Thursday, August 25, 2016

Voidspawn – Pyrrhic

It seems that the death metal scene of 2016 is dominated by bands that emphasize strange, dissonant, and occasionally cavernous music. The legions of groups playing this style draw considerable influence from their forefathers in Immolation and Incantation (among others), but still usually do a decent job of carving their own niche and avoiding being predictable. Voidspawn is no different in this respect. While many of their peers achieve dissonance via strange or incompatible chord progressions and spacey atmospherics, Voidspawn takes things in a different direction (though they definitely use those abstract intervals as well). This band achieves much of its dissonance by letting notes ring out, despite being completely drenched in distortion. They’re obviously not the first band to do this, but in the current scene, they stand out for using this sound fairly consistently, as demonstrated constantly on the opening song “Sisyphean Ideation”.

Of course, there’s more to Voidspawn than simply letting notes ring beyond their expected lifespan. The album features plenty of downtuned, crushing riffs that will obliterate the mind. Additionally, the vocals are monolithic and provide more than sufficient brutality, despite being somewhat back in the mix. The production as a whole occasionally feels distant. The guitars dominate the other instruments (a welcome change from most records where drums are the domineering force), meaning that it will never be difficult to discern the riffs being played, but every other instrument is less prominent. Voidspawn also tends to mix up the tempos fairly often. The general speed of the record is obviously high, but they aren’t afraid to go into a doomy passage, or even pull out some longer chords in between more chaotic riffing. 

Pyrrhic” is a relatively short experience, as it just barely cracks 13 minutes. It might be difficult for a band to build an identity for themselves in such a short time, but Voidspawn has pulled it off. This EP has plenty of variety, but still has a distinctive sound, while staying true to what so many people love about death metal. This release certainly isn’t a crowning achievement in terms of memorability, but this type of death metal rarely is. On the whole, Voidspawn will more than satisfy any cravings you might have for dark dissonant death metal, and the fact that they can do it in such a short timespan is a testament to how truly talented the band is!

Be sure to check out and like Voidspawn on Facebook!

Highlight
"Sisyphean Ideation"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Written by Scott

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Magnus Karlsson – Kingdom of Rock

Few musicians in the metal scene can boast as impressive a resume as Sweden’s Magnus Karlsson. Everything the man touches turns to gold, and he’s essentially the go-to songwriter for excellent melodic heavy metal/AOR-influenced metal. It should be no surprise, then, that his solo project is in a similar vein. Despite my admittedly only lukewarm review of the debut record, “Free Fall”, that album has quickly become one of my favourite metal records of recent years. This naturally raises the question of how its successor, “Kingdom of Rock”, stacks up. The answer is that it is nearly as impressive, but doesn’t feel quite as complete.

To be clear, this is a fantastic album. As great of a guitar player as Magnus is, he never lets shredding dominate the music, instead opting to write absurdly catchy anthems. The title track is the most prominent of these efforts, as it was clearly designed as an ode to metal. The album actually continues with its highlights quite quickly, as the following two songs, “Out of the Dark” and “No Control”, are also among the stronger work. The remainder of the record is similar in style (aside from the sole ballad, “The Right Moment”). In general, a lot of these songs are either mid-paced, or slightly more upbeat. The melodies are all positive and uplifting, creating a joyous atmosphere at pretty much every moment.

Much like the previous record, however, the choice of guest singers is perplexing. With the exception of Jorn Lande, none of these vocalists truly outclass Magnus (who is an excellent singer himself). Quite honestly, if you weren’t listening too astutely, you probably wouldn’t even notice the fact that the singer changes on each song. Of course, this project is likely designed to be a lot of fun for Magnus, so he likely just asked his friends and idols to sing on it, but this “metal opera” format doesn’t work quite the same way it does for a band like Avantasia, for example (admittedly, it isn't quite the same type of record, as there is only one singer per song). Personally, I’d love to Magnus to just sing on every track because he is that impressive of a vocalist.

His skill is most evident on what is by far the best song: “Walk This Road Alone”. This track closes out the record and shows Magnus delivering a heavy amount of emotion. The chorus retains a mid-paced feel with the drums unleashing pounding double bass, and Magnus singing his heart out. This is one of those songs that could be perceived as boring with the wrong vocalist, but Magnus does it justice, and it ends up being the best song across both of his solo records.

In the grand scheme of things, guest singers not measuring up to a stellar vocalist is a minor complaint. Really, there’s nothing wrong with this album, and it has a broad appeal that could easily reach beyond the realms of metal. It isn’t excessively heavy, but it is memorable and enjoyable. It could almost be described as easy-listening metal at times, and that is a refreshing change from some of the more aggressive stuff in the metal world. Ultimately, “Kingdom of Rock” is yet another record that displays the impressive songwriting efforts of the mighty Magnus Karlsson! 

Be sure to check out and like Magnus Karlsson on Facebook!

Highlights
"Kingdom of Rock"
"No Control"
"Walk This Road Alone"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%. 

Written by Scott

Gama Bomb – Untouchable Glory

Untouchable Glory” is the fifth full-length from Irish thrashers Gama Bomb. If you’ve followed their career to this point, you probably know what to expect, as they’re not a band to vary up the formula too much. Indeed, “Untouchable Glory” continues their reign as one of the best modern thrash bands. This means that this record is a succinct experience, filled with short tracks that thrash incredibly hard and provide more than a handful of laughs along the way. While the band has never written any outright bad songs, they do have the occasional misfire in terms of songwriting, but that isn’t the case on “Untouchable Glory”. There isn’t a weak track anywhere on this album.

Gama Bomb’s sound is still led by Philly Byrne’s irreplaceable high-pitched voice. His charismatic delivery is as clean as ever, which contrasts perfectly with the constant barrage of gang vocals in the background of many songs. Efforts like “Drinkers, Inc.” show off his ability to spit out rapid-fire syllables in a successful attempt at keeping up with the rest of the music. Unsurprisingly, this means that the band’s riffing is supremely tight (see the opening of “Avenge Me!” for one of the most impressive riffs on the record). They don’t spend too long abusing any particular riff, always moving on before you have a chance to get bored. That descriptor is true of the songs in general, with only 3 of 12 songs even cracking the 3-minute mark (and just barely for all 3 of them).

Since getting into Gama Bomb in 2008, I’ve struggled with each new release. “Citizen Brain” is a top 5 thrash album of the last decade, and it is difficult to objectively evaluate each subsequent Gama Bomb record because they haven’t lived up to that phenomenal release. While both “Tales From the Grave In Space” and “The Terror Tapes” have since grown on me, “Untouchable Glory” marks the first Gama Bomb album since 2008 where I wasn’t let down upon first listen. The band knows exactly what they are at this point, and they play that part more convincingly than ever on “Untouchable Glory”. There are more than a handful of truly great songs on this record, and even if you can’t disassociate it from the brilliance of “Citizen Brain”, it remains an upper-tier modern thrash release.

Be sure to check out and like Gama Bomb on Facebook!

Highlights
"Avenge Me!"
"She Thing"
"James Joints"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Written by Scott