Sunday, 3 February 2013

Express Metal Reviews (03/02/13)

Hate - Solarflesh [Blackened Death Metal]

For those of you who are fans of Behemoth, this should be a valuable listen. Also from Poland, Solarflesh sees Hate doing what they've been doing for quite some time already; blastbeats, Middle-Eastern flavours, throaty growls and European riffing. It strikes me more like a much watered down Behemoth, because Hate incorporates doom metal influences into the mix, but the resulting sound, and songs, overall, are BLAND. The direction is singular and not even the individual members' musical chops can save the album. I actually had large expectations for this after hearing the intro, because the progression, though uncannily similar to Behemoth's 'Rome C.E', was brilliant. After that nothing really sticks out. Maybe just me? 2/5

Eclipse Prophecy - Days Of Judgement [Power Metal]

A surprisingly delightful debut with a rubbish mix. Too much emphasis on guitar make the drums sound flat and the keyboards straight out of a 90s computer game, though this does not explain why I quite enjoy the overall album, a testament to the band's songwriting prowess. The vocals are surprisingly bad for a genre that prides itself in semi-operatic vocalists. As with all power metal, there is cheesiness in both lyrical themes and overall presentation, but the guitar work is simply superb. This is in the vein of Dragonforce, though the technical skill is not close yet. Not an outstanding album, but the band definitely has potential. 2.5/5

Hatebreed - The Divinity Of Purpose [Metalcore]

This actually put a smile on my face. The band has been blessed with an exceptional vocalist; Jamey Jasta is audible, clear, harsh and full of conviction. His vocal delivery adds an anthemic touch to all the songs, because quite frankly the songwriting here is pretty much... standard. The mix is a little subdued as compared to recent hardcore / metalcore albums, but this again is overcome by Jasta's powerful delivery. But then again, with lyrical themes like this, there is no other alternative for the band. That's just fine, this isn't an album for long journeys or introspective nights, this is something to listen to for that extra pump when working out. Nice. 3/5

Abyssal - Novit Enim Dominus Qui Sunt Eius [Dissonance]

Getting a lot of Blut Aus Nord vibes from this album, especially from The Odinist era, but the songs fail to sustain interest. This in part isn't a genre plague, as Portal has released a similar album with fantastic execution. The problem here maybe in songwriting, songs tend to drone on and on without any sense of impending urgency like that in Vexovoid. The dissonant riffs are interesting but overused, and nothing distinguishable emerges from the cesspool of muddy downtuned riffs. The drums are way too far back in the mix to cement any concrete rhythms in the album and the vocals tend to bore. 2/5

Portal - Vexovoid [Intense / Dissonance / Death / Doom / Scary]

Bloody impressive album, one that soars past all of Portal's past endeavors, a huge relief since I have been trying to get into this band on Krallice guitarist Colin Marston's recommendation of their album 'Outre'. The album style may be an acquired taste but the mix and execution has so much power; the vocals have an inhuman vibe to them, not pained or emotional, almost like another entity but not as alien as Invocation's Dagon. The drums have phenomenal speed dynamics, blasting and slowing to a gradual mid-paced groove beat and accelerating like a pulse, and a really organic pulse it beats to; the songs seem to have a breathing rhythm and it adds to the eerie feel of the album. The guitars warrant a polarizing reception, but I love the murkiness and swirling effect of the riffs, with the mix favouring ghost riffs and non-centred guitar licks thrown of tangent or launched from nowhere. The bass is overwhelming and surprisingly, it works. At merely seven songs, there is hardly any room for filler, but the final two tracks 'Orbmorphia' and 'Oblotten' are sonic exhibitions to the widely misused term 'crushing'. A definite highlight. 4.5/5

Centurian - Contra Rationem [Death Metal]

First time listening to this old time band and the verdict is: above average. This album is good but still meh, partly because everything you'd expect from death metal is here. The mix is a pleasant surprise because while emphasising the focussed urgency on the album (I'd have to admit that the rate at which the album progresses from riff to riff is relatively rapid) it does not compromise heaviness, though the drums could do with a lot more limelight. Nevertheless, no single song stands out despite a rather enjoyable listen as a whole. Good, but not enough. 3.5/5

Nightfall - Cassiopeia [Melodic Death Metal]

As with most of the records, this album has potential but doesn't quite make the cut. But quite uniquely, Nightfall never seem to run out of fantastic melodies, and for the most part, this is the consistent strength of the album. Guitars don't seem to stick out in general, and is it my headphones? Because the drums sound seems to suck here too. The solos, however, seem quite listener friendly, with an almost classic rock vibe to them ('Oberon & Titania'). The closest comparison I have to this band is Amon Amarth, with a little more keyboard flair, and whether that appeals to you is subjective. Again, a pretty 'safe' record with nothing new or exciting. 3/5

Bullet For My Valentine - Temper Temper [Metalcore]

What has been heard cannot be unheard. Disgusting numetal vocals (who the hell sings to hardcore?) trying very hard to imitate Chester Bennington. The songs struggle to channel anger, which is the scope of the lyrical themes and that is a joke. The drums have nothing special, the guitars are minimal and they aren't very creative, playing the same nonsense again and again. Bass seems to be nonexistent and the vocals, as mentioned, are hideous. The irritating template of verse - chorus -verse - chorus gets to me so you kinda already know what the end will be like. Fail. 0.5/5

Andy Winter - Incomprehensible [Progressive]

Admittedly never heard of this guy but the list of featured artistes sure ring a bell; John Haughm of Agalloch, Dan Swanö, Ihsahn's wife Heidi S. Tveitan and Paul Kuhr, so this gives a very Devin Townsend-ish vibe at first glance alone (and Townsend's bassist Mike Young also performs here). Add to that dream cast Hellhammer's barely distinguishable ambient jazz drums (okay this one was a huge surprise). Overall, this is hardly metal, this is more of an ambient project, and though I will honestly admit I am not in the mood for this, some songs truly stand out. Dan Swanö absolutely steals the show on 'Somewhere Else To Disappear'. The conflicting guitars, bass and keyboards on 'Through The Eyes Of A Surrealist' and Agnete M. Kirkevaag's vocals on the chorus of 'Reversed Psychological Patterns' is spinechilling. The heavier 'The Transversal Conjecture' has death metal vocals by Paul Kuhr and he does a great job with the vocals too. A pretty unpredictable release, and a welcome breath of fresh air. I like. 4/5

Semantic Saturation - Solipsistic [Progressive Instrumental]

Having a new-found respect for Derek Sherinian after watching him perform live with Portnoy at TAB, a progressive release with him on keys is more than welcome. Musically there is a lot going on since this is instrumental, and the absence of a vocalist leaves nothing more to be desired because the songs are well written for each member to fill in the void without a vocalist.Shant Hagopian is a surprisingly strong guitarist, this being the first time I am hearing him and his Armenian-drenched riffs and solos. Virgil Donati's drums mark a dominant presence in the mix, never overdoing it or never leaving the soundscape. Ric Fierabracci's bass isn't mind-blowing or anything but sufficient. This isn't the best instrumental album I have ever heard, and if Tosin Abasi released another Animals As Leaders album this year as planned, then this is definitely not the best instrumental album of this year, but it surely sets the standards high for the others. Imagine old-school Dream Theatre without vocals (I hate James LaBrie and his whiney vocals), and you have a nice picture of what to expect here. Andy Kuntz provides vocals for the last track, but it seems to fit. 4.5/5

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