IN SEARCH OF SIGHT from Fort Worth, TX has a new album coming out that is sure to set ears on fire. There are so many contenders for the “djent” throne and so little time to check them all out. This one however, is worth repeated listens. After the opening salvo of “Revision” which sounds like an outtake for THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY the album begins in earnest with “Onuris”. The song is an instrumental gem of the highest order. Buzzsaw guitar riffs, shedding harmonized solos, complex meters and proggy twists and turns highlight the track. The urgency of the main riff can’t be denied as a face melter right from the play book of MESSHUGAH, but still sounding fairly original too. There are some interesting bass harmonics in the track as well that caught my attention. Next comes “Animism” which has nods to BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME and newer bands like TESSERACT. Vocalist Danbo has a gorgeous melodic voice reminiscent of Tommy Rogers and his guttural low screams are excellent as well. Guitarists Dustin and Russell blast out crazy amounts of riffs and plenty of shred guitar orgy-style goodness to sink your teeth into. Nolan on the drums again impresses with his laid back approach, his technical skills and his trigger heavy sound. The atmospheric ending of the track amazed me and bring to my mind a band like CYNIC or ATHEIST as well. “Emotional Insight” is another killer track with over the top playing and writing. The track is brutally heavy, angular and complex. More great vocals by Danbo and the deft work by bassist Brian are big pluses. The song also has a brief, but sick guitar solo. In a possible nod to their hometown heroes PANTERA, the song has a tremendous groove factor too. The final track “Completion” is a fine piece of over the top prog revelry. It proves these guys are not content to join the musical movement that may just be a fad, but push forward and lead to a new place beyond this realm. I’ll be interested to hear a full length from them soon.
Once in awhile as a reviewer you hear a band that reaffirms everything you believe about music. A band that puts out a piece of music so good you want to stand up and shout. I listen to more records than I review because that is the life of a professional music appreciator. Not everything you get to listen to is the best quality or inspires great reviews because simply put, not everyone is great. The word great gets thrown around like love and hate in this disposable age. The new record from ORWELL, which is in fact great with a capital G, came to me as part of my job as a reviewer. Had I just come across it as a fan I would love it all the same. If I was starting a brand new band today and declared that it was going to be metal, I would aspire to be a great as ORWELL is on AVOH FASIH.
Laid out as a concept record of the highest order, the first song “In Tides, I Wake” is a slow, moody crusher of a song. Although it opens with gentle picked guitars, the bruising riffs and anguished vocals kick in to give it the right heavy flavor. The track would not be out of place for a CONVERGE, CAVE IN or MASTODON album. Such a good songwriting choice to build tension and start the record off with this tempo as opposed to the million albums I come across that just blaze right off the bat. There are also some beautiful and unexpected droning guitars towards the end that call to mind A PERFECT CIRCLE. From the wash of guitar noise, to the chugging middle section all the way until to the final chiming notes, the track is a keeper. Second track “In Crude, I Remain” tricked me a bit. The song started off like the last one ended, but amped up the heavy factor even more with a snake-like main riff that is addictive on repeated listens.
Vocalist Logan Hauser has pipes of cement and is a difference maker with his low howling voice and his caustic screams punctuating every track. When the tempo kicks into high gear the song shifts into overdrive. Rhythms that evoke both LAMB OF GOD and DREAM THEATER at the same time will make heads spin. The song spirals out into some top choice chordal aggression. Guitarists Tim Bradley and Erik Bolstad do a fine job of weaving complex parts together that mesh perfectly. “In Depths, I Sink” starts off with a metal roar and doesn’t let up until the very end. A true neck breaking mosh song full of PANTERA-esque grooves. None of this blend of prog and brain bashing metal would be possible without the skills of drummer Cris Bissell.
Bookending the previous track with its heartbeat ending and tribal drum intro “From Depths, I Rise” features gorgeous female vocals and a hypnotic beat. We also hear bassist Will Strickland stretch out with some fine walking lead lines. This one of the best tracks among the other outstanding ones and really surprised me on a lot of levels even though I was already enjoying the album. This song ought to have a chance to live on a place like the Liquid Metal XM radio show for being so heavy yet, so damn catchy. Frankly, I expect a song of this quality from a much older group and this speaks to ORWELL’s readiness to rise to bigger things soon. Another epic in the form of the thoughtful “In Dust, I Stand” comes later in the album and is an exercise in dynamics not unlike TOOL, especially after the breakdown. Finally the closing song “A New Awakening” ties the experience of the album together with a fitting and adventurous ending. Military marching drums give way to more intricate guitar while Hauser just wails away on vocals. The song is also gritty and has plenty of heft to go with its soulful melodies. After the climactic ending riff the entire opus ends with a mournful piano piece that just drifts away leaving a reminder that you just listened to something truly amazing.
Hailing from the North Shore of Massachusetts are rocking upstarts AGE OF END. I actually saw one of their very first gigs and recall being impressed that night. This release synthesizes the bands’ catchy rock
anthems with their obvious harder metal influences in the style of early STAIND, GODSMACK, STONE SOUR and MUDVAYNE.
Leading off with the excellent “Shattered” the track is the epitome of active rock as the industry types call it. Metal influenced hard rock that has a place in the clubs and on radio. Rocking verses that give way to hooky choruses with the occasional breakdown tossed in for good measure. Vocalist Chad Hickman leads the way with his solid singing, good screaming and occasional rapping. Mark McKeller’s guitar work is solid and the songwriting throughout is strong. Second track “The Awakening” starts off feeling like a STAIND or AIC mellow depresser until the beat kicks in and it begins to rock hard. Cool guitars wash over intense beats and the singing/screaming dynamic works well for the band. Mid-way through the song there is a definite nod to TOOL which I rather like and the band proves adept at building tension with changing dynamics and tempos. The ending of the track is just a cathartic release and I can hear this being a big radio song someday. “Mammon” is another song straddling commercial modern rock and brutal metal flourishes and cues. Especially the fine drumming of Alex Wagner and more of Hickman’s vocal work. The song has an inventive breakdown that sounds like a salsa dance groove and then downshifts into hardcore again. Impressive. “No One To Blame” is comprised of fairly standard rock balladry with a harder edge until it changes part way through in to histrionic aggressiveness again. Extra props for Steve Madigan’s bass work on the this cut. McKellar also plays a sweet guitar lead in the song. These guys are not afraid to touch ever base they can musically as evident on their single “beLIEve” which I really like a lot. The ending of the song is especially crushing and will have the mosh pit going off big time. This album is a good jumping off point to bigger things for these guys.
I was really excited to get my hands on a copy of ACARO’s new album. They are one of the top three metal bands in all of Boston and have been steadily rising over time. There are many great bands in our scene, but only a few who have the complete package like ACARO does. Having seen them live many times I knew they had the talent to turn in a great record, but my ears were not prepared at all for how big they stepped up here.
Right out of the gate blistering guitars and sick vocals come soaring out of the speakers.“The Disease of Fear” naturally encompasses the sound of the album and it is a beast of a title track. Growled hardcore vocals, sick beats, melodic guitars and technical virtuosity are the highlights of the song and their style as a whole. Vocalist Chris Harrell is downright inspirational with his delivery and seems to know just when to kick it up a notch and accent a part for effect. Harmonized guitars and machine gun-like drumming are also found here in great supply. Blazing fast, “This Treachery” has as much in common with the best of modern metal as it does with Gothenburg guitar theatrics. Harrell’s deep gravely register sends the track into death metal territory, but the band is mainly thrash and modern hardcore at heart. The chorus of the song is huge and will be a hit live when it down shifts into its cool, power-groove swing. Both Felipe Roa on lead guitar and his counter part Chris Leblanc turn out one great riff after another and Roa’s soloing is upper echelon in terms of talent and style.
“Salvations’ End” finds the band in an even more hostile mood than before with tremendous chord progressions and drummer Jason Fitzgerald‘s amazing stick work. Roa adds another solo break to die for and is a throwback to the soulful lead playing from a generation of shredders of yesteryear. “Throne of Blood” is the most brutal track on the record and had me moshing around by myself in my apartment to the beat. Another killer song with everything you want from a modern band. It’s great when a band is more than the sum of its influences and actually creates some fresh new sounds instead of copying. “Becoming the Process” is next and just a catchy and heavy as the previous track. One great thing about Harrell as a vocalist is that you can understand his lyrics no matter if he is screaming, growling or singing. Among the top individual performances on the album is bassist Kevin Smith’s performance on this track. He adds weight and color to the low end and it is great to hear such a fine player really make use of his opportunities to shine. Overall there is not a weak link to be found here at all. ACARO really serves up well-crafted music at a top level of musicianship. This album is sure to make many end of year lists.
The flavor du jour of metal recently has been either the ever growing “djent” sub-genre or last years’ hotness techie-death metal. Both styles have a lot in common and in my opinion still a lot to give in terms of new music and groundbreaking acts. The technical proggy death stuff is demanding to play, but new bands seem to rising up to meet the challenge daily. One such band THE KENNEDY VEIL has new album out and is sure to win fans with their musical skills and over the top brutality.
After a brief intro the blistering title track kicks in and just slays. Torrents of riffs and beats assault your ears. Over the top tempos and impressive song craft come into play, all topped off with Cody Walker’s sick vocals. The first song is under three minutes, but goes on a mini-musical journey that will take your mind places. Second track “Isolated: The Travesty of the Cleansing” is more of the same stunning fretboard acrobatics and beyond belief drumming. Gabe Seeber is simply off the chain as a drummer with lighting fast fills and sick double kick work. This song changes things up even more than before and has some cool off-time parts and enough prog-ness to make a nerd reach for his protractor. Third cut “Process of Cerebral Enslavement” shows the band has as much in common with ORIGIN and BRAINDRILL as they do SUFFOCATION and CEPHALIC CARNAGE. The song is just relentless! Guitarist Casey Childers has an array of fine techniques and tricks up his sleeve, but never loses the main idea or does anything to take away from a riff. “Genesis Lamentations” is top track. These guys predominantly have one speed and that speed is ridiculous. I doubt they would ever stoop low enough to toss in a breakdown or a soft, pastoral part at all. “We Are Nothing” is probably my favorite track in terms of encompassing their entire style and boiling it down to a few minutes. The only flaw on The Sentence of Their Conqueror is the entire album is so short and to the point that it’s over before you know it. On the other hand the band is mature enough to not have any fat on the tracks in the way of redundant riffs and parts. Most importantly, they know the song is the thing and not how well you can play in spite of their prodigious talents.
The ranks of the Boston metal scene are crowded with talent these days. There are many contenders for the throne in our fair city and it seems like talented new bands are sprouting up all of the time. One underrated band is 18 WHEELS OF JUSTICE. On their newly released second album Execution they are serving notice to everybody that they have their eyes on the prize.
Following the first few strains of “Last Man Standing” waves of blazing modern thrash riffs are unleashed. Combined with death metal and hardcore vocalizing, this is a potent combination. Adam Sloan has an otherworldly high scream and low guttural vocals that call to mind the best of the genre. His performance is savage and you feel his lyrical hatred and loathing on every song. The speedy tempos and alternating head nodding, half-time parts call to mind classic EXODUS and SLAYER moods. Drummer Sam Pothier in particular makes a lot of these times shifts possible with his fierce beats. Lead guitarist Steve Abajolie lets loose with the first of his many tasty leads. Particularly deep structure wise, the song changes guises many times; from circle-pit inciter to sing along arena metal glory and more. Most bands wouldn’t make this song the opener due to its length and I applaud their balls to do so. “Blood Red Soil” starts off a bit slower, but is no less heavy with lots of double kicks punctuated by Conor Anastasia’s strong bass work. Then more old-school riffs pop up again and the tempo is impossibly fast once more. Between Abajolie and rhythm guitarist Todd Harris they seem to have an endless stream of catchy licks churning out and that is after just two songs. Another excellent drum performance highlights “Drug War”, one of the albums top tracks. The beats here are just insane and sound so hard hitting and tight you might think its not human for a second. The slower hardcore riffs will call to mind middle-era PANTERA and their in-state brethren like SHADOWS FALL and REVOCATION. The PANTERA influence is abundant this many tracks, especially in the vocals and lead guitar work. Other tracks I really enjoyed are “Thrashole”, “Idolatry”, the beautiful instrumental “Open Sky” and “Proving Ground”. They are not only stylistically in the house with all of the neo-thrash and modern metal bands, but may separate themselves from the pack a bit due to the vocals. These guys have stepped up big time.
DAMSELS comes to us out of the Providence Rhode Island scene and lays on their thick style of experimental jams on their new album Something Fancy. These are interesting times in metal for bands that aren’t scared to take chances with style and writing scope. Although fans and labels alike sometimes suffer from up-turned nose elitism, this is also a time when some of the most vibrant and exciting artists like THE DILINGER ESCAPE PLAN, EVERY TIME I DIE (whom DAMSELS borrow from heavily) and IWRESTLEDABEARONCE are carving out their own path to glory. Why some bands catch and some don’t we may never know, but it is important to know the difference between talent and calculated randomness. DAMSELS seems to fall into the former category.
Best described as a maelstrom of styles piled on each other that somehow still works, one thing that hits you right away is how heavy they are. After the intro track “Teddy Bear Bombs” just explodes in your ear piece. Jagged riffs, killer beats and insane slow breakdowns flavor the track. Vocalist Jonny annoys frequently with his nasally scream, but his guttural vocals are terrific. I wonder if he loves MR. BUNGLE too much to change it up a little more, but I suspect this guy is holding back a little too in terms of range. His comedic timing is also golden. Their drummer Eric is also terrific, as is bassist Scotty. These guys really stand out track after track. Careening through several stylistic changes in just a few minutes time this cut sets that standard the rest of the album lives up to. “We Put a Light In the Bathroom (Ladies Night)” is next and is right out of the ETID playbook of angular math rock. Still, the track is high in energy and full of chunk. Guitarist Tejay (TJ?) has a great style that is heavy, harsh and wild. “Give Me Back My Hat Roger Williams” is a funny tongue in cheek ripper that suffers from the verses with the double layered vocals. I’m not sure how they account for this live or if one of the other guys also sings, but the effect should be done away with. Other than that the track is strong and would be a great show opener or closer with its made for moshing beats and chords. Two other likely hits in the making are “Leper Lapdance” and “Danny Glover Banged Your Mother”. These guys have the requisite goods to go really far, but I fear they will be seen as a mere novelty band if they don’t reign themselves in a little more and pay attention to what the songs need. If they get teamed up with a great producer on their next album, watch out!