Albums/promos I’ve heard lately, with quick comments and subjective scores (influenced by the styles I like, as much as anything):
Protest the Hero - Fortress (2008)
Quite cool metalcore sorta stuff (don’t stop reading yet!). A bit progressive in nature, quite hard to pigeonhole. Various parts of the first song remind me of Sikth, BTBAM, Mr Bungle, DEP, In Flames. So yeah, I don’t mind this. Nothing mindblowing but a fun listen and stands out of the pack. Whatever the hell pack that is.
Winds of Plague - Decimate the Weak (2008)
This is another hard/metalcore type album, with the addition of a few symphonic elements. They’re pretty firmly in the "let’s see how meaty we can make the 5 breakdowns in each song" category, but they don’t do a bad job. Some of the mosh-riffs are pretty crushing, and there’s no gay vocals. Good for a change from the usual cerebral stuff.
I’ve only given the above two albums 6.5/10, but most albums in the hardcore-influenced style I’d probably score a 4 or less, so.. they’re pretty good for that sort of thing.
The Cavalera Conspiracy - Inflikted (2008)
The long-awaited reunion of Igor and Max. Unfortunately it’s more Soulfly than old-Sepultura. It has it’s moments, and it’s always nice to hear Igor’s excellent drumming style (even though he doesn’t really seem to extend himself much these days), but overall I won’t be listening to it much. They do what they do quite well, but it’s a mere shadow of what we heard them doing 15 years ago. And anything that replaces c’s with k’s (or f’s with v’s) in it’s title automatically loses points, it goes without saying.
Dark Suns - Grave Human Genuine (2008)
This is a cool progressive album, lots of different styles and speeds evident, and quality execution. Their range varies between Pink Floyd/Porcupine Tree vibe to Opeth heaviness - though they spend more time in quiet territory than they do in distortionsville. Really nice vocals, mostly clean but some quality growl sections too. Good variety of percussion too. Recommended for the progressive fans. (shame about the skips in the current rls - beware - but imo it’s too good for those to really matter)
Akuma - Shrouds of the Final Nothing (2007)
Again, progressive death kinda possibly. Japanese band. When they’re good, they’re really good. The decent songs vary between sad spacious Opeth-y soundscapes (think the parts where they’re strumming big open distorted chords with a minor-key lead melody played over the top, like the start of The Drapery Falls) and catchy, heavy, thrashy assaults. Unfortunately they’ve seen fit to put in a couple of rubbish acoustic songs with clean vocals, and let’s just say that Damnation they are not. Again with the Opeth comparisons. But overall it’s really cool, a new take/combination of some good styles.
7/10 (7.5, without "Warrior-Poet" and "Await").
The Tangent - Not As Good As The Book (2008)
Double-CD, progressive rock (not really heavy enough to be called prog-metal), think Floyd, Genesis, Rush, Flower Kings, that sort of thing. But possibly with a tad more shredding. Very easy listening for prog (rock or metal) fans, but don’t expect anything heavy. I don’t know the style well enough to go terribly in-depth about it but suffice to say I’d be more than happy to throw this on when I was in the mood for some old-school Floyd or the like (but more interesting and progressive).
Mercenary - Architect of Lies (2008)
If Soilwork has an heir, these guys are probably it (aside from the ruling Scar Symmetry who are, to be fair, a bit different). Ever-so-slightly higher on the gay-clean-vocals-o-meter than old-school Soilwork was, but not fatally so (by my reckoning), and they do the technical but clean-and-sanitised melodeath thing well, with quite good tasteful but skillful solos, really good heavy parts peppered throughout, and balanced production. This latest album sounds as good as anything I’ve heard by them.
7/10 (based on first part-listen only)
- Interlude -
Speaking of Soilwork, Ola Frenning (the remaining original guitarist) has just left the band - due to differences in direction or something, it sounds like (reading between the lines). I remember that Ola and Peter were always into the twin-guitar Iron Maiden and co type thing (ie. metal), and I reckon that Speed Strid, and probably the record company too, pushed them into commerciality, to the point where the guitarists had had enough. That’s just my take on it. Anyway the band is dead now as far as I’m concerned - they already had been for the past two albums, but this confirms it and makes it pretty much final in my books.
- Interlude -
Other things I’ve briefly listened to recently include:
For Selena and Sin - Overdosed on You - average female-fronted goth metal, well below the frontrunners of the genre. Not worth it except for hardcore fans of this style. This is the "I don’t know why I’m bothering to write about this, because I certainly didn’t listen to it for more than 30 seconds" album of the bunch.
Behemoth - The Apostasy - well-executed tech-death - or whatever it is - scored #1 on the KzT members ‘best of 2007′ list so I thought I’d better check it out. This degree of blasting isn’t really my cup-o-tea but I appreciated some parts and can see how fans of the style would probably elevate it to the favourites league. I thought the slow parts were awesome.
Paul Gilbert’s new one - haven’t listened to this enough yet to really have a verdict, but it’s obviously going to be a good instrumental shred album. I like it when these shredders construct something new and different/creative (other than the usual rhythm/lead standard shred-song thing), and on that basis I quite enjoy the song Suite Modale from this album.
Stam1na’s latest weird-named album (2008) - hard to know what to say about these guys, hard to describe the strange mix of styles they put together, Swedish-schizo-metal-pop would be about the best description I can give. Near impossible to review to somebody who’s never heard them. I like, a bit hard to digest just because it’s so different - but their regular good moments are really cool.
Children of Bodom’s new single - reminds me of AYDY as much as anything (unfortunately). It’s ok. Some decent keyboards as usual, and a few good riffs. I can’t see them returning to their former glory, but I could be wrong - the album can’t be far away, so we’ll see…
Another fan-remastered And Justice For All - probably the best balanced of the AJFA releases I’ve heard so far. He’s brought the mids way up, widened everything (various reverb tricks etc), successfully brought out the bass to an extent. Overall it’s good, I’ll definitely be listening to this version from now on. It comes with a sample comparison track so you can hear the changes pretty clearly.
Note: most of these albums I haven’t listened to anywhere near enough to give proper lasting opinions of - they’re just initial impressions in most cases, after a handful of listens or less. Except Dark Suns, which I’ve listened to quite a bit, and again heartily recommend to the progressive crew.