Testament – Titans Of Creation Review

I don’t normally like to post reviews of records until I’ve had a while to sit with them and let them sink in, but given how long it took me to review Brotherhood Of The Snake, I thought maybe this time around I should strike while the iron is hot, so here goes…

Its 2020 and the 1980s Thrash Metal legends Testament have dropped their twelfth canonical studio album (ie. not counting First Strike Still Deadly, since that is re-recordings of old material). I was pretty hyped up for this album before it even arrived as the band have been on such great form for the last decade with no weak releases in recent memory. Their latest effort is called Titans Of Creation and has the same killer production style as the last two albums and also features the same line-up as the previous album Brotherhood Of The Snake, which is actually a rare thing nowadays as they usually seem to have at least one line-up shift on each new record since the ‘90s.

Interestingly though, although it has the same line-up as the last record, it kind of sounds like there has been a shift. The album is a lot less direct and a lot more technical and musically complex than ‘Snake was. Its also about 15 minutes longer. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still no intros and no ballads, just metal fury from start to end, and there are still some blunt force all-out Thrashers on there (see the red hot ‘WW3’ or ‘Curse Of Osiris’ for example), but they do take the foot off the gas a few times to flex their musicianship rather than just sanding faces off and full speed for an hour. It ends with a biblical sounding instrumental for example. ‘Symptoms’ goes down quite a technical and melodic route, that really lets you know the current rhythm section were both also previously members of the band Death. Single ‘Night Of The Witch’ should give you some idea of the direction of the record. Songs crammed with numerous tempo shifts, complex structures, virtuoso solos, loud and flashy drumming, as well as little hints of the mid-late ‘90s Groove Metal and Death Metal-influenced Testament style creeping in at points amongst their modern-Thrash style of the last four albums. ‘City Of Angels’ takes things even further, and is probably the closest thing to Low the band have done in a very long time.

Basically, the record takes the building blocks of the few previous records’ style, but really pushes it in several different directions and adds more variety. Whether you prefer this album to previous albums will really just come down to personal preference in issues of precision and succinctness versus experimentation and breadth. In terms of quality however, it is unquestionably as good as anything the band have put out since Chuck recovered from cancer.

In terms of highlights; I think my second favourite track on the album is the off kilter ‘Ishtar’s Gate’ which is very bass driven, has a nice eastern-sounding intro and guitar solo, and revolves around a very satisfying loud/quiet dynamic that reminds me a tiny bit of Annihilator. My favourite song however, and the catchiest song on the album, is probably ‘Dream Deceiver’ which could probably be described as the bastard son of ‘Electric Crown’ and ‘More Than Meets The Eye’ and which is somehow even better than that sounds. It is arguably the most memorable song they’ve written since 2008’s The Formation Of Damnation album (and this is coming from someone who loves the last two albums, so this is saying something!). Oh and in case you were wondering, its not a Priest cover, that was ‘Dreamer Deciever’ you’re thinking of.  

Overall; a damn fine modern day effort from a world class Thrash act, still at the top of their game, that is both similar enough to recent records that if you like them you’ll love this, but differnt enough that you haven’t just heard it all before. Highly recommended.

Ps. I am not usually a particularly sentimental reviewer. I don’t post many tribute posts when musicians pass away or get well soon posts when musicians are ill. However;  Singer Chuck Billy and bassist Steve DiGiorgio are currently recovering from Covid-19 at the moment, about a month after I was within sneezing distance of them at a recent concert, just before the world shut down. Sorry if its cheesy given the timing of this review, but I genuinely do wish them all the best.

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Round 4 – Day 42

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 42, and I haven’t spent anything new thank goodness, I’m actually on track. This time last year I was rolling around in Batman and Dredd Blu Rays, picking up White Zombie and Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots albums, picking up about 7 concert tickets and about 14 Batman TPBs, and generally just quickly and almost violently spending all the money I’d earned from working in a media-centered retail outlet all summer.

This September however, I’m not spending anything. I’m thinking of extending this already-extended challenge to be yet another month long as well. So… that’d be no purchases from August 1st all the way to November 1st. My reasoning for this is that I could use that money for fruit and vegetables. Also, I didn’t work this summer like I usually do so its not like the aforementioned that money is much anyway. I’ve got bills to pay people!

Also… I have so much stuff already. And so much borrowed stuff on top of that. And access to so much free stuff on the internet (how many comedy video shows like Zero Punction and web comics are there anyway? And how many bands like Miroist give their music away for free on bandcamp?). I could re-read each of my Graphic Novels, read all the books I got in the last two years again, re-read all my Game Of Thrones (Song Of Ice And Fire) books, listen to all the albums I rarely listen to, play through the backlogue of videogames I haven’t finished (or even started for some of ‘em) yet, and hey, I’ve got Netflix and so there’s always something to watch.

What’s the reason to buy new things anyway?

Apart from my burning need to buy things of course… (the hungry deamon who screams in my brain to ‘spend, spend, spend,”) and the fact that one thing leads to another (as discussed here by my talented friend Paul), in so much as if I read Batman, I’ll want more Batman…if I play God Of War I’ll want more similar video games, If I listen to a certain band, I’ll want more similar music.

Heck; on that tip, I got books about Black and Death Metal for my birthday from Paul (cheers, generous!) and once I read them that’ll make me want to buy Death and Black Metal albums mentioned inside.

…but apart from all that … I think I could do it. I think I could go three months purchase-free, just enjoying what I’ve already got. Getting to grips with what I’ve got. Getting into what I paid for… I think you can consider the challenge extended folks!

Anyway… here’s what I’ve been listening to whilst weightlifting, walking and wanking spending time on facebook for the last few days:

This is one of my favourite album discoveries of the past few years. This album is so well-crafted, so catchy and such good fun. Its also one of their most consistent, filler-free, and exciting albums… one where everything just “comes together” and becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It really is “the 3rd Keeper Of The Seven Keys” like people say it is. Its definitely my number three favourite Power Metal album behind those two aforementioned Keeper gems.

Continuing on a Power Metal theme, I finished the weights yesterday by listening to the melodic Metal stylings of Sweeden’s Hammerfall. This is a really solid and enjoyable album indeed. I’m not sick of it yet at all. Its been a sort of soundtrack to the summer. It is a really motivating album to exercise to as well, the sound of it just inspires activity and dedication. Something about the clean vocals just makes you want to do push-ups. I think if they played this sort of glorious victorious music in high school Phis-Ed classes (or “PE” for us Brits), there’d be much less fat kids. Maybe there’d be higher sales of Dungeons & Dragons and replica swords too, which could offset the economic disaster that thin kids would cause by not buying Big Macs and diabetes medicine, maybe.

Ok. No. I think its just me. I’m sure the average jock thug wouldn’t want Hammerfall during his dodgeball bullying time.

Can you tell I’ve watched much US teen television? Thought so….

I haven’t listened to this album in yonks. I think that’s because I temporarily lost it when I lent it to a former guitarist of a band I was in, on a day we were going to see Gama Bomb and Onslaught live. Turns out he was in Uni with Gama Bomb’s bassist and I got to meet the band and get into the gig for free. Good evening! I left this album in his car though, that’s the only downside.

That was probably one of the last nights I listened to it, even if it is in my iTunes library. Also, that was probably the first time I’d listened to it in a few years. I liked this band during my Thrash-obsessed teens, but they really were just “one more thrash band” to put into my metaphorical hungry maw. (Also literal hungry maw, hence all the weight-loss now). I mean look at me around the time I was listening to this album regularly:

Anyway… yeah, this album reminds me a lot of Slayer’s Hell Awaits in terms of its slightly ploddy nature and slightly weird black production job. Its thrash, its got solos and double kicks and all that good stuff. Its just a bit dull overall, but still good if that makes sense? Its talented enjoyable stuff… but every song is about a minute too long, and the album is about a song too long, and every idea is about one unit of plagiarism too many to get truly excited about. Still… its nice to hear it again after all these years since I first picked it up (2004? 2005?).

Now this was a real favourite of mine in my teen years. This is a brilliant album. I’m not sure why I am not listening to it regularly now… other than the fact that NEW STUFF NEW STUFF NEW STUFF SO MUCH NEW STUFF

Ahem, excuse me. But yes, Overkill’s Taking Over is a brilliant record. I don’t think there’s a single song on it I’d loose. I like Bobby’s voice on this album the best of any in the discography too. And the production is charming, with an excellent guitar tone. Also it has “In Union We Stand” on it. How can you argue with that? Fun, Fun, Fun!

I’ve been listening to this a lot recently anyway, but I generally squeeze new stuff in with the old stuff on these GITWYPF endeavors anyway… so, what the heck?

This is my favourite Dokken album. I think Back For The Attack is better and my favourite two songs (“Lightnin Strikes Again” & “Til The Livin End”) are on Under Lock And Key, but this one is my favourite album overall. The variety, the charm, the guitar solos, the choruses! Its all so good. Also the album is succinct and entertaining and doesn’t ever get samey.

I listened to this and Heartwork last night upon realizing that I’d gotten a lend of them over a year ago and never actually returned them (woops). Anyway, yeah, I like the idea of them, and there’s loads of riffs, vocal patterns and fills I like…. But each album is a bit tiring. Any song in isolation, yup. The famous songs like “Keep On Rotting In The Free World” “Tomorrow Belongs To Nobody” “Heart Work” etc. are all absolute gems, but deep album tracks all in a row aren’t as entertaining and can find me zoning out a little. Sorry!

I’ve had this album almost for as long as I’ve been into Metal, I got it pretty early in my time in high school. I rarely listened to it (if at all) after I left high school. I seem to remember it being almost 100% d-beats with very little variety, excluding the title track, which is awesome. (I’m always disappointed by how the title track isn’t as good live on the Monkey Puss DVD, and also the fact that the cool bit at the end is a “cover” and not just invented by the band).

Well, my memory was half-right. The title track is indeed awesome. But there’s way more variety than I remembered. Its not all d-beats. The drumming is really impressive actually. There’s some seriously inventive and impressive kick work and fills on here. This is a damned decent album! I think I’ll be listening to this more often nowadays!

I really enjoyed this. I stuck it on tonight. Its basically just a good, catchy Thrash album when all is said and done. Or at least the best songs are. The unarguably Death songs (eg. “Blaspherion”) are maybe the weakest moments for my own personal taste, but otherwise, this is some damn catchy enjoyable stuff. “Dead By Dawn” is great fun. Also, even “Blaspherion” has awesome drums, and some great sections in the middle and towards the end!

I like that this album is short. It’s a short, sharp, exciting blast of energy. It feels passionate. Its kind of that Reign In Blood thing… Succinct, powerful, effective. I think too much of this might get a bit old, but this is a nice snack (for my hungry maw, remember?).

This is not short. It is not Reign In Blood-esque by any stretch of the imagination (save for talent, of course). It is however, really impressive. Surprisngly groovy, musical and listenable, the album is really rather interesting. Its just outside my brain’s comfort zone, so I only enjoy it in a sort of technical way, I’m an observer who can tell that it is good, but I’m not actually enjoying it myself on a gut level. Oh well, maybe with more listens or some other band to “unlock” it for me, it will become a favourite once my objective admiration for it synchs with my gut-reaction.

Speaking of gut reaction…. Boy, this is a banger. Those riffs! Those riffs! Those riiiifs!
I don’t think I’ve found an extreme Metal band that better connects with me on a gut level than the mighty Melechesh (Napalm Death and Zyklon are the closest, but Melechesh do it more consistently).

“Ladders To Sumeria” for example just slays! That reoccurring riff is the bee’s knees. I can’t explain it properly in words, but it’s the “key” riff of the song, so just listen to it, and that riff you find yourself loving… it’ll be that one!

Another new one mixed in with the oldies. I like it a lot. “Demon’s Whip” is a great song, balancing their fast and slow sides well. “The Power Of Thy Sword” is my favourite on the album… it is pure outrageous Gamma Ray style fun!

The only complaint I have at all is that the drum solos and bass solo in “Achilles” rob its momentum, but the fact that they represent parts of the story through sound (the forging of armour etc) is cool enough to forgive that problem.

Ok. That’s enough for one article. Consider the challenge extended and have a good evening.

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Round 4 – Day 40

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 40, and I haven’t spent anything new in the last three days… hey, I’m getting the hang of this! Maybe if I keep this going long enough I’ll be able to break free of the habit of spending so frequently. I could use that money for fresh fruit and vegetables! (I’m on a health kick at the moment and that seems like the best use of my money in my current state of mind). I’ve also been experimenting with baking and online grocery shopping with mixed results. I’m planning on being a more successful human being for the next year, more organized and nourished and with more strings to my bow.

Continuing this self-improvement theme, I’ve also decided to cycle for 20-minutes after work every day from when I return to work following my current time-off, all the way up until Christmas. To sure-up this decision, I spent last night making dozens of 20-minute playlists in iTunes for cycling to. (Well, most of them end up being 22 minutes). The main theme of each playlist is pick about 5 songs from about 5 different artists within one subgenre.

So for example: 1 Saxon song, 1 Diamond Head song, 1 Iron Maiden song, 1 Angel Witch Song, 1 Motorhead song…. and then call that playlist “NWOBHM 1.”

In this spirit I have made: 9 Classic Rock Lists, 9 Thrash Metal lists, 9 NWOBHM/Early Metal lists, 9 Thrash Metal lists, 8 Glam Metal lists, 6 Power Metal lists, 5 Metalcore lists, 4 Groove Metal lists, 2 NYHC lists, 2 Indie Lists, 2 Nu Metal lists, 1 Stoner Rock list, and 1 Melodeath list.

Oh yeah, and two lists of Thrash bands’ ‘90s hits…like “Symphony Of Destruction,’ ‘Only,’ ‘Enter Sandman’ etc.

I only chose jaunty up-tempo songs; no ballads, no interludes, no intros, no doomy songs, nothing proggy… just stuff that would make me want to continue cycling. Its basically that I always get a shower when I get home from work, but I am always hesitant to do any exercise once I’ve had a shower because it’s a waste of water and therefore money, and so I’ve decided that I could squeeze in a small bit of exercise after each work day so its not too tiring (and get rewarded by hearing 5 or so classic songs) but since I’ll still work up a sweat it would be advisable before my usual post-work shower. Hopefully it makes me squeeze in exercise all the time, rather than doing it properly when I’m in the mood, but more often ending up doing nothing when it can’t be done right… as they say: “Don’t let Perfect be the enemy of Good.”

Anyway, enough health propaganda, on to the main article:

Since my recent birthday, I’ve been describing how I’ve been reading Martin Popoff’s Top 500 Metal Albums book, and this has not changed. I’ve been happily reading away at this yesterday too, now up to around number-300. It’s a damn good book and I highly recommend it. Even if there are a few small mistakes (eg. he said that Michael Kiske was the singer on Helloween’s Walls Of Jerhico, but it was really Kai Hansen) and sometimes his sentences lack all grammatical logic or you can tell he forgot to type words here and there, it is still a very entertaining and well put-together product.

I’ve also spent the last few days listening to the following albums:

I decided to put this record on again because I recently read an article online which was about biggest disappointments/flops. Untouchables was in it. I thought to myself…”surely not?” I remembered at the time, everyone loved it. They filmed the successful comeback show with loads of songs from it. People on Metal podcasts I listened to remembered it fondly. I listened to it again last night, and yeah, there’s a wee bit of filler (like EVERY Korn record) but it is in no way a weak album for them, plus lead single and album opener “Here To Stay” is just an absolute smasher! Oh yeah, and I looked it up on Wikipedia this morning and that also suggests it is one of the band’s most popular albums. What about the verse to “Embrace” ? …or the chorus to “Wake Up Hate” ?

Disappointment? Pfft…

This album is a weird one for me; I listen to tracks from it almost daily on shuffle, but I have this weird “I don’t listen to this album enough” feeling all the time because I don’t sit down and listen to it in its entirety often enough. Well, I tried to put that right, and its one of my favourite Motorhead records when you add up all the songs I like (although I just usually don’t listen to them together… something it shares in common with Faith No More’s Angel Dust as a matter of fact). Some people called this one a disappointment, or dislike the production. Not me, I love it. Love it all. So many great tracks. Great atmosphere. Its charming. “(Don’t Let ‘Em) Grind Ya Down” is especially fun. Heck it all is; no filler!

I listened to this yesterday whilst weightlifting because I have elderly neighbors in my temporary accommodation and I didn’t want them to have to hear Hatebreed, which is what I was really in the mood for at the time, but I’m a considerate neighbor when all is said and done.

I remember I bought this for super-cheap (around a penny I seem to recall, or maybe one pound at an absolute maximum!) just to have something to talk about with a coworker in my last job, who had an Alkaline Trio tattoo. I’m not really keen on it. I always liked their single “Private Eye” but unfortunately its about the only song on this album that is memorable. Its all competent but its just a bit bland and forgettable. Oh well, a Penny for a few conversations and “Private Eye” …not too much of a waste. Its not like I’ll have to quit doing fucked-up shit.

I’ve mentioned before about how I got this in 2010 and never felt like I’d listened to it enough. I still feel that way. Even with a recent attempt at a revival of it by adding it to my phone on work trips and during my Dutch holiday. To its credit, there are some great songs on the record, like the Title Track, “The Alchemist” and “Talisman.” I just somehow never feel like I give it enough attention though. I’ll keep trying, because it is good, its just… demanding.

This was a birthday gift. It’s the modern Helloween line-up trying to do their version of the Keepers’ albums. BOTH Keepers! It’s a double album, each with a 10 minute epic, a few fast thrashers, a ballad each, and a fun off-the wall song.

Its kind of exhausting. I can tell there’s good stuff on it, because I like Deris-era Helloween a lot anyway. But, its just a huge amount to take in at once. Without the mental division of individual albums the way the original Keepers Part 1 & 2 had. You feel overworked listening to it.

Some people are down on sequel albums, especially those late in a career. I like Operation Mindcrime 2 and Thick As A Brick 2 though… so I’ll give this one a chance as well. It just might take a long time to absorb.

I went for a run the other day, and the soundtrack to this sweaty affair was the suitably sweaty Manowar albums I got for my birthday, all together (Not just the one pictured, but Triumph Of Steel and Fighting The World too) on shuffle. These albums are really growing on me. Sure the drum solos in “Achilles” are pace-killers and that spoken word track is too long, but this is a seriously fun band with some seriously great Metal songs to offer. All of their fast songs are almost instant-favourites of mine, catapulted into Best Of playlists already. This is a good boxset and these albums are showing some real promise to join the best of Helloween and Gamma Ray at the top of my Power Metal pile… almost eclipsing Stratovarius already!

Absolute masterpiece. I’ve spent enough time talking about it. I think its one of the best records ever made, by anyone. I just need to listen to it regularly because I don’t want it to slip out of listening. (Once I let “Crack The Skye” go, it didn’t come back the same).

Another birthday gift. Very fun, pleasant, upbeat and happy record. Perfect listening for this sunshine, and for this good-mood inspired by the exercise and healthy-eating zone I’m in. Also nice and brief, lightweight and succinct. Easily digestible, quick and cheerful stuff for instant gratification and no-brains smiles being put on my face.

I’ve tried once more last night, despite feeling like it wasn’t very good and even with new attention, I just don’t really like this album much at all. I really like their debut, don’t get me wrong, its not just thoughtless Poison-bashing here, I just don’t like this Posion album. This one is just a bit empty. There’s nothing in the style I want from them, and there’s no catchy perfect fun in an alternative style to the one I want either. Its just very bland and unexciting. Nothing “grabs” me.

Halfway between the first and the third. Not just as memorable as their debut, or as forgettable as their third album, this has stuff going for it, but isn’t “wow, this album is great!” either. An enjoyable listen, that will eventually be boiled down to just the best few tracks and mostly ignored otherwise. I like “Back On The Rocking Horse,” “Bad To Be Good,” and “Look But You Can’t Touch” as well as the Kiss-esque hit single “Nuthin But A Good Time” of course.

I used to listen to this all the time last year. It got pushed out by new purchases. I still tend to listen to the post-Ralph albums a lot, but the first three of their albums have done a runner from my limited-storage-space phone long ago, which is a shame really, they deserve more attention. I’m pushing them back in now though. How can you argue with “Money” on a sunny day?

I’ve been listening to this constantly since its release, and so this listen here is just another go-round, rather than any attempt to appreciate an under-appreciated hidden gem. I’ve been constantly listening to it all year because its really good! …Even their absolutely shoddy live gig this time last year didn’t stop this being a good record in my eyes.

I enjoyed listening to it out in the sun today whilst chopping down (or rather trimming to acceptable tidiness, its not like I actually felled them with an axe) the trees surrounding my current accommodation, in the glorious sunshine. The title track and “Fall From Grace” are brilliant cheerful songs to hack trees by! (Although maybe I should’ve listened to Rush, now that I think about it… that’d be good, ey? I wonder if the neighbors would’ve got the joke?).

It took a long time to trim those trees. This was the second album I put on, because its not too-heavy for neighbors. I love this album, any excuse to listen to it is fine by me… even if my thumbs are covered in blisters afterwards! Good album. “Sleeping By Myself Tonight” is superb.

Man, I just never listen to this. I’ve owned it at least a decade, and I think I’ve listened to it fewer than twenty times in all that time (shame it wasn’t Somewhere In Time so I could use yet another “time” in that sentence), with about ten of those listens being made in the same month I bought it.

I love the title track (man, title tracks are usually great, aren’t they?) and “Be Quick Or Be Dead,” which I will always love for its Carmaggeddon 2 memories! (It was in that game’s soundtrack beside “The Trooper” and “Man On The Edge.”) Other than those two tracks however, I almost don’t even recognize over half of the record. I wasn’t even all that fond of it when I listened to it yesterday again either. I must try yet again tomorrow! Maybe it’s a grower, and I’ve never put enough time into it?

This album is fantastic. Its taken me years to think that though. A bit of backstory: I bought Cowboys’ and Vulgar’ on the same day on a Dublin holiday when I was about 12 or 13. I loved Vulgar instantly and forever. The high screams and weird production (and infuriating lack of snare drums on “Primal Concrete Sledge”) on Cowboys however, at the time made me think of it as being bad and cheesy and out-dated and un-Pantera, and for about two years afterwards I only liked the title track. (Title Tracks again, see?). Over the years I’ve liked more and more of it, and getting into thrash unlocked more of its charm, getting into Maiden unlocked yet more. Getting into Priest unlocked the final missing piece. Now I love every second of it… it just took me a while. A kid who mostly listens to Powerman 5000 and Limp Bizkit doesn’t have the palate suitable for “Heresy” or “Psycho Holiday” just yet. Well, it was worth the wait!

Another “I am listening to this all the time anyway” album. I’m surprised how much I’ve come to really enjoy this record. It’s also “unlocked” the band’s first two albums for me, and I can appreciate them as real music now, instead of just a clown-parade of druggy chancers and womanizers writing 80% filler and getting unnaturally lucky with a few hits, like I used to view them. Moving on…

Yet another “I am listening to this all the time anyway” album, like the above. This is my definite album of the summer. It will likely be my album of the year at this rate. Every listen and it gets better, just like Stalingrad did. I’ll be watching the free Blu Ray a lot over the rest of the year too. Good value. I’ve been avoiding new albums recently because I can get boxsets of albums for the same price as individual new albums, and about 5 cheap old albums for the price of one new album, so it just seems wasteful to buy new albums…. This one however was unarguable value for money considering how much enjoyment and use I got out of it!

When I first got the boxset of Dokken’s first five albums (well, four and a live album), I sort of overlooked this one a lot. I’m slowly rectifying that oversight. “Paris Is Burning” and “Live To Rock (Rock To Live)” are excellent jaunty Judas Priest-style Speed Metal tracks (although with a softer production, admittedly).

This still isn’t my favourite Dokken album, or one I’d share with any friends who don’t listen to this sort of thing to convert them, but it’s a nice enough album and worth my time.

This is a classic, everyone loves it. Its not hard to see why. Phil’s voice is excellent here, Pepper and Kirk’s riffs are really memorable and everyone loves a bit of Bower Power, that Bonham-esque groove he can inject songs with really putting the cherry on top.

Good songs (most of a Down setlist most times, ey?), great performances, faultless production… pretty good record. Its not even monotonous, there’s plenty of variety from the brief stunners like “Lifer” and “Hail To The Leaf” and then the acoustic “Jail,” for variety, yet further diversified by the unique genre-of-one in hit single “Stone The Crow” and then topped-off by the big weighty monolith of an album-closer (and live-favourite) “Bury Me In Smoke.”

Its just all good, and there’s a nice mix so you aren’t bored or wore-down. I just need to remind myself to listen to it as often as I listen to Pantera or C.O.C. I’ve been constantly hammering The Purple EP all year, or at least its highlights, so I’ve probably been getting enough Down overall that I didn’t notice the dip in NOLA plays, but Martin Popoff’s book just reminded me to go back to the reason I liked Down in the first place.

I listen to the title track (how many times with the title tracks?) and “Rock N Roll Rebel” all the time, and I have it on Vinyl mounted on my wall, and I listened to the whole record all the time for about a year after I got it… but I’ve noticed a massive decrease in listens recently. I’ve just put it on again (another Popoff inspired move) and noticed that apart from the aforementioned hits, I’ve forgotten most of this record, and there’ actually a lot more good moments on here than I’ve been giving it credit for recently, certainly since last Christmas I’ve not listened to it in full. Well, now I have once more, and it was entertaining. Not the best Ozzy album, but better than the two-tracks-only footnote that I’ve been treating it as! Also the bonus track “One Up The B Side” is great, despite its cheesy joke title.

I bought a set of the first two V.O.D. albums a while back, around the same time I bought the boxset of Life Of Agony albums (I remember mixing the two bands up because of their triple-word names with “of” in the center, their association with ‘90s American Hardcore, and both having tracks with “River” in the title. This “River” song has a guest appearance from Phil Anselmo, Life Of Agony’s didn’t.

I ended up becoming a real fan of the Life Of Agony material… but upon initial listen I wasn’t keen on V.O.D. much at all. Their albums seemed like an exhausting barrage of samey, brash, rough-around-the-edges violence. To be fair, that’s still true, but its more of a compliment than an insult. This album is full of absolutely brilliant tracks. Each one, in isolation, is a blow-away-the-cobwebs breath of fresh air… intense, threatening and very very lively. Their singer reminds me of Chimaira’s Mark Hunter a little… but a less melodic, more screamy version.

Highlights for me are “Jada Bloom,” “Twelve Steps To Nothing” and “Landslide.” I’m warming to this album, its just a bit exhausting all at once… they’re still a band I can only take in small doses.

Another Popoff inspiration. I bought this record around this time last year, wasn’t amazingly sold on it really, and kind of just listened to it in small doses here and there from then on, with decreasing frequency until its now mostly ignored altogether. I stuck it on yesterday and was really impressed, there’s a whole heap of stolen Anthrax, Megadeth and Overkill parts and apart from the slow, grungy tempos and Rob’s unusual voice, this is pretty much a nice Thrash album. “Thrust” and “Black Sunshine” are good. The only problem with the album is that the band seem a bit too relaxed, too calm, holding back a bit. V.O.D are too unhinged and aggressive and abrasive, put this is the opposite end of the spectrum… its very chilled out and softened-down. You can tell the songs are good though, it’d be cool to hear them covered by someone with a bit of energy. Perhaps V.O.D. could cover them and split the difference?

This album is associated with sunshine for me. I was listening to it in the wonderful sunshine in the zoo in Rotterdamn, and I listened to it today whilst going out on a long walk in the countryside while trying to put more of this healthy stuff into action and make the most of this last week away before its back to early 4am work mornings and grey city sludge. The whole album is so bright and clean and uplifting that really sunshine is the only environment in which you could take it seriously… you already need a big smile on your face before it even starts.

What about the record itself? I used to think it was pretty samey, pretty bland, and lacking in the x-factor of its more famous cousin Inhuman Rampage. Listening to it carefully for the first time today, I guess that’s only half true… there’s a little more to things here than I initially credited it with, and while it can wear a little thin all at once its pretty much an honest record with good intentions. Not soon to become a favourite, but worth a few more listens at least.

Ok. That’s enough for one article. I’ve dropped my thoughts on most of the albums I’ve been listening to in the last three days; I’ll leave discussions of Death, Carcass, Cro-Mags and Deicide to another time as I’m pretty sure most people will’ve stopped reading by now anyway.

Oh well, it stopped me from splashing out on Spiderman comic collections, Early ‘80s American Hardcore bands’ debut albums, Musician’s biographies (Five Finger Death Punch’s drummer has a book out!?) and all the live concert DVDs going at the minute (or indeed b-sides and bonus tracks to albums I have but haven’t got all the bonus material from.)

‘Til we meet again…

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 67: Death – Symbolic

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 67: Death - Symbolic

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 67: Death – Symbolic ”

Hello, and welcome to my Blog. Why is it called KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog?. Good question; It is called that, because I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog) on most websites and forums. (You know, in the way you have to chose a name or “net-handle” when you register?). Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name.

I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Wonder Woman or MMORPGs, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the most dedicated Warcraft fan’s knowledge of Azeroth.

But I don’t like Football or Reality TV or Trams or Warcraft. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.

So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:

This is the sixty seventh-entry in the series, and getting back to the original goal of the series, I’m going to listen to something that my friend Magnum thought I might like. This time around I’ll be listening to the sixth full-length studio album, Symbolic, by the American Death Metal Pioneers, Death.

So. What’s my history with Death Metal then?

Well, I remember in around 2002-2004 I got into Cannibal Corpse and Deicide to varying degrees. I liked a few songs like ‘Pounded Into Dust,’ ‘Stripped Raped And Strangled’ and ‘Hammer Smashed Face’ from exposure by peers, but I didn’t really consider them to be “my band” initially. I did however pick up Gore Obsessed for myself and later The Wretched Spawn which I still really enjoy, and afterwards Kill. I stopped after that though. I think I spent a long time trying to like them and it took me a while to actually accept that they just weren’t ever going to be my favourite band, and that I’d just like a small amount of their material a large amount. I think they’re cool guys too. I love them in documentaries but I don’t spend too much time listening to them nowadays.

I also bought myself a really nice shiny digipak of Butchered At Birth in about 2005 just sort’ve because it was considered a must-own album (see? I’ve always been like this!). Sometimes I listen to it and think its awful, sometimes I like the production and the occasional Thrash riffs dotted around it here and there. It also has a guest appearance from Deicide’s singer Glen Benton on it by the way, I like that they interlink a bit. I like it when things interlink.

Depending on what day you catch me, I’ll give you a really different answer on how much I like Cannibal Corpse. I have a lot of memories associated with the band, be that from spoofing their track titles or watching documentaries about them, but sometimes listening to a mid-album track from them just leaves me feeling bored. I find it difficult to pay attention to their non-catchy songs, even if I absolutely love tracks like “Decency Defied,” “Nothing Left To Mutilate” and “Time To Kill Is Now.”

I remember once on a holiday to Dublin, I got a copy of Deicide’s Best Of, which I really, really enjoyed. The only thing is that my favourite track was “Bible Basher” and when I bought Insinerathymn and In Torment In Hell despite really trying hard to like them, I just couldn’t. I listened to them less and less until going years without trying them at all. I think media reports of Glen Benton being a jerk and my peers disliking the band also sort of put me off. Sometimes I’ll stick on “Dead By Dawn” after a huge Deicide-drought and really enjoy it though. I think its probably fair to say that if I had’ve bought their self-titled debut and Legion instead, it would’ve been a longer lasting love-affair with the band.

Napalm Death aren’t strictly a Death Metal band, but their Harmony Corruption and Utopia Banished albums are pretty close. Plus there are guest appearances from Obituary and Deicide’s singers. Sometimes I don’t like some of the tracks on Utopia Banished, but Harmony Corruption is absolutely fantastic. I remember I bought their Greatest Hits album becuase there was a track on it called “Twist The Knife (Slowly)” and at the time, I mistook it for another amusing Cannibal Corpse style OTT-song-titles band. Ahhhh immaturity. I soon learned that wasn’t the case.

Most of what I listen to by Napalm Death nowadays though is just the Enemy Of The Music Business album and then only about two or three of the catchier songs from the rest of their discography. They rank more highly in my esteem overall than they really should if I’m being totally honest. I almost think that I want to like them, more than I am actually capable of. Too many Blast Beats. I love all the bits on their modern albums where they play technical, hardcore influenced parts or big fat groove metal sections though. Its just a shame they are just parts of songs rather than whole songs. [Sidenote: “Incendiary Incoming” is a tune!- Listen to it if you like Pantera]

In terms of the other big names in Death Metal, I’ve heard one mid-period Obituary song (the one with the video about pollution) a few times on MTV2 but never really heard it, if you follow my meaning. I’ve also heard Morbid Angel’s track “Enshrined By Grace.” I have it on its own in my iTunes but haven’t ever gotten around to checking out a full album by them. Its very fun, but modern. I haven’t heard any of the 80s/early 90s stuff that everyone raves about. Ok; I technically have Morbid Angel’s track “Dominate” in my iTunes, but that is a cover version by Zyklon.

I got into Zyklon because of the song “Subtle Manipulation” being on a free cd with Terrorizer magazine, and wining me over – its such a good song, go listen to it now! I really like a lot of their material, and had a real big phase of liking them in high school. Their tracks “Core Solution” and “Disintegrate” are still among my favourite ever songs by anyone. I think that in truth though, nowadays, I may think of the band more highly than I actually think of them (if you catch my drift), and recommend them more strongly than I really like them myself, but they were important to me. Similar to Napalm Death really. The same ratio of bad to good as Cannibal Corpse, except that I allow myself to think of them as “my band.”

When I’m in a Zyklon mood I can really eat them up, but often if I try and stick on anything but their most blast-free material, I just get mentally exhausted. It feels like a lot of hard work getting through that much blasting. Its like trying to listen to Neurosis. Its draining. Its at times like that where I understand the popularity of Poison and Blink 182. Sometimes its nice to hear music and not have to work for it. (Not all the time of course, you’re talking about someone who genuinely likes Tales From Topographic Oceans and A Passion Play here!)

Who else? Let me think. Well; My brother picked up two Decapitated albums around the time Nihility was released. “Spheres Of Madness” is excellent. Everyone agrees. The heavy cover of Slayer’s “Mandatory Suicide” is fun. I never really gave the albums a proper fair chance though, partly because they weren’t mine, and partly because I was close-minded and wasn’t receptive to the dense and challenging music of Decapitated, on top of that I didn’t much care for blast beats anyway and Nihility opens with some, so may as well ignore the 80% of the album with no blasts on it and just cool technical music with chunky riffs, right? Good idea!

I did however bizarrely buy my own copy of their demo compilation (for some unknown reason) The First Damned and did listen to and sort of enjoy it a few times before losing it.

You know what I would absolutely love? A band who took the bits of Death Metal that sound like “Spheres Of Madness” and made a whole career out’ve just that catchy, easy-to-swallow stuff. A whole career, the way Hatebreed do. That level of simialrity on a basic template. Imagine how awesome it would be in a world with multiple “Spheres Of Madness”-es! That would suit me down to the ground. Just like… Death Metal minus the blasts and atonality. I guess that’s kind of the idea of Death N Roll, isn’t it? All about five bands of it.

Speaking of Death N Roll; I’ve liked Entombed for almost the whole time that I’ve liked Metal (from whenever Inferno came out, basically. I remember one Christmas where I got it and Led Zeppelin’s then-new How The West Was Won, and I saw half of Love Actually on the TV – Bonus Xmas Memory for you there. Merry Christmas!) but they never feel like a Death Metal band to me, even on the first two albums for some reason. (Y’know, the two Death Metal classics?). Maybe it’s the lack of blast beats. Even at that though, there is still a wee bit too much repetition on those to make them regular listens for me. I love songs like ‘Left Hand Path’ with its slow part, or ‘Evilyn’ with its catchy beat, but there are some tracks that are more or less just a Slayer-beat for three minutes. As good as they are individually, it’s a bit tiring to listen to as a whole.

Throughout the years I’d hear a few songs by bands like Nile on music tv or on Youtube. Never liking them enough to consider Death Metal as something that I liked though.

Recently I’ve been impressed by Fleshgod Apocalypse, who I’ve got sort of an eye on. They combine Death Metal with symphonic elements, and make a sound that is pretty unique to my ears at this point.

After a few years of disliking almost all Death Metal, I got into Amon Amarth when I saw them support Mastodon, Trivium and Slayer live in Wolverhampton one year, and picked up a few of their albums (and a DVD). I can tolerate Melodeath a lot easier than Tampa Death Metal with atonal lines, dissonance and blast beats.

The only other thing I can think of being related is my one Dew Scented album. Its sometimes referred to as Death Metal, but as far as I can tell its just a really pissed off God Hates Us All with Phil Anselmo on vocals. Ok, that’s an oversimplification, and you do hear riffs and beats here and there that sound closer to Decapitated than I suggest, if you listen to it closely enough. Its a very strong album but, once again, tiring due to overuse of the Slayer beat. Hey, I like the Slayer beat. Its good when Lamb Of God, or, say, Slayer, do it. Its just that it can’t carry a whole song. There needs to be something else. It, alongside Blast Beating, are both fine. Someone like Parkway Drive or Slipknot can use either and it serve the song perfectly, I just get bored when people fill over 50% of the entire song with constant hammering.

Either way, my history with Death Metal is pretty long, but pretty limited. I like it when its got groove, hooks, melody or a lack of blast beats. I especially like if they throw in a Thrash riff.

As a generalization though, I feel like Death Metal bands (unless they have a suffix or prefix such as “Progressive” “Melodic” or “N Roll” …or get called sellouts) suffer from being repetitive, and from only writing one or two catchy songs per record, from being too repetitive and having way too much filler. Repetition is their downfall. Also they repeat themselves to much.

That being said, I don’t feel like I’m really informed or experienced enough to actually hold that opinion. I’m sure if I’d heard more Cynic, Goreguts, Immolation, Athiest, Suffocation, Cancer, Obituary and Morbid Angel I’d probably see the little details better. Some people say all Thrash sounds the same, or all Hair Metal, or all Metalcore, and I know that’s a load of nonsense, so I’m sure it’s the same for Death Metal.

Compare Exodus’ “Cajun Hell” with Anthrax’s “Medusa,” with Kreator’s “Fatal Energy,” with Slayer’s “Crionics” with Sacred Reich’s “Independant” with Megadeth’s “The Conjuring,” with Annihilator’s ‘Human Insecticide,” with Vio-lence’s “World Within A World.” There’s such a huge diversity in Thrash. I’m sure its exactly the same with Death Metal.

What I especially don’t like is the Death Metal (or Death Vocal possessing Thrash) of the 80s like Sodom and Sepultura’s debuts and anything I’ve tried by the likes of Possesed or Sarcofago. It just turns me right off instantly and I can’t even force myself to give it a fair try. I know that this is the behavior that some people exhibit towards St Anger or, Bring Me The Horizon, or whatever else, that I find frustrating, so I am keen to rectify it in myself. It is interesting though, how quickly my brain drops Extreme Metal like a hot Blast-Beat-ridden potato. Like when touching a super hot object, my mind automatically flings away to safety. One earful of Blasting and I just sort of zone out.

So what’s my history with the band Death themselves then?

Well, I got a lend of Scream Bloody Gore once in about 2004. I thought it suffered from only having one or two catchy songs, was too repetitive and had way too much filler. I did like the occasional thrash riffs though. [Sidenote: I actually listened to a bit of it on Youtube last week and was pleasantly surprised at how much of what i heard didn’t have the Slayer beat under it. My memory of it was slightly exaggerated, it seems.]

I also heard their cover of Painkiller which I both loved and hated at the same time (I heard it years before I ever heard Judas Priest though. I didn’t even really like Metallica or Maiden when I first heard Scream Bloody Gore, and it was really too much for a Korn/Limp Bizkit fan who was years away from even owning a Black Sabbath album to handle). Priest were a very late find for me anyway. I got a lend of a greatest hits from a friend in about 2006, couldn’t cope with the inconsistency of the production between individual tracks and then ignored them until mid-2010, when I saw the striking cover art to Screaming For Vengeance for only £3. The cover art for Scream Bloody Gore is excellent. I love those sorts of pictures.

Recently, I’ve become really curious about them again though. From seeing them constantly pop up in best-albums lists, seeing all the favourable reviews about them and seeing how everyone online seems to worship Chuck as some sort of absolute visionary (often even managing to do so in a non-sycophantic way – a rarity among fans of dead musicians).

About two years ago I got given Symbolic by my friend Magnum. I think I listened to “Crystal Mountain” on his request, I don’t really remember anything about it, or whether I listened to the rest of the record even, but whether or not I’ve listened to this album, its so damn forgotten that this counts as a first listen to me anyway. That’s how it works, right? Oh just go with it…

The only thing that makes me a bit skeptical is the presence of Gene Hoglan. As bizarre and sacrilegious as it may seem to every Metal fan who ever lived, I don’t particularly enjoy him. I don’t like the SYL album I have, and he replaces Paul Bospath and Raymond Herrera in Testament and Fear Factory to diminished results. Ray Herrera is a comepletly unique soul and cannot be replaced, and regular readers already know I like Paul Bostaph a little too much. Its not that I dislike Gene himself yet though, just that I associate him with non-enjoyment or replacing favoruites.

Regardless of disliking Mechanize and City; I’m feeling very receptive to Death right now. I hope I’m not disappointed.

[Sidenote: I absolutely love the cover art to Spiritual Healing. If I could get it for cheap it would be on my Vinyl Wall.]

Anyway, time to actually get to listening to it:


The album opens up with the six-and-a-half minute Title Track. Instantly I can hear the huge influence that Death have had on Mastodon. It also sounds a bit like a slower moment in a Rob Dukes era Exodus song, like ‘Nanking.’ It reminds me a bit of “Spill The Blood” by Slayer too.

Then it runs off in a burst of speed. The double-kicks fly off and the slayer beat comes in. Afterwards it slows back down and sounds a lot like Kreator. It sounds like most of Kreator’s recent four albums. I always hear people say that Kreator incorporated Gothernburg influences on their post-millennial efforts, but I never heard people link them to Schuldiner before. This sounds so similar its almost uncanny.

When the creepy guitar solo comes in, I am for some reason reminded of the The Adams Family videogame for the SNES. Remember that? – Anyway; then it speeds up. This song is brilliant fun. Its like a mixture of Modern Exodus and Kreator with Seasons/South era Slayer’s slow bits. Hoglan’s drumming is really enjoyable and I’m sorry to have doubted him, he does a fantastic job as he shuffles between hats and bells at lightning speed.

I can definitely see why people call it Progressive. This is a pretty far cry from Scream Bloody Gore’s relentless pounding. Additionally, I’m really enjoying both the vocals and the absence of blasts. Compared to say, Vile, it’s a lot less brutal and a lot closer to Thrash, which is always a plus for me. Interestingly, towards the end, there is a slow part which reminds me of the few good moments on those two slow mid-period Deicide albums, like maybe ‘Halls Of Warship.’

The production on the album is pretty good. Its still got that old charm to it, but is really clear. Sometimes I listen to something like Utopia Banished and wonder how anybody knows what the heck is going on. Sometimes I listen to some modern Death Metal band’s excellently produced new single on Youtube but find it soulless and missing that charming sound. This is the perfect level of production in my opinion, it just sounds great to my ears. Man, I wish Napalm Death’s Fear Emptiness Despair was produced like this, that album has such cool songs but is a headache to listen to.

‘Zero Tolerance’ follows, with a fun odd-time sig drum-only intro, then a Hardcore influenced, noisy intro of rising guitars that reminds me of The More Things Change era Machine Head and the more sinister under-recognized parts of Biohazard’s sound. There are tails to the riffs that you can hear the Mastodon influence practically shoot off. So much of the way Chuck’s fingers work can be heard on Remission.

The weird time sigs helps this one to feel even Proggier than the last one. At two minutes it takes a wild side track with this great buildup that feels like a drum solo, with this fantastic long drawn out guitar solo that throws in even more Mastodon sounding tails here and there, and then heavies-up into this fun, Rust In Peace sounding part. There’s so many cool little bits throughout. It has such interesting drums and the guitar work is really deserving of its reputation.

Another six-and-a-half-minute number follows, by the name of ‘Empty Words.’ It opens up with a nice clean part and some bongos. You can’t tell if its going to go into ‘Planet Caravan’ by Black Sabbath or ‘Reflection’ by Tool at any moment.

…Then it just fucking straight-up bursts into a gnarly metal part that reminds me half of Melechesh and half of ‘A Promise Of Fever’ by Cradle Of Filth. It has this strange biblical quality to it that I can’t accurately explain. There’s a cool part where they just leave chords to hang. Then it goes into this fun speedy Annihilator style part. I love how they justify it with these slow groovy parts. There’s so many little touches that make it special. This tiny melodic Bodom sounding solo here, a groove there, a great little “duhduhduhduh dah” chug-tail on this thrash riff.

The bit at 3.14 is one of the coolest parts I’ve heard all year. I am suddenly so aware of what a massive Death rip off that my favourite Kreator album (Hordes Of Chaos) is.

As the groove/speed juxtaposition parts come back, and then they bring in this great melodic line in as a tail, I just have a gigantic smile on my face. This song feels like an actual masterpiece.

‘Sacred Serenity’ comes next. It has an absolutely excellent intro. I’m won over already. Then a great little guitar solo comes in over a disco-sounding beat. Then that manages to evolve into a satisfyingly menacing Metal part. The bass guitar is incredible too, its got this bouncy Faith No More quality to it at times. This album is really doing it for me.

There’s a frigging brilliant part which reminds me of the good parts of Arch Enemy where he says “Serenity” which I hope is a chorus. There’s a nice shimmering quiet part that sounds like a mixture between Rush and early Annihilator (I think it may be specifically the Never Neverland title track that I’m thinking of). The drums and lead guitar are so good. This song is so fucking creative. Its like the first time I heard ‘Welcome Home’ by Coheed And Cambria. I love the way he leans into one extra tom in the middle of a beat.

‘1,000 Eyes’ follows. I can tell just from the intro that it will be good. More little touches that remind me of Melechesh and then Annihilator. A brilliant funky breakdown with a solo, followed by the archetypal Melodeath midsection, then more of that recent Kreator stuff. Then something that actually sounds like Cannibal Corpse (their slow songs though) with a slow groove and some pinch harmonics. The way it ends is so massively like Kreator’s two newest albums that I’m worried Mille might get sued.

Man; why did I wait so long to hear this album? What a dick! This is fucking fantastic. Do me a favour and if you are skeptical about this record go straight away to Spotify and listen to it right now, before even finishing this article.

‘Without Judgement’ follows up with some damn triumphant sounding leads. Then it kicks into this brilliant groove with a menacing tail. Its all technical and uber-precise, but without killing the fun. At about 1.48 it sounds like… you guessed it, the Kreator stuff I love. At 2.18, this absolutely gigantic sounding guitar solo part comes in and I just view the mountaintop church in November Rain’s video, with Chuck dressed in Slash’s hat.

Then it takes this awesome moody quiet turn for a few seconds for an extra solo, before kicking back into that uber-precise groove from earlier, that sounds like a pissed-off Robot trying to make ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ sound more evil.

Gene Hoglan is absolutely incredible on this song. I assume this must be where a lot of his reputation for excellence must be coming from.

‘Crystal Mountain’ opens up with a fun galloping part with nice hanging evil chords, and a weird dark arpeggio that sounds like ‘Red Barchetta’ as played by the character’s dead ancestors in the spirit realm in Final Fantasy 10.

There’s also a cruel-sounding build up that sounds like Melechesh and summons up images of slave drivers whipping people in the baking sun. And, for some reason, the bit at about 2.18 reminds me of the bit in Battlestar Gallactica where they’re on Caprica and its all terrorist themed. The Spanish sounding acoustic guitar solo that plays over the Metal makes me almost want to cry. I have no idea why, but it just sounds so important.

‘Misanthrope’ opens sounding much more like stereotype Death Metal than anything else so far. Luckily, it diversifies and all different little bits and bobs emerge. There’s some genuinely catchy little drum hooks. Then there’s this fun, massively Pantera, groove bit for a second before they Death-ize it. It has a very Cowboys From Hell reverb though. I’m reminded of ‘Medicine Man.’

There’s also something of Metallica’s ‘Orion’ about its breakdown that I can’t fully explain. Then this really huge Thrash part kicks in, only to be joined by an incredible, ghostly melodic solo. Then bam. Hordes Of Chaos kicks in.

I’m not sure about any of these song structures for brain-pleasing, but the songs certainly take you on a journey. It feels like a film with a ton of explosive set pieces and bombastic action, but not necessarily a well-considered plot where all the pieces fit perfectly into place. It’s a constant series of quick slaps in the face. Pop pop pop pop pop. I’m sure repeat listens will make it make more sense. I didn’t initially understand Protest The Hero’s song structures either, but we all know how that turned out, don’t we?

The album closes with an eight-and-a-half minute number called ‘Perennial Quest.’ In my opinion this is the correct order of events. Back in the 80s, most Thrash bands would do one of two things, either have the longest track second last, and then throw a shorter, punchy one in afterwards (‘Strike Of The Beast’ following ‘Deliver Us To Evil’ springs to mind) or else have the longest track slap band in the middle of the record (‘Pleasures Of The Flesh’ as track 6 of 10 springs to mind).

I much prefer it when the longest track is the final track, I feel it flows a lot better.

Anyway; there’s a certain sadness to parts of this track. Also there’s cool sections of over-exaggerated slowness, like a Thrash Band’s outro fade-out. Then some absolute smile-demanding Thrash (I did say I enjoy when Death Metal bands play Thrash parts, didn’t I?), and then this absolutely brilliant paradiddle-based stop/start groove that makes me want to just bellow out like a wounded sea-lion, as a means of expressing my satisfaction with it. Aaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuuhh.

This song is kind of listening to the whole of Blood Mountain, Left Hand Path, Pleasures Of The Flesh and The Epigenesis all at the same time, then compressed down to eight minutes. So many great little touches. The solos are incredible. The double-kicks make you want to jump around, there’s a bit at 4.40 that almost sounds like The Police. Bit of a surprise.

There’s a cool guitar-only break that sounds like a Death tribute to Holy Wars. Y’know the bit where the Thrash cuts out to this eastern-scale guitar solo? Its like the Death version of that. This is then followed by a beautiful solos over clean picking part that almost reminds me of Porcupine Tree and Opeth. This fades out and closes the record.

So. That was the record. Wow, and the album managed to make it all the way through without a single blast beat. Did Chuck write it just for me? Ok. First of all; this was absolutely phenomenal. I don’t think I’ve ever been so wrong about an album. I’m completely sold on it. This was a genuine Masterpiece and I can 100% understand why it has such a good reputation.

I don’t really have that much more to say. Just, “Eff me, What a record!” – Thanks Magnum, for giving it to me. Apologies for taking so long to get around to it. You were right. I would like it!

Thanks for reading, people.