Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hammerhands - "Glaciers" 2013 (Album Review)

Well their name certainly matches their music, I imagine it would be very difficult to play an instrument with hammers for hands. I would expect lots of chugging and pounding and for that Hammerhands definitely delivers. For the most part "Glaciers" sound is comprised drone and chugging guitars. The music plods along with your typical sludge metal shouting. Personally I have never cared for the vocal style and find it incredibly boring, this in combination with the slow chugging music does not provide much interest and I wound up losing focus on the music very easily and it just became background noise for me while I was drawing. The first two tracks of the album were so similar that I did not even notice the song had changed. With the exception of the title track I found very little about the album that I actually enjoyed. And to cap it off the album ends with a 30 minute track titled "Equus" that for the most part is an atmospheric instrumental piece.

Now I can dig lengthy atmospheric tracks as long as the music/sound is composed well enough that tells some sort of story. But "Equus" is just a lengthy drone track that lacks focus and just becomes noise. About half way through it starts to remind me of the untitled track off Gigan's album "The Order of the False Eye" the key difference being that track had a more compelling atmosphere and at least felt organized like a song even if it was just an unrehearsed jam session.  “Equus”, though very similar falls short of telling a compelling story and crosses the border into just being noise.

All is not a waste though, as I mentioned earlier the one song that stood out was the title track which had a more melancholic tone and a bit more musical interest. It has just enough variety and atmosphere to make the song enjoyable. This at least shows that there may actually be a future for HammerHands and after they gain some more experience they will possibly be able to produce a more competent album.

(I give "Glaciers" a 5 out of 10)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2013 Albums

I didn't search for new albums as much as I did last year, and a lot of what I found didn't interest me enough to pursue it further. So my list is a lot shorter this year.   

0. "Album title" Band (Genre) [score out of 10]
description. Recommended tracks: (If any particularly stand out.)

1."The White Goddess" Atlantean Kodex (Epic Doom Metal) [9]
I really expected a lot from this album, perhaps too much. I enjoyed  “The Pnakotic Demos” and “The Golden Bough” and was really looking forward to this album, and after hearing “Sol Invictus” I was really expecting this to be a tremendous album. However the last two tracks on the album just didn’t grab me and kind of blur together and that’s what kept me from giving it a 10.  Recommended tracks:  “Sol Invictus” and  “Heresiarch”

2."Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery And Super Science" Gigan (Progressive/Technical Death Metal) [9]
The new vocalist Eston Browne is a great improvement, as the vocals were the weakest part of the last album. This album isn’t as good as the EP and first album, but it come pretty close. Recommended tracks:  “Mother of Toads” and “Gibbering Hordes of Zemiath”

3."IV: Mandragora" Botanist (Experimental Black Metal) [9]
This is my favorite Botanist album to date. The music has a strong chaotic beauty that’s difficult to describe.

4.  split “Vestiges / Panopticon” Panopticon (Atmospheric Black Metal) [9]
The score is only for the Panopticon side of the split, as I downloaded it from their bandcamp page and never actually listened to Vestiges side of the split.

5."Ave Mortis" Cromlech (Heavy/Doom Metal) [8]
I really like this album but they could really use some more slower and softer parts. It’s almost exhausting when listening to this album in its entirety and the shouting just gets annoying at times. Recommended tracks: “Of the Eagle and the Trident” and “Shadow and Flame”.

6."Mysterium" Manilla Road (Epic Heavy/Power Metal) [8]
Recommended tracks: “The Grey God Passes”, “The Battle of Bonchester Bridge” and “The Fountain”

7."Black Soil" Horse Latitudes (Doom Metal) [8]
If the last album was a man, this would be the same man now broken down into a more primal and angry animal.

8."Lancer" Lancer (Power Metal) [8]
The most fun and whimsical power metal album I heard this year. They still need to try and diversify their sound to help distinguish themselves from other popular euro power metal bands that play a similar style. Recommended tracks:  “Purple Sky”, “The Exiled” and “Mr. Starlight”

9. "Borrowed Time" Borrowed Time (Heavy Metal) [8]
Recommended tracks:  “Wallow in the Mire!” and “Of Nymph and Nihil”

10.  EP "The Powers That Be" Phantom (Heavy Metal) [8]

11."Roots" by Saor(previously known as Àrsaidh) (Atmospheric Folk/Black Metal) [7]

12. "Target Earth" Voivod [Progressive Thrash Metal] [7]

13. "Eye of the Storm" Bud Tribe (Heavy/Power Metal) [7]

14."Beyond The Martyrs" Argus (Heavy/Doom Metal) [6]

15."Glaciers" by Hammerhands (Sludge Metal) [5]

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Amaze Knight - "The Key" 2012 (Album Review)

Amaze Knight takes me as a band that still hasn’t found their style yet. "The Key" is made up of five tracks all between eight and eleven minutes. With the exception of the third track "Heartless" the rest of the songs sound like they have too many ideas hodgepodge together and lack enough focus to make them feel unified.

The band has more of a rock sound with bits of metal and electronic thrown in different places. At times there are segments of music that remind me of Symphony X which I found enjoyable, but unfortunately these moments get lost within the overall song structure. The music just travels all over the place and makes it difficult to get into. Like in the opening track "Imprisoned (shadows past)", it starts with a heavy atmospheric almost doom metal sound. Then at thirty-three seconds into the song it’s broken by weird goofy video game-esque keyboard sounds that transition the song into a heavy progressive metal state (this is the part that reminds me of Symphony X). Then at the two minute mark it gets progressively softer into more of a smooth rock song, which is then broken at three minutes, thirteen seconds by a really wonky keyboard solo, only to go back to a more progressive rock sound. The song continues that way with choppy transitions from soft to heavy throughout the rest of the song. The song is very disjointed, it’s like listening to a person who tries to tell a story but they keep forgetting important details and skipping around.

Apart from the music I also have an issue with the vocalist Fabrizio Aseglio, he has a good voice but a lot of the time he doesn’t really feel like he is into the music. Most of the time the make or break factor in a band is the vocalist and most of the tracks Aseglio just doesn’t do the trick. However the one song where he really shines on is "Restless Soul" this shows me that he has potential to be a great singer, he just needs more work.

The one place the whole band really comes together is on the baled "Hartless". There is nothing particularly outstanding about it, but it doesn’t suffer from the choppy transitions that the rest of the tracks have. If the future it would be ideal if they composed more songs that have a clear direction like this one. Overall "The Key" is not a band album it’s just not as developed as it could be. Given that this is their first release they probably have a lot more room to grow as musician and I would expect to see improvement as they become more experienced.   

(I give "The Key" a 6 out of 10)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Favorite Albums Of 2012

* This list includes every album I bought this year. They are listed: 
0. "Album title" Band (Genre) [score out of 10]
description. Recommended tracks: (If any particularly stand out.)

1. "The Last Prayer" Pandaemonium (Power Metal) [10]
Overall a very strong release, and the music works better as a whole then their previous album “Return to Reality”. The one letdown was that the vocalist is not as good as he used to be. Nevertheless the album is incredibly solid and has a good number of memorable songs that stay with me even days after listening to them. Recommended tracks: I like them all but a few that stand out are: “Alone In The Dark”, “Through The Wind”, “The White Voice”, and “Today”.

2. "Dar De Duh" Dordeduh (Atmospheric Black Metal, Folk) [10]
This one surprised me, as I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. It has really great atmosphere but doesn’t get dull or to repetitious the way a lot of atmospheric bands do. Recommended tracks: "Jind de tronuri” and “Dojana”

3. "Kentucky" Panopticon (Atmospheric Black Metal, Folk) [10]
This one was very difficult to score mainly because I haven’t been able to listen to it much as it has only been released on vinyl. Still out of everything I’ve heard this year my favorite song has been “Bodies Under The Falls” and sitting in my kitchen with a big pot of Ramen noodles, listening to this album for the first time was probably the highlight of my year. So I guess that deserves a 10. Recommended tracks: “Bodies Under the Falls”, “Come All Ye Coal Miners” and “Killing the Giants as They Sleep”.

4. "Bury The Light" Pharaoh (Power Metal) [9]
Solid power metal with some impressively well written lyrics, the one real flaw is the vocalist who sounds like he is really struggling to hit the high notes and hold the long ones.

5. "Stargazer" Black Majesty (Power Metal) [9]
Decent power metal though mostly I just listened to the song “Holy Killers” then would skip to something else in my collection.Recommended tracks: “Holy Killers”

6. "Armed To The Teeth" Striker (Speed Metal) [9]
Lyrically carves out the image of hoodlums partying and causing trouble. Still doesn’t change the fact that this is some fun music. Recommended tracks: “Fight For Your Life” and “Wolf Gang”.

7. "Sorrow And Extinction" Pallbearer (Doom Metal) [9]
Decent album though only the first track really stood out for me.Recommended tracks: "Foreigner".

8. "Dream Dragon" Ice Dragon (Blues, Psychedelic Rock, Doom Metal) [8]
Sounds like some lost relic from the 60’s. Its Lo-fi production to create a strange nostalgic feeling.Recommended tracks: “Stumble On To Magic”, “Beard Of Thieves” and “Dream Dragon”.

9. "Frenzy, Ecstasy" Leeches of Lore (Western, Speed/Doom Metal, Psychedelic Rock) [8]
Has a very unique sound, blends several familiar styles but they make it into its own thing. Recommended tracks: "That Old Brain Rapin' Highway" and "L'evoluzione dei Microbi".

10. "Netherwards" Anhedonist (Doom Metal) [8]
Another 1 hit doom album for me. The only track that really stood out was “Estrangement” beyond that the rest was just ok. Recommended tracks: "Estrangement".

11. "Isolation" Jute Gyte (Experimental Black Metal) [8]
The music is both unsettling and beautiful. Recommended tracks: "The Hopelessness of Passing Time and the Melancholy of Unalterable Past Events" and "A Wind Upon the Open Fields"

12. "Journey To Infinity" Infinitas (Post Black Metal) [8]
Has a strong feeling of longing and sorrow that at times push it somewhat in the realm of depressive black metal. Recommended tracks: “Ein Paradies das ich fand” and “Auf neuen Wegen”.

13. "Clash Of The Gods" Grave Digger (Heavy/Power Metal) [8]
The best/worst thing about Grave Digger is that if you’re familiar with them, you almost know exactly what to expect before you hear it.Recommended tracks: "Call Of The Sirens" and "God Of Terror".

14. "Awakening" Horse Latitudes (Doom Metal) [8]
Recommended tracks: "Profane Awakening"

15. "Into The Lair Of The Sun God" Dawnbringer (Heavy Metal) [8]
Recommended tracks: 1

16. "Ales Stenar" Lord Wind (Atmospheric Folk) [8]

17. "Rabbits' Hill pt.1" Trick Or Treat (Power Metal) [8]
A decent album though I expected better from them. Recommended tracks: "Prince With A 1000 Enemies" and "Bright Eyes".

18. "Carolus Rex" Sabaton (Power Metal) [8]

19. "Right In The Guts" Herman Frank (Heavy Metal) [8]
was good while I was listening to it but, none of the tracks are that memorable. Still a solid traditional heavy metal album.

20. "Ascending To Infinity" Luca Turilli's Rhapsody (Symphonic Power Metal) [8]
It was cool that they got Alessandro Conti (Trick Or Treat) to do the vocals, however this is definitely not one of Luca Turilli’s best works.

21. "Unisonic" Unisonic (Hard Rock, Power Metal) [7]
Well I wasn’t expecting it to be a “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part III” but I was still disappointed.Recommended tracks: "Unisonic".

22. "Season of Raven Words" Lethian Dreams (Atmospheric Doom Metal) [7]

23. "Welcome To The Theater" Rein Xeed (Power Metal) [7]
It would be a lot better if he eased off on the choral/vocal effects.

24. "Pandora's Piñata" Diablo Swing Orchestra (Experimental, Swing, Opera, Metal, Rock) [7]
They have a powerful female vocalist but when the male vocalist takes the lead it just kills the song. Recommended tracks: "Voodoo Mon Amour" and "Aurora".

25. "Painted Windows Black" Pale Divine (Doom Metal) [6]
I was very disappointed in this album, it’s a big step down from Cemetery Earth. Recommended tracks: "Angel Of Mercy"

26. "Land Of The Crimson Dawn" Freedom Call (Power Metal) [6]
Too much party rock not enough power metal.

27. "Yellow & Green" Baroness (Progressive Rock) [6]
Yellow was alright but Green felt like an entire album bonus tracks that weren’t good enough for the first half.

28. "Gemini" Ainur (Power Metal) [6]
They have potential. Recommended tracks: "Gemini"

29. "Neverworld's End" Xandria (Symphonic Power Metal "Gothic Metal") [6]

30. "Glory On The Battlefield" Crimson Shadows (Power/Melodic Death Metal) [5]
 Recommended tracks: Beyond the Mountain Wasteland

31. "34613" Tomorrow's Outlook (Power Metal) [4]

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pale Divine - “Painted Windows Black” (2012) Album Review

I first came across Pale Divine a few years ago through their album “Cemetery Earth”, which sound is like a mix of Black Sabbath and Alice In Chains. The songs would plod along like your average doom metal, but would include portions of really energized guitar work. “Painted Windows Black” follows in a similar fashion but doesn’t really bring any new ideas to the music. Although there is nothing blatantly wrong with it, “Painted Windows Black” was not as strong or interesting as “Cemetery Earth”.

On the first listen I almost wrote the album off as garbage do to the fact that it starts with a six minute instrumental track (that’s much faster than your average doom metal), followed by the first song “The Prophet” which is probably the weakest track on the album and do to the faster tempo feels more like a grungy stoner rock song then doom metal. So now eleven minutes in to the album I’m thinking they changed their sound to be more accessible to a broader audience, ruining what I liked about them in the first place. By that time I was irritated and lost my focus on the music and wound up only listening to a couple more tracks before I turned it off. It was not until I decided to start writing a review for it that I actually picked it up and started listening again.

This time I made it through the whole album but my opinion had not changed. As I started to write the review I put the album on again (as I do with most reviews so my mind is on the music.) Then just when I was getting ready to completely trash the album I get to the track “Angel of Mercy”, and I start to change what I’m writing to mention how this track is not so bad, it’s actually rather good. So I stopped writing and started listening again then that’s when it clicked. “Angel of Mercy” is as good if not better than most of the tracks on “Cemetery Earth”. The rest of the album just doesn’t have that same impact with the exception maybe of “End of Days”.

The sound and style hasn’t changed much so it’s unlikely that anyone who doesn’t like “Cemetery Earth” would get anything out of “Painted Windows Black”. With only one song that really makes the album worth buying, the only people I would recommend it to are people who have already listened to “Cemetery Earth” and really want more material like it, even if it is inferior.

(I give “Painted Windows Black” a 3 out of 5.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tomorrow's Outlook - "34613" (2012) Album Review

When I first heard the sample clips from "34613" it caught my attention but I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. It sounded like progressive power metal similar to Crimson Glory, Queensrÿche and Fates Warning but it didn’t quite grab me. Still because I like that kind of stuff I decided to give it a chance. After all clips from a song can be misleading when taken out of context. Sadly after listening to the album I can say this is some powerless power metal.

Now being that I really love power metal I'm a lot more lenient on it then other genres. Basically if it sounds like the band is passionate about what they are doing and the songs have lots of energy its going to get a decent review from me. The majority of "34613" sounds forced and generic. Everything on the album has been done by many other bands only significantly better. It seems to me the problem it the central force writing the music for Tomorrow's Outlook is the bands manager and the bass player with the rest of the band being filled in by guest musicians and vocalists. So part of the problem is probably due to the inexperience of the composers and the other part may be due to the fact that the gust musicians don’t feel connected to the project. Most of the vocalists sound board and uninterested in what they are doing, with the exception of Mike Gorham who really shines through on the albums one redeeming song "The Ethereal Dream". It’s also worth noting that Michael Kiske (You know, the guy that sang on those legendary Helloween albums.) also sings this song as "The Ethereal Dream (Reprise)" for the albums closing track. Kiske's although good, still sounds weak and lacks emotion in comparison to Gorham's.

All together unless you’re a close friend of someone in the band, you’re really not missing anything if you don't hear this album. My advice to Trond Nicolaisen and Andreas Stenseth would be if they plan on continuing Tomorrow's Outlook then try and work on some original ideas, find some more members who are interested and excited about the project and hire Mike Gorham as a full time vocalist. On the other hand my advice to Mike Gorham would be to find a better band; your talent is beyond Tomorrow's Outlook.

(I give "34613" a 2 out of 5)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Crimson Shadows - "Glory On The Battlefield" (2012) Album Review

Crimson Shadows "Glory On The Battlefield" is an interesting album in respect that it has an unusual blend of melodic death and power metal. The best way I can describe their sound is Children Of Bodom meets DragonForce. The band definitely has talent and they play their songs with an intense passion, however they fall short do to the lack of originality. Each of the songs tends to lean towards one style and in the end it just comes off as a hodgepodge album catering to too broad of an audience.

The song that had initially got me to buy the album was "Beyond The Mountain Wasteland"(It shouldn't come as any surprise that this is the song that sounds most like DragonForce.) The song is actually very reminiscent of DragonForce's predecessor Demoniac and their album "The Fire And The Wind". I imagine its what DragonForce could have sounded like had they stuck with the harsh vocals. If the rest of the album had sounded like this it would have sat better with me given my preference to speed/power metal. This was actually the kind of thing I was looking for when first got into metal back in 2006.(DragonForce's "Inhuman Rampage" was the first album I had ever bought.) But alas "Beyond The Mountain Wasteland" is the only song on the album that really captures the fun silly kind of "Epic" power metal DragonForce plays. "Kingdom Of Ale" is a close second but it just didn't grab me.

Most of the album still has the bits that sound like DragonForce, but is structured more like the kind of galloping power metal similar to 3 Inches Of Blood mixed with melodic death metal. The main vocal style is the typical harsh vocals herd in most melodic death metal and some black/death metal bands and at parts more of a weak sounding death growl bordering on pig squeal. There are clean vocals at times mostly used on the chorus lines. In some parts it starts to sound a lot like metalcore which is very off-putting to me. Where it really gets to me though is the slow chugging brutal death metal like breakdown in "Quest For The Sword", I really hate that stuff and throwing it in just completely ruins the song for me. It just comes off as the band trying to show how EXTREME!!! they are.

Lyrically the songs are all related to an overall theme of a Lord Of The Rings style fantasy war. All the songs are vary basic and don't really have a lot of depth to them. It all revolves around drinking, fighting, brotherhood, and longing for home all dealt with in a very unpoetical manner. It will appeal to teenagers looking for some metal about war or good background noise for playing video games, but it lacks substance to hold appeal to an older audience.

Overall the album wasn't terrible but really not my taste. The band is still fairly new and still might be trying to find their sound so I would keep an eye on them. They may just turn into one of those melodic death metal bands that eventually regresses into a very mainstream sounding metalcore/deathcore band but you never know, we just have to wait and see.

(I give "Glory On The Battlefield" a 2.5 out of 5.)