Monolith Of Inhumanity is an elaborate project of dynamic shifts and experiments in areas that were previously untouchable. Songs veer off into unsettling ambiance, where the usually-vicious nature is toned down for a slower, methodical assault. Songs like “A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat” have choruses that could be deemed “catchy,” which seemed like a curse of death for the band a few years ago.
All these songs are still the furthest thing away from being accessible. The band still crushes the dreams of little children with steel-toe boots. There’s nothing welcoming about the bile slathered on in big portions, and even the occasional finger-snapping melody does not dilute the straight hatred these guys have for the human race. If song titles can speak volumes, “Dead Set On Suicide” and “Gristle Licker” should do the job.
The main basis of Ides Of Gemini is the massive guitar riffs by J. Bennett, beautifully accentuated by Sera Timm’s soaring vocals. Her singing gives the music an evocative quality I seldom encounter. The whole thing is tied together by Kelly Johnston’s almost tribal-styled drumming very reminiscent of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.”
Constantinople is all about contrasts, like light versus darkness and fragile beauty versus crude minimalism. The bleak undercurrent in compositions, such as “Starless Midnight,” “Slain In Spirit” and “Austrian Windows” only reinforce the unsettling and often suffocating atmosphere of this album.
In terms of writing, musicianship, delivery and production, these eleven tracks are the fruition of everything Sabaton has ever threatened. It’s not only the best album of their career, but one that will take a lot to beat in the future, too.
The other crucial element to the success of Carolus Rex is the extent to which it captures the excitement and power of Sabaton as a live band. Previous albums – however good – have perhaps been a little too clipped and clinical to fully convey Sabaton’s live magic, but that is rectified as soon as “The Lion From The North” launches the album with an almighty roar.
4. Incoming Cerebral Overdrive - 'Le Stelle: A Voyage Adrift' (Supernatural Cat)
Incoming Cerebral Overdrive combine sludge/doom metal with progressive elements and a sense for experimental madness that should make Secret Chiefs 3, Mr Bungle and The Dillinger Escape Plan fans drool. Add loads of psychedelia to the mix and you’re in for one of the best musical rides of this year.
I.C.O’s experimental ventures in outer space are expertly captured within well-constructed compositions such as “Sirius,” “Betelgeuse,” “Adhara” and “Polaris.” These solid foundations prevent the album from becoming an incoherent mess. This is an absolute necessity, due to the dense textures and multi-layered angle of Le Stelle: A Voyage Adrift. Other excellent examples of this approach are “Bellatrix” and “Sirius B.”
After using Zeuss to produce their last several albums, Shadows Fall returned to Adam D (Killswitch Engage) for Fire From The Sky. He also produced their 1997 debut Somber Eyes To The Sky. Both Adam D and Shadows Fall have come a long way since that album. The band’s songwriting has steadily improved over the years, along with their musicianship and vocals. Adam D’s production is clear and punchy, emphasizing the heaviness while keeping just enough polish.
The triple threat vocals are one of the band’s strong points. Fair has a potent hardcore bark, and varies his delivery very effectively in that style. There are also harmonies, such as on “Nothing Remains” that are subtle, but add depth and texture to the sound. And the aformentioned death metal growls from Matt Bachand are utilized a bit more than on recent Shadows Falls albums. They are showcased most extensively on the title track, probably the heaviest on Fire From The Sky.