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.
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
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: 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
If there’s a single band that personifies heavy metal more than Iron Maiden, fill me in. Metallica? Lars is a dweeb who sues his fans… and Lulu and angry saints. Slayer? They have become caricatures of themselves. Black Sabbath? Sharon Osborne and 1984-1990 happened. Judas Priest? Close, but lack that little something special. No, there isn’t a band out there that can out metal Iron Maiden and after 30 years of inhabiting the embodiment of heavy metal they still continue to be metal as fuck. For example, while recording The Book of Souls, the bands 16th studio album, Bruce Dickinson was suffering from a cancer on his tongue he reportedly got from kissing his wife in an Australian manner one too many times. He went on to record his parts on the record with golf ball sized tumors in his tongue and throat. He then kicked that cancer’s ass. Metal as fuck? I think so.
Because he wasn’t singing when he was at 100%, while still excellent, you can hear that Bruce is really pushing himself. That imperfection is what makes Iron Maiden so perfect and so metal. What is at the core of ‘having a metal state of mind’ more so than determination? Even when lambasted for records like No Prayer for the Dying and Virtual XI Steve Harris and Co. kept their cool, improved themselves, and kept on delivering countless amazing shows and a stack of great songs and albums. With a string of albums that were pretty damn good but not up to the exceedingly high Iron Maiden standards, the English gents, determined as ever, rise to the challenge and attempt to deliver their biggest album to date.
Think of those final chapters in Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel The Road (or the far inferior film adaptation if you must) where the characters find themselves upon the shore absorbed in grey. Think of trees so weak that even the touch of a beam of pure sunlight of light could disintegrate them into ash. Think of ocean waves so proud and majestic they refuse to give into the silence of an annihilated world around them as they rumble and crash into the end of their journey. Think of the sorrow of what humanity has done to this august planet. Think of the mighty rebirth of what will be when She shakes this disease (and claims Her plastic😉 ).
Using an effective and emotive combination post-hardcore/metal, doom, sludge, and black metal Hope Drone create a cyclonic atmosphere of a world gone to ash. Cloak of Ash is a miasma of despair, yet amid this there is a certain quality of beauty to be found upon its grey shores. It’s an interesting beast to say the least. Check it out! Enjoy!! Peace Love and Metal!!!