Finally got it out, even though it took a bit of time. I wanted this one to post much sooner, but it didn’t happen that way. At any rate, here are some more 2014 releases that some of you might have missed out on. Shards Of Humanity’s ‘Fractured Frequencies’ is certainly not one to pass by, but some of the others are hit or miss.
Shards Of Humanity – Fractured Frequencies (2014 Spotlight) – Well, Unspeakable Axe got it right with their leaflet, because I’m definitely hearing that Death and Sadus influence from the very beginning. This Tennessee act offers a raw and unhinged, yet classy performance which feels extremely genuine and true to the very form of classic death metal. I’m actually hearing some Deceased in this, and I really fucking love Deceased, just as much as I love Sadus and classic Death. Pound for pound, this is the very description of a finely crafted death metal record that delivers not only as we’d expect, but far better. It’s not a long album, but each of the songs feel vibrant and full of life. Don’t get me wrong, this is still death metal; but it’s not death metal in the sense that the band felt the need to color in the lines and offer the sort of approach we’ve heard time and again. While it still stays true to the roots, it’s got such muscularity that it makes me think of a steroid injecting giant of a heavy metal beast, just the kind of hard adrenaline that I want to hear in a death metal record. Shards Of Humanity sound exactly like a memorable death metal act should, with songs that manage to branch out so far that you’re liable to get tangled within their complexity. These gentlemen have been studying their influences heavily and are most certainly regurgitating in a literal metallic rainbow of sounds and shapes within those sounds. There are just some records that you can listen to immediately and tell right from the start that you’re in for a real treat. Fractured Frequencies offers that and more. You would have to be an idiot to pass this one up. Even if you’re not well-versed in the death metal scene, this record will help you to understand a lot of what you’ve been missing and hopefully will serve as a gateway into the genre. I never thought I’ve ever give such a short release this high of a score, but there’s a first time for everything. Definitely get your hands on it.
(7 Tracks, 33:00)
Venowl – Patterns Of Failure (2014) – Venowl create a very dreary, doom-laden and atmospheric type of sound which sees the added anger of what seem to be closely related to black metal scowls, though they also have a hint of EyeHateGod screams, so it’s really difficult to place. Whatever the case, they’ve sandwiched three lengthy songs onto the hour performance, which probably won’t be for everyone, even though he who likes fearsome drone might find something to chew on within it. The record itself sounds live, bare and personal, like the ripping apart of the frontman’s soul in an audio format for all to hear. There are no happy moments in this chaos, which makes me think of the chaos that might ensue in the end of the world. The vocal performance seems just as passionate as insane as the rest of the band heavily experiment with doom, atmosphere and drone in an attempt to create the sullen landscape for such a man’s prison. It’s the sound of one in pain, shock and anger. It truly sounds like the sort of music one might make if they were disgusted with life and human existence. Some might not be able to understand it, but it’s rather quite clear to me and such catharsis is necessary in today’s society.
(3 Tracks, 56:00)
Anette Olzon – Shine (2014) – This solo pop/rock album features Anette in a much different light. Removed from the cavalcade of heavy guitars, it seems a more commercial attempt at breaking through into the pop/rock music scene, which she very well may have done with this album. I will say that there are some great pieces on here however, like “Floating” which reminds me a little of Dead Can Dance in some areas, which is certainly a good thing. It is a mature effort in the world of pop rock and general pop music in that it doesn’t feature any sexual related songs, and doesn’t seem to roll along the same lines that current pop music artists over here follow. But what’s most interesting about Shine is that not one song on the disc sounds like the others (and yeah, there’s even some great solo pieces here and there.) I think women will probably enjoy it more, but it just seems like more passionate, personal and less hard rocking music. It’s a chance for Anette to show the world what she can do by herself and it’s rather quite solid in that aspect. Somewhat haunting at times, even though ethereal and beautiful; this is definitely the kind of solo pop/rock album that I can approve of. If you’re into this sort of music, you shouldn’t be disappointed with this one. Nearly every song hits hard and leaves an impact in a much different way than we might expect for her more metallic releases.
(10 Tracks, 42:00)
Amberian Dawn – Magic Forest (2014) – Symphonic progressive/power act Amberian Dawn actually pulled off a rather strong release last year, but I just wasn’t able to cover it at the time. The disc isn’t quite as punchy as you’d hope, but it manages to come through with several memorable choruses and some really nice guitar playing when the time is offered. Opera is definitely a defining factor in the style and performance of this piece and of course, you can pick through several influences that are not limited to just Nightwish and Symphony X, even though they definitely seem to play a large part of this act. Being more of a metalian, I definitely have to say that I approve heavily of the act’s heavier moments rather than its more bombastic; but I’m sure that fans of the style will embrace this effort just as well as any other. The band prove they’ve got talent and the tracks are memorable. All of the pieces are quite short, but at least they manage to pack a lot of music and heart into each one of them. It’s a truly spirited release and comes off quite solid. Definitely give it a listen, if this is your cup of tea.
(10 Tracks, 39:00)
Inanimate Existence – A Never Ending Cycle Of Atonement (2014) – Here we have Inanimate Existence, who already seems much different than I would’ve expected in the intro, which seems to be composed of folk music, wish dashes of keyboards… but lo and behold, then the death metal comes in. That’s more like the kind of band I was expecting. A little bit of technicality here and there, rather barbaric growls and thunderous riffs that back thunderous drums. You get the idea. But what is this I hear? Just briefly, I heard a glimpse of a promising guitar solo, but it seemed snuffed out. To be honest, I seem to be hearing a lot of these little tinkerings in lieu of keyboards, or maybe acoustics, or maybe female vocals. The band really isn’t the spectacular in terms of technical skill alone, but I guess the fact that they add these little wizzums to their act makes them stand out a bit, like the tribal drumming and prog elements. Alright, so maybe there’s a bit more here than you’d expect from standard-fare technical bands, but I feel that I need to hear more of THAT and less of the middle ground tech-death. There are ideas here and lots of them, but I think more exploration needs to be done. Even so, I’d be a fool to tell you to pass on this one, just because there are enough little intricacies within the material to suit your musical taste buds and it amounts to a cavalcade of intrigue. You almost wonder what these guys could do if they weren’t doing death metal, yet you’re excited that that is what they chose to put their musical talents into. A record that definitely gets better on its way down, I think you’ll find something to talk about on this one. I wasn’t really sure what to expect in the beginning, but as the listen went on, my opinion of them has certainly changed. So yes, there’s something here and you probably should get your hands on it, especially for “Out Of Body Experience 9:30” because that’s where the band’s true potential lies. Yes, Inanimate Existence have the potential to become much more than just death metal, but question is… how far down the rabbit hole will they go?
(8 Tracks, 45:00)
Bastard Skies/Grimpen Mire – Split LP – There’s something rather unhealthy brewing deep in the underbelly of jolly old England and I’m almost certain that it’s coming from Grimpen Mire and Bastard Of The Skies, who each seem to take a dirty, sludgy and barbaric approach to what is a little bit post metal and a little bit doom. You can tell exactly where the Neurosis and the Saint Vitus are here, even if Grimpen Mire add a little bit of black metal influence to their approach of the style, whereas Bastard Of The Skies simply take it nice, slow and raucous. So maybe “Wounder 1:53” really packs a punch, but the rest of the songs seem to be a little on the lethargic side, which in this case is not such a bad thing. Grimpen Mire’s frontman certainly seems to be quite a fan of the traditional black metal scowl approach to vocals and I’m finding that this style seems to work quite well in doom/sludge just as well as it did in black metal. The musical approach comes off just a dreary and frostbitten as black metal would have had it accompanied the same approach and the end result will leave the listener with the exact same feeling, even though the musical style is ultimately different. The bottom line here is that both bands manage to offer a relatively solid approach and both have promising enough skills that should allot them more recognition in the scene. Definitely pick up this split EP. It’s a bit longer than most, but it’s still worth your ears. They’ll be bleeding by the time it’s over, mate.
(7 Tracks, 40:00)
Matt McNerney & Kimmo Helen – The World Is Burning (2014) – This is an instrumental folk record which exudes the sort of atmosphere that you’d expect for a film. It very much feels like a soundtrack, maybe the word of thing you might hear scoring No Country For Old Men or some other southern based Hollywood blockbuster. There are several different styles portrayed on the record insofar as the folk is concerned, but at most it feels like the sound of the south both in labor and in a time of sorrow. It’s the kind of music that goes well with the Louisiana dirty rice that I’m eating right now (because I do like to eat and write) and truly feels like the true spirit of folk music. There’s just one song at the very end of the record with a sung approach “Silverbirch Mirrorworld 6:06” and I feel it does well to close out the album. Some of you might like this track better than the rest of the disc, but I guess that just goes to show how divided the opinion will be. But in the end, I feel it’s a really great soundscape and if that’s something you enjoy, you’ll certainly find pleasure in this album.
(15 Tracks, 35:00)
Lullacry – Legacy (2014) – How do I even begin to describe this two disc compilation of greatest hits and rarities from alternative metal act, Lullacry? Let’s suffice it to say that all of the bands singles like “Don’t Touch The Flame 3:42” (a personal favorite) and “Damn You 3:13” are here, along with several other cuts and covers like Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like A Hole 4:28” which appears as a rarity. I haven’t heard a lot of covers of this track, and it’s even more surprising to hear a band like this cover it. But I will say that these guys did offer a rather heavy approach to female fronted metal in their day and it’s not one that we should forget. They never really got the attention they deserved, regardless of how much I played the “Don’t Touch The Flame” single. Several demo recordings, instrumentals and album cast-offs also appear here, some of a decidedly rough but audible quality. You’ll at least see what could have been, which is definitely not going to be a bad thing for fans of the band. You’ll also notice some male-fronted tracks on the record, which are especially new to me as “Don’t Touch The Flame” was my first offering from the band. A live cover of Black Sabbath’s “Children Of The Grave” also appears on the record, showing that these guys haven’t forgotten where they came from. All in all, it’s a bittersweet set that sounds as the final clarion call for a band that never really got the respect and appreciation that it deserved. There was a lot of promotion here, but no one really seemed to notice, which is truly sad. Pick up a copy of this one and you’ll see what could have been.
Psyke – 1983 – 1985 (2014) – There’s something rather interesting about this Finnish mix of punk, electronics and experimentation. It’s also very weird and extremely out there. It’s almost like Primus got together with some foreign industrial act and just made a lot of rocking noise. But I’ll tell you this, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever before in your life, and will probably ever hear again. But what makes this compilation so interesting is just how clear these pieces sound, as if they had been recorded just last year. It’s an intriguing little piece that might sit well with some of the more adventurous of listeners and even though you can’t understand one word of it, the effort is made and appreciated. Check this out if you’re looking for something truly different. These guys really had a lot of potential. I wonder what they’re doing now.
(16 Tracks, 48:00)
Tarja Turunen & Mike Terrana – Beauty And The Beat (2 CD 2014) – There’s a reason why this album wasn’t automatically reviewed from the start and if you’d heard it, you would understand. First of all, Beauty And The Beat is not a metal or a rock record; it’s essentially a live orchestral melding of classical and opera. Though drumming is featured on the album, it mostly consists of heavy classical pieces like, well… let’s see if there’s any on here that I’ve actually heard prior to this record. Oh, here we are. There’s a thrilling performance on the “William Tell Overture 3:40” even though I don’t think the drums helped the performance here any and they seem to have gotten in the way. And I just looked out my window to see if The Lone Ranger was out there, seeing how his theme was playing. Yes, folks. You are in for a one hundred percent, true to form classical opera performance with this album. If you aren’t a fan of opera music, then you will probably dread this record with every inch of your soul. I must admit that I was taken aback a little whilst listening to this record the first time at work. The second disc offers more contemporary takes on opera, in the vein of covers like the “Led Zeppelin Medley 8:05” and “Fly Me To The Moon 2:42” which are both fantastic. All in all, this is a very tough one because I’m not really sure how to score it. I’ve never really dealt with full-on opera before, so I was shaking my head a bit. In honesty, I really don’t know how to judge it as an opera disc, because I’m not familiar with a lot of opera recordings. I am sure opera fans will love it, but I’m not so sure it’s for me.
(2 CD’s, 21 Tracks, 97:00)