Monday, December 28, 2009

"The Gamut" - it's cold in here!!!

Forgot to post this last night, so I figured I'd just post this so the blog is consistent w/ the rest of the entries regarding my radio show :)

Tonight is all about the ice, snow, cold, winter, and frozen nature of the season of winter! Of course, it's not snowy & cold everywhere, but here where I'm broadcasting from, it's definitely winter! Of course, black metal is rife with winter/snow/cold/ice imagery, but plenty of other genres & styles of music use these things as imagery and allusion in their music as well, so I decided to pull out loads of stuff from my playlist that has something to do, in theme or simply in title, with the coldest season - namely, winter! So enjoy this music from the warmth of your home, and listen to the sounds of ice & snow!

Okay, here's the playlist!!!

O Majestic Winter - The Battle For Frostvale (Black Metal)
7days - The Darkest Winter (Progressive Metal)
Besieged - A Cold Winter Kiss (Metalcore)
Crooked Smile - Winter in My Soul (Modern Rock)
NeverDead - Frost (Symphonic Death Metal)
Hguols - ...of Winter Moos (Instrumental Black Metal)
Joy Electric - Victorian Intuition/Father Winter Replies (Synthpop)
The Seventy Sevens - Indian Winter (Alternative Rock)
Nodes of Ranvier - Cold Fingers (Melodic Metalcore)
Virgin Black - In Winters Ash (Doom Death Metal)
Immortal Souls - Divine Wintertime (Melodic Death Metal)
Immortal Souls - Winterheart (Melodic Death Metal)
Immortal Souls - Everwinter (Melodic Death Metal)
Immortal Souls - Nightfrost (Melodic Death Metal)
Immortal Souls - Icon Of Ice (Melodic Death Metal)
Immortal Souls - Wintereich (Melodic Death Metal)
globalwavesystem - Soul Like Ice (Industrial)
Rose - Cold Blue Hill (Alternative Rock)
Rocketboy - Cool (Alternative Rock)
Sweet Comfort Band - Breakin' the Ice (Classic Rock)
RedSea - Last Days of Winter (Bluesy Hard Rock/Ballad)
Eisley - The Winter Song (Female-fronted Indie Rock)
Flaskavsae - His Final Winter (Black Metal)
Counting the Days - Cold Nights and Weary Heads (Hardcore)
Crashdog - The Cold Within (Punk)
Crimson Moonlight - The Cold Grip of Terror (Black Metal)
Frost Like Ashes - Nightfall's Cold Kiss (Black Metal)
Jesus Wept - Cold Weather (Hardcore)
Rehumanize - Lukewarm and Getting Colder (Grindcore)
Step Cousin - Cold (Thrash Metal)
Sacrificium - Cold Black Piece of Flesh (Death Metal)
Seventh Star - Coldest Day (Hardcore)
This Very Day - Growing Cold (Metalcore)
W. - Caravans To Cold Void Communion (Grindcore)
Silage - Blue Igloo Cooler (Punk/Ska)
Poor Old Lu - A Snowfallen Desert (Alternative Rock)
HB - Frozen Inside (Female-fronted Melodic Metal)
Vardoger - Whitefrozen (Black Metal)

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Alternate links to listen to the stream in a separate player:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"The Gamut" - one year anniversary special!!!

Tonight is a special episode - this marks 1 year that "The Gamut" has been on the air! That's right, it has gone by so fast, but the show has been live & on the virtual internet airwaves for 1 year today (technically tomorrow, but...)! In celebration of this Herculean feat of broadcasting (lol) I present to you the same playlist as was used in the very 1st episode! I hand-picked each of these songs as both old favorites, and songs that I was really digging on at the time (current favorites as of a year ago), and looking back through this playlist, I can see what a great selection the 1st episode had! I hope you all enjoy it, and for those that missed out on the inistial broadcast, here's your chance to hear a piece of "Gamut" history!

Okay, here's the playlist, straight from the inaugural broadcast!

Tourniquet - Spectrophobic Dementia (Progressive Thrash Metal)
Jerusalem - Dancing on the Head of the Serpent (Classic Metal)
Angel 7 - Power of Belief and Love (Black/Death/Power Metal hybrid)
Angelica - Keep Pushin' On (Commercial Metal)
Guardian - Saints Battalion (Classic Metal)
Grave Robber - Burn Witch, Burn (7" version) (Horror Punk)
Mankind - Alpha (Doomy Hardcore)
Mortification - Grind Planetarium (Progressive Death Metal)
Leviticus - I Shall Conquer (Classic Metal)
Six Feet Deep - Front (Hardcore)
Spot - One of Hazy Days (Alternative Rock)
Staple - Rise of the Robots (Post-Hardcore)
Joy Electric - Burgundy Years (Synthpop)
Stavesacre - Threshold (Modern Heavy Rock)
subseven - Free to Conquer (Emo/Modern Rock)
Sweet Comfort Band - Runnin' to Win (80's Rock)
One Bad Pig - I Scream Sunday (Punk)
Our Fathers Were Blind - Banner Bedsheets (Emo/Post-Hardcore)
Plague of Ethyls - Weasel (Female-fronted Alternative/Grunge)
The Prayer Chain - Sky High (Dreamy Alternative Rock)
Extol - Reflections of a Broken Soul (Progressive Death/Black Metal)
Whitecross - Down (Classic Metal)
Focal Point - Broken Bonds (Metallic Hardcore)
For Today - Infantry (Technical Metalcore)
The Way - Do You Feel the Change? (Jesus Rock)
Vengeance Rising - Fatal Delay (Thrash Metal)
Uthanda - Shadow Play (Alternative Rock)
Asher (CA) - Exhortation (Female-fronted Melodic Metal)
DivineFire - Live or Die (Power Metal)
Eloi - Looking Christian (Groove Metal)
Embodyment - Religious Infamy (Deathcore/Death Metal)
Eternal Mystery - Eyes Torn From the Sockets (Grindcore)
Jetenderpaul - Seapoon's Kasket (Indie Rock)
Fear Not - Mr. Compromise (Hard Rock/Metal)
xDisciplex A.D. - Christ Shaped Vacuum (Hardcore)
X-Propagation - Cyber Nation (Industrial)
GeistkrieG - Spiral of War (Experimental Black Metal)
Haven - Divination (Power/Thrash Metal)
Deliverance - Bought By Blood (Thrash Metal)
Demon Hunter - Turn Your Back and Run (Metalcore)

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Alternate links to listen to the stream in a separate player:

Monday, December 7, 2009

"The Gamut" - tonight's playlist!

Okay, the show may not have happened because of a major PC failure last night, but thankfully the laptop comes through in the clutch! Hopefully in the next few weeks I'll have a new, custom-built PC to do the show from and won't have these worries any more :P

Listen to tonight's show for a CD giveaway - "War" by Elgibbor! This is killer Black Metal by Fire, also of the classic group Fire Throne! Don't miss out on your chance to own Fire's best work yet, dominated by fierce songs, some great atmospherics, and lots of interesting guitar work. This is a brand new, still-sealed copy, ready to be shipped out to one lucky winner this week!

Tonight's playlist!!!

Paramaecium - The Killing (Doom Death Metal)
Recon - Dreams (Classic Metal)
Sincerely Paul - Bare My Soul (Gothic Rock)
Ken Tamplin - When the Clock Runs Down (Commercial Metal/Hard Rock)
X-Propagation - Unity (Industrial)
Joy Electric - Buttercup Fairy Jamboree (Synthpop)
Xinr - All Hallow's Eve (Classic Metal)
Decision D - Criticize (Technical Thrash Metal)
Plumb - Willow Tree (Female-fronted Alternative/Rock)
Last Chapter - In the Wake of Delusion (Doom Metal)
Nodes of Ranvier - A Clean Head and a Clear Conscience (Metalcore)
Royal Anguish - One Last Time (Symphonic Extreme Metal)
Switchfoot - Ammunition (Modern Rock)
Sympathy - Ours the Grave (Technical Death Metal)
Means - Connected (Melodic Hardcore)
Desire of Pain - Destroy the Madness (Progressive Death Metal)
Elbiggor - The Dead Are Judged (Black Metal) - CD Giveaway!!!
Whitecross - High Gear (Commercial Metal/Hard Rock)
Scourged Flesh - Wait For the Other Side (Death Metal)
Purge - Wall (Groove Metal)
Lust Control - Leavy Amy Alone (Punk)
Jetenderpaul - Bonaventure (A Prototype) (Indie Rock)
The Crucified - The Pit (Crossover/Hardcore)
Die Happy - Painted Truth (Metal)
I, Sleepwalker - These Colors Don't Run (Southern Hardcore/Rock)
Benea Reach - Purge (Sludgy Metalcore)
Sometime Sunday - Lie (Grunge)
Neocracy - In the Dark (Modern Extreme Metal)
Feast Eternal - An Ember In Ashes (Death Metal)
Nouveaux - Red, White, Black & Blue (AOR/Had Rock)
Aleixa - Only Roses (Female-fronted Techno Rock)
Stand Your Ground - The Prodigal Cycle (Melodic Hardcore)
Kekal - A Gathering of Angs (Avant-Garde Metal)
Visual Cliff - Beneath the Sand (Progressive Hard Rock)
Dogwood - Mycro (Punk/Alternative)
A Hope For Home - Iniquity: An Offering (Melodic Hardcore)
Zoo Babies - P.S. Goodbye (Grunge/Alternative)
Common Children - Indiscreet (Alternative)
The Showdown - Aphrodite: The Disillusionaire (Thrash/Metalcore)

Don't forget, you can tune in easily at the BlabberBoard via & use the convenient flash player on the front page. Or, click the "Now Playing" link to open in another media player (Winamp, Real Player, VLC, and more!). Sign up at the BlabberBoard to use the chatbox on the front page & chat with me & other listeners during the show!

Alternate links to listen to the stream in a separate player:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It seems that the "LEGO Music Video" phenomenon, originally perpetuated by Monty Python with the DVD release of "Quest For the Holy Grail" has taken off recently, with everything from Metallica to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" having been done in LEGO style. Now someone has done Skillet's "Monster" from their latest album:

Here's POD's "Youth of the Nation":

Jars of Clay - "Crazy Times":

Austrian Death Machine - "Get To the Choppa":


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hguols - Epitome (2009)

I like music that is "out of bounds". Material that does its own thing, without regard to convention or the usually arbitrary "rules" of a defined genre. I applaud artists that think outside the box & experiment with their music, even if sometimes it's not all I hoped it might be based upon the experiment. Thus, any time I am introduced to an artist doing something unique or taking an unconventional approach, I flock to their material to check it out & get a bead on this approach, at the very least. Such is the case with Hguols.

Hguols, the reverse of the word "slough", is also pronounced in reverse, or "fulse". With an unconventional name comes an unconventional approach. This is black metal, but there are no guitars. "How can that be?" you immediately say. Well, this is metal played on MIDI. All the instrumentation here is done via the computer and all the instruments are virtual. So while the guitars may not buzz with the same raw energy that a real guitar does, or the music may have a certain "sheen" that most underground black metal lacks, this approach lends itself to the more symphonic & experimental side of the genre, which is generally what I prefer. In any event, this is an instrumental affair, and an interesting one at that.

Opening track "...of Resurrections" begins with a "choir" and symphonic intro, with a touch of piano in the background, that I wish was a bit higher in the mix. From then on, nearly the entire track is an aural assault with some variation & interesting things going on in the background, including some subtle choir and keyboard work, and a few things with the drums & cymbals that are rhythmically different from what is done on the CD elsewhere. "...of Unprecedented Deaths" has a slight guitar intro, followed by what can only be described as a short drum solo, or at least as close to a drum solo as one can come in such a short span of time, via MIDI instrumentation. Otherwise, the song blazes ahead at full speed with blast beats, rolls, fast riffing, and lots of little cymbal crashes here & there. Of course, the harpsichord makes an appearance here and there for very brief respite moments before the song goes on assaulting the listener. There are nice symphonic touches present here & there, buried a tad in the mix so they don't overpower the song. This song has a really cool moment toward the end where the guitars scale down for a really interesting effect not present anywhere else on the album. "...of Threnodies Abided" is probably my favorite track on the album, having a nice dark, minor-chord approach to the riffs, a fair bit of symphonics going on, and some nice harpsichord and keyboard work throughout that just gives the song a very "layered" feel to it. There are also a couple cool stop-start moments here that break up the fast riffing monotony & draw the listener in a bit more. The harpsichord solo as the song begins to draw to a close is nice, complete with choir backing and showcasing a symphonic feel in much of the latter half. "...of Burning Plagues" begins much differently, with a symphonic intro that has several layers of "instruments" prior to the fast black metal assault that takes place. The music becomes even more intense here than in the previous track, mostly due to the constant thump of the double-bass drums and the heavy use of cymbal crashes throughout. This track barely lets up, choosing to obliterate everything in its path, at least until the last 45 seconds comes in & reprises the symphonic intro, which is a nice touch. "...of Sovereign Toccatas" has more of the great MIDI harpsichord sound, including a couple spots where only the harpsichord is playing & really shines, in part because the harpsichord parts not only sound like a real harpsichord is playing, but also because they're written like harpsichord bits you hear in classical music. The harpsichord runs here are also great, because they focus on some non-traditional instrumentation for black metal, which adds a nice unique layer to this song. This track is also fairly melodic, with some subtle piano work in the mix as well.

"...of Winter Moons" begins almost immediatley in full-speed fashion, with fast drum rhythms, riffing, and symphonic elements adding the extra layer underneath. Things change up a bit to a slower overall drum rhythm to keep things interesting, then speed up again to further assault the listener with a healthy dose of traditional black metal rhythmic drive & power. "...of Famine and Decay" has a cool, almost cello-like sound in its intro, and a much lower-key vibe to it, though still fast & furious. The drum work, though programmed, is nicely done, with a lot of layering of cymbals, tom rolls, and just little bits here & there that really showcase good drum composition. The symphonic outro of this track is also cool, though short. "...of Sorrowed Hearts" begins strictly with MIDI guitar, then some drum work bringing the track into full pummel-mode. Plenty of keyboard backdrop to accompany the assault, and more well-programmed drums to keep up the frenetic pace. The primary riffs here have an interesting effect because it's a MIDI sound, and has a unique feel to it because of that fact. The ringing outro is a nice touch here as well. "...of Blackened Skies" wastes no time, and immediately begins pummeling the listener with its MIDI double bass, guitar, bass, cymbals, and keyboard sounds. Right off the bat, though you can tell these are not real instruments playing, some of it sounds relatively real, such as the drums, keyboard sounds, and the cymbals. There's a nice symphonic break about a minute and a half in that uses the MIDI "choir" sound effectively, and some good drum rolls, then blows back into the blast beats and fast riffing. "...of Eternity" immediately starts in with a fairly dark melodic riff, complete with pummeling drums & bass. The "choir" effect adds a nice layer as well here & there, giving the music a more "full" feel to it. The sudden stop nearly a minute and a half in for a short harpsichord interlude is great, then shifts to a symphonic piece with timpani, keyboards, and atmospherics that barely prepare you for the full-speed attack that ensues.

One thing that the MIDI format provides that a lot of real underground black metal lacks is clarity. Indeed, you can make out the melody here much more clearly than you can in much raw, under-produced black metal. Even when the melodic element is much more sparse or dissonant, it's still easily discernible. This gives Hguols a unique opportunity to do some very interesting & unique things, as well as exploring some of the riffing conventions of the black metal style, while giving the untrained metal ear perhaps their first taste of some of those conventions in a manner that they may be more apt to decipher.
The ride cymbals here, and for the most part, the high-hat work actually sounds fairly realistic, and the snare & tom work sounds much like triggered drums in the studio, so whatever MIDI set Tom is using here is definitely a winner from a drumming perspective. What I found as a listener is that this is much more dense than most MIDI compositions, so a patient listener will get much more out of this upon several listens, rather than expecting to simply be immediatley rewarded.

What the MIDI format lacks, obviously, is true guitar heaviness or bite. This is apparent throughout the listening experience, however, it doesn't completely detract from the album. In some ways, it fully embodies a black metal aesthetic, as the MIDI format has little or no ability to be "warm" like guitar tones can sometimes be, so it retains that "cold" feeling that much raw black metal strives for. That is probably the greatest strength of the MIDI guitar here, that it has a "colder" feel to it. The biggest drawback of this format is that all of the riffs feel like they're played at the same speed. This is necessary, in some ways, to generate the overall effect of listening to a distorted guitar, because without that constant motion, the MIDI guitar sound becomes a bit too sterile, lacking the power that a real guitar boasts. This limitation of the format is overcome, somewhat, by the interesting use of very minor chord melodies that help detract from the synthesized feel of the guitar. Because of the nature of the riffs here simulating the tremolo picking as well, the riffing is somewhat repetitive & the songs suffer slightly because of it. If there were more instances of slowed down bits, or areas where some songs could "breathe" more, it would create more interest. The other obvious thing missing is vocals. While I understand the concept of all MIDI for ease of recording, I do think this stuff would be great with some shrieks or rasps over top of it all. However, this is a minor complaint and not a deal-breaker.

Ultimately, this is a mixed bag that is mostly very good. I think perhaps Thomas (the sole member of Hguols) should either consider finding a more varied MIDI instrument set, perhaps with a more realistic distorted/metal guitar sound that he can tweak for maximum effect, or perhaps consider moving from the MIDI format to the MOD format, in which many MOD tracker software programs can more accurately capture the feel of a real instrument. Indeed, many Commodore Amiga games in the 90's had soundtracks that are still highly lauded today, because the MOD format allowed for much more expansive soundscapes than what the Microsoft Windows MIDI format could produce. There are a number of games, as well as individual MOD compositions that have a more realistic distorted guitar sound, to give more of a heavy rock/metal feel. Of course, this could also be seen as a detriment to the sound of Hgouls, considering the "cold" and "distant" feeling that black metal is designed to evoke. Either way, I think an expanded instrumental palate on the next release would be in order, so as not to overdo the formula too quickly. All in all, much like the a capella metal band Van Canto, this is a very unique, interesting, and listenable project. I look forward to what Thomas does in the future with this project, because I think this CD shows he has the capability to produce something very unique, interesting, and engaging. Recommended for anyone into black metal that enjoys, or perhaps prefers the non-traditional diversions of the genre, rather than for genre purists who prefer nothing but straight-up, old-school black metal with no frills.


Video review:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"The Gamut" - tonight's playlist!

Listen to tonight's show for a CD giveaway - "Aggressive Angel" by Heaven's Force! This is classic thrash metal, ala early Slayer, that is the earliest-known thrash with lyrics based upon Christian themes. These 2 demos, recorded in 1983 and 1984 have never been widely available until now, in this limited edition digipak of 500 copies! Don't pass up your chance to own this piece of history, make sure to listen in & enter for your chance to win!

Tonight's playlist!!!

Say Your Prayers - Sunrise (Metalcore) - Gamut premier!!!
Thy Pain - The Repulsive Cries of Temptation (Melodic Death Metal)
Circle of Dust - Refractor (Industrial)
Velocipede - I Catch My Breath I Let It Go (Grunge/Alternative)
Hero - Gasoline (Melodic Metal)
Undercover - Dark Night (Alternative Rock)
Pistis In Him Alone - Lost Standard (Melodic Hardcore)
Michael Knott - Transistor Sister (Acoustic/Alternative Rock)
War of Ages - All Consuming Fire (Metalcore)
Renascent - Sustain Me (Melodic Death Metal)
Blindside - Coming Back to Life (Modern Heavy Rock)
Silage - Great Alaskan Ninja (Modern Rock)
GlobalWaveSystem - Dissent (Industrial)
Darkness Before Dawn - Undeserved Hatred (Melodic Death Metal)
The Devil Wears Prada - Modeify the Pronunciation (Metalcore)
Hguols - ...of Threnodies Abided (Experimental Black Metal) - Gamut premier!
Aleixa - I'm So Scared (Female-fronted Techno Rock)
Becoming the Archetype - How Great Thou Art (Progressive Death Metal)
Outlander - Voices (Progressive Metal)
Eloi - Great God Complex (Groove Metal)
The Deal - The Great Deception (Punk)
Waterstain - Sting (Grunge)
Joy Electric - We Are Rock (Synthpop)
Wedding Party - Omega (Gothic Metal)
xLooking Forwardx - Not For Sale (Hardcore Punk)
Blushing Well - Rescue (Grunge/Alternative)
Stryper - The Writings on the Wall (Classic Metal)
Torman Maxt - Flowers (Progressive Metal)
Divinefire - Passion and Fire (Power Metal)
House of Wires - Luxury (Synthpop)
Dirge For Today - There Are Flowers On Your Grave (Dark Acoustic Rock)
King James - A Vision (Metal)
Disciple - Not Since Breakfast (Groove Metal)
Heaven's Force - Aggressive Angel (Thrash Metal) - CD Giveaway!!!
Grave Robber - Screams of the Voiceless (Horror Punk)
Borgazur - Remove Your Highness (Black Metal)
POD - Thinking About Forever (Rapcore/Ballad)
Killed By Cain - Father (Metal)
Wigtop - Higher (Industrial)
Petra - Defector (Hard/Arena Rock)
The Prayer Chain - Follow Me (Alternative Rock)
No Innocent Victim - Bring Them Back (Hardcore)

Don't forget, you can tune in easily at the BlabberBoard via
& use the convenient flash player on the front page. Or, click the "Now Playing"
link to open in another media player (Winamp, Real Player, VLC, and more!). Sign up at the BlabberBoard to use the chatbox on the front page & chat with me & other listeners during the show!

Alternate links to listen to the stream in a separate player:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Post Mortum - Rise Above Ruin (2009)

It is said that adversity builds character. There are numerous historical figures that have made mention of this fact, and many famous quotes that speak of hardships being key to developing oneself from just an average person to someone of greatness. Indeed, overcoming tragedy, loss, personal struggles, and difficulties within life is central to the life of a Christian - without having the temptations to avoid, the hard times to work through, and the negative situations to overcome, we would have no way of truly growing. Thus, believers in Christ can look forward to lives long & full of adversity.

So what happens when the adversity is so great that it looks like it might sink you? Swim, of course! That's what Post Mortum did. They had recorded a high quality album and released it in 2007 under the moniker "Road Ahead". The band seemed to have a bright future, when tragedy struck. Or should I say, tragedies. They lost their front-man, had family deaths to deal with, and had a major accident w/ their trailer that left them with few of the things they needed to tour with. Rather than throwing in the towel, they persevered. Meanwhile, their label dropped them like a hot rock, washing their hands of the situation. So the band had to scrape, but they finished the tour & went home with heads held high. Then, they went back in the studio & re-recorded "Road Ahead", redid a couple things, dropped a couple songs & added a new one, changed the track order, and we have "Rise Above Ruin" - a fitting title, considering all the struggle they had to go through in early 2008.

So what does Post Mortum sound like? That's a difficult question to answer. If I had to tack a genre description to their sound, I'd say "Progresive Nu-Metal". While that might make some look at their computer screens sideways, or others to immediately stop reading, I must say it goes deeper than that. This band has a unique approach that combines the heaviness of metalcore and nu-metal with a melodic sensibility & modern rock approach that gives the vocalist the ability to shine on more than one front. Add to that the fact that the music is laced with violin, and you get something pretty interesting & unique. Even for someone who generally despises music with the "Nu-Metal" moniker, I'd urge them not to judge the book by it's cover, or in this case, it's descriptor. Post Mortum has enough originality & skill to stand out from the pack.

"Intro" is the obligatory introductory track, complete with ambient "outdoor noise", echoed violin, and atmospherics to set the somber mood. One almost expects the ensuing album to be a wholly different affair than what comes, given the approach taken with the intro. "Drip" is where things really kick off, with its catchy chorus, heavy riffs, growled verse vocals, and melodic violin lines. "Fire" takes a very melodic approach, with nice voilin accents, sung vocals, and a cool guitar effect that is a combination of a clean phased sound, with a slight echo in the mix. There's also some layering of the clean & growled vocals, which sounds cool in the bridge, as well as a simple, but effective solo toward the end. "Dysfunction" begins with some tom hits and clean guitar, but quickly blows into the heaviness. The clean vocals sound like they're double-tracked in the chorus, which is a cool effect. The violin in this song seems at times like an afterthought, but after multiple listens, makes perfect sense in the context of the melody, acting as a nice counterbalance. The bridge has a nice build to a heavy section with growled vocals, double-bass, thick guitar, and a brief violin solo. "Still Alive" is a somber, melodic affair, complete with whispery vocals and clean guitar, as well as the violin adding a nice melodic touch. The chorus heavy's things up with another layering of clean & growled vocal, giving a nice contrast between verse & chorus. The bridge has a cool effect that shows the violinist doing the fast, ascending sound that mirrors what Satan supposedly played in The Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", which was a nice touch. "Rose" wastes no time in making it heavy from the get-go, with nice voilin accents and heavy riffing. Even the slightly muted verse still has plenty of crunch in the riffing. Double-tracked chorus vocals have a very melodic sound that makes it quite catchy.

"Heart Sight" begins with a riff that immediately evokes the nu-metal sound, but the massive groove here is undeniable. I like the slightly echoed clean guitar in the verse, with the bass and drums providing just enough to complement. The chorus is a heavy affair, with layered vocals, an underlying growled vocal, and a catchy hook. Violin is suspicously missing in this song, though listening to it, it's hard to know what it might have added. "One Regret" is the new track here that wasn't on "Road Ahead", and it's an affecting power ballad. Great violin work complements the clean guitar, the emotive vocal, and the overall feel of the piece. Things get heavier in the chorus, but don't sacrifice melody - rather, the chorus is hooky and has a stop-start dynamic that just makes it more memorable. "Snap" has a nice "rollercoaster" riff to it, that goes up and down as it's picked out. Layered vocals work well here, with clean vocals taking precedence, then a growled vocal takes over, then back to an equal-footing layer in the chorus. I like the chording they use in the chorus, it has a nice feel to it and breaks up the power-chord monotony a bit. The bridge gives a bit more of the nu-metal flavor of slightly rapped vocals, but overall the song is a very melodic affair, despite the heaviness in the riffing. "Goodness Gracious" starts abruptly, immediately pounding the listener with growled vocal & heavy guitar, then immediately transitions to clean guitar & vocals. The chorus combines the clean vocals & growls effectively with heavier riffing, but once again retaining the melodic element. Again, violin is absent from this song, like "Snap" before it. However, despite the presence being missed, the song is strong with it's melodic vocal hook in the chorus, and catchy riff. The slowed down heavy riffing toward the end is a nice touch as well. "Burning Tears" has a bit of an unconventional melody in the verses, though the chorus brings a catchy riff into the mix with a mixture of stacatto-delivery growled vocal, and a highly melodic sung vocal that keeps pace with the riffing. "Kill the 666" is the heaviest thing on the album, saving the most bone-crushing part of the album for the end. There's an interesting effect of multiple growled vocal tracks layered in to create a cool effect. There are no clean sung vocals on this track, only growls and rasps delivering the lyrics. There is a bit of a rhythmic vocal delivery that reminds one of faster hip-hop, but not so much that you'd accuse this of being rapcore. About half-way through, things slow down for some spoken-word layered vocals combining with growled & rasped vocals for more of the effect like at the beginning of the song, but much more pronounced. The song ends on a heavy note, with a slowed down riff and a loudly shouted vocal proclaiming "Kill the 666!", with a brief pinch harmonic to bring things to a close.

This is an interesting album, one that I believe the band has worked very hard on. I do think that it is an improvement over "Road Ahead" in many areas: it sounds better, has cleaner vocals, a better, beefier guitar sound, better layering and insertion of the violin, and overall better production. There are some areas that could improve, however. I'd like to see more extensive use of the violin, as I think in the 2nd half of the album, the instrument becomes little more an after-thought. Also, I think that the guitarist has command of his instrument, but with the undercurrent of southern rock influence that shines through, there are no guitar solos. This isn't a major complaint, only a "wish list" kind of thing. I do wish Todd had flexed his 6-string a bit more to bring out more of that vibe. That said, this is still a quality album. I have major respect for these guys for soldiering on after such a crushing defeat, and for that they have earned this review. Let's hope that we haven't heard the last of Post Mortum, because their next CD could be massive. Recommended.


Video Review:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kinetic Element - Powered By Light (2009)

"Retro is the new black." I'm convinced that the whole "retro" movement is quickly becoming the most acceptable form of any medium. Granted, there's always a bit of generational look-back. In fashion, there's usually a 20-30 year cycle - the 80's often reflected late 50's, early 60's styles & clothing, and likewise the 90's reflected much of the late 60's & early 70's (the grunge/alternative penchant for hippie politics & simple living). So when bands jump on the "retro" bandwagon, the collective response will either be a groan of "here we go again", or a welcome smile, knowing that proper distillation of said retro influences is going to come across as fresh without being contrived.

Thankfully for this trio, it's the latter. Kinetic Element wears most of their influences on their collective sleeve, to be sure, but they do so in such a way that it's not just a rehashing of what's been done. Rather, they assimilate varying influences from progressive & art rock over a 3-decade span (largely pulling from the mid-70's) and put their own stamp on it by injecting it all with a high dose of listenability & class. In addition, they don't really sound like a clone of anyone else, though having a large melting pot of influences to draw from, so that helps them sound fresh, despite their "retro-pastiche" kind of feel.

"Riding In Time" starts out with a decidedly 80's neo-prog influenced keyboard intro, very spacey in its approach. However, the song quickly transforms into a very 70's prog rock affair, with other influences showing up here & there (Mike's usage of the piano, for instance). "The Ascent", on the other hand, begins with a decidedly different intro, with sparing use of drums, bass, and bombast, then quickly transitions into a very 70's organ-rich prog rock affair. Mike's use of varying keyboard sounds that span multiple decades & genres makes this song an interesting combination of different prog rock approaches. "Now and Forever" has a much more neo-prog sound overall, thoguh it does have some pieces that hearken back to the mid-70's. It's approach uses a more distorted guitar, more "modern" keyboard sounds, and a slightly more straight-ahead approach that lends itself to the leaner sound of early 80's progressive rock. There's some great solo work here from guitarist Todd Russell, and great drumming by Michael Murray. Basswork by Tony D'Amato is great as well, showing that the bass guitar is truly an instrument, and not just part of the rhythm section. "Peace of Mind, Peace of Heart" begins with a much more somber intro, remeniscent of a cross between Pink Floyd and some random 80's prog rock band. The song transitions into various movements & sounds, however, becoming a bit more "happy" sounding with Mike's hopeful piano, and the bouncier rhythms that show up later in the song. Lyrics are also hopeful, with Mike wearing his faith on his sleeve, even if it's expressed in relatively subtle shades. I like the somewhat "circular" approach this song has, with the intro, verse, chorus, an extended solo/jam section in the middle (with great instrumental work by all members), then back to verse, chorus, then a reprise of the intro & Mike's piano at the end.

"Meditation" is the one "black sheep" track on the album, bearing little resemblance to the rest of the material here. Written by guitarist Todd Russell, it's a plaintive acoustic number with some skillful playing and an interesting structure & a nice "loose" feel to it. My only qualm with this track is that it's a bit long for just an acoustic number, and loses interest a bit toward the end. "Reconciliation" is the longest track on the album, clocking in at just over 16 minutes. It begins with a somber clean-channel, picked guitar rhythm, and subtle keyboard sound from Mike, along with some very subtle cymbal work. Things don't stay somber, however, as the song transitions into an interesting minor-chord Emerson Lake & Palmer-esque organ/guitar interplay nearing 2 minutes in, and goes through several "movements" throughout the piece. Again, Mike's varied use of keyboard, organ, piano, and other sounds is inspiring. It really brings out the variety here, and keeps things sounding fresh, despite the familiarity of some of the more traditional sounds. It's a bit more to absorb than some of the initial tracks on the album due to its length & "movement" approach, but it's a great tune with a lot to offer for the patient listener. "See the Children" has a cool keyboard intro that has a nice late 80's, early 90's sound to it that sets it apart from some of the other material. It also has a low bass-note played on the keyboard that evokes the sound of a cello, which is a need effect. The intro guitar work is also cool, with the "fade-in" effect used for atmosphere. The song builds nicely with the addition of bass, drums, and a bit of light guitar noodling over Mike's atmospheric keyboards. I was almost fooled by the build-up, as it takes over 4 minutes to get to vocals - I thought perhaps this would be an instrumental affair, but Mike & co. bring in some nice group "woah's" and Mike finally takes a lead vocal at around 4 and a half minutes. The song has a different feel than many of the others, with Todd using a cool "phase" effect on some of the guitar work, and the keyboard & guitar work not recalling any one era of progressive rock, but being an interesting amalgamation of multiple approaches. Once the song actually comes in with vocals, the band wastes no time in getting to a traditional song structure with verse-chorus & also some nice instrumental interplay, especially between the guitar & keyboard. Todd has some great solo work here that is both fast & furious, but also slightly understated so as not to overpower everything else. All in all, a great way to close out the album.

One thing that must be said about this project is that Mike's positive outlook & hopefulness comes through loud & clear. The music takes a number of turns, and there are plenty of "minor chord" moments where things are musically more somber or sound as if the mood might turn sour, but lyrically, Mike never really gets too dark. There are moments where he expresses darkness, but always balances that out with light. Perhaps that is why the album's title is so fitting - Mike doesn't get caught up in how bad the world is or all of the negative stuff we have to deal with every day - he keeps things relatively "up" and takes an approach that gives the listener a very positive experience. Everything comes together here very well. While Mike isn't the strongest vocalist in the prog rock scene, his vocals are pleasant over the music, and they service the songs well enough. To me, despite the recent loss of bassist Tony D'amato, this band has a bright future, and I hope to hear more music from them soon, because if it's anything like this, I know it will be in heavy rotation on my MP3 player for weeks. Highly recommended!


Video Review:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"The Gamut" - tonight's playlist!

Listen to tonight's show for a CD giveaway - the Christian Metal Fellowship Compilation Volume II - feature lots of great black metal, dark ambient, and death metal tracks by some of today's best underground bands! This disc also has 2 tracks that are exclusive to this compilation - you can't get these tracks anywhere else!

Tonight's "unofficial" theme is new music! Not everything in the playlist is brand new, but much of it is relatively new. The rest is stuff that might be older, but is new to my personal collection, so enjoy the stuff that will be slipping into future playlists from time to time :)

Tonight's playlist!!!

In the Midst of Lions - Paid In Full (Deathcore)
Guardian - Spiritual Warfare (Classic Metal)
The Choir - Flap Your Wings (Alternative)
Sub-Train - I Feel (Groove Metal)
O, Majestic Winter - Desparium (Atmospheric Black Metal)
Training For Utopia - Modus Operandi (Noisy Hardcore)
Broken Flesh - Yeshua (Death Metal)
King's Crown - For Christ's Sake (Hard Rock)
Sever Your Ties - After a Storm (Melodic Hardcore)
Midnight Orchestra - I'm a Lie (Industrial/Rapcore)
Ninety Pound Wuss - Broken Circles (Punk)
Docile - Fragile Commitment (Melodic Death Metal)
Gondolin - Awakening to New Lands (Acoustic Folk Black) - CD Giveaway!!!
Grave Robber - Altered States (Horror Punk)
Believer - Shadow of Death (Thrash Metal)
Echoes the Fall - Break Away (Modern Hard Rock)
Jacobs Dream - The Hell That I Breathe (Progressive Metal)
After the Order - Queens of England (Alternative/Modern Rock)
Ultimatum - Never (Thrash Metal)
Cry of the Afflicted - Lift the Veil (Melodic Hardcore)
Michael Phillips - Nails and Tears (Progressive Metal)
Dalit - Impression (Death Doom Metal)
Failure To Excel - Loving Hands (Modern Rock)
Daniel Amos - Evangeline (Alternative Rock)
The Blamed - Help Yourself (Hardcore Punk)
Eternal Mystery - Zombie Nation (Grindcore)
Rehumanize - NOprah (Grindcore)
Sweet Nectar - Tangent (Grunge/Alternative)
Templar - Black Scar (Gothic Groove Metal)
Starflyer 59 - She's the Queen (Shoegazer/Indie)
The Drama Scene - I Wish I Could Wear Squarepants (Emo/Modern Rock)
Lurid Dawn - There's a Place (Progressive Death Metal)
Seventh Seal - Revelation--God Has the Power (Classic/Commercial Metal)
Ancient Plague - Gospel in the Dark (Acoustic Black Metal)
Mortal - Mr Aro0chet (Industrial)
Oh Sleeper - Breathing Blood (Melodic/Technical Metalcore)
Vardoger - Desert Pale (Black Metal)
Joy Electric - The Otherly Opus (Synthpop)
Step Cousin - Deceiver (Thrash/Groove Metal)
Dead Artist Syndrome - Redemption (Gothic Rock)
Lost Dogs - Imagine That (Alternative Rock)
Through Solace - Aspects of Dreams (Melodic Metalcore)
Earth From Above - Fatum (Deathcore)

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

"The Gamut" - Sweet Comfort Band special tonight!!!

Listen to tonight's show for a CD giveaway - the Christian Metal Fellowship Compilation Volume II - feature lots of great black metal, dark ambient, and death metal tracks by some of today's best underground bands! This disc also has 2 tracks that are exclusive to this compilation - you can't get these tracks anywhere else!

Tonight is all about turning back the clock. Yes, tonight's theme is "Sweet Comfort Band"! One of the post-"Jesus Music" era bands that took the smooth rock sounds of powerhouse 70's bands like Chicago, Steely Dan, and Bachman Turner Overdrive and packaged them with slick production, killer vocals, and songwriting chops that rivaled many of their secular conemporaries! Tonight's show features 5 songs from each of the band's 6 albums, comprising a 30-song set that will take you through the band's entire recording career!

Tonight's playlist!!!

Mirror of Dead Faces - A Cripple Within (Melodic Death Metal/Deathcore)
Theocracy - On Eagle's Wings (Power Metal)
Monolith - A Faithful Few (Symphonic Extreme Metal) - The Gamut exclusive!!!
Erasmus - Nausea (Black Metal) - CD Giveaway!!!
Blenderhead - Cesspool (Hardcore Punk)
Bon Voyage - Why Can't You Be (Female-fronted Alternative/Indie)
I Built the Cross - Hatred From the Religious (Technical Deathcore)

Sweet Comfort Band special!!!
* From the 1977 debut "Sweet Comfort":
* It's So Fine (Soul Tune Boogie)
* Ryan's Song
* Let It Go
* Your Life
* Get Ready

From 1978's "Breakin' the Ice":
* Got To Believe
* I Need Your Love Again
* Good Feelin'
* Searchin' For Love
* The Lord Is Calling

From 1979's "Hold On Tight!":
* You're the One
* Angel
* Don't Tell Me You Love Me
* Carry Me
* Find Your Way

From 1981's "Hearts of Fire!":
* Isabel
* You Can Make It
* They Just Go On
* Now Or Never
* Contender

From 1982's "CUtting Edge":
* Runnin' To Win
* What Have You Got?
* Valerie
* What Did It Mean?
* Armed and Ready

From the band's 1984 final album "Perfect Timing":
* Perfect Timing
* Don't Bother Me Now
* Computer Age
* Lookin' For the Answer
* Prodigal's Regret (Never Should Have Left You)

Amaseffer - Slaves For Life (Progressive Metal)
Joy Electric - Marigoldeness (Synthpop)
Becoming the Archetype - Artificial Immortality (Progressive Death Metal)
Deitiphobia - The Late Pastor Harry Dean (Industrial)
Recon - Take Us Away (Classic Metal)
Recession - Masterpiece Theater (Chaotic Hardcore)

Don't forget, you can tune in easily at the BlabberBoard via & use the convenient flash player on the front page. Or, click the "Now Playing" link to open in another media player (Winamp, Real Player, VLC, and more!). Sign up at the BlabberBoard to use the chatbox on the front page & chat with me & other listeners during the show!

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

"The Gamut" - tonight's playlist!

Listen to tonight's show for a CD giveaway - the Heaven's Force CD release "Aggressive Angel" - 2 old-school thrash demos on CD for the first time in a limited edition digipak release!

Tonight's playlist!!!

Woe of Tyrants - Breaking the Fangs of the Wicked (Melodic Death Metal - thanks to The Metal Resource!)
7days - Save Me (Progressive Metal)
Eisley - Plenty of Paper (Female-fronted Indie Rock)
Katamari Deathroll - Twin Bed Nation (Dance Punk/Electro Hardcore)
Still Breathing - Forsaken (Female-fronted Metalcore)
Love Song - Feel the Love (Jesus Music)
Vanguard - Death to a Sinful King (Progressive Deathcore)
Ganglia - Scrap (e-Grind)
Pillar - Light at My Feet (Rapcore/Modern Hard Rock)
Bon Voyage - Dressed In White (Female-fronted Indie Rock)
Hanover Saints - Headshot (Punk)
Extol - Reflections of a Broken Soul (Progressive Black Metal)
Mastedon - Holiest One (Progressive Hard Rock)
Lust Control - There Is A Fountain (Punk)
Driver Eight - Superglue (Alternative Rock)
Advent - Three Seasons (Metalcore)
Sincerely Paul - What's the Difference? (Gothic Rock)
Inked In Blood - The New Empiricism (Melodic Hardcore)
Mortification - Terminate Damnation (Brutal Death Metal)
Souljourners - Tangent Universe (Progressive Metal)
Mad At The World - Going Nowhere Again (Alternative Rock)
Narcissus - Loculus (Post-Hardcore)
Venia (FIN) - Victory By Surrender (Female-fronted Power Metal)
Skylines - Static Newsflash (Metalcore)
Blood Covenant - The Choice (Symphonic Black Metal)
Stavesacre - Keep Waiting (Modern Heavy Rock)
Aleixa - Some Things Never Go Away (Female-fronted Techno Rock)
Monolith - Golgotha (Symphonic Extreme Metal)
Heaven's Force - Deliver Us From Evil (Thrash Metal) - CD Giveaway!!!
Detritus - Subliminal Division (Thrash Metal)
Living Sacrifice - Second Death (Thrash Metal)
Novella - Story (Hard Rock)
O, Majestic Winter - Desparium (Atmospheric Black Metal)
Dead Poetic - The Corporate Enthusiast (Post-Hardcore)
Fearscape - Inheritance of Dust (Progressive Black Metal)
Static Fuse - Come Home (Female-fronted Hard Rock/Ballad)
Northern Ash - Patterns of Decay (Black/Thrash Metal)

Don't forget, you can tune in easily at the BlabberBoard via & use the convenient flash player on the front page. Or, click the "Now Playing" link to open in another media player (Winamp, Real Player, VLC, and more!). Sign up at the BlabberBoard to use the chatbox on the front page & chat with me & other listeners during the show!

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

"The Gamut" - tonight's playlist!

Tonight's playlist!

As I Lay Dying - An Ocean Between Us (Thrashy Metalcore)
Bride - Picture Perfect (Hard Rock/Metal)
Within the Torn Apart - Dragged Through a Nightmare (Drone)
Jetenderpaul - Texaco (Indie Rock)
Love Coma - Empty (Rock/Alternative)
Eso Charis - Dunamis (Chaotic Hardcore)
Undercover - Heal Me (Proto-Punk/New Wave)
Midiboy - Entwined (Industrial)
Outlander - Wood (Progressive Metal)
Azbuk - Reflexes of the Damned Mirror (Black Metal)
MxPx - Want Ad (Pop-Punk)
Clear Convictions - Warning (Tough Guy Hardcore)
Joy Electric - The Heritage Bough (Synthpop)
The Eastern Wave - Had My Show (Indie Rock)
Nailed - Hell To Pay (Groove Metal)
Counting the Days - What's the Point? (Hardcore) - CD Giveaway!!!
Crashdog - Progress (Punk)
Guardian - Bottle Rocket (Hard Rock/Alternative)
Crimson Moonlight - Thy Wilderness (Black Metal)
Royal - Missing (Female-fronted Alternative)
Anguish Unsaid - Send Away (Chaotic Hardcore)
Soul Embraced - Someone Just Walked Across My Grave (Metalcore)
Starflyer 59 - When You Feel the Mess (Shoegazer/Indie)
Barry McGuire - Good News Shoes (Jesus Music)
Thousand Foot Krutch - Small Town (Rap-Rock)
Divine Symphony - False Emotion (Symphonic Black Metal)
Saint - Star Pilot (Classic Metal)
Alove For Enemies - Smokescreen (Hardcore/Metalcore)
Elder - River (Indie Rock/Alternative)
One-21 - Looking Out For Me (Punk)
Opprobrium - Awakening to the Filth (Thrash Metal)
The Benjamin Gate - Light (Female-fronted Modern Rock)
Recession - Get Killed (Chaotic Hardcore)
Argyle Park - Scarred For Life (Industrial)
Randy Rose - Pain (Hard Rock/Metal)
Crux - Hunger (Punk)
POD - Satellite (Rapcore)
End of Destiny (Melodic Metalcore)
Galactic Cowboys - Ants (Progressive Metal)
Random Eyes- Invisible (Power/Melodic Metal)
Sculpture - No Respect (Thrash Metal)

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review Format Change!

I have come to a realization over the last few reviews. That realization is such: track-by-track reviews are too long! Yes, I've finally come to that conclusion myself. In addition to their exorbitant length, they take a really long time to write, because I have to sit & listen to the album at least once all the way through & pause several times to describe what I'm hearing. As such, I've been able to write fewer reviews lately than I've liked (one that I've been working on for several weeks that I need to get complete, for example), and that bothers me. I'd rather get my major comments out there & give readers an overall impression of what the work will sound like when they listen to it, rather than trying to describe the experience in detail.

Thus, I will no longer be composing full, track-by-track reviews. My reviews will still be verbose, as that is my propensity. However, you won't have to wade through a lot of verbiage to get to the bottom line. So my reviews will begin to look a lot more like those I wrote in the beginning, when this was a much simpler blog. That will make reading them more fun, and less an exercise.

Rest assured, I will continue to do the video companion reviews. I believe it spices things up some, and gives readers a reason to keep coming back. Not that watching me at my desk blabber on about a CD is fascinating, or that people want to see my goofy face. But I do believe that in today's fast-paced world, if someone just wants the quick & easy look at something, they can watch the video, get the sound samples in there, and get the basic gist of what I'm saying, even if the video is different than the full-text review. Still, I think there's a value in having that text review to read.

So what does this mean? Hopefully more reviews! Wow, all that just to say I'm changing the way I do things...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"The Gamut" - Asher/Monolith interview & more!

Tonight is a special episode, because the middle section contains several tracks by the unforgettable Asher from Canada. In addition, You'll hear an interview I did with former Asher guitarist Colin Parish, and we'll also talk about his new band Monolith. Plus, The Gamut is the ONLY place you'll get to hear the exclusive - 5 of the new tracks from the up-coming Monolith debut, out soon on Bombworks Records! That's right, "The Gamut" is the ONLY place you can hear these Monolith tracks!

Tonight's playlist!
Impending Doom - Silence the Oppressors (Brutal Deathcore)
Men Walking As Trees - Seal Upon My Heart (Folk/Pop/Lounge)
Afterimage - Nexus (Metalcore/Melodic Death Metal) - New track!
In Grief - I Am (Progressive Death Metal)
Kinetic Element - Now and Forever (Progressive Rock)
I Built the Cross - To Deface Grace (Technical Deathcore)
Post Mortum - Drip (Progressive Nu-metal)
Ascension Theory - Perfect Plan (Progressive Metal)
Vomitorial Corpulence - Human Slaughter House (Grindcore)
Blame Lucy - Lonesome (Modern Rock)
Feast Eternal - A Hymn (Death Metal)

Asher (CA) & Monolith Interview Time!
Asher - Exhortation (Female-fronted Melodic Metal)
Asher interview part 1
Asher - The Shadow Hour
Asher - Fallen
Asher interview part 2
Asher - Paradox
Asher - Unavoidable
Monolith interview part 1
Monolith - A Faithful Few
Monolith - Call Of Wisdom
Monolith interview part 2
Monolith - Chokehold
Monolith - Break the Cycle
Monolith interview part 3
Monolith - Golgotha

Asher (CA) - This Burden
Stronghold (US) - Nobody Owes You Nothing (Hard Rock)
Veni Domine - Someone's Knocking (Progressive/Gothic Metal)
Common Children - Storm Boy (Alternative/Indie)
Kosmos Express - Emotional (Modern Rock)
Project 86 - Bottom Feeder (Modern Heavy Rock)
August Burns Red - Composure (Technical Metalcore)
Eternal Ryte - No More Lies (Classic/Commercial Metal)
Suspiria Profundis - In War Against Satan (Black Metal)
Fewleftstanding - What's the Use? (Metalcore/Chaotic Hardcore)
Resurrection Band - The Crossing (Classic Rock/Hard Rock)
Saving Grace - In Your Own Hands (Metalcore)

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New logo for The Gamut!

Major thanks to Open Grave Records/Divine Metal Distro head James Mattern & his wife for providing me with this great new logo:

Also, don't forget to tune into "The Gamut" this week! We have an exclusive interview with former Asher (CA) guitarist and current Monolith guitarist Colin Parish about the rise & fall of Asher (CA), as well as the up-coming Monolith debut, out soon on Bombworks Records! I'll be playing 6 Asher (CA) tracks, as well as featuring 5 new Monolith tracks from the album. The Gamut is the ONLY place you can hear these songs right now, so make sure to tune in for this Sunday's episode, as well as in the coming weeks to hear more Monolith!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"The Gamut" - tonight's theme is!

Tonight's theme is Blabber Download. That's right, everything you hear in tonight's show is 100% free & legal to download via ! Lots of great bands & albums totally free, so don't hesitate - if you like any of what you hear in tonight's show, by all means, go download it!

Dosel - Ciudad Sangrienta (Thrash Metal)
The Eternal Chapter - Only the Lost (Gothic Rock)
The Lead - Abomination (Female-fronted Hardcore PUnk)
Falling Fadedown - The Covenant (Melodic Hardcore/Screamo)
Martiria - Reborn in Christ (Power/Melodic Metal)
Hell Bovine - Never Falling From Grace (Experimental/Electronic/Metal)
The Intolerants - Die the American Dream (Punk)
Kekal - Vox Diaboli (Experimental Extreme Metal)
Menahem - Angels and Shadows (Progressive Metal)
The Blood Reckoning - Dowards (Deathcore)
Betrayer - Partaker of Evil (Power Metal)
Worthless Without - Choreographed Comedy Acts That End With Dead Clowns (Post-Hardcore)
Nothing's Sacred - The Price Paid In Blood (eGrind)
Unveiled - Contagious (Female-fronted Modern Rock)
Desire of Pain - Destroy the Madness (Progressive Death Metal)
Job - Coram Deo (Funeral Doom)
Katamari Deathroll - Funeral Birth (Dance Punk/Hardcore)
Lamentations - Where Have You Been (Doom-Death Metal)
Our Fathers Were Blind - Banner Bedsheets (Screamo)
Confide - Artax (Metalcore)
Epta Astera - Superbia (Folk Metal/Experimental)
RED+TEST - Unforgiving Landscape (Industrial)
Rising Cross - Pentecost (Power Metal)
Integration - Breaking Myself (Ambient/Experimental)
Elgibbor - The Silent Scream (Black Metal)
The Ortistix - Red Bin (Drum & Bass Punk)
Saron Rose - Al que me cine (Nu-Metal)
I Destroyed Leviathan - GROWR! (Nintendocore/Experimental)
Bloodforge - Show You the Way (Female-fronted Melodic/Gothic Metal)
Sacred Warrior - Children of the Light (Classic Metal)
Pistis In Him Alone - Redemption (Melodic Hardcore/Metalcore)
Death List - Will It End (Death Metal)
Disaffection - Blind Mind (Thrash Metal)
Hot Pink Turtle - Hideous (Funk/Metal/Alternative)
Watchmen - Fear No Evil (Classic Metal)
Buried Yesterday - Torture Room (Deathcore)
Blood Covenant - Dedication (Symphonic Black Metal)
Anguidara - SEOS (Industrial)
Angel 7 - The Power of Belief and Love (Black/Death/Power Metal Hybrid)
Eclipsing Black - The Eclipsing Black (Dark Ambient/Black)

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

"The Gamut" - tonight's playlist!

Tonight's playlist!

Demon Hunter - Our Faces Fall Apart (Metalcore)
Novella - One Big Sky (Progressive Hard Rock/Ballad)
Undercover - Where I should Be (Alternative Rock)
Dance House Children - Eve Leaf (Synthpop)
Human Condition - Life and Love (New Wave/Rock)
The Corbans - Paul (Acoustic/Alternative Rock)
One-21 - Good Guys Where White Hats And So Do Bad Guys (Punk)
ChloesHouse - Overtaken (Rapcore/Modern Hard Rock)
Divinefire - Grow and Follow (Power Metal)
Patriarchs - Mountains (Progressive Hardcore/Metal)
Jet Circus - Victory Dance (Metal/Experimental)
Starflyer 59 - Unbelievers (Indie Rock/Alternative)
Everdown - One Knuckle Shy (Post-Hardcore/Heavy Rock)
The Scurvies - Mind To Heart (Punk)
AD - We Are the Men (80s Rock/Progressive)
Kinetic Element - Riding In Time (Progressive Rock)
Final Axe - Baptized in Blood (Classic Metal)
Morella's Forest - Love Is Blind (Female-fronted Indie Rock)
Staple - The Songwriter (Post-Hardcore/Heavy Rock)
Maylene & the sons of Disaster - Bang, the Witch is Dead (Southern Hardcore/Heavy Rock)
Eternal Mystery - Pseudo-Christianity Pt. 2 (Grindcore)
Petra - Disciple (80s Rock)
Joy Electric - Old Castle Madrigal (Synthpop)
AXP - Heart of Gold (Hardcore)
Argyle Park - Headscrew (Industrial)
The Burning Season - First Glance (Metalcore)
The Deal - Attack (Punk)
Immortal Souls - Constant (Melodic Death Metal)
Inked In Blood - This Moment (Melodic Hardcore)
Encryptor - Horrific Engenderment (Brutal Death Metal)
Maugrim - Decrepit Beings--They Fled Into the Shadows (Dark Ambient/Black)
The Chariot - Need: (Chaotic Hardcore)
Deitiphobia - Hypnotique (Industrial)
Dryve - Stay (Alternative/Acoustic Rock)
Bloodgood - It's Alright (Commercial Metal/Hard Rock)
Saint - Invader (Classic Metal)
Bathtub Mary - Wisteria (Female-fronted Indie Rock)
P.K. Mitchell - Take My Life (Commercial Metal/Hard Rock)
Lust Control - Mad at the Girls (Punk)
Saviour Machine - Christians and Lunatics (Gothic Metal)
Blindside - SilverSpeak (Post-Hardcore/Modern Heavy Rock)

Don't forget, you can tune in easily at the BlabberBoard via & use the convenient flash player on the front page. Or, click the "Now Playing" link to open in another media player (Winamp, Real Player, VLC, and more!). Sign up at the BlabberBoard to use the chatbox on the front page & chat with me & other listeners during the show!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

In Grief - Deserted Soul (2009)

Uniqueness is something that is often lost in the musical landscape. Pop acts constantly rip each other off, as well as all those that came before. Rock & roll, country, metal - it's the same in every genre. The differences are much more subtle sometimes, but bands try to put their own "stamp" on the music, even if what they're doing has been done to death already. The treat is when a band comes along and does something, that, though they bear similarities to what's come before them, they put enough of their own "stamp" on the formula or genre aesthetic to say they're doing something new or unique. Norway's In Grief may not be the most original band out there, but they are putting a semi-unique stamp on the death metal sound.

What In Grief does have that makes them stand out is a superb debut that combines all the right elements with such balance, style and panache that you wonder what woodwork they came out of. These guys are incredibly tight, have a distinctive sound that reveals more elements with repeated listens, and ultimately, comes up with a debut release that stands out from the crowd because of its sheer quality and listenability. That doesn't mean this is a "fluffy" record; far from it. It's not an immediate album, and it takes several listens to truly pay off. However, there are elements from the first listen that will reward listeners, and the rewards continue as more time is devoted to the album.

With the amount of near-hyperbole I just spouted, it must be said that intro track "Darkening Horizon" is a bit of a generic, quasi-"cinematic" intro, not unlike the atmospheric intro to any melodic death or symphonic metal album. The difference here is that it's not all that distinctive. It's just keyboard atmospherics, symphonic drum/cymbal work (complete with big cymbal crashes & timpani), and the like. It's not a throwaway track, per se, but compared to what follows it, or compared to some of the heavyweights of bombastic, symphonic album intros (Rhapsody, Bal-Sagoth), this is a bit tame. Still, I'm guessing understated is what the band was intending, so it works for what it is. The intro fades gently into "I Am", with some nice keyboard atmospherics, clean guitar, light cymbal touches, and an interesting effect that sounds like burning fire, and screaming voices in the background. Then the music picks up a bit with more drum & cymbal work, no more fire effect, and just builds from there to fade in a heavily distorted guitar sound in the mix. When the song kicks in near the 1:30 mark, you know you're in for a melodic death metal treat. The riffing isn't overly complex, but it shows the proficiency of the players, and the lightly effecte vocals work well. I like the "phased" guitar grind that presents after the primary verse section. The chorus has a nice layering of death vocals and a low-end clean vocal that sounds as though it's "off in the distance". The 2nd verse has a great layered death vocal effect that sounds like it's double-tracked, but one of the tracks is highly effected, giving it a nice sci-fi type of feel. The song circles back to the intro riff again with a nice high-pitched keyboard sound and winding riff, then down to a semi-spoken word bridge with driving riff and some nice atmospheric elements in behind. The keyboard solo that follows is great; very subtle at the start, then increasing in complexity and retaining a nice melodic quality. There is some great double-bass and cymbal work going on here, and then a great guitar solo with some wah-wah effect and a lot of melodic elements to it. We are treated to the "phased" grinding guitar sound near the close of the song as the death vocals bring us back to the sound of fire with a thunderous blast and a brief fade-out. "Invited War" starts with the sound of a car starting, some interesting atmospherics, an explosion sound, people screaming in the background, and a distorted voice singing a middle-eastern melody briefly before the guitar, drums, bass and keyboard come storming in arond the 30-second mark. The riff here is great; it's very rhythmic in nature, and the atmospheric keyboard complements it well. A bit of complexity added to the riff after the initial piece, followed by a fade-in of death vocals into the verse. The slight echo effect on the vocals is a nice touch, and the double-tracked vocals in some spots works well. The clean vocals are nicely layered w/ a subtle death vocal in the chorus, and sounds great against the backdrop of melodic crunching metal. Keyboard atmospherics continue to play a subtle part here, and become a key element of the sound. The riffing changes slightly nearing the 3-minute mark to a very melodic riff, then back into the melodic chorus. There's a nice instrumental section with a simple, yet effective riff, and some good keyboard elements being thrown in before introducing the guitar solo. The solo is great, combining the right balance of speedy picking, melodicism, and just overall technicality. The speed picks up a bit for a short spell nearing the 5-minute mark, then slows back down again to allow the solo to flash out a bit before going back to the clean-sung chorus. One final verse section to another chorus (with heavily effected vocals) and some nicely layered death vocals to bring the song to a close over the chunky intro riff again.

"Modern Truth" begins with a ticking clock sound, and radio static as the clean guitar and keyboard sounds fade in during the first 40 seconds. Then things pick up with double-bass pounding, bass guitar, and heavy riffing. Then nearing the 1-minute mark, we get some nice speedy solo picking and some "big" keyboard sounds in the background. The riffs here are very thick, and sound great against the rest of the instrumental backdrop. Suddenly the riffing stops, returns to a cleanly picked guitar and atmospheric keyboard sound again, picks up to riffing again just after the 2-minute mark with death vocals in tow. The riffing & sound here is highly melodic, but retains the heaviness and power that death metal should have. I like the layering of the crunchy riffing here with the high-pitched picking for the chorus; it gives it that touch of extra melody. Then it comes down again to the clean guitar & keyboard atmospherics for a few respite measures until fading in the snare drum to a full-blast heavy verse again. After a 2nd run through the chorus we are treated to a crunchy bridge with a "single syllable" vocal delivery where each measure may have only 2 words or syllables grunted/growled over the riffing. Then back to the melodic chorus again with added keyboard. The melodic riffing & keyboard atmospherics continues with double-bass & great cymbal work to finish out the song. The title track "Deserted Soul" has a real science fiction feel to it, beginning with some interesting atmospheric effects, then very quickly into off-kilter rhythmic guitar riffing and "80's sci-fi" keyboard atmospherics. The drum work keeps time very well here, and helps to move things along. The verse is heavy and driving, and has a nice combination of drum work, guitar riffing, keyboard effects, and vocals. The chorus has a subtly layered clean vocal that is well harmonized, and an added death growl for contrast. I like the rhythmic riffing after the chorus and the nice keyboard sound that accompanies that. The "punchy" snare sound is great here as well. After the 2nd verse and chorus there is a stunning keyboard solo that has a bit of a Dream Theater-like quality to it, but retains its own identity. Another run through the chorus, and a return to the "sci-fi" sounds and atmospherics to close out the song.

"In the End" begins with a nice "hum" sound in the background, and nicely picked clean guitar rhythm, and a bit of a "bass hum" underneath it all. The keyboard atmospherics are very subtle, but add a nice texture. Nearing the 1-minute mark the metal kicks in w/ a nice melodic riff, cool keyboard line and a long death growl. The riffing changes slightly to a real chunky thing w/ some cool keyboard effects & some nice double-bass & cymbal work leading into the verse, which takes things back down to clean guitar, keyboard, subtle bass guitar, and some nice drum/cymbal work. The vocals are semi-spoken word, then into death vocals as the pre-chorus blows in w/ heavy riffing, double-bass and full-speed instrumentation. The chorus is melodic, and has a nice guitar sound/feel to it. The lick at the end of the chorus is very melodic, and leads back to a heavy 2nd verse. There's a bit of layered clean vocals at the end of the verse that have this "background" feel to them that is nice, and gives a bit of atmospheric touch. Once again we have a super-melodic chorus, and the melodic lick at the end, transitioning into a melodic bridge, then into a contrasting moment of quiet piano w/ sound effects of burning fire & people screaming (like in "I Am"). Great solo work right after the piano interlude as well, with very melodic lines, some great harmonized dual-guitar lead work, and just overall fitting lead playing. More great drumming & riffing going on here as well, adding the perfect backdrop for the leads as they're picked out. This transitions back into the melodic chorus riff again for a few measures, then into the actual chorus again nearing the last minute of the song. The melodic post-chorus lick returns to help close things out, with the keyboard lending a hand mimicking the guitar lick as the song winds down to the end w/ the sound of rain. The final track, "Weak" opens with a nice bass hum, interesting keyboard sounds, and a dark atmospheric sound that reminds one of the more intense parts of a Role Playing Game like Final Fantasy or something of that ilk. Then comes a deep spoken voice and some symphonic elements like cymbal crashing, timpani rolls, and keyboard sounds that mimic a choir. At about the 1-minute mark the metal comes roaring in, with a plodding double-bass rhythm quickly turning to double-time, melodic riffing that turns into fast crunchy riffing, and keyboards that go from light & airy to brooding. Things stay heavy yet melodic as the verse kicks in with layered death vocals, good drum work, and then into a highly melodic chorus with cleanly sung vocals that have a slightly "distant" feel to them, and a bit of layering for effect. The post-chorus transition is great with melodic riffing, nice keyboard sounds, and great drumming. The 2nd verse has chunky riffing, and layered extreme vocals that have a nice effect. The subtle low-end death vocal underscoring the guitar lick after the 2nd chorus is a cool effect, and sounds great in headphones. Then some great guitar & keyboard dual soloing happens, and gives way to a full-on keyboard solo, then melodic guitar solo at around 6 minutes. This fades out to a soft keyboard backdrop & back to the symphonic elements present in the intro track "Darkening Horizon" before the heaviness returns with melody in tow. This ties together well with the intro, and brings the album full circle in a sense. Near the 8-minute mark we're back to a verse, with a higher-pitched extreme vocal, reminding almost of a symphonic black metal kind of feel, which works well here. More nice soloing shows up in the last minute of the song, bringing things melodically & technically to showcase the players' abilities right up to the end, then a sudden stop.

In Grief hasn't created a unique recipe here. What they have done is taken all the right elements of progressive and melodic death metal & put just enough of their own spice & flavoring on it to make it a different dish. It doesn't have to be wholly unique because it does enough on its own to stand on its own. My only qualms are rather slight. The editing of the tracks seems a bit lazy, as there's a lot of "white space" at the end of each track, and there are a couple instances where it seems like there's "tape cut" noise after the track is done or into the next track, as if this were still a demo. The production quality elsewhere is fantastic, so this was likely an oversight. My other complaint is that in the layering of the instrumentation, there are times I feel the vocals are a tad buried in the mix. It's not a huge concern, but there are times when I wish I could hear the vocals more. Otherwise, the mix is great - not too compressed, but still with power. Also, it's heavy without being overbearing, and melodic without losing the crunch factor that death metal should have. In short, this is overall a well-produced effort. I can't say they sound like anyone else, though comparisons have been made to Opeth, Soilwork, Amon Amarth, and Katatonia. They don't really sound like any of those bands, per se, but those are touchstones. If you like progressive extreme metal, melodic death metal, or just extreme metal in general, this is a release you should not pass up. Highly recommended.


Video review:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"The Gamut" - tonight's playlist!

Tonight's Playlist!

Northern Ash - The Terror That Waits (Death/Black/Thrash Metal Hybrid)
Human Condition - In Time (Rock)
Darkness Before Dawn - Battle On (Melodic Death Metal)
Bride - Dust Through a Fan (Commercial Metal/Hard Rock)
Kinetic Element - See the Children (Progressive Rock)
Pastor Brad - Metal Devotional
Pastor Brad - Reshredded (Instrumental Metal)
Hope For the Dying - Our Fallen Comrades (Progressive Extreme Metal)
Coram Deo - Fall of Babylon (Symphonic Black/Death Metal)
Mike Phillips - Nails and Tears (Progressive Metal)
Hit the Deck - Another Game (Hardcore Punk)
Monolith - Golgotha (Symphonic Extreme Metal) - The Gamut exclusive!!!
Symphony in Peril - For Now We See In a Mirror, Dimly, But Then Face to Face (Chaotic Metalcore) - CD Giveaway!!!
Thresher - Raptor (Thrash Metal)
LSU - The Boyos (Alternative Rock/Acoustic)
Mortal - Gaza (Electronica)
Spoken - Stupid People (Rapcore)
Narcissus - Twin-Allergy (Post-Hardcore/Modern Heavy Rock)
Guardian - Dr. Jones and the Kings of Rhythm (Commercial Hard Rock/Metal)
The Chariot - The Company, The Comfort, The Grave (Chaotic Hardcore)
The Ortistix - I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, but You'd Look Better In a Moshpit (Drum & Bass Punk)
Saint - In the Battle (Classic Metal)
Galactic Cowboys - Blind (Progressive Metal)
Sleeping Giant - King of Kings (Hardcore/Sludge)
Eowyn - To My Surprise (Female-fronted Modern Rock)
The Gentleman Homicide - Looking Within the Heart of a Man (Chaotic Metalcore/Hardcore)
Hero - I Surrender (Classic Metal)
Detritus - Masquerade (Thrash Metal)
Halcyon Way - A Manifesto For Domination (Progressive Metal)
Divinefire - Life My Life For You (Power Metal)
Opposition of One - Dishonest (Metalcore)
Joy Electric - The Girl From Rosewood Lane (Original mix) (Synthpop)
The Deadlines - Murder Creek Road (Horror Punk)
Jesus Freaks - D.U.I. (Thrash Metal)
Petra - Midnight Oil (Rock)
The Seventy Sevens - One More Time (Rock)
Elgibbor - Heaven or Hell (Black Metal)
Norma Jean - The End of All Things Will Be Televised (Chaotic Metalcore)

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Step Cousin - The Evolution Religion (2009)

What's in a name? What is it about names that have such command over our thought processes? What is it about names that drives us so much? Of course, Shakespeare's question has been long debated over the years, but I've often wondered why names have such power over us as human beings. Names are identifiers; research shows that using a person's name in conversation with them helps you to "get in good" with them, and possibly establish a greater rapport, and in many cases, a good sales relationship.

In terms of music, and more specifically, heavy metal, names are extremely important. Most people would consider a band called "Candy Fairy Land" to be some kind of frilly bubblegum pop band, while a name like "Evisceration of Mind" conjures up images of grindcore & thoughts of 30 second songs with more raw power than a truck full of "energy drinks". So what does the mind tell you when the name is just unique & has little apparent meaning or bearing on the music played by said oddly named band?
To me, it's actually quite fitting, as the band doesn't really belong in the thrash metal genre from a strict viewpoint, but is related closely enough to it to be included in the "family reunions" and other functions where a seat at the table is set and they are included as if they were a blood relative. That's the parallel I draw, anyway.

That's the quandry with Step Cousin. I first heard the name several years ago & immediately thought, "That's a dumb name." I felt like it was ill-chosen, and not a very good representation of the style they were classified as (Thrash Metal), or as a moniker for a metal band in any way. Granted, I'm of the mind that if it fits, it fits, and who should judge your band by it's name, anyway? Smashing Pumpkins need not apply. But in all fairness to the members of the band, it's not a name that conjures images of headbanging, helicopter hair, or groove-infected thrash riffs. It sounds like something similar to the moniker of "Red-headed step child" that is often used to describe the "black sheep" of the family or other similar motifs. Still, looking past the name we can see what's really important in this scenario - the music. And from that perspective, there is no confusion.

"in My Darkest Hour" begins with a rumbling bass line, and quickly transitions into chunky guitar riffing, thunderous bass, and competent drumming. Kelly Matthews' gruff vocals soon follow with a semi-melodic verse that beckons the listener to pay attention to the lyrics. Kelly's drumming is also impressive already, with great rolls, double-bass work, and loads of power. Once things get going, the bass gets buried a bit in the mix, but is still audible enough to know it's keeping time. The chorus contains some growled "death" vocals, ala early Mortification for effect. This, combined with the gritty semi-clean vocals makes a nice contrast. The 2nd verse has some wicked rolls that just showcase the drumming throughout this album. There's a ton of groove in this song, and that's one of the underlying elements found on the album as well. Jeff Grady's solo here is great, with a bit of blues thrown in for good measure. I like the harpsichord (?) sound at the end of the guitar solo as well, nice touch. Another couple trips through the chorus after the bridge, and then a sudden transition into an electric piano & acoustic guitar passage that is a really cool outro for the song, complete with some subtle electric guitar soloing. "Behind the Veil" blows in at full speed with insane rolls and heavy, chunky riffing right off the bat. I love the "rising stairstep" effect of the riff at the beginning. Vocally, we're into the "death" vocals right away, which complements the speedy thrash riffing. The chorus slows things down a tad for some massive groove and the more gritty semi-clean vocals. The song breaks down around the 2-minute mark for a major groove riff, some cool ride cymbal work, and a great bluesy solo w/ a bit of wah-wah in the mix. Close to the 3-minute mark we're back to the verse riffing w/ speed & "death" vocals, and back to the chorus again, then breaking down into a groove section again near the 4-minute mark for some more solo action, which just showcases Grady's great southern-vibe playing. "The Evolution Religion" begins with a majorly groovy riff in one of the stereo channels, then doubles up with some more ride cymbal work and drumming before going into the chunky verse riff with more "death" vocals. The vocal layering in teh chorus (gritty semi-clean and "death" vocals) works well. The chorus is catchy with a melodic riff that will stick with you. Close to the 2-minute mark you get an audio clip about creationism & evolution, which is a nice touch. Then you get speedy thrash riffing with double-bass drum and no-holds-barred power. At around 2:30 it transitions into an acoustic guitar section with good drum/cymbal work, and then into heavy, chunky riffing around 3 minutes. Next comes a brief solo guitar bit that is very tasteful, and an almost Tourniquet-esque riff from around the 3:30 mark on to about the 4:15 mark, then another audio clip of the same speaker from before, then right back into the verse. While it sounds as though all these clips would interrupt the flow, but it works well here and feels natural. The pacing keeps the song going in the right direction. Another run through the chorus, some speedy, groovy riffing, and all-out madness nearing the end of the song, until the last audio cilp, then a brief instrumental wrap-up.

"Tears On My Pillow" starts with a great melodic riff and bass drum work, then into full-on double-bass drumming, rolls, and speed. The verse of the song is melodic and incorporates a lot of drum work and harmonized riffing. The transition to the chorus slows things down slightly, then stops on a dime for half a second before going right into the chorus at full speed ahead. There's an interesting audio sample after the chorus of a woman speaking in what I believe to be German. Not sure what she's saying, but it's kind of interesting. Verse and chorus again after the sample, keeping the pace up & then breaking down slightly around the 2:30 mark for a short respite moment, but keeping the frenetic cymbal work going before blowing into another lightly blues-tinged solo atop a riffing speed-fest. Verse 3 keeps the urgency of the song going, while the chorus brings things to a close. "Obituary" starts with some cool drum/cymbal work, and then a slower, heavy groove-laden riff to kick things off, with some nice melodic riff work & rumbling bassline underneath. There's also a cool little solo to transition into a slightly doomy-sounding riff section, complete with harmonized guitar riff. This picks up the pace with added double-bass, then again into full-on speed for a moment. This long intro stops on a dime to break down into more groove and finally vocals come in with a gritty feel, and some "death" vocals thrown in as well to contrast. The riffing here is so groovy, yet so chunky & heavy. The clean vocals in the chorus are layered with a subtle harmony, which works well. Great solo work after the 2nd verse & chorus, once again with a bit of a bluesy feeling, and a bit of wah-wah pedal sound to it. This song is melodic without being overly melodic, and loaded with lots of groove while still retaining a thrash aesthetic to it. "A Friend Like You" has a nice intro with background guitar, tom tom drumwork, and then full-on into melodic groovy riffing. Great double-bass work here as well, with nice triplets & quads sprinkled throughout. Kelly Matthews does his best Luke Easter impression during the verse with a real gritty, low-end vocal that is reminiscent of some of Luke's work on Tourniquet's more recent work. The chorus vocal is even more gritty, with a higher-pitched sound that really shows the attitude conveyed in the lyrics well. The chorus riff is just as groove-laden & melodic as the verse, but don't let that fool you - it's also ultra-chunky and nice 'n heavy. The bridge is also melodic and has a cleaner vocal than found elsewhere. Then comes a nice section with some spare drumming, rumbling bass, and a clean "echo" guitar bit that sounds cool w/ the drum backdrop, especially when the drums start getting into the insane tom rolls & double-bass work, until the chorus comes blasting back into action. Then out of the blue, a flute solo (flute solo!?) comes in, followed by a cool guitar solo. Who do these guys think they are, Tourniquet? All joking aside, the interplay between flute and guitar sounds cool, and it's an unexpected twist that gives this song a bit of extra "flavor".

"Cold" begins with a sample from one of those "Time and Temp" services you can call on the phone, except it was spliced together from different times calling in to get the intended effect - "One hundred and one degrees below zero Fahrenheit". It sounds totally seemless, however, so kudos to the band for making it sound as though it was a single phone call. Right away you are pummeled with double-bass drumming, cool tom rolls, and infectious riffing. The verse riff is melodic and is complemented by a bit of harmonized layered vocals. More "death" vocals sprinkled in. I like the backgrond vocal of "Isolate!" in the chorus section with the "echo" and "tunnel" effects on it. The bridge riff builds the tension through with double-bass riffing, then into a section of drum & bass for a moment, into some dual-lead guitar work. All this before 2 & a half minutes! Then into some clean guitar riffing to transition into some more Tourniquet-esque melodic riffing that sounds like it came right from the Ted Kirkpatrick Handbook of Thrash Guitar (TM). Frantic double-bass & drum work over some speedy riffing shows up here as well, then back into a major groove around the 4-minute mark. The chorus transitions from "Isolate!" to "Consecrate!" for the last run-through, signaling the change in the lyrics & the transformation from cold human to someone who has been saved by grace. The speedy riffing closes out the song well and ends abruptly. One of my favorite tracks on the album, for sure. "Scarred" has a groovy riff with a nice pinch harmonic, and is complemented well by the semi-melodic vocal. The "death" vocals come back here for the chorus and the transition from chorus back to verse is a cool melodic, groovy riff. More great double-bass work after the 2nd chorus to work into a speedy bridge that moves the song along, then transitions into the 2nd bridge that showcases a simple speed-picking solo, but retains a melodic quality to it. After verse & chorus 3, the riffing changes to a slower, major groove-laden riff with another pinch harmonic to it, and another solo, this time with a bit more melody & interest. The 2nd part of the solo has a cool effect applied to it, and returns to a traditional solo guitar to finish out the song.

"Life and Dreams" begins with big tom/bass drum hits, thumping bass, and massive groove again. "Death" vocals make an appearance here again in the verse, which speeds things up and moves into a chorus with lots of groove, and a subtle melody that works well without overpowering the song. The vocals here go back to the more gritty, semi-clean sound found elsewhere. After the 2nd verse & chorus, things get groovy again, with lots of chunkiness in the riffing and subtle melodic guitar work. Then things pick up again with more speed for a solo section that has a nice balance between speed & melody. There's a nice melodic bridge nearing the 4-minute mark with a subtly layered harmony vocal that sounds good. Nice clean guitar picking afterward, atop the rumbling bass and subtle drum/cymbal work that hardly prepares you for the thrash-fest to follow back into the final chorus and into the groovy outro. "I Don't Need It" has a cool intro with great drumming, nice riffs, and great pacing. The verse uses a real gritty vocal that recalls Luke Easter again, if ever so slightly, and "death" vocals interplay with some high-pitched screaming in the chorus. This screaming wouldn't sound out of place on a metalcore record, but sounds completely natural here as well, which is cool. Speedy double-bass drumming underscores the acoustic guitar after the 2nd chorus, then into a nice melodic solo section with some dual-guitar lead work. Back into the chorus again for a moment, then into more melodic soloing to close things out. Short but sweet, this track packs a punch & gets it done quickly. "This Is the Time" starts off immediatley with double-bass and groovy riffing, then into a gritty vocal and a riff that "breathes" a bit more than others on the album. "Death" vocals come in again before the melodic chorus, which employs more great double-bass and tom roll work. Bold lyrics here as well; the band is not ashamed to proclaim the name of Christ for sure. Near the half-way point is a nice blues-tinged solo, then some cool melodic dual-guitar solo layering, then back into a verse & chorus section. More melodic dual-guitar soloing brings things to a groove-laden bridge, then fades out over the last 30 seconds or so into silence.

So what's the verdict? Well, mostly positive. Kelly Matthews is a talented multi-instrumentalist with competent bass lines, competent & strong vocals, and fantastic drum work. He's no Ted Kirkpatrick, but he can definitely hang with the best of the speedy thrash drummers this side of the tech-thrash fence. Jeff Grady is a great guitarist as well, showcasing both his tasteful lead playing, and just his ability to transition between speed-metal madness to groove and melody. All the elements combined make this album a treat to listen to. Where the album loses points is that it begins to dip in quality slightly after about the 2/3 mark. "Cold" is the album's last real highlight, with "Scarred" being a nice melodic piece, then things become a tad less interesting. They are still great songs, but it might have been a good idea to incorporate one of the final tracks earlier in the album where it wouldn't have deadened the impact of the album up to that point. Also, Kelly's voice sounds great throughout, but he won't be winning any awards for "Thrash Metal Vocalist of the Year" (TM) or winning any Joey Belladonna sound-alike contests. Still, for thrash metal, he does the job & does it well. If you like groove metal, thrash metal, or just chunky sounding heavy metal with great instrumentation, I'd recommend this heartily.


Video review: