Friday, July 28, 2006

Shelfcore Quest 2006: Step 12 [53] (repost)

Yet another bunch of reposted album review snippets, with a brief show review at the bottom.


Dissection - Reinkaos [7/7]
"In Flames fans who have been waiting since 1997 for the band to do Whoracle Part II can ... exhale, because it's here now, courtesy of Jon Nodtveit. ...On this one, the dominant flavor is sharply finished Swedish death of the sort that In Flames was still making when Jon was sent down. There will be some legitimate discussion about how this fits into Dissection's musical history, and how moral it is to continue supporting someone who is unrepentant about killing someone for ''political'' reasons, but in the end, metal has to be judged on the music..."

Darkthrone - Transilvanian Hunger [6/7]
"This is a Darkthrone classic, and one of the core records of the Norwegian scene, though its uniqueness as a musical document has faded a little due to overimitation. This is the source, though, and the great thing about recorded music is that the source is never contaminated by what comes after. Cold and true, inheriting to a small degree from Burzum (not least because Varg wrote half the lyrics on this one, this is what black metal once was, and what it probably always will be capable of in the future."

Rotting Christ - Non Serviam [6/7]
"...a good exemplar of Greek black metal, and an interesting contrast to what was going on in Scandinavia at the time. For those looking back, its also an interesting middle way between the ceaselessly ''true'' and grim and the more ornamented evolved black metal that eventually wound up selling all the records. The music stays brutal here, but also remarkably accessible...."

Necrophagist - Epitaph [7/7]
"...a sharp, kickass, ceaselessly intelligent as well as ceaselessly brutal record that anyone who claims to be into technical death metal ought to own. Even more impressive is the conclusion, from listening to this, that the band's best work is still ahead of them, and that they are going to go further and deeper with this style to eventually construct something on the level of Human, Focus, or Unquestionable Presence."

Evergrey - Monday Morning Apocalypse [6/7]
"...this is an ''off'' outing for recent Evergrey, but this is significantly better than most other bands do normally, and still worth picking up. It's not essential for everyone, but if one of their discs that are got you into the band, this one won't really disappoint."

Dawn - Nier Solen Gar Niper For Evogher [4/7]
"There's a few good parts, but most of this record is completely average, completely unremarkable, and completely forgettable, to the point where you really question what the point even was."

Emperor - IX Equilibrium [6/7]
"...this album is probably Emperor's least immediately gripping, as in many places it tends to flow together. The death metal influences start to be prominent at this point, but they're more mixed straight in with the black than balanced and blended as they are on Prometheus.... It's a killer disc, but it's hard to describe as essential for anyone but fans...."

Gorefest - The Eindhoven Insanity [5/7]
"...a solid set is what is ground out here at the band's hometown megafestival. The recording and performance are both done very well, captured directly at the soundboard by a Dutch radio station, and the result is an overdub-free ''official bootleg'' that wont disappoint fans, collectors, or just death metallers who happen to have some spare cash and time to flip through the cutout bin."

Iced Earth - The Dark Saga [5/7]
"...very difficult to describe it as an inspired record, or superlative in any dimension. It's just kind of there, and though it has its good points, you really have to wonder if Jon deliberately decided, going into this one, that since he didn't really know how to be intentionally ''accessible'', ''pedestrian'' was going to have to be good enough."

Static-X - Machine [4/7]
"While there are interesting parts to this record, there is fairly little metal, especially considering the pedigree of some members of the band and how they're marketed. The structures are fairly simple, and while the guitars are heavy, they're only occasionally doing something that can really be reckoned as heavy metal."

Seasons of the Wolf - Lost In Hell [4/7]
"...this act only peripherally touches on the modern definition of heavy metal, though theyre much more strongly within the 1970s ideas of the term. ... Most metalheads will find little of interest here, though the music occasionally shows some promise -- though admittedly along power metal lines that will not be of universal appeal. The issue is that the music fades..."

Valar - Magic and Wyrmfire [3/7]
"If there really is an audience for second-rate Penitent trying to be Nokturnal Mortum, I haven't heard of it yet. However, this is what Valar is aiming at here; they're on the mark, but this is dubious praise to be sure. of the most uniquely pointless one-man records I have ever sat through. .... I can be pretty concrete here: whatever you like in metal or black metal, you should not buy this album."

Judas Priest - British Steel [4/7]
"People remember the three all-time classics from this album, and tend to forget that the other two-thirds of the runtime is taken up by boring, mediocre, slow fillers... The good songs are very good, but they're also available on a multitude of Priest collections, making this record entirely superfluous"

Monstrosity - In Dark Purity [5/7]
"...brutal death metal is a defined field, and for the part that Monstrosity played in defining it, it should not be surprising that this is a solid continuation in that style. The record exists entirely within the framework of brutal death metal, but it's pretty good, and not every record necessarily has to break down barriers."

Abrasion - Abrasion [4/7]
"...these guys are far from the top of the pile in power metal -- even in Brazilian power metal -- but this debut is decent, and with some more practice and better recording conditions, they could go far. The lyrical and vocal arrangements are sometimes kind of clumsy... but the guitar work is rock-solid, and in places a little more imaginative than might be initially expected from five young guys principally influenced by HammerFall..."

Meridian - The Seventh Sun [7/7]
"Whether it's read as a more black metal continuation of Samael's middle period or the more electronic path that Emperor could have taken from Anthems, it's still awesome, both totally black and totally mind-expanding as to its unorthodox influences and experiments."

Noctuary - Promo 2003 [4/7]
"...this shows a very interesting an experimental side of Noctuary, with more than a few parts that are closer to what we think of as metalcore than to black metal. It's not lacking in trueness, but it's obvious that they'd been listening to Enslaved's contemporaneous efforts and overhauling their style based on similar introspection about where black metal was heading -- and where they wanted to go, inside and outside of that context."

Nokturnal Mortum - NeChrist [6/7]
"...still not as strong as Goat Horns, this record marked a definite upswing for NM, and it's frustrating to wonder about where they could have gone from here if they had dialed the ideology back and continued with proper label support. The keyboards are pushed back in favor of authentic instruments, and the blend of happy folk with extreme raw and grim black metal has seldom been done even as well as here, better perhaps never."

Entwined - Dancing Under Glass [4/7]
"The individual execution is mostly passable, but the writing is really boring, and there is nothing in this band's gothic power metal to make anyone sit up and take notice."

Deicide - In Torment In Hell [5/7]
"Nobody ought to delude themselves into thinking this release is anything groundbreaking, but those who just want a solid death metal album will have little to dispute here. Sure, there's the sense that Glen could put these things out on autopilot... but while you're listening to the music, there isn't the feeling that this is all paint-by-numbers death that you've heard a hundred times before."

Dismember - Massive Killing Capacity [6/7]
"While this record is rawer and slightly less lyrical than some of their later works, the death-groove is ever present and mercilessly unrelenting. The tempos are relaxed on most tracks, letting the riffs just sit there and burn, with the result that the feel is not so much the chaos of the mechanized battlefield depicted on the cover, but the brutal aftermath, looking out over the carnage and towards the next engagement."

Dismember - Like An Ever-Flowing Stream [5/7]
"It's the same groove-driven, rasping, melodic-yet-brutal death metal that you'll find on any other Dismember disc, but its another full record of it, and in this pressing, remastered with four bonus tracks."

Dysrhythmia - No Interference [7/7]
"Not all metalheads will appreciate this, but those interested in a fusion of the Dillinger Escape Plan and the Red House Painters -- minus vocals, these are all instrumentals -- or just in great music will not go wrong here."

Dysrhythmia - Live From Manassas [6/7]
"The set is shortish, and the recording quality isn't always the best, but the live attack is every bit as head-twisting as their studio sound, and in places more aggressive. This show is packed in with the re-pressing of No Interference, and will make a nice bonus for metalheads who get said release..."

Balzac - Beyond The Darkness [4/7]
"...much more punk than metal or even hardcore, and everything tends to blend together after about 12 or so of the 20 tracks. ... It's hardly original or essential, but it's not that bad either."

Deadline Reecords - Straight To Hell: A Tribute To Slayer [5/7]
"...this one is basically the answer to ''what if Slayer was a death metal band''. You can probably get Hypocrisy, Mortician, Jungle Rot, and Dissection's covers elsewhere, but they are top quality, and the result is that most of the record slaughters. There are a few mistakes -- like letting Abbadon and Hecate Enthroned appear at all -- but even the non-death stuff is pretty cool..."

Helloween - I Want Out Live [5/7]
"There's often a radical difference between what a German power metal band does in the studio and what they do on stage; crowd participation is not merely a concept but a way of life, and this record shows it off abundantly... Unfortunately, what this record does not really deliver is quality amounts of classic Helloween. It's short, and a lot of the runtime is taken up with fucking around as opposed to actual music as might have been expected from the albums."

Kataklysm - Temple of Knowledge [5/7]
"...certainly well-executed, and it does have its moments, but in a lot of places it seems to be much more just machinistic brutality than anything that the band has any particular attachment to. ''Hyperblast'' as a concept is fine and dandy, and at a certain level I appreciate the effort the band takes in making this release difficult to listen to, but more direction and more focus might have made this a better record without decreasing the level of fury."

Shadow Project - Dreams For The Dying
"A fairly pure goth record, this release has elements of metal about it, but not enough or applied in the proper ways for most metalheads to really be interested in it. The lack of focus works against it in this regard as well; in a gothic context this is not a problem, but most metal fans would prefer that these songs closed in slightly and went somewhere rather than simply existing forward and backward."

Ogre - Dark Filth [6/7]
"...this Irish band works a form of hypergrind even faster and fuzzier than Mortician, more needlessly chaotic than Anal Cunt, and, in this instance, built around a semi-medieval, semi-concept story that one of them probably thought up while high, after watching Peter Jackson's Bad Taste or reading a few certain crummy D&D modules. If you expect this sort of stuff to make sense, you are looking at the wrong band and, to a certain degree, the wrong genre of music."

Meshuggah - Contradictions Collapse [6/7]
"...the release is complicated but accessible -- and also probably more sprawling and less focused than it strictly needs to be. This is a titanic record this early in their career, but mainly for Meshuggah fans at this point in time; their later stuff is more representative and essential for other people."

Meshuggah - None [6/7]
"...some top-notch thrash and perhaps the beginnings of the definitive Meshuggah sound. The songs are more streamlined, giving context and structure to the experimentation in times and tempos, and their unique style is clearly coalescing around the skeleton of the riffage: here more Bay-Area, there more nu-metal, but the whole is decisively assembled and concretely founded."

Cryptic Warning - demo 2002 [3/7]
"Living in the area, generic New England underground death doesn't make much of an impact in my ears, and while this is decent, it's also less than 10 minutes long and somewhat badly recorded. A longer demo or full album from these guys might be interesting, but this one is not worth hunting up."

Vukodlak - Blackest Autumn [5/7]
"This release is not as close to Norwegian standard as the band would probably like it to be perceived, but there are few bands out there who can really recapture the sound and spirit of Emperors basement days like this."

SmokeBox - Say It Now promo [4/7]
"...chiefly listenable only because everyone isn't doing it any more. For what it is, it's well and professionally played, and if this band had been in the least bit original, they might have gotten out onto a major label and made some noise. There are two songs of these five that metalheads might like, but the other three are pure junk..."

Night In Gales - Towards The Twilight [4/7]
"Some people call this band ''pretend In Flames''. Well, they're not pretending real hard; if they were, the arrangements might be better and more interesting. ... There's some well-played material, and the production is decent, but there are other bands that do this better -- most of whom are being ripped off in the course of this record."

Opeth - Blackwater Park [7/7]
"Opeth are probably never going to please everyone; some like their new style and don't care for their older attack while others can't stand the new stuff and want the band to play more death metal. That in mind, this record is the one that is probably going to come the closest, delivering strong complexity while still backing it with an absolutely relentless metal drive."

Kevorkian - Immortality In Culture promo [5/7]
"...this is some crisply done death metal, and it's kind of bewildering why these guys aren't signed yet. The full record of this release would be well worth looking into..."

Manowar - Hail To England [6/7]
"To appreciate, or even, to a certain degree, tolerate, this album at all, you have to be conscious that it is a Manowar album -- but, surprisingly, it's not especially cheesy or pedestrian. This makes it one of the band's better works, and while its still a Manowar disc, it's also accessible to normal people..."

godheadSilo - Share The Fantasy [3/7]
" was terrible on the first pass. It's still terrible, apart from the Peter Gabriel cover in the middle, the product of a couple indie-metal kids who are not very good at their instruments trying to mix grunge and black metal. It doesn't work, it doesn't sound like anything, and in the few moments where something cool emerges out of the necro mess, it's quickly swallowed back up by the oceans of suck covering the rest of the platter."

Suffocation - Breeding The Spawn [5/7]
"This is the same old complicated yet ceaselessly brutal death metal that the band is famous for, and, given that they do it so well, they can hardly be blamed for sticking to the formula. The musicianship is at a high level, and the arrangements have to be godlike to fit together at all, but somewhere in those intricate structures, the music loses its power to go out and grab the listener.... Suffocation fans will want this, while others won't be ill-served if this is the Suffo record that they add to their collection..."

Jackhammer - Pummeled [4/7]
"While there are some genuinely dumb moments on this one, and the best parts are where the band is explicitly ripping off Slayer... this band has at least some degree of chops, and it's a shame that they basically never went anywhere with them."

Wind of the Black Mountains - Black Sun Shall Rise [5/7]
"It's not particularly bad, but not especially original or good either. If early-Mayhem-level musical competence and guys croaking Satan!!1! a lot is what you're after, then this is where to look, but even in the US there is a lot of black metal both better and truer than this."

Void of Silence - Criteria ov 666 [6/7]
"...some good black metal, using the vocabulary of the evolved branch to present something that at heart is deeply true. There's a loose concept involved, but the main focus is on the grim vocals, intelligent electronic shadings, and occasional Maiden riffs that make their way into the cold instrumental fabric. It's not really a complete picture yet, but this record is very good already..."

Sacrilege - Lost In The Beauty You Slay [5/7]
"Sacrilege puts out a decent album here that for better or worse does confirm them as in the minor leagues of Gothenbands. The music is crunchy, melodic death metal, as to be expected, with a strong In Flames feel to it, but while it's enjoyable, it's not particularly original."

Sacrilege - The Fifth Season [5/7]
"...Sacrilege didn't progress or change their sound at all in the year between these releases... Some people might have less patience with this album if it was still on its own..."

Enthroned - The Apocalypse Manifesto [5/7]
"This style of blistering black metal isn't anything that hasn't been heard before ... but it's still well done for that style. ...the value here is mostly for the impact delivered rather than in the way that impact is put together. While it's not really accessible for non-blackmetallers, it's certainly representative..."

Judas Priest - Sad Wings of Destiny [6/7]
"This disc shows Judas Priest as still somewhat of an underground band, working their hard-edged '70s-rock style towards what would become fundamental heavy metal but still not afraid to digress when they wanted to do something different. Again, not the most metal record out there, and not really Judas Priest as people think of them from the '80s, but cool all the same."

Sacrilegium - Wicher [5/7]
"Sacrilegium provides a decent soundalike to Graveland at a much lower ideological cost. There are some touches of more obscure Polish pagan acts (Perunwit comes to mind), but they take place in a context that will be thoroughly familiar to anyone into the eastern black metal sound."

Morbid Angel - Covenant [7/7]
"...looking back from this kind of perspective kind of tips the scales against bands like Morbid Angel where the style that they laid down has been so widely and well-imitated by so many other bands that the original sounds, in many places, like old hat. However, only hearing this out of the album and not the expansiveness or the fire that only Morbid Angel's classic personnel seem to deliver sells it short. This is a first-rate death metal classic..."

Absu - Barathrum: V.I.T.R.I.O.L. [6/7]
"A little defocused at this early stage, but Absu's brand of black metal is incisive, abrasive, and a nearly perfect blend of the necro and the evolved. The clean production shows off the band's sound, which, really, was ahead of everyone in the world except Emperor and possibly Sigh at the point at which this one was recorded. While the band's other works are more generally accessible, this one is the one for the underground hordes..."

Lefay - The Seventh Seal [5/7]
"There's some decent power/thrash metal on this one, but there is a lot more that is just really pedestrian. It's not a bad record, but to the best of my knowledge these guys have never done a really good one, something that would give this vast expanse of vanilla thrash a point of context and the ability to suggest something more."

Day of Mourning - Reborn As The Enemy [5/7]
"...thick, kickass, Hatebreed-style deathrash-influenced hardcore that is nothing more or less than a siren call to the pit. The only problem is that this release barely pushes over the 17-minute mark, which for a ''full album'' is kind of pushing it a little. ... Of course, if it went on twice as long, it might get old by the end, but that's the careful balance that has to be struck when you're doing brutal hardcore."

Show review: My Pet Demon with Black Water Ritual, Sputnix Downstairs, 6/10/2006

No scores on this one, because it wasn't really a show show per se; just a large section of the local scene gathered in a club basement drinking and hearing some quality tunes from two cool acts. No charge, and there were about 40 people, peak, in attendance, because this is a fairly small basement (though, really, not that much smaller in floor area than Sputnix itself) and the bands involved deliberately didn't publicize it beyond friends. It had a cool ambience, but the main room at Sputnix is better, and hopefully the new hotelier in the area will eventually chill out and stop sending the cops over everytime someone kicks into a breakdown.

I hadn't heard Black Water Ritual before, though it did seem like I'd heard most of their material already. They're not an exact clone of Sabbath, BLS, or Brand New Sin, but they are strongly in that school of stoner/biker groove thrash, and they do it pretty well. They might be able to get onto a minor label with their current level, though there is some room for improvement, technically as well as in originality. Good stuff, and in a different style than you typically see in this area; they were very well-matched with MPD, which might be their ticket to more and larger shows.

After someone eventually hunted down Matt Kenney (the "we gotta fill time while we find our MIA band member blues" improvised by Kenny and Pat while this was in progress provided a cool substitute for paying to see Guns & Roses do the same thing), MPD got going, playing a cool set that was also quite interesting for long-time followers of the band. The A New Found Evil material is now completely out of the setlist (they may still do some if they have to do longer gigs), and the re-working of the Crime Pays material continues. If you haven't heard "With Heaven on Hell's Side" lately, you haven't heard it; they've dropped a huge and seriously cool Iron Maiden bridge into it, which is going to be awesome to behold once they finish the rework and integrate it with the rest of the track. The forthcoming demo will be some fearsome stuff, and if they get proper production, it's hard to see how this would not get them a deal.

I am totally buying this game when it finally comes out, and potentially a PS2 for it if it's available in such format in the US. Earache is much stronger in the UK, and it may only go to the Euro PS2, but even on the PC alone it should be damn cool. I got the demo Friday and it's fun as all hell, though one of the two cars available in the demo has pretty twitchy controls and you can get stuck on the track without the possibility of respawn, which is a little frustrating. There are a lot of car/kart racing games, but this one comes pre-skinned for metalheads and hey, if you get enough points, you can unlock Municipal Waste's dump truck. How cool is racing with that gonna be??

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