Monday, August 31, 2015

Motörhead - Bad Magic (2015)

2 years have passed since Motörhead released "Aftershock", which can only mean one thing, that Lemmy, Phil, and Mikkey are once again ready to release new material. Motörhead has always been that big constant in the metal world, never cared about going with the trend or changing anything significantly over the music. Frankly, the only thing that has changed for the band in recent years is Lemmy's health problems, which has forced him to cancel some shows and replacing the Jack Daniels bottle with vodka (because of the diabetes). But as long as Lemmy is still alive, you know that they will keep on chugging out these albums every other year.

So yeah, the 22nd Motörhead album "Bad Magic" is just like its predecessors, no surprises what so ever. But that is how we want it to be, we want some meaty Motörhead groove, not some new age shit. The main reason to why the band is still doing so good amongst the competition is because there is no band like Motörhead, and there certainly is no other like Lemmy. Those two factors makes Motörhead an incredible force that never seem to run out of steam, they just keep on trucking.

The tunes are all very recognizable, but still holds a good enough standard for ones head to twitch and turn into madness. Even if Lemmy does not sound as good as he used to, he still manages to deliver some power in his voice, but also in his bass playing. And the help he is getting from Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee is crucial for the album to hold up to its full potential. They both put on quite a performance, spitting out great groovy riffs and fast pounding beats that just screams Motörhead about as loud as their concerts.

The opening of the album is the strongest part, starting with the highly encouraging "Victory Or Die", which shows that classic Lemmy wit that we all know and love ("They are all heroes, but they don't know what they are fighting for/That's the spirit, victory or die"). "Thunder & Lightning" will also be highly appreciated since it fills in as this album's "Ace of Spades"/"Overkill" copy, showing once again that Phil can pull off some great solos. Further down the stretch, "Evil Eye" impress me with its tenacity and wicked attitude, making it an instant stand out, and the same can be said to "Teach Them How To Bleed" and "Tell Me Who To Kill" (wish I could Lemmy, but there are just too many bastards in this world).

The band does actually manage to surprise me with "Till The End", a full fledged ballad. If it is a closing serenade for all of the fans, telling them that this is the end, thank you for all of the 40 years. I really do not buy that rumour, mostly because I believe the band will keep on going until Lemmy gets killed by death himself. Sure, "Bad Magic" could be the last Motörhead album ever, but I am sure that the band got at least another 2 year in them. Only the future will tell I guess.

No matter if "Bad Magic" is the last Motörhead album or not, I am just glad that they keep delivering the goods in the rate that they have been going on. Sure, the band has not blown me away in what seems like an eternity, but they must be doing something right since they have been at it for 40 years and released 22 albums along the way. The riffs still rocks, the groove is still groovy, and the passion is as strong as ever, which is all I ever need in a album to enjoy listening through it. So another job well done guys, let us now hope that father time does not catch up to Mr Kilmister just yet, we would certainly like to enjoy some more music from this rock 'n' roll legend.

Songs worthy of recognition: Thunder & Lightning, Victory Or Die, Evil Eye

Rating: 7/10 Fire Storm Hotels

More reviews of Motörhead
Ace of Spades
Iron Fist
Another Perfect Day
Rock 'n' Roll
March Ör Die
Overnight Sensation
Snake Bite Love
We Are Motörhead
Kiss of Death
The Wörld Is Yours

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ghost - Meliora (2015)

The Swedish hype phenomenon Ghost has just gone up the ladder of success in an astounding rate. Whether it is because of the secrecy of who the guys really are or because of their cult like act that made them stand out, it is ultimately the music that has kept them on top. Their soft, dark, and groovy style has really captured quite a following for the band, making them one of the strongest forces in this current age of metal music. They also brings something new to the table with every release, which makes them exciting and unpredictable. And even if it is pretty corny that they keep "changing" singers, or popes, they still hold a presence that is hard to match.

So after the riff cavalcade in "Opus Eponymous", and the vocal focused "Infestisumam", Papa Emeritus III decided to go on a different route than what his predecessors went. Well, not really, since "Meliora" actually takes the best from both worlds, mixing some groovy and demonic riffs together with more pop infused melodies. The album is immensely diverse diverse, having a broad range that should please those who liked one of the previous albums, but not the second one. It makes it clear that this is a band that is going for a unique experience every time they present a new chapter to their satanic tale, and it has certainly worked so far.

The musical inspiration is also incredibly immense, ranging from Blue Öyster Cult to Black Sabbath and even ABBA. I find it amazing that they are able to mix all these different elements and turn it into something truly original. You hear the inspiration in the music, but you recognize it as the sound of Ghost, which is just damn impressive.

What is also impressive is that the band can truly capture the listener into a devilish trance that no other band can. Just listen to that fantastic bass line in "From The Pinnacle To The Pit" and you will get hooked immediately. It certainly is my new favourite song from the band, with its simple, but effective, chorus and extra ordinary guitar and bass combo. There are several other highlights in the album, like the heavenly soft "He Is", the epic opener "Spirit", the evil groove in "Mummy Dust", the old school feel in "Absolution" and the nice and steady "Cirice", but none of them come even close to "From The Pinnacle To The Pit". I just really, really love that song.

But even if "Meliora" is Latin and stands for better, there is at least one thing that "Infestisumam" has in advantage over its successor, and that is the lasting impact. "Infestisumam" had a great bunch of songs that together combined into a full on experience that blew me away and has still stuck on with me since the first time I gave it a spin, a feeling I doubt "Meliora" will give me, mostly because the songs just does not stick to my mind as much. Besides from the two interludes, there is no track that I really dislike in the album, but songs like "Deus In Absentia" and "Mummy Dust" just does not have the power or presence to strike me. It really makes the overall album sound a little like it looks, a little muddy.

No matter what, "Meliora" is just another statement that Ghost is one of the leaders in the heavy musical scene right now. The band keeps on progressing and evolving with their constant changes of popes, and does it with the honor. Every Papa brings something fresh to the band, keeping them from being stale and boring. And while "Meliora" may not be entirely better than the amazing "Infestisumam", it is still a album that holds world class standard. The success, and secrecy, may continue.

Songs worthy of recognition: From The Pinnacle To The Pit, Spirit, He Is, Absolution

Rating: 8,5/10 Majesties

Monday, August 24, 2015

Disturbed - Immortalized (2015)

I did not think of it at the time it happened, but coming out of the shock and starting to think about it, I realized that it was a great decision for Disturbed to take a break from each other. Even if the band have done some amazing work and never released a bad album, they were kind of stuck in a vicious cycle of releasing about the same album over and over again every two or three years. Yes, there are things that does separate the albums apart, but those were only small details. So after a four year long hiatus where the band members have had the chance of relaxing and working on other projects (such as Device and Fight Or Flight), they are now back to bring back their patented bombastic metal style to us all.

But even with this hiatus in mind, it is like the band has not been away at all when you are listening to "Immortalized". The sound is still the same and the band itself is not doing anything hugely different from before. It sounds good and crisp at first, but you eventually remember that it is the same old story going on again. I am not saying that Disturbed are a complete "copy and paste" band, but you cannot get away from the fact that they have not evolved their sound an awful much since they released their debut, "The Sickness" from 2000. five albums and 15 years later, and the band keeps on going in their own, secured and well tested path.

I will give them this though, they are truly acting like full blood professional in their works. The production is big and bold, which fits the music perfectly to get as much power as possible from every beat. Their lyrics are still very interesting and well written, dealing with several different subjects from the evil power of media to the benefits of smoking weed (singer David Draiman have said earlier that about 95% of the songs he has written was done so while being high). Speaking of David, he and his signature vocal style does its thing as well, using it to create melody waves, both hard and soft. And let us not forget the occasional WRAH-AH AH, although those were rare in "Immortalized".

And just like any other Disturbed record, the band is cramming the better songs in the beginning of the album. Not to say that the second half only contains fillers ("Who" and "Never Wrong" does certainly not deserve such a shameful description), but the album is definitely front heavy. The title track leads the assault with its heavy, Corroded like approach, only to burst out into a epic, rebellious chorus that brings those ten thousand fists back up in the air. "The Vengeful One" sure catches your attention without really shining, while "The Light" feels more like it came from the 90's American skate-punk movement, but those two songs does speak to the more commercialized part of the fan base. The other part of that base should appreciate "Open Your Eyes" and "What Are You Waiting For" more, with their power and clear Disturbed vibes. So yeah, listening to the first half of the album is enough to get the full on Disturbed experience, but it is not an excuse for skipping out on the rest entirely, just one or two songs from there is enough to go on.

Lastly, I have to talk about the cover of the album, the Simon and Garfunkel classic "The Sound of Silence". Disturbed has done some impressive covers back in the day (for instance, "Land of Confusion"), and I do think it is an interesting interpretation of the song, but does it fit the band? I am not completely sure on that. The voice of David Draiman is a little too dark to give the song an extra dimension, which is so important since the singing is a big part in the song and the emotions it brings out. However, the band did manage to give the track a great, epic orchestral coating that seems fitting, and this cover certainly helps in giving the album some variety. It also helps in making the following song, "Never Wrong", seem tougher and heavier than what it actually is. So I do think it ultimately was a good fit in "Immortalized".

The hiatus have not changed Disturbed one bit, and that is both a good and a bad thing. The good news is that they hold the same quality as they did before the temporary break up. The bad news however, is that the band is still as predictable as always. Disturbed has certainly became the Nu-metal movement's answer to AC/DC and Motörhead. They practically makes the same album over and over again, only with slight changes here and there. It still sounds terrific, and "Immortalized" is certainly a more lively album than its predecessor, "Asylum", but the band does not take any risks at all. The hiatus has served them well, and I am glad that they are back at full swing, but this album could be the start for the band to end up in their old ways, which will probably lead to another hiatus in another 10-15 years, or even worse, a permanent break up.

Songs worthy of recognition: Immortalized, The Vengeful One, Never Wrong

Rating: 6,5/10 Lights

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bullet For My Valentine - Venom (2015)

It is more or less the same old story for the Welshmen in Bullet For My Valentine now a days. Everyone wants the band to get back to their origin, more specifically, their two ground breaking records "The Poison" and "Scream Aim Fire", and it is also something the band has wanted to. Their last effort, "Temper Temper", had the intentions right, but the fairly hollow song material left me and many others longing for something more meaty, something that would last longer than just 5 seconds in your head. So with the path laid out, it was just for the band to piece it all together, which they seem to have done.

Because "Venom" is more or less the album the fans have been waiting for. The band's fifth full length effort is clearly their hardest record since "Scream Aim Fire", which most of the thanks there goes to Matthew Tuck who is fully fit to consistently scream without hurting his voice significantly. But it is also Tuck and Paget's wicked riffs that gives "Venom" its hard edge and aggressive attitude. It got that overall feeling that both of the two first album have, so the band succeeded in their quest to reestablish the good side of their signature sound, something that should win back some of their older fans.

When it comes to the songs themselves, I can instantly say that none of them will get the same amount of commercial impact as some of the band's biggest hits, but who gives a rat's ass, I do not think that would have happened anyway, even if they wrote the 21st century equivalent to "Nothing Else Matters". It is unmistakeably the band's style that is shown here, a album mixed with aggressive maulers and softer, melodic ballads that together twines a versatile record. And with this pack of songs, that holds quite a good standard, it is a strong package that the band is presenting us.

In this record, I think I have found myself two songs that I will listen to a lot in the coming future. We have the strong and emotional anthem "You Want A Battle? (Here's A War)" were I give the choir big props for giving this track its epic feel. I also love "Army of Noise", a song that holds the speed and thrust of a space shuttle. It is definitely the meanest and most powerful creation the band has created since "Scream Aim Fire", and together with a sing along friendly chorus, it hits the nail on your head instantly, leaving a lasting impression on you.

Those two songs alone brings the album up there along the first two albums quality wise, and several other songs like "Broken" and "No Way Out" is helping out to make "Venom" enjoyable, but the album does lose its steam the further it goes, leaving me to think if the band ran out of ideas and just slammed in fillers to make the fans happy. Let me tell you this guys, you do not make your fans happy by rushing out half finished work. If songs like "Hell Or High Water" and "Skin" would have been worked on a little more, then they could have turned out fine, but in their current state, they are pretty boring and bland. So maybe the band should take a little longer working on their next album so this unfinished feeling does not repeat itself.

So yeah, the band keeps on improving, taking step by step to reach the same heights that they reached in the early stages of their career. Because even if "Venom" does not have enough material to make a great, solid album, it still holds a couple of highlights to bring a smile to the listeners. The band sure has evolved from their struggles, and I am sure that this progress will keep on going at least another album. But for every album that goes by, I get more and more doubtful of the band ever exceeding their first two albums. Let us hope that they prove me wrong.

Songs worthy of recognition: Army of Noise, You Want A Battle? (Here's A War), Broken

Rating: 7/10 Pariahs

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fear Factory - Genexus (2015)

As a reviewer, I sometimes find albums that I initially did not intend to write about, but after giving it some time and listens, I find it so god damn good that I could not resist the urge to let the world know of what I feel. This is without a shadow of doubt one of these rare moments. While I do know about Fear Factory's existence, I have not really gotten into the band, getting the feeling that they are more machines than humans that control the music. I did listen to the band's previous effort, the 2012 "The Industrialist", but did not really care for it, so I thought when going into "Genexus" that it would be around the same thing, and same experience. I was dead wrong.

"Genexus" shows up the band and all of its strength in an impressive way, and in a production filter that just pounds you like a jack hammer. Mixing the ultra heavy groove of Strapping Young Lad with dark industrialism, Fear Factory comes out way more focused and passionate than when I heard them 3 years ago. It is almost like I am hearing a completely different band. And the quality the members put out is just stunning. Burton C. Bell's perfect blend between clean and harsh vocals, Mike Heller's powerful drum beats, and most importantly, the bone crushing, face melting riffs of Dino Cazares all help out to make this album a stronger mechanical force than Terminator.

Even with the amazing delivery, it is the songs that define "Genexus", making it the force it has become. Almost all of the songs balance perfectly between being both heavy and almost commercially attractive, mostly thanks to the melodic and catchy choruses. But the thing that impress me the most is the extremely high consistency. No song suck, all of them is worthy of a good, long notice, and in addition to that, we have a couple of tunes that makes the peak of the album as high as it almost possibly can go. "Genexus" is just pure quality from start to finish.

All of the songs are clearly related to each other, but they still got their own personalities that makes them stand out. From the über epic "Protomech" to the super groovy "Regenerate", "Genexus" is flexing all of its different muscles, showing all details in perfect lighting. And even the weirder parts of the albums sounds like they fit perfectly (a perfect example of that, the chorus to "Anodized", which somehow reminds me more of Morrisey than anything metal related). Everything just feels so well thought of, nothing placed haphazardly.

I also have to give the band credit for their lyrics. Because even if almost all of the songs speak about humans turning into machines or something similar to that, they still manage to not make it too stale or boring. Choosing their words wisely, emphasizing the darkest and heaviest part with harsh vocals. It is also this song writing that even makes a sleeping pill like "Expiration Date" a interesting listen. Just watch for yourself in this small outtake from said song.

You're blind to what's in front of you
What do you know about the truth
Devalued as soon as we're cast
We were never made to last
Just bodies made and fabricated
We're fighting towards our life extension
We're living for expiration

Simply amazing.

This really makes me wonder, was "The Industrialist" not a true showing of Fear Factory? My first full experience of the band almost hindered me from giving "Genexus" a chance, but fortunately, I had the sense to give the band a second chance, and it paid off big time. "Genexus" is a industrial metal fan's wet dream, a heavy, groovy, and mechanized mayhem that runs like clockwork, never wasting a second of ones life. I never thought a single album would completely turn my view of a band, but this one did. It had made me curious over what the band has done in the past and I want to know if they have made anything else that has the same amount of quality to it. So thank you "Genexus" for reinstating my respect for Fear Factory, and for making 2015 a lot more interesting.

Songs worthy of recognition: Regenerate, Autonomous Combat System, Anodized, Dielectric, Protomech

Rating: 9,5/10 Soul Hackers

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Symphony X - Underworld (2015)

There is no metal band in the world that can mix progressive structures with heavy and technical riffs as good as Symphony X. The band really brought the metal to the progressive music scene when they emerged back in 1994. Sure, Dream Theater was more or less the first band to have metal influences mixed with prog, but it was Symphony X who took it to the next level. So whenever the New Jersey boys brings forth another album, I celebrate, especially this time since the lead singer, Russell Allen, has scattered away several times during the 4 years since the last album took place to do some side work, both successful (Allen/Lande) and not so successful (Adrenaline Mob, Level 10). Feels good to see him back again in his rightful element.

Following the 2011 release "Iconoclast" (one of my favourites from that year), the band's 9th effort "Underworld" does have some resemblance to it, making it a very logical follow up, but it has enough own intentions to make it strong and independent among the other 8 Symphony X creations. The heavy, hard hitting attitude that defined the predecessor is certainly back, but it is being mixed with a couple of slower ballads to give the album more dynamic. I do like these songs ("Without You" and "Swan Song") and think that they show a new nice side of the band, but I came for the metal, and it is the thing that appeals to me the most in the end.

The band sets its foot down instantly with the song "Nevermore", a heavy assault that shows exactly what Symphony X knows and does best. And even if the song does have some similarities to Adrenaline Mob, it just goes to show how good that band could have really been if they just got their head out of their asses. The band keeps hammering on in the same style in a title track that contains a bone chilling chorus. "Underworld" is certainly not as heavy as "Iconoclast" was, but it is still a heavy piece that has more melody mixed into it.

Another thing I notice is the reoccurring theme of hell and darkness in this album, and that is because the whole album is loosely based on the all time classic "Dante's Inferno" by Dante Alighieri. It is not a pure concept album, but the theme is still clear to see and easy to recognize, especially in songs like "To Hell And Back" and "Run With The Devil". The band manages to keep a strong, cohesive sound throughout the album, a dark sound that still has a glimmer of light in it, making it hauntingly beautiful. A strong imagery that suits the band extremely well.

Overall, this is another strong outing by the X, and surprisingly, a step up from their latest effort. "Underworld" shows a nice variety, and also still contains a good, cohesive thread throughout all of the songs, making "Underworld" a very pleasant experience. The band shows once again why they are one of the top dogs within the genre, and will be for the years to come. The high quality records keeps on coming, and I do not mind if they keep coming up with some more, even if I have to wait another 4 or 5 years.

Songs worthy of recognition: Underworld, Nevermore, To Hell And Back, Swan Song

Rating: 8,5/10 Legends

Friday, August 7, 2015

Gus G. - Brand New Revolution (2015)

You cannot accuse Gus G. to be a typical Greek. Unlike most of his fellow countrymen who helped getting Greece into the financial situation they are at today, Gus G. takes action and keeps himself busy, never stopping, just keeps on rolling. Together with his main band Firewind and his partnership with Ozzy Osbourne, the guitar virtuoso revived his own solo project last year with the professional, but straggly "I Am The Fire". Now he is back with another attempt, trying to make a "Brand New Revolution" and hopefully give this project a real boost.

For those of you who listened to the last album, "Brand New Revolution" should not surprise you one bit. This album is like a trimmed down version of its predecessor, lowering the number of guest artists and putting more focus in making a more cohesive album. Even if these guest artists, including Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), Mats Levén (Candlemass), Jeff Scott Soto and Jacob Bunton, are doing a good job, it is still Gus himself who rightfully steals the show. The man knows how to handle a guitar and he does it with quite the honor, wheter it is in a exquisite solo or in a breathtaking instrumental.

However, it still surprise me that Gus still seem to show what a talented show writer he is instead of showing his true skills as a guitar player. Because it is like this, that the only instrumental in this album, "The Quest", is the best song of the album. One reason to this is that most of the songs here are rather bland, but it is also because Gus riffs and shreds with such ferocity and heart that it really comes through the speakers. I would give a lot to hear a full instrumental album by the man (There is one existing called "Guitar Master", Gus's first solo album, but I would not recommend it to anyone since it is extremely primitive, he has grown a lot since that was released).

The rest of the songs variates between standard hard rock songs, light metal, and half cheesy 80's-esque rock ballads. A weird mix that did not work in the last album, and is not working here either. I do like a couple of songs though. Elize Ryd fits perfectly in with "What Lies Below", a half Amaranthe, half Lacuna Coil creation that feels genuinely original compared to its brethren. The title track has a nice hooky chorus, that could have been faster and have more edge to it, but still works as it is (especially with that excellent solo). And while "We Are One" might have worked better for Papa Roach, it is still a decent and easily likeable tune that comes down without any resistance.

Most of the songs are just bland, forgettable tunes that goes in one ear and comes out the other. It is like a Teflon pan, it does not stick, what so ever. How can a man that has created such catchy tunes as "Head Up High", "I Am The Anger" and "World On Fire" write such boring material? I get that he does not want to take the Firewind sound into his solo project (even though he took the band emblem and made a similar copy to himself) and that he wants to spread his wings, but he must surely be capable of writing better stuff than this, right? Well, one could only hope...

No, this did not really appeal to me either. "Brand New Revolution" has the same problems as "I Am The Fire", only in a smaller scale. This is an improvement for the Greek, but he still has some way to go to make a good solo record. I suggest adding more instrumentals, which showcases his skills, and invite only one guest artist to do the vocal work, or even better, hire one so he can do live shows as well in the future. It worked for Slash, and it should work for Gus. One thing however I would not change is Gus' drive, and I hope that drive and passion brings out a new Firewind album soon enough, its been too long since the last one. Bring the fire!

Songs worthy of recognition:What Lies Below, The Quest, Brand New Revolution

Rating: 5,5/10 Demons Inside

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Joe Satriani - Shockwave Supernova (2015)

The instrumental land scape has changed fairly drastically in about the last decade or so, seeing a bunch of bands blooming out, trying to take it as far as possible with complex rhythms, technical playing, and reinventing the genre again and again. Fortunately, there is at least one thing with the genre that has stayed the same since the 80's, and that something is Joe Satriani. The American guitar virtuoso has been working in a steady pace throughout his career, releasing new material every other year, and shows with each release that he not only masters the guitar like no other, but also know exactly how to make a great instrumental album come to life.

Judging from the cover and the name of the man's 15th studio effort, I almost thought that "Shockwave Supernova" would be a very different Satriani album, a more powerful and heavier effort. But no, he fooled me there. It is the same Satch boogie that has been dazzling us for years, with a broad range of inspirations from the worlds of jazz, blues, rock and more. This broad range can be tough for some listeners who has limited taste in music, but it definitely shows just how well diverse the man really is.

There is an overall nice flow to the album, but I did wish that it had some more personality to it. The overall structure is awfully similar to the one in "Unstoppable Momentum", making it seem like Joe just used a "paint by number" approach to the whole song creation process. But in the end, it is the quality of the craftsmanship that really matters, and you know that Joe will bring out a stunning display.

There are a couple of songs that stands out from the rest of the pack in this album. The opening title track has a really good flow, almost telling a story without uttering a single word. Then we have "On Peregrine Wings", that is just a stunning track where Joe is showing off a bunch of different techniques and styles, but still manages to make the song sound like one whole piece. And that beautiful riff on the "chorus" is just magic. "A Phase I'm Going Through" shows just how good of a shredder Joe is, giving us the most technical riffs and solos he has done in years. Also listen to the beautiful "Lost In A Memory", the crystal clear "Cataclysmic", and the sweet cruising "If There Is No Heaven".

Yep, Joe Satriani has created another well constructed effort here in "Shockwave Supernova", a album with great variety and fantastic showmanship. But there is something with this humongous variety that bugs me, because I want to see Joe create a full album that focuses on one main style, instead of just showing his whole tool box album after album. We know you are a well rounded artist Joe, and that is fantastic, but now I want to see some concepts, a album filled with songs that steers in the same direction. Can you do that for me please? Of course you can, I believe in you, but it is ultimately up to you if you want to do it or not, and to be honest, I am fine with it either way, just do your thing and bring out some stunning music.

Songs worthy of recognition: On Peregrine Wings, Lost In A Memory, A Phase I'm Going Through

Rating: 7,5/10 Scarborough Stomps