Textures - Silhouettes
Release date: May 5 Genres: Metal/Death/Progressive Label: Listenable
After checking some of your comments, this album has received somewhat of a mini-hype. I expected pretty big things, or at least an album that would get a pretty favorable review. Well, we can brush away any doubt, 'cause this is a good album.
Textures are a Dutch six-piece, now on their third release, dishing out their mix of progressive and rhythmic compositions, layered with some keyboards and a varied growl/scream/clean approach in the vocal department. The chops and musical talent of these guys can not be denied. They don't beat you over the head with their technical prowess though, you can just hear it in their compositions, timechanges and how they effortlessly seem to go from one groove to another. The vocals, as previously stated, are pretty varied. There're shades of death growling, mixed with some screaming that somewhat reminds me of Peter Dolving (The Haunted), and then some clean singing to round things out.
Textures are really talented, and they do pack quite a punch. Musically, it's all very tasty, not over-the-top and they mix brutal sections with cleaner passages quite well. But somewhere along the line, they don't go the whole nine yards with the songwriting. Textures come across as a band whose primary focus are the song, yet the songs aren't to be found, if you understand where I'm going with this. It's all very competent, pleasant to listen to, but apart from the killer tracks bookending this album, as well as "Laments Of An Icarus", I don't find all that much to hold my attention. Sorry guys.
Sabaton - The Art Of War
Release date: May 30 Genres: Heavy/Power Metal Label: Black Lodge
Ah yes, Sabaton, the Swedish version of Manowar, except with leather pants and blood instead of loincloth and body oil, and a touch of power instead of heavy. They're back with a new album, obviously. If you haven't guessed the main themes of the album yet, check eBay and see if you can buy yourself a brain. The boys also thought it to be a good idea to have a woman between the proper songs, citing some words spoken by great commanders, like Sun Tzu, who must thrilled to know that his writings have inspired this musical piece.
I'll stop beating around the bush -- this album blows the big one. It's a cheesefest of epic proportions, and if you like that, fine. I hear a ton of generic power-esque heavy riffs, a vocalist who tries to be melodramatic, yet he only succeeds in delivering some of the worst rolling 'R's outside of the British Isles, and to round it all off: some of the cheesiest, most predictable lyrics and rhymes you'll ever find. You might opt for the "lyrics aren't all that important"-approach. Fine, have a lollipop and cry to your mom about me being a meanie. In this column all aspects of an album are to be scrutinized and examined, and if a band decides to write words along with their music, I'll damn well see if if they've done a good job or not.
The bog-standard musicality, the horrendous lyrics, the dull delivery and the utter predictability of the whole album renders it impossible for me to label this anything but an utter turd. You may say that this music isn't to be taken all that seriously. Well, then they're awfully disrespectful considering the topics they've chosen. I'd rather stand on my nads than call this album good.
Kataklysm - Prevail
Release date: May 27 Genres: Death metal Label: Nuclear Blast
Kataklysm have churned out quality death metal for some time now, and I've always thought they're a band with the potential to churn out a killer album. But it seems that album will have to wait for a bit, for their latest effort does not reach such heights.
Soundwise, their brand of death metal is not overly melodic, nor is it overly brutal or technical, it's just a nice blend of the major characteristics of the genre. I've often thought of them as a less accomplished version of their countrymen Quo Vadis, and I find the comparison to fit quite well. "Prevail" manages to get off to a pretty good start with the first three tracks hitting home really well. "The Chains Of Power" carries a vibe and some of the riffing is more reminiscent of the old school death metal you'd find on an Entombed album, and it's all good.
But, as so often, the album runs out of steam pretty fast. I'm not asking for big arena-rock choruses, but the tunes presented lack that certain something that would turn them into memorable slabs of metal. A riff, a hook, a catchy solo or melody, something that would elevate the songs from good or competent to a higher tier. Kataklysm's main problem throughout their discography have been just that -- lacking the ability to pen tunes that stick. It's a decent effort, with good playing and good intentions, but I'm afraid I can't give out mercy points for just that.
Tyr - Land
Release date: May 28 Genres: Folk/Metal/Progressive Label: Napalm
Definitely the least commercially viable release in this month's edition, and certainly one of the more interesting too. How many bands from the Faroe Islands do you know of? Tyr are very proud of their heritage, mixing traditional metal with touches of progressive elements and then cover it all in a big veil of folk. The folk element is especially pleasant, for it's done very well. Lyrics in, from what I gather, their native tongue about topics such a vikings, mythology (their name is a referens t the Norse God of the same name) and other stories from the Nordic lore.
Let's cut to the chase -- "Land" is a very good album, that should stand up and receive proper accolades once this year is summed up. The folky vibe, accompanied by beautifully harmonized melodies and the animated, yet never bothersome, vocals makes this a pretty special release. The heavy and progressive elements are well balanced with the folk, so the album doesn't go overboard, nor overly rely on one of them. The quality of the compositions, the melodies and the ability to let the songs breathe with the mix of heavy and soft is what makes this album so good. Some criticism is due however -- it is a tad on the long side, clocking in at well over the hour. Some of the material isn't as enchanting and persuasive as the opener "Gandkvaedi Trondar" or the beautiful "Valkyrjan", but I can forgive a failed track or two, for this album certainly does a good job of presenting itself.
Cryptopsy - The Unspoken King
Release Date: May 26 Genres: Death Metal Label: Century Media
Hands down the most controversial release so far this year, given the leaked tracks and the changes in Cryptopsy's line-up, Cryptopsy have indeed managed to anger a large portion of their fanbase. With the exodus of Lord Worm, Cryptopsy decided to take in vocalist Matt McGachy, whose mixed of guttural growling, screaming and clean singing inspired the band to embrace a new direction.
"The Unspoken King" is a departure for the band, embracing a more dynamic sound with slower and softer sections, utilizing McGachy's clean vocals. The technical aspect of the music has also taken somewhat of a backseat compared to their previous work. While comments on the album have included this being a sign of the apocalypse and whatnot, I won't go that far. It is a pretty shoddy album though. The playing is fine, the production does the trick, but what's that without songs? Nothing. I'm all for dynamic sounds, it's usually a good idea and if you can pull it off, great. But, as things are, Cryptopsy fail miserably at delivering that. McGachy is no Lord Worm, and that is fine, but his clean singing leaves a lot to be desired. The compositions lack life and at times they make you cringe -- such as the opening minute of "Bemoan The Martyr". Dumbed down and chock full of flaws, "The Unspoken King" fails in delivering a coherent and interesting product. It's not the end of the world, or the worst album in the history of the world, but that's faint praise in this case.
Moonspell -- Night Eternal
Release Date: May 19 Genres: Metal/Gothic Label: SPV/Steamhammer
Moonspell have managed to gain quite a few fans over the years, and "Night Eternal" should satisfy most of them. Dark, depressing and very moody, it's filled with gothic undertones. The lyrics are very strong, where apocalyptic lyrics mingle with darkness, love, tragedy and everything else under our dying sun. There are catchy elements present in abundance, especially evident in the melodies, be they vocal, guitar or keyboard. Often the keyboard takes on the role of outlining a melodic theme behind the guitars who provide the metal onslaught, and they complement each other very, very well. The diversity in the vocal department is very pleasing, ranging from death growls/screams to soft and emotional.
Not all the tracks are absolute killers, but you'd be hard pressed to find a dull one. "Dreamless" is a contender for one of the best tunes I've heard this year, and the opening trio packs a punch you'll have a hard time outdoing.
News And Tidbits From The Past Month
Exhorder have once again reunited. Plans for the future are sketchy, but the band who gave us the classic "Slaughter In The Vatican" promises to keep us posted.
Jeff Loomis, of Nevermore fame, has finished his instrumental solo album with the help of producer Neil Kernon. Yours truly expects a shredding release via Century Media sometime in late summer/early fall.
Finnish metal band MyGrain, whose album "Signs Of Existence" featured here a few months ago, have parted ways with their guitarist Matthew. As of yet there is no word on a permanent replacement.
Mastodon have decided to work with producer Brendan O'Brien for their highly anticipated and as of yet untitled album.
All That Remains' new album will be called "Overcome", and is scheduled for a late summer release.
UK-based progmetal band Sikth have called it quits. No clear reasons have been given, but the band members will be involved in other projects in the future.
German thrashers Kreator will enter the studio in July to record the follow-up to 2005's "Enemy Of God". The new album is scheduled for a January 2009 release.
Sepultura have begun recording their new album, apparently based on the Anthony Burgess novel "A Clockwork Orange". The album is expected to be released in October, via SPV.
And finally, guitarist Michelle Meldrum has passed away at an age of 39. The cause of death was a cystic growth on her brain which restricted oxygen and blood flow to her brain, rendering her braindead. Meldrum were currently finishing up the writing process for their new album...