Thursday, May 30, 2019

Orbstruct - Phobos Rising

Big meaty groovy death metal

This one threw me for a loop right at the start.  "Venus" opens with a quick vocal passage before the music starts, but I could've sworn I was about to be treated to a fucking massive breakdown based on those vocals.  I find myself here encountering trouble articulating what the fuck I mean by that, but I guess the vocals here just sound kinda deathcorey at times, and I realize now that I have no words to describe how that's different from regular old death metal vocals.  They sound... I dunno, more lung and less throat?  Does that make sense?  Either way, I'm not meaning this in a negative way, I think the sound of Orbstruct's debut, Phobos Rising, is fucking massive, and the vocals are just one component of that.  I can't seem to find a whole lot of info with regards to where this was recorded or who was responsible for mixing/mastering/producing the whole thing, but I give a lot of credit to this album's effectiveness to whoever was behind the knobs on this one, because this is a gargantuan wall of sound that just falls on top of the listener with the weight of an ocean. 

Beyond how simply fucking huge Phobos Rising sounds, it's equally effective in it's simplistic nature.  This is by no means a "stupid" album, as I'm so fond of referring to shallow releases, it's just single-minded and uninterested in technical complexities.  This gruesome twosome from Ukraine waste no time with jangly atmosphere or mindbending theatrics, preferring instead to just waltz into the room and headbutt everybody to death.  This is the sort of death metal that I always kinda hoped Obituary would've actually sounded like with their heavy emphasis on groove (instead of just being slow and boring for like 25 straight years).  This isn't overtly doomy like the slow sections in Autopsy or Asphyx or something, here the groovy elements are much skippier and full of vigor.  There's a very pugilistic sense of directness with these tracks.  Check out the intro of "God's Gun" or "East of You", or the fucking wicked breakdown section in "Utopian".  This is still death metal to the core, no bones about it, but many sections are presented with such a barbaric, single minded focus on one-note chug-savagery that I just can't help but feel like these guys are bloody-jawed cavemen. 

That's not to say the tropes of traditional death metal are eschewed entirely here, there are numerous sections of frantic blasting and Vader styled tremolo riffs, they just tend to shine the brightest when the reign in the tempo without losing focus on ferocious intensity.  It's at precisely this moment that I remember who Orbstruct reminds me of, and that's the Dubaite Nervecell.  While Nervecell tended to be a pretty stock and merely decent band on the whole, they had one huge standout moment on their sophomore release, Psychogenocide.  The last 45 seconds of the last song on that album were among the most underappreciated seconds of all 2011.  The outro of "Nation's Plague" was fast, simple, and heavy.  Just pure brutality in a simplified form that devastated me from the first listen and became the only reason I even remembered that fucking band eight years later.  Phobos Rising is like a full album of those 45 seconds.

The only real problem with this album is that it's kinda samey on the whole, and the only real standouts have already been mentioned.  "God's Gun" and "Venus" are excellent songs, and "East of You" isn't too far behind, but I still have trouble recalling the rest of the album.  But honestly that's not really a gamebreaker, because on the whole this is a very good album that I can definitely see myself revisiting more than a few times as the year goes on. 


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Necrotombs - Embalmed with Rotten Flesh


This is pretty much the perfect example of the okayest album ever.  Necrotombs is the solo project of Xerberus, currently the bassist of Stigmhate and the ex-bassist of several other bands you've never heard of.  His second album here, Embalmed with Rotten Flesh is perfectly serviceable and by no means bad in any way, but it's also completely unremarkable and completely not worth listening to. 

That's pretty much all there is to say about it, which is sad because that's only three sentences and two of them barely have anything to do with the music itself.  It's just that there's so little here worth commenting on.  This is orthodox death metal with no new ideas executed perfectly competently.  I can't really give a whole lot of praise to any particular aspect of it.  There are moments of interest here and there, like the heightened thrash influence of "Born from a Corpse", the back of of "Emptiness of Solitude" where the vocals break from the traditional deep death metal growls and switch to an insanely loud yell, there's the relentlessly heavy grooves of "Frozen to Be Eaten", but all of those moments are barely more interesting than the moments surrounding them and even so they're not particularly great.  If there's anything that might sum up what this album sounds like, it's that it sounds like everything and nothing at the same time.  The first time I ran through this, I got a lot of Cannibal Corpse vibes, the second time I realized I was mistaken and it was actually much more akin to Entombed, then the third I was convinced it was more early Pestilence I was hearing, then the fourth I realized all of those were wrong and it was actually Autopsy, and then et cetera forever.  This isn't because Necrotombs takes the best elements from all the best classic bands and utilizes them all in a way that's so seamless that it sounds like something else entirely.  No, this is because this album is so fucking bland and faceless that it can sound like whatever you want it to sound like depending on where your mind is at at any given time.

There's nothing to talk about here.  This is regular ass death metal with no defining features and no excitement.  The riffs are all bog-standard entry level thrashy death metal with Obituary styled stomps, the drums hit all the usual beats you'd expect for a band of this type (though they're not particularly blast heavy, though that could be because Xerberus simply isn't a drummer), the vocals have a throaty van Drunen approach, and hey this all sounds great on paper but in practice it's just wholly forgettable.  If anything, the one thing that truly stands out as different are the two instrumental tracks, which are significantly longer than the rest of the songs and contain riffs that could've easily gone on the rest of the songs without anybody noticing.  They don't feel like songs that are instrumental for any artistic reason, or like these riffs were written with that express purpose, or like these songs were finished but so unconventional that vocals just wouldn't fit anywhere.  Nah, they just sound like collections of riffs that the dude didn't know what to do with so he just hucked 'em all together with no vocal track and called it a day.  There's just no reason to listen to this, competent as it may be.


Sunday, May 26, 2019

Black Kirin - Nanking Massacre

War is not cool

I don't like Sabaton.

I know that's a really weird way to start a review for an extreme metal band out of China, but hear me out, I'm going somewhere with this.

Beyond the obvious problem of their songs just not being very good, it's the grand philosophical approach of Sabaton that grinds my gears.  Mainly, I just don't fucking like war and I like the idea of turning it into a bouncy pop metal institution even less.  Warfare is an easy enough topic for metal bands to cover, and if you're a band like Sabaton it's indeed quite possible to choose specific subjects that fit the atmosphere of your music.  The Battle of Thermopylae?  Hell yeah, you can easily make a rousing metal song out of an ancient conflict that spawned an underdog story that persisted for nearly 2500 years.  The problem is that Sabaton doesn't stick to that, and instead they very frequently reach to much more recent conflicts with nothing cool or badass about them.  It feels like such a fucking slap in the face to look at horrible crimes against humanity, excessively grimdark stains on human history like The Great War, The Invasion of Normandy, or the fucking Final Solution and turn them into pulsing major-key 80s aerobics metal anthems.  I don't want a god damned Disney version of the fucking Holocaust holy shit are you kidding me?  One of their only genuinely good songs ("Ghost Division") is a rousing, triumphant, fist-pounding jam about motherfucking Rommel rolling the tanks into Paris.  They're constantly blasting this happy-go-lucky and completely uncritical soldier worship and these ultra-jingoistic battle anthems and it's made them unwitting icons for the Wehraboos and DEUS VULT shouting racists of the world.  I hate their tone deaf bouncing idiocy and I hate their stupid shitty songs.  Fuck them, seriously.

I bring all of that up so I can contrast their proud dorkery with Black Kirin, a band that tackles the horrors of war from a much more appropriate angle.

Nanking Massacre is the complete tonal opposite of the kind of shit I was just raging about, because this is bleak, nihilistic, hopeless, mournful, and just god damned painful.  This is obviously a concept album about The Rape of Nanking, easily one of the most horrifying war crimes ever committed, and the fact that the band hails from the country that was on the receiving end of this tragedy (instead of gee I dunno rockstar Swedes or something) gives this a lot of extra weight.  There's a sense of genuine sincerity in the total hopeless anguish that permeates a track like "Da Qu" or the mournful reflection of "Thousand Years".  I understand that art is subjective and always open to interpretation, but as far as I'm concerned, this is the correct way to go about such a subject.

The album begins with an ambient intro, the kind of thing I normally hate because it's just a timewaster 99% of the time, but "1937" is a rare example of when one works.  Opening on air raid sirens and wailing children is cliche, sure, but it so perfectly sets the stage for the horrors to come.  I think it was kind of brilliant to fade that intro track out into another quiet section, because "Da Qu" doesn't really start the carnage.  No, there's another minute or so of suspense, and I think that works so well in the context of trying to put the listener in the shoes of the victims of this horrible tragedy.  The warnings came, the civilians retreated to the safety zone, and then came the tense, petrifying quiet as they awaited the Japanese army to take the city.  The first minute of the song sounds like an album outro.  It's over, the battle is lost, the city is in ruins, and the innocent are left to pick up the pieces.  But then, when 1:08 hits, Code lets out this fucking horrifying screech that stretches out over 25 seconds while the music picks up and gets more and more frantic.  The thing here is that the song never fully makes it to full on riff-salad savagery, instead staying mostly midpaced in the riffs with the drums occasionally picking up speed entirely disconnected from the riffs, while the strings and mournful clean vocals soar over the top and occasionally break down into discordant squealing.  It doesn't represent badass metal, it represents violent and destructive chaos.  For the citizens of Nanjing, the end truly was the beginning of the real horrors of the Second Sino-Japanese war.  It was done, Nanjing had fallen, the only ones left were non-combatant civilians who wanted nothing to do with slaughter, and what followed was a month and a half of inhuman torture, rape, and murder.  The way the album starts perfect represents that tentative calm after the initial bloodshed, only to be later hit with a flood of violence that seemed to never end.

This is also the only track on the album where the most controversial aspect of the band's debut returns, the Huadan vocals.  For the uninitiated, Huadan is a role in Chinese opera meant to express a young, innocent girl, and they were just really bizarre and out of place on National Trauma (an album that was otherwise Album of the Year material but severely hindered by their inclusion), only truly blending in with the music on like two tracks.  Here though?  No, they sound accusatory.  That voice traditionally meant to represent flowery innocence only pokes through for a few seconds during the most intense section of the song to spit fiery condemnation upon the war criminals currently turning the capital of China into a bloody crater.  It feels weird and wrong because it is weird and wrong, and it's here to remind you how weird and wrong this whole terrible venture was.  There's something similar on "The Song" but it's less obvious and feels less like the band is intentionally trying to conjure up the image of childhood innocence being ripped away in the midst of a whirlwind of inhumanity.

From there the album ebbs and flows until it mercifully ends on a mournful aria punctuated with occasional twangs of an acoustic instrument.  It perfectly encapsulates the uncertainty of the chaos around them at the time.  There are several extended ambient sections, both segregated into their own tracks and intruding on the few metal tracks as well, reminding you that the whole thing is a senseless, chaotic hellscape of nightmares that nobody was ever sure was going to end.  There are only three traditionally metal songs here ("Da Qu", "The Song", and "Wangchuan River") while the remaining four are fully ambient mood-setters.  Of the metal songs, "The Song" is probably the easiest to swallow for people who aren't here for the full experience and just want to hear kickass songs, because that one is by far the darkest and heaviest.  It features two extended ambient breaks but the other parts are so intense and pummeling that it almost defies description.  It's blasting, chaotic, hellsoaked barbarism expressed through the most death metally riffs the band would ever pen (contrasted with the more epic black metal that occupies the rest of their work).

Obviously though, I'm not quite as interested in simply headbanging my troubles away when listening to Nanking Massacre.  I'm here for the fully enrapturing atmosphere, and to that end "Da Qu" and "Wangchuan River" are far better.  Even so, all three of the traditional songs work incredibly well for what they represent.  The first perfectly showcases the panic and confusion of the terror as it begins, the second showcases the inhuman barbarity and the sheer extent of the war crimes committed on the Chinese innocents, and the third highlights the helpless destitution in the wake of the carnage, and the all-too-real fear that it may not even be actually finished.  And that's just the metal songs, the other four tracks are all sombre instrumental dirges in between the madness that always gives way to even further destruction.  In fact this is one of the only metal albums ever where I never have any intention of skipping the instrumental interludes, because without them the true feeling of panicked uncertainty wouldn't truly shine through.

I started this off with a small rant about Sabaton simply because they're immensely popular and most of my readers are surely familiar with them, and because I feel like Black Kirin is the complete polar opposite of them.  For Sabaton, they uncritically celebrate the heroics of warfare, the celebrity of valor on the battlefield, regardless of which side is conducting these campaigns (hence their occasional tone-deafness with making the Nazis the good guys, which come the fuck on dudes).  Black Kirin instead showcases the true human element of these wars.  Nanking Massacre isn't about battlefield heroics, it's about the mass slaughter of innocents once the battle is over.  Once the conflict has subsided and the chest-beating Bad Boys have their run of enemy territory, it quickly devolves into inhuman, callous destruction.  The true lasting effects of war have fuck-all to do with the superhero dogfighters and tank commanders, it's about the helpless innocents who wanted nothing to do with the senseless violence and get caught up in the crossfire, eventually becoming targets themselves as their lives are destroyed en masse.

With one of these approaches, you're looking at smiling heroes and ticker tape parades.  With the other, you're looking at thousands of naked innocent women and children casually dumped in a mass grave.  Maybe it's just because of my personal politics, but I think the making millions of dollars off the former is fucking insulting to the memories of the latter.  Nanking Massacre is a triumph of pulling back the curtain and screaming this is what you dumbasses are celebrating.


Skeletal Augury - Bless of Destroyed, Raped, Dismembered Flesh

Bloody raw

I had a plan a while back to do a sort of series where I'd choose countries that are notable in terms of population but have comparatively very little impact on metal at large (so basically everywhere except North America, Northern Europe/Scandinavia, Japan, and Brazil) and dive into their metal scene and see what it's like.  In doing research, I've found it's not quite as interesting as I was hoping, so I'm like 90% likely to just not bother with the idea at this point, but because of that research period, I've collected quite a few solid metal bands out of China that deserve some actual coverage.  Skeletal Augury is one of those bands, and god damn is Bless of Destroyed, Raped, Dismembered Flesh a ripping experience.

This album's main strength is also it's greatest flaw, and that's that it's very by-the-book.  Skeletal Augury play black/thrash and follow all the rules while doing it.  On one hand, this is a surefire way to be at the very least "good", since black/thrash is a hard genre to fuck up as long as you don't try to get too cute with it, so at the absolute worst this could've wound up just being boring.  Luckily, despite playing along to all of the genre tropes to the letter, there's enough energy and ferocity to keep it fresh and interesting the entire way through.  It takes a bit to really grab me, but from "Lord of Damnation" until the end it is just fucking dominant.  This revels in the primitive slop of the old masters like Hellhammer and Sodom, with an equal helping of the razor-sharp edge of slightly newer (but still old) champions like Nifelheim. Special mention has to go to Li Bai's drumming, which is surprisingly tight for how raw and nasty the album is on the whole.  Check out "Barbaric Realm", he's on another level compared to the rest of the guys on that one.

But like I said, all of this is a bit of a problem as well, because for most of the runtime this isn't particularly distinct when compared to most bands in the genre today.  Bless is a very shallow album with no twists or nuance in the songwriting to help it stand out as anything other than barbaric and vicious.  In fairness, that's all it needs to be, and it succeeds at what it sets out to do very well, but it does struggle to keep your attention at times thanks to how samey it is.  There are very few standout moments here.  "Black Hydra" sports a ridiculously frantic main riff that serves as the highlight of the entire album in my eyes, and "Stench and Twisted Lust" sounds like a lost Slayer track from around the Haunting the Chapel/Reign in Blood era, but apart from those and the few sections pointed out in the previous paragraph, this all just kinda does what you expect it to do and then dissipates in the sunlight.  It's a shame because I like this a lot on the surface, but it's not deep enough to really enjoy beyond that.

Despite that, this is a serious barnburner when it's on, and I've found myself going back to this an awful lot since discovering it.  I've probably made it sound worse than it actually is but that's simply because I find it's hard to really go in depth with this style.  It only really hits one note but that's all it really needs to do, and I'm not about to fault a band for kicking ass at the only thing they need to do.


Monday, May 13, 2019

Terrific Verdict - Wheel of Fortune


As much as I may dislike so many bands from the country, I think you'd be a fool to not put Finland just outside the top five most important countries when it comes to metal.  Yeah they have nothing on their Scandinavian neighbors, Germany, US, or the originators of the style as a whole, UK, but like... they're right there.  In terms of classic and innovative bands, who else besides those previous five are in the running?  Japan, Brazil, Canada, and...?  They may be a punchline at times for so utterly saturating their country with shitty corsetcore pop metal but that only really proliferated in the first place because they gave the world Nightwish, ya know?  They pretty much have three entirely different subsects of melodeath that all spawned out of there, depending on whether we're talking about the style pioneered by Children of Bodom, Insomnium, or Wintersun, and if we mention that last one we can't leave out Ensiferum being one of the biggest folk metal bands ever.  I haven't even touched on the more gothic stuff like Sentenced or whatever the fuck Amorphis is, or Reverend Bizarre with their very distinct brand of doom that also spawned legions of imitators.  And if that's all too melodic and lightweight for you, they also have huge quality scenes for the more extreme subgenres like black metal (Sargeist, Horna, Satanic Warmaster, etc) and death metal (Demigod, Adramelech, Convulse, and of course, Demilich) as well.

It seems like the one and only area where Finland has always lagged behind has been thrash metal, and if you wonder why, just give a listen to Terrific Verdict.

I'm not gonna lie, the intro is probably going to be longer than the actual review here because this is so fucking boring and dumb that I had to distract myself by thinking of a dozen other bands before even getting to this one.  At its core, Wheel of Fortune is just super basic bay-area styled thrash with nasally snarly vocals and precisely zero good riffs or hooks.  Terrific Verdict are victims of the recent nostalgia craze where every old band that existed in the 80s thinks they have a shot at recapturing any glory they missed out on in the pre-internet era, and once again we have another band that left no footprint whatsoever during their initial run (only producing two demos) and came roaring back as a bunch of dudes in their 40s or 50s trying their best to channel their youth and instead just sounding like the metal version of a washed up pub band. 

"Washed up" is really just the best way to describe how this sounds.  All of these riffs and ideas are just shriveled husks of what could've been a decent mid-tier thrash release 30 years ago but instead are just clearly past their prime now.  Like check out the first riff on "Too Late to Love or Hate".  There's nothing wrong with that on its own.  It's pretty basic, but it's quick and it moves well enough, but it just feels like it repeats a hundred times and then it turns out that almost every riff sounds like that one.  They basically have two riffs throughout the whole album, that one and the main one on the title track.  A fast one and a midpaced one, every fast and every midpaced riff sounds the more or less the same, and I just don't want to fucking listen to this boring, derivative, ultra-green shit anymore.  Even the handful of bonus tracks of rerecorded songs from the demo era are lame, and I'm sure they actually smoked back in 1988 but thirty years later they're just neutered and uninteresting.  Almost every song is like three minutes long and they all feel at least twice that just because they're so repetitive and bland.

Actually ya know what?  Fuck it, I've listened to this thing twice now and I don't want to sit through it any longer.  I'm just gonna cut this short and post it anyway because I want my headache to subside.

Sunday, May 12, 2019


Life got busy and I slowed down a bit, but my renewed fire hasn't actually flamed out.  As proof, here's twelve more albums I just don't have the time/thoughts for full reviews on.

Imprecation - Damnatio ad Bestias 
Eh, this is fine.  Honestly this is easily going to be the DTD segment with the most "it's a'ight" ratings to date.  Part of this is because I've just gotten better at passing over promos I don't want to listen to, so I'm generally just going to find stuff I either like a lot or things that are in my wheelhouse but unremarkable.  The other part of why this is is because I've started getting promos from Dark Descent Records, and god damn are they a frustrating label.  There's no denying how important they've been to the underground and the hand they've played in helping twisted death metal roar back to the forefront of the modern scene, but at the same time they've been a recurring frenemy of mine for years because they so clearly have a distinct style they specialize in and it's just so fucking boring and formulaic.  All of their truly great releases are from bands that stray from the tumbling, chaotic black/death that typifies their signature sound.  Crypt Sermon?  House of Atreus?  Craven Idol?  Tyranny?  Hell yeah man I'll eat that shit up.  Imprecation here?  Eh, this is fine.  There are definitely good tracks here, "Beasts of the Infernal Void" absolutely rips my spine out with those rapid fire tempo changes, but for the most part this is exactly the nasty death metal you'd expect of anything on the label.  And eh, it's fine.

Warchest - Sentenced Since Conception 
Maybe it's just the Chilean connection here, but my first thought upon hearing this ripper was... well, Ripper, who would've lit the entire thrash scene on fire in 2016 if everybody wasn't too busy lining up to suck Vektor's overwritten dong to notice them.  It's not a dead-ringer though, Warchest lacks Pablo Cortes, the bassist and chief songwriter of Ripper, and as such Sentenced Since Conception is noticeably average in the realm of low end wizardry and songwriting whereas those elements are precisely what set Experiment of Existence apart.  I'm being unfair though, because Warchest are certainly capable on their own, and they bring the fucking heat as good as thrashers nowadays.  It's all the head-rolling speed of Dark Angel with the bloody-jawed ferocity of early Sepultura, and that's really all I can reasonably ask for.  The songs themselves may lack in staying power and that's why it's hard to write about and wound up in this feature instead of a full review.

Lyfordeath - Nullius In Verba 
This one is just giving me a headache.  There's nothing wrong with this, it's just way too fucking full of itself for its own good.  Maybe it's bad form to talk about the EPK itself but the one for these guys had all this r/iamverysmart bullshit akin to a Rick and Morty fan talking about how "Love isn't real, it's just a fuck-chemical in your brain" or whatever when explaining what the lyrical themes of the album are.  It was a bunch of Extremely Online teenage nihilism shit.  Admittedly this tainted the entire experience before I even heard a single note.  This is just really basic prog-death that isn't really bad on its own but now the album cover with the Vitruvian Man on it and all the superfluous Latin just makes me roll my eyes whenever I remember it's there.  Maybe it's petty, but that kind of pretentious shit just annoys me to death and the last place I really want to be reminded of it is in the middle of listening to fucking death metal.  You know how Neil deGrasse Tyson tweets every New Years Day that the start of a new year on a Gregorian calendar has no astrological significance and you invariably fight the urge to tombstone him through a table?  That's what this is like.  And come on your band is named fucking Lyfordeath get the fuck over yourselves.

Krypts - Cadaver Circulation
Dark Descent album 2/4 for this feature, and honestly this is probably the best one.  This is DDRcore in every sense of the word with how cavernous and chaotic it is.  It's filthy death metal slathered in reverb with a heap of black and doom metal involved as well and that's what like 70% of their roster is at its core, but Krypts stands out a bit entirely for the doom sections hitting ridiculously fucking hard.  Those slow, crawling sections are all fuckin' monstrous, and each hard left turn into them smashes your ears against a rock, and in turn it makes every chaotic blasting section all the more effective since it's less of a blur of white noise and more a series of barbaric whiplashes.  This is by no means top tier stuff, but it is indeed above average, and the atmosphere is downright menacing.  Like most things in this particular volume of DTD, it's not particularly memorable in the long run, but the relatively short runtime of 37 minutes keeps this a concise experience that just smashes your face, reminds you everybody you love is going to die someday, and then fucks off to go torment somebody else.  It's very effective.  It also helps that the riff about two minutes into "Reek of Loss" is one of the best damn grooves I've heard all year.

Flashback of Anger - Shades
Well don't these guys look like a fun-loving bunch of goofballs.  Shades is a weird album because the lyrical focus is very atypical for Italian prog/power, focusing on societal ills, anti-capitalism, weird revenge fantasies about the 2015 Paris terrorist attack at the Bataclan, cracking cold ones with the bros, Hiroo Onoda, Marco Polo, and... I think John McAfee?  It's hard not to pay attention to the lyrics with this one purely because they're so out of left field for the genre.  But with that said, they are still an Italian power metal band, so you could've guessed how this sounded based on that alone.  Yep, very keyboard heavy, high pitched mousey vocals with a comically thick accent, lots of double bass and flittery melodies, all the tropes are here.  This is more accurately described as "progressive power metal" but really it's just in the latter day Symphony X style where it's very noodly but still very groovy and straightforward (though not nearly as heavy as the Jersey Boys).  I say often that power metal tends to be a genre nowadays that creates great individual songs more than great albums, and this is no exception.  Without a doubt the opening tracks, "Ripped Off" and "Numbers" are easily the best songs on display, with the former being a speedy early Sonata Arctica styled flower metal number with an impossibly catchy chorus, and the latter having a much groovier approach but still knocking it out of the park.  The rest of the album, unfortunately is much less interesting, with a handful of basic power metal songs, some really sluggish slow tracks, and an absolutely insufferable ballad with "Dawn of Life".  "Marvels of the World" is pretty solid but by that point you've sit through seven mediocre-to-bad tracks and you just don't care anymore.

Delirium - Urkraft
These German folk metallers are the shining example of "ok".  Delirium is actually in the running of being the okayest band I've ever heard in my life.  This is just plain and simple pagan metal with very little else going on, it's just folky black metal and that's pretty much that.  And honestly, that's fine on its own.  I think Urkraft is a fine album and it's certainly nice to hear some actual folk metal in 2019 instead of a Wintersun ripoff that gets the tag attached to it simply because that makes them a few degrees separated from Ensiferum.  Delirium doesn't play that grandiloquent "battle metal" style though, they're much more in the vein of Mithotyn or Manegarm.  This is midpaced earthy and folky black metal with no tricks up its sleeve, and while part of me wants to rip the album apart for being so derivative and unimaginative, I honestly can't bring myself to do so since it's executed so well.  So your mileage may vary, but if you're a fan of pagan metal I really can't see any reason to not at least recommend this.

Vircolac - Masque
DDR 3/4.  Once again, this is fine I suppose.  It's a bit more chaotic than the other four here and it descends into some quasi-noise rock incoherence at times but it always sounds intentional so it works well enough.  This is deceptively complex but it all kinda coalesces into a mush and I can't say I enjoy it all that much.  True story: I originally started writing a full review for this where I started off with a rant similarly worded to what I wrote in Imprecation's blurb up there, but after writing about half of it I decided that this album was actually too good and varied to actually be a representative for such a screed about this label releasing samey chaos all the time and scrapped it.  Now that I'm sitting here a month and a half later, I can't for the fucking life of me remember what was so different and interesting about this.  I'm listening to it right now and it just sounds like Generic DDR Band #666 and I'm just completely tuning out.  This kind of thing works so much better live, because on record here I can't convince myself to care.

Rancorous - Stealth Dominion
Hey this one was actually an independent submission instead of a promo dumped in my inbox, so I haven't totally sold out!  Stealth Dominion here, the band's second demo, takes a lot of influence from that inimitably brutal era of metal where thrash metal was just beginning to get too extreme to simply be called "thrash" and death metal was starting to blossom from the grave rot.  So naturally, there are smatterings of boundary-shatterers like Dark Angel and Merciless all over the place.  This is probably a much less apt comparison but I'm also reminded of the much less well known English black/death band Spearhead.  I think it's the trebly demo quality production that gives me that impression, but it's there.  The point is that this is raw and primitive death/thrash played with enough conviction to make the rough mix and underdeveloped songs not matter so much.  Most of the tracks run for a whopping two minutes and the whole thing is over in under ten, so on one hand this definitely needs more time in the oven.  On the other hand, sushi isn't cooked at all and it tastes great as long as you don't get some shitty wypipo roll with avocado on it.

Frosthelm - Pyrrhic
These fetuses hail from the grim and frostbitten deadlands of... North Dakota?  Yeah, Frosthelm hails from Minot, a town apparently most well known for being the birthplace of Wiz Khalifa, which is somehow even more confusing.  But while browsing wikipedia to learn about this completely dead area of America, I did learn that it's home to the largest Scandinavian heritage festival in the country, which helps explain a lot about Frosthelm here, because while this definitely has enough Skeletonwitchisms to be considered "black/thrash", Norwegian BM influence is so off the charts that I honestly probably wouldn't have even guessed the band was American on first listen.  The vocals are razor sharp and the riffs slice cleanly, but I think the album's greatest asset is the cold and unforgiving atmosphere.  This album really knows when the pull the brakes and let a quiet moment take over, which is impressive for a band based primarily around ripping thrash metal.  I've been sitting on this one for a long while now because, frankly, I just don't really have much to say about it.  It's good thrashy black metal but the songs don't seem to have enough staying power to hook me too well.  "Pisslord" and "Immortal Nightfall" are very good but I just never find myself wanting to revisit them.

Lvcifyre - Sacrament
And finally, DDR 4/4 for this round.  In all honesty, Lvcifyre is right up there with Desolate Shrine when it comes to exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say "DDRcore".  This is the same chaotic and raw black/death metal that nearly every band on their roster plays anyway, but this sits at the exact center of the wheel, with absolutely nothing taking center stage or pulling them in a direction that'll give them a real identity.  On first listen, I remember sitting through the first four tracks and just yawning every few minutes with nothing exciting happening, just a whirlwind of cacophonous blasting and growls with no hooks or atmosphere, exactly what I expected from them based of my experience with their previous work, to be honest.  But the last track, "Morderca", just grabbed me right away.  What was this?  Suddenly they were playing what sounded like early Venom run through a death metal filter, complete with out of place howling vocals that sounded like the band had finally just completely lost their minds and tried something new, driving themselves mad in the process.  As soon as it was over, something dawned on me.  "That was too good, I bet that was a fucking cover", I said to myself.  Lo and behold, "Morderca" is indeed a cover of a track from 1986 by the Polish band Kat.  So basically the best thing I can say about Sacrament is that it introduced me to an old classic band that I overlooked.  Otherwise this is everything that unimpressed me back in 2014 with Svn Eater with nothing new or improved to bring to the table after a five year silence.

Widower - Cataclysmic Sorcery
We all know I love black/thrash, but it really is worth noting that it seems to reward mediocrity when looked at as a whole.  For every Destroyer 666 or Desaster, you'll have a hundred bands like this that just kinda happen.  I'm probably being a bit unfair here, but honestly this is just another case of a band that writes great songs that have no staying power.  When this is on, I'm rocking the fuck out, letting the venomous vocals absolutely devastating drumming tear my flesh from my bones, but as soon as it finishes I just kinda forget that I even listened to it in the first place.  All of the ingredients are here, the riffs are blistering, the songs are fast, the percussion sounds like a monsoon, it's really god damned cool in a vacuum, but I think the guys need to, I dunno, shore up their songwriting chops somehow?  I don't really know how to explain it other than "be better", which is unfair and unhelpful.  Maybe it's just a San Antonian thing, because I had similar problems with Hod and Pious Levus as well, so what the fuck do I know?   Widower is certainly the best band out of the three though, that's for sure.

Lunar Shadow - The Smokeless Fires 
And let's finish this off with an album that I had actually penciled in to be in the running for my yearly Top 13 on first listen and fell off super hard by the third listen.  I still think this is pretty okay in certain respects, but man it didn't take long for me to remember why I didn't like Far from Light two years ago either.  The Smokeless Fires has all of the exact same elements, good and bad.  And frankly, they're mostly good, but there's one huge fucking elephant in the room that drags the whole thing down a lot.  These instrumentals are incredible, with expansive, winding songs that flow gorgeously from one section to another, with searing leads and fist pumping riffage that rival anybody in the current trad metal scene, with even some very subtle and beautifully added influences from meloblack.  Lunar Shadow could be kings of the god damned genre... if it weren't for the fucking vocals.  This is astounding to me since they've actually gotten a new vocalist since the debut two years ago, but shockingly he's not even a little bit better.  Just like before, the vocals are frustratingly wimpy, unbelievably lightweight, and wholly lacking in range.  He sounds completely untrained and in way over his head, harmonizing with himself well and sucking at everything else, he's only marginally more threatening than Kevin Heybourne.  I think Max Birbaum has the same voodoo curse as Ced from Blazon Stone/Rocka Rollas.  He's an incredibly good guitarist and an even better songwriter who for whatever just can't seem to land a good vocalist for the life of him, and it's a shame, because this has a ton of potential.

And that's all I really have to say about that.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Monasterium - Church of Bones

The dead are full of life

I've somehow never actually been called out on this, publicly or privately, but I've always noted a dissonance in one of my frequent talking points throughout my reviewing career.  I always say that great music doesn't need to be original, and yet I'm constantly giving clone bands shit for being inferior copies of the innovators they imitate.  Why bother listening to Encoffination when you can just listen to Incantation instead, ya know?  Most of my favorite metal bands are either very unique or are classic innovators of some kind.  70% of all metal bands ever can trace their roots back to Motorhead somehow, nobody on the planet sounds like Gotsu Totsu Kotsu, Running Wild spawned so many imitators that I lost count a decade ago, Blind Guardian absolutely perfected both early speed metal and overblown symphonic power metal, I've written fucking 22 reviews for Gargoyle and I still don't know anybody who sounds like them, et cetera ad nauseam.  Whenever I make the "you don't need to be original!" argument, it's always preceded by several paragraphs explaining why whichever band I'm talking about is an exception in one direction or the other.

So consider this a definitive refutation of that hypothetical callout, because Monasterium is 100% nothing more than a carbon copy of Candlemass, right down to MichaƂ Strzelecki being a dead fucking ringer for Messiah Marcolin, and they absolutely fucking rule.

I feel like I don't even need to give this a real review based on that previous sentence, because if you're familiar with classic era Candlemass then you already know what this sounds like, but I can't help but gush over it anyway.  Church of Bones is very orthodox epic doom, with every single trope established on Epicus Doomicus Metallicus showcased in full force, from the huge, vibrato-filled clean tenor vocals to the stomping-yet-spirited riff mastery.  That's always been one of my favorite aspects of Candlemass's sound, and it's one that Monasterium recreates perfectly.  Despite doom metal being so codified by the dark and occult, these guys write riffs that are bursting with life.  There's no sense of dreariness or decay in this midpaced dirges, instead sounding like colorful, anthemic celebrations. The closest something sounds to being dark and uninviting is probably "Sleeping with the Dead", which really gives off the vibe of wandering in a long abandoned crypt, but otherwise none of these songs would sound out of place on Ancient Dreams.

Apparently at least a handful of the members also play in Evangelist, whom I have never heard but according to my sources are also a solid Candlemass clone, so everything checks out.  I brought up Strzelecki sounding exactly like Messiah earlier, and with that in mind I decided to see if he was in any other bands I might be familiar with, and saw that he was once a member of Sorcerer.  "Oh that makes total sense," I thought to myself, "I don't really remember much of that album that got a good amount of hype a while back but I also remember that being epic doom so I guess he's just playing to type."  But actually, it turns out he wasn't the singer, he played guitar, and it was a totally different band also named Sorcerer that actually played power metal.  That is so fucking wild.  It's like some new thrash band cropping up with a vocalist who sounds just like Tom Araya, who also happened to play in Evile but it was actually some different Evile from Brazil or something that actually played black metal and also he was the drummer.

Something that I think helps Church of Bones a lot is the fact that it strikes that perfect balance between having huge standouts while also being strong the whole way through.  No songs are truly filler here besides maybe "Liber Loagaeth", but even with all 45 minutes being strong from start to finish, tracks like the opening title track, "La Danse Macabre", "The Order of the Dragon", and "The Last Templar" still manage to stand out as exemplary.  The first and last songs are probably the biggest standouts of the bunch, with the title track being unfairly catchy and utilizing that awesome trick of simply playing huge powerchords while the vocals harmonize with them perfectly without straying off at all.  That "We are all like stones" part so perfectly reflects the "The battle of minds" chorus from "Mirror Mirror", it's breathtaking in how catchy and massive it sounds.  "The Last Templar" stands as the longest and most evocative track on the album, possessing the same immaculate ear for melody as the rest of the album, but it stands out a bit further for utilizing guest vocals courtesy of the vocalist of Forsaken, who provides the only outside influence on the album since he sounds more like a gravelly Rob Lowe than Messiah.  But even then Lowe spent three albums with Candlemass himself and is most well known for fronting Solitude Aeturnus, who also kicks immeasurable ass but is basically just "The American Candlemass".  Once again the chorus is stunning, and I haven't given them enough credit yet, but it also has probably my favorite guitar solo on the album.  These guys implement some of the most simple-yet-effective soaring leads I've heard in quite a while.  They're very late 70s/early 80s in execution and composition and I'm just completely in love with them.

I can't stress enough how ear catching and well written this album is.  Pretty much every single second is bursting with energy and every riff is stomping and expertly delivered.  Yeah it's impossible to shake the comparison to Candlemass since this is a blatant worship act, but like I outlined at the start, this is an example of such a thing working amazingly.  I'm just repeating myself at this point so I'll wrap it up here.  This is huge, enrapturing, and loaded with great riffs underneath powerful vocals.  What more could you really want out of an epic doom release?


Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Grind Fever - Cave Transmission

It's solid

As a general rule, I'm kinda mean to stoner metal.  Of all the genres that don't exactly reward exploration and are sorta derivative by rule, stoner metal tends to be the derivativest.  Really there are only three directions you can veer off into when you take up the "stoner" mantle.  Either you lean into your rock influences, your doom metal influences, or you just go full on drone.  The Grind Fever takes the former more than anything, and honestly I really don't see how it could've turned out better any other way.

Cave Transmission is actually a pretty damn solid record all things considered, and I think it's because they spend less time worshipping Electric Wizard and instead tend to err towards Monster Magnet and Turbowolf.  As a result, these guys are very energetic and upbeat and cover everything in thick layers of sleaze, but they don't stray too far from the more metallic edge they carry.  "Precondemned" is heavy as fuck, and "Hope You Choke" is meaty and dangerous.  The album is kinda weirdly paced, with the first few songs straddling the line between metal and rock pretty evenly, getting lighter as it goes, before the last two tracks just dive headfirst into raunchy doom metal.  It's very Kyuss-esque in that regard, I get the feeling that these guys simply don't give a shit where the line between metal and rock truly lies so they just roll with whatever they're feeling.  Hell, if it wasn't for the 8+ minute length, I could see "Turbulence" being played on the radio in the 90s easily.  It's a very brooding and grungy track, with just enough accessible easiness to slot it nicely on such a rotation.

A big reason for that is the vocals, which are, unfortunately, also one of my few problems with the band.  Francisco isn't bad by any means, but he seems to be far too soft and easy-going for the rolling riffage.  He both fits and clashes with the music, and it's hard to explain such a thing, I know, but something about him just seems off.  The undercurrent of grunge that I hear cropping up in places is probably just a trick my mind is playing on me since his voice is so harmless.  Ultimately though, it's not a dealbreaker by any means, just something I think they could improve upon.

There isn't much more to say here, Cave Transmission is a fine little EP and a great way for The Grind Fever to signal their entrance into the scene.  It's short and sweet and every song is "solid" at the absolute worst.  If there are any real complaints it's simply that nothing is really a highlight besides "Hope You Choke" and the vocals are kinda weak.  Otherwise, there isn't much to recommend outside of stoner fans, but it's a good time anyway.  I certainly don't regret listening to it, even if I don't see myself returning too often.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Metallica - Master of Puppets


I know, I know.  On the list of things the world needs right now, another fucking Master of Puppets review is pretty well near the bottom of the list.  But honestly, I just got a wild hair up my ass and I want to talk about Metallica.  Suck it up, nerds.

Metallica has somehow managed to survive no less than three or four extinction level career-enders throughout the years, and in many ways they're a constant punchline in the underground, for some valid reasons (the Napster lawsuit, St. Anger, the utter fucking absurdity of their reissues of classic albums), and some less valid (the Some Kind of Monster documentary, "selling out" with Load and cutting their hair in the 90s, whatever beautifully awful avant-garde disaster Lulu was), but I think it's easy to forget that once upon a time they were actually really god damned good.  Metallica ruled the fuckin' roost in the 80s, and I think it's easy to lose sight of just how big and impressive they were simply because we live in the internet age and can hear their more extreme contemporaries like Slayer or Dark Angel with a two second youtube search.  They were never the fastest or angriest or most brutal band in the world, but I think a big part of the charm is that they neither seemed to claim nor try to be.  They always just sorta did their own thing, helping to solidify what thrash metal was in the first place and then pretty much immediately breaking their own rules and doing weird shit like writing nine minute long instrumentals and punctuating blistering riff assaults with major-key doodly melodic shit.  They were never the only band doing these things, obviously, but they did have the biggest stage by the time the latter half of the decade rolled around and they leaned into what made them stand out.

To get one thing out of the way right off the bat, Master of Puppets is by no means their zenith, and in fact is actually an inferior 1:1 copy of it.  Ride the Lightning is better in almost every conceivable way.  The riffs are better, the songs are more well constructed, it has fucking "Creeping Death" on it, which was my favorite song in the world when I was a little kid and to this day I'd probably still put it in my top ten, it's just the superior record by almost every single metric.  The only areas where I'd say this album has the edge are the production (which is chunkier and heavier) and the vocals (which honestly just comes down to preference, I love the zit-faced voice-cracking exuberance of the first two albums but I'd give the edge to the slightly deeper and gruffer voice James starts sporting from here on out).  I know it's old hat to point out but the tracklist is ordered nearly identically as well, and it's something they'd stick to for basically the rest of their career.  Quiet intro leading into fast thrasher - title track (usually fast thrasher) - midpaced chuggy song - ballad - fast thrasher - midpaced melodic one - then usually the instrumental before closing on another fast thrasher (this was flipped on Ride but holds true on every other album that apes the formula).  Again, on a 1v1 comparison, Ride wins 7/8 times, with only "Leper Messiah" being clearly superior to "Escape".

But I'm not here to talk about how it's not as good as something else, I'm here to talk about how good it is on its own, and dammit it is good.  And it's good for kinda weird reasons at times.  One thing about the band in general that I didn't really appreciate until I was a bit older is just how fucking good of a rhythm player James Hetfield is.  Ask any guitar player and they'll tell you the same thing.  The man's dedication to downpicking damn near everything no matter the speed is unreal, his right wrist probably has a six pack.  Playing something like "Disposable Heroes" in one shot is a fucking endurance test for your picking hand, and he manages all of these things flawlessly.  It's not the most glamorous position in the world to be one of the best rhythm guitarists out there, but almost all of the band's tightness comes entirely from him.

And therein lies one of the things I love most about this album, it is somehow simultaneously their tightest offering while still being really loose.  Like a pair of bellbottoms, it's tight in the balls and loose at the ankles.  There are tempo shifts all over the place that the band obviously handles masterfully, but there are times where everything seems to kinda fall apart and it still sounds completely intentional.  Listen to "Battery" and really pay attention to the verse riff in relation to the vocals.  They almost sound like they're in completely different time sigs in completely different tempos.  The powerchords hit at strange, offputting times against the natural cadence of the lyrics, and it's all so god damned natural sounding that I never really noticed it until my 400th listen.  Also check out the verse riff to the title track.  The conventional wisdom (and official transcription) is that the verse riff consists of three measures in 4/4 time and tails on one measure of 5/8.  But if you actually play it as written it sounds completely wrong.  Switch that last bit to 6/8 and it sounds even wronger.  In actuality, through no real intention, that bar is actually played in fucking 21/32, purely because the guys were just playing by ear and doing whatever sounded right to them, and adding in that one random 32nd note of pause should've been a flow-breaking disaster that instead hits like a fucking hammer.  None of this was intentional progginess by a group of theory nerds, it's just what happens when you play by feeling and just run with the natural ebb and flow of your own manic riff-energy. 

Those two previous points tie into another thing I didn't really appreciate or understand until I was older, and that was just how... fucking weirdly wrong Lars's drumming is.  I didn't even notice this until it was pointed out to me, but he actually kinda fails miserably at the drummer's main fundamental job in any band.  He is not the timekeeper of the band, James is.  Whether his ineffable tightness is a coincidental complement or a learned necessity to Lars's bizarre, Bill Wardian sloppiness is up for debate, but that's what I meant when I said the band is tight entirely because of him earlier.  I had always thought of Lars as a brain dead simple rock drummer miscast in a thrash band, and I still think that to an extent, but once you start to really pick apart his performances you start to realize just how frequently he adds in rolling snare fills and random cymbal crashes at the least comprehensible times.  Listen to the outro of "Orion".  Just what the hell are you doing man?  Why is that china crash happening that one random ass time?  Why are you starting bars on random tom hits?  This odd looseness to his playing only amplifies that "tight but loose" thing I was talking about, the band is basically playing in free time but still sound like laser-guided riff machines.  And even with his incredibly obvious flaws, I always thought Lars (weak link though he is) was absolutely irreplaceable when it came to Metallica.  His style is so much more basic than pretty much every other thrash drummer, and I feel like his simplistic backbeats are a huge part of their identity and a big reason why they became as popular as they did in the first place.  Think about a track like "Disposable Heroes" or "Damage, Inc." and then think about how much fucking meaner and more extreme they would be if the only change was that Lars was replaced with Dave Lombardo or Ventor or something.  Would they be better?  I dunno, that's up to you to decide, but they would undoubtedly be much different if they were played in super precise double time and that one single change could make those songs simply un-Metallica.

I realize this is already getting pretty long and is very stream-of-consciousness, but honestly this is just a result of my lifelong relationship with the album.  My taste has quite obviously veered off into far more extreme directions over the years, but I've liked Metallica for literally as long as I've had memories, and I simply can not understate how utterly obsessed with them I was for years and years on end.  There are dozens of albums I've loved since I was a kid but comparatively few they I have actual memories tied to them.  For example, I think the seed for what would eventually blossom into my adulthood love of H.P. Lovecraft was planted more from "The Thing That Should Not Be" more than any other pop culture reference.  It certainly helps that I love the song on its own, I love that creepy, watery intro and I love how brutally it grinds along at a sluggish pace, repeatedly smashing you over the head over and over again until you're begging for a reprieve.  I can see why some would call it boring and repetitive, but god damn it works for me.  But no, what entranced me were the lyrics.  I know now that it's just kind of a lazy copy and paste of random Lovecraftian buzzwords, but when you're 8 years old you don't know that shit, dude.  To me it was so fucking dark and sinister and I felt almost like I was hearing something that I shouldn't.  It felt forbidden to my tiny brain.  I so distinctly remember laying on my bedroom floor while this song was playing, writing down the lyrics as I heard them and then drawing the images the lyrics conjured.  I know that what impressed me decades ago should mean nothing now that I'm a big brained boy, but simply hearing that chugging main riff instantly teleports me back to a sepia-toned warm-and-fuzzy of me doodling squiggly black-cloaked cultists conjuring an incomprehensible monster from the depths of a stormy sea.  Yeah I'm not being "objective" or whatever but if you're looking for objectivity in one of my reviews you can go eat sand and fuck back off to Minecraft you simpering git.

And since I've already gone this in-depth and personal, I might as well spray "Orion" with as much of my Burton Fanboy goo as possible.  It really isn't a stretch to say that "Orion" single-handedly solidified my choice to pick up a bass for the first time.  My heroes when I first started actually playing and writing (or at least attempting to write) my own music were Cliff and Geezer and basically nobody else, and I can't overstate how important this song was to me during that time.  All eight and a half minutes of this are coded into the muscles on my fingers, I made it such a point to learn this song front to back, and when I finally mastered it I felt like the king of the cosmos.  This really was Cliff's baby, you can tell.  He was the lone theory nerd in the band, he was the guy who had his nose buried in books and came up with most of the out-there melodicisms.  It was a popular thing for a while to say that Metallica never would've done what they did in the 90s if he was still alive but honestly he might've pushed them there even sooner.  "Orion" was his, he was the one with all of the less heavy ideas, he was the one who insisted on injecting melody into heaviness, he was the one who was into R.E.M. at the same time as he and the rest of the guys were pounding brews to Motorhead.  "Orion" is that marriage of jangly melodic bassiness blended with ripping palm mutes and screaming guitar solos that so encapsulated what Metallica was doing in 1986.  Everything was distilled into itself on "Orion" and I still love this song as much in 2019 as I did whenever it was that I first heard it.  That heavy "verse" riff that shows up a few times and carries out the heavy parts before the last fadeout is one of my favorite riffs of all time.  That gallop is just fucking sublime.

All that said, Master of Puppets is not without its flaws, I'm not completely blinded by nostalgia here.  The only real gripe I have with the album is "Sanitarium", which is, by a cosmic long shot, the shittiest "fourth track ballad" they produced in the classic run.  I'd argue that "The Day That Never Comes" is the lone worse one if you stretch it to their whole career, but "Fade to Black", "One", and "The Unforgiven" utterly demolish it in every way.  Hell even "Until It Sleeps", "The Unforgiven II", and the fuckin' Bob Seger cover on Garage Inc. completely trounce it.  This, to me, is the one song that feels completely obligatory.  It's like they were done with the album and then realized that their album formula required a ballad so they just ran back into the studio and banged one out in a half hour.  It's just totally unengaging apart from the solid bridge (and even then it's only like one chord away from recycling the verse riff from the title track wholesale), it just feels like the band sleepwalked through this one.  Whether you like the album or not, there's no denying that they weren't on autopilot for the other seven tracks.  You can't tear through something as explosive as "Battery" or as groovy and infectious as "Leper Messiah" without actually trying, but "Sanitarium" is the one and only point where it really sounds like they weren't.

I'm not sure if I've actually gotten my points across well here, and I might regret hitting the publish button as soon as I click it, but right now I just don't care.  I love Master of Puppets, it was a super important album to me and I think it still easily holds up today now that I spend way more time listening to Dying Fetus and Pissgrave.  I might've lost the plot a bit throughout this but I've gotten this far without bringing up the weird status this has gotten with the Extremely Online kids who went from noobs to know-it-alls within six months thanks to how easy it is to just stream music nowadays, but it's worth mentioning that this album doesn't deserve to be the battleground it's become.  It's extremely popular because at the time this was the thrash album with the most reach and accessibility.  Metallica opening for Ozzy in 86 gave them such a huge stage that this album has the distinction of selling over a million copies with no radio singles or music videos.  This wasn't the heaviest thing in 1986, lest you all forget that one of my favorite albums of all time is Reign in Blood so don't think I'm being obtuse here, but it was one of the most accessible and easy to get into.  And it's because of that relative safety of excellent songwriting coupled with frantically intense riffs and sheer aggression blended with just enough melody to catch ears and just enough extremity to be explosive without being alienating that likely millions of people even got into metal in the first place.  I'm not saying that we should be extra nice to this album and not judge it on its own merits simply because it was important and released at the exact right time, but I am saying that if you willingly ignore context on a selective basis (like saying it doesn't matter that this opened so many doors for so many people but it does matter that Dark Angel was faster and heavier) then you should know that I probably think you're a vacuous dullard with little else to be proud of beyond your ego.  Master of Puppets is an excellent record with a lot of ideas and most of them hit bullseye.

That's what matters to me.