Album Reviews

HALCYON WAY “CONQUER”

HALCYON WAY “CONQUER”

Rarely does a band come around that completely stops my train of reviews.  Normally I can go from one to the next with no afterthoughts; however, Atlanta’s Halcyon Way have been utterly engrossing my time for two weeks already.  I’m going to admit that I had not listened to their previous three albums before Conquer, but I have already remedied that. They have a unique and interesting way of grabbing the listener and commanding their full attention. Diversity is the key to Halcyon Way‘s sound; they meld thrash, power, prog and melodic death metal into what can only be described as the perfect storm. Steve Braun is an extremely talented vocalist, and he closely resembles Dream Theater’s James LaBrie in style and tone while bringing his own hooks to bear.  Guitarist Jon Bodan not only provides the leads and riffs for the album, but he brings a contrast to Steve’s vocals with his death growls as well.

The title track opens up with pounding drums, and brings the heavy, thrashy riffs to the forefront.  It still amazes me how these guys can blend these sounds and pull it off.  Sometimes very powerful vocalists mixed with heavy bands can come across cheesy, but not here. “Web of Lies,” the album’s first video, showcases everything they have to offer. It’s riff-heavy, with a catchy chorus and a powerful sound. “Conceived in Torment” is my favorite song on Conquer.  It’s heavy, and it effectively showcases Braun’s incredible talents. “Home” is  more melodic, with an extremely catchy chorus.  “World Comes Undone,” “Militant” and “Hatred is My Cause” are just plain awesome. They follow a similar formula, but each stands on it’s own.  “King of Ruin” is an all out ass-kicker; fast and thrashy, but with melody that compliments this entire album. “Eviscerate the Morning Sun,” the album’s outro, retains the finer qualities of the album, but the riff and drums are brutal.

Halcyon Way are multitalented and are deserving of so much more attention and respect in the metal realm. Conquer is the album that can do that for them.

Conquer is now on Nightmare Records / Massacre Records.

Rating: 5/5 stars

ABADDON INCARNATE “PESSIMIST”

ABADDON INCARNATE “PESSIMIST”

Infamous Irish grindcore outfit Abaddon Incarnate are back with a new disc on Candlelight Records entitled Pessimist. Despite the title, fans should be optimistic about the direction in which AI is headed and the bright future in store for them if they continue to release impressive, dynamic, and interesting grindcore.

Formed as a death metal outfit in 1991, Abaddon Incarnate quickly developed a style of relentless grindcore on albums such as Nadir and Dark Crusade that blended the speed and ferocity of grind with the heaviness and musicianship of death metal. Pessimist continues this tradition and lives up to any and all expectations. Recorded and mixed in only three days, it is an aural assault on the senses from start to finish.

The title track, “Aborted Genesis,” and “Yester Hara” storm out of the gate with blasting drums and crunching Napalm Death/Entombed style riffage. Speed is met with precision here, though, and AI don’t miss a single beat or step; everything hits on all cylinders displaying stellar musicianship throughout. “Impaled Upon Your Zodiac” begins with a D-beat style drum-roll and brings the punk influence to the forefront of this record before literally entering into blast-beat heaven. This album is all the more admirable given that it captures a specific moment and sense of creative fire.

Perhaps if Abaddon Incarnate opted to take more time recording this record, the spirit and aesthetic of the songs would have been drastically altered or lost forever. Pessimist is a success for the band and a record  that will enhance their fanbase in the United States following their 2011 split with Orange County crust/grind nihilists Phobia. Grind on!

Pessimist is out now on Candlelight Records.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

ALESTORM “SUNSET ON THE GOLDEN AGE”

ALESTORM “SUNSET ON THE GOLDEN AGE”

Aye, ye scoundrels. Batten down the hatches and hide the rum, Alestorm are hitting the high seas again!

Alestorm love to have fun. This is an element that is missing from music in this age of a billion sub-genres and genres. They combine all the elements of their favorite genres and add huge doses of fun – and booze – and whip the pirate metal circle pits into a frenzy. Since their debut in 2008, Alestorm have delivered more fun than imaginable, and it is clear from the first notes of “Walk the Plank” that Sunset on the Golden Age is going to be a treat.

That album opener is power and folk metal wrapped up and arena ready with a shouting chorus and screaming guitars. “Drink,” the album’s first single is a new breed of sing-along pub songs, boasting lyrics such as “Heavy metal pirates we must be, So give all your rum and beer to me!”  “Magnetic Force” brings forth some brutal vocals mixed in with the “traditional” sound that Alestorm are known for. “1741 (The Battle of Cartegena)” brings out the band’s power metal side of the band; it is a heavy metal opus. “Wooden Leg!” and “Quest For Ships” are fast with a punk feel.

The cover of “Hangover,” the mainstream Taio Cruz song, was a big surprise.  It’s sure to be a huge part of Alestorm’s live show. For those who aren’t familiar with the song, it is easy to presume it is one of the band’s own. It’s a cover, but you would think the band wrote it. It fits perfectly in the album. The title track, clocking in at 11 minutes, closes the album with an epic feel.

Alestorm have the ability to take massive amounts of fun, mix it with their pirate themes, and write extremely catchy, heavy songs.  No other band exhibits this quite like these guys do.

Sunset on the Golden Age is out now on Napalm Records.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

TRAP THEM “BLISSFUCKER”

TRAP THEM “BLISSFUCKER”

After growing accustomed to Trap Them’s style of crusty and pulverizing d-beat, the last thing anyone would expect from them is a relatively straightforward record. That is exactly what this nomadic quartet have delivered in Blissfucker.

While I’m still not sure if this record fits into the Barren Praise storyline, due to there being no titles telling us which day each song represents,  but it honestly doesn’t matter one way or another. This record stands alone and is single-minded in its goal to beat the listener into submission. Producer Kurt Ballou knows how to wrestle the most dense sounds out of guitarist Brian Izzi, and the new rhythm section of bassist Galen Baudhuin and former Red Chord skinsman Brad Fickeisen are in the pocket from the word “Go.” Fickeisen’s blasting, though sporadic, feels more on time than former drummer Chris Maggio could muster. Of course, supplying the drill sergeant rasps over this din is Ryan McKenney, one of the most animated performers this reviewer has ever seen. Seriously … dude went so apeshit he started bleeding from three different places. If that ain’t metal, I don’t know what is.

What gets me is just how much melody Blissfucker contains. Don’t expect McKenney to start busting out in operatic yowls or Izzi to write perfect, concise, easily digestible pop fluff. Just listen to “Gift and Gift Unsteady” or the (dare I say it) Cancer Bats style swing of “Sanitations,” and you might just wonder if someone decided to slap the Trap Them name and logo on an altogether different band’s output.

Just when you think you know their formula, Trap Them go the complete opposite direction and allow the melodies out to play instead of burying them underneath copious amounts of snare drum and cymbals. Then, after you get used to that, they’ll dirge it up and slow things down to a funeral march (“Bad Nones”).

Trap Them have done an awesome job of combining both the new and the familiar, and Blissfucker is undoubtedly their best record yet.

Blissfucker is out now on Prosthetic Records.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

SUICIDE SILENCE “YOU CAN’T STOP ME”

SUICIDE SILENCE “YOU CAN’T STOP ME”

Let’s be completely honest: Any recorded output from Suicide Silence following the death of frontman Mitch Lucker was always going to be put under a microscope and nitpicked incessantly, fairly or not. Lucker was such an integral part of the their sound and it felt (to this reviewer, at least) that no one could ever emulate – let alone replace – his voice.

To ex-All Shall Perish singer Eddie Hermida’s credit, he doesn’t even try to emulate Lucker on You Can’t Stop Me. Instead, he focuses on making these new songs his own. Somehow combining Phil Bozeman (Whitechapel), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), and himself, he tears through the 11 songs that actually have words. “Inherit The Crown” is a letter to both the fans and Lucker expressing that he will  carry on the legacy and make them proud. A rerecorded version of “Ending Is The Beginning” sounds even more sinister than the original, and “Don’t Die” acknowledges the sentiment that music saves lives (“We play these songs so you don’t die”). Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan/Killer Be Killed) has a cameo on “Monster Within,” lending his howl to a down-tuned juggernaut.

As for the rest of the band, it’s business as usual. Guitarists Mark Heylmun and Chris Garza chug, squeal and tremolo pick (and even lay down a fair amount of actual melody during “Sacred Words”). Alex Lopez’s drums swerve from blast-beats to breakdowns to head spinning fills, and the low-end rumble of bassist Dan Kenny finds the pocket and never strays away even while his bandmates are going ape-shit with their strings and skins.

On this record, the highlights definitely trump the flubs. the title track is one of the last songs Lucker wrote before he passed, and its inclusion here is a defiant “fuck you” to death itself. The band is more focused than usual on this song, going heavier out of respect for their fallen comrade. The missteps are minor things. “Warrior” feels haphazard and sloppy, and the straightforward grooves of “Inherit The Crown” don’t feel right leading off the record musically.

You Can’t Stop Me is an important record for all involved. Suicide Silence pay tribute to Lucker’s memory and carry on in his name wielding Hermida’s voice as their new weapon. It may not make many best of lists, but after losing so much ground, it’s good to hear Suicide Silence make up most of what was lost. RIP Mitch.

You Can’t Stop Me is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

KING OF ASGARD “KARG”

KING OF ASGARD “KARG”

The Viking metal genre has spawned forth some great bands over the years. Amon Amarth are definitely the Kings of the scene, but there are bands looking up at that crown, King of Asgard being one of them.

While comparisons will be made, there are very distinct differences between these bands. King of Asgard bring hints of the folk metal they exhibited on their previous albums to their newest release, Karg, but it’s never entirely present. Vocalist Karl Beckman has a very distinct charred, blackened thrash echo in his vocals. It’s raw and powerful. Together, they are a powerful-yet-melodic and  really hard to pin to one specific sound, which is likely their goal.

The album opener, “The Runes of Hel,” is the perfect; brutal and melodic, it boasts chanting vocals and a galloping rhythm. Beckman’s vocals are brilliant. “The Trickster” has more of an “epic” feel to it, and again, Beckman’s vocals are huge. “Highland Rebellion” brings every element that the band envelopes to the table through massive riffs and melody and a chorus that is catchy and hard to forget. “Remnant of the Past”  is punishing, adn the clean vocals laid over Beckman’s on the chorus are haunting and just plain cool. “Omma” opens with a piano, but crescendos in a massive wall of sound. “Total Destruction” is mind-blowing on the first listen, and although it takes a bravery to cover Bathory, King of Asgard pull it off with a vengeance. It is a killer way to end an album.

King of Asgard have strayed from their roots, but their journey is well worth it.  Karg, which means “barren,” is anything but that.  It’s an adventure in melodic death metal.

Karg is out now on Metal Blade Records.

Rating: 4/5 Stars