Friday, July 28, 2006

verloren, aber keine niederlage / Shelfcore Quest step 15 [39] (repost)

This is a repost from the aftermath of the German team's eventual loss to WM-Meister Italy. ;_;


So Germany unfortunately lost yesterday, due entirely to allowing too many set-piece chances and being unable to finish runs even though they were carving up the Italian defense into many small pieces. It was a well-fought match by both sides for the full 120 minutes, and since many of the Italians are also with Juve, this is probably the last triumph they're going to enjoy for a while...though reaching the Cup final will probably make them celebrities in jail.

(For Americans and everyone else who hasn't been paying attention, Italy is currently going through a match-fixing scandal centered on the soccer club Juventus, which is probably going to end with jail sentences and relegations. This is kind of a regular thing in Europe; the Germans just finished theirs a year or so ago, though it was only one ref who was messing with matches, he still went to jail and IIRC there were a couple club records invalidated.)


Keep of Kalessin - Through Times Of War [6/7]
"...meld[s] technical mastery with the sonic atmosphere of the first years of the Nordic black metal eruption, and the result is a smooth mix of chaos that any scene head is going to have a difficult time putting down. Seriously good stuff, and highly recommended."

Leviathan - Tentacles of Whorror [5/7]
"...Leviathan desperately wish they were Burzum. ...fairly good music, and by underground standards, approximately a metric fuckton of it (73 minutes); as long as you don't get hung up over the lack of originality, this is good stuff for black metallers..."

Witchery - Don't fear the Reaper [5/7]
"This is the first Witchery disc on which you really get the feeling that this is a side project, and while it's a fun digression, a lot of the band members would probably rather be doing something else. A good record, but not essential..."

Winds - The Imaginary Direction of Time [5/7]
" metal done as thought experiment. However, this is kind of how these ideas have to be developed, by jamming, arranging, and never being afraid to ask ''what if''. It will fall to other bands to assemble these ideas into something more thoroughly metal, but this is still some pretty damned good music..."

Vried - Pitch Black Brigade [5/7]
"Put your hand up if you've ever heard of Bifrost, or remember Babylon Whores. This is substantially what's going on here, rock'n'roll inflected black metal that is experimental in the arrangements and playing rather than in the sound. As regards tone, mixing, and production, Vried sounds like nearly everyone else playing dirt-level black metal from Norway, but the music presented is fortunately a little different."

Vital Remains - Horrors of Hell [5/7]
"...sounds little like what Vital sounds like today, and as the disc goes on and further into the past, progressively less like what they sounded like even on their debut. However, it's still quality death metal, and there are touches in places that, had I been in a position to appreciate it in fourth and fifth grade, when this stuff was coming out, would have immediately marked this band as something special."

Twilight - Twilight [5/7]
"The idea behind this release is that a bunch of the one-man-bands in the US black metal scene combine, Voltron-style, into one super band that will be even darker, even colder, even more true than any of them could be separately in their own cold cellars and dark forests. They have forgotten, however, about something called the ''law of diminishing returns'', which means that this is only marginally better than the Leviathan and Judas Iscariot stuff that I've reviewed in the past, and is probably not substantially different from the Xastur and Krieg material that I will no doubt review in the future."

Samath Naur - Self Proclaimed Existence [6/7]
"...this is the most intense and driven progressive black metal I've heard since Meridian (with a totally different sound), but it is still more progressive than anything else. The drive and fretwork on this one will broaden its appeal out, but this music here is damned interesting, and it would be seriously surprising to see this act continue to languish in obscurity."

Summoning - Oath Bound [7/7]
"The points of departure are Burzum and late Bathory, and it would be a mistake to say that there's nothing of Poledouris' Conan score in here as well. But these are merely points of departure, and where Summoning goes with them, off into the mystic hills and mountainsides, is somewhere truly new."

Carnivore - Carnivore [5/7]
"...a classic of gonzo postapocalyptic thrash, infused with Steele's trademark humor as much as with blasting riffs. Its value is mostly as history at this point, but that doesn't mean it's not still damn cool."

Obituary - Frozen In Time [5/7]
"...a strong, serviceable death metal record that follows on exactly in Obituary's tradition without coming off as a retread of it. 'Serviceable' isn't such a bad place to start off for a band shaking off the rust, and fans certainly won't be disappointed with this one..."

Demons & Wizards - Touched By The Crimson King [6/7]
"This album is not the first record you should get from Demons & Wizards, and you should very much check your maturity level before picking it up. It's got some good thrashers, and it's grown on me since I first listened to it, but this is still an album whose strong parts are elsewhere, arranged such that they'll be easier for Old People like myself to get into."

Vlad Tepes - March to the black Holocaust [5/7]
"There are some interesting folkic instrumental moments, but overall it's a blend of Darkthrone's ancient days with Mayhem's Live In Leipzig, and is going to sink or float depending on your reactions to similarly styled black metal with similarly stripped-down production."

Thyrfing - Farsotstider [6/7]
"Mixing early Enslaved into late Einherjer, these Swedish survivors show that the authentic viking sound can still be carried forward. Not so much of battles and mythology as of wood fires and open boats, there is still a place for this kind of music, and if you're into cool niche music, it's in your collection."

Primordial - The Gathering Wilderness [7/7]
"...the performance is incredible, filled with the depth, punch, and emotion that Primordial bring to everything they touch, but this record also represents the apogee (so far) of their incisive and bloodsoakedly authentic observations about the state of the world and the mass of humanity that inhabits it. As poetry this record ought to open minds; as a metal album, it destroys barriers and amplifies the power and passion of the scene to a transformative effect, creative as well as destructive, upon society at large."

Running Wild - Branded And Exiled [5/7]
"If you're into slightly thrash-tinged power metal like what Blind Guardian was doing on their first 3 records, this might be a good release to pick up, but most people's interest in Running Wild should really begin once Rolf discovers pirates and consequently finds a gimmick to hang his three-cornered hat on."

Negura Bunget - Inarborat Kosmos [6/7]
"Negura Bunget shows off amazing musicianship and composition with crystal-clear production on this EP, which ought to expand their name amongst the scene...if it wasn't for some bizarre reason issued in a run of only 734 copies. I have one, and if you like messed-up, progressivized black metal, you ought to as well."

Wig Wam - Hard To Be A Rock'n'Roller [6/7]
"This is not very intelligent music, but it does not pretend to be, and it still does capture the fun of brainless '80s music, which is the whole point. There will probably be a lot of people who will be extremely reluctant to actually pay for this, but it's better to support people who are joking and manage to rock..."

Manowar - Sign of the Hammer [6/7]
"Probably Manowar's most musically essential album, and of course their least available; this is where ''Thor'' and ''Guyana'' come from, as well as the nearly forgotten ''Mountains'', in with the usual dumb Manowar stuff, which is somewhat less dumb here than might be otherwise expected."

Blind Guardian - The Forgotten Tales [6/7]
"This is a collection of B-sides, covers, alternate takes, and other junk that Blind Guardian fans will be all over without having to see this rating, and virtually no one else will be especially anticipating. Fortunately for BG's audience, the stuff here is fairly good; the performances are good, and the Beach Boys covers are finally properly canalized into an area where they aren't annoying."

Subway To Sally - Engelskrieger [6/7]
"Much like In Extremo, though less taken with traditional instruments, this album sees them pushing towards a more modern, more melodic sound than taken on some of their other works, one that has re-emerged in the present and has always been half-present in their sound."

Slough Feg - Atavism [7/7]
"There are Manowar bits that follow Dissection bits, and the arrangements and taste ensure that it's the very best of the band's influences that are being echoed, and that everything is mixed convincingly and solidly down into their own original sound. I can barely identify the good points of this one, but it's one of my favorite records, and one of the few that I can spin on for hours and hours on end."

Kiuas - The Spirit of Ukko [4/7]
"We already have one Children of Bodom, and even if they weren't sufficient, they also sound much less like Stratovarius than these guys do. This is the same kind of black-tinged power metal that we've become accustomed to hearing from Alexi Laiho's band, but it's not nearly as well done."

Finntroll - Midnattens Widunder [7/7]
"...authentically trollish music, Finnish polkas pumped full of metal and amphetamines, running frantically riot. The band's black metal roots are clearly evident, but the sound is entirely refocused; Finntroll at this point is not a black metal band playing humppaa nearly so much as a humppaa band with black metal instrumentation and vocals. The weird syncopations and psychotic folk-dance phrasing are probably the main draws, but the performance is quite cool as well..."

Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor [7/7]
"Nevermore continues to spread and expand their legacy on this one, forging ahead with an absolutely unique power/thrash sound. Definitely progressive, but not dominated by such, and still driven by well-knotted riffwork as well as godlike solos, there is not much that any rational metalhead can say against Nevermore."

Running Wild - Rogues En Vogue [7/7]
"I was not this big of a fan of this record when I first got it, as Running Wild has moved away from their bread-and-butter pirate themes, there's some frankly dumb lyrics on here, and the title is so incredibly silly as not to be believed. ...There are a few weak moments, but the majority of the record is filled absolutely up to the brim with truly classic guitar work; maybe this is an average record for Running Wild, but musically at least, it will dominate 90 percent of everything else out there."

Ektomorf - Instinct [5/7]
"My initial reaction to this record, last summer, was ''Ektomorf:Hungary::Sepultura:Brazil'', with the operative being ''is''; this mix of thrash and nu-metal is what Sepultura sounds like in the present day; those who remember more of their earlier pure thrash era will want to substitute in Soulfly. The sound is practically identical, and while there are some cool parts, there are also some that are totally empty-headed."

The Old Dead Tree - The Perpetual Motion [6/7]
"...this French act drags themselves out of the gwawth doldrums and into the outer reaches of Opeth/Katatonia territory. They're more rockish and more accessible, but they're also aspiring to the same degree of complexity, and to the ability to hit as hard both emotionally and viscerally. They're just getting their start, so while there's room for improvement, there's every reason to believe that it will take place..."

Spellbound - Incoming Destiny [6/7]
"Spellbound isn't the most original band in the world, but they do play good and convincing enough brutal semi-blackened D-thrash that this doesn't really matter. While the bulk of their material can't be well-distinguished from Kreator album fill, there are a few points where they set themselves apart, enough to hope for better things to come."

Vader - The Art of War [6/7]
"The production is excellent, allowing the musical muscle to push through, imposing exactly the crisp brutal death metal that fans have come to expect from Poland's best. There is a full album following this one, but for a band with this much under their belts, it would not be inconceivable to get into a cycle of putting out 4-6 kickass songs a year and just touring behind those."

Roadrunner United - The All-Star Sessions [5/7]
"There's a bunch of good material on here, and the DVD included with the limited really inspiring, but a lot of the material is forgettable dross, and by definition there's very little new here. The music suggests the recent Roadrunner lineup rather than the classic days, in the greatest part, and the result is there's a lot of stuff that might hit on the radio, but totally fails in the context of a metal album."

Vital Remains - Into Cold Darkness [5/7]
" in parts but definitely not up to the standard of their label debut. It's still good death metal, which fans will thoroughly enjoy, but there isn't much to separate it from everything else that was going on in brutal spheres at the start of the 1990s."

Sodom - Persecution Mania [6/7]
"This is a good album if you don't like your music too complex: intense and headbangable, it's also somewhat simplistic, but there are other thrash bands that go beyond that; all Sodom is concentrating on on this one is hitting you in the gut as hard as possible, and they do a fairly good job of it."

Sodom - Expulse of Sodomy [6/7]
"...the point of the release is thorough thrash blasting, and that's exactly what you get out of it. It's still not the world's most sophisticated music, but no metalhead is going to argue with the quality."

Sodom - In The Sign Of Evil [5/7]
"...a whole a lot dirtier and more bloody-minded than its American counterpart[s]. This is not Bay Area material by any stretch of the imagination, so those thrash fans that like clean production and longer songs that are more riff-heavy than absolutely riff-dominated might want to stay away, but those deeper into the truer underground will identify this as the wellspring of the extreme that it is."

Sodom - Obsessed By Cruelty [4/7]
"...while the material's ok, the composition isn't smart or varied enough yet to hold up over a full-length record. The result is kind of a mess, blending together over the run of the disc into a stew of ripping guitar riffs and almost-correctly-pronounced vocals. There are some people who will eat this up, and other who wouldn't take it for free; even among Sodom fans this disc can be recognized as having its problems."

Edguy - Burning Down The Opera - Live [6/7]
"...inescapable that this is an Edguy show, and there are going to be people who won't get into their take on German power metal, or even if they do, will find it getting old before they get into the second disc. They do a passable job of splitting Gamma Ray and Iron Maiden, and there's some really cool songs on here, but there's also a bunch of stuff that's boring and/or unnecessary."

Cryptopsy - Once Was Not [6/7]
"...probably not as essential as Whisper Supremacy, but it's still every bit an awesome record, for general percussionists as well as death metal devotees, who will get this for its neck-wrecking properties rather than as an audio clinic."

Atheist - Piece of Time [7/7]
"...both progressive and intensely aggressive, one of the first to fully combine death metal with avant-garde rhythmical and tonal approaches and likely a huge influence on the later development of Death, Cynic, and Pestilence. However, beyond that, the current re-release is twice as long as the actual album, packing on three full demos of rarities (in pretty bad recording quality in spots) as fan service to the Atheist devotees who have been waiting forever for this to go back in print."

Also this past weekend, I got set for my Chinese classes and finally finished moving nearly all of my junk out of its boxes. This did mean just moving it onto huge new bookcases, but the floor is clean and my room finally looks like a room instead of some kind of weird nerd munitions depot. Just a few more banners to put up; if ordering IRA, pirate, and Communist flags from a distributor in the Carolinas concentrating on the "patriotic" market doesn't get me on the government's enemies list, I'm really going to have to start trying harder.

Also changed out the improvised Vinland flag on my jacket for a real one, and added on my Amon Amarth pocket device. Now all I have to do is remember where the hell I put the Immortal and Agnostic Front patches I was going to use down by the cuffs....

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