THE WEEKLY INJECTION: New Releases Out Today - 6/5
I was a bit overwhelmed by the staggering amount of big releases out this week; but it's true, the metal gods are just, and where there was a void of empty space last week there must now be a huge slab of metallic mayhem. I've pushed my review quota up from five to nine in hopes of covering them all, but I've still barely scratched the surface. Spanning all genres and more than a few countries; from both legendary vets and up and coming hopefuls, this week we'll take a look at solid releases from Be'lakor, Candlemass, Kreator, Marduk, Ulver, Fear Factory, and more. Here are the new releases for 6/5:
Fear Factory – The Industrialist
Genre: Industrial Metal
Country: United States
Label: Candlelight Records
Listen: "The Industrialist"
I've never been much of a Fear Factory fan. Their discography full of down-tuned chugg-riffs and tough guy vocals has left me feeling largely ambivalent, but I can respect their relevance to the metal world and comment on their music with an open mind. Parts of The Industrialist were heavy and enjoyable, maintaining that perfect equilibrium between mechanized brutality and catchy songwriting. Other parts were utterly generic and recycled; nothing you haven't heard a million times previous. Whatever the case, it seems that Fear Factory have headed straight back to their roots with this one; the album is aggressive and metallic, with strong instrumental/vocal performances and some of the best synth effects that the band has ever worked with. While the production is weak and the drums are, at times, poorly programmed, it's hard to imagine that a Fear Factory fan will find any major faults here.
Be'lakor – Of Breath And Bone
Genre: Melodic/Progressive Death Metal
Label: Kolony Records
Listen: "Absit Omen"
Be'lakor have been one of my favorite bands since their underrated 2007 debut, and they continue to expertly fill that epic, doomy, melancholic and melodic death metal niche previously occupied only by Insomnium. A few words come to mind here: beautiful, cinematic, dark, tranquil. While I'm still not sure if the album matches up to Stone's Reach, their monolithic 2009 effort, it's clear that the band have another modern melodeath classic on their hands. As usual, the compositions here seamlessly flow from one point to the next; the listener carried through this dark ebb and flow of musical ideas; this dynamic crosscurrent of gentle piano work, jazzy and harmonized guitar leads, the most beautiful of clean guitars and the lush, dramatic textures of their melodic progressions. Best of all, the band has capitalized on their trademark pedal tone riffs, which, infrequent but memorable on Stone's Reach, now constitute a large part of the music. Three albums into their career and Be'lakor have yet to disappoint, with each album of equal or greater quality than the last. Of Breath And Bone solidifies the band as the torch-holders of modern melodic death metal, and this is poised to be one of my favorite albums of the year.
Kreator – Phantom Antichrist
Genre: Thrash Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast
Listen: "Phantom Antichrist"
Kreator is far and away my favorite thrash band, if not simply because of their willingness to experiment and their basic, but effective melodic sensibility. They're also incredibly heavy and frequently epic, which is something many thrash bands don't even strive to be. So needless to say, new Kreator makes me happy, and Phantom Antichrist certainly does not disappoint. It seems that Kreator have come full-circle with this one, as the album contains elements from each of their previous efforts; from the pure aggression of Pleasure To Kill, to the melodic flourishes of Endorama, to the punchy production and progressive tendencies of Enemy Of God. While Phantom Antichrist is not as unique or memorable as any of those records, it proves that Kreator are still relevant and making music with a purpose.
Marduk – Serpent Sermon
Genre: Black Metal
Label: Century Media
Listen: "Souls For Belial"
Marduk have been in the news for all sorts of things lately, but is their music any good? My answer to that would be: it's essentially the same as it's always been. Serpent Sermon is classic Marduk through and through; ferocious and blackened death metal with gurgly vocals and an endless supply of blast beats. If there's anything to notice here, it's that the production is clear and modern, which in this case only enhances the brutality of the music. Don't expect anything revolutionary, but if you're in the mood for some filthy and evil Satan worship, look no further.
Candlemass – Psalms For The Dead
Genre: Epic Doom Metal
Label: Napalm Records
Listen: "Psalms For The Dead"
An emotional release if there ever was one; Psalms For The Dead is marked as the final studio release from doom metal pioneers Candlemass. While not the best release from the band, the album is still a damn good one, and a fitting end to what is a legendary career. Psalms For The Dead is rich in gothic overtones and eerie synth work, occasionally diving into blues-driven, psychedelic progressions that reek of the 60's. This puts the album more in line with a traditional metal one than a modern doom one, but the band's ability to evoke deep feelings of dread and sorrow is as prevalent as ever. And the vocals are top-notch as usual, twisting and slithering over dark melodic lines and thick, ominous chords. And unlike most modern doom, the band frequently changes up the pace by entering into uptempo and relatively bright sections that contrast beautifully with the heavy doom at the albums core; signs of a band well in control of their craft. Overall, Psalms For The Dead is an excellent record that should serve as a proper testimonial to the bands illustrious career.
Ulver – Childhood's End
Label: Kscope Records
Listen: "Magic Hollow (Beau Brummels Cover)"
In typical Ulver fashion, the announcement for this record was either incredibly low-key or completely non-existent, and even still, nobody knew what to expect. Hell, it was only a few days ago that I discovered the true nature of Childhood's End; a collection of obscure 60's psychedelic prog-rock songs done over in the always unpredictable and always eccentric fashion of modern Ulver. One thing should be clear to you at this point: Ulver simply does not give a fuck. They are quite literally doing whatever they want, which, depending on the release, is either commendable or frustrating. I still haven't decided which category this release falls into (I'll be doing a full review of the album at a later date) but I can say that, regardless, this is an album you won't soon forget, if not only for its incredible weirdness. If you can imagine Ulver, in all of their avant-garde and electronic sonic glory, messing around in the darkest corners of the 60's underground, than you've simply scratched the surface.
The Agonist – Prisoners
Genre: Metalcore/Melodic Death Metal
Label: Century Media
Every fragment of my brain tells me that I should absolutely despise The Agonist, but for some reason I can't completely write them off. Yes, most of what they create is insipid and recycled mall-core garbage. But there are moments (I emphasize, MOMENTS) when the elements of their band come together and hit on something unique. Like most of their discography, Prisoners is at its best for those few fleeting moments when genuinely progressive composition meets the soaring clean vocals of their talented (and incredibly attractive) lead singer. Though, at large, the songwriting here seems to be more streamlined (accessible and formulaic) and much less schizophrenic than on previous releases, which is entirely to the albums detriment. I predict, as with most bands in this genre, that The Agonist's redeeming qualities will begin to vanish as they gain more success; but at the end of the day, this is good for what it is. I can't hate you if you enjoy it.
Carach Angren – Where The Corpses Sink Forever
Genre: Symphonic Black Metal
Label: Season Of Mist
Listen: "The Funerary Dirge Of A Violinist"
I've never actually listened to this band, but the enthusiasm and dedication expressed by their fans is absolutely insane, so I was certainly eager to get the chance. Carach Angren is a band that specializes in a brand of baroque-classical meets black-metal caricature that is bound to get cheesy on more than one occasion. The key here, is that the band manages to negate the cheesiness with moments of sprawling compositional brilliance, as their epic conceptual songs traverse sonic landscapes of sweeping orchestral arrangements, melancholic guitar harmonies, chanted vocals, and ethereal atmospherics. At all times, in both lyrical and musical presentation, the album strives to be overtly dramatic and cinematic, and often succeeds in transporting the listener to something roughly like the dark perversions of a scene from Pirates Of The Caribbean. I was not as taken with their music as some of their fans seem to be, but this is a solid effort from start to finish.
Circus Maximus – Nine
Genre: Progressive Metal
Label: Frontiers Records
Circus Maximus is pretty much like the Norwegian Dream Theater, and they started gaining some notoriety when their singer began touring as the fill-in vocalist for Kamelot. They've got a pretty rabid fan base, and Nine is, so far as I can tell, a highly anticipated album. Kamelot and Dream Theater are two perfect comparisons; if those two bands had a child together and it had a Norwegian accent it would be named Circus Maximus. With the synth, pop, and vocal sensibilities of Kamelot and the faux-metal riffs and technical abilities of Dream Theater, Nine is at times pretty good (never more than that) and at others unbearably awful. Specifically, at any moment when the band decides to go acoustic or to get "emotional," I wanted to scoop out my eardrums with a spoon, as if someone just accidentally switched the station to Radio Disney. The heavier parts are decent and skillfully done, if not just blatant Dream Theater rip-offs. The musicianship is here, as are the songwriting skills, but throughout the records run-time I found myself shaking my head in horror more times than I can wish to remember.
Architects UK – Daybreaker
At The Skylines – The Secrets To Life
Autopsy – Born Undead DVD
Bauda – Euphoria …Of Flesh, Men and The Great Escape
Black Shape Of Nexus – Negative Black
Black Sheep Wall – No Matter Where It Ends
Call Me No One – Last Parade
Chaos Inception – The Abrogation
Cory Smoot Experience – When Worlds Collide
Din Brad – Dor
Fates Warning – Inside Out Re-Release
Felix Martin – Live In Boston
Generation Of Vipers – Howl and Filth
Gorefest – False/Erase Re-Release
Grand Magus – The Hunt
Grand Magus – Iron Will Re-Release
Grand Magus – Wolf's Return Re-Release
Hour Of 13 – 333
Jorn – Bring Heavy Rock To The Land
L.A. Guns – Hollywood Forever
Melvins Lite – Freak Puke
Mörglbl – Brutal Romance
Nachtblut – Dogma
Phobia – Remnants Of Filth
Rise To Remain – City Of Vultures
Sarcofago – Decade of Decay
Spider Rockets – Bitten
Strong Intention – Razorblade Express
Tank – War Nation
Teodor Tuff – Soliloquy
Throw The Fight – What Doesn't Kill Us
Watain – Opus Diaboli DVD
Whipstriker – Bombstorm
Wormed – PlanisphÆrium Re-Release
Write This Down – Lost Weekend