Mid-year music roundup

Before I start this I should clarify I’m a metal fan, and while I like to think I appreciate most genres of music this will mostly be a list of metal releases.

The Good

August Burns Red – Constellations:  Pretty standard metalcore, but enjoyable enough.  I prefer their previous release Messengers (just) over this but it’s good stuff overall.  3.5/5

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Graveworm – Diabolical Figures:  One of my favourite symphonic black metal bands put together a far better album than their previous album, Diabolical Figures is more consistent and more memorable.  Not as good as (N)utopia but a return to form nonetheless. 4/5

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Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings:  Simply stunning, to put it simply.  A massive step up from their recent releases in my opinion and second only to Metropolis Pt. II in their discography, this is an absolutely masterpiece. 5/5

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Destroyer 666 – Defiance: So far this is my best album of the year, combining black and thrash metal to produce a brilliant piece of musicianship.  This is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish.  5/5

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The Autumn Offering – Requiem:  Another metalcore release leaning towards screamo in a lot of ways, pretty good though and worth a listen.  3.5/5

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Hardcore Superstar – Beg For It:  A band not to be taken too seriously, Hardcore Superstar reminds me of Motley Crue and this album reflects that.  Pretty decent although lacking that extra something to make it great.  3.5/5

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Gorod – Process of A New Decline:  Really good technical death, very well produced and experimental in places with jazz interludes to give a new dimension on the genre. 4/5

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Trail of Tears – Bloodstained Endurance:    The gothic metal genre is very much hit and miss for me, but this album is very much a hit.  Trail of Tears use the ‘beauty and the beast’ vocals (harsh male with operatic female) to great effect and it’s very atmospheric.  4/5

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Alestorm – Black Sails at Midnight:  This is a good release from the masters of ‘true Scottish pirate metal’ but nowhere near as good as their previous release Captain Morgans Revenge.  It’s still decent for fans of the band or those looking for something different, but for those interested in checking out pirate metal check the other album out first.  3.5/5

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Eternal Tears of Sorrow – Children of the Dark Waters:  Pretty much on par with previous releases, this one has a more epic feel and a slightly different lyrical theme.  Melodic death metal fans should enjoy it for sure. 3.5/5

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Saint Deamon – Pandeamonium:  One of the best power metal albums I’ve heard in some time, Saint Deamon improve on their debut album from 2008 by combining catchy riffs with the powerful voice of the lead singer to blow the listener away.  4.5/5

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Mystic Prophecy – Fireangel: Apart from running out of steam towards the end this is another solid power metal release, but the first half of the album is enjoyable head banging material and a rip-roaring yarn for the most part. 4/5

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Nahemah – A New Constellation: A slightly different take on the progressive metal genre, this band also has death influences to create their own unique sound.  They put it to great use on this release, it has a wonderful and complex atmosphere and is worthy of a listen for fans of bands who want to experience something a little different.  4/5

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Bloodbound – Tabula Rasa: Yet another power metal release, this one features the return of the bands original lead vocalist Urban Breed and he performs his duties flawlessly.  The songs are powerful and melodic for the most part, good stuff overall. 4/5

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God Dethroned – Passiondale: This is a very aggressive war-themed death metal album, right up my street as bands like Hail of Bullets who are lyrically similar.  One of my favourite death metal releases of the year, easily.  4.5/5

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Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know: Good old fashioned heavy metal performed by a band which is literally the original Black Sabbath but with Dio (of Rainbow) on vocals.  Despite these guys being well in their 60’s they retain the energy they had in their respective heydays, metal fans young and old will appreciate this one.  3.5/5

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Haunted Shores – Following Ivy: Haunted Shores are a relatively new and unknown metalcore band, they’ve only released two EPs to date but they’re both extremely melodic and well put together.  Following Ivy isn’t as good as the previous EP Maelstrom, but if you like that you’ll enjoy this one.  4/5

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Long Distance Calling – Avoid The Light: This is a post-rock album with a depressive theme to it, it’s almost entirely instrumental but features Jonas Renske of Katatonia on guest vocals for the track The Nearing Grave.  A fantastic release, quite simply. 4.5/5

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Daath – The Concealers: A standout album in the melodic death metal genre, The Concealers has a slightly experimental side to it for added uniqueness.  The vocals are a particular highlight along with the song structure.  4/5

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Isis – Wavering Radiant: I’ve never been too savvy on what exactly ‘sludge metal’ is, but apparently this is it.  What I do know is that it’s a very enjoyable album despite being very much an acquired taste. 4.5/5

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Candlemass – Death Magic Doom: One of the pioneers of the doom metal genre return with a solid release, I’ve never been a fan of this band but I’m glad I gave it a try. 4/5

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Lion’s Share – Dark Hours: An interesting heavy/power metal album by a band very few have heard of most likely, Dark Hours is a big improvement over their previous efforts and fully deserves to give them some recognition.  3.5/5

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Blackguard – Profugus Mortis: This is a fun folk metal album with various other influences, slightly let down by the vocals but thigh-slappingly good all the same.  4/5

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Kathaarsis – Anonymous Ballad: There are some very nice atmospheric progressive moments and some more aggressive sections with an extreme metal influence, which all comes together very well.  3.5/5

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D’espairsRay – Redeemer: A little more mainstream than their previous releases due to signing with a new record label, but despite that it’s still an enjoyable album and far better than their previous album Mirror.  4/5

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Centaurus-A – Side Effects Expected: Chaotic, well produced and very technical, Centaurus-A’s complex album Side Effects Expected is also melodic enough to appeal to fans who are perhaps new the the tech death genre.  4.5/5

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Wolf – Ravenous:  Kick-ass heavy metal, catchy yet simple, Wolf have put together a decent album that’s enjoyable from start to finish.  This will appeal to fans of 80’s heavy metal.  3.5/5

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Scale The Summit – Carving Desert Canyons:  A very technically progressive album here, Scale The Summit are a (very) young band who already have a ridiculous amount of talent.  The band are shaping up to be one of the premier progressive metal bands in years to come.  3.5/5

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Luna Mortis – The Absence:  Melodic death metal in the style of Arch Enemy mixed with the power metal elements of Sinergy, The Absence drew fairly negative reviews from those who have listened to it but it’s one I enjoyed.  The guitarist is extremely talented and is more or less responsible for making this album as good as it is.  3.5/5

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Grave Digger – Ballads of A Hangman: I think this was the first 2009 release I heard, and it gave me a lot of hope that this year would be as good as 2008.  This is a typical gritty Grave Digger album but because they’ve been around for so long they’ve basically done this album before, but after a series of lacklustre releases it is a welcome return to what fans of the band know and love.  3.5/5

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IQ – Frequency: Very good progressive rock from England, this is a ‘neo-prog’ (whatever that is) effort that is consistent throughout and features an 80’s flair.  3.5/5

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The Meh

Killswitch Engage – Killswitch Engage: KSE are a band I’ve always enjoyed, but realised that every release is worse than the previous one excluding their first self titled effort in 2000.  The second self titled album is easily their most disappointing to date, it features no memorable tracks whatsoever. 2.5/5

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Royksopp – Junior: The first three or four tracks on this album are very good, especially The Girl And The Robot which features Robin.  After that however it rapidly degenerates into a rather dull collection of filler tracks.  3/5

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My Dying Bride – For Lies I Sire:  One of the best known doom metal bands in the world, but My Dying Bride have always been a hit-and-miss type of band for me.  This is a miss album unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the excessive use of clean vocals above all else but there are a few tracks that are enjoyable.  3/5

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Agathodaimon – Phoenix: Phoenix is an album that had to grow on me, the first time I played it I didn’t really care for it but after the next listen I grew to appreciate it.  It’s quite light on the ears even for a melodic black metal release which makes it a little underwhelming in places where a big gutteral scream would have been awesome.  3/5

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Lamb of God – Wrath: I never gave Lamb of God much interest until hearing the excellent Ashes of The Wake album a few years back, so decided to give this one a go.  While I found it ok it’s not something I’ll bother with again, it’s good to see the band taking a slightly different approach to their music with acoustic tracks but it doesn’t really work for them here.  2.5/5

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Within The Ruins – Creature: The usual deathcore with a touch of progressiveness and technicality thrown in, nothing outstanding though.  The song writing is this albums’ saving grace.  2.5/5

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The Bad

Devin Townsend – Ki: Devin Townsend is a man I have admired for a long time, and with several masterpieces with his solo project, The Devin Townsend Band and of course Strapping Young Lad I honestly thought he could do no wrong.  A lot of hype went into this leading up to its release due to musically being something entirely different… and it sucks.  2/5

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Amoral – Show Your Colors: By some margin this is the worst release of 2009 for me, and I doubt anything will top it.  I didn’t exactly have high hopes for Amoral once Ari Koivunen from Finnish Idol joined them as their new vocalist, but I wasn’t expecting Show Your Colors to be quite as bad as it is.  I’m fine with the transition to power metal but they should really have put the name ‘Amoral’ to rest and started from scratch rather than tarnish its legacy, it’s not right combining decent musicianship with those vocals.  Separately they’re both very good, but when the two come together it’s like “Ari Koivunen featuring Amoral, Trying Something That Doesn’t Really Work.”  They replaced Niko Kalliojärvi with the wrong guy, to put it simply.  1/5

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Mastodon – Crack The Skye: I’ve never understood the love for these guys, their debut was ok but this is really poor.  It contains nothing of interest and struggles to find its identity, one moment it contains a thrash interlude before switching to some sort of acoustic melody that for all intents and purposes sounds like Nickelback have brutally beaten them to a pulp and taken over.  2/5

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This Providence – Who Are You Now?:  This album comes across as little more than plain and uninspiring pop-rock indie emo something something, not one song stands out as being remotely outstanding or even worth paying any attention to.  On the plus side the album is consistent, This Providence don’t try anything risky with this release and it just plods along happily but aimlessly from start to finish.  1.5/5

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Hammerfall – No Victory, No Sacrifice: Hammerfall were one of my first loves when I first started appreciating power metal, but in recent years they’ve simply lost their charm.  This album is no exception, unfortunately these days there are so many supposed Hammerfall clones that do it so much better.  2/5

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Posted on August 6, 2009, in Music and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Kane AkA Cake

    Couldn’t agree more with Destroyer 666 & Dream Theater’s new albums, pure class.

    But you were a bit soft on Alestorm methinks, as their new album is utter shit x]

    Oh and just some of my other rates that varied a bit to yours (just naming band since CBA listing albums):
    Graveworm: I love this band, good ol’ Goth black metal I’d say 4.5 because it only just misses (N)utopia by the slightest of margins, mainly because I don’t think these lyrics are as decent as (N)utopia’s were.
    God Dethroned: I loved this album. But then again I love anything war themed, but the music put to it sets the mood for war and it enthrals you (well me) 5/5 for sure, it was sex to the ears =P
    Candlemass: One of their best albums IMO, I’m a fan of Candlemass and I love the Doom Metal genre, I would of given this a 5/5 but probably because I like Doom Metal a great deal
    Blackguard: I’d never heard of this band until I did a bit more research into Viking and Pagan metal, which then referred me to Folk Metal and so I decided to check them out (mainly because they were one of the only ones I could find a full album of in shops x] Are they on Spotify?) Though they have decent instruments and keep quite an enjoyable tune, I can’t help but feel, why the hell did they hire the vocalist? The vocals were so weak and was a major let down for that album, get a stronger vocalist and they’d be a decent band for some more unique folk moshing. I’d give the album 3.5/5

    Though on the rest I’d pretty much agree though I haven’t heard some of the albums so obviously I can’t comment on those x]

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