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  • Dear readers,

    Over the next weeks and months, I will once again put some concert reports online. The first concert I have been attending recently was a vivid crossover thrash metal show with Wild Side, Iron Reagan and Power Trip at The Brass Monkey in Ottawa. Even though the location is a nice bar with a great stage, pool tables and lots of space, it's also about two hours away from home if you have to use public transport. Thankfully, I'm living in Canada. Even though the show was scheduled to start around seven, the first band hadn't even started to play when I arrived around ninety minutes late because of traffic issues. In Germany, half of the concert would have already been over since groups start playing on time. For once, being late turns out being something positive. But it's an exceptional case, so don't do that at school or work! Anyway, I arrived and left at the perfect moment and had two hours of non-stop entertainment. Please take a look at the following pictures and descriptions for more information. 

    Concerts in Ottawa in 2017: Iron Reagan and Power Trip at The Brass Monkey

    Wild Side: This hardcore band from Niagara Falls, Ontario, put up a great show and the crowd participated enthusiastically in numerous circle pits and weird dances. It was one of the better opening acts in recent memory.

    Concerts in Ottawa in 2017: Iron Reagan and Power Trip at The Brass Monkey

    Iron Reagan: The quintet from Richmond, Virginia delivered the goods despite particularly difficult circumstances. Their drummer had been denied entry to Canada and the band would have almost canceled the show. Thankfully, three different drummers from local bands and tour mates Power Trip filled in and the band offered a half hour of power. Even though the singer seemed to be slightly wasted, his performance was to the point. I had come for this group in particular and really liked the show. I bought two of Iron Reagan's albums and a new shirt for surprisingly fair prices that night.

    Concerts in Ottawa in 2017: Iron Reagan and Power Trip at The Brass Monkey

    Power Trip: The thrash metal band from Dallas, Texas played a solid show even though I liked their music less than what Wild Side and Iron Reagan had delivered earlier that night. The group was clad in fog and it was actually quite hard to see them and take an acceptable picture. This was the best I could do.

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  • Suicide Silence - Suicide Silence (2017)

    Suicide Silence's self-titled fifth studio record is already the most controversial record of the year. The band shifted away from its famous deathcore roots and released an album somewhere between alternative metal inspired by KoRn, melodic death metal in the key of modern In Flames and experimental rock reminding of Deftones. The backlash against this release was abominable as the album sold two thirds less than the previous output, critics were almost unanimously negative and fans harshly criticized the record and the band on several social media platforms. The negative comments went so far that the band members felt the need to fight back and justify the experimental record by criticizing large parts of their own fan base. In a certain way, both sides are wrong to react in such a nasty way. Fans have to realize that they cannot decide or influence what a band should do or not since the artists have to do what feels right to them no matter what and disappointed fans should simply voice their disapproval by not buying said record or not attending the band's concerts instead of spreading hatred on the internet and mocking the band members and the few chosen ones that genuinely like the new album. On the other side, the band members' reactions were overtly sensitive and showed a worrying lack of self-confidence. If you have to defend your new album repeatedly with sarcastic comments, it doesn't really prove you right and shows that you can't deal with criticism efficiently. All those negative incidents show everything that is wrong with social media these days where anyone can voice anything behind the shadows of anonymity. There isn't anything positive about cowardly shitstorms provoking exaggerated reactions. On the other side, the whole discussion still made me curious and that's why I ultimately listened to an album I probably wouldn't have checked out otherwise.

    As always, the truth lies somewhere in between the extremes. Suicide Silence isn't the abomination haters are trying to make us believe and it isn't a brave new direction either as the band seems to promote. To be honest, this album is quite an oddball but somehow an authentic and entertaining one. 

    From an objective point of view, there are many things that are wrong with this record. The production is muddy and sounds like a demo recorded in a garage. The distorted guitar sounds are sometimes nerve-firing. The bass guitar is often inaudible. The drum sound is quite tinny. The new clean vocals are often out of tone, the death growls remind me of a dying pig in the better moments and the higher screams are highly emotional but sound completely uncontrolled from a technical point of view. The whiny lyrics aren't my cup of tea either. The song structures are awkward. Whenever a solid riff kicks in, the band avorts any type of dynamism with unnecessary breakdowns or unrelated smooth interludes. Sometimes a song seems to be finished but the band suddenly adds thirty seconds of distorted riffs and whiny screams for no valid reason. That's why several songs feel like unfinished demos and still sound somewhat directionless. From time to time, discussions between the band members can be heard at the end of some songs to evoke a certain live in studio feeling but since this is only done with a few select songs, these passages feel oddly out of place.

    Despite all these negative elements, I have always prefered emotional authenticity over technical ecstasy and that's why I ultimately like some parts of this unpredictable album. I also respect the band for having the guts for trying to explore new soundscapes even though other bands have already explored very similar styles. I must admit that I like the fragile clean vocals in the uncompromising ''Doris'' and the oppressive atmosphere of the surprisingly catchy ''Silence''. Other songs need a lot of time to open up like the incoherent ''Listen'' that sacrifices any hint at a coherent structure for intense emotionality or the unusual album closer ''Don't Be Careful, You Might Hurt Yourself'' that experiments with almost drone-like noise sounds before ending with an irritatingly joyful whistling. After a few spins, this uncompromising emotionality somehow grew on me. I wouldn't say that the record made me feel empathic but I ended up being strangely fascinated by this deranged offering. It certainly has a strong entertaining value and the emotionality is gripping throughout the nine songs and a running time of forty-four minutes. To keep it short, this album definitely has a soul and its guiding line is its nonconformity, as strange as it may sound.

    Would I buy such an album? Yes, I would because it's entertaining and facsinating and because I feel the band needs some support after much unjustified hatred coming from mostly selfish keyboard warriors. Would I regularly listen to this release? No, I wouldn't because it's fascinating from time to time and has even grown on me but it's still too inaccessible after all to deserve regular spins. Would I recommend this release to those who are reading my review? No, I wouldn't but I would simply suggest to give this record a chance by listening to it in its entirety on separate occasions before making up your mind about a final judgement. In the end, this record is comparable to Metallica's St. Anger and Morbid Angel's Illud Divinum Insanus that were equally experimental and received similar negative reactions. I don't know what's wrong with me but I somehow like all three albums for what they are.

    Final rating: 7/10 

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  • Perfect alarm clock

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  • Avenged Sevenfold - The Stage (2016)

    There are many things that could be discussed regarding Avenged Sevenfold's seventh studio record The Stage. I might mention that the band released this record without any big announcements and promotions and kept their upcoming release a well-kept secret in times of social media when everyone wants to know everything. I should probably say that the band had gone through a nasty split with its former label Warner Brothers that was focusing on financial exploitation instead of artistic expression according to the band which was soon proven true when the label quickly released a lazy greatest hits compilation to confuse new fans that might confound the new studio album with the new compilation. I could mention that despite lower sales figures due to the unusual release strategy, the record received universal acclaim from critics and fans alike.

    What matters after all is the final product and I can tell you that The Stage is not only by far the greatest album in Avenged Sevenfold's impressive career but one of the best ten records of the decade. The Stage is a thought-provoking conceptual record dealing with the past, present and future of our planet which is actually the stage for all the themes and events presented in the intellectual lyrics. While most bands would fail with such an ambitious and complicated concept, Avenged Sevenfold manages to deal with diversified topics such as artificial intelligence, nuclear warfare and space exploration on a very intellectual yet never overambitious level. Inspired by the writings of cosmologists such as Giordano Bruno, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan, the group delivers lyrics that are easy to understand, educative and entertaining all at once.

    The high quality of the lyrics also has a significant impact on the musicianship of this release. The band almost completely moves away from its metalcore roots and offers progressive metal epics that even surpass what Nightwish, Iron Maiden and Dream Thater had been trying to accomplish with their last respective records. I don't say this lightly since I'm a big fan of all these bands but what Avenged Sevenfold offers here is on a whole new level and at the very least an astonishing progressive metal masterpiece, if not an intellectual revolution for the entire metal scene. Any upcoming progressive metal record has to be compared and measured to this milestone. This album has the same impact as Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. The emotional and technical guitar work is absolutely incredible since the band pulls off thrash metal riffs, extended melodic guitar solos but also smooth acoustic guitar interludes. The bass guitar is the driving rhythm force supported by superb and complex drum patterns which were splendidly performed by new band member Brooks Wackerman whose style already reaches the technical level of genre legends like Mike Portnoy. Many songs feature additional instrumental performances such as atmospheric keyboard layers, elegant string ensembles and soulful brass band sections but all these diverse influences blend in perfectly with the band's energizing and inspiring metal sound. Additional spoken word performances in certain songs add a theatrical approach on an elevated level that was last witnessed on Queensryche's groundbreaking Operation Mindcrime release. Despite this conceptual approach, the eleven songs on this record work both as a whole and independently.

    It's hard or even unfair to point out particular songs on this release but there are two tracks I personally feel the need to mention. First of all, there is the album opener, title song and first single ''The Stage'' which immediately sets the right tone for the upcoming seventy-three minutes. The song opens with mysterious organ sounds recalling progressive rock bands like Pink Floyd before a melodic guitar solo in the key of Iron Maiden kicks in. The band's own contemporary style becomes obvious when vivid drum beats and powerful riff push the track forward until the vocals start. They offer a balanced mixture between raw energy and memorable melodic vocal lines and lead solidly through an extraordinary song that is crowned by a dramatic and almost operatic chorus that will haunt you forever. Towards the end, the band gradually takes away the intensity but not the creativity since the song ends with enchanting folk-inspired acoustic guitar sounds that give the listener a welcome break at the end of eight and a half stunning minutes that will change progressive metal forever.

    The second song that needs to be pointed out is the larger-than-life album closer ''Exist'' that clocks in at more than fifteen and a half minutes. Moody keyboard passages, vivid instrumental progressive metal passages and melancholic violin melodies evoke the creation of our universe until dreamy and harmonious vocals kick in after half of the track is already over to smoothly lead us beyond the known and towards the unknown. The track ends with a meaningful and extended spoken word passage by Neil deGrasse Tyson while the band plays its collective heart out in the background with powerful drum patterns, bumblebee bass guitar passages and one orgasmic guitar melody after the other. Despite its epic length, the band manages to find the appropriate moment to conclude the song in a concise way inspired by classic heavy metal but with a clever gloomy undertone that grabs the listener one last time before living her or him with a multitude of inspired afterthoughts.

    The Stage is more than just an outstanding album, it's a magificent experience for your ears, emotions and mind that convinces on a technical, intellectual and emotive level. Anybody that cares for creative rock or metal music of any kind, must experience this masterpiece at least once in a lifetime. A self-declared intellectual rock music afficionado who hasn't listened to this record can't be taken serious at all. Do yourself a favor, forget whatever you are doing right now and discover Avenged Sevenfold's The Stage.

    Final rating: 10/10

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