IMMORTAL – Northern Chaos Gods

After initially listening to the first couple seconds of IMMORTAL‘s comeback album, Northern Chaos Gods, you realize that you owe the band a huge apology for doubting them.  A raging storm of ice and snow blast forth in a way that only Bergen, Norway’s finest can produce.

Despite the departure of original vocalist and bassist/guitarist, Abbath, and him allegedly taking most of what was supposed to be the band’s next studio album for his solo album, IMMORTAL is intact and true to their legacy.  Demonaz takes on vocal duties in masterful fashion and, most importantly, returns to his rightful place recording guitars for the band. Peter Tägtgren (HYPOCRISY, PAIN) pulls double duty as producer and session bassist.

While it is accurate to say that IMMORTAL finds much inspiration in their colder, faster sound from around the mid-90’s, Northern Chaos Gods is not a total throwback or a regression.  The mastery and epic sound that the band honed so well in the 2000’s is still intact as evidenced by songs like “Gates to Blashyrkh” and “Mighty Ravendark.” The one characteristic that is not as strong as the hooks that were ever so present in their last couple of albums.  However, Northern Chaos Gods is still a satisfying and enjoyable album.

With Northern Chaos Gods, IMMORTAL continue to build on their legacy and prove that break ups, line up changes, lawsuits, and severe injuries cannot stop one of the greatest bands on the planet.  (Nuclear Blast Records)

GRUESOME – Twisted Prayers

How often does the band that is paying tribute to their idols go as far as to surpass them?  Well, GRUESOME‘s Twisted Prayers is one of those rare instances where the students becomes better than the master.  Modeled after the style of DEATH‘s leap forward, Spiritual Healing, GRUESOME perfectly capture the birth of progressive/technical death metal.

Not only are all the nuances, that only true fans could recognize and capture, but the damn riffs and hooks are just killer.  There are no drop offs throughout Twisted Prayers.  Thus, there is no need to highlight any songs.  Those beautiful instrumental runs and that heart pumping sense of urgency keep things moving.

Hell, you even have guitarist James Murphy, who played on Spiritual Healing, playing solos on “Crusade of Brutality” and “At Death’s Door” to add to the authenticity of the experience.

What is also important to note is that GRUESOME‘s guitar crunch here is perfection.  Also, Gus Rios‘ drums sound so natural and balanced in the mix.  Big props to producer Jarrett Pritchard for created such a modern, yet true death metal sound to the album.

Somewhere Chuck Shuldiner has a huge shit eating grin when he sees how GRUESOME is carrying on his legacy. Hail.  (Relapse Records)

 

NECROPHOBIC – Mark of the Necrogram

NECROPHOBIC prove that, as one of the proud remaining godfathers of Swedish black/death metal, they can always be relied on to create excellent albums.  The bottom line is that Mark of the Necrogram is the perfect NECROPHOBIC album.

All the hallmarks that the band has built their legacy can be found: the undeniable dark atmosphere, the melancholic melodies, the variety of songs, and the heartpounding tempos.  The greatest intangible that NECROPHOBIC bring to the table is that magic feeling, that mystery of their unique style of Swedish black/death metal.  You would think that a band that started in ’89 would’ve lost what made them special at some point along the way.  However, that is simply not the case with them.

The album opener/title track sets the tone beautifully with its unstoppable melodies and plowing momentum.  “Tsar Bomba” just has that special feeling that you can feel in your soul.  It’s quite a great anthem.  “Lamashtu” is perfect for a live setting with its momentum building and catchy vocal lines.  One listen to “Sacrosant” and you’ll be singing along to the chorus.  The middle section and excellent guitar solo by Sebastian Ramstedt in “Requiem for a Dying Sun” is pure magic.  NECROPHOBIC race to the finish with “From the Great Above to the Great Below” with a strong sense of urgency before smoldering into ashes with the instrumental “UndergÜngen.”

Mark of the Necrogram features strong performances from all band member but it should be pointed out that band leader/drummer Joakim Sterner is the heart and soul of NECROPHOBIC.  Additionally, his drumming is basically the playbook when it comes to this style of extreme metal.

Look, Mark of the Necrogram is yet another classic NECROPHOBIC album and another mandatory addition to your record collection.  Hail. (Century Media Records)

Underground Gems: DAWN’s Epic Masterpiece, Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy)

As part of the unending well of magical albums coming out of Sweden, DAWN released what ended up being their final album, Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy).  The sentiment among fans is that DAWN nor this album got their just due with the media or underground scene as a whole.  While the album is not flawless, it is undoubtedly a gem in the pantheon of classic Swedish black/death metal of the 90’s.

The band’s first full-length, Nær sólen gar niþer for evogher, had a cool sound and showed plenty of promise but things did not gel overall.  However, they took things to the next level with a greater singular focus on creating an epic, unrelenting album with 10+ minute songs.  The riffs were much better, sharper, and the sense of urgency that was not omnipresent on on DAWN‘s debut was in full effect.  Maybe it’s the penultimate front cover artwork but Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy) has an ominous atmosphere that is deeply embedded into the album.

There are few album openers that come in like a thundering storm like “The Knell and the World” do.  It is far and away the most poignant track.  The folk influences were intact from their debut as shown on “To Achieve the Ancestral Powers“.  The distinctly Swedish melodies are excellent as demonstrated on the riff that carries “The Aphelion Deserts.”  Keyboards appear here and there to accentuate riffs and create atmosphere.  Amongst the seven tracks, “Stalker’s Blessing,” is probably the weakest as it carries the least momentum.  However, DAWN close it out in blasting style with “Malediction Murder.”

Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy) was out of print for over a decade with the demise of issuing label, Necropolis Records, driving the prices of the CD on ebay.  Century Media Records came to the rescue by re-releasing all of their albums, including a compilation of their early demos entitled The Eternal Forest, on CD and vinyl back in 2014.

THE CROWN – Cobra Speed Venom

If we’re being honest, THE CROWN‘s last one, Death is Not Dead, was good but not good enough by the standard that the band have set with previous releases.  The good news is that Cobra Speed Venom is THE CROWN‘s best album since the stellar Possessed 13.  Furthermore, it ranks up there with the latter, Eternal Death and Death Race King.

THE CROWN‘s heart pounding and train flying off the rails style of raging metal is in full effect on Cobra Speed Venom.  The songwriting is damn near flawless.  Hook after hook along with the perfect blend of diversity across the album make for an enjoyable listening experience.  The dirty and ugly aspects of their sound along with the clean melodies all have the right balance in the mix.  Lemmy would be proud to not only hear how Magnus Olsfelt‘s bass sounds in the mix but his bulldozing performance.

Bonus points if you caught the little tribute to BATHORY on “In the Name of Death.”

There is really no need to further explain as to why THE CROWN at the top of their game with Cobra Speed Venom.  Buy or die!  (Metal Blade Records)

Video of the Day: AT THE GATES Release Video for Title Track to To Drink From the Night Itself

The first taste of AT THE GATES‘ new album, To Drink From the Night Itself, comes in the form of the video for the title track.  It sounds like a return to the style of Slaughter of the Soul.  The video was directed by Patric Ullaeus/Revolver.se who has worked with virtually every upper echelon metal band in the business.

AT THE GATES frontman Tomas Lindberg checked in to comment about the track as follows:

“So, for the first song to present to the public, we chose the title track of the album. Which is also the opening track of the record. To us, this gives a presentation of the attitude of the album: raw, hungry and desperate. It also gives an introduction to the whole concept of the record. We live through our art, and the whole album deals with the concept of art. Art as a tool either for revolution, or suppression. To drink from the night itself is just that, a metaphor for living and breathing through art. Of course the concept goes deeper than that, but this song is the heart of the concept, the fierce call to arms so to say. We are still at war, but this time we are fighting the abyss, the abyss of apathy and oppression. It is an aggressive song, but also contains a lot of the other elements of the band´s sound on this record. Melancholia, desperation and struggle. For the first video we chose to use Patric Ullaeus again, as he is good at capturing the raw energy of the band playing live. In the video you can also see glimpses of the art used for the cover, so it binds it all together nicely. Enjoy.”

To Drink From the Night Itself is due out May 18th, 2018 via Century Media Records.

Video of the Day: DIMMU BORGIR’s Return

DIMMU BORGIR have been gone for a long time, seven years to be exact.  Today, they mark their return with the first single and video for the song, “Interdimensional Summit,” off of their upcoming album, Eonian.  The album is set for a May 4, 2018 release via Nuclear Blast.

The band have turned in their white fur coats for black leather trenchcoats.  Who else smiles as much as Galder (guitar) does in this video?

Devastating News: JUDAS PRIEST’s Glenn Tipton Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease

In absolutely shocking news, JUDAS PRIEST have just announced that guitarist Glenn Tipton has battling Parkinson’s Disease for the past decade.  All seemed normal in the world with the band’s new album, Firepower, set for a March 9, 2018 release date via Epic Records.

For the time being, Glenn Tipton will step aside from the stage and renowned producer/SABBAT guitarist Andy Sneap will perform live with the band.  Here is their official announcement:

“Ten years ago Glenn was diagnosed to have the onset of the early stages of Parkinson’s – from then until recently Glenn has lived his life as the great heavy metal guitar player he has always been, maintaining by his own definition a standard of quality and performance that is incredibly important.

“Right now Glenn is able to play and perform some of the Priest songs that are less challenging but due to the nature of Parkinson’s progression he wants to let you all know that he won’t be be touring as such –

“True to the metal spirit of ‘the show must go on’ Glenn has requested Andy Sneap to fly the flag on stage for him

‘“I want everyone to know that it’s vital that the Judas Priest tour go ahead and that I am not leaving the band – it’s simply that my role has changed.
“I don’t rule out the chance to go on stage as and when I feel able to blast out some Priest! So at some point in the not too distant future I’m really looking forward to seeing all of our wonderful metal maniacs once again’

Rob, Richie, Ian and Scott have this to say:

“‘We have been privileged to witness Glenn’s determination and steadfast commitment over the years, showing his passion and self belief through the writing, recording and performing sessions with Priest – he is a true metal hero!
“We are not surprised by Glenn’s insistence that we complete the Firepower tour and thank Andy for joining us to make Glenn’s wishes become real –
“As Glenn has said we also can’t wait to have him with us at any time any place on the road…..
We love you Glenn!'”

Video of the Day: A Hilarious Compilation of Axl Rose On-Stage Meltdowns

There are few, if any, frontman quite like our friend, Axl Rose.  Here is a monumental 28+ minute compilation of his on stage meltdowns in response to rowdy fans throwing objects at or spitting on the band.  This is pure unintentional comedy.  What frontman routinely brings songs to a sudden halt during a show?

It’s cute when he asks for an interpreter but they do not end up translating the English cuss words.  Also, check out Axl‘s highly entertaining rant about James Hetfield not being a fan of black people and Lars being Lars at the 15:00 mark.

TRIBULATION – Down Below

Sweden’s TRIBULATION took a big step with 2015’s Children of the Night.  Their new one, Down Below, continues where its predecessor left off with a sound focused on incorporating traditional heavy metal, gothic rock/metal, and bigger riffs onto their Swedish death metal foundation.  The band continue to capitalize on the fundamentals that “feel” and atmosphere resonate deeper with fans.

TRIBULATION have improved in key areas.  First, they improved at creating spacing within each song for each instrument to have its own distinctive voice.  For much of  Down Below, each member is playing different parts coupled with plenty of twists and turns in each song, which creates the air of musicality.  Throw in pianos and synth effects (i.e. tolling bells) and you’ve got plenty of ear candy through out Down Below.   Please note that Johannes Andersson (vocals/bass) is an excellent bassist that makes a significant contribution with his playing.  Rarely is he simply playing the same riffs as rhythm guitars.

Speaking of dynamics and song structure, TRIBULATION aim higher to make each song an experience.  A song like “Lacrimosa” has a great bridge that feels like a haunted graveyard during the witching hour, which then takes off into a great guitar solo and eventually ends with quiet pianos.

Unfortunately, just like Children of the Night, Down Below loses momentum after the first few songs.  Both albums are sequenced in a similar fashion with the “big” songs at the top and the more subdued, melancholic songs thereafter.  While none of the latter on Down Below are necessarily bad, they simply aren’t as exciting as the former.  Thus, the album just kind of ends on a quiet note.

Overall, TRIBULATION are on the upswing and will undoubtedly only get bigger from here.  And in doing so, they are keeping the flame of Swedish death metal alive.  (Century Media Records)