Chris C's blog

Album Review: Brother Firetribe - Diamond In The Fire Pit

Perhaps the most depressing aspect of being a fan of metal in this day and age is seeing how 'fun' has become a dirty word. When reading through the lists of bands that are popular with both the people and the critics, they tend to have one thing in common; they're miserable. Metal today is a drab, colorless world in which everything has to be dark, ugly, and consumed with the depths of suffering. There is no place in the mainstream for rock or metal music that remembers that music isn't life and death, that we're allowed to have fun, and listen to songs that make us want to sing along.

Album Review: Darkest Era - Severance

Bands from all around the world have attempted to blend their cultural identities with that of the standard metal sound, but not all of the efforts have been successful. Many of the Scandinavian bands have found success fusing their dark folk music with metal's bombast and power, while bands like Angra and Sepultura have married tribal rhythms to the pounding beat of metal. These efforts have worked, because the culture they have added to the mix bolstered an element of the metal sound that already existed.

Album Review: Intelligent Music Project II: My Kind O' Lovin'

Every so often, there comes along a record that reminds us that music is more than a mere commodity, that it can stand for something and make a real difference in people's lives. That usually takes the form of social commentary, or deeply emotional songs that buttress people in their darkest moments, but there's a small collection of music out there that has been made for the purposes of giving back. These are the sorts of things we should celebrate more often, instead of the latest veteran band going through the motions simply to prime the money pumps.

Album Review: Sabaton - Heroes

When last we heard from Sabaton, they were a band in a state of flux. “Carolus Rex” was the last statement of a band that was fracturing, a dividing line that will make clear what constituted the Sabaton sound all these years. The band split apart, with the majority of the instrumentalists forming the lackluster Civil War, and singer Joakim Broden keeping the Sabaton tradition alive. Band politics are often juicy fodder for the tabloid aspect of our world, but they mean nothing to the music, which is the only thing that should matter.

Album Review: Vestal Claret - The Cult Of Vestal Claret

Doom metal has always been an underground scene, but even in doom there are levels of complete anonymity. While bands like Pentagram, Saint Vitus, and Candlemass managed to make their names known, even if their audiences were always small, the vast majority of doom bands never make it any further than the devoted fans of the genre. Vestal Claret, to this point, has been one of those doom bands that you would never have heard of unless you were deeply entrenched in the doom scene.

Album Review: Epica - The Quantum Enigma

For all the attention Epica has gotten over the course of their careers are the most visible and consistent of the female fronted, symphonic metal bands, they are a mystery to me. I have somehow managed to go this long without sitting down and listening to a full Epica album, no matter how much praise has been heaped upon it. There's something about their stated mission, the blending of light and dark, soft and heavy, that feels to me like a band intentionally putting on handcuffs.

Album Review: Xandria - Sacrificium

There was a time when the way a metal band could stand out from the pack was to be symphonic, to play with classic sounds and textures that most metal bands didn't have the musical skill to incorporate in their arsenals. Adding loads of strings and choirs into the music was not just a way of sounding bigger than your contemporaries, but was a way of standing apart and giving yourself a unique identity.

Album Review: Super Massive Black Holes - Calculations Of The Ancients

For the last decade or so, one of the paths down which metal has gone involves the fusion of genres that don't, on the surface, seem to go together. It started with Opeth's unique brew of death metal and somber folk, but grew from there to include everything from the death metal meets jazz of Farmakon, to the 'super metal' of Monsterworks, and the kitchen sink approach that typifies bands like Between The Buried And Me. What they all have in common is a desire to do something unique in a space where it seems every good idea has already been explored.

Album Review: Anette Olzon - Shine

Anette Olzon was, like many singers before her, put into an impossible situation. Replacing a unique and beloved vocalist is next to impossible, especially when the band in question does nothing to help the cause. Anette seemed like an odd choice to join Nightwish after Tarja's departure, and her two records with the band offered mixed results. There were flashes of brilliance, but they were obscured by a band that wrote songs without realizing they had a different voice singing them, which did no favors to either side.

Album Review: The Oath - The Oath

Certain images come to mind when you think of dark, heavy, doom-laden metal. None of those involve two blonde women tapping into the seedy side of music for their inspirations. We've come to be conditioned to think of certain people in certain roles, and there's a disconnect that occurs when our conventional wisdom is breached. It can be uncomfortable, and it often leads us to second-guessing in times we normally wouldn't be prone to such things, but it can also open our minds to new possibilities.

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