Album Reviews

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Compilations & Soundtracks:

A Brutal Christmas - The Season In Chaos (2002, Compilation, Sounds Of Death Records) It's the holiday season, and what better way to celebrate then to play all those christmas classics metal style. Yes, when your grandpa tries to sit down at the piano to start the Christmas carols, you can say "nono, here, lets all sit back, warmed by the fire in the fireplace, and listen to someone cleaning their throat out while a drummer has a seizure in the background." Overall, the CD is probably more about shock value then a really great performance, but I can totally imagine bringing it out once a year to make sure your friends never get too complacent in their usual holiday rituals. My favorite track is "The Little Drummer Boy" by Tortured Conscience, the vocals during the "ba-rum-pum-pum-pum" part are just sick. I also enjoyed the blackmetal influenced 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' by Kekal, as well as the sludgy rendition of 'O Come All Ye Faithful' by Hearken. You get quite a variety of styles on this CD, death metal, grindcore, punk, black metal. Which means if you may end up skipping a few tracks here and there depending on your personal style, but hey, isn't christmas about togetherness? It's a seasonal album, but I think worth the cash.

The Art Of Shredding: A Tribute To Dime (2006, Tribute Compilation, Darkstar Records) Thirteen Australian bands and their tribute to one of Metal's greatest guitar players, the late Dimebag Darrel of Pantera. The thing I like about this album is that, unlike most other tribute albums, many of these bands take the Pantera song and transform it into the style of the band, as opposed to trying to play it exactly like it was recorded by Pantera. A great example is "Becoming" by Synthetic Breed, who incorporate even more squawks, a super sludgy distorted sound, and vocals that are super pitch shifted. Or Switchblade playing "Domination", where they change the main riff a bit, and incorporate some faster than human doublebass (although I'm not a big fan of what they did to the end of the song). It helps that most of the bands sing like themselves, instead of trying to sound like Phil Anselmo, so you get to hear lots of death metal growls, gurgles and a few operatic singers who put Pantera's early work to shame. Speaking of which, they included a few songs from Pantera's Glam Metal days (I guess the Australians aren't ashamed of Pantera's secret past). The quality of the production isn't perfect, since many of these are small bands without a budget for super great production, but it's all clear. And a portion of the proceeds from the album goes to the Dime Memorial Trust. While a little rough around the edges, I enjoyed this CD, and can certainly recommend it to fans of the band.

Century Media 10 Year Anniversary Party Live DVD (2002, Live Compilation, Century Media) It's the 10th Anniversary of Century Media, so they put on a show in Los Angeles featuring 6 of their domestic bands. I suppose since I attended the concert I see the whole DVD with a slightly different perspective, but as a stand alone, this is a really good DVD if you're into some or any of these bands. Each band plays 2 songs live on the DVD, and in between songs is random chatter from band members about Century Media as well as fans talking about their favorite bands. I'll do a quick rundown, we get two songs from Scar Culture to start, a really crazy death / hardcore band. Then 2 from EyeHateGod, a more bluesy Black Sabbath type of band. Then Shadows Fall takes the stage, old school thrash very much in the Arch Enemy vein. Skinlab then does their two songs, however, that particular performance suffers from a bad guitar sound, the band uses the flange WAY too much. Then Nevermore, thrash with Yngwie style vocals. We even get to see in the credits a little bit of when the band invites the whole audience on the stage, although they cut the part when the bouncers took the band off the stage since they told the audience to violate the venue's "No Stage Diving" laws. Nevermore did not finish their set. Then SYL and Detox from Strapping Young Lad, both good songs, although Devin's vocal performance is a little uneven, he misses several lines from the songs. But the band has good energy and Gene is always fun on drums. Other than the Skinlab issue, all the rest of the bands have great production. As I said, if you're into any of these bands, take a peak.

Contaminated 3.0 (2000, Compilation, Relapse) 2 discs of metal insanity. The label is producing some good bands these days, with Nile, Origin, Dying Fetus and Nasum to name a few gracing this compilation. SOme of the tracks are bonus material, but most are just tracks from previously released albums (including most of the big name bands). You get 51 songs in this set, so if you've ever wanted to know what all of the bands on the cd sound like, this is probably a good indication.

The Crow Soundtrack (1994, Soundtrack, Atlantic) Filled with metal bands, techno tunes and modern rock, this soundtrack was a vital part to the depressing and dark feel of the hit movie. Appearances by Rollins Band, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, Pantera, Helmet and Rage Against The Machine gives the listener a good hour of anger, rage, depression and the faint glimmer of hope in some of the soundtracks lighter tunes. Trust me, many of the tunes on this CD will haunt your dreams for years to come, so of you liked the film, own the soundtrack, it's a fitting companion that exists somewhere between the light of life and the cold gloomy darkness of death.

Death Is Just The Beginning IV (1997, Compilation, Nuclear Blast) A wide variety of music can be found on this album, including ambient, techno, death and black metal. It has some cool stuff on it (and some pretty lame stuff). The cool stuff includes tracks from Benediction, Slapdash, Gorefest, Monstrosity and Sinister. It also has a live Meshuggah track, 'Sickening', which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Meshuggah can perform live their complex music with just as much accuracy and aggression as on an album. Two CD's with 29 songs. The good stuff outweighs the bad, I'd label it a good buy.

D.S.F.A. 6 Paradise Of The Underground (1994, Compilation, Displeased) A compilation of various metal bands from the Netherlands. Quite a variety on this album, all kinds of music from death metal to doom to ambient and symphonic metal. Notable parts include Orphanage (sort of a mix between doom and death), Acrostichon (Straight ahead death metal, nothing original, but well done), Polluted Inheritance (Technical melodic death metal) and a few others such as Gathering, Pentacle, The Circle and Excision. While not bad at all, there's nothing truly spectacular on this album, the production is good on all of the songs, but nothing mind numbing. The whole album goes for a more melodic approach, there's not nearly as much aggression here as on, say, a North American comp. Check it out if you're interested to see what style of music is coming out of this part of the world.

Flashback (2001, Compilation, Del Toro Records) This has gotta be one of the strangest cds I've ever heard. The concept, a bunch of  Montreal bands gets together and perform metal / alternative versions of saturday morning cartoon show theme songs and the like. The Metalized super Mario Brothers theme is hilarious. All Montrealers will remember the Goldorak song from the popular french dubbed Japanese anime (performed by Obliveon). The Ghoulunatics do a really heavy transformers theme, much heavier than the glam metal version done for  the film. Some songs are pretty much specific to Quebec (and sung in french), others are more universal and should be loved by anyone who've seen these shows (including Flintstones, Inspector Gadget and Sesame Street). Tons o fun, this cd is great for a laugh.

Gigantour CD (2006, Live Compilation) See my review of the DVD for more opinions on the material presented on this CD. Dream Theater's 2 songs are again awesome, and worth getting on CD so you can take the music anywhere. Fear Factory's two songs are mixed a bit better on the CD then it was on the DVD, but it's still a bit tough to hear those drums compared to the vocals and guitar. The CD also includes 2 songs by Anthrax that weren't on the DVD, 'Caught In A Mosh' and 'I Am The Law.' While Dream Theater tries to avoid releasing the same live song twice, Anthrax seem obsessed about releasing the same songs again and again, both of these songs appear on like every live album they've ever done, and as such aren't really anything special. If you're a Dream Theater fan, get this CD if you find it for a cheap price, otherwise I'd give it a miss.

Gigantour DVD (2006, Live Compilation DVD) This will be a partial review since the only 2 bands I'm really interested in on the DVD are Fear Factory and Dream Theater. Fear Factory plays 2 songs, unfortunately, they happen to be 2 of my least favorite songs, 'Transgression' and 'Archetype'. The sound is all guitar and vocals, the drums and bass are almost silent which is a real shame. The camerawork is decent, but overall I'd have to label these two songs as a miss, they should have played one of their heavier / faster songs. Then 2 tracks from Dream Theater, they start with all 14 minutes of 'The Glass Prison' which is an excellent performance, James does a great job on vocals during the demonic section in the middle, and the band really gets into the long instrumental part. Their second song is 'Panic Attack', I guess they picked those two songs since they're some of the group's heaviest, and this tour is all about the more metal aspects of the band. Dream Theater's sound is far better, a much more even mix. And these are two lives songs that don't appear on any of the Dream Theater live albums, so if you're a fan, that automatically makes this DVD worth it. On the bonus DVD there's an hour long documentary with some interviews and random stores from the tour, and a performance with Dream Theater (along with Burton from Fear Factory and Dave Mustaine of Megadeth) doing Pantera's 'Cemetery Gates' during their Texas show. It's really nice seeing people who knew and loved Dimebag do their tribute, that song has really taken on a whole new meaning since his untimely death.

Grrrr (1997, Compilation, HDR) Released on Devin Townsend's new record label, this compilation consists of two Strapping Young Lad tunes ('Oh My Fucking God' and the previously unreleased 'Centipede') and 10 other songs by various Canadian bands. The new SYL song is a mid tempo chugger in the same vein as the other songs off of "City". The other bands on the album are mostly death metal, really powerful and brutal stuff. The bands generally seem to blend together without a lot of variety, but you don't care since the whole album just grabs you by the neck and throttles you till the end. Excellent production on all the bands with lots of bass and a clear mix.

House Of 1000 Corpses Soundtrack (2003, Soundtrack, Geffen) Soundtrack to the infamous gore film by Rob Zombie. As well as small clips from the film, there's both score and soundtrack on here, much of which was done by Rob Zombie of course. Most of the songs are pretty low key though, more spooky than heavy. And the few heavier songs are far too permeated by Rob going "yeeeaaaaahhhh!" and such. Probably good to put on a 3am when you're in the mood for spooky ghost story kinda music mixed with disco, punk and carnival thrown in, but otherwise nothing here to get too excited about.

Limb Splitter (2006, Split) 4 way split with Sect Of Execration, Godless Truth, Sarcolytic and Devourment, 2 songs each. First, Sect Of Execration is a pretty awesome band. They combine brutal gurgly death metal with a few symphonic elements. Overall the riffs are fantastic, I wish the band had a full length album out, but so far they've only managed to produce a few demos, so this Split EP is probably your best bet at listening to the band. Hope they record soon. The two tracks from Godless Truth are decent from a song perspective, but a little rough in terms of production. Sarcolytic are decent, but nothing that stands out too much. Generally in the Disgorge type of vein. Devourment provide a demo track that later got re-recorded for their "Unleash The Carnivore", and then a Cannibal Corpse cover song, 'The Pick-Axe Murders', which is actually kinda cool, it's rough around the edges, but they do some extra blasting and what not, they really do a good job making the song their own.

Live Death (1994, Compilation, Restless) Recorded at that year's Milwaukee Metalfest, this comp showcases several songs from each of the following bands: Suffocation, Malevolent Creation, Exhorder and Cancer. Unfortunately, the recording quality ain't all that great. While better than a bootleg, it's certainly not a sound board recording. So you get to hear lots of static, a lot of blurry notes, no bass and difficult to discern drumming. It's not horrible, you can still hear all the instruments relatively clearly, but the album is nothing to write home about, except maybe because of the cool cover art of some demon creature.

The Matrix Soundtrack (1999, Soundtrack, Maverick) Plenty 'o heavy techno here. There are some big names like Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie (with a 'Dragula' remix) and Rammstein, but I personally found some of the no-name bands to have more power overall (such as Meat Beat Manifesto and Lunatic Calm). While lots of metal overtones are present, the soundtrack tends to remain in the heavily electronic vein, so this is not a good buy unless you can get into well made hardcore techno music, catchy but a lot heavier than the crap they play at dance clubs. Excellent music for putting on in the background at 2am during a party, and you just want to let your body get lost in the beat.

The Matrix Reloaded (2003, Soundtrack, Maverick) Two cd set, the first is the usual soundtrack with popular music from various artists like Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Deftones, P.O.D., etc. I really like the Rob Zombie song on this album, it's not as ambient as his more recent stuff, it's much closer to his White Zombie days with a big heavy distorted guitar tone. The Deftones song isn't a new one, just something off their newest album. Even the P.O.D. song isn't too bad (in a nu-metal kinda way). A few decent instrumentals as well. The second disk is the score part, with music from Don Davis (The guy who did the first matrix's score), but mixed in several of the songs are some strong techno beats courteously of Juno Reactor. The two collaborate quite well, mixing strings and electronica into several strong musical themes that really complimented the visuals in the film. And they're great to listen to on their own. Worth getting for the score alone.

Necropolis Records / Pit Magazine Sampler 2 (1998, Compilation, Necropolis) A compilation of extreme metal available in Pit Magazine Issue 26. A variety of metal here: black, rock, death, symphonic and all sorts of stuff in between. A few big names (the biggest being Bolt Thrower and Meshuggah). As far as the smaller bands go, there are some nice ones here and there. Witchery does some good straight ahead death / thrash metal with high pitched vocals. Deathwitch does their best Entombed impression they can. Exhumed has a track of some of the most extreme grindcore I've heard in awhile, in a Dying Fetus vein, with really powerfully low gargled vocals. Vorak do some strange symphonic industrial dance computerized metal something or other which is certainly strange. And Substance D, who's style is really hard to explain, the song has this happy, bouncy feel to it, but at the same time, these guys are definitely pissed off. Anyways, I found it enjoyable. Other bands include Nocturnal Breed, Odhinn, Pentacle, Impaler, Ophthalamia, Noctuary, December Wolves, Ever Grey, Soilent Green, Acheron, St. Madness and Usurper, none of whom really made any major impression on me (sorry dudes).

Olympic 2004 Sampler (2004, Compilation, Olympic) 13 track sampler of current olympic artists. The first 10 songs are taken from previously released albums, so I won't really give you a review of each band since I've already done that elsewhere in this webzine. Lets just say the hotspots are definitely Unholy Ghost, Diabolic, Vital Remains, Immolation, Aborted, Divine Empire, Fleshgrind. Then there's 3 demos from Jungle Rot, Solitude Aeturnus, and a demo track from the new Internal Bleeding album due out later this year, which sounds like a pretty kick ass track (in demo form, with slightly muffled drums and overly distorted guitars). Also includes 2 video tracks from Immolation and Behemoth. If you've ever wondered what some of these bands sound like, and considering this sampler is usually free with a purchase of some other album, it's worth grabbing.

Requiems Of Revulsion: A Tribute To Carcass (2001, Tribute Compilation, Deathvomit Records) 18 tracks, a few big names. Regurgitate starts off the album with Genital Grinder, which is nice and thick but a little slow for my liking. Then Rotten Sound with 'Reek Of Putrefaction', who manage to retain a nice buzzsaw style guitar tone and nice consistent blasts. Nasum does 'Tools Of The Trade', and it's damn good, production quality almost as good as their "Human 2.0" album. The Exhumed song is a little bit muffled, but suitably fast. Come track 7, I can't even tell this is Disgorge doing a song. Oh wait, this is the Disgorge from Mexico, not the US one, my mistake. Somewhat noisy, not my thing. While not a huge fan of Vulgar Pigeon's rendition of 'Corporeal Jigsore Quandry', especially the low volume drum intro, at least they approach the song from a very different angle, a more straight forward slayeresque beat, and huge bass sound with vaguely hardcore screamed vocals, and suitably low gargled counterpart vocals. A few of the last tracks by Avulsed, Dead Infection and Regurgitate again, ending the cd as well as beginning, have some decent production and energy. In all honesty, one reason I picked up this compilation is to hear some of the noisier songs from Carcass's first albums redone with more modern production, but alas, it seems a more modern age, even a big name, doesn't guarantee a great mix. A fun CD, better than the Morbid Angel tribute I picked up, this has been a slow year for metal so you may wish to take a peak if you're dying to buy something.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Album (2003, Compilation, DRT Entertainment) Ok, so I really don't remember any of these songs from the film, but what the hell, a compilation of metal bands is never a bad thing to check into. To save time I'll just talk about the good stuff, or stuff of note. The album starts with a "previously unreleased" Pantera song, which is actually pretty groovy, although the song is basically one riff repeated over and over again. Still, a decent song for what it is. Then Hatebreed does a decent job at big pounding metal, skinlab style. The static-X song is ok, but sounds a little too much like an uninspired Korn (but hell, Korn's been pretty uninspired these past 4 years, so who can tell anymore). Then we have a few decent numetal type bands such as 40 Below Summer and Motorgrater, while they're nothing original, they pack a decent punch. Meshuggah lends the album a track from "Nothing". Then we have a remix of a new Fear Factory song, which involves a lot of singing and not too much aggression. But it's a remix, so hopefully when they have their new album out early next year we'll hear some true pissed-off-ness. Then we get a Morbid Angel song off of "heretic", see my review of that album for my opinion on that subject. Finger Eleven does some decent Slayer inspired thrash (with more death metally vocals). Sworn Enemy has some pretty simple riffs, but the vocalist does a great job screaming. 18 tracks, a lot of misses, but probably enough decent material to put on in the background while you're working. Just don't expect anything spectacular.

Tyrants From The Abyss: A Tribute To Morbid Angel (2002, Tribute Compilation, Necropolis Records) Taking a peak at the CD at the record store, it looked like it had some bigger name bands, so I figured what the heck. As with any tribute album, there's some great performances and some weaker performances. Zyklon's rendition of 'Dominate' is fantastic, imagine an army of guitars layered on top of one another, providing the song even more punch than the original. Vader does a decent version of Immortal Rites, but the production is a little fuzzy for the band, who are usually known for a crystal clear mix. The SoulReaper song has production somewhere between their last two albums, ie, somewhere between great and not as great. ExCommunion does a nice and slow version of "God Of Emptiness", really thick and menacing. The song by Diabolic ('Visions From The Darkside') is pretty cool, although it sounds very similar to the original (production and all). Divine Rapture does one of my favorite MA song, 'World Of Shit'. Other than some weird keyboard effect in the middle, it's pretty well done, I have always wanted to hear the song with top notch production however, and instead this comes off as somewhat muffled like the original. Krisiun's song sounds like it was recorded with a microphone 1000 feet from the band which is a shame. I don't know, I don't think there are enough good songs on here to really warrant listening to it numerous times.

Visceral Productions Compilation #1 (1995, Compilation, Visceral Productions) A sampling of american death metal and grindcore. What the bands all have in common are really detuned instruments and low guttural vocals. A mix of blastbeat oriented songs and slow, sick, plodding lets-see-just-how-low-our-guitars-can-be-tuned-down-without-losing-all-pitch doom epics. Nothing symphonic on this compilation, just angry, ugly sludge from all over the continent. Highlights include some early Cryptopsy, Horror of Horrors, Oppressor, and Dying Fetus. The recording quality of the other bands range from good to bad, nothing here is much better than a reasonable quality demo, but overall, the performances are pretty even.

WVR Cries Of The Unborn (1992, Compilation, West Virginia Records) Good quality comp of various brutal death bands. It includes multiple songs from Warpath, Holy Moses, Immortalis, Incubator, Jumpin Jesus, Polluted Inheritance, Dead Serious, and Dosenmontag. In general, a really angry album, with lots of speed, crushing riffs, and good bassy production. A few songs are really worth it, and many of the songs are b-sides or demos that aren't available elsewhere, so get this album if you like any of these bands.

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