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

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Overkill – Necroshine (Steamhammer 1999)

Necroshine was the album that got me into Overkill, and it’s the record I measure all other Overkill releases up against. I was aware of the band for many years, never listening to them. I don’t remember exactly how I got a hold of this record, but I loved it from the first snarling of the opening title track: Groovy and heavy, with thoroughly heavy bottom and screeching vocals on top. I still love the track.

My December introduced me to the sing-along chorus side of Overkill. A simple little vocal line, followed by some ooo-ing, that sticks in your brain, and a midtempo, sludgy riff that grooves, builds and pushes ever onwards. Let Us Pray is another groovy, midtempo, heavy tune, with all the greatness of the first two tracks, plus some Sabbath-esque riffing. Stone Cold Jesus is as infectious as the plague and when I hear it, it stays with me for quite some time; great riff, great melodies and amazing arrangement.

There are a few songs that don’t quite measure up; Forked Tongue Kiss, Revelation and I am Fear are somewhat lesser compositions. They all lack that little extra tinge that makes remarkable. Revelation  might be the weakest song Overkill released since the forgettable I Hear Black in ’93.

Black Line is more of an upbeat song then the rest of the record. Lyrically the record is kind of dark and, at times, kind of creepy. Black Line has a bit humor to the lyrics, combine that with a moody but up beat riff and you get a good listening experience.

Dead Man has a massive groove and together with 80 Cycles, are the two strongest tracks on the entire record. The blend of groove, Sabbath-eque riffing pressed together in a thrash soundscape and a sing-along sensibility, you get some great metal. The shifting tempos seem natural and spices up the songs. Absolutely amazing tracks!

The record has a definitive 90s feel to it. The sound and focus on groove, and the fact that most of the songs from this thrash band is midtempo, are all clear evidence of the 90s. If you like(d) this sound and the grooves of Machine Hear or Pantera, give Overkill 90s releases a spin.

Recommended tracks: 80 Cycles, Dead Man, Stone Cold Jesus, Necroshine, My December

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Abattoir – Vicious Attack (Combat 1985)

This record’s sort of a gem, at lest side A is, the B-side is a forgettable collection of mediocrity. I picked this up at flea market, mainly to fill up the 5 for the price of 3 bargain dealy thing. I’ve listened to this record every now again, and the main draw is the first tracks off of the A-side; Screams From the Grave and Vicious Attack (Maniac). These two tracks are bursts of energy and scream-along greates. Vicious Attack (Maniac) is a great car song as well, at least if you want to drive fast. I have the speeding ticket to prove its effectiveness.

Both these songs are a cross of thrash and speed metal, they don’t have quite the edge of 1985 Slayer, Megadeth or Metallica, but they are fast, heavy and filled to the rim with riffs and headbanging goodness. Side-A is completed by the easily forgotten The Enemy and a ripping cover of Ace of Spades, dutyfully and lovingly done.

The B-side starts off with a warning of a lowering of the bar; The Living and the Dead. The riff is half assed, at best.  Stronger Than Evil is ok, it’s passable and unremarkable. Don’t Walk Alone is a classic skipper-track, with awful comic book style lyrics. Game of Death is the strongest track of the B-side. The riffs are better, the lyrics aren’t horrible and the energy is back.

All in all it’s not the best record, not the worst. It’s totally understandable why this band sort of faded away in the fog of time. One of the most annoying things about this record is the fact that it’s not available through Spotify, google play or Itunes. It was however re-released on cd and vinyl by Century Media a while back.

Recommended tracks: Screams from the Grave, Vicious Attack (Maniac), Ace of Spades

Rating: 2,5 / 5

Sepultura – Machine Messiah (Nuclear Blast – 2017)

Sepultura is one of those bands that never really interested me. I saw them live back in 04 or 05, opening for Motörhead. Being really impressed by the show, I went out and bought a couple of records; Roots, Beneath the Remains and Chaos A. D. I soon tired of all of them, Beneath the Remains held up a little longer then the rest

They have been on my radar, and I have listened to most of their releases in one form or another, most of them not really cutting it. I hated A-lex, it was just horrible from start to finish, and the Dante record I just didn’t understand.

 

Anyhoo, one day I was checking out new releases on my chosen streaming service and Phantom Self came on and I loved it straight away. It was an instant reaction. The riff is just super heavy and groovy, the vocals are distinct and catchy. I had to check out the rest of the album, when one of the songs was this great.

The album starts off strong; the title track is a slow moody number. It reminds me of Beneath the Silth off of Machine Heads Bloodstone & Diamonds or maybe Planet Caravan. I am the Enemy is a super heavy song, but kind of predictable; fast paced complete with the scream along chorus are known for. Iceberg Dances is the kind of track that grabs a hold of you and doesn’t let go. Great song!

 

Sadly, the next four songs don’t cut it for me. They’re predictable and sound a bit by numbers. They’re so formulaic that they turn annoying.

The final track is a good finish. Cyber God is punishing and grueling and extraordinary heavy. With a full on headbanging beat, this must be a great live track, it just has to.

 

I’m not going to join a Sepultura fanclub after this release, it brought them higher on my mountain of metal bands to listen to. But the four song, or the middle part of the album, just … bleh

 

Recommended tracks: Machine Messiah, Cyber God, Phantom Self

Rating: 3 / 5

 

Overkill – The Grinding Wheel (Nuclear Blast 2017)

Overkill continue to release consistent quality records. The Grinding Wheel is a solid piece of thrash metal and, in my humble opinion, it has a slight edge over other surviving 80s outfits. The Grinding Wheel is an overall stronger record than For All Kings, Dystopia, Repentless, Hardwired … to Selfdestruct, Under Attack  and Gods of Violence. The only one of my old heroes to come close to Overkill these days are Death Angel, in terms of new music.

All the hallmarks of Overkill are pushed to the front on this record. Blitz is screeching and screaming, Linsk and Tailer sound great, cohesive and blistering; pushing out riff after riff of headbanging / foot tapping intensity. DD is both rumbling and keeping the wall of sound solidly grounded. Lipnicki is solid on the kit. Everything sounds great!

Overkill sound like they’ve got an abundance of energy, where Metallica sound uninspired and Megadeth tired, Slayer bored. Overkill seem to still have the fire burning and some real, honest anger left in their hearts. I could have wished for a bit more diversity and experimentation. Overkill is balancing on the edge becoming their own parody. Just like Kreator, the lack of experimentation is apparent. I feel White Devil Armory had more variation in sound and style, as this record is in your face throughout.

As for the songs, I’m totally into Red, White and Blue as it combines groov, a bit of silliness, gang vocals, thrashing speed and blistering guitars. Overkills energy owes a lot to punk of the late seventies and that inspiration flows to the surface on high energy songs like The Mean  Green Killing Machine and Our Finest Hour.

The main issue with this release is the lack of room to breath or the time to think. But then again, I kind of like that.

 

Recommended tracks: Red White and Blue, Our Finest Hour, Lets all Go to Hades

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Kreator – Gods of Violence (Nuclear Blast 2017)

Yet another of the great surviving thrash bands seems to have grown stale. Kreator had a major relaunch of their sound with the release of Violent Revolution in 2001, this sound and style was perfected with the release of Enemy of God in 2005. Every release since then has been made from the same blueprint. Some songs have been excellent, some songs sound too much like previous releases and some songs seem tired. Slowly, but certainly, the lack of originality becomes apparent and the music seems stale and unimaginative.

Enemy of God is one of my desert island records and I’m glad that they stuck to this style of songwriting, but I would still like to see some experimentation and development of sound and songwriting. Gods of Violence contains loads of kick ass tracks; Totalitarian Terror, Hail to the Hordes, World War Now or Lions with Eagle Wings to name my favorites. Oh, the title track is also excellent.

The building blocks of Kreator’s sound that I particularly like are the furiousity of Milles vocals, the technicality of the guitar work; here I should point out Samis excellent soloing and sense of melody. The drumming of Ventor is also a trademark of the band. All of these are present on every single track, but for some reason this album doesn’t sit right with me.

When it comes to it, I think the similarities with previous releases is the thing that I can’t get passed. In a way it doesn’t feel like a new release, I have heard these songs before with slightly different lyrics or arrangements. BUT I  LIKE THE SONGS.

In all honesty this release drives me insane, I like it and it tires me. I recommend: Gods of Violence, Totalitarian Terror and Hail to the Hordes

Rating: 2 of 5 for lack of originality, 4 of 5 for the headbandingness of the tracks, 3,5 of 5 in total?

Witchery – In His Infernal Majesty’s Service (Century Media 2016)

This release snuck by me, I didn’t know about it until looking up Witchery on Spotify to listen Ashes to Ashes. I thought this band was over and done, with Axenrot now a full time member of Opeth and different singers coming and going. I’m kind of glad they didn’t stick to Legion on the mike, his voice wasn’t right for the sound. This new guy, Angus Norder, is much more on line with Tony Kampner. The mesh of the black metal vocals with thrashy riffs was always one of the key elements in Witchery’s sound, and I’m glad they found a new guy who can pull it off.

When I first got into the band it was the sing along silliness and banality of the lyrics in combination with the crushing guitars of Patrick Jensen and Richard Corpse that drew me in. The riffs are simple, but a near perfect combination of banality and blistering, always on the edge of the cliché. The big guitars are definitely present on this album. Stylistically this album is quite close Symphony for the Devil, their prime release from 2001.

The songs that immediately got stuck in my brain were Nosferatu, The Burning of Salem and Lavey-athan. These three all have the power and the headbanging qualities I want from Witchery; big powerful riffs, easy and catchy melodies. All of these were immediately stuck in my brain, and all three will feature in my great all time, go-to playlist.

Gilded Fangs is an extremed paced little ditty, short and sweet. Empty Tombs has really grown on me; it has that certain combination of heaviness and differing tempos. It got a slow, chugging part and a faster, thrashier part and the main riff is more of a mid paced kind of thing.  In Warm Blood is mid paced throughout. The vocal melody is great, with a creepy feel, especially the way he says “blood”, tickles my funny bone.  Feed the Gun is classic Witchery, a great riff builds and pulls, while the vocals inspire listener participating.

As always Sharlee D’Angelo has a thick and gritty bass. He never craves the spotlight, but is always clear and present. Excellent! New drummer Christofer Barkensjö does an excellent job and has a style that fits the band in a major way.

It’s quite hard to pick out the best track; the overall quality of the music is top notch throughout. If I had to choose, In Warm Blood and The Burning of Salem might have a slight edge over the others.

Rating: 4,5 / 5