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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Review: Lucifer's Hammer - Beyond The Omens


Lucifer’s Hammer is a Chilean band that was created in 2013. On the same year they released a demo called “Night Sacrifice Demo MMXIII”. Their style is definitely classic heavy metal straight from the glorious 80s. Influences from Iron Maiden (Di’ Anno’s era), Dio, Black Sabbath and with tons of NWOBHM. For some unexplained reason I got a strong feeling of Cloven Hoof (another great but unfortunately underrated band from the same era). A Helloween vibe from when they were fronted by Kai Hansen was also apparent however Lucifer’s Hammer do not utilize the same uptempo as Helloween did in the so called speed metal days.

Musicianship is adequate without surprises. Various riffs color the songs and give that long lost 80s scent that’s missing from today’s bands. A good example is the instrumental track “Lucifer’s Hammer”.

Hades and Hypnos (funny nickname that means sleep in Greek language!) do a good job with their riffs and solos while drumming from Titan is on acceptable level but sadly leaves a lot to be desired since their plenty of moments where a more ferocious attack would be much appreciated.

The vocals are one of the biggest weaknesses of this band. It’s more than obvious that Hades is not a capable singer. Poor phrasing and lots of sour notes that fly all over the place. However what his voice lacks in technique he certainly makes up for pure passion. At times he brought in mind the golden days of Kai Hansen when he was singing on the absolutely phenomenal albums “Helloween” and the superb “Walls of Jericho”. However produced and mixed this album definitely had this in mind and as a result his vocals aren’t dominating the sound leaving more room for the other instruments.

Production suffers from quite a few flaws. While each instrument has its own place can be easily heard the result is poor and lacks punch. Having guitars this obscure you’d expect from unknown bands back in the mid 80s.

In conclusion I was unimpressed by “Beyond the Omens”, yes Lucifer’s Hammer got some interesting but undeveloped ideas leaving hope for a future release. But for now this album is just a result of passion and inexperience on all levels. I think that this album will appeal to people who like obscure under produced stuff like many unknown bands released 30 plus years ago.

Written by Manos Xanthakis

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Review: Eternal Champion - The Armor Of Ire


Formed just in 2012, Texas-based epic heavy metallers Eternal Champion quickly took on the tone and feel of the classic heavy metal sound from the 80s which helps to tie in their connection to Michael Moorcock's high fantasy series of the same name. With the album being the first recorded output of third guitarist Nujon Powers, the group finally prepares its debut full-length September 27, 2016 on No Remorse Records.

There’s not a whole lot about this one as immediately from the start, the band is clearly well-suited for their brand of old-school worshipping of traditionally-minded epic heavy metal. This is headed by the title track, “I Am the Hammer” and “The Cold Sword” which feature plenty of beefy, sturdy trad-influenced riff-work at play here with the swirling melodic rhythms that gallop along at quite a steady pace here with the album’s preference for the bouncy mid-tempo race. This has the effective quality of leaving it feeling warm and quite luscious which is quite a usual ploy in this genre that manages to effectively evoke the melodic aesthetics from that style as it’s so familiar for the most part that there’s little doubt about it’s influences being derived wholeheartedly along the way. That leads into the main feature problem about this one as the wholly simplistic manner of the rhythms that it makes for way too close a tie-in to the old-school scene without really giving it an identity of its own. Even stuff like “The Last King of Pictdom” and “Invoker” comes off with way too much of a close-minded feel of the 80s which is so based on this style that there’s not a whole lot of room for this to go, and while it may have quite an effective touch here this does become an issue.

Being quite a simplistic and rather one-note style of old-school attack does get this one into trouble at times, but there’s little denying the energy and enthusiasm that’s present in here which does quite a lot to overcome these flaws and makes for quite a worthwhile effort for those that aren’t hung up on these issues who are aficionados of this epic-tinged traditional metal. 8/10

Written by Don Anelli

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Review: Enemy Of Reality - Arakhne


After the success of their previous works, Greek symphonic metallers Enemy of Reality have taken the style and musings of their Greek heritage to present yet another concept album about the titular spider’s creation and carries on from what occurred in the debut. With keyboardist Marianthie being replaced by Leonidas, the groups’ second full-length effort was originally released October 23, 2016 on F.Y.B. Records.

Once again fueled by the bands’ leanings, the main focus here is once again dwelling mainly in bombastic and grandiose rhythms and melodies as befits their symphonic leanings. Efforts like “Reflected,” “Time Immemorial” and “Nouthetisis” come loaded with swirling operatic rhythms at the forefront of the music here with the main use of cinematic keyboards offering the dramatic and wholly soaring material present here which cuts through the album as a whole nicely, and fits alongside the remaining parts of the album. Featuring plenty of progressively-tinged gothic riff-work, dripping with atmospheric touches and a rather strong beefy tone it creates quite an impactful connection here which makes for a much nicer and cohesive whole here that’s given quite a wide berth over the album with the remaining sections like “Weakness Lies Within” and “Afraid No More” instead going for a more plodding operatic style that keeps this one much more in line with the simplistic side of the gothic spectrum. Combined into a cohesive whole there’s quite a lot to really like here as this one gets quite a complete sound together, though it does stand as a bit out-of-place at times when it goes for the raspy male shrieks here as the vast majority of the album is quite competent with the dual vocalists together while those other parts just stick out quite badly. It’s not nearly enough to ruin the experience but it’s distracting at times.

Despite a few minor elements where it’s not nearly as impressive as it really could’ve been, for the most part, this here is a highly enjoyable and impressive slice of gothic-infused symphonic metal that really comes off quite nicely here for hardcore fans of this style or those looking for impressive female-fronted metal acts. 8.5/10

Written by Don Anelli

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Review: Car Bomb - Meta


If I were to make a list of heaviest, most mind blowing albums of the year, this one would most likely ice the cake. This is heavy music man. Definitely not for the in-experienced listener. In-depth thoughts below!

As I was saying. “Meta” is the third output of the band Car Bomb from Long Island, New York. This release also marks their first time putting their music out independently. Their previous efforts were all released by record label Relapse Records.

To be really honest, before “Meta” I did not even know the band before I saw on Facebook that Gojira frontman, Joe Duplantier, was working with Car Bomb to produce their new record in the self-made, New York based studio called Silver Cord Studio. Soon after, I began following the progression between the two because I thought it was interesting. In a statement by the band it was said that Joe from Gojira would feature guest vocals on the album. That really got my attention because I am a huge Gojira fan. Along with the album details came a new single by Car Bomb and I wasn’t ready for it. I listened to it on YouTube and I just wasn’t ready. My mind was shredded to pieces.

The first thing that came to mind was, did they really just up the Meshuggah game? After hearing The Violent Sleep Of Reason, the latest effort by Meshuggah, it just sounds like Car Bomb made this album in response to Meshuggah. Like, look at us. We make music with even less logic in it than your band. Don’t get me wrong, I mean this in the best way possible. The Violent Sleep Of Reason was a great album but “Meta” upped the prog/math a notch. The rhythmic sections in the music don’t even make sense! I takes a couple of listens to the full album to really get into the vibe and still you can’t predict anything. Car Bomb made a terrific effort to write songs that are bone crushingly heavy all the while bringing in a very atmospheric vibe to it. Almost Deftones-ish.

My personal favorites on the album after countless listens are ‘Secrets Within’ and ‘The Oppressor’ Both of them have a really jumpy vibe on them and to me, these songs are the easiest to listen to. There is a sort of way to find a rhythm in these two songs.

Credits and mad respect to Car Bomb for writing music like this. It’s fresh, it’s new. It takes metal yet another step further and I applaud it very much. I will definitely be on the lookout for future shows in my country. One of the best albums in a long time and will be on repeat for a while!

For the sheer brutality, technicality and production (credits for Joe Duplantier) I rate it 9.5/10.

Written by Joost van der Leij

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Review: Krupskaya/Foible Instinct - split


The Krupskaya/Foible Instinct split album is perhaps the worst thing I’ve heard this entire year, except for that sound of gunfire and screeching tires down the block from my place. Or was that someone’s Xbox?

KRUPSKAYA:

I’m sure the lads of Krupskaya of Stoke-on-Trent will tell me to sod off, as I don’t have a record, but the welcome attention from my sordid review will help sell records for this Tabasco-in-the-Ear opus. That a UK band naming itself after a Russian revolutionary is kind of ….cool, the music, for me, is a turn off. Named as ‘Grindcore’, (I will rename it as Crap-Core) these 3 tracks suck in the most ultimate way.

A hodgepodge of sci fi sounding FX, recorded radio edits and lowstrung guitars makes this a fab opus for the Crap-Core genre. How can you dance to this? Where’s the melody, the riffs, the 12 minute lyrical exchanges? Oh wait, sorry…

‘In Silent Waters There Is No Light’ is a plodding piss-piece until the disjointed ‘music’ that appears at 1:40 whereupon I shat myself at the sheer ferocity of it; I should have turned the stereo down for this. Horrible.

‘Stormtroopers for Christ.’ Really? Stormtroopers For Every Soul That Has Been Taken To Hell; please re-name. This one heated my beer.

‘Order of the New Templars’ takes off where the Order of the Old Templars left off; non-existent. I made something like this in high school on tape recorders with my “band”, and it was shit too.

3/10: Only because they have a record and the stones to leave something like this in a time capsule for the aliens.

FOIBLE INSTINCT:

Not much better than its partner on this disc, this has some promise I suppose as I heard some vestiges of old VoiVod in there, which, I didn’t like back then anyway. Their FB says they are from Kyiv and playing grindcore since 2006 but, isn’t that just being…slave to the grind? Maybe try some folk or soul and THEN go back to playing metal.

Do you guys know what a foible is? Small eccentricity indeed…

I have ignored most of ‘Dead Children’. I hate titles and images like this, so I don’t give a toss about the music. I’m sure the rest of it sucked.

‘In Line’ OK. Moderate shit.

‘On The Other Side’ showed a smidge of promise with some actual strumming from 00:47, but again, shit.

Oh a vestige of a listenable guitar solo on ‘I Don’t Need Your World’ at 00:32! But, yes shit yet again.

The rest is barely tolerable and makes me want to take a cheese grater to my nose (it could use some shaving down, actually) and isn’t a clear representation to what grindcore is supposed to be. It’s an assault on the senses in the worst sense and horrible production work in my shatty view. Although this is possibly what this genre hoots for, it’s not proper music to me and leaves a marginal impression on the sands of time.

3/10 for no apparent reason.

Written by Alessandro

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Live review: Meshuggah and High On Fire at 013, Tilburg, The Netherlands, November 24th, 2016

After looking forward to this show for a couple of months, the 24th of November the day was there. I was going to see Meshuggah for the first time in my life. I was told seeing Meshuggah was not just a concert. It’s an experience.

When I go to a concert it usually is just a night out with some friends and we go to have a good time. Not mainly for the band on the main stage. This time was definitely different. We are all great fans of Meshuggah and only one of us had seen them live before and that was not an indoor concert with the light show and everything. We were all a bit anxious and nervous and it was such a great feeling.

When we stepped into the concert hall and heard that High on Fire already started their “Motorhead on drugs” campaign. One of my friends and me have high respect for Matt Pike, the front man for High on Fire and the stoner band Sleep which we are fans of.

I must say I didn’t have high hopes for this band at all but they unexpectedly blew my mind. Heavy grooves with powerful vocal lines were all over the place. I am mainly a fan of Matt Pike for his work with Sleep but I never expected him to endure the speed and intensity of High on Fire, he rips solos with a deadly precision as well!

After High on Fire we just needed to wait for half an hour until Meshuggah came up.

They already got me the moment the lights went out and this eerie noise started to appear. It was getting me uncomfortable and I think that was the intention of the noise.

Starting with the hit single “Clockworks” as a starting for a whole set full of blistering, pounding madness. Soon it became clear that it really was an experience to behold. It’s a mighty force to see. Meshuggah are the five guys from Sweden who are over 2 meters in height and are really imposing on that stage. They take their music seriously and outdone their selves the whole evening. I can honestly say that I have never seen a band play flawless. I’ve seen quite a few bands play live but never this tight. The only band that comes close to Meshuggah is Gojira. To be honest I have seen the light show for half of the show. The other half I was in a trance just bobbing my head to the complex time rhythms. I have to give credits to the guy that programmed the light show. AMAZING JOB man. Every beat was right on time with the strobes.

I can only say this was by far the most perfect live show I have seen in my life so far. Meshuggah are a well-oiled machine that just keeps on riffing and outdoing themselves.

When they come around again I will be first in line to get tickets. No doubt.

There is only one rating for a show like this.

10/10.

Written by Joost van der Leij

Meshuggah Official Website
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Live review: Orphaned Land at Baroeg, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, November 18th 2016

So, Orphaned Land played in Baroeg on Friday November 18th, and it was lucky for me since there's a bus stop near my house that goes straight to that venue.

The band themselves hail from Israel, and play a mixture between metal and middle eastern music with a strong pacifist message. They even have fans from Palestina!

Unfortunately I worked overtime that day so I had to miss the opening bands, but I was on time to find a good spot for Orphaned Land.

They immediately opened with the title track from their latest album, "All is One",

a song that has a message of unity between religions instead of letting it divide us. They played as tight as on the album, which I find a big plus. Some bands are sloppy sometimes.

As the third song they played "Let the truce be known" that's about children in war zones playing together on the streets. I will admit, I cried a bit both because of the lyrics and the beauty of the music.

They also played one of my other favorites, "Brother", which is about the fight between Isaac and Ishmael as known from the Bible, Torah and Quran.

Deep lyrics, such as "You did nothing wrong, yet took all the shame, I suffered myself, yet I am to blame".

Makes you stop and think.

Unfortunately I didn't have time after the show to hang with the band because I had a bus to catch (try to find a net big enough to fit a bus in).

Some things I noticed during the show:
- the left guitarist was flirting with some girls in the audience during the show, didn't affect his playing fortunately.
- the band seemed to enjoy the show as much as I did.
- the singer made some fun of the fact that he's getting fatter.
- the audience was really tame, not something I expect during a metal show.
- the same guitarist also had a blue PRS Custom 24 with an animal print strap, almost the same guitar as my favorite guitar.

All in all, if you ever have the chance to see this band, do it. You won't regret it!

Written by Gijs de Wolff

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