• Rob Zombie - The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser (2016)

    Sometimes, you wonder where artists take their inspiration for their song and album titles. If I had to describe Rob Zombie's newest eclectic record accurately, I would have titled it The Weird Sample Accumulation Show Featuring Horny Monsters and Foolish Girls. Rob Zombie offers twelve tracks about sexual obsessions, weird monsters and extraterrestrial phenomenons. The music is mostly based upon chaotic electronic sounds and samples from old movies featuring angry evangelists fighting the sinners and stupid girls falling for them. Song titles like ''The Life and Times of a Teenage Rock God'', ''Well, Everybody's Fucking in a U.F.O.'' and ''The Hideous Exhibitions of a Dedicated Gore Whore'' speak volumes. This album is a freak show. It might repel some people but utterly fascinate others. Personally, my approach to this album is the same as to watching an old stereotypical horror b-movie from the fifties with Boris Karloff or Vincent Price. Objectively, these movies aren't very good but they have their very own charm. This is exactly what you get here.

    Musically speaking, the record has its flaws and strengths. Starting with the former, one has to admit that a running time of only thirty-one minutes really isn't value for money. Several tracks are purely instrumental like the atmospheric filler ''A Hearse That Overturns with the Coffin Bursting Open'' or feature extended instrumental passages like the closing ''Wurdalak'' that is pretty much over after two and a half minutes but concludes with three-minute long atmospheric sound samples. One must admit that Rob Zombie doesn't really offer anything he didn't try out on previous records and a shock rocker that is predictable is somewhat missing his own purpose and vocation.

    However, this short and compact record has great pace and is certainly very entertaining as it offers new details to discover with each spin. The simple but efficient opener ''The Last of the Demons Defeated'' already makes tour head bang with enthusiasm before the chaotic ''Satanic Cyanide! The Killer Rocks On!'' with its tongue-in-cheek lyrics kicks things off for good. Slower instrumental tracks are followed by rhythmic up-tempo songs. Compositions overusing samples from cheesy movies are followed by more organic pieces with angry vocals, gripping guitar riffs and steady rhythm sections. The sum is greater than its parts and the record as a whole is again like watching an odd but cool movie you certainly want to show your friends and revisit soon.

    If you are a conservative mind looking for melodic rock music with inspired lyrics, you will certainly hate this record. However, if you like dirty rock 'n roll culture, are interested in the occult and strange and occasionally like to watch horror movies, this album is what you have been waiting for. If Alice Cooper had a car accident, happened to believe he were the character he pretends to be on stage and decided to record an album, this is what you would get. Grab some popcorn and enjoy the freak show!

    Final rating: 80%

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  • Nine Inch Nails - Bad Witch (2018)

    Nine Inch Nails has always been a quite experimental group but the newest release around Trent Reznor might be the cherry atop the cake. Bad Witch completes a trilogy of extended plays that started with Not the Actual Events two years ago and was followed by last year's Add Violence. However, you don't need to be familiar with either release to fully enjoy Bad Witch. The best way to describe this album would be to say it's a mixture of David Lynch's psychedelic jazz solo albums and David Bowie's experimental rock swansong Blackstar. This doesn't come as a surprise as Trent Reznor has collaborated with both artists in the past.

    Bad Witch is a record that is based upon a psychedelic industrial rock vibe with distorted guitar sounds, nervously meadering electronic arrangements and occasional free jazz inspirations. The longer the record last, the less accessible it becomes. The first two songs are relatively short and easy to digest which doesn't mean their either catchy or commercial but they are focused psychedelic industrial rock tunes. The next two tracks focus much more on prolonged instrumental sections as vocals are only scarcely used or not at all. The final two tracks are the longest and develop a dystopian atmosphere where prolonged instrumental passages are occasionally interrupted by a few haunting vocals to give the music a conceptual guideline. These three segments complement and elaborate upon one another perfectly.

    Bad Witch certainly isn't an easy listening experience. You have to be in the mood for weird dystopian soundscapes that are expressed through menacing electronic arrangement, cacophonic saxophone sounds and almost alien vocals. It's not a coincidence when song titles like ''I'm Not From this World'' are used on this record. The titles are more than they appear to be and actually describe the sounds of each song accurately. The six tracks work together as a whole body of work as the sum is greater than its parts. Bad Witch is an uneasy voyage through strange soundscapes that will evoke images aplenty on your mind. If you're ready for the experiment, then sit down, close your eyes and escape this world for thirty freakish minutes.

    Final rating: 90%

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  •  Skinflint - Skinflint (2018)

    Skinflint might be from Botswana but the dynamic trio offers traditional metal somewhere between heavy blues rock, heavy metal and a shot of doom metal on its self-titled effort. Imagine a slightly faster version of Black Sabbath with less melodic and more shouted vocals and you have a pretty good idea what this record sounds like. The album stays faithful to this guiding line and sounds coherent from start to finish as it avoids offerings experiments or fillers. The fact that a few songs might sound too alike shouldn't be ignored but the band avoids this trap by offering just below forty-five minutes of great music.

    One thing I really appreciate about this album is the band's great sense for engaging rhythms. The almost danceable and cool rhythms in ''Birds and Milk, Bloody Milk'' explain why this song was used to promote the record with a cool music video. ''Thorns of Fire'' has so much power that it will make your head nod and your feet move very easily. The great diversified closer ''Tokoloshe'' ends in a very rhythmic way as especially the last minute is quite gripping.

    From time to time, the band repeats its great rhythmic patterns a little bit too much. It's understandable that the group wants to evoke a hypnotizing atmosphere but the opening two minutes of ''The Prophecy of Nongqawuse'' are rather pointless and sound as if the band didn't know how to actually start the song. Thankfully, such incidents remain exceptional on this album.

    If you like hard rock music with great rhythms recalling legendary bands like Black Sabbath in the seventies or early eighties, you will certainly enjoy Skinflint's self-titled record. Put your headphones on, travel back in time and keep your feet, hands and head moving to enjoy properly.

    Final rating: 80%

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  • Nightwish - Imaginaerum - The Score (2012)

    Imaginearum is a quite creative movie conceived by Nightwish mastermind Tuomas Holopainen that I would recommend you to watch. This release is the score of said film. While other bands or artists who make movies, most recently Bruce Dickinson and X Japan to just give two popular examples, use songs from their regular studio albums and cheaply compile them to so-called soundtracks, this score has something better to offer.

    The songs are influenced by the preceding studio album Imaginearum. The themes of the different songs can be found in the thirteen songs of this score. However, one doesn't get bland instrumental versions of the original symphonic metal songs. Instead, one gets atmospheric, creative and diversified orchestral music that sounds surprisingly stripped-down by Nightwish's own standards. The tracks support the movie's atmospheric visuals in the first place which means that straight-forward bombast is missing here. Since the album combines classical orchestral music with a few choirs, keyboard samples and occasional Irish folk sounds, this release can't even be categorized as symphonic metal. As far as I know, only the particularly dramatic ''I Have to Let You Go'' that goes back to ''Last Ride of the Day'' includes a few electric guitar sounds.

    Still, this score will keep you entertained from start to finish if you like soundtracks as it offers splendid diversity and clever references to Nightwish's original music from the last album. The dreamy ''Orphanage Airlines'' that smoothly references the catchy ''Storytime'' is a first highlight that invites you to dream yourself far away. The album also includes some more rhythmic and vivid tracks like ''A Crackling Sphere'' which takes its inspiration from ''Arabesque''. ''Deeper Down'', which is closely inspired by ''The Crow, the Owl and the Dove'', is the only track featuring soothing vocals by Anette Olzon and Marco Hietala but the track blends in perfectly with the other twelve songs because it respects the soundtrack's dreamy and stripped-down atmosphere. The vocals are only used as if they were additional instruments which makes them work splendidly.

    I am certainly not a fan of all the ambitious projects Nightwish has accomplished thus far. Endless Forms Most Beautiful felt bloated and the compilation Decades was completely useless. However, Nightwish's creative movie Imaginaerum and its dreamy score should get more attention and praise. It will not only please to fans of the band but to anyone who likes musical fantasy movies with an enigmatic touch. Petri Alanko managed to keep the spirit of the original Nightwish songs and transform them into timeless orchestral music with depth. Ignore the negative reviews and join a ride full of imagination.

    Final rating: 85%

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  • Khemmis - Desolation (2018)

    American doom metal quartet Khemmis offers a truly gorgeous cover artwork for its third full length record Desolation that honors Egyptian mythology but also artworks of several progressive and psychedelic rock bands of the seventies. There are further similarities to this era of adventurous rock music such as the fact that this release only offers six songs which however have extended running times adding up to a little bit more than forty minutes of immersive doom metal. The grounded production also blends in perfectly and makes for a quite homogeneous release.

    Khemmis is one of the more melodic doom metal bands. The charismatic clean vocals are soothing, hypnotizing and appeasing. Numerous melodic guitar solos recalling classic heavy metal and a few appeasing acoustic guitar passages offer welcome changes from the slow and sinister riffs torn in the background that are fighting their way back to the forefront. The rhythm section on the other side is heavy, precise and steady. The musicianship is usually adventurous enough to justify song lengths between four and a half and nine and a half minutes. Khemmis sound more concise than similar bands like Pallbearer.

    Genre fans will certainly appreciate this immersive release and I wouldn't be surprised if this album were to be elected as record of the year by some people since doom metal is back in vogue these days. However, I would describe Desolation as good record but nothing more. The main reason is that Khemmis rarely manages to stand out among the impressive number of doom metal bands these days. The quartet doesn't offer anything that one hasn't heard similarly and sometimes better before. The slow and sinister parts can't equal what Candlemass have done in the past. The few parts with harsh vocals aren't as dramatic and efficient than Opeth at the height of its career. The melodic vocals are nowhere near as haunting as what genre leaders Black Sabbath had to offer. Even among similar contemporary stoner metal bands from the United States of America, a group like Baroness is simply catchier than Khemmis. The six songs on this record have great pace and flow but don't stick out and fail to leave a deeper impression. The sum might be greater than its parts in this particular genre but I feel Khemmis could still improve its songwriting by a notch to find its own unique identity. 

    In the end, Khemmis' Desolation is a very good doom metal record with some adventurous passages in form of some faster passages, melodic guitar solos recalling traditional heavy metal and a few harsh vocals contrasting the hypnotizing clean lead vocals. However, the songs fail to be truly memorable and to add anything new to the genre one hasn't heard before. If you are an unconditional doom metal fan who already owns the best records from anything between Black Sabbath and Baroness, you can give this release a try and you will certainly enjoy it. If that isn't the case however, you should ignore this release and listen to some more remarkable doom metal first.

    Final rating: 75%

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