"It's always a hell of a party
When Ragnarök rolls around
It's time to trash the planet
Ragnarök will destroy
MUSIC REVIEWS - FULL LENGTH CD RELEASES
by Richard Karsmakers
Altar - Ego Art (Displeased)
Altar are the Dutch thrash metal gods, who stunned friend and
enemy into stiff-necked bliss by their awesome debut "Youth
Against Christ" (1994). In spring of this year, finally, their
long awaited second album was released. Every bit as aggressive
as the prequel, "Ego Art" sees the appearance of new guitarist
Marcel Verdurmen who replaced Marcel van Haaf due to the latter's
growing disinterest. Altar still go all-out when it comes to
trying to get the people of the world to think for themselves
rather than have some religion or government think their thoughts
for them. Songs like "I Take", "Egovernment" and the excellent
political song "Tonight this Country Will Die" hit the message
home relentlessly and tirelessly. Singer Edwin Kelder shouts and
screams and grunts as if he believes he will make a difference.
And that belief might just actually cause him to.
Godverdomme, what an excellent CD! "Youth Against Christ" has a
couple of classics on there, so for now I prefer that album, but
"Ego Art" will definitely grow.
Amos, Tori - Boys for Pele
This CD really took some getting used to. "Little Earthquakes",
her previous offering, kindof got appreciated quite instantly. I
listened to it and right away thought "Winter" was my favourite
song (and not because Dream Theater was known to have covered
it). With "Boys for Pele" this was quite different. It starts off
with "Horses", a song in which Tori does stuff to her voice that
sends shivers down my spine. No positive shivers, though. It
takes some getting used to, definitely.
"Boys for Pele" ranges a wider gamut of styles. There are a
couple of typical Tori tracks - her and her piano singing nice
songs - and a few heavier tracks such as the drum-heavy "Little
Amsterdam". I have listened to this CD quite a few times over the
last couple of months and it still grows on me. I prefer "Little
Earthquakes" still, but who knows, "Boys for Pele" might grow
beyond that. I've got a hunch that maybe it will.
Appice, Carmine - Carmine Appice's Guitar Zeus
Carmine Appice is a drummer. He's played in a variety of bands,
including the Jeff Beck Band, Ozzy Osbourne and Ted Nugent. He's
got a brother, too, who's even more famous and played in bands
like Dio and Black Sabbath. But let's cut the history bullshit.
Carmine is a drummer and he has recently undertaken a quest -
yes, I believe it could justifiably be called a quest - to write
a variety of fairly different songs aimed at specific guitar
heroes and then record those tracks with the actually intended
guitar heroes doing all the solos. The result is "Carmine
Appice's Guitar Zeus", a CD packaged in an interesting jewel box
that you'll probably never see the likes of again (check it out
The collection of guitar heroes on this album is none less than
impressive. OK, Satriani and Vai aren't there, but the rest is,
just about: Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen (which is why I bought
the CD, to tell you the truth), Neal Schon (of Journey), Steve
Morse (currently of Deep Purple), Doug Aldrich, Brian May,
Jennifer Batten, Ty Tabor, Slash, Ted Nugent, Elliot Easton, Mick
Mars, Leslie West and Edgar Winter. I don't mean to sound shit-
headed or anything, but the Malmsteen track is the best. I mean,
the way the guitar starts speeding up and is mixed into the track
near the end is amazing, and the track itself is pretty cool too.
The other compositions are fairly average, although guitar
playing is always impeccable. The European version has two bonus
tracks, "Where you Belong" and "Under the Moon & Sun". These
tracks are also present on the regular version, but the bonus
tracks have guitar solos by Paul Gilbert and Edgar Winter instead
of Slash and Mick Mars respectively. Give this one a listen, and
if you're a real fan of any of the guitarists featured on it, be
sure to get it quickly; it strikes me as one of those albums that
might one day, all of a sudden, no longer be available.
Becker, Jason - Perspective (Independent)
Every single CD I've heard so far that was released this year
pales next to Jason Becker's second solo album, "Perspective".
This CD is now finally for sale (details to be found in the
"Music News" column). As you should all know, Jason got a really
serious illness called A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig's disease), four or
five years ago, a disease which has in the mean time rendered
him incapable feeding himself or moving autonomously, much less
play the guitar. He needs assistance with even the most mundane
of daily aspects of life. There was a bit on CNN about Jason
recently and, apparently (didn't see it myself), Jason looks like
a bag of bones now, with virtually no muscle fibre left. This
disease is potentially lethal, although British super-scientist
Stephen Hawking has had it for 30 years or something and is still
The one good thing - if any good thing indeed happens to be the
case - of the disease is that at least it leaves the intellect
completely intact. In fact, in the case of Jason Becker it seems
to have made his compository skills blossom and bloom even more
so than before. With the aid of an Apple MacIntosh and advanced
music software he has been able to compose several songs, which
he could play slowly and then speed up to sound just right. He
also used this method to compose songs that were later played by
grade A guitarists like Steve Hunter (who played together with
Jason on David Lee Roth's "A Little Ain't Enough") and solo
guitarist Michael Lee Firkins.
The result is over an hour of impressive music that goes right
through the marrow of your bones. Jason Becker is a true musical
genius and the fact that there are means at his disposal to
enable him to release this CD is a blessing indeed. The songs on
the album range in chronological order from songs he did when the
beginnings of his illness made themselves felt, right up to
fairly recent. "Meet Me in the Morning", for example, is a Bob
Dylan track that Jason coverered for a "Guitar For the Practising
Musician" compilation CD. He had had problems with subtle vibrato
technique in his left hand, but other than that he could play a
mean bit of guitar still. Extraordinarily, the more recent the
songs are, the better they get. "Meet Me in the Morning" never
did much for me and still doesn't, but songs like "Primal",
"Rain", "End of the Beginning" and "Life and Death" are true
masterpieces. They make it impossible to listen and not be
touched acutely by Jason's plight. I could go on and rant about
god and fate and injustice and all that shit but, hey, you know
me, I don't do that kind of thing outside hidden articles. Well,
not usually, anyway.
If you like good music, epic stuff, guitar music, or just
anything that's like a scent of roses to the ears, you should get
it. Not just because Jason is up shit creek without a paddle and
you want to help him out with his doubtlessly expensive daily
life, but also because it's brilliant music. I know that, no
matter what Rush and Dream Theater might conceive to release
before December 31st, this will be my number one CD of the year.
I went to go and make a compilation tape for my bus travel to
our Welsh holiday and wanted some of these tracks on there, but I
decided I couldn't because the songs are so powerful and
hauntingly beautiful (particularly the classic "Life or Death").
You can't go on a happy holiday with this music, music of which
the power and intense feeling flowing through your body cannot be
described by me even if I tried. I decided to put Gwar's track
"Rag Na Rok" on there instead...
Go and do yourself, and Jason, a favour and get this CD. His
parents have both given up their job to be able to take care of
him, and it seems the three of them now have to live solely off
the proceeds of this album. It may just be, in my opinion of
course, the best album of this decade.
Benediction - The Dreams you Dread (Nuclear Blast)
I discovered Benediction about a year ago, at the Wâldrock
festival where Venom headlined. Frontman Dave Ingram offered a
good stage presentation and I liked his voice right away. As you
might know, Benediction used to be the band in which Barney
Greenway (now of Napalm Death) sung, until Dave joined. And
Dave's voice is just like Barney's, and I like them both; they
are exactly right for the genre.
So first thing I did was get "Transcend the Rubicon". I really
liked the album; it was like a more death metal oriented version
of Napalm Death, which I liked. And "The Dreams You Dread"
follows the trend, though even better. They now have a new
drummer, Neil Hutton, who replaced Ian Treacy. And an excellent
drummer it is, despite his rather small stature.
Impeccably produced, heavy brick-in-the-face quality, not too
bad technically, that's Benediction.
Blind Justice - Hurt (Killer Whale Records)
Blind Justice are a thrash metal band from Gouda, the
Netherlands. They have achieved quite a good name here with their
unique style of thrash metal with added saxophone and violin on
their debut, "Sax and Violins". They have released two EPs since,
but have now finally released a new full-length effort, "Hurt".
Blind Justice are really tight and on the dot when it comes to
almost metronomic precision. Their rough guitar sound tends to
grow more dominant these days, which I think is a bit of a shame
when it comes to the sax and the violin, but nonetheless the
album offers a recognisable and awesome riffing blast that might
just send you teetering on the edge of some or other metal abyss.
If you like really tight and precise thrash metal on which you
can headbang and jump to your heart's content, this is the album
Carcass - Swansong (Earache)
Carcass have gone from strength to strength ever since their
debut. They started off as regular, albeit meticulously
anatomically correct, gore hardcore metallers, and have over the
years attained a certain melody and maturity in their music.
Although I am sometimes in a mood when I'll really enjoy
"Symphonies of Sickness" (1989), I usually prefer "Heartwork"
(1993). I guess the real fans of the old days will consider
"Heartwork" 'selling out', but it's just more crunchy, more
fitting, rounder in a way, more whole. So when I heard of the
release of their latest, "Swansong", I rushed to the record shop
to buy it.
"Swansong" goes on where "Heartwork" left off. However, there
seems to have been no growth in-between. I had perhaps expected a
certain amount of growth and that's probably why, as a whole, I
find "Swansong" a bit tedious with mere occasional moments of
flickering in the darkness. Maybe the fact that Carcass have
already split up right after the album has contributed to the
album not being as innovative as might have been expected. It
smacks of contractual obligations, to tell you the truth. Or
maybe I was just disappointed because my CD had a sticker on it
proclaiming it to be a CD ROM as well (which I couldn't get to
work on my PC and, indeed, does not appear to be one at all).
Who will tell? For a CD to be liked by someone, it needs to have
more than just good music. Other ingredients need to be just
right, too. Maybe that's why I'll always like "...And Justice For
All" more than any other Metallica album, and why I won't
specifically like "Swansong".
Celestial Season - Solar Lovers (Displeased)
This is not really a new album at all, but when there was a sale
at local record shop "White Noise" I bought it and in retrospect
couldn't get myself to believe I had been quite happy without it
all those months before. Celestial Season, a Dutch band, have
released two albums so far; their debut "Forever Scarlet Passion"
(1993) and 1995's "Solar Lovers". They play quaintly groovy doom
metal with two female violinists, a super-low grunt and down-
tuned instruments. Songs like "Decamarone" and "Solar Child" can
vie with any My Dying Bride track, and are a lot heavier. The CD
also contains a most excellent rendition of the Ultravox classic,
"Vienna", which I'd have in favour of the original any day of the
week (but that's just me, maybe).
Unfortunately, Celestial Season have turned totally crap since
the release of "Solar Lovers". The singer was dumped in favour of
someone who actually tries to sing and I seem to recall them
having dumped one of the two angelic violinists too. They have
since released an EP, "Sonic Orb" (I think it's called that,
anyway), which is totally crap.
You could do a lot worse than buying "Solar Lovers" before, you
know, well, suddenly it's out of print or something.
Dark Tranquillity - The Gallery (Massacre)
Another one of my recent musical discoveries is the Swedish band
Dark Tranquillity (what a strange word, "tranquillity", one would
swear it has to be written with one "l"...). They play really
technical thrash metal much in the vein of country-mates At The
Gates, with superior musicianship and surprisingly fine lyrics
that have often be compared to genuine poetry. Although the
guitar melodies sometimes hint at older Iron Maiden, the rest of
the music is a speedy sequence of, yes, beautiful songs.
Especially "Midway Through Infinity" and "The Dividing Lines" are
particularly good tracks, though this would be unfair for the
other ones which are all real corkers as well. Although the
vocals are aggressive grunting and screaming, the music stirs in
me that shallow pool of melancholy that At The Gates stirs, too.
And because I also like premium musicianship, that makes Dark
Tranquillity a great band in my book. "The Gallery" is a vast
improvement after their previous album (title slipped my mind)
which was even more technical but not as much joy to listen to
and to let yourself be captured by and taken away to touch the
soul of some Swedish muse. Interesting extras to the genre are
female vocals, tympani, the use of acoustic guitars, and neat
keyboard fills. And the production is immaculate, which I think
is really important for a band like this.
Deep Purple - Mk III The Final Concerts (Connoisseur Collection)
The Connoisseur Collection is doing inestimably valuable work
for Deep Purple fans all over the world. Their main guy Simon
Robinson has already compiled a great many recordings on this
label such as "Ritchie Blackmore Rock Profile Vols 1 & 2", "On
the Wings of a Russian Foxbat" (Mk IV US tour), "Scandinavian
Nights" (Mk II, Stockholm 1970), "In the Absence of Pink" (Mk II
reunion tour show), "Live in Japan" (the original Japanese
concerts from which "Made in Japan" was compiled) and Rainbow's
"Live in Germany" (1976). He also did various related stuff, I
seem to recall, like the "Gemini Suite", the "Butterfly Ball" and
the "Deep Purple Family Album", and there are probably one or two
I've left out. And now, not that remarkably, we find the "Mk III
The Final Concerts" double CD. What we have here is a complete Mk
III (Coverdale, Blackmore, Lord, Paice, Hughes) concert put
together from two 1974 European concerts - right, the very tour
from which "Made in Europe" was culled. Whereas most of the
footage on "Made in Europe" was from a Saarbrucken performance
(with editing, possible dubbing, and audience noise added
later!), this double CD features tracks from Graz and Paris.
Apart from the usual classics, we now also get performances of
"Gypsy", "Going Down" and a Mk III "Space Truckin'". Recorded
quality is excellent, of course - this is not a bootleg but an
official release. It is interesting to discover, also, while
listening to the CDs, that "Made in Japan" didn't consist only of
Saarbrucken material: The last half of the Paris "Mistreated"
(including "Rock me Baby"), for example, was instantly
Although I don't think "Mk III The Final Concerts" will ever
surpass "Made in Japan" any sooner than the excellent "Live in
Japan" will surpass the even more excellent "Made in Japan", it
is an excellent CD with good performances, never mind that
Blackmore's playing is said to be a bit lacklustre due to his
already knowing he'd leave the band to form Rainbow. Ian Paice
and Jon Lord shine like they always used to. Great stuff. And
even a lacklustre Blackmore on a bad day beats Tommy Bolin hands
down. The great thing is that bits of other songs - like
"Lazy", "Child in Time", "Gypsy Eyes" and a bit of Holst's "The
Planets" - are built into the longer improvisations. This is
something that will forever let a band like Deep Purple stand out
among other bands.
If only someone like Simon Robinson would tackle bands like
Metallica, Yngwie Malmsteen or Steve Vai - that would be highly
Elend - Les Ténèbres du Dehors (Holy Records)
Those of you who have read earlier ST NEWS CD reviews cannot
have missed the stuff I wrote about Elend's 1994 debut, "Leçons
de Ténèbres". Well, they have released their second album of
"Violent Luciferian Music from the leaders of the Gothic
Symphonic Revival" last winter, which features a second soprano
to boot! I've got a weakness for the frail yet powerful voice of
the soprano, and it's a guarenteed success if you throw in two
such beautiful voices. It made me dig The Gathering, fairly early
Paradise Lost, Theatre of Tragedy (below) and, of course, Elend
For those (hopefully few) of you who have missed what Elend is
all about, let me briefly recapitulate: Elend are an Austrian
guy, a French guy, a French lass and, as of this album, a second
French lass. They play their music on symphonic keyboards and
violins, and accompany the result by grunting/shouting (the
Austrian guy, I believe), regular singing (the French guy) and
soprano singing (the girls). The result had nothing to do with
heavy metal, of course, although some might claim the shouts and
grunts disable it from being classified anywhere else. Fact is
that Elend is a unique blend of classical music and aggression
with ingredients of metal and symphonic rock thrown in for
excellent accord. Unlikely ever to be played on a party as
background music, "Les Ténèbres du Dehors" captures the attention
and does not let go. It's a challening type of music, made for
the more open-minded musical palatum. I am glad Holy Records
gives bands like these a chance to blossom into maturity and
reach people like, well, me.
If you need a musical challenge, listen to Elend. If you don't,
simply stick to Top Of The Pops.
Gwar - Ragnarok (Metal Blade)
Gwar's previous record, "This Toilet Earth", was a bit of a miss
as far as I was concerned. It seemed too much back to the roots,
back to the times before the excellent and hopelessly underrated
"Scumdogs of the Universe" and "American Must be Destroyed". So I
was glad beyond gladness when it turned out that the new album,
"Ragnarök", is once more of the usual excellence that Gwar
actually is if you take the patience to look through the image
of...well...snail-eyed dicks, blood, sperm, decapitations and
rather provactive subject matter.
I shall always maintain that Gwar could make a decent living
selling their music even without the show element. And believe
me, I kid thee not. "Ragnarök" is a fine example of their work
and is probably their grooviest album to date. My favourite,
anyway. Keyboard- and effects person, Dave Musel, this time got a
bigger finger in the stuff composition-wise. There is more use of
keyboards, and it all pretty well adds to the thing that is
Gwar's music. Songs include the fantastic rocker "Ragnarök", the
Slymentra Hymen and Oderus Urungus duet "Fire in the Loins" and
the RHCP-soundalike "Think You Oughta Know This". The booklet is
entertaining and has a great deal of interesting snippets. I am
looking forward to their new video, which will no doubt feature
new character, religious persona Cardinal Syn.
It's a shame I couldn't see them on their "Ragnarök" tour; I
had to stand in front of a classroom full of pubescent kids
looking like I wanted to be taken seriously, a thing that might
be hard to do if your face is still faintly red (and there's no
use going to a Gwar concert and standing out of the way of the
spray of gore and everything, I either want all of it or none of
Johnson, Rob - Peripheral (Screeming Geetar Records)
I had never heard of Rob Johnson until, for some reason or
other, I got sent a press release of sorts of his latest (second)
CD, an effort by the title of "Peripheral". Always eager to get
my ears exposed to new guitarists, I took the steps necessary to
procure a copy of this latest product (if you'd like to do
similarly, check the "Music News" column for ordering details).
Rob Johnson is a talented guitarist for sure, a fact which soon
becomes apparent when listening to the album. The first two
tracks, "Matter of Fact" and "Reflection", are some of the best
on the CD. Rob plays 7-string guitar, bass, guitar synth and
sitar and also adds atmospheric samples, some of them of spoken
dialogue. His songs stand out among much of the competition
because of their powerfully driving bass sound (possibly caused
in part by the 7th string, which is a low B). Also, the songs are
heavy yet leave a lot of space open for intricate guitar work.
The sitar genuinely adds something to several songs, as opposed
to the use of sitar in some of Yngwie Malmsteen's songs, where
the instrument is strummed in the beginning and that's it.
Another song that really stands out is "Nerve Disorder"; I think
the fact that "Nerve Disorder" and "Matter of Fact" went down so
nicely with me is that they were recorded with a different
drummer (John Homan, as opposed to Rick May on the other tracks).
Not that the other guy is bad, but John seems to have the kind of
sound and style I really like.
The album as a whole is certainly worth checking out. I have a
lot of guitar albums, and particularly some of the CDs by Richie
Kotzen and a lot of tracks on the "Ominious Guitarists of the
Unknown" (Shrapnel, 1992) fade to nothing in my mind. Johnson's
songs do not.
Kiss - You wanted the best, you got the best!! (Mercury)
In the seventies, Kiss released two of the greatest live double
LPs of all time: "Alive!" and "Alive II". About two years ago
they released the rather good "Alive III". Kiss have now
reunited: the original line-up with Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace.
Kiss are now once more the Kiss that I got into when I was but a
wee impressionable lad. A Japanese compilation album has
appeared, an MTV "Unplugged" CD with all the old and new members,
and, now, "You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!!", a
compilation of four "Alive!" tracks, four "Alive II" tracks and
four previously unreleased tracks from various gigs in 1975 and
1977 (these being "Room Service", "Two Timer", "Let Me Know" and
"Take Me". The CD wraps up with a 17+ minute interview of Jay
Leno with the four original band members talking about the
reunion tour. They say it's going to one hell of a big tour, but
people keep on telling me that they'd just do the States and
Donington in the U.K. That would be a real disappointment because
I'd surely like to see them play here, with the make-up and old
But let's not sidetrack.
Packaging looks neat (most colourful jewel box I've ever seen),
the new songs are nice ("Take Me" is quite memorable, though the
original "Alive II" will never be surpassed because, well, I
virtually grew up on those tracks), the interview is moderately
interesting to listen to once, and there's an outrageous advert
in the booklet for a "KISStory" book that sells for a whopping
US$ 218.95 if you want it shipped to outside the U.S. A really
nice CD, but I think it proves all the more that they're doing
all this for the money.
Not that I mind, as long as I can get to see them too!
Metallica - Load
Possibly the album I've been waiting most avidly for during the
last year or so, ever since I learned that it would be out
somewhere in 1996, is "Load". The delay appears to have been
caused partly by the band having been involved in a lawsuit of
sorts with their record company, Elektra. Something about the
rights to the songs and that kind of thing. All in all, they
appear to have written this album in about a year, and have
already written a great deal more songs that will make it onto
their next album, which should (in theory) be out in about a
year from now. Right, and pigs can fly. I'll be wanting to see
that before I believe it.
Anyway, "Load". Their sixth album, and therewith sixth-heaviest
of their work. Featuring 79 minutes of hard rock, Metallica have
taken yet further steps away from the timeless aggression on
their thrash debut, "Kill 'Em All". Many of the die-hard
Metallifans were disappointed a lot by "Metallica" (a.k.a. "The
Black Album"), and I will be the last to say it was a great leap
ahead from the fantastic "...And Justice for All" that was,
really, my first contact with Metallica.
"Load", like I just hinted at, continues the trend. Although
James Hetfield's voice is still there - and jolly well, too -
"Load" has rather one ballad too many. The lowest point on "Load"
is "Mama Said", which somehow always makes the name Tammy
Whinette come to mind, unwantingly and ruthlessly. We're talking
slide guitar here (a specially rigged country kind of Fender
Telecaster, actually), and vocals that are actually sung
undistortedly. Still, having said that, "Mama Said" is the only
real letdown on the album, musically. With songs like "Ain't my
Bitch", my favourite "Cure" and "2x4" it surely rocks
majestically. Even the first single, "Until it Sleeps", rocks
pretty well. It's just that it's no longer metal at all. Some
people call it maturing, others call it wimping out, yet others
call it selling out. Well, I don't really care one way or the
other. Musically, "Load" is one hell of a fine album although,
granted, it's not quite as fantastic as the stuff they did in the
late eighties. Then again, I guess one shouldn't expect them to
stop developing, to freeze where they are and then simply stop
growing, grow dull.
Between the above lines you might have read something about them
being alright musically. That was my intention, because their
image has certainly taken a turn for the worse. And that, if you
ask me, was a turn down, to the lowest floor (or even the wine
cellars!). We're talking serious warpings here. Kirk looks like
some half-wit with a piercing-lading face who might,
incidentally, be suffering from some disease resulting in heavy
weight loss. Lars has allowed himself to be photographed wearing
thick black eye make'up. All CD liner photographs are either
artsy or fagotty. James still looks half-way OK, and so does
Jason, but Kirk and Lars, well, it seems like they've turned
exactly into what they would never have wanted to be: Over the
top rock stars. In comparison, Robert Smith (of The Cure, for
those not in the know) looks like my dad and pales to sheer
Fine album, though it should be labelled "Alternica" or
something (and perhaps Kirk should finally prise that wah-wah
pedal off his foot). Image sucks. Still got myself a ticket for
the upcoming tour (November 1996, Oranjehal, Utrecht, so really
couldn't let that one slip by), though.
My Dying Bride - The Angel and the Dark River + Live Bonus CD
(Peaceville / Music For Nations)
My Dying Bride have always been one of my favourite bands. Their
great doom metal has brought joy to me on manifold occasions, and
amazingly this band has actually grown heaps better with every of
their new albums (which does not go to say their earliest efforts
were tripe, because they weren't at all, really). Their latest
album, "The Angel and the Dark River", was another masterpiece
with took me on a musical rollercoaster (a slow one <grin>) from
the beginning to the end. Recently, supposedly in Music For
Nations' attempt to garner more cash, a version with bonus live
CD was released. Of course I found someone to sell my old copy to
so I could buy that new version. After all, well, what can I say,
I am a fan.
The bonus CD features about 20 minutes of live music taped at
the "tent night" of Dynamo Open Air 1995. The mix is really rough
and barely adjusted, probably exactly the way it sounded when
they played. This is clear especially at the beginning, when the
ride cymbal is so loud they have to adjust it through the PA.
There are a few wrong notes here and there and Aaron's voice
breaks up horribly right at the beginning, but the feeling is
there, the atmosphere, the feeling of being at a My Dying Bride
I am not sure if buying this CD is worth its while for those who
already have the regular version, but those who haven't should
not think twice about running out to the record shop and getting
it before it's no longer available!
The live tracks, incidentally, are "Your River", "A Sea to
Suffer In", "Your Shameful Heaven" and the fast-paced set closer,
"The Forever People".
Napalm Death - Diatribes (Earache)
After the excellent "Fear Emptiness Despair", Napalm Death have
released their latest album, "Diatribes". In between somewhere
they had released an EP by the name of "Greed Killing", which had
some non-album tracks as well as a few tasters of what was to
come. Well, what has come?
"Diatribes" misses something. Maybe the weird guitar patterns
that were present on "FED", maybe the production that made
"Harmony Corruption" so brilliant. I don't really know. I do know
that the songs sound simpler, use less chords, and are generally
a lot slower and, yes, less aggressive than what came before.
Barney still sings his lungs out on most of the songs, but only
with "Dogma" and "Ripe for the Breaking" do I sense some of the
real magic returning. "Cursed to Crawl" has entire passages that
are actually sung, and "Cold Forgiveness" might just be the
simplest composition I've ever heard Napalm Death play
(incidentally, this is also a song that has been done "unplugged"
on a radio show once, which was quite hilarious actually). All in
all, "Diatribes" is a fairly OK album but not one that stands out
due to general excellence (such as "FED" and "Harmony
Corruption" did) or general ruthless aggression (such as "Scum"
and "From Enslavement to Obliteration" did). Just like "Utopia
Banished" is seems a bit of a outsider in the Napalm Death
catalogue. A bit of a shame, if you ask me.
Orphaned Land - El Nor Ra Alila (Holy Records)
It's not been long enough between my receiving the review CD
(just before the release of this issue of ST NEWS) and my writing
this. Orphaned Land makes intricate music that does not go down
easily on your musical palatum. Using Arab and Hebrew chanting as
well as a variety of native instruments added to the classic
metal sounds, they definitely take some getting used to. But what
comes out is of a challenging, almost uncanny beauty. Some of the
songs on this second album have taken the concept beyond what I
think is still palatable, but as a whole this album is still a
masterpiece, which will grow on me much more no doubt. The only
thing I don't really like is that the final song starts with 10
minutes of silence. I really thought Orphaned Land were above
this kind of thing. At least, in this case, it's the bit prior to
the actual track, when the CD player display shows a negative
time counting down. With one press on "index forward" it leaps to
the start of the song at 0:00. So it's quite unnecessary to pres
"fast forward" for a prolonged time.
Pan-Thy-Monium - Khaooohs & Kon-fus-ion
"Disappointment." That is the word that comes to mind. And you
know why? Let me explain.
Pan-Thy-Monium have released two full-length releases over the
years. Their first was "Dawn of Dreams" (1992; which was Grade
A++), followed by "Khaoohs" (1993; which was Grade A+). I don't
know what it was about them, but they definitely had "the magic
ingredient". The music was heavy as a ton of bricks, progressive,
experimental, used ultra-low grunths, and had saxophones and
keyboard used for maximum effect. A while ago they re-released
their old EP "Dream II" on CD single with a new 1994 bonus track
called "IV". That was pretty excellent too.
Then I read about them releasing one final masterpiece. I read
stuff about them having three hours of prime material that would
close off the chapter of the Pan-Thy-Monium project for good. So
when the result of this work, a mere 35-minute CD called
"Khaooohs & Kon-Fus-Ion", was released, yes, I was disappointed.
Also because the last of the four tracks, "In Remembrance",
consisted of nought but a full minute of apparently (and
appallingly) trendy silence.
Of course, the chemistry in Pan-Thy-Monium cannot produce
anything bad. The remaining 30+ minutes contain two epic
masterpieces titles "The Battle of Geeheeb" and "Thee-Pherenth"
and an instrumental - the somewhat more average and rather
repetitive "Behrial". No matter how excellent especially those
two epic things are, the feeling becrept me that I'd rather have
bought this is a "farewell EP" at half or two thirds of the
price. I had expected more of the good bits, and at least 70
minutes worth of their fantastic music, as per usual. So, despite
the excellence that occasionally rears its fascinating head,
"Khaooohs & Kon-Fus-Ion" is no vital part of your music
collection, not at this price. It's difficult to grasp that they
took 2 years to record this.
Rage Against the Machine - Evil Empire (Sony)
I'd be lying through my teeth if I told you I had expected Rage
Against The Machine to enter some new and unprecedented segment
of musical styles with their second album, "Evil Empire". So, to
the accompaniment of a frightfully small if not nonexistent
amount of surprise I let if lap across me in aggressive, kindof
I don't know why I like this band. Maybe I just heard their
debut album track "Killing in the Name...", and that one oft-
repeated line made it all right for me. I just like them, even
though they are said to be rich kids trying to be angry at the
world and that kind of thing, politically correct, and quite a
few other none-too-positive things. Well, they act their anger
adroitly, and the songs sound nice.
Such is the case on "Evil Empire", too. The album could just as
well have been called "Rage Against the Machine II"; the songs
are about the same topics, the musical style has changed
virtually zilch, Zack de la Rocha still screams his rastas off,
and Tom Morello still does interesting-sounding things to his
guitar (though he is sortof running out of new things).
"Evil Empire", like the debut, is an album that you can't just
listen to any day of the week; you have to be in a certain mood,
preferably a frustrated or angry one. Or you have to be on a
party where people like loud music. Granted, their songs are a
tad same-ish, but "Evil Empire" is nonetheless a really nice
album. And the single, "Bulls on Parade", is pretty good too.
Sadist - Tribe
I was completely flabbergasted, gobsmacked, nonplussed,
flummoxed, all of that together, after having seen Sadist perform
at this year's "VIRUS Festakel" (see the "Concerts" column,
elsewhere in this issue). Especially because of guitarist annex
keyboard player Tommy, who managed to pull it off to play both
instruments at the same time (including keyboard solos with his
right hand and left hand hammering of guitar chords
simultaneously). Also, Tommy's guitar playing as such was
reminiscent of none other than Yngwie Malmsteen, and you all know
that I hold Yngwie in high esteem when it comes to musicianship.
Thankfully, their debut "Into the Light" as well as their new
release "Tribe" were for sale at the gig. I purchased both.
Sadist have changed singers since their debut (Andy was replaced
by a guy called Zanna). This has not necessarily been a good
move, as Zanna is less accessible and has already kept quite a
few people I know from seriously checking out Sadist. His voice
is definitely not the most pleasing to hear, sounding something
like that of the guy in At The Gates, only a lot more screechy.
Maybe that's why I especially like the instrumental "From
Bellatrix to Betelgeuse", a song which I also liked most when
hearing it done live. Still, if you like to hear progressive
thrash with melodic guitar playing and excellence in general,
Sadist is a must to check out.
I'll leave you with Karin's first reaction when hearing the
first track off "Tribe", "Escogido": "Is that the hunchback of
the Notre Dame on the keyboards?"
Sepultura - Roots (Roadrunner)
Brazilian band Sepultura (name means "Grave", in case you're
interested) have had a fairly long and definitely varied history.
They started off as a couple of punks who corpse-painted
themselves and made a horrible racket, unoriginal death metal of
which only one or two songs were halfway decent. Then came their
breakthrough with 1989's "Beneath the Remains", a most excellent
album, and the even more excellent death/thrash classic "Arise"
(1991). The sky was the limit, and Sepultura toured the world and
garnered wagonloads of fans.
With "Chaos A.D." (1993) their music took a more serious turn.
The music became more hard-core, less death/thrash metal, and
more frequently addressed social and political issues. Still,
"Chaos A.D." was an excellent album. Their record company
started, slowly but surely, to cash in on Sepultura. Out came
half a dozen CD singles, a special "tin box with flag and bonus
track" version and all that kind of stuff that is the sure sign
of a band being commercially viable. Only Metallica and Megadeth
had pulled that off to such extent before.
And now Sepultura have once more released an album that takes
them another step away from death/thrash metal. "Roots" does not
go back to their crappy death metal roots, but rather to their
parental roots, the roots of the Brazilian people, including the
No, that might perhaps be a bit over the top. But fact is that
"Roots" knows a great variety of tribal/industrial influences.
Several songs are sung partly or wholly in some or other tribal
language (or maybe just plain Portuguese, but it's all the same
to a bloody foreigner like me), and the compositions seem to have
greatly simplified in all but the percussion departments. Native
guest vocalists and percussionists have been employed, with
varied effect. I do admire Sepultura for the fact that they
follow their instincts when it comes to making music. They could
have duplicated "Arise" time and time again, selling their
music in really satisfying amounts. Instead, they have not stood
still and have done what they wanted. For me it's a shame that
their direction took them away from what I really liked. Although
"Roots" has interesting moments, on the whole the album is not
really my cup of tea. The track I enjoy most is "Dictatorshit", a
typical Sepulturism. And listening to the whole album repeatedly
only brought to me a faint feeling of boredom.
And, of course, in the mean time two singles have already
appeared ("Roots" and "Ratamahatta"), each in two different
versions with partly varying non-album tracks. No doubt there'll
be another few before thought occurs of the next album.
Theatre of Tragedy - Theatre of Tragedy (Massacre)
One of the finest gems of music I've discovered in the last half
year is the Norwegian band Theatre of Tragedy. Featuring an
uncannily beautiful grunt/soprano tandem in the shape of Raymond
Rohonyi and Liv Kristine Espenæs, each individual song is set up
as a play with these two as the sole characters, accompanied by
seriously doomy music. Their lyrics are rather pretentious ("ye
beholdest but the shadow - mayhap a tithe of trothplight - I
deem, e'er and anon!") but they seem to pull if off nonetheless.
Might sound a bit ridiculous to an English 'native'. I don't know
where they got the knowledge of archaic English, but they surely
seem to have a knack for it. If you like a kind of doomy metal
and your heart gladdens with the sound of angelic singing, do
yourself a favour and go to the record shop to listen to this
album. Probably the finest track is the first, "A Hamlet for a
Slothful Vassal." Good stuff.
According to the latest news, Theatre of Tragedy are currently
in the studio (or may just have wrapped things up already) for
their second release. He're hoping that Liv will get an even more
prominent role and that her timid singing will grow into a more
full-bodied joy for the ears to tremble to.
Various Artists - Holy Bible, The (Holy Records)
Holy Records, just before the release of this issue of ST NEWS,
made me happy by sending new stuff. One of the items was a 100%
non-album track sampler containing songs by every one of their
bands, including new signing, Yearning from Finland. And the
great thing is that these tracks are all new and have and will
never be used elsewhere! Yes, folks, that means that you'll be
finding exclusive tracks here by Yearning (atmospheric and really
cool), Nightfall (OK track), Serenity (well, typically Serenity,
OK), Orphaned Land (good track), Elend (er...a bit long and a bit
too much of the same, but the sopranos still rule), On Thorns I
Lay (I don't like them too much, especially with all that pseudo-
randy whispered singing), Tristitia (excellent track in the same
vein as "One with Darkness"), Misanthrope (crazily ingenuous
track, as usual), Godsend (good track in the vein of their debut
as opposed to the inferior second album) and Septic Flesh
(interesting track by the people who have knocked Nightfall off
the Greek atmospheric war metal throne by now).
Apparently, this sampler will be available at an almost absurdly
low price, so there's no reason why you shouldn't check out these
Various Artists - In Memory of...Celtic Frost (Dwell)
Tribute albums are all the rage these days. I haven't got a clue
as to the true motives behind certain labels wanting to do
tribute albums, especially when it concerns major bands such as
Rush, Metallica and Slayer, but I guess the bands playing on the
actual tributes do it just because they really liked the band
they perform songs of.
I reckon the "In Memory of...Celtic Frost" tribute album falls
into the bona-fide catagory. After all, just about nobody knows
Celtic Frost or their 'mother' band Hellhammer at all and Dwell
Records are not likely to make a large bundle of money with this
release, not by a long shot.
Bands featured on this tribute are, among others, Enslaved,
Slaughter (the real Canadian band, not the MVT-friendy wimps of
the same name), Mayhem, Grave, Apollyon's Sun (Celtic
Frost/Hellhammer ex-frontman Thomas Gabriel Warrior's new band)
and Emperor. Some of the covers are equal to or better than the
originals, but quality can primarily be judged by the quality of
the production and the style of vocals. I personally don't like
Enslaved's "Procreation of the Wicked", Closedown's 10-minute
"Danse Macabre", Emperor's "Massacra" (maybe because I think
they're a bunch of poser gits) and Grave's "Mesmerized" that much
(the latter primarily because of the vocals), and 13's "Triumph
of Death" isn't half as revolting as the Hellhammer original (and
not just because the vocalist if female). The great thing of this
album is that it features Celtic Frost stuff from some of their
best albums, including the one CF classic, "Circle of the
Tyrants" (covered by Opeth, making use of heavy piano sounds and
acoustic guitar as well), which was previously done most adroitly
by Obituary on their "Cause of Death" album. Some of the finest
versions on this album are Slaughter's "Dethroned Emperor",
Divine Eve's "Visions of Mortality" and, of course, Opeth's
"Circle of the Tyrants".
An additional special edge to this album is the fact that it
features a one-off reunion of the Slaughter line-up and the final
tracks ever recorded by Divine Eve and 13 before these two bands
Various Artists - Metal Militia II (Tribute Records)
It must have been a year, or maybe two, since Tribute Records
released "Metal Militia", a kind of death metal tribute to
Metallica. And now they've released the sequel, with some more
new and some less old songs covered by the usual variety of
totally unknown bands primarily from Skandinavia (with the
exception of Blakk Totem, band around ex-King Diamond guitarist
Pete Blakk). Songs covered on this album, again very much in a
death metal way, include "The Four Horsemen", "Trapped Under
Ice", "Blackened", "One", "...And Justice for All", "One" and
"Sad But True" as well as some of the olden classics that I need
not mention for you all doubtlessly know which they are.
As with the prequel, "Metal Militia II" has one disadvantage,
though: The vocals. Some people might say something along the
lines of, "yes, but they are giving the original songs their own
touch, they do their own interpretation, a creative
interpretation, of the original." Well, I am not one of those. At
least they should sing in a kind of thrash metal or death metal
vein. Some of the vocalists make shivers run up and down my
spine, but thankfully the generally heavy musical bits make up
for that. An interesting tribute, like its predecessor. No True
Metallica Fan - such as I - should be without it.
Various Artists - Working Man (Magna Carta)
Yep, yet another tribute album, this time by Magna Carta (who
have also done tribute albums for Yes, Genesis and Jethro Tull).
The artists playing on this album, however, are a mite more
impressive than those on your everyday tribute album (barring the
Black Sabbath and Kiss ones, of course). We have here excellent
drummers such as Mike "Dream Theater" Portnoy and the amazingly
technical Deen Castronovo, bassists such as Billy Sheehan and
Stuart Hamm and guitarists such as John "Dream Theater" Petrucci,
Jake E. Lee, George Lynch, James Murphy (of ex-Obituary?) and
Steve Morse. Actually, it's primarily the singers who manage to
fuck up some of the songs, unfortunately - people such as Mark
Slaughter, Eric "Mr. Big" Martin and Devin "Vai" Townsend. James
LaBrie is fairly inconspicuous, and so is Sebastian "Skid Row"
Bach, but the rest does more harm than good.
Therefore I was glad to know that "YYZ" and "La Villa
Strangiato" were among the songs covered, which no vocalist could
possibly mess up. "Anthem" is the worst version you could hear
(Mark Slaughter's vocals suck dino rock, and George Lynch is
shredding perpetually) and "Mission" sounds all cheesy vibrato-y
because of Eric Martin. But musically the whole tribute CD is
amazing. "Working Man", "The Trees", "Jacob's Ladder", "Closer to
the Heart" (performed by Fates Warning, who add a "2112" teaser),
"Natural Science", "YYZ" and "Red Barchetta" stand for quality
and good songwriting, and the cover artists are generally up to
A good tribute album, especially for those into progressive
metal or, well, Rush.
X-Cops - You have the Right to remain Silent (Metal Blade)
Long after the X-Cops concert I finally got my hands on their
album, "You Have the Right to Remain Silent". The X-Cops are
primarily a bunch of members of Gwar with the exception of new
drummer Mike "X-Cadet Billy Club" Dunn, although the music and
subject matter have little in common with Gwar at all.
X-Cops is an outfit that basically exists to take the mickey out
of American law enforcement. Anybody whose ever seen an episode
of the American series "Highway Patrol" (a "reality TV" kind of
thing apparently meant to glorify to U.S. State Troopers) will
know that there is plenty of stuff to take the mickey out of.
What a load of total twonks.
X-Cops play rather straightforward thrash music, with this album
also featuring a lyrically modified thrash version of the Deep
Purple classic "Highway Star".
The other songs usually cover topics ranging from "prison being
hard on your hole" and "cavity searches" to "third legs" and
"uniforms". The music, like I said, is pretty straightforward.
Still, some of the songs have nicely driving riffs and do manage
to get something across. I'd definitely say that the album is
more brutal but, plainly, I prefer Gwar. And it's a darned shame
that Danyelle/Danielle (a.k.a. Slymenstra Hymen) didn't do
anything on this album.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.