Thursday, June 22, 2017

Legionnaire – Dawn of Genesis

The last few years have been kind to USPM-revivalist bands. With the popularity of groups like Visigoth and Eternal Champion, this barbaric style of heavy metal is making a comeback amongst younger fans and it’s easy to see why, given its more aggressive stylings. Legionnaire is the next in a long line of “hype” USPM-worship bands, despite the group's Finnish descent. “Dawn of Genesis” marks their debut record, and is a surefire winner for fans of Omen, Manilla Road and others.

The first of these aforementioned bands sums up Legionnaire’s musical approach well. Much like Omen, they take early Iron Maiden (think first two albums), and turn up the speed a few notches. Legionnaire’s riffs are occasionally so quick that they border on speed metal. Surprisingly, the band has their technical moments, such as some of the riffing on “Shadow Upon the Metropolis”, but they never let this get in the way of writing rock-solid, headbanging riffs. More predictably, the band is a huge fan of harmonized guitars, and uses just about every excuse to saturate each track with plenty of dueling leads. Another common characteristic of both Iron Maiden and Omen are the galloping rhythms that dominate both bands’ catalogues, and Legionnaire follows similar suits. Tracks like “Enigma of Time” and “The Guardian” display galloping of the highest order.

Everything is sounding good so far, but Legionnaire doesn’t make things quite so easy on the listener. The point of contention on “Dawn of Genesis” for most listeners will be the vocals. The band’s singer adopts an epic approach, aiming to make each lyric more monumental than the last. The difficulty, however, is that he doesn’t always pull it off. Some lines work incredibly well in this style, but at other times, it feels like he misses the notes he’s trying to hit. Despite numerous listens of this release, it’s unclear to me whether the band’s vocalist is a terrible singer, or some sort of secret genius. Of course, if you like USPM and other obscure heavy metal scenes, this likely won’t be a problem. Manilla Road proved to everyone that you don’t need Bruce Dickinson fronting your band to be successful. Sure, Legionnaire would probably be a lot better with an air raid siren-style singer, but their current vocalist certainly fits the grand nature of the band’s music. 

On the whole, “Dawn of Genesis” almost seems as if it’s a lost relic from the 1980s. Its flaws are almost solely limited to the vocals, and they are really just another authentic homage to the band’s influences. The songwriting is fairly strong throughout, and there aren’t enough positive words to describe the guitar playing on this record. Though it might not be as potent for me as some other comparables like Visigoth, it is easy to see how this record could top many year-end lists. Overall, Legionnaire’s debut record is a worthy contender for the modern USPM (but not from the US) throne!

Be sure to check out and like Legionnaire on Facebook!

Highlights
"Shadow Upon The Metropolis"
"The Guardian"
"Dawn of Genesis"

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Written by Scott

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Droid – Terrestrial Mutations

It should be no surprise that in the years following Vektor’s enormous popularity, there has been a major resurgence of technical thrash metal. In particular, worshipping at the altar of Voivod, Obliveon, and other sci-fi tech-thrash bands seems to be the new trend. This is admittedly a very difficult sound to pull off successfully, so there aren’t a ton of great bands, but one group that needs more notoriety immediately is Canada’s Droid. Despite a few earlier releases (including some demos and an EP), the band was tough to get into due to extremely weak vocals, but with that problem rectified, “Terrestrial Mutations” stands out as a top-tier technical thrash metal release for 2017.

It’s easiest to start with the riffs, because at nearly 62 minutes, there are a lot of them on this release. Despite Vektor clearly being a major influence on Droid, this album doesn’t sound anything like a bunch of second-rate Vektor riffs. Many of these riffs are incredibly original sounding. There is a lot of dissonance, but Droid’s unique elements is the way they use staccato palm-muted sections in a lot of their riffs. This results in tighter, much more precise sounding music. Again, relative to Vektor, Droid doesn’t fly off the handle with speed, instead opting for an upbeat tempo that is considerably more calculated. While the opening track features some of the stronger examples of this type of exactness, the main riff of “Suspended Animation” is truly the most devastating. If this song doesn’t make Voivod alarm bells start going off in your head, nothing will.

As the album rolls on, the band experiments with clean guitar sections to create a space-themed atmosphere. Combined with their dissonant riffing, the end result is effective. These sections occasionally get off track and contribute to the overlong feeling the album has. Put simply, if this record were 8-10 songs of short ragers like “Suspended Animation”, it would be perfect. The title track, for example, opens with some seriously potent riffing, but has trouble sustaining its nearly 10-minute runtime. Nonetheless, the originality keeps “Terrestrial Mutations” (the album) worth hearing throughout. The band is occasionally able to inject bluesier solos into the music, and even songs that are much more punk oriented than thrash ("Pain of Reincarnation"), so there is always a surprise waiting around each corner.

One of the only ways in which this record doesn’t try to redefine thrash is with its vocals. If you’ve heard Droid prior to this album, you’d probably avoid it if the vocals were even in the same realm as on their previous release. Fortunately, the band has cleaned this up significantly. They now opt for a straight forward yelling style that is extremely common to thrash. As someone growing increasingly disillusioned with the fact that every single thrash band is moving towards more extreme vocals, this old-school throwback is extremely appreciated. This is exactly the style of singing that thrash needs more of these days, and in a subgenre where bands are constantly trying to outdo one another with weirdness (tech-thrash), having one familiar element makes this release much more palatable. There is the occasional section with cleaner singing, but these are few and far between. They tend to be more atmospheric, and fit the strange nature of the music. 

As noted earlier, “Terrestrial Mutations” is not a speedfest. This record utilizes tempos and even grooves in a very deliberate way. The drumming tends to be rather open, with plenty of space for offbeat bass drum work between snare hits. If you subscribe to the constant pounding of bands like Kreator or Slayer only, then “Terrestrial Mutations” might not work as a thrash album. It does, however, require a lot of thought and energy to listen to simply because of how much is going on throughout the record. On the whole, Droid have created an extremely unique entry into an already unique subgenre of music, and that alone makes “Terrestrial Mutations” an essential listen!

Be sure to check out and like Droid on Facebook!

Highlights
"Amorphous Forms (Shapeless Shadows)"
"Suspended Animation"
"Cosmic Debt"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Written by Scott