Saturday, August 1, 2015

TOP 50 ALBUMS OF THE 00s - Part I

Well guys, it's no secret that I have a bizarre obsession with top whatever lists.  I do my own every year and I've been flirting with the idea of doing something like this for some time.  Well now I've finally just gone and done the research and the math and the HOURS of stupid bullshit thinking and internal debating before finally deciding on enough worthy albums and a proper order.  I picked out well over 150+ albums to rank.  I think finally, finally finally finally I have enough confidence to decide the eventual winner and most importantly overall accurate order for this range.  I chose this era for a few reasons.  One is because, well, I started this blog with a "Best of 2010" list four years ago, so none of these have been touched by me in a similar "Best of" way, so it's all new for both you and myself.  Second is because, let's face it, most of my readers are fairly close to my age or below it.  This means that during this decade, most of you either went through the most substantial period in your musical development and have a strong sense of nostalgia for the time, or you started getting into metal juuuust after the decade turned, and as such didn't get to see how important so many of these albums were in their time.  I was in high school for a majority of these, and even if they weren't my cup of tea at the time (I was strictly a traditional, power, and thrash metal guy until roughly 2007/2008), they've since made themselves visible and I've learned to love them all.  This was fun to run through and reminisce, see how well everything has held up over time, and just talk a walk down memory lane, back to the time when my hair was long and my hands had yet to feel boob skin.  So walk with me, take my hand and join me down the twisting forest path of our adolescence and see what has held up as....


And yes, it doesn't go to 2010 because by that logic, 1980 was part of the 70s.  I'll never understand people who think the decade doesn't end on the 9 year.  Friggin' weirdos.  Only rules are metal exclusive to keep it cohesive (and also because people reading this site don't give a shit about how much I love Protest the Hero), and full lengths only.  Damn shame because there are some incredible EPs from this era, like Fleshgod Apocalypse's Mafia and Diamond Plate's Relativity, but it's an arbitrary restriction I do with every list so you'll have to forgive me.  Anyway LETS GO!

50. Celtic Frost - Monotheist (2006)
Celtic Frost has a well documented history of weirdness.  And I'm not just talking about "Hip Hop Jugend" which I absolutely refuse to let anybody forget exists, I mean they started their career with so much good will that it seemed almost impossible to fuck up, with Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion being bona fide, indisputable classics of whatever proto extreme metal you want to label them.  And then in came contentious, confusing, polarizing albums like Into the Pandemonium and Vanity/Nemesis, along with the absolutely deservedly maligned glam rock curveturd that is Cold Lake.  After all that controversy and frankly fucking bizarre career choices, the band just decided to cut their losses and disappear.  And that, mein friends, is what makes Monotheist such a heralded triumph.  In the early 2000s, Tom G. Warrior and company charged back out of nowhere to announce the reformation of Celtic Frost, under their own label and everything so as to have complete control over their music.  With a new trademark beanie and ten pounds of guyliner, he delivered on his promise of making up for Cold Lake.  After unleashing this absolute fucking behemoth of an album, it was as if it was 1985 again and the band could do no wrong.  This is absolutely monolithic, a pummeling, crushing, glacial paced ode to despair and misery.  Monotheist is genuinely one of the heaviest albums ever recorded in terms of the sheer force it exudes.  I like my music to be fast and melodic most of the time, and this is exactly the opposite.  The pace never picks up above a menacing, Ent sized stomp, writhing underneath a smothering atmosphere of dread, oppression, and just unrelenting hatred and nihilism.  This is bleak, this is brutal, this is depressing, this is the brooding, edgy anti-hero that everybody thought was fucking cool in the 00s, except it showcased the rampant negativity in the darkest light possible.  I'd want to say that it's sad in that this wound up being Celtic Frost's swansong, as they disbanded shortly after the release of the album, but in all honesty it doesn't matter because Warrior formed Triptykon almost immediately afterwards, and it just continues and expands upon the ideas that Monotheist presented.

49. Hammers of Misfortune - The Locust Years (2006)
Now, this is admittedly sort of a weird choice for me, because in terms of individual tracks, there are really only two I'll ever find myself listening to when I just want a snack instead of the entire eight course meal the album offers (those tracks being "The Locust Years" and "Trot Out Your Dead").  But if I'm being honest with myself, The Locust Years is greater than the sum of its parts by an almost cartoonishly large margin.  While the two aforementioned songs are certainly the best on display, the album runs through so many different ideas and moods without ever breaking from the thematic elements that create the backdrop for the twisting, simultaneously cacophonous and mellifluous music.  It's so hard to describe what this album even is, given the personnel behind it are so usually rooted in fantasy styled settings, it's strange that the lyrical themes seem to be about oppression and impending apocalypse, but put through the filter of modern politics.  This is one of the more truly progressive albums I've ever heard simply because everything flows together so incomprehensibly well, with soothing piano melodies giving way to driving trad metal riffs which stealthily fade into haunting coos from the female vocalist which slowly morphs into a martial war march.  Everything shifts and transitions so naturally that all eight songs are dangerously close to sounding like one huge song.  It really feels like you're part of something larger than yourself when listening to this album.  It encompasses something so much more grand and magniloquent than the ideas it presents, and it's easy to be swept off your feet.  The lyrics are expertly written and delivered by Jamie Myers and the inimitable Mike Scalzi, who himself was currently in the middle of his freakishly impressive run of albums with his main band, Slough Feg.  Everything about this album hits bullseye, even when you're not paying attention.  Hell even when the band isn't paying attention, they roll through so many shifts and twists that I just don't even know how to describe a damn thing that happens.  Between the acoustic murder ballads, neoclassical explosions, Deep Purple rock, avant garde whatthefuckishappeningohchrist moments, this is, if nothing else, sure not to ever get dull.

48. Vomitory - Revelation Nausea (2001)
In all honesty, I could really sum up the entire appeal of Vomitory by simply quoting what my colleague/peer/friend/fellow reviewer, lord_ghengis had said when news of their disbanding in 2014 reached him.  "They were a band that understood that music needed more explosions".  And god dammit almost no other band packed as many fucking explosions into their music as Vomitory.  Most people tend to peg the 2002 followup, Blood Rapture, as the band's high point, but for my money, the answer has always been Revelation Nausea.  The first two albums I featured on this list are very larger-than-life.  They're massive experiences meant to be taken in with full emotional investment for maximum enjoyment.  Vomitory does not do that.  Fuck no, Vomitory was crotch grinding, blisteringly fast and punishing Swedeath of the highest order, and this 2001 ripper reached heights that only predecessors like Entombed ever fully managed to reach.  Yeah I'll be the first to admit that this band hits one note throughout the runtime of the album (with that note being bug fuck insane tremolo abuse and more double bass than a Wagner opera), but they're so good at that one note that I'd never, ever, ever hold it against them.  As much as I love the previous two albums here, Revelation Nausea is a testament to how metal can truly work as a measure of strength.  This just brute forces its way past all of its peers, elbowing its way through a crowded scene full of creative individuals before giving all of them wedgies and stealing their lunch money.  This is powerful, punishing, and about as brutal a form a death metal you can find before you just turn into the muggy swamps of actual BDM.  I'm not gonna pretend this is some creative masterpiece, this is just death metal turned up to 11, and it's perfect for that.  Because always remember, music needs more explosions.

47. Nile - Annihilation of the Wicked (2005)
Everything I just said about Vomitory works equally well with Nile when they're at their most brutal.  Indisputably, their fourth full length, Annihilation of the Wicked, is by far their most brutal.  After Karl Sanders got a lot of the mystical, soothing ethnic music out of his system with his solo album the year prior, Nile got a lot less creative.  Seriously, Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka and In Their Darkened Shrines are easily more creative albums that this one, with so much more thought put into blending the Egyptian scales and melodies in with brutally technical death metal, whereas from this point forward they were basically just like "yeah we're just gonna rip your face off from here on out".  And you know what?  I love it.  I don't care that this is a much more "normal" album by the standards Nile had set for themselves with the previous three albums, because they are absolutely at their best when they are just powering forwards with reckless abandon.  In all seriousness, I consider this the defining Nile album for several reasons.  For one, it really solidified their beautifully crushing guitar tone, with a steely tinge and density yet unmatched by anybody.  It was also the album that introduced most of the world to George Kollias, who still stands in my mind as one of the greatest drummers in modern death metal, hell in metal history period.  There is so much intensity on display that it's overwhelming and can actually make finishing the album difficult, but I mean this in the best way.  I've given people crap before, for knocking this album for just being mindless brutality instead of some of the slower, more epic grooves and hooks that permeate the albums surrounding this one, because yeah, while most people remember "Sacrifice Unto Sebek", "Cast Down the Heretic", and "Burning Pits of the Duat", which are precisely the mindless brutality that smart people claim to grow tired of, this album also features a bunch of their longest songs, with two clocking in at over 9 minutes, and a third one being only a few seconds short.  And even then, those songs mix the crushing grooves so well with the blistering brutality that saturates the rest of the record, so this critic isn't complaining about a minute of it.  This is widely cited as Nile's finest hour, and you'll never see me arguing against that.

46. The Black Dahlia Murder - Nocturnal (2007)
Now, this is where I'm going to start losing people, because TBDM has been a punching bag within the metal community for almost fifteen years now.  But honestly, it's one of the most unfounded phenomena in all of metal history.  There is nothing metalcore about this band other than their logo and the vocalist's thick glasses.  This is straight up At the Gates worship from minute zero, and it never stops impressing me.  Yeah yeah, astute readers may remember that I've actually given this album a full review, and gave it a score that, while positive, wouldn't translate to a top 50 of the decade with most.  In all honesty, maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome, but every listen to this album just reveals more I like about it, and my complaints seem less and less legit as I go along.  Strnad's voice isn't that bad, his lows are definitely better than his highs and the ratio isn't quite what you'd hope considering that fact, but it's an inseparable component that makes up the greater whole of this album.  If At the Gates had kept going after Slaughter of the Soul, they could have wound up with something along the lines of Nocturnal, and I know that SotS is a favorite of hardened metal vets when it comes on things to pick on, but in theory, melodic death metal is an amazing idea, and I feel like TBDM really nailed how to present it on this album.  The band themselves would grow to get better in different areas and write songs that are individually better than anything here, but when considering the total package, Nocturnal reigns as the champion.  "Orgasmic Mutilation" is legitimately one of my all time favorite death metal songs, and that's not a joke.

45. Symphony X - Paradise Lost (2007)
After three death metal representatives in a row, it's time for the Jersey Boys to thunder through and remind everybody that I have a softer side as well.  People unfamiliar with the band/album will probably look at this and scoff before immediately disregarding it as some faggy, riffless "gothic" "metal" like Within Temptation or Evanescence.  Those people are fools, because at this point in time, this was doubtlessly the heaviest and riffiest album that the prog metal stalwarts, Symphony X, had released.  A lot of fans of their older sound have given this album the shaft for dumbing down their music, focusing more on groovy, heavy, chunky riffs and flashy leads and vocal acrobatics instead of the subtlety and class they had shown in spades on previous albums in the 90s.  See, I like subtlety plenty, I really do, but I also like simplicity, focus, and drive.  This album is driven and focused like no other, and there are riffs abound to keep things interesting, no matter what directions the songs might wander off into.  Russell Allen is one of the greatest singers in heavy metal history, with a gruff, masculine voice that keeps a high register with a powerful timbre, and it's showcased amazingly on Paradise Lost.  From the blisteringly fast bass run to start off "Domination", to the sorrowful, heartfelt ballad of "Paradise Lost", to the high octane power metal of "Eve of Seduction", to the epic "Walls of Babylon", nearly every idea presented here hits bullseye.  At the time, this claimed the title of Album of the Year for 2007, and the fact that several albums from that year have since cropped up and stolen the title with aplomb does nothing to take away from the feat of songwriting and emotion that is Paradise Lost.  Don't be fooled by the angel and the rose on the cover, that's actually a valkyrie with a bloodstained stielhandgranate.

44. Cannibal Corpse - Kill (2006)
Cannibal might be known for their upfront and grotesque imagery more than their actual music at times, especially to the non-metal listening person, so the brutal simplicity that adorns this album's cover was actually a pretty jarring change.  But while this may be the Buffalo/Floridian stalwarts most plain and boring cover to date, it also stands as one of their most intense, tight, and well written albums.  Kill is important for several reasons, one is that this solidified the lineup of Corpsegrinder, Barret, O'Brien, Webster, and Mazurkiewicz that continues to this day, and it's just simply one of their best albums.  The band's trademark blend of technicality (that never veers into tech death), brutality (that never veers into BDM), and groove (that never veers into whatever godawful thing Six Feet Under plays) is in top form here, as nearly every song should be a live staple in my mind.  And even though amazing tracks like "Purification by Fire" and "Maniacal" haven't quite reached that status, damn near half of the album has managed to do exactly that.  Rarely will a live show go by where you aren't bludgeoned into the ground by "Death Walking Terror" or torn to shreds by "Make Them Suffer".  This is one of the many albums I'll readily point to when Cannibal endures the ever prevalent criticism of simply making the same album over and over again, because there are very few songs in their oeuvre as menacingly grim as "Infinite Misery" or as well put together in terms of build and release structure as "The Discipline of Revenge".  Yeah, Cannibal knows what they're best at and they usually stick to it fairly closely, but they're good at a lot of things, and Kill showcases it with a murderous flair and tightness that improves with nearly every album.  A lot of card carrying fans will point to this as the best of the Corpsegrinder era next to Bloodthirst (which unfortunately missed the deadline for this list by a year, otherwise it'd definitely make an appearance), and I'm not arguing with that.  Kill is an incredible album from a band of veteran professionals, and it shows.  There can be class within the mayhem, and it doesn't just mean wearing a suit and doing weird things for the hell of it like Akercocke or Fleshgod Apocalypse.

43. 1349 - Hellfire (2005)
Black metal is known for the frigid north and how well the music usually conveys the imagery of frozen fjords of Scandinavia.  But sometimes, we'll get a band that aims more for fire than ice, and one of those bands is 1349.  I couldn't get enough of this album when I first heard it, which is sort of ironic considering I found a music video for "Sculptor of Flesh" semi-at-random to show a buddy how cruddy black metal tries to sound on purpose (he was a power metal fan and I was trying to be both edgy and holier than thou).  Upon listening to the song, I was blown away not only by the perfect blend of clarity and rawness on the record that my still fairly noobish taste didn't think was possible for the genre, but also by just how god damned brilliant the riff writing was and how unrelentingly intense it was.  A decade later, I'm still just as awestruck with the divinity of the riffs and sheer balls to the wall insanity of the pace.  Atmosphere isn't always built with flittery synths or quiet acoustic passages.  Sometimes that atmosphere is one of dread and hatred, and it's built and presented with unending passion and drive.  Hellfire is fucking driven.  It throws some of the genre's roots out of the window with the aforementioned lack of coldness, but it's so drenched in hatred and intensity that it more than makes up for any perceived slight against the Darkthrones of the world.  1349 doesn't present death with an elegant romanticism or beautiful morbidity, it's presented as an ugly, destructive force that tears apart literally everything you've ever known and rends it asunder into the bowels of your darkest nightmares.  There is no heaven, only hell, and it's a dry wasteland of agony and malevolence.  This is what hell sounds like, it's noisy, dissonant, uncomfortable, and punishing.  You don't wallow in an uncomfortable haze of misery, you get your shit whipped with knotted penises and buttfucked by pineapple dicked demons for the rest of eternity.  Enjoy your stay!

42. Municipal Waste - Hazardous Mutation (2005)
Municipal Waste is often blamed for starting the rethrash craze of the mid to late 2000s, and that isn't entirely untrue.  Tons of terrible bands from Merciless Death to Fueled By Fire owe a lot to Waste for kickstarting the trend and getting the exposure they got.  Despite what became of the scene (oversaturation of kids who put ten times more effort into their fashion than their riffs), Municipal Waste was the real fucking deal, and their watermark has been and frankly always will be their second full length, Hazardous Mutation.  Yeah there are lyrics about partying and mutants and all the other awful cliches that would eventually signal the early death of the resurgence, but nobody did this with more flair and focus than these guys.  They nailed the attitude and focus on insane riffage like it was still 1987, and not because they just wished super hard that they were Exodus.  When you put a lot of effort into your craft, you can make some truly wonderful music, and Hazardous Mutation is exactly that in the most poignant way that a one-note crossover band can muster.  There are cool curveballs like the punk catchiness of "Guilty of Being Tight" and sub-minute hookfests like "Abusement Park" and "Black Ice".  There are flat out and out rippers like "Unleash the Bastards" and "Deathripper", along with chunky hooks and grooves in songs like "The Thrashin' of the Christ" and "Mind Eraser".  The ill will this band and, by extension, the album has earned over the years is just a truckload of horseshit, as there's nothing to dislike here if you want to have fun for a half hour.  Metal isn't cool anymore when it's dead serious all the time, I like Primordial as much as the next guy, but with no levity in your listening cycle, you're likely to become jaded and lose sight of what makes metal as a whole such a diverse and colorful genre.  Bands like Municipal Waste are a shitload of fun, and fun is something we all like to have.  This isn't for everybody, but it should be.

41. Amon Amarth - With Oden on Our Side (2006)
Absolutely fucking nobody writes hooks like Amon Amarth does.  Really, almost no band can focus almost exclusively on midpaced chugs and grooves and manage to keep their songs on such a consistently impressive tightrope between catchy melody and pummeling brutality.  There's something to be said about being able to toe the line between accessible catchiness and thunderous, muscle-bound groove at nearly all times.  This is a personal favorite album of mine, and while this happened after they ditched their fast paced songs almost entirely (though "Asator" is definitely a fucking barnburner that deserves WAY more love than it gets).  There's a lot working against them in the grand scheme of things, like the viking aesthetic and collectible figurines and whatnot.  There's a prevailing belief that they're much less serious than they actually are, and an album as focused and hard hitting as WOOOS should be enough to dispel that notion.  Everything ranges from a visceral war march to a mournful dirge, and most especially the bittersweet triumph of their best song, "Cry of the Black Birds".  That song right there is what would happen if Insomnium would quit weeping for ten seconds and focus on writing something with real hooks.  Actually, between the prominent soaring melodies and grounded ballsack punching riffery, "Insomnium, but with riffs" isn't the worst way to describe Amon Amarth.  They both share a similar style of insanely deep and voluminous vocals that will never not impress me.  Like, Karl Sanders has a really deep rasp, but it's thin.  It works for Nile, but Johan Hegg is deep and beefy.  You can seriously hear this guy's beard, he is a monster truck that walks like a man.  Listen to "Under the Northern Star" and try to contain your orgasm.  He has a thick, powerful tone to his bellowing howls that almost nobody can match.  Between the stomping, powerful grooves, memorable melodies, and meatball truck of a vocalist, there's very little to disappoint any fan of melodeath.  It's a fairly maligned genre on the whole and it's not entirely without merit, as throngs of talentless hacks like Soilwork and Arch Enemy will forever stink up the name of such an awesome idea, but Amon Amarth fucking rules at it, and despite their mainstream popularity, they deserve more love from the underground.

And that's that for now kids!  The rest will come as the week goes on, check in for more tomorrow.  Any albums strike home for you?  Any of them just cement how stupid I am and you want to call me a gigantic homofag?  Let me know and I'll promptly fire you into the sun.  LOVE YOU!

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%