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.

Album Review: "Time to Burn" by Taking Dawn

The hair metal scene has seen its glory days come and go, and though many bands from the scene still exist today, very few are still considered relevant by most standards. In fact, it's not a far stretch to say that the number of active hair metal bands from the 1980s is easily exceeded by the number of Bon Jovi, Poison, and Twisted Sister tribute bands in existence. However, with the popularity of the classic hits by these bands, it was only a matter of time before young hair metal bands started to emerge, and the first such band to gain popular notice is Taking Dawn. Formerly known as 7th Son, this Las Vegas quartet rose to fame very quickly and earned themselves a deal with Roadrunner Records in 2009. Their debut album, Time to Burn, displays a new take on the hair metal style that might serve to inspire other young, aspiring bands in the scene.

Album Review: "Universal" by Borknagar

If Borknagar isn't already known as "the thinking man's black metal band," then they should be, because there is no other black metal band out today that has their level of progression and creativity. In fact, Borknagar truly fit better with the progressive metal scene, often rivaling Opeth and Dream Theater with their forward-thinking arrangements and daring sound. Their aggressive tone and black metal roots are what separate them from their more mainstream counterparts, but fans of either band will enjoy most of Borknagar's work. Since bringing in vocalist Vintersorg on 2001's Empiricism, Borknagar has gotten bigger and more ambitious with their sound. The effort has paid off, helping Borknagar to separate themselves from the rest of the black metal scene and establish an identity set completely apart from their peers. Universal, the latest album from the Norwegian sextet, is a grand epic that pushes Borknagar even higher above other bands in their scene.

Album Review: "Mutiny Within" by Mutiny Within

The metalcore scene is one that constantly reinvents itself to prevent stagnation, and countless bands have assisted in doing this over the past decade. The latest band to do this is Mutiny Within, a six-piece band from New Jersey that best exemplifies the style of progressive metalcore. Blending the intricate technical aspects of Dream Theater and Into Eternity, the soaring vocal styles of Kamelot and Firewind, and the straightforward thrash brutality of Children of Bodom and Unearth, Mutiny Within have established a completely unique sound that gives them a huge level of appeal. Their new self-titled album delivers the best of this new sound and creates a blueprint that future bands are sure to follow.

Album Review: "Sons of the System" by Mnemic

Mnemic are among industrial metal's elite few that can rank with genre originators Fear Factory in terms of musicality and staying power. When they burst onto the scene with 2003's Mechanical Spin Phenomena, fans and critics had high hopes for the band. 2004's The Audio Injected Soul only raised expectations, as the band appeared poised for a huge breakout. However, after the departure of original vocalist Michael Bøgballe and the introduction of his replacement, Guillaume Bideau, on 2007's Passenger, a split emerged among fans. Some claimed that Mnemic were becoming a sellout band and were transitioning towards playing metalcore, while others praised Bideau for helping the band to grow and keep their sound fresh. In the end, two groups emerged – those who aligned themselves with the old sound of the first two albums, and those who chose the new sound of Passenger. However, Mnemic should be able to bridge the divide between these groups with their newest album, Sons of the System, which brings together the disparate elements of their previous work and creates a cohesive, intense sound.