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Exclusive Q and A: Her Bright Skies Talk ‘Rivals,’ Setbacks, Swedish Rock

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsPrepare yourself, America. Swedish rockers Her Bright Skies are bringing their potent blend of post-hardcore, punk, and modern rock to the rest of the world with their most recent album, Rivals. Inheriting the mantle of fine Swedish rock exports from the past, the band’s songs brim with unstoppable power and energy. We caught up with guitarist Petter Nilsson to chat about Swedish musical history, breaking out stateside, and the message behind the new album.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Her Bright Skies Talk ‘Rivals,’ Setbacks, Swedish Rock’

Metal Monday: Best And Worst of 2011

Coming up with the 2011 Best and Worst List was an incredibly daunting task because this year has been one of the best for metal that I can remember. The effort left me with ten albums that probably beat out every album released last year. Heck, even my picks for eleven through twenty might be a step above last year’s Top 10. This year boasts great albums from old bands, new bands, and everything in between in just about every sub-genre that a metalhead could come up with. Progressive, death, thrash, black, metalcore, power, sludge, doom, etc.—great albums across the board. If you’re reading this, you probably already know how much metal ruled this year. So, without further ado, let’s countdown the Best and Worst Metal Albums of 2011, shall we?

Best

 

10. No Help For The Mighty Ones by SubRosa
Not all metal groups that have women members or violins feel cheap and tawdry, and SubRosa are a perfect example. No Help For The Mighty Ones is a great sludge metal offshoot that delivers on of the most unique and re-playable records of 2011.

 

9. The Great Mass by SepticFlesh
Take a really killer death metal band and add in a hefty dose of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, and what do you get? Awesomeness, aka SepticFlesh. We did a Q&A with SepticFlesh after The Great Mass dropped. It’s a pretty solid Q&A, and a better album.

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: The Neologist

In the world of metal sub-genres, there are purists who want to preserve musical tradition and there are activists who want to stretch the boundaries of sound—and never than twain shall meet. One sub-genre of music that is all about being true to its roots is Gothenburg melodic death metal, which started with bands like In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. Though these bands have slowly evolved over time, many diehard fans have chastised their new sounds, and as such not many traditional Gothenburg melodic death metal bands exist now. Bands that boast the traditional Gothenburg sound are few and far between these days, but one band that executes it perfectly is OurStage’s The Neologist.

Formed by James Lewis and Devin Walsh in 2009 from the ashes of their previous project (SeVeR), the two set out to make music that they themselves liked to listen to (favorites include In Flames, Soilwork, Disarmonia Mundi and Dark Tranquillity) and they’ve done exactly that. With clear motives stated in their bio, such as being a musical outlet with no boundaries, they seem to be well on their way to accomplishing their goals for this project. Releasing The 26 Letters of Your Universe in 2010, The Neologist have put out a great and pretty traditional Gothenburg-styled metal album, and have been working on new material since.

The band’s current musical project is a series of In Flames cover songs in which they’re enlisting the help of Facebook to decide which tracks they should record. According to Lewis and Walsh, they have an incredible amount of musical flexibility being a duo, which allows them to make decisions in “1.8 seconds” (as quoted in their Facebook profile). It’s a good thing, too, because the first cover of this series is fantastic, and they’ll be able to create many more in a short span of time. They have reworked the classic “Jotun” from In Flames’ Whoracle, playing it almost exactly like the original but adding a touch of their own signature sound (and making an incredibly silly video to match).

The best part about The Neologist at the moment, however, is the fact that they’re giving away their debut album away for free! That’s right, all you need to do is click this download link and you’ll have twelve tasty tracks of awesomeness to feed your metal-craving ears. Not sold? You can listen to most of the tracks from the album right on OurStage with this conveniently-located player which contain eleven tracks:

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: Metal Covers Of Non-Metal Songs

Cover tunes have been a big part of pop music in the last few decades, and an even bigger part of music throughout history (though the idea of a cover tune is rather new, they’re historically known as standards). Some covers are well known to be remakes, other times people don’t even know songs they love are covers. For example, you might not know Jimi Hendrix wasn’t the original performer of “All Along The Watchtower” —that one’s a Bob Dylan song. But, cover songs aren’t only for rock and pop artists.  Metal artists do their fair share of covers as well, sometimes even full albums (See Overkill, Rage Against The Machine and Evergreen Terrace).

Personally, I think metal musicians covering songs that weren’t originally metal songs is rather brilliant. Here are some great renditions of songs that are decidedly more heavy than their originals:

  1. “Still Fly” by Big Tymers, as covered by The Devil Wears Prada for the compilation Punk Goes Crunk
  2. “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears, as covered by August Burns Red for the Punk Goes Pop Vol. 2 compilation
  3. “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, as performed by Children of Bodom on their album Skeletons In The Closet
  4. “The Sound Of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, as performed by Nevermore on their album Dead Heart In A Dead World
  5. “Everything Counts” by Depeche Mode, as covered by In Flames on their 1997 album Whoracle
  6. “White Room” by Cream, as performed by Demons & Wizards as a bonus track on their self-titled album
  7. “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” by Elton John, as performed by Flotsam & Jetsam on their album No Place For Disgrace
  8. “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen, as performed by Motörhead

Metal Monday: Metal Preview 2011

While providing some solid albums, 2010 was a fairly lackluster year in metal. Given only the short list of albums slated to come out in the first three months of 2011, it could very well eclipse all of 2010 in just a couple months. Many 2011 albums have been announced, but many of them have tentative or inexact release dates. First, let’s take a look at albums we know release dates for:

StratovariusElysium [January 12]
CrowbarSever The Wicked Hand [February 8]
CauldronBurning Fortune [February 14]
NeuraxisAsylon [February 15]
DeicideTo Hell With God [February 15]
DevilDriverBeast [February 22]
Darkest HourThe Human Romance [February 22]
Amon AmarthSurtur Rising [March 29]

It looks as though, at least early on in 2011, death metal will be reigning supreme with releases from Neuraxis and Deicide— two of the most well-renowned artists in death metal’s history. Crowbar’s Sever The Wicked Hand should also be a monster record, as they’re one of the most legendary sludge metal bands ever.

In terms of anticipated releases with little to no detail and no cemented release date, there are also some heavyweight releases anticipated in the first quarter of 2011: Anthrax, Obscura, The Faceless, Symphony X, Textures, Born of Osiris and Protest The Hero.

Licking your chops yet? This is shaping up to be quite the year if the first quarter is an indication what the rest of the year will look like. And if that isn’t quite enough, there are also rumors of albums from All Shall Perish, Sanctity Opeth (which is most likely happening late 2011), In Flames, Tool (though it’s never easy to know with these guys), Unearth and Hammerfall.

Know any albums that slipped under my radar? I’d love to find out what other metal albums to look out for in early 2011!

Metal Monday: 1990, A Great Year In Metal

Though the metal genre has had many landmark years, no year in it’s musical history matches 1990 in terms of legendary and influential record releases. At a time when metal was starting to explore heavier sounds, such as brutal death metal, and bands like Judas Priest were evolving, the incredible album releases across the metal spectrum was an integral part of metal’s evolution. The year was epic in terms of both metal releases across sub genres and overall history.

For the new wave of British heavy metal, Judas Priest released their monster album Painkiller, which is considered to be one of the best metal albums of all time. It’s a considerably heavier sounding album than most Judas Priest material, and certainly heavier than their most famous songs such as “Breaking The Law” and “Hellbent for Leather.” Painkiller is the album in which Rob Halford finds his most sinister place, K.K. Downing finally breaks loose of the cheesier guitar riffs from the earlier days and Scott Travis adds more attitude on the drum kit. A true metal masterpiece.

Candidate for most metal artwork ever

The thrash world also had an all-time great album released in 1990 courtesy of Megadeth. Rust In Peace is a fairly short album, clocking in at just under forty minutes, but those forty minutes are densely packed with great riff after great riff, and blistering solos to spare. You also can’t forget Dave Mustaine’s incomparable voice, which is at its absolute best here.

That same year saw the debut release of the now legendary Atheist album Piece of Time, as well as Deicide‘s eponymous debut–both of which put a clear stamp on the death metal that would follow them. In a completely separate area of metal, Primus also released their debut album Frizzle Fry, considered by many to be their best album to date.

Splitting the top of the 1990 release charts with the powerful debut releases by Atheist, Deicide and Primus were bands like Pantera and Kreator. Both bands found the perfect formula for their very distinctive thrash styles, each releasing what was the best album of their careers (and still might be). Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell is certainly the band’s best known effort, boasting one of the most distinctive opening riffs in the history of metal. Even Bathory was on board with the year 1990, releasing Hammerheart, an album considered by many to be the first true “Viking Metal” album.

Less serious, but plenty awesome

In terms new metal bands, the “class of 1990″ list is pretty extensive: At The Gates, Converge, Kyuss, Opeth, Dark Tranquillity, Tool, In Flames, Fear Factory, Lamb of God and more. Many of these bands would go on to be extremely influential in their respective sub genres. In fact, the bands from Gothenburg (At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames) went on to define a scene and sound for Swedish melodic death metal for the two decade to follow.

The year was marred by tragic events, such as Judas Priest being sued when their song “Better By You Better By Me” allegedly prompted a kid to commit suicide (the band won the case) and the attack and ensuing paralysis of Possessed frontman Jeff Becerra. Still, with landmark release after landmark release, 1990 will go down as one of the best years in the world of metal.

Metal Monday: New Albums for a New Year

OSBlog02_MetalMondays_MASTERIt’s the new year. People are trying hard to keep up their resolutions, others have already tossed in the towel. For those of you whose New Year’s Resolution is to check out all the best metal releases of 2010, well, I’m here to help. Here’s a look at some of the bigger and more anticipated releases coming out early 2010:

Check out the upcoming albums after the jump…

METAL MONDAY: TWENTY YEARS OF METAL

osblog_metalmondays_01

Twenty years is a long time. Two whole decades. Many things can change in that amount of time, but few styles of music went through as many changes as metal.

"The flute is a very heavy, metal instrument." - Ian Anderson

1989 was the tipping point that steered metal into the state we know it now. The thankful decline of the hair metal plague was in full-effect, death metal was on the rise and thrash metal was still going strong. This was the year of the infamous Jethro Tull upset over Metallica for the “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental” in the first ever Heavy Metal Grammy (much to the dismay of the metal community and rightfully so—Jethro Tull is not even close to metal). Tipper Gore and her PMRC was bringing the hammer down on metal with their censorship threats, and Guns N’ Roses had taken over the mainstream metal territory. Metal was under fire from all angles. For the greater good of metal, however, all of these things were ultimately great. The core die hard metal community decided they had enough, and were going to take a stand by pushing metal styles to the extreme.

Prog-metal greats, Dream Theater

Prog-metal greats, Dream Theater

Dream Theater, Stratovarius and Obituary are the most notable bands who released debut albums in 1989, all of which saw moderate success, and who later came to shape their genres for the next two decades. 1989 also saw the formation of many new bands, such as Dark Tranquillity and Cannibal Corpse, who helped shape the metal world over the last twenty years. Even with the huge successes these bands saw in the 90’s, they were still not able to overcome the hip hop and grunge onslaught throughout the decade and break into the mainstream — unless you were Anthrax and did a collaboration with Public Enemy (which ultimately led to the “rap metal” fiasco of the late 90’s). I’m not talking about the popular bastardized offshoots of metal (e.g. Limp Bizkit, Nine Inch Nails, Korn, Disturbed, Deftones, etc.) that developed in the 90′s. I’m talking the “real” metal of the 90′s—Blind Guardian, At The Gates, In Flames, Symphony X, Suffocation—none of these bands got as much mainstream exposure in the 90′s as they deserved. Instead, the less abrasive grunge style took over. The mainstream was tired of the aggression-fueled style that metal brought and grunge stepped up to the plate, switching the anger for angst which hit home for the flannel-clad teenagers of the 90s.

George

George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, of Cannibal Corpse

Ultimately, metal being a subterranean music style throughout the 90′s was for the betterment of all metal genres. Everyone saw what happened in the 80′s when metal broke into the mainstream (yes, hair metal). The same thing happens to most genres of music—evolution happens when the genre is not in the spotlight (which means grunge is directly responsible for the black sheep that is Nickleback). Without the 90′s era of metal, we could still have things like the horrid pop-punk and boy bands of the early 2000′s (we can actually thank hip hop for helping to rid of that nuisance). Slowly but surely, metal is making its way back into the mainstream. There are 14 metal albums in the Billboard Top 200 as I write this, one of which debuted at #6— Black Clouds & Silver Linings by our progressive pals Dream Theater. Metal is stronger than ever, and looks as though it is still on the rise. Lookout, mainstream media, we are storming your beaches, and about to take over your cities. Yes, those ones that were built on rock and roll.

 


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