Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review: Carcass - Surgical Steel

Carcass - Surgical Steel- rating: 4 out of 5 mutilated and eviscerated corpses Even though it's a few weeks out, I decided to post this review because its still a relevant album that was recently released. And what album is this? Carcass's long awaited new album, Surgical Steel. When news of an official Carcass reunion album were announced, mouths were agape and heads were ready to bang. It had been five years since official reunion, but questions remained about whether or not there would be any attempt from the band to put themselves fully on the map again with a new album. There were also the questions about what the musical content would be, would it be a return to the classic grind of the first three albums, or would it be more in line with the later more melodic strains of 1993's Heartwork? We all got the answer in mid September, when the band released their first album since 1996's Swansong. The album is (likely) a comeback album far more than say, the new Queensryche, as Carcass really seems to have made an effort to recall their glory days but with some new twists and turns as well. It is almost a missing link between Heartwork and Swansong, though with a few nods to previous albums such as 1991's Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious. It starts out with the harmony laden instrumental intro "1985" and quickly picks up pace with "Thrasher's Abbatoir", a fast paced song whose lyrics almost read as a more literate version of a typical 1985 Exodus "posers suck" song, complete with the "medical textbook" style lyrics that were a staple of their early work. It quickly goes into "Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System", a song that could definitely have fit well on Heartwork. On this song, a lyrical approach that combines the "goregrind" approach mentioned earlier is mixed with cleverly veiled and sardonic political lyrics (a theme which continues through the album). The album then continues with such future classics such as "The Master's Butcher's Apron" and other songs in the same vein (pun intended) and concludes with the (near) ballad (!) "Mount of Execution". 11 songs that would make newcomers as good as they are like Arsis or Obscura blush. The songs definitely have enough twisted (but accessible) riffs to recall the glorious days of yesteryear, in fact, even the production (by none other than Colin Richardson, who produced most of their classic work) recalls something from the mid-nineties rather than the overly compressed production jobs that are the norm today (though I will admit the mastering could be a little less brickwalled). Is the album perfect? In a word, no, its hard to really recapture the magic of a time long gone by, but it certainly comes close. It certainly stands with "classic reunion albums" that have been released in the past by metal and rock veterans such as "Perfect Strangers" by Deep Purple, or "Brave New World" by Iron Maiden (their classic 2000 reunion with the "classic" lineup of Maiden). And that is some great company to keep.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Some classic Mattowarrior Reviews from the 2000's

Decided to post a lot of the reviews I did for other publications and sites such as amazon, etc on this blog site. It will be to tide people over to the new reviews and interviews I will be posting here soon. Here are some short reviews of various albums over the years: John Arch - A Twist of Fate- 2003. Well, where to start? Its the return of one of my favorite singers of all time, John Arch. On the first three (my favorite) Fates Warning albums, he showed an awesome display of melody, and genius wordplay lyrically. I was awaiting something else from him for the six years I've been a Fates Warning fan. Finally the day arrives when I read on a website that he is returning to the music scene in a project from Dream Theater and Fates Warning members. I was 100 times more excited than when I heard about the OSI project. Now, on to the Ep: One glaring thing I noticed is : Its way too short! I mean, he was out of the music scene for 16 years, and now he only has 30 minutes to give us? Well, I have a feeling this isn't the last we'll hear from the guy, I think he was going for perfection and this is what we have: a stunning set of two epic tunes. The first song, Relentless, is the weaker of the two, similarities to latter day Dream Theater are obvious. While not a bad thing, it doesn't sound as unique with Arch's vocals, and Arch's vocals almost recall James Labrie in a way (or is it the other way around). Also this song is a bit more disjointed, which takes some getting used to. The musicianship is superb, with Portnoy's drumming displaying the usual virtuosity, and Jim Matheos' awesome riffs and spacey synths. The second song is where this album really shines though. "Cheyenne" is another epic song, which was the highlight of the album for me. It has the melodious resemblence to something off Awaken the Guardian, and almost exceeds anything from that album because of the improved production. John Arch is a lyrical/musical genius, and I'm sad that he turned down/or was turned down the Dream Theater spot. But now that he's returned, let's hope he takes it to the next level. Highly recommended epic Prog metal. Megadeth - Countdown to Exctinction (review 2003) 1991. In 1991 - the Infamous Black album was released, alienating many fans of Metallica (like me) while gaining alot of others. The commerical sheen and refined, stripped down songwriting inherent on the album was a formula for commercial success, while still being fully in the "metal" camp. Former Metallica lead guitarist Dave Mustaine had seen his band Megadeth as somewhat competitors to Metallica, and this is the first album that doesn't just equal Metallica's output (don't get me wrong the first four were classics but I'd say they were equals to Metallica's first four) - it surpasses it. Sure this album possesses "Black Album's" commercial sheen and relatively (to Rust In Piece) stripped down, mid paced songwriting- but it is the far better album of the two. What it doesn't possess is the meatheaded redneck lyricisms of the Black Album (Just compare Architecture of Aggression to Metallica's Don't Tread on Me) or the overtly "compromised" vibe. The Black Album also has more filler, while Countdown is filled to the brim with stellar songwriting. And another factor is that while Countdown is more refined than previous albums, it still has a technical edge that was not seen with many bands (example: the nearly prog metal stylings of Ashes in Your Mouth). So overall, this is a near classic by the legendary thrash titans. I hated it when it first came out, but with age and maturity I came to love it. Halford- Live Insurrection - 2003 Rob Halford surprised me with his "Resurrection" comeback. But even more surprising is this live album from his solo band. Even though some of its "liveness" can be put in question like Unleashed in the East, it contains some of his best singing EVER! The album runs the gamut from Stained Class era Priest, to Fight and of course his recent material. The songs from early Priest are old favorites of mine Priest haven't even played for years. The playing is tight and smooth, but the highlight is of course Halford himself. He sings with a renewed intensity not seen on the originals themselves even. This album is probably the best album for someone wanting to delve into Halford AND Priest in general - Highly recommened.