Friday, 28 May 2010

[ALBUM REVIEW] Mörbid Carnage - Night Assassins

“Night Assassins” is the blistering debut from Hungarian thrash outfit 'Morbid Carnage'. Hungary isn't a country known for thrash metal, so how do the Hungarian's fare against the deluge of other new thrash bands around at the minute? Not too shabby at all, to put it bluntly. “Night Assassins” seems a fairly short offering, clocking in at thirty six minutes, but infact only has seven tracks.

Right from the off-set, the band get straight to the point with fast riffing, cut-throat vocals and pedal to the floor drumming, if you're looking for melody and intricate technicality, then you'd be wise to look elsewhere. Overflowing with influence from the teutonic thrash coming out of Germany in the eighties, this is by no means original, as is evident from opener 'Warlust' which bears a heavy resemblance to Kreator, with the frenzied riffs and vocals which could quite easily be Mille Petrozza's. Mid-point the song disintegrates into a breakdown, but this let-up doesn't hang around for long before the intensity picks up again and the song finishes up with an exceptionally groovy riff for which you could be forgiven for nodding along to.
The style of music in the first song is pretty much par for the course for the rest of the album. 'Slaughter' is crammed with cranium nodding riffs, machine gun drumming and malevolent vocals, couple this with the flaying intesnity of 'Funeral Pyre', it's gang vocals and strapping exit riff which could easily be a lost exceprt from 'Pleasure to Kill', any fan of savage thrash will be onto a winner with this. The main problem though with this album is that it remind me so much of the 'classic' thrash metal bands that I said to myself “Sure I'll go and listen to a bit of Sodom or Kreator now”, because what Morbid Carnage make up for in sheer energy, they lack the variety and longevity their hero's possessed. Towards the end of the album it becomes a little tiresome, the blitzkrieg and battery never gives an inch. “Empty Graves” and “Deviant” have the attitude, and they have the riffs, but you can't help but say to yourself “Have I not heard this all before?”. The album does drag quite a bit at points, and none more so than “Castle in Pain”. The main fault with it is that it is far too long, it could quite easily have been sliced in half, shorter, and more to the point. It does contain some decent passages, but these just end up swallowed by the lackadaisical chugging bloating the song. If you want the perfect blueprints as to how to execute a lengthy thrash song well, look no further than Canadian's 'Vektor'. The weakest song on the album without a doubt. The title track caps the album with higher quality at least than the previous song. Shorter, with turbulent riffs, and Slayer-esque sections, and is on a whole very catchy, ending the album on a high note.

The music is right in your face, and 'Morbid Carnage' mean business, there's no denying that, but they could do with broadening their horizions, for for this is a straight up eighties thrash stampede with little originality whatsoever, not that I find that bad, many people prefer that, but if the band want more exposure then it would be a wise move to find more inspiration from elsewhere. One thing I've got to hand to them is that they aren't another Bay Area rip off, as is so common in the current 'thrash revival' which is happening, although it isn't wholly original in any sense, it is still way ahead of the bland, vapid tripe Evile and the likes are producing. I could definitely sit to this and have a few cans, but if for long term playability, it doesn't really hit the spot. One thing's for sure, they get a definite ten out of ten for effort and genuinity. I'd definitely recommend it to fans of Nocturnal, Witchtrap, Hellish Crossfire and the ilk for a listen. One thing to take into consideration for the next album though, change the damn cover art, it's incredibly clichéd, and pretty much just terrible.


Written for Archaic Magazine


Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Ronnie James Dio | 1942-2010

On the 17th March, the headlines all over the rock and metal world were of the passing of one of the
most influential and unique figures ever to grace the world of music. Ronnie James Dio, one of the worlds most dazzling frontmen lost his on-going battle with stomach cancer suddenly after apparent improvements in his health. His wife Wendy broke the news on that morning:

“Today my heart is broken, Ronnie passed away at 7:45am 16th May. Many, many friends and family were able to say their private good-byes before he peacefully passed away. Ronnie knew how much he was loved by all. We so appreciate the love and support that you have all given us. Please give us a few days of privacy to deal with this terrible loss. Please know he loved you all and his music will live on forever.”

When I heard the news I was gobsmacked, just as it looked like he was improving, all of a sudden we are greeted by the news no-one wanted to hear. It is immensely saddening news in a year which has already been rocked by many high profile deaths in the music scene.

Every single piece of music which Dio touched glittered. He was a performer in every aspect of the word. And much more. How many artists can boast such a legacy as he has left behind? From bringing Black Sabbath out of a pit of languid musical desperation, helping develop the modern metal sound as we know it today with Rainbow and an unrivalled solo career to boot? Not many, if any at all.

From his blues-rock beginnings in ELF in which Dio got his breakthrough, he garnered the attention of a certain Mr. Blackmore of the recently deceased Deep Purple, and together with Cozy Powell they brought about one of the most influential hard rock bands ever to have existed.
I will never forget the first day I heard that riff on the opening song of my dad's haggard copy of 'Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow'. The song in question is of course 'Man on the Silver Mountain' and one of rock's all time greats. Of course Rainbow were always Ritchie's plaything so to speak, it was always his band, but what made the first three albums so seminal were Dio's powerful and passionate vocals and enthralling live performances. When Dio left Rainbow, they were never the same. Sure they had commercial success with Bonnet and Turner, but with Dio they lost that unique sound which was soon to play a huge influence on a new style of hard-rock arriving, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.
Although the debut has a certain place in my affections, their best, and the best album Dio ever sang on in my opinion was the follow up, 'Rising'. Rising was, and still is an absolute monolith of heavy music. From the sheer vigour of the opener 'Tarot Woman' to the proto-power metal styling of the epic 'Stargazer', it remains to this day one of my favourite albums ever.

One of music's biggest injustices was the slating of Black Sabbath when Dio joined to replace Ozzy in 1980. Everyone claimed it was the end for Sabbath and refused to give them the time of day, and still do, such was the influence of Ozzy. What he did infact do with Heaven and Hell was act as a catalyst for pulling them out of the mire after two dreadful albums with Ozzy who was more interested in getting coked up. 'Heaven and Hell' is my personal favourite out of the two Dio era Black Sabbath albums, but they are both fantastic albums in their own right and deserved a lot more attention than they got.

After Sabbath, Dio began his solo project. Whereas previously Blackmore and Iommi were the string pullers,now he was able to do what he willed for once and developed the guise in which most of us heavy metal fans know him from now. And what a solo career it was, spanning from 1983 until the very day he passed, with ten solo albums under his belt, very few people can attest to having such a career as Ronnie did.

My top tracks and albums featuring Dio?


1.Tarot Woman
3.Long Live Rock and Roll
4.Heaven and Hell
5.Last in Line
6.Man on the Silver Mountain
7.Children of the Sea
8.Holy Diver
9.Evil Eyes
10. A Light in the Black


2.Heaven and Hell
3.Holy Diver
4.Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow
5.Last in Line

One thing I will always regret is never getting to see Dio live. Whether it have been with Heaven and Hell or solo, I wouldn't have cared, and for that I will be forever kicking myself. Here's to one of the forerunners to Heavy Metal as we know it, one of the biggest personalities to ever grace modern music. Your legacy will never, ever be forgotten. Rest in peace Ronnie.

As a leaving note, I suggest you all watch this video.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

[ALBUM REVIEW] Skyforger - Kurbads

Skyforger have finally 'hit the big time' some would say. Relatively recently they appeared on a BBC documentary about Latvian Folk music and more importantly, signed to major players 'Metal Blade' which set a lot of tongues wagging over what direction their new album would take. Metal Blade have an inconsistent roster of fantastic bands coupled with a lot of turgid, commercial metalcore. So has this affected their sound as some predicted, have they toned down their sound in conjunction with a larger label supporting them now? In short, the answer is yes.

I will readily admit, first I detested 'Kurbads' completely, it just wouldn't sit right with me. Maybe it was just I was really yearning for 'Thunderforge' or 'Latvian Riflemen', for this album is a lot different to their early material. After a bit of time, the album has grown a touch, but something still doesn't click.
The Black Metal influence has all but disappeared on this album and in it's place are rather mediocre thrash riffs and a stronger general atmosphere of traditional heavy metal than anywhere before. 'Curse of the Witch' opens the album, and I had to take a double take initially whether I was listening to Skyforger or infact Lamb of God. The guitar has been down-tuned from before, and the main riff which forms the backbone to the song has a strong whiff of 90's groove off it, and is incredibly flat and dull. The whole song to be honest is just flat out boring. The vocals have no real power in their delivery, and lack the character of their earlier material. Luckily, the whole album isn't this terrible and uninspiring though, as 'Son of the Mare', the second track proves to us. Starting out with the traditional Skyforger flutes, with bagpipes strewn throughout the song. This song is much more like the old Skyforger, but still the guitar playing is remarkably average and the man riff to the song at the beginning is so simple and drab, but eventually things get faster towards the end with a traditional duel between flute and bagpipe and the guitar picks up a bit and is fairly diverse for once. 'The Nine Headed' basically follows on with this formula. Getting this far it is hard not to remark upon how much slower the album is compared to their other efforts. Rather than being Black/Folk metal as was their sound before, 'Kurbads' is essentially a slow thrash album with folk influences here and there. The whistles and bagpipes help avoid complete mediocrity, some songs they are used to great effect, such as 'Bewitched Forest', and in some it sounds if they've been merely tacked in at the last minute, almost as if to try and remind people of their roots. The vocals stand out a little more in the mix this time as well, they aren't really any different from before, except Peter does use some questionable techniques where it ends up sounding rather comical, and the lower death growls which are sometimes heard are pretty weak. These don't appear too often thankfully. As the album gets pretty good towards the middle, it drops off again towards the end unfortunately. Songs like 'Black Rider' and 'Kurbads' are just not up to level I have come to expect from Skyforger. The production of the album doesn't help matters either, it is as if it is too 'clean' sounding or sterile. The guitar lacks vibrancy while the vocals are too loud. In all, it is exactly the production I feared.

This is still recognisably Skyforger, there's no question about that, but I keep getting a sense of them having diluted their sound slightly. The Black Metal has been all but removed while watered down thrash riffs have taken it's place. The album is extremely heavy, their heaviest to date, but it it just lacking that certain attribute which made Skyforger so unique and revered when they first appeared on the scene. The album is a decent, there are certainly worse out there, but put it against their back catalogue, it is extremely poor. For 'Kurbads' just doesn't cut it when it comes to anything near the majesty of 'Thunderforge' or flaying folkish brutality of 'Latvian Riflemen'.

If you are a fan of folk metal who has never heard Skyforger, and are drawn in by the nearest hint of an Eastern European wind instrument then by all means get 'Kurbads'. For major Skyforger fans I would suggest a little caution first before heading out to buy this. Is it a good album? Average. Was it worth the seven year wait? Definitely not.


Written for Archaic Magazine