Monday, April 29, 2013

Legionary - Path of Tyranny

Path of Tyranny” marks the first EP for New York’s death/thrash band Legionary. At just 12 minutes, it is an aggressive, forceful assault on the ears. Don’t confuse the death/thrash tag as being a clone of Demolition Hammer; Legionary is more of a death metal band first, with thrashy riffs that break through the brutality. While most of this EP provides exactly what you might expect, there is a surprising amount of melody throughout the release. Just when you let down your guard, the band springs a harmony that would not be out of place on any early Iron Maiden record. As quickly as these moments arise, they are gone, and Legionary’s more intense side returns. At times, there is plentiful use of blastbeats; however, the band never overdoes it. Likewise, tremolo picking is used as a part of many riffs, rather than being the entire riff.

Vocally, Legionary takes influence from their death metal roots. Don’t expect any shouting, as these lyrics are grunted quite heavily. The vocals never get guttural; however, which still makes this release fairly appealing for thrash fans that can’t get into harsher vocals. The rhythm section is similar to the vocals: death-metal based. The double bass drumming is frenetic, and only lets up when the guitars allow. From a songwriting perspective, none of these tracks are overly impressive. It is mainly the quality of riffs that will make you want to return to “Path of Tyranny”, as there isn’t much to remember (aside from the short melodic leads) once the EP ends. Still, the unique blend of the commonly combined death/thrash makes “Path of Tyranny” a must listen for fans of extreme metal!

Be sure to check out and like Legionary on Facebook!

"Disgrace of the Union"

Final Rating
3.8/5 or 76%. 

Written by Scott 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Phantom - The Powers That Be

Amongst the endless number of traditional heavy metal bands that have popped up, no single scene has created more brilliant releases than Toronto’s. While Cauldron and Skull Fist are probably the two names that first come to mind, the list doesn’t end there. There are others: Midnight Malice, Axxion, and probably even more that I don’t know of, but the one that everybody needs to hear is Phantom. This three-piece formed after another heavy metal band, Ash Lee Blade, split up. With their debut EP, “The Powers That Be”, it is clear that Phantom is an experienced, tight songwriting unit that gives a memorable performance.

The moment the opening drum solo in “The Powers That Be” ends, you’ll be hit by the best part of this EP: the furious bass playing of Necro Hippie (yes, that is the name he goes by!). It’s like he was able to go back to 1983 to figure out exactly how Steve Harris got his godly bass tone on “Piece of Mind” and replicate that for this release. What’s even better than his bass tone is the playing itself. While the bass work is definitely quite busy, it is always playing a line that adds a lot of value to the song, as opposed to simply following the guitars. Aside from the great bass playing, the other instruments in this band fall in line with what you’d expect for a traditional heavy metal band. The guitar riffs are powerful, yet simple. They are by no means the most original riffs in existence, but they’re so catchy that it really doesn’t matter. The vocals compliment this perfectly. D.D. Murley’s voice tends to stay in an upper-middle range, but does not sound anything like a power metal singer, and only infrequently reaches the screams that a band like Skull Fist loves. This is a good thing, as it helps differentiate Phantom from the crowd. The songwriting on this EP is utterly fantastic. The first three tracks alone are guaranteed to stick in your head for hours after you first spin “The Powers That Be”. These songs are all upbeat rockers that delve into the territory of speed metal. The second half of the EP features a couple longer tracks, but they never get boring, or feel overlong. “Edge of the Night/Rikar’s Beard” has a riff that is straight out of Scorpions’ early 80’s material, but is a refreshing change from the speedy assault of the other songs. In fact, this song is the longest and most unique of the 6 tracks, but ultimately, is my least favourite. With that said, it isn’t because it bad, it’s just a testament to how strong the other 5 songs are. Closing track “Citizen Pain” brings back the intensity and is a solid closer to a great release.

Phantom is a band that I cannot recommend enough. While there is only one truly unique aspect to the band (the phenomenal bass playing), the songwriting is too strong to pass over. It would not surprise me to see them pass other traditional heavy metal giants from Toronto in only a few years. If you have any interest in the classic, old-school sounds of metal, you need to own “The Powers That Be”.  

Be sure to check out and like Phantom on Facebook!

"The Powers That Be"
"In Metal"
"Keepers of the Flame"

Final Rating
4.6/5 or 92%. 

Written by Scott 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Terrorist - And Then Life Was Death

I'm not even gonna lie, but this bestial metal thing is getting a little out of hand. About 98% of the bands sound exactly alike, as they all aim for the "War Vengeance Till Death" or "Fallen Angel of Doom" sound, which is something that just can't be replicated. There are some bands who can do it and get away with it, though, with Vomitor and Blasphemophagher being the best ones around. Of course, I wouldn't be here reviewing Terrorist's newest full-length if I thought they sucked, because they don't, and I would definitely say they're a "bestial" band, but their source of inspiration hails not from Australia or Canada, but the land of everything awesome in metal: Sweden. The music on "And Then Life Was Death" is absolute Merciless worship, and I mean that in a good way. "The Awakening" is an undeniable classic of ugly and vicious metal, and Terrorist does their best job of making music in the same vein with these nine tracks.

These guys don't fuck around and they level the listener with some awesome death/thrash riffage immediately with the opener "Sadistic Necrophile" which showcases what Terrorist is all about. The vocals are harsh growls that remind me of Howitzer from Gospel of the Horns, and they suit the punishing riffage perfectly. The riffs are all over the place throughout the album, going from razor sharp tremolo passages to blitzing thrash tracks made for wrecking necks, leaving little room for filler. The bass-work is also respectable and serves as the backbone for the unrelenting music, while the drumming is machine gun-like at times pushing these chaotic hymns to an insane rate, so if you like your music mellow and progressive, get the fuck out because Terrorist isn't having any of it. The song titles are cheesy and generic, but it doesn't matter because even with a title like "Metal Till Death," it's damn hard to not bang your head along to it, or whip out your air guitar to the awesome solos. There isn't much more to be said about "And Then Life Was Death," because it speaks in volumes for itself, and if you like one song you'll dig 'em all. This is demented and crushing music that will please fans of bands like Merciless, Possessed, (early) Sepultura, Sarcofago and the like. Falses need not entry. 

Be sure to check out and like Terrorist on Facebook

"Bring Forth the Inverted Cross"
"Decimate the Inferior God"
"And Then Life Was Death"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Lost Society - Fast Loud Death

Thrashing all the way from Finland, Lost Society must have done something right in recent years, as they managed to get a deal with Nuclear Blast. Their debut record, “Fast Loud Death” is another album that shows that thrash is not dead yet. On first glance, this definitely seems like a run-of-the-mill thrash album. Between the colourful album cover and the hilarious song titles, you might expect more of the same from Lost Society, but there are a few things that separate this band from all the others.

For one thing, this is somewhat of a crossover record. While the band doesn’t take this aspect to the extreme, “Fast Loud Death” definitely features short, to the point tracks, with no room for unnecessary riffs. With the exception of the opening, chunky riff, nearly every memorable part of this record is played at lightning speed. Aside from the crossover feel, the absolute best part of “Fast Loud Death” is the guitar work. This record is the true meaning of “Thrashin’ Blues”. Some songs feature bluesy riffs (the title track being one of them), but it is the guitar solos on “Bitch, Out’ My Way” that are truly magnificent. It’s as if the guitarists improvised a blues solo at a reasonable tempo for that genre, and then sped it up to 200 beats per minute to keep up with the thrashing. Even when the solos aren’t rooted in the blues, they have interesting phrasing that adds value. Surprisingly, the rest of the songwriting is at its best when it is most ridiculous. Tracks like “Trash All Over You”, “KILL (Those Who Oppose Me)”, and “Braindead Metalhead” are as silly as they are great. With that said, many of the tracks on the second half of the record fall a bit short. The songwriting tends to become a little bit stale. It is still enjoyable thrashing, but lacks the interesting bluesy riffs of some songs, and the irrefutable catchiness of others.

Fast Loud Death” is a hard record not to like. The production is great, the performances are spot on, and the songwriting isn’t too adventurous to be a turnoff. This is my first experience with thrash from Finland, and it was a good one. While it isn’t my favourite album of the year, “Fast Loud Death” is a worthwhile 35 minutes of thrash. 

Be sure to check out and like Lost Society on Facebook!

"Trash All Over You"
"KILL (Those Who Oppose Me)"
"Bitch, Out' My Way"

Final Rating
3.8/5 or 76%. 

Written by Scott 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

HammerFall - Gates of Dalhalla

Note: This review is for the CD portion of this release only. 

Every time HammerFall (or any power metal band from the late 90’s/early 2000’s) puts out a new release, I get a bit worried. Historically, most of these bands started out amazing and slowly got worse. HammerFall is still one of the better bands in this style; but their decline is quite evident. Luckily, they gave us a live album, which is pretty difficult to mess up. It had been 4 albums since the band’s last live record, so there is plenty of new material (and a couple new members) to liven up the performance. HammerFall were trying for an even more special show, however, as they brought in a plethora of guests from their past, and played an extended set.

There is very little bad with “Gates of Dalhalla”, but it certainly isn’t perfect. One issue is that 9 of the 26 tracks were on their previous release. These are all great songs, and most of them are essential HammerFall tracks, but there are plenty of other fan favourites from both the old and new albums that deserve to be heard. The other negative to “Gates of Dalhalla” is the lack of impact of the guest stars. On the CD, you will only notice Mikael Stanne doing vocals on “Steel Meets Steel”. You will definitely hear Team Cans doing backup vocals, but their part is largely irrelevant. On the plus side, the performances are spot on. Joacim sounds as great as ever, and though he sometimes omits words or uses different vocal patterns than on the albums, it helps make “Gates of Dalhalla” unique. The rhythm guitars aren’t as tight as you might expect, but it reminds the listener that this is truly a live album. The other thing I love about this record (which is the make or break factor for most live albums) is the song selection of the other 17 songs. It’s great to see a band so enthusiastic for their new album, as HammerFall play 5 tracks from “Infected”. In addition, less obvious picks like “Fury of the Wild”, and especially “Something For The Ages” turn out to be highlights. Once again, the performance of “Something For The Ages” reaffirms Pontus Norgren as the only person who could take over for the great Stefan Elmgren on lead guitars.  His shredding is fantastic, and he adds some leads to some older HammerFall classics that you might not expect.

Gates of Dalhalla” is one of the better live releases from a band that still has something left in the tank. If you’ve heard their previous live album, “One Crimson Night”, you might get a familiar feeling with this record, but “Gates of Dalhalla” is still worth hearing for all fans of HammerFall. You might not hear too many surprises, but if you’ve never seen the band before, this release is an accurate representation of their live sound.

Be sure to check out and like HammerFall on Facebook!

"Fury of the Wild"
"Dia De Los Muertos"
"Steel Meets Steel"
"Something For The Ages"
"Glory To The Brave"

Final Rating
4.25/5 or 85%. 

Written by Scott