Soilwork - The Panic Broadcast
Released: July 2 Genre: Melodic metal Label: Nuclear Blast
Despite being from the same general area, I was late for the kill when it comes to Soilwork and never really paid any attention to them until they were well past their prime. Thus, it's fair to say, I've never really had any affection for them. What started out as a band that influenced thousands upon thousands of metalcore bands now sounds like one of those dime-a-dozen bands and that is a damn shame.
Soilwork is a band with more than capable musicians on every position, and the musicality of the band is easy to spot. However, they have long since decided to abandon the Gothenburg-sound and have tried to evolve. Unfortunately, this evolution has led them to be the platypus of the Swedish metal scene.
Much was written and said about Peter Wichers' return to Soilwork. While he is a very capable musician, our views on production values goes apart and I find the general guitar sound to be pretty weak, while the rest of the album is very well recorded, if a bit over-produced. Another issue is that the album is the pop-chorus-centric sensibility of the entire album. Every (pseudo) brutal section and riff is completely undone by a chorus that sounds like it was produced by Max Martin, and the whole release is so dripping with formula that MTV could claim ownership of it.
While there are good songs here and there, everything about the album feels like having a beer in the morning when you were out drinking hard the night before. You want to like it, you want to enjoy it but everything about it just makes things worse.
Blind Guardian - At the Edge of Time
Released: July 30 Genre: Progressive power metal Label: Nuclear Blast
Being a Blind Guardian fan comes with a fair bit of pain, as they take their sweet time when it comes to record a new album. But as everyone know, a bard is never late and his song arrives exactly when he intends it to.
At the Edge of Time stands in a bit of contrast to their previous album A Twist In The Myth, as it is much more orchestral and has more in common with A Night At The Opera. I've always been more fond of their bombastic sound than their straight-up classic power metal, so obviously this slight shift in style pleases me.
When one listens to At the Edge of Time, it's easy to understand why it took so long to record. Huge orchestrations are coupled multi-layered vocals and harmonies, all held together by a crisp production (although not without issues like clipping and members of the orchestra not being able to shut up. Crank the volume in the opening seconds of Wheel of Time and you'll hear it). In my book, Hansi Krsch is one of the best metal vocalists ever and he does little to change my mind on At the Edge of Time. There're even songs where he displays his old, raspier vocal style from their early years. The issue with the album is also part of its strength, as it is book-ended by two of their best tracks ever, Sacred Worlds and Wheel of Time, both being around 9 minutes long. But everything in between feels somewhat bleak in comparison to those beasts. Sure, there're good tracks like Road of No Release and A Voice In The Dark, but then you have duds like Tanelorn and War of the Thrones.
While At the Edge of Time is another very good album by Blind Guardian, this time around I see the glass as half full. That being said, it's well worth a listen, if not only because Wheel of Time is one of the best songs you'll hear all year.
Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare
Released: July 27 Genre: Hard rock Label: Warner
I am well aware that I won't do anyone any favors with this review - be it metal purists or A7X fans, but...here goes.
First, major props should be given to the band for continuing after the tragic death of The Reverend. Bands have broken up for far less, and they got a pretty good guy to fill in behind the kit.
Avenged Sevenfold is one of the biggest, if not the biggest metal/hard rock band to come out of the US in the past decade or so. While I've given them their fair share of chances, I still can not understand how such an average band can garner so much press, publicity and sales. OK, I can, because there's such a thing as PR, label attention and all that, but I'm talking from a musical standpoint.
The album opens with the title track, Nightmare, whose stand-out is the most forced usage of the different variations of the word f-ck since Cradle of Filth infamously covered Hallowed be thy Name. The line It's your f-ckin Nightmare! embodies everything I dislike about M Shadows and his pseudo-tuff-guy vocal style.
The problem with Nightmare, like much of A7X's discography, is that it's so incredibly average and bland. For every good riff there's a hilariously poorly executed vocal line or Synyster Gates cranking out a solo with his ear-piercing tone (not meant in the good way). For every catchy section there's a guitar harmony that makes me wonder if I have caught ear-herpes and unfortunately there're songs (Danger Line) that are littered with these harmonies and melodies.
Go ahead, cry your eyeliner out and insult me in the comments section, but there's nothing that can sway me from the opinion that Avenged Sevenfold's Nightmare is the most ill-deserving metal/hard rock album to ever reach #1 on the Billboard chart.