Ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Genre: Atmospheric Rock/Metal
Anathema’s 2012 masterwork Weather Systems comes to a Blu-ray player near you. A four disc collection of Blu-ray, DVD and two CDs offers a one-off concert filmed at a Roman stadium in Bulgaria by Lasse Hoile, who’s also filmed Opeth and Porcupine Tree. Anathema even chucks in bonus material of concert work at London’s Union Chapel.
Accompanied by full orchestra, the Bulgarian footage is exquisite. Imagine the rehearsals leading up to this event as Anathema allows Hoile to freeze them forever on film. The grandeur and bombast of the music sweeps you into the arena. Precision, complexity and Anathema at their hypnotic best makes Universal a memory under the Milky Way.
The Charm The Fury – 'A Shade of My Former Self' (Pavement)
Genre: Metalcore/Melodic Metal
Five seconds into The Charm The Fury’s album A Shade of My Former Self and you know precisely what you’re getting into: chugging, double bass, and heavy melodrama. Led by singer/screamer Caroline Westendorp, this Amsterdam act blends earth-rattling riffs and melody to agreeable affect. The occasional synth-work is also a nice touch.
And while Westendorp does a commendable job mixing things up, the music is all too familiar. This is glossy, woe-as-us metalcore; beefy and whiny. It lacks the empowerment so many of the subgenre’s pioneers instilled in their music. Sonically, it’s as heavy as an anvil, but this style of metalcore still sounds like it’s stuck at the mall trying on studded belts. The mascara is streaking.
Cult Of Luna - 'Vertikal II' (Density)
Genre: Atmospheric Sludge
Less than a year after the release of their latest album Vertikal, Cult Of Luna return with an EP as they embark on their first U.S. tour in eight years. Vertikal II includes three new songs and a remix of "Vicarious Redemption."
The sonic template of the EP continues the vibe of the album, which makes sense since these songs are from those sessions. The songs are slow and deliberate, building gradually. Industrial and electronic elements are found along with aggressive metal moments. Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu) remixed "Vicarious Redemption," streamlining it to half the length it was on Vertikal and making it even better than the original. If you liked Vertikal, then you should also enjoy the 35 minute Vertikal II.
Damnations Day - 'Invisible, The Dead' (Nightmare)
Genre: Progressive/Power Metal
Invisible, The Dead, the debut from the Australian band Damnations Day, runs the gamut of genres. You'll hear intense thrash, but also soaring, melodic power metal and progressive sections. They even include a couple of acoustic tracks, showing their versatility.
To me, Damnations Day are at their strongest on the heavier, thrash-influenced songs. Vocalist Mark Kennedy has a power metal voice, and the juxtaposition of that and the heavy, galloping riffs works well. The acoustic tracks, especially "A Ghost In Me," are also really good. This is an album with a lot of variety and dynamics.
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Following a similar path as Children of Bodom and Kalmah, Sweden’s Deals Death create huge melodic riffs blended with aggressive vocals. On their third album Point Zero Solution, we find the band creating catchier melodic hooks and adding an evolution of lush arrangements. Even though they are only a year removed from their last release, there isn’t a drop in quality or a sense of this album feeling rushed.
The band creates excellent riffs and the solos are dexterous and played with fluidity. The addition of orchestration is a nice departure and helps create some diversity. Vocalist Olle Ekman constructs memorable vocal lines while never utilizing a clean vocal. His delivery isn’t overly harsh but he adds the perfect level of aggression and still remains accessible.
Felix Martin – 'The Scenic Album' (Prosthetic)
Genre: Instrumental Metal/Jazz Metal
Venezuelan Felix Martin can play one hell of a guitar. So much so that he created his own 14-string guitar by combining two left-handed 7-string guitars onto a single wide neck. With this in mind, it goes to reason that he’s already unique. However, it’s his debut studio record The Scenic Album that’s the real testament to his originality.
Wildly diverse and deliriously creative, The Scenic Album is everywhere at once, but in a way that doesn’t reek of pretension. The fun these musicians are having is palpable. If that’s not enough, bassist Nathan Navarro and drummer Marco Minnemann are just as impressive, following Martin’s enthused lead with gusto. Approach with caution: the dexterity may be too much to bear.
Grave – 'Morbid Ascent' (Century Media)
Genre: Death Metal
After capping off 2012 with the triumphant return album Endless Procession of Souls, longtime Swedish death contingent Grave are back with Morbid Ascent, a five-song EP that serves as a grimy appetizer before the band’s next bloody main course.
Morbid Ascent is worth picking up for Grave’s cover of the Satyricon staple “Possessed” alone. After all, the band has shown a penchant for killer covers in the past. But add two completely new tracks, a remixed version of “Epos” from the aforementioned Souls and a re-recorded version of “Reality of Life” from the band’s 1989 demo Sexual Mutilation…well, consider this one a no-brainer for Swedeath fans.
Haken – 'The Mountain' (Inside Out)
Genre: Progressive Metal
The Mountain, Haken's third full-length, is far from a monolith. Ranging from huge, orchestral passages to jazz-influences progressive to even some folk-inspired moments, this album draws upon a wider array of influences than either of their previous offerings.
A heavy reliance on keys and a penchant for painting huge, cinematic landscapes makes Dream Theatre a more obvious touchstone than ever before. “Atlas Stone” is informed by a deep homage to classical, whereas the crunch and ooze of prog is more keenly felt on “In Memoriam.” Things do get heavier as well, as on the positively djent-y “Falling Back To Earth.” While not everyone will love the softer, more pop-influenced angle some of these songs are taking, The Mountain is most definitely worth the climb.
Human Improvement Process - 'Deafening Dissonant Millennium' (Memorial)
Genre: Death Metal/Deathcore
After releasing a couple of EPs, the Italian band Human Improvement Process are unveiling their full-length debut, Deafening Dissonant Millennium. They deliver both crushing death metal and 'core elements.
The tempos and intensities shift often, going from dense blastbeats to groovy mid-tempo death metal. They incorporate some hardcore style yells along with death metal growls. And of course you get the requisite breakdowns and pinch harmonics. Songs like "Empty Eyes" also utilize some electronic elements. In a genre that can get monotonous, Human Improvement Process are anything but boring.
Mindcage - 'Our Own Devices' (Kinematic)
Genre: Progressive Metal
Originally formed back in the mid '90s, the Florida band Mindcage are finally releasing their full-length debut. Our Own Devices is a concept album that's epic in scope, even though it only clocks in at about 35 minutes. The songs are melodic and intricately arranged.
Vocalist Jeff Hignite has a wide range, and his style is perfect for delivering the storyline. His style is dynamic and emotional, with a lot of Geoff Tate influences mixed with some Bruce Dickinson. The songs are good, and the short length of the album actually works to Mindcage's advantage. Many concept albums are overblown and overstay their welcome, but Our Own Devices is streamlined and efficient.