Don't let the front cover of this record fool you. It is different, that's for sure, but what is contained within is valuable. If you have seen the Global Metal documentary, then you may be a little familiar with this band, but their music has more to it than you see in that film, as evidenced by their new record.
Eclectic is the keyword to describe this new album by the Israeli death/prog/folk metal outfit. All you have to do is look at the booklet and see how many musicians performed on the recording to get a feel for what the listening experience will be like. It is an expansive, multi-faceted piece of music that sounds meticulously crafted. The songs segue seamlessly between not only genres but languages. There are lyrics in three different languages: English, Hebrew, and Arabic. The diversity of the music and lyrics and how they are written is a big breath of fresh air in the metal world. Sure, there are other bands who use Eastern/Oriental scales in their music, or center their metal on a core of folk (see Finntroll or Korpiklaani), but Orphaned Land does it in a way all their own. An aspect that stands out for this listener are the transitions from parts full of traditional Hebrew chanting and instrumentation to death metal riffing. The lead vocalist, Kobi Farhi, has an interesting growling voice that is reminiscent of Jeff Walker in the late era of Carcass. Some of the clean, mellower parts might remind you of Opeth, the music conveys mood and atmosphere very well. The record is also nicely recorded and was mixed by Steven Wilson. Overall, if you are looking for something a little different in your metal, get your feet wet with this album. It's epic and refreshing.
This three CD collection is a holy relic of grindcore. Napalm Death, Carcass, Bolt Thrower, Extreme Noise Terror, Godflesh, Unseen Terror, Heresy, and Intense Degree, all progenitors of the genre, together on one collection. Recorded between the mid 80s and 1990 for John Peel's show, this collection of material is simply awesome to listen to as is shows these bands in their formative years and where most of today's extreme music can be traced back to. The recording quality varies throughout the different sessions, but in most cases, these recordings are superior in quality to the recordings these bands made for their albums of that time period, as many of them didn't have the cash or equipment in those early days to work with. The grit and frantic energy in all of these sessions if awesome, especially on the Napalm Death tracks. The bands were young and pushing the envelope of heavy music. In total, you get a total of 118 tracks across the sessions of the 8 bands. The liner notes, which consist of an interview with Mick Harris from Napalm Death (also a member of Extreme Noise Terror and Unseen Terror), are excellent as well. He describes how Napalm Death was just having fun and playing the music that they wanted to play, and weren't conscious of the impact they would have on extreme music at the time, that there were no plans for what things should be, just a young band doing their thing. There are parts in the interview going over how the recording engineer at the BBC didn't understand what the band were doing with the blast beats and crazy vocal styles, and it really illustrates how Napalm Death were ahead of their time. This collection truly is a great glimpse into heavy music history and recommended not only to grindcore fans, but those who are also interested in how extreme music, as it is known today, came to be.
Hands down, the best album Fear Factory has made since Demanufacture. This record is stripped down to the bones, with just a touch of the electronics and keyboards heard on past albums, and a result, it sounds more organic. Sounding like a much younger band, many of the songs move at a furious tempo and pummel you with the machine like precision the band is known for, but thrown out are the bloated song structures that plagued a lot of the material on albums like Obsolete or their lowest point, Transgression. The mighty Gene Hoglan's drumming is without a doubt a big part of this album. To put it bluntly, he makes former drummer Raymond Herrera look like an amateur. His aggressive attack, fills, and pedal work are notches above the drumming on all other Fear Factory records. Dino and Burton also deliver some of their best performances in years. Dino's guitar riffs are crushingly brutal, and there are even some guitar solos scattered through the record, not something to be found on most of this band's records. Burton's vocals are absolutely pissed off and sincere. He has always been a singer with a lot of variation in the ways he delivers lines, but on this album he pushes the intensity to new heights. The cleanly sung parts are huge and compliment the roaring parts nicely. For all the legal drama with the two former members who insist they never actually left the band, this record is evidence of who the real voice of the band is and will continue to be. So, it's good to have this band rediscovering their sound and it will be interesting to see where they go from this record. Some of this album's standout tracks are "Fear Campaign", "Christploitation", and "Designing The Enemy". The special edition has a bonus track of a re-recorded version of "Crash Test" from the band's first album, Soul Of A New Machine, which is a killer re-do, showcasing the band's early death metal roots melded with their present sound. You also get three tracks of the band's 1991 demo, which are nothing special other than to show where they started so many years ago.
Okay, Greg Fidelman should stop producing records. The same guys that gave Slayer's latest record a botched mix produced this new album by High On Fire. However, the strength of the material in High on Fire's case is able to rise above the production, and in some cases, songs are strangely enhanced by the dirty sound. The biggest problem here is that there is a whole lot of low end and guitar that overpowers the drums and a lack of decent treble, but once you listen to the album a few times, you can ignore this and concentrate on pumping your fist in the air to the badass tunes. Matt Pike is already a legend because of Sleep, but this band will only add to that as the years go by. He once again delivers a basketful of unique and gargantuan riffs, inventive solos, and a voice that still sounds like the angry pirate-gypsy version of Lemmy from Motorhead, while roaring about fire spitters and frost hammers. That being said lets not forget about the other two band members who have a lot of talent, but don't always get the same attention as Pike. Bassist Jeff Mattz and drummer Des Kensel form an impressive rhythm section that combine with Pike's playing to form a truly unholy trio of power. See this band live and you are in for a treat, they are raw and without gimmicks. This listener can't wait to hear these tracks live, especially the doom soaked power of "Bastard Samurai". The main riff in this song is like watching a mountain collapse into dust, it's that heavy. Other tracks like "Frost Hammer" and "Fire, Flood, and Plague" pick up the speed and go for your throat, and "How Dark We Pray" is a rhythmic trance as heavy as anything Neurosis has ever done. There it is, but words don't necessarily do this band justice, you've got to listen to it for yourself. This listener ranks this album as the best of this year so far, despite the production. Yep, the songs are just that good. Be careful not to blow your speakers!