Album of the week 07-2012: Sadus – A Vision Of Misery

Interviewing Metal bassist extraordinaire Steve DiGiorgio last week made me reach back to the back catalog of his first band Sadus. And if there’s one particular album that receives a regular spin here, it’s their third album ‘A Vision Of Misery’. Of course, the viciously Thrashing hyper speed predecessors ‘Illusions’ and especially ‘Swallowed In Black’ are mind blowing Thrash albums in their own right, but this is where the Californians truly rose above the average. And not just DiGiorgio, all of them.

However, due to the slightly lower tempos on this album, I do think this is the first ever album where DiGiorgio really shines. He prove his qualities as an unconventional bass player on the previous two albums already, but what he plays here transcends any notion of what a bass player in Thrash Metal should sound like. Often taking on melodies outside of the rhythm and even when playing the supportive role, mixed in much more prominently than on any other Thrash album at the time, this is most likely the album that opened up many doors for Steve DiGiorgio. His tenure alongside my hero Chuck Schuldiner in Death to mention one.

Let’s not forget the other Sadudes though. Darren Travis and Rob Moore are a guitar duo that are probably even tighter an more precise than Slayer and Exodus were notorious for at often even higher tempos and those tempos are always expertly kept by Jon Allen, a better drummer than many much more lauded contemporaries. In addition, Travis’ vocals may sound less frenzied than on the previous efforts, but every bit as powerful and so fucking scary that it’s possibly nightmare inducing sometimes.

Although there’s only two years between ‘Swallowed In Black’ and ‘A Vision Of Misery’, the progression the band has made suggests a much longer interval. Previous efforts at slightly more progressive songs have been relatively successful, but the way the band moves into full-on progressive Thrash with ‘Facelift’, ‘Deceptive Perceptions’ and closing track ‘Echoes Of Forever’ is unbelievable. Or even the still relatively straightforward raging of opening track ‘Through The Eyes Of Greed’. The songs have stronger structures, there’s a build-up in tension that never lets your attention fade and despite every member being an expert at their instruments, the musicianship never gets in the way of the actual songs and – sometimes forgotten in technical Thrash – the hungry aggression.

For a healthy dose of variation, there are songs like ‘Valley Of Dry Bones’, ‘Machines’ and ‘Under The Knife’, which retain the level of aggression displayed on ‘Swallowed In Black’, yet in a slightly more intelligent matter. In other words, this album is sure to please the old school headbanger, but also will inspire the guy that likes the boundless viciousness of Thrash Metal, but longs for something unique and different, like yours truly does.

Despite Steve DiGiorgio’s busy schedule, Sadus is still in existence today, albeit as a trio; Rob Moore has since left the band. They continue to make quality open minded Thrash albums, but nowhere more than ‘A Vision Of Misery’ have they found a perfect balance between speed, aggression, technicality and mature songwriting. As such, ‘A Vision Of Misery’ is the ultimate proof that musically maturing doesn’t necessarily have a boring result. Now be amazed and rage!

Recommended tracks: ‘Through The Eyes Of Greed’, ‘Valley Of Dry Bones’, ‘Echoes Of Forever’, ‘Slave To Misery’, ‘Facelift’


Album of the week 06-2012: Malevolent Creation – The Ten Commandments

Death Metal for comfort. That’s what Malevolent Creation has always been to me. At least as powerful as chocolate or ice cream when love sick, better than sports when there’s too much energy I need to unleash and not as punishable by law as smashing someone’s face in when angry. Where many Death Metal bands are wasting all their effort on being as heavy as possible, the Bret Hoffman-fronted incarnations of Malevolent Creation are almost a form of extreme Thrash Metal in their unbridled aggression, not miles away from what Possessed was doing before, just much tighter and more precise.

Prior to debut album ‘The Ten Commandments’, the Buffalo-bred band moved to Florida to join the blossoming Death Metal scene which obviously influenced them. Of course, the Dan Seagrave artwork and awesome, powerful Scott Burns production that most Floridian DM bands at the time carried only add to that. But Malevolent Creation wasn’t only the sludgy gore of Obituary or the hyperspeed blasting of Morbid Angel – in fact, there are hardly any blastbeats on ‘The Ten Commandments’ – they were first and foremost the riff based thrashing of Slayer and the riff multitude of Kreator. That is the most important quality of ‘The Ten Commandments’; it’s chock full of killer Thrash riffs.

Then there’s one line that connects the dots of every Malevolent Creation album I like and his name is Bret Hoffman. Located somewhere between a traditional death grunt and a primitive Thrash bark with the occasional tortured gnarl, he is one of the very few non-clean singers that can lift a Metal song to a higher level for me. His tone on ‘The Ten Commandments’ is a little less guttural than usual, but twice as aggressive. This combined with Phil Fasciana’s punishing riffs and great guitar tone guarantees a vicious and enjoyable listening experience.

Personally, I tend to think of this album as a little more riff-based than the rest of Malevolent Creation’s output. There are relatively little guitar solos present; the almighty guitar riff is definitely what drives this album forward. All the other instruments often make place for the new guitar riffs to be introduced, but also augment them when needed. Mark Simpson’s rapidly galloping Thrash polkas in songs like ‘Injected Sufferage’ or the neck breaking namesake of the band or the way breaks are used to powerful effect in songs like ‘Remnants Of Withered Decay’, it all seems to be in service of the riffs. And no matter how fast it goes (‘Sacrificial Annihilation’ anyone?), all remains tight and precise.

While Malevolent Creation continued to release quality Death Metal albums – ‘Retribtion’, ‘The Fine Art Of Murder’, ‘Invidious Dominion’ and especially ‘Envenomed’ spring to mind – it is the Thrashing intensity of ‘The Ten Commandments’ that holds a special place in my heart. Most of the Death Metal I listen to is the thinking man’s Death Metal like Chuck Schuldiner’s downright brilliant Death, but sometimes you just don’t want to think. You just want to rage. When you do, ‘The Ten Commandments’ is just what you need.

Recommended tracks: ‘Malevolent Creation’, ‘Sacrificial Annihilation’, ‘Thou Shall Kill!’, ‘Remnants Of Shattered Decay’, ‘Injeced Sufferage’

Album of the week 05-2012: Trapeze – You Are The Music…We’re Just The Band

Besides having possibly the best album title ever, Trapeze’s third album ‘You Are The Music…We’re Just The Band’ is in many ways the perfect illustration of why I consider the glorious seventies the best musical decade ever. The way it blends British Hardrock, Soul and Funk with a dry, organic production that fits the exciting music perfectly is something that couldn’t have come out of any other decade. And no other band did this crossover with an appeal that was anywhere close as Trapeze’s.

By the time ‘You Are The Music…’ was released, Trapeze was already a road seasoned band. After slimming the band down to a trio following the debut album, the Brits released the powerful ‘Medusa’ album and did remarkably well in America, where they toured extensively. All the energy and musical togetherness made ‘You Are The Music…’ their magnum opus and though all the band members would all end up in more popular bands – guitarist Mel Galley in Whitesnake, drummer Dave Holland in Judas Priest and my favorite singer/bassist of all time Glenn Hughes in Deep Purple – a highlight, possibly even the highlight, in their individual discographies.

‘You Are The Music…’ shows the band doing what they do best in many ways. ‘Keepin’ Time’ and the title track are prime examples of British seventies Hardrock, ‘Coast To Coast’ is a brilliant soulful ballad sung expertly (of course) by Hughes, who would revisit the song many, many times during his solo carreer, ‘What Is A Woman’s Role’ shows Trapeze trying their hands at traditional Soul and ‘Way Back To The Bone’ is an irresistable vamp that is so incredibly funky, that it’s almost impossible to believe we’re dealing with white musicians here.

Looking at the individual performances of the members here, it almost seems like they’ve outdone themselves. The dynamic, dancable grooves of Dave Holland are miles away from the incredibly dull drumming he decorated Judas Priest’s eighties records with, Mel Galley is firing on all cylinders and Glenn Hughes…well…what can I say that I haven’t said before? The man is simply a brilliant, powerful singer and shows all of his strengths on this album. Just check how he switches from introspective to over the top in ‘Keepin’ Time’ or how lovingly soulful he sounds in ‘Coast To Coast’. Also, that raw tone in the chorus of title track is amazing. But let’s not forget his brilliant bass playing; the way Galley and Hughes fill the spaces they have left each other in ‘Way Back To The Bone’ is just amazing.

There’s no excuse to not listen to ‘You Are The Music…We’re Just The Band’. Even if you’re just casually into Rock, Soul and Funk, this will be an album of your liking and even in its own time, it was nowhere near as popular as it should have been. Today, fourty years later, the album has lost none of its initial appeal and Hughes must have realized that, playing many of the songs live for a special Trapeze set on his recent DVD ‘Live In Wolverhampton’. ‘You Are The Music…We’re Just The Band’ belongs in the collection of anyone who thinks he or she is in fact the music.

Recommended tracks: ‘Way Back To The Bone’, ‘What Is A Woman’s Role’, ‘Keepin’ Time’, ‘Coast To Coast’

Album of the week 04-2012: Soundgarden – Live On I-5

Chris Cornell’s solo acoustic live album – that’s a lot of adjectives to describe an album type – released earlier this week made me long for Soundgarden again. And so I put on ‘Live On I-5’ in addition to ‘Songbook’. This live album was released last year, shortly after the band’s reformation, but features recordings from the last tour before the split. And let’s face it; it’s never torture to listen to something Chris Cornell sings on. Hold on, I’m taking that back. ‘Scream’ was. This honest live document, however, is a pleasant listen.

Initially, I was slightly disappointed by some of the performances of the songs, thinking they weren’t as powerful as the studio versions. Apparently I have been brainwashed by all the overdubbed live recordings over the years. Mind you, I am not against studio overdubbing on live albums if it enhances the quality, but the true power of this album lies in its rawness. Not every note Cornell sings is pitch-perfect and the guitar interplay between Cornell and the chronically underestimated Kim Thayil has a certain looseness to it. Also, this album doesn’t have the explosive production that my favorite Soundgarden album ‘Badmotorfinger’ does have. But once I got used to all these things, it quickly became the Soundgarden album I spin most – apart from ‘Badmotorfinger’ of course.

‘Live On I-5’ comprises from performances from six different shows in the US in 1996, by far most of them recorded in Del Mar. The recordings I like best, however, are taken from a show in Oakland, including the frenzied version of ‘Jesus Christ Pose’ (just listen to Matt Cameron butchering his drum kit!) that closes the album. One of the songs was recorded outside of the US; the sped-up version of ‘Rusty Cage’ is from Vancouver. Most of the material is taken from the band’s last three albums ‘Badmotorfinger’, ‘Superunknown’ and ‘Down On The Upside’, but they cover The Beatles (a delightfully unrecognizable ‘Helter Skelter’) and The Stooges (a simply fantastic rendition of ‘Search And Destroy’) too.

The main virtue of ‘Live On I-5’ is that it reminds every listener of what a brilliant and unique band Soundgarden was. There’s a lot of variation among the material included, still it’s unmistakably Soundgarden. From the Black Sabbath sludge of my favorite song ‘Slaves & Bulldozers’ to the Punk aggression of ‘Ty Cobb’, from the effective rocking of ‘Outshined’ to the reflective mood of ‘Fell On Black Days’, often drenched in a Led Zeppelin-esque sense of limited psychedelia and a stubborn aversion against conventional time signatures and song structures, it’s still all instantly recognizable. And the finishing touch is, as always, Chris Cornell’s voice with its enormous range, expression and power.

As a side note, try and get a hold of the special 10 inch EP ‘Before The Doors’, which is basically a companion piece to ‘Live On I-5′. It contains recordings of soundchecks from the same tour, including a killer version of The Doors’ ‘Waiting For The Sun’. And if you still haven’t had enough after all of that, be sure to check out Chris Cornell’s ‘Songbook’. His acoustic version of ‘Black Hole Sun’ on that record isn’t all that different from the one included on ‘Live On I-5’.

Recommended tracks: ‘Slaves & Bulldozers’, ‘Jesus Christ Pose’, ‘Fell On Black Days’, ‘Search And Destroy’

Best of 2011: The DVD’s

As promised, I would give you a list of my favorite DVD’s released in 2011 as well. It was a lot easier for me to assemble a list of DVD’s I thoroughly enjoyed than with the albums, which is strange, considering that every album in the list deserves to be there. These DVD’s were way ahead of the pack, by which I mean that 2011 wasn’t necessarily a good year for music DVD’s, but the ones that were there are of incredible quality, starting with one in particular:

1. Orphaned Land – The Road To OR-Shalem

Orphaned Land is easily the best Metal band around these days. If you didn’t believe me yet, ‘The Road To OR-Shalem’ is the ultimate proof. Their mixture of Doom Metal, Prog Rock/Metal, traditional Middle-Eastern music and bits of Death Metal may sound difficult to replicate live, but their hypnotic brand of brilliant music translates well to the concert hall. In fact, the songs sound even better and more powerful live. Especially the songs from ‘Mabool’ have so much more power in these renditions. This DVD offers a full show in the band’s home country of Israel with stunning sound and picture quality and – for a change – bonus features that are every bit as enjoyable as the main feature. In fact, there’s a couple of extra songs from the same show in Tel Aviv, including a few with Israeli Rocker Yehuda Poliker. Brilliant, stunning and moving. Obligatory for anyone who appreciates music.

Recommended tracks: ‘Ocean Land’, ‘From Broken Vessels’, ‘Olat Ha’tamid’, ‘Sapari’, ‘The Path – Treading Through Darkness’, ‘Bakapaim’

2. Slash – Made In Stoke 24/7/11

“Oooh, which songs from Slash’s past are on here? ‘Nightrain’! Awesome! I’ll take it with me!” And that was before I even realized that the downright amazing Myles Kennedy – the first great rock singer since the Eddie Vedder/Chris Cornell generation – sung on the record and there was a whole brand of other amazing songs on the album, including those Slash recorded in his post-G’n’R era. The image and sound quality are perfect, Slash, Myles and the band are simply on fire and the setlist is nearly perfect. Also, Myles Kennedy does almost all of the songs better than the original vocalists. Reading in the booklet that this lineup will be the one that Slash will be recording his new album with made me very enthusiastic about the future. Until then, I’ll enjoy the hell out of this live release.

Recommended tracks: ‘Rocket Queen’, ‘Nightrain’, ‘Civil War’, ‘Promise’, ‘Slither’, ‘Nothing To Say’

3. Black Country Communion – Live Over Europe

One of the very few supergroups even worthy of the title, Black Country Communion creates an organic British seventies Rock sound located somewhere between Deep Purple (singer/bassist Glenn Hughes’ former band), Led Zeppelin (drummer Jason Bonham’s father’s band) and Bad Company (no relation to one of the band members). One of the reasons why this band works so well is that Hughes is the obvious leader and star of the band. His vocals and often overlooked, but top quality bass playing are all over this disc, maybe even moreso than Joe Bonamassa’s tasteful guitar work. But what’s even more important is that the songs that were written for this band are well-written and free of any form of pretention. The interviews between the songs are a bit of an annoying factor, but not so much that it ruins the watching and listening pleasure of this great Rock DVD. This group is actually super, you know?

Recommended tracks: ‘One Last Soul’, ‘The Outsider’, ‘Faithless’, ‘Cold’

4. Europe – Live! At Shepherd’s Bush, London

Anyone calling Europe a poser band, based on the big hair they had in the eighties, just doesn’t get it. Since the band’s reunion early this century, they have released three consistently good Led Zeppelin influenced Rock albums. This DVD, obviously, focuses a bit more on their newer material than the 2004 release ‘Live From The Dark’ and does well by that, because this is material worth hearing. Different from Europe’s heyday in the eighties, but still easily recognizable as Europe and at least every bit as good. In fact, for me, some of the glossy eighties hits distract from the powerful Bluesy Rockers of the now. Joey Tempest adjusted his vocals to his current range perfectly, John Norum has an amazing amount of Bluesy Soul in his guitar playing and this is obviously a band that learned to play together. Set your inhibitions aside and give this band a fair chance, you won’t regret it.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Beast’, ‘Last Look At Eden’, ‘The Getaway Plan’, ‘Start From The Dark’, ‘Scream Of Anger’

5. Bad Company – Live At Wembley

Even better than their first live DVD with Paul Rodgers, Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke reunited, ‘Live At Wembley’ shows us a band that is so experienced and comfortable with each other, that not enjoying this is no option. Lynn Sorenson from Paul Rodgers’ solo band is an excellent replacement for the amazing, but sadly deceased Boz Burrell and adding former Heart guitarist Howard Leese – also in Rodgers’ solo band – as a second guitarist is an excellent choice. Bad Company obviously does what they do best here, which is giving the audience first class Blues drenched seventies Rock. I really don’t see how Rodgers – in his early sixties – keeps improving and Kirke and Ralphs are the only right musicians for these songs. This DVD is nothing fancy, just really, really good music.

Recommended tracks: ‘Ready For Love’, ‘Bad Company’, ‘Run With The Pack’, ‘Honey Child’, ‘Seagull’

6. The Answer – 412 Days Of Rock ‘n’ Roll

One of the very few music DVD’s where the documentary is actually just as interesting as the actual live footage. They are, in fact, labelled as of equal importance as the live footage. I may have preferred one headlining show to be the main footage to the DVD, but in fact, the interesting thing is that this DVD is set up as a document of Northern Ireland’s The Answer’s year and a half of opening for AC/DC and as such, more than succeeds its purpose. Also, the video and audio quality are great, but not too polished. Exactly the way Rock ‘n’ Roll should be. And maybe the headlining DVD may come later, after their tour supporting their discography’s highlight ‘Revival’, which came out shortly after this DVD. And how many bands can say that they have had two killer releases in one year? Exactly!

Recommended tracks: ‘Too Far Gone’, ‘Demon Eyes’, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw’, ‘Tonight’

7. Loudness – World Circuit 2010

Just apart from the music… Probably it has to do with them being from Japan, but any DVD Loudness puts out (and there have been a lot of them these last few years) are of such crisp and clear picture quality that it almost devaluates any other DVD you own. Musically there’s nothing to complain about either. On the first DVD especially. As always lead by guitar wizard Akira Takasaki, the band rips through a number of killer renditions of classic Loudness tracks and more recent headbangers. New drummer Masayuki Suzuki is mind blowing as well, no disrespect to the late Munetaka Higuchi. Just check out how he blasts into ‘King Of Pain’ from the drum solo. Simply amazing. Due to health reasons, I had to miss out on them during the European tour represented by two shows on the second DVD, but if I ever get the chance to see them again, I will. This is quality Metal and the best thing to ever come out of Japan since Mega Man X.

Recommended tracks: ‘In The Mirror’, ‘Hit The Rails’, ‘King Of Pain’, ‘Esper’

8. Mastodon – Live At The Aragon

The entire ‘Crack The Skye’ album played live, what’s not to like? Well, maybe the vocals, because they definitely aren’t up to par with the studio renditions of the songs (especially Brent Hinds’ could have been better), but the sheer quality of the music from Mastodon’s magnum opus makes up for a lot. They pull of the richly complex and layered psychedelia of their masterpiece with such ease that it seems almost impossible that this is only played by five guys; the band members and guest keyboard player Derek Mitchka. The psychedelic visuals displayed on stage truly enhance what you hear and you can even see them separately as a bonus feature. Also, check out the amazing twelve string fretwork of Hinds on some of the songs. And – I can’t emphasize this enough – Brann Dailor is probably the best Rock/Metal drummer in the world today and his performance on this DVD is once again proving that.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Last Baron’, ‘The Czar’, ‘Crack The Skye’, ‘Where Strides The Behemoth’

9. Billy Joel – Live At Shea Stadium: The Concert

Billy Joel’s piano playing and songwriting are something I will always have a weak spot for. Even though his vocal range is decreasing now he’s in his sixties, he still manages to put on quite a show. No matter what kind of music he tries his hand at or what size the venues are he does it at, he does it with a Rock ‘n’ Roll charisma. Even when it’s ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’. This closing ceremony of the New York Mets’ Shea Stadium is put to tape in an incredibly fine matter. Especially interesting are the guest appearances by Tony Bennett and Paul McCartney – whose Beatles played the first concert ever at Shea Stadium. Joel and his stellar backing band deliver some great renditions of his hits and a few nice covers. At the Pasman residence, this was one of the few acquisitions of last year that was there to enjoy for the whole family and it makes sense, being the versatile musical party that it is.

Recommended tracks: ‘The River Of Dreams /Hard Day’s Night’, ‘New York State Of Mind’, ‘My Life’, ‘Allentown’, ‘Piano Man’, ‘The Ballad Of Billy The Kid’

10. Foreigner – Rockin’ At The Ryman

Ladies and gentlemen: Kelly Hansen. Those could be the only two words needed to describe why you need to see and hear this. Many old school Foreigner fans are complaining about the absence of original singer Lou Gramm in this reunion lineup (which maybe isn’t a strict reunion, figuring that guitarist Mick Jones is the sole original member), but two things: Gramm’s range isn’t anywhere near what it used to be and Hansen is the front man he never was. And his voice has a warmth that just hits me. In addition, the rest of this Foreigner lineup is professionally representing these timeless Rock songs. Their professionality does however sacrifice a little spontaneous energy, with only Hansen and especially bassist Jeff Pilson being exceptions to that rule. An awesome setlist and a few bonus tracks they hardly play live (‘Night Life’!) make up for that. The quality production does the rest.

Recommended tracks: ‘Double Vision’, ‘Urgent’, ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’, ‘Cold As Ice’, ‘Blue Morning, Blue Day’

11. Iced Earth – Festivals Of The Wicked

As the connection between Iced Earth and myself goes way back, I still follow everything they do, despite them having had an offensively mediocre decade behind them. Last year worked out pretty well for them, however, as ‘Dystopia’, the first product released with new singer Stu Block, was an amazing album and ‘Festivals Of The Wicked’, the last product with Matt Barlow, was the first great product in ten years. This DVD features three festival appearances (Metalcamp 2008, Rock Hard 2008 and Wacken 2007, the latter featuring Tim Owens on a bad day on vocals), all in the superb quality that Roax Media always stands for. The Metalcamp performance stands out, also by the way it looks, it’s almost a cinematographical highlight among concert registrations. Matt Barlow is divine during these shows and the most stable lineup they had in years (with guitarist Troy Seele, drummer Brent Smedley and bassist Freddie Vidales on band leader and king of US Power Metal rhythm guitar Jon Schaffer’s side) just rocks. That makes ‘Festivals Of The Wicked’ the ideal goodbye for Barlow, despite all the double inclusions. Now all we need is a DVD with Stu Block fronting.

Recommended tracks: ‘Dracula’, ‘The Coming Curse’, ‘Travel In Stygian’, ‘My Own Savior’, ‘A Question Of Heaven’

12. Hypocrisy – Hell Over Sofia

Cool Death Metal DVD! Hypocrisy released a DVD recorded at Wacken over a decade ago, but ‘Hell Over Sofia’ owns that DVD in every aspect. Of course, we’ve come a long way technically since then; the sound is awesome and the picture is beautifully colored, but it also has to do with Hypocrisy’s DVD. With two of the best albums they released behind them (‘Virus’ and ‘A Taste Of Extreme Divinity’), the band is at the top of powerfully stomping Death Metal again. Maybe it has to do with Peter Tägtgren having Pain as an outlet for his more experimental stuff nowadays, I don’t know. Fact is that Hypocrisy played an amazing show for a grateful crowd in Sofia and they’re not ashamed to show it. Neither should they. The documentary included is surprisingly entertaining as well. It’s good to see Hypocrisy doing what they’re good at again. By the way, Hieronymus Bosch called, he wanted his painting back.

Recommended tracks: ‘Warpath’, ‘Roswell 47’, ‘Apocalypse’, ‘Valley Of The Damned’, ‘Eraser’

Album of the Week 03-2012: Anneke van Giersbergen – Everything Is Changing

Speechless was I when I heard Anneke van Giersbergen and her new backing band play her new album ‘Everything Is Changing’ at Amsterdam’s Melkweg yesterday. Not only is Anneke as amazing as she ever was, the songs prove that ‘Everything Is Changing’ is the best Arena Rock album since the mid-nineties. Once again, the best singer in Holland (and possibly in the whole world, maybe with the exception of Aretha Franklin) reinvented herself. The album is a new highlight in her already stainless discography.

For ‘Everything Is Changing’, Anneke worked with Portuguese producer Daniel Cardoso, who is apparently a big fan of what Anneke did during The Gathering’s ‘How To Measure A Planet?’/’if_then_else’ era. Coincidentally, so am I. That doesn’t, however, mean that the duo copied that particular sound, but it seems like they’ve taken that basis and injected it with some healthy shots of Arena Rock, Electro-Goth and upbeat Pop music. The result is a bombastic, catchy, danceable and melodic cocktail that is in turns romantic, dark and life-affirming.

Some songs are bound to bring back the Gathering-fans that gave up on Anneke with her Pop and singer/songwriter detour on this album’s predecessor ‘In Your Room’, which was a marvellous album in its own right. Funnily enough, those songs are all located on the second half of the album, which is a sign that the production duo isn’t keen on taking the safe and easy road. And why would they? Their collaboration has proven fruitful, as the enormous amount of variation on the album is overwhelming.

Opening track ‘Feel Alive’ serves as a perfect transition between the “smaller” sounding singer/songwriter approach of ‘In Your Room’ and this album’s big production. Also, the positive mood set with the song just makes you want to hear the rest of the album. Anneke gets plenty of room to shine in the beautiful ballads ‘Circles’ and ‘Everything Is Changing’, there’s a larger than life sense of Arena Rock in ‘You Want To Be Free’ and ‘Hope, Pray, Dance, Play’, the pounding riffs of ‘Stay’ and ‘Too Late’ and the uptempo Rock sound of ‘Too Late’ are somewhat reminders of Anneke’s harder rocking early days, ‘I Wake Up’ takes the late eighties Goth-Pop to the 21st century and the beautiful closing track ‘1000 Miles Away From You’ brings all of the sounds on the album together.

Daniel Cardoso’s main responsibility on this album seem to be the huge sounding production and mixing up the real drums of Anneke’s husband Rob Snijders with electronic beats, a combination I am usually no fan of, but which works remarkably well here. Also, this album is so multi-layered that the bombast doesn’t wear off like with many of the pompous over-produced efforts that litter radio nowadays. Also, Cardoso’s keyboard parts are remarkably tasteful and well-placed.

And of course, Anneke’s vocals are as divine as ever. It’s hard to find someone with such perfect pitch control and – if you don’t want to get technical – such a moving tone as her. Plus, it’s only commendable if someone refuses to stand still and keeps developing. It’s given us another unbelievable album with her vocals on it. And guess what? They can pull this huge thing off live as well! Go and have a look the forthcoming months if you don’t believe me.

Recommended tracks: ‘You Want To Be Free’, ‘Stay’, ‘Hope, Pray, Dance, Play’, ‘Slow Me Down’, ‘Take Me Home’

Album of the Week 02-2012: Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones

A dark masterpiece. That’s what Celtic Frost’s swan song ‘Monotheist’ was. Despite liking their music, I was never an outspoken fan of the Swiss legends, but that record made me one. The slow, moody and pitch black dirges on that record were unlike anything I had ever heard before and while it took some time to grow on me, I wished them to continue this road forever once it did. Sadly, a dispute between Thomas Gabriel Fischer and the rest of the band effectively ended Celtic Frost. Fischer, however, quickly formed a new band called Triptykon and released yet another bleak and dark piece of art.

‘Eparistera Daimones’ is bookended by two monstrous tracks of monumental length. ‘Goetia’ (eleven minutes exactly) opens the album where ‘Monotheist’ left off: a long, moody intro builds into a Doom song in which midtempo passages and slow, hypnotizing parts go hand in hand to create the ideal overture to this soundtrack to human despair that won’t show any signs of hope for the hour that’s left after this song.

Almost a third of that hour is taken up by closing track ‘The Prolonging’, which Fischer had written out of his frustration about the demise of his former band. Remarkably, the extended piece doesn’t actually feel like it lasts almost twenty minutes. This song is the perfect example of the almost – for lack of a better term – meta-musical approach of Triptykon, with its long spaces between the notes they play and the guitar feedback that is used to its full atmospheric effect. Though the entire song is overwhelming and amazing, there are two climaxes around which the song seems to be built. First, there is the triumphant “as you perish, I shall live” passage around the nine minute mark and the part right before the extended feedback that closes the song, where the guitars of Fischer and V. Santura create such an intense, powerful layer of harmony and atmosphere, one can’t help succumbing to the atmosphere.

However, there is much more to enjoy than just those two lengthy tracks. ‘Descendant’ sounds closest to conventional Metal with one of the albums few solo sections near the end of the song, ‘Abyss Within My Soul’ – still near ten minutes longs – is a powerful Doom track and ‘A Thousand Lies’ is Fischer’s anger about Celtic Frost’s demise channeled into an aggressive song. On the more experimental side of the album, there’s the fully ambient mood setter ‘Shrine’, the ice cold, keyboards and electronics-led ‘My Pain’ and the slow, brooding epic ‘In Shrouds Decayed’, which seems to work towards a climax that doesn’t come…brilliantly.

Fischer and Santura – who also played with Celtic Frost on their last tour – have found themselves the perfect rhythm section for their unique sound. Norman Lonhard knows exactly when he has to play and when not and when he does, his powerful pounding gives the music exactly the correct amount of driving force. Vanja Slajh is slightly less noticable, because she plays bass with distortion and the guitars are already tuned frighteningly low, but she complements the music perfectly.

Often labelled a Metal record, but equally Avant-Garde (much more so than ‘Into The Pandomonium’), Goth and Ambient, Triptykon’s debut album should appeal to fans of all those genres. ‘Eparistera Daimones’ works best when listened to completely in the dark on headphones. The atmosphere of the music is guaranteed to take you away. Yours truly isn’t responsible for possible nightmares or insomnia, but trust me: it’s worth it.

Recommended tracks: ‘Goetia’, ‘The Prolonging’, ‘Descendant’, ‘Abyss Within My Soul’, ‘In Shrouds Dacayed’