Monday, October 30, 2006

Upload: Dio - Master of the Moon

If you don't know who Ronnie James Dio is, there's a "back" button on your browser, tailor-made just for you. Granted, it hasn't been that long since I first heard the excellent, incredible Holy Diver, but I learned, and you can too. Listen at least to "Stand Up and Shout", "Holy Diver", "Gypsy", and "Rainbow in the Dark", then get back to me here. The guy fucking INVENTED the horns -- show some fucking respect, you ingrates.

For the rest of us: metal knowledge is oh so sweet. Dio has come a long way since the aforementioned 1983 debut, but hasn't gone so far as to turn his back on his fanbase. The opener, "One More for the Road", would sufficiently rock the face off any nostalgic 80's metal fan, and even the slower tracks like "End of the World" have a distinct hardness to them, more so than any weepy 80's power ballad ever could. Unlike Holy Diver, the album doesn't end on a subpar track, either -- "In Dreams" is a very worthy send-off. I guess we developed better anti-frontloading technology over the years along with the cheese-reduction software.

The instrumentation isn't the most technical out there, but it's very fitting to the music -- fairly simple leads and rhythms are adorned by soloing and occasional, slight keyboards, backed up by an audible bass presence, and vaguely held together by the drums. Although this sounds like it would be 80's central, it comes off as fairly modern regardless. Props to Dio for at least not making the same album over and over. Also very un-80's are the production and the cheese level: the production is crystal-clear, giving the guitar and Dio's (still surprisingly good) voice precedence, and the album is not nearly as cheesy as it could have been (and not nearly as cheesy as Holy Diver, dear to my heart though it is).

If I said this album had a tragic flaw, that would be stretching it. This album is beyond good. That being said, as with any album of this nature, some songs are always better than others, and "The Eyes" is my target here. It doesn't feel like it fits in the album, and sort of carves an uneasy niche for itself in the middle of the album. That, and Dio's vocal range isn't nearly as good as it used to be. Then again, for a guy who's been performing since 1970 (in his original band "Elf"), it's certainly understandable. Age happens, and I cut him a LOT of slack for still sounding so incredibly good after 35 years.

All in all, a very worthy purchase for me. I love this album. A lot. You should, too.

8.9 really, really old metal vocalists who will never die out of 10.

Click to download!

P.S. Apparently Dio is reuniting with the old crew over at Black Sabbath for a tour (under the moniker "Heaven and Hell"), supposedly happening in early 2007. If this happens...holy shit. Best. Tour. Ever.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Review: Killswitch Engage - As Daylight Dies

(no pic, I got the album quite a while before it actually comes out. Am I good or am I good?)

I have to say, even as they've got progressively worse, I always had a soft spot in my heart for this band. After all, they got me into more extreme, less mallcorey stuff back in the day when I didn't have the inner soul of an underground yunki. Even today, I at least acknowledge Alive or Just Breathing as at least an influential album to the rapidly growing trend of melodic metalcore, and at most possibly the best metalcore album of the time. I'm not one to give unwarranted, trendy praise, but I'll give a band its due when they do something significant. Granted, 90% of this trend is utter shit (see aforementioned Trivium), but that's never stopped a trend yet (see, for example, hair metal, garage rock, post-grunge, mallcore, etc., etc., etc.). Even when the subpar follow-up, The End of Heartache, rolled around, we could at least acknowledge that it was semi-decent and had a few really well put-together tracks, such as the strangely decent "Rose of Sharyn", even if the whole album didn't quite jive the way AOJB did.

When I heard that a new KsE album was coming out, I was filled with slight interest, but still apprehension. When I saw the link to the leak someplace (I forget where), I couldn't resist. I got that shit and gave it a spin. What I got was notAOJB material. What I got was not even TEOH-worthy material. Shit, it wasn't even TEOH b-side material. This album is pure and utter shit.

The album begins with an electrical, keyboardy intro which makes me think at first that something is new, exciting. BZZT. Wrong, bitch! The opener "Daylight Dies" goes straight into a chuggy, one-powerchord riff punctuated with 4-note harmonized gothencore fill(er)s and a melodic chorus we've all heard before, breakdown where any other band would put a solo, etc. If you've heard any song by any band that KERRANG! has said was the greatest thing ever in the past 4 years or so, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The rest of the album alternates between this self-cannibalization, Soilwork-worship (listen to the chorus of "This is Absolution", and compare to Soilwork's "The Flameout" from Natural Born Chaos. Shit, Jones's voice even sounds like Speed's), emocore (damn, Howard Jones really needs to learn how to write decent lyrics), and just shamelessly weak parts (such as the ill-fitting, really commercial post-chorus to "Absolution"). Shit, they even have a Trivium-style emo song. "The Arms of Sorrow" is like "This World Can't Tear Us Apart" part 2, but to KsE's credit, it doesn't completely blow balls like that (awful, awful, AWFUL) Trivium song. That being said, "My Curse" is like the retarded, autistic younger brother to the excellent, soaring "The Element of One" of AOJB past (at least in the guitar lead), except for the odd, misplaced syncopated screams of "THIS IS MY CURSE". Odd, misplaced time changes seem to be a theme to many songs -- it's like they were saying, "Look, we'll prove we're sincere about not selling out by making parts of the shitty songs unbearable, jerky, and pretentious instead. Happy?" Assholes.

Oh yeah, and Howard Jones's growls suck now for some reason. I remember the days of Blood Has Been Shed past with nostalgia and uprasied horns -- now those were some fucked up growls, screeches, and occasional singing. That Howey sounded like he was clawing out his own liver while eating someone's babies, and his singing fit really, really well without having to change song dynamics in the middle (that beauty-and-the-beast shit was really, really old in TEOH, and two years later it still hasn't become creative). This Howey sounds like every other metalcore singer. What a surprise, as this album is a bad metalcore album. And damn, Adam Dookieatrociousunspellablename needs to shut the fuck up. His vocals worked in VERY small amounts in previous albums, but damn, the guy sounds awful here. He's not that great a guitarist, either, while we're taking notes.

That's another thing about this album: no member other than the vocalist really stands out in the production. I can't hear the bass, the guitars are just doing their chugga-chugga-harmonized shitty lead thing, and the drums are decidedly vanilla. Pop quiz, what type of music emphasizes mostly the vocals? Oh, yeah, pop music. Haha, pop => pop. That's punny.

Fuck you.

Anyhow, I give you a month and 3 days advance notice. Seriously, look at the release date, I'm amazing. Don't buy this album. DO NOT buy this album. I repeat myself for emphasis: stay the FUCK away from this turd.

(Note: this only gets a higher grade than the Trivium album because I genuinely, truly, completely, fully, unequivocally hate Trivium and Matt Heafy. Lick my nuts, Matt!)

3.7 disgraced founders of a trend that was fairly shitty anyway out of 10.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Upload: Extol - Burial

(Edit: whoever owned the initial image apparently couldn't stand the bandwidth requirements of a shitty blogger account. Assholes.)

The Christian music scene is, for the most part, a stale imitation of music as a whole. So-called "alternatives" to non-Christian bands (as if one could really have an alternative for classic bands like Metallica, Slayer, Death, etc.) abound in the marketplace, especially when it comes to the ever-cursed metalcore and hardcore. This is especially true considering that some fans will listen simply for the lyrics, rendering the actual substance (being the music) a moot point. In such a scene, one might pronounce any hope of a truly standout, creative band dead on arrival.

It is with great relief with which I say that the true spirit of music does occasionally poke through the muck in the Christian scene. It happened in the early nineties with Believer and Horde, and it happened in 1998 with Extol's debut, Burial. While subsequent efforts would never quite reach the peak achieved here, this album is definitely a milestone in the Christian music scene, simply for being so creative and generally not derivative.

If we were to put a specific genre on this, I would call it progressive black/death/melodic death metal. Progressive because it's got some seriously out-there songwriting and great guitarwork, black/death because it's, well, black/death. In some ways, this is pretty straightforward, but in many ways this is quite complicated. Varying synths, effects, and odd instruments (a sitar-like sound occurs on "Reflections of a Broken Soul", there are some jackhammer sounds in the title track, the list goes on) add to the songs without sounding cheesy or overbearing. The production resembles what many black metal productions should be, a mix loud and thin on drums and guitars, not too much distortion, some slight bass in the background, and growl vocals with effects unto oblivion. Speaking of vocals, the guitarist brings in his incredible range on a few songs, and it's quite classy in comparison to a lot of metal with clean vocals. It really adds to the mood, rather than falling into the "beauty and the beast" songwriting cliche (contrasting pummelling with soft parts), as they often do later in their career.

Some people say that the follow-up to this, Undeceived, is the true masterpiece. I disagree. This album never gets old, while I can hardly listen to Undeceived after hearing it straight through a few times. Undeceived is alright, but this is way better. This album broke the mold, and I don't think they'll ever get close to re-attaining the glory acheived on this album.

8.1 names that sound a lot more awesome than their meaning out of 10.

Click to download!

NOTE: The upload isn't the best quality, and it can change from song to song. That being said, if anyone out there wishes to donate a better quality upload, I would be quite appreciative.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Upolad: Sonata Arctica - Silence

This is quite clearly a power metal album. If the cover and that sentence didn't completely scare you off, keep reading. I personally don't mind power metal bands, but a lot of people do. While I do love Silence to death, points of it certainly make me see why power metal isn't meant to be taken completely seriously.

First off, this album is the cheesiest cheese that's ever cheesed. From the spoken-word in the beginning and end to the narrative dialogue at the beginning of "The End of the Chapter" to the full-blown, epic "The Power of One" ending the album, this is for the most part full-speed power metal. In some ways (and certainly in the attitude), this is very similar to 90% of power/speed metal. The album flows quite well from track to track; it definitely doesn't attract a "string of singles" feel to it. Tracks like the uber-uber-uber happy sounding "Weballergy" and "San Sebastian","False News Travels Fast" (my personal favorite), "Black Sheep", and "The Wolf and the Raven" are speedy enough to snap any headbanger's neck. The guitarwork is at times decent, at times amazing, and the solos are satisfying. The real winner here, though, is the keyboardist. This guy uses quite a range of effects, from harpsichordish shit to ambient pads to whatever --this is what gives them that extra-special, new-fangled "symphonic" tag to their genre. The last song, "The Power of One", is quite notable, mostly for being a really good album ender, but also for being 10 minutes long and being as cheesily epic as possible. I love it, but a lot of people will pass. Screw all you people, it's a great song.

The problems occur when the album slows down for ballads, which happens far too much for my taste (2 slow songs and 2 midpaced songs for a 12-song album). There are points in both full ballads, "Last Drop Falls" and "Tallulah", when I subconsciously turn down the volume on my speakers for the sake of maintaining street cred. The music for these is sappy to the point of being ridiculous. The lyrics on the slower/more serious songs, especially "The End of This Chapter" and "Last Drop Falls", are at times laughable, and at times made me look them up in the (really hard to read) booklet to see if their singer actually said what I thought he said. On that note, randomly putting the phrase "without underwear" without context in a slow song (in "Last Drop Falls") is a definite way to get my attention. Oh yeah, and "You must keep it real to find her" (in "Weballergy", which is a really strange title for a song that is only nominally about the internet or anything web-related) has to be one of the strangest sentences I've ever seen. Just a thought.

So, my rating stands:
7.5 album covers that have fuck-all to do with the album out of 10.

Click here to download!