Reviews for March 7th, 2013

Vreid – Welcome Farewell

Progressive Norwegian black metal band Vreid has just released their sixth album, “Welcome Farewell.” I have been waiting for this album for months and now that I finally have my copy I am well pleased.

The band’s fifth album, released in 2011, showed the band was ready to bring black metal screaming into the new millennium with a contemporary production style and creative, progressive song-writing. Foregoing the raw and shitty production values established in the 90s (and clung to by too many bands thereafter) Vreid created some really great sounding black metal that breathed new life into the style.

I crossed my fingers hoping “Welcome Farewell” would continue down the path rather than walk in circles, or even worse, backtrack. I didn’t really expect that would happen, but in a post-St. Anger world, anything is possible I suppose. Those fears proved to be unfounded because “Welcome Farewell” is a spectacular example of modern black metal.

I love how the drums are powerful and prominent, and the guitars are more than just a wall of fuzz. As a former guitar player I am happier when the guitars have personality rather than just becoming a backdrop for keyboards and screaming. Though, even the screaming on this album is great; you couldn’t ask for a more black metal-sounding voice, and since the vocals aren’t buried you can actually hear them.

Without a doubt “Welcome Farewell” is going to be one of my favorite black metal releases of 2013. If you pass this one by you have only yourself to blame. Check out the track “The Reap.”

Der Geist – The Pain We Don’t Feel

Der Geist is an Italian death metal band and “The Pain We Don’t Feel” is their first album.

According to the band’s bio sheet, Der Geist represents the decline of this era and is the soundtrack and hymn that plays at the end. So I guess that makes these guys the band that plays on as the Titanic is sinking. At least we get to go out with metal playing in the background.

In terms of death metal, what can you say? There is rarely anything new, but there are those that can at least make it interesting and enjoyable. Between the songwriting and the production Der Geist managed to keep me amused for the duration. Give me some fast and punchy drums with a bunch of chunka-chunka riffs and some melodic lead work and I’m happy. The vocals are semi-harsh and mixed well so I have no complaints there. All things being equal it ends up being the production that pulls this a nose ahead of the competition.

The style of melodic death metal itself is a little tired by now, but these guys are talented enough to get me to enjoy what they are doing. Give these guys a listen and see what you think. Here is the video for “A Moment.”

Okular – Sexforce

Okular are a progressive death metal band from Norway and “Sexforce” is their second album.

I have to admit I was a little puzzled by this one. In death metal, the word “sex” really only comes up in the context of the horrific abuses suffered in gore metal songs. An album titled “Sexforce” seems like it might be the next Steel Panther album, but not a serious death metal band from Norway. I don’t know, maybe if I had a lyric sheet for the track from which the album is named I might be able to sort it out.

The first two tracks on the album come across as typical death metal, then the third track, the aforementioned title track, gets moving and I am thinking to myself “what the fuck is this?” There is still a fair amount of death metal in the track, but there is some pretty weird shit in there too. We’ll see how the rest of the album sounds, but this track does not at all fit with the first two.

The bio sheet makes a reference comparing Okular to Borknagar, which in the heavier moments I suppose I can hear a little, but on the whole I don’t put this is in the same class. Surprisingly, Vintersorg even puts in a guest spot on the track “The Greatest Offender.”

There are things which I like about this album, but that often gets overpowered by what must be the desire to innovate. I’m having a hard time recovering from the third track and rather than innovation I am just hearing a lack of a cohesive vision.

I couldn’t find anything stream-able from this album, so…moving on.

A Hero for the World – S/T

A Hero for the World is certainly of the world. The band is technically from the Philippines, but the band members are from Sweden and the United States. The artwork was provided by a guy from Brazil and the album is being released from Hong Kong. This is the band’s self-titled debut album.

These guys play an epic power metal with a bit of an old-school feel. This sound falls somewhere in between old Helloween/Gamma Ray and maybe Stratovarius. I like what these guys are doing. When it comes to power metal I tend to favor the old-school sounding bands that played melodic and catchy metal without going too overboard.

The production quality of the album isn’t that great. All the parts are at least clear and listenable, but there is a thin sound to the material that gives this a demo feel. The songs are still quite good, but as a reviewer I can’t help but listen to these songs and think of what they could sound like with some money thrown at them.

The talent is there, and the songs are there, so the potential is definitely there too. Hopefully this album will be a springboard that gets the band noticed by someone with the ability to help them shine.

Check out the track “Eternal Shadows.”