After The Burial - Rareform
Release date: July 22 Genres: Death Metal/Hardcore/Progressive Label: Sumerian
I suppose we've all heard albums that have immediately struck us as 'fun' albums. Early Van Halen is often called 'fun music', and I find that fun metal music comes out when the musicians let it rip while keeping it tasty. After The Burial are extremely skilled at doing just that -- playing technical yet catchy music, and most importantly playing to their strengths. The 8 tracks clock in at a total of 35 minutes and you don't need any more. If you like your metal filled with big choruses, looks elsewhere. If you like your metal filled with catchy shred, instrumental prowess and some good ol' mosh-inducing breakdowns... buy it! Rareform is an album consisting of just that -- catchy melodies, soloing, Meshuggah-esque breakdowns and all in all songs that are plain fun to listen to. Why? Because one can tell that these guitarists are having fun, dropping into leads when they feel like it and when they do, it helps the song because the leads are very musical (i.e. not wank or plain crap). And then there's an even bigger hook -- the album is, by modern standards, very short and since it's all quite fun to listen to, it leaves you yearning for more. Just the way it should be.
The vocals are perhaps not the album's strongest point, but they don't hurt the case either. The delivery is somewhat standard -core screaming, yet it complements the 8-string playing quite nicely and since there're so many nice melodies provided by the other instruments (2 x guitar, drum, bass, vocals by the way) it doesn't turn into a monotone mess. Musically one could call it technical, melodic death metal and that would boil it down quite well, but it'd also leave out the obvious Meshuggah-inspiration. Either way, Rareform is a very enjoyable album full of fun shredding, fun tunes and as I type this I realise that Arsis just got some competition for Guitar Album Of The Year... so far, anyways.
Blaze Bayley - The Man Who Would Not Die
Release date: July 7 Genres: Heavy/Melodic Metal Label: Blaze Bayley
Poor Blaze, he just can't win. After a career in Iron Maiden that most regard as the darkest days of the band, his own career just can't seem to lift before it's shot down, over and over again. His misfortunes in the business eventually led to him releasing this album on his own label, and indeed the lyrics and general vibe of the album echoes much of the man's past experiences.
Blaze's solo albums tend to be made up of traditional and thus melodic metal, some thrashy riffs and generally what you could categorise as modern heavy metal. When one chooses to operate within such parameters, it's quite obvious that it's all about the song. You need tunes in order to deliver a quality album because you won't get any free points for instrumental prowess or spicing things up by incorporating other styles into your music. Blaze and his current band members do deliver quite a few nice rocking tunes, and also a few that don't rock all that much. Sounds like a whole lot of albums out there, doesn't it?
There's nothing inherently wrong with Blaze and his albums -- it's just that they're far from anything special. Despite that certain cliques of the Maiden fanbase want you to think that Blaze is the Messiah and whatnot, I can safely tell you that he is not. Blaze is a good guy who's gotten a decent set of cards in his life and when the flop comes around it just won't work out for him. His voice is not one that can carry a career and create a legacy just by itself. He's an average singer, writing and putting out average metal. And The Man Who Would Not Die does not stray from that path.
Soulfly - Conquer
Release date: July 29 Genres: Metal/Thrash/Hardcore Label: Roadrunner
Max Cavalera has been quite a busy bee over his now quite lengthy career, and maybe that's why the creative well has started to run a bit dry... not that it ever was very deep. Sarcastic comments from yours truly aside, it's hardly rocket science. Max is a very dependable writer and his music will always be of a certain quality, much like a modern version of Motorhead I suppose. You can bet your rear end that the first track will be a mosh fest with a riotous chorus screaming dissent against the establishment. You can bet what's left of that rear end of yours that the rest of the album will follow the same established path for another 45-or-so minutes. And there you have your Soulfly album. It's not necessarily a bad thing, obviously. Fans get what they want, Max doesn't have to pick up a dictionary to come up with new words (the chorus Scream motherf--ker, scream motherf--ker, scream motherf--ker, doom! will for sure be a hit with every simpleton in the world), Roadrunner cashes in and everyone's happy... but I digress.
It would be nice to see Max & Co try something new (it would certainly give him a higher rating in this column) because despite a few nice tracks, Conquer is very forgettable and could be found in a dictionary, accompanying the word 'mundane'. And yes Soulfly fans, I know I'm no-one and he (Max) doesn't care what I think. And I'm cool with that.
News And Tidbits From The Past Month
Amon Amarth's new album Twilight Of The Thunder God will be out in most markets from mid to late September.
Fellow countrymen The Haunted will release their new album Versus in late September.
Psycroptic's new album entitled Ob(Servant) will be released sometime this fall.
Jeff Loomis of Nevermore will release his solo album Zero Order Phase on September 30th.
All That Remains recently posted some new songs on their MySpace page. Check 'em out if you like.
Four former members of The Crown have reunited in a currently unnamed project. They are currently recording a death/thrash album with an as of yet undisclosed singer.
Finland's Insomnium will enter the studio in March to record their fourth album.
Bay Area thrashers Heathen are currently in the studio working on a new album due later this year.
Cynic will release their new album Traced In Air on October 27th. I personally can't wait.
Heaven & Hell have reportedly written six or seven new songs for their upcoming new album.
Between The Buried And Me will release their live album on October 18. As previously reported, it consists of their 2007 release Colors in its entirety, and a second set of songs picked by their fans.
Lamb Of God will enter the studio in September to start working on a new album, tentatively due Q1 2009.
Unearth have set The March as the title for their new album, due October 14th.
July was a pretty lame month for metal, but August looks a bit better with releases from Dragonforce and Slipknot... and then September will roll around with albums from Metallica, Trivium, The Haunted and tons more. As usual, if you have recommendations, thoughts, ideas, love or hate mail, do write them down below or drop me a message in my profile.
Finally, give your thoughts and prayers to Blaze Bayley's wife who recently suffered a brain haemorrhage and has since been in a coma. We hope for a swift recovery.