This Month In Metal: May 2009

Isis, Amorphis, Gnostic and more in this month's edition.

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Isis Wavering Radiant

Released: May 5 Genre: Post-Metal Label: Ipecac / Conspiracy Records

Immediately upon listening to Wavering Radiant, I found myself waiting for that dark, booming wall of sound that was one of the first things that got me interested in Isis when I first heard Panopticon. But the waiting for that specific moment turned out to be rather futile, as Wavering Radiant is, by Isis standards, somewhat laid-back. The sludge has taken a step back and has been replaced by more of an atmospheric vibe, most notably when the samplings and textures provided by the keyboards step in. Is it a bad thing? I'd have to say no. Wavering Radiant is a very, very good album and while a tad different, it's still Isis and nothing else.

Isis excel in making 8-10 minutes of seemingly simple music feel like only 4 or 5 minutes, and Wavering Radiant may be their best effort in that aspect. Every song feels like a journey of its own, yet the album delivers that feeling of cohesion and unity that nigh all great albums share.

An effect of the previous statement is that picking out the best moments is a tough task. All songs benefit not only from themselves, but also from what comes before and after. Every single of the 7 tracks at hand are good in their own right, but combined and experienced front to back, they're just so much better.

Wavering Radiant is a musical journey and an exercise in deceptively progressive music. While that is true, it's probably not for everyone, but for those who give it time and attention, there's a potential top 10 album of 2009 to be found.

UG Review Rating: 9

Alestorm Black Sails At Midnight

Released: May 27 Genre: Heavy/Power Metal Label: Napalm

Black Sails at Midnight has one of the more amusing water markings I've come across in promotional copies. You know a band has a good sense of humour when they end the water marking with ...and remember, piracy is a crime!. That's of course funny because a lot of Alestorm's lyricism is about pirates, plundering, that famous ol' spiced and other things related to life at sea a couple of hundred years ago.

Musically, Black Sails... brings nothing new to the table, for genre nor band. It's that tried and trusted formula of double bass drumming, bombastic keys, melodic guitars and a vocalist screaming y'arr! every now and then. The album and the music is to be taken with a pinch of salt and as a whole is quite enjoyable. The songs are well-crafted with good hooks, big choruses and Christopher Bowes' unmistakable raspy voice. Fans of Captain Morgan's Revenge will feel right at home with Black Sails at Midnight spinning in the stereo, and that is both the strength and weakness of the album.

Dani Evans and Lasse Lammert deliver some great moments on guitar, but even that is not enough to help an album which frankly starts to feel somewhat dull about half-way through. Maybe it's just me, but after five or six songs about the aforementioned lyrical topics, I'm starting to feel like listening to something else. Black Sails at Midnight is an alright album, but the weaknesses which seemed charming on the previous album stand out more and more as negatives on this release.

Rating: 5.5

Vomitory Carnage Euphoria

Released: May 12 Genre: Death Metal Label: Metal Blade

In a recent interview in the local town paper, Vomitory acknowledged the fact that they don't really want to change a single thing about their sound and want to be that type of band from which you'll know exactly what you get. A part of me wants to be gentle about this, since they're more or less the town heroes when it comes to metal, but another part of me wants to rip on them because I like evolution and musical growth.

Carnage Euphoria delivers just about everything one has come to expect from Vomitory. Blast beats, lyrics about gore and the like, brutal riffing and dark, deep growled vocals. The only real curveball is the production, which is much more akin to the mid and early 90's death metal productions than the group's recent effort Terrorize Brutalize Sodmize which had a modern, punchy sound. I definitely preferred the sound of Terrorize Brutalize Sodomize, but for what it is, Carnage Euphoria has an OK sound that fits the bill. The opening barrage of songs are definitely catchy death metal tunes with some interesting hooks and qualities. Erik Rundqvist isn't the most exciting growler of all time, but when he vomits out The carnage rages on! in the track with the same name, I'm ready to surrender everything and start a one-man moshpit in my little room. The second track Serpents features a nice melodic break in the middle with harmonies that seem somewhat atypical for a band like Vomitory. But, as previously stated, you know what you're getting with these guys. The remaining 30-or-so minutes is by-the-book death metal, and somehow that does very little for me, even if there're some pretty good songs on there. Carnage Euphoria is a decent death metal album which does little to excite the listener, but I'll still attend the release party tomorrow here in town.

Rating: 6

Amorphis Skyforger

Released: May 29 Genre: Melodic Death/Folk Metal Label: Nuclear Blast

Amorphis is one of those bands that attempt to set a certain vibe, and then manage to execute it while sounding sincere and honest. There are bands that try to implement soft passages only to sound uncomfortable doing so, and vice versa. Amorphis' sound flows like a river with seamless shifts in mood and intensity, which makes Skyforger such a pleasing listen. The songs are all around 4-6 minutes long, which lends itself well to a pop-formula with intros, verses and choruses coming at expected times. The core of Amorphis' sound is basically a regular hard rock/metal formula, with a rhythm guitar accompanying a lead guitar, but that'd be dumbing things down a tad too much. Joutsen's vocal melodies, as well as Kallio's keys play a huge rule in adding splashes to the canvas to help round things out and give them detail.

There're several songs on Skyforger that will no doubt manage to stick in your head, like Silver Bride, Skyforger and Majestic Beast. Skyforger is filled with quality songwriting that manages to push the right buttons at the right time. Occasionally I kept thinking to myself that things have been a bit too cute and sweet for awhile now and then at the exact right time they drop the sonic anvil in my crotch. A perfect example of such a moment is when the title track goes off, around the 4:30 mark after the bridge, when a choir sings I am and Juotsen replies with the forger of the earth in a deep growl.

Skyforger will no doubt be high on the lists that aim to pick out the ten best albums of 2009, and it deserves it. The album peaks at the right time, and holds a high standard all the way, from the opening piano melody to the closing acoustic outro. Amorphis are firing at all cylinders and the sky is the limit for them.

UG Review Rating: 9

Gnostic Engineering the Rule

Released: May 25 Genre: Technical Death Metal Label: Season Of Mist

One would think a man like Steve Flynn would be content with his gig in Atheist, but more power to him and his jazzy tech-death drumming for gracing us with another release showcasing just that.

Gnostic is a band playing the technical death metal of the early 90's, and in effect sounds much like Cynic, late Death and Atheist. The latter being not much of a surprise due to Flynn's unmistakable drumming, but he's not the only one pulling double duties. Bassplayer Jonathan Thompson and guitarist Chris Baker also play in the current incarnation of Atheist, and in effect we more or less have an album that sounds a whole lot like Atheist. Guitarist Sonny Carson is the only guy of the instrument wielders without an Atheist affiliation, and it shows. Even vocalist Kevin Freeman sounds a lot like Kelly Schaefer.

One can of course argue to the end of time whether this is a good or bad thing. Atheist is a very, very special band and one of the founding fathers of jazzy tech-death, but somehow I have a hard time getting past that when we have a new Atheist album coming our way in only a few months. But, completely on its own, Engineering the Rule is a fine album. The album is brutal at times, but there're plenty of calmer passages amidst all the chaotic time signatures and technical riffing, so it's not an album that can be accused of being one-dimensional, unless you call being progressive one-dimensional. Kevin Freeman is a great vocalist and delivers aggression and mixed growls/screams with ease and precision. Engineering the Rule is a short-but-sweet showcase of old school progressive death metal, but the similarities to Atheist are at times disturbing to the point of distracting, as you no doubt have noticed. It's a fine album, but a big part of me would've wished for something a bit different.

Rating: 7.5

News and tidbits from the past month:

  • German metal label SPV has been declared insolvent, which is more or less the equivalent of bankruptcy protection. Among the bands on their roster that might be affected are Iced Earth, Saxon, Kreator, Moonspell, Sodom and Helloween.

  • Metallica will film a number of shows for an upcoming DVD. The confirmed shows are those in Mexico City on June 4, 6 and 7, as well as the show at Nimes, France on July 7.

  • Protest the Hero will release a new live CD/DVD on July 14, entitled Gallop Meets the Earth.

  • Finnish metallers Kalmah have begun recording their new album and are looking to mix and master it in the fall.

  • Tobias Sammet has begun work on the material for the new Avantasia album. No release date is set, as Sammet is quoted saying it won't see the light of day until I am completely satisifed.

  • 3 Inches of Blood have signed a deal with Century Media, and their new album is scheduled for a release this fall.

  • GWAR have re-signed with Metal Blade Records, whose new album will be out in August.

  • Progressive rock band Porcupine Tree have signed a deal with Roadrunner Records, who now handle the bands releases worldwide.

  • Kamelot will enter the studio in June to record their new album and guitarist Thomas Youngblood estimates the overall recording process will take 3-4 months.

  • Warrel Dane of Nevermore has revealed that the new Nevermore album will be entitled The Obsidian Conspiracy, tentatively due late 2009/early 2010.

  • Behemoth's new album Evangelion will be out on August 7 in Europe and August 11 in North America.

  • Kai Hahto of Wintersun has joined Swallow the Sun as their new drummer. Swallow the Sun recently parted ways with Pasi Pasanen, and the split is reported to be a mutual agreement between Pasanen and the band.

  • Richard Christy (ex-Death, ex-Iced Earth) has formed a new project entitled Charred Walls of the Damned, which will feature himself on drums, Tim Owens on vocals, Steve DiGiogio on bass and Jason Suecof as guitarist/producer. The band recently signed with Metal Blade.

  • Guitarist Tchort has announced his departure from Carpathian Forest.

  • Judas Priest have announced new live album entitled A Touch of Evil: Live.

  • Immortal have announced that their new album, tentatively due in the fall via Nuclear Blast, will be entitled All Shall Fall.

  • The Dillinger Escape Plan have signed a record deal with Season of Mist, with a new album planned for early 2010.

  • In Mourning have signed a two-album deal with Pulerised Records. The band will enter the Black Lounge Studio on August 22 to being recording the new album.

  • Baroness recently begun work on their new album in Dallas, Texas.

  • Shining's new album VI / Klagopsalmer will be out on June 15 via Osmose Productions.

  • 85 comments sorted by best / new / date

      theFACEdude
      I thought that Ben from Dillinger said they'd have like 2 new albums out this year? One was supposed to be the crazy mathcore stuff and the other more experimental. Eh, its all good
      Scourge441
      Pete, you should do a review of Denial - Catacombs of the Grotesque, because it's amazing and the band deserves more recognition. Checked.
      freddaahh
      In Mourning working on a new album already? HELL FUCKING YES! Oh my God, the Richard Christy, supergroup.....FFFFFUUUUU
      cobainAnselmo
      "Richard Christy (ex-Death, ex-Iced Earth) has formed a new project entitled Charred Walls of the Damned, which will feature himself on drums, Tim Owens on vocals, Steve DiGiogio on bass and Jason Suecof as guitarist/producer. The band recently signed with Metal Blade." omfg... that's the best thing i ever heared in last 5 months...
      janecoffin27
      Richard Christy (ex-Death, ex-Iced Earth) has formed a new project entitled Charred Walls of the Damned, which will feature himself on drums, Tim Owens on vocals, Steve DiGiogio on bass and Jason Suecof as guitarist/producer. The band recently signed with Metal Blade.
      I came.
      tweeb
      Alestorm is awesome, though they can get a bit boring if you listen to them too much, but overall they sound fresh and original.
      Toxtoth_O_Grady
      Toxtoth_O_Grady wrote: Blind Infinity ~ Fragments of I (I think that's right) is also an album that needs more exposure. New Alestorm is good, but it took me a few goes through before the songs grew on me properly. 5.5 would definitely be my first listen, but I'd say it's about an 8 after a few more spins. Either or whatever.
      FROZEN Infinity. Gah.
      Toxtoth_O_Grady
      Blind Infinity ~ Fragments of I (I think that's right) is also an album that needs more exposure. New Alestorm is good, but it took me a few goes through before the songs grew on me properly. 5.5 would definitely be my first listen, but I'd say it's about an 8 after a few more spins. Either or whatever.
      Lion_Slicer
      jonnowev wrote: Very harsh on the new Vomitory album. I think it's about the best death metal album of the year so far, except for maybe the new Trigger the Bloodshed record.
      I haven't heard either of those yet (I plan on it of course) but you need to check out Cosmogenesis by Obscura for sure. Reviewer Pete sure liked them lol and with good reason. Brutal and technical as all hell, and yet amazingly CATCHY which is really rather unusual for the style imo.
      Reviewer Pete
      Monkey Biscuits wrote: no tyr review? ah well news of a new baroness cd will keep me quiet
      I wanted to review Tyr, but I couldn't get a hold of it
      huevos
      lastrockgod wrote: WOW SOME OF THESE BANDS NEVER HEARD OF I'M GONNA CHECK THEM OUT.
      About 90% of the bands are absolute..... AWESOME!!! Well, they're all scattered across the genre landscape, but they are the best in their catagory.
      PurpleDinosaur
      So... nothing about the new Eternal Tears of Sorrow record? Hopefully you could cover that next month...
      SuperFlyinMonke
      Reviewer Pete wrote: He hasn't left, he's most likely pulling double duties. Not like Wintersun is doing much.
      True enough. I wish Jari could post more updates on their site, but I'm really not going to be impatient. Time will inevitably be a masterpiece.
      Reviewer Pete
      SuperFlyinMonke I don't know why Kai would leave Wintersun, especially for Swallow The Sun. I know Pete's a fan, but I find it horrid and leaves much to be desired.
      He hasn't left, he's most likely pulling double duties. Not like Wintersun is doing much.
      Trinitron
      Pretty_Much wrote: You guys do not know how excited i am for the Protest The Hero's new live DVD! Can't wait!
      I'm pretty sure it was the Toronto show last December. I WAS THERE! I COULD BE IN IT! HOLY GAAWWWWWDDDD!!!!!
      Flariduh
      Oh and btw, Can you review darkest hour's new album? It comes out the 9th.
      deadbyday666
      amorphis was great...skyforger was an energetiic and original album....great to know that Metallica and Judas Priest have got live releases in the pipeline...and yeah more of Behemoth
      Dregen
      No Between the Buried and Me? Damn. At least the new Protest DVD is coming out soon. Fuck yes!
      Ct Thrasher
      Mulldarran : SPV is bankrupt?!?! What will happen to Kreator and Sodom? And the other band for that matter. I didn't know Metallica are releasing a new video. Pretty cool, but if I know them correctly it won't be out till summer next year due to production and promotion stuff. Damn I hate it when it gets all corporate...
      Kreator just put out one a few months ago.
      jonnowev
      Lion_Slicer wrote: jonnowev wrote: Very harsh on the new Vomitory album. I think it's about the best death metal album of the year so far, except for maybe the new Trigger the Bloodshed record. I haven't heard either of those yet (I plan on it of course) but you need to check out Cosmogenesis by Obscura for sure. Reviewer Pete sure liked them lol and with good reason. Brutal and technical as all hell, and yet amazingly CATCHY which is really rather unusual for the style imo.
      Sweet, i'll look into that.
      Butt Rayge
      starts to feel somewhat dull about half-way through
      I think it picks up half way through... The first half of it is pretty damn dull
      The Tak
      Can't believe skyfire's upcoming album, as well as darkest hour's were not mentioned here :o
      Lion_Slicer
      HOLY SHIT it just hit me now about Charred Walls of the Damned.... like I saw the names but didn't register them... holyshit holyshit holyshit.
      PaganFears
      listened to the Promo of 'Skyforger'. intense stuff, anything by Amorphis owns
      Mulldarran
      SPV is bankrupt?!?! What will happen to Kreator and Sodom? And the other band for that matter. I didn't know Metallica are releasing a new video. Pretty cool, but if I know them correctly it won't be out till summer next year due to production and promotion stuff. Damn I hate it when it gets all corporate...
      Jester InFlames
      Behemoth Fear Factory Isis made my day although i knew the good newa before this, but i m just happy to see them (apart FF) on one page.
      Ed Hunter
      # Warrel Dane of Nevermore has revealed that the new Nevermore album will be entitled The Obsidian Conspiracy, tentatively due late 2009/early 2010.
      Awesome, just awesome.