Sunday, February 23, 2014

Primalfrost – Prosperous Visions

Given the long, harsh winter that occurred in the Great White North this year, it is only appropriate that Canada unleashes some great melodic death metal for those metalheads that love the cold, snowy approach of bands like Wintersun and Norther. After an EP a couple of years ago, Primalfrost makes their debut full-length with “Prosperous Visions”. This album is an epic journey driven by the vision of multi-instrumentalist Dean Arnold, who handles every instrument on the record, including the vocals.

After an intro track, the album really gets going with “Distant Cries of War”. You’ll immediately notice how razor sharp the guitar tone is, as the opening riff of this track is inhumanly quick. This song displays a ton of melody over top of other riffs, and this proves to be quite effective, as it prevents the track from being one 7-minute riff. In fact, there is one section that is repeated a few times where Dean does some inspiring shredding beneath the vocals. The guitar work as a whole is really impressive, as there are riffs more complex than Wintersun can deliver (and often even delve into black metal), and leads that are equally as technical as Jari’s. Wintersun is also an appropriate comparison for the vocals. Dean’s growls show an upper register that makes them somewhat understandable. The clean vocals could definitely improve, but they often manage to give off that epic, chanting feel that some Pagan bands deliver. 

The next song after “Distant Cries of War”, "An End To Tyranny", provides the most ripping moment of the album. After a couple minutes of the melodeath sounds described above, Dean yells “mosh”, and immediately breaks out into a riff that will cause sheer chaos if played live. One unique track on the album is "Tale of the Hero", which is a quasi-ballad driven by Dean's clean vocals. Aside from these examples, however, most of the tracks on “Prosperous Visions” follow a similar formula to the first two tracks. Even the centerpiece of the album, the 14-minute “Cathartic Quest (An End To Tyranny Part II)”, does not differ too much from the other songs. It adds more blatant symphonics that are not as present in other tracks, but unless you really put the effort in to get to know every track, it will likely blend right in. Nonetheless, there are no parts of the album that can be considered disappointing in any way, as Primalfrost provides plenty of great riffs, brutal moments, and glorious sounds. “Prosperous Visions” could benefit from cutting the length a bit, as there is plenty of material to digest here. A lot of people complain that Wintersun was wrong to cut “Time” into two parts, but that’s part of what made the first half so great. It didn’t overwhelm you with content, and it gave you enough time to appreciate the songs on the record. With that said, “Prosperous Visions” can provide an equally enlightening experience, you’ll just have to spend a bit more time with it.

Be sure to check out and like Primalfrost on Facebook!

"Distant Cries of War"
"An End To Tyranny"
"Beyond The Shores and Lands"

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Written by Scott  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Midnight Malice – Proving Grounds

We’re barely into 2014 and Toronto’s traditional heavy metal scene is already raging. After a great album from Skull Fist, the next band to put out a record this year was Midnight Malice. “Proving Grounds” is their debut, and aside from a short demo put out 4 years ago, this is their only release. It’s not a particularly long or inventive album, but “Proving Grounds” is exactly what fans of the other locals (Axxion, Phantom, Cauldron, etc.) will be seeking. Kicking things off is “Dead of Night”, which shows your standard traditional heavy metal fanfare. There are harmonized riffs, catchy vocals, and a lot of attitude. The song, along with most others on this record, is pretty upbeat and gets by on its energy. As one would hope, this spirit is enhanced by the guitar solos, which are pretty reckless sounding. It doesn’t sound like they’re always 100% in key, but that makes things sound more improvised and dynamic. It also helps that the solos show up frequently throughout the album.

Proving Grounds” continues pretty much exactly where “Dead of Night” left off, as does “Flying Low”. Some of the riffs will especially appeal to fans of some more energetic NWOBHM and speed metal bands such as Raven, Saxon, and Anvil. It isn’t until the fourth track, “Lady Killer”, that things take a bit of a twist. This song has more of a glam metal feel to it, primarily because of the vocal lines in the chorus. It’s still a speedy riff-dominated song until the chorus, but this track might be where Midnight Malice loses some people. “Lady Killer” certainly doesn’t feel out of place, just a bit different. Aside from this deviation, the band generally marches on with that feel-good style of heavy metal. It’s so much fun that this album feels far too short. Then again, it is these compact albums that always do well because there’s no filler. Midnight Malice caps things off with yet another highlight, “Pray for Death”. This song opens with some melodic harmonized leads that are sure to please Maiden and Priest junkies, before evolving into the more standard riff fest like the 7 tracks before it.

Ultimately, it's hard to see anyone being dissatisfied with this album. While there are a ton of bands playing this style of metal these days, Midnight Malice is one that is well worth hearing. “Proving Grounds” sets out to be a fun collection of songs, and that’s exactly what it accomplishes. Buy this record and take a trip back to 1982!

Be sure to check out and like Midnight Malice on Facebook!

"Dead of Night"
"Flying Low"
"Pray For Death"

Final Rating
4.25/5 or 85%. 

Written by Scott  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Vindicator – Sleeping With Evil

Vindicator might just be the most underappreciated newer thrash band around. They never seem to draw as much attention as equally great bands like Lich King or Bonded By Blood, despite being around just as long, and often having an even more sizeable discography than similar bands. Their latest release comes in the form of an EP, and while it is somewhat of a mixed bag in terms of content, it is all quality. The meat of this EP is the three-song run at the beginning. “Sleeping With Evil” is an up tempo thrasher built on some simple chugging riffs that are driven by Vic Stown’s charismatic vocals. Vindicator is often described as a combination of Megadeth and Nuclear Assault, and the primary reason for that in my eyes is the vocals of Stown (alongside the band’s socio-political lyrics). Much like both Mustaine and Connolly, Stown has one of those voices that is immediately recognizable: somewhat higher pitched, a little weird at first, but with lots of enthusiasm. The chorus of the title track is a prime example of where his singing really shines. The next two tracks generally fall in line with a typical new wave thrash band, and though neither are as strong as the title track, both will put some wear on your neck when all is said and done. They’re considerably faster than “Sleeping With Evil” and will certainly fulfill your need to rage. 

The other half of “Sleeping With Evil” is less straightforward. Consisting of an instrumental, a demo, and a live track, I can’t help but feel that the band ran out of material. As mentioned earlier, none of these tracks are bad, but they feel a bit out of place after the incredibly strong lineup at the beginning of the EP. "Destruction of Justice" is well-transitioned into, but the lack of Stown's vocals leave a bit of a hole in the band's sound. In the end, however, the existence of these songs really does justice to the concept of an EP: it leaves you wanting more. Vindicator does such an impressive job on the three main tracks that the only thing that can be done is to put this on repeat until they put out another album. The last full length was good, but this even outdoes that release.

Be sure to check out and like Vindicator on Facebook!

"Sleeping With Evil"
"Hockey Stick Vengeance"
"New Clear Assault (End of an Error)"

Final Rating
4.2/5 or 84%. 

Written by Scott  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Suicidal Angels – Divide and Conquer

Suicidal Angels is yet another thrash band that it has taken me far too long to get into. For some unknown reason, I always thought they were from the UK. It turns out that they’re actually from Greece, but the association with the UK is perhaps not as inaccurate as it seems, because the leading UK band of the revivalist movement (Evile) is the strongest point of comparison to Suicidal Angels on “Divide and Conquer”. Both bands have mastered the art of adding mid-paced riffs to furious thrashing, as they take cues from Metallica in this art. This is well demonstrated on “Kneel to the Gun”, which masterfully mixes both heavy chugging riffs with lightning fast thrashier riffs. The other song that best shows this sound is “Seed of Evil”, which will take you back to classics like “Harvester of Sorrow”, just because of the sheer heaviness of the sound. The production is so crisp and the guitars are so crunchy that this style of riff really works well for Suicidal Angels.

Of course, “Divide and Conquer” would not be all that interesting if the entire album were mid-paced. The good news is that the vast majority of it is a whiplash-inducing experience. The two songs that bookend “Seed of Evil” both thrash along at high speeds. Again, it is quality of the guitar tone that really improves the experience. The main riff to “Marching Over Blood”, for example, is pretty standard for thrash (as are many riffs on this record), but hearing it played by Suicidal Angels really strengthens the experience compared to other bands that may have written similar riffs. One other area of note on “Divide and Conquer” is the vocal performance. For those unfamiliar with the band, the singer definitely has that Hetfield/Araya/Drake yell words with only hints of melody, but he does a great job with it. Although he may not be the most distinctive voice in thrash, it could not be more fitting. 

My lone complaint about this album is the length. There aren’t any bad songs, but at almost 50 minutes, it’s definitely a bit excessive for the style. It does tend to go by pretty quickly, but with the last track being nearly 9 minutes, things have pretty much run their course by the end. Luckily, the last song manages to stand out by having some of the best guitar solos on the record. Regardless of its length, “Divide and Conquer” is a really impressive record. Sonically, it’s just on another level, and that emphasizes the riffs above all else.  

Be sure to check out and like Suicidal Angels on Facebook!

"Marching Over Blood"
"Seed of Evil"
"Divide and Conquer"
"In The Grave"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Written by Scott  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Perpetratör – Thermonuclear Epiphany

Perpetratör is a thrash band from Portugal, and while I can honestly say that I’ve never heard another band from Portugal, these guys set the bar pretty high. Their debut album, “Thermonuclear Epiphany” is an exercise in German-styled thrash metal that is sure to please fans of the big 3 Teutonic thrash bands. The first way you’ll notice that Perpetratör displays similarities to that ruthless style of thrash is in the vocals. While vocalist Rick Thor doesn’t sound exactly like Mille, Schmier, or Angelripper, he has the same level of character in his voice that those legendary frontmen have. As soon as you hear a Perpetratör track, you’ll know it’s them by the sound of his voice. Another commonality to these bands comes in the opener, “Megaton Therion”, which is one of the highlights of the record. Underneath the chorus is a flurry of notes in the form of a very Destruction-esque lead circa the “Mad Butcher” era. In fact, the guitar playing as a whole is more reminiscent of Mike Sifringer than the other German guitarists for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the solos are well constructed, and not simply abusive of the tremolo bar. The other main reason is that while the riffs do display a propensity towards heavy alternate picking, there are times when they go for a more traditional thrash style riff. A great example of this is the main riff in “Pyres In The Night”, which ranks up there many riffs from “Infernal Overkill”.

Thermonuclear Epiphany” really excels as a record that creates a headbanging good time. Every song is enjoyable, but only a few create a lasting impression. The aforementioned opener is one of them, but the best song on the album is “Death To All”. With more speed and aggression than anything else, this is Perpetratör at their most fierce. Words are spit out in rapid succession on this song, with seemingly no end in sight. Eventually, however, things go more mid-paced and it absolutely crushes. Another standout track comes in the form of the closer, “Fire Unleashed”. This song is a bit different from all of the others, because it is not solely focused on brutality, but this allows some space for Rick Thor to really impress with his vocals. There's quite a bit more melody in this track, both in the form of the vocals and shredding guitar solos. Overall, however, it is just a nice change of pace from all of the thrashing that preceded it. 

This record is definitely impressive. If you like any form of more aggressive thrash, Perpetratör will likely appeal to you. Not only is this album really enjoyable, but it also shows a lot of potential for the future depending on what aspects of the band’s sound they want to expand on. Either way, you should buy “Thermonuclear Epiphany” as soon as possible!

Be sure to check out and like Perpetratör on Facebook!

"Megaton Therion"
"Death To All"
"Fire Unleashed"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Written by Scott