Thursday, November 30, 2017

Beast In Black – Berserker

Berserker” is the first album from Finnish band Beast in Black. The group has a major leg up on most newer acts, as they formed as a result of the departure of lead guitarist Anton Kabanen leaving Battle Beast, meaning that they’ve already gained a sizable following. The good news is that Beast In Black easily stands on their own as a distinct, worthwhile act. Much of “Berserker” feels like pop music disguised as metal, and the result is a disc filled with catchy anthems that will have you singing along after even just a couple listens.

The sound that Beast In Black has created is definitely on the simpler side, but there are two things that separate them from being about only sugary melodies. The first is the lead guitar playing. It should be no surprise that the leads on this album absolutely annihilate most other guitarists’ abilities. It’s almost comical how simple a song can sound until the solo, but then a million notes are fired off at absurd speeds. Often times it even feels out of place, but anyone who loves shredding probably won’t be overly concerned.

The other distinctive factor of this release is singer Yannis Papadopoulos. His voice is a bit raspier than many other singers playing this style of music, but most importantly, he can unleash some wickedly high-pitched screams. The best example is “Blind and Frozen”, which is the ultimate pop anthem on the album. There are several points where turns into a banshee and starts piercing some ears. This track also feels like a straight-up dance song at times. After the guitar solo, it relies heavily on keyboards, which are later complemented by a classic four on the floor drumbeat.

Aside from the obvious single, there are a number of solid efforts throughout the record. The other pre-release tracks, “Beast In Black” and especially “Born Again”, are also winners. They ultimately rely on similar formulas, but put more emphasis on metal than “Blind and Frozen” did. At worst, there are only a couple of weak tracks. “Crazy, Mad, Insane”, isn’t necessarily bad, but feels almost like a techno song at times. It relies a little too heavily on a vocoder to feel comfortable. Truthfully, it’s not a bad effort, but it does stand out as being very different from the rest of the album. Aside from this song, “Ghost In The Rain”, marks a weak end to the record, as it’s a softer, ballad-esque tune. For an album that otherwise relies on power (particularly in the vocals), it closes the record with a whimper. 

It might be reductive to claim that “Berserker” is a “Nuclear Blast” album, but that’s actually the perfect way to describe it. Like it or not, the label has bands that appeal to certain types of metal fans. Beast In Black likely won’t be a hit amongst the metal underground, but if you’re the type that doesn’t mind straightforward, catchy music, then “Berserker” is a major winner!

Be sure to check out and like Beast In Black on Facebook!

"Beast In Black"
"Blind and Frozen"
"Born Again"

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained

Contrary to popular belief, Morbid Angel’s somewhat disastrous “Illud Divinum Insanus” was not the worst metal album ever made. It was a strange mix of mediocre death metal, with a handful of experimental songs ranging from downright terrible to hilariously absurd (“Profundis – Mea Culpa” is certainly what a death metal rave would sound like). Regardless of what it actually was, it wasn’t Morbid Angel, and the departure of David Vincent and return of Steve Tucker has brought a lot of hope for fans. Interestingly, Tucker’s other band, Warfather, was pretty much a perfect replica of Morbid Angel’s sound, so while it lacked Trey on guitars, it was every bit as authentic as Morbid Angel. Either way, those two are back together again, and the result is “Kingdoms Disdained”.

This album shows Morbid Angel getting back on track. Truthfully, even “Heretic” seemed like a bit of a letdown, so returning to an even earlier sound would be an improvement for the band. While “Kingdoms Disdained” doesn’t have the otherworldly feel of “Gateways to Annihilation”, for example, it absolutely retains Morbid Angel’s classic sound. Every riff on this record has that twisted, mind-bendingly sideways feel to it. Whether it is a high-speed tremolo-picked section, or the more common sludgy chugging sound, it has much more in common with the band’s mid-era sound than anything they’ve done in the last 15 years.

The one common factor missing from “Kingdoms Disdained” is long-time drummer Pete Sandoval. While he’s undoubtedly very talented, his presence is not particularly missed on this record. His replacement is equally mechanical, making even the fastest double bass or blast beats sound simple. The album as a whole is very rhythmic, even compared to a lot of other death metal, and the writing of the drums feels very deliberate. There aren’t many standard death metal beats, as nearly every pattern is crafted to match the band’s depraved atmosphere. 

Kingdoms Disdained” feels unquestionably like a Morbid Angel album, and that is very reassuring. It isn’t, however, as good as much of their older work. The band used to have an uncanny ability to take complex music and write it in ways that were instantly memorable. That doesn’t seem to be the case this time around, as most of the 11 tracks blend together. The overabundance of mid-paced sections with a lack of distinctive vocal melodies, or even psychotic guitar melodies make for a one-dimensional album. As a result, “Kingdoms Disdained” feels and sounds like Morbid Angel, but it is not amongst their best work.

Be sure to check out and like Morbid Angel on Facebook!

All/none of it

Final Rating
3.8/5 or 76%.