Archive for the ‘Metal’ Category

Overkill – WFO review

Posted: September 8, 2019 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews
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W.F.O (Wide Fucking Open) is the seventh full-length studio album from the East Coast Thrash Metal legends, Overkill. It is an interesting bit of history for the band.

Their first five albums are all absolute classics of Thrash Metal, their sixth album was a diversion into Stoner/Groove Metal territory, but this seventh album is a quick return back to Thrash again, and yet, as it came out in 1994, it still has some Groove to it. It is their return to Thrash and yet it also isn’t pure Thrash all the way through.

The album is pretty damn good. There’s a good mix of fast and slow, modern and old school, familiar and variety. There are some real memorable songs, like ‘Fast Junkie’ ‘Supersonic Hate’ ‘Gasoline Dream’ and ‘Where It Hurts.’ Some of these ended up on the band’s later live albums. There’s also a weird bonus track where they jam out a few cover songs like Voodo Chile and Heaven & Hell.

Interesting fact; the third track uses the same ‘Here comes the pain’ sample that Slipknot use on their debut album.

The downside of the album however, is it has a really weird production job. It has a very loud clunky bass tone, muddy drums, muffled guitars and vocals too low in the mix. Some people can’t get past it. I don’t really notice it when listen to the album on its own, but if you add the songs to a playlist or hear them on shuffle amongst other albums, then it really does stand out as sounding quite unusual.

It isn’t an absolutely essential album like their first five albums are, but I would still recommend it to any warm blooded Thrash fan (or Fast Junkie), who is looking for more.

2019’s Atonement is the 3rd album since Jesse Leach rejoined the iconic metalcore band, Killswitch Engage. I’ll skip to the end right away and say this album is no disappointment. There are a bunch of new songs fit for any future KSE live sets or compilations.

The sound, performance and production are all top notch. More or less similar in quality to the past two albums. Sonically; it is crystal clear and perfectly produced. As classy as you can get without tipping over into overproduced. The band pound away with the same ratio of aggression and contemplation, and nail it perfectly.

Unusually for Killswitch, there is a guest vocal performance from an outisder, from Testament’s Chuck Billy. They add him over one of the thrashier songs (‘The Crownless King’) and he really suits the music. Also; in contrast to the outsider guest spot, and in a nice mirror to Jesse Leach’s guest vocal performance on The End Of Heartache, during the time that Howard Jones was the singer, now that Jesse is the singer, Howard Jones pops up here for a guest vocal performance, on the track ‘The Singal Fire.’  

I’m not just saying it due to the above fact, but the best song on the album is definitely ‘The Signal Fire.’ Next time I see Killswitch I really hope they play it live.

Other highlights include the opener ‘Unleashed’ and ‘I Can’t Be The Only One’ (which I imagine will become a single and a live favourite).  I am also rather fond of ‘Know You Enemy’ which channels Dimebag at times in the riffs, and the album closer ‘Bite The Hand That Feeds’ which is arguably the fastest and heaviest one on this album. There’s plenty of new songs to get excited about, and very little if any in the way of filler.

Initially I was a bit sceptical about this album before getting it, as they said it was their most diverse album to date, and then the first song they released from it, ‘I Am Broken Too’ wasn’t exactly a big rager like ‘In Due Time’ or ‘Strength Of The Mind’ or ‘This Is Absolution’ …and I feared that they might be loosing their touch. Luckily the album is not all in that style anyway. And furthermore, do you know what? The more I listen to that song, the more I like it. It may be a bit mid paced and overly earnest, but dammit if that chorus doesn’t sound better and better each time I play it. As long as there are ragers there too, it doesn’t hurt to have a calmer moment to break things up.

Overall; this is a very strong album and a welcome addition to the Killswitch catalogue. If you don’t like Killswitch already, it won’t change your mind, for all the media talk of it being their most diverse album, it pretty much sounds like modern Killswitch and nothing else for the majority of its duration, but if you like modern Killswitch you shant be disappointed, as it is an expertly performed, produced and written modern Killwitch album, and that’ll do just fine.

I remember doing school projects about Marilyn Manson when I was in high school. I remember countless discussions about him with friends. I remember staying up late to see him when he would be on TV. I remember almost having the chance to see him, but missing out due to work (I only finally saw him last year). I remember reading his autobiography at least three times a year, every year, from about age 12 to age 25. When I think of the albums that have had the biggest impact on my taste, that I have loved for the longest, that have held up the most over the years; Marilyn Manson’s 4th full-length official studio album, 2001’s Holy Wood In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death (…or just ”Holywood” for short) is never far from the top of the list.

He is a very diverse and eclectic artist, that has covered a lot of diferent ground over the years, but I would instantly blurt out ‘’Holywood!’’ before you had even finished asking me what my favourite album of his is. It was a real high point in his career artistically, even if commercially the previous two albums were bigger and this one was hindered by all that Columbine witch hunt nonsense. I don’t want to talk about that unfortunate business too much, but you can’t skim over it entirely. It certainly informed the tone of the album. The key phrase that really defines the whole album is ‘‘Guns, God and Government.’’ Its biting and acerbic lyrics cleverly dissect American political, religious and pop culture values in a really insightful way. I have to say, of all his albums, this one hands down has the best lyrics, the sharpest pen, the best blend of venom and wisdom behind it.

Its also a prog-esque masterpiece. The prequel to a conceptual trilogy (the triptych) beginning with his breakthrough record Antichrist Superstar and retroactively ending with the one that came before this, Mechanical Albums.

That’s just the lyrics. Where to even begin with the music…? The album contains two of the man/band’s best ever singles in ‘The Fight Song’ and ‘Disposable Teens’ which are beyond catchy, with incredibly memorable vocals, riffs and drums.  Equally memorable high energy moments are the utterly furious ‘Burning Flag’ which is one of Manson’s fastest and nastiest songs ever, or ‘Born Again’ which is one of the bounciest and catchiest songs any artist has ever written without releasing it as a single. Equally ‘The Love Song’ and ‘The Death Song’ are unforgettable gems that would be a lesser band’s biggest hit and proud concert finisher, yet here they are just two more songs among ninteen.

Its not all high energy though. Its 19 songs crossing numerous subgenres. A very wide range of moods and tones, speeds and directions all on display. The album can be incredibly dark and bleak, ‘Count To Six And Die’ literally ends with someone shooting themselves to death with a revolver. That’s a pretty ballsy move to make after just having been falsely accused of inspiring a mass shooting. ‘Coma Black’ is a dark sister song to the previous hit single Coma White, and the industrial-meets-prog ‘Cruci-fiction In Space’ sounds like some Bizarre mixture of Rammstein meets Rush at their darker moments. It was so cool how on live shows from this era it would tie into the theatrics (as seen on the excellent Guns God And Government Live In LA blu ray). I won’t even bother to describe it, I wouldn’t do it justic, just go and see for yourself.

Everything about this album is so interesting. Even the cover artwork is so iconic. Manson crucified with his jaw removed so he can’t tell his side of thestory. So his message is censored. It would be on the nose if it wasn’t so apros pos. Even the artwork on the inside of the booklet creates such a perfect aesthetic that runs through all the advertisements and music videos and single artwork. All that zodiac and tarrot imagery with creepy folk and religious imagery conjures up a scary vibe to terrify those who were already afraid of him. There was a really strong visual identity for this whole era, and it perfectly suited the music.

Thank god (and guns, and the government) that Manson got into this headspace at this point in time, with this band backing him. I know that some of it is nostalgia about a moment in time, but even when trying to look at it objectively, there is just something so special about this album. The music, the lyrics, the artwork. Its just such a perfectly formed and perfectly realised vision from beginning to end. He balances so many things, so well. This record is such an interesting journey. Its somehow instantaneous and a slow burn at the same time. Its somehow fun and horrendously austere at the same time. It feels somehow simultaneously like a misunderstood gem, and an obvious magnum opus. Cut the album in half with a certain mix of songs and it would feel like a dancefloor greatest hits set. Cut the album another way and it is a sombre and murky journey through the grimey underbelly of the complex country that rejected Manson so hatefully. He spits that hate back tenfold and sounds good doing it.

I really enjoyed the 2001 debut album Through The Eyes from Kentucky Nu Metal band Flaw, they were always one of the more underrated bands from that particular subgenre and the quality of their debut is up there with any of their more famous peers. I saw them live in 2002 and they were really good. Maybe the market was just saturated, at the time, maybe they didn’t get the right exposure, who knows? Maybe the manager didn’t land them the right tour…who knows? All I know is it sure as hell wasn’t for lack of brilliant songs that they aren’t as big as they should be. The follow up, Endangered Species was pretty good, but it came out when Nu Metal was falling off the map and hardly anyone heard it. I wanted it but didn’t ever find it in any music stores at the time, and this was before the internet was an obvious way to get albums. I’m sure you could, but I didn’t think of it yet.

Cut another 15 years forward to 2019, the band have gone through line-up changes (Wikipedia lists 19 ex-members, that’s up there with Cradle Of Filth and Annihilator for turnover), solo albums, a self-produced album and a reunion/comeback. The second album since their comeback, Vol. IV Because Of The Brave is now out, and it reminds me once again what a solid and dependable band Flaw are. It reminds me what an excellent vocalist Chris Volz is.  It reminds me how entertaining Nu Metal can be when its done right.

It’s a decent album. 35 minutes, doesn’t overstay its welcome. Fair production job. Good solid songs. A typically excellent vocal performance from Chris Volz. There’s also a few surprises. ‘Wake Up’ for example sounds a bit more like Korn than Flaw. The album closer, ‘Lest We Forget’ is pretty interesting too. Its sort of mid paced alternative metal with spoken word kind of reminds me a tiny bit of what Queensryche were doing on American Soldier.

Highlights include the opening one-two punch of ‘Persistence’ and ‘Walk The Line’ as well as single ‘Conquer This Climb’ (which seems to be a bit more modern and almost slightly Djent flavoured for the first few seconds before it turns to the classic Flaw sound – but with a rather tasty guitar solo).

If you have any inclination to check out Flaw for the first time, then obviously, go for their by now classic debut first. This is good but its not as good as the first two albums. But if you are a fan you can relax knowing the band are still here, still putting out music, and aren’t disappointing. Overall; A welcome addition to the Flaw catalogue, if you are into that sort of thing (which I certainly am).  

I’ve said it before, but I don’t think in my life I have listened to any album more than Slipknot’s 1999 debut. I got into the band my first year of high-school and for my generation they were the biggest and most important band in the world, the way Metallica and Maiden were for people starting school in the ‘80s, or Pantera were for people starting school in the ‘90s,  or Zeppelin and Kiss were for people starting school in the ‘70s.

Slipknot were more than a band; they were so much more in my mind. I can’t count on two hands the number of pictures I drew of them, or discussions I had with school friends about them or magazines I bought just because they were in it. The first time I saw them live, on the Iowa cycle at Belfast Odyssey Arena, is one of the most memorable concerts I have ever been to. I don’t want to throw around terms like life-changing in my old and cynical age, but if I was to apply such an epithet to any band, Slipknot would be the one.

To some extent I like everything they have ever done. I am a bit of a lifer and so this review isn’t exactly going to be impartial or unbiased. But I am not 100% blind and unwilling to think critically either so I’d like to say you can trust what I say. I will admit All Hope Is Gone is not as good as the others. I’ll be happy to admit that there quite a few lyrics I dislike and sometimes Shawn’s video projects are a bit too arty and pretentious and that maybe a straighter take might do the band more favours.  I’ll even admit that some songs I like have choruses I dislike even if the rest of the song is enjoyable. (‘Sulpher’ for example has a chorus I always seem to resent, as it represents the band going a bit too far away from what made me like them in the first place). I did get a bit sceptical when a few too many clean vocals started creeping in and what were amazing and refreshing moments of clean (‘Me Inside’) amongst the heaviness became the norm and it started to seem almost every song had to have a radio chorus.

A lot of people aren’t so keen on the band’s last two albums, All Hope Is Gone and .5 The Gray Chapter, so you can expect the reviews for this will all certainly feature some kind of ‘return to form’ or ‘best since’ line or two. Now; as I said, I like every album Slipknot have ever made (and probably every song too, its just some parts I am not keen on)… but I both can and can’t see why this ‘return to form’ thing is going to be so prevalent.

Now; I think The Gray Chapter is brilliant. I’ve been reading a lot of negative things about it online in the build up to We Are Not Your Kind’s release. I don’t agree with the narrative that it was a rushed or undercooked or too much like Corey’s other band Stone Sour. Tracks like ‘Custer,’ ‘Sarcastrophe’ and ‘The Negative One’ are rabid and savage, and even though I sort of resent them, I can’t deny the radio moments like ‘The Devil In I’ are damn catchy… However; In the same way I initially hated ‘Psychosocial’ when I first heard it for the big clean radio chorus that felt like a change in what the band was trying to be and what they represented, I can see how the cleaner moments on the Gray Chapter would put people off. I mean in isolation I like almost every one of them anyway, but I just wish on principal that on the last three albums there were a few more ‘Disasterpeice’ and ‘Metabolic’ style choruses and a few less ones like those of ‘Dead Memories’ and ‘Before I Forget.’ I reckon a lot of other older fans feel the same way.

We Are Not Your Kind seems to be blowing a lot of people’s skirts up for its heaviness and brutality. There is plenty of it on here. ‘Orphan,’ ‘Red Flag’ and ‘Nero Forte’ all connect like a haymaker to the face. Corey did say in interviews while it was being written that it reminded him of Iowa and on these songs you can sort of see why he might have thought that if they were the ones he was working on at the time.

But this album has plenty of clean moments too. Hell; the first real song (track 2) on every other Slipknot album is always one of the fastest, heaviest, most brutal ones on the record, and yet here, track two is the big single ‘Unsainted’ with its absolutely huge radio chorus and festival sing-along intro. So the public’s different reaction to ‘Gray Chapter and We Are Not Your Kind can’t just be about heavy vs. clean.

One thing that is clear is that the songs on this, their sixth official studio, album are just really good. It might be that simple. The first distorted verse to ‘Unsainted’ is fierce as honey badger and the drums throughout are really impressive and energetic. The way Jay flails sideways into the china cymbal at unexpected times reminds me of what made the band’s debut so damn exciting.

You know what else makes this album so good? (Now; I’m not saying it wasn’t there on the last two albums, but…) on this album the amount of time given over to the band’s extra members and how high they are in the mix seems to be higher on this record. Lots of Sid’s DJ scratches. Lots of additional percussion from the two extra percussionists. Lots of samples and sounds from the mysterious Craig. It feels like this album really goes out of its way to justify having all nine members and revels in what makes Slipknot unique… After the massive success of Vol. 3 and its radio singles and ballads, it felt like on the follow up, All Hope Is Gone that the band were trying to be more of a ‘normal’ band instead of celebrating their uniqueness. Here they seem to shine a spotlight on them more often.

What else is great is that the band aren’t afraid to do new things. ‘Birth Of The Cruel’ for example sees the band discover ‘90s Groove Metal, and lean into the sort of riffs and drum beats that would fit on Burn My Eyes or Chaos Ad at times, with bendy riffs, and stomping jarring rhythms. Obviously through a Slipknot filter, but still…

I think the best thing about the album though might well be the fact that Corey isn’t holding back with his vocals so much. On the first album he screamed his head off so much that we were told he wasn’t allowed to talk between shows so he could rest his voice. By the time Vol. 3 came around he had to find a way to scream without damaging his voicebox and came up with the new voices that he has been using on that and all subsequent albums. It feels at times though that on this album (and maybe ‘Custer’ off of the last album… because as I said, I don’t get the hate for that one) that Corey is back to shredding his throat to pieces like back in the glory days. Some of the vocals on ‘Red Flag’ and the start of ‘Orphan’ could be straight out of ‘People = Shit’ or ‘The Heretic Anthem’ and that is the sound I fell in love with all those years ago. That was a big part of the initial magic that hooked me in and made me such a lifer for this generation defining band. Corey howling himself hoarse is just one of the best noises in all of heavy music and its nice to hear it so much again.

The production is also good, it keeps the mix clear without losing the frenzied and chaotic feel too much on the heavier tracks. You can hear each beater on the kick drum, you can hear the bass under the vocals, but you can also tune out and just be swept away in the energy of the whole thing. It doesn’t feel like the edges have been sanded down too much.

One little minor niggle against the album is the exclusion of the track ‘All Out Life’ (which was separately released back around Halloween 2018, but it contains the title line ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ repeatedly chanted). Admittedly; There was one bit I didn’t like in it, where they slow down and there is the spoken word ‘‘I will not…’’ section that was a bit similar to the intro of ‘Pulse Of The Maggots.’ Otherwise however, that track was quite a rager. I really love how driving the first verse is and when he sings that ‘’the horizon is coming like a hellbent killing machine’’ you really feel this sense of urgency and momentum. I have just added the track in as number 15 on my iTunes and phone so I get to hear it every time I hear the album (which has been pretty much non-stop since release). If you want it on CD though, you’d have to buy the special Japanese bonus track edition. Bit of a shame though that everyone doesn’t just get it as standard, because it’s a great song that I’ve really grown to love and it fits into the album well.

I feel it’s a bit weird to leave it out, as the biggest complaint I have about The Gray Chapter is that it needs just one more heavy song to balance the album out. It’s a bit frustrating to see them make the same decision again. I mean don’t get me wrong; I like ‘A Liar’s Funeral’ and ‘Not Long For This World’ and their atmospheric build ups. (Slipknot have always been the master of that, with the likes of ‘Gently’ and ‘Skin Ticket’ in the good old days, and ‘If Rain Is What You Want’ recently). But what right-minded metal fan wouldn’t want the majority of a Slipknot album to be flailing double kicks and gnarly riffs?

Now I don’t want it to be exclusively speed and power. Slipknot’s diversity is as big a draw as their ferocity. The band have always had a creepy experimental side (often driven by Shawn) to balance out Joey and Mick’s love of Deicide and Morbid Angel. All the way back to ‘Tattered And Torn,’ ‘Frail Limb Nursery’ and ‘Scissors’ from the debut and evolving into things like ‘The Virus Of Life’ and ‘Danger Keep Away (Extended Version)’ they have been balancing out the aggressive songs with nightmarish moments. They have also been experimenting with clean and subtle moments on recent albums like ‘Killpop’ and ‘Goodbye.’ So you can sort of see the legacy and evolution there and so it isn’t a total bolt out of the blue, when this album takes the cleans and mixes them with the creepy to come up with a new sound. I have read a lot of reviews of this record saying this record is dominated by experimentation. You can sort of see why. The album is full of creepy nursery rhyme-meets-experimental electronic tracks. ‘Death Because Of Death,’ ‘What’s Next,’ ‘My Pain’ and ‘Spiders’ for example come across at the same time as being both something that the band has never done before but also as a continuation in their long line of broadening the scope of their albums by adding in something more esoteric.

This album is certainly diverse; you have the four aforementioned quiet creepy ones, you have the two above-mentioned atmospheric ones, a selection of ragers as discussed prior, the huge big radio single with the surprisingly heavy verses and great drumming to open the proceedings. There’s also ‘Critical Darling’ which toes the line between radio and rager with its chorus reminiscent of Alice In Chains’ track ‘God Smack,’ and then there’s the album closer ‘Soloway Firth,’ which is a sprawling, strangely structured and winding song that goes in many different directions and which requires a good few listens to even pin down and follow what’s going on. Its not prog, but its certainly not three-chord trick, verse-chorus-verse, rock either.

All in all it is a very interesting listen (even without adding in ‘All Out Life’ for heaviness sake). I don’t want to go and say ‘’The best album since…’’ because I am really fond of all their albums, but it is certainly really good. Really, really good in fact. As a bit of an over eager fan it certainly satisfies, but objectively it is a damn fine record with a good flow, a good balance of different directions, a good sound and fantastic vocal performance. It not only meets my high expectations but exceeds them.

I am not the oldest Volbeat fan, I only discovered them last year at Download Festival 2018, but I have been listening to them absolutely non-stop ever since.

Volbeat cds for birthday and Christmas, Volbeat t-shirts under my work clothes pretty often, Volbeat on the car stereo during every road trip to visit relatives, Volbeat in the car ride to work almost every work day. Overall; I’ve listened to over 2,900 times in the past year. Something that few other bands can boast. Since records began in 2011 (when I started tracking it via LastFm), they are my 9th most listened-to artist. So basically; I’ve listened to them more in one year than I have some of my favourite ever bands, almost any other band in fact, in the last 8 years.

So you could say, that coming into this new album, which is the first new one to be released in my time as a fan (not counting the amazing live album, Let’s Boogie! Live from Telia Parken), that I was more than a little excited.

…So imagine my surprise when the first time I listened to it, I didn’t really care for it. At all.

Now, that was partially my own fault, first of all I was lifting weights on a red hot Summer’s day, with a noisy fan on while I did so, so maybe it wasn’t really hearing it in the best conditions. Additionally; I was beyond hyped, so I wasn’t really going in with realistic expectations.

Having listened to it a good few more times, some of them while driving, some while exercising and some just sitting there in a quiet room paying close attention, it has definitely grown on me more.

There are some stand out tracks that I am really happy to have in my Volbeat collection and which I would be excited to see live. ‘Die To Live’ is probably the best of them. I mean, how could it not be, featuring as it does guest vocals from the mighty Neil Fallon from Clutch. It is a jaunty up tempo rock n’ roller with tinkly piano reminiscent of Illusion era GnR and fun saxophone reminiscent of the Boomtown Rats but a basic bouncy pop punk structure for the rest of the song that wouldn’t be out of place on a mid period Green Day or Rancid album. Real fun tune.

There is also the singles ‘Parasite’ which is a 40 second punk statement with punctuated vocals and oodles of energy, and ‘Leviathan’ which is just an absolute sing-along anthem up there with previous gems like ‘Heaven Nor Hell’ or ‘Thanks’ or ‘Lola Montez’ in the Volbeat-sound-like-fun stakes. The band are always great when Jon gets pounding on the floor toms. It is the kind of smile-inducing big stadium shouter that makes you remember how fun Rock Music is when you are 13 years old.

Another great thing about the album is the lead guitar work, Michael and Rob’s lead guitar lines and solos are utterly majestic at times (think the Guitar solo from Anthrax’s ‘Safe Home’ and you’ll know what I mean)… the kind of magical guitar solo that transports you to another place.

That said. I don’t think I would be out of place in saying this is the band’s worst album. Well, if not worst, then, least good. The first point against it in my book is really subjective, but it is just not heavy enough. There’s maybe two Metal songs on it. ‘The Everlasting’ and ‘Cheapside Sloggers’ (with guest guitar from Exodus’ Gary Holt!) are the heaviest tunes, but they stand sort of alone in that front… and even ‘Cheapside Sloggers’ is only Metal in the second half once the guitar solo section kicks it up a notch.

The second thing against it is they re-use a lot of things from previous albums. Single ‘Pelvis On Fire’ for example will be real good fun if it is the first Volbeat song you ever hear but it is exactly halfway between ‘Devil Or The Blue Cats Song’ and ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’ and you kind of feel they are ripping themselves off a little bit. Haven’t I heard that vocal melody before? Hasn’t he done an Elvis voice before? That slow down speed up thing sounds familiar.

The third thing, again subjective, is that they do too much of the overly earnest big American radio rock style. On the previous album they did it a bit on tracks like ‘Goodbye Forever’ or on the album previous to that, with ‘Cape Of Our Hero’ but they did it really, really well and in small doses. Here they do it so much it kind of overwhelms the album. They do inject Volbeatness into those songs, but just not enough for my tastes. It makes the album sound a bit bland. Usually a Volbeat album is a rollercoaster going from sounding Psychobilly, to Pop Punk to Groove Metal to Stoner Metal to 1950s Rock N’ Roll to Metallica-Worship and back again, all in a seamless package where it all flows together and you don’t even realise its weird that bagpipes have entered the mix.

On this album it feels like a radio rock album with a few detours. Initially at least. The more I listen to it the more I get into it. I also feel like me saying they do too many radio songs is a bit like Millicent Stone in the TV show Bunheads telling the ballet dancers they are doing too much of a certain step (when she herself has no knowledge of dancing). And saying there isn’t enough metal is a bit silly when the tracks I have said where the best songs, ‘Die To Live,’ ‘Parasite’ and ‘Leviathan’ are in no way metal and are still brilliant. And some of my all time favourite Volbeat songs from across the discography like ‘Lola Montez’ and ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’ and ‘Still Counting’ aren’t metal either.

That’s perhaps a conflicted mess of a review. To summarise I would sum it up thusly, the gut reaction was negative but its a grower and although I would certainly not make it your first Volbeat album unless you love earnest radio rock, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a disappointment and it has at least 5 or 6 songs I am really happy with and will be happy to include on future playlists, and would be happy to see live. However; if all you liked about Volbeat was the heavier side of them, like ‘Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza,’ ‘Slaytan’ and ‘Wild Rover Of Hell’ …then maybe this album might not be an instant hit with you either.

Seattle’s Metal Church are an interesting band, hard to place. They can sound like a mixture between (fellow Seattle band) Queensryche and early Savatage at times, basically writing Thrash Metal at other times and writing big ‘80s Power Ballads at other times.

The previous album was a bit more serious and proggy. The one before that was their thrashiest of the early records and the one after this goes a bit stripped down. They cover a lot of ground, but I like all of their solid and diverse first five albums more or less equally.

Well, with one exception. Their fourth album, 1991’s The Human Factor is by far and away my favourite. This album is an absolute stand out. I don’t know what happened here, if it is the production, the song writing, or the performance, but this album just utterly smokes.

The album is consistent from beginning to end in a way that makes it hard to choose highlights. There is the ridiculously catchy hard rock single ‘Date With Poverty’ with memorable guitar hooks, there is the furious blood pumping Thrash attack of ‘The Final Word,’ ‘The Fight Song’ and ‘Flee From Reality.’ The opener ‘Human Factor’ has the same confidence of Symbol Of Salvation era Armored Saint.

Lyrically the album is really interesting too. ‘In Mourning’ is similar to Sacred Reich’s ‘Who’s To Blame?’ in the Metal-doesn’t-cause-suicide theme. ‘The Final Word’ seems to be a patriotic song about the good sides of America, ‘Date With Poverty’ is a socially aware track.

Musically, the album is utterly bombastic. The Marshall/Wells guitar team fill the album with a barrage of riffs and solos. The Erickson/Arrington rhythm section is on point. But the real star here are Mike Howe’s incredible vocals. The man has ‘some serious lungs on him’ as they say, an utter superstar vocal performance that elevates the record far above the competition. I mean as much as I have been big-ing up the album’s heavier moments, on ‘Agent Green’ (which seems to be an attempt to improve upon the popular ‘Watch The Children Play’ from the previous album) he sounds almost like Geddy Lee at times.

Overall; this album is great album in every way. It sounds great. The songs are great and the performances are particularly great. I would absolutely recommend this to any fan of Hard Rock, Metal.