprising that Dave is doing it since he has always been that kind of guy, and to be honest, some of his best lyrical work comes from him being pissed off, which also goes with the music.

The album starts off in the best way possible, with a fast, thrashing tune that is filled with meaty riffs and solos. That song is "Sleepwalker" and it is one of the best songs Megadeth has done since their original thrash era. It could be that the lyrics about a man that kills people in his sleep has a B-movie stamp all over it, but the music is top notch and catchy. The overall start of "United Abominations" is just fantastic, continuing with the groovy "Washington Is Next!", the provocative title track, and the heavy "Gears of War", a track that was written for the video game with the same name.

I am not saying that the second half of the album is much worse than the first, but it does have more slip ups, the biggest one being the re-recorded version of  the "Youthanasia" song "Á Tout Le Monde". There is no good reason to do this and put it in the standard set list of the album. I could have accepted it as a bonus in some kind of deluxe version, but it is just obvious that Dave and the band's new record company, Roadrunner Records, wanted as much money as possible out of this product. The song itself is slightly faster than the original and it also features a guest appearance by Lacuna Coil singer Cristina Scabbia, who does a decent job, but it is not enough to even get close to the beautiful original.

So besides from that unnecessary re-recording, this album kicks ass. "United Abominations" is the most bad ass Megadeth album in almost 20 years and I would say that they have almost completely made up for the albums that was created in the 90's. With a good, strong line-up that is ready to shred until they bleed and a anger that is more or less unstoppable, Megadeth is ready to enter its second golden age with force and determination.

Songs worthy of recognition: Sleepwalker, Washington Is Next!, United Abominations, Play For Blood

Rating: 8,5/10 Amerikhastans

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Gentle Storm - The Diary (2015)

The Gentle Storm is a new project in the metal world, containing two of the most acclaimed musicians that has ever come out of the small European country The Netherlands. The duo is the multi instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen, whom we know from Ayreon, Star One and many other bands, and the female vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen, former The Gathering singer who have also worked with Devin Townsend and her solo project. A very talented duo that has worked together before in the Ayreon albums "Into The Electric Castle" and "01011001", so the chemistry between them is obviously there from the start.

The album is called "The Diary", and it is a double album best described as two sides of the same coins. The same songs are in both of the albums, but in different versions. The first one is the gentle album and the second is the storm one, which more or less means that the first album is calm and only contains acoustic music, while the storm album uses more electric instruments to give it a heavier sound. Not surprisingly, I enjoy the storm part of "The Diary" more, not only because it is heavier, but because the music sounds grander in that version. However, the gentle part is still enjoyable and the two versions are not so different from each other, which really makes me wonder why they chose to arrange it like this. Why couldn't they have made two separate albums instead with different songs in each one? Just makes the album sound like a big, almost 2 hour long echo.

Just like any other record made by Arjen, "The Diary" is a concept album, and it takes the listener to the 17th century, where we get to follow Joseph Warwijk and Susanne Vermeer in a story of love, sickness, adventure and long distance relationships. It is an interesting story, which you would expect from a guy like Arjen, and it is neatly told within the album, even if I miss a male vocalist that could play Joseph, but that matters very little when Anneke does a fantastic job behind the mic.

As previously stated, the double album tends to become pretty repetitive and boring from time to time, but that is not because the material itself is bad, it is because it all sounds roughly the same. Same tempo, same structure and same style. It is a good cohesive piece, but it is such a big blob that it really takes some effort to even make out which song is which. There are some songs that stands out slightly more than others, like the beautiful nautical anthem "Heart of Amsterdam", the oriental "Shores of India", and the bombastic opener "Endless Sea", but the lack of a up tempo song really hurts the album and takes away the effort that is behind the music. Such a shame, since this album had a good amount of potential.

It is a shame that all of the hard work that Arjen and Anneke spent on "The Diary" was almost gone to waste. The material is there and the ideas are interesting, but the execution and arrangement is far from perfect. This blob of an album does have its good share of quality, but the lack of variation really kills it for me. It really surprise me that a musician like Arjen could do something like this, especially considering that he has some of the greatest concept album the metal world has ever seen. My hopes are still up that this project could go on and become better for each album since the talent is there, so I will keep my eye on what will happen to this project in the future, and wish them the best of luck in their journey.

Songs worthy of recognition: Heart of Amsterdam, Endless Sea, The Greatest Love

Rating: 6,5/10 New Horizons

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Megadeth - The System Has Failed (2004)

After years of experimentation and a long hunt for that number one position in the sale lists, it seemed like the metal gods finally had heard all of the prayers from Megadeth fans all around the globe. Because after a short disbanding of the band caused by a injury that could have ended Mustaines guitar playing abilities, Mustaine came back with what he explains as a liberating record since he had a lot more control over it than what he had had in the last couple of albums. Maybe that is why "The System Has Failed" was a return to the Megadeth roots, or maybe it is because it was originally meant to be a solo effort by Mustaine.

No matter what, "The System Has Failed" is a kick ass record that brings Megadeth back to the thrash universe in impeccable style. I can guarantee that you have not heard the band sound like this since the 1990 classic "Rust In Peace". But what about the more mainstream rock Megadeth you ask? That part of Megadeth is almost non existent in this album, mostly thanks to the aggression that Mustaine and the session musicians in this album brings. A aggression that is very welcome to all of the thrash fans of the world. Sure, the mainstream stamp is not completely washed off in this album thanks to tracks like "The Scorpion" and "Die Dead Enough", but those songs still have more balls than about 85% of the material in the last 5 Megadeth albums.

If you do not believe me that Megadeth has found their old groove again, then let me hand you some hardcore evidence. First off, "Kick The Chair" kicks your ass with a groove that is very much alike the one in "Rust In Peace... Polaris", which instantly spells success. We also have the opener "Blackmail The Universe" who shows aggression in both musical and lyrical form, and the nice old school "Back In The Day" shows influences from bands like Judas Priest and Motörhead, but it still contains that thrash vein that makes the track all Megadeth and not sound like a cover, something that has been a problem for the band in the last couple of efforts.

The most interesting song though is actually "Something That I'm Not", a song that contains lyrics that could have several meanings. It could be a statement to the "non-thrash" Dave that have been a little too much of a control freak lately, or it could be sort of a revenge song towards Mustaine's former band, Metallica, whom also went through a mainstream period around the same time as Megadeth. No matter what, it is a stellar song that definitely makes the album a little bit more special.

In the end, this album is a showing that Megadeth is back in good form. "The System Has Failed" may not be as thrilling as any of the first 4 Megadeth albums, but it sure is a exciting ride to come along on. With a good variety and a nice big amount of aggression, Megadeth, and especially Mustaine, shows that they are far from done in the music business, that they still can deliver some fantastic music. This album does fall short thanks to some mediocre songs and a couple of unnecessary short tunes, but the quality is there, and that is something that cannot be taken away from the band. Megadeth has rebooted, and the system is back online, up and running smoothly. Let us hope that this system does not fail again.

Songs worthy of recognition: Kick The Chair, Blackmail The Universe, Something That I'm Not

Rating: 7,5/10 Shadows of Deth

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Enslaved - In Times (2015)

One of the more even bands in metal when it comes to making high quality music is the Norwegian black metal band Enslaved. Ever since their emergence in 1991, the band has delivered some compelling and emotional black metal that could easily make a metal fan go wild. And even if the band has transformed during the years, from being more of a viking type of black metal band to being more progressive, the band has still contained the most important part in the music making progress, and that is to make kick ass songs and fitting them like puzzle pieces into a album without leaving any fillers.

"In Times" is the name of the band's 13th studio effort and follows the 2012 release "RIITIIR", a album that was very interesting and unique, but missed a real cutting edge. That cutting edge has been found again, and has been implemented into this 6 songs long album, the lowest amount of songs in a Enslaved album since the debut "Vikingligr Vildi", whom only contains 5 songs. But do not expect a short and sweet ride from this band, all songs except for one has a length of about 8 minutes, and the one who does not have that length is 10 minutes long, so it adds up to a total play time of around 53 minutes.

The thing that really surprised me with "In Times" is how catchy it is. The album is without a doubt the most easily accessible Enslaved album up to date, mostly thanks to some groovy rhythms and a pretty good chunk of clean vocals. The black metal influence is definitely still there, but the band has evolved their music further and paved way for something that would even work for those who are not so interested in black metal. "Building The Fire" is the perfect example of just that. It is a groovy songs with hooky guitar riffs and excellent clean singing, but it also contains several dark spots with double bass rhythms and strong harsh vocals. A great mix of all of Enslaved's abilities.

The remaining 5 songs are all stellar pieces as well, together creating a very strong outing. The opener "Thurisaz Dreaming" is more classic Enslaved, while "Nauthir Bleeding" shifts genres here and there through out the song, from soft ambient, to black metal and Opeth like progressive metal. "One Thousand Years of Rain" is a fantastic song that mixes punk tempo with a great, epic atmosphere and some really amazing singing, both clean and harsh. Finally, the two ending songs, "In Times" and "Daylight", ends the album in a stylistic fashion, continuing on creating a whole song out of different types of styles, and doing it successfully. The ending to "Daylight" is just so magnificent and grand, but still very melodic.

Enslaved continues their never ending streak on creating fantastic albums. "In Times" is a wonderful record that mixes tons of styles, but still maintains the true Enslaved sound that we all love. Because of the band's strong discography, I would not count this album as one of the best ones, but it is still a world class album that will be a contender for a lot of metal heads and their year end lists. I can think that 6 songs are quite a low number for an album, but when all the 6 songs shows a very high standard, I am not going to complain. So go listen to this record or any other Enslaved record if you have not already, because these guys are definitely worthy of fulfill your life with some high quality metal.

Songs worthy of recognition: One Thousand Years of Rain, Thurisaz Dreaming, Building With Fire, Daylight

Rating: 9/10 Nauthirs

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Megadeth - The World Needs A Hero (2001)

A new millennium had come, the world had survived the so called Y2K, but still faced a lot of various problems. So to say that the world needed a hero was more or less an understatement. The only hero that seemingly could save Megadeth now after the horrific "Risk" was their almost forgotten mascot Vic Rattlehead, whom makes his first album cover appearance for Megadeth since the 1990 classic "Rust In Peace". Okay, so Vic cannot really save Megadeth and make them create good music again, but just the clear sight of him gave at least some hope to the few Megadeth fans that was still out there. Could this be a turning point for the band?

Even if "The World Needs A Hero" is continuing on the same style that Megadeth has developed during the 90's, it is something different with this album. It is still mainstream hard rock that dominates the album, but it contains a little more bite, it is a little angrier. The music still has a groovy and catchy factor to it, but it feels more heavy metal than before, which is just what the band needed after the meltdown that happened 2 years before.

I would not go as far as saying that "The World Needs A Hero" is a fantastic album, because it is not, but compared to its predecessor, it is a very big improvement. There are still some mediocre and bad songs that I do not think holds up very well, and also some decisions are just weird, like the "phone call" parts in both the title track and "1000 Times Goodbye", but the overall quality is actually decent. "Moto Psycho" has a sweet groove and some nice riffs, while the opener "Disconnect" impress me with its solos. There are also some song in this album that has small thrash vibes, but still holds a good hard rock foundation to mix the old and new Megadeth in a good way, like "Dread And The Fugitive Mind" and "Recipe For Hate... Warhorse".

The only thing that "The World Needs A Hero" and "Risk" have in common is the feeling that Megadeth sometimes acts like a cover band. Even if "Return To Hangar" is a great track and one of the thrashier ones the band has done in ages, it is more or less the same as "Hangar 18", which is of course intended since it is a sequel to the track, but I feel like they could have been a little more imaginative about with it (at least put in more elaborate lyrics in). What is an even bigger rip off is the final song "When", which is more or less a complete replica of the Diamond Head classic "Am I Evil?", but with different lyrics. I think it is a disgrace to this classic song and a big middle finger to Diamond Head from Megadeth. I know that Dave have done covers before and altered some lyrics, but he is just stealing here and labels it as his own product. The worst part is that it is not even a good pirated copy. It is like one of those Iphone replicas from China. Might look decent on the outside, but is complete shit compared to the original.

This is a huge step forward for Megadeth and a glimpse of hope that the band might bounce back towards the top of the metal chain once again. "The World Needs A Hero" is not an amazing album that will go to the history as one of Megadeth's finest, but it is a album that at least shows that "Risk" was a one time thing, and nothing more. So if the band gets rid of the non-covers covers and brings a little more anger to the music, we might look at a really interesting future for the band.

Songs worthy of recognition: Return To Hangar, Recipe For Hate... Warhorse, Dread And The Fugitive Mind

Rating: 5,5/10 Moto Psychos

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

All That Remains - The Order of Things (2015)

I feel like I should explain myself on why I am reviewing this album. It is not because it is made by a "hot" mainstream band and I do not feel obligated to review it just because I reviewed the band's last album. I review this album since All That Remains was one of those bands that I grew up with during the late 90's/early 00's, one of the bands that got me into metal in the first place. I will always have respect for the band and what they have done in the past. So the real reason to why I am reviewing "The Order of Things" is that the band has been a small part of what have made me to who I am today.

More about the album then, "The Order of Things" is album number 7 by the Americans and the follow up to the very disappointing "A War You Cannot Win". And unfortunately, this album is not much better. The band is still stuck in the early 00's and in the sound that once made them famous, but the youthful spark they once had is just completely gone, making the music boring and bland. It doesn't matter if you are good at what you are doing when you are doing more or less the same thing over and over again.

The band does try to expand their sound some in this album, but it just doesn't work out at all. The song "No Knock" is a desperate attempt to try to sound heavy, with low riffs and straight out harsh vocals, but instead it backfires, showing that the band does not know what they are doing at all. It is just a slow grind fest to show off how heavy the band can be, and nobody really likes a show off. And there are more strange decisions that plagues this album, like who came up with the song titles "Fiat Empire" and "TRU-KVLT-METAL"? It just boggles my mind that someone would actually use those titles (unless you are actually sponsored by Fiat, which I highly doubt All That Remain is).

The only really good thing with this album is that is, just like all the other All That Remains efforts, fairly catchy. It is easy to follow with the simple song structures, which does make the music a good starting point for younger listeners. But as soon as those newcomers starts to find heavier, faster and better things in their search for new music, these songs will be left forgotten. There might be a chance that they will still remember songs like the groovy "Divide", the double bass friendly "Pernicious" or the Rise Against speedy "Bite My Tongue", but I cannot imagine that they will stay as favourites for too long, especially if those young kids get a hand of the most famous All That Remains album "The Fall of Ideals" that contains so much better music.

I hope that the band does the thing that the last song in "The Order of Things" tells them to do, and that is to take the criticism and start to get some self realization, that they are not what they used to be. The band desperately needs to find a new direction that fits them, because this bland sound has gone on for long enough. This music was new and exciting back in the day, but now it is just sad to see these guys playing and realize that they have had no progression what so ever. "The Order of Things" is a marginally better release than "A War You Cannot Win", but it is still a boring ass album that I just want to throw it in the trash can. And I just cannot help but thinking that this is the best we are going to get from these guys, which just saddens my younger self.

Songs worthy of recognition: Bite My Tongue, Divide

Rating: 5/10 Fiat Empires