Fear Factory - Mechanize
Released: February 9 Genre: Industrial/groove Label: Candlelight
I'm of the opinion that Fear Factory hasn't accomplished much since, Demanufacture, or Obsolete if I'm feeling generous and having a good day. For a band receiving a lot of press and attention that's a pretty darn long streak without much to show for. Sure, they've sold well, had big tours and all that comes with being a high profile act, but as you know this article cares little for that kind of success.
Dino Cazares proves on Mechanize that he, together with Burton C Bell is the nucleus and the creative core of Fear Factory. They come out of the gate swinging for the fences with something to prove, and it's been a damn long time since we heard Dino deliver such a beastly performance. In fact, it's nice to hear him play on something that isn't plain awful (I'm looking at you, Divine Heresy) and the interplay between Hoglan and Cazares is quite a brutal beauty to behold. The question wasn't really if Hoglan was qualified enough, but if Dino could pen riffs that would lure out the best in Hoglan. Mechanize comes out throwing punches left and right early on, but somewhere around the 30 minute mark, the Cazares/Hoglan show starts to lose a bit of its luster and Bell's political nursery rhymes are a bit more bothersome than before. But then we receive a complete curveball in Final Exit, which in a heavy-yet-gentle fashion puts this one safely away in the department of Surprisingly Good Albums.
Dark Tranquillity - We Are The Void
Released: February 24 Genre: Melodic death metal Label: Century Media
Let's step back in time a bit, back to 2007. One by one the elder statesmen of the Gothenburg melodic death metal genre had either fallen apart or weren't really part of the genre anymore. But then, somewhat out of the blue, Dark Tranquillity conjured up Fiction and it seemed like there was some hope. But as we all know, hope is a fickle thing and around three years later I find myself listening to We Are The Void, and just like that the tiny glimpse of hope is gone. Can I specifically pinpoint why We Are The Void doesn't deliver? Probably not, but I'll try to point out a few glaring errors anyways. For starters, where are the lead guitars? At this point, it seems both guitars have become rhythm guitars, only meant to provide the canvas for the keyboards. If that's not a goddamn waste, then I don't know what is. In general, the parts are all good and the guys are obviously no beginners when it comes to writing melodic death metal songs. But while this might've been the bee's knees 10-15 years ago, in the year of 2010 this sounds like just another Dark Tranquillity record, albeit with not as much spark and shimmer as one would like. The style of riffing is old, the drumming doesn't excite and while Stanne is a good lyricist, the choruses on this album accomplish little to nothing. The songs just don't take off when the chorus kicks in, and when the rest is as bland as We Are The Void is, then you're in deep trouble.
It's almost hilarious to note what a fitting title We Are The Void is, as it could be the swan song of the scene the band has been a part of for so long.
Arsis - Starve For The Devil
Released: February 9 Genre: Technical death metal Label: Nuclear Blast
While Arsis most certainly meant business on their previous effort, We Are The Nightmare, in the end it was an album full of fun hooks, shredding guitar and tasty riffs coupled with some death metal brutality. It's perhaps no surprise that Starve For The Devil leans even more to the fun-side of things, as big hook-y choruses couple with arpeggiated lead motifs and lyrics about rocking out for Satan and the like. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but James Malone & Co are talented enough to pull it all off without sounding like the distant and mentally challenged death/thrash cousin of Dragonforce.
Not every word uttered by Malone is however aimed at scoring points for the Most Tongue-In-Cheek Album of 2010. Malone's bouts with anorexia and depression also takes up space in the lyrics. With that in mind, one is almost happy that we're treated to a new Arsis album at all, nevermind how good or bad it is. Thus, it's very pleasing to hear this shred-happy 40-minute effort play out, with Arsis this time incorporating more hard rock-esque riffs and ideas. It's a lot less technical death metal than before, and perhaps it'd be better labelled technical metal, but I can be a bit lazy with sub-genres in general. Either way, it's moot because Arsis is one of the more interesting guitar albums you'll find all year.
Borknagar - Universal
Released: February 22 Genre: Progressive black metal Label: Indie Recordings
There're times when I wonder how a band like Borknagar has remained hidden for so long. Sure, you can say that they're not in the underground, or in the upper underground, or mainstream (if you really want to be ridiculous..), but the fact remains that this band hasn't created many headlines nor been frequenting the covers of big metal magazines. Borknagar plays a mix of folk rock, black metal and progressive rock, which in the end makes them a fairly accessible band considering the fairly eclectic collection of genres they usually draw from. Universal is an album that sounds extremely flat in the first listen. My initial listens tend to be pretty casual, but there's always something that catches my attention. No such thing with this album and to be honest I couldn't remember a whole lot even after spending two-three hours on the album. Part of this is because a) it's a grower and b) the album gets off to a fairly poor start, but ends well. The opening track, Havoc, is a pretty straightforward blaster which is enjoyable for its duration but ultimately incredibly forgettable. What's worth noting is that Universal is at its most focused, enjoyable and purposeful when the band focuses on the progressive side of things, often utilizing acoustic guitars and like most of the album, is dominated by the use of clean vocals. While the album stumbles out of the gate, the band pulls it all together nicely towards the second half of the album. Universal goes out on the highest note, with none other than ICS Vortex providing vocals for the album closer, My Domain.
News and tidbits from the past month:
As per usual you can drop me a message in my profile if you want me to review anything in specific for the upcoming month(s). Take care until next time and thanks for reading.