Posts Tagged ‘album’

8-Track: Every Time I Die

8-Track takes a band with a storied history and identifies eight songs throughout their career that define their strengths as a band, musically, lyrically, and conceptually. Read previous installments here . Where to begin with Every Time I Die, Buffalo’s favorite party animals? A career that has thrown out more filthy guitar licks and jarring breakdowns than a kegger at the Red Bull headquarters can’t quite be summarised in eight tracks; not quite anyway, but we’ve given it a go for our latest installment of the 8-Track feature here at Heavy Blog. Over seven albums and fourteen awesome music videos later, this mathcore/metalcore/hardcore/riffcore band have amassed a following that is just at home at Warped Tour as it is in that shitty venue in your hometown where people are scared of entering. As usual, we’ve picked tracks that we feel best showcase this band across the years. We disagree on the best and worst albums and we can’t even agree on the best tracks from some of these albums, but we tried. We gave it our all, just like this band do with every show and every release. If you haven’t heard Every Time I Die before, this is a great god damn playlist for you to get stuck into. Enjoy. Everyone seems to forget about the first album from these guys. While it’s still very rough and does not sound like they do now, noticeably lacking the “southern hard rock” charm they’ve worked into their sound, it does make for some damn fine metalcore/mathcore. The album is chock full of bangers, but none more so than “The Logic Of Crocodiles”. The beginning is standard mathcore, but then it builds into this really awesome breakdown towards the middle of the song that absolutely rips. It’s a shame these guys don’t really play too many songs from this album live, because it definitely could be turned into an anthem and become a staple. The most noticeable thing about this track is how harsh Keith’s vocals are over the entire thing. It sounds at many times as if he’s straining while screaming, which adds to the the sheer intensity of the song itself. There’s also some very cool chugging that goes on in the song, which is abrasive from beginning to end. Trust me, if you’ve never visited their back catalogue, now’s the time to do so, and you can begin with this piece of history. -Spencer Snitil As unique and abrasive as ETID’s early career was, it didn’t take long for it to catch on.  Hot Damn!  is considered the band’s breakout record, and with tracks like “Ebolarama,” it’s no mystery why the album caught on. Jordan Buckley’s guitar work bears a catchy mix of mathcore spunk and just the right amount of Southern charm to concoct infectiously aggressive riffing throughout the entire track. And while Keith Buckley’s vocals are commanding as always, it’s never clear which way he’ll stretch his larynx next. He’ll be moaning an eerie drawl one moment before launching into a manic roar the next. Of course, the highlights of the track – like every great ETID track – are the moments when the whole band lines up for a full-throttle romp, channeling the unbridled energy of their live performance. Ozzfest may be no more, but the band surely tore up the stage back in the day with tracks like “Ebolarama,” when they first started introducing themselves to audiences as their newest favorite band. – Scott Murphy Can we all take a moment to look back on Guitar Hero 2 and appreciate what that game did for so many of (pre?)teens in our discovery of metal? Dethklok, Shadows Fall, All That Remains, and of course, Every Time I Die were included as bonus tracks to the game’s “official” setlist. Thanks to this game, Every Time I Die were brought into the mainstream for many would-be metalheads in the form of “The New Black,” an almost uncharacteristically catchy and anthemic rock and roll tune that downplayed their hardcore roots in favor of party-ready riffs and the sassiest of hooks. The group have since gone on to become mainstays in the genre — a no doubt creating masterpieces along the way — but “The New Black” maintains as the group’s most iconic track, and for good reason; revisiting this song will leave it stuck in your head for days on end, so get comfy. -Jimmy Rowe At this point in Every Time I Die’s somewhat lengthy and unquestionably respectable career, no song perfectly encapsulates their signature sound quite like the intro track to 2007’s The Big Dirty , “No Son of Mine.” With both this record (and song alone) the band came steamrolling back after the oddly-flat mixing job that plagued 2005’s Gutter Phenomenon and positively pummel for the next three minutes. This track also boasts some of the finest Keith Buckley-isms in the land, including such greats like “leave your drunken accident at the prom,” “shoot that dog if we can’t afford to feed,” and the world’s finest breakdown accompaniment ever, “don’t ever say rock and roll.” Keith’s cryptic and often scatterbrained lyrics can probably be interpreted a number of ways, but his delivery and conviction is incontestable. Back this bizarre frontman up with some off-time, Botch -esque mathcore that’s as heavy on the dissonance as it is accessibility and you’ve got yourself quite a winning recipe. The song seems to begin collapsing about two-thirds of the way through, constantly pushing the band’s heaviness to new heights. It’s a remarkable opener, and it’s one of the band’s live staples for a reason. There were very few bands even attempting this sound back in its time, making “No Son of Mine” all that more unique in context. -Kit Brown Another fat, Southern sounding track crammed full of dirty guitar licks and Buckley poetry, “We’rewolf” is easily the most memorable track from The Big Dirty. The audacity required to kick off a track with straight cowbell hits is reason enough to give the party boys a clap on the back, but there is far more to this particular rager. At surface level, “We’rewolf” is a track written from the perspective of the perennial party animal, one I can empathise with down to a tee. “It’s a full moon, denim is tight and my flannel shirt is freaking out”. A real lyric in a real song and one that could only be taken seriously in sandwiched between dirty ETID riffs and a country lick that Muse DEFINITELY ripped off in “Knights Of Cydonia”, the scumbags. On arguably their weakest release, this track will always help dust off the air guitar skills of anyone shotgunning a beer or drinking a bar out of tequila. Things I love to do, especially with ETID blasting; it just makes sense to get shit faced listening to this track. -Matt MacLennan Biting sarcasm and a poet’s lyrical ability have always been trademarks of the Every Time I Die sound, and on their fifth studio album, New Junk Aesthetic, the band finally managed to hone those traits to a razor’s edge, such as is displayed on “The Marvelous Slut”. The track is a biting commentary provided by the band’s own vocalist, Keith Buckley, as well as The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato who helpfully chimes in during the choruses. In a way, it sums up nearly everything Every Time I Die is, speaking of their rather insane partying on the road (the “slut” Buckley refers to is himself, in reference to his own habits) all laid over the classic, southern-tinged metalcore attack that fans have come to expect. If anything, this song is a definitive crash course in the catalog of ETID, offering up all of their key elements in healthy doses all while still being compacted into a nice, two minute chunk for easy listening. -Jake Tiernan “Revival Mode” always sounded like an early Every Time I Die track slowed down to me. Seriously, imagine it played a good bit faster and it could be a B-side from Hot Damn!. The leering, creeper of a riff that lurches in and out of the track is almost dissonant, ties in with the vocal line on some of the notes and eventually gives way to an organ grinding verse that continues to keep the creep factor alive. On an album full of rambunctious rippers, this seedy track still blows up and into a big ETID refrain with a classic Keith lyric; “I need to pay the judge”, well, don’t we all eventually? While the band experimented with slow burning tracks right up until Ex Lives (and further, on From Parts Unknown), this is the first time that they perfectly balanced that finely tuned aggression with the nasty side of pop music. Finally, the guitar solo that ties up the final movement of the track is just phenomenal and is an example of how to get a guest musician to really raise the game of a track. -Matt MacLennan In my books, From Parts Unknown was one of 2014’s best. Although the album in its entirety has finally found its way out of my heavy rotation, I often find myself coming back to certain tracks – far and away the most notable of which is “Moor”. With its minimalistic opening, characterized by a marked piano motif over top of which Keith Buckley croons along with an eerie sense of calmness, Moor presents itself at first as an anomaly in relation to both the album, and, on a larger scale, to ETID’s entire body of work – that is, of course, until the track abruptly explodes into the aural barrage of pummelling power chords and fierce bellowing for which ETID have come to be known (and adored). The sudden impact only serves to magnify the mood conveyed by the callous lyrics spat by Buckley, who sounds at times as though he’s on the brink of coming unglued: “All I want is his head and this horrible fucking world will be wonderful again / There’s so much beauty and love and when I eat his beating heart I can bring it back to us.” No sooner is this line uttered in a final desperate croak than the track once again falls off into the simple piano-accompanied croon exhibited at the song’s start – only this time the calmness strikes as twice as distubring following the violent episode that is the song’s midsection. A final note in the lower register hangs in mid air to conclude the song, leaving the listener to whether wonder the madness that just hit them had really actually happened. -Elizabeth Wood -HB

Fleshgod Apocalypse – King

Italian symphonic death metal band Fleshgod Apocalypse have gone through phases that encapsulate the entire careers of normal successful artists in less than a handful of releases. Their debut Oracles was raw and promising and the follow-up,  Agony, was a masterpiece that propelled them to the top of their game. However,  Labyrinth  didn’t take their music to the next level and some listeners were fatigued with their antics at that point, and their fourth album, King , is now anticipated but also slightly dreaded. This is readily understandable, as it is expected to be the album that either breaks the fatigue or leans further into it. What can be heard from the band on King is very characteristically Fleshgod, but also very different from how we’re used to hearing them. Right off the bat, it’s pretty clear that, for better or for worse, King is a bit of a divergence from Fleshgod’s previous work. Not in terms of the band’s general sound but in how they approach that framework. While Agony and Labyrinth both ramped up the intensity in terms of production and orchestration backed by death metal, King takes a more subdued approach. With Jess Bogren’s production and heavier emphasis on blending symphonic elements into metal and less “everything ramped up to the max”, the focus on the band’s fourth album is decidedly different. That description deserves more elaboration though, as it comes with some benefits but also with some trappings. The first thing to be tackled is the production, as it is both the most noticeable difference and also the one that defines the rest of the traits of the album by its nature. While on their previous work the band opted for production that was excessively loud and overbearing, on King they’ve worked with Jens Bogren, who has provided them with a sound that is quite similar to his previous effort with Devin Townsend ‘s Deconstruction . What this means is that guitars are a lot less overdriven than the band’s usual standard, which takes away quite a bit of punch from them. The drumming is also similarly neutered, with the kick drums sounding a lot less prominent and the snare lacking the visceral characteristic it had on their previous work. The end result of this change in the approach towards the “metal” instrumentation is that blast beats sound a lot less heavy and generally rather weak. Considering the one constant tool in Fleshgod’s arsenal has been tremolo-picked neoclassical riffs over fast drumming throughout their career, having that sound nowhere near as energetic and crushing as it used to be takes a lot away from the band’s sound. To compensate, the orchestral elements are a lot more prominent in the mix. While this approach gives the band more room in their sound to work with composition, it also fundamentally changes their entire identity. The wall of sound emanated by the band is a lot wider and encompassing, but more breadth comes at the expense of depth, as there are no heavy-hitting moments like “The Violation” from Agony , or “Elegy” from Labyrinth , or “In Honour of Reason” from Oracles.  In these, the compressed sound, clear cut drumming and powerful guitars just hit the listener with a one-two punch and brought out the primal urge to headbang, whereas King is more of a “sit and nod in appreciation” album. The songwriting doesn’t ignore the change in the sound, which would make the disparity a lot worse. Instead, the band have significantly reduced their technical death metal leanings and instead opted for a more symphonic metal approach. Sure, there are still blast beats and fast riffs, but whenever they occur, they’re blunted by the weak drum sound and less-driven guitars. What the band have clearly devoted more attention to is the orchestration. There are a lot of slower moments where the guitars take a step back and let the orchestra shine. The criticism towards the band’s previous work was that they always pushed everything too far, with the drumming being too extreme, with trem picked guitars accentuated by constant orchestra hits, which made listening to them rather overwhelming. This is definitely a step in the other direction marked by varied and subdued usage of instrumentation. In contrast, this makes another problem with the band’s writing more exacerbated. Since the orchestral elements always have the same melancholically kind-of-epic tone, it results in another kind of listener fatigue where the album listened to as a whole starts to lose freshness. Throughout the first listen of the album, the more creative and proper usage of symphonics is interesting and attention-grabbing, but the lack of over-the-top epic moments which the band are known for start to drag it down. In addition, the punchline to every song being essentially the same feeling with the same setup greatly reduces the album’s repeat listening appeal. That isn’t helped by the fact that, like most of the band’s discography, the album feels way too long. On paper, the album is definitely more interesting compositionally than the band’s previous work, but that extra effort is inherently wasted by still trying to adhere to the band’s neoclassical death metal framework. To be honest, Fleshgod’s riffing was never really that interesting and it could barely carry an album by itself in Oracles , and after that album what the metal section of the band had to say was essentially exhausted. The addition of synths was keeping the band interesting, as at the time there weren’t a lot of artists doing technical-ish death metal with string sections and choirs emphasizing the rather rote drums and guitars. On King , that conceit really falls apart, as at times it feels shoehorned and the need to bring everything back to death metal takes away from the music on most songs, with “Mitra” being one notable exception because the orchestra and the band really play together on that track instead of fighting each other. The album’s leading single, “The Fool” is the closest the band get to their established sound, but as noted, these two tracks are the exception and not the norm. Overall, King is a concerted effort by the band to develop themselves, even though the end result is quite flawed. Fleshgod Apocalypse are suffering from an identity crisis. Being a death metal band whose prime appeal was balls-to-the-walls riffing and over-the-top synths then having your audience be fatigued by how hard you push that meant they had to reinvent themselves to some extent. Trying to take a step back and focus on a more nuanced sound is the approach they’ve taken on King , but they’ve taken away what really defined them. With production that is more well-realized yet significantly less flattering to the band’s death metal roots, they instead focus on their symphonic side, but in doing so they reveal the weakness of their formula. While in early listenings the album is a lot more varied than the band’s previous work, that veneer wears off quickly as the band aren’t diverse enough to pull off being a symphonic metal band, and their death metal presentation isn’t strong enough on King to carry the album by itself. King is definitely competent, and the orchestral work is what really shines on it (in fact the second bonus disc of the album without the metal parts might have more lasting appeal), but as a metal album, and defined by the band’s previous standard, it falls flat. It’s just not as invigorating to listen to as the band’s heavier work, and it’s not novel or ingenious enough to listen to as a more progressive effort. Fleshgod Apocalypse – King gets… 3/5 -NT

A Gift to Artwork: Megadeth

Last month we dove deep to explore the importance of cover artwork, namely through our analysis of two excellent pieces of artwork adorning the latest Caligula’s Horse records. This time we take a closer look at the covers of thrash titans Megadeth , starting with 1986’s iconic Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? Given its political nature, context is crucial to understanding the artwork and it was created during the latter stages of the Cold War, amidst escalated tensions between the world’s two foremost superpowers of the time, the USA and the Soviet Union/USSR. The world in this period of history was, at times, on the brink of a nuclear third world war, and it was only knowledge that such a cataclysmic event would bring about the Mutually Assured Destruction of both sides which prevented such horrors from occurring. Unfortunately, in the world of Megadeth, that appears to be exactly what has eventuated. Their undead mascot, Vic Rattlehead, stands before a United Nations headquarters lying in ruins, the shades of red and blue depicting a sky ablaze, fires raging in the background. The scene is reminiscent of a nuclear holocaust as three military jets fly menacingly towards the foreground, seemingly scanning the area for any remaining targets, any last vestiges of life. Such themes are undeniably heavy and unsettling in nature, so it should come as no surprise that similarly unsettling motifs have been woven into the record’s music and lyrics as well. ? (Illustrator: Ed Repka) The obvious starting point to our analysis is the all-time classic ‘Peace Sells’. The track emphatically states that peace is nothing more than a commodity, an item which can be easily traded, bought or sold. It is not some idealistic notion to be strived for, but an easily attainable state of the world which the world’s powers manipulate for their own gains. The UN was created following World War II, to bring peace and prevent such atrocities from reoccurring, yet it was powerless to prevent the numerous proxy wars which occurred throughout the Cold War in Asia, the Middle East, South America and elsewhere. Ironically, rather than bringing about peace of any kind, the UN merely served as another theatre of war, this time a political one, in which the antagonistic forces of the US and USSR could engage with one another. The UN headquarters have been annihilated in the illustration, yet that doesn’t stop Vic, dressed as a real estate agent, from looking to sell what’s left of it. One might argue that this would be a tough sell, that Vic is as likely to find a buyer for the rubble as the UN was to find a buyer for world peace. Further still, the fact the UN is on the market at all suggests that, despite its ruined state, it will be just as (in)effective as ever, and thus it still constitutes a legitimate commodity. Looking more broadly at the themes prevalent within the artwork, there are a host of other comparisons to be made. In particular we can cast our minds to the numerous tracks dealing with the occult, beginning with the eerie fan favourite ‘The Conjuring’. Thematically, the war ravaged landscape and grim colour scheme can be seen to represent hell on earth, tying in nicely with the song’s descriptions of satanic rituals and black magic. The song’s portrayal of the devil’s salesman selling yet another abstract commodity, this time the human soul, is further embodied by the figure of Vic, an interesting allegory to his purported sale of a soulless, in every sense of the word, UN. Musically, with the help of the similarly occult ‘Bad Omen’, the homicidal ‘Good Mourning/Black Friday’, the torturous ‘Devil’s Island’ and others, the album as a whole does a fantastic job of providing the illustration with a suitably ominous, disconcerting and sinister soundtrack. Fast forward eight years and Megadeth had just released the polarising Youthanasia . Like its 1992 predecessor Countdown to Extinction , the album continued Megadeth’s transition from the lightning fast thrash which comprised their first four records, to a slower, more commercially viable sound. This radio-friendly approach, with Mustaine seeking that elusive No. 1 ranking on the charts, also saw a shift in the album artwork of the band. The undead Vic Rattlehead was no longer a permanent fixture, whilst this particular cover featured luscious, rolling green hills and cute, innocent babies, images generally associated with nature, peace and positivity. However, it’s crucial to point out that whilst their shift in sound had changed the method of their delivery, their message remained the same. Megadeth still wrote politically abrasive and, at times, downright aggressive songs, only now they were catchier, reaching a wider audience and allowing them to have a greater voice than ever before. This same duality applied to their artwork as well, the youth of their times, symbolised by the babies, being hung out to dry by the older generation, powerless to avoid the oncoming storm. (Illustrator: Hugh Syme) The result is arguably the most shocking Megadeth cover to date, as Mustaine issued a rallying cry, a call of arms for the youth of the ‘90s to take action and free themselves from the status quo. The dark, brooding clouds take up more than half of the image, highlighting the sheer scale of oppression to which the youth have been subjected. Furthermore, there is a seemingly endless line of babies being hung, yet there is only one elderly figure placing them there, suggesting that the oppressed far outnumber their oppressors, and that there is victory to be had in unity. Finally, the imminent storm is itself duplicitous: on the one hand, if nothing is done it will simply decimate the defenceless babies hanging limply from the clothesline; on the other hand, the revolution which Mustaine calls for will see a raging storm engulf society when the opposing factions collide. Thus, the cover of Youthanasia perfectly encapsulates the lyrics and music to be found within, just like the cover of Peace Sells… before it, as Megadeth and their collaborators prove to be yet another gift to artwork. -KD

Slayer – Repentless

There’s a certain inevitability that comes along with critiquing one of the “classics”; an act so well known that their very name rings throughout the air, from East to West and North to South of Heaven. What’s inevitable is that at some point during their new work, it starts to sound familiar, lacking any real drive. Whether or not this is countered with throwback performances can be the key factor in making an eleventh record jump or trip. Slayer are certainly not jumping, it can’t be expected with the loss of a man so key to their success.At this point, they may need a minute to check themselves because Repentless is definitely a toe stub of a step forward. The middle tracks of this album, “When The Stillness Comes” and “Chasing Death” are possibly the least attention grabbing eight minutes of 2015. King’s riffs here sound like they’ve been played through a surrogate, not entirely capable of playing as fast as the moment requires. Even one of his unique leads fails to get going, stuttering before failing to take off whatsoever. The stillness never leaves until the albums last track, which is probably only a touch more memorable than it’s preceding cuts due to the gleefully sassy nature of it’s title. The material all stalls because of riffs that go on for fucking ever. Don’t even bother with the intro track. Seriously. King is in a glass house when it comes to the extent of his song writing skills and he barely makes it out of this album alive because of it; only thanks to a couple of magic grooves and time changes into breakneck speeds does he remain with head above water. There is genuinely nothing new here and so be it. If Slayer are going to continue then this is probably the best thing that can happen. Get the first one outta the way and charge forward. To counter all of the bashing, Repentless doesn’t sound totally shit. Every cymbal and bit of kit rolls clearly and clearly and Araya’s bass is audible enough to remind everyone listening what it is he does between verses. The guitars are pretty flat and the tone is set from beginning to end of the record but Kerry King. Again, at this point it stops being that big a deal as it’s already clear where the albums strength comes from and it is not the ingenuity or skill on display here. It’s that it’s a Slayer album. People will find reason to continue to play this, long after being fully aware of how little this album has changed absolutely anybodies reaction to Slayer, regardless of their circumstances. Except for when Araya belts out a call to spark up – “Let’s get high!”. Pretty fucking funny. The most memorable part about the album for quite a few, would be a safe bet. Next time around might be different if King gives Holt something to do. Probably not. It’ll be a Slayer album. Slayer’s Repentless gets… 2.5/5

Children of Bodom – I Worship Chaos

Finnish melodeath superstars Children of Bodom have gone through several identity crises. Starting off as neoclassical melodic death metal, they had a lot of success. Their album Hatebreeder is indisputably a classic of the genre. But over time, they turned their sound into a more groove-oriented version of themselves with shred sections. This sound still had a lot of acclaim, as their fourth album Hate Crew Deathroll was also received very positively, even though some lamented the loss of their older influences. With their next few albums, they kept slightly changing their sound to be more accessible while simultaneously trying to capture their spark from their earlier days, but it never clicked, even though slog the way they had some great songs. After several disappointing albums, and the loss of famed guitarist Roope Latvala, Bodom are faced with their deciding moment. They could either pick themselves back up and make a comeback, or risk forever being written off. Thankfully, their ninth album, I Worship Chaos , is more the former than the latter. What really makes a Bodom album tick? If we’re talking post- Hate Crew, it’s basically solid grooves, chantable choruses, angry one-liners from Laiho and cheesy lead sections. Well, I Worship Chaos has got all of those covered. Each song is full of memorable little licks, be it some aggressively-nod-inducing riffs, earworm melodies or just proclamations screamed by Alexi (who sounds angrier than he has in a while). But what’s really important isn’t just that these elements are thrown in to tick boxes, it’s that they all come together in a way that makes for an enjoyable listening experience. And  that’s definitely the case here. Roope Latvala’s departure was definitely concerning as his lead playing was thought to be a big part of the band’s sound, but Alexi seems to be managing just fine without him. Perhaps the solos are a bit less intense, but there isn’t a noticeable drop in songwriting quality overall. In fact, the album feels better written than several of its predecessors. Everything is in lockstep, riffs carry tension and resolution very well between each other, and they don’t feel tired. This is an especially impressive feat if one considers the fact that melodic death metal has been around for quite a while and the template has been “figured out” long ago. Even Bodom have contributed to that process in the past, and nine albums deep into their career, it would be easy for them to feel like there’s not much left to say (in fact many though that was the case even seven albums deep into their career, so in some ways I Worship Chaos is a resurgence of quality). Sure, Alexi doesn’t sound like he feels as rife with angry creativity as he did fifteen years ago, but he sounds a lot more invigorated than he did five years ago. The benchmark for success in melodeath isn’t necessarily innovation anyway, it’s polish. And polish is in abundance on this album. It’s hard to underline in words the specific tightness that makes this album tick. This isn’t something that one can identify on paper. It’s the feeling of genuineness and effort conveyed by the tone of the writing. To the careful listener, that the songs were put together not by haphazard cobbling of ideas that were left on the drawing board after a writing session but were carefully put together to ensure every cog clicks properly with everything else, is obvious, and that is when the heart put into the album is apparent. Overall, I Worship Chaos is a polished, heartfelt album that makes it sound like Children of Bodom are enjoying their own music again; and fans should join in on that as well. The band are better than they have been for several albums, and new life has been breathed into their music. In a way, they’re back from the dead, telling us that we were wrong to write them off. ? Children of Bodom-  I Worship Chaos  gets… 4/5 -NT

Trivium – Silence In The Snow

Every Trivium release after Ascendancy has initially been met with some backlash by fans of the band. Pretty much every band by the album is solid, but every album is a departure from the previous one, so getting fixated on certain aspects of the sound of the band always leads to disappointment. That’s not to say that all criticism of their work is invalid, but there is always a yearning for older elements of the band’s sound from some. Yet, despite this, Trivium keep pushing forward, and with every album they change the shell around the core of their sound. Sometimes it works better than others, as the intricate and progressive Shogun was an absolute masterpiece, In Waves was their most diverse album, and while Vengeance Falls was met with some degree of negativity, its second half had some of the best songs they’ve ever written. Silence in the Snow  is the Florida quartet’s seventh album, and it sees them taking a different direction yet again, with a heavy bent towards traditional metal and the complete eschewing of screaming (which works out surprisingly well), and bringing back the elements of the fabled Shogun sound. And while the end result works more often than not, it’s a bit flawed. It’s hard to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of Silence in the Snow against each other, as they’re mostly disparate. The songs have structure issues, but the actual riffs that are in there are pretty great. Perhaps the easiest way to sort this out is to just lay the issues out there and let everyone sort them out for themselves. There is really one prime problem with this album, and everything else stems out from it. That problem is the reliance on choruses, or more specifically, song structures that emphasize choruses. Pretty much every song has a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus structure. Some of the best aspects of Trivium songs are “the riffs in between”, things that lead verses into choruses, interludes, pre-solo sections, et cetera. The band not having any screaming on this album is really no issue, as there aren’t any riffs that make one go “I wish there was some screaming here”, but that’s actually the root of the issue here. It’s not that the band are no longer doing harsh vocals, it’s that they’re not writing riffs that they normally play when they’re doing harsh vocals. And while the screaming isn’t really missed, the riffing is. Further exacerbating this issue is the fact that the choruses area repeated a lot, which makes the songs feel rather simplistic and repetitive. It’s also a problem when a lot of the songs have their verses start with the “guitar plays a note or two then stops, and Matt sings over a bassline” bit, which gets old even faster. While those issues sound a bit grave, when the album works, it really works. It has some of the best lines they’ve ever written. The riffing isn’t really the focus on most of the songs, the vocals are, and the riffing just provides a backdrop for the singing. While Matt Heafy isn’t the best singer out there, he’s better than he ever was (and he doesn’t rely heavily on pitch correction either, as live videos make very evident) and he pulls off a singing-driven album well. And while the complaints about choruses being too prevalent stands, they’re damn good choruses. It’s so easy to sing-along to everything in the album, and it’s all ridiculously catchy and memorable. The heavy metal influence is prevalent mostly on a few songs, whereas the rest are Shogun-era Trivium songs with the screaming bits cut out and the choruses emphasized. That album has been the holy grail for the band’s fanbase since its release, and this album brings back pretty much every aspect of that sound minus the heavier parts. The lack of more intense riffing probably partly due to the fact that the singing is a lot more difficult than what the band has done before, and Matt has to focus on his voice, which forces him to just play basic rhythms. The band mostly cover that up with great song writing, proving their claim they’ve been making for years that it’s not about how hard the riff you play is, but how good the riff sounds. And for guitar enthusiasts, the band still have neat riffs in some of the songs, and their solos, which every song has, are some of their best. Really, how much one enjoys this album will come down to what they’ve come to expect from Trivium over the years. If their image of the band was that of a metalcore band with screaming and melodeath-esque riffing, they will probably be disappointed. But if they liked Trivium for their melodies, Matt’s singing and the memorable lines, this album contains more of those than ever. They’ve brought back some of their best songwriting elements, and while the implementation is a bit flawed due to the simplistic structure of the songs, the end result is really good and is full of stupidly catchy riffs and choruses. In ways, Silence in the Snow is the “Black Album” of Trivium’s career, as it reflects a position in their musical progression similar to how that album was situated for Metallica . And while this might (rightfully) alienate some longtime fans, it’s just a different direction and not really a bad one. The aspects that are lacking are undeniable, but what’s here is also compelling in its own right. ? Trivium –  Silence In The Snow gets… 3.5/5 -NT

Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds

It’s been a turbulent three years in the metal world since Machine Head released Unto the Locust to much critical praise. We’ve seen the continued rise of djent and it’s bastardizations, deathcore’s leanings into more progressive territories, progressive metal’s leanings into softer and more introspective territories, black metal through the eyes of shoegazers, and the return of a few old school death metal bands. The late nineties saw the band conform to the sound of the times, adopting the nu-metal style introduced by bands like Rage Against the Machine , Korn , and Limp Bizkit in years prior. Luckily, the current musical climate has had no impact on Machine Head, who have chosen to pound the flag they’ve been flying since their triumphant return to form with 2004’s Through the Ashes of Empires deeper into the ground, resulting in Bloodstone & Diamonds , their latest gem and first release for Nuclear Blast . Whereas Machine Head merely flirted with orchestral arrangements in the past, opening track ‘Now We Die’ starts off with a full on string section, setting the tone for the prodigious journey that lay ahead. The return of producer Colin Richardson is immediately apparent once things kick in: buzzsaw quad-layered guitars, drums punchier than Mike Tyson, and distorted bass sitting perfectly in the mix to complement the guitars. The sonics of Unto the Locust were perfectly appropriate for most metal albums of its caliber, but Richardson’s return makes it apparent that there is an intangible magic when the two work together. This is also the first album to feature new bassist Jared MacEachern after the well publicized fallout with original bassist Adam Duce , leaving Flynn as the sole original member. The band has been fraught with lineup changes over the years, but the heart of Machine Head has always been with Flynn. By the time second track, ‘Killers and Kings,’ bulldozes it’s way through the speakers, any apprehension is completely removed. Drummer Dave McClain ’s tasteful and simple ride bell play during the choruses carries the song masterfully, and his performance throughout the album is a testament to powerful modern metal drumming. Bloodstone & Diamonds does not wear any masks, exuding an honesty lost on much of today’s metal. In Machine Head’s case, perhaps it is a continued rebellion against their “experimental” period from 1999’s The Burning Red to 2001’s Supercharger . Despite this, the band have retained the best parts of said period while keeping the foundation they built in the beginning with Burn My Eyes , and also venturing into new territory. ‘Eyes of the Dead’ is the most representative track of their career by far, and perhaps the strongest track on the album. The intro reeks of early Megadeth with the ascending tapping lick over the pulsing drums, calling to mind ‘The Conjuring’ from the classic Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? . The verses thrash about in the melodeath way the band adopted on Through the Ashes of Empires , with a deadly infectious chorus with Flynn chanting “Murder! Murder!” and a follow-up hook worthy of the best melodic moments from The Burning Red . Add a whammy bar breakdown groove in the mid-section worthy of 1997’s The More Things Change and you have a massive recipe for success, all while not sounding the least bit derivative. From a performance aspect, this album marks some of Robb Flynn ’s most impassioned and versatile singing in years. The airy falsetto of the verses on ‘Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones’ are simultaneously sensuous and foreboding, counteracting perfectly with the bendy groove that follows. Without a doubt the biggest surprise found here is the brooding and eerie ‘Sail Into The Black’. Parts of this song reek of Ulver ’s dark ambient masterpiece Shadows Of The Sun , which is absolutely not a bad thing. Whether this is mere coincidence remains to be seen, but the drone of the baritone choir, thick and enveloping vocal harmonies, and subtle orchestral elements call the album to mind. It’s not until around the halfway mark when the trademark chainsaw guitars, distorted bass, and pounding drums kick in do we have any inkling that we’re still listening to Machine Head. While past tracks like ‘Violate’ and ‘Down to None’ extracted the sludgiest roots of the band, they have dug even deeper into the muck with the swampy ‘Beneath the Silt’. The track opens like an audio engineer’s dream, with the drums pounding out a gigantic fill that highlights the perfectly roomy mix. This is followed by possibly the lowest tuning the band have used to date, with a simple, bluesy, and filthy riff flinging gunk all over the precious and pretty melodic moments delivered on the previous six tracks. The song is not lost on melody however, with Flynn’s hypnotic falsetto covering the chuggy verse like an opiate laced wine basted over a stuffed pig. ‘Game Over’ smacks of bitterness and regret lyrically, quite obviously being an elegy to the friendship between Flynn and Duce. As Flynn cries “Another time, when music’s all we had, bonded by anger and addictions, so glad, always together, but no words are spoken, this is the sound of a friendship broken”, it’s hard to imagine it being anything but. Flynn also took to the mic in the past to deal with former guitarist Logan Mader ’s departure with the Sabbath infused ‘Devil With the King’s Card’ from The Burning Red , so this comes as no surprise. The only downside to this album is the sprinkled on patriotism of ‘In Comes the Flood’. The majority of the music is superb, with the use of orchestra in the beginning and the cascading classical melodies on the tail of the main riff. The problem is the uninspired populist ranting over the top of everything, especially the tired sounding “Wake up, America!” over a riff that drags harder than Ru Paul. Leaving this track off the album would have eschewed a perfect score. Despite this setback, Machine Head have delivered yet another classic addition to their catalog to rival and revel in the most triumphant moments of their career. ? Machine Head’s Bloodstone & Diamonds gets… 4.5/5 -DW

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