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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Song of the Week: Dead by April - Losing You

Sorry about the late post once again, say y'know I think we need some time management classes. Anybody willing to sponsor? Alright in any case, this week's song is by Dead by April, a band that's only just recently made some headway into the big time. This Swedish quintet have termed their music "experimental metal" due to their "fusion of soaring, catching pop melodies... combined with their healthy dose of relentless metal riffing". First album's coming out in May, all they have now is a single entitled Losing You, released only on the 9th of March this year (doesn't that make their band name sound real ominous?) and yeap this song's the title track.

Ok its not exactly very metal-ish, 'cept for the heaviness and the screaming maybe. There's no solos, if there's any guitar riffing, you sure can't hear it over the bass and the drums. Keyboards are on atmospheric duties, though they do sound nicely haunting. So the pop element comes in a very huge way: the melody and catchiness are all held up by the vocals mostly. And you realise, the sound gets a little generic, like something you would have heard half a decade ago from half a dozen bands. But hey unless you're some hardcore metal fan, I guess it doesn't matter, song's not too bad if you're not specifically looking for something outta it. The the song just sticks into your head after a while is my guess. After all, from their myspace page, the two versions of this song have garnered nearly 400,000 plays together.

I dunno 'bout you, but when I think Sweden, I think Gothenburg metal. Y'know, In Flames, At the Gates, Dark Tranquility (we've done a review on one of their albums). These guys have a pretty long way to go before people think of them, musicianship aside. I mean, look at them.. Faux hawk hairstyles? Ear stretching? And those quirky tattoos? This is out of it man, kinda yesterday even in punk scenes. And alright, so that's their official video for "Losing You" below but you can pretty much just listen and not watch it. I have got no idea what they're trying to express and the best thing that I've been reading from reviews of it is well... the chick in it is hot.

So. conclusion from all the schizophrenic praise 'em and tear 'em down, what they're doing is nothing new. In fact, its old, like 10 years ago old. But hell they just got it up, and if the song's any indication, they're not bad at it so why not? It worked 10 years ago. Just get a better image, and some artistic sense while doing vids, and hey you deserve a chance dudes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Genre Seeker: Melodic Death Metal, The New Rock

MELODIC DEATH METAL is the new rock.

Characterized by beautifully brutal melodies, usually played at blazing fast speeds by guitarists whom defy gravity on the fretboards, this is one variation of death metal that is almost like a proper genre by itself already. Other vital ingredients included in this heavy yet intricate mix of tuneful melodies and heart-thumping harmonies (literally if your bass booster is on high) are as follows.

1. Harsh vocals, without it, melodic death metal just ain't no death metal.

2. Speedy, earthshaking drums gawdammit! Without 'em, metal degenerates into pure iron. They are the bedrock of the solid foundation the guitar melodies fall back on dudes and gals.

3. Some metallophones, such as the xylophone, marimba, or even a string ensemble that certain melo-death bands use in certain songs to inject novelty into their music.

As it has a very heavy and somewhat vulgar sound (most probably because of the extensive usage of harsh vocals), it is shunned by the mainstream, but lovingly embraced by metalheads of the underground community. What sets this increasingly popular underground genre apart from its fellow peers, such as metalcore and black metal, is that the bands fronting it never fail to consistently come up with catchy melodies that still retain that powerful, brutal sound we all love. Metalcore does get melodic occasionally, but otherwise it just mostly focus on rhythm structure and the once-in-a-blue-moon usage of clean vocals. Black metal can get melodic too, but that would come under the sub-genre of symphonic black metal, otherwise it mostly focuses on dark themes and evilish-cum-repetitive tunes.

A little history, there were three bands whom were said to have pioneered melodic death metal, and they are At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames. So going by that, they are considered the Fathers of Melo-death. They are a big influence on the newer generation of melo-death bands, for many bands such as the increasingly popular Children Of Bodom have cited at least one or more of the Big Three as their main influences. Since I just mentioned CoB, I might as well mention that they hardly have any filler tracks on their studio albums. They are an excellent melo-death band if you will ever meet one, for every one of their songs chug out mean and obscenely gratifying guitar melodies that are hard to forget. Despite the fact that they have been around for slightly more than 10 years to date, they are still in the spotlight on the melo-death scene due to the fresh melodies they frequently come up with.

Oh yes, melo-death is mainly European metal's turf, and it is not very surprising, really. If anyone had to come up with a revolutionary musical style, it would be the Europeans, because they have a profound musical history that dates back to the ancient Baroque period during the 17th Century. On the other hand, the Americans sound typically more aggressive and "thrashy", and most of them actually stray the path between metalcore and melo-death. Nevertheless, they are still capable of playing heavy, epic music with a seemingly natural inclination towards mercurial rhythm patterns that incorporate sick yet melodious guitar solos. Darkest Hour and The Black Dahlia Murder would be testimony to that.

However, lyrical themes can get mundane at times. This is because they mostly center around depressing themes such as Apocalypse, Misanthropia, Love/Hate et cetera. We don't need music (which is supposed to be enjoyable) to be constantly reminding us how mankind is destroying itself with its harmful acts against the environment, its own people, other species for its own subsistence and what not. Eventually, it even starts to feel a little like anticipating the next Hollywood sci-fi film, for the lyrics hardly leaves the general idea of how we humans all live wretched lives.

Anyway, here are some of the bands in the genre to look out for:

Norther (Finland)

Eternal Tears Of Sorrow (Finland)

Children Of Bodom (Finland)

The Black Dahlia Murder (USA)

Don't they all look sinisterly cool? Personally, I think that is why I find melo-death bands so much more mature and pleasant to look at than their mainstream counterparts.

Alas, descriptive words alone do not do justice to the music, let the music itself do the talking!

The Big Three:

In Flames

Dark Tranquillity

At The Gates (defunct)

... and their subsequent legion of younger peers inspired by them:

Darkest Hour

Threat Signal

Children Of Bodom

Blood Stain Child (this one's Japanese by the way)

Scar Symmetry


There are really, really a tonne more melodic death metal bands out there. The bands seen above are but a mere fraction of the overcrowded melo-death scene. If you are new to metal and like how it is sounding so far, it would be a good idea to try out melo-death for yourself. This immensely popular sub-genre grows more and more popular by the day, and it would be fairly easy to get hooked onto it. Also, if you are aspiring to be a walking version of Encyclopedia Metallum, getting to know about melo-death is vital too.

That's it for this post, try and discover more melo-death bands and their music on your own. It is more rewarding and interesting that way!

Song Of The Week: Sylosis - Oath Of Silence

Shamed by the weak and cast down in disgust

A shell of a broken man without trust

Preaching upon open ears of the deaf

Depraved words uttered beneath your cold breath

Killing what's left of the embers of youth

Scraping and clawing for a whisper of truth

Sewing our mouths shut as nothing escapes

Love and grave is a display of a man you once were

But unlike the hand of Midas

hat you touch with turn to shit

Blood will flow between us

And the ground will shake until you repent your sins

The touch of cold skin and the embrace of life

In darkness dwells secrets in a holy disguise

Nothing will soothe you, old hands will turn numb

Silence will not speak

But unlike the hand of Midas

What you touch will turn to shit

Burn this fucking savior

Until you see the damage you cause

Well-known as one of the largest and most powerful empires in the past, Britain may not be such a hegemon in the political world today, but when it comes to the world of metal music, it is still a millenium too early to overlook them.

Sylosis is a British hybrid metal band hailing from Reading, Berkshire. They had formed at the start of the 2nd millenium back in 2000, thus being one of the pioneering underground metal bands of Britain by default (there wasn't really much of an underground scene in Britain back in the earlier part of the decade, most people then probably only knew who Cradle Of Filth or Iron Maiden were).

 I don't call them hybrid metal for nothing, for their music style is unique in the sense that they fuse the loudness of thrash, the melodic intricacy of melo-death, the aggressiveness of metalcore, and even the atmospheric feel of progressive metal to form a style that belongs to them alone. As you can probably already hear for yourself from "Oath Of Silence" above, their lead guitar kicks (or perhaps rips) ass just like how a good metal band should, and their drums and bass guitar parts are sure to annoy the hell outta your *JB-worshipping neighbours with the earthshaking tremors they spew out of your bass booster.

One unimpressive point about them however, would be the vocals [as usual]. Yes well, you might be thinking "What? It's just friggin' screaming?!" I don't blame you all for that, for most people still have little to no comprehension of the significance of harsh vocals in metal music. When done correctly, harsh vocals do add another quintessential music line to a piece of music. But, when done carelessly or in a perfunctory way, it mostly doesn't do justice to the supporting instrumentals or in worst-case scenarios, even spoil the whole song (e.g. "My Sharona (My Knack)" by The Number 12 Looks Like You).

Britain's underground melo-death leaders: From left to right - Carl Parnell (Bass Guitar), Robert Callard (Drums), Jamie Graham (Vocals), Alex Bailey (Guitar), Josh Middleton (Guitar)

All in all, should you find the silence in your house too overbearing, give "Oath Of Silence" a listen to douse everything within the four walls to the very air you breathe in dark, obscene colours. Having influences that range from Death to the likes of Metallica, Testament and even Opeth, this is one band variety-seeking metalheads sure do not want to miss out on.

*a triplet of queer, musically challenged apes known as the Jonas Brothers

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Song of the Week: Haggard - Awaking the Centuries

"Something I like more than indie rock is symphonic metal."

Sorry 'bout doing the song of the week so late in the week, just kinda ran outta brain juice these coupla days and had no idea what to put up. Then somebody said what's quoted above last night and it got me thinking.. Symphonic metal, hey why not?

And there are all sorts of symphonic metal, you get the symphonic black metal guys like Dimmu Borgir, symphonic power metal players like Kamelot and even some symphonic death-ish styles from Skyfire. But if you ask me, Haggard is as symphonic as symphonic can get. I mean geez they don't use an orchestra, they pretty much are an orchestra. Do you see how many members they've got? From violins to the flute to the french horn and yet with the perfunctory guitars and bass, you can't help wondering how the hell do they write and coordinate their music.

"Awaking the Centuries" is the title track off their second album, Awaking the Centuries, released in 2000. Songwriter, vocalist and guitarist of the band, Asis Nasseri, has since gone on to feature in two more albums, Eppur Si Muove and Tales of Ethiria, with a constantly changing line-up of musicians. Ironically, Nasseri is also usually the weakest link in Haggard's performances. His harsh vocals are weak, listen to "Awaking the Centuries" and you'll get what I mean. The soprano singers in contrast are so much better that sometimes you wonder why is Nasseri even bothering to do harsh vocals. They don't really fit into the whole classical and medieval music feel anyway.

But ultimately, with its impressive neo-classical elements, the song is awesome. Its totally melodious throughout the whole 9 minutes, the folk-ish moments and the orchestral feel somehow just goes in tandem with the drums and the bass and all. I dunno why, but it just works. I guess it must be the mastery of the music writing, I sure haven't heard anything like this before Haggard. But maybe it just me, the keyboards here are perfectly beautiful, and I've got a thing with 'boardists remember? =D

Yeah I know, Nasseri's not your typical cool, looker of a rocker kinda frontman, but this live performance of the song shows you how good Haggard is. You can skip to about 1:15 in the video if you don't feel like listening to him talk so much at the beginning.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Blood Stain Child: Mozaiq

Year released: 2007
Label: Dockyard 1 (Japan), Locomotive Records (USA)
Official website: http://www.bloodstainchild.com


1. Exotic-6-Coordinator [3:36]

2. Cyber Green [3:19]

3. Freedom [4:20]

4. Energy Blast [3:46]

5. Pitch Black Room [4:14]

6. Another Dimension [3:43]

7. Metropolice [3:59]

8. C.E. 0079 [4:42]

9. Innocence [3:32]

10. Peacemaker [3:33]

11. Neo-Gothic Romance [4:0


Its been awhile since I last did a review, and I thought I'd throw something different from all the mainstream reviews that Shadori has been doing, which has garnered quite some attention for our site (our page views spiked, but sadly no one wanted to leave a comment anywhere still..) So anyway, Japan, long noted for quirkiness and odd fashions, has given us Blood Stain Child, a melodic death metal band with electronic dance and trance influences.

Blood Stain Child's rather new, having formed only in 2000. They started off with a power/melodic death metal style that persistently kept getting compared to Children Of Bodom, but with Mozaiq, has transitioned into a uniquely electronica centred form of melo-death. so much so that Mozaiq sounds completely different from their debut album released in 2002, Silence of Northen Hell. This is particularly due to the fact that Ryo, who is the bassist, used to handle vocals as well but has since retreated to backing vocals while a new vocalist, Sadew, transforms the band from a quintet to a sextet.

The strong point of the album ought to be the stellar keyboarding from Aki (who incidentally, is usually the most normally dressed of the lot, especially compared to that cross-dresser of a guitarist, Ryu). In some ways his playing makes up for the loss in atmosphere that comes from the lack of riffs (something rather perplexing, since they have 2 guitarists..), and his keyboard solo in the middle of "Freedom", which provided a surreal counterbalance to the general aggression in the rest of the song, positively made it my favourite track of the whole album. Violator doesn't live up to his name much, but something must be said for a drummer that can competently keep up with techno-ish tempos.

The main drag down? Well, Sadew's harsh vocals are a marginal improvement from Ryo's but the vocals are still pretty similar to those of generic metalcore bands: emotionless screams with no variation in tone. And the clean singing done by either Ryu or Ryo (can't they have more varied sounding monikers?!) aren't much better either. In fact, the absence of both lousy screaming and scratchy, whiny singing is probably what makes "C.E. 0079" so enjoyable.

From left to right: G.S.R (guitar), Aki (keyboards and programming), Sadew (vocals), Ryo (bass and backing vocals), Ryu (guitar and backing vocals) and Violator (drums)

Listen, ultimately disco-style metal is kinda refreshing, and it is more boppy than most metal music. There's no denying most of the songs are good, a couple are more than just good. But maybe that's why it makes Blood Stain Child seem so much lesser than a band. Electronica is computer gizmo stuff, and this album is full of it. Admittedly there are a few pretty good riffs and solos such as in "Cyber Green" and "Energy Blast" but every song is just layered with dance beats and what not. What's the exemplifying feature of the band then, save for the fact that they're competent techno geeks? If you ask me, when BSC gets up on a stage somewhere with roaring fans below ready to headbang, all that techno stuff which will blare out from speakers more than half the time is gonna be a credit to no one. And I wonder if that gets them down.

Below is their music video of the song "Freedom" and actually, I'm kinda woah-ed by it. Its actually one of the coolest vids I've seen by a metal band. And the song is awesome too, so check it out.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Song of the Week: Borknagar - Colossus

Following the previous featured musician post on Simen Hestnæs aka ICS Vortex, we introduce to you one of Vortex's most famous vocal performance during his stint with Borknagar (1997-2000). One of the tracks from the album Quintessence, Vortex left the band shortly after it was released in 2000, supposedly because Øystein Garnes Brun, the founder of Borknagar, gave ol' Simen an ultimatum when his touring schedules conflicted with Dimmu Borgir's recording times. Vortex chose to stick with Dimmu Borgir and Borknagar subsequently went on the search for a new vocalist and bassist.

Borknagar has gone through numerous line-up changes, and having 3 different vocalists lending their voices in their 7 albums over the years, have structured their sound from black metal to a more viking-themed folk metal style with increasingly progressive elements. "Colossus" remains one of their most outstanding songs and has been included in their latest compilation album, For the Elements (1996-2006).

Atmospheric melodies, interesting bass lines, thought provoking and well written lyrics and ultimately, Vortex's powerful and soaring voice firmly places this song in the highest echelons of viking metal music. The lyrics particularly, are astonishingly poetic:

From out of static time has grown
Existence formed by substance unknown Prelude to matter, shift of disorder
Completion of bonds between chaos and order

The era of seasons, the essence of being
The continuous process awakens the living
Absorber of every flickering sun
Arranging the pieces to vivid perfection

Unfortunately, the video for the song looks like crap, I have absolutely no idea why but give it a listen, the song sounds awesome no matter what.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Guns N' Roses: Chinese Democracy

Year released: 2008
Label: Geffen Records
Official Website: www.gunsnroses.com


1. Chinese Democracy [4:43]

2. Shackler's Revenge [3:37]

3. Better [4:59]

4. Street Of Dreams [4:47]

5. If The World [4:55]

6. There Was A Time [6:41]

7. Catcher In The Rye [5:53]

8. Scraped [3:31]

9. Riad N' The Bedouins [4:10]

10. Sorry [6:15]

11. I.R.S. [4:29]

12. Madagascar [5:38]

13. This I Love [5:34]

14. Prostitute [6:16]

According to a 2005 article by The New York Times, Axl Rose (frontman of GNR) had apparently already burned through US$13 million in studios by then whilst working on Chinese Democracy. In fact, rumours had also been going around saying that this much-anticipated album had been in works since 1995-1998, meaning that the cool retro artwork you see up there belongs to probably the only album ever in rock music history to have taken a decade to make, and the only album in the history of the contemporary music era so far to have become a multi-multi-million dollar project. Expectations have been high for this release, but GNR has disappointed old fans and music reviewers alike.
I shall be honest. Being more of a metalhead who is constantly on the lookout for fresh, un-clichéd , typically aggressive yet instrumentally intricate music, you kind readers will have to take my debatable opinions here with a pinch of salt. *Grins*

Take a listen!: One of the better-sounding songs on Chinese Democracy, with style experimentation being prominently evident.

Getting down to business, I have to say, Chinese Democracy isn't really impressive afterall. Despite having so much money and time invested into its production, Guns N' Roses (or maybe only Axl Rose since he oversaw the writing of every song on it) seems to have degenerated into yet another one of those typical aging rock bands whom can hardly stop whining on virtually every new song they write (vocally speaking, not lyrically). Yes, they still have that ever scintillating brilliance of Guns N' Roses drama, as audibly exclaimed out loud by those catchy opening guitar riffs on the title track, but thanks largely on Rose's part, the original 'star' lineup(s) [Slash |Lead Guitar, '90s|, Buckethead |Lead Guitar, 2000 – 2004|, Izzy Stradlin |Rhythm Guitar|, Duff McKagan |Bass Guitar, backing vocals|, Steven Adler |Drums|] that scaled GNR up to the peak of fame in the 90's is all but gone now. Instead, the entirely new lineup (save for Rose) that dons the GNR mantle now has done a lackluster job on this album, not doing justice to all of the classics that this once critically acclaimed band had produced in the past.
While past albums such as Appetite For Destruction had true timeless classics such as “Sweet Child O' Mine” that lasted way beyond Billboard chart figures, the ephemeral singles of Chinese Democracy, “Chinese Democracy” and “Better” get increasingly boring as the number of plays go up. Atypical standard rhythms and dull melodies certainly spell disaster for the prospects of this supposed “reinvention” of GNR, as mentioned by Rose in a 2006 interview with Rolling Stone magazine. In fact, the title track has almost a minute's worth of random dialogue in Mandarin together with some traditional Chinese instruments playing at the start, which might have supposedly be meant for an epic opening. However, what it really does is irritate the hell out of listeners who have to patiently wait for approximately 60 seconds before they actually hear the damn guitar riffs coming in.

All fired up!: From left to right in 2006 – Robin Finck (Lead Guitar), Tommy Stinson (Bass Guitar/Backing Vocals), Axl Rose (Vocals/Piano/Keyboard/Synthesiser), Richard Fortus (Rhythm Guitar)

Instrumental-wise, this album doesn't score for musical intricacy, but for plain and down-to-earth tunes that are sure to satisfy that occasional urge for a mainstream fix. Vocals-wise, a close associate of mine commented that Rose sounds like he's constipated on a large part of the album, which is not very far from the truth actually. It is what I think contributes to the whiny tone, which is fast getting old on the music scene. If you're a diehard old school rock fan however, one who ate AC/DC and GNR zealously three times daily back in the '90s, this album is for you. Lyrical-wise, this album's theme definitely has its hand dabbled in politics, as blatantly obvious from the album name and title track. Interestingly enough, Rose must have made an implicit attack of some sort on the governmental system of the PRC (People's Republic of China) in “Chinese Democracy”, because the album is banned there largely due to its lyrics.

Slash: Things might have been different if he were still in GNR

Although not wholly fantastic, Chinese Democracy has been an unfulfilled long wait that still has passable substance in it to retain some limited likability. Definitely recommended for rock fans who love to hear the reinvented selves of classic bands.

Verdict: 6.0 / 10