Sepultura - Machine Messiah Review

Machine Messiah (2017)
Genres: Groove Metal, Thrash Metal, Alternative Metal
(Masterpiece - among the best in the genre)

Sepultura hasn't gotten a whole lot of appreciation since 1993's Chaos A.D. While Roots does get a bit more appreciation from those who don't have an issue with nu-metal, you won't hear many talking about any of the post-Cavalera albums. Four years after the release of the lengthy titled The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart, which was seen as Sepultura's return to a thrash metal-based sound, the band returns with the much simpler titled Machine Messiah. 

Machine Messiah features quite a variety of musical elements, inside and outside of metal, and actually comes across as quite experimental. There's a blend of tribal groove metal and crossover thrash throughout the majority of the album, the latter being most prevalent in "I Am the Enemy". It's one of the most crushing songs the band's released in a while, and instantly got me hooked with its chromatic death metal riffing, rumbling bass sound, and punk-thrash pace. Want more thrash, "Vandals Nest" brings some total old-school thrash mixed with some great melodies towards the end. I must also give mention to the guitar tone on this album, it's got such a razor-sharp punch to it, while having a dissonant tone for the slower bits. 

The album opens up and ends on an odd note for Sepultura, with both the title track and "Cyber God" being melodic heavy metal/alternative metal tracks with a bit of a metalcore vibe. This may be seen as a negative for some, but I think it works great and makes these among the best on the album. "Sworn Oath" is another song that displays some of this influence at the beginning, but soon picks up a killer groove with majestic symphonic instrumentation. Derrick Green's melodic vocals on this track are really deep and emotive, and creates a nice contrast to his usual gruff barks. Speaking of said vocals, his gruff vocals on this album remind me a lot of Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke at his most raw and are delivered with great conviction. Just check out his performance on "Silent Violence", that's what I call pure raw power!

Also among the best on the album are "Phantom Self" and the instrumental "Iceberg Dances". The former is a groovy tune that has a middle-eastern sound to it played by an instrument that I can't tell if it's just a guitar or something else. "Resistant Parasites" also features a bit of middle-eastern instrumentation towards the end. "Iceberg Dances" is the best instrumental track I've heard in a while, blending a tribal groove with some unexpected influences. Most notable of these would be the organ that surprisingly fits right in, who knew organ and groove metal would sound so awesome together?

Sepultura's done it, they've made a masterpiece to rival their 80's and early 90's classics. Instead of trying to imitate their classic material, the band blended a wide range of styles and influences that ended up mixing together perfectly. If you're looking for an eclectic groove metal album, look no further than Machine Messiah. 

Written on MMA (MetalMusicArchives)

See review here: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/review/machine-messiah/338962


Neanderthal - Get a Move On Review

Get a Move on (2017)
Genres: Stoner Metal, Neo-classical Metal, Blues Rock, Speed Metal, Groove Metal
(Masterpiece - among the best in the genre)

While stoner/groove metal band My Ruin seems to be on hiatus, the band's husband and wife duo of Mick and Tairrie B Murphy have dedicated themselves to releasing their own solo stuff. Tairrie B released her first solo hip-hop album since 1993 back in 2015, and now Mick Murphy (under the moniker of Neanderthal) has released his first solo album since 2007's Take the Ride.

While Mick Murphy has already proved himself to be a guitar virtuoso and one of the most underrated guitarists out there with plenty of My Ruin's material, he presents a very eclectic and varied album with Get a Move On. There's a little bit of something for everyone on this release, with styles ranging from bluesy stoner metal, thrash/speed metal, neo-classical metal, and even a bit of a punk attitude. It's all instrumental, as Murphy's guitar sings better than any vocalist could on this album. 

Often times the styles blend together in one song, as his playing on My Ruin's albums did. He'll be playing bluesy stoner metal, and rival Yngwie Malmsteen at the same time with his neo-classical soloing. "Anti Pop Culture Manifesto" and "Alarm Bells" are great examples, as they are both groovy upbeat tracks, with very classically-styled solos. "Triptych" is pure neo-classical metal, which begins and ends with some of the best classical guitar playing I've heard in a while. "Party Knights" may very well be the most impressive song on the album, blending blues, funk, and thrash metal all while remaining coherent and infectiously catchy.

It's not all upbeat though, as there are some quite emotional moments on the album. "Euphonious Dissonance" blends somewhat of a bluesy-grunge sound with the atmosphere of some melodic doom metal to create an unsettling vibe. "Song for Sam III", which is dedicated to Mick Murphy's late brother Sam M Murphy III, does this best though. It's mix of brooding doom riffing, atmospheric somber harmonies, and bluesy soloing really brings home the emotional feeling.

Get a Move On is not a long album, only clocking in at about 35 minutes, but that helps it in leaving no room for filler and delivering a wide range of styles for any metalhead to find something to enjoy. The production has a nice raw garage rock tone to it, making the aggression sound that much heavier and harmonies that much more atmospheric. If you're looking for an eclectic album with a masterful blend of various styles, this is an essential listen.

Written on MMA (MetalMusicArchives)

See review here: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/review/get-a-move-on/338948


KMFDM - [symbols] Review

[symbols] (1997)
Genres: Industrial Rock, Industrial Metal, Thrash Metal
(Excellent - recommended listening)

[symbols] is the tenth studio album from industrial metal band KMFDM. The actual name of the album is five unpronounceable symbols, hence why it is often referred to as simply Symbols in brackets. While Xtort marked the end of the band's string of amazing albums that began with 1992's Money, KMFDM wasn't finished with releasing industrial metal/rock of high quality afterwards. 

Xtort showed the band experimenting more, especially on the electronic end of the spectrum. [symbols] continues developing that sound, with less of a focus on the thrash side of their sound than previous offerings. Opener "Megalomaniac" for example, still has metallic guitars, but the techno and various electronic elements begin to come upfront here. It could be called a remix of "Light" from the band's seventh album, Angst, as most of the guitar riffs are somewhat glitched versions of the ones from the aforementioned song. 

The majority of the album actually follows in this fashion with the guitar, despite being aggressive, quite often sounding buried under the electronics. That's not to say there aren't some really great tracks here. "Stray Bullet" is on the more melodic side of things, with some quite nice laid-back guitar work that contrasts well with the catchy upbeat techno breakbeats. "Mercy" is another highlight, which has bit of a NIN-vibe to it and an infectiously catchy and groovy chorus. 

The band does thrash on a few tracks, the two most notable being "Spit Sperm" and "Waste". Both songs pack quite a punch, but the latter especially beats you over the head with chugging riffs. The best part of "Waste" is bassist Abby Travis's vocal performance, which is of a total old-school thrash delivery. It makes me wonder why she was never in a thrash metal act, her vocals just kick so much ass on the aforementioned track.

While a bit inconsistent and a bit of a step down from masterpieces like Angst, Nihil, and Xtort, [symbols] still holds some really great tracks and is certainly no weak album. If you're looking for some industrial metal that relies more on the electronic end of the spectrum, [symbols] would be a great choice.

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Annihilator - Criteria for a Black Widow Review

Criteria for a Black Widow (1999)
Genre: Thrash Metal
(Masterpiece - among the best in the genre)

Annihilator is one of those bands, you know, the ones where people only remember them for their first couple of albums and then couldn't care less about them? I'll often feel otherwise towards these bands, as I think Annihilator has plenty of fantastic albums. Despite Annihilator not getting much love for their post-Never, Neverland albums, Criteria for a Black Widow seems to be overall a bit better received.

Despite it's amazingly horrid campy album cover, which I can't decide if it's trying to be scary or sexy while failing miserably at both, this is no campy album. Criteria for a Black Widow is probably the angriest and most disturbing album in the band's discography next to their debut, Alice in Hell. Randy Rampage, who sang on said debut, is back on the fold and sounds as pissed off as ever. His sneering vocal attack matches the likes of Dave Mustaine on the first couple Megadeth albums. 

Opening up with the groovy dirge of the rampaging (no pun intended) stomp of "Bloodbath", this album does not let up with the crushing and shredding riffage. There's a return to The Fun Palace from Never, Neverland with "Back to the Palace" which is just as great as the original. It shares similarities with it's predecessor without being a complete re-hash, rather fitting in with the rest of the album. The first half of the album is the best, with "Punctured" being a groovy track that starts out with acoustics before hitting the listener over the head with crunching riffs. The title track is downright dirty and disturbing, with a nasty bass groove that dominates the song. Finally, "Schizos (Are Never Alone) Part III" is another thrash-tastic instrumental that works as a perfect sequel to Alice in Hell's tracks.

The rest of the album is great, but those first five tracks are definitely the highlights on the album. The production sounds clean, yet is raw and meaty at the same time, which fits the album perfectly. If you're a fan of Alice in Hell, or just raging and groovy thrash in general, don't judge the album by it's cover and check it out.

Written on MMA (MetalMusicArchives)

See review here: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/review/criteria-for-a-black-widow/310051


Sigh - Scenes From Hell Review

Scenes From Hell (2010)
Genres: Black Metal, Thrash Metal, Orchestral
(Excellent - highly recommended listening)

"Fire is so cold though my blood is boiling in my veins. Vice on virtue, victory on vanity. Answer me now, I will laugh in pain."

Few bands can claim to be as eclectic as the Japanese extreme metal band Sigh. While the band's main sound is based in black metal, the band has made use of a wide variety of influences which includes but is not limited to: classical music, thrash metal, power metal, jazz, and doom metal.

Sigh may be presenting Scenes From Hell, but who knew hell would be an orchestral assault of thrashing black metal riffing. No other song on the album beats the rampage of the opening "Prelude to the Oracle", which never lets up with its rapid thrashing and chaotic orchestrations. After opening with spoken word, "The Red Funeral" blends brooding doom metal and melodic black metal with more strings and orchestra. The latter is pretty much prevalent in the whole album, making the album play out like some sort of demented symphony or movie score, ending with the raging title track as a grand finale.

The production couldn't be any more perfect for the sound of this album, as it has a real dirty and filthy sound that gives a nice contrast between the grimy riffing and also prevalent melody throughout the album. "Prelude to the Oracle" and the title track in particular show this contrast quite well. The murky basslines and stabbing thrashing in the latter are particular great.

If you're looking for some eclectic black metal that lies on the more melodic and thrashing side of the spectrum, you can't do much better than Sigh. The band has many great albums, but to me Scenes From Hell is one of their finest records and most focused.

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Rush - Grace Under Pressure Review

Grace Under Pressure (1984)
Genres: Progressive Rock, Synth Rock
(Excellent - recommended listening)

Grace Under Pressure is the tenth studio album from hard rock/progressive rock band Rush. 

Two years after 1982's Signals, Rush drifts farther down the river of synth and the 80's New Wave scene. Bearing smaller and smaller resemblance to their classic sound, the band has nearly completely embraced the 80's sound by this point. Despite that, Grace Under Pressure is still a pretty great album and includes some of the band's classic tracks.

Opener "Distant Early Warning" has always been a favorite of mine and one of the first songs I heard from the band, and really represents some of the best of the band's synth era material. The mini-guitar solo about three minutes through the song is surprisingly pretty metallic and almost Iron Maiden-esque, but of course that's the only reference to anything remotely metal on this album.

Speaking of that guitar solo, Grace Under Pressure still shows Alex Lifeson delivering some great guitar riffing and occasional solos. "The Enemy Within", "The Body Electric", and "Between the Wheels" in particular showcase great balance of the band's own sound and their incorporation of contemporary trends to keep up with the times. The only times that this balance stops and it fails to work, are with "Kid Gloves" and "Red Lenses". The former is honestly one of the most annoying songs in the band's discography with a real sappy-sounding guitar motif that reeks of the cheesiest bands of the 80's. The latter is substantially better, but something about it just doesn't work. It's catchy enough, but I can't say the pseudo-funky sound with Cold War lyricism really works that well.

Most of the music on the album is quite melancholy sounding, so it makes sense that most of the lyricism is on the darker side of the spectrum as well. Much of it deals with environmental disaster, nuclear war, paranoia, as well as loss of loved ones as heard in the touchingly somber "Afterimage". The album cover fits the mood well, as it's a somewhat gloomy contemplative scene with the use of lighter (yet pale on some editions) colors.

Grace Under Pressure continues the pretty good consistency from Signals, and the continuous slight updating of sound works well for the most part. The updating of sound would show to be a bit more drastic on the following album, but if you like Signals, chances are you'll like this one too.

Written on MMA (MetalMusicArchives)

See review here: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/review/grace-under-pressure/339402


Mastodon - Leviathan Review

Leviathan (2004)
Genre: Sludge Metal
(Masterpiece - among the best in the genre)

"Into sight 60,000 years of light, fascination with a mountain put to sea. Built to slay and conquer, all with teeth of beasts."

...and built to slay and conquer they were back in the sludge metal era of their career. Now one of the most successful metal bands of the past decade and current one, Mastodon brought back sludge metal in full force at the beginning of the 2000's. While the band has since mellowed out a bit, Mastodon once combined the intensity and pummeling force of Crowbar with the atmospheric brutality of Neurosis. Add in a bit of alternative metal in the vein of Alice in Chains or System of a Down for taste, and you've got yourself Mastodon's classic sound.

Mastodon were a pretty unique band, so these aforementioned influences are mainly just references. The majority of the album is pure raw sludgy brutality, as best exemplified in classics like "Blood and Thunder", "I am Ahab", "Naked Burn", and my personal favorite, "Iron Tusk". The experimental/alternative metal elements come along in the form of plenty of odd time signatures and rapid chromatic riffing that is played in a style akin to SoaD or other bands of similar ilk. This combination of two often separated styles is part of what gave Mastodon such a unique sound when they came out, giving a brutal yet fresh sound during a time when the metal world was still at the end of the reign of generic nu-metal bands (although those would soon be replaced by generic metalcore bands).

The only times the album lets up with the chaotic sludge attack is with the final two tracks, the nearly 14-minute long behemoth "Hearts Alive" and the classical/acoustic guitar ending "Joseph Merrick". These two tracks showcase a more experimental sound in the vein of Neurosis, albeit being more melodious. Speaking of, Neurosis's frontman Scott Kelly makes his first guest appearance on this album as he would on the band's future albums. Other guests include Clutch's Neil Fallon with additional vocals (Blood and Thunder), Matt Bayles on Organ (Joeseph Merrick), and Phil Peterson on Cello (Hearts Alive).

Only their second album, and Mastodon were already in their prime. While the following Blood Mountain is my favorite, both that and Leviathan are up there with the best sludge metal albums and are already considered modern classics. If you want some forceful and sludgy brutality that's a bit more recent than sludge masters like Crowbar and Melvins, the first three Mastodon albums are essential listening.

Written on MMA (MetalMusicArchives)

See review here: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/review/leviathan/297097