…And They Shall Take Up Serpents: Byzantine

CoverbyzserpentsRating: 90%

I have always enjoyed the Heavy Metal scene in the region. For me, growing up, bands like Wrathchild America, Clutch, and Kix among others was a good thing. Well, Byzantine is no different hailing from Charleston, WV. They have a unique style that take Thrash, Groove, and Prog Metal and blending it together to make their sound. “…And They Shall Take Up Serpents” released in 2005 is the second studio album by the band. It literally can stand up and go head to head to In Flames, Pantera, and or Mastodon paying homage to the 1990’s Groove Metal.

Musically, the tempos are slower than that of Thrash, more aggressive and tight. It has some outstanding rhythms and leads. Some of the scales are interesting. The riffs are very heavy, but polished. The vocal style is very close to In Flames where the main verse is harsh with clean chorus lines. Lyrically, the album talks about life in West Virginia from the “Redneck War” when the coal miners rose up against coalmines themselves to the religious practice of taking up serpents in the name of God.

The musicianship is pretty tight overall. You have Chris “OJ” Ojeda on vocals, guitars, and piano. Tony Rohbrough on guitars as well as bass. Matt Wolfe on drums and acoustic guitar.

Track listing:

1. “Justicia” 4:07

2. “Taking Up Serpents” 3:12

3. “Jeremiad” 6:00

4. “Ancestry of the Antichrist” 5:54

5. “Temporary Temples” 4:59

6. “Five Faces of Madness” 5:29

7. “Red Neck War” 5:39

8. “Pity None” 3:58

9. “The Rat Eaters” 4:31

10. “Salem, Ark” 4:31

Advertisements

Eric the Red: Týr

Rating: 90%

Eric_the_red_re-release_cover.jpgReleased in 2003 and released in 2006, “Eric the Red” is a unique take on European traditional folk songs and tales. Musically, this album is a combination of Folk and Viking Metal with some Progressive influences. It also has some of the Power and Epic Metal elements that are blended nicely into Týr’s brand of Heavy Metal. One thing is for sure, Týr will leave you wanting to know more about the traditional themes that are the subject of their lyrics.

The song structures are very complex, loosing more of the power chord and going for more of riffs that are almost along the lines of scales. Think Iron Maiden. The music itself isn’t as heavy as most Viking Metal bands are as many of them fall into the Death Metal realm, but along the lines of traditional Heavy Metal.  Again, think of early Iron Maiden or Manowar. This album is rich on harmony and melody from the music to the vocals. It also seems to have some melodic melodies to it as well.

Vocally, there are chants and songs written in poetic manor that tells story of those yesterdays. The arrangements of lyrics are both inspiring and epic along with those melodic and majestic chorus lines. The chorus really makes you want to sing out loud and you’ll hear inside you mind because of how catchy they are. It’ll turn you into a Pagan or Heathen when your done.

Vocalist and guitarist Heri Joensen delivers a great performance on this record. I really admire his vocal style and song writing capabilities. Also shredding on the ax is Terji Skibenæs. Keeping pace and time is bassist Gunnar H. Thomsen and drummer Kári Streymoy whom I must say really give this brand of Viking Metal that tasteful Progressive complex of off beats. 

 

Track listing:

1. “The Edge” 7:44
2. “Regin Smiður” Traditional Faroese 6:08
3. “Dreams” 5:32
4. “The Wild Rover” Traditional Irish 4:12
5. “Stýrisvølurin” Traditional Faroese 6:57
6. “Ólavur Riddararós” Traditional Faroese 4:36
7. “Rainbow Warrior”  5:28
8. “Ramund Hin Unge” Traditional Danish 4:31
9. “Alive” 7:24
10. “Eric the Red” 7:42
11. “God of War” 6:23
12. “Hail to the Hammer” 3:49

Winter: Oceans of Slumber

Rating: 90%

Oceans-of-Slumber-Winter-500x500.jpgMy friend gave me a copy of this album called “Winter” by Oceans of Slumber. Upon my first listen, I was actually blown away. Their style of Progressive Metal is really good. This album was released in 2016 and marks their first official release, even though, they have two previous works.

Musically, this album has a lot to offer. There are a lot of great riffs and leads. The vocals are amazing. The song structures are really good and the album itself has a nice flow to it from start to finish.  “Nights in White Satin” originally by the Moody Blues, I find was well done and a nod to the Progressive Rock sound of the earlier days. With the Progressive influences, this isn’t your ordinary Progressive Metal album. I find it refreshing. There is a great del of atmospheric and melodic elements that adds to the richness of the music and overall sound. “Lullaby” is a nice small mellow and vocal piece that leads into a acoustical piece “Laid to Rest.”

Oceans-of-Slumber-band-2016

New Noise Magazine

 

Track listing:
Winter 7:58
Devout 5:08
Nights In White Satin 5:45
Lullaby 1:46
Laid To Rest 1:41
Suffer The Last Bridge 5:01
Good Life 2:08
Sunlight 5:34
Turpentine 5:32
Apologue 6:55
How Tall The Trees 1:33
… This Road 7:44
Grace 3:21

White Music: Crack The Sky

Rating: 85%

White_Music_(Crack_the_Sky_album_-_cover_art).jpg“White Music” by Crack the Sky was released in 1980. I had this album on record, tape, and even CD. Over the years, I seemed to loose all copies of this record. Then, my wife looking through a small box of records at the antique store found this treasure on vinyl for $3.50. What a steal!!! Although, many didn’t seem to like the Maryland’s own Prog Rock group, or this record, I did find it refreshing or better yet, something to listen to while recovering from a hangover. Following their disbanding, John Palumbo, Rick Witkowski, and Vince DePaul reformed the group and recorded this record.

I have always admired the weirdness of Crack The Sky’s musical style and the whiny and higher pitched vocal work. “White Music” delivers that in a big way. With the 1980’s music was turned all around. It was the end of the Disco era and becoming more of a Techno era with all kinds of newer styles of music coming on. Rock n’ Roll and Country seemed to embrace some this new era of music as well. Crack The Sky too embraced these new styles. Therefore, this record may not have pleased many of their earlier fans.

“White Music” and the song structures are very impressive. They managed to keep most of the Prog Rock influences while mixing other elements into their musical style. Side one begins with a decent guitar groove on “PopTown.” The vocal style is based around Pop music. Think Talking Heads. “Living With the Lights On” has a great groove and some weird sound effects that SCREAMS Art Rock. This song has plenty of experimentation with the keyboards that produces that weirdness. “Skin Deep” is a very funky tune and the added horn section gives it a very jazzy feel. Side one ends with “White Music” that has a very eerie guitar riff that has some Punk influence to it.

Side two begins the weird vocal and instrumentation song “All American Boy.” “Hot Razors in My Heart” is structured after a normal Rock song from the vocal arrangement to the instrumentation. That song is still played on the Baltimore airwaves to this day and is one of the band’s most popular songs. While, “Techni Generation” employs a more modern sound that was beginning during the late 70’s and 1980. “Flying” has a vocal style that is more fitted to the 1960’s and 1970’s Folk where all members of the group harmonize their vocals, like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.”Songs of Soviet Sons” has a good groove that is surrounded by a String arrangements.

The song structures are well written. It’s got Prog, it’s got Rock, it’s got Pop, and it’s got lot’s of experimentation. The melodies are fantastic with regards to the music. It’s got some excellent guitar solos. The instrumentation is very good. I love Heavy Metal music, but the guitar on this record is brilliant. It’s not heavy or distorted. It’s got a great sound. The bass is very funky. This album also has some great drumming on it as well. This record sets up Crack The Sky as they move into a new decade. My favorite songs on this record are “White Music” and “Hot Razors in My Heart.”

Track listing:

1. “Poptown” 3:47
2. “Living With the Lights On” 2:56
3. “The Radio Cries (It’s Singles Time)” 3:11
4. “Skin Deep” 4:08
5. “White Music” 4:12
6. “All American Boy” 3:18
7. “Hot Razors in My Heart” 4:38
8. “Suspicion” 4:50
9. “Techni Generation” 4:05
10. “Flying” 1:21
11. “Songs of Soviet Sons” 5:05

Pork Soda: Primus

Rating: 95%

Porksodacover.jpgIn 1993, Primus released “Pork Soda.” This was the album that introduced me to the band when I heard 98 Rock play “Mr. Krinkle.” I remember hearing that song and thinking what the hell was that. I never heard any band sound or sing like that before.

This album does push the sounds and styles to the limit. It’s funky, progressive, bluegrassy in some spots and it’s weird. But, it works and sounds awesome. The musicianship is killer and the song structures, although weird, are written great.

The talents of Les Claypool on bass and vocals, combined with the guitar work of Larry LaLonde, and the drummer Tim Alexander is what makes Primus such a great band. If you’re into weird offbeats, scales and such, this album is a good one. The bass is the main instrumentation you’ll notice and Claypool’s style blends many influences together when he plays. The guitar work of LaLonde is just as balanced when it comes to style. These two instruments seem to go off in many different directions, but yet, it sounds really good. Alexander’s drumming is what holds everything in place.

With that being said, this is a very dark album. Themes deal with murder, suicide, and alienation. But, yet, with all of the darkness and strange song structures, this album was the one that brought Primus into the mainstream.

Track listing:

1. “Pork Chop’s Little Ditty” 0:21
2. “My Name Is Mud” 4:48
3. “Welcome to This World” 3:40
4. “Bob” 4:40
5. “DMV” 4:58
6. “The Ol’ Diamondback Sturgeon (Fisherman’s Chronicles, Part 3)” 4:39
7. “Nature Boy” 5:35
8. “Wounded Knee” 2:25
9. “Pork Soda” 2:20
10. “The Pressman” 5:11
11. “Mr. Krinkle” 5:27
12. “The Air Is Getting Slippery” 2:31
13. “Hamburger Train” 8:11
14. “Pork Chop’s Little Ditty” 1:03
15. “Hail Santa” 1:51

Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People: Primus

Rating: 90%

cd-animals-lgIn 2003, Primus returned after a few year layover with the EP, “Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People.” This also included the classic Primus line up. You have the one and only Les Claypool on vocals and various bass guitars, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim Alexander. This EP contains those quirky lyrics, silly vocals, amazing musicianship, and great song structures that only Primus can write and perform.

The musicianship is what gives Primus that big beefy sound. Les Claypool, vocals aside, is am amazing bass player. His weird scales makes the bass more of an extension of his personality. His style of funk that mixes slapping, tapping, and strumming on the bass is a classic trademark and all of that bass goodness is clearly heard on this EP.  All the members of Primus are such great song writers.

Then you have guitarist Larry LaLonde who play right along side with the bass talent. His style of noises, riffs, leads and fills makes Primus’s sound even better. Only Primus can create this weirdness of sounds and song structures and make it work. Not to many bands out there can accomplish what Primus has done.

Keeping up with the bass an guitars is drummer Tim Alexander. His style of weird tempos, time signatures and off beats brings Primus’s sound together. Tim is one hell of a good drummer in order to keep pace with Les Claypool.

I love every track on this EP. The opening bass lines to “The Carpenter and the Dainty Bride.” It’s weird and then you have the guitar that comes fading in. It’s very psychedelic.  “Mary the Ice Cube” the highlight on this album. I love the bass lines of this song. It’s mellow and complex. I love the lyrics as to how the relationship with an ice cube is similar to that of a woman. I love the weird song structure “The Last Superpower aka Rapscallion.”

Track listing:

1. “The Carpenter and the Dainty Bride” 6:35
2. “Pilcher’s Squad” 1:54
3. “Mary the Ice Cube” 4:37
4. “The Last Superpower aka Rapscallion” 7:16
5. “My Friend Fats” 7:55

Kivenkantaja (“Stonebearer”): Moonsorrow

Rating: 90%

moonsorrowIn 2003, Moonsorrow released their third album entitled “Kivenkantaja.”  This album is a bit different than their previous albums with regards that it add a dash of Progressive Metal into their main sound of Folk Black Metal. The end result isn’t to bad. When I first heard this album, I had mixed feelings about it musically. To me, there seemed to be some minor flaws in the overall production and then it hit me. It was the Prog influences that I was hearing. Knowing that, I went back and re-listened to it and this time around, I really enjoyed this album. But some of the flaws are still there.

First, this album seems to lack a bit of the raw edge to the overall approach. However, with that said, the album has a lot of content and is full. The mixing just doesn’t do the album justice. But that is only on a few of the songs. The vocals seem to be pushed further into the background rather than more toward the front of the music. Secondly, the overall keyboards also seem to be lacking a bit with regards to adding to that epic sound. But then again, this could be from the Prog influences that I hear. Some of the riffs are a bit weak.

But what this album lacks, there are other strong areas that make this album really unique and enjoyable. For one, the epic sound and song structures are there. Moonsorrow really does a great job when it comes to balancing the Folk and Black Metal portions of their genre.  I really do like the longer songs that Moonsorrow does and how they manage to not bog it down as they keep playing. Secondly, I enjoy the way Moonsorrow  adds that traditional sound of Folk into their music. There’s nothing like hearing a heavy and distorted song and then without notice, the Folk instrumentation begins to play. It makes the music more of a journey and adds to the listening experience. When the album is finished, it leaves you wanting to hear more. This quality is missing from many of the Black Metal bands out there.

Musically, again, this is a good album as I mentioned. The song structures are well balanced and defined. Some of the structures are complex. So let’s break it down. The first track, “Raunioilla” has the sound and introduction of a classic Moonsorrow song. It’s long, slow and heavy. But then you hear the accordion setting the melody and adding harmony to the overall sound. The overall vocal work does seem to be in the background. The overall musicianship is very good.

“Unohduksen lapsi” took me a while to warm up to. This is where you really hear the Prog influences. There’s a lot of weird riffs and timing going on during the bridges. But, this song although, has a heavy sound to it, the guitars seem to be not as strong. The melody does flow nicely. It does have a strong orchestra background to it.

“Jumalten kaupunki/Tuhatvuotinen perintö”  is a fantastic song. Lot’s of good instrumentation. The bridge is very weird leading into the chorus. But, the choirs are excellent. “Kivenkantaja” is a fun journey and is a classic Moonsorrow song. The arrangements are fantastic. I love the epic and big sound that this song has.

“Tuulen tytär/Soturin tie” I absolutely love. It begins with a rolling of the piano keys. That’s right, Black Metal done with beauty. It follows with the accordion and simple sticks keeping the beat. The jaw harp comes in. About a 1/3 of the way through the song, the electric heavy riffs come in. I love the almost spoken lyric and the strong beefy chorus.

“Matkan lopussa” is the last track which features Petra Lindberg performing the female vocals. This song is fantastic and is well done. The accordion and jaw harp really makes the mood of the song. Combined by the big male choirs.

Track listing:

1. “Raunioilla” (“At the Ruins”) 13:36
2. “Unohduksen lapsi” (“Child of Oblivion”) 08:17
3. “Jumalten kaupunki/Tuhatvuotinen perintö” (“City of the Gods/A Thousand Years of Heritage”) 10:42
4. “Kivenkantaja” (“Stonebearer”) 07:39
5. “Tuulen tytär/Soturin tie” (“Daughter of the Wind/Way of the Warrior”) 08:36
6. “Matkan lopussa” (“At the Journey’s End”) 04:54