Album Reviews

THE HAUNTED “EXIT WOUNDS”

THE HAUNTED “EXIT WOUNDS”

I have a love/hate relationship with The Haunted.

It seems their revolving door of band members does have an effect on how fans perceive them and also has a vast effect on the quality of the music.  Peter Dolving made his departure well known, and The Haunted‘s future was unforeseeable to the world, but 2014 brings them back, with Marco Aro back on vocals.  I’ll admit, Made Me Do It is by far my favorite of their releases, and I prefer Aro’s vocals to Dolving’s. The Haunted seemed to be wandering aimlessly on both Versus and Unseen, and I really don’t care for either album, but Exit Wounds brings back The Haunted of old, and they have a new energy and lease on their musical life.  They take everything they did right in the past, throw in a whole lot of thrash, mix in some Gothenburg melodies, and some hardcore and you have Exit Wounds.

“317″ launches a thunderous wall of fury and riffs, leading right into “Cutting Teeth.” “Cutting Teeth” and “My Salvation” both have a Slayer-type feel, and they kick right out of the gate. “Psychonaut” continues the brutality, and “Eye of The Storm,” the first single, is heavy and groove-oriented at the same time. “Trendkiller” is my favorite here, and it’s angry and heavy with guest appearances from Chuck Billy and Jed Simon. It is exactly what you expect from metal. “Time (Will Not Heal)” is an epic combination of genres, mixing brutality with melody. “All I Have” really reminds me of Pantera.

The Haunted, despite all of the recent turmoil, have made their most solid release since Made Me Do ItExit Wounds is an excellent album and will fit solidly in my top 10 of 2014 … so far!

Exit Wounds is out now on Century Media Records.

Rating: 5/5 stars

ACCEPT “BLIND RAGE”

ACCEPT “BLIND RAGE”

Accept is to heavy metal what Friendly’s is to fine dining. While it’s nice to enjoy a meal prepared with care and skill, sometimes you just want a fucking hamburger. Germany’s original headbangers have been presenting the same menu for nearly 35 years, and while it’s reasonable to push it aside in favor of more flavorful options, the comfortable and steady will always draw customers. Their latest, Blind Rage, is another eleven songs of fist-pounding, flag-waving, arena rock, delivered without irony or apology.

Blind Rage is Accept’s third release since its rebirth in 2010 with new vocalist, former T.T. Quick frontman Mark Tornillo, picking up right where Udo Dirkschneider left off in 1998. And this latest effort continues right where that left off. Opening track “Stampede” (matching the snorting bull on the cover) teases with some devil’s triads before charging ahead. “Dying Breed” takes your opinion that Accept may, in fact, be a dying breed, and throws it back in your face. Yes, they’re singing about warriors and silver mountains, but so what? They’re delivering these lyrics with conviction and with pride.

They threaten to sneak in a couple ballads, like “Wanna Be Free” and “From the Ashes We Rise,” but it doesn’t take long for the rock to roll to return. Throughout all of the songs, Tornillo is able to combine shouting, screaming and singing with dignity. However, he can’t quite make the quieter moments (few as they are) work, and when he bounces back into his comfort zone, it’s a relief for both the listener and him.

“Final Journey” ends Blind Rage with a pounding that’s as close to thrash as Accept gets, but there’s no reason to think that the title is a hint at any future plans. Blind Rage will satisfy fans’ hunger for junk food, and they have no reason not to continue to serving the same dish for years to come.

Blind Rage is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.

Rating: 3/5 Stars
THE CONTORTIONIST “LANGUAGE”

THE CONTORTIONIST “LANGUAGE”

You can compare them to Between The Buried And Me all you want, but the simple fact remains that The Contortionist have something else going on entirely.

Where BTBAM tend to use lead lines as rhythms in their brand of space-prog-metal, The Contortionist build Language around solid rhythm guitar and keyboards. Ex-Last Chance To Reason vocalist Michael Lessard hypnotizes you with his beautifully understated voice, and that hypnosis is only intensified by the instrumentals crafted by his bandmates, who repeat certain motifs throughout the record. All the way from “The Source” through the spaced-out sampling that ends “The Parable,” The Contortionist don’t follow any preconceived notions or rules, absolutely content to “Ebb & Flow” the way the music tells them to. Guitarists Robby Baca and Cameron Maynard craft intricate melodies in “Language I: Intuition” before switching it up and going all tech in its sibling “Language II: Conspire.” “Thrive” brings to mind self-titled era Deftones with its discordant opening before keys and bass lull you into a meditative state, and allow the tension to build until Baca and Maynard return with more melodic discordance that makes the song explode.

All I can say is, “Holy shit, The Contortionist just kicked my best-of-2014 list in the balls.” Language is yet another must own record, and it is by far the most gorgeous one you’ll hear. Don’t sleep on this classic.

Language is out September 16 on eOne Music/Good Fight Music.

 Rating: 5/5 Stars

NOCTEM “EXILIUM”

NOCTEM “EXILIUM”

Parents surely shudder at the sight and sound of Noctem. They are overtly theatrical, anti-religious, anti-humanity, and downright heavy. For heshers looking to rebel against the norms, turn up Exilium on the family CD player. Survey says that in 10 minutes or less, Mom and Dad will be two twitches away from a breakdown. But if the music really matters, there is more to this story.

Twenty years ago, Noctem would have been the perfect package of both sound and imagery. But in today’s metal world, their approach wears thin, and their intended bite can feel more like a persistent gumming. The orchestral introduction, “Enuma Elish,” is nothing short of processed and rote, and the spell it casts – one of fleet fingered runs and fanning blasts – does little to differentiate this horde from the likes of Belphegor, Dimmu Borgir, or latter day Cradle of Filth.

Noctem’s redemption comes in the manic riffing that powers “Namstar’s Crown” and the acoustic interludes that emerge throughout Exilium, but these occasions flicker with life only through subtle variation rather than much-needed innovation.

Exilium is out September 16 on Prosthetic Records.

Rating: 2/5 Stars

THE PARAMEDIC “DIARY OF MY DEMONS”

THE PARAMEDIC “DIARY OF MY DEMONS”

I feel like an asshole for saying this, but The Paramedic are wasting their talents.

Diary of My Demons is formulaic and predictable, subscribing to the most clichéd tactics metalcore has to offer: electronic intros, attempts at brutality in the growls, auto-tune jizzed all over what would otherwise be solid singing, somewhat uninspired song structures, and breakdowns that are not even close to heavy. Oh, and it absolutely must be a punishable offense to lead into a breakdown by saying shit like “Break it down, bitch” without being ironic or with tongue firmly in cheek. It’s stupid and unnecessary. Mike Luciano, singing voice aside, is immature as shit in his lyrics. When you toss off lines like “I’m not the one to fuck with,” anyone with a brain cell still active is gonna see it as macho posturing and call you on it.

Lemme put it this way: The Paramedic are on track to becoming a joke metalcore band, and if they wanna reverse their path, they need to grow up, stop emulating their peers, and put some real fucking thought into what they write. Pushing the envelope is way better than mailing it in, boys.

Diary of My Demons is out now on Bullet Tooth.

Rating; 1.5/5 Stars

NACHTMYSTIUM “THE WORLD WE LEFT BEHIND”

NACHTMYSTIUM “THE WORLD WE LEFT BEHIND”

Blake Judd has never kept his affinity for both black metal and new wave a secret. Instead, he has long bridged the two with Nachtmystium, then slathered his compositions with plenty of personal turmoil. But this evil marriage hasn’t ever been as apparent as on his newest offering, The World We Left Behind.

Touted as Nachtmystium’s final release, the hype that preceded its arrival is warranted. It is Judd’s most refined work, teasing dark emotions like demons strumming the strings that control a malignant marionette. His feral rasp casts insulated hooks that extol a desire to shake free from the chains that have pulled him into the depths. From the title track to stand-outs like “Fireheart” and “Into the Endless Abyss,” he hammers away at this notion across the persistent roar of guitars and pile-driving rhythms. “In the Absence of Existence” captures the pain and restlessness simply when Judd sings, ”Hidden away/ Alone I pray/For a quick death every day.” By the time The World We Left Behind ends with “Epitaph for a Dying Star,” it feels as if he has been emancipated, the disparate artist released from all that has held him captive.

Just shy of the release of the album, Judd wavered on his decision to bury his primary band once and for all. It has long been told that his modus operandi for Nachtmystium is his own bloodletting, and this notion is more tangible given his much-publicized troubles leading up to The World We Left Behind. Given that the resulting nine tracks stand up against anything that he has previously released, this should attest to why Blake Judd should keep the unit in tact, both for himself and for his contributions to modern metal.

The World We Left Behind brims with inner rage, and regardless of whether or not this is the swan song for Nachtmystium, it is one of their best.

The World We Left Behind is out now on Century Media Records.

Rating: 4/5 Stars