This Month In Metal: April 2009

Heaven & Hell, Chimaira, Candlemass and many more in this edition of This Month In Metal.

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Heaven & Hell The Devil You Know

Released: April 28 Genre: Heavy/Doom Metal Label: Rhino

I'll go out on a limb and say that just about everyone who's into metal likes Black Sabbath to some extent. And to me, this is Black Sabbath under a different moniker. I've always had a soft spot for Iommi, being a lefty and an SG player myself, so naturally I'm quite happy about getting to hear a new album full of his classic riffs. The opening track Atom & Evil is a doom-filled 5-minute affair that not so much gets the ball rolling, but puts it in motion and the opening trio of songs help the album get off to a promising start. Especially the single and third track, entitled Bible Black, is like much the rest of the album reminiscent of the Heaven & Hell album. In fact it could be said that they've barely missed a beat in the past 25-or-so-years, based on the opening of this album. The similarities between 80's Sabbath with Dio and this album are pretty obvious, and that is both the album's main strength and weakness.

The entire band delivers solid performances that can stand up to anything they've put out, in terms of musicianship and execution. Dio is almost frighteningly good considering he was born around the Third Crusade, and Butler delivers the tasty, classy basslines we've come to take for granted from him. However, songwriting is always paramount and how does The Devil You Know line up to that? Well, as previously stated, the opening trio is excellent and while it doesn't end there, the album gets decidedly weaker as it goes. Eating the Cannibals is a pretty good rocker ruined by mediocre-to-bad lyrics, and by the time the closing duo of songs roll by, I find that the album struggles to keep my attention. Like I said, the album's main strength is also its weakness. The album sounds exactly as I expected, and while there's definitely something to be said for reliability and sticking to your guns, I tend to prefer and favor bands and albums that push the envelope. Tony Iommi most certainly has done his fair share of envelope-pushing in the days, virtually inventing heavy metal, but The Devil You Know sounds like 1982 to me and that's really the problem it sounds just like they did back in the day. The bottom line is that it's a fine album, but I don't see much of a reason to listen to it when I have Heaven & Hell and The Mob Rules in my collection.

UG Review Rating: 6

Chimaira The Infection

Released: April 27 Genre: Metalcore Label: Nuclear Blast

I'm a fan of variation. I like music that progresses, that doesn't rest on stale standards and that tries to expand the definition of 'metal'. Thus, I've had a hard time trying to enjoy Chimaira's new effort.

I can't say that I've listened to Resurrection in a long time, but I do recall enjoying it a bit. The Infection is, well, a pretty unvaried effort. The album sports a modern, slick yet aggressive production as per expected, tight chugging guitars and bass-drumming that follows the rhythmic structure set by said guitars. Mark Hunter's vocal endeavours are somewhat expanded this time around, by adding a death growl to the mix, but I would recommend to abstain from further implementing it in future releases, because it's not very well done. Now, my primary source of criticism tempos. The first three songs basically start with breakdowns (if you ignore the opening calm, quiet minute at the start of the album), but they never seem to pick up in speed or vary that beat much, bar adding straight double-bass here and there. The Infection is a mid-tempo based effort, lacking any real punches, and it more or less just jabs along over the course of it's 50-ish minute existence, throwing in breakdowns from nowhere and killing any flow it has managed to build up. The album isn't without merit there're quite a few good sections and riffs that could've been pieces of a much bigger and better puzzle. The keyboard player also has taken on a bigger role, adding a softer and gentler touch to Chimaira's sound. But then again, what is a metal album worth when the best and only worthwile sections are the soft and gentle ones?

UG Review Rating: 3

Candlemass Death Magic Doom

Released: April 3 Genre: Doom Metal Label: Nuclear Blast

I suppose quite a few of us thought Candlemass were, excuse the pun, doomed when it was announced that Messiah Marcolin was out of the band for good. But in stepped Rob Lowe and what a pleasant surprise 2007's excellent The King of the Grey Islands turned out to be. Naturally, expectations rise with an album like that in the bag, but does Edling & Co deliver? The album opens with a pretty up-tempo song, which certainly feels a bit unusual given this being Candlemass and everything. There's no question that Rob Lowe, once again, sings his rear end off and delivers on the high level one can expect from the man. What was originally the title track before they changed the name of the album comes next and features that slow and crushingly heavy groove we've to come to know and love, which reeks of early Candlemass on all fronts. The song itself is almost a carbon copy of Black Sabbath (the song), in that it starts out slow and heavy, which an eery melody in the verses, to then speed up during the bridge. I wouldn't call it much of a rip-off, rather a tribute and tip of the hat to the band who invented the sound and style. Soundwise, it's pretty uneventful either way. The production is, bluntly put, very good. There's not a whole lot that can go wrong when your sound is so simple and you combine it with today's recording technology. In terms of individual performances, we've already discussed Rob Lowe, but Lars Johansson deserves a mention for his tasty, melodic leads. There's no overplaying or shred just for the sake of it, he just plays what the song demands and requires. Candlemass won't change their sound 20+ years after establishing it, and that's just the way it is. King of the Grey Islands was full of killer songs, front to back, but for whatever reason, I don't find Death Magic Doom to possess the same kind of mesmerising song-writing. The opening 20-or-so minutes are very good, but there's a slight drop around the time House of Thousand Voices and Dead Angel roll by. I suppose one could call all parts of an album critical, be it opening, middle or back, but it's hard to get an album to stick when all the killers are delivered one-by-one early on, and after that it's a bit hit and miss. Death Magic Doom isn't bad by any means, but there's a significant drop in quality around the three-quarter mark. Luckily, My Funeral Dreams is a very good song to end an album with, despite that the melody for My funeral dreams is more or less identical to the one for The Hammer Of Doom. Death Magic Doom is a pretty good album, and can serve as a good introduction for new fans, but they have made much better albums.

Rating: 7

Trigger the Bloodshed The Great Depression

Released: April 6 Genre: Death Metal Label: Metal Blade

If you look up no-nonsense in a thesaurus, then you get synonyms such as 'direct' and 'efficient'. Those two words sum up my feelings regarding this album quite well, and if I didn't know that the head honcho here at UG demands more than two words in my reviews, I'd just leave it at that. The somewhat more elaborated version is that The Great Depression is brutal, face-to-the-mace death metal played at breakneck speed with deep growls, blast beats and intense riffing. For many years, the definition of death metal has been pushed further and further away from the original style, by incorporating other genres, techniques and influences. Trigger the Bloodshed utilise very little of this and instead opt for the Slayer-approach: 30 minutes of full-on brutality with no speed limits. And I must say that it works quite well in this case. The Great Depression is a very simple album that aspect, despite it being a very demanding album from a technical perspective. The songs range from three to four and a half minutes, the album itself is thirtyfour minutes long and the album contains eleven tracks. A case can easily be made that ten of those songs are very similar in style, containing the elements listed in the opening paragraph. However, the albums gives us a breather at the halfway mark, in the shape of 70 seconds of ambient noise, aptly entitled Interlude. Without that little break, the album would more or less be one, long chain of brutality with no breathers or dynamics. One shouldn't be fooled and believe that this is a top 5 album at the end of the year. In the end, it's just a very, very brutal album, but it's also a very good one at that. It's short, simple and to the point and in this day of bloated releases, that goes quite a long way. It's an album for those times when you feel like getting run over by a train, but would like to avoid the part about dying.

Rating: 7.5

Hacride Lazarus

Released: April 20 Genre: Progressive Metal Label: Listenable

With some bands and albums, you get a certain uneasy feeling. You simply do not know where they're gonna go. Will they throw in a quiet section? Breakdown? Aliens? Rick Astley!? Lazarus is one of those albums, completely ignoring every conceivable rule regarding song structure and arrangements. Upon the first listen, one could best describe it as controlled chaos, because the songs seem to go where they please, seemingly without control or restraint. And therein lies the charm.

The band seems to move along as some kind of four-headed schizophrene behemoth, yet it's all done in beautiful time, with complex movement and they don't miss a step along the way. The number of bands you could suggest as possible influences is quite staggering, but never do you come across a passage that makes you think oh, they ripped off that band here, how cheap. The music is beautifully complex, with time signatures shifting and changing seamlessly and without much effort to boot. Musically, it lies closer to modern progressive metal along the lines of Meshuggah and other modern American metal bands who have flirted with progressive tendencies, while not so much the classic prog-metal bands like Dream Theater and Fates Warning.

I will have to say that I am somewhat on the fence as to my opinion of this album. It's one of those pieces that requires a full listen and your complete attention in order for you to pick up on the small details. My head absolutely loves this album, because it's so wonderfully detailed and precise in its execution, but while it messes with my head, it doesn't hit me in the heart. But I hope further listening will amend that. Either way, it's a very good album and dedicated listeners will be rewarded.

UG Review Rating: 8

News and tidbits from the past month:

  • Job For A Cowboy will release their new album Ruination in July via Metal Blade.

  • Winds of Plague have begun recording their new album The Great Stone War, set for a late 2009 release.

  • Destroyer 666 will release their new album, "Defiance" on June 22.

  • Gnostic will release their new album Engineering the Rule on May 25.

  • Fear Factory have reformed with a new line-up consisting of Dino Cazares, Burton C Bell, Gene Hoglan and Byron Stroud. The band will play a number of shows this summer and also record a new studio album.

  • Kamelot will enter the studio in June, to work on a new album tentatively due around the New Year.

  • Severe Torture have begun work on a new album and plan to enter a studio in September.

  • Ragnarok will release their new album Collectors of the King later in the year, via Regain.

  • Korpiklaani's new album Karkelo will be released on June 26th via Nuclear Blast.

  • Suffocation's new album Blood Oath will be released on July 3rd in Europe and July 14th in the USA.

  • Ensiferum have begun recording their new album, which will be released on September 9th.

  • Dying Fetus have begun work on their new album, tentatively due in September via Relapse.

  • Jorn Lande has rejoined Masterplan. No further news regarding recording/touring is available at this point.

  • Artillery will release their new album When Death Comes in June via Metal Mind.

  • 1349 will release their new album Revelations of the Black Flame on June 2nd.

  • Nile are currently in pre-production for their new album, and are hoping to deliver the finished product in July.

  • Immortal have begun work on their new studio album. No further news available at the time regarding titles or release date.

  • Behemoth have set Evangelion as the title of their new album, due in the summer.

  • Killswitch Engage will release their new self-titled album via Roadrunner on June 30th.

    Please understand that this is just a handful of the news and press releases from the month of April. Were I to include all of them, then I'd be busy until next year!

  • 92 comments sorted by best / new / date

      beelaal85
      @Reviewer Pete: The Devil You Know 6/10 , The Infection 3/10 ... At least an eight for both of them...
      webbtje
      DeAd-RiP wrote: I didn't expect fear factory to reform ever... I thought they all hated each other.... Then again the reason for their success (Raymond Herrera) won't be in the reformed line up.
      Mate, they're getting Gene Hoglan instead. GENE HOGLAN. Doesn't even compare.
      Reviewer Pete
      Scathing Why didn't you write about Dream Theater's new album?
      Why should I? It's not out, and the news regarding the release date has been out since mid-March.
      Thyrfing
      Death Magic Doom is probably my second favorite Candlemass album. Probably the best album of 09 so far for me.
      Scathing
      Nice. "The Devil You Know" is a great album. It really sounds like their 80's but I still like it and I disagree with you. Killswitch's will realese new album... sweet... waiting for it. Why didn't you write about Dream Theater's new album?
      webbtje
      jonnowev wrote: 3/10 for The Infection is a complete joke. Do you have something against the band or something? I mean if you don't like it, it's impossible to deny that it's still a solid modern metal album that deserves 5/10 at the absolute least. That review was just bizzare and unfounded...
      I like Chimaira. It was a crap album. Does not compare to Resurrection or anything else they've done, for that matter. Also, reviews = subjective, like it or not. It's not a complete joke, he just didn't like it, and neither do a lot of people. How was the review 'unfounded'? It's not like he said it was a collection of folk songs.
      jonnowev
      3/10 for The Infection is a complete joke. Do you have something against the band or something? I mean if you don't like it, it's impossible to deny that it's still a solid modern metal album that deserves 5/10 at the absolute least. That review was just bizzare and unfounded...
      LarksTongue67
      I read this article and went and got Lazarus and... it is one of the best listens of the year, no problem.
      Metallidethium
      Reviewer Pete : turbonegro111 wrote: this article pisses me off on a monthly basis, it seems that every progressive album gets at least 8/10 Oh, don't worry. I'm fairly sure I'll give an upcoming progressive album a score that'll send the roofs off these buildings.
      im thinking dream theater. cannot wait for that album..
      nautiluspfd
      usually i completely agree with all of your reviews but this time i think you are a bit off on the black sab...er heaven and hell album. i dont think it resembles either heaven and hell the album or mob rules. it actually sounds identical to the dehumanizer album which shares more of the diminished sludgy feel that the devil you know has. the eighties stuff was much more upbeat and major sounding
      akronos
      progressive metal spoils other music for you because you realize just how much better it is than the other genres lol. seriously tho, I cant wait to hear lazarus
      Skelarot
      This bloody reviewer always gives any album classed under Heavy Metal / Hard Rock a low / average score where it gets to the point that you can read the genre of an album and guess the score. This guy favours Prog Metal, Death Metal, and Technical Death waaaay too much that it becomes biased and obvious in his reviews.
      oldschoolthrash
      I came when I saw that Dino and Hoglan are in FF now. Christian was alright, but Dino ****ing rapes on the FF songs
      webbtje
      Kimera wrote: didn't like this hacride album. Fades next to gojira
      As ever, every french band is compared to Gojira. Grow up. It's like comparing an apple to a table in this case.
      DeAd-RiP
      I didn't expect fear factory to reform ever... I thought they all hated each other.... Then again the reason for their success (Raymond Herrera) won't be in the reformed line up.
      Flariduh
      you forgot darkest hour is finished recording a new album out june, as well as threat signals new album being released, and of course born of osiris's new album also out june.
      webbtje
      Legionator wrote: I ****ing love Chimaira's new Album, a 3 is ****ing preposterous it deserves at least a 7. This reviewer doesn't now wtf hes talking about saying that the death growls were bad is ignorant because they obviously aren't. I know we all can't like the same stuff but i thought he was wrong on many points.
      He probably listens to a lot more death metal than you.
      Legionator
      I ****ing love Chimaira's new Album, a 3 is ****ing preposterous it deserves at least a 7. This reviewer doesn't now wtf hes talking about saying that the death growls were bad is ignorant because they obviously aren't. I know we all can't like the same stuff but i thought he was wrong on many points.
      D-Wades
      this helps my hunt 4 good metal so much. im sick of the screamo crap its gettin a little old
      freak180
      MasterOfCows wrote: chasesrc wrote: What the HELL is A Fall Out Boy? It's from the Simpsons. Not defending Fall Out Boy or anything, but I hate when people talk about their name. There's much better stuff to hate them for, such as their music.
      +1
      MasterOfCows
      chasesrc wrote: What the HELL is A Fall Out Boy?
      It's from the Simpsons. Not defending Fall Out Boy or anything, but I hate when people talk about their name. There's much better stuff to hate them for, such as their music.
      deafening
      Pretty_Much wrote: And Born of Osiris are suppose to release a new album in July aswell.
      HELL YES! should be in the article
      wildchild6660
      I don't always agree with pete, but I'm check out the Hacride album right now and it is FUCKIN awesome. I'm not a big prog metal fan, but this one is pretty good
      webbtje
      roosterfx1 wrote: chimaira 3/10? now ive seen it all. what next? fall out boy 9/10?
      Yeah, because that isn't like comparing a window to a pillow.
      webbtje
      duncang wrote: Stop making comparisons between household items!
      They're the first things I think of!
      duncang
      webbtje wrote: roosterfx1 wrote: chimaira 3/10? now ive seen it all. what next? fall out boy 9/10? Yeah, because that isn't like comparing a window to a pillow.
      Stop making comparisons between household items!
      200tommo791
      Reviewer whoever you are, I thank Christ I am not the only damn one who has a real struggle listening to the stale and painful "The Infection" album. I respect your reviewing, you never seem biased and always give everything a chance, so thanks for the reviews. It open's my mind. Peace
      Reviewer Pete
      roosterfx1 wrote: chimaira 3/10? now ive seen it all. what next? fall out boy 9/10?
      Then you haven't seen it all.
      123-Trav
      Reviewer Pete wrote: BTBAM enter the studio on May 31st, so I guess pre-production is more or less done.
      I just came a little bit.
      Clabbe
      Let's hope this year in metal will be good. 1349 with new album !
      alex:is:win8
      idk if this is accurate or if its in the right genre, but what about Entwine's new album "Painstained"? i think that would fit in metal...?
      MustangMan311
      orestisk8 wrote: war from a harlots mouth released a new album how come u didnt review it?...anw really good reviews i agree on most of your ratings
      Yeah, too bad it's horrible. Good band, but also not metal.
      huevos
      Reviewer Pete wrote: orestisk8 wrote: war from a harlots mouth released a new album how come u didnt review it?...anw really good reviews i agree on most of your ratings I wouldn't really categorize them as a metal band. More along the lines of experimental hardcore. There're parts in their sound that can be found in metal, but in the end I wouldn't call them metal. Still a good band though .
      Yes and yes. Didn't know they had a new album out. I'll have to check this out.