Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fueled By Fire - Trapped In Perdition

Fueled By Fire were one of the first retro thrash bands to put out an album, with “Spread The Fire” being released in 2006, but I never took them all that seriously. Sure, plenty of thrash bands use ridiculous themes, but something just didn’t click with that record. Unfortunately, this caused me to completely overlook “Plunging Into Darkness”, which I now must revisit, because with their new album, “Trapped In Perdition”, Fueled By Fire deliver some intense thrash metal.

For one thing, this album sounds a lot more serious form the get go. The most noticeable improvement from the debut is in the vocals, which, as you might now expect, consists of a long-haired madman shouting violent and blasphemous lyrics at us. Sometimes the singing gets a bit rougher around the edge, mainly in the form of leaning more towards death/thrash vocals, but either style is a major improvement for the band. The production has also marked change for the band. It is akin to if “Spiritual Healing” were a thrash album; every instrument sounds extremely full, loud, and heavy. The guitar crunch rivals Exodus and Metallica, and the drums are pummeling, without resorting to abusing a high-pitched snare. You can pick out what anybody is doing at any time, and no instrument overpowers another. I feel the same way about “Spiritual Healing”, but there is another connection to that album. The opening riff of “Catastrophe” sounds like it was influenced by the Death classic, “Defensive Personalities”. It has the same tight, accented notes in the main riff, and then progresses into those bludgeoning mid-paced sections that Death were masters of. Plenty of other songs on "Trapped In Perdition" follow the same pattern. They tend to alternative between bone-chillingly heavy sections, and more standard thrash riffs. The second single, “Forsaken Deity”, is the other standout track of this record. Though it is definitely a lot slower than most of the record, its heaviness and riff quality cannot be understated. In fact, that pretty much goes for every song on “Trapped In Perdition”. There’s always a killer riff waiting for you, and though not too many of them are completely memorable, they’ll always keep you coming back to this record.  

Trapped In Perdition” is one of those albums where all of the elements come together so well that it’s impossible to listen to without thrashing around and headbanging furiously. Fueled By Fire has benefitted from sounding more and more like a serious thrash outfit, and this album will no doubt turn a lot of heads in the thrash community.

Be sure to check out and like Fueled By Fire on Facebook!

"Forsaken Deity"

Final Rating
4.2/5 or 84%. 

Written by Scott 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Crimson Shadows - Sails of Destiny

Full disclosure: I’m a huge Crimson Shadows fanboy. I’ve seen them live more than any other band, and I’ve been listening to them pretty much non-stop since 2008. It was no surprise to me that they won the Wacken Metal Battle Canada this year because they have an extremely unique sound that has yet to be done by another band. Combine that killer musicianship and a great live performance, and you have one of the best bands around today. As you might expect, I’ve been anticipating their newest EP, “Sails of Destiny”, for quite a while now, and it does not disappoint!

Musically, “Sails of Destiny” retains all of the bands hallmarks. Every track features plenty of harmonized leads and shredding from Greg Rounding and Ryan Hofing. Though the amount of shredding might have declined (two of these tracks are sub-6 minutes), the quality has not. Jimi Maltais’ growls are somehow even deeper than before, yet he still manages to hit high screams. The clean vocals of Rounding have returned, but they have improved substantially. His singing is at the point where he could easily front a power metal band and it would be completely brilliant. In fact, I would say the improvement in his vocals is the highlight of the EP for me. Given the speed and intensity of the music, some serious drumming is required, and Cory Hofing more than delivers. You would expect a death metal band to utilize double bass and blast beats, which Crimson Shadows does, but it is the variation in the drumming that makes Hofing’s work more interesting than other drummers’ playing. Finally, I have to credit Morgan Rider for making me notice the bass playing for the first time in this band. There is a bass solo in “Moonlit Skies and Bloody Tides” that will blow your mind, especially once you realize that he plays with his fingers, rather than a pick.

The three songs on “Sails of Destiny” are a different beast from the preceding album and EP. For one thing, there’s a nine-minute epic here. “Moonlit Skies and Bloody Tides” takes you on a serious journey, before an ending lead fades out the song and the EP. This was the most difficult track for me to get into, not because of the length, but because of the chorus. The clean vocal melodies used, combined with the gang vocals that show up were a bit different for the band, but after several listens, this section reveals that it has a lot of emotion in it. The gang vocals make it sound like a band united, ready to fight against some sort of demonic foe. The single, “Maiden’s Call”, is the most standard song for the band on this release, but that is not a bad thing, as they have pretty much perfected their sound at this point. There are no real surprises on this song, except for one incredibly heavy section towards the end of each verse. Calling it a breakdown would be a misnomer, but the entire feel of the music changes for this short moment that causes unavoidable headbanging. Finally, there is the opener, “Freedom and Salvation”, which is my favourite song. The first melody that hits you in this song is likely to become stuck in your head for days, and is the driving force behind this great song. At 5 minutes, it is one of the shortest songs the band has recorded, but it gets its point across quite quickly, before leading you into the rest of this brilliant EP. 

If you haven’t heard Crimson Shadows before, “Sails of Destiny” is a great place to start. It is a succinct summary of the band’s work (though no replacement for hearing the debut album or first EP) that shows them continuing to evolve and develop as both musicians and songwriters. This EP should appeal to fans of both power and death metal, and even if melody in metal isn’t your thing, I would still give this a shot anyways, as it is one of the best and most unique releases I have heard.

Be sure to check out and like Crimson Shadows on Facebook!

"Freedom And Salvation"
"Maiden's Call"
"Moonlit Skies and Bloody Tides"

Final Rating
4.7/5 or 94%. 

Written by Scott 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Protector - Reanimated Homunculus

Germany has a long and rich history when it comes to thrash in the 80’s. While Kreator, Sodom, and Destruction always rule the discussion, it seems like everybody has their secondary favourites, whether it is Deathrow, Darkness, or any other number of bands. The one band I rarely hear about is Protector. The only logical reason I can come up with for this is that none of their albums are easily available anywhere. Luckily, however, the band has reunited and is back to bring us more great death/thrash, meaning that come September, you’ll be able to get your hands on a Protector album.

Reanimated Homunculus” gets started with “Sons of Kain”, which is probably the strongest song on the album. The chorus, despite being brutal beyond belief, is very easy to sing along to. The main reason for this carnage is the hellish vocals of original vocalist Martin Missy. On this release, Missy sticks to a range not unlike the brilliant David Vincent on “Altars of Madness”. His vocals are a low-pitched growl, that pushes the limit of how harsh vocals can be in thrash, yet are still completely understandable. In many other respects, this album is clearly taken from the late 1980’s/early 1990’s death/thrash realm. In “Deranged Nymphomania”, for example, the drums almost reach blastbeat level intensity. The bass drum is slightly clickier than any album from that era, but rest assured that this is not a modern sounding production. The guitars have more of a buzzsaw tone than the Swedish death metal scene could ever muster.  You’ll notice this in the mid-paced, heavy chugging of the title track, as well as in just about every tremolo-picked riff (and there are quite a few of them!). In general, the title track is the only song where things slow down for an excessive period of time, but even this tune eventually picks up the speed as it launches into a Slayer and Kreator-inspired guitar solo. Fear not, however, as the soloing also makes use of a more standard, style of playing, such as in “Birth of A Nation”. 

Protector may not be the most popular band around, but this release will definitely turn some heads. Any fan of that fantastic transitional phase between death and thrash metal will love this album. While I don’t feel that all of the songs are necessarily as developed or memorable as they could be, it’s still very easy to get into “Reanimated Homunculus”. The production alone will draw in plenty of fans, and these riffs will keep you coming back to this album for quite a while! 

Be sure to check out and like Protector on Facebook!

"Sons of Kain"
"Reanimated Homunculus"
"Birth of A Nation"

Final Rating
4.1/5 or 82%. 

Written by Scott 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Trial - Malicious Arts

For seasoned readers of Skull Fracturing Metal, Sweden’s Trial should not be an unfamiliar band. In spite of this, their newest EP, “Malicious Arts”, is my first experience with the band, and it is now quite clear why they’ve received as much praise as they have. At their core, Trial is a traditional heavy metal band that has taken some influence from the darker side of the genre. Fans of Merycful Fate and King Diamond will appreciate the speedier riffs that Trial offers, along with the general atmosphere the band manages to conjure. The biggest difference between these artists is in the vocals. While Trial’s vocal patterns certainly seem influenced by Mercyful Fate, the singer is quite a bit different. He does not make extensive use of falsetto, but instead uses an upper-mid range, melodic voice, with the occasional scream thrown in. Perhaps the biggest highlight of “Malicious Arts” is the drumming. Both tracks feature extensive use of triplets on the ride cymbal. Additionally, the drummer does use double bass in his playing, but only at the most appropriate moments. Trial also has plenty of extended sections for guitar solos. While nothing flashy, these solos always improve the atmosphere the band has built in the song. Ultimately, this EP was a welcome surprise, and despite only being two tracks, it gives a great impression of this new band out of Sweden. Fans of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond will love “Malicious Arts”!

Be sure to check out and like Trial on Facebook!

"To Dust"

Final Rating
4.0/5 or 80%. 

Written by Scott 

Monday, July 22, 2013

White Wizzard - The Devil's Cut

Throughout the recent uprising of young, new bands playing traditional heavy metal, there still has not been a record as great as White Wizzard’s first full-length, “Over The Top”. That album perfectly represented everything that made heavy metal great. It had brilliantly catchy guitar and vocal melodies, simplistic, yet enjoy riffs, and wicked imagery. White Wizzard’s next record, “Flying Tigers” was a bit of a different beast in that the first half of the album was similar to the debut, but the second side of the record aimed for a more progressive, mature approach to songwriting. On their newest album, “The Devil’s Cut”, White Wizzard has effectively gone back to their original sound, with a couple of influences thrown from the stranger side of “Flying Tigers”.

The one-two punch of “Forging The Steel” and “Strike The Iron” that kick off this record is easily the most energetic sounding combo of any album this year. “Forging The Steel” opens with the band paying tribute to Iron Maiden, with heavy galloping, a strong bass guitar presence, and melodic leads. Even more impressive is “Strike The Iron”. This track epitomizes what the role of guitar solos should be in heavy metal. There is a never-ending supply of shredding on this song. Just when you think there can’t possibly be another solo, guitarists Will Wallner and Jake Dreyer show up again to let you know they can play faster than you. Jammed between these wicked shredders are the powerful vocals of Joseph Michael. I was personally a huge fan of White Wizzard’s old singer, Wyatt Anderson, but Joseph Michael has done a more than respectable job in bringing a new voice to the band. He can do all of the wicked screams that you want to hear, and he can sing appropriately in any other situation the band finds themselves in. "Strike The Iron" also features a couple of unique guitar melodies that would not have been out of place on "Flying Tigers", and help to differentiate the band a bit from their followers.

Aside from the first two tracks, there are some great moments on “The Devil’s Cut”. “Torpedo of Truth” is a return to the simple, upbeat and catchy choruses that dominated the first album.  Kings of the Highway” and “Storm Chaser” both display a more laid-back sensibility. Those songs are the kind of tunes that you can put on anywhere and everybody should be able to enjoy, regardless of their personal music tastes. The closing track, “The Sun Also Rises” is beyond epic, not unlike “Iron Goddess of Vengeance” from the debut record. Much like at the end of an Iron Maiden album from the 80’s, when this song nears its end, you really feel like you’ve gone through a wicked journey with the band. A couple of the tracks on “The Devil’s Cut” don’t have much staying power (“Lightning In My Hands” and “Steal Your Mind” are my least favourites), but it doesn’t mean they don’t rock when they are playing. It is really more of a testament to the strength of the other seven songs that these two tracks aren’t as memorable as the rest. 

The Devil’s Cut” is a great return to form for White Wizzard. While I don’t think “Flying Tigers” was bad, it did get a bit off track by the end. By contrast, this new record is high quality throughout, and there’s nothing on this album that is bad or boring. This is one of those albums that if you can’t enjoy, you probably don’t like heavy metal very much.  

Be sure to check out and like White Wizzard on Facebook!

"Strike The Iron"
"Torpedo of Truth"
"Storm Chaser"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Written by Scott