Thursday, July 2, 2015

Deathhammer – Evil Power

Evil Power” marks record number three for blackened thrashers Deathhammer. These guys come from Norway, where there is a somewhat quiet, but very solid thrash scene brewing. This album packs a quick punch with just 8 tracks spanning about 35 minutes, but rest assured, it does not let up at any point. Fans of very early Destruction, Kreator, and Sodom will love what Deathhammer offers up. The vocal performance on this record would be most akin to the Schmier, as there are plenty of ear-piercing screams. Alongside these screeching moments are a more visceral vocal approach, not unlike a band like Witchtrap. In fact, perhaps the best way to describe Deathhammer would be a faster and more aggressive version of Witchtrap.

Most of the riffs on this record take classic NWOBHM sounds, dial up the speed about 60-100 BPM, and make them slightly more evil. The result is an album that takes no prisoners with its savage compositions. There are however, some riffs that are somewhat similar to the galloping charges led by Destruction on their early records (see "Sinner's Possession" as one great example). Although the band is successful in creating a few memorable tunes, that is not what “Evil Power” is about. Fortunately, the band makes up for this by delivering an uncompromising record. In addition to the endless number of great riffs, Deathhammer has some truly wicked lead guitar playing. Straddling the line between something more melodic and Slayer-styled solos, the shredding on this record could not be more fitting.

Highlights on this record include “Total Metal” and “Satan Is Back” (although as a friend pointed out to me, this track raises the question, where did Satan go?). There isn’t really any reason why these tracks stand above the rest of the crowd, as any of these songs could click with you immediately; these are just the two that work best for me. For all intents and purposes, the songs on this album are very similar. Even the closer, which is the longest song by about a minute, is no real different from the songs that only span 3 minutes. This makes “Evil Power” is an incredibly consistent release, and one that will be fun to listen to from start to finish every time!

Be sure to check out and like Deathhammer on Facebook!

Highlights
"Total Metal"
"Satan Is Back"

Final Rating
3.75/5 or 75%. 

Written by Scott 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hibria – Hibria

 
Few bands have ever released an album that shook the metal underground with the magnitude that Hibria’s debut album, “Defying The Rules” did. It was an incredible effort filled with blazing riffs, virtuosic solos (not just limited to guitars), and incredible vocals. As the band has put out more albums, they’ve slowly drifted away from that sound, to the point where the band’s newest effort, “Hibria”, bears only some resemblance to the Hibria of old. To be fair, it’s clear that this is the same band; it’s just that they’ve moved on to a different sound while still incorporating elements of their old style.

The good news is that this album features some unbelievable performances from all band members. Though they are fewer and further between, most songs still have a good amount of shred (check out the bass-work in “Abyss” for one great example). In tracks like “Pain” and “Ashamed”, they add to their guitar-based sound by throwing in some horns (you might even mistake these songs for a Chicago cover at times). Aside from this difference, the band in general just has a different tone. Though the music can still be very aggressive, they no longer sound like a young band that is sending all guns blazing in an effort to out-shred everyone else. Instead, they’ve refined some of these songs to include things that are a little bit out of the ordinary for their sound. Even a song like “Tightrope” (one of my favourites), is not inherently different from Hibria’s past; it has galloping guitars and plenty of riffs, but the band lays off a little bit in an attempt to create something a little catchier, and perhaps even more accessible. On the other hand, a song like “Church” is old-school Hibria, and would feel right at home on “The Skull Collectors”.

It's also worth pointing out that the band has not sacrificed any heaviness. "Life" is a stellar instance where Hibria manages to be heavier than they ever have in the past, despite the fact that they've slowed down a bit. Likewise, many of these songs will include intense rhythm work that might even feel a little bit out of place at times, but it is that same guitar playing that will remind you of the band's past. The other consistent element is Iuri Sanson's singing. He is without a doubt one of the most unique and best voices in metal, and he sounds just as good on the band's self-titled record as he has on any of their other material.

Hibria” is a record that you have to go into with an open mind. It is not “Defying The Rules Part II”, nor do I suspect the band will ever make an album like that again. It is however, an album that takes many of Hibria’s best elements and applies them in a different way. It’s fair to say that a lot of people (myself included) would prefer they stuck with straight-ahead speed metal, but this outcome isn’t all that bad. In fact, it definitely separates Hibria from the legions of bands that can only offer up flashy guitar solos. The more I listen to this album, the more I like it, and considering how much Hibria has changed, it's a testament to their growth as songwriters.

Be sure to check out and like Hibria on Facebook!

Highlights
"Tightrope"
"Life"
"Church"

Final Rating
4.2/5 or 84%. 

Written by Scott 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Powerwolf – Blessed & Possessed


I’ll be the first to admit that Powerwolf is a slightly underwhelming band for me. On the one hand, they make really fun music. It isn’t exactly thought-provoking, or even all that original at times, but it rocks hard and is filled with interesting melodies and riffs. Despite their lack of originality, nobody sounds quite like them. In many respects, the band is quite similar to Sabaton, who shares these characteristics. Where the bands differ, however, is that Powerwolf’s music doesn’t have much to bring you back. They have a number of great tracks (“We Drink Your Blood” and “Murder At Midnight” come to mind), but overall, it feels like the band has thoroughly explored everything their sound has to offer.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that I’ve only heard one of their other records, and yet it feels like I’ve heard half of the melodies on this album before. One example is “Dead Until Dark”, which has an intro that is almost identical to one of the main melodies in “Son of a Wolf”. Even if the general sound of the album is the same, that’s ok, but it’s a little too close for comfort many times on this album. These similarities are unfortunate because “Blessed & Possessed” is a very competent album.

The primary element that makes Powerwolf incredibly compelling is the lead vocals of Attila Dorn. His voice is similar to what you’d expect a possessed metal preacher to sound like, and quite often he is backed up by an equally grandiose choir. This album does its best to be epic at every single moment, and it usually achieves that, even on a softer track like “Let There Be Night”. Most of the time, however, the band is pounding away, offering up a litany of heavy riffs that are complemented by melodic leads that avoid sounding cheesy.

Powerwolf excels when they’re playing fast and hitting hard. The best example of this is “Higher Than Heaven”, which is far and away the speediest track on the record. It offers up more aggression than you might expect from the band (particularly in the vocals), and is a welcome surprise to their sound. Most of the songs on this album are likewise upbeat, but none can match “Higher Than Heaven” in terms of intensity.

On the whole, it would be unfair to say “Blessed & Possessed” is a bad effort. In fact, it has a lot to like. I struggled with the fact that it’s pretty much identical to “Blood of the Saints”, which is the only other Powerwolf album I’ve heard. The only difference is that their earlier effort is better. For newcomers to the band, this album is going to be a wild and fun ride. For casual fans such as myself, it likely won’t be something you’ll come back to. The hardcore fans, however, will love it as it does great justice to the band’s sound!

Be sure to check out and like Powerwolf on Facebook!

Highlights
"Blessed & Possessed"
"Higher Than Heaven"

Final Rating
3.6/5 or 72%. 

Written by Scott 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hyades – The Wolves Are Getting Hungry

Before there was a new thrash album popping up every single week from Italy, there was Hyades. The band has been around since the mid-90s, but things really kicked off with their debut album “Abuse Your Illusions” in 2005. I have to imagine that this band is largely responsible for the absurd wave of thrash that has followed, simply because they’ve been doing it for so long and so well. “The Wolves Are Getting Hungry”, the band’s 4th offering, is another record in an increasingly long line of great albums. Though their was a 6-year wait between this release and their last one, the band picks up just where they left off.

For those unfamiliar with Hyades’ style, they play no-nonsense Bay Area-styled thrash. The riffs are heavy, crunchy, and occasionally melodic. The band has had a slight tendency in the past to go a bit too far when it comes riff plagiarism, but that issue does not appear here. Sure, this record is relatively unoriginal on the whole, but it captures exactly the spirit that it set out to emulate. In particular, this album has an excess of Exodus-inspired riffs (just listen to the opening of “Ignorance Is No Excuse”).

Beyond the riffs, Hyades is notable for their distinctive vocalist. His style is not uncommon in thrash (a raspy snarl), but his approach is unlike any other singer. It’s a bit goofy sounding, but pretty effective for the more fun, skate-themed thrash the band offers. As you might imagine, playing this style of thrash means that Hyades isn’t always raging at full-speed; in fact, there’s a lot of mid-paced moments on this record. The band is pretty good at these though, in part because of their aforementioned singer, but also because this album is so heavy. The production is absolutely crushing, with the low end (and the bass drums in particular) sounding like it’s about to bludgeon your skull in. The guitars are thick and distorted, not unlike modern Exodus. The band ties this together with excellent use of gang vocals to make things even fuller.

This is one of those albums where if you’re familiar with the band, you know what it will sound like before you hear it. The only real negative is that things can start to run together after a while because the songs aren’t the most memorable. With that said, there isn’t a single moment on here where Hyades does not deliver the riffs. For this reason, “The Wolves Are Getting Hungry” is a must-listen for fans of Italian thrash!

Be sure to check out and like Hyades on Facebook!

Highlights
"Ignorance Is No Excuse"
"The Great Lie"

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Written by Scott