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”.
Righteous Jams: “Business As Usual” (Abacus Records)
As much as I think elements of Hardcore truly work in the various brands of Metal as we have seen in bands like All That Remains, and I Killed The Prom Queen we are pointed out to how stagnant it can be if there is no change whatsoever. The RJ guys surely give it their all but there is nothing that stands out on this release and much of it comes across as repetitive. Similar riffs and vocals on top of a very short album make this as uninspiring as it was uninteresting for me. Want something original? Keep looking.
Sentenced: “Buried Alive” (Century Media Records)
Live recordings are not unusual these days but one that captures the final show in a bands career are rare. Presenting Buried Alive as it brings you the end of the band Sentenced who ended their life on The Funeral Album (their studio recorded suicide note to the world). The concert features most of that album as well as older material and allows their fans to pay last respects one final time before the casket is lowered into the ground. The intended purpose of this Dark Gothic Metal band completed, its members have moved on. May they Rest in Peace.
Sevendust: “Alpha” (7 Brothers/Asylum Records)
It’s very rare to find a band sounding as fresh as they did when they first began when you are listening to their sixth album. This is definitely the case with Sevendust who are both armed with a new label and music and now present to their fans “Alpha” – an album that will forever cement why they are one of the most exciting bands in not only the Nu-Metal world but Heavy Metal as a whole. Singer Lajon Witherspoon is totally on point once again and one of the better singers in this genre and of late has chosen to sing with such levels of intense melody. He is not a conventional growler or screamer by any margin. As usual, drummer Morgan Rose provides the necessary angst and rage from behind the kit as he performs gravity defying technical patterns at the same time. He is what a Metal drummer should be as his skills are commendable and stylish. The pair works well as far as dynamics go and this is prevalent across the record but mostly in the closer of the title track “Alpha”. The song “Beg To Differ” is bound to set the fans on their ear as one of their new favorites from the band for its one of those numbers that prompts crowd activity in terms of fist pumping and jumping with enthusiasm. On “Driven” there is a lot of the feel that we found them doing on their last album Next; a record that I felt did not get enough attention. Alpha finds no longer new guitarist Sonny Mayo a perfect fit alongside John Connolly and sounding like this was the band he was meant to be in for years. It’s very simple to see as you blast this CD out of the speakers that Sevendust has not slowed down much in the ten plus years they have been performing. Instead they have matured musically and continued to experiment with the patterns of their style and stretch the melody to shapes that they are the masters of. I don’t think any of their fans would be disappointed in the results here and if you are not a fan already this CD also offers the perfect jumping on point as it is that accessible. “Confessions Of Hatred” is one of the more conventional Metal tracks and another personal favorite of mine. Check it out.
Shaw/Blades: “Influence” (VH1 Classic Records)
They’re well known in the Rock world for numerous and memorable contributions with Styx, Night Ranger and Damned Yankees; now Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades join forces once again for an album that presents their fans with music that both inspired and helped to foster their own musical beginnings. Presenting classics by Simon & Garfunkel and The Zombies, this is bare bones, but dead on revival of some of Rock’s most cherished songs. The material though historic doesn’t sound dated and instead finds the guys breathing new life into them for a new generation. Find yourself influenced with this one.
Sirenia: “Nine Destinies and a Downfall” (Nuclear Blast Records)
Founded by Morten Veland in 2001, Sirenia has a very Tristania-like vibe based on their origins yet with songs like the signature track “My Mind’s Eye” show a more accessible Gothic Metal band that offers wide appeal. They use elements both dramatic and melodic, which bring to mind Within Temptation and Evanescence yet remain different and exciting to the ears. There is more use of the Dark vocals than conventional Operatic, and when brought over the sweet melodies and harmonies – the songs twist and turn into wonderful Metal shapes that are not easy to forget. This is another worthy contender to the Gothic Metal throne.
Skinny Puppy: “Mythmaker” (SPV Records)
Skinny Puppy has returned to show the legions of believers why they were masters of the Industrial and Dark Techno world in which they walk. This is an intense display of angry moods and the technological as they once again meet and form complex and yet hypnotic patterns as only they can deliver. Singer Ogre does not fail to disappoint and he continues to delve into the experimental nature that the group never feared to adventure into. Their influence has been felt for years and is heard on some notable Dark wave acts most specifically. A good start for the new fans as well.
Slavior: “Slavior” (InsideOut Music)
Mark Zonder (Fates Warning), Wayne Findlay (MSG) & Greg Analla (Tribe Of Gypsies) have banded together to give you a unique mix of Progressive technique, Nu-Metal angst and powerful songwriting that will grab the Stone Sour and Sevendust fans right off the bat. The debut shows great diversity and style by being Melodic Hard Rock that uses elements of Hip-Hop and Reggae; this allows them to be current, fresh and very exciting on many tracks. With the riffs crunching and the drumming superb, Zonder and company surely will be able to find a place for themselves in Progressive Melodic Metal’s hierarchy.
Sonata Arctica: “Unia” (Nuclear Blast Records)
After their stellar performance CD/DVD combo release “For The Sake Of Revenge”, Finland’s Masters of Melodic Power Metal return and continue their quest for world dominance of the genre. Presenting “Unia”, which is an album that takes time to remind us of a little where SA has come from musically, and also helps us chart the course of where they are going in the future. As expected of the band there is a heap of energetic musical forays to enjoy and rousing sing along anthems such as “It Won’t Fade”. The track possesses the effective Sonata trait of blending several different melodic styles to success. Lead singer Tony Kakko is as on point as ever across the recording but when it hits “Caleb” you see just how much so. As one of the richest tunes on the record, we get incredible keyboard displays and then a page out of the Queen songbook as they deliver the multi-layered harmony chorus. Musically there is a lot to appreciate and as their catalog stands this one has more in common with “Winterheart’s Guild” than “Reckoning Night” with the slight difference of the band not blazing through every track and instead going an almost Melodic Hard Rock route on occasion. The good thing about SA is that they don’t seem to fear change in their style as they push experiment to new limits. While I am a fan I still maintain they are best observed in the live sense and much of this album has a solid live “feel” to it. One of the main areas of appeal on this release is the standout work of Henrik Klingenberg whose keyboards are so much more upfront than I recall on the other albums. As a band they have a growing fanbase and part of me feels this is a good jumping on point for the new listener because of the numerous adventurous tracks like “Fly With The Black Swan” which is among the deeper offerings to be found. They close the release with a solemn number – “Good Enough Is Good Enough” and this surprised me for the band usually leaves you with a show stopper. Overall this is a tasty bit of Metal candy from a land that has been a flowing cornucopia of the stuff. “Unia” is translated into “Dreams” and as result of the new CD we are invited to see what Sonata Arctica thinks of them. Dig it.
Speed Kill Hate: “Acts Of Insanity” (Escapi Music)
Clearly the music scene today is missing some good old-fashioned Thrash Metal. Thanks to the members of Speed\Kill\Hate, fans of the genre that pretty much kicked off a wide variety of styles now have something with a classic sound and vibe to it. Fronted by lead singer Mario Frasca the band drives the point home from the very first track and across the whole record. If slam-dance moshing is up your alley there is definitely a lot of things you can pound your boots to on this one. The members who make up the albums core on the musician side certainly know something about giving the audience a good thrashing; you see they are also part of the band Overkill (a legend in the Metal world on their own). Dave Linsk, Derek Tailer and Tim Mallare handle the guitar, bass and drumming on the recording and their musicianship is pretty solid from top to bottom. Tailer does good on the bass, as in Overkill he is doing guitars to D.D.’s bassmanship. Mallare left Overkill last year while Linsk and Tailer are still recording and touring with the band. They maintain that Speed Kill Hate is not a project band at all yet very simply it is something else that they are involved in musically. At times I felt there was a little too much of the same vibe going on, but its been so long since a solid Thrash record has come along that I could be wrong. Fans who lean towards some aspects of later Pantera, Superjoint Ritual and perhaps Hatebreed will find some amount of pleasure within these tracks. Frasca has a lot of the Anselmo and Jasta qualities that make for a good Thrash lead man. During the listen I felt my head beginning to do the required banging that is sure to hit other listeners when they play this album. While I always leaned more to the Power Metal or Progressive Side I enjoyed a bunch of the tracks on the album such as “Face The Pain” which was brutal and “Revelation At War” since I felt the riff used across it was interesting. So if you lean in the classic and brutal Thrash direction take a look and a listen to the guys in Speed Kill Hate for there is enough on here to inspire a halfway decent pit. They give you all the lyrics and a mess of photos to look at as well, which is never a bad thing for a new band to do. Given the albums speed levels, it comes up rather short in time length (36 minutes for the 9 tracks).
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.
Righteous Jams: no website
Shaw/Blades: no website
Skinny Puppy: http://www.skinnypuppy.com/
Sonata Arctica: http://www.sonataarctica.info/
Speed Kill Hate: http://www.speedkillhate.com/