Saturday, March 31, 2018

Metallica - Master of Puppets (1986)

It might be considered the never ending argument in the metal universe when you are discussing which is the better Metallica album. Either you go with "Ride The Lightning", or you stick with "Master of Puppets" (or maybe some other album if you have literally no taste in metal). Both albums are unique masterpieces, but also have a lot of similarities. They are kind of like twin brothers, even if they were conceived two years apart, and separating the two from each other would be kind of unfair. Then again, I am here to review, so I guess I have to do that anyway. Oh well...

So I probably do not have to talk too much over how much this album means to the band, but in short, this is the last album Metallica created before bassist Cliff Burton was tragically killed in a car crash in Sweden (not too far off from where I live actually), so it obviously has a special place in the hearts of the other members. Most just might not notice the contribution of Burton all too much, since he is a bass player, but his musical knowledge is crucial to a lot of the songs Metallica has done, it is what made them so dynamic and diverse. It is safe to say that the band was never the same after Cliff left our world.

Anyway, more about "Master of Puppets". Just like its predecessor, "Master of Puppets" is chock full of great tracks that just took the thrash metal genre to whole new levels, both increasing the intensity, but also taking it to a more diverse direction. Just take the title track as the perfect example, with its 8 and a half minute run time it is almost classified as a progressive metal track, but it is still rooted in thrash thanks to its incredible riffs and aggressive chorus. It is a multi layered song that you could dissect for hours on end.

Close to all 8 tracks on this record are just fantastic, showing off different tricks that makes Metallica so great. We got "Battery" as a strong, aggressive opener that just destroys you with its galloping main riff and insane solos, but "Disposable Heroes" does exist too to finish off the left overs, pummeling with that intense riffing speed. "Damage Inc." brings some heavy pieces too, while the double sandwich "The Thing That Should Not Be" and "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" slows down the album in two different ways, with the former being creepy and ominous, and the latter more deceiving before going into a nice finishing move in the form of a solo. They both bring a nice variety to the album.

Then we have the two low points of the album, still good tracks that just does not match up to the rest of its brethren. First is "Leper Messiah", which is just weak in its execution. It does not have much power to it, and while the solo is nice, it just does not have the same quality as the other solos on the record. Then we have the instrumental "Orion", which seems to be fairly beloved by the public, for reasons I do not understand. Personally, I think "The Call of Ktulu" is a much better instrumental track, because it has so much emotion behind it. Sure, "Orion" is more diverse, but it also has several dull moments in it that I simply cannot get behind. It is a decent instrumental, but it is no where near the quality of its predecessor.

So if we get back to the debate, I think I have to stay with the "blue" side of the argument. While "Master of Puppets" is a masterful record in all its means, it just does not have the same consistency as its predecessor in my books. It might have a higher high point, but with simple math, we can see that having two mediocre songs is not better than just having one. Still, "Master of Puppets" do deserve every praise that it has gotten over the years, it is a classic thrash record that still holds very well today. It is certainly a master that we would love to come back to time and time again.

Songs worthy of recognition: Master of Puppets, Battery, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Disposable Heroes

Rating: 9/10 Leper Messiahs

More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
...And Justice For All
St. Anger
Death Magnetic
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Auri - S/T (2018)

With Nightwish on a much needed break after some extensive touring, founder Toumas Holopainen finally had some time to create a new project that he had wanted to do for years. Together with fellow Nightwish member Troy Donockley and old friend Johanna Kurkela, Toumas has formed Auri, a group that is probably best described as the band that Nightwish was originally intended to be, a calm, acoustic band that took inspiration from the forests of Finland. Okay, this band is not fully acoustic, but the use of electric guitar in here is minimal, and there are no regular drums or bass to be heard.

So you are all probably wondering the same question, is this a band the common Nightwish fan should listen to? I definitely think so, because even if the element of metal is gone, fans should be able to enjoy the symphonic aura that this band has around it. If I had to compare Auri to another band, I think that The Gentle Storm is the best bet, having similar feelings in the music even if the inspiration is different (also, Johanna sounds kind of like Anneke Van Giersbergen too).

There is not much technical work in here to really grasp on, but everything is certainly carefully placed into the very smallest of details. You can truly notice how passionate all three members are about this project, with everything being so beautifully arranged into a very spiritual album. It transports you to one of the thousand lakes of Finland, among the beautiful nature and soothing landscapes. It is a relaxing album that you can easily come back to if you want to get away from the stress.

With that said though, this is most definitely not an album for everyone. A lot of you guys will probably find this record to be boring, and I cannot blame you, because I found myself drifting away from the album several times. While the sound is very relaxing and soft, there just is not enough music in here to really engage me fully into the band. The songs do very little to stand out, which takes the album dangerously close to "Sounds of the forest" territory, you know, those discs you play when you want to sleep more easily. There is enough meat in here so that "Auri" does not get classified as such an album, but this type of style will never have the strength to knock anyone out, or even emotionally touch someone to great levels.

I love that Toumas, Troy, and Johanna get to live out their dream, to finally create this project and present it to the world. Their love and devotion is obvious here, and it should be enough to draw a decently big crowd around its camp fire. I still think a lot more people will just see this as a snore fest though, which is of course a shame since there is a lot of care behind the product. I appreciate the effort from the band, and I do hope that they come around to make more material in the future, but this is simply not an album for me, even if I found it to be a very pleasant record that will be a nice soundtrack on my Pokemon Go walks in the Swedish forest.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Space Between, I Hope Your World Is Kind, Night 13

Rating: 6,5/10 Desert Flowers

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Metallica - Ride The Lightning (1984)

Despite only being released almost exactly one year after their debut "Kill 'em All", the jump Metallica took with their sophomore effort "Ride The Lightning" is one of the biggest any band has done from first to second record. While the debut had its own great charm, "Ride The Lightning" was way more ambitious in almost every other way. It got more complex song writing, cleaner production (not too clean though), tighter chemistry between the instruments, and a broader variation in the set list. It is more or less the perfect continuation for a band that helped start up a big sub genre.

Even if the band has evolved to this point, there were still some elements of that raw power and speed that was the trademark of "Kill 'em All", not making the changes all too drastic. The opener "Fight Fire With Fire" do open with a little acoustic bit, but then turns into the younger, angrier brother of "Whiplash", shredding everything with its furious speed. "Trapped Under Ice" also falls under the same category, a pretty simple and aggressive piece that also could have been on the debut, but each song do have a bit that shows how the band has changed, something different to weigh up the aggression, which is really nice.

Something else that showed the band's evolution was in the lyrics, which tackled a wide variety of subjects, from thoughts of suicide in "Fade To Black" to the biblical story about the plagues of Egypt in "Creeping Death". The guys certainly showed that they were not any old numbnuts, just going fast for the sake of going fast, and singing about any random shit. There is genuine thought behind the music and lyrics, and the work behind it all is certainly impressive.

As far as the overall track list goes, "Ride The Lightning" is filled to the brim with some fantastic tunes, 8 in total. The most noteworthy is probably "Fade To Black", just for how delicate and dark it is, with its theme about suicide. It is a beautiful track with an amazing emotional solo that captures you in an uncomfortable way. The most famous song though is probably "For Whom The Bell Tolls", a really nice song for sure, but just like with "Seek And Destroy" from "Kill 'em All", it is one of the lower points of the record.

Nah, my personal favourite have to be the title track, maybe because it could almost be classified as a progressive metal track, but also because there is a lot happening in here, so you wanna come back to it and hear it again and again. I also love the instrumental "The Call of Ktulu", it certainly has that ominous creepy feeling of a ritual song that would summon the famous slumbering overlord monster. It is also hard to dismiss "Creeping Death", just for the flow that it creates, a great live track that works really well on record as well.

The only real miss in this record is "Escape", a fine track that just does not seem to fit in here. It is not aggressive, it does not have any drive to it, and among the other songs, it just fades in comparison. It is hard to follow through with the mantra "all killer, no filler", so I can forgive the band for including "Escape", but it does keep me from counting this album as one of the greatest ones in existence.

No matter what though, "Ride The Lightning" is still a brilliant sophomore effort, one that every up and coming band hopes to create. It takes what the band did great in the debut, improved on the parts where they did not do so good, and also showed growth in their writing and playing. This album is a thrilling ride with twists and turns, with every song acting like a chocking jolt going through your body, releasing a fantastic feeling. So strap into the electric chair, and join the ride.

Songs worthy of recognition: Ride The Lightning, Fight Fire With Fire, Fade To Black, Creeping Death, The Call of Ktulu

Rating: 9,5/10 Bells tolling

More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Master of Puppets
...And Justice For All
St. Anger
Death Magnetic
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mad Hatter - S/T (2018)

So here we have a band that has based their name, nay their image, on a character from a beloved children's story. I don't know what to say, it is either extremely stupid, or fucking brilliant. As for the story it is based from, "Alice In Wonderland" is certainly a classic. I have never read the book, but I grew up with the Disney animated movie, and I really dug the enormous amount of creativity that originated from the mind of Lewis Carroll. It definitely stands strong together with the rest of the Disney line-up. How about the recent live action adaptations? Visually they are stunning, but it kind of miss the mark in the story aspect, with a boring Alice and a Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp who both does what they seem to do in every Tim Burton production nowadays (also, calling wonderland "underland" is just incredibly stupid).

This is a music review though, so I better start talking about the album before I lose all of you. Mad Hatter is a power metal band from Sweden that was formed as late as last year. The four members are no amateurs by any means, but they are no big shots either, but we have heard them before in other bands such as Golden Resurrection, Dreamland, and Morning Dwell. So if you are a fan of those bands, then you probably will enjoy Mad Hatter as well, because it is under the same umbrella when it comes to sound.

So no, do not expect a power metal revolution here, most of the music are really familiar, but ultimately welcome since Mad Hatter never steps across the infamous "cheesiness" line, which might not work with the spirit of the character they are depicting, but it works for us listeners. It also helps that there is a lot of variety in the album, showing off different techniques to give a complete experience. Just the fact that the album opens up with a close to nine minute song is a clear sign that we are in for something really interesting.

There are a lot of imprints in this album from other power metal bands. "Fly Away" could have easily been a Gamma Ray song with its aggressive and high flying attitude, and the Finnish masters Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica are represented too in several songs, like the extremely energetic and epic "Go", where vocalist Petter Hjerpe is channeling his inner Timo Kotipelto. Hjerpe and the rest of the guys (Magnus Skoog on bass, Alfred Fridhagen on drums, and Eric Rauti on guitar) are doing a swell job going through all of these styles seamlessly, creating a cohesive record that never stays in one place.

There is also an impressive amount of consistent quality throughout this record, which is just another proof of how experienced these guys are. Sure, not all songs are epic bangers, "Bring Me The Moon" is a little too cute for me, "Phantom Riders" does not really fit in all too well, and the bonus track "Death Angel Sins" must have been stolen from DragonForce, but there is way too much good in here to let the bad stuff affect you. A lot of it is also really catchy, like "Dancing Light" that has a really effective "oh-oh-oh" choir that sticks like glue in your brain. Do not know if you can dance the Futterwacken to it though...

So Mad Hatter may seem like a gimmick band on the surface, a fun but shallow band that tries to be the wonder in wonderland. Turns out, the band is more than that, there is a lot of competent power metal to be found here that should speak to everyone who loves the European style. It is far from original, but I do not think they are trying to be original, this is a group that is just having a ton of fun, creating some passionate music for passionate fans. So follow that white rabbit down the rabbit hole, and join the tea party set up by a crazy dude who makes hats for a living.

Songs worthy of recognition: Go, Mad Hatter Shine, Dancing Light, Mad Hatter Become

Rating: 8/10 Phantom Riders

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Metallica - Kill 'em All (1983)

No matter who you talk to, old or young, everyone knows Metallica, and everyone certainly has an opinion about them too. Arguably the biggest metal band to ever exist, the legendary group from Los Angeles has had quite a career with multiple ups and downs, and the whole world is surely watching every time they make headlines. But every band has a start, and back in the early stages of the 80's, the group was not nearly as prolific, even if that would change as soon as the debut record was released.

The debut was meant to be called "Metal Up Your Ass", but the band was forced to change it to "Kill 'em All", officially going from a "Dropping the soap in prison" title, to something more "Motif for a super villain". It is still kind of a daring title for its time, and it certainly caught the attention of young teenager who searched for the toughest music available. Fortunately for them, the title does encapsulate the sound fairly well, a fast and muddy brawler that was as fast as punk, but had the technical riffing of the NWoBHM movement.

Listening to it today though, one cannot get away from the fact that "Kill 'em All" sounds more like a Megadeth record than a Metallica one, and there are good reasons for that. Dave Mustaine is the original guitarist of the band, but was kicked out for his drug and alcohol issues, eventually replaced by Kirk Hammett. While Dave was no longer a member of Metallica when the debut rolled out, his mark was still there, being credited for 4 out of 10 songs ("The Four Horsemen", "Jump In The Fire", "Phantom Lord" and "Metal Militia"), all of them having the now trademarked Megadeth style, with tons of guitar work, not too much vocals, and a juggernaut mind set.

While Mustaine did not contribute with the remaining 6 songs, most of them followed along in a similar fashion. Songs like "Hit The Lights", "Whiplash", and "No Remorse" are all really fast tunes that did not take any prisoners, just pure primitive bangers that instantly hits the right nerves. I especially love "Whiplash" just for how simple it is in its execution, and that it is the overwhelming speed that does the talking. "Hit The Lights" also have a similar strategy, but it pounds you with solo after solo until you get dizzy. Those with an allergy for guitar wanking should stay away.

Despite there being so many bangers on this record, I kind of hate that the only song from "Kill 'em All" that is still a main stay in the band's live setlist is "Seek & Destroy". It is an okay song, but it is dull as hell when compared to the rest, feeling like a slightly heavier version of AC/DC. It does have an exciting solo, but that is it, the rest of the track does not have the fire like the other 9 songs. It is slightly better than the bass instrumental "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth" (sorry Cliff), but it is also the only song it beats.

The grittiness of "Kill 'em All" is ultimately its strongest point, because it brings out the band's personality at the time in a way you barely can do anymore. So while it has a lot of dirt under its fingernails, "Kill 'em All" is a very enjoyable debut record with a lot of bite to it, a young band that burst through your speakers in a very impactful way. It laid the foundation on one of the most successful careers in metal history, cementing an impressive legacy from the very start. It certainly killed the opposition, close to all of them.

Songs worthy of recognition: Whiplash, Hit The Lights, The Four Horsemen, Jump In The Fire

Rating: 8,5/10 Phantom Lords

More reviews of Metallica
Ride The Lightning
Master of Puppets
...And Justice For All
St. Anger
Death Magnetic
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Between The Buried And Me - Automata I (2018)

Imagine if all your dreams would one day be projected on the television screen. That all those images you project inside your brain during the night (or day if you happen to fall asleep during that time of the day) suddenly becomes exposed to the people of the world. What would you do, what would you feel, would you even want this to happen? This is obviously a thought that the Americans in Between The Buried And Me have wondered, so they made the only sensible thing imaginable, make a record about it. But they did not stop there, because there will be a second record around this concept, with release later this year.

It is another interesting concept that this magnificent group presents, and it will be interesting to see how it will develop in its second part, but for now though, let us focus on the first part of the "Automata" series. I honestly do not think this album will be a surprise to anyone who have listened to the band in the last ten years or so. It is technical brilliance from start to finish, and that patented BTBAM sound is there without any question. If you do not like the band, then it is safe to say that "Automata I" will not change your opinion.

Fact of the matter is that there literally is no surprises in here, this album feels like a let down in several ways actually. The sudden WTF moments are close to extinct, and the modest play time of 35 minutes just makes this feel like a slightly longer EP (it is only 5 minutes longer than "The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues"), which is not nearly enough to satisfy my needs. It is only 5 songs in here, plus a needless 1 minute interlude, so it makes me wonder why "Automata" is even split into 2 parts at all. Is the second part really THAT long?

With that said though, the music is of typical BTBAM quality, in other words, pretty awesome. The opener "Condemned To The Gallows" has a slow, ominous start before the epic bang kicks off the album. It got a lot of the classic tropes, with a catchy screaming of the title thrown in to get in some awkward singalongs. The following "House Organ" is pretty forgettable, but then enters "Yellow Eyes", a grand song where we get such a great mix of the heavy and the melodic side of the band (and especially singer Tommy Giles Rogers), and the middle part has a magnificent playful style that certainly gets you into the groove. Add another memorable scream along moment, and you got a piece of tasty BTBAM candy.

The second half kicks off with "Millions", a very spacey song that would have fitted right in the "Parallax" series quite well, with some really nice guitar playing by Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring. "Gold Distance"... is just a generic interlude, but it does eventually lead up to the longest track of the record (and the shortest title), "Blot". It does take some time to get going, but when it has built up enough momentum, it presents some of the most epic and complex music of the album. The length is no coincidence, there is a lot of technical goodness to take in here, and I am willing to swallow it all.

After that... oh wait, that was it, the album is over. Yes, it is pretty obvious, "Automata I" is the appetizer before the main course, it satisfies the hunger, but you still want more after you are done. It feels like the band is just warming up here, saving the best tricks for the second part, and it is very easy to feel disappointed by it. Unless the second record is like 1 and a half hour long, I really do not see why we have to be teased like this. It still have some really nice moments, and there is nothing to complain about the quality of the craft, but I expect to be blown away when the band returns this summer, to finish off what they started.

Songs worthy of recognition: Yellow Eyes, Condemned To The Gallows, Blot

Rating: 7/10 Gold Distances

More reviews of Between The Buried And Me
The Parallax II: Future Sequence
Coma Ecliptic
Automata II

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Judas Priest - Firepower (2018)

Closing in on their 50th year of existence, Judas Priest is reaching the closing stretch of their magnificent career, and with the recent news of Glenn Tipton and his Parkinson disease, it feels really sad to acknowledge that. I know we are in the age of retiring metal giants, but it does not get any easier when another legend hangs up their equipment one last time. So every new release is for me kind of sacred, not because I have huge expectations of it, but because it is another chance for these old guns to deliver something that will go down to history with the rest of their discography. It is certainly something to cherish.

So when "Firepower" was announced, I was obviously excited, but I understood that the band would probably do another "Redeemer of Souls", a good record with some patchy spots. So call me stunned when I first went through the record, just completely baffled, because this is not what I expected. I felt like the band went back in time, stole themselves from 1990, brought them back to 2018, and said "go, start recording". What the bloody hell happened, this is insane!

Some of those emotions actually went through me before the release, when the band released the first two songs of the record, the title track and "Lightning Strike". Both were complete bangers, classic heavy Judas Priest straight out of the "Painkiller" era, smashing its way through my brain. The title track just opens the album in splendid fashion, a bone heavy riff and a speed that I did not think the band could execute anymore, while "Lightning Strike" is more typical of the band, with the trademarked dual blazing guitars and Rob Halford dominating everything. What an amazing opening one-two punch, one of the best ones in the band's discography actually.

So one would think that it does not get much better than this, that the album would just drop in quality. It definitely does not reach the same level of intensity, but the quality is incredibly consistent, not at all the up and down story that its predecessor was. Each song has something to offer, and the performances on each and every one of them are just marvelous. The chemistry between Faulkner and Tipton is just spot on, Scott Travis pummels on behind his drum kit, Hill and his bass is still the back bone of the music. And then we have Halford, who sounds much fresher and energetic this time around. The guy is 67 years for Christ sake, and he still has a range that would make any singer jealous. Hell, I would be glad if I sounded half as good in my 30's.

Most of the songs are more or less the bread and butter of the Priest, classic heavy metal focused around catchy hooks and memorable riffs. Songs like "Spectre", "Evil Never Dies", and "Necromancer" are simple, but highly effective, just like you want from the band. But "Firepower" is more than that, it has several songs that does more than what they really need to do. We got "Never The Heroes", an epic tune of what soldiers really are, packaged with some real emotion to it. "Rising From Ruins" takes the momentum from the small instrumental "Guardians", and turns into a very heartfelt ballad that strikes pretty hard. Also take note of the angelic closer "Sea of Red", another stand out among muscle packages.

With 14 songs, and just under an hour of run time, there is bound for some fillers, but they are surprisingly few. Many might consider "Flame Thrower" as one of them because of its Megadeth vibe, but I personally like it, it is like they had to include something out of "Turbo" in here, and settled with this groover. I am more indifferent towards "Children of The Sun", "No Surrender", and "Lone Wolf", those could have easily been cut out to make "Firepower" a little tighter, but they do not really ruin the album in any way, and thanks to good production and strong performances, it is easy to get through them.

Well, what can I really say? Judas Priest promised firepower, and they certainly delivered a butt load of it. This is not only the heaviest album since "Painkiller", this is the best album since "Painkiller", and it is not even close. The band just shoots song after song at you, oozing with nostalgia, yet feels modern enough to fit in 2018. It is not perfect in any way shape or form, but it has so much power to it that it does not matter all that much. It is not the album that we expected from the band, and I think that everyone will agree that this is a very pleasant surprise. If this turns out to be the band's final album, then what an incredible way to say good bye.

Songs worthy of recognition: Never The Heroes, Firepower, Lightning Strike, Rising From Ruins

Rating: 8,5/10 Necromancers

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

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Oceans of Slumber - The Banished Heart (2018)

With their sophomore effort "Winter", Oceans of Slumber became a nice little darling in 2016 for most metal lovers, including myself, falling instantly in love with the band's unique version of extreme progressive music. However, I felt that the band had more to give, that we only got a small taste of their true potential on "Winter". So when the band unveiled their new release "The Banished Heart", I flung myself to my Spotify account, and downloaded that shit immediately. Let us hope I did not jump the shark (or however you use that saying).

Well, it did not take very long until I understood that the band had indeed taken their music to the next level. The opening song "The Decay of Disregard" is just a beautiful 9 minute monster that takes its time to develop, but everything is just so carefully placed to get out maximum effect. Unfortunately, my brain is kind of stupid, so it ruined the song by taking the line "It fuels a nightmare" and twisting it into "Feelings of nutmeg". I still love it, but cannot listen to it without singing along with my own lyrics, it is completely engraved in my head. It does make me wonder though, can nutmeg have feelings? Probably not.

Fortunately, my brain was kind enough to not ruin anymore songs, and thank god for that, because this whole album is filled with tracks that have that perfect mix of beauty and darkness, and that is balanced perfectly by singer Cammie Gilbert. Her vocals are so incredibly precise in every single syllable, hitting the right spot every time to give the already atmospheric music another level of emotion. And also thanks from really solid instrumentation work from the remaining five members of the band, we get a chemistry that is simply astonishing.

Sound wise, the band is definitely in a league of their own, but they do have a fair bunch of visible influences on their sleeves. The bands that first comes to my mind is Novembers Doom and Paradise Lost, mostly because they also have a keen sense of getting some grand emotions out of the music. There is also some The Project Hate MCMXCIX and Ne Oblivscaris to be found here, with the intense brutality, complex song structures, and mix of beautiful and crushing harsh vocals, which is best displayed in the brilliant and epic "At Dawn".

It is certainly apparent that the band has done its homework, because "The Banished Heart" is much more consistent than "Winter", with each one of the eleven songs having a purpose of being there. The title track is an emotional power house that just gets bigger and bigger the more we get into the song, while the double sandwich "Etiolation" and "A Path To Broken Stars" are technical masterclasses by guitarists Sean Gary and Anthony Contreras, with drummer Dobber Beverly (nice name dude) laying down some sweet fills in the background. Even the distant closer "Wayfaring Stranger" is very nice, with its mellow atmosphere and naked instrumentation, it is just so god damn impressive.

There is very little to dislike about this album, maybe it is a tad bit too long, and some more vibrant diversity could have been needed, but "The Banished Heart" is still a fantastic record from start to finish. It got it all, brutality, melodies, calm moments, fast moments, it just delivers a smorgasbord of progressive technicality that a prog lover can sit around for hours and stuff themselves silly. Oceans of Slumber is certainly not slumbering anymore, they are awake, and they are delivering some magnificent metal to the people, with some delicious nutmeg sprinkled in for some extra flavour.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Banished Heart, The Decay of Disregard, At Dawn, Etiolation

Rating: 9/10 Wayfaring Strangers

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Blaze Bayley - The Redemption of William Black (Infinite Entanglement Part III) (2018)

So after about 2 years and 3 records, we are finally putting an end to Blaze Bayley's epic sci-fi saga about William Black and his fight to redeem himself from all the awful things he has done throughout his life time. It has certainly been a fun ride conceptually, but musically, it has been kind of a mixed bag so far. The first album grew on me as time went on while the follow up was okay, but not more, so I had My hopes on that Mr. Bayley would save his best for last, and bring an epic ending to his trilogy.

Now, I did not really expect anything that was wildly different from the previous two outings, and I did not get it either. It is perfectly clear that this album belongs together with its brethren, having the same type of themes and sounds that we experienced in previous albums. Actually, there is probably a chance that they recycled riffs and beats as well, because it all sounds so similar. It definitely connects the album together in a very effective way, but it would have been nicer if each record had more of an own personality, maybe representing a phase of the story.

This makes "The Redemption of William Black" very familiar, almost too familiar since most of the same structures are used, so it is easy to mistake one song for another. In this album for instance, we have a new "Escape Velocity" in "Prayers of Light", a new "Stars Are Burning" in "18 Days", and a new "Human" in "Redeemer". Not all songs in here are copy cats, but none really stands out extremely from the rest (except for one, but we will get to that later).

One thing that this album does have is some more heavy tones, which does make sense with what the story is going for, and we get a lot more from the guys behind Blaze in here. Guitaris Chris Appleton shreds his ass off in this album, especially "The Dark Side of Black" and the solo in "Immortal One", but also puts in some gentler moments as well to weigh it all up. Drummer Martin McNee and Bassist Karl Schramm (whom just like Chris is from the band Absolva) both do a splendid job as well, making this record the best performed one of the three. We also get some nice guest work in the album as well from Chris's brother Luke Appleton, Liz Owen, a bunch of backing vocalists and narrators, and also Fozzy's own Chris Jericho, who really seem to fancy these sci-fi concept records.

There is still no problem in finding some personal song favourites in here, at least one or two will make its way towards your liking fairly easily. The catchy nature of "Redeemer", "Are You Here", and "Prayers of Light" is a nice fix, while those who like more heavier stuff should check out "Immortal One" and "The Dark Side of Black". Then we have the epic finisher "Eagle Spirit" that takes the saga to a very emotional and satisfying conclusion, one that leads William Black to the stars, for his final journey.

So what do we ultimately make of Blaze's "Infinite Entanglement" trilogy? While it might not contain the musical quality to really bring forth a grand following, I do think the story and the heart and soul that Blaze has put in this project is incredibly impressive. It is a huge job to finalize a multi album concept like this in such a short time, and fans of Blaze should really give all of their love to him. Individually, these three album are fine, not brilliant in any way, but together they create an epic experience that is thrilling from start to finish, a perfect binge listen (around 2 hours and 20 minutes), all three albums in one go, creating an epic sci-fi saga that is more than meets the ear. So thank you Blaze, and god speed to you William.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Dark Side of Black, Are You Here, Eagle Spirit

Rating: 6,5/10 Human Eyes ("Infinite Entanglement" trilogy as a whole gets 7,5/10)

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Infinite Entanglement
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