Overkill – From the Underground and Below (Steamhammer 1997)

This is perhaps Overkills grooviest record, released in the heyday of groove metal, perhaps on the tail end, but still. Overkill has really taken the groove of the metal scene at this time to heart. Just like on the two previous releases, W.F.O and Killing Kind, Overkills transition to the sound of nineties works out great.

They manage to combine the aggression from their earlier material with slower, thicker music of this decade. I wasn’t really around noticing Overkill at the time, I was to busy discovering Metallica. I found some magazines from the time cleaning out the house a while back, and found an interview with Kerry King where he kind of rips Overkill for selling out. I for one am glad they changed their sound and style, because this material is much stronger than the “classic” material.

The disc starts up with a fist to the face. It Lives is a crunchy song with a nice chorus and real hook for the middle section.  Long Time Dyin’, Half Past Dead, F.U.C.T. and The Rip and Tear  are all of the same ilk. They are mid-paced with a heavy bass line and groovy guitars. The lead work should be mentioned, especially on F.U.C.T., just a great melody and so incredibly fitting to the music.

Blitz plays to his strength, the melodic strength to his vocals are as usual top notch. Promises sees the band doing a ballad, full of clichés and totally lacking in quality, but it has that certain sing-along quality that a lot of ballads have. I’m glad they didn’t make a habit of the ballads.

I think The Rip ‘n Tear is my favorite track. It has a mixture of heaviness, melody, groovy rhythms and funny lyrics, not to mention the hooky melody. This is the kind of song that drew me to Overkill in the first place, and the sort of tracks that I pick out when I make playlists.

From the Underground and Below is a bit darker than the Killing Kind and W.F.O. both lyrically and musically. They are still kind of getting their groove metal wings still, it will still be a few years until they master it fully.

 

Recommended tracks: It Lives, The Rip and Tear and F.U.C.T.

Rating: 4/5

Vicious Rumors – Concussion Protocol (Steamhammer 2016)

Vicious Rumors has been around ever since 1979, but the mainstream hasn’t really paid much attention to them and the underground never embraced them either. Still, they’ve released a string of albums, one every few years at least.

I can kind of understand why they never broke through; the quality of music is up and down, with the 1988 release Digital Dictator as the highlight. Vicious Rumors exist in a cross section of power metal and thrash metal. Some riffs are very much in the thrash bag, as is the guitar sound. The arrangement and melodic elements have more in common with European power metal acts such as Rhapsody or Rage. The vocals is also a major reason why I’m thinking European, Nick Holleman sounds a lot like Peavy Wagner (Rage) in his melodic voice. I wish he would utilize his gruffer voice more, it’s really good.

This album has some great moments; I love the opening riff of the title track. It’s fast and powerful, and sets a tone for the rest of the record. Mid tempo and powerful riffs are the main components of this record. One of my main issues are the fact that they sort of keep to the rule of one good riff per song. A lot of the verses and choruses are pestered with boring guitars and subpar vocal melodies, broken up by some great riff and / or melodic guitar parts. Last of our Kind has an absolute killer riff, but the rest of the song doesn’t deliver.

Concussion Protocol mostly sits in a mid tempo chug, with some tempo shifts into a faster pace. In my personal opinion they sound best when they get really heavy, with the rather slow tempos, like in the song Bastards, which varies between an almost doomy atmosphere to mid tempo and then to a rather fast middle section, one of my favorite tracks.

There isn’t that much of a melodic edge to the album, but sometimes they let the guitars shine. The intro to Last of our Kind has a nice Thin Lizzy sounding melodic intro. There is some stellar lead work sprinkled out across the album, most impressive might be the soli on Every Blessings is a Curse, especially with the trading off between the guitarists.

The album is a great work soundtrack. It’s loud enough to drown out my coworkers and  unintrusive enough to allow me to concentrate on my work.

If you like the mid tempo chug, than this album is for you. I think the vocals kind of lack a little energy and are slick in a way. I wish he would do his lower register more, where he really shines, listen to the final track, Life for Life, and hear for yourselves.

Recommended tracks: Every Blessing is a Curse, Bastards

Rating: 3/5

Gojira – Magma (Roadrunner Records 2016)

This album is just beautiful, both visually and musically. Gojira has chosen the path of many of their contemporaries in sludge / death metal segment, and are headed towards are more progressive sound. This record is heading in the direction of Enslaved or, to some degree, Opeth.

They’ve kept a lot of their heaviness, but added much to the melodic side of their sound. The soundscape is still similar to the earlier material, with a heavy bottom and a lot of going on in the background. And overall the sound is as atmospheric as ever. The sound is layered with a heavy bass and drum sound in the bottom layer, crushing guitars in the middle section and lighter top from lead guitars and vocals. Even when the harsher vocals turn up, it still has a softer feel then earlier material.

Silvera has sneaky intro and continues into an almost Meshuggah-ish riffing. This style of riffing is prevalent on other songs as well, stranded for one.

The album is really cohesive in that songs end and slide into each other, which makes for a seamless listening experience. The record doesn’t have any real single-tracks; they all sort of belong together. If I had to pull out a couple of songs I guess I would choose the title track, Low Lands and Liberation.

Magma, the track, has that certain sound and feel which I like in Gojira: Big variety in intensity, creative arrangement and great lyrics. Low Lands  is a haven of heavy and melodic riffs and turns into a beautiful soft outro. Liberation is Gojira at their most melodic and experimental. Usually they have experienced with atmospheric sounds, but this is more of a melodic and rhythmic song. It’s a great ending to a great album.

I like that they keep the songs rather short, and don’t feel the need to push the ten minute mark on every song, and keep it around five minutes. I wish they would let even more rules behind, because they’re still quite bound by metals dogmas. Gojira deserve to be much bigger than they are. Even though this album is beautiful in almost every way, I don’t think this is the kind of album that brakes through to the kid crowds.

 

Recommended tracks: Magma, Low Lands

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Absolute Steel – Womanizer (Black Lotus 2005)

Absolute Steel was a party metal band from my hometown. I don’t think they did anything much outside of my little hometown. Suddenly they had a record deal, released an album and then a got a deal for a second record, with a slightly larger company, and internationally released and everything.  As far as I know, Black Lotus has gone bust since this release.

Womanizer is an uneven record. It starts off strong with a couple of fun party anthems. High Heels and Fishnet Stockings is a sexy, sleazy song, with a nice sing-along chorus and some great guitarparts. Beerrun really spoke to me in my student days, with a good riff and party lyrics. Too Slow Above is in the same direction, totally sexist lyrics in a Steel Panther sort way, along with Juicy Lucy. Rough Love is a campfire acoustic tune, again with a comedic sexual content.

The album finishes off with two instrumental tracks. It turns out both guitar players are excellent. They have one track each to show off, and they both do it in a brilliant way. But really, two instrumentals? It’s a bit much, isn’t it?

 

Recommended tracks: High Heels and Fishnet Stockings

Rating: 3/5

Denner / Shermann – Masters of Evil (Metal Blade 2016)

Michael Denner and Hank Shermann have tried multiple times and in multiple constellations to get a band going after Mercyful Fate without reaching the quality of the Fate material. They’re definitely getting closer, but they’re not quite there.

This is a step up from the EP released in 2015, at least in songwriting. One of the chief improvements is the riffs. Just like in the good old Fate tunes, the songs are filled to the brink with riffs, leads and fills. Most of them are good, some riffs are great. Some force out the airguitars, some of the solos are way up there with Satan’s Fall or Curse of the Pharoes.

Marc Grabowski, on bass, has a modern sound, but is not very inventive. The bass is pure rhythm instrument and doesn’t really bring anything to the table. Snowy Shaw on the drums does a bang up job. He was a little too loud on the EP, and took up too much space. On this album the balance between the instruments is better. The production is quite good, well balanced and distinct, and with a guitar sound and tone that’s easily recognizable.

My main issue is with Sean Peck on vocals. Weak vocal performances has been the downfall of many of Shermanns past projects, and it could be the bane of this one as well. When the songwriting is this riff laden, the vocals need to carry the melody and the tune, which Peck sadly can’t do. Most of the lyrics are on par with King Diamonds words of the old days, although some get a little cartoony for me.

Son of Satan is rifftastick. I love the guitarwork. It might not be a masterpiece, but it’s heavy and blistering. Servants of Dagon is also a favorite, it has more of 90s feel to it, but the melody and the rhythm rocks. Pentagram and the Cross is also a nice heavy tune.

 

Recommended tracks: Son of Satan, Servants of Dagon

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Kvelertak – Nattesferd (Roadrunner Records 2016)

Kvelertak came in as a breath of fresh air with their debut and the follow-up was a killer album. Now with this third one they fall in the category of established act. The first two brought something new to the table; there was metal, there was rock, there was black metal, thrash metal, and at times party rock. Now, we know what they do, we recognize their style and it doesn’t seem as exciting anymore.

Some of the songs almost seem formulaic now, but there is a slight shift towards a more radio friendly sound. Best example is the fun, bluesy, poppy lead single 1985. The guitarsound is very reminiscent of eighties poprock, I’m thinking Billy Idol or maybe Permanent Vacation-style Aerosmith.

The opening track Dendrofil for Yggdrasil is everything Kvelertak is known for. A great mesh of hard, extreme vocals, melodic guitar and a pounding rhythm section.  Nekrodamus, oh a marvelous play on words, is in the same vane.  Svartmesse is somewhere in the middle of radio friendliness and the classic Kvelertak sound.

There are a couple of tracks that don’t quite hold up for me, Berserkr, Bronsegud and Ondskapens Galakse. There’s nothing there for me to hang on to. Especially Berserkr seems a bit slippery, the riff is quite good, but the song just slithers away and then suddenly stops, and it’s over.

Favorite track is the titletrack, Nattesferd. The chorus is great and I can’t wait to belt it out when I see them live the next time. Most importantly the riff and the rhythm just melts together and pounds away, unstoppable. I love it.

I feel that this album is weaker than the two preceding it, but again I think it’s because they’re more of an established act, with an established sound and style. It seems to me to be a bit milder than before. I have mentioned radio friendliness a few times, but it’s still not friendly enough to actually be played on most stations. It’s a hard rocking mashup of metal and hard rock. Well worth the time and money, I got the clear vinyl gatefold edition, nice!

 

Recommended tracks: Nattesferd, 1985, Dendrofil for Yggrdrasil, Nekrodamus

Rating: 3,5/5

Ondt Blod – Finnmark (2015)

I’m doing a short shout out for the Norwegian band Ondt Blod,  a lyrical translation of their name would be Evil Blood, I guess, a better translation might be Bad Blood. Their first full length album was released in the fall of 2015 and it fucking rules! The most apparent comparison is with Kvelertak, as they sing in Norwegian and in the fact that shamelessly flip from genre to genre. Ondt Blod has their roots in more of a punk / hardcore sound, where Kvelertak might be considered more rooted in metal.

The songs are quite short, around three minutes, and filled to the rim with energy and attitude. My personal favorite track is Kompis med Satan (Buddies with Satan) which has a hardcore vibe going from the get go and then suddenly transforms into a doomy gloomy middle section, with some rather ominous vocals.

I also like Symbola (Symbols) which has like almost a boogie woogie part as well as some punk parts and Gjengtegn (gang tags) which mixes a little black metal into the hardcore. This album is just crazy good, absolutely brilliant. It’s just fast, fun, hard hitting, head banging mixture of everything hard, fast and heavy.

Highly recommended!!!!!!!!!!!!