Sunday, March 30, 2008

Safety First

Helmet is one of the first Hardcore/Alternative metal bands I listened to. They are not in the same category as Korn, Slipknot or Soulfly, but I still consider them as one the earlier nu-metal bands. Helmet is also one of the only alternative metal bands listed on Encyclopaedia Metallum
who can be particular about nu-metal bands. It is in my opinion that if the Administrators like a nu-metal album then it's okay to post the band, but if they don't then it's NOT metal. That's just what I think.

Anywho, today I'll be looking at Helmet's sophomore album "Meantime". This is the only Helmet album I own (though I did have "Aftertaste" for a while,but decided I didn't care for it and sold it. I do like the song "Like I care" from "Aftertaste" but that was all). "Meantime" is a solid slab of chunky melodic metal with a hardcore edge. This album could almost be considered an early form of metalcore.

The album kicks off with the title-ish track "In The Meantime" which is a mid-paced cruncher with Page Hamilton's hardcore like growl which is used with his most conviction on this song. The riffs are off-timed and grooved oriented. "Turned Out" and "Better" are similar in style, though not as convincing whereas the album closer "Role Model" is a fine example of gritty groove-like noise.

"Ironhead", "He Feels Bad" and "FBLA II" use the off-timed crushing riffs, but with Page's clean vocals the songs feel more melodic. "Give It" is like a hardcore ballad whose soothing groovy riffs beat you over the head pleasantly.

My favourite tracks are "You Borrowed" which is crunchy with clean vocals and a nice melodic edge to the groove-oriented riffs. However, "Unsung" is the topper. It has a darker edge, but super hooky guitar riff. It's simple yet complex in its structure and seemingly comes noisily untangled in a control chaos. A truly fun and memorable song.

Helmet's "Meantime" is heavy and memorable as well as wonderfully laid out. I've thought about getting more of their albums, but I think I'll settle with this gem and stay comfortably in what I know I like with this band.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Anglo-Saxon Metal

Forefather is an Anglo-Saxon metal band out of the UK who play viking/folk metal with lyrics steeped in Anglo-Saxon history. The self-proclaimed description is their way of avoiding being labelled black metal. I can see where they are coming from seeing as I wouldn't call them black metal anyways. There are black metal styling as is the deal with a number of folk/viking metal bands but these guys stay true to heathen metal.

I only own one album by this duo (the rest of their catalogue is hard to find, but I'm trying!). "Ours Is The Kingdom"is a delicious blend of Twin Obscenity influenced riffing and the rousing battle chorus's of say Tyr and the folk styling of Falkenbach. This is a stirringly brutal album.

The album kicks off with "The Shield-Wall" which is a blistering assault of fast riffs and drums with a triumphant chorus. "Ours Is The Kingdom" the title track and "To The Mountains They Fled" follow the same pattern.

"Proud To Be Proud" is mid-paced and ...well... proud. It's catchy and memorable. "The Golden Dragon" is also mid-paced and rhythmic while the album closer "Wudugast" is more folk influenced a triumphant, rousing edge.

"The Sea Kings" is a thunderous keyboard instrumental that's fun and invigorating. However, "Smashed By Fate" has an edgier black metal sound reminiscent of Twin Obscenity. "Rebel Of The Marshlands" is similar with more clean vocals.

Overall Forefather's "Ours Is The Kingdom" is a brilliant viking metal album reminding me much of Twin Obscenity's harshness, but with more anthem-ish chorus's and folk elements. I haven't been moved by an album like this in a while and though they may not be going far from a tried and true style, they are certainly a head above in their genre.

If I had to pick a favourite I think "The Shield Wall" is the catchiest song here. I do hope to pick more of their albums if I can find them.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Epic Fantasy Metal For The Progressive Metal Crowd

Anthropia are a french progressive metal band in the vein of Dream Theater and Pagan's Mind. The difference here is the fantasy concept. If (early) Freedom Call or Rhapsody (Of Fire) played progressive metal then we'd have Anthropia.

I gave this album a spin simply because of "Part 1: Journey of the Beginnings" section of the title. I love concept albums and more so fantasy based concept albums. Of course, I was expecting to hear a Rhapsody clone, but what I got was a progressive metal gem.

"The Ereyn Chronicles" starts with the Rhapsody style operatic opening fueling my assumption that Anthropia would be a clone. "Welcome To Ereyn"s orchestral choirs are soon joined by heavy guitars and transition seamlessly into "Question Of Honour". "Question Of Honour" is a progressive metal gem styled after Pagan's Mind, but whose vocals sound more like Drakkar's lead singer. It's a mid-paced cruncher with a nice heavy breakdown.

"Lords Of A World" mixes up the tempo with a heavy, airy sound and starts/stops with great ease. "Through The Sleeping Seaweed" and "Where Secrets Lie" carry an air of Dream Theater influence mostly in the riffs and switch back and forth through chunky heaviness and melodic interludes.

"Lion-Snake" continues the heaviness and introduces some female vocals into the mix as well as some narration. It's melodic and moving. "The Walk Among The Ruins" is a light keyboard piece with a narrative feel and female vocals that transitions into the chaotic progressive epic "In The Maze Of A Nightmare".

My favourite track is probably "Forgotten". The acoustic opening is super catchy with a beautiful melody that is allowed to carry out to completion and not feel cut short before the song moves into more epic metal proportions. The album closer "The Desert Of Jewels" opens acoustically before switching it up into a grandiose mid-paced cruncher ending with a little narrative.

Overall Anthropia's "The Ereyn Chronicles Part 1" can be considered formulaic, but it is performed wonderfully and with conviction. The songs are memorable and although the influences are apparent, they aren't exploited or copycat.

Anthropia's sound is unique and I look forward to future chapters in the Ereyn chronicles.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Metallic Triumph!

I first heard of Magic Kingdom from a Limb Music CD insert in one of my other CD's. It was just the album cover and nothing else, but I was intrigued. I'm a sucker for fantasy based heavy metal and Magic Kingdom was right up my ally. I was eager to check them out. After waiting several months for their release of "Metallic Tragedy" (and for my local record store to receive it) I gave the CD a sample listen cause I may be a sucker for this stuff, but I don't want to pay for crap.

For the most part Magic Kingdom play straight forward symphonic power metal, though done quite well. What sold me was the epic album closer "Metallic Tragedy". More on that later. The album opens with a short intro "Tazira's Magic Kingdom" whose mystical keyboards and melodic solo seamlessly transition into the blistering "Child Of The Nile". This song is straight-forward power metal with speedy riffs and renaissance style keys (much like Skylark) which I'm not huge on, but as long as there is solid guitar work, it doesn't bother me.

"Master Of Madness" and "The Fight" are similar in style with "The Fight" having a nice slow and chunky breakdown reminding me of Pagan's Mind progressive metal. "The Iron Mask" is fast and melodic and "Flying Pyramids" touching on Sci-fi topics is a pummelling riffster with an up beat chorus. "Black Magic Castle" is a fast keyboard heavy instrumental that doesn't rely on virtuoso, but instead stays focused on song structure and quality.

"Barabas" is a mid-paced cruncher, slowing things down some and is darker with little touches that remind me of Rainbow's "Stargazer". "Another Sun" is your standard power metal ballad not unlike something from Hammerfall, and has a nice melody. "Time Will Tell" is a bonus song on some releases and is my 2nd favourite. It is fast and dark with a catchy chorus and reminds me some of Drakkar.

The best song here and worth the price of the CD is the title track and album closer "Metallic Tragedy". This is a 13+ minute epic metal opera that transcends standard power metal by mixing genres and creating a Gothic sound scape bordering on theatrical. It blends black, death, clean male and female vocals into a surprisingly catchy metal opera. That's not all, the music which opens with Rhapsody (Of Fire) like chants blasts into solid power metal riffing.

The song forgoes a lot of flowery soloing and sticks to focusing on a solid song structure. That's not to say there is no soloing, but instead it it used sparingly and spread out jumping from both guitar and keyboards to further the songs momentum. The song also manages to blast into a killer black metal section. The whole song flows beautifully through its themes and rounding out with death metal vocal narrative (and eluding to a continuing story). A brilliant piece of music.

Magic Kingdom's "Metallic Tragedy" is a solid power metal album altogether, although not necessarily ground-breaking except for the grandiose title track. The other songs, however, don't feel like filler in order pad out a full length album and that's good. I'm looking forward to Magic Kingdom's future work.

Up next is Anthropia's progressive metal gem "The Ereyn Chronicles Part 1"

Sunday, March 02, 2008

By The Hammer Of Thor

Today's post is on the Netherlands symphonic goth metallers Mjolnir. I picked this album up simply because the cover was deliciously cheesy. I mean a scantily clad lady on a flying unicorn, who can pass that up?!? Mind you, I gave it a listen before I purchased it because c'mon, a scantily clad lady on a flying unicorn?!? Who knows what kind of music they'd be playing.

What I heard was completely different than what I was expecting. I thought it'd be getting standard female fronted symphonic power metal. Especially with the bands uber glamour shot in the album jacket. What I got was symphonic gothic doom touching on black and death metal. I hadn't been this thrown since I first heard Battlelore's first album.

keyboards before kicking the album off with a The album begins with "Mysteria" which sets a dark and sombre mood mixing rain and thunder sounds with keyboards that build atmosphere. The title track leads in with a gothic doomy riff and I was hooked in when, after the gothy female vocals, came some death metal growls adding a darker brutal sound.

"Dragon Sword" and "A Wasted Journey" stick more to the gothic sound. "Dragon Sword" is the first song to pick up the pace and really use death metal vocals. "A Wasted Journey" is more keyboard heavy, but is haunting and dark using a nice blend of female and death vocals.

"Falling Into Decay" opens with a crunchy riff and is probably the fastest song here with borderline black metal riffing. "Lost" opens black metally and turns into symphonic death metal. A brutal tune.

My favourite tracks are the doomy death metal ones like "My Sweltering Black Eyes Of Innocence" which uses the style effectively, yet the gothic elements create an uplifting feeling towards the end. The best track is "Times Before The Past" whose doomy bass and bell intro is brooding and dark and builds through an airy Renaissance-like bridge into a crescendo of death, black and female vocal harmonies.

Mjolnir blend styles very well and although I find the guitars not as prominent as I like, they do feel raw and gritty. The atmospheres created here are brooding and bleak and consistent throughout the album. They even successfully use narrative vocals without being terribly cheesy.

There is an airy keyboard instrumental hidden track about 10 minutes after the last track which is nice. I don't think Mjolnir are still together and "Whispering Sorcery" is their only full length release. If you like gothic metal with a little twist and memorable atmosphere, this is a pretty good album.

Up next is a review of Magic Kingdom's "Metallic Tragedy".