This Month In Metal: February 2010

Ellefson is back, Strmblad quits and new albums from Fear Factory, Arsis and a couple more is what's in this edition of TMIM.

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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.

UG Review Rating: 8.5

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.

UG Review Rating: 5.5

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.

Rating: 7

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.

Rating: 7

News and tidbits from the past month:

  • Symphony X are putting the finishing touches on material slated for their next album, tentatively due mid-2010 via Nuclear Blast.

  • Cynic will release a new EP called Re-Traced on May 17.

  • Mike Portnoy has completed drum tracks for Avenged Sevenfolds new album.

  • Origin have parted ways with vocalist James Lee and will have Mica Meneke (The Faceless) handling vocal duties on the upcoming tours.

  • Vital Remains are looking for a new lead guitarist.

  • Soilwork will release their new album The Panic Broadcast on June 25 via Nuclear Blast.

  • Cavalera Conspiracy will enter the studio in April to begin recording their new album, due late 2010 via Roadrunner.

  • Bullet For My Valentine will release their new album Fever on April 27 via Jive/Zomba.

  • Iron Maiden have completed the recording of their new album with producer Kevin Shirley.

  • Jesper Strmblad has quit In Flames. The band has woved to continue despite his departure.

  • Amorphis will release their first live DVD, Forging the Land of Thousand Lakes in early June via Nuclear Blast.

  • Exodus' new album has been pushed back from April 23 to May 7.

  • Blind Guardian are currently putting the finishing touches on their new album.

  • Masterplan will release their new album Time To Be King on April 16.

  • Kreator have signed a new long-term deal with Nuclear Blast.

  • Megadeth have been rejoined by original bassist David Ellefson, and thus James Lomenzo has left the band.

  • Drummer Craig Nunenmacher has left Black Label Society.

  • Trivium have officially announced Nick Augusto as their new drummer.

  • Grave Digger will enter the studio in May to record their new album.

  • Darkthrone will release Circle the Wagons on April 5 via Peaceville.

  • As I Lay Dying have set The Powerless Rise as the title of their new album, due this spring via Metal Blade. No, really, they're calling it that. No joke.

    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.

  • 95 comments sorted by best / new / date

      CoreysMonster
      so Mike Portnoy will actually be recording for A7X? that's pretty cool that he'd do that for them. At least the drums on their new record are definately going to be amazing!
      Reviewer Pete
      Plagueuponman wrote: Aw, man. No Carach Angren?
      I wanted to but I couldn't find it.
      bigtimmy wrote: does anyone know more about when nevermore's 'obsidian conspiracy' is coming out?
      Century Media has it listed as "coming soon". That's all there is for now.
      coombesyboy
      trviium new drummer is ****ing epic, see em last night in cardiff and mean wow hes pretty like the old 1 but better!
      Noremak
      I'm getting a "Powerless Rise" just thinking about AILD's new album.
      enraged_waffle
      ArseniK92 wrote: Meh. Not much going on this month.
      what?! Jesper leaving IN Flames is big enough news haha. and Mike Portnoy recordng drum tracks with A7x is neat i guess.
      Tapping_Ninja
      GS LEAD 5 wrote: Tapping_Ninja wrote: Ok .... I've lost all respect for this guy... Dark Tranquillity's new album was amazing and there are leads, I can only think of two songs that are all rhythm. I tend to agree.....I remember listening to "Dream Oblivion" over and over again 23 times....though I have to admit, Fiction and Damage Done were better.
      What about Characters??? though I love Damage Done and The gallery the most...
      Kikuta
      Plagueuponman wrote: Aw, man. No Carach Angren?
      Best release so far this year. But don't tell that to the Fear Factory fans...
      bigtimmy
      does anyone know more about when nevermore's 'obsidian conspiracy' is coming out?
      rickyj
      david coming back to megadeth and maiden finishing the recording for the next album are the only things i cared about this month
      FamilyJules7X
      To clear up why Portnoy is recording for Sevenfold, it's because he was The Rev's favorite drummer pretty much all his life. The band asked him to do it and he said it would be an honor. I know if anyone can do the Rev's drums justice it's Mike.
      mrshreddy
      @ Mechanize, i ****ing love Fear Factory, they havent sold very well actually, their biggest selling album was Obsolete which sold 250,000 copies (which is a shitload of course) but compared to some other bands like Bodom, which i reckon arent any better than FF, have had their albums sold in the high hundreds of thousands, and follow the reaper went platinum. i reckon FF is one of the most underrated bands, Mechanize was such a comeback from their packed-full-of-shit Transgression, but pretty much all their albums before transgression (and maybe archetype) have been masterpieces. i dont understand why not many like Digimortal, i reckon its a ****ing fantastic album. its got some of their best songs on it.
      Nocturne12
      metallifreak77 wrote: New As I Lay Dying album! ZOMIGOSH!!!! I am really not excited for that at all!!! This article fails to mention plenty more noteworthy releases. Maybe the author needs to change the article name to "This week in Hardcore, with a touch of Metal." Primordial DVD
      Well what the hell are these "noteworthy releases" then? Don't just bitch about it and don't give anything to back it up. And giving one DVD as an example doesn't count. As well, I'm gonna have to agree with him for the most part on DT's new album. I loved Fiction, but it's like they took everything that was off in that album and amplified it tenfold. And what's with the damn keyboards? Did they turn into Children of Bodom or something?
      TisPyon
      a single tear rolled down my cheek when i read Jesper left In Flames....
      Avedas
      At least we don't have to wait 5 years for a Symphony X album again.
      Shimekiri
      Where's Eluveitie? Everything Remains the Same as it Never Was. Is an amazing album man!
      TylerAOH&A7X
      metallifreak77 wrote: New As I Lay Dying album! ZOMIGOSH!!!! I am really not excited for that at all!!! This article fails to mention plenty more noteworthy releases. Maybe the author needs to change the article name to "This week in Hardcore, with a touch of Metal." Primordial DVD
      elitist
      Reviewer Pete
      xicetraex wrote: No Kalmah love?
      Pushed back to March.
      IRONMAIDENTLICA wrote: i take that back, that was just announced this month in march so thats probably why it wasnt mentioned, my bad...but UG has yet to put a news thing about it?
      Exactly. I don't do the news here, but I'm sure it'll be up next week.
      travislausch wrote: I can't get the feeling Reviewer Pete was missing something vital this month. I mean, this is the same guy that forgot ORPHANED LAND last month. You don't just forget Orphaned Land. I'mma scour the list of metal albums released in February and see if anything important was missed.
      I, eh, don't think that highly of Orphaned Land I'm afraid. Some stuff has to be omitted and I had around 10 albums on my list for february and I didn't end up doing some, that's how it goes.
      iH8CarAccidents wrote: Noremak wrote: I'm getting a "Powerless Rise" just thinking about AILD's new album. I think you may have unintentionally just called yourself impotent.
      *drumroll*
      c0bhc
      what the hell is wrong with the new as i lay dying album? "the powerless rise" sounds really good. someone fill me in and tell me whats wrong
      padiboy
      MrWeenie wrote: damn! i was going to suggest you listen to Within The Eye of Chaos by Daysend, an Australian band. The album came out on the 19th of Feb... pretty bloody good in my opinion.
      Ridiculously good man, not to mention their live performance is of the best standard I've ever seen
      Ibzman
      Nunenmacher quitting sounds surprising to me. Even more in the case of Stromblad of In Flames. There may be no "founding" member left but Anders Friden and Bjorn Gelotte have been there for so long, can't say they should take another name
      Dreiken
      Hopefully Jesper will be back soon, it looks like he's just going into rehab and the official statement on the website says he's definitely not done with music. So hopefully he'll go back to In Flames or go solo. Either way, it should turn out well. Also, Bjorn and Anders have been there since before Jester Race, so why should they change the name? They've been in the band for most of its existence.
      trendkill-
      RAH7747 wrote: And awesome news there with Cynic's new EP.. hopefully it'll be just as good as Traced.. or maybe, even better!
      they redid 4 songsfrom traced and relesed one new one on it
      cyphr-6
      iamalexd wrote: also...where is Veil of Maya and Perihpery? they've got better albums comming out then most of the people they've mentioned
      This.
      EpiExplorer
      iH8CarAccidents wrote: Noremak wrote: I'm getting a "Powerless Rise" just thinking about AILD's new album. I think you may have unintentionally just called yourself impotent. *drumroll*
      *ba-dum, tsh*
      Golem29
      link no1 wrote: im sure i heard the rev recorded all the drums before he died and they were using them
      No, Portnoy has definitely recorded them. Hopefully he's trolled them and made the parts compleks they're nigh near unreproducible.
      link no1
      im sure i heard the rev recorded all the drums before he died and they were using them
      iH8CarAccidents
      Noremak wrote: I'm getting a "Powerless Rise" just thinking about AILD's new album.
      I think you may have unintentionally just called yourself impotent.
      evan-simpson22
      Symphony x.. new cd, great. Iron maiden new cd.. even better. megadeth + dave ellefson. also good, but hey, mike portnoy does drums for avenge sevenfold album? hm, this means that this time the cd will include some talent
      nobrightskys
      Shimekiri wrote: Where's Eluveitie? Everything Remains the Same as it Never Was. Is an amazing album man!
      fersure dooodz, that is much a good song album!
      travislausch
      I can't get the feeling Reviewer Pete was missing something vital this month. I mean, this is the same guy that forgot ORPHANED LAND last month. You don't just forget Orphaned Land. I'mma scour the list of metal albums released in February and see if anything important was missed.
      IRONMAIDENTLICA
      i take that back, that was just announced this month in march so thats probably why it wasnt mentioned, my bad...but UG has yet to put a news thing about it?
      IRONMAIDENTLICA
      you didnt mention that iron maiden named their new album im surprised this site hasnt covered that, its called "The Final Frontier" for those dont know, and they announced a US/Europe tour...and they dont play anywhere near me in the US....bastards....
      EpiExplorer
      Shimekiri wrote: Where's Eluveitie? Everything Remains the Same as it Never Was. Is an amazing album man!
      I've done my own review on that, have a look.
      Josher.K
      "# Mike Portnoy has completed drum tracks for Avenged Sevenfolds new album." ...wut?
      RAH7747
      Pretty much a "meh" month here I suppose. I know March will be great. The new Ikuinen Kaamos album is indicative of that..
      MaorHaGeverMeod
      i don't know if to be happy or sad on one side ellefson is back to megadeth. on the other hand jesper left in flames.