All posts by Rick "Fish" Ossian

Divinity Compromised – Terminal

Qumran Records/No Dust Records

Review by Rick Ossian

This five-piece outfit from Northwest Chicago have been out there for a while now.  They were formed in 2009, and released their debut in 2013, entitled A World Torn.  They also played Prog Power XIV in 2013.  This LP, Terminal, is their sophomore effort.  Divinity Compromised features Lothar Keller (The Skull) on vocals, Andy Bunk on bass, Ben Johnson on guitars and keyboards, Mike Mousel on drums and Jeff Treadwell on lead guitars.

First up is the title track, and it is a powerful number featuring Kayla Dixon (Helion Prime, Witch Mountain) on vocals.  There is, of course, a YouTube video, as it is the lead-off single as well as being the lead-off track.

Shelter in Place is a good uptempo track, with lots of riffing and a bit of spooky, vampiresque vocals (a la Type O Negative).  The engine room is busy, with big bass runs and lots of double bass drumming.  There is also some lovely piano and a sort of rap/spoken word section.  There are also guests on this number, namely The Sinful Dwarfs.

My Escape begins life with a beautiful piano intro, acoustic guitars and gentle vocals.  This is sort of a wandering journeyman number, with some bluesy elements and some nice shredding along the way.  It doesn’t really kick in at first, but when it does it does so very nicely.

The Definition of Insanity is next on the docket, and this one is a bit longer than the majority of the tracks.  Most are six minutes or so, and this one is 7-plus.  It starts out with the pedal to the metal, with some excellent riffing and some almost growly vocals.  This is potent stuff, with a nice squealing shred about half-way through.  More spoken word stuff, this time vaguely political (a la Queensryche).

The Last Refugee is another hard-charger, sort of symphonic at times.  On board here we have another special guest, one Paul Kuhr (November’s Doom).  Again we have some growly vocals, almost bordering on Cookie Monster fare.  When they mix these with the clean, or straight, vocals, it seems to do pretty well.  This one reminded me of Pagan’s Mind or even Symphony X.  The piano/vocal closing bit resonates nicely.

Free to Speak features a wicked main riff and some pretty cool, pretty much straight forward rock.  Lots of big bass work and symphonic background, as well as some good shredding on the lead guitar section.  This is prog metal at its finest, folks.  I have heard better, but not by much.

Legacy starts out with a somber piano intro and some string action – sounds like violins, but is most likely keyboards.  This one is very intense but very mellow.  The vocal parts once again reminded me of an older Queensryche.  The arrangement is also beautiful in its orchestration.  The lead guitar parts are of a bluesy nature, for the most part, but still some serious shredding involved.

The Fall of istoria has lots of power and features much more of the double-bass drum slamming and lots of big, symphonic riffs.  Great vocals and excellent guitar work as well.

Saving Grace is the big finale.  At just over eight minutes in length, it overpowers the other tracks with sheer force alone.  It starts out kind of slow and determined, but very powerful and potent.  Haunting vocals again, as well as lots of big bass, drums and guitar – and all at the same time!  There are no less than three separate guitar solos, which is very cool in my opinion.  There is never any shortage of guitar on this collection, by the way.

In short, if you are a big fan of prog metal, and you lean toward the direction of a bit heavier fare, than this is definitely for you.

Verdict: 9/10

 

Tankard – One Foot In the Grave

 

Nuclear Blast

Review by Rick Ossian

Having last reviewed Tankard in these very pages (R.I.B., 2014), I am somewhat familiar with these Teutonic terrors already. Tankard hail from Frankfurt and have been toiling in the thrash rock territory for nigh on 35 years now.  These beer and thrash metal hooligans have to their credit 14 studio LP’s, two compilations, two DVD’s and a live LP.  They will be at Metal Frenzy Fest in June and July, featuring many other metal stalwarts such as Rage, Vader, Destruction, Amorphis, Stratovarious and Fleshgod Apocalypse.  Their ranks include Gerre on vocals, Frank on bass, Olaf on drums and Andy on guitar.

Since the last time I reviewed them I had sort of a weird idea.  I assigned a brand name of a beer to each tune, just as sort of a fluke, being it was Tankard and all.  Well, this time out I was just going to go with light (pilsner), or ale, or a dark brew to help describe these musical minions.  Seemed like a good idea at first – then I realized each song was, indeed, a darker brew!

Take the first track up, for instance.  Pay to Pray is fast and heavy as fuck.  We are in Riff City here, my lovelies, and things are tough, like a street gang.  Even the vocals are more of a throaty shout than anything else.  They get the job done, people.  They have this shit down.

Meanwhile, on Arena of the True Lies, we have another heavy uptempo number.  I loved the sound on this number, by the way.  Normally I don’t get bogged down in semantics, but this is the aural equivalent of a jack hammer or buzzsaw with just a touch of studio polish.  Great stuff, and they throw in a couple of quick guitar solos to boot!

Don’t Bullshit Us! gets at least five cool points just for the title.  It should probably also get points for being Super heavy as fuck.  I know I probably curse too much and probably use the word HEAVY too much, but other better words admittedly fail me at the moment!  This is a wow moment here – a no-holds-barred onslaught on the senses, with an aggressive attitude, a nice guitar piece, and that stop-time on a dime dramatic shift stuff that I’m always on about.

The title track, by slight contrast, is also a very cool piece, with one of those foreboding intros that give you gooseflesh if done just the right way.  It is also super fast thrash, which seems to be becoming a pattern for these blokes… if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

Syrian Nightmare, for which Tankard have already released an official lyric video.

This is another really heavy tune, with lots of shredding plus a nice guitar bit right out of the box.  This one is kinda proggy – well, there’s some noodling going on.  Nothing to get too excited about.  This sounds like Hell on Earth.  The guitar part makes me wonder if things are getting a bit formulaic.  I would say perhaps just ever-so-slightly.  Again, I’m not going to worry about that. No big deal and not really significant to our purposes here.

Northern Crown features some nice leads and is full of dramatic heavy stuff, including the obligatory guitar solo.

Lock Em Up! features more of the stop-on-a-dime dramatic time shifts and complicated arrangements.  There is more heavy riffing and more guitar soloing.

The Evil That Men Display is a slight alteration in proceedings.  It begins life with the threat vocal intro, then it’s super slam thrash from that point on.  So, not that much different, but still, change is change!

Secret Order features a violin intro, of all things!  There is also some vocal chanting (monks) during the chorus.  This is a slam jam at about a minute in, really fast and very heavy.  I would venture to call this historical metal.  Not bad at all.  There is also a violin outro.

Sole Grinder is another Heavy as Fuck/Riff City adventure.  I would also use my colleague Dr. J.’s S.F.B. here. If you haven’t heard, S.F.B. refers to the Super Fucking Bad-Ass content of the tune!

Summing up briefly, Tankard’s latest is a no-brainer.  If you like beer, and you like thrash metal, there is a good chance you will like Tankard.  Check them out!

Verdict: 9/10

Accept – The Rise of Chaos

Nuclear Blast

Review by Rick Ossian

Since the addition of Mark Tornillo for the reunion of the band in 2010, these stalwart Teutonic terrors have not rested on their laurels in the least.  In fact, their list of accomplishments reads like a CV of a band half their age.  Their releases Blood of the Nations, Stalingrad and Blind Rage have hit #4, 6 and 1 respectively in their native Germany.  They have also hit #1 in Finland.  The Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK have also yielded high-charting spots for the boys.  Wacken, Masters of Rock and Bang Your Head are among the festivals they have played.  Their list of musical milestones keeps growing and growing.  Along with Mark at the vocal helm are Wolf Hoffman on guitar, Uwe Lulis on guitar, Peter Baltes on bass and Christopher Williams on drums.

Now we come to the best yet – at least, from what I’ve heard.  Naturally, when we hear the first track of a new LP or CD, we expect it to be an arse-kicker!  We want to hear the boys (or girls) open with something incredible.  Something hard-charging, something that grabs your attention and won’t let go.  Luckily for us, The Rise of Chaos is like that on every track!  Surely you jest, Rick, you are kidding us all!  How could there possibly be ten arse-kickers in a row?? It’s not possible.  That, dear reader, is why you must listen.

I’ve decided to go backwards…at least in order of tracks.  Just to kind of shake things up a bit, you know?  The last tune on this wondrous collection is called Race to Extinction.  It was at this point in my listening that I had ultimately decided that the boys deserved top marks.  This outing never let up for a second!  No Blues, no ballads, just one rocker after another!

Carry the Weight is an uptempo, speedy, jamming number.  It’s almost thrashy in its delivery, and the lyrics are somewhat predictable, but the pace is relentless.  “Don’t carry the weight on your shoulders/Don’t carry the weight all alone/It’ll turn your heart to stone”.  In my notes it says HOT DAMN!, so you can imagine my excitement.

Worlds Colliding is another holy shit moment.  Gods, I love the riffs/licks/leads/rock guitar jamming that these blokes have got going!  This is clearly some of the most exciting Hard Rock/Heavy Metal I have heard all year.  The most important thing here is that it is not diluted.  The delivery, the execution, everything is pure Rock“Am I going crazy? Am I losing my mind?” Let’s hope not, Mark! We need you to be lucid for when the ultimate tour comes along!  Please, please play the US, especially the midwest ( Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, etc.).

What’s Done is Done is really good as well.  I found myself several times wondering how they keep up the pace.  This tune will lead you down the Heavy as Fuck Hallway and on the road to Riff City.   “What’s done is done/ the bullet has left the gun/It’s over/You can’t unring the bell”.  Almost haunting lyrics, but the playing is even better. There is an absolutely infectious rhythm bouncing along through this one.  The lead guitar solos work well with the tune as well, and in fact on every track the leads work very well.

Analog Man contains a sentiment that I’ve often professed.  Being “an analog man in a digital world“.  Yes, I get tired of the constant downloading of MP3s.  I prefer CDs over those, and I prefer vinyl over compact discs as well.  I know that I am old – I get called grandpa and griefer all of the time!  That’s what I get for trying to keep up with the kiddos at my job… There is some serious jamming going on here.  Keep up the good work, boys!

No Regrets had me marvelling at the fact that there were five arse-kicking tunes in a row.  It was at this point that I was determined to find and purchase the physical product.  I am hoping for a  vinyl release… I probably mentioned that already!

Kool-Aid get five kool points just for the title.  According to my notes, this was another holy crap moment.

The title track, Rise of Chaos (remember Rise of Chaos?), is probably one of the best tracks here.  It is difficult to pick a favourite, however, as they are all very good.  They come charging out of the box with a wicked lead that will tear your head off!

Hole in the Head is another hard charger.  It will remind you of the things that you DON’T need.

Die By the Sword is where I began this musical adventure.  It is another excellent tune.

In short, if you were an Accept fan back in the old days, then you will no doubt enjoy this collection.  It is not Balls to the Wall or Fast as a Shark, but it’s just as good, if not better.  Top marks!

Verdict: 10/10

Ascentia – Pathways EP

Bandcamp link

On first listen to this quartet of tunes, one may forgive Ascentia for dubbing themselves prog metal.  Don’t get me wrong – this IS proggy, and it is most definitely metal/hard rock.  But it is oh, so much more.  I, for one, am eagerly anticipating a full-length outing from these blokes.  There are two long ones and two short ones.  Tunes, that is.  The order varies from one source to the next, so I will go with what I was presented with initially.

Incidentally, Ascentia hail from Greensboro, North Carolina, and they were formed in 2008.  Their personnel is as follows: David Godwin on lead vocals (and very clean, straight vocals for the most part), Preston Bass on bass and vocals (how appropos), Michael Martin on guitars and vocals, Nathan Elko on drums and vocals and Justin Krick on lead guitar.

First up is Catharsis, an uptempo jam and unfortunately one of the shorter numbers.  As is evidently the norm for these fellows, they pack a lot of punch in a few minutes.  This number is only three-and-a-half minutes, but they get a lot accomplished in that relatively short span of time.  Catharsis is an uptempo jam with heavy-as-fuck riffing and excellent vocal work.

Perseverate is one of the longer numbers (6:44), and begins life with a bit of doom and gloom for all you folks who like their jams a bit darker than most.  It reminded me a bit of Hawkwind or maybe even earlier Alice in Chains, only heavier!  Only a minute-and-a-half in and we get our first guitar solo, a tasty blues jam that will make the hair stand up on your neck.  This is fairly heavy stuff, and a bit disjointed at times but still pretty cool despite the messiness.  Some folks think Keef of the Stones is a sloppy lead player, but look how well he did!  At 4:20 David decides to go skyward with his vocals, which gives way to another guitar bit at 4:35.  Five minutes in he resorts to screaming, followed by another guitar solo.  Big finish at the end, of course!

Aphelion (a point in the orbit of a planet when it is furthest from the sun) is up next, and it is a rambling beast at 8:16 in length, and features another cool doomy intro with heavy bass licks.  The production seems a bit muddled herein, but other than that, both thumbs way up!  There is some pretty decent riffing here, but the track doesn’t really seem to go anywhere from whence it began. Ah, well, nobody’s perfect.  At four minutes in we get an instrumental breakdown jam, then a nicely delivered guitar bit at six minutes.  A good track overall but perhaps a bit long…

The final track, Revenge, features a big guitar opening with both axes wailing away.  This is a total guitar jam that unfortunately ends far too soon at a robust three-and-a-half minutes.  I was again reminded of perhaps a slightly heavier Alice In Chains.  At 2:30 I was noticing the disjointed, chaotic proceedings I had noticed above, but it still works somehow.  The vocals break down and do a bit of a growl to accompany the relatively clean vocals.  Another big finish and we are done far too soon.  Hopefully these blokes will do a full-length recording soon.

To recap, they may not be completely prog, and they may not be completely metal.  They are a meeting of the minds of those two, if you will, and they serve both genres proudly!

Verdict: 9/10

Cydemind – Erosion

Asher Media

Review by Rick “The Fish-Man” Ossian

Let us say for just a moment that you happen to be a Prog Metal fan.  Not only that, but a prog metal fan that happens to REALLY like Classical music, and the violin in particular.  If that is the case in your musical world, then look no further for your next musical adventure.  You have struck gold, found the Holy Grail, use whatever comparison you prefer and enter here.  Cydemind are the find of the month, hell maybe even the year.

Hailing from Montreal, these fellows have an EP to their credit already, titled Through Mists and Ages.  This LP is their first full-length, and features instrumental metal, heavy on the violin and the piano.  On board for your listening pleasure are the players: Olivier Allard on violin, Camille Delage on keys, Kevin Paquet on guitars, Nico Damoulianos on bass and Alexandre Dagenais on drums.  Together they form a seriously tightly knit unit, and the jams speak for themselves!

Derecho is first up, and it is a longer one, damn near 14 minutes all told.  It begins beguilingly enough with strumming guitar, then violin, then piano. It is all seemless and beautifully woven together.  It is, at times, more like jazz/rock fusion, but there are more often moments when things get very metallic.  If I was going to draw comparisons, I would no doubt begin with Kansas, but more likely I would go with someone like John McLaughlin’s band Mahavishnu Orchestra.  Only heavier…

Next on board is the title track, almost a half an hour in length, and the single longest number for these recordings.  Now, granted, 30 minutes is a long time to sit and listen to ONE song.  However, I sat through it and I don’t recall being bored once.  There is, of course, a beautiful piano intro, but it doesn’t take long for the real jams to kick in.  There is a musical journey awaiting us here, and there is lots of heavy rock/metal on this track!

As one might imagine, a half-hour track must have lots of movements in it, right?  Right as rain, my readers.  At 3:45 we hear some nice piano plus rhythm, and there is a lovely synth jam at five minutes in with the violin to accompany it.  At eight minutes in there is another violin, guitar and keyboard jam, giving way to peaceful, even restful piano at about nine-and-a-half.  Then there are some waves on the beach FX, so don’t fall asleep yet!  There are duels a-plenty to come; violin and drums, piano, heavy chords and riffing with some violin on the side.  There is some extremely tasty piano and violin playing here, as one might have begun to expect at this point.  Fourteen minutes in, we find more jamming.  There are virtuosos at work here, folks.  The interplay even during the relatively quiet passages is just fucking brilliant.

Well, I could sit here all day and tell you about the lovely half-hour jam here, but with all of the upshifts and downshifts in tempo, soloing, jamming together, it is more of a listening experience than I can recall having in quite some time.  So, moving right along…

Track Number Three is Red Tide.  It begins life with an atmospheric FX intro, followed by more instrumental metal with violin.  The piano work is, again, exquisite, and there are plenty of drums and guitars to make one keep their ears tuned.  Nice jam at the end as well

Stream Capture is much the same as the aforementioned tracks, but is slightly mellower than the others.  There is a nice acoustic fingerpicking intro which gives way to some more beautiful piano work.  The drums and the piano plays big roles in this number.  There is some nice shredding at the 3:20 mark.

Tree of Tales is heavier, again with a classical flavour.  It starts with some nice riffing, and the violin is very lyrical and melodic.  It takes the place of what would no doubt had been vocals had the group not had such a competent violin player. There is even some solo violin at the three-minute mark.  Another big jam at the finish.

Today’s closer is also the shortest number on board.  At a mere five minutes in length, What Remains reminds us that there are times when you can be mellow, but you need to leave your audience hammered with the last tune.  Cydemind indeed accomplishes that and then some.  Everybody gets a chance to shine on this one, and it is over far too quickly for these ears.

In short, if you are a fan of classical violin, jazz fusion, or prog metal, then this is definitely for you.

Verdict: 9/10

Gnash Rambler – Gnash Rambler

Independent/Asher Media

Review by Rick Ossian

Gnash RamblerTo those of you in the know, the Nash Rambler was a vehicle of some repute.  This outfit, who named themselves after the aforementioned vehicle, formed in Vancouver, British Columbia in 2007.  They play rawk and roll.

They are “a raging four-piece with an arsenal of sweaty, blistering three-minute power post punk anthems.  Apparently the best-kept secret in Vancouver, but word is getting out“.  Gnash Rambler are Brad Mitchell on drums, Regina Australialus on bass and vocals, Nick Venditti on guitar and vocals and Dave Shannon on lead guitar and back up vocals.  They released an EP “Nasty, Cutish and Short” in 2009 and began work on a full-length, Once and For All, in 2011.  This is their self-titled debut.  They have shared the stage with Helmet, The Melvins, Poison Idea and Jello Biafra.  They refer to their sound as “hooky punk rock/metal-tinged power pop”.

No One Gives a Fuck is the opener for these recordings, and is a punchy start to things.  It is, as most of the tracks here are, short and sweet and to the point.

Dues and Don’ts reminds me of a totally fucking heavy Stray Cats, like hillbilly heavy metal, if you will.  Lots of noise and big punk/metal riffs.

Bad Karma, the first single from the record, is a bit longer, but again features a speedy, uptempo delivery and big riffs. According to Nick, it is about “how friendships and alliances can often be worthless than the paper they were printed on. Always read the damn contract.”.

Downtown Rock features big everything; big drums, big bass and big guitars.  There is a nice lead guitar solo at the 1:45 mark and a little instrumental breakdown at 2:45.  These blokes are consistent if nothing else.

Buick Spyder Beyond Our Means is another number with a very quick tempo.  There is high-speed riffing and lots of busy bass and drum work.  The guitars are good, and do a bit of galloping like so many of our other hard rock and heavy metal friends.  At 1:20, things kick into an even faster gear for us, and at 2:45 there is a shift into Riff City territory.  At about three minutes the vocals kick in, and at 4:15 there is some serious guitar shredding going on.  This track is all about the bass. Go Regina!

Buick and Blues For Boogie, the next track, are the longer numbers at five and change apiece.  They squeeze a lot into these lengthier tracks, as yo will hear if you get a chance to listen.  Blues features one of those spooky intros with acoustic guitars and a nice thunderstorm going in the background.  It also ends the same way.  In between we get lots of nice storyteller mode stuff.  I was reminded of Jason and the Scorchers or The Blasters, only a bit more metallic.  Three minutes in finds us enjoying another lead guitar solo.  There are also some notable bass and drum licks here.  There is even a bit of harmonica for all of you blues purists out there.

Jello Mold features some cool vocal ranting.  This is a sort of ‘boogie’ metal, if yo will.  Killer drums and bass, with a wicked growl at 1:25 followed by some powerful guitars around two minutes in.  This is flat-out testosterone rock, with super big Riff City power chords abounding. “Gonna cut your soul from a Jell-O mold/ Nasty vicious funny and cold”.  Kind of scary when you consider the delivery and the vocals…

Doin’ It All Wrong is a big jam with heavy riffing.  It is simple but strong.  There is some shredding at 1:30, first on the guitar and then briefly by the bass.  This and the follow-up, I’m Het, are both a bit comedic, and they are short, heavy punk stuff.  “You’re so hot, I almost forgot!”

PAX Americana features another creepy intro, plenty of big bass, vocals and guitar.  A nice shred at the two-minute mark, plus a bit of a rap/rant at 2:45.  Some of these tunes give one the impression that Gnash‘s tongues are very firmly implanted in cheek…

Man Over is another speedy number with punk riffing plus big bass.  At one minute in there is some serious shredding and rhythm riffing.  I caught myself doing a bit of headbanging during this one.  Another shredding solo pops in at 1:55.

The closer for today, Sex Beat, is another heavy metal/punk slammer.  No point in letting up now, right?  Lots of guitars, big bass and drums – in fact, I caught myself uttering ‘wow’ at the bass more than once!

In short, if you like your tunes hot, hard and heavy, with more than a bit of speed, then Gnash Rambler may be right up your proverbial alley.  They mix punk and power pop and heavy metal to great effect on this, their full-length debut.

Verdict: 8/10

Kreator – Gods of Violence

Nuclear Blast

Review by Rick Ossian

The thrash-metal pride of Essen have returned with their 14th studio album, and it is a real corker!  Though I must confess my lack of familiarity with the band’s previous material, this is indeed another of those cases where I am compelled to dig deep into the past.  Kreator are Mille Petrozza on vocals and guitar, Sami Yli-Simio on guitars, Christian Giesler on bass and Ventor on drums.

The tunes on Gods of Violence run the gamut from smaller radio-sized chestnuts such as World War Now (the lead-off track if you discount the intro Apocalypticon), Satan is Real, Totalitarian Terror, Hail to the Hordes,  Fallen Brother and Side to Side to longer tracks like the title track, Army of Storms, the epic Lion With Eagles Wings and the gargantuan closer, Death Becomes My Light.  Each has multitudes of excellent guitar work, including dual leads on many of the tunes, and riffs fast enough to blind you as they zoom by.  Also a standout on all these tracks are Mille‘s vocals, which can go from introspective to menacing, oftentimes within the same tune.

World War Now is some seriously heavy thrash, with the pedal to the veritable metal right out of the box.  The vocals are angry, even menacing, as mentioned before, but all together pretty clean.  Mille does border on the growl at times, but he’s more of a screamer and shouter.  For Kreator‘s purposes, that works just fine.  Our mid-section on this opening number is a bit widdly, even Proggy at times.  There is enough guitar power here to fire up the most stubborn of rock engines, as well.  We are hearing at least a couple of good shredding leads here, as well as some incredible riffing.

Satan is Real is downright convincing, and there is some decided doom and gloom going on here, as evidenced by the bells and downtrodden riffs/leads in the opening sequence.  There is an excellent main riff here as well.  The vocals are, again, somewhere between clean and growly, with a slight lean towards the Cookie Monster area.  Again, lots of guitar work going on here, particularly the lead at 2:40 and the feedback at the close.  Very choice licks, indeed.

Totalitarian Terror features more big guitars and vocals, and a very fast main riff.  The instrumental breakdown/lead guitar solo at 2:30 is noteworthy as well as the shredding at 3:10.  The vocals are more like threats than singing, and the close-out arrives super fast.  Almost too fast, I’m thinking, then Mille bellows “When freedom has died!“, and you know the tune is over all too soon.
The title track is a big monster of a track, damn near six minutes in length alone.  The brooding, mellow acoustic fingerpicking intro and the sitar sounds are the beginning of our journey.  The vocals and the guitars seem to be in a race towards the finish, but thankfully hang around long enough to make a real mega-tune out of these proceedings.  We get a well-deserved instrumental breakdown at the three-minute mark, and at the close Mille hollers “Gods of Violence come alive!”  For some reason, six minutes seems to go by much more quickly than I would have it. Ah, well – moving right along, then!

Army of Storms is another one of those tracks where they begin life with a KILLER main riff, another guitar soloing on top of that, and Mille commanding us to “RISE!”.  At three minutes in there is another excellent lead guitar break.  I love the marching riffing and the cowbell towards the close.  The drum bit at the very end is cool also.

Hail to the Hordes starts off life with a really cool guitar intro, rhythm riffing with lead soloing on top.  The guitar work here is fine indeed, as the vocals are impressive.  One can’t help but wonder if Mille is shredding his vocal chords when he’s ripping away like he does!  The guitar bit at 2:25 is some fine shredding indeed, and the drum work is wonderful.  There is a nice crescendo at the finish as well.

Lion With Eagle Wings may well be the cherry on top for this collection.  Lilting acoustics give way to slamming us into kick gear about one minute in.  This is all very fast and super tight, with big riffing from almost beginning to end.  Whispering vocals lends us to another of Mille‘s abilities – this man can weave a tale.  Storyteller mode aside, there are some guitar histrionics going on also.  At 2:45 there is some brief shredding, followed by an instrumental breakdown at the 3:15 mark.  Some super riffing ensues, and the four-minute mark finds Mille and Sami duking it out to the pleasure of our collective ears.  At 4:40 the vocals return to the fray, and sadly, before we know what hit us, another track is in the books.  Not just any track, mind you – a sheer behemoth!  The drums and bass work very well together, as they should.  I would imagine it is even more difficult with thrash, because they’re just cruising so damned fast!

Fallen Brother sports a drum and guitar intro, and a real menacing main riff.  I caught my head banging and my toes tapping on this one, folks!  That should probably give you some idea of the types of tempo we’re dealing with here.  Some very cool guitar work, lead as well as rhythm, also enhances the proceedings.  There is an excellent bit of lead work at 2:30, and some German vocal FX at 2:50.  A nice fadeout graces the close on this number.

Side by Side is the last of what we shall deem ‘regular size’ tunes.  The vocal screams along with the guitar to let us know that we have begun.  This track sports another incredibly good main riff, by the by.  There is also some serious shredding on board as well, particularly at 2:15.  Mille slips into storyteller mode again at about 3:15, and then returns to the main slam at 3:30.  One big finish later, and we have arrived at our closing item on today’s menu.

Today’s closing track is a big whopper, coming in at almost seven-and-a-half minutes.  It is called Death Becomes My Light.  Something that I should mention here, and that is this:  if you are a prog band, then seven-and-a-half minutes may not seem like much.  However, when you are tearing it up thrash style, à la Kreator, then you’re talking about a lot more work, instrumentally and vocally, over all.  Mr. Creepy Cool guitar fingerpicking intro starts of the show, then Mille goes into storyteller mode again (about 40 seconds in).  At 1:15, things pick up speed a bit as the main section kicks into gear.  This is a heavy double-riffer, the main riff being something from the world beyond.  Very fast leads and rhythms are abundant here.  At 3:15 there is some more serious riffing and lead soloing.  They are both deployed again at 4:15 ( with a healthy dose of wah-wah pedal), and I believe both guitarists are ‘super shredding’ at this point.  One more bluesy solo (5:10) later and this is a very pretty solo, by the way.  I’ve seen guitar players cry for less.  The drums and guitars close things out, with a nice feedback fade-out at the very end.

To sum up, thrash fans need not be worried about goings-on in the Kreator camp.  All is indeed very, very well.

Verdict: 9/10

Sepultura – Machine Messiah

 

Nuclear Blast

Review by Rick Ossian

 

Belo Horizonte’s Sepultura are back with their 14th studio album, Machine Messiah, and it is every bit as good as I was expecting to be, if not more.  I need to stop worrying about some of these Thrash vocalists, however.  It seems no matter how much I wonder whether or not they are trashing their vocal chords, they always seem to be able to lay open their lungs with the best of them, even when it sounds like they are singing blood.  Derrick Green (vocalist extraordinaire) is a case in point.  You can almost feel him peeling back the layers when he is in full on meltdown mode.  Lord knows you can definitely hear him.  If something’s not splitting in two then we are talking about a modern musical miracle of sorts!

Vocal histrionics aside, Sepultura do themselves proud with this, their latest efforts in the worldwide monster that is Thrash Metal.  To catch up anyone who isn’t up to speed on their current personnel, joining Derrick on their respective axes are Andreas Kisser on guitars, Eloy Casagrande on drums and general percussive madness and Paulo Jr. on bass.  Together they form a very tightly knit unit, evidenced by the incredible stop-on-a-dime arrangements included herein.  Those of you who are still missing brothers Max and Igor Cavalera will just have to bite the bullet.

The title track starts things off with aplomb.  There is a beautiful guitar intro to begin with, followed shortly by doom and gloom, creepy vocals.  About three minutes in we get full-blown growling and screaming by Derrick, accompanied by some heavy riffing.  Four minutes in finds us with wailing guitar leads and vocal FX.  Derrick informs us at the close that we are to “bow down to the Machine Messiah!” Mechanics of the metal mavens, to be sure.

I Am the Enemy is a short, sharp, shocking slam to the system.  Ramones-style in length (2:27), it nonetheless contains no less then two blistering step-on-the-wah solos.  This is some seriously floor-board metal thrash we are hearing here, folks!  No wanna be’s allowed.  Only the REAL deal.  And shit just got VERY real.

Phantom Self rolls out some nice percussive slam on the intro, which I’m told is indicative of a real Sepulturian ass-kicker!  There are some stop-start dynamics here that may remind the casual listener of some prog they might have heard down the road back a ways.  It also might stop your heart if you’re not careful, and maybe even tear your head off!  These sorts of complex arrangements, the kind when they stop on a dime and turn almost completely around – are not unheard of in the Thrash world.  They are more common in, say, perhaps a Metallica or an Anthrax tune, but then we are in good company, aren’t we? About three-and-a-half minutes in we get a good, long melodic shred, which gives way to what sounds like violin strings.  No matter – the two duel it out soon enough, and we all love a good duel now don’t we?  Doom and gloom drums and guitars save the day in the end.  We had fun getting there, right?  I know I did!

Alethea begins life as a quasi-instrumental, and only at 1:15 do we hear a vocal.  It is wrapped in very fast, tight guitar work, and accompanied by a near perfect melodic shred at the 3:35 mark.  This is not necessarily a dud, just a bit shy of where we were before.  No matter – keep listening if you want to hear the really good stuff!

Iceberg Dances IS a complete instrumental.  Not only that, it is a complete jam!  Twenty seconds in, and we’re already hearing some incendiary soloing from the boys.  There are loads and loads of guitars on board here, riffing as well as flights of fancy shredding.  There are also some keyboard noises here, even a short keys solo, if you will – but don’t let it slow you down or fool you.  This is uptempo for most of its entirety.  It is also very percussive, again a very Sepulturian thing for them to do!  There is also some lovely acoustic guitar work in the mix.  One big finish later and we rack up one of the best metal instrumentals I’ve heard in quite some time.

Sworn Oath is absolutely scary.  The main riff is excellent, and aside from the fact that there is a fucking chilling vibe to the whole tune, they still manage to lay down a pretty convincing jam!  There is some really melodic, ripping shredding going on here as well.  Notable points are at 2:44 and 4:30.  There are some super-creepy vocal FX about five minutes in, which gives way to some lovely musical madness shortly afterward.  There is a big finish, almost grandiose.  Still, a lovely jam!

Resistant Parasites may also scare the crap out of you (“infecting to survive, disastrous…suffering”– just a sample of the lyrical content).  There are all sorts of big noise on this track – BIG bass, big vocals, big violin/keyboard sounds on top loads and loads of guitars.  There is another nice instrumental breakdown, right next to a brief vocal interlude, and tons of riffing.  At three minutes in we get another blistering shred-filled solo.  Even what I like to refer to as super sonic shred there for a bit…Great stuff!

Silent Violence is another very intense jam.  It jams from beginning to end, and it sounds as if we’re on our way to Riff City via Heavy as Fuck Avenue!  We get a whammy-bar heavy solo at about a minute in (WOW), then some real weirdness (1:50) that I really can’t explain, butted up next to another instrumental breakdown of sorts…nice but weird, like I said – kind of different.  There are lots of vocal acrobatics here, so naturally I’m wondering if Derrick shredded his vocal chords (again) while the boys were shredding away on their axes.

Vandals Nest is another short, sharp slam, in keeping with the possible Ramones attitude mentioned earlier.  Hit them hard, hit them fast, leave only the strong standing.  You had better hold on to something if you’re going to listen to this number.  That’s right, folks, it’s a breakneck speed alert!  And with good reason, too.  Very fast and very tight.  A heavy melodic slam with a bit of shred (erm, well sort of) at 1:25.  Otherwise, super sonic thrash again!

Cyber God is a very fitting piece for the end.  It is almost a master work, if you want to know the truth.  Is there such a thing in thrash metal?  This one is slower, bigger, louder, then faster and meaner with plenty of stomping, marching vocal FX and guitar smashing melodies with speed.  There are two noteworthy ‘atmospheric’ shreddings in here to hear; one comes at only thirty seconds in, and the second is at about 2:30.  Both may bear repeated listening.  You, dear reader, shall be the judge there.  Oh, and just as a side note – there are some clean vocals on board here – but they sound kind of robotic!  Hence the title, I surmise.  Check these blokes out now before you can’t touch them!

Verdict: 9/10

Battle Beast – Bringer of Pain

Nuclear Blast

Review by Rick Ossian

Here at WWRS we are all about equality of the genders.  Hell, you probably tire of hearing me go on and on about female singers from the Norse countries in my reviews.  It is true, I probably do it ad nauseum…in all fairness, there are quite a few bands out there who are sporting a sultry seductress on the vocals.  Well, folks, here’s another one from Helsinki.  Her name is Is Noura Louhimo, and she fronts a Metal Monster known as Battle Beast (fourth album, no less.  Been looking forward to this one! – Ed).  Oh, no, not again, Rick! I can hear you from across the pond.  She is different, I’m telling you.  She really attacks the vocals.  She literally lances the lyrics, if you will.  Her partners in crime are Pyry Vikki on drums, Joona Bjorkroth on guitars and vocals, Juuso Soinio on guitar, Eero Sipila on bass and vocals and Janne Bjorkroth on keys and vocals.

Bringer of Pain is the fourth outing from this group, following 2012’s Steel,  a self-titled disc in 2013, and 2015’s Unholy Savior.  These folks formed in 2008, and they have been a winner of Wacken’s Metal Battle!  So, as you read, not just another nuisance from the North.  Once you hear the tunes involved, you may be on the wagon with me.  In fact, I believe I will cue it up again right now as I type!

Straight to the Heart is the perfect lead off track.  It is bright, heavy and very punchy.  How apt is that title?  It cuts to the bone, readers, and you will soon hear how full of purpose these musicians are.  This is great stuff, and the vocals lend an added urgency to the proceedings.  In fact, Noura’s opening scream should put you at the edge of your seat, just as it did me to mine!  Wait, did I just say that out loud?  Love the chugging beat to this uptempo number, and I’m sure you will too.  Nice shredding lead at 2:15, and another at the three-minute mark.

The title track is up next, and it features that double-bass kick drum you always hear me blathering on about.  It is used to great effect here, as you will no doubt surmise upon your listening.

King For a Day is an excellent tune with a wickedly cool chugging riff.  Oh, and is that a xylophone I hear?  Haven’t heard one of those for a bit.  Fair enough.  There are some guitar pyrotechnics here, especially those squeals you hear Zakk Wylde do so often.  Only hear it’s pretty cool and not overdone.  The vocals are, for lack of a better word, vengeful.  Angry but not boring.  For those of you who still aren’t blown away, there are plenty of FX and keys/strings to keep you tuned in.

Beyond the Burning Skies is powerful stuff.  Pretty straight forward, for the most part.  I am digging the drums and the vocals.  “Close your eyes and reach beyond the heavens“, Noura beckons us.  There is a solo at the three minute mark, but I’m kind of wondering if the keys and the guitars are so in sync that they are both soloing in and out of each other’s paths, so to speak.  Very enticing stuff indeed.

Familiar Hell has one of those eerie vocal FX intros, but is swiftly followed by big heavy riffy power chords.  This is the way to Riff City right here folks, and while it might not quite be on Heavy as Fuck Avenue, I think we’re in the right neighborhood!  This tune features that all-too-familiar chugging uptempo beat, which though it can be a pattern, it is a welcome one to these ears.  The rant/rap at about three minutes in is a refreshing update to the vocals, and is an element that I would not hesitate to leave in during the editing process.  That evil wicked laughter at the end is also very nice.

Lost in Wars features more super-heavy riffs and vocal FX, but it is used in a stately, almost enigmatic fashion.  It is a powerful number , with big chords on a midtempo template.  There is also a vocal duet, if you listen closely you may be able to detect another voice amid the din.  The keyboard also imitates the violin very well here.

Bastard Son of Odin is next in the queue, and I believe everyone will join me in lauding 5 cool points awarded to the group for sheer awesomeness of the title alone.  It does not disappoint in the tune department, either.  This one features big keys, big drums and even bigger guitars, plus a beautifully heavy main riff and those vengeful vocals again.  Man, I just can’t get enough of that voice! I’m also digging the way the guitars gallop along à la Maiden.  About two-and-a-half minutes in we get some more shredding, this time a dual lead as well.  At 2:55 we get some nice vocal FX too.  Oh, and the main riff is a face-melter!

We Will Fight features another killer main riff, and the steady, powerful pumping that is Noura’s vocal ability.  This is powerful stuff, peeps.  Dig it, and check out the next track!

Dancing With the Beast is everything you might expect from a band like this and then some.  It shows the eclectic nature of the beast, particularly the bizarre techno opening.  This is kind of a haunting tune, and I know I’m fond of saying that, but this had that creepy feeling that you get when your hair stands on end, you know?  It’s also a bit different tempo-wise.  It may even be kind of radio friendly.  There’s a good beat, and you can dance to it.  I give it a 69, Dick!  Again, I’m digging the vocals, and at 2:50 you can hear the guitars and the keys battling for space again.

The closer for the day, Far From Heaven, is not just another stab at radio-friendly Battle Metal.  This begins with a beautiful piano, and just when you think it’s going to be a ballad, it is, but it’s more.  This is mellower, but it also has that bluesy, soulful bluster to it.  It’s a tear-jerker, and it’s stately, and elegant, but it’s still very very good.  We get a nice Blues-laced guitar and keyboard break at 2:50 again, and of course the vocals do NOT disappoint!

Over all, if you’re looking for a reason to make a purchase, then take this with you.  Though there may be many bands out there who fall into Battle Beast‘s category/genre/pigeonhole/whatever, these folks really nail it, and they do it with conviction.

Verdict: 9/10

Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Prometheus, The Dolby Atmos Experience + Cinematic & Live

Nuclear Blast Records

Review by Rick Ossian

A new type of Dolby, you say? Well, isn’t technology something?  We are getting our first dose/taste/earful of this new tech when we hear the latest from Italy‘s Luca Turilli and his band of merry men.  Rhapsody have been around for quite some time now (circa 1996).  They have been doing a 20th Anniversary Farewell Reunion Tour this year, and other than  them touting themselves as The Creators of Cinematic Metal, I really knew very little about the band.  I do know this; there are a few other members, namely Dominiuqe Leurquin on guitars, Patrice Guers on bass, Alex Landenberg on drums and the incomparably mighty Alessandro Conti on vocals.

Upon first listen to this live opus, I naturally encountered some questions: 1) It sounds like there is a choir and orchestra. Is there? or 2)Are all those extra sounds coming from keyboards? You know the type of queries I would have.  But, read as I might, I was coming up with no answers.  So, I decided to watch a video!

NEW TRACK “IL CIGNO NERO [RELOADED]” FROM THE “CINEMATIC AND LIVE” ALBUM!

Still, no real clues revealed themselves to me.  Whilst listening to the material, I did hear Alessandro mention a female singer named Miss Emily something, and he also mentions a choir, but nothing about an orchestra.  The strings, particularly the violins, didn’t sound as if they were really keyboard sounds or guitar sounds, so I decided to dig a little deeper!  The subsequent videos I watched provided only brief glimpses of anything that might be helpful.  They mainly consisted of promotional/commercial montages of images designed to entice potential buyers, I fear.  We will assume, therefore, that for now we are dealing with guitar and/or keyboard/synthesizer sounds. Argh!

There is a lot of material here.  Twenty-seven tracks in all, and, as one might imagine, some rather lengthy ones.  Still, all in all, it is very nice package.  Everything is very victorious and triumphant, of course.  One must imagine the flights of fancy likely to be engaged in if you combined, say, Yngwie or Uli Jon Roth with Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  Perhaps an orchestrated version of Manowar.  This is battle metal at its best, in all its symphonic, cinematic glory.   There are many moments of bombast, pomp and circumstance, and of course musical jams.  Excalibur, Warrior of Ice and Dark Fate of Atlantis are the longest ones, at seven-and-a-half, six-plus and nine minutes plus respectively.  They are much like the shorter numbers, but there are many moments of Alessandro‘s banter with the crowd, introducing members of the band and the like.

Also included in the mix are shorter numbers and the inevitable tracks for member solos (the drum solo and the bass solo).  These particular solos are notable for two things, basically; 1) They aren’t technically solos; each are supported by other instruments and mumbling from the choir, etc. and 2)both are showcases of the musician’s virtuosity.  These boys have some serious skills!  The shorter numbers are oftentimes set-ups or intros to the next big number ( Nova Genesis, Aenigma, The Astral Convergence, Quantum X, and of course The Finale).  These tracks actually act as if they are tunes of their own, of course.  All of the big production, all of the huge vocal presence, all of the guitar widdling, make just as much of a spectacle of themselves as they normally would in the medium-length numbers.

Which brings us to the meat and potatoes of this opus.  The crowd-pleasers.  Of course, there is Prometheus.  It wouldn’t be a Prometheus package without the title track.  Cigno Nero (Reloaded) is also a big fave.  Rosenkreuz ( The Rose and the Cross), Land of Immortals, War of the Universe, Of Michael the Archangel and Lucifer’s Fall (Parts 1 & 2 are both included), The Ancient Forest of Elves, Son of Pain, Knightrider of Doom, Warrior’s Pride, Tormento E Passione, The Pride of the Tyrant, Demonheart, Dawn of Victory, Ascending to Infinity (wow another lengthy one at 6:42), and the ever-popular encore, Emerald Sword, are all presented and get to take their turn(s) wowing the audience.

It’s not that these tracks are all the same.  Well, they all SOUND the same, but that’s not Rhapsody‘s fault.  It’s not even Luca Turilli‘s fault.  They are pigeonholed in a particular genre, and they don’t for a second take that for granted.  They do not, for a moment, intend to fail.  In the end, of course, they deliver for us.  Note for note, crescendo after crescendo, we are treated to an audio-visual spectacle.  Big vocals, big musical moments, HUGE arrangements, and a choir to boot – oh, and I suspect they are hiding an orchestra in the wings!

Verdict: 8/10