This Month In Metal: July 2009

News and reviews of Job For A Cowboy, Drudkh, Born of Osiris and more in this edition of This Month In Metal.

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Job For A Cowboy - Ruination

Released: July 7 Genre: Death metal Label: Metal Blade

Job For A Cowboy's debut album was, mildly put, a controversial release. Hot Topic kids raved about the brutality and death metal purists cringed at the contamination of their favorite genre. Personally, I was a bit indifferent to Genesis and figured that at least it was better that the kids spent their money on Genesis than the usual drivel we see frequenting the Billboard charts. Ruination is pretty much more of the same, but with some tweaks here and there. The core element plays a lesser role and the overall style leans more toward regular death metal. As is common with younger bands, the individual growh and maturity is easy to spot. Everything from hooks, riffs, leads, vocals and drums (I'd like to include bass, but since it's largely inaudible) have been improved by a notch or two and where Genesis felt insecure, Ruination feels confident.

However, the majority of the album sits firmly in the average-to-good portion of the scale. While the band has improved, they are still a pretty average death metal band. Everything on this album, front to back, has been done before and with much better execution. It's not really until the title track closes out the 40-minute-affair that they start firing on all cylinders and in turn makes one wonder if they maybe are capable of producing a killer death metal album. But even if they one day do manage that, Ruination will go down in history as just another death metal album.

UG Review Rating: 6

Divine Heresy Bringer of Plagues

Released: July 28 Genre: Metalcore Label: Roadrunner

Amidst all the Fear Factory reformation lunacy, Dino & Co had time to churn out another Divine Heresy album. I won't beat around the bush and bluntly state that the outfit's first effort was one of the most futile and useless releases of that year. Needless to say, I had little to no expectations for Bringer of Plagues once it was announced.

Dino Cazares can definitely crank out some great riffs, and while Bringer of Plagues is nowhere near his shining moments, his performance is still worth a listen or two. There're quite a few strong riffs and hooks present, but sadly Dino sets down a path none of his bandmates manage to follow. Tim Yeung is no slouch on the drums, and I doubt few would argue that he is machine-like behind the kit. His creativity matches that of a machine however, and in large the album sounds like Dino programmed a drummachine to follow his every beat and groove. Tim is a capable drummer (you don't get to play with Nile if you can't hack it), but it would be nice if he actually outlined a rhythm himself for once, and didn't just play catch with Dino's chug-a-chug riffs.

While the album is, or at least attempts to be, pretty brutal, the vocals blow away every pretention of such a sound. You want clich formula? You got it. Screamed core vocals in verses, clean singing in the choruses. That's more or less the entire the album in a nutshell, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that at times the clean vocals made me cringe. There are times when the clean vocals do add a dimension, like The Battle of J. Casey, but mostly it's just plain awful (Redefine, Darkness Embedded).

Bringer of Plagues is a polished, generic attempt at brutal metal coupled with awful vocals. While there're one or two worthwile cuts to be heard, the rest of the album is more than forgettable.

UG Review Rating: 4

Ahab The Divinity of Oceans

Released: July 22 Genre: Funeral Doom Label: Napalm

Following up a debut like The Call of the Wretched Sea is not an easy task, but Ahab seem to have taken it with ease. The band has taken the incredibly slow, heavy and atmopheric sound of their debut and expanded on it. Where The Call had heavy riff after heavy riff following one another, The Divinity of Oceans sees the band progress, implementing several soft, clean sections where Droste's vocals are allowed to go from deep gutturals to a somber and melancholic clean voice. From an artistic angle, it's a great move which allows the band to be more dynamic and make the doom riffs sound even heavier. Furthermore, The Divinity of Oceans is much more melodic than its predecessor. If one wishes to talk about an album having a certain air about itself, then Divinity certainly is melancholic all the time, either delivered by the guitar melodies or Droste's vocals. Divinity clocks in at about an hour and I have to say that unfortunately it feels like it is that long. Not all the compositions manage to go all the way, and around the halfway mark I don't find the album to be as strong as the bookends are. Maybe a few minutes here and there could've been cut, but when one looks at the full picture, The Divinity of Oceans is a strong album well worth your attention.

UG Review Rating: 7

Devildriver Pray For Villains

Released: July 14 Genre: Groove Metal Label: Roadrunner

Devildriver were a band that didn't excite me much, until they released The Last Kind Words in 2007. In the end it went down as one of my feel-good albums of that year, and I was naturally hoping that Pray For Villains would strike me the same way. Upon the initial listens one can be certain of one thing Devildriver hasn't seen much reason to change their formula and sound. Dez Fafara delivers his renegade-macho-lyricism with the same trademark bark, the riffing is filled to the brim with groove and melodic leads drop in every now and then to spice things up. As is always the case when a band sticks to their formula, what essentially decides the quality of the release is how good the compositions are.

Unfortunately, I'll have to say that this time around the material doesn't seem to be as strong across the board as The Last Kind Words was. Obviously it's hard to point out specifics when you speak about songwriting, but when sitting down and listening to the album in its entirety, front-to-back, it feels like a drag at times. The problem is that a) the album is 56 minutes long and b) consists of 13 songs. Think about it, how many bands can write thirteen songs without a few fillers slipping in? Scratch a few duds, and all of a sudden the album would've come off as a much more consistent piece. There're still a handful of good songs on Pray For Villains, but when looking at the entire album, it's just too bland.

UG Review Rating: 5

Drudkh Microcosmos

Released: July 14(US) Genre: Black/Folk Metal Label: Season Of Mist

Microcosmos is one of those albums that are so filled with melancholy that listening to them on anything but a rainy, gloomy day would seem out of place and downright wrong. Fortunately, it is such a day for me.

Microcosmos takes more than one leaf out of the Book of Burzum when it comes to creating black metal. It is dark and repetitive but coupled with a folk influence and a penchant for moodswings and tempochanges that are often mesmerizing. When they achieve that flow, where the rhythm section keeps the music moving and the guitars are allowed to add layer after layer (like in Everything Unsaid Before), then Drudkh are absolutely amazing. It's a shame that they don't manage that for the entire duration of Microcosmos, but then again if they did that we'd be treated to one of the finest black metal albums in many, many years.

Drudkh have penned a pretty good album in Microcosmos. It is not without flaws, as some of the pieces don't reach the heights of others, but if you like atmospheric black metal with a touch of folk on the side, don't hesitate.

Rating: 7

Born of Osiris A Higher Place

Released: July 7 Genre: Progressive Death Metal Label: Sumerian

Born of Osiris plays a mix of modern (American) death metal, mix in a few core breakdowns and finally a touch of progressive metal. A Higher Place clocks in at 34 minutes split onto 13 tracks and is the group's second effort.

What immediately strikes me is that the guitars aren't very well produced, unless you like your rhythms dry and with a lot of treble. Apart from that, it's your standard contemporary metal production with punchy drums and a big, beefy low end.

I'll join the crowd who thinks that A Higher Place at times sounds a fair bit like The Faceless, and the reason for that might be because if I recall correctly, Michael Keene of the Faceless did produce this album. Either way, the album is full tempo changes, guitar leads, technical riffs and guttural vocals which at times make for a real facecrusher, and at times for a song that doesn't accomplish much more than following the outlined formula.

A Higher Place is a pretty good album by a band that while promising needs to branch out more to fulfill their potential. The biggest improvement would be if the vocals were a bit more dynamic, as we're often treated to gentler sections with keyboards and melodic guitars, yet the vocalist screams/growls on as if it was the breakdown of all breakdowns. And, as previously stated in this article, how many bands manage to pen 13 quality songs on an album? 34 minutes isn't a lot, but if you can't make each song unique from one another, then 34 minutes will seem like 60.

UG Review Rating: 5.5

News and tidbits from the past month:

  • Insomnium will release their fourth album, Across the Dark on September 7th via Candlelight.

  • Trigger the Bloodshed has parted with drummer Max Blunos, and has replaced him with Dan Wilding of Aborted.

  • Arsis has announced Starve For The Devil as the title of their new album, tentatively due early in 2010.

  • Between the Buried And Me will release The Great Misdirect on October 27th via Victory.

  • Scar Symmetry will release their new album Dark Matter Dimensions in October via Nuclear Blast.

  • Baroness have set Blue Record as the title of their upcoming album, due in October via Relapse.

  • Unleashed have signed a deal with Nuclear Blast.

  • Burst have chosen to go on an indefinite hiatus, citing a lack of motivation and energy as one of the reasons behind the decision.

  • Dark Tranquillity will release a new concert DVD/CD entitled Where Death Is Most Alive on October 26 via Century Media.

  • Marduk will release their new album Wormwood via Regain in September.

  • Anthrax has parted ways with vocalist Dan Nelson.

  • Marionette has set Enemies as the title of their new album, due in October via Listenable.

  • Dethklok's new album The Dethalbum II will be released on September 8.

  • Dying Fetus will release Descend Into Depravity on September 15 via Relapse.

  • Swallow the Sun will release New Moon on November 10 via Spinefarm.

  • Hypocrisy will release A Taste of Extreme Divinity on October 23rd via Nuclear Blast.

  • Immortal's new album All Shall Fall will be released on October 6 via Nuclear Blast.

  • 158 comments sorted by best / new / date

      duncang
      sammo_boi wrote: if i was RP i wouldn't bother writing these anymore. the amount of shit you people hang on his reviews...
      He's a masochistic freak. Less than three. Checked.
      EpiExplorer
      Brutalious wrote: Devildriver got a 5 because they're a really bland and boring band that loses steam after every intro in all of their songs.
      Sir, you obviously have the attention span of a puppy.
      Gryphon999
      september is always the best metal month for me! oh and Immortal's All Shall Fall will be released on the 6th of October in the US and the 25th of September in Europe
      BurningTheLives
      I enjoyed the Divine Heresy album. Sure, Tim Yeung may not be the most creative drummer, but he sure as hell impresses me.
      Senor Kristian
      EpiExplorer wrote: Grebeshkov wrote: Felt Devildriver deserved ALOT more than 5/10, Its an amazing album imo. Seems September cant come soon enough Loool, 'Waiting for September' ;P And I agree, Devildriver did deserve much more. Obviously this reviewer is a purist who only wants to listen to the most obsucre of bands to inflate his self image
      I'm all onboard for the Pray For Villains lovin' too. Personally I think it's their best yet. Perfect mix of groove and melody, and Dez's vocals were clearer than ever. Didn't care much for The Last Kind Words tbh
      suggy88
      Alexxx. wrote: Bit harsh on born of osiris haha.
      I'm glad. I still don't understand why people think they're so amazing, i still feel like theirs something that im not hearing on their record or something im missing out on.
      metalheadblues
      HolyDiver1118 wrote: BlackCrow15 : no Suffocation? Yeah I know.
      yeah no suffocation wtf hmm no mention of behemoth?at all
      Reviewer Pete
      metalheadblues hmm no mention of behemoth?at all
      No need to. The release date has been announced for months and was mentioned in the appropriate TMIM. I'll review it when it drops though, don't worry
      Reviewer Pete
      EpiExplorer Obviously this reviewer is a purist who only wants to listen to the most obsucre of bands to inflate his self image
      My last.fm disagrees.
      Rhyan_EG
      EpiExplorer wrote: Grebeshkov wrote: Felt Devildriver deserved ALOT more than 5/10, Its an amazing album imo. Seems September cant come soon enough Loool, 'Waiting for September' ;P And I agree, Devildriver did deserve much more. Obviously this reviewer is a purist who only wants to listen to the most obsucre of bands to inflate his self image
      He just gave Dream Theater like an 8 just the other month. I think you need to read his other articles. He gives good records good reviews, and bad records bad reviews.
      EpiExplorer
      Grebeshkov wrote: Felt Devildriver deserved ALOT more than 5/10, Its an amazing album imo. Seems September cant come soon enough
      Loool, 'Waiting for September' ;P And I agree, Devildriver did deserve much more. Obviously this reviewer is a purist who only wants to listen to the most obsucre of bands to inflate his self image
      GREENWARRI0R
      Nor'Easterbass wrote: Job should've got a bit better review than that. "average death metal"?! if you don't like death metal, which is what it seems to me, then why write reviews for them? the album is clearly their best yet. a little unpolished in the production but they wanted it like that. IMO: 8.5/10
      Yes, JFAC is average death metal at best. Nothing special here. All ratings here were deserved IMO. great job Reviewer Pete!
      Panasonic3
      i love this collumn. super escited for BTBAM, Scar Symmetry, Arsis, Swallow the Sun, Dying Fetus, and Dethklok.
      sammo_boi
      if i was RP i wouldn't bother writing these anymore. the amount of shit you people hang on his reviews...
      huevos
      afortuneinlies wrote: Nor'Easterbass wrote: Job should've got a bit better review than that. "average death metal"?! if you don't like death metal, which is what it seems to me, then why write reviews for them? the album is clearly their best yet. a little unpolished in the production but they wanted it like that. IMO: 8.5/10 It is there best yet. But that doesn't make it good. They've improved on their awful songwriting. remember that 6 track BreEP they had? every song ended about 7 times...awful. The new CD is way more listenable, but just really generic. also, the new born of osiris is complete trash that literally got thrown out the window of my band's van on the way to a show. They absolutely lost all the character they had on their first CD. in conclusion, it looks like Deathcore is drying up pretty quickly.
      It is easily their best effort yet. In comparison to the utter trash that was Doom, and the mediocre Genesis, Ruination seems like it was crafted by gods. I would say that it's slightly above average; most tech death is too wankish and JFAC have managed to stay away from that for the most part. They just need to work out their compositional elements. I see a lot of potential in them; I hope they follow through and make something grand with the next album.
      kfong03
      gotta agree with the devildriver album... it was nowhere as good as "the last kind words"
      AdenZerda
      Justin Credible wrote: WHERE IS THE AUGURY REVIEW?!?!?!
      There is new Augury out? Where have I BEEN D: brb checking out
      Burning_Angel
      As a fan of Drudkh, I'd give Microcosmos at least an 8.5. But thats just me. I've enjoyed every album they've put out.
      RAH7747
      Ah, the review of Drudkh's Microcosmos finally, and a month overdue.. *rolls eyes* Gotta agree with it sorta.. would have given a 7.5 or so meself.. And Ahab too.. 7 seems right.. Hasn't hooked me in like their first album.. But nonetheless, good reviews considering it wasn't a great month in metal.. tough job goin thru all those albums and ending up disappointed..
      Rysis
      Reviewer has failed, Bringer of plagues was one of best metalcore albums this year.
      lemonshank
      I think all these review were accurate and appropriate. Except how he mentioned Divine Heresy's Bleed the Fifth as a bad album. I really loved that. Their new work is incredulously horrible. I listened to three songs and couldn't go on because of the fecal matter that was being poured into my ears.
      mattimeo13
      Devildriver is straight up awesome metal. Metal Hammer gave it 9/10. Even if you don't like Devildriver, you still have to concede that it is markedly better than the majority of metal music that comes out today. A 5/10 is just insulting.
      NShore
      Obviously I can't speak for the entire metal community in my assessment of these reviews, but it sounds more or less like you rolled into this with some kind of chip on your shoulder and just walked over everything. I appreciate the discussion of continuity and style track by track; but if all the depth your gonna provide is "it’s hard to point out specifics when you speak about songwriting", I beg to differ. .
      flxz
      sammo_boi wrote: if i was RP i wouldn't bother writing these anymore. the amount of shit you people hang on his reviews...
      You may be right about that, but there are still a lot of people who appreciate these columns (like me).
      Brutalious
      Devildriver got a 5 because they're a really bland and boring band that loses steam after every intro in all of their songs.
      GrayFoxz
      new_age_reject wrote: Fucking **** yes Between The Buried and Me and Dethklok!
      +100000. cant wait
      protesthehero
      who the hell are these bands? why cant this month in metal have bands that sound like music
      Lion_Slicer
      TMIM is the best thing on UG, and one of my most trusted source for honest metal reviews on the whole internet. For example, I bought Traced in Air after 2008's This Year in Metal, and have been glad I did so every day since. That's not even an isolated incident... Also, it's really kind of funny that certain people are saying the reviewer doesn't like death metal, when every other month people hate on him for favoring death metal (particularly of the prog/tech variety). You can't please everyone I guess.
      flxz
      Awww. No He Is Legend review. That's a bit disappointing.
      Colohue
      I'm sure Pete is perfectly aware whenever he submits one of these that he will be criticised for it. I've never met a writer/reviewer who doesn't get criticised as much as they are praised for every single thing that they do. Chin up, Pete. Good man.
      Ibanez44
      Arsonists get all the girls's new CD portals should have been on here, blew me away .
      Shinsen88
      I personally thought the new JFAC album was pretty good. Whatever, I just can't wait for "The Great Misdirect!"
      Ingsoc
      Reviewer Pete wrote: I never reviewed the Blackening (as I didn't work at UG when it was released and didn't start doing TMIM until August 2007), except for the first This Year In Metal I did, where I placed it at #3. I've handed out a 10, several 9s and 8s. I've been very positive about many albums. Saying that I'm "not very much into metal" is about the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in these comments. Give me a break. Do you really think I'd sit through these albums, write these articles and bother to respond to your comments if I didn't have an enormous appreciation for the genre? Sure, I have to sit through a lot of garbage but I also find bands and albums I'd never bothered to check out unless TMIM forced me to.
      All I can do is observe the reviews and make personal judgment on them, same as you can only listen to an album probably once or twice before you review it. I personally do not have time to listen to every full album here, and thus why I would read an article like this. But from my perspective, when such little hope is given to new albums, I feel like I have nothing worthwile to buy if I follow your advice, which I suppose may end up just being the tough truth of a genre that's getting stale.
      Reviewer Pete
      Ingsoc All I can do is observe the reviews and make personal judgment on them, same as you can only listen to an album probably once or twice before you review it. I personally do not have time to listen to every full album here, and thus why I would read an article like this. But from my perspective, when such little hope is given to new albums, I feel like I have nothing worthwile to buy if I follow your advice, which I suppose may end up just being the tough truth of a genre that's getting stale.
      I give albums around 4-6 listens before writing a single word. Yes, why would you read an article like this? What people must understand is that it's one dry month in what, 40 years of metal? And it's not like I go through every metal release every month, because that's just not possible. I'm sure some underground band released an absolute killer this month. TMIM is a mix of underground albums, albums by minor bands that I discover for whatever reason, and anticipated releases because people want them featured in the article. It's not a mix that always works out (ie renders positive reviews), and it's not a certainty that the best albums always makes the article. In a full year I listen to around 80 new albums and in the past couple of years, around 12-15 per year have been positive experiences, usually ranging from good to great. That's not a bad percentage and I'm sure that counting hidden gems, that number is closer to, or above 20-25 quality albums per year. That's a good, solid number and I don't think metal's "hey-day" was much better. Besides, June/July = festival season and labels rarely put out the albums they believe in during that period. It's always a dry period. Spring and late summer/fall is when the good ones pop up.
      ride-the-spiral
      Spot on reviews i must say. A Higher place is disappointing, JFAC is very boring also. To the people moaning about how RP is a "purist" and whatever, do what i did and actually listen to the albums that are rated highly. The first time i read i had never heard of the bands getting 8s, 9s, or 10 but i gave them a listen. Most of my favourite bands i have heard of through TMIM. Have you heard Isolation Songs by Ghost Brigade? Its my favourite release of the month anyway
      Ibanez44
      Apologies for being another random criticizing Reviewer Pete for not being able to listen to every release ever.
      Camaro4726
      I think divine heresy was more of a 5 to 5.5 in my opinion, they may play catch alot and the singer does the sing chorus thing but thats dino's style it may be straight forward but it's damn good
      marianoarnaiz
      CAIN'S OFFERING missing here. AND kamelot just enter studio, AND NEXT SONATA ARCTICA ALBUM IS ON THE WAY