Friday, June 16, 2017

Motörhead - Overnight Sensation (1996)

Take a good look at that boring cover art, what does it tell you? Besides from the obvious parts, that it is boring, unimaginative, colorless, and boring, there is something, or rather someone, missing. You guessed it, we are missing the beloved mascot Snaggletooth, who for the first and only time is not in a Motörhead album cover (and for those who say that he is not present on "Ace of Spades", look closer please). While all of the band members tries to evoke the same furious attitude that the untamed beast possesses, Phil, Mikkey, and Lemmy (minus the mutton chops) just are not good enough replacements.

Fortunately, these guys do not work as models, their job is delivering some kick ass heavy metal, and "Overnight Sensation" is not much different from any other Motörhead album. The only real difference is that the band at this point in time has reverted back to a three piece band, after Würzel left between this album and "Sacrifice", so they did not replace him, and just went on with it like this until the very end. To be honest, I do not notice any major difference, but that could be because the band is still as even as always, that one less cog does not stop the machinery from rolling on.

The sound does sound a little heavier than usual though, displaying some really tough songs here and there. Starting with "Civil War", this song sets the tone instantly with its loud drums and ultra heavy guitar riffs, showing that these guys are not getting softer with age. And it is not the only really heavy song in here, it is in good company with "Shake The World", "Eat The Gun", and especially the excellent "Them Not Me", a song that blends both speed and heaviness with great success, but thanks to Lemmy's characteristic vocals, it sounds like he is singing "Enemy" instead of "Them Not Me", which ultimately sounded kind of weird, but still cool in some odd way.

Don't fear though old time Motörhead fans, this song still contains a good amount of classic Motörhead, with both speed and catchy choruses, just like it should be. "Crazy Like A Fox" is standard stuff all around, it is just a groovy ass song with a kick ass chorus, and a really nice delivery. Oh, and it does have a harmonica solo too! "Broken" is another one that has more of the classic sound in it, a nice rhythmic song that is easy to like, and so is "Murder Show" with its groovy groove.

"Overnight Sensation" is certainly not an overnight sensation, it is a really stable album that may be a little bit heavier than the average Motörhead record. It got a good pack of enjoyable songs, and the performance is nice as well, but we are reaching the point in our discography review series in which we almost expect these sort of things from the band. This is nothing new, it is quality work that does not really add anything different to the legacy. So at the end of the day, I am a little split, because this is a good album, but it might be one that I will not remember further down the road. Oh well, it does its job, and it does it real good, it is the least you can expect.

Songs worthy of recognition: Crazy Like A Fox, Broken, Them Not Me

Rating: 7/10 Murder Shows

More reviews of Motörhead
Ace of Spades
Iron Fist
Another Perfect Day
Rock 'n' Roll
March Ör Die

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Tankard - One Foot In The Grave (2017)

There are a lot of likenesses between the American big 4 of thrash, and the German big 4 of teutonic thrash, because even if the sounds are fairly different, we still got 4 different personalities within each group. We got the famous group that steals most of the headlines (Metallica and Kreator), the underdog that always works in the shadow of the headliner (Megadeth and Destruction), the heavier alternative that has a core audience of their own (Slayer and Sodom), and then we have the oddball of the groups, the one that you cannot really take seriously, but still love them no matter what. The Americans have Anthrax, and the Germans have the drunken maniacs known as Tankard.

Say what you want about Tankard, but you cannot deny that they are pretty persistent, thrashing and drinking their way in over 30 years without losing a beat. The quality these guys put out may not be as prolific as in the hey days, but it is still of great quality, and their 17th record is no different, even if the title "One Foot In The Grave" would suggest that they are almost at the end of their rope.

Listening to the title track, it is from a different perspective the band sees it from instead. Yes, they realize that they are not any young bucks anymore, but just because they have reached a certain age, they will still rock out, drink beer, and head bang, with or without any pension or leather diapers (eww...). It is classic Tankard humour at its finest, and while they are not singing a hell of a lot about beer and partying in this record, it still got that gleam in the eye that melts your heart.

I do have to admit though that the Germans are taking on a bit more serious issues in this record, which is not something new per se, but it still feels pretty off. Take "Arena of The True Lies" for example, a fairly laid back track with some neat riffs and interesting flow, talking about how we are more and more engulfed in the internet and its skewed media view. I like it better in the opening track "Pay To Pray", a song about religious cults stealing your wealth, but unlike "Arena...", it delivers a more direct punch and some catchy lyrics (and a nice build up at the beginning as well).

And the band is at their best when they are turning up the speed, heading in head first into the battle. I just love the title "Don't Bullshit Us!", and it delivers what you would expect, a mauler that does not take shit from anyone. "The Evil That Men Display" and the previously mentioned "Pay To Pray" are two other great fast pieces that certainly spices up the album well, and the final song "Sole Grinder" has its great speedy moments too, however I feel like the silence and the... bar chanting(?) at the end takes away a lot from the song, and gives the album a weird ending.

And even if the classic stuff is the ones that works the best, I still hear a lot of interesting new stuff in this album, Tankard is certainly not sitting on their asses and relying on their well used techniques. Guitarist Andy Gutjahr is trying more epic melodies in several places in this record, especially in "Secret Order 1516", a personal favourite of mine that just feels right, with its neat premise, cool instrumentation, and harmonizing chorus. A sure stand out that shows that Tankard is still evolving, even if it is not in a revolutionary way.

Ultimately, "One Foot In The Grave" is Tankard to the core, it is a fun thrash experience that goes perfect together with some friends, and a lot of beer. While this album may not be the most intoxicating one during the German's massive career, it definitely serves its purpose, holding a quality that is quite astonishing considering how old these guys really are. They may be close towards being buried, but be sure that they will keep on rocking and drinking until Death himself knocks on the door, telling that it was the salmon mousse that killed them.

Songs worthy of recognition: Don't Bullshit Us!, Pay To Pray, One Foot In The Grave, Secret Order 1516

Rating: 8/10 Sole Grinders

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Motörhead - Sacrifice (1995)

We are on the 12th album in the Motörhead discography review series, and so far I have felt that it has been fairly easy to classify albums into a specific mood, or a certain personality trait that just makes sense. "Sacrifice" however, is a different story. It is not that this album lacks personality, it is just that it confuses me of what that personality really is. My best guess (judging by the cover), is that it is an album that reeks death over any nation, collecting souls while blazing fast, heavy, and loud metal as the sound of the apocalypse... while also doing some oral necrophilia (WITH THAT MAGNIFICENT TONGUE!).

There really is only one thing we need to know about "Sacrifice" though, and that is if it sounds like a Motörhead album, which not surprisingly, it does. It is actually more of the older Motörhead, the more care free and less serious band that we got to know in the beginning. You will not find any emotional ballads here, only good old fashioned fun, which means sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, something that is perfectly displayed in the 2 minute song "Sex & Death", which the band apparently just threw together in a short time at the end of recording.

"Sacrifice" was a little hard to truly take to my heart in the beginning though, for various reasons, one being that I think the songs just does not stick with me all that easily. The album certainly has a good pack of songs, and the opening title track is a stellar song with some fantastic instrumentation (especially Mikkey Dee's drumming is mesmerizing), but they just did not stick with me for very long. They were fine and all, but left me with little impressions. Another problem I have with this record is that it is so short, only 36 minutes long, despite containing 11 songs. It really flies by if you are not paying attention, and is over before you know it.

It does give me more chances to listen to it though, and after a while, it did grow on me, even if it did not become a giant or so. And as stated before, there are some neat little songs in here that does not go to history as some of the finest Motörhead songs, but they do their job really well. They help making "Sacrifice" a really smooth experience all the way through, either with some fine tuned groove ("Over Your Shoulder" and "All Gone To Hell"), some good old 50's swing ("Don't Waste Your Time"), or pure brute force ("War For War" and "Order/Fade To Black"). And while the lyrics do not leave all too many impressions, there is still some laughs to be had as always, like in "Dog-Face Boy", a song about Phil Cambpell (wonder if he knows that...).

I ultimately think that it is the instrumentation in "Sacrifice" that deserves the most credit, another example on that the band has stepped up their game since the arrival of Dee. Some riffs in here are just extremely memorable, like in "Over Your Shoulder" and "All Gone To Hell", driving the songs just the right way to make them better, a good effort from both Campbell and Würzel (who makes his last appearance). Mikkey himself does another great performance as well, pummeling on in his own pace.

So in the end, while "Sacrifice" was kind of hard to get into from the start, I eventually budged to its pressure and felt its heavy glory all over me. It is still too short and it is missing a true stand out song, but the collection of good reliable songs more than make up for it. Basically, this is a Motörhead album. It is even, fast, loud, heavy, and witty, just the way you would want it.

Songs worthy of recognition: Sacrifice, Over Your Shoulder, Dog-Face Boy

Rating: 7/10 Orders

More reviews of Motörhead
Ace of Spades
Iron Fist
Another Perfect Day
Rock 'n' Roll
March Ör Die

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Adrenaline Mob - We The People (2017)

When drummer Mike Portnoy left Adrenaline Mob back in 2013, he stated that one of the main reasons was that the band did not move fast enough, which has always seemed like an odd explanation to me. I mean, the band did release two EPs and an album during those first two years, and the following two after Mike's departure, the band released another full length record and a cover/acoustic compilation. These are only speculations, but I might think the real reason to why Mike left was that he knew where the band was heading, and he did not like the sight of that future, not one bit.

You see, Adrenaline Mob looks like a pretty interesting new power house on the surface, and the debut "Omertá" delivered some promise, but when you take a closer look, you will see that this is the reincarnation of nu-metal, only with older guys at the helm, together with an attitude that would make Limp Bizkit look like they had no self esteem (something the sophomore effort "Men of Honor" showed more than enough). It is a band that has parents trying to play the music that their kids are into, and it is pretty obvious how that ends up sounding like.

Which leads me to their third release, entitled "We The People", an album that is more of the things that has made Adrenaline Mob what they are today. It got attitude, crunchy Mike Orlando riffs, a soaring Russell Allen, and a mixed bag of lyric messages, from political criticism to... waving hands like we just don't care? Just wow there. It is easy to say from the start that if you found their previous two efforts obnoxious, then you will not change your mind over this one.

To be honest, even if you did enjoy the last two albums, you might have a hard time swallowing "We The People", because it is jam packed with 13 songs that spans just over an hour of play time. This is a type of music that is at its best in small sample sizes, some edgy cockiness is actually pretty from time to time, but too much of it can do a lot of harm, like turning you into an asshole. So be careful if you are going to listen to this album in its entirety, take care.

Okay, I should go back to being a nice reviewer now, but it is hard to find good things in an album that is made by great musicians playing music that just is not worthy of their talent. Mike Orlando is a fantastic shredder and knows how to work that guitar, but he feels a little sloppy here, recycling several riffs from previous AM songs. And Russell Allen, oh god how the mighty have fallen. He do deliver some great vocals here, but it just feels so wrong to see him sing (with passion) to this music. In fact, it seems like he is more committed to "The Mob" than to Symphony X at the moment, which there could be other reasons to why (heard that guitarist Michael James Romeo is planning a solo record), but it is still weird.

As for the songs, there are few positive stand outs, despite there being 13 of them. I really like "The Killer's Inside" though, it got some killer riffs and a nice, smooth flow to it, while "Chasing Dragons" is a pretty nice song about drug addiction. "Lords of Thunder" is interesting as well, having some calmer bits to show some variety at least. There are still far more lows on "We The People" though, like the overly macho opening track "King of The Ring", which is basically a bragging song, with small snippets from previous Mob songs. Then we have "Raise 'Em Up" and "What You're Made of", two very cheerful songs that does not seem to fit at all in the album (and no, it is not because they are of high quality, that is not the case). Finally, somehow the band found a way to cram in a meaningless cover of Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell", a good song that is not getting the respect it deserves here.

So despite all of the negative things I have said about "We The People", I still think it is a more consistent record than "Men of Honor", which barely makes it better. I say barely because I think "Men of Honor" had some more memorable tunes, something the band could have continued building on, which they did not. The ultimate question I have though is if we really need an Adrenaline Mob today? Not really, both Mike and Russell have other projects that are simply better, and there are tons of other artists and albums that are both deeper and more interesting. So Portnoy might have made a smart move when leaving, because The Mob certainly does not rule.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Killer's Inside, Chasing Dragons

Rating: 4,5/10 Bleeding Hands

More reviews of Adrenaline Mob
Men of Honor

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Jorn - Life On Death Road (2017)

The band Jorn has been on sort of a mini hiatus these last couple of years, but that does not mean that the main man Jørn Lande has been sitting on his couch and chugging beer after beer. He has been releasing two albums during this time, one in a side project together with guitarist (and fellow Jorn member) Trond Holter called "Dracula - Swing of Death", and another one together with Symphony X and Adrenaline Mob singer Russell Allen, in their project Allen/Lande, called "The Great Divide". And besides some obvious touring, he has also lended his vocals to Avantasia, Magnus Karlsson's Free Fall, Oceans of Time, and the fictional League of Legends band Pentakill. Oh, and last year he did release a cover album called "Heavy Rock Radio", classic Jørn stuff really.

The Norwegian power house is now back though to present his 9th studio record (not counting cover albums and 3(!) compilation records), and it seems like his nostalgia nerves were not fully satisfied on "Heavy Rock Radio", because "Life On Death Road" feels more like classic 80's rock than Jorn has ever sounded before (even have a track that is named "Man of The 80's"). It is still Jorn to the core though, so fans will recognize everything in this record, but just by looking at his trusty crow mascot, who looks like a discount Tom Cruise in this cover art, you know that you are in for a trip down nostalgia lane.

As always, it is Jørn himself that lifts the music to a whole new level. His voice is one of the strongest in the business, capable of handling all of the various obstacles that a normal immortal vocal cords might not withstand. Just hearing that manly, raspy vocal take on those high notes brings a great chill down my spine, leaving me speechless. The other main guy Trond Holter gets some moments to shine as well, with really solid guitar playing all around, and some kick ass solos here and there. These two got a fantastic chemistry, and they can truly create some great stuff.

Here is the thing though, Jorn albums have a tendency to be right at the "good, but not great" level, having excellent musicians that makes music that seem to feel nice in the moment, but far from memorable after some time. Could be that the nostalgia does not bite too much on me for being born in the 90's, but I really do not care, when a song is good, it is good, no matter if it tries to emulate a time that is long lost or not. The point is, Jorn rarely makes music that can stand up against today's competition.

There is still some great songs to be found here though. The title track feels like it would fit in the movie "Top Gun" nicely, being sort of a little brother to the Kenny Loggins classic "Danger Zone", but the solo makes sure that it stands out on its own without Maverick looking over its shoulder. "Love Is The Remedy" is also a nice one, a good single with a strong chorus sung with an even stronger voice. We also got a nice ballad in "Dreamwalker", where Trond turns on the early Dream Theater filter on his guitar, and lets it fly towards the heavens. Together with other worth while songs such as "The Slippery Slope (Hangman's Rope)" and "Devil You Can Drive", there is surely enough goodness for all to go around. Still not sure if any of these songs will stay with me in the future, but they have a shot at least.

Personally, I could be without the ultra cheesy nostalgia known as "Man of The 80's", but other than that, I would say that "Life On Death Road" is a really solid effort from Jorn, an album that holds up from first second to last with its excellent quality and familiar sound. Sure, it is not any "top of the year" material or anything, but it has a mission, and completes it with great marks. Fans of Jorn will absolutely love this record, and so will those who wants their heavy metal to be simple and effective, with great musicianship behind it. So ride on Jorn, ride down that road made of rock, and do it with pride and joy for all the fans around the world.

Songs worthy of recognition: Life On Death Road, Dreamwalker, The Slippery Slope (Hangman's Rope)

Rating: 7,5/10 Blackbirds

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Scale The Summit - In A World of Fear (2017)

Imagine yourself being outside, around a bunch of mountains in the middle of nowhere, being one with nature and all of the animals that live there. You take a deep breath, smelling the fresh air that breezes with its cold touch, coming from a nearby lake. Are you done visualizing? Congratulations, now you know how it feels to listen to an album that is made by the instrumental trio known as Scale The Summit, you can now celebrate with a quiet stroll in the woods, without looking for Pidgeys and Weedles on your Iphone/Android/Nokia 3310. Go ahead, I'll still be here when you come back.

Now that you have gotten your daily dose of reality, let us get back to the topic of this post, the examination of Scale The Summit's 6th full length release "In A World of Fear". The title might speak truer to founder and guitarist Chris Letchford more than one would believe, because he now stands as a lone founder, with two brand new members by his side, and releasing this record without the help of a record label. Just another example on that the music industry is a tough one.

Fortunately for Chris, he is not alone in this new journey. Besides his two new recruits, we have a bunch of guest artists throughout the record, including Scott Carstairs (Fallujah), Jeff Loomis (Arch Enemy, Conquering Dystopia), and Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry). Knowing these guys and their main bands, you would think that Scale The Summit would turn up the heavy on their music in this album, but nope, they do not. Besides from solos and interludes here and there, I simply cannot tell that a particular song has had any influence by a guest artist, which just makes it all a missed opportunity. We do get some great Per Nilsson magic in "Goddess Gate", but only for two short moments, then it is back to the typical Scale The Summit calmness, and it makes you think why Per was even used in the first place.

Now, I am not saying that I want the band to play heavier, that is simply not a part of its personality, but I would love to see some new inputs here and there, something that shakes things up a bit. It definitely feels like the band is comfortable in their style, because even if they technically are doing different stuff in here, it all is on a similar level, making it feel way more boring than it should. They are almost being lazy in their comfy couch, relying all too much on those earthly tones. It sounds good and all, but it is too shallow, not enough depth to make it stick with you.

It is when you compare this album to previous efforts where the flaws are becoming even more obvious. Previous albums such as "The Migration" and "Carving Desert Canyons" are way more dynamic, bringing a whole different level of excitement to the table, while "In A World of Fear" is just a big blob of forgettable tunes. It tries to bring some diversity here and there, but it just is not enough for it to go around, making it really hard to separate the songs from each other. I guess "Astral Kids", Witch House", "Cosmic Crown", and "Opal Bones" are some songs that do stand out, even if they are not strong enough to stand on their own.

Although, I still enjoy listening to this album in a very casual way. Just like any other Scale The Summit album, "In A World of Fear" is probably at its best when you are laying in a hammock and taking in that summer sunshine, maybe even get in a nap or two. This is a chill prog record that may not stay with you for the future, but it is with you in the moment, and it takes quite good care. However, it does not move me emotionally, and it does not really bring anything new to the table, despite all of the guest artists and new members. It is a disappointment for sure, so let's hope the band comes back with a much stronger record when the chaotic dust has settled down.

Songs worthy of recognition: Witch House, Astral Kids, Cosmic Crown

Rating: 6/10 Opal Bones

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Alestorm - No Grave But The Sea (2017)

In shortage of other things to do, I went to see the new "Pirates of The Caribbean" movie this week. Yes, it had some bullshit here and there, but it is harmless fun in an adventure that involved both curses, mysteries, and rum. A solid 6/10 for sure. It got me thinking though, why is it that only that franchise nailed the Pirate theme? You would think that there would be more pirate movies out there, but nope, Disney seemingly has monopoly on that too. This is a problem we metalheads do not have, with a bunch of good pirate metal bands here and there, all delivering good fun and great music.

Out of these bands, Alestorm is arguably the one currently on top, gaining a good following in a relatively short amount of time. Their recipe of catchy melodies and comedic values does make them stand out, and delivers just like the "Caribbean" franchise, a good amount of fun. I almost started to take them seriously after their last release, "Sunset On The Golden Age", because it had more serious stories in it, and some really great craftsmanship. But nope, those silly thoughts vanished with the release of "No Grave But The Sea", that sees the band getting back to their simple minded ways, and to be honest, I do not mind it at all.

Even if I loved the last album, I still think Alestorm is at its best when the band do not take itself all too seriously, and just by looking at the title of the sixth song of the album ("Fucked With An Anchor"), you know that the laughs will not be far away. We got tales of when the group drank a bar dry, took a trip to the end of the world, and how they got their name, it is truly a cavalcade of fun stories all throughout this record.

It is however the songs themselves that lifts "No Grave But The Sea" from the ocean floor to the surface. While the band still can be seen as fairly one dimensional, they have improved their song writing skills over the years, implementing more techniques and more interesting changes here and there, bringing a more diverse experience. The riffs in songs like the title track are much cooler and complex than before, and mixed with those keyboards makes it sound more piraty than ever.

It is also interesting to see that the band finally mustered up a song that is actually called "Alestorm", five albums in. It will most certainly be a live favourite, with a blood pumping chorus and even some haarrrrrrrsh vocals mixed in. The high point of the record might still be "Mexico", a fun and catchy son of a bitch with some 8-bit sounds and tequila drenched sing along moments. Speaking of sing along, "Bar Ünd Imbiss" will surely invite to such antics, both for the sober and the drunk.

Surprisingly, I was kind of disappointed with "Fucked With An Anchor". It is catchy as hell, and its immature personality is infecting as fuck, but when you use such a word as fuck, you should have some authority behind it. Take Strapping Young Lad for example, they used the word a lot of times, and they simply did not give a fuck, they went balls to the wall with it. Alestorm is wasting some potential here, almost taking the easy route. You can better do better lads (please do not make me walk the plank!).

Still, I cannot get mad at these Scottish fellas, because they are just too much fun. Their pirate ways are sometimes strange and childish, but when in the right mood (and enough rum in your body), this is simply brilliant. No, "No Grave But The Sea" is far from a masterpiece, but it does not need to be, it will have its fans anyway, loving every inch of the album. In the end, "No Grave But The Sea" will make you smile, and maybe go out on a search for treasure, it is at least a good soundtrack for that kind of activity.

Songs worthy of recognition: Mexico, No Grave But The Sea, Alestorm

Rating: 7/10 Pegleg Potions

More reviews of Alestorm
Sunset On The Golden Age

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Motörhead - Bastards (1993)

After being only a guest drummer in the predecessor "March Ör Die", Swedish juggernaut Michael Kiriakos Delaouglou (or as he is more commonly known as, Mikkey Dee) joined Motörhead and was one of the main reasons to the band's return to form. Mikkey himself is a guy who likes to do things thoroughly, so when he found out that the rest of the band did not rehearse, like at all, he instantly booked a time to do so. Initially, that plan failed (Mikkey was the only one to show up in their first "meeting"), but Mikkey eventually got his wish, and Lemmy himself stated "We have never sounded this good!". Do not believe me? Go to a Scorpions concert, meet up with Mikkey and find out yourself (and give him a thanks for all his hard work too while you are at it).

So with some nagging and practicing, "Bastards" came out sounding like good old Motörhead. It is fast, loud, and simply kick ass. It still got some of the more mature themes that we saw from the last two releases, represented mostly in the dark ballad "Don't Let Daddy Kiss me", a song about child abuse. Even with that down moment (feeling wise, the song is great), "Bastards is definitely an album that is gonna lift your spirit, especially if you have not been too high on the last couple of efforts.

The power in this record is simply astounding, and there is lots of it, plenty for all listeners. "Burner" is pure fury, very fit for Mad Max and Furiosa to blast while they are riding away from The Immortan Joe (worst dictator name ever). Or maybe they would prefer "Death Or Glory", because it is classic Motörhead at its best, with punk influences and killer riffs and all. While no other song can match those two, we still get some groovy ass rock 'n' roll in "We Bring The Shake", "Bad Woman", and "On Your Feet Or On Your Knees", making sure that "Bastards" keeps its momentum from start to finish.

Do not believe though that the band has made a full 180 back to their roots, because we still got some retro rock in this album, and not surprisingly, it is some of the weaker stuff in this record. It is also unfortunate that most of them lies in the middle of the record, giving "Bastards" a fairly chewy part that is not hard to get over, but drags down the tempo a bit. "Born To Raise Hell" is just a poor AC/DC rip off (even the title sounds like it was stolen from the Australians), "Liar" is extremely simple and dull, and while "Lost In The Ozone" is kind of interesting, I think it would have made more sense if Black Sabbath would have made it. No offense Lemmy, but that song does not suit you all too well.

But even with some miss steps here and there, I love the performance that the band brings to the table. It is powerful and passionate, filled with an energy I have not seen in some albums. They are really giving it their all, which makes the lesser songs really enjoyable too. The riffs of Phil Campbell and Michael "Würzel" Burston are fantastic, Lemmy's bass is pounding harder than ever, and Mikkey brings a whole new level of madness to the table, making this one of the better band performances from Motörhead.

So looking back at the discography, "Bastards" is truly a sleeper album, one that is mixed in with a lot of underwhelming brethren, making it fairly easy to miss. But bland cover art and bad surroundings aside, "Bastards" is just balls to the wall great, showing an attitude that is easy to admire with all its tenacity. A new born band is here, ready to take over everything once again with its loud aggressive style, taking down every bastard they see.

Songs worthy of recognition: Death Or Glory, Burner, Don't Let Daddy Kiss Me, Bad Woman

Rating: 8/10 Devils

More reviews of Motörhead
Ace of Spades
Iron Fist
Another Perfect Day
Rock 'n' Roll
March Ör Die

Sunday, May 21, 2017

DragonForce - Reaching Into Infinity (2017)

Ever since the power house known as DragonForce changed singers, the band have made it no secret that they have tried to take a step back in their music writing, not going completely buck wild insane in solos and song length. It is a plan that the band has hold pretty well with their two latest albums, "The Power Within" and "Maximum Overload", but the focus seems to be a little lost here in "Reaching Into Infinity" (which I guess the album cover is telling from the start).

No, "Reaching From Infinity" is not an album with 8 "Through The Fire And Flames" copies, but it contains more of the old DragonForce than its two latest predecessors, which is kind of odd since the band has stated that this is one of their most experimental albums of their career, spreading their sound to new horizons. I would definitely not go so far, because "Reaching Into Infinity" still got blazing speed, catchy choruses, crazy solos, and cheesy lyrics that will either make you smile like an idiot, or give you a stomach ache from the lactose overload.

The experimental parts are pretty few actually, but most of them do work. The most obvious one is in the second to last song, the 11 minute (!) ballad "The Edge of The World", and it is not only because of its obscene length, for when you reach the middle of the track, the band throws in some death metal vocals into the mix. Listening to this album first time around, I thought "well, that was the end of that album, must have reached the next album on my playlist", but nope, still DragonForce. It is supposed to represent death and all, and while that in itself is really cheesy, it does bring some dynamics into the song. Still, 11 minutes is kind of overkill.

Speaking of overkill (not the band), it is still the problem with DragonForce after all these years, they simply do not know when to stop. While it is not at the level of their early career, it is still a mouthful to take in when you are listening to them. Even if almost all of the songs are between 4 to 6 minutes in length, they still have a high density level, filled to the brim with all that makes DragonForce. The album is 1 hour long, so it is easy to get exhausted when you listen to it from start to finish.

There is still a lot of upside to this record though, the biggest one being that it is fun as hell. Say what you want about the band, but you cannot deny that their unique style of power metal is exciting as hell. When Totman and Li sets their guitars on fire, they set off a wild ride that twists and turns in almost every possible way, while we all try to imitate it with our Guitar Hero/air guitars. And Marc Hudson, who I have been a little hard on since he joined the band, has stepped up his game, delivering his best performance yet. As long as you are not too serious and can handle the cheese, songs like "War!", "Judgement Day", and "Midnight Madness" will be a blast to listen to.

So yeah, while "Reaching Into Infinity" is far from the most experimental album out there, DragonForce still puts in some effort to bring a varied experience, even if two ballads does not really count as an awful lot. It is classic stuff really, so if you have a hard time to swallow the meme that is DragonForce, then you should not bother with this record at all, but if you like the over the top insanity and the blazing power that this band produces, then it will certainly be up your alley. "Reaching Into Infinity" is at its core a fun album that pulls few surprises, it is ultra power metal as you would want it, with cheese and all.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Edge of The World, Judgement Day, Land of Shattered Dreams

Rating: 7,5/10 Wars!

More reviews of DragonForce
Maximum Overload

Thursday, May 18, 2017

End of The Dream - Until You Break (2017)

The Netherlands seems to have a never ending supply of female fronted symphonic metal bands, they literally pop up everywhere you look. Everything from Epica, Within Temptation, After Forever, Delain, Stream of Passion, and ReVamp, this country is an endless well of symphonic goodness. Now we can add End of The Dream to that group, a band that has been active for about 4 years, but have made good use with their time so far. Their 2015 debut "All I Am" gave the band some good reputation early on, but the second album will define if this band is something we should look out for in the future, or leave behind in the dust.

Some big drums open up the title track, with singer Micky Huiijsmans entering shortly in a song that is pretty standard stuff, but it does set the bar nicely, giving you enough hints on what to expect from the rest of the album. The sound has a lot of Within Temptation in it, so it is far from the most original you will ever hear, but when the heavier guitars enter in the following song "Who Do You Think You Are", the quality instantly lifts to a new level. It does not happen nearly enough though, which is of course a shame, because the heavier riffs give a sense of the now disbanded ReVamp, a band I really miss.

It is definitely obvious that this band knows how to write some captivating melodies that fits with the sound landscape, memorable songs that take short time to memorize. And most of the songs also have an epic vein added, which fits Micky's range very nicely. There is a lot of emotions behind that voice, and those emotions comes out really well in several songs like "In My Hands" and "Erase Me", making Micky a real strength to the band. It just makes me wonder how many great female vocalists there really are in the land of tulips and windmills, they just keep popping up.

In general this is all nice and dandy, but I do miss some meat on the bone. I am not talking about the originality issues here, those are pretty small and can easily be over looked, the real issue is that "Until You Break" feels like an empty house, well built and looks good from the outside, but go inside and you will not find much content. It is mostly the instruments that are to blame here, they are simply not sticking out in any particular way, which forces the songs to rely a lot on the vocals. This is not too uncommon in symphonic metal, unfortunately.

I don't know man, this is a hard album to set a score on, because it has something that makes it quite enjoyable, but at the same time, it just feels hollow. To me, this is the perfect "time to time" album, an album that you can listen to once every now and then, but it is not something you would spin around several laps in a row. The potential is there though, the corner stones to build a great album are there, so it is all a matter of picking them up and putting them together. So for now, the dream is definitely not at its end, it might actually only be at the beginning.

Songs worthy of recognition: Who Do You Think You Are, Erase Me, In My Hands

Rating: 6,5/10 Poisons

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Thoughts from a Metal Mind: The great snoozefest (Eurovision 2017)

There are several reasons to why I love the Eurovision Song Contest, and why I watch it every year, but the biggest reason is that we get to see artists and songs that we normally would never hear, cultures that clash in one of the biggest competitions in the world. The wacky shit that goes on is bad in one way, but extremely fascinating in another way. But then, there are some Eurovision years that are just one long road of boredom.

This year will be remembered as a year where the ballads took over, mostly thanks to the so called "winner effect", whatever wins the previous year, a lot of countries will try to replicate it. Last year Ukraine won with Jamala and her strong ballad. The end result? A competition the following year with TONS of ballads, each more boring and generic than the next.

Now the final was spared from a lot of these because they got eliminated in the semi finals, but somehow the most boring one of them all was not only a heavy favourite, IT ACTUALLY WON. Now, do not get me wrong, I love Salvador Sobral's personality, he is a nice dude, and I am happy for Portugal, the punching bag of the ESC, never even gotten a top 5 placement in almost 50 tries, but the song is sooooooooo boring. The message of it is good and all, but why does a song like this exist today? This is 2017, not 1917.

The thing that really baffles me though is that this is not the first time Portugal has entered with a song like this. The country has always sung in their native language, and the song has always been antique in one way or another, being at the very least 10 years too late, so what is it that makes "" so special, making it a favourite? It must be the artist, I literally got no other explanation.

Then again, this is a competition that some times makes no sense what so ever, so trying to over analyze why Portugal won is like figuring out why some people like pineapple on pizza and some don't, it all comes down to taste, and obviously, I was among the minority, because Portugal was number 1 among both the jury votes and viewer votes. I am sure of this though, we are not gonna remember this winner in the next five years, it is not gonna go down as one of the all time great winners. So once again, congratulations Portugal and Salvador Sobral, even though I did not root for you.

But there are other things we will remember from this year's show, like Romanian yodeling, a horse on top of a ladder, a Croatian dude doing a duet with himself, some dude from Montenegro in a very long pony tail dancing like a maniac alone on stage, and of course, the biggest star of them all, Verka Serduchka doing her thing.

Another thing we will surely remember are two spherical objects that surprised us with a visit. Some random dude just went up on stage during one of the middle acts, pulled down his pants, and showed his ass in front of 200 million viewers. Of course, it is a thing that should not happen, but it was so unexpected that it actually gave me a good laugh, especially after a mediocre show. Just glad that it did not happen during the actual contest, like one year when Jimmy Jump jumped in while Spain was performing. Remember that guy? Where did he go? My guess is jail.

What a (cl)ass act

Okay, enough ranting and talking about an ass, here comes my top 5 songs of this year's contest

1. Ukraine: O. Torvald - Time

It was the only rock song this year, what did you guys expect? Okay, so it is far from the best rock song Eurovision has presented us, and the big head in the middle is both awkward and scary, staring straight into your soul, but I really like this song, it got a nice chorus that sways really nicely, and I like the lyrics and the breakdown. So naturally, I rooted for it, even if I knew it would not stand a chance.

2. Hungary: Joci Pápai - Origo

I really do not exactly know why I liked "Origo" so much. Probably because it mixed a lot of different elements together seamlessly into one good song. We got oriental, some rapping, and the Hungarian language to add to it. All in all, a really nice tune that deserved a higher spot in the final.

3. Moldova: Sunstroke Project - Hey Mamma

The return of Epic Sax Guy! That is enough for me to love this entry, and thank god for that, because the song is a little corny, but the party feeling this band gives is just too intoxicating, especially around all of these god damn ballads. Do not think it is better than "Run Away", but "Hey Mamma" definitely makes me smile.

4. Italy:  Francesco Gabbani - Occidentali's Karma

This was the huge favourite, so it was a disappointment to see it end in 6th place. To be honest though, I saw it coming, because I did not get a winning feel from the song (although, I did not get that from ANY song this year). It is still a charming entry, and I love the gorilla and all that it stands for. Definitely something you would only see in ESC.

5. Norway: JOWST - Grab The Moment

I am not the biggest Norway lover out there, but I almost felt some kind of sympathy for them since they got bashed a lot for their entry this year. Yes, JOWST is kind of a discount Avicci Daft Punk mash up, but the song is pretty cool, got an own style, and was probably the most modern entry this year. Most certainly a song you can dig with a lot.

I should probably mention my thoughts on Sweden since I live there, so here goes... I hate it. I mean, I do not hate Robin Bengtsson and his song, but I hated the fact that he won our qualifiers, because there was at least 3 songs that were better. He is a nice singer and all, but he is no dancer, and all the little "tricks", like the nod, the buttoning of the suit, and that stupid oki doki sign, are just dumb. Oh well, a fifth place is actually pretty good though, so I won't complain too much.

So another Eurovision is over, and I hope that you liked my observation of it (even if I know at least 90% of you do not give a flying fuck about the show #Kappa), already looking forward to next year (even if I know we will get a lot of ballads... AGAIN #KappaAgain).

Stay Metal/Eurovision
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Motörhead - March Ör Die (1992)

While Motörhead has never been a band that have constantly occupied the mainstream radio stations, but it did seem like they tried to make a run for it during the mid 90's, just when they were getting some momentum again in the sales department. "March Ör Die" is certainly an album that has some of those thoughts in the back of its head, scaling off most of the band's heavy repertoire and adding a more broader sound, a recipe for boredom in most cases.

But we are after all talking about Motörhead, and Lemmy & co. still finds way to implement their classic attitude in songs that may not have the usual strength that we are used to. With a fairly slow song like "Bad Religion", the band makes it fantastic with some dark, but not too heavy, riffs, and a steady tempo that works like a charm. The lyrics of Lemmy not giving a flying fuck about religion is fantastic as well, including the phrase "Evangelistic Nazis", one that I will most likely use from now on.

Besides from "Bad Religion", there are not a lot of standouts in this record, at least not for quality. "I Ain't No Nice Guy" do stand out for being a fine tuned ballad, but it is the addition of Ozzy Osbourne that makes you raise an eyebrow or two. A duet with two of the most recognizable metal singers out there, it is weird as hell, especially since the song is slow, definitely not in my taste. This is no coincidence however, because Lemmy was asked to write a couple of songs for Ozzy's upcoming album "No More Tears", including the hit "Mama, I'm Coming Home". And like that was not enough, guitarist Slash is also in on a corner with a solo on the song, and some additional guitar on "You Better Run".

As previously stated though, this is an album with few high points, and few speed points for that matter. It feels like the band is holding back for some reason, not giving their all here. It is a classic side effect of trying to hit the mainstream wall, but it could also be because Motörhead had to work with three different drumming during recording after the problems with Phil Taylor.

Even with these problems, the song material is, at best, decent. We got some nice tunes here and there, but there is a lot of fillers here, more than usual, including two covers! Okay, "You Better Run" is technically not a cover, but it uses that classic blues riff that has been used a ton of times, most notably in "Bad To The Bone" (a phrase that is even used in this song). No, the real cover is "Cat Scratch Fever", originally made by Ted Nugent, a great song that unfortunately is not made with any original touch by Motörhead. Also, why is it song number 2 in the song list? A weird spot to place a cover.

Yeah, "March Ör Die" is truly a "hit or miss" record, with some songs tingling the right nerves, while others are just baffling. Something had to have hindered the band from performing at 100%, because I see small glimpses of greatness, but they are barely enough to save the album. "March Ör Die" is definitely not a train wreck, far from it actually, but it has little to no life, idling around for some time before trying to kick start itself to no avail. But hey, at least we got a couple of neat songs, and a cool title that can also be used when you go to a live show. Merch or die!

Songs worthy of recognition: Bad Religion, Asylum Choir, March Or Die

Rating: 6/10 Hellraisers

More reviews of Motörhead
Ace of Spades
Iron Fist
Another Perfect Day
Rock 'n' Roll

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pyramaze - Contingent (2017)

Pyramaze is one of those bands that has gotten a lot of good recognition over the years, but for reasons unknown, I have been late on the band wagon, not picking up the band on my radar until their 2015 release "Disciples of The Sun". Could be because that album took seven years to make, giving the band an extended time of inactivity, or just the fact that I have a knack for missing out on bands for too long (Persefone, Fallujah, and Anciients are just some examples). While I did not get blown away by "Disciples of The Sun", it had enough quality to make me open my eyes, and make sure to follow the band in the future.

Fortunately for me, it did not take them another seven years to make a new record, only two years was enough to create the follow up known as "Contingent", and it has all of the elements that I got to know from its predecessor. It is progressive power metal with lots of hooks and melody thrown into it all. It is a lot of ingredients for a sound that is relatively simple and straight forward, but the band manages to hold it within the frames, keeping a solid sound.

I think the strong point with Pyramaze is how epic they manage to make all the songs feel, without going for any long songs or big climaxes. The production is one reason to this, it is bombastic, turning up everything to the max to make every song pop out of the speakers. The other reason is the singer Terje Harøy, who gives his all with his high pitch and powerful approach. He is still relatively new in the band, but I think he fits in nicely, complementing the rest of the guys with a cool vocal style that is undoubtedly classic power metal stuff, but still pretty original in its performance.

Close to all of the songs on "Contingent" are between 4-6 minutes long, except for a duo of needless interludes (named "Contingent" part I and II), and a duet ballad towards the end that is just over three and a half minutes (The Tides That Won't Change), so I think the progressive aspect is not that great to be honest, it is just taking a back seat and interrupts a little here and there. No, this album is more straight forward, and is relying on strong, catchy songs that you hopefully will remember for some time. There are a couple that do get to me, the opener "Land of Information" has a really nicely built chorus and some great instrumentation, while "20 Second Century" is both heavy and epic, once again thanks to Terje's passionate performance on the vocals.

Then we have "Kingdom of Solace", a song that drove me completely nuts because the main riff reminded me a lot of a song I could not for the life of me remember. I did eventually figure out that it was more or less stolen from Scar Symmetry's "Artificial Sun Projection" from the "Holographic Universe" album, so I am very relieved that that is out of the way. How is the knock off? Not bad at all, but it is really hard to enjoy it without humming that fantastic Scar Symmetry chorus.

Ultimately, I think the song list in general is really nice, pretty even all around, but there is a lot of songs that sounds pretty much the same, which leads me to my main complaint of "Contingent", it is too monotone. It could have used a lot more diversity instead of just a simple ballad at the very end of the record and a couple of dumb little instrumentals, changing up the pace so that it does not feel so stiff. It is really a shame, because in its whole, "Contingent" is a fine record that should appeal to both normal metal fans and a slightly broader audience. My personal views of the band are still unchanged, that they have a lot of potential and a sound that is cool and all, but might be slightly over hyped (I should probably check their back catalog to get a better understanding myself). Still, I enjoyed "Contingent", and you probably will too, especially if you pluck out the raisins out of the cake.

Songs worthy of recognition: 20 Second Century, Land of Information, Nemesis

Rating: 7/10 Obsessions

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Ayreon - The Source (2017)

With the current situation of our environment and the constant evolution of technology, it is fair to wonder what the future will bring us, and if it even goes so far that we not only can, but are forced to search for a new planet. Can we travel through galaxies, or maybe even alter our DNA so we can adapt to the ever changing climate. These are some of the themes that the fantastic story teller Arjen Lucassen takes up in his new Ayreon album "The Source", another grand and epic album that tells a captivating story while playing some wonderful metal in the process.

"The Source" is actually considered as a prequel album to the 2008 release "01011001", a story that tells of how the "Forever" race came to be, and that they were humans at first, living in planet Alpha. The humans builds machines to solve all of the world's problems, the only problem is human itself is the cause, so the machines starts to rebel and begins a mass execution, forcing the humans to flee to a whole new planet called Y. It is definitely a story that Ayreon nerds will soak in with ease, and the story itself is exciting in all four of its acts (or "Chronicles" as they are called).

To make it all happen, Arjen has once again invited a lot of professional vocalists to play different roles in this epic saga, and the guest list is simply incredible. We have James LaBrie, Simone Simons, Hansi Kürsch, Tommy Giles Rogers, Floor Jansen, Russell Allen, Tobias Sammet, and many more. It is a lot of people to cram into one single record, but Arjen does a great job to include them all enough so that no one is left in the dust, giving them space to shine.

It also seems like Arjen has taken his guests in consideration when it comes to the sound of "The Source". Sure, it does sound like Ayreon, but there are a lot of small influences from Blind Guardian, Avantasia, Dream Theater, and even Between The Buried And Me (not the death metal part obviously). It still sounds the same though, giving the album a core sound that is really sturdy and strong, holding up for the entire one and a half hour of play time.

But it is the song list that makes "The Source" so magnificent, 17 story driven songs that all brings something to the table without feeling dragged out, not even the 12 minute opening track "The Day That The World Breaks Down" feels too long. It is a wide variety of beautiful arrangements, oriental flavours, catchy hooks, exhilarating tension, and lots of emotions that display everything from fear to pure joy. I personally are more drawn to the songs that have more power in them, especially "Planet Y Is Alive!", a purely euphoric song where all singers are pushed to the limits in a massive power metal tune that sends chills up your spine when Sammet hits the climax with such force. But this is an album with a lot of great songs, so you will find at least a couple that will tingle your right spots, no matter what your taste is.

It is safe to say that Arjen Lucassen hit it out of the park again with "The Source", because even if the album is meaty, you can still swallow it relatively easy, much thanks to the exciting story and the fair length of the songs. It is definitely an album that matches the man's discography, being grand and epic in a lot of ways, and utilizing the strengths of all his guest vocalists is a talent in itself, one that Arjen truly has mastered. In conclusion, a fantastic record that can easily be listened to multiple times both now, and probably in the future as well.

Songs worthy of recognition: Planet Y Is Alive!, The Day That The World Breaks Down, Everybody Dies, Condemned To Live, Deathcry of A Race

Rating: 9/10 Stars of Sirrah

More reviews of Ayreon
The Theory of Everything

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Motörhead - 1916 (1991)

Besides being a competent singer and bassist for Motörhead, Lemmy Kilmister is also a vivid collector of war memorabilia, especially stuff from the two world wars, so there is no surprise that he would eventually take his hobby into his occupation. Do not really know why he chose "1916" as the title though, because while World War I was on full go in that year, it is not a year that has any real significance. Maybe it has to do with something about the title track, but I will return to that later.

Another reason for the title might be that "1916" has a lot of retro feel to it. Motörhead has really put on their thinking caps for this one, offering us a wide spectre of different songs. We of course get some classic Motörhead heavy metal, especially in the beginning "1-2 punch" "The One To Sing The Blues" and "I'm So Bad (Baby I Don't Care)", but there is a lot of new stuff in here that we have not heard from the band before, making "1916" their most experimental album ever. I do not know about you, but the words Motörhead and experimental does not make a very good pairing to me.

Most of these newer songs are simply evidence of Lemmy's early influences of early rock and roll, being fast in tempo, but not really that heavy in sound. It can easily be considered as Motörhead light, but when a song is as groovy and fun as "Going To Brazil", then the light version ain't so bad, especially with lines like "Watching all the roadcrew attacking little girls/Joined the mile high club, goin' round the world/All the booze is free, airline going broke/Here come the lady with another Jack and coke". We also get a tribute to the legendary punk band The Ramones in the song "R.A.M.O.N.E.S", a more punk like song in the right spirit.

It is when the band drags down the tempo where we are going to stranger terretories, starting with the oddly named "Nightmare/The Dreamtime", a very slow and dark song that tries to do what "Orgasmatron" did, but it just does not have the same effect without the riffs. "Love Me Forever" is slightly less original in its approach, both in lyrics and in sound, but that song do at least have some neat guitar playing. Both of those songs comes right after each other, so it creates a middle part that is really tough for the average Motörhead fan to handle.

The title track is also something new from the band, a song without guitars and bass, but with added church organs. The song tells the story of a young 16 year old boy joining the army for World War I, thinking he will end up as a hero for his country. I see what Lemmy is trying to express with this song, and he does so very well, but I just cannot help but feeling extremely bored by this song. It has emotions for sure, but it is so slow and boring, it just does not work for me, giving the album a really sad ending in more ways than one.

So the biggest problem with "1916" is without a doubt the inconsistency in both sounds and quality. There are several interesting ideas from the band, but most of them do not work because of one simple fact, Motörhead was built for heavy metal. Yes, Lemmy and his crew can do other styles, but it is when they let loose and just do their thing that they are in the zone, schooling everyone in the art of metal. "1916" is at the very least an interesting album that definitely stands out, but as far as quality goes, it has a couple of really nice songs, and a bunch of strange ones. As said, an inconsistent effort.

Songs worthy of recognition: Going To Brazil, The One To Sing The Blues, Make My Day

Rating: 6,5/10 Angel Cities

More reviews of Motörhead
Ace of Spades
Iron Fist
Another Perfect Day
Rock 'n' Roll

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

All That Remains - Madness (2017)

This is a fitting album title for the Americans of All That Remains, because it feels like they are completely lost right now, going through everything and nothing all at once. For each album released, the band have leaned more and more towards a very mainstream friendly sound, but they are still clinging on to that corest of metalcore that once made them famous. So with one foot in the past, and one in the present, they take on the future with their 8th studio record.

Knowing what the band has done in the last couple of albums, I expected failure from the start, but "Madness" opens up in a surprisingly strong way. Okay, "Safe House" is pretty meaningless metalcore screaming for three and a half minutes, but it is a heavy start with some really nice instrumentation, almost resembling more of a hardcore sound even. The title track follows, and it has some interesting moments, being decently catchy. However, it is the third song "Nothing I Can Do" that really catches my attention, mostly thanks to the mysterious keyboard during the verse and Phil Labonte almost trying to do his best Tommy Giles Rogers impression. I would have loved it if they took those elements even further, but they did not, settling for a fairly safe chorus and a typical song structure. Still, a really nice song that ends a surprisingly good three song start. Shout out also to song 5 "Halo", classic ATR that I wished we heard more of.

After that though, the album plummets towards the depths of mainstream despair, and the schizophrenia symptoms are fully shown. "Madness" consists of a total of 13 songs, in which at least 3 are straight up generic ballads (which in my opinion is at least 4 too many). I will never understand what the purpose is with these songs being in a metal album, they just take up space. They are even worse here, displaying as one end of the giant spectrum that All That Remains plays in this album. There is literally no consistency to be found here, and it does not help when the lyrics are so shallow and dumb, almost at an embarrassing level.

It is certainly a shame, because it feels like the band is trying to go for a new approach. They have been stomping in the same spot for quite a few albums now, so to hear them doing something different is refreshing in one way, but when the quality is not improved, then it just does not matter all that much. There are so many songs that are just bare bones, having no creative meat in them what so ever, and the few songs that are of any worth are unfortunately few in number, not nearly enough to save the album. So even if "Madness" is different from its brethren, the result is more or less the same still.

I am not gonna say that I am surprised over the bland quality of this record, I more or less expected it to be this poor, but the fact that the band still has not fully decided on if they are a full on metalcore band or a more radio friendly rock band is simply mind boggling, like they want to keep all of their fans by doing everything at once. It just does not work that way. Even if I appreciate that they are trying to evolve, they are doing it without any real focus, with little quality to back it up. My hopes are still with this band that they can come back with a new killer record, but that hope is fading in a steady pace, as steady as their decline. So good marks for effort, but the originality and general quality still needs improvement.

Songs worthy of recognition: Halo, Nothing I Can Do

Rating: 4,5/10 Open Graves

More reviews of All That Remains
A War You Cannot Win
The Order of Things

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Corroded - Defcon Zero (2017)

It has been roughly five years since we last heard anything new from the guys of Corroded, and I would like to excuse myself for almost forgetting completely about them during this period. It has almost been dead silent around the band camp, a member change has happened and they released a compilation album for their tenth year anniversary, but that is pretty much it. They did however do a pretty good April Fools joke earlier this year, about front man Jens Westin leaving the band to play for the Swedish ice hockey team Färjestad BK and wearing the number 666. He is a good ice hockey player, but the number thing was just too good to be true.

So the years have gone by, but the Corroded sound is still pretty much the same in "Defcon Zero", it is good, strong hard rock that may not be the most original sound you have ever heard, but is distinct and clear, knowing exactly what it is and what its goals are. The band does not try to complicate things, they are only here to deliver some good hard rock that is pleasing too your ears, and they are doing so in a pretty good way.

"Defcon Zero" has a good amount of nice songs overall, mostly suited for the more mainstream rock audience, but still with enough original quality in it. I think the question we should instead ask us is how it stacks up against the band's previous material, and it does so pretty decently. I definitely think there are stronger songs that the band have made in the past, but we got some competent material here that should not feel ashamed at all.

My personal favourite is "Vessels of Hate", because this is Corroded simply at their best. It got a catchy chorus, and there are a lot of heavy elements to it that fits the band so well. They also include a calmer part towards the latter half, which only adds to the song, unlike a classic breakdown would. "Retract And Disconnect" is also a really nice song, with this chugging riff that drives it forward towards success. In between those two songs, we complete the trifecta with "Fall of A Nation", a pretty unorthodox Corroded song that impresses with darker nature.

Overall though, I think the song quality is nothing truly special, it is more of a disappointment to be honest, especially since they have had 5 years to create a rock solid album. Some songs are just too weak in its execution, while a song like "A Note To Me" might have the purpose of expanding the band's horizon, but ends up being a snoozer instead. It just is not enough exciting material in here to go around, making it really hard to love the album. It is a decent album for sure, just not any way near of being spectacular.

I think the thing that bugs me the most about the new Corroded record is that they are stomping in the same spot, not really moving anywhere. While I do think Corroded is one of those bands that can get by reinventing the wheel, they have to implement some quality behind the craft, making songs that kick ass. "Defcon Zero" just has too many weak spots to be a truly exciting album. There is nothing horribly wrong with the album per se, and it is good to see that the band is back, but I really hope that it does not take another 5 years for a new album to emerge, and if it does take that long, then it better be a damn good album.

Songs worthy of recognition: Vessels of Hate, Retract And Disconnect, Fall of A Nation

Rating: 6/10 Days of Judgement

More reviews of Corroded:
State of Disgrace

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Motörhead - Rock 'n' Roll (1987)

It is pretty easy to see that "Rock 'n' Roll" is far from the most impressive work that Motörhead has ever done. The title is kinda meh, and while the artwork is cool as always, it just does not say very much, it is just a dark blue Snaggletooth doing his best Gene Simmons impression. Oh well, it is still Motörhead at least, so you know what you will get, and that is only the purest of heavy metal.

The first single from this album was actually written for a movie called "Eat The Rich" (which is also the name for the song), a British black comedy starring cast members of the then popular tv show "The Comic Strip Presents...". I have personally never heard of this movie before, but after taking a look at the plot, it seems pretty dark to say the least. The whole band did an appearance in the movie too, and so did also Paul McCartney, Bill Wyman, and a bunch of different fairly famous people at that time. The song itself is okay, but really safe, so I do not have much to say about it.

I got more to say about track number 4 instead, and that is "Stone Deaf In The USA", an extremely fun song with a great groove, a hooky chorus, and some fun lyrics. I also love the solo that borrows some from fellow NWoBHM guys Judas Priest. The song ends on a really weird note though, with a sermon wishing that the man above takes care of this band, it feels like it is taken straight out from Monty Python. Actually, it is taken straight out from Monty Python, because the guy doing the sermon is none other than Michael Palin. A fun, but really weird ending to the song.

It is definitely the rock 'n' roll groove that is the strength of this album, being the driving force to a lot of the songs in here, like "Traitor", "Boogeyman", and "Stone Deaf In The USA". However, there is not much of the classic Motörhead styled metal that we all have gotten used to. Ironically, the track of this album is the only one that even resembles that sound, and that is the first song right off the bat. I am not saying that this does not sound like Motörhead (it definitely does), it just is not enough to fulfill my hunger at least.

Looking at the whole picture, it just feels like the band had to rush things. This album did only take one year to make, so that might be a good reason to why the overall song and production quality is not at its peak. I just do not get the purpose of some songs, like the really bland "All For You", or the over simplified "Dogs". It all comes back to the bland album title and the non spectacular cover art, this album in its entirety is what we in Sweden call "lagom", which means that it is perfectly fine, not bad at all, but not great either. I do not dislike "Rock 'n' Roll" at all, I kind of enjoy it, but if I had to chose a Motörhead album to listen to right now, this album would be pretty far back on my list.

Songs worthy of recognition: Stone Deaf In The USA, Rock 'n' Roll, The Wolf

Rating: 6,5/10 Blackhearts

More reviews of Motörhead
Ace of Spades
Iron Fist
Another Perfect Day

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Novembers Doom - Hamartia (2017)

I am not the biggest doom fan out there, but it is a genre I have taken to me more and more in recent years, and when a doom record is done right, it can be really freaking good. But for me to enjoy a doom record, I need some melody put into it, or a lot of emotions that comes through in wave after wave, making me feel the despair deep within me,and that is something that I think is really hard to accomplish. Somehow though, Novembers Doom seem to know their shit, because they keep releasing great stuff time and time again.

In 2014, they ended up on my top 20 list with the album "Bled White", an album that had a lot of speed for a doom record, but was still gloomy as hell, while also incorporating some great melodies. It just hit all the notes just right for me, so the expectations for "Hamartia" was obviously high, and wouldn't you know, they lived up to the hype, delivering another stellar record.

"Hamartia" is a slightly different record for the band, yet very familiar. We do not get as much of the death part of their music, and the clean vocals takes a greater role, but the sound is still undoubtedly Novembers Doom, as always filled to the brim with raw emotions that will leave no one untouched. Most of these emotions are created by the vocalist and only remaining original member Paul Kuhr, mixing his harsh and clean vocals perfectly to set the mood he wants, giving the songs extra depth and weight.

It is a pretty lengthy album, but the 57 minutes goes by fairly fast actually, not only because the quality here is so high, but because the songs are in just the right sized chunks, except for the last song "Borderline", the only track that goes over the 6 minute mark. Even with fairly little time per song (for a doom band at least), Novembers Doom manages to pack in a lot in each track, details that truly elevates the music, whether it be flawless execution from the rhythm section, or just a great build up. It also helps making "Hamartia" very diverse, never becoming stale and boring.

As stated before though, the fewer amount of death metal elements here might put off some fans, but the moments that are in here are pure awesome sauce. The opening track "Devils Light" has a great engaging intro, and a haunting chorus that will surely give you the chills, and "Apostasy" has some great speedy instrumentation by guitarists Marchese and Roberts. These songs are fantastic when put together with the calmer song as a contrast, like the title track and "Ghost". We can also add the epic "Miasma" and the curve ball known as "Zephyr", where bassist Michael Feldman steals a few tricks from early Muse, as great tracks that helps making "Hamartia" really special.

In the end, this is just an astounding effort that Novembers Doom is presenting us with, a heavy album in both spirit and soul, mixing death with beauty in an amazing manor. The ending of the album could have been a little more polished, but there is enough high quality music in "Hamartia" to make it a contender at the end of the year. The band continues to evolve while staying true to their unique melodic death doom sound., and the way that they bring out the emotions is just so god damn good. Just go listen to it straight away, and let the emotions take over.

Songs worthy of recognition: Apostasy, Devils Light, Hamartia, Zephyr

Rating: 9/10 Ghosts

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Thoughts from a metal mind: The regression of Linkin Park

As a guy who was born in the mid 90's , I grew up during the boom of the nu-metal scene, with bands like Limp Bizkit, Korn, P.O.D, and several other bands more or less dominated the festivals and MTV (which at that time was still a music channel, and not the complete train wreck that it is today). But none of these acts could even match up to the fame and impact that Linkin Park reached. Their two first albums, "Hybrid Theory" and "Meteora", are still rooted firmly into my heart, displaying some of the fantastic music this otherwise odd sub genre could produce.

As time has gone by, the California group has progressively gone more towards being a pop act, leaving their heavy roots more and more for each subsequent release. Today, a lot of people do not even see this band as a metal act, and I can fully agree on that statement, because the band do not really see themselves as metal either, even if it was a big part of their sound in the past.

We are now less than a month away from the release of their seventh full length album "One More Light", and everything points towards that the band has thrown the little metal they had in them out of the window, and completed their metamorphosis to a pure pop band, and it sickens me to my stomach, but not in the way you might think.

You see, I think the band has done their sound evolution very delicately, taking small steps so that we do not get into a state of complete shock. Even if the later albums have been more pop oriented, I still find a lot to like about them, things that makes the band unique and interesting. Yes, albums like "Living Things" and "The Hunting Party" are not really that spectacular, but they still had some neat stuff in them. It still felt like the band was trying to achieve something, evolving their sound more and more.

So that Linkin Park is becoming more pop is not my main concern, it is instead how much soul they are losing that really bugs me out. The band has released three songs so far from the new album, and none of them are of redeeming quality. First we have "Battle Symphony", a pretty cool title which more or less gives you the expectation that we will hear something heavy and exciting. Instead, we get a very generic and boring pop ballad without any guitars, no Mike Shinoda rapping, and a band that is just playing way under their capacity. Just take singer Chester Bennington for example, a guy who have one of the most powerful voices I have ever heard is singing pop ballads. This is the same guy who sang his lungs out in "Given Up", and it hurts me to hear such a talent go to waste.

"Heavy" is not much better, because here we have a duet between Chester and Kiiara, and once again, it is generic as hell and very sleep inducing. The band has also said that "Heavy" is the core sound of "One More Light", which is frightening as hell to me, because I do not want to hear an entire album with this generic bullshit.

"Good Goodbye" is the latest song released, and it is slightly better, because here we finally get to hear Shinoda again, together with Pusha T and Stormzy. Unfortunately, the structure is extremely predictable and there is close to no momentum in the song at all. It just is not appealing at all.

After three awful songs, will it keep me from listening to "One More Light"? Probably not, because Linkin Park has been one of the most important bands in my life, they have been a good part about who I am today. I am sure that I will hate this album, the band is most likely putting out one of the most boring and generic albums ever created, and it is not because of the lack of guitars, it is just boring pop. I am also sure that a lot of fans will not like this album at all, my father (who is a big fan of the band himself) hates these songs too, and he is one of the most positive music lovers I have ever come across, so even he cannot see this in a positive perspective. Something has gone wrong here, and I truly hope that this is just a one time thing, because I do not want to lose this band to the wretched grasp of mainstream mediocrity, they are far better than that.

My thoughts on previous Linkin Park records

Hybrid Theory
What a debut record, and it was a revolutionizing album to metal in general. There are so many fantastic songs here that display a lot of variety, from the frightening "Papercut", the heavy "One Step Closer", and the epic "In The End", this album is simply brilliant

A great sophomore effort that also contains a great batch of hits like "Somewhere I Belong", "Faint", "Breaking The Habit", and not least "Numb". It is not as consistent as its predecessor, but it is still a fantastic record that I still love today.

Minutes To Midnight
The first true step towards a more pop like sound, "Minutes To Midnight" contains a couple of boring songs, like the first single "What I've Done". It still has several great songs, like the crushing "Given Up" and the grand "No More Sorrow", but to me, it just does not have the consistency as the two first albums. Still good though.

A Thousand Suns
A really weird album that saw the band use a lot more electronic elements, and it is still today a very polarizing album in the band's discography. There is no Linkin Park album like this one, and it is one of my least favourites, with only "Wretches And Kings" being played time and time again.

Living Things
A slight return to form, even if it is a pretty inconsistent album in its entirety. It is definitely their heaviest album since the first two, and the band twists and turns with different structures, styles, and lengths. I like it, even if the only true stand out song here is the under 2 minute blaster "Victimized".

The Hunting Party
To be honest, I do not really remember all that much about this album, which should say a lot about it. "The Hunting Party" had some interesting bits, but is overall a mediocre album that is easily overshadowed by its brethren. I still respect it because the band keeps trying to do new things, but it is just not that memorable.