Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mercyful Fate - Don't Break the Oath

Mercyful Fart

This... this is it?  Really?  THIS is the big genre defining classic that helped solidify 1984 as the seminal year for heavy metal?  I'm sorry guys, Don't Break the Oath is a god damned travesty, with literally not one single redeeming factor to warrant this legendary status it carries, and I'm actually blown away that it even attained this status in the first place, even when putting it in context of the year it was released.

First off, what the FUCK are y'all talking about calling this evil and atmospheric?  How could something this dorky and cheesy possibly be considered dark or evil?  I mean seriously, listen to those vocals.  Queen Diamond is quite literally the worst vocalist I've ever heard in all my years of metal fandom.  How can you invoke Satan when you sound like a four year old trying to sing the Van Halen songs you've heard your dad listening to?  Really, Lucifer would probably respond to his calls with flame-spitting laughter before squashing this little fairy under his hoof.  I mean really, the stupid "A-AH! A-AH! A-EE-A-OO-A-AH!" part in the middle of "The Oath" is so fucking silly.  Who takes this shit seriously?  How is that dark?  How can you hear a prepubescent castrato tunelessly wail his way through a bridge like that and think "Oh yeah, this is where true blasphemy happens!".  This is about as blasphemous as The Wiggles.  With happy, galloping drums and vibrant, melodic riffing, it's pretty much the exact opposite of "dark".  And even after all these listens, I don't know what "atmosphere" people are talking about.  Are y'all confusing "atmosphere" with "reverb"?  Because that's all this album is.  Weak, thin guitars drenched in reverb, farting out airy riffs that mean nothing.

The production in general is absolute ass, come to think of it.  This could be handwaved away as a product of the times, but let's face it, 80s metal production sucks.  The point of music is to HEAR it, not strain through fucked up mixes in hopes of differentiating the guitar from the white noise.  And don't tell me that the equipment wasn't as good as it is now, you can't fool me.  People still play guitars that were made in the 60s nowadays and they can sound beefy as hell.  Listen to Oceano or Whitechapel, for instance.  Those bands CRUSH, Mercyful Fate here just wisps along in the dead air, unable to stir anything thicker than hydrogen.  I hesitate to even call this metal, to be honest.  I mean yeah, there's riffs and they sing about Satan, but a band like Suicide Silence can touch on an actual topic like nihilistic pessimism and just pound skulls into dust while doing it.  Mercyful Fate flitters around gay melodies while crying about being buttraped by Leviathan.  The sound does the anti-riffs no favors.

Now let's not go thinking I'm a deathcore loving swoopy haired scene fag, I DO love real metal.  Bands like All That Remains can play melody and still be badass while Slipknot can take pure, unrelenting hatred and set it against a cacophony so genuine and heartfelt that the anger takes over the listener vicariously.  One time while listening to All Hope is Gone, I got so pissed that I punched my dog!  Mercyful Fate and Don't Break the Oath don't make me want to do any of that.  Hell if anything this album makes me want to shove myself in a locker.  Dorks who wear makeup and screech the highest notes they can like this deserve no less of a Fate (LOL!). 

Basically this album is fat and gay and nothing cool ever happens.  "Gypsy" has the most embarrassing vocal performance I've ever heard, and that's including Damien Storm and Keydragon.  People go on and on about these riffs but they're just so melodic and fruity that I can't take them seriously.  And really, not ONE heavy as fuck breakdown or chug to be found anywhere!  I'm not saying an album needs to be full of slams to be good, but it certainly helps!  This is the exact opposite of evil, and really doesn't even deserve the plastic it's pressed on.  Who buys vinyls anyway?  Dads and hipsters, that's who.  Mercyful Fate is for dads and hipsters.

And fags.

Fuck Mercyful Fate.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Athena - Twilight of Days

Toys R Us Metal

I'm gonna give it to you straight, like a pear cider made with 100% pears, Twilight of Days is really a terrible album.  There is so much wrong here.  The riffs are completely unengaging, the vocals are weak and mousey, the keys sound like a Fisher Price toy, and the production as a whole is flat and plasticky.  So many issues of this nature swirl into this sugary goop in the middle of a standard power metal album that has wallowed in obscurity for the better part of 14 years for damn good reason.  In a just world, that would be all the review I bother to write.

RATING - 20% 

Unfortunately for all of you, this isn't a just world, and instead it is a world where my taste stands in defiance of all common decency.  And with that I declare, Twilight of Days absolutely fucking rules despite the myriad of problems it carries.  If anything, this album is one of the greatest testaments to substance over style and the importance of good songwriting in the history of power metal, and it's tragically overlooked by so many other bands who try to stand out via bloated twenty two minute snorefests and fifty layers of dueling banjos.  No, fuck that, Athena take a very traditional approach to power metal, and write songs so god damned tight and warm that they might as well be your mom.  

I'm often criticized for generally sticking to more popular bands when it comes to metal.  You'll catch me bumping Blind Guardian a dozen times before I spin a Perpetual Fire album, so it's really sort of odd that this random obscurity from Italy honestly ranks amongst my favorites in power metal.  Really, the songwriting is so infectious and well done that I can honestly put Twilight of Days in the same company as Gambling with the Devil, Somewhere Out in Space, Evolution Purgatory, and many others of that ilk.  Granted, none of those albums really sound all that much alike (I just find this to be of similar overall quality), and Athena keeps in line with that by not really adhering to the over the top bombast of Rhapsody, nor the down to earth riff onslaught of Persuader.  I've seen them tagged as "progressive power metal", which I personally don't buy.  Really all that seems to mean is that they have a penchant for very low, heavy chugging riffs akin to Morgana Lefay, not long, flowing song structures and complex melodies like early Symphony X.  So if you've been able to sift through all the names I dropped there, the point is that Athena play a rhythmic style of power metal with a huge emphasis on vocal hooks and melodies, with speed, bombast, and flashy soloing taking a very distant back seat. 

But BH! In the opening fake out you called the vocals weak and the riffs boring, how can you praise the album if it has those problems when you say that's what the songs are based off of?  Doesn't that mean the entire idea of the album is broken? 

Not quite, this is an example of sheer charisma and character overpowering very obvious technical flaws.  Power metal was never an especially riff-centric style of metal in the first place, so the fact that the songs need to rest on the power of the hooks doesn't bother me much, nor should it you.  Tracks like "Falling Ghosts", "Hymn", and "Touch My Heart" all showcase what I'm talking about.  They're some of the lighter songs on the album, and they take poppy hooks and slather them liberally over admittedly mundane riffage.  Songs like "Lord of Evil" and "Til the End" take a darker approach, but still the sugary smiles can't stay away forever.  A huge amount of the album is highlighted with elements that mask the band's flaws.  Who cares that the riffs are boring when the hooks are so good?  Who cares that the production is ass when the choruses are so catchy?  Twilight of Days is an album that knows what it's good at, and thus focuses on precisely those elements.

I also said the vocalist was mousey, and that's really the best word for him.  Really, he sounds like his head is the size of a grapefruit.  It's high pitched almost to a fault and really just sounds like it's an adorable guardian of Redwall instead of a leather clad manchild like all PM singers actually are.  But despite this, there's a lot of confidence in this tiny voice, and he manages to have an almost indescribably booming grit to his squinting alto.  It's a paradox I still can't adequately explain, but I love it.  He takes center stage over every instrument barring maybe the keys during one of their several solos, and he just owns every moment of the spotlight.  Listen to the out-chorus of "Falling Ghosts" and tell me that this little four foot tall dork with a bad mustache doesn't have his feet planted in a power stance and his fist clenched tightly and outstretched towards his bedroom wall when he nails that balls out falsetto wail at the end.  

The real draw is honestly just the tightness and focus of the songwriting, and that's unfortunately the hardest thing to really elucidate in review form.  "Making the History" is a phenomenal power metal track, rife with aggressive double bass and a soaring chorus guaranteed to get stuck in your head.  On the other hand, "The Way to Heaven's Gates" is a phenomenal power metal track, rife with aggressive double bass and a soaring chorus guaranteed to get stuck in your head.  And yet on another hand, "Twilight of Days" is a phenomenal power metal yeah yeah yeah you get the idea.  The base components of every song are the same, but it's such a well written formula here that the songs all vary just slightly enough to have their own identity.  You won't find any recycled melodies here, and every chorus is striking and distinct.  The only expansive difference between some songs is the tone they take, with some ("Til the End", "Your Fear", "Lord of Evil", et cetera) being darker and heavier, while others ("Hymn", "Touch My Heart", "Twilight of Days", et cetera) take a notably lighter and more optimistic approach.  I'm just gonna take some time at the end of this paragraph to make absolutely clear that "The Way to Heaven's Gates" is absolutely one of my all time favorite power metal tracks, and any fan of the genre at least owes it to themselves to seek out this album for that track alone.

Really the only bad thing I can say about the album that can't be covered up by its strengths being just that damn strong is that the ballad near the end, "End of my Life", is total ass.  But then again the only power metal band in history who could ever write a ballad worth a shit has been Blind Guardian, so no logical person was going to go into that song expecting it to be any good anyway, so even that is easily overlooked.  Twilight of Days is a strong effort from a band with very notable flaws that should really hinder the music to the point of worthlessness, but the intangibles at play are just so fucking inspiring and entertaining that I can't help but fall in love anyway.

Basically this album is Tim Tebow, but I don't hate it.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Mulletcorpse - Disinfect


Part of me wants to just do the Spinal Tap thing and write a two word review, but even that sounds like more effort than Mulletcorpse is worth.  I mean, on one hand, they have a band name so blisteringly stupid that I can't help but try to convince myself that the band itself has to be good, but on the other hand, they truly do just suck.

They suck in a sort of weird way though, because they can play their instruments just fine, the recording sounds immaculate for the death/grind style they go for, I even think the low, roaring deathcore bellows sound nice.  The issue lies in their complete and utter inability to write anything with even the minutest semblance of coherence.  If you can follow me for a second into a completely different genre, I'd like to talk about Il Était Une Forêt... by QCDSBBQ stalwarts, Gris.  I'm not particularly a fan of the album (it's just not my style), but I absolutely adore the quiet closing track, "La Dryade".  I've heard it criticized as a poorly written classical piece because there's absolutely no flow to it.  It's just like eight separate parts all cut up and placed in a random order, and ergo, no matter how good those individual pieces are, the hasty assembly hinders the overall quality.  I don't agree in that context based on how fucking gorgeous those eight parts are, but I understand it.  Mulletcorpse does the same thing, except all of their individual parts are comprised of hackneyed blasts and grind riffs with out-of-nowhere Brain Drill sections and breakdowns that aren't quite ignorant enough to be enjoyable.

That's really the whole album in a nutshell, it doesn't lend itself to deep analysis because there's nothing to analyze further than face value.  Every haphazardly slapped together moment lacks the sort of charisma or flashiness to draw attention to it.  Mulletcorpse is basically the stitched together, Frankensteinian monster of twelve different bands that could never make it past the demo stage.  Like, I could point out the brocore shouts in "Life: Unwritten" or the incongruent consonant shredding on "The Fermented", but none of it matters because the entire album is made up of fifteen second snippets of different songs with nothing to tie them all together.  It's not particularly limp or anything, on paper it sounds fine enough to groove along to every now and again, and the jerky transitions between ever-so-slightly-different styles isn't nearly as jarring as I might make it seem, but it's still shitty because none of it stands out.  It's almost more offensive in its mediocrity than any abject awfulness.  Basically it's not worth listening to for the handful of cool sections amongst the swamp of Rings of Saturn emulation and Veil of Maya theft.

RATING - 40%

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Crypt Sermon - Out of the Garden

Eating my hat

It's sort of well documented that I don't care much for doom.  This isn't anything personal towards the bands that play it, I just generally prefer faster, more energetic music.  Perhaps this is why I prefer the "epic doom" style over the traditional Sabbath worship.  Sure, Sabbath is one of the all time greats and you'll find me spinning their 70s material just as much as any self respecting metal fan, but bands that try to evoke that occult atmosphere based in heavy, bluesy metal riffs just rarely reach the intended effect, whereas the bands like Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus reach for something far greater.  Crypt Sermon follows more in their footsteps than the whole occult psychedoomic "let's just try to be Coven" sound that's gotten so popular lately, and as a result they spend less time grounded in reality and more time amongst the clouds, looking down as the peasants till the fields and the nobles diddle kids.  There's a very ancient, regal sound to Out of the Garden that just commands respect from every corner.

Crypt Sermon's approach to metal here is very classy and respectable, and it carries itself like a revered crusader.  You grew up listening to legends of Crypt Sermon, and then when you finally see them, you just stand in starstruck awe.  The old adage of "tune low, play slow" doesn't hold much water here, though they do indeed do both of those things.  There's a lot of thought and care that went into crafting these songs, as nearly every riff feels like something that was sculpted out of hours and hours in a sweaty, hazy practice space.  Nothing feels like a jam that they just wound up noodling with and recording, nor does anything sound like it was written down on paper and then copied and practiced meticulously.  No, instead this all sounds very organic, like a mixture between the two.  Somebody thought of a riff and the band all worked together to tweak it to their pleasure.  As a result, every track is lovingly crafted with a healthy dose of twists and turns, with a beefy spine of weighty riffs.

The vocals are also fantastic as well, as it really needs to be with bands like this that are far more about substance than style.  There isn't any showboating to be found here (though I would argue that the main riff that comes about a minute and a half into "Into the Holy of Holies" is really flashy, based entirely on the fact that holy shit it's like the best riff I've heard all decade), and despite the skill of the clean, powerful vocals and the majestic riff writing and evocative guitar soloing, nobody tries to take center stage.  This works like the Boston Bruins when they're at their best.  There's no clear star on that team, everybody uses their talents as one cohesive team and creates something unstoppable.

I can't gush enough about how much I love "Into the Holy of Holies", which is basically a modern reimagining of the Solitude Aeturnus classic, "Seeds of the Desolate", but no other songs fall short of "great".  I find myself sort of mentally checking out during the stretch of songs preceding the obvious epic, but tracks like "Temple Doors", "Heavy Riders", and the title track all stand out as masterclasses in songwriting.  The riff writing is deceptively complex and the hauntingly huge vocals work together seamlessly.  I can't really go on forever about this because it can be pretty accurately summed up by saying "classic epic doom with a strong roots in the dirt", which admittedly is probably a dumb metaphor that only makes sense to me.  What I mean is that it takes the slow to mid paced lumbering-Ent riffs of Trouble and the soaring, majestic fretwork of Candlemass to create a very strong, wholly riff based experience, with the bonus intangibles of a mystical atmosphere layered over the top.  I can throw vague superlatives on this all day, but just know that this is meaty, beefy doom with a fantastic atmosphere on top, and that's all you need.  Plus, it's a Dark Descent release!  So maybe they should just stick to doom, since I'd take one Crypt Sermon over fifty Thantifaxaths.

RATING - 89%

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ensiferum - One Man Army


Ensiferum's career trajectory could be described as "wonky" or "inconsistent", but that's odd if you consider the fact that the personal ratings I've given every album increase until Victory Songs reaches the pinnacle and the following two albums score consecutively lower.  I mean, that seems pretty clear cut to me, no?  They started off inconsistent with a penchant for boring filler dullards, got more and more epic, focused, and energetic, and then got slightly experimental before just giving up and making a full album of those boring filler tracks from the debut.  It doesn't matter that my heart tells a different story about how they had numerous peaks and valleys and have experimented with a lot of ideas (not all of which hit bullseye) since day one; they went up and then went down.  Case closed.

In charges One Man Army, which opens with one of the best intro/full song combos they've had since "Ad Victoriam/Blood is the Price of Glory" in "March of War/Axe of Judgment".  I'm not kidding when I say that I was utterly floored by the intensity on display during the opening number.  The band hasn't sounded this hungry since 2007, and man is that a welcome change from the bland trot of Unsung Heroes.  This has been earning some comparisons to the debut album, and at least on "Axe of Judgment", it's absolutely fitting.  The insanely fast tremolo riffing with the soft, heroic choirs over the top, interspersed with jaunty jangling melodies and clear singalong moments can only bring to mind classics like "Windrider" or "Hero in a Dream".  Then the bridge devolves into an uncharacteristically heaving chugging riff, with banging toms and clear fist pumping "HEY!" moments before another crowd rousing gallop and soaring harmonized guitar solo.  This is just not the kind of thing you were ever gonna hear on the last album, and it was the absolute perfect song to open this album with.  It makes a definitive statement right out of the gate that they heard the complaints about Unsung Heroes, and they aimed to correct it.

There's.... well there's a slight problem with that.  It does assuage the sting of the last disappointment by loading this album down with more aggressive, epic, and most importantly, focused songs, but it sort of did exactly what I didn't like about the debut.  Yeah, it's back to being pretty much half fast songs and half slow songs.  Now, this isn't all bad, because some of the slower/mid paced tracks are pretty good, "Heathen Horde" brings to mind the fabulous "Wanderer" and "Warrior Without a War" conveys some great atmosphere, but fuck just drop the Heathen Throne saga already.  It doesn't work, it took up the only boring segments of From Afar and managed to be an agonizingly long 17 minute track on Unsung Heroes.  I don't think I can chalk it up to coincidence anymore that every single track labeled with that subtitle ends up being a pointless listen.  Across the six tracks that's comprised it so far (I don't care what anybody says, "Tumman Virran Taa" is part of it), we're at a staggering 55 minutes of cruddy music from the band.  Just... why?  So yes, as I'm sure you could guess, "My Ancestor's Blood" and "Descendants, Defiance, Domination" aren't particularly good.  They're actually fairly inoffensive when taken at face value (and to be fair, "My Ancestor's Blood" has potential to be one of their good mid paced tracks, but it just falls flat and ends up doing nothing worthwhile), just being boring songs that trot along at mid pace with bland melodies that don't elicit any particularly strong emotions.  But for some reason they irritate me probably more than they should.  Maybe it's just because fuck Heathen Throne stop it seriously.

Okay, so that's like sixteen minutes of the album that I definitively would rather not listen to, does the rest fare better?  Yes of course.  Like I said, this brings to mind the first album, so the dichotomy between songs is really clear and the gap is pretty wide, with "Cry for the Earth Bounds" being a sort of okay but kinda lame mid paced drowse-fest, but the title track and "Two of Spades" just completely slay.  I was pretty vocal early on about how the title track was lame, but within the context of the full album it actually works marvelously.  It's a quick, high octane barnburner with a massive pre-chorus.  The actual chorus lets the buildup down slightly but the massive choirs end up being the part that sticks in your head so it's not so bad. 

"Two of Spades" has been getting a lot of hype during the album's promotional run, and let me tell you, it's completely deserved.  I'm not kidding when I say this may have finally usurped "Battle Song", "Guardians of Fate", or "Victory Song" as my favorite Ensiferum track.  It opens first with a very adrenaline pumping intro reminiscent of "Twilight Tavern", and from there it just picks up speed and the melodies only get stronger.  This is what they're best at, they can intertwine this strong metallic intensity of trad and power metal and throw these unabashedly dorky folk melodies over it and make it completely fucking work.  It all feels like it was born this way, like the two main elements of their sound were borne from the same embryo.  They developed together before being brought into this world together, and it shows.  Now apart from having one of the best choruses the band has ever had, there is one other aspect of this song that's been getting press, and let me tell you how utterly fucknuts wrong people are about it.  I've read a lot of press reviews long before release say that it utilizes "western" folk elements and constantly compare it to "Stone Cold Metal" from two albums ago.  Okay, so it's not something they haven't done before, right?  They already had the banjos, tin whistles, and saloon piano breakdown in that song, they can't really surprise me.  Yeah that's where everybody drops the ball like Jackie Smith.  The band does indeed break down into something they haven't done before, but that thing is a Dschinghis Khan song.  I'm not even kidding, this is straight up dorky late 70s disco music, complete with the "HOO!  HAH!" shouts leading into the verse section.  It's perfect, I can't imagine anything else this stupid being this incredible.  I can only imagine the band, with their signature look of wearing nothing but Finnish flags lining up in a choreographed dance sequence with gigantic grins on their face, punching the air in rhythm and kicking their feet out with glee before Markus takes a step forward and says his one line while the backing dancers yell out their response immediately afterwards.  I'll never get over it, something this dumb should be shunned for the forced randomness but it's just too perfect.  The entire album, to me, hinges on how fucking great the metal parts and how unexpectedly fun the silly parts of "Two of Spades" are.

So yeah, the opening rant was basically just to illustrate that Ensiferum managed to overcome their worrying slide into worthless crap, and while they've emulated their least-good classic album with the self titled debut, the same thing holds true here as it did there; the good songs are so fucking good that the boring shit of the bad songs really doesn't stick with you too much.  "Axe of Judgment" and "Two of Spades" are two of the best songs they've written in eight years, and there are a couple other great tracks scattered throughout.  The only real issue is the inconsistency that plagued their earliest work.  Markus and Jari have shown that they have the exact same problem with songwriting, since they've both been struggling with slow, epic songs and completely nailing fast and melodic ones ever since they parted ways.  So with that in mind, the album starts with a four track streak of fun, goes on a slight dip, picks up again with the flawless "Two of Spades" and frankly only half-good "My Ancestor's Blood" before being skippable at the end.  This isn't the godsend that we were all hoping for after Unsung Heroes, but it's a good pick-me-up and shows that the band does indeed care about pleasing the fans a bit.  They still have some fire left in them, and now lets just hope they can focus it for the next album.

RATING - 79%

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Desolate Shrine - The Heart of the Netherworld

Snoring through Wonka's Boat to Hell

Eh, all that can really be said here is that Desolate Shrine are fairly decent at a fairly decent style and that's really it.  This'll be a short one because despite the album's 60+ minute runtime, you really only get one musical idea.  If you've heard this style of black/death metal that's gotten pretty popular lately, you've heard Desolate Shrine before.

The Heart of the Netherworld isn't a bad album, and I really like some of the elements they tried working with, particularly the very long songs (apart from the intro, nothing is shorter than six minutes and the average length is probably somewhere around nine minutes), and I like that they don't pad out the runtime with spooky atmospheric parts or anything.  They just blast from minute one and never stop.  It's a very filthy, high octane ride through dark, twisted corridors, and with better songwriting I think this could really stand out in the same way Bolzer has.  Now, I'm not much of a Bolzer fan for the same reason (a couple great riffs here and there amidst a mostly plateaued experience), but both bands do the one thing they do fairly well.  I can't really pick out highlights because of the plateau problem I mentioned, but it's a fairly solid romp.  No song is going to dip below "pretty okay", and if you're a marked fan of the style then you'll likely lap this up like a thirsty dog.  But for somebody like me who craves a little bit more variety between songs unless that one idea just absolutely blows me away, this leaves me feeling kind of cold.

That said, coldness is definitely something the band seems to be aiming for, though in a different capacity.  The tone of everything is very distant and alien despite the upfront and punishing nature of the music, and the effect would be cool if it had any smattering of originality behind it.  It might be unfair, but I think that's Desolate Shrine's biggest problem, their timing was just a bit off.  The Heart of the Netherworld was released during such a groundswell of albums in this style that it manages to ride the wave of hype and good will, but not early enough to really stand out in any way thanks to them not really producing any new ideas.  "We Dawn Anew" knocks the tempo down to a sickly crawl, but that one churning number still manages to just blend into the white noise that the rest of the album produces.  Basically it's a Dark Descent release, that's it.  I pick on the label a lot because it's just sort of an easy target thanks to their visibility and rabid fanbase, but really and truly they've never released a bad album (apart from Emptiness's Nothing but the Whole, which I think is just awkward and unfocused, but I'm in a massive minority on that one), but this, just like most of their oeuvre, is a distant, twisted album full of dissonant morbidity that just ends up falling by the wayside since strong songwriting seems often neglected over an overwhelming atmosphere.  And that's what this is, it's overwhelming in its darkness but the meat is undercooked and bland.  It's worth at least a cursory listen and it's far from being shitty, but it's background black/death in the grand scheme of things.  Behemoth may mostly kinda suck but at least they know how to grab your attention.  Desolate Shrine doesn't.

The cover art fucking rules though, so there's that.

RATING - 60%

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Gamma Ray - Empire of the Undead


Man, it seems like Gamma Ray just has no idea what they're doing anymore, doesn't it?  Kai's been running on fumes for nearly a decade at this point, with Majesty thru To the Metal being riddled with blatant plagiarism (though the former still stands as their last great album despite the constant riff stealing) and everything since Land of the Free pt. II: Electric Boogaloo sounding like a calculated exercise in ticking every single trope the band had established as instrumental to their classics up to that point without actually reproducing the spirit of the 95-05 era.  Unfortunately, Empire of the Undead, while teasing some great tracks with "Master of Confusion" and the title track a few years back, ends up as yet another nigh-lifeless retread through moments they'd already perfected twenty years earlier.

Nothing illustrates this more than the opening track, "Avalon".  On its own, it's not necessarily a bad song.  It's got a nice, catchy chorus and a great galloping bridge, those are two things that Gamma Ray has always been at and I could hear them recycle that formula for the next two decades if the songwriting was good enough. And therein lies the problem, it's just not.  Not anymore.  "Avalon" was clearly chosen as the opener purely in an attempt to recapture the lightning in a bottle they nailed in 1995 with "Rebellion in Dreamland".  In all actuality, this wouldn't make the cut on anything up to No World Order.  That's the saddest part about this album really, it's full of songs that are essentially okay, but just so far away from the majesty that the band used to churn out with alarming regularity a decade ago.

Now, I'm being slightly unfair, and I know I should just judge this album on its own merits, but even then all I can really say is that it's a pretty safe and predictable album with only three songs that stand out as above average.  "Hellbent" is a mad thrashing ripper with more vitriol than they've arguably ever showcased.  The lyrics are cheesy and dumb but the message stands tall regardless: "We are here because we fucking love this music and we're going to play it until we drop dead mid-song".  The title track fares about equally as well, being one of the darkest and most aggressive songs they've penned since "Hell Is Thy Home".  "Master of Confusion" stands as the most "normal" song they've written in a while that's managed to rise above mediocre, since it rides on a recycled melody they've used at least twice before and just retreads lyrical themes they've beaten to death over the years, but it's a charming uptempo power rocker that is certainly worth a listen and stands as a highlight.  And I guess I can offer up some props to "Demonseed" for the main riff being a nice jaunty bouncing number with a touch of blues flavoring.  Granted, it's only two notes away from being identical to the outro of Megadeth's "Wake Up Dead", but that's been Kai's modus operandi for a while now so it's almost pointless to hold it against him anymore.

But really that's it, the rest of the album goes by without much consequence.  There's a lot of filler to be found here, even if it's pretty varied in execution.  "Time for Deliverance" continues their time honored tradition of shoehorning in awful ballads on damn near every album and "Born to Fly" makes its mark by being one of the most utterly inconsequential songs ever featured on a power metal album.  I can namedrop songs all day but really Empire of the Undead finds itself being reminiscent of a Hammerfall album in the sense that it has a couple good songs amidst a bunch of boring go-nowhere filler.  And just like Hammerfall, Gamma Ray are sticking to their strengths throughout the duration of the record, the sad truth is just that, apart from Kai's voice (which is just as strong as ever), the band isn't all that strong anymore in the songwriting department.  I remember not really noticing until their live album, but damn near 100% of their best songs feature some sort of epic break in the bridge where the whole band falls out and builds up again for one huge release.  They redid this at least a dozen and a half times to great effect, but it never mattered because it was always awesome.  If they tried that now, it'd be massively noticeable by the sheer fact that there's a very large chance that the song surrounding such a moment would be toe tapping at best and soul meltingly dull at worst.

Maybe Zimmerman's departure was more instrumental to their future than I had initially realized (I'm pretty sure the other three guys did the bulk of the writing, didn't they?), but at the end of the day, Empire of the Undead sees Gamma Ray keep their streak alive of not releasing any out-and-out bad albums or songs, but still ends up being on the bottom end of their oeuvre, despite the darker shift in tone.  Worth a listen for established fans for the few good songs, but most of them will probably leave the experience feeling underwhelmed on the whole.  It's another album to justify more tours, but it's nothing you're going to proudly display in the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame.

RATING - 60%

Monday, January 19, 2015

Friday, January 2, 2015

Lord Mantis - Pervertor

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark just got weirder

Taste Swap round 5, bitches!  I'm bringing this fad back, and this time I've dragged the monstrous Thumbman, dystopia4, down with me.  The guy may do almost nothing except lift weights and listen to sludge, but every once and a while he takes a break to write reviews, and when he does he's one of the most consistent out there.  And so with that in mind I asked him to pair up with me for this little game I play, and the album he gave me was, much like the last two I did (Witchcraft and Bodycage), very, very good.  Enter Pervertor, by Chicago's own Lord Mantis.

With my first look at the (gorgeously grotesque) cover art, my mind understandably jumped to Dragged into Sunlight's monumental Hatred for Mankind, and I'm not alone because the two bands seem to be compared to one another.  The difference to me is that while Dragged into Sunlight takes visceral black metal and spreads it liberally over dark, oppressive doom, Lord Mantis takes that same Nordic vitriol and instead uses it to coat a base of filthy sludge.  Now generally, I don't give a fuck about sludge (which is precisely why I do these games, of course), but apparently taking the dank, grungy sounds of Grief and sandblasting it with the screeching hatred of USBM makes for a pretty fucking swell combination, because Pervertor completely rips face.

The first thing that stood out to me were the vocals, which channel Melechesh's Ashmedi in terms of sheer force combined with unrelenting harshness.  It sounds like he's pushing the words out of his body with the force of a volcanic eruption, and it comes off as so god damned gritty and powerful that I can't imagine any other way this band could possibly approach the vocal position.  There's a fifteen second howl at the end of "Ritual Killer" that just sounds like the vocal representation of genocide, and it only took the opening lines of "Pervertor of the Will" to cement this as one of the most vicious performances of 2012.

I mentioned Grief earlier, mainly because they're one of the very few sludge bands I'm familiar with in any capacity, but that's honestly not a great comparison because Lord Mantis seems to approach the style with a much different mindset.  Grief is about misery and despair, while Lord Mantis is about misanthropy and hatred.  As such, the music contained here is much more aggressive, which is largely due to the black metal half of the band's style.  The riffs rarely devolve into cliched tremolo abuse, instead working their way around very twisted patterns and evoking an atmosphere of filth.  The bluesy roots of the style rear their head occasionally (like on "The Whip and the Body"), but it never falls into Sabbath retreads or anything like that.  All it really does is keep the songs varied enough for them all to have their own identity in co-ordinance with the ideal of keeping the album unified and cohesive.  The whole album focuses on seismic heaviness, and that's really all I could ask out of it.

This is another case where there really isn't much fault I can find in an album.  This absolutely knows what it set out to do, and Pervertor certainly accomplished that goal.  It's dirty, raw, bloody, and visceral.  Basically any adjectives you could use to describe a knife fight apply here equally as well.  Since jumping from Candlelight to Profound Lore and adding the omnipresent Ken Sorceron to the fold, the band has found its way into the closest thing to the mainstream that metal really has anymore (that being the XM metal station and being namedropped on MetalSucks and similar publications), so I think it's safe to assume they've gotten slightly more accessible with their later releases.  If so, that's a shame, because the unrelenting vitriol contained on Pervertor is brilliant, and we really legitimately need more bands focusing on mood and songwriting like this.  Lord Mantis has a couple of tricks in their arsenal, and they employ all of them wonderfully here.  Even if you end up hating this, I dare you to tell me the vocals suck.  This sickly malformed and fanatical howling is pretty much the closest thing to objectively great you're going to find in extreme metal.  Definitely worth a listen if you're not a pussy, bro.

Cal used to have his own blog but he hasn't updated it in over a year, but you can find his MA reviews here, and he also reviews for The Metal Observer, so you may know him already, but he's pretty swell so read his stuff dammit

RATING - 90%

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Welcome... I bid you weeeelcoooome.  TO LIFE INSIDE! LAIR OF THE BASTARD!

Okay I couldn't think of a good opening this year but don't you try to tell me that W.A.S.P. is anything other than awesome so dammit I'll reference them if I want to.  Well anyway, 2014 has drawn to a close, and the time has come for me to sit back in my easy chair (shoddily assembled office chair from Walmart), stroke my magnificent wizard beard (douchey bloatee), sip my fine scotch (Jack and Coke, very heavy on the whiskey), and puff on my classy corncob pipe (this one's true), and ruminate on the past year in the realm of heavy music.  Yes it's time once again for the BH Award for Album of the Year, featuring the countdown from 13, because that's an evil sounding number and I'm a total poser.  For the second consecutive year, I feel like the overall volume and quality has once again gone down on the whole.  There are some phenomenal albums chilling at the top but it was even harder this year than last year to round out a solid thirteen that I'm really confident about.  But in the end, I think I got it pretty solid, and it's time once again to roll out the red carpet and pay tribute to the best.  Rules are as always, no EPs, full lengths only (bummer because Iron Reagan's Spoiled Identity is spectacular but it's only five fucking minutes long so I couldn't in good conscience put it on here).  So whatever let's get it going.  ROLLOUT!


13. Halberd - Remnants of Crumbling Empires
This is a fascinating project for me because I'd watched it grow from a simple idea from lyricist Antoine Richard to hook up with some internetical friends and write some death/doom, all the way to the eventual release a few years later.   Really, the final result is an excellent slab of what the members refer to as "beanie worship", basically meaning Monotheist era Celtic Frost and Triptykon.  It's very good, with a vocal performance more monstrous than Lou Ferrigno and a guitar tone bigger than Troy Aikman's hands.  Let's just say that this ranked on my list, and the new Triptykon didn't make the cut, if that's any indication of quality for y'all.  It's not a perfect album because it kinda drags in spots, but that's the only thing keeping it from a higher spot.

12. Seprevation - Consumed
I'm not sure I can adequately explain precisely why I like this album so much.  It's a debut album from a random unknown British death metal band, but holy fuck does it shred.  Basically it's just plain old death metal but it's played with an unrivaled ferocity; a vicious bludgeoning unseen outside of some of the more feral Swedeath bands in the genre's heyday.  There are riffs galore and the songs never rely on any sort of silly gimmick to stand out.  This is just purely focused songwriting and brilliantly tight musicianship combining into a primordial blend of barbaric savagery.  Fuck off with that progtechnical JacoPastoriouscore like Beyond Creation and whatever Job for a Cowboy thinks they are now, this is exactly the kind of mentality that young death metal bands need to be striving for.

11. Space Eater - Passing Through the Fire to Molech
Serbia strong!  The third album from these squatting Slavs is just intense as fuck from beginning to end.  It's pure thrashing lunacy from start to finish and never takes its foot off the gas, which is exactly the way I like it.  There are also some excellent touches of power metal thrown in, particularly in the vocals, which sound like a very raw, bloody blend between the dude from Torian and Sebastian Bach, oddly enough, on the high screams.  Generally though, it's blisteringly aggressive and one of the most refreshing thrash albums I've heard since... well since Game Over's album earlier this year, but this is better and only reaffirmed my belief that great thrash metal indeed does exist out there and we've been way too harsh on the genre lately.  This is the only thrash/power metal album on this list, so fans of the genre need to check it for sure.

10. Hoth - Oathbreaker
I've already given this one a full review, so those curious should really just go read it, but for a quick recap: this is a wonderfully organic record that manages to be both bleak and triumphant at the same time.  It's a great blend of melodic folky black metal with a pristine sound and epic scope.  I love the cold landscapes it paints, and I love how well they twist themselves into this warm optimism that permeates the record.  The melodies are all sublime and everything is just so well put together.  I can't figure out the correct combination of words to really do this justice to what it sounds like, so just take my word for it that it's awesome.

9. Cannibal Corpse - A Skeletal Domain
Fuck, I already gave this one a full review too (and I gave it a lower score than Oathbreaker up there too, imagine that).  Basically all you need to know is that this is Cannibal Corpse, so of fucking course it's going to rule.  It's yet another entry in a long line of great albums from an easy top ten favorite band of mine.  Everything that makes the band so good is here and just as strong as ever.  It's a little more homogenous than previous efforts, which is why it didn't rank as high as Torture did two years ago, but it's still an incredibly fun record to crank at any time, and "Kill or Become" is still cemented in my mind as one of the best songs they've ever written.  I'm so happy they're making it a live staple.  FIRE UP THE CHAINSAW!

8. Vader - Tibi et Igni
Fair warning, at this point in the list you're not going to see very many obscure underground gems.  Of all the bands that delivered this year, the perennial heavyweights delivered the hardest.  Poland's greatest export shows once again why they're universally regarded as death metal legends.  This is just as stuffed to the gills with classic tracks as any given Vader record.  "Go to Hell", "Where Angels Weep", "Eye of the Abyss", "Hexenkessel", "Triumph of Death", "Abandon All Hope", just god damn this is so good.  I may have ranked this lower than the previous album, but this is probably the strongest album since Impressions in Blood, and also one of their most vicious.  They haven't sounded this hungry in eons, and as a fan I just absolutely could not be happier about that.

7. Grave Digger - Return of the Reaper
This record caught some flak for being a shameless throwback to a more popular time in the band's history (that being 93's incredible comeback album, The Reaper), especially since they've always been so successful with subtle experimentation over the years while always remaining true to their core principles, but fuck that I don't care, this album destroys.  This is a throwback to possibly their best album, and as a result it's the most energetic and youthful album they've churned out since Rheingold.  It's pure, ballsy heavy metal with a malicious sneer.  From the first time you hear the chorus of "Hell Funeral", you know you're in for a ride.  It's odd how this is the most inspired I've heard Grave Digger in years, and yet this is the first album in a while that just says "fuck it, we're not going dark or epic, we're just gonna riff you to death this time".

6. Comeback Kid - Die Knowing
Okay, here's where I'm finally gonna start to lose people, because here's the first of two non-metal albums featured on this list.  I decided to allow hardcore again because seriously, I love this album just so god damned much.  This album is just dripping with raw, filthy emotion, and the music spares no expense in matching the vitriol of the lyrics.  Comeback Kid has always straddled the line between punk and hardcore (well, they have at least since they got this vocalist), but this one has two feet and like eight toes on the hardcore side this time around, and it's just a brutally heavy album in both senses of the word.  This is an open, bloody account of life and it just wrecks you with viciousness from start to finish.  I realize most metal fans prefer hardcore like Xibalba, but trust me when I say Comeback Kid is legit.

5. 1349 - Massive Cauldron of Chaos
Man remember when these guys were being hailed as the saviors of black metal around the time Hellfire came out?  Remember how badly they torpedoed themselves with the following two trainwrecks?  Well here they are, nearly ten years late, but they finally gave that 2005 masterpiece a worthy followup.  1349 was always at their best when they were just tearing forwards with breakneck speeds and focusing on fiery intensity instead of cold misery like most black metal bands, and this is a brilliant depiction of why that's the case with them.  Finally, they quit fucking around and just made a ferocious, biting album all the way through.  The riffs are ear catching again, the drums are showy and overdone again, this is what they do best.  Take everything well past its logical extreme.  And then just keep going.

4. Get the Shot - No Peace in Hell
And here's the second hardcore album on the list.  This one is a bit more metal-friendly, as it is riffy as fuck.  The band gets a lot of crap for ripping off Incendiary and Suburban Scum (two other awesome bands, for the hardcore deficient amongst you), which is really kinda bullshit (though "Rotting Idols" totally does steal a riff from Terror), but even if there wasn't a single original note on the album I wouldn't give a damn.  I think the reason I've been gravitating towards hardcore lately is my love of simplicity (how many complex albums are on this list? Just Hoth?) and intensity, and those are departments where Get the Shot excel.  The vocals are a little high pitched and difficult to get used to but these riffs and breakdowns are just out of this world.  Every metal fan deserves to give this band a chance.

3. Striker - City of Gold
After winning BH AOTY in 2010, Striker kinda went limp with the followup to the brilliant Eyes in the Night.  Well here's City of Gold, and throws maturity and darker edge straight out the window and goes right back to simply being over the top and ridiculous.  Striker pulls no punches with this one, and it's just a bare knuckle blast throughout the duration.  Fuck off with your ballads and slow dark songs, that's not what we're here for.  Striker, for being big dumb clowns who are completely unapologetic about being 80s throwbacks, are pretty damn smart if they could notice that crowds at shows always seem more active and excited during the fast and anthemic songs and saying "Well shit, if they like those the most, let's just write that kind of song exclusively".  Why the hell can't every other trad metal band figure that out?

2. Tengger Cavalry - Ancient Call
Hey look, another past AOTY winner, plus another album I've already given a full review to!  This album is just phenomenal, and Tengger Cavalry is on an unbelievable hot streak, and with Nature Ganganbaigal (he changed his name to the one his Mongolian side of the family uses, because this guy doesn't half ass anything, including his own goddamn name) at the helm, I don't see that changing.  The ideas are all the same as they've always been, twangy horsey fiddles and throat singing mixed with monstrous galloping riffs and some of the catchiest songwriting this side of disco.  I wouldn't change a thing about this band or album, and neither should you.

And the winner is... 

1. Gargoyle - Geshiki 
Yeah I lied when I said Space Eater was the only band on the list with power or thrash metal involved.  Nobody should be surprised considering my well advertised boner for Gargoyle, but god damn did they impress with this one.  This is the spiritual successor to Future Drug, and I love every syllable of that sentence.  These guys are far too old to be thrashing this hard, but Geshiki proves that Gargoyle are ageless wonders who aren't afraid to continually experiment and try new things.  There are Gargoyle trademarks abound, like the humongous epic number ("Fullcolor Answer"), sheer riff laced lunacy ("Kettei", "Uzumaku Taiyou"), light speed melodicism ("Gordian Knot"), and another entry into the Best Song Ever category ("Mankai Oratio").  Along with those, they have an instrumental song with symphonic touches ("Tsubasu no Kioku") and a massive and emotional closer ("Namida no Kachi").  This album has no right to be as good as it is, especially considering how they've been slowly trending downwards with Kijuu (the only album they've released since I've been doing these lists that didn't rank), but this is just phenomenal in every sense of the word.  I know I've been full staff raving about this band for years now and very few people seem to have actually converted over to the altar to worship with me, but I don't give a fuck.  You should start listening to me and start listening to Gargoyle.  A very worthy recipient of the BH Award for Album of the Year 2014, and Japan's second title!

And now for something completely the same...


Shadow Host - Apocalyptic Symphony: I really, really wanted to put this on the list, because it would have ranked probably around 9-10, but I just couldn't due to petty bureaucracy.  It was released on December 27th, 2013.  Yeah, only five days prior to the new year, so it really had no chance of being included on the 2013 list (which it also would have ranked on), but in the interest of fairness I just couldn't bring myself to bend the rules.  Tough break, because this is exactly the band and the album that Persuader fans like myself needed to be listening to to tide ourselves over until The Fiction Maze would ever finally, finally come out.  Speaking of which...

Persuader - The Fiction Maze: GOOD LORD FINALLY!  I've been waiting for this for fucking years and it's finally fucking here.  Thankfully, it's actually very good, which I was worried about based on the hype-to-waiting ratio.  It's not quite as good as the albums ahead of it on the list, but if every song was as good as the title track, this would easily be number 1.  It's basically the exact kind of thing we all expected (that being a middle ground between the aggression of Evolution Purgatory and the melodicism of When Eden Burns), and it's a great album as well.  It kinda drags at parts and that's what keeps it down, but the title track alone is worth the price of admission.

Young and In the Way - When Life Comes to Death: This one really throws you for a loop, since the band name screams hardcore, the album cover screams hardcore, and the label it's on is even a straight up hardcore label, but what you'll get upon listening is almost entirely rough, pissed off black metal.  Yeah yeah there's a lot of crust here too, but of all the bands that go for this style and mix crust with metal, nobody is more metallic than these guys, and it certainly helps that they're very good to boot.
Prajna - The Summer Eclipse: Slightly goofy vocals is literally the only thing dragging this album down.  Andres Murillo has shown an absolute mastery of guitar and songwriting, as there's really no reason an album based in USPM and German speed metal and centered around anime should ever be this good.  "Heart of Fire" is one of the best tracks all year, and all the rifts and solows are top notch.  But like I said, the thin, high pitched vocals start off charming but quickly wear out their welcome.  He's young though, so I'm sure his voice will be more filled out by the time the next album rolls around, because musically this is definitely worthy of a spot.

Veldlokk - Feral Divinity: Another one I wanted to include purely because the band is so unknown and the music is so good.  It's basically just Immortal worship cranked up to eleven.  Think Blizzard Beasts but sharper.  For a guy who doesn't really listen to a whole lot of black metal, this stood out as one of the exceptional releases in the genre to me.


Sargeist - Feeding the Crawling Shadows: This is easily my disappointment of the year, nothing else even comes close to the sheer ratio of hype to delivery.  Let the Devil In is a stone cold classic of modern black metal and was going to be hard to produce a followup for regardless, but this wasn't the answer.  Production is weak instead of raw and the songs are pedestrian instead of mystical.  I feel like this was supposed to be a blend of the raw viciousness of Satanic Black Devotion with the splendor of Let the Devil In and it just misses both marks.

Nocturnal Breed - Napalm Nights: Man I had such a stiffy for Fields of Rot, and this was a total surprise seven years later.  I was convinced the band was done.  And now?  Well I still kinda think that, though for a different reason.  Just nothing stands out here.  It's just as intense as its predecessor, which was admittedly one of the biggest selling points, but this time none of the songs are particularly memorable, even the twelve and a half minute title track.

Slough Feg - Digital Resistance: I've gone on about this one for ages already.  Scalzi doesn't sound like he's trying anymore and the music is massively suffering as a result.  Shame, he's still a very creative guy with a great voice, but he's getting lazy and it's super frustrating.

Accept - Blind Rage: SNOOOOOOORE.  Man after how good Stalingrad was, I was all prepared to pencil this into the top 13 as soon as it was announced, but holy shit is this album boring.  The Tornillo era started off on such a good foot, but I guess they were bound to show their age eventually.  Way to fuck up a good thing, guys.

Hour of Penance - Regicide: Did you guys notice that Hour of Penance released something this year and it didn't end up on my list?  Yeah I dunno, it's no different in theory than what they've been doing ever since The Vile Conception, it's still tech death at its finest, but this one just didn't grab me.  It's one of the better albums this year, but based on how much I loved the previous three albums, this is a big letdown.

Gamma Ray - Empire of the Undead: This is another one that really only ranks because the advance stuff had hyped me up so much.  The Masters of Confusion EP/really long single had teased with two great, classic styled Gamma Ray songs with "Masters of Confusion" and "Empire of the Undead".  The unfortunate part is that apart from those two songs and "Hellbent", nothing stands out.  The shameless riff borrowing is still disturbingly prevalent and they clearly tried to capture the same lightning in a bottle that they did on Land of the Free by opening with a nine minute epic, but the songwriting just isn't there anymore.

As for the lowlights, I don't know, there were so many releases that did nothing for me but didn't really suck either, so I think I'm gonna have to just temporarily retire the Worst Albums section, but there were two really clear lowlights on the year that I'm gonna shine a bit of light on:

Tuomas Holopainen - The Life and Times of Scrooge 
I mean really, what did you expect?  My review for this got me in a surprising amount of trouble for bashing what is apparently a national treasure in Europe, but fuck y'all, the concept was silly and the execution was even worse.  It's a boring, go-nowhere album and it elevated itself from "painfully boring and bad" to "hilarious lightning rod of controversy" thanks to the outrage of some butthurt weirdos (not even just on this site, I've gotten comments elsewhere too) about my handling of the subject matter.  Scrooge, Duck Tales, pretty much anything duck related has become a huge joke with friends, so if nothing else that was a lot of fun that came out of this.

Jari Maenpaa's Colossal Whining and Subsequent Bitch Fits 
I really can't even go on anymore about this whole saga.  Jari completes half an album in a decade and then goes on massive rants about how it's all the fault of the label for not giving him more money and then reaches out  to (begs) fans to help.  When interest is generated in a kickstarter fund (something the label was rightfully against but eventually caved when pressure mounted), he then reveals his grand plan to offer nothing worthwhile for supporters (you mean the album will not be demo quality, feature all the songs, and the booklet is optional? JARI YOU'RE A SAINT) in return for them building him an entire house, complete with a massive home studio and a personal sauna.  He then has the gall to complain that not enough of his fans are helping, knock his manager for a lack of support in the breath immediately after mentioning how he fronted some of his own money to help out the band financially, and then claim that having his own house would actually be a downgrade from the apartment he currently lives in (which he previously blamed for being the reason he can't record or do any work on his own) because then he'd have to do chores.  I mean, honestly this whole thing was a personal highlight for myself, because my open letter about the situation was passed around some very high profile areas of the internet, my traffic spiked substantially, MetalSucks wrote an article about me, Jari himself likely read it because his followup whine mentioned almost every single point I made verbatim, and even friggin' Heri Joenson from Tyr had said something to me about the whole thing.  This whole thing was definitely the catalyst for my fifteen minutes of fame, but if I take my personal pride away from the whole thing it's a gigantic disgrace to the musical process and just reveals a once respected figure in metal to be nothing more than a gargantuan egomaniac so out of touch with reality that he could actually ask people to build a house for him and then indignantly lambast everybody who didn't offer to help in such an absurd request.  A lot of people and fans turned on Jari in 2014, and personally, I'm actually kind of glad for that because we've been putting up with a lot of bullshit from him lately, but it's still disgraceful and a huge black mark on metal as a whole.  The moral of this story is that Finland sucks, and if the new Ensiferum album next year isn't awesome, I'm not gonna change my stance.  

WELL I GUESS THAT'S ALL FOR THIS YEAR, FOLKS.  I've got some fun ideas lined up for next year but my productivity has taken a sharp downturn since I've gotten this new job (it takes a lot of time out of my day), but regardless I hope to pick up the pace a bit more, since I have so much fun writing.  Everybody have a fun New Years celebration, do your best not to cheat on your significant others and for the love of all that is holy do not drive intoxicated.  If there's anything you think I left out unfairly, be sure to call me an asshole in the comments!

You're all beautiful people, see ya in 2015!