Thursday, 21 November 2013

Order of Nine - Seventh Year of the Broken Mirror

Release Date: 22nd May 2012
Genre: Symphonic Power Metal, Heavy Metal.
Label: Nightmare Records
Number of Tracks: 11
Band Homepage: Order Of Nine

Overall Rating: 7.8/10

'Seventh Year of the Broken Mirror' is the 5th album from accomplished, Pennsylvanian metallers Order of Nine. Inspired by the likes of Iron Maiden, Dream Theatre and Symphony X, this diverse album is musically brilliant with great riffs, exquisite lead guitar playing and unique doom style vocals all of which will escalate Order of Nine to be up with the big names of this genre. 

The album is generally set at a slow tempo, but is certainly heavy and perhaps the most impressive aspect of all is the tight, harmonised lead guitars that feature in different ways in every song. Hell, all the guitars are phenomenally tight and well composed and the riffs in certain parts are muscular. Guitarists Steve Pollick and Mark Kreh are real assets to the 6 piece group. Michael Degrena's vocal style has similarities to Ozzy Osbourne and although it has it weak points where perhaps it doesn't fit with certain songs such as the chorus to 'Spiral Staircase', this is a rarity as it fits well with the slow tempo and riffing style and is unique to this genre. 

Keith Hurka's drums really mould well with the guitars and the diversity in the drums alone is fascinating. This is evident throughout the album, but 1 song sums up the drumming ability and that is track 6 'Innocence'. The intro to this song is heavy, probably the heaviest section of the album with tight drum fills and double bass carrying the song to a softer, almost psychedelic sound. Chris Dillion's powerful addition with the keyboard really adds to the emphatic feel to songs, track 8 a particular highlight of his work. Overall, a great musical set up.

There are many many good points in this album which i urge you to check out. The titular first track's keyboard breakdown/solo and guitar harmonised solo is very reminiscent of early Dream Theatre. After the intro to this song, it fades away into a clean section led by talented bassist Mark Howard. Even though this song features some screamed vocals in the chorus, the verse riff seems to lack thrust and imagination. However, this is made up for in the aforementioned solo section. Track 2 'Words That Were Said' moves like a bullet and offers us a sharp and short lived injection of pace. Again the intro riff is blistering as is the harmonised solo which is worthy of super shred status.

There is a lot of diversity on the album as track 3 'Dreamspeak' starts with a soft piano intro, unlike the other tracks, but it still has the 80s thrash theme. The verse does a great job of leading up to the  chorus which features fast double bass drums and a continuous symphonic feel. 

The lengthy track 5 'Changing of the Guard' is laden with musical excellence. Drums, guitar, keyboard and bass all prove how talented the band are and is one of the strongest tracks on the album. It's composure is excellent as it features a chunky riff, drums and keyboard and stay heavy up until just after a Godly solo, where it turns into an slow acoustic melody which builds to a guitar shred duel lasting another 3 minutes.

Track 8 'Eye of the Enemy' is the strongest track on the album and is a song you can really get connected too. The chord choice, particularly in the keyboard is spot on, and could not be any better. The song is constructed similarly to track 5 but the piano breakdown at 4:00 minutes is very emotive, and spectacularly is not out of place. The vocals after this are very Ozzy Osbourne esque. This builds to an appropriate guitar duel, that again, isn't overdone. 

There are few negatives, as songs like 'Twelfth Talisman', the verse sections to 'Third Wish', and 'Seventh Year of the Broken Mirror' seem to lack originality and are overshadowed by the excellence that surrounds them. In parts, the vocals are weak and sometimes do not fit the song such as track 11 'Winters Call', however this is a rarity as it was refreshing to hear a band try something new, and add something fresh to this genre.

Overall, this is mostly a fantastically well written, well composed and well produced album which shows the talents of every member of the band. The musicianship in parts is exceptional. A stand out fact is how much effort these guys have clearly put in, which doesn't go un-noticed. These are a unique and highly diversified group, one which I wish I had heard sooner. 

You can purchase the album off the bands webpage (link at the top) and I recommend that you do. They have a selection of songs off their discography on the Order Of Nine Reverbnation page, and their Facebook is frequently updated.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Gomorrah - To The Depths EP

Release Date: September 2013 
Genre: Metal, Thrash, Death
Label: Unsigned
Number of Tracks: 6

Sounds Like: Lamb of God, Sepultura.

Overall Rating: 7.0/10

Unsigned Ohio-based metal act Gomorrah have recently released their 'To the Depths' EP, a mixture of riffs and aggression neatly distilled into 6 tracks that demonstrates the band's sound, which is reminiscent of a less melodic pre-crusade Trivium mixed with a vaguely Lamb of God flavour. This is not to say that To The Depths is derivative, far from it.

It starts as it means to go on, and the titular opening track does a good job of painting the picture for the rest of the experience. As opening tracks go this isn't a bad effort, the opening riff is satisfyingly heavy and sets up the screaming vocal style nicely. The track demonstrates a real knowledge of how songs of this genre are put together, and it culminates in a genuinely great instrumental break before quite literally ending where it began.

Track 2, 'Chapel of Stilled Voices' starts off slightly up-tempo before kicking into a killer riff and just runs from there. Fairly similar vocal styles to the previous track and this is what can be expected for the duration. All in all an energetic addition to the EP.

Tribulations highlights a slightly different track than the previous two, and it's a refreshing change. This track is relentlessly straightforward, and features some really nice harmony work towards the middle. This track is a particular highlight and it shows a band that has energy and potential.


In contrast, Tempest fails to leave as big an impression because, despite starting off well, there is a section about 1:20 into the track where things feel really disjointed and forced and it spoils the track a little bit. It feels clumsy compared to the excellent musicianship displayed throughout. It's not a complete spoiler however, and the song picks up again after this and we're hit with a killer instrumental break (a recurring theme in this album) before the track rounds off.

Tracks five and six provide a satisfying conclusion to the EP. Colossus, track 5, has a really interesting riff and really reflects what we've seen already. It's a good listen but the track that stands out is track 6, Beneath the Falling Sun. This song takes all the potential glimpsed in the previous five tracks and combines it wonderfully. It's a brilliant ending track, combining high-tempo riffing, excellent drumming and good structure, before it descends into the absolute highlight of the track. The acoustic section and the solo that accompanies it is truly a wonderful contrast to the way the song starts. The acoustic section drops away to some more serious soloing. We're greeted then with a slower riff before kicking back off into a up-scale instrumental break. This section of the song serves to highlight Gommorah's tightness and is genuinely impressive.

This is a solid EP, however, there are some flaws. The EP really lacks dynamic variance. It's relentless to listen to from start to end and it's a shame because individually the tracks are good, but one after another it's very hard to really appreciate as a whole. The strange disjointed section is another downside, and while this is a one-off it's still a flaw. The other major gripe of this EP is that it is not especially varied. That's fine, in a sense, but it's always nice to hear variety and I think that is one thing To The Depths lacks.

The verdict: To The Depths is an excellent insight into a talented band. While not perfect, it features some great musicianship. Based on what this EP represents, Gomorrah are going to make some truly excellent music in the future, and if you are local to them then it may well be worth going to see their shows. Keep your eye on this band.  

Follow Gomorrah's ReverbNationYoutubeSoundcloud and Facebook accounts for updates on the band, tours and future releases.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Protest the Hero - Volition

Released: October 29th, 2013
Genre: Progressive, Metal

Sounds Like: Dillinger Escape Plan 

Label: Unsigned

Number of Tracks: 11

Overall Rating: 8/10

'Without a word uttered a comparison is drawn.' - track 1, Clarity. This sums up PtH. Fortress and Kezia were great albums, so when a new release comes out; there's your benchmark. Does Volition live up to the previous work? Almost. Yes. Sort of. It's hard to say, really. It's an unmistakably PtHesque album, but it is also something different, a genuine step forward. Protest the Hero have always been an interesting band. Technical and intricate, the diverse vocal styles and lyrical content of their previous works have differentiated them from similar bands. So how does Volition hold up against what we already know about PtH?
The album does not shy away from technicality, this is first truly evident during track 3 – Tilting Against Windmills. This track features the trademark impressive guitar work we've come accustomed to from PtH and similarly impressive and polished vocals and it makes a good snapshot of the album. It's interesting to consider that in style, each album is relatively similar but at the same time they carry their own unique feel. It's easy to differentiate Heretics & Killers, Sequoia Throne, Hair-Trigger and Plato's Tripartite, but each song is easily identifiable as Protest the Hero and it's just as easy to differentiate between each album. On that, Volition does manage to have it's own feel whilst keeping the quintessentially PtH sound that fans have become accustomed to. It would be hard to imagine a track like Drumhead Trial appearing on Scurrilous.

The lyrical themes of the album are diverse, arguably even more so than previously. You can't really talk about this without mentioning track 9 – Underbite, which is a song that calls into question the motivation of bands and the relationship between a band and their fan base becoming disillusioned and the video (which can be found underneath this paragraph, check it out – it's brilliant) pokes fun at merchandise and references lip-synching. This is a particular high on the album and stands up well, especially in context of the video.

One negative point is that there is almost no bass in this album. On Fortress in particular the bass is normally very noticeable and typically excellent, but on this album it seems held back far too much. It's not completely absent, indeed there are a few brief highlights in Clarity and the final track Skies, where the bass is indeed noticeable but for the most part it is woefully under-emphasised.

To conclude, Volition is a pretty solid effort. It is a step forward in the genre and for the band. If you liked PtH's previous works, then you will adore this album. If you haven't heard of the band before then this is probably as good a place as any to start when it comes to listening to them, it offers a lot to existing fans and new fans alike.

The album is available now, from the usual places. Check out their Facebook for updates on tours and other things related to the band. See also their Youtube for videos. Definately worth a look.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Drawn Awake - Reflection EP

Released: 24th January 2013
Genre: Melodic, Death metal
Sounds Like: Amon Amarth, Carcass, As I Lay Dying. 
Label: Unsigned
Number of Tracks: 4

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

'Drawn Awake' are a 4 piece melodic death metal band from Finland. Soon after their first EP release in 2012, they got to work on a new album for 2013 entitled 'Reflection EP' and features 4 high tempo songs with excellent melodic fast harmonised riffing, heavy double bass and screamed death metal vocals.

The death metal vocals aren't overpowering as it is heavily formulated around the guitar and instrumental parts, rightly so as the guitars are, in some parts , technically excellent.  

Highlights of the album include track 1 'Game In Reflection' which has a groovy blood pumping verse riff and a catchy chorus. Track 2 doesn't stand out for me and even though there are flashes of nice riffing, the lower tempo of the chorus seems to unnecessarily elongate the song. 

Track 3 'Reflection' is a fantastical music piece starting off with a soft piano riff which diverses the album away from high tempo screaming and is a nice addition. Track 4 'Identity' is a nice way to finish the album and some really tight technical guitar work similar to technical death metal band 'Neuraxis' and is a highlight and a great way to end an album as it leaves us intrigued and gives us a taste of the potential. 

The album starts to feel monotonous towards the end, as a lot of the songs sound the same. However, they do have a solid set of melodic death metal songs with which they are ready to explode on the metal circuit as Amon Amarth did in 1998. Currently hoping to play 30+ gigs around FInland and Estonia before recording a 3rd EP in April next year. 

Here is their Soundcloud of the full EP, and follow them on Drawn Awake for details of more shows and to buy their EP.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

David Locke, Sick Puppies, ZZ Top and Protest the Hero in Songs of the week!

Have you had a song in your head all week, Tapping along to the drums, air guitaring the riff (or real guitar) or singing along to the lyrics. Let us know here, we are interested in what you guys listen to! All songs welcome, big or small and of all genres, lets share some fucking music. Post in the comments, or on our Facebook!

This week has featured the announcement of a new Within Temptation album due in February, the announcement of Compressorhead a band involving purely robots built in Germany gigging in New York and a fantastic new progressive metal album from Protest The Hero. But here are a list of our favorite songs that have gotten us through the week.

Starting us off is a fantastic instrumental progressive ballad from David Locke. His first album 'Riding Out Youth' is well written and well produced. It is never in your face and is easily accessible yet progressive. A guitar style similar to Joe Satriani with considerable talent and great musical understanding.  

Sick Puppies are an Australian alternative hard rock, band with 4 full length albums. The latest of which was released in July of this year. When track 4 came on shuffle I couldn't get enough of the riff leading up to the aggressive solo and the intriguing lyrics made me stick it on repeat for a few days. These are a band that are under appreciated outside of their home soil, give them a listen!

Released October 29th, Protest The Hero's new album 'Violation'. Consisting of technical thrash and power metal, their new album certainly is a wild ride thats filled with excellent musicianship and innovative songwriting. The hilarious video to track 9 'Underbite' circulated this week and the lyrics are mainly about the state of metal at the moment. 'It's bullshit. Be honest, this can't be what you wanted/ if what you write about means anything to you. Rather than pure vanity, people might connect with sincerity.' 

You must have something you have thoroughly enjoyed this week! Tell us in the comments below!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

David Locke - Riding Out Youth

Its always a pleasure when listening to a new album, when I happen across 
something that is different and interesting; David Locke's debut album, 'Riding Out Youth' is both. Locke combines progressive ideas with accomplished musicianship with a concept of how to put a song together, producing a complex and technical work that is also subtle and easy to listen to. 

This is an entirely self-produced album, however it is hard to differentiate from a major label release. There are some moments when a disparity in styles over different tracks detract slightly from the continuity of the record as an album and as an instrumental album it does, on very rare occasion, fade into the background.

The variety of this album is broad; from the titular opening track which hearkens to a combination of Dream Theater and King Crimson to the softer, more mellow track 8, 'Dreaming' which is more reminiscent of Flying in a Blue Dream, Riding Out Youth hits the more technical sides of prog, through blues to a softer more delicate sound.

Track 2, 'Code' stands out as something a little bit different. Starting off with a riff that really grinds, it then undergoes a syncopated metamorphosis with interesting uses of time signature and melody. It occasionally reverts to a recognisable 'chorus', before it moves again cascading along it's path and ending with a blazing guitar solo.

 Track 5, 'Thoughts' is another foray into the lighter side of this album and after the slightly darker piano track 'Untitled' it is a refreshingly bluesy track that builds in proportion as it progresses. In my opinion, this is one of the more simple but subtle tracks on the album, and features yet more accomplished guitar work towards the end.

After that softer interlude we are hit with Track 6 'Elements' which again harks back to earlier prog with it's atonal introduction. It's almost bipolar in construction for the first two and a half minutes, shifting from the atonal chord section to lucid melodies and back again before it seems to resolve its self.

To end up we have Mind Matter. This is a track that manages to be complex and technical without losing any of it's edge and approachability. As a final track, it works really well and acts as a satisfactory conclusion to proceedings.
There are one or two drawbacks to an album such as this. As stated previously, the variety of styles hinders the continuity of the flow of the album, and the drum tracks do lack character in places (although this is to be expected with programmed drums). My only other minor criticism is that instrumental albums in general can become background sometimes, although in the case of Riding Out Youth, this is not by any means a common occurrence.

To conclude, Riding Out Youth is a well written, well produced album. Locke is an accomplished guitarist and songwriter, who, as a guitarist is reminiscent of Joe Satriani. The album is never in your face over-technical, nor is it monotonous at any point. The subtlety of the musicianship is what makes this album better than good and it demonstrates considerable talent and musical understanding on Locke's part. To consider then that this is a debut makes it an even more impressive achievement and that is why I give this album 8.5/10

I highly recommend checking his Bandcamp page to get a sample and buy his album. Keep up to date through his Facebook and his website. He is a true musician and one that certainly should get recognition.

- Rob