Hans gets up close and personal with Swedish melodic death metal band Meadows End and the whole band joins in to give some insight.
Armed and ready for Overkill.
While the mighty Big 4 in the US have waned in their output in the last decade, bands like Testament, Death Angel, and Overkill have been putting out some of the best records of their careers. In particular, Overkill has been slaughtering it. The last two records were simply beasts of modern thrash execution in my opinion. Needless to say, my expectations for their eighteenth (!) album were damn high. Overkill, like their namesake would imply, are not stepping down with their latest White Devil Armory. While it’s a different kind of album than the last two overall, the quality is just as impressive overall leading this record to continue their slaying streak.
Both Ironbound and The Electric Age were dense thrash records, but White Devil Armory throws in some stronger diversity into the melting pot. Overkill pushes this album toward a more groove n’ pound foundation, similar to the style they played with in the late 90s and early 00s. In fact, the comparisons my fellow writers made to Killbox 13 are damn near spot on. Tracks like “King of the Rat Bastards” or “Pig” could have easily come right out of the writing and recording session of that massively underrated record with the band’s big catchy vocal lines and tight rhythm work between the guitars, bass, and drums.
This allows Overkill to really play more with tempos and space then we’ve heard on the previous two records. White Devil Armory kicks off with a pretty pummeling thrasher in “Armorist” (which acts as a sort of mindset transition for listeners from what the band was doing to what they are going to be doing here) and then the band dives right into their lockstep groove with “Down to the Bone” complete with chunk riffing and plenty of group shouts to offset the shrill wail of Bobby Blitz. The brilliance behind White Devil Armory lies in the fact that there is no filler to be found here. I’m on my fifteenth spin of the album as I write this review and I still feel no need to skip a single track. By the time I hit the more progressive writing in the finale “In the Name,” I make sure to click the repeat button on my computer so that it doesn’t stop.
While the groove injection might throw off a few of the older Overkill fans, the execution on White Devil Armory showcases the brilliance that DD Verni, Bobby Blitz, and company can truly bring to the scene. The band is three decades into their career, eighteen albums, and they still release music that highlights the best that thrash can deliver. White Devil Armory is catchy, thrashy, and ultimately the album to beat in 2014.
Overkill might have released an album called The Years of Decay, but they are far from showing it with their music.
Few albums marked such a stark departure from a band’s original sound as Heritage did for Opeth in 2012. Gone were the growls, gone was pretty much all heaviness and in came a strong influence from the old-style progressive rock that snubbed a lot of people and left them reeling (including me)m resulting in extremely different reactions and reviews. And all of this made their 11th album Pale Communion probably one of the ten most anticipated albums of the metal world.
Expectations were also widely differing from a hope for a return to heavier waters (including growls) to a continuation of the path they had chosen on Heritage and the Swedes are still walking down the unexpected route and people will continue to struggle. I think what was one of the main issues with this style swing, was that with the exception of Damnation Mikael Åkerfeldt and company had utilized this prog rock influence on the two following albums Ghost Reveries and Watershed, yet always in connection with their death metal roots, something that completely fell off the grid on Heritage. Basically if Åkerfeldt had released the album under a completely different name, nobody would have had any idea that it was Opeth musicians putting it out.
Anyways, enough with the past, on with the present and Pale Communion is another album that will give the old fans headaches. Pretty much any of their sound pre Damnation still is nowhere to be found and the album is almost pure progressive rock heavily influenced by the Swedish scene of the Seventies. This alone will now already decide, if you are going to continue reading this review, I would presume.
“Eternal Rains Will Come” slaps you right across the face with a complex instrumental prog rock assault right at the beginning before settling into a pretty laid back, beautiful track that lives off its light instrumentation and atmosphere. And it already shows that the “new” Opeth work the best when going with atmosphere and the vocal harmonies, because whenever the more progressive solos and sections come in, they lose me. “Cusp of Eternity” as one of these sections, where they lose the flow within an otherwise pretty straight and catchy retro song, as does “River” that does not always manage to connect with me, unfortunately. The far less accessible and bulky 11-minute “Moon Above, Sun Below” is the pinnacle of progressive character on Pale Communion, and the contrast to the sparsely instrumented atmospheric “Elysian Woes” or calm closing “Faith in Others” is staggering.
I do enjoy a fair amount of progressive rock, Pale Communion at times goes a little too far with its immersion in the true retro sound and shows a few lengths throughout the album. Fans that loved the band for its heaviness and growls woven into the other influences can stay as far away from this one as they did from Heritage, if you are more open towards the retro prog rock, though, then you will find a wealth of details to discover, some of which will only open up with repeated listens. Opeth anno 2014 are a completely different beast compared to what most of us had grown to love, but I am still a little leery, if it is that good of an idea to keep the same name for a very different musical direction. I’m all for musical development and playing what you feel like, but the Swedes are now catering to a quite different clientele.
Be it as it may, as far as retro prog rock goes, Pale Communion is probably one of the best of the year you will find, for me it gets a little much in places and I find myself yearning for a few meatier guitars here and there. You be the judge yourself…
A rocky road for Jericho.
Fozzy are probably one of the most publicized bands in the metal genre, courtesy of the involvement of WWE wrestler Chris Jericho as lead singer. Often when “celebrities” from other areas of entertainment enter the metal scene, it is more of a gimmick than anything else, but over the course of the past albums, Jericho and Fozzy have proven that they don’t need name-dropping to legitimate their musical endeavours. Now they are back with the 6th effort, politely titled Do You Want to Start a War and Jericho’s once given description of “If Metallica and Journey had a bastard child, it would be Fozzy.” rings true once more.
It becomes clear early on that Fozzy will not let themselves be nailed down to a single, simple style, because they draw from a fairly wide variety of influences, which more or less strongly reflect on the songs of Do You Want to Start a War. The riffing often has a modern touch, whereas Jericho’s melodic vocals oftentimes counter heaviness and modernity created by the musical foundation, creating an interesting and enticing mix. And even though the more modern influences usually spell doom on my compatibility with them, the Georgians have this uncanny ability to create hooks that will grab you, no matter what your style preferences are. And one-dimensional they definitely are not…
“Bad Tattoo”, “Brides of Fire” and some parts of “Scarecrow” and “Witchery” surprise with their heavy riffing with the first two being two of the highlights of the album, the former reminding me a bit of newer Testament, while the latter bristles with energy and drive. As crass contrast to these, we get songs such as “Tonight” (with Steel Panther’s Michael Starr) and “Unstoppable”, which are way lighter and catchier and show a completely different side of the band. Surprisingly, though, while they do not quite fit into the album context, they work as good songs for the days where the convertible top stays down (if you have a van, just imagine it)!
The groovy “Do You Wanna Start a War”, “Lights Go Out” or “No Good Way” have enough energy, heaviness and catchiness to get you going and does it matter that they are not intricate or the heaviest you could get out there? No, not at all, Fozzy are there to deliver the goods with grit and melody and they will not anybody stand between them and their goal, that plain and simple. They unabashedly take some almost danceable moments and infuse them into a unapologetically metal environment without making either of the two sides sound forced or pieced together.
The second single, “One Crazed Antichrist”, does not connect with me, though, because its chorus leaves me cold, while the almost metalcore-ish screams of “Witchery” don’t gel with the rest of the song. But on the other hand I just have to mention “SOS”, which is a great version of the ABBA classic.
The unflashy, but highly efficient guitar work of Rich Ward once more underlines his status as one of the most underrated guitarists in the metal world, while Jericho’s voice has grown leaps and bounds compared to his beginnings and his pipes can rival most of his colleagues and live his energy is unrivalled (try to take photos of him during a concert is next to impossible, since he is the human incarnation of one of those small rubber balls that bounce like crazy!).
While it will not meet unanimous welcoming arms from the metal world, Do You Want to Start a War is a very entertaining and energetic album that embodies almost everything you could ask for in a down-to-earth summer metal album. So if Chris asks you “Do You Wanna Start a War”, your answer should be “Hell, yeah!”
“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
― Salman Rushdie
The Million Dollar Grunge Album That Never Was
Tons Of Rock Day 3, June 21st 2014
Tons Of Rock Day 2, June 20th 2014
Tons Of Rock Day 1, June 19th 2014
The Suicide Silence guitarist opens up about the death of Mitch Lucker, getting the band back together, and their badass new record You Can’t Stop Me.
The Metal Observer recently had the chance to speak with the legendary founder and driving force behind Falconer, Stefan Weinerhall. Returning with the band’s eighth studio album, Black Moon Rising, which recently dropped on Metal Blade Records, Weinerhall speaks about the intensity of the new album, his approach to songwriting and influences, among other things.
A star-studded line-up this week, for what’s shaping up to be the penultimate entry in the TMO Singles Roundup series, featuring new music from Opeth, In Flames, Sonic Syndicate, Mastodon and ’68.
A (belated) double-barrelled Roundup featuring new(ish) cuts from Entombed, Anathema, Every Time I Die, Armageddon, and a little-known band called Judas Priest.