Metal Monday: This Year In Metal…So Far

Perhaps more so than the last handful of years in metal music, 2012 has been pretty crazy, especially when considering the density of phenomenal albums released so far. In typical music fashion, there have been blockbusters, surprises, let downs, newcomers, and game-changers. Thankfully, most of the surprises (for me anyway) have been good ones. Many of the albums and bands covered below have already been featured in Metal Monday this year”if you’re following along, then you’ll be familiar with most of these acts already.

Both Cannibal Corpse and Dying Fetus released strong albums that largely feature more of the same from the two bands. Fear Factory‘s follow-up to Mechanize further cements their comeback, of sorts, and shows that they’re still the same old Fear Factory. Shadows Fall dropped an album that doesn’t particularly change their mold either, but is good none-the less. The real surprise from a more high-profile act was High On Fire, whose De Vermis Mysteriis was a huge step up from their last album, Snakes For The Divine. Job For A Cowboy‘s Demonocracy also featured more of the same, but a bit better this time around (not surprising, given the quality of the Gloom EP from a few months prior).


Metal Monday: From Russia With Metal

In the world of industrial metal there isn’t a whole lot of fresh meat”the same handful of artists have reigned supreme over the genre since the early ’90s. Now, e monstrous band from Russia called Illidiance is really hoping to change that. With the release of Damage Theory in mid 2010, Illidiance have found themselves among the legends of industrial metal like Rammstein and Fear Factory (both of which released excellent albums in the last couple years).

Like many industrial metal acts, there really aren’t any acts that can be comparde  to Illidiance. Their hybrid style falls somewhere between the Gothenburg melodic death metal sound and the heavier fringes of thrash metal with add a pinch of Nine Inch Nail for good measure”and really this description only loosely resembles what Illidiance sounds like. The band’s music features a great balance of extremely fast-paced tempos, thrashy riffs, a mix of harsh and clean vocals and spacey synth sounds. Perhaps taking a page from Fear Factory’s book, they also include a fair amount of double-kick drum bursts paired in perfect time with chugging guitar riffs.

Though their studio recordings are really solid,  Illidiance truly shines in their live performances. They’re known for playing extremely tight live and being true showmen on the stage. Complete with matching uniforms that look like something the warriors of a post-apocalyptic world might wear, Illidiance really know how to put on a live show, as their numerous YouTube videos demonstrate.

Somehow, Illidiance find the perfect balance between what you’d expect industrial metal to sound like and something unique and refreshing. So long as they continue to make albums on par with their two previous full-lengths, they’ll be poised to take over the industrial metal throne as the kings from the 1990s fade out. If you’re a fan of Sybreed, Digimortal or any other industrial metal bands, you’d be remiss to not give Illidiance a chance.

Check out the video they released for their song “New Millennium Crushers” from 2010’s Damage Theory:

Metal Monday: Best Metal of 2010

In a year characterized by comebacks and newcomers, 2010 has been filled with solid metal releases. There were not many albums that were a true cut above the rest”most albums were in tight contention for a Top 10 spot. Really, the top metal albums this year are only a small amount better than the albums that just missed the cut. Even with a Top 10 and five honorable mentions, there are still some very good albums getting snubbed.  Usually, such a list would include some pleasant surprises and big letdowns.  You won’t find the latter here.  Instead you’ll find some consistently great performers mixed with some nice surprises.  Counting down to 2010’s best album:

10. PriestessPrior to the Fire

After making one of the better classic heavy metal-influenced albums in recent years, Hello Master, the Canadian metallers returned with a less poppy and more classic sounding album, and a great one at that.

9. Dark TranquillityEnter The Void

You can be sure of two things with Dark Tranquillity; first that they never put out a bad album, and second that they never put out the same album. Every album from these Gothenburg metal legends is a new, different, and great. Enter The Void continues the trend.

8. Dimmu BorgirAbrahadabra

Though often criticized for being a “fake” black metal band, Dimmu Borgir know what they do, and they do it well. Abrahadabra is another symphonic black metal album that’s a slight step ahead of the pack.

7. EnslavedAxioma Ethica Odini

There are a limited number of bands who can do exactly what Enslaved does on Axioma Ethica Odomi. Certainly no one does it as well. From front to back, this is a very solid album full of the best parts of death, black and progressive metal.

6. DeftonesDiamond Eyes

Deftones are back to their old form, writing ethereal music with an abundance of emotion and power behind it”only now they have a very clear and precise sound that brings it all together. Every member of the band sounds as good, if not better, than they ever have.

5. The Tony Danza Tapdance ExtravaganzaDanza III: The Series of Unfortunate Events

Danza III truly is a death/grind/core/ masterpiece, and there is little more to say about it than that. Even so, you can check my review of it from a few months prior.

Overkill Ironbound4. OverkillIronbound

Like Deftones, Overkill are another band that have returned to form in 2010, but this one in a much more drastic fashion. Ironbound is easily Overkill’s best album in nearly two decades, and is true to the band’s excellent thrash roots.

3. Blind GuardianAt The Edge of Time

After their 2002 and 2006 albums, A Night at the Opera and A Twist in the Myth, it was hard to see At The Edge of Time coming. Quite possibly the band’s heaviest release to date, the furiously heavy riffs add another dimension to Hansi Kürsh’s vocals that was never quite there before.

2. Rhapsody of FireThe Frozen Tears of Angels

Like Blind Guardian, Rhapsody of Fire have added a completely new and much heavier dimension to their music with the amount of great riffs on The Frozen Tears of Angels. Very consistent with all of their releases, The Frozen Tears of Angels is a somewhat cheesy (but totally awesome) symphonic power metal album narrated by Christopher Lee.

1. PeripheryPeriphery

Periphery hit the metal scene hard in 2010 with their debut eponymous release. They play a style of music called “djent” that’s named after the chugging guitar found in all bands that play this style. It’s hard to imagine a better album of this sub-genre.

Honorable mentions:

ExodusExhibit B: The Human Condition

As with all of the “second tier” of thrash metal bands still at it today, Exhibit B is another solid release true to thrash metal’s roots.

Fear FactoryMechanize

Featuring the legendary Gene Hoglan on drums, Fear Factory made an impressive comeback with Mechanize, an album closer in style to Fear Factory’s earlier albums, avoiding what many thought would be disastrous album after the letdown that was Transgression in 2005.

Ion DissonanceCursed

It’s hard to pinpoint, but there’s something about Canadian deathcore bands that’s just better than their US cohorts. Ion Dissonance proves this yet again with Cursed (as Despised Icon did in 2009 with Day of Mourning).

Death AngelRelentless Retribution

Another “second tier” thrash metal band from the 80’s still putting out solid releases. Relentless Retribution is no different.

SevendustCold Day Memory

Since 2000, Sevendust is a band that has continued to get better with each album. Some argue that Animosity is and always will be the band’s pinnacle, but Cold Day Memory shows us that these guys aren’t ready to hang it up” they’ve got plenty more great music in them.

Did I forget an album? Do you have any disagreements? What are your favorite albums this year? Comment below and let me know!

Metal Monday: 1990, A Great Year In Metal

Though the metal genre has had many landmark years, no year in it’s musical history matches 1990 in terms of legendary and influential record releases. At a time when metal was starting to explore heavier sounds, such as brutal death metal, and bands like Judas Priest were evolving, the incredible album releases across the metal spectrum was an integral part of metal’s evolution. The year was epic in terms of both metal releases across sub genres and overall history.

For the new wave of British heavy metal, Judas Priest released their monster album Painkiller, which is considered to be one of the best metal albums of all time. It’s a considerably heavier sounding album than most Judas Priest material, and certainly heavier than their most famous songs such as “Breaking The Law” and “Hellbent for Leather.” Painkiller is the album in which Rob Halford finds his most sinister place, K.K. Downing finally breaks loose of the cheesier guitar riffs from the earlier days and Scott Travis adds more attitude on the drum kit. A true metal masterpiece.

Candidate for most metal artwork ever

The thrash world also had an all-time great album released in 1990 courtesy of Megadeth. Rust In Peace is a fairly short album, clocking in at just under forty minutes, but those forty minutes are densely packed with great riff after great riff, and blistering solos to spare. You also can’t forget Dave Mustaine’s incomparable voice, which is at its absolute best here.

That same year saw the debut release of the now legendary Atheist album Piece of Time, as well as Deicide‘s eponymous debut“both of which put a clear stamp on the death metal that would follow them. In a completely separate area of metal, Primus also released their debut album Frizzle Fry, considered by many to be their best album to date.

Splitting the top of the 1990 release charts with the powerful debut releases by Atheist, Deicide and Primus were bands like Pantera and Kreator. Both bands found the perfect formula for their very distinctive thrash styles, each releasing what was the best album of their careers (and still might be). Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell is certainly the band’s best known effort, boasting one of the most distinctive opening riffs in the history of metal. Even Bathory was on board with the year 1990, releasing Hammerheart, an album considered by many to be the first true “Viking Metal” album.

Less serious, but plenty awesome

In terms new metal bands, the “class of 1990” list is pretty extensive: At The Gates, Converge, Kyuss, Opeth, Dark Tranquillity, Tool, In Flames, Fear Factory, Lamb of God and more. Many of these bands would go on to be extremely influential in their respective sub genres. In fact, the bands from Gothenburg (At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames) went on to define a scene and sound for Swedish melodic death metal for the two decade to follow.

The year was marred by tragic events, such as Judas Priest being sued when their song “Better By You Better By Me” allegedly prompted a kid to commit suicide (the band won the case) and the attack and ensuing paralysis of Possessed frontman Jeff Becerra. Still, with landmark release after landmark release, 1990 will go down as one of the best years in the world of metal.

Metal Monday: Album of the Year Frontrunners

It’s about halfway through the year, and you know what that means ”we’ve only got 6 months left to get new album of the year candidates. There have been some surprises, both good and bad, so far this year. We saw a return to form by a few bands, and a fall from grace from others. Even so, others have just solidified their dominance on their respective brands of metal. Here are the five best albums at the crucial halfway point of the year:

Rhapsody of Fire the Frozen Tears of AngelsFirst up is Rhapsody of Fire with The Frozen Tears of Angels. Known as a band who always puts out solid symphonic power metal albums, it’s hard to really step your game up beyond “really good” after 7 albums, but somehow Rhapsody of Fire have found a way to do so. In somewhat stereotypical fashion, the album starts off with an ominously-narrated intro track before Luca Turilli’s fingers catch fire and he plays the most furious and blistering guitar riffs I’ve ever heard from Rhapsody of Fire. The rest of the band follow suit, delivering what is easily the band’s best performance since Dawn of Victory.

High on Fire Snakes for the DivineNext is the latest gem from Matt Pike, High on Fire‘s Snakes for the Divine. Though the release is a bit of a change from the band’s last effort, Death is This Communion, the band has delivered yet another solid record in very much their own style. All of the instruments, including Matt Pike’s voice, are as grimy as ever ” but at least now they don’t sound like they were recorded in a garage. The problem about this type of production is that it’s a very acquired, but fitting, taste for the music. The whole album sounds very dense”there isn’t much breathing room between instruments. Snakes for the Divine definitely shows more of Matt Pike’s influence from his days in Sleep, most notably in the slower sludge sections of “Bastard Samurai.”

Overkill Ironbound


Metal Monday: Draconic's "From the Wrong Side of Aperture" [Review]

Odds are, if you were asked who your favorite Serbian metal band was, you wouldn’t have an answer. Well, I may have found one for you. Longtime OurStage metal band Draconic happen to be Serbian, and also happen to be pretty good. At first listen, you might think that they would be from a Scandanavian country such as Sweden, as they bear a slight resemblance to the modern melodic death metal bands from that area, such as Soilwork. There’s also hints of Sybreed, Strapping Young Lad, Fear Factory and Threat Signal (among others) in their sound  all culminating into a blend of metal that is all their own.

Draconic From the Wrong Side of the Aperture

Released in 2009, Draconic’s album From the Wrong Side of the Aperture is their first full-length release 2004, and definitely sounds like it was 5 years in the making.Listening to the tracks, it’s clear that this was not an album written in a small span of time.  the styles and emotions are stikingly different from song to song. It’s a fine line for a band to straddle, featuring so many styles in 1 album, but it never becomes tiresome or overwhelming. One of the album’s few downfalls, are the vocals (though they do give the album a sense of cohesiveness). Singer and bassist Galic’s clean vocals often sound lackluster in comparison to the harsher tones on the albumwhich takes away some of the emotion in the songs.

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