Friday, January 29, 2016

Dethrone - Incinerate All (2016)

As a metal head, there is no greater feeling than discovering a band that is from your own neighbourhood, and that is actually really good. While my neighbourhood might not be all too big, it still has its fair amount of metal fans and bands. One of these bands are the death/thrash metal band Dethrone, a quintet that was founded in Värnamo, Sweden around 2011 with only one thing in mind, to create killer songs.

I first encountered the band about three years ago, when I was at a release party for another local band, Solitude (also a great band, plays some interesting melodic metalcore) and their debut "Tied To The Anchor". Dethrone was the opening act, also promoting their debut album "Humanity", and they really impressed me with their extreme speed and power that really overwhelmed me.

Now the time has come for the guys to release their second full length album, entitled "Incinerate All", and it is just what I expected, and more. The band crushes everything in its path with a insane pace that is reminiscent of bands like The Haunted and Slayer. It is a speed that never seems to slow down, because the album (that is just under 40 minutes) goes by in a flash. If you are unfocused for just a short moment, you probably have missed half the album.

It is not only the speed that makes "Incinerate All" a wonderful experience. The frantic drumming by Simon Lundh is the heart and soul of the band's sound, the source of the extreme force that makes the band stand out. The two guitarists David Hartikainen and Jonas Carlsson also helps in creating this meaty sound, but they also bring some melody and personality to the music with their stand out riffs.

That is much needed, because even if all of the songs on the album hold a high standard, there are only small things that separates them from one another. This of course helps in creating a solid album that has a determined sense of direction, and I am also glad that it is all compressed into a firm 40 minute format, making this album intense and exciting. It also makes it hard to just pick out one song or two that defines the album, because they all are in some way or another. But since I usually chose a couple of songs from albums that you should take an extra look at, I may as well do it here as well. Listen carefully to the juggernaut called "Failure", the demonically melodic "Where Darkness Dwells", the insane opener "Reborn In Fire", and the multi layered "Dawn of Demise".

If "Humanity" was the warm up, then we are all burning in hell only by listening to "Incinerate All". The intensity here is just complete insanity, not giving you any room to breathe. It is almost like being in a frenetic mosh pit for 40 minute straight. While you may be exhausted afterwards, you will still be glad that you got to be a part of a ride that is just as fun as it is crazy. Needless to say, Dethrone wanted to incinerate all, and I think they succeeded in that mission.

Songs worthy of recognition: Failure, Reborn In Fire, Where Darkness Dwells

Rating: 8,5/10 Rat Kings

And since I want to promote these guys a little extra since they are from my neck of the woods, here are some links. Stay metal!


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Megadeth - Dystopia (2016)

After listening to their entire discography, I have learned a few things about the thrash metal legends Megadeth. One is that Dave Mustaine musically is a very complicated man. Not that he writes 10+ minute epics or so, but he has a nasty habit of making complete u-turns when it comes to the style and sound from album to album, especially in his later years. Even if "Th1rt3en" was far from an awful record, how could anyone expect that the next step from that was "Super Collider"? I know that I did not want to believe how bad that album was, but I could not hide away from the ugly truth. And now, three years later, he has made an even bigger change for this, the band's 15th studio album. Fortunately for us, it is for the better.

The most obvious change is in the personnel. Gone are Shawn Drover and Chris Broderick, and in comes the Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro to bring some power into the band. I really wondered if Kiko was the right choice since he comes from a different type of genre, but it turns out that he did a fantastic job on the record, and it also seems like he has made a great connection with Dave, which is crucial if you want to stay. What about the drums? For "Dystopia", the Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler was hired in to do the work, but for now, Megadeth has no official drummer, and I think it is a shame that Adler is not in the band, because he fits right in the mold, but I also understand that he wants to fully focus on Lamb of God, so I am okay with it.

Back to the album, a very, VERY beautiful album. Seriously, that album cover is the exact opposite to the one on "Super Collider", and here is why. 1. it is not a cheap Photoshop version of an previously existing photo, 2. it looks metal as fuck, and most importantly 3. Vic Rattlehead is on it! This is without a doubt the best cover since "Peace Sells...". Oh what? I need to start talking about the music? Okay, okay, I am on it.

It is a good thing I mentioned "Peace Sells..." before, because that is the exact album I thought of while listening to "Dystopia". This album is more of the classic Megadeth, which is more or less what the fans always want. Now, I do not think Dave made this album for the fans, because it still has some of the more modern Megadeth in it, but something has hit the thrash nerve in Dave, and I bet it was Kiko.

Just take "Fatal Illusion" for example. It is textbook "Peace Sells..." material right there, starting off carefully, luring the listener in with its heavy riffs, just to catch him off guard with a tempo change that takes everyone for a frantic ride. This really takes me back to the good old days (well, it would if I was actually born back in those days).

Even if "Dystopia" is filled with old time references, it still feels modern and fresh, like a continuation of "Endgame". Songs like "The Threat Is Real", "The Emperor" and "Death From Within" would fit right in that album. What also glads me is that Dave is pissed, and has let out his social critical opinions again. You may not always agree with the man, but hot damn, he is a lot more fun when he is mad.

In the end though, I feel like "Dystopia" falls a bit short at the end of the album, delivering mixed results that feels like filler material. Still, "Dystopia" is a great thrash piece, and it feels like the member changes has given the band a much needed face lift. It may not hold all the way, but it sure feels good that the band is back on track, doing what they do best, thrashing it away with lots of riffs, solos, and anger. However, knowing how unstable Dave can be, one should not relax and think that they will stay like this forever, it can change anytime, even in the next album. Let us hope that he does not.

Songs worthy of recognition: Fatal Illusion, The Threat Is Real, Death From Within

Rating: 7,5/10 Post American Worlds

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Rhapsody of Fire - Into The Legend (2016)

Looking back at the latest album from Rhapsody of Fire, "Dark Wings of Steel", the first album without Luca Turilli, it feels like I was one of few that actually enjoyed the album. Could be that I did not care that Luca was no longer in the band, or the fact that it was a bit different from the normal sound the band produces (a sound that has always made me feel indifferent). Anyway, it was a decent album that I hoped that the band would build upon on this, their new album entitled "Into The Legend".

The things that keeps me from loving the band are still here. The weird pronunciations, the over the top theatrical approach, and songs that have a low memorability factor. It is pretty obvious that the band has a niche of fans, and I am clearly not among them. Yet somehow, there is something with this band that makes me come back to them again and again. After all, I do not hate the music they make, I just don't love it.

There are still several things to appreciate in "Into The Legend". The band's performance is impressive, attacking the listener with fast solos and beautiful arrangements, and the production is clear and sharp, just what you would expect from a band of this caliber. Also, let us not forget that cool looking cover.

The overall song quality is fairly good, but just like in the last album, I am missing memorable songs. The entire album is certainly fine when you listen to it in its entirety, but the chance of remembering anything besides the chorus of the title track is slim to none, especially if you have a lot of experience with the band before, because there are a lot of songs in their discography that are similar to these ones.

But I still have to chose some favourites, so here it goes. "Valley of Shadows" is a good one, with good intensity and some nice, Italian singing mixed in it. Now that I think of it, Rhapsody of Fire is often at its best when they involve the Italian language into their music, go figure. Anyway, "Distant Sky" and "Into The Legend" are another couple of decent tracks, but "Realms of Light" is really impressive, lots of anger and epicness in it that makes it a clear stand out (just needs a more memorable chorus to be a masterpiece). The album ends with two completely different songs, the classic power metal tune "Rage of Darkness", and a 16 minute epic known as "The Kiss of Life". The latter one is a little boring because there is not much going on in it, but it has its interesting parts that makes it a worthy listen at least once. However, it is far from the epic finisher I believe the band tried to achieve.

I really did not expect "Into The Legend" to be an overwhelming experience, and I was right. It is Rhapsody of Fire to the core, and it should not come as a surprise that the Italians has made what they know and love. "Into The Legend" does have its share of interesting moments and enjoyable songs, but my view of the band is still the same, even if this is the best album I have heard from them. I am not sure if I will ever fully embrace the band and its sound, but I will sure keep listening to them and enjoy the little things that does make me smile. After all, there is still some fine craftsmanship inside this album.

Songs worthy of recognition: Realms of Light, Valley of Shadows, Rage of Darkness

Rating: 7,5/10 Shining Stars

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Judas Priest - Sin After Sin (1977)

Now that the foundation of their sound was finished, Judas Priest started to take it to a heavier and a more aggressive level with their third full length album, and their first under a major label, "Sin After Sin". Even if the band made progress with the change of record label and their sound, the problem of finding the right drummer remained, as Alan Moore left the band (for the second time) during the recording of the album. Instead, it was Simon Phillips who helped record the drums for the record, and because Simon was committed to another band, Leslie Binks became the official drummer once the band went on tour again.

But enough of the endless line of drummers that has come and gone through the Priest, "Sin After Sin" was produced by former Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover. Even if this cooperation did not work at first, he did manage to help the band in the end, creating a really nice sounding album for this era. It is certainly the clearest production up to this point of the band's career, and it still has that rough edge that personified the ever evolving Priest sound.

"Sin After Sin" was also the album that gave the band its first commercial success, but strangely, it was not thanks to any of their own material. Instead, it was the Joan Baez cover "Diamonds & Rust" that got the most air time on the radio stations. I do agree that it is an enjoyable cover, and it is a hell of a lot more exciting than the original, but I feel like this is in the same genre as the Kiss song "I Was Made For Loving You", which means that this would be classified as rock disco. Still, I would dance to it.

While "Diamonds & Rust" got the most success, I believe that there are other songs in this record that should have been praised, like the last song of the album, "Dissident Aggressor". This song was the band's heaviest to date, and is a early blue print to thrash metal. It is heavy, fast, aggressive, and it uses double bass, a recipe that would later inspire such bands as Motörhead, Metallica, Slayer and others (Slayer has even done a cover of the song in "South of Heaven"). In my humble opinion, it was with that song that the heavier part of Judas Priest was born.

The opening is also pretty note worthy, because even if "Sinner" is not too aggressive in its approach, it still got some good speed in it, and a groovy chorus that is irresistible. We also have "Starbreaker", that could be best described as a early version of one of the band's coming classics, "You've Got Another Thing Comin'". It basically got the same feeling and riffing, just different lyrics and a slightly easier approach.

But what happened to the progressive elements that was so prominent in "Sad Wings of Destiny"? They are still here, but they are not as great as one would have hoped. While I do enjoy songs like "Let Us Prey/Call For The Priest" and "Here Come The Tears", I still miss that magic touch that "Sad Wings of Destiny" had. The reason for this could be that "Sin After Sin" is more divided in its sound than its predecessor, but I am not really sure.

No matter what, "Sin After Sin" is still a fantastic and enjoyable record with several cool songs that would secure the future for the band. While it is still a step down from "Sad Wings of Destiny", it still got a own, heavy personality that is easy to like for what it is. If nothing else, this one marked the start for the well diverse Judas Priest that we know of today, the one that can combine its heavy and more progressive songs in a synergy that is simply amazing. The band shows once again that they are stabbing and bawling, punching and crawling all the way to the top.

Songs worthy of recognition: Dissident Aggressor, Starbreaker, Here Come The Tears

Rating: 8/10 Sinners

More reviews of Judas Priest
Rocka Rolla
Sad Wings of Destiny
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


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cloudscape - Voice of Reason (2016)

Cloudscape has always been a band that I have respected, a band that knows how to mix progressive elements with raw power. That is why I have waited for this album to drop down on us, because it was some time since they released their latest album, the interesting, but highly inconsistent "New Era".

"Voice of Reason" is the band's 5th album, and initially, it is a good one. The production is clean, the arrangement is spot on, and the band performs with the right amount of intensity that one would expect. I certainly feels like the same old Cloudscape that we all know and love, but somehow, it still feels different.

While I do like the album, I am bothered that there is not much originality to it. "Voice of Reason" is one part Helloween and two parts Symphony X, two great influences, but it definitely feels like Cloudscape just ripped it off straight from their music catalogs. Okay, maybe I am a bit harsh there, but it is hard to ignore that songs like "All For Metal" and "Futuristic Psycho" are not directly influenced by the previously mentioned bands.

One thing I do appreciate with "Voice of Reason" is that the quality is much more consistent this time. The difference between best and worst track is not big at all, which of course makes the overall experience much more pleasant. While I do think the highlights are far from perfect, there is still much enjoyment to be found. The opener "A New Design" makes a loud entrance and dazzles with a butt load of confidence, "Don't Close Your Eyes" uses classic power metal tactics to  capture our attention, and the two giants, the 11 minute title track and 9 minute "In Silence We Scream", are showing the band's progressive strengths (that ending riff of "In Silence We Scream" is freaking awesome, why isn't it highlighted more in the song?).

"Voice of Reason" is a strong record that had the potential of being even better, but some plagiarism and lack of originality hinders it from being a future classic. Nevertheless, Cloudscape have still made a record that shows why this band have reached the position that they have in the metal world. While "Voice of Reason" may not be their finest work up to date, it still sounds pretty reasonable.

Songs worthy of recognition: In Silence We Scream, A New Design, Don't Close Your Eyes

Rating: 7/10 Futuristic Psychos

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mechina - Progenitor (2016)

So we have now breached into 2016, and you all know what that means right? Yes, another release by the industrial death metal band, and Forsaken At The Gates favourites, Mechina. Their new year's tradition stays intact for the 4th consecutive year with the release of "Progenitor", and just as you know that the new album will hit at the 1st of January, you know what you will expect from the album itself.

Just like its previous outings, Mechina spoils us with crushing blast beats, epic arrangements, and a flow that goes through the entire album. It is a album that should not surprise anyone that have heard of the band before, and many has seen this as a down side to Mechina, that they do the same thing over and over again. However, I do feel that every new album does contain something that makes it stand out, either it be the Earthly tone of "Acheron" or the heavy onslaught of "Xenon". While I do feel that "Progenitor" might not have a distinctive feature that sets it apart from the crowd, it has something that still makes it really enjoyable, and that is consistent quality.

The vocals leads the charge once more, performed by David Holch (whom to my excitement uses his clean vocals again) and Mel Rose. This broad range of vocals really helps to make "Progenitor" really diverse in its sound, and it works really well with all these blasting beats that the band spits out like a machine gun.

Another thing that is typical for Mechina is their flow from song to song. "Progenitor" is a album that is best experienced in its entirety, because the band does not simply create songs that stacks upon one another to fill out the space, they create songs that has a purpose, a common destiny to create a stunning album that will be enjoyed by many.

Individually though, most of the songs have some sort of a amnesiatic (is it even a word?) effect, you forget them as soon as they are over. Unfortunately, it has been a flaw that has followed the band throughout their career, but it could be because they want to create a complete picture instead. With that said, there are still some songs that are really good and memorable, like the mesmerising "Cryoshock", the grand "Ashes of Old Earth", and the apocalyptic "Planetfall". But the one that strikes me the most is "Starscape", not only for its heavy impact and powerful deliverance, but also its great lyrics, like the following lines.

When given the chance
To evolve or advance
We retreat to the past 
Praying for ghosts to guide our hand
Our lives far too short
Our minds far too cold
Our past buried in stone 
Our world absent of hope

So yes, I do realize that this is just another Mechina release, but to be honest, I did not really expect anything less from the band. "Progenitor" holds the exact same standard that its predecessors does, which is a really good standard. It is another high octane journey through their universe, a travel that intrigues and excites. I am a little disappointed that the 18 minute single from last summer, "The World We Lost", is not in here, but then again, it would probably kill the flow of the album, disturbing its balance, and making it worse than what it deserves to be. A fantastic album that will be hard for the band to match when they give out their next release, which I assume will be ready for the beginning of 2017. No matter what, I will definitely be waiting for it.

Songs worthy of recognition: Starscape, Ashes of Old Earth, Planetfall

Rating: 8/10 Cryoshocks

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Thoughts from a metal mind: Guns N' Roses reunion

So it was finally confirmed, after months of rumors and speculations, it was finally confirmed that Axl Rose, Saul "Slash" Hudson and Duff McKagan would reunite to once again form Guns N' Roses. A huge happening that should make me extremely excited, drowning in my own saliva. But yet, here I am, shrugging my shoulders.

Sure, I am happy that Slash and Axl have made peace with each other, but it feels like the guys are doing just fine on their own (even if the current GnR is in pieces). Besides, this feels more like a scream for money than a friendly get together. If you do not believe me, just look at the numbers.

Ever since Slash left Guns N' Roses, the band has lost an extreme amount of fans and credibility, much thanks to Axl's crazy persona of late appearances and bandannas. And if that was not enough, the much awaited "Chinese Democracy" was one of the biggest let downs of the century, not worth the 15 year wait. It just is not Guns N' Roses without the man in the top hat.

The band is confirmed to do two shows at the Coachella festival in California, and they are currently negotiating to do a full US tour, in which every show will give the band 3 million dollars. Who would turn down that offer? I would certainly make up with my worst enemy if someone dangled that many green pieces of paper at my face.

There is still no word whether Steven Adler or Izzy Stradlin will be joined for these shows, but I believe it would be the only right thing. If you are going to do a reunion, do it with the full cast.

The biggest question now however is what songs will be played on the shows. The classics, like "Welcome To The Jungle", "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Civil War" are a no-brainer, but at least I am hoping that the fans get spoiled with the band playing "Appetite For Destruction" in its entirety. It is one of the best rock albums ever made, and is the sole reason to why the band got so big at all. I also hope that the band stay away from "Chinese Democracy" all together.

Finally, I hope that Axl gets his act together and delivers a couple of performances that are reminiscent of the good old days, in which he was skinny and roaring. I do not expect him to loose all those muscles he got over the years, but his voice must get back to its glory days. As it is now, it just suck.

No matter how the shows go, I am still praying to god that this is only a temporary reunion, but knowing how the reunions of System of A Down and At The Gates went, it will almost certainly lead to a trip to Europe (maybe even Japan and South America), then another, and another, and before we know it, they are together in the studio, cooking up a new album. If this even happens, I am sure everything will end in tears, Slash and Axl starts fighting again, and we will end up at square 1 again. I hope that the guys has enough common sense to realize this too, and that this tour will be the last for the band.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Anime review: One Punch Man season 1

You are probably thinking to yourself, "Why the hell is this music reviewer doing a review of anime, is he secretly a weeb (or whatever that is called)?". Yeah, it feels out of place, and I rarely watch anime in general, but this is probably the first anime series that really got me hooked since the original Yu-Gi-Oh series (gotta believe in the heart of the cards). It is a show that is crazy, fun, and unique. I am of course talking about the super hyped "One Punch Man"

The show is about Saitama, a guy in his young twenties that is a lot like myself. He is lazy, poor, and seem to have little to no future. One day, he encounters a gigantic lobster monster that is on a killing spree hunt of a kid who drew nipples on him. Saitama comes across this kid later, just before the lobster man, and he ends up killing the lobster, thus saving the kid's life. He got a lot of satisfaction from it, so he decides to start working out and become a super hero for a hobby, helping his community whenever he can.

Fast forward three years, and one will instantly notice that the training Saitama has done did bear fruit. Wearing a yellow jump suit with cape and red dishing gloves, he now is a strong hero that time and time again saves his city from monster attacks. However, the hard training did have its side effects. For starters, Saitama has trained so hard that he has become completely bald, making him look like a egg head. He also posses so much strength that he can easily defeat his opponents with a single punch, which makes him frustrated since there is no one strong enough to match up to him and give him the thrill of saving the world. In other words, he is bored of having so much power.

Now, one would think that the story would be boring and predictable with a protagonist that is way overpowered, but this show is more than a Power Rangers knock off in which a new bad guy enters every episode only to be beaten at the end. No, instead of a lot of action and fighting we get to follow Saitama's journey to become a real certified hero, a journey in which he encounters several interesting guys, like the human cyborg Genos who is so amazed by Saitama's strength that he begs to become his apprentice. Of course, we do get some bad guys thrown in here and there, but the action level is not that high in this series, which actually is quite fine with me.

I like the overall plot, but what makes this show so special is the comedy. Saitama himself is just amazing, his laid back style is incredibly funny when he interacts with other characters, and he can also deliver some fantastic one liners. But the thing that steals the show is the animation style, which is incredibly diverse and hilarious. One thing that is still burned into my eyes is the fitness test that Saitama takes in his try out for the Hero Association, it is so over the top and crazy that I cannot stop laughing out loud. Also, some of the faces that Saitama expresses are insane.

Saitama at a modern art gallery, he is looking at the piece called "Smashed Genos"
But it is not only Saitama that makes One Punch Man so amazing. Almost all the characters in the show has at least one trait that makes them lovable, either it be the courage from Mumen Rider, the confidence from Speed-o'-Sound Sonic, or Silver Fang, whom is your typical "old wise man that can still kick your ass" that is common in animes. The best thing is that we have a ton of heroes that we have yet to know their personalities and their back stories to why they became who they are. It is going to be interesting to find out.

This season consists of 12 episodes, each episode being around 24 minutes long, and every episode is certainly exciting and fun. Usually when a episode starts, I try to skip the opening intro because... well, I am here to watch the show. But the intro to One Punch Man is so god damn epic that I have to watch it, and sing along to the amazing and catchy hard rock tune "The Hero!!" by JAM Project. Screw that I do not know any Japanese, I will still sing my lungs out to it.

So, are there anything negative with the show? Well, they are few in numbers, and they are not too significant. Just like any other anime, the smack talk before and during battles tend to be fairly cheesy and overly long, especially the fact that every new villain has to introduce himself to the world of how he and his henchmen will take over the world and show that he is the strongest alive. The confidence is really overflowing in animes, and One Punch Man is no exception. Then we also have the fact that Saitama is completely indestructible. I am having a hard time seeing how he would ever get hurt at all, which makes me worried that when he finally do get hurt, it will be a disappointing moment that destroys the rest of the show. Oh well, I will do what Saitama says, I will leave those worries to tomorrow's me.

So in conclusion, One Punch Man is a lot of crazy fun, and not so much action that one would expect (at least until the final three episodes, then all hell breaks loose). The character designs are lovely and the animation is so amazing and diverse. Season 2 is yet to be confirmed, but all indications points towards that the show will go on, which I cannot wait for, because if the show will continue to follow the manga, I am sure it will hold the same quality as the first season. Now if you excuse me, I will leave and do my super hero work out, every single day!

Rating: 9,5/10 Punches