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.
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.
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
Hello all you lovely readers!!! Thanks for sticking with us during this very quiet second half of 2015. While we may have been quiet it by no means we haven’t been digging on glorious, glorious metal. And ho boy, what a hell of a year this was. So many great releases from so many great bands. Since there is so much great music I enjoyed this year and it being 2015 and all, instead of my usual ten best albums of the year I’m bumping it up to 15 plus 5 quick honorable mentions. Too keep things still interesting I will only be ordering my top five and splitting the rest up into tiers with albums presented in no particular order. I hope you find some kick ass tunes to check out here ass every one of these albums deserves your attention and time.
Best of wishes to your holidays and to your 2016! May it be filled with loud grinding guitars, pulverizing drums, and people screaming in your ears!!! PEACE LOVE AND METAL!!!!
- Out of the Garden by Crypt Sermon (Doom Metal)
- Graveward by Sigh (Avant-Garde Black Thrash Metal)
- The Boats of Glen Carrig by Ahab (Doom Metal)
- Beyond the Red Mirror by Blind Guardian (Power Metal)
- One Man Army by Ensiferum (Folk Thrash Metal)
I know I’ve gone radio silent the past month due to a mixture of work and writing burnout. However not at least dropping a few words about the latest from one of my favorite artists would be a pretty terrible thing.
Autumn Eternal displays Panopticon’s knack for creating stunning folk/black metal with majestic atmospheres realized to a level I’ve yet hear from the one-man band. Incorporating things like choral vocals and keys, a heavier focus on melodies, and a slight scale back on the bluegrass elements makes this album a very fluid, well-crafted affair. Each track carries its own personality and the small bump up in sound quality does help the record brandish more of a punch. And as usual, Austin Lunn’s lyrics are absolutely beautiful.
Maybe I’ll return at some point to write up a full review, but until then, don’t hesitate a moment in giving Autumn Eternal a listen/purchase. Enjoy!!!! Peace Love and Metal!!!
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 11 Sep 2015
Length: 42 Minutes
Previous Albums: Show No Mercy (1983); Hell Awaits (1985); Reign In Blood (1986); South Of Heaven (1988); Seasons In The Abyss (1990); Divine Intervention (1994); Undisputed Attitude (1996); Diabolus In Musica (1998); God Hates Us All (2001); Christ Illusion (2006); World Painted Blood (2009)
Location: United States
I didn’t realize that it had been so long since Slayer’s “World Painted Blood” album back in ’09. I went to look back and see if we reviewed it, but Metal State didn’t exist back then. So, this is our first ever review of a Slayer album. Looks like a retro-review is due.
Back in the day…or a long time ago in the late 80s, early 90s listening to Slayer meant you crossed the line as a metal fan. I wasn’t keen to what was going on in Europe as a teenager (except for Helloween), but for American standards listening to and loving Slayer meant that you were full-blown metalhead and there was is no coming back from that. It was a one-way ticket to hell and I was in the front row. Slayer was a more extreme level than the rest of the Big Four and being a fan was taken seriously. Seeing a Slayer show in a small club was one of the most intense experiences I have ever had. On another note, I remember cutting school just to buy their live “Decade of Aggression” album with my buddy…we were such rebels, not! Just die-hard geeks. Anyway, owning Slayer material, going to their pummeling shows (10 of them), and trying to interpret their lyrics was time consuming, but time well spent. Read the rest of this entry →
It isn’t too often a metal band get sponsored by the United Services Organizations (USO) to play free shows on military installations. I am not saying it never happens, but it’s rare and even rarer that I get to be part of the event. Hellyeah was the sponsored band of the evening and kids were not allowed at the Yokota Air Base, Japan, venue. It was probably a good thing since it was beyond loud. Spinal Tap would say it was #11 loud. I couldn’t care less about all of Chad Gray’s F-bombs he was politely asked not to say, but damn it was one of the loudest shows I have ever been to. My lovely wife was my date and I think she walked away a fan. Yep, she just validated that statement and followed up with stating that she thought the show was well-played, Tom Maxwell did a great job with all that southern twang in his guitar, and that Chad Gray was a really good, active frontman. I can certainly confirm that. I got tired watching him and that says a lot about his presence on stage. The dude is a mover! Read the rest of this entry →
Label: Lorna Vista Records (USA), Spinefarm/Rise Above (Europe)
Release Date: Aug. 21st, 2015
Genre: Doom Metal/Psychedelic Rock/Pop
Studio Albums: Opus Eponymous, Infestissumam
Location: Linköping, Sweden