Chris C's blog

Album Review: Tyr - Valkyrja

I'm often confused by the things that become popular. My mind and my aesthetic aren't compatible with common wisdom, so I'm often at a loss when it comes to understanding how certain elements become wildly popular, while others that may have more obvious merit are left by the wayside. Tyr brings this to mind, here presenting us a concept album about the voyage of a Viking warrior riding off into battle to impress the Gods. Viking mythology is certainly interesting, but it baffles me how Viking -themed metal has become such a large part of what we hear every year.

Album Review: Bl'ast - Blood!

Both as a journalist, and as someone with an interest in heavy guitar music, it's difficult for me to admit the staggering gaps in my knowledge. I wish I could say I know more than I do about every aspect of the music we cover here, but I came to the party late, and with a musical basis predetermined that makes it difficult for me to appreciate certain types of heavy music in anything but an intellectual way. One of those gaps in my knowledge is punk/hardcore.

Album Review: Ashes Of Ares - Ashes Of Ares

We metal fans are not above snobbery. We love our pedigrees as much as any blue-blood. When a new band comes along, we tend to look and see who the members may have played with in the past, hoping for an indicator of quality before we ever hear a note. Seeing a familiar old name attached to a project makes us feel better about getting involved with yet another new band, even if it does tip the scales before our brains are ready to make an informed decision.

Album Review: Monsterworks - Earth

My top ten list last year was incomplete, because Monsterworks' “Album Of Man” straddled the new year and now exists in it's own little world, unattached to any year in particular. It's a shame, since that album was a schizophrenic joyride through some of the wildest and most daring metal I've come across in a long time. It was, and still is, a bit of a confusing puzzle, but the pieces were so tantalizing that not seeing the big picture isn't really a problem.

Album Review: Witherscape - The Inheritance

Dan Swano is as much an extreme metal legend as you can get. From his work with the seminal Edge Of Sanity, to his years spent behind the desk making every band he worked with sound better than they ever had before, he is one of the key figures in the history of European extreme metal. And all of that is before even mentioning “Moontower”, his solo triumph. That album, in my eyes, is the single greatest death metal record ever made, and a towering achievement that single-handedly proves the merit of growled vocals.

Album Review: Tarja - Colours In The Dark

I've opined before about a certain type of metal vocalist whose appeal I can't quite understand; the classical female singer. I sort of understand the philosophy of combining the straight-laced approach of opera with the anything-but ethos of metal, but to my ear, the two have never fit together as anything more than a thought experiment. Even the biggest, brightest example of this is something I never came to terms with. Tarja set the standard for all female vocalists who weren't trying to be the next Joan Jett.

Album Review: Thränenkind - The Elk

Being the kind of person who dwells on semantics, a band like Thränenkind bothers me even before I've heard a note of their music. Described as 'post-metal', the label leaves me scratching my head. Metal is still alive and flourishing, and it shows no signs of going anywhere, so what does post-metal even mean? In the other arts, post-modernism had a point; it was a deliberate realignment of what art was supposed to be, taking it back from the modernist school, which was both unified and generational. Metal is not like the other arts, however.

Album Review: Watain - The Wild hunt

In the spirit of honesty, I have a confession I must make; there has never been a black metal album I have enjoyed. While I can understand the mental state that leads to its creation, and the ethos is not philosophically unappealing, the actual music that falls under the banner has the same effect on me as fingernails streaking across a chalkboard (a sound that, ironically, does not bother me). I have tried listening to modern black metal, the 'classics', and random recommendations I've picked up in various places, but the end result is always the same.

Album Review: James LaBrie - Impermanent Resonance

James LaBrie's last solo album, “Static Impulse”, answered a question I'm not sure had ever been asked: what would it sound like if LaBrie fronted Soilwork? Far from his progressive metal roots, “Static Impulse” was a modern metal album in every facet, blending melodic choruses to state of the art riffing and juxtaposed screaming vocals. More than a shock to expectations, the album was a surprisingly effective vehicle for LaBrie, and was better than I could have ever imagined such an effort being.

Album Review: Deadlock - The Arsonist

Metal is not known for its beauty. It can be many things, beautiful included, but if there is one thing metal is known for, it's stringy-haired heaviness. Metal is not the music of the beautiful people, and we wouldn't love it so much if it was. But somewhere in calculations, the balance needed to keep metal from falling off the edge of relevance gets lost. Hearing as many albums a year as I do, which is still but a fraction, there is a titanic chasm of possibility few bands have jumped headlong into.

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