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Metal Monday: Mini Reviews Of June Releases

June was a pretty gigantic month for metal music, with upwards of twenty-five notable releases, some by pretty powerful players in the metal world in recent years.  Not everyone has the time and energy to check out all the big releases week to week and month to month, so I’m here to help you to stay on top of this busy time. Here’s a collection of mini reviews covering a bunch of June’s metal albums to help you figure out where to begin:

In FlamesSounds Of A Playground Fading

In Flames, one of the more famous names in the metal world, has seen their fair share of disappointment in recent years due to the flops that were A Sense Of Purpose and Soundtrack To Your Escape. Sounds Of A Playground Fading falls in line with those releases in terms of style, but is much less disappointing. Still not great, though.

Jungle RotKill On Command

If you’re a regular reader, then there’s a pretty good chance you already saw my full review of this album. Still, to sum it up: this is a straight-forward, stripped down metal album in time when they are few and far between. If you haven’t read the post yet, check out the in-depth version from a few weeks back.

Devin TownsendDeconstruction

Regarded by many as one of the most talented individuals in the metal world today, Devin Townsend rarely disappoints audiences with his music. And Deconstruction is no different. Though musically brilliant, it may take some people a bit of time to become accustomed to his odd themes, lyrics and humor. If you already know and love Devy, Deconstruction will absolutely make your day.

TombsPath Of Totality

Tombs’ second (sort of third) full-length album is definitely their best work to date, and quite possibly one of the best records of the year. Their signature mix of black and sludge metal meld flawlessly when taken to a new, extreme level. Fifty-eight minutes of pure metal awesomeness with not a single dull moment.

Morbid AngelIllud Divinum Insanus

I’m still not sure if Morbid Angel are just executing the biggest troll on the metal community or not, but there’s no denying that Illud Divinum Insanus is just plain not good. Trying out a new style of music, or trying to fuse new styles into a genre in which you’ve already proven your worth is admirable, but in this case it went horribly wrong. It’s not a good death metal album, it’s not a good electronic album, and it’s certainly not a good mix of styles. If you’re looking for electronic/metal combinations, maybe try “Self Vs. Self” by Pendulum and In Flames.

August Burns RedLeveler

August Burns Red’s fourth full length album sees the band departing even further from the somewhat standard brand of metalcore that propelled them to success. Leveler incorporates a litany of different musical styles, such as a nice flamenco guitar interlude, within their signature level of tightness and high energy.

Arch EnemyKhaos Legions

The extra time Arch Enemy took between albums, along with Michael Amott’s short stint reuniting with Carcass, clearly had a huge effect on the band. Khaos Legions is a bit of a departure from the band’s other recent works–and for the better. Each member’s best efforts focused into one album makes for a really solid listen.

Fit For An AutopsyThe Process Of Human Extermination

Every now and then a band tries to do something interesting with the currently played-out, generic deathcore sound without falling into the very well-defined box that deathcore has become. Fit For An Autopsy gets points for their effort, but there are still traces of the cookie-cutter style. A solid listen, though I’m not so sure that this is even close to the best the band can offer.

Job For A CowboyGloom

With every new release, Job For A Cowboy make a case for being one of the best pure death metal acts and Gloom is no different. As an EP, it’s only four songs, but each of those songs is remarkably well-executed and shows the band isn’t even close to done yet.

Limp BizkitGold Cobra

Calling Limp Bizkit a metal band that this point is really more of a joke than it is a serious claim, but this record is worth noting due to the fact that it perfectly sums up all of the music Limp Bizkit has made to date, except for their first (and best) album, 3 Dollar Bill Y’all. From the high energy tracks with angry raps to the somewhat ballad-like tunes, you get to hear a little bit of everything Limp Bizkit is known for.

Here’s a few other June metal releases that I’ve heard some good things about:

Symphony XIconoclast

From the looks of comments and ratings around the Internet, most people seem pretty pleased with this album. After 194 ratings on metalstorm.net, Iconoclast sits at an 8.5/10 rating, which isn’t too shabby at all (but is lower than the respective ratings for each of the three albums prior to it). It would appear that Symphony X have put out yet another solid album.

OriginEntity

Like Symphony X’s latest effort, most opinions of Entity seem to be very positive. It’s averaging an 8.4/10 after 57 votes, which is right on par with their last record. The only real complaints I’ve seen seem to be that some of the songs are quite short, and the album can get a bit lost in its overly-technical style at times.

AmorphisThe Beginning Of Times

The Beginning Of Times is the follow up to this Finnish monster band’s great 2009 album Skyforger, and by most accounts, is equally as good. Described by some as being a bit more melodically complex and reaching, Amorphis is not, historically, a formulaic type of band so overlooking a release is usually a folly.

June really turned out to be quite a climax in an already fantastic year in metal, and the releases keep rolling out. There are at least a few more albums coming out in 2011 that could very well dwarf the rest of the year’s releases (such as Revocation, Decapitated, Opeth, All Shall Perish, Skeletonwitch, etc.) but we’ll have to wait and see.

Any June metal releases you’re especially fond of that you think people should give a listen to? Post it in the comments section!

Metal Monday: Arch Enemy Q&A

Arch Enemy are no rookies to the melodic death metal scene. The Amott brothers and company have been around since the early ’90s, churning out solid metal album after solid metal album. It seems that their musical prowess might be approaching its climax, as Khaos Legions is their most prolific, varied and technical work to date. We got a chance to ask Michael Amott some questions regarding the new album, his guitar playing, influences and working with his brother. Check out what he had to say:

OS: Khaos Legions is a bit of a departure from Rise of the Tyrant. What sorts of ideas did you have coming into writing and recording it?

MA: We really had a “no rules” approach during the writing and pre-production phase of Khaos Legions. Arch Enemy has always encompassed a wide spectrum of influences. We have influences from thrash and death metal, but also classic metal/hard rock. The idea from the very beginning of the band was to blend heavy and extreme sounds with a lot of melody. I had so many guitar ideas for this album, it was just a matter of getting everything to fit together and make good songs out of all the riffs and melodies that we all had been writing and collecting over a four-year period. As you said, there are some new sounds on Khaos Legions— and I am really happy about that! We don’t want to become too predictable as band. We want to continuously progress, yet remain true to our “core sound”.

OS: The guitar work on Khaos Legions has a lot of variation, more so than usual. How much of this was a conscious effort?

MA: We always try to have a lot variety and exciting, quality guitar parts. I think on this new album everything just came together in a very cool way for whatever reason. In the writing and pre-production phase we could tell that we were more inspired than ever before, we had an absolute abundance of riffs and melodies to work with and we had a blast arranging the material.

OS: What sort of dynamic do you and Chris have when writing? How do you think it changes how you write, compared to when you were writing with Carcass or other bandmates?

MA: As Chris is my brother, we have played guitar together so much that we have a pretty non-verbal and very intuitive relationship when we write and arrange guitar parts and songs. I very much enjoy writing and recording with other players, but obviously it will always be special with Chris.

OS: The break between Rise of the Tyrant and Khaos Legions is the longest yet–how much of an effect do you think that had on how you approached Khaos Legions?

MA: Well, the riffs just kept piling up you know? We never stop writing really, we always jam and come up with new ideas backstage before a show or on the bus or in a hotel room. We’re always playing guitar! The longer break between albums meant we had more material to choose from and also Khaos Legions captures the bands sound over a longer time period (four years). I personally think this is obvious when I listen to the album and I hope the fans will appreciate the work that went into the creation of the music.

OS: There aren’t really any acts out there that share yours and Chris’ guitar style, primarily that found on the new album. Where do your primary influences come from?

MA: Our influences cover a wide spectrum of music styles and genres. Of course we have the Metal influences that you’d expect, but we listen to a lot of music that might seem like an odd fit for a band like us. As we all know, there’s only two kinds of music: good and bad! We are not afraid to play major key stuff for example—we try to paint with all colors that are available to us.

OS: Do you think taking the short break from writing/playing with Arch Enemy to do a few shows with Carcass have anything to do with the evolving sound of Arch Enemy?

MA: I think you are right—that had an impact on Khaos Legions. With Arch Enemy we had been in the album-tour-album-tour routine for so long, I think it was a good idea to break that and have a new fresh perspective on what we do with Arch Enemy.

OS: You’ve played/wrote a ton of albums at this point in your career, whether with Arch Enemy, Carcass, Carnage or guest spots. Which of these are most special to you, and why?

MA: That’s a tough question for me to answer, but I have to admit that the new Arch Enemy Khaos Legions strikes me as being one of those defining moments as I managed to get what’s in my head out and capture it perfectly. Other recordings I am proud of are Arch Enemy’s Wages Of Sin and Carcass’ Heartwork.

Do yourself a favor and check out Khaos Legions.  It’s hot off the presses via Century Media records—and it’s a really good album (especially if you love face-melting guitar solos and really good female vocalists). You can grab the album from iTunes, Amazon or your local record store (if those even exist near you anymore).

Metal Monday: Women In Metal Who Rock The Hardest

Women in metal–a subject that often starts heated arguments filled with strong opinions and misconceptions. Many stigmas exist about female metal musicians, especially metal vocalists: they’re inferior and can’t bring it as hard as the men can. This article will debunk that ideology. Just because the genre’s more famous leading ladies include Amy Lee of Evanescence and Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil doesn’t mean that every other female follows in their footsteps. This ideology has existed for quite some time now, even classic bands like Girlschool saw a strong amount of prejudice throughout their career. In an interview with Lemmy of Mötorhead from Metal: A Headbanger’s Ball he recounted someone who said, after a Girlschool performance “She was pretty good, for a girl” and he responded “Well, f*** you, she’s better than you are!”

Women are infiltrating the metal world. They’re not all singers who only have angelic voices and fit into the “pretty girl” role. More and more, they’re taking on the “badass” persona, and are even playing other instruments in bands, as opposed to just being vocalists. Jeanne Sagan of All That Remains, Marta Peterson or Bleeding Through and Karin Axelsson of Sonic Syndicate have all been holding it down on bass for their bands for years now. Liz Buckingham has been rocking the guitar in Electric Wizard since 2003 and Laura Christine has been playing guitar in a bunch of metal bands lately though she’s best known for her work with Warface. You even have some bands that are primarily women, like Zeenon, who are known for playing really great death metal insted of being “hot metal chicks”.

Candace Kucsulain from Walls of Jericho

Now comes the problem of image. As routinely acknowledged by women metal musicians, being good isn’t always enough—you’ve also got to be really good looking (strongly expressed by the band Kittie in an interview for Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey). For a while the expected role of any woman in metal was to either be a groupie or be attractive and little else (not to say there weren’t people who broke free of that, Doro Pesch being a famous example). As more women entered the metal scene, many that were on par with their male peers, the stigma of women being less talented than men slowly and surely phased out almost completely. Though it’s still a pretty lopsided ration of men to women, it’s certainly not as skewed as it once was, and the public eye looks at women a bit differently than it used to. Unfortunately, certain metal publications still focus heavily on women’s looks, such as Revolver‘s annual “Hottest Chicks In Metal” feature.

Today, there are more bands fronted by women who put on the tough guise and bring it just as hard as any man around, and this is likely due to the influx of women into metal and the shifting of mindsets. In Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy talks about adopting a tougher style and persona in order to feel powerful on stage. She also speaks about how young girls come up to her after shows  to talk about how her performance inspire them. Most metalheads know Angela, who happens to have one of the best guttural screams live in the whole metal genre, but there are a lot of other bands out there that don’t get quite the same press. OurStage’s own Abnormality (whose song “Visions” was featured in a Rock Band game) is one of these bands. While listening to Mallika’s vocals, it’s nearly impossible to tell she’s a woman, and it’s refreshing to hear a female fronting a brutal death metal band. Other women who rock the guttural vocals and the tough guise include (and is certainly not limited to): Otep Shamaya of Otep, Krysta Cameron of Iwrestledabearonce, Candace Kucsulain of Walls of Jericho, Mel Mongeon of Fuck The Facts and Alissa White-Gluz of The Agonist.

Still think that all bands with women are like Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, Epica, Nightwish, In This Moment and the like? I can’t really see how you could. If you still need convincing, check out this video of Angela Gossow and Arch Enemy commanding a crowd in Japan to the tune of their song “Tyrants of the Rising Sun”

Metal Monday: Are The Swedes Best At Metal?

There are certain countries that are considered to be a cut above the rest in terms of the metal they produce. At the top of the metal food chain are countries like Canada, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Norway, the UK and the US—but who reigns supreme in the metal world? There is a strong case to be made for each of these countries, but in the last two decades it’s hard to argue against Sweden as metal’s capital.

Alternative metal band, Katatonia

Though Sweden might not have the most metal bands out of all these countries (that title probably belongs to the US), they have birthed a few bands in the last few decades that have gone on to pioneer, revolutionize, or create a new sub-genre of metal. Bands such as In Flames, Dark Tranquillity and At The Gates are the forefathers melodic death metal (and what would be come to known as the “Gothenburg sound”). Meshuggah are often considered one of the most unique metal bands of today, inspiring countless bands to come after them are—they’re also often cited as the main influence for the recent trend of “djent” bands). Opeth is largely considered the pinnacle for progressive death metal bands, with each of their nine full-length albums earning extremely positive critical response. Candlemass is one of the original epic doom metal bands that would carve the modern and current definition of doom metal.

The legendary Dark Tranquillity

Even if you take out the list of heavily influential metal bands that shaped the current lay of the metal land, you’re still left with a list of massively talented bands: Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy, Katatonia, Bathory, Hypocrisy, Bloodbath, Soilwork, Scar Symmetry, Cult of Luna, and the list goes on. One of the biggest deciding factors, in addition to the quality of these bands, is their longevity. Even pioneering bands like Dark Tranquillity, Opeth and Meshuggah are still putting out landmark releases. That’s what it’s all about: sustained, high quality, albums year after year.

Of course, there can be strong arguments made for any of the aforementioned countries—the UK produced Motörhead, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest and creating the entire genre of metal. The US can be credited for producing the “big four” of thrash, among countless other great bands. Still, even considering all of the arguments for other countries to reign supreme, it’s hard to argue against Sweden.

Metal Monday: Great Metal Tours in 2010

OSBlog02_MetalMondays_MASTER‘Tis the season to be… metal! Unlike many genres of music, winter is a popular touring season for metal bands. This year it seems some of the biggest and most highly- regarded acts are teaming up for mammoth tours. From death metal to progressive metal, there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking to see some metal veterans, there’s some of that. If you’re looking to see some of the metal rookies looking to make waves, there’s lots of that too. Exodus, Scale the Summit, Revocation, Nile, Between the Buried and Me and many more are all hitting the road!

Check out the winter metal tours, as well as tour dates, after the jump…

 


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