Sunday, 27 January 2013

#247 Joel Grind - The Yellowgoat Sessions

Toxic Holocaust were one of the very first thrash-bands I listened to, and ever since, I've been vaguely following what the man behind the band - Joel Grind - has been up to, inclusive of side-projects. Yellowgoat is one such project Joel Grind has recently worked on. I've been meaning to review the album since I discovered that it was on Bandcamp, and today, I've finally overcome the fact that my internet connection is spiralling down the plughole, and managed listened to it a few times.

With Toxic Holocaust a fully-manned band now, despite starting as a one-man-project, I'm honesty not surprised that Joel Grind felt like a change. A break from the multi-member way of doing things can't be a bad thing, and I can well identify with the enjoyment of being in charge of every instrument. As far as I know, he plays everything on this record. While Toxic Holocaust has become something of a pure-thrash act in recent times, Yellowgoat is very much a visit to Joel Grind's musical roots; Ten tracks, including intro and outro, of unapologetically speedy, raucous Motörbathory. The tone, as it tends to be with Toxic Holocaust, is extremely old-school, and, of course, very deliberately so - the tone and productions sound vintage, which suits the music being played to a tee. It's a definite showcase that, while Toxic Holocaust are a bit cleaner than they used to be, Joel Grind can still deliver a scathing, filthy and blackened musical assault, with harsh vocals and roaring, crunching guitar which delivers a dual-payload of darkness and rock 'n roll swagger which wouldn't have sounded out of place in the 80's - many of these elements are in common with Bathory's self-titled début - it brought a dark satanic feel, but at the same time wasn't so far removed from it's rock n' rool roots, with melodic, swinging solos - something which Joel Grind shows more capability at on this record than ever before.

It's very clear, even before the "Yellow goat" reference to first-edition Bathory début vinyl, that Bathory is a huge influence upon the album as a whole, and there are certainly a truckload of well-crafted homages within the record - not least the memorable mid-tempo "epic" of the album, the four-minute long "Foul Spirit Within", which very much takes inspiration from "Enter the Eternal Fire" from Bathory's "Under the sign of the Black Mark" album, particularly with regards to the solo. The whole album the same agile, intricate and hooky single-guitar work which also characterised the whole of Bathory's début. I've always found Toxic Holocaust's earlier material, and now this, to be impressively cohesive for the work of one guy - the guitar is what Joel Grind seems to specialise in, but he's certainly capable with the drums and bass too, and the whole thing is solidly in-time and mixed together splendidly - It sounds like it could just as easily be a full band. The sound is thick, and the music feels extremely honest. It's clear that The Yellowgoat Sessions are more or less a showcase of Joel Grind having a bit of fun, but at the same time, they sound great, and frankly, that's what could be expected - I can't think of a better motive for making music.

All in all, while The Yellowgoat Sessions aren't necessarily Joel Grind's crusade to prove any points, or to make an album which will pulverise all opposition with innovation, at the same time, I think it's safe to say that they are a solid collection of Bathory worship, and anything which can be described in those words is fine by me.

It's an 7/10, I think.

Joel Grind Official Site
Joel Grind on Bandcamp
Joel Grind on Metal Archives

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

#246 Koldbrann - Vertigo

Koldbrann are one of the bands I frequently use as an answer when someone asks the question; "so, does Norway have much of a black metal scene any more?". Having been active since 2001, it's safe to say that the band hail from a younger generation than the mainstays and founders of the genre, but at the same time, aren't afraid to play black metal which sounds suitably old-school. Their third album, currently up for streaming on the Hails and Horns website, managed to creep up on me - it's good to see the band back in action once again.

Based on the artwork alone, it's safe to say that I had no idea what the music in this new album was going to sound like - the previous albums have appeared instantly cold and malign, while this one was very different indeed. I needn't have worried though - A few songs in, it became apparent that the band had crafted a solid album. While "Vertigo" doesn't quite boast the necrosound and sheer venom of an album like "Nekrotisk Inkvisition", it certainly has enjoyable aspects which it can boast. While neater, perhaps more shiny and clean, the production and tone doesn't disappoint - the music still manages, unfettered, to rush through the speakers like an icy gale. Vertigo is one of those black-metal albums which has a tumbling, fist-pumping majesty; the music is cold, and extremely dark, but also strong and proud - something which should always be welcome in black metal. Another thing which the album provides that I'm always happy to welcome is lower tempos; with plenty of bands out there playing nothing but blast-beats, Koldbrann slow things down a little, allowing the atmosphere to seep and ooze from energetic and fist-pumping mid-and-low tempo riffs, with tangled but grandiose guitar melodies and occasional solos.  The gruff vocals, too, add to the music's powerful, almost militant sounding edge.

Perhaps one of the notable twists on what the band did before is that this album has embraced a dose of punk-elements, with punk-influenced drumming and riffs making their presence known throughout the album, in small servings for the most part, but occasionally becoming very prominent indeed, for instance in "Stolychnaya Smert", which has the raucous, almost sing-along edge very reminiscent of Darkthrone's punk-influenced material. The interesting thing is that such belters share the album very comfortably with genuinely dark and evil sounding music - many of the songs bring as much atmosphere and frostbitten devilry  as any I can think of, and there are certainly some songs on the record which qualify as near-perfect quintessential black-metal. At the same time, the underlying spirit of the album seems to be very inspired by punk - you certainly get the feeling that this is an album with plenty of spit and energy. It's good news indeed that the band have not done this clumsily - the reconciliation of the more upbeat and the more grim elements is fairly seamless, and Koldbrann are clearly more intent on making the music they want to make, than on any other agenda. That in itself is very admirable. On top of these facts, the album sounds solid, and even better, sounds fresh.

Above all, Vertigo is an interesting record, and one which I was genuinely looking forward to listening to when I discovered that it was streaming.As probably the first black-metal album I've listened to in 2013, it has safely assured me that the genre is still thriving.

It's a good one. 8/10.

Koldbrann Official Site
Koldbrann on Facebook
Koldbrann on Metal Archives

Monday, 21 January 2013

#245 Master - On the Seventh Day, God Created... Master

I initially discovered Master last year, but it is this month that an enjoyment of the band's sound has genuinely come to fruition. One of death metals more underground and turbulently spawned, but also stalwart, and deeply respected bands, Master have always sounded unique among their musical peers, and at times their speed and aggression is absolutely unparalleled. Uniqueness, of course, can single out many-a-band to be of great interest, and Master are no exception.

I often say that the first moments of an album can really set the tone for the rest of the work perfectly. It is, in fact, something I've said often enough to notice doing so, which almost certainly means I say it far too often. Forgive me. The opening seconds of "On the Seventh Day..." are a frenzied flurry of thunderous and breakneck drumming and churning, titanic guitar. The rest of the album is, pleasingly, much the same. Master's strain of death metal is, as far as my limited knowledge of the genre allows me to speculate, bloody heavy, even by today's standards. Even more so for the unsuspecting early nineties which the album was unleashed upon. The combination of viciously speedy drums, and memorable, crushing, slightly punk-edged riffs is a good one, and certainly makes for an album which absolutely explosive - Each and every song is a cauldron of thunder and heaviness, competently conjured at a variety of tempos. The faster sections, where the double-kick drumming reaches genuinely impressive speeds are a particular signature of the record, and all things considered, the percussion practically dominates a large swathe of the album, particularly to me - as a drummer, I can safely say that there are many things done on this album in terms of drumming which would leave me with no legs.

That's not to say, of course, that the drums are the only point truly worth of mention. There's far more; The guitar tone is top-notch - thick, enveloping and ominous, but still with a lot of bite and crunch, which is very much what I enjoy in death-metal. There's a good degree of technical playing too, and quite a balanced amount at that - enough to be appreciable, but not to oversaturate the album, both in terms of the riffs and the solos, the latter of which are really well showcased and have a superb ringing sound. They don't show up super-often, and perhaps they aren't the main aim of the music by any standards, but I can safely say they seem great death-metal solos to me, and certainly compliment the songs - not in the slightest bit shoehorned in. The vocals are definitely another feature of the record which stand out - ranging from a powerful roaring growl to what one might expect to hear if Venom had had a shot at making death-metal. Combined, all of these elements come together to create a fantastically energetic, memorable and fist-pumping death-metal assault. One of the keys to this, as far as my ears tell me, is the sheer rhythmic strength of the albums music - The structure of the songs, particularly the vocals and lyrics, are extremely tight, and really help the music to be come explosive, but at the same time compact, and very laden with memorable hooks.

Based on what I've been listening to so far this year, it looks like 2013 is going to be a death metal year. I'm quite delighted to be beginning to understand the genre properly. What better way to start than with one of the genres classics - one which an enthusiast for the genre should ignore at their own peril.

A solid and deeply enjoyable album - 9/10.

Master Official Site
Master on Facebook
Master on Myspace
Master on Metal Archives

Friday, 18 January 2013

#244 FerreTT - Year of the Ferret

It's always interesting to see what many-tentacled denizens of the metal underworld, and beyond, somehow get their slimy paws on the "suggest a band to review" button on this blog. I can assure you, a very motley assortment of bands have appeared indeed. Perhaps, however, few have been as outrageously unusual as the band I'm about to review. FerreTT, who I'm sure would tell me that the capitalisation of the last to letters of their name is probably vital, are a strange outfit indeed.

On the face of it, FerreTT are probably a group of musicians who decided to parody glam metal while under the influence of something - upon sobering up, it may have seemed a bad idea, the solution to which was, apparently, taking more of whatever it was they were high on in the first place. Regardless, whatever this organisations secret agenda, the first feeling induced in me, and no doubt many to discover their tender melodies, was a strong sense of "What the fuck is going on here". To tell the truth, I'm still far from certain, but when it comes down to it, the sleaze-laden vocals and surprisingly catchy guitar lines, which fit somewhere between glam and more down to earth traditional metal are actually enjoyable to listen to. The album is an undeniably raucous, vastly inappropriate and at times truly hilarious ride. Perhaps this is exactly what I should have been expecting from a band called FerreTT, or indeed an album called "Year of the Ferret". The sheer over-the-top, larger than life oddness of the album is delightful and very refreshing, somehow earning a real credibility through sheer ridiculousness. To describe it differently, the album is the musical equivalent of having your mind stripped away by experiencing childhood cartoons as an adult, and realising how very, very odd they were. Frankly, any band who offer deluxe-editions of the album signed and with a personalised message by "Sammi the Ferret" - ostensibly also the bands drummer, are going to turn some heads.

Perhaps the best part of it all is that the album has all of the features which makes the cheesiest 80's glam so thoroughly enjoyable. Ballsy, attitude filled songs with infectious riffs and fist-pumping choruses, but also epic ballads, such as "Cry of the black-footed Ferret" which, odd themes aside, could do any 80's power-ballad proud. The songs aren't just throw-away gimmicks, but are actually quite thought-out, solid, and well-formed - certainly, the album feels like a worthwhile endeavour to listen to from start to finish, and flows well, accordingly. The thoroughly tongue-in-cheek lyrics really feel well worth listening to, too - as the songs go by, I found myself looking forward to the humour and deliberate cliché blended with parody concoction which the lyrics manifest themselves as. The song titles really speak for themselves, with catchy numbers such as "My Cock... Your Funeral" and "Ferrets in Town", neither of which phrases I ever expected to type-out, and neither of which you ever expected to read. Ultimately, the combination of solid musicianship, amusing lyrics and catchy songs really makes for an album which I can wholeheartedly, and a little unexpectedly, say that I greatly enjoyed. Especially the super-unexpected tech-death intro on one track in particular...

Ultimately, FerreTT aren't a band to be taken seriously. You probably shouldn't for legal reasons. Nonetheless, Year of the Ferret is one of the most fun and bizarre albums I've listened to in months, and I can't fault the band for that.

Probably better than Steel Panther. 8/10. 

FerreTT on Bandcamp
FerreTT on Facebook

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

#243 Holy Grail - Ride the Void

For a long time I wondered when Holy Grail, the band still composed, to my knowledge, of most of White Wizzard's early line-up, was going to release a new album. I heard tell of "Ride the Void" late last year, and from there, knew I would be checking it out when I got hold of a copy. Fortunately, the generous gentlemen have the whole album streaming, pre-release, on the Metal Hammer website. It just goes to show, sometimes that magazine is vaguely useful.

It feels very, very long ago that I reviewed the band's début, Crisis in Utopia, and a lot has changed in my knowledge of metal, and I look for in bands since that time. As far as I can hear, Holy Grail have remained a very consistent outfit in that time. Über melodic and unapologetically modern sounding traditional metal is abound as much in this, Ride the Void, as in Crisis in Utopia before it. Crisp production and thundering, clean and sharp double-kick drumming punctuates the groove-laden, swinging riffs - the sort of riffs which sound like Judas Priest mated with Lamb of God. The latter band in this comparison brings me on to the first thing which imbues me with unease when it comes to the band - there is a degree of metalcore floating around on top of the mixture, like an overt and slightly unwelcome foam. This certainly has implications both positive and negative. The metal-purist in me isn't necessarily very pleased - I had, in fact, rather hoped that the band would drop the metalcore elements and focus on the traditional-metal side of the business, however, I don't know if that's what the band ever set out to do, and while the metalcore sections add a certain cast-in-a-mould angst and whine to the proceedings, and it's safe to say that Holy Grail are one of the few purported traditional metal revival bands to have quite so many breakdowns and harmonies. On the other hand, the band do it well, and I'm sure there are people unlike me - in other words, who aren't metal-conservative bastards, will lap this stuff up, and so they should - the band do it well. Groovy, catchy and with a thorough feeling of rock n' roll, there's nothing in the mixture of influences in the album which could even begin to write-it-off.

On the whole, the album is an infectiously catchy journey, and there are certainly songs which have the potential to stay stuck in your head for hours on end. There's more than just being memorable in the album though - the musicianship is pleasantly impressive. Flowing guitar work, which is crunchy when and where it should be, and very fluid-sounding when the melodic elements are conjured really makes the album positively juicy in terms of it's guitar sound. Coupled with this the ever-impressive slightly sneering vocals of James-Paul Luna, who, aside from having a good vocalist name, is also a good vocalist, and certainly delivers memorable vocal-hooks and trademark idiosyncrasies with a great deal of competence. A solid rhythm section then puts the icing on what is a very well produced and well rehearsed cake. Granted, sometimes there is a bit much widdly guitar wankery going on to get a good bite out of the riffs, but this seems a little less severe than it was on the previous record, and I can safely say that Ride the Void does sound like a more mature and cohesive release. With thirteen tracks, the album is a bit of a mouthful to absorb in one sitting, and there are plenty of tracks on it which will definitely be lost into the miasma of melodics for many listens to come, but I will conclude that listening to the album has been a chiefly positive experience.

Sure, as a band Holy Grail aren't really my cup of tea any more, but that doesn't stop me seeing that the album is a solid follow up. There is no hint of sophomore syndrome here. There are legions of fans to whom this release will be greatly pleasing, and I must confess, I'll probably listen to it a few times.

If it's not for you, there's always Cauldron. 7/10.

Holy Grail Official Site
Holy Grail on Facebook
Holy Grail on Metal Archives

Sunday, 13 January 2013

#242 Amebix - Arise!

Amebix is probably a good first step for anyone who wants to investigate crust-punk, and to discover more about the way in which punk and metal can be mixed. Despite thoroughly enjoying it, I have to say I still don't know a great deal about crust punk. However, perhaps in reviewing an album like Amebix' classic Arise!, I can get more of a grasp of the genre as well - making myself more analytical of it's features and tendencies - In the past, reviewing has certainly revealed aspects of albums which I had never noticed before.

It's very obvious when you first listen to the album that Amebix don't sound at all like whatever metal you were listening to previously - everything feels that little bit different. Punk, like metal, is a very good genre at soaking into every aspect of other styles, and it's very much apparent in Arise, which, while in many ways fundamentally recognisable as a metal album, at the same time feels as much a punk record as anything else. The riffs and song structures, for instance, are more busy - cluttered and course, with hyperactive instruments popping-up sporadically through the albums production. Much in the way that it worked well for metal bands like Venom, however, the haphazard, slap-dash sound which Amebix posses nonetheless works very well. Sure, it's not perfect, in either production or musicianship, but that's another of the ways in which the punk elements are manifesting themselves, and more than that, adding to the album. Yes, the albums production is murky and tangled, and the riffs sound unlike the sustain-filled chords which you listened to yesterday, but at the same time, there's something distinctly special about it all. The explosive, clanking bulldozer-bass which at times  beats the guitar into submission certainly dominates the album, and there's no doubt that it takes the sound to somewhere that few bands had explored at that point. The dominant bass is certainly one of the most punk elements of the albums sound, and one which, entwined with the other idiosyncrasies of Amebix, distanced it from any of the metal released in '85 stylistically.

You might suspect, with low-fi production values and a rough sound, that Amebix may sound very thin and grounded - only the sum of the instruments involved, perhaps, but this isn't the case. Many of the songs on the album sound big, at times even epic - numbers like "Drink and be Merry" have a echoing, powerful and distinctly atmospheric edge to them, certainly evocative. The album as a whole has a remarkable ability to be on one level almost percussive-sounding, grimy, oily metal-punk, but at the same time, be extremely atmospheric and on another level, and while the mix takes some getting used to, it carries an intensity and ethereal feel which once again set Amebix apart. The songs really feel like they go somewhere, and carry a lot of weight with them, not just as memorable and energetic, but also deeper than that. While scathing, and with a tendency to rattle and rumble as if it needs some WD40, Arise' sound really is splendidly dynamic and versatile. The barked vocals and thundering, clunking instruments carry more emotion than many musical contexts would allow them to, and certainly demonstrate that clean-singing is far from vital for evocative, even beautiful, music.

I found Arise! quite an easy album to write about, and I think that says a lot about how much the album offers up to write about. Amebix are a band who I can guarentee will always offer more than meets the eye, and while doing so, throw in a hefty dash of uniqueness. Arise! is a classic, and if you enjoy it, the rest of their discography is solid.

This is an 8/10.

Amebix Official Site
Amebix on Facebook
Amebix on Myspace
Amebix on Metal Archives

Friday, 11 January 2013

#241 Old - Down with the Nails

Black-thrash has, for quite a long time now, been a genre I've greatly enjoyed, and there are many albums I have encountered as I trawl through the internet looking for more to listen to. Old, from Germany, were one such band I encountered, and I promptly bought the 2006 début album, excellently titled "Down with the Nails". The band, apparently, are on hold now, but that certainly hasn't stopped me enjoying the album, and indeed reviewing it.

I've said it before, I think, but one of my favourite things about black-thrash as a genre is the sheer variety of directions in which it can go. Down with the Nails is an interesting album from the onset, and it was very much clear that it was a little different to the other, mainly metal-punk influenced black-thrash I'd been listening to of late. Down with the Nails is very Celtic Frost and Hellhammer influenced in places with very chord-based, "solid-block" riffs and a thrashy sound, in places in a similar tone. At the same time however, the music is dark and immense, reverb-laden shadow cast by the chords being hit. The album's tone works very well in this context, with filthy and extremely raw production and guitar tone creating a very gnarled record, with an acidity and intensity in many places more reminiscent of conventional black-metal than black-thrash. The album seems, to my ears, to share a hectic and bone-crushing intensity with releases such as Mayhem's Deathcrush EP, or early Gorgoroth, particularly with regards to the riffs. In many respects, there could be ground for considering the album to be very riff-driven black-metal, as opposed to pure black-thrash, if you chose to argue it that way.  Particularly when one accounts for how willing the band seem to be to explore the darkness and rolling gloom which can be unleashed by reducing the tempo somewhat.

Down with the Nails is certainly an album which brings to the fore the ice, wrath and demonic energy of black-metal to the fullest in the mixture of elements, but on the other hand, in direct contrast, there is still a real feeling of rock embedded deeply into the album too. Most interestingly, it is mixed in surprisingly well with the majesty and acrid seriousness of the black-metal side, without being jarring.  I'm not sure how the band make it work in quite the way that it does, but they certainly do succeed. It's an interesting cocktail - one mixed to ratios that I've never heard a band mix black metal and thrash together with before, and consequently, very interesting to listen to, on top of already sounding great.  Scattered interspersions of d-beats and slightly more merry and ballsy sounding riffs really take the music in a different direction at times, while, admirably, not making it seem alien to the flow of the album. It's fist-pumping, but at the same time scathing, militant and dark, with evil guitar-work tumbling, as if through some rift to hell. To distil what I've said in almost two paragraphs into a single sentence, Down with the Nails is the best of both worlds - A really solid coming together of all of the elements which can make black-thrash fantastic.

I'm not sure what the individual band-members have planned, but if Old ever start to produce material again, I'd be greatly interested. As it is, Down with the Nails is a splendid stand-alone black-thrash album, and certainly one which grabs my attention above and beyond the normal level.

This is an 8/10 record.

Old on Metal Archives

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

#240 Ataraxy - Revelations of the Ethereal

For me, 2012's death metal was dominated not so much by the stalwarts and veterans of the genre, but instead by a slew of début full lengths by artists in what seems to be a renaissance of old-school death metal by young bands. Before new-year, I'd already taken a look at Binah and Horrendous, two of the bands synonymous with the movement, but there are certainly more bands than simply those two - The third such 2012 début to come to my attention was Spanish band Ataraxy, and their album Revelations of the Ethereal.

Like the two former bands I mention - Binah and Horrendous - Ataraxy's sound is murky, dark and sinister. Old-school perhaps, but certainly not tired or overused. Like the artwork suggests, the music takes the listener on a twisted, other-worldly journey through the occult, the bizarre, and at times the Lovecraftian. Monstrous, heavy riffs plod along like cyclopean denizens of the deep, wreathed in creepy and highly atmospheric lead work. The band tend to explore a slower tempo than your average death metal album, but it seems to be done to great effect, especially complimenting the albums murk and crushing force of the album. That's not to say that the band never use faster tempos, however. There are plenty of parts where the riffs kick-up the dust a little, and burst into a higher tempo, whilst retaining the dark, brooding feel which the slow-tempo sections capture extremely well. The whole sound-scape conjured by the music is of something huge and eldrich, lumbering out of the sea, still covered in seaweed, runes, and with an aura of darkness, which seems to be something which it holds in common with other recent old-school death-metal influenced débuts, which really grasps my interest, considering the possibility that the collection of bands responsible might really be carving out their own niche stylistically.

Revelations of the Ethereal carries a tangible weight with it's music, which is always something good to hear - All of the eerie, strained lead-notes feel bursting to the brim with atmosphere, and the crunching, pulsating tremolo riffs are as crushing and hefty as those of any other band I can bring to mind. The intros to the songs, particularly, are very strongly laced with the subterranean malice and twisting psychedelia and reeling immersion which the songs as a whole flow with. The album is absolutely one which draws the listener in, and at times feels inescapable - one of those albums which you hear and can't help but rock back and forth a little in your chair, sort of mesmerised. After all, this isn't your average, punchy death metal, but a darker, more convoluted and thick - the kind of death metal which sets to action your mind, and not your body. The variety of tones, sounds and the enveloping atmosphere really makes you want to hear the music, to understand it and hear it completely.  "Ataractic" means something akin to a drug which causes a tranquilising effect, and in this respect, the name Ataraxy fits the band rather well - despite the music's superb intensity, it also lends itself to thinking, pondering, and being utterly absorbed in the soundscape it creates - While some music creates movement and energy, Ataraxy also creates a mental place.

This is definitely as solid a début as any I heard in the whole of 2012, and I can safely say that it has everything which I enjoy in such an album; A feeling of flow, completeness, great songs, and to top it off, fantastic artwork. I can see this band, along with the other bands I've mentioned in this review, going extremely far, and doing great things, if they keep making music which is this good.

This is a 9/10.

Ataraxy on Bandcamp
Ataraxy on Facebook
Ataraxy on Metal Archives

Monday, 7 January 2013

#239 Dio - Holy Diver

Every now and again, as you'll probably have realised if you read a few reviews, I suddenly realise that I haven't yet looked at one of the biggest names in the genre. Today is one of those days, and I feel the sudden and definite need to amend it, especially considering the artist in this instance is the late great Ronnie James Dio. The album I've chosen to do a review of is predictable enough - Holy Diver, because, I must confess, I'm one of those people who has it sitting on the shelf, and hasn't listened to either in ages, which too is something I feel the need to amend.

There's really not much question of my giving this album a negative review. Of course, I'm flawed in that I'm never prone to doing that anyway, but this album in particular is very much a flagship album of metal as a whole - an album composed almost entirely of songs which are classics in their own right. It's certainly nothing short of iconic, and solid for it's entire running-time, which begs the question, what's the secret recipe? What is it that makes the album so great? I have a few observations on the matter, many of which are self evident in the music. Holy Diver is, first and foremost, and album which really brings solid structure into play, particularly lyrically and vocally; Dio's vocals not only bring a huge degree of passion and energy into the music, particularly by the standards of 1983, the albums release year, but also provide a great number of hooks and structures which make the songs distinct and utterly memorable - not only are the choruses monumental, but so are the verses, certainly a step above quite a lot of traditional metal in terms of being consistently solid throughout the whole album - there isn't a single vocal section which isn't in the position to be the crescendo of the song, were it not cancelled out by the fact that all of the others were equally virtuosic.

It would be foolish to conclude, however, that Holy Diver is an album made by its vocals. Vocal icon that Dio was, there is plenty of other talent on the record, with infections and utterly quintessential heavy metal riffs and manic, but smooth-flowing solos. The whole guitar department has plenty of crunch and swagger. The album's riffs have, to me at least, equal iconic standing with the vocals, and certainly give the songs a similar degree of direction and distinctiveness - Holy Diver certainly doesn't quite sound like any of the other heavy metal albums of 1983, and it's all the better for it. The percussion on the album comes in a style that you don't really get any more - very level, refined and quite light. I get the impression that Vinny Appice is the kind of drummer who played the snare by holding the stick from below, not above, as most drummers do today, which really gives the drumming a tight, restrained and slightly clattering sound which is generally not replicated in modern metal. Holistically, above the sum of all of the albums musical parts, it is an extremely diverse creature, and very much an album which offers a bit of everything. Other classics, such as Screaming for Vengeance or Number of the Beast have the same air to them - they don't offer an album of utterly similar tracks, but instead very different tracks, which still feel like they belong together; fast, slow, epic or ballsy, Holy Diver really offers the lot on a plate.

For the last couple of days, I've definitely been in the mood to listen to some Dio, and doing so really has refreshed my memory of just how good albums like Holy Diver are - albums which were somewhat lost in my mind among the fog of albums which I don't listen to particularly often. It's good to see it clearly for a change.

A 9/10 album, of course. Rest in Peace Dio.

Dio Official Site
Dio on Facebook
Dio on Metal Archives

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Album of the Year and Underground Lord

First and foremost, I'd like to apologise for how long it took me to write this up - I meant, like last year, to have it posted within a few days of the new year. Unfortunately, I was ill, and it's difficult to write coherently in the haze of phlegm and paracetamol which has characterised my last week and a half. While it might be exaggerating to say that I feel entirely better, I certainly feel far less shit, and, I think, it's finally time to formally announce the Album of the Year and Underground Lord selections, which you'll have been privy to the identity of for days already, having looked at the polls.


Album of the Year: Enslaved - Riitiir

Enslaved are a band which can be greatly praised both for their unerringly solid output over the years, and their progression. The last couple of albums the band has released have been meeting with particular praise, and it's very understandable why. Enslaved manage to produce a truly unique blend of black-metal with progressive elements and great multitudes of styles, all united under a feel of consistency which tends to characterise their albums. Riitiir is no exception, and takes the vast, incredibly thoughtful, and deeply beautiful sound to a different level, once again. While no two Enslaved albums sound like one another, they all somehow manage to sound like Enslaved, and Riitiir sounds like one of the best yet. Very worthy winners indeed.


Underground Lord: Ketzer - Endzeit Metropolis

Ketzer are probably one of the most aggressive, tight and razor-sharp black-thrash bands to emerge in quite some time. While many bands in the genre embrace fuzzy, traditionaylblack-metal sounds, Ketzer release a well-produced and extremely well played onslaught which captures every dark and piercing note with extreme lucidity. It's always good to see a band doing something which sounds unique, and I can safely say that there isn't anything out there yet which is quite the same as the twisting, turning labyrinth of black-thrash which the band create. Ketzer really embody the kind of band I had in mind when I decided to create the "Underground Lord" as a separate category, and I can certainly say that they too, fully deserve to have won. 

Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote and make their opinions on the matter heard! I'll resume reviewing albums in the coming days.