Sunday, July 31, 2016

Periphery - Periphery III: Select Difficulty (2016)

First off, I really wanna state out that the guys in Periphery might need to go back to middle school, because they do not seem to know how to count. You see, this album is actually their fifth, counting the two "Juggernaut" albums as individual creations, so calling it III is just plain stupid. Even so, I shall not let this affect my impressions of the djent pioneers' new album "Select Difficulty", which is just another technical piece that will put your brain to work.

The album is most certainly very true to the nature of the band, not being drastically different from any of Periphery's previous releases, but it has enough tricks to make it feel fresh and innovative, without taking away too much of the regular formula. We got the heavy riffs, the odd time signatures, the atmospheric moods, and grooves that are irresistible. Simply put, this is just what you would expect from the band. It might not be a gigantic leap forward, but it is at least not a step backwards.

It is the songs though that define the greatness of "Select Difficulty", and they all help making it one of the most even and consistent Periphery records up to date, a thing that has always been my main concern with the band. There is no denying that the band is unique and can create some killer tunes, but the real highs are far between in the previous efforts. "Select Difficulty" however brings out a healthy dose of high quality songs in a very pleasant pace. The memorability factor is also high, making it even easier to love this album.

There are several songs that stand out here, such as the heavy opening duo of "The Price is Wrong" and "Motormouth", and the more atmospheric and catchy songs "Catch Fire" and "Flatline". "Select Difficulty" offer us a smorgasbord of all sorts of technical goodness, from heavy hitters to more orchestral offerings, and even an epic finish in "Lune", making it one of the most diverse albums that this year has seen. Fortunately, it is all within the Periphery frames, not spacing out too much so that it feels cohesive.

Despite all of this quality craftsmanship, I still feel kind of empty, wanting a little bit more from the band. There is no doubt that "Select Difficulty" is an astonishing album that djent fans will drool over, but it does have a fairly safe aura over it. I would have loved it if the band had experimented even more, pushing those boundaries even further, making it more dynamic. Simply put, it just does not click for me to completely love it. It is a great album for sure, and several songs are extremely enjoyable, and one of them will for sure end up on my favourite song list of 2016, but I miss that one little extra thing to seal the deal. So I guess that my selection of difficulty will be Hard, because it takes a lot of effort to appreciate it all for what it is, and that is ultimately how it should be. In other words, a Periphery album to the core.

Songs worthy of recognition: Catch Fire, The Price Is Wrong, Lune

Rating: 7,5/10 Absolombs

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Halford - Crucible (2002)

After the retrospective tour known as "Resurrection", Rob Halford set out his sight for the future instead in his second solo project record, which got the name "Crucible". The album is much more modern and darker in its approach, containing very few elements from Halford's career. Even if it is a different sounding album, "Crucible" is still a smooth evolution, still keeping a heavy core of crunchy riffs and soaring vocals, mixed with some slower creations as well. So yeah, the fans were definitely in for a different, but still familiar journey.

Now, the album was released back in 2002, but was re-released in a remixed and remastered version in 2010 (the same was done to "Resurrection"), and for once, the remaster is better. The main difference here is the track list, that does not only include the four bonus tracks from the limited and Japanese version, but they have also scrambled the order quite a bit. The title track for example starts off the album in the original version, but is on the second half in the remaster. I find the flow to be better on the remaster, the album cover is much cooler, and three of the four bonus tracks are quite enjoyable, so job well done there. Should still be mentioned that my ultimate opinion is about the original version, in case you were wondering.

"Crucible" is certainly more experimental than its two year older brother, Halford trying different ways to utilize his voice and song writing ability. The same goes for the production, which is grittier and rougher than what it was on the predecessor, and yeah, it does not suit the band well at all. It is something about this production that drags this album way down, to the point where it just hurts to listen to. We all know the man's potential, and it goes without saying that it is wasted here, unfortunately.

But if we look past the dreadful sound picture, there are some great hidden gems in here that not only are fantastic metal anthems, but might even be considered as some of the best songs written by the Metal God. "Wrath of God" has the perfect title, it is 3 minutes of pure fury that only Kratos from the "God of War" games can match, while "Sun" uses some really interesting techniques, both on the guitars and the song structure, making it really intriguing even if it holds the same tempo for most of its run time. We also have "Handing Out Bullets", a song where the drums dominate with an infectious beat, something Halford only enhances with his mighty vocals. And for those who missed the old school force that "Resurrection" had, then the gladiator story of "One Will" and the furious "Betrayal" will most certainly satisfy your needs.

As for the more experimental tracks, they are mostly filler, but we can find some good one too, like the previously mentioned "Sun", "Heart of Darkness", and "She". But several songs on "Crucible" are just bland or uninteresting. Songs like "Weaving Sorrow", "Golgotha", the title track (and its weird oriental vibes), and the bonus track "Fugitive" are just incredibly pale, lacking personality and momentum. Now, I do not wanna point finger at anyone, but I wonder how much of an influence the other 4 guys of the band were, and how much they contributed in the writing process. Not blaming them, just saying that they might have led Halford into this path, which in itself is not bad, it just needed some more polished songs to go along.

It is obvious that Halford wanted to do so much with "Crucible", trying to spread out his wings as much as he could here, but the end product falls kind of flat. There is some great material in here that displays the band's true potential, squeezing out every bit of metal goodness that is possible, but the production and good amount of fillers kills the experience for me. Halford did a Icaros here, he flew too close to the sun, eventually giving himself quite a burn that hurts him badly. "Crucible" had potential, but never lived up to it.

Songs worthy of recognition: Wrath of God, One Will, Sun

Rating: 6,5/10 Crystals

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Only For The Week(s): Part 24 and 25

So, I am one day late with this week's OfTW, but just like I stated on Twitter (follow me @ForsakenGates), I had a reason to why it is so. Next week, I am going on a vacation to Turkey, and yes, I know about the instabilities down there, but that is mostly happening around the big cities of Istanbul and Ankara. I am going to a smaller, more tourist friendly town that is far away from the trouble (I hope).

This of course means that I will not be able to deliver new reviews for the next week, and the same goes with the 25th part of OfTW, which is why I am doing a 2 for 1 deal here today. 6 songs added to the playlist, so you guys hopefully can stand me being away for a full week. Oh well, I guess you would not notice that I was gone anyway :P. So yeah, enjoy.

All of the songs on this segment is gathered in a Spotify playlist, you can find it here

The Classics: Anthrax - Caught In A Mosh and Overkill - Elimination

Let's start things off with a meaty thrash double, from two bands that deserves more credit. Anthrax has always been the odd group among the Big 4, but there is no questioning over there be or be not among the top acts of thrash metal. When they kick ass, the seriously kick ass. This anthem to one of metal's greatest rituals is pure thrash candy. Fast riffing, relentless drumming, a catchy chorus, and a really special solo. And yes, this song is a must when you enter the pit.

Overkill is right now experiencing a new renaissance, so it is easy to forget that they have created some great music in the past. A fantastic example of their thrashing genius is "Elimination", a song that is simple balls to the wall, coming at you with all it has got. The message is pure and simple, eliminate everything, and do so with insane guitars, blazing drums, and a Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth that delivers some of the craziest performances to date. Man, Bobby is truly an underrated singer in an underrated band.

The Newcomers: Fallujah - Dreamless and Nemesea - Forever

Just like I wrote in my review, picking apart "Dreamless" is not really necessary, because the whole album is just one long euphoric experience. However, I really felt like OfTW needed something from the album, and the best song to represent it is the title track. It perfectly explains what the entire album is about, heavy and beauty mixed together to create an amazing symbiose.

Check out my review of the album this song is from, "Dreamless"

As for the other newcomer, you probably have not heard of them, and neither had I before this year. Nemesea is a fairly ordinary gothic metal band, and their latest album "Uprise" was at best acceptable, but it did have one song that really blew me away. "Forever" is epic as hell, and it uses the hockey choir effects in a spectacular way. It is also a track where the singer Manda Ophius completely dominates, showing an incredible ability to capture the listener. The Netherlands keeps on bringing some great symphonic gothic metal at us.

The Personal Favourites: Devin Townsend - Bastard and The Death of Music

To say that I love these two songs out of "Ocean Machine: Biomech" is a complete understatement. These two songs made me fall in love with Devin, a love that has not disappeared for one second for the rest of my life. Both are beautiful, heart breaking pieces that displays some amazing songwriting that comes straight from the heart. "Bastard" is the heavier of the two, chugging along with a mesmerizing riff and drum pattern through the first half of the song, and the second half is just mesmerizing as fuck. Then we have "The Death of Music", a really silent song that brings out so many emotions. This one is hard to explain, so the best way to understand it is to listen to it for yourself. Gets me every time, so freaking amazing.

Check out my review of the album these songs are on, "Ocean Machine: Biomech"

As a bonus, you also get "Funeral" to listen to here, making it a beautiful tri force. See ya all next week :)

Stay Metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Fallujah - Dreamless (2016)

No matter how much you try to cover the whole metal spectre, you are always bound to miss out on something huge. I first heard about Fallujah about 2 years ago, when they released "The Flesh Prevails". I thought that they sounded like an interesting group, but I never got around to actually giving them a fair chance. The same thing was about to happen when the band released their 3rd full length album "Dreamless", I most certainly did not listen to it as soon as it was released. This time though, I were more determined to take them into my heart, seeing if they were worthy of all the hype. As it turned out, they were.

"Dreamless" is an impressive piece of music, combining so many elements that should not work, but they do. All of these extreme beats and atmospheric feelings blend together to make a grand picture, a beautiful painting that not even Van Gogh or Michelangelo could ever paint. You feel like you are floating in space, traveling aimlessly past all the planets and suns while listening to "Dreamless", and let me tell you, that is an incredible feeling, something that everyone should experience.

However, it takes time to indulge all of this, you must be patient enough to understand it all. While "Dreamless" does have tons of exciting moments in it, it could not be considered the catchiest album out there. The structures here are fluid, flowing through this effervescent stream that never repeats the same pattern, making you enjoy the moment more than remembering it. Of course, that does not mean that you will not end up with amnesia after the album is over, you will remember bits here and there, but your memory must be something special to remember everything.

This does not matter too much though, since the band performs in such a way that you will just sit back, relax, and take it all in with a huge grin. The guitar work of Scott Carstairs and Brian James is extremely clean, with some impeccable solos and cool slings, while Andrew Baird's drumming are aggressive, with a touch of sensitivity, emphasizing just when it needs too. The vocals, delivered by Alex Hofmann, are the perfect counterweight to the more atmospheric tones, bringing this Yin and Yang formation together. It is a new kind of beauty that I cannot really explain, you have to hear it to believe it.

"Dreamless" is a stunning album that is the ultimate showing to why Fallujah is one of the leading young metal bands out there now. Their unique brand of progressive and atmospheric death metal is something truly special, something you encounter few times during your life time. These guys have done solid works with both "The Harvest Wombs" and "The Flesh Prevails", but "Dreamless" paves the way for the future of this genre, taking it to a whole new level. Simply put, this record is a haunting beauty that surely is one of the highlights of this year, so do not miss out on it.

Songs worthy of recognition: Dreamless, Adrenaline, The Void Alone, Amber Gaze

Rating: 9/10 Lacunas

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Halford - Resurrection (2000)

The title for Rob Halford's first true solo album is no coincidence. After almost a decade of wandering aimlessly, ending up with three fairly mediocre albums from two different project, the former Judas Priest singer was back in his true element, the style of music he was born to sing. Heavy fucking metal! "Resurrection" is without any competition the closest Halford has come to his old band without actually being a part of it, delivering a heavy punch that would take anyone's breath away. A true revival of the Metal God.

All it takes to realize this is a single listen to the opening title track, a incredibly fast and heavy mauler that destroys everything in its path. Halford unleashes his patented screamer voice with such ferocious power that you almost need a hazmat suit to withstand the power it produces. It is a true statement, telling that Rob goes into the 21st century a reborn man that is back with full force, bringing metal to the world.

The album in itself is filled with personal stories and references that fans will surely adore, and they are all accompanied with kick ass music. "Made In Hell" tells both the history of metal and Rob's musical journey, and while some of the lyrics are kind of corny (Unleashed in downtown Tokyo, blew Godzilla away?!), it is still a great tune. We also get to hear about the sad wings of destiny, an obvious reference to the Judas Priest album with the same name, in the bonus track "Sad Wings". The most familiar part about "Resurrection" though is the music, which can be best described as classic Judas Priest from the "Screaming For Vengeance" era and forward, but more modern and not as riff driven.

Yeah, it is Halford that runs the show. He delivers punch after punch, showing an impressive versatility that a lot of vocalists out there would love to master, but only a few can. This diversity might be best displayed in "Silent Screams", where Rob mixes emotional, ballad like tones, but when the song changes to a more furious tempo, Rob takes out his heavier side, a grittier tone that fits so well with the change. It takes talent to handle it all, and he certainly has it.

Rob is not the only talented vocalist on this record though, because in "The One You Love To Hate", he gets a visit from Bruce Dickinson, a man who at the time had been away from Iron Maiden for some time, but returned the year before. While the song is one of the more stale ones in the album, it gets so much better when these two British legends create an awesome duet. A metal fan's wet dream come true.

The quality overall is just so god damn high, very few fillers are in this album, even with the remastered version that contains an additional 4 songs. Almost all of the songs single handedly beats anything that Halford made during the 90's (except the material on "Painkiller" of course"), all because of one simple thing. It is heavy metal at its purest form. No weird industrial vibes, no crazy experiments, just plain and simple kick ass metal. Sure, it is far from the most unique music we have ever heard, but that does not really matter when the music is good, and it is really good. While it technically is not a true comeback, it is a return to form for Halford, going back to the ideals he left behind almost a decade earlier, and delivering a album fit for a Metal God. All hail the Halford!

Songs worthy of recognition: Resurrection, Silent Screams, The One You Love To Hate, Slow Down

Rating: 8/10 Saviours

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Live review: Monsters of Rock at Friends Arena, Stockholm

After almost half a century, Black Sabbath is reaching the end of its life cycle. The band is on their final tour, and last week, they reached Sweden for a gig at Friends Arena in Stockholm, a fairly new arena that is impressive, but the logistic was clearly an afterthought. You wanna get a taxi after the show? Get ready to wait for up to 2 hours. Subway? A long walk, which is not too good either (and waiting of course once you get there). But hey, I did not care, I was ready to finally witness the grand fathers of metal in person, and also get a glimpse of a Danish band that had yet to convince me of their greatness. So here you got my story of one weekend in Stockholm.

The Foreplay

We arrived at Stockholm Friday afternoon, which of course meant that we had a lot of time to get a custom to our surroundings, where our hotel was, the closest subway station, and of course, nearest bar.

After some drinking in the hotel room, we strolled on to Hard Rock Café for something to eat. As a concept, Hard Rock Café is great. You get good music, great meals, tons of cool memorabilia on the walls, and they also have a personal merch booth. However, they have really pushed the boundaries on the whole Hard Rock aspect in later years, including several artists that have nothing to do with rock at all. Hell, I found one memorabilia that was from Nicki Minaj. NICKI FUCKING MINAJ!?!?!?!?! Are you kidding me, do you guys even know what hard rock means? I don't think you do!

Anyway, after a good meal (I had the pulled pork burger, and it was delicious), we took the subway into town, more specifically, Kungsträdgården. There is always something happening there, some show to be seen, and on Friday night, we were treated with a cool warm up party for Monsters of Rock. Now, we did not stay all too long, so we only got to see a small glimpse of a hair metal band called Treat. They were okay, but fairly generic (just like 90% of all hair metal bands). Other bands that performed there that evening was a Danish Black Sabbath tribute band, The Baboon Show and Rockklassiker All Stars.

On to Saturday, the day of the show, and we went back to Kungsträdgården once again, because this day, it was a punk festival going on there. Unfortunately, the first band did not go on until 5 pm, so we had no time to see any of them, which was a disappointment of course. So instead, we did a bar tour across Stockholm, visiting everything from shady joints to high end hotel lounges. You can't go wrong with an ice cold beer in the scorching sun, everything to set up for what was to come.

Acts I did not see: Rival Sons and Bombus

If I had to decide, I would absolutely watch all of the acts on this one day festival, but since my group of friends was not that willing to go until Volbeat played, I had to just smile and nod. Sure, I could go alone, but to be perfectly honest, I did not care too much about Rival Sons and Bombus either. I have only listened to Bombus newest album, "Repeat Until Death" (a pretty good album nonetheless), and I knew virtually nothing about Rival Sons. So yeah, I feel like I did not miss much.

For those of you who are fans of the bands, I thought that the least I could do was to write the setlists they had, so here you go.

Setlist Rival Sons:
1. Electric Man
2. Secret
3. Pressure And Time
4. Hollow Bones Pt. 1
5. Tied Up
6. Torture
7. Fade Out
8. Open My Eyes
9. Keep On Swinging

Setlist Bombus:
1. Let Her Die
2. Rust
3. Horde of Flies
4. Biblical
5. Repeat Until Death
6. Into The Fire


So we finally arrived at Friends Arena, just in time to get a beer, buy some merch (that was unreasonably low on stock), and prepare ourselves for some Elvis metal. As you probably already read in my review of the band's latest album "Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie", you would know that I am a bit skeptical about the band. They have some killer tunes here and there, but the overall country and rocka billy vibe is just too much for my taste.

However, the band put up quite a heavy show, blasting off straight from the start with the lead single from their latest offering. It was also obvious that a massive part of the crowd was huge Volbeat fans, singing along to the lyrics and cheering for all of their might. Two of my companions are extreme fans of the band, and I swear, I have never seen them so excited during a concert. Black who? I am here to see Volbeat.

I was reluctant at first to hang on to the hype train, and I was even more when the band on the second song busted out a medley, a medley that included one of my favourite songs of the band, "A Warrior's Call". I really have to question this decision, why put it this early, or even better, why put it in at all? Instead of hearing "Heaven Nor Hell", "A Warrior's Call" and "I Only Want To Be With You" in their entirety, we get shorter versions instead that intertwine each other. There is no point in doing so if you ask me.

Fortunately, that was the only time the band did so, and they kept spitting out their biggest hits, such as "Maybellene I Hofteholder", "Lola Montez" and "Dead But Rising", while occasionally throwing in some new stuff, like "For Evigt" and "Goodbye Forever". All of the songs blasted with a pretty good force, and the band seemed to enjoy themselves quite a lot, especially Rob Caggiano who killed it on guitar.

They did save the best for last though, starting with the incredibly groovy "Doc Holliday", a song that might be the best explanation to what Volbeat are. After that, they went on to count all the assholes in the room with "Still Counting", and sealing the deal with "Seal The Deal", a great trio of songs that ended the show in an astounding way. Sure I would have liked to hear "The Loa's Crossroad" from the new album, but the setlist was still good and expected, so no complaints there.

So, did the band win over me? Well... no. While I do admit that the show was really good, I still have a hard time with their music in general. It is fairly easy to make a bad song sound good live if you as the band are having fun and giving it all you got, so no, do not consider me a Volbeat fan just yet, they need to blow me away in CD form first.

Best: Doc Holliday

Worst: That needless medley + a shortened version of A Warrior's Call

Rating: 7,5/10

1. The Devil's Bleeding Crown
2. Heaven Nor Hell/A Warrior's Call/ I Only Want To Be With You
3. Sad Man's Tongue
4. Maybellene I Hofteholder
5. Lola Montez
6. Hallelujah Goat
7. For Evigt
8. Dead But Rising
9. 16 Dollars
10. Goodbye Forever
11. Fallen
12. Doc Holliday
13. Still Counting
14. Seal The Deal

Black Sabbath

So the time finally came for the main act to appear, and to present them, we were treated with a little video clip of the devil (or possibly Henry?) waking up, scorching the Earth. After that, Iommi started playing that demonic opening riff to "Black Sabbath", and holy crap, that riff has never sounded heavier. That initial shock wave was incredible, and the band carried that momentum throughout the entire song. Man, what an awesome, and unexpected opening. Since the whole tour was called The End, I expected "The Beginning of The End" to open the show. As a matter of fact, the whole "13" album was left out of the setlist, which was even more shocking to me. But hey, this could be seen as a closing of the circle, which I am totally fine with.

The old school cavalcade continued with the groovy "Fairies Wear Boots" and two songs from "Master of Reality" ("After Forever" and "Into The Void"), and it was around here that I discovered a minor problem with the sound.  It did not always happen, but it happened that the guitar would fade away in the mix from time to time, and I am pretty sure that Iommi is not the one to blame here.

In fact, I feel like Iommi was the most energetic of the guys up on that stage. Well, not so energetic that he jumped up and down and so, more like delivering a stellar performance, while Geezer just stood alone in one corner for most of the show and Ozzy giving out mixed performances, from brilliant to extremely tired (especially in "Iron Man"). You do have to consider that these guys are old, so it comes as no surprise that they do not make a perfect performance.

The worst part of the show though is that they included one of the worst Black Sabbath songs that exist, which is the instrumental "Rat Salad". And to make matters even worse, they transform it into one gigantic drum solo. To me, there is only one reason why the band made this decision, and it is not to give the drummer Tommy Clufetos a chance to show off. This gives the band a much needed break, just so they can go on with the final 5 songs of the set list, and I get that, but why does it have to be so long. It is just so dumb, drumming masturbation at its worst.

Oh well, the show still has more upside to it, and a lot of the songs sounds amazing. "N.I.B." is crushing, "Iron Man" and "War Pigs" is raised up thanks to the crowd, "Children of The Grave" shows the best side of Iommi, and "Paranoid" ends the show on a really high note. This is certainly a night to close up the circle, end on a nostalgia trip that takes us through almost all of the first 8 albums of the band's career (except "Never Say Die!", "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", and "Sabotage").

As the show ends after 1 hour and 45 minutes to the tones of "Zeitgeist" (the studio version) and TV screens that read "THE END", I leave Friends Arena very pleased. Sure, there were a lot of songs that I wanted to hear that I did not get, but who really cares, the guys ended on a high not, delivering a performance that was impressive considering their age. Thanks for everything Black Sabbath, you will surely be missed.

Best: N.I.B.

Worst: Drum solos, so thrilling, yet so god damn boring

Rating: 8/10

1. Black Sabbath
2. Fairies Wear Boots
3. After Forever
4. Into The Void
5. Snowblind
6. War Pigs
7. Behind The Wall of Sleep
8. N.I.B.
9. Hand of Doom
10. Rat Salad (with a ridiculously long drum solo)
11. Iron Man
12. Dirty Women
13. Embryo
14. Children of The Grave

15. Paranoid

Monday, July 11, 2016

Only For The Week: Part 23

All of the songs on this segment is gathered in a Spotify playlist, you can find it here

The Classic: Motörhead - Ace of Spades

You know that you have made a classic song when you are sick and tired of playing it while on tour. Lemmy really was sick and tired of "Ace of Spades", but he kept it on the set list because people expects it to be there. After all, it is a kick ass song about gambling, with the finesse and humour that Lemmy always puts to his lyrics. Oh, and do not forget the joker.

The Newcomer: Astronoid - Tin Foil Hats

To just take one song from the magnificent "Air" is a freaking hard task, they are all so great in their own unique ways. After some serious thought, I decided to add "Tin Foil Hats", a marvelous track with amazing riffing and a really epic and catchy vocal line. Why am I still talking, go listen to it now.

Check out my review of the album this song is from, "Air"

The Personal Favourite: Keldian - Never Existed

If you want to add some sci-fi into your metal experience, then there is really only one band you should go to, and that is Keldian. Their last album "Outbound" is as hot as the sun, and it contains several great shining songs, but "Never Existed" shines the brightest. It is powerful, epic, and just flat out awesome. And then we have the solo that makes it even more epic, and makes you even more pumped! No doubt, this is the best song from 2013, no question about it.

Stay Metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Astronoid - Air (2016)

There is no secret that one of my favourite albums of all time are the Devin Townsend release "Ocean Machine: Biomech", a cleansing album that was the Yin to the Strapping Young Lad Yang. Ever since its release, there has been no album that has even come close to the emotions that this album brought out, while also maintaining the genius musicality that was contained inside of it. However, I think I might have found the spiritual successor to "Ocean Machine", and it comes from a completely new band.

Astronoid started out in Boston, Massachusetts in 2012 when vocalist/guitarist Brett Boland and bassist Daniel Schwartz recorded 2 songs for a school project, a EP that would be named "November". They put up those two songs on bandcamp, and before they even knew it, they were the talk of the metal underground, gaining a lot of recognition in a short amount of time. They eventually released a second EP called "Stargazer" in 2013, recruiting guitarist Casey Aylward and drummer Matt St. Jean in the process. A third guitarist, St. Jean's cousin Mike DeMelia, was later added for the live shows, bringing a whole new dynamic to the music. Now, three years later, they stand here with their full length debut entitled "Air".

Astronoid can easily be placed in the genre shoegaze (or as some call it, hipster black metal), but placing these guys in a genre would not do them justice. Instead, one should look at their influences to get a better grip of who they really are. Some influences are Mew, Cynic, Enslaved, Ihsahn, Alcest, and of course, Devin Townsend. A big bowl of different styles for sure, but they are all connected to each other in some way or another, so it is no wonder why Astronoid has evolved to what they are now.

Now, let us get into "Air" itself, and back to the "Ocean Machine: Biomech" comparison. Both albums starts off with a slow, but still chunky song that sets the tone for the rest of the album. But is is the second, more joyful song that blows you out of the water in both albums. "Up And Atom" might be taken from Radioactive Man's catch phrase, but it  contains a fantastic opening riff that sets the rest of the instruments off in a crazy, but still very controlled way. It is unreal to listen to it, it is so heavy, yet so light, and it is a feeling that runs through "Air". The album is filled with blast beats and frantic riffs, but the band manages to keep it all down to Earth. The perfect example of this is on "Resin", where the complete insanity is mixed with the beautiful vocals of Brett Boland, creating a dream like state that is just magical.

The performance is most certainly spectacular, but it is in a quiet way, never taking away too much from the music itself. There is some really technical pieces here and there, but they really do not stand out as much as it normally would, and I am loving it. The band wants the music to be in the center of attention, mediate strong emotions, not show off their skill set on humongous solos. This naked style is refreshing, giving the experience so much life. And for those wondering, yes, there are solos on this record, but they are not forced in, they instead add to the music, just like a solo should do.

It should also come as no surprise to you that this album is best experienced in one full sitting. Yes, each song are fantastic, some of my favourites being "Resin", "Tin Foil Hats", "Up And Atom", and the title track, but I can almost guarantee you that the high will be so much greater if you go through with it, taking all 50 minutes of music into you. It just feels so accomplishing to take in "Air" and all its beautiful heaviness. That is also the only real complaint I have about the album, 50 minutes is for sure a fair length for an album, but I want more. I cannot stop here, I must have more, more, MORE! Jesus, I have to admit, this is pretty addictive, can somebody give me a "Air" patch so we can close out this review?

2016 has turned out to be an amazing year, especially for newer artists out there. I was sure that no other newcomer would come and knock off King Goat's "Conduit" or Sunburst's "Fragments of Creation", but Astronoid squeezes in to create a holy triforce of rookie goodness. "Air" is an amazing album, blending heavy beats and riffs with epic emotions, creating a entity that is so easy to take in, and even easier to love. I am so happy that someone finally have made that spiritual successor to "Ocean Machine: Biomech" that I have been dreaming about for years, and the best part is that these guys are not done yet. If they keep this up, they will have a long and successful career ahead of themselves. Thank you so much for this Astronoid, I look forward to see what you guys will come up with next.

Songs worthy of recognition: Every god damn song

Rating: 10/10 Tin Foil Hats

Now, go check out the band on the following sites. What are you waiting for? DO IT NOW!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

2wo - Voyeurs (1998)

After the break up of Fight, Rob Halford went on to even stranger territories, maybe because he was inspired of the 90's culture in general, I really do not know. 2wo is not a new band though, it is instead a collaboration project between Rob and John Lowery, a man that you all know more as John 5, Rob Zombie's current guitarist. It is certainly a odd match up when you look at it in theory, but one could always hope that it would be a Ozzy Osbourne kind of thing. A veteran musician takes in a unknown guitarist for the start of his solo career, creating amazing music together.

As it turned out, it did not end that way. "Voyeurs" is the only album that 2wo ever did, and the two guys went on to other projects separately. Halford went on to create Halford, and John became the guitarist for both David Lee Roth and Marilyn Manson (what a combo!). Listening to the music in "Voyeurs", I can see why. It mostly consists of some grungy industrial metal that just does not suit The Metal God very well. His voice is, as always, stunning, but it just does not fit. Hell, even his overall image looks out of place in this project, Rob looks more like Geoff Tate than Rob Halford on that album cover, which is a clear sign that he was a little lost.

Now, if you ever wanted to know how weird the 90's were, just look up the video for the album's only single, "I Am A Pig". This is hands down as close to a professional porn video as you will come, without actually watching a porn video. It was produced by porn director Chi Chi Larue, and included several porn stars doing blurry S&M scenes in some sort of a sex dungeon. Now, by this time, Rob had come out as a homosexual, so I am not surprised at all to why he made this happen, but still... weird, even by 90's standard. The song? Definitely fitting as a single, and one of the better songs on the record, but not overly impressive.

Most of the appeal of this album comes from the heavy riffs of John 5, he makes these slimy songs a little harder, giving them a much better edge. I honestly think he has kind of a niche playing style that certainly suits the right artists, and it does hit this particular project that he has with Halford, but it would not work with either Fight or Halford. He is an accomplished guitar player and song writer, and while he does not get out the most of his skills on "Voyeurs", he still does a stellar job with cool riffs and nice solos. Overall, nice solid work from John.

Even with a good performance from both Rob and John, I still feel like the song writing on the album is pretty sub par. The closest band I can compare this to might be Nine Inch Nails, but without the catchy aggressiveness, replaced by a more sludgy type of... stuff. Honestly, it sounds like kind of a mess some times. Some songs are quite cool, like "Stutter Kiss", "Water's Leaking", "My Ceiling's Low", and "Bed of Rust", but some of the other ones do not make a lot of sense, or what do you guys say about the song title "Hey, Sha La La"? Complete nonsense. The lyrics especially are ridiculous, just a bunch of gibberish that is hard to comprehend. This is certainly not the album for those who wants poetry in motion.

2wo is ultimately a weird phase of Rob Halford's career, the high point of a time when he tried to find his footing again in the music industry after his departure from Judas Priest. "Voyeurs" is far from a great album, and while it does fit in the time period in which it was released, it still feels out of place. This is not the type of music Rob was meant to sing, and I wonder if he even knew that while making this album. It is an odd album that has some kind of charm to it, but is it any good? It is not bad, but it is safe to say that there are tons of albums that feature The Metal God that are a hell of a lot more enjoyable.

Songs worthy of recognition: Stutter Kiss, I Am A Pig, Water's Leaking

Rating: 5,5/10 Beds of Rust

Monday, July 4, 2016

Only For The Week: Part 22

Happy 'Murica day everyone, I hope that you all get lots of freedom in your bodies tonight.

Here in Sweden though, we are preparing for a bigger event, a happening you cannot afford to miss. I am of course talking about The End. This Saturday, Black Sabbath comes to the royal capital of Stockholm to do their last ever show in Sweden, just one stop of many in their final tour. This is the last chance to get a glimpse of the founding fathers of metal in live action, performing all of their classic songs from the Ozzy era. So of course, I have made this week's OfTW Black Sabbath themed (plus a special guest that will open up for the giants). Now, let's get to it.

All of the songs on this segment is gathered in a Spotify playlist, you can find it here

The Classic: Black Sabbath - Iron Man

Is there anything more iconic in the metal world than that horrifying opening of "Iron Man", where Tony Iommi brings out a wicked guitar tone, and Ozzy takes out his inner robot. This opening is just amazing, and it just gets better when Tony hits that classic guitar riff that we all know and love. However, my favourite thing about the song is how the band shifts the tempo so suddenly several times, bringing an incredible dynamic to the song. There is no band out there that can do it as good as Black Sabbath, and it has become a pillar stone of the band's sound. A complete song, not even Tony Stark could improve it.

Check out my review of the album this song is from, "Paranoid"

The Newcomer: Volbeat - The Loa's Crossroad

Black Sabbath is not the only band performing on Saturday, the Danish Elvis metal guys in Volbeat will be there too. While I still have trouble in fully embracing their style, I still find some songs that I really like, like "The Loa's Crossroad" from their latest album. It is one of the heavier songs of the album, but that is not the only reason to why it is my favourite. It has this kind of a bass line that is very much alike that in Iron Maiden's "Seventh Son of A Seventh Son", which of course means that it is kick ass. The chorus delivers as well, as do the solo. And like that was not enough, we get some bagpipes as the cream to the pie. I really hope that they play it live, because it would be interesting to see.

Check out my review of the album this song is from, "Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie"

Sorry, no video here :(

The Personal Favourite: Black Sabbath - N.I.B.

Man, I love everything about this song. The opening bass solo gets you in the mood, the simple riffing enhances it, and the song just keeps building and building until it has become a gigantic, groovy monster that cannot be contained. It is just incredible to think that this song is made in the early 70's, and that it still holds up to this date, almost half a century later. As I said, everything, literally EVERYTHING about this song is simply marvelous, magical, every superlative in the book. I cannot wait to hear this one live, I will soak in every second.

Check out my review of the album this song is from, "Black Sabbath"

Stay Metal
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Steve Vai - Modern Primitive (2016)

It has been over 25 years since guitar virtuoso Steve Vai released his real breakthrough album "Passion And Warfare", a magnificent record that holds some to the greatest instrumental pieces out there, like "For The Love of God". It is the center piece of Steve Vai's career, so of course, he had to celebrate it, and he does so with a remaster, and a new album. "Modern Primitive" is the first out of two CDs for the 25th anniversary edition of "Passion And Warfare", and consist of of old songs that Vai wrote during the time between his debut "Flex-able" and "Passion And Warfare".

Anyway, "Modern Primitive" has been described as the missing link between Vai's two first album (or as he calls it, Cro-Magnon Vai), and it is something that is pretty noticeable when you glance at the artwork. There he is, showing off his cleavage again, and I just can't stop drooling. Just look at that handsome bastard, pure eye candy.

Enough of the album cover (for now), let us focus on the music. To no surprise at all, this does sound like old school Vai, which of course delights me. While Vai might not be as much in the front as in "Passion And Warfare", he still runs the show with an iron grip, delivering sweeping riffs and mesmerizing solos here and there. The groove in "Dark Matter" and the Dream Theater technicality of "Fast Note People" are some of the tastiest bits from him, but this is not a fully instrumental album, and the songs that have vocals on them breaks things up really nicely, like the catchy "Mighty Messengers". I do think that Steve is at his best when he  lets loose, but this works quite well too.

But somewhere, in the middle of this jungle, I hear a familiar voice, a voice that makes me excited like a giggling school girl. It is the voice of Devin Townsend, whom sings in "The Lost Chord". This is not surprising by any means, since Devin started out his musical career as a vocalist for Steve Vai between 1992 and 1994, giving him an appearance on "Sex & Religion". Devin's addition to this track is just marvelous, his smooth vocals takes me back to one of his albums, more specifically the earthly "Terria". Add some emotional guitars, and you got a killer track. This is a combo I wanna see more of, can't these good friends create a new project of some sort please, that would be sweet.

A interesting thing about the album is that it has such a weird start and finish, for two solely different reasons. The album starts with "Bop!", a really quirky track that is like a mash up of Seinfeld and Monty Python. It will make you go "What the fuck am I listening to?", but it will also make you laugh, so it is a very fun way to start things off. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same to "Pink And Blows Over", the end song(s) of the album. It is split into three parts, and they all are slow and boring. I get that he want to wind the album down in the end, but this is the wrong way to do it. All of the three parts adds to a total of 19 minutes, part 2 alone being 13 minutes long, which is just excruciating. If he would have left this out completely, we still would have had 50+ minutes of music, which would have been fine. Thank god that this is at the very end of the album.

For being an album that is made out of almost 30 year old songs, "Modern Primitive" sounds really fresh and uplifting, an album that seems time less. It is obvious that Steve was on fire during the late 80's, and I am so glad that we got to hear more of the material that eventually led to one of the mightiest fully instrumental albums out there. While it may not be the strongest effort from Mr. Vai, it is still a record that provides a lot of enjoyable moments and several songs of great quality. An excellent work from one of the finest guitar players out there.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Lost Chord, Dark Matters, Mighty Messengers, Lights Are On

Rating: 7,5/10 Bops!