Reviews Coming Soon

Album Review: TBA

Friday, August 16, 2013

Album Review: Turisas – Turisas2013

Let’s get this out of the way right now – who in their right mind calls an album Turisas2013? It’s just two words wedged together that, even when separated, mean next to nothing. Mathias Nygård, the band’s lyricist and principal songwriter, feeling the need to explain it up front, calls it “the perfect combination of self-titled with a touch of Black Sabbath’s Vol.4 and Van Halen’s 1984.” Those are not the sort of album titles to try and live up to. The former was forced on the band by the record company who wanted to call it Snowblind and the latter actually appeared on the front cover as MCMLXXXIV – still awful but at least it looked a little more interesting like that. No, sir, it’s a needlessly ambiguous, slapdash and horribly misguided eyesore of a title. Still, what’s in a name — it’s all about the music, right?

Well, get ready to expect a lot more power and a lot less folk. Turisas‘ battle metal ethos is still there but the beats per minute have shot up and the steady, emotion-draining builds have all but gone. The musical structure now has less additional elements and fewer layers. The Turisas onion has, essentially, fused together and consequently the initial hit is earlier, harder and more direct. As an example, check out the bluster and pomp of “Into The Free”; behold the jagged guitars, the hammering double-kick and the heroic chants. Elsewhere, “Piece By Piece” and “For Your Own Good” serve up a more balanced perspective, offering a little rough and a little smooth. If you don’t pick up the power aspect from the rousing chants, the songwriting, the overload of melody or the fantastical dramatics, the penny will drop when those proggy synth solos come steaming through.

So where’s this urge for change come from? Well, it has all been kick-started by a disturbingly large number of personnel changes since their last album. Thus far they’ve waved farewell to drummer Tude Lehtonen, Netta Skog (who took the band’s only accordion with her) and bassist Hannes Horma (and, incredibly, his replacement Jukka Pekka Miettenen). Robert Engstrand’s keyboards are the most noticeable addition to the band and they are the most pungent aspect of this new-look line-up and sound. None of these things are the worst of the changes though. The real kick in the teeth is the lack of a concept — Turisas’ number one calling card. Mathias has pointed out their need to “write more varied songs” when “the stories are not connected”, and you can understand this desire to explore other territory when you consider their live impact. Some might argue, however, that their live reputation has already been built on these conceptual pieces and that cutting their tracks loose just dilutes their talent for creating epic studio art, drawing their work back into the territory of those with far less talent for songwriting around a theme. Turisas can bring legends to life like no other, but they need more than a 4-minute time slot to do it in.

When they do lengthen the running time a notch or add a unique dimension, they are able to fire in stunners like “Greek Fire” and “We Ride Together”. The former is loaded with bottom-end and comes with a guitar-driven backline that shreds away like Freddy Krueger, whilst the latter is a stirring, armour-clad snarler of a track; a thrill ride atop a galloping horse heading into battle. If they’d continued in that vein, they’d have made the transition without a hitch.

Sadly, the majority of tracks are too short and too loose. They bring the dance (Turisas’ other calling-card) for “Run Bhang-Eater, Run!”, kicking off a wild party in an Arabian tent, but they upset the rhythmic flow when they cut it short to create a three-part drug and orgy monster, complete with sex noises, jazz sax and guitar solos. They also reprise their love for the drinking song with the speed-happy, pop-punker “No Good Story Ever Starts With Drinking Tea” but end up with more beer down their tunics than in their gullets – let’s just say Alestorm‘s “Rum”, Korpiklaani‘s “Vodka” and even their own “One More” put it to shame. Yet even these two have more to say than “The Days Passed” which attempts and evokes nothing inspirational and just comes across as an impassive, middling concept track missing its concept.

If you’re a fan of day-glo fantasy power metal (à la Gloryhammer or Dragonforce) then this will all cry out to your inner elf. If you’re thinking “fuck off, I’m a Viking, not some fucking pointy-eared pansy” then you’re going to be just a little pissed off. May I suggest you do a bit of burning and pillaging to make up for this strangely muddled collection. Setting fire to your incredible Stand Up And Fight graphic art cover in protest might be a step too far though, but you can burn this one — it sucks balls. Big red and black balls.

Also online @ Heavy Blog Is Heavy =

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

News: Download a FREE 19-track sampler from Napalm Records

We all like freebies, right? Well, a little birdie tells me that all through August 2013, will be shining the spotlight on Napalm Records - a label that recently found homes for a whole host of undoubtedly major, and well established, metal acts. 

Certain titles will be being campaigned at reduced value but, and here's your opportunity to grab a listen to some properly top music, you can download a 19-track Napalm All Stars sampler featuring new tracks from The Answer, DevilDriver, Vista Chino, Huntress and many more. 

 Download it here for free:

Full track list is:

1. THE ANSWER - New Horizon
2. DEVILDRIVER - Ruthless
3. ALESTORM - Shipwrecked          
4. VISTA CHINO – Dargona, Dragona
5. HUNTRESS - Zenith
6. SUMMONING - Old Mornings Dawn
7. LEGION OF THE DAMNED - Summon All Hate       
8. POWERWOLF - Amen & Attack
9. DEADLOCK - I'm Gone
10. MOONSPELL – Lickanthrope
11. GLORYHAMMER - Angus McFife
12. DELAIN - Are You Done With Me (New Single Mix)
13. CANDLEMASS - Dancing In The Temple (Of The Mad Queen Bee)       
14. MANEGARM - Sons Of War
15. END OF GREEN - Holidays in Hell
16. VENOMOUS MAXIMUS - Path of Doom
17. TRISTANIA – Number
18. AUDREY HORNE - Redemption Blues
19. LONEWOLF - Hellride

The following titles will be available from £4.50 at Amazon throughout August:

Alestorm - Back Through Time
Alestorm - Black Sails At Midnight
Alestorm - Captain Morgan's Revenge
Arkona - Decade Of Glory (Ltd.First Edt.)
Candlemass - Psalms For The Dead (CD + DVD)
Ex Deo - Caligvla (Ltd. Digipack)
Fejd - Nagelfar (Ltd. First Edt.)
Grave Digger            - Clash Of The Gods (Ltd. Digipack)
Huntress - Spell Eater (Ltd. Digipak)
Lacrimas Profundere - Songs For The Last View (Cd + Dvd)
Lonewolf - The Fourth And Final Horseman (Ltd. First Edt.)
Mammoth Mammoth - Volume Iii Hell's Likely (Ltd. First Edt.)
Monster Magnet - Mastermind
Moonspell - Alpha Noir
Nemesea - The Quiet Resistance
Summoning - Oath Bound
The Sword - Apocryphon (Ltd. First Edt.)
Tiamat - The Scarred People (Ltd.  First Edt.)
Tristania - Midwintertears (CD + DVD)
Van Canto - Break The Silence
Xandria - Neverworld's End

Friday, August 2, 2013

Album Review: Chimaira – Crown Of Phantoms

At the forefront of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, lurking between the spasming core of Lamb Of God and the thundering grooves of Machine Head, Chimaira have forged a network of paths, rarely stopping to settle too long on one signature sound. Sure, they’re long-time fans of the skull-crushing breakdown but their knack for integrating genres has meant their career in music has been one long progression. In 2011, the band and the fans, already rocked by the departure of Chris Spicuzza and Andols Herrick, had to deal with the bombshell of losing guitarists Rob Arnold and Matt DeVries. That hit fans pretty hard with many rebelling to cries of “R.I.P. Chimaira”. Two years down the line, however, and they’re back to operating at full power with Matt Szlachta (Dirge Within), Austin D’Amond (Bleed the Sky) and, well, half of Dååth stepping in to plug the gaps.

Now, someone wiser than me once said “He who rejects change is the architect of decay” so, let’s look on the bright side here. Chimaira have clearly viewed this all as an opportunity to properly toy with their sound once more and have shifted to one with a more industrial edge. Break it down and the catalyst here has undoubtedly been Sean Zatorsky who has taken on the task of handling the electronics, ambient supplements and additional vocals. If he’s not a fan of Fear Factory’s new album, I’ll eat my hat. There’s also the welding of Emil Werstler’s chaotic leads onto Szlachta’s mathy groove and you begin to realise just how potent this new line-up really can be.

Take opening track “The Machine”, with the line “The time has come to reboot the machine”. Oh, yes, they mean business and this chugs, clanks and groans like some vast factory of pistons operating at full bore. D’Amond’s drums are immense with ballistic double-kick and skins stretched to the point you’d swear he’d used botox on them. Everything else up top is set to chug and batter you to death, but they haven’t forgotten how to write big in all this either. Bursting with musicality and almighty singalong choruses, “No Mercy”, “Plastic Wonderland” and the title-track all have enough pomp and power in them to flatten any venue.

There’s also curios like the bleak monster “Love Soaked Death”, the thrashy “Spineless” and the subterranean “I Despise” to consider. The latter has a dark, multi-faceted mathematical quality about it all. Borrowing from others it fuses elements like slow vocal whoops and piercing string slides with djent’s arrhythmic bottom line to create something truly menacing. Vocalist Mark Hunter’s obsession with firearms takes another step forward too with “All That’s Left Is Blood” refining his point down to the chilling line “Feel the cold steel on the back of your head, one click and it’s over”.

If this wasn’t Chimaira, a band who actually understand the concept of a two-sided vinyl, then “The Transmigration”, with its chanting, clanging atmospherics, classical strings, keys and eventual noise disintegration, would be a track one banker. However, instead of being a throwaway (oh so passé) instrumental intro, it’s the perfect mood-piece that creates space mid-album, allowing its listeners a moment to breathe, dividing it up into bite-sized chunks. As a bonus, it provides the perfect set up for the monstrous vitriol and muscle of that title-track.

The one problem with Crown Of Phantoms is not the concept of a stylistic overhaul, but the fact that their “machine” feels like it may have malfunctioned before the “reboot” could be completed. After setting things up with that opener, they only really pay lip service to the concept itself, choosing to integrate it completely into the groove elements. A more concerted effort might well have eradicated the fillers and might have provided opportunity to nail an album with even more diversity. Fear not, though, this new line-up has done an immense job of giving Chimaira a truly gritty quality. Consequently, Crown Of Phantoms is still going to cut and nick you throughout and will leave you with a strong metallic taste on your tongue.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =