Friday, July 28, 2006

Shelfcore Quest 2006: Step 14 [48] (repost)

Even more reposts of album review snippets.


Graveland - Following the Voice of Blood [5/7]
"In some places, the disc inspires a genuine trance feeling reminiscent of Burzum and early Mortiis, and in others there is the tinny, sharp black metal that Graveland is best known for, but over long stretches it's just boring, and you wonder when or if he's ever going to get back to the point. If you buy this one over The Celtic Winter, there's something wrong with you mentally..."

Cruachan - The Middle Kingdom [4/7]
"...not terribly consistent, or excessively metal. The sound is interesting, but the question of whether or not the sound will be universally interesting to metalheads is kind of open. Get another Cruachan record first..."

Root - Hell Shymphony [4/7]
"...this record is underproduced, poorly recorded, and not nearly necro so much as plain old difficult to listen to. It's got the schitzophrenic black metal sound expected from Root, but the writing is patchy and not always the most inspired, though Big Boss does a credible job turning the lyrics from laughable to chilling in his performance."

Root - Kargeras [6/7]
"Dense and still quite weird, this record is not going to be for everyone, but it's significantly more accessible than usual for Root, and more into an expansive ''epic'' style than the straighter black metal of their early days. ...the end product may a rough-tumbled diamond, but it's a gem nonetheless."

Savatage - Hall of the Mountain King [5/7]
"There's some essential material on here, namely the title cut and the reworking of the Grieg theme of the same name that precedes it, but the bulk of the disc is largely standard-form power metal of the older American style ... most people will want to buy/download just the central tracks rather than the album as a whole."

Neurosis - Times of Grace [7/7]
"In the lines of weird metal, this is one of the more accessible releases to normal metal audiences, as the weirdness lies mostly behind the walls of roaring riffage. It's also a good pick for those who are already into Primordial or Dysrhythmia or the Thrones, because accessibility is very definitely a side effect rather than a stated aim on this disc, which is bound up and wrapped over in truly awesome, truly brain-bending music."

Iron Maiden - Dance of Death [6/7]
"...Iron Maiden, conscious that they are no longer 25 years old, are concentrating on writing and playing awesome heavy metal that they can continue to perform as they move towards becoming Old People without being swallowed up by contradictions or collapsing under the weight of pretension. The sound here is much like it has been throughout Maiden's career, but the speeds are slowing down and the ranges are less extreme -- though careful attention has made sure that this doesn't make the actual songs any worse."

Ochlocracy - Woven For The Weak [4/7]
"...better than their earlier demo, but not by much, and the production is even worse. In the last analysis the music isn't so much trend as forgettable; they're less allied to nu-metal on this, but haven't really managed to crystallize anything interesting beyond that context."

Anthrax - We've Come For You All [5/7]
"...some nu-metal imitation and some Pantera biting, but on the whole it's decent thrash, and thoroughly in the tradition of what they've done before. It's not quite good enough to be essential for everyone, but for Anthrax fans it's a welcome return to form."

Exodus - Tempo Of The Damned [6/7]
"Speaking of returns to form, this one is only consistent with older Exodus in guitar tone and ferocity; the tempos and structures show Gary Holt's musical development in the years that the band spent on the shelf. However, it's definitely top-shelf thrash metal that both speaks to the old Bay Area traditions and proves its relevance in the modern era..."

Hellhammer - Apocalyptic Raids 1990 A.D. [5/7]
"Most of the disc is Motorhead-influenced proto-thrash, but there are clear black metal precursors as well, moving beyond Venom in intent and concept, if not much in terms of actual musicianship. ...all most people will want from this is ''Triumph of Death'', which is of strong enough historical relevance to overcome the fact that this stuff is amazingly badly recorded, on occasion so bad that you can barely make out the music."

Metallica - S&M [5/7]
"...not nearly so much Metallica being arranged for orchestra as it is Michael Kamen writing a bunch of orchestral side pieces to be played with selected of the band's songs. They deserve credit for being able to pull this post facto collaboration off live, but this would not work nearly so well as a studio release of original music. As an experiment it's interesting; as a recorded performance it's pretty much for fans only."

Amon Amarth - Versus The World [7/7]
"...not a true classic....but it does happen to be an incredibly strong and kickass album. If you think the Viking thing's gone stale, this is probably a 6, at least until the point when you actually hear the music, as the relentless battery and unstoppable grooves should turn your attitude around and inside out."

Amon Amarth - Sorrow Throughout The Nine Worlds [6/7]
"...a different side of Amon Amarth than is normally displayed; dirty, raw, and heavily influenced by black metal as well as death. Even so, the band's characteristic sound is indubitably present... short, but it's sharp, and it's top quality all the way down."

Amon Amarth - Arrival of The Fimbul Winter [5/7]
"Amon Amarth's sound is very raw here, but ''Without Fear'' is almost in the form that it would eventually go onto record in, and the other two tracks are good stuff as well. That their early demos are so good may well convince casual observers that Amon Amarth have never written a bad song: this is true, though they do occasionally write the same song multiple times over."

Amon Amarth - Thor Arise [4/7]
"...this first demo does not show Amon Amarth as focused as they would become, and does not immediately separate them from the hundreds of other brutal death bands that were operating at this time. Also, this was not well-done initially, and never subsequently restored, so it does sound like crap most of the time, obscuring the places where the band is starting to forge their unique sound."

Suffocation - Souls To Deny [5/7]
"...Suffocation have picked up here substantially where they left off, grinding out brutal, complicated death metal that is for the cult and the cult alone. Those who this release is for will dig it, but there isn't really anything new musically here..."

Barren Cross - Hotter Than Hell! Live [5/7]
"It's been a long time since Christian bands could get an audience by principally cloning Iron Maiden. Of course, the music isn't straight Maiden-transcription...but it's close enough that Maiden fans will probably dig it, even if they react negatively to the often preachy lyrics. The musicianship isn't always at that high level in this live take, but it's mostly pretty good..."

Evolution - Altered Reality [5/7]
"...strong and committed thrash-influenced death metal. The infusion of obscure themes from Dante's Inferno shows that they had the smarts to go places as well, but unfortunately not everyone is cut out to take the strains of playing in an underground band. ... Equal parts Nevermore and old Neurosis, this is one to watch out for."

Cradle of Filth - Damnation And A Day [4/7]
"It's not so much bad as it is shrieky and draggy, sprawling on for 76 somewhat boring minutes and very seldom bringing up the authentic ripping edge of real black metal. There are people who like this kind of music, and this release is more enjoyable than a lot of Cradle's output, but technically it's going through the motions and in many places the writing does not get to even that level."

Running Wild - 20 Years In History [7/7]
"If you don't like Running Wild, you don't like heavy metal: ripping guitar riffs, sweet leads, pirates, and just a dash of Satanism. ... For prices in line with a normal CD, you get two hours of piratical guitar rampaging pulled from the best of an extremely large catalog, and the old shit is largely re-recorded or at least remastered to take advantage of the fact that the band can now afford proper production."

Pestilence - Consuming Impulse [5/7]
"...fairly good death metal, with a degree of brutality that fans of the early groundings of the style ought to feel right at home with. The result is hardly essential, but decent enough that the collectors who dig it up won't go disappointed."

Manowar - Kings of Metal [7/7]
" incredible statement of heavy metal purpose that also happens to be heavily loaded with good music. Manowar are often trite and cheesy, but on this one they use that fearlessness and unselfconsciousness to actually articulate what most committed metalheads, deep down, really believe about their music. A lot of this album will really resonate with people... even if you can only listen through once before the cheese factor becomes too much..."

Emperor - Emperial Live Ceremony [5/7]
"What is done live is done mostly well, but the patches over the parts that were screwed up either by the band or by the crew are extremely noticeable and sound exceedingly odd. Fans will still want this, especially if they can't get to the Return shows this summer, but everyone else is probably better off listening to Emperor's studio platters..."

Children of Bodom - Something Wild [6/7]
"...a damn nice slice for those at that extreme who can also appreciate solid and melodic songwriting, as well as a nice shot in the arm for power metal fans needing a little grounding in the brutalities of reality."

Stonehenge - Scum Brigade [5/7]
"...the final product is much along the lines of, say, Before God, without the explicit racial intent... the same dirt-level thrash invigorated with extreme spirit and sharpened with good musicianship. This release is probably going to appeal only to collectors of the Russian scene, but it's fairly decent, and there aren't really any other bands that sound like this operating currently."

Morbid Angel - Formulas Fatal To The Flesh [6/7]
"This is a full-fledged Morbid Angel record, both awesome and intricate, and if the lyrics are not readily comprehensible or as meaningful as when Dave was spitting them out with both violence and articulation, that merely puts them back at the level of other awesome death metal bands."

Skinlab - revoltingRoom sampler [3/7]
"...on the basis of these simplistic thrash cuts without semblance of smarts, solos, or even particularly appealing riffs, the Skinlab album that this single is supposed to advertise will be bought by no one over the age of 13."

Queens of the Stone Age - Feel Good Hit Of The Summer [3/7]
"The final impression is that this is probably metal, but with interesting lyrics thrown into relief by what is largely uninteresting music. The record these tunes are off of (R) might be interesting, but it's not for most metalheads, and neither is this promo-slab."

Nonpoint - The Tribute [2/7]
"There are some occasional intelligent moments on this one, but the original track is largely the same thick-piled simplistic riffage and whining, and the title cut is three rap songs stuck together without much semblance of sense, brain-dead arrangements replacing their original beats and the singer(s) screaming out the lyrics like imbeciles; it's difficult to see who is being paid ''tribute'' by this rather than being normally ''insulted''."

Darkane - Expanding Senses [5/7]
"...there's not a whole lot to separate this one from what The Haunted have been doing lately... If you like recent Swedish thrash, you'll probably like this as well, but if you're just getting into it, there are better and more original places to start from."

Cruachan - Tuatha na Gael [5/7]
"Their style isn't very developed at this point, but black metal fans will probably welcome this; the sound is raw and black with the folk parts pushed to the edge, as opposed to piled up in the center as on later records. Fans of Nokturnal Mortum and Primordial will enjoy this one while RenFaire goths may not..."

Winter - Into Darkness/Eternal Frost [5/7]
"....this sort of grinding doom-death prefers a directionless morass to any other concepts of structure. It's very good, or at least very, for its style, ceaselessly pushing forward the bleak and hopeless, though there are moments where the necro production subtracts from the sound, rather than adding to it as is the normal case with this kind of music."

Carcass - Heartwork [7/7]
"There's an argument to be made that this is Carcass' second-best record as well as that it's their best, but no argument to be made that it's essential for death metallers and a strong pick for other metalheads as well."

Ancient - Mad Grandiose Bloodfiends [4/7]
"If this was released as a goth disc rather than trying to be black metal, it would be much more successful, but in this context its Corpsepaint: The Masquerade atmosphere almost fatally undermines it. Ancient's early stuff is fairly true, and their later work is allegedly pretty impressive, but this one is not only boring but totally inessential..."

Autopsy - Severed Survival [6/7]
"...very much in the sound of Death's epochal first disc. Sure, it came 3 years later and [Reinert] doesn't have the benefit of Chuck's writing and guitar skills at his disposal any more, but these factors mean that this is merely a very good first-wave death metal album, not a classic touchstone for the genre as a whole."

Autopsy - Retribution For The Dead [5/7]
"Autopsy slows down here, anticipating the developing doom-death field, and introduces a few riffs and lines more reminiscent of Black Sabbath than Death or Kreator. It's less unified than their debut, but good material regardless and interesting to general death metallers as well as fans of the band."

Iniquity - Five Across The Eyes [5/7]
"...technically competent as both writers and players, but do not produce much in the way of memorable or original music. ...a pretty good record for death metallers, but not one that is overcome with originality or anything that's going to appeal beyond the genre."

Rhapsody - The Magic of the Wizard's Dream [6/7]
"...if Christopher Lee's voice doesn't give a shiver down in your bones, there's something desperately wrong with you. ...[i]t's still Rhapsody, but Rhapsody buttressed by one of the more outstanding bass voices of our time can be pretty damn cool."

Stratovarius - Intermission [4/7]
" extremely long and extremely boring morass of B-sides, old bonus tracks, and other overmelodic junk that virtually everyone will do quite fine forgetting that it ever existed, but that fans may want for some bizarre reason. The technical work is competent, but wasted on boring arrangements and dumb topics, making this record not bad, just completely unappealing."

Chalice - Chronicles of Dysphoria [4/7]
"There is still some quality metal on here, though in low concentrations, and this is really more of a metallic goth record than a gothic metal album. As a change of pace it's not that bad if you come across it randomly, but it's probably not worth ordering all the way from Australia."

Possessed - Seven Churches [6/7]
"The musicianship is pretty good, despite the rough feel around the edges provided by the demo-quality vocals..., and for this style, as long as it shreds and feels right, it doesn't matter so much how it sounds. It could use a remastering, but even as it is, it belongs on your shelf."

Hypocrisy - Catch 22 [5/7]
"Even down to the clanky snare sound and moderately negative fan reaction, this is Hypocrisy's St. Anger ...a ''down'' disc, but more memorable than its followup, as Peter here is least still trying to be experimental and to push the boundaries. One of the less essential Hypocrisy discs, and even fans of the band may stay away, but it's a good pickup for open-minded people who don't mind their innovation being more noisy than strictly necessary."

Kreator - Violent Revolution [6/7]
"...a vigorous and fresh blast of pure thrash metal both timely and consistent with the band's classic material. We have not heard this stuff from Kreator before, but nonetheless it's what fans wanted to hear from Kreator, and the result has been a full-fledged resurrection of the band."

Fenris - Offerings To The Hunger [5/7]
"This is more of a viking record, but in more of the style of Ancient Rites than Einherjer or even old Enslaved. Despite the number of bands mentioned in this review, the disc is still fairly original, and would be a good pickup if it was more than marginally available."

Witchery - Symphony For The Devil [5/7]
"....quality blackened thrash that most metalheads into the extreme underground will thoroughly dig. The tempos are a little slower and the grooves are a little more prominent, with a touch more melody, but it's still Witchery and, likely, still going into your shelf."

Kharon - Raised By Hellish Demons [5/7]
"There are some interesting parts where they push the boundaries of the true oeuvre a little, but in the end they come back to a point midway between Darkthrone and Dissection; fans will be into this, but others will want to sit back at this point and wait for them to come up with something longer than 30 minutes, and more self-confidently original."

Mortician - Chainsaw Dismemberment [6/7]
"This album is pure formula, horror samples plus grooving unintelligible grind blasts all the way down, but the execution and presentation of this formula is absolutely top-notch. This is probably the Mortician disc to own, though this is a small distinction and for a lot of people, any other record from this band will fill the gap just as well."

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