Archive for Album Review

MGM-“World Painted Blood”

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Slayer are back and ready to give us another slab of in-your-face thrash metal.  Plenty of controversy has surrounded the band and they’ve since gathered a strong following of fans and bashers.  Their latest effort, “World Painted Blood,” is now available for listening on the band’s MySpace and will be released in stores this Tuesday.  Should you buy the album or are you better off just letting it sit on the shelves?  Matt, Greg and Michael weigh in.

world painted blood

Matt Thoughts

I’ve always found it odd that metal enthusiasts look at Slayer as one of the easier bands to get into.  While I have enjoyed a couple of their songs I honestly don’t understand why so many people seem to praise them.  To me they’re just another loud band with obnoxious themes/lyrics.  And now we have their latest, “World Painted Blood” which, although easier for someone like me to swallow, still hasn’t turned me on to them.  I think a big part of why I was able to tolerate this album a little more than their other stuff is because most of the tracks don’t feel nearly as loud and barbaric, but this isn’t to say the album is devoid of this.  In fact, there’s just about as much absurd material on here as anything else they’ve put out.  Essentially, this is the same Slayer we all know, but with far less bang.  This might make the album more approachable for more casual listeners, but I doubt it’ll earn them any new fans.

Greg’s Thoughts

Ah yes, Slayer; we all know them and you either love or hate them (not going to find many in the middle ground).  For me, Slayer have been a mostly enjoyable band that have put out enough solid material to qualify being good.  But the amount of praise some will give them can hit a little too close to the ceiling.  That said, after listening to this latest effort from the band I have to say that I’m pretty underwhelmed.  It’s not that this album is bad, it’s just below the mark for what Slayer have brought us in the past.  When guitarist Kerry King said that the album felt like “Seasons in the Abyss” to him, I was legitimately excited since I thought it was about as good as “Reign In Blood.”  And though the sound here is definitely similar to the former album, it just isn’t handled nearly as well.  The energy mixed with some haunting moments that “Seasons in the Abyss” merged together from its two predecessors is almost completely absent here.  As Matt pointed out, this might make the album easier for a more casual audience to take it, but I don’t think it’ll do them any good in the long run.  Essentially, I have a tough time recommending this album even to big Slayer fans, simply because it feels like it’ll lose all appeal after a couple listens.

Michael’s Thoughts

Given my musical tastes, I think it should come as little surprise to hear that I’m not exactly fond of Slayer.  Yes, “South of Heaven” and “Seasons in the Abyss” are both great, if not excellent albums but other than those, the band haven’t released a whole album that I could consider good.  Subsequently, my expectations for “World Painted Blood” weren’t exactly high, especially since the released track “Hate Worldwide” left a sour taste in my mouth.  And as it turns out, this album has done nothing to change my verdict on the band.  If anything, I actually have lower expectations for whatever they put out next.  “World Painted Blood” sounds like it’s trying to do a lot of things yet it still sounds like the same Slayer we all know with one big difference: it lacks vigor.  The sound feels like a conflicted mash of “Reign In Blood” and “Seasons in the Abyss,” the production and mixing is obviously akin to Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” and the themes the band have always expressed are still bluntly present.  Sadly, this only makes the album feel like a drag and it honestly began putting me to sleep in bits and pieces.  Other than “Psychopathy Red,” the enjoyable moments are brief and almost always in the post-solo sections.  Slayer fanboys will probably eargasm over this but anyone else I can only recommend to ignore what is ultimately the definition of unremarkable.

MGM-“Double Brutal” Review

Double Brutal

Matt’s Thoughts

This has been a fairly good year for the more casual heavy metal genres and bands out there, which is fine by me.  And now we have the oh so subtly named Austrian Death Machine releasing their second album, “Double Brutal” as a dual-disc release.  The songs are once again all based on movies, quotes, characters and more centered on Arnold Schwarzenegger.  With that in-mind, it should go without saying that the material here is intended as comical which happen to be the very case.  But perhaps the biggest surprise is that most of the funnier moments occur during the short tracks that split up the songs themselves.  As for the music itself, it’s genuinely fun listening material and is mostly on the brief side, which helps for this kind of music style.  Even though the songs all contain vocals that would normally turn me away, the intended absurdity of it all makes it easy to enjoy and laugh at.  Here’s hoping that anything else released by this band will retain the same charm.

Greg’s Thoughts

For a genre that has taken cues of various other metal subgenres, metalcore has drawn a surprisingly large amount of hate.  Not every band in the genre is good-that goes without saying-but I’ve found it odd that the entire genre is often scoffed upon.  Fortunately, we have a metalcore band that I think can appeal to most listeners.  Last year’s “Total Brutal” was a surprise find for me but after listening to “Get to the Choppa” I knew I was in for some amusing stuff.  Now we have “Double Brutal,” which is exactly what you’d expect it to be; complete with varying vocal styles, awesome guitar solos and silly moments aplenty.  The first disc, which is all original material, contains the best moments this release has with humorous quotes and thrash-oriented songs comprising the contents.  However, the second disc, which has a few cover songs, doesn’t fare nearly as well and feels like an unnecessary inclusion.  But if you can find this for a reasonable price like I did and enjoy albums that are great for random, silly listens, then this might be worth a purchase.

Michael’s Thoughts

Oh Tim Lambesis, you just had to make a side project that would become a guilty pleasure for me instead of just sticking with As I Lay Dying and making music that, quite frankly, isn’t so great.  But getting away from my personal gripes, “Double Brutal” is yet another absurd and juvenile collection of songs by Lambesis’ solo project (with many guests) that I just can’t bring myself to disliking.  The impersonations are weak, themes absurd, the covers are mediocre at best and the solos are ultimately the only great part of the music; but it’s just so fun to listen to.  Just give “Double Ahhnold/I Need Your Clothes, Your Boots and Your Motorcycle” a shot and you’ll know exactly what I mean.  This is music that should be completely annoying listening material but the sheer mediocrity of the entire release is so entertaining to hear.  As Greg pointed out, the second disc is completely pointless but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy listening to it overall.

MGM: Scar Symmetry-“Dark Matter Dimensions”

Scary_Symmetry_Dark_Matter_Dimensions

Shortly after acclaimed vocalist Christian Alvestam announced that he was departing from Scar Symmetry due to “creative differences,” many fans assumed the band was as good as gone. However, just as quickly as Alvestam left the remaining band members declared that they had found two separate vocalists to fill in the blank spot. It’s been a little over a year since “Holographic Universe” was released and we’re already being given “Dark Matter Dimensions,” the first album with the new front men (now available on the band’s MySpace). Is the band still in top form with two new members? Matt, Greg and Michael weigh in.

Matt’s Thoughts

I have to be frank, I’m really not too favorable towards bands that go for low grunt or growl vocal styles; it just sounds silly when used as a backbone for the sound. That said, whenever a band decides to add some actual singing to match or even soar over the aforementioned vocals it can be tough to complain. This album by Scar Symmetry manages to do a fairly good job at accomplishing this, and it isn’t too bad. Though I’ve given their other material a shot, “Holographic Universe” was the only one that I returned for more listenings. “Dark Matter Dimensions” is, fortunately for me, a fair successor to it. Admittedly some of the songs are easier to like than others, but I’d say this is close to or as good as “Holographic Universe.” If you’re like me and are still on-the-fence towards the more elaborate metal genres, then this release might be worth a shot.

Greg’s Thoughts

Not many bands have worked their magic on me like Scar Symmetry. As far as I’m concerned, their first three albums were all great and just varied enough from each other to avoid sounded redundant. The group’s latest, “Dark Matter Dimensions,” however, finds itself in a bit of a conflicted scenario. This conflict mostly comes out of it sounding a lot like what we’ve previously been given. Granted, if you dug the band’s other albums this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and this proved to be a very enjoyable album, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a little progression. The two new vocalists do a good enough job replacing Christian, though even together they can’t match his superior vocals. I’m hoping that this album was meant mostly to give an idea of what the new vocalists could accomplish, because this feels more like a “let’s see how we can re-do our previous material” scenario than a release of completely new songs. Overall though, if you enjoyed what the band have put out in the past and don’t mind this sounding like a re-hash (for lack of a better word) then it should be worth a purchase.

Michael’s Thoughts

Where do I begin with these guys? If there’s anything I could use to describe Scar Symmetry it would be that they’re amazing at first, but the more you listen the more you find the shortcomings. On a positive note, the lowest the band has hit thus far is fair; nothing they’ve released has really been rotten. And now we’re given “Dark Matter Dimensions,” the first album with Christian’s two heirs which turns out to be very much like the previous material except for one (major) difference: the shortcomings are abundantly clear from the get-go. Fortunately, we still don’t have any bad stuff present here, though some parts did scream “filler” to me. This album’s highlight for me was “A Parenthesis in Eternity,” which has an intro eerily similar to the In Flames title track off “Come Clarity” (and do I hear a bit of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” in there too?). The two new vocalists, who alternate clean and harsh singing, aren’t half bad; but I don’t think we’ll see anyone even match Christian. One good thing does come out of this though: the guitarists finally have some shining moments. Since the vocals stood out so much on previous Scar Symmetry albums it was tough to really appreciate the guitars. Here, however, this is a different case and the mixing winds up sounding a bit more balanced. Stylistically and overall, this album is all around its predecessors; rising above them one minute and falling below them the next. Essentially, the progression is nonexistent, so the album does feel a bit cheap for one who wants a bit of change. All told, this is a pretty good album that’s very fun to listen to, but in the long run, I don’t see it leaving much behind.

Eternal Tears of Sorrow “Children of the Dark Waters” Review

Children_of_the_Dark_Waters_album

Eternal Tears of Sorrow are a band that has made a small name for themselves in the metal community.  Their success hit its highest with the release of 2006’s Before the Bleeding Sun, serving as the album to celebrate the return of their hiatus.  Now the band has given us their sixth studio effort, Children of the Dark Waters, which seems intent on satisfying both older and recently converted fans.  And at first, the band seemed to have pulled this off with wonders.

It’s definitely easy to be excited for the rest of the album after hearing the opening track “Angelheart, Ravenheart (Act II: Children of the Dark Waters).”  The song manages to sound eerily familiar to the closing track on its predecessor while bringing a great atmospheric sound of its own.  From there on, however, the album finds itself in a bit of a coerced mess.

Take the proceeding track for example, which has a far different structure and pacing that it can be tough to believe it’s on the same album.  This is the kind of feeling listeners are bound to run into throughout the album.  Fortunately, the album does have some stronger tracks that can feel a bit like saving graces.  The lead single, “Tears of Autumn Rain” manages to be of a quick pace without sounding like it’s trying to push the intensity.  Another good track in similar regards is “Midnight Bird,” easily the loudest, most forceful song on the album.  Fortunately, the synthesizer and keyboard elements are handled well enough to make this song a fun listen.

The rest of the album, however, embodies the predicament the album is caught in.  On one hand, there’s “Sea of Whispers,” which is slow but reminiscent of the sound most are more familiar with from the band.  And it’s this sound that is sorely missed since there are only a few indications of this present.  The other hand brings a song like “Summon the Wild” to the table, which feels like it’s just trying to be engaging but only winds up losing steam by its halfway mark.

With the exception of the album’s only slower track “Sea of Whispers,” there aren’t any songs that bring back the chilling sound found on anything up to A Virgin and a Whore.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since Before the Bleeding Sun was a solid effort, but Children of the Dark Waters simply lacks the focus of that album.  As a result, this is an album that tries to appeal to different people but winds up feeling too conflicted and unsure of what direction to take.  Die-hard fans of the band (such as myself) will likely enjoy parts of this album and truth be told, it’s a fairly good effort all told.  Other listeners, however, aren’t so likely to enjoy (or appreciate) this album as much and probably won’t understand the praise behind the band.

Recommended Tracks:

Angelheart, Ravenheart (Act II: Children of the Dark Waters)

Tears of Autumn Rain

Sea of Whispers

3 and Half Blade

Shadows Fall “Retribution” Review

Retribution

*Album is available to listen via stream on band’s MySpace

Shadows Fall’s 2007 studio effort Threads of Life proved to be a bag of mixed results with responses that followed suite.  Though some found the album to be an overall solid addition to the band’s catalogue, others felt it was but a bland and generic slice of American metalcore.  Hoping to gain back old fans while retaining the interest of new followers, Shadows Fall are ready to give us the seeming appropriately titled Retribution.  The album aspires to satisfy all of the band’s listeners and altogether, it should manage to do just that.

Rather than being tossed in the middle of the track listing, a short instrumental starts off Retribution leading to the first full song, “My Demise.”  The first two and a half minutes of this near-seven minute track sound similar to one of the faster, heavier tracks on The War Within with a bit of The Art of Balance tossed in for good measure.  What follows for the rest of the album turns out to be a mix of sounds the band has gone through in the past, albeit with some alterations to try and keep things fresh.  In some ways this works to the album’s advantage, but not everything here is as solid as one might hope.

Take for instance the following track, “Still I Rise” (released as a single with an accompanying music video).  If you’ve heard this song, then you have an idea of what the album sounds like during its less impressive stretches.  Though this single fares slightly better than the weaker tracks on the album, this is mostly thanks to it being heavier with a more driven chorus than the said songs.  Where the album slumps the most is during “The Taste of Fear” and “Picture Perfect”, both of which have the same main issue: the use and implementation of backing vocals.  Guitarists Matt Bachand and Jonathan Donais have proven themselves as talented musicians, but when providing vocal support they’ve admittedly had their ups and downs.  Donais typically does the more “mellow” vocals (see “Inspiration on Demand”), which is a key reason the aforementioned tracks don’t work so well.  While Donais had tolerable vocals in the past, here they feel like too much with how the songs are pushed forward and driven by his singing.  It also doesn’t help that lead vocalist Brian Fair seems like he’s trying to match the placid singing during these sections.  This might not necessarily ruin the tracks per say, but its unlikely most will want to hear them after their first one or two listenings of the entire album.

On the other hand, Retribution has its share of solid material to compensate for these less stellar tracks.  Both “My Demise” and “King of Nothing” manage to be two of the album’s heavier and thus more enjoyable moments, with the latter featuring guest vocals from Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe (lending to an irresistibly catchy chorus).  Yet it’s the album’s two closing tracks that really seal the deal.  The first of the two, “A Public Execution,” manages to be six minutes of the excellent, thrash-influenced heavy metal/metalcore that the band has become known for; I’ll even argue it as a contender for the band’s best overall song.  As for the last track, “Dead and Gone,” it blends very well with “A Public Execution” by retaining the heavy nature yet bringing some more melodic vocals from Donais in.  The main difference with this track is that his voice doesn’t feel nearly as prominent, so the song is left (mostly) untarnished.

But of course people want to know how good the band is playing here, and the answer is as good as ever.  In fact, the musicianship here is arguably the best the band has been since The War Within or even The Art of Balance.  Once again, Donais and Bachand are in top form here, providing some great riffs and shredding solos that will, for the time they last, make you forget the weaker songs weren’t so great.  Drummer Jason Bittner has also given us yet another solid performance, helping to feed the strong bass lines that are matched and played by Paul Romanko.  Then there’s vocalist Brian Fair, who seems to have taken a lot of flak for his rather blunt and generally straightforward vocals.  I, however, think he’s a perfectly decent lead singer (not amazing but he does a good enough job).  He’s comparable to Chuck Billy; his vocals might not be impressive, but they fit the music very well, and I think that at least warrants some praise.

What Retribution sets out to do is try and satisfy as many fans as possible, and admittedly not everything on the album works due to this.  However, it offers up some solid and, in a couple instances, excellent music.  Fans who’ve at least enjoyed anything from The Art of Balance up to Threads of Life should at least be able to find something to like in this album.  As for those hoping to see a true return to form, the entire album isn’t quite up to snuff, but it’s still worth a listen for any longtime or diehard fans of the band.

Recommended Tracks:

The Path To Imminent Ruin/My Demise

King of Nothing

A Public Execution

Dead and Gone

3 and Half Blade