[Metal/Melodic Death] Arch Enemy – Stigmata (20th Anniversary)

On May 5th 1998, Arch Enemy released their second album entitled “Stigmata”, with Johan Liiva on the vocals, Michael and Chris Amott behind the guitars, Martin Bengtsson on the bass and Daniel Erlandsson on the drums.

It follows the step of the first album “Black Earth” by keeping it heavy, fast-paced death metal but we also start to slightly different vibes premising the artistic direction of their next album “Wages of Sin”. It is a 12-songs album spanning a bit over 46 mins.

The album, although keeping a continuity with “Black Earth” also start to develop its own identity and gave signs of what the artistic direction the band will take in “Wages Of Sin”.
Indeed, we are navigating and alternative in the album between continuity in death metal (Beast Of Man, Dark of The Sun, Let The Killing Begin, Diva Satanica, Damnation’s Way) and innovative melodics (Stigmata, Sinsisters Mephisto, Hydra, Tears Of The Dead, Tears Of Destiny) and even a complete break from death with the introduction of power melodic ballads in tracks such as in “Vox Stellarum”, giving this sounds I call the “Michael Amott Midas Touch”.

But my favorite track that is coming out from the album in general is “Black Earth” with the the humming of the guitars at the beginning sounding like B-17 Flying Fortress.

Overall, the album is okay but listening back is missing this particular sounds that you have if you got into the band while Angela fronted the band. I am not fond of death in general and this can bias my overall experience, however I personally liked more the later iteration of the band with heavy infusion of melodics into their death.

 

 

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[Metal] Happy Holidays! My 15 metal albums and EPs of 2017!

Happy Holidays everyone! As we are now engaged in the last week of 2017, it is a great time for me to go back through my library and pick my 12 albums of 2017. No particular rankings, most of the albums have been reviewed in my blog. I have set the EPs aside since they are not counted as album.

1. January: Xandria – Theater of Dimension

2017 started with a bang with Xandria releasing their latest album and the second album with Dianne Von Giersbergen as front vocals. The motto was “harder, faster, stronger, better”. Damn it was a good album to listen, Dianne being perfect as usual. Unfortunately, the rest of the year was less good for the band. The second leg of the US tour cancelled, Dianne thrown in the residue bin like an used ragdoll. Fortunately, that also means that Dianne is likely reviving Ex-Libris.

2. January: Au Champ Des Morts – Dans La Joie

It is not often that you find French metal bands getting under the spotlight (unless you are Gojira or Alcest), even less French metal bands that sing in French. This was a pure random encounter in my discography, during a Bandcamp campaign (damn Bandcamp is such a great place to discover bands). Mixing elements of black metal and doom, it is a delight to listen to the French lyrics. A must-have in your collection if you are also attracted to the dark side of the Force and needing to find a solace to old wounds.

3. February: FT-17 – Marcellin S’en Va En Guerre

Another Bandcamp pick. Aside from sciences, metal, Sci-Fi and video games, I have another great interest. History! In particular, I am very fixated on World War I: “la Der Des Ders”; “La Grande Guerre”; “La Guerre Des Poilus”. Don’t ask me how my brain clicked on that particular war, maybe because of that field trip during my middle school year at “Le Col Du Linge”, harboring trenches and a museum of this horrible war. The context of military history is not much new and those who know Sabaton know their power-metal hits narrating historical battles. This one is particular. This first album of the melodic death metal band FT-17 (named after one of the first type of French assault tank “Renault FT-17”) is particular as it follow the PFC Marcellin Trouve, writing to his notes his experience of the war, from the joyful draft and heading to the front line to the delusion of the war.

4. March: Midnight Sorrow – Pick A Tale

March was highlighted from the release of the first album by Midnight Sorrow, another French band but this time from my hometown and in the Symphonic Metal genre. I really liked their first EP “At First” and this album took some time to come in, but it was indeed for the better. Coming from their EP, you can hear the maturation of the band in both the musical arrangement (bolder, more confident) and also from Maureen’s voice (in which you can really hear her progress on her vocal abilities). I usually hate when the album is recycling old songs from the previous EP but the band went the extra mile and revisited their songs giving them a second breath with their more experienced sound. It was such a delight to hear that album.
https://youtu.be/syiCMalo44Q

5. May: Seven Kingdoms – Decennium

One thing that I found a bit boring on the US metal scene is the vast domination of the death metal scene and its derived genres (metalcore, deathcore, grindcore…). For some reasons, European favorite genres like Power, Symphonic or Doom are not that popular. So when you have a US metal band playing outside this “terra cognita” it is a welcome. When that same group slap you with a damn awesome album, it is even more welcome.
Hail to Seven Kingdoms, straight out of the Florida panhandle. Florida has a reputation of being the weirdos in the US but they are also home for two awesome US power metal bands: Kamelot and Seven Kingdoms. 72 minutes of a powerful joyride into the meadows of an enchanted land, riding over a robot unicorn, riding in the sunset of a binary star system, slashing an horde of orcs running over using your proton axe to slay the foolish and the foes. If Warhammer 40K should have a soundtrack, I would definitively pick Seven Kingdoms. Just listen to “Stargazer” and tell me you are not all pumped up.

6. May: Alwaid – The Machine & The Beast

Alwaid is another French Metal band that highlighted my album picks in 2017. This second album was quite a departure of their first album “Lacus Somnorium”, that was deeply anchored in atomspheric doom metal. This second is much louder, faster and heavier, more anchored into melodic death but yet with keeping their signature melodics. Again a very good pick and an extensive review of the album on my blog site.

7. June: Neverlight – Nova Red

Neverlight (from Colorado) is this kind of UFOs in my library, standing out by their inability to put them in my classical shelves. Labelled themselves as “dark progressive metal”. It offers a very unique prog metal songs, sharing some similarities with Amaranthe (if you are heavy in the keyboards) but yet very different as it has more darker tones and lyrics. You know what? Enough with the talk. A damn good prog metal album in my library and it pays off to wander into “terra incognito”, just give a try.

8. August: Seven Spires – Solveig

This was another pleasant surprise, as this band straight out of Boston (MA) came out from nowhere and got me hooked up with their title “The Paradox”, directly inspired by Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth. The album per se was very good: engaging melodics, pumping you up with energy and willing you to summon a mosh pit in your cubicle. Playing in different registers, surfing from gothic metal songs like “The Siren/Encounter” to something more mainstream like “The Cabaret of Dreams” to some melodic power metal songs like “Choices” or “Distant Lights”. My favorites remains though “The Paradox” and “Burn”. I leave you with the Paradox official video so can make your choice.

9. September: Paradise Lost – Medusa

Having one of the Unholy Trinity bands release a new album is always welcomed. Paradise Lost “Medusa” is one of these welcome. Adopting a “back to the roots” in terms of the artistic direction of the album, splurging into death doom made this album very special and a hit amongst critiques. It got a very good review on my blog, you can find it.

10. September: Arch Enemy – Will To Power

After 3 years of waiting since “War Eternal”, Michael Amott finally broke the silence and brought on “Will To Power” right to celebrate the 20 years of the band. It was also the second album featuring Alissa White-Gluz. So it was a litmus test for many of the fans and the result was far from disappointing, also a long awaited moment since Jeff Loomis joined the band. It was a hit at first sight with in my opinion a better writing than “War Eternal”. It is brutal (with even some punk influence in the melodics) right from the first track “The Race”, followed by “The World Is Yours” flying into epic melodic power ballads with “The Eagle Flies Alone”. Following the release, the band started the US tour. It was magic! The best concert of 2017.

11. September: Septicflesh – Codex Omega

Septicflesh is a unique band mastering the blending of a classical orchestra with the black symphonic metal style giving you an auditory experience of some of the paintings of Bosch, very finely crafted orchestral arrangement, navigating the different layers of Hell through “Dante’s Inferno”. With Septicflesh, you are welcomed into the Hades Kingdom, navigating through the Styx with Spiro being your guide. A must have if you are attracted by the Dark Side. Considering Spiros and the band are coming nearby for a gig in March, I guess I will add it in the bucket list.

12. September: Clouds – Destin

Whatever I listen, I always come back to doom metal. Behind the darkness and the melancholic tones, I find solace and relief to my mind. There are words I cannot speak, there are feelings I cannot tell, there are wounds that I cannot heal. Doom metal provide me with this opportunity of a catharsis. In sorrow, i found my relief.
This is the case of Clouds “Destin”. Nicely composed, it helps open myself to my mind, let all my sadness, my pain and my sorrow exhale and breath. It allows a deep introspection that few releases can help me cope with these feelings. If you like doom, you MUST try this band.

13. October: Hallatar – No Stars Upon The Bridge

Hallatar is a side project involving various Finnish metal band members including Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis) at the vocals, Juha Raivio (Swallow The Sun) at the guitars and Gas Lipstick (ex-HIM) at the drums. This album is one of the best doom album of the year for different reasons.
Firstly, it is a an album dedicated to the memory of late Aleah Starbridge that left us orphan last year. Secondly, it is an requiem and eulogy album to Aleah, using her poems, giving us a last intimate moment to mourn. The result is simply fantastic and heavy loaded in pain and sorrow. I just hope that this album is closing our mourning on Aleah’s passing and not become an opportunity for anyone to make financial gains on her.

14. November: Evanescence – Synthesis

After a hiatus of over 5 years in terms of album, Amy Lee released “Synthesis” last November. It is per se not a new album, rather it is a an album providing a reorchestration of selected songs spanning through the previous three albums of the band. Some of the songs sound as good as the originals (e.g. “Lithium”), some are even better than original (e.g. “Never Go Back”) and some simply bomb the original (“Bring Me To Life”). It remembers how great Amy is on the vocals and on the piano, and really make us think if Amy decided to “Europeanize” her musical style by taking the best of Symphonic metal.

15. November: Beyond Forgiveness – The Great Wall

“The Great Wall” is the first full-album from the US gothic/symphonic metal band Beyond  Forgiveness (Colorado Springs, CO). I reviewed the album extensively earlier in November so I will comment that much.


The EPs and other albums that were good:
Aside from full-albums listed, there was also the release of “In This Moment We are Free – Cities” by VUUR. With Anneke Von Giersbergen fronting it, it was a great moment to listen in something much heavier than her band “A Gentle Storm”. The album was good, maybe too simple and reminded me a bit the good old times when she was with The Gathering. Maybe a bit too simplistic.
Epica also released an EP “The Solace System” that is a continuation from the “The Holographic Principle”. Again, it was awesome as usual from Epica. You can find more about in one of my previous blog posts.
Another interesting EP I got my hand to was “The Ascension” from Casket Robbery (Madison, WI) formed by Cory Scheider. You may not know Cory but if I am telling you that Cory was part of Luna Mortis, then it will all make sense. Cory put a bit away the melodic death tunes from Luna Mortis and brings in more the brutality into the melodic death. With Megan Orvold bringing the brutal vocals in the line of Angela Gussow (ex-Arch Enemy), you will wish to open a pit of hell inside your living room.

Finally, this year I also got introduced to sludge metal by attending a gig featuring two bands: Rozamov (Boston, MA) and The Ditch & The Delta (Salt Lake City, UT). If you are unfamiliar with sludge metal, it is a blend of doom metal with some Southern death and punk. It has this roughness and Southern flavor that my current doom library is missing. It worth the try. Here two videos are listed from the two bands: Rozamov – “Serpent Cult” and The Ditch & The Delta – “F*ck on Asphalt”

[Metal/Melodic Death] Arch Enemy @ Sunshine Theater (Albuquerque, NM – 12/02/2017)

It has been a bit more than three years since I discovered @ArchEnemy via their album “War Eternal” and it was basically a love at first sight. It was a very big surprise because I am not much driven into death metal bands, but what makes Arch Enemy unique is the remarkable Michael Amott guitar melodics, now seconded by Jeff Loomis (ex-Nevermore). I even got into the feud between “team Angie” versus “team Alissa” (spoiler: Alissa really gained a lot of experience since War Eternal and you can get that from “Will to Power”)
I quickly ended up getting the whole discography but one thing I could not get is to attend one of their gig. Arch Enemy tours a lot in Europe, but having them tour the US is damn hard. So when they announced they will tour and have a stop in ABQ (that cuts my ride to 4 hours instead of 5.5 hours), it was a bliss for me. Top it with a show on Saturday night and that was just having the perfect astral alignment to attend it.
The only issue I have was the line-up: Fit for an Autopsy (Deathcore, Jersey City, NJ), While She Sleeps (Metalcore, Sheffield, UK) and Trivium (Groove Metal, Orlando, FL). Nothing that talk to me much, especially when you were bottle-fed with some fine European metal bands. I find it interesting the relative cleavage in the metal styles between the Old and the New continent: the former is complex, well refined and musically challenging whereas the later often is more brutal and primal in its composition. TL:DR, none of the lineup bands got my interest, they failed to impress me so I will not talk about them and move to Arch Enemy.
What was interesting though was the number of folks that left the show right after Trivium, especially teenagers and college kids. This was just like any swimming pool in a hotel: time for kids and family ran out and time to start the adult swim.

IMG_0954

Oh boy, 75 minutes of pure joy (and few bruises and weightlifting :p) and also a chance to sneak in closer to the front row. We get into the performance accompanied by “Set Flame  To The Night” with Daniel coming behind the drums and starting them like a horde of B52s flying over with the guitar riffs of Michael and Jeff with “The World Is Yours”. You know what, just watch it:
https://youtu.be/0GkXBRXXMv4

This is Arch F**king Enemy! 75 minutes of rage, furor, mosh, marvelous performance of the band! Alissa clearly walk the walk, learnt from the mentorship of Angie. Damn it feels good to listen the band live.
The band played through their whole repertoire from “Wages of Sin” until “Will to Power”.

 

 

We started with “The World Is Yours”, followed by “Ravenous” (not much my favorite though), “Stolen Life”, “My Apocalypse”, “War Eternal”, “Bloodstained Cross” (Ohhhhh yeah! As brutal than Angie!), “As The Pages Burn”, “The Eagles Fly Alone”, “We Will Rise”, “Avalanche” followed by a solo by Jeff transitioning into “Snow Bound” (one of the best guitar solo by Michael on “Wages of Sin”) and finally concluding to “Nemesis” (the classical AE song and also a good metric to compare Alissa versus Angie).
If I have to pick a concert that was awesome to me, this is THE CONCERT that I found the most awesome. Really looking forward to see them again soon!

[Metal/Melodic Death] Arch Enemy – Rise of the Tyrant (10th Anniversary Review)

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the release of Arch Enemy “Rise of The Tyrant”, the seventh album of the band. It is a 49 minutes, 11 tracks packed with fury and rage, in my opinion one of the best AE album from Angela Gossow-era.
We start with the ballistic “Blood On Your Hands” setting the tone: brutal and full of rage, one of my favorite tracks of the album by its fast-paced drums and guitars, Angie roars and Michael’s melodic riffs. We do not have any second of rest as we move with “The Last Enemy”, keeping on the insane speed of “Blood On Your Hands”. We are not yet done with the 10-minutes mark that we have this huge burst of adrenaline, priming you to enter the mosh pit. “I Will Live Again” slows down the pace into a more classical AE, allowing us to better savor on Michael’s melodic riffs and focus on Angie’s lyrics. This classical interlude is only transient as we move to the fourth track “In This Shallow Grave”. Combining fast and slow tempos, with Michael neighing his guitar like a horseman of the Apocalypse, Angie dark lyrics are really hitting deep inside, as some quotes from the lyrics “I have no soul, I have no blood. Genocide! Who is your master in this shallow grave? Alone, in this shallow grave….”. “Revolution Begins” appears in my opinion something you would have heard from “Anthems of Rebellion”, setting aside the brutal riffs and drums of the first tracks to allow the exposure of the lyrics. “Rise of The Tyrant”, the leading track of the album starts with an excerpt of the movie “Caligula” in which Caligula declare himself as a God, following by the brutal riffs and Angie growls. We are at 30 minutes and man this album is damn great in keeping us engaged and beefed up. “The Day You Died” keeps on the classical AE, so we are in good old melodic death metal. “Intermezzo Liberte” is this kind of interlude I love with AE, allowing us to enjoy Michael Amott’s remarkable guitar play. “Night Fall Fast” keep on the straight A line. “The Great Darkness” is maybe the weakest in my opinion but still pretty decent. “Vultures”, the last track of the album, perfectly an almost flawless album. Ten years later, “Rise of The Tyrant” hold up very well in my AE discography alongside with “Doomsday Machine” (my two favorites of AE Angela Gossow-era). If you have been entering Arch Enemy and have to pick an album with Angie fronting the band, pick this one.

[Metal/Melodic Death] Arch Enemy – Will to Power (90%)

Finally, after a week in waiting….got my Arch Enemy pre-order by mail including a tee and a digital version of the album (including a poster and three stickers, yikes!).
So how does Arch Enemy’s latest album hold? How does Jeff Loomis brings in the band? Interesting to do this review a week ahead on the 10th anniversary of their album “Rise of The Tyrant”.
Well you have the choice: the short or the long comment. The short one? A damn good AE album! The long one? Gonna have to read it through. This is an album made of 13 tracks totaling 54 minutes.
We got introduced by “Set Flame To The Night”, an instrumental opener that for AE fans reminds us the intro of “Khaos Legion” album. “The Race” brings on the big guns and set the tone of the album: its gonna loud, fast and furious. You know something from the good old times when Angie was fronting, that stuff that raises your adrenaline serum levels and gives you to jump into a mosh.
“Blood In The Water” slows down a bit, bringing the classical Michael Amott melodics riffs backed by Jeff Loomis, some classic AE style as I love it :). The “World Is Yours” marks this blend of the old and the new (brought with “War Eternal”). The tunes are catchy, certainly a great one as flagship song for promotion but I am not much impressed. That can be a great primer to the band if you have not listened to the band before. Listen by yourself and judge:

The fifth track, “The Eagle Flies Alone” is slower in pace but it is like the melodic power ballad with Michael and Jeff bringing on the riffs. Thats what I like about AE, powerful melodic riffs with fast-paced brutality. AFE!

“Reason To Believe” is the one posing as a power ballad, imagine stretching the Michael’s interlude into half a song with Alissa bringing on her experience on clean voices from the Agonist on that one, distilled inside this song. Turn on your lighters on that one. Oh yeah!
The seventh track “Murder Scene” brings back the brutal AE, good stuff but not too impressive. That compared to the eight track, “First Day In Hell”, starting like “We Are A Goodless Entity” only to bring it the heavy, hammering tough lyrics.
“Saturnine”, the the 9th track is this very nice instrumental interlude that Michael used to serve to each album. Short but sweet gothic one. “Dreams of Retribution” starts with Michael melodics a la Yngwie Malmsteen only to bring us the power melodic riffs surfing on some tunes we grew accustomed in “War Eternal”. Damn good track! “My Shadow And I” is nice but yeah not really talking to me much. “A Fight I Must Win” is a nice one to listen, straight outta AE playbook. The last song is “City Baby Attacked By Rats” is a very nice cover of the original punk song from GBH. I am not into punk music, but the cover is pretty rad. The original below.

So here we are at the end of the album. What can I say? I got introduced to AE via “War Eternal” and went into their discography retrospectively. Paradoxically, listening to “War Eternal” sounded one of the weakest link of their album. But, there is a big but here. I consider “War Eternal” as a transition and may explain this weakness. “Will To Power” brings the good old AE, Alissa settled into the continuation of Angie but in the same type pushing the band to foray into new avenues like “Reason to Believe”, there is also this idea of reaching out by Michael, maybe as his experience in pushing his Spiritual Beggars project, with the cover of “City Baby…”.
Arch Enemy brings on the big guns, followed by the engaging melodic riffs, bringing you in this state of frenzy prime for some memorable moments in the mosh! Thats some AFE album you handle here!

[Metal/Arch Enemy] Leader (of the f***ing a**holes) sneak peek

Arch Enemy is teasing us today with a cover of The Shitlickers (a Swedish hardcore punk) “The Leader (Of the f***ing a**holes)” through the hands of Michael Amott and the growls of the Alissa White-Gluz. Michael already show us his broad range by playing melodic death with Carcass and with Arch Enemy and by playing some psychedelic rock/stoner with his side project The Spiritual Beggars. Now we can add into the list some hardcore punk. I personally found the cover version much more elaborated, cleaner and more aggressive than the original. Just judge by yourself. The rage and the fury!

The cover:

The original:

[Metal/Melodic Death] Arch Enemy – Black Earth 20th anniversary

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Arch Enemy “Black Earth”, seeding what I consider of one of the most favorite melodic death metal, in particular by the powerful melodic riffs of Michael Amott. His talented skills on melodic riffs are in my opinion awesome and makes Arch Enemy different from the mainstream death metal bands.
As a freshman album, you always this feeling of the drafty and finding out his niche if you compare side-by-side the Arch Enemy style of 1997 and Arch Enemy of 2016. Retrospectively, you will need to wait until their third album “Anthems of Rebellion” and the position of Angela Gussow to obtain the trademark of Arch Enemy. Yet, this album is already rich with Michael melodic riffs that contrast with the heavy and brutal of the death metal. The album is made of 12 songs and it is some very good death metal tunes and stand as a 20 year album head high to many modern production. The vocals of Johan Liiva (ex-Carnage, in which he and Michael came from) are great and clearly understandable, a staple in our days in which many death metal bands front singers are all sounding the same.
More recently, Michael has mounted several pet projects including the progressive rock “Spiritual Beggars” and even reformed the original lineup that formed this album and named it simply “Black Earth”.
If you like powerful melodic guitar riffs and the hard banging of death metal, you should give a try to their first album, a milestone in Arch Enemy album.