Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Year So Far

So I haven't actually written any reviews in months, but I've certainly not stopped listening to metal, nor have I slackened in my defense of it to all open, artistic minds. One of my favorite albums to promote is Triptykon's Eparistera Daimones. That album just has so much to talk about, from a musical, philosophical, and artistic standpoint. Of course, 2011 has been filled with excellent music as well, so I'm going to just take a minute to mention a few of the 77 albums I have heard so far this year. I'll save the truly excellent albums for another post, so that I can give them the closer attention they deserve.

The Potentially Promising:

These are albums by bands that I have either enjoyed in the past or are acclaimed by critics I respect, who have put out albums this year that don't suck, but haven't engaged a lot of my time. I keep them on the hopeful list, knowing that eventually they may reveal their brilliance and become highly recommended, or at least perpetual fun listens.

Scar Symmetry - The Unseen Empire

If you've been listening to Scar Symmetry for a while, you know the sound. They haven't forged any new grounds or broken any molds, but this, their second album since the departure of Christian Älvestam, sees the vocalists finally engaging their strengths. Scar Symmetry made my end of the year lists with their first three albums, and only just missed it with their 4th release, because 2009 was so chocked full of good music. So I hope that when I'm ready to devote the attention to this album, it will at least live up to the legacy of the band. Until now, I've only listened to it as background music, and it hasn't jumped out at me.

DevilDriver - Beast

Don't laugh, I actually enjoy DevilDriver. They've had their strong and weak moments - I thought 2005's The Fury Of Our Maker's Hands was a great modern metal release, and although 2007's The Last Kind Words was forgettable, 2009's Pray For Villains provided some good summertime windows-down, head-banging moments. You have to admire a band that actually puts out an album every other year in this day and age, and Beast seems like a strong contender for DevilDriver's best. We'll see if it lasts the summer.

Vreid - V

Some of the guys on MetalReview.com are huge advocates of Vreid. I find the Norwegian black-metalers to be engaging, and their last release, Milorg got a few spins from me, but although it made quite a few year-end lists, it didn't make mine. I've found myself going back to V several times this spring, so this one could actually go all the way, because it is undoubtedly an excellent disk. Unfortunately for Vreid, there have been a lot of excellent black metal albums already this year.

Deicide - To Hell With God

Normally, I don't enjoy this level of Satanic dick wagging. Yes, I know that you like "The Devil" and you have a inverted cross branded on your forehead. I honestly don't care. But the energy that the band have put into their particular brand of old-school Florida death metal this time around is pretty infectious. And as always, Ralph Santolla provides astonishing and not in any way wanky solos. Can the music lift this album above it's 9th grade lyrical content? Potentially.

Becoming The Archetype - Celestial Completion

While Deicide is busy cursing God, Become the Archetype are busy worshiping Him. It's unusual for a Christian band to reach this level of excellence, and even more unusual for a band to be this experimental, regardless of their philosophy. BtA uses everything from choirs and orchestras to shifting tempos and ska bands to bring variety to their music, and they usually succeed with flying colors. I'm a sucker for concept albums, and so I expect that Celestial Completion will engage me more as the year goes on. On the other hand, it might be a bit too strange to hold long term sway.

The Human Abstract - The Digital Veil

Wiggidy wiggidy, djent djent djent. It's experimental deathcore. Or something like that. It's actually quite good, branching out far beyond the simple sweeps & synth-drop mosh-break protocols of the far-too-popular genre. Hot-Topic Metalers they are not. I enjoy the use of acoustic instrumentation and big chordy vocals (does that even make sense?) but I sometimes feel that the production is just too modern, perfect, and yes, digital to truly grab me. Of course, the album is called The Digital Veil, but there is a balance between "I did it for art's sake" and something that I'll actually listen to on a regular basis. This album actually reminds me a lot of The Ocean's two albums last year, if The Ocean took their inspiration from All Shall Perish instead of Tool.

Born of Osiris - The Discovery

Ah, actual deathcore. But the best of deathcore. Deathcore that I actually want to listen to, not Winds of Plague or whatever My Chemical Romance-inspired faux-core band Hot Topic is promoting this month. The riffs are heavy, yet varied, and the vocal delivery seems more robust than, say Oceano or Suicide Silence. Honestly, I've only had time to spin this album once, and although I liked it when I heard it, it hasn't dragged me back in yet. I'm going to have to make a point to spin it again before I get completely flooded with summer releases.

The Probably Pathetic:
These are albums that I have less hope for. They're worth a listen if you're a fan of the band or the style, but they would score poorly in my Art/Grip system.

Neuraxis - Asylon

Neuraxis is a tech-death band from Canada. I've enjoyed their past releases quite a bit, but they've never stood out enough from the crowd to be really excellent. I keep hoping, though, so I'll give Asylon another listen or two before I dismiss it.

One Man Army And The Undead Quartet - The Dark Epic

One Man Army plays good, reliable melodic death metal. I have all their previous releases and occasionally spin them. Will this one be strong enough to rise to the top? I doubt it.

Children of Bodom - Relentless Reckless Forever

I'm a longtime Bodom fan, and Alexi Laiho is one of my guitar inspirations. The 2nd solo that he plays in "Kissing The Shadows" contains some of my favorite notes ever recorded. But it was 11 years ago when Bodom recorded Follow The Reaper, and their recent work has been slightly disappointing. It's certainly not a worse album than Blooddrunk, and I still listen to that one on occasion. But it's no Reaper, or even Are You Dead Yet.

Benighted - Asylum Cave

This French death band blends grindcore with death metal, including some modern deathcore staples like pig squeals. I don't like pig squeals. So even though I've read quite a few positive reviews of this album, and even though I enjoyed their last album Icon, I just can't get into it myself.

Cavalera Conspiracy - Blunt Force Trauma

I've followed Max Cavalera's career since Sepultura, and I like a decent amount of what Soulfly has to offer, especially the Dark Ages album. Unfortunately, Max hasn't done anything new since 1996, when Sepultura put out Roots. Still fun for a mosh. If you're a Max fan, take a listen. The cover of Black Sabbath classic "Electric Funeral" is quite good.

I've heard a lot of other stuff, including a lot of obscure black and folk and black/folk metal from Germany, Norway, Finland, and all the other usual places. I'll mention all that's notable in a separate post.

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