Metal Reviews by Jim Mills



Amon Amarth
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 The Crusher.


Cattle Decapitation
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 pointless.


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.


Diecast
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 world.


God Forbid
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.


Hypocrite
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.


Impious
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!


Lobotomy
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!!!


Marduk
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.


Mortician
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 dead carcass.


No Return
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 some promise.


Paw
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.


Shadow's Fall
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.

 


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