This Month In Metal: June 2009

Destryer 666, Dream Theater, Artillery and many more in this edition of This Month In Metal.

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Destryer 666 Defiance

Released: June 22 Genre: Black/Death/Thrash metal Label: Season of Mist

Defiance is one of the most anticipated underground albums of the year, for the best of reasons. The groups (excellent) last album was released seven years ago and we've only been treated to EPs since (the last one six years ago), so obviously the interest in what they'll accomplish this time around is quite big. Style-wise, little has changed. The core of their sound is thrash, but with many black and death elements present. Vocalist KK Warslut employs a fairly standard black metal bark (think Abbath from Immortal) and most of the lyrics deal with war, death and destruction. It might sound incredibly clich but the band manages to pull it off while sounding sincere. Musically, it sounds like this could be a bit of a schizophrene effort given the mix of styles, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Defiance is a wonderfully coherent effort with some absolute killer songs. Often bands in this (these?!) genre has a problem making interesting mid-tempo songs, but Destryer 666 pull that off without breaking a sweat. Blood For Blood has a pretty simple formula but is carried by KK Warslut's vocals and the melodies provided by the lead guitar. The production is fairly contemporary, but still dirty enough to avoid sounding too polished and raising questions about whether these warriors have taken up desk jobs.

At 41 minutes, Defiance is a short but sweet lesson in blackened thrash/death metal. The band takes simple elements and turn them into great songs from start to finish. It's not an envelope pusher, but it still manages to keep you interested until A Sermon To The Dead has faded out. And then you'll probably push 'play' again.

UG Review Rating: 8

Anaal Nathrakh In The Constellation of the Black Widow

Released: June 29 Genre: Black metal Label: Candlelight

In The Constellation of the Black Widow clocks in a 35-or-so minutes, which by today's (dreadful) standard seems pretty short, but I suppose that's what happens when guitar, bass, drums and production is handled by one guy, that bloke being Mick Kenney. Musically Black Widow is a fairly simple black metal record implementing precious little from other genres and mostly sticking to the standards, while doing an excellent job of it. The production is on the other hand a modern one and it helps to keep the clarity and separation of the instruments. Instrumentally there're a bunch of very, very good songs on this album, such as Oil Upon the Sores of Lepers, Blood Eagles Carved Upon The Backs of Lepers and the title track. The main strength of the album is that the level of writing is consistently high and maintained throughout the entire piece.

As one might have figured out by the titles dropped above, the lyrical themes are, ahem, pretty grim. Or so I assume as I have litte-to-no knowledge of what VITRIOL is screaming about. There's a mix of clean, growled and screamed vocals on Black Widow, but the screamed style is the one that is used most of the time. And here is the watershed of the album that'll divide people. When I say screamed vocals, I don't mean Randy Blythe-screams. I mean a guy-getting-his-eyes-carved-out-screams, something along the lines of WAAAAH, AAAH, AAAAAAH!. I am still on the fence whether I like this or not, but I am leaning towards 'liking' because it is so unusual. While perhaps a difficult album to take in due to the extreme vocals, In The Constellation of the Black Widow is one of the more interesting releases this year because of said fact. Musically it is very solid and if nothing else, it stands out amongst its peers.

Rating: 7.5

Dream Theater Black Clouds & Silver Linings

Released: June 23 Genre: Progressive metal Label: Roadrunner

By now, I suppose most of us are quite familiar with Dream Theater, their style and what their music is like. The short description could be that they're heavy, melodic, progressive and play technically challenging music. Black Clouds... is certainly no exception to the above statement and I must say it comes pretty close to finding the perfect balance amongst the elements. Whereas the predecessor, Systematic Chaos leaned more towards the dark side of things, Black Clouds... incorporates more progressive rock elements, which certainly pleases this listener more than the pseudo-brutal excursions we've witnessed on recent releases. That we're getting more progressive rock doesn't mean that the metal-element is toned down much it's still there and present in abundance, it's just that the balance is much better this time around.

Dream Theater's biggest problem is a pleasant one their back catalogue is filled with excellent albums and life-changing music. That in turn has set the bar quite high and as most people can figure out, it's hard to set a new personal best every time you step up to the plate. I would argue that Dream Theater haven't lived up to their potential and delivered on all levels since 1999's Scenes From A Memory. Certainly all their albums since Scenes... have been at the very least good and had some killer moments and songs, but like I said they've set the standard high for themselves and you want to see them maintain that high level. Anyways, on to the matter at hand - Black Clouds & Silver Linings. I was, to be honest, not expecting much. I have learned over the years that low (or no) expectations are the best ones, and it helps with the reviewing as well. Black Clouds... opens up, as so many other albums by this band, with a long epic of around 15 minutes, containing just about everything you could expect to hear. Second, we have the single A Rite of Passage, and third a little breather in Wither, surely destined to be the second single. The opening track A Nightmare To Remember starts of a bit sluggishly, but when the softer, more gentle prog-rock section kicks in around the 4-minute mark, everything is redeemed. Even Mike Portnoy's pseudo-growls towards the 10-minute mark aren't as bothersome as one could think (though I wish he wouldn't attempt them because he frankly doesn't do them very well). Mike even managed to sneak in a section with blast beats towards the end, which is pleasing in that the band isn't afraid to incorporate new elements, but in the end they don't help nor hurt much. A Rite of Passage on the other hand is probably the best DT single I can remember since a little song by the name of Pull Me Under and in turn sports one of their best choruses ever. One of the most discussed parts of DT lore in recent years is Mike Portnoy's AA Saga about his recovery from alcohol abuse. Four songs have, prior this album, been released and they had really set themselves up to bat it out of the park with the fifth one. Sadly, I have to say that The Shattered Fortress is a disappointing ending to an otherwise fine series of songs. Primarily, you have Mike Portnoy's grim vocals taking up too much space, and secondarily you have way too many repeated themes. In the older songs you always got a little repeated melody or section and that was cool, because it was just a little, little piece of the song at hand. But now the whole thing comes off rather as an overture with all the different sections taking centre stage rather than The Shattered Fortress being a song of its own. I counted the repeated sections awhile ago and I believe I landed on thirteen or somesuch. That's thirteen unique sections, not counting how many times they're repeated in The Shattered Fortress. Fortunately, the best is yet to come and Dream Theater manage to close things out nicely with The Best of Times, which is Mike Portnoy's heartfelt tribute to his father. Musically it's quite Rush-esque and even though the lyrics might be a bit too much for some people, it's an upbeat song that celebrates rather than mourns, which is definitely pleasing. Finally, The Count of Tuscany closes things out and again they manage to balance the elements beautifully. Look out for the Trial of Tears/Lines in the Sand-esque section the precedes the closing five minutes and helps the song set itself up for the climax. In fact, the entire song musically wouldn't have sounded much out of place on Falling Into Infinity. The only dud is that lyrically I don't find it to be very accomplished, but I'd rather take solid music and mediocre lyrics than the other way around.

This fairly long review closes with the following statement: Dream Theater have delivered one of their best albums in many, many years. I would rank this as their best album since Scenes From A Memory, and most people would agree that that's a pretty darn good grade.

UG Review Rating: 8.5

Killswitch Engage Killswitch Engage

Released: June 30 Genre: Metalcore Label: Roadrunner

Killswitch Engage's fifth studio album is something as amusing as their second self-titled effort, which in itself has to be some kind of record. When I reviewed the band's previous effort, As Daylight Dies, I recall making comments about how they'd taken their sound as far as they possibly could and would probably need to shake things up for the next album. Around the time the band began working on the new album, I recall reading interviews saying that they'd step out of their comfort zone and that plenty of blast beating was present in the early creations. Now, pardon my French, but what the hell happened to that? From a purely stylistic point of view, this is The End of Heartache/As Daylight Dies with some new curtains. In other words very little has changed and KsE remain true to the sound they made it big with. Does this sadden me? Yes, it does, because I'm afraid I was right in my assumption that they couldn't keep the ball rolling with the same sound. The problem is somewhat troublesome, because it both difficult and easy to point out. At the core, we have the same basic KsE sound we've always been treated to. At the surface, the songs themselves are simply not as strong as they'd need to be to keep another album with the same old formula going. There are no songs of the quality of Rose of Sharyn to be found on this album. Despite having a lot of good individual elements (riffs, melodies and the like) it's frankly put a bland and lacking effort. So much for stepping out of the comfort zone.

UG Review Rating: 5

Artillery When Death Comes

Released: June 15 Genre: Thrash metal Label: Metalmind Productions

Artillery made a name for themselves in the early 90's, being one of the bands that helped to contribute to the technical branch of the thrash genre. When Death Comes is their fifth album in their career that has spread over 25-or-so years, but it's also their first since 1999. Artillery's main contribution and really only worthwhile album until this year was 1990's blistering By Inheritance, which should be compulsory listening for any thrash fan. I was not expecting much from When Death Comes, since everything they've released before and after By Inheritance was as forgettable as it possibly gets. But lo and behold, they've managed to churn out a scorching thrash album with their new singer Soren Adamsen. When Death Comes is retro-thrash done the right way by a band that actually was there back in the day. A good chunk of the album is played at very high speed but there're also some mid-tempo numbers that help to keep the flow going and keep things dynamic. The production is contemporary and fits the bill top to bottom. Soren Adamsen is a bit of a find I must say. At times his voice character sounds eerily similar to Tim 'Ripper' Owens, but while he has good pipes he doesn't quite possess the same insane range of the Ripper. When Death Comes is a team effort and no-one really stands out more than any other member...well, except for the bass player who's always forgotten somewhere in the mix, but we're used to that by now. Musically, When Death Comes isn't revolutionising but there're enough heavy riffs, catchy hooks and melodies on there to satisfy this reviewer. Many of the riffs and melodies have that middle-eastern sounding touch which was one of the key components on By Inheritance. When Death Comes is a very, very good thrash album despite being released well past the genre's heyday. All the parts are in the right places and I guess they'd been stockpiling riffs during their 10-year hiatus, because there're more on this album than I care to count.

Rating: 8

News and tidbits from the past month:

  • RATT have entered the studio to begin recording their first new material since 1999.

  • Nevermore will enter the studio in August to begin recording their new album The Obsidian Conspiracy with producer Peter Wichers.

  • Winds of Plague will release The Great Stone War on August 11 via Century Media.

  • The Red Chord's new album Fed Through the Teeth Machine will be out this fall via Metal Blade.

  • Paradise Lost will release Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us in September via Century Media.

  • Megadeth have announced that their twelfth studio album will be entitled Endgame, tentatively due in September via Roadrunner.

  • Evile's new album Infected Nations will be out on September 22 via Earache.

  • Illdisposed will release To Those Who Walk Behind Us on August 28 via Massacre.

  • Arch Enemy's new album The Root of All Evil will be out in late September and early October via Century Media.

  • Shadows Fall will release Retribution, via their own label Everblack Industries on September 15.

  • Atheist's live album Unquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken will be out on July 21 via Relapse.

  • Ram-Zet have signed a deal with Ascendance Records.

  • Shining have entered the studio to begin work on Shining VII.

  • Divine Heresy's second album Bringer of Plagues will be out on July 28 via Century Media.

  • The Black Dahlia Murder have set Deflorate as the title of their new album, due September 15 via Metal Blade.

    And in other news...on June 15th a Judas Priest fan had listened to Nostradamus for 365 days straight, and Oz Fox of Stryper married Annie Lobrt, founder of the Hookers For Jesus foundation.

  • 99 comments sorted by best / new / date

      Reviewer Pete
      Blood Eagles Carved Upon The Backs of Lepers should be "the Backs of Innocents". Silly me.
      [Arran]
      This Month In Metal, and the article doesn't even mention that Opeth's new album will be called Insomnicide! Pfft. Yet more proof that UG are pretty badly informed.
      BSM123456789
      anyone else exited for new Winds of Plague? seems like they are a underrated band, with an excellent and unique sound also new TBDM is gonna seriously be one the best albums of the year
      ironwolg
      Black Clouds is an awesome album, get the special 3 disc eddition and listen to their cover of Queen. James LaBrie really captures Freddy Mercury's vibe, the cover is better than the originals in my oppinion. i actually think the lyrics in The Count of Tuscany are great, you can really picture yourself being in that situation and The Shattered Fortress is the end of that series. I think they wanted to really revisit all the songs before it to show the entire journey. IT's a very explosive song(in a good way) what's up with everyone's obsession with 666? don't they realize what that is?
      Reviewer Pete
      RAH7747 wrote: Reviewer Pete wrote: RAH7747 wrote: Hey, where's the review of Drudkh's new album, Microcosmos? Or is it that you take the US release date and are going to put one up in July? I will cover my forgetful ass and do it for July Well ok then.. but just for the record, do u take US release dates? anyway, really nice that u gave destroyer 666 an 8!
      I almost always go with the European dates...since I'm European.
      RAH7747
      Hey wait, destroyer 666 has US release date of 14th.. so i guess that answers me question.. i'll be lookin forward to drudkh's review next time then..
      RAH7747
      Reviewer Pete wrote: RAH7747 wrote: Hey, where's the review of Drudkh's new album, Microcosmos? Or is it that you take the US release date and are going to put one up in July? I will cover my forgetful ass and do it for July
      Well ok then.. but just for the record, do u take US release dates? anyway, really nice that u gave destroyer 666 an 8!
      Lohnanmilitia
      Dream theater album is great! In fact, I think the shattered fortress was a good endius little suite of songs. The new killswitch album is the best thing they've ever written. Yeah its metalcore so there's only so far you can take the sound but this album is great. how they should have followed end of heartache.
      agm_ultimatex
      I love the shattered fortress, and thing its a great close. Other than that, I agree pretty nicely with your review. I enjoyed the darkness systematic chaos had though, very much
      Fender_For_Life
      I liked Killswitch's latest effort, it's no Alive or Just Breathing/The End of Heartache, but it's still got alot of solid riffs and nice melodies. Just my opinion.
      iH8CarAccidents
      leather_face666... Dude... You read the numbers on top of the reviews. The score for thealbum is at the bottom... Way to be perceptive. It's okay though. We all have our moments. But at least your perception of those two albums let's us know your head's on at least somewhat straight.
      spencer Cr
      leather_face666 wrote: Killswitch Engage's album was serious crap. Nothing novel, nothing original, just more of the same. Sure they got a little better as musicians but they pretty much released As Daylight Dies again. I'd give it a 6 tops.
      yes i agree new killswitch album isn;t very good (some good moments, but over all meh) but i do disagree w/ you on the fact they just released daylight dies again.. b/c to me daylight is much different then the new album. daylight is they're best effort i'd say, this new album is like an album made up of arms of sorrow the whole way through. just radio friendly hits
      Zero_Mike
      BC&SL was pretty damn good. I think that the conclusion to The Count of Tuscany was brilliant. Also the keyboards in Wither are amazing. I just wish Dream Theater would do a few really short songs, in the vein of Wait for Sleep and The Silent Man, just to give them more opportunity to experiment. Either way, I enjoyd BC&SL as much as Awake.
      Wingate
      I like the DT review, but I think you complain about MP's back vocals too much and leave out anything about the other band members.
      'Leviathan'
      The review for Black Clouds & Silver linings here was MUCH better and more easily agreeable than the original UG Team review.
      Karmapolice911
      Nothing about DevilDriver? Pray For Plagues is a fantastic album, with a lot of new and interesting elements. It's not as melodic as The Last Kind Words, but it packs a serious punch.
      Karlboy
      MagicFingersJCC wrote: new DT albums is no way near as good as Scenes
      The new album was awesome, but SFaM was just... phenominal to say the least.
      duncang
      [Arran] wrote: This Month In Metal, and the article doesn't even mention that Opeth's new album will be called Insomnicide! Pfft. Yet more proof that UG are pretty badly informed.
      You appear to be getting your information from fake twitter accounts!
      Lion_Slicer
      iH8CarAccidents wrote: And by the way, is it just me or do all prog metal singers sound the same? Dream Theater... Symphony X... Outworld when he's not hitting those screeching highs... All their voices sound so similar to me!
      That's because those bands belong to a pretty narrow band of prog metal. Not all prog metal bands include operatic-style vocals. Cynic, Tool, Opeth, Mastodon, Meshuggah... all represent a different vocal style, and all are most definitely progressive metal. I've been very skeptical of DT's new album, because I just don't see them keeping my attention much longer as they don't vary much between albums. Though you seem to be saying that they've struck a good balance with this one, so perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised.
      Bassist #5
      i gotta say, i loved all parts of dt's new album. IMO, the shatter fortress was the BEST way to end it. I mean every song had something new in it, and since this song ends the whole aa saga, why not review everything thats happened in the past 4 songs. and the ending was amazing, a very octavarium. and the count of tuscany, reverse to what others think, was really good. it had a story, and the music followed it all the way and it was one of my favorites on the album. best of times was amazing as well.
      Scathing
      Can't wait for Arch Enemy's "The Root Of All Evil" and Megadeth's "Endgame"...
      Scathing
      Black Clouds & Silver Linings is great. It's not Dream Theater's best album but it's a really good one.
      Reviewer Pete
      Shreddaboi12 wrote: just wondering.....is that first bit in other news a typo? Shouldnt RATT be RATM?
      No.
      3Stepper
      Vedicardi wrote: Holy hell Live At Wacken will be an album from Atheist? BUYING!
      I know! Can't wait man! And also waiting for the new arch enemy album.
      the_jackyl
      Also, new The Black Dahlia Murder album will be death metal album of the year!
      Black Dahlia Murder isn't a death metal band
      MyFingersHurt00
      iH8CarAccidents wrote: Absolutely NO mention of August Burns Red's new CD amidst all this stuff I've never heard of? Come on now. From the three songs I've heard on their myspace, that album's gonna be sick. Also, I've sorta been out of the loop with Dream Theater. But this new album sounds like it's worth checking out. And by the way, is it just me or do all prog metal singers sound the same? Dream Theater... Symphony X... Outworld when he's not hitting those screeching highs... All their voices sound so similar to me!
      u dont know proggresive rock at all my friend. u are very wrong
      Reviewer Pete
      courtkid1012 wrote: lord_abyssium wrote: did anybody see the bottom bit, a guy listened to nostradamus for 365 days straight?? its a good album but... I'm pretty sure it meant nonstop for a year, not just once everyday. Probably the thing I cared most about than those crappy bands. That's just crazy. He probably has hearing aids now.
      No, he listened to it once a day for a year straight.
      TheSoother
      Endgame, pretty fitting title to a 'Deth album. I can't wait to see if Dave challenged Chris to his full potential.
      courtkid1012
      lord_abyssium wrote: did anybody see the bottom bit, a guy listened to nostradamus for 365 days straight?? its a good album but...
      I'm pretty sure it meant nonstop for a year, not just once everyday. Probably the thing I cared most about than those crappy bands. That's just crazy. He probably has hearing aids now.
      Reviewer Pete
      chanjcw And by the way, I haven't heard of any other band they reviewed! KsE was the only band I'm familair with. They need to keep the reviews on one main genre. Just metal and the thing that are close to it like hardcore,thrash,etc. Not all the other stuff.
      Won't happen.
      HardAttack
      I was skeptical based solely on the name of Destroyer 666, but I must say I'm very impressed with their new record. I listened to some of their earlier work and it's decent, but this blew me away. Great production and some nice guitar writing. Sounds like an interesting spin on a band like Dimmu Borgir. They are in the same genre though, so I can see why. Great stuff and I'll be trying to get that album on the 14th when it gets released.
      iwroteasongonce
      no offence to everyone here ranting about the new Dream theatre and killswitch....but cmon...give me something heavy i want me some The Red Chord, Divine Heresey, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Winds of Plague all leading musicians in their own fields.
      chanjcw
      I don't agree with the KsE review. Yeah, it wasn't their best album, but it wasn't their worst. I do have to say though that it does sound a lot like As Daylight Dies. if they released something like The End of Heartache, then I'm sure that more people would like it. I think Howard sang too much on this one.Yeah theres some really good songs, but 3/4 of the album doesn't really hook on me. And by the way, I haven't heard of any other band they reviewed! KsE was the only band I'm familair with. They need to keep the reviews on one main genre. Just metal and the thing that are close to it like hardcore,thrash,etc. Not all the other stuff.
      metallifreak77
      Nice article, and I do agree with the reviews here. Never been a real DT fan, but I enjoy this new album. Love the Anhilator review too! Cannot wait for Immortal, Behemoth, Vader albums these next few months. Any updates on Iron Maiden???
      AnEvilWalrus
      Took the words right outta my mouth with the new KsE. I'm hoping we'll see a review for the new DevilDriver from you sometime soon? Also, it should also be noted that the new Dethklok album is due September 8th. WOOT