Some years ago I remember checking out an album by Oak Pantheon (2012’s From a Whisper), digging it enough to buy it, and then it kinda got lost among the mountain of mp3s on my player. Basically, it was a good album, but not memorable enough to really solidify itself in my consciousness. The band name stuck more with me than the music. Luckily, remembering the band name and associating it with something pretty quality I clicked on the preview for the new album, In Pieces, over at Bandcamp and an hour later left with more than just a killer band name fixed in my head.
Crafting an absolutely enthralling collection music, Oak Pantheon have delivered one of the most engaging atmospheric black metal albums I’ve heard to date. Each track strikes balance between hypnotizing and ferocious, Earthly and astral. Twists and turns that flow seamlessly rock you into a meditative state like laying back on a boat on an isolated sea. This album is a journey; a journey that will leave one changed. Outstanding instrumental performances to boot!
If you dig on bands like Vattnet Viskar, The Atlas Moth, Panopticon, and Agalloch, In Pieces is a must. If you just love well crafted music regardless of genre, this is a must. It will be a serious album of the year contender for me! Go give it a listen and a purchase if you enjoy it! Enjoy!! Peace Love and Metal!!!!
When BabyMetal popped up some years ago with that very Japanese video for Doki Doki Panic, I got a good kick out of the metal/Jpop hybrid dancing girl trio, watched it a few times, shared it on the Facebook, and then went back about my business of being a trve br00tl metalhead. I guess a lot of people liked that video as it caught on like wildfire and more crazy songs and videos ensued, even a full album. Thinking it was a pure gimmick with no heart like most ‘produced’ bands I passed on it. Not that I don’t have a soft spot for the occasional bit of Jpop, I do play a fuckton of Japanese RPGs (tips hat to the Persona composers) and I do love me some Maximum the Hormone, it just seemed like something that would be forgettable when the image was taken away.
Last month the new single/video for ‘Karate’ was released and of course I checked it out without hesitation expecting to dig it and then be on my merry way. What I didn’t expect was how much it would catch in my brain. Between that slick groove metal riff, infectious chorus, and chilling outro I kept saying to myself that the people writing the music for these girls really do have some damn fine chops. So, I decided to take the dive and check out the new record, Metal Resistance, to see how well it held up with the image removed and the music holding its own. And boy am I surprised at how much this record kept surprising me.
When Dez Fafara announced DevilDriver was going on hiatus back in 2014, I felt it was the end of the band. Long-time band members were dropping off the roster like flies while Dez’s other band, Coal Chamber, was making a momentous comeback. I was beginning to think Winer Kills was the last album we’d see from DevilDriver. But, that was not the case. With Mike Spreitzer being the remaining musician with any sort of tenure, they recruited Austin D’Amond, Neil Tiemann, and a bassist (Diego Ibarra – listed as touring bassist) and began working on new material in 2015. It was a short-lived hiatus and for DevilDriver fans, it’s a good thing because Trust No One takes DevilDriver in a slightly different direction than we are used to.
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 5 Feb 2016
Length: 1 Hour, 48 Minutes
Genre: Symphonic Black/Death Metal
Studio Albums: Oracles (2009); Agony (2011); Labyrinth (2013).
Location: Italy Read the rest of this entry →
For years I’ve always ragged on Amon Amarth for churning out the same album ad nauseam. Killer riff, killer riff, growly growly growly, Vikings, Thor, killer riff, more growling, Vikings again, oh hey look it’s Odin! Luckily, Amon Amarth are a band that, even at their most derivative, write such grand headbanging tunes that I happily purchase each album on release day. Being as dependable as they are, even before popping the CD in I pretty much know what I’m getting; a collection of groovy riffs to sate any pangs I may occasionally have for good ol’ death metal. So, going by their near 20 year track record I went into Jomsviking expecting a very good album that I would listen to a few time throughout the week and then occasionally throughout the rest of the year, much like the rest of their back catalog. Well, it has been a good week solid and not only has Jomsviking been the only album I’ve been exclusively listening to, I’ve also been making opportunities to sneak in a song or two more whenever possible (during smoke breaks, deliberately walking slower to work, etc.) I was expecting good and I got a kegger at Vallhalla!
What really gets me about Jomsviking is it is old reliable Amon Amarth and at the same time a stylistic shift for the band. Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg’s melodic riffs are still at the forefront of every song and they are made to that classic thick groove thanks to the always proficient Ted Lundström on bass teamed with great pick for studio drummer Tobias Gustafsson. Johan Hegg still remains one of the best and most understandable growlers in the metal realm. Everything that one loves about Amon Amarth is here in spades, but now with extra, and more refined flavor.
What’s new to the table most likely comes from the fact that Jomsviking is Amon Amarth’s first concept album. Telling a touching love story (no, I’m not kidding) about a Viking who gets himself exiled when he kills a man after he goes into a rage when his love is sent to be married off to another clan. Vengeance and redemption ensue the Viking way, bloody. For a band known for their simplicity, and even with direct and simple lyrics, it’s a complex and powerful story; emotional even. Having to focus their sound around the narrative leads to Amon Amarth broadening their sound to effectively match the tale they wove. This leads to flurry of sounds, tones, and styles that they have touched upon in the past, but never honed to this sharpness. It’s what makes the record so easy to listen to repeatedly and makes it so addicting.
Each song boasts its own unique touch. The opener ‘First Kill’ is your typical Amon Amarth tune and ‘The Wanderer’ ventures into old school In Flames territory. Things get really interesting on the third track ‘On a Sea of Blood’ where, deer lord! that beautiful Bay Area thrash guitar tone splits open eardrums for a ripping, thrash-tastic assault slays for one of the most energetic songs the band has ever written. This shift to a brighter tone really accentuates the rest of the album allowing the guitarists really to show off those licks and solos they opened the floodgates on. They also work outstanding with Johan Hegg’s voice highlighting his range, especially on the Viking sing-a-long ‘Raise Your Horns’, which I expect to become an immediate live show classic.
‘The Way of the Vikings’ most likely benefits the most from the narrative as it is the point in the story where the protagonist must face his best friend on the battlefield in a fight to the death. One adjective I thought I’d ever use to describe an Amon Amarth song is ’emotional’, yet here I am doing it. The rhythmic, mid-paced riffs backing that bridge solo just gets me every time. Such a simple song, yet so fucking powerful. To a lesser extent Doro Pesch makes a guest appearance on ‘A Dream That Can Not Be’ as the main characters love and she delivers a performance that hits the emotion button hard.
And not to forget about easily my favorite song off the album, ‘At Dawn’s First Light’. This is clearly a love letter to Iron Maiden. Jam packed with galloping rhythms and riffs, dual attack, larger than life solos, and a high-flying, memorable chorus, this is basically everything I love about Iron Maiden (my favorite band btw) distilled into death metal. More tracks have a nice little Maiden influence to them and it’s great, but here it’s in full force and hot damn is it great. Without a doubt one of my favorite Amon Amarth songs ever.
I honestly can not speak highly enough of Jomsviking. If you had thought Amon Amarth were getting a bit stale or were going to sell-out moving to a big time major label, you need this album in your life. They are firing on all cylinders and have reasserted their claim as one of the best modern death metal bands in the world today. No metal head should be without this record. Peace Love and Metal!!!! 5.0 out of 5.0
Album: The Astonishing
Label: Roadrunner Records
Release Date: 29 Jan 2016
Length: 2 hours, 11 minutes
Genre: Progressive Metal
Studio Albums: When Dream and Day Unite (1989); Images and Words (1992); Awake (1994); Falling into Infinity (1997); Metropolis Pt 2: Scenes from a Memory (1999); Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (2002); Train of Thought (2003) Octavarium (2005); Systematic Chaos (2007); Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009); A Dramatic Turn of Events (2011); Dream Theater (2013).
Location: United States Read the rest of this entry →
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It’s been a while since Black Tusk’s EP Tend No Wounds graced the paged of A Metal State of Mind. Somehow, I missed the 2014 EP, Vulture’s Eyes; it’s impossible to catch everything, right? At least someone back me up on that. So, here we are with Pillars of Ash, the first full album release since 2011. Was it worth the wait? Well, if you are into sludgy, hardcore-infused metal, then my short answer is yes. Despite coming in at just 35 minutes, the album packs a punch that I am sure will be inspiring a frenzy of circle pits or at the very least, a few thrown chairs.
Brandishing one of the most iconic faces in metal, black metal’s resident jester has left (or was forced out) his original band Immortal and is taking a stab at the thing as a solo artist. Honestly, upon hearing this, I’d be hard pressed to not say he was already a solo artist during his days with Immortal. His eponymous solo debut is basically a continuation of the frozen land of Blashyrkh. So, if you love Immortal, you will love Abbath’s solo work. In fact, while it doesn’t really push any boundaries, this is some of his most solid work to date. Sick riffs, blistering speed, and snarling vocals. What’s not to love? Enjoy!!! Peace Love and Metal!!!
Label: Century Media
Release Date: 22 January 2016
Location: Bergen, Norway
Just like it was for glorious metal, 2015 was an outstanding year for gamers. Tons of new and exciting games big and small which pushed the boundries of the medium were released this year. And while I didn’t get to play everything that 2015 had to offer, what I did play were some top quality experiences that I will be playing for many years to come. My main gaming machines are the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS as well as a PC that needs to be upgraded before I can play most games from the current gen (ie. PS4), so while things like Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3 seem like obvious choices for my list, I won’t be able to play them till I upgrade to a PS4 or better PC.
Also worth noting that while I’d drop the remaster of Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask for the 3DS at a high spot, I’m not including remakes/remasters here. Though, it is easily one of the best remasters ever and it’s a remaster of my all time favorite game. If you got a 3DS, it is an essential purchase, even worth buying the console for! I’m also omitting games that were released in Europe in 2015 but not US until 2016 (and vice-versa), so you’ll see them on my 2016 list (namely Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam).
So, without further ado, here’s my ten favorite games released in 2015.