Immortal - Damned In Black
A decade of being just one recognizing horned hail sign below the top tier of blackness, Immortal have quietly built a reputation as perhaps the best classic black metal band combining legitimate, hard-fought old school grimness with modern production and attention to detail. Demonaz, due to an arm injury, has been relegated to lyrics, while new bassist Iscariah has tightened things considerably, pummeling precisely with drummer Horgh and founding member Abbath. The resulting chemistry is sharp, vibrant, creative, the band mixing up styles within a crisp clarity that captures the band's traditional, though down-speed, blackness perfectly. But it is actually the back half of the album which excels. The Darkness That Embraces Me is melodic jaggedness on par with the likes of Satyricon, while In Our Mystic Visions Blest is like complex, majestic Emperor. But the crowning glory is the closing title track, which builds like that opener on the new In Flames, into a marching piece of mid-paced metal mayhem that strikes like a viper at black metal's potential to strangle regular metal in its image.
Babylon A.D. - American Blitzkrieg
Once I joggle those comparisons to the disastrous American Hardcore record from L.A. Guns out of my head, I can see this nasty, polluted version of a former hair band for what they are: pretty kick-ass, well-meaning, not all that sure on their feet within this grindy, deep sleaze genre, and on the positive flip, yes indeed, somewhere within the zone of urgent L.A. Guns or commercial, not that well-written Love/Hate. And eventually you become acclimatized to the fact that vocalist Derek Davis has fallen flat on his producer's hat, muffling up things and muffing it. And then there's that annoying buzz. But hey, like I say, you forget after a few tracks and begin to groove to the street-level vibe, as well as Davis' versatile but somewhat buried vocals, the man sounding occasionally like a Joe LeSte with an actual technical tuneful clue. Fact is, this is a route many ex-hair bands went five years ago: a grunging up of their sound, and it almost always looked better on them creatively than their shiny platinum pouts. Same thing here, although the plan itself is obviously five years old and no one is going to be surprised or particularly impressed.
Hard Reviews Page 5