Feeing that holiday spirit? Because I sure as hell ain’t. I’ve also referred to the holidays as one of the worst times of the year, so that’s why I’ve decided to entitle these holiday lists as “helliday lists.” Nevertheless, it’s an attempt to cover virtually everything that has been sent and submitted to me throughout the year in the quickest and most concise manner possible. We’re rolling out some new rules next year, but I won’t disclose that until January. Some will be disappointed, while others will certainly be pleased. At any rate, these will be dropping like hotcakes, even during the week of the December Shortlist. I’m got about three-hundred or so discs to review total, so I’m doing this in an attempt to free my HD and get all this material properly covered before January. Keep checking back, because we’ll be updating nearly every day. If you see your record, be sure to share the review with others. We would really appreciate it!
Fragarak – Crypts Of Dissimilation (2013 SPOTLIGHT) – I wasn’t quite sure what kind of death metal Fragarak were going to offer, but with this 2013 release I have to say that I’m quite impressed. Not only do the frontman’s thick and slimy vocals work immensely for me, the melodies portrayed amidst the progressive structures on this disc are immeasurable. There are technically only three major tracks on the release, but if were to compare this to a sandwich, it might as well be an Arby’s Meat Mountain. It’s thick, full of variety and takes a long time to digest. You’ll have to listen to it quite a few times (and you will) in order to get the full gist of it, but there’s barely a dull moment to be had on the album – and the massive solo efforts make the experience even more worth your while. Fragarak just plain make great metal music, period.
(6 Tracks, 39:00)
Greenleaf – Trials And Passes (2014) – There’s something ancient flowing through the confines of Trails And Passes, but there’s also something very groovy and very, very bluesy. For instance, “Ocean Deep 6:18” and “Depth Of The Sun 5:24” take a more atmospheric and tribal vibe, whereas “Equators 4:17” sounds like a hippie jamboree. That’s not a big deal though, because the record has a bit of a down home and down to earth feel that sort of feels like it came from men who’ve worked in the fields and toiled the Earth. Either that, or they just smoked a hell of a lot of weed. The record has a very classic sort of production value to it, sounding like it may have come right out of the ’70s, albeit with a little bit more clarity. The frontman has a pleasant vocal approach and the rest of the band seem to know how to mix atmosphere and groove well enough to keep Clutch, Neurosis and possibly even Queens Of The Stone Age fans amused.
(9 Tracks, 49:00)
Last Red Ransom – Sleep Well Sweet Vanity (2010) – This is one of the things I’m going to clean up in the future when I reorganize the way we handle requests over here at the Tower. This record was sent to me via request (and even includes a little thank you message) and it apparently had gotten lost in the flood. Well, I’ve picked it back up and I can certainly say that Last Red Ransom have something to offer the modern rock and alternative metal crowd alike with this simple, yet potent offering. Sometimes the record can sound like Otep with the frantic nature of the female frontwoman (“Make Up 5:04”, “October 3:30”, “Empire 3:26”) but then again, it can sound like something resembling Lacuna Coil on tracks like (“Black Gospel 5:43”, “Always Been 3:53”) and even Seether (“Seamstress 4:17”) albeit with some electronic elements that creep in later on in the album. It’s a very mixed piece, which feels like more of a compilation of experiments from a band looking to find their sound. That’s fine though, because they manage many memorable moments throughout this disc that may or may not help them to roll into the mainstream, which is definitely where they want to be. Last Red Ransom have the style and marketability to reach that audience, so let’s hope that this nearly five year old offering isn’t the last they’ve done. I heavily recommend Sleep Well Sweet Vanity to all fans of alternative metal and hard rock music.
(11 Tracks, 45:00)
Anti-Mortem – New Southern (2014) – These Oklahoma southern modern metallers remind me a little bit of Hellyeah without the harsh scream efforts by Chad Gray. There are a few heavy vocal lines belted out here and there by frontman Larado Romo, but his brother Nevada Romo seems to really bring the meat and muscle to the band in the form of pumped up, Pantera influenced blues filtered through the lens of hard rock. It’s not really so much metal as it is rock, but it’s certainly a hard rocker with a major single in “100% Pure American Rage 3:43.” The guys really channel Hellyeah with “I Get Along With The Devil 3:03” so if the new Hellyeah release Blood For Blood didn’t speak to you, then maybe this one will. I will say that there are some major solos on the album and even some radio-friendly ballads in addition to the crunchier pieces. I haven’t been listening to the radio that much these days, but seeing as I come from the south and people around here like southern hard rock music if they’re not listening to rap (a lot more rappers than rockers out here these days) I’m definitely sure that these guys have an audience out here. I’d be surprised if these guys weren’t major rock stars by now, but I’ve heard hide nor hair about them for quite some time. Hopefully they’ll get to cut another disc after this one.
(12 Tracks, 48:00)
Body Hammer – II: The Mechanism Of Light (2014) – I don’t know much about Body Hammer, but I know that I fucking love that album artwork. We’re not going to show the whole thing here, but you should definitely Google it and check the piece out for yourself. Body Hammer is an experimental grindcore act who revels in static, fierce inhuman screams and mountains of atmosphere, whether that be amp noise or electronic whizzing. They’re the kind of band that I’d want to see live, because I knew that I would be in for one hell of a show and I know that this record just wouldn’t be able to do it justice. The atmosphere and insanity of this album is truly second to none. Right now it still feels like it’s being worked out and ironed a bit, but I think with even more experience it could be even better. Body Hammer is not so much a metal act as it is an explorative soundscape and I think that is what will appeal to people the most.
(16 Tracks, 33:00)
Chasma – Codex Constellatia (2014) – This is just a short EP, but the band’s full-length Omega Theorian has already released and you should probably pick up that record if this EP appeals to you. Unfortunately, I was not given the full-length for review but I’ve already heard it and can tell you that’s it worth checking out. But regardless of that, the EP offers the same style of atmospheric and melodic black metal that you’d expect from the full-length. “Burning Shapeless 12:40” serves as the opener, even though it doesn’t really flex as much frost giant muscle as “Solarsin 7:36” which truly sounds like threatening black metal at it’s finest. If you were to listen to just these two tracks back to back, then you would hardly believe you were listening to the same band! It’s a rather decent accompaniment to Omega Theorian, but it feels like the portion of potatoes that serve to compliment the meat. Yes, I just compared a black metal record to potatoes.
(5 Tracks, 43:00)
Enabler – La Fin Absolue Du Monde (2014) – I’m still trying to figure out what happened to Enabler, because whatever the hell they’re calling this; it doesn’t even remotely sound like the band that blew my socks off last time. The problem is, I once had a band that wasn’t afraid to mix all sorts of styles together to create something really unique and boisterous. But now I have a band who just wants to simplify everything and play metalized punk, or crust. I feel like I have reached the crust with this one, because all the filling is gone. It’s like reaching for a piece of pumpkin pie and finding that the crust is all that’s left. This record is so one-dimensional that it literally bores me to tears and offers nothing more than a mediocre punk performance with slight metal elements. What the hell happened to everything? Enabler used to enable all sorts of different styles, but now it seems like they just lost their inspiration and I’m left with a stale pie crust. They need to find out where they went wrong and fucking step it up.
(14 Tracks, 36:00)
Klogr – Black Snow (2014) – With a name like Klogr and an album called Black Snow, you might think of some Norwegian black metal act, but that’s not the case here. Instead, you’ve got a very spirited approach at American hard rock and while it’s not bad, it doesn’t really seem to offer anything truly unique. What you’ve got here are simple melodic leads, plenty of down-tuned riffs and a lot of crunch. It’s one of those “quick to the chorus” hard rock efforts that was made for the radio and that’s it. I do like some of shoegaze melodies that appear on the disc at times and some slight attempts at atmosphere, but I think that Klogr is going to have to try a little bit harder than this to get my attention. Black Snow is good for what it is, features a strong enough vocalist and delivers a stable sense of hard rock. I guess if you need more of that in your life, Black Snow is here for you.
(12 Tracks, 51:00)
Metsatoll – Karajuht (2014) – Metsatoll is a heavy folk metal band, which combines crunchy riffs and flutes together along with some other non-metal instruments. The effort comes off just as you would expect, sounding rather tribal and quite naturalistic, where it feels like a celebration of the band’s homeland and of their culture and it’s myths and legends. The entire record is in the band’s native (of which I am guessing is Finnish) and that’s something that I’ve expected and accepted from a country with such a rich culture as Finland. There’s nothing out there like Finnish folk music and few can really understand the passion of nature and the forest like they can. Here the band deliver a powerful folk performance which rivals virtually any other. If you’re looking for a great new folk metal act to try out, then I really don’t think you can go wrong with Karajuht. It seems to be a metallic interpretation of Finnish folk culture and that is perfectly fine with me.
(12 Tracks, 46:00)
Miss May I – Rise Of The Lion (2014) – Miss May I is normally not the kind of band I can get into. It reeks of market trend and is quite popular with the youth, but I will say that I really like the clean vocalist’s work and he really needs to pursue his own project. The band do play a melodic brand of metalcore that is quite catchy however and I think that clean vocals work well to support that. “Refuse To Believe 4:03” and “Echoes 4:11” are quite powerful cuts though, proving that these guys do have a reasonable amount of skill and manage to step up to the plate when the job requires it. I can definitely say that the kids could be listening to much worse than Miss May I. Perhaps you won’t understand it, but maybe that’s the beauty of it as I’m sure your parents didn’t quite get your music either. That’s the same feel I get with this record. It reminds me a little of Killswitch Engage, but without as much of a punch. They’ve still got some work ahead of them, but I simply can’t despise these guys based on what I’ve heard here.
(10 Tracks, 36:00)