Monday, February 29, 2016

Borknagar strikes gold twice with Winter Thrice

As I write this, I find it increasingly strange to think that four years have passed since Urd came out and combined the band’s classic sound with new, proggier elements. Perhaps the best thing I can say about Winter Thrice’s predecessor without turning this into a lengthy double review is that I never felt like I was waiting for a new Borknagar album because Urd still felt fresh in my mind. Maybe the band felt the same way, because Winter Thrice sounds like an album with nothing to prove and plenty of time to fine-tune a formula that works.

The album kicks off strong with Rhymes of the Mountain, and immediately ICS Vortex sounds smoother than ever while fusing seamlessly with Vintersorg's growls. It helps that the production is smooth yet organic, without the squashed, overly slick sound that plagues too many modern metal albums. (Contrast the production on the last two Blind Guardian albums for a good example of what I mean.)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Omnium Gatherum - Grey Heavens: A Gathering of All Things Kinda Boring

Last week saw the release of Omnium Gatherum's latest work Grey Heavens, and as a self-avowed melodeath junkie, I just had to give it a shot. I should confess, right off the bat, to not being Omnium Gatherum's biggest fan. They definitely have their better moments, but honestly I think the best thing that anyone in this band has ever done is be the guitarist for Insomnium. (For the curious, Markus Vanhala has been doing double-duty since Ville Vänni left the band to spend more time with his family due to the impending birth of his first child and focus on his career as a general surgeon.)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Dream Theater - The Astonishing Display of Overindulgence

 The Astonishing, Dream Theater's 13th studio album released January 29, 2016, is a science fiction concept album about a world in which music no longer exists, save for the noises made by the machines who keep order. This is by far Dream Theater's longest album to date, and their third with drummer Mike Mangini. Because this is a big album released by a big name band, Greg and Danny decided to team up to review this monster 2 hour and 10 minute long album.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Megadeth - Dystopia: a dark vision of the future makes up for the band's recent past

It's hard to approach a new Megadeth album with any specific expectations considering how hit and miss their late career has been. Endgame and The System Has failed prove Dave Mustaine and co. still have the creative spark that made their early output great, but then the blandness of Super Collider makes you appreciate Risk for actually taking a risk. With all that those ups and downs in mind, what jumped out at me first about Dystopia was how easy it was to forget about the band's history or Dave's latest rant and just listen to the music.

The Threat is Real starts things off strong with sharp riffing and pounding bass and drums, which set the tone for the next 3 tracks. The newest lineup, for those still keeping track, features Angra guitarist Kiko Loureio on guitar, and he's a welcome presence throughout the whole album, even if some of his solos feel a bit too polished for Megadeth's style. David Ellefson's bass comes through clearer than ever in the mix and his playing on Dystopia more than justifies it. Dave's signature aggressive snark is abundant in the vocals, and the choruses mostly feel big again in a way they haven't since Endgame.

Fleshgod Apocalypse Still 'King's of Technical Death Metal

Fleshgod Apocalypse's fourth full-length album, King, takes them yet another step closer to achieving the level of balance I've been hoping for out of this band since Agony.

All of the basics are still there, with most tracks being driven by the same unrelenting double bass, as if the drummer just needs to prove to the world that he doesn't skip leg day. Guitar work is just as intricate as ever and requires multiple listens to really appreciate fully. And, as often happens on albums in this general genre, the bassist is mostly just left to play with himself in a corner.

But that's par for the course for technical death metal these days. What really sets Fleshgod Apocalypse apart from the rest of the crowd is their use of backing strings and keyboard, which have (at least so far) reached their peak on this album. They add just enough to each song to make an otherwise good to great tech death track into a properly epic one. Best examples of such on this album are probably "In Aeternum" and "Healing Through War."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Welcome

Thanks for coming here and reading our ramblings on life, the universe, and everything...but mostly metal. Before we dive into new reviews, commentary, original content, and miscellaneous musings, we figured you should know a little about us. So here are our top 10 metal albums.

The rules are simple: One album per artist, no live albums or compilations.

We'll be back soon with our top 10 non-metal albums

Danny's Top 10 Metal Albums

Hey readers (all like 2 of you). I'm Danny B., graduate student in astronomy education, massive nerd, and I just so happen to be a pretty big metalhead as well. So, without further ado, because you're not here to read about me, my 10 favorite metal albums!

Fallujah - The Flesh Prevails
The Flesh Prevails epitomizes everything I think technical death metal should be. Fallujah manages to combine intricacy and what I can only really describe as sheer in-your-face brutality song after song to put together one of the all-around best death metal releases I’ve listened to in a while. The Flesh Prevails also showcases some absolutely brilliant in-studio mixing that allows the listener to fully appreciate the layers of complexity written into every track. This is one of those albums that I can only listen to properly as a whole.

Iron Maiden - Powerslave
My top 10 list couldn’t be complete without an Iron Maiden album, and Powerslave takes the cake for me. The middle of this album has always been the weak point, with utterly forgettable tracks like “The Duelist” and “Back in the Village” holding it back from a top 5 spot. The rest of the album, however, features four of Iron Maiden’s all-time best songs, with particular emphasis on Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which probably ranks as my favorite Maiden song overall, and easily ranks among my all time favorite metal songs. This isn’t Maiden’s most influential album, nor is it the absolute peak of their writing and instrumental abilities, but I think the high points on Powerslave are probably among the high points of their entire career.

Greg's Top 10 Metal Albums

I'm Greg E, administrative assistant and freelance writer, amateur fantasy author, musician, and owner of many frogs. In addition to metal reviews and commentary, I'll be sharing original music and fiction here. Here are my top 10 metal albums.

After Forever - Self-Titled


As a big Epica fan, the idea that a band could get better after Mark Jansen’s departure seems almost absurd, but on their final album, After Forever pulled it off. I could point out that the orchestration is sincerely epic and the death vocals don’t feel gimmicky like they do on too many symphonic metal albums, but really, this record is about one thing. Floor Jansen has the most powerful pipes in symphonic metal, which she’d later use to put two consecutive Nightwish singers to shame. But it’s here that her voice is at top form, showing off a range and passion that make nearly every song impossibly catchy.

Agalloch - Ashes Against the Grain

I’ve heard Agalloch described as the Opeth of black metal, and it’s not too far from the truth. The appeal of their unique blend of blackened folk metal can be summed up in one word: atmosphere. The band comes from Portland, yet the “dark woods in the heart of a Norwegian winter” vibe feels authentic. At an hour long split between seven songs and one interlude, it’s an album that meanders but never feels slow or loses focus. Ashes Against the Grain is a record to turn off the lights and just think to, but it never feels soft or sentimental. The vocals and guitar both sound ethereal, and not in a modern, overproduced way. And even if nothing I just said sounds the least bit appealing to you, check out Not Unlike the Waves all the same.