Category Archives: Album Reviews
Our unbiased and comprehensive album reviews. We focus more on talking about an album for what it is. We highlight the good points, note the bad, and let you decide for yourself. However, if you really want to see our score look to our “quick hits” list on the right side of our main page and hover your icon over the album’s thumbnail. There, you will see our score based on 1-5. The higher, the better.
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.
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
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.
Label: Century Media
Release Date: 22 January 2016
Location: Bergen, Norway
Label: Inverse Records
Release Date: 22 January 2016
Length: 45 minutes
Genre: Folk Metal
Studio Albums: Deathknot (2010), Nyvinland (EP, 2012)
Location: Keuruu, Finland
Release Date: 22 Jan 2016
Label: Universal Music Enterprise
Length: 55 Minutes
Genre: Thrash Metal
Previous Albums: Killing is my Business…and Business is Good (1985); Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying (1988); Rust in Peace (1990); Countdown to Extinction (1992); Youthanasia (1994); Cryptic Writings (1997); Risk (1999); The World Needs a Hero (2001); The System Has Failed (2004); United Abominations (2007); Endgame (2009); Thirteen (2011); Super Collider (2013).
Location: United States Read the rest of this entry →
Seven more top albums with female vocalists, courtesy of our friends at Sonic Cathedral. Be sure to visit the SC website and Facebook page. If something good is happening in femme rock or metal, SC covers it.
As you all know, seven is a lucky number if there’s a competition and you draw number seven and number seven wins the prize. It’s also lucky if there are seven friends and they receive seven tickets to a metal concert. I keep drawing number 3.14159 these days so I haven’t won anything. No matter, here are seven winners to make me feel much better. Enjoy them! You’ll feel better too.
Tags: A Sound of Thunder, acoustic rock, Butcher Babies, Christmas music, electro-industrial metal, John Two-Hawks & Johanna Kurkela, Melodic Metal, Melphomene, Mizantropia, neo-thrash metal, Power Metal, Skeptical minds, Sonic Cathedral’s female-fronted roundup for Q4 2015 – Part 2, symphonic/Gothic metal, The Rue
Since I’ve been snarled up in other matters since the end of September I haven’t been posting our monthly digest of Sonic Cathedral reviews. To catch up, today and tomorrow I’ll be posting a two-part digest covering the last three months of this year.
My heartiest thanks go to SC for being patient. The same to you lovely, gentle people who follow Metal State.
If you don’t know it already, SC runs the website and Facebook page for bands with female vocalists. The SC reviews are deep, detailed and knowledgeable. They carry a lot of other great information about the FF scene in metal and rock, too. Go there!
Posted in Album Reviews
Tags: alternative hard rock, alternative symphonic metal, classical, embassy of silence, Gothic Metal, Heavy Metal, Huntress, Melodic Metal, Mercy Isle, prog-related rock/metal, Setanera, Sonic Cathedral’s female-fronted roundup for Q4 2015 – Part 1, Symphonic Metal, Tarja Turunen, Tattermask, The Fall of Eve, UnSeelie
As I age (I’m in my lower 40s now) I ponder the fate of my long-standing favored bands. Let’s face it we’re all getting older and for me that means there will come a time when I read a story about a favorite band of mine quitting or retiring. Queensrÿche, along with the Big Four bands and many others have been around long enough that I dread the day of their eventual end. I thought Queensrÿche might have been headed there earlier than necessary with their former vocalist at the helm and all the craziness that ensued. But damn, Queensrÿche dusted themselves off, picked up a great lead vocalist, and threw some uppercuts. 2013’s self-titled album paved a new foundation for the band and there appears to be no looking back…only aiming forward. Read the rest of this entry →