Cradle of Filth - Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder
Genre: Extreme metal Release date: October 27 Label: Roadrunner
Another month, another album and another band people tend to either love or hate. Curiously, I've seen virtually no press whatsoever for this release and I almost missed it altogether.
To be honest, Cradle of Filth never clicked for me, and I see no reason why this should either. There's precious little evolution in terms of sound and style, predictable arrangements and nothing that really stands out. The band plays well, the production is good despite that the orchestral bits sound pretty cheap and Dani filth is a good at what he does, but it's still lacking in two of the more important departments: songs and length. Yes, you guessed it, it's too damn long, clocking in at a bit over 60 minutes. The way I see it, most black metal albums can go two ways - either you pen short, direct and punchy hits, like Lord Belial did on The Black Curse, or you opt for a more technical and epic approach, along the lines of, say, Emperor. Godspeed seems to sit on the fence on this one, trying to pick the best bits of both but ultimately it all boils down to a pretty bland soup that never seems to end.
It's hard to point out flaws in mediocre music - because that it exactly what Godspeed on The Devil's Thunder is. The album doesn't turn very bad nor very good at any stage, it just plods along and it simply doesn't stick. I do like the general concept of depicting Gilles de Rais and his life, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Sylosis - Conclusion of an Age
Genre: Modern thrash Release date: October 24 Label: Nuclear Blast
I've heard a lot about Sylosis for quite some time now, first reading about them in magazines and then they finally landed a proper deal with Nuclear Blast. Thus, I was pretty interested in this release to see if they could live up to the hype they'd generated.
What I do like about them is that their sound is a bit like a melting pot. You get a modern take on thrash, some death metal, melodic stuff and you can definitely tell that these guys have been working quite a while to get to this point. Debut albums can sound a bit immature in places, but Conclusion of an Age sounds like a band a few albums into their career. The albums opens very well, as most albums tend to do, but it doesn't drop the ball after the first barrage. The galloping opening riff in After Lifeless Years got stuck in my head immediately upon hearing it, just like the main riff in the title track. The musicianship doesn't really offer a new take on anything, but it's all very well done, which is especially noticeable in the lead playing.
The sound is not completely new but the execution is very, very solid and I hope they can raise the bar another notch or two for their next album, because they've got a lot of potential. The songs and riffs are there, and with that present in this genre you can't really do much wrong.
Bloodbath - The Fathomless Mastery
Genre: Death metal Release date: October 28 Label: Peaceville
What once started out as a fun little drunken project amongst the Swedish death metal elite has now turned pretty serious, a string albums and EP s down the road. Precious little has changed from their debut EP, and for some that's great and for some (like me) it makes the band a little less interesting. Their first EP was more or less a tribute to the old school style of Swedish death metal, which put them in a category I'd call fun but not serious. Now, with so many releases under their belt, it's hard to consider them as such an act and it's starting to sound a bit bland. Sure, Mock the Cross and At the Behest of Their Death are truly monstrous death metal tunes, with groove, swagger and attitude, but the quality of the songs don't hold up for the entire course of the album. Since the style never changes, the songwriting has to be improved for each release, and I'd argue that if anything it's taken a step back.
The Fathomless Mastery is a good album, don't get me wrong, but there's no real reason for me to listen to this when I've got Breeding Death and Resurrection Through Carnage doing the same thing, except much better. Bloodbath would be better off giving it a rest for a few years and then put out an EP every now and then, instead of watering down the market with a release every year.
Unearth - The March
Genre: Modern thrash Release date: October 14 Label: Metal Blade
My general opinion of Unearth prior to III: In The Eyes of Fire was pretty lukewarm. To me they were an average metal/hardcore band, but that changed big-time with In The Eyes of Fire, which turned out to be one of my favourite albums of that year. Thus, I've been looking forward to The March quite a bit.
One thing is noticeable from the first note - there's a lot more shredding and lead playing in general on this album. I certainly don't mind, Buz McGrath is a very tasty player and he's got some nice chops. There're quite a few blistering leads on The March, such as We Are Not Anonymous where Buz and Ken trade off leads seamlessly and with great taste.
But, when it all boils down, leads are just cosmetics on what truly matters and that of course is the song. There're a handful of solid songs, and then some that don't accomplish all that much. I'll have to say that The March leaves a bit to be desired. It's well-produced, well played and the performances are pretty darn good, even though I prefer their previous drummer. The songs don't hit as hard and frequently like on In The Eyes of Fire, plus I find that the speed-element has been a bit toned down in favour for a more grooving vibe, which will go over well with some people I suppose, but I definitely prefer this band when they speed things up. Finally, a few more catchy that could carry an entire song would've been nice. The way things are, a lot of the record is built on a chord progression with a melody on top, whereas I'd preferred more powerful riffs. But hey, that's just me.
The March is an alright record, but it's also a definite step back and down from their previous release.
Thyrfing - Hels Vite
Genre: Black/folk metal Release date: October 22 Label: Regain
Prior to this month, Thyrfing belonged to the category of bands I'd heard of but never heard. Hailing from Stockholm, Sweden, they mix black and folk elements, with lyrics in Swedish and English. Nothing new under the sun (or moon perhaps), but it's quite an enjoyable listen. Hels Vite doesn't necessarily reach any dazzling heights, but it never goes very low either. Consistent and very solid would be a fitting description. There's not much speed on it, it's more of a steady groove with a good deal of atmosphere thrown in, such as the acoustic break in Isolation. The album delivers a solid bunch of songs, with a production that doesn't come off as too good, given the genre, and if you're into black with a touch of folk, or just want to dip your toe in the genre, Hels Vite would certainly be a good record for you.
Note: Cynic's Traced In Air was pushed back to November 25th, and thus is not featured here, but it most certainly will be in next month's edition.
News And Tidbits From The Past Month
Anthrax recently entered the studio to begin recording on their new album, tentatively due in May 2009.
Mastodon will release their new album Crack the Skye sometime in early 2009.
Anaal Nathrakh have begun recording a new album, tentatively due in June 2009.
Exodus are working on a follow-up to The Atrocity Exhibition, but no release date or news about when they enter the studio is available. The material is however described by Gary Holt as darker and faster.
Massachusetts metallers Shadows Fall's are rumoured to have lost their record deal with Roadrunner (Europe) and also are said to be close to being dropped by Atlantic in the US.
Devian's new album God To The Illfated will be released in most European countries in December, as well as the US in January 2009.
Queensrche are wrapping up the recordings of their new album American Soldier, due in Q1 2009. The concept of the album is said to be war from the soldier's perspective.
Tech-death giants Quo Vadis recently announced a new bass player in Roxanne Constantin.
And finally, Shadow Gallery vocalist Michael A. Baker passed away on October 29, after suffering a heart attack. He was only 45 years old. So far, there is no word as to if the band will continue without him or call it a day.
That's it for this month, thanks for reading.