While I’m dragging my feet on putting together my review for year’s most highly-anticipated (or dreaded) metal album, Ghost’s Prequelle, here’s a whole bunch of other review that I’ve been sitting on.
ALIEN WEAPONRY – TU
The band du jour of Sirius XM’s Liquid Metal station, Alien Weaponry is a trio of New Zealand teenagers who play what is consistently referred to as “Thrash” despite their sound not being thrash at all. The band stands out for their vocals being in a mix of English and something called Te Reo Maori, an apparently near-extinct Maori language. So that’s all well and cool. Still not thrash, but cool.
But if that neat little feature isn’t enough to sell you on giving the band a chance, their music should be more than enough to seal the deal. The band throws out infectious grooves and memorable riffs on nearly every track, with just enough melody to make the choruses, even the ones in the almost-dead New Zealand dialect, stick in your head for days. I could barely dress myself for most of my teenage years, and these kids are putting out one of the most impressive metal debuts of 2018 before hitting 20. All while living in a remote corner of the world mostly known for Lord of the Rings and sheep.
Because it’s their debut, and because these guys put out such an impressive record at such a young age, I’m willing to forgive them for some of the blemishes on Tu. The English lyrics can be a bit cringe worthy, although another site I read correctly asserted that it’s because it sounds like they were written by teenagers…which of course, they were. And the record is probably five tracks to long, with some of the weaker tracks (I’m looking your way, “Nobody Here”) detracting from the overall quality of the album.
That being said, Tu is a blast to listen to, with “Kai Tangata” finding itself near the head of line for song and video of 2018. Alien Weaponry have put themselves firmly on the map with this album, and I already can’t wait to see what comes next.
“Ru Ana Te Whenua”, “Kai Tangata”
AMORPHIS – QUEEN OF TIME
I’ve never really been able to embrace Folk Metal, but dammit, Amorphis know how to do it better than anyone else. I had to give Queen of Time a shot after the title track from 2015’s Under the Red Cloud nearly took my Song of 2015 title (finishing in a very close 2nd to Cattle Decapitation’s “Manufactured Extinct”).
While there are no tracks on Queen of Time that remotely compare to “Under the Red Cloud”, this album is about as good a full-fledged folk metal album as there can be. Even with all of the flutes, and mystic imagery, and medieval melodies, Queen of Time never feels over the top, always balancing out the folksiness with plenty of legit heaviness. I never dove deep enough into their last album, but I get a sense that there’s quite a bit more screaming on Queen of Time than the band has used previously, and they do it to great success.
Even with the lack of a standout track (and “The Bee” and “Wrong Direction” are both still pretty great), Queen of Time is a fun listen if you don’t mind a heavy dose of folk to go along with your metal.
“Wrong Direction”, “The Golden Elk”
AT THE GATES – TO DRINK FROM THE NIGHT ITSELF
Expecting At the Gates to follow up their triumphant return (2015’s At War with Reality, my favorite record that year) with an equally impressive album was probably too much to expect, especially with the departure of guitarist/songwriter Anders Bjorler last year. To Drink from the Night Itself is actually quite an impressive record considering that At the Gates has been putting out music since the early 90’s and is still only a few years removed from taking a nearly two-decade break from recording.
While To Drink from the Night Itself doesn’t have the wall-to-wall consistency of At War with Reality, the first five songs on the record hold up against the rest of the group’s storied catalog. The title track is the high mark of the album, featuring the most memorable chorus and guitar work, but “A Star Bound in Stone”, “Palace of Lepers”, and “Daggers of Black Haze” all pack a heavy punch. While the second half of the record doesn’t hold up to the first half, even less-than-stellar At the Gates is still At the Gates. These guys are one of the defining melodic death metal bands of this generation for a reason, and To Drink from the Night Itself does nothing to weaken that standing.
“To Drink from the Night Itself”, “A Stare Bound in Stone”
BLEEDING THROUGH – LOVE WILL KILL ALL
Having just barely made it through the breaking up and reunion of Bleeding Through (kidding, I had no idea they had ceased to be until I heard about them reuniting), I was literally brimming with excitement (or, more accurately, apathy) for Love Will Kill All, the band’s first record since 2012. After all, they were halfway decent when I saw them open up for Slayer and Marilyn Manson, and “Kill to Believe” was a pretty sweet song, so I figured I’d give them a chance.
While I’m sure the band has matured emotionally and physically during their time apart, their sound sure as hell hasn’t. Love Will Kill All sounds like quintessential 2000’s metalcore, with melodramatic lyrics, good cop-bad cop vocals, and even some gothic keyboards thrown in to add some atmosphere. And you know what? It’s not terrible! If you became a metal fan during this time period (like yours truly), you have to admit that you’ve loved scores of bands that sounded just like these guys do (if you’re in your 30’s and never loved Atreyu, or From Autumn to Ashes, or Underoath, then you’re a fucking liar). For what Bleeding Through are trying to accomplish (which is the exact same thing they were trying to do 15 years ago), they do a decent enough job on Love Will Kill All.
My one complaint, and it’s a HUGE complaint, are the aforementioned gothic keyboards, which detract from each and every song on the album. I’m sure they were thrown in to try and give the band a defining atmosphere that set them apart from the rest of the aging metalcore bands out there, but it just flat-out doesn’t work.
Look past the keyboards (and I’m not going to lie, it’s real tough to do), and you’re left with a run-of-mill 2000’s metalcore record that is coming out a decade too late. Worth a listen, but probably no more than that.
“Fade Into the Ash”, “Set Me Free”
BURN THE PRIEST – LEGION: XX
For those of you who aren’t in the know (and if that’s you, have you been living under a rock?), Burn the Priest was the original name of Lamb of God. I can only assume they changed the moniker at the urging of Wal-Mart and other good Christian chain stores that felt less-than-enthusiastic about carrying their records. But for a nice little treat for their fans, LOG have returned to their Burn the Priest roots to release a covers album, featuring the band’s take on a whole bunch of hardcore and punk tracks. Covered bands include Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Bad Brains, The Melvins, Ministry, and more.
While I’m not lame enough to have never heard of some of the bands that Burn the Priest cover here, I AM lame enough to have never heard a single one of the original tracks before. Glass half empty: I’m not cool enough to know a single track that BTP/LOG that were awesome enough to be immortalized on their covers album. Glass half full: an album of covers isn’t really a cover album when you don’t know the source material. So technically, this album is actually a new Lamb of God album for me, which is awesome!
Burn the Priest lean pretty heavily into their earlier stylings on the record, and are mostly awesome at doing it. “Inherit the Earth”, “Kerosene”, “I Against I” and “Jesus Built my Hotrod” are the stars of the record, and the band (likely due to the varied nature of the original songs) don’t bog themselves down in a single sound on the album. Sure, it may not be QUITE as good as a new Lamb of God record, but it’s pretty damn close.
“Inherit the Earth”, “Kerosene”