Residual Effect—In a World Where Pain is God (2006)

Residual Effect—In a World Where Pain is God (2006)

Residual Effect—In a World Where Pain is God (2006)

Details

Recorded at Void Studios, Dublin. Engineered and mixed by Mark Galvin and Residual Effect. Mastered by Marty Robison at Ferox Studios. All tracks written, arranged and performed by Residual Effect.

Band

  • Michael Higgins—Vocals
  • William Caulfield—Guitars
  • Andrew McCallistar—Guitars
  • Anthony McKee—Bass
  • Antony Weston—Drums

Tracks

  1. Second face
  2. Porcelain idol
  3. Morbid theme
  4. IV
  5. Withered
  6. Stronger again
  7. Pivotal

Review

Having loved their three track demo I felt a certain degree of anticipation and expectation when I fired up this album.

While I’m not entirely in agreement with the theological statement presented in the album title, _In a world where pain is god_ adequately continues the good work where the three track demo left off.

Unfortunately, I didn’t quite live up to the quality of the songwriting on the demo.

“IV” (track 4) is a nylon-strung guitar solo which takes me back to the classic days of thrash where every respectable heavy band nestled a classical-inspired track somewhere on their album: Exodus did it, Sepultura did it, even Metallica did it on the black album.

“Withered” (track 5) kicks off with a head-splitting guitar riff that saws right through you while remaining guitar, bass and drums piledrives that riff into your head, for good measure.

Flippin’ ‘eck! This should have been the album opener. Don’t hide this stuff in the middle order. This is is gold. Put it on display. Flaunt it! This is the kind of music the demo promised me there would be more of. I’d happily allow you your “Second face” and “Porcelain idol” further down the album. But give me this first.

The same goes for “Stronger again” (track 6) and to a lesser extent “Pivotal” (track 7).

Conclusion

The problem with this album, in my opinion is three fold: the songwriting isn’t quite as good (that’s okay, it happens); the vocals drift a little too often into just outright shouting, which at times feels lazy; and the songs are simply in the wrong order on the album.

But those are pedantic niggles on what is otherwise a very impressive debut album British (and for the real pendants: Northern Irish) album.

Review score: 75%

Residual Effect—3 Track Promo Demo (2005)

Residual Effect—3 Track Promo Demo (2005)

Residual Effect—3 Track Promo Demo (2005)

Details

No details on inlay card. Independent release.

Band

No details available.

Tracks

  1. Less than this
  2. Slit wrist
  3. Living through mime

Review

You couldn’t really hope for a better intro to this three track demo from Belfast (Northern Ireland) based melodic death metallers, Residual Effect.

When “Living through mime” introduces the demo it does so like a brick to the face. The musicianship is excellent, the riff is heavy and dark, and the the bass tone in particular is very pleasing. (I’m not sure I could write a more British thing in a metal review!)

“Less than this” (track 2) proves that this wasn’t just a freak accident. Another heavy riff that begins like a tank being started, before trundling off down the road to crush everything in its wake. (Do tanks have wakes?)

“Slit wrist” (track 3) hits the ground running with a relentless, bouncing riff. Gutteral vocals are barked. Guitars that sound like chainsaws buzz through the song, as te drum kit is pounded to within an inch of its life. The initial, very repetitive riff is broken up nearly two minutes in with a slight change of direction. To be honest, I didn’t think this song was going to cut it but these cunning deathsters brought it round in the end.

Conclusion

This is one of the most promising and exciting demos that I’ve listened to in a long time. To be honest, it’s significantly better than an awful lot of albums by signed bands that I’ve had to listen to.

To date Residual Effect have only put out this 2005 demo plus one full length album, the following year. Thankfully that album is scheduled for next week. Expectations are running high. Don’t disappoint me team Ireland!

Review score: 90%

Not Above Evil—The Transcendental Signified (2011)

Not Above Evil—The Transcendental Signified (2011)

Not Above Evil—The Transcendental Signified (2011)

Details

All music written, performed and produced by Not Above Evil. Engineered, mixed and mastered by Daniel Mucs. Released on independent label (self-release?) in September 2011.

Band

  • Sideeq Mohammed—Vocals, bass
  • David Gwynn—Guitar
  • Damien Levette—Guitar
  • Daniel Mucs—Drums

Tracks

  1. Crossroads
  2. Legion
  3. Capture the dawn
  4. Against the tides
  5. Nexus
  6. Death and transformation
  7. As the curtain falls
  8. The duel

Review

I’m glad I generally take two or three listens of an album before I review them, because it really took until my third or four listen through to really begin to appreciate the quality of this sophomore full-length release from Manchester melodic death metal band Not Above Evil.

The album clocks in at an old school 44 minutes 10 seconds—short enough to fit on a single side of a TDK D90 cassette! It doesn’t overstay its welcome, and if anything leaves you wanting more.

While there is nothing particularly inspiring or genre-changing about the album it is a solid album with some pretty decent musicianship, production and song writing.

Vocals are gruff and growly but they have some depth and don’t get in the way. The guitars have a melodic bite to them, the bass guitar sits back nicely in the mix and the drums cut through nicely.

It’s great to see such quality from an independent British release.

Conclusion

This is definitely a keeper for me. It took a few listens for it to finally grab my attention but I was rather preoccupied with other bits and pieces during my first few listens.

This is an album that I would seek out to listen to, not just not-skip-over if it came on random play. Good work Manchester metallers!

Review score: 85%

Hypocrisy—Virus (2005)

Hypocrisy—Virus (2005)

Hypocrisy—Virus (2005)

Details

Recorded at Abyss Studio from November to December 2004. Produced and mixed by Peter Tägtgren. Engineered by Hypocrisy. Mastered in Cuttingroom by Björn Engelmann. Released on Nuclear Blast Records, 5 September 2005.

Encyclopedia Metallum | Website | Twitter | Facebook

Band

  • Peter Tägtgren—Vocals and guitars
  • Andreas Holma—Guitars
  • Mikael Hedlund—Bass
  • Horgh—Drums

Tracks

  1. XVI
  2. War-path
  3. Scrutinized
  4. Fearless
  5. Craving for Another Killing
  6. Let the knife do the talking
  7. A thousand lies
  8. Incised before I’ve ceased
  9. Blooddrenched
  10. Compulsive psychosis
  11. Living to die

Review

After last week’s lacklustre and terribly late review, I didn’t have much time left to listen to this week’s album. Which is a real shame as it’s a good ‘un. Apart from the artwork which I don’t really get. It has a crazy aliens-meets-insects-meets-venus-fly-trap vibe that to be honest kind of freaks me out; I’m not really one for horror films… or insects. So I turned the inlay card inside out and on we go…

I’m surprised that I’ve never heard of Hypocrisy before. Formed as a side project (originally called Seditious) of guitarist/vocalist Peter Tägtgren in the late 80s while he lived in the US, seemingly he was influenced heavily by the American death metal scene before returning to Sweden the following decade. Virus is the band’s tenth full-length release.

In many ways this album reminds me of Lamb of God: hard hitting, twisting-turning riffs, gruff vocals, with melodies woven throughout .I’m sure there are better analogies but that’s the one that comes to mind immediately.

The album opens with “XVI”: 16 seconds of ambience. It’s an almost obligatory way to open an extreme metal album these days, it would appear, as often I comment. But then we’re nose-first in the speed and noise. “War-path” followed by “Scrutinized” which features a fabulous, perhaps even fun, guitar solo from Gary Holt (Exodus/Slayer). “Fearless” slows the tempo a little and takes us in the direction of Solar Soul era Samael (2007). “Craving for another killing” takes the tempo back up. I do like the chugging riff that carries the song through—it’s simple but gets the heart going. Which is ironic for a song about death.

“Let the knife do the talking” brings the tempo down a little again with a slightly discordant and uncomfortable riff: think Slayer—”Seasons in the Abyss”. It’s a song that could have gone nowhere and become repetitive, but around two-thirds of the way through they mix things up a little, catch a new riff and take things a little faster. It’s moments like this that sets this album apart from many others: that ability to keep things interesting and unpredictable.

A few other notable tracks: “Blooddrenched” (track 9) has such a terrific throaty growl. It’s maybe the most brutal track on the album. “Living to die” is slow, melodic with spoken lyrics and actual singing.

This edition of the album (limited edition on Nuclear Blast) closes out with a bonus track “Watch out” which features a very bass-heavy, doomy riff. It’s so different to the rest of the album that it does make me suspect that it’s a cover but so far I’ve not been able to find any information about it.

But it doesn’t end there. This release also bundled a 12 track (54 minutes) live DVD, recorded on “08.04.2004”, which could have been April or August depending on your perspective. It’s a decent enough recording allowing you to experience the energy of the gig without the sweaty, ear-bleeding, mosh-pit swirling discomfort and all with a clearer view of the stage! The band, as you might expect, are dressed in black, leather trousers or cargo pants, feet up on monitors (Steve Harris style) long hair headbanging in sync, red, yellow and orange light show with bonus strobe.

Conclusion

All in all, a pretty good album. My only criticism really is the mastering. It’s really, really quiet compared with almost every other CD in my collection. Other than that… I’ll definitely be returning. Which makes me wonder: are Hypocrisy fans referred to as hypocrites?

Review score: 92%

Arch Enemy—Wages of Sin (2001)

Arch Enemy—Wages of Sin (2001)

Arch Enemy—Wages of Sin (2001)

Details

Recorded at Studio Fredman, Gothenburg, Sweden, in December 2000. Produced by Fredrik Nordstrom and Michael Amott. Mixed by Andy Sneap and mastered at Backstage Studios, Ripley, England, in January 2001.

There were huge problems with the release of the album in the American and European markets. The release date is for the Japanese version by Toy Factory and that version only had one CD with the first eleven tracks and no video. That is the version we have here. The two CD version for Europe and the Americas wasn’t released until 18 March 2002.

Band

  • Angela Gossow—Vocals
  • Christopher Amott—Guitars
  • Michael Amott—Guitars
  • Sharlee D’Angelo—Bass
  • Daniel Erlandsson—Drums

Tracks

  1. Enemy within
  2. Burning angel
  3. Heart of darkness
  4. Ravenous
  5. Savage messiah
  6. Dead bury their dead
  7. Web of lies
  8. The first deadly sin
  9. Behind the smile
  10. Snow bound
  11. Shadows and dust

Review

Arch Enemy are one of those bands that most people just assume I’m already into, and they often express surprise when I tell them that other than four tracks ripped from magazine-cover CDs I have never really listened to them. And they would be right, of course. I too have often felt that I should listen to them, but like many things in life it comes down to priorities and I have chosen to spend my money elsewhere. It turns out, though, that I may have had my priorities in all the right places.

Wages of Sin is Arch Enemy’s fourth studio album, and their first with (then new, now former) vocalist Angelo Gossow. And that’s where my main issues lie, to be honest. It’s not that she’s a female vocalist—there are plenty of female vocalists that I like. I would be saying the same if the vocalist had been male: I just don’t enjoy the vocal performance on this record.

The music is great: it’s heavy, it’s melodic, there are some amazing hooks and dynamics. And then this brutal vocal track bores through the middle of it all. In places it’s like an incessantly barking dog or a gurgling sink. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate growling death metal-style vocals. I love Opeth and Lamb of God, for example. But the vocals on this recording are so monotonous. It is such a wasted opportunity to add something amazing to this amazingly powerful music. As I listened to this album I could hear the vocal melodies that got away: something powerful, something bombastic, something that fuses the clean with the gruff. This album calls for a mixture of Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) meets John Bush (Armored Saint/ex-Anthrax) meets Michael Åkerfeldt (Opeth/Bloodbath/Storm Corrosion).

So… I don’t like the vocals. We’ve established that. On to the music.

The opening track “Enemy within” has a staccato-ed start but builds nicely. “Burning angel” has the feel of “Hanger 18” by Megadeth. “Heart of Darkness” is a solid song, with enough twists and turns to make it interesting. “Ravenous” has fleeting moments of Helloween and some crazy Whammy pedal-inspired widdles. “Savage Messiah” opens with an Alice in Chains-inspired groove picked out on a clean guitar. “Dead bury their dead” has a Kreator vibe to it.  “The first deadly sin” has an old-school thrash-tastic opening and one where to be fair Gossow’s vocals work a treat where she is able at last to find a way to change the pitch of her gruntings. “Behind the smile” has a brilliant stop-start riff that probably makes it my favourite track on the album. “Snow bound” is a short instrumental acoustic track with a rather predictable melancholic solo over the top; but it is still rather pretty and a welcome change from the onslaught. “Shadows and dust” reminds me something else but I can’t quite put my finger on it—it’s been bugging me all week, please put me out of my misery and tell me in the comments. “Lament of a mortal soul” closes the album with a solid track that chugs us along nicely to the terminal.

Conclusion

Despite my grumblings about the vocals, this is a pretty solid album that gets better the further into the recording you get, and the more familiar you become with the songs. Rather than putting me off, it has rather made me want to check out their later recordings to see how Gossow’s vocals have matured. It should score more, but there you have it.

[UPDATE: Erm… it turns out that I have listened to then before. In fact, I reviewed them on this here blog only a few weeks ago. And I gave it 90%. Oops!]

Review score: 75%

Video

This is a live version of “The first deadly sin”, showing just how much better Gossow’s vocals were towards the end of her career with the band.

December’s Cold Winter—Ablaze All Shrines (2008)

December's Cold Winter—Ablaze All Shrines (2008)

December’s Cold Winter—Ablaze All Shrines (2008)

Details

Recorded, engineered, mixed and produced by Max Gutierrez at Cavan Studios, Heredis, Costa Rica from May to October 2008. Mastered by Esteban Rojas at Cisma Productions, Alajuela, Costa Rica. Released on Envenomed label in 2008.

www.decemberscoldwinter.com

Band

  • Alfredo Guzman—Vocals
  • Isak Arroyo—Guitars
  • Max Gutierrez—Guitars
  • Esteban Gonzalez—Bass guitar
  • Allan Chaves—Drums

Tracks

  1. Envenomed cult
  2. Your sordid pride
  3. Ablaze all shrines
  4. Black garden’s sculptures
  5. Manipulating human emotions
  6. Kings of lie
  7. Consequences

Review

This is the Costa Rican band’s second full-length album as December’s Cold Winter; the following year they changed their name to Advent of Bedlam.

Uh-oh! This album starts with a strange recording of a group of people reciting the Lord’s Prayer, which then disappears into a wall of noise and the kind of mildly-melodic death metal gurgle that was popular back in early nineties. Welcome to track number one, “Envenomed cult”. As a Christian, it’s never really a good sign if an album opens with a recording of Christian worship. You just know what’s coming next. Or at least you would if you could understand the guttural vocals. Thank the Lord for the lyrics in the CD inset booklet; or at least thank someone, I’m not sure the Lord gets much praise on this album. It’s the same old boring taunts, labelling Christians as mindless, deluded liars. Yawn!

I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t really connect with this album from the start. Not because of its anti-Christian position, there are actually quite a few bands whose music I do really like (Ancient VVisdom, Morbid Angel, Dead Congregation). The music just left me as cold as a… you know.

I’ve listened to the album twice through now, and like a few other albums on this project it became background noise. I’ve heard it all before: metronomic drums, melodic riffs, throaty vocals. The seven songs could all quite easily be editing into one Meshuggah-challenging epic song. Epic in the sense of going on for a long time. Disappointing really.

Conclusion

Perhaps I may have warmed to this album had I listened to it more often. But I doubt it. This may be the shortest review I’ve rolled out yet, but it’s by far not the worst score. This was for me generic, off-the-shelf death metal by numbers. But it was still nicer background music than some of the other offerings here. Not exactly a glowing recommendation, but like the album it could have been worse.

Review score: 60%

Arch Enemy–Rise of the Tyrant (2007)

Arch Enemy–Rise of the Tyrant (2007)

Arch Enemy–Rise of the Tyrant (2007)

Details

Produced by Fredrik Nordström and Michael Amott. Co-produced by Daniel Erlandsson. Mixed by Fredrik Nordström. Recorded and mixed at Studio Fredman, Sweden (March, April and May 2007).

Arch Enemy official website
Arch Enemy on Encyclopaedia Metallum

Band

  • Angela Gossow—Vocals
  • Christopher Amott—Lead and rhythm guitars
  • Michael Amott—Lead and rhythm guitars
  • Sharlee D’Angelo—Bass guitar
  • Daniel Erlandsson—Drums

Tracks

  1. Blood on your hands
  2. The last enemy
  3. I will live again
  4. In this shallow grave
  5. Revolution begins
  6. Rise of the tyrant
  7. The day you died
  8. Intermezzo liberté
  9. Night falls fast
  10. The great darkness
  11. Vultures

Review

Arch Enemy are ones of those bands who have been around for years—they formed in 1996—that I’ve just never crossed paths with, not through any determined avoidance on my part I’ve always had my attention drawn elsewhere, keeping up with other bands and interests.

Out of curiosity I checked the mountains of magazine-mounted CDs that I’ve collected over the years and I actually have four tracks by Arch Enemy:

  1. Blood on your hands (from this album!)
  2. Dead eyes see no future
  3. Let the killing begin
  4. Symphony of destruction (Megadeth cover)

I’ll have to give the last three a spin later. But first, back to this album, their seventh studio offering. The album opens with a siren and then a very latter-day Megadeth-style arpeggio-ed riff builds until Gossow’s throaty vocals kick in.

Track two, “The last enemy” is another high-octane track. You can imagine a swirling mosh pit soaking up the energy, even through the melodic riff that weaves itself through the chorus .

This is officially classified as ‘melodic death metal’ but it draws on so many influences that it’s not quite so easy to pin down. There are elements of various thrash bands in there, to my ears Megadeth and Kreator are the two most obvious. But then there was virtuoso passages that remind me very much of mid- to late-90s Steve Vai.

The third track opens gently with float melody played on keyboards but within thirty seconds a stabbing riff punctuates the calm. This song got me thinking that I would be really interested to hear Angela Gossow follow suit and sing, rather than growl. Something akin to what Opeth do: that mixture of melodic and death-metal growling vocals.

Track six, the title track, “Rise of the tyrant” opens with this film dialogue from Caligula (1979):

One of my favourite tracks is “The day you died” (track 7) probably because it reminds me of a more-melodic Coma of Souls-era Kreator. “Intermezzo Liberaté” (track 8) is very Steve Vai and then the album begins to see itself out in style with a couple more thumping tunes. The final track though, remarkably, reminds me of a heavier Helloween. Until the vocals, of course. Boy that girl can growl! (There’s a sentence I’ve never written before.)

Conclusion

As my first proper introduction to Arch Enemy I was really impressed. This is an album that I could put on any time I was looking for some more than decent melodic metal.

I’ll definitely be on the look out for more.

If you are into Arch Enemy, please tell me where I should begin. What am I missing?

Review score: 90%

Video