The Black Dahlia Murder – “Everblack”

The Black Dahlia Murder – “Everblack” (Metal Blade Records)

With over 10 years under their belts, it’s hard to talk about melodic death metal and not mention this Michigan crew. Driven by relentless blast beat drum work, fast chopping riffs and the screech / guttural vocals of Trevor Strnad, “Everblack” continues the band’s six album career with no signs of any wimp outs or compromise! Since we last heard from ’em there have been a coupla replacements in bassist Max Lavelle (formerly of Despised Icon and Goratory) and drummer Alan Cassidy (formerly of Abigail Williams) who have certainly added value especially in Lavelle’s dirty, growling bass lol! Brian Eschbach still brings out the most amazing melodies to add soothing splendor to the raging torrent of songs like ‘Phantom Limb Masturbation’, the Evil Dead inspired ‘Raped In Hatred by Vines of Thorn’ and opener ‘In Hell Is Where She Waits for Me’, which sees the band for the first time lyrically tackle their infamous namesake unsolved 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short (aka Black Dahlia) in vivid prose as it’s written from the point of view of her killer attending her funeral. “Everblack” sees The Black Dahlia Murder come of age in all aspects and in many ways even more blissful and brutal than they ever were! Continue reading

Masterplan – “Novum Initium”

Masterplan – “Novum Initium” (AFM Records)

Formed at the turn of the century when guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch were asked to leave Helloween following discussions about a side project, whereupon their destiny came into being – hence Masterplan! Driven principally by Grapow, the band has featured a variety of line-ups although always made up of high calibre veterans including Riot’s Mike DiMeo as well as their on again off again relationship with vocalist Jørn Lande, who was himself replaced in 2012 by Rick Altzi (At Vance, Herman Frank etc) and joined by drummer Martin Škaroupka (Cradle Of Filth) and ex-Stratovarius / Devil’s Train bassist Jari Kainulainen. Together, this solid line up embodies Grapow’s master plan to get the band touring a lot more and if anything, “Novum Initium” reflects this in its epic, melodic songs like ‘Keep Your Dream Alive’, ‘Pray On My Soul’ and ‘Return From Avalon’. Soaring vocals, powerful rhythms and most of all, heavenly guitar and keyboard melodies executed to perfection by superior musicianship are the order of the day here, yet graced with a catchy and in some cases singalong feel. Altzi’s vocals are not a million miles away from Jørn’s and if anything they are rockier, indicating once again Masterplan’s desire to get moving on the live front. With Grapow demonstrating his finger talents equally off the fretboard in mixing and mastering the album in his own studio in Slovakia, “Novum Initium” wipes the slate clean in favour of a new start. Continue reading

From The Vastland – “Kamarikan”

From The Vastland – “Kamarikan” (Indie Recordings)

Metal from ancient Persia! You really haveta admire people who struggle against the odds to follow their dreams: such is Sina, the creator behind the one man metal project known as From The Vastland. If that wasn’t enough then when I found out that he’s based in Teheran – that’s in IRAN by the way folks – then you gotta be wondering if he’s risking life and limb to do this?! Well, Sina’s been at it for the best part of 10 years and escaped so far to produce this amazing album, which took the best part of a year to achieve. Playing all instruments, singing, as well as handling all the technical aspects I’m astounded by how good “Kamarikan” came out and truly puts some bands in the free world to shame. From The Vastland is raw black metal from the mix of cat screeching and belching vocals to the evil fretboard warblings and of course, plenty of blast beats! Amidst all the furor Sina has sensibly chucked in melodies and slow Marduk-esque riffs that take songs like ‘The Ahriman Wizard’, ‘Vortex Of Empty Cosmos’ and ‘Night Sentinel’ to a very high standard indeed and up there with his international compatriots, enjoying the support of Thor Anders Myhren (Morbid Angel, Myrkskog, Zyklon), André Kvebek (Pantheon I) and Vegard Larsen (Keep of Kalessin) in delivering his live set at the Inferno Festival this year! Drawing heavily from Persian history, mythology and Zoroastrianism, Sina has wisely stayed away from the traditional anti religious stance normally associated with black metal, which may be why he has remained tolerated by the Iranian authorities. Given this I would have liked to have seen more of his country’s musical influence coming across in the music, which for the most part is typically western, but it’s a minor gripe given to have even gotten this far should be gratitude in itself. Continue reading

Summoning – “Old Mornings Dawn”

Summoning – “Old Mornings Dawn” (Napalm Records)

This Austrian duo have been going since the mid 90s when this type of dark ambient or atmospheric black metal was being pioneered by the likes of Mortiis. Heavily keyboard driven, it sorta reminded me of some of the early programmed music on computer games back then, although it ultimately evolved into a style of its own that Summoning still purvey to this day – this being their 7th album – which coincidentally took 7 years to make! With a heavy Tolkien presence always inspiring both the band’s music and lyrics the overall atmosphere of songs like ‘The White Tower’, ‘Earthshine’ and ‘Of Pale White Morn’ is very earthy and based on folk sounds like horns and violins albeit ironically reproduced using synthesizers. Still, as with all solo / duo projects, Silenius and Protector focus their strength of composition into creating wonderfully epic songs that don’t rely on power as such, but a poignant blend of heavily reverbed sounds from black metal vocals to creatively programmed drum work also integrating guitars as well as those aforementioned traditional influences. Delicately mixed so that no one sound is overpowering, “Old Mornings Dawn” presents its multi faceted effects both majestically and in a style befitting Middle Earth! Continue reading

Diamond Drive – “Temporality”

Diamond Drive – “Temporality” (Noiseheadrecords)

Diamond Drive hail from Denmark and seem to take inspiration from their bigger brothers in Volbeat. Playing a fusion of aggro metal mixed in with powerful melodies, they have been growing steadily since their inception in 2007. Troels Pedersen’s vocals happily shift between screamo and soulful to the max whilst the rest of the band follow suit mixing brutal riffing with magnificent melodic warblings amidst a punchy aggro beat. It’s not unheard of, but Diamond Drive’s success comes from wrapping all of this in a catchy and commercially appealing package that has garnered them music awards, touring Europe several times and being invited to play the big summer festivals, where songs like ‘Soaking Wet Sun’, ‘Nineteen Eighty Fear’ and ‘Down The Drain’ seem engineered to perfection for! Now working with some of industries best, “Temporality” was produced by Jacob Bredahl (The Burning, The Kandidate, Koldborn), mastered by Tue Madsen ( The Haunted, Sick of It All, Mnemic), with cover artwork by Mircea Eftemie (Soilwork, Strapping Young Lad, Nevermore) and photos by Stefan Wessel (Rammstein, Chris Cornell, Timberland) – now that’s Formula One in my book. Continue reading

Children Of Bodom – “Halo Of Blood”

Children Of Bodom – “Halo Of Blood” (Nuclear Blast)

This is the 8th album from these Finnish melodic deathsters and in many ways it’s a return to the old days. For a start, they are back on Nuclear Blast, the label they were first licensed to for their first 3 albums as well as tours. Additionally, Peter Tägtgren, who was involved in the production of their all important 3rd album “Follow The Reaper” is once again back at the helm. Musically, the band have also returned to their roots given the blast beats – yes BLAST BEATS – and metallic clanging guitars on the likes of ‘Your Days Are Numbered’ which are highly reminiscent of one of their inspirations, namely the legendary Dissection (guess that album cover is no coincidence then either – Ed). Elsewhere they even go for a dark ballad in ‘Dead Man’s Hand On You’ where main man Alex Laiho interestingly shifts his usual raw death vocals for a deep drawl backed by a slow but heavily melancholic riff. In the main, the rest of the material like opener ‘Waste Of Skin’ follow the classic Bodom sound of epic guitar driven melodies amidst an aggressive, pounding rhythm brilliantly contrasted by even more atmospheric melodies courtesy of Janne Wirman’s keyboards. Thoroughly enjoyable, “Halo Of Blood” is a superb return to fine form for Laiho & co, drawing from the best of their past to meet today’s world head on – and all in undeniable Bodom style! Continue reading

White Wizzard – “The Devil’s Cut”

White Wizzard – “The Devil’s Cut” (Earache Records)

White Wizzard was founder / bassist Jon Leon’s response to the ‘screamo’ LA metal scene in 2007 – a leap back to the halcyon days of traditional metal of Maiden, Priest and Dio. Yet, despite achieving relative success early on, Leon has endured more line up changes than the collective efforts of those bands mentioned! Currently joining him on this 3rd full length album are vocalist Joseph Michael and guitarists Jake Dreyer and Will Wallner but who knows how long they will last. Still, savour it cos right off I’d say there’s heaps of Maiden in there from the galloping riffs to the Bruce like vocals and even a twanging Steve ‘arris bass on songs like ‘Forging The Steel’ and ‘Kings Of The Highway’. If there was a difference then it’s in the soloing which has a very US sound compared to the likes of messrs Murray, Gers and ‘H’ as well as in the more drawn out melodic passages on songs like ‘Steal Your Mind’. Although probably seen as highly clichéd in Europe, I can definitely see White Wizzard’s appeal to traditionalists especially in the US hence their undoubted popularity. Continue reading

Gothminister – “Utopia – The Movie”

Gothminister – “Utopia – The Movie” DVD (AFM Records)

Having already reviewed the album from Bjørn Alexander Brem (aka Gothminister) and found it to be a commendable effort, I was looking for something on the spectacular giving how theatrics feature so heavily in both the band’s music and obviously their image. At over an hour and a quarter my expectations were only raised by the Brem’s obvious ambition and seeming genius. In reality “Utopia – The Movie” is an hour long concert preceded by a 15 minute intro filmed on the streets of Oslo, and a shocking 5 minute outro at the end. The intro itself doesn’t compare to it’s ending, coming across no better than an average rock video with the undead being a real disappointment and making the whole experience seem rather camp. Essentially covering the concept of Brem waking up in a surrealist undead world before being transformed himself into Gothminister, whereupon the live concert begins, the culmination is himself being swallowed into the audience (zombie-fied for the occasion naturally) before the chilling mix of gore and suspense finish off the movie. Why they couldn’t have made it like that throughout the movie I’m not sure but all I can say is don’t be put off in what is otherwise another commendable effort bringing out the brilliance of Brem! Continue reading

Shining – “One One One”

Shining – “One One One” (Indie Recordings)

Definitely one of the most eclectic bands around, Norway’s Shining started off as a jazz ensemble at the the turn of the century before fusing elements of prog, screamo, indie rock and electronica into an experimental package that still leaves some wondering if it could be achieved at all! Centered around multi instrumentalist founder Jørgen Munkeby, who plays the sax, guitars, keys and also does vocals, Shining is a musical extension of his personality, which is a veritable maelstrom of genius or madness – I’ll leave you to decide which as you enjoy the utterly intense experience of wailing sax, screamo vocals and driving indie rock guitars on ‘Blackjazz Rebels’, ‘The Hurting Game’ and ‘Paint The Sky Black’. Yet despite the seeming cacophony (well it is – Ed), I think that Shining’s music would make for an even more awesome live experience as it certainly has that feel to it – Jørgen has already collaborated with Ivar of Enslaved in The Armageddon Concerto – and with this seventh album being co-produced by Sean Beavan (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson etc) the light definitely looks to be pointing favorably on Munkeby. Continue reading

Bloodbrothers II – “A Compilation of Recordings by Rock/Metal Bands From Cyprus”

Bloodbrothers II – “A Compilation of Recordings by Rock/Metal Bands From Cyprus” (Pitch Black Records)

This compilation continues the legacy of the original “Bloodbrothers” compilation, released in 1997 and now considered a hard-to-find, underground release. Capturing Cyprus’s first metal scene with bands like Regicide, Gangland and Diphtheria, the CD was the collaboration between Groovy record’s Panos and Rockshow radio’s Robert Camassa, who had returned from the US to a Cyprus devoid of metal in the airwaves, yet popular at grassroots amongst the kids. Spurred on by his radio show, demos followed and culminating in the island’s first metal scene that was captured in the compilation. Since then the scene has evolved and whilst only Armageddon remain, the members of those early bands have gone on to become promoters, own venues, run recording studios and even own labels – like Phivos of Diphtheria, who now runs Pitch Black Records, and is responsible for this next phase in the Bloodbrothers legacy. Featuring a marathon 18 bands ranging from well known names like Blynd and Arrayan Path to smaller bands like Lethal Saint and Under The Number between them they cover the full spectrum of metal from prog to femme to indie to power to NWOBHM! Whilst the production varies between some tracks what is impressive is the quality of the musicianship amongst all the bands and needless to say, their enthusiasm reflecting a truly strong scene. Bloodbrothers II is a proud and true underground compilation in the spirit of “Metal For Muthas” and “Metal Massacre” i.e. made by the fans for fans. And what became of Robert Camassa you may ask, well he still runs his Friday rock show in Cyprus faithfully to this day! Continue reading