These posts are written by: Aly Hassab El Naby

Allegaeon – Proponent for Sentience

The proliferation of a metal band is a clear sign of its growing popularity, but it could also be a reason for apprehension regarding its music’s quality. On the other hand, one can consider the longevity of a given band as an indication of quality, but that would only cast a shadow of zealous snobbery and faux-refinement. Truth is, quality in music is more likely to be a function of countless random things including, but not limited to, personal taste. There are countless examples of bands exploding onto the international scene with superb debuts only to fizzle away later and become weaker shadows of themselves. On the other hand, there are bands who start off strong but are a work in progress in terms of finding their own sound and standing out from the hordes; Colorado’s Allegaeon is one fine example of the latter.

Usurpress – The Regal Tribe

A friend once reiterated to me a rather clever phrase that seems to hold truth on the ground. The phrase was simply ‘Sweden is big in metal but metal is not big in Sweden’. Like many European nations, the general population of this charming country of just under ten million really doesn’t seem to care more about metal than the rest of the old continent. Yet somehow metal heads all over the world look at Sweden with respect and admiration for the countless bands it has produced and their impact on the genre as a whole. Some of the bands from and around the capital city of Stockholm have come to share some characteristics in terms of performance, theme and overall delivery and one of them is the relative newcomers Usurpress.

Winterhorde – Maestro

Extreme metal is a sub-genre that has grown considerably over the past ten to fifteen years. A multitude of albums released by endlessly ambitious bands from all over the world keeps pushing the limits of what metal can absorb while remaining engaging, creative and somehow even heavier. This much competition is very exciting for fans, but it also means that most of the tricks have already been pulled by one band or another. Winterhorde is a band from northern Israel that exists deep in the extreme realm of metal, and is one that sounds very comfortable in its own skin. They swiftly switch from genre to another without any overworked transitions and they make the whole journey sound smooth and natural. That is quite the challenge from the technical standpoint which requires a lot of dexterity from each member. Therein lies the essence of progress, where the music continuously evolves throughout an album’s span without coming off as a collection of scattered ideas.

Nucleus – Sentient

Chicago-based debutants Nucleus mark their arrival on the death metal scene with Sentient; a thirty seven minute album that would make it quite difficult for many listeners to give them any kind of rotation spot. You see, an album like Sentient offers little to make it distinguishable despite bearing all the markings of a good death metal album. On one hand, the concise play time makes for an easy listen yet on the other hand, this listen isn’t actually made easy due to the album’s lack of character. Of course this lack of character is understandable considering that Sentient is the band’s first foray into the world of death metal but that is neither here nor there, especially considering how well some other bands have fared on their debuts.

Entombed A.D. – Dead Dawn

The regionality of sound within the metal spectrum is an intriguing yet oft overlooked characteristic of this ever expanding genre. In the earlier years of metal, it used to be that bands were grouped under a regional definition to describe their style; NWOBHM, Gothenburg style death metal, Bay Area thrash are but a few examples. Yet this kind of geographic subdivision seems to become a thing of the past as the internet and other modern aspects of life continue to blur cultural barriers and connect everyone with increasing ease. Nowadays, these regionally defined styles can come from bands far and away from the sub-genre’s original birthplace. Take for example the old-school Swedish death metal with its classic buzz saw guitar sound, plodding drums and guttural growls. While still largely dominated by Swedish bands, it has slowly grown into a niche sound that’s being played by bands from other countries.