[Metal/Doom] Candlemass – Nightfall (30th Anniversary review)

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Candlemass second album “Nightfall”, released a year after their seminal album “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” and featuring Messiah Marcolin. It follows the same path set by their first album and further establish the basis of what will become the flagship band of classic doom metal. Considering the album was written, recorded and mixed within a year of their first album and simultaneously improved the quality of the song is in my opinion an impressive effort from the band.
It is a 10-track album spanning 46 minutes. We start with a melodic introduction named “Gothic Stone” that set the tone of the album: a bolder, heavier and more elaborated sound than “Epicus…”. Its only a ramp to introduce to the second track “The Well of Souls”. Messiah Marcolin nails again with his remarkable voice and putting into music the lyrics. The third track,”Codex Gigas” provides an instrumental interlude and a damn nice interlude allowing to enjoy the Candlemass sound by its own. “At The Gallows End”, the fourth track, is one of my favorite by the melodics, Messiah singing and the lyrics talking about death. “Samarithan” marks a step down but also a sound closer to what we call today modern doom by playing slow even in Candlemass standard.
“March Funebre” marks the second melodic interlude, providing a metal cover to the classic composition of funeral march, allowing to our introduction to “Dark Are The Veil Of Death”. A faster than usual Candlemass song, but still a nice a nice one.  “Mourners Lament” is instead sticking to the doom and one of my favorite, with its dark lyrics and Messiah’s voice. “Bewitched” is the only track that had an official video clip.

“Black Candles”, is the last track of the album, providing an instrumental epilogue to the album.
With this second album, Candlemass cemented the foundation of what we call today the doom metal genre, setting a milestone in the genealogy of the doom genre. It also settled for me Messiah Marcolin as Candlemass singer. Marcolin left the band after their fourth album but none of the singers that took over never reached the quality of Messiah.
If you want to enter the gloom of doom metal genre, Candlemass second album “Nightfall” should be in your itinerary before you decide to fork and head into stoner metal or into something much darker.

 

 

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[Metal/Doom] Hallatar – No Stars Upon The Bridge (95%)

Hallatar, a side project band former by Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen, Swallow The Sun guitarist Juha Raivio and ex-HIM drummer Gas Lipstick released the tribute album “No Stars Upon The Bridge” to late metal singer Aleah Starbridge, band member of “Trees of Eternity” and partner in life to Juha.
What I can tell that after a year that we lost Aleah to cancer, the pain and sorrow is still present in the metal scene. Hallatar, through this album, is playing into a much more darker and black tone that any of the members usually play in their respective bands. These bands are already playing some fine doom, already heavy in dark and despair. Imagine achieving the most concentrate black tone you can from sadness, sorrow and pain. This is what this album is basically giving us: a very painful, sad and heart wrenching requiem to Aleah, using her own poems put into lyrics and offering into a majestic album that distillate some of the best spirits of all three bands into a masterpiece of modern doom metal.
The album is a 9-track album, a 40 minutes requiem that will shake your from deep in it, reviving some of these painful souvenirs of the lost ones. I am warning you, this is not for the fainted of heart. It is very depressing but so liberating and cathartic.
We start with “Mirrors” with the vocals of Tomi and the signature guitar tones of Juha (that gives this trademark to Swallow and Trees). Slow, doom and gloom, damn good funeral doom introductory track.

The interlude comes from hearing Aleah’s voice reciting her poem “Raven’s Song” (Track 2) and followed by “Melt”. Straight into the playbook from Swallow the Sun, Tomi’s clean voices allows us to fully appreciate the lyrics, accompanying us into the processing funeral march. “My Mistake”, the fourth track song, features Heike Langhans (Draconian) as guest lyrics and keep on into our funeral processing march. “Pieces”, the following track, provides an interlude with its solitary piano with Aleah’s poem haunting us. “Severed Eyes”, is in my opinion this kind of track that is made to heal and remember our dearest love ones that we lost by playing on the dry guitars and the simplicity. “The Maze” is a damn good funeral doom track, an amazing track by its ability to wrench your inner mind and rediscover these dark corners that often get buried into our lives. “Spiral Gate” is the last interlude of Aleah, leaving us with her last goodbye poem and nicely transitioning to the last track “Dreams Burn Down”, the concluding track of the album. Majestic piece of work, like a last farewell to the casket before the burial with Aleah haunting voice. You realize that as the casket is brought down and the first pile of dirt covers it that this is over. That the nightmare is not a nightmare anymore, it is the reality of life and we cannot reverse anything to it. It is time to give our farewell do our dearest love and remember it into our hearts and mind.
What I can say is rarely such an album, fruit of a collaboration of some of the finest doom/gothic Suomi (Finnish) metal bands, can shake someone inner psyche and let it tears the emotion apart. Yes, it is sad and depressing. Yes, it is dark and heart wrenching. But it is also a cathartic album allowing us to anyone listening to it to make the last grievance and keep in our mind the loss one of the most beautiful feminine metal voice we lost in the person of Aleah Starbridge. Rest in peace nightingale :(.

[Metal/Doom] Paradise Lost – Medusa (90%)

If you have been a long time follower, you surely have heard of the “Unholy Trinity” of doom (named after the record label) metaphorized under the UK doom metal bands Anathema, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost. All three started very dark and heavy doom, only to evolve into their own artistic direction. As Anathema went more into the alternative scene, so did I drifted away from them. Paradise Lost, in my opinion more into death metal shores. They were bringing on the dark lyrics and blended in with the rage of death metal.
Then Paradise Lost came in with their 15th album “Medusa” last Friday. I don’t know if listening to the album alongside watching the very dark and pessismitic ending of “Twin Peaks: The Return”, it really left on me a very good impression by its heaviness and darkness, a sort of a return to their roots.
Lets go through the album, that is a 10-track (I guess this is the iTunes version) and lasting 52 minutes. We got into it with “Fearless Sky”, a majestic introduction sounding like the prologue of a funeral mass, with the growls and lyrics of Nick Holmes. Mind blown by it. Just read an excerpt of the lyrics:
Life’s contempt, a life of trial to unrest, vilified/I resent, morbid times so oppressed, soul divine/Lies torment, as I try to confess to a fearless sky“. The second track, “Gods Of Ancient” continues into the doom and gloom, is another gem of the album. The third track, “From The Gallows” brings up Greg Mackintosh melodics more upfront and damn I like Greg’s guitar composition. The fourth track, “The Longest Winter” is my opinion the track that brings up the influence of sludge reported by some reviewers but also showcasing the ease of Nick to sing both cleans and growls. Judge by yourself here.
https://youtu.be/ufs-kLZFyjU

“Medusa” welcomes us with a opening piano followed by the melodics on the guitar by Greg and by Nick Holmes vocals. Languishing and dark. “Passage for the Dead” is in my opinion the second track with a clear sludge tone to it. “Blood And Chaos” sounds more the modern Paradise Lost, this is also my least favorite one. No big deal, but yeah not really fond of. You can make your opinion on it since there is a official video on it:

“Until The Grave” continues into this more modern sound of Paradise Lost. Nice but not transcending either.

As a iTunes special edition, we have two extra tracks. “Shrines” is also a very nice song also harboring this heavy sludge metal influence in it. “Symbolic Virtue” concludes this album by bringing on the old and the heavy doom.

As the band slowly reaches the 30th anniversary of their formation, Paradise Lost show us that pain, sorrow and sadness never heal. That like Sisyphus, we are set fate to perpetually keep the sorrow of those who we have lost, of those we have broke our hearts on. Having a band that can maintain and reconnect to its roots while in the same explore new avenues (like sludge in this one) is in both times soothing and exciting. Brace myself, September is coming with a damn fine selection of great albums.

[Metal] Headbang local! Some hometown local metal albums I bought

Following my attendance of the scientific meeting in Paris, I headed back to my hometown (Strasbourg, France) for 48 hours before heading back in the US, taking advantage of an upcoming weekend to see my family.
I also took advantage for some shopping (in addition of the traditional gift shopping and souvenirs) to support the local record store (l’okaz de l’uncle Tom), one of the oldest and most favorite record store in town (that was my first experience going downtown with my brother when I was 10-11, bought my first AC/DC and ZZtop tapes from them). One of the niceties of the store is their decent selection of metal albums but what I really liked was their shelf dedicated for the local and national metal scene.
If you are a stoner, you may have heard about “Bull Terrier” that is a local stoner doom band. Not really much into stoner so I skipped it. But I found some interesting nuggets in my disc hunting.
The first was “Darkest Hours” from Khaelys, a local symphonic metal band original fronted by Kenza Rafi. This was their first of their two albums, released in 2009. I really liked it, probably because of the gothic atmosphere and the very simple but enjoying sound, not drowned over keyboards and studio processing. Although Kenza’s vocals were not the level of a mezzo-soprano, her voice remembered me a lot of the one from Jamie-Lee Smit (Azylya). Sad to also discover that the band disbanded in 2015, according to their Facebook page.

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The second album I purchased was “Unleash Your Wrath” by Bloody Pride, a melodic death metal band. I am not a big fan of death metal, but I enjoy some good melodic death metal from time to time. Nice album, nice tunes. The band has apparently a Bandcamp site, you should give them a try if you are looking for good French melodic death bands.
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Finally, the last album was rather a compilation playing on the word “Elsass” (the name of the region as cited in the local German dialect) morphed into “Hell’s Ass”. It’s an old compilation (2005), so I assume most of the bands have likely disbanded or went into a hiatus. It is a bit of a hodge-podge of different artists and different genres, a sort of melting pot that give you a glimpse on how the local scene was vibrant back then. I wonder how the scene stands right now.

 

[Music/Metal] Happy 4th of July!

As living in the US, it is for me now part of the tradition to celebrate the 4th of July. Happy 4th of July! Time for me to share my favorite US metal bands that are in my disc library. This is my very personal list, so please don’t comment asking why I have not have a certain band in my list. There are likely two reasons: either they went under my radar or they simply did not click with me in terms of my musical taste. I have been running this redundant post for two years now, so I will spare you the blabla and let you jump to the list :). Here we go, sorted by alphabetical list:
* Aria Flame (ex-Dendura, MI) – Gothic Metal: https://www.facebook.com/ariaflameworld/
* Beyond Forgiveness (CO) – Gothic/Folk Metal. If you are looking for a US minstrels and troubadours having the vibes of medieval folk metal (something like a Blind Guardian or Haggard), this is your inn to stop on your journey: https://www.facebook.com/beyondforgivenessmetal/
* Destiny Beard (MI, PA) – Gothic Metal:https://www.facebook.com/Destinibeardmusic/
* The Ditch & The Delta (UT) – Sludge Metal: https://www.facebook.com/theditchandthedeltaslc/
* Evanescence (AR) – Gothic Rock: https://www.facebook.com/Evanescence/
* Exalt The Throne (TX) – Melodic Death, they are having their final gig on July 29th, I gonna miss them :(. https://www.facebook.com/exaltthethroneofficial/
* Faytree (GA, OH) – Melodic Death: https://www.facebook.com/faytreeband/
* In This Moment (CA) – Metalcore. Check their old stuff (first three albums), that was some promising band that unfortunately lost their vibe for few years now: https://www.facebook.com/officialinthismoment/
* Kamelot (FL) – Power Melodic Metal. Come on, should I introduce Kamelot? https://www.facebook.com/kamelotofficial/
* Mercy Isle (MI) – Gothic Metal. A very interesting US-Dutch collaboration, making them a sort of spinning free electron: https://www.facebook.com/MercyIsle/
* Metallica (CA) – Thrash Metal. Because who does not have a Metallica album in their disc library. 35 years and still running! https://www.facebook.com/Metallica/
* Midnight Eternal (NY) – Power Melodic Metal. What if Dragonforce and Nightwish had a child? Midnight Eternal would be its name: https://www.facebook.com/MidnightEternal/
* Red Beard Wall (TX) Sludge Metal. Ever wondered how doom metal would sound with a flavor of Southern music, with elements of punk and death metal? It has a name: sludge metal and my first exposure was through Red Beard Wall. It came out of nowhere like a meteor and crashed into the local metal scene in Yellow City. If you are living in the High Plains or South Plains, check them out: https://www.facebook.com/redbeardwall/
* Rozamov (MA) Sludge/Doom Metal. That was some of the best surprise this spring, allowing me to discover this sub-genre of doom metal blended with Southern tunes, punk and death metal. https://www.facebook.com/Rozamov/
* Santa Marta (UT) – Gothic Metal. The next project of Mary Zimmer (ex-Ottoman Empire/Luna Mortis, ex-The White Empress). Check it out and keep eye on it. https://www.facebook.com/SantaMartaBand/
* Scarlet Canary (CO) – Metal/Rock: https://www.facebook.com/ScarletCanary/
* Seven Kingdoms (FL) – Melodic Power Metal. There is something running in Florida water but it makes their Melodic Power Metal
* Slayer (CA) – Thrash Metal. Slayer still slaying, not even an ounce of their brutal tempo was left over the years. This is where I had to disagree on Floor Jansen, nothing beats a mosh pit or an album from Slayer as a catharsis vector. If you don’t know what to expect from Slayer, go attend one of their gigs with Lamb of God and Behemoth. Not for the choir singer though: https://www.facebook.com/slayer/
* Thyshade (CO) – Symphonic Metal. One of my discovery last winter and one of the best US soprano vocals: https://www.facebook.com/thyshadeofficial/

 

[Metal/Melodic Metal] Alwaid – The Machine and The Beast (90%)

alwaid___the_machine_and_the_beast__front_cover__by_zero_scarecrow13-dan7kjd

Sometimes, the post office can bring you a nice surprise in front of your doorstep. That surprise was coming from Alwaid (Lille, France) through the form of their second album “The Machine and The Beast” I have contributed in crowdfunding sometimes end of last year and beginning of this year. I completely forgot about it and I guess the French post office also probably forgot how to send it overseas, so it ended up last week in front of my door.
This second album is an 11-songs album spanned over 57 minutes. What I can tell is very dependent on if you have listened or not to their first album “Lacus Somniorum” because it is an almost 180 flip from this one. Let me explain. Their first album, it felt mostly ethereal having this atmospheric doom metal vibes backed by the high vocal ranges of Marie (the front singer). In this one, you get blown by the heaviness of the album. It is like trading the calm shores of the Sea of Black Tears and now facing the Guns of Navarone, the Stalin’s organs with the heavy riffs and fast-paced melodics leveling up everything in front of it. Even Marie traded her high vocals into much lower tones. Thats explains why I found it takes a 180 flip from “Lacus”.
Things starts with a symphonic opening “Enter the Other One Inside” giving this aspect of grandiose rapidly followed by the heavy tones of “Amphisbaena” reminding us something similar to “Hei! Aa-Shanta’nygh!” but also something different: Marie hitting the low octave for the first time in their discography. You are kind of confused if Marie is still in until she hits the higher notes as a reminder (yep, thats Marie!). Alwaid bringing up the big show, big time in their opening act! It is rapidly followed by “When Giants Wake” and “The Whale” bringing some melodic death tunes in it, keeping you riding afloat. “The Lord of Cities” reminds me a lot “The Scream That No One Heard”, my favorite on “Lacus”, feeling like a power metal ballad by its fast-paced drums, its heavy and melodics  and Marie high-vocal pitch. It is like riding a Rainbow Unicorn from Hell and slashing orcs and ghouls in the Valley of Death. “Monsters By Gaslight” have this kind of feeling that I would hear from Whyzdom (another of my favorite French metal band) and pumps you up enough to grab your mighty axe and slash some demons.
“Sang Noir” slows down the whole album but in a good manner, bringing this melodic ballad track with some familiar with “The Cypress Grove”.
“So The Song Went”, track 8 brings on this orchestral opening giving this feel I had with “Alghavil Altannin” from their previous album, slow and  languishing pain almost feeling like doom metal. “Idle Riddles And Rhymes” is certainly the most symphonic song of the all album, with this dark symphonic tones. “Fractalized” is the acoustic ballad track of the album, with an acoustic guitar that is a pleasing. “The Call of the Wild” is the one that I would say is the weakest track of the whole album. I don’t know why or to how to explain it but found it quite displeasing to my ears.
Alwaid perfectly renewed their winning formula of “Lacus…” and yet improving it by making it heavier, bolder, faster and darker. In a time where a lot of FFM bands water down their metal with post-processing or an overuse of keyboards putting the guitars in the back burner, Alwaid brings them upfront. The result? Something that makes you feel like riding in the Valley of Death on a Unicorn from Hell and slashing an army of orcs with your mighty axe. France, slowly but surely, is joining the elite club of FFM bands and Alwaid is certainly the challenger you want to keep an eye on. Rightfully, it merits the June “album of the month”.

[Videogames/Metal] Brutal Legend – XB360 (80%)

Sometimes you never know what you can find in a Gamestop “dumpster” (you know the $5 or less /$20 or less games holding on some cardobard shelves). One was Brutal Legend. I had my eyes on when I have played once the demo downloaded from Xbox Live. I really liked it for two reasons:
Firstly,  it was a game heavily influenced by metal and there are very few that come in mind. I still remember the attempt of Motley Crue to cash on Crueball on Genesis (a pinball-based game, also used by Kiss in one of these PC budget games), Motorhead on Amiga/Atari ST (a beat-them up developed by Ocean somewhere in 1992) or Iron Maiden Ed Hunter featuring Eddie in a kind of “Operation Wolf” game.
Secondly,  for what seemed a cool storyline. The story features Eddie Riggs, a “roadie” setting up the stage for a rock band called Kabbage Boy, lets say Eddie is rightfully not fond of his performance. As Eddie sets stage, a element of the stage falls on directly aiming one of the band member. Eddie jumps to his rescue only to get crushed by the scenery element. Eddie wakes up in a complete strange world, directly taken from some of the best heavy metal album artworks. Here Eddie becomes an anti-hero fighting demons with his mighty axe and his guitar riffs.
After playing back-and-forth with the game during the last month, I finally finished it up tonight. There are the good, the very good and the very annoying part of the game.
The good thing about the game is its very high fidelity of the game towards the material it got inspired by. It is heavy metal at its finest with the contribution of kings of the genre   appearing as cameos such as Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne,appearing as the guardian of metal, the shop to go to upgrade your weapons and your car), Rob Halford (Judas Priest, posing as the Fire Baron), Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead, the bass-playing Kill Master), Lita Ford (presented as Lita, one leader of the human resistance)……
The second good thing (if you ignore the annoying part) is this semi-open space allowing you to drive through the heavy metal hell, ramming through the wildlife and allowing you to complete some side quests and unlock some uniqueness (monuments, dragons…..) that will buildup your combat skills.
Then comes the very good part: the storyline and the damn good playlist. The storyline is simply awesome as you end up fighting hordes of glam/hair metal villains, with the stereotype of the hair metal bands that flourished in the 80s, followed by a dive into the depressive doom and gloom of gothic/doom metal genre (with some of the best enemies to fight, straight out of a Tim Burton mind) and finally a quick insight into industrial metal (at the very end). For most of these, you have a remarkable playlists of metal bands that perfectly match the missions: fighting off glam metal troops with Motley Crue “Dr. Feelgood”, only to escape the crumbling White Lion palace through the soundtrack of of the UK powermetal band Drangonforce “Through the Fire and The Flames”. Just playing this part of the game in which you are slaloming between dragons breaking bridges and blocking roads with that blowing in the background music worth its amount of pesos. It is not one, but over 100 songs in that playlist that you can play through driving in the metal Hell, something very similar to a GTA game. Some of the best and most versatile metal playlist I have ever heard into a video game: Dragonforce, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Scorpions, Motley Crue, Carcass, Dimmu Borgir, Accept, Megadeath…..
Just for that the game worth the purchase.
Now comes the very annoying part of the game: the simile-RTS game sequence. At some point in the game, you will be asked to play a sort of real-time strategy game (you know the type of Dune II, Command & Conquer, Warcraft…), in a very primitive form, using the metal as a source: The stage being your main base/barracks; the march store towers being the source of energy to harvest and troops from the basic headbangers grunt to the juggernaut unit capable to blast off towers. The idea is great, the put into practice? Meh…….it felt more than a pain than anything else as you have to go back and forth to get to the units. The other thing that also made me quit the game halfway is that mission in which you have to capture wild feral cats (looking as KISS-like panthers) by circling them with a circle of fire. The controls were just terrible and makes you really want to give up. As a sidenote, the presence of redudant sidequest (ambush enemies, defend your tower, race against the same foe) felt like a lot of deja-vu. You have to do them to gain skill points to upgrade your character but felt more a curfew than anything else (especially at a certain point of the game you have so much skill points accumulated but nowhere to redeem the upgrades).
In conclusion, if you love heavy metal and looking for a good game really doing a service  to the genre, grab a copy and play it. The game is far from perfect, there are much better adventure games and real RTS games to quench your thirst than this one. But in my opinion, this was the PERFECT metal game ever I have been playing so far and really wish someone decides to renew this experience.