Posts Tagged ‘ metalcore ’

Album of the Week 15-2018: Purest Of Pain – Solipsis

Melodic death metal generally seems to come in two flavors: heavy songs with ridiculously melodic choruses and At The Gates riffs with metalcore breakdowns. Anything that is neither of those is more interesting by default. Enter Purest Of Pain’s debut album ‘Solipsis’. The album has much more to offer than most of the band’s peers in terms of dynamics and atmosphere. All of these songs have rather unpredictable structures the choruses are designed as true climaxes rather than moments that take the sting out of the songs, like on so many recent works by Arch Enemy and their followers.

What really sets ‘Solipsis’ apart from other albums in the genre, however, is its overall mood. Both lyrically and musically, the album breathes an air of bitter cynicism and poorly veiled melancholy that makes it a pleasure to listen to. Due to the clever use of very strong interludes, ‘Solipsis’ plays like a concept album and as a result, has a very pleasant flow. The great deal of variation contributes to that as well. Purest Of Pain clearly does not plan to settle for a post-thrash polka and a half-time chorus for every song, which ultimately makes ‘Solipsis’ a triumph on the songwriting font.

Those who have followed the band are already familiar with ‘Momentum’, which is probably the closest thing to traditional melodeath on here. Due to inventive timing and a great use of dynamics, it is just a little different though. Furthermore, Purest Of Pain really seems to explore all the possibilities within the – admittedly limiting – boundaries of melodic death metal. On the most melodic end of the spectrum, there is the almost classic heavy metal feel of ‘E.M.D.R.’, while songs like ‘Tidebreaker’ are infused with more extreme metal sounds that really enhance the bleak atmosphere of the compositions.

One of the highlights of ‘Solipsis’ is ‘Terra Nil’, a midtempo grinder that works its way to a truly emotional chorus and a simple, but brutally effective guitar arrangement in its middle section. The threatening feel and punchy lead guitars of ‘Vessels’ also belong to the album’s strongest moments. Speaking of guitars, Merel Bechtold – also known for her involvement with Mayan and Delain – is the true revelation of the album. ‘Solipsis’ is first and foremost a guitar album, after all. Her massive, pleasantly layered guitar sound and interplay with Michael van Eck really is the main attraction of ‘Solipsis’, though Joey de Boer’s varied and intensive drumming deserves praise as well.

So there you have it, a melodic death metal album with more atmosphere and a greater amount of different rhythms than usual in the genre. Where most bands try to force variation by adding synths or oddly unfitting clean vocals, Purest Of Pain proves that the real way to make a difference in melodic death metal is to enhance your compositions rather than the arrangement. Every riff and every wide chord serves a purpose. And that is exactly what makes ‘Solipsis’ such an effective album. One that warrants multiple spins rather than going in one ear and out the other.

Recommended tracks: ‘Momentum’, ‘Terra Nil’, ‘Vessels’, ‘E.M.D.R.’


Album of the Week 17-2017: The Gazette – Dogma

The Gazette is one of the most popular Japanese rock bands even outside of their native country. Save for a couple of songs, they never appealed to me much until they released their most recent studio album ‘Dogma’. For this dark monster of an album, the goth factor in the band’s familiar alternative metal sound is turned up considerably, resulting in an immersive atmosphere that works surprisingly well alongside the downtuned riff work. Despite being recognizable as an album by The Gazette, ‘Dogma’ is – thus far – a unique entry in their discography and truly takes their sound to a new level.

People who like The Gazette less than I do are prone to dismiss them as a Dir En Grey clone. And while they share a dark aesthetic as well as a preference for the downtuned mayhem of the American nu metal scene of the mid-ninties, The Gazette has always had a sound closer to J-Rock, though on ‘Dogma’, the J-Rock sound is mainly limited to Ruki’s baritone. The electronic experiments of recent albums are still there, but less prominent in the mix. This is a good thing: while the electronics made The Gazette stand out, they feel much more like an integral part of the sound here.

‘Dogma’ definitely excels most during its more atmospheric moments. Sure, the extremely heavy riff work by Uruha and Aoi – as well as their massive, crushing guitar sound – makes for pleasant headbanging on tracks like ‘Rage’, ‘Deux’ and ‘Incubus’, but if it wasn’t for the darker material, I may have taken a pass on the album. The fittingly titled closing track ‘Ominous’ has a subdued, brooding character that doesn’t really sound like anything the band has attempted before. The transitions are a little sudden, but it works remarkably well. Its finale is excellent.

Even better is ‘Deracine’. The guitar interaction in the verses – a pronounced riff with background atmospherics – is incredible, Ruki’s vocal melodies are fantastic and its atmosphere, which at times feels like a relatively heavy J-metal band covering Killing Joke, is impossible to escape. Another highlight is ‘Wasteland’, which brings together all the extremes of The Gazette’s sound. The guitar layering is extremely tasteful and the song flows very pleasantly. ‘Lucy’ is a little more straightforward and probably would not have stood out as much on a different album, but its effective main riff and huge chorus are great. The title track serves as a perfect introduction with its dark, gothic verses.

Before ‘Dogma’, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with an album by The Gazette altogether, but the fact is that it’s a strong, well-rounded album that doesn’t easily let its listener go. It also sounds less like a band trying to emulate its American influences than some of their early works, opting for a sound of its own instead. This is a development that I can only applaud and as a result, ‘Dogma’ is definitely worth hearing if you like your music heavy, dark and atmospheric. I’ll be honest: I never knew they had it in them.

Recommended tracks: ‘Deracine’, ‘Wasteland’, ‘Ominous’

Album of the Week 15-2017: God Forbid – Earthsblood

God Forbid’s last album with their original line-up – and penultimate altogether – was the record on which they truly outdid themselves. In quite a litteral sense too. Starting out as a musically tight, but not particularly surprising metalcore band, the quintet gradually evolved into an excellent contemporary heavy metal band on ‘IV: Constitution Of Treason’. It’s that album’s follow-up, however, that is a truly unique work. Though most of the separate elements are familiar – hardcore, melodic death metal, thrash metal and progressive metal most prominently – the combination is what makes this a one of the very few modern day metal masterpieces.

So what to call the music on this album then? Well, it’s definitely modern metal in the sense that it contains downtuned guitars, significant hardcore influences and the vocal interaction between frontman Byron Davis’ harsh shouts and guitarist Dallas Coyle’s melodic cleans. ‘Earthsblood’, however, is more ambitious than what even some of God Forbid’s better peers – such as Shadows Fall – were attempting. The band’s mission here seems to be to seamlessly blend all of their influences and while history has proven that approach to often be a recipe for an incoherent disaster, it miraculously works for almost the entire playing time of the album.

Nowhere is the band’s ambition more obvious than during the more progressive moments. ‘The New Clear’, for instance, sounds like nothing God Forbid has ever done before, with its subdued vibe somewhat reminiscent of Opeth and ‘Elegy’ era Amorphis. Closing tracks ‘Earthsblood’ and ‘Gaia’ – the two longest tracks on the record – are more traditionally proggy in their dynamics, alternating between God Forbid’s trademark thick, heavy riffs and more atmospheric passages. Standout moments are the acoustic guitar sections on the former and Dallas Coyle’s mood-defining one-note vocal harmonies with himself on the latter. A final punch delivered in style.

But even the band’s more familiar heavy approach sounds great here. ‘War Of Attrition’ is probably the most typical God Forbid song on here, but more impressive are the surprisingly melodic ‘Walk Alone’ – a 21st century interpretation of traditional heavy metal – the viciously thrashy ‘Shallow’ and the strong, dark opener ‘The Rain’, which has a brilliant build-up in tension. ‘Empire Of The Gun’ has some nice dramatic twin guitar work and an incredible chorus built upon Dallas Coyle’s clean vocals as a perfect juxtaposition to the heavily stomping riffs and Davis’ hardcore barks in the verses. It could have been a successful single on alternative radio.

Ultimately, God Forbid started to fall apart after ‘Earthsblood’. Dallas Coyle left the band, that released one more somewhat underwhelming record and disbanded shortly afterward. Maybe the frustration of not being able to outdo this record may have been a part of that, but whatever the reason, some bands don’t even get to make an album this good. I feel that God Forbid is often dismissed by older metal fans as one of those bands that profited from the hype created by the likes of Lamb Of God and Killswitch Engage, but the truth is that none of those bands ever cared so little about what type of music they were supposed to make and ended up with an album as spontaneous and pleasantly surprising as ‘Earthsblood’.

Recommended tracks: ‘The New Clear’, ‘Gaia’, ‘Empire Of The Gun’