• Folk and Ambient Albums by Metal Artists

    Mag 11 2010, 5:34

    I've always been intrigued by these kinds of releases, especially when they come from artists or bands that have never shown any penchant for folk or ambient. Maybe composing, playing, and mixing all that metal gets grating after a while, and the artists just need to take a breather.

    If there were multiple releases of this sort by the same artist, I used the most well-known/well-received, or maybe just with the one with track samples.

    Feel free to suggest additions. Any would be greatly appreciated.

    You can see the lazy version here.

    Agalloch - The White [EP] (USA, 2008 - Neofolk)

    Amber Asylum - Frozen in Amber - (USA, 1996 - Neoclassical Darkwave / Dark Ambient)
    Features members of The Gault.


    Ashen Light - Stary Byliny / Slavenskie Vecera (Russia, 2001 - Ambient / Slavonic Folk)

    Asgàth - Miscommunication [EP] (USA, 2009 - Dark Ambient / Noise)
    Features Élan O'Neal of Élan.

    Blood & Time - At the Foot of the Garden (USA, 2004 - Contemporary Folk / Post-Rock)
    Features Scott Kelly of Neurosis.

    Our First Thought

    Borknagar - Origin (Norway, 2006 - Neofolk)

    Earth Imagery

    Burzum - Hliðskjálf (Norway, 1999 - Dark Ambient / Neofolk)

    Tuistos Herz

    Byla - Byla - (USA, 2005 - Ambient)
    Features Colin Marston of Behold... the Arctopus and Krallice.


    Crippled Black Phoenix - A Love of Shared Disasters (England, 2007 - Contemporary Folk / Post-Rock)
    Features Justin Greaves, formerly of Electric Wizard.

    Really, How'd It Get This Way?

    Dargaard - Eternity Rites (Austria, 1998 - Neoclassical Darkwave / Dark Ambient)
    Features members of Abigor.

    Demon Eyes

    Devin Townsend - The Hummer (Canada, 2006 - Ambient)

    Dornenreich - In Luft geritzt (Austria, 2008 - Neofolk)

    Drudkh - Songs of Grief and Solitude (Ukraine, 2006 - Neofolk)

    Empyrium - Where at Night the Wood Grouse Plays (Germany, 1999 - Neofolk)

    Enoch - Graveyard Disturbances (USA, 2004 - Darkwave / Dark Ambient)
    Features Killjoy of Necrophagia; Mirai Kawashima of Sigh.

    Final - 3 (England, 2006 - Dark Ambient / Drone)
    Features Justin K. Broadrick, formerly of Godflesh.


    Finntroll - Visor Om Slutet (Finland, 2003 - Neofolk / Ambient)

    Den Sista Runans Dans

    Halo Manash - rAsHnka-RA (Finland, 2007 - Dark Ambient)
    Features members of Dolorian.


    Harvestman - Lashing The Rye - (USA, 2005 - Psychedelic Folk / Drone)
    Features Steve Von Till of Neurosis.

    The Sea Maiden

    Hel - Tristheim - (Germany, 2007 - Neofolk)

    House of Low Culture - Edward's Lament (USA, 2003 - Dark Ambient / Drone)
    Features members of Isis; Stephen O'Malley of Sunn O))).

    Edward's Lament

    Íon - Immaculada (England, 2010 - Neofolk)
    Features Duncan Patterson, formerly of Anathema.


    Karl Sanders - Saurian Exorcisms (USA, 2009 - World Music / Ambient)
    Of Nile.

    Preliminary Purification Before the Calling of Inanna

    Kauan - Aava tuulen maa - (Russia, 2005 - Post-Rock / Neofolk)


    Коло - Коло (Ukraine, 2005 - Neofolk / Electronica)
    Features Munruthel, formerly of Nokturnal Mortum.

    Mamiffer - Hirror Enniffer - (USA, 2008 - Post-Rock / Ambient)
    Features Aaron Turner of Isis.

    Månegarm - Urminnes Hävd - The Forest Sessions [EP] (Sweden, 2006 - Swedish Folk)


    Methadrone - Sterility - (USA, 2008 - Drone / Ambient / Neofolk)


    Munruthel - (Ukraine, 1997 - Dark Ambient)
    Formerly of Nokturnal Mortum.

    Nest - Trail Of The Unwary (Finland, 2007 - Neofolk)
    Features Aslak Tolonen of The Mist And The Morning Dew.


    Nothing - the grey subaudible (USA, 2000 - Martial Industrial / Dark Ambient)
    Features Jason William Walton of Agalloch.

    October Falls - Marras (Finland, 2005 - Neofolk)

    Of the Wand and the Moon - Sonnenheim (Denmark, 2005 - Neofolk)
    Features Kim Larsen, formerly of Saturnus.

    Nighttime In Sonnenheim

    Old Forgotten Lands - From Ethereal Forests to Mystic Mountains [EP] (USA, 2009 - Ambient / Neofolk)
    Features Élan O'Neal of Élan.

    Orphaned Land - The Calm Before The Flood [EP] (Israel, 2004 - Israeli Folk)

    Poropetra - Sinihirwi (Finland, 2007 - Finnish Folk)
    Features members of Korpiklaani.


    Professor Fate - The Inferno (England, 2007 - Darkwave / Dark Ambient)
    Features Mick Kenney of Anaal Nathrakh.


    Scott Kelly - Spirit Bound Flesh (USA, 2001 - Contemporary Folk)
    Of Neurosis.

    In Her Room

    Skyforger - Sword Song (Latvia, 2003 - Latvian Folk / Neofolk)

    When the Sun Was Rising

    Star of Ash - Iter.Viator (Norway, 2002 - Electronic / Ambient)
    Features Ihriel, formerly of Peccatum.


    Steve Von Till - If I Should Fall To The Field (USA, 2002 - Contemporary Folk)
    Of Neurosis.

    This River

    Techno Animal - Re-Entry (England, 1995 - Industrial / Ambient)
    Features Justin K. Broadrick, formerly of Godflesh.

    Thou Shalt Suffer - Somnium (Norway, 2000 - Neoclassical Darkwave / Ambient)
    Features Ihsahn, formerly of Emperor.

    Solum Visio Perfecta Est

    Trial of the Bow - Rite Of Passage (Australia, 1997 - World Music / Ambient)
    Features former members of Disembowelment.

    The Court Of The Servant

    Tribes of Neurot - Silver Blood Transmission (USA, 1995 - Dark Ambient)
    Features members of Neurosis.

    Fires of Purification

    Ulver - Kveldssanger (Norway, 1995 - Neofolk / Norwegian Folk)

    Velvet Cacoon - Atropine (USA, 2009 - Dark Ambient)

    Die Verbannten Kinder Evas - Dusk and Void Become Alive (Austria, 2006 - Darkwave / Ambient)
    Features Protector of Summoning.

    Dusk And Void Became Alive

    Wardruna - Runaljod – gap var Ginnunga (Norway, 2009 - Neofolk / Norwegian Folk)
    Features Gaahl, formerly of Gorgoroth.


    White Static Demon - Decayed (England, 2009 - Dark Ambient / Drone / Noise)
    Features Justin K. Broadrick, formerly of Godflesh.

    Wongraven - Fjelltronen (Norway, 1995 - Dark Ambient / Neofolk)
    Features Satyr of Satyricon; Ihsahn, formerly of Emperor.

    AbsurdAes DanaAmorphisBathoryBlood AxisCruachanCurrent 93Death in JuneElvenkingEnsiferumEstatic FearFalkenbachForgotten SpiritG. ZarapaneckoHardingrockLoreena McKennittMoonsorrowNegură BungetNekrogoblikonNokturnal MortumPär Lindh & Björn JohanssonPrimordialSkycladSonne HagalSwansTemnozorThyrfingThe Tolkien EnsembleHeidevolkTurisasTýrZenithrashBlood Axis & Les Joyaux de la PrincesseAbruptumBlut aus NordDarkspaceDead Can DanceEinstürzende NeubautenHave a Nice LifeLustmordMidnight SyndicateNordvargrShape of Despair1349Neurosis & JarboeMichael GiraAngels of LightDas IchLifelover
  • Celebrated Poetry in Music

    Apr 5 2009, 6:43

    Celebrated Poetry in Music

    I’ve compiled a list of songs and albums by musicians who have taken poetry from established and renowned writers (whether only in their respective countries or in a worldly sense) and put them to music. The list didn’t turn out to be as long as I had initially hoped, but for anyone who is big into poetry – this should keep you busy for a little while. Feedback is definitely welcome (especially if someone locates me some songs using Robert Browning, Walt Whitman, or Emily Dickinson which I’m really surprised I couldn’t find).

    Louis Aragon (France)
    Léo Ferré – “Léo Ferré chante Aragon

    Charles Baudelaire (France)
    Alcest – “Elévation
    Amesoeurs – “Recueillement
    Das Ich – “Blutquell” (German translation of “La Fontaine de sang”)
    Gorgoroth – “Litani til Satan” (Norwegian translation of “Les Litanies de Satan”)
    The Ocean – “Paleoarchaean/Man And The Sea” (incorporates English translation of “L'Homme et la Mer”)
    Mortifera – “Ciel brouillé
    Mortifera – “Le revenant
    Peste Noire – “Le Mort Joyeux
    Peste Noire – “Spleen
    Léo Ferré – “Léo Ferré chante Baudelaire
    Misanthrope – “Irremediable

    Gottfried Benn (Germany)
    Das Ich – “Morgue

    William Blake (England)
    Loreena McKennitt – “Lullaby
    Sonne Hagal – “The Sick Rose
    Sonne Hagal – “Song of Innocence” (all lyrics taken from “Piping Down the Valleys Wild”)
    Ulver – “Themes from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven & Hell
    Bruce Dickinson – “Chemical Wedding” (contains many lyrics from his poems throughout)

    Robert Brasillach (France)
    Peste Noire – “Psaume IV

    William S. Burroughs (USA)
    Tom Waits – “The Black Rider” (contains several lyrics by him and the rest is inspired by a play he co-wrote)

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge (England)
    Iron Maiden – “Rime of the Ancient Mariner

    Tristan Corbière (France)
    Peste Noire – “Paysage Mauvais

    J.H.O. Djurhuus (Faroe Islands)
    Týr – “Gandkvæði Tróndar

    Jens Christian Djurhuus (Faroe Islands)
    Týr – “Ormurin Langi

    Robert Frost (USA)
    Horn – “Landscapes on Hold II” (all lyrics taken from “Desert Places”)

    Archibald Lampman (Canada)
    Loreena McKennitt – “Snow

    Comte de Lautréamont (Uruguay/France)
    The Ocean – “Mesoarchaean/Legions Of Winged Octopi” (incorporates English translation of “Les Chants de Maldoror”)

    Guillaume de Machaut (France)
    Peste Noire – “Amour ne m'amoit ne je li

    Yukio Mishima (Japan)
    :Golgatha: – “Icarus” (English translation)

    Alfred Noyes (England)
    Loreena McKennitt – “The Highwayman

    Fernando Pessoa (Portugal)
    Moonspell – “Opium” (incorporates “Opiário”)
    Ulver – “Christmas” (English adaptation of “Natal”)

    Christine de Pizan (Italy/France)
    Peste Noire – “Dueil angoisseus (Christine de Pisan, 1362-1431)” (incorporates “Dueil Angoisseux”)

    Edgar Allen Poe (USA)
    Arcturus – “Alone
    The Crüxshadows – “Sympathy for Tomorrow” (incorporates “Spirits of the Dead”)
    Green Carnation – “Alone
    The Ocean – “The City In The Sea
    The Alan Parsons Project – “Tales Of Mystery & Imagination

    Arthur Rimbaud (France)
    Léo Ferré – “Léo Ferré chante Verlaine-Rimbaud” (contains several of his works)

    Edwin Arlington Robinson (USA)
    Simon & Garfunkel – “Richard Cory

    Taras Shevchenko (Ukraine)
    Drudkh – “Solitude” (English title for “Самітність”)
    Drudkh – “The Swan Road

    Edvard Storm (Norway)
    Týr – “Sinklars Vísa

    Alfred Lord Tennyson (England)
    Crippled Black Phoenix – “The Northern Cobbler” (all lyrics taken from stanzas 1-9)
    Loreena McKennitt – “The Lady of Shalott

    A.S.J. Tessimond (England)
    Agalloch – “Birch White” (all lyrics taken from “Birch Tree”)

    Dylan Thomas (Wales)
    Anaal Nathrakh – “Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light” (incorporates “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”)

    J.R.R. Tolkien (England)
    The Tolkien Ensemble – “At Dawn in Rivendell
    The Tolkien Ensemble – “A Night in Rivendell
    The Tolkien Ensemble – “An Evening In Rivendell
    The Tolkien Ensemble & Christopher Lee – “Complete Songs & Poems”*
    The Tolkien Ensemble & Christopher Lee – “Leaving Rivendell

    *I included the other albums for the sake of being thorough, but if you want to get into this band, just get this release. It puts all the poems in the correct order as they appear in The Lord of the Rings.

    Georg Trakl (Austria)
    The Ocean – “Ectasian/De Profundis” (incorporates English translation of “De Profundis”)

    Paul Verlaine (France)
    Peste Noire – “Soleils couchants
    Valfunde – “"Sérénade" De Verlaine
    Léo Ferré – “Léo Ferré chante Verlaine-Rimbaud” (contains several of his works)

    François Villon (France)
    Léo Ferré – “Frères humains, l’amour n’a pas d’âge” (incorporates “Frères humains”)
    Peste Noire – “Ballade cuntre les anemis de la France

    William Wordsworth (England)
    Draconian – “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal

    William Butler Yeats (Ireland)
    Agalloch – “A Poem by Yeats” (all lyrics taken from “The Sorrow of Love”)
    The Cranberries – “Yeat's Grave” (incorporates “No Second Troy”)
    Loreena McKennitt – “Stolen Child
    Loreena McKennitt – “Ce He Mise le Ulaingt? (The Two Trees)” (all lyrics taken from “The Two Trees”)
    Primordial – “Hosting of the Sidhe

    Abney Park – “I am Stretched On Your Grave
    Dead Can Dance – “I Am Stretched on Your Grave
    Sinéad O'Connor – “I Am Stretched On Your Grave

    Rakoth – “The Unquiet Grave

    Bob DylanDead Can DanceSufjan StevensSonic YouthOf the Wand and the MoonAkercockeAlcestMortiferaCelestiaAndrew Lloyd WebberApocalypticaArcturusAyreonBattleloreSummoningBlind GuardianDemons & WizardsCradle of FilthBethlehemThe Meads of AsphodelMechanical PoetMiles DavisJohn ColtraneThelonious MonkMunly & the Lee Lewis HarlotsJay MunlyNaked CityNegură BungetNestNightwishOpethPär Lindh & Björn JohanssonPeccatumRammsteinRichard WagnerThe Ruins Of BeverastSaul WilliamsSleepytime Gorilla MuseumStar of AshStarofAshSun RaSymphony XTemnozorTheatre of TragedyThelonious Monk QuartetThelonious Monk Quartet With John ColtraneTherionUnexpectUrfaustWardrunaWolves in the Throne RoomBo Hansson
  • Lengthy 2008 Reviews

    Gen 5 2009, 7:10

    Ihsahn – “angL”
    The album starts off with a bang – some intense and pissed-off riffing. And then you hear a raspy voice shout “Bring me my wine!” which immediately evokes imagery of a highly demanding, cruel tyrant. Oh yes, Ihsahn is back.

    Before its release, Ihsahn claimed that this album would be a natural progression from his last solo effort “The Adversary”. But really, what did that mean to anyone? He’s fiddled with so many musical styles and has done far more than simply flirt with musical evolution during his career, the term “natural progression” meant very little. Well, surprisingly enough, he was actually using the term in a conventional sense. The changes made to his musical style are about as significant as it would be for a regular musician.

    This time around, Ihsahn opted to tone it down on the symphonic elements, which definitely assisted the music. The keyboards used on “The Adversary” were quite obvious and simply not convincing as a real orchestra. They’re still here on “angL”, but the orchestral parts aren’t as close to the forefront in the production. It makes more sense this way anyhow since the orchestral parts are most often used to accentuate the guitars. On that note, the guitar style is relatively similar to that of what he did on “The Adversary” – it is virtuosic, melodic, and highly technical. So there isn’t too much that is particularly unexpected going on in that department, although, personally I’m glad about this because it worked so well on his previous effort. There are a few notable and welcome incorporations, though. He does add in a little blues, acoustic balladry, and even some very interesting symbolic (and highly addictive, I might add) riffs pertaining to their lyrical counterparts such as on the track “Elevator”.

    I don’t find Ihsahn’s harsh vocals to be the finest in black metal, or even close to the finest and they remain unaltered on this album from any of his other endeavors. But just like with the vocals of Enslaved and Sigh, I find them to be instantly recognizable and unique, and they somehow carry an air of charm about them. Saying that, I think it’s safe to say that his style isn’t going to please everyone, but his music in general isn’t meant to do that, so it seems rather fitting. His clean vocals, on the other hand have undergone a near-complete makeover from his solo debut. He’s not doing his King Diamond impressions anymore, which, as I’ve come to gather, bothered a lot of people who listened to “The Adversary”. He now extensively uses his own (already refined) style going that was merely touched upon in the past.

    The drums are again handled by Asgeir Mickelson from Spiral Architect, and his performance is as varied and insane as ever. Ihsahn made an intelligent decision to let Michelson pretty much do whatever he wanted with a fairly small amount of guidance. The real shocker here is the bass, in terms of prominence (for an Ihsahn release, at least) as well as approach. It complemented the music in a way I would’ve never expected bass to do with the music of Ihsahn. Unfortunately, it’s only particularly audible during the softer parts. I can only hope that the incorporation of Norberg’s bass abilities will be further expanded upon in a future release, perhaps in the style and conspicuousness of Johan DeFarfalla’s bass-playing on Opeth’s “Morningrise”. And speaking of Opeth, Ihsahn collaborated with Mikael Åkerfeldt on the third track “Unhealer”. The two find themselves in a vocal duet during the chorus that just couldn’t be more satisfying or unforgettable. As to be expected, Mikael makes use of his soft singing voice and his death growls, but his influence doesn’t make it sound like some unreleased Opeth track – the song is characteristally Ihsahnian and thus, doesn’t seem at all out-of-place on the record as a whole.

    This release isn’t quite as over-the-top as “The Adversary”. It’s not nearly as epic or theatrical and doesn’t even end with that undeniably metal ten-minute closer. But that doesn’t mean it was any less uncompromising on the composer’s part nor is it any less difficult to digest, especially for black metal purists, but then again, they most likely already denounced Ihsahn upon the first Peccatum album’s release, if not earlier than that. I said that this isn’t music for everyone and I meant it. This is Ihsahn being Ihsahn. But being the musician of his caliber with such a long list of achievements, that’s a damn good thing.
    Favored Tracks: Unhealer, Elevator, Monolith

    Opeth – “Watershed”
    I must say that this is a bizarre, yet admirable step into a new direction for Opeth. It seems the line-up revamp was a good way for them to continue evolving their sound. There are a wide number of genres touched upon and rampant experimentation for the band. Unfortunately, it feels jumbled and less coherent than what I’m used to hearing from them. I definitely understand what Åkerfeldt was saying at the end of the final track of their live album “The Roundhouse Tapes” when he stated “It’s gonna be evil.”

    There is still the Opeth trademark of having folky acoustic guitar, seventies prog-rock guitar, and melancholic piano sections spliced in between the death metal parts, or vice versa, depending on how you interpret the music.

    The first track contains the appearance of a female guest vocalist whose voice wouldn’t sound at all out of place on a modern-day mainstream Gothic Metal release. The heavier sections are far heavier than before. For a few tracks, they took a good amount of ideas from Technical Death Metal. Opeth’s use of odd time signatures got far more obvious and there is even some usage of polyrhythms. More often, they incorporate Åkerfeldt’s clean vocals in with the death metal parts, which works out surprisingly well. This is used at the beginning of “The Lotus Eater” and it creates a great sense of urgency.

    They fiddle with Symphonic Metal, which could’ve been explored so much more. There is the occasional keyboard imitating a clarinet. To be fair, though, if I didn’t look at the booklet, I would have been fooled into thinking it was genuine instrumentation. And then there is the keyboard imitating violins at the beginning of “Burden” and in “Hessian Peel” which sound straight out of their “Damnation” album. The music starts to sound a little silly as it gets lost in some out-of-place keyboard wankery on “The Lotus Eater” – it’s not bad, just… awkward. After a few listens, though, you’ll find yourself looking forward to that part of the song. It’s so bizarre and catchy that it grows on you. Similarly styled keyboards appear in “Burden”, but they fit a lot better in the context of the song. They experiment with their usual folky section in the outro of “Burden”, as the guitar gets more and more out of tune (i.e. demonic) as it is played. And we hear some more demonic sounds later in some vocals played backwards in “Hessian Peel”. The interesting thing about it is that those vocals is that they fit the melody of the music going on which means Åkerfeldt had to sing the melody backwards so when it was reversed it would match the music. Brilliant.

    Many have criticized Opeth for patchwork songwriting, which isn’t something I’m going to argue against. What made previous Opeth outputs so great, though, was that these shifts into other genres and moods mid-song were rarely abrupt – they made sense with the flow of the music. And if they were abrupt, it wasn’t without purpose. Watershed, on the other hand, seems to contain a lot of purposeless abrupt shifts.

    Ultimately, this comes off as a transitional album. If they could just hone in on a few of the new ideas presented here and expand upon them, or simply make the genre-hopping flow better, then the next album will definitely be more worthy of being in Opeth’s impressive discography.
    Favored Tracks: The Lotus Eater, Porcelain Heart
  • 2008's Finest (with reviews!)

    Gen 5 2009, 7:05

    The Top 9 Albums of 2008!

    1. Trinacria – “Travel Now Journey Infinitely” (Black/Doom Metal, Noise, Avant-Garde)

    This joint work from members of progressive extreme metal band Enslaved and noise duo Fe-mail tops this year-end list. I’m glad their fellow Norwegian musicians Maja Ratkje and Hild Sofie Tafjord were able to allow Enslaved to explore new musical territory without making too drastic a departure from their own project (and vice versa). This is an album that must be listened to very closely. The clusterfuck of sound that occasionally shows up contrasted against some very mellow parts and the amazing attention to detail could definitely turn this album into an overwhelming experience for its listener despite its commonplace runtime, but every bit of it is worth it. It’s the mixture of genres and the genius collaborative effort in songwriting here that make for a tremendously original work that simply cannot be overlooked. I hope this isn’t a one-shot project, because I’d love to see even more in the way of Noise and Ratkje’s vocals on their next output.
    Favored Tracks: Turn-Away, Travel Now Journey Infinitely

    2. Have a Nice Life – “Deathconsciousness” (Shoegaze, Ambient)

    If you’re not depressed when you start up this album, you will be by the end (at the very least). Even with the unrelenting dreary ambience of the album, HaNL shies not away from catchiness at opportunistic moments. “Deathconsciousness” is a major achievement for these young musicians and was a very strong contender for the number one spot.
    Favored Tracks: Bloodhail, Hunter, The Future, I Don't Love

    3. Those Poor Bastards – “The Plague” (Gothic Country)

    This thoroughly enjoyable album would be an excellent introduction to country music for any metalhead being their heaviest, darkest output yet with even further exploration of harsh vocal usage and prominently featured twisted, though often tongue-in-cheek, lyrical content. The overall production really owes itself to the music to make it all the more haunting. There’s a deliberate crackle to the sound with every scream and at times, they’ll exercise the use of dual vocal tracks, but use different production styles for each. “The Plague” is certainly the best album thus far from this impressive, unique band’s rapidly growing discography.
    Favored Tracks: Black Lightning, A Curse, Dead Winter Moon

    4. DIR EN GREY – “UROBOROS” (Experimental Rock/Metal, Visual Kei)

    Dir en Grey once again proves they’re the only working Visual Kei band worth listening to. Their music’s depth, experimentation, passion, and variation far surpass anyone and everyone else in their chosen scene. This album is a major step up from their somewhat disappointing nu-metal influenced previous release “The Marrow of a Bone”. Kyo’s vocals come off as impressive as always, excelling with every vocal style he employs. He can go from Swarrrm-like grindcore guttural vocals to singing as high as what should only be natural for a teenage girl in the blink of an eye. At times during the album, he is reminiscent of Mike Patton. The main strong point of “Uroboros” is the heavy variance in songwriting which can be accredited to the band’s genius idea to have members work on songs individually only to come together after two months, polish things up, and then make an album out of it. Something like this could have easily turned into disaster, creating a wildly uneven album, but considering the amazing talents of all the members of the band, the ultimate product was brilliant.
    Favored Tracks: VINUSHKA

    5. Esoteric – “The Maniacal Vale” (Doom/Death Metal)

    This has got to be the one of the finest pieces of doom metal this reviewer has ever heard. “The Maniacal Vale” is one of those albums that absolutely must be heard when in the right mood, but when you do listen to it at the right time for you, it’s immensely rewarding. The entrancing melody from the opening riff in “Circle” will hook you and after that, the album just refuses to let you go. Even with such massive songs and having a movie-length total runtime, it manages to stay interesting with an atmosphere that is unrelenting. The only problem (well…“problem”) is that it’s such a massive album. Many would be hard-pressed to make the time to listen to the whole thing in one sitting, which is a shame because the listener really owes it to the music to do just that. Despite the power of the music to make sure the listener stays intrigued (let alone, stave off boredom), most simply aren’t going to have the patience to do just that. Then again, with musicians as elitist and disdainful of the general world populous as those in Esoteric, that very well could be their intention – to deliberately keep the brilliance of their music from touching the ears of such poor appreciators of art.
    Favored Tracks: Circle, Silence

    6. Ihsahn – “angL” (Progressive Extreme Metal)

    The album starts off with a bang – some intense and pissed-off riffing. And then you hear a raspy voice shout “Bring me my wine!” which immediately evokes imagery of a highly demanding, cruel tyrant. Oh yes, Ihsahn is back.
    Favored Tracks: Unhealer, Elevator, Monolith
    Read the full review HERE.

    7. Enslaved – “Vertebrae” (Progressive Extreme Metal)

    While not as rock n’ rollish as “Ruun”, “Vertebrae” still feels like a natural release in the vein of Enslaved’s progression. So as the evolution of their discography would have you think, “Vertebrae” further goes on to converge the roads of extreme metal and space rock. If you’ve been intrigued in the past years by where Enslaved’s music has been headed, you shouldn’t be at all disappointed.
    Favored Tracks: Clouds, New Dawn, The Watcher

    8. Opeth – “Watershed” (Progressive Death Metal)

    I must say that this is a bizarre, yet admirable step into a new direction for Opeth. It seems the line-up revamp was a good way for them to continue evolving their sound. There are a wide number of genres touched upon and rampant experimentation for the band. Unfortunately, it feels jumbled and less coherent than what I’m used to hearing from them. I definitely understand what Åkerfeldt was saying at the end of the final track of their live album “The Roundhouse Tapes” when he stated “It’s gonna be evil.”
    Favored Tracks: The Lotus Eater , Porcelain Heart
    Read the full review HERE.

    9. Kayo Dot – “Blue Lambency Downward” (Avant-Garde)

    There aren’t exactly songs on this album per se; every track here is, for the most part, freeform. The instruments presented here range from traditional rock, to electronic, to orchestral, and so many others. Because of this, you’ll here tracks that go from sounding like abstract rock and roll to sections that sound like a twisted version of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf”. For a little over forty minutes, the album plods along in a dreamscape; shifting, haunting, beautiful.
    Favored Tracks: Blue Lambency Downward, Clelia Walking

    Other Things I Heard and Decided to Write a Blurb About:
    ASHES dIVIDE – “Keep Telling Myself It's Alright” (Alternative Rock)
    Apparently Billy Howerdel was getting antsy about not releasing any music since A Perfect Circle’s third and final (?) album “eMOTIVE” back in 2004 so he came up with this solo project Ashes Divide. The question becomes how he fares without Tool’s frontman by his side. Well, basically “Keep Telling Myself It’s Alright” sounds pretty much like a sub par APC album (that is, it would if there were any). The guitars and song structures all have a tendency to replicate the sounds of Howerdel’s musical past and he does his best to fill in the giant shoes of Maynard James Keenan and falters every once in a while, but overall, he does a decent job. Sometimes his vocals start taking on an almost emo quality which is a little difficult to stomach, the lyrics get a bit painful to listen to (see “Defamed”), and the sound just gets a little too pop-like. One doesn’t quite get the emotional tug that Howerdel’s previous efforts have offered, but anyone who was craving more of A Perfect Circle like me should be pleased enough.
    Favored Tracks: Stripped Away, Sword

    Avantasia – “The Scarecrow” (Power Metal)
    Let it be known that I’m a big fan of the “Metal Opera” saga. But “The Scarecrow” didn’t at all live up to the standards set by Avantasia’s first two albums. There are some strong tracks here (“Twisted Mind”, “Toy Master”), but the album is ultimately marred by several mediocre tracks (that just scream 80’s hair metal) and a few pop ballads that are well-suited for American radio stations – yeah, they’re that bad.

    Iced Earth – “The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2” (Power Metal)
    No surprises here. Compositions, instrumentation, etc. are all good and suitably epic but there’s nothing new. I do wish they had at least kept Tim Owens around long enough to do vocals for the sequel. It is a little awkward listening to the two parts of the series one after the other with the vocalist shift. It makes it sound as if the two albums aren’t actually connected and it doesn’t pack the same punch as the first one. Regardless, it’s a passable follow-up to round out the series.

    Loreena McKennitt – “A Midwinter Night’s Dream” (Celtic Folk)
    Canadian multi-instrumentalist Loreena McKennitt lends her amazing voice and talents once again to classic Christmas songs and poetry, retracing her steps by including the tracks from the “A Winter Garden: Five Songs for the Season” EP and then expanding on them with new recordings. The new songs are a good, long overdue addendum to that all too short EP from 1995. And if you’re thinking this is just another run-of-the-mill Christmas album, you’d be far off. Know that this is infinitely more impressive and enjoyable than other artists who have a tendency to butcher such songs or just come off as tremendously boring. And with the 1995 recordings and the 2008 recordings right next to each other, this acts a perfect testament to show off that her voice has not deteriorated even one bit in thirteen years.

    Meshuggah – “ObZen” (Technical Metal)
    I knew I was going to be unhappy with this release when I read that the band was going to be looking back to their old material to determine how they would go about writing the songs on “obZen”. The “I” EP and “Catch 33” were masterpieces! Why should they ever look back? Meshuggah needed to continue looking forward. “obZen” is not a bad album; the problem is that it lacks any surprises.

    Moonsorrow – “Tulimyrsky” [EP] (Viking/Folk Metal)
    I could have never expected an EP of a band to which I never paid any real attention to be so amazing. I don’t know what exactly possessed me to pick this one up, but I’m all too happy I did. The first track, which comes close to half and hour is tremendously enthralling and intricate. The cover of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” ranks up there with one of the best covers I’ve ever heard. They completely reworked the song to sound like true Viking metal and made it infinitely more epic than the original. The next two songs are rerecorded songs from their early releases that are also quite good. And the final track is another cover, but this time of a Merciless song, which also improves on the original.
    Favored Track: “For Whom the Bell Tolls”

    Star of Ash – “The Thread” (Ambient, Electronic, Avant-Garde)
    Her debut “Iter.Viator” pretty much sounded like Peccatum sans the metal. This was by no means bad, but Mrs. Tveitan needed to separate herself from her collaborative project with her husband. With “The Thread” she did just that. She keeps nearly the same level of talent without resorting to incorporating sections that sound straight out of a Peccatum song. Her voice is as ethereal as ever and like before, she has some guest vocals done by Ulver frontman Garm, not once, but twice this time around. There isn’t anything as memorable as “The Nudity of Light” or as engrossing as “In the Throws of Guilt” from her debut, but hopefully her next album will make up for these errors.

    Albums I Planned to Review but Didn’t/Couldn't:
    Agalloch – “The White” [EP]
    Bohren & der Club of Gore – “Dolores
    Boris – “Smile
    Cradle of Filth – “Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder
    Darkspace – “Dark Space III
    Kawir – “Ophiolatreia”
    Mogwai – “The Hawk is Howling”
    Ohgr – “Devils in my Details”
    Those Poor Bastards – “Satan is Watching”
    Týr – “Land

    High Hopes for 2009:
    Atheist – ???
    Bethlehem – ???
    Forgotten Tomb – “Under Saturn Retrograde”
    Orphaned Land – “The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR”
    Pestilence – “Resurrection Macabre”
    The Protomen – “Act II”
    Shining – “VI: Klagopsalmer”
    Sigh – “Scenes from Hell / Tempore Belli / Vanitas”

    ...looks like a good year for suicidal black metal and death/jazz.
  • “That Flawless Night Sky” or…

    Nov 19 2008, 18:34

    Music Suitable to be the Soundtrack to Stargazing and Imagined Space Travel

    Quoted from my previous journal of this nature:
    With all of these “greatest *insert genre here*” lists being posted all over Last.fm, I thought I might try something a little different; something that would get people thinking about broadening their horizons, while still allowing them to hear the same kind of music they enjoy listening to, in terms of mood and tone.

    These are all very atmospheric albums that convey to their listeners the imagery of the void of space, whether the lyrics (if there are any) actually reflect that imagery or not. These albums will instill a sense of darkness as well as enlightenment and you’ll find yourself answering the beckon call of those glimmering stars and planets…

    On a late-night stroll, you come upon a soft, grassy hill. You decide to stop for a while and lie at the top of it, face up, arms comfortably placed behind your head. Before you is a perfectly clear night sky. There are no obscuring clouds or city lights, no bothersome company to distract you… You romantically feel there is nothing standing between you and the mystical beauty of the stars.

    You visualize yourself piloting a shuttle through space with no real destination, celestial bodies passing you by. There is a strange assortment of noises coming from the anachronistic technological machinery all throughout the space vessel: harsh metallic sounds and banging noises, gears grinding, liquids bubbling, steam escaping, monotonous and repetitive beeps, bizarre transmissions coming from your radio.

    You are trapped in solitude with no clue how to get home, but this is how you wanted it. Years spent on end aimlessly floating through the void, you realize you are not only exploring space, but yourself. Introspection dominates your endless waking hours and you’re left pondering the self for all eternity.

    You rise to your feet just to get a closer look at that flawless night sky…

    King Crimson – “Red” (England, 1974 - Progressive Rock)

    Tool – “Lateralus” (USA, 2001 - Progressive Rock)
    “I may find peace within the emptiness.”

    Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Yanqui U.X.O.” (Canada, 2002 - Experimental/Post-Rock)
    Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls

    Sun Ra – “The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Vol. 1” (USA, 1965 - Avant-Garde/Jazz)

    cEVIN Key – “The Ghost Of Each Room” (Canada, 2001 - Industrial)

    Jason Hayes, Tracy W. Bush, Derek Duke, Glenn Stafford – “Starcraft & Brood War Original Soundtrack” (USA, 1998 - Ambient/Video Game Soundtrack)

    Nordvargr – “Interstellar” (Sweden, 2008 - Ambient)

    Lustmord – “The Place Where Black Stars Hang” (Wales, 1994 - Dark Ambient)

    Sunn O))) & Boris – “Altar” (USA/Japan, 2006 - Drone)
    Fried Eagle Mind

    Darkspace – “Dark Space II” (Switzerland, 2005 - Black Metal/Ambient)
    Dark 2.10

    Trinacria – “Travel Now Journey Infinitely” (Norway, 2008 - Black Metal/Noise)
    “Solitude becomes a trusted party out here in the deserts of self.”

    Meshuggah – “Catch ThirtyThree” (Sweden, 2005 - Technical Metal)
    Mind´s mirrors
    “I float through physical thoughts.
    I stare down the abyss of organic dreams”

    HawkwindPink FloydAyreonThe Darkest of The Hillside ThicketsFlaming LipsMan or Astro-Man?Flower Travellin' BandGreen Milk From The Planet OrangeOhgrPsychotic WaltzSighUnexpectTimeless PhaseAkercockeJohn ColtraneCecil TaylorJohn ZornMiles DavisNaked CityNoMeansNoThelonious MonkThrobbing GristleSkinny PuppyArcturusDeathspell OmegaDornenreichGodGodfleshKayo Dotmaudlin of the WellPeccatumSleepytime Gorilla MuseumSolefaldStarofAshStar of AshUlverVarunaVed Buens EndeBethlehemCircle of OuroborusThe Meads of AsphodelGenghis TronUrfaustThe Axis of PerditionBlut aus NordCabaret VoltaireCarfax AbbeycEVIN KeyDelicate TerrorDepeche ModeDødheimsgardDoubting ThomasEndless Dismal MoanFront 242Front Line AssemblyFunker VogtKMFDMThe KovenantLardMinistryNine Inch NailsNitzer EbbSamaelStrapping Young LadTrollheim's GrottWumpscutThose Poor BastardsHank Williams IIISons of PerditionAgallochBohren & der Club of GoreBlack StarMos DefAsheru & Blue Black of The Unspoken HeardOpethEnslavedPestilenceEsotericBehold... the ArctopusPainkillerThe SeatbeltsYoko KannoThelonious Monk QuartetThelonious Monk Quartet With John Coltrane
  • “Those Majestic City Lights” or…

    Giu 14 2008, 2:55

    Music Suitable to be the Soundtrack to a Downtown Area

    With all of these “greatest *insert genre here*” lists being posted all over Last.fm, I thought I might try something a little different; something that would get people thinking about broadening their horizons, while still allowing them to hear the same kind of music they enjoy listening to, in terms of mood and tone.

    These are all very atmospheric albums that convey to their listeners the imagery of a city – more particularly, the downtown area of a dirty city after dusk – whether the lyrics actually reflect that imagery or not. These albums will instill a sense of darkness, pity, and paranoia amongst a multitude of other rather uncomfortable feelings but despite the unpleasant feelings, you’ll find yourself answering the beckon call of those majestic city lights off in the distance…

    You peer into the windows of 24-hour coffee shops full of hip, artsy college kids reading poetry, convincing themselves that they know the meaning of life. You pass by an unkempt, heroin-addicted homeless person grabbing out at you, begging for a bit of spare change and then cursing you when you lie and claim that you don’t carry cash. The street you’re on is populated by numerous dance clubs and bars full of people who do this every night, wasting away their lives. You try avoiding that sickeningly thin, pasty man in a trench coat offering anyone nearby the hardest of drugs at the lowest of prices. You walk past unfinished construction areas, ominous abandoned buildings, and seedy, dilapidated movie theatres featuring cheap classic pornos. You see a drunken fight break out in an alleyway; some people stroll by, not giving the scene even a second thought, as others stop and simply stare. And there are countless other such spectacles happening before you. But somehow in it all, there’s something hidden – as hard as it may be to fathom, there is beauty to be found in ignorance, perversion, voyeurism, destitution, and misanthropy.

    This is the kind of minimalist journey these works should make you imagine you embark upon.

    Note that this list is in no order of importance.

    John Coltrane – “Live at The Village Vanguard” (USA, 1961 - Jazz)

    Bohren & der Club of Gore – “Sunset Mission” (Germany, 2000 - Jazz/Ambient)

    Jerry Goldsmith – “Chinatown: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” (USA, 1974 - Film Score)

    Massive Attack – “100th Window” (England, 2003 - Trip-Hop)
    Future Proof

    Saul Williams – “Saul Williams” (USA, 2004 - Slam Poetry/Hip-Hop)
    Notice of Eviction

    Star of Ash – “iter.viator.” (Norway, 2002 - Avant-Garde)
    Chasm Blue

    Ulver – “Perdition City” (Norway, 2000 - Electronic/Avant-Garde)
    Lost in Moments
    "Only streelights and the grating of gravel in pedestrian subways"

    Depeche Mode – “Violator” (England, 1990 - Synth Pop)
    Sweetest Perfection

    Diary of Dreams – “Freak Perfume” (Germany, 2002 - Darkwave)

    Rik Schaffer – “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” (USA, 2004 - Dark Ambient/Video Game Soundtrack)

    Boris – “Sound Track From Film "Mabuta No Ura"” (Japan, 2005 - Post-Rock)
    Yesterday Morning

    Mogwai – “EP+2” (Scotland, 1999 - Post-Rock)
    Stanley Kubrick

    The Gathering – “Souvenirs” (Netherlands, 2003 - Alternative Rock)
    These Good People

    Joy Division – “Unknown Pleasures” (England, 1979 - Post-Punk)
    “Lights are flashing, cars are crashing, getting frequent now
    I've got the spirit, lose the feeling, let it out somehow”

    Joyless – “Wisdom & Arrogance” (Norway, 2000 - Depressive Rock/Pop Rock)
    “The torments I've endured seemed endless
    Like the nights through which I wandered sleepless”

    The Cure – “Pornography” (England, 1982 - Gothic Rock)
    “Ambition in the back of a black car
    In a high building there is so much to do”

    Type O Negative – “World Coming Down” (USA, 1999 - Gothic Doom Metal)

    Lifelover – “Erotik” (Sweden, 2007 - Black Metal/Gothic Rock)
    I Love (To Hurt) You

    Amesoeurs – “Ruines Humaines” (France, 2006 - Black Metal/Post-Punk)
    “Au coeur des cités mortes
    Errent les hommes sans visages”

  • Top 3 Metal Albums of 2007

    Gen 10 2008, 7:53

    Why 3, you ask? Well, it’s mostly because these are the only 3 metal releases this year that made it onto my personal favorite metal albums list (although some of the honorable mentions may make it on their in due time). My apologies in advance for some of the poor and lazy writing.

    1. Therion – “Gothic Kabbalah” (Progressive Symphonic Metal)
    It’s hard to believe that Therion was able to top all of their previous releases. Therion has released amazing album after amazing album for several years in a row, and this one just blows all of its bar-setting predecessors out of the way. Who would’ve thought that turning down the symphonic elements (compared to Lemuria/ Sirius B), relying on catchy melodies and choruses, and handing over Johnsson’s lead vocal duties would actually make for their best album yet? I sure as hell didn’t think it would and I sure as hell was wrong.

    First of all, the vocals in every department were mind-blowingly good. I can’t really emphasize this enough. You may not know the lyrics or even have absolutely no clue what their singing about, but it doesn’t matter because you will (assuming you have a soul) be moved by the vocal deliveries.

    This album is heavily layered and seems to elicit an endless number of necessary listens. Remember how I said earlier that it relies on catchy melodies and choruses? Well, that was more of a top-layer kind of deduction. There is so much more to the music on this album. The catchy melodies and choruses are what make the first listen so enjoyable, and then on subsequent listens, you’re treated to all the subtle nuances that are far less obvious in the music. It’s difficult to imagine growing tired of this album. Even though it is over 80 minutes, it demands your absolute attention for every minute, and you’re certain to submit to these demands.
    Favored Tracks: The Perrennial Sophia, Son of the Staves of Time
    Note: I had to misspell "Perennial" for the play button's sake.

    2. Sigh – “Hangman's Hymn” (Symphonic Blackened Thrash Metal)
    Japan’s most internationally known extreme metal band Sigh have returned more brutal than ever. They seem to just keep throwing curveballs at their fans. They hit their avant-garde/post-black metal peak with 2001’s “Imaginary Sonicscape”, which listeners and critics met with raving reviews. Then they released the follow-up “Gallows Gallery” that lacked almost any trace of their black metal roots; the songs were shorter and generally easier to digest. The only thing particularly black metal about it was its extremely poor production (something Sigh isn’t at all known for). It was almost as if they were intentionally trying to weed out fans. And now, they’ve come back with “Hangman’s Hymn”. The avant-garde qualities have been toned down even more on this release. Instead of expanding on the ideas that made “Imaginary Sonicscape” so great, they set out to mesh German Thrash Metal with German Classical music, which conceptually sounds absolutely brilliant to me right off the bat – to mix together two completely chronologically separated aspects of a culture’s music into one beautiful abomination. So the idea is intriguing, but does the execution really work out?

    Now I can’t say that my knowledge of German classical music is all that expansive, knowing only the music of Richard Wagner pretty much. All I can say is that they seemed to succeed well-enough in the bombastic department, but at times the orchestral parts sound almost circus-like (coupled well with disturbing clown-like laughter) and some of the choral vocal arrangements just sound absolutely bizarre. Also, their guitar solos are decidedly Sigh-ish and have no resemblance whatsoever to German thrash metal (but that’s actually fine by me because Sigh's solos tend to be more interesting and far more creative than the solos in most thrash). So I think perhaps that the “meshing of the two German genres” was an oversimplified take on the music. That aside, the symphonic accompaniments were perfectly placed and accented the blackened thrash metal fantastically (and vice versa!). Oh yes, in lieu of placing the orchestral arrangements in the background like so many black metal bands do, Sigh puts them right up front with the metal making the album unique and so much more distinguishable than your generic symphonic black metal band that just submits to Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth worship. In fact, there's is nothing on here that can remotely be considered anything worship; the riffs may be inspired by German thrash but you're surely not going to mistake this for Kreator.

    The band also experiments with re-using certain melodies throughout the album, presented in a different way every time. It helps this album sound far more coherent and connected than the rest of the albums in their discography, which makes sense because “Hangman’s Hymn” is more lyrically conceptual than their other releases as the lyrics are all based around hatred, misanthropy, and the glorification of the self.

    The brutality rarely lets up (there’s a calm minute here and there), so be prepared for an exhausting listen, even though the runtime is only about 45 minutes. But despite the mental exhaustion this album causes, it will have you engaged every time you listen to it. It doesn’t bore and is relentlessly exciting and invigorating. Listen to “Hangman’s Hymn” and you will feel powerful… or positively creeped out if approached in the right mindset.
    Favored Tracks: Inked In Blood, Me-Devil, Hangman's Hymn/In Paradisum/Das Ende

    3. Manticora – “The Black Circus Part 2 – Disclosure” (Progressive Power Metal)
    Manticora has come up with a sequel that is much heavier than its predecessor. Personally, I liked the greater variation on Part 1, but what Manticora have succeeded on better this time is slightly more complicated, longer song structures that hearken back to the days of their absolute masterpiece “Hyperion”. The interludes, once again, allow for the story to progress as well as to give some breathing room to the listener. One other great thing about this installment is that the gypsy folk music aspects were more frequently used. I love the recurring sound effects that were used in Part 1; it helps make it feel like both parts are really a continuous album and story. The band even experiments with their sound in the fashion of Nevermore by incorporating death metal vocals near the end of the album. Larsen’s vocals are sung with as much passion as ever and the band is in top form. And of course, as Part 1 promised, the story is worthy of the author (H.P. Lovecraft) Manticora claims to have inspired it.
    Favored Tracks: Gypsies' Dance Pt. 2, Intuneric IV/Haita Di Lupi, Of Madness In Its Purity

    Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
    Akercocke - Antichrist (Progressive Death Metal)

    This is a good effort, but doesn’t nearly match all the successful experimentation and proggy greatness of “Words that Go Unspoken, Deeds that Go Undone”. Also, the production is kind of sloppy, Mendonca’s vocals are seemed to have gotten a little bit worse, and the songs are shorter than the length I hoped they would be. But perhaps this one just needs to grow on me.
    Favored Tracks: Axiom, Distant Fires Reflect The Eyes Of Satan, Epode

    Behemoth – “The Apostasy” (Death Metal)
    I was wrong to hope for “Demigod 2”, but I did anyway. In a sense, it’s a good thing that Nergal chose not to retread over his own steps. Unfortunately, the music here isn’t quite as consistently successful as that which was on its predecessor, but it mostly makes up for it with a couple twists it throws at its listener. Like, Akercocke’s “Antichrist”, I think this one might need to really sink in for a few more months before its brilliance becomes obvious. I feel like I’m missing something.
    Favored Tracks: Libertheme, Inner Sanctum

    Dethklok – “The Dethalbum” (Melodic Death Metal)
    Who would have thought that music from a goofy animated show with an 11-minute runtime would be so damned good? Unlike other musical comedy albums, even when the humor of this album has been pretty much worn out due to being listened to over and over again, it doesn’t get boring because the music is actually really good. It is far more varied than a lot of death metal out there and is generally more epic sounding (no complaints here). I usually dislike the gurgling kind of death metal vocals but Brendon Small somehow makes the vocal style more accessible. Also, the presence of Gene Hoglan (who many will recognize from Death, Strapping Young Lad, and Dark Angel”) is very welcome. WARNING: Don’t get the regular edition; the bonus tracks on the special edition are well worth the extra dollars.
    Favored Tracks: Go Into The Water, Awaken, Thunderhorse, Murdertrain A Comin'

    Finntroll – “Ur Jordens Djup” (Folk/Polka Metal)
    Despite all the numerous line-up changes in their existence, Finntroll still manage to make albums of this high quality. They haven’t really done much in the way that can be considered new for the band, but there are just some bands out there that just don’t need to change to sound fresh. Finntroll is one of those bands.
    Favored Tracks: Gryning, En Mäktig Här

    Iced Earth – “Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1” (Power Metal)
    At Wacken, Iced Earth played a few songs from this album and I was immediately hooked. Their line-up with Tim Owens has certainly redeemed themselves after the disappointing effort that was “The Glorious Burden”.

    The songs often match the quality of those on “The Dark Saga” (but don’t quite hit “Horror Show” standards) and the interludes, as numerous as they are, manage to not to overwhelm. It’s obvious that Jon Schaffer put a great amount of effort into this. Apparently he’s been planning on making this trilogy for quite some time, and it’s comforting to not be disappointed by its first installment. It actually makes me a little bit sad that Matt Barlow is returning to Iced Earth, because the voice is going to be different for its sequels.
    Favored Tracks: A Charge to Keep, Ten Thousand Strong

    Kamelot – “Ghost Opera” (Progressive Power Metal)
    It’s no “The Black Halo”, but I can’t say I expected them to be able to top that one. Unfortunaley, the songs have gotten shorter and more simplistic and as a result, the album is a lot shorter and a little less satisfying. At certain points, it touches on the awe-inspiring music of “The Black Halo”, but just not often enough.
    Favored Tracks: Ghost Opera, The Human Stain

    Wolves in the Throne Room – “Two Hunters” (Atmospheric Black Metal)
    Clocking in at a little over 45 minutes, Wolves in the Throne Room has returned with the fat trimmed. Don’t get me wrong, “Diadem of 12 Stars” was good, but it’s almost impossible for me to listen to the whole thing in one sitting. So this time, they cut off all the unnecessary excess and have a final product with a fitting place among the best metal albums of 2007.

    It’s difficult to talk about WITTR’s sound without mentioning Burzum. Their style does owe a lot to Burzum, but there is also enough that they’ve expanded upon that help define it and distinguish it from other black metal. Burzum often used very few ideas in each song to allow for better ambience and atmosphere. But WITTR somehow manages to constantly shift musical direction, yet still keep a great degree of atmosphere.

    The intro “Dea Artio” always reminds me of The Cure’s “Plainsong”. They’re both over 5 minutes long, keyboard-driven, and are fairly uneventful, but serve as great mood-setting introductions for the music that follows. The 18 minute track “I Will Lay Down My Bones Among The Rocks And Roots” somehow doesn’t seem to last any longer than the shorter songs before it. You could be paying attention to it for every minute of it, and it just seems to fly by. You just get drawn into the atmosphere it creates so much that time just passes by without your notice.
    Favored Tracks: Clearing, I Will Lay Down My Bones Among The Rocks And Roots

    Some albums that intrigued me that I haven’t gotten the chance to hear that probably would have made the list…and stuff:
    Alcest – “Souvenirs d'un autre Monde”
    Behold... the Arctopus - Skullgrid
    Devin Townsend - "Ziltoid the Omniscient"
    Turisas – “The Varangian Way

    Hopes for 2008:
    Opeth - ???
    Blind Guardian - ??? (Orchestral Project)
    Ayreon - 01011001
    Meshuggah – obZen
    Agalloch - The White [EP]
    Iced Earth - Revelation Abomination
    Ihsahn – Angl
    Orphaned Land - The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR