Legendary Power/Thrash Titans Reminisce on Anniversary of Recording Debut
The snake welcomes it’s brothers
Still continuing to lead the underground, Bay Area thrash legends Testament have steadily risen in stature over the years to feature a discography that rivals many of their peers and puts them pound-for-pound as a top-tier level contender for the genre’s elite units. Following up their last album with a hiatus of only four years this time that sees founding bassist Greg Christian depart for a returning Steve DiGiorgio as well as Gene Hoglan moving from a session member to full-time drummer, their eleventh full-length album was released October 28, 2016 on Nuclear Blast Records.
As has become the norm since their late-90s resurgence, the majority of the album features the band’s now-trademark riffing style in full force. Tracks like the title track, “The Pale King” and “Centuries of Suffering” employ their patented twin-guitar riffing style that carries this along with utterly ravenous precision, the record dives through a variety of strong, multi-tempo’d tracks that brings about a wholly vibrant thrashing energy while being able to drop back into a less-energetic but still hard-hitting rhythm for the main sections of the tracks. Mixed alongside these are “Stronghold” and “Seven Seals” which are more simplistic, straightforward mid-tempo crunchers that are all quite adept at delving into their guitar-based muscle while easing off the throttle and providing a strong, perfectly crafted balance that makes the band so engaging and enjoyable. Their ability to adapt to these varying stylistic attacks, along with a heaping dose of melodic accessibility to match their strong riffing and tight, professionally-played performances, has been what’s made them so strong over the years and is a vital part of this one.
Though these are all quite appealing for the most part, there’s still a small part of this one lacking that most important aspect of their signature sound which is the more memorable and vicious riffing. This really seems to opt for more straightforward rhythms and simplistic paces here which never really develops that one over-enthusiastic blast of raging thrash that has followed the band throughout their career, and too much of this one is stuck in the mid-tempo for the majority of their tracks and it really becomes noticeable on the second half where it’s not as engaging being filled with admittedly weak and filler tracks which is hardly a facet found in their career until now. It’s undoubtedly fun, but doesn’t extract that one factor which has been featured on their more prominent effort.
As the band is still one of the more prominent and respected bands in the genre, this release still manages to solidly fit in their discography even with a few rather clunky, disposable tracks as the overall sense of fun established here makes this one far better than most attempts at the style and is still a solid choice for all fans of their previous work and thrashers in general.
Austrian black metal band soars high above the competition
Hailing from Vienna and Salburg in Austria, the two-piece band Harakiri For The Sky play a combination of post-metal, and black metal that is of some of the higher quality in the genre. Still being fairly new to the scene with only five years under their belts as this project, the members are no strangers to the scene. Similar to bands like Cobalt, one member is responsible for all the instruments, while there is a singular vocalist in the band. The technicality provided in the musicianship and the actual forming of the tracks is very impressive here, and with two prior releases already, the band has released one hell of a barn burner with their aptly title III: Trauma via Art Of Propaganda.
The opening notes of the album give you a good idea of what you are getting into with this release. The higher pitched guitar melodies couple with some darker riffs to create a nice layering of heavy and soft. The riffs and melodies are both infectious in their own ways, and fill each song of this nearly 76 minute album. Synths play a role as well, adding even more atmospherics to the bombastic guitar riffs and drumming. While the heavier guitars on the album are indeed impressive and varied, the melodious parts are what really bring the songs to the next level and drive them further. That is not to say there is too much focus on any of the softer parts. More, they just add to the mix more and create a really cathartic listen while letting the listener be pounded into submission from some incredible drumming and non stop vocal assault. The drumming is possibly the highlight of the album as well, being able to go from blast beat driven to rock groove oriented at the drop of a hat and always managing to change up at just the right time. It says a lot about the songwriting from Harakiri For The Sky to know when too much of something is enough and when to change and allow the song to shift naturally and feel powerful each time.
If there was one downside on the performance aspect of the album, it would sadly be the vocals. While the passion in the delivery can be felt, there seems to sadly be a little too much of the same thing. Where as the instrumentation changes various times throughout the album (and each track) the vocals remains largely unchanged and can be a little monotonous and grating by the end of the album. Admittedly, it is a small complaint as the performance is again very impressive and whether there be anger, or sadness or any other emotion it can still somehow be felt, which can be attributed to the interplay of the vocals and the actual instrumentation. There is still no denying though that each one of these songs packs one hell of a punch and each brings plenty of great moments. The production is clear too, which really helps the band out in a lot of ways. The mixing and production never feel too glossy or synthetic, but are clear enough to make sure that every melody, or vocal line or drum fill gets picked up perfectly and showcases exactly what the band is able to do, and how well they can do it.
III: Trauma is not exactly an easy listen. It is a long album for sure, and the dark lyrics (which I had not touched on but are very deep, and mournful) do not make any one feel happy when all is said and done. This album is an investment, but like a lot of great music, it should be. From a sheer musical standpoint, you can always have this album playing in the background if you need to, and just headband along, but to really delve into the album more takes time. The journey is not always a fun or easy one, getting lost in how “Trauma” and “Harakiri” really play a major part for this band and release, but there have been fewer overall rewarding albums this year that are able to boast having the complete package. From the beautiful cover art to the final notes of the album, this a highlight not to be missed.
Snore at your own risk.
Meshuggah are back in business, and, as per usual, business is quite literally booming (in odd time signatures). Four years removed from the mighty Koloss, and the quintet have returned with album number eight in The Violent Sleep of Reason, a title inspired by ‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters,’ an etching found in Francisco Goya’s late eighteenth century suite Los Caprichos. On the outset, Goya’s work shows an artist having a nightmare, one filled with pestering, swooping creatures like bats and owls. But, as one would surmise, the context is deeper than the paper it’s printed on, with Goya using the scene to symbolize the folly and irrationality of his Spanish society. Meshuggah, of course, are not Spanish. They’re Swedish, and they are ‘crazy,’ which, if you’re following this whole Goya thing, should rightly elicit no small amount of troubled dreams.
One of a cluster of huge metal bands enjoyed by both metal ‘plebes’ and ‘purists’ alike, Meshuggah continue to rebuke the inevitable tide of gray hair and achy joints by playing their self-invented ‘djent’ sound better than their younger copycats and counterparts by way of sheer wisdom, finesse, and an approach that demands tourniquet tight teamwork. On The Violent Sleep of Reason, it is business as usual. What one expects from Meshuggah—bulbous grooves, gigantic off-kilter rhythms, and soul-scraping roars—one most certainly is granted, with the result, as far as these ears hear, falling somewhere between Nothing and Koloss, but, as it just so happens, eclipsing neither by way of impact or durability.
Does that make The Violent Sleep of Reason a lesser Meshuggah record? Well, no…and a most definitive, sort of. For the first time in nearly 25 years, the band recorded the album live, a distinction that does lend the album a more ‘natural’ feel, but which likewise doesn’t necessarily weaken their well-oiled, and unmistakable, dystopian air of big metallic things colliding with other big metallic things. The opener “Clockworks” proves the most exacting, longest, and most impressive bitch of the bunch, with the song’s final three minutes a hardened endurance test redolent of Obzen’s “Pravus.” The follow-up, the record’s first single, “Born in Dissonance,” plays like quintessential Meshuggah, swollen and labyrinthine with engine-driven bass-work and Fredrik Thordendal’s eerie guitar lines wailing over pummeling war drums.
With the exception of the curiously ineffective “Monstrocity,” the album is notably front-loaded. The band’s penchant for contagious groove undergirds tracks like “Stifled” or the closer “Into Decay,” but, performances aside, it’s hard to deny that many of the record’s most memorable moments occur early and often. Still, the kinetic and rubber-walled bounciness of “Our Rage Won’t Die” remains hopelessly fun, and does much to jumpstart any waning adrenaline.
Ultimately, The Violent Sleep of Reason exists as another stentorian slab of climatic progressive metal, coaxing even the weakest of imaginations to envision ranges of exploding peaks, terrible, billowing skies, and any other doomsday scenario worth its salt in destruction. Meshuggah may not have eclipsed the consistent mighty crunch of their last record, but there’s still no denying the white-knuckled satisfaction one feels when old man Kidman strolls to the storefront and flips the sign to ‘OPEN.’
A TMO Interview with Steven Peyton of Garroted
Awesome August assemblies, from the likes of Inquisition, Running Wild, Meshiaak and beyond…
The vocalist of one of Australia’s oldest and most respected heavy metal acts talks about Dreadnaught’s extensive career, their new album Caught The Vultures Sleeping, the state of the Australian heavy music scene and the virtues of Thin Lizzy.
Tons of Rock Festival in Halden, Norway – June 24th 2016
Four of the juiciest June jams going ’round.
Tons of Rock Festival in Halden, Norway – June 24th 2016
Tons of Rock Festival in Halden, Norway – June 23rd 2016
May the month’s most outstanding metal releases be with you.