Friday, February 26, 2010

Hatesphere Album Review

Hatesphere – To The Nines
Napalm, 2009

7/10

Hatesphere is a melodic death metal band from Denmark, and To The Nines is their sixth album. I’m not familiar with their earlier material, but To The Nines musically treads in areas familiar to bands such as Machine Head and latter-day Entombed. The first half of the album blows through like a whirlwind, with “Backstabber” and “Clarity” being among the best tracks. “Even If It Kills Me” is too short (1:22), and ends abruptly as if unfinished. A short instrumental, “Commencing A Campaign” seems to mark a clear line for the second half of the record before some interesting riffing takes over “The Writing’s On The Wall”. The final three songs, “In The Trenches”, “Aurora”, and “Oceans of Blood”, never relent and end the album with a heavy dose of brutality. Vocalist Jonathan Albrechtsen has a great death metal growl that borders on screaming, and helps to maintain a heavy edge to the songs. On a generous day I could give To The Nines and 8, but a couple short songs sound unfinished and leave me thinking that this album was rushed. There’s nothing bad here, so Hatesphere should be commended for writing a consistent, quality album that although short, isn’t loaded up with filler. To The Nines isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but in a world where many bands, notably Soilwork and In Flames, have drifted from their thrash and death metal roots, Hatesphere embraces extremity while injected a respectable level of melody and hooks to their songs.

Hatesphere will be appearing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Monday, March 15 as support to The Black Dahlia Murder. Additional support will come from Obscura and Augury

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Karnivool Album Review

Karnivool – Sound Awake
Sony, 2010

10/10

No album has gotten me this excited about a progressive rock band since the day I discovered Porcupine Tree many years ago. Australia’s Karnivool have unveiled a sonic masterpiece that leaves one gasping for breath at the level of depth and quality to Sound Awake. Karnivool have followed up their impressive debut album, Themata, with a record that is more diverse, complex, and interesting. Many of the songs on Sound Awake are longer (five land between six and thirteen minutes), allowing room for expansion of lush melodies and complex arrangements. “Simple Boy” and “Goliath” lead off the album, and set the album’s style by taking simple rhythms and building them into astonishingly beautiful songs. The first long song is “New Day”, which takes several minutes to build from a dark, somber melody into a crushing wall of guitars. “Set Fire To The Hive” is an fast, aggressive rumbler that could have fit on Themata, and whose rhythmic spurts remind me of I Mother Earth. The slow turn of “Umbra” offers a mellow respite before the most immediately accessible track, “All I Know”, complete with layered vocal tracks and a catchy guitar line. Following the short number “The Medicine Wears Off” is “The Caudal Lure”, probably the least dynamic song on the album. “Illumine” begins with a wall of guitar distortion before relying upon strong vocal lines to carry most of the song. The two longest tracks on the album, “Deadman” and “Change”, bring Sound Awake to a grand conclusion with their slow, intense buildups to late song climaxes. Sound Awake is a monumental release that has Karnivool making a quantum leap in development from Themata. Karnivool blends the complex meanderings of ELP and King Crimson, the vocal play and melodies of Yes, the songwriting craftsmanship of Porcupine Tree, and the technology and emotiveness of Radiohead and The Pineapple Thief into a sonic journey that begs for rapt attention through multiple listens. If Sound Awake finds its audience, it will surely be lauded as a modern progressive masterpiece.

Karnivool will be appearing together with Fair To Midland at The Rock in Maplewood on Monday, April 12. Support will come from Samsahra.

Overkill Album Review

Overkill - Ironbound
E1, 2010

7/10

Overkill is the Motorhead of thrash metal. Although they’ve never achieved major glory, they’ve managed to issue an impressive number of albums over nearly 30 years with remarkable consistency. Overkill’s had their share of ups and downs, but you can always count on them to deliver a decent record and Ironbound continues this tradition. Lead-off track “The Green And Black” opens the album with a solid, chugging line, and leads into the title track, a monster collection of heavy riffs. The album takes a bit of a dive with three weak tracks, including “Bring Me The Night” with its blatant reworking of the Diamond Head classic “Helpless”. “Endless War” picks up the pace, and “The Head And Heart” includes some great guitar solos among its mid-tempo beatings. The final trio of songs (“In Vain”, “Killing For A Living”, and “The SRC”) are among the best on the album and end the album on a high note. There’s much to enjoy here on Ironbound, and Overkill have succeeded in presenting an excellent album that continues their long-standing tradition of take-no-prisoners thrash metal. On the other hand, Ironbound is unlikely to rank amongst their best records such as Horrorscope and The Years Of Decay.

Overkill will be appearing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, April 11. Support will come from Vader, God Dethroned, Warbringer, Evile, and Woe Of Tyrants.

 

Eluveitie Album Review

Eluveitie – Everything Remains As It Never Was
Nuclear Blast, 2010

5/10

Switzerland’s Eluveitie bill themselves as “the new wave of folk metal” and are back with their fourth album on Nuclear Blast. While some folk metal bands such as Ensiferum tend to downplay the folk elements of their music, Eluveitie is at the leading of bands that strive to completely integrate folk instruments with their metal. This dedication is admirable, but it serves to off up too many distractions from what a metal band should be. Sure, the bagpipes, flutes, and miscellaneous acoustic instruments add an interesting element to these gruff metal songs, but I can’t help but think that these songs would have more life if the extraneous instrumentation was stripped from the mix. People that embrace this current folk metal explosion will find a lot to like here, but skeptics like me won’t be enthralled. Special mention must, however, be given to the exceptional cover artwork which is both unique and conveys the sound of the album.

Eluveitie will be appearing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, April 18 as direct support to Amon Amarth. Additional support will come from Holy Grail.

Scar Symmetry Album Review

Scar Symmetry – Dark Matter Dimensions
Nuclear Blast, 2009

8/10

After releasing the technical, melodic death metal masterpiece Holographic Universe in 2008, vocalist Christian Älvestam, possessor of both a monster growl and a beautiful melodic voice, left Scar Symmetry and had many wondering how the band could recover. The answer was to hire two vocalists, Roberth Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist. Unfortunately, nearly all live activity of Scar Symmetry was halted to focus on a new record, Dark Matter Dimensions. While Scar Symmetry has returned with a great record, they will forever have their albums compared to the greatness of Holographic Universe. The new vocalists sound great, and I imagine songs from previous albums will sound even better live. There’s little to find fault with on Dark Matter Dimensions, however, most songs don’t have the epic, instant-classic feel of Holographic Universe. Keyboards are used a bit more judiciously here so the album has a cleaner, more streamlined sound. The first three songs, “The Iconoclast”, “The Consciousness Eaters”, and “Noumenon And Phenomenon”, are the best on the album, each filled with grand melodies and soaring, technically blazing guitar work. The rest of the album, while excellent, never quite rises to these levels of lofty expectations except for “A Paranthesis In Eternity”. All of the usual elements of a Scar Symmetry album are here – slick, technical guitar solos, death metal growls intertwined with clean, melodic vocals, and memorable songs. Dark Matter Dimensions holds well on its own and will likely be viewed as one of the best albums of the year, but comparisons to Holographic Universe make it difficult to say that this is the band’s best work. While it will not set new standards for progressive, technical death metal, Dark Matter Dimensions sits well alongside the Scar Symmetry catalog and should be a mandatory purchase for all lovers of metal.

Scar Symmetry will be appearing as direct support to Hypocrisy at Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, May 23. Additional support will come from Hate, Blackguard, and Swashbuckle.

 

Evile Album Review

Evile – Infected Nations
Earache, 2009

4/10

Evile is another derivative retro-thrash band that’s been plaguing the scene over the last three or four years. Judging from all the hype and press about Infected Nations you’d think that this is the best album to come down the pike since Master Of Puppets. It simply isn’t so. I just can’t get behind bands that rehash a sound without contributing anything new (see: Gama Bomb, Warbringer, etc.). Sure, there’s some decent riffs and quality guitar work here, but the flat, uninspired vocal delivery just leaves me cold. In an age when the thrash masters such as Testament, Exodus, Death Angel, Machine Head, and many others are writing some of the best albums of their careers, there’s little room for second-rate imitations. The passing of bassist Mike Alexander last year from a pulmonary embolism is truly sad and I admire the band for forging ahead under such difficult circumstances. Taken on its merits, though, Infected Nations is a derivative album that leaves me shaking my head at all the attention this album has been receiving.

Evile will be appearing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, March 14 as support to Kreator. Additional support will come from Voivod, Nachtmystium, and Lazarus A.D.

Evile will also again be performing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, April 11 as support to Overkill. Additional support will come from Vader, God Dethroned, Warbringer, and Woe Of Tyrants.

Kreator Album Review

Kreator – Hordes Of Chaos
Steamhammer/SPV, 2009

7/10

I think of Kreator in the same vein as Overkill – a great band that reliably releases strong, consistent albums, most good and some great. Hordes Of Chaos is a very Slayer-ish sounding thrash album, all the way from riffs to vocal style. While still an excellent album, it’s somewhat of a letdown following the exceptional Enemy Of God in 2005. There’s not much fault to be found with the individual songs, but there’s nothing here that compels me grab the volume knob and crank the hell out of these songs. The riffs are fast and the playing is tight, all of the elements you expect from Kreator. “Radical Resistance” is probably the best of the lot, but otherwise the remainder of the album flows by without capturing my attention. Hordes Of Chaos may not be among the best Kreator albums, but it’s still a solid effort whose level of interest will depend upon your love of German thrash.

Kreator will be appearing at Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, March 14. Support will come from Voivod, Nachtmystium, Evile, and Lazarus A.D.

Priestess Album Review

Priestess – Prior To The Fire
Tee Pee, 2010

7/10

Montreal’s post-stoner rock outfit Priestess have finally returned with their second album. While the tone of Priestess’s sound is rooted in legendary acts such Fu Manchu, Kyuss, and Nebula, the sheer heaviness of those bands stripped away into something more akin to Queens Of The Stone Age. “Lady Killer” and “Raccoon Eyes” open the album and show how good songs can sound in this sonic model. Things slip a bit with drawn-out, boring songs like “Murphy’s Law” and “Communicating Via-Eyes”. Overall, Prior To The Fire is a decent album, but I think there’s some muscle lacking with the guitars. I fully expect that these songs will sound better and more raw on stage.

Priestess will be appearing at The Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis on Wednesday, March 31 as direct support to High On Fire. Additional support will come from Black Cobra and Bison B.C.

Killswitch Engage Show Tonight Still On

By now you're probably aware that Killswitch Engage vocalist Howard Jones left the band's current headlining tour last week for personal reasons. Phil Labonte from All That Remains was quickly drafted to fill in, and Killswitch Engage released a statement on their website that Phil will command the vocals for the rest of tour, good news for those planning to attend the show tonight at First Avenue in Minneapolis. In an unusual gesture of goodwill, Killswitch Engage is offering ticket holders a refund if they are interesting in seeing the band with Howard.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Concert, Album Reviews On The Way!

A slew of new concert and albums reviews will be posted by the end of the week. Look for concert reviews, pictures, and video from the recent Arch Enemy/Exodus/Arsis and Epica/Threat Signal/Blackguard/Gracepoint/Echoterra shows and album reviews from Alice In Chains, Karnivool, Kreator, Eluveitie, Overkill, Priestess, and Scar Symmetry.

Echoterra Releases "Whispers Of The Earth" As Arretohce

Minneapolis's Echoterra have released a rearranged, all-orchestra version of their debut album, The Law Of One, as Whispers Of The Earth under the moniker Arretohce (Echoterra backwards) on Blinding Force Records. Additional information can be found at the Arretohce Myspace page.

Luna Mortis Breaks Up, Cancels Tour

Madison, Wisconsin's Luna Mortis have decided to call it a day, and have subsequently cancelled their upcoming US tour with Primal Fear. Luna Mortis was to have appeared at Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, May 30.

Amon Amarth Announces North American Tour

Sweden's Amon Amarth have announced a North American headlining tour that will bring them to Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, April 18. Support acts are Eluveitie and Holy Grail.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cannibal Corpse Concert Announcement

Death metal legends Cannibal Corpse have announced a new tour that will bring them to Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, May 1. Support acts for the trek are 1349, Skeletonwitch, and Lecherous Nocturne. More details about the show will be added to the calendar as information is released.

Scar Symmetry Concert Announcement

Sweden's Scar Symmetry has been added to the upcoming North American tour of Hypocrisy as direct support! Other support bands are Poland's Hate, Canada's Blackguard, and America's Swashbuckle. The Hypocrisy tour will hit Station 4 in St. Paul on Sunday, May 23.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mayhem Tour Cancelled

The North American Mayhem tour set for April has been cancelled for undisclosed reasons according to the websites of both SwordLord Productions and the Triple Rock. Their Minneapolis show, with support from Ludicra and Tombs, was to take place on Wednesday, April 14 at the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Echoterra EP Review

Echoterra – In Your Eyes EP
Blinding Force, 2010

7/10

Not even six months after the release of the outstanding debut album The Law Of One, Minneapolis’s Echoterra is with a stopgap EP to showcase new vocalist Melissa Ferlaak (ex-Visions Of Atlantis, Aesma Daeva). This change makes a lot of sense since the location of original vocalist Suvi Virtanen in Swedish made the logistics of live performances difficult. John Gensmer has also been replaced on drums with Adam Sagan due to John’s ongoing commitments with Epicurean. If you’re familiar with Melissa’s earlier work, it’s easy to hear why she was chosen to replace Suvi. Melissa has a similar operatic vocal style, yet her voice will likely enable a wider range of sounds for the band. “In Your Eyes” is perhaps the best track from The Law Of One, and it’s been reworked a bit here (it’s nearly a minute shorter than the original version). Two other songs are re-recorded here, “A Tear Of Her Heart” and “Say, Try, Lie, Die”, but these adhere pretty close to the originals except for some additional vocal flourishes. An instrumental track, “Bear Mountain”, offers a preview of the next album and it will be interesting to hear how vocal melodies and additional instrumentation develop from this version. Lastly, “Echoterra Overture” is keyboard solo that is actually a medley of songs from the album. This EP was a smart move by Echoterra as a way of introducing Melissa on vocals, and if you like The Law Of One you’ll want to get this. It also offers a low-cost opportunity for new fans to hear what all the excitement is about.

Echoterra will be making their live debut as support for Epica at Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, February 6. Additional support will come from Threat Signal, Blackguard, Gracepoint, and Dread Veil.

Echoterra Album Review

Echoterra – The Law Of One
Blinding Force, 2009

8/10

Echoterra is a Minneapolis-based entrant into the ever-growing ranks of female-fronted symphomic metal bands. The brainchild of guitarist Yan Leviathan (Avian) and keyboardist Jonah Weingarten (Pyramaze), Echoterra’s lineup was rounded out in 2008 with bassist Brian Hollenbeck (Avian), drummer John Gensmer (Epicurean), and Swedish vocalist Suvi Virtanen (ex-Therion). The Law Of One is a respectable debut album that has a surprising Scandanavian feel to it and that isn’t as heavy as the members’ other bands. Songs are relatively straightforward, and the band sticks to a focused, disciplined sound unlike many of their peers (notably, Epica and Nightwish) who strive to cover a multitude of metal sub-genres over the course of an album. “The Will Of Life” opens the proceedings after a short instrumental, and this is about as heavy as the album gets. Jonah isn’t trying to make his keyboards sound like an orchestra, rather, the music incorporates more typical synthesizers alongside Suvi’s operatic vocals. “In Your Eyes” is more typical of most of the album, where keyboards, piano, and vocals carry the melodies while Yan’s guitar primarily beefs up the rhythm section. A couple songs that are essentially just vocals and keyboards, “The Wind Surrounds You” and “To Live Again”, work their way into the middle of the album. The album is indeed heavy at times with songs that incorporate segments with strong riffs and fast tempos, but these parts never dominate songs such as “A Tear Of Her Heart” and “Beyond The Seven Seas”. The result is a well-written album that succeeds in establishing Echoterra as a band well worth a listen. One also gets the feeling that the full potential of Echoterra is not even close to being realized, so I expect that even greater things are on the horizon as a revamped lineup gets the chance to function more as a cohesive band.

Echoterra will be making their live debut as support for Epica at Station 4 in St. Paul on Saturday, February 6. Additional support will come from Threat Signal, Blackguard, Gracepoint, and Dread Veil.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Local Openers Needed For Goatwhore And Mayhem Shows

SwordLord Productions has announced the availability of local opening band slots for Goatwhore and Mayhem on March 4 and April 14, respectively. Two spots for Goatwhore are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and a battle of the bands series will be arranged for one opening spot for Mayhem. Full details and contact information for SwordLord Productions are available here.

Goatwhore and Enfold Darkness will be performing at the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis on Thursday, March 4.

Mayhem, Ludicra, and Tombs will be performing at the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis on Wednesday, April 14.

Slayer/Megadeth Tour Rescheduled

The Slayer/Megadeth/Testament tour has now been rescheduled, and fortunately St. Paul is on list of new dates. The concert will now take place on Saturday, August 21, still at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul. All tickets sold for the initial date will be honored.