4/21/2017

Treponem Pal - Higher Review


TREPONEM PAL
Higher (1997)
Genre: Industrial Metal
★★★★★
(Masterpiece - among the best in the genre)

Few industrial metal bands really broke through into the ears of other music scenes, hence why you will rarely hear mentions of bands in the genre apart from the big-name acts like Ministry, Godflesh, Rammstein, and Fear Factory. This is always unfortunate, as one of the best releases in the genre came out in the year of 1997 from one of the more obscure acts when the golden age of industrial metal was nearing its end.

That band was the French group Treponem Pal, with their 1997 album Higher. Higher is probably one of the most varied industrial metal albums out there, with a blend of all sorts of stylistic elements that work side by side one another. There's jagged thrash and groove riffing that hits you like a slab of concrete, delivered with the rhythmic groove of funk and tribal music. Some of the electronics have a strong almost Orbital-esque beat to them, which fit perfectly alongside the guitar riffs, making sure that these songs never leave your head. Add in some middle eastern instrumentation and killer soloing, and you got all the elements of this record.

Michel Bassin is an unsung hero of industrial metal guitarists, as few bands have the pure forcefulness that he has here. His guitar hooks are catchy as all hell, but pummel you to the ground at the same time. It's like getting beaten over the head with a sledgehammer, and when his power riffing combines with Marco Neves' commanding vocal attack it packs a real mean punch. This pure groove/thrash crunch is contrasted well with the rhythm section. The bass is often funky, while the drums usually have a tribal sound to them. Most industrial solos are screechy and distorted, but Bassin's solos are surprisingly clean and traditional sounding. As good as a screeching solo can be with some gritty guitar, it's refreshing to hear more traditional sounding metal solos incorporated into industrial metal. 

It's almost impossible to pick highlights with albums like these, because the whole album is equally catchy and crushingly heavy. I would say The first five songs as well as "Funk Me", "Sick Train", and "Psycho Rising" are the main highlights if forced to choose. "Unchained" shows some excellent syncopation with the main riff, while the same riff switches to more of a straight thrashing during the chorus. "Lose Control" has the perfect punchy hook that swings you into the song's groove, and may very well be the best on the album.

Despite being released near the end of industrial metal's golden age, Higher is one of the best albums in the genre. It has both the crushing heaviness and the catchy hooks to make it very memorable. It was produced by KMFDM frontman Sascha Konietzko, and I certainly see why one of the industrial metal spearheads would want to produce this album. If you're looking for a heavy, catchy, and unique underrated classic, nothing fits that better than this.

Written on MMA (MetalMusicArchives)

See review here: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/review/higher/341588

4/14/2017

Xibalba - Diablo, Con Amor...Adios EP Review


XIBALBA
Diablo, Con Amor...Adios (2017)
Genre: Death Metal
★★★★★
(Masterpiece - among the best in the genre)

These days, it can be difficult to find death metal that retains the rawness and brutality of its heyday in the late 80's and 90's. As time went on, death metal bands felt the need to get more technical or melodic. While natural development is important for any style of music, as it continues and production values get higher, essential parts of the music can end up getting lost while the monotony continues. When this happens, it can take only one band to give the genre a kick in the ass and return to its roots. For death metal, it appears like Xibalba is that band.

While classic bands like Obituary, Vader, and Sinister have always successfully delivered old-school death metal with punishing brutality, as well as bands like Nile, I haven't really found any new death metal bands capturing the old-school brutality like the classic bands do. Xibalba has done that though on their 2017 EP, Diablo, Con Amor...Adios. With the title being made up of the three tracks on the EP, Xibalba pummels the listener to the ground with sharp riffing and gargantuan grooves. In this case, less is more, as there is no time to waste during the 10-minute running time. All you get on each track shows what death metal is all about, skull-crushing guitar crunch, piercing riffing, colossal percussion, and roaring vocals. 

Adorned with artwork reminiscent of the Dan Seagrave classics, Xibalba retains the old-school spirit while also having their own sound. Classic Morbid Angel and Sepultura can definitely be heard, with Nate Rebolledo's vocals reminding me of Sepultura's Derrick Green at times. The production gives the EP this really low and deep crunch, where you can feel the power and reverb from the gritty slabs of noise. While all three tracks are killer and will slam you to the ground, "Adios" is probably the standout. Just try not to bang your head to the pummeling groove.

If you're looking for some modern death metal that will punch your face in like the old school greats, give a listen to the mighty Xibalba's Diablo, Con Amor...Adios.

Written on MMA (MetalMusicArchives)

See review here: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/review/diablo-con-amor​​-adios(ep)/341425

4/08/2017

Aerosmith - Aerosmith Review


AEROSMITH
Aerosmith (1973)
Genres: Blues Rock, Hard Rock
★★★★
(Excellent - highly recommended listening)

Before Aerosmith became 70's rock stars with Toys in the Attic and Arena Rock hits in the late 80's hair days, the band had somewhat humble beginnings with their first two records. Rooted in an almost pure hard blues rock sound, these first two albums really showcase that kind of rough garage-y sound of a band just starting out, the debut especially.

The album is mainly known for the hit single "Dream On", which has since became a staple of classic rock radio. Strangely enough, the album wasn't very well received upon first release in January 1973. The band was compared in an unfavorable light to bands such as The Rolling Stones (Who did influence the band). However, the album has since been better received, perhaps due to "Dream On" bringing in more popularity when the single was re-released in 1976.

This album is a gold mine for deep cuts, as the aforementioned "Dream On" and "Mama Kin" were the only singles released from this album. The band sounds quite a bit different on many of the songs than from what they would be known for later on. There is much less sleazy swagger here, it rather has that raw and immature charm of a band just getting started and finding their sound. Even on this debut, Aerosmith knew how to deliver catchy riffs and hooks with tight rhythm, and it's really easy to get caught. "Make It", "Somebody", "Mama Kin", and the cover of Rufus Thomas's "Walkin' the Dog" will all get you stompin' to their bluesy swing.

However, my two favorite tracks are "One Way Street" and "Movin' Out", with the latter being one of my all-time favorites from the band. Both of these songs standout in the band's discography, "One Way Street" is the band's longest song as well as being pretty close to pure blues. "Movin' Out" is both heavy and beautiful, having a perfect balance between heavy blues licks and touching vocal and guitar melodies. Speaking of vocal melodies, Steven Tyler's vocals are much more raspy here, fitting in really well with the more rough sound of the guitar.

While not my absolute favorite from the band, it is an easy second best as well as one of their most consistent albums. If you're looking for a more pure blues rock album with great hooks and a garage-y charm, give this gem a listen.

Written on MMA (MetalMusicArchives)

See review here: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/review/aerosmith/297841

4/02/2017

Iron Maiden - Somewhere in Time Review


IRON MAIDEN
Somewhere in Time (1986)
Genre: Heavy Metal
★★★★★★
(Legendary - a masterpiece of music)

"Make you an offer you can't refuse, you've only got your soul to lose... Eternally... let yourself go!"

The 80's certainly were the golden age for metal. Heavy metal, thrash metal, and power metal classics were plentiful, as were early masterpieces in the death and doom genres. 1986 in particular was an amazing year, with classics like Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood, Peace Sells, Somewhere in Time, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Orgasmatron, Russian Roulette, Rage for Order, and many many more. While I love every one of those albums I listed, there are four of those that are among my all time favorite albums. Perhaps the best one of those is none other than Iron Maiden's masterpiece Somewhere in Time.

Few albums can legitimately claim to have a futuristic atmosphere. Many bands have tried to create this kind of sound, but still retain the qualities of whatever year they were recorded. Somewhere in Time however, manages to have a cyber-punk futuristic atmosphere, and remains timeless. The guitar tone on this album has never been replicated, not even by the band themselves. It's a bit hard to explain without listening to it yourself, but it has this spacey effect partly caused by the guitar synths used. Unlike the following album, the synth is purely used for atmosphere here. 

The riffs maintain Maiden's usual gallop, but on this album those galloping guitar runs place you in the world the band has created. You're right there, running the long-distances in this mysterious future world. Right at the beginning you are caught somewhere in time, and when is up to the listener. The album is full of memorable hooks, and perhaps most notable is the iconic main riff to the classic "Wasted Years". Steve Harris's bass is probably at it's most prevalent on this album, often playing very audible licks different from the guitar. There's even a short solo bass intro to the swing of "Stranger in a Strange Land". The drums are ever powerful as well, enhancing the grandiose sound that the album sets up.

Bruce Dickinson's vocal melodies and lyrics are at their very best here, just listen to any of the eight songs on the album for proof. "Wasted Years", "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner", "Deja-Vu", and the title track especially all feature beautiful and memorable vocal lines that you'll be singing along to for days. "Heaven Can Wait" is also spectacular with it's synchronized chants during the bridge. The lyrics are perfectly written, as they can all fit into the mood and atmosphere of the album while being incredibly powerful on their own as well. "Wasted Years" and "Deja-Vu" are probably the two main highlights for me, even making me tear up when I listen to them.

The album art deserves a mention as well, being filled with tons of little details and references. Featured are many references to past Iron Maiden songs and albums, such as "Ancient Mariner Sea Food Restaurant" and "Aces High Bar". There are also little tributes to Led Zeppelin, Doctor Who, and of course Blade Runner hidden around the art. There are many more things to be found, and because of that, this is an album made for vinyl.

While sadly often overshadowed by the albums that bookend it, Somewhere in Time is Iron Maiden's magnum opus. The three albums that preceded it are also masterpieces and among my all-time favorites, but Somewhere in Time has the edge over them all as the best one. It nails everything perfectly, and is simply one of the greatest pieces of music ever recorded. If you love classic epic heavy metal and have not heard this album, do yourself a favor and listen to this absolute masterpiece of music.

Written on MMA (MetalMusicArchives)

3/27/2017

Whiplash - Power and Pain Review


WHIPLASH
Power and Pain (1985)
Genres: Thrash Metal, Speed Metal
★★★★★
(Masterpiece - among the best in the genre)

"Thrash, to kill! Blood, will spill!"

Forming back in 1983 under the name Jackhammer, the New Jersey thrash/speed metal act renamed to Whiplash only a year later, although both names fit well with their sound. They electrified thrashers in 1985 with the release of their debut studio album, whose name of Power and Pain describes what these guys are coming to deliver. Despite being from the US, Whiplash has a lot more in common with the early material from German Teutonic thrash bands like Kreator and Destruction than most US acts, although Kill 'em All-era Metallica should be noted as a valid reference point.

Whiplash you will get after thrashing to the band's incredibly rapid attack. Rivaling Razor when it comes to pure aggression and speed, frontman Tony Portaro's riffs pierce the skin and speed through your veins like motorcycle gangs on the highway. Portaro fills the vocal spot also, viciously barking out mosh pit calls. Amongst all the ripping solos and shredding, there's a tight rhythm section to keep it all together. The whole album will spit through your skull, but highlights definitely include "Stage Dive", "War Monger", "Spit on Your Grave", and the colossal "Red Bomb" which punches you in the gut with it's opening riff. 

If you want a classic thrashing from one of the more underrated bands of the US thrash scene, check out Whiplash's Power and Pain. It's a pure, raw, all-out, no-bullshit romp through the pit. Who needs to dive in the pool, when you can Stage Dive?

Written on MMA (MetalMusicArchives)

See review here: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/review/power-and-pain/341248

3/23/2017

Overkill - The Grinding Wheel Review


OVERKILL
The Grinding Wheel (2017)
Genres: Thrash Metal, Groove Metal, Epic Metal, Blues Metal
★★★★★★
(Godly - An album to worship)

"I grabbed a tape from the floor of the car, jammed it in the dash it played Highway Star. With a foot of lead and that Chevy hop, never gonna stop!"

The Mean, Green, Killing Machine is back with The Grinding Wheel, so Let's All Go to Hades to listen to the Finest Hour. We listeners may get into some Goddamn Trouble while taking The Long Road, but forever Shine On. Come Heavy as The Wheel spins while the Red, White, and Blue waves. Overkill's back after a bit longer of a wait than usual, and it's worth it. As this is simply one of the greatest albums the band and music itself has ever produced.

Opening with the rampaging thrash of "Mean, Green, Killing Machine", this album pretty much never lets up with speedy rapid thrashings and groovy swaggering. The no-bullshit romp and stomp of the track "Goddamn Trouble" is essentially Overkill's own Highway Star and just makes you want to step on the gas and blast away to some tunes that are on absolute fire. This is a band that's been around for well over 30 years, but has more energy than most modern bands can claim to have. Take the rampaging punchy thrash that the band has been blazin' through since 2010's Ironbound, and mix it with a southern bluesy swaggering groove and a bit of Iron Maiden-esque epicness, and you got this killer record.

It's pretty much impossible to pick highlights, as every song slays and has an unbelievable amount of energy. Just try and not to get pumped and ready to conquer the world when listening to this album. Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth gives one of the greatest vocal performances ever, spitting both epic and energetic fun vocal lines. It's impossible to not chant along to songs like "The Long Road" and "Red, White, and Blue" with the delivery of lines like "We're goin' down the mountain, boys" and "Give us liberty, or we can give you death!". D.D. Verni's basslines are just as fantastic as always, and keeps a catchy as hell rhythm section with Ron Lipnicki absolutely walloping the drum kit like there's no tomorrow. Dave Linsk and Derek "The Skull" Tailer both shred and swing like the thrash masters they are, and are among the very best. The thrashings are brutal, the bluesy grooves are just swingin', and the epic moments couldn't be more epic. The title track that closes the album is the definition of a fantastic finale, it maintains the crunch and speed in places of the rest of the album all the while being a nearly 8-minute epic worthy of classic Iron Maiden or Rush's Cygnus X-1. The orchestration and vocals will send shivers down the spine at the end of the massive conclusion to The Grinding Wheel.

As much as some bands may try, nothing says consistent like Overkill, with only Anvil coming close to matching the classic thrash metal act's consistency. Overkill goes beyond consistency though, and makes one of the greatest damn albums ever made. It's an equal to The Years of Decay, which is another one of the greatest albums ever made. If you are a fan of real, no-bullshit metal, listen to this album. You know, even if you just need a reminder about what metal is, Overkill is metal in it's most powerful form. Even on their sixteenth studio album, Overkill continues to deliver the old school thrashing goods. Just like those lyrics from "Goddamn Trouble", Overkill ain't never gonna stop.

Written on MMA (MetalMusicArchives)

See review here: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/review/the-grinding-wheel/339431

Filter - Short Bus Review


FILTER
Short Bus (1995)
Genres: Industrial Metal, Alternative Rock
 ★★★★
(Excellent - highly recommended listening)

In the land of industrial rock and metal, many bands get unfairly compared to Nine Inch Nails. While those who are more familiar with the genre will find that these comparisons are often silly and nonsensical, these are probably simply due to NIN being the one that really "made it big". Sure, other bands have had their fair share of popularity over the years, but NIN remains the most remembered and popular.

One of the many industrial rock/metal bands to get these comparisons was Filter. True, frontman Richard Patrick was a live guitarist for NIN before forming Filter, but Patrick felt there was something missing in Reznor's sound. Once you finish the first song on the album, the hit "Hey Man, Nice Shot", it's quite apparent. That which was missing was a crushing metallic slab of guitars, blended with menacing industrial soundscapes. This continues throughout most of the album, think less NIN and more Godflesh and Pitchshifter. The crunch of the riffing, drum grooves, and screeching industrial distortion all makes it fit right in line with the classic industrial metal sound, while also having just the right amount of that misanthropic angst that industrial music had at the time. 

The aforementioned hit that opens up the album is of course probably the top highlight, but there's many other songs here that slam your face into the pavement. "Under" is one of the best of these, with an awesome pummeling groove. The two surrounding songs of "Dose" and "Spent" are also among the highlights and deliver with great force. All of these mentioned songs along with "Gerbil" and "White Like That", all have this absolutely massive guitar and colossal drum sound blended with Richard Patrick's raging screams, which is this album's strength.

Unfortunately, not all these songs display the power riffage and edgy screams that this album is great for. Right after a crushing number like "White Like That", you get a double-whammy of pathetic whimpers in "Consider This" and "So Cool" which both fall flat on their faces. The former has electric guitars, but they may as well not be there, while the latter is an acoustic ballad that sounds like a rejected Porcupine Tree ballad. "Stuck in Here" is another one of these tracks, but maybe a bit less annoying. 

Despite there being a few terrible tracks, all the punchy groovy industrial behemoth tracks make up for those mistakes. If you're looking for an industrial metal album that balances out the heaviness and distortion of Godflesh and Pitchshifter with the extra edge of alternative metal, Filter's Short Bus delivers.

Written on MMA (MetalMusicArchives)