Prepare yourself, America. Swedish rockers Her Bright Skies are bringing their potent blend of post-hardcore, punk, and modern rock to the rest of the world with their most recent album, Rivals. Inheriting the mantle of fine Swedish rock exports from the past, the band’s songs brim with unstoppable power and energy. We caught up with guitarist Petter Nilsson to chat about Swedish musical history, breaking out stateside, and the message behind the new album.
Coming up with the 2011 Best and Worst List was an incredibly daunting task because this year has been one of the best for metal that I can remember. The effort left me with ten albums that probably beat out every album released last year. Heck, even my picks for eleven through twenty might be a step above last year’s Top 10. This year boasts great albums from old bands, new bands, and everything in between in just about every sub-genre that a metalhead could come up with. Progressive, death, thrash, black, metalcore, power, sludge, doom, etc.”great albums across the board. If you’re reading this, you probably already know how much metal ruled this year. So, without further ado, let’s countdown the Best and Worst Metal Albums of 2011, shall we?
10. No Help For The Mighty Ones by SubRosa
Not all metal groups that have women members or violins feel cheap and tawdry, and SubRosa are a perfect example. No Help For The Mighty Ones is a great sludge metal offshoot that delivers on of the most unique and re-playable records of 2011.
9. The Great Mass by SepticFlesh
Take a really killer death metal band and add in a hefty dose of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, and what do you get? Awesomeness, aka SepticFlesh. We did a Q&A with SepticFlesh after The Great Mass dropped. It’s a pretty solid Q&A, and a better album.
June was a pretty gigantic month for metal music, with upwards of twenty-five notable releases, some by pretty powerful players in the metal world in recent years. Not everyone has the time and energy to check out all the big releases week to week and month to month, so I’m here to help you to stay on top of this busy time. Here’s a collection of mini reviews covering a bunch of June’s metal albums to help you figure out where to begin:
In Flames – Sounds Of A Playground Fading
In Flames, one of the more famous names in the metal world, has seen their fair share of disappointment in recent years due to the flops that were A Sense Of Purpose and Soundtrack To Your Escape. Sounds Of A Playground Fading falls in line with those releases in terms of style, but is much less disappointing. Still not great, though.
Jungle Rot – Kill On Command
If you’re a regular reader, then there’s a pretty good chance you already saw my full review of this album. Still, to sum it up: this is a straight-forward, stripped down metal album in time when they are few and far between. If you haven’t read the post yet, check out the in-depth version from a few weeks back.
Devin Townsend – Deconstruction
Regarded by many as one of the most talented individuals in the metal world today, Devin Townsend rarely disappoints audiences with his music. And Deconstruction is no different. Though musically brilliant, it may take some people a bit of time to become accustomed to his odd themes, lyrics and humor. If you already know and love Devy, Deconstruction will absolutely make your day.
Tombs’ second (sort of third) full-length album is definitely their best work to date, and quite possibly one of the best records of the year. Their signature mix of black and sludge metal meld flawlessly when taken to a new, extreme level. Fifty-eight minutes of pure metal awesomeness with not a single dull moment.
Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus
I’m still not sure if Morbid Angel are just executing the biggest troll on the metal community or not, but there’s no denying that Illud Divinum Insanus is just plain not good. Trying out a new style of music, or trying to fuse new styles into a genre in which you’ve already proven your worth is admirable, but in this case it went horribly wrong. It’s not a good death metal album, it’s not a good electronic album, and it’s certainly not a good mix of styles. If you’re looking for electronic/metal combinations, maybe try “Self Vs. Self” by Pendulum and In Flames.
August Burns Red – Leveler
August Burns Red’s fourth full length album sees the band departing even further from the somewhat standard brand of metalcore that propelled them to success. Leveler incorporates a litany of different musical styles, such as a nice flamenco guitar interlude, within their signature level of tightness and high energy.
Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions
The extra time Arch Enemy took between albums, along with Michael Amott’s short stint reuniting with Carcass, clearly had a huge effect on the band. Khaos Legions is a bit of a departure from the band’s other recent works“and for the better. Each member’s best efforts focused into one album makes for a really solid listen.
Every now and then a band tries to do something interesting with the currently played-out, generic deathcore sound without falling into the very well-defined box that deathcore has become. Fit For An Autopsy gets points for their effort, but there are still traces of the cookie-cutter style. A solid listen, though I’m not so sure that this is even close to the best the band can offer.
Job For A Cowboy – Gloom
With every new release, Job For A Cowboy make a case for being one of the best pure death metal acts and Gloom is no different. As an EP, it’s only four songs, but each of those songs is remarkably well-executed and shows the band isn’t even close to done yet.
Limp Bizkit – Gold Cobra
Calling Limp Bizkit a metal band that this point is really more of a joke than it is a serious claim, but this record is worth noting due to the fact that it perfectly sums up all of the music Limp Bizkit has made to date, except for their first (and best) album, 3 Dollar Bill Y’all. From the high energy tracks with angry raps to the somewhat ballad-like tunes, you get to hear a little bit of everything Limp Bizkit is known for.
Here’s a few other June metal releases that I’ve heard some good things about:
Symphony X – Iconoclast
From the looks of comments and ratings around the Internet, most people seem pretty pleased with this album. After 194 ratings on metalstorm.net, Iconoclast sits at an 8.5/10 rating, which isn’t too shabby at all (but is lower than the respective ratings for each of the three albums prior to it). It would appear that Symphony X have put out yet another solid album.
Like Symphony X’s latest effort, most opinions of Entity seem to be very positive. It’s averaging an 8.4/10 after 57 votes, which is right on par with their last record. The only real complaints I’ve seen seem to be that some of the songs are quite short, and the album can get a bit lost in its overly-technical style at times.
Amorphis – The Beginning Of Times
The Beginning Of Times is the follow up to this Finnish monster band’s great 2009 album Skyforger, and by most accounts, is equally as good. Described by some as being a bit more melodically complex and reaching, Amorphis is not, historically, a formulaic type of band so overlooking a release is usually a folly.
June really turned out to be quite a climax in an already fantastic year in metal, and the releases keep rolling out. There are at least a few more albums coming out in 2011 that could very well dwarf the rest of the year’s releases (such as Revocation, Decapitated, Opeth, All Shall Perish, Skeletonwitch, etc.) but we’ll have to wait and see.
Any June metal releases you’re especially fond of that you think people should give a listen to? Post it in the comments section!
In the world of metal sub-genres, there are purists who want to preserve musical tradition and there are activists who want to stretch the boundaries of sound”and never than twain shall meet. One sub-genre of music that is all about being true to its roots is Gothenburg melodic death metal, which started with bands like In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. Though these bands have slowly evolved over time, many diehard fans have chastised their new sounds, and as such not many traditional Gothenburg melodic death metal bands exist now. Bands that boast the traditional Gothenburg sound are few and far between these days, but one band that executes it perfectly is OurStage’s The Neologist.
Formed by James Lewis and Devin Walsh in 2009 from the ashes of their previous project (SeVeR), the two set out to make music that they themselves liked to listen to (favorites include In Flames, Soilwork, Disarmonia Mundi and Dark Tranquillity) and they’ve done exactly that. With clear motives stated in their bio, such as being a musical outlet with no boundaries, they seem to be well on their way to accomplishing their goals for this project. Releasing The 26 Letters of Your Universe in 2010, The Neologist have put out a great and pretty traditional Gothenburg-styled metal album, and have been working on new material since.
The band’s current musical project is a series of In Flames cover songs in which they’re enlisting the help of Facebook to decide which tracks they should record. According to Lewis and Walsh, they have an incredible amount of musical flexibility being a duo, which allows them to make decisions in “1.8 seconds” (as quoted in their Facebook profile). It’s a good thing, too, because the first cover of this series is fantastic, and they’ll be able to create many more in a short span of time. They have reworked the classic “Jotun” from In Flames’ Whoracle, playing it almost exactly like the original but adding a touch of their own signature sound (and making an incredibly silly video to match).
The best part about The Neologist at the moment, however, is the fact that they’re giving away their debut album away for free! That’s right, all you need to do is click this download link and you’ll have twelve tasty tracks of awesomeness to feed your metal-craving ears. Not sold? You can listen to most of the tracks from the album right on OurStage with this conveniently-located player which contain eleven tracks:
There are certain countries that are considered to be a cut above the rest in terms of the metal they produce. At the top of the metal food chain are countries like Canada, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Norway, the UK and the US”but who reigns supreme in the metal world? There is a strong case to be made for each of these countries, but in the last two decades it’s hard to argue against Sweden as metal’s capital.
Though Sweden might not have the most metal bands out of all these countries (that title probably belongs to the US), they have birthed a few bands in the last few decades that have gone on to pioneer, revolutionize, or create a new sub-genre of metal. Bands such as In Flames, Dark Tranquillity and At The Gates are the forefathers melodic death metal (and what would be come to known as the “Gothenburg sound”). Meshuggah are often considered one of the most unique metal bands of today, inspiring countless bands to come after them are”they’re also often cited as the main influence for the recent trend of “djent” bands). Opeth is largely considered the pinnacle for progressive death metal bands, with each of their nine full-length albums earning extremely positive critical response. Candlemass is one of the original epic doom metal bands that would carve the modern and current definition of doom metal.
Even if you take out the list of heavily influential metal bands that shaped the current lay of the metal land, you’re still left with a list of massively talented bands: Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy, Katatonia, Bathory, Hypocrisy, Bloodbath, Soilwork, Scar Symmetry, Cult of Luna, and the list goes on. One of the biggest deciding factors, in addition to the quality of these bands, is their longevity. Even pioneering bands like Dark Tranquillity, Opeth and Meshuggah are still putting out landmark releases. That’s what it’s all about: sustained, high quality, albums year after year.
Of course, there can be strong arguments made for any of the aforementioned countries”the UK produced Motí¶rhead, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest and creating the entire genre of metal. The US can be credited for producing the “big four” of thrash, among countless other great bands. Still, even considering all of the arguments for other countries to reign supreme, it’s hard to argue against Sweden.
Cover tunes have been a big part of pop music in the last few decades, and an even bigger part of music throughout history (though the idea of a cover tune is rather new, they’re historically known as standards). Some covers are well known to be remakes, other times people don’t even know songs they love are covers. For example, you might not know Jimi Hendrix wasn’t the original performer of “All Along The Watchtower” ”that one’s a Bob Dylan song. But, cover songs aren’t only for rock and pop artists. Metal artists do their fair share of covers as well, sometimes even full albums (See Overkill, Rage Against The Machine and Evergreen Terrace).
Personally, I think metal musicians covering songs that weren’t originally metal songs is rather brilliant. Here are some great renditions of songs that are decidedly more heavy than their originals:
- “Still Fly” by Big Tymers, as covered by The Devil Wears Prada for the compilation Punk Goes Crunk
- “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears, as covered by August Burns Red for the Punk Goes Pop Vol. 2 compilation
- “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, as performed by Children of Bodom on their album Skeletons In The Closet
- “The Sound Of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, as performed by Nevermore on their album Dead Heart In A Dead World
- “Everything Counts” by Depeche Mode, as covered by In Flames on their 1997 album Whoracle
- “White Room” by Cream, as performed by Demons & Wizards as a bonus track on their self-titled album
- “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” by Elton John, as performed by Flotsam & Jetsam on their album No Place For Disgrace
- “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen, as performed by Motí¶rhead