Sepultura-The mediator between the head and hands must be the heart

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Another Sepultura album with Derrick Green, another worldwide bundle of screams from unimpressed die-hard fans wishing that Max Cavalera would just hurry up and rejoin the band together as if 1996 never ended. Well, while this may in part be true due to circulating rumours that Cavalera had even considered rejoining the band for a touring cycle, the band’s latest album, the conceptually titled “The mediator between the head and hands must be the heart” basically does exactly what “A-Lex” or “Dante XXI” did, and nothing more. Sepultura’s thirteenth studio album focuses on the concept of Metropolis, a world which would soon become one controlled by robots and heartless machines.

However, as interesting or indeed thought-provoking as this concept may appear, the end product does not prove worthwhile. The solid instrumentation is there in spades on ‘Manipulation of tragedy’, ‘Tsunami’ and ‘Obsessed’, and few would argue that the tribally influenced ‘The bliss of ignorants’ is anything but a noteworthy return to the “Roots”-era of the mid 90s. Yet there are unfortunately a multitude of flaws, perhaps overlooked by the band in their growing ambition to make the concept album of their career, which hinder the album’s overall quality from becoming greater than it actually is. The production is often clouded, making the instrumentation sound unclear and often shrouded in fuzzy, distorted background noise, and Derrick Green’s vocals simply don’t reach the same heights as they did on earlier albums with the same vocalist.

It really is a shame, because without these two problems, songs such as otherwise furious and eccentric opener ‘Trauma of war’ would be pretty much flawless. Even the best songs can’t hide the fact that Green’s voice needs to be more suitable to this style of music. That said, his voice shines through the mellow and laid-back nature of ‘Grief’, a song which shows the band’s often uncovered melodic side, also proving their musical variety to the many naysayers who believe they are a band still living in the past. Again though, these few glorious moments are sadly deterred by songs such as the horribly messy ‘Impending doom’ and unnecessary ‘The Vatican’, the latter of which introduced by an unnecessary two minutes of classical or industrial sounds.

Therefore “The mediator…” is simply another Sepultura album, and however hard the band have tried to make this the best of their career, there’s just too many flaws to stop that. The concept is believable and is strongly brought across in pretty much every song, and solid instrumentation is what Sepultura have naturally always succeeded at, but with an unbalanced and inconsistent side to this album that simply takes half of the album up, the band’s thirteenth album often leaves the listener wanting much more.

2.7/5

1. Trauma of war

2. The Vatican

3. Impending doom

4. Manipulation of tragedy

5. Tsunami

6. The bliss of ignorants

7. Grief

8. The age of atheists

9. Obsessed

10. Da lama o caos

Bandpage: http://sepultura.uol.com.br/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sepultura

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sepularmy

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/sepulturacombr

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Soulfly-Savages

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There is a mere difference of eighteen months between Soulfly’s previous album, Enslaved, and their latest, Savages. Whilst this may cause many to believe that Cavalera and co. are rushing themselves far too much, it does appear that there have been quite a few changes in the last year or so. For one thing, Cavalera has recruited none other than one of his own sons, Zyon (who drums for Lody Kong), and from the heavy opening grooves of “Bloodshed” you’ll notice his distinctive musical talent straight away. Forget the fact that Cavalera’s one-time legendary band, Sepultura, also have a new album coming out pretty soon, since Savages is certainly one of Soulfly’s most accomplished and brutal outputs to date.

With virtually every track living up to the album’s title, Soulfly’s latest very rarely lets up on aggression, brutality and most importantly grooves. Both “Cannibal holocaust” and “Fallen” are so consistently heavy that you may need to check your stereo/laptop for excessive damage, and the ludicrously named “Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla” (Featuring none other than Clutch frontman Neil Fallon) breeds contempt with every passing minute. The former songs hark back to Sepultura’s glory days, short but sweet bursts of thrash metal grinding along to Cavalera’s monstrous roars,  the latter a slower burning, more restrained eye-opener, making way for a style of distinctive heaviness and pummelling groove. Zyon shows off his chops at many intervals throughout Savages, particularly on the semi title track “Master of savagery”, which bursts into acts of aural violence, and most prominently on the more tribal influenced “El Comegente”, sung entirely in Portugese and would certainly be the perfect musical accompaniment to a tour through the darkest, most “savage” ridden areas of the natural world.

The instrumentation on Savages is, as always with Soulfly, very prominent. Guitar work focuses sometimes on heaviness and groove, as on “Spiral” and “This is violence”, other times on slow-burning grooves (“Master of savagery” will have your head banging slowly but surely) but most of the time keeping up with Zyon’s fairly straightforward albeit well-executed drum rhythms, and thus the whole thing sounds ideal for a fan of Soulfly’s previous three albums. Various guest vocalists have been recruited, most interestingly Mitch Harris of Napalm Death, whose gut-wrenching screams always prove divisive amongst fans of extreme metal and his vocal style fused with Cavalera on an otherwise simplistic “K.C.S” gives rather mixed results. Neil Fallon of Clutch proves a more pleasant surprise. For one thing his calm, narrative approach to the beginning of “Ayatollah of Rock’ n’ Rolla” gives the Savages quite an interesting twist, yet later on in the track he really brings out the rawer side of his own vocal style, sounding at times like his throat has been cut with the sharpest shards of glass.

All this is probably nothing new to a fan of Soulfly, given that the band have been trying to become heavier and groovier with each consecutive release, but you could do a lot, lot worse than be introduced to Max Cavalera’s work via the “savagery” of Savages. There isn’t any disappointment here. This is simply another solid output from Soulfly’s, and indeed Cavalera’s collaborative musical talent, and the replay value here is quite a lot to say the least. Savages is a beast, and perhaps one of the better releases of late 2013.

4.0/5

1. Bloodshed

2. Cannibal holocaust

3. Fallen

4. Ayatollah of Rock’n’ Rolla

5. Master of savagery

6. Spiral

7. This is violence

8. K.C.S.

9. El Comegente

10. Soulfliktion

Bandpage: http://www.soulfly.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SoulflyOfficial?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheSoulflyTribe

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/soulfly

Carcass-Surgical steel

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Given that Carcass has now been officially reformed for six years, having toured frequently and delighted many a new-found fan of extreme metal, a forthcoming release was inevitable. And from the very moment that “Surgical steel” was announced to be released in late 2013, it seemed as if the constantly turning heart of the death metal world had stopped just for a moment. Sure, this new line-up is lacking one Michael Amott, yet with one listen of Carcass’ new album, you’ll soon be forgetting about “Necroticism…” or “Heartwork” and start revelling in the fact that the band are simply back to grind everybody’s ears to dust. It will also convert whoever detested the remains of “Swansong” back to gleeful fans of extreme musical precision.

Though the band’s name would suggest otherwise, carcass sound as fresh as a strawberry in the great country air of Dorset. The opening one-two gut punch of the strongly anthemic ‘1985’ and teeth-grindingly intense ‘Thrasher’s abbatoir’ (The latter perhaps aptly titled for those listeners who are rather fond of slasher fiction) just breeds new life into a band which, seventeen years ago, didn’t really sound as convincing as they had done when they first formed. Jeff Walker’s trademark snarl is here in spades, and it’s hard to think that the tantalisingly menacing nature of ‘The master butcher’s apron’, ‘Unfit for human consumption’ or ‘Captive bolt pistol’ would ever be the same without his style. The rhythm section, consisting of long-time member Bill Steer and newcomer Dan Wilding (who seems to be performing as if he had been in the band for much longer than a mere year), couldn’t be any better if it tried. From the slow-burning, gradual heaviness of ‘The granulating dark satanic mills’ and ‘A congealed clot of blood’ to the razor sharp, fast-paced battering ram in ‘Noncompliance to ASTM F 889-12 standard’ and ‘Cadaverpouch conveyer system’, every aspect of “Surgical steel” seems to be charged by not only an astounding all-round musical performance, but a collection of well-structured songs that never so much as hint at the band simply messing around with their instruments as if they had only just learned how to play them.

However, what instantly makes “Surgical steel” the eye-opening extreme metal album of the year is in fact the way in which the band have seemingly revisited their former glories, and created one particular style that fuses melody, brutality and precision all into one. Whereas the shorter likes of ‘Thrasher’s abbatoir’ and ‘The master butcher’s apron’ naturally take the gritty grindcore influences of carcass’ first album “Reek of putrefaction” under their wing, both ‘Cadaver pouch conveyer system’ and ‘Unfit for human consumption’ replace what could be mere seconds of brutality for harmonizing melody, and instrumentally it sounds both sweet and terrorizing to the naked ear. Other songs, such as the menacing ‘Captive bolt pistol’ and ‘Noncompliance to ASTM F 889-12 standard’ (In particular the song’s flawless intro), clearly bow down to the magnificence that once was evident in “Necroticism: Descanting the insalubrious” and “Heartwork”, and it’s only a matter of time before you realize that Carcass, as a musical entity, still have years of life in them.

You could argue that ‘Unfit for human consumption’ and ‘316 L grade surgical steel’ both bear uncanny resemblances to earlier songs on the same album, hinting at such a slight idea that the band may be repeating themselves a bit, but this is instantly forgettable when you know that Carcass have returned to lay down the law, and show everyone how it’s done. “Surgical steel” is an example of a band continuing where they left off, and within the last few eviscerating notes of ‘Mount of execution’, you’ll be wondering to yourself just why Carcass ever split all the way back in 1996. The lowdown is, Carcass aren’t going anywhere. And on this evidence, who would want them to?

4.3/5

1. 1985

2. Thrasher’s abbatoir

3. Cadaver pouch conveyer system

4. A congealed clot of blood

5. The master butcher’s apron

6. Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 standard

7. The granulating dark satanic mills

8. Unfit for human consumption

9. 316 L grade surgical steel

10. Captive bolt pistol

11. Mount of execution

Full album stream: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMzPxHieFmU

Bandpage/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialCarcass

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CarcassBand

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/CARCASS0FFICIAL

Satyricon-Satyricon

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Five years have passed since we last heard anything at all of Satyricon, yet it seems that no-one save the very few devoted fans of the band left actually care. Not to say that Satyricon have alienated what once was a considerably large arsenal of fans, but ever since the release of arguably the band’s most accessible album, “Volcano”, the band have gradually been forgotten by more and more people with every successive record. Despite the band’s constant pleas to convince everyone that they were in fact progressing with their sound, both “Now diabolical” and “The age of Nero” suffered from songs which, for the most part, plodded along at a snail’s pace and never really took off or exploded as much as, say, ‘Mother north’ or even ‘Fuel for hatred’. So it’s really up to the band’s questionably self-titled release to salvage whatever respect they have left within the world of extreme metal.

Unfortunately, things do not look good for the band, as “Satyricon” begins with four tracks which sound as if they were dragged into the depths of hell (No half-hearted pun intended), and the people suffering are actually the poor souls who sit throughout the entirety of ‘Tro og Kraft’ or the maliciously mediocre ‘Our world, it rumbles tonight’. What the hell were the band thinking? Even the intro, ‘Voice of shadows’, which admittedly is to be best remembered as the first time Satyricon have ever used an actual intro for an album, doesn’t amount to anything but a gradually louder noise, and ‘Tro og kraft’ has a structure that is unfortunately too repetitive to interest even the most committed Sayricon fan. A guitar that repeats its own riff for minutes on end, drums that are nowhere near as prominent as they used to be, and a man of Satyr’s stamina (He’s apparently played football in his local community before) growling lowly as if he’s completely bored with his own presence. ‘Our world, it rumbles tonight’ suffers in the same way, and is only overshadowed by ‘Nocturnal flare’ if not for a slightly faster pace, then definitely for a more interesting mid-section that actually uses a solo and a more melodic approach to song-writing. As if anyone needed to be reminded, these major problems are what the band’s previous two albums suffered from.

Thankfully, by the time ‘Phoenix’ arrives (if you haven’t given up on the band or indeed the album altogether yet), things begin to pick up increasingly well. This particular song features Satyr singing with completely clean vocals and it actually it makes for a nice change from his bleak, monotone vocals that are nowhere near as convincing as the soulless, painful screeching of the early to mid 90s. In the same way that ‘The wild hunt’ worked for Watain, ‘Phoenix’ is actually concrete evidence of Satyricon progressing with their sound, and although the instrumentation is still dull compared to what the band are fully capable of doing, it works in their favour. Other songs which help “Satyricon” out of the pit that it fell into include ‘Walker upon the wind’, which surprisingly brings to mind a more modernized albeit restrained version of ‘Forhekset’ (From the band’s “Nemesis divina” album), and ‘Nekrohaven’, which can be safely compared to ‘Fuel for hatred’ for all it’s fast-paced frenzy and explosive atmosphere, gives the listener a little more excitement and even offers some replay value.

However, these are a mere three songs out of a total of ten that offer rare, brief delights, and it isn’t long before ‘Ageless northern spirit’ and the unfortunately everlong ‘The infinity of time and space’ return to that same, dull atmosphere that spits out mediocrity, resulting in a half-hearted outro that is nicely melancholic, and could even be called the band’s “anthem” if it hadn’t been placed on an album as virtually lackluster as “Satyricon”.

So what we have here is definitely Satyricon going through the motions. If anyone expected any kind of improvement upon “The age of Nero”, prepare to be disappointed. “Satyricon isn’t absolutely terrible, but it’s not particularly good either, and rather sub-standard from a band (or a duo, if you like) who are fully capable of making us nod our heads in appreciation of good music. If you do want to hear just how brilliant Satyricon can be, take a walk in the nearby forest, bang the band’s first three albums on a playlist and listen to them repeatedly, because “Satyricon” is, if anything, an example of a band on the verge of losing their creativity.

2.7/5

 

1. Voice of shadows

2. Tro og Kraft

3. Our world, it rumbles tonight

4. Nocturnal flare

5. Phoenix

6. Walker in the wind

7. Nekrohaven

8. Ageless northern spirit

9. The infinity of time and space

10. Natt

 

Bandpage:http://www.satyricon.no/

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/SatyriconOfficial

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/artist/satyricon

Twitter: https://twitter.com/satyriconontour

The Defiled-Daggers

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It seems that The Defiled have had their work cut out for them ever since the release of their “1888” EP in 2009. Countless festival appearances including Bloodstock, Download and Sonisphere as well as quite a few tour dates supporting bands as widely recognized as Murderdolls have garnered the band quite a lot of attention in recent years, not least because of The AvD’s maniacal live performances, every time proceeding to smash the poor electronic brains out of a keyboard/synthesiser. That said, the band seem to be critically acclaimed as an eccentric live band as opposed to one that is musically successful in the studio. The band’s first album, “Grave times”, launched their now successful career, but it’s really with their second album, “Daggers”, that the band are looking towards bigger and ironically brighter things.

It’s true that “Daggers” won’t really change the minds of those who either like or dislike the band, yet The Defiled’s second album often seems to open up to a larger fanbase, particularly those within more extreme sub-genres such as thrash metal. This isn’t to say that the band have ditched their notable Industrial/Synth-heavy metal style for that of a much more aggressive approach, but with songs such as ‘Sleeper’, ‘Unspoken’ and ‘New approach’ providing as much heaviness as a fan of extreme metal can handle, fans of the band may well be expecting a few more moshpits the next time they see them live again. Even the more lenient, somewhat calmer songs in ‘Porcelain’ and ‘Five minutes’ seem to have quite a gritty edge to their melodious and brooding overtones, which almost provide a Gothic atmosphere in the same vein as Lacuna Coil. Fans of the band will most definitely cherish these songs, as will newer listeners, but there is the slight problem that a lack of variety may not quite be made up so easily with heavier sounds.

Interestingly, and the band’s frontman, Stitch, has indeed confirmed this, the songs themselves are notably shorter than on “Grave times”. With song lengths ranging from barely three minutes to a mere four and a half-minutes (the longest being ‘As I drown’, which features half a minute’s worth of purely industrial noise), it would appear that the band are opting for songs of a more simplistic and less complex approach, which also happen to be considerably less drawn out than, say, ‘In the land of fools’. However, the biggest problem with this, and perhaps for the album itself, is definitely the fact that shorter songs may give the instrumentation, particularly the rhythm section, less breathing space. The AvD, as brilliant and enigmatic as he is with his instrument, does seem to take center stage on most of the album’s songs, including ‘Saints and sinners’ and the rather hit-and-miss ‘The infected’, and there are rarely any times when the rhythm section has a bit of time to really show outstanding performances. It’s not too big of a problem, as the well-structured intro to both ‘The unspoken’ and ‘The mourning after’ prove.

Vocal performances haven’t really ever been a particularly positive or negative aspect of The Defiled’s career, but the cleaner vocals on the band’s latest album could really benefit from being a bit stronger. It’s not that they’re soft, or even akin to a human gargling in broken glass (as welcome as that sensation would be), but somehow they only ever sound powerful when sung entirely on their own, without the more aggressive vocals or screams fading in and out of ‘Sleeper’ or ‘Fragments of hope’. Arguably the most fitting way for the clean vocals to be introduced is perhaps the sing-along choruses, seemingly prepared to harmonize to upon instant listens, which do add both melody and power to the music itself. Yet when they are mixed in with vocals of a more aggressive nature, as on ‘The infected’, it just proves to be a bit of a mess. Nonetheless, if you’re wanting to sing along with the band when seeing them live anytime soon, the clean vocals are definitely beneficial.

The Defiled are a band that are always on the road to bigger, brighter, and more promising things, and “Daggers” proves that more than anything else. They may be much more effective when on the stage (something which really works to every band’s advantage these days), but it’s advisable to give “Daggers” a try. You’ll be instantly hooked for sure.

3.7/5

1. Sleeper

2. Unspoken

3. Saints and sinners

4. As I drown

5. Porcelain

6. New approach

7. Fragments of hope

8. The infected

9. The mourning after

10. Five minutes

11. No place like home

Released: 2nd August (EU)

5th August (UK)

6th August (US)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thedefiled?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thedefiled

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/THEDEFILEDTV

Sirenia-Perils of the deep blue

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After two years and a rather lengthy period of time spent with Norwegian choirs, Sirenia are back with a new album, entitled “Perils of the deep blue”. If the album cover or title wasn’t obvious enough, the band’s symphonic and rather majestic music is brought to the mysteries of the great ocean (in a general term that is-it doesn’t seem that the band have picked out any particular ocean to write songs about). Now, there’s been quite a bit of debate as to just what Sirenia have been doing with their musical direction in the last decade or so, particularly because last album “The enigma of life” was widely criticized as a formulaic, generic and unnecessarily long piece of work by long-time fans of the band. However, those of you who thought the band would carry on producing albums as tedious as “The enigma of life” can rest easy, since “Perils of the deep blue” is thankfully better.

Naturally Morten Veland has been hugely influential on this album, as he has with other Sirenia albums, but it seems here that Spanish singer Ailyn has provided just a bit more input than mere female vocals. It seems her work with the Norwegian choir has really upped the ante on songs such as ‘Seven widows weep’, ‘Ditt endelikt’ and ‘The funeral march’, and together with Morten’s harsher vocal style, the duet sound flawless together. Morten himself has been working on a much more aggressive tone than usual and elements of black metal are fused beautifully with symphonic flourishes on ‘My destiny coming to pass’ and ‘Darkling’. Even the album’s longest song, ‘Stille kom Doden’, is structured well to create a sound that is both bombastic and majestic in tone whilst at the same time introducing new instruments such as the mandolin and ukulele, giving the band’s sound a newer, fresher twist.

However, whilst the band have evidently worked well on their own particular talents, it doesn’t mean that other songs such as ‘Cold caress’ and ‘Decadence’ don’t suffer largely from messing about too much with synthesizers or a far too glossy production. ‘Cold caress’ isn’t helped when Ailyn attempts to hit notes that are seemingly far too high for her vocal capabilities, and the fact that many of the instruments, most notably the guitar work, suffer from sounding too forced or synthetic show that maybe Sirenia should have cut a few songs from the album in its final stages. Even ‘Decadence’, which isn’t quite as bad as ‘Cold caress’, is mostly ruined because of poorly placed synthesizers and the band appearing to venture into poppier territory. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the instruments themselves had been worked on more in order to give the song a more majestic or symphonic finish, such as on ‘Seven widows weep’. The only other problems with Sirenia’s latest album is definitely the length, as well as the fact that whenever Morten brings his harsh vocals into the mix, particularly in ‘Darkling’ and ‘Stille kom Doden’, they are only used for a brief amount of time, before returning to formulaic symphonic metal structures.

Yes, Sirenia’s latest album is infinitely better than “The enigma of life”, but there are still too many flaws to say it is as good as the band’s best works. For an album that is over an hour long, it could have helped to cut a few of the songs and perhaps involve more of Morten’s harsher-edged vocal style with the predictable Symphonic flourishes that seem to flood “Perils of the deep blue”. Let’s hope the next Sirenia album is shorter and sweeter, rather than being longer and limper.

2.9/5

1. Ducere me in Lucem

2. Seven widows weep

3. My destiny coming to pass

4. Ditt endelikt

5. Cold caress

6. Darkling

7. Decadence

8. Stille kom Døden

9. The funeral march

10. Profound scars

11. A blizzard is storming

12. Chains

13. Blue colleen

14. Once a star

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sirenia

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sireniaofficial

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/Sireniaofficial