Wednesday, November 10, 2010

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Symphonic Adventure: Pt. 2

So you probably want to take a listen to these albums, now that I've said great things about them. Here are three of my favorite songs.

Symphonic Adventure

One of the most interesting things artists do to metal is pair it with symphonic orchestration. Symphonic metal fascinates me because I find that much of extreme metal has more in common with the classical world of music than what we find on the Top 40 charts. An interesting corollary of the link between metal and classical music seems to be that adding a symphony to extreme metal suddenly makes it more popular. All three bands in question here are "Hot Topic" bands. Mall dorks wear their t-shirts and pretend to listen to their cds, their headphones around their necks. These bands aren't the putrefying mall-core of Bring Me the Horizon or Scarlett O'Hara, but TRVECVLT metalheads would scoff at them, call them sellouts, and store their cds with their secret stash of Miley Cyrus pictures. Two of these bands, however, cannot be considered truly Hot Topic bands, because they've been around longer than pseudo-goth kids were allowed into malls. The third one is, admittedly, a shameless imitator. But sometimes margarine actually has a good taste, as long as we don't try to tell ourselves it's actually butter.

Remember, the dark can be beautiful.

Cradle of Filth - Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa
Art - 4/5
Cradle of Filth is one of the best known extreme metal bands, although most people do not know how to classify them. The uninformed would call them "a satanic band," but such a label sells Dani Filth and his cohorts too short. No, I would call them fundamentally theatrical, not satanic. If I were to assign them to a sub-genre, it would not be black metal, but rather "extreme symphonic gothic metal" (Yes, there is non-extreme gothic symphonic metal). Cradle is interested in the eros of evil, a musical modern Lord Byron. Do remember that they call Byron and his fellows "The Satanic School." So what does Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa present to move us? Like 2008's Godspeed On the Devil's Thunder, Venus is a concept album. While Godspeed told us the story of one of the first serial killers, with the voice of the Gilles de Rais provided by Pinhead himself (Doug Bradley), Venus tells us of a the revival of a cult that worships Lilith. Consider it a matched piece to Godspeed. Anyway, it's a story of violence and sex and mystery and damnation. Great story. Or at least, if you like Gothic faerie tales. Which I do, and is probably the reason I've always been partial to Cradle, despite their "Hot Topic" image.

Grip - 4/5
In many ways, Venus surpasses Godspeed. The drums are super crisp and utterly furious in a way that hearkens back to the days of Dusk and Her Embrace. Always good. Apparently, new (as of last album) drummer Martin Škaroupka has done his research and appreciates his predecessors. The guitars, unfortunately, also seem to draw from that influence, which means lots of tremolo riffs. That isn't bad in itself, but it gets a little old, and the lack of strong guitar work kept the album from getting a full 5 for Grip. The choirs and orchestra, however, more than fill in the gap left by the vanilla guitar part. The band can get away with it because of the nature of the music - this is high drama, remember, not Top 40 hits. The orchestration fairly drips velvet and rose petals. If you're a sucker for that kind of thing, and I'll admit that I am, you will love Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa. I also appreciate that this is the first Cradle album in years to not start out with an instrumental two minute opener. Honestly, those openers have gotten old, and it's good that the band knows when to let go of "a tradition." It may not be Top 40 music, but lead single "Lilith Immaculate" will certainly get stuck in your head, and is the kind of track that Godspeed lacked. It's also one of the few tracks where Dani really unleashes his voice. Throughout the album he does a lot of the "Grim MoFo" growling, and even some operatic lines, which he does well. But my favorite Dani, the "Shrieking Hellcat" from early days. Think of the line "a queen of snow far beyond compare" from "Her Ghost In the Fog." That voice. I miss it. Maybe the man is just getting old.

Dimmu Borgir - Abrahadabra
Art - 5/5
Cradle of Filth might be getting old, but Dimmu Borgir's (pronounced "bore-gear") Shagrath, Silenoz, and Galder seem to be getting younger every day. The core trio has shaved the excess, replaced the all the session members of the band, and thrown out Satan for Aleister Crowley (whose voice pays a visit in "Born Treacherous"). Of course, ninnies will argue that Aleister Crowley was a Satanist, but these are small-minded people. Instead of the black leather and "Satan is my homeboy" mentality of some past Dimmu Borgir work, now they wear white fur and embrace a sort of Lovecraftian occultism. The reason it is just a great change for them is the depth the new topic provides. The whole Satan angle was pretty much played out with them - how many times can you sing about the coming Anti-Christ before you start to sound like a Looking-Glass World version of Christian praise band? That's lame no matter how many spikes you have on your pants.

The orchestration on Cradle of Filth's new cd is worthy of a Gothic romance movie. The orchestration on Abrahadabra is worthy of Carnegie Hall. Just listen to the pure orchestral version of "Gateways" and you won't be able to disagree. Every facet of this album, from the guttural didgeridoo first note to the rumbling "Abrahadabra" of the closer (a powerful magic word invented by Mr. Crowley), was lavished with attention. Do not rob yourself of the experience by simply play this album in the background (which I have done). Sit and drink it in.

Grip: 5/5
Dimmu Borgir, to me, has always been about one thing. Not Satan, not Crowley, not hate or violence or apocalypse. All these things are incidental to what Dimmu Borgir's music truly speaks of. Power. To draw again on a comparison already made, Cradle of Filth is about eros, or even pathos, Dimmu Borgir is about thumos. Listen to their great albums - Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, Deathcult Armageddon, Stormblast, and even Enthrone Darkness Triumphant - and that is what you hear. The human wielding of utter power. And if that means that we bow to Satan for an hour, then we do it. When he has nothing left to offer us, we draw from a new source. This is the ultimate Nietzschian experience, in musical form.

That was what was wrong with In Sorte Diaboli, Dimmu's previous offering. It lacked power. Oh, and it was boring. Not Abrahadabra. There isn't a bad song on here. Some critics have complained about the new bassist's clean vocals, but I don't find them to be nearly as problematic as some have made them out to be. From my point of view, they fit the spirit of the album well. The chorus of "Born Treacherous" will get stuck in your head, as will the choral chants of "Dimmu Borgir." But the outro to lead single "Gateways" hits me the hardest - a Nietzchian call to power, the alternating male and female lines summon all listeners to stand up and form their own futures.
Be the broken or the breaker;
Be the giver or the undertaker;
Unlock and open the door;
Be the healer or the faker.
The keys are in your hands;
Realize you are the sole creator
Of your own master plan.

Abigail Williams - In the Absence of Light
Art - 2/5
You might think I'm being harsh, after heaping praise on Dimmu and Cradle, to criticize Abigail Williams so much. After all, their music is certainly influenced by, one could even say "is a tribute to", early Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth. How early? Perhaps Enthrone Darkness Triumphant-era Dimmu and Cruelty and the Beast-era Cradle. But that's the problem - it's derivative. Now I'm not saying that the songs are bad. They just aren't anything special. Dark poetry, yes. Very nice. But tell me a story, inspire me, cause me to feel something if you want my devotion. Like the milk bottles say: Add something. That doesn't mean you add basil to milk or rap to black metal. But Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth are both proving that you can take a certain style and bring new elements to it. Abigail Williams do emulate their heroes well, and this album is a reach to the rawer, earlier days of black metal (compared to 2008's In the Shadow of A Thousand Suns, not compared to any of the black metal bands of the early 90s). so there is that. If you love the style, then this album is still worth a listen. What's ironic is that the people who criticize Dimmu for not remaking Enthrone Darkness Triumphant will also hate In the Absence of Light because of the Hot Topic crowd who currently admire them.

Grip: 5/5
Now that I've criticized Abigail Williams's sameness, allow me to say that I do enjoy this album. The trio are excellent musicians, especially the guitarist/vocalist Ken Sorceron. He provides those Hellcat vocals that I missed in Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa, and also real, meaty guitar riffs. There are tremolos, there are chugs, arpeggios, heavy-hitting power chords and drawn-out, mournful notes. Listening to the album, you wouldn't realize that the average song length is 6:20. The music flows and draws you in, and the production emphasizes all the right notes. A rich bass kick and sparkly cymbals, as well as Ken Bedene's lightning stick work (yes, there are two Kens in this band), keep the drums relevant and allow them to envelope everything else, from the wonderfully distorted guitars to Sorceron's shriek, which has just the right amount of reverb on it. "Final Destiny of the Gods," a 8:18 epic is my favorite, from the blasting/tremolo section to the galloping chugs to the brilliant melodic solo the closes the song. Honestly, if you love the genre, as I do, you have to listen to this album just as a tribute to the style, because they do it perfectly. Abigail Williams is a band to watch. They have the skills and tools it takes to make their own epic equal to Abrahadabra. Now if only they can find that something that pushes an album over the top, it won't matter what the Hot Topic kids think.

Quick Review: Ozzy vs. BLS

Ozzy Osbourne is one of the biggest and oldest names in metal. I consider Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath to be the first metal album ever created, and the Ozzman provided the pipes. That means Ozzy has been in metal since the beginning. Forget the stupid MTV show. To me, Ozzy means classic metal. Of course, he is still making music today. From 1988's No Rest for the Wicked through 2007's Black Rain, Ozzy's guitarist was the incredibly talented Zakk Wylde. The Wylde man is also making music, and like his former boss, is newly sober.

Black Label Society - Order of the Black
Ozzy Osbourne - Scream
So what kind of music do these metal heroes make without copious amounts of booze to fuel their creative fires? The same kind of music they made when they were drinking, unsurprisingly. It turns out, however, that one of them is significantly better at it than the other. Can you guess who?

Ozzy's Scream opens with "Let It Die," and it's too long. Seriously. Don't open an album with a 6 minute song, unless it's absolutely riveting or you're Opeth. Still, the song gives a good indication of what's to come: decent riffs, very much in Zakk's style, although new axeman Gus G does have significantly different soloing style; good bass sound and drum tone, but nothing interesting happening on either one; too many effects; Ozzy singing through about ten vocal filters. Now, I realize that the man is getting old, but does he really need to sound like T-Pain when he sings? Some of you might not think it's that bad, but he uses phasers and flangers on every verse, and even on the choruses he has some sort of doubling effect, and it never lets up throughout the album. It makes me incredibly nostalgic for the good old Black Sabbath days. Just three guys in a room with some mikes. Try that again, Ozzy, please?

Zakk and the Doom Crew start their album on a significantly better note. "Crazy Horse" is pure BLS, from the fat phasers to the pinch harmonics to Zakk's melodic yet slightly aggressive lyrics. So if you've listened to Black Label Society and get the gist of them, and don't need any more, you probably won't be impressed. But I think Order of the Black is a significant step up from 06's Shot to Hell. Why? The same factor that makes Ozzy's album (and Shot to Hell) a disappointment - it's not over-produced. Don't get me wrong, there's certainly been a lot of studio magic worked on the material, and Fenriz from Darkthrone would hate it. But listen to "Blacked Out World" from Shot to Hell, then listen to "Southern Dissolution" from Order of the Black, and you'll see what I mean.

Ozzy's second track, "Let Me Hear You Scream," the first single and song the album is named for, comes at you with all the metal ferocity of a Miley Cyrus hit. It's shamefully poppy. Let's skip it. "Soul Sucker" may have a stupid name, but at least it has an awesome talkbox riff, and it's actually catchy. I actually think that Ozzy's lyrics have gotten better with age, even if his compositional (or producer choosing) skills haven't. A note on Gus G's solos - they are killer. Probably in the same league as Zakk's. So there's that.

Let's talk ballads. Wylde is stupid for Elton John, so he usually has two or three piano ballads on his albums. This one has four - three of them are good. Ozzy has a couple ballads too, and I actually think his are better than Zakk's. Interestingly, being sober now, both men are preoccupied with mortality and the inevitable passage of time. As these are both excellent topics for metal songs, I won't fault either of them. Check out Ozzy's "Life Won't Wait," "Diggin' Me Down" (the album's best track, where Ozzy directly asks Jesus how long until He comes and fixes this world), "Time," and "I Love You All," and Black Label Society's "Darkest Days," "Time Waits for No One," and "Shallow Grave."

Overall, I'd say Zakk wins this face-off, with catchier tracks, a more raw production, and more honest musicality. Either one is a fun album, but I don't think either has serious staying power. I'd give Order of the Black a 7 out of 10, and Scream a 5. Maybe it's time for Ozzy to retire.

Work In the Pipeline

So I have three posts in the works, each covering three albums. The first will be Symphonic Adventures, covering:
  • Dimmu Borgir - Abrahadabra
  • Cradle of Filth - Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa
  • Abigale Williams - In the Absence of Light
The second will be Interstellar Exploration, covering:
  • Alcest - Écailles de Lune
  • Negura Bunget - Vîrstele Pămîntului
  • Twilight - Monument to Time End
The third will be The Ultimate Workout, covering:
  • Brain Drill - Quantum Catastrophe
  • Origin - Antithesis
  • Lost Soul - Immerse In Infinity

Things Coming Up

Obviously, I am a horrible person. That is why I have not written anything since August.
But things are changing. Maybe.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Three Solid Tens

I've decided that the best way to start out with reviews is to give examples of the three main genres of extreme metal - death, black, and doom. It's been much harder to decide what albums I should show you first. Should I start out with examples typical of the genre, or should I show albums that are exceptional for their quality and innovation?

The only way that you, the listener, will become familiar with the genres and able to make your own judgments is by exposure. That is how I began, that is how everyone begins and, in many ways, ends. After all, this is music, and personal preference is going to determine what you listen to and what you don't.

So why not start out with what I believe is absolutely exceptional? You will find plenty of mediocre, typical music in your search. The whole point of a critic is to start you on the right path. So in this post I will be reviewing Ulcerate's Everything Is Fire, Blut Aus Nord's Memoria Vetusta II, and Ahab's The Divinity of Oceans. All three are solid tens and were on many Top Albums of 2009 lists, including my own.

Ulcerate - Everything Is Fire
Art: 5/5
I first heard this album described as "technical death metal," and made certain assumptions about it. The drums would go a million miles an hour, the guitars would go "widdly widdly djent djent djent" and it would sound like dozens of other tech death albums. In a word, it would be boring. I was utterly wrong. These New Zealanders have produced something completely unique in all of death metal. It isn't necessarily all fast, but the intensity level is unrelenting. Ulcerate, in fine metal tradition, sing about the human condition and about the end of all things.

Ulcerate's musicianship astounded me, especially when I watched raw drum tracking videos on YouTube of Jamie Saint Merat recording the album. You can feel the fury of the band through the music, a tornado of realization picking you up and slamming you mercilessly into the cliff face that is humanity. The guitars layer in chords and rhythms that simply have not been heard in death metal before. The production keeps things wonderfully uncompressed, allowing the layers of guitars to breathe and fill every last space in your head. As I already mentioned, the drums are fantastic, with a rich, meaty bass drum and solidly refreshing snare drum snap.

Grip: 5/5
The first time I listened to Everything Is Fire, I didn't get it. It simply didn't conform to my idea of what technical death metal should be. Once I opened my mind to be responsive to this beast of an album, however, it never let go. Watching the drum tracking certainly got me excited to pick out the various drum parts, and this led to trying to decipher Michael Hoggard's many guitar layers. Everything Is Fire is my number one album of any style for 2009, and the title track, which closes the album, is my favorite of the eight monstrous tracks. Paul Kelland, the bass player, bellows the lyrics, and although they are indistinguishable without a lyric-sheet, that has never stopped me from bellowing right along. This album is all about energy flowing straight from the center of your being and being expressed in whatever way possible - the limbs of a drummer, the hands of a guitarist, the lungs of a vocalist. Everything Is Fire is unlike any other death album I have ever heard. Let it crush you.

Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta II
Art: 5/5
While Fire may be the element that defines Ulcerate's tour de force, Ice would be a better fit for French black metal band Blut Aus Nord's (pronounced bloot ah's nord) follow up to 1996's Memoria Vetusta: Fathers of the Icy Age. 2009's album, subtitled Dialogue With the Stars, has won acclaim from metalheads worldwide, being the number one album on's official 2009 critics' list. Memoria Vetusta II is not a typical black metal album, featuring delay-laden acoustic guitars and Vangelis-esque synths, yet the tremolo riffs, furious blastbeats, and howled lyrics of black metal are certainly present in abundance. Dialogue With the Stars has such a reverb-laden production that the listener feels as though he is floating miles above the frozen mountains and forests of Scandinavia (yes, this is a French band with a German name, but black metal comes straight from the frozen north). Readers moving straight to this album from Everything Is Fire will notice that the snare drum is much more prominent in black metal than in death metal, and although the kick is still important, it isn't as thick or meaty as in death metal. This is typical of black metal, which often uses a much more raw or, as in this case, reverb drenched production than the intentionally fat, bass-heavy sound of death metal.

Grip: 5/5
I cannot forget the melodies of this album. Yes, it is extreme music, and yes, the vocalist howls and shrieks unintelligible phrases of philosophy from the mountain tops, but it is fantastically melodic. "The Meditant (Dialogue With the Stars)" and "The Formless Sphere (Beyond the Reason)," my favorite tracks, are about ten minutes a piece, but never feel as though they are dragging or outstaying their welcome. This is an album that I have played and do play multiple times in a row. The chords, built from layered tremolo guitars, wash over the listener with the unadulterated beauty of winter. Blastbeats create an arctic wind to bring the howled messages of Vindsval to us from whatever distant mountain he uttered them on. Sometimes reverb heavy productions like this one can wash out an album's sound, making it all feel weak or sluggish, but Memoria Vetusta II stays sharp and energetic, allowing the reverb to give the album that spacious feeling of flying, rather than the squish of mud.

Ahab - The Divinity of Oceans
Art: 5/5
Doom metal proves that you don't have to play faster to be more extreme. German doomsters Ahab play a type of metal called "funeral doom," which essentially means the slowest, lowest music possible. Unlike some purveyors of funeral doom, however, Ahab includes harmony and melody prominently in The Divinity of Oceans. Many metal bands produce concept albums - albums built around one theme or story - but Ahab is a concept band. All their music revolves around the theme of whaling and Herman Melville's famous novel Moby Dick. I don't know a lot about whaling, but in my mind, this is what whaling should sound like. The slow pace and absolutely colossal tones transport the listener to a whaling ship tossed by the merciless ocean. I loved 2006's The Call of the Wretched Deep, which took its themes directly from Moby Dick, and so I was familiar with the band's sound when I first spun The Divinity of Oceans. Compared with their first album, this one is more melodic, containing more harmonic chords and less dissonance. Also, there is more melodic, layered singing, although the unearthly growls that sound as though The White Whale himself uttered them are certainly still prominent. This sonic change fits well with the thematic change from the Pequod to the Essex, the real-life ship that inspired Melville. Whale attacks, sinking ships, and cannibalism are all themes that Ahab growls about on The Divinity of Oceans.

Grip: 5/5
Again, the melodies play an important part here, enriching and emphasizing the massive feeling of the ocean about to crash down upon helpless humans. The lyrics (as we will find in most extreme metal) are barely intelligible without a lyric sheet, but that should not be any deterrent to the enjoyment of this album. The first entrance of the distorted guitars in "Yet Another Raft of the Medusa" should not be missed. It is the sound of the golden sun igniting towering breakers with solar fire and the sound of what those waves do to a human being alone on the ocean. If whalers had had electricity when they went out on their ships to fight the monsters of the deep, Ahab's albums would have been their soundtrack. Let The Divinity of Oceans suck you down. You won't mind if it drowns you.

I have posted these YouTube links to give you an idea of what the music sounds like. YouTube links are a sorry excuse for what music ought to sound like, especially bass-dependent music like metal. I'm currently trying to set up links for you to download these albums in mp3 from straight through my blog. That feature will be coming soon.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Metal Jargon: Extreme

One word that metalheads use often and with fairly obscure meaning is the word "extreme." The most interesting metal, in my opinion, is commonly called extreme - the sub-genres of black, death, and doom metal. Critics and metalheads praise one band for being extreme, deride another for not being extreme, and note that the extreme extremeness of a third band makes their status as "music" openly debatable.

But "extreme," while a familiar word, has no concrete meaning. One thing can only be "extreme" in comparison to some other object. While a fan who listens devotedly to Dissection, Cannibal Corpse, and Entombed would find Judas Priest to be far from "extreme," "Breaking the Law" would seem radically extreme to somebody who grew up on Barry Manilow. So in order for me to use the word "extreme" with any meaning, I must set a base standard, a zero-point.

There are two ways in which a band, an album, a song can be extreme. One is "musical extremism," and the other is "lyrical extremism." Musical extremism manifests itself in volume, tempo, attitude, and complexity of music. Using obscure keys and relying heavily on dissonance is extreme. Like classical music, metal embraces virtuoso performance. There is even a sub-genre of death metal that plays the fastest, most complex riffs and rhythms possible, simply for the sake of being fast and complicated. But speed isn't the only way to be extreme. Deliberately slow tempos and down-tuned instruments are extreme as well, as funeral doom music clearly shows. Vocal delivery also adds an extreme edge - instead of merely singing, the metal vocalist can shout, yell, scream, screech, howl, yowl, groan, moan, growl, grunt, belch, or rumble his message.

That brings us to the second way that metal can be extreme - lyrical content. Metal vocalists sing about topics that popular artists often avoid - politics, religion, and philosophy. The range of views that metal vocalists express on these topics is incredibly diverse, surprisingly so to those who have not been exposed to metal before. Country singers sing about the farm and their small town, rappers rap about bitches and hos, and metalheads scream about Satan, right? Yes, but no, of course. Furthermore, saying that anti-Christian, anti-Religious, Satanic, Pagan, and Occult themes are all the same is like saying that anti-Americanism, anarchy, Pan-nationalism, British Loyalism, and Canadianism are all the same. There is plenty of nuance to explore.

It should be noted that social unacceptability is neither unique to metal nor a hindrance to commercial success. Prominent rap artist Eminem immediately comes to mind. While metal certainly causes more controversy at parties than Coldplay (especially among religious groups, who have been brought up to view it as a pure invention of the devil), it also exercises the listener's mind more. There are three messages that can possibly be delivered by any song - support of an idea, opposition to that idea, or neutrality on that idea. Opposition being the most extreme position one can take, it is the best suited for metal. Neutrality is the second best, simply stating facts and allowing the listener to judge. Support of an idea can be done, but it is much harder to do it with the emotional intensity that is such an integral part of metal.

As far as setting up a standard to call something extreme or not extreme, I will start with Black Sabbath. They were the first metal band, and so I will use them to set "neutral" on the extreme scale. Harsh vocals and violent themes will push music onto the side of extreme, major keys and narratives of dragons will push it back. I will be giving my own opinion on the extremity of any given album or band as they come into discussion, so I will not be setting up a rigid framework. This post is mainly to get your mind onto the right set of tracks. Where those tracks will go remains to be seen.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Beginning of It All

One might wonder why, considering the wealth of other metal review sites on the internet, I think that I have something to add to the discussion on metal. The honest truth is that I probably do not. I do, however, have strong opinions on music, metal in particular, and I wish to talk about them. Whether or not anyone will be interested in listening is secondary to me, and I am secondary to the music itself. I believe music deserves to be heard, to be thought about, to be discoursed upon.

Here is a statement of my philosophy of musical criticism. I believe that the human being is more than meets the eye, and I view music as the key to expressing the whole human soul. I believe that metal expresses essential parts of Man that many other mediums no longer speak to, and I wish to help reveal that to people who may not have otherwise considered metal as something that could hold their ear, or engage their mind.

That said, music is not a philosophical text book. Music expresses emotions, not logical arguments or even clearly defined propositions. Music, especially metal, can and should be fun. Therefore, and to distinguish myself from many other review sites, I am going to review albums on a two part scale. Each scale will range from 1 to 5, five being the best, leading to a total possible score of 10 for any album. As I am only one man, I am mostly only going to bring albums to your attention that I feel are worth your time, as well as my own. Most albums will be 7s and 8s, but there will be more than enough 9s and 10s to make it seem like I only give high marks. Believe me, it is not so. I listened to over two-hundred and fifty albums released in 2009, and fewer than twenty-five deserved a 9. Possibly less than ten deserved a solid 10.

The first part of the review I will call "Art." In this section, I will look at elements such as song structure, faithfulness to or innovation in the genre, trendsetting status, variations and themes, coherent structure, clear or incomprehensible philosophies, and anything else that I feel makes the music mentally enriching. This is art, and not science, so don't expect me to have or hold to any sort of formula.

The second part, I will call "Grip." Here I will measure how the music feels when you listen to it. Are the riffs catchy? Can you sing, scream, growl, howl along, and, more importantly, do you feel compelled to do so? Do the songs remain in your head for hours, days, or even years? Can the album hold your attention the whole way through, or is it full of dead tracks, filler riffs, and stale ideas?

Remember, all this will be one man's opinion. But I urge you to listen to something you've never heard before, or listen again to something you've dismissed. Perhaps it will move you.

Why The Blackened Edge? I assure you that I will not be writing exclusively about black metal. But the music that I love the most cuts and sears, seizing the complacent heart from the chest and forcing a reaction. Besides, "The Blackened Edge" sounds KVLT enough to please this philosopher.