[Metal/Melodic Death] FT-17 – Verdun! (80%)

If there are two things I like, it is surely listening to metal music and reading/watching about History. In particular about World War I, “la der des ders”, “la Grande Guerre”, “la Guerre des Tranchees”. I dont know why I am fixed on this particular war. Perhaps that field trip in the trenches of the “Col Du Linge” during my Junior High, maybe witnessing the violence of this war as I read through textbook.
Having a chance to combine both metal with WWI thematic is certainly the best idea I ever heard and it was a surprise I discovered the band FT-17 (the name of one of the first assault tank built by the French carmaker Renault) last year through Bandcamp. FT-17 is a French Melodic Death band from Nantes that have a strong inspiration from the same World War (with a piano giving this sound of a mute movie). With their first album “Marcellin S’en Va En Guerre”, we witnessed through the writing of Marcellin Trouve his journey through the first half of the war, from the Declaration of War to the Battle of the Marne.
In this second album, we follow Marcellin through his arrival in Verdun and the onset of the Battle of Verdun that took place from February 1916. The whole album is a 10-track album totaling about 45 minutes. The brutality of the death, the fast-paced drums perfectly match the adrenaline rush that soldiers when they were requested to lead the charge each morning across the no-man’s land, all of that backed by the sound of machine-guns, cannon shellings and explosion that only a visit in Verdun museum will give you an auditory experience of the brutality of this war.
We follow Marcellin’s charge in his diaries through the trenches, witnessing the carnage and the desolation, in which the drenching smell of rotting bodies, of excrements, of the urine, sweat and blood blend with soldiers shellshocked and in a denial state of the barbarity of the scene.
The album is overall fairly good, as good as their first album. But certainly the piece of resistance is the last title “Au Fond Du Trou” (inside the hole).
Starting with a piano solo followed by a dry bass guitar a la Black Sabbath, like a calm dawn before the officer whistling the first assault of the day. You can feel the anxiety and rush before a horde of soldiers forced to drink ramp themselves up to climb over the No-Man’s Land, with the sound of the whistle to lead. Hungry, tired, dirty, sick and completely apathetic, all these young men in their prime time of their life, launched in a useless assault to conquer a couple of yards from the enemy line. All commanded by some anachronic generals sitting far away from the front lines, moving these battalions as pawns on a global chessboard.
Nothing better translate the absurdity as Marcellin summarize the failure of the assault, with the loss of 75% of a battalion in another useless assault. In the average day, thats about 10’000 soldiers sent to the carnage.
Where Sabaton tells the tales of heroic battles, FT-17 makes a point in describing one of the worst modern war, replacing the glory with the mud, blood and the reality of the war. If I was teaching History to the 8th grader, I would certainly combine this album with a Music teacher to show how music can translate the horror of a war that is often overseen in textbook. “L’enfer c’est la boue!”.


[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.


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:

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/Melodic Death] Exalt The Throne Last Show @ Dallas, TX (O’Rileys Bar – 07/29/2017)

We are born, we live and we die. Some people call it the circle of life. I don’t, i prefer the allusion of the thread of life metaphorized by the Ancient Greek through as the Moirai (or Fates) Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos. We exist as a thread with our beginning and our end. We cease to exist with the continuum but we remains as part of the fabric (history).
Same applies for our intellectual endeavors, scientific and artistic alike.
I have seen bands being born bringing the joy and the excitement with their innocence and novelty. I have bands that have been following me through my life, becoming a sort of travel companions through my own journey. Sadly, I also have seen bands giving their last breath and close their eyes.
The announcement of a band going into hiatus or disbanding is always a sad news to hear because you know that you will not experience anymore that auditory and visual stimuli that made them listen and like their work, over and over.
One of the band that lately gave their final curtain, their “barroud d’honneur” was Exalt The Throne (Dallas, TX). I discovered the band very recently as their supported Epica second leg North American Tour following the release of “The Quantum Enigma”. It was love at first sight because of this very interesting blend of melodic death (with high-paced guitars of Charles, Tim and Kanyon and drums) with symphonic metal (clean female vocals performed by Courtney). It was neither the former nor the latter. It was its own blend that made them unique. When the band announced their final show a month ago, it was unexpected and a very sad moment to experience.
However, I decided to drive all the way to attend their final show and have a chance to collect a last souvenir from the band. The gig was short but oh boy you could feel how the band matured over the last 18 months, refining their performance.  The band played three of their songs present in their album “Long Live the King” (“Long Live The King”; “Perpetual Agony” and “Rampant Idolatry”) and one cover from Amon Amarth (I ain’t fan of folk metal but if someone can help identify the song, I would be more than happy to update this post).

If I have to find a silver lining into this final show, I would definitely cite the first law of thermodynamics that stipulates “energy is not created nor destroyed in a closed system, it is only transformed and transferred”. Same applies to the artistic energy. It is only transformed and transferred. I wish to the band members all the best and success in their endeavors and in their personal and professional careers. The king is dead! Long live the king!


[Melodic Death Metal] The Ottoman Empire – Way of the Blade (10th anniversary)

2016 is entering its last segment and before it ends I want to be sure that I give a thumbs up to any albums of my collection that marks a anniversary year. Among of them is a precious jewel that is not well known, from a band named The Ottoman Empire (aka Luna Mortis) with a certain Mary Zimmer. If there is a female metal front singer that masters both the growls and the clean in the US metal scene, it is surely Mary.
What this album has a special place? Well for different reasons. First, it is a melodic death metal band and I like the complexity of guitar riffs coupled with the brutality of fast drums and bass shredding. The second reason is probably the geography shared between me and the band. The band is originated from Madison, Wisconsin. Two bands as I know are Badgers at heart: Garbage (alternative rock that got some success in the mid-1990s) and The Ottoman Empire. I lived few years in Madison as part of my scientific training and Madison still kept a special place in my heart for different reasons. If you survive its winter, then you truly enjoy the city.
So this is their seminal album “Way of The Blade” released on October 7, 2006. It is made of 10 songs lasting about 50 minutes. Most songs last a good 4 to 6 minutes, with “The Mercenary” lasting a 12 minute.
The album starts with “Anemic World” that quickly set the tone. An amazing opening guitar riff sequence, followed by fast-pace drumbeats and the entrance of Mary bringing her magic touch, alternating between growls and clean. All well played that gives on this frenzy and yet very elaborated rhythmic. My favorite.
It is followed by “Demon Twin”, keeping on the signature and by “The Ottoman Empire”. I like the “Ottoman Empire” by its slower and bit more languish pace allowing to enjoy the musical arrangement and the lyrics. This kind of quiet interlude is only distracting from the next track “Wrathshot” that brings on back the fast pace and Mary all in her rage and fury (that will be her signature with “The White Empress”). Washing away is “One If by Sea” that is almost melodic and melancholic ballad, only to shake you up with rage and furor by intermittent. “Strike” is another typical song of the album marking the Ottoman Empire musical style through this album and their two other album.
“The Mercenary” is my second favorite, Mary bringing her melancholic voice and the great guitar arrangement, to only break it down brutally. Another great song. “Vendetta”, the 8th track, brings on the rage and the furor back from “Anemic World” and “Wrathshot”. The album almost conclude by an “Interlude”, a guitar solo.If you like the sound of an electrical guitar simple tones, it is a great way to exit from the tumult of the album. Finally, the last track “Way of The Blade” concludes the album, surfing on the same musical frame than “Strike”.
It is interesting to retrospectively rediscover this album, as I got introduced to Mary with “The White Empress” almost two years ago. You can appreciate that her talent was already present from the very first album and only refined, crafted and mastered it. If you like Mary vocal performance from her recent work in Santa Marta, you should definitely get your hands on this album. A must-have.

[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.