Astral Path – Ashes Dancer

First off, Ashes Dancer would’ve made a much more interesting band name, and Astral Path would’ve been a cooler album name, for what it’s worth (especially considering another metal band named Astral Path already released an album this year). Other than that, this is just pretty good prog death. The melodies are good, but not amazing, following very predictable patterns and chord progressions, but being relatively pleasing nonetheless. The band can craft some mean solos though, especially on Drag Me Down, which is easily my favorite track on the album.

What really gets me though, is the deathcore-lite breakdowns and chugging that infects that whole album for no reason at all. I feel like there’s supposed to be a sort of spiritual element to this record (at least with indications in the band name, opening track, and prelude), going through sort of new agey/faux-indian classical elements that are brought up on certain tracks and then dropped completely. However everything about this is so god damn produced, clean, and corporate that it makes them feel like a gimmick rather than giving the album any serious conceptual weight.

Again, this album is good, but I wouldn’t quite give it the recommended tag. There are plenty of other prog death albums that are this level of quality, and plenty more than have the same level of high value production, but also offer something more than what you would typically expect.


Saattue – Kärsimysnäytelmä

I think there is absolutely a place for melodic doom metal albums with choruses and everything, and I really like the touch of them singing entirely in their native language (finnish), but this just isn’t the album for me personally. I like more experimental/creative endeavors, and I’m not a fan of sappier doom unless it’s My Dying Bride. I can’t really say much about this other than I think a lot of people would like this, but it doesn’t speak to me personally. Not my kind of music basically.


Drain of Impurity – The Seventh Planet of the Infected Cygnus System

I feel like there’s a really great concept somewhere in here. I can feel the space exploration gone wrong, and how a nobel crew gets torn limb from limb by ghastly space monsters. The problem is the music just doesn’t do it justice. This is a good piece of brutal death metal, but there’s nothing that matches the concept attempted. It’s a short album, which is good for a genre that doesn’t exactly bring a lot of variety to the table. But even then there isn’t enough substance for the album to reach it’s potential. I love the intros to each track, and I love that they build a sort of story. But it’s not executed as well as it needed to be to be a fantastic album.


Grimirg – Night Be My Grave

Creates a really nice calming and depressive atmosphere, and I REALLY love the female vocals. However even for funeral doom standards, and even despite it’s incredibly short length, the album feels uneventful. Even music that’s supposed to be as slow and patience testing as possible needs some kind of variety in it, and I feel like Grimirg just gives you a much more standard experience that’s’ wrapped up in a somewhat unique atmosphere. I think one more track that explores some textures a bit would’ve upped this into the 7 category, but as is, I’ll rate this as enjoyable, but quite disappointing.


Dakota Westbrook – When the Snow Falls

Not much to say about this, just very decent lo-fi atmo black. But some of the technical missteps are pretty funny. You have the random 2 minutes of silence at the end of the first track, the acoustic guitar segment on Blood on the Ice that seems like it’s been recorded while the TV plays in the background, and the fact that the dude apparently just forgot to mention the 11 and a half minute final track in the track listing on his bandcamp. The album isn’t exactly spectacular, but it’s a nice enough listen, even if it’s a bit repetitive.



Forteresse – Thèmes pour la rébellion

I really do appreciate the inspiring aura of this album, but I just don’t think I can get the context enough to full appreciate it. The repetitiveness gets to me, despite all my efforts contrary. I have lots of family in Quebec, and I know the whole situation of them not exactly having the best relationship with the rest of Canada. That said, I’m an American from Oregon, and as such this album just doesn’t quite do it for me. Decent, very listenable, but that’s all really.


Slice the Cake – Odyssey to the West

So in choosing a band name that above anything epitomizes the trend of “deathcore band that’s going to release one extremely shitty album that’s ripe with memes, then crabwalk their way through 3 failed redemption albums to the hall of shame”, Slice the Cake set themselves in a pretty big corner. And to be fair, their first two records actually got some pretty good acclaim for their genre. But then, for whatever reason, the band just got together and decided “fuck it, we’re going to create the greatest deathcore album ever made”. On a list of achievements no one is going to care about, that’s pretty up there. Deathcore is far and away the most made fun of, and probably overall worst metal subgenre. I mean spoiler alert, they do in fact succeed in creating the greatest deathcore album ever made (at least from what I’ve heard). But the bar wasn’t set too high to begin with. Even After the Burial’s attempt at this feat felt lackluster at it’s very best. To put the cherry on top, the rad english dudes at the cake slicing factory decided to make the album almost 80 fucking minutes. I mean why not, if you’re already going to try to make a fucking deathcore album as pretentious as humanly possible, why not go the extra mile to cement that fact?

The biggest indication that I was in for a true Odyseey of sorts (as the title implies) was in my first listen of this record. I was going through it with the general thinking of “this is pretty good, but I feel like it’s a bit over the top”. I was somewhat satisfied, but at the point of which I thought was the end of the album, there was this strong sense that Slice the Cupcake was trying way too damn hard to be epic. The first half listens as this opus to prove just how not deathcore they are, trying to be emotional and epic tech death with breakdowns that, while sounding overall ok I guess, are extremely samey and feels like one giant song that wasn’t really worth listening to. I will say though, the overall flow of this album is really good. It does feel like one track, but for the most part, that’s more because every tracks flows so smoothly into each other. I’ll give credit where credit is due, I try to be fair like that.

So I’m about done with what I thought was the end of the album, and I’m thinking “alright, this wasn’t amazing, but kinda solid, this is around a mid to low 6”. Then I look at the track listing and I realize “what the fuck, I have 7 more tracks to go”. That was a big red flag.

But now, get ready for this, here’s the kicker. The second half of the album (which is pretty distinctly split into too halves) is clearly the band trying to over do it on the pretentious and “no really guys, we’re more than just a deathcore band”side of Cutting Cookies for Kids. There’s african drums, more acoustic guitar, some ambient, other shit that makes it much more diverse, but infinitely more high than thou. Not to mention they get rid of most of the tech death side and go full deathcore for the majority of the tracks. But, BUT, here’s the shocker: it’s infinitely better than the first half.

Riddle me this, in what possible world does the part of an album that meekly tries to give a handy to both deathcore bros and art students, while mostly getting rid of one of the only well liked genre it’s influenced by (let’s me real, prog metal has taken a bit of a beating over the years) the best part of the album? Let alone best entire HALF? It’s demonstrates this phenomenon where something can be pretentious, but still down to earth and relatable. In one of the most odious comparisons I’m going to make all year for sure, I’m reminded of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Rite of Spring is pretentious as fuck. Like full stop, this is the kind of shit Stravinsky almost certainly thought “god I’m so fucking smart” while writing it. I mean he thought that about everything, because he’s Stravinsky, but even so, this is some high brow shit. But at the same time, ya’ll can relate to earthy rituals and the connection humanity has to ways of their ancient ancestors. Well, maybe not now, because modern society jerks off over being progressive and unlike the savages who lived, oh , 20 years ago. But subconsciously it’s there. That’s why it’s such a loved work.

Obviously Odyssey to the West is not a Stravinsky piece, nor am I implying they even approach the same quality. But there’s something more believable about a deathcore band being a deathcore band. I’d much rather Chopping up the Sweet Stuff for Birthday Parties do an epic tale in ways they know best, than try to be something they honestly aren’t. These guys aren’t a tech death band. They are prog deathcore. Not everyone can be Job for Cowboy, sometimes you just gotta live with the fact that you chose to make music in a shitty subgenre. And surprise, when they embrace themselves as just a deathcore band that’s trying to make good deathcore, the results are great.

The closer, The Holy Mountain, is a fucking holy shit track. It shares a lot in common with the first half of the album actually, but the difference is they got rid of some of the unnecessary technicality, and timing for the track was much better. I don’t want to be blasted with epic deathcore prog tech shit fuck for 8 straight tracks to open the album. But as a finale? Fuck yeah, that sounds dope. And sure enough, the finale is indeed, dope as fuck.

However, as dope as fuck as this album can be at times, it’s still 77 fucking minutes long. And there’s really, really no reason for that to be. Want the biggest improvement I could possibly suggest for this album? Here, just take out the first 5 tracks of the album. Just delete them, don’t even think about it. There, you have a pretty solid high 7 album and you have permanently left your mark on the deathcore scene forever.

Of course, “leaving your mark on the deathcore scene forever” is essentially being on top of loser mountain. You’re there but…. you’re there, and not on top of winner mountain, where they get to grope breasts and drink good beer. You’re on loser mountain where you get a sloppy, probably herpes infected kiss on the cheek from a 4/10 girl and drink natty light for your efforts.

Odyssey to the West is the best deathcore album I’ve ever heard, bar none. If Fuck It I’m Just Going to Stuff My Face With This Shit, Slicing is For Losers, I’m Really Sad and Want Sweet Things to Fill the Void Where Companionship Should Be shortened the albums length a bit, this would be a great release. But nigga, 77 minutes. If I wasn’t forced to have time for that, I wouldn’t.

Oh, and to people who hate the vocals, I don’t give a shit, they’re fine. If you can’t handle corny story telling you really shouldn’t be listening to metal. And no, lyrics about eating out Satan’s asshole isn’t much better.


Haken – Affinity

Very rarely do I listen to an album more than twice when reviewing it. This is almost entirely due to the fact that I’m massively stubborn, and very rarely does my opinion of an album change after first listen. I can count on one hand the number of times it’s changed drastically (three). Affinity is an exception, however not quite to the point of me being able to say I loved my listening experience. Initially I was bored by the generic chord changes, cheesy atmosphere, and the overall sound of a dime a dozen prog album. I gave it a 3/10 and moved on. A month later however, here I am, giving it over double the score I would’ve given it at the time of initial review. Have I changed? Not really. I got a bit of an appreciation for “generic” chord progressions, but other than that I’ve mostly stayed the same. The one thing that has changed is that I didn’t go into it desperately wanting to hate it. Any album that is labeled a generic prog metal/rock is almost always an instant dislike for me, and considering Haken has been a poster boy for generic, over the top, and cheesy modern prog, I went into the album wanting to hate it, and that’s what I got. On second chance however, I have come to appreciate it for what it is, while still maintaining that it has some serious flaws.

The two biggest elements that have been added to Haken’s repertoire are heavy djent and electronic influences, though RateYourMusic apparently disagrees, because prog fanboys are retarded. While on the surface those aspects seem like not only typical sellout tropes for prog bands, but also should be a massive annoyance on the listener. And to a degree that’s right. On The Architect these elements are combined into an extremely long opus that’s full of variety, but none of it enjoyable or even remotely worth making a track that long for. I very much actually enjoyed tracks like 1985 and Earthrise, despite their over the top and corny as all fuck faux 80s aesthetic (hence the faux retro cover). And the djenty, off rhythmic aspects of The Endless Knot actually makes for a killer track to bob your head to. Hell, generally speaking I actually enjoyed most of the fake aesthetic and djent aspects of this album. Sans the weird brostep like drop on Endless Knot (which actually prevented it from being the best track on the album), even the electronic aspects were handled with some appropriate restraint. But The Architect just takes all of what Haken was doing right, dressed it up in a clown suite, strapped to a gigantic Garfield balloon, and sent it off in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with a sign attached reading “kill me”.

However overall, while I still can’t really recommend this as something I really like, I can see why people like it, and if anything present a precedent for me not to automatically shit on any modern prog that doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Because just because you didn’t change the shape of music, doesn’t mean you didn’t release an acceptable album, even if that’s the supposed purpose of your genre.


Moonsorrow – Jumalten aika

So I was going to be all mega contrarian and call this garbage and overrated and all that good stuff. I’ve never liked Moonsorrow. At their best they’re bland and forgettable, and at their worst they’re corny and overblown. I feel like on this album there is a lack of content, in that there’s lots of bombastic and loud atmosphere, but little progression or anything that doesn’t just feel generically large. Everyone is calling this epic but you can’t be epic if you never go anywhere. An epic in the traditional sense is a long story, so logically to be epic you have to have some sort of journey, or at least a sense of progression. That is not what’s on this album, opting to just go for what sounds as massive as possible, in order to overwhelm the listener into thinking the music is epic, when it’s really just completely unimaginative. And in the end I would probably give it somewhere in the 4 range, just to be an asshole. But if I’m being totally honest, I can’t help but think at least part of this record IS epic. It’s epic in a way that I don’t like, but it is epic, and I can’t help but feel a sense of awe at times. The first three tracks I feel don’t add anything, but Mimisbrunn and Ihmisen Aika are fantastic, even if I really don’t want them to be. Sure they’re just trying to be as huge as possible, but they absolutely fucking succeed in that goal. I can’t say this is my favorite record of the year, but I will say it’s not garbage like I was trying to argue it was initially.


Convulse – Cycle of Revenge

You ever have an album that you really like, but then see that other people don’t like it and you’re like “shit maybe I’m listening to this wrong”? But then you listen again, and like you still like it, but you see where other people are coming from. But at the same time you’re not sure if agree or disagree with what everyone else is saying, so you’re in that middle spot where you want to hang on to your original opinion but at the same time not really. That’s where I am here. I could give this anywhere from a 5 to an 8 and it would make perfect sense. There’s some great technical and melodic passages, combined with some pretty cool use of tribal drumming, some interesting traditional doom elements, and all around lots of good music. But the vocals are like if they tried to pick the least fitting vocals that would still sound like shit even if they were fitting possible. I mean I’m exaggerating a little bit, but they go way low into the register for music that isn’t really guttural at all. And there’s just so much going on here, it’s like in high school biology where you find some pond scum and put it under a microscope. You see all these really cool things that are awesome but also kinda gross and creepy at the same time. As I’m about to finish this review I still haven’t given an idea of what score to give this. Imma give it a 6.75 because uh, fuck that sounds ok I guess.