Category: Reviews

Megadeth – Dystopia

“A Post-Super Collider World”

I was pretty certain that I would not listen to “Dystopia”, or even review it for that matter after the trainwreck that was “Super Collider”. I didn’t even care about the new line-up changes. However, when I saw a wide range of people greeting this album with open arms and flattering words, I decided to take a look. I’ve even heard some people calling this album the best since “Rust in Peace”. I can spoil that for you right away. It’s not. But it is still a pretty solid outing.

Before I even get to the album itself, I want to criticise the wide selection of editions there are of this album. The standard edition of this album features 11 tracks, but when you combine all the editions there is a total of 15 tracks. There’s the standard edition, iTunes, Best Buy, Spotify, Japanese and a limited edition. I don’t think that an approach like that is consumer friendly in any way, and it’s not like there is a big label dictating all of this, as it is released through Mustaine’s own label, Tradecraft. I’m not in favour business-models like this, and I never will be. All of this will of course not count in my rating of this album, but I will be accounting all 15 tracks into it.

“Dystopia” is a move far, far away from what both “Th1rt3en” and “Super Collider” was. This time we see a return to the more thrashy and heavy roots of Megadeth. Of course an artist should explore the ways they want to and not be subjugated to what fans want. Some bands are really good at making diverse albums, but when a band’s main songwriter is just one guy, like in Megadeth, it can hit and miss. I definitely don’t belong to the group of people who thinks that Megadeth only writes good albums if it is thrash albums. “Youthanasia” is among my favourites. With this new album we’re offered a very well produced album and some solid songs, but a lot of them goes into one ear and out the other. One song that definitely does catch on is the title-track, Dystopia. A very well composed mid-paced song with great melodic elements that you will hear from the beginning. It also features some great solos on top of that, which you also will encounter on the album opener, The Threat is Real. From around the middle of the title-track and until the end it is instrumental with riffs, and solos between Mustaine and Kiko Loureiro and also harmonies. That specific structure and feel does remind me a bit of Hangar 18. The more I listen to the title-track the better it gets, and it is one of the best composed songs Megadeth have released in years. It is without a doubt the absolute shining highlight of this album. Another track from “Dystopia” that gives me somewhat of a “Rust in Peace”-vibe, and that is Conquer and Die, the instrumental of this album. When it breaks into the electric guitar section, I just think back to their 1990 album. But that being said, do not expect a part two of “Rust in Peace”, because that will never happen. My apologies if I erected an excitement boner. All of the nods towards the album is, however, a pleasant listen.

The production on this album is really, really good. The guitars in particular sounds perfect for a Megadeth album, they sound just the way they should. The bass is right beneath the guitars adding a certain heavy feel to the thrash and that is without a doubt a good thing. In spite of this, I do definitely have a problem with a certain aspect of the production: the vocals. Mustaine’s vocals have never been known for a ton of range. He has definitely lost some and that is clear to hear on this record. And that ties in with the production. The vocals on “Dystopia” rarely sounds clear. Sometimes there is some kind of effect on Dave’s vocals, and at other times it sounds like he recorded the same line twice, but at a different pitches to give it more of a punch. But it does not really work for me. If you listen to Look Who’s Talking, in the beginning of the song Dave uses his normal talking snarling voice. But as soon as the song breaks into verse, it just sounds different. This can also be heard on Lying in State where it starts out with the altered vocal but in the middle he shifts to the before mentioned talking snarling voice, and the effect is gone. And on The Emperor you can hear it with the first line of the song, “Who do you think you are?“. When he stretches out “are“, I can’t help but cringe. All of this is apparent throughout the entire record and it hampers a lot of my enjoyment of this album. The Threat is Real, Dystopia, Poisonous Shadows and Conquer or Die. Those are the songs I enjoy the most from this album, and they are all on the standard edition. I don’t feel like any of the bonus tracks really add that much to the rest of the album.

I do not think that “Dystopia” is as good as “Endgame”, and that comes down to the songwriting and the vocals. That does not mean that there is nothing worthwhile on this album because there certainly is. There is a lot of great solos and interesting riffs, but overall it is does not feature as many memorable tracks as “Endgame” did. Please don’t encourage the shoddy business model for this album and just get one edition. Before this album I had written this band completely off, but this new album, and this new line-up has rejuvenated my interest in Megadeth. “Dystopia” starts off really strong and it can make you extremely ecstatic, but as it goes on it starts to dwindle.  However, this is an album that a wide range of Megadeth fans can enjoy. It stands on its own, and I am looking forward to see this line-up reach its full potential on upcoming albums.

Rating – 7 out of 10

Steel Inferno – Aesthetics of Decay

“Defenders of the Faith”

Steel Inferno are finally ready with their debut album “Aesthetics of Decay”. Inspired by old school speed- and heavy metal, this female fronted metal band first released a demo in 2014 which I was really fond of. Since then, the band has released a single (which does not appear on this record), and they were eventually picked up by Infernö Records who put out this debut full-length.

From the get-go of this record, Steel Inferno cements that they are quite a unique band. And it’s not because they have a female singer. But they retained the tone of the guitars they had on the demo which, at least to my ears is easy to recognize. And in these days that is quite rare. It is distinguishable, and the title-track is a prime example to showcase just that. Throughout the record you’ll be presented with plenty of speed metal but also some more mid-paced stuff. And that’s where the production becomes interesting to talk about. They’ve really built upon the base they set with their demo, and the instruments sound better than ever. The guitars have that delightful crisp tone that sounds great for the speed metal moments but also the slower parts, and together with the bass it retains an incredibly heavy feel from start until finish. If we take hold of the title-track once more it’s also worth noting the solos and the sound they’ve got, it sounds like they have come straight from the 80s. The drums are also sounding great with a primal punch to everything and not just the snare and bass drums. However, one thing they unfortunately did not keep from the demo was the mix. Vocalist Karen is too low in the mix so from time to time she is almost drowned out, and that is a shame because her voice was so incredibly powerful on the demo. The first thing that came to my mind when I heard that demo was that she reminded me of Nicole Lee from Znöwhite.

When you go from a short release, like a demo or an EP, to a full-length you also have to bring the goods, and Steel Inferno does that for the most part on “Aesthetics of Decay”. The first half of the album is without a doubt the strongest, but a track like The Civil Serpent feels a bit odd due to Karen taking the back seat and guitarist, Lars providing lead vocals. The track itself is more thrash than anything, and it is actually a good composition. But the vocals drags the song down as they could’ve appeared on any generic thrash revival record with a shouting vocalist. I definitely think Karen should’ve provided vocals for it because even though it is one of the faster tracks, the next track on the record, Merciful Slayer, shows that she is more than able for such tracks with her at times ferocious style. The track just mentioned is a re-recording from the demo and it fits in well but I would’ve liked to see one or two more tracks from the demo. “Aesthetics of Decay” will be the first introduction to Steel Inferno for many and therefore I think it’s a shame, and a missed opportunity that a track like Red Sabbath was not included on this release. I can also understand why a band wouldn’t want to re-record a lot of demo tracks and instead bring more new material to the table. However, I don’t feel like the last couple of tracks on “Aesthetics of Decay” holds up as well as some of the demo tracks and the “Arcade Warrior” single. With that being said, there is still plenty of good stuff to pick from this debut album like Aesthetics of Decay, the Judas Priest-esque Defender of the Old Way. Infernal Steel Brigade with its catchy chanting of the title and the marvellous solo. Merciful Slayer which is still a great and powerful track. Dismantling Fixed Positions which is well composed throughout, especially with the solo section and the build-up towards the chorus at the end.

Steel Inferno are defenders of the faith, or defenders of the old way if you will. But you’re not offered a replica of bands like Acid and Znöwhite and other female fronted bands from the times of yore. Instead you get a band that clearly inspired by the old school and they take those influences and combine it with their own sound. And if you are into speed metal/heavy metal in general, I would highly recommend that you check out this record. Whilst you might not think Steel Inferno is groundbreaking, it is so refreshing to hear a band that stands out with its own identity. “Aesthetics of Decay” is a really solid album with some excellent compositions, although towards the end it loses its momentum. The production is really good but the mix is a definite blow to the songs and it makes them lack that certain punch which was on the demo. Steel Inferno definitely seems to be onto something great and I am looking forward to their magnum opus.

Rating – 7.9 out of 10

Bandemonic – Chains

“I’m Here to Make You Remember…”

Greece is really gearing up with metal bands, and one of the latest bands to make an appearance is Bandemonic. They’re a heavy metal band from the city of Ioannina and they have made their first impact with “Chains” which features songs from their 2010 demo plus two new tracks. And you are in for a treat!

I really hope this EP is an example of the way the band will continue in the years to come. It is a trip back to the ’80s as soon as you put on The Seeker, that song is easily the most catchy one on the album together with Nightmare, and that actually leads me onto the album itself. As I already said, it is a trip back the ’80s and that is clear as soon as the thunder clears from the short intro in The Seeker and continues into the title track. Though it is modern times we live in, the EP’s production is not clumsy or overproduced in any way. George Manthos’ vocals are brilliant and fits the music perfectly, from the ballads to the up-tempo songs his vocals, the music, the production is like a puzzle that has been perfectly assembled.

Though this is a six track album there is actually two ballads on the album in the likes of Don’t Regret… Just Regret which actually a beautiful song. The other ballad is Sail to Heaven, and the song that comes after that is Hunting Illusions, which also starts out with a ballad feel to it. On my first listen that was a lot to take in, as the EP is not that long I thought it was a lot of ballads to pack in one EP. But Hunting Illusions breaks into a heavy metal double pedal drumming menace in the halfway through the track, and that was just what I needed!

What really sprung into my eyes was the cover and the logo. Now that it is the centre of attention, the cover actually describes the album pretty good. On one half we got the ballads and on the other half the… non-ballads. I’ve been using that word a lot already in this review but make no mistake. The other songs on the album “makes up” for it. Personally I don’t mind the ballads, it is all about being in the right mood. However songs like Nightmare, The Seeker and Chains is bound to get you in a old school metal mood, and they will not let you down.

Roll the dice, don’t be afraid!

So how to sum up this experience? For some I guess it will be a 50-50 album since there is the slower songs and the heavy metal frenzy. But all the songs fit each other well, so it is far from a dull experience. Personally I don’t adventure much into heavy metal, I usually keep to some sub-genres. I guess that it what makes Bandemonic so refreshing, together with the quality of this release of course. To be honest I cannot wait to see what the future holds for this band and their next releases. And I must admit this band has together with War Device opened my eyes for the Greek metal scene, and I sure as hell will keep my eyes on it! So if you want a quality piece of heavy metal with excellent sound and a great vocalist, then get your hands on “Chains”!

Rating – 8.3 out of 10

(Originally published on September 19th, 2013.)

Iron Spell – Heavy Metal Witchcraft

“A Chilean Revelation”

Iron Spell is a brand new heavy metal band from Chile. Yeah, I said Chile. Personally I don’t got any experiences with bands from that country, other than every time I see a new band from Chile it’s most often black or death metal bands. “Heavy Metal Witchcraft” is the band’s debut release and it has been released as a demo for some reason.

Why do I say “for some reason”? Because the quality of the material is pretty good, and it sounds more like an EP than a demo. However, it’s just that trend that keeps on living, release it as a demo so you can put it on tape and be old school. When you first look at the band, from their band photo to the demo cover and production, everything is just high quality. Their band photo hasn’t just been taking at the nearest scrapyard, but in front of some spotlights with a pretty good camera. Together with the quality of this release it is clear to me that Iron Spell is a band that wants to go places and achieve something. But does this demo live up to that?

I would say yes, to a certain point. After all the demo only contains four tracks that spins for 15 minutes, so don’t expect a masterpiece. But as mentioned, this is high quality old school heavy metal. When the title track kicks off, to me it sounded like something Enforcer could have written. Together with the track Revelation, those two are my favourites, but you should go through the demo anyway, because it only lasts for 15 minutes. However the end of Revelation really bothers me because of the very rapid fadeout, which the track definitely doesn’t deserve. That is actually the only production grief I got when it comes to the demo. And just take a quick scope at the cover. A woman in leather, spikes and bullet belt. I’m pleased!

This release sounds great, and you’re not missing out on any of the instruments, nothing is drowned out. The vocals are not really distinctive, but they’re not bad either as they fit the music. Sometimes there’s a backing vocal with a more high pitched vocal, but whether that is the voice of lead singer, Merciless or another member, I do not know. About the Enforcer comparison, don’t expect a Chilean version of Enforcer. Iron Spell leans more towards traditional heavy metal than speed metal. That being said, this is a really solid piece of material, and it will probably pave way for the band! If you like traditional heavy metal, then you gotta check out Iron Spell, and keep your eyes on them in the future, it definitely smells like something big is cooking in Chile!

Rating – 8.2 out of 10

(Originally published on March 1st, 2014.)

Nuclear Terror – Contaminated Salvation

“Contaminated Terror”

Nuclear Terror is a thrash metal band from Greece that has been around since 2009, but their first material to hit the streets is this EP, released in 2014.

The EP starts out with an instrumental intro, which is not named “Intro”, praise the heavens for that. Besides that, there is not much to say about Dawn of Extinction (the name of the intro), it’s basically just a kind of melodic introduction that fades out. It breaks into the first track Nuclear Warfare, which is an okay track, but the vocals are mixed way too low and are drowned out by the music. However, it seems that in some of the other tracks the vocals are mixed a bit higher, and that only adds to my confusion regarding what the hell was going on, when the EP was done. Musically the sound is pretty good, I like the general sound of “Contaminated Salvation” and the instruments. Guitars got a nice bone-gnawing sound and the bass is audible. The drums also sound pretty good but I would probably had turned up the snare a bit more.

There is some interesting riffing and various parts on the album that definitely have potential. However, the mixing is not the only thing that works against the vocals. Another problem is the vocals themselves. They don’t quite fit the music somehow, even though there’s not really anything distinctive about them. I would love to have heard the material with the vocals sounding different, as the vocals is really the only problem that holds the release back from really cutting through. When it comes to the lyrics it’s not really that diverse, but pretty typical for a thrash release as the themes are nuclear war, killing and thrashing. I never really hand out highlights from EPs as they got a short running time, so just power on through this bad boy. It’s only 18 minutes.

“Contaminated Salvation” is a solid debut release from a thriving Greek underground scene, which has already spawned great bands like War Device and Bandemonic. I hope Nuclear Terror can rise up to the challenge and overcome the problems that this EP have and get a solid debut album rolled out on the streets.

Rating – 7.3 out of 10

(Originally published on February 9th, 2014.)

Saxon – Sacrifice

“Wheels of Repetition”

I guess it is not really a surprise that Saxon already got a new album thrown out into the streets, as they more or less have been keeping this 2 year span between each album for quite some time. Is that a good thing that we keep having all this brand new material or is it a bad thing…?

The album contains the usual ingredients that you would find on a Saxon album. Good production, solid band performance and the usual topics you would expect from Saxon. Biff’s voice is still going strong, and I do not doubt he will be able to perform on a high level for a couple of years in the future, though he has reached into his sixties. Through the first two or three listens the album doesn’t really offer much but then it grows on you a bit, and that is pretty much how it goes with a lot of Saxon albums post their “glory days”. I was however from the looks of the cover hoping that the Aztec theme would shine through and bring some diversity into their discography. Since that is not the case you can always hope for some new smashers, which there of course is. But besides that, it is actually not that different from previous albums. Some fillers and decent songs and then some tracks you can add to your Saxon play list. Other than that, there is really not that much to blow up about this album, as it has been done countless times before by the band.

“Sacrifice” also offers us five re-recorded songs. Just Let Me Rock, Forever Free, Crusader, Frozen Rainbow and Requiem (We Will Remember). The orchestral version of Crusader is decent. Sometimes the orchestra is a little misplaced and doesn’t quite fit the rest of the music. But it isn’t really as orchestral oriented as it could be, but without hesitation I would always listen to the original. Adding these re-recordings definitely was a wise choice, at least for my taste. I love some re-recordings, of course the band already released “Heavy Metal Thunder” in 2002, which only featured such tracks. The two standards Just Let Me Rock and Forever Free are funny enough fresh takes as well. Though Just Let Me Rock never really got through to me and is rather forgettable, and that goes for both the original and new version. Forever Free however is a really solid take on an already good song and is easily a re-recording I would play some more in the future!

Normally I don’t really want to listen to acoustic versions of tracks, I can’t really come with any explanation. I just can’t see the use in some way… But the first version Requiem (We Will Remember) which have been cut down in length which suits the song a lot, is actually pretty good. As the song already was a kind of a ballad but maybe a little to long in duration, this acoustic version serves the track a lot of justice and it definitely something I will listen to again! Now, Frozen Rainbow is one of my favourite songs by the band so I really feared for this song’s awesomeness in acoustic “mode”. But… They actually didn’t ruin it. As the previous song, it has been cut down in length, not that much though. It is nice and calm, and originally it also had a ballad feel to it. I really applaud Saxon on those acoustic songs. It really shows the skills of the band that they can “transform” some old tracks like that and not making them doll. It’s like they have gotten and overdose of breath mints. Totally fucking fresh. Now I got two versions of one of my favourite Saxon songs. Perfect! Normally I don’t do track by track reviews but to me it just seemed like something good to do, for old and even new fans so you know about the quality of these new recordings. If you of course care about re-recordings, and if not… Oh well!

From the core of the track list with means the ten new tracks I would highlight Sacrifice, Made in Belfast and Guardians of the Tomb. It is not much but they are the only tracks that really stand out, but if you want to make the three track span a little bigger then get the versions with the re-recordings of Requiem (We Will Remember), Frozen Rainbow and Forever Free.

Instead of dishing up with these albums within a 2 year span I think they should take some more time off to write better material. A real fucking smasher, which the band really need, to get some more success which they deserve. Personally I prefer Saxon over Iron Maiden, but that is just me. Saxon have so many hidden gems, you just got to find them. But I really think they deserve a real breakthrough, it almost makes me sad that they are so under appreciated. So when reflecting, “Sacrifice” doesn’t really add anything new to the table that the band haven’t already released. However it was a nice surprise with the acoustic versions of some old songs, maybe they should incorporate acoustic songs more on their albums, because they really got a nose for it!  It is not a bad album but not a great one either, just a decent performance, though some of the re-recordings really pulled this album up in rating.

Rating – 7.5 out of 10

(Originally published on March 8th, 2013.)

Nuclear Assault – Pounder

“A Pounding Final Assault”

I have actually never been a big fan of Nuclear Assault. Maybe because the first thing I ever heard was the track Hang the Pope which I still think is a horrible track, and that consequently held me from exploring the band. However after the EP was announced and I heard some more of their music, I was intrigued to really explore the band. Nonetheless, this mini-album was a positive surprise and I even managed to catch the band on tour, performing a great concert!

This little EP is kicked off by the title-track which is a fine little nod to the old days and how thrash metal has survived throughout the years. Overall, it is a nice opener and sets a good mood for the short amount of time this record lasts for. Lies is lyrically something you could’ve seen back in the ’80s as well, as you’re supposed to open your eyes and see beyond the so called lies. Musically it is the track I favour the least on this EP, as it’s not as interesting or well composed as the other songs. The last two tracks are actually my favourites. Analog Man in a Digital World features a really catchy chorus which could work great live is the crowd is familiar with the track. The lyrics are mostly spot on for me personally with passages like “Nifty little gadget you’ve got running your world, tell me when’s the last time that you spoke to a girl?“. But contrary to another part of the lyrics, I must admit I love myself a good amount of gaming whether online or not. A bit of Duke Nukem 3D never hurt anybody. At first glance, the last track’s title led my thoughts towards Cutting Crew’s classic, but of course the two tracks are two different things. Anyway. Died in Your Arms definitely stands out from the rest of the EP with its more melancholic and gloomy feel, both in music and lyrics. On that track those two aspects definitely support each other greatly, and is also why I would say it is the best track off “Pounder”.

Production-wise it sounds like you’ve been invited into Nuclear Assault’s rehearsal room, you’ve taken a seat on the couch with a cold one, and then just enjoy the show. The analogue vs. digital thing definitely shines through on the production, which is not a coincidence. It doesn’t sounds as good as past offerings from the band’s heydays. For one, I think the snare could’ve been nurtured a bit more. John Connelly’s vocals sounds really good and is not even close to being a point-of-complaint from me. To give you a quick overlook, “Pounder” is definitely better than “Third World Genocide”, but I wouldn’t say that it is on-par with for example, “The Plague”. It is a solid last offering where it would’ve been nice with some more material, but maybe it is a case of “less is more”. Hardcore fans can enjoy it and so can newer fans.

Rating – 7.5 out of 10

(Originally published on October 8th, 2015.)