★☆☆☆☆ Rubbish - One or two good songs
★★☆☆☆ Passable - One or two good songs, a bit of flow
★★★☆☆ Average - Half of album is listenable
★★★★☆ Good - Strong flow, immediately grabs you
★★★★★ Excellent - Undisputed classic for critical listening
1. Fear Factory - The Industrialist [Industrial]
Pity, after such an exhilarating first two songs, I was already wondering if I had stumbled upon the album of the year. The charm of the title track and lead single 'Recharger' have still not worn off, but it does a good job to mask the great flaws in the album; annoying drums. Not like a human drummer would have no effect, the drums are so mechanical and unnatural sounding as opposed to the Atomic Clock, Gene Hogan, on Mechanize. Experimentation, in the form of a little dubstep and weird vocals on 'Depraved Mind Murder' are small and do nothing to revolutionize a genre that is so stale it is coming back to life only because of Nachtmystium, which isn't even an industrial band. Also, the last two tracks are just about the most baffling choices for an ending, with nothing but insignificant static for TEN MINUTES? Whatever, half the songs are still pretty good. For God's sake, some proper usage of the 8 string guitars would be nice.
2. High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis [Sludge] ✔
This album is phenomenally heavy. No kidding. Converge producer Kurt Ballou brings out the intensity of High On Fire; it is like a bullet train to the face. Mike Patt, the singer and guitarist shows off his chops on his nine-stringed (NINE? NINE?!) axe, tapping and chugging mercilessly it is a wonder that the strings have not snapped. Not to forget the drumming, hard, heavy and filling in everry nook and corner without sounding too excessive, in fact, this is almost natural, without the unwanted copius fills usually seen in technical death. Song-writing wise, there is a ton of diversity in the song structures, with a scorching numbers on the first half, and drudgy, sludgy down-tempo songs in the second half, with a much welcome instrumental in the middle that almost bridges the changes in intensity, or rather, just speed from top to bottom. This is what fans and newcomers have come to expect, and this is bloody well what they get.
3. Jeff Loomis - Plains Of Oblivion [Shred]
By now it is clear to see that Warrel Dane was the superior songwriter in Nevermore, I honestly cannot differenciate between Jeff Loomis' musical offerings now. That same loop that played in Nevermore's 'This Godless Endeavor' keeps coming out like an insect that cannot die in the indistinguishable solos that flood this album. Furthermore, Jeff Loomis' true talent, which lie in his brutal yet complex riffing, is almost at the back of the mix (thank God for my good headphones). However, Loomis has covered up one huge flaw that Zero Order Phase, his first album, had. He has brought numerous guest musicians to the mix, more importantly Marty Friedman and Ihsahn, whose contributions lift the now stale Loomis compositions to soaring heights. Christina Rhodes is an amature singer when compared to Warrel Dane, and experimentations in the form of the acoustic 'Rapture' aren't developed and end as abruptly as they begin. With young blood like David Davidson from Revocation and Tosin Abasi from Animals As Leaders working up refreshing, brutal and complex guitar at a massive rate, Jeff Loomis, sadly, seems a little outdated. Go back to Nevermore you idiot.
4. Kreator - Phantom Antichrist [Thrash]
It's bleeding with passion, and the emotions stirred up for rebellion against the new age is vehement, but seriously, it's the same nonsense surging from thrash metal from the time it came out in the 80s. Melodic thrash is weird. Thrash has always and will always be riff-based, and while, thankfully, new bands like Revocation and Vektor have been staying true to this concept of riff-based carnage whilst at the same time bringing something new to the plate, Kreator sound like a bunch of old men suddenly trying to do a heavy metal version of Bruce Springsteen. Some nice tribal drumming on 'Civillisation Collapse', a bit of soaring chorus in 'Floods and Fires', but that's it.
5. Soen - Cognitive [Tool Copycats]
With Steve DiGorgio and Martin Lopez in the rhythm section it's easy to anticipate nothing short of greatness from these guys but the resulting product is nothing but a failed attempt to reciprocate Tool. Sure, they have the musical influences there but Tool was more than a musical band and Soen fails to recognise that, sounding more like flat uninspired clones that could do a lot more considering the past bands the drummer and bassist have played for (Opeth, Iced Earth, Death). A complete disappointment.
6. Architects - Daybreaker [Metalcore]
Not really much of a metalcore fan, but I was drawn to the album's single 'These Colours Don't Run'. Political songs in metal have become unintelligent and excessive, but the sinister keyboard melodies, contrasted with the straightfoward barks from the vocalist proved to be a nice, refreshing juxtaposition to the typical rebel song. The production would have been the best, most crisp production I would have heard this year (then I heard Rush's new album and all productiion seemed inferior after that). The keyboard melodies were deliciously refreshing on the albums's first three songs - then it goes downhill from there. There isn't much to say about the album... it pretty much just has unexciting songwriting, which is not unexpected from a genre so limitted.
7. Dragonforce - The Power Within [Power]
There is definitely an improvement, but not big enough to make me drop and say "I am now a converted fan!". For instance, the 7 minute over-the-top song lengths have been dropped for 4-5 minute song structures, and new singer Marc Hudson doesn't just do annoying high-pitched vocals, he is capable of belting it out on the lower register too. This is Dragonforce's most focused album, with even a few shocking gems like the acoustic version of 'Seasons'. I will gladly await their next album to see how much more they have progressed.
8. Rush - Clockwork Angel [Progressive] ✔
These guys have been around for nearly forever and they still pack a mighty punch in their music. For three 60-70 year old men, they play batter than a few thousand youngsters less than half their age - and I don't mean instrument mastery, but passion and intelligence. Clockwork Angels overflows with emotion and hindsight, the kind of wisom you come to expect from old age, extremely varied and diverse drums from master drummer Neil Peart, thick, pronounced guitar riffs from Alex Lifeson and the looming, intricate bass and vocals from Geddy Lee bring to life visiocus heabangers like 'Headlong Flight' or meditative ballads like 'The Garden'. Lyrics are in a fine line between ridiculously cheesy and heartfelt poignance, and the complexity and depth of the title track is enough to transport you to the future in which the protagonist finds himself entrapped. Where is Dream Theater?
9. Marduk - Serpent Sermon [Black]
Mortuus is the best black metal vocalist ever. His vocals are the essence of black metal, not cringeworthy pained screeches or barbaric throat-ripping screams, but powerfully evil croaks that IS black metal, there is no irony in his voice. The rest of the album however, goes back to the same old, same old blackened death concoction that Behemoth already brought to the world in 2005 with Demigod. It is so painfully generic, there is nothing creative beyond the bludgeoning drums and lightning riffs, even audible rumbling bass, probably a first in black metal history. I have listened to countless black metal bands, and Marduk which sounded like it was regaining momentum on 2009's Wormwood, sounds like they have come to a complete standstill in the creativity factor. If they could work acoustics or funk breaks into this album they would be somewhere (I add acoustics and funk breaks mentally when I am listening to this album).
10. Six Feet Under - Undead [Death]
Generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic generic! Look how well Cannibal Corpse is flourishing after Chris Barnes left and created this stupid, outdated, redundant band! Unmemorable riffs, monotonous vocals, slow drumming with no aggression or groove and plain insulting songwriting.
11. Ne Obliviscaris - Portal Of I [Progressive Black]
I'll admit that on first listen, the record did not strike me as fantastic, I had a bone to pick with the lack of flow in the album. Hailing from Australia, this debut band attempts to mix violins, jazz and progressive black/death metal in the same vein as Opeth, which is a big no no on the creativity factor. The good news, the band does not sound exactly like Opeth. The bad news? Ironically, the same as the good. What Opeth thrives on is not induvidual parts in songs that stand out, but seamless transitions between such themes such that the song stands strong and varied, full as a whole. Ne Obliviscaris misses a lot on that, and even though the songs have VERY strong moments (eg; Spanish flamenco on the intro of 'And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope', simultaneous use of both clean and death vocals on 'Of Petrichor Weaves Black Nois', an extended violin solo in the middle of the epic 'Xenoflux'.), the songwriting thread that should bring the induvidual elements together is ujst not present. Same for the violins, on its own the instrument works well, but its integration with metal does not achieve the same doom-y feeling of cellos in Subrosa's Borrowed Time Borrowed Eyes or Ihsahn's integration of the saxophone in A Grave Inversed. Upon repeated listens, to album is a major delight to the ears, and bearing in mind that this is only the band's debut, here's to some hope for the decaying metal scene.
Updated Rating: ★★★★☆ The album starts to grow on you. A long-term listen pays off immensely.
12. Incoming Cerebral Overload - Le Stelle: A Voyage Adrift [Progressive Sludge]
Almost like an answer to the growing mainstream accessibility of Mastodon comes this extremely weird and angular album from Italy. I was extremely hesitant when I saw the band's name, but I am hooked now. The album is chock full of Mastodon-esque riffing, polyrhythms and dizzying changes in time-signature, with nice etheral effects and space-y, electronic swirls thrown into the mix to accentuate the extraterrestrial feel of the album. The songs also have a really nice flow into one another. However, because it is so weird, it is very inaccessible to most listeners, and I.C.O should work towards a little more friendly approach if they want to emulate the success of Mastodon's middle catalog classics like Blood Mountain and Crack The Skye.
13. Dying Fetus - Reign Supreme [Technical Death]
Oh, I am so sick of technical death that is all about being 'brutal' and 'heavy as hell'. This album is a mess of barbaric nonsense. Sure, the intension is there in their messages for songs like 'Womb To Waste', but really, System Of A Down did a better job without sounding like a bunch of attention-deficit gorillas playing metal. Chuck Schuldiner of Death would have been apalled to see this if he were still alive. Still, can't deny some songs here are still quite kick-ass though, HEH.
14. Royal Thunder - CVI [Blues Metal]
The second album from blues-metallers Royal Thunder is only for people who love the blues and Southern rock. In fact, it isn't so much metal, like, say, Black Sabbath (whom I don't actually consider metal myself). Blues is a highly inaccessible genre in today's fast paced society, a little out of context. That is not to say the genre, or the album, sucks. From a blues standpoint, this is a fantastic album, with the correct amount of passion and just enough aggression to give it a dirty edge. There aren't scorhing solos, but slow, rumbling bass and riffs atop nice, mid-paced drums and the vocals- the biggest strength of this band, belting out heartfelt lyrics with such tone and variety it is difficult to not be enthralled by her wails. Even if you are a metalhead, check out the fantastic 'Blue', and you may even find some latent love for this long lost genre.
15. Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandora's Piñata [Swing/Metal]
From the land of Opeth, Meshuggah, Arch Enemy and IKEA comes the country's latest offering from Diablo Swing Orchestra, an original, fresh breath of air in the metal scene. Things to get clear first; this is almost not a metal album. The only thing metal here is the jagged guitar riffing which is the base of the music. On the other hand, there are horns, trumpets and keyboards that bring back to life 60s swing, and outrageously over-the-top opera vocals from both male and female vocalists. What seems like a receipe for disaster almost miraculously sounds entertaining and fun- the rompous cacophony of the genres that should not theoretically match come across as seamless and natural, even with enough variety (like the dark industrial beats at the end of 'Justice for Saint Mary') to flesh out a whole album. Not everything is a success but it sure is exciting.
16. Be'lakor - Of Breath and Bone [Melodic Death]
Melodic death metal. Very Opeth/Insomnium like sound. Good mix of folk isntruments and instrumentation here and there, creative guitar parts like plucking verses here and there, nice acoustics here and there. Same problem as Ne Obliviscaris, everything is just here and there. Very strong musical moments that seem to have no flow within a song, though they do feel more in place as an album on a whole. But who has time for sitting through entire albums at this age? Because of the mediocre songwriting, the songs have a very start-stop feel that completely destroy any momentum you have for the strong moments, resulting in unmemorable songs even when the band does have some talent and creativity. For one, the melodic moments do not sound cheesy like Arch Enemy, they are well integrated into the death metal sound like Dark Tranquility's work. What they need, rather, is an immediate sense of urgency. Good effort though.
17. Mnemic - Mnemesis [Industrial Groove]
The intro to the album opener 'Transcend' has me in a trance with it's clever manoeuvring of time signatures, and the inevitably catchy, melodic chorus. What really made me impressed was the accesibility of the album, it is tame enough for 12 year olds to act cool and 'like' on Facebook, it is also heavy and complex enough for seasoned connoisseur like me to appreciate, and that is very rare. To put things in perspective, this is how Linkin Park would sound if you mixed them with Meshuggah, which is a VERY interesting sound. Heavy but groovy guitar riffs, very well-written chorusses, altogether strong songs, especially in the first half. However, less is more, and the second half of the album finds songs that meander aimlessly through mainstream territory barely meeting metal. The vocalist's metalcore style may also be a turn off for many who want their vocals like grinding gravel.
18. Nile - At The Gates Of Sethu [Technical Death]
Reviewing the new Nile album is very difficult as I have a mixed opinion on the result. Nile took an experimental turn in 2007's Ithyphallic that failed miserably save for the song 'As He Creates So Destroys', and they got back on track in 2009's Those Whom The Gods Detest. Now however, they have taken the experimental turn again, which shouldn't be a problem... except that this new album has the same defects that Ithyphallic had. Good points first, the guitar riffs are fascinating, with Karl and Tollas going for more accented, sharper riffs with more pronounced Egyptian melodies, and sometimes the music is suffocatingly clasutrophobic. The songs do sound very different from the usual Nile stuff. And... that is the only good point about the album. Now, let's see where it went wrong' vocals are horrible, horrible, torrid. It sounds like a monster drooling rather than powerful, fierce barks, and it doesn't go well with the razor-sharp riffs. The drums are so badly underproduced, you cannot here Kollias' inhumanly fast pedals, and speaking of Kollias, he sounds just like a machine here. So fast, there is no human pausing for groove or nice rhythms, everything is just brrrrr brrrrr brrrrr badum badum badum tsh tsh tsh brrrr brrr brrr. Songwriting is okay, but then again, it's just not enough. A bit of a disappointment, let's see if Time will bring this album Justice.
19. Ihsahn - Eremita [Progressive Groove] ✔
Finally. something fresh in the metal scene. Not some gimmick with extra instruments, not some crossover of another genre with metal, not a band trying to do something 'different' and becoming poppier, no no no. Eremita marks Ihsahn's complete rejection of the black metal from the mighty Emperor; the music is hard to describe, drums switch from tribal and blastbeats to jazzy snare in a flash, vocals are varied from clearly audible black metal rasps that soar into operatic howls, the guitars are groovy, there is keyboard that brings to mind 70s rock and roll, Jeff Loomis lends a hand on some beautiful guitar on 'Catharsis' (where were such good guitar solos on his own solo album? What an idiot), his wife Heidi Tveitan providing some beautiful angelic vocals amidst the claustrophobic chaos of 'Departure', Jörgen Munkeby returns with the saxophone, and if Ihsahn's previous album 'After' was just a mere fusing of the jazzy saxophone with the heavy 8 string guitars, Eremita completely cements the saxophone as a real metal instrument, a chaotic carnivorous sound that not only deepens the intensity of music but one that adds sexiness to the sound, bringing the metal to the 70s glory of metal. Ihsahn is doing to metal what he did exactly 20 years ago with Emperor; Emperor became the standard for black metal and bands adopted the corpse paint that Ihsahn donned years ago to follow his movement, copying his viscious snarl and his deeply occult identity in his music. The Satanic days are long gone, the fad is over, only because Ihsahn is reconstructing extreme metal. The horns in 'The Paranoid' may sound cheesy in any other metal album but Ihsahn makes it work; there lies the major strength of this album. Whilst other bands bring in new influences to their sonicscape to make it less metal, Ihsahn brings in other instruments to his music and CONVERTS them to weapons of metal destruction.
Updated Rating: ★★★☆☆ Album's novelty wears off easily and songs sound like they could have been further stretched instead of what was on the album.
20. Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage [Progressive Sludge] ✔
Gojira has toned down on the aggression. There, I said it. It sounds poppier. Yet, it still sounds downright brutal and devastating. The entire is just so sweetly MELODIC, mixing edgy, tasty, and I really mean TASTY, guitar riffs with Mario Duplantier's wonderful clockwork drumming. Songwriting is just fantastic, the band has never sounded this tight and dynamic, even with an album like The Way Of All Flesh under their belt. I have never been a fan of Gojira, because their downtuned guitars and highly mechanical style sounded like a failed attempt at Meshuggah's sound, but now Gojira have truly seperated themselves with the emotional factor. Thick, melancholic atmosphere drenches the sharp guitar (quite a nice, brutal production too!) and precise drums, and Joe Duplantier gives a much improved vocal performance that has as much sorrow and grief as it has power and corrosion. There is no standout track, the entire album flows excellently with enough bursts of insane energy ('Pain Is A Master') interspersed with introspective moments and the usual Gojira groove that has cemented their reputation as the future force of metal.
Updated Rating: ★★★★☆ Nowhere near the better releases of the coming months.
Marduk - M.A.M.M.O.N [Black]
Marduk - Damnation's Gold [Black]
Fear Factory - Recharger [Industrial]
Morbid Saint - Crying For Death [Classic Thrash Rerelease]
Cattle Decapitation - Kingdom Of Tyrants [Technical Death]
Accept - Stalingrad [Classic Heavy Metal]
Torche - Kicking [Sludge]
Torche - Reverse Inverted [Sludge]
High On Fire - Fertile Green [Sludge]
Author & Punisher - Terrorbird [Industrial/Noise]
Ihsahn - The Paranoid [Progressive Groove]
Ihsahn - Departure [Progressive Groove]
Gojira - L'enfant Sauvage [Progressive Death]
Gojira - Explosia [Progressive Death]
Gojira - Planned Obsolesence
Baroness - Take My Bones Away [Progressive Sludge]
Witch Mountain - Beekeeper [Doom]
Dying Fetus - From Womb To Waste [Death]
Baroness - March To The Sea [Progressive Sludge]
Ides Of Gemini - Starless Night [Post-Black]
Primate - Pride [Thrash?]
Mnemic - Transcend [Groove]
Sabaton - Carolus Rex [Power]
Incoming Cerebral Overdrive - Sirius B [Progressive Sludge]
Baroness - March To The Sea [Sludge]
Kreator - Phantom Antichrist [Thrash]
Kreator - Civilisation Collapse [Thrash]
Dragonforce - Give Me The Night [Power]
Ne Obliviscaris - Xenoflux [Progressive Death/Black]
Bereft - Ethereal [Doom]
Diablo Swing Orchestra - Voodoo Mon Amor [Swing/Metal]
Diablo Swing Orchestra - Black Box Messiah [Avant Garde]
612 Sacrifices - X [Ambient Black Metal Instrumental]
Diablo Orchestra Swing - Justice For Saint Mary [Avant Garde]
Six Brew Bantha - Perpetual Debt [Powerviolence]
Pantera - Piss [Groove]
Nachtmystium - As Made [Black/Industrial]
Six Feet Under - Formaldehyde [Death]
Six Feet Under - Reckless
Nile - The Fiends Who Come To Steal The Magick Of The Deceased [Technical Death]
Nile - The Gods Who Light Up The Sky [Technical Death]
What To Look Out For In The Third Quarter Of 2012:
Testament - Dark Roots Of Earth
Baroness - Yellow & Green ✔
Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine
Pig Destroyer - Untitled ✔✔✔✔✔
Blut Aus Nord - 777: Cosmosophy ✔
Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud ✔
Sanity Obscure - Subterranean Constellation (SUPPORT LOCAL ACTS, THIS ONE IS PRODUCED BY THE GUITARIST OF ONE OF MY FAVE BANDS, KRALLICE!)
Music: Second Quarter Of 2012 (Non-Metal)
Music: First Quarter Of 2012
Satthy's Favourite Albums Of 2012 So Far:
1) Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory
2) Linkin Park - Living Things
3) Cannibal Corpse - Torture
4) Lotus Plaza - Spooky Happening At A Distance
5) T.R.A.M - Linga Francua
Satthy's Favourite Songs Of 2012 So Far:
1) Alcest - Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles
2) Rush - Clockwork Angels
3) Linkin Park - Victimized
4) Cloud Nothings - Wasted Days
5) Meshuggah - Swarm / Demiurge