Thursday, February 25, 2010
The mega-tornado from Australia, Mortification, just had their original album re-mastered and re-released on Roxx Records. Break the Curse features raw brutal thrash metal that is short on subtly and long on intensity. All men play on ten and this release is on eleven. A metal assault that will dig in and take no prisoners this album is the real thing.
Nuclear Blast originally put out Break the Curse in 1993, capitalizing on Mortifications and death metals increasing popularity. While Break the Curse doesn’t quite fall into the death metal category it does fit nicely in the thrash camp. The classic tunes are here ‘Brutal Warfare,’ ‘Blood Sacrifice,’ ‘Your Last Breath’ and many others with a pulsating 500 horsepower engine driving it.
Bill at Roxx has really done all metal fans a service with this re-release. They’ve included several hard to find bonuses such as the studio version of ‘Time Crusaders.’ This obscure track had originally been released on a rare Rowe Productions compilation. A live version was available on Mortys Live Planetarium album of 1993. A classic song with a fantastic studio rendition
Also included is a Lightforce rendition of ‘Eyes of Destruction.’ As the guy on TV would say, ‘But wait there’s MORE!!’ as another bonus the hard to find live EP Noah sat down and Listened to the Mortification Live E.P. While Having a Coffee is here in all of its 3 song plus Steve Rowe interview glory. However there is STILL MORE! A bonus DVD of the very first Mortification concert; this was shot on a VHS recorder, but the quality is decent. The operator does zoom in so we get a feeling of actually being there. The audio is acceptable which doesn’t take away from the performance at all.
The inlays are fabulous. A nice collections of photos and posters from that time period. Steve Rowe contributes a cool history lesson of the material compiled on this release for those of us 'who were doing other things' when this went down. Kudos to Scott Waters for assembling this part of the project with great style and sensibility. The original Noah... EP cover is located in the back inlay of all places! Perfect! One other bit of importance (well actually two) 1st. The initial 100 discs came with a bonus Mortification guitar pick with a Steve Rowe autograph made special for this release only. 2nd There is also a totally cool looking T-Shirt as well which features the cover art and a killer inscription on the back. I didn't have the cash myself to order but from what I've seen this shirt rules, especially for all of you Morty collectors. This too was a limited run as I understand, no more than 100 I'm sure but you had to buy it presale as well. Snooze ya lose.
I never had a copy of any of this material before so hearing this now is a treat. This definitely reminds me old school European thrash. The production is good but not at all overproduced, very underground in feel like old Kreator, Destruction I suppose. You won’t confuse this with Metallica’s Black Album. You just have to start headbanging when you hear this album however, it’s that good.
This isn’t about two million mile an hour songs, but only 1 million mile an hour songs! Break the Curse is a superb piece of metal history that must be in your collection. The historical significance aside, musically it reminds us why Mortification has had the impact they’ve had. My only regret is that I waited twenty years to hear it.
The debut album from California Prog metallists Futures End is a hard hitting affair. The musicianship is superior to many other albums I’ve heard in recent memory. The songs themselves definitely resonate in the Metal end of the musical spectrum. Memoirs of a Broken Man features loud guitars, screaming solos, nasty bass and drum arrangements with smooth and rich vocals on top.
Guitarists Christian Wentz and Marc Pattison direct this metallic train of power. It’s their riffs, solos and harmonies that move the freight along in a positive direction. Fred Marshall (Zero Hero) provides the vocal performance. Jon Allen (Testament, Sadis) and Steve DiGiorgio handle the drums and bass with precision and skill.
Yet I must be missing something. I’ve listened to this album several times and it’s just not connecting with me. I hear all the components and parts, and in most cases I’m totally wowed by what I’m hearing. However not one melody is sticking with me. Progressive Metal isn’t always immediately accessible to one’s ear and often you just have to listen intently. One thing to note also is that sometimes songs are better heard in a live context so the emotional bond can be made in person. I’ve had this happen on many occasions, and album I thought was ok suddenly was amazing just by hearing it live.
Regardless of the above statement there are several items that are immediately noteworthy, the intense guitar parts of album opener Relentless Chaos are a combination of Maidenesque melody and brutal Metallica style riffage. It moves to a climax that really is something else. Perhaps the album highlight for me tho, is the fourth track ‘Your Decay,’ has a tremendous riff passage that both bass and electric guitar play at astonishing speed and execution.
‘Your Decay’ moves along at breakneck speed, with several quality melodic breakdown passages. That musicianship again shines bright and true. This could be a concert opener with its power and drive. A replay on the ole CD player is very much in order.
The very Maidenesque (there’s that term again….) opening of ‘Inner Self’ (think Remember Tomorrow) gives way to a semi thrash riff with tremendous power, almost Laaz Rockitt like. With a staccato like sound that breaks into different parts along the way. ‘Forsaken’ is a pallet of mood and atmosphere, slow, melodic, almost melancholy at times, with some very progressive breakdowns as well.
Memoirs of a Broken Man is a concept album, following the story of a military veteran who struggles with reintegrating back into society. These struggles are many, interpersonal, self deprecation, horrifying memories and the greatest struggle the loss of one’s trust or belief in God. The main character cries from deep within longing to hear an answer of comfort and acceptance. The amount of thought and work that went into this is project is amazing.
I’m just struggling with being able to remember the various melodies. That really is a stickler with me; I want that one riff or melody that is instantly memorable. Others may disagree with me on this point. Music is a personal thing that not everyone ‘gets’ right away and sometimes that’s where a live connection comes in. They may eventually show themselves here, but I’ve yet to hear that one melody. That to me is the difference between good and great.
Friday, February 19, 2010
New and improved comes this edition of the first Final Axe album entitled Beyond Hell’s Gate. This is the original collaboration of guitar whiz Bill Menchen and vocalist Simon Tyler aka Keith Miles. These guys have brought Robert Sweet of Stryper on board to handle the proverbial pots and pans. This material was originally recorded and released in the early 90’s
It’s no understatement to say that Sweets contribution adds the sound and rhythmic background that way the original was missing. This is the kinda heavy metal that the term headbanger was invented for. Fast and hard this disc hits like a truck doing 80 mph. Not that every song is fast but the addition of some one talented on the drums really drives the feel and groove.
From ‘Baptized in Blood,’ ‘Close to Deliverance,’ ‘No Time to Die,’ all benefit from the improved sound and drum playing. For the most part the songs here are short sweet and too the point. You won’t mistake Final Axe for some Prog band that’s for sure. Menchens formula as it were is quick 3-4 minute metal tunes that make you bang yer head and get the feet pumpin. Armored Saint or perhaps early Saxon in heaviness and feel.
At times the songs felt a little ‘samey’ or as we used say, “It sounds like one long song.” At first that maybe the case but there are a few gems in this rough. ‘War Cry,’ ‘Baptized in Blood,’ ‘No Time to Die’ and closer ‘Rated X’ are top drawer metal compositions that will get your attention quickly. Cool tunes that grab on and dig in quickly, so quick that you’ll want to hear them again.
Pick up your denim, leather and grab that boom box as you’re gonna want this album of solid metal tunes in your collection. Listening to this disc I’m reminded of Sammy Hagar who wrote a lyric that I find very apropos, he wrote “Headbangers in Leather… upfront fanatics tearing down the barricades!” See you down front.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Slicing their way out of the Holy Land and into the world wide metal scene come Edgend, with their debut album A New Identity on Nightmare Records. The promo material indicates a prog metal sound more akin to Symphony X. That maybe true but to these ears I hear a lot of Dream Theater comparisons.
According to the band they they’ve attempted to incorporate classical elements into the music. Those influences are there as well as the effect of their Israeli culture. There is lots of melody and wonderful arranging. Dynamically this album is like a painting with darks, colors, splashes and the sublime. Metal from the land of Israel and it scores a touchdown with me.
Upon the first listen the layers of depth are very apparent, so really that first listen is more about becoming familiar with what is before you. A New Identity is accessible but one must first come to it with an empty pallet and be prepared to hear new pieces upon each listen. I’ve heard bands say “It takes some effort but once you ‘get it’ you’ll like it”, right, if it takes that much effort what’s the use. In the case of Edgend I found it exciting to discover the depths of the melodies and the arrangements. This is an album made for headphones in my opinion. Just so long as you have a long chord because your head is gonna start swayin' back in forth.
Comparisons to Symphony X should really be made in passing. Symphony X is about the speed and ‘noodle the oodle’ factor, nothing wrong with that, where the guitar is the main attraction. And with them that is the case. However Edgend uses the guitar as a part of a whole with keyboards adding many melodic overtones. Don’t misunderstand this disc is heavy; just listen to ‘The Pain’ for a prime example. They don’t rely on one instrument to carry the load.
From ‘The Internal Fire’ all the way to ‘Voices’ there is a lot of tasty progressive heavy metal. The songs themselves are haunting with great musicianship. Vocalist Rami Salmon is gritty and strong, in the same range as a Russell Allen but with more edge. Make no mistake this is a strong metal offering.
A New Identity brings progressive elements such as time changes and melodic interludes throughout. However what I see happen in many bands of this genre is that they become self indulgent ala Dream Theater. Nothing wrong with a little self indulgence, but Edgend seems to be able to keep such indulgences in check for the betterment of the song. There aren’t any 10 minute+ songs here. One song wings in slightly over 9, near closer ‘Balance’. Opening with a piano intro with a beautiful vocal part this song then starts its ascent into another powerful musical whirlwind.
Truly this being a debut effort there is much to applaud. The production is solid with even levels of all the instruments. David Ezuzs keyboards, piano are crucial to the elements of these songs. The sounds they achieved are like a fine dessert, very rich and deep. An amazing effort. Less you think that the guitars or bass guitars were unimportant which I’m sure none of you did, they are handled with skill and precision by Sharon Halachmi on the former and Ben Metal on the later. They shine throughout.
Listen to some of the sample tracks on their MySpace which will give you a feel for what is to come. Lyrically the band is extremely positive with songs of introspection and determination in this life. A New Identity has wonderful compositions throughout that bring out the air guitarist in me.
I’m hopeful of what the future will bring Edgend, they have the potential I think to a splash in a big way. If you enjoy prog metal with heavy melody than get this album immediately, don’t wait. Get one of the most intriguing releases in recent memory.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Sometimes when you review a lot of different albums it can become a little bit indistinguishable from one disc to the next. Ya know, sometimes things can start to sound like one long song. You’re left wondering “When will it end???” and it ended 3 songs ago. That’s when you realize that your ears are fried and you must listen to something else, classical or piano. Something of a different genre all together in order to get your perspective.
That will then allow you to come back all refreshed and ready to start listening, not just hearing the music. Having said that, there are also times when you throw a new release on and something just grabs you because there is something pleasantly different, something special, something worth noticing.
I have found that to be the case with the sophmore release from Myrath entitled Desert Call. I honestly had not heard of them before Lance at Nightmare Records sent this release to me. Having been impressed with the current release of a different Nightmare alum, Edgend, I was anxious to hear what this would sound like especially upon learning they were from Tunisia. Metal from Northern Africa(the Mediterranean coast specificaly) how cool is that! Honestly they only things I knew about Tunisia were that it was in Northern Africa, Star Wars was filmed there and I believe General George Patton fought the Nazis there during World War II.
Myrath have a style that I believe would easily be categorized as Progressive Power Metal. Yet that only tells part of the story, the other half would be wonderful melodies, superior vocals and cultural influences that will take you out of this world. Taking the best aspects of Dream Theater, Riverside, Symphony X; Myrath has combined them into a musical package that is tremendous. This music is intelligent and moving without sacrificing a good kick up the backside.
The title track itself has several different movements, which add a Middle Eastern flair in the percussion, heavy guitars, and atmospheric keyboards with soaring vocals. It covers a lot of musical ground without feeling over indulgent but will still get the ole’ head swaying along with some tremendous air guitaring. All that in fewer than 8 minutes.
Many of the tracks are similar in that they have a superior song structure; ‘Madness’ has a killer riff which maintains it’s effectiveness throughout while leading into a melodic chorus that is smooth and almost epic in its feel. Strings and the Naii (an instrument in the family of the flute) are used, that enhance and add to the tapestry of sounds. It really is tremendous. The musicianship is fantastic and shines through this song and the rest of the album. Songs like ‘Forever and a Day,’ ‘No Turning Back’ show Myrath can rock with the best of them.
The longest song is ‘Silent Cries’ and it really is a musical journey with an extremely melodic chorus. Clocking in at just over 10 minutes, Silent Cries doesn’t get caught up in needless ‘guitar noodling’, but Myrath allow the melody to really run its course without it becoming boring. Vocalist Zaher Zorgati shines with a vibrant and passionate vocal. With a vocal tone akin to Russell Allen in register, but not style, Zaher will definitely make a name for himself.
Guitarist Malek Ben Arbia shines in many different songs ‘Silent Cries’ he plays with precision at one moment and then tremendous feel in the next. Keyboardist Elyes Bouchouca is so tasteful in the textures he adds to the various songs his talent does shine through. For example during the ballad ‘Memories’ he opens with the piano and follows with fine atmospheric keyboard touches throughout.
However I will say that my favorite song is one of the most straight forward tunes, entitled ‘Shockwave,’ it has some great guitar moments and one of the best melodies on the album. It could definitely be an opening song. It rocks and provides a lot of drive. Yet I will tell the lyrics hit me squarely and moved me, I almost got emotional, which really surprised me. Speaking of lyrics they are very positive and very introspective. The lyrics are tastefully done with intelligence and emotion. There are spiritual aspects to them but are easily accessible to everyone.
The production has enough guts left in it, solid guitar tones throughout, that it never loses its edge. I must say as well on the artwork side it’s really tragic that this wasn’t released on vinyl. The cover artwork itself is so well done and of such high quality I wish I had a poster of it.
Even for a sophmore album Desert Call is very impressive. I really enjoyed the journey I went on every time I listened to it. Progressive Power Metal with melodic sensibilities, if that is a style you enjoy this release is a must. I can’t dare give it more then an 8 axe score because I can only imagine what the next release will deliver. This album is highly recommended.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Straight ahead thrash metal is what we’ve got here on Grave Forsakens third album entitled This Day Forth. Coming from the land down under Grave Forsaken continues on their path of bringing the message to the Aussie masses with their brand of metal. This being the first album by this group that I’ve heard, but initial impressions are good.
You can tell when a band really does put their heart and soul into something. The vibe and feel are just there and evident. In the case of Grave Forsaken the members believe this band is their ministry. That fact is more than evident from the lyrics that they have written for their songs. Straight ahead and non compromising, they mix evangelism with a lot of social commentary. That fact is very evident when you read the lyrics to ‘Wasting Power’ or ‘Affluenza’ are prime examples of social commentary.
Musically I’ve heard it mentioned that Mortification is a prime influence for these guys and that influence is there. However I would also say that their style is also similar to Onslaught, Laaz Rockit, and Deliverance. Not blinding speed but fast and chunky.
Most memorable songs would be the title track, ‘Wasting Power’ and ‘Mother of Harlots.’(This is full on thrash metal in high gear) I enjoyed many of the other songs as well, but without a strong vocal melody it sorta loses me. I liked ‘Celebrity Judge and The Sinners Part III’ perhaps one of the more original song titles I’ve heard. That song had perhaps the best lead playing on the album as well. I would guess those leads were provided by guest player Daniel Holman.
The riffs here are solid and straight forward, not ground breaking but heavy. On the production end things are fairly ‘raw’ but not raw in the lousy sense, raw in that the intensity isn’t lost in the recording process. The tones are still there and it does sound like a solid wall of guitars which drive it all along. Drums and bass guitar add their backbone to this tidal wave of sound as well.
The songs are good but at times they have a tendency to go a little long and when that happens they lose some of their directness. I would think a producer would be helpful in tightening up those bits of extravagance. Some aid in the soloing category would also be of great benefit as well. Not that everything has to be played at blazing speed, but perhaps more melody could be brought in. Those are things that an experienced producer can bring to a band.
I believe all the tools are here and no doubt that Grave Forsaken are capable of more on the musical end. There are some great ideas in these songs no doubt about that. That being said it appears to me that Grave Forsaken are quite possibly on the verge of a breakout with a super next album.
If you like your thrash chunky and driven this is an album you don’t want to pass on. All men play on 10 and these guys do.