Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Casualties of Cool - Casualties of Cool

Release Date: May 14, 2014
Genre: Country Rock, Ambient.
Label: HevyDevy
Number of tracks: 15

Rating: 8.1/10

Casualties of Cool is the first of two confirmed releases this year from Devin Townsend, the second being the much anticipated sequel to Ziltoid the Omniscient. Unlike the latter of the two, Casualties represents something a bit different for Townsend. Featuring a seriously laid back vibe with ambient country-rock stylings. It is perhaps closer to Ghost than Ziltoid on the Townsend Scale.

The album features the story of a traveler, floating through time and space who is lured to a sentient planet by a woman's voice. The planet feeds on the traveler's fear, and he takes solace in an old Radio that he finds, and later, a Phonograph. Eventually, the traveler manages to face his own fears, liberating the woman trapped within the planet and freeing his soul. 

The album features several tracks which are perhaps key to this theme, Most notably towards the end with The Bridge, and Bones. As a narrative, the album works really well. Each track is individually good, but it by far works best as a whole unit. The album is designed to be listened to as a whole, and this is where it truly shines. As a collection of songs it is good, but as a whole it is fantastic. This is night time music, a dark journey of self realization. Devin describes the album as 'probably the truest reflection of who i am in life at this point' which in itself adds a really personal, close feeling to the album. It's an easy album to connect to and because of the thematic nature, this adds to the experience.

Who will this album appeal to? it depends. If you expect metal craziness, then wait for Z2, as Casualties will probably not do it for you. If you are after a chilled out, ambient ride through space, then this is a fantastic choice. It's the kind of album that really excels when you're listening through headphones in the dark. If you are a fan of Devin then it goes without saying. 

In conclusion, Casualties is a fantastic journey of music that is best listened to at night, through headphones. It's an excellent change of pace from Epicloud, and highlights and demonstrates just how enormously talented a man Devin Townsend is. 

This and Z2 are crowd funded albums, and its well worth keeping up to date with their Pledge Music page, his Facebook, his incredible website.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Austrian Death Machine - Triple Brutal

Release Date: 1st April 2014
Genre: Thrash, melodic metal. Comedy metal
Record Label: Artery Records
Number of Tracks: 18 (46 Mins playing time)

Overall Rating: 8.4/10

Wow. This album really beats you up. From brutal rhythm, death metal vocals, ear splitting solos and an the hilarious inclusion of an Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator, this album has all the potential to be excellent. It is a release of pure testosterone and stupidity.

Lets put front man Tim Lambesis's current legal situation aside and talk about the music. ADM is a side project from the former As I Lay Dying vocalist and is a parody of the Arnold Schwarzenegger films, and as such features Destroy the Runner vocalist Chad Ackerman  doing the Ahhnold voices, as well as many special guests including John Boecklin from DevilDriver, Dave Nassie of Bleeding Through, Jammey Jasta from Hatebreed and Chris Storey from All Shall Perish

ADM shares musical similarities with As I Lay Dying, which is no surprise seen as Tim Lambesis wrote and recorded guitars, drums bass and vocals. All the songs are in your face, and each one of them features a guitar solo. As a fan of shred, this is excellent and it is easy to air guitar along to the solos and chuggy riffs.

All in all, the disc is speedy modern metal, full of precision mechanical percussion and melodic death-style vocals. The songs have an undeniable energy, though it isn’t quite enough to offset a consistent lack of hooks. The second album humorously acknowledges the fact that some of his songs sound similar to others, and you do feel that this happens more so here.

Favorite tracks include: track 3 Chill Out Dickwad and track 6 I Hope You Made Room For My Fist.

Overall, this is a really good album. Full of energy, whit and musical prowess. The album lacks diversity, however it shouldn't stop you from enjoying a lively, modern thrash metal album. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Animals as Leaders - The Joy Of Motion

Release Date: March 24th, 2014
Genre: Instrumental Progressive Metal
Label: Sumerian Records
Number of tracks: 12

Rating: 6.9/10

Instrumental Progressive Metallers Animals as Leaders have released their third album, the Joy of Motion. A mixture of dark themes, jazz and blues influences and astonishing technicality, but how does it hold up? Is it an advancement of what came before?

Not really. The Joy Of Motion certainly is a step up in terms of production value, from that perspective the album sounds well balanced and warm. However, when it comes to the content, it lacks consistency. There are moments where the album is warm and interesting, (see, Air Chrysalis, Another Year) and moments where it's just overwhelming (See Leppincott, and after the first minute of Ka$cade) and these moments of incongruity, while technical on a level rarely seen, don't really add much to the listening experience. It's like flashes of moderately inappropriate strobe-lighting in the middle of the day.

Just to re-iterate, the musicianship of this album is phenomenal. As a technical feat, it's above and beyond most other albums, (although it seems important to point out that there aren't a whole bunch of albums comparable to what Animals as Leaders do, really) and for the technophiles out there it's probably on a par with, or even a level above Conquering Dystopia. However, uncompromising technicality does not equate to a fantastic listening experience and, for even a slightly more casual listener there isn't an awful lot to take away from the Joy of Motion.

The real crux of the matter is that the album fails to keep your attention and really forces you to try and focus on it, and this isn't a good trait in an album, to put it another way – It lacks soul, the sheer technical prowess gets lost in translation. When you've got to focus on music to enjoy it then it's failed to capture the attention of the listener and it here that The Joy of Motion really fails. Despite it's technicality, it fails to capture a listener's attention.

This doesn't necessarily mean that The Joy Of Motion is a bad album per se, depending on what criteria you define an album. If you're a huge fan of technical music then this album will no doubt appeal and that is fine, however if you're not specifically looking for technicality, then there are better albums out there and Animals as Leaders just fall short of providing an over-all experience.

To conclude, The Joy Of Motion is an extraordinary technical feat that lacks a real human element and as a result falls short of a full experience. If you are looking at getting into this kind of music, then this is probably not a good place to start, but if you're into next-level musicianship, definitely give it a try.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Steel Panther - All You Can Eat

Release Date: 1st April 2014
Genre: Comedy, glam hard rock
Record Label: Open E Music, Kobalt Label Services
Number of Tracks: 12

Overall Rating: 7.6/10

If you have never heard of Steel Panther  then you should hide yo kids hide yo wife, and prepare yourself for profane vulgarity towards sex and sexual themes that will have you in stitches and singing (probably not in public) along.

Steel Panther had some early success on the sunset strip as a Van Halen cover band, before releasing their first single, Death To All But Metal  in 2003. This was included in their first album Feel the Steel in 2009. Their second album is more risque with 'true' song about how the lead guitarist Satchel "Fucked 17 girls at the grocery store and never lost his erection". This 3rd album All You Can Eat  takes the themes from potentially true and sometimes thoughtful ideas, to humourous and comical. The track listing is below so you can get an idea of what I'm talking about. 

1. "Pussywhipped"  
2. "Party Like Tomorrow is the End of the World"  
3. "Gloryhole"  
4. "Bukkake Tears"  
5. "Gangbang at the Old Folks Home"  
6. "Ten Strikes You're Out"  
7. "The Burden of Being Wonderful"  
8. "Fucking My Heart in the Ass"  
9. "B.V.S."  (Big Vagina Syndrome)
10. "You're Beautiful When You Don't Talk"  
11. "If I Was the King"  
12. "She's on the Rag"  

This album is loads of fun. Yes, Steel Panther are a comedy act, but the music is actually excellent. The album is full of catchy rhythms, lyrics and melodies. The construction on the most part is as simple as a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo theme, but they manage to mix styles and tempos to make it interesting and different every time. You can't deny that Satchels well executed solos are excellent and a real credit to this album. Even though this is a comical album, you can't help but feel that Satchel takes his guitaring very seriously, and puts a lot of effort into his solos.

The 80's parody they go for is done really well, with some excellent Van Halen style songs, such as The Burden of Being Wonderful and some of the lyrical themes are culturally infuriating with the 80s parody they are trying to convey. Examples can be seen in track 6 Ten Strikes and You're Out and If I Was the King.  

We can find very little fault with this album musically, however the reason you listen to Steel Panther is the vulgarity which entices a certain audience. You do get the feeling that the jokes are wearing thin after 3 albums, and there isn't anywhere new the band can go. I would also say it is less diverse than the previous 2, and lacks the softer Community Property or Girl From Oklahoma song that really made Feel the Steel pop.

Overall, it is a solid effort from Steel Panther and is another great addition to their discography. Musically is it superb, and it is a lot of fun. It would be interesting to see if their jokes continue to be funny on their next album. Steel Panther are undeniable proof that 80s glam rock can survive in 2014!


Friday, 11 April 2014

Black Label Society - Catacombs of the Black Vatican

Release Date: 8th April 2014
Genre: Southern Rock, Heavy Metal
Record Label: E1 Music
Number of Tracks: 11

Overall Rating: 6.9

The last studio album released by Black Label Society (BLS) was Order Of the Black released back in 2010. The hard working quartet released pretty much an album per year from their inception in 1999, up until Shot to Hell  released in 2006 - which was a poor album to say the least. 

Catacombs is their 10th record, and first without Nick "The Twin" Catanese, who left last year. After BLS's more recent acoustic releases such as The Songs Remains Not the Same and Unblackened, we were all expecting something heavy, aggressive and kick ass like on their debut album or 2002 1919 Eternal. This album disappoints in that aspect. 

Thats not to say its a bad album far from it. Catacombs is a midpoint between the heavy and the softer side of BLS, which forms a sort of soft mid tempo grunge style. Guitarist and frontman Zakk Wydle delivers bludgeoning grunge, soulfull southern Sabbath style riffs, with definite hints of Alice In Chains in there too, especially track 1 Fields of Forgiveness and lead single My Dying Time. 

But there are softer more melodic songs such as track 4 Angel of Mercy, track 7 Scars and final track 11 Shades of Grey. These are surrounded by heavier tracks which we were expecting. The most typical BLS track on this album has to be up tempo groovy track 5 Heart of Darkness. It shows some guitar wizardry and would perhaps be a better opening track than Fields of Forgiveness which is more mid tempo and not the typical aggressive BLS we are used to. Track 8 Damn the Flood  is another heavy aggressive track, full of well timed pinch harmonics and exquisite vocals. It probably has the best solo on the record too. Damn the Flood  is my favorite track, and the album would have fared a lot better if it was full of similar high tempo tracks.

Catacombs doesn't break new ground, and definitely isn't the heavy aggressive album which we were expecting. Its more diverse with the a range of tempo's and acoustic pop ballads thrown in there too. Its still a good album, and has the polished, defined BLS sound which the legion of Wylde fans will be pleased about.

Whats your favorite BLS track?
What do you think of the new album? Throw us some comments below.

Listen on YouTube
BLS Website

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Ronnie James Dio - This is Your Life - Tribute

Ronnie James Dio was a character unlike any other in the music industry. His, talent, his songwriting, his distinctive style and his compassion and personality all of which have made him a legend in the field. Ronnie James Dio - This is Your Life is not only a tribute, but a celebration of his works which have left an indelible mark on the genre. The album brings some of the biggest names in metal and some of Dio's close friends, to honor such a great, by covering some of his elusive works from; Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio. All proceeds from the album go to the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund

Personally, I thought it would be rude to review an album of covers, especially because it is a tribute album. It wouldn't be fair to scrutinise the excellent work done by these artists. However, I know many of you will agree when I say each song does Dio justice, as they are all as heavy and in your face as you would hope for. There are a lot of standout performances such as Anthrax's cover of Neon Knights, Adrenaline Mob's cover of The Mob Rules, Corey Taylor's excellent vocals on Rainbow in the Dark and more surprisingly the powerful vocals from Halestrom. 

The effort gone into this album is phenomenal, its not just the artists on the back of the CD that have contributed, a full list can be seen below, and they all deserve credit as dedicating your time, effort, money and resources to such a cause is worthy of credit. These tracks represent a bold statement of the love and admiration that united musicians from all eras.

  1. Neon Knights - Anthrax
  2. The Last In Line - Tenacious D
  3. The Mob Rules - Adrenaline Mob
  4. Rainbow In The Dark - Corey Taylor, Roy Mayorga, Satchel, Christian Martucci, Jason Christopher
  5. Straight Through The Heart - Halestorm
  6. Starstruck - Motörhead with Biff Byford
  7. The Temple Of The King - Scorpions
  8. Egypt (The Chains Are On) - Doro
  9. Holy Diver - Killswitch Engage
  10. Catch The Rainbow - Glenn Hughes, Simon Wright, Craig Goldy, Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren
  11. I - Oni Logan, Jimmy Bain, Rowan Robertson, Brian Tichy
  12. Man On The Silver Mountain - Rob Halford, Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, Scott Warren
  13. Ronnie Rising Medley (Featuring A Light In The Black, Tarot Woman, Stargazer, Kill The King) - Metallica
  14. This Is Your Life - Dio
  15. Heaven And Hell - Stryper (Japanese bonus track)[1]
  16. Stand Up And Shout - Dio Disciples (Japanese bonus track)[1]
  17. Buried Alive - Jasta (Digital bonus track)
I have to give a mention to the artwork, which is perfect. Pictures of Dio are printed on the inside cover including a picture of his Devil Horns, which were a legacy of Dio. I teared up when I opened the album to see these pictures, and it was even before the music started that I realised how appropriate this tribute is.

Finally, the last song and title track brings a close to a fantastic album and out of honour and respect it had to be Ronnie himself with This is Your Life from the 1996 Angry Machines album.

Horns up, in honour of a true legend. Ronnie James Dio will forever be remembered in the highest regard by fans of all rock and metal. 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Scarsic - A Tale of Two Worlds

Release Date: 25th February 2014 
Genre: Technical Metal, Heavy Metal
Record Label: Self-released
Number of Records: 10

Rating: 7.6/10

It's another Tuesday night review! This week we have Scarsic with their first full-length offering; A Tale of Two Words. A three-piece studio project, Scarsic have crafted their own distinct style of metal, featuring some great riffs, an excellent rhythm section, and excellent dynamic diversity.

The album opens with a simple piano moment that is both lovely and dynamic while hiding underneath a punchy riff, before opening out into a spacious chorus. Throughout the 10-track record, this serves as a benchmark for the dynamic variance of each track, giving the listener a good primer for what to expect. That said, this album doesn't get boring or predictable, providing a variety of sounds from almost Dream Theateresque build ups, to outright groove riffage and almost every other stop along the way. Diversity is definitely the keyword to this record.

As well put together as A Tale is as an album, there are a few moments where the overall production does let it down, the piano on Entropy sounds a tiny bit clippy in context to the rest of the record. There are moments where vocal harmonies sound a little bit unrefined too. During the opening track, this is most apparent. Outside of these small niggles, the rest of A Tale is actually very well produced and put together. There are other tiny niggles, but they aren't really noticeable.

Musically, the album is actually pretty excellent. Asides from the aforementioned diversity, the tonal quality of the album is great. It's not muddy, it's not buzzy, it's tonally warm and well-rounded. The band sound together and coherent, and again, it really accentuates the experience. Listening to a band who aren't quite together can be disconcerting, but Scarsic come together nicely, and it translates really well onto the record.

Despite all of this, A Tale is not a perfect album. Despite being well put together as an album, there are moments where individual tracks lack cogency and feel a little bit disjointed. Live By These Words is a good example of this. The opening section, with the clean chordal moments and the (really, really good) vocal melodies then moves into something that almost feels entirely unrelated and possibly unnecessary. It's still a good song, but it does feel a little disjointed. The album is called A Tale of Two Worlds, and it's probably fair to say that the diversity is done as a nod to the theme implied by the title, and for the most part it does actually work really well. With a bit of refinement, it could be really, really excellent.

The album it's self really is an eclectic mix of themes, held together by some really solid metal. There is something for everyone, be it the technical riffage of Land of Sin, to the really wide open piano and acoustic sounds of A Tale of Two Worlds pt.1, which moves into more excellent and expansive metal.

To wrap up the review, A Tale is a good opening effort from a really talented trio, featuring a lot of really, really good metal. Despite the few niggles that let the album down, it's a really enjoyable experience that hints at a band that, with some refinement, have an awful lot to offer.

Check out Scarsic's Facebook, Twitter and Bandcamp accounts. And if you're interested in hearing more, they are on Spotify too!