Sunday, August 31, 2008

MOTÖRHEAD: Motörizer

Produced by Cameron Webb

Released: August 26

Regardless of whatever else appens in the world of music, Motörhead can always be counted on to stay resolutely Motörhead. Motörizer brings their studio album count up to 20, and if you've heard any of the others you already know pretty much what to expect this time around too. Even the band themselves are suggesting that this is perhaps their most diverse album ever, but like the word "interesting", "diverse" can mean a lot of things.

Motörizer is probably as diverse as anything carrying the Motörhead name could be. It kicks off with the dirty biker metal of "Runaround Man" and follows that up with some filthy, menacing blues in the shape of "Teach You How to Sing the Blues". "When the Eagle Screams" is patented 'Head dirty rock and "Rock Out" is classic speed metal, a dead-ringer for "Aces of Spades". "English Rose" is one of Lemmy's cheeky love songs, "Back on the Chain" is bass-driven mayhem. "Heroes" slows the pace just a tad whereas "The Thousand Names of God" rounds out the collection in a slightly more melodic though no less frenetic vein.

As usual, the band is on fire, a relentless rock and roll machine. Mikkey Dee simply slays behind the kit. He is the epitome of high velocity rock n' roll drumming. Phil Campbell shows his chops as fine as always, cutting loose with a short, sharp lead break or injecting some lethal fills. Then there's the core of the Motörhead sound: Lemmy's unfaltering raspy throat and thundering bass assault, as ageless as rock n roll itself. The production has been stripped back to the raw punkish buzz of yore (say 1978 or so), making Motörizer one of the dirtiest-sounding Motörhead albums in a long time. And that's saying something.

This may not quite match the total return to glory that was Kiss of Death, but it's damn close. There's everyone else, and then there's Motörhead.

  1. Runaround Man
  2. Teach You How to Sing the Blues
  3. When the Eagle Screams
  4. Rock Out
  5. One Short Life
  6. Buried Alive
  7. English Rose
  8. Back on the Chain
  9. Heroes
  10. Time is Right
  11. The Thousand Names of God

Rating: 85%

Thursday, August 28, 2008

ICED EARTH: The Crucible of Man (Something Wicked Part 2)

Released: September 9, 2008

When Jon Schaffer sacked Ripper Owens from Iced Earth just as the singer was preparing to go in and start working on this album because Matt Barlow had suddenly made himself available again, I swore that I would never give Schaffer another cent of my money. Later I had to begrudgingly admit that Jon Schaffer has every right to do whatever he thinks is in the best interests of his band, and Matt Barlow has really been the highlight of Iced Earth's sound over the years. Still, I'm reluctant to go back on my word. Fortunately for me, The Crucible of Man hasn't made it that difficult.

Part Two of Iced Earth's Something Wicked chronicle of albums that promised so much (as all such things do) is so far on par with Nostradamus by Judas Priest as the most overblown, boring, overwrought, over-long and tedious album released so far this year. Or ever. At almost exactly an hour in length, The Crucible of Man is at least 15 minutes too long, being too samey-sounding and too bogged down in mid-paced "epic" chuggers to hold most people's attention for that long. The good songs, none of which are as good as anything on Something Wicked This Way Comes or Night of the Storm Rider -- two of the best pure metal albums of the 1990s -- are spread too far apart and Schaffer's notorious three-riff repertoire has now worn as thin as it can get.

"I Walk Alone" and "Come What May" are perhaps the best songs, with Barlow really letting loose on some high-register stuff that Owens (or few others) would have been able to match. "Divide and Devour" isn't bad either, being heavy and savage like something off Horror Show, even if it is again driven by that ever-present, conspicuous descending riff. Troy Seele even peels off the occasional guitar solo, but they, like other highlights, are few and far between. Ignoring the pointless intro piece, "Behold the Wicked Child" tells you right away that you are hearing an Iced Earth album, with that tell-tale guitar tone and that three-part riff that's been in almost every one of this band's songs. Barlow shares the vocals with a female singer here and the vibe of the track is rather like "Birth of the Wicked" from SWTWC. But the next couple of tracks are completely indistinguishable from each other although the first has some nice low-range singing that I can only think must be by Schaffer as there's nothing to suggest otherwise from promo copy I have. "A Gift or a Curse" is the first balladic song and lacks any sparkle, making it seem even longer than it is. With a third of the album done, there's yet to be any real stand-outs. Barlow's singing is formidable, but the material is flat and the rest of the band, this time made up of Brent Smedley on drums, Freddie Vidales on bass and lead guitarist Seele, gives a workmanlike but unspectacular performance. None of them are given much opportunity to shine, hardly surprising given the complete control Schaffer has over everything Iced Earth does.

The last half of the album (after "I Walk Alone") does pick up with, as previously mentioned, some stunning vocal histrionics and some more engaging songs, but overall it still sounds like ideas left over from previous releases and the stagnant repetition of familiar riffs really helps to kill it off.

I thought Framing Armageddon was excellent and like so many others held out hope that Schaffer would succeed where so many others had failed with this follow up. That hope was forlorn. Iced Earth tragics will eat this up regardless, but The Crucible of Man is a poor sequel.

  1. In Sacred Flames
  2. Behold the Wicked Child
  3. Minions of the Watch
  4. The Revealing
  5. A Gift or a Curse
  6. Crown of the Fallen
  7. The Dimensional Gauntlet
  8. I Walk Alone
  9. Harbinger of Fate
  10. Crucify the King
  11. Sacrificial Kingdoms
  12. Something Wicked (Pt. 3)
  13. Divide and Devour
  14. Come What May
  15. Epilogue

Rating: 54%

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

SEVENTH AVENUE: Between the Worlds

Released: 2003

Some bands make judging a book by its cover ridiculously easy. With Germany's Seventh Avenue, it's child's play to tell what they're going to sound like, and if you guessed "Euro-power metal" then give yourself a gold star. Between the Worlds is nothing but wall-to-wall ultra-melodic power metal from start to finish, and quite good it is too as far as sticking to that tried and tired generic formula goes.

Of course there's nothing really wrong with being generic when you're good at it, and Seventh Avenue is. Even albums with little to distinguish them from hundreds of others can also be good, as Between the Worlds also is. Good playing, catchy songs, strong vocals and that typically European penchant for incredible melodies mark a competent if unremarkable album when put up alongside the likes of Edguy and Gamma Ray, for example. Seventh Avenue's one distinctive feature is their Christian lyrical themes, evident even before you listen to them when there's a song called "Levy Your Soul From Hate" aboard.

That's about enough to put some people off right away; for me, I don't care what their beliefs are if they make interesting records. Seventh Avenue has made a good solid album, but that's all it is.

  1. Beyond the Queen
  2. A Step Between the Worlds
  3. Levy Your Soul From Hate
  4. Tale of the Forgotten Dreams
  5. Angels Eyes
  6. Open Your Mind
  7. Storm Li
  8. Until You Come Again
  9. Wings of Dawn
  10. Touch Your Love
  11. Burning Heart
  12. One Life Ends

Rating: 65%

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

MEAT SHITS: Sniper at the Fag Parade

Released: 2002

This is a really, really dumb album, even for a genre that's as dumb as can be. What I've always enjoyed about porn-gore-grind is its proud ability to be offensive but stupidly funny and often even clever at the same time. Sniper at the Fag Parade isn't funny. Offensive and stupid, yes. Funny and clever, no. In fact, this could be the most unfunny and unclever grind album of all time.

Sniper at the Fag Parade is coarse, obnoxious, lowest-common-denominator garbage for bigots and idiots that relies almost entirely on samples of women being tortured and raped to fill the playing time. Lead idiot Robert Deathrage's stupid and ill-informed rant in the booklet of this waste shows how much he hates homosexuals, but he doesn't seem to like women much either. He may have helped pioneer this style, but real bands like Blood Duster, Regurgitate and even Volatile (whose "Gay Mardi Gras Massacre" looks like Dream Theater next to this) do it so much better than the Meat Shits' humourless and stupid nine- and eleven-second "songs". The irony of there being a song called "Minus One Brain" on here is probably lost on Deathrage and anyone who thinks this is anything more than complete and utter shit.

At least Anal Cunt realise how terrible and dumb they are, but even they can be fun. This is fucking worthless.

  1. The Second Degree of Torture
  2. Sniper at the Fag Parade
  3. Dismembered Then Raped
  4. Asian Cum-shot
  5. Paying the Price to Fuck
  6. I Hate... Therefore I Kill
  7. Homo-caust
  8. Pain With a Purpose
  9. Disturbed Orgasm
  10. Nutcase
  11. Remove the Cancer
  12. Humanity Fucked
  13. Sexual Mutilation
  14. The Pit of Horror
  15. So-called Race
  16. Next on the (Shits) List
  17. Feminist Fuck
  18. Altered States of America
  19. Check My Pants
  20. The Dead Fag Quilt
  21. Minus One Brain
  22. Done Deeds of Murder
  23. Blanket of Shit
  24. Pussy Fruit
  25. Last Train to Shitsville
  26. Homosexual Basket Case
  27. BTSGB
  28. Anti-Cobain
  29. Wiccan Bitch
  30. A River Runs Through Shit
  31. On Her Knees (Again)
  32. Noiroze
  33. Cultivation of Hatred
  34. Asian Cum-Shot
  35. Dissection of the Politically Correct
  36. Gender Bender Offender
  37. Fucked in the Head
  38. The Meat Shits Pt VIII

Rating: 0%

Monday, August 25, 2008

LEADFOOT: We Drink for Free

Released: 2003

For all my love of metal, there's times when I really enjoy nothing better than some big dumb rock where you can put your brain in neutral and be swept along by some harmless, good-time chunky rock n roll about women, cars and getting loaded. So if you're having a moment like that, Leadfoot might just be the band for you.

With a title like We Drink for Free it's really hard to go past and any album with a song called "Chicks Love Metal" is simply just going to rule. Back in the day, this would have been called 'hair metal' but we all know that was just dirty rock n' roll with a hairdo. While Leadfoot may not have the 'dos, they're a pretty dirty looking bunch (two of the guys were in Corrosion of Conformity, if that gives you some idea) and rock n' roll is certainly what they play. So if you've got a hankering for some sleazeball rock and someone's stolen your LA Guns records, We Drink for Free will do the job just fine.

  1. Champion of Living
  2. Got a Lot to Learn
  3. We Drink for Free
  4. Long Time
  5. Saturday Knight
  6. Next in Line
  7. Before it was Over
  8. Chicks Love Metal
  9. Miss Sugar
  10. Playin' it Cool
  11. Valley of the Dolls
  12. Someone Else Will
  13. Never Good Enough

Rating: 75%

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Released: 2002

Malevolent Creation has been through so many line-up changes over the years that it's been a virtual revolving door of death metal talent, having drawn members from or contributed members to bands like Monstrosity, Cannibal Corpse, Incantation, Suffocation, Cynic and Nile just to name a few. The Will to Kill saw the band with another new line-up as vocalist Kyle Simmons and drummer Justin Dipinto took over from Brett Hoffman and Dave Culross. With these fresh players the band seemed to take on a fresh outlook, with something of a leaner, crisper sound than that they'd been making on their past few releases.

Whether this was because of their signing to Nuclear Blast or because the band believed they had gone as far as they could with their older sound is probably a moot point but The Will to Kill is more geared toward extreme thrash than the brutal death metal that had made up to this point. This feeling is perhaps most due to Simmons' thrashier vocal style as the band is no less violent and aggressive than before, but there's also a definite thrash edge to the playing overall. This album saw them moving closer to the style they were playing on their first two albums, and that's ultra-fast and heavy extreme thrash.

With this, they again became flag-bearers for the style instead of the generic pack-dwellers they were in danger of becoming as just another death metal band.

  1. The Will to Kill
  2. Pillage and Burn
  3. All That Remains
  4. With Murderous Precision
  5. Lifeblood
  6. Assassin Squad
  7. Reign of Terror
  8. Superior Firepower
  9. Divide and Conquer
  10. The Cardinal's Law
  11. Burnt Beyond Recognition

Rating: 78%

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Produced by Lanvall

Released: 2003

With their third album there remained little question that Edenbridge was Austria's answer to Nightwish. Singer Sabine Edelsbacher may not employ exactly the same operatic histrionics to the same extent as Tarja Turunen, but there's little doubt that her similar vocal ability draws comparisons to her Finnish counterparts.

It would be unfair to accuse them of being direct imitators however, because Edenbridge's style is something more on the progressive side than is evident with Nightwish. Aphelion is not really the sort of album to have blasting away to keep the party going but more then kind to play later to help you chill out, as you allow the band's hypnotic melodies and soaring vocals wash over you.

That isn't to say Edenbridge are slouches when it comes to churning out a chunky riff or three now and then and even stepping into a rock-out mode on occasion, as in "Farpoint Anywhere" and "Fly at Higher Game" and the band is far from uninspired. Moment of heaviness play counterpoint to bursts of orchestration and acoustic passages and songs like "Where Silence Has Lease" have an almost eerie element. Album closer "Red Ball in Blue Sky" is where the band pulls everything together, fusing all of their musical elements together into an elborate progressive mini-epic with DC Cooper adding a distinctive vocal touch.

It may have taken three albums, but with Aphelion Edenbridge finally found its place.

  1. The Undiscovered Land
  2. Skyward
  3. The Final Curtain
  4. Perennial Dreams
  5. Fly at Higher Game
  6. As Far as Eyes Can See
  7. Deadend Fire
  8. Farpoint Anywhere
  9. Where Silence has Lease
  10. Red Ball in Blue Sky

Rating: 75%

Friday, August 22, 2008

THE DAYLIGHT CURSE: Black and White Memories

Released: 2005

These days, there's so much metalcore coming out with so little to distinguish one band from the next that it's hard to be objective about the genre anymore. What was once a fresh new direction has simply turned into a great big cookie-cutter of short dyed hair, long shorts, brand new black t-shirts, At the Gates riffs and screaming. Not since everyone wanted to be Kurt Cobain has there been bandwagon-jumping on this sort of scale.

What does all this have to do with The Daylight Curse? Pretty much everything, really, but as this Sunshine Coast band's CD churned through the stereo I found myself getting into it much more than I thought I would, and that's a good sign.

Black and White Memories is unarguably metalcore, but The Daylight Curse brings to it a couple of things that many within the genre have forgotten: metal and diversity. For those two reasons alone, this band scores highly in my books. The Daylight Curse falls far more squarely on the metal side of things than other bands of their ilk. There's a technical aspect to their songwriting that really stands out and James Roberts shows himself to be quite a versatile vocalist. Morgan O'Rourke is also very much a metal-influenced guitarist, contributing some tidy and effective lead work. In the space of the first three songs, Black and White Memories displays more variety than a dozen other metalcore releases. "Till Death do Us Part" has an almost death metal vibe to it, right down to Roberts' vocals and the Arch Enemy-like technicality. In "The Show Must Go On...", a very distinctive Iron Maiden influence surfaces, something that appears here and there throughout the album. "Prepare to Burn" is where the first real metalcore idiosyncrasies arise with clean vocal melodies alternating with harsher sounds and a clearly commercial edge. The whole album could have gone to pot then, but it doesn't. The Daylight Curse maintains an individual approach to its chosen form for the length of the album, and at just eight songs, Black and White Memories doesn't wear out its welcome with generic filler and throwaway tracks.

Metalcore may have become a worn-out form as quickly as it appeared, but this shows there are a few bands playing it that still have something a bit unique to offer.

  1. Till Death do Us Part
  2. The Show Must Go On...
  3. Prepare to Burn
  4. Everyday is Dead Without You
  5. Long Song Pt. 1
  6. A Rat's Coffin
  7. Love Song Pt 2
  8. The Weight of the World

Rating: 84%

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Released: 2005

Well here's a wonderful name for a band. Prostitute Disfigurement hails from the Netherlands, a nation with a fine legacy of excellent extreme bands. PD doesn't really enhace that legacy aside from an attempt to out-gross their fellow countrymen with their ridiculously contrived band name. Even so, Embalmed Madness isn't too bad for your fairly typical death/grind release.

This is actually a re-release of an album from 2001 and also includes tracks from the band's original demo, but as those tracks are just rough versions of five of the same songs from the album there doesn't seem to be must point to their inclusion. It's not a particularly outstanding affair either, with that distinctly clicky rhythm track that signifies a drum machine, toilet-bowl vocal effects that sound like someone regurgitating their own bowel and samples of people either being murdered, commiting murder, or talking about murder. There's also typical "splatter" song titles ("On Her Guts I Cum", "Choking on Defecation") too, so you know you're going to get a nice diet of gore and depravity.

What this also has is a thick and heavy guitar sound and some occasionally catchy riffs, so it's good enough for a spin or three before it goes back into the box with all the other gore bands. In the end, Embalmed Madness is fairly garden-variety stuff.

  1. Slaugherhouse Sledgehammer
  2. Feasting on Remains
  3. Choking on Defecation
  4. Bloodless
  5. Rotting Away is Better Than Being Gay
  6. Chainsaw Abortion
  7. Knifeslasher
  8. Disemboweled
  9. On Her Guts I Cum
  10. Prostitute Disfigurement
  11. Cadaver Blowjob
  12. Dissector
  13. Bloodless (demo)
  14. Feast on Remains (demo)
  15. On Her Guts I Cum (demo)
  16. Rotting Away (demo)
  17. Dissector (demo)

Rating: 40%

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ALICE COOPER: Along Came a Spider

Produced by Danny Saber, Greg Hampton and Alice Cooper

Released: 2008

In his 60th year on the planet and his 40th as a recording artist, Alice Cooper unleashes a twisted killer on his 25th studio album. On Along Came a Spider, the Coop returns to the concept record, the format that served him so well for his influential and masterful solo debut, Welcome to My Nightmare.

Alice's last pair of albums marked a shift away from the heavy metal of the previous two decades towards a rootsier, more classic sound. On Along Came a Spider the change is complete, evoking the style of his 70s masterpieces like Billion Dollar Babies. Indeed, this sounds like garage rock most of the time, with only "Vengeance is Mine" offering a nod at Cooper's metal years. With Slash playing all over that one however, that probably isn't surprising. Even here though, it sounds like Alice is just trying a bit too hard.

Along Came a Spider reacquaints the listener with Steven, the child-like fruit loop who last appeared on The Last Temptation. Now morphed into a serial killer known as Spider, he cuts off one leg of each of his victims in order to build himself a human arachnid. It's the type of thing that Alice Cooper once did so well, but this volume takes until track six to really hit its stride. "Wrapped in Silk" is marvellously evil and the tracks that follow are, at least musically, up to the usual standard. However, the lyrics lack some of his usual sophistication, as if he's dumbed down to fit his character although there are a couple of amusingly sinister snippets like "I've got chloroform and handcuffs just for you" and "You look like you'd fit in the trunk of my car", but for a concept with such a gruesome storyline and from such a storyteller most of the time it just doesn't quite cut it.

Overall, Along Came a Spider doesn't have the same sparkle or hooks as his last few releases. It does have that touch of darkness and malevolence that have been missing from his albums for a very long time, but that isn't enough to save this from being just another Alice Cooper album. Live and worked into other chapters of Steven's story this may come across a lot better than it does on record, but here it all just sounds a little forced.

  1. Prologue/I Know Where You Live
  2. Vengeance is Mine
  3. Wake the Dead
  4. Catch Me If You Can
  5. (In Touch With) Your Feminine Side
  6. Wrapped in Silk
  7. Killed by Love
  8. I'm Hungry
  9. The One That Got Away
  10. Salvation
  11. I am the Spider/Epilogue

Rating: 56%

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

JEFF LOOMIS: Zero Order Phase

Produced by Neil Kernon
Released: August 25, 2008

As I think I've posted somewhere else, shred albums don't really do that much for me. Ordinarily I would have most likely not even listened to this, but Jeff Loomis is the guitar prodigy from Nevermore, one of my favourite bands, so the interest was there from the outset. Not to be left at a loose end or outdone by his singer's solo efforts this year, Loomis has unleashed a nice display of guitar mastery on Zero Order Phase.

The great thing about this that sets it apart from other ego-projects is that Loomis comes from a songwriting background in a successful band rather than just being some hired gunslinger who jumps from group to group between albums of self-important wankery. So instead of just leaping in with series after series of face-melting fretboard ejaculations from the get-go, Loomis lets riffing and structure tell his stories as much as the soloing does. It makes Zero Order Phase far more interesting and listenable than other albums of its ilk.

Loomis has long been lauded as a fantastic guitar player, yet while he's never exactly held anything back in Nevermore, it is here where he is at last given total freedom to show what he is truly made of. The influences from Malmsteen and James Murphy are evident, but more so is Loomis' own style and, as mentioned, he uses his songwriting power to back up his masterful and often breathtaking playing. Moreover, where Warrel Dane used Praise to the War Machines to sink further into the despair and misery of Nevermore, Zero Order Phase sounds righteously joyous. "Shouting Fire at a Funeral" opens the album well, featuring a typical Loomis-style riff that makes it sound like it could have been left off This Godless Endeavor. This is really the only Nevermore-like track on the album however, as the more expansive, shred-ridden "Opulent Maelstrom" is a clear departure from the man's signature style. "Sacristy" begins as a quiet but not melancholy piece, showing a side of Loomis that isn't usually seen in his usual role. On "JATO Unit" he trades leads with Ron Jarzombek in a display that will have guitar freaks busting out of their pants. Some of the best parts come when Loomis steps aside however, like producer Neil Kernon's jazz-inflected fretless guitar section in "Cashmere Shiv" and the team-up with former bandmate Pat O'Brien in "Race Against Disaster" is also something of a highlight, displaying both men in somewhat different colours than to be otherwise expected.

Zero Order Phase is quite a solid offering from Loomis, a nice departure from his Nevermore enterprises and a damn sight more engaging than a lot of guitar instrumental albums.

  1. Shouting Fire at a Funeral
  2. Opulent Maelstrom
  3. JATO Unit
  4. Azure Haze
  5. Cashmere Shiv
  6. Race Against Disaster
  7. Sacristy
  8. Devil Theory
  9. Miles of Machines
  10. Departure

Rating: 82%

Monday, August 18, 2008

DIMENSION ZERO: He Who Shall Not Bleed

Produced by Dimension Zero and Arnold Lindberg

Released: September 15, 2008

Jesper Strömblad has been a member of some pretty well known bands over the years, including In Flames, HammerFall and Sinergy. Dimension Zero is probably the least known and least appreciated of the bands he helped to form but as of 2008 is also perhaps the only one in which he manages to retain some of the pure energy and aggression that existed in his earliest rumblings. He Who Shall Not Bleed is the third full-length effort from Dimension Zero, seeing them leaving some of the thrashier elements behind and replacing them with the melodic death metal that In Flames abandoned after Whoracle.

On paper that doesn't sound so bad, but in practice if Strömblad (and his cronies Jocke Göthberg, Hans Nilsson and Soilwork's latest strings-puller Daniel Antonsson) wants to get back some of the relevance he had when he was still making killer albums then repeating the same riffs over and over again is probably not the way to do it. While the first three tracks sound like good At the Gates knock-offs, they are almost indistiguishable from one another with Nilsson's unimaginative drumming making matters even worse. Thankfully, "Hell is Within" was different enough that it made me keep listening. Even though the whole thing is completely formulaic and predictable with only slight variations on the same classic Gothenburg riffs throughout, He Who Shall Not Bleed is an enjoyable listen for the half an hour or so that it takes to rattle through your head. However, only "Way to Shine" is particularly memorable, the album's clear highlight that builds through a questionable attempt at "clean" singing into some virtually epic soloing towards the end. Apparently some versions feature a version of "Staying Alive" which I would think was really bizarre if Machinae Supremacy hadn't already done a Britney Spears cover this year.

He Who Shall Not Bleed shows that Strömblad can still rip out some thrashy death metal when he wants to, but he isn't exactly stretching his creativity very far.

  1. He Who Shall Not Bleed
  2. Unto Others
  3. A Paler Shade of White (A Darker Shade of Black)
  4. Hell is Within
  5. Red Dead Heat
  6. I Can Hear the Dark
  7. Going Deep
  8. Is
  9. Deny
  10. The Was
  11. Way to Shine

Rating: 50%

Sunday, August 17, 2008

SEPULTURA: Live in Sao Paolo

Released: 2005

Yesterday I talked about the new Soulfly album, so by way of contrast I'll take a look back at Live in Sao Paolo, Sepultura's live offering from a few years back which was a sadly unspectacular showing from Max Cavalera's former band. For a band that all but imploded just as they’d really broken through and then offered up only a few ordinary albums since it wasn't that surprising that a live album would appear eventually as the band struggled for legitimacy as release after release met with little positive response.

Roorback was the best thing to come from this band for a long time up to this point but even that was pretty well ignored, so a double live CD recorded in the band’s hometown with a few special guests may well have been seen as the way to recover flagging support for a group that was at one point one of the world’s most influential thrash acts. Sepultura has never been the same without Max Cavalera and Derrick Green has always struggled to find acceptance as frontman. In truth the two men don’t really sound that different so that aspect is a moot point from where I stand. What can’t be argued about Live in Sao Paolo is the questionable mix. The vocals and drums are loud and clear but the guitar is often little more than a murky rumble in the background. I’m unsure if this was deliberate to create a more realistic “live” feel, and it does show off Igor Cavalera’s impressive sticks work, but I’ve heard bootlegs that sound better than this album.

With respect to the material included, the 21 tracks do give a nice career overview. Songs from Chaos AD and Roots make up the bulk of the content but all albums are represented. The uninspired cover of “Bullet the Blue Sky” could well have been dropped though, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what they were thinking with the hamfisted version of Public Enemy’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos”. Doing much of the stage banter in Portugese and bringing early Seps guitarist Jairo and Max Kolesne from Krisiun out for a couple of tracks is a nice touch, however.

As live albums go, Live in Sao Paolo isn’t great. I haven't seen the DVD taken of the same performance so I don't know if actually watching it would make it better, but the awful mix, the dodgy covers and the long-winded intro are big minuses and make it one for only the most die-hard fans.

CD 1

  1. Intro
  2. Apes of God
  3. Slave New World
  4. Propaganda
  5. Attitude
  6. Choke
  7. Inner Self/Beneath the Remains
  8. Escape to the Void
  9. Mindwar
  10. Troops of Doom
  11. Necromancer

CD 2

  1. Sepulnation
  2. Refuse/Resist
  3. Territory
  4. Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos
  5. Bullet the Blue Sky
  6. Reza
  7. Biotech is Godzilla
  8. Arise/Dead Embryonic Cells
  9. Come Back Alive
  10. Roots Bloody Roots

Rating: 40%

Saturday, August 16, 2008

SOULFLY: Conquer

Produced by Max Cavalera

Released: 2008

I'm not sure what happened to Max Cavalera this year but he seems to have got some of his mojo back. The Cavalera Conspiracy album from a few months back was a nice return to the aggression of his earlier days and Conquer is the best Soulfly album yet.

Soulfly's past output has been patchy at best: one or two good songs per album, surrounded by self-indulgent and self-important excursions into "world" music, pointless colloborations that do no one any favours, throw-away jump-metal anthems, an over-reliance on the word "motherfucker" and way too much regurgitation of ideas, themes and riffs. They've been able to get away with this mainly because their core audience has been made up of people who think that Korn are "classic" metal and that Hatebreed invented hardcore, mostly trend-jumping kids with goldfish-like attention spans who don't care if ten songs all sound alike as long as they can mosh. But as most of those fans move into their mid-20s now and former trends give way to new ones, it could be that Max has had a good hard think about longevity and legitimacy. Let's face it, I can't think of anyone who still listens to Soulfly on a regular basis, even people who thought it was awesome when it came out.

Conquer doesn't redeem all of Soulfly's past sins, but it is far more consistent, aggressive and heavy than anything that has borne the name before. There are still those tell-tale Soulfly touches like the jumpy-jump, written-with-the-pit-in-mind "Enemy Ghost" and its string of obscenitites and the predictable-sounding, cliche-titled "Blood Fire War Hate" that opens the piece. A much-vaunted team-up with Morbid Angel's Dave Vincent, it sounds like dozens of Cavalera's songs and the guest vocals could have been done by anyone. "Unleash" however mixes the groove metal with tribal beats better than usual and the guest spot from Dave Peters (of Throwdown) gels pretty well and "Rough" presents a cool Nailbomb-type sound with some industrial flavouring. "Touching the Void" is shameless Black Sabbath worship, but given Cavalera's fondness for the Godfathers of All Things Metal is strongly respectful.

The highlights however are "Warmageddon" and "For Those About to Rot" where the band plunges into furious, aggressive thrash mode. Marc Rizzo comes into his own on these tracks and his playing across Conquer is sterling. "...Rot" ends with an Eastern-flavoured section that isn't overplayed the way such things have been by this band in the past and there's a genuine feel about both of these tracks that makes them probably the coolest songs Soulfly has ever done. In fact the same vibe can be felt from the album as a whole. It isn't brilliant or earth-shattering, but it is by far the most satisfying recording from Soulfly thus far.

  1. Blood Fire War Hate
  2. Unleash
  3. Paranoia
  4. Warmageddon
  5. Enemy Ghost
  6. Rough
  7. Fall of the Sycophants
  8. Doom
  9. For Those About to Rot
  10. Touching the Void
  11. Soulfly VI

Rating: 69%

Friday, August 15, 2008

CONTRIVE: The Meaning Unseen

Released: 2005

Contrive's debut album opens with an absolute killer riff, the kind that gets inside your head and stays there for hours. "By Way of Choice" marks something of a departure for this Melbourne three-piece, a nice speedy melodic number that boasts more of a Swedish feel than the Sepultura-like vibe of their previous EPs.

Right off the bat, Contrive mixes it up. After "By Way of Choice", they move back into the more familiar territory with "Prepare to Fall" grooving like a bastard after the spoken-word intro and "A Vigil for the Lost" is a darker, brooding piece throwing some light and shade into the mix. "At Ease" is a quiet melodic guitar instrumental from Paul Haug that comes before "Shifting Focus" moves the album squarely back into the musical ground they staked out on 'Prosper' and 'Finally'. It's solid and powerful, with abrasive vocals from Haug and nice work behind the kit from twin brother Andrew, who shows off more of his skills with the Takio percussive piece "Todoroki". There's also an interesting cover of Armored Angel's "Communion" and all hails to an Aussie band doing an Aussie metal cover.

The Meaning Unseen was mixed by Frederick Nordstrom, thereby possessing that sharp, Scandinavian melodic sound, but as decent a release as it is, it gets a tad wearisome towards the end and I felt that some more melody or a bit of lead guitar might have helped break up the grooves a bit more. As it stands though, there is a good amount of diversity on display and it's definitely worth a closer inspection.

  1. By Way of Choice

  2. Prepare to Fall

  3. A Vigil for the Lost

  4. At Ease

  5. Shifting Focus

  6. The Meaning Unseen

  7. Beside Yourself

  8. Todoroki

  9. Divided

  10. Communion

  11. Relate

Rating: 72%

Thursday, August 14, 2008

BRAND NEW SIN: Recipe For Disaster

Released: 2005

Frankly, this album was really disappointing. The promo material that came with it described Brand New Sin as "an example of everything right about hard rock" and the albums opens with an absolute killer called "Arrived" that had me thinking this was going to be a Skid Row for the new millennium. It was immediately after this however that everything turned to shit.

"The Loner" is dreck of the worst order, just meaningless, repetitive and boring crap. After that, almost anything would have been better, and Recipe for Disaster does improve. Rarely does it lift beyond the standard generic modern hard rock sound of the past decade though, and nothing like "Arrived" appears anywhere else. If that had happened, Recipe For Disaster would have been a pretty decent album. As it is, singer Joe Altier is a deadringer for Chad Kroger most of the time and the rest of the band just sound like a hevaier version of Nickleback with rather more inspired lead guitar work. Every now and then they show an edge and put up something that sounds like real attitude, but it's not often enough and overall Recipe for Disaster is just not that interesting.

"Arrived" is awesome, though.

  1. Arrived
  2. The Loner
  3. Brown Street Betty
  4. Running Alone
  5. Freight Train
  6. Vicious Cycles
  7. Another Reason
  8. Days are Numbered
  9. Once in a Lifetime
  10. Dead Men Walking
  11. Gulch
  12. Wyoming

Rating: 35%

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

SWITCHBLADE: The End of All Once Known

Released: 2005

Switchblade carves out an impressive modern death and thrash attack, one that is expertly encapsulated on this debut. The follow-up is due out anytime now, so before it surfaces, let's take a look at The End of All Once Known.

It never ceases to amaze me how heart-thumpingly good Australia's bands are and how well they compare with their better-known cousins offshore; this is yet another criminally-overlooked local band unleashing an album that would ritualistically slaughter some of the generic crap that the big European labels seem to sign up every couple of weeks. The End of All Once Known combines killer melodies with hook-ridden headbanging riffage, duck's-arse tight timekeeping and an enormous vocal onslaught. What Switchblade also displays here is an ability to blend an array of inspirations and styles rather than just sounding like one particularly influencing act. This gives them a somewhat original sound in a genre crowded with faceless clones.

On "Wings of Redemption" Switchblade takes on a melodic thash guise; elsewhere, such as with "Convulse" they show far more brutal tendencies but never does one aspect of the band's sound overshadow any of the others. This mix of ingredients made The End of All Once Known one of the better metal releases of 2005, so prepare for the new one because it should make this one look tame.

  1. Declaration of Hatred
  2. Wings of Redemption
  3. Stabbing Machine
  4. Convulse
  5. Cataclysm
  6. Dissect
  7. Concrete
  8. Tremors
  9. Eradicate
  10. Incineration

Rating: 90%

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

GOTTHARD: Lipservice

Released: 2005

Gotthard is a Swiss melodic hard rock band with a string of hugely successful albums behind them in their home country but one that has remained virtually unknown everywhere else. Of course, their previous eight albums could totally suck or rule the universe as far as I know, but if Lispervice is any kind of indication as to the rest of their catalogue then the world hasn't exactly been missing out.

Gotthard would hardly set the world afire, much less compete with the big guns in the same field, but when they set their minds ot the task they certainly know how to put togethre some good, driving kick ass rock. Unfortunately, they're unable to maintain the momentum for the entire 53 minutes of an album that is at least four songs too long.

"All We Are" demonstrates the band's best qualities in the way that every opening track should and "I'm Alive" and "I Wonder" are also rather good. The rest of Lipservice is comprised of awful power ballads and sub-standard rock songs, some of which would have missed the cut from even the most ordinary album from the maelstrom that was late-80s North American hard rock. On first listen I thought a lot more of this CD than this review would suggest, but it doesn't really stand up to repeated listenings and 14 songs is way too many for an album that runs out of puff by halfway through.

  1. All We Are
  2. Dream On
  3. Lift U Up
  4. Everything I Want
  5. Cupid Arrow
  6. I Wonder
  7. I'm Alive
  8. I've Seen an Angel City
  9. Stay for the Night
  10. Anytime Anywhere
  11. Said and Done
  12. The Other Side of Me
  13. Nothing Left at All
  14. And then Goodbye

Rating: 42%

Monday, August 11, 2008

PATHOGEN: Bloodline

Produced by Aiden Barton
Released: 2005

For a band that seems to have such a hard time keeping a line-up together Bloodline is a mightily impressive album from Perth's Pathogen. Melodic death metal bands are a dime-a-dozen these days, but this is one of those who stand out simply because they still play it in the way that made the form so popular in the first place.

Groove-laden breakdowns, clean melodic vocals and blatant leaning toward hardcore have no place here. Bloodline is crunchy, headbanging death metal with savage melodies from start to finish, broken up only occasionally by a well-crafted and well-timed acoustic passage like the sort of thing In Flames used to do when they were still relevant. This is ten years' worth of frustration wrapped up into one hour-long package of brutality. Many of the songs on here are almost as old as the band itself--at least seven of them are from Pathogen's 96 and 97 demos--but here they've been reworked and given a modern sound with a beefy, crisp production that makes them stand strong alongside the newer tracks.

"Identity Theft" is a true highlight, a monster that almost threatens to to dwarf the rest of the material almost immediately, but fortunately for Pathogen the rest of the songs are just about as good and Bloodline doesn't really fall down anywhere. From the artwork to the closing notes of the last track (named, like the first, simply with an ellipsis) this is a killer album of killer Australian metal.

  1. ...
  2. Identity Theft
  3. Beyond Repent
  4. Bleeding Eye
  5. Fallen Kind
  6. Shallow
  7. Eviscerated
  8. C.O.W.
  9. Nightfall
  10. Bleed My Soul (Pt. I)
  11. Warchild
  12. Tyranny of Hatred
  13. ...

Rating: 90%

Sunday, August 10, 2008

NILE: Annihilation of the Wicked

Produced by Neil Kernon

Released: 2005

Three years on from their previous masterpiece and Nile once again showed the way for brutal death metal. The themes are similar to those that have come on Nile albums before, but the approach was a little different. Whereas former effort had attempted to enhance their Ancient Egyptian concepts with bursts of traditional Middle Eastern instrumentation, Annihilation of the Wicked virutally dispenses with them, allowing the band to concentrate solely on creating some of the most elaborately technical death metal of all.

The first thing that became clear was that new drummer George Kollias was a prize find, a fact made all the moreapparent due to the band finally getting the mix they deserve. The secong thing is that Dallas Toler-Wade and Karl Sanders are no slouches in the lead guitar stakes: "Cast Down the Heretic" ends with an enormous solo trade-off that lasts over two minutes! This is indicative of Nile's approach on this album. The songs are still huge epics of wildly complex arrangements that are frankly mind-numbingly contrived at times, but the music has been stripped back to its death metal elements.

The ambient parts are reduced to supporting roles as intros and interludes, allowing the album to flow and creating much a more aggressive Nile to shine through. Annihilation of the Wicked relishes in its own violence, crushing and destroying everything in its path like the giant two-headed serpent from the title track. Sanders and Toler-Wade carve out the kind of riffs Morbid Angel seems to have forgotten and Kollias' drum arsenal is awe-inspiring in its precision.

There isn't too much more need be said about this. Nile delivered yet again, probably even better than before, and this time they had the production to back it up. An amazing album.

  1. Dusk Falls Upon the Temple of the Serpent on the Mount of Sunrise
  2. Cast Down the Heretic
  3. Sacrifice Unto Sebek
  4. User-Maat-Re
  5. The Burning Pits of the Duat
  6. Chapter of Obeisance Before Giving Breath to the Inert One in the Presence of the rescent Shaped Horns
  7. Lashed to the Slave Stick
  8. Spawn of Uamenti
  9. Annihilation of the Wicked
  10. Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten

Rating: 95%

Saturday, August 9, 2008

BLACK ALICE: Endangered Species

Released: 1983

In the first half of the 1980s, a native heavy metal scene barely existed in Australia. Of course, there was a multitude of bands that sounded in some way like AC/DC or Rose Tattoo, but anything resembling the sort of styles that were becoming popular in Europe and the US at the time was pretty thin on the ground. A smattering of such bands did exist, however. Sydney had Tyrant and Boss, Brisbane had Vice and Melbourne had a small raft of bands including Taipan, Bengal Tigers and the Virgin Soldiers. In Perth, there was Black Alice.

Black Alice made a significant impression on someone, enough to end up on a major label. But this probably had more to do with the fact that they sounded rather like Judas Priest than because they were anything particularly special. It's true that Rob Hartley sounds more like Brian Johnson than Rob Halford and the guitar playing of Jamie Page is considerably more restrained, but it's still hard not to think of Endangered Species as little more than a poor man's Screaming for Vengeance impression.

Despite the money the label must have poured into this, this album sank without trace almost immediately. It's easy to see why. The entire album is blatant Priest worship, but rather poorly done. The songs simply aren't very catchy or particularly memorable aside from the titles, some of which must rank as among the most contrived and try-hard metal song names ever dreamed up. "Hell Has No Fury Like Rock n Roll" could in fact be in the top five of such a list. The tracks are pretty straight forward and ridiculously formulaic, except for "In the Hall of Ancient Kings", an attempt at an "epic" that is actually pretty dismal. Admittedly, the second half of the album gets underway fairly strongly: "Roll the Dice" isn't actually too bad and "Running Hot, Running Wild" is also ok, but after this the material reverts to the mediocre levels experienced at the beginning and never recovers.

As a kid, I'd often see this album sitting on the shelf in record stores and a couple of times even juggled with the idea of buying it. When a copy (dubbed from a cassette!) finally came my way recently, I'm rather glad I saved my bucks and bought Piece of Mind instead. Even in 1983, I probably wouldn't have liked this, and it's dated so badly that I can't even really recommend it beyond its curiosity value.

1. Wings Of Leather, Wings Of Steel
2. Psycho
3. Hell Has No Fury Like Rock N Roll
4. Blade Of Slaughter
5. In The Hall Of Ancient Kings
6. Roll The Dice
7. Running Hot, Running Wild
8. Power Crazy
9. Man Of Metal
10. No Warning

Rating: 42%

Friday, August 8, 2008

Apologies for this break in transmission...

Some of you may know that my son was born on July 16. Keeping up with him has begun to restrict my blogging a bit of late, so the reviews won't be as regular as they have been. Instead of one a day, there may only be one or two a week now for a while.

Thanks to all my regular readers. Keep checking back and stay subscribed to the feeds!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

SEGRESSION: Segression

Released: 2002

Segression was a band that I unashamedly championed for quite a few years, from the time I saw them (when they were still known as Eezee) playing to a couple of dozen people in a Liverpool pizza bar. They managed to piss off as many people as they pleased, but at the time of this album, they were one of only a handful of Australian metal bands to have made it to their fourth album and it only took them six years to do it.

After a failed relationship with a label, a few months in the US and replacing yet another drummer, Segression offered this self-titled release as their fourth issue, this time on their own label. There had been some talk among the band about bringing the heaviness back for this album, which was seen by some as an admission that maybe they’d left it behind somewhere along the way and ‘Dragon Mouth Splitter’ starts Segression off on the right foot with a feel and execution that hearkened back to their thrashier early days. After this however the band moves into the nu-metal territory they’d been in since the Fifth of the Fifth album, a style they helped pioneered in this country.

Chris Rand tries out a few different vocal guises across the CD, from a whispery spoken-word approach to his raspy half-shouts and occasional scream and new boy Keith Owen does some nifty work behind the kit. There's also no denying that Segression had lost not a jot of their aggression and rage over the years, as 'Conspire' and 'Segregated Aggresion' – probably the best song on the album – in particular prove. But most of the tracks suffer from a real dearth of variation in the riff department, with the guitars churning out the same chugga-chugga motif over and over again. On past albums Segression had shown that they could put together a riff vicious enough to strip flesh from the bone, so it was hard to figure out exactly what they were thinking here. The unaccountably muddy guitar mix doesn't help matters either. The acoustic ballad is something that they should have perhaps left alone too: they set out to prove they could show other emotions besides anger, but Rand doesn’t quite have the voice to carry it off.

Ultimately Segression was a disappointing note for the band to go out on, and had they continued may have been a hard one to recover from.

  1. Dragon Mouth Splitter
  2. Lips of Sorrow
  3. No One
  4. Poison Pen
  5. Segregated Aggression
  6. What I Would Give
  7. Conspire
  8. Spoonbled
  9. Body
  10. You Want Me to Die

Rating: 40%

EARTH: The Bleeding Fields

Released: 2002

Melbourne’s Earth is undoubtedly one of the best Australian metal bands around and on their first album they more than proved their mettle with some malicious death metal laden with crushing riffs, demonic vocals and surging melodies.

Those familiar with the first album may have been a little taken aback with the follow-up at first however, because on The Bleeding Fields Earth takes a more simplistic attitude than with the more elaborate debut, injecting a rockier feel overall and eschewing the Byronesque lyrics for rather more graphic depictions of carnage and violence. The style may be a little different, but it is by no means any less effective and powerful. Indeed, as was Star Condemn’d, The Bleeding Fields is nothing less than a excellent display of fearsome and heavy melodic death metal. The Entombed-like rockier edge does nothing to lessen Earth’s impact, although admittedly there are times when some of the riffs do sound rather alike, particularly on the first two tracks, and overall the effect is striking. Bren Birge’s vocals are truly immense, matching the outright fury of the band’s assault. It’s hard to choose a stand out track because the whole album is full of them, but ‘The Undead’ and ‘Armageddon’ are awesome, ‘Human Carnage’ and ‘Alive’ are similarly incredible and the re-recorded version of ‘Of This Spell’ is just as impressive this time around.

The album also features a hidden cover of AC/DC’s ‘Let Me Put My Love Into You’ that shows Earth in a somewhat more rambunctious and jovial mood than is felt elsewhere. The vocals on this track are by Terry Vainoras, who replaced Birge in the band for a couple of years after this was recorded.

The Bleeding Fields is another triumph for this great band.

  1. The Bleeding Fields
  2. Black Earth
  3. Born to Die
  4. Reign of Hate
  5. Alive
  6. The Undead
  7. From the Grave
  8. Human Carnage
  9. Of This Spell
  10. Armageddon
  11. (untitled)
  12. Let Me Put Me Love Into You (unlisted)

Rating: 92%

Saturday, August 2, 2008

AGATUS: The Weaving Fates

Produced by Dimitrious Dorian and Chris Dorian
Released: 2002

Agatus is one of the bands of Greek brothers Archon Vorskaath and Eskarth the Dark One, who were resident in Adelaide for about a decade or so from the early 90s and now based in Daun, Germany. The Weaving Fates is the follow-up to their debut Dawn of Martyrdom that appeared over eight years before. In the meantime, they released a couple of recordings with their other project Zemial and toured Europe with that band at the end of 2001. Agatus is the more melodic, symphonic side of the two (the guys also had a power metal band called Alpha Centauri and a prog rock band, The Watcher).

Under the surface of the deceptively simple old school black metal riffing and the growling vocals, these are rather more complex compositions that, while never really exploring any new territory nonetheless show a band that is far from one-dimensional. Indeed, referring to Agatus as a mere black metal band would be selling them well short. The title track and furious songs like ‘Faustian Call’ and ‘Night Mares’ define the band’s objectives well. Elsewhere, Agatus tempers the mood, working in other subtleties and tracks like ‘L’Arrivee de la Victorie’ that are pure folk music along similar lines to the likes of Finntroll and Moonsorrow, although this band has been doing such things for much longer. In ‘Conqueror of Fear’ the band even tries its hand at a little power metal with guest vocalist Jim Petkoff from Raven Black Night turning in a performance through the mid-section, and ‘Night of a Thousand Stars’ is unquestionably a highlight.

With The Weaving Fates Agatus conceived something of a minor masterpiece that will appeal to even the most casual black metal listeners.

  1. The Weaving Fates
  2. Era of Tiamat
  3. Conqueror of Fear
  4. Night Mares
  5. L'Arrivée de la Victoire
  6. Night of a Thousand Stars
  7. Faustian Call
  9. Visions of the Moon
  10. Epilogue

Rating: 92%

Friday, August 1, 2008


Released: 2008

Machinae Supremacy is a band from Sweden that are apparently the inventors of SID metal. That is, they enhance their likeable rocking melodic metal tunes with 8-bit sounds from a Commodore computer's Sound Interface Device. It's a rather interesting innovation that made this one of the few full length albums released so far this year that I could listen to more than once without it seeming like a chore.

Overworld is a combination of upbeat hard rock and commercial melodic metal with the electronic touches giving it an slightly industrial flavour. It's a quirky combination that works very well and Machinae Supremacy pumps out some catchy, rocking tunes like "Dark City" and the title track. There's a very cool pop edge too that would make the likes of "Need for Steve" and "Radio Future" surefire hits with the right sort of exposure. The hints of computer noises gives them something of a unique style, but it's only on one track where they become most prominent. "Gimme More" is a cover of the Britney Spears hit, of all things, and Machinae Supremacy somehow pulls it off in a ridiculously cheesy, industro-pop way. T

The most noteable aspect of their sound to me was the vocals. I don't know whether it's just Robert Stjärnström's accent or not, but there are times when he sounds like Brian Molko, making Machinae Supremacy at times come across like Placebo playing heavy metal. Strangely, that's not as weird as it sounds.

Machinae Supremacy is quite a discovery and Overworld is a pretty solid albums without any real duds. In a year where few releases have set my world on fire, this one is something of a stand-out.

  1. Overworld
  2. Need For Steve
  3. Edge and Pearl
  4. Radio Future
  5. Skin
  6. Truth of Tomorrow
  7. Dark City
  8. Conveyer
  9. Gimme More (SID)
  10. Violater
  11. Sid Icarus
  12. Stand

Rating: 83%