Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The polls keep on roling.

as you might have noticed by now, there is a new poll to your right. (or right of this post) i would appreciate if you took the time to leave your mark upon this poll, as it is part of my tailoring to a larger mass. personally i voted for heavy, speed, thrash, power, death and progressive.

give me your view on modern metal in the comments.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Diamond Head - Lightning to the Nations

Instruments: 3000$
Recording at studio: 1000$
Album artwork: 5$
Album of the year, all years: Priceless

The most well known underground metal act of all history. This is the history of British diamond head. A story of obvious passion for music, and writing all the riffs that exist in todays metal world. The sad part about writing every good riff, and being underground is that everybody steal your stuff, and take the praise for your work. Those who did, include large names of thrash such as Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus and Kreator.

Opening the album is the title track, The first of many riff-monsters to come. Said riffs tend to have a bluesy feel to them, such as the chorus, and the solo part. This does not say that it is boring and structured, this is full energy ahead old-school heavy metal, apart from the vocals, that get a bit melancholic in the verses.

Upping the speed, the second track, The Prince, is one where the bass makes it's presence more than known. Underneath the rhythm focused guitar riffing, (of a motörhead-ish quality) the bass spew out melodic licks, rolls and markings.
The use of keyboard in the intro is interesting, as very few bands used electric keys in 1980, and even fewer metal bands did the same.

"Sucking my love" comes of as one of the weaker tracks on the album. The first half lacks a bit in the riffing department COMPARED to the rest of the album. The second part is a calmer part with pretty good solos, and a couple having sexual intercourse in the background. This one is not the song you listen to first.

But now. Here comes the song that everybody knows, but nobody knows who wrote. The Metallica cover that people know is nothing compared to the original. The mood of the opening march, the fierceness of the solo, the raw energy of the riff. Nothing of that is carried on in the Metallica cover of "Am I Evil".  The vailing vocals that convey the feeling of an abandoned kid, who seek vengeance on the world, this can't be redone.
Not only did the guys in Diamond head manage to write one of the greatest songs of all time, but they also perform it so "right". A perfect example of how to give a song energy, even in studio. That is what makes this song so extraordinary.

Changing the focus away from the raw, energetic proto-thrash madness that is "Am I Evil", "Sweet and innocent" has more thee feel of 70's rhythm-rock, along with a catchy chorus, that has most people singing along. The choir adds to the feeling of "grandness", that the riff inspires.

"It's electric" has a riff that could easily be a commercial hair-metal band, that there would spring up so all too many of, later in the decade. The simple, catchy chorus makes this one of the songs that would act as inspiration for bands to come. the riffing in the rest of the song is decent, and it is a good track overall.

Ending the album on a high note is the intense "helpless". Energetic riffing, a prominent bass, and the best, and most interesting  vocal performance of the album. This is all that is needed to know. The song is bad-ass. listen to it!

The songs are generally very varied, and changes happen all the time. interest is never lost, and energy is high through almost all parts.
The final point i have to make, is that this album is such a pioneer of thrash, the riffs may have bluesy qualities, but the style is close to the old-school of thrash.
If you are a fan of Megadeth or Metallica, listen actively for riffs that sound familliar, you're bound to find quite a few.

Godlike riffs all the way, good bassmanship, and strong vocals, put together in great songwriting, this is a well earned 9.5/10.

Diamond Head - Lightning to the Nations (mediafire)
Buy it!

The Prince

Lightning to the Nations

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mekong Delta - The music of Erich Zann

Steal the title from a book? Unimaginative!
"The Music of Erich Zann" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft. Synopsis: A university student is forced, by his lack of funds, to take the only lodging he can afford. In a strange part of the city he had never seen before, on a street named "Rue d'Auseil", he finds an apartment in an almost empty building. One of the few other tenants is an old German man named Erich Zann. The old man is mute and plays the viol with a local orchestra. He lives on the top floor and when alone at night, plays strange melodies never heard before. Over time, the student gains Zann's trust, and eventually learns of his secret, that the old man has discovered melodies and rhythms of sound of an almost otherworldly nature. Zann plays these sounds to keep back unknown and unseen creatures from Zann's window, which is said to look out into a black abyss, most likely another dimension." (wikipedia)

Melodies and rhythms of sound of an almost otherworldly nature. This is the bar that the long self-obscuring Mekong delta set for themselves when writing their second album: The music of Erich Zann. To a great extent they have succeeded. There are quite a few progressive and strange rhythms scattered around the album. Some time signatures reach into the completely strange and inaccessible, such as the 11/8 part on "prophecy" (i think it is 11/8, feel free to correct me), and melodies of "extraordinary" qualities are present.

Most of the album is fast paced thrash, with exceptions, such as the heavy, chugging, and experimental "I, king will come", the orchestral "Interludium (begging for mercy)", the epilogue track, and various intros around the album.

The guitar-work is phenomenal, with intense thrashing riffs everywhere. I would guess that the 10 songs of this album have at least 75 unique riffs, of which barely any fails to inspire headbanging. That is not to say that they are simple, in fact the contrary is true. most of the riffs are technical and varied.
The leads are even better. while there are not lead melodies everywhere, the ones that are there are highly catchy, and memorable. Two of them strike me as highly modal, or even atonal, but this somehow suit the music. The sourness of certain leads are such a strong element of the moodscape of the songs, that you wonder how the hell you pull something like that off.
Solos here are generally of high quality, but they lack some of the direction and sense of purpose that i tend to to favor when analyzing solos. This is of course a matter of taste, and should not put anyone of from checking them out.

The vocal work is probably a deal breaker for quite a few out there. either you like it or you hate it. Objectively good things about it is the degree of variation. From a strangled rasp on parts of "I, King will come" to a falsetto like vail, to a more classical thrashy shout. Things that might offset a listener is how the vocal melodies counterpoint the guitars by being completely out of key, on purpose. The effect is a inaccessible sound, that takes some getting used to, but soon, in my ears make for a strong mood-shaper.

The bass work is quite good, and shines on a couple of tracks, like "Confession of Madness" where unique lines roll out with a punchy sound (boosted mids) with a very decent solo to top it off.

The drums are of excellent quality, and with intense markings and fills all over the place, and a varied approach to the lines, only good things can be said of the drummer on this album.

Standout tracks include the thrashers: True Lies, and Confession of madness, the catchy "memories of tomorrow" and the slow and heavy "I, King will come"

The highly technical riffing, great drumming, experimental vocals, decent bass lines, and the extremely intricate songwriting earn this album another 9/10.

The music of erich zann (4shared)
Buy it from Amazon

I decided to add 2 videos to every review from now on, as it gives a better understanding of what kind of music it is.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New poll is up.

There is a new poll on the site.
Do you want me to post energetic live videos of the band/song, or would you like me to post crystal clear studio versions? Maybe i shoud use judgement on when to use what, so that you won't see a bad live?
vote away, or tell me what you think in the comments.

Artillery - By Inheritance

Leonidas? is that you on the third from left?
Melody of Egyptian qualities. A polka rhythm to go with it. then kick in the guitars, and you got yourself a mood opening was what the danish thrashers of artillery must have thought when putting together their finest effort: By Inheritance.
Formed in 82' and releasing demos and albums of increasing quality, culminating in said album, in the year of 1990.

The first real track on the album: Khomaniac continues the trend of Egyptian melodies, but this time with a thrash riff instead of "humpa".
The changes of riff, bass solo, underlying chords, and egypto-thrash melodies, combined with an intense delivery of high-pitched thrash vocals, and a fun shout-along chorus, works to create one of the best thrashers in memory.

Beneath the Clay is a fairly good thrasher, with licks and solos still in some middle-eastern scale. the riffing however does not quite match that of the opener. The bass however is subtly present, making unique lines, not heard before you listen to the album a couple of times, or look for it. However subtle, this is a major boost to the song, and allows the song a score of "very good"

Now the real gem of the album is the title track. "By Inheritance" is a riff-monster of grand proportions, with some of the tightest double-guitar galloping i've heard since Annihilator (i might review/recommend one of their albums if you wish. tell me if you need them reviewed, or tell me to recommend you something more obscure.)

Continuing about annihilator, the next track's (bombfood) early acoustic piece bears resemblance to the style employed by Jeff Waters on several tracks on "Alice in hell".
The rest of the song is a melodic speed/thrash song. the vocals do a particularly intense job, with high pitched "clean" screams  and more mellow lines, on the acoustic parts.

"Don't believe" is much in the vein of the former song, but with a greater use of contrasting harsh thrash and acoustic/melodic. The bass is highly audible and active on the first post-solo bridge, with melodic licks.

Tams and toms open the intense and speedy "Life in bondage". The blistering speed and technicality of the guitar riffing is remarkable, and the drums do a couple of nice patterns. The song eases down the tempo some for a harmonizing, melodic riff for a little while, and then it kicks you in the teeth with a lightning-speed solo.

Leaving the high-speed "life in bondage", the following song, "equal at first" pales a bit in the shine. while it is a good melodic thrasher in it's own right, the comparison leaves it looking bleak and uninspired.

Cover time! the Nazareth classic: Razamanaz gets the artillery treatment.
Short story short: not much has really changed. the vocals and solos are the only real differences, and even then, they are not great. Pointless cover.

Melancholicly opening, Back in the thrash is an interesting track. Full of riffs, and good melodies, this is a track that is likely to get in your head. The layered vocals and tonally ascending guitars makes this track feel "big". The amount of riffs, and quality of such makes this track one of extremely appropriate title.

A high quality album, with excellent musicianship, and well done songwriting. this is another: 9/10.

Artillery - By Inheritance (mediafire)
Buy From Amazon

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Raven - Rock until you Drop

A normal day at band practice, is it?
"It sounds like we're actually in hell!"
Thus starts the most energetic album in recorded history.

Ravens debut from 81' then kicks of with a powerful riff, a falsetto shout of "ALRIIIIGHT!" and a high-speed riff with both blues and thrash qualities to it. This is indicative of what the album is about. Blues riffs, with a, then,  innovative thrashing edge, that no one else had. "Hell Patroll" was probably some of the most brutal music out there at the time. It's sudden changes, barrage of riffs, and intense rasping falsetto screams leaves the listener with no way of not headbanging at maximum speed. The falsettos of Mr.Gallagher is also shown to be of highest quality when i comes to lung capacity, as near the end of the song, all the instruments pause, as the vocalist holds a high falsetto for something that seems like an eternity.

The next song is one of the best songs on the album. "don't need your money" has a catchy melodic speed/thrash riff, and some of the most sing-along friendly chorus on the album. The guitar is also hyperactive in providing little melodic licks everywhere. these little shreds are the little boost that gives the song "that little extra" to make it truly great.

The two next songs are the bluesy "over the top" and the acoustic, one minute, piece "39-40". around the 30 second mark of the song, there is a passage of chords,(Here) later directly copied by Metallica on their mega-hit "Nothing else matters". This could of course be totally random, as certain combinations of chords sound good, but the fact that Metallica was opening band for Raven around 83 (PROOF!) would suggest that it stuck, and resurfaced during the writing of the black album, almost 10 years later.
The next song also suffered a simmilar fate. The intro and chorus riff  was copied by the Humorous World of Warcraft band: L70ETC (now probably named L80ETC) on their popular song: I am Murloc (Comparisition)

Nobodies hero is another high speed song, with a catchy chorus and a bluesy bass line.

Next up is a cover of the band "Sweet", or actually, two covers in one song, namely Hellraiser/action. The songs are very fitting for raven to cover, as the style of music of these songs, clearly was a great influence on the band, and the vocals really suit the style of Gallagher, who does his best performance of the album on this track. The interweaving of the tracks are also very seamless, and if one does not know the originals, it is hard to tell where one song ends, and the next one begin.

"Lambs to the slaughter" is another high speed track, with some of the best drum markings on the album. but this one drowns slightly among the other high speed songs.

Finally, "Tyrant of the airwaves" is a relatively mid-paced song with a nice build-up, and the most impressive use of guitar licks on the album. The vocals is relatively low, and in the mid-range, except for a couple of dramatic screams. This song has a strong feel of focus and streamlining, and is rather indicative of how raven would evolve on the sub-sequent albums. This one would slip nicely into their third album: All for One.

This sums it up as one of the strongest releases of NWOBHM and a deserved 9.5/10

Raven - Rock until you drop
Buy "rock until you drop" from Amazon

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Realm - Endless war

Iron Horse? Endless war?
Are these guys anti-Native Americans?
Debuts have a tendency of being inconsistent, or lacking direction. Realm's first offering, Endless war is no exception. Thrashing away at high speed and full technicality at one moment, and the next beeing an acoustic piece, before you throw in a power metal-ish power chord riff to be modulated up and down, before you end it with a depressing, melancholic piece.

Lack of direction aside, the individual parts are all good. The riffs are of a high caliber, and quite a few stick out in your head after you finish the album. The solos are intense, and the solos are fairly technical. The aforementioned acoustic parts have highly memorable melodies, and in their own respect, they are very good parts. The guitar work in general has an extremely tight feeling to it, that is somewhat muffled by the production.

The Bass throughout this album is worth noting, as even though there are mixes where the bass is more audible, (and this album would benefit from a more prominent bass), you can tell that there is lots of awesome stuff going on down there. The times when the bass is prominent in the sound, however, you can tell that the instrument is getting a beating. The bass sound is almost as though it was slapped, and this creates a nice dynamic, and intense sound.

The vocals are somewhat special. The falsetto screams through the album might put of the average metalhead, but the performance is top notch, and the mid-range is plesant to listen to, with all the power you could wish for in his voice. Objectively the vocals are good, but one might not like the styling of them. Hit or miss.

Drums on this album is nothing special. they do their job, and do it well. Tight drumming and some nice fills around the album, but nothing that should not be expected.

Notable songs on this album include the beatles cover of Elannor Rigby, that has a good novelty appeal, that covers up the fact that it gets a bit boring after some time of mostly galloping around the chord progression.
Other good songs are "Slay the oppressor". having the beginning as a crescendo, with gradually increasing tempo. Then continuing with a highly technical and melodic thrash riff, then a slower chugging, yet thrashy riff, and the best solo on the album: dynamic, fast, technical and finished just as it needed to.
Finally, the ending song: "Theseus and the Minotaur", with it's power chord progression (mostly alike the verse on accept's "balls to the wall") ,technical riff and sudden changes of pace is a sweet ending to an album of generally good ideas.

The sad truth is that the songwriting here lacks the flow that true masterpieces have, even that of a "good" record. This all sadly pulls the entire score down to a preliminary 7/10 Though this might change, as i listen to the album more than the three times before this review.
(edit: now as i've had the time to let this grow on me i think of it as a 8/10) 

Realm - Endless War (mediafire)
Buy from Amazon

Monday, September 13, 2010

Omen - Battle Cry

With the rapidly changing scene of metal in the eighties US, quite a few bands were quickly forgotten, despite being reasonably talented. One of these acts was Omen.

Omen formed in 83', and released their first and arguably best album, Battle Cry, in 84'. This album, along with the single "The Axeman" was a minor hit, albeit a quickly forgotten one.

The album however, starts of with what is an even better song than it's single, namely the high tempo "Death Rider", a song with a slight feel of melodic thrash to it, despite being classic heavy metal. It's melodic main riff and intro sounds like it could be picked out of iron maidens self titled album, with it's melody and 3/4 feel (it's in 4/4, it just has the feel of 3/4).

"The Axeman" also has a start that can be linked heavily to maiden, with a spoken intro, reminiscent quite a bit to the intro of Maidens "Number of the Beast", released the previous year. The rest of the song and album tones down this maiden-like feel, and it does the album good. The continuation of the song, has a heavier feel, with a proto-thrashing riff and more challenging vocals.

Other stand out tracks include the title track, and "in the arena". the first of which starts of with the sourest guitar scream you will ever hear, before kicking in with a technical staccato riff and then a tight galloping, with a catchy chorus. This is a great sing-along track, and for some time has been one of the fixed songs in my drinking playlist. The solo is also worth mentioning as one of the better on the album.
"In the Arena" on the other hand starts of slowly, with acoustic finger plucking, and emotional singing, before driving the song onwards, with high speed. somehow it still retain a feeling of tragedy through the vocals, lyrics about a falling gladiator, and the underlying chords on the chorus. The mix of high speed and emotion is an uncommon one and an excellent way to end the album. With songs mostly going very up-tempo, the change of feel is a pleasant one.

Variation is, despite all the songs going in the same vein of music, not much of an issue. The riffs are distinct enough to separate the songs, and the vocalist can play a few different tunes. The one major drawback of this album, is the lack of originality. While it's a good album in it's own respect, it is always reminiscent of someone else, be it Maiden, Manowar or Judas Priest. with this the only thing draving them back, the score is pretty easy.
For now, omen recives a decent 9/10
Omen - Battle Cry (mediafire)
Omen - Battle Cry (spotify)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Anacrusis - Screams and Whispers

Lots of smoke on an album cover?
How original!

"Anacrusis: the note or sequence of notes which precedes the first downbeat in a bar." (Wikipedia)

Anacrusis choose  a fitting name, as their music have been ahead of the wave, preceding bands playing in the same vein of music. Their first album, which i hope to have the time to write it's own review, Suffering hour was thrash of unheard technicality. Gradually becoming more and more progressive in their sound, their fourth album, Screams and Whispers is an album that manages to be both progressive and thrashy, but also having emotional, melodic parts (in a very non-emo/gothic way)

The opening song, 'sound the alarm' is a good indicator for what the rest of the album has in store for us. It starts of with a calm synth, with heavy delay, before kicking in with a melodic, fast thrash riff. The bass does it's own unique line underneath. the next part is a part accentuating the "off" beats.
Here the guitar has a nice delay effect, creating a strong alien moodscape to the music.
The alien mood is enhanced by the vocalist, Ken Nardi, switching between a thrashy rasping, staccato shout, and a mellow, emotional, honest style. Later on, through the album, he also does more clinical "matter-of-fact" styled vocals, screams, and deeper, guttural noises.
In fact his vocal performance on this entire album is the best vocal performance i have ever heard on any album, any genre. His variety, intensity, softness, harshness and perfect conveying of emotion makes him deserving of recognition as not only one of the best vocalist in metal, but as one of the best vocalists of all time.

Apart from the Vocals, the most notable performance is that of the bass player. ever-present, demanding your attention almost as much as the guitars, doing harmonic fills, markings, melodic bass lines and syncopations. The tone is punchy, clear and in your ear, with lots of mid-tone at some times, like on "too many prophets", and deep, hard and with lots of "kick" at other times, like the deep, technical line under the chugging  on "grateful" .

The guitars  are varied, switching between thrashy riffs, melodic leads and beautiful harmonies. They also employ a ton of  highly mood-inducing effects, such as delay, phasers and more. While this could potentially get wanky, it is pulled off so perfectly on this album. Every effect used, is part of creating a moodscape. Great care was used in the process of when to employ these. However, the guitars on this album is the least extraordinary on this album.

One of the most unique aspects of this album is the use of synth. from simple filling out the sound, adding a staccato riff backing, playing melodies and chords, or marking the beat like you would use a cymbal. the synth is the secret ingredient of this album. It might not strike you right away, but with consecutive listens, you will know that the synth is the glue, that ties the songs together, and brings every song up from the great tier, and up to masterpiece status. It is also the main drive of some songs, like "brotherhood?" and "driven".

The individual performances being great, however, is only a minor part of the whole image. The composition of each individual song is top-notch, but just as important is the composition of the album. The album progresses nicely from a thrash oriented start to a more prog/experimental feeling towards the end. These songs later on the album keep surprising. Even after listening to this album literally 50 times, i still discover new details in some songs.

This level of perfect composition, and great songwriting in absolutly world class makes this album one of those few that truly deserve top marks.
Anacrusis - Screams and whispers (spotify) 
Download all their albums from
Screams and whispers (mediafire)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

ARIA - Hero of Asphalt (Ария - Герой асфальта)

This is a fucking Robot Viking Biker.
You do not mess with him.
Aria, or Ария as it is in Russian, is one of those bands who merely was in the wrong place at the right time. Founded in 1985 in Russia, they missed the wave that hit England roughly five years earlier. Hence they lost all chance of commercial recognition.

Their two first albums have a feeling of making it as they learn, but Their third album, Hero of Asphalt sounds quite a bit like Iron Maiden in the mid-eighties, while retaining some personal edge to their music.
The most obvious difference is the vocals. Valeriy Kipelov sings a lot like Bruce Dickinson, and his high soaring vocals can often feel "larger" than Dickinsons. Kipelov does dramatic vocals just as well, if not better than Bruce, but is not quite as varied, with calm or mellow vocals. There is no need for him to go lower, however, as the vocals suit the music at all times. He also has a knack for making catchy vocal lines, that makes you want to sing along, even if you don't know a word Russian. One good example is the song, 1100, where he carries the entire song from being mediocre.

The guitarwork is praiseworthy through all the songs with lots of riffs, galloping and otherwise, through the entire album. The solos are of high quality. While they are not the fastest shredding around, they are highly melodic and varied, always with a sense of direction, Much in the vein of their obvious Maiden idols.

The bass is prominent in the mix, and highly distinguishable at most times. It provides occasional melodic licks under the guitars, and really shines on tracks like Rose Street, where it hardly does simple following of guitars, but always catches your attention with interesting licks and markings.

The drumwork is tight, and does it job at all times, but it is nothing extrordinary. the drummer works in a way that allows the rest of the band to shine.

All in all this is a high quality album in both songwriting, composition and individual performance. It's one major drawback is how it could diversify itself more from its inspiration, the mid-eighties Maiden.

This sums it all up to a total of 8/10
  Aria – Hero of Asphalt
Hero of Asphalt (mediafire)

The start of a Journey

This blogg is your new source for recommendations and reviews of obscure and unknown metal bands. To start off, i will mostly do old school heavy metal, and technical and progressive thrash metal albums. If you have suggestions for underground metal albums that you want reviewed, leave a comment, or send a mail at MYMAILHERE