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.


Reclaiming Elysium – A Decade of Silence

I really want to like this, but the band runs out of ideas after track 2. There’s some really awesome solos here, but the metalcore elements get annoying the further you progress into the album. The band is a nice reunion story, and the title refers to the fact that the original band (named Elysium, hence the new name) never finished their first album and broke up a decade ago. But as cool of a story as it is, they brought some questionable help from some questionable bands (namely Solipsist). No matter how cool the melodic solos are, the constant chugging is annoying, and the random acoustic guitar passages don’t add anything and seem more like pointless wank than anything else. It’s not as bad as I’m making it out to be, but not really worth a second look.


Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary

Inoffensive, over-hyped, completely generic. The melo death feels like it’s only there to get a tiny bit of an extreme metal audience, because otherwise the death growls do jack shit for this record. If you have heard any progressive metal album ever, you’ll know what to expect. It sounds like the cover and I don’t mean that in a good way.


Stormtide – Wrath of an Empire

Surprisingly alright. Not reinventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination, but they got the epic aesthetic down pat on their first try. Band just needs any kind of variety and they’ll be turning out some pretty damn good albums. For now though, it was a bit of a difficult listen due to how samey it was. All the attempts to add flavor fell flat, most of the riffs sounded the same, folk elements blended too much with the generic symphonic ones. There’s potential, but Stormtide’s nowhere near there yet.


Whispered – Metsutan: Songs of the Void

Yeah, a lot of this is campy as hell “naruto metal”. But there’s some good shit amongst all the forgettable tracks. Strike! is just fucking godly (as well as the music video), and Tsukiakari certainly holds it’s wait. And for an en epic finale, Bloodred Shores of Enoshima does the job as well as any other cheesy, nerd fantasy metal concept album I’ve ever heard does. I wouldn’t call this great, but if you can get past how “fake” the japanese folk elements sound at times, there’s some pretty damn great music here, with some Killer riffs when the band isn’t jerking off over it’s own theme.


Be’Lakor – Vessels

I’ve come to the conclusion that silence is actually more entertaining than this album. What does Vessels bring? Essentially massively watered down atmospheric melo death, that goes on for 55 minutes without a hint of imagination. Alright, what does silence bring? Well nothing musically, I’ll give it that. But assuming you didn’t have any external visual stimuli, like your computer, or a book, what do you do when you’re in complete silence? That’s right, you think. You think, and sometimes, you imagine (which is already doing more than this entire album). I would even say if the silence goes long enough, you almost exclusively imagine. So what do you imagine? Well I don’t know about you, but my default is naked people. Very attractive naked people. Not people having sex though, if you masturbate there won’t be silence, and being aroused with no way to relieve it is just not fun. So here’s your choice: you could spend almost an hour listening to an incredibly bland snoozefest that you will probably forget you’re even listening to while it’s still playing. Or you could think of naked people. Really hot naked people. As many naked people as you want. I know what my choice is.


Countless Skies – New Dawn

Really disappointed in this album. I was really looking forward to a good melo death record in a lifetime with so few of them, and if it was something I “discovered” that would be a bonus. Unfortunately, while there are some ok melodies, anything good about New Dawn is destroyed by the god awful production job. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against noisy production. In a lot of atmospheric records it’s a great idea and fits with the music perfectly. This is fucking melo death though. Since this is 2016, you are essentially playing heavier melodic metalcore with harsh(ish) vocals and fewer breakdowns. You do not need complete whitewashing. Your goal is not to be heavy, it’s not to immerse the listener, it’s to give some good tunes for them to jam to. And I’ll admit, if I could hear anything other than the buzz of the guitar I would probably like some of what I hear. I mean yeah, none of this shit is bonkers good, I don’t think the album ever flirts with more than a 7/10, but it would’ve been nice nonetheless. Basic, but nice. Unfortunately, as well as melodically being just “kinda nice”, Countless Skies tries to do this sub focus on being atmospheric, and heavily fails, resulting in a bit of a frustrating experience as a listener, but in the large scheme of things, one that I will absolutely forget.

Oh, and the mandolin (??) interludes were kinda weird and unnecessary. I’d try not doing that next album.