Voivod releases title track from Post Society EP

Voivod recently released the title track from the upcoming Post Society EP. Its overall Voivodness (in the French-Canadian metal sense, as opposed to the Polish administrative one) supports my previous theory that the band is continuing with the approach that they outlined on Target Earth; in my own previous words, “…an accessible mixture of of their signature late ’80s sound with more modern alternative and progressive rock influences.” The EP is still scheduled for February 26th, and Voivod is still going on tour next month. The good track record so far bodes well for the quality of the involved content, although the fact so much of it having already been released piecemeal may cut into its overall sales.

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Master – An Epiphany of Hate (2016)

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Master, Autopsy, Motörhead –  what do they all have in common? They’re all long running bands that settled on a workable style relatively early and generally stuck with it for decades, gradually refining their craft while managing not to lose control of the forces that initially motivated them. Master is arguably the grandfather of this tradition within the realms of death metal, as they’re the approximate beginning of the constellation of Paul Speckmann projects (since War Cry is allegedly a far cry from most of his work). Given that Master sticks with tradition on An Epiphany of Hate, anyone who’s familiar with Master should know exactly what they’re going to get.

This album belongs to the more elaborate school of Mastercraft that’s come into being in the last few years; while Master has never written especially long or complicated songs, the level of musicianship and organization on display here is a definite improvement from the early days of the band. The production and mixing is also higher fidelity, but improving such is not nearly as difficult as becoming a better songwriter. I’d argue that Paul Masidval’s (protip: Cynic) contributions to Master during his brief mercenary period in the early 1990s must’ve resonated with Speckmann on some level and encouraged this elaboration. An Epiphany of Hate is still relatively sparse in its overall construction; the songs here are built out of comparatively few riffs; if not necessarily the three per song figure that comes up in older discussions. Monophony is still the band’s weapon of choice, but like many of the bands that have… mastered this sort of metal, Master’s musicians know when to keep it up and enjoy their freedom of melody and tonality and when they should instead use some sort of harmonic reinforcement. This expansion without overextension is something a lot of bands aren’t able to successfully pull off, so it does reflect pretty well on them.

I don’t know how much of an advance An Epiphany of Hate represents over 2013’s The Witchhunt, if any, but it’s still a good addition to Master’s legacy and a worthy addition to your 2016 collections.

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Avantasia streaming Ghostlights

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Avantasia is arguably a notable power metal act and perhaps one of the EU’s most profitable exporters of cheese. Man can’t live on cheese alone, but DMU occasionally attracts fans of mainstream power metal, and sometimes for all its goofiness it’s less idiotic than whatever else is trendy. Ghostlights will officially release tomorrow, but the German entertainment news site Bild (at least I think it’s lightweight news; meine Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut) is currently offering a stream of the album for those who want to preview the album. As is typical for this band, Ghostlights will feature an all-star roster of power metal musicians, and is generally very accessible and poppy; saccharine even once listeners acclimate to the sound. We might give it a review someday; no guarantees.

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Abbath – Abbath (2016)

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Abbath’s pitfalls on Abbath are garden variety pitfalls (haphazard songwriting, too much time on the mixing consoles). What really distinguishes this album from all the other comebacks (like our recent coverage of Dystopia) is its main author’s legacy. Abbath’s previous accomplishments with Immortal factor very heavily into any promotion of his solo efforts, and this album has already received a great deal of praise because it doesn’t rock the boat by not sounding like Immortal and its more openly rock-like spinoffs (Between Two Worlds, March of the Norse). Divorced from the fame, Abbath might draw a little positive attention for having slightly above average individual riffs and instrument interaction, but that doesn’t stop it from paling in comparison to what Immortal themselves achieved.

A lot of what I could say about this album has already been used to describe previous efforts from when Immortal itself lost the impetus that made it so interesting in its early years. Running a simple search and replace on Brett’s descriptions of Damned in Black to replace band names makes for a very accurate, albeit not particularly original summation of how Abbath falls short. Surprisingly, it also describes some of the strong points; this album is arguably a lot more appealing on a superficial level than Immortal’s earlier studio albums. While skillful organization of musical content makes careful listening to a track like “The Call of the Wintermoon” off the debut pay off in the long run, I will admit that earlier material sometimes falls short in individual riffs and solos, mainly because the band members were less technically skilled in the past. That attention to detail, though, rendered the old works more ambitious. In contrast, a couple of tracks here come off as especially contrived; for instance, “Ocean of Wounds”, which sounds like Abbath and company decided that they absolutely needed to have a mid-paced arena headbanger. Many of the tracks aren’t as obviously pop oriented, but they’re still pretty haphazard and unmemorable once you start memorizing the individual elements.

It should come as no surprise that I don’t exactly recommend Abbath. The main difference between this and most of the chaff is that I think the musicians involved could do better if they set their minds to it based on the fact that they have, although the subtleties of the past sometimes just don’t pay the bills. At the very least, a financially successful but vapid comeback is a different problem than continued effort from bands that never put out anything of value.

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Temple of Gnosis – De Secretis Naturae Alchymica (2016)

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Article by David Rosales

After an unnecessarily long and artificially down-tuned spoken introduction, Temple of Gnosis’s De Secretis Naturae Alchymica introduces the listener to a “mean” sounding chord backed by some kind of disco beat which comes off as not only cheesy but out of place after the ridiculous introduction. It doesn’t work quite as well for Temple as Gnosis as it did for Gehenna on First Spell, but they do rescue the music by switching to a more sober midpaced approach.

The music here basically consists of a standard rock beat, as well a short, meandering tune that keeps coming back in the chords of the keyboard, the power chords of the guitar or the high notes of the lead guitar. The vocals keep blabbering on top of this simple motif that creates no expectation, intensifies nothing, is not designed for immersion and rather just serves as a mantle for “dark-minded” pretensions. It’s the sort of music teenage witches might listen to if they feel particularly evil. It’s not really convincing, and if it were actually scary or dangerous, they wouldn’t get anywhere near it.

The difference between meaningful occultism and the pop posturing that most people confuse with the former is a subtle one which may be very difficult to discern for profane minds. We may think of music in general as a good reflection of how the concept of occult forces and symbols interact, what it evokes in the eye of the mind, what it gets in touch with and how much content the symbol in front of us actually hides. That is, good occultism works when the seemingly confusing or encoded meanings in the symbols are layered with meaning, a meaning that is concrete and not only apparent, which is the hallmark of its posturing pop counterpart. This can be seen in good music in general, but to set a good example, we turn again to the music in albums such as The Red in the Sky is Ours and Onward to Golgotha where every aspect at several vertical and horizontal levels conspires to produce a collection of possible interpretations whose ultimate consequences mostly consciously imprinted in it. Projects such as Temple of Gnosis who are self-styled occultists in music only talk about being so in their lyrics, their paper-thin music being a living example of what is meant by “empty words”.

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Amon Amarth releases first single from Jomsviking

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLh_CJ4G-0Q

Amon Amarth is basically ‘beginner’ metal, although sometimes it’s very hard for us at DMU to hold that against them. Their latest effort, Jomsviking, comes out on March 25th and is already available for preorder from Metal Blade Records. The provided promotional video for “First Kill” continues Amon Amarth’s legacy of basic rock music with death metal aesthetics, and the fact that the band has stuck to this approach for their entire career (although their first few albums were allegedly a bit more complex) is non-news at best. After this album’s release, Amon Amarth will be going on a lengthy tour of the US with Entombed A.D and Exmortus that will last most of April and May.

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Megadeth – Dystopia (2016)

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Megadeth has cycled between obvious mainstream rock pandering and careful imitation of their best appreciated works at an ever accelerating rate since their reformation in 2004. If this trend keeps up, they’ll be changing styles with every strum of their guitars in a few years. Dystopia isn’t quite as quick to alter its own sounds as that rather implausible hypothetical peak, but it’s still obviously colored by two colliding trends; Dave Mustaine’s desire to outsell Metallica, and the fact that even relatively extreme metal can sell enormous volumes in 2016. This makes what would be yet another comeback album into a surprisingly disjointed experience at times.

In general, Dystopia provides its potential listeners with several varieties of vintage Megadeth to peruse at their leisure, ranging from the technical wizardry of the ’80s and Rust in Peace (arguably the musical peak of this band) to the streamlined pop metal that immediately followed such, and even hints of recent albums through conceptual and musical continuity. Beyond the vocals of Dave Mustaine and the frequent guitar leads, though, there’s little that distinguishes this from other poppy speed metal of the mid 2010s, especially since this is one of those dime-a-dozen studio perfect recordings with perfectly appropriate production and instrumentation. One definite problem, however is that Dave Mustaine’s vocal and lyrical contributions have decayed in quality in recent years. Megadeth’s always been political at the best of times, but more often than not the lyrics devolve into political sloganeering that might be appropriate if he actually ran for president of the USA. In song format, though, all they do is annoy, irritate, and pander. Mustaine also relies increasingly on digital processing to mask the age-related decay of his voice, most notably on “Fatal Illusion“. This isn’t an innately bad thing, and you could theoretically make a case for the chorusing and harmonies opening new ideas for Megadeth to explore, but it pushes unneeded emphasis on the vocals, so even the average listener that decides that the technique sounds kind of cool might find it grating regardless. Perhaps I shouldn’t be focusing on the vox too much, but when the rest of the album is competent and yet unremarkable, it’s sometimes the only option.

In short, Dystopia is kind of disposable; most metal albums that try to approximate known classics are. It’s still better than Repentless, but the “Big Four” have all since run out of momentum, which makes Dystopia‘s slick technical competence marred by excessive streamlining even more unremarkable than it would otherwise be. The last time Megadeth tried their hands at this, they cranked out Endgame, which was well received at the time of its release and generally similar in approach, but has since faded from the public eye. Do you still have space in your listening rotation for Endgame? If you don’t, you won’t have time for Dystopia either.

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David Vincent (ex-Morbid Angel) experimenting with country music

While Morbid Angel resolves its lineup issues and recovers from the public relations fiasco that was Illud Divinum Insanus, David Vincent is exploring a musical interest that until recently must’ve been churning under the surface. So far, Vincent’s excursions into country music have happened alongside Danny B. Harvey (who also performed in The Head Cat alongside the recently deceased Lemmy Kilmister), and besides the performance in this video he’s also penned an original song (“Buyer Beware”). So far, his contributions to that genre seem to be reasonably competent, but I don’t know enough about country to adequately judge this. Furthermore, David Vincent isn’t the first metal musician to make the crossover; Jeffrey Walker’s Welcome to Carcass Country comes to mind.

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Upcoming Tours – Tau Cross

So Tau Cross’s debut made our best of 2015 list. That should make their upcoming short tour a worthwhile endeavor; time will obviously tell us whether that was an accurate appraisal. This group (featuring members of Amebix and Voivod amongst others) will be playing a few dates in the USA on the boundary of March and April, as well as two in Canada. Furthermore, they’ll be following it up with a performance at Roadburn in the Netherlands. While this doesn’t provide all that many options for seeing the band perform live, it’s still something to consider if you have an opportunity to see live shows. No supporting acts have been announced yet, but the dates follow:

Mar. 29 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock
Mar. 31 – Chicago, IL @ Cobra Lounge
Apr. 01 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Cativo
Apr. 02 – Toronto, ON @ Coalition
Apr. 03 – Montreal, QC @ Katacombs
Apr. 04 – Boston, MA @ Middle East
Apr. 06 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot and Saddle
Apr. 07 – Washington, DC @ The Pinch
Apr. 08 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
Apr. 09 – Brooklyn, NY @ Acheron

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Brutality – Sea Of Ignorance (2016)

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My experiences with Brutality prior to Sea of Ignorance‘s release lead me to believe that all of their works take a disproportionate acclimatization in order to properly comprehend, only surpassed in my experience by the wall of voodoo that is Incantation’s debut. This album has little to do with Incantation’s style, like most of their others, but it has only reinforced my hypothesis. Brutality’s take on “melodic” death metal consistently contains enough harmonic hooks in the riffs to draw a listener in, but odds are you’ll only find their music truly rewarding if you give it some time to sink in. That’s not exactly suited to the fast paced world of online music criticism (advertising thinly veiled as criticism), but odds are you’ll get more out of Brutality’s latest than your average death metal album even if you don’t give it a proper chance.

In general, Sea of Ignorance varies only subtly from its predecessors, and most of these changes play out on the surface. Brutality settled on their current approach early in their career, occupying the liminal space between their often sparser Florida contemporaries and the emphasis on structural and harmonic complexity of a band like At the Gates. The comparison to the latter has come up on occasion when DMU covers this band’s exploits, but Brutality synthesizes enough disparate influences that pulling any one out is difficult, although in my more comparative moments I might bring up Autopsy, since the band plays around with speed and atmosphere enough to significant enhance their formula. Sea of Ignorance follows from previous works in a fairly predictable way – more emphasis upon melody and simpler, more streamlined song structures than the past, but when they aren’t flat out covering Bathory (“Shores in Flames”), the lineage is obvious.

My opinion on this album is ultimately very similar to how I felt about Skull Grinder, although like most of the comparisons I’ve made in this review it’s a comparison of convenience as opposed to significant musical similarity. Sea of Ignorance is a stylistically appropriate if not particularly ambitious continuation of Brutality’s previous work; while it’s not particularly essential if you own any of those albums, it’s still a valuable purchase for those who want to study the strong points of this sort of death metal, and a good enough release to be worth financially supporting.

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