Metal Reviews by Jim Mills
The Crusher CD - Metal Blade
Amon Amarth have recorded perhaps their best record to date.
This is their fourth release, and it's their third on Metal
Blade. All the records deal with Vikings and mythological themes.
The Crusher keeps this tradition burning ever so bright.
I have coined Amon Amarth with the term "Epic Viking Metal",
because that's what they do. They create epic songs, and back
the writing style with a wall of sound that is over bearing
to people that have never heard a band like this before. They
have a very straight forward writing style - no off timings
or weird patterns, just straight forward song writing that gets
the point across loud and clear. A very Swedish style of guitar
sound and playing, accompanied by texture filled, powerful vocals
and a monstrous drum sound (due to the new drummer Fredrick,
formerly of the band A Canerous Quintet, after Martin Lopez
left to join Opeth). Amon Amarth are very proud of their heritage,
and display their Pagan pride, and songs like "Bastards
Of A Lying Breed" and "The Sound of Eight Hooves"
make you want to go on a rampage and start smashing people.
If you like any Swedish metal band, this is for you; if you
are unaware of the Swedish sound, besides In Flames or Abba,
then you need to take a dive and start with Amon Amarth's
Homovore LP - Three One G
Well... where to start with this. Pure black metal kids will
hate these guys because they're absolute death grind!! Carcass
fans, it's time to break out with your Gray's Anatomy
and your Traces of Death videos and put in your new favorite
band, Cattle Decapitation. They hail from the darkest regions
of San Diego, and all of them have a lust for cow heads. In
fact, they use severed cow heads throughout their albums. But
Cattle Decapitation don't do it like other bands, they do it
with artistic value and an appreciation that should be shared
by all. Most people who see their album covers will think "oh
wow, look Billy, it's just another skinned cow head with intestines
and other miscellanies organs on that cover." It's much
more than that, it represents the frailty of flesh but with
the beauty of taking some poor person and making them into stew
because you're much quicker than they are with a sharp/pointed
hand held weapon. Music-wise, they're a fast, tight, brutal
death metal band that play similar to Carcass and have some
actual thought behind the music that they're puking up for you.
Older death and grind fans will seriously freak out, start running
around in circles looking for your Garbage Pail Kids that you
have stashed away, because you need more gore!!!! And Cattle
Decapitation will help you achieve this. An absolute must for
all extreme metal enthusiasts, who like their killing real and
Cradel of Filth
Midian CD - Koch
Perhaps this is supposed to be Cradle of Filth's most important
record in their career. Changing labels twice for their American
releases never really helps the situation, mainly just confusing
their fans, keeping them in limbo about where Cradle lies. But
they finally secured a label in America by the name of Koch
International. And the fact that Cradle lost their long time
drummer Nick Barker to Dimmu Borgir, and more members decided
to jump ship after their EP, From The Cradle To Enslave.
So, all this said, you should be able to see that Midian
should be a redemption type release. It's supposed to gain back
the fans who might have split due to the new members or other
changes, and of course the fact that there has been negative
press towards Dani Filth. But I don't think I am one to jump
on a bandwagon with these sorts of things. So, back to Midian.
It is very much a Cradle release. There's no way to miss the
trademark vocal style of Dani Filth. No matter if you absolutely
hate his style, he's very good and has not stolen anyone in
particular's vocal stylings. So what I think sets this album
apart from other Cradle releases are the new songwriters. Since
Gian has taken over as the only original guitarist, the weight
of this record must have been quite heavy. Basically, Cradle
has toned down the "gothic" theme a bit and stepped
up with more metal for their song writing - throwing in catchy
hooks throughout each song, and tons of pick slides on the record.
But all of this is finalized by the new drummer, Adrian (who
was formerly of At The Gates). If you are unaware, and new to
metal, this is a good thing. Not that Nick Barker is an old
shoe, but it's At The Gates though… I also hear a toned
down, more simplistic writing structure as well. They still
keep the breakdowns and time changes, but it's a little more
organized - not as chaotic with a bunch of noise. The addition
of a metal approach works for them, and is much needed. The
music isn't a bunch of gothic surround sound, it's straightforward
metal, of course with some black metal elements included. But
you won't be hearing any 32nd blast beats, with double time
4/4 guitars on this one. So, if you are into Cradle, you'll
like this, but you probably already have it. And if you're new
to metal, you should take the plunge, because you are probably
aware of Cradle of Filth in some way. It's not a bad record
to start out with either.
Day of Reckoning CD - Now or Never
I was very curious at first about this band. I had seen them
in numerous fanzines and so forth, and it semed like they have
a nice buzz going on. Soooooo... here's what I like about Day
of Reckoning: the album is heavily equipped with hooks
and gang style vocals, just like every hardcore band does. Diecast
seems to use the same sort of formula for each song, as in structure
and playing style, then do a different variation. But the band
does it pretty good, so it's nothing that is so redundant that
it's a shame that someone actually released it. Vocally, it
consists of two different styles: a higher growly style, very
run of the mill in this huge crossover between hardcore and
metal, and then they use a clean singer (not sure if it's the
same singer or not) to lure the people that dig non-aggressive
music into the band. Clever of them. Then, of course, they use
the fresh idea of gang-bang style singers, securing their slot
in the hardcore realm, but then while all of this visor wearing,
arm swinging is going on, the drummer must have a click track
to Slayer or something, because he's busting out with some double
kick that isn't seen too much in this style of the hybrid metal-hardcore.
This adds a lot of groove and makes the music flow smoother.
So, all in all, Diecast are a good band, but at the moment I
don't think they're going to bust open any new doors. But they
know how to play and write songs, so if nature takes its course
on musicians, they'll grow and be a lethal force in the music
Determination CD - Century Media
More American hybrid metal. It seems like quite the craze as
of late - American bands trying not to fall into such a drought
of creativity in music, ripping off European bands and so forth.
God Forbid use, I would say, a very fundamental writing style
for metal. It's very simple, nothing too complicated, with predictable
breakdowns and such. Just like metal bands like to do. The entire
album is full of crunchy guitar breakdowns and hardcore/death
metal style vocals - making the vocals friendly to your death
metal fans, or even your Earth Crisis fans. But I don't think
that hardcore fans will understand the use of guitar solos and
that sort of thing, as well as the constant double kick laying
down the flow of the song. But it works. That's always a plus,
when the band can write individual songs that stand out from
each other, allowing the songwriting to show through the bleak
colors that happens when you start to play extreme metal. But
without a doubt, God Forbid don't fall into any specific genre.
But I would think that because of all these bands that are on
the up rise now, that another sub-genre is about to be created.
Maybe I should be the first, let's call it "hybrid-metal"?!
I think that fits the bands that are elusive to this name.
Edge of Existence CD - No Fashion Records
If you read my review of Hypocrite's last album, you would recall
me being a fan of these guys. I was hoping for something more
like Halls Of The Blind, but what I got was a more
stripped own Hypocrite, playing more of a black metal style.
Very heavy, thick melodic style guitar playing with vocals in
the background, instead of being so out front. You can only
imagine why they make the vocals the only music you can hear,
or decipher. Once again, another Swedish band making their claim
onto the scene. I think Hypocrite sort of fall into the same
realm as Amon Amarth do. They don't have a definite limitation
to the music that they write. Hypocrite use a lot of breakdowns
through each song, letting the song breathe a bit, and allow
you to digest what is going on, instead of a musical blur full
of white noise. If you need a break from your typical Swedish
band, go on a coffee break and check out Hypocrite.
Terror Succeeds CD - Black Sun Records
Let's sum this record up real quickly for all of you A.D.D.
sufferers: Fine Swedish Death Metal! That didn't take up too
much energy now did it? So here's the deal with Impious. This
is their second full-length album, and it's not out in America,
so this poses a problem for you the avid metal enthusiast. You
have to get Terror Succeeds as an import. Terror Succeeds
doesn't stray too far away from their previous record, Evilized,
playing the same brutal mix of thrash, and the now legendary
Swedish Sound. Don't mistake the In Flames style for all Swedish
bands, because Impious are a band that use tons of hooks in
their songs, accompanied by being a tight band that loves to
play music in hope of you kicking your mother! It's hard to
explain how the band sounds as a whole, because they use a lot
of interesting breakdowns, and some very clever and inventive
vocal patterns. For example, the song "Diseased" has
some of the craziest arrangements that I have heard in a band
of this nature, ever. Vocalist Martin Akkeson lashes out some
very interesting layering, surpassing the speed of the rest
of the band, while the others maintain a simple triple timed
4x4 beat and Martin's going apeshit. Terror Succeeds
has the making of a genuine piece of metal. The production of
the album isn't too polished, so all you fans of a warmer sounding
recording, you'll like this, as well as you fans who can't live
without the sound of a high budget studio. If you sport Cannibal
Corpse, Slayer, At The Gates, The Crown, or Grave t-shirts,
you'll be kicking your mom the night you get this!
Holy Shit CDEP - No Fashion Records
If you are not in touch with your likes of the Swedish style
of death metal, let me help you out. Since the uprising of In
Flames, The Haunted Arch Enemy, and Witchery there was a band
called Entombed. Entombed were the kings of Swedish death. Paving
the ways for bands like Dismember, Hypocrisy, Grave, The Crown,
and At The Gates. See, Swedish death metal wasn't always nice
and pretty. People that listened to Swedish bands were into
death metal and things that fell under that roof. It was Swedish
death metal. Not too many girls were into these bands. So, anyway,
Lobotomy have their third release out on No Fashion. It's an
EP actually, and I guess they put it out to keep people interested
in the band while they work on a new album since the release
of Born In Hell. Born In Hell didn't get too warm of
a response from American metal supporters. I think it's because
it was the lack of writing that was used. But Lobotomy are a
good band. They play this older style of Swedish death metal,
the kind that has a crunchy sound and raw production that makes
you proud that you like this kind of music. The kind that makes
you not care about wearing the most unreadable logo on your
shirt, or how long you can glare without blinking, maintaining
your evil stature at shows, with big Xs on your hands because
you're under 21. Lobotomy are plain and simple death metal!!
They don't like everything that you don't like, so help these
guys out and pick this album up. If you're true to the scene
then you'll buy this!!!
La Grande Danse Macabre CD - Century Media
Rejoice Marduk fans: they finally have American distribution,
so that means you can find this album nationwide! I was hoping
for a follow up to Panzer Division that would blow my head off
and then proceed to have intercourse with the holes that were
cut into my face during this process. But you know what this
album did for me? It made me get excited for Marduk, so excited
that I put in an older title from the band. How could something
like this happen to one of my favorite bands? I am baffled.
I mean, the record is full of blazingly fast guitars and drumming,
but I don't feel satisfied with La Grande Danse Macabre.
The production is clean as all hell, too, being that it was
produced in the well-traveled Abyss Studios. But maybe that's
it, though. Maybe Marduk need to shed some old skin and add
something different to the package now. Maybe they need to have
some diversity. Granted, Abyss Studios do a great job, but any
band that rolls through there end up having similar sounds.
So here's what I say, if you like Marduk, you need this album.
If you have no idea what this band is about, but you are interested
in perhaps the fastest, and tightest music possible then you
need Marduk in your collection. And La Danse Macabre is a fine
record to start out with. But you should also look into buying
their previous releases as well, more specifically Heaven
Shall Burn…, Those of the Unlight, Panzer Division.
Quality Satanic black metal that you can afford.
Domain of Death CD - Relapse
There's a lot to cover with Mortician. Mortician are what they
are, and there's no argument there. I have come across a lot
of folks who think they're a terrible band and are pointless.
But the thing about Mortician is, they make music how they want
to and don't bother taking into consideration what anyone says.
Mortician play very heavy death metal. Super low tuned guitars
and very lox and fuzzy bass. And the vocals are basically sung
in B. It's fucking low as shit folks. They also use a drum machine
on each record, which I am not into too much, but it's Mortician,
so you get used to it. Mortician use an artist by the name of
Wes Benscoter, you may know him from Slayer's Divine Intervention,
Live Intrusion, and tons of death metal bands. He's
one of the sickest artists out there in the world right now.
He paints human bodies very appropriately, and he also has a
way of painting human flesh, especially flesh that's cut open
or dead. It could be the use of one color for the whole painting,
and just using different shades. He's great, one of the best.
He does have a website, www.wesbenscoter.com.
Be sure to check that out. One of the driving forces behind
Mortician is horror movies. They use samples from various movies
throughout the entire record, then the song that the intro is
used for will be about that song oddly enough. So, now you should
start to get some sort of idea what Mortician is about. They're
about being brutal. Singing about nothing but killing, mutilation,
torture, and Pepsi commercials. You need to take a plunge into
the cess-enriched world that Mortician sits in. They own that
world, and they like it there! If you like horror movies, but
don't like metal at all, this album absolutely needs to be your
first death metal band. You will appreciate it, and find it
a seat at the dinner table while you're eating some sort of
Self Mutilation CD - Listenable Records
I was surprised by this album. When I gave read the "brief"
description of the band on the back of the promo, I was about
to cry. But all is well. No Return are said to be described
as "Bay Area thrash", but they're not a Bay Area band.
Not in the least. Granted, they're from France... They're from
France. One of the "selling points" that was listed
on the record is "…with sampled noises in good measure
and angry." I didn't know what to expect from that little
quirk. I thought it would be something totally ridiculous like
Helloween on that terrible song "Future World". But
No Return instead use some keyboards and some sort of electronics
layering over the songs, and it does actually enhance the music,
sounding pretty good too. But as far as a music style, No Return
are more of a death metal band, drawing heavy influence from
Sepultura, Slayer (how original), and, dare I say, Vader. The
singer reminds me of Peter from Vader a lot. But the drummer
isn't nearly as good as Doc or Igor. He plays pretty remedial
drum beats, mostly alternating hi-hat, snare pattern, then rolling
into the blast portion of the song. But it's not like you haven't
heard that style of playing before. So, if you're in the mood
for this style of band, go for it. Take the plunge, you'll like
No Return. It's not the most thrilling album, but they have
Home Is A Strange Place CD - Koch
After a couple years of rumors about breaking up, and singer
Mark Hennessy leaving the band and so forth, Paw have released
their third album, being their first on Koch. I am sure most
of you who are old enough saw Paw all over Headbanger's Ball
years ago for their song "Jesse" off of the Dragline
record. And then they released their less-hyped Death to
Traitors album, which seemed to put them on the back burner.
But we all know how major labels can get when they're not raking
in boats of benjamins, they get snooty and drop bands, and that's
what happened to Paw. But I'm not sure on the "backstage"
footage of the band, nor do I really care. So, now we're here
with a new record. I was hoping that Mark Hennessy was singing
on this record, mainly because I had always thought he was a
great singer, who used many elements to make the vocals of Paw
very original and unique, but yet they had something lurking
beyond them - something much more ominous about them. Lots of
layering and harsh aggressive parts, being contrasted by a calmer,
brighter sounding vocal approach. This is only the start on
this band. I wouldn't have expected it years ago when Dragline
came out, but Paw plays a very chaotic, attention demanding
style of metal. It's not necessarily brutal or fast with dual
guitar harmonies, but it's sort of like a cousin of Opeth, or
something of that sort. They use a lot of time changes and heavy
dramatics in each song. I'm not saying that Paw is unorganized
in their song structure or arrangements, but it always has a
reoccurring theme that you can look forward to. It's too hard
to categorize Paw, so I'll give you some sound-a-likes here.
If you like Maiden, Emo, Opeth, and Alice In Chains then you
should already have this band in your collection, otherwise,
go to whatever local record shop is in your town and buy it
from them. You might have to get adjusted to Paw's style, but
it will grow on you; and unlike a huge cyst, you'll like Paw.
Of One Blood CD - Century Media
I am sure you have heard of this band by now. Century Media
has done perhaps the biggest "where the fuck did this band
come from?" of recent years. Shadow's Fall has been touring
constantly for years straight, and working hard. Good for them.
They're a weird band, because they write a lot of different
musical styles. And that's cool to do. But I'm personally not
into it that much. It's sort of like Papa Roach in a way. They
try to be "brutal" but then they like to do things
vocally or something to get the softer side of people caught.
Like slow breakdowns with clean soppy vocals, and a melody playing
behind them and little guitar leads adding suspense to the world
that they're writing. But then out of nowhere boom, they're
heavy again with aggressive vocals, making the rage of you pop
out. It just makes me predict what's coming up next in each
different part. You know, when they're going to go into a build
up or go into the downtime of a song. It's easy to see. But
they're good musicians. The two guitarists know what they're
doing and like to play off of each other and incorporate the
camaraderie that dual guitar players have with each other. And
the drummer likes his galloping thrash style of playing. A lot
of groove oriented stuff going on, nothing incredible confusing
or dog fucking going on. As for the vocals, I'm not really into
vocals that are in the "purgatory" world of vocals.
If you're going to be brutal and aggressive, then do it. When
I hear a singer who seems like he's trying to hide the ugliness
of death metal singing, it's sort of lame. I understand "crossing
over", but I am not into it. If you like your extreme vocals
extreme to its true sense, you'll know what I am talking about.
Singers like Ross Dolan from Immolation or Legion from Marduk
or Chris from Abscess/Ravenous. The singer can make a band that
much above and beyond, I guess maybe it lies in its passion
for the music? Shadow's Fall is definitely for people that are
not into the extremes of any music genre. If you're not a hardcore
death metal kid, or classic metal or hardcore - you know, the
grey area of music - then you'll dig Shadow's Fall big time.
And you know the name I am sure, but go ahead and take a dive
and buy the album. You'll dig it.
Theatre of Tragedy
Musique CD - Nuclear Blast
Theatre of Tragedy has been one of those weird obscure bands
that played some sort of hybrid music that appealed to fans
of different genres. They incorporated different aspects of
different styles that made them very unique in their own way.
The main draw of Theatre of Tragedy would be the two extremely
different vocal styles, accompanied by very heavy dramatics.
A very beautiful voice from Liv Kristine, which could a formula
from any form of music, and put it to Theatre’s style
of doom/goth/death. And, of course, they had a death metal style
of growling contrasting Liv Kritine, and that would usually
make the songs very heavy, yet very odd. So Theatre of Tragedy
was definitely a band that was a bit too attention demanding
for people who just wanted some sort of heavy music to drink
or smoke to. ¶ Theatre of Tragedy has a new record out,
and a new label. And a new sound, to say the least. For some
reason bands from Norway like to incorporate electronic elements
into their music, which I have never understood. What to make
of this “style” is way beyond me. I have never been
much of a fan of music that is mainly based on a keyboard player.
I have always preferred to get a very raw authentic sound for
my personal tastes. So now it looks like Theatre of Tragedy
has decided to head in the direction of electronica/dance. But
they’re still using Liv Kristine’s vocals as a main
draw for the band, but they made some serious changes to their
sound as a whole. First is the changing of the vocals of the
male singer Raymond, who handled the duties as the doom/death
singer on previous material. Now he has changed completely.
He’s more of an Eighties new age singer now, with horribly
stupid lyrics. I don’t even know where to start about
the lyrics for this record. For some people lyrics aren’t
much of a complaint, most of the time if you listen to death
metal or whatever you can’t understand the vocalist anyway,
so you follow the patterns and style of the singer. But unfortunately
for Raymon, you can understand him, which fucking shoots this
down to hell. Musique’s only desirable element is Liv
Kristine, to say the least. She still does a great job with
her singing, and has made her voice a little smoother and easier
to grab onto. It’s too bad that the music behind her is
not up to par, like the older stuff. But hey, musicians grow
and get sick of playing and writing the same shit over and over,
so then you should listen to a younger band that is more in
the vein of older Theatre, like Within Temptation or Left Hand
Solution. So basically: Liv Kristine fans, you’ll like
the record a little bit because of her, but if you liked what
Theatre did in the past, and are hoping for another record like
the previous records, don’t hold your breath.
V/A Contaminated 3.0
Compilation CD - Relapse
This is one-hundred percent for people who are not at all into
the underground world of death/grind/metal scene. But rather
if you only read Metal Edge, or you are only into MTV X or something
like that. This album is a "best of" record from Relapse
Records. It has fifty-one fucking songs on it. Definitely a
lot of extreme music to consume. But luckily the album contains
bands like Disrupt, Benumb, Blood Duster, Nasum, Mortician,
Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Soilent Green, and Brutal Truth, who
all write fairly short songs. But then they add the bigger Relapse
bands like Amorphis, Deceased, Nile, Human Remains, Phobia,
The Dillinger Escape Plan, Neurosis, and Today Is The Day. And
they also threw some old classic bands like Disembowelment,
Suffocation, Exit 13, and General Surgery as well. So, Contaminated
spans the life of Relapse Records, and gives a very thorough
history of the label and its bands. You'll be able to see how
this former mailorder label spawned into a fully functional
piece of metal! If you want to hear a wide variety of extreme
bands in a short amount of time, and for cheap, spend your money
on this and sit in your room for a couple of hours with it.