I'm not in the mood for witty anecdotal introductions this week. But I am in the mood to be mean. Check below for some relatively harsh thoughts on the new Burzum and Firewind albums, while releases from Diablo Swing Orchestra and TesseracT are spared my wrath (and even earn some praise). Here are the new releases for 5/22:
Burzum – Umskiptar
Genre: Black Metal
Label: Byeloblog Productions
Listen: Full Album Stream
No need to get into the oft told back story here; everyone knows who Varg is, what he's done, and what he represents, and it's likely that you've already made up your mind in regards to his music and to the attention it deserves (or doesn't). Regardless, we can all be certain of one thing: Varg doesn't give a fuck. It's obvious at this point that the man is making music for himself and himself alone. Umskiptar is an unusual monster, to say the least. My first impressions are not entirely favorable; the album seems to be oddly out of character, as it exists almost entirely in a realm of mid-tempo folk metal. The melodies and compositions are horribly flat and uninspired, accessible to the point of being intolerable, and repetitive in a way that is not good (as opposed to the trance-inducing majesty of old Burzum). Vocals are spoken/chanted throughout, which is fun for about the first two minutes. And worst of all is the production; gone is the razor sharp, despondent, raw production of old, replaced instead with a production that is shockingly clear, audible, bouncy and bright, effectively killing whatever chance the album had to cultivate an atmosphere. With three albums in as many years and a legendary back catalogue, it seems Varg may have finally run out of worthwhile ideas. Umskiptar is an album that simply misses its mark.
TesseracT – Perspective EP
Label: Century Media
Listen: EP Teaser
Not really NEW material from the experimental djent-masters, but the teaser clips were enough to get me excited. The Perspective EP is advertised as an "acoustic" endeavor, featuring five songs that include a cover of Jeff Buckley's "Dream Brother," and a new version of "Eden" entitled "Eden 2.0". This also marks the first release with new singer Elliot Coleman, who seems to have a voice perfectly made for the spacey, cosmic overtones that the band is known for. The EP is intriguing and definitely worth a listen; old songs take on new life, the blending of atmosphere and complexity is ever-present, the melodies are lush and the orchestrations are serene. This should be enough to hold any TesseracT fan until the release of the new album, which, according to the word on the street, should be sometime this year.
Diablo Swing Orchestra – Pandora's Piñata
Diablo Swing Orchestra, as expected, may be responsible for the most the interesting release of the year. Hardly metal (alright, moderately metal) but still awesome, Pandora's Piñata is everything you've come to expect from the band and more; the album soars through an amalgamation of big-band, swing, free-jazz, cult-rock, general progressive weirdness and literally everything in between, bound together by an impeccable sense of composition and an eccentric, undefinable energy that pulsates through the album like blood pumps through a vein. Here is a rare gem, one of the few cases where something so endlessly amusing and entertaining also demands… nay, deserves, your full attention. The band's best offering to date.
Firewind – Few Against Many
Genre: Power Metal
Country: United States
Label: Century Media
Listen: "Wall Of Sound"
One of the general rules I try to live by is "don't listen to Firewind," mainly because I'm an elitist dick and I already know exactly what they're going to sound like. But for the sake of this column and for you, the readers, I've broken that rule; I've listened to Firewind. And my fears have been realized. The single for the album, entitled "Wall Of Sound," is one of the most generic things I've willingly listened to in quite some time; a paint-by-the-numbers metal symphony that exists for the sole purpose of showcasing Gus G's guitar solo. The rest of the album follows suit (generally speaking), drowning the listener in a warm, fuzzy bath of cookie-cutter modern metal goodness. Sure it's catchy, sure it's fun, sure it's "fucking mehtul broo!!111," but originality and creativity here are in short supply.
Sonata Arctica – Stones Grow Her Name
Genre: Power Metal/Pop-Rock
Label: Nuclear Blast
Listen: "I Have A Right"
Sonata Arctica have always expertly straddled the line between being laughably cheesy and deadly serious, sincere in every melodramatic note and ridiculous lyric. If you've heard them before you know what to expect here, though Stones Grow Her Name sees the band reaching even further into pop/electronic/dance territory, with half of the album sounding like a bunch of Nightwish B-sides. I don't really have an opinion either way; I respect what the band does because no one else does it quite like them. At times the album is undeniably catchy and progressive, at others it is absolutely cringeworthy. But such is the pattern of Sonata Arctica's entire career.
Affector – Harmagedon
Antigama – Stop The Chaos
Blind Guardian – Memories Of A Time To Come
Children Of Bodom – Holiday At Lake Bodom CD/DVD
Electric Wizard – Witchcult Today Re-Release
Havok – The Point Of No Return EP
Hexen – Being And Nothing
Kraanium – Post Mortal Coital Fixation
Martyrdod – Paranoia
Mutilation Rites – Empyrean
Sabaton – Carolus Rex
Saint Vitus – Lillie: F-65
Saxon – Heavy Metal Thunder Live: Eagles Over Wacken CD/DVD
Six Feet Under – Undead
Slash – Apocalyptic Love
UFO – The Chrysalis Years Volume 2: 1980-1986
Vorkreist – Sigil Whore Christ
Winterfylleth – The Ghost Of Heritage Re-Release