Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Haunted's Unseen - Probably 2011's best Metal album

I’ve completely rediscovered The Haunted this year, with the release of Unseen. I used to love the band for being a totally insane and typically Scandinavian thrash band. But now I truly believe they are one of Metal’s most innovating and inventive bands.

Their new album, Unseen is the key to understanding their previous records Revolver, The Dead Eye and Versus. These 3 albums are the ones the band released after the return of singer Peter Dolving to the band in 2003. They are a little bit “hesitating” sometimes, with very melodic parts and very aggressive elements as well. It was obvious that the band had found its sound, but the guys were still trying to express it at it’s best.

There it is: Metal's best album in 2011 - Unseen by The Haunted

Although many metal fans will NEVER accept it, I thing that Unseen, the band’s last album & their best, contains the pure essence of their personality. On that CD you’ll just find everything that makes The Haunted so special. Including the madness and the hysterical elements from their first and self-titled record (1998).

The choruses here are nothing short but AMAZING, peter Dolving is a fantastic singer, capable of screaming his guts out and whispering like some sort of psychic freak or singing like a rock-star.

The power of The Haunted lies in it’s ability to mix 100% pur metal elements with hard rock and grooooove. The groove element is essential to me, and like it or not, it’s ALWAYS been there with The Haunted. Just take out your old Made Me Do It album and listen to the killer breakdown on “Tresspass”. 

I just can't really explain how the band sounds, they are totally unique, they sound like no-one else, believe me. It's some sort of Modern Metal with thrash influences mixed up with rock and maybe some indie-rock sounds. This band is special, all their albums are must haves and it’s easy to give you guys some advice about what your priorities should be.

  § If you like metal, including the extreme stuff: go and get ALL their albums.

  § If you’re short on cash: avoid the album One Kill Wonder, it’s the only “not bad” album.

 § If you like your Metal melodic: focus on Unseen, their ultimate MASTERPIECE and The Dead Eye, which is also amazing, but not as exceptional.

It’s that easy with such a fantastic band.

Now the other thing that made me go crazy on The Haunted this year, is their concert at Hellfest 2011. They canceled their initial show in the afternoon on one of the mainstages and rescheduled it at 1:00 AM on a tiny side-stage, usually occupied by fat strippers.
Anyways, the guys did their soundcheck themselves, and regarding the shitty conditions it took them ages. The audience was starting to loose it’s patience and so were Per Jensen (Drums) and Anders Björler (Guiatrs)… After a 45min extra delay, Peter Dolving hit the stage and man, everyone was completely BLOWN AWAY.

The Haunted Live in Hellfest 2011: not a high quality video but does express the intensity of that show (plus I was probably standing a few feet to the left from the guy who shot this) 

The small configuration of the show perfectly suited the band actually, the energy was unbelievable, all the accumulated tension just exploded in a few seconds. I’ve never witnessed such intensity in my life. Needless to say it was my favorite show of the festival. 

As a matter of fact, it’s really on stage that you definitely realize that The Haunted has not changed. It’s still the same talented band, but the new songs express their potential much better than before.

I’m out of words to tell you guys how I feel about this band, just go listen to it, and if you can, see the guys on stage; the experience might change your life for ever.

The song "No Ghost" taken from Unseen  

"The Drowning" from The Dead Eye album - also very cool...

The Haunted is one of the most talented bands in rock/metal today, and UNSEEN is by far 2011’s best album, PERIOD!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Disma & Miasmal – 2011’s Death Metal World Champions

We’re still in October fellows, but 2011’s world champions, in terms of Death Metal, have already been revealed. In fact, we’ve known the winners for months, probably since May. By that time, Miasmal had just released its first self-titled album and Disma was only recording its debut, Towards The Megalith.

And the 2011 Death Metal Champions are... DISMA & MIASMAL!

These two bands are completely different. Disma hails from the US and was formed by former Incantation and Funebrarum members. Needless to say the expectations were high, and everyone was anticipating the debut album, that just HAD to be tremendous. A few months before releasing that first record, the band was involved in a fabulous 7” Split with Winterwolf. The vinyl was released via Doometia Records and had that AWESOME artwork. Now as you imagine, everything was set for Death Metal fans to witness the birth of a dominating Death Metal band. Especially that the demo called The Vault Of Membros released in 2009 had a massive impact on the underground.

Now is this a fantastic artwork or is this a fantastic artwork? 

And yes, no one was disappointed when they heard “Of A Past Forlorn” on the split EP with Winterwolf. And when the album came out, with it’s superb artwork, on Profound Lore (another “hype” factor) everyone agreed that this would be this year’s best Death Metal record.

Musically speaking, we should even say DOOM Death Metal. Disma’s music is unbelievably massive, not always slow though as there are some pretty frantic accelerations here and there. I think the main word is DYNAMIC. And there’s nothing more important that dynamic when it comes to extreme music. The headbanging is mandatory, you just can’t help it, the sound is oh-so heavy and there is some kind of awesome and creepy atmosphere that totally fits the band's ambition in terms of "concept" (artwork and lyrics). 

Yes, the artwork is just as cool as the music

All in all that record makes me think of a better version of Runemagick. Really dominating and powerful stuff. I can't pick up a specific favorite song on this one, but you guys must try and listen to the awesome “Chasm Of Oceanus”, “Lost In A Burial Fog” or “Towards The Megalith” (not to mention the already known "Of A Past Forlorn").
The other 2011 champion is more surprising. Miasmal hail from Gothenburg, Sweden and they have released their first CD on Dark Descent Records in May. From the first listen I knew that Miasmal was a special CD. In fact, the first 2 minutes from opening track "Mesmerized" are enough to tell you how fantastic this band is. The atmosphere is creepy, humid. Feels like the music has really been recorded in some cave. The drums groove like hell and the fast riff will blow your head away.

Swedish Death Metal at its best! 

The album is a succession of instant hits, and each track stands out in it’s own way. Some tracks like “Mists” or “Death Mask” are just irresistible. The album is just as great as Disma’s and it’s impossible to determine which one is stronger, especially that Miasmal is more typically Scandinavian. Also note that the CD version of the album includes the tracks from the sold-out band's demo. 14 tracks of pure Death Metal pleasure. 

These two CDs are just the illustration of what old-school Death Metal should sound like, and they are just perfect in their own way. 
You like Death Metal? Then there is no way you can miss any of these two amazing releases.

Now before some of you start insulting me, note that I have picked 2 new bands. But of course, one must not forget to mention the godfathers, as most of them are still around. And no, Im not going to discuss the controversial Morbid Angel record. This year, in my opinion, another death metal pioneer was back with an unbelieavable release: AUTOPSY. What a return! Filthy, raw, heavy, doomy and totally insane: that’s how Macabre Eternal sounds like. The final track, "Sadistic Gratification" is completely insane, and Reifert’s voice is just like the Devil himself is whispering in your ears.

Young wolves are taking over? Maybe, but some of the Godfathers are still hungry!

Now that said, who still believes that Death Metal ain’t what it used to be??? It’s still Alive (or Dead shall we say) and VERY WELL! 

Friday, October 7, 2011

SerpentCult’s Raised By Wolves: this year’s most underrated album

OK, I admit it; I’ve always loved this band, and I’ll always think it’s not enough covered. But this time, I know I’m right for 2 reasons. First of all, the coverage in the specialized press was close to nothing. The second reason is that Raised By Wolves is a unique and special record. Not only should it have been more covered, it should have conquered several “album of the month” spots!

I fell in love with the band when their first EP came out on I Hate Records in 2007. Trident Nor Fire contains 3 fantastic heavy/doom songs and it contains one of the coolest covers I ever heard: Rainbow Demon (originally written and performed by Uriah Heep). SerpentCult played that song like a ritual, really occult and dark. Very Yummy. Of course, the warm sound, the heavy guitars had a lot to do with the atmosphere, but it was also about Michelle Nocon, the singer. Her voice was like a heavy metal singer possessed by a witch.

The first EP on I Hate Records. 4 fantastic heavy/doom songs

After that EP, the band released a pretty cool record called The Weight Of Light. Pure heavy/Doom, with the same recipe but more “resulted” than the first release, heavier, darker, more focused…

The first LP, out on Rise Above Records

And the expected move obviously was to repeat that record with better promotion, to tour and to be a little more successful record after record.
Instead of that, SerpentCult decided to change almost everything. Michelle left the band and the remaining guys decided to go on as a trio.
In fact there are almost no vocals on Raised By Wolves, the new CD. And the music has changed A LOT. It’s not about traditional doom anymore, which is a smart move really, because many bands are doing that now. SeprentCult has taken off to some farway planet. Ther music is cosmic, repetitive (4 songs, 40 minutes) psychedelic and there are some insanely heavy riffs here and there to bring you back to earth. Would you gusy shoot me if I dare saying “progressive” as well?

Amazing second CD by SerpentCult...

Raised By Wolves is a really surprising record that somehow reminds me of Yob. Ok, these two bands sound different, but they have some pretty similar characteristics as they both play with contradictory feelings; cosmic and very heavy, dark yet sometimes very bright, may seem repetitive but progressive... They even sound like they're improvising on some parts ("Longing For Hyperborea" - these wild'n'groovy bass lines are terrific!)

It is extremely difficult to describe precisely Raised By Wolves, and that may be a reason why the press did so little coverage. You have to FEEL this album to understand why I love it so much. And to feel it, you need several spins, you need to listen to it in good conditions (try to do it with headphones) and to turn off your brain. When I manage to listen to it in these conditions, it seemes obvious to me that Raised By Wolves is going to end up in my 2011 favorites. 

The best advice I can give you is to listen to the unbelievable second song of the album, called "Crippled And Frozen". The way these guys literally BUILD the main riff is amazing. Then that riff will bludgeon your sweet little head for almost ten minutes. Looks boring on paper, but it actually feels sooooo good. 
Damnit, here I am sounding like a freak again…

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Is Deathcore really all about the looks?

First thing, what on earth is Deathcore? It doesn’t really mean much honestly, it’s just another new label to describe modern death metal bands, influenced by several movements other than traditional Death Metal. That label appeared to describe Metalcore bands that were heavier than the regular ones. Most of the bands come from the US and yes, one of their main characteristics is to have fantastic artworks, very cool merch and nice, studied looks. I was walking around some Metal Market at a summer fest earlier this year and it really shocked me to see all the cool Tshirts with band names I didn’t know about.

And of course, the haters use this to criticize Deathcore bands and accuse them of being opportunistic and shallow. Of course dudes. New bands, with new looks for the new generation, they have to be opportunistic right? Back in the day, bands were soooo much real, genuine, integer…I really hate that old fart mentality.

New generation means new looks and new mentality; we have to accept that. And it’s not about being pro or anti Deathcore, it’s about finding the right bands, as usual. To illustrate this, I chose 2 radically different bands, that both have awesome looks.

The first one is Whitechapel, and I think that their music is really awful. I bought the record called A New Era Of Corruption By mistake, and I still regret it after a few spins. The artwork is FANTASTIC though; a superb black digipack with very complex "man meets machine" art. The golden font is bright and classy; it makes you feel you’re holding something really precious in your hands. But as soon as you play the CD… It’s a disaster. The guys obviously can play. They can play fast and they can play sharp. It’s full of violence and heaviness, but it’s completely harmless because it has no soul. Nothing, just cold blunt riffing, with no personality and no feelings. You can play this record over and over again without even noticing it. A shame but a very good lesson that shows that it’s not enough to be technically good, you still need that bit of genius to compose proper songs.

Really cool cover right? Forget it, the music sucks...

The second example I chose is far more exiting and well recognized, especially here in Europe. I just LOVE The Black Dahlia Murder. They also have awesome looks. The new record called Ritual and it's very beutiful digibook has this ritualistic approach and also makes you feel you’re holding some Black Magik initiation book. But this time, the music fits. The Black Dahlia Murder’s Deathcore is powerful, smart, dynamic and particularly well composed. The band is technically impressive but they know how to throw in some slow parts and some cool leads to let the tension down for a moment, before they punch you back in the face with a blast beat.

Ok, now that one looks good but also SOUNDS good.

They also can create some pretty freaky atmospheres, something cold and typically Scandinavian. Not bad for a band from Michigan right? If you dig Ritual, I suggest you go and listen to all their previous records, especially my personally favorite called Nocturnal. That one’s got a pretty outstanding outwork as well. 

Just AWESOME. A real musthave for modern death metal lovers.