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