Sunday, April 22, 2018

TesseracT - Sonder (2018)

Being seen as one of the more challenging bands within the progressive metal genre, the Americans in TesseracT has been one of the most interesting bands during the 10's. Their unique style of sleek progressive "djent" metal has been a delight to experience every time a new album has dropped, and with "Sonder" being the first record without a change at the vocal position, it is set up for the band to blow us away with their fourth offering.

Here is the thing though, while TesseracT has always been an enjoyable band to listen to, I have felt that none of the three previous records have taken it that extra mile. They have been interesting, but not completely bullet proof for an entire album. Also, for a band that is trying such complicated time signatures and odd rhythms, most of it sounds surprisingly similar. The tempo is the biggest culprit here, the band rarely changes up or down on the speed dial, which gives the impression of a very monotonous record, something that is even more enhanced here in "Sonder".

Also, for a progressive band, TesseracT is very restrained, with "Sonder" only reaching just over half an hour of play time over the course of seven songs. So this is not a meaty record by any means, which once again makes me wonder, why is the band not pushing themselves? These guys have tons of talent, they know how to write some intelligent music, and they know how to capture the attention of the listener, so why are they holding back? It is so frustrating to see this talent only reaching about 60-70% of its potential.

What is stranger is that the band is going for it fully in one song. The 11 minute behemoth "Beneath My Skin/Mirror Image" takes up a third of the run time, but it uses its time very well, with some incredible atmospheric moments and some sneaky technical drumming from Jay Postones. To put all effort into a single song  (technically a fusion between two songs) is not necessarily a bad thing... if you are making an EP, and even if it takes a lot of space, it should not be that big of a focus. "Sonder" obviously has some other nice tunes, like the opening duo "Luminary" and "King" or the powerful "Juno", but most are just another song among the crowd.

Now, the main positive I can say about the album is that it is technically exquisite. TesseracT is not a show off of a band, they never shove their skills into your ears with brute force. They simply let the flow do the talking, and it is talking really nicely.The bass of Amos Williams is nice and loud, the dual guitar of Acle Kahney and James Monteith is tight, and the vocals of Daniel Tompkins is very precise, nailing the right tones to create a brilliant atmosphere. They may not be pushing their skills to the max, but they are still doing an impeccable job.

So yeah, while "Sonder" is certainly an enjoyable record that any TesseracT fan should eat up fairly easily, it is just a small little tapas piece that might not satisfy the hunger. It is also a little too close to its predecessors for one to tolerate, this is after all a band that should evolve, should take their sound into other territories, but have not done so in a grand enough scale. They can accomplish so much more than what they have done so far, which is why I have been a little hard on them here in this review. "Sonder" is still a neat record, but I am still waiting for that slam dunk from the band, maybe next time.

Songs worthy of recognition: Beneath My Skin/Mirror Image, King, Juno

Rating: 7/10 Smiles

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thoughts from a metal mind: Refaster, the DragonForce album tsunami

About a week ago, I came across an article about DragonForce, claiming that they would release a new record. Not just any record, a remastered and remixed version of "The Power Within", officially called "Re-powered Within". 5 seconds later, the face palm was inserted. Seriously, why is this necessary?

I normally do not have a problem with bands doing remasters of their old albums. It is often pointless, but if the band feels like they need update their music, maybe get a new generation of metal fans to experience it, I am not gonna be one who say it is wrong. Most of the remasters are of really old albums, celebrating some sort of anniversary, so it at least has a reason to get an upgrade.

Holy crap, what an upgrade!

This however, does not have a single valid reason to be "upgraded". "The Power Within" is a perfectly fine record, not without flaws, but none of those flaws lays in the production. I actually listened to the album again to understand if there were something I was missing (I even compared it to the two studio albums that was released after it), but there was nothing wrong with the thing. It is a standard DragonForce record that was the start of their journey with singer Marc Hudson. I just cannot understand why anyone would feel the need to remaster this six year old album.

This is what guitarist Herman Li said in the press release

The result is a clearer, more powerful sound. The fans will get to hear the music in better detail, bringing out parts they couldn't hear so well before, and injecting new excitement into the songs we love even more now.

Okay, so do these songs really need more excitement and more power? This is DragonForce we are talking about after all, not some... slow ass doom metal band.

If they just had to remaster an album, I was kind of hoping for it to be any of the first couple of albums, but then I found out that they already did that... IN 2010!!! Both "Valley of The Damned" and "Sonic Firestorm" was remastered when they were seven and six years old, which I kind of understand since they were more low budget, but still, have some fucking patience please. Even Metallica knows that a remaster should not be made under ten years after release. Everyone knows that the production of "...And Justice For All" is utter crap, but Metallica has restrained themselves (or simply did not have the time, either way) and waited 30 years to actually do one (will be released later this year, finally).

But that was just the tip of the iceberg, because I am now convinced that the band (or possibly their management) is trying to cram out every single penny from their fans. With the release of this remaster, DragonForce will now have released a new album in five straight years. Yes, FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS! Besides the two studio efforts ("Maximum Overload" in 2014 and "Reaching Into Infinity" in 2017), we have the live album "In The Line of Fire... Larger Than Live" in 2015 and the compilation album "Killer Elite: The Hits, The Highs, The Vids" in 2016.

I also looked at the comment section of the article I came across, and just as I expected, about 99% of the commenters questioned this release, so this is definitely not something the fans has been asking for either. As said, this is completely unnecessary fluff that should be (and probably will be) completely ignored.

This is complete exposure suffocation from the band, it is an album tsunami that hopefully is reaching its end phase. Now, obviously it is quite easy to just ignore some of these releases, but it is worrying to see a band like this focusing on projects like this.  Just focus on creating new music, and perfecting your live performance guys, that is all we ask you to do, do not overcomplicate things. Do not make me loose faith on you DragonForce, I like you and your unique, over the top power metal style, and I want to keep doing that for a long time. So do not disappoint me, stop your addiction now, and take a year off, you deserve it.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Metallica - ...And Justice For All (1988)

Well, this album would fit nicely in a "Top 10 most ironic album titles ever" list. After the tragic death of Cliff Burton, Metallica was left without a bassist, eventually recruiting Jason Newsted from Flotsam And Jetsam. Apparently, the rest of the group did not seem to have much faith in the new recruit, because he is close to completely absent in this record. The bass is non existent, and still to this day it is not sure who is to blame, whether it is the influence of Lars Ulrich, the mixer Steve Thompson, or someone else. What we do know is that Jason was the victim, and that he did not get any justice.

So now that we have taken care of the clear ear sore of this record, let us focus on the other stuff. "...And Justice For All" saw Metallica going to a more progressive style, going for longer and more complex song arrangement, even more so than what both "Ride The Lightning" and "Master of Puppets" presented. There is no song under 5 minutes in here, and three even going over the 9 minute mark, surely making lovers of "Kill 'em All" a little uncomfortable when finally diving into this 1 hour and 5 minute long beast. This album is surely creative, but it might have taken one too many liberties.

Exhibit A on when the prog side of Metallica goes wrong, the instrumental track "To Live Is To Die". It is a 9 minute and 49 second song with very little substance in it, some nice licks for sure, but it does not lead to anything. No climax, no epic solo, no emotional roller coasters, just a complete waste of space and time. The band knows how to do great instrumentals, so what happened here?

Fortunately, the other longer song on the album is more than passable. The title track has a nice catchy tone to it, both in riffs and in structure, while "The Frayed Ends of Sanity" has a fantastic flow to it that feels completely natural. Then we have "One", the most famous song out of this record (and the first song Metallica accompanied with a music video), a two part song where the first half is slow and moodful, and the second half is complete madness. It is a great display of the band's diversity, and both the lead up to the solo and the solo itself still gives me goosebumps. Just masterful.

Not only is this the most progressive record in the Metallica discography, it might even be the heaviest. Songs like "Blackened" and "Dyers Eve" are really fast and heavy maulers that definitely rank among the heaviest that the band has ever done. Then we have more slow heavy songs like "Eye of The Beholder" and "Harvester of Sorrow", two songs that may not stand out amongst the crowd, but fills the holes of the album nicely. This makes "...And Justice For All" an unique step for the band, trying to evolve even further in their sound, unfortunately with mixed results.

So while this record is overall a very nice experience when you only look at what the songs are like, it is fully spoiled when the production is added. Sure, neither "Lightning" or "Puppets" have perfect production, but this album is just so flat, not giving that extra oomph that every song needed to truly pop. That is what hinders "...And Justice For All" from becoming another master staple in the band's discography (and maybe that instrumental too). It is a nice album, but the major flaws are simply too hard to ignore, even with a blindfold.

Songs worthy of recognition: One, Blackened, The Frayed Ends of Sanity, Dyers Eve

Rating: 7/10 Shortest Straws

More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
Master of Puppets
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Friday, April 13, 2018

Mustasch - Silent Killer (2018)

My favourite hard rockers in Mustasch are back once again, this time with their 9th album "Silent Killer". These guys rarely disappoint, having a very enjoyable and unique style that might not have evolved all that much over the years, but still packs a lot of punch. This time, it seems like the band has added an extra layer of metal coating onto their music, giving us arguably their heaviest record to date, is it something the band can handle, or do they get crushed from the pressure?

The heavier nature must be thanks to the producer of the record, Niclas Engelin. You might recognize this guy's name, he is the guitarist for both In Flames and Engel, two considerably heavier bands in the Swedish music scene. His influence is very much noteworthy, with the riffs having some extra weight, and the drums being more aggressive. Even our favourite Gothenburg singer Ralf Gyllenhammar is affected, pushing his voice to the cracking point more times than ever. Man, I just love his manly, crispy vocals.

This added spark of heaviness gives us a bunch of songs that are really nice, catchy bangers. After a small little intro, the party begins with "Winners", a fast mauler that is just what the title says, a winner. Its attitude and relentless beat gives the album the perfect kick start, and the momentum just keeps on going with the groovy "Libertá", the simple and tough "Barrage", and the incredibly sing along friendly "Lawbreaker". A really nice quartet to open up an album with

After that though, the album hits kind of a slump, starting with the most boring track of the record, "Fire" (in which former Turbonegro singer Hank Von Helvete makes an appearance), followed by the title track and "The Answer", both okay songs that are no real highlights though. The final two tracks "Grave Digger" and "Burn" ends the album in a really nice way, with "Grave Digger" as a fun stand out, going with a more "tongue in cheek" style, a kind of corny track that is just too groovy to hate. Just the chorus line is brilliant.

Grave Digger
Leave me, I'm alive
Do I look dead?

There is however a major flaw with "Silent Killer", it is too short. Not only is the album, with its mere 32 minutes, too short, but individual songs are too short as well. All songs vary between 2,5 minutes and 3,5 minutes, and several of them are missing something to really make them complete. Either an additional chorus would have been nice, or maybe an added solo could have been the final piece to the puzzle. This is unfortunately not a new problem for the band, but it has not been in this quantity in a single album before. It just feels unfinished.

Despite its flaws, "Silent Killer" is still a fun, enjoyable little hard rock album from Mustasch. It may not be their best effort to date, but it is certainly one of the more memorable ones, with several killer tracks and a heavier style that I think the band should continue on with. Some homework is needed though for how to write complete songs, but it is something they can take their time working on. It may not be silent, but this record is mostly a killer, and that is not too bad at all.

Songs worthy of recognition: Libertá, Winners, Grave Digger, Burn

Rating: 7/10 Barrages

More reviews of Mustasch
Thank You For The Demon

Monday, April 9, 2018

Light The Torch - Revival (2018)

It has been a while since we heard from the guys in Devil You Know, and there are good reasons why. Howard Jones and co. are not the devil we knew anymore, because they have been fighting with some legal mumbo jumbo for the rights of the band name, so they were forced to completely change it to something fans would not recognize. It is still the same 4 guys playing their roles, and the music is still modern metalcore, only difference is that they are now called Light The Torch. So technically, "Revival" is the band's third record, even if it is the first under the new name, and it also marks a fresh start for the band, to put all the drama behind them and to once again focus on the musical side of things.

Frankly, I am quite glad that the band is still going, for their first two records are not all that bad (at least in a "super group" standard), nothing overly original, but certainly enjoyable little pieces of music. "Revival" does not steer away all that much from those album, except for one clear thing, and that is that it is a lot softer than its predecessors, which is something that might divide the fans, even if the core is still very much the same.

There is simply not too much crushing brutality in here, instead the focus is shifted to more catchy and clean music. It sort of brings me back to the soundtrack of the mid 00's NHL games, bands like Jimmy Eat World, Alien Ant Farm, early Avenged Sevenfold, and prime Papa Roach ("She Loves Me Not" baby!). I can see a lot of you cringe already, and I understand it, because even if I might have my nostalgia goggles on for those bands, they do not apply to someone who tries to recapture the magic in 2018.

Thing is though, I do not think Light The Torch is doing this on purpose, it is just an unlucky coincidence that their newer approach sounds kind of outdated from the start. There is still a lot to enjoy though, mostly thanks to a really strong delivery of singer Howard Jones, who balances his deep, manly clean vocals with some nice screams to boot. His biggest moment is in "The Safety of Disbelief", where the emotions are really coming through with some powerful execution. The rest of the band? Sorry, but they are a little too anonymous here, the riffs and solos (the few that exist) are far from memorable, and the rhythm instruments are not doing anything extra to add anything special.

My biggest pet peeve with "Revival" though is the amount of fillers in here. There are 12 songs in here, adding up to a play time of a modest 43 minutes, so the album is not technically a drag, but you can definitely feel how loose it is. The first half is pretty good, with some nice songs like "Die Alone", "Calm Before The Storm", "Raise The Dead", and the previously mentioned "The Safety of Disbelief", but it starts falling behind around the halfway mark, with some really boring fillers. Not even the ultra heavy "The Sound of Violence" can salvage this fall (the only song in my opinion that would fit nicely with the two first albums).

Nah, this album is certainly a disappointment, and it is not because the band has become soft after the name change. "Revival" to me is a boring mess of an album that feels longer than it really is. It might have about 25 minutes of good to okay material, but even that is mostly run of the mill with what the band is truly capable of. Follow my advice, forget about this record and focus your ears instead on "The Beauty of Destruction" and "They Bleed Red", those are much more interesting albums. So yeah, this revival was no success by any means, let us hope Light The Torch bounce back to winning ways.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Safety of Disbelief, Calm Before The Storm, The Sound of Violence

Rating: 4,5/10 Viruses

More reviews of Light The Torch
The Beauty of Destruction
They Bleed Red

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Judicator - The Last Emperor (2018)

Over the years, the power metal genre has been getting a fairly bad reputation for being pure mindless speed, and often being very, very cheesy with all its talk about knights and dragons. Now, I am not saying that it does not exist, but just like any other genre in our family tree, there is so much more than just meets the eye. There is smart and intelligent power metal out there, you just have to know where to look, and a good place to start is without a doubt a little group from Tucson, Arizona called Judicator.

The band is only 6 years old, but has had quite a career so far, releasing three critically acclaimed concept records that borrows a lot from the European style of power metal. With the first two records being about historical events, the third one entitled "At The Expense of Humanity" was a more personal record that certainly struck my heart strings (which is shown in y top 20 of 2015). But now the band is back at familiar territory with "The Last Emperor", telling the tales of what is known as "The First Crusades", with the sole goal of recapturing the holy land during the end of the 11th century.

While the subject matter is different from last time, the music is still the same, a powerful assault with a hell of a lot of depth to it. Judicator's style is most like the one we always hear from Blind Guardian, with that feeling of an army galloping to war at full speed, but also having moments where they can incorporate more melody into the music. It leads to a very dynamic album that never gets boring, making you want more and more of that sweet and juicy metal goodness.

Lead singer John Yelland is leading the charge with his soaring vocals, leading his men towards success every time, both on the high notes and on the really low ones. He got some good guys backing him up too, like the guitar duo Tony Cordisco and Michael Sanchez (who also handles the bass work) firing riffs with pin point accuracy, and also delivering some sweet acoustic melodies as well. Drummer Jordan Elcess rounds out this quartet with his stellar drumming, never missing a beat, always keeping the band on track.

Now obviously, since this is a concept record, "The Last Emperor" should be listened to in its entirety, but the individual tracks are strong enough to stand on their own, being enjoyed for all their glory. The insane intensity of "Raining Gold" is sure to make your head go nuts, while "The Queen of All Cities" takes a longer, more epic approach to successfully tell its story. Oh, and let us not forget "Spiritual Treason", in which Hansi Kürsch from Blind Guardian helps out in a nice, apocalyptic tune. I could almost list all of the songs in this album since all of them have a purpose for being in here, all with a power that is overwhelming.

So yeah, "The Last Emperor" is yet another fantastic record from Judicator, one that shows the band's impressive consistency. I still think that the predecessor "At The Expense of Humanity" is a better outing, but that is mostly because it has a better and more personal concept. Musically, there is not much separating this record from the rest of the discography, and that is a great thing since the band still have that passion to take their own sound and tweak enough to sill make it interesting and inspiring. So if you have not dived into this band yet, do it now, and join the exhilarating crusade of brilliant historic power metal.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Queen of All Cities, Take Up Your Cross, Raining Gold, Antioch

Rating: 8,5/10 Spiritual Treasons

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Metallica - Master of Puppets (1986)

It might be considered the never ending argument in the metal universe when you are discussing which is the better Metallica album. Either you go with "Ride The Lightning", or you stick with "Master of Puppets" (or maybe some other album if you have literally no taste in metal). Both albums are unique masterpieces, but also have a lot of similarities. They are kind of like twin brothers, even if they were conceived two years apart, and separating the two from each other would be kind of unfair. Then again, I am here to review, so I guess I have to do that anyway. Oh well...

So I probably do not have to talk too much over how much this album means to the band, but in short, this is the last album Metallica created before bassist Cliff Burton was tragically killed in a car crash in Sweden (not too far off from where I live actually), so it obviously has a special place in the hearts of the other members. Most just might not notice the contribution of Burton all too much, since he is a bass player, but his musical knowledge is crucial to a lot of the songs Metallica has done, it is what made them so dynamic and diverse. It is safe to say that the band was never the same after Cliff left our world.

Anyway, more about "Master of Puppets". Just like its predecessor, "Master of Puppets" is chock full of great tracks that just took the thrash metal genre to whole new levels, both increasing the intensity, but also taking it to a more diverse direction. Just take the title track as the perfect example, with its 8 and a half minute run time it is almost classified as a progressive metal track, but it is still rooted in thrash thanks to its incredible riffs and aggressive chorus. It is a multi layered song that you could dissect for hours on end.

Close to all 8 tracks on this record are just fantastic, showing off different tricks that makes Metallica so great. We got "Battery" as a strong, aggressive opener that just destroys you with its galloping main riff and insane solos, but "Disposable Heroes" does exist too to finish off the left overs, pummeling with that intense riffing speed. "Damage Inc." brings some heavy pieces too, while the double sandwich "The Thing That Should Not Be" and "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" slows down the album in two different ways, with the former being creepy and ominous, and the latter more deceiving before going into a nice finishing move in the form of a solo. They both bring a nice variety to the album.

Then we have the two low points of the album, still good tracks that just does not match up to the rest of its brethren. First is "Leper Messiah", which is just weak in its execution. It does not have much power to it, and while the solo is nice, it just does not have the same quality as the other solos on the record. Then we have the instrumental "Orion", which seems to be fairly beloved by the public, for reasons I do not understand. Personally, I think "The Call of Ktulu" is a much better instrumental track, because it has so much emotion behind it. Sure, "Orion" is more diverse, but it also has several dull moments in it that I simply cannot get behind. It is a decent instrumental, but it is no where near the quality of its predecessor.

So if we get back to the debate, I think I have to stay with the "blue" side of the argument. While "Master of Puppets" is a masterful record in all its means, it just does not have the same consistency as its predecessor in my books. It might have a higher high point, but with simple math, we can see that having two mediocre songs is not better than just having one. Still, "Master of Puppets" do deserve every praise that it has gotten over the years, it is a classic thrash record that still holds very well today. It is certainly a master that we would love to come back to time and time again.

Songs worthy of recognition: Master of Puppets, Battery, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Disposable Heroes

Rating: 9/10 Leper Messiahs

More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Auri - S/T (2018)

With Nightwish on a much needed break after some extensive touring, founder Toumas Holopainen finally had some time to create a new project that he had wanted to do for years. Together with fellow Nightwish member Troy Donockley and old friend Johanna Kurkela, Toumas has formed Auri, a group that is probably best described as the band that Nightwish was originally intended to be, a calm, acoustic band that took inspiration from the forests of Finland. Okay, this band is not fully acoustic, but the use of electric guitar in here is minimal, and there are no regular drums or bass to be heard.

So you are all probably wondering the same question, is this a band the common Nightwish fan should listen to? I definitely think so, because even if the element of metal is gone, fans should be able to enjoy the symphonic aura that this band has around it. If I had to compare Auri to another band, I think that The Gentle Storm is the best bet, having similar feelings in the music even if the inspiration is different (also, Johanna sounds kind of like Anneke Van Giersbergen too).

There is not much technical work in here to really grasp on, but everything is certainly carefully placed into the very smallest of details. You can truly notice how passionate all three members are about this project, with everything being so beautifully arranged into a very spiritual album. It transports you to one of the thousand lakes of Finland, among the beautiful nature and soothing landscapes. It is a relaxing album that you can easily come back to if you want to get away from the stress.

With that said though, this is most definitely not an album for everyone. A lot of you guys will probably find this record to be boring, and I cannot blame you, because I found myself drifting away from the album several times. While the sound is very relaxing and soft, there just is not enough music in here to really engage me fully into the band. The songs do very little to stand out, which takes the album dangerously close to "Sounds of the forest" territory, you know, those discs you play when you want to sleep more easily. There is enough meat in here so that "Auri" does not get classified as such an album, but this type of style will never have the strength to knock anyone out, or even emotionally touch someone to great levels.

I love that Toumas, Troy, and Johanna get to live out their dream, to finally create this project and present it to the world. Their love and devotion is obvious here, and it should be enough to draw a decently big crowd around its camp fire. I still think a lot more people will just see this as a snore fest though, which is of course a shame since there is a lot of care behind the product. I appreciate the effort from the band, and I do hope that they come around to make more material in the future, but this is simply not an album for me, even if I found it to be a very pleasant record that will be a nice soundtrack on my Pokemon Go walks in the Swedish forest.

Songs worthy of recognition: The Space Between, I Hope Your World Is Kind, Night 13

Rating: 6,5/10 Desert Flowers

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Metallica - Ride The Lightning (1984)

Despite only being released almost exactly one year after their debut "Kill 'em All", the jump Metallica took with their sophomore effort "Ride The Lightning" is one of the biggest any band has done from first to second record. While the debut had its own great charm, "Ride The Lightning" was way more ambitious in almost every other way. It got more complex song writing, cleaner production (not too clean though), tighter chemistry between the instruments, and a broader variation in the set list. It is more or less the perfect continuation for a band that helped start up a big sub genre.

Even if the band has evolved to this point, there were still some elements of that raw power and speed that was the trademark of "Kill 'em All", not making the changes all too drastic. The opener "Fight Fire With Fire" do open with a little acoustic bit, but then turns into the younger, angrier brother of "Whiplash", shredding everything with its furious speed. "Trapped Under Ice" also falls under the same category, a pretty simple and aggressive piece that also could have been on the debut, but each song do have a bit that shows how the band has changed, something different to weigh up the aggression, which is really nice.

Something else that showed the band's evolution was in the lyrics, which tackled a wide variety of subjects, from thoughts of suicide in "Fade To Black" to the biblical story about the plagues of Egypt in "Creeping Death". The guys certainly showed that they were not any old numbnuts, just going fast for the sake of going fast, and singing about any random shit. There is genuine thought behind the music and lyrics, and the work behind it all is certainly impressive.

As far as the overall track list goes, "Ride The Lightning" is filled to the brim with some fantastic tunes, 8 in total. The most noteworthy is probably "Fade To Black", just for how delicate and dark it is, with its theme about suicide. It is a beautiful track with an amazing emotional solo that captures you in an uncomfortable way. The most famous song though is probably "For Whom The Bell Tolls", a really nice song for sure, but just like with "Seek And Destroy" from "Kill 'em All", it is one of the lower points of the record.

Nah, my personal favourite have to be the title track, maybe because it could almost be classified as a progressive metal track, but also because there is a lot happening in here, so you wanna come back to it and hear it again and again. I also love the instrumental "The Call of Ktulu", it certainly has that ominous creepy feeling of a ritual song that would summon the famous slumbering overlord monster. It is also hard to dismiss "Creeping Death", just for the flow that it creates, a great live track that works really well on record as well.

The only real miss in this record is "Escape", a fine track that just does not seem to fit in here. It is not aggressive, it does not have any drive to it, and among the other songs, it just fades in comparison. It is hard to follow through with the mantra "all killer, no filler", so I can forgive the band for including "Escape", but it does keep me from counting this album as one of the greatest ones in existence.

No matter what though, "Ride The Lightning" is still a brilliant sophomore effort, one that every up and coming band hopes to create. It takes what the band did great in the debut, improved on the parts where they did not do so good, and also showed growth in their writing and playing. This album is a thrilling ride with twists and turns, with every song acting like a chocking jolt going through your body, releasing a fantastic feeling. So strap into the electric chair, and join the ride.

Songs worthy of recognition: Ride The Lightning, Fight Fire With Fire, Fade To Black, Creeping Death, The Call of Ktulu

Rating: 9,5/10 Bells tolling

More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mad Hatter - S/T (2018)

So here we have a band that has based their name, nay their image, on a character from a beloved children's story. I don't know what to say, it is either extremely stupid, or fucking brilliant. As for the story it is based from, "Alice In Wonderland" is certainly a classic. I have never read the book, but I grew up with the Disney animated movie, and I really dug the enormous amount of creativity that originated from the mind of Lewis Carroll. It definitely stands strong together with the rest of the Disney line-up. How about the recent live action adaptations? Visually they are stunning, but it kind of miss the mark in the story aspect, with a boring Alice and a Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp who both does what they seem to do in every Tim Burton production nowadays (also, calling wonderland "underland" is just incredibly stupid).

This is a music review though, so I better start talking about the album before I lose all of you. Mad Hatter is a power metal band from Sweden that was formed as late as last year. The four members are no amateurs by any means, but they are no big shots either, but we have heard them before in other bands such as Golden Resurrection, Dreamland, and Morning Dwell. So if you are a fan of those bands, then you probably will enjoy Mad Hatter as well, because it is under the same umbrella when it comes to sound.

So no, do not expect a power metal revolution here, most of the music are really familiar, but ultimately welcome since Mad Hatter never steps across the infamous "cheesiness" line, which might not work with the spirit of the character they are depicting, but it works for us listeners. It also helps that there is a lot of variety in the album, showing off different techniques to give a complete experience. Just the fact that the album opens up with a close to nine minute song is a clear sign that we are in for something really interesting.

There are a lot of imprints in this album from other power metal bands. "Fly Away" could have easily been a Gamma Ray song with its aggressive and high flying attitude, and the Finnish masters Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica are represented too in several songs, like the extremely energetic and epic "Go", where vocalist Petter Hjerpe is channeling his inner Timo Kotipelto. Hjerpe and the rest of the guys (Magnus Skoog on bass, Alfred Fridhagen on drums, and Eric Rauti on guitar) are doing a swell job going through all of these styles seamlessly, creating a cohesive record that never stays in one place.

There is also an impressive amount of consistent quality throughout this record, which is just another proof of how experienced these guys are. Sure, not all songs are epic bangers, "Bring Me The Moon" is a little too cute for me, "Phantom Riders" does not really fit in all too well, and the bonus track "Death Angel Sins" must have been stolen from DragonForce, but there is way too much good in here to let the bad stuff affect you. A lot of it is also really catchy, like "Dancing Light" that has a really effective "oh-oh-oh" choir that sticks like glue in your brain. Do not know if you can dance the Futterwacken to it though...

So Mad Hatter may seem like a gimmick band on the surface, a fun but shallow band that tries to be the wonder in wonderland. Turns out, the band is more than that, there is a lot of competent power metal to be found here that should speak to everyone who loves the European style. It is far from original, but I do not think they are trying to be original, this is a group that is just having a ton of fun, creating some passionate music for passionate fans. So follow that white rabbit down the rabbit hole, and join the tea party set up by a crazy dude who makes hats for a living.

Songs worthy of recognition: Go, Mad Hatter Shine, Dancing Light, Mad Hatter Become

Rating: 8/10 Phantom Riders