Sunday, December 20, 2015

Grailknights - Calling the Choir

A tale of two songs

One look at Grailknights and it's incredibly obvious why I wanted them to become my favorite band.  Look at them!  That's so unbelievably dorky and silly that there's no fucking way I could ever not love them.  Aaaaand that's why their music is so disappointing.  In a way, they live up to their image of silly superheroes perfectly, because they're nothing but cornball cheese from the word "go", but they've always had a huge problem with making more than a handful of songs per album memorable in any way, and that issue has carried over to their new album, Calling the Choir.  I can wrap it up right now if I wanted to by simply saying that the title track and "Morning Dew" are the only songs worth really listening to.  There, you're done, nothing more needs to be said.

But there is more here, and unfortunately the biggest issue is, oddly enough, what isn't on this album.  That, obviously, is Mac Death, the bassist who used to carry the songs with a superb deep growl that had no right being as good as it was.  He kept the songs fresh with pummeling melodeath parts and a voice on par with Johan Hegg or Niilo Sevanen.  He was a guy whose talent clearly far outweighed the rest of the band, and so with his departure the band is left reeling with a huge component of their sound missing.  There are harsh vocals thrown in here and there, but they're nowhere near as memorable or massive as they once were, with Sir Optimus Prime (I'll never get tired of typing that) taking over all vocal duties since the split.  His clean voice is deep and powerful and leads to some pretty great choir sections, but unfortunately that's the sole redeeming factor on this album.  Basically the entire band other than him was replaced in 2011, which means almost all of the personnel from the frankly way-better-than-it-should-be Alliance is no longer present, and it shows.  A lot of character has been lost, and now what we're left with is a very average folky power/melodeath band with a silly gimmick.

When "Calling the Choir" opened up the album, I caught myself rocking out with a really stupid smile on my face.  "Oh yeah", I said to myself, "it seems like they haven't missed a step in the six years since the last album, this is just as fun and goofy as it should be".  With pounding double bass and soaring melodies, plus one of the catchiest choruses they've ever laid to tape, I had my sights set on a great, fun power metal album loaded with beer swigging, fist pumping anthems.  The next track, "Now or Nevermore" felt like a really strange one to follow that huge anthem up with, riding on a really boring galloping riff and a passionless chorus that couldn't elicit any emotion from me if I was on shrooms and my period.  It went in one ear and out the other, with nothing of consequence passing through the speakers for the entire five and a half minute runtime.  Thankfully, "Morning Dew" picked things up again, being a hilariously jaunty tune with a phenomenal folky pre-chorus that plastered that idiotic grin right back on my face.  It's a live staple of Wacken-metal if I've ever heard one, and I love every second of it.  This is the kind of thing the band is great at, and they really need to focus on songs like this.  It's full of terrible cliches that most bands should really try to avoid, with a standard progression and stereotypical Finntroll style folk sections, but it works marvelously with the silly cliche the band shamelessly tries to be.

And then the rest of the album happens, and it's quickly revealed that "Now or Nevermore" was really the only other idea they had, because I swear that track might as well repeat for the last seven tracks (apart from the god awful ballad, "Anna Lee").  It's a bunch of identically structured, lame-ass half-songs that just pass by with utterly zero consequence.  Bland power metal with semi interesting vocals wrapped around a dumb gimmick, with the even the occasional heavier melodeath part being passionless and boring on the few occasions it actually rears its head (like on "End of the World"), as it's been all but completely excised.  It seems like Alliance was a total fluke, and even then that album is merely good.  They've fully embraced the fact that they're just a silly comedy band at this point, which is a shame because they had flashes of actual songwriting brilliance in the past, and even a few flourishes here on the two songs I singled out.  Every song sounds the same, they're all of a comparable length, just nothing stands out and it isn't worth listening to.  It's just slightly above mid-paced power metal and essentially hits one note the entire time, that's all.

And the cover of "Holding Out for a Hero" is pointless and inconsequential.  I've always been of the mindset that metal bands covering pop songs is a useless novelty that works out roughly 1% of the time, and this doesn't change my mind.

RATING - 49%

Ningen-Isu - Kaijin Nijuu Mensou

Witty titles are beyond me

Ningen-Isu (named after the extremely disturbing story, The Human Chair (read the Junji Ito manga about it, if you hate sleeping)), has a long and illustrious career that's ended up all but invisible in the grand scheme of things outside of their home country.  This unfortunate invisibility has extended even to me, a fan of bands from Japan that eschew the stereotype of excessively overproduced flower metal and instead take more traditional and extreme forms of metal and twist them with that inimitable oriental flavor (Sigh and Gargoyle being the two most obvious culprits), and as such I'm only truly familiar with the three most recent albums; Shigan Raisan, Mandoro (my favorite of the bunch), and Burai Houjou (though this album has "Namahage", which is their best song of what I've heard).  So with that in mind, I decided to snag a completely random album from some other time in their career, and with that I ended up with 2000's Kaijin Nijuu Mensou.

The base idea of taking Black Sabbath and shifting everything 90 degrees counterclockwise is still the main idea here, with smatterings of 70s hard/prog rock and other assorted influences from all across the board, and it's just as great as their newer stuff.  Ningen-Isu is renowned for a stunning consistency in their work, and I'm starting to understand the praise, as these songs are all varied in their approach, while all focusing on a trench digging groove that bores its way into your psyche and refuses to leave.  Much like Manowar's debut (an obviously entirely different style of band and album), the assorted hard rock influences keep everything upbeat and creative, refusing to rely on the time tested tropes of trad/doom metal like this so easily could have done.  Tracks like "Keimusho Wa Ippai" and "Meitantei Toujou", and the title track have a very distinct 70's classic rock feel to them, while tracks like the absolutely stunning "Daidanen" and "Ashinagagumo" revel in the Vol. 4 era of Sabbathian psychedelic doom hypnosis, and there's even a few curveballs late with "Jigoku Fuukei" being a straight up blitzkrieg of thrash metal and "Tanoshii Natsuyasumi" starting off as a late 70's Judas Priest styled speed metal track before descending into some downright trancelike progressive doom.  The band is positively bursting with fresh ideas at every turn, and there's nothing that they seem to be uncomfortable with.  I feel like this is what truly happens when a band decides to put all of their influences into their music, no matter how diverse.  Instead of a slapdash tossed salad of random dickery, you get tons of creative, flowing, organic songs from all corners of your mind across a decades long career. 

I've heard Shinji Wajima, the guitarist and lead vocalist, described as the metal version of Master Roshi.  He's this tiny, frail, goofy old man who hides a monstrous, planet splitting power.  The riffs here may not be as skull splittingly heavy as Mandoro over a decade later, but there's a punishing weight held behind the more sinister riffs on display that showcase the latent destructive force he's clearly holding back.  Kaijin Nijuu Mensou is overall a very lighthearted and upbeat album, with songs that groove more than churn for most of the runtime, leaving a smile on your face instead of a menacing sneer, but it's clearly there, and quick explosions like "Jigoku Fuukei" and the pounding ritualism of "Yaneura no Neputa Matsuri" showcase this masterfully.  Wajima's vocals are crystal clean, with a strong presence that pushes its way to the front without snubbing the rest of the band, and the mid ranged croons and howls stand out as one of the identifying features of the band.  When you imagine old Japanese monks, this is the voice you're imagining voicing their hymns.  He sounds like a desperately passionate daimyo cooing down a mountainside while a small group of shirime follow him with instruments crafted out of a dying sakura tree, playing odes to something mystical that nobody truly understands. 

Despite my natural inclination towards faster, more energetic music, there is a simple beauty in simplicity that I absolutely adore, and I think that's why I have such respect for Ningen-Isu.  They revel in this focused and deliberate style of songwriting and riff crafting, and that's how the world ends up with riffs as beautiful as the main riff in "Hiruta Hakase no Hatsumei", potentially my favorite track.  It's four notes, just a simple pattern and simple progression, but it works unlike anything else.  It's a very Sabbathian riff that conjures up so much wild imagery that it should be taught at fucking Berklee.  Unfortunately, in a paradoxical twist, this simplicity is also the reason behind the album's sole downfall, that being the fact that two of the three long songs just feel like they take fucking forever to finish.  "Imomushi" rides on a very pleasant melody that's soothing to listen to, but wears thin before the final section of bouncy riffage, and despite being the most overtly heavy song on display, "Yaneura no Neputa Matsuri" just drags on and on.  Only "Daidanden" is spared for simply being written slightly better, I don't know how else to explain it (it helps that the bass groove is just the damn grooviest thing ever).  But that's really it, two songs that I think are a little bit too long, everything else is a wonderful experience that more people need to hear.  Despite the obvious parallels, I don't see myself ever giving this band the Gargoyle treatment (ie. just never shutting the fuck up about them), but they're a wonderful group of tight, skilled musicians that understand to keep things simple and focused, and the expert grooves and general joviality of Kaijin Nijuu Mensou make it a worthy listen for anybody of traditional styled metal and hard rock.

RATING - 88%

Tyranny - Aeons in Tectonic Interment

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn


I don't know what else to say, Tyranny is just ludicrously heavy, and basically nothing this year had me quite as hyped up as the promise of a followup to the stellar Tides of Awakening a decade prior.  I'm not the most well versed in funeral doom, but I know good music when I hear it, and Tyranny was damn fucking good at what they did.  Ten years is a long time to go with nary a peep from a band, so I'm sure that skepticism (I'm so fucking clever) was high leading up to this album, but I can confidently say that the band hasn't missed a step.

Now, that's not to say that Aeons in Tectonic Interment surpasses its predecessor, because it doesn't, but it's pretty close to being on equal footing.  The skull squeezing heaviness and overwhelming crunch of everything is just as apparent as ever, and the fathomless misery is on full display here, but overall I feel like it's missing some sort of intangible to push it over the top like Tides of Awakening did.  It's a fantastic album, and I love almost everything about it, but it doesn't quite have that latent ability to make me want to kill myself, perhaps it's the cleaned up and slightly less murky production, I dunno.

Regardless, this is a brooding, deathly dirge of an album, and the glacial paced riffage still evokes the appropriate mood and atmosphere to set the stage for the eldtrich summoning ritual they probably had going on in the studio.  The otherworldly gurgle of the vocals just swallows everything around it, and these riffs are just the musical manifestation of Lou Ferrigno.  "Sunless Deluge" has a fucking brilliant section near the seven minute mark that exemplifies what I'm talking about exquisitely, focusing not on that crushing monolith of a riff that the song sets up earlier, instead slowly building up to a climax with low tom hits that might as well be played with fucking mjolnir.  The climax is also immensely satisfying, with a haunting lead playing over the slowest double bass you'll ever hear, it all coalesces into this gigantic release that makes the dreary mood of the previous ten minutes pay off wonderfully.  Every track does something to this effect, keeping the mood as bleak as necessary and clawing the ground as the slowly descend back into the depths from whence they came.  Tides of Awakening felt like being crushed by the entire ocean, and Aeons in Tectonic Interment feels like getting the Giles Corey treatment with the entirety of stonehenge.  This is dank and grimy, and it's perfect in that regard, and easily stands as the top doom album of the year for me and an easy year-end finisher in my personal top 13.

I'm going to wrap this up by borrowing a quote from a very strange person, because this gorgeous sentence was the only thing running through my head upon first listen, and say this album has "riffs that sound like 8-foot vertical concrete cocks and has a guitar tone like a bus with marble windows, traveling at 8 miles an hour, on its side."  If that doesn't make you want to hear this, then I don't want to know you.

RATING - 90%

Dissect - Swallow Swouming Mass


I've stated time and time again that one of my absolute favorite niche movements in metal history was the early death metal of the 1990s, at the time when the genre was just starting to figure out its identity and as such was still a primordial soup of thrash metal mixed in with what we would later learn to know as death metal.  Dissect comes from the tail end of that time period, so their sole album, Swallow Swouming Mass, seems to be one of the ones that got their shit together and solidified the twisted ideals of Morbid Angel and Entombed into a solid, slimy, brutal death metal release.

Despite early OSDM being among my favorite niches, I never write about it, and that's because it's frankly really hard to write about.  You know what it's gonna be, and the fact that the quality of damn near every single release you can dredge up, from the high profile acts of Florida, New York, and Stockholm, to the underground gems that didn't fully get the praise they deserved until long after their time as a band (like Demented Ted, Wombbath, and others) was so consistently high, there's really only so much you can say about them all.  This is what makes Dissect such a difficult target for me, I can tell you that the vocals are among the top echelon of their peers, with a deep, punishing growl on par with Ross Dolan, but that's really the only thing that stands out in any way.  That's not a knock against anything else present on the album, the rest of it is astoundingly well written and performed (other than maybe the lyrics being a bit silly at times, but even then I always appreciate a bit of levity), it just falls in line with what almost every other band in the genre was doing at the time, which is totally fine by me.  This comes from a time before blastbeats were the go-to crutch for every song, instead relying on those fast thrash beats that Kreator and Slayer helped pioneer, tastefully interspersed with flashes of Morbid Angel and Suffocation here and there, and it helps keep the songs varied throughout their runtimes.  The skill in the percussion comes less from inhuman endurance and more from creative songwriting, and it's a lesson that many modern drummers need to take note of.

Like Demilich, Funebre, Rottrevore, and apparently 80% of all other bands around this time, the band only managed to crank out one album before packing it in, and it's a shame, because I'd like to see how this would have developed.  The riffs are all very morbidly twisted and the vocals are guttural and hellish, the drumming is creative and the songs all mesh together to creative a craggly hellscape that I can't help but enjoy romping through.  It's hard to really go on at length about what this album offers because it's so cohesive and rides on a solid plateau of quality throughout the runtime (which is entirely the reason I rarely review early death metal by the way), so I find myself throwing vague superlatives out there without much else behind them.  I'm sorry kids, but that's really all I can do.  This is dark, engulfing, mid paced OSDM with that trademark Scandinavian flavor that makes it just a little bit slimier and more disgusting, and apart from the quick bass run in "Growls of Death", there isn't much to single out.  It's a great experience from beginning to end, and it's just another jewel in the veritable pirate chest that was death metal from 1990-95.

Oh, and the closing track is an 8 minute ode to a deranged serial killer who murders people with a localized chemical agent that makes you violently shit until you die.  Get back to me when you find another song like that.

RATING - 85%

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Optimist - Entseelt

Gritstained Murderfest

Some of the few weirdos who follow my writing might have noticed that I slowed down drastically this year, and there are a few reasons for that.  One of which is simply that I work 46-50 hours a week and I'm just exhausted and don't have much free time, another is that I lived without my computer for five days a week for most of the year (that has recently changed), so it's really been mostly impossible.  But honestly, one of the biggest ones is that I've been spending an inordinate amount of time with genres of music that aren't metal, which, frankly, is the only reason anybody knows who I am.  So with like 60% of my listening cycle being  punk and hardcore this year (two genres I like a boatload but simply am not familiar enough with to write about as analytically as I do metal (which I've been listening to in some form or another since I was a toddler)), there just hasn't been much for me to say.

Enter Germany's Optimist, four short haired moshers who did me the favor of combining the crunch and brutality of old school death metal like Brutality, Deicide, and Malevolent Creation, with the unrelenting drop Z force and barbarism of beatdown hardcore like No Zodiac, Xibalba, and Drowning.  Basically what this means is that Entseelt is fast paced but bursting with low end, while being brutally punchy but morbid and twisted.  It's extremity without going over either line, never fully relying on d-beats and Discharge riffs nor thrashy brutality of the early death metal acts from Florida in the early 90s.  The guitar tone is overwhelmingly fuzzy and heavy, not unlike being smothered with a wool blanket.  Vocally this leans more towards those early death metal bands, though you can tell there's a new school hardcore edge to it with how throaty and un-guttural it is.

More often than not, this leans towards the death metal side of the fence, and I think that's what the band does best, in all honesty.  There is an abundance of double bass and high tempos, with relatively few moments clearly made for two stepping, instead focusing on moshing and crowdkilling.  The slower moments all end up like "Kinder der Kälte", which is more twisted and crushing than anything else, bringing to mind some of the most sickly endearing moments of Blessed are the Sick.  Bone snapping riffs are abound, from the punk styled "Weltenbrand", to the mosh friendly stomp of "Leb auf den Knein", to the pure death metal brutality of "Ungebrochen", to the vaguely thrashy OSDM lunacy of "Dämmerung".  Despite all of these subtle differences in riff writing, the album does tend to roll together cohesively to the point where it's almost too much so, and loops around to being kinda samey.  It's only borderline in that regard though, and acts more as a full experience than a faceless blur.

While this never fully goes all out like Cannibal Corpse, it keeps the brutality high by essentially speeding up Suffocation breakdowns and treating them as the meaty main riffs they base their songs around, spiced up with enough simplistic chug riffing to keep the hardcore kids happy.  I've namedropped a lot of bands throughout this review, but in all honesty this is summed up easiest by comparing them to Disgrace, a band that's basically Jungle Rot with more slams and less guttural vocals.  Optimist fits right in alongside them and Xibalba in the realm of metallic hardcore nowadays, or maybe Nasty if they were less catchy.  It's non-technical metallic hardcore with enough energy and flavor to keep a speed freak adrenaline junkie like me satisfied, and while it won't be winning any end of the year accolades for 2014 anywhere, it's still a highly enjoyable slab of savagery that fans of both genres can gobble up excitedly.

RATING - 83%

Friday, December 18, 2015

Starblind - Dying Son

Iron Maiden fanfiction of the lowest order

To dig into Starblind, I need to call back two of my previous reviews referencing flawed but enjoyable power metal bands, Lancer and Athena.  I railed against both for several things, including weak vocals, bad production, recycled ideas, and lack of any real identity (less so with Athena, admittedly).  Now, you may also remember that I like both of those albums, with Twilight of Days standing right next to Into the Enchanted Chamber as one of my all time favorite obscure power metal albums.  That's because both of those bands, despite being cliche, silly, and/or dumb, powered through their flaws on the backs of charisma, songwriting talent, and/or just a knack for writing fun, memorable, catchy songs.  "Purple Sky", "Touch My Heart", "Mr. Starlight", "Twilight of Days", "Falling Ghosts", both albums were jam packed with cool tunes that made them vary from listenable to outstanding despite their woes.

Starblind is neither of those bands.

Basically what I mean is that Dying Son exemplifies every negative thing I had to say about both of those albums and yet manages to carry none of the superfluous strengths that redeemed them.  What we have here is bog standard heavy metal with a terrible vocalist, banal songwriting, wretchedly thin production, and the staying power of that zebra stripe gum.  I can hardly elaborate further than that, Starblind is a sentient void of skill that managed to sneakily squeak out an album sometime in 2015.  Nothing is on it, it might as well be blank.

I think my biggest complaint is really the vocalist, who I'm convinced is merely a friend of the band who got a spot in the lineup simply because he was a nice guy with a high voice who let the bassist crash on his couch a few times.  He reminds me of Olof Wikstrand on Enforcer's first album.  Ya know, before he was any good.  He seems to tunelessly wail at the top of his lungs throughout the entire runtime with no regard to what the song seems to be trying to do.  He's completely inept, doing his best screechy Bruce Dickinson impression after listening to The Final Frontier one time.  It's incessant, and it's irritating.  Bad vocals can really ruin any album faster than any other instrument, mostly because it just seems like a weird phenomenon in metal where you'll rarely hear a completely inept guitarist or something, so it always stands out like a pulsating cold sore.  This dude couldn't sing his way out of a grade school talent show, and it taints an already lame album even further.

Musically there's really nothing much to say, it's Piece of Mind era Iron Maiden worship of the most blatant kind, I'm not even sure I can pinpoint another influence on the band.  It's packed to the gills with galloping riffs and dual lead melodies, but none of them stick for longer than it takes to actually play the note.  I've sat here with this document open for like an hour trying to describe the music further than that, but I can't.  It's seriously just Maiden riffs and melodies ripped from the mid 80s and reapplied thirty years later sans any semblance of actual soul, repeated over and over and over again until you're ready to just leave the damn room and do anything else.  You can't just take something great and redo it and expect it to be as good as the original.  This is literally heavy metal fanfiction, and it's exactly as banal as you'd expect it to be.  Even if there were more original ideas present than "none at all", I can't imagine it'd last beyond a cursory listen before being written off for the terribad vocals and wafer thin production.  Just listen to Powerslave instead, because listening to Dying Son is akin to hearing the dude in the apartment next to you listening to that album just loud enough for you to know it's Maiden, but not loud enough for you to pick out any of the actual musical genius hidden behind his terrible singing along and "bloo boodoo bloo boodoo" onomatopoeia of the riffs anyway.

RATING - 18%

Wisdom - Words of Wisdom

Whhees ahh da wah!

Hungarian born power metallers, Wisdom, are an extremely frustrating while at the same time supremely satisfying group of fellows.  On one hand, they're one of the most generic and cookie cutter power metal bands to ever grace the planet.  Basically each and every song they've ever written has followed every cliche laid down by genre progenitors like Helloween, Hammerfall, and Sonata Arctica.  You listen to any given album and you know exactly what you're going to get, almost down to which melodies will appear and which songs will be the more aggressive one based purely on song titles.  On the other hand, they are bubbling over with songwriting talent that renders their reliance on heavy handed cliches relatively moot.  Their 2013 opus, Marching for Liberty is one of the more finely crafted works of art in terms of catchy replayability in all of modern power metal, eschewing grandiloquent orchestrations in favor of a meat-and-potatoes style of muscle bound riffage underneath an immaculate sheen and pristine vocal performance.  The predecessor, Judas, is no slouch either, replete with some of the catchiest numbers they'd ever pen (and even the happiest song about Silent Hill ever recorded).

Unfortunately, this review is for neither of those two albums.  Their debut is nothing more than adequate in the grand scheme of things.  While on the surface it isn't much different from what they'd release in the past, it stands as something of a disappointment from two different angles.  In the moment, it's a solid and respectable effort by a hungry young band, but it relies so much on the crutches of the genre that very little stands out in any way.  Yet when looked at through the scope of the present day, it's a weak listen because their skill is showcased so superbly on later records.  As such, Words of Wisdom stands as a bland, faceless power metal album apart from the odd song or two.

"Holy Vagabond" is a phenomenal song, with a chorus that'll incessantly worm its way into your skull and refuse to leave until you listen to it several times in a row, which quickly reveals itself as the band's biggest strength. What they lack in great vocals or flashy guitar playing, they make up for with an ear for melody on par with greats like Blind Guardian and Running Wild.  Most songs on the album are a flash of white noise occasionally punctuated by a stunningly crafty chorus.  It may have something to do with the vocalist being exposed as fairly weak and faceless during verses when he's singing solo, but when he's layered over himself a bunch of times it stands out as being much more powerful and entertaining.  Thankfully, the benefit of hindsight shows the growing pains of his rookie season, as he will only improve from this point forwards.  I don't mean to imply that Words of Wisdom is softened simply because of how good Marching for Liberty is, it's more that it's just highlighting all of the band's potential as initial weaknesses.  There's clearly room to develop here, as the songwriting is strong, cliche as it may be.  So the silky smooth vocals end up distractingly lame on this album, and the unimaginative percussion and stock riffs do nothing to help this stand out on the merits of the playing itself.

The band's real strength lies in their songwriting skills, as mentioned.  "Holy Vagabond" would be a concert staple if it was penned by Helloween (and let's be real, it might as well be), "Wisdom" carries an ohrwurm of a chorus, "Wheels of the War" stands out as being the most aggressive song on display, with a blazing fast and startlingly heavy verse riff and some cool viking styled war chants in the chorus, et cetera et cetera.  The problem is that any power metal fan who's heard more than three of the classic bands has heard all of these songs before.  Most of them are good songs at the very least (barring "Unholy Ghost", being the obligatory awful ballad that basically every power metal band seems determined to shoehorn into every album), so it's a fun listen every once in a while, it's just not anything you'll ever be itching to hear beyond "Holy Vagabond".  They can do much better, Judas and Marching for Liberty show that in spades.  Basically Words of Wisdom is an unrefined and sketchy album that has strengths in places, but overall is pretty bland.  I like the band plenty, but this is solidly and indisputably their weakest album.

RATING - 66%

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Overkill - The Years of Decay

It's a long way to the top if you wanna sausage roll

I promise I'll stop.  I promise this is the last negative Overkill review.  It's for my sake as much as yours, but their bad albums really got away with murder for the better part of a decade in terms of internet reviewing, and I simply aimed to right that wrong.

But BH! The Years of Decay is one of the good albums!  You say so yourself that it's within the window of good music they made!

While yes, it's true that the rule of thumb that "every thrash band that was good in the 80s got shitty in the 90s" is just as applicable with Overkill, it's worth noting that they did have a stinker in the middle of their streak of classics.  I know, I know, The Years of Decay is often considered one of their best, if not their unequivocal apex, but I just can't get behind it, and it's for reasons that didn't make full sense until the 00s rolled around.  I've said it before, but thrash was never great because of Overkill, Overkill was great because of thrash, and it shows here.  They were never blazing trails, they were never ahead of their time (because you and I know damn well they weren't playing "Rotten to the Core" back in 1979), the main reasons I ever felt like they stood out was because of DD's trebly bass tone, Blitz's wild haired shrieking, and the fact that they were (and still are) the most overtly punk influenced of all the classic thrash bands.  Overkill's good albums are so good that it's easy to forget that they were always following trends.

Don't believe me?  That's okay, you don't have to, but did you notice that their first two albums had heaps of influence from the NWOBHM scene?  All the rough speed metal and overt melody was quite reminiscent of another classic thrash album from a few years prior (I'll give you a hint: it starts with "S" and ends with "how No Mercy").  Granted, that's sorta indicative of every early American thrash band excepting Exodus it seems, but did you notice that their groove phase started around the same time that Metallica had their famous sellout and Anthrax started focusing on hard groove instead of rollicking speed metal?  Did you notice that coincidentally around the same time Megadeth stopped pandering to radio play so blatantly and started playing thrash-lite again, Overkill just so happened to do the exact same thing?  Did you notice how they started playing full on thrash again only after Death Magnetic and Endgame came out and rethrash was in full swing and seemed to be at its apex?

The Years of Decay fits into this whole spiel because it's the exact same thing.  They've been doing this for their entire career.  Wherever American thrash was going, Overkill was following.  Feel the Fire and Horrorscope are phenomenal albums so we tend to give them a pass, but I've always had something of a bone to pick with The Years of Decay.  This?  This is Metallica worship of the highest order, and it's hilarious because the venn diagram of "people who worship the ground Overkill walks on" and "people who do the same to Metallica" are damn near in separate countries, but it's true.  Overkill's fourth album is loaded with Metallica-isms, from the structuring of the album, to the sudden inclusion of longer, slower, doomier songs with extended acoustic passages, to the production, to the actual riffs themselves, almost every note of this album carries the unmistakable scent of Metallica's trebuchet to fame.

Now I'm not gonna sit here and say that they're a bunch of unimaginative riff thieves, but I will say that it's probably not a coincidence that "Time to Kill" opens up almost exactly like "Battery" if it skipped the first two acoustic repeats and started right when the distortion started to follow the melody, and that "Evil Never Dies" starts with and extended intro of swelling strings nigh indistinguishable to those of "Damage Inc.", and that "Elimination" uses the exact same riff as "Master of Puppets", and et cetera et cetera ad infinitum.  Overkill wasn't trying to "steal" anything, but they were clearly trying to replicate the success of Master of Puppets and And Justice for All with this one.  I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the similarities to Justice since it came out only a year prior to this one, but the parallels are there regardless.  That's not to say this is a bad album because of these things, it's almost a bad album in spite of them, to be honest, but it's a bugaboo that's been driving me ape for years now.

I've always hated Overkill's attempts at gloominess, and the three 8+ minute songs are all stellar examples as to why.  Either they just plod along for what feels like hours with nothing cool happening, or they hide a really god damned good riff or two in the middle of a weepingly agonizing snorefest.  "Who Tends the Fire" rides on a simple groove that could work if it wasn't so repetitive and incessant, but near the four and half minute mark, the song just throws its gloves down and starting swinging for the fences.  What the hell man?  That part rules, that riff totally smokes, it's a great burst of thrash intensity burrowed in the middle of an otherwise mediocre and overlong groove song.  "Playing With Spiders / Skullkrusher" drones on and on and on for ten torturous minutes, riding on a goddamn funeral thrash chug with absolutely no energy or power behind it, until over five minutes go by and it suddenly morphs into "Beyond the Black" by Metal Church.  It's frustrating to sit through full song lengths of bland non-riffs before being treated to one incredible one in the bridge before the coda comes by to stink things up again, especially when there are song scattered around that prove the band's ability to keep things fresh and fun.

Yeah, the album isn't full of losers, there are plenty of things I like to be found here.  "Evil Never Dies", despite being an east coast reimagining of "Damage Inc.", is one of the all time great Overkill songs.  The main riffs are blisteringly fast and precise, with aggression pouring out of every riff with reckless abandon.  The chorus just throws caution to the wind and blows everything away in a furious cyclone of vitriol, with Blitz bringing home one of his greatest performances with the stop start madness of "AS IT COMES! AWAKEN ME! IS IT DONE!".  It sounds like his lungs are going to burst and his corneas are going to detach themselves, and I love every second of it.  The bridge features one of the most crushing riffs the band would ever write, and the slow crescendo of malice with Blitz raining down a litany of abuse upon the subject of the song, climaxing with a near orgiastic release of venom, stands as my all time favorite moment in Overkill's entire discography (and that's keeping in mind that Feel the Fire is one of my all time favorite albums and every song on that one is a flawless classic).  "I Hate" is a fantastic burst of punk energy, and "Elimination" is a thrash classic and live staple for a reason, with instantly memorable riffs and lyrics delivered with a malicious sneer.  There are classic riffs and leads abound, and in a bubble there is a perfectly great six song EP hidden in here with three painfully overlong trainwrecks.

The problem is that, just as I said, it sorta needs to be viewed in a bubble, because the instant you apply the context of where thrash metal was in 1989, a lot of the genius starts to unravel.  "Elimination", for as great of an anthem as it is, is just far too blatant with its influences.  Yes, the main riff is the "Master of Puppets" riff.  No, it's not different because it's slightly faster and two of the sixteen notes are different, that's the same fucking excuse Vanilla Ice used when he jacked the beat from "Under Pressure", don't give me that shit.  Even the leads take liberal cues from the genre originators, with bits of the solos being lifted almost note for note from "Battery" and "Jump in the Fire".  It's a nice touch to have a short burst of punk fueled aggression in the third track slot, but I mean, that's kinda what "Motorbreath" did.  Sure, that could just be a coincidence, but when you consider that the first and last tracks are introduced and structured so similarly to their counterparts on Master of Puppets, AND the second track on each album starts with the same fucking riff, you start to look for the other similarities between the two records.  "The Thing That Should Not Be" is replaced with "Skullkrusher", "Welcome Home" is replaced with "Who Tends the Fire", "Disposable Heroes" is shortened and replaced with "Birth of Tension", basically the only song that I never immediately drew a parallel back to the Bay Area stalwarts is "Nothing to Die For", and apart from a funky bass break that song stands as the clear filler track in terms of the six fast songs.  Even little things like the precision in the sharp downstrokes that sound like Gustafson's right arm was replaced with a forty ton sewing machine just scream Hetfield to me.  At this point maybe I'm just looking for things, but it's noticeable once you enter extreme nitpick mode and they're hard to ignore afterwards.

I know it probably seems like I'm calling this a copy of the legendary 1986 release, but I honestly don't think that's the case entirely.  It's less like Overkill traced over a picture that Metallica drew, and more like them plugging in Overkill brand components into a template that Metallica originally drew up before switching some parts around and running with it.  The riffs are like 90% Overkill, with only one glaring "homage" that stretches the definition to dangerous territory, the attitude is the inimitable Jersey swagger that Overkill always had, the vocals are worlds apart considering Blitz is probably the most instantly recognizable frontman in all of thrash, Sid Falck is obviously leagues ahead of Lars Ulrich in terms of percussion, it's a lot simpler and less ambitious, et cetera.  There are plenty of differences, but the similarities are very strong, and it only reinforces my theory that wherever thrash was heading, Overkill was never the conductor.  They were always a few cars back, usually being extremely good at whatever they're doing (the other four albums out of the first five illustrate this quite well), but always emulating what the bigger names in American thrash were up to.  This in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, since there are plenty of bands who take more than a little bit of influence from the classics and end up being great themselves, and Overkill really always had their own identity despite them always leisurely floating down the current.  But The Years of Decay is living in the shadow of a much larger classic record, and it shows in the songs that sound like Overkill trying to do what Metallica did, instead of Overkill doing what they do best, like they did on Feel the Fire, Taking Over, and Horrorscope.

RATING - 42%

PS - Despite the fact that this nestles neatly in the niche of "Classic album that I'm being overly negative towards" that makes up the Jerking the Circle series, I decided against counting it as part of the series because despite me overall not liking the album, there are a lot of good things here that just get lost in execution, and as such it doesn't quite fit the template of I HATE WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE LIKES.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Manilla Road - Out of the Abyss

Consider this an olive branch

My hate-boner for Manilla Road is both well known and massively overstated.  I don't hate this band, I never really did, I just think they're boring as shit and get much, much more credit than they deserve.  Mark Shelton is usually hailed as this guitar playing and songwriting wizard, when really everything I'd heard had been either bizarre without actually being great or just bland and irritating.  The 'Road Crew likes to go on and on about how incredible the Manilla Road is to the point of utter delusion, worshipping records that seem flawed by their very nature with the weird, incompatible voice and long stretches of plodding non-riffs.  There's even a popular editorial on Metal Crypt about what makes a good logo, and in the section about how hand drawn, artistic logos are inherently superior, it lists Manilla Road's logo as a classic example, even though it literally is a typeface, stencil type logo (notice how all the "L"s and "A"s are identical (it actually fails 4 of the 5 criteria listed in the editorial, and it only passes the last one by virtue of the fact that they never changed their logo)).  It always seemed to me that being a huge fan of Manllia Road carried a prerequisite warping of reality like that, and it further added to my utter confusion as to the cult status of the band.  It's one thing to recognize a band you love as a cult classic, it's another thing to act like they're this massively important and influential institution in metal when in reality they only influenced a tiny niche that even an only tinier niche of metal fans adore in the first place.  Yes, the difficult to define (but awesome) subgenre of "epic metal" wouldn't be what it is without Manilla Road, but Iron Maiden would have still existed and the metal landscape would be largely unchanged.  At the time of this writing, Encyclopedia Metallum lists 25677 bands with "black" in their genre, and 451 with "epic" in their genre.  Ergo, I can pretty safely say that roughly 25% of all metal bands owe their existence to Bathory, while roughly .4% (and likely much less since I'm sure a band like Darkestrah didn't have Crystal Logic playing too often in their rehearsal rooms) give a shit about Manilla Road.  Suck the math.

But with that said, I think The 'Road Crew owes me some sort of apology for trying to keep me out of their club.  I'd said before that, especially in relation to their new stuff, that every single second that isn't a screaming guitar solo or a mournful ballad is complete trash, and they'd actually be a pretty sweet band if they focused more off their riff writing energy on insane aggression, because the fast tracks on Mysterium are at least moderately entertaining, and it's a shame that they didn't focus on songs like "Stand Your Ground" when they were younger and hungrier.  If they amped up the thrash by a large margin I could definitely see the weird, nasally whine of Shelton working well with the music since bad vocals really aren't all that important in a genre like thrash where the excitement lies almost entirely within the riffs.  The Deluge is the only album I can safely say I actually enjoy in any capacity, and it's largely because the aggression is so much higher and the riffs are so much sharper.  So why did nobody point out "Hey asshole, this hypothetical version of Manilla Road you seem to want totally existed for a few albums in the late 80s"?

Out of the Abyss is the true forgotten gem in Manilla Road's discography, as it's the most powerful example of them distancing themselves from the epic sensibilities that made them famous and instead focusing on that melted steel destruction that thrash was championing so loudly around the same time.  This sounds like a lost Sabbat album, and it's completely fucking awesome.  I realize this is probably like saying that my favorite Bathory album is Octagon and my favorite Billy Joel song is "We Didn't Start the Fire", but my god they fucking owned this sound when they aimed for it.

This is probably the shallowest album they ever penned, with little of that mystical depth and mystique that fans hail from some of their earlier and later works (I personally never heard it but I'll just accept that it's a me problem for now and focus on what's at hand) and instead just spends a majority of the record ripping off faces and eating them in front of the previous face owners' families.  This isn't what the band is known for and it clearly isn't what they or the fans even want to be remembered for, but it turns out that they're really god damned good at it.  Crystal Logic may be their defining record, but Out of the Abyss is what should make them worthwhile to most metal fans at large. "Whitechapel" starts the record off on a stratospheric high note, as I felt the world was sorely lacking in 7 minute long riff fests about Jack the Ripper, and it never gets less great.  The viciously sharp riffing on the fastest and thrashiest tracks like "Black Cauldron", "Slaughterhouse" and "Out of the Abyss" are among some of the most neck wrecking in metal's entire history.  That Sabbat comparison is about as perfect as I can imagine, as this carries a ferocity in the riffs that can't necessarily be traced back to the bay area or Germany, sort of existing in its own little bubble where it seems like the riffs are influenced almost entirely by themselves, completely free of the scent of Slayer or Sodom or any of the other obvious influences most bands have.  It's just vicious and biting, chewing the scenery in the most sinister of ways.

Despite my worshipping of the insanity of the riffing, this is also one of the handful of albums where I can truly appreciate that otherworldly mysticism that a lot of fans adore.  The contrast between the blazing thrash parts and slower, more churning and ethereal moments in "Return of the Old Ones" keeps the song fresh and varied, taking the listener on a full journey into the depths of madness.  I think this works here more than anywhere else due to the fact that it's seldom overt like it's predecessors and successors, and uses more subtlety in its execution among the whirling lunacy of violence that makes up most of the guitars.  I don't mean to make this sound like a black sheep in their discography, as this sound was telegraphed by the previous five albums getting heavier and heavier with each new release, but this is just the apex where they were the most unrestrained in terms of violent, slobbering insanity, and in turn made their more epic intangibles more restrained, thus making them more impressive to me.  It probably doesn't make sense to most people, but it does to me, and it's one of the reasons that nearly every single second of Out of the Abyss is a screaming moonshot over the grandstands.

So really this is the Road album I had been wishing for ever since first hearing Open the Gates however many years ago.  This is the culmination of them scaling back storytelling and epicism, and it works magnificently because the classic metal riffs are replaced with dutch angled squealing madness in the form of rabidly intense thrashing.  There are moments of what got them the cult popularity in the first place all over the place, particularly in "War in Heaven", "Helicon", and "Return of the Old Ones", but the majority of the record is slathered in bloody wickedness and that makes it all the more entertaining to a brain dead idiot like myself.  Shelton's bizarre, nasally, nerdy wail works here because the focus isn't on his voice and the melodies that work around it, instead the focus is fully entrenched in the ferocity of the riffing, and that's exactly where Manilla Road excels, even if they never fully realized it themselves.  Basically, the dumber the Road, the more I love it.  It's a tragedy that they reverted back to the epic metal they pioneered to me, because when they stepped outside of their trademark, they accidentally made one of the most frantically destructive thrash albums out there in the vein of Znowhite's Act of God, and one of the most twisted and deranged since damn near anything else.

RATING - 91%

PS - Yeah, Mystification is probably a better album, but it's more revered at this point in time and the band doesn't seem to completely neglect it live, so to drive home the point that they're at their best when they riff like monkeys, Out of the Abyss is getting my keyboard love.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Niburta - ReSet


This... truly is a piece of work.  To really understand what this is, I need to give you a brief history lesson about Niburta.  They were a folk metal band.  That's it, lesson over, be sure to turn in your essays by the end of the week.  Really, they just took the Eluveitie route of blending folk metal with melodeath and calling it a day, with their only distinguishing feature being that the folk twanging they chose was Balkanic instead of Celtic.  Otherwise they were a complete clone band replete with In Flames reject riffs and melodies with random female vocals and fiddles and whatever twangboxes they have in Bulgaria.  They had one song that was maddeningly catchy ("Balkanic Heart") and were otherwise completely forgettable and not worth listening to.

The band realized this, and so they decided that they needed to do something to stand out.  Something to... say, reset their career on a clean slate so the endless comparisons would stop.  How could they do this?  How could they possibly rejuvenate a style like folk metal, whose moon has been on the wane ever since Korpiklaani became popular and made extremely clear how shallow and dumb 90% of the bands in the style were?  There had to be some fresh new idea that nobody had thought of yet.  Well in early 2015, Niburta figured it out, they decided to blend their lukewarm brand of played out folk metal with djentcore.

Here's what they forgot: djent cannot save folk metal.  Then again, djent couldn't save a game of Final Fantasy if the entire game took place within a save point and the only command in battle was "save" and it was called Final Fantasy: Save Point.

That opening preamble that consisted of calling the band shitty for trying a stupid idea and predictably failing at it is really all the musical description I need, you've got the gist of what this sounds like.  Three songs, thirteenish minutes, one stupid experiment.  The title track, "ReSet" stands out a slight bit for having an extended quiet folk section in the middle, but it's not a good reason to stand out, because Niburta was never particularly good at folking, and their metalling was always even worse.  Trying to modernize a once trendy style with another flashy trend (though admittedly it looks like djent might be here to stay, even if its popularity is dwindling slowly) is a dubious agenda to start with, but it's made apparent within the first few seconds of gentle cooing clashing harshly with the classic Meshuggah tone of robotic scooped mids, which also clashes against the soft and yet somehow still frantic fiddling that this is dead on arrival.  No individual performances stand out, it's djust a djumbled mess of white noise that goes nowhere.

I'm being a tinge unfair, because it's not djust djent they added, as they also moved away from the light melodeath and decided to try going a more metalcore route with their riffing.  Since that's essentially djust still light metalcore, the new tone and focus on rhythmic chugging makes ReSet sound less like "In Flames with fiddles" and more "Veil of Maya with no breakdowns, shittier vocals, and fiddles".  That's the long and (mercifully) short of it.  It doesn't seem like the band has gained any new traction with this new direction, so hopefully they can djust lay down and fade away painlessly instead of further assaulting good taste djaunty bullshit.

RATING - 15%

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Archspire - The Lucid Collective

Literal pornography

I mean it, this album is equatable to porn, and I don't mean it in a good way.  I've once heard pornography defined as "anything you lose interest in as soon as you finish masturbating", which is completely brilliant and it embarrasses me to admit that I can't for the life of me remember the source.  The point is that Archspire is astounding.  I listen to The Lucid Collective and I'm reminded of the first time I heard genre stalwarts like Origin or even bands who flashed in the pan extremely brightly before abandoning the style or just going generally MIA from the studio like Fleshgod Apocalypse and Decrepit Birth.  The percussion is monstrous, lightning quick, and precise.  The guitars shred at light speed through insanely technical leads and generally unimportant riffs, but they take the Decrepit Birth approach of loading everything down with melody so the riffs are really more of an afterthought anyway.  The biggest standout is probably the vocalist, as he rivals Corpsegrinder, Sean Killian, or the dude from Streetlight Manifesto in how insanely fast he delivers his lines.  The lyrics for any given song are basically a full chapter from any novel, and he just never lets up with his rhythmic staccato.  It's like Busta Rhymes joined Origin, listen to the intro of "Fathom Infinite Depth" and try not to be impressed by his full throatal assault.

And then the album finishes.  And that's it!  A-thibby thib-thit-thit THAT'S ALL FOLKS!

As soon as "Spontaneous Generation" draws to a close, the album evaporates from your memory like your last wet dream, leaving you only with a curious stain and no memory of why you were so damn excited.  For all of the mind-bending skill on display, Archspire is woefully lacking in staying power, with songwriting skill on par with Rings of Saturn or Brain Drill, despite managing to avoid their style of incessantly cramming six second snippets of practice exercises in a random order dozens of times and calling it a song.  When listening to The Lucid Collective, it's obvious that they know what they're doing, it's just a shame that they aren't particularly good at it.  There was a browser game from a few years ago where you'd create a band, get points every hour or so, and spend those points on improving the band, touring, releasing albums, writing songs, etc.  Fun little timekiller and all, and if I recall there was a strong roleplaying community with it, but the point was that there were three factors that influenced the overall rating of the songs you'd write: creativity, playing ability, and songwriting.  If Archspire played that game, they'd have creativity sitting at about 75, playing ability at 150, and songwriting at 20.

As instantly ear catching as tracks like "Fathom Infinite Depth" and "Lucid Collective Somnambulation" are, they have no staying power beyond their initial runtime, and it's a shame because in terms of skill the band is right on par with early Fleshgod.  Maybe this is just a sign of the declining popularity of Unique Leader and Willowtip styled tech death, or maybe it's just my own waning patience with bands who are loaded with technical skill but lacking in songwriting prowess, but Archspire could have been on top of the world back in 2008, but are struggling to reach an audience in 2015.  They have a bit going for them with the rapid fire insanity of the vocalist and some interesting themes (like their ode to "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" in "The Plague of AM"), but unless they can fully utilize the ability to throw in some more hooks, stronger melodies that do more than just dazzle with flashiness, they're going to fade back into the white noise with Arkiak, Signal the Firing Squad, Viraemia, and the rest of the field that used to be a big deal that nobody cares about anymore since the advent of the dissonant, twisted, atmospheric OSDM explosion.  Archspire has a lot of skill, from a frantic bass player that manages to keep the music grounded instead of hopping on a trampoline and hoping everybody notices like Beyond Creation, to a blitzkrieg vocal assault from a deep throated lawn mower, but they need to buckle down and write songs with more strong, memorable moments before they reach any sort of echelon above "decent enough porn".

RATING - 60%

Friday, August 21, 2015

Krisiun - Forged in Fury

Teasiun Pleasiun

One of the most universally praised albums in all of metal history is... well not a Krisiun album.  October Rust by Type O Negative is held in high regard by virtually every fan of the band and even people who couldn't really care less about their genre.  It has a legendary opening track, with nearly 40 seconds of total silence before the band bursts out in laughter, introduces themselves, says they hoped you like the joke, and then the album starts.  It's a shitty joke, to be perfectly honest, but I can't help but feel like Krisiun owes us something similar for this album.  Before the first track truly starts, I want to hear silence before the band starts laughing and says:

"Hi, I'm Alex"

"I'm Moyses"

"And I'm Max"

*all together* "And we just don't give a shit anymore!  Hope you enjoy this album we shit out without actually writing any songs for!"

Because damn, Forged in Fury is a fucking bore.  I have a habit of lumping Krisiun in with the group including Cannibal Corpse, Vader, and Motorhead, where they really don't do anything new with each album, but they're so good at what they do that they don't really need to experiment with their sound.  In truth, every Cannibal Corpse album sounds like "a Cannibal Corpse album", every Motorhead album sounds like "a Motorhead album", but every Krisiun album sounds like "Conquerors of Armageddon".  For as consistent as the band is, it becomes more and more apparent with each subsequent album that they really blew their wad with that 2000 masterpiece.  They really and truly only have three great albums, with Black Force Domain being one of the most unruly and insane albums released in the mid 90s, Conquerors of Armageddon laying the blueprint for their signature blend of high speed, groovy, and punishing stop-start riff onslaughts, and fluking out with Southern Storm basically being Conquerors but better.

Forged in Fury?  Nah, this is pretty much interchangeable with any of their mid 00s albums.  It's truly the sound of a band on autopilot, just going into the studio and doing what they know how to do, but not really applying themselves towards the goal of getting better with each try.  It's like they figured out what they did best and just never bothered honing their skills.  The technical skills and execution are serviceable enough, with their jarring shifts from frenzied blasts and bassy tremolo assaults to pounding, Bolt Thrower style grooving being just as capable as always, but none of these songs contain any riffs or breakdowns or vocal patterns or solos or memorable moments or anything to really distinguish themselves from each other.  The album is a faceless blur of nothing-riffs.  It's just not particularly interesting or well written, which is unfortunate because that's the hardest criticism to explain.  There aren't any memorable blasts of intensity like the intro to "Combustion Inferno" or the main riff to "Sentenced Morning", it's just incessant tremolo abuse and blasting with no further thought put into it.  I don't even really know how to elaborate further, every song sounds like the song before it, and they all sound like "Abyssal Gates" from fifteen years prior except not as hungry and exciting.

I think one of the biggest problems is simply that the songs have been getting longer as of late, with this album being nearly an hour long and having four songs break the six minute mark (with another one being within seconds of that cutoff).  There simply aren't enough ideas at play to justify the songs being as lengthy as they are.  You get every idea the song will introduce within the first minute and that's it, nearly every track could be a minute or two shorter and it'd greatly improve the album.  This has been their issue for a while now, the three brothers just seem woefully incapable of trimming the fat.  The best song is easily "The Isolated Truth", and it's unironically the shortest one (though the fact that it's basically just a rewrite of the stellar "Combustion Inferno" certainly helps its standing with me).  In fact, the only two songs on here I'd ever see myself listening to again are that one and "Oracle of the Ungod", and it's for basically the exact same reason.  They're the two shortest songs and they're the most interesting interpretation of their stop-start brutality that's dominated their sound for the past decade.  That's it, they're well written and well executed versions of what the rest of the album tries to do but fails because it's too busy repeating itself.

I'm glad they've solved their production woes, as this is as heavy and thick as the previous two albums, but the actual content is disappointingly lacking.  If Forged in Fury is the first Krisiun album you hear, then you'll love it to death.  All of the ideas and quirks that have made the band relevant and respected enough for me to still care about despite thinking they're overall pretty meh are here like all the rest of the albums, but they're running on fumes at this point.  Nothing breaks out, grabs you by the balls, and hurls you against a wall like "Ravager" or "Slaying Steel" did years and years ago.  It's one dimensional, which used to be one of their greatest strengths, but it's now pretty heftily their biggest problem.

RATING - 45%

PS: "Milonga de la Muerte" is a cool acoustic bit, but it's stupid to end the album on what feels like an interlude as opposed to a true outro.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

TOP 50 ALBUMS OF THE 00s: Part V

Well folks, this is it, the end of the road.  It's been a fun week reminiscing about all of these undisputed classics within their genres, and I'm glad this finally came to fruition (aka I got off my ass and actually wrote something).  I just want to head into this last segment with an editor's note: YES I've heard the complaints about me not limiting the list to one album per band because that stunts diversity and just means I'll load the list down with my favorite albums from a few bands.  A) That's kind of the point, and B) fear not, there will be a featurette after this segment for honorable mentions and a sample packet (basically meaning "these are the albums that would've made it had I implemented that rule" and links for one or two songs from each album for anybody curious about something they haven't heard).  But first things first, it's time for the top ten of the decade!  They were chosen using a barometer of me.  I'm the barometer.


10. Primordial - The Gathering Wilderness (2005)
The inclusion of The Gathering Wilderness probably won't garner too much vitriol from readers, as most fans of this music can readily agree that it's a phenomenal album of emotional black metal anthems.  Mid paced, ethereal, and triumphant, it stands for everything that makes this particular subniche of the genre so majestic.  However, the fact that Primordial's 2007 followup, To the Nameless Dead was snubbed will probably make some fans irate.  I'll admit, my initial assessment of it being a nothing-album with great intangibles but a boring base of songwriting were almost completely unfounded, formed by a contrarian 17 year old version of myself who just couldn't get behind something so thoughtful and classy, as it actually is a very good album with a lot of good songs.  The problem with it is that the entire album is overshadowed by "Empire Falls", which is one of the greatest songs in the genre.  Nothing else even comes close to "Empire Falls", and the album suffers for it.  It's a bunch of great songs with one genre defining classic.  The Gathering Wilderness, on the other hand, is that song seven times in a row.  This is the perfect representation of larger than life, anthemic black metal, drenched in Celtic pride and anguished suffering.  Alan Averill has always had a unique voice, sounding like a tortured and broken man screaming his dying breaths for the pride of his country, and he's in top form here.  The songs themselves are among the most emotional ever written, with odes to the Irish famine in the 1800s with "The Coffin Ships" and tributes to long lost pagan gods with "The Golden Spiral", the entire album is focused on tragedy and a fascination with the past.  I've always said, in regards to my personal life, that the past shouldn't be ignored because it made you who you are, but the past belongs in the past.  Basically, remember where you came from, but don't dwell on it.  The Gathering Wilderness is a staunch "fuck you" to that idea, and it works extraordinarily well with a very starkly bleak beauty.  Primordial revels in death and tragedy and presents it in a very romantic light, and that macabre splendor is what makes them, and this era of their music (Spirit of the Earth Aflame and Storm Before Calm are also amazing albums) so otherworldly and gorgeous.  It's grim and unapologetic, and even a guy like me who couldn't possibly be less Irish can feel the pride flowing through my veins as it goes along.  It's definitely one of the best of the decade and deserves this spot without question.

9. Vektor - Black Future (2009)
Even though I admit that I have an issue with how long this album is (all three tracks over ten minutes could have easily been shortened), and how some songs tend to write themselves into a corner and fix it with extremely amateurish and jarring transitions, I still can't help but heap all the praise imaginable upon Black Future for a few reasons.  One of which is that these riffs are among the best thrash riffs of, and I'm not exaggerating, all fucking time.  "Black Future", "Oblivion", "Hunger for Violence", and "Forests of Legend" all carry more than their fair share of completely unhinged, frenetic creativity that manifest themselves inside some of the most stellar riffs I've ever heard.  This doesn't focus on Bay Area excitement like Exodus or Testament, nor does it focus on German brutality like Kreator or Sodom, instead opting to take most of their influence from the Canadian progressive thrash legends, Voivod.  They take the spaced out technical weirdness of the Quebecois stalwarts and run in a different direction with it, taking influences from everywhere imaginable on their avalanche run through Hell like a malevolent katamari of uncompromising and dead technological nightmares.  The second reason I love this album more than my children is because it's quite possibly the most important thrash album ever recorded.  I mean this because while bands like Exmortus will occasionally break the mold and take influences from all over the place, Vektor does it strictly within the confines of thrash metal itself.  All of these progressive elements and technical showcases and howling screeches wouldn't fit in any other genre, despite how creative and forward thinking Black Future is, it's all done with the cliche elements of thrash metal that every band adheres to.  They took those parts and made something completely and wholly new out of it.  It's like they took a box of Legos meant for a standard medieval castle and used the pieces to make a Death Star instead.  And it's because of this boundless creativity and outside-the-box songwriting and riff building that they showed the metal fandom as a whole that thrash truly wasn't a dead genre, and they did it by taking old parts and creating something new instead of just wearing hi tops and screaming THRASH'S NOT DEAD at the top of their lungs from under their flat billed caps.  They moved thrash forwards by moving it sideways.  In the six years since release, the only band to have even come close to utilizing the lessons taught on Black Future were Vektor themselves, with 2011's Outer Isolation managing to be equally as stunning while fixing all the tiny and ultimately insignificant problems present here.  Released with less than a month and a half left in the year, this snuck in right before the deadline and acts as the freeze frame high five at the end of the decade, concluding almost thirty years of growth with one of the most fresh takes on an established genre of all time.

8. Slough Feg - Hardworlder (2007)
I promise this is the last Scalzi project on the list, I swear.  While the band may have been at the top of their game in their "Lord Weird" days, they actually released their best album after the name change, the 2007 space opera, Hardworlder.  Mike Scalzi has said that he spent much of the band's early days trying harder and harder to one up himself in an effort to prove that he could be one of the best in the game, and he feels like he achieved it on Traveller, and ever since then has been much more laid back about his music and just writes whatever he feels like writing.  Most of that stuff ends up being kinda dry and lifeless half-songs, but his laid back, bluesy metal/rock on this album actually manages to be the best stuff he ever managed to write.  It doesn't follow a hard story like that 2003 opus, but the songs are all unified in the theme of galactic travel and wartime, so it still feels like one.  Once again the band runs the gamut of styles, and all of them are incredible.  "Tiger! Tiger!" is a very laid back and bluesy track, featuring a very emotional dueling guitar solo, "Poisoned Treasures" is a more traditional metal song with speedy riffing and Scalzi's wailing croon, "The Sea Wolf" is a more reflective and sorrowful ballad, while the trifecta of "Hardworlder", "The Spoils", and "Frankfurt-Hann Airport Blues" runs through all three styles.  "Galactic Nomad" acts as a throwback to the more quirky, angular frenzy of the Lord Weird era as well, and pretty much every single song can be singled out as a masterclass in whatever subset of music it nestles within.  I can only say so much because this is the third album by this band on the list, but it's truly the best there is when it comes to them.  Their Brocas Helm meets Thin Lizzy style is as unique as ever, and this one amps up the latter influence with much more heavy blues.  Slough Feg is a band that seems to be much more popular on the internet than in reality, which is a total shame because the quality and showmanship is high enough to be headlining the big European metal festival circuit, and yet they seem doomed to play grungy pubs in southern Illinois for the rest of eternity.  And even then, that's where they seem to be the most at home, so maybe they've never been cursed in the first place.  They just love hanging out in the gutters with the rest of the blue collar everymen, and that down to earth respectability translates through their music, even when it's based beyond the furthest stars.  Bonus points for this basically being the only metal album in history to be great while also having two cover songs.

7. Children of Bodom - Follow the Reaper (2000)
It may seem strange considering the fact that this is listed in the top ten, but I almost didn't even include it in the first place.  My love for early Bodom has been remembered mostly for the nostalgia of them being such a huge influence on me back in the earlier years of high school, back when they were still respected musicians, before kickflipping their way to the bottom of the barrel in later years.  Upon relistening to Follow the Reaper, not only did I realize that I have no shame for my Bodom fandom, but it actually still holds up as one of the most entertaining melodic metal albums of all time.  Back during this era of the band, they played what was essentially sped up Nightwish songs with harsh yowling vocals (with lyrics so laughably bad that they were usually made up on the spot in the studio and not listed in the album inserts) instead of the operatic coos of some pretty woman.  Nah, Bodom was a bunch of ugly Finnish dudes who just had no fucking clue how to restrain themselves.  This is the same principle that rocketed Dragonforce to stardom during their early years, and Follow the Reaper is the best example of how to make this idea work.  Everything is self indulgent and overblown, and anybody who has ever read a word I've written knows that that also describes my own style quite well.  I don't just love this for vicarious narcissism, the songs are all classic melodic death/power metal like no other band could manage.  Kalmah, Norther, Skyfire, Imperanon, there were tons of bands out of Finland trying to do what Bodom did, and none of them could ever write a song as engaging and adrenaline pumping as "Mask of Sanity" or "Children of Decadence".  Bodom knew how to make this style as unrestrained and ridiculous as possible while still being accessible, which lead to poppy tracks like "Hate Me" and four minute shredding solos like "Kissing the Shadows".  The dueling leads between Laiho's guitar and Wirmen's keys were never better than they were here (except maybe arguably on this album's predecessor, Hatebreeder).  The nostalgia may be strong with this one, but it's backed by the best album in the style, and I'll never apologize for that.

6. Bolt Thrower - Those Once Loyal (2005)
You know, I still think Bolt Thrower is overrated to an extent, and I still think that Karl Willetts isn't that great of a vocalist, but with that in mind, do you have any idea how amazing these songs areThose Once Loyal is so fucking good that the band decided not to record any more albums until they personally feel like they managed to top it, and as a result haven't released anything in over a decade.  This album is so incredible that it actually managed to kill one of the greatest death metal bands that ever existed.  Their themes of war come across in their music in a vicious way, with everything they release being pummeling and visceral, with an added emphasis on heaviness and groove that every death metal band wishes they could perfect.  This actually sounds like a tank, it sounds like a several ton death machine crushing skulls in the trenches while it fires shells the size of a Jeep at a fortified bunker.  The groove elements are just so fucking brilliant, I legitimately can't think of anything to compare them to, it's all so deep and heavy and crushing, nobody sounds like Bolt Thrower and they reign as one of the most influential death metal bands of all time for a reason.  Those Once Loyal is suffocating, and it's basically the antithesis of the common tech death criticism of "all style, no substance".  This is is nothing but substance, and the style comes not from flashy noodling or inhuman drumming, but just from extremely well written riffs and songs.  I can't describe this, I really can't, there are only like three adjectives I can use and they're all the best versions of those adjectives I can think of.  Nothing is more crushing, nothing is more groovy, nothing is more heavy, everything they do is perfect.  This is superlative death metal and the absolute best thing the genre managed to create during this decade.  That's all there is to it, if you can't rock out to the beastly grooves of "The Killchain" or the pummeling brutality of "Last Stand of Humanity", then I don't want to know you.

5. Melechesh - Emissaries (2006)
Remember how hard I ejaculated over Sphynx in the last entry?  Well Emissaries is somehow better in every conceivable way.  All of the Mesopotamian fury, all of the black/death/folk insanity, all of the masterfully written riffs intertwined with sublime melodies, all of it is here and better than ever.  The fire that burned within the band was at an all time high during this period, and they never managed to match what they had here.  Later albums are still good, but they're focused more on mid paced grooves and chanting ancient incantations.  Melechesh still did those thing back in 2006, but it was with so much more vitriol and wrath.  When the band plays something like "Rebirth of the Nemesis" or "Touching the Spheres of Sephiroth" live, it sounds like a completely different band took the stage.  Emissaries was just on a whole other level, a completely different plane of existence when writing this.  This is what would happen if Satan had written the Dead Sea Scrolls.  It sounds ancient, it sounds like long sleeping gods have awoken and learned how to play metal, and in doing so have crafted something otherworldly in spirit while remaining malevolent and vicious.  As great as Sphynx is (and I should remind you that it's really really great), everything about Emissaries is just a little bit faster, a little bit heavier, and a little bit bigger.  I love albums that sound larger than life, like you're part of something greater for merely listening to it, and this is one of the best albums for capturing that feeling.  Even with the ethereal majesty lifting the album over almost all of its contemporaries, it's still loaded down with brutal riffing.  It's just strong, powering through swaths of unsuspecting slaves and sweeping them up in its mighty jaws, devouring everything in its path.  I'll never get over Melechesh's ability to riff like they do, with the unique percussive elements and powerful melody playing off each other so well in the background.  This is decidedly more in line with black metal than the more nebulous entity that Sphynx was, but it doesn't work to the album's detriment.  I can't gush forever, just fuck everything else and get this album.

4. Persuader - Evolution Purgatory (2004)
HA!  You thought I implied that When Eden Burns was the superior album back in their entry, didn't you?  Well psyche, because Evolution Purgatory, despite not being quite as melodic or catchy as its successor, is loaded down with such a hefty fucking set of testicles that it manages to club everything else to death like a tanuki.  This was the go-to album for me and everybody back in the mid 2000s whenever power metal was criticized as being too melodic and flowery and girly, because there is more testosterone in these 47 minutes than the Detroit Lions locker room.  And that's not to say this is entirely amelodic.  Tracks like "Masquerade" and "Passion/Pain" aren't afraid to throw in some light keys and powerful guitar melodies into the forefront, with most of the harmonized vocals populating every chorus sounding like any given Blind Guardian track from the mid 90s.  But even when the melody is in the forefront, Evolution Purgatory is thick and muscular.  Carlsson's vocals are even more chaotic and driven here, as he showcases his versatility more than ever.  The opening verse of "Turn to Dust" basically cycles through every possible style of vocal for a metal band, and it's natural instead of gimmicky.  There are groovy, hooky tracks like "Godfather" mixed in with thrash influenced rippers like "Fire at Will" and "Sanity Soiled", along with more standard power metal flare (though with a huge emphasis on face punching attitude) like "Strike Down" and "Masquerade".  I once described this as "Blind Guardian on PCP", and it's still true, all these years later.  I'll admit that this is another album that probably has nostalgia helping it rank as high as it is, being that this album is basically the soundtrack to the summer before my senior year of high school, sonically guiding me through probably the most significant personal growth I've ever experienced apart from my comically brief stint in the military and the first time I punched a clown.  But unlike Children of Bodom up there, I never doubted for one second that this would rank in the top ten.  Evolution Purgatory is genuinely one of the greatest power metal albums of all time, and certainly the best that wasn't released by Blind Guardian, Helloween, Gamma Ray, etc.

3. 3 Inches of Blood - Advance and Vanquish (2004)
Seriously BH? You're telling me this gimmicky piece of shit is the third best album of the decade?  Look at that stupid band name, look at their stupid bespectacled metalcore screamer, look at that stupid album cover, it looks like the focus is on that dope's thigh.  I'm not sorry, I'm really not.  3IoB was never really given their due, as far as I'm concerned, because Advance and Vanquish is a modern classic in every sense of the word.  This is a band that sort of snuck into the throngs of metalcore that was coming out at the time and burst up so strongly that they rightfully should've been considered the next Judas Priest and carried off into infamy.  Unfortunately, these hooks, riffs, and perfectly written songs were completely shunned by a huge contingent of metal fans because the vocals were so jarring.  The band utilizes two, Cam Pipes, who sings like a blend of Rob Halford and Brian Johnson, and Jamie Hooper, who screams in a high pitched monotone harsh rasp.  I want to sit here and cry about how unfair it is that Hooper got a ton of crap thrown at him specifically, and how the band was constantly mislabeled as metalcore posers due to his rasp despite these riffs and melodies being straight out of 1984, and I want to whine about how the music suddenly got really shitty once he was kicked out (it was said he left because he blew his voice out, but the fact that he's been screaming his lungs out with Congress ever since then shows that it's a load of bullshit), leading me to believe he was the secret genius behind the riffs the whole time.  But I shan't, instead I'll focus on how fucking incredible these songs are.  The "Upon the Boiling Sea" trilogy that's scattered throughout the album is probably the highlight throughout, with "Fear on the Bridge", "Lord of the Storm", and "Isle of Eternal Despair" being the best songs on display, with a huge influence coming from classic European metal groups like Judas Priest, Running Wild, and Accept.  They keep the aggression high with pummeling numbers like "Deadly Sinners" and "Dominion of Deceit", while showcasing their impeccable ear for melody in songs like "Axes of Evil", "Revenge is a Vulture", and "Swordmaster".  Advance and Vanquish is loaded to the gills with classic metal riffage and ohrwurm hooks at every turn, and they do this without ever fully descending into relying on cliches and leaving it at that.  In a way, 3 Inches of Blood was the precursor to bands that have fared much more favorably in the underground like In Solitude, Enforcer, and Striker.  Granted that means they're also responsible for White Wizzard, but we can't control who likes us.  Pretty much the only time you'll ever see me slip up and use the classic non-attack of "elitism" is when people trash Advance and Vanquish, because it has everything that metal fans claim to want, and somehow found itself maligned for over a decade.  Don't be fooled, this is the best thing 2004 gave us.

2. Sigh - Hangman's Hymn (2007)
This was my introduction to Sigh.  I had ordered it on a whim from The End records (back when they were still a respected distro) based on word of mouth and got the package shortly before I left for work.  I was working an overnight lock in at a bowling alley, it was raining at the time, and I put it on in my car for the drive there.  I almost didn't go to work that night.  I seriously contemplated just sitting in my car, staring in awe at my stereo.  I really think the only other time I found myself doing that was when I sat cross legged on my bed, jaw agape, staring at my speakers while I listened to Ride the Lightning all the way through for the first time.  Sigh put me in a trance that only the most popular metal band of all time ever managed to do almost a decade prior.  Hangman's Hymn is one of the most well written metal albums of all time, with repeating themes coming and going in such well timed cycles amidst a whirlwind of hellish insanity.  I mentioned in the entry for Imaginary Sonicscape that Sigh was nearly impossible to describe, but that's actually sort of facetious here, because this album is firmly rooted in metal, as hybrid and challenging as it may be.  There is a ton of thrash and black on display, amidst bombastic horns and choirs and a very progressive approach to songwriting, with classic trad metal shredding solos all over the place.  This is one of those rare albums that takes influence from basically everywhere and manages to make it palatable and cohesive.  This difficult to define style of extreme metal coupled with huge strings and orchestrations is based around a concept that I've never truly been able to follow, but it's never mattered because you know how the story is supposed to go anyway based on how the music shifts and churns.  The explosive opening of "Introitus - Kyrie" sets the stage for the chameleon eyed lunacy to come, and from the more sinister "Dies Irae - The Master Malice", to the relentless blast beating and haunting choirs of "Memories as a Sinner", to the epic and somber conclusion of "Hangman's Hymn - In Paradisum - Das Ende", everything moves so smoothly and appropriately that it's comparable to an actual opera.  There's nothing I don't love about this, it has everything I've ever wanted in a more experimental metal album.  It's unconventional while being accessible, huge while being relatable, furious while being exquisite, ferocious while being bombastic, it's everything and nothing at the same time.  The superficial elements are massive and vicious while the more conceptual ideas are just as hungry and malicious while being much darker and subdued.  I love this, I love this, I love this.  I can't praise it enough.  Sigh is one of the greatest bands of our time, and almost nothing showcases it quite like Hangman's Hymn.


1. Skeletonwitch - Beyond the Permafrost (2007)

What?  Wait no, that can't be right, let me check my cards.

Well I'll be damned, this is right.  This is actually my favorite fucking album released in this timeframe.  When I had started this project, I was pretty set on Sigh taking the throne, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Beyond the Permafrost is really and truly one of my all time favorite albums.  It seems weird, because they can easily come off as a flavor of the week trendy band at a glance, but really, Skeletonwitch sort of accidentally redefined thrash in a similar way to how Vektor and Exmortus did it.  They took influence from everywhere, they took the best of black metal, the best of death metal, the best of traditional metal, they took all of the best of everything and put it against the baseboard of the best of thrash and made the best album of the decade.  Beyond the Permafrost is one of the greatest modern metal albums because it managed to cram so many ideas into one succinct timeframe and have such an astoundingly high amount of them hit bullseye. It has a sense of melody that most thrash bands could never quite nail, because it doesn't just come from overt Maiden/Priest style leads or wailing vocals, it just comes from expertly written riffs that convey the melody despite the punishing nature of the music and varied growls and rasps of the vocals. There are out and out barnburning thrashers ("Beyond the Permafrost"), insanely technical exercises ("Soul Thrashing Black Sorcery"), contrastingly simple shows of restraint resulting in great hooks "Vengeance Will Be Mine"), Marduk styled tremolo abusing morbidity ("Limb from Limb"), and straight up traditional metal riffing and melody drenched hooks ("Within My Blood"). I know I mentioned the same album in the last entry, but while Ride the Lightning sort of defied what thrash was supposed to be before thrash was even a thing, Beyond the Permafrost took a style that had been defined pretty solidly for over 20 years and completely broke all the chains within those confines. It's their ability to stay firmly rooted in what came before them while branching out with so many new ideas that grew this album into the monstrous uncutdownable tree that it has become, and as long as I live I will hail it as one of the few definitive modern classics of this current generation.

And there we have it!  BH's Top 50 Albums of 2000-2009.  I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did, and I hope everybody enjoyed at least most of the albums on display here, as I'm clearly a huge fan of them all.


I mentioned that I ranked far more than 50 albums for this list, and I also mentioned that this album wasn't exclusive to one album per band.  With that in mind, the fact that Sigh, Gargoyle, Cannibal Corpse, Persuader, and Melechesh all had two albums on the list, and Slough Feg had a whopping three, that leaves seven albums that got snubbed that would have ranked if I'd've just selected one from each.  So, to sate those who were curious as to what juuuuuust barely missed the cut, here are the seven next spots that almost made it.

Arsis - A Celebration of Guilt (2005): This was James Malone's one flukey masterpiece.  His ability to write riffs that are as insanely technical and melodic as they are has always been impressive, but almost every Arsis album has been a slapdash hack job of random ideas in random places.  The debut is the one time he managed to get them in the right order.  "The Face of My Innocence" is a phenomenal song.

Dying Fetus - Destroy the Opposition (2000): This sort of suffered the same fate that I mentioned To the Nameless Dead facing; that being that it's basically one phenomenal, genre defying classic song ("Praise the Lord") and then a bunch of other good songs that don't measure up.  As such, it didn't quite make the cut, which is a shame because it's brutal as fuck and easily the best Dying Fetus album.

Mastodon - Blood Mountain (2006): I've written all about this band across five different reviews, and I really don't feel like beating a dead horse.  Just know that they never topped Blood Mountain because they never wrote songs as frantically hooky as "The Wolf is Loose" and "Circle of Cysquatch" again.

Anaaal Nathrakh - In the Constellation of the Black Widow (2009): There is basically no album even half as insane as this one.  The stellar blend of black metal and grindcore creates a frenetic echo chamber of torture.  Basically this never slows down and never relents, and gleefully vaporizes listeners in a swath of nuclear hellfire.

Ahab - The Divinity of Oceans (2009): I know almost every single person in the universe considers their debut, Call of the Wretched Sea, to be the superior album, but I've always loved their more melodic approach to baby's first funeral doom.  Also I mean, come on, this is the album that spawned Fast Ahab, which is my all time greatest contribution to humanity.

Rotten Sound - Exit (2005): All I need to do to describe Rotten Sound is describe the time I saw them live.  They were opening for Finntroll and Ensiferum, and they were so fast, grindy, and relentlessly brutal that all of the kids with furs and facepaint stood against the wall looking scared while my two friends and I stood up front headbanging and moshing with each other.  The vocalist said after about a hundred and ten songs, "We're gonna play some fast ones now", and the buddy to my left (who was also there for folk metal but was a good sport about the grind) looked at me in disbelief that they could possibly have any faster songs.  The vocalist had a head vein that was about six inches wide.

Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor (2005): This is the one time Nevermore ever truly nailed it.  They had a few good albums here and there and were pretty decent about making their music accessible and poppy while still being respectable enough to rock out to, with Dead Heart in a Dead World being their shining moment in this department.  But This Godless Endeavor was their all around best album by a long shot, with tons of different ideas spanning their entire career up to that point.  It was very nearly the band's swansong, and in all honesty should have been.  If "The Psalm of Lydia", "A Future Uncertain", "Final Product", and "This Godless Endeavor" don't get your blood pumping, then you're an android and should be destroyed.


This is for people who may be interested in something I've listed here, but haven't heard the album before.  This here will give you all a little taste of everything, two tracks from each album, with the exception of Wormphlegm and Altar of Plagues, since they only have three and four tracks on their two albums, respectively.

Hammers of Misfortune - The Locust Years: "The Locust Years" , "Trot Out the Dead" 
Vomitory - Revelation Nausea: "Under Clouds of Blood" , "Revelation Nausea" 
Nile - Annihilation of the Wicked: "The Burning Pits of the Duat" , "Sacrifice Unto Sebek" 
The Black Dahlia Murder - Nocturnal: "What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse" , "Climactic Degradation" 
Symphony X - Paradise Lost: "Set the World on Fire" , "Eve of Seduction" 
Cannibal Corpse - Kill: "Make Them Suffer" , "The Discipline of Revenge" 
Municipal Waste - Hazardous Mutation: "Unleash the Bastards" , "Guilty of Being Tight" 
Amon Amarth - With Oden On Our Sides: "Cry of the Black Birds" , "Asator" 

Arghoslent - Incorrigible Bigotry: "Quelling the Simian Urge" , "Flogging the Cargo" 
Hour of Penance - The Vile Conception: "Misconception" , "The Holy Betrayal" 
Wormphlegm - Tomb of the Ancient King: "Epejumalat Monet Tesse Muinen Palveltin Caucan ja Lesse" 
Altar of Plagues - White Tomb: "Earth: As a Womb" 
Dragonforce - Sonic Firestorm: "Cry of the Brave" , "My Spirit Will Go On" 
Exhumed - Slaughtercult: "Decrepit Crescendo" , "A Lesson in Pathology" 
As I Lay Dying - An Ocean Between Us: "Within Destruction" , "Forsaken" 
Gargoyle - Kemonomichi: "Kichiku" , "Bakudan Chuudoku" 
Deathchain - Deathrash Assault: "Napalm Satan" , "Venom Preacher" 
Immolation - Close to a World Below: "Father, You're Not a Father" , "Close to a World Below" 

The Axis of Perdition - Deleted Scenes from the Transition Hospital: "In The Hallway of Crawling Filth" , "One Day You Will Understand Why" 
Torture Squad - Pandemonium: "Horror and Torture" , "Towers of Fire" 
Exmortus - In Hatred's Flame: "Triumph By Fire" , "War Gods" 
Ensiferum - Iron: "Tale of Revenge" , "LAI LAI HEI" 
Fleshgod Apocalypse - Oracles: "Embodied Deception" , "As Tyrants Fall" 
Type O Negative - Dead Again: "Halloween in Heaven" , "Tripping a Blind Man" 
Gamma Ray - No World Order!: "Dethrone Tyranny" , "Follow Me" 
Cannibal Corpse - Gore Obsessed: "Grotesque" , "Pit of Zombies" 
Vader - Impressions in Blood: "Helleluyah!!! (God is Dead)" , "The Book" 
Persuader - When Eden Burns: "Judas Immortal" , "Sending You Back" 

The Lord Weird Slough Feg - Down Among the Deadmen: "Warrior's Dawn" , "Traders and Gunboats" 
Gargoyle - Future Drug: "GUSH!!" , "B.B" 
Timeless Miracle - Into the Enchanted Chamber: "The Red Rose" , "Curse of the Werewolf" 
Vader - Litany: "Wings" , "Xeper" 
Ensiferum - Victory Songs: "Ahti" , "Victory Song" 
Misery Index - Traitors: "Traitors" , "Occupation" 
Sigh - Imaginary Sonicscape: "A Sunset Song" , "Nietzschean Conspiracy" 
The Lord Weird Slough Feg - Traveller: "Asteroid Belts""Vargr Theme / Confrontation (Genetic Prophesy)"
Melechesh - Sphynx: "Incendium Between Mirage and Time" , "Annunaki's Golden Thrones" 
The Crown - Deathrace King: "Blitzkrieg Witchcraft" , "Rebel Angel" 

Primordial - The Gathering Wilderness: "The Coffin Ships" , "The Golden Spiral" 
Vektor - Black Future: "Black Future" , "Forests of Legend" 
Slough Feg - Hardworlder: "Tiger! Tiger!" , "Poisoned Treasures" 
Children of Bodom - Follow the Reaper: "Mask of Sanity" , "Kissing the Shadows" 
Bolt Thrower - Those Once Loyal: "At First Light" , "The Killchain" 
Melechesh - Emissaries: "Rebirth of the Nemesis""Deluge of Delusional Dreams"
Persuader - Evolution Purgatory: "Fire at Will" , "Sanity Soiled" 
3 Inches of Blood - Advance and Vanquish: "Revenge is a Vulture" , "Lord of the Storm" 
Sigh - Hangman's Hymn: "Introitus - Kyrie" , "Salvation in Flame - Confutatis" 
Skeletonwitch - Beyond the Permafrost: "Limb from Limb" ,  "Within My Blood"

That's everything!  I hope you all enjoyed this little project of mine.  I certainly had fun with it.  Now's the time to let the debate rage and, hell, if you're so inclined, make your own top 50 and see how much fun it is.  Thank you all for joining me!