Given the current state of death metal and American death metal in particular, one can argue without much difficulty that it’s a healthy scene. Record labels are at a reasonable count and they seem to provide a wide range of death metal at a consistent pace to maintain whatever waning grasp they have on the ever so slimming attention span of today’s youth. So in a setting such as this, it may seem odd for a death metal band like Florida’s Hate Eternal to take more than four years to put a new album out. Yet one should note that the band went through a change of label, from Metal Blade to Season of Mist, and found a new drummer in 26 year old Chason Westmoreland; all that when added to Erik Rutan’s already busy schedule of producing, mixing and guest-featuring on dozens of other albums justifies the four year wait for Infernus.
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Are you a fan of doom and post metal full of large, churning guitars and groove filled drum and bass lines so thick it will leave your brain pounding out of your skull? How about ambient, shoegaze sections driven by some absolutely stellar synth work that will force you into a zombie like trance, causing those passing to wonder if you need medical attention as you stare forward blankly, completely mesmerized by the music you’re hearing? Or maybe you’re super into phenomenal male/female dual vocals leading to one of the most exciting vocal dynamics all year? If your answer to any of these questions was a resounding “Yes!” or even a semi-enthusiastic, apathetic “Yeah Sure”, then prepared to be absolutely floored by the substantial piece of forward thinking heavy metal that is He Whose Ox Is Gored‘s new album, The Camel, The Lion, The Child.
Rock Band 4 is here. Like many other members of the press that were lucky enough to have the game in their hot little hands, I have been playing Rock Band 4 for about two weeks as of this writing. Those that were part of Rock Band Road Crew were also fortunate to receive their band-in-a-box bundles early to talk about the game some. And, if you’re reading this, you’ll be playing Rock Band 4 in a matter of hours, depending on how ravenously you’re chomping at the proverbial bit. Unless you’re already playing!
These words are not meant to be a review of Rock Band 4, but there will be qualities that qualify it as such to many. There is fair reason behind it, which will be explored as we continue on. With that, we present to you some preliminary impressions of Harmonix‘s Rock Band 4!
It’s really no secret that metal is slowly but surely starting to experiment more with the softer side of sounds. When combined with ‘traditional metal’ parts, the dynamics become more extreme; bands like Deafheaven and Neurosis switch between crushingly heavy metal segments and soft, lilting ambience with the drop of a hat. It adds quite a lot to both parts when done properly: the more a band goes towards either side of the spectrum, the more jarring and off-kilter it becomes when they switch between the two. Take, for example, ISIS’s landmark post-sludge album, Panopticon: on it, the power in the interplay between the ambient, washed-out parts and the all-consuming sludge grooves makes the record able to hit twice as hard with each segment of the music.
Every Trivium release after Ascendancy has initially been met with some backlash by fans of the band. Pretty much every album by the band is solid, but every album is a departure from the previous one, so getting fixated on certain aspects of the sound of the band always leads to disappointment. That’s not to say that all criticism of their work is invalid, but there is always a yearning for older elements of the band’s sound from some. Yet, despite this, Trivium keep pushing forward, and with every album they change the shell around the core of their sound. Sometimes it works better than others, as the intricate and progressive Shogun was an absolute masterpiece, In Waves was their most diverse album, and while Vengeance Falls was met with some degree of negativity, its second half had some of the best songs they’ve ever written. Silence in the Snow is the Florida quartet’s seventh album, and it sees them taking a different direction yet again, with a heavy bent towards traditional metal and the complete eschewing of screaming (which works out surprisingly well), and bringing back the elements of the fabled Shogun sound. And while the end result works more often than not, it’s a bit flawed.
After losing one of their core members, Caspian were left with a choice: they either hang it up and call it a day, or move on and begin the healing process. While the band chose the latter, I’m sure they thought of option A at least for a while. Coming off their successful Waking Season LP released a few years ago, many people wondered what kind of music the band would bring us. Would they go lighter? Would they get heavier? Would they make tears well up in your eyes and ponder what the true meaning of heartbreak is? Caspian has managed to capture all these things and more on their new record, and it sits as their best work to date, surpassing their last few records with miles between them.
Finnish melodeath superstars Children of Bodom have gone through several identity crises. Starting off as neoclassical melodic death metal, they had a lot of success. Their album Hatebreeder is indisputably a classic of the genre. But over time, they turned their sound into a more groove-oriented version of themselves with shred sections. This sound still had a lot of acclaim, as their fourth album Hate Crew Deathroll was also received very positively, even though some lamented the loss of their older influences. With their next few albums, they kept slightly changing their sound to be more accessible while simultaneously trying to capture their spark from their earlier days, but it never clicked, even though slog the way they had some great songs. After several disappointing albums, and the loss of famed guitarist Roope Latvala, Bodom are faced with their deciding moment. They could either pick themselves back up and make a comeback, or risk forever being written off. Thankfully, their ninth album, I Worship Chaos, is more the former than the latter.
With the bit that kicks in at about a minute-twenty into “Brought to the Water”, the first track on New Bermuda, Deafheaven bares it all for the audience. This, it says, this is isn’t SUNBATHER part 2. This is new. This is in your face, this is fierce, this is fucking metal. After a grim intro, leading into a very typically post-black combination of held chords and rapid fire drums, the guitars launch themselves on a collision course with your face, powered by a crunchy, brittle, staccato riff that is easily one of the most nail-bitingly energetic bits Deafheaven have ever written, something that sounds like it could have been torn straight from the discography of Immortal or Dark Sermon. Quickly, they return to form, trading in the 2nd-wave slap in the face for their usual post-black stylings. The aural gut punch knocks the wind out of the listener, allowing ample room for the five-piece to beat the audience silly while the time is right, but instead, the band chooses to back off, as if giving the message that, should they choose, they could go into a much darker, much more metal territory, but they won’t.
Ships enter and exit The Bermuda Triangle every day without incident. Though there are those that have supposedly disappeared without a trace within its confines, most of the time, you have nothing to fear unless you truly buy into the myths and legends surrounding the triangle. There have to be crew members on those ships that feel an acute sense of dread when entering that can only be alleviated by leaving. The very thought of entering the area must send shivers down their spines. I’m sure many people feel a similar sense of dread as they enter into the newest album by blackgaze phenomenon Deafheaven, aptly titled New Bermuda.
Fit for An Autopsy are no strangers to being absurdly heavy. Their last album, Hellbound, could arguably be named one of the best deathcore releases of 2013 as well as one of the best albums the genre has to offer. Song after song assaulted the listener with every weapon at the bands disposal without even letting up for a moment. Not to mention, it did all of this while being catchy as hell. With an album of that caliber under their collective belt, one can’t help but wonder how the band could hope to top it. Well, that answer is here in the form of their latest release, Absolute Hope Absolute Hell.