Reviews for July 31st, 2012

Testament – Dark Roots of Earth

Why are you reading this? You should be busying yourself with picking up the brand new Testament album, “Dark Roots of Earth.” Seriously, stop reading my paltry words and pick that shit up now! I’ll wait.

You back? Ok, I will continue. I know most of you little fuckers probably just went and stole the album rather than buying it. I beg you to reconsider, because if there is an album out right now that is worth dropping your hard-earned money on, it is this one.

Testament, of course, is a veteran of the San Francisco Bay Area Thrash scene and, in my opinion, one of the greatest thrash bands of all time. I am perhaps a little biased, as I have been following the band since the release of their first album, “The Legacy”, in 1987. I remember standing in a music store in Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor, Michigan (I want to say it was called JRs Music, but my memory fails) and holding “The Legacy” in one hand and Overkill’s “Taking Over” in the other. I had yet to hear either band and was trying to determine which I should pick up. Eventually I decided on “Taking Over”, but I came back soon after and picked up “The Legacy.” The correct answer was to get them both!

When I reviewed Overkill’s “The Electric Age” back in March, I felt compelled to make my case for changing The Big Four to The Big Seven, which would include Testament, Overkill and Exodus. I think it is only fair to restate that case again here, particularly given how incredible Testament sounds on this new album.

“Dark Roots of Earth” has an incredible sounding production, which comes as no surprise when I see that it was produced by Andy Sneap. Andy makes some seriously amazing sounding albums; he is a wizard in the studio. The songs themselves are simply crushing. The music, thanks to Mr. Sneap, is heavy as hell and feels extremely thick. And can I get a “hell yeah” for Chuck Billy’s voice? Chuck has tried on several vocal styles over the years, ranging from his melodic-yet-gruff growl to full on harsh death metal vox. I have always been a fan of the former more so than the latter, but Chuck does a fantastic job of mixing the two this time around. He does more of the melodic vocals than the harsh, but whichever way he sings you can hear the power in those vocal chords. Beg for his mercy you craven dogs!

Did I mention that iTunes has four bonus tracks? You can get an extended version of “Throne of Thorns” a well as cover versions of Queen’s “Dragon Attack”, the Scorpions’ “Animal Magnetism” and Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave.” The “Powerslave” cover is phenomenal.

I cannot imagine a world where “Dark Roots of Earth” would not be in my top ten albums of this year. So make sure you give this a listen and support the band if you can. Here is the video for “Native Blood.”

KISS – Destroyer (Resurrected)

This was not originally on the calendar for today, but once I heard it this morning I knew I had to talk about it. I had recently heard that “Destroyer”, arguably the greatest KISS album ever, was going to be remixed by Bob Ezrin, but I did not know it was being released today. So when I saw it available on iTunes this morning I snapped it up immediately.

I do not normally buy into the whole remix thing when it comes to classic albums. Most of the time I will listen to the remixed album and maybe I can tell there is a difference, but sometimes not. It seems to me like generally it is just an excuse for getting people to go out and buy an album they already have. Well, I am happy to say that “Destroyer” is the first album I have heard that sounds like it is worth the cost of picking up again.

“Destroyer” features several classic KISS tunes, and personal favorites such as “Detroit Rock City”, “God of Thunder”, “Shout It Out Loud” and “Beth.” I have always enjoyed these songs, but they sounded their age, which meant they sounded kind of thin and muddy. They were still great songs, but I always felt the need to turn them up really loud just to hear them. Those days are gone, because “Destroyer (Resurrected)” has given these songs a new lease on life. The songs are so much clearer and louder than ever before, while still sounding like the songs I love. Kudos to Bob Ezrin for such a great job cleaning up these tracks!

This is one of the few times you will see me recommend a remix album. Kneel before the God of Thunder!

Alas, I was unable to find anything from the album on YouTube, so here is an old version of “Detroit Rock City” to whet the appetite.

King of Asgard - …To North

All hail the return of King of Asgard! King of Asgard is back with their second album of Swedish Viking Metal called “…To North.” Featuring members who have played in a number of classic Swedish metal bands (Falconer, Indungeon, Thy Primordial and a personal favorite - Mithotyn!) King of Asgard has serious metal pedigree.

Amon Amarth is the stick by which I judge Swedish Viking Metal, and King of Asgard holds up just fine in that comparison. I think King of Asgard has a bit more folk essence incorporated with their music than Amon Amarth; sort of like Falconer does, only heavier and with harsh vocals.

The production sounds great; the music is clear, bright and heavy while the vocals are perfectly seated so as to be neither buried nor overly dominant. It is in fact a perfect Viking metal album. I can find no fault with anything on “…To North.” If you have not heard these guys before, you have a treat in store.

Check out the video for “The Nine Worlds Burn.”

Nachtmystium – Silencing Machine

Do you ever feel like everyone around you “gets” something that you do not and you feel self-conscious because you do not understand why everyone is making such a big deal? That is the way I feel when people talk about Nachtmystium. Over the course of the bands last several albums metal music reviewers have been crawling inside Blake Judd’s backside and proclaiming his shit scentless. I just do not understand.

“Silencing Machine” is the first album I have listened to from end to end; past albums I have turned off after a few songs because the sound quality was so laughably awful. Given the leaps and bounds recording technology has progressed in the past decade, there is no reason for albums to sound this bad. Maybe if it was recorded by some kids in their garage, but not from a signed band. I keep thinking the latest album will sound better, but no, “Silencing Machine” sounds like crap too. Contrary to what seems like the popular belief, you can have a cold, raw sounding black metal album without making it sound like shit. So what is so special about songs that appropriate Emperor riffs and sound like they were recorded on a tape recorder in 1993? I am still trying to figure that out.

I do not want to sound like I have it in for Nachtmystium; I do not. I think they have a cool band name, and I can hear the potential in these songs. That is probably what irks me the most; I can hear how good these songs could sound, but the reality always seems to fall short for me.

After listening to the album a few more times it starts to grow on me a little. But I still think the vocals sound pretty bad and cannot quite hear what it is about Nachtmystium that makes reviewers gleefully hump the band’s leg.