DRAWERS “SELF-TITLED”

DRAWERS “SELF-TITLED”

Dear Metal Fans: Just wanted to let you know that Gojira are not the only French band out there shredding skin, melting faces and cracking skulls. Five gentlemen from the city of Toulouse have just released their eponymous album, and what do you know? Cheese, wine and towers are not the only thing our friends on the other side of the English Channel are good at. Drawers can kick ass and hold their own with any other metal band out there, regardless of continent of origin.

Lead singer Nico Bastide has a voice and delivery that recalls James “Human Furnace” Bulloch of the legendary Cleveland, Ohio, band Ringworm. Nico sings like his vocal chords are made of granite and lubricated with sand and acid. This is a voice that holds it’s own against the double-rhythm assault of Olivier Lolmède on skins and bassist Jérémie Ruiz. In most bands, the thump-and-pump-and-dump-you-after-I have-my-way-with-you bottom end is just the bass and drums. Drawers build their sonic foundation on those and the vocals, which gives their sound an almost concrete-like sonic base.

Adding the sharp edge to songs like “Mourning,” “Take Stock” and “Shadow Dancers” are guitarists Laurent Bringer and Alexandre Berenguer. These guys play so well together, you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. All in all, Drawers have all the makings of contenders. They just have to decide where they want to go and what exactly they want to do with the rolling thunder of this tank they have created.

Drawers is out now on Kaotoxin Records.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DELAIN “THE HUMAN CONTRADICTION”

DELAIN “THE HUMAN CONTRADICTION”

I’ll admit it right off the bat, symphonic metal is not usually my cup of tea.  I find it a bit boring for my tastes. When Delain‘s The Human Contradiction came across my desk, I decided to give it a spin anyway, and I was taken aback.  Charlotte Wessels haunting vocals, the groove-laden harmonies and the ultra superb production of the album grabbed me immediately.  Delain have taken the goth and mystery of symphonic metal and combined it with the best elements of power metal to make a blistering feast for the ears.

The opener, “Here Come the Vultures,” exhibits the beauty in Wessels vocals, but kicks into high gear afterwards.  The groove is driving and chugging, but the highlight are the vocals.  “Your Body is a Battleground” has more of an airy, symphonic feel to it, with a very catchy chorus.  “Stardust” is the most radio friendly tune here, but that doesn’t make it less appealing.  Yes, it’s catchy, but the driving rhythm and keyboards keep you headbanging.  “Tell Me, Mechanist,” which features Orphanage drummer George Oosthoek on vocals, is the epitome of this genre.  The contrast between the beauty of Wessels vocals and Oosthoek’s death metal growls is amazing!  My favorite song here is the finale.  “The Tragedy of the Commons” builds to an amazing crescendo.  Alissa White-Gluz, new Arch Enemy vocalist, and Wessels compliment each other perfectly.

Delain have delivered their best effort to date with The Human Contradiction.  I can highly recommend this album to metal fans with all kinds of different tastes.

The Human Contradiction is out now on Napalm Records.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

COMEBACK KID “DIE KNOWING”

COMEBACK KID “DIE KNOWING”

Knowing your niche is a good thing, musically. It means you know what you’re good at, you rarely stray outside your comfort zone, and almost never put out anything lackluster. Sure, you can pepper in little risks here and there, but for the most part, when a fan of your band picks up your new record, they know what they’re getting.

Fans of Comeback Kid should know what Die Knowing has in store for them: mosh parts, gang vocals, little hints of melody. In all, it’s a Comeback Kid record.

This time around, the band is more focused on bringing hardcore rather than melody, kicking off with the sinister feel of the title track. Though personally I think they wasted the build-up by not going for the throat of the listener, they save that for “Lower The Line,” which kicks off a streak of songs that mainly stick to the CBK formula. “Wasted Arrows” is going to be a live staple, while the silly intro to “Losing Sleep” offsets an absolute crusher of a song. “Should Know Better” could show Stick To Your Guns a few things about being catchy and still heavy as shit, while “Unconditional” carries an It Prevails feel in its mantra of “Expect more, embrace more.”

While the last third of the record is predominantly melodic post-hardcore, it doesn’t drag the record down at all. The melody is a very welcome reprieve from the sheer weight of the first two-thirds of the record. Ex-singer Scott Wade pops up on “Full Swing,” bringing with him a little bit of old-school CBK with him. As the last notes of “Sink In” fade out over repeated shouts of “I’m ready if you are,” it makes me ready to say this is one of Comeback Kid’s finest moments and one of the better hardcore records of recent memory.

Die Knowing is out now on Victory Records.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

THE GRAVIATORS “MOTHERLOAD”

THE GRAVIATORS “MOTHERLOAD”

We see a ton of bands paying homage to the forefathers of metal and late-’60, early-’70s rock these days.  Some can pull it off, some sound like a rip off, and there’s a fine line in between.

Sweden’s The Graviators are one of those bands that can pull it off, and they do in spades.  Their earthy tones, rolling bass, piercing vocals, and extended instrumental breaks lend credibility to a bygone era.  They sound more like Black Sabbath today than the legendary Black Sabbath does!  You can also hear a huge influence from Deep Purple and a bit of The Doors over the 75 minutes of pure stoner/doom epicness contained on Motherload, and there isn’t one track that sounds filler.  They take what The Sword have done and multiply it by 10.

“Leif’s Least Breath – Dance Of The Valkyrie” opens up with a massive wall of riffage that sounds like it may have come straight from Sabotage-era Sabbath.  Yes, it’s that good!  “Narrow Minded Bastards” rolls through with reckless abandon.  The bass line is mountainous and rumbles like a freight train.  “Bed of Bitches” is pure old school and heavy, and clocking in at just over five minutes, it’s also the shortest song on this album.  The guitar solo is crushing and in your face.

“Tigress of Siberia” brings things back to a classic metal intertwined with a psychedelic feel, like you are watching a kaleidoscope on steroids.  “Lost Lord” is a slower monster, but no less epic.  This 10-plus minute opus contains every element in metal with a slow, building crescendo leading into a brilliant bridge and chorus that really showcase the talent and songwriting ability The Graviators possess.  “Druid’s Ritual,” my personal favorite, is an adventure, including everything from the most fragile guitar tones to a mind-bending wall of  riffs that will beat you senseless.  Clocking in at over 13 minutes, it highlights the ability of the band to be tight and brutal.

Motherload is the most appropriate title I can think for this album.  It contains every ounce of metal you could want!

Motherload is out now on Napalm Records.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

PYRRHON “THE MOTHER OF VIRTUES”

PYRRHON “THE MOTHER OF VIRTUES”

Back in 2011, I reviewed the debut album, An Excellent Servant But a Terrible Master, from NYC prog/insanity metalers Pyrrhon. I described their music more or less as “avant-garde,” but not to the extent that it would descend into the noise category for the average listener. On that first album, they created a unique blend of technical metal styles that left no doubt about their musical abilities, but was also something you could still enjoy if you happen to prefer the more straight-forward genres.

On their new release, The Mother of Virtues, Pyrrhon have once again brought forth the chaos. However, I’m afraid they may have tipped the scales more toward that noise category with this one, and I’m having trouble deciding if that’s a good thing or not.

I would normally sum up Pyrrhon’s sound as being in the same vein as The Dillinger Escape Plan, but with a more technical death influence … at least when I think of the first album. With The Mother of Virtues, something has changed. The manic desperation and bleak darkness from the first album is still expressed here, perhaps even to too great an extent. The biggest difference I can discern is that there seems to be a lack of focus and articulation in the musical arrangement that was so prominent on the first. An Excellent Servant But a Terrible Master definitely had it’s chaotic noise moments, but they were always very well balanced with clearly distinguishable (if unconventional) rhythmic and melodic phrasing.

That is where The Mother of Virtues is wanting. They don’t give you as much to hold on to throughout a given song. There aren’t nearly enough moments where you can just bang your head along (and yes, I can bang my head to 5/8. It looks ridiculous, but I can do it). My issue is really that there isn’t as much to distinguish each track from the next, and they start to run together a bit.

The other major issue is that the mix is noticeably different. There were definitely some new choices made in the studio this time around, and perhaps that was the intention. Listening to the two albums side-by-side, my personal feelings are that the first album has a lot more clarity and (again) articulation. On The Mother of Virtues, the guitars and vocals seem to step on each other a bit to much, not so much in volume as in shared frequencies. The vocals frequently seem washed out. The low end was also a lot tighter on the first album, whereas it tends to muddy the overall mix on the new one.

It’s obvious that my subjective opinion is that Pyrrhon’s sophomore release doesn’t quite live up to the first one on a few fronts. However, I would still maintain that it’s a very worthy endeavor in terms of artistic integrity and originality. I constantly hear from fans of extreme music that they hate it when their favorite bands start “selling out” and becoming more mainstream. Well, Pyrrhon have essentially done the exact opposite of that on their new record. And while it’s eons away from ever getting play on free radio, I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if they got nominated for some sort of award for musical innovation.

The Mother of Virtues is out now on Relapse Records.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

EARTH CRISIS “SALVATION OF INNOCENTS”

EARTH CRISIS “SALVATION OF INNOCENTS”

Imitation is the purest form of flattery, or so they say. If that’s true, judging by the contents of Earth Crisis’ new album, Salvation of Innocents, then the only people who might be flattered are now-defunct Seattle metalheads Himsa, though they definitely shouldn’t be.

The only real difference between the two bands is that Karl Buechner sings at various times during Salvation of Innocents. That’s it. Every single one of these songs could be a Himsa outtake, some (“Out of the Cages”) more than others.

What happened? Earth Crisis used to be innovative, leaders of the more-hardcore-than-metalcore pack. After listening to this record, which is a chore, it seems that they have been writing hardcore songs for the radio. We already have bands that do this … and do it better, as a matter of fact. The first name that comes to mind is Hatebreed, and they at least have interesting arrangements some of the time.

I get that there’s a legacy type mindset here and that Earth Crisis may yet still have something to say after all this time. I would rather have a new Freya record than this. Hell, give us some more Path of Resistance jams so we can wash this record from our memory.

 Salvation of Innocents is out now on Candlelight Records.

Rating: 1.5/5