Friday, July 28, 2006

Shelfcore Quest 2006: Step 6 [40] (repost)

Another repost of album review snippets from earlier this year.


Sigh - Hail Horror Hail [6/7]
"...this may well be their very most disconnective and Brechtian record. The closed-in, trebled-out production only elevates and enhances the feelings of anxiety and chaos stirred up by the music..."

At The Gates - Gardens of Grief [4/7]
"It's not quite as organized or as practiced as At The Gates would be in the future.... but the future direction and potential of the band is clearly evident."

Grotesque - In The Embrace Of Evil [4/7]
"....listening to this moderately interesting death/thrash makes you really wish that it was recorded on something besides someone's four-track; the sound is awful and obstructs the music beneath. This isn't exactly world-beating stuff either, but its decent enough, and it deserves better than this concrete-basement mix..."

The Absence - From Your Grave [3/7]
"There is absolutely nothing on this record that sets The Absence apart from any of the thousand other bands in the current metalcore glut, and while they're competent, they're so perfectly unoriginal that the feeling is very much of a cover band perfectly playing down other bands' songs."

At The Gates - With Fear I Kiss The Burning Darkness [5/7]
"The distinctiveness and sharpness of the structures are not quite there yet....Given how much better their later work is, this disc is primarily interesting for reasons of history, but it's still interesting music...."

Borknagar - Borknagar [6/7]
"It's not quite as good as The Olden Domain, but the seamless integration of the violent and brooding sides of viking metal in the same track, which would become the bands calling card, is well underway, and the results at this point are pretty cool to listen to."

Kraina bez Wiatru - Nicchaj przemowiq runy [5/7]
"While its not as good as Burzum's Filosofem, it's a lot better than anything Varg's done since going to jail, and as a replacement for early Mortiis or Penitent it's not bad."

Perunwit - Eszy I Krew [5/7]
"Perunwit is more metal than the other Polish folkish/ambient black metal band reviewed in this block, and somewhat darker as well, but the differences in sound produce an overall effect similar only in quality."

Bal-Sagoth - Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule [5/7]
"If you need a Bal-Sagoth record, this is probably the one, as it's very representative, and also about the most conceptually connected overall."

Nile - Amongst The Catacombs of Nephren-Ka [6/7]
"Nile's sound at this point is a lot more atmospheric than the uncompromisingly brutal and violent approach that they would move towards later, and the spaces and twists in the sound from Middle-Eastern instruments and arrangements definitely benefit the work as a whole."

Usurper - Visions from the Gods [5/7]
"....influenced by both black and death metal, but instead of pushing forward with it as Mayhem did (the sound is almost eerily similar to Deathcrush), they turn it back around on itself, producing a necro mix of blackened thrash that will remain forever underground."

The Haunted - The Haunted Made Me Do It [6/7]
"If it came down to it, this would probably be the CD to get from this band, but all gripes about originality aside, The Haunted make overwhelmingly kickass music, so much so that only owning one album -- any one album -- from them has to come down as missing out."

The Haunted - Live Rounds In Tokyo [5/7]
"....doesn't really hit you quite as hard as you'd really like a live show to hit you from a band like this. Of course, this is a problem with live albums in general and a major driving factor in why people actually go out to shows, but the great death/thrash lives really go out and grab you, and this one does notor at least not any more than a studio record."

Primordial - Storm Before Calm [6/7]
" the black metal is dialed precisely in, driving the album forward without thought of regret. ....the result is a dark and punishing magnum opus that serves firm notice of where this band comes from, and what they still have the power to do as their endless journey rolls on."

Savatage - Dead Winter Dead [6/7]
"....this release is an intelligently composed and plotted, sharply executed accomplishment that falls short of masterpiece only in a few small areas. .... This record could have been better, but it's still an essential metal classic and probably the one late-period Savatage disc that should be in everyone's library."

Stratovarius - Infinite [6/7]
"Stratovarius is not looking to make any converts on this release, but while the pure powermetallers will eat this stuff up, those who aren't huge fans of the genre are also able to listen to this release and at least come away impressed with the musicianship and songcraft."

Sigh - Scenario IV: Dread Dreams [6/7]
"....just as Sigh is weirdly nonlinear more or less throughout their history, so they are nonlinearly weird in albums since 1997. This is also a fairly metal record, despite the little breaks into tropical-country and funk that crop up in some of the tunes, probably the most metal Sigh has been since Infidel Art."

Nevermore - Dreaming Neon Black [7/7]
"The composition is careful and intelligently crafted, building the concept implicitly rather than explicitly, and the musicianship is razor-sharp: not only is this a great introduction to Nevermore, especially for those who arent sworn to the black yet, but even if you don't end up as a devotee of the band you'll still definitely get a classic album in the bargain."

Blind Guardian - Imaginations From The Other Side [7/7]
"....continues to stand up as probably Blind Guardian's best disc.... and shows the smooth development of the band's sound from thrash to power metal. Perched right on the brink here, still hitting hard as well as soaring high, feels at least to me like the optimum combination."

Iced Earth - Horror Show [6/7]
"....a sagging swath of mediocre material in the middle. Granted, if you're going to put filler in, this is where it should go, but it should also be really questioned as to why you're putting in filler in the first place. The good material is competitive with Iced Earth's best, and would make a pretty killer 40-minute disc...."

Sentenced - Frozen [4/7]
"This is a nice CD, but after a while, it also gets to be 'nice and boring'; there's some good material, but a lot of the record sounds like it was done on autopilot."

Demons & Wizards - Demons & Wizards [7/7]
"Very rarely, a supergroup actually lives up to its promise and becomes more than the sum of its parts, rather than just a bunch of great musicians who all happen to be playing on the same tracks. This is the case with this record....a sharply crafted collaborative masterpiece that really does bring in the best of both worlds."

Saxon - The Best of Saxon [5/7]
"'s got a lot of [Saxon]'s best work, including a bunch of live takes, and at typical cutout prices, it's probably the best way to decide if youre into the band or not."

Iced Earth - Burnt Offerings [7/7]
"With ["Dante's Inferno"], a strong contender for best metal song ever, it's a classic of American power/thrash and definitely essential for all metalheads. ....if you can't get into this, there's probably something wrong with you."

Borknagar - Quintessence [6/7]
"Borknagar's appeal is admittedly insular, but this is probably their record that most sounds like something other bands do; people into evolved black metal will find this meshes substantially with their tastes..."

Dissection - The Somberlain [7/7]
"....a nearly perfect storm of primal black metal, driven forward by Jon Nodtveit's explosive writing, guitar, and vocals....Dissection at this point are certainly essential for black metallers, and a good pickup for everyone else with a taste for the extreme."

Iron Maiden - Fear of the Dark [4/7]
"This record has some great tracks....but probably more authentic clunkers than any pre-Blaze Maiden record...and the result is that this is an album that you'll probably want to just download a few tracks off of rather than buy."

DragonForce - Valley of the Damned [7/7]
"While with the perspective of several years and another two releases, we can see DragonForce at risk for stagnation, this release still cuts fresh and sharp, still markedly different -- and in most respects better -- from anything else going on in power metal."

Hypocrisy - Abducted [7/7]
"At once both entrancingly melodic and explosively brutal, this is the sort of album that a lot of death metal bands aspire to, to prove their musicality to unbelievers as well as their ironclad commitment to their chosen cult."

Primordial - Spirit The Earth Aflame [7/7]
"....this is an excellent, top-level album by a top-level band finally getting their act together and discovering who they really are. While more rooted in black metal conventions than their later works, this is more in terms of feel and approach rather than the actual viciousness of the music. This is not a fast record, but through-and-through intense, asserting itself against the listener and demanding full concentration."

Emperor - In The Nightside Eclipse [6/7]
"On this album, Emperor have probably their maximum total incidence of quality and 'trueness'; on prior releases, the material wasn't as strong, and later albums are much, much less necro."

Death - Human [7/7]
"With this much talent, it would have taken deliberate decisions on the part of all four musicians in the lineup at this point to make this record suck. This is probably the most complex and technically-driven Death album, and the pure number of riffs packed into its 32 razor-sharp minutes is mind-boggling in and of itself, let alone the way they stack with, interlock through, and build on each other like a three-dimensional game of musical Tetris."

Zero Hour - The Towers of Avarice [5/7]
"There are more good moments than usual, but there is a lot of density that is fairly forgettable. They're in the same league as Symphony X, and those who wish Romeo et al were darker and heavier will find this to their tastes, but it's not universally accessible or essential."

Bathory - Hammerheart [6/7]
"If you listen closely, there is a lot of awesomeness in the doomy Viking atmospheres of this disc, but it's only on a close listen that this comes out; a casual approach will not reveal this album's greatness...."

Evergrey - In Search of Truth [7/7]
"A loose concept record on alien abduction, this....concentrates on the personal psychological effects rather than the external 'spirited away by UFOs' dimension. The concept is loose enough, though, that you don't really have to think about the narrative while listening to the disc, but can just sit back and enjoy the awesomeness."

Opeth - Damnation [4/7]
"....if I'm leaning anywhere, it's away from classifying this as a metal album. Of course, that leaves zero other places where it might fit in, because it's still unmistakeably an Opeth record.... Opeth fans can safely disregard this rating; everyone else should consider it notice served that while this is still pretty good, by no stretch of the imagination is it a metal album."

Amon Amarth - The Crusher [6/7]
"It's not just a longer retake of The Avenger, though that's certainly how it was read when it came out, and there are enough twists in the sound that Amon Amarth can stay above the Dismember level and just put out many great albums, rather than many great albums that sound principally the same."

Dark Tranquillity - Damage Done [7/7]
"....a step forward .... in unifying the band's experimental side with their death metal heritage and making both work in complement to each other. If you're into metal at all, this should be on your shelf, and will probably become one of the first options when it comes to showing people from the outside what this genre is capable of."

Vital Remains - Dechristianize [7/7]
"Most death metal bands that use melodic leads are trying, at least a little bit, to be more 'user-friendly' and more appealing to those beyond the hardcore underground. Vital Remains absolutely does not, and that comes in as a blast of refreshing frozen air to the scene in this unrelenting masterpiece."

Deicide - When Satan Lives [5/7]
"Though this does get boring after about halfway through, the performance is good enough, and if you're looking for a quick education in Deicide without spending much money, this is pretty much the place to go."

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