These album overviews were originally written for Metal Edge Magazine when I was a contributor to their “Hear Us Out” CD reviews section back in 2006-2007. With the magazine wrapping up publication a few months ago, I decided to add them to the context of our PiercingMetal presentation. I felt that by doing this I would not only be raising the horns in remembrance of the magazine but would also be able to showcase just how different writing for a major publication was when it all came down to it. Since “Hear Us Out” notations were usually “100” words in length, these posts will feature several reviews each until we run out of them. The freelance writing tenure at Metal Edge Magazine was discussed on THIS LINK so please check that out when done. Here are the reviews, so “Hear Us Out”.
Trail Of Tears: “Existentia” (Napalm Records)
Dark Gothic Metal takes the brooding, morose textures of the conventional Gothic style and adds levels of drama and power that is more akin to Black or Power Metal. Sweeping and thunderous at every turn the effects come to life due to the three lead singers that the band possesses. They duel throughout the recording using dark, clean and operatic vocals to cover the spectrum while the musicians combine intense riffs that are chock full of power. TOT serves the need for those seeking intense music with dynamic vocals; as result Existentia remains exciting with each and every listen.
Tristania: “Illumination” (SPV Records)
Norway’s Tristania moves deeper into the Gothic with their latest release by serving fans a quasi-Evanescence feel but with a lot more depth and dramatics than that outfit provides. Brooding and dark, the textures both chill and warm the blood as Vibeke Stene provides siren melody and operatic styles to the sullen and deep words of her male counterpart Osten. “Destination Departure” & “Mercyside” are its most captivating tracks and will surely enthrall you after moments of hearing them. It’s new ground for the band as they wisely blend Doom into their signature sound as well. The dark never looked as bright before now.
Trouble: “Psalm 9” Remaster (Escapi Music)
Trouble’s debut is a Doom Metal lovers delight and it brings you back to the classic sound of the genre when it was simply called “Heavy Metal”. Different from other offerings of 1984 the band warned that “Bastards Will Pay” with much of the album being heavy on the fire and brimstone Christian motif yet not preaching you salvation. The emergence of bands like Witchcraft and Pentagram prove the genre merits the return of one of the founders. Sounding as fresh as it did originally and heavy as sludge the remaster includes a DVD of early footage and bonus photos.
Trouble: “The Skull” Remaster (Escapi Music)
In 1985 with Metal and Hard Rock being split into the sides of either Glam or Thrash one would hardly expect a bleak and sludge-laden Doom outfit to find much acceptance or even fans. Yet despite this division, Trouble would be able to continue their brand of Sabbath-inspired Metal that had begun over a year ago with their debut album Psalm 9 and be met with considerable fan approval. Adopting the heavy undertones of Black Sabbath and utilizing to full effect the contributions of a twin-lead guitar attack Skull would surpass its predecessor tenfold. The themes of Christian vengeance and oppression led to the band suffering a little under the label, but this was hardly the Born Again preaching of bands like Stryper. Eric Wagner’s Catholic upbringing would lead him to this lyrical path as opposed to being just another group who sang songs about Satan and his minions. Songs that display their premise the best are present in “The Wish”, the albums epic number as well as “Pray For The Dead” and “The Skull” (which has moments that are written from the point of view of Christ himself). The Doom style was limited at the time but did find stronger footing with bands like Cathedral, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, each of them owing a little credit to Trouble for daring to venture into this style with so much a different scene at hand. Musically the remaster holds up well and comes to life once again at proper volumes with the guitars of Wartell and Franklin shining through the dark and boomy drumming of Olson. Packaged in a slipcase with lyrics and photos there is more to enjoy with this as you also get a live DVD filmed in 1984 of the band in concert. Quality wise this is nothing more than an audience bootleg that was done either from the soundboard or from a fan in the audience. As a result the visual quality is not that special and might put off some viewers. However the sound is good for its recorded means and since this footage would probably never surface anywhere else it makes this CD a must have for any Trouble fan or Doom Metal enthusiast. The 90 minute set features material from both albums along with some covers songs. The original Trouble has reunited in 2006 and is recording new music with a tour in the works as well.
Twisted Sister: “Twisted Christmas” (Razor and Tie Entertainment)
When holidays are upon us we think of loved ones, good times and of course – Twisted Sister!!! I never expected a Christmas themed album by Dee and the boys but as wild as the idea sounds there are some good moments such as “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” with Lita Ford’s guesting. “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” sounds close to “We’re Not Gonna Take It” proving that Santa is wears a bullet belt this year and Rudolph’s nose is extra red on account of the head banging. Tight playing and clever but it is more tongue in cheek than the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (who don’t need to worry about their franchise with this one).
Type O Negative: “Best Of Type O Negative” (Roadrunner Records)
Slamming down the Gothic Doom Metal come Lords Of Flatbush, Type O Negative. The “Best Of” collection features music released while under the Roadrunner Records roster and finds most of their albums represented. Their multi-layered style changes and feels using keyboards and Black Sabbath styled trudging made Type-O more interesting than many Metal bands of the time. Peter Steele’s brooding and often-morose views along with a sarcastic sense of humor made them an appealing group to the Goths most specifically. The stellar “Bloody Kisses” and “October Rust” find the strongest presence and make this CD a must have sampler for a killer band. Stay negative.
Type O Negative: “Dead Again” (SPV Records)
It’s finally here!!! I can say this with some absolute enthusiasm as it has been too long since we have heard from Brooklyn’s Type O Negative. Its true readers “The Lords Of Flatbush” have returned with new music after several years of fan concern if they would ever appear again, and now with a new label to record for, they show that they are Dead Again. The return finds them morphing once again and with a sound that revisits that of Bloody Kisses, October Rust and perhaps even a bit of Life Is Killing Me. TON has always kept a certain essence in their sound so why change now. It begins with the title track and uses a quick tempo and riff showing the bands Punk influences a little bit. Their dark sense humor jumps to the attack on “Tripping A Blind Man”, and employs their tasty Beatle-esque backing harmonies. The Gothic-Atmospheric vibe comes to life on “September Sun” (a track that has resounding power). Silver’s keyboard work always adds the emphasis of doom on tunes like this one. Given this is but the start you can smile with a sinister grin in the knowledge that TON is once again representing Metal that always gave levels of surprise as much as satisfaction. I quickly took notice of how the band sounded as if no time had passed since we last heard from them and I think keeping a lot of the feel to the familiar patterns would easily allow them to recapture the attention of those who have awaited their return. While lead singer/bassist Peter Steele sounds as angst-ridden as ever as he speaks of the “Profits Of Doom” the band is to be commended for delivering the epic “These Three Things” (a whopping 14 minute piece) the most. Hickey provided many powerful vocals as well this time around and Johnny makes sure the train runs on time from behind the drums. There are no strange intro bits here but instead a crushing 77 minutes of music to lament by. There were also no real surprises on the album and instead much of the same formula that has worked for the band and has kept their following as hard core as they have remained over the past fifteen years. Peter Steele, Kenny Hickey, Josh Silver and Johnny Kelly: The Drab Four walk among us and are prepared to bring us down again, and again – welcome back guys.
Unexpect: “In A Flesh Aquarium” (The End Records)
Defying all possible conventions of the genres is Unexpect; a band that successfully blends Black Metal, Gothic, Progressive, Experimental and Spoken Word to an effect that will thrill, excite and utterly leave you listening in jaw-dropped awe. The Montreal native’s eclectic brand of Extreme Metal is like Dimmu Borgir, Frank Zappa, and a Broadway play mixed in a blender with this becoming the result. Confusing? Not after you listen to their complex arrangements that test the limits of science whenever possible. Blistering fast at points yet subtle and soft at others – this is a group that shows just how unique music can be delivered.
Various Artists: ”Family Values Tour 2006” (Firm Music)
The FVT concert placed Nu-Metal titans Korn on the top billing with upstarts Stone Sour, 10 Years, Deftones and Flyleaf and more in support. It was a concert tour that answered the prayers of the angst-ridden youth of the day far better than something like Ozzfest would do since so many of these bands find this demographic among their core audience. The CD is but a sampling of that which is better received on the available DVD since most are exciting live bands, It’s a decent package but I always feel massive shows like this should be double disc presentations to best absorb the event.
Additional chapters in this series of “Revisiting Metal Edge Magazine” will be posted across the span of a couple of weeks. Please stay tuned for the next batch of summaries and let us know what you thought of these items down in the comments section below.
Trail Of Tears: http://trailoftears.co/
Twisted Sister: http://www.twistedsister.com/
Type O Negative: https://www.facebook.com/typeonegative/