Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top Ten Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album’s of 2015

    Another year has come and gone with plenty of great releases to pick from, but only ten shall make this list. Alright, here are my picks:

10. Trials “This Ruined World” 

    Really enjoyed this Chicago based band’s diverse sound. You get a blend of thrash and progressive hard rock that molds one head crushing release. The music expresses such raw emotion and the lyrics are just as heavy as the riffs. I would even call this a guitar players album, because the riffs never cease to lose their strength and the sound is well captured by the album’s recording quality. Although the Cubs did not win the World Series this year(And most likely not this coming year), I think the people of Chicago can be proud of Trial’s new album. 

9. Vastum “Hole Below”

    Bay Area old school style death metal to grip your soul with unbelievable terror and brutality. Really impressed by their extreme songwriting skills. Also, the recording for this album is truly evil sounding as if it were recorded in the stinky smelly gutters of hell...a smell similar to that of the Oakland Harbor. All fans of the underground will rejoice when hearing this release. If you want a more in depth review of the album, you can find one on this blog in a previous post. 

8. Rivers of Nihil “Monarchy”

    Sometimes when I see a band live before listening to an album, I find that I have a better appreciation for the songs. I had only listened to the single from this album, but once I saw Rivers of Nihil perform live, I immediately started listening to the entire album. If you want a full guitar sound that hits hard and does not become boring after the first five riffs, this is the album to check out. Also, I found the instrumentals on the album to be well arranged and compliment the release’s overall atmosphere. Lastly, Dan Seagrave’s album art is out of this world!

7.  Abstracter "Wound Empire"

    A Bay Area sludge outfit that creates massive sounding musical worlds of unforgiving doom. Their sound could be used in a film where someone is walking amongst the ruins of a post-apocalyptic society. Also, the band skillfully constructs these dynamic atmospheres to achieve one of the most behemoth sounding releases to come out this year. Most people would not expect sludge metal to offer up such a dynamic sound, but that is what I think makes Abstracter such a solid band. I hope there will be more top quality releases from these guys in the future. 

6. Tempel “The Moon Lit Our Path” 

    A two piece from Arizona that knows how to create epic sounding instrumental metal music. There are some black metal style compositions, then there are some death metal style compositions, and then they add in some acoustic music to give the album a cinematic effect. Just really good instrumental metal music which creates an impressive sounding world that does not need any lyrics to get the imaginations of listeners to start working. Hollywood should get these guys to score a movie, because most of your movies coming out need something extra to justify an increase in prices! 

5. Royal Thunder “Crooked Doors”

    For their sophomore album Royal Thunder did not disappoint and created some powerful songs. Probably one of the best hard rock albums to come out this year. Also, singer and bassist Miny Parsonz sounded phenomenal on the album. The song “Time Machine,” sends chills up my spine and is a track that features deep raw musical expression that you will not hear from any crap pop or rap artist. Royal Thunder is another example of why rock is still alive...Gene Simmons you better hold off on your rock is dead comment.  

4. Helloween “My God Given Right”

    The German power metal icons do not fail to keep the music alive and kicking. When first putting the CD into my car I was hoping to hear them continue the solid sound that they had established with their last release, “Straight Out of Hell.” To be honest, I think this new album is even better than “Straight Out of Hell.” The band’s two guitar attack is elevated to an even greater level with more triumphant melodic leads and bombastic riffs. The songwriting is very solid and the band knows how to write catchy lyrics. They may be getting older, but they sure don’t sound like it! 

3. Egypt “Endless Flight” 

    Better late than never! This album came out in December of this year, so I almost did not add it to this list. Well, after a few days of listening to the album over and over again, I decided to throw it in the mix. This band is easily one of my favorite doom bands around and their sound is extremely solid. Egypt’s debut release, “Become the Sun,” was actually my number one album of 2013. This new offering continues their heavy grooving doom rock sound while adding some really catchy bluesy style riffs. The album’s recording quality is another high point and sounds as if it was recorded back in the seventies with vintage gear. Since the album came out so late, I think I will be still listening to it by the end of 2016! 

2. Scale the Summit “V” 

    These guys right here are probably one of the best modern progressive rock bands around. I thought the band’s last album was a brilliant mind bending release, but “V” is musically unbelievable. The production is top notch, the compositions are extremely well written and the band takes progressive rock into a new realm of instrumental imagination. Scale the Summit hits a progressive instrumental rock home run. I understand some people may not be fans of a strictly instrumental album, but for those of you who are looking for a great instrumental rock/metal album, this is one I would not hesitate to recommend. 

1. Night Demon “Curse of the Damned” 

    So here it #1 album of the year. Looks like Rush did not release a new studio album, so they will not be appearing in the number one spot. Instead Night Demon’s debut release, “Curse of the Damned,” is the album that I think kicked total metal ass the entire year. Since releasing the album back in January, the Ventura, CA based trio has been touring relentlessly. These guys are passionate about heavy metal and their drive to create exciting old school NWOBHM type music is what makes “Curse of the Damned” stand out from the rest. Also, the songwriting is flawless and consistently enjoyable. Each song on the album is important and worth noting, so to pick one favorite track can be a difficult task. I do believe fans of traditional heavy metal will come to recognize Night Demon’s ambitious drive to inject some new life into an old style of metal that is still in high demand. As I have said numerous times since the band released their four song EP, they are going to really make an impact in the metal world. Be on the look out for more great material from Night Demon in the future! 

    There you have it folks! Those are my top ten albums of 2015. If you want to maybe throw out some albums that you felt should have been added, please feel free to comment below. Can’t wait for what 2016 has to offer!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Abstracter "Wound Empire"

    Using their instruments to paint a picture in the mind of post-apocalyptic doom and infinite darkness, the Bay Area’s sludge architects craft a powerful and unforgiving release. Abstracter’s, “Wound Empire,” takes doom and sludge to new atmospheric proportions to where the light is blocked out by endless clouds of dark distorted aggression. 

    I reviewed their previous release, “Tomb of Feathers,” and remember hearing the band’s desire to create these massive sounding sludgy and haunting musical worlds. Although I have taken my time to finally review this new release, I think after carefully listening to, “Wound Empire,” I have been able to recognize what this band has accomplished and improved upon since their last release. Abstractor’s presentation through their lyrical themes and instrumental compositions is in perfect synchronicity. All the songs interconnect to maintain a solid four track tale of doom. Taking their music in very progressive directions at times, the average song lengths tend to be around ten minutes. Four songs might not seem like enough for an album, but the overall length is equal to that of a punk or thrash album with ten or more tracks. 

    The album begins with the ominous sun swallowing piece, “Lightless.” Feedback comes pouring out of the speakers followed by a bone chilling build up of guitar, bass and drums. The riffs are sinister yet hypnotic while the harsh vocals narrate over the abysmal instrumental structures. Abstracter consumes all emotion with this song and channels their inner sludge talents. Track two, “Open Veins,” picks up the same raw gloomy vibe as the opening track. I am drawn to the bold sounding chords the band uses and I like how they let certain notes ring to achieve a full guitar sound. The music is of course dark in sound, but there is a harmonious feel that is expressed throughout the piece. At times the haunting atmosphere is almost comforting and welcoming to those who want to travel into a landscape of massive distortion. 

    Probably one of my favorite songs, “Cruciform,” taps deep into the enormous sludge sounding atmospheric realm of extreme music. The drum parts and guitar riffs inject monumental amounts of energy into the song and shatter these moments of solemn sounding compositions. As the song ends the band unleashes a flurry of musical aggression that slowly fades to set up the following and final track, “Glowing Wounds.” This song contains some more eerie atmospheric elements to add diversity to the band’s overall sound. The creative use of dynamics is what I think separates this album from Abstracter’s last album. “Glowing Wounds” is definitely the track that features some of those strong and noticeable diverse sounding arrangements. 

    Abstracter’s “Wound Empire” is a great example of how sludge metal can be taken into more than one direction. The music is skillfully arranged while always conveying that post-apocalyptic world covered in darkness sound. Quite possibly one of the best sludge and doom albums to come out in 2015. Definitely an album worth checking out if you are a fan of sludge metal and sounds that could inspire imagery of eternal world devastation. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Khazaddum "In Dwarven Halls"

    J.R.R. Tolkien inspired lyrics and technical death metal comes from the creative minds of Milwaukee’s Khazaddum. Their three song EP dives into the world of Middle Earth with a battle axe of technical death metal music in hand. 

    Tolkien’s works have been referenced by many metal bands, and Khazaddum is not the first band to name themselves after something from the Middle Earth stories. Although, I do not believe there are too many technical death metal bands who incorporate the works of Tolkien into their music, as certain black metal bands are notorious for the Lord of Rings type lyrical themes. Khazaddum’s style of technical death metal is similar to that of bands like Nile and Suffocation. Their compositions are intense, but the band does throw in some slow haunting moments during certain tracks. 

   The first song, “The Grey Thus Commands,” was where I really noticed Khazaddum’s fluid technical extreme sound. The band’s drummer holds down the fort by blasting behind his kit at those double bass drums with tremendous force. I would even compare the death growl vocals used during the song to that of an angry Orc. The guitar playing happened to be my favorite part of the song, because I really enjoyed the technical leads and thunderous palm muted galloping riffs. Also, there are some rather ominous sounding breaks that develop a certain atmosphere which reminded me of Nile. 

    “Durin’s Bane,” is the second song on the EP and features one of my favorite lyrical moments. If anyone has seen the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, then they will remember that part where Gandalf battles the Balrog and shouts, “You Shall Not Pass.” Well, Khazaddum takes that famous line and creates an epic death growl chorus towards the end of the song. With the double bass drum rhythm in full force and the guitarist riffing away, the vocalist makes the song very memorable as he growls out, “You Shall Not Pass.” The final song on the album, “Thorin Oakenshield,” starts with some bombastic war like drums and then morphs into a blast beast driven technical death metal attack. The music was fairly similar to that of the other two songs in sound, but the vocals at times seemed to change during the song which add a unique blend of death growls and goblin like shrieks. 

    Khazaddum’s musical journey through mines of technical death metal where fire demons dwell was one that fans of Tolkien and death metal shall find fascinating. Their musicianship was impressive and the songs were well written. Unfortunately, just writing Tolkien themed lyrics might not influence metal fans looking for more in depth and dynamic lyrics, but musically their creativity can appeal to fans of technical death metal. Still, these three songs demonstrate a band with talent and a band that enjoys their fantasy books. Either way I highly recommend this album! 

Band's Facebook Page:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Egypt "Endless Flight"

    Do not make your top hard rock and metal albums list of 2015 just yet! I knew that if I were to make my list in the beginning of December and publish it, I might be regretting my choice. Sure enough I was right, because this new Egypt release is definitely an album one cannot simply ignore. 

    For their sophomore album titled, “Endless Flight,” Egypt channels their inner blues and doom talents to create a five song juggernaut. The trio continues the sound and efforts that could be heard on their debut release, “Become the Sun,” an album that I considered my top album to come out in 2013. The Fargo, ND based band slams through endless doom rock riffs that groove through cosmic vintage sounding musical landscapes on the new album. For a trio they have such a full sound that really crafts some of the best doom tracks around. 

    The album begins with the bluesy behemoth title track, “Endless Flight.” Lasting about nine and a half minutes in length, the song contains some clever guitar parts and straightforward earth shaking rhythms. Instantly guitarist Neil Stein make his presence aware by laying down a killer blues piece. The band then sets the song on cruise control and jams away on the reverb soaked main verse. Towards the middle of the song band slows down tempo for a haunting doom atmosphere where Neil once again rips away with a fantastic solo. 

    Track number two, “The Tomb,” begins with a catchy bass riff from bassist and singer Aaron Esterby. Soon after the bass riff is joined by the guitar and drums to construct a haunting highway of doom rock. Aaron’s raspy growl type vocals are the perfect match for the sinister groove sounding compositions. Chad Heille’s drumming serves as the main backbone during the song and creates these rhythms that sound so fluid. The music opens up this dark psychedelic door that never loses its edge. 

    Now, I remember hearing song number three, “Tres Madres,” when the band previewed it on SoundCloud. The music conveys this classic seventies sound and offers some crushing riffs. Neil’s solo utilizes one of the most vintage sounding tones to achieve a brilliant lead. Aaron and Chad’s playing during Neil’s solo was very powerful as well, and the two of them sounded locked into that main verse riff. Track four, “Black Words,” shrouds the musical land with distorted terror. Aaron’s shouts send chills down the spine as the guitar riff slowly thunders across the ground like a giant walking down a mountain. The band picks up the pace a few times during the song to offer up a killer old school doom vibe. 

    Finishing up the album, “Shaman’s March,” reminds me of the song “The Village is Silent,” which is from their last album. Both songs feature this massive doom atmosphere which draws me in right away. There is so much raw emotion put into the music that every time the band lays down a crushing riff, I feel the force of the riff hitting my bones. “Shaman’s March,” was quite possibly the best way to end this colossal sounding album. 

    As I said before, do not think to write up those top 2015 albums of the year lists just yet. Egypt’s “Endless Flight,” not only maintains that solid sound from their previous album, but finds more ways to accomplish an even greater bluesy doom offering. The ability to create consistent heavy grooving cuts of music, is just one reason why these guys are one of my favorite doom bands around. There is no dual moment on this endless doom odyssey, so you should all go and check out this album now! 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Concert Review: Soulfly, Thought Vomit, Trecelence, Trial by Combat and Vile Riot Villains


    One can almost not be able to describe in words how massive Friday night’s show at the Phoenix Theater was for the Sonoma County Metal community. Well, I shall try to fill you all in on the enormous metal party that took place at the historic venue in Petaluma, CA. 

    To begin, the promotion for this show was excellent, because there happened to be an outstanding turnout at the Phoenix. The place was unbelievably packed! Of course with a band like Soulfly playing, you were definitely going to draw a strong metal crowd. Also, one cannot ignore the four great local acts who played. Trecelence, Thought Vomit, Trial by Combat and Vile Riot Villains definitely kept the crowd energized and rocking out. 

    Kicking off the show at 7:30pm was Trecelence. Now, before I talk about the band’s set, I want to address the issue of the Phoenix’s house music. For a metal show they really put together a bizarre playlist. They played Bon Jovi and a few other bands who did not compliment the bands actually performing. This is a metal concert for crying out loud! Not an arena rock concert that features old dudes with plastic surgery who charge fans one hundred dollars per ticket! They played one Rush song though, so I am not completely disappointed.  

    Okay returning from my rant... Trecelence put on yet another behemoth headbanging performance of epic thrash. The songs all sound tight live and need to be recorded so people can hear this solid technical thrash band. Also, Bassist Zane Covington sounded in top form by unleashing some epic screams to go along with the thunderous guitar riffs. Donnie Small and Chris Olney Burnett shredded away and let their guitar work twist the minds of metalheads in the front row. Drummer Ilan Cabrera was working pretty damn hard behind the kit by maintaining a strong musical backbone. Overall, these guys just keep demonstrating how passionate they are about the music. The songs are really starting to take form to where metal fans who enjoy old school technical thrash will instantly be slapping Trecelence patches on their vests. 


    After Trecelence finished Trial by Combat began setting up. The last time I saw Trial by Combat back in July they unleashed a killer set of brutality. Continuing to fuel metal fans with loud aggressive metal music, they brought that same level of energy to the Phoenix. Singer Dashiel McKenzie is a brutal sounding frontman who has a solid extreme sounding vocal style. The band’s riff assault was in full operation while the drumming inflicted serious devastation. The song, “Theater of War,” was definitely a crowd favorite and happened to be the perfect song to play given the world’s chaotic state. 

    Third up was Vile Riot Villains who were playing their last show as a band. One could tell they were trying to go out with a major ass kicking set and I am sure the band was glad to be finishing their time together on one epic bill. They brought a more straightforward heavy metal/hard rock sound to the show. I really enjoyed their cover of Kiss’ “War Machine,” however, if Gene finds out don’t be surprised if he wants to collect a fee for playing the song. Once the band ended their set they thanked the audience for the support and received a loud farewell applause. 

    Now the fourth band of the night was definitely a band I knew had plans to turn the venue upside down and inspire massive mosh pits. Thought Vomit being the areas most electrifying and adrenaline pumping band was the most suitable choice to have on right before Soulfly. One could tell how thrilled Thought Vomit was to open up for Soulfly. I think the band put on one of their best sets yet and sounded good all around. Singer Spencer Clark was of course in the pit most of the time getting fans hyped up. Chris Meyer enthusiastically tore away on his guitar as Jordie Hilley and Clay Prieto held down the rhythm section. Towards the end of their set the band was joined on stage by former guitarist Tyler Cole who played some of the band’s old songs. No matter what song they played new or old, the crowd kept running around and shouting their heads off. 

    Once Thought Vomit ended their set in brutal fashion with Spencer actually singing in the crowd, everyone took a short breather to prepare for Soulfly. Then as the lights dimmed the crowd roared with tremendous force. Max Cavalera walked out on stage with his guitar in hand and instantly got the crowd shouting for metal madness. The venue was shaking at times from the crowd jumping up and down along with the titanic sized mosh pit. When they played certain songs like, “Prophecy,” or any of the Sepultura material such “Roots Bloody Roots” and “Refuse/Resist,” the people two streets over from the Phoenix could probably hear the noise. Another cool part of the set was when Max used a shaman stick to create some tribal rhythms that the crowd responded too quite positively. Also, I want to mention the other great musicians Max has in the band who really stood out. His son Zyon Cavalera who plays drums sounded like a juggernaut behind the kit and smashed his cymbals with authority. Lead guitarist Mark Rizzo melted peoples faces with wicked solos and hard hitting riffs. The band’s bassist Mike Leon is an extremely talented player and I remember seeing him when he was with Havok. The dude can play some brilliant bass lines and has great stage presence. Throughout the entire set Max and company never slowed down and gave people their heavy metal fix. 

    When Soulfly walked off the stage and the house music began playing Toto’s, “Africa,” I needed some time to reflect on how awesome this show had been. Some people looked as though they had run two miles because of all the moshing and headbanging. Sonoma County Metal and Hardcore did yet another great job setting up a colossal metal show at the Phoenix Theater. Judging from the turnout, I would hope more metal events like this keep coming around...Lastly, I hope the Phoenix plays more suitable house music...

Thought Vomit