Act of Defiance – Old Scars,  New Wounds (Metal Blade 2017)

Ex-Megadethers Shawn Drover and Chris Broderick with their second effort. The first record they did in their post-deth careers, Birth and the Burial, was kind of tainted of songwriting style of one Dave Mustain. This time around Broderick has no such ties, and the songwriting is a bit looser and leaning a bit towards djent, hardcore and death metal, thankfully not at same time.

 

The first three songs has the sound and feel classic In Flames and are the highlights of the album. The opening track, M.I.A., has a fantastic driving riff and accentuated by powerful, rumbling bass. The vocals shifts from screaming death metal to a screeching hardcore style and ads great dynamic to the tune. Molten Core has biting Gothenburg sort of edge to it, without going all the way there. Overexposure is my favorite track of the record. It has a complex structure, Broderick shows off his incredible shredding and Henry Derek shines behind the mic.

 

Next up, The Talisman, is a sort of epic, with a mix of some djent chugging and a Loomis / Nevermore middle section, and then breaks down to a slow, almost industrial sounding part before building up again in tempo and intensity. It’s an interesting tune for sure, I’m just not that into the chugging. The acoustic intro / outro is gorgeous btw.

 

And now we reach the point when the band turn to half assed filler material. Lullaby of Vengeance has it’s moments, but I find it to be stressful and a skipper. Circle of Ashes is just boring and sounds of uninspired hashing out of old ideas that never go anywhere.

 

Conspiracy of the Gods leans heavily towards a Meshugga style of riffing in the middle section but turns more traditional thrash at the ending. Actually the latter half of the song is reminiscent of Annihilator from around the turn of the century. And speaking of Annihialtor, Another Killing Spree is a midtempo Annihilator-ish thrash tune, the riff with the arpeggios and fast fills sound so much like a Jeff Waters song,  it’s scary

 

The band wakes up from the mid-album coma of skipper tracks on Broken Dialect, finally chugging in the way I like! More of a thrash metal style on this one. I think the key element for me with this band, is the varied vocals; I get so bored with the screaming hardcore vocals that plague the middle of the record. Finally he changes it up a bit again.

I wish they would have dropped Rise of Rebellion on the far side of the record and ended it on a high note with Broken Dialect.

 

This is the hard second record, and it’s not as good as the first one. I grow so tired of the djent guitarsound and the screaming death metal vocals. This album will not be on regular rotation in my home.

 

Highlights: Overexposure, Broken Dialect, M.I.A.

Rating: 2 / 5

Advertisements

Vulture Industries – Stranger Times (Season of Mist 2017)

The weirdest band in Scandinavia is back with a new studio album, Stranger Times. Their last record was excellent. The band masterly combined crazy and brilliant, this time they’ve turned down the crazy and up’ed the brilliant. If you look at their back catalogue. They’ve turned the black metal influences and up the progressive sides of their music. Stranger Times is more atmospheric and slightly softer.

 

Tales of Woe sets the tone from the get go. From about the fourth or maybe fifth second it’s blatantly obvious that this is no run of the mill metal album. Tales of Woe is at once a hard piece of music and soft, woeful tune. The characteristic vocals is distinct and full of emotion, and ever present. If you want to enjoy this band, you’ve got to be onboard with vocals. It’s kind of like with King Diamond, you’ve got to like the unique vocals, to enjoy the band.

 

The vultures haven’t forgotten their metal, even though this might be their most mellow record yet, there are plenty of hard and heavy music. The Beacon, Gentle Touch of a Killer and Screaming Reflections are heavy, riffladen songs.The Beacon is the strongest of the bunch, while Screaming Reflections might be the closest thing the vultures ever get to a straight rock tune.

 

As the World Burns is a slow, creepy, circus tune. It’s this weird kind of song that always remind me of Tim Burton movies. Just like The Dead Won’t Mind from the last record, this one quickly became my favorite track. It’s just easy and fun to curl my face up in it’s most evil folds and snarl out the outrageous, vulgar lyrics and creep around like a serial killer from the horror movies of the fifties.

 

The album is not as shockingly good as The Tower was/is. It’s however a quality album filled with great, unusual twists and turns, in addition to the progressive elements. The black metal sides of the band is turned down, but still present. The music brings out certain moods and atmospheres of creepy, circusy horror..

 

Recommended: As the World Burns, The Beacon, Tales of Woe

 

Rating: 4 / 5

Motörhead – Under Cöver (Motörhead Records 2017)

And so it has arrived, the first “Archival/posthumous” release from the legendary Motörhead and it’s a compilation of cover songs, aptly named Under Cöver. Motorhead did covers throughout their long career  and now they’ve done you the favor of compiling them on one disc!

 

This might be the second most unnecessary release of the year, just after Masterplans Pump Kings. I’m not the biggest Motorhead fan in the world, but I’m still familiar with all of these covers, except Breaking the Law by Priest, Heroes by Bowie and Rockaway Beach by The Ramones. What the protectors of Lemmys legacy basically has done is to make a playlist and thus saved you 4 minutes of Spotify-time, thank you. I bow my head in appreciation. I will take a bit of self critique, I shouldn’t have bought the album. I should have had enough foresight to see what this was … a money grab. The people in charge of the estate of Lemmy, God of rock n roll, the coolest guy to ever play bass, loved by millions are cheaping in his name by releasing this sub par compilation. You can bet your ars this wont be the last archival release. They will pop up every couple years like clockwork.

 

I think it’s kind of odd to include Hellraiser as Lemmy wrote the lyrics for Ozzy, I guess he didn’t write the music. My favorite Motorhead cover is not on the cd and Louie Louie is sorely missed. I’m glad they included Starstruck with Biff Byford on vocals, it’s a truly a great cover. Shot Em Down is another highlight, and in my opinion far superior to the original Twisted Sister tune. Whiplash, the grammy winning Metallica cover, originally written as sort of tribute to Motorhead is fast and fun. Breaking the Law sounds a bit more criminal in Lemmys voice. Heroes is the most creative cover, where they actually experiment with sound and equipment and create something quite unique. Most songs follow the basic patterns of their originals, only faster and harder and topped with the signature gritty vocals of Lemmy.

 

I’m not really sure how to rate this album. I knew the music, I’ve heard it before, both originals and cover versions. They’ve excluded Motorheads finest cover and …. The music is Motorhead as I like to remember them. The existence of this “just for the revenue” release angers me, and yes, it angers me that I bought into it and bought the damn thing.

 

Recommended tracks: Heroes, Starstruck, Whiplash, Shoot Em down.

Doyle II – As We Die (EMP 2017)

Doyle II: As We Die

 

More of the same from the beast that is Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein. The thing about horror punk played in the style of Graves-era Misfits is just how much fun it is to listen to. It’s fast, it’s vulgar, it has a sing-along edge and the lyrics are cheesy and catchy.

 

Doyles heavily overdriven guitar has given up a little space in the mixe, which brings out the bass more than on the last record. New bassist Brandon Strate is totally unknown to me, the playing is good and plunky, you know that bass sound that thunders and clicks at the same time. I’m glad to hear a sound that’s not only about the guitar. The Abominator record sounded a bit boring, without the full bottom. This time around it’s a better mix, the drums might a bit too loud for my personal taste, but all in all the sound is more cohesive on this record.

 

Doyle opens the album in the same manner he’s done since the eighties with a slow, heavy build before bursting into Kiss Me as We Die. This might be the most Misfits-esque song on the record; theatrical, big vocals, fast and punky guitars and a rockabilly type bassline. There are quite a few tracks that show off the rockabilly/fifties-pop inspiration; Witchcraft and We Belong Dead are great examples. The choruses really shine on these tunes. Witchcraft has this Dean Martin / Frank Sinatra feel on the chorus, great stuff.

 

As always in the horror punk genre the lyrics are banalities built on top of each other, this is both a nuisance and a pleasure in that they get stupid real fast, but I enjoy the wordplay.

 

In his earlier work Doyle has been restrictive with his fills and melodies. This time around he sometimes sound like he’s auditioning to replace Tommy Victor in Danzig, with a heap of natural harmonics and squeals which leads the mind back to Circle of Snakes. Dark God Rises and Blood on the Axe are the prime examples. There are a few pure punk songs here as well; Night of Sin, Show No Mercy and Run for Your Life are fast, punishing tracks, with hard vocals and rough attitude.

 

Abominator I liked immediately, this one took me a few rounds to get into, but I think maybe I prefer this second record to the first one. It’s a little less cartoony and not as on the nose, maybe a little more complex and … creative I guess is the best word for it. But songs do sound a bit similar: the riffs are creative but the arrangement is not.

 

Positive: Fun horrorlyrics, short aggressive tracks, rockabilly vocals

Minus: stupid lyrics, too much guitar squealing,  

 

Recommended tracks: We Belong Dead, Whitchcraft, Run for Your Life

 

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Accept – Rise of Chaos (Nuclear Blast 2017)

When the new Accept album arrived I was so excited, and on first listening through the album I got even more excited. It’s no secret that I belong to the group of people who prefer the classics and don’t get why everyone seems to have gone bananas over the new material. It’s good, I’d agree to that, but nots Balls to the Wall good, you know?

 

This time around I felt a bit different, the teasers had spoken to me, they’d hit a nerve. When the new album finally dropped I listened to over and over again, to wifeys misery (she did NOT like the album). I immediately wrote a review (in norwegian) praising the band, the album, the music like golden calves. It couldn’t express how much I enjoyed the record. When day three or maybe four after the release come rolling, I sort of forgot the album.

 

A few weeks has now gone by, I find myself not really wanting to listen to it again. What happened? I was like: “this album will save heavy metal, it has the qualities of a timeless record” … and all of sudden couldn’t be bothered to listen to it again?

 

I think it might be that I got everything I wanted, all my anticipations were met. Everything that makes Accept a stand-out band was present on the record, what more could I hope for? Nothing. There was no excitement left for me, no discoveries left do and that makes it … boring? I don’t know. This IS a kick ass record, but not more so than most of Accepts records and so becomes part of the post-comeback pile of quality records. Why should you pick this one to play over any of the others? I couldn’t tell you.

 

The music is explosive and riffy. Highlights riffwise are Koolaid and Die by the Sword. Technical, kick ass and air guitar friendly riffs, in classic Hoffmanstyle. What’s Done is Done has that live quality and drive that post-comeback Accept do so well, The Rise of Chaos is a proper guide on how to write heavy metal. The band is just excellent throughout, but I got some major issues with Tornillos voice and lyrics. He sounds more and more like Udo sound-alike, without the x-factor.

 

Once upon a time Accept lyrics were dirty and edgy, sexy and violent, now they’re old, boring, predictable and cliché. Koolaid is a great idea for a song and should lend itself to any lyricist; “be careful who you listen to” / misuse of religion by its leaders  is the main themes of the song. Even if the idea is good, the actual lyrics are a heap of banalities, and oh so poorly executed. Analog Man is dreadful, just horrid. An entire song about the aging man’s difficulty of understanding his email? Come on, dude. I don’t know who writes the lyrics, but honestly … this is just bad. Worlds Collide is a good song, but the predictable piece of shit lyrics ruins it. The final song of the album saves the b-side lyrically. Race to Extinction is a great angsty song with kick ass shredding guitars and pounding bass lines.

 

To summarize: The music ranges from amazing to great, the lyrics suck and are predictable (on most songs) and not for the first time; I miss Udo in Accept.

 

Recommended tracks: Die by the Sword, The Rise of Chaos, Race to Extinction

+ Riffs and concepts

– Lyrics and vocals

 

Rating: 3 / 5

Secret Sphere – The Nature of Time (Frontiers Records – 2017)

I was incredibly sceptical going into this album. I’ve had some previous experience with the band, but left them for dead a while back. I was totally oblivious to the fact they had gotten a new singer and changed musical direction something fierce, this happened like five years ago. And all for the better.

 

The reason I wrote these Italiens off years ago was the style of power metal they played, I heaped them in with Rhapsody and all their sound-alike bands from Italy, justified in my opinion. They’ve changed in a more progressive direction, and I can hear a lot of Dream Theater inspiration on this record, and even a few bits of pure rip off.

 

The album is beautiful, artwork and all, just gorgeous. The same could be said about the music. Beautiful is the best word to describe it. Songs like Kindness, Love and Honesty are amazingly melodic, with a heavy tint. The songs flows and raps around your ears like a wonderful …. something or other.

 

The Dream Theater references are obvious, down to the guitar sound. Remember that twangy / chorusy guitar from Pull Me Under? It gets more than its fair share on this record. The lyrics are the heaviest part of the album, although some riffs are as heavy as one can expect from Italian progers, the main feel of the album is a soft, melodic type, with rough edges. The metaly metalriffs are spread out through the record and you get a taste on almost every song. The intro to otherwise ballady Faith, for instance, is surprisingly heavy. The Awakening is the heaviest  number on here. It’s built around a classical epic skeleton: A classical intro, with orchestra, that bursts into an amazingly technical guitar solo, befor the proggy rhythm parts steps in and you go to a fast verse, and then slow it down to a more melodic middle section, before going up tempo again for the chorus, and so forth and so on.

 

The melodies, riffs, lyrics and progressive elements mix together in really cool way. I’m totally digging this album, however there is one thing I really really don’t care for: I understand that as proggers they feel obliged to have one long story through the album, a concept. I’ve tried a few times to pick up on the story, but it’s not really speaking to me. I just don’t get it. The last 30 seconds of every track is dedicated to bringing the story forward, the story is poorly told. The soundbites thus become a nuisance and annoying, I wished they would have put them on separate tracks so could escape them easier.

+ Melodies, riffs, songwriting

– Lack of originality, unfulfilling concept / story, too much blatant Dream Theater ripping

 

Recommended tracks: Faith, Love, The Awakening, The Calling

Danzig – Black Laden Crown (Evilive Records 2017)

After the weak sounding covers record Skeletons I didn’t get my hopes up for this release. The sound is in the same sort of low fi Glenn has been doing ever since 7:77 I Luciferi. The songs are doomy and gloomy, mostly slow to mid tempo pieces.

 

Let’s pause a minute to consider the cover art, wow how awful is this cover? Danzig cover art has been a huge part of what has drawn me to the music, especially the Giger drawing of How the Gods Kill, not to mention the classic skull logo or the medieval look of Circle of Snakes. This time around he has chosen to go for the esthetics of his Verotic comic books. I get that he is big into the comic book world, but this cover is too much on the cartoony side for me personally, bit of a disappointment.

 

The sound is very similar to the Deth Red Saboath album. Lyrically this album is better crafted, maybe not as accessible as earlier, but with better quality… quality might not be the right word…shit… they seem less childish and more of a comprehensive body of work.

 

The guitar is heavily overdriven, I’m thinking a thick fuzz sound, Victor likes himself some natural harmonics, so much so that it sort of gets annoying. The riffs themselves are dark, and heavy, reminiscent of Circle of Snakes and 4p. The high, squeaky fills gets a bit much, for my taste. The drums are once again handled by Joey Castillo, who was the from about 95 up through the touring cycle for I, Luciferi in 03. I can’t really say he makes much of an impact on the album. Drums are hollow-sounding and bass-laden, like they’ve been on every danzig-record since the turn of the century. I guess Glenn played the bass and keyboards himself.

 

The opener, which also happens to be the title track, is a sort of half breed between his past half instrumental openers, like Unendlich or Wotans Procession and earlier heavy numbers; like Thirteen or Angel Blake. It’s a slow, but heavy number. Best of all, it has this classic, easy-to-follow Danzig vocal melody. A truly wicked start to the new disc. Eyes Ripping Fire is not a great song, it’s lacking in power and gets dull and seems to drag out, even though it’s only like four minutes long.

 

Devil on Hwy 9, the teaser and the single, isn’t a very good either. The chorus is nice and infectious, but the main riff is just boring and Victor is slightly too active with his fills. I’m sure this will be killer live though, it just falls flat in a studio version.

 

I’ve listened to this album a bunch of times now, and it doesn’t really stick. It kind of falls flat. I get what he’s trying to do with production but when you know that with today’s technology untrained kids can make great sounding stuff in their bedrooms, this low-fi shit doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t sound retro, it doesn’t sound evil, it just sounds half assed.

 

Being a Danzig-fan is hard around the release of new music, because of Danzigs press rounds, he’s now getting to sound like more of a nutcase than Mustaine and that says a bit. Jeebuz man, Glenn says some crazy shit.

 

Let’s end this with: Established Danzig fan? Yes: Get the record, it’s what you expect and want, but with crap production. No: Go to the first four records for some bluesy stuff, record 5 and 6 for some industrial darkness, 7 and 8 for some truly dark, yet somehow popy, music, wait with Black Laden Crown and Deth Red Sabaoth.

 

Recommended tracks: Devil on Hwy 9, Skulls & Daisies

 

Rating: 3 / 5