August 19, 2012

Album Review: "Mnemesis" by Mnemic

If there is one thing that I've learned about Mnemic, it's that I usually take a few listens to truly appreciate every song in the way it's meant to be heard. I learned this the hard way after 2010's Sons of the System, which I initially only rated a 7 out of 10. Two years later, I've listened to that album from start to finish more than any other album during that time period, because it takes a few listens to discover all the hidden nuances that album contains, and many more listens to get tired of them. Sons of the System was the magnum opus of a band finally able to deliver everything they were capable of doing on one record. However, the group lost a lot of momentum and members in 2011, and many wondered if they could survive to make a fifth record. Doubt not the tenacity of founding guitarist Mircea Gabriel Eftemie, though. He and vocalist Guillaume Bideau, the only members left from the group that recorded Sons of the System, assembled a new group of musicians to become the newest incarnation of Mnemic, which led to the writing and recording of Mnemesis.

June 6, 2012

Album Review: "Last Parade" by Call Me No One

Since re-joining Sevendust in 2008, Clint Lowery has maintained one of the busiest schedules of anyone in the entire hard rock world. Besides writing and recording Sevendust's latest album, 2010's Cold Day Memory, and all of the band's touring on top of that, Lowery somehow also found time to write and record three EP's for his solo project, Hello Demons...Meet Skeletons, between 2008 and 2011. Apparently that was not enough for Lowery, though. In January of 2012, he and Sevendust drummer/vocalist Morgan Rose formed a new side project entitled Call Me No One, and they immediately began writing and recording songs for what would become the group's debut, Last Parade.

May 6, 2012

Album Review: "Enslaved" by Soulfly

Soulfly has been Max Cavalera's bully pulpit for fifteen years now, and with very few exceptions, he hasn't wasted it. Undoubtedly, Soulfly has been one of the most active and consistent metal bands in the world since 2004's Prophecy, touring constantly and releasing a new album seamlessly when the time was right. Sure, Max did set aside time for his Cavalera Conspiracy project when he needed to, but Soulfly has been and continues to be his main focus. And while his old band Sepultura maintains only a shadow of its former significance in the worldwide metal scene, Max has shown the world what could have been if his fateful split with the group hadn't occurred in 1996. Enslaved is the latest example of Soulfly's dominance, delivering the music that fans want while also sending a not-so-subtle message to the band's critics.

February 16, 2012

Album Review: "Dark Adrenaline" by Lacuna Coil

With the rise of gothic rock and metal to worldwide popularity in the late '90s and early 2000s, many gothic metal bands began to receive heavy criticism for stylistic changes as their careers progressed. The two bands that received the brunt of such criticism were HIM and Lacuna Coil, for the supposed "American-ization" of their styles. While HIM defended their style changes to the critics, Lacuna Coil mostly ignored the criticism, barely even acknowledging their style changes in interviews or album previews. Such a strategy worked for 2006's Karmacode, an album that received largely positive reviews and generated many staples of Lacuna Coil's live set. But that strategy was less successful for 2009's Shallow Life, which got mixed reviews and received plenty of backlash from longtime fans. As such, the Italian group has lots of ground to make up for on their newest release, Dark Adrenaline.

January 22, 2012

Album Review: "Resolution" by Lamb of God

Over the past decade, Lamb of God has become one of the most prolific American metal bands in the world. If not for the realities of time and a flagging music industry, Lamb of God would likely compete with the Big 4 in terms of popularity. Those two factors are the only things preventing the Virginia-based group from being included with the most famous bands in all of American metal. With six ground-breaking albums behind them (including one under their former name Burn the Priest), a remarkably stable line-up, and one of the most supportive fan bases in the world, Lamb of God is one of the only bands that manages to get bigger with each new release. Their newest album, Resolution, will definitely continue that trend, with even more destructive compositions for the listening pleasure of their fans.

December 29, 2011

Album Review: "Hell Frost" by The Unguided

Redemption and second chances don't come easily in the music industry, especially in more recent years when one-hit-wonders and single-release artists are becoming more prevalent than ever before. It becomes even more difficult when artists need to use new names or form new bands in order to find that redemption. Such was the path for vocalist Richard Sjunnesson after his departure from modern melodic death metal group Sonic Syndicate. Disgusted by the group's changed sound - a change which was forced on them by Nuclear Blast Records, no less - and wanting to return to his roots, Sjunnesson decided to form his own group that would take on Sonic Syndicate's older style and let it grow naturally. The resulting group became known as The Unguided, and with this group, Sjunnesson definitely achieved his goal.

October 30, 2011

Album Review: "Th1rt3en" by Megadeth

Amidst the resurgences of Metallica and Anthrax and the genesis of an entire new wave of thrash metal around the world, Megadeth has been consistently and quietly releasing solid albums for the past ten years. The problem has been that the group's new albums end up being outshined by other new albums, from either their peers (in the case of 2009's Endgame, it was passed over by critics in favor of Slayer's World Painted Blood) or newer, more vibrant metal bands with large followings (such as 2004's The System has Failed being outclassed by Mastodon's Leviathan). It's likely not what Dave Mustaine envisioned for the band's return from hiatus in 2004 and subsequent signing with Roadrunner Records in 2006. Nonetheless, Mustaine and his cohorts are still making great music and keeping classic thrash relevant in the metal community. They've certainly accomplished that on their thirteenth studio album, appropriately titled Th1rt3en. But there is also plenty about the album that makes it different from its predecessors.

October 22, 2011

Album Review: "American Capitalist" by Five Finger Death Punch

There is a very important reason why Five Finger Death Punch has essentially become the face of metal in America. In many ways, their outward appearance personifies every stereotype that pop culture makes about the modern-day metal listener, just as much as their music matches the preconceptions made about metal by most non-metal listeners. The group's first two albums, The Way of the Fist and War is the Answer, were chock-full of meaty riffs, wild guitar solos, guttural screaming vocals, and emotionally-charged lyrics about individualism, rage, and darkness. And as the group's album sales went through the roof, the face and voice of metal invaded the tranquility of pop culture America and refused to leave. War is the Answer was cemented on the Billboard 200 for 92 weeks following its debut at #7, which is a nearly impossible feat for a metal band in the era of downloaded music. It was only logical to believe, therefore, that Five Finger Death Punch's third album would be just as popular and do similarly well.

How unfortunate, though, that the third album, American Capitalist, is not on par with the group's previous work. Saying it's not on par isn't even an accurate description, though. The album isn't wholly bad – in fact, there are plenty of good things to say about it. But the things that are wrong with American Capitalist are so glaringly obvious that they're hard to ignore and harder still to forget.

October 20, 2011

Album Review: "IV" by Maylene and the Sons of Disaster

The crunch and grime of Southern metal is attempted by many and mastered by few. The few that have made it their constant trade, like Clutch, Melvins, and Black Label Society, are responsible for inspiring a generation of new artists that have begun to make Southern metal a more popular genre again. Of greater interest, though, are the groups that have taken Southern metal and fused it with other styles to generate wholly new subgenres in the past decade. Groups such as Every Time I Die, He is Legend, and The Showdown have dared to tread where few others would even imagine possible, and they've done so with great success. Another group deserving of praise in this category is Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, whose fusion of metalcore and Southern metal was considered innovative and unique on their very first album. Now on their fourth full-length, the Georgia-based group has cemented that reputation, and is now focused on expanding their horizons via some intriguing experimentation.

September 18, 2011

Album Review: "Worship Music" by Anthrax

The Big 4 - Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax - were the kings of thrash metal in the '80s. Nothing was more prevalent in American metal than those four bands. But as time passed and music changed, the Big 4 changed as well, each taking a different direction in attempts to stay relevant and popular. Anthrax encountered the most difficulty of the four bands, and their releases became less and less frequent with time, even though the band seemed to be doing fairly well with vocalist John Bush. Then, after 2003's We've Come for You All, Anthrax suddenly disappeared from the public eye. There was always news of the band working on new material, but nothing came to fruition, not even after the band's brief stint with lead singer Dan Nelson and the attempts to release Worship Music in 2009. It took the band's reunion with singer Joey Belladonna to finally bring this album to life, and with it, Anthrax hopes to revitalize their career and remind everyone what made them part of the Big 4 in the first place.

September 3, 2011

Album Review: "Drifter" by Heartsounds

Rock music is the source of so many offshoots that it's often easy to forget how closely linked certain genres and subgenres are at the core. Only after sampling an extremely vast set of different rock-inspired styles does it become easier to recognize the similarities that exist among punk, alternative, metal, indie, and hardcore. These similarities are the reason why bands like Heartsounds exist. The punk rock quartet was born out of the ashes of melodic death metal group Light This City, following their breakup in 2008, mostly due to financial difficulties and what vocalist Laura Nichol summarized as a general dissatisfaction with the metal scene in general. At that point, Nichol and drummer Ben Murray decided to shift their focus to their new musical love - melodic punk in the vein of Bad Religion and A Wilhelm Scream. Their debut album Until We Surrender was a decent beginning for the new band, and sophomore effort Drifter displays growth and an overall tighter focus for Heartsounds.

July 18, 2011

Album Review: "When One Wakes" by Triphobia

Very few high school bands are taken seriously or considered to have potential for long-term success. Traditionally, a high school band is an opportunity for a musician to get the first taste of band structure and to decide if the group dynamic fits their musical vision. It seems that Kinnelon, NJ-based group Triphobia didn't get that message, though, because this group of high school seniors already plays with more passion, skill, and integrity than some bands twice their age. Their 2009 EP The Hourglass exhibited a band overflowing with potential, only needing slight refinement and maturity to attain widespread recognition and greatness. Both refinement and maturity have been realized on the group's debut full-length album, When One Wakes, on which Triphobia evolves from a talented hard rock act to a more focused progressive rock group.

July 17, 2011

Album Review: "Downcast Theory" by Downcast Theory

The New Jersey rock scene is one of the most fiercely competitive locations in the country. Bands arrive on the scene quickly and gain a huge following, only to disappear soon after as another band takes over their niche. It's a testament to the level of talent in the region that so many bands originate there, but for a band to thrive and advance beyond the area, they need to have something more than just musical proficiency and practice with the current trend.

The members of Downcast Theory are intimately familiar with this fact, as they have watched many of their peers and friends in other bands come and go since the group formed in 2007. The release of 2009's Damaged Calm started Downcast Theory on the right path, but they were still looking for their "something more". It appears that they've found it, though, with the release of their self-titled album this year. Downcast Theory is a solid hard rock that blends the best current trends with the excellent tried-and-true methods of the past fifteen years in the genre.

June 22, 2011

Album Review: "Darkness in the Light" by Unearth

Consistency is an under-appreciated quality in the world of heavy metal, and for any band striving for consistency, it becomes harder to maintain as more music is written and more albums are released. From the venerable Massachusetts metal scene, practically every band the region has produced has faltered somewhere along the way, including scene godfathers Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, and All That Remains. The only band from the area left with an unblemished record is Unearth, the group that has virtually always been the exception to the rule. When their three big contemporaries strove for melodicism and accessibility, Unearth chose to get heavier, more technical, and more intense. Their last three albums - 2004's The Oncoming Storm, 2006's III: In the Eyes of Fire, and 2008's The March - have all served as testimonies to the sheer, unbridled excellence that Unearth always produces. The group has returned with another statement of greatness, Darkness in the Light, proving that consistency does not equate with being formulaic.