Monday, November 30, 2015

Júlio Stotz - Dark Ravishing Energy EP (2015)

About a year back in time, I reviewed a EP made by Brazilian-German music composer Júlio Stotz called "Suspended In Reverie", a beautiful instrumental EP that mixed heavy djent inspired riffs with more fluent and vibrant piano melodies. An all in all great effort that still to this day is one of my favourite EPs that I have reviewed on this blog.

The same guy has now come with "Dark Ravishing Energy", a EP with more of the same, sweet thing. 4 brand new songs that will cleanse your mind with beauty and emotions. All of the songs displayed here are nice individual works that ties together perfectly in both style and sound to create a grand unity.

All 4 songs are worthy of a listen, for different reasons. The opener "Will To Power" succeeds in telling a story, without uttering any words, while "Delusions" shows some good technicality with its epic synths, sustained guitars, and oddly satisfying drum beats. Then we have "Verstonnen" (German for thoughtful), a calm song with no guitars, only beautiful piano melodies that never seem to end. Finally, we have "In Spite of Everything", a nice, epic song that includes guitar solos from Olaf Thorsen (Vision Divine, Labyrinth) and Ivan Mihaljevic (Side Effects).

The song line-up certainly matches the one in "Suspended in Reverie", but because this EP was named "Dark Ravishing Energy", I expected something that would resemble the name, something more feisty. And just like with the last EP, I would have loved to heard more. 4 songs  with a combined play time of 17 minutes is just not enough to satisfy my needs for good music.With that said, I still think this EP is another fine release from Júlio. Here he shows again that he knows how to create a stunning mood and accompany it with great musicality. A marvelous EP of unique and stunning music.

Songs worthy of recognition: All four songs are worthy

Rating: 8/10 Delusions


Twitter: @stotzjulio

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thoughts from a metal mind: Why you should never do a cover album

Covers is one of the most useless things that exists in the music universe. Bands and artists may say that they cover a certain song because this band inspired them to become who they are today, or because they think they can make it better. I call bs on that. As I see it, cover tracks are just an excuse to fill out empty space in a record when you are completely out of ideas. And it does not get better when you decide to make a full album of covers. Several huge artists, like Metallica, Children of Bodom, and HammerFall, have released a cover album, probably just to make extra cash. How can someone be this stupid?

The thing that bothers me with covers is that unless you transform the song from one genre to a completely different one, it is bound to fail. Often when a metal band covers another metal band, it sounds more of a lazy copy of the original. I am a firm believer of bands that decides to do a cover of a song, and transform it to something one could easily see in their own discography.

Unfortunately, when you do a whole album of covers, bands tend to cut a lot of corners, and put in the classic copy-paste method instead. Up to this date, I have not found one cover album I have fully liked. The best one I have listened to is the tribute album to Ronnie James Dio that was released a year ago, but that was a whole bunch of bands involved, not one single band, so I count this as a tribute album instead of a pure cover album.

The newest guy who has done this stupidity is Glenn Danzig. Today he released "Skeletons", a album filled with cover of songs by Black Sabbath, ZZ Top, Aerosmith, and even Elvis Presley. I took a quick listen to the cover of "N.I.B.", then I stopped, and turned off Spotify. It was that awful. It sounded so sloppy that it feels like Danzig was doing a tax report while recording this. I gathered my courage, and gave the other songs a fighting chance, but to no avail, they were no good. I got a lot of respect for what Danzig has done (both in the Misfits years, and the Danzig years), but this is below his dignity. Also, if you wonder what kind of a rating I would give this album, I can say that it would be below 4, but I will not give a exact rating since I do not rate cover albums.

Ultimately, it is better to put your effort into making new music instead of looking back to the past, and try to fix something that is not broken. Find other ways to honour your favourite bands, like wearing a T-shirt from them when you play live. Do not waste time and money on something that has a 99% chance of being ridiculed and hated. That is my advice bands, take it or leave it.

Some good covers

Disturbed - Land of Confusion (Genesis)

Without a doubt the most famous cover made by a metal band, and there is no question to why this is so. Disturbed did a great job in transforming this classic 80's rock song (whom does have one of the best music videos ever made) into a modern Disturbed track with metal riffs, Ten Thousand Fists mentality, and some rah-ah-ah.

Machine Head - The Sentinel (Judas Priest)

When I first heard this song on "Unto The Locust", I had no idea that Judas Priest was the original writers of this fantastic song. The songs are quite similar, but Machine Head does put their own, modern touch to it, making it one of the highlights on one of their best albums up to date.

Megadeth - These Boots (Nancy Sinatra)

Okay, sound wise, it may not be too pleasing, but it is a fun cover from the band's first album, "Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!". The fact that the original writers took offense to this cover and threatened to sue Megadeth for the altered lyrics is just hilarious.

Metallica - Mercyful Fate medley

This is how you pay tribute to a fellow band! This medley features some of the most classic Mercyful fate songs, and bakes it all in to a meaty 11 minute extravaganza. Hearing "Into The Coven", "Evil", "Satan's Fall", "Curse of The Pharaohs", and "A Corpse Without A Soul" all together is just metal candy for your ears. Metallica tried to recreate the magic in a Dio tribute record, and while it was good, it did not match this one.

And some bad ones...

Anthrax - Got The Time (Joe Jackson)

Somehow, this cover has had a steady spot in the band's set list (together with Trust's "Antisocial") ever since it was released. It sounds decent, but when you listen to the original, you will soon realize that all Anthrax did was to add some heavier guitars.

Five Finger Death Punch - Bad Company (Bad Company)

I actually think this cover is not THAT bad, but compared to the original, it is not very good. But what I hate most about it is that about 80% (or possibly more, I am no statistician) of the FFDP fan base thinks that this is a original song, and that Bad Company made a cover of it. Sure, that fan base probably has a average age of 16, so how should they know, but it is still dumb, nonetheless.

Avenged Sevenfold - Walk (Pantera)

Ctrl+c and ctrl+v from start to finish, not a worthy tribute to one of the most influential bands of all time

Limp Bizkit - Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)

It disgusts me that these metal wannabes got some of their biggest success from this very cover. I can still hear this song on the radio from time to time, which just sickens me. I am thankful that these guys are a non factor in the metal (and rap) community today.

Do you agree with me? Give me your opinions of covers, are they worthless use of space or a chance to honour influences of the band? Also, name some covers that you love or hate. Do it on the comment section below, or do it on twitter (@FATGreviews).

Stay Metal
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Intronaut - The Direction of Last Things (2015)

I should really stop judging a band of its album covers and genre description, it keeps me from finding awesome bands. Intronaut is labeled as a post-metal sludge band, which might be true (I have low knowledge of these sub genres), but I was a little skeptic in giving them a fair chance. It was not after I decided to read a few reviews of the album that made me take them into consideration of hearing their new release. Parables with bands such as Between The Buried And Me, Mastodon, and Tool? Sounds great, give it to me now!

"The Direction of Last Things" is album number five by the Los Angeles lads, making them quite experienced by now, which I think is reflected good in the music. The compositions fits well together and the instrumentation is nice and technical, although I am a bit annoyed over the fact that it sound so similar to Between The Buried And Me. It is close to ridiculous at times, especially in the beginning of the album.

So where do we find the Mastodon and Tool in this record? If we start with Mastodon, Intronaut does manage to create a fantastic groovy song in "The Pleasant Surprise", the shortest song on the album with its 4 minutes of play time. It is a spaced out sound that is much like the one we heard in "Crack The Skye", and while the song may not fully match up to that amazing album, it is still a great tune that gets your body rocking. But when it comes to the similarities with Tool, I cannot really find any obvious ones. The album is progressive, and has some psychedelic parts in it, but I do not hear any Tool in the music at all. Instead, I would put Scale The Summit as the third band influence because it has several organic instrumental parts. Still, not too bad to be compared with such fine acts.

But let us look past the comparisons and instead focus on the important part, which is how good the music sounds in one's ears. I am definitely enjoying myself when listening to "The Direction of Last Things", it has a soft and cool approach, but still manages to create some organized chaos within it. It is well crafted on more or less every level, from the crisp production to the logical song lengths. It also shows a lot of different layers and influences of genres. From jazz and prog, to more groovier sounds. It is a complete package.

One thing I would have liked the band to do though is to give the songs more legs to stand on their own, because they all seem to depend on each other. Take one random track out, and it will not seem so tough anymore. I also feel like this album demands a lot from its listener, even if it is not overly long (46 minutes), nor have any songs that reaches past the 10 minute mark. It is great that the band has managed to cram so much into so little space, but the high density of the music can be tough on the mind sometimes.

I am glad that I finally gave Intronaut a fair chance, because I thoroughly enjoyed "The Direction of Last Things" as a whole experience. Sure, it is hard to ignore that some of the music is almost copied from other established acts, but in this day and age, it is hard to make a new album and not be compared to another band, because there are so many out there. Intronaut has certainly created a beautiful album that has a lot of depth in it that no one should miss out on. I know I almost did, and I am relieved that I got to hear it.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Pleasant Surprise, Digital Gerrymandering, Sul Ponticello

Rating: 7,5/10 Fast Worms

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Alcohol double review: Trooper 666 and Slayer 666 Red Ale

One comes in a luxurious box, the other with Eddie on it

The alcoholic market has become a great way for established bands to take if they want to get back the money that they loose from the decline of album sales. Almost all of the biggest bands have at least one brand of alcohol up for sale at our local liquor distributors. Today I will review two of these beverages, one that is a limited edition version of a previously released drink, and another one that has the devil's number in its name, and they are marketed by two legendary bands, Iron Maiden, and Slayer.

Trooper 666

My first alcohol review was on Trooper, a nice clear beer that I did a shit review on. What can I say, I was young, stupid, and drunk when I did it. I am not so sure if I would give the same rating today, but I will say this, Trooper does have a better taste than most other beer in the same class that I have tried.

To celebrate the great success Trooper has become (the beer has sold over 10 million pints!), Robinson Brewery and singer Bruce Dickinson has now presented Trooper 666, a darker version of Trooper that also has a higher percentage of alcohol, but promises to have the same rich flavour of the original. Now, I would not say the original was rich in flavour, but it was the least I could expect from 666, that it would resemble its brother.

The beer certainly meets my expectations, it is darker in both taste and looks, and also has a higher percentage of alcohol in it. The taste does also have sort of that citric taste that mad the original Trooper stand out, which I am very pleased over, since I feared that the darkness would consume its personality. In fact, it gets its own personality thanks to this darkness.

If Trooper was this teenager that could barely grow a mustasche and had just reached the required age to buy beer, Trooper 666 is a guy in his late 20's/early 30's, mature and experienced enough to know what kind of beer they want, but young enough to still go out and party. Robinson Brewery has certainly succeeded in evolving this beverage into something that one would not mistake for water. Up the Irons!

Rating: 8,5/10

Slayer 666 Red Ale

Slayer 666 Red Ale actually comes from a Swedish brewery called Nils Oscar Bryggeri (Sweden, fuck yeah!!!), which actually surprised me since Slayer is an American band. But then I remembered one thing that could explain one thing or two, that most American beer suck. For us Europeans, American beer tastes like water. Beers like Budweiser, Coors and Red Stripe is so much blander than what I am used to. The only American beer I can actually enjoy is Samuel Adams, and that is mostly thanks to this sketch from "The Chappelle Show" (Dave Chappelle, what a guy).

Compared to Trooper 666, Slayer 666 Red Ale is not that much different. It is a little darker in color and it only packs 6.5% in alcohol percentage compared to Trooper 666's 6.6%. The main difference comes of course in the taste, which is a much darker one. Whenever I take I sip, I get taken down to hell, just to get a seat next to Jeff Hannemann where he will sit, in his throne, reigning in blood. Okay, I might have carried away a little there, but I have to admit that it was better than what I expected.

First off, the beer is dark, a lot darker than what I am used. It is not quite as dark as the idol of all dark beer, which of course is Guiness, which eased my mind since I consider those types to be more tar than beer. Anyway, the beer does take a while for me to chug down, but it is not so bad that I have to force it down. It does hit you as hard as the band can do when they reach their max potential.

What I do not like about the beer is that it does not have too big of a own personality, it just tastes of dark ale. The taste is good, and reflects the band quite well, but I would have liked more originality to it. With that said, it is still obvious that the band and brewery master Patrick Holmqvist connected together and was really dedicated to create a beer that did not taste like piss. Certainly something for the fans of the band.

Rating: 7/10

In conclusion, two fine examples of beer that every fan should try at least once in their lives. I may think that most of these alcoholic band drinks are just a complex and innovative way to get some more cash, but there is several upsides to it, one is that it makes it easier for a music lover to chose among the endless list of beverage that is available. So support your band, and chug, chug, chug!

Stay Metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Judas Priest - Rocka Rolla (1974)

We all know that Black Sabbath are the grand fathers of heavy metal and the band that more or less invented the genre, but it was another Birmingham band that was the first to actually call themselves a heavy metal band. Judas Priest was formed in 1970 by guitarist K. K. Downing, bassist Ian "Skull" Hill and drummer John Ellis. They later added vocalist Al Atkins to the line-up, who's previous band was called Judas Priest, a name that the new group decided to take. This line-up however did not last very long because of several reasons, so both Atkins and Ellis left, and after a couple of short lived replacements (Alan Moore and Chris Campbell), the band finally found solid ground in David Hinch and Rob Halford. After another couple of years touring, the band added Glenn Tipton to the line-up, and got ready to release their debut album, entitled "Rocka Rolla".

This album did not create any big buzz when released, and even if Judas Priest is now considered one of the biggest and most influential bands in the history of metal, it still gets little to no recognition. Sure, the band has released several better albums over the 4 decades they have been around, but I always wondered why this album was often over looked. After several listening session, I see clearly why it has been so.

For a young fella like me, Judas Priest would not be the first band that would come to my mind when listening to "Rocka Rolla". During the time, it seems like the band was still in a phase of self exploration, because "Rocka Rolla" is sort of a mix between the progressive melodies of Led Zeppelin and the darker riffs of Black Sabbath. Hell, even Rob Halford is trying to find his inner Metal God in this album, performing a more softer version of himself here (although he does lay out some soaring screams throughout the album, indicating what was coming in the future).

If things would have gone a little different in the recording process, "Rocka Rolla" could have been a completely different album. The production is sub par, with the reason for it being technical issues in the studio. Also, the producer of the album, Rodger Bain, rejected several songs for this album, including "Tyrant", "Epitaph", "Ripper", and a early version of "Victim of Changes" (all these songs eventually made it into the following album, "Sad Wings of Destiny". Bain may be famous for producing the first three albums by Black Sabbath, but he did sort of drop the ball on "Rocka Rolla". Bain also had to cut down the song "Caviar And Meths" from its original 14 minute length, to a measly 2. Unfortunately, there is no recording of the original song, but Al Atkins did include it in his 1998 album "Victim of Changes" in a 7 minute form.

Looking past the production, there are a couple of songs that are pretty decent, even if they are no where near the band's best material. The title track has a nice groove to it, much like the one Kiss could create in their glory days. The guitars in it are also well crafted, reminiscing of ZZ Top's sweet blues rock. "Never Satisfied" is another nice little piece, one that could have easily been in one of Black Sabbath's early records, but the mesmerizing dual guitar of Downing and Tipton gives the song its own touch, and fortunately for us, this would not the last time we would hear these two guys make sweet music together.

Besides from those two, the rest of the songs in "Rocka Rolla" are either too slow or too muddy to fully enjoy them. It is painfully obvious that the production hurts the album in any way possible, and it does not help that some of the better songs was rejected for this album just because they did not have enough commercial attraction. Still, "Rocka Rolla" is a rough work that should be appreciated, not because of the quality in it, but as the start for one of the best, and one of the first, heavy metal groups of all time. Rocka Rolla all night long.

Songs worthy of recognition: Rocka Rolla, Never Satisfied, Run of The Mill

Rating: 5,5/10 Cheaters

More reviews of Judas Priest
Sad Wings of Destiny
Sin After Sin
Stained Class
Killing Machine
British Steel
Point of Entry
Screaming For Vengeance
Defenders of The Faith
Ram It Down
Angel of Retribution
Redeemer of Souls


Monday, November 16, 2015

Light The Torch (ex-Devil You Know) - They Bleed Red (2015)

Okay, I do not know what kind of biology lesson the guys in Devil You Know has been too, but if they tried to create some mystique or originality to their album title, I have some bad news for them. We all bleed red, it is as common as super groups. So yeah, the title is corny and close to flat out stupid, but the band does keep the same color palette from their debut, "The Beauty of Destruction", creating a stable theme in the cover department that is recognizable for the band. That is something, I guess.

For those of you who missed out on who these guys are, Devil You Know is a super group consisting of Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage), John Sankey (Fear Factory, Divine Heresy), Fransesco Artusato (All Shall Perish) and Ryan Wombacher (Bleeding Through). Unlike 90% of all other super groups, the band actually created something interesting in "The Beauty of Destruction", mixing classic mainstream metal core melodies with much heavier vibes.

Even if there has only been one year since the last album, "They Bleed Red" displays a different approach. Gone are almost all of the mainstream songs, and left is the heavier material. You will not find a new "Seven Years Alone" in this album, but this does not mean that the songs lacks some catchy hooks to them. Songs like "The Way We Die" and "Your Last Breath" contains choruses that are easy to hum along to, but still holds a fair amount of heavy beats to it so the mainstream rock radio stations will think twice before letting them out in the air ways.

One thing the band has improved on is creating a more stable and even outing in "They Bleed Red". All of the songs holds about the same standard of quality, which certainly is nice for the ones that prefers to listen to entire albums. If you however are a guy who does not have that kind of patience, and worry that the individual tracks are bland, then let me calm you by saying that this album does have some tracks that shines. "Stay of Execution" has a aggression that is very much alike the one we see in Machine Head, which of course is a good thing, and songs like "Shattered Silence" and "Consume The Damned" keeps this aggressive flame running wild throughout the album.

I must also mention the bonus material, especially the cover of the Survivor classic "Eye of The Tiger". I do think the guys had the right idea when making this cover, the instrumentation really transform this classic into a modern metal song, but the over the top vocals by Howard Jones keeps me from loving it, but it could also be that I am dead sick of the song after playing it over a million times in Rock Band. Anyway, the other two bonus tracks, "I Am Alive" and "We Live", are fine, enjoyable songs, but they do not quite fit in with the rest of the album, which is why I think they were left as bonus material.

"They Bleed Red" tend to be a bit monotone in its sound, even with the slower "Let The Pain Take Hold" being there to break things up, and I also think that the first half of the album overtakes the second half in both memorability and quality, but the album is too good to let these negative things be a baggage. The band has done something that almost all super groups has failed at, creating a sound that fans can identify them with without involving any of their other bands. Devil You Know are taking the right steps in establishing a permanent place in the music business, and they are doing so by giving out stellar albums.

Songs worthy of recognition: Shattered Silence, Consume The Damned, Stay of Execution

Rating: 7,5/10 Masters of None

More reviews of Light The Torch
The Beauty of Destruction

Friday, November 13, 2015

Vanden Plas - Chronicles of The Immortals: Netherworld II (2015)

Growing older comes with several down sides, one being the sensation that every year feels shorter and shorter, giving you the realization that you are closer to your demise. I still cannot believe that there has gone a full year since the Germans in Vanden Plas released "Chronicles of The Immortals: Netherworld (Path I)", and that they are now ready to unveil the second part of this massive saga, in which they created together with the German author Wolfgang Hohlbein. Oh, how time flies by...

Anyway, let us snap out of this depressive mood, because the first part was a fantastic experience, so naturally, the second part follows in the same foot steps, both musically and atmospherically. The music is still classic Vanden Plas, very epic with several heavy and melodic riffs thrown into it, creating a complex synergy that is hard to resist. And to aid the music, the band has certainly brought their A-game, especially the singer Andy Kuntz, whom I have always thought had a unique, but strange voice. Here though, his voice fits perfectly with the music and helps in creating a stunning mood. Andy has never sounded better than what he does in this album.

Another thing that has not changed since the first album is that the songs are called visions. This was one of few complaints I had on the first part, and my mind over it has not changed since, it looks so dumb that they are labeled as 11even, 12elve, 13teen, and so on. Please, just decide on if you want to use numbers or letters, do not compromise. I know that this critique is petty, but it still bugs me.

The album opens in a beautiful fashion with "In My Universe", a slow, epic tune that drags you in into the Netherworld and gives you a first person perspective of all that is happening here. the same tempo goes in the following song, "Godmaker's Temptation", before kicking it up a notch with "Stone Roses Edge", a heavier song that still contains the same amount of epic within it. These thrilling riffs makes my bones chill in an exciting way, the same thing happened when I listened to "Godmaker" in the first part.

Another highlight of the album is the grand epic "Blood of Eden (All Love Must Die)", a three part, 13 minute song where the band shows all of their skills. Even if it is easy to distinguish the three parts aside, they fit together nicely and creates a great epic piece that serves as the main part of the story. But my favourite part of the album comes in the same part in which some of my favourite movie scenes of all time takes place, which is the final battle. Cleverly titled "The Last Fight", this track mixes fast, frenetic riffing and keyboard loops with more soaring parts. Let us also not forget that it also have some of the best solos in the whole "Chronicles..." series. A well worthy climax to a fantastic concept.

So if you have not guessed it by now, the both parts are practically the same cup of tea, which I think is the biggest strength. Why fix something that is not broke? They are so similar that I think that none of them should be favoured over the other. Both albums could have easily been released as one, humongous entity, because there is no fillers on either albums, making this concept fluent and strong. Kudos to Vanden Plas and Wolfgang Hohlbein for making such an amazing double album experience.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Last Fight, In My Universe, Stone Roses Edge, Blood of Eden (All Love Must Die)

Rating: 9/10 Godmakers

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Gama Bomb - Untouchable Glory (2015)

It is once again time to summon our inner thrash guy, and indulge ourselves in the pride and joy of Northern Ireland, Gama Bomb. And judging by the cover, they are better and crazier than ever, paying homage to Hong Kong Kung-Fu movies, James Bond, and snakes that knows how to blow up shit. And sure enough, "Untouchable Glory" is another album filled with what the guys does best, blasting out riffs and beats in a incredible fast pace, while shouting lyrics that are hard to comprehend.

The band's humour has always been their greatest asset, to create a crazy fast spoken story that may be hard to sing along with and discover with only your ears at your disposal, but once you open up that lyric sheet, you will get a good laugh out of it. Actually, the laughs comes early on when you glance at the titles. How can one go wrong with titles like "Drinkers, Inc." and "James Joints".

Just like in the predecessor "The Terror Tapes", the band has made a great effort in making every song in here memorable, a problem that is common in crossover thrash albums. Despite that every song has more or less the same speed, they all have small, intricate details that makes them stand out, whether it be a great and groovy chorus ("Avenge Me!"), funny lyrics ("My Evil Eye"), insane riffing ("She Thing"), or Snoop Dogg references ("James Joints").

Despite containing 12 songs, the album is barely over half an hour long, which I am not surprised over since the genre is built around shorts songs. Fortunately, the only song that is too short is "James Joints", and that song is long enough (1 minute) to pack some good punch in it. It is a shame that the album ends in the blink of an eye, but at least the band favours quality over quantity, which is always good.

The only thing that really bothers me with this record is that they got rid of the thing that got me hooked to the band in the first place, the sci-fi vibe. I guess that "My Evil Eye" and "I Will Haunt You" still have some of that in it, but it is certainly not the focal point anymore. I am not saying that it is a bad decision of the band to focus on other themes and such, but it is a shame that they leave their roots behind to rot. Okay, I am being a little too nostalgic here, so let us get to the closing words of this review before I start a "this band used to be good" rant, because that would just consist of me lying straight to your faces.

For those of you who are experienced with the band, you know what to expect, they do not surprise you with any new age influence here. It is good old crossover thrash from first to last minute, so if you have enjoyed any of the band's previous albums, you should enjoy this one as well, because it is packed with the same amount of action that Bruce Lee got. The glory may be untouchable, but it is well worthy of the band.

Songs worthy of recognition: Avenge Me!, "Drinkers, Inc.", My Evil Eye, I Will Haunt You

Rating: 8,5/10 Ninjas

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Teramaze - Her Halo (2015)

For those of you who have followed my blog for some time, you know that I discovered the Australian progressive metal band Teramaze by pure coincidence. But after just one listen of the fantastic album "Esoteric Symbolism", I was hooked on the band. It was something with that mix of prog, thrash and speed that was mesmerizing and captivating, just amazing. That album eventually made it into my top 20 last year, so naturally, I was thrilled to find out that the band is already ready to present the follow up.

It turns out that the new album, entitled "Her Halo", is a whole different experience from "Esoteric Symbolism". For instance, the band has gotten a new singer. Gone is Brett Rerekura, and in goes Nathan Peachey, a clear upgrade if you ask me since Brett had some limitations in his voice. Nathan has more range and presence, which fits really well with the overall mood of "Her Halo", which is more beautiful and fragile than what its predecessor was.

"Her Halo" does not have any of the thrash metal influences that the previous Teramaze records possesses, which I am a little sad about, since it was something that made the band stand out. However, they still managed to maintain their core sound, which is big, epic, and futuristic metal. It all sounds incredible, and the instrumentation is fantastic, as one would expect from a progressive metal band. My only issue with the album is that the songs do not have the same impact as the ones in "Esoteric Symbolism". I miss that it factor that makes the songs so unique and memorable.

With that said, there are still a couple of songs that do impress me. The opening track "An Ordinary Dream (Enla Momento)" is a perfect representation of what Teramaze is, a close to 13 minute giant that dazzles with its complexity and melodies. The album also ends in a terrific way with "Delusions of Grandeur", another giant piece that clocks in just under 10 minutes, displaying some of the darkest moments in "Her Halo". Speaking of dark moments, "Out of Subconscious" has that as well, giving out a sense of despair that really pops out of the speakers.

The band also tries to make a couple of ballads in this record, which does not turn out all too well. The title track does have an interesting verse and some good guitar work, but the chorus is way too boring, close to whiny. Only thing saving this weird pop and prog fusion is a pretty cool guitar solo. There is still one song in the album that is even worse, and that is "Broken", a full fledged ballad that is closer to Nickelback than Teramaze. My god, I do not see any reason to why this song should be on here, it is a boring sleeping pill that may confirm this album's different look, but it does not strengthen it.

I like the fact that the band wanted to make a new, different sounding album, and doing it in such a short amount of time, without losing too much of the quality is surely impressive. With that said, I still think "Her Halo" is inferior to "Esoteric Symbolism". It just does not have the same impact and originality. I still enjoy the album, and it is definitely one of the better releases this year, but if you want to hear some great progressive metal, I suggest "Esoteric Symbolism" over "Her Halo" (that does not mean that you cannot listen to both albums if you have the time and courage :) ).

Songs worthy of recognition: Delusions of Grandeur, An Ordinary Dream (Enla Momento), Out of Subconscious

Rating: 8/10 Trapezes

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Clutch - Psychic Warfare (2015)

If I had to compare any band to a gigantic happy pill, I would instantly think of Clutch. Not only was their last effort, 2013's "Earth Rocker", a groovy monster that made me grin from ear to ear, but it confirmed what the band has been doing for so long, delivering high quality groove rock that is extremely hard to match. Who can dislike the band when they put out such groovy tunes!

Clutch's latest offering to the world is called "Psychic Warfare", and it is more or less more of the same stuff that you have heard before from the band. Tunes so groovy that you can't sit still, and a Neil Fallon that hypnotizes you with his incredible and unique voice. Needless to say, if you like the band, "Psychic Warfare" will not make you disappointed.

Instead of spinning further with what made "Earth Rocker" so great, "Psychic Warfare" stands on its own two legs with a more American sound, with both blues and country mixed with the typical Clutch groove, but when the band released their first song from this album, "X-Ray Visions", one would think that "Psychic Warfare" would become a direct sequel to "Earth Rocker", since "X-Ray Visions" sounds like it would fit neatly into that album with its groovy attacks and playful lyrics. When that song plays its final notes, there are no more direct comparisons between the two albums.

I am not a big fan of blues at all, but the band does make its own spin on the genre, making it pretty fun. Songs like "A Quick Death In Texas" and "Sucker For The Witch" has such a great attraction to it that it is irresistible to ignore it. They also change the mood neatly with the country hymn "Doom Saloon/Our Lady Electric Light", so the album does not get all too stale. It all leads up to the climax known as "Son of Virginia", an amazing 7 minute closer that ultimately shows that the band can create other songs that power groovers. This is a strong tune that takes you to the wild west and shoots a lot of great instrumentation at you, while Neil Fallon takes out his most emotional vocals, just to give this track even more depth. Incredible.

But while the album is as great as it is, it is still miles away from the quality that "Earth Rocker" had. That album literally made all of my bones jiggle with excitement and joy, attacking from all fronts with a great arsenal of songs. "Psychic Warfare" does not have the same strength in either numbers nor force as its predecessor, but it is still a great general in the army known as Clutch's discography.

So "Psychic Warfare" does not reach the same astronomic heights as "Earth Rocker", but I do not mind it since it is so hard to follow a master piece with another one. I do appreciate that Clutch did try to re-invent themselves instead of taking the safe route, making a "Earth Rocker 2.0". With the talent that the band possesses and a momentum that seems unstoppable, the band has created another highly enjoyable album that gets your groove on.

Songs worthy of recognition: Son of Virginia, X-Ray Visions, Sucker For The Witch

Rating: 8/10 Noble Savages