A common suggestion from our lovely readers during our We Ask You: What Do You Want From Us?! post was more reviews. MORE reviews?! We’re lucky to make five a week! At first, the idea seemed impossible to pull off on our schedules, but we eventually came to a compromise: each week, we replace one full-length review (typically between 500-700 words) a week with three shorter length reviews (around 200-300 words). Below, we give the new grab-bag style a shot with reviews of the new Cryptopsy, Stealing Axion, and Ensiferum. Love the idea? Hate it? Let us know in the comments section below!
Cryptopsy – Cryptopsy
Ah, Cryptopsy. Once-revered brutal death metal legends, they fell out of favor when definitive vocalist Lord Worm left and they released the almost-universally-maligned album The Unspoken King. After the fan backlash over TUK, Cryptopsy seem to have rethought their decisions. Guitarist Jon Levasseur has decided to come back, and his influence on the songwriting is noticeable. Gone are the breakdowns, the clean vocals, and the deathcore riffs. What’s left is pure death metal. The vocals of Matt McGachy still don’t compare to the band’s legendary ex-vocalist Lord Worm, but Matt seems more comfortable with the songs now, and he sounds quite brutal. The songs are tight, fast, have the blazing fast riffs and drumming Cryptopsy fans have come to expect over the years. One could almost call this a return to form. The modern production that was on The Unspoken King is still present, which gives the album a different feel from old Cryptopsy albums, but it’s not necessarily bad — and that’s the overall gist with this album. It’s solid, it’s heavy, it’s fast; but it still doesn’t compare to old Cryptopsy. At this point, it’s futile to expect Cryptopsy to make something similar to None So Vile, but once we accept that fact, we have in our hands a damn fine death metal album that will at least clear the band’s name and put them back on the map, if not back on the pedestal. – NT
Stealing Axion – Moments
After a celebrated self-titled EP put Stealing Axion on the map and in the eyes of Century Media subsidiary Inside Out Music, the American “nu-prog” band (an appropriate replacement for ‘djent’ if there ever was one) have just released their debut album, Moments. Like many bands in the genre, Stealing Axion have a multifaceted approach at songwriting. There’s the more aggressive style of ‘Everything or Nothing‘ and ’47 Days Later’ that relies on screamed vocals and heavier, grooving riffs. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s the band’s penchant for writing classic prog style ballads like ‘Eventide’ and ‘It’s Too Late Now,’ emphasizing melodies and clean singing. Moments shines brightest during these more expressive and thoughtful bouts of melody, showing a collective strength in atmosphere and catchy hooks — so much so that the heavier moments of the album seem to lack in comparison. The two styles don’t often mesh together as well as they could have, and it makes Moments feel almost inconsistent in overall tone, as if the band hasn’t quite hit their stride in achieving their own unique voice. The album also stretches over an hour in length, making Moments a dense listening experience. Even still, that doesn’t keep the album from being enjoyable. Stealing Axion have shown worlds of promise on Moments, and have the potential to go on to become greats in the genre. They just need to find themselves first. – JR
Ensiferum – Unsung Heroes
Ensiferum are no doubt one of the better known folk-metal groups — not only because of their sterling quality of records, but because it was Jari Maenpaa’s band before he formed the infamous Wintersun. Even with today’s line-up, the group has proven they can write great records, such as 2007’s stellar Victory Songs. However, Unsung Heroes simply isn’t up to the same quality as their discography. Put very simply, most of these songs do nothing more than exist. Songs that rehash melodic lines that bands have been doing for years, boring song structures, and generic and shallow orchestrations leave very little to find in this record that can’t be found within one or two listens. Sami Hinnka’s clean vocals sound very forced, although his bass playing is quite good and is very noticeable in the album’s stellar production. The overall general feel that one gets when listening to this record is “underachieving.” Speaking on a positive note, however, the better tracks seem to reside on the latter half of the album. ‘Retribution Shall Be Mine’ is a thrasher that harkens back to the bands previous records, and the 17-minute epic ‘Passion Proof Power’, while having an uninvolving climax, definitely has some absolutely stellar moments. However, this is simply a record that does little more than exist. Not only is the record average in quality, it’s a record in which the band simply sounds like they half-hearted the record, which is always unfortunate when it comes to a piece of music. If you like Ensiferum, give it a try. However, there are much better folk records out there that are much more worthy of your time. – GR