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Joined: 04 Oct 2000
Posts: 3985
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2003 2:15 am    Post subject: Snack-quisitions Reply with quote

Mmmmmmmm...jalapeno Monterey Jack cheese. [img]images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]

Beyond Twilight, Devil's Hall Of Fame
Jorn singing dark prog metal. Go, go get it! If you need to know more, fine. After listening to this for a couple of weeks, at first I thought of this as Jorn's Dio album. Listening to it again today, despite the howls of doom and rage and almost ecstatic terror in the first two tracks, I'm not so sure - but it's as good as some of the best Dio out there, and this album has some of the best singing either of them has done (check out "Crying" - that's some pretty damn good emoting). Like most concept albums, the story is lame (like The Matrix, but even worse...see also Zero Hour's The Towers Of Avarice) and the lyrics are wildly inconsistent. Those first two songs are splendid - pure class guitar soloing, rumbles of doom from Jorn, they're reason enough to get this album now. At song three, things get a little weird - it starts out like weird late-70's Alice Cooper (that melody is taken straight from "Go To Hell"), then doomy prog, then there's this Bob Seger chorus, and just when you're scratching your head, wondering what this Bob Seger chorus is doing here mucking things up - even the lyrics come right outta some truck commercial ("Heavy load, down the winding road...heavy load now...") - then it has a second, different chorus, which is terrifyingly Michael Bolton. With Michael Bolton lyrics to boot ("Feel the fire strong desire/Something's waiting there for me/Deep inside I have a feeling/This was meant to be" - gag me with an Oprah). After that it's all good, but two out of eight songs are instrumentals, which normally might not be a problem but few things about an album with Jorn on it cry out a need for correction like the word "instrumental". The songs without vocals and those unbelievably dopey choruses on track 3 are really the only serious missteps; otherwise I'd say this ranks only behind Worldchanger in Lande's oeuvre. 2001 was a busy year for this guy!
Rating: 8.5

Dimmu Borgir, Death Cult Armageddon
If memory serves me correctly, Dimmu's last album got one of only two 10's I've given out while reviewing stuff here. As with the other album, in retrospect I'd bump that down to a still pretty damned impressed 9, in this case due to too many cheesy piano-and-guitar-chords passages. DCA improves in a very few ways - fewer of those passages, for one thing, and the more-or-less full orchestra employed here has more interesting things to do (compare the symphonic themes in "Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse" and last album's "Hybrid Stigmata - The Apostasy" - big improvement). The songs are catchier, which is very un-black metal, but perfectly acceptable for music this unabashedly slick (if not exactly commercial). Less spectacular is Nick Barker's drumming, which blew just about everyone's mind last time but doesn't make too much of an impression here, and bassist Simen Hestnaes only sings on two - TWO! - tracks! This man needs a project that takes much better advantage of his talents. And only the aforementioned "Progenies..." really lets him stretch out - awesome vocal from Simen, guest vocal from Abbath of the now-defunct Immortal, very impressive symphonic theme, it's easily the album's best cut. "Lepers Among Us" is maybe the more obvious stab at wide appeal, with riffs and melodies that border on funky, but not in a bad way. Elsewhere, two songs are in Norwegian, though Shagrath's delivery is such that it almost sounds like he's just mangling English. Dimmu pretty much owns this corner of slick, gothic not-too-extreme metal - they've earned every cheer and jeer (there've been a lot of both) hurled their way. The artwork, like last time, is a hoot - this band has the most gloriously, goofily macabre band photos around. Even Nick gets in on the fun, with probably the best pic (love that apron - last time he got a dour picture of just standing there). Most bones on an album cover, ever!
Rating: 8

Manticora, Hyperion
A concept album based on the Dan Simmons novel of the same title, this prompted me to re-read that book and its counterpart, The Fall Of Hyperion. (conclusion: first book rules, second book, not so much, touching on a lot of my sci-fi pet peeves) Manticora is a Dutch (I think they're Dutch) band who sound something like a heavier version of what Blind Guardian is up to these days - which sounds awesome in theory, but it falls a bit short of awesome due to too much keyboards and the sometimes undisciplined vocals of Lars F. Larsen, who shares Hansi Kursch's enunciation and accent but has a deeper, more booming voice. Good example of this problem: "The Old Barge". With more attention from a producer (and, I'm sure, a Blind Guardian-sized budget), a Hansi-styled chorus of Larsens could probably flatten your house. Those keys aren't much of a selling point either; they're excessive and distracting in "A Long Farewell" and "Keeper Of The Eternal Champion", and I don't hear anything on this disc which necessitates a full-time member tickling the electro-ivories. But the songs are well-constructed and the riffs certainly cause the head to bang in a way Blind Guardian does not inspire. Does the world need a heavier version of Blind Guardian? Shit, yes! Manticora sounds like the band to do it, too - I hope next time, they rope in Larsen's voice enough and turn it into the instrument of devastation it's surely intended to be.
Rating: 7.5

Witchery, Restless & Dead
This is the album that put Witchery on the map, the album that got them a level of hype I couldn't understand at the time (1998). As it turns out, this album sounds a hell of a lot like The Crown's Deathrace King (2000), so it's easy to see now why it put smiles on so many faces. Whereas The Crown favors a sort of 70's drive-in schlock for its lyrics and imagery, Witchery goes back another decade - lots of songs about graveyards, hangmen, and scary houses. Singer Toxine (doesn't he know that sounds like a girl's name?) was the limiting factor for me then, and while that isn't so much the case now, his rasp is a little more difficult to get past than a lot of people's. But for fast-paced thrashy rock n' roll (of all of metal's myriad offerings, this is very much rock n' roll), this is more fun than most and at 35 crisp minutes long, doesn't wear out its welcome like Deathrace King aaaaalmost did at just about an hour. It also doesn't have any songs that rule the planet like "Killing Star" or "Back From The Grave". I'm giving the edge to The Crown, but now I better appreciate the context their sound came from.
Rating: 8

John Arch, A Twist Of Fate
Gotta love EP's - you pay 80% of the price for 50% of the music. Quantitatively speaking, I feel hosed by recordings this short. Not to get into the quality-versus-quantity debate - a false dichotomy if ever there was one - but certain degrees of brevity just leave me feeling ripped off. ATOF clocks in at just under a half hour, which admittedly is longer than some "full-length" discs I own, but I hold it against them too. It's cool if a recording leaves you wanting more, but it shouldn't leave you feeling like you're owed it. And this is just two songs! Two very long songs, where most other bands would've fit five or six. Baffling, how such a short recording can be such a long slog, but there you go. The first song, "Relentless", starts with a Joey Vera bass line, prompting me to wonder if there's a vanity clause in Vera's contract stating that at least once in every album he's on, there has to be a passage where we're listening to him and only him. Then Arch's vocals kick in and for about five seconds, I cringed - there is a childlike affectation in his voice here, which filled me with dread, reminding me of Bill Ward's horrible second album. But no, blessedly, it stops and he sounds like himself again for the next 25 or so minutes. Voice-wise, any rust this man's built up since the days of big hair has been scraped off and oiled away. As one might expect due to the major collaborator being Jim Matheos, this sounds a lot like old Fates Warning - proggy in an 80's kind of way, elaborate and highly melodic but not very hooky. "Cheyenne" is also loooong, though a little easier to get into (not so much a Matheos collaboration) - more balladic, more anthemic, less devoid of hooks. More conventional, maybe, but songs this long need to throw me a bone to keep me coming back. If you miss old Fates Warning, you'll probably go apeshit over this, and just about anybody whose curiosity is piqued by Arch's return to recording will find themselves wanting more. Funny how something can be too much and not enough at the same time - this is where the convenient shorthand of assigning a numerical rating to a disc breaks down and turns into gibberish (a 7 is usually a non-rating no matter who it comes from). The liner notes include an informative - though hard to read, due to lines spanning across three pages horizontally - essay on how and why this disc came about.
Rating: 7
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2003 3:35 pm    Post subject: Snack-quisitions Reply with quote

Restless and Dead is killer indeed.

DCA has become one of the creepiest and most disturbing records I've heard in ages. This is black metal done right. The classical elements really create an especially ominous mood.

Death Cult Armageddon is menace incarnate

I'll have to check out that Beyond Twlight cd. I'm intrigued.
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