Here at Don't Count On It Reviews, you can read reviews from different artists from different styles.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pressure Points - Remorses to Remember

Think Melo-Death Going Prog?

Pressure Points is a progressive death metal band from Finland. This is their first release and their seem to have a pretty firm grip of the sound they wanted to go for on this record. You could see a lot of people getting into this band if you like who their compared to in reviews.
The 10 minute opener Atonement certainly paints a picture for the listener. This band has all the right ingredient for their sound to be original. This song easily will have people drawing comparisons to bands like Opeth, but it actually sounds closer to what Swallow The Sun are doing. This track has those Opeth moments, but has a very doomy vibe to it and sounds more similar to a STS song.
This band has the elements of progressive rock and psychedelic rock mixed in with more of a doom metal or death/doom style. Definitely, this is a sound that is sure to catch people off guard being only a debut album. But it's not in the style that makes this band unique, it's how it's used.
Like Swallow The Sun's more progressive moments, they're melodic but have a tendency for being off-kilter. Another band that is maybe a little clearer comparison is the new band Barren Earth, which features member of Amorphis, Moonsorrow, and Swallow The Sun.
The musicianship in this band is on par with all of their piers. With more melodic and soulful sections intertwined with more brutal and heavy aspects of metal. Temptation For Hate is a track that begins to show a bit of a crazy tendency for more black metal bits of intensity.
The progressive moments are fully showcased in every song. Like an Opeth song, or from any band that's progressive, melody is always a part of their sound, and that's the sweetness that will keep people coming back, the hooks. The melodies at the end of Edge of Endurance is pure epic styled goodness.
Even during the more mellow and acoustic passages that make up the progressive rock side of Pressure Points are enjoyable. The interlude, Calm, expresses almost bluesy passages with flutes playing along with it. Rounding out this band with more musical expression that just metal.
The Opeth comparason is most visable on the last three tracks, which all reek of Opeth's influence. Beginning with clean guitars and leading into a melodic heavy passage. While the vocals just sound like he's trying to be Mikael Akerfeldt, from the growls to the almost soulful cleans.
The overall impression you get from this band is that they are so close to finding their own sound, but it is just eluding them. This album brings with it all the influences needed for an original sound and Pressure Points make it work. This debut is very good, one of the best in recent years for a debut album.
Overall, this record is a must for all fans of extreme prog. From the Opeth-like qualities to the Swallow The Sun like playing style, this is a must for this year. Check this band out if you like original music from original players, who don't BS their music for an image.
Overall Score: 9
Highlight: Atonement, Edge of Endurance, The Past Within, Grand Delusion

Orphaned Land - The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR

Israeli Metalheads Take A Trip Into Steven Wilson's World.

Orphaned Land is a progressive/oriental metal band from, you guessed it, Israel. Their new record, "The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR," has been in the making for just about 6 years. This is after the groundbreaking success of their previous album "Mabool" was released. So for this record they lured in produced extraordinaire, Steven Wilson.
This record explores more areas then on the previous record did in terms of conceptualized worlds and soundscapes. From the concept of a journey of life inside this ORwarriOR person in a coma, trying to be awakened by his friends and family. Where the music explores territories entered on "Mabool," but explored more in depth. From progressive rock, oriental folk music, tribal chants, and to an extent, even black and doom metal.
From the very folk influenced opener, Sapari, this album begins to unfold with influences that twist around each other. Even the second track, From Broken Vessels, combines styles in a very fluid manner, combining death metal, folk music, and prog together in a very melodic way. This moves into Bereft In The Abyss, an acoustic interlude track that sounds very epic unto itself with Kobi Farhi's melodic and woeful vocals over the acoustic passage.
This album contains those melodic parts that will get stuck inside your head, the heavy parts to get your head banging, and the mellow parts to get you back to ground-level before your paralyzed from the neck down. This album is the accumulation of styles and visions that hold it head-and-shoulders above many other releases in the past decade. An easy assumption would be that this album is just the next "Mabool" album, while it contains the elements found in that record, it is far beyond it's double. This record could be compared to Opeth's "Blackwater Park" or Evergrey's "Recreation Day" records in that these are all records that made the band and where everything just clicked.
As already stated, Steven Wilson, of Porcupine Tree fame, is the producer on this fine album. Giving it the warmness of any record he produces and those soft and delicate features of a SW production. This production is as fabulous as ever, allowing every instrument to be heard clearly in every song, and with so much going on, this was also in part to the mix that he provided as well, it gives you the opportunity to hear the vision the band was working to achieve. Also adding those famous progressive keyboards he's so famous for having on his work, adding that small flavor of psychedelia to an already progressive band's unique sound.
This is another album that I can't give enough praise to for being so different and reflective at the same time. Showing a sonic journey that hasn't been captured in perfection in a long time, while also showing you different sides to a single individual, or band. This record is firing on all cylinders and doesn't stop for an instant. Every song shows a different aspect to the Orphaned Land sound.
From the use of Arabian and Turkish insturments like the santur, shofar, nay, or kawala flutes to the use of violins, pianos, and more traditional percussion makes this album sound different. As already expressed by the band themselves, their music is to bridge the gaps made by religion and bring people together. The use of different culturally musical instruments allows people from the US to Israel to Iraq to Australia to Germany to understand the music and be brought together in unison.
The 8:30 minute centerpiece of the album, Disciples of The Secret Oath II, is the song that will be brought into a progressive classic on day. Taking a song from "El Norra Alila," their second album, and expanding upon it for this album. Mixing styles of folk, death and black metal, progressive rock, classical music, and almost hardcore chanting for a section, this song is a definitive piece of music.
The final aspect to this record is the fluidness of every track that leads into the next. This is once again thanks to SW's production and mix, but seamlessly melds all of these tracks into a single culmination piece of music. Though almost 80 minutes in length, if feels little longer than half an hour thanks to the strength of the songs themselves and the way the songs sound.
Overall, this record stands alone as a category of music unique to itself. No other album has as definitive a sound as this record does. From the concept to the sound of different colliding styles to the mix and production of it, this record comes to life and breathes life into the listener. This is a record that everyone must hear.
Overall Score: 10 - Classic
Highlights: Every Song Is A Highlight

Arkaik - Reflections Within Dissonance

Tech-Death For Fans of Deathcore.

Arkaik is a technical death metal band from California. "Reflections Within Dissonance" is their second full-length album, and it's being released on Unique Leader Records. Being released on this label must make this band at least decent at what they do since Unique Leader usually doesn't sign a band that's crap.
From the intro track The Transcendent Spectral Path onwards, this band does not let up. Showing incredible technical prowess and capabilities. You can tell influences immediately from the actual first song, Reflections Within Dissonance. Signs shows that bands like Psycroptic or Spawn of Possession are definitely part of Arkaik's sound.
Though for anyone who's never heard a Unique Leader band, this is nothing new for the label. Being founded on the principle of signing super brutal, uber-technical, and constantly fast death metal bands. So this band really isn't all that different from the rest of the bands on that label. This band just happens to be younger.
Songs on this album are all fairly short as well. The whole album is only about 40 minutes long, so most of the songs won't take up that much of your time. Seeing as the longest song on this album, Womb of Perception, is just under 5 minutes, you could go through this album in a flash. This could be considered a bad thing, seeing as the songs mix the whole brutal death, deathcore, and tech-death together in a pretty decent way all the tracks can sometimes blend together. Memorable parts are somewhat hard to come by on this album, with very few things you haven't heard before. Plus, there are very few riffs that are even repeated enough to get stuck in your head.
While it's clear that every member of this band can play their instruments well, bass player, Eric Cohen, is the standout player on this album. His influence on songs is not usually heard until he does an Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse) and whips out a small bass solo/break part. His performance is what gives some of these songs a little more to heard instead of spiralling around your head technical prowess that just blends into a storm of self-indulgence.
The solos heard on the track Malignant Ignorance give hope that this band can at least bring in some more melodic influences. Since every thing else on this album is blindingly fast, some melody is appreciated to those of us who don't listen to constant aggression death metal. Those small moments of melody do appear every so often on this album, but their somewhat hard to come by.
Vocals are your usual death growls. There are some moments where he'll do a squeal, but lucky enough, those moments are very few on this album. His range is the usual low and mid-range growl, he might do a few more variations than some other bands on the label, but he rarely goes out and does a higher scream or something like that.
Overall, this is decent for the style. I'm sure that there will be people who'll be able to get into this more than I could. Pick it up if you like your technical death metal with vocals that can be translated into human speech.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Obscured Luminosity, Womb of Perception, The Divine Manifestation, Elemental Synthesis, Face of Regression

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Massive Attack - Heligoland

The Masters of Trip Return, But Stumble A Bit.

Massive Attack is one of those essential groups you almost have to like if you're into the whole trip-hop scene. Being able to mix sexy beats with subtle percussion and low-key vocals is what made this group such a big name. Having been on hiatus for a few years, they have returned with a newer and darker album than "100th Window."
"Heligoland" is a very dark sounding record with a lot of little things going on in it's quiet sound. From the very sexy opener Pray For Rain on, you get that the whole record is a statement that Massive Attack is back. It's not to say that this record is not without it's flaws, but it has a sound that is very modern, but still kneels before that of "Mezzanine."
Some of the songs released on this album were released on an EP that preceded this album. The "Splitting The Atom - EP" featured the tracks Pray For Rain, Splitting The Atom, and a remix of Psyche. The two tracks that were not remixed remain the same, but feel more complete in the setting of an album.
As with previous Massive Attack records, there are a lot of guests and collaborators on these songs. Guests include Tunde Adebimpe, Horace Andy, Martina Topley-Bird, and Damon Albarn. This, as with all Massive Attack records, gives the record a very eclectic sound.
Each guest brings with them their own touch towards the sound of the song they guest upon. Tunde Adebimpe is very laid-back sounding in his performance in Pray For Rain, while Martina Topley-Bird has multiple harmonies going on in her rendition of Psyche.
Paradise Circus is one of the standout tracks on this album because of it's very dark atmosphere. Possibly the darkest sounding song on the album, it's accompanied by Hope Sandoval's very subdued vocal melodies. The overall sound of the song is almost intoxicating. While Saturday Come Show, with Damon Albarn from Blur and Gorillaz, opposes that with a moving vocal performance. With painfully sung vocals that will sick you down to those dark places in your soul.
This album has a lot of really cool songs on it that will get your body movin'. Although very good, it is, already stated, not as good as "Mezzanine," but it's hard to find a trip-hop album that does compete with that one. This is a record that will appease fans of Massive Attack as well as those fans of the genre.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Pray For Rain, Splitting The Atom, Girl I Love You, Paradise Circus, Saturday Come Show

Wold - Working Together For Our Privacy

A Sonic Mess That Makes Sense (Somehow).

Wold is an industrial, noise-based black metal band from Canada. Though their style of performing music is a bit unorthodox for most metal heads, it works in some contexts of listening. "Working Together For Our Privacy" is a very noise based work of sound unlike that of more "mainstream" black metal and isn't something you put on for enjoyment as much as you would a Dimmu or Cradle record, or whatever you happen to listen to in your spare time.
This record is only 3 songs that are long pieces of noise music. Though this might sound a bit weird to listen to noise music that really doesn't shift around like a Murzbow record or have a more rock feel like noise rock music, this record is really more about the atmosphere behind this wall of noise. During the 10 minute opener, The Secret, there are subtleties provided by some sort of keyboard that give the song an almost form of structure.
Fans of Wold will probably enjoy this like they did for the last album. This album is more based in a sonic assault format as oppose to the more noise ridden black metal of previous albums like "Screech Owl" or "Stratification." This album contains apparent singing in it, which could appeal more to those who listen to more noise based music. But there are moments in the album where more growling or yelling could be heard.
While all the songs on this album feature a more grating sound to them, each song has a feature that the other does not. The opener, The Secret, features more keyboards in the background which give it more structure, as already stated. Death Spiral on the other hand feature more electronic, or acoustic, percussion on it. Lovey Dovey is the only "song" on this album. This track feature more electronic, almost mechanical, sounds going behind a wall of noise, that sounds different from the previous tracks.
Overall, this record is mainly going to appeal to either fans of Wold or people who are into extreme forms of noise and avant-garde music. This really isn't a jam out or rock out to record, it takes patience to even stand to listen to the whole thing from start to finish. Kinda of cool, but not for a lot of people.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: The Secret, Lovey Dovey

Dark Tranquillity - We Are The Void

Another Great Album By A Classic Band.

Dark Tranquillity is that band you love from Sweden. You know the one, they came out with At The Gates and In Flames. Their the ones that didn't break up and the one's that didn't "sell out." Dark Tranquillity is the band that is truly a classic and just never really stops being good.
"We Are The Void" is an album that is really a continuation of what was done on "Fiction" and "Character" but a little bit more refined. Everything on this album is great sounding and boasts the usual, catchy and pounding DT riffs. It's an overall great sounding record. But nothing on this record will really floor you like it did on the previous records.
But just because it doesn't floor you doesn't mean it won't get you banging your head or screaming along with the vocals. The songs on this album really have the most keyboards and sound effects since "Haven." This adds a bit of gothic feel to songs like Dream Oblivion or The Fatalist. So this feel kind of breaks up a little bit of the monotony. Not that a DT record was really ever monotonous.
The guitars on this album are as heavy and melodic as ever. Creating those riffs that will get stuck in your head. Niklas and Martin create those hooks that DT has always had in their sound. It is one thing you always have in a new album from this band, the riffs are always good and heavy sounding.
Mikael's vocals are another thing you always know will be a constant. His vocals never get too low or too high to turn the band into something fans know their not. He keeps the song moving with a style that no one else does but him. Mikael's clean vocals are also present on "We Are The Void" just like they were on the previous. They're never the focus of the whole song, and they never make song feel cheesy when they're there, but they make that song a little bit cooler with his baratone vocals.
Both these things are constants in the sound of Dark Tranquillity, but that's not to say that everything on "We Are The Void" is something you've heard before, because it's not. As already stated, the keys have a more gothic feel to them and have a bigger presence on this album then previous albums. The overall presence of the gothic makes this album sound just a little bit darker than "Fiction" did.
The drumming on this record is a little bit more fluid sounding than previous ones. Anders has a more room for fills and breaks up some of the straightforward nature of some songs with this. With a more openness of fluid drumming patterns, this allows the keys more presence to create atmospheres.
One of the darkest songs on this album is Arkhangelsk. This song begins with a very melancholic piano melody and guitar riff, but once Mikael's vocals come in, a darker mood is brought. The sound of the song is very dark and big sounding, but also has a kind of controlled chaos in it. The overall composition of the song is one of the best on the album.
Iridium takes a different approach. This track is more atmospheric than any other track on this album, but takes a giant turn into melancholic/doom metal with it's chorus. This is another very interesting track because of how separated the chorus seems from the verses in styles.
Overall, this is another good record from DT. Consistent as always, this album does not disappoint. Any fan of good melodic death metal or gothic metal will find a great listen in this album, nothing to turn off a fan who's listened to previous DT records.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Dream Oblivion, In My Absense, The Grandest Accusation, Her Silent Language, Arkhangelsk, Iridium

Sigh - Scenes From Hell

The Soundtrack to A Horror Movie, Metal Style.

Sigh is the Japanese avant-garde metal band that you know if you like weird music and never heard of if you don't. Sigh has always pushed the boundaries of musical styles within their own respective "black metal" sound. From 70's progressive rock to country, from black metal to doom metal, from heavy metal to post-rock.
"Scenes From Hell" is no different in that Sigh is just doing what they've always done. The only difference is that you don't ever know where Sigh is going to go from one album to another. On this album they've mixed more symphonic music with more traditional blackened death metal riffs. Though it might sound like this has been done a hundred times before by other symphonic metal bands and symphonic black metal bands, you've never heard it done like this.
Sigh has taken the symphonic from more orchestral strings to a fuller sounding orchestra sound with full strings, brass, and even woodwind sections. This can be off-putting at some points because of the mixing of this. At some points during Prelude to The Oracle, the brass section is louder than anything else in the mix except to vocals. Another thing that can turn fans off is the density of this sound, with both metal sections and an orchestra playing simultaneously, it makes this album sound very crammed and can take a few listens to hear just what is going on in a single song.
This is also the first "official" Sigh album that Dr. Mikannibal is apart of, though she did the majority of vocals on the tribute to Venom album. She does more death metal vocals that mix very well with Mirai's more traditional black metal screams showcased on a track like Vanitas. This is the majority of her presence on this album, but she does provide a saxophone for the band as well.
The guitar tone is very similar to the one found on Sigh's more progressive songs. It has a very 70's rock vibe to it, as oppose to more traditionally black metal guitars. The way the guitars are played gives off a more doom metal vibe, with slower, heavy sounding riffs. This style give the symphonic parts a larger place to make their parts shown. Musica In Tempora Belli is one of the few tracks where the guitar is more dominant in the mix. In the particular track, the guitars are playing a faster, more melodic riffs compared to the more doom based ones played on other songs.
The Red Funeral is a very big sounding song, with an almost military-like drum pattern. This juxtaposes the more wild playing of the orchestra. While Mirai's vocals are very rabid sounding as well, the finale of the song concludes it very well in a minute of more sobriety. This track leads into The Summer Funeral, a monolith of a track with very movie-score like qualities to it. The strings take a large part in this song, while more dark riffs and pianos are played supporting the bigness of the orchestra.
This record will be one that could grow on people, but will most likely divide fans over it's sound. Being very focused on the orchestral sound, rather than the band. This is an interesting album with a lot to be heard when you listen to different things.
Overall, this is a fairly decent record with a lot of styles being melded together, once again, by Sigh. This is not a record where everything will be heard on the first listen. This is a good album if you're willing to really commit to listening to everything.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: L'art De Mourir, The Soul Grave, The Summer Funeral, Scenes From Hell

In Vain - Mantra

A Luring Spell of Darkness.

In Vain is a Norwegian progressive black metal band. "Mantra" is their second album and the follow-up to 2007's "The Latter Rain." This album shows a greater increase in certain elements while losing some of those that made the band unique on their debut.
In Vain is a band who progressive side is always showcased through the album. Through the use of powerful guitar and keyboard solos and lengthy songs. They've stated that their influences range from extreme metal to more ambient and jazz music, and all of this is shown on "Mantra." Though some of the more jazz elements are not as present as on their debut, which used brass instruments and strings more presently in it's sound, "Mantra" has a much more Opeth or Enslaved approach toward the progressive side of it's sound. Being more focused on songwriting rather than bringing together a large amount of influences and throwing them at a wall and seeing which stick.
This album, as well as the debut, shows a large amount of talent in this band. Being able to open with a very progressive sounding opener, Captivating Solitude, and following it with Mannefall, an incredibly heavy and death/doom song. The opener showcases the overall sound of this band, being incredibly melodic and psychedelic sounding. The vocals have more of a death metal approach to the growls and screams, but once the chorus comes in, by keyboardist Sindre Nedland, it has a very ICS Vortex vibe to it, being almost folky sounding. This opposes the very heavy sound of Mannefall. This song combines the sound and melody of a My Dying Bride song with a very Borknagar vibe, giving it a very unique sound.
The next two songs kind of work together. The third song, and kind of interlude song, Ain't No Lovin', has a very country sound to it with only clean vocals, and acoustic guitar, and a dark sounding atmosphere to it. This track leads into On The Banks of The Mississippi, which continues the more doomy sound with folky melodies. This song has very melodic structure with a lot of guitar solos. This will appease all those prog-heads looking for more extreme bands. This also continues the Opeth/Enslaved sound of very melodic prog songs.
From here on in, every song is over 9 minutes long. Circle of Agony takes the whole melodic prog approach and mixes it with more of a thrash metal sound. Wayakin (The Guardian Spirit of The Nez Perce) is an epic piece of music that shows a huge Borknagar and Enslaved influence. From it's more epic sounding beginning to the chanting that makes up it's vocals, this song has a folkish melody soaring throughout the whole song. But the sound of the chanting gives off the sound of almost native American or Indian warriors fighting before the chorus kicks in. Dark Prophets, Black Hearts is a song that has more focus on a melodic black metal type of song. This song could be compared to the opener Captivating Loneliness because of it's more structured approach. When that acoustic section comes in, it becomes the most beautiful part of the song, with acoustic guitars accompanied by a string section that sounds very classical.
The final track, Sombre Fall, Burdened Winter, is epic as well, with more simplistic opening to it's very viking styled heavy sections. Going from pretty folkish acoustic parts into more viking and epic heavy sections really fits for a strong closer. There is also more of their less metal influeces that seep into this song, from jazz to more classical sections that are covered on this song. While this is the most experimental and longest song on the album, it is also the song which resembles their debut the most.
Overall, this is a very strong piece of extreme metal. A very epic follow-up to an equally great debut. In Vain has brought in more melody on this album as oppose to jazzy experimentation, and it works. Fans of extreme and progressive metal should have no problems with this album.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every song is a highlight

Friday, January 29, 2010

Aspera - Ripples

Prog Newbies Make A Big Splash.

Aspera is a new band from Norway. Unlike those of you who know Norway as the capital for black metal, Aspera is a progressive metal band influenced by the likes of Dream Theater, Symphony X, and Pain of Salvation. This makes it a little interesting for those into the whole Norwegian scene and not just the one particular style.
Aspera is one of those bands that fans will either love or hate. This is because they have such similarities to their influences, and their obvious sounding. Not that any of these influences could be consitered bad, or even saying that this album is bad, what this means is that if you've listened to those bands, you've most likely heard what's going to be on this album before. There isn't a lot on here that fans of progressive metal haven't already heard in the newer prog scene bands like Pagan's Mind or Circus Maximus.
Though the previous comparisons are all respected in the community of prog metal, Aspera does have some more contemporary influences. The ones you can tell are from bands like Meshuggah, Pagan's Mind, and Redemption. Though these influences don't stand out like the others, they are still recognizable in the sound. Songs like Remorse or Catatonic Coma shows these influences more up front.
"Ripples" does have the signature that all prog metal bands have, excellent musicianship. Guitarist Robin Ognedal and keyboardist Nickolas Henriksen show dominance over their respective instruments with masterfully crafted solos and melodies. Though both of these are very heavy, the keyboards in particular the opener and title track, Ripples, show a large influence from psychedelic music. Where as Do I Dare? shows a lot of symphonic elements along with the Symphony X comparison.
Aspera also has a unique vocallist, Atle Pettersen. His style is very much a rock n' roll styled approach, which sounds weird for a metal band, but it fits. His vocal range is also very exemplary for his age. He shows a lot of potential and is worth actually listening to, because I know most prog fans will listen to the music rather than the vocals, but this guy is worth actually listening to.
Overall, this is a fairly strong debut album with both strong and catchy songs. Definitely a must for all fans of Dream Theater or progressive metal fans. If you like more old-school sounding prog metal, this is definitely in you boat, check it out.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Ripples, Between Black and White, Catatonic Coma, Torn Apart, The Purpose

Abigor - Time Is The Sulphur In The Veins of The Saint - An Excursion On Satan's Fragmenting Principle

When God Leaves, We Come Out and Play.

Abigor is a black metal band from Austria. Having been known to dabble into more experimental territories with previous albums, this album can come across differently than most albums. Some fans will find this album very chaotic and almost mathcore-like sounding while others will find more in common with their previous records from the industrial elements used.
This record is a split record with the German industrial black metal band Blacklodge. This is not a collaboration album, it is simply two separate albums being released together. Both albums express a theory of Albert Einstein.
Though there are only 2 official untitled songs on this album, each of them contains breaks that separate one song from another. These breaks provide a small breather between either crazy, almost Dillenger Escape Plan-esque mathcore technical parts, more atmospheric industrial sections, and more traditional black metal sections of music. But most of the time, all of these sounds are just thrown together and beaten into one another.
These separate sections are another reason why this album could throw a lot of people and fans of this band or style for a loop. All of these more chaotic styles almost juxtapose each other in a normal circumstance, but seem to fit together in most of the sections. Somehow Abigor have seemed to create an extremely technical, dissonant, harsh sounding record without losing any of the familiarity of their past works. Some would call this sound progressive, or to an extent even schizophrenic would be appropriate.
Both of the songs are almost 20 minutes long. This could also throw people for a loop, in that even the longest Abigor songs haven't been over 10 minutes. The patience it takes to listen to the whole album, or even a song, can be a little tedious, but with so much going on, you'll find yourself either listening to the song again or just rewinding to see what you might have missed. An extremely complex sounding album with a lot of layers that will both confuse and dazzle you with the uniqueness that they are.
Between these two songs, Part I is definitely the more chaotic sounding. Where as this song shifts during the almost 20 minute course of itself multiple times, the second part includes more traditional Abigor styled parts, with the occasional avant-garde/mathcore part. These parts to some will be random, but create a large part of the unpredictability of these songs. Open ears will be able to observe more complex sounding patterns opposed to mindless noise.
Overall, these songs can be a bit overwhelming and take a little longer to get into, but patience is a virtue in all good music. If you're a fan of more experimental, progressive, or avant-garde sounding music, this MIGHT float your boat. Approach with caution, because this review won't give you the same vibe you get when you listen to this in full.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Part I, Part II (Different ones for different occasions)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blacklodge - T/ME [3rd Level Initiation = Chamber of Downfall]

Mechanical Noise For Non Mechanical People.

Blacklodge has returned 4 years after the release of 2006's "SolarKult." Having worked in his other projects, Vorkreist and The Arrival of Satan, Saint Vincent bring a newer vision for what "T/ME" should be conceptualized as sound-wise. This new album brings a different sound to the more industrialized sound of Blacklodge.
This album is a split album with Abigor. As such, this album is just under 40 minutes so that both these records could be released together in a single format. For clarification, this is not a collaboration album, it is a split, so it is a record from both Abigor and Blacklodge.
"T/ME" brings with it a newer form of electronic music. As on previous outputs, this album has the more black metal sound with more electronics on top of it. But this record mixes more noise, ambient, and spoken word with the already vicious sounds of their past work.
Spoken word is exorcised in the opener, Lambda [Or The Last of The Gods; Being The Secret of SataN], with more spoken voices over more trip-hop like soundscapes. This serves as an exercise in experimentalism for Blacklodge before the more harsh industrial sounds of Vector G [Gravity XVI]. The two songs bring a theme of darkness overtaking light shown more through the overall sound of the two songs rather than the lyrics. Both these tracks feature spoken word parts, more so the opener, but are very electronically based in sound.
Vector G [Gravity XVI] has a very noisy electronic based sound, filled with little sounds that take multiple listens just to hear. This track also has a very catchy riff that Blacklodge is known for. This riff is simple, but effective in the overall feel of the track.
Sulphuric Acedia follows that track with a more techno-trance beat, with a lot of repetition in the patterns. More industrialized guitars are layered on top of these beats which adds to the processed sound of this song. Once again, the guitars are playing more simple riffs, but are playing several melodies over each other creating a very hard sounding wall of sound.
Saturn follows this with the most wild sounding song on this album. Very fast trance-like beats are being played under numerous synthe effects and harsh guitar riffs. Vocally, Saint Vincent brings a doomy sound to this track. Though wild and spastic sounding it compensates it with a very open sound that makes everything sound and feel very big. This all ends with a more noise sounding ending with mechanical vocals speaking on top.
...Stupefying [Suicide Tutorials Pt.11] is the final track almost 9 minutes long. The song is very focused sounding, with more trippy or hip-hop beats underneath noisy guitars and spoken word atop it all. As the song progresses, the guitars gradually are moved underneath a synthe. The guitars carry the bulk of the rhythm on this track, giving it an interesting vibe. The vocals also increase in intensity throughout the song, gradually becoming more and more angry sounding.
Overall, this is a strong album with interesting, experimental songs. For a split album, it carries with it a strong sense of song structure, never making anything too out there for a casual listener to shy away from. The sound is definitely original and worth a mention. Check this out if you like experimental music.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Vector G [Gravity XVI], Saturn, ...Stupefying [Suicide Tutorials Pt.11]

Imperium Dekadenz - Procella Vadens

Treading On Deadened Grounds.

Imperium Dekadenz is a black metal band from Germany. For those who already know of this band's previous records, you know what to expect when it comes to the heavier elements of the band. But this record has a much larger sound with more eclecticism in it's sound.
"Procella Vadens" is a record that can be compared to their previous album "Dammerung Der Szenarien" in terms of it's style. Though that record focused more on the band's black metal roots, this record contains a much more, almost, progressive sound in comparison. Though that element of depressive black metal can still be found on this record, elements of progressive rock, folk, and dark ambient music pervade the sound of this album. A Million Moons features much more diversity in their song structure and overall sound with the use of both aggressive black metal parts mixed in with clean guitar passages that sound almost ethereal with strings that give it a more melancholic feeling. While A Decent Into Hades, features a very world music vibe, with female vocals and more tribal drum patterns underneath more symphonic music.
Acoustic moments can be found throughout this entire album. A thing brought from the previous album, but enhanced on this one, it adds a lot to a song like Lacrimae Mundi, which is aggressive throughout the entire song before the last minute breaks into an acoustic interlude to the next song, or An Autumn Serenade, which features one of the most captivating and lamenting passages on the album. The entirety of A La Nuit Tombante is acoustic, except for the solo, with very sorrowful atmospheres and strings that make this instrumental very enjoyable.
Production wise, this album is much more listenable compared to the previous. It still has the DBM styled produced of noisy sounding guitars, vocals sounding very painful, and a lot of atmosphere. But the sound is still very listenable compared to some other bands.
"Procella Vadens" is a record that has been recorded by only frontman Horaz, playing the role of both a guitarist and the vocalist, and Vespasian, who performs drums, bass, keys, and additional guitars. For only 2 people, this record shows a fair deal of diversity on their part. While never straying too far into unknown territory, they make a enjoyable songs with a lot of different atmospheres.
Drummer, Vespasian, is a highlight on this entire album with his playing. While most of his playing is very much in the vain of old black metal bands, he mixes it up with more simplistic beats and interesting fills. Most of the double-bass that is utilized on this record is very mid-paced and never seems to overpower the rest of the song. This is showcased on the 10 minute epic, A Million Moons.
Vocalist, Horaz, is another standout on this album. His vocals never overpower a song. In this case, it means his vocals are spaced out and very sorrowful. His vocals are somewhat more diverse for a black metal band. Though he doesn't mix up his overall style on this record, he shows that for the more depressive side of the band, he can add that sort of vocal delivery. The same can be said for a song more traditional like Ego Universalis, with it's more straight-forward black metal structure.
The one band who Imperium Dekadenz could probably draw a comparison to is early Shining. But this record has moved into an almost doom like atmosphere, unlike modern Shining. Both bands had this very sorrowful atmosphere early in their carriers, it will be interesting to see where Imperium Dekadenz takes this sound on their next record.
Overall, this record is very enjoyable. A good listen with some very cool doomy vibes with moving into the doom genre. Definitely worth checking out for fans of bands like old Shining, Nortt, or Xasthur. Good times and bad, a cool listen for sure.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: A Million Moons, A La Nuit Tombante, An Autumn Serenade, A Decent Into Hades, Procella Vadens

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dagor Dagorath - Yetzer Ha'Ra

Dreaming of Heaven With Symphonies.

Dagor Dagorath is a symphonic blackened-death metal band from Israel. Their sound is very rooted in that symphonic sound. Though the way they play is in the whole death scene, the vocals and atmosphere is what gives this band the whole blackened thing.
Having connections probably helped this band out. Having the leader of symphonic death metal Greeks, Spiros "Seth" Antoniou of Septicflesh, do the artwork of your debut album is impressive. The cover of this album features the same demented/morbid humanity that Septicflesh has had for their last releases.
The sound of this album, as already stated, is rooted in the whole symphonic blackened death metal sound. But the sound itself owes a lot to bands like Septicflesh, Rotting Christ, and Cradle of Filth. Using the more rabid techniques that try and make themselves seem fierce. The vibe you get is a little off-putting from the amount of orchestral influences on some songs like The Devil On A Chain.
Vocally, Vorog, has a dynamic range that perfectly fits this band. His more black metal rasps bring that whole kind of Dani Filth and Dimmu Borgir vibe, while his lows provide a fitting ground point for the album. His use of more heavy breathing vocals is also employed more than once throughout these songs, adding a little more variety.
The most impressive thing on this album is the guitar playing. Switching between more tremolo picking into a death metal styled palm muted riff is flawlessly executed on the song Heaven In Hell. While on the song in particular, more technical riffs are dispersed to make things a little more interesting.
Some of the songs on this album can be a little dull sounding and overbearing with so many layers of orchestral tones and atmospheres. Plus some of these songs are a little too short, which sounds a little weird, but it is on the longer songs where Dagor Dagorath show more diversity and adventurousness in their songwriting. Some of the songs under the 7 minute mark provide little more than a break between otherwise headache inducing symphonic epics. These shorter songs do provide Dagor Dagorath to show off more of their melodic tendencies than an 8 minute epic would show. A prime example of this would be the song Vicious Circle, which combines strong melodies while the symphonic elements are placed further in the back.
Overall, this album is far from perfect, but contains some entertaining songs. Fans of more symphonic metal are probably going to enjoy this album a lot more than I did. A fairly decent record with some cool sounding riffs.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: The Hell In Heaven, Heaven In Hell, Vicious Circle, The Call

Votum - Metafiction

Open The Glass Door.

Votum is a progressive metal band from Poland that only their debut only in 2008. That debut showed elements of more progressive metal and rock elements mixed with more alternative and gothic styles. "Metafiction" shows a different, more mellowed out personification of Votum's sound.
"Metafiction" really never bursts out into full blown metal sections like it's predecessor did. This record contains a more clean and jazzy guitar styles while also featuring a more on melodic playing. The keyboards and vocals are the main focal point on this album. With more piano based melodies and ethereal atmospheres that compliment vocalist Maciej Kosinski's very sorrowful vocals.
Opener Falling Dream is very piano based and open sounding. This sound accentuates the overall atmosphere that Kosinski's vocals bring to the song. Allowing a very mellow opener, that only really heavies up during it's chorus. Though it is over 9 minutes long, it goes by fairly quickly, never seeming to drag on and on. While follow-up song, Glassy Essence, has an almost dream-like quality. With more distorted guitar riffs, but with a very big sounding presence due to the more symphonic elements that keyboardist Zbigniew Szatkowski brings to the more heavy parts of the song.
No song on this album really stands out like the Porcupine Tree-esque Home. Feeling very reminiscent of the mentioned band, the overall tone and sound of this song feels very ambient, but has a very progressive structure, evolving from more jazzy beginnings to the more heavy ending. It comes as one of the most complete sounding songs on this album.
The heaviest song on this album comes after the ballad Faces, in the form of Stranger Than Fiction. This song features a very strong melody with a catchy chorus. This song strays back to the style on Votum's debut album, with more melodic heavy guitars, but strong presence on the keyboard. The song features a screaming vocal delivery on Kosinki's part the more violent sections of the song.
This final song, December 20th, feature the most progressive performance on this album. This song has elements of more traditional prog rock, but also elements of jazz, funk, and metal. While containing all these elements, it is delivered in a less fluid manner compared to the previous songs, which is an interesting change of pace. An interesting song to hear.
Overall, this album is filled with more jazzy, atmospheric songs rather than the more blasting moments of their debut. "Metafiction" is an album that is sure to water the mouths of PT fans or more progressive rock fans. While it's not as heavy as many other prog metal albums that came out last year, it is one of the most interesting to listen to completely. Definitely worth checking out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Falling Dream, Home, Stranger Than Fiction, December 20th

Mutiny Within - Mutiny Within

The New Breed of Melodic Metal.

Mutiny Within is a fairly new band in the metal scene. Having only been in existence since 2002, this 2010 debut is filled with different elements of metal that could appease fans of more melodic metal, metalcore, or more technical and progressive fans. A new band has not shown a sense of melody and technicality in a debut since a band like Killswitch Engage's debut and second albums. Mutiny Within has all the catchy without and of the more brutal elements being lost.
Being only a debut, this album shows a strong sense of songwriting abilities. Songs like Awake and Images show both the ability to have enormous choruses as well as more progressive tendencies. Having been crafting these strong songs since before being signed shows a great amount of penitential in this band.
Vocalist Chris Clancy helps to define the overall sound of this band with his more clean approach to vocals. Saying in interviews that his influences lie more in singers like Bruce Dickenson, it shows a more old-school approach towards his clean vocals. He also shows a strength in screams, not being much in the realm of death metal or black metal, somewhere in the more metalcore style, but not being enough to put them into a metalcore basket.
Guitarist Dan Bage and Brandon Jacobs show a lot of influence from the more melodic side of metal. Influences can be traced towards bands like Children of Bodom, In Flames, Killswitch Engage, and Soilwork, but their sound cannot be defined as really sounding like any of these bands. Taking a more technical approach towards their playing compared to their influences, they are able to express more emotional avenues for vocalist Chris Clancy.
A big part of Mutiny Within's sound is the keyboards. Andrew Stavola uses the keys for both background and upfront atmospheres and textures. Either the more gothic feel of Year of Affliction or the Stratovarius like solo on Images and the COB styled one on Forsaken.
Every song on this album features a huge sounding chorus. Every on of these songs will have a hook stuck in your head at one point or another. Clancy delivers giant vocal hooks, sounding like a mix between Maiden's Bruce Dickenson and KSE's Howard Jones, but both of these guys would have to be like 20 or so to fit Clancy's voice.
Overall, this is a great debut filled with giant hooks. A good album for fans of more melodic or more traditionally performed metal. This band has a lot of great things about them, but only you can make the choice over what you like best.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Awake, Images, Year of Affliction, Lethean, Oblivion, Suffocate

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Arsis - Starve For The Devil

Rock On, In The Name of The Devil!

Arsis' new record "Starve For The Devil" is a fist in the face of all those people who thought that Arsis had broken up. This record is an accumulation of every element an Arsis fan could want from them. An album that rocks hard and rocks well.
From the get-go of opener Force to Rock to the troubling closer of Sable Rising, Arsis prove that this is what they wanted to prove. James Malone proves on the album that he can school almost every other metal guitar player who has come out in recent years with relative ease. While this fact has been tried and proven from previous releases, it on this album where the songwriting has become a much more accessible and direct approach to a new listener. A fan of bands like Children of Bodom, The Faceless, or Unearch could all find something on here that could appeal to them.
Though still firmly rooted in the technical/melodic death metal genre, "Starve For The Devil" adds more almost progressive touches to certain songs while still making them incredibly catchy. The new additions Nick Cordle and Nathaniel Carter, on guitar and bass respectively, and longtime drummer, Michael Van Dyne returning to the band, add the most varied songs to Arsis' arsenal yet. From the very 80's esque thrash Forced to Rock, the very melodic death metal vibe of Beyond Forlorn, and the hookiest song in Arsis' roster yet, Half Past Corpse O'Clock, these songs add different colors to this band's ever evolving sound.
An improvement that has been made on this album is the drumming that Michael added to the band that was not on the previous album, "We Are The Nightmare." The drummer on that album in particular, Darren Cesca, provided a much more constant double-bass attack that became irritating during mellow sections on that album. Michael's drumming features that double-bass work but isn't as persistent in every song that it becomes annoying. Adding in more simplistic drumming patterns or more technical patterns is what keeps this album interesting, when listening to the drums.
New guitarist Nick Cordle seems to be a fitting partner for Malone on this album. Cordle keeps the technical and melodic rhythms up while Malone is more up-front, but comes up and doubles him or performs and equilly great solo with him. Cordle seems to increase the more melodic elements of Arsis' sound on "Starve For The Devil" as appose to previous guitar players who maybe focused more on the technical aspect.
The only real bad point in this album is the cheesy song titles. Malone usually creates some cool sounding titles, but the song title on this album are just really as cheesy as a death metal song title can be. Half Past Corpse O'Clock, although being on of the catchiest songs on this album, is just a bad title, it sounds like something Children of Bodom might name a song.
This is an overall great return for Arsis. Their most melodic album yet, it is sure to gain them a wider audience in their touring cycle. This album is great and catchy, definitely worth picking up is your a long-time fan or good listen for newer ones.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Forced to Rock, A March For The Sick, Beyond Forlorn, Closer to Cold, Half Past Corpse O'Clock

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Mnemic - Sons of The System

Just Some of The System's Many Sons.

Mnemic is that band who keeps trying, but it seems to get harder to get into them with each album. It's like that kid who keeps trying to be your friend, and you who you have a lot in common with him, but something just doesn't click. This basically describes Mnemic's sound.
As with all Mnemic records, "Sons of The System" has your elements of Meshuggah and Fear Factory. You have those technical and complex parts but you also have those electronics and almost mechanically performed songs. Mnemic has become a bastard child of the system that is coming back home after long periods of absence. What this means is that with each album, Mnemic seems to get almost more and more generic sounding.
Don't let that discredit their abilities though, guitar players Mircea Gabriel Eftemie and Rune Stigart still keep riffs pounding and crushing sounding. Their song writing could be put to better use if they wanted to, but they seem to just make songs so predictable. The guitar sound though, is very heavy sounding and does create that atmosphere perfect for Guillaume's vocals and plenty of keyboards. The bad thing is that no matter how crushing these guitars sound, the riffs they produce is never really anything new, it all feels like you've heard them before.
Guillaume's vocals though have become a better fit on "Sons of The System" than previous album, "Passenger," but never completely gets you going the way that former vocalist, Michael Bogballe, gave you. Even though Guillaume does sound more raw and real sounding over the previous album, they still have that whole kind of processed feel to them.
Things don't really catch on and sound different until The Erasing starts with more of a symphonic sound. Keeping with a more simplistic and harmonized sound; this song has more of a mid-paced feel and allows these symphonic keys to add a different atmosphere to the song and gives Guillaume big spaces for his vocals, which stand out much more on this song.
The overall sound of this record is generally the same throughout with either more mid-paced songs or the occasional faster song like Diesel Uterus or Climbing Towards Stars. It only gets interesting when March of The Tripods opens with more wide and open sound with a slower groove that allows cleaner vocals to be used for the most part in the song. After that, it pretty much goes back to the fast and mid-paced stuff, without much difference.
The overall problem with this record comes with the band making promises that they don't live up to in the long run. The band said that this album was filled with more experimentation and would be more catchy. The experimental part could be said for some songs like March of The Tripods for it's slower song structure, or Hero(in) because of it's more stop-start nature similar to Mnemic's older material; but the catchy part doesn't really fit, most songs aren't that memorable, generally losing interest half-way through the song.
Overall, there isn't much on this album that you haven't heard on a previous Mnemic album. There are a few standout tracks, but the overall package is lacking in what the band promised. If you're a Mnemic fan you'd probably go out and get this album, but otherwise pick up an earlier album.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Diesel Uterus, Mnightmare, The Erasing, March of The Tripods, Elongated Sporadic Bursts, Within

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dark Fortress - Ylem

Heirs to The Celtic Throne Make Their Title Known.

Dark Fortress is a black metal band with influences from all side of the metal spectrum. All these sounds are melded into the black metal standard sound for them. "Ylem" is a statement in the dark that will silence the rest of the metal community with it's unique sound and impressive lyrical content.
"Ylem," as described by vocalist Morean, is the state of the elements before the big bang and this album is supposed to describe the state of the world after the end. Like the rest of the band's previous works, this is not the simple end of the world topic that most bands do, they make it interesting. Using more descriptive lyrics and topic that aren't as easy to decipher upon first listen, this band is separating themselves farther and farther away from the rest of the black metal pack with these unique lyrical style.
The title track of this album starts it with a large, and rather impactful, bang. Ylem feature catchy riffs and roaring vocals that will start this album on a rather high note. While the following song, As The World Keels Over, is much more melancholic sounding, building slower into the heavy sections. These two opening songs are better sounding than most band's entire albums.
Guitar players V. Santura and Asvargyr do an excellent job at providing parts that don't have an average sound to them. Their playing style is filled with little quirks that make the guitars very melodic sounding, but also have the edge into progressive and doom territory. Solos are galore in this album, and are very catchy and melodic sounding for a band whose sound is rooted in extreme metal to have such catchy solos.
Bass is audible in the mix, something that can't be said for a lot of black metal bands, or bands in general. The bass has it's parts in the sound, not trying to stand out during most parts, but coming out into others like on the song Evenfall. The keyboards have a similar effect. Where they remain in the back for most parts, but do emerge in the forefront of the sound during a song like Osiris. The keyboards offer a lot of dreamy effects and atmosphere to the sound of "Ylem."
Drummer Seraph displays his ability fully in the song Redivider. Nothing played on this album would sound as good if you have an average sounding blast beat, constant double-bass sound to these drums; Seraph makes these song accessible to drummers that are into more "sophisticated" drumming styles that are not found in everyday extreme music. Though more typical moments are found here, this is showcased when it almost feels like there should be.
Vocalist Morean has another thing going for him besides being a superb lyricist, he is an excellent front man and vocalist. Adding different colors to the sound of Dark Fortress with styles that vary according to song. From the more traditional black metal scream on the Ylem, the death growls on The Valley, almost chanting like speaking and melodic singing on Evenfall, or foreboding bellows on Silence. Morean has added a lot to this album with his unique take on vocal variations.
The last two song on this album bring it together in an almost book end style. The Valley takes Celtic Frost like heaviness to a new level of intensity. This track hammers you down to about as low as you can go before finally dissolving. While the final track, Wraith, brings this album to a conclusion. Starting with very beautiful guitars then moving into dark metal territory. Morean displays his clean vocals on this song, giving it that extra color that makes this track stand out even more. The clean vocals display a more melodic style unlike that of any other metal singer out in the scene today. This could be the most melodic and progressive song on "Ylem."
One song on this album can't give you an overall sound of this album. This is possible on of the most diverse sounding albums I've listened to from the black metal realm, with parts that defy this band from sounding like anyone else. The only comparison that this band could be drawn to is the legendary Celtic Frost, but that isn't even a bad comparison because that sound similarity isn't even that close to how this band sounds.
This is possibly one of the best albums of the year so far, if not for the whole thing. This album is definitely worth checking out for a fan of extreme music, progressive music, or people who like variety in their music. The successors of the legendary Celtic Frost have taken hold of their crown and have made their statement clear. This is a defining moment in extreme music. Check this out or die.
Overall Score: 10 - Classic
Highlights: Every song is a highlight

Agrypnie - 16(485)

Better Off Alone, That's What They Believe.

Agrypnie is an industrial tinged black metal band from Germany. Taking elements of more modern society and more depressive aspects of loneliness and adding it to their sound. "16(485)" is their new album, and includes more progressive aspects.
Back in 2008, Agrypnie released "Exit," which included a lot more modern slickness in it's sound. As the statement above said, this new album has a much more progressive sound to it. The guitars are still very slick sounding, but more cleans have been added. Songs like Kadavergehorsam have a very polished, but rough, black metal sound with clean passages mixed in with the more traditional riffs.
While only 2 offical members of Agrypnie, Torsten der Unhold and Rene Schott, these guys recorded this album by themselves They have 2 session players for live shows, Martin and Carsten for guitar and bass, respectively. But overall Torsten and Rene pulled off an incredible sounding record. The sound of everything can be heard very clearly on here and doesn't sound overproduced.
The symphonic and industrial elements are still there. Schlaf contains a more symphonic textured sound compared to the rest of the album. While keyboards are used more for ambiance and atmosphere.
Vocally, Torsten provides a fitting sound to this band. His style is very much black metal sounding, but has the more raw sound that most of the depressive bands have. This adds emotion to this record that would otherwise seem rather corny sounding. But Torsten also adds some more death metal vocals into the mix especially on the final epic 16[485]/Brucke Aus Glas.
The overall depressive nature is not that of more of the depressive black metal bands, but more brought on by the atmosphere of the record. The keys and effects bring that sort of touch to this album. But the actual playing is beyond that of most of bands playing that style of black metal.
Guitar solos are utilized tastefully in this band, mixed in the overall sound picture, not feeling overused or overstayed. The overall sound of the band is still very much black metal even with the touches of progressive, depressive, and industrial. This could be considered a gateway band for people who are just getting into black metal due to some of the more catchy elements in this band.
Overall, this band is impressive sounding. Emotions come spilling out from this album without mercy. Definitely worth checking out for newer fans of black metal.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Der Tote Trakt, Kadavergehorsam, Zorn, 915.2, 16[485]/Brucke Aus Glas

Annotations of An Autopsy - II: The Reign of Darkness

How Many Times Has This Title Been Used?

Annotations of An Autopsy. That is a mouth full for just a band name, similar to BTBAM, long name but good musicians. The same could be said for this band; long band name, but skilled in their craft and getting better with each album.
I couldn't tell you about their last album, "Before The Throne of Infection," because it was very trendy deathcore, chugga-chugga-core. But this, "II: The Reign of Darkness," is a massive step forward into modern death metal/brutal death metal territory. Filled with catchy grooves and breakdowns that aren't just the same breakdown on every song. You can hear the similarities, in terms of breakdown styles, in a band like Suffocation or Dying Fetus, where they have breakdowns, but they're used with discretion and are not dumbed down for the mainstream.
The guitars are very heavy and down-tuned. The way these guitars are played though is what makes this worth listening to numerous times. Catchy grooves and hooky riffs bring this album to the earphones over and over again, like in Cryogenica. Solos are used in the same way breakdowns were, used with discretion in songs. When they are used, they are actually very melodically played, I won't say any names, but unlike most bands in this genre, deathcore/brutal death metal, these solos are not just scrambled notes being played fast over the fret board. A stand out moment is during Emptiness, where the guitars are slowed down and moved into clean tones before moving back into heavier parts again. This is done numerous times during the coarse of this song.
Vocally, Steve Regan is spot on with his death growls. Used mainly are his very low, guttural, sewer/toilet bowl vocals. Unlike, what I've heard, of brutal death metal, Steve is very "tasteful" in his use of growls. What this means is that he has a sense of rhythmic timing and style, where a vocal pattern can still be called hooky. With a special guest vocal spot on Bone Crown by none other than Erik Rutan of Morbid Angel and Hate Eternal. Some songs do have your typical deathcore moments of chant alongs, but are used in a more death metal fashion with brutal vocals.
Lyrically, something I didn't favor on their debut, has improved vastly on "The Reign of Darkness." Steve's lyrical content has shifted from rape, kill, murder, sodomize, and fuck everyone lyrics to more of the end of humanity and the evilness that is Christianity type of lyrics, definitely sounding like David Vincent type of stuff, demonstrated on Impale The Sun. But we have out fair share of big words in here, so he can sound smart. This is shown in a song like Portrait of Souls and Cryogenica, a song where his higher range is displayed.
The final track, Into The Black Slumber, displays more melodic and slower territory. This song is 8 minutes long, and doesn't seem that long for a brutal death metal song. Displaying more classic sounding death metal riffs, akin to those of early Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse, in terms of they way the riff sounds. This could very well be AoAA's *God of Emptiness.*
This is a fairly good album from a newer band that came from the whole deathcore thing. This is a band to watch. Definitely looking forward to see what they do after this. Will they get better and go further into more brutal death territory or back into deathcore.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlight: In Snakes I Bathe, Bone Crown, Emptiness, Impale The Sun, Cryogenica, Into The Black Slumber