Reviews for September 4th, 2012

I have returned! Just because I was on vacation, wiling away my time on the beach, does not mean I was able to completely detach myself from the music. Nay, my friends, while soaking up the rays I had my trusty iPod near at hand, and while watching the waves crashing upon the sand I listened to music for…gasp…pleasure! Something I rarely have time for anymore with all the reviews piling up (which of course is worse than ever after a vacation.) These first two are a pair of albums that kind of blind-sided me and made me very excited; I could not wait to come back and tell everyone about them.

Taranis – Kingdom

The first one is “Kingdom” by Taranis. Released back in January, this is the first album from this one-man-band from Budapest, Hungary. Attila Bakos, who appeared as a guest vocalist on the last two Thy Catafalque albums (also quite good if you have not heard), has done all the guitars, drums, synths and vocals on this album himself. I grabbed this because of the cool album art (which usually makes me a sucker) but when I started listening to the album, I quickly knew this was something special.

On Encyclopaedia Metallum, Taranis is categorized as Epic Folk Black Metal. That is certainly a mouthful of genres. The tag does a good job of covering all the bases though, as there really is a lot going on here. It would not have surprised me if they had called it Epic Symphonic Power Folk Black Metal. There are four songs, the longest of which is over thirteen minutes and the shortest comes in at over eight minutes. These songs have it all; they are long, they are heavy, and yet they are layered with symphonic textures. There are beautiful clean vocals, which mix with perfectly phrased harsh vocals. There are quiet passages and huge crushing metal moments. What more could you ask from an album?

Due to all the great albums I have heard this year I am already starting to compile and whittle down a list of the best albums of 2012. I cannot conceive of such a list of mine that would not include this killer album. I highly recommend “Kingdoms.” Check out the track “Storm” and hear for yourself.

Keen of the Crow – Hyborea

Some of you may already know this one, as it has been out for around five years now. I have no idea why it has taken this long to come to my attention, but I am glad that I have it now. I was just wandering around in the iTunes Store, bringing up albums I liked and looking at the “Listeners also bought” to see if anything would lead to new music (the things I do to discover new music. I am a serious metal junky.) when I came across “Hyborea” by Keen of the Crow.

Hyboria is the fictional world created by Robert E. Howard and populated by Conan and friends. I am not sure if these songs are meant as homage to Howard’s world, but based on some of the song titles I believe they are. Another reason is the inclusion on “The Eye of the Serpent” of the way, way, way too sampled line from James Earl Jones, aka Thulsa Doom, in “Conan the Barbarian”: “Now they will know why they are afraid of the dark; now they will learn why they fear the night.”

Know what else I found out? Two of the band’s members were in Morgion. If you do not know Morgion, you need to go back to metal school and take a refresher course in Doom Metal. Alas, five years after the release of “Hyborea” I see that the band released this one album and split up. This is makes the discovery of this album a little bittersweet. One and done as they say.

“Hyborea” is mixture of death and doom metal. The production sounds so nice and crisp and clean you would not think of doom metal, and that is but one of the reasons why I love this album. The music, while not glacial in its pace is certainly more inline with doom metal than death metal. The vocals are mostly harsh, but there are occasional clean vocals as well. The harsh vocals are wonderfully biting and sound amazing over the crisp music. The clean vocals also contribute to the doom quality of the music and offer excellent contrast when they appear. Keen of the Crow got the most airplay on my iPod last week. I cannot seem to put the album down; I keep coming back to it. If, like me, you have not heard this album yet, make sure to check it out. Here is “Stygian Black Lotus” to get you started.

The Graviators – Evil Deeds

The Graviators are from Sweden and “Evil Deeds” is their second album. Influenced by Black Sabbath, Pentagram and other 70s hard rock bands, The Graviators play retro sounding hard rock with a definite doom edge.

Much like Witchcraft, (who have a new album next month, I have heard it, it is awesome!) The Graviators play equal parts hard rock and doom. The doom influence is undeniable, but it does not bury the straight-up rock sound that is also a big part of their music. I suppose you could call it doom lite, but that might imply that this is somehow less or not as good as typical doom. Trust me; such is not the case with “Evil Deeds.” The more I listen to this album, the more I love it.

The album was recorded on analog equipment for a retro feel, but it sounds so clean I might have thought it was digital. They certainly nailed the retro sound, but they did it without sacrificing sound quality. The guitars sound beautiful, and while the drums are not as massive as they might be with a more contemporary recording style, they sound much fuller than a lot of retro sounding albums I have heard. The vocals are clean and are a perfect fit for these songs. (Do not tell Witchcraft, but I think I like these vocals even better than theirs. Shhhhh.) “Evil Deeds” is a fantastic album. Everyone should give this album a listen. Here is their video for “Häxagram.”

Onoma – All Things Change

Onoma is an Israeli alternative metal band from Tel Aviv, and “All Things Change” is their first album. They list Alice in Chains, Korn and Meshuggah as influences. I can hear the Korn in the guitar style. Initially I was thinking maybe there is a little System of a Down in there too. I hear the Alice in Chains in some of the backing vocals.

I do not generally listen to much alternative metal, it tends to be too commercial and formulaic for my liking, but “All Things Change” is not what I would consider typical of the style. The songs tend to be fairly heavy and the vocals vary between crisp, clean vocals and a harsh roar. The musicianship is certainly not an issue here, and the production is quite good as well.

If I remove my personal listening habits from the equation I have no problem saying “All Things Change” is a really good album. It is well written and recorded and I enjoyed listening to it. I have nothing at all bad to say about the album, however, it does not fall within the scope of what I listen to for pleasure and therefore I am unable to go all-in with my endorsement of Onoma. But I am mostly in.

Check out the single “Bug.”