Sunday, November 29, 2015

Flight – Flight

Though there has been an explosion of traditional heavy metal over the past 8 years or so, most of these acts seem concentrated in Sweden and Canada. For this reason, it is always a treat to discover a band like Flight, who hail from Norway. Their approach differs from the speed metal-infusion shredding that most of their counterparts take; instead, Flight opts for a late 1970s sound, not unlike early Judas Priest or early Riot. In fact, the band’s namesake track sounds very similar to Priest’s “Sinner”. Though this song is somewhat catchy, nearly every track that comes after it surpasses it. One great example is “Don’t Lose It”, which is an ode to harmonized guitars, as the band unleashes some of the most impressive harmonies imaginable.

As noted above, Flight is incredibly authentic when it comes to playing old-school heavy metal. The production is laid-back, and the guitars aren’t excessively distorted or downtuned. Even the vocals are relatively tame (Priest is not the best comparison in this respect, as Flight’s singer doesn’t have the same range as Halford). In addition, all of the instruments gel together (particularly noticeable in the interlude in “Flight”, amongst other places). This makes the simplistic riffs even more effective. Where Flight really shines, however, is when they unleash their shredders. Consistent with the 1970s theme, the band’s axemen aren’t going to wow anyone with the speed of their playing, but the solos are incredibly well composed. They’re often lengthy pieces, and you get the feeling that if the band wanted to abandon the rest of the song, they could carry on for 4 minutes just soloing, and the listener would still be completely enthralled (which is why the instrumental “Nightrider” is so compelling, though it has plenty of riffs too). The guitar solos are without a doubt the highlight of this record, and reason enough to buy it. 

As a heavy metal record, “Flight” is not without its flaws. Simply put, it isn’t heavy enough. When Priest sounded like this, it was groundbreaking (and their songs were obviously some of the best ever written), but playing this way now would appeal more to a hard rock fan than a metal one. I’m not one to say that something needs to be heavy to be good, but it feels like Flight is on the precipice of being great, but needs a little extra push to get there. Beefing up the guitars and the production would greatly benefit the band, as it would make the riffs hit harder. Still, you can’t help but appreciate this record as something unique in the modern metal scene, and its shredding puts it leaps and bounds above what many other bands are doing.  

Be sure to check out and like Flight on Facebook!

"Lion's Den"
"Don't Lose It"

Final Rating
3.9/5 or 78%. 

Written by Scott

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Solanum – Into The Sinner Circle

Following a split release earlier this year, Canada’s Solanum have returned with their first full-length record: “Into The Sinner Circle”. Things have been tightened up a bit since then, making this album an effective thrashing that is sure to incite furious headbanging. As you may have guessed, this album is an endless cacophony of riffs, each one being more visceral than the last. Though Solanum’s overall sound is more comparable to crossover acts, many of their riffs are also straight ahead thrash, providing flashbacks to a record like “Darkness Descends”. One great example is at the end of “Strangled By Disease”, where there is an insane breakdown riff that is probably the highlight of the entire record.

The crossover elements previously noted are most evident in the vocals. Solanum’s singer takes the hardcore approach of yelling like a madman, often at insane speeds. In contrast to this, however, the songs are pretty long, which makes “Into The Sinner Circle” a lot less vocal-driven than other similar sounding records. Nevertheless, the band manages to write parts that are easy to latch onto. One such example is the chorus of the opening track, “P.T.S.D.”, which, unsurprisingly, consists of the band’s singer yelling out those 4 letters in convincing succession. Screaming along to the title of “Symptoms of Solanum” is equally compelling.

One thing that catapults “Into The Sinner Circle” ahead of much of the competition is the bass playing. Yes, it is loud and audible, but that alone isn’t what makes it great. Instead, it is the fact that Solanum’s bass player always seems to pop out at the perfect moment, sometimes with a small fill, but also just to play a bit higher than the low rumble that dominates the rest of the songs. This approach complements the maniacal vocals and riffs.

Into The Sinner Circle” is a cool release because it takes relatively common thrash themes and combines them in a unique way. Crossover/hardcore elements typically tend to dominate releases like this with short songs and politically charged lyrics, but Solanum instead adds punky elements to a more standard thrash approach, and the result is incredibly effective. Relative to the band’s previous release, this album shows a marked improvement, and is certainly a worthy purchase.
Be sure to check out and like Solanum on Facebook!

"Strangled By Disease"
"Symptoms of Solanum"

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Written by Scott

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Horizons Edge – Heavenly Realms

Heavenly Realms” is album number two for Australian power metal group Horizons Edge. Don’t let the fact that the band is unsigned fool you, this is very impressive power metal that is sure to please fans of the subgenre. The band’s approach is not unique, but it is effective. Relying on pleasing, soaring melodies, uptempo songs, and wild vocals, Horizons Edge knows what works. Though they should not be classified as a progressive band, they do have some of those tendencies. Sometimes the melodies are a little stranger, or a bit more out there, but this prevents the band from sounding strictly like a combination of power metal tropes.

The main factor that will make you love or hate this album is the vocals of Kat Sproule. To be clear, she has a good voice, but it isn’t always used as effectively as it could be. She definitely suffers from not restraining her voice, and instead hitting notes at her will. Still though, she comes up with some pretty catchy vocal lines, and songs like “Vagabond”, and especially “Ride The Stars” will be stuck in your head for a while. The latter song in particular is the most effective on the album because it is a high-speed affair, not unlike something I would expect from a band such as Gamma Ray (with lower-pitched vocals, of course) or Keldian.

One song deserving of special mention is the cover of Gown's “Head Honcho”. If you’re anything like me, you probably had no idea who this band is. In fact, after doing some research, I’m still not sure I’m on the right track here, but Gown is a band that appeared in the movie “Hot Rod” (one of my favourite movies ever), featuring members of Queens of the Stone Age. The song they play in the movie is an 80s hair metal-styled anthem, which is precisely what Horizons Edge covers here. As a sucker for that style of metal, this cover is incredible, and quite possibly the best part of the record. Its melodies are killer, and the chorus is absurdly memorable. 

On the whole, “Heavenly Realms” is an album that displays how well-versed in power metal Horizons Edge is. The band could benefit from tightening up the songwriting a little bit, and even the mix (the vocals feel very distant), but overall, this record succeeds in doing what it set out to.

Be sure to check out and like Horizons Edge on Facebook!

"Ride The Stars"
"Head Honcho"

Final Rating
4.1/5 or 82%. 

Written by Scott

Friday, November 20, 2015

Assimilation – Apotheosis

From the Western end of Canada comes “Apotheosis”, the debut EP from death metal band Assimilation. This release takes considerable influence from old-school death metal, with particular nods to some of the heavier, slower Morbid Angel songs at times (such as on the title track), as well as references to thrashier bands at other times. This latter sound is evidenced by the riffing style and the guitar tone, which tend to lean more towards the sharp, buzzing riffs of thrash. In direct contrast to both styles are the guitar solos, which present a more balanced, melodic approach. Though they don’t sound out of place, these solos definitely provide variation amidst a release that is otherwise dominated by the low-end.

The vocals on this release are one of the better examples in the subgenre. Again, Morbid Angel proves to be somewhat of a good comparison, as Assimilation’s vocalist is able to capture that ghastly, ghoulish sound so well. His voice has a bit more low-end though, with the ability to hit higher notes as needed. In general, he tends to complement the musical madness that surrounds him, as the band utilizes double bass, tremolo-picking, sweeping, and a variety of other techniques as required. No particular sound is abused, but none is capitalized on either. While “Apotheosis” is technically proficient, its songs don’t have the catchiness of tracks like “Evil Spells” or “Where The Slime Live”. Assimilation does have a ton of great riffs, and if they can amp up the memorability and quality of songwriting a little bit, it would not be a surprise to see them sign to a legendary label like Dark Descent Records or FDA Rekotz anytime soon.

Be sure to check out and like Assimilation on Facebook!

All of it

Final Rating
3.7/5 or 74%. 

Written by Scott

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Under The Church – Rabid Armageddon

Featuring 2 members of Swedish death metal legends Nirvana 2002, Under The Church is a band that continues to fly the flag of the disgusting, HM-2 driven sound that the country is known for. “Rabid Armageddon” is the band’s first full-length release, and is a stellar album that perfectly encompasses everything that these bands were about in the early 1990s. For one thing, the guitar tone on this album is beyond heavy. It sounds as if they’ve tuned as low as humanly possible, connected several HM-2 pedals together (which doesn’t even really make sense), and ran it through their amp’s distortion channel. Seriously, this sound is not for the faint of heart; it has some major fuzz to it, making riffs more discernable by their rhythms than the pitches of the notes they contain. Nonetheless, Under The Church manages to write great songs even though a lot of the guitar parts run together.

The title track is one of the best examples, as its chorus will make you easily scream along to “Rabid Armageddon” with easy. Whether it is your first listen of the album or your 10th, this song remains the easiest to latch on to. Another standout is “Suspended In Gore”, where lead vocalist Mik Annetts enunciates clearer than anywhere else on the record so that you can easily hear the carnage he describes. As he delivers lyrical violence, the band also consistently delivers musical mayhem. There is not a moment of compromise on this record, as it is filled to the brim with cavernous, monolithic riffs with no end in sight. The band does experiment slightly on “Penance”, as much of the song makes use of slower, doomier riffs that are definitely unexpected, but the result is still immensely heavy. Even though Under The Church does a pretty good job of writing memorable songs, having this unique section on the record helps to keep the entire record fresh. 

Rabid Armageddon” has everything an old-school Swedish death metal fan could ask for. Admittedly, this has never been my favourite style of death metal, primarily because I felt like there was less emphasis on songwriting in the Swedish scene than in the Floridian death metal scene, for example. But Under The Church has no such problem, and they also deliver the authentic sound as though it were still 1992. Combine this with the absolutely astounding cover art, and you’ve got a very complete package.   

Be sure to check out and like Under The Church on Facebook!

"Rabid Armageddon"
"Suspended In Gore"
"Walpurgis Night"

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Written by Scott