• Concert review: Over Kill, Prong & A Darker Day live at Mavericks, Ottawa (25/09/14)

    It was a beautiful sunny autumn day on Thursday, September 25, 2014 when I decided once again to see an energizing show in the small metal pub Mavericks in downtown Ottawa. New Jersey thrash metal legends Over Kill played for the very first time in the Canadian capital and were supported by crossover thrash and groove metal veterans Prong from New Jersey as well as by a local crossover thrash metal band A Darker Day.

    Ribfest in Ottawa on a sunny autumn day... I still decided to go to a Japanese restaurant instead

     

    Around 7:35 PM, A Darker Day hit the stage and delivered a truly energizing set around thirty minutes despite the fact that there was a considerable lack of space on stage due to the giant stage structures of the main act tonight. Still, the four men tried to move as much as they possibly could and interacted in a joyous way with the steadily growing crowd. Especially the sympathetic bassist and the vivid drummer who would also perform most of the vocals conquered the stage and the crowd by storm. They felt visibly at ease with what they described as a big honour and one of the greatest moments in their career to open for their own personal idols. Some people in the crowd already started to bang their heads, raise their fists up in the air and sing a long to a few pitiless thrash metal anthems. This opening act was so enthusiastic that I’m already looking forward to see them again. I also hope that the quartet will come around with a first physical release anytime soon. These future local legends are definitely worth your attention and support.

    Local opening act A Darker Day could have a bright future ahead

     

    Only twenty minutes later, the trio Prong went on stage to deliver a forty-five minute set of their greatest hits plus a few new songs from the last record ‘’Runing Lives’’. Prong were even more energizing than the excellent opening act. Guitarist and singer Tommy Victor interacted well with the crowd and motivated a few dozen people to start a few energizing circle and mosh pits. New drummer Arturo Cruz fits well to the other two members and had a lot of fun on stage. He was almost constantly smiling or making funny faces, got up after almost each song to motivate the crowd to get in action and threw a few drum sticks into the crowd as well. Bassist Jason Christopher simply looked cool and mean on stage and had a truly wild appearance. His bass play was just as tight and vivid. Especially the last few songs of the set such as ‘’Another Worldly Device’’, ‘’Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Necks’’ and ‘’Power Of The Damager’’ made the crowd go wild. I definitely wouldn’y have minded the band to play a couple more tunes. Prong surely are one of these bands that are much better on stage than on a regular studio record and I would really like to see them again. On a sidenote, the merchandise section sold the recent and hard to find live in studio record ‘’Unleashed In The West’’ which portrays the unchained live spirit of the band very well. You can also listen to this official bootleg on the band’s Bandcamp presence.

    The new bassist and drummer performed as if they had always been an essential part of Prong

     

    After a break around twenty-five minutes, the first notes of ‘’XD’’ announced the arrival of Over Kill in front of a crowd of several hundred fans in a packed metal pub. Hell definitely broke loose with the pitiless opener ‘’Armorist’ where the crowd already started to yell along. When the band then went on to deliver the band hymn ‘’Overkill’’, the whole place went mad including ferocious headbanging, fast moving mosh pits and even some occasional stage diving that had to be intercepted by the security even though the fans really tried to respect and help each other as much as possible. Over Kill seemed to be deeply impressed by the enthusiastic fan reactions and so was I. After having seen quite a few shows at Mavericks, I must admit that this concert had by far the most vivid ambience. The entire crowd cheered the band’s name after every song, no matter if the band played more recent stuff like “Pig”, ‘’Electric Rattlesnake’’ and “Bring Me the Night” or classic tunes like “Rotten to the Core”, “Wrecking Crew” or the energizing closer and The Subhumans cover “Fuck You”. At a certain point, even singer Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth needed a break and admitted that he would have a heart attack if he continued to perform at the pace of the unchained crowd that was constantly asking for more. From time to time, the singer even left the stage to take some short breaks during a few longer instrumental passages as in “Ironbound”. On the other side, there was nearly no break between the regular set and the three heavily celebrated encores and the singer’s angry, hoarse and raw vocals remained in top shape until the end of the show after a set of sixteen tunes in around ninety-five minutes. At this point, the band had not only managed to exceed the great performances by the two opening acts and to conquer the crowd by storm but to deliver one of the most memorable performances ever at Mavericks. Most of the band members are already in their mid-fifties but their performance had been at least as energizing as a show given by some unchained teenagers. After this show, I was bathed in sweat, had lost my voice and was also physically tired but I felt liberated as if I had fallen head-first into the Fountain of Youth. I decided to grab a limited and exclusive Canada Tour shirt, went back home by bus and couldn’t stop listening to the band’s latest killer album “White Devil Armory” even hours after this incredible show. 

    Over Kill delivered one of the best live shows I have ever seen so far in my life

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  • In Flames – Siren Charms

    September 26, 2014 in Reviews by Sebastian Kluth

    In Flames - Siren CharmsIn FlamesSiren Charms (2014)

    Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth

    For the last fourteen years it has been a popular trend in the metal scene to bash any new In Flames release because many closed-minded old-school metal heads are still living in the previous millennium, unable to turn the page and accept that In Flames has been willing to experiment and play a more alternative metal style with a certain mainstream touch. Instead of giving up on the band, these self-declared “true fans” still expect the band to return to a genre it pioneered and improved during the first ten years of its career. I’m completely on In Flames’ side here because it’s useless to keep on reproducing music that the band already played in such a great manner on its debut record Lunar Strain. Instead of becoming an irrelevant copy of its former years, the band has experimented for the majority of its career over the past fourteen years. In Flames continues to do so, and the new album is another big slap in the face of those grown-old nostalgics. And that’s the way it has to be.

     

    Enter Siren Charms. This record is as experimental as A Sense Of Purpose…, but less accessible. It continues the style of Sounds Of A Playground Fading with a few electronic and modern alt-rock touches influenced by Soundtrack To Your Escape. The great thing is that the band continues its very own sound without copying any particular record to any extent. This record includes quite a few surprises. The dirty, fast, and misanthropic “Everything’s Gone” could have come straight from a Marilyn Manson record and is definitely one of the best songs here, while the slow and plodding “Through Oblivion” has a modern gothic rock style I would expect from a band like HIM. Once again, if you like this kind of music as much as I do, you are going to thoroughly enjoy this song.

    The melancholic and floating “With Eyes Wide Open”, with its crystal clear fragile vocals and its catchy chorus, reminds me of Thirty Seconds To Mars. “Dead Eyes” hits a very similar vein and comes around with convincingly beautiful guitar and keyboard melodies that make it an instant standout. In this song, In Flames sings: “This is my world now”, and singer Anders Friden, as well as the whole band, performs with as much conviction as Metallica did on the song “My World” from the controversial St. Anger. Many people are calling Siren Charms In Flames’ personal version of St. Anger because of this. Even though these two records are miles away from each other stylistically, this comparison is not completely wrong. Both bands did what they wanted with passionate authenticity and unbowed power, and didn’t care about being popular or pleasing their fans at the time. That’s why I like both records quite a lot. Some will call the two aforementioned tracks emo rock, but they’re performed with such conviction that it doesn’t bother me in the least.

    “When The World Explodes” starts like a mixture of a metalcore and a melodic death metal song that could have appeased the old fan base. But In Flames wouldn’t be In Flames if it didn’t include a couple of controversial elements. Just thinking of the looks on the faces of the extreme metal “elite” makes me enjoy this track. Its second part features soft and enchanting female vocals and floating electronic elements. In Flames really shows off its creative song writing capacity in this track.

    The first single, “Rusted Nail”, has it all. Longing guitar solos, fragile clean vocals (that sound better on each album), depressive lyrics, and an extremely liberating, majestic, and melodic chorus you won’t get out of your mind. This is the kind of song that continues the style of the previous record. Imagine a mixture of the tracks “Sounds Of A Playground Fading” and “Liberation”. This is where In Flames shows its consistency and how its past albums logically build upon each other.

    Album closer “Filtered Truth” features mechanical vocal effects and opening guitar riffs that make me think of Billy Talent (how cool is that?). The short passionate chorus simply blows me away once again. This consistent song without one unnecessary second is crowned by a melodic but twisted instrumental bridge. The track ends a very good album on a high note. Hello, third single, I like you!

    In the beginning, I thought a couple of songs on this album were a little hard to digest or unspectacular at certain moments, such as the short title song “Siren Charms” and “Monsters In The Ballroom”, which recalls several modern melodic death metal songs from the past three In Flames releases. Even these rather average tracks have grown on me after several spins. It’s hard to tell if I like this record as much as Sounds Of A Playground Fading, but my first impressions are pretty much as positive as they were with that album three years earlier. So please don’t give a damn about rude comments on social media or average scores on the Metal Archives. If you liked In Flames’ previous records and don’t mind the experiments described above, you have to purchase this album. By the way, the two bonus tracks “The Chase” and “Become The Sky” are excellent modern melodic death metal songs that should do well with fans that liked A Sense Of Purpose but none of the other recent releases, so be sure to look out for them. Be courageous and check this out. In Flames we trust.

    4.0 // 5

     

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  • Kokumaromilk – Kokumaromilk

    September 24, 2014 in Reviews by Sebastian Kluth

    Kokumaromilk1Kokumaromilk Kokumaromilk (2007)

    Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth

    Kokumaromilk is a weird band from Japan built around multi-instrumentalist and singer Iwama Hiroyuki and female singer Uzu who usually play metal cover songs under the banner Pleasure Music Temple. Their side project is experimental, over-the-top Visual Kei including a mixture of different genres from pop music and ska over electronic elements, and incuding vivid gothic and power metal elements, as well as some classical music. All in all, it sounds like the soundtrack to some crazy manga series. Short instrumentals between one and two minutes each are combined with compact, catchy songs and even the occasional lengthy track that goes on for almost nine minutes. If you have a taste for courageous Visual Kei bands similar to X Japan, Moi Dix Mois, and Babymetal, you should give this project`s debut a few spins.

     

    The most outstanding song on this short release is without a doubt the weird “PIPIPI”. It’s the kind of song you want or claim to hate, but end up enjoying because you can’t get rid of its ridiculous melodies. The songs starts with 8-bit computer game sounds, and the track turns out to be a joyous power metal song. It includes ska-influenced verses, recalling music of the seventies and eighties, and cheesy electronic sounds that remind me of the music I grew up with in the nineties. This potpourri of styles is crowned by an extremely childish chorus. God help me if I don’t love this song!

    What else is going on this record? The longer tracks remind me of a mixture of MUCC and UneXpect. Melancholic piano passages and disturbing lounge breaks are jammed together with fast-paced power metal fronted by hysterical vocals, electric organ sounds, and additional, rebellious vocals conveying a classic rock ‘n roll feeling. Sometimes the changes in the song writing sound odd, but the tracks will make more sense and grow if you’re ready to spend some more time with this vivid twenty-five minute debut. Needless to say, this is the kind of music only the Japanese create, and the six schizophrenic songs here include more ideas than most other bands put into entire discographies.

    I would go crazy if I listened to this kind of music all day long, but from time to time it’s an overwhelmingly entertaining ride through many different emotions and genres. I recommend checking in on this eclectic project if you’re interested in something new, varied, and strange.

    3.25 // 5

     

    Kokumaromilk – The Princess Wears Grey/Girl Whore

    December 9, 2014 in Reviews by Sebastian Kluth

    Kokumaromilk2/>こくまろみるく / Kokumaromilk少女娼婦 / The Princess Wears Grey (Girl Whore) (2008)

    Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth

    Dear students, weren’t you all craving the sophomore record and another review for Kokumaromilk? These are your possible answers: a.) Yeah, thanks to bands like these, I don’t even feel the need to do drugs! b.) No way, coconut milk is not metal at all. c.) I’m not drunk enough to read through this review@ d.) Pipipipipi!!! I would have chosen the last answer, myself. Anyway, here it is, and only one year after the self-titled full length release, Kokumaromilk is back with a second output of roughly forty minutes of new material. Metal Archives tell us that the band’s sophomore release can be translated as “The Princess Wears Grey”, but my internet translator indicates “Girl Whore”. The first one sounds more beautiful but the second seems to be more accurate. Anyway, please choose your camp and prepare for a big surprise.
     

    In fact, Kokumaromilk sounds much more ambitious, atmospheric, and mature on its sophomore effort. In particular, the song writing made a big step forward. Childish melodies and catchy choruses have been reduced, and the band offers more epic and sophisticated tracks with an authentic gothic and Visual Kei feeling. The average running time of a song on this release is about seven minutes, as compared to approximately four on the predecessor. Therefore, this release makes me think of projects like Sound Horizon rather than Babymetal, as was the case on the first record. The duo still adds a few surprising elements here and there of course, such as Japanese folk elements and vocal samples in the challenging opener and title song “Girl Whore”, jazz and big band elements in the charming “Innocent Love Talk”, and classical music in the elegant “Haikaburi Princess”. In comparison to the band’s first effort, its sophomore release is much easier to digest and less hectic. The different ideas take time to develop intriguing atmospheres, and aren’t just randomly thrown together.

    While most experiments on the sophomore effort work very well and sound surprisingly serious, there are still a few exceptions. The longest track, right in the middle of the album, is a rough one. Basically, it’s a sound collage with air raid sirens, battlefield, and military march sounds, as well as a very bleak atmosphere, and it drags on with minimal instrumentation and many odd spoken word passages for almost ten minutes. The track has an intriguing concept, but musically it is completely forgettable. If you don’t understand any Japanese, it is even more painful to listen through this song.

    Apart from this questionable track, all other songs have at least gripping passages or are completely successful examples of improved progressive song writing. Kokumaromilk’s second output is intellectually appealing, musically colorful, and always entertaining. While the first strike had its moments, the sophomore output can be considered a success, and is very warmly recommended to fans of Japanese rock, metal and, Visual Kei bands. I’m hoping for a new full length from this duo after their 2010 EP!

    3.75 // 5

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  • Godsmack – 1000HP

    September 17, 2014 in Reviews by Sebastian Kluth

    Godsmack-1000hp-album-coverGodsmack - 1000hp (2014)

    Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth

    Godsmack is one of the few hard rock-infused American nu metal bands that is still alive and well more than one and a half decades after its convincing self-titled debut release. While bands like Alter Bridge and Staind are long forgotten, formations like Limp Bizkit or Puddle of Mudd are only on the news for negative things, and groups like Korn and Linkin Park reinvent themselves in more or (usually) less convincing manners on every new album, Godsmack hasn’t changed its original approach, but sounds still fresh and regularly hits the charts. 1000hp is probably the band’s strongest offering since Faceless, eleven years earlier, which included anthems like “Straight Out Of Line”, “I Stand Alone”, “Re-Align”, and “Serenity”: a group of tunes that any rock and metal fan should know.

     

    The record opens with a bang in the form of title track and first single “1000hp”. Motor sounds lead to an aggressive, dirty, and dry sound dominated by crunching riffs and Sully Erna’s charismatic vocals that effectively mix anger and melody in equal parts. The whole thing is crowned by a fist-pumping and liberating chorus. The record includes more anthemic mid- to up-tempo outbursts of energy such as the angry, grooving, and modern “FML”, which includes bad boy charisma, slice of life passages, and quite a lot of swear words.

    Godsmack also offers a few darker and longer mid-tempo tracks with a few surprising elements. “Generation Day” is among the greatest songs on this release. It opens with weird sound effects before great riffs kick off and lead to an energizing song that still has a few calmer parts in the form of hypnotizing vocals and occasional acoustic guitar passages. “Nothing Comes Easy” also comes along as a slower and more depressing tune with depth and an intriguing story that goes back to the early atmospheric neo-grunge style of the band.

    On the other side, Godsmack also shows from time to time that it can write more accessible tunes. “Something Different” should be the next single, as it convinces with simplistic but effective guitar lines and mantra-like verses that create an almost hypnotic atmosphere. This song got stuck in my head after the very first time I heard it. The bonus track “Life Is Good!” is a cool mid-tempo rocker with weird guitar tones that sound like somebody is puking, a short percussion fill in the middle, and occasional party sound samples. This track is just cool, and if you can grab the limited Best Buy edition of the album, you should definitely do so. If I was the band, I would have put this anthem on the regular editions and chosen it as a third single.

    After all this time, Godsmack still sounds juvenile, yet fresh, without reinventing itself. The quartet doesn’t need to because its mixture of cool hard rock and heavy metal anthems, more experimental and longer tracks, and a few joyful rock tunes here and there still sounds authentic, catchy, and energizing in the year 2014. Faithful fans will grab this release anyway, but if you liked the band in the past but lost track of it, this is the perfect occasion to get back in touch with the band and to have some fun.

    3.75 // 5

     

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  • Dear readers of my blog,

    here comes my review of Anthrax' new DVD/BluRay release "Chile on hell" which is so far definitely my favourite release of the year. Enjoy!

    Sebastian Kluth

    Anthrax - Chile on Hell (2014)

    Anthrax' "Chile On Hell" is not only the best live release so far this year but also the best show of the band that was captured by cameras and microphones. The Chilean crowd is simply out of this world. Right from the opening riffs of "Among The Living", the entire crowd is singing along to the melodies and lyrics of this track, is getting involved into a giant circle pit with some fans sitting on the shoulders of others and some devotees are even enlightening a big red Bengal fire. This incredible crowd never gets tired throughout the entire show and is celebrating classics, cover songs and new material alike. The enthusiastic admirers are contributing to several intense goosebump moments. It's incredible to hear them singing the entire pre-chorus and chorus of "Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)" before the song even gets started, to watch them doing Dio's famous horns sign during the intense rendition of "In The End",  to see them doing an unchained wardance to "Indians", to hear them yelling out the chorus with Joey Belladonna during "In My World", to see them doing a big mosh pit during the Slayer cover "Raining Blood" which was dedicated to late Jeff Hanneman who died only days before this show and finally to see them celebrating enthusiastically to the closing Trust cover "Antisocial". I've never ever seen such a great crowd as they even beat several one hundred thousand unchained Brazilians celebrating Iron Maiden on their "Rock In Rio" record. Every single fan seems to get involved in passionate and yet respectful hysteria for two unforgettable hours. I've never wished that much that I had been at a concert than when I first watched this.

     

    It's not only the amazing crowd that makes this release so memorable. I've seen several Anthrax shows and while they always perform with passion, I've never seen them so vivid as on this output. The amazing crowd reactions must have been contagious. Joey Belladonna is doing one of his finest vocal performances in a long time. I was surprised how clean his voice sounds on this release and how he even hits the high notes while running around and interacting constantly with the crowd. Hands down, this man is a gifted front man and entertainer and this is why I'm so glad he's back with Anthrax as nobody else compares to him. Scott Ian is constantly jumping and running around with a big smile on his face. His angry backing vocals are extremely solid and he even hits some higher notes in the opening of "In My World" that impressed me quite a lot. In addition to this, his killer riffs are still performed with passion and precision. Frank Bello is walking, headbanging and dancing around the stage and never ever stands still. His extremely enthusiastic vocal performance during "I'm The Man" is absolutely contagious and his bass play is very powerful. Charlie Benante's drumming is as tight as it can be and still looks effortless because he is having so much fun on stage. He keeps smiling and making funny faces throughout the entire show. He even gets to play a short drum solo right before "I'm The Man". It's just long enough to show his great talent and short enough to get the crowd moving for the energizing encore. Fellow drummers, please take notes on this essential, precise and short performance as nobody wants to listen to drum solos over six minutes or so. New guitarist Jonathan Donais plays very well but looks a little bit shier and more introspective than the other members. He's got his own personality I guess but he slightly feels out of place. I guess he simply needs some more time with the band to get used to this new situation. From a purely technical point of view, his performance is spot on though.

     

    The set list of this concert is phenomenal. It contains the three best songs from the band's amazing last effort "Worship Music", the greatest classics including the six thrash metal milestones that open the legendary "Among The Living" release and a bunch of amazing cover tracks from AC/DC, Joe Jackson, Slayer, Stormtroopers Of Death and Trust. Some people keep complaing about the high number of cover songs during  Anthrax' shows. If you take a look at the incendiary crowd reactions to these tracks and the way Anthrax performs these renditions, you do realize why these guys are still including so many of them and I don't want to miss these tracks. Anthrax' cover tracks have always been amazing in my opinion. On a sidenote, the DVD version of this release seems to omit two tracks from the original concert which are the Joe Jackson cover "Got The Time" as well as "Deathrider". It's possible that these tracks are included on the BluRay release though as I've read other reviews where analysts would talk about these songs as well. If you can choose between both versions, you should go for the BluRay variant.

     

    From time to time, the outstanding concert is interrupted by very short sequences showing other Anthrax shows, the band backstage, fellow musicians commenting on thirty years of Anthrax, fans praising the band or Scott Ian on the set of a TV show. A couple of snippets from the band's last studio album are played during these sequences, for example "The Devil You Know", "The Giant" and "Judas Priest". These breaks are very short and only about one to two minutes long each and really don't bother the enjoyment of the energizing concert at all. It would have been interesting if the band had included a little documentary about its career as a bonus but that's not the case and this release only focuses on the music and a few short additional gimmicks.

     

    From a technical point of view, the sound is crystal clear and yet absolutely authentic. One can hear the crowd very well but the vocals and the instruments also sound very sharp. It's definitely an honest live release as one can still hear a couple of small technical mistakes here and there. The image is perfect as well but some people might not like several quick cuts, shaky camera passages when Joey Belladonna is running around with a camera on stage and a few split-screen passages. I think these little technical elements make the whole release even more diverting, energizing and original. These elements are not overused as on Iron Maiden's "Death On The Road" release for example. If these elements bother you, I guess you're really just nitpicking.

     

    In the end, this concert and release come extremely close to perfection. If the DVD release had included the two missing tracks and if Jonathan Donais' performance had been a little bit more enthusiastic, I would have given the perfect score to this output. Still, this is an absolutely essential release for any Anthrax fan, any thrash metal maniac and anyone who cares about authentic, energizing and original rock or metal music in general. Believe me, you won't regret anything if you purchased this release as soon as you possibly can. For me, this is by far the best metal release in the year 2014 and already my very favourite live record ever. You may argue that I shouldn't judge this output shortly after its initial release but this is one of these few and special releases that simply blow you away from the very first second and I couldn't stop celebrating this masterpiece. If you listen and watch this release, just make sure you don't destroy your home by getting caught in a giant Chilean mosh.

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