Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Mehida come from Finland and these Finnish rockers really mean business. With a blend of melodic metal and hard rock Mehidas album The Eminent Storm should appeal to fans of Narnia, Audiovision perhaps even Stryper or Europe.
Their sound is definitely European in flair and feel. The band themselves have made this release a sort of heavy metal psalm. Lyrically issues of doubt, faith, the silence of God are broached much like they are in the Psalms with honestly and integrity. This life of faith we live isn’t easy or obvious.
My favorite song is not the most obvious in this case. I’m the guy who prefers it fast and heavy with power. ‘Dream Giver’ isn’t really any of those things; it does have the catchiest melody on the disc. It is definitely a much more mid tempo arrangement with a very commercial chorus. Lyrically however it’s the prayer of my heart, and undoubtedly the prayer of a lot of Christians. “Only your love can set me free to fly/Only your love can set me free to smile/Only your love can set me free to cry/Only your love can set me free to die with you” Amen brothers.
Nearly all of the songs have that same prayful lyric and melodic sensibility. “Draw Near To my Soul,” “A Block of Wood” and “Where Could I Flee” share the same devotional slant lyrically without sacrificing the intensity of the delivery. Good songs that will get you singing before the end or at least hitting the replay button upon ending.
The Eminent Storm has a lot to offer, but there are times when I would find myself indifferent to some of the songs. Perhaps the feel or vibe was too ‘samey’ at times. I’m pretty sure it’s not the compositions themselves but the production, which I think was a little flat. Maybe that would be something that could be changed in future releases. I just hope it doesn’t take Mehida another 3 years to record a new album. On the whole it was enjoyable but there were moments where my attention did start to wonder a bit...
Even though I found The Eminent Storm patchy in places this disc should find its feet amongst the faithful. If you’re looking for ministry/devotional style metal than you won’t want to pass on The Eminent Storm. Bullroser records has put out a good solid disc here, I just think it could’ve been even better.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
My initial impression of Arizona is a hot and arid state with lots of sand. Whether that stereotype is accurate or not could be open for debate. What I am sure of is that in the summer temperatures routinely topple the 110 degree mark. Perhaps it’s because of that intense heat that brought Darkness Before Dawn into the studio to record this hot disc. King's to You is the title of their debut release.
Melodic death metal perhaps like Dark Tranquility or Scar Symmetry (minus the clean vocals). By the groups own admission influences range from The Black Dahlia Murder, Dethklok, Behemoth and many others to numerous to mention. The riffs here are hard and fast with little use of subtlety.
Now I would normally say this isn’t my favorite brand of metal, but since I’ve been listening to the latest from Dagon and In Grief my take on extreme vocals has changed a bit. Most importantly to me is that the songs have some melody or hook, if it’s there then someone can grind away all they want over the top. That was the element that I loved about Dagon’s Terraphobic so much. Melodic opuses with brutal instrumentation and face plastering vocals that worked so well.
DBD brings some melody here on King’s To You but the riffs are more straight ahead with some keyboard orchestration that does add some cool atmosphere. I will say tho that this release isn’t for the faint of heart. King’s to You is hard heavy and dark. From the opening strands of 'Monster Kondo' thru 'The Slain Reunion' and on into 'Material Existence' this release moves like a freight train.
If you’re a fan of this genre there would be no reason I can see that would prevent you from picking this up. The songs are composed and performed with precision. Enough melody to keep the songs separate from one another, nothing like having a release turn into one long song.
Maybe the only complaint I have is that at times the lack of dynamic range does make it a little hard to distinguish point a from point b. Yet I realize in this genre dynamics are generally non existent.
The production is adequate and solidifies this release as a strong death metal offering. Bombworks is definitely a good label to have on your side as they continue to put out strong releases such as this. For a debut King’s To You is worthy of a purchase let’s see what the future holds for them as well.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
2008 saw the release of Cloudscape’s third album Global Drama. Take a combination of 80’s arena rock, heavy metal drama and elements of progressive bombast while supplying memorable melodies that engage the listener and force you to avoid the eject button on your CD player.
Imagine taking the vocals of 1980’s-90’s YES/Toto and slapping them with a progressive metal hard rock sound. That would give you an idea of what to expect from Swedish Prog metallers Cloudscape. Professional arranging and songwriting is the order of the day on their album Global Drama.
Recently I was given to opportunity to listen to a performance by the group YOSO, featuring members of Yes and Toto. That material is brilliant in its own right. Yet when I came back to Global Drama I couldn’t help but hear the similarities. First and foremost the songs on Global Drama have such delicious melodies that they taste like a fine wine. Compositions aged to perfection with just the right amount of texture and color. Both groups have such high caliber players, yet all of the playing is in deference to the betterment of the song. Both groups also have a rather unique sound that just adds to the mystique and class of both groups.
From the opening song ‘Mind Diary’ to closing melody of ‘Justice,’ Cloudscape leaves you desiring to retake this journey again. So many progressive metal acts get compared to Dream Theater and Symphony X it just gets numbing after awhile. Certainly there are moments where those comparisons might be accurate on this album. I’m uncomfortable with just leaving those comparisons there because Cloudscape at times go into a more melodic almost AOR direction, almost like Allen & Lande.
That more accessible sound also puts them in the company of say, modern Yes or 80’s Asia while bringing metal sounds and performance to the forefront. Both vocalist Mike Andersson and guitarist Bjorn Eliasson wave those influences proudly as they are layered through out Global Drama. They do it effectively and well.
The band themselves describe their music as “Melodic Metal with progressive touches” (Cloudscape MySpace). Their summation would seem to be pretty accurate to me. Just listening to tunes like ‘Alagoas,’ ‘Fragile,’ ‘Static’ stream to a more accessible area musically than say ‘Paid in Blood’ or ‘Mind Diary.’ ‘Alagoas’ is a personal favorite with its melodic chorus, but it really is the build up to that point. Soaring melodies with a hypnotic keyboard tapestry with decorating the landscape with the attack of a melodic guitar arrangement. Yet the aforementioned tracks ‘Mind Diary’ and ‘Paid in Blood’ show that Cloudscape can cut it lose and bring it home when they want to.
Global Drama is Cloudscapes third release and I would hope a fourth one will arrive soon. This album would fit quite nicely in any progressive metal fans collection, but it should have no trouble finding its way into fans of melodic hard rock/metal. A one trick pony this disc is not. Cloudscape has the chops for the long haul.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Coming from the darkness, that is a Norwegian winter, arrive gothic doom metallers In Grief. With sound that has been compared to Opeth, Amon Amarth and Soilwork the musicians who comprise In Grief know how to keep it heavy and dark. It might also be because they come from one of the northern most parts of Norway where winter nights could last for more than 18 hours. Deserted Soul is the title of this upstanding metal album.
Deserted Soul has a very dark but melodic atmosphere about it. Keyboard elements add such a doomy feel they enhance the guitar work well. The compositions start slowly only to build to a mighty apex that flows as a natural outcome of the song. Such as a river as it winds it’s way down from the snowy mountain slopes combining with other streams and creeks until it reaches its maximum strength when it arrives at the ocean or lake that it would flow into.
Over the years I’ve been learning to appreciate the guttural growling that extreme and death metal brings to the table. When done properly it can add so much power and dynamic to a song. The band Dagon is a prime example in my book. In Grief blend death style growls with ominous melodic vocals that meld into a haunting cacophony of doomy goodness…. (?).. The band themselves describe their sound as technical, progressive, melodic, death/black metal. That ‘bout covers it all doesn’t it.
This is an album that the more I listen, not just hear, but the more I listen to it my interest is piqued and I desire to hear it again. With seven songs clocking in at over 50 minutes this isn’t for the ‘casual’ listener. Lyrically the darker side of life is presented with questions we all face about doubt, inner strife, even frustration from the Lords point of view.
I honestly tell you that as I write this there is a winter storm outside, rain, gloom and darkness. Deserted Soul from In Grief seems to fit the bill extremely well. Fans of My Silent Wake and The Drowning might find this of interest. For me this is a nice discovery that has shown me that I dig this stuff.
Crunchy guitars, epic arrangements, melodic moody heavy songs that make me feel that I’m in some dilapidated castle of old. What’s not to like? Grab this one.
Simply put Ulterium Records has done it AGAIN! The latest Audiovision release entitled Focus is a top tier melodic Hard Rock/Metal album. Focus is full of high energy rock n roll. A true compendium of rock anthems, epic chorus’s, melodic guitar solos and driving rhythms. Fans of Narnia, Stryper, Europe, and Dio should be obtaining this release in droves.
Being a late comer to the Narnia/Audiovision sweepstakes I really hadn’t heard vocalist Christian Liljegren previously, just bits here and there while reading much praise in the metal forums. (Those places can be such a treasure trove of metal knowledge!) After listening intently to Focus I can comprehend the initial surprise and disappointment when it was announced that Christian would be leaving Narnia. I’ll tell you though, as fans of melodic rock/metal we now have TWO great bands instead of one.
The amount of hard work is quite apparent as I listen to this album. The emphasis on the melodies and hooks is so apparent I couldn’t help but start to sing along and bust out my trusty air guitar. After such scorchers as ‘We Will Go,’ ‘Keep the Fire Burning,’ ‘We Are Not Alone,’ there can really be no mistake, 80’s sounding with up to date sensibilities that just kicks butt.
Torbjörn Weinesjö (Veni Domine) rips it up on the guitar front, from some tasty solos to a slicing guitar tone he adds a nice flair. Less you think he is the only known quanity besides Christian, I would be amiss to not mention Simeon Liljegren [Modest Attraction] – Bass, Olov Andersson [Grand Stand] – Keyboards, Thomas Weinesjö [Veni Domine, Saviour Machine] – Drums. Looks and sounds like an all-star band to me, yet this all-star band deliver the goods in no uncertain terms.
Not as heavy as Sinbreed or as gritty as Narnia, Audiovision really are the real deal. It must also be pointed out that this is simply not a project for Christian but now his full time band. They did tour Europe with Stryper on 2009’s Murder by Pride tour. It must be acknowledged that the track entitled 'The Way' is a cover of Strypers classic song given the Audiovision treatment. The advance promotion material didn't mention it so when it started, WOW!!! Very cool indeed, a little more atmospheric than the original but just as heavy and wait until you hear the ‘epic’ interlude, which adds a great touch.
Included here are a couple of acoustic style slower numbers that don’t fall into the ‘sappy’ category. At times both ‘The Gate’ and ‘Fruit of Love’ remind me of the Scorpions. Think of ‘Holiday,’ ‘When the Smoke is Going Down’ or ‘Still Loving You’ in terms of feel and arranging. A great change of pace.
The production is extremely well done, excellent tones and even mixing throughout. Erik Mårtensson [W.E.T., Eclipse] brought the same expertise to this project as he has to his previous work. Lyrically the groups’ faith is constantly upfront without being preachy.
Whip out those lighters and prepare yourself for a great album of melodic metal/hard rock that will carry you away. Perhaps Focus will help you do just that. A reminder of what truly matters and brings hope for all in tough times. Audiovision has arrived and now is the time to stand up and take notice.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Not very often will an album come across that really grabs me. What I mean by that is I will reach for it before I reach for other favorites. What makes it more odd is when it’s a style that it not necessarily my favorite. It’s easy to grab the latest Rush, Saxon or Megadeth. Even some bands that I’ve been totally turned onto in recent years that are easy grabs for me such as Ultimatum, Grave Robber, Rob Rock, and Orphan Project I’ve passed over these to reach for this, Dagon’s 2009 release Terraphobic.
I’ll admit I’m not the biggest extreme metal fan. Yet I also know if a release is good and I connect with it I will enjoy it. Just the way it is. This brings me to this album by Dagon entitled Terraphobic. Much to do has been made about Dagon, from Lansing, Michigan by the way. Most of it has to do with their name, which most detractors are quick to point out is the same as a Philistine deity in the Old Testament. I also understand that the band members themselves took the name from the title of a H.P. Lovecraft monster story entitled ‘Dagon’. I prefer the monster part myself.
Terraphobic itself is a collection of some of the most melodic and wonderful sounding death metal I’ve had the privilege to hear. With powerful soaring guitar harmonies that would make Iron Maiden proud. Combined with driving intense riffs and the guttural vocals and intense screeches vocally Terraphobic is amazing. The band themselves on their MySpace indicate these influences for their sound,
“Dagon blends the melody of Swedish bands like Dark Tranquility with the aggression and speed of American bands like Slayer and Suffocation and the shredding bravado of 80’s titans like Iron Maiden.” Dagon MySpace…
No mistaking that intensity and power combined with melody. I will say that the Iron Maiden influence here is ASTOUNDING!! There is more Maiden influence than you’d believe. These guys have incorporated so many memorable harmony parts that stand in direct contrast to the bombast underneath that I would say it’s the harmonies that hold it all together. Imagine if Iron Maiden were a bit heavier at ‘Aces High’ speed with intense death metal like vocals, and harmonies from say the ‘Rime of The Ancient Mariner,’ period.
This albums opens with the onslaught of, ‘Cut to the Heart’ a fast full on speed driven tune that exalts the drive of men fighting war at sea with a superior hook in the chorus. Lyrically all of Dagon’s tunes reflect aspects of historic fear and curiosity of the Ocean. From war to monsters to pirates ect. I often think the of battle scenes from such movies as Ben Hur, 300, Gladiator, even Pirates of the Caribbean. Like Grave Robber, Dagon has built a solid atmospheric myth around their art.
‘Demons in the Dark’ is up next with an ode to Viking explorers, and has one of the best hooks on the album. Intriguing guitar passages combined with intense bass lines and drumming par excellence make this song a tour de force. The vocals by bassist Randall Ladiski and drummer Jordan Batterbee add to the atmosphere and intensity here. The Maiden style harmonies are beautiful and tie it all together. ‘Terraphobic’ is another killer tune with great melodies, but is heavy as a dump truck with the atmosphere of the ocean and ships being tossed about in the dark of night. An instant replay tune if there ever was one, lots of dynamics and moody imagery. This song is a classic song amidst a collection of classics.
Songs five and six ‘To the Drums We Rise’ (I can just see Charleton Heston in Ben Hur on board rowing to battle) builds and builds with great drum passages. Lots of dynamics interspersed with lyrics of ancient sea going battles. Flying right into the next song ‘Full Speed Ahead’ great arranging allows this song to cut a swath through the murky ocean full of smoke and fog. The drum parts during the chorus are astounding and just push everything along. Make no mistake this is the real deal.
Terraphobic isn’t the fastest album or the heaviest, even tho it is fast and heavy. One thing is for sure here is that Chris Sharrock and Briant Daniel know how to wield their axes like expert seaman charting a course by night with a sextant or nautical compass. Their playing is a highlight throughout this album.
I must say that the more I play this release the more I love it. The fact that there are songs that you could actually sing the vocal parts to is KILLER!! For me what I found the most ironic is that this album is full of death metal vocals and that is part of the appeal. I usually don’t dig those, but here the songs and melodies are SO GOOD, that the vocals are part of the dynamic. It adds to the POWER and atmosphere of the album.
The production is also fantastic, quality which allows one to hear all the instruments with clarity and definition. To me that is also probably one of the reasons why I like it. There are some synths but they are added for atmosphere. The album art is a reminder why good art gets attention. I love the picture of the dark sea with the sailing vessel in peril because of the giant sea serpent. This is why it’s called ‘Oceanic Metal,’ the themes are all of the myths and stories of the high seas. ‘Master and Commander’ anyone????
I tell you if I could get a shirt with that cover art or a poster of it I would be ecstatic, it’s awesome. Not many releases give you the total package, but this one does. Seriously, the music here is world quality. If you're not a fan of the death metal vocals but love melody take a chance and be surprised. I was and I am grateful for it. How 'bout a West Coast jaunt guys????
The album ends with the track ‘Ocean Metal,’ Dagon’s metal anthem of the call of the abyss. This album is a classic no doubt in my mind. Others won’t agree with me but what else is new. This is not a ‘Christian Band’ or a ministry minded release, but a great album of stories set to music. How can they top this release? I don't know but here's hoping to more great albums. Fans of powerful driven HEAVY METAL should dig this release without reservation Dare I give it……?