Sunday, August 31, 2008

Still, We've Sighted Only Sea Till Now

Tyr is one of those bands where either you love them or you hate them. Like Manowar, Motorhead and Anvil who have found their niche and stuck with it while churning out solid albums year after year. This is a delicate subject for music as a whole. If a band sticks with their style they are critiqued for lack of variety, growth. If they change their style they get critiqued for letting down fans.

Few bands have managed to both stay similar and change genres with little grief. Off the top of my head, Virgin Black is one band who started off gothy and switched to doom/death metal and no one seemed to mind. Tyr is part of the former group who play the same style album after album and those who love them are happy, and those that don't fail to see the growth and progression with each album.

Tyr's "How Far To Asgaard" was a straight-forward heavy metal romp with traditional folk melodies. "Eric The Red" thickened the sound while staying true to their heavy metal style. "Ragnarok" saw far more complex songwriting and a fuller narrative feel and seems to be the fan favourite.

That's how it should be. A solid growth of a band coming into it's own. "Land" is no exception. Take the focused narrative elements of "Ragnarok" and the heavy metal stylings of "How Far To Asgaard and Eric The Red" and then make them epic and you have "Land"

"Land" sees Tyr develop grandiose themes into epic narratives all the while staying true to their brand of riff driven melodically folk viking tales. Starting off with the scene setting "Gandkvaedi Trondar" an orchestral narrative that sets a brooding atmosphere steeped in traditional elements.

"Sinklars Visa"s A Capella gang vocals opening is great and spurs into a rousing traditional folk tune with Tyr's signature guitar work and a doomy A Capella breakdown chant. One of the stand out songs. "Fipan Fagra" continues that traditional feel swimming in melodies and "Lokka Tattur" throws in some biting guitars to the folk elements.

"Ocean" is an epic length traditional Tyr song heavy in guitar riffs and a crunchy sound. "Gatu Rima" picks up the pace some with a rockier edge. "Valkyrjan" is an acoustic heavy piece with loads of melody and a darker atmosphere. Some great solo work here as well.

The 16+ minute title track epic is a showcase of the bands skill in weaving narratives. It's grandiose themes are at time theatrical with ocean sound effects and spoken word sections which carry the songs folk and heavy metal elements adventurously to its quiet and subtle outro. A grand effort and successfully executed.

As a special treat the band has added a 2008 re-recorded version of their debuts "Hail To The Hammer". This is in fact the 3rd version of the song I have and although it is my favourite of the 3, it does seem a little excessive. If the band had included a version on "Ragnarok" I could see a pattern, but I think their efforts could be focused towards new songs.

As for this version, it is essentially the same with maybe a thicker guitar sound and a bluesier jazz feel towards the end. Reminds me the solo work off of "Handful Of Rain" era Savatage.

Overall Tyr's fourth outing is a great work of traditional sounding folk metal with a thicker guitar crunch and beautiful clean vocals. The Lyrics are steeped in Viking/Norse mythology, but don't think these guys are Ensiferum or Moonsorrow. I love the folk sound with the electric guitars and native language vocals adds an element of the days of yore.

A truly modern day retelling of traditional tales and another solid effort from Tyr.

That is if you like this sort of thing ...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sorrow Ever Awaits On Joy ...

It's taken me a while to warm up to Virgin Black's 3rd part to their "Requiem" trilogy. It's not that it's a bad album, it's simply because I loved "Mezzo Forte" so much that nothing short of pure perfection may have surpassed it.

Don't get me wrong here, I knew going into this album that it was going to be pure metal and Loud and that is certainly what you get. "Requiem - Fortissimo" starts off with the doomy/death metal opus "The Fragile Breath" which is slow almost to funeral doom tempos book ended by speedy blasts. Susan Johnson's haunting vocals are used sparingly as well as recurrent melodies of the Requiem Trilogy.

"In Winter's Ash" has a chilling orchestrations amongst the dark and doomy riffs. "Silent" (the first single) picks up the pace some before slowing into a moving, melodic doom riff. "God In Dust" blends the heavy doom/death structure with haunting melodies and "Lacrimosa (Gather Me)" soothes them and creates a moving and uplifting sound.

"Darkness" comes crushing in with Virgin Black's staple doom metal continuing with the recurring melodies and similar riffs to "Domine". This is probably my favourite track because it feels like a medley of "Mezzo Forte" just heavier.

Ironically "Requiem Fortissmo" ends with the quiet piano melody of "Requiem, Kyrie". I'm guessing this will be relatible to "Requiem - Pianissimo" which has yet to be released.

As far as doom/death metal albums go, Virgin Black's "Requiem - Fortissimo" is brilliant. It's heavy and dark and crushingly bleak, but all the while has the element of hopefulness that Virgin Black do beautifully.

My main complaint (which is not so much a complaint, but praise to Rowan London) is that Rowan doesn't get to use his beautifully tragic voice. He is THE best metal vocalist, in my opinion and honestly ... I missed it here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

When You See A Car With The Christian Fish On It ...

Frank's Enemy is an extreme metal band from Florida and despite their Christian leanings have been banned from both secular clubs and churches and youth group concerts for their extreme musical stylings. However, they have also garnered respect from the likes of Steve Rowe (Mortification)and Jason Truby (Living Sacrifice)who themselves have forged careers playing extreme Christian metal.

Before I get into the music, allow me to explain the bands name. Julio Rey once said that he had read an article that quoted Frank Zappa as saying ~When you see a car with the Jesus fish on it, you have seen the enemy~thus he must then be Frank's Enemy. Makes sense (Note the band logo is an F and E in the shape of the Jesus fish).

The album I'll be reviewing today is "Illumination" their third and final release. This is 15 tracks of chaos. It starts off with ska like guitar work before blasting us with fast sickly death metal on the opener "Frank's Enemy/Codebasher". This sets the listener up for the most extreme the following songs would get, but leaving it open to a few surprises.

Let me start with the death/black metal songs. The death metal vocals are virtually incoherent (which maybe why Christians were turned off)They are so sickenly low and distorted that they are like gurgling. I prefer the black metal shrieks that are interspersed in some of the songs and are more legible. The guitars are down-tuned extremely low and if I can quote the No Life Til' Metal website ~It must be like playing with wet spaghetti noodles~ . Prime samples of these songs are "My Night Alone", "John The Baptist Revisited" and "Dysfunctional". These tracks put the extreme in extreme metal. Frank's Enemy also play with some funky call and answer style vocals between death metal and clean, "Straight Up/Down" and "Antigod" which is a really cool effect especially with the thrashy guitars.

Speaking of thrashy guitars, I found the later half of the album heavily thrash influenced with the likes of "Nothing Changed" and "One For Them". Most notably the guitars just rip with thrash riff after thrash riff which makes the songs rather memorable and Julio Rey's vocals are clean and gruff.

The stand out tracks here are "Lamento" with its psychotic machine gun drumwork and melodic rhythms and acousticy interludes. "Friends In The Sky" is a mocking thrashy tune about life on other planets and such and is ridiculously catchy. "Serenity" the album closer is a salsa-y jazz like acoustic number with some nice violin work. A peaceful way to end an otherwise chaotic album.

There's also "Frank's Enemy Metro" which deserves special mention cause it's a technoy rave like tune bass driven with intermittent guitar riffs. It's alright I guess, but way to long.

My favourite track I would say is "Straight Up/Down". It has a funky bluesiness to it with death metal/clean vocal call and answer style and thrashy guitar work. It's lyrical message is also something I believe in. It basically is saying it's ok to have questions about God and religion, it doesn't make you less of a Christian. Talk about your questions or pick up the Bible and seek out your own answers, don't just accept what others say is right. And I say Amen to that.

Frank's Enemy are not so much breaking new territory, more like they have beaten and left for dead the familiar ground. This is probably the bands least assessible album, but it is also their most fun and original.

Up next, Virgin Black's "Requiem - Fortissimo" and Tyr's "Land" and then I'll move onto Savatage's catalogue.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Question I Hope You've Been Asking ...

On Frank's Enemy' follow up album we see the band take a more extreme turn in metal with a stronger influence of death/black metal. "Neoblasphemies" is a nice mix of their debut's thrash roots and "Illumination"s chaotic brutality. The album is bass heavy in tone which gives the album a slightly muffled sound, but also creates a sickeningly brutal down-tuned album.

"Neoblasphemies" starts off with an eerie acoustic classical guitar with a female vocalist on "I Think" which sounds like an an old record that gets scratchier until it is cut short by the blistering assault of "Human Reich". "Human Reich" is where the chaoticness begins. It's fast and heavy with ultra low death metal vocals, which only slows briefly for melodic crunchy bridge.

There are essentially 2 styles of music here. Thrash and extreme death/black metal. Along with "Human Reich", every other song follows a similar style. "Cannibalized" is super fast and heavy, "Torturer" is crunchy with a grind feel to it and some crushing riffs. "Cauldron" rounds out the extreme songs with fast chaotic and brutal death metal.

The thrash songs are quite heavy with pounding riffs. "Imbecile Factory" starts this series off with death metal intensity and flourishes. "Uncalled For" adds a darker edge and has a catchier sing along rhythm. "Inevitable" speeds things up with a punky feel akin to Julio Rey's early days in The Lead. it's catchy with a nice heavy breakdown. "Hanging On A Tree" completes the thrashy set furthering the punk feel with thrash groove. It's super catchy and may pass as a radio hit.

The album closer "Stephen Hawking Walked Away" is a funky slap bass heavy tune bordering on ska. It has a Red Hot Chili Pepper feel without the melody. It ends with a sped up sound akin to the end of Believer's "Trilogy Of Knowledge".

My favourite song is the reflective and epic "In Answer". It is melodic yet unsettling and representative of Frank's Enemy' unique quality. The quiet overly distorted feel is brooding and builds into a brutally dark and sombre death metal tune whose oppressive riffs weighs on the soul. Despite the sickening brutality there is a strange melodic-ness to the song. This is in my opinion the bands best song.

Frank's Enemy continue with the bold Christian lyrics without feeling overly preachy. They are thoughtful and sincere especially on the song "In Answer".

~In answer to your question i hope you have been asking I'll take off my fangs and stop all the scaring I could quote John 3:16 pray for the best That you'd grasp what it all means that we are in a test ~

Coming up is a re-posting of my review of Frank's Enemy's 3rd and last full-length album "Illumination".

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Reasons To Say Yes ... !

Though I would not say Frank's Enemy is my favourite band (that's Savatage as I cleared up in an earlier post) but when it comes to the Christian metal scene, I would rank them pretty high. Frank's Enemy is the brainchild of Julio Rey formerly of Christian punk/thrash crossover band The Lead.

The Lead's later material is an early example of what Frank's Enemy would be. Starting off with their self-titled (or sometimes known as "Not Silent") debut Frank's Enemy took that thrash/punk crossover and starting tuning down into a thrash/death mix and eventually becoming grindcore/death and thrash.

The music became less accessible as the albums progressed, but musically they are like none other I've heard experimenting in chaotically beautiful brutality. Today I'll be looking at "Not Silent".

Frank's Enemy' debut is the most straight forward leaning more so on the trash element with death/black metal intensity. Think along the lines of Vengeance Rising with a little Suicidal Tendencies flourishes and an MOD tonal quality.

The album blasts to a start with "Link Line" which is a flat out thrasher, fast and heavy with Julio's vocals leaning more towards gruff thrash and death metal. "Things Don't Work Out" slows a bit with some heavy thrash riffs and more of a gruff raw sound.

"Judas" has the air of Vengeance Rising to it's death thrash sound as well as a darker edge. "Psychic Pain" continues the deathy thrash with some killer riffs and a faster brutal quality. "Man, You Made A Lonely World" thrashy as well, but here there is more experimentation. The vocals range from gruff thrash to death with almost black metal quality. When the chorus kicks in I can't help but think of Bob Dylan or 60's protest songs ... I don't know why ...

"You Are God" is slappy bass heavy funk with thrashy riffs with and a lot of groove. It also has the most melody and probably the only sing along chorus. "Reasons To Say No' is the epic 14+ closer which which features the bass heavy sound as well, but stronger thrash roots. It has a jazzy free form feel, only with heavier riffs and wailing solos and more of a chaotic quality.

"Acts Of Love" has a Suicidal Tendencies feel with the versus' clean guitar work which has a mild ska like quality. It turns thrash towards the end while remaining kind of ballad like. My favourite song here is "Destroy" which is the song whose roots are carried through onto the next couple albums. It is a death/thrash crossover with black metal intensity and a sickeningly brutal heaviness to it which makes me think ~ funeral Thrash?!? ~ a killer song by all standards, but mostly extreme metal's.

This album was hard for me to track down (thanks Blastbeats!!) but I'm glad I did, and I love the raw straight forward thrash and the death metal influences.

Next week I'll look at their follow up "Neoblasphemies" which sees the band coming into their own.