Album of the Week 20-2019: Amorphis – Elegy


Perfection is hard to come by in music. More often than not, I refer to a certain aspect of an album being as close to perfection as it gets. In case of Amorphis’ third album ‘Elegy’, its atmosphere is just about as perfect as it gets. ‘Elegy’ was the second album on which Amorphis showed a massive stylistic change and it would not be the last, but it does say something that the signature sound they currently have is not too far removed from what can be heard on ‘Elegy’. It is simply an excellent work of melancholic Finnish metal.

In a way, it is odd that ‘Elegy’ is my favorite Amorphis album, as the band would become much better later on. Current singer Tomi Joutsen is vastly superior to both the throaty grunts of rhythm guitarist Tomi Koivusaari and the Hetfield-esque cleans of Pasi Koskinen, Santeri Kallio has a significantly more melodic style than ‘Elegy’ keyboard player Kim Rantala… Basically the only band member who is already close to the massive heights he would soon reach is lead guitarist Esa Holopainen, one of the most tasteful guitarists in rock and metal. And yet, everything on ‘Elegy’ is as it should be.

First off, the lack of vocal prowess does not hurt the music at all. Koskinen is the right fit for the melancholy expressed in the lyrics – all English translations of the poems in the ‘Kanteletar’, a collection of traditional Finnish songs and poems – and Koivusaari is buried in the mix. Besides, if I had to estimate, less than 25 percent of the album actually has vocals. ‘Elegy’ is the record that most clearly displays the influence that their fellow countrymen Kingston Wall had on Amorphis: it’s extremely jam-heavy, giving Holopainen plenty of room to excel, and the band opts to let the ideas unfold slowly rather than cramming their songs full of them.

Additionally, the eastern mysticism in Kingston Wall’s music is prominent on some of the Holopainen-penned songs, the incredible opener ‘Better Unborn’ in particular. That song deserves an award anyway. It’s easy to come up with something self-pitying for that set of lyrics, but Amorphis made something extremely powerful out of it, kind of like a Scandinavian metal interpretation of Led Zeppelin’s later works. ‘Song Of The Troubled One’ has a similar vibe, though notably more northern European. The twin guitar harmony laden ‘Against Widows’ is more propulsive, as is ‘On Rich And Poor’, which contains some incredible rhythm guitar work. The surprisingly good instrumental ‘Relief’ brings all the elements together.

Even when the band adopts a more laid-back approach, it sounds amazing. The climactic title track and the unbelievably gorgeous album highlight ‘My Kantele’ have some prominent Pink Floyd-isms, albeit with much more powerful rhythm guitar work. But really, only those who prefer Amorphis as a full-on death metal band might not find anything to like on ‘Elegy’, but I sincerely doubt if they ever were. The consistently melancholic tone is what largely makes ‘Elegy’ so amazing, but the unusually large amount of jamming helps too, plus the fact that Holopainen and Koivusaari hardly ever play in unison. A fairly unique album, even within Amorphis’ discography, that still sounds as fresh today as when I first heard it.

Recommended tracks: ‘Better Unborn’, ‘My Kantele’, ‘On Rich And Poor’, ‘Relief’

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My douze points for 2019


Finally. The return of the big, sweeping power ballad in the Eurovision canon. Also, the return of the song that is so bad that it’s entertaining. That doesn’t mean that there was nothing to complain about this year. My favorite song of the semi-final – Ester Peony’s dark electropop song ‘On A Sunday’ (Romania) – got stuck in the semi-finals and I actually think that the folkish but not quite ‘Sul Tsin Iare’ by Georgia’s Oto Nemsadze deserved to have qualified as well. In addition, the idea of “message over music” is really getting on my nerves.

However, let’s focus on the positives. There were actually a couple of good songs this year and Serhat’s ‘Say Na Na Na’ (San Marino) was welcome for multiple reasons. First of all, Serhat being Turkish, this is the closest we’re probably going to get to a Turkish Eurovision entry for a while. But more importantly, the entertainment value is significantly higher than the musical content. Just perfect. We have been needing that for years.

Spain: Miki – La Venda

Is the song order of the Eurovision Song Contest really as random as people claim? Because Miki’s ‘La Venda’ was as good a finale as possible. An energetic, upbeat, sunny pop song that fits the country it’s representing really well. In all honesty, I think Miki may have been better off aiming for this year’s summer hit rather than Eurovision, but I would be surprised if Miki did not gain a massive audience for ‘La Venda’ through his enthusiastic performance. The song is more South American in tone than Spanish, but that should not be any problem. Definitely the perfect way to get the adrenalin pumping one more time before going into the (too) extended voting break.

Concerning that very last bit of the final sentence: in deed, I can’t stand Madonna.

North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska – Proud

Usually, I am of opinion that a good singer cannot save a lesser song. Not that ‘Proud’ is bad, just a little plain, even though it has a bit of an old school Eurovision vibe, with only piano and strings backing Tamara Todevska. I just like the intensity of Todevska’s delivery. She definitely shows some serious range here, both emotionally and musically. There’s some multiple octave work going on and it’s great how Todevska moves from extremely intimate to big and powerful. One thing I find clever is that Todevska and her production team found a way to make the song’s grand message of female empowerment much more personal. Decent song, excellent performance.

Serbia: Nevena Božović – Kruna

Sure, the song is a little messy in the sense that the transitions could have been a little smoother – the pre-chorus in particular is slightly anti-climactic – but Nena Božović’ vocal performance on this is so incredible that it’s easy to ignore that. Not unlike Tamara Todevska, but ‘Kruna’ is slightly better both in terms of performance and songwriting. Bonus points to Božović for writing the song on her own, by the way. Like I said in the beginning, the big sweeping Eurovision power ballad was more prominent this year and ‘Kruna’ is the best example. Božović is a powerhouse singer and her emotional performance really sells the song. She does a lot of dance pop as well, but I think she would do well to focus on stuff where she can really stretch her vocal cords.

Albania: Jonida Maliqi – Ktheju Tokës

After having easily the best singer of the contest in the shape of Eugent Bushpepa last year, Albania once again enters the contest with a great singer and a surprisingly good song. Upon hearing it for the first time, I knew it was not going to win – too dark, too ethnic – but that is exactly why I liked it so much. Jonida Maliqi’s vocal performance deserves all the praise it can get. Some of the notes may sound a little alien to western European ears, but it’s powerful, intense and highly atmospheric. Personally, I love it when Eurovision acts use their country’s folk music as the basis for their song. Especially when it’s translated to a more contemporary environment as well as this. By the way, is this the second time in a row Albania is my top pick?

Album of the Week 19-2019: Rammstein – Reise, Reise


Rammstein is probably the most popular rock band that doesn’t sing in English. And yet, they are also one of the most misunderstood bands in the world. Not alone is the at times hilarious word play in their lyrics lost on people who don’t speak German, but their music is also often perceived as much more aggressive than it actually is. Sure, subtlety was never the band’s strongest feat – something which is even more evident in their massive live shows – but albums like ‘Reise, Reise’ should not be taken at face value. There is more to this record than one might first assume.

In a way, ‘Reise, Reise’ is a logical follow-up to the band’s definitive international breakthrough album ‘Mutter’, which saw the band improving their arrangements significantly. There is still very little complexity in Rammstein’s songwriting, as two or three riffs are the norm for the band, but the productions and orchestrations became notably more sophisticated on those records. In addition, Till Lindemann’s voice really came into its own on ‘Mutter’, and his operatic vocals in particular. These are featured prominently alongside his rawer performances on ‘Reise, Reise’. Put those two together and you end up with a brutally effective album.

Also not unlike ‘Mutter’ is the fact that Rammstein kicks off ‘Reise, Reise’ with a relatively adventurous track in the shape of its title track. The riffs are massive, the chorus larger than live and the nautical theme of the song is captured perfectly by the almost symphonic quality of the arrangement. The fact that I love how the accordion, an instrument I hate with every fiber of my being, is incorporated into the apotheosis says enough. ‘Morgenstern’ employs a similar sound with a particularly dramatic chorus and some delightfully aggressive start-stop riffing, while the brilliantly constructed and particularly intense ‘Keine Lust’ is probably my favorite single of the band to date.

That may just be why ‘Reise, Reise’ is my favorite Rammstein album. It is not radically different from earlier work, the highlights are just a tad better than on every album. Especially ‘Dalai Lama’, which is probably their most flawlessly crafted song to date. The modern interpretation of Goethe’s ‘Erlkönig’ is perfectly expressed by Lindemann’s vocal delivery and Christian ‘Flake’ Lorenz’ keyboards form a perfect melodic contrast with the palm muted precision of guitarists Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul Landers. ‘Amour’ and especially ‘Ohne Dich’ are the band’s first successful attempts at honest power ballads, which makes them the perfect follow-ups to the gruesome moodswings of the excellent ‘Stein Um Stein’.

Sure, ‘Reise, Reise’ is full of simple, metallic downtuned guitar riffs and Christoph Schneider’s at times drum computer-like rhythms never go overboard on tempo and virtuosity, but the music is very clevery and carefully crafted. That was always what lifted Rammstein above their followers in the Neue Deutsche Härte scene and other types of industrial rock music. They have always made their own rules as they went along. How else could you explain something like ‘Los’, which sounds as heavy as the average Rammstein song, only acoustically? ‘Reise, Reise’ is equal amounts recognizable and experimental, which is better than what most successful bands can hope for.

Recommended tracks: ‘Dalai Lama’, ‘Keine Lust’, ‘Morgenstern’, ‘Reise, Reise’

Album of the Week 18-2019: Korol I Shut – Bunt Na Korable


Korol I Shut is widely recognized as one of Russia’s best punk bands. And yet, labelling them punk is seriously selling them short. Sure, the songs are generally short and very energetic, but Korol I Shut’s music is too experimental and melodic to be considered “just” punk. Taking their inspiration from horror punk, but replacing zombies by monsters from Slavic mythology and folklore, they took their music into every possible direction, from folky touches to borderline metal. ‘Bunt Na Korable’ is closer to the latter in its hardcore approach, but Korol I Shut refuses to give up its melodic memorability in the process.

Since Korol I Shut adopts a different approach on just about every album, their records may differ in appeal, but they are hardly effer short of interesting. ‘Bunt Na Korable’ takes two parts hardcore, two parts alternative rock, one part metal and lead guitar melodies that have a strong vibe and combines that into a admirably lumpless blend. Combined with the surprisingly theatrical vocal duo – Andrey Knyazev and the sometimes semi-gothic sounding Mikhail Gorshenyov – and some really strong riff work, ‘Bunt Na Korable’ rates as one of the band’s most consistent releases, along with its considerably more melodic follow-up ‘Prodavets Koshmarov’.

‘Hardkor Po-Russki’ serves as a bit if a mission statement for ‘Bunt Na Korable’. It’s not just the title of this opening tracks, the hard-hitting riffs and the measured aggression of Aleksandr Tsigolev’s drumming also show that this is going to be a relatively propulsive album immediately. The track that best embodies this philosophy, however, is ‘Ispoved Vampira’, which has the fastest palm-muted riffs on the record. Guitarists Aleksandr Leontyev and Yakov Tsvirkunov have an enviable precision that almost pushes the song into thrash metal territory. ‘Inkvisitor’ is even further into it and highly recommended to fans of that particular genre.

When the band goes into a more melodic direction, they are just as convincing. ‘Mest Garri’ was wisely chosen as the single for the album, as it is no less driven than the other tracks, but carried by a handful of strong, slightly melancholic melodies and the rhythms of Tsigolev and bassist Aleksandr Balunov are definitely more roomy than on the faster tracks. ‘Idol’ mixes the two approaches together, while ‘Zvonok’ is almost the Slavic forest version of Kyuss’ more straightforward songs. ‘Severny Flot’, on the other hand, is a downright excellent alternative rock track with reverberating clean guitars and massive chord and melody structures.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the issues of mislabeling a band. Korol I Shut sort of fell victim to that as well. That’s not too say that they are not a punk band at the core, but they have so much more to offer than that. Even ‘Bunt Na Korable’, that not unlike their self-titled album stays relatively close to that punk core, displays some of the most inventive songwriting I have ever heard within the context of a band whose songwriting is not all that complicated.

Recommended tracks: ‘Severny Flot’, ‘Ispoved Vampira’, ‘Mest Garri’, ‘Inkvisitor’

Album of the Week 17-2019: Black Sabbath – Mob Rules


Black Sabbath completely reinvented itself when Ozzy Osbourne left and Ronnie James Dio took over. ‘Heaven And Hell’ turned out to be one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time and made Sabbath catch up with the blossoming NWOBHM scene with class and conviction. Its follow-up ‘Mob Rules’ is often seen as more of the same. But while the album still mostly relies on the perfect blend of Sabbath’s at the time unprecedented heaviness and Dio’s more melodic hardrock sensibilities, it’s also quite a bit heavier than ‘Heaven And Hell’. ‘Mob Rules’ is an excellent album in its own right.

Looking back, it does seem like remaining original members Tony Iommi (guitar) and Geezer Butler (bass) tried to inject some more of the slow, heavy doom metal (although it was not yet known as such) that Black Sabbath was renowned for in the Ozzy-era back into their sound. Though to be fair, the arrival of new drummer Vinny Appice probably contributed to that as well, as he is a more straightforward power hitter than Bill Ward. I have once seen the album described as Iommi and Dio trying to blow each other off the record and though that description is apt, it also suggests less cohesion than actually can be heard.

‘The Sign Of The Southern Cross’ is far and away the longest and heaviest track on ‘Mob Rules’. It is built upon simple, but monstrous riffs that don’t contain a lot of notes, but wring everything out of those that are there. It also is the perfect rebuttal for the previous statement, as the band leaves plenty of room for Dio’s majestic voice in the verses. This also does wonders for the dynamics of the song. Following it, however, is ‘The Mob Rules’, which injects Sabbath’s music with the savage aggression of the punk era. In a way, ‘Mob Rules’ marries what were the best elements of past and present when the album came out in 1981.

One often heard complaint is that ‘Mob Rules’ follows the sequencing of ‘Heaven And Hell’ a little too closely, but that may originate from staunch critics of the band. Sure, ‘Turn Up The Night’ is stylistically similar to ‘Neon Knights’ – uptempo, powerful and romantic – and tracks like ‘Voodoo’ and ‘Country Girl’ reprise the loose, rocky vibe of the likes of ‘Lady Evil’, but the sound of ‘Mob Rules’ is so characteristic that nobody would mistake them for ‘Heaven And Hell’ tracks. In addition, ‘Falling Off The Edge Of The World’ and ‘Over And Over’ don’t sound like anything Black Sabbath has done before or since. The latter is an impressive doom metal ballad, unlikely as that sounds, and the former an epic heavy metal track that would not sound out of place on one of Dio’s first two albums, had it not been for the main riff that just screams Iommi.

Ultimately, ‘Mob Rules’ does in deed fall somewhat short of ‘Heaven And Hell’. The interlude ‘E5150’ is much too long, especially considering its place on the album, and ‘Slipping Away’ isn’t exactly the most inspired Black Sabbath track to date. Give it some time, however, and the album will proof it has a lot of merit on its own. Some of the songs are quite unique entries into the Black Sabbath catalog and worthy of being heard. There is simply too much good stuff on this record to be dismissed as the lesser Black Sabbath album with Dio.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Sign Of The Southern Cross’, ‘Falling Off The Edge Of The World’, ‘Turn Up The Night’

Differences on Buck-Tick’s ‘Koroshi No Shirabe: This Is Not Greatest Hits’


This is an article that exists solely because I wish I had something similar in order to find out if Buck-Tick’s first compilation ‘Koroshi No Shirabe: This Is Not Greatest Hits’ would be worth purchasing. While that may seem like an odd question for a compilation, this is not any ordinary compilation, as its title already subtly suggests. All of the songs have been reworked to varying degrees, which means that some of the songs have been altered significantly. If for whatever reason – mine were both biological and topgraphical – you are also a latecomer to the popular J-rock band, my hope is that this article will help you decide whether or not to purchase ‘Koroshi No Shirabe: This Is Not Greatest Hits’.

While I have decided not to shy away from mentioning my opinion when I feel it is warranted, my aim was to be as descriptive as possible in order to let facts rather than my opinion shape your decision. If you feel that I have not succeeded in this goal, please feel free to let me know. In case I agree, it is only little trouble to alter the article.

1. Iconoclasm

Out of all the re-arranged tracks on ‘Koroshi No Shirabe: This Is Not Greatest Hits’, ‘Iconoclasm’ is the one that most sounds like it was prepared for the strong industrial leanings of the era that followed the release. This is not only obvious from the electronic samples and noises that have been added to the beginning of the track, but also from Atsushi Sakurai’s heavily processed vocals. If anything, they sound like they have been recorded through a distorted megaphone. Personally, I think this significantly hurts the – admittedly limited – melodic qualities of the original version, but if there is one song that lends itself well for such an approach, it would be ‘Iconoclasm’. Best listened to on speakers, because it’s a little trebly and abrasive on headphones.

2. Aku No Hana

The alterations made to the justified classic ‘Aku No Hana’ are subtle enough to fool the casual listener into thinking that they were minor, but some of the changes were rather substantial. The overall sound mix is considerably brighter and more balanced than the mildly murky production of the album with the same name. While I’m not quite sure if the instruments were re-recorded or just remixed, Sakurai’s vocals went through some notable changes. Not only does his voice sound a tad deeper than on the original, some parts have been changed, like the whispers that end every other line of the verses. Overall an improvement over the original, though cutting out the vocals of the characteristic “I’m falling down” bit near the end was a bad idea.

3. Do The “I Love You”

A minute and a half longer than the original and that’s not because of an extended break or something similar. The song is substantially changed from its hyperactive, punky original incarnation into a new wave track with a more seductive groove. This version would not have sounded out of place on an INXS album. Hisashi Imai’s guitar solo remains surprisingly faithful to the original, it may actually be lifted directly from the original ‘Sexual XXXXX!’ recording. The accompanying parts are more streamlined, with especially the absence of the sudden crazy noises being notable.

4. Victims Of Love

Another track that is much longer than its previous version. Nearly twice as long in this case. For a more than significant part, this is due to its much slower tempo, which fits the dangerously seductive atmosphere Buck-Tick were going for much, much better. They would nail it completely on the ‘Climax Together’ live video recorded the same year, but this studio version is an excellent attempt as well. It is surprising to see how much Sakurai’s voice has developed in the less than four years since the original release. His somewhat deeper tone completely tosses the almost innocent quality of the original vocals out of the window, finally allowing him to make his vocal sound like they were probably intended. The abrupt ending is a bit of a downer ending though.

5. M.A.D

Easily the most recent song by the time the album was released – along with ‘Speed’ and ‘Jupiter’ – and therefore, it is kind of strange to see how much they changed it. The highly cinematic intro – think film music meets electro or maybe Enigma without choirs – made me hopeful about the outcome, but the rest of the track left me disappointed. Instead of a quirky, uncomplicated, Talking Heads-ish new wave track with some cool vocal harmonies, the re-arranged version of ‘M.A.D’ is high on electronic rhythms, sudden explosions of synth and aggressive vocals reverberating in the distance. As much as I would like to commend Buck-Tick for their creativity here, I don’t think the result is listenable enough.

6. Oriental Love Story

In its original version on ‘Seventh Heaven’, I have always thought ‘Oriental Love Story’ was promising, but also suffered from productional limitations. The new arrangement definitely improves upon that, though in a different way than I was expecting. When I saw the song was on this album, I expected Buck-Tick to further emphasize the “new romantic” atmosphere of the original and they certainly do in the first couple of minutes, but the song develops into something considerably more propulsive when the full band kicks in. Whether or not that is a good thing depends on how you prefer the song. Personally, I would not have minded a dreamy, romantic track, but the song works very well as an optimistic new wave rocker.

7. Speed

Right off the bat, the most notable change here are the sound effects carried over from the cross-fade of ‘Oriental Love Story’. That also means Imai’s lead-in measure has been sacrificed, but apart from that, the differences with the original version are quite minimal and superficial. The mix is certainly a lot brighter and it seems like Imai has added a lot of extra effects to his guitars, he may even have re-recorded his rhythm guitar in the middle section to make it sound a bit more funky. Also, some vocal textures have been added, though it is entirely possible that they were there already, they have just been made more audible in the mixing process this time around.

8. Love Me

If you don’t like Hawaiian style slide guitar work, avoid this version of ‘Love Me’ like the plague. That also counts if you found Sakurai’s vocals on the original version on the verge of being too schmaltzy, because this arrangement pushes the rest of the track into that territory as well. No longer do Imai and Hidehiko Hoshino deliver chorus laden chords that sound like a mix of late seventies punk and early gothic rock; instead the guitars are calm, shimmering and drenched in reverb. As you may have already understood, it’s also quite a bit slower than its original version. To be honest, I personally am not a big fan of either version, but if I had to choose, I would certainly go for the more energetic original.

9. Jupiter

‘Jupiter’ was an excellent ballad to begin with – Buck-Tick has quite a lot of those in their catalogue – so my guess is that they wanted to alter the track for this release just to include it. There is a lengthy Gregorian-style choir chant opening this version, but the rest of the track has just been embellished slightly. The vocal harmonies appear to have been redone, as their execution sounds better than on the original, Yutaka Higuchi added some cool, subtle fretless bass flourishes in the calmest sections and Imai reinterpreted his guitar solo. Some of the choir singers return on the background in the final chorus, but overall, ‘Jupiter’ feels like the original version with an intro tacked on.

10. …In Heaven…

On the surface, the reimagined version of ‘…In Heaven…’ does not sound that different from the version on ‘Seventh Heaven’, except for the grateful use Buck-Tick makes of the technological progress that has been made in the intervening years. New vocal textures have been added to the chorus and Imai explores the pleasures of harmonizing in the lead guitar parts, but overall, it is still pretty much the same song. And yet, it sounds so much more powerful than the already impressive original. The much clearer mix is definitely a part of the reason why. Yagami Toll’s drum especially sound massively improved in this version, but I also think Higuchi’s bass has more balls this time around. Whatever the reason, this is the definitive version of this delightful pop rocker, even though it still does not fix the awkward English. Oh well…

11. Moon Light

‘Moon Light’ more or less becomes the second part of a diptych with ‘…In Heaven…’ for this release. It kind of makes sense too; both songs have a similar upbeat “in love for the first time” vibe. In order to optimize the transition, I think ‘Moon Light’ has been adapted to fit alongside ‘…In Heaven…’ more than the other way around. The song has been slowed down slightly and the bright, clear guitar sound definitely sounds fitting to the ‘Seventh Heaven’ sound. This is still largely the same song as on ‘Hurry Up Mode’ though. The structure is largely the same and so are the melodies, though I think Sakurai has come a long way since the band’s debut album. Imai’s guitar solo on this version is beefed up and really cool here as well.

12. Just One More Kiss

If you want to appreciate what a good rhythm guitarist Hoshino is, by all means check out this version. This is something that stands out most when you listen to it on headphones and you can really make out all the subtleties of his picking hand. ‘Just One More Kiss’ on this release actually focuses slightly more on clean guitars as far as Hoshino is concerned than it did on ‘Taboo’. Apart from that, differences are relatively minor, though the shift from slightly distorted to clean might throw avid fans of the original off. Too bad that the only flaw in this furthermore more than decent song – the large amount of repetition in the last three minutes – is still there in the remake.

13. Taboo

‘Taboo’ is the reason why I considered buying ‘Koroshi No Shirabe: This Is Not Greatest Hits’ in the first place. The original is a masterful, goosebumps-inducing new wave track full of seductive grooves and vocals that really only could have been made in the eighties and – along ‘Tokyo’ – the highlight of the eponymous album. But what that song does not have is this incredible bass line courtesy of Higuchi. Here, ‘Taboo’ is completely reimagined. Whilst retaining the general melodies of the original, the guitars are much more sparse and the track is more oriented on almost jazzy grooves, though Yagami is too much of a hard hitter to go full jazz. The result: instead of one, Buck-Tick now has two utterly amazing tracks named ‘Taboo’ with the same lyrics and vocal melodies, but surprisingly little in common with the original version otherwise.

14. Hyper Love

Another track that is seamlessly connected to the previous one – Buck-Tick seemed to be in the mood for that when they sequenced the album. Not unlike ‘Victims Of Love’, the subsequent ‘Climax Together’ live recording is more powerful than the studio version, but I’m still on the fence about this one. Yes, Sakurai’s vocals are better than on the original and the chorus, while maybe a tad silly, is an improvement, but I’m a little conflicted about the choruses. They have a powerful, almost tribal feel, but they also kind of lack the mysterious menace of the original. That sounds like the album ends disappointingly for me, but admittedly, it works really well in terms of flow here.

Album of the Week 16-2019: Death Angel – Killing Season


Out of all the bands that resumed activity in the wake of Chuck Billy’s Thrash Of The Titans benefit, Death Angel is easily the most relevant today. Where most of those bands rely mostly on nostalgia, Death Angel still releases some of the most convincing and creative thrash metal around. Having said that, I do prefer the band with its original rhythm section. Original drummer Andy Galeon in particular granted a unique flavor to the band. ‘Killing Season’ was the final album for him and bassist Dennis Pepa and it is inexplicably overlooked as one of their best albums.

What makes ‘Killing Season’ so good is how little it is concerned about what style it is. Most of the record is some form of metal, but the lines between several subgenres are blurred, which is probably why thrash purists are not showering the album with the praise it deserves. In a way, it does sort of sound like the hybrid of thrash metal, traditional heavy metal and modern hardrock that Metallica has been attempting on their last two albums, with the most important difference being that it’s actually successful here. Nick Raskulinecz’ production occasionally lends the material a Foo Fighters-ish polish, without forsaking the metallic qualities of the songs.

As for the subgenre distinction, look no further than opening track ‘Lord Of Hate’. It has a thrash intensity, but with riffs that have more in common with more traditional heavy metal. It is hardly the only track on the album for which that is true. The mindtempo stomper ‘Dethroned’ and the more modern, but extremely powerful aggresion of ‘Sonic Beatdown’ are also in between genres. ‘Buried Alive’ relies on a mid-tempo gallop and some of Rob Cavestany’s most effective riff work to date, while ‘Soulless’ combines dark heavy metal with an almost Alice In Chains-ish atmosphere, most apparent in the vocal harmonies of Cavestany and frontman Mark Osegueda in the pre-chorus.

Save for the cool jazzy interlude in the otherwise full-on punk-ish anger of ‘Carnival Justice’, the more experimental material is all on the second half of the album. ‘When Worlds Collide’ and ‘Steal The Crown’ both have an almost rock ‘n’ roll-like vibe in the looseness of their rhythms, while ‘God Vs. God’ is one of those more modern metal tracks that needs a couple of spins to appreciate the brilliance of its tortured atmosphere, not unlike ‘Famine’ on the previous album ‘The Art Of Dying’. Closing track ‘Resurrection Machine’ starts out sounding like it will be the lone ballad of the album, but evolves into a dynamic heavy metal track with a gorgeous Cavestany-sung middle section. With that, ‘Killing Season’ ends on a high note.

Though ‘The Art Of Dying’ was Death Angel’s big comeback, ‘Killing Season’ is the one that proved the band was still relevant. There is a freedom to the band’s songwriting approach here that any of their other albums not titled ‘Act III’ and ‘Frolic Through The Park’ lack, albeit with much more consistency than the latter. ‘Killing Season’ also features what is probably Mark Osegueda’s finest vocal performance to date and a surprisingly natural, yet sufficiently heavy production. In an era of burnt-out seasoned bands and embarrassing acts bands, ‘Killing Season’ is all a fan of interesting thrash can wish for.

Recommended tracks: ‘Soulless’, ‘Resurrection Machine’, ‘Buried Alive’, ‘Sonic Beatdown’

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