November 14, 2010

Album Review: "Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa" by Cradle of Filth

Few bands have attracted as much derision as Cradle of Filth has throughout their career. But they are one of the few metal bands where the hatred arises not from lack of talent, but from overabundance of talent and the inability of some listeners to recognize it. Looking back at the black metal scene and extreme metal in general, Cradle of Filth has consistently been among the pioneering bands. If a trend becomes popular, they were usually doing it before most others. Even the band's missteps (Damnation and a Day and Thornography immediately come to mind) still have their hidden gems of inspiration and innovation. 2008's Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder was a stunning return to form, and its intriguing conceptual storyline was remarkably well-executed. Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa, another concept album, is a daring release with its own batch of new twists that will delight fans and potentially convert some naysayers.

November 2, 2010

Album Review: "Poetry for the Poisoned" by Kamelot

Kamelot is one of the leading bands in power metal because they have dared to do what many bands would not - expand their borders. The reason that The Black Halo and Ghost Opera were so successful is that they went outside the norms for most power metal bands. Instead of fast, over-the-top compositions of grandiosity and slow, crooning ballads placed side by side over the length of an album, Kamelot has dared to blend those two extremes and construct power metal songs more akin to what genre creators Iron Maiden did in their early years. Thus, instead of trying to top the creators (something that many modern power metal bands seem to be trying to do), Kamelot has decided to emulate them, and they have become a better band because of it. Their latest album, Poetry for the Poisoned, is very different from what the band has done on its two predecessors, but it is nonetheless a surprisingly good album that proves its worth over time, rather than through an instantaneous musical reveal.

Album Review: "A Thousand Suns" by Linkin Park

Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is revered as one of the greatest albums of all time because it was one of the most ambitious albums released by any music performer in that era. The idea of crafting an entire album that was designed to be a continuous musical composition, rather than several separate songs, was a revolutionary idea in rock music at that time. Sure, concept albums existed before Dark Side of the Moon, but virtually all of them were conceptually based around a lyrical theme, rather than a musical theme. And while the album did have its singles, the innovation and progression it introduced forever changed the musical landscape.

Other groups have tried, with varying degrees of success, to release albums that are one continuous composition, but most groups that attempt this feat are part of genres in which that type of album is expected. Progressive rock groups such as Rush and Porcupine Tree, or technical metal bands like Meshuggah and Between the Buried and Me, are the best examples of success in this venture. Not since the album that started it all has a mainstream rock group with a worldwide following in the hundreds of millions attempted a feat such as this - until now.

October 28, 2010

Album Review: "Forging the Eclipse" by Neaera

Neaera has been one of the best and most consistent bands in the new wave of German metal during the past decade. After two albums of tough and brutal metalcore, the band really found their stride on 2008's Armamentarium, an extremely strong melodic death metal album with a vast number of standout tracks. Armamentarium was the album that put Neaera in the top echelon of Germany's new metal scene, leading the pack alongside Heaven Shall Burn and Caliban. And although 2009's Omnicide - Creation Unleashed didn't quite match the quality of Armamentarium, it was still a solid album with a great overall tone. Maintaining their unbelievably fast production speed with their fifth album in six years, Neaera is back with Forging the Eclipse, an album that keeps them at the top of the heap with impressive new styles and overall performance.

October 21, 2010

Double Review: "Silent Chaos Serpentine" and "Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom" by Stigmata

Metal is not exclusive to any one country or location, as any fan of the genre knows. Where the spirit and drive to play heavy and loud exists, metal will find a way. So it is with Sri Lankan group Stigmata, a powerful and unique group with the heart of metal deeply embedded in all five members. Stigmata is one of only thirteen groups identified by the Encyclopedia Metallum as being located in Sri Lanka, a country better known for its civil war and tea production than any sort of music scene. Nonetheless, Stigmata has a lot of skill and potential appeal. Their two most recent albums, Silent Chaos Serpentine and Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom, are the stuff that makes most bands into humongous successes.

October 10, 2010

Album Review: "Blood in the Gears" by The Showdown

The Southern metal scene does not often cross paths with the Christian metal world, but there are some bands that choose to embrace both groups, despite their seeming disconnect. The two leading bands in this group are Tennessee's The Showdown and Georgia's Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, and both bands add some modern metal elements into their sound to create a fairly unique blend. However, The Showdown leans more towards the Southern metal side of things than any of their contemporaries; evidenced by their sophomore album Temptation Come My Way, a straightforward Southern rock mostly devoid of screaming or breakdowns. Their third album, 2008's Back Breaker, achieved an excellent fusion of melodic and aggressive elements, earning them widespread acclaim and recognition for finding their stride. Now back on the scene with Blood in the Gears, The Showdown is out to prove just how diverse and multi-faceted their sound can be.

October 7, 2010

Album Review: "Imperfect Harmonies" by Serj Tankian

When System of a Down went on indefinite hiatus in 2006, fans unanimously clamored for a more detailed reason as to why, dissatisfied with the band's official statement of wanting to do different things. However, lead singer Serj Tankian quelled the discontent of the masses with his 2007 solo debut, Elect the Dead. Retaining many of the signature elements that made System great, Elect the Dead was a big hit among fans and satiated them for two years. However, the quirky live album Elect the Dead Symphony was less popular with listeners, who did not understand its purpose or meaning. Meanwhile, Scars of Broadway, the side project of System members Daron Malakian and John Dolmayan, was not as successful as Tankian's solo work.

These two factors combined led fans to restart the calls for a System reunion. Unfortunately for those hoping to hear more music similar to System from Tankian, the singer's sophomore solo effort, Imperfect Harmonies, sounds drastically different from Elect the Dead. However, those with open minds might find this to be a good thing, as Tankian takes a huge step into experimental prog rock with his new material.

September 26, 2010

Album Review: "The Culling of Wolves" by Knights of the Abyss

When deathcore became a prominent genre in the middle of the decade, it ignited one of the fiercest debates ever among metal fans. But just as quickly as it rose to popularity, the much-maligned subgenre seems to be dying with similar expediency. Most bands are transitioning into the brutal technical death metal style pioneered by Suffocation and Immolation in the early '90s. The copious breakdowns and "pig squeal" vocals have been replaced with simpler tempo shifts and basement-level grunts and growls. It is a change that most metal fans are more than happy to witness.

However, the majority of deathcore bands choosing to make this change are not doing a good job of implementing it. Many cannot seem to get the song structures correct, either retaining many elements of their old sound or else writing in tempo and tone shifts that are clunky and unnecessary. Others resort to using traits of black metal and death metal as gimmicks to attract more fans. Thankfully, though, there are some bands that have made the change without hitting either of these two stumbling blocks. Arizona's Knights of the Abyss is among this group, sounding like a completely new and vastly improved band on their third album, The Culling of Wolves.

September 18, 2010

Album Review: "Man of Two Visions" by Valkyrie

Since the release of 2007's Red Album, Baroness has become the new hot band in the progressive stoner metal scene, a slot occupied by Mastodon, Isis, and High on Fire in the past. However, not many people know that Baroness guitarist Pete Adams, who joined the band in 2008, has had a much longer relationship with Southern metal. That relationship began in 2004, when Pete joined Valkyrie, the band fronted by his brother Jake. The band certainly had humble beginnings, recording their first demo at a local college radio station. However, since then, Valkyrie has garnered a bit more respect and recognition, even counting veteran drummer Gary Isom (Spirit Caravan, Pentagram) as part of their lineup for a year. The band signed with Meteor City Records for the release of their second full-length, Man of Two Visions. It is an ambitious album that harkens back to the origins of heavy metal while simultaneously incorporating both classic rock sections and elements of the modern Southern metal sound.

September 17, 2010

New & Noteworthy, September 17th - Raise the Banners

This week's top release, the sophomore album from ex-System of a Down singer Serj Tankian, was originally supposed to come out two weeks ago, but Tankian ordered the album pushed back when the plant manufacturing the liner notes ran out of tree-free paper, a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood-pulp paper. This action is just another in a growing list of examples of rock and metal performers adopting a cause or fund to support. The environment has been a pet project for Tankian for a long time - both of System of a Down's last two albums, Mezmerize and Hypnotize, as well as Tankian's solo debut, Elect the Dead, were printed on tree-free paper. The environment is a hot topic for support in the metal community, but the causes some musicians adopt can be as simple as helping teach others to treat people fairly. No matter what the cause is, seeing the metal community rise up in support of current issues is always a beautiful thing to see, and I hope we see it more often in the future.

Besides Tankian, there are only a few other artists releasing albums this week, giving us another brief respite before getting into October, a month that is positively oversaturated with new releases. This week will likely have prog fans excited, so read on to see the slim (but still top-notch) picks for this week.

September 15, 2010

News Commentary: And Justice for All - Swedish supergroup tackles bullying with new song

Bullying is an epidemic that unfortunately still plagues schools all over the world. No matter how many punishments exist for it or how many lessons are planned around it, the problem still pervades the lives of children and adolescents everywhere. Celebrities of all kinds, ranging from pop musicians and rappers to actors and TV personalities, have tried to raise awareness about the issue in a multitude of different campaigns and causes. Now, true to form, the metal community has stepped up and delivered its message on bullying.

September 10, 2010

New & Noteworthy, September 10th - Voice of the Voiceless

This past week saw Disturbed have their fourth consecutive #1 debut of their prolific career, an amazing feat in the era of file sharing and iTunes. Equally amazing is that Asylum is the third hard rock/metal record to debut at #1 in 2010, a year dominated by the likes of Eminem, Katy Perry, Usher, Lady Antebellum, and the child terror Justin Bieber. Following in the footsteps of Avenged Sevenfold and Godsmack, Disturbed has once again proven that fans of hard rock and metal are a force to be reckoned with now. And when one also includes the number of top ten debuts from hard rock and metal bands this year, it's becoming more and more obvious that heavy music is much more popular than mainstream America would like to believe.

This week assaults us with yet another overflowing list of new releases. There are actually two releases battling for the top spot in terms of appeal and significance. One is a reissue of one of metal's defining albums, a record that defined an entire decade and kick-started the legacy of a fallen hero of metal. The other is from a band that many would dispute as being metal, although they are definitely rock, and they have a history of debuting at #1 as well. Following behind these two albums are a multitude of amazing bands from all over the genre map. Much like the beginning of June, everyone should find at least one album on this list that they will like, so start reading and allocating your paychecks accordingly!

September 5, 2010

Album Review: "Audio Secrecy" by Stone Sour

Corey Taylor may be most well-known for his role as the lead singer of Slipknot, but it's in his hard rock side project Stone Sour that he utilizes the fullest extent of his talent. The group's self-titled 2002 album displayed a completely different side of Taylor from what was seen in Slipknot, as he bared his soul through more mature and diverse songs. Both "Get Inside" and "Inhale" received Grammy nominations for Best Metal Performance, but the clincher was the heart-rending single "Bother", showing just what a skilled and versatile singer Taylor was. 2006's Come What(ever) May furthered Stone Sour's reputation and recognition, leading to prominent touring slots and the group's third Grammy nomination, again for Best Metal Performance with "30/30-150". Returning for album number three, Audio Secrecy, Stone Sour continues to impress with their heartfelt lyrics and inspiring music.

September 3, 2010

New & Noteworthy, September 3rd – The Waiting Game

Last week, I mentioned that Maynard James Keenan had three releases coming out this week. Well now that number has dropped down to two, as the Blood Into Wine documentary has been delayed until an unspecified date. However, Maynard fans are likely more anxious to know when new albums from Tool and A Perfect Circle will be coming out. This also begs the question of how Maynard will manage to keep both projects together along with Puscifer. In the beginning of the decade, his involvement with A Perfect Circle caused a five year wait for the release of Tool's fourth full-length album. Now, Puscifer has led to a four year wait on a new Tool album, which is likely to become five years unless the band is further in the writing and recording process than they would have fans believe.

Still, though, the release of two prominent items for Maynard this week is good news for fans. However, other big releases take top billing away from the singer in this week's column, including another side project that is at the top of its game with their third album. Read on to see what else is making waves in the world of rock and metal.

September 1, 2010

Album Review: "Women and Children Last" by the Murderdolls

Horror punk is one of the most difficult and specialized subgenres to master. Not only do horror punk bands have to master the style created by genre progenitors the Misfits, but they also have to find a unique way to stand out from the forefathers. This is why most horror punk bands simply become Misfits cover bands over time, because the subtlety required to achieve this mastery is very rare.

However, a few bands have found the right balance necessary to be successful at horror punk. One of the most underrated bands in this elite group is the Murderdolls, the duo of vocalist Wednesday 13 and guitarist Joey Jordison, who also plays drums for Slipknot and Rob Zombie. Their debut Beyond the Valley of the Murderdolls made a huge splash in 2002, but they went on a six-year hiatus in 2004 due to Jordison's obligations with Slipknot and Wednesday starting his solo project. However, the pair reunited early in 2010 to record a new album, much to the delight of horror punk enthusiasts. Women and Children Last is just as good as fans hoped it would be, creating a new prototype for future horror punk bands.

August 31, 2010

Album Review: "Formalities" by The Spill Canvas

The Spill Canvas is a band that comes from very different origins than one would expect. Lead singer Nick Thomas was guitarist and backup vocalist for now-defunct Christian metalcore act Nodes of Ranvier when he started The Spill Canvas in 2002. Eventually he quit Nodes of Ranvier and made The Spill Canvas a full-time project, and that decision has paid huge dividends. 2007's No Really, I'm Fine peaked at #143 on the Billboard 200, and the single "All Over You" has become an anthem among fans. So far in 2010, the band released a pair of digital EP's, Abnormalities and Realities, that contained some of the band's new material. The best songs from both EP's were then grouped with some acoustic tracks and other new songs to create the band's newest full-length, Formalities. This compilation shows some interesting development by the band, along with plenty of their traditional style.

Album Review: "Asylum" by Disturbed

There is no bigger band in hard rock right now than Disturbed. Over the past decade, they have helped to revolutionize the popularity of aggressive music, both in America and the world. From their stunning debut The Sickness to the thrilling masterpiece Indestructible, Disturbed is the face of heavy music for the majority of the world. They may not be the heaviest or most aggressive band out, but they are the one that people will name most often when discussing the genre. It also doesn't hurt that they are among the most intelligent, socially conscious bands in the world, and that their lyrics speak for the forgotten, abused, and neglected of an entire generation. Their fifth album, Asylum, sees Disturbed at their most ambitious since 2005's Ten Thousand Fists, crafting new and intricate songs that show a remarkable sonic evolution.

August 27, 2010

New & Noteworthy, August 27th - Healing Powers

Two weeks ago, Behemoth announced they were cancelling their upcoming tour plans due to singer Adam "Nergal" Darski being taken to a hospital for an undisclosed sickness. This past Tuesday, it was revealed that Darski was diagnosed with leukemia and is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. This news only adds to what has been one of the worst years for metal in terms of genre stability and vitality, although a positive report from Lamb of God's Randy Blythe does take some of the sting off. Despite the obvious irony of this, I will be keeping Nergal in my prayers for the coming weeks. Whether you subscribe to Behemoth's anti-Christian beliefs or not, send whatever form of positive thoughts and good wishes you choose to Nergal and his family in this time of great distress.

This week of new releases makes last week look like a cakewalk by comparison. The biggest hard rock band of the past decade tops the list with their fifth album, and a ton of young, up-and-coming bands are also hitting the charts. Read on and see what the future of metal holds.

August 22, 2010

Album Review: "Beyond the Gate" by Wretched

Sweden used to be the country that defined melodic death metal, and with good reason. The history of the scene that started in Gothenburg is undeniable, with legendary names like At the Gates, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, and so many others all emerging from that one area. However, in recent years, an American melodic death metal scene has begun to form, taking a whole new perspective on the subgenre by adding elements of thrash, hardcore, and technical metal into the core sound. This merging has resulted in a highly talented group of young bands playing very technical metal with solos and breakdowns in equal measure. Bands like Woe of Tyrants, Conducting from the Grave, and At the Throne of Judgment stand out from the sprawling metalcore and deathcore scenes with their unique blending of speed and brutality. Newcomers are starting to catch on to this style as well, including North Carolina-based quintet Wretched. Their sophomore album Beyond the Gate is another example of just how good this new style can be when played properly.

August 20, 2010

New & Noteworthy, August 20th - Festivus Maximus

Ozzfest is already almost finished rolling through the country for its six tour dates, while the Uproar Festival has churned its gears into motion this past week, covering much larger territory over a longer period of time. These two festivals are the last major summer tours of 2010, giving metalheads a few precious last chances to spend a whole day rocking out to their favorite bands on outdoor stages. Hopefully you've made it out to at least one of the numerous summer festivals that took place during the last few months. If not, definitely get out to the Uproar Festival for one last sweet taste of summer.

Unlike the festival calendar, the new release calendar is still scorching hot. There are an estimated 70 new releases scheduled to debut in the next six weeks, with plenty of time for more to be added to the list. I have a feeling I'll be re-living the insanity of early June all over again. So without further ado, let's get the ball rolling.

August 15, 2010

Album Review: "Exiled to Earth" by Bonded by Blood

There have been many waves of thrash metal in the course of the past three decades. The whole scene started in the early '80s with the Big Four - Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax - and the numerous American and German thrash bands that followed them. In the late '80s and early '90s as thrash started to fade, the second wave began, with the less-prominent American thrash bands and German bands attempting to keep the scene alive while the Big 4 stagnated or lost relevance. In the late '90s, a new wave of thrash bands from Europe, led by The Haunted and Darkane, took on the mantle of thrash revivalists, helping to bring the scene back. Now, in the last five years, a whole new group of young American thrash bands have attempted to bring back the old-school thrash style of the '80s with their fast, technical play and raw production. Bonded by Blood is one of the bands in this fourth wave of thrash, and their debut Feed the Beast showed a lot of promise. Their sophomore effort, Exiled to Earth, upholds the high standard they set for themselves and even sees them surpass it in some ways.

Album Review: "Stampede" by Hellyeah

The supergroup known as Hellyeah gained most of its notice because it was Vinnie Paul Abbott's triumphant return to the music world following the death of his brother, Dimebag Darrell, and the subsequent end of Pantera, Damageplan, and all other projects involving the two brothers. The group has found their niche in playing groove metal with a distinct Southern attitude and theme to it. However, the group's critics view this as a betrayal of Pantera's legacy, even though there are few core differences between the two groups. Bucking the critics and forging ahead with their ideals, Hellyeah give a sincere effort on their sophomore album, Stampede, which succeeds in some areas, but has a few weaknesses as well.

August 13, 2010

New & Noteworthy, August 13th - Sanctuary

This week, we will boldly go where no one has gone before, seeking out new life in the world of classic heavy metal. We will explore strange new worlds, and we will engage in new pursuits with one of the most classic, veteran acts in all of heavy music. With this band, not all good things have to come to an end. They are worldwide emissaries of metal, and they're back to take us on another voyage. We now enter THE FINAL FRONTIER! And yes, that's all the Star Trek references I can possibly fit into this opening paragraph (although bonus points go to the first commenter to tell me which Star Trek series has an episode that shares its title with the Maiden classic that is also the title of this week's edition).

Oh, and there are also some other albums coming out this week, despite what the hype machine would have you all believe. It includes the continued resurgence of a great 90s rock group, the premiere of a bizarre supergroup, and a remixed version of one of the most politically-charged albums of the past decade. They may not be receiving as much attention as this week's biggest release, but they're definitely worth mentioning, so read on and find out what else lies in store for us!

August 6, 2010

New & Noteworthy, August 6th - Pleasure and Pain

It was a week marked both by sorrow and celebration. On Monday morning, vocalist Mahk Daniels of Early Graves was killed in a tragic van accident in Oregon, striking another talented young band with terrible calamity. But there is also cause to rejoice, as Nightwish singer Anette Olzon gave birth to her second son last Friday night, and first with current boyfriend Johan Husgafvel, bassist of Swedish industrial group Pain. New life is always a good reason to celebrate, and it reminds us that even when we mourn those lost, we can be happy for those in our future.

This week marks the release of a number of excellent albums, beginning two solid months packed with high-quality albums. Read on for more reasons to rejoice!

August 4, 2010

Album Review: "The Pulse of Awakening" by Sybreed

When a band is named Sybreed, it's pretty easy to guess what their predominant themes will be. The Swiss quartet has been playing Fear Factory-inspired industrial metal since their inception in 2003, gaining a fair amount of notice in Europe with the albums Slave Design and Antares (the latter of which featured session drums by Soilwork/Aborted skinsman Dirk Verbeuren). Guitarist Thomas "Drop" Betrisey has also earned some recognition as an excellent remix artist, creating remixes for both Celldweller and Soilwork in recent years. Back now with their third album, The Pulse of Awakening, Sybreed focuses on expanding their sonic capabilities while still holding true to their core sound. They are successful in both areas, although there are certainly things that could have been improved as well.

August 2, 2010

No New & Noteworthy this week

Once again, I'm forced to cancel New & Noteworthy this week. I've been too busy to keep up with the news and other happenings as of late. Metal Insider will have the release-only version of N&N on Tuesday, so check them out for that. Sorry to do this again, but I'm in a pretty rough patch right now with some of the changes occurring at my day job. I'll try to get back on the ball once things settle down there.

July 23, 2010

New & Noteworthy, July 23rd - Playing the Spoilers

Two weeks ago it was Mayhem, last week it was Summer Slaughter, and this week it's…Over the Limit? Yes, yet another summer tour kicks off this weekend, this one headlined by Oceano and As Blood Runs Black. This tour is probably the most aptly named tour of the past five years, and it's also not really necessary, with a lineup that feels like the cast-offs of both Summer Slaughter and Thrash & Burn. More excitement will be generated by two other tours kicking off this week - the first leg of the American Carnage/Canadian Carnage Tour featuring Megadeth, Slayer, and Testament; and Cynic's "Re-Traced / Re-Focused Live" tour, which will also feature Intronaut and Dysrhythmia. Obviously, seeing three of the biggest thrash acts in history is a huge deal, but progressive/experimental metal fans will be salivating to see Cynic play their entire discography live. Where does that leave the Over the Limit tour? Well, it's basically the third wheel now - or, in the case of the whole summer lineup, the ninth wheel.

There are some new releases that are also acting as spoilers this week, looking to steal the spotlight from a major debut this week. Considering the debut comes from one of the most commercial names in metal, though, that is unlikely. Read on to see what's coming at you this week.

July 18, 2010

Album Review: "Attack of the Wolf King" by Haste the Day

Haste the Day has had to fight for their entire career to stay relevant in the world of Christian metal. With bands like Demon Hunter and As I Lay Dying drawing bigger crowds and selling more records, Haste the Day has almost always been overshadowed, despite being just as good as their contemporaries in the early days. Their first two albums, Burning Bridges and When Everything Falls, were viciously heavy, led by the unique vocals of former lead singer Jimmy Ryan. After his departure from the band, the band slightly shifted in style to better accommodate their new lead singer, Stephen Keech. Pressure the Hinges and Dreamer had more diverse compositions and a wider array of music styles, but lacked the all-out heaviness of the first two albums. Now, on their fifth album, Attack of the Wolf King, the band is forced to once again adjust their approach after more lineup changes. The result is still enjoyable, but it does not feel like the same band anymore.

July 16, 2010

New & Noteworthy, July 16th - Punch the Walls

The Mayhem Festival kicked off last weekend and was heralded by new releases from three of its artists. This weekend sees the beginning of another big tour, Summer Slaughter, headlined by comeback artist of the year Decapitated. And while no Summer Slaughter artists have new releases on July 20th (although there will be one on the 27th), there are still a plethora of loud and heavy artists hitting the streets with new albums this coming week. So everyone should be picking their driving music for the Summer Slaughter tour dates from the upcoming new releases.

The tour schedule for this week also sees plenty of heaviness hitting the pavement. But the biggest tour sees three-fourths of the Big 4 hitting the road together for the first time in two decades. Thrash fans will ensure that this tour is sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale. Keep your eyes open for the sale date of that tour, as well as all the other gems coming to a stage near you very soon!

July 14, 2010

Album Review: "The Panic Broadcast" by Soilwork

Few bands in the world can match the sheer raw talent that is held in Soilwork's lineup. Guitarist Peter Wichers, back in the band after a three-year break, is one of the best composers in all of melodic death metal, and newly-joined fellow guitarist Sylvain Coudret is incredibly well-versed in a multitude of styles. Bassist Ola Flink and keyboardist Sven Karlsson are both among the most underrated musicians on their respective instruments, and drummer Dirk Verbeuren is known around the world for his metronomic precision in Aborted, Scarve, Sybreed, and a number of other bands in addition to Soilwork. And of course, vocalist Björn "Speed" Strid is widely considered to be one of the best singers to emerge from Sweden in the past two decades, with his instantly recognizable voice and versatile range. With such a talented cast of players, Soilwork's newest album, The Panic Broadcast, has a high level of expectation surrounding it. This album not only meets those expectations, it blows them clear out of the water.

Album Review: "Meridional" by Norma Jean

To say that Norma Jean's career has been inconsistent would be an understatement, to say the least. In the space of four album, the Christian metal quintet from Georgia has played progressive technical metal (Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child), spastic mathcore a-la-Dillinger Escape Plan (O God, the Aftermath), melodic metalcore (Redeemer), and whiny, subpar post-hardcore (The Anti Mother). Fans of the band are firmly divided because of their inconsistency, unable to find common ground between the first pair of albums and the second pair. The only way that the band could hope to bridge the divide would be to release an album that musically walked the line between the two extremes of their sound, because releasing another album with a completely different sound would decimate the fanbase even further. Luckily, the band's newest effort, Meridional, manages to balance the band's technical and melodic sides into an album that has something for everybody.

July 13, 2010

Album Review: "Setlist: The Very Best of Judas Priest Live" by Judas Priest

It doesn't seem to take much for a band to release a greatest hits collection in this day and age. More often than not, it's just about surviving long enough to release enough albums from which a "greatest hits" list can be drawn. And what's the point of releasing such a collection when the only group that might be interested is comprised of die-hard fans that already have all the albums? A greatest hits album composed entirely of live songs is a fresh take on the idea, though, and the new Setlist collection from Legacy Recordings attempts to put that concept into action. Their look at Judas Priest, though, doesn't do much for the band's longtime fans, and has serious flaws that hold it back.

July 9, 2010

New & Noteworthy, July 9th - Start the Mayhem

For those who have been living under a rock for the past four months, the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival kicks off this weekend in California. It's only fitting, therefore, that three of this week's new releases come from Mayhem bands. In its third year as a major touring festival, Mayhem has become the default tour for lots of metalheads. With Ozzfest still mired in gimmicks and Sounds of the Underground long buried and forgotten, Mayhem is now the best option. This year is no exception, carrying a second stage filled to the brim with talented bands. Tickets are still available for many dates, so you cave-dwellers out there that haven't gotten your tickets yet know what you need to do.

The resurgence of one of the top nu-metal acts of the '90s tops the release chart this week, with a huge list of awesome albums following behind. The touring schedule continues to fill the winter months, and a certain one-shot event gets some big heavyweights (both literally and metaphorically) added to its lineup. All the fresh goodies you could ever want await you if you keep reading!

July 2, 2010

New & Noteworthy, July 2nd - True Heroes

The saga of Matthew Leone has left an incredible impression on me this week. I don't know of any other people that would try to break up a domestic abuse at great personal risk to self. The fact that the Madina Lake bassist wound up in a coma only makes his story more shocking and personal. Thankfully, though, Leone is conscious and aware now. I am in awe of the example he has set for people around the world and for musicians in the scene. Everyone should strive to be like Matthew Leone: selfless, caring, and just - in other words, a true hero.

We celebrate Leone and his actions this week, but we will take our standard look at the new releases and tours as well. There are quite a few Christian metal albums and another batch of reissues hitting the stores this week, but the biggest focus is on Trent Reznor's triumphant return to music. Meanwhile, bands are booking tours for the end of summer like it's going out of style. Keep reading and get ready for the heat!

June 29, 2010

The Year in Music So Far: Six Months of 2010

Here we are at the halfway point of 2010, and as I have done in years past, I am going to give my thoughts on how the year in hard rock and heavy metal is shaping up so far. However, this year was also my first year as a professional reviewer, and as such, I have never listened to so much music in six months while simultaneously listening to so little (52 albums listened to out of 125 that I have in my iTunes library). As such, I will try to keep my thoughts brief on each individual album so that I can discuss as many albums as possible.

In previous years, I have discussed albums as either exceeding, meeting, or falling short of my expectations. But since that doesn't always give the most accurate picture of my thoughts, I'm going to simplify this and say what was amazing, what was good, and what was disappointing. I'll also give a preview of what's coming up in the second half of 2010, including what we should look forward to and what we should avoid. So read on and get the complete picture of the first half of 2010 in hard rock and heavy metal!

June 28, 2010

Album Review: "Deep Blue" by Parkway Drive

In music, sometimes two wrongs can actually make a right, and there's perhaps no better example of this than Parkway Drive. The Australian quintet has taken the two most hated metal subgenres of this decade - metalcore and deathcore - and blended the two together, creating an entirely new and somehow unique engine of pure destruction. 2006's Killing With a Smile showed lots of promise, but it was 2007's Horizons that really cemented Parkway Drive as a worldwide force of devastation. Their music had most of the clichés of both subgenres, but when brought together with Winston McCall's primal screams, the result was unlike anything heard on either side of the line - too heavy and breakdown-intensive to be metalcore, but at the same time, too melodic and well-structured to be deathcore. However, these positives may have been too high of a standard for Parkway Drive's newest album, Deep Blue, which sees the band moving backwards in their innovation rather than forward.

June 27, 2010

Album Review: "House With a Curse" by Coliseum

What separates Coliseum from the majority of other hardcore bands in the world is their obvious love of groove-laden alternative rock such as Queens of the Stone Age. Most of their songs are catchy, with great hooks and interesting structures. The genre fusion they utilize likens their sound more to stoner rock bands like The Sword, Baroness, and Cursed than hardcore bands. However, while that new approach does help them to stand out from the pack, it also has the potential to alienate traditional hardcore fans looking for simplistic song structures and sing-along lyrics. Coliseum doesn't seem to care about that potential problem, though, forging ahead with their sludgy hardcore sound on House With a Curse, their first album for new label Temporary Residence Ltd.

June 25, 2010

New & Noteworthy, June 25th - Run on Reissues

In a week where the Big Four not only played shows together, but even joined together for a one-off live cover song, this week is surprisingly devoid of thrash news. Maybe the awesomeness of the Big Four being in the same place at the same time was just too much for the rest of the thrash world to handle. However, I tend to think it's more of a reaction to the amazing thrash releases of 2010 thus far (Overkill, Exodus, and Annihilator leading the way) and anticipation for the thrash albums on the horizon (Death Angel, Flotsam and Jetsam, and Accept are the biggest names). Either way, thrash fans have slim pickings this week, but everyone else has plenty to get excited about!

This week sees a ton of albums getting re-released, either as limited vinyl pressings or special edition CD's. Fans looking for collector's items will be salivating over the names listed. But there's no shortage of good new releases this week either. Meanwhile, the touring calendar gets a huge update for the fall, with some big names preparing to hit the road. Read on to see what's coming your way!

June 22, 2010

Album Review: "Addicts: Black Meddle, Part II" by Nachtmystium

There are very few bands that can throw whatever they want into a song in whatever way they want to include it, and still end up with an excellent-sounding finished result. More often than not, bands with that format don't make it out of their basements. Not so with Nachtmystium, a band that has capitalized on their skill in crafting diverse, intricate songs with completely unexpected parts and inclusions. The seemingly random nature of their music is what makes them so appealing to listeners tired of the processed, sterilized nature of the modern metal world. Their 2008 breakthrough album, Assassins: Black Meddle, Part 1, established a new standard for experimental and psychedelic metal. The follow-up, Addicts: Black Meddle, Part II, takes a new direction in some areas, but maintains the core sound of the band and is overall a worthy follow-up album.

June 18, 2010

New & Noteworthy, June 18th - The Rush Begins

I apologize for my absence last week with New & Noteworthy. Hopefully you managed to catch New & Noteworthy on Metal Insider, in its second week as a regular column. If not, go read up on last week's new releases, which were few in number but great in significance!

This week begins what will likely be twelve weeks of being broke for music enthusiasts such as me. There are big-name albums coming out almost every week this summer. Here's just a few of the big names with new releases on the horizon: Candlemass, Parkway Drive, How to Destroy Angels, Hellyeah, Korn, Soilwork, The Acacia Strain, Chimaira, Ill Niño, Avenged Sevenfold, Comeback Kid, Black Label Society, Iron Maiden, Helmet, Kataklysm, Stone Sour, Accept, and Death Angel. If this isn't a huge summer for metal, I don't know what is!

This week features the long-anticipated return of everyone's favorite ex-Misfit, the hotly-debated new album from the Prince of Darkness, and plenty of other great new music, along with some serious summer tour announcements. Read on to see what's on the calendar!

June 14, 2010

Album Review: "Periphery" by Periphery

In the realm of entertainment and arts, everything is capable of being reviewed. There is no form of artistic expression that is completely unable to be critiqued, no matter what some critics might have you believe. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Roger Ebert. Man up and rate The Human Centipede, ya jerk!) That being said, there are some things in the realm of the arts for which reviewing is not constructive. These are forms of art that are best left to individual interpretation and opinion, because reviewing them cannot possibly present the entire experience that occurs when the art form itself is taken in. The new self-titled album from experimental metal upstarts Periphery is one such example of this. The album itself is more than just a mere collection of songs, but rather a twisted, fragmented musical journey that goes beyond almost anything currently in existence in the realm of heavy music. And despite my misgivings, I am going to give my review of this album, although in the end, my review means nothing, because there are almost no universal truths found within the notes of Periphery.

June 13, 2010

No New & Noteworthy this week

It's early Sunday morning, and I've been going nonstop for the past three days. I have had little to no time to write this week, and as such, I'm calling off New & Noteworthy this week. There's only five new releases, and the tours that were announced aren't very significant. Therefore, if you want to read New & Noteworthy this week, head on over to Metal Insider on Tuesday to read my thoughts on the new releases.

There is one piece of news I would like to discuss, though. According to a recent report, I.C.S. Vortex has rejoined Borknagar as the band's new bassist. He will also be functioning as their lead singer for at least their upcoming tour, if not longer, as lead vocalist Vintersorg will be unable to join the band due to "private commitments". I am really happy to see this news, and I hope that Borknagar comes to the states with Vortex as part of the lineup. He is an amazing singer and a very capable bassist. Some of Borknagar's best work was during the period that he was the band's full-time bassist and lead singer. Let's hope for a continued period of Vortex in Borknagar!

June 6, 2010

Album Review: "The Obsidian Conspiracy" by Nevermore

Nevermore is one of those rare bands with an unbeatable track record; the kind of band that somehow always manages to impress fans with each new release. Over the course of their sixteen-year career, the Seattle natives have defied every standard and bucked every trend in the metal world, while still maintaining an enormous following and garnering rave reviews. In the five years since their last studio album, This Godless Endeavor, Nevermore has released their first DVD, The Year of the Voyager, and also seen solo releases from lead singer Warrel Dane (Praises to the War Machine) and lead guitarist Jeff Loomis (Zero Order Phase). With anticipation and expectations running high, the band is finally back with The Obsidian Conspiracy, an album that displays the full spectrum of Nevermore's capabilities to great effect.

Album Review: "Invictus (Iconoclast III)" by Heaven Shall Burn

The hierarchy of German metal has begun with the "Teutonic thrash" bands - Kreator, Destruction, and Sodom - for almost a quarter century. However, in the past ten years, an entire scene devoted to metalcore and melodic death metal has exploded out of Germany, and several bands from that scene have enormous followings that make them just as relevant and important as the Teutonic thrashers. Heaven Shall Burn is the definitive leader of this group, because they are one of the most popular bands in the scene, and undoubtedly the most consistent. Since 2002's Whatever It May Take, the quintet has developed into a monstrous force of influence, getting faster, more aggressive, more thought-provoking, and just plain better with each release. However, Invictus (Iconoclast III) takes the trend to a whole new level, advancing Heaven Shall Burn above all of their contemporaries and vaulting them into the highest echelon of melodic death metal bands worldwide.

June 4, 2010

New & Noteworthy, June 4th - New Release Explosion

For those of you who might wonder how I keep track of all the new releases that appear in the metal world, the answer is that I have a wonderful program that lets me put Post-It Notes all over my desktop, and I have one gigantic note titled "ALBUM RELEASE CALENDAR" that I update every time I see a new release. And that Post-It is easily the longest Post-It ever constructed, with a scroll bar and everything, covering releases all the way into 2011.

Well, I can safely say that, because of that Post-It, I have been having anxiety attacks about this week's edition of New & Noteworthy for about a month now. Why, you might ask? Because there are 25 new releases to cover this week! It's as if every record label in rock and metal decided that June 8th was a good day to release at least one album.

Since I have so much to cover, don't be surprised if I'm rather brief with my thoughts on each album. There's a lot to read, so go take a look at what will be consuming your paycheck this week!

May 30, 2010

Album Review: "When Will We Surrender" by Hundredth

There's not a lot of room for error in the melodic hardcore genre. Bands that choose to embrace this style need to walk a very fine line between balls-out, tough-guy hardcore and overly melodic post-hardcore, without leaning too heavily on either style. Comeback Kid and Diecast were among the first bands to master the genre, and thus are often considered its founding bands. In recent years, a multitude of new bands have emerged playing a similar style, while mostly utilizing screaming vocals and very little clean singing. For the Fallen Dreams, The Ghost Inside, and For Today are the biggest new names in the genre, but one very young band that has the potential to take the entire scene by storm is Hundredth. On their debut album, When Will We Surrender, the quintet from Myrtle Beach, SC sounds like a group of seasoned veterans, melding the best elements of their classic influences with the style of the genre's new leaders.

May 28, 2010

New & Noteworthy, May 28th - Three Nil

The saying goes that bad things come in threes, and that was proven this week. In the wake of the deaths of Ronnie James Dio and Peter Steele, the metal world was struck this week with the shocking death of Slipknot bassist Paul Gray. Gray, 38, was found Monday morning on the floor of a hotel room in Urbandale, Iowa. So many parts of this story are heartbreaking and awful, most of all the fact that Gray is survived by his wife and unborn child. His death deeply affected the members of Slipknot, who held a press conference on Tuesday regarding his passing. The terrible news on Wednesday that Gray was found with hypodermic needles and pills in the hotel room only worsens the story, as he had been in rehab twice before and apparently had been clean for a few years. Regardless, though, Gray will be sorely missed, and Slipknot will never be the same without him. Rest in peace, Paul Gray.

Now the updates and news:

May 26, 2010

Album Review: "Miracle" by Nonpoint

Since their debut album Statement hit stores in 2000, Nonpoint has been a veritable institution in the hard rock scene. However, they've been a small institution, never quite able to break into the mainstream and achieve huge success. Part of the reason for that might be because they were one of the last bands to jump on the nu-metal train, and while they've slowly evolved away from the much-maligned subgenre, their origins have held back their career in the long term. The only widespread success they've gained is with their cover of the Phil Collins classic "In the Air Tonight", which has shown up in commercials, movie soundtracks, and radio stations nationwide. However, through all of this, Nonpoint has persevered, never giving up on their music or their fiercely devoted fans. Their newest album, Miracle, completes their musical evolution into a full-fledged hard rock band with little to no trace of their nu-metal roots left.

May 21, 2010

New & Noteworthy, May 21st - Faded Rainbow in the Dark

Another metal legend has fallen this week, saddening the hearts of the entire world. Ronnie James Dio died this past Sunday from the stomach cancer that has plagued him for months now. At the age of 67, Dio was still rocking hard with Heaven & Hell until late last November, when the cancer was first diagnosed. The singer will be forever remembered in the hearts of metal fans around the world, and his legacy of rock will never die.

It doesn't help matters that a number of other losses struck the metal world this week. Legendary Bay Area manager/booking agent Debbie Abono also passed away this week at the age of 80, also after a battle with cancer. Abono helped to book and promote bands like Exodus, Possessed, Forbidden, and Vio-lence in their early years, bringing them to the level of prominence that they achieved as their careers advanced. Abono will be fondly remembered by the entire Bay Area scene for her dedication and vitality. Adding insult to injury were announcements that Isis is breaking up and Destroy the Runner is going on indefinite hiatus. It's a shame to see these two bands going away. Post-metal will never be the same due to the contributions of Isis, and the youthful energy and inventiveness of Destroy the Runner were nice to see amidst a mostly stagnant metalcore/post-hardcore scene.

There's no easy way to move on from these losses. Here are the announcements for this week:

May 19, 2010

Album Review: "Cold Day Memory" by Sevendust

There are few bands that can match the consistency and perseverance of Sevendust. Since their self-titled debut album came out in 1997, the band has struggled to achieve any sort of big breakout, while many of their peers have leapfrogged them into fame. However, the band has never stopped or given up, remaining very tightly knit throughout all their trials. The band has only experienced one member change in their entire career, in the form of Clint Lowery's departure in 2004, and that change was undone two years ago when Lowery expressed his desire to rejoin the band. Cold Day Memory marks the recording return of Sevendust's original lineup, and the reunion with Lowery immediately proves to be a huge step forward for the veteran quintet.

May 14, 2010

New & Noteworthy, May 14th - Old Chapters Revisited

Welcome to New & Noteworthy, and what a week it was! The '80s reared their beautiful, glorious head in force this week, as two classic bands made headlines with huge news. The first story is confirmation that Anthrax has reunited with original singer Joey Belladonna, with plans for extensive summer touring and recording a new album. This reunion allows the much-rumored "Big Four tour" to occur in Europe, and if the tour goes well there, then US fans can start to get excited for it to occur Stateside. The second story covers a partnership among Relapse Records, Perseverance Holdings Ltd., and Chuck Schuldiner's family to reissue his legendary work. The reissues of Death's back catalog (with the exception of 1995's Symbolic) were released this past Tuesday, but of greater significance is the expanded reissue of The Fragile Art of Existence, the sole release of Schuldiner's progressive side project Control Denied. There are also future plans to finish and release Control Denied's unfinished sophomore album, When Man and Machine Collide. Fans of Chuck Schuldiner (translate that as "every death metal fan in the world") will be dying to get their hands on that album, and with good reason. Control Denied was a phenomenal musical endeavor that ended long before it should have, and the release of their final album will hopefully expose this amazing band to a wider audience.

Moving on, we have the first of three fairly uneventful weeks of new releases this week. What a nice birthday present, music industry. Thanks. Oh yeah, by the way, my birthday is this coming Tuesday, May 18th. And I will say that I got an excellent early birthday present that appears in the tour announcements. Read on to find out what it is!

May 13, 2010

Vlog #2: Ozzfest Lineup Commentary

Please allow me twenty minutes of your time so I can rant about why Ozzfest is both awesome and terrible at the same time this year:

I apologize for the poor sound quality of this video. I had to lower the bitrate in order to get the file under Blip's 1 GB file size limit. The quality seems to affect my background music more than anything, though, so it's not a total loss.

May 10, 2010

Album Review: "The Powerless Rise" by As I Lay Dying

The process of evolution and maturation is always different from one band to the next. Some bands evolve quickly, hitting their stride right from the get-go, but then fall into stagnation over time. Others experiment with many different things before finally finding their sound later in their career. As I Lay Dying is one of the few bands to achieve the fine balance of slow evolution with consistent growth. With each new album the band puts out, they get better and better over their previous work. 2007's An Ocean Between Us sped up the process of evolution somewhat, with the production help of musical prodigy and master comedian Adam Dutkiewicz. The Christian metalcore veterans returned to Dutkiewicz for a new album, The Powerless Rise, which sets a new high point for the band in terms of musical development and composing excellence.

May 7, 2010

New & Noteworthy, May 7th - Drama Storm

Anyone who thought that heavy music was exempt from Hollywood-style drama needs to only browse this week's music headlines to have their illusions shattered. Godsmack has been raising an uproar recently, as reports that their new single "Cryin' Like a Bitch" was written about members of Mötley Crüe continue to gain strength. Whether Sully Erna's lyrics are about Nikki Sixx or Vince Neil is unclear, but animosity absolutely exists between the two bands now. Meanwhile, a report that Shawn "Clown" Crahan of Slipknot might run for political office wins the award for strangest rumor of the week, while likely causing many members of the Republican Party to prepare torches and pitchforks. The biggest hurricane of controversy, though, swirls around musical abomination Courtney Love, who has stooped to horrendous lows in order to get her name out. One report has her saying that she slept with former Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale while he was dating No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani, whom he has since married. Another story reports that she insulted Fred Durst at a concert where both Hole and Limp Bizkit were performing, saying that "he brought about the worst years in rock history". The irony of that quote is definitely not lost on me, nor should it be lost on any of you. As for Courtney Love, she should learn not to throw bricks from the front yard of her glass house. And while she's at it, she could also try to stop being a grotesque monster from our worst nightmares.

Now that we're done reporting on that inhuman and horrific excuse for a musician, let's get to more pleasant stories. There are a bunch of great new albums debuting this week, including a highly anticipated DVD and an exciting solo album. The summer touring circuit is filling out quickly as well, with two enormous festivals topping the announcements. Read on for all the latest updates!

May 4, 2010

Album Review: "Eternal" by War of Ages

War of Ages came to the metalcore explosion late, but that didn't stop the Pennsylvania-based quintet from diving in headfirst without looking back. The young Christian band has released four albums and a re-recording of their first album, all within the past six years, while also touring nonstop alongside the likes of Bury Your Dead, As I Lay Dying, Hatebreed, Throwdown, Heaven Shall Burn, Sick of it All, Demon Hunter, Earth Crisis, and Living Sacrifice. Such a strong DIY ethic, along with the band's straightforward approach to their music and undying love for well-placed breakdowns, has given War of Ages greater appeal among hardcore fans. Eternal continues the trends of previous albums, delivering new and powerful songs with insightful lyrics.

May 3, 2010

Album Review: "Fever" by Bullet for My Valentine

Bullet for My Valentine lives and dies by Matt Tuck. The young lead vocalist and guitarist is capable of driving the band to massive success or dragging them into total collapse, and nothing is better evident of this than the contrast between their debut album, The Poison, and its follow-up, Scream Aim Fire. The Poison was one of the biggest metalcore albums on the decade and helped to revitalize the entire subgenre when it was released. Scream Aim Fire was a decent album, but nowhere near as good as its predecessor, owing mostly to two factors: the lack of Tuck's screaming vocals due to his emergency tonsillectomy in 2007, and some rather uninspired compositions that did not live up to his potential. The band's third album, Fever, somewhat maintains the level of quality that Scream Aim Fire had, but doesn't advance back to their prior level of excellence.

April 30, 2010

New & Noteworthy, April 30th - Rewind One Decade...

Welcome to New & Noteworthy's final edition for the month of April! For the first time in several weeks, I don't have any deaths or break-ups to report, so I'm going to use this space to cover something I've been unintentionally ignoring since this segment started. I haven't been reporting on the "70,000 Tons of Metal" cruise, mostly because announcements have been few and far between recently. But with this week's announcement of the newest addition to the lineup, Testament, I finally took a good look at the lineup, and it is STACKED! Amon Amarth, Death Angel, Epica, Finntroll, Moonspell, Obituary, Raven, Saxon, Sodom, Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, Swashbuckle, Testament, Trouble, Uli Jon Roth, and Witchburner have been announced so far, and that's LESS THAN HALF of the lineup. Furthermore, Saxon will be playing their albums Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law in their entirety on separate nights. You can bet that I'll be covering each addition to the lineup that gets announced for this cruise as time goes on. This lineup already is almost worth the $915 ticket price ($666 + $249 in taxes – oh so clever) that also includes all meals, non-alcoholic beverages, and on-board entertainment. Give it some thought if you haven't already. This cruise deserves to be a success.

Now on to the announcements! One thing I'm going to do that I realized I should have done all along is provide links to the tour dates that I announce (if there are dates available) so you can find out what shows will be near you. Hopefully that will save you time from having to search for the ones that interest you. Enjoy all the new tour announcements, plus all the new releases!

April 28, 2010

Album Review: "Bleeding Through" by Bleeding Through

Bleeding Through is best known in the American metal scene for two things. The first is being one of the first metalcore bands to add keyboards to their sound, creating tones and atmospheres akin to those of European melodic death metal bands like Soilwork and Dark Tranquillity. The second is the woman who has graced the keyboards since 2003, Marta Pererson, a regular in press features that highlight attractive women in heavy metal. The Orange County six-piece group hopes to expand their identity beyond these two things in 2010, though. Having finally achieved their much-desired split from Trustkill Records, Bleeding Through aims to start over again with their self-titled sixth album and their first release for Rise Records. Bleeding Through is a step away from 2008's Declaration in many ways, and the changes are a mixed bag of positive, negative, and superfluous.

April 23, 2010

Album Review: "[id]" by Veil of Maya

Veil of Maya is one of the only deathcore bands out right now that has a good grasp of how to play their genre. The Illinois-based quartet understands that technicality plays a greater role in proper deathcore than brutality, and their 2008 album, The Common Man's Collapse, displayed the technical side of the band much more than most deathcore records are willing to display. Having Michael Keene produce the album helped tremendously towards that goal, since Keene is better known as a guitar wizard in technical metal's biggest rising stars, The Faceless. For the follow-up to The Common Man's Collapse, Veil of Maya teamed up with Keene once again for their third overall album and second for Sumerian Records. The resulting product, [id], is a strong template for how deathcore ought to be written and performed.

New & Noteworthy, April 23rd - The Rumor Mill in the Sky Keeps On Turning...

Welcome to another week of New & Noteworthy! Unfortunately, more sad news must come before the updates, as has been the case of the past three weeks. First, Bloodlined Calligraphy's bassist Eric Cargile reportedly passed away in his sleep on Tuesday. The cause of death is currently unknown, but the band is planning a benefit show in his honor to raise funds for funeral expenses. Even though Bloodlined Calligraphy hasn't made news since the 2006 release of Ypsilanti, it's still a very sad loss, and my thoughts and prayers are with the band and Cargile's family. Second, Ohio-based black metal act Acheron is splitting up at the end of the year, after one final round of shows dubbed "The Last Rites 2010". It's a shame to see a veteran act like Acheron departing the music world, but after 22 years of making music, I'm sure Vincent Crowley is ready to move on to something else. If you're a fan of the band, make sure you head out to one of the shows on their farewell tour, because you'll likely see things at these shows that the band has never done before.

Now then, on to what you all came here to read about! There are a few big releases this week that should interest plenty of you. But as we approach the summer, tour rumors are spreading like wildfire and dominating the news. Rumors of two potentially humongous tours are topping the news this week, even surpassing a confirmed tour that has the potential to rival the Mayhem Festival in its audience draw. All that and more to come, after the new albums of next week!

April 22, 2010

Album Review: "Nifelvind" by Finntroll

Finntroll predates many of the bands occupying the current explosion of folk metal, which in a sense makes them innovators. But for their status, they don't get a lot of respect or recognition when compared to other bands in the genre. Moonsorrow, Eluveitie, Turisas, and even Ensiferum have all generated a greater buzz than Finntroll in recent years, and a number of other young folk metal bands are either just as popular or only slightly less popular than the seven-piece Finnish band. Part of the reason why Finntroll has not garnered as much critical acclaim is because of the inherently non-serious nature of their music. Any band that shows up in a music video partying in a cave while wearing loincloths can't be said to take their music completely seriously, nor should they expect fans to. However, on Nifelvind, the band seems to be attempting to force a serious tone into their music, with mixed results.

April 21, 2010

Album Review: "Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones" by Cancer Bats

When Liam Cormier and Scott Middleton formed Cancer Bats in 2004, they sought to bring together the styles of some of their favorite music acts, such as Refused, Black Flag, Led Zeppelin, and Down. Considering the sonic disparity among those four artists, this was no easy feat. However, both of their early albums, Birthing the Giant and Hail Destroyer, were met with high praise from fans and critics, with the latter being nominated for Album of the Year at the 2008 Kerrang awards. The band has also developed a strong reputation for energetic, engaging live shows, which has allowed them to take part in the Taste of Chaos Tour, UK's Download Festival, and two separate Reading and Leeds Festivals, not to mention all of their more standard touring. On the band's third album, Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones, the Canadian quartet trot out more of their Southern-influenced punk with similarly enjoyable results.

April 20, 2010

Album Review: "Threnody" by Woe of Tyrants

Genre fusion is often very difficult in metal, even for veteran acts. Finding the proper balance between two styles and creating a unique sound from that balance requires finesse, subtlety, and a great deal of songwriting talent. Luckily for Ohio-based quintet Woe of Tyrants, they have those three qualities in abundance. More importantly, they have the ambition to attempt a triple fusion of death metal, thrash, and metalcore into one bone-crushing sound. Their first album for Metal Blade (second overall), Kingdom of Might, was a massive success that earned the band touring slots with Unearth, God Dethroned, Psyopus, and their current spot on Overkill's 25th anniversary tour. On their newest album, Threnody, the young band replicates their older success while adding new, exciting elements to their unique sound.

The Metal Review is now The Metal Lab!

Hey everyone. Due to my recent discovery of the website Metal Review, I've decided that the name of my blog needs to change. Thus, The Metal Review will now be known as The Metal Lab. The only other uses of this name that I've found are a company in California that designs counters and range hoods, and (ironically) a now-defunct metal album download blog. I think this name will be safe, and I'll be sticking with it unless I get sued. Sorry if there's any confusion. Thanks for understanding!

April 16, 2010

New & Noteworthy, April 16th - Trying to Concentrate on the Future

The world of heavy music is incomplete as of this week. Peter Steele, the legendary frontman of Type O Negative and Carnivore, passed away on Wednesday evening from heart failure. For those unfamiliar with his music, Steele was one of the most influential figures in metal during the 90s. Type O Negative is one of the most unique bands ever to grace the ears of listeners, and there will never be another band like them. Steele himself was one of the most intriguing and distinctive people in all of metal, which showed in his inimitable lyrics. His passing affects the entire world of heavy music, as musicians from all over the metal spectrum expressed their thoughts about Steele throughout the day on Thursday. He was one of a kind, and we will miss him. Mr. Steele, as you said in one of your most poignant songs, everything dies. We just wish you didn't have to so soon. Rest in peace.

I also have to mention another loss in the metal world, although this one has been coming for a long time. This past week, Light This City played their four farewell shows in California. Barring any future reunions (which is unlikely), the videos from those farewell shows are the only record fans will have of the live performances of songs from their exceptional 2008 record, Stormchaser. I'm very disappointed that the bad didn't do a farewell tour, or at least play farewell shows in other locations besides California, but those are the breaks, I suppose. Thus, one of the better young thrash/death bands of the past decade ends their career. Sorry to see you go, Light This City.

This has been a sad week for metal fans. However, some big releases and tour announcements might add some silver lining to the clouds over our heads. Let's take a look at the new releases and upcoming tours to brighten our spirits a bit:

April 14, 2010

News Commentary: Gojira further the metal environmentalism movement, with help from sharks

Earlier today, Gojira announced that they'll be releasing a 5-song digital EP later this year. The proceeds from the sale of that EP will go to Sea Shepherd, an oceanic conservation society that is active on five continents with multiple campaigns aimed at protecting water habitats.

April 13, 2010

Album Review: "II: The Reign of Darkness" by Annotations of an Autopsy

The term "deathcore" is the new buzz word in metal. And by buzz word, what I mean is that, upon hearing the term, 75% of metal fans enter a buzz of anger over how the subgenre is supposedly killing metal, while the remaining 25% enter a buzz of excitement over how it is supposedly the most brutal music ever created. Because of the controversy surrounding the term, most deathcore bands have elected not to identify themselves with that particular tag. While most have taken the more tactful route of simply calling themselves "metal", a few have gone the riskier route of dubbing themselves as death metal bands. Annotations of an Autopsy is one of the bands in the latter category, and in their case, they used to fail greatly at playing music that could be passed off as death metal. But on their new album, II: The Reign of Darkness, they've started to make the transition towards death metal, although they hit several bumps in the road in the process.

Album Review: "La Raza" by Armored Saint

Armored Saint was one of the unsung heroes of the '80s thrash scene. Overshadowed by the Big 4 and plagued with lineup problems, the band never quite achieved the exposure to match the critical praise they received. Albums like March of the Saint and Symbol of Salvation became thrash classics over time, but Armored Saint didn't remain active long enough to see these successes, as Dave Prichard's death from leukemia and John Bush's departure from the band to join Anthrax spelled the end of Armored Saint in 1992. A brief reunion occurred in 1999, resulting in the album Revelation, but when Bush returned to Anthrax in 2001, Armored Saint again fell off the map. 2010 might prove to be the year for Armored Saint, though. With Bush back in the fold, the band's sixth studio album, La Raza, is a surprising effort that departs slightly from the sound of the band's older releases but will satisfy old fans and first-time listeners alike.

April 10, 2010

Album Review: "For Aeons Past" by Solution .45

Christian Älvestam is a master when it comes to being involved in multiple projects. Even before his departure from Scar Symmetry in 2008, Älvestam was already part of three other projects with multi-instrumentalist Jani Stefanović (known throughout the worldwide Christian metal scene for his work in DivineFire, Essence of Sorrow, and several other bands spanning multiple genres). These bands would become Älvestam's primary focus after his break from Scar Symmetry. Death metal act Miseration successfully released their sophomore effort The Mirroring Shadow on Lifeforce Records in 2009, and melodic death/folk metal band The Few Against Many put out their debut album Sot on Pulverised Records that same year. 2010 sees the third Älvestam/Stefanović collaboration, Solution .45, finally release their debut album three years after forming. For Aeons Past is a superb album that showcases multiple facets of the pair's musical influences.

Album Review: "Scouting the Boneyard" by Sons of Azrael

When Sons of Azrael formed in 2004, the aspect of their music that made it appealing was their appreciation for their influences. The band's debut album, 2007's The Conjuration of Vengeance, had an old-school death metal flavor akin to early Obituary and Deicide. Combined with an intense touring cycle with the likes of Vital Remains, Unearth, God Forbid, Thine Eyes Bleed, and Full Blown Chaos, the band built a strong fan base and earned praise for upholding the original style of death metal amidst droves of boring, copycat deathcore bands. Even though there were some deathcore elements in the band's sound, Sons of Azrael had enough older styles built into their sound to help them stand out from the pack. Such an impressive debut justified the band's contract with Metal Blade imprint Ironclad Recordings, owned by Unearth vocalist Trevor Phipps. However, on their sophomore album, Scouting the Boneyard, Sons of Azrael loses sight of their origins and shifts the sound of their music, resulting in a chaotic mess of an album.

April 9, 2010

New & Noteworthy, April 9th – Progressive Takeover

Welcome to this week's New & Noteworthy! Before we begin the usual announcements, I need to mention some very unfortunate news in the metal world. This past week, Canadian technical metal pioneers Despised Icon announced that they were breaking up after almost a decade together. Although they've said before that they don't like the classification, Despised Icon was one of the first bands to adopt what would become the deathcore sound. Their latest album, Day of Mourning, was an excellent composition, and the band will be sorely missed. Thankfully, though, the band is keeping all of their current tour dates and also booking farewell tours. I'll be sure to mention any farewell tours they do in the US, so keep your eyes peeled on The Metal Review for that information.

That said, let's get into the new releases and tours! Touring news is dominated by what could potentially be the biggest tour of the summer AND fall. But before that, let's cover next week's new releases, which there are a lot of as the pre-summer push continues. Read on and plan your paychecks accordingly!

April 8, 2010

April 2, 2010

New & Noteworthy, April 2nd – Tours and Rumors of Tours

Welcome to another week of New & Noteworthy! Yes, I did blatantly steal the subtitle of this week's post from the title of The Chariot's latest album (and also apparently their recent tour), but it's a pun that works, so I'm running with it. Besides, it's a very fitting title, considering that this is another week that's heavy on newly announced tours, and the top story isn't even confirmed yet! That's all coming after the new music, though, so read on to see what will be freshening up your speakers and headphones next week!

Quick note regarding recent re-posts

For those of you wondering what the heck has happened recently with some posts getting deleted and then all re-appearing at once, there was a little misunderstanding with my publishers at other sites. Sorry for having all these come back at once.


News Commentary: Behemoth Frontman Faces Prison for Bible Destruction. Fair Charge or Foul Call?

The band Behemoth has always been blatant in their views about religion. All of their albums are pervaded with anti-religious and pro-Satanic lyrics, themes, and images. The band's live shows are also filled with similar ideology, as frontman Adam "Nergal" Darski can't go more than ten minutes without shouting some anti-Christian epithet that gets the crowd roaring. This has always been a risk for the Polish blackened death metal stars, since many areas of the world - including their own home country - protect the religious views of citizens under law. Behemoth experienced this firsthand when Ryszard Nowak, head of the All-Polish Committee for Defense Against Sects, attempted to sue the band in 2008 for tearing up a Bible onstage at a September 2007 concert in the city of Gdynia. In Poland, it is a criminal offense to offend a person's religious beliefs, but in order for someone to be charged with such an offense, at least two complaints need to be filed. So the case was dismissed at that time. However, on Monday, March 8th, the case was re-opened and Nergal was formally charged after an unspecified number of other complaints were filed for the Bible-tearing incident. Nergal is pleading not guilty, but if found guilty, he will face up to two years of prison time.

News Commentary: Jesper Strömblad Leaves In Flames. What Now?

It's been awhile since this story first broke, but for those who haven't heard yet, Jesper Strömblad has officially quit In Flames. Strömblad, the last founding member of the band's lineup, announced that he was leaving the band on February 12th, to "defeat his demons once and for all."

April 1, 2010

Album Review: "Eparistera Daimones" by Triptykon

When Celtic Frost reunited in 2001 after an eight-year hiatus, the metal community responded with resounding jubilation. The 2006 release of Monotheist was a momentous occasion for fans worldwide, marking a new chapter in Celtic Frost's history. The anticipation of waiting for a new album, though, was soon replaced by the universal dismay and outrage felt when Celtic Frost disbanded again in 2008. It seemed that Tom Gabriel "Warrior" Fischer would not grace the world with his artistic genius in extreme metal again. Which is why, when Fischer announced the formation of a new project called Triptykon, fans were clamoring for new music immediately. Fischer declared that he wanted Triptykon to sound similar to Celtic Frost's sound on Monotheist, aiming for a dark, experimental vibe that would still be unique in its own way. Eparistera Daimones, the first Triptykon studio album, accomplishes just that, bringing together several genres of metal to create a soundscape similar to Celtic Frost, but with its own distinctive and breathtaking twists.

Album Review: "The World is a Thorn" by Demon Hunter

Demon Hunter is one of the most stalwart bands in the modern metal scene, a model of perseverance in the face of adversity. This is a band with only two of its founding members left in the lineup, and all members, new and old, are involved in other projects, be they other bands, businesses, or jobs within the music industry. Thus, fans are lucky to see Demon Hunter tour once a year, if that much. However, despite their other commitments, the band manages to release albums on a consistent basis no matter what, and on top of that, each album they release expands on their previous work, making it stronger and more original. The World is a Thorn is no exception. On this, their fifth album, Demon Hunter have managed to top 2007's beyond-excellent Storm the Gates of Hell and set themselves well above their peers in the metalcore scene once again.