I was really enthusiastic to cover a record by Omnium Gatherum since I had seen them live earlier this year. The band managed to mix energizing melodic death metal with highly atmospheric, enchanting, and melancholic progressive passages and the longer tracks had especially amazing and profound buildups. I decided to discover more of this band and stumbled over the reissue of its fourth full length release The Redshift that had been released back in 2008. Reissues and especially re-recordings don’t always make sense. This is also the case for this package. The band included the original album on this release plus four bonus tracks. Instead of offering anything really new, the additional material is composed of one live track, two demo versions and an alternative version of some songs taken from this release. If you can still get your hands on the original release, I would simply go for this.
It took me some time to accept that this record wasn’t what I had initially expected. There are no highly atmospheric, epic and progressive tracks on this release. The longest track is only five minutes and a half long and the album even includes many shorter and faster tracks between two and four minutes. The only faster and more diversified that really impresses me is though the inspired opener “Nail” which is maybe even one of the best tracks on here.
Despite a first disappointment, The Redshift is an album that easily surpasses anything that had recently been released by genre colleagues such as Dark Tranquillity or Soilwork for example. Instead of only adopting the sound of the Gothenburg melodic death metal scene, the sextet added something very Finnish to their sound that I can also find in my favourite metal band Amorphis or in almost any Finnish band I have ever known from Apocalyptica over HIM to Stratovarius. It’s this uniquely sweet melancholic feeling that gives the songs a longing touch. This is this band’s winning element to stand out and it’s mostly transported by floating guitar melodies, a clever use of keyboards and the use of diversified vocals between unchained growls and fragile clean passages to build up a magic atmosphere. Many of the songs are too short and fast to fully develop this element but each time it appears for a while, the band completely grabs my attention.
A good example is the less aggressive and more atmospheric “No Breaking Point”. The slow and menacing but at the same time hopefully longing spirit of “Shapes On Shades” almost reminds me of a harsher Amorphis song and is a definite grower. The melancholic and slow hymn “Greeneyes” that almost starts like a Dream Theater ballad sounds a lot like contemporary Amorphis by using only profound clean vocals. This particular tune manages to touch my mind and my soul. It’s somewhat the hidden gem on this record for me. The floating and progressive instrumental interlude “Song For December” reminds me of the eerie atmosphere of Opeth and it’s a pity that this song is so short. Omnium Gatherum shows us glimpses of its incredible talent in many places but I’m still missing an absolute breakthrough anthem on here.
After several spins, these bittersweet and thoughtful passages get omnipresent. They grow on you and make what seemed to be a good average album at first try a pretty amazing record. Omnium Gatherum need to some more time to open up on a studio record than in concert but once the magic unfolds you are absolutely stunned. The patient listeners will get rewarded for sure with this band. From a personal point of view, I’m sure that this is only the starting point of an artistic love story between Omnium Gatherum and me. If you care for atmospheric, emotional and profound metal music in the key of Amorphis, you can’t get around this band anymore. They would really deserve to get some more recognition for their recent works. Go and check them out now.
As much as I love the German medieval rock scene, I must admit that no band ever managed to come close to the status of the genre’s first important bands such as Subway To Sally, In Extremo, Schandmaul or Saltatio Mortis. Saltatio Mortis peaked the charts with the enjoyable Das schwarze Einmaleins last summer, In Extremo released a really strong record entitled Kunstraub at the end of last year, Schandmaul came around with the softer folk rock orientated Unendlich earlier this year and Subway To Sally will soon be releasing their conceptual record Mitgiftfeaturing eleven tracks about crimes and murders. Everything has somehow remained the same in this genre over the past ten years. A couple of promising bands such as Cultus Ferox didn’t make their breakthrough, the versatile Schelmish split up and more classical bands like Corvus Corax released a couple of less convincing records. It’s really about time for the genre to come around with a few fresh faces, new noises and thundering tracks.
Ingrimm are a younger band that was founded in 2006 and they already come around with their fourth release Henkt Ihn! this winter. Obviously, I have heard about this band before but I had never checked out an entire record. Their new album has a rather heavy sound somewhere between industrial metal and a few thrash metal parts. This could be an interesting base but the problem is that the musicians are not exceptional and that many songs sound quite alike after a while. As a reference, I would maybe cite Saltatio Mortis’ Des Königs Henker or Subway To Sally’s Engelskrieger which were their heaviest outputs respectively. Ingrimm put more metal but less folk influences in their sound. There are a few bagpipes, hurdy gurdies and violins in the songs but they don’t play anything addicting that gets stuck on your mind most of the time. Sometimes, it rather feels as if the folk instruments were alibis to get the attention of the medieval rock scene for a Neue Deutsche Härte band. Ingrimm somewhat sounds like a mixture of Grantig, Saltatio Mortis and Stahlmann. It’s not really bad but nothing revolutionary either.
Henkt Ihn! still has a couple of energizing and promising moments but you really have to dig their mixture of genres. “Carpe Diem” kicks off like a Neue Deutsche Härte track in the key of Megaherz and gets faster to sound a little bit like Tankard. The vocals are raw and even feature a few exceptional growls. The chorus is though very melancholic and almost slow and features hypnotizing violin and bagpipe sounds. When the chorus is repeated for the last time, blast beats suddenly kick in and end the track with a bang. It’s interesting to fusion these different elements but the mixture doesn’t sound fluid to me. The song has some potential but sounds somewhat odd. If the band worked on its song writing, this mixture could become a winning element in the future.
Apart of “Carpe Diem”, the mixture of medieval folk passages, Neue Deutsche Härte buildups and thrash metal riffs works best in the catchy potential single “Asche auf mein Haupt” and the dark grower “Schwarzes Gold” in my opinion. On the other side, the record gets somewhat repetitive towards the end despite its short length of only forty minutes. The closing epic “Engel” drags on for far too long for example and sounds rather predictable. The song has a mid tempo pace, features more romantic lyrics and tries to sound different from the rest but it feels too constructed and doesn’t end the record on a high note.
In the end, fans of the aforementioned bands and genres can give this band a try. I would maybe purchase this record at a reduced price and put a few good songs on my playlist. Ingrimm might be rather appealing live as well and you should try to catch them up during a festival if you can. On the other side, this record is pretty unspectacular. It’s not bad but it’s not excellent either and that’s maybe the worst thing for an artist if you sound irrelevant and are neither adored nor hated by the masses. After all, if you don’t care or know about the bands mentioned in this article, Ingrimm should rather not be your first choice to get in contact with that particular German sound.
Sparta is a band that was founded in Mansfield, United Kingdom as early as 1979. At its earliest stages, the band had been known as Xerox. The five young men were part of the popular new wave of British heavy metal movement and released two promising singles back in 1980 and 1981 as well as a split record in 1981. That’s when the story of the band went slowly downhill. The band recorded a couple of demo tracks and toured in their home country but weren’t able to catch up with the genre’s most popular outputs such as Diamond Head, Girlschool, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Samson, Saxon, Tank, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Witchfinder General and so on. When the genre became less prominent towards the end of the eighties, the band decided to call it quits as well around 1990 without having released one single full length record.
Now, in early 2014, the time has finally come for the reunited band. After the release of two great compilations with Sparta in 2006 and especially Use Your Weapons Well in 2011 that are basically a collection of old classics recorded somewhere between 1979 and 1990, the band comes now around with a record featuring nine brand new genre anthems. Welcome To Hell features all authentic trademarks that made the genre so popular over three decades ago. A raw and energizing garage production meets mid to up tempo heavy metal tracks somewhere between four and seven minutes including gripping riffs, melodic twin guitar solos and grounded vocals singing about death, hell, war but also about freedom, rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and women. The band sounds as if it was 1981 again. This is a charming approach but also a little bit predictable and old-fashioned.
I’m especially enjoying the more courageous songs on the record. The atmospheric concept track “Soldier Of Fortune” brings the horrors of war to life while the diversified album closer “Kingdom Of The Sky” convinces with almost occult acoustic guitar sounds and longing vocals but also a few sped up passages with energizing hooks. Any heavy metal fan should feel perfectly at home in these tracks. The record also features a few dirtier and meaner songs such as the opening title song “Welcome To Hell” that cites the famous 300 movie and proves us that the band has at least somehow landed in the twenty-first century or the faster “Arrow” that could also come from Motörhead if the vocals were a little bit more dis-harmonic.
The more I listen to that song, the more I like it. Many riffs and hooks got quickly stuck on my mind and the band don’t lose any of their juvenile energy. It’s a shame that this record only sees the light of day as an underground release in 2014. If the band had released this record 23 years earlier it would surely be called a genre classic today. But a late release is better than no release at all. The band surely doesn’t reinvent the genre but those who still care for pure heavy metal and are sad to see the old genre dying these days must give this release a few well deserved spins.
You really know what to expect when you’re listening to a Crematory record. Germany’s most popular gothic metal band comes around with simple song writing structures put into catchy mid tempo songs between three and five minutes. The band mixes crunchy guitar riffs somewhere between death, gothic, industrial and occasionally thrash metal with simple but efficient melodic keyboard patterns. While the rhythm section is rather unspectacular, the band usually convinces with a good mixture of growls by singer Gerhard “Felix” Stass and clean parts sung by guitarist Matthias “Matze” Hechler. In many songs, the verses include charismatic growls while the choruses and bridges feature more melodic parts or a duet of both vocalists. One should also mention that the band operates both with English and German lyrics. Even though Antiserum only includes two German song titles, many other tracks feature German verses and English choruses. While Crematory has never written too sophisticated lyrics, the German lyrics always sounded rather limited and this is also the case for this record. Despite a few flaws, these charismatic and somewhat charming key elements have been working very well for almost 15 years.
This time, Crematory tried to create a more electronic music driven release in the key of the popular comeback record Revolution that came out ten years earlier. In order to reinforce this element, the band joined forces with Elmar Schmidt from the Electronic Body Music band Centhron. This band might only be known to EBM fans but it’s a quite respected brand in the German gothic scene.
While the electronic elements are more prominent than on the last record Infinity that had a few thrash metal driven anthems, I must admit that the announced impact on the music is only minimal and that we can’t talk about a refreshed new direction. Everything pretty much sounds as usual. Some songs feature a few EBM sounds here and there but they are only there to open some tracks and already disappear thirty seconds into the songs. All in all, I’m rather disappointed by the use of EBM elements on this record that I was rather looking forward to.
If a band doesn’t come around with new ideas, it should at least write a few catchy or passionate tracks but this isn’t the case on the new record. Crematory has shown us in the past how to write great genre anthems. Any gothic metal fan should know songs such as “Tears Of Time”, “Ist Es Wahr”, “Fly”, “The Fallen” and “Greed”. The band also showed us recently that it was still able to write memorable tracks such as “Left The Ground”, “Infinity” or “Sense Of Time”. If the band didn’t convince with its own tracks, they came around with some convincing cover songs like Depeche Mode’s “Black Celebration” on the last output or the classic rendition of The Sisters Of Mercy’s “Temple Of Love”. That’s why I’m surprised that no track on Antiserum has the qualities of the aforementioned tracks. Many songs on the new album need multiple spins before they even grab the slightest of your attention. It’s quite hard to mention any outstanding passages or highlights on the new record because the band repeats itself without featuring the catchy hooks it stood for in the past. It’s easier to point out the more disappointing songs. “Until The End” is a rather faceless opener, “Kommt näher” and “Virus” feature stereotypical and almost amusingly weak lyrics and songs like the predictable “Inside Your Eyes” or “Back From The Dead” are obviously filler material.
After several spins, I have found a few personal favourites on the record but they are nothing more than good average songs. The classic “If You Believe” is a song Creamtory fans will adore. It features atmospheric but also energizing keyboard passages, sharp riffs and a great mixture of growled verses and a more melodic chorus. The laid back and atmospheric bridge with the creepy spoken word passage is probably the highlight of the song.
The single “Shadowmaker” finally features a more prominent use of EBM and other electronic elements. Some of these sounds are interesting but others rather odd. The crunchy background noise in the verses that sounds as if somebody was stretching an elastic band is quite ridiculous for example. While the song includes all Crematory trademarks such as thrash metal orientated verses, energizing growls and a few more atmospheric sounds in the bridge, the song somehow feels too calculated. The track sounds like Crematory song writing by numbers as if the band desperately wanted this track to be its new anthem. In fact, “Shadowmaker” was the band’s first single release in nine years since “Greed”. In comparison to the latter, the new song sounds really pale. It’s a good average track but definitely nothing more.
“Welcome” features a good use of the announced EBM elements in the beginning moments only but the song is saved by crunchier and faster riffs in the verses and an almost symphonic chorus that gets stuck on your mind after a while. The mixture of these three elements is nothing new for the band and could have been more organic. It speaks volumes if a solid average track like this can already be considered as a highlight on the record.
The closing title track “Antiserum” convinces with a dark atmosphere carried by some melancholic piano melodies, symphonic keyboard sounds and longing clean vocals. Crematory often closes its records this way and even though the track doesn’t come along as a surprise or as one of the band’s better album closers, it’s still one of this record’s most organic tracks.
In the end, my verdict is very simple. I’m a long-time Crematory fan and I will of course try to purchase the limited edition of this release. I will try to catch the band up during a summer festival and I will cheer along to old and new songs. My subjective fan heart is happy that the band is back with a new record after an unusually long waiting time of almost four years. From an objective point of view though, the new album offers nothing new and also lacks the charisma and passion of similar releases in the past such as Revolution. Honestly said, the new album is one of the band’s weakest efforts in 23 years. I thought the previous Infinity was a little bit shallow but it’s still definitely better than Antiserum. This release is for old fans and collectors only and probably won’t attract any new fans to the German gothic metal legends.
If you’re new to the band and want to hear what they sound like today but where they also sound best, start your discovery with Believe, Revolution and Pray or maybe the decent greatest hits compilation Black Pearls.
Leviathan is a progressive metal band from Colorado that was founded in the late eighties. The quintet released one EP and three full length releases during the nineties before the band disappeared. A few years ago, the band came back with a live album and a compilation record followed by a new album. It’s the second full length studio release of the band since its comeback that I’m about to review. The ambitious conceptual record is entitled Beholden To Nothing, Braver Since Then.
I must admit that I have never heard of this band before even though I’m a big fan of progressive rock and metal music. I must have done something wrong because the band’s fifth studio album simply blows me away. Despite fifteen tracks including six instrumentals and a total running time of over seventy-six minutes, this record is everything but boring. It’s an atmospheric, captivating and highly original album with one brilliant idea after the other.
Usually, progressive metal bands can always be compared to others somehow. This is not the case of Leviathan. They really sound like themselves or at least like nothing I have ever heard before. This is not only a rare strength but speaks volumes for the uniqueness of this band. To give you at least a vague comparative, this band might please you if you like the old progressive power metal records of Queensrÿche.
What is so unique about the band? One outstanding element is definitely the very appropriate use of audio samples that give some songs an epic touch and keep the whole record together. The versatile use of different keyboard passages from classic progressive rock parts to modern electronic samples is also a clear strength. Every musician is talented and every instrument has its shining moments. Some tracks are more laid back seventies progressive rock tracks while the band also adventures into heavier sounds inspired by the eighties here and there. The band mainly feels at home with a few doom, some more heavy and especially a lot of symphonic power metal influences that are employed in a very colourful way. While there are no obvious hits or outstanding numbers on the album, almost every track has some catchy hooks but also some surprising moments in form of atmospheric conceptual samples, almost folk inspired slow acoustic guitar interludes or fast paced melodic guitar versus keyboard duels. The balanced song writing is easy to digest but intellectually appealing at the same time and it grows with each spin. Only the genre’s greatest bands like Dream Theater or Rush manage to reach this kind of balance and natural flow.
Progressive metal fans should definitely check this release out. The only negative thing about this release is the slightly imperfect and not always powerful production. Let’s hope that this band soon gets the major label deal it deserves and therefor a better mastering and production for its outstanding music. Until now, this is still by far the best release of the year because it combines creativity and melody in a smoothly balanced flow. I’m quite convinced this release will make it into my top personal top twenty by the end of the year. I’m willing to check out the band’s other releases as soon as I can and you should do the same.