Not that there’s ever really been a moment of musical drought for Boston’s Unearth, but tracing back to 2014s Watchers of Rule the motive is a recommitment to brutality. On Extinction(s) (Century Media), the New Englanders are playing with more passion and vitriol than most of their younger contemporaries currently filling the Metal and Hardcore ranks. Continue reading
Let’s make one thing clear – if after seeing the name Dee Snider, you were just expecting to hear another standard, classic sounding, mid-late eighties Twisted Sister record, then you might want to take a moment before diving in. There are no callbacks to big hair and garish warpaint here, no ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, or ‘I Wanna Rock’ bouncy bubblegum rock songs, and there’s absolutely no campy “Twisted Christmas” seasonal type fun. Hell, this is barely even a Dee Snider solo album in the classic sense, so you can also forget about him repeating the likes of Never Let The Bastards Wear You Down (Koch), his Desperado album Bloodied But Unbowed (Destroyer), or even his previous solo release We Are the Ones (earMUSIC). Continue reading
“This is what I’m fucking talking about!” were my exact words the moment the very first song off of Halfway Human (eOne/SPV/Longbranch), ‘Shape Shifter’ finished playing in my ears for the first time. Since then I have not been able to turn this album off. Brushing your teeth to ‘Absolution’, track seven on the album has proven quite difficult with all the head banging. “No longer will we be casualties to an unrealistic world!!!!”….toothpaste everywhere! Continue reading
Part five of the Ghost Cult Album of the Year countdown for 2015.
One staff team. Over 550 albums covered by Ghost Cult over the last twelve months. One epic race to be crowned Album of the Year.
Read on to dive deep into the Ghost Cult Top 10…
10. My Dying Bride – ‘Feel The Misery’ (Peaceville)
“When the history of doom metal is written, English miserabilists My Dying Bride will have their own chapter; preferably written in gothic script by a quill. After twenty-five years in the game, their long march towards the sinister continues and Feel the Misery has to rank among their best works.”
9. Cattle Decapitation – ‘The Anthropocene Exctinction’ (Metal Blade)
“The grind influences which the band are largely known for are present here, but combine with a number of other reference points and styles in a way that transforms them quite beyond the ordinary. The base-line style throughout is a crunchy, Grind-touched Death Metal that’s as comfortable with punishing grooves and sinister melodies as it is with blasting, but they expand their palette further with quasi-“industrial” effects, atmospheric passages and creepily-effective clean vocal sections.”
8. Paradise Lost – ‘The Plague Within’ (Century Media)
“Not a descent into the darkest bowels of harrowing Death-Doom, then, but expecting it to be would be rather silly. What The Plague Within offers is a sincere, heartfelt amalgam of older influences and current songwriting from a band who have always had the courage to follow their own muse where it leads them, even if it seems to lead them back.”
7. Faith No More – ‘Sol Invictus’ (Reclamation/Ipecac)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – May “The band picks up basically where they left off with 1997’s Album of The Year. After all; resurrection may be for those who got it wrong the first time, but the same cannot be said of Faith No More whose return is a welcome and worthy one. Let’s hope it lasts as long as it can.”
6. Iron Maiden – ‘The Book Of Souls’ (Parlophone/Sanctuary/BMG)
“For a band with such a celebrated history, it is a joy and delight to confirm that The Book Of Souls stands resolute as one of the best things the band has produced. Ever. An album that works on a number of levels – the strength of the songwriting, the collective and individual musicianship, the range and power of the entire album are all deeply impressive. The Book of Souls is the collective endeavour of a band still resolutely in love with music and still gracious and humble enough to want to share that with its audience. Happy and glorious, from epic start to bombastic end.”
5. Clutch – Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – October “Thank goodness for Clutch. Clutch aren’t like most bands. Wait: Clutch are not like any other band. Now into their 20-something year of making smart, intelligent rock music, Psychic Warfare sees Neil Fallon and co in the rudest possible health, invigorating and invigorated, creatively refreshed and simply staggering and swaggering. Clutch are a band of sublime brilliance and Psychic Warfare might just be the album you’ve waited all year for. Long may they reign supreme.”
4. Napalm Death – ‘Apex Predator – Easy Meat’ (Century Media)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – February “That the band still emits a burning intensity, railing against injustice and The Establishment, is reassuring and adds the crucial element of gravity to what is, in essence, a joyous and energising sound. Angry machine gun rattle, powerful skewing punk, flexibility in pace, a hefty boot, veering grind… I bloody love the nose-breaking, careering chaos of it all”
3. Enslaved – ‘In Times’ (Nuclear Blast)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – March “In Times is a record of staggering, jaw-dropping brilliance. In Times distils the essence of Enslaved in brilliant, grandiose fashion but, like all great albums, suggests new, as yet uncharted opportunities. To use sporting parlance, suggesting that the band are at the top of their game is to truly misunderstand what’s going on here. Enslaved are not just at the top of their game; they are in the process of trying to change the game being played.”
2. Lamb of God – ‘VII: Sturm und Drang’ (Nuclear Blast)
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – August “About halfway through Sturm Und Drang, vocalist Randy Blythe screams: “How the FUCK did you think this would end?!” It’s both a question and a statement of defiance, summing up five years that have been nothing less than challenging for this band. That they have returned and delivered an album this ferocious, this energised, this brilliant, is utterly remarkable and testimony to a sense of collective tenacity and drive that can only be admired. All Heavy Metal records should sound this good.”
Late last year, both guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover announced they were parting ways with thrash legends Megadeth. A few months later, the pair announced they had formed a new band, Act of Defiance. This new supergroup, also featuring former Scar the Martyr vocalist Henry Derek and Shadows Fall guitarist Matt Bachland released their debut album Birth and the Burial (Metal Blade) in August of this year. A surprising change of direction, the album is far heavier than many would have expected, especially after the main songwriters’ last record was Megadeth’s AOR-friendly Super Collider (Tradecraft/Universal).
Despite having played in one of the biggest metal bands in the world and probably in the position where they could attract as big a name as they wanted, the former Megadeth men went for a relative unknown with Scar the Martyr’s Henry Derek. “We put together a list of 30 singers we thought would work well for Act of Defiance and Henry came back as one of 5 we sent out an initial demo to record on”, begins Broderick. “Henry’s demo fit the music so well, so we knew we wanted him as our singer. Talking with him and working on demo material was really easy, and we have a great working relationship.” The addition of Matt Bachland on bass didn’t involve such a wide search, however, as Shawn Drover confirms: “I have known Matt for over 15 years now, and after seeing he was looking for a new gig since the Shads aren’t touring anymore, I hit him up.”
Despite the legacy of their previous bands, the duo felt no pressure over fan expectations, Drover calmly explains. “You can’t worry about what people’s perception of a new band will be before they have even heard one note. We just wrote and recorded the exact record we wanted to make, at the end of the day what else can you do?” Broderick is on the same page, equally fearless about people’s reactions.“While we knew we would be compared to our former bands it didn’t concern us, we just wanted to get our own music out there for people to experience, so that attitude allowed us to write freely without chasing any preconceived idea of what people would expect from us.”
One of the most surprising things about Birth and the Burial is how heavy is; it’s a record far closer to the likes of Arch Enemy than the melody of Megadeth’s Super Collider. Broderick’s confidence shows: “Both Shawn and I knew we wanted to come out with something heavier not only for ourselves but also for the fans.” Despite what some might see as a new direction, Drover felt there was no compromise: “Certain tunes are a bit more progressive and dynamic, but in the end it’s all Heavy Metal. We just created what we truly wanted to write with no regards to chasing trends or wanting to be soft just to try to sell more records. We have no interest in that. “
On top of that, Broderick respects the impact of the unknown that Henry brought to the table. “I think the thing that caught people most off guard was Henry’s vocals being so heavy but I think once they hear how melodic he can be at the same time and realize how appropriate and emotionally accurate each style he sings is for the music he is singing over it becomes clear how cool it is.”
While there were a few ideas and riffs that existed previous to the band forming, the majority of material on Birth and the Burial was written specially for the record. Drover: “I have never had much of an issue being inspired to write new music, so there was certainly no shortage of inspiration going into the writing process for this new record. Chris and I were very focused on what we wanted to do on this record, which was to make a Metal record without compromise.”
Obviously AOD’s previous bands were known for their strong leaders; Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine is known for his authoritative streak, while Scar the Martyr’s Joey Jordison was a key member in the nine-man chaos of Slipknot. Who’s the leader now? Broderick: “Right now, Shawn and I are the ones who created Act of Defiance and are taking the initial reigns on its direction, however as Henry and Matt come into the fold and get more involved in the band it will become more equal between all four of us.” There are no dictators though. Drover: “This is a band. We all have a say. When you have people who all have the same goal, which with us is to make the best Heavy Metal we can, it’s not too difficult to agree on matters.”
Was it these strong leaders that led to everyone leaving and eventually forming Act of Defiance? Broderick: “I can only speak to my experiences and it was just a measurement of the positives against the negatives. Performing for such ravenous die-hard fans was awesome, but there came a time where I felt stifled artistically and musically. I liken it to a lawyer leaving a firm to start their own or a chef starting their own restaurant.” While neither are giving specifics, it’s clear that a change of direction and freedom is the theme. Drover: “It was simply time for me to move on and make the kind of music I wanted to make. My focus is about music and the new record, period. Anything negative about the past becomes the headline and is a distraction to what I’m here to ultimately promote.”
As well as a new sense of musical freedom, there’s a strong focus on the future, the band say they have no intention of playing old material from their previous bands and this is their sole focus. Broderick: “It started with Shawn and I wanting to get out some of our own music, unaltered or controlled in any form. Act of Defiance is a band with no intention of it just being a project. A lot of people are just doing project after project and giving the fans nothing of substance to connect with.” From the sounds of it, we should be looking forward to plenty more from the supergroup. Drover: “I have never been a huge fan of being in 9 different bands, because most people tend to view those things as just a “project” as opposed to a real band, which is exactly what AOD is.
“This is our future, and we are prepared to take Act of Defiance as far as we can for the long haul.”
Birth and the Burial is out now via Metal Blade
WORDS BY DAN SWINHOE
Supergroup – so often a term used to describe lame side projects by members of well-known bands; so often a tired marketing ploy to generate hype for someone’s new band when they’ve left their old band after one too many “creative differences”. Fortunately, metal produces some excellent supergroups, a by-product of being a genre where – even now – actual musical talent is required of performers.
With Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover (of Megadeth fame) on guitar and drums, Matt Bach (founding and current rhythm guitarist) of Shadows Fall on bass and with throat martyring carried out by Henry Derek, erstwile vocalist of another supergroup Scar the Martyr, Birth and the Burial (Metal Blade) by Act of Defiance is an intriguing prospect; low-key enough to not be an ego or alimony-inspired project, with big enough chops to promise a serious bangover.
The first song, ‘Throwback’, is noodletastic – the intro is like a bowl of ramen. Then we’re into an Overkill-esque riff that sets to tone for the rest of the track, which whilst being hugely derivative and keeps reminding me of several bands, gets the head nodding and yields the beginnings of a metal pout. Not bad. ‘Legion of Lies’ has big, rich, soupy riff goodness straight out the the Arch Enemy playbook that sets the left foot a-tapping and gets the head nodding from the get go and only lets up for the choral breakdowns that serve as choruses. Nice.
Elsewhere, ‘Thy Lord Belial’ sounds like the unholy love child of Slayer and Trivium which will have both camps wanting to hate it and love it at the same time; ‘Refrain and Re-Fracture’ opens in classic Megadeth style – it’s almost weird not hearing Dave’s vocals on this – and develops into a NWOAHM riff-fest; ‘Dead Stare’ gives us riffs from Testament, vocal breaks from Rise to Addiction, and the understandable play-every-note-you-can-find guitar breaks of Megadeth.
And that’s pretty much the story for the rest of the album. You have the wonderful symphonic sensibilities (and scales-as-solos) of Megadeth married to the modern frenetic circle-pit baiting bombast of the American New Wave. It’s great to see the old and new schools coming together in what is a very entertaining and promising first album, where the only criticism is that at times things sound bitty. While they haven’t quite managed to alloy the two sounds together just yet, I’m very much hoping to see what happens when they do.
A release that serves both as a bridge from 2013’s An Old Storm Brewing and also as a celebration of the tenth anniversary of Arcturon, Expect Us (both Supreme Chaos) sees the Swiss melo-deathsters take a step further into the melodic.
Despite an ascending introductory riff that nods to NWOAHM, Expect Us has at its’ core a celebration of all things mid-90’s Century Media with the groove of Samael (Passages/Eternal era), the uptempo drive of Love and Death Sentenced and the gothic splashes of Irreligious Moonspell.
Opener ‘Treasure’ is the gold off the EP, with its cousins not coming up to the same level, lacking its spunk. Vocalist Aljosha Gasser’s gruff delivery suits the more uptempo kick off, snarling like Taneli Jarva, but is a clashing juxtaposition with the more reflective gothic tracks that follow; the two lines of Jonas Renske-style vocals that appear out of the blue on ‘A Restless Soul’ suit the sound of the rest of the EP much more, and it’s a shame they are only used once.
The other issue with Escape Us is that, while well played and boasting a production that recaptures the gothic warmth that Waldemar Sorychta used to excel at, little sticks in the mind as, ‘Treasure’ aside, this is a fairly lukewarm offering.
Happy 10th birthday, though, Arcturon. Hopefully decade #2 will see them find that missing something.