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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.