Sunday, May 25, 2008

Decapitated Sheep

Throughout high school I had a running sheep joke going, to the point that when any of my friends found any kind of sheep item (postcard, figure, pictures, stuffed toy, you name it) they bought it for me. Though the items have stopped coming in, I still have a fondness for those woolly beasts of burden.

That said, when I was browsing a website of Christian bands years ago (I think the site was called something like punkreview however, I believe the page is now defunct) and I came across an album review for Decapitated Sheep's "Woe" I had to have it. The problem was, how do I get it? I searched high and low for it and eventually I came across an email address for the band (or at least Hope Lopez, the lead singer) and simply asked if I could buy it.

Unfortunately, they were all out of stock of the pressing of "Woe", but Hope did send me a CD-R copy of it with a personalized cover and printed off lyrics. Not the most professional packaging, but I love the personal care put into it.

So what does a band called Decapitated Sheep sound like? Let me tell you, they are not baaaaaaaaaaaad ... sorry. D.S. play raw doom/death metal with a gothic touch. "Woe" kicks off with "Seed Of Resentment" which is probably my favourite song simply cause it lingers with me long after the album is over. It's pummelling bass and thick guitars crush you with doomy riffs and Hope's resonating voice is bleak.

"Rachel" begins with a gothy bass riff and doomy vocals before getting downright morbid with thick raw guitars and sickly death metal vocals that would make Frank's Enemy proud. It's a slow piece that's bleakly melodic.

"Angst"(s) funeral doom-like opening is brutal leading into a gothy doom-laden number with a little groove. "Solace Dream"(s) thrashy riffs enhances Hope's bleak melodies all the while throwing in some Black Sabbath inspired doom bits making this a memorable tune.

"Wake The Living" starts bleakly with some extra female vocals (guest vocalist? I don't know) mixed with Hope's haunting melancholly voice creating a sombre sound varied with bursts of death metal blastbeats and sickly vocals.

"Woe" is only a demo/ep, but the production is super with a solid, thick quality and just enough rawness to keep it from being too polished. A great mix. This is a great album, highly recommended for any doom metal fan, just good luck finding a copy.

Decapitated Sheep did eventually find a label in PsychoAcoustiX Records and produced a self-titled full length release which I eagerly awaited for copies to become available. But due to the unfortunate passing of the label founder, Decapitated Sheep's full-length never made it to market. Fellow label-mates Frost Like Ashes were able to find distribution elsewhere.

Sooooo, if Hope or Paul or Tim or Brian (or any new members) of Decapitated Sheep are reading this, Please leave me a comment with how to contact you. I would love to pick up a copy of your full length album.

Now, I guess I just wait.

Coming up next week is a highly under-rated metal-core band called EverSinceEve.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Welcome To The Isle Of Lore.

I'm still reeling some over Eluveitie's absence from the Canadian leg of Paganfest 2008, however, I won't let that influence my review of their sophomore full length release "Slania". I bought this album after Paganfest and have had a few weeks to enjoy it.

Although I miss the chaotic structures of Eluveitie's "Ven" and "Spirit" albums and their noisy melodies, I have to commend the band on this latest effort and the more organized and focused blend of folk and metal. I feel here the band lets the guitars kick out some fine riffs as opposed to just being heavy rhythm instruments.

The album starts off with "Samon" which is a slower melodic instrumental with their standard folk elements. "Primordial Breath" kicks it up as a darker, faster number utilizing more flute soloing much akin to Waylander. "Blood-Stained Ground" and "Calling The Rain" are similar in style with super heavy riffs blended nicely with folk melodies.

"Tarvos" is a pummeling beast fast and heavy, almost death metal in intensity. "Inis Mona" is a bit slower with stronger folk elements and an Asmegin brutality. "Elembivos" is a heavy epic with an earlier Eluveitie sound. It is instrumental like with repetitive choral vocals, heavy with folk melodies and pretty catchy. My favourite track is "Gray Sublime Archon" with it's Elvenking style folk sound with an uber catchy chorus. That and it's a very moving song.

"Anagantios" is a traditional folk piece with a moving melody and "Giamonios" is a flute soloing traditional piece that's vivid in its imagery. My copy has the more traditional sounding acoustic version of "Samon" as a bonus track which is a nice treat. It's a beautiful piece.

The album shows real growth for Eluveitie as they continue to perform some of the finest folk metal around. They don't skimp on the traditional instruments in studio and in live performances which is exactly why I am very disappointed in their lack of appearance at Paganfest 2008. They would have been awesome to see live!

I do hope they come back to Canada for a proper tour and make it up to me! And feel free to bring Suidakra with you!

(They joined Paganfest after the Canadian leg too!!! aaarrrrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!!!)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

With Heavy Hearts We Head On Towards The End

Tyr's third outing "Ragnarok" sees the band, in my opinion, becoming more focused structurally and balancing out their folk/viking influences without losing the signature Tyr sound. The narrative feel here is epic and really flows through the album. I also found the riffs seem more rooted in metal with a thicker sound.

"Ragnarok" consists of 18 tracks with a number of them being more transitional pieces that really tie the album together. All the while not disturbing the pace. The album begins with "The Beginning" a folkish instrumental with Tyr's doomy riffs and melodies which leads into "The Hammer Of Thor". "The Hammer Of Thor" is a rockier number with more metal based riffs.

"Wings Of Time" and "The Hunt" have a stronger traditional Tyr sound with subtle folk influences. "Torsteins Kvaedi" is a Tyr style folk metal song as with "Lord Of Lies". They are traditional sounding and melodic.

"Brothers Bane" is a slower melancholic narrative with a thick fuller sound and the title track "Ragnarok" feels more sombre and bleak. "The Ride To Hel" kicks off with a heavy crunchy riff leading into a darker, yet moving song.

The transitional pieces vary with "Envy" and "The Burning" having an acoustic folk sound with the later being a touch more brooding. "Grimur A Midalnesi" is a rousing gang chorus of A Capella singing and "The Rage Of The Skullgaffer" is a faster instrumental with some nice guitar soloing and a traditional folk-rock melody.

I have the digi-pack release that comes with a couple bonus tracks. "Valkyrie's Flight" is a boisterous instrumental that is just fun and "Valhalla" is a catchy rocker that seems to feature "Valkyries Flight" melodies.

It's hard to say why I enjoy this album so much more then the others, it just has a comforting feel and a nice flow. I'm thoroughly enjoying it and can't wait to see what "Land" their fourth album will be like. From what I heard at Paganfest it should be dang good!

Up next I'll take a look at Eluveitie's 2nd full length release "Slania"

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Hail To The Hammer

On Tyr's sophomore release we see the band taking a more folk sound with their melodies and a stronger viking influence. This is still Tyr and the growth is subtle. I have the re-release of "Eric The Red" issued in 2006 and this is my first exposure to Tyr. I feel this is a superior album to "How Far To Asgaard" and so when I herd their debut, I was a little disappointed at first, however that changed after further listens.

The album starts off with the epic "The Edge" which establishes the new tone the band has developed. The melodic riffs are still there and the narrative feel, but the song is more thick and powerful and moving. This is my favourite track here.

The rest of the album is therefore a big let down. Nah, just kidding. "Regin Smidur" brings in the strong traditional folk melodies with full on viking chorals. It's rousing and features some fine guitar work. "Styrisvolurin" is traditional sounding as well with a stronger folk element as also with "Ramund Hin Unge".

Tyr's cover of the popular ~drinking~ tune "The Wild Rover" is brilliant. It is crunchy and metal-ish without losing the songs traditional melody. A fun song performed with conviction. If the band had more then 20 minutes at Paganfest, I bet this song would have made the set list.

The title track "Eric The Red" follows in the album openers epic tradition with flowing guitar riffs and narrative structure with a more upbeat sound and reminiscent of their "How Far To Asgaard" debut.

"Rainbow Warriors" follows the "...Asgaard" style as well with a strong rock base, whereas, "Olavur Riddararos" takes that rock base and mixes nicely viking gang vocals. "Alive" slows things down as a hymn-like ballad and the Tyr narrative structure. A beautiful and emotional piece.

The re-issue contains demo versions of "Hail To The Hammer" and "Gods Of War". The difference is negligible, but the quality is good and I like that in my bonus tracks. I liked the fuller sound and further traditional and viking elements here, but when it comes to putting on a Tyr album, I reached for "Ragnarok" which is coming up next week.