2016-10-06

My Dying Bride - From Inferior to Prime: 12-10

This is my very personal From Inferior to Prime 12-10 feautring the uncrowned kings of all things tragic and miserable. I will list all proper full-lengths of My Dying Bride - that's 12 at the time these lines are written. I don't count "Evinta" as a proper full-length since it is more of an experiment. Naturally, the same rule applies to the two "Meisterwerks", "Trinity", EP's, demo etc.
Here's my personal ode to making miserable music.

#12. 34.788%...Complete (1998)

1. The Whore, The Cook And The Mother
2. The Stance Of Evander Sinque
3. Der Uberlebende
4. Heroin Chic
5. Apocalypse Woman
6. Base Level Erotica
7. Under Your Wings And Into Your Arms














I guess it's no surprise that I choose the experimental oddity that "34.788%..Complete" is, as my least favourite MDB-album. The band was going through some line-up changes at the time and the abscence of original drummer Rick Miah and long-time violinist/keyboardist Martin Powell is sorely missed on this album. But that doesn't mean that the album sounds dull in any way. On the contrary, it is a weird thing where no song sounds alike and where very few traces can be found of either the band's past nor it's future. Musically, it is still metal and it you can hear who's behind the microphone, so it's more the lack of violins and the lack of depressive lyrics that are the biggest change. There are hints of doom- and gothic metal here and there but the overall sound is hard to describe in "regular" genres so to speak. While not a bad album per se, it is easily the least emotional MDB has ever done, thus rending it so far from the rest of the band's discography. Some tracks, such as "The Stance of Evander Sinque", "Der Uberlebende" and "Apocalypse Woman" are interesting to hear from time to time but I cannot remember the last time I managed to sit through the entire album.

On an interesting sidenote, the only track that the band regularly has played live from this album is also the least interesting one; "Under Your Wings and Into Your Arms". It is a total waste of time and the one song from this album that I cannot find anything interesting at all about. It's an ok album but it's so far removed from what the band excels at - making miserable music.




#11. The Light At the End of the World (1999)

1. She Is The Dark
2. Edenbeast
3. The Night He Died
4. The Light At The End Of The World
5. The Fever Sea
6. Into The Lake Of Ghosts
7. The Isis Script
8. Christliar
9. Sear Me III














I vividly recall how the band praised this album before it was released and that they've upped the ante and gone back to their roots after the fan-backlash that "34.788%...Complete" was. The growls made their return for the first time since 1994 and we were promised dread, despair and doom. Is that what we got then?

Nah, not really.

For you see, while the songs are (mostly) long doom-metal songs, something is lacking in the song-writing department. I sincerly think this has to do with the fact that guitarist Calvin Robertshaw left MDB shortly after the previous album to work as the band's manager (if I am not mistaken). Anywho, the band certainly tries to find their old formula again but it just doesn't work properly. "She Is the Dark", the title track and "Into the Lake of Ghosts" almost gets there but most of the songs just drag along without any proper direction. This is especially true when it comes to the two songs "Edenbeast" and "Christliar" that just sound like forced attempts at playing doom metal and a far cry from what the band is capable of. Aaron Stainthorpe's growls are also very different from the band's past works and it sounds weaker and less inspired. "The Fever Sea" is an ok attempt at sounding death metal but comes off as quite dull and the less said about the truly awful song "The Night He Died" - the better.

In conclusion, "The Light At the End of the World" is not a bad album (none of them are) either but it does sound dull at some points, ok at other and sometimes forced. It was the first doom/gothic-metal album by the band when they only used keyboards and no violins and sometimes it feels like they are unsure of what to do with the keys, where ex-violinist/keyboardist Martin likely would've come up with some great violin-parts. Shame.




#10. As the Flower Withers (1992)

1. Silent Dance
2. Sear Me
3. The Forever People
4. The Bitterness And The Bereavement
5. Vast Choirs
6. The Return Of The Beautiful
7. Erotic Literature















I guess many of you readers feel it's a shame that I have the band's iconic debut-album so low on my list but again, this has nothing to do with the fact that it's bad or anything. It's just that MDB have released so many other good albums that their humble beginnings of doom just falls behind. After all, the band were young and inexperienced when they entered the fabled Academy studios for the first time to record "As the Flower Withers".

MDB 1992: Ade, Rick, Andrew, Aaron & Calvin
And to be honest, this album is most definitely a death/doom-metal album with very little gothic themes and 99% growled vocals as opposed to, let's say the rest of the band's discography. That makes the album stand out very much and one can hear that they hadn't discovered the true MDB-formula yet - that was something yet to come. Here we have a boring intro, a "classic" tune in "Sear Me" - which is more of an interesting curiousity rather than a great song, then follows MDB's most overrated track ever; the incredibly blatant death-metal failure that is "The Forever People". And then the album really grows with the two epics "The Bitterness and the Bereavement" and "The Return of the Beautiful" with my favourite song off the album placed inbetween; "Vast Choirs" - great and classic doom-metal songs all three of them. Closer "Erotic Literature" is nothing one should care about.

And that's that. Not much else to say than I've already stated; it is a vastly different album compared to the rest of the band's discography and I like it for what it is; a very youthful death/doom-metal album from one of my all-time favourite bands.

2016-09-22

Metal Monument: Metallica - Ride the Lightning vs Master of Puppets

Band: Metallica
Album: "Ride the Lightning" vs "Master of Puppets"
Style: Thrash metal/heavy metal
Release date: 1984-07-27 and 1986-02-21
Origin: USA

Tracklist:
1. Fight Fire with Fire                   1. Battery
2. Ride the Lightning                    2. Master of Puppets
3. For Whom the Bells Tolls       3. The Thing That Should Not Be
4. Fade to Black                              4. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
5. Trapped Under Ice                    5. Disposable Heroes
6. Escape                                          6. Leper Messiah
7. Creeping Death                          7. Damage Inc.
8. The Call of Ktulu                       8. Orion

Introduction:
Today, I will be doing a bit of a different Monument-section. You see, I wanted to write something on Metallica and thought whether I should choose Lightning or Puppets as a Monument. But it seemed so dull and predictable and that's when I realized I could compare the two instead. After all, why shouldn't I? Both records have 8 songs and the track order is also very similar to each other. Astute readers may already noticed that I've switched places between "Damage Inc." and "Orion" and the reason for that is obviously that I want to compare as similar songs as possible. Seeing that "Orion" and "The Call of Ktulu" are the instrumental ones this only seemed natural. On a sidenote, I've always felt that "Damage Inc." and "Orion" should have switched places when it was time to release Puppets. Oh, well...

The band that everyone seems to love to hate these days (at least if you're a devout follower of Blabbermouth as I am) was once a universally acclaimed band that could do no wrong. It is difficult to comprehend in this day and age, but there was a time before "St.Anger", "Lulu", failed movie projects and dreadful symphonies when Metallica more or less ruled the metal-universe. And before that, the band was a bunch of teenagers that tried to play as fast as possible which they showed with their debut album "Kill 'Em All" (1983). After that followed what most people seem to hail as the band's best albums; "Ride the Lightning" in 1984 and "Master of Puppets" in 1986. And it seems that the most common belief is that the crowning masterpiece of the band's career is the latter album. I am here to uncover why that is and whether I agree or not.
So without further ado, I say let the unholy battle commence!

Album covers:
 The covers wont be included in the final score, because that would be unfair as fuck if you know what I mean. They're both kinda similar and one doesn't need to be Einstein to understand that they were made in the 80's. Both covers fits it's respective title and overall feel of the album so they're both equally good. But there's really nothing that sticks out and neither had any big impact on me as a kid. In other words - quite the opposite when compared to anything by Iron Maiden during the same era.
RATING:
6.5/10


1. Fight Fire with Fire vs Battery
Fast opening tracks, both beginning with acoustic guitars. If we I we're to rate them on the intro alone, "Battery" would easily win. It also the most "epic" of the two tracks whereas "Fight Fire with Fire" is more straight-forward and to the point. As an opener "Fight Fire with Fire" wins for me with it's raw fury. Also, I've never understood what is so good with "Battery"? Sure, the riffing is okay but the verses become tedious so fast with what James almost sounding like he's singing a nursery-rhyme. I fucking hate that. In my opinion, "Battery" is one of the most overrated songs in the band's discography and it has nothing to compete with if we're talking the third counterpart-song that is "Blackened". Also, there's no doubt that "We all shall die!" lyrically beats "Cannot kill the family, battery is found in me" by a mile or so.
WINNER:
Fight Fire with Fire


2. Ride the Lightning vs Master of Puppets
In my opinion, one of the best songs that Metallica has ever done is "Master of Puppets". It is an epic track with lots of twists and turns, amazing verses and an equally effective chorus. The interlude is also well written and it never feels as long as it actually is. The song "Ride the Lightning" has absolutely nothing to compete with when up against this monster. The '84 title track has one of the dullest choruses Metallica has ever written and when I listen to the song right now, I only really like the bridge-part where James screams "Someone help me..." etc. Easy win.
WINNER:
Master of Puppets


3. For Whom the Bell Tolls vs The Thing That Should Not Be
"For Whom the Bell Tolls" is the bass-driven monster of a song that made Clifford Lee Burton a well-known name in metal-circles. It is a mid-tempo beast that features some genuinely good songwriting, great vocals from James and bone-chilling lyrics about a man facing his death.
"The Thing That Should Not Be" is also a mid-tempo song and the lyrics are quite cool I guess since they're from H.P. Lovecraft. But that's where the comparisons ends. The latter song is so damn dull it makes it's 6:37 minutes seem like an eternity. Heavy? Yes, slightly but that doesen't help when the verses go nowhere and the chorus makes me yawn. Somewhere in the song, there are traces of what could've really been a great song but to be honest, the entire thing just feels like lazy songwriting compared to so much else we've heard with Metallica. They would do a similar thing two years later with the dreadfully boring "Eye of the Beholder".
WINNER:
For Whom the Bell Tolls


4. Fade to Black vs Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
This is actually the first song-battle where things become really difficult. Both songs are semi-ballads with lots of acoustic guitars and mellow verses. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" has a chorus that is slowly being built up to and then goes all heavy. "Fade to Black" lacks a proper chorus but has a part that almost could be a chorus that also have slowly been built up to prior. I can't help but feel that "Fade to Black" feels a bit more "epic" even though they're quite similar in length and let's not forget the amazing ending to "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" starting from the part where James sings "Fear of living on...". That part alone is fucking amazing!
All in all, both songs are great and even though they're similar to one another they manage to be different as well. If I was forced to choose - which I am right now - I'll go with "Fade to Black" since it is amazing from start to finish, whereas the other one is just "great" from beginning to middle - then it becomes amazing.
So far, it's 3-1 for the '84-record and things look grim for "Master of Puppets".
WINNER:
Fade to Black


5. Trapped Under Ice vs Disposable Heroes
Ouch, this is another difficult one. "Trapped Under Ice" is a thrash-metal anthem on it's own merits and even though I hate the guitar-solo in the beginning, the verses are ace, the chorus is stellar, the bridge is great and Lars' drumming is some of the best during his entire career. On the other side of the fence we have "Disposable Heroes", a song that is twice as long, much more epic, more twists and turns and arguably more interesting lyrics. If I had a hard time choosing a winner in battle #4 - it is nothing compared to what I had this time. Ultimately, the victory goes to "Disposable Heroes", but it is by the slightest margin.
WINNER:
Disposable Heroes


6. Escape vs Leper Messiah
Once more a tough battle ahead. This time it's due to the fact that we are arguably dealing with the least good songs on each album. Everyone knows Metallica wrote "Escape" as a potential radio-hit but nothing ever became of it. The song is sort of fast mid-tempo I guess which sounds weird but actually makes sense if you listen to it. There is nothing wrong with the verses whatsoever and I like the pacing. The chorus is a bit cringe-worthy though and I totally get why this song recieves so little love from both fans and the band. But the part with "See them try to bring the hammer down..." is cool as fuck!
On the other hand, "Leper Messiah" has no excuses as it wasn't written to please a wider audience. It is not a very exciting song but it isn't bad either. It's a cool mid-tempo verse with a boring pre-chorus and a chorus that is ok. And as usual, the song really picks up a lot when it's time for the bridge. It's weird that I find so many Metallica-songs that I consider quite "weak" have so many damn good bridges which just makes the hair on my arms stand straight up. Both songs are ok - nothing more, nothing less - but it would be fault by default if I didn't give the victory to "Leper Messiah".
WINNER:
Leper Messiah


7. Creeping Death vs Damage Inc.
Let's just get it over with ok? "Damage Inc." is a good song. A fast thrasher that has nothing to be ashamed for. It's lyrics might not be the best penned down by Hetfield but who cares when a song is this good! BUT... "Creeping Death" is the best song ever written by Metallica. Period. Amazing verses, amazing choruses and perhaps the best bridge I've ever heard in my life. End of story.
WINNER:
Creeping Death


8. The Call of Ktulu vs Orion
So, we're at the final battle and the two instrumental songs. The score is 4-3 to "Ride the Lightning" so "Orion" really has to win this if "Master of Puppets" shall remain the undisputed king. The tension is thicker than fog. Or not. Here we go

I rarely enjoy instrumental tracks whatsoever. The only two exceptions are tracks I've already ranted lots about on this blog earlier - namely "Perverse...Almost Religious" by Moonspell and "La Masquerade Infernale" by Arcturus. Both are short tracks, leaning heavy on keyboards and atmosphere alone. Both these Metallica-songs are long, droning tracks over 8 minutes each with just guitars, bass and drums. This cannot end well...

"The Call of Ktulu". It has a nice build-up and when the song goes heavy it's still sounding damn good! Then, nothing happens... After 2½ minutes I am already a bit bored and we still have more than 6 minutes to go. Kirk tries to do some fancy wah-wah stuff and Cliff also does what he can with his bass-wizardry but when the rythm goes on and on the same way for fucking forever - what little salvage is there left? The guitar solo in the middle of the song doesen't help either - I just want it to end.

"Orion" begins spooky as hell and I like that creeping feeling it evokes. When the heavy guitars begins, it sounds just like a verse to a regular song - such a shame that there are no vocals present. When something finally changes (after way too long) it is cool as fuck and I find myself nodding my head along to the music. Wouldn't you know it? Here comes Hammett with another boring guitar solo that tries to hide the fact that we've heard the same boring chugga-chugga verse from James for an eternity. Compared to "The Call of Ktulu" this one changes completely somewhere in the middle of the song and even though it's not the best thing I've heard from this band it is refreshing just to hear something new. But what in the holy hell are the lead guitars doing at 05.15!?? It sounds like Kirk is playing a lullaby or something. It is completely wrong for the song and just feels like he's playing what he's feeling at the moment. More soloing and more chugga-chugga. Sigh...

I am having a really hard time to pick a winner for this final battle and it's dissapointing that I had to end with the most boring parts from each records. Oh, well. After much consideration "The Call of Ktulu" somewhat unexpectedly wins. At least it is consistent and fits the album, unlike "Orion".
WINNER:
The Call of Ktulu


FINAL VERDICT:
Ride the Lightning 5 - 3 Master of Puppets


End ramblings:
And that means that "Ride the Lightning" is our winner. When I first started to write at the top of this blog-post, I was certain that this would be case. Then I started writing and the score became 4-4 as I thought "Orion" would win easily over "The Call of Ktulu" which wasn't the case at all (I hadn't heard either song in a long time mind you). On a sidenote, I find "To Live is to Die" to be Metallica's strongest instrumental track. Also, I first had "Trapped Under Ice" as a victor over "Disposable Heroes" but when I re-visited the latter song I realized how much stronger it is.

However, it was extremely tight between the two albums and I think they're both Monuments and worthy of their places in metal history. As I mentioned in the beginning, both albums are very similar but I get why "Master of Puppets" is hailed as the better of the two. Hetfield's vocals are stronger, all the instruments are tighter, the songs are more complex and the production is vastly superior. But sometimes I feel like the complexity goes too far (hello "Orion"!) and I love the simplicity of "Fight Fire With Fire". Furthermore, I like the crudeness of Hetfield's voice on "Ride the Lightning", I like how the playing sometimes isn't top notch (though mostly it is) and I find the slightly "colder" production fits the album like a glove. But above all, it has so many good moments on so many songs. If I were to pick stand-out moments on each album (I wont though, since we would be here all day) - I am certain that "Ride the Lightning" would win easily. For me that is. You're free to think that "Master of Puppets" is the better of the two. But you're wrong.

"Crystallized as I lay here and rest

Eyes of glass stare directly at death

From deep sleep I have broken away

No one knows, no one hears what I say"

2016-09-21

Retro review: Therion - A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming (1997)

Band: Therion
Album: "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming"
Style: Symphonic/Gothic Metal
Release date: 1997-05-16
Origin: Sweden

Tracklist:
1. In Remembrance
2. Black Fairy
3. Fly To The Rainbow (Scorpions cover)
4. Children Of The Damned (Iron Maiden cover)
5. Under Jolly Roger (Running Wild cover)
6. Symphony Of The Dead (new version)
7. Here Come The Tears (Judas Priest cover)
8. Enter Transcendental Sleep
9. The Quiet Desert
10. Down The Qliphothic Tunnel
11. Up To Netzach/Floating Back
12. The Fall Into Eclipse
13. Enter Transcendental Sleep
14. The Gates Of A'arab Zaraq Are Open
15. The Quiet Desert
16. Down The Qliphothic Tunnel
17. Up To Netzach
18. Floating Back

Therion is a band that I keep coming back to on this blog. I don't know if it's because of the backlash from angry fans I recieved after my review of their cover album in french or if it's because I have a sort of love-hate relationship with the band. Whatever the case might be, here's what I have to say about the band's eclectic "sort-of-a-compilation-album-but-not-really-anyway" - the oddity that is "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming".

During the late summer/early autumn of 1996, a friend of mine introduced Therion to me by playing the band's break through-album "Theli". I was 15 years old and never before had I heard heavy metal combined with keyboards and choirs the way said album presented. I fell in love with the mysterious world the band seemed to invoke and soon picked up "Theli"s predecessor "Lepaca Kliffoth" (1995) which during the years grew into becoming my all-time favourite album from the band. Anyway, the success of "Theli" saw the band touring for the album quite alot and the band probably felt pressure to follow up the success with something quite fast. Either that, or the record company Nuclear Blast smelt easy profit and forced the band to release something. In either case, the result became this weird anomality and as a blind fan-boy, I of course bought "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming" blindly and probably looked like a big question-mark after the initial listen.

The first two tracks are leftovers from the "Theli"-recording sessions and I totally get why they we're left out of the final product. Both songs suffer a great deal in the song-writing department, they're less symphonic than the songs on the album and does not utilize any choirs whatsoever. The good parts are to be found in the vocal-delivery; both Dan "I'm-in-every-band" Swanö's baritones and Piotr Wawrzeniuk's underrated drunken-weirdo vocals fits like a smelly glove. Other than that, both "In Remembrance" and "Black Fairy" are underwhelming and sleep-inducing gothic doom metal songs that goes absolutely nowhere.

Next up, we have the covers. I've stated in a previous post about how the Scorpions-cover made me discover that band and although Therion's version comes nowhere near the brilliance of ze Germans, it is still a good effort. Then there's a cover of Iron Maiden's classic "Children of the Damned" and it's basically the same thing with this one. This version follows the original closely so it's a good effort there but it's fucking Bruce Dickinson that sings on Maiden's version which is why this version is inferior and pointless in the end. "Under Jolly Roger" actually manages to be a bit more interesting than the original, much thanks to the production and the much fitting vocals of Tobbe Sidegård (ex-Necrophobic). Since I am not a fan of Judas Priest, I haven't heard the original version of "Here Comes the Tears" so the only thing I have to say about it is that it is a very boring song with a lot of repetition towards the end. For some unholy reason unanswered, Therion decided to place an instrumental and shortened version of "Symphony of the Dead" from their second album "Beyond Sanctorum" (1992) between the Running Wild-cover and the Judas Priest-cover. Let me just say that the engima as to why they decided to do so is more interesting than the song...

...and now we have arrived at track 8 and this is where the truly bizarre things begin. Somehow, somewhere, some "artist" friend of Therion head-honcho Christoffer Johnsson decided to film and "direct" the most amateurish "avantgarde art-movie" I have ever witnessed. Notice that I use quotation-marks around some of the words here - that is because the entire thing I so questionable as to what "The Golden Embrace" (as the movie is called) really wants to be. Now I have seen the film and trust me when I say that you need your embarrassament-pillow close by. This guy anyhow convinced Christoffer to write the music for the movie and he of course obliged. So from what I understand, tracks 13-18 here are the original "movie-themes" and track 8-12 are the Therion-versions of some (not all) of these songs. That alone is questionable and weird but that's just how it is. If some of you are interested in enduring a long period of torture and decides to go and find this profound piece of shit-film, the first thing you'll notice is that the music doesn't fit with the images on your screen whatsoever. I'm assuming Christoffer had no idea what to expect from the movie and the guy who filmed it probably just wanted music he could use for free. The result is cringe-worthy to say the least. Like, when the camera slowly pans around a forest, one of the music-tracks come to an end and a new, very up-tempo song begins and then the movie decides to cut to a new frame. I seriously doubt this was done on purpose as I feel the "director" really just had no clue to what the hell he was doing.

I've rambled on enough about the film now. The music to the film itself (track 13-18) is not bad per se, it's just that it quickly becomes tedious background music and the keyboards and choirs sounds cheap and computerized. Also there are no vocals, apart from some "la-la's" and "oh-oh's". The Therion-versions of these songs (track 8-12) are basically the same with just some added guitars, bass and drums that really feels like they don't belong there. This is especially true when one listens to this album after just hearing "Theli" - the difference in quality is astoundishing.

No, "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming" reeks as a rotten product of the greedy Germans over at Nuclear Blast whom scented more money from the success-wave of "Theli". Do yourself a favour and avoid this pile of dog-turd at all costs. Oh, and I forgot one thing; that cover is one of the worse Photoshop-vomits that I've ever witnessed.

Do you feel like you still need this album anyway? Contact me here and I'll list more reasons why you shouldn't.

2016-09-02

Metal Monument: Scorpions - Fly to the Rainbow (1974)


Band: Scorpions
Album: "Fly to the Rainbow"
Style: Heavy metal/Hard rock
Release date: 1974-10-07
Origin: Germany

Tracklist:
1. Speedy's Coming
2. They Need a Million
3. Drifting Sun
4. Fly People Fly
5. This is My Song
6. Far Away
7. Fly to the Rainbow









Introduction:
Ah, Therion. Not only responsible for giving Metal Monuments the most traffic ever with their agitated fan-outburst for my review of "Les Fleurs Du Mal" in 2012 (even composer/guitarist Christoffer Johnsson wrote some defensive words in the comment-section), but also for introducing me to Scorpions of the 70's with their cover of "Fly to the Rainbow" on their weird album "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming" (which I really should do a retro-review of some day) back in 1997. Said cover was the first version of a Scorpions-song that I heard that wasn't a ballad about wanting celestial creatures, a ballad about winds or an 80's "hardrock-song" about rocking like a weather phenomenon. That Therion-cover got me so interested in how this (in most metal-circles) ridiculed German band sounded before they got all huge and commercialized. I picked up "Fly to the Rainbow" and, besides the title track, wasn't prepared at all for what I was in for.

What I got was not just a better version than the one Therion recorded. No, I got an album full of fantastic songwriting, memorable songs and a perfect mix of soft moments and more aggressive outbursts. "Fly to the Rainbow" became my introduction into the world of Scorpions and I soon discovered that the band made three fantastic albums after this one. But for now, let's just focus on these seven songs of German craftmanship (and it's unholy cover).

Album cover:
And we're off to the worst start ever when it comes to what I would like to call a metal monument. Scorpions aren't exactly known for having good album covers. On the contrary, they're known for some of the most repulsive covers ever. If you've ever seen the original cover to "Virgin Killer" (1976) or "Lovedrive" (1979) you know what I mean.
"Fly to the Rainbow" isn't repulsive like those two, it is just horrificly ugly-looking. I was hoping there would be something, a small detail or whatever, that I would find redeeming on this monstrostity of a cover. But there isn't. The entire picture just reeks: A boring concept, disgusting colours, bad execution and a motif that leaves so much to be desired. To make things even worse, the back of the album sleeve shows the band members names right on the ass of the airplane-weirdo.
So that's the cover then. One can only hope that things will improve from here on.
RATING:
0/10


1. Speedy's Coming (03.33)
Groovy heavy metal. Yes, it sounds very 70's and quite dated. But in a good way though. The production is top notch for it's time and each and every instrument can be heard clearly. I especially like bassist Francis Buchholz's sound. Guitar-mastermind Uli Jon Roth also get a brief time to shine in this short rocker. Vocalist Klaus Meine sounds a bit more aggressive on this song and not as emotional as he does on the rest of the album. The lyrics are as retarded as they usually are when it comes to Scorpions with lines such as "You like Alice Cooper, you like Ringo Starr, you like David Bowie and friends" Just...wow. As an opener, "Speedy's Coming" does the job perfectly as it's fairly short, doesn't loose tempo and has a memorable chorus. A nice opening but not one of the band's best.
RATING:
8/10


2. They Need a Million (04.50)
Oh my fucking god how I simply love those acoustic guitars in the beginning! Uli Jon Roth for president now! And compared to the previous song, Klaus sings with pure passion - the man surely has a very unique voice. When the intro is over, the song has a wonderful midtempo-pace with amazingly tight, almost march-like drums. Another solo from Roth, where the cozy 70's-synthesizers keeps up with his playing. Lyrically, we're still in moron's land: "I feel fine though I have eyes
To see my world and all it skits on ice". The band makes wonderful music but lyrically, there not exactly top-notch. It's more or less random words thrown together, but who cares when the music sends shivers down your spine and make the hair on your arms raise, right?
RATING:
9.5/10

3. Drifting Sun (07.40)
Now this is an oddity. The main vocals are handled by Uli Jon Roth and the man sure does have a ...uhm... strange voice I guess? Far away from the intense emotion of Meine's but still not bad. Well, he sound a bit weird to say the least, but it somehow works anyway.
Musically, this song is more classic 70's prog-like rock compared to the majority of material on "Fly to the Rainbow". It has a fairly lengthy part in the middle of the song which is very proggy, but without getting tiring on the ears, complete with weird effects on Roth's vocals. I like it, but it's a bit too bloated for it's own good.
RATING:
7.5/10

4. Fly People Fly (05.02)
To begin a song with a guitar solo is to tread a very dangerous road. But since it's Roth, it works. The man would never do a solo half-hearted. When Meine starts to sing, it's a joy for the ears, especially with the previous song in mind.
The song is a fairly standard semi-ballad that one easily could hold a lighter in the air to. But it's highly contagious chorus - which for once doesn't have dreadful lyrics, albeit a bit corny. All in all - it's a very good song with great performances.
RATING:
8.5/10

5. This is My Song (04.14)
I love the fact that the song begins with quite a long fade in. The way your ears are introduced to what just might be the best guitar melody ever left my jaw wide open the first time I heard it. After that comes a wonderful verse where the bass really stands out. The lyrics might be simple, but they're far from cringe-worthy and some of the best on this album.
I remembered when I heard the chorus for the first time in life, then I just capitulated. I know when I hear a great song and I cannot fathom how this isn't up there with the band's most known songs. It is so catchy that it should have been all over the radios in 1974. But alas, people are idiots and most will never hear this incredible song. The only minor complaint I have is that I find it too short, but that wont stop me from giving out a full score!
"Forever love everyday!"
RATING:
10/10

6. Far Away (05.39)
Again, we begin a song with acoustic guitars, this time with Meine going all "do-do-do, di-di-di". Well, it's better than some of their other lyrics that's for sure. The guitar-melodies are good but not as good as on "They Need a Million" and it also drags out a bit too long in my opinion. When the song finally errupts into one of Roth's less memorable guitar solos, it has been more than 2 minutes already on this 05.39-track. But again, we're in catchy-town and the vocal-melody works so well together with the guitars. The saddest thing about this song is that when there's roughly 50 seconds worth of music left, it changes completely and starts to build up to something. It sounds like a completely different song and one wonders what will happen. Well, the bloody thing just fades out! What should have been an amazing intro to some other song was in fact an outro to a song that's kinda bland compared to the rest of the songs here. We have a saying for this in Sweden: "Snuvad på konfekten".
RATING:
7/10

7. Fly to the Rainbow (09.32)
Wait a minute, the Therionized version I had heard doesn't start like this at all, what's this all about? Spanish guitars again, equally wonderful as those on "They Need a Million" - Uli Jon Roth does this so goddamn good. And then another guitar melody that is to die for. Meine's vocals is spot on and works so well in symbiosis with the guitars. When this "intro" is over is when the actual song begins and I can only assume that no guitarist in Therion at the time dared to try copying what Roth does here. I'm no guitar player but I totally get why. The song is about a 1000 times better than the version that I sort of enjoyed with Therion and that main melody is played to perfection by Roth. As the case was on "This is My Song", the lyrics here a quite simple but they never become as stupid as they do on the first two songs.
After about 5 minutes, the song slows down as Roth plays a very mellow solo as a dreamlike synthesizer dominates the background. Uli himself takes over the vocals in a long speech that is so damn 70's one cannot help but smile. After the speech is over, this epic concludes with a lengthy solo that is spot on. One of the best damn songs I've ever heard and the rating is a given.
RATING:
10/10

End rating:
Ok, so the entire album might not be a masterpiece but it's not particularly uneven either. All the songs are good and there's a flow whilst listenting to it in it's entirety. I'm not very much into 70's-rock otherwise, but those early Scorpions-albums are pure gold to my ears. I seldom care that much about guitar solos at all when I listen to music, but there are so many moments on "Fly to the Rainbow" when I'm absolutely blown away by Roth's craftmanship. The man is also a genius when it comes to infectious melodies. That, in combination with one of the best bass-players I've heard in heavy metal - the very underappreciated Francis Buchholz - makes this album such a magnificent opus in it's own. And let's not forget about the emotional vocal-deliveries from Meine either.
So if you're one of those people that has only heard songs such as "Wind of Change", "Send Me an Angel", "Rock You Like a Hurricane" or "Still Loving You" - forget about those! You have no idea what you're missing if you leave this album unheard based upon the 80's/90's-version of the band.
Oh, and thank you Therion. Without your version of the title track, I might never have listened to this album at all.
TOTAL SCORE:
8.5/10
"I lived in magic solitude,
With cloudy looking mountains,
The lake made out of crystal raindrops.
Run through space, 2000 years ago,
I've seen the giant city of atlantis,
Sinking into an eternal wave of darkness.
Shhh."

2016-09-01

Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 3-1

I was quite intrigued and later inspired by AMG's excellent "From Worst to Best"-section he did with Iron Maiden, that I decided to the very same with some of the bands who's discography I am familiar with (more so than Maiden anyway). So this is my extremly personal "From Inferior to Prime" (since I assumed AMG copyrighted that other sentence. Anyway, I'm not the least ashamed to borrow stuff this blantantly. Also, I now linked to the guy's site twice, so he should actually be glad.

This is my personal From Inferior to Prime 3-1 feautring the pride of Portugal. 

#3. Extinct (2015)

1. Until We are no More (Breathe)
2. Extinct
3. Medusalem
4. Domina
5. The Last of Us
6. Malignia
7. Funeral Bloom
8. A Dying Breed
9. The Future Iis Dark
10. La Baphomette












This album was graced with the fourth spot on my top-list of 2015 and I actually don't know what else to say apart from what I already said:
This is essentially a pop-album written with distorted guitars and growls in mind, and what a masterstroke that was. The album flows along like a river and it is easy to see (and hear) that the band actually wrote songs with an entire album in mind, instead of just writing one or two songs and then fillers for the rest of the album.

Not much has changed since I wrote those lines about half a year ago and I still think that "Extinct" is a damn fine album and a huge leap forward since the tedious "Alpha Noir/Omega White". I do wish the band would take more risks in the future and perhaps dazzle us with a bit more variated song writing instead of the verse/chorus/verse-formula. I totally get why this album has that formula and like I said, this makes the album flow nicely. But remember when the band wrote unexpected twists and turns in their music? Remember songs such as "Tenebrarum Oratorium I", "Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)", "Vampiria", "An Erotic Alchemy", "Opium", "Abysmo" and "Magdalene"? Not a single chorus to be found on any of those and they're all amazing songs.



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#2. Sin/Pecado (1998)


1. Slow Down
2. Handmade God
3. 2econd Skin
4. abYsmo
5. Flesh
6. Magdalene
7. Vulture Culture (Gloria Domini)
8. Eurotica
9. Mute
10. deKadance
11. Let the Children Cum To Me...
12. The Hanged Man
13. 13









Fresh off from the success of "Irreligious" (1996), Moonspell probably felt that they stood before a lot of choices. Continue along the path they set with "Wolfheart" (1995) and explored further on "Irreligious"? Or do something different alltogether? The answer was the latter and even though I sometimes mourn this decision and wish they would have made Irreligious part II, the result wasn't bad at all. In fact, it was better than "Irreligious".

I assume that placing this album as my #2 favourite Moonspell-album is the biggest "shocker" on this list. It was their first album that barely had any growls at all (just a small part on "2econd Skin"), a much slower tempo, a lot less "black" and lot more "gothic" in the music overall. Still, what "Sin/Pecado" lacks in aggression, it gains from production-values, atmosphere and warmth. And while some songs such as "Handmade God", "Magdalene" and "Mute" follows a quite "safe" path in the song-writing department this does not mean less quality or more pop-like. OK, sometimes it borders on pop-music but it is done with so much confidence and skill that one seldom cares. When they do go into more diverse territories on songs like "Vulture Culture", "Dekadance", "Let the Children Cum to Me..." it's a wonder for the ears.

I really enjoy "Sin/Pecado" for what it is. Maybe I am a bit biased since I discovered and started listen to the band right after the release of "Irreligious", meaning I have listened to this album a lot and have fond memories from it. Even if that's the case, this is a great album that no Moonspell-fan should shun because of it's more "mellow" direction. Though nowhere near threatening the #1-spot in Moonspell's discography, it is an outstanding acchievement and an album that has no problems living up to the band's name.



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#1. Wolfheart (1995)

1. Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)
2. Love Crimes
3. ...Of Dream and Drama (Midnight Ride)
4. Lua D'Inverno
5. Trebraruna
6. Vampiria
7. An Erotic Alchemy
8. Alma Mater
9. Ataegina

You all saw it coming I suppose. The debut album from Moonspell is (and will probably always be) their crowning jewel. The sad part is that they will probably never manage to make something like this again. I guess the combination of youth and timing was what this album needed in the first place. It is an outstanding achievement that it is their debut album and that there's not one lackluster moment on the entire album. From the epic opener "Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)" to the bonus track "Ataegina" this album is the perfect combination of black- doom- goth- and folk-metal. It is as simple as that.

If you think that I didn't go deep enough on the details, rest assured that I will do something more in-depth on this album in the future - that is a promise.

So here ends my first From Inferior to Prime-section. Next up in this section will either be My Dying Bride, Tiamat or Borknagar. I'm also tempted of doing something on Metallica, which I (to my recollection) never wrote anything about on this blog.


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Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 12-10
Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 9-7
Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 6-4

2016-08-31

Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 6-4

I was quite intrigued and later inspired by AMG's excellent "From Worst to Best"-section he did with Iron Maiden, that I decided to the very same with some of the bands who's discography I am familiar with (more so than Maiden anyway). So this is my extremly personal "From Inferior to Prime" (since I assumed AMG copyrighted that other sentence. Anyway, I'm not the least ashamed to borrow stuff this blantantly. Also, I now linked to the guy's site twice, so he should actually be glad.

This is my personal From Inferior to Prime 6-4 feautring the pride of Portugal. 

#6. Night Eternal (2008)

1. At Tragic Heights
2. Night Eternal
3. Shadow Sun
4. Scorpion Flower
5. Moon In Mercury
6. Hers Is The Twilight
7. Dreamless (Lucifer And Lilith)
8. Spring Of Rage
9. First Light
10. Age Of Mothers












What to say about this album really? The band had already made sort of a "comeback" with it's previously released album that broke the boring trend set by "Darkness and Hope" but this album seems to be more highly revered for some damn reason. I don't know if I'm correct here, but it feels like "Night Eternal" sort of "broke" the band to a new audience or something. Maybe it was good timing for the band, maybe I'm all wrong? Who knows?

Fact is that many Moonspell-fans seems to highly praise this album. Myself, I am a bit split. For you see even if there's tracks that are good (the title track and "Moon in Mercury"), songs that are OK ("Shadow Sun", "Scorpion Flower" and "Hers is the Twilight") and even amazing ("At Tragic Heights") there's also the usual filler material. It's basically the same type of music the band tried to make with "Darkness and Hope" and "The Antidote", only this time it is much more consistent. Good album indeed, but nowhere near the masterpiece some say it is.



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#5. Memorial (2006)

1. In Memoriam
2. Finisterra
3. Memento Mori
4. Sons Of Earth
5. Blood Tells
6. Upon The Blood Of Men
7. At The Image Of Pain
8. Sanguine
9. Proliferation
10. Once It Was Ours!
11. Mare Nostrum
12. Luna
13. Best Forgotten
14. Atlantic









I had first been dissapointed with "Darkness and Hope" in 2001 and then again with "The Antidote" in 2003. Moonspell was far from being my favourite band at this point. In 2004 I heard a new song with the band called "I'll See You in my Dreams" and said song, together with a ludicrous video, made me more or less shun the band that I once loved. I gave up on Moonspell. The almost 7 year long honeymoon we had were over. The years passed. I noticed they had a new album out but it wasn't until I had heard "Under Satanæ" in 2007 that I remembered what I had liked about this band in the first place. Without any hopes, I took a first listen to "Memorial"...

The weird thing is that this album is exactly in the same style as the two previously released albums, but here they feel rejuvenated. Perhaps a three-year gap in album releases was what the band needed to get back on track. For the first time since 1998, Moonspell gives us an album that actually flows from start to finish. Besides giving us really good tracks such as "Finisterra", "At the Image of Pain" and "Best Forgotten" we are also greeted with amazing songs in "Upon the Blood of Men", "Sanguine" and "Once it was Ours!". The most unintersting tracks are the instrumentals and while I must say there are a bit too many of them (4 alltogether) and that "Proliferation" is a bit too long, they do keep the flow of the album intact and isn't all too distracting to the ears.

All in all, "Memorial" is a great "comeback" for a band that I considered dead and forgotten. It is the classic black gothic metal that we're used too when it comes to Moonspell, although perhaps a bit more aggressive and less gothic than they've been in a long time.



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#4. Irreligious (1996)

1. Perverse...Almost Religious
2. Opium
3. Awake!
4. For A Taste Of Eternity
5. Ruin And Misery
6. A Poisoned Gift
7. Subversion
8. Raven Claws
9. Mephisto
10. Herr Spiegelman
11. Full Moon Madness











Let's talk a bit about the cover before we go into the music now. The band themselves admitted that the artwork to "Irreligious" was a bit rushed and I get what they mean. They probably wanted to ride quickly on the wave of success coming off their debut album one year earlier so they just threw someting that looked "gothic" to please the audience. But slapping the eye of Ra onto a fiery background might not have been the best idea. Not an ounce of the music on this albums has any Egyptian theme to it either so there's really no connection to the music which is something I've always hated about "Irreligious"...

But that's about the only thing I hate here. For you see, not only does this album reek of atmosphere, classic songs, unexpected twists and turns and cringe-worthy English pronounciation with that wonderful Portugese accent of vocalist Fernando Ribiero - no, it is also the host of my all-time favourite intro ever. Aside from being wonderfully titled, "Perverse...Almost Religious" is an instrumental with just the perfect length (1:07). Then there's way it builds up from nothing, slowly creeps up on the listener and then errupts violently into what just might be Moonspell's most recognizable song "Opium" is so masterfully done that it amazes me to this day. While not being entirely instrumental, "Awake!" does the exact same thing one song later as it builds up and unexpectedly ends as the fury of "A Taste of Eternity" begins. And then the smash-hits just keeps coming at us; "Ruin And Misery", "A Poisoned Gift", "Raven Claws" etc.

So does the album have any weak spots then? Well, not really but I have understood that the two songs that I like the least - while not being bad per se - are two of the one's that fans really seems to love. I get what "Full Moon Madness" tries to do but I've never considered it as good and as classic as everyone else does. And I honestly think it's a shame that the band almost always ends their concert with said song since it just seems a bit too bloated for it's own good. "Mephisto" is a better song but it's also one of those that I never understood the immense love fans have for it.


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Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 12-10
Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 9-7
Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 3-1

2016-08-30

Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 9-7

I was quite intrigued and later inspired by AMG's excellent "From Worst to Best"-section he did with Iron Maiden, that I decided to the very same with some of the bands who's discography I am familiar with (more so than Maiden anyway). So this is my extremly personal "From Inferior to Prime" (since I assumed AMG copyrighted that other sentence. Anyway, I'm not the least ashamed to borrow stuff this blantantly. Also, I now linked to the guy's site twice, so he should actually be glad.

This is my personal From Inferior to Prime 9-7 feautring the pride of Portugal. 

#9. The Antidote (2003)
1. In and Above Men
2. From Lowering Skies
3. Everything Invaded
4. The Southern Deathstyle
5. Antidote
6. Capricorn at her Feet
7. Lunar Still
8. A Walk on the Darkside
9. Crystal Gazing
10. As we Eternally Sleep on it














Together with "Darkness and Hope", this album is also very uneven, although slightly better than it's predecessor. After two more "experimental" albums in -98 and -99, Moonspell tried their best to return to a more similar soundscape that they had in their beginning. "Darkness and Hope" was the first careful baby steps back into that southern combo of black- and gothic metal that only Moonspell can do. "The Antidote" is basically it's big brother - harder, darker and more complex - yet still plagued by the problem that it's an uneven album.

Things start off on a positive note with the amazing opener "In and Above Men" which is a real smash to the jaw. It continues on a positive note with tracks 2-4 and one is soon lured into believing that this album will turn out real good. Unfortunately, the title track is a letdown and cannot raise itself above mediocrity, "Capricorn at her Feet" will bore you to tears and "Lunar Still" is just cringe-worthy. Although being a bit repetitive, "Crystal Gazing" is OK, but far from being in the same league as the first four tracks.



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#8. Under Satanæ (2007)
1. Halla Alle Halla Al Rabka Halla (Praeludium/Incantatum Solistitium)
2. Tenebrarum Oratorium (Andamento I/Erudit Compendyum)
3. Interludium/Incantatum Oequinoctum
4. Tenebrarum Oratorium (Andamento II/Erotic Compendyum)
5. Opus Diabolicum (Andamento III/Instrumental Compendyum)
6. Chorai Lusitânia! (Epilogus/Incantatum Maresia)
7. Goat on Fire
8. Ancient Winter Goddess
9. Wolves from the Fog
10. Serpent Angel


Before Moonspell signed to Century Media, the band released a MCD in 1994 on Adipocere Records called "Under the Moonspell", before that a demo called "Anno Satanæ" and - when the band was simply known as Morbid God - a track called "Serpent Angel". The 6 tracks from the MCD, the 3 from the demo and the oddity before they became Moonspell, are here re-recorded and released under the monicker "Under Satanæ" in 2007.

Re-recordings are bound to be met with skepticism. I can think of plenty experiments gone wrong (here's looking at you Dimmu Borgir) but I can understand why certain bands want to showcase what they did in their youth with a better production and a tighter performance. I have of course heard all these original recordings before and believe me when I say that the "production" the band had in the early 90's was dreadful beyond belief. Perfomance-wise, one can really hear that these are very young guys sometimes playing beyond their skills. On the other hand, the atmosphere and the sheer emotion on songs such as "Wolves from the Fog", "Ancient Winter Goddess" and "Tenebrarum Oratorium I" are to die for and even though the song-writing goes all over the place, it just adds to the youthful charm.

But what about this re-recording then? To be honest, I'd much rather listen to the originals. But like I mentioned earlier, some of these songs are so damn good on their own, that it can be refreshing to hear a new take on them. The musicianship is of course 100% tighter compared to the originals, but sometimes that is not something that the songs benefits from. On the contrary, the more "modern" and polished sound sometimes takes away the youthful "evil" they once had. Still, "Under Satanæ" is far from being a disaster, it's more an interesting oddity that might serve as an introduction to those people still skeptical of the band from it's pre-"Wolfheart" days.



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#7. The Butterfly Effect (1999)
1. Soulsick
2. Butterfly FX
3. Can't Bee
4. Lustmord
5. Selfabuse
6. I am the Eternal Spectator
7. Soulitary Vice
8. Disappear Here
9. Adaptables
10. Angelizer
11. Tired













This is definitely one of the bands' most scorned albums and also the album that is the most far away from Moonspell's contemporary sound. The album suffers greatly from the "millenium-fever" when, if you remember, around 1998-2001 about a billion metal bands decided to change their logo, change their music style and use ugly-ass album art. And Moonspell was no exception (except perhaps art-wise) when they proudly proclaimed that they weren't going to Germany to record their 4th album. No, this time they were travelling to the UK to get a more "urban sound". "The Butterfly Effect" was the result...

It is the most industrial-sounding album from the band. Period. It has no warmth and lacks severly in any sort of atmosphere. The songs usually have a bit more "laid back" approach in the verses and Fernando mostly uses clean vocals, then the chorus comes and he screams. Rinse and repeat. The lyrics have had a major overhaul as well; from lost love, werewolves, vampires and nature to cringe-worthy lines such as "Then I'll come in my own mouth to feel what it's like" and the downright embarrassing "My right hand rebels and chops off the left. (The) hairy ape walks into stage. He tries to stay erect". I mean what the fuck?

And with all of the above in consideration, this is still far from being the band's worst effort. Why is that you ask? Well, for start I applaud the band in doing something (at the time) entirely different. I like the soothing calm of "Can't Bee", the midtempo of "Soulitary Vice" and the insanity of "Tired". The album as whole is severely lacking and some of the songs should most definitely been left at the drawing board. And even the songs that I don't find particularly interesting such as "Soulsick", "The Butterfly FX" and "I am the Eternal Spectator" are more like guilty pleasures for me. They get stuck to your head and they won't leave - even in all their crappiness. Why!?!



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Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 12-10
Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 6-4
Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 3-1

2016-08-29

Top-10 list of 2015

FOREWORD
It's been almost a year since the last update and so here we go again. The reason why I never wrote anything for so long? More or less it's the same as usual. It's uninteresting nevertheless.
Anyway, on to 2015. It was the year of avantgarde- and doom-metal. It was the year of "comebacks" sort of speak. It was the year when I spun the #1-spot more times than can be considered healthy.


10. Sigh - Graveward
Style: Avantgarde metal
Origin: UK
Still whacky and really out there, I was still very dissapointed with "Graveward" compared to the much cooler and catchier "In Somnophobia" (2012). That's it, nothing more, nothing less.





9. Cradle of Filth - Hammer of the Witches
Style: Gothic/black metal
Origin: UK
It feels like it was ages ago since I completely dismissed this band. When I dig deeper, I realize that I simply lost interest after the mediocre "EP+covers+new-recorded songs" "Bitter Suites to Succubi" back in 2001. I heard a track here and there but my lack of interest seems to have taken place at the exact same time that the band decided to write truly mediocre songs when compared to such classics as "Cruelty and the Beast" (1998) and especially "Dusk and her Embrace" (1996).
But that was then and 2015 is the current year. On "Hammer of the Witches" the band has finally started to look back at and started to take notes from the previously mentioned albums and what a good idea that was. Suddenly the band sounds like CoF again with the classic Iron Maiden-twin guitars and memorable melodies. The album flows coherently and is genuinely fun to listen to. My only complaint is that there's not really any special song that sticks out of the bunch which doesen't give it that "instant classic"-feel. On the other hand, no song is outright bad and most importantly, this album gives me hope for the band's future and is a huge leap in the right direction. Not bad for a band that I never thought I'd be interested in hearing any new music from.


8. Paradise Lost - The Plague Within
Style: Gothic/doom metal
Origin: UK
Ever since 2000, magazines, record companies and even the band themselves have promised a "return to the old". Why is that you might ask? Because 1999 was the year when the band went comepletely Depeche Mode (but in a bad way mind you) on us. After said album had gotten it's rightful bad reviews, EVERYONE promised that the next album would feature more prominent, heavy and crushing guitars, the soaring melodies and the dark vocals the band has become known for. I remember how many magazines praised "Believe in Nothing" (2001) as a "return to form" and I can only laugh at such statements today. But the same damn thing have been said before each and every Paradise Lost-release ever since. And that's 5 fucking albums mind you! In recent years, they've come closer to their old sound yes, but it took precisely 16 years until the TRUE return.
For you see, "The Plague Within" is the most consistent, hard-hitting and depressing album since the band's major breakthrough "Draconian Times" (1995). Although not being quite as consistent and flowing as well as said album, this one comes really fucking close. And that's coming from a band that I've given up on since way back. Songs such as "No Hope in Sight", "Terminal", "An Eternity of Lies", "Punishment Through Time", "Beneath Broken Earth" and "Victim of the Past" are all damn good songs that the lads should be very proud of.


7. Marduk - Frontschwein
Style: Black metal
Origin: Sweden
Well, fuck me. Apart from blastbeating us all to hell since the early 90's, Marduk has no problems when it comes to slowing down their tempo or even playing catchy mid-tempo wartunes. This album combines all three elements with perfection but also succeeds when it comes to memorable black metal songs. It doesn't hurt that the band can brag with having the world's greatest vocalist of the genre either. All these things combined, makes "Frontschwein" one of the best, if not THE best album from Marduk I've ever heard. It's most certainly the band's most even effort at least.


6. Ghost - Meliora
Style: Rock
Origin: Sweden
The band that you either hate or love (I'm somewhere inbetween) is back with their third album. It seems many people had high demands for this one since their previous album apparently was universally claimed as inferior to their very successful debut. I thought the previous album was ok, it had it's highs and lows - just as the debut had. On "Meliora", Ghost finally hits the famous nail on it's head. This is easliy their most even album and even the weaker songs has some redeeming qualities to them. The songs that do stand out ("Spirit", "Cirice", "He Is" and "Deus in Absentia") continues the band's winning formula and I hear a lot more ABBA in the music now than I've done earlier. And that is always a plus.


5. Arcturus - Arcturian
Style: Avantgarde metal
Origin: Norway
What is it with this band and production value? The band's 10-year old previous album "Sideshow Symphonies" (2005) had a dull and lifeless production that effectively killed the otherwise ok quality some of those songs had. The band's "return" "Arcturian" also shows very little effort put into production. Now this is an issue I seldom care about when it comes to music, but in Arcturus' case - it makes a huge fucking difference if one is to pick out all the little details that goes into their music. Compared to the production on the two eternal classics "La Masquerade Infernale" (1997) and "The Sham Mirrors" (2002), these latest albums are a joke.
Music-wise, "Arcturian" is a small step up from it's predecessor. The band borrows heavily from it's own past discography and one can even hear hints from their debut album "Aspera Hiems Symfonia" (1995) in small doses. Otherwise, things are as one would expect:
* Vortex is an outstanding vocalist that sometimes hides a bit too much behind effects, making him sound less epic that we all know he can be.
* The keyboards and piano alternates by sometimes sweeping along to the music whilst sometimes carrying the entire melody on it's own shoulders and then sometimes just goes beyond weird and far away....into space.
* Great and memorable guitar melodies (but haven't we heard some of these before?)
* Plastic and lifeless drumming by the ever-present Hellhammer.
Sometimes it sounds as if the band are compeletely out of new ideas, and this is especially worrying since they've had 10 years since the last album. I don't know if I should worry about the future anyways, since Arcturus always seems to break up and then reform.


4. Moonspell - Extinct
Style: Gothic metal
Origin: Portugal
I'll admit, I liked "Night Eternal" (2008) quite a lot, but I didn't give me that certain feeling that Moonspell have been lacking ever since they decided to go all "millennium" on us and give us that awful trash that "The Butterfly Effect" (1999) was. But if "Night Eternal" gave me hope, the follow-up "Alpha Noir" (2012) and it's sibling "Omega White" (2012) crushed that little streak of hope with a massive fucking hammer, so bad was it. Fast forward three years and Moonspell finally got to their senses and once more delivered something they can be proud of. Sure, it doesn't have the haunting atmosphere of "Irreligious" (1996) or the youthful brilliance in songwriting that "Wolfheart" (1995) has, but it reminds me of "Sin/Pecado" (1998) at some points, although being more aggressive than said album. This is essentially a pop-album written with distorted guitars and growls in mind, and what a masterstroke that was. The album flows along like a river and it is easy to see (and hear) that the band actually wrote songs with an entire album in mind, instead of just writing one or two songs and then fillers for the rest of the album. I'm almost inclined to call this comeback of the year, but there has been quite a few of those haven't there?


3. Solefald - World Metal - Kosmopolis Sud
Style: Avantgarde metal
Origin: Norway
Ah, Solefald. What a weird band you are. The now 5-year old album "Norrøn Livskunst" (2010) gave me a couple of eargasms and back in the days, I definitely considered it the band's best work. But now, the aptly titled "World Metal - Kosmopolis Sud" is upon an unexpecting world. And seriously, I can't think of any other band that manages to fit eurodisco and tribal rythms into a metal song, without it seeming out of place. I know that this isn't music for most people, but if you would just let the sheer brilliance of "World Music with Black Edges""The Germanic Entity""2011, or a Knight of the Fail" and the amazing "String the Bow of Sorrow" caress your ears enough times, you might enjoy this. Hell, even the obvious weird-for-the-sake-of-being-weird-song "Bububu Bad Beuys" is sweet music to my ears. Unlike "Tittentattenteksti" on the predecessor, this one makes me smile and nod my head with the music. One also have to appreciate the always thoughtful and provocative lyrics from Cornelius Jakhelln, this time with a load of social criticism in them. Easily Solefald's best album to date.


2. My Dying Bride - Feel the Misery
Style: Doom metal
Origin: UK
Every time My Dying Bride announces a new album is in the works, my anticipations are sky-high since they are one of my all-time favourite bands. Apart from "34.788%...Complete" in 1998 I haven't been entirely dissapointed by any of their albums even though some are better than others. I have no illusions that the band ever will be able to top their masterpieces "Turn Loose the Swans" (1993) and "The Angel and the Dark River" (1995).
The band latest opus with the cringe-worthy title "Feel the Misery" does it's best to combine the band's latter works with their earlier outputs and the result is satisfying to say the least. Most times when I listen to a new MDB-album for the first time, I feel drawn to it and immediately find favourites here and there. This time however, I get the feeling that some of the songs almost sounds unfinished and others sounds like growers. The only real track I feel drawn to at once is the amazing opener "And my Father Left Forever" - whose title alone speaks of more misery than the actual album title. The album has still has that distinctive My Dying Bride-feel and from the first note to the last, there's no doubt which band is playing. It is an album that grew immensely on me over time and should not be overlooked in the band's amazing discography.


1. Amorphis - Under the Red Cloud
Style: Gothic/doom metal
Origin: Finland
"Tales from the Thousand Lakes" (1994) is often regarded as a classic and I while I really enjoy the first half or so of the album, I feel that the latter songs lack too much to be considered "classic". It is a damn good album nevertheless and it's follower "Elegy" (1996) also had a couple of damn good songs even though the album as a whole is very uneven. After a couple of truly mediocre albums and the change of a vocalist sometime in the middle of the 00's, the band once more felt rejuvenated. But to me, the band has still been plauged with the fact that for every couple of good/great songs on each album, there have always been a couple that felt uninspired and plain boring. That changed profoundly with "Under the Red Cloud".
Amorphis isn't one of those bands that I hold in very high regard (such as My Dying Bride, Vintersorg or Moonspell) so I had expected to like a few tracks off the album and the more or less forget about it. Little did I know that I would been playing this album non-stop since it was released in September. Each and every track on this album sounds absolutely killer and even the bonus tracks are above good. The subtle nods to the best moments from "Tales..." and "Elegy" are done with a great sense of homage and not boring nostalgia.
In my opinion, this is the crowning pinnacle of the bands' career and a true masterpiece. I could basically highlight all songs here, but if threatened at gunpoint, I would have to choose "Dark Path" for it's amazing chorus alone.