Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Guest review of As Above, So Below by Angel Witch written by The Left Hand Creation bassist Rob Holden

I would just like to take the time to introduce a guest reviewer that is helping me out by bringing you a more in depth look at some of the albums I will be reviewing. Rob Holden is the bassist of Oshawa, Ontario based metal band Left Hand Creation. They combine all types of metal and make it their own with brutal riffs and gut wrenching vocals. You can like their page here and you should show some support for local bands!

1. Dead Sea Scrolls
2. Into the Dark
3. Geburah
4. The Horla
5. Witching Hour
6. Upon This Cord
7. Guillotine
8. Brainwashed

"As Above, So Below” is Angel Witch’s fourth studio album, 26 long years after their last studio effort “Frontal Assault”. With the Band starting as early as 1977, Angel Witch became one of the front-runners of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal alongside bands like Iron Maiden; however, due to complications within the band, Angel Witch was forced to go on a semi-permanent hiatus. Original Member, Kevin Heybourne (Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter), picked up the charred remains and reformed the band with Will Palmer on Bass, Andrew Prestige on Drums, and added Bill Steer of Carcass on live guitar duties for additional godliness. 

According to a recent press release, 4 of the 8 tracks on “As Above, So Below” were written in their earlier era’s; including “Dead Sea Scrolls” and “Witching Hour” written back in 1983, as well as “Guillotine” and “Into The Dark” which were written even earlier on in their career. 

The first track, “Dead Sea Scrolls”, is a very groove oriented galloper, with an interesting intro that starts off at a mid-pace and slows and slows, until breaking into the main triplet riff of the song (and very classic  to Early Heavy Metal). Vocal Styling’s are certainly an important aspect of the music, as the guitar riffs are repetitive, but never lose your attention. Remember, this is metal from an era where catchiness was more important than progression. “Into The Dark “ is a classic guitar player’s song, with simple hooks and catchy grooves. Kevin Heybourne’s solo in this song is nothing short of spectacular and more than relevant and well placed. “Geburah”, the third track, was written nearly 30 years after the last two tracks, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell. It has all the makings of a classic heavy metal tune. “The Horla” slows things down and plays on the border of being named a terrific, but sappy ballad. In fact, the only thing keeping it from being a ballad is the last 2 minutes, in which Angel Witch throw down a thrashier outro than Metallica’s “Am I Evil”. Placed perfectly, because the “Witching Hour” (next track) is also a thrashy masterpiece. “Upon This Chord” is a great tune, but is not spectacularly different from the rest of the album, and “Guillotine” is nothing short of an incredible “motorcycle rock” tune. “Brainwashed” is the last track on the album, and is my favorite. This song gets my blood flowing (as a headbanger) more so than any other track on the album, and I think is a perfect outro to the heavy metal masterpiece that is “As Above, So Below”.

The strengths on this album are quite obviously the guitar work and vocal stylings of Kevin Heybourne, as well as the classic heavy metal songwriting in which we have the opportunity to relive through “As Above, So Below”. For fans of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, this album is a must have. For fans of classic heavy metal, it is not the album of the year, but it is definitely worth picking up.

Review of The Black Chord by Astra

1. Cocoon
2. The Black Chord
3. Quake Meat
4. Drift
5. Bull Torpis
6. Barefoot in the Head

“Born in San Diego but bred in the mists of Avalon, Astra have fast-become a synonym for the ethereal, the sublime, and indeed the genuinely progressive. Ever since 2009’s The Weirding put these analog-inflected San Diego visionaries on the map alongside the likes of co-conspirators Earthless, Diagonal and Dungen, who – like some lost tribe of prog faithful - have brought this unwieldly and much maligned form of music out of the dark ages and in front of a new generation of Mellotron-loving cognoscenti. But if this was merely a case of exhibitionism, or some demonstration of holier-than-thou musical knowledge then perhaps Astra would not be discussed in such hushed, reverential tones. But it’s the very humility of their beginnings and the grace of what they’ve created that’s given them the respect of starry-eyed peers, fans, and indeed critics alike who in unison seem to have embraced both the band’s sound and the undeniable integrity of their aspirations.”

The first track off The Black Chord, Cocoon, is a good instrumental that is a great introduction to what progressive sound Astra will bring to you throughout the whole album. The self-titled track, The Black Chord, was a little long and repetitive to me and I lost interest half way in. The next track, Quake Meat, which is quite a weird name, reminded me of Blood Ceremony with the flute done by David Hurley. One of my favourite tracks off this album is Drift. Its mellow and is a very good listen. Its followed by Bull Torpis, a short instrumental showing off the guitar skills of Brian Ellis and Richard Vaughan with solo and leads into my other favourite Barefoot in the Head. This song is definitely my favourite off the album with its mood changing tempos, which keeps this song interesting.

Guest review of Fire Make Thunder by OSI written by Left Hand Creation bassist Rob Holden

I would just like to take the time to introduce a guest reviewer that is helping me out by bringing you a more in depth look at some of the albums I will be reviewing. Rob Holden is the bassist of Oshawa, Ontario based metal band Left Hand Creation. They combine all types of metal and make it their own with brutal riffs and gut wrenching vocals. You can like their page here and you should show some support for local bands!

1. Cold Call
2. Guards
3. Indian Curse
4. Enemy Prayer
5. Wind Won't Howl
6. Big Chief II
7. For Nothing
8. Invisible Men

OSI is the progressive-ambient metal pairing of Jim Matheos (Fates Warning) and Kevin Moore (Dream Theatre) who have been consistently churning out albums since 2003. While the traditional method of writing metal albums have been written in stone for some time, OSI is as progressive in their recording methods as they are with their music, sending each other their own musical tracks over great distances via email to compile into a full length metal masterpiece is nothing less than astonishing, and admirable, (lazy?) I joke…

The album kicks off with the song “Cold Call” and begins with a (fittingly) cold and creepy intro played over a real life emergency radio broadcast, which grips the listener for 1:52 until the heavy guitar and drums burst into the song. The monotone vocals are reminiscent of Maynard (Tool) and Chino (Deftones), and are placed perfectly. The mood wavers not for a single moment in this 7:11 masterpiece.

As cold and groove as this album may sound, this is not just a jam album. The progressive nature continues with the second track “Guards” and blends very heavy and interesting guitar riffs into an almost industrial sounding song structure. This track is a little more upbeat, but doesn’t last long before it drops the feeling back down into the original mood.

“Indian Curse” is an ambient ballad, and is beautifully written, but nonetheless, a little boring. “Enemy Prayer” brings the heavy guitars back into the mix, but vocals take a rest for this track. 22 minutes into this album and the mood hasn’t changed much yet.  “Wind Won’t Howl” is another long ambient (boring) track. Ok, time to bring back the heavy…lets go…

“Big Chief II” is the angriest song on the album vocally, without bringing any of the heaviness from a few of the other tracks. “For Nothing” is easily the most forgettable song on the album, switching the sombre mood to a happy ambient ballad for just a couple minutes…A strange choice, in my opinion.

“Invisible Men” is an excellent ambient outro to the album, and keeps the listener interested right up until the last moment. This song is as gentle as a final punch can get, but is effective nonetheless.

“Fire Make Thunder” will certainly be a cornerstone in the progressive-ambient metal genre, and will be an emotional listen for anybody with an open mind. Though I feel like it had much difficulty meeting the expectations I got from the first track, I enjoyed every moment I spent listening to the album. I began to forget about studying the song structures, and allowed myself to be engulfed by the overall mood of the album. This is how each person should approach this album. For fans of A Perfect Circle, Opeth, Deftones, Katatonia and the like, I would strongly suggest giving this album its much deserved time in your playlist.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Guest review of Torture by Cannibal Corpse written by The Left Hand Creation bassist Rob Holden

I would just like to take the time to introduce a guest reviewer that is helping me out by bringing you a more in depth look at some of the albums I will be reviewing. Rob Holden is the bassist of Oshawa, Ontario based metal band Left Hand Creation. They combine all types of metal and make it their own with brutal riffs and gut wrenching vocals. You can like their page here and you should show some support for local bands!

1. Demented Aggression
2. Sarcophagic Frenzy
3. Scourge of Iron
4. Encased in Concrete
5. As Deep As the Knife Will Go
6. Intestinal Crank
7. Followed Home Then Killed
8. The Strangulation Chair
9. Caged...Contorted
10. Crucifier Avenged
11. Rabid
12. Torn Through

Torture is Cannibal Corpse’s twelfth studio album, and third with their current and final line-up. Since Cannibal needs no introduction, and no jawing-on about their history, please allow me to get started on the album

                                                            HOLY FUCK!!!!

The first song Demented Aggression may be familiar to some, as CC has released this song more than a month prior to the release of the album. The opening track is similar to the pounding speed and precision of the album Gore Obsessed. Full blown pedal to the metal from start to finish. The next track Sarcophagic Frenzy is only slightly calmer, to allow all the evident rhythm section work to shine through. The third track Scourge of Iron is my favorite off of the album, beginning with 4 measures of a teasing speed riff that edges off into the slowest chug in Cannibal Corpse history, battling and taking over the heaviness of even Death Walking Terror off of Kill. Sadly, this is the only song on the album where George Fisher regains some of his old power with his vocals. Encased In Concrete is suitably contradictory to the previous track, bringing the atmosphere of the album right back to its familiar crush-pound-kill feeling of songwriting.  From this track on, Alex Webster’s bass guitar is the most prominent instrument of the album, and it is welcomed with open arms. As Deep As The Knife Will Go is another groove-oriented headbanger, with very prominent guitar work. Intestinal Crank is my second favorite off the album, with each element of CC being pushed forward and effortlessly trumping all technical-proficiency of any of their previous works. The riffs in this song are just downright confusing, and only able to be written by Alex Webster and Pat O’Brien, the masters of Technical Death Metal.

The Next 6 tracks of the album are all just as strong and memorable as the first 6, each with certain parts that are familiar to Cannibal fans from the early 90’s, as well as many riffs completely alien to the CC albums of old, and mark a steady progression in their songwriting. The Strangulation Chair and Rabid are sure to have people all over the world picking up a bass guitar and trying to re-create the finger melting riffs of Alex Webster. Caged…Contorted and Crucifier Avenged are beyond heavy and are sure to throw out even the strongest of your neck muscles, the rhythm section of this entire album is just mindblowing.

After twelve studio albums, and being famous for song titles and lyrics that could make even Charles Manson cringe, Cannibal Corpse has FINALLY put out some song titles that play on some of my worst fears, and even I can’t help but feel disgusted…In a good way! Titles like Encased In Concrete and Caged…Contorted made me feel ill just thinking about it, and I had to restart the song several times just to give it my full attention, and Inestinal Crank shut down my brain all together for a good 5 minutes.

As a reviewer, I know that it is extreme faux-pas to rate an album 10 out of 10, but I can’t find any negatives of this album! I find the album artwork disappointing, due to my high expectations from previous works of the Chris Barnes era of Cannibal Corpse, it just seems so boring to me, as this is the only band that I have ever been excited about seeing their upcoming artwork. Also I find George Fisher’s vocals were better than the predecessor Evisceration Plague, but nowhere near the quality of vocals on albums such as Kill or The Wretched Spawn.

Aside from that, this album is the one that I have been anticipating all year long, and it still greatly exceeded my expectations. As a big fan of Cannibal Corpse since Tomb Of The Mutilated, I believe that this album is there best work by far as a fan and as a musician, and I look forward to their next tour. The release date for Torture is March 13th, 2012. Buy it, Buy it, BUY IT!

Review of Torture by Cannibal Corpse

1. Demented Aggression
2. Sarcophagic Frenzy
3. Scourge of Iron
4. Encased in Concrete
5. As Deep As the Knife Will Go
6. Intestinal Crank
7. Followed Home Then Killed
8. The Strangulation Chair
9. Caged...Contorted
10. Crucifier Avenged
11. Rabid
12. Torn Through

“Returning with the ceaselessly hostile Torture, Cannibal Corpse prove that when it comes to combining unrestrained maliciousness, involving song writing and technical precision they still have no equal, once again fortifying their position at the forefront of death metal. The twelfth full-length of their inspiring twenty-four year career, the Floridian quintet have never sounded so vital, the album building upon the wealth of powerful, dark, and memorable songs comprising 2006's Kill and 2009's Evisceration Plague and pointedly upping the ante at every turn. While this marks the latest progression in the band's sound, Torture also witnesses a return to what drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz accurately terms "the frenzied attack of Butchered At Birth (1991) or Tomb Of The Mutilated (1992)", infusing the band's advanced musicianship with the raw savagery that haunted their earlier releases, and in the process conceiving the definitive Cannibal Corpse record.

In 2012, Cannibal Corpse have ensured that the twelve songs comprising Torture are the very best and therefore cohere to make the best possible album, though they are not content to rest upon their laurels and they are as hungry as ever to unleash their distinctive breed of aural horror upon heaving mosh pits. "I haven't been this excited about a release in a long time," enthuses Mazurkiewicz. "We worked so hard at it and we hope that the fans feel the same way we do. Being out there and getting to play these songs live will once again prove to people we're not going anywhere. We're not going through the motions, we're really trying to be the best band we can be, and we're just getting better.”

This album is the first time I have listened to Cannibal Corpse in quite some time. After hearing the first riff on the album, I knew I was going to enjoy it the whole way through, which I did. This album is unlike and other Cannibal Corpse album I have ever heard. It seems to me like their heaviest and most technical album yet and it was an incredible listen. The guitar was mind blowing with fast, technical riffs the whole way through. Some tracks had a slower pace to them and Scourge of Iron may be the slowest track by Cannibal Corpse yet, but it was still an awesome song. About half way through the album you notice the bass as Alex Webster slappadabass so heavily that he overtakes the whole band and there is also a small bass solo in The Strangulation Chair, but its just the same notes over and over. George Fisher continues to pump out gut wrenching vocals and proves his voice is still capable. The track names are brutal and disgustingly tasty such as Encased in Concrete, Intestinal Crank, and the already mentioned The Strangulation Chair. This album is unlike anything Cannibal Corpse has ever released and they kept as unique as possible. My favourite tracks are Demented Agression, Scourge of Iron, and Intestinal Crank. This is by far one of my favourite albums that Cannibal Corpse has ever released and you should definitely pick it up!

Review of Breach False Minds by Exalt

1. Loss Rejoice
2. Misled
3. Warmth & Winter
4. Partisan Eyes
5. Empty Dreamer Frail As Feathers
6. No Son
7. Serpents At My Feet
8. Onward
9. Pray For Release
10. Rejoice Loss

Breach False Minds is an album from Kitchener, Ontario’s hardcore band Exalt. I am not sure if this is their first full length or not. The group consist of Tyler Brand on vocals, Ben Waugh on vocals and guitar, Tim Waugh on the drums, Nick Denomme on bass, and John-Paul Denomme on guitar.

This is the first time I have listened to this band and I was never one to enjoy hardcore but Exalt was not as bad as I was expecting to be due not being a fan of the genre is today. The vocals are very good and the hardcore seen needs more of this instead of the horrible growling and pig squeals that you usually here these days. The guitar is all over the place at times with its technicality but is very awesome sounding nonetheless. This album at time reminded me of Frail Words Collapse era As I Lay Dying which is actually my favourite album of theirs. These guys actually surprised me and I do not mean to insult them if I did. I would definitely listen to them again and even book them at a show in my town, whenever I organize another but that a whole other story entirely (no venue, no audience blah bah). If you are a fan of hardcore I would definitely check them out because they sure do beat the hell out of what mainstream hardcore sounds like!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spotlight: Café de Flore (Kevin Parent, Évelyne Brochu, Hélène Florent, Vanessa Paradis, Marin Gerrier)

I’ve not done a movie review in a while, so I thought I should start doing those again. Maybe get more content on here, I’m sure its getting quite boring for those of you who don’t listen to metal. Although it may not interest you, reviewing albums for a record label is quite an honour. I think it’s a step in the right direction for how I want to be more active in the music industry, since I can’t play in a band the best I can do is organize local concerts and now with these album reviews I feel as if now my thoughts mean something. I just wanted to take the time and thank everyone who views my blog, because without you I’d not have the motivation to even try to keep it alive. Seeing one hundred views or more daily is amazing and makes me smile, because these are my daily view counts even when I don’t post anything. Anyway, on with this movie review!

While looking at the new movies that came to the theatre in my town I could never see me going to a French film, but I sure am glad I did. Café de Flore blew me away and I would definitely go see it again.

This movie is a Canadian drama and was directed and written by Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y., The Young Victoria). At the 2012 Genie Awards it was nominated for thirteen awards, winning two for actress in a leading role with Vanessa Paradis and Christiane Fattori alongside Frédéric Marin in the Achievement in Make-Up category.

I don’t want to give too much way, so I will just copy a short plot summary that has no spoilers. It does explain much and it just gives you an idea of what to expect. “The film cuts between two seemingly unrelated stories. One, set in present-day Montreal, stars Kevin Parent (first role, singer/songwriter) as Antoine, a successful club DJ torn between his new girlfriend Rose (Évelyne Brochu – Frisson des collines, Mirador) and his still-complicated relationship with his ex-wife Carole (Hélène Florent – La galère, Lance et compte, Toute la vérité); the other, set in 1960s Paris, stars Vanessa Paradis (A Monster in Paris, Heartbreaker, The Key) as Jacqueline, the fiercely protective single mother of Laurent (Marin Gerrier), a child with Down syndrome who has a crush on Véro (Alice Dubois), a friend and companion who also has Down syndrome.”

Going into this movie I was a little iffy about having to read subtitles the whole way through, but I got used to it. The music in this movie is very fitting, music being one of the big parts in the character Antoine’s life. The editing in this movie is great, its been a while since I’ve seen a film go silent at certain parts and it really makes you imagine the sounds in the scene yourself. How the storyline unravels is amazing, they don’t confuse you and when they switch between different time periods and dates they actually tell you. Unlike another movie I watch recently coughtinkertailorsoldierspycough. Café de Flore is in my opinion, one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. It is funny that sometimes foreign and independent films are actually better than some high budget films with big name actors and actresses but I guess these days and the mind sets of people, that’s just how it goes. I really recommend seeing Café de Flore and believe it deserves more praise than it will most likely get.