June 7, 2016

2015 Top 5

 (#1) Horrendous/Anareta (2015)
[Album Rating: Classic 10/10.]
[Country: USA. Genre: Death Metal.]


 (#2) Mgla/Exercises In Futility (2015)
[Album Rating: Classic 10/10.]
[Country: Poland. Genre: Black Metal.]


 (#3) My Dying Bride/Feel The Misery (2015)
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: UK. Genre: Doom Metal.]

 (#4) Visigoth/The Revenant King (2015)
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: USA. Genre: Power Metal.]

 (#5) Avatarium/The Girl With The Raven Mask (2015)
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: Sweden. Genre: Doom Metal.]

January 6, 2015

2014 Top 5

(#1) Ne Obliviscaris/Citadel (2014)
[Album Rating: Classic 10/10.]
[Country: Australia. Genre: Progressive Black/Death.]


 (#2) Primordial/Where Greater Men Have Fallen (2014)
[Album Rating: Classic 10/10.]
[Country: Ireland. Genre: Celtic Black Metal.]


(#3) Judas Priest/Redeemer Of Souls (2014)
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: UK. Genre: Classic Metal.]

(#4) Hoth/Oathbreaker (2014)
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: USA. Genre: Melodic Death/Black.]

 (#5) Triptykon/Melana Chasmata (2014)
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: Switzerland. Genre: Gothic Death.]

May 27, 2014

DARKEST ERA Interview (May 27, 2014)

1. Thank you for doing the interview. With mere days remaining prior to the severing of the ropes holding down the new album, SEVERANCE, is the band getting pretty excited, or what?

ADE MULGREW (GUITARS:) Definitely! It's been over a year since we wrote and recorded this album, a long and arduous road for sure and it's great to finally have the war machine turning! I've been looking forward to the release immensely, especially getting my hands on the vinyl.

2. Upon hearing the first two released promo tracks -- Sorrow's Boundless Realm and Trapped In The Hourglass -- we were suddenly stoked. We immediately felt a more driving, aggressive soundscape being achieved by Darkest Era. Are you intending to take a somewhat gritter approach going forward, or is that just how this album turned out as compared to The Last Caress Of Light?

ADE: A rougher, grittier tone was something we had wanted before recording this album, yes. The first album had each guitar double tracked so there was an atmospheric wall of sound vibe to it. While this is great the intricacies of some of the playing can get a little lost sometimes. This time myself and Sarah chose to have just one guitar track each on there. The result is that the dynamic of the playing comes through a lot more; you can hear the bite of the strings and the amps being pushed into overdrive, and because the songs were shaping up to be a bit darker and more aggressive it worked out very well I think.

3. It must be stated that one could not dream up a more generic name for a recording studio than "Data Recording Studios"! Nonetheless, having listened twice through an advance copy of the entire recording, from our copious salivating we can clearly see the results speaking for themselves... This album takes it to the next level! Was the recording process smooth and relatively painless, or did you have to really work it to get all the parts flowing together so well?

ADE: Well, a couple of people did ask us what the hell we were doing in County Kerry recording a metal album, haha. The studio was residential and isolated which is what we were after. We knew we would be flying Chris Fielding over to produce again so it was more a case of making sure he was happy with the facilities to be honest. As it turned out though it's a great studio, and the in-house engineer there has put out some great records himself. It’s quite a large building with an absolutely huge live room which was amazing for getting the perfect drum sound. The place used to be a factory which made jam, so why they called it 'Data' and not 'The Jam Factory is beyond me, haha. The recording process wasn't stressful as such, but rather it was extremely intense. We were still working on arrangements and vocal melodies in the studio, as well as lyrics. We would work from 11am until 2 or 3 am most days, and on the last day we went right through the night until the next morning. Every second of every minute was focused on the record, because we knew that's what it would take to get it done. You undergo a sort or reality shift when you work like that; coming out of it is a part relief and part melancholy - a bit like after a long tour really.

4. Speaking of hard work, those in-the-know know that Darkest Era have become one of the very hardest working bands in Ireland and the UK (with several European appearances also under the belt at this point). This gigging has paid off in terms of the Metal Blade and Cruz Del Sur record contracts, and also in terms of allowing the largest number of metal fans to become entranced! Does the band (as Darkest Era, since 2007) have an official gig count? What # are you at?

ADE: I honestly wouldn't have a clue, but it's not as many as you'd imagine really. We're not the kind of band to play our local venues week in week out, audiences soon get sick of you around here! Normally we play the main Irish cities once or twice a year, often enough to not be forgotten but seldom enough that there is still a good level of anticipation when we play. We've done three good tours now but we would love to get out on a really long run as part of a big package tour. We really don't play half as often as all of us would like.

5. Having just two months ago headlined the North Of The Wall festival in Glasgow, would you say that you could get used to being Festival headliners?

ADE: There's a lot of waiting around and a lot less time for drinking, hehe, but it was nice to do something like this for sure. It's not something we've done much of before. We're some way off headlining anything other than quite small festivals, but one of the things we're looking forward to is hitting the European festival circuit. There are a bunch of festivals right across Europe that we would love to play and hopefully now we'll get the chance to hit some of them on this album cycle.

6. Fans are in for some fun as deeper album tracks such as The Serpent And The Shadow really grab the listener by the jugular. There will be a thousand screaming souls on the day this opus sees the light! Speaking of which, we noted a terrific, uninhibited and very-metal, almost Paul Di'Anno-esque "Yowow!" at the end of the seventh track, A Thousand Screaming Souls. I guess this answers question #3: you were having fun in the studio! Was 'the scream' also a result of a collective sense that the group was really nailing it this time, with Severance?

ADE: Well I think it was a very consciously cheeky 'Iron Maiden' moment. That song is pure heavy metal and that stabbing ending was just crying out for it, so why not. We're a heavy metal band at the end of the day, and Severance is to us a heavy metal album. It's almost a dirty word these days. You won't find any Joy Division references, faux retro occult 70s bullshit, or 'post-whatever' in our music. We're a heavy metal band, through and through.

7. Better than pirated wares, of course, yes, but, are the Spotify royalty checks really as paltry as we've heard?

ADE: I think we're the wrong band to ask there. Being underground and relatively unknown you can't expect to get very much, if anything at all from the likes of Spotify. You'd have to ask a band who was getting much more substantial plays and record sales, but from what I understand it's pretty poor yes. I do believe this will eventually change though, especially as the power gap between labels, bands, and distros change. Streaming music is the future.

8. Recent events in the news suggest that the tense peace in Northern Ireland is being tested. Just from your perspective, is N. Ireland 100 miles away from returning to The Troubles, or are things actually worse than those of us outside the country could be aware of?

ADE: As with all of these things, the media portrayal of the current state of affairs often paints a highly exaggerated picture. There are very small pockets of resistance to the peace process and it only takes a few extremists and isolated incidents of violence to make the headlines. The vast majority of people here want to leave the past behind, and that's the key difference between now and 30 years ago. There is no support whatsoever for these dissident groups and that's why we won't return to those days. 

9. Will an upcoming video serve any hint as to whether the girl in the An Ancient Fire Burns video actually survived her entombment? Hey, we can hope, right?

ADE: I'm afraid not, that story remains unsolved for now :)  We're currently editing the video so it will be out soon, and it is for a song that we feel is the thematic centrepiece of the album so we're very excited. Who knows though, we may pick up the thread again on the next album.

Enjoy the Severance touring cycle and your guaranteed new crowd of additional fans, and....Thank you!!

ADE: Thanks for the support!

For further study:

1. Bliss out with the An Ancient Fire Burns video:

2. Examine the Darkest Era Facebook page
3. Yell for June to hurry up and show up, and then pick up your copy of Darkest Era's SEVERANCE wherever fine metallic gems are sold.

April 25, 2014

7 Demons Of The Fall -- Appreciating Opeth's progressive death metal decade: 1995-2005
Iron Maiden did it. Black Sabbath didn't do it.

In fact, very few bands have produced a string of seven straight phenomenal, absolutely Grade A+ METAL albums without a clunker, or at least without an album that was merely "great" but not "phenomenal". (Opeth also released Damnation during this time, but that was not a metal album, and it is thus not included in this count.)

With the absolutely dreamy, sensational genre-defining 2-album deathpunch of ORCHID (1995), and MORNINGRISE (1996), Opeth from the very first moment of In Mist She Was Standing enshrined themselves in the hall of fame as one of the very greatest metal, and rock, groups of all time. The genius dripping from these two unbelievably inspired slabs of licorice pizza is captivating. Opeth would go on to produce other sounds (they are progressive, note), but they were never better than they were on these two albums.

Then came the very end-of-the-millennium's finest recorded musical offerings, the twin mind-benders, the astounding MY ARMS YOUR HEARSE (1998), and STILL LIFE (1999). Now incorporating what would become their signature style of their classic progressive death metal years, Opeth had sealed the deal at this point. After Iron Maiden before them, and Black Sabbath even before them, Opeth were now the ultimate expression of heavy music. And not just heavy, of course... melodic, nuanced, intelligent....freaking sublime.

2001 brought one of the most famous institutions of the recorded medium, BLACKWATER PARK. Unanimously praised for sticking perfect 10s in terms of both style & substance -- and again, doing so in their newer style which was more accessible than Orchid and Morningrise -- Opeth's members chiseled in a few of the words that would be on their various gravestones many years from now: "created Blackwater Park". Rightfully to be praised forever by rock critics and fans the world over, this was the band's true watershed.

Reaching deep to, in many ways, actually surpass Blackwater Park, the gentlemen came right back with their heaviest hit, the massive and inescapably beautiful and devastating DELIVERANCE (2002). Truly the ultimate statement by this band at their absolute creative peak, Deliverance represents pure love to any metal fan with a properly trained ear. Life needed to not even continue and we would have died happy...

But it did continue. Being Opeth's final A+ METAL album of this period, GHOST REVERIES shyly did not appear until 2005. But like any ghost worth it's corpse-paint, Ghost Reveries did appear -- and it's effect was lingering and permanent. Having carried us all Under The Weeping Moon (from their debut album) in pure audio ecstasy all these years, there was time for one last transportation: past The Baying Of The Hounds, and through the Harlequin Forest, until the possessing final climax of The Grand Conjuration, we felt enraptured -- as we had been for the entire previous decade -- and we were utterly captured forever by the 7 Demons Of The Fall... the 7 life-definingly glorious metal albums of one of the very greatest bands ever to strike a chord.

March 10, 2014

Slough Feg cannot resist everything digital as they disseminate Digital Resistance

 Slough Feg/Digital Resistance (2014)-Review:
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: USA. Genre: Heavy Metal.]

Friends, Slough Feg have produced a fine slab for their new label Metal Blade. This comes as no surprise to anyone because EVERYONE falls into one of two categories: (A) Person knows about Slough Feg and their extended history of tasty, cerebral classic heavy metal -- thus there is no surprise upon hearing a groovy set of SF tunes like this one; OR (B) Person does not know about heavy metal at all and thus would express only confusion, not surprise, when informed that The Lord Weird Slough Feg has assembled another rip-roaring kick-ass romp of metallic proportions.

The fact that this album is available digitally (and we actually purchased it digitally) presents only a slight setback en route to the greater goal of resisting the digital takeover of our lives. Scalzi & Company have a clever concept behind this album, making an appeal for sanity that almost no one ever makes anymore...

At the very least do not insanely multi-task when listening to this album! If tweeting, selfie-ing, and Facebooking your March Madness partialities must be done, honor the creators and please complete those crucial actions when this tape/vinyl/MP3 is not running! 

In a nutshell: Digital Resistance is a particularly tightly crafted album -- at its very best on resident scorchers such as Laser Enforcer which features cascading riffage that will leave you at once satisfied and clawing for more. 

Carcass resurrects to channel their proper follow-up to their signature slab, Heartwork

 Carcass/Surgical Steel (2013)-Review:
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: UK. Genre: Melodic Death.]

Carcass resurrects to channel their proper follow-up to their signature slab of licorice pizza, Heartwork. Released in 1993, that one was. 2013, this one. Now, 20 years is about as long of a piss break as you can take, but hey, we'll take it -- this eviscerating offering proves that time itself is meaningless!

Carcass = Unfit For Human Consumption!
(Video Evidence):

January 14, 2014

MetalGuru's Top 5 Albums of 2013

(#1) Skeletonwitch/Serpents Unleashed (2013)-Review:
[Album Rating: Classic 10/10.]
[Country: USA. Genre: Blackened Thrash.]

STAY FROSTY: Defiantly Melodic Skeletonwitch is Not a Christian Band.

In one of the most brilliant tour pairings of the decade, Skeletonwitch will be joining Amon Amarth in their early 2014 North American tour. But due apparently to their evil nature, Skeletonwitch will not be allowed to join AA at the Disney H.O.B. in Orlando, FL. Either the Christians have fully weaseled their way into the Disney management infrastructure, or someone simply read some 'Witch lyrics. Maybe both. Indeed, on Serpents Unleashed, the music is SO good and so fun to listen to that the lyrics pretty much have to be as wretched as they are -- because otherwise, as uplifting as these tunes are, this album could mistakenly get tossed into the Christian metal bin. That would be a mistake.

On their fourth 10-star album in a row, Skeletonwitch invite in a little more mid-tempo and a little more doom. But do not be fooled, folks, this is a blazing blackened melodic thrash album -- as jagged and as compelling as their previous two. Aside from their live performances (when they do it every night), though, Skeletonwitch have not yet re-reached the level of metallic divinity achieved on their iconic Beyond The Permafrost (2007). But, it will be fun to continue to see them try!

It will not always be the case during our lives that we will be able to witness one of metal's historically most vital acts in their prime -- not only bursting onto the scene via soul-thrashing mastery of the recorded medium, but also via a near-relentless daily presence at venues throughout the land -- maintaining this unusual level of greatness. So, enjoy it. 

The cover does not lie, people. The finest metal album artwork of 2013 comes paired with a flute of 11 fine offerings -- unmatched by any other band this year. As the wind and ice take the flesh of a majority of the atonal retro-thrash and second-rate death & black metal groups, we are treated to this stand-out band spreading their blackened thrashing wings. On Unending, Everliving a doomy intro morphs into a Tipton-Downing riffage moment, and then the brutal beauty that could only be Skeletonwitch comes crashing through. Though much has been made of More Cruel Than Weak being somewhat of a doom song, do not be fooled -- 90 seconds in... this track will scorch your flesh and in no way leave you mellowed out and ready for sleep.

Indeed Serpents Unleashed marks the 4th time that Skeletonwitch has easily passed the Reign In Blood test -- another sub-40-minute rare gem of a metal album that finishes too soon leaving you absolutely needing to play it again. Listen closely to the closing solos of From A Cloudless Sky, Burned From Bone, and This Evil Embrace. The totally different attitudes of these solos are emblematic of the fresh sounds these Ohio natives are continuing to soak into Skeletonwitch -- while all the while defiantly maintaining their defining fiery, jagged melodicism that once heard, you will need to continue to hear, with volume, and often.

Synopsis: Among the truest defenders of the metal faith (taking into account the various colours of the metallic faith, as it was recorded throughout the resplendent 80s and 90s worldwide), the 'Witch has given birth to another precision slice of chaos that is a joy to listen to from start to finish.
[Album released October 2013 on Prosthetic]
For further study:

 (#2) Amon Amarth/Deceiver Of The Gods (2013)-Review:
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: Sweden. Genre: Melodic Death.]

 With the riveting Deceiver of The Gods -- a vengeful thunderstorm of an album! -- Amon Amarth have claimed the crown as the World's Greatest Metal Band currently in their prime. THIS is the album that fans have been hoping for -- to follow-up the stellar AA-career defining duo of 2006's With Oden On Our Side and 2008's Twilight Of The Thunder God. 2004's Fate Of Norns took Amon Amarth to the next level (though they were already on just about the highest plane imaginable, true) with their two all-time greatest songs: The Pursuit Of Vikings, and The Fate Of Norns. But it is with this latest trilogy of albums (skipping 2011's weaker Surtur Rising) that Amon Amarth claims top-dog status in today's worldwide metal scene. This is where Iron Maiden once stood, and this is where Opeth once stood... At the pinnacle of metal -- music's greatest genre, featuring nearly 100,000 bands (see Metal-Archives.com!), and still surging as one of the greatest cultural phenomenons of our lifetimes. Raise your horns to the sky, for the Metal Gods from Stockholm -- who, (as if all of this were not enough) have also created one of the most epic music videos of all time for track 3: FATHER OF THE WOLF!:

Synopsis: With lyrics that *will* transport you, this is an intense & driven album, stoked with a dazzling sense of melodicism.
[Album released June 2013 on Metal Blade]


(#3) Children Of Bodom/Halo Of Blood (2013)-Review:
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: Finland. Genre: Melodic Death.]

Children Of Bodom have been busy over the past 10 years since 2003's Hate Crew Deathroll.... They have aggressively provided themselves with horrific self-inflicted wounds to the head, heart, and soul in the form of their past 3 albums. To almost any observer, it was clear that this band had gone down In Flames. Gone were the intricate, jaw-dropping neo-classical melodic histrionics. Gone was the youthful enthusiasm & exuberant energy. Roy had gone from a grimly romanticized representation of death (early album covers) to a dumbed-down splash of gore (Blooddrunk album cover). And the music followed suit: unmemorable and generally annoying. In Flames were secure in their control over the most heart-breaking precipitous fall from greatness in metal history, but Children Of Bodom were, in their own dumb way, trying to take it from them.

There they were, Children Of Bodom, after their 3 self-inflicted scythe strikes / albums, lying in a halo of blood. It sure as hell looked over. There were other bands to listen to now, and we all could clutch the early Bodom records to our chests as tremendous examples of how great rock music can be. And then suddenly it's June 2013.., we see an album cover with a pensive Roy searching the ice for the beating heart of the Hatebreeder. A bright surprising late Spring release of a record with a classic icy aura! With an album title that could be an acknowledgement of their recent near-death status that they had brought upon themselves, the true, frosty Bodom corpses that had waited, ignored, on the gurney, for a decade, in the dank hall outside the hospital basement-floor morgue, remembered their talent and stood up to Follow The Reaper and run wildly up the hospital escalator with their fittingly-named Halo Of Blood comeback album. With this, the craziest of Finns broke out from under the ice, to live again.

Synopsis: Bodom is back to doing what they do best...back to doing what made them worth paying attention to in the first place!
[Album released June 2013 on Nuclear Blast]

(#4) Kalmah/Seventh Swamphony (2013)-Review:
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: Finland. Genre: Melodic Death.]

Yes, we noticed: Finnish bands Kalmah & Children Of Bodom both shared a synchronous one-decade-long piss break: 2003 to 2013. Kalmah has always been associated (fairly or not fairly depending on your opinion) with Bodom, and because of both bands' JUNE 2013 return to roots after ill-advised THREE ALBUM forays into more thrashy territory, the mental association between Kalmah are Bodom is not about to change any time soon -- because Bodom released their 2013 tuneage JUST 7 DAYS SOONER! Though the Children showed no signs of life over the past 10 years since their 2003 album, to be fair Kalmah did display several vital signs since their 2003 album. (As an example, we would like to submit Swampwar and Hook The Monster off of 12 Gauge into the record as evidence that this band is brilliant even when they are off the track.) But alas, neither band uncorked a truly classic album in the past decade... but they have both done so this month.

Synopsis: The neo-classical thrashings of Finland's most down-to-Earth band have rarely sounded better! The swamp things from Oulu wisely subjugate the weaker modern metal touches that marred their last few albums.
[Album released June 2013 on Spinefarm]

The Swamp freaks invite us into their begrimed world once again in the best way possible with the shredding, gripping, and humorous vid for the title track of the new album, Seventh Swamphony:

 (#5) Carcass/Surgical Steel (2013)
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]-Review:
[Country: UK. Genre: Melodic Death.]

Carcass resurrects to channel their proper follow-up to their signature slab of licorice pizza, Heartwork. Released in 1993, that one was. 2013, this one. Now, 20 years is about as long of a piss break as you can take, but hey, we'll take it -- this eviscerating offering proves that time itself is meaningless!

Carcass = Unfit For Human Consumption!
(Video Evidence):