Municipal Waste Massive Aggressive
Released: August 24 Genre: Thrash metal/hardcore Label: Earache
If I was forced to define Municipal Waste in as few words as possible, I'd probably opt for no nonsense. Four albums into their career, I'd still argue that it very much applies. Massive Aggressive is simply put more of the same. The same aggressive thrash rhythms, barked vocals and the occasionally hilarious lyrics about partying and moshing.
Municipal Waste are what they are, and if you dig their previous output, I'm sure you'll like this. I wouldn't rate it as highly as their previous two but just like those albums Massive Aggressive has its moments of old school cross-over grandeur, and some songs that fortunately will just blow right by you. Massive Aggressive is a short album with little variation, and I suppose it's fitting that the review is pretty short. After all, it took me longer to type this than to listen to the actual album.
Released: August 21 Genre: Death metal Label: Nuclear Blast
It has been a turbulent couple of years for one of the elder bands of the death metal genre. Three members out, three new in and obviously several questionmarks follow in the tracks of their new album.
I've never been the biggest fan of Vader, but they will always get a huge amount of respect from me for persevering through some hard times in the 80's and managing to break out from behind the Iron Curtain. Necropolis does not differ much from previous Vader albums. It's heavy, well-produced and has enough pent up aggression to keep you raging until next year. Vader is the type of band that works best when they stick to songs ranging from 2-4 minutes, and Necropolis does just that, clocking in at around 40 minutes split onto 13 tracks. Two of the thirteen tracks are covers (Venom's Black Metal and Metallica's Fight Fire With Fire). Neither of the covers do much to help nor hurt the overall score of the album, although it is nice to hear 2009 versions of both tracks. Necropolis is an album with a lot of positives the opening 1-2 punch might be the best you'll hear all year in the death metal genre, and the album manages to keep an even level from then on, and if one omits the two covers, the ending punches delivered by We Are The Horde and When The Sun Drowns In Black makes Necropolis end on a high note.
Released: August 7 Genre: Blackened death metal Label: Nuclear Blast/Metal Blade
Is Evangelion the most hyped black/death album of the year? Whatever the answer to that is, one can be sure that the people handling the promotion have been doing their absolute best to make sure that Evangelion tops The Apostasy when it comes to numbers and dollars. I could be blunt and say that Evangelion is just another Behemoth album, with the good and bad that comes with it, but we all know that one sentence won't cut it. Evangelion is, as per expected, very well produced. It's not slick by any means but it manages to retain clarity while having a dirty, aggressive sound. There's no slacking to be found on this album every member is locked in and never do you get the feeling that one instrument is more important than the other.
The album reaches home after 42 minutes, split onto 9 tracks, but at points I have to say that it drags a bit. Towards the middle and the end there's a noticeable drop from the opening trio of songs, and while there's nothing wrong with the latter songs, it's quite obvious that Evangelion suffers from being frontloaded. That being said, the appropriate label for the closing songs would be less interesting, as opposed to not interesting. The opening of the album sets the bar and Behemoth never seem to be able to reach those heights again as Evangelion rolls on. With all that being said, Evangelion is a very good album. I'd put it down to an album where all the individual parts are good, solid songs but when it comes to the running order, it makes the final product seem lesser than it could have been. But Evangelion is still a good listen with some killer cuts, and you should check it out.
The Black Dahlia Murder Deflorate
Released: September 15 Genre: Death metal Label: Metal Blade
To these ears, The Black Dahlia Murder managed to realise their potential with their previous album Nocturnal. Everything up until that album had been promising, if not as mesmerizing as Nocturnal turned out to be.
Deflorate continues where Nocturnal left off. It's brutal, fast, in-your-face modern death metal with a nice touch of tuneful melody present when required. The thing about TBDM is that while there's a lot of blasting and growling going on, the overall vibe is very catchy and the songs manage to stick, at least in this reviewer's head. There's been yet another change of personnel, with Ryan Knight (ex-Arsis) replacing John Kempainen. I always liked Kempainen's melodic approach to the soloing, but Knight proves with his tasty performances that he very much fits the bill. Instrumentally, the band is incredibly tight and Shannon Lucas continues to impress me with his tasty drumming and sense of how to make a song flow. Deflorate is a very good album by a band that has just hit its prime. The band knows how to play to their strengths and realise that this kind of metal is best delivered in short, ferocious bursts. While not every song is a hit, there's sufficient material to keep your head banging for months to come. I'm hesitant on whether Deflorate reaches the level of Nocturnal, but it certainly puts up a good fight.
Released: September 15 Genre: Thrash metal Label: Roadrunner
As nigh all classic thrashbands, Megadeth (or Dave Mustaine, depending on your perspective) have gone through some rough patches. When and even if that rough patch has ended for Megadeth is another discussion, but personally I'd call Megadeth's output post-Rust In Peace questionable. A lot of good songs but few albums I'd call good. My personal expectations for Endgame were pretty low, but as all albums do, Endgame arrived into my stereo with a clean slate. Dave Mustaine is The Man when it comes to his band, and as is evident, not all things pleased him when it came to the guys he was playing with. Out went Glen Drover and in came Chris Broderick. I quite like Broderick since he's a great player and seems like a good guy who is easy to get along with. Whatever the reason, Mustaine seems to have found some sort of comfort zone with Broderick, and I will have to say I am both impressed and surprised.
Endgame is a very good album and I'd have to say it's a notch or two above everything they've done since Rust In Peace. While recent outings have flirted with the technical thrash side, Endgame embraces it to an extent unseen for almost two decades. Endgame is extremely solid and there're no songs that will make you reach for that skip song button on your stereo. Obviously some songs are better than others, and the album is a tad frontloaded with cuts such as This Day We Fight and 44 Minutes being a head above the rest, but the album is definitely worth a few spins even if you gave up on Megadeth several years ago. Guitarwise, Mustaine hasn't been this intense with his riffs since, well, Rust in Peace. I hate to sound like a broken record, but that's really how I feel about Endgame. Dave has been very public about his affection for Chris Broderick and his abilities, and for those of us familiar with Chris pre-Megadeth, such praise comes as no surprise. My only questionmark regarding Broderick was whether he could pen his own solos, or if he was just a guy able to mimic other guitarists. It somewhat saddens me, but Endgame is probably the first Megadeth album since So Far So Good where I find that Mustaine outplays his partner. Chris Broderick is the complete package in all aspects but one, and that is when it comes to penning memorable leads, he falters. But details and minor componenets aside, Endgame is a fitting return to form for Megadeth and Dave Mustaine. My own personal dislike for Mustaine's antics can't make me ignore that Endgame is one of the best thrash albums we'll hear all year.
Shadows Fall Retribution
Released: September 15 Genre: Melodic metal/thrash Label: Ferret/ILG
I've always had a soft spot for Shadows Fall and have considered them to be the Testament of the New Wave of American Metal. Very talented, very capable but never seem to get the same recognition as their contemporaries. The issues with their label in recent years have been pretty public, and to be honest I'm just pleased to see them still making music.
I quite enjoyed Threads of Life, despite being much more melodic and accessible than The War Within and The Art of Balance. Given their recent issues, it perhaps comes as no surprise that Retribution is a much more aggressive and thrash-rooted affair. The band's sense for including pop melodies without it all turning into cheese is still present, but not as front and center as on Threads of Life. That being said, the choruses to songs like Dead And Gone, Still I Rise and The Taste of Fear are pretty monumental and Brian Fair continues to use his pipes in whatever way he can to help further the song. Retribution is a solid album that gets a lot of things right. I'll have to say that I preferred the more core oriented style of albums like The War Within, but all in all it's a minor complaint seeing as Shadows Fall are still growing and developing their sound. As far as simple, modern American metal goes, this year has seen few better.
Immortal All Shall Fall
Released: September 25 Genre: Black metal Label: Nuclear Blast
It is always problematic when an established, well-liked act returns from hiatus. Expectations are often enormous and very rarely does the band manage to produce an album on par with their earlier releases. Occasionally a band does manage to live up to these expectations and occasionally exceeds them, but such a feat is a rare sight indeed. So now, after 7 years since going out on a high note with Sons of Northern Darkness, where do Immortal stand?
Upon my initial listen, I began thinking along the lines of they must have been woodshedding for years, because All Shall Fall is packed with quality black metal riffs. From the opening riff of the opening song (which is also the title track), it's quite clear that All Shall Fall is Immortal firing on all cylinders, burying us all in an avalanche of frostbitten metal. During the course of it's 40-minute running time, All Shall Fall is void of mid-tempo tracks until the closing Unearthly Kingdom, which is also the first time Immortal let a song truly stretch out. The first six tracks all range from 4-6 minutes in length, give or take a dozen seconds, and all of those six tracks are up-tempo affairs. Picking out favorites amongst the seven tracks is a tough task, as I dare say all of them are of a very high standard except perhaps Unearthly Kingdom which does a good job of closing out the album, but it's just not as good as the preceeding six cuts. The production of All Shall Fall is perhaps the album's greatest strength, actual songs aside. Immortal's latter albums all had good, fitting productions but they never quite hit the bull's eye like All Shall Fall has done. It is seemingly raw, yet open enough to allow multiple layers and clarity for the respective instruments. The band has also embraced modern recording and production to achieve the punchy, thick wall of sound that is the standard of today's metal albums. Where the production truly has succeeded however is in the details department. The small, subtle effects like the phaser in the mid-section of the title track and other small additions that on the surface make a very small contribution help push this album to new heights.
All Shall Fall is front-to-back one of the best albums we'll hear all year, and one of the best comeback albums of all time as well. Immortal have done the musical equivalent of blowing their load and I wouldn't be surprised if this album sorts out the issue with global warming, because it most certainly sounds like true, grim, frostbitten winter.
Paradise Lost - Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us
Released: September 28 Genre: Gothic metal Label: Century Media
Music to get murdered by is how vocalist Nick Holmes describes the new Paradise Lost album, and it's most certainly a fitting description. Faith Divides Us is a step back for PL in terms of style, as it resembles their earlier efforts much more than their latter.
I personally prefer PL in their most melancholic, somber and down-tempo efforts. Occasionally during the course of Faith Divides Us, there are more up-tempo, riff-oriented and heavy efforts that just don't seem to click with me and to be honest I find them to be somewhat ill-fitting given the style of PL. However, songs like As Horizons End and the title track are killer tracks that deliver pure sadness and angst from the first note to the last.
Vocalist Nick Holmes aside, the main attraction for me with PL is guitarist Greg Mackintosh who delivers tasty melodic solos and melodies in abundance. As always, he shines on Faith Divides Us and helps to keep things together with his well-placed melodic outburtsts filled with emotion. While I do think Faith Divides Us is a pretty good album, in certain sections it feels a bit out-of-place. That being said, it's hard to disregard from the fact that the album contains several good songs and is book-ended by killer cuts.