Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rocka Rollas – The Road to Destruction

One of metal’s most prolific songwriters of the last few years has returned with a new album from his main project, Rocka Rollas. Despite losing American singer Joe Liszt, this band is not slowing down, as mainman Ced is taking over on vocals. While Liszt is definitely the best singer the band has ever had, Ced takes a different approach. In fact, “The Road To Destruction” as a whole is much more similar to the first Rocka Rollas album than the second. Everything about this record is completely off the hook; the songs are fast and furious, the soloing is wild, and the vocals are raw and unrestrained. Ced is by no means a trained singer, but he can hit absurdly high notes, and his voice compliments the energy of the band well.

The songs on “The Road To Destruction” are predicated around bombastic sing-along choruses. Rocka Rollas sends all guns blazing in terms sheer speed, and Ced’s crazy shrieks over top of these breakneck tempos really make for a fun record. He’s really evolving as a songwriter too. The chorus of “Curse of Blood” shows a little bit of vocal layering, which adds another complexity to an already difficult to play track. These melodies are incredibly potent; “Curse of Blood”, alongside many other tracks will no doubt stay with you when the album finishes. Once again, the cover art really embodies this sound, as every track sounds like you are riding a steed off into battle. Even though most of the album is a high-speed affair, “Firefall” gives a nice change of pace. This is a foot-stomping, fist-pumping anthem taken straight from the 80’s (then again, everything on this album would be right at home in the late 80’s). This is a song where having Liszt’s more technical and refined approach to singing would have been helpful, but Ced certainly does an admirable job on the track.

In terms of the songwriting, “The Road To Destruction” takes a bit of a different approach from “Metal Strikes Back”. While there certainly is a plethora of riffs here, this album feels like it is based more around lead playing. The title track, as one example, revolves around some killer melodic leads. This song also shows a common theme from Blazon Stone’s debut album (another project by Ced). The choruses tend to be a mouthful; this is by no means problematic, but it is a far cry from the simple choruses like “Night of the Living Steel” and “Metalive” on Rocka Rollas’ previous album. The album really gets going again near the end with the final three tracks. Much like the first set of three, each song has an undeniably brilliant chorus. “Kingdom of Madness” is actually a Magnum cover, but it fits in perfectly with everything else on the record. 

Overall, “The Road To Destruction” is another major winner for Rocka Rollas. The band has managed to reinvigorate their sound by going back to the basics. Though not fundamentally different from the prior album, the best way to describe this record is that it’s similar to the first album but with better production, better songs, and a much better performance overall. Even though Ced seems to write and record more songs in 3 years than most bands do in 10, he’s delivering them with unbelievable quality, and has yet to steer us wrong.

Be sure to check out and like Rocka Rollas on Facebook!

Highlights
"Curse of Blood"
"The Road To Destruction"
"Guardians of the Oath"
"Kingdom of Madness"

Final Rating
4.6/5 or 92%. 

Written by Scott

Monday, August 18, 2014

Striker – City of Gold

City of Gold” marks the third full-length album for Canadian speed metal juggernauts Striker. While their first album was pretty great in its own right, the band took a huge leap forward with their sophomore release. Despite taking a slightly different direction, “City of Gold” continues the band’s streak of great albums. In general, the sound of this album is similar to the prior records, but the main reason it feels different is because “City of Gold” appears to be more serious than the last album. “Armed To The Teeth” was the sort of record that you could throw on at a party and sing along to easily. While “City of Gold” still has plenty of catchy choruses, they are presented in a different way.

One reason why the album sounds a bit different is because it can get incredibly thrashy at times. Opening track “Underground” is an absolute speed monster, delivering some riffs that would not be out of place on an album adorning Ed Repka’s artwork. Even the next song, the title track, takes a thrashier approach with its verse riff. Both of these songs, along with nearly every other track are driven by melodic, awesome choruses. Vocalist Dan Cleary sounds as good as ever; he manages to unleash some banshee-like screams, alongside his normal singing voice. The vocal lines are all incredibly memorable. Even just looking at the track listing now, many of the choruses immediately come to my head. Other unforgettable tracks include "Crossroads", "All For One", and "All I Want". It's absurd how this band will manage to keep songs stuck in your head for hours.

One song that deserves special mention is “Bad Decisions”. This song shows Striker abandoning speed metal and going full-on AOR. It’s pretty tame, and even a bit out of place, yet completely amazing. As a sucker for glam metal, arena rock, or whatever you want to call it, this song is pure magic. Cleary puts forth his best performance, as the song is more dynamic, giving him more space to work with.  The main riff strings together a few power chords quite effectively, not unlike “Rock You Like A Hurricane”, while the verse shows the band channeling their inner Def Leppard.

As a whole, “City of Gold” is an impressive offering. I would be surprised if any Striker fan dislikes this. The band has had a bit of turnover since their last full-length, but it doesn’t appear to be affecting them at all. This album has all of the Striker essentials: high-speed riffs, energetic and enthusiastic vocals, shredding guitar solos, and just killer songs. While I still think I prefer “Armed To The Teeth”, there is no doubt that this album is incredibly strong.

Be sure to check out and like Striker on Facebook!

Highlights
"Underground"
"Bad Decisions"
"Cross Roads"
"All I Want"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Written by Scott

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Vahrzaw – Twin Suns & Wolves’ Tongues

Vahrzaw brings us death metal from Australia, and despite this being only their second album, the band has been around since the early 90’s in some form. “Twin Suns & Wolves’ Tongues” is a solid offering of hatred, not unlike bands such as Deicide or Marduk. There is so much seething anger that the band has on this album. Over the course of 8 tracks and 32 minutes, they present an album that provides brutality, speed, aggression, and even some melody. In fact, it might be a bit of a misnomer to call them death metal. There is a lot of black metal influence here. From the spitting venom of vocalist George van Doorn, to the use of melodic leads, to even some of the tremolo-picking choices, there is certainly a lot of black metal influence on “Twin Suns & Wolves’ Tongues”. With that said, the reason death metal is an appropriate tag is largely because of the song structures. There are a lot of brutal riffs coming from the low end of the guitar. Additionally, the entire album consists of more than just blasting and shrieked vocals.

This album is filled with highlights and great moments. “…On The Shoulders of Giants” features the best guitar work on the album, as there is some serious shredding followed by some great leads. The very next track, “Endroom” brings us back to the Swedish black metal scene, as it quickly delivers some Dissection worship. The melody in this section, accompanied by the simplistic drumming (with plenty of abuse on the ride cymbal) is brilliant, and is by far my favourite sound in black metal. It doesn’t last too long, but it really gives the track a feel impending doom. The rest of the songs are relatively similar, and while there are still other enjoyable tracks, these two are definitely my favourite. On the whole, there is not a single weak moment to be found on the album; even when they are blasting away, there is purpose to it. The production is almost flawless. Just enough clarity to hear every instrument (bass included), but not too clear so as to ruin the atmosphere. The guitars are crunchy and heavy when they're playing riffs, yet incredibly smooth when soloing. The only weak spot in the production is that the bass drums are somewhat in the back. They're still easy to hear, but not quite as loud as one would hope for. Nevertheless, that is a small complaint considering how good the rest of the album sounds.

Vahrzaw has put together a really impressive extreme metal album. They’ve shed all of the bad elements of death and black metal, leaving only what makes those subgenres great. As a result, this album turns out to be a hate-filled experience of pure bliss. The riffs are brilliant; the drumming is even better, and the vocals will cause even the tamest individuals anger. This is certainly a unique combination of death and black metal, but it is one well worth hearing!

Be sure to check out and like Vahrzaw on Facebook!

Highlights
"...On The Shoulders of Giants"
"Endroom"
"Twin Suns & Wolves' Tongues"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Written by Scott

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Overcharge – Accelerate

When you name your band Overcharge and put out an album called “Accelerate”, there’s only one thing the release should deliver: energy. This quick outburst of music lasts less than a half hour but delivers double the enthusiasm of most bands out there these days. The style the band plays on “Accelerate” is really indescribable because it’s a huge mash-up of other styles. Their name says it best though: Overkill + Discharge. Throw in a lot of Motorhead influence, and you’ve got a rock ‘n roll album with some hardcore, punk, thrash, and even a bit of death metal influence.

Every track on this record on this album completely rocks. They’re all upbeat and a lot of fun. In general, punk riffs tend to dominate; the riffs are short, simplistic, but relatively fast. The metal influence takes hold in the vocals. They’re relatively low grunts that are somewhere between death metal vocals and harsher thrash ones. The lyrics are, for the most part, unintelligible. There are a couple of moments of easy to understand lyrics though; lead singer Fabio spends the last moments of “Dirt” screaming the word over and over, as one example. Beyond the vocals, however, the best part of this release is the guitar work. This is where the Motorhead and rock influence shines through. Guitar solos appear often, can become incredibly bluesy, and are just flat out awesome. The best solo is on “Leave Behind”, where the band ignores their punk roots and breaks down into a mellower, melodic section. It isn’t necessarily the fact that the band tames things down that makes this section great, but rather that they do whatever they want and it fits in perfectly. 

Aside from that one unique section, the band generally maintains their standard sound on “Accelerate”. Because it’s such a short album, there is no need for experimentation, especially when Overcharge is so good at delivering this style. As you might imagine, this means the songwriting can run together a bit. There are definitely some obvious standout sections; the extended solo in “Drown In Your Own” is a highlight, as is the false ending in “Don’t Waste A Breath”. But when a song starts, it generally takes a while to know which one is playing. “Accelerate” is exactly the type of album that is not harmed by this approach because of its brevity. This album is awesome, but more importantly it’s fun. “Accelerate” is an album you can throw on, forget all of your troubles, and rock out to.

Be sure to check out and like Overcharge on Facebook!

Highlights
"Accelerate"
"Dirt"
"Leave Behind"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Written by Scott

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Contaminated – Pestilential Decay

Historically Australia has brought us some of the most depraved, disgusting, and filth-ridden death metal in existence. For some reason, there’s a disproportionate abundance of disturbed songwriters living there. The next band in this style is Contaminated, a two-piece group formed only last year. “Pestilential Decay” is their first demo, and it is brought to us courtesy of Australian label Crawling Chaos Productions. This demo is truly a sickening creation, and if you crave abhorrent death metal, it is for you.

The first thing you’ll notice about “Pestilential Decay” is the atmosphere it creates. It is absolutely cavernous. The riffs are huge, and yet, they sound distant. There’s influence from all of the death metal greats. There are crushing harmonized guitars (see “Formless Wastes”) not unlike some used by a band like Autopsy. An Immolation-styled riff pops out of nowhere on “Forlorn and Desolate”, while the other tracks are littered with tremolo picked riffs in a mid-tempo fashion that recall bands like Depravity. There’s plenty of speed too. Blast beats are in good supply on this demo, but certainly not abused. Doomy riffs will also show up constantly, and are used to great effect on the title track. There is excellent attention to detail in terms of creating an aura of dread. This feeling is primarily derived from the production. The bass playing may be non-existent, but the drums and guitars get the job done. Both of them sound like they were recorded with the microphones 10 feet away. As a result, the production isn’t in your face. The grunts are low in the mix and completely indecipherable. Ultimately, it all comes together quite nicely to create a unique sound. 

Normally I put a lot of emphasis on the quality of songwriting in a release, but Contaminated plays a style of music that has no business creating memorable songwriting. If there are hooks here, they haven’t quite done their job. Still, even if you don’t like this style of death metal, the atmosphere is a huge redeeming factor. The other one is the plethora of influences that are drawn from. There is no one band that you can say Contaminated sounds like, mainly because they pay homage to a ton of legendary bands. When all is said and done, this is a demo worth owning because it manages to be unique and interesting in a style that is very hard to stand out in.

Be sure to check out and like Contaminated on Facebook!

Highlights
All of it

Final Rating
3.75/5 or 75%. 

Written by Scott