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A Soapbox for Uninformed Opinions

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Gojira Magma Review

General Information:

Artist: Gojira
Album: Magma
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Groove Metal
Released: 2016
Length: 44 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Roadrunner Records

Track List:

01. The Shooting Star
02. Silvera
03. The Cell
04. Stranded
05. Yellowstone
06. Magma
07. Pray
08. Only Pain
09. Low Lands
10. Liberation

Gojira Magma Cover

Gojira Magma Cover

Gojira Magma Review

Magma is the sixth album by French heavy metal band Gojira. By their own standard, Gojira are far more subdued and concise on Magma than all of their predecessors with much of this being down to a conscious decision “to be a little punchier sometimes*”. The unfortunate passing of Joe and Mario Duplantier’s mother will also have undoubtedly had an effect on the mood of the album too.

Those familiar with the band will expect Mario Duplantier to unleash a percussive barrage at the start of The Shooting Star but instead the song breaks into a simple nu metal-esque guitar riff, rock drumming and monotonous chanting wrapped up in reverb. To their credit this well-worn style is done with a unique flare and as the first song it sends a message to long-time fans that Magma is going to have something different about it.

This isn’t to say that long-time fans will be alienated because the next three songs, Silvera, The Cell and Stranded leap right back into the groove metal sound that Gojira fans are listening out for, complete with the shouted vocals that are sometimes mixed with this new monotonous speak-singing style, but the death metal influence has all but evaporated.

Gojira tradition dictates that there should be a short instrumental track in the middle of the album and this time it comes in the form of Yellowstone, a 79 second garage rock jam doused in distortion that is, to put it politely, unfocused. Maybe the band was testing the waters or maybe they needed a new way to express themselves but in the end it comes up short. In contrast the acoustic song, Liberation, is a peaceful instrumental that is as stripped back as it gets with only a simple percussive beat to accompany the guitar. It isn’t how you’d expect the album to end but it is pleasant and quite possibly the most honest expression of some of the feelings in the band.

Between introducing a flute on Pray, flirting with new genres and taking a lighter approach to their own style Gojira are still far from a full-on metamorphosis like some bands have undergone. For this reason there is plenty here to appease the core fans while still being able to cast a wider net without overtly changing. Only time will tell if the band embraces these new characteristics or reverts back to their traditional sound.

Performers:

Joe Duplantier: Vocals, guitar, flute
Christian Andreu: Guitar
Jean-Michel Labadie: Bass
Mario Duplantier: Drums

External Links:

Gojira Homepage
Gojira on Wikipedia
Magma on Wikipedia

* http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/gojiras-joseph-duplantier-says-next-album-will-feature-some-pantera-ish-kind-of-riffs/ “We want [the riffs] to be a little punchier sometimes”

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Darkspace Darkspace III I Review

General Information:

Artist: Darkspace
Album: Darkspace III I
Genre(s): Ambient, Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Black Metal, Dark Ambient
Released: 2014
Length: 64 minutes
Language(s): N/A
Label(s): Avantgarde Music

Track List:

01. Dark 4.18
02. Dark 4.19
03. Dark 4.20

Dark Space Dark Space III I Cover

Dark Space Dark Space III I Cover

Darkspace Darkspace III I Review

Darkspace III I is the fourth album by Swiss black metallers Darkspace. Aside from every album having similar cover art work and following the same numerical sequence for song titles, they also repeat the same challenging run time with overly long songs blended together by using dark ambient segments. On the surface this description makes Darkspace sound as though they’re following the same rigid pattern as their older output, which begs the question of what’s new?

Perhaps the most obvious change is in the recording quality because while Darkspace still insist on overloading the listener on high-density distortion, it doesn’t bare the same intensity of their earlier output and with Dark 4.19, their sound is refined to a significantly more accessible style that relies on simple and repetitive guitar riffs between the prevalent buzz-saw guitar and muffled blasting drum sections that can often go on for minutes at a time, which Dark 4.18 will acquaint you with soon enough.

All three band members are credited for vocal duties but this is by far the most irrelevant part of the album because not only are they so sparsely arranged throughout these monstrously long songs, they are also completely unintelligible and buried under a mountain of distortion so it’s impossible to make anything of them. The only exception to this is the use of a small sample from the film 2010: The Year We Make Contact on Dark 4.20

It’s also worth noting that this album is effectively a singular song broken down into three parts which are then stitched back together through the use of dark ambiance. In spite of the ambition and overall length of Darkspace III I, it would be a far cry to call this progressive metal due to the sheer repetition (if nothing else) and if it was to be cut down then you could easily have an album at half the length and twice the replay value.

In short it’s best to say that this is business as usual for Darkspace. Existing fans will probably be delighted by it and for everyone else it’s going to be a question of being able to put time aside to listen to it uninterrupted.

Performers:

Zorgh: Bass, vocals
Zhaaral: Guitar, vocals
Worth: Guitar, vocals

External Links:

Darkspace Homepage
Darkspace on Wikipedia
Darkspace III I on Wikipedia

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Sabaton Heroes Review

General Information:

Artist: Sabaton
Album: Heroes
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Traditional Metal
Released: 2014
Length: 37 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Nuclear Blast

Track List:

01. Night Witches
02. No Bullets Fly
03. Smoking Snakes
04. Inmate 4859
05. To Hell and Back
06. The Ballad of Bull
07. Resist and Bite
08. Soldier of 3 Armies
09. Far from the Fame
10. Hearts of Iron

Sabaton Heroes Cover

Sabaton Heroes Cover

Sabaton Heroes Review

Heroes is the 7th studio album by Swedish heavy metal band Sabaton. Following the announcement on 31st March 2012 that 4 members had simultaneously departed the band, lead vocalist, primary songwriter and now keyboardist Joakim Brodén and bassist Pär Sundström were saddled with the arduous task of reforming the line-up. With 3 new band members being brought into the fold it would be difficult to guess what would happen after such a heavy blow was dealt.

Heroes sees the sound of Sabaton moving away from the realm of power metal and drawing closer to traditional metal with their secret weapon, the voice of Joakim Brodén, being made the focal point of every song. His powerful and charismatic performance commands the listeners’ attention while bassist Pär Sundström and guitarists Chris Rörland and Thobbe Englund all double up as backing vocalists to add a real anthemic quality with their gang vocal delivery.

Long-time Sabaton fans will be familiar with the lyrical content largely revolving around military history and Heroes is no exception although a slightly different approach is taken because each song is used to sing the praises soldiers who exemplified humanity, bravery and valour while often facing dire circumstances in historical battles.

The lyrics take on a central role in songs that are heavily informed by pop song structure and length so they can appear to be direct and nondescript. This is a hindrance from a storytelling perspective because they don’t always delve deep enough to explain the situation that these people find themselves in so if you aren’t familiar with them or the battle in question then you won’t be able to appreciate what Sabaton are trying to convey. However if you spend a few minutes researching the subject matter you will be able to apply your own knowledge to the lyrics and fill in the gaps yourself to bring greater meaning to the songs.

Aside from some lyrical short comings there is also a notable deficit between the guitar riffs played during the verse/chorus sections and the lead guitar parts that burst into life during the bridge on songs like Night Witches, Smoking Snakes and Far from the Fame. These moments are often accompanied by more exciting drum parts courtesy of Hannes van Dahl and there seems to be a recurring theme of their skills being downplayed in favour of the aforementioned focus on anthemic choruses.

The first 3 songs establish exactly what Heroes is about and while many of the others follow suit, Inmate 4859 takes on a much slower and darker tone to tell the story of Witold Pilecki, a Polish soldier who infiltrated Auschwitz as a prisoner to gather intelligence on the camp and the holocaust before escaping to report his findings.

To Hell and Back features the tasteful use of a (synthesised) flute and some minor folk influences without crossing over into folk metal while the power ballad, The Ballad of Bull, features a piano, choral singing and a string section that frames Joakim Brodén’s voice in an entirely different setting and works to great effect. This is easily one of the biggest highlights of Heroes and the total change of pace breaks up the albums flow without losing any of the power or conviction found in the other songs.

The emphasis on hooks and simple arrangements shows that these songs were written with a live audience in mind because that same essence of power and engagement found at a concert is captured on Heroes although a healthier balance between this and more moments that would have shown off the skills of the new band members would have yielded some more exciting (and varied) results overall.

Performers:

Joakim Brodén: Lead vocals, keyboards
Pär Sundström: Bass, backing vocals
Chris Rörland: Guitar, backing vocals
Thobbe Englund: Guitar, backing vocals
Hannes van Dahl: Drums

External Links:

Sabaton Homepage
Sabaton on Wikipedia
Heroes on Wikipedia

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Ihsahn The Adversary Review

General Information:

Artist: Ihsahn
Album: The Adversary
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Black Metal, Progressive Metal
Released: 2006
Length: 50 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Candlelight Records, Mnemosyne Productions

Track List:

01. Invocation
02. Called by the Fire
03. Citizen
04. Homecoming
05. Astera Ton Proinon
06. Panem et Circenses
07. And He Shall Walk in Empty Places
08. Will You Love Me Now?
09. The Pain is Still Mine

Ihsahn The Adversary Cover

Ihsahn The Adversary Cover

Ihsahn The Adversary Review

The Adversary is the debut solo album of Emperor front man and multi-instrumentalist Ihsahn. The sound of The Adversary is a continuation of the black metal and progressive metal hybrid that Emperor experimented with on their final album, Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise.

Starting with Invocation, the listener gets a compact overview of what direction Ihsahn is taking as he introduces The Adversary with an intense black metal verse with matching lyrics and a screeched vocal delivery to invoke apocalyptic imagery before crying “let it all come down” which is appropriately accompanied by relentless blast beat drumming, courtesy of Asgeir Mickelson, to tie the lyrics and music together in a dramatic style.

Keyboards are employed as a background instrument in both the hard and soft segments of the song, the latter of which lasts for about 2 minutes after the explosive blast beats, and introduces Ihsahn’s clean singing style that goes from even tempered to a strained falsetto wail.

While Ihsahn shows some skill as a singer among his other musical talents Kristoffer Rygg (of Ulver fame) offers a stronger sung performance on Homecoming that can’t help but make the listener think that Ihsahn should have performed the harsh vocals while getting Kristoffer Rygg to cover the sung portion of The Adversary. The music on Homecoming also introduces more textural qualities when Kristoffer Rygg sings and this gives off the impression that at least parts of the song was written with his specific voice in mind but however you look at it, it proves to be a well-executed endeavour.

The Pain is Still Mine is a little over 10 minutes long, making it twice the length of the other songs, but it gives the progressive metal strain much more room the breathe as you might expect if you are familiar with the subgenre. It should also be said that most of the progressive metal elements come in the form of each song having several different consecutive verses or instrumental passages and this isn’t the kind of album that lies on the virtuosity end of the progressive spectrum.

Like any musician or band that blends polarising genres or sounds together, they must take care to fuse them together properly less they end up with a patchwork quilt of an album at worst or some head scratching transitions at best. In the case of The Adversary this sort of pitfall is avoided in most instances and there are only a couple of questionable transitional sections to be heard. One of these moments is the sudden stop half way into Citizen where you think that the song has ended but before you can finish that thought a piano melody comes out of nowhere and makes you think that it’s an entirely different song. However when this is spliced together with bursts of wrathful vocals and clean guitar playing later in the song the blending of styles is much more convincing.

Perhaps the biggest drawback of this album is Ihsahn’s harsh vocal style which can often sound strained like Marge Simpson if she had a sore throat but for die hard Emperor fans wanting more material from one of black metals early stalwart musicians then this will hardly be something to fault. If you are a fan of indulgent-free progressive metal with a harder edge coming from the black metal realm then The Adversary is an ideal and relatively accessible point of reference to start with.

Performers:

Ihsahn: Vocals, guitar, bass guitar, keyboards
Asgeir Mickelson: Drums
Kristoffer Rygg: Guest vocals on “Homecoming”

External Links:

Ihsahn Homepage
Ihsahn on Wikipedia
The Adversary on Wikipedia