Iced Earth – Night of the Stormrider

nightofthestormrider

Year released: 1991
Duration:
46:05
Tracks:
9
Genre:
Thrash Metal, Speed Metal, Heavy Metal
Reviewed by: hells_unicorn on Encyclopeadia Metallum

Metal and the concept album format have shared a rather interesting history, delving into a wide variety of subjects from the supernatural, the political, and the science fictional. Probably the oldest and most utilized theme in the metal concept arsenal is the darkness versus light, good against evil, God against Satan story. This form of storytelling goes all the way back to the age old battle between Horace and Set (after the latter had been demonized by Lower Egypt into an evil deity due to political turmoil) and further still likely into pre-history as tribal man took note of the seeming conflict between the night and day in the heavens.

Iced Earth’s magnum opus “Night of the Stormrider” brings about such scholarly thought of various historical myths on a lyrical level because it avoids the cliché of merely focusing on Christianity against Paganism and instead provides a general struggle between 2 forces that are both natural and mystical. You could insert a struggle between Zoroastrian polytheists and Muhammad’s armies or an unknown alliance of nomadic Mexican Indian tribes against the Aztec Empire and the lyrics would still fit perfectly. The story’s principle character tells of his encounters with the dark forces through a unique hybrid of a 1st person and omniscient perspective, further perpetuating the mystical side of the tale.

The style of the music that accompanies this epic tale is a very unique blend of riff driven thrash metal, classic Iron Maiden melodies, orchestral textures, and acoustic passages loosely resembling Blind Guardian’s handiwork circa 1986. Jon Schaeffer showcases a barrage of mad-paced gallop riffs that makes Metallica’s “Motorbreath” sound like classic rock and occasionally shows the same ingenuity and intricacy of MegaDeth’s mid-80s material. Randall Shawver is an apt lead player, equally as capable as most thrash soloists, yet knowing the value of playing a melody once in a while rather than shredding up the pentatonic scale for the entire duration like Kirk Hammet often did when he actually played.

The vocal work put forth by John Greely is undeniably 80s power metal in its approach, conjuring up similarities to Rob Halford, James Rivera, and occasionally Eric Adams. His versatility as a singer is notable as most thrash singers are prone to bark a near monotone melody during the verses with the occasional high wail while not being able to really pull off an actual sung melody very well. Notable sections where Greely accomplishes some really catchy melodic hooks include the chorus of “Desert Rain” and at several points in the album’s lengthy closer “Travel to Stygian”.

There really isn’t any way to pick a favorite out of these songs as they all serve the perfect flow of the whole album while shinning in their own unique way. “Angels Holocaust” and “Desert Rain” are probably the easiest to recall after first listen due to heavy emphasis on a chief melodic idea. “Stormrider”, “The Path I Choose” and “Pure Evil” are loaded with rapid fire thrash riffs and aggression, which will sit well with traditional thrash fans that unfortunately had to see their favorite metal genre systematically raped by many of its own champions the same year this came out.

This is a work that genuinely defies conventional labels and successfully walks a line between being stylistically eclectic and musically consistent. Any fan of any sub-genre of metal should be able to appreciate the quality of the music on here. This is a different Iced Earth than the one that most came to know when their star rose in the later 1990s. It carries all the greatness of the old guard in the US power/thrash scene and, unlike what many people say about the band’s material of toady, is an album that makes you think.

PART OF THE “THE 36 GRAND” ALBUM CHART by VACTERION

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Orange Goblin – Time Travelling Blues

Timetravellingblues

Year released: 1999
Duration:
54:07
Tracks:
9
Genre:
Stoner Metal, Psychedelic
Reviewed by: Torwilligous on Encyclopeadia Metallum

Time Travelling Blues, by Orange Goblin. The more I say that name, the more it occurs to me that this may be the greatest naming juxtaposition in the history of the cosmos. Time Travelling Blues. By Orange Goblin. It brings to mind some sort of crusty, pot-fuelled D&D game, back in the days when it was psychedelic, weird and violent – and not about twee elves on Epic Quests to Save the World.

In any case, this is one HELL of an album. Released in the UK in 1998 – a time when nu-metal was lunging like a pedophile into the nursery of mainstream consciousness – this is an album of unashamedly old-school power. No, not even old school – there’s something timeless about this, such that everyone who thrills to the sound of electric guitar, smashing drums and roaring vocal fire and brimstone will latch on to it like some kind of heavy metal limpet. The whole album is thick with a kind of anti-pretension; these guys so patently don’t give a fuck what a worm like you thinks, musing about time traveling, psychedelic exploration to the tune of a universal arsenal of riffs and searing, eyes-to-the-heavens cosmic jam solos. You can almost hear the band’s thought: if this shit isn’t mighty enough to stomp Godzilla’s scaly face into a smeared mess on the asphalt, it’s not REAL music.

But what does it sound like? Driven, swirling riffs in the blues scale sear and smoulder with irrepressible groove and thick, monster distortion, backed by clattering drums rammed to bursting with fills and delightfully accentuated cymbal work. Over the top, a thunderous vocal presence courtesy of Ben the Awesome roars like a vat full of Jack Daniels poured into an exploding megaphone, wielded by Chuck Norris on testosterone supplements. And just on the off-chance you’re a flaccid pussy and get tired of the magnificent destruction, the band slides with consummate ease into a psychedelic or bluesy jam, suffused with soul and stargazing wonder. The whole concoction causes insidious gyrations of the body, delightful convulsions of headbanging, blissful considerations; inducing delirious trips into psychedelic hyperspace.

And the riffs! Holy mother. So much groove has never before been experienced by man or woman – and we’re talking REAL groove, groove from the very bowels of Satan, a vicious, stalking groove so thick and insistent it could carve its initials in reinforced titanium. These riffs come and live in your house for weeks on end, lurking in the stereo like some malignant presence. They won’t go – they’re to awesome, to monstrous, too manly to leave until they want to.

Songwriting? Marvellous. From the storming, too-cool-to-be-true rage of Blue Snow, through to the soulful, melodic, magnificent title track, the album bursts at the seams with killer moment after killer moment. Even the ‘throwaway’ bonus track is just great to listen to, documenting the failed attempt of the drunken band to perform the unfortunately eternal Billy Rose/Lee David aural tumour ‘Tonight, You Belong to Me’. If you’ve ever been there – three in the morning, pleasantly drunk, guitar in hand, forcing flagging limbs to play a stupid song you can barely remember – you’ll laugh. A lot.

If you hadn’t guessed already, this is fucking great and I love it.

PART OF THE “THE 36 GRAND” ALBUM CHART by VACTERION

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Manowar – The Triumph of Steel

thetriumphofsteel

Year released: 1992
Duration:
69:26
Tracks:
8
Genre:
Heavy Metal, Power Metal
Reviewed by: Kingcrimsonprog on MetalMusicArchives

In the same year that Grunge was well and truly selling billions of CDs worldwide, US Heavy Metal legends Manowar released their seventh full-length studio album – 1992’s The Triumph Of Steel.

It must have been no easy task following up their immensely popular and loyally beloved 1988 release Kings Of Metal, nor must it have been easy having to train up a new drummer and guitarist after losing Scott Columbus and Ross “The Boss” Friedman. In fact, nor can it have been fun trying to promote an album of blistering, powerful, OTT Heavy Metal after “Man In The Box” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” changed what must’ve felt like every journalist on earth’s priorities in the pre-internet culture of the day.

Despite all that was going against them, Manowar released what must surely be one of their greatest ever albums (certainly its my personal favourite at any rate). Call it ambition, or call it arrogance, but the band even opened up the record with a twenty-minute long song. A song with a bass solo, a drum solo so indulgent that it has a separate solo for the cymbals and for the drums, two minutes of somber guitar violining… all telling the story of Achillies and Hector from Greek Mythology. The world wanted “Touch Me I’m Sick” …Manowar gave ‘em “Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts.”

Despite how easy it is to skip a twenty-minute album opener with three solos in it, the song isn’t poor. In fact, some sections of it are absolute genius, such as the furious Thrashy “Death Hector’s Reward” part, which feels like the musical equivalent of being battered upside the head.

After that, the first normal-length track comes in. Its my favourite track on the album, or by the band. “Metal Warriors” is the most perfectly-pitched, sing-along tribute to Heavy Metal that’s ever been written. Ludicrous to the point of featuring the lyric “If you’re not into Metal you are not my friend” and yet musically out of this world. Its some kind of supercharged version of Kiss’ “I Love It Loud” filled with Painkiller screams, mountain-top chants and the screech of guitars that feel only-barely in control.

There’s more blistering speed, in the sword-and-scorcery realm of “Ride The Dragon” with its constant double-kicks and incredibly catchy chorus.

The band then take a different tack, choosing to sing about Native Americans in a surprisingly tasteful way, in an interesting mid-paced affair that sonically evokes cowboy movies subtly, but doesn’t loose that Manowar sound. Maybe they were jealous of Anthrax? Who cares why they did it, but it works, really well!

Then they follow it up with another mid-paced track called “Burning” which you’d imagine might be a momentum killer, but is actually one of the more interesting compositions in the band’s catalogue. It’s a bit different than their usual any of their usual directions… epics, ballads, rousing anthems or blistering speed. It’s a nice change of pace. Sort of experimental, with a lot of emphasis on dynamics and Eric Adams trying out as many vocal techniques as he can imagine.

“Power Of Thy Sword” comes next, and its what I would consider the quintessential Manowar song. If you wonder if the band are for you, this is one of the tracks you should use to decide. Its got everything that’s great about the band in spades. Its so powerful, OTT and fun. Its beyond catchy, the solo is awesome, there’s slow bits, fast bits and there’s a touch of the orchestral epic-ness that the band aspire to. With this one song, you get a good musical, technical and lyrical picture of Manowar… oh, and by the way its a great song too!

Even if the last one felt good enough to be an album closer, it doesn’t stop there. There’s more Metal in the form of “The Demon’s Whip.” A robust, interesting track which is half crushing Sabbath-inspired Doom and half double-kick Thrash attack, almost-ending the album with a jarring reverse-whiplash effect as the too-slow doom accelerates out of control to the tune off way-too-loud whip samples.

It all closes with the grand, cinematic, vocally-impressive “Master Of The Wind” which kind of evokes Greg Lake-era King Crimson with its chiming bells, big reverb, dynamic production and haunting singing. Its probably the best ballad/orchestral-track that Manowar ever did. Not something to be skipped, but a genuine album highlight in itself.

Overall; Triumph Of Steel is a really diverse and almost strange album. Despite its seeming lack of focus, it really feels like Manowar just doing everything they could think of to absolute perfection. Anthem – nailed. Ballad – absolutely nailed. Fast bits – nailed. Slow bits – nailed. Exploring new ideas – nailed. Keeping true to what makes Manowar, Manowar – nailed. It might not have gotten the attention it deserved at the time, but for my money this album is a straight up-and-down masterpiece that shows what superb musicians, performers and songwriters Manowar are from every possible angle. Highly Recommended!

PART OF THE “THE 36 GRAND” ALBUM CHART by VACTERION

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Overkill – White Devil Armory

WhiteDevilArmory.jpg

Year released: 2014
Duration:
50:41
Tracks:
11
Genre:
Thrash Metal
Reviewed by: hells_unicorn on Encyclopeadia Metallum

There’s a sinister character skulking about in the shadows, packing an entire arsenal of pure destruction and ready to lay down a world of hurt on the anyone getting in his way. Conspiracy theories run rampant about his hidden intentions, the word is out on the street that he’s responsible for all the pain in the world, and even the likes of Louis Farrakhan can’t go for 5 minutes without mentioning him by name in relation to some pinnacle of suffering and evil. But all kidding aside, this thing which bares a rather ironic title is the latest handiwork of the original New York wrecking crew themselves, and comes complete with all the goodies that one can hope for out of the post-Horrorscope era. As with the past few offerings, White Devil Armory is an album that is rooted in the old school of neck destroying thrash metal that has become big again in the past 8 years, but comes in a somewhat more well-rounded package than before that takes note of the goodness that came with the early 90s and even some of the slower, grooving material that Overkill had dabbled in while the rest of thrash metal had retreated from the scene.

Ecstatic fans who ate up everything on their plate when Ironbound and The Electric Age were served up on a stainless metallic platter need not fear, for the usual treats are evenly littered throughout the entire listen. The first three appetizing dishes of speeding mayhem to hit the ears definitely point to an obligatory consistency that most would insist upon, but also go well beyond the call of duty. After a massive sub-minute intro track that listens almost like a Manowar meets Viking metal war call, the album’s lead off single “Armorist” pummels at full speed with about the same level of intensity and number of hooks as “Bring Me The Night”. It’s a testament to that age old truth of sticking to what works, but it also comes in a slightly chunkier package, particularly the guitars which sound remarkably similar to Metallica at their absolute heaviest. “Down To The Bone” repeats the same mode of speed and brevity, though it takes a few mid-tempo breaks to allow for a slightly more early 90s character during the vocal sections. “Pig” is also quite fast and percussive, but veers a bit more in a hardcore direction in terms of riff work, despite clocking in a bit longer than the two previous songs.

The center part of the album is where things get a bit more varied, although in stark contrast to some of this band’s more experimental moments (think “The Years Of Decay” and “Promises”), nothing really veers off into ballad territory. “Bitter Pill” shifts gears into a more mid-tempo, groovy character with a lot of emphasis on melody and detailing, reminding heavily of the stronger material heard on Necroshine. “It’s All Yours” also takes a slower, groovier road, but relies a good bit more on crunch and definitely points to the punchier work on Bloodletting and Killbox 13, as well as mixing in some occasional clean singing out of Blitz to contrast with his sleazy snarls and shrieks. But when all is said and done, the ultimate colossus of a masterpiece that just destroys the competition is the epic riff extravaganza “Freedom Rings”, cycling through one insane thrash fest to the next like the deranged cousin of Metallica’s “Battery” mixed with this band’s own high speed work on The Years Of Decay, to speak nothing for the brilliant bass work out of D.D., which is a bit reminiscent of Cliff Burton at a few points.

While it’s a pretty safe assumption that this is the weakest of the three latest Overkill albums, the company that it keeps allows for a lesser work to still be comfortably nestled in classic territory. There are a few points on this album where their less well-regarded handiwork from 1994 through 2007 makes an appearance, albeit in a very limited and tasteful manner, which results in an album that sounds a bit less 1986 and a little more 1991. This may cause a slight degree of disappointment in people who prefer their thrash to be along the lines of Reign In Blood and Pleasure To Kill, but it’s not really a negative otherwise. It’s still possessed of that same signature New York attitude of a slightly less complex format and a slightly greater degree of punk attitude, But above all else, despite the pale, grayish look exterior, this old warhorse shows no signs whatsoever of slowing down. No matter what the year, Overkill has another corpse.

PART OF THE “THE 36 GRAND” ALBUM CHART by VACTERION

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W.A.S.P – The Crimson Idol

thecrimsonidol

Year released: 2007
Duration:
49:16
Tracks:
10
Genre:
Heavy Metal
Reviewed by: Hermer Arroyo on Metal Crypt

Since their humble beginnings in 1982 on the Sunset Strip, W.A.S.P.’s sole aim was to shock the audience, be it by performing outrageous stage shows, throwing rotten meat at the crowd or singing about getting laid. Ten years later they will shock the world again by releasing this monster of an album. You see, the thing that makes this so surprising is the level of maturity Blackie Lawless displays on this record. Gone are the party vibes that made this band famous, completely evolving into a different band.

Traces of this were beginning to appear on their previous album The Headless Children, but here it is a full on assault. The Crimson Idol is a concept album that many people say resembles the life of Lawless. I wouldn’t go that far, but you can see why people make that comparison. Now making an album of this caliber requires a great storyline and Lawless makes one to remember. Compelling in every way possible, dealing with the subject of fame and the price of it, the lyrics must be read to fully get the effect. The voice acting is very good, giving details in the life of the main character Jonathan.

Every single song is a highlight, advancing the story as much as required and kicking plenty of ass in the process. From the fist note of “The Titanic Overture” to the last note on “The Great Misconception of Me”, Lawless delivers a songwriting clinic that will leave his contemporaries choking in the dust. Another thing that I love about the album are the acoustic passages, which are just beautiful.

The musicianship on this album is at an all-time high. W.A.S.P. never sounded this good and I doubt that they ever will again. Drummers Frankie Banali and Stet Howland, who never sounded this technical and good; I didn’t know they had this type of ability until now. Bob Kulick (brother of longtime KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick) delivers the majority of the guitar leads on the record and they sound extremely good. Never overshadowing the songs, his tasteful leads complement the songs perfectly.

This leads me to the star of the show, Mr. Blackie Lawless. Besides writing the lyrics and composing the album, he plays lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards and is the lead singer. His performance here leaves me in awe, as I didn’t realize that he was such a good musician and singer. Yes singer!!! he always displayed a raspy tone on his early albums, but here he proves he can actually sing – just listen to “Hold on to my Heart” and “The Idol”.

The Crimson Idol is the best concept album ever, as no other manages to make a better story or keep my attention as this one. It stands head and shoulders above anything W.A.S.P. has ever done until this day. This may be the longest review I’ve ever made, but this album is more than worth it. Essential to every single metal fan, this is a classic for all times.

PART OF THE “THE 36 GRAND” ALBUM CHART by VACTERION

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Manowar – Gods of War

gods

Year released: 2007
Duration: 73:43
Tracks: 16
Genre::
Heavy Metal, Power Metal
Reviewed by: WishmasterTheDark on Encyclopeadia Metallum

If you are objective, open minded, you will know how to appreciate this peace of art. It’s standard Manowar, this time with massive orchestrations. This is totally natural thing since they were the ones who laid foundation for heavy metal’s sub-genre called symphonic metal. It began with The Crown And The Ring (Lament Of The Kings), although that song doesn’t have electric guitars. But still, it sounds so heavy, ’cause they are heavy metal enough even without distorted guitars. This release has lots of short introduction songs and some instrumental overtures done in classical music style, because of Richard Wagner’s influence. If you know something about Manowar, then you noticed that these stories in The Blood Of Odin and Glory Majesty Unity are done in the vein of The Warrior’s Prayer from Kings Of Metal album. So, they continued this epic story from 1988, and put it into this concept album, which consists of Norse Mythology, heavy metal, Manowar and their fans. Also, Warriors Of The World had short classical piece Valhalla and longer The March, so symphonic metal tendencies are not strange in Manowar’s music.

Joey DeMaio fully unveiled his artistic nature and showed his ability, creativity and talent to make classical music overtures: Overture To The Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors and Overture To Odin, introduction parts: The Ascension and beginning of Sleipnir as well, and epic stories: The Blood Of Odin and Glory Majesty Unity. These songs are the ones which turned this release into a concept album, since they don’t have electric guitar, bass guitar and drums, but classical instruments and choir. When you remove these introductions, overtures and stories, instead of 16 songs, them 9 are songs where you can expect standard vocals, drums, bass and electric guitars. Parts where band members are notable in these classical songs are The Ascension, which is introduction for King Of Kings where Eric starts to sing, and Joey is narrator of The Blood Of Odin story. Army Of The Dead Part 1 features Eric, along with orchestrations and choir. Army Of The Dead Part 2 has identical lyrics, and the only difference is that Part 2 has keyboards (with organ effect) intro where Joey kicks serious ass. Some can consider these songs as filler, because if you look few years back, since The Triumph Of Steel, it takes them from 4, 5 to 6 years to release new studio albums. They toured a lot few years back, they had line-up changes, so it’s natural that it takes lots of time to make new material, but lack of inspiration can’t be ignored too.

Manowar is a band that needs time to release new studio albums, but once they come out, they can’t disappoint. It’s worth waiting, since they do not release crap garbage every year, but high quality heavy metal material. What really will blow away any serious listener are these killer songs. Eric played really important role here, and did impressive job. After all these years he was still capable to do high-pitched screams in King Of Kings, Loki God Of Fire, Die For Metal, Blood Brothers and in ending of the song Gods Of War. His voice filled these songs with insane amount of power, specially mind-blowing combination with strong chorus in songs Sons Of Odin and Gods Of War, where whole thing is taken to higher level, and with symphonic arrangements these two songs sound massive, epic and orgasmic. Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors received the same blessing, and it has even more epic feel when Joey starts the narration, and when he finishes, Eric starts along with choir which always make me shudder. Eric’s intonation in Sleipnir’s refrains is of key importance, otherwise song wouldn’t sound that great. Karl Logan made excellent guitar solos. Slow, with lots of passion to fit the mood of Blood Brothers power ballad and Hymn Of Immortal Warriors, which sounds like a national anthem. Word “hymn” in the title makes perfect sense.

Semi-furious, but technical solos are in Gods Of War, Odin and Die For Metal, and insanely furious solos full of arpeggios, sweeps and shredding in King Of Kings, with some slower parts, but with guitar rape in Sleipnir, and with use of tremolo to squeeze those notes. In Loki God Of Fire and Sons Of Odin he continued fast kick-ass playing. Odin has nice lead guitar which causes eargasm, and Loki God Of Fire has insane ending soloing along with Eric’s singing, so you can’t hear well some of his solo parts. It’s refreshing to hear something like that, not just solos in the middle of the song without vocals. Although this release is not full of memorable riffs, Loki God Of Fire and Die For Metal have riffs which slay, and enough to leave great impression for the entire release. He placed power chords well in fast songs King Of Kings, Sleipnir, Loki God Of Fire, in mid tempo songs Sons Of Odin, Gods Of War and in slow songs Die For Metal, Blood Brothers and Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors. Joey’s bass guitar is not dominant on this release, but he was dedicated to keyboards with organ effect and narrations in some parts of the songs. Scott Columbus could have done some different and more creative beats, instead of constant repeating the same pattern during the songs’ durations. Songs still sound excellent, and other members covered this lack.

PART OF THE “THE 36 GRAND” ALBUM CHART by VACTERION

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Overkill – Immortalis

immortalis

Year released: 2007
Duration: 49:16
Tracks: 10
Genre:
Thrash Metal
Reviewed by: Agonymph on Encyclopeadia Metallum

Before some of you start complaining, I know I’ll never be able to write an unbiased review on OverKill. The band has been my favorite since the very second I heard them. Some people abandoned them when they had taken a slightly more groovy route halfway the nineties, but most people seemed to like the route the band was taking. Experimenting with more groovy parts, but never betraying their Thrash-roots. With the last couple of releases, OverKill seemed to create a pattern, releasing a more laid back album first (‘Necroshine’, ‘Killbox 13’) and a more furious album after that (‘Bloodletting’, ‘ReliXIV’). ‘Immortalis’ fits within that pattern perfectly, being a slightly more relaxed album, but DD Verni’s compositions have a certain inventiveness that makes this album a surprising listen nonetheless.

Verni is showing his love for Black Sabbath more and more on each album. That doesn’t mean that ‘Immortalis’ has become a Doom Metal-album though. But the typical Sabbath-thing of changing the song into something different right in the middle of it, is more present than ever here. When the songs start out, they usually have a trusted feeling, almost makes you feel like coming home after a long time of being away, only to be surprised by the new wallpaper a room has once you see it, that would be the change within the song.

In addition, OverKill explores the “Thrash ‘n’ Roll” area they laid the fundaments for with a song like ‘Damned’ a couple of years ago a little further. ‘Walk Through Fire’ has without any doubt been inspired by AC/DC and is probably meant to be played before ‘Elimination’ in the live set, judging from the fact that the song ends exactly the way the first verse to the latter opens. When ‘Head On’ really starts (after a bass intro highly remniscent of ‘Bastard Nation’ from the 1994 ‘W.F.O.’-album), there’s this awesome down ‘n’ dirty riff and the highly surprising ‘Hell Is’ starts out almost bluesy, only to cover every aspect OverKill has ever tried out later on. ‘Hell Is’ is probably the most pleasant surprise on the album because of that too, after the bluesy beginning, there is a groovy stomp, a fast Thrash-riff with Punk-ish energy and some slight Doom references as well.

For those who want to hear OverKill Thrash their heads off, there is plenty to enjoy here as well. Opening track ‘Devils In The Mist’ is an irresistable Thrasher with the entire band in top shape. In the end, it has Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth screaming from the top of his lungs like we haven’t heard him do in many years. And then there’s the closing track. A delight for everyone who has followed the New Jersey Wrecking Crew from the beginning. There is finally a fifth part to the ‘Overkill’-saga! For those who don’t know: ‘E.vil N.ever D.ies’ from ‘The Years Of Decay’ (1989) was the fourth, but wasn’t named that way. And now there’s ‘Overkill V: The Brand’, probably the highlight of this album. It starts out slowly with a guitar part slightly similar to Slayer’s ‘Dead Skin Mask’, in atmosphere at least, then there’s a midtempo stomping part, followed by THE riff! As long as I’m still single, I’ll just use that riff to have an orgasm! This is easily the most “old school” sounding song DD has written in many years. And one of the best ones!

New kid on the block Ron Lipnicki is versatile enough to handle every direction OverKill takes on ‘Immortalis’. His drumming on the Thrash-parts is just as strong as on the more groovy tracks, like ‘What It Takes’ and ‘Head On’. His style seems a little “looser” than that of his predecessor Tim Mallare. I just hope that on the next album, the production will answer to that a little more. The way his triggers are set makes the perfect rhythms sound a little stiff at some points. Great drumming nevertheless.

Another person who really stands out on ‘Immortalis’ is lead guitarist Dave Linsk, who has equallled Bobby Gustafson’s impressive record of playing guitar on four consecutive OverKill-studio albums with this album. Linsk is easily the best and most complete guitarist the band has ever had and just when you think you know how good he really is, he surprises you with some sick soloing. ‘Immortalis’ is no exception. It’s unbelievable how awesome some of his lead guitar work is here. Somehow it sounds like a little more feeling crept inside of his solos on this album. And that is an enormous pro.

The brightest shining star on ‘Immortalis’, however, is Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth. I have yet to remember an album on which he shows as many sides of his voice as he does on ‘Immortalis’ (maybe the criminally underrated ‘I Hear Black’). As mentioned before, he shows his full conviction again in ‘Devils In The Mist’, but he does some parts completely clean beautifully, check out ‘Hellish Pride’ for the best example on that. His abstract sense of poetry (which I consider his very best quality) is present again and is it me or has his range increased?

‘Immortalis’ has, for the first time in OverKill-history, a guest musician. And even though I think he’s a terrible singer, Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe surprisingly really adds something to the impressive stomper ‘Skull And Bones’. I still think Bobby should have done the verses he sings lead vocals to, but the parts Bobby and Randy do together came out really great. The studio footage Bodog Music released as a teaser for the album shows Blythe really tried to make something good out of it too. And although I never thought I would say something like this, he succeeded.

OverKill’s winged skull mascot has finally got his own theme song as well. And he should be proud of it too. ‘Chalie Get Your Gun’ is an awesome track with sort of a slight swing feel (that is Ron Lipnicki’s looser playing I’m talking about), but some kick-ass thrashing as well. It’s one of those surprising tracks, because every time you think you know where the band is heading, they take a different route. ‘Shadow Of A Doubt’ is a great example in that matter too, especially its exciting middle part.

Productionally, DD Verni seems to get the hang of it more and more. Apart from the minor criticism on the drum sound, the production is improving greatly. Dave Linsk did the engineering with DD and that means we get all the trusted elements: the huge guitar sound of Linsk and rhythm guitarist Derek Tailer, the fat and dirty bass sound of Verni himself and the strong, choral backing shouts. The latter are better than ever actually. DD either turned his own backing vocals down or Tailer’s up a little, giving the backing vocals an extra choral feel. Where in the past, there was a lot of DD, you can actually hear it’s two persons on this record. Just check the both of them shouting in ‘What It Takes’.

‘Immortalis’ is neither a radical change from OverKill’s past work or a very predictable album. And that’s where the true power of the album lies. That and the fact that the level of the album is consistently high. OverKill has the tendency to cluster their best songs somewhere in the beginning (i.e. ‘Within Your Eyes’, ‘Loaded Rack’ and ‘Bats In The Belfry’ on the predecessor ‘ReliXIV’), but there are no standout tracks on this one. And that is only because they all rock.

It takes a little longer to get into ‘Immortalis’ than into most of the other OverKill-albums (coincidentally, ‘Necroshine’ and ‘Killbox 13’ had the exact same effect for me), but once you give it that time, what you have is an album that easily matches OverKill’s best work. Thrash elitists expecting another ‘Horrorscope’ or ‘The Years Of Decay’ will probably be disappointed, but those with an open mind towards good music will most likely enjoy this awesome offering from New Jersey’s finest band.

PART OF THE “THE 36 GRAND” ALBUM CHART by VACTERION

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Testament – The Legacy

thelegacy

Year released: 1987
Duration: 38:55
Tracks: 9
Genre: Thrash Metal
Reviewed by: stainedclass2112 on Encyclopeadia Metallum

Holy freaking fudge this is a crazy album. There is a very fine line between what is actually metal and what is noise, and this album pushes that line to it’s absolute limit without being just noise. This record will DESTROY you listen after listen. No two Testament albums are the same, they have always been a band that has had a few different takes on metal, but their debut, The Legacy, is by far their fastest and heaviest album. Their 90’s stuff would try to get this close, but they would end up falling way short of this. The Legacy fuses absolutely wicked raw power with insane riffing and ferocious vocals in a very surprisingly masterful fashion. Sure, there are bands who played way faster than this, and other bands who played as heavy as this, but usually not both of these aspects combined in such a way. It’s rare that you hear an album with this much aggression and energy. I cannot get enough of this album, it is insanely good; and there is not very much out there that can match this in terms of power and aggression. At first I felt that this album was a bit too, well, insane. But once I got used to it, I really started to dig it, and now it is definitely one of my favorite thrash albums.

The songs on The Legacy are all very heavy and most are fast as hell. I’m serious here, I cannot stress how much this album is so wickedly ridiculously INSANE. I don’t mean those as in synonyms for “good”, but it is literally freaking out of control. Even the really extreme thrash albums out there can’t match this level of holy shit-ness. There are some all out thrashers like “Over the Wall”, “Curse of the Legions of Death” (Which can be abbreviated to ‘C.O.T.L.O.D’)”, “First Strike is Deadly” and my personal favorite: “Raging Waters”. But there is no lack of melody either, the best example of this is “Alone in the Dark”, with it’s unique eastern sounding leads at parts. “Burnt Offerings” and a little bit of “Apocalyptic City” have these elements as well, but the majority of this album is a torrent of facepeelery. None of the songs are very long, with the longest (“Apocalyptic City”) clocking in at just under the 6 minute mark. The lyrics are the most brutal and badass Testament has ever written, ranging from breaking out of Alcatraz to human sacrifice, to torture by demons and being attacked by satan while sailing through the Bermuda effing Triangle (“THE TRIANGLE! THE DEVIL’S TRIANGLE!!”). Yeah, I know, BADASS. The production here is not very good, but unlike The New Order, I think the production adds to the charm of the album. On the second album it robbed from the clarity and made some parts muddy, and it hurt what was a great album, but here it adds to the heaviness and the classic metal feel this one has. Don’t get me wrong, it is not at all great production, but in my opinion it is not a problem here. All of these elements come together to make one of the most brutal and aggressive albums ever while still maintaining a strong sense of musicianship and class. My favorite song is definitely “Raging Waters” which has the most epic riffing and Chuck spits out the lyrics with such speed and aggression it’s awesome. The chorus is actually very catchy, and the ending is wicked. Some of my other favorites are “Over the Wall”, “First Strike Is Deadly”, “Do or Die” and “Alone in the Dark”.

The instrumentation is absolutely savage at times, with a lot of the riffs having that classic Eric Peterson style of riffing, in which he quickly alt picks a palm muted note and throws a triplet in the middle of the sequence then playing a chord etc. Testament fans know what I mean. He does this extremely fast and throws in lots of epic runs and licks in between. Above all of the chaos is Alex’s masterful lead playing, he is definitely one of the best thrash lead guitarists out there and his debut here is ridiculously good. Some of his solos and leads are just fantastic, namely “Do or Die”, “Apocalyptic City” and “First Strike Is Deadly”. The solo to “First Strike Is Deadly” is one of my favorites of all time, it has this awesome classical scaling to it that is extremely clever and works very well. Then we get to the vocals which are insane. Chuck Billy is an animal on this album, he roars and bellows with unstoppable force that is unmatched by any other vocalist. Greg Christian plays great bass here too, and you can actually hear it. He has a unique and gritty bass tone that does a great job of adding to the riffs. The music on here sounds like it was played by a bunch of pissed off kids who armed themselves with the ability to thrash, and they do a wicked job.

Overall, this album is an absolute beast. It is not at all polished or clean. It is a monster that will assault you. I love this album and I listen to it regularly, it never ceases to put a smile on my face with its raw energy and power. I wouldn’t exactly recommend this to everybody, while I believe it is one of the very best of the genre, it is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is seriously intense, and those who prefer their metal more polished might not enjoy this, however I just so happen to be one of those who prefer their metal that way, but this is still one of my favorites. If you are a Testament fan or a hardcore thrash fan buy this right freaking now, you will love this if you haven’t already heard it. If you want something to seriously get you headbanging or if you want some seriously intense metal, check this beast out. “Restart my life or self destruction! To climb this wall of dark construction! Holding the quest for freedom That BECKONS ME!!”

PART OF THE “THE 36 GRAND” ALBUM CHART by VACTERION

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Manowar – Dawn of Battle

dawn

Year released: 2002
Duration: 16:26
Tracks: 3
Genre: Heavy Metal, Power Metal
Reviewed by: metalodyssey on MetalOdyssey

MANOWAROver the decades, when it comes to my favorite bands, the collector “bug” will always kick in whenever I come across CD singles, EP’s, picture discs, 7″ vinyl, etc. that have been released with their music. Manowar released The Dawn Of Battle EP or as it is also called, enhanced CD single, back in 2002 on Nuclear Blast. Magic Circle Music, (founded by Manowar’s co-founding member and bass guitarist, Joey DeMaio), is also the co-label.

There are three songs, (The Dawn Of Battle, I Believe and Call To Arms) and CD-ROM bonus material on The Dawn Of Battle. My favorite out of the three songs is Call To Arms, it just thunders along with classic Manowar Heavy Metal power. There is nothing better than a heavy duty, psyche-out, Heavy Metal anthem to invigorate my Metal senses. Call To Arms supplies an ample dose of psyche-out splendor for me, with Eric Adams pronouncing each syllable of this song’s lyrics with a victorious Metal cockiness that he is so damn great at.

I Believe is a song straight from the Manowar text book of personal power, strength and victory. The tempo is dictated by the rhythm section of Joey DeMaio on bass and Scott Columbus on drums. The sheer power that the Heavy Metal stomp of Manowar provides on I Believe, is enough to make my home stereo speakers shudder at their mountings. Hail Manowar Heavy Metal!

The Dawn Of Battle is without a doubt, the fastest and Heaviest of the three songs heard on this EP. Eric Adams comes across with more vindictiveness on this song vocally, than on the other two songs. He does the near-spoken word at the mid-point of The Dawn Of Battle, which is characteristic. Manowar has a fabulous way of making their breakdowns feel awe inspiring. Guitarist Karl Logan is his excellent self on all three songs, providing plenty of melodic leads and ground shifting riffs.

Oh yeah… how about this cover artwork for The Dawn Of Battle… damn, it’s brutally intense stuff! It’s MANOWAR. I make no apologies for digging it myself… Metal be thy name.

PART OF THE “THE 36 GRAND” ALBUM CHART by VACTERION

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