Meshuggah - obZen
Release Date: March 11 Label: Nuclear Blast Genres: Progressive Death Metal, Math Metal
Hard to classify, hard to understand and harder than most, Sweden's Meshuggah continue to do what they do best: mess with our heads. Their recent output has been, to be frank, very weird and one could easily say those albums had some spotty moments. For lack of a better phrasing, this is the straight-forward version of Meshuggah, the Chaosphere or Destroy Erase Improve-Meshuggah we know and love. The comparison is not out of order, because obZen is up there with those albums. Meshuggah is more than just a metal band, they're an art institution, a group of musicians creating sounds for those who understand them and no one else. Thordendal and Hagstrom are possibly the most talented duo in metal, and along with Haake they form an amazing rhythm section. Add to that the staccato-spitfire-vocals of Jens Kidman, and you've got a band that will punish you over and over. The opening track slams down the door and from then there's no turning back. Arguable highlights would be Combustion, Bleed (your idea of guitar stamina will be redefined) and Dances To A Discordant System. Meshuggah have with obZen laid another block to their foundation and they will go down as one of the best and most important bands of our time. This album is just further proof to an already ridiculously strong case.
Bloodbath - Unblessing The Purity [EP]
Release Date: March 10 Label: Century Media Genres: Death Metal
Short but sweet, that's how old school Swedish death metal should be delivered. Sadly, this isn't as old school as their previous releases. What started out as a fun tribute to the genre has now turned into something seemingly a bit more serious, and that's a shame. The tongue-in-cheek attitude of the opening EP and album is a bit missing, but perhaps it's impossible to keep that attitude intact over time. Or maybe the fault lies within the beholder.
Either way -- the four songs we're treated to are quality death metal. Some of the elements present sound a tad more modern, but the production provides sufficient dirt for us old school fans to be satisfied. _kerfeldt growls effort and flawlessly and thus another killer vocal performance can be added to his ever growing resume.
Too much can't be said about this, seeing it's an EP. There's nothing really missing, but then again very little stands out and kicks your ass. It's better-than-most and I guess that's OK. Fingers crossed for them stepping it up a notch when/if they do another album.
The Mirror's Truth [EP]
Release Date: March 10 Label: Nuclear Blast Genres: Melodic Metal
One shouldn't say too much about how an EP reflects on an upcoming album, and especially not when it comes to an EP where 3 out of 4 tunes are B-sides. The thing that impresses me the most is the production -- damn it sounds good. Slick and clear, but it still packs a lot of punch. Musically, it's solid and the boys have penned some nice melodies and some good riffs. Anders Friden has adapted another vocal style and... it doesn't really work out. Seldom do I hear otherwise good songs that are ruined by a miserable vocalist. Friden shrieks and squeals in his best Dave-Mustaine-on-Rude-Awakening-impression, only to break into choruses whose quality are questionable... at best.
The tunes themselves are solid (Eraser is a ridiculously good B-side), but I'm afraid the weakest link is finally making the chain break after all these years.
Cavalera Conspiracy - Inflikted
Release Date: March 24 Label: Roadrunner Genres: Metal/Thrash
One of the more hyped releases so far this year... well, by Roadrunner anyways. Igor and Max Cavalera re-form in their own little band outside of Sepultura, with the help of Joe Duplantier of Gojira on lead guitar and Marc Rizzo of Soulfly on bass. The result is an angry, thrashy record with hints to past and present styles. Max is as angry as always and the vitriol keeps coming out of his mouth. Igor's drumming is not exactly mindblowing, but still competent and solid. Max never was the greatest lyricist known to man, and pardon me if I find a lot of the lyrics and rhymes to be a bit cheesy (within the context of thrash). I assume Duplantier's presence is to fill out the line-up live and provide some melody to Max' chug. His shredhappy contributions are however, fairly pointless.
Not to say that the album doesn't warrant a few listens though -- there're some decidedly ass-kicking tunes for your listening pleasure. Terrorize, with its catchy, grooving verses and Bloodbrawl with the nice, quiet outro after Max screams Bloodbrawl of Duplantier's arpeggios both showcase that the bro's still have got it. Sadly the sparks of genius are few and somewhat far between.
Illdisposed - The Prestige
Release Date: March 28 Label: AFM Genres: Death Metal
The Danish guys in Illdisposed make a lot of racket on their new album, and they do it pretty well too. Down and dirty death metal. Not overly melodic, not overly brutal nor technical, but possessing a fine balance of the main elements present in the various styles of death metal out there. It should come as no surprise that Studio Fredman has had a hand in this, for the sound is very good and as one could expect from veterans like these guys (it is their 10th album after all). But is it any good?
Well, there're some good songs on here. Weak Is Your God is head and shoulders above the rest, but tracks such as Like Cancer should make your neck twitch from the urge to headbang. Sadly the majority of album drifts around in the gray zone usually occupied by thoughts like isn't this the song I just heard and what's on TV?
Shade Empire - Zero Nexus
Release Date: March 12 Label: Dynamic Arts Genres: Melodic Death Metal
When this first arrived, I thought Oh great, more mediocre Scandinavian melodic death. But I couldn't be more wrong. Well, cut out a few words in the sentence before and you get Great melodic death. That sums the album up pretty well. Shade Empire don't really incorporate any new elements (except that saxophone solo), they just do it a helluva lot better than most other bands. Vocalist Harju is somewhat of an acquired taste, mixing it up quite a lot with several different vocal styles. There's the standard growl, the Abbath-like snarl, the Gollum-voice and then some nice clean singing to top it off.
Musically, the keyboards do not just add atmosphere or trigger samples, but they occasionally take centre stage and command attention. In places it feels more like you're listening to a progressive band, but the basis here is decidedly metal. Now, if the chief genre is black or death is another (pointless) discussion. What also is very pleasing is that the album doesn't blow its entire load in the first 10 minutes. Arguably the highlights of the album come at the mid-point, with the 1-2 punch of Harvesters Of Death and Serpent - Angel.
Oh, and about that saxophone solo... nah, you'll just have to check it out for yourselves. You deserve it, and so does this band, for the closing 9-minute track, fittingly entitled Victory is quite the schizophrenic one. Brutal, and then soothingly mellowwith that saxophone solo.
News And Tidbits From The Past Month
Richmond, VA's finest, Lamb Of God are rumored to have begun writing for their upcoming album. Very little is known at the moment, but yours truly thinks we can expect a Q4 2008/Q1 2009 release.
Michigan-metallers Still Remains have decided to call it quits. The band cites personal reasons and it is unsure if they'll stay in the music business.
Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis is currently recording his upcoming fully instrumental solo album at Robert Lang Studios with producer/engineer Neil Kernon. Since March 22, drums have been finished for 10 songs.
Sweden's The Haunted have finished pre-production for their upcoming album. The album, like their previous two efforts, will be recorded with Tue Madsen in the PUK Studio in Denmark.
Candlemass guitarist Mats "Mappe" Bjorkman has been sentenced to two years in prison for stealing CDs for almost $500000, with the help of an accomplice. The band afterwards issued a statement, which follows: "CANDLEMASS answer to the crap that's been published lately is very simple: NOTHING HAS CHANGED!! The band will record the planned EP, 'Lucifer Rising', in April WITH MAPPE... CANDLEMASS will also tour the states WITH MAPPE in May and June and also record the follow-up to 'King of the Grey Islands' this coming autumn WITH MAPPE!!
"Despite what's been said in the press, the band is very optimistic about the future. 2008 and 2009 will be two great years for CANDLEMASS. Don't believe everything you read!!"
I think I can safely say to be continued.
Well, that's all for March. When we sum up April (which will be the biggest summary so far) there'll be Children Of Bodom, In Flames, Testament... to name a few.
Until then, take care.