The ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Blackfield – 'IV' (KScope)
Genre: Progressive Rock
Combining beautiful acoustic passages, luscious melodies and straightforward rock is what makes Blackfield unique. On their latest record IV, Aviv Geffen has taken the driver's seat and composed the majority of the material. Legendary producer Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) is still involved with the band, but his contribution is more from the production side.
The orchestration is stunning and adds a lot of emotion to the songwriting. I hear a hint of an influence of The Beatles, especially on the catchy “Springtime.” Anathema’s Vincent Cavanagh makes a guest appearance on “XRay” and continues to prove that he has one of the best voices in music. This is the strongest track on the record as Cavanagh shines. IV is a mellow affair that sinks into your subconscious and overtakes your brain pattern, as it gets better with each listen.
Diesto - 'For Water Or Blood' (Eolian)
Genre: Stoner/Doom Metal
The Portland band Diesto have been around for a while plying their downtuned trade, with For Water Or Blood being their fifth full-length. It follows down the same hazy path as their previous albums.
Diesto alternate between upbeat stoner metal and slow, crushing doom. No matter what the pace, the riffs are always catchy and melodic. The vocals add contrast with their gruffness. The songs are fairly lengthy, with "Sirens" clocking in at over 8 minutes. But even when playing extended instrumental breaks, Diesto always play with a purpose. They aren't one of the more high-profile bands in the genre, and if you haven't explored their material in the past, now is a good time to start.
End Of Green - 'The Painstream' (Napalm)
Gothic Metal/Hard Rock
Over their 20 plus year career, the German band End Of Green's sound has evolved from doom metal to a more rock-oriented sound. Their latest album The Painstream combines elements of metal with gothic and alternative rock. They keep the mood depressive but the tempo quick on goth n' roll tracks like "Hangman's Joke."
Other songs are very melodic and accessible. The vocals are very diverse, ranging from a Peter Steel type baritone to a swaggering mid-range rock style delivery. It's a groovy and catchy album with a downbeat atmosphere, but rays of light shine through every once in a while. They are most effective when they increase the intensity and blend metal and rock instead of going down the mainstream path.
Exitus - 'Statutum Est Hominibus Mori' (Svart)
Genre: Doom/Thrash Metal
Svart Records dug deep in the vaults for this one. Exitus were a Finnish band who only released one demo back in 1990. Statutum Est Hominibus Mori has been remastered and reissued. Only a couple hundred copies were issued originally, so very few people heard this when it was first released.
Soundwise, it's raw doom metal played at a fast, thrashy tempo. The thrash disappears from time to time as it slows down into pure doom. There are extended instrumental breaks punctuated by sing-song thrash style vocals. It's a decent album, and while no means essential, fans of early doom/thrash may be interested in revisiting this obscure album.
Infanticide – 'Misconception of Hope' (Willowtip)
Following the blood-mottled boots of Swedish grind acts Nasum and Gadget, Infanticide have returned with their third full-length album Misconception of Hope, a thundering 19-track excursion of death metal riffs ripped off with hellfire velocity.
Alive with a grievous punk spirit, the album’s ground-trembling production job lends it a weight most grindcore efforts sorely lack. The guitar tone is immense, the bass is fuzzed out and ugly, and the drums blast mercilessly when the band aren’t skidding to a mid-tempo chug-a-thon like they do on “99 Percent Uncertainty” or “Monokrom Vardag.” The dual vocal attack is an acquired taste, but Misconception of Hope should hang on as one of the year’s better grind albums.
Nekrogoblikon – 'Power' (Goblin)
Genre: Progressive Death Metal
Since troll metal has managed to be established as a niche subgenre by bands like Finntroll and TrollfesT, it seems like it was only a mater of time before Goblin metal reared it's green and twisted head. Combining elements of folk, pagan, and symphonic death metal, Nekrogoblikon's latest EP Power is relentlessly high-energy and intensely enjoyable. The production is sleek, slick and huge, allowing the playful instrumentation to shine but never overtake the fiery guitar work.
There's a lot of classic power metal riffs here, and there is even some thrash songwriting on “Powercore.” Power is at once relentlessly epic in pace, shamelessly weird, and wildly fun from start to finish, especially if you like metal that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Northless – 'World Keeps Sinking' (Gilead)
Genre: Sludge Metal
Northless’ sophomore album World Keeps Sinking has left me in a bit of a quandary. I like the way it feels, not the way it sounds. They have that patented dinosaur-footsteps-through-the-woods aesthetic down to a T, and the wispy melodies that flit in and out of the mix are requisitely textured. Everything you’d expect from a sludge album is in place. What’s not in place, however, is a sense of pacing.
It’s well played, but the counterpoint between the heavy and the soft parts isn’t as well nuanced as I’d have liked. World Keeps Sinking represents a plateau of sorts – one that rarely hits those well accentuated peaks and valleys that I need in my sludge.
Genre: Death Metal
Expanding Toward Collapsed Lungs is Saprogenic’s first album is seven years. In today’s world, that’s long enough to not know who they are. Know this: Saprogenic play blistering death metal with a classic American style. On Expanding..., they put the hammer down and go right for the throat.
Requisite guttural vocals and breakneck riffing are balanced with mid-paced and even slow passages. But those drums are on hyperdrive the whole time. Flashes of Cannibal Corpse and other similar bands blend with more progressive playing to round out their brutal assault. Saprogenic may sound a little derivative to some, but their execution of the style is exemplary.
Self Defense Family – 'The Corrections Officer In Me' (Family Drugs)
Genre: Post Hardcore
Unbelievably raw and unrestricted, Self Defense Family’s three song EP The Correction Officer In Me is reminiscent of a moment when alternative music was defined by rebellion, instead of over done gloss.
The raw quality of this EP is enough to make many smile, and vocalist Patrick Kindlon’s sincere intensity makes this record easy to latch on to. A recording that attacks as much as it speaks, The Corrections Officer In Me is something different for fans looking to bend the rules a bit.
Speedtrap - 'Powerdose' (Svart)
Genre: Speed Metal
Speedtrap would have fit right in back in the '80s heyday of speed/thrash metal. The Finnish band's full-length debut Powerdose is torn right from that era, down to the analog recording.
Guitar shredding is the order of the day, as Speedtrap gallop through songs at a breakneck pace. The vocals are better than expected for the genre, with Jori Sara-aho singing with a lot of power and range. The songs on Powerdose are exuberant and carefree, an entertaining blast from the past.
Genre: Heavy Metal
Full of energetic surprise and vivaciousness, Chicago’s Sworn In lay the ground work with their debut The Death Card. A detuned mix of hardcore swagger, haunting melody and a pension for addictive hooks, Sworn In are eager to introduce their sound to the world, destined to add more fans to their already impressive base.
Though at times The Death Card sounds a bit immature and young, there is a substantial amount of head bobbing on this record; enough to make it an enjoyable album.
Until Rain – 'Anthem to Creation' (Escape)
Genre: Progressive Metal
Formed in 2004, Greece’s Until Rain are a progressive melodic metal band that experiment with aggressive and electronic elements. Their sophomore release Anthem to Creation is a heavier and more mature direction. As expected, the musicianship is phenomenal and each instrument is played with expertise. The sound is exceptional as it is mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren.
Vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos utilizes a mid range vocal and only employs his upper range in spots. The band throws in some thrash inspired riffs to break up the momentum, like on the verse riff of “Living Hell.” The title track clocks in at almost twenty minutes and is a culmination of their aggressive and melodic sides. At almost 80 minutes long, the songs tend to blend together and come across a bit over inflated.