Friday, July 28, 2006

Shelfcore Quest 2006: Step 11 [40] (repost)

Back to the reposts of album review snippets.


The following block starts off with three straight records that most sensible people will probably consider politically objectionable. Though some are recommended listening, none is recommended for purchase (I didn't either), and there are legitimate questions to be asked as to why they're reviewed at all. However, for some reason we don't ask similar questions about the inclusion of stuff from Graveland, Nokturnal Mortum, Temnozor, even Dissection and Burzum, and it's somewhat hypocritical to review politically backward stuff just when it's "exotic" and from Europe. If we accept that records about murder and dismemberment of general people don't cause people to do such in real life, it should be possible to recognize that records about the destruction and oppression of specific peoples don't of themselves cause people to feel or act the same in real life.

Racialist music has never made anyone into a fascist. It has, however, taken a lot of money from those who already were. Now that we have the internet, it's no longer necessary to give money to those who want to use music as a fundraising tool for fascist objectives. Sure, a lot of stuff is published online with the objective to "get the message out", but only the seriously dumb or detached from reality will fall for this junk. The result is free music, of which some actually does not suck; the majority does, badly, but this is a natural consequence of being ghettoized out of the normal music scene and getting supported by people who are more interested with the resonance of the ideas with their own, rather than the quality of the music. (conspicuous absence of comments about Christian rock here)

Also los:

Before God - Wolves Among The Sheep [5/7]
"Most NS bands suck, but Before God does not; this CD is not uniformly awesome, but it does have a couple high points and the racial message is not constantly beating you in the face. The band is not as focused stylistically as say, Temnozor or Nokturnal Mortum, but their indecision about what weight to put on black, folk, and death metal influences may well be positive variety from your standpoint."

Before God - Under The Blood Banner [6/7]
"Raw and focused, this is much more of a black metal album than their subsequent works, and, were it not for the band's politics, would undoubtedly be recognized in the first rank of American black metal discs. Melodic as well as remorseless at times, the disc progresses forward with strength and impact, and the political lyrics are either pushed down, largely incomprehensible, or just not separable from the main body of aggressive black metal topics."

Rahowa - Cult of the Holy War [6/7]
"...this disc is an uneven mix of Iced Earth and Type O Negative that has approximately no connection to the band's prior skinhead sound..... There are great songs on here, as well as a few genuinely bad ideas -- whoever told these guys that they could pull off blastbeats probably has a laugh at their expense every time "Might Is Right" comes up -- but in all cases the political motivations are ever-present, and on those grounds this release is going to stand or fall with most people."

...and Oceans - Morphogenesis [5/7]
"...this release is inherently not going to be to everyone's tastes. Black metal does get both weirder and more experimental than this, but the way in which this record mixes the odd and the true is fairly disorienting in itself. ...this isn't going to make any converts of those who aren't already into the band."

Apollyon Sun - Sub [4/7]
"Depending on the circumstances and individual tastes, goths may like this, but the interesting parts are only intermittent, and often drowned in seas of boring and repetitive riffage. Those who think the interesting parts might be to their taste may as well pick this record up; as long as your expectations aren't too high...."

Gardenian - Sindustries [4/7]
"Gardenian strikes an uneasy and uneven balance between Hypocrisy and Soilwork, but their heavier touches never actually separate them to any great extent from the second band; where Soilwork were a generic first-wave Gothenband before Natural Born Chaos, these guys are a generic second-wave Gothenband with exactly the same ratios of melodics, clean vocals, and hardcore parts that might be expected. It's not a poorly written or executed record, but neither is it anything that most metalheads have not heard several dozen times before...."

Cabal - Midian [5/7]
"Though the sound fidelity isn't always the best, and there are a lot of other examples of this style of brutal thrash that are less completely obscure, this is still very well done..."

Iced Earth - Alive In Athens [6/7]
"...there are a lot of points where the recording sounds little like a live take and a lot like the studio albums, whether from extreme live professionalism by the band and recording crew or obsessive overdubbing by Jon in post. This doesn't take away from the quality of the material, or make it, at the right price, worse of an introduction to Iced Earth, but it cuts into the value of this one as a live album...."

Metallica - The Unforgiven [4/7]
"...this release is interesting mainly to Metallica completists who will pick it up for the demo version of the title cut, which has James playing a different solo from the one that Kirk eventually came up with...[b]eyond this, theres not much to recommend it...."

Azeroth - Live In Polygon [5/7]
"....manages to show off a fairly interesting Eastern take on evolved black metal, which splatters itself between Cradle of Filth and Nokturnal Mortum without losing much in the way of trueness or ferocity. As a live take, it's extremely well-done, especially considering the huge amount of keys in the sound...."

Yuhrott - Abysmal Inflections [3/7]
"...this demo is pretty badly recorded, enough to significantly obstruct the material, which is for the most part average American power metal that sounds mostly like Iced Earth -- which is reasonable since Randy Shawver was joined at the hip to Jon Schaffer for the better part of a decade...While Iced Earth completists will probably want to dig this up, the main body of the demo should amply testify why this band has not been heard from since."

Shadows Fall - Of One Blood [5/7]
"Shadows Fall's best work is still ahead of them at this point, but this is still a fairly good record that, while it may seem formulaic by today's standards, at least deserves a little recognition as the one that laid down the formula for the rest of the metalcore wave to follow."

Gamma Ray - Sigh No More [6/7]
"Not all the tracks here are uniformly strong, but Ralf Scheepers gives a better vocal performance than he's ever been known to put up in Primal Fear, and Kai Hansen's guitars are sweet and sharp as always."

Aska - Delta Force [4/7]
"....decent power metal in the old American model, after the style of Savatage's first couple CDs with a couple of Iron Maiden touches.... Whether they're still around ... is unknown, but these cuts at least are decent."

Primal Fear - Black Sun [4/7]
"...this is one of the more strongly derivative albums that I own, and also one of the more boring. Power metal fans may react better to it, but there is little in this long stew of melodic riffage and high-pitched singing to draw in anyone else."

Marty Friedman - True Obsessions [5/7]
"The songwriting here is occasionally pedestrian, but the guitar work, which is what people actually buy the record for, is crisp and well-executed, in a variety of styles that cover about everything you can do with rock and melodic-metal guitar. Solo records by instrumentalists are inherently of limited appeal, but this one is done pretty well..."

Soilwork - Figure Number Five [4/7]
"...this is no longer any kind of death metal, and it's not really consistent to call it metalcore either. It's still metal, but Soilwork has left the underground behind on this release, and those who still follow the underground ethos will probably be best served by leaving this one behind on the store rack."

Soilwork - Demos 1997 [4/7]
"The recording quality is often hit-or-miss, and the material is the sort of balanced In Flames- and At The Gates-imitation that was most current during the Gothenburg scenes initial flowering, with only a few signs that the band would ever move on to say anything beyond 'we really like Slaughter of the Soul and Heartwork'."

Witchery - Restless & Dead [5/7]
"Witchery eventually slowed up...and didn't become the saviors of heavy music, but their early output is still good blackened thrash with some cool leads, and ought to be appreciated for what it is, even today."

Nocturnal Rites - The Sacred Talisman [5/7]
"...this band is CM HammerFall, and while the comparison is apt on musical grounds, Nocturnal Rites was less annoying even at this stage, and has gotten heavier since. Metalheads able to get beyond the indisputably-present cheese factor will find this record a good place to get into the band..."

Metallica - St. Anger [2/7]
"There are enough promising parts and riffs in this leaden 80-minute morass of poor recording and nonexistent arrangement to build a tight, kickass, 35-minute record, but unfortunately they're distributed virtually at random...this record is not materially changed in actual content from the Load era, just in recording technique and negative composition. As has been stated over and over again, adding heavy guitars to something does not change its fundamental character."

HammerFall - Glory To The Brave [4/7]
"If you're even remotely into power or melodic metal, you probably ought to have a HammerFall record, and this is as good as any other (just exactly as good as any other, in fact) to be that one in your collection. That being said, owning multiple HammerFall albums is a little suspicious..."

Destiny's End - Breathe Deep The Dark [4/7]
"People who are into prog/power metal may feel differently, but even I can think of a large handful of better records in this caption (including, for example, everything Evergrey has ever recorded) than this one. Not really bad, but not especially good either."

Belfegor - The Kingdom of Glacial Palaces [5/7]
"While this bunch from Poland is not as original or as practiced as the similarly-named outfit from Austria, they do put out some good black metal on this one, provided that your tastes run to earlier Immortal and Nokturnal Mortum's more vicious period.... The riffing is dense and tight, ... it does become repetitive at times..."

Apocalyptica - Inquisition Symphony [5/7]
"...fairly good, though the originals lack the punch of their later stuff and the covers are in the most part the second tier... By releasing this disc they stopped being a novelty act.... and started to become an actual metal band, but the problem is that the ideas involved, musically, are very formative..."

Dwell Records - Megaded - A Tribute To Megadeth [4/7]
"...this is an okay record and a nice introduction to a large number of underground bands -- though all of the bands that I had actually heard of when I bought the CD had done better original work that I heard from them first. ... Good stuff, but more for underground collectors than normal people these days."

King Diamond - Abigail II: The Revenge [5/7]
"As a King Diamond record, this is okay, especially considering some of the really cruddy stuff the King's put out over the years, but as an attempt to recapture the glories of the original Abigail, it's a resounding failure, and the attempt to do so is an admission that the King is out of ideas..."

Evergrey - Recreation Day [6/7]
"An awesome disc, this one nevertheless does not quite step up to the standards of the ones that immediately preceded and succeeded it. Still, it's Evergrey, and at this point it should be sufficient to note that an album is consistent with Evergrey's track record to compel people to go out and get it."

Marduk - Opus Nocturne [5/7]
"...this record does not really go out and sink its fangs into your neck the way really good black metal in this style ought to, and in the way that Marduk do elsewhere in their catalog. As such, it's not the most essential of Marduk records, but it's also decent enough that it doesn't hurt to include."

Chastisement - ...but lost we are [6/7]
"Given the quality of music on here and the lack of exposure of the band currently, it was probably a grave mistake for them to not sign somewhere when this release gave them the chance; getting ripped off is an inextricable part of the music business, and Chastisement definitely had the potential to break through the barriers placed to underground success and actually profit from playing death metal."

Shadow - Shadow [6/7]
"When I initially got this record, we were drowning in imitation In Flames and At The Gates, bands who were doing Gothenburg for no reason other than that everyone else was... the record is still the same, but the trend is not, and it's a little easier to get into what is some very good, very hard-hitting music that vindicates the band as at least participants rather than followers of NWOSDM. This piece kicks ass, and if Kubo et al are still active and put out another record in this style, they would be eminently well-received..."

Behemoth - Satanica [5/7]
"...still down near the bottom of the list of Polish black metal bands that I actually like listening to, but this record no longer comes off as bad as I initially rated it. It's not real interesting, and while the playing is competent the best-executed parts sound like they're cut straight from Witchery, but overall it's still a decent record."

Afterlife - Music To Suffer By [3/7]
"Sometimes they sound like a metal band, sometimes more like bar-rock, and the music involved is very seldom more than passable. If they could just decide who they want to be and what they want to sound like, they might be able to make some progress..."

Freedom Call - Eternity [4/7]
"Even more melodic, over-structured, top-heavy, and prone to syrupy silliness than Dan Zimmerman's main band, Freedom Call probably has a large casual fanbase in Germany... The performance is done pretty well, and the vocals aren't as annoying as Stratovarius or HammerFall, but the material is for the most part totally unappealing and totally unnecessary; there is enough bad power metal in the world without members of good bands adding to it in their spare time."

Darkthrone - Preparing For War [5/7]
"'s interesting to see just how thoroughly consistent Darkthrone have been throughout their career. It's all pretty necro, but even beyond that, the style beneath is one that responds well to necro production... Of course, it's not for everyone, but those who are normally into Darkthrone will enjoy more this selection of Darkthrone at their oldest and coldest... and those who aren't going to react well to this stuff would never pick up a Darkthrone retrospective in the first place."

Cacaphony - Speed Metal Symphony [5/7]
"...very fast (mostly) melodic metal with guitar leads draped all over it, sometimes several layers deep, and the result is a decent record that, really, nobody except guitar nerds will be really interested in. This includes approximately every heavy metal guitarist in the history of ever, but even a few of them might agree that in a lot of places, the lead work here bends much more towards 'wank' than 'genius'."

Bathory - Requiem [4/7]
"The music isn't as bad as I initially estimated it, but it's far from Bathory's usual standard and nothing new at all; Hellhammer was doing this sort of blackened thrash before Bathory was even a band, and Mayhem and Darkthrone were doing it better in this time period. Throw in the shitty production and presentation, and this is one to throw back."

Thou Art Lord - DV8 [5/7]
"...much more in the Norwegian style of black metal than the Greek, despite their explicit ties to the Church of Satan... Black metal fans may want to pick this one up, but there are much more essential records out there."

Warlock - Burning The Witches [4/7]
"While this record may have legitimately launched Doro's career, it has certainly aged poorly. The sound is thin, and the music is fairly generic '80s metal, the closest comparison being to imitation Judas Priest.... given the selection of metal available today, it's difficult to suggest that anyone would actually want to buy this one."

Mactatus - The Complex Bewitchment [4/7]
"...everyone who actually gets to the point of listening to them will come to the same conclusion: that these guys are one of the more blindingly unoriginal bands ever to come out of Norway. The music is decently performed and usually manages to hold your attention, but it's difficult to escape the impression that it's entirely composed of the less memorable parts of several other bands that are already represented in your CD collection."

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