This Month In Metal: January 2010

TMIM kicks off 2010 in style with releases from Ihsahn, In Mourning and more!

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Gamma Ray - To The Metal

Released: January 29 Genre: Power metal Label: earMUSIC/Edel

Gamma Ray isn't one of the bands you expect massive curveballs from. They've got their formula, their style and to a certain extent you know exactly what you're gonna get. The album will be comprised of a few up-tempo classic speed/power anthems, a ballad or two and a couple of mid-tempo steady rockers.

Unsurprisingly, To The Metal fits that template to a T. Nine times of out of ten, that's a horrible thing but I have to say that this time around, it's actually pretty enjoyable. What can generally be said about Gamma Ray is that they're at their best when they play fast and the facepalms usually come out when they attempt ballads or mid-tempo rockers, but those moments are few and far between on To The Metal.

To The Metal is a solid metal album. That's about it really. It's far from being Kai Hansen & Co's best effort, but for what it's worth it's a safe and fairly entertaining album that'll work well live and won't lose them many fans.

UG Review Rating: 7

In Mourning - Monolith

Released: January 25 Genre: Progressive/melodic death metal Label: Pulverised

In Mourning's debut Shrouded Divine made quite a splash back in 2008, and as with all successful debuts, there is a fair amount of anticipation involved with the sophomore effort.

The sound and style of their debut, and to an even greater extent their demos, plus them being from Sweden made it natural for journalists and fans to draw comparisons to their countrymen in Opeth. Those comparisons are however not as valid in 2010 as they were in 2008. In Mourning stand on their own legs now, and they are starting to develop their own sound within the progressive/melodic death genre.

With that being said, the core of their sound remains intact from the previous album and they've only performed minor touch-ups here and there. But the importance of these cannot be overstated, for the areas where they have improved greatly is composition, writing and arrangements. Shrouded Divine had a fair few sections whose segues were quirky, to put it gently, but there're no bumps in the road on Monolith.

2010 is off to a hot start (much hotter than 2009...) and Monolith leads the charge. Check it out, because given the proper treatment from label, promotion and management, they'll be a band to watch in the future.

UG Review Rating: 8.5

Ihsahn - After

Released: January 25 Genre: Progressive metal Label: Candlelight

It seems like angL was released just a few months ago, and yet here we are with a brand new album from this very prolific musician. Then again, there's not a whole lot to do in Scandinavia at this time of year, besides skiing and writing music.

If you are new to Ihsahn's post-Emperor solo output, then After will come off as very weird and very different from what you're used to hear from him. Even if you're not new to his own musical endeavors, then it might seem a bit schizophrenic. Mixing 8-string guitars and a saxophone within a metal context can do that to you, and that's exactly what Ihsahn throws our way. It is heavy, it is progressive and it is diverse. Just because you put eight strings on your guitar doesn't mean that you'll sound like Meshuggah, and to be honest if someone hadn't told me I probably wouldn't have picked up that there's a low-blurrrr string resonating at times on this album.

What truly shines through on After is Ihsahn's growth as a musician. That's not meant to knock his legendary exploits in Emperor, but when it comes to Ihsahn as a solo artist, this is probably the first time I would describe him as sounding relaxed and at peace. On previous albums it was like the shoe looked right, but it wasn't very comfortable, and thus the outcome was a bit so-and-so. After on the other hand gives us a bit of the past, a bit of the present and a taste of what'll come after After. And I personally can't wait.

UG Review Rating: 8

Heathen - The Evolution of Chaos

Released: January 26 Genre: Progressive thrash metal Label: Mascot

Almost 20 years after their second album was released, Heathen (finally!) released their third album, The Evolution of Chaos. Unfortunately for them, things didn't quite work out back in the day and thus they ended up taking a lengthy hiatus before returning to the scene in the early 00's. However, their progressive take on thrash metal is back with them, and The Evolution of Chaos is a very ambitious album.

Evolution... is more or less a riff-athon. The historical comparison would be ...And Justice For All, but a more contemporary and logical one would be Exodus' The Atrocity Exhibition. That the two are similar in style comes as no real surprise, as Lee Altus plays guitar on both albums. Given that it's been a while since Heathen released anything, I guess it's only fair that The Evolution of Chaos has more riffs than most bands can conjure up over the course of several albums.

However, the pitfalls of albums of this style and nature are well known. At times, it does feel like they're riffing and soloing away for the sake of it. An example of such would be the 11-minute cut No Stone Unturned, where a good 4-5 minutes seemingly has nothing to do with the rest of the song. Then there's the fact that the album is over an hour long and after around 45-50 minutes it does feel like a bit of a drag. There's a damn good reason why people call Heathen's demo from a few years back one of the best thrash releases in recent years. Their style and musicality is great, but they need to be able to restrain themselves and trim the fat.

Hell, cut 20 minutes from this 65-minute effort and you'd have your thrash album of the year, because that's how good it is, filler aside.

Rating: 7.5

News and tidbits from the past month:

  • Norwegian extreme metal act Zyklon have now officially disbanded.

  • Altar of Plagues have signed a deal with Candlelight Records.

  • Bonded By Blood will enter the studio in early February to begin recording their sophomore effort.

  • Kamelot will document their upcoming European Tour for a DVD.

  • Immortal recently rejected their nomination in the metal category at the Norwegian Spellemann awards, which is more or less the country's equivalent to the Grammy Awards. No reason was given, other than Immortal says no to Spellemann nomination.[...] We hereby wish to announce that we reject this nomination."

  • Brazilian metal band Angra are currently working on material for a new studio album due in the second half of 2010.

  • Legendary German hard rock band Scorpions have announced that their upcoming studio album will be their last. Prepare for a lengthy farewell however, as they plan to tour the globe for the coming two years.

  • Lamb of God will film their upcoming tour for a documentary set to be included in their next DVD release.

  • Erik Kalsbeek has left the dutch progressive metal band Textures, citing heavy touring as the main cause for his departure.

  • Trigger the Bloodshed have entered the studio to begin recording their new album, slated for a spring/early summer release.

  • Slayer are forced to cancel their immediate tour plans, due to frontman Tom Araya needing back surgery to fix...something serious.

    Thanks for reading this installment. Remember, if you want to recommend an album for next month's edition, you can just drop a comment on my profile page.

  • 85 comments sorted by best / new / date

      RocknRollRay
      Ihsahn- "Frozen Lakes on Mars" This was just up my alley. I never really liked black metal, but the way this guy projects it, really impressed me. The solos where really smooth, the vocals were spot on, and it was heavy while keeping it prog/technical. The drums lacked a bit, but they where fine. How it got less than an 8 escapes me, maybe the album as a whole isn't that good, but this one song alone got me to want to buy the album.
      Reviewer Pete
      Metal Man Kam wrote: where's the news abour trivium? They got a new drummer I think it should be on here
      Yes, and while it was expected, the news broke in...February. Not January. And for those wondering about Arsis...february release.
      akronos
      ive gotta say kudos for turning me on to ihsahn dude. ive been looking for a new "wierd" band to hold over my friends more contemporary musical heads XD
      HellScream_1231
      Just finished hearing the new In Mourning Album.Brilliant effort.Looking out for even better stuff in the future.7/10 imo.
      RocknRollRay
      In Mourning was alright, The Smoke- the heavy riffs(chorus)were pretty weak. I understand its prog but the clean vocals were meh.The solo, was trying too hard and not very melodic considering its prog, the drums could have done more to ease the tempo changes. Very Opeth like, almost too much at times, 7/10 imho.
      ReynboLightning
      The heathen album is amazing!!!And about leave no stone unturned being a riff fest I definetly agree but EVERY riff is just so killer on that song!It's one of those songs you don't truly appreciate till like the 5th or 6th listen.
      RazorTheAwesome
      I just got an update on the slayer thing, they are back on tour later this year. Like in August or something. The Denver show is August 25th that I know.
      ZombieDuck
      My respect for Immortal went up a bit, I'd say. And I LOVE this article! Now if only I had enough money to buy any of the cds...
      Cafas
      The new Immolation leaked. Doesn't come out til March, but Majesty and Decay is officially my favourite album of February.
      MetalheadforJC
      WHERE THE F*** IS LIVING SACRIFICE???!!!??!?!?!?!?!?!?! Seriously with the impression that most reviewers have on them they're worthy enough to be on this...
      Scottzar
      I'm hoping this is the American January, because Ironbound should have been on there. I hope it makes it for January, the album kicks ass! I preorded it and just got it yesterday
      kamjam7
      after is the BOMB. the others seem alright after a couple myspace listens. i'm very hesitant to even think about power metal. LOG and Meshuggah DVD should be AMAZING.
      metallifreak77
      Gamma Ray, Ihsahn, and Heathen all released great material. All worthy of a listen from any fan, I was very satisfied with all three, more blown away by Ihsahn. February is looking bright as well! Finntroll, Eluveitie and Rotting Christ all releasing new material... and maybe Jon Oliva?
      Eccer
      Yay the mods replied I must say I enjoyed In mourning's monolith, very opeth like. Ihsahn doesn't quite do it, may give it another chance sometime.
      3Stepper
      I was like, hm, ok cool. Blah blah blah heathen.. blah blah WAIT, new heathen album? YESSSS
      justinb904
      Didn't have anything about The Infinite Order by Living Sacrifice. It did only come out on the 26th so I guess it would be easy to miss, but seriously, it's an awesome album. Looks like January was a good month, some good quality albums even though there weren't a lot of them.
      travislausch
      Reviewer Pete wrote: Metal Man Kam wrote: where's the news abour trivium? They got a new drummer I think it should be on here Yes, and while it was expected, the news broke in...February. Not January. And for those wondering about Arsis...february release.
      But you still missed Orphaned Land.
      Nyhm
      omg april, may and june will be sweet months for metal. soulfly, exodus, ozzy etc...
      thehandthatfeed
      WishfulShredder wrote: I never thought Id say this but there are WAY too many prog metal bands out there now days
      yes too much
      Reviewer Pete
      travislausch wrote: Reviewer Pete wrote: Metal Man Kam wrote: where's the news abour trivium? They got a new drummer I think it should be on here Yes, and while it was expected, the news broke in...February. Not January. And for those wondering about Arsis...february release. But you still missed Orphaned Land.
      Missed, omitted, prioritized, call it what you want.
      travislausch
      Finally taking a listen to After. Eh. Not a bad album, but not great either. Just seems like typical prog-metal to me.
      AidanTDR
      Nice to see Altar of Plagues get a mention, not too many bands make it out of Cork, but they certainly deserve it!
      SanJose
      The new Heathen is awesome! Only thing I think it's weird is that they didn't mention Overkill, and they're more known than Heathen.
      devil_lamb
      larrytheguitar wrote: Lamb of God plans new DVD YES!!! Love every DVD they've ever released, glad new ones coming up. But if they do tour all thoughout 2010, it'll take forEVER.
      i agree with you.. lamb's DVD are great!!! this is the firt time they come to argentina... the place where they are going to perform is very small for a band like lamb of god but... WE'RE GONNA BRING THE F*CKING THEATRE DOWN!! and i hope to see me in the next DVD (LOL)
      eetfuk58
      crazysam23_Atax wrote: xicetraex wrote: Seems like a pretty shitty month for metal.Wtf are you talking about? Most months are much, much worse.
      agreed. the first guy just has horrible taste i music. pay no mind to him. the lamb of god dvd was good new for me, i personally always enjoy their DVD's. entertaining, insightful, and good music.
      Amuro Jay
      xicetraex wrote: Seems like a pretty shitty month for metal.
      Yeah, if you have a watermelon for a head. You watermelonhead. In Mourning's new album just keeps getting better every time I hear it.
      Deathmethod
      Didn't even know about the In Mourning album, best surprise I've received in a while.
      EpiExplorer
      Lawl at you two. Anyway, It was a pretty decent month, no shoddy deathcore involved and all the bands were good to listen to. I even bought 2 of those albums. Hell, it wasnt decent, it was epic! Gamma Ray and Ihsahn in particular. Haaaail to the mehtaaaal!
      larrytheguitar
      Lamb of God plans new DVD YES!!! Love every DVD they've ever released, glad new ones coming up. But if they do tour all thoughout 2010, it'll take forEVER.
      travislausch
      No Orphaned Land? You should be ashamed. Mabool was a rare example of an album that's perfect in every way, and they FINALLY released its follow up last month.
      Lion_Slicer
      Progressive doesn't really mean a genre amymore, any good band is going to incorporate several progressive elements or they aren't going to be fresh. And how about Arsis? I haven't listened to it much yet but it made a positive first impression even if I don't think it could match some of their other amazing albums.
      crazysam23_Atax
      xicetraex wrote: Seems like a pretty shitty month for metal.
      Wtf are you talking about? Most months are much, much worse.
      Ali-b912
      Reviewer Pete wrote: I didn't even think about that I labelled 3/4 bands as progressive in some way. They're all so very different from one another.
      We need to invent more words. Progressive doesn't really fit alot of the bands it's applied to.