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Friday, December 24, 2010Last updated 1:03 p.m. PT
As they Sleep: Dynasty
One thing is for sure: this album will not be mistaken for the Kiss album of the same name. this is modern metal with scream-vocals and heavy riffing. that said, with titles like “the third Reich” you could consider it a tad clichéd at times. There are times it comes across as a combination of Slayer and any myriad of modern metal bands.
There is a touch of sameness to the tracks on here. however they never hang around long enough to get boring. the band hail from Detroit and play technical metal. It’s indeed as it is described, pummeling; however a bit more variety between tracks would be nice. and its not exactly technical as European metal bands would describe it. There is little of what you might call variety of pace and playing. It’s just a constant blast of similar sounds for an entire album. In a word it all comes across as a tad boring.
It’s a good start, but a bit more variety and quality of songwriting would help. what is on offer here is pretty plodding and dull. I am sure they are great live, but on CD it’s a bit less than the sum of its parts. It’s just sad to see talent wasted on such an mediocre release.
Bison B.C.: Dark Ages
This band used to be part of a skate-thrash act that imploded. out of the implosion rose phoenix-like a band that peddle a rather appealing brand of sub-stoner metal. There are touches of bands like Mastodon that give it nice sense of gravitas. that said it took a few listens before I fully “got it”, but it’s satisfying when you finally do. this CD takes a bit of work to get fully under your skin, but I do recommend you let it.
The sludgy nature of the tracks is combined with some fine vocalising that never gets in the way of a good head-bang. Screamo and more traditional metal vocals combine well in the mix. Everything is in the right proportion to make for a decent release.
The band have the chops and quality to pull off tracks like the epic “Melody, this is for You” without it ever getting plodding in a bad way. then you have almost party tracks like “Two-Day Booze”, some drink-sodden fun. they may have an odd name but check out this bunch. you can just tell that these guys seriously rock live. this is the perfect antidote to Celine Dion singing Christmas carols at your local mall.
This bit of fantasy metal is inspired by Tolkien’s “the Children of Hurin”, which incidentally I just finished reading. In fact it’s mostly based on the hero Túrin’ Turambar and his tragic quest across the lands of Middle Earth. and as one would expect from a band that does fantasy metal, especially a release about Tolkien, there is a wonderful mix of vocal styles. Death growls combine with the sweet vocals of Kaisa Jouhki into something rather special. they do manage to evoke the right tone with this release in keeping with the feeling of the novel.
The band being Finnish, there is an epic and melodic quality to this release. it combines elements of prog, goth power, and symphonic metal in equal proportions to produce a fine mixture in song. while the title track comes in at eight minutes, the rest of the music is of a decent length. There is no hanging around too long, which can happen often on these sort of releases. There is little cheese on here, no over-the-top Meatloaf-esque histrionics. all the elements combine to pay an apt tribute to a great book.
An ambitious effort delivered with quality and talent. might not be everyone’s cup of metal, but it’s hard to deny this is a rather good album.
As with the release I review below, I just loved this disc. while not as instant a like as with Fejd, this really got me good. it may be a German band but this is pure Viking metal. the name means “Runnel of the Falcons” and the band is steeped in the sagas of the Vikings. this is atmospheric epic “blackened” folk metal at its absolute best. the mixture of all sorts of instruments and vocal techniques makes this quite a joy to listen to. the clean vocals and choral and acoustic arrangements combine well with the traditional death vocals.
As with any good Viking metal it evokes the sober nature of their epic journeys across the sea. of course, there are even water sounds to add to the ambiance. There is lighter and melodic fare in the form of tracks like “Time Between Dog & Wolf” with its catchy intro and more lighthearted feel. Granted that is relative to the rest of the album.
This band produce such quality and varying tunes that the fact that all are over five minutes will not bother you one bit. Having never heard of this lot, I am rather pleased it ended up in my in-box. Some great Viking metal for the end of your year.
This is one of those discs I resisted reviewing for several weeks longer than I should have done. It’s not because I didn’t want to bother, but because I so enjoyed listening to this stuff. the band’s name means “feud” in Swedish, but this stuff makes you want to dance not fight. if “Allas Halling” doesn’t get your toes tapping you have no sense of fun at all.
It’s sung in Swedish, but no matter, you will be singing along in no time. all of it’s just that catchy. this is a band that makes you feel like you want to hang out with them round a camp fire for a bit of a piss-up. It’s catchy as stink and fascinating to listen to. while some might scoff at it and claim it’s a hairy and male version of Blackmore’s Night, it would be foolish to be so dismissive. this is just another example of how original and creative the Scandinavian music scene can be. yes and that odd sounding thing is a cow antler. Heavy folk never sounded so good or so inspiring.
This is Viking folk music that is hairy-chested while at the same time enticing. you could easily play this to your non-metal-loving mates and they won’t complain a wit. Without a doubt this is one of my favourite albums of the year. so raise a glass of your favourite tipple and sing along with Fejd.
On that jaunty note, have a safe one this week. Stay warm and rocking whereever you might be.
View the original article on blogcritics.org
Jan 13, 2011 Joshua Gray
Taylor Swift – CoverlandiaThe first part of a 3 part series counting down the top 20 albums of 2010. here are #20-14!
Music is about inspiring people. Connecting with people. It is this transcendent medium that can have such a profound affect on those listening to it. Be it emotional, spiritual, or something else—there is a reaction prompted by the sounds coming out of our stereo and every year I like to reflect on the twenty albums that affected me the most. from different genres and artistic approaches comes twenty albums that I believe to be among the best released in 2010—after all, it’s all relative, I realize that.
I hope that you all enjoy the list and give me your opinions and suggestions in the comments section. As a Christian whose faith is very important to me, I will be sensitive to readers that feel the same and highlight any objectionable content that might find their way onto some of these albums. I like to spotlight good work even the viewpoints held by the artists are slightly different than mine but am also mindful that we should be cautious of the entertainment we consume.
Without further adieu, here are, in my opinion, the twenty best albums of 2010:
20. Audrey Assad-The House You’re Building (Sparrow)
Genre: Indie Pop/Worship
A fresh voice in the admittedly overcrowded field of CCM solo artists, Assad’s understated approach combined with powerful, impressively-written lyrics makes her a definite artist to watch. She doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but she successfully avoids worship clichés, bringing to life music full of depth that will spark something in the hearts and minds of her listeners.
BEST 2 TRACKS: “Known”- a sweet look at the intimate connection between us and our Creator and “ought to Be”-bursting with positivity, “ought to Be” is the antecedent of the negative songs of ill-fated love that everyone else seems to be so fond of releasing.
19. Children 18:3-Rain’s a Comin’ (Tooth and Nail) Genre: Punk Rock/Christian
Proving that homeschooled kids can still rock and that not all of Tooth and Nail’s current roster sucks, Children 18:3’s sophomore album is imprinted with the same infectious energy as their first. With lyrics that are more introspective and challenging that one might expect and music that rocks on every level, if you still have yet to discover these guys, what are you waiting for?
BEST 2 TRACKS: “Close your Eyes”-the album’s first single is a fast example of the radio-ready, high-energy awesomeness that this band is capable of and “Oh Bravo”-sweet and unique, this track showcases the vocals of Lee Marie and speaks a loud message to those who struggle with confidence.
18. Charmaine-S/T (Word) Genre: Pop/Rock/Christian
This year’s best kept secret is an energetic young artist destined for pop stardom. This CD is bursting with potential hits—and I’m not talking Christian radio hits. I mean, bonafide cross-over hits that will strike a cord with the masses.
Smarter and more talented than several similar artists on the scene, Charmaine is a positive alternative to the secular world and legitimately entertaining and gifted alternative to generic Christian fluff.
BEST 2 TRACKS: “Tokyo”-as infectious as they come, “Tokyo” is an age-old tale of love that follows all over the world and “Fighting Furies”-a prime example of Charmaine’s best work. Sharp and superbly executed, this is a pulsing, catchy as heck light for those in the darkness.
17. Lecrae-Rehab (Reach) Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop/Christian
More on his game than ever before, Lecrae is proving himself to be a consistent viable contender in the world of hip-hop. It’d pay off for him to produce at least one song with more neutral lyrics for mainstream appeal because the whole world deserves to discover the talent that Lecrae possesses.
He’s a skilled rapper that’s proving that Christians can take on the genre with heart and passion and put out something (almost) cheese-free.
BEST 2 TRACKS: “Background”-what a smart collaboration. The chorus (provided by C-Lite) is instantly memorable and Lecrae compliments it with some of his strongest, most honest lyrics to date and “Killa”-With an enticing hook and unstoppable energy, “Killa” examines the inner battle we each face with our own darkness.
16. Taylor Swift-Speak Now (Big Machine) Genre: Country/Pop
More wholesome than your average pop superstar, Swift continues to use transparent, relatable songs to reel in a massive audience. Thought not quite as good as Fearless, Speak Now is a worthy follow-up. Swift has discovered a proven formula but still doesn’t shy away from trying something different (don’t judge her based on her singles alone) and her genuine talent cannot be denied.
BEST 2 TRACKS: “Long Live”-the album’s closer is bursting with care-free energy and its enchanting lyrics really bring the emotion of the song to life and “dear John”-stripped-down with a hint of folksy blues, “dear John” is truly a musical achievement and a snapshot of the musical and lyrical maturity Swift is capable of.
15. Anberlin-Dark is the way Light is a place (Republic) Genre: Rock/Pop/Christian
Emotionally-driven, soaring rock anthems are what Anberlin excels at and Dark is the Way continues in that tradition. unfortunately, this release still lands miles away from 2007’s masterpiece, Cities, but they still prove to be one of the most consistent rock acts making music today. Continuing the balance of relationship issues mixed with faith experiences, Anberlin earns every ounce of success they have while maintaining the integrity of the band.
Content: one line that’s mildly suggestive in nature on “Impossible”
BEST 2 TRACKS: “Pray Tell”-Classic Anberlin. a passionate track replete with promises of hope in the midst of darkness and “Down”-Anberlin at their most reflective and stripped down. It sounds refreshingly different from most of their other material.
14. Jars of Clay-The Shelter (Provident) Genre: Rock/Pop/Worship
Proving that they refuse to stay in any mold for too long, Jars departs the indie electro-pop of The Long Fall and tackle a collaborative worship effort with appearances by David Crowder Band, Mac Powell, Leigh Nash, Toby Mac and many, many more.
With a folksy charm and simple, yet wonderfully poetic lyrics, The Shelter is yet another Jars project you won’t want to miss.
BEST 2 TRACKS: “Call my Name”—a simple confessional, “Call my Name” admits its brokenness and commits to surrender and “Eyes Wide Open”-I don’t care much for Third Day, but I’m finding Powell’s voice to be a real asset on duets. Whether with Grits, Lacey Mosley of Flyleaf or, now, Jars of Clay, his raspy southern edge proves to be a great contrast.
Taylor Swift – Coverlandia
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