Friday, July 28, 2006

Shelfcore Quest 2006: Step 17 [45] (repost)

More reposted album review snippets...a little boring otherwise lately.


Vital Remains - Let Us Pray [7/7]
"Sharply cut and creative as well as relentlessly heads-down brutal, this is one of the highlight releases of the first generation of brutal death metal and something that ought to be regarded as essential even today."

Kreator - Enemy Of God [7/7]
"Even more than all these other thrash bands that have returned to the fold and returned to greatness, Kreator on this one present something that is fully as good and as strong as anything they did in the first part of their career; quite possibly more so for Mille's greater intellectual and musical maturity. This is an incredible record, and a titanic achievement of thrash metal; if you don't own it yet, get moving..."

Metal Inquisitor - Doomsday For The Heretic [5/7]
"...a nice tight package of fairly melodic thrash metal that inherits mostly from Judas Priest, Running Wild, and the early days of the American Big Four. Not real innovative, but mostly quite good, and if you, like 9 in 10 of the guys in the sleeve photo, have longish hair and a jacket full of patches, this will probably be right up your alley."

Nile - Annihilation of the Wicked [7/7]
"...the fusion is complete, with the Middle-Eastern rhythms transitioning into the main instrumental sound, and the result is simply huge masses of absolutely diabolical grooves. The sound is thick and dead-heavy without ever feeling cluttered, and the blasts pump and pulse with the genuine life that is really difficult to inject into brutal death, which occasionally tends to become machinistic as it becomes technical. A truly awesome, truly classic and essential album."

Tankard - Beast of Bourbon [6/7]
"While it's not always real original -- some of the distinctive appeal of Tankard is that they've substantially been playing exactly the same since 1982 -- in parts it's somewhat smarter than might be expected from a band named after a kind of beer mug, and it's uniformly fun and full of crunchy riffs; if you're metal and old enough to drink where you live you probably want this..."

Savage Circus - Dreamland Manor [5/7]
"'s largely a combinatorial rehash of Blind Guardian and Iron Savior, and when it isn't, it isn't so good. This is Thomen Stauch (ex-BG)'s new band, and barely separable from the old except in lack of inspiration. Among German power metal records, it's not awful, as even imitation Blind Guardian still comes out as good stuff, but it's hardly original or particularly appealing to those not into BG."

Vision of Disorder - Vision of Disorder [4/7]
"...some interesting parts here, but the fury applied is not being applied usefully, towards any particular ends, and the instrumental work is, from a metal point of view, fairly pedestrian. The lyrics are smart, of course, but it's nothing, really, that you can't get by playing Primordial and Ignite or the Clash back to back. At the end of the day, this record is inessential..."

Morbid Angel - Altars of Madness [6/7]
"For historical value and volume of good music, this one should be rated higher. Unfortunately, it hasn't been remastered yet... The record is essential, but fans should know going in that the soundprint doesn't quite accurately show Morbid Angel as they were."

Zero Hour - A Fragile Mind [5/7]
"...if they continue on with their development in this fashion, we may very well one day have an American prog/power band who can legitimately compete with Evergrey. However, they're not there yet, still stuck occasionally in hard-rock tropes and putting more emphasis on the structures of prog metal rather than applying those structures forward to carry riffage and melody. The places in which it sounds contrived are still present, though fewer, and overall, this one is a step up..."

Mercyful Fate - 9 [5/7]
"Apparently a concept record, like nearly everything King Diamond touches, the concept isn't terribly strong here, and the record is better for it. There are some uninspired parts to this one, but for the most part it's the clean, sharp power/thrash that Mercyful Fate made their name with in the early '80s, seamlessly brought forward into the modern era."

Trivium - Ascendancy [5/7]
"This band has a lot of promise, and there are some genuinely brilliant spots where they show chops equal to anyone in the scene, but the music is heavily 'cut'; diluted with retread material that will probably work on radio...but probably won't cut it among the metal scene at large. have the potential to develop, but they also have the potential to stagnate and become just another Roadrunner radio band."

Thrones - Day Late, Dollar Short [6/7]
"At the least, this compilation of B-sides and aborted projects is representative, showing off the stone-heavy and desperately weird genius of the band, but as such it's still extremely insular. If you're into the Thrones already, you'll dig this one, even in its imbalances and mistaken directions, because nobody does this kind of synth and bass sludge better -- and if you're not into the Thrones, you will instantly discover what you think of them before the first track finishes."

Ulver - Blood Inside [6/7]
"This isn't really a metal album, but among electronic projects, there are few more metal records. This is not really a return to form for Ulver...but there are arrangements and even sounds on this one that do hearken back to their black metal days; it's still going to require a fair degree of openmindedness on the part of the listener, but this is probably the record for metalheads to get into newer Ulver with."

Vomitory - Revelation Nausea [5/7]
"A good black/death metal disc, these guys have a sound reminiscent of Sacramentum and Zyklon, which is to say a black metal band biting at Morbid Angel. It's done pretty well, but the attack is so over the top that it's easy to dismiss, and once at this state there's little in the music that'll compel your renewed attention."

Borknagar - Epic [6/7]
"More black metal than Empiricism was, this will appeal to fans of both their progressive and aggressive sides in about equal measure, and has, as usual, a larger than normal share of pure awesome. ...[P]robably one of the least essential Borknagar records, but most people who own one of Oystein's discs will eventually acquire them all..."

Rumplestiltskin Grinder - Buried In The Front Yard [7/7]
"...not only do they recapture the punch and psychosis of classic dirt-level thrash, but they do it with modern twists and a sense of tongue-in-cheek humor, plus of course absolute instrumental dominance. If you get one retro-thrash disc before Municipal Waste's, it should be this one..."

In Flames - Come Clarity [6/7]
"...the band will not be returning to the Whoracle era any time soon, but among 'modern' NWOSDM/NWOAHM bands, this style is pretty good as well as accessible, and after a lot of stumbling around, In Flames partisans finally have a release which will stand up to what Dark Tranquillity and Shadows Fall have been doing lately. There are some weak parts, but over nearly all of the record, the feel is of In Flames' always-promising modern sound at last done completely right."

Subway To Sally - Herzblut [6/7]
"...the power of the music makes it through regardless of the [German] lyrics. If you're into In Extremo, this is worth ordering; closer to their later, more melodic and accessible stuff but still quite metal as well."

Bilskirnir - In Flames of Purification [6/7]
"Those who have political convictions strong enough to keep them away from this usually won't be interested in this Eastern-style black metal anyways, inheriting from the similar drone-and-shriek concepts of Burzum and Graveland, and won't care that this is one of the more seriously well-done works in this style."

Mayhem - Live In Leipzig [7/7]
"Mayhem are not real competent musicians at this point, but the rotten sound, perfectly capturing the local basement dive atmosphere, helps rather than hurts them, creating the 'necro' sound that many others were to imitate, never perfectly capture. As befitting an ex-bootleg, this one is less about the music than about the feeling, and the feeling of Mayhem at this point is indomitable."

Kyuss - ...And The Curcus Leaves Town [6/7]
"I'm not the biggest fan of the stoner genre, but I can follow these grooves along almost as far as they go, and the results are continually cool, a much better and somewhat deeper experience than Queens of the Stone Age, and more metal as well. This is of course metal in the early Sabbath sense, but twisted back in and over on itself for greater complexity within the same general framework of warm fuzz. Sincerely cool stuff..."

Municipal Waste - Waste 'Em All [5/7]
"While their later stuff has occasional suggestions of hardcore about it, this one resembles nothing so much as a Rumplestiltskin Grinder record attacked with an apple corer: all that's left are the crunchy riff bursts, absent solos or overarching composition, and if you can get it for EP prices, there's no better instant thrash hit."

Karl Sanders - Saurian Meditation [6/7]
"...none of the typical Nile brutality on Sanders' solo material here, but that doesn't mean it's any less awesome or anciently creepy. There are a few parts that committed Nile fans will definitely recognize from other discs, but a lot of it is new, and even where it isn't, the composition makes up for it."

Necrophagist - Onset of Putrefaction [6/7]
"Though the songwriting and arrangements are weaker in places, a lot of the riffs and leads are even better and more pinpoint than on their later work. What makes this more impressive is that Suicmez did nearly all of this, except a few of the bass lines, completely by himself. Oddly, it lacks the direction of later Necrophagist, probably due to lack of collective jamming ability, but as regards death metal guitar, it's still no shade short of brilliance..."

Edguy - Rocket Ride [7/7]
"...almost surprisingly smart as well as hook-filled and metallic; Edguy at long last is growing up, while retaining the stupidity and immaturity of their youth only where it's useful. They also start to separate themselves musically from Iron Maiden and Gamma Ray, but at this point it's still a matter of degrees; if you start your Edguy collection with this one, you won't be let down..."

The Dreamside - Spin Moon Magic [5/7]
"...more metal than some of the band's earlier output, this is still much more a goth record than a metal one, and those who have a lower tolerance for gothic stylings would be advised to stay away. Those who can make it through the slack parts will be rewarded; there's still a bunch of good music on here..."

Edguy - Lavatory Love Machine [4/7]
"...probably not worth importing. ... Aside from the video bonus, this one is totally inessential if you already have Hellfire Club, but if this is all you can find of Edguy, there's some good work on this one."

Nasum - Grind Finale [6/7]
"...after a while, one 70-second grindblast merges into the next, and the result is more or less a continual stream of blasting. On the other hand, it's over two hours of solid top-class grindcore, packed in with such a tremendously detailed booklet that it's almost like a mini-boxed set. Despite the occasional bad production on a few of the cuts -- a lot of this was restored from old tapes and not even Dan Swano can resurrect everything -- this is a good introduction to Nasum for those new to them, and of course essential for everyone who's already got the rest of their catalog."

Holy Moses - The New Machine of Liechtenstein [5/7]
"While there are some iconic songs on this one, the whole isn't terribly original: brutal thrash built around fairly simplistic grooves, Destruction by way of Motorhead. ... Holy Moses has some awesome records that should be purchased because they're awesome, but this is not one of them. Fans only..."

Cruachan - Folk-Lore [6/7]
"Cruachan's sound continues to be defined by the Irish whistle, but there's more and stronger of the traditional metal instrumentation than is usually expected of them, and surprise surprise, they're still a very good metal band. While they're not going to be challenging Primordial for their crown among Irish metal bands as yet -- too many songs are just going through the motions -- this release is a definite step up..."

The Vision Bleak - Carpathia [7/7]
"While The Vision Bleak have a peripherally gothic background, this record is a mix of heavy and black metal styles that captures the atmospheric feel of [King Diamond]'s classic, in the context of a new and even more impressive compound horror tale which takes H.P. Lovecraft as merely its point of departure. The result is an opus absolutely original and ceaselessly kickass, an Abigail for the modern day that can fully go toe to toe with the original classic."

The Vision Bleak - Live at WGT [5/7]
"...some pretty good stuff, and shows, if nothing else, that the band can take their distinctive sound live convincingly, even when most of it is being spread over session players (there are only two full-time members in this outfit). Despite the fairly small venue, there's a good sound from the crowd as well, making this a cool bonus..."

Impaled Nazarene - Death Comes In 26 Carefully Selected Pieces [5/7]
"'s good stuff, but you can only take so much [of this grindblack] at once before it starts to wear thin. There's not a lot of variety on this one, though the execution is top-notch, and though this is a live album, you can barely hear the crowd -- or any difference from a trebled-out studio take. It's still a cool record, but most people will want other stuff from this band first."

Exodus - Shovel Headed Kill Machine [6/7]
" thrash supremacy. The material on here is just as good as on Tempo..., and the delivery of it has been stepped up as well, showing that the band is still a vital force; with the new membership, if the lineup stays stable, they'll likely move from strength to strength."

MUCC - Kuchiki no Tou [5/7]
"I don't like Japanese visual rock. It's driven by marketing and image requirements as much as musical choice, and the result is that there are contradictions and oddities in direction all over the place. Such is definitely the case with this band, who can't decide whether they want to be Korn or Nevermore. There is enough good material on this one to build either a good nu-metal band or a decent real power/thrash metal act out of them, but the countervailing impulses pull them in separate directions at once, and the sound gets confused within as well as between songs."

Heaven Shall Burn - The Split Program II side 1 [5/7]
"...this isn't Heaven Shall Burn at their absolute best, but it's easily good enough to be the superior side on this recording. Their political side is more pronounced due to concentration, which should bring proper attention to the fact that the band is not only better but smarter than your average metalcore act."

Caliban - The Split Program II side 2 [4/7]
"Caliban tries hard to impress here, but most of their tracks aren't as memorable as Heaven Shall Burn's, and those that are are memorable more for their poppy factors than for stuff that metalheads are likely to value. There's some good stuff on here from them, but this side (appropriately the 'b-side') is not the reason that you buy this split."

Destruction - Inventor Of Evil [5/7]
"This one is full of good thrash metal, but it's merely good, not superlative, and it fades rapidly back down into the pool of general Destruction riffs. Thrash fans will dig this one, especially D-thrashers, but some will note that Schmier is principally still doing what the band's been doing since the '80s, while Sodom and Kreator have gotten better with age rather than remaining the same."

Hate Eternal - I, Monarch [5/7]
"...Erik Rutan did not learn, through his time in Morbid Angel, what it takes to turn a bunch of brutal riffs into a memorable and bangable song, or at least enough to apply that on a consistent basis. Death heads will want this one, but they'll also tire of it after a few spins; there's great work on here, but it doesn't always translate into great music."

Solar Signs - Wait Me At Dusk [6/7]
"This demo has long since faded back into the mists of history, but those who dig it up will be promptly amazed by the sounds that this Russian outfit was able to create, specifically with how unique they were even in that very experimental period for black metal. At times aggressive, at times closer to chillout trance, Solar Signs does nothing expected and everything interesting here, putting together a compelling collection of music..."

Criterion - The Dominant [5/7]
"...not the most original record in the world, but it's very well performed, and the room for innovation in true brutal death is somewhat restricted by nature in any case. For now, this one is for fans of the style only, though the band definitely has the potential to do something with wider appeal."

Temnozor - Horizons [6/7]
"With Temnozor, when ''white thunder roars'', the emphasis is certainly not on the 'thunder' part, and that needs to be borne in mind when approaching this record. The music is quite good, folk-driven black metal reminiscent of Nokturnal Mortum with clean vocals, but the political content of the lyrics is undeniable and inescapable as well as regrettable. Collectors will want to pick this up on sight, but other black metal fans are advised to think twice..."

Penitent - As Life Fades Away [5/7]
"The trend toward one-man synth-only albums was a legitimate outgrowth of the Norwegian black metal scene, and if this is more like an extended church organ concert than a Mortiis record, it should make it only that much truer. More interesting and fully sounded than Varg's keyboard works, Penitent takes strands from Mortiis' beginnings and Filosofem and combines them into a new and original sound, which unfortunately wears thin in places by the end of the record."

Nevermore - Nevermore [5/7]
"...the relative lack of focus can be forgiven given the quality of the music underneath. While this is a good record, it really pales in comparison to Nevermore's later work; there are few bands who have managed to develop and improve so much... those who are just getting into the band would be advised to start with one of their later works."

Odroerir - Gotterlieder [5/7]
"...some cool music here, though the bulk of it is melancholic folk rather than metal, but its appeal is the very definition of insular, even in Germany where people can understand the pagan creation myths being told in the lyrics. In the rest of the world, this record is of interest only to German-speakers with an extreme interest in the weird and obscure; not quite worth ordering..."

I also finally started Chinese this past weekend, and while devilishly hard, it looks like I'll be able to keep up with it fine. There are some really interesting parts of the language so far that work like stuff I've seen in software; the verb 'shi' (to be) can be used like Boolean T to respond in the affirmative to most questions, the particle 'ne' is an implicit backreference redirecting the last question asked, and the particle 'ma' "sets the W-bit", requiring a response to the question it concludes. Of course, I'll only keep up fine if I put time into drilling characters and make a set of flashcards to take on the plane to Germany. This class emphasizes characters, so I won't be able to struggle on in deliberate illiteracy...which is probably a good thing, but a whole hell of a lot more work.

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