Hardcore metallers Vampires Everywhere recent release Ritual (Self-Released) embodies many of the traits that have led to their continued, if modest, success in the scene. They are currently on the road in support of it on the ‘Make America Hate Again’ tour.
The cover of Hozier’s ‘Take Me to Church’ is the first single off the album. It features a guest appearance from scene compatriot Alex Koehler of Chelsea Grin. The track is a nice surprise since it sounds like an original from the band. Lyrically speaking it fits with the band’s image. They are also able to make their vocal style work for a non-metal song. Unfortunately, it is also the most standout song from the album.
For an album titled Ritual from a band called Vampires Everywhere, one expects more of the classic vampire lore and mythology to be channeled. Previous fans of the band will enjoy the new album, but it is nothing particularly new within the genre. Many of the lyrics feel a little generic for bands embracing the neo-vampire image. On the positive side, the songs do flow in a tight and seamless way. It is clear that the band is confident in their style and that is important to a band’s continued success.
New York natives Moon Tooth started off their new year by self-releasing their first full length album Chromaparagon whether the music world was ready for it or not. From listening to the result, it is clear the band members were ready.
The Keith Haring like album cover conveys exactly the colorful and primal, yet poetic sounds that the band comes up with. It is all off to a driving start with the first track ‘Queen Wolf’. The song was also the first off the album to be released alongside a music video. Although there is trouble understanding the lyrics during a few parts, one can tell that a badass story is being told.
These stories are what make up the entire album. They could also be interpreted as personal revelations or even poetry. One gets the feeling that if Jim Morrison had been born at a later time, this is what he would be doing. The lyrics are the strongest point which is not surprising since the entire band shares the credit of writing them; vocalist John Carbone brings them to life. The music is quality too and the instrumentation is similar to Mastodon.
Moon Tooth primarily describes themselves as being hard rock and progressive, but it is evident from tracks like ‘Little Witch’ that they can channel other influences. As the title suggests, the song is reminiscent of the Misfits horror inspired punk and is a fun jam. ‘Bats in the Attic’ is another thoroughly enjoyable tune. Because it is an instrumental, it breaks up the album well.
The only point at which Chromaparagon falters in the least is ‘White Stag’. After listening to an intense and thought-provoking album, it can be heard to listen to a gentler ten minute track. Overall, it is quite an impressive début album and a great way to start off the musical year.
Bury Tomorrowcontinue their attempt at finding a top spot in the field of metalcore with their latest release, Earthbound(Nuclear Blast). Contrary to the group’s wishes, one hears the album as them playing it a little too safe. It can be classified as good metalcore but lacks a special and iconic something.
Overall the album is angry sounding. Whether it is frustration or a try at being heavier is open to interpretation. One is thrown right into the action at the start of the first track ‘The Eternal’ and the album is quick to get down to it. There is a slight improvement as the album goes on but the group never seems to find what it is they are lacking with this release.
‘The Burden’ is the first track on the album to contain some traces of the quality songwriting and sound that were found on earlier works. Bury Tomorrow find some footing by bringing on 90s metalcore representative Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed for the track ‘301’. Credit can be given to them for including their elders in an attempt to solidify them as the new masters of the genre. It is the best track on the album.
Although classifiable as a good album, Earthbound is missing the original soul and ambition that the group’s other albums such as The Union of Crowns. Perhaps this is due to the fact that The Union of Crowns marked the crew’s departure from their independent labels and into something more professional whereas Earthbound is their third album with Nuclear Blast. Another acceptable album for fans of the band, but here is hoping they whip up something special with their next release.
Eight Bells release their sophomore album Landless (Battleground Records/Tartarus Records) in time for Valentine’s Day and it is one that fans are sure to love. It is available in three different forms—vinyl, digital, and tape—to reach the maximum amount of music fans. As their nautical name alludes to, they are prepared to create great experimental metal no matter how stormy the seas.
The Encyclopedia of Australian Heavy Metal(Dark Star) is a thorough listing of most, if not all, of the bands to have been born in the land down under. This is the third revised edition of the encyclopedia lovingly compiled by long time fan Brian Giffin. In his opening he shows the reader just how many people and how much work goes into creating a book of this depth and length. The worldliness of metal is also emphasized. It is clear that Giffin takes Australia’s role on that world stage very serious.
Giffin’s desire to highlight Australia’s presence in global metal is not misplaced. The only Australian band most average music listeners can name is AC/DC. Even then, many mistakenly believe they are from the United Kingdom. Interestingly the encyclopedia seems to confirm that AC/DC are the biggest band to come out of the country. The entry on them is one of the longest in the entire book. One third of the book based resources in the References section are solely written about them. While it is good to acknowledge this part of Australia’s history it also makes the reader wince since the goal of this encyclopedia is to introduce people to all the country’s metal offerings.
This encyclopedia is one of the most in-depth there is out there when it comes to sheer length and number of bands mentioned. Although this is a testament to Giffin’s thoroughness and love for Australian metal it can present itself as a setback. Many of the mentioned acts only have a single sentence to describe them. A good chunk of others read like a “Where Are They Now?” article since there is so much overlap with band members and the formation of new bands out of defunct ones. This is where one wonders if being a completest has been given favor over accessibility. The book may have been more clear and engaging if important bands in certain sub-genres were highlighted and defunct ones were mentioned in the biographies of newly formed bands where appropriate. In defense of the smaller bands being included, there are some interesting entries one may not have heard of otherwise. One such case is the description of Circadian which reads, “Circadian is an enviro-centric one-man doom band…” It makes the reader wonder just how specific one can get with their music approach.
While the encyclopedia is a great example of how passionate metal fans are, it is likely not something casual listeners will be interested in. It is easy for the entries to seem never-ending as the whole work could use more visuals. The wiki version that Giffin mentions in the opening is better for those who just want to look into a few bands from this part of the world. Credit must be given to the man for opening readers’ eyes to just how much music there is to be discovered; especially considering all 342 pages of the encyclopedia is just on metal.
The band QUOR is a fairly young up and coming band from the West Coast of the United States. Recent attention has been paid to their music videos and they have a number of sponsors. The deluxe version of their album Human Paradigm is a combination of the regular album and their previous EP We Are Going to Be Awesome.
Opener ‘The Silence and the Spark’ is a nice introduction to the band’s sound. Vocalist Brian Corn combines the sound of today’s metal and early 2000s alternative scream from bands such as Alexisonfire. He also manages to sound like Joey Belladonna with maybe a little less vibrancy and no accent. ‘Human Paradigm’ showcases the group’s deeper side in terms of lyrics. It appears to be a sign that the band is continuing to grow into their own style while still remaining accessible.
The deluxe version is worth getting because two of the better songs ‘The Fragile Break’ and ‘Paradise’ are from the band’s earlier EP. ‘The Fragile Break’ has a nice spoken word part in which the shortness of life and ability to have a lasting significance is pondered. ‘Paradise’ is a heartfelt track that is a nice change from the rest of the albums song without losing its heaviness.
It is evident from the album and its deluxe version that the band is sincere in their music. They have a heart and humanity to them. At times the group sounds a little too much like anything you would hear on modern rock radio but their seriousness when it comes to lyrics sets them apart. As their career goes on it is not unbelievable to expect quality and immersive albums from them.
By adding their own modern twist to the exalted genre of New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Christian Mistresshas started to make a name for themselves. Interestingly they are from Washington State. Where many bands tend to sound as though they are doing covers when tackling the genre, Christian Mistress actually pull it off. The band’s latest release, To Your Death is their first for Relapse Records.
Album opener ‘Neon’ starts everything off very strong. It is a classic headbanger that channels late 70s and early 80s bands such as Judas Priest and Paul Di’Anno era Iron Maiden. This is due in equal parts to Christine Davis’s vocals and the work of guitarists’ Oscar Scarbel and Tim Diedrich. Scarbel and Dietrich seamlessly reproduce the twin guitar sound the genre is famous for. Davis’s style appears to be modeled on other famous female singers of that era such as Doro Pesch. Hearing a collaboration between the two is something to remain hopeful for. These traits remain throughout the album with some variation.
One song that best nails the mood of the album is ‘No Place’. It is a tune that any audience can rock out to and chant along with. Likewise, ‘Ultimate Freedom’ is an empowering anthem that would not have been out of place during the heyday of NWOBHM. Although the songs conjure up memories of when metal was king, they also carry a promise to revive the genre. The album comes to an end with the killer guitar riffage of ‘III’; one cannot help but start the whole thing over again.
Although Lee Brown Coye passed on over 30 years ago, his stories and macabre drawings live on. His son, Robert Coye, brings some of his late father’s imaginings to life on the spoken word album Where Is Abby? (Cadabra Records). Not only does he do his father justice, but he creates an enjoyable album that can be listened to my generations to come.
The stories on the album are of varying length. For instance, ‘The Undertaker’ is under a minute long but is as much of a gem as any other track. It is one of the only ones where the first person narrative is used. The bizarrely positive aspect of the story is part of what makes the entire album so fun to listen to.
Title track ‘Where Is Abby?’ treads the line between a far away time and modernity. It is part of what makes the tales feel grounded in reality. The story starts off with an observation of how humans hold up against haunting experiences. It also touches upon a theme of the stories; they often happen to a “friend” of the narrator. This way of telling the story was part of Lee Brown Coye’s brilliance. The removed feel from the narrator gives a sort of credibility to the tale.
One of the best developed and most imaginative short stories is ‘The Lincoln Train’. A Twilight Zone type aura figures heavily into the narrative. The story is ghostly but also grounded into history. It is this dynamic that creates a number of great American myths and ‘The Lincoln Train’ is no exception. Both Coyes bring every single passenger on the train to life with the descriptions and how they sound.
The art featured on the album is just as important as the tales. There is far more to Lee Brown Coye’s work than could ever be displayed with an album, but the chosen drawings are a good start. The pictures accurately convey the spookiness and strangeness of the tracks. As can be surmised from them, this album is perfect for the upcoming Halloween season or year-round for those with a special interest in the macabre.
If Doro is the Queen of Heavy Metal, then Tarja is the Queen of both Power and Symphonic Metal. Her latest live album Luna Park Ride (Universal Records) is proof that she is deserving of the title. The tracks are a full sampling of both her solo career and her career with Nightwish which lasted from the late 1990s to the early 2000s.
This concert takes place in Buenos Aires for the most part. Although far from her native Finland, her fan base is still large and they make their excitement to be there heard; it can sometimes be an interference with the sound quality of the album. In the first few songs it sounds as though there are fans yelling right next to the recording equipment. However, this is the only serious complaint about an otherwise fantastic live performance.
‘Dark Star’ starts the show off with the right energy. It is also the only track that features vocals from someone other than Tarja which makes it clear that it is very much her show. ‘Stargazers’ is one of the heavier songs performed during the show probably because it is a Nightwish song. It reminds listeners that Tarja can work with any kind of sound. The strings during ‘In For a Kill’ nail the sinister and panicked feeling of the song. It is clear that her backing band knows exactly how to work with her.
The most fun the listener has during the album is close to the end with a medley of ‘Where Were You Last Night’, ‘Heaven Is a Place on Earth’, and ‘Living on a Prayer’. They blend together seamlessly and it is almost surprising just how well it is pulled off. It feels more spontaneous than planned and that is what makes it enjoyable. This is also where Tarja begins really to interact with her audience telling them to “really have some fun” and speaking to them in Spanish.
Even without Nightwish, whom many credit with establishing symphonic metal, Tarja’s popularity has not wavered. Her voice remains as strong and impressive as ever. Luna Park Ride is a great addition to the music library of any symphonic metal and female vocalist fan.
Abrams is a three piece band out of Denver, Colorado who use their relative newness to the heavy music world as an advantage. The group lists a mix of sludge metal and hardcore bands as their influences and it shows in their music, but not to the extent that they come off as a cover band. With their latest album, Lust. Love. Loss. they have the unique aspect of having a novice sound that is also developed.
The two opening tracks ‘Manic’ and ‘Sea Salt Lines’ sound a little too similar to each other which leaves the listener wondering if the entire album is that way, but then ‘Sunshine’ bursts through. The group finds more of their footing with the track and also finds the balance between the aforementioned subgenres.
Guitarist Zach Amster’s playing begins to sharpen on ‘Far From Home’. Here one can start to pick up on the influence Brann Dailor of Mastodon has had on Amster. He delivers sound fully on standout track ‘Mr. Pink Always Wins’ as does his twin, drummer Michael Amster. The guitar and drum parts work great not only with each other, but with the vocals as well. Each instrument has its opportunity to shine.
‘The Moat’ is less than a minute which is plenty of time for the band to create an interesting piece. ‘The Light’ is much the same way but longer. Both of the tracks prove that Abrams can hit the nail on the head when it comes to paying homage to bands they draw influence from while making their own sound.
In terms of vocals, the singing style is hardcore but the sound is heavy metal. That being said, one would not refer to Abrams as being a metalcore outfit. They sound like A Day to Remember if they had more heaviness and less pop to them. Abrams is a good band for people who enjoy a lot of yelling. Lust. Love. Loss. shows just how great the combination of two subgenres can be when a group as inspired as Abrams comes around.