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Old 10-10-2014, 03:32 PM   #2331 (permalink)
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Get out from behind that thing man, of course we are. I do want to add this though, the solo in Systems Failing is one of the hardest solo's I've ever tried to learn, and I probably couldn't play it right now to save my life. But yeah, it's all good. Different mindframes.
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Old 10-11-2014, 05:24 AM   #2332 (permalink)
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So we’ve spent a week in sunny Brazil, soaking up the sun and the music, checking out the scenery and the women and wondering why we hadn’t the foresight to do this WHEN THE WORLD CUP WAS ON, and now we’re back closer to home, to look a little into the music of a country which has certainly risen from the ashes of defeat to become a dominant world power, especially in the finances of Europe. Yes, all hail Chancellor Merkel! It’s time to go all teutonic and see what Heavy Metal is like in


Of course, Germany has a rich and varied history in the Metal scene, with bands like Scorpions, Accept, Rammstein, Helloween and Kreator hailing from their borders, to name but a few. It’s hopefully obvious that I have no chance whatever of getting though all the well-known bands, and equally obvious that some major names may, and probably will, be overlooked in this brief foray into German Metal. But bear in mind that all I’m doing here is picking examples of the music played and enjoyed in this country: they do not have to be, nor are they necessarily meant to be, representative of the country. Just as though Brazil has a lot of Thrash Metal it probably quite likely has equally as much Doom, Death or Prog Metal. I’m restricted in my choices, having only five artistes to look at and just one week to showcase them, so forgive me if your favourite, or just a really well-known band is left out.

I also am trying to take examples from artistes who may not be that well-known anyway. Anyone can go to Germany and present Kreator or Helloween as the band they want to check out, but I’m trying to go down maybe less travelled roads, and listen to bands I have never heard, nor perhaps even heard of. Hah! Wait till we get to Ireland! But right now we’re in Germany, and this is the first album I want to look at.



Moral & wahnsinn --- Die Apokalyptischen reiter --- 2011 (Nuclear Blast)

All right, first things first: the band’s name literally translates to “the apocalyptic riders”, so essentially we’re talking about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse here. As the name is so long and hard to spell I’m going to use the acronym DAR to refer to the band. They have been around since 1995 and have eight albums under their belt, of which this is the seventh. Originally they favoured a mixture of Black and Folk Metal, but their more recent material has ditched many of those influences and has become more of a traditional Metal. Their early albums also tended to feature a mixture of lyrics in English and German, but in recent years they have decided to sing in just their mother tongue.

“Die boten” gets us underway with a big crashing rolling drumbeat and hard metal guitar, but then settles down to piano and softer guitar, slowing down as the vocals come in from the unfortunately-named Fuchs, and his voice, while rough, is nothing I haven’t heard on any viking Metal or Pagan Metal album before. There’s certainly a lot of passion in it, and the piano, with Dr. Pest (obviously these are pseudonyms) behind it changes to a synth, while the guitar in the hands of Ady gets harder before changing to Spanish for a moment. It’s a good hard opener and is followed by a somewhat more frenetic song in “Gib dich hin”, which almost edges into Power Metal territory and has, of all things, whistling (!) in it. Nice bass solo by Volk-Man as Sir G hammers away on the drumkit. No complaints so far.

DAR apparently don’t go in for long songs, or at least not on this album, as everything comes in just slightly over or under the three-minute mark, which is just about right for music like this, especially when I can’t say anything about the lyrics. Hmm. Sounded like a sitar there; perhaps made on the synth of the good Doctor. “Hammer oder amboss” has a more relaxed, bluesy feel to it, much slower and low-key, though the guitars kick back in --- Fuchs plays the guitar as well as singing --- and if anything the gentler part reminds me a little of RHCP. Very nice sparse piano passage, as Pest accompanies Fuchs solo for a short moment before the rest of the band join in. More bluesy guitar, kind of slide, in “Dir gehört nichts”, though it’s a more uptempo and features what appears to be synth brass from the Doctor. I like this one a lot; it has an almost hard rock sensibility to it. The horns definitely add something, and there’s some great work from Ady here too, kind of the first time we really hear him cut loose.

The keyboard man gets his own song next, with the track entitled “Dr. Pest”, and I would have expected it to be a keyboard instrumental, but there are vocals. It is however as expected led by an almost Nick Cavesque piano, this solo with perhaps some bass (though that could be created on the synth) and the vocal much less ragged and angry, reinforcing the similarities to Cave. Some violin there too, whether it’s real or on synth I don’t know, but given that this is the pianist’s own song I would guess it to be synthesised. Nice strings section too, with choral vocals. Very, very impressive. Sort of a gothic/doomy feel to the whole thing. The title track is up next (no I don’t know what it means) and it kicks the tempo right back up, Ady re-establishing his mastery of the music as he cranks off some excellent riffs, Pest adding in almost electronica flurries. The song takes on a heavy, dramatic turn as it slows down and strides along majestically until almost funky guitar jazzes it up again.

Speed guitar again holds court as Ady stamps his authority all over “Erwache”, the song the closest this band has come so far to Thrash Metal or Speed Metal, the keys of Dr. Pest though helping to push it in a more Power Metal direction. Fluid solos from Ady and clever work by Dr. Pest combine to make this song really quite special, then we’re into the only instrumental on the album. As you might expect, “Heimkehr” is carried by Pest’s lilting piano and soft keyboard, with some lovely strings effects adding to the overall flavour. It’s less than two minutes long but an emotional and compelling piece.

“Wir reiten” (we ride?) opens on atmospheric guitar and a relatively low-key vocal, slow percussion and gentle synth that makes me wonder if this might be a ballad, and despite the momentary roll on the drums from Sir G which I expected to presage a sudden heads-down charge it doesn’t happen, and the song remains a ballad, or a possible one. I would have thought there was a role for piano here, and indeed it does come in a little later, taking the tune as Fuchs continues to sing. Some nice backing vocals as the song moves towards its conclusion, with “Hört auf” taking us close to the end of proceedings with a big crashing drum and snarling guitar, the song marching along on a solid synth line in a sort of mid-paced style despite the rather cannoning drumbeat at times.

A false ending allows Pest to take the reins, with synth effects and layers of keys, while Ady’s guitar moans in the background, Sir G slowing down the percussion but it ends strongly and takes us into “Ein liebes lied”, the closing track with a sort of acoustic opening almost reminiscent of folk, perhaps a nod back to DAR’s original influences. The vocal is softer, more restrained, but then rises on Ady’s suddenly soaring guitar solo as the closer takes off, before it returns to the low-key opening, ending on a single plucked guitar string.

TRACKLISTING

1. Die Boten
2. Gib Dich Hin
3. Hammer Oder Amboß
4. Dir Gehört Nichts
5. Dr. Pest
6. Moral & Wahnsinn
7. Erwache
8. Heimkehr
9. Wir Reiten
10. Hört Auf
11. Ein Liebes Lied

It’s a good start for our brief odyssey into German metal. Though I didn’t understand a word of this album I really liked it; the piano and synth helped raise what could have been a fairly bog-standard Metal album to the status of something much more. Whether I would listen to another one is not a question I can answer right now. I’m a big lyrics man, as most of you know, and not to be able to follow the lyrics is a big minus for me. But I certainly enjoyed this album and would heartily recommend it.
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Old 10-11-2014, 05:45 AM   #2333 (permalink)
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I’m not the biggest fan of Doom Metal, but after Cryptopsy and Znowhite I’ll be glad to have a chance to slow things down, hopefully. The Wiki entry for this album describes it thus: ”... features haunting slow guitar riffs, beautiful soprano vocals, meandering keyboards/piano, violins, cellos and clear yet aggressive male growling vocals.” Arcane Rain Fell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Other than the growling vocals --- which is something I’m very slowly getting used to --- this looks like it could be interesting. We’ll see.


Arcane rain fell --- Draconian --- 2005 (Napalm)
Recommended by Carpe Mortem
When I read further, I see this is a concept album and I even like the premise --- Satan’s fall from grace and the creation of Hell --- so I have perhaps not high hopes as such, but ones you could climb up on and maybe feel a little lightheaded. There are only eight tracks on it, but of those, two shade the ten minute mark and one runs for over fifteen, so this is either going to be a good thing or a bad thing in terms of track lengths. There are also female vocals credited, so hopefully there’ll be some gentler, softer singing to counterbalance the rough male vocals described above. I also note the use of piano, cello and violin, so at least Cryptopsy this is not going to be!

Perhaps predictably, we open with the sound of rain falling and thunder crashing, then in the distance but getting louder we hear a single guitar playing a mournful dirge as the storm continues, eventually fading away completely to leave just the guitar until it’s joined a short moment later by the rhythm section. The vocal is a spoken one, down low in the mix as the guitar continues to hold court, courtesy of Johan Ericsson, then as “A scenery of loss” gets going the vocal goes all death metal, dark and growly, with sombre keyboards joining in. The overall effect is of a dramatic, tragic scene unfolding, and indeed it is, perhaps one of the most tragic stories of all, as we listen to Satan bemoan his fall from Heaven.

A female voice now joins in, as soprano Lisa Johnansson adds her lament to the song, the somewhat dark operatic element enhanced by her contribution. Ericsson winds up on the guitar now, and it gets a bit more forceful and a little faster as Johansson takes over the vocal, Jerry Torstensson hammering the drumkit to great effect and building the tension. Original vocalist Anders Jacobsson returns and so does the spoken vocal. Even though this opening song is over nine minutes long, it doesn’t seem like it. It never drags, never seems overlong and there’s not really any part of it I could see being left out and the song still surviving. It’s exactly as long as it should be.

The thunder and rain return as Andreas Karlsson’s piano plays a soft but bitter passage, the spoken vocal bringing the song to an end and opening the album very impressively. “Daylight misery” is another darkly atmospheric track, with the spoken vocal backed by a jangly, introspective guitar and slow, doomy drums while Jesper Stolpe on the bass keeps the beat like a broken heartbeat. Lisa (the surnames are too long, so I’m going to refer to them all by their forenames) has a part to play in this too, “The apostasy canticle” recounts the creation of the Universe by God, and how Satan and his minions feared and hated it. ”He blinded us/ Polluted our minds and forced us/ To drink his blood” he sings, and vows vengeance on the Almighty. Andreas’s keyboards play an important part in this song, painting a bleak and unremitting darkscape against which Johann’s guitar growls and wails, like a soul in torment.

The ragged, snarling vocals of Anders work very well here, his angry, pained voice encapsulating perfectly the mindset of the fallen one as he rages at what God has done, at the freedom lost when ”We knew not the grip/ The bondage of light” and swears revenge ”In this abyss we shall be free/ Here we will celebrate the coming war.” The tempo gets a little faster and more intense halfway through as Satan declares war on God and gathers his followers to him. Looking up into the unimaginable distance from Hell to Heaven, his former home, he vows to bring down the crystal towers that surround God’s kingdom and rule over them. Choral vocals on the synth, crushing percussion and Anders’s growling vocal all go together to show us Lucifer taking his throne of blood and plotting the overthrow of God through his creations, humanity: ”I will show the world God’s true face/ I will let the thunder roar.”

The spoken vocal opening “Expostulation” comes from guest Ryan Henry, who also wrote the lyric. It’s a short but brutal piece, dripping with anger and the lust for vengeance, and the dark delight of someone who destroys something created by another. Backed only by synth with choral vocals Henry speaks in Satan’s voice, as if writing a poison pen letter to his former master, as he describes the evil he will wreak, and has wreaked, on Earth. ”For this I slither in aspect/ Through Eden's gleanings /For this I bid Cain slayeth his brother/ For this I rend the weakest salient of thy diadem /As I, its jewel and very metal shall reflect no more/ Your light - the light of enslavement.” For a short piece it’s exceptionally powerful and you almost shrink from the hatred Henry puts into his voice --- Lucifer’s voice --- for God. Bravo.

I have a slight problem with the opening lines of “Heaven laid in tears (Angel’s lament)" --- ”Behold the skies, they’re full of lies, in disguise.” It’s a little trite, but this album is so good I can forgive that. Also, they’re sung by Lisa which gives them power they might otherwise not have had, not to mention that the melody is quite relaxing, almost laidback for much of the song until Jerry pounds in with the drums and Anders spits the vocal out in the chorus. It’s almost like a duet between a devil and an angel, though if so, this is an angel who has switched her allegiance and now serves Satan. The song gets more intense as it moves towards its conclusion, very powerful and moving. “The abhorrent rays” sees Satan rail against the sun, which is no friend of his. It opens with a growling vocal and thunderous drums as Johan cranks out some fine riffs and the tempo ups again.

I’ve yet to hear a bad track on this album, and the previous two are vying for standout in my mind at this moment, though we have still to get to the fifteen-minute closer, which at this point I’m very much looking forward to. Some fine phased guitar here too, really adds to the atmosphere. But no Lisa. Guess she can’t be on every track, and this is a rant, best carried by Anders’s powerful voice shouting hate at the orb of God’s brightest creation. The spoken vocal does make an appearance though, breaking up the harsher singing, and Andreas’s synth vocals add another layer of epicity to the song. Oh, there’s Lisa, right at the end! Nice one!

A slower, grinding guitar opens “Everlasting scar”, with Anders at his angry best, spitting hatred and scorn at God, and joined by Lisa early in the song. Great extended burning solo by Johan here before it slows down again and Lisa takes the lead in the vocals, Anders (or possibly Johan as he does backing vocals as well as playing the guitar) joins her in a short duet. There’s a very tragic feel to the guitar work; there has been mostly throughout the album but here it’s almost as if Satan is accepting his fate, and it’s unaccountably sad when he roars ”Walking the earth as the solitary reaper.../ Dressed in the lost voices of time/ I bathe in quiet waters of tearful shades/ (And) I suffer in every corner of your sanctuary/ Embrace me now, for I will die/ The pain I feel inside will never leave.” It’s almost like listening to the dying cries of a wounded beast, but being unable or unwilling to end their pain.

The closer is “Death, come near me” and begins on haunting piano and synth line before Johann cuts in with a sharp guitar, the vocal not beginning until we’re nearly three minutes in, but as I mentioned this is a fifteen-minute track. The spoken male vocal is first, quickly followed by Lisa in a star turn as she pours out her heart, entreating Death to grant her release from this world of woe. She’s joined by Anders as the two create a powerful duet which somehow really works well. In the seventh minute everything falls away to a single guitar line and the spoken male vocal, with violin and cello coming in to add their mournful voices to the lament. It’s quite stunning really.

This is an album I wish would not end, but we’re already halfway through the final track as Johann sets up a gentle, emotional guitar passage, backed by the lush keyboards of Andreas, then harder guitar pulls in the drums and bass as the vocal from Anders comes back in, lamenting ”Embrace me now, delightful ease!/ Give me a world of wondrous peace!” Lisa rejoins the vocalist as they duet again, against a slow beat maintained by the rhythm section and by Johann’s steady guitar. ”Oh, shed a tear /For the loss of innocence” cries Lisa with either Johann (normal voice) or Anders, and I do. You wouldn’t think it was possible for someone to make you feel sorry for the Devil, but somehow Draconian make you feel that way. The music and the songwriting is just that powerful. Never quite heard or experienced anything like it before. An aching fadeout on piano and guitar and I have a new artiste I need to check into, perhaps even a whole new subgenre.

TRACKLISTING

1. A scenery of loss
2. Daylight misery
3. The apostasy canticle
4. Expostulation
5. Heaven laid in tears (Angels’ lament)
6. The abhorrent rays
7. The everlasting scar
8. Death, come near me


I realise that a lot of the reason I am drawn to this album is due to the incredible story and how it’s handled, but it’s more than just that. This style of --- what would it be called? Gothic Doom? --- is something new to me and mixes the best elements of my two favourite subgenres, progressive and gothic metal, coupled with some amazing vocals and truly outstanding musicianship. The fact that most of the singing is done in that growly way I hate, and yet I can listen to it, is testament to the effect this album has had on me.

I certainly hope there are more like this, both from this band and others in this subgenre, and I’m eternally grateful to Carpe for turning me on to this music.
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Old 10-11-2014, 08:42 AM   #2334 (permalink)
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Although the title was appropriate, considering that to some extent Slayer had spent several years in the abyss, with fans still clamouring for the true successor to “Reign in blood” and not at all happy, overall, with “South of Heaven”, this album could as easily have been titled “Back to Thrash”, because that's essentially what happened, what they went for. Faster, harder, more brutal playing, more gutteral vocals and themes that eschewed much of the fantasy elements that had informed their music up to now. To put it in a nutshell, and as no doubt Kerry King would have snarled, they weren't fucking around no more!


Seasons in the abyss --- Slayer --- 1990 (Def American)

A big, growly guitar punch leaves you in no doubt as to what to expect before Dave Lombardo's drums cannon out at you like a fusilade as “War ensemble” continues Slayer's decrying of battle and conflict, perhaps odd given their “bastard hard” image, but then, many Metal bands have spoken out against war. After all, who really supports it? Araya screams the vocal with delighted abandon, as if glad to be getting back to basics, and Kerry King just solos all over the place. The songs are generally longer on this album than the previous two, with most around the three or four minute mark, while the closer comes in as the longest ever to date, edging over six and a half minutes.

Of these, “Blood red” is the shortest, just two minutes and forty seconds, slowing things down slightly with something of a cruncher, but still of course heavy enough to crush your skull, and those of any careless enough to be near you. “Spirit in black” speeds everything back up, and despite being over four inutes long it's played so fast that it's over before you know it, taking us into “Expendable youth”, bringing the tempo back a little as it marches along, while “Dead skin mask” gives us the first real listen to Tom's voice without growls or screams in attendance as he speaks the intro in a normal tone before his growl comes back in as he begins singing. The percussion is militaristic as Lombardo drives the tune along, and I feel it bears some resemblance to Metallica's classic “Enter Sandman”.

“Hollowed point” blows down the walls with way too much C-4 and comes out fighting, kicking and screaming as King lets loose with a tremendous barrage of spot-on riffs, Lombardo hammering his kit like there's no tomorrow, and the basic feeling is that of being bludgeoned to death with a guitar, but in the best possible way. The drumbeat opening to “Skeletons of society” is very reminiscent of Maiden's “Run to the hills”, but it drives along well in a sort of Sabbath/Dio mould, with a double vocal from Arya which works very well in the chorus. “Temptation” keeps the tempo high, and indeed “Born of fire” raises the bar, speeding along like a boy racer trying to escape the cops. That takes us to the closer, and title, and as mentioned, longest track to wrap up Slayer's fifth album. With a slow, grinding, very Sabbathesque opening and some slow, atmospheric guitar from Hanneman and King, you could almost think it might be Slayer's attempt at a ballad. Yeah, if you was a fool, that is! Slayer don't do ballads!

But it is certainly the slowest track on an album that has pretty much blinding speed as its trademark and mainstay, and with a two and a half minute instrumental introduction it's easily the closest to the old progressive metal that crept into much of “Show no mercy”; it's also far and away my favourite on the album. A superb and yet much more understated than normal solo from Kerry just completes this song and brings the album to a really satisfying conclusion.

TRACKLISTING

1. War ensemble
2. Blood red
3. Spirit in black
4. Expendable youth
5. Dead skin mask
6. Hollowed point
7. Skeletons of society
8. Temptation
9. Born of fire
10. Seasons in the abyss

Whether as a direct attempt to win back the fans they may have lost with the previous album, or as a way to prove they still had it and had not sold out after really hitting the big time with “Reign in blood”, Slayer here show a marked desire and determination to return to their roots, to get back to basics and reaffirm the faith of their fans in them. The songs are faster, harder and better constructed, and yet, almost paradoxically, the last track seems to nod back to the days of their debut, a sound they had been said to have been trying to leave behind, or develop beyond.

Whatever the thinking behind the change in musical direction, this must have worked because every Slayer album from here on in would feature the same sort of brash, brutal, uncompromising style that would keep this band from California sitting at the very top of the Thrash Metal tree, their feet planted firmly on the skulls at the base of their iron throne, and though many would try down the years to unseat them, they would remain there for a very long time.

After seasons in the abyss, Slayer were back!
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Old 10-11-2014, 09:39 AM   #2335 (permalink)
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Seasons In the Abyss is a great album, even if it's kind business as usual. That short drum solo/fill/whatever-the-**** immediately after the end of the second chorus is one of the most metal things I've ever heard. And I think you're missing something on the influences of the title track. I see it as the culmination of the more melodic experimentation on South of Heaven, but realized better. It's got that same kind of melodic, but creepy atmosphere as "Spill the Blood". "Seasons In the Abyss" is probably my favorite Slayer song. If they hadn't run out of steam by the next album, I'd have loved to see if they could have explored that sound even further. Also has my fav Slayer lyric ever, "Inert flesh/A bloody tomb/A decorated splatter brightens the room/An execution a sadist ritual/Mad intervals of mind residuals". Especially those last two lines. The alliteration, along with the rhythm of the delivery, just make it so memorable. The entire thing has great lyrics though.
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Old 10-11-2014, 07:26 PM   #2336 (permalink)
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It’s a mid-paced monster, with a screaming guitar solo and deep, kind of breathing noises which are either made on the drumkit or on Tipton’s synth. Very effective either way.
Breathing? Oh are you talking about the sound of marching that plays towards the end of the song? hahah Come on Trollheart. It's called "March of the Damned" so there is marching. By the way, that's probably one of my favorite Priest songs.
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Old 10-12-2014, 05:36 AM   #2337 (permalink)
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I remember buying this album and just being so impressed by it, considering I had at that point never heard of the band. Even the title sounded metal, both of the band and the album, and I had a feeling I would not be disappointed. I wasn’t. From the first glance at the sleeve you get a sense of awe and majesty, power and strength, and you know this isn’t going to be any “wimpy” soft rock album. In fact, through a clever campaign of publicity Manowar raised their profile and interest in their debut by utilising what I believe was the first I ever heard of the term “False Metal”, and urging those who listened to their music to reject same.

False Metal was deemed to be anything that masqueraded as Metal but was not seen to be hard enough or dedicated enough. The likes of glam and hair metal would have fallen under this banner --- Motley Crue, Hanoi Rocks etc --- as would anything that used too many ballads or keyboards, girly vocals or wimpy lyrics. Manowar would ally themselves to the new breed of Metal bands coming up like Tank, Venom and Slayer, as well as bands who were established and had proven their credentials like Priest, Maiden, Motorhead and Sabbath. These bands all played True Metal, and were to be either revered or accepted. Anyone else was not.

It was a clever ploy, but as I mentioned when I reviewed “Hail to England” some time ago, Manowar’s bastard-hard-come-and-have-a-go stance was purely for the cameras, as it were, revealed when they were reported to have run from a fight with another band. I can’t recall the details but it was reported in The Bible (no, not that one: “Kerrang!” of course!) and I remember I think it was Joey’s grinning admission: “Hey, we’re musicians, not boxers!” As an impressionable kid who had believed every word these guys said and expected they practiced what they preached, it was a huge blow to me at the time to find out that it had all just been words, a ploy to help them sell albums and gain fans.

Battle hymns --- Manowar --- 1982 (Metal Blade)

But when I bought this album on its release in 1982 I knew nothing of Manowar’s true lives and excitedly dropped the stylus onto the vinyl to see if what “Kerrang!” had been saying could be right, to see if the hype was deserved. It was. From the moment this album starts it’s like suddenly getting hit in the face with a steel glove, spiked and studded, and until the final chords of the closer you never get a chance to recover. The sound of a motorbike is synonymous with Heavy Metal and as this one revs up we’re suddenly subjected to the guitar punch of Ross “The Boss” Friedman, quickly followed by the high-pitched scream of Eric Adams as “Death tone” opens the album that would become, for me at least, something of an epiphany.

With lyrics that flip off society in that way you love when you’re that age --- ”I give some square the finger/ Now he won’t look again!” it’s a powerful statement of intent as Eric growls ”Pull alongside if you’re looking for a fight!” In somewhat the same way as Ian Gillan did with Deep Purple --- but nowhere near as good a range --- Adams sets the tone for Heavy Metal vocalists for years to come, a loud, angry, triumphant scream that can go into yells and roars at times. Ross the Boss rocks on, but won’t come into his real element just yet. “Metal daze” gives him something more of a platform to build on, a faster, rockier song as Adams again lays down the marker: ”Only one thing sets me free/ Heavy Metal, loud as it can be!”

It pounds along with a kind of boogie vibe and a chanted chorus that would ensure they would receive adoration onstage: ”Hea-vy Me-tal!” simple but effective. Manowar certainly knew how to work the system, and they gave us what we wanted. Their fans became known as the Army of the Immortals, and when you listen to their music, that’s how you feel. Like nobody can touch you, like nothing can hurt you, like you’re gonna live forever. The thing I quickly learned about Manowar though was that they relied very much on power and bombast rather than the speed some of the bands coming up during the time of the NWOBHM --- Raven, Motorhead etc --- preferred. Even “Fast taker”, which you would expect to rocket along, well, does, but it’s not the heads-down, break-your-neck speed that the likes of Slayer and Anthrax would later espouse.

There’s a great solo from Ross here, his first real chance to show what he can do, and he does not waste it. Of course, Manowar were really an eight-piece: four guys and their egos. They had no compunction about going around saying they were the best, and inviting other Metal bands to take them on, a real case of “Come and have a go”, but it must be accepted that the talent was there. They knew how to play, and they knew how to write. They also knew how to project an image, before many Metal bands had a clear idea of how they wanted to present themselves to their fans, and went through various changes, Manowar had it down pat. “Death to False Metal!” they roared, and we roared back in delight. Had we horses, and could we ride them, we would have followed them into battle. It was just that empowering.

Much of their lyrical content concerned, at least on the first album, the Vietnam war, with it being mentioned in the opener and the main theme of the next track, “Shell shock”. Later they would turn to more historical/mythical, even fantasy themes, recalling great battles and warriors, and musically worshipping Odin and the Norse gods. But here they were still sort of shaping their ideas, and war and Heavy Metal always go well together, so why not? The next song however is their mission statement, and is simply called “Manowar”. It’s a faster, more driving song, with drummer Donnie Hamzik thundering the beat, and tells the story of the band’s formation, somewhat embellished --- ”We met on English ground/ In a backstage room we heard the sound/ And we all knew what we had to do” --- with perhaps what The Batlord would term the goofiest and yet most satisfying chorus line --- ”Manowar! Born to live forevermore!/ The right to conquer every shore!/ Hold your ground and give --- no more!” Oh you have to laugh now, but back then we believed every word passionately, and loved it.

Another cracking solo from Ross as Joey de Maio thumps out the bass, then the beginnings of their move towards a more fantasy lyric with a darker, grindier sound comes with “Dark avenger”, which slows everything down to Doom Metal speed, as Adams shows that he can sing at the other end of the scale too. A raw, angry lyric speaks of the lust for revenge of a hero left to die after his enemies have taken everything he has. The gods, impressed, allow him this opportunity for vengeance. Taking him to the land of the Dead, they resurrect him and send him back as their instrument of retribution. This song could be on any Sabbath album, and includes, rather amazingly, the services of the famous Orson Welles, narrating part of the story. It’s a powerful addition and really adds gravitas to the song. It sounds like there’s a synth backing, but I can’t find any credit for it, though Ross did later play keys on other albums, so maybe they snuck one in but didn’t want to tell the Army of the Immortals about it!

As the song reaches its climax, Ross goes wild on the guitar, Hamzik rattling the drums like galloping warhorse as Eric screams out his revenge with gusto, stretching his vocals cords to the limit. You can almost see the blood dripping off his sword, already slick with the life essence of so many slain enemies --- and many more to be slain! --- and the terrified women cowering on the ground sodden by the blood of their husbands, awaiting their turn. In a total change of pace, Joey deMaio gives a virtuoso display on the bass as he interprets Rossini’s “William Tell” for a Metal audience with the assistance of Ross, before we end on the big title track, a stunning almost operatic piece, opening on acoustic guitar which fades down as Hamzik starts slow then increases the speed as he calls in Adams.

A triumphant, victorious battle song, it’s the perfect end to this amazing debut album, and cuts right to the heart of what Manowar were about. With choral vocals evoking the feel of an army on the march, the lyric is full of words like “blood, steel, fight” and “glory”; in fact, the title of the followup album is prophesied here as Adams yells ”Sound the charge!/ Into glory ride!” In the midsection the song drops to an acoustic gentle passage, with more choral vocals as the battle pauses, but we’re quickly back into mayhem as Ross takes control, urging the troops on as dust rises about them in a cloud and enemies fall on every side. ”Kill! Kill!” screams Adams, and you could say it’s glorifying violence, but it’s hard to take it too seriously and it’s set to the backdrop of a battle. It’s not like Manowar are exorting their followers to go out and kill people in the street, unlike some bands I could name.

It all ends then in a run-up on the drums, a squeal on guitar and a choral interpretation almost of Orff's “O fortuna”, and with a final guitar chord we are out, and the battle is won. The fictional battle in the song, and also the battle for the hearts and minds of metalheads, who having heard this album became instant followers and fans of the band, and a legend was born. As Manowar had intended from the start. To quote the late, lamented Rik Mayall, the plan worked brilliantly!

TRACKLISTING

1. Death tone
2. Metal daze
3. Fast taker
4. Shell shock
5. Manowar
6. Dark avenger
7. William’s Tale
8. Battle hymn

Over the years I’ve given Manowar a bit of a rough ride, and that’s for two reasons. One, I did, as I said above, believe everything they said when I was nineteen and bought this album. I thought they were hard as nails, and Heaven help anyone who crossed them. When reality showed itself to me in the cold light of day, I was crushed. My idols had feet of clay. The other reason is that a stance like this can only be maintained for so long, and Manowar have now dined out as it were on this for over thirty years. The joke, so to speak, is wearing thin. It’s hard to take seriously men who are now in their sixties -- spookily, although I can’t find a birthdate for Joey deMaio, all three of the others were born in the same year, 1954! Destiny or what? --- raging about “False Metal” and talking about riding forth to slay the unworthy. Yeah granpa, just sit down in that chair and remember your blood pressure!

But I do love Manowar, and always have done, and if I poke fun at them it’s gentle and not meant in any way to be hurtful or dismissive. They filled my late teens and early twenties with some amazing music, with some great great lyrics and drew for me vistas with music I could only otherwise read about in my fantasy novels. When I bought this album and listened to it, it was like Conan the Barbarian had taken up a Fender and ridden into battle. It was that powerful, that influential, and the two albums that followed just reinforced my belief at the time that this was a band who could take on the world.

And they did. What can I say in closing? Into glory ride! Death to False Metal! Yeah!
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Old 10-12-2014, 09:19 AM   #2338 (permalink)
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A band who are huge in Germany but of whose work I have heard precisely nothing is Rammstein, who have suffered accusations of Nazism and white supremacy throughout their career, though they deny it totally, saying their music is not politically motivated. They generally sing in German, so like DAR yesterday it’s unlikely I’ll be able to comment on the lyrics, though I do have a translation of each song title and a general idea of what each is about, so that will help.

Reise, reise --- Rammstein --- 2004 (Motor Music)

The title can be interpreted a few different ways --- apparently words can mean several things in German --- but is said to translate as “journey”, and indeed it’s the title track we start off with, a dark, ominous slow keyboard laying down the backdrop, singer Till Lindeman sounding to my ears like Matt Johnson of The The, with a gritty, growly, almost muttered vocal full of anger and disillusionment. I see why they call it Industrial Metal: it’s sort of like Depeche Mode or The Pet Shop Boys decided to cut a metal record, but there’s a clear sort of operatic, cinematic element to the music too, added to by the strings arrangement on this track. An odd addition is the lead-out on of all things accordion, as we head into what has become something of an infamous song for them.

“Mein teil” (my part) takes as its subject matter the story of Armin Miewes, a cannibal who advertised for a willing partner to be killed and eaten by him --- and found one. He was subsequently charged with, and convicted of murder. It’s a punch-in-the-face, kick-in-the-balls metal song with snarling guitar and a raucous chorus, alternating with dark, bassy passages wherein Till snarls the vocal in almost a menacing mutter, taking the persona of Miewes. A screaming guitar presumably represents the death screams of the “victim” and the choir on this song adds a sense of unreality and surrealism to the song. Scary in its own way, probably moreso if I could understand the lyric. Claustrophobic, crushing and tense.

“Dalai Lama” needs no translating, a grindy, bleak and dark song, with snarling guitar and a sombre but raging vocal from Till. Great keyboard work from Christian Lorenz, and a sort of chant going on in the background with the return of the choir from the previous track. “Keine lust” (something along the lines of “no desire”) ups the tempo for the first time, marching along on the twin guitars of Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers, sort of a boogie feel to it. If these guys remind me of anyone it’s Tiamat, though again I’ve only heard two or three of their albums, but there are similarities, especially on “Amanethes”. Strange sound here, almost like a French Horn.

An acoustic start then to “Los” (translates as “go”) with a low, dark vocal and generally it’s quite a stripped-down melody, don’t even hear Lorenz’s keyboards yet, just guitar, bass and some perfunctory drumming. Now it all stops and the synth comes in but then fades back out, having taken the track completely for a few seconds. A short, restrained guitar solo from one of the guys while the other does a more squealing one, mostly in the background, With the first English lyric --- perhaps the only one on the album --- “Amerika” is a mock anthem poking fun at the greatest world power, using staples of global corporations such as Disney, Coca-Cola and Wonderbra. Great little keyboard flurry from Lorenz, and it’s a fun song which is bitter without being overly preachy. Powerful guitars too.

“Moskau” --- again, not too hard to translate --- is another fast-paced song with a great bassline and some whistling keys, rocking along nicely and featuring the vocals of Viktoria Fersch, a Russian singer who frankly sounds like one of those teenage J-pop singers. The choir returns to usher in “Morgenstern”, which even I know means “morning star”, a harder, sparser track than the previous with its almost singalong quality. The presence of the choir and orchestra adds a sense of gravitas to the song, but it’s still quite barebones mostly. A really nice solo piano then takes us into “Stein um stein”, which apparently means “stone by stone”, a much slower, doomier track with kind of echoing drumbeats that then ramps up on the back of the twin guitar attack, before falling back to the original tempo and melody,

Rather oddly, the album ends on not one, but two ballads, the first “Ohne dich” (“without you”) framed by a sumptuous synth and strings melody, while the closer “Amour” sounds initially more like something Vangelis would do. Nice restrained guitar line and Lorenz’s keyboards sound very new-wave, like something out of Ultravox or Tubeway Army. Interesting, and certainly shows great variety in this band, who I was expecting really just to be loud, fast and, er, loud.

TRACKLISTING

1. Reise, reise
2. Mein teil
3. Dalai Lama
4. Keine lust
5. Los
6. Amerika
7. Moskau
8. Morgenstern
9. Stein um stein
10. Ohne dich
11. Amour

Yeah, this was a lot better than I had expected. Plenty of variety, heavy in places but not like death or speed metal, just as heavy as it needed to be. Apparently Rammstein’s music has been described as “dance metal”: I don’t see it. There are some poppy/new-wave elements in the bass and in the synth certainly, but this is still metal with a capital M. Mind you, it’s my first (I think) taste of Industrial Metal, if that’s what this is, so I don’t know what the usual thing is to expect with this subgenre. But what I’ve heard I like.

I think I’ve had enough of the German language for now though, so the next band is going to have to sing in English. Hey, it’s the language of football, the language of Shakespeare, the language of rock and roll, why, the very language of God himself! If you don’t believe me, ask Alan B’Stard!
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Old 10-12-2014, 09:25 AM   #2339 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by The Batlord View Post
Seasons In the Abyss is a great album, even if it's kind business as usual. That short drum solo/fill/whatever-the-**** immediately after the end of the second chorus is one of the most metal things I've ever heard. And I think you're missing something on the influences of the title track. I see it as the culmination of the more melodic experimentation on South of Heaven, but realized better. It's got that same kind of melodic, but creepy atmosphere as "Spill the Blood". "Seasons In the Abyss" is probably my favorite Slayer song. If they hadn't run out of steam by the next album, I'd have loved to see if they could have explored that sound even further. Also has my fav Slayer lyric ever, "Inert flesh/A bloody tomb/A decorated splatter brightens the room/An execution a sadist ritual/Mad intervals of mind residuals". Especially those last two lines. The alliteration, along with the rhythm of the delivery, just make it so memorable. The entire thing has great lyrics though.
How is it business as usual? I understand it's kind of the template for a lot of later Slayer albums, but at the time it didn't particularly sound like any of their previous albums.

Anyway, I agree, it's a great album. For me it's pretty much tied for first place in their catalog with Reign in Blood.
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Old 10-12-2014, 01:46 PM   #2340 (permalink)
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How is it business as usual? I understand it's kind of the template for a lot of later Slayer albums, but at the time it didn't particularly sound like any of their previous albums.

Anyway, I agree, it's a great album. For me it's pretty much tied for first place in their catalog with Reign in Blood.
It basically took the last two albums and found a comfortable medium without really making a musical statement that they hadn't already made. They peaked with RIB, and while they were running out of steam as far as innovation was concerned with South of Heaven, they still went outside their comfort zone. Creatively speaking, I think Seasons In the Abyss was a bit of a bunt. A great bunt though.
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