Mass Deception – Revelations

Really solid thrash metal debut. Mass Deception uses this heavy, slower, and at times almost atmospheric style of thrash where the riffs don’t go as fast, but they hit much harder. The various samples throughout the album add some flavor of governmental paranoia, as well as lots of humor (LOVED the chew bubble gum and kick ass sample, got a big kick out of that). I feel like it unnecessarily trades some of it’s sticking power for heaviness. I think a bit more speed would’ve gotten me more in that thrashy mood. Unslaved is a fantastic track, and fitting of the longest track on the album. Though it’s disappointing that Criminally Insane (basically a throwaway track) follows, and Ancient Days (an almost entirely acoustic track) feels just out of place and pointless. Really, you could’ve just removed Ancient Days and this would’ve been an 8 easily. This is still very well done however, these guys should be proud they put together such a solid debut in a genre lacking solid music.


Flotsam and Jetsom – Flotsam and Jetsom

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A thrash band releases a classic album in the 80s, releases a second album afterwards that’s not quite as good, but still decent, only to continue to be mediocre for years afterwards, eventually falling into the alt/groove metal craze, then try to desperately resurrect their career 30 years later by trying to go back to their roots. It’s a story as old as music itself, bands starting off great, then losing all of their juice for years, only to try to go back to what they were first doing many years later. I’m sure even in ancient Egyptian times you had musical artists who got washed up. However a new twist has been put on this story over the past few years or so: these revivals are actually working. Satan has released two albums to high acclaim (one that I reviewed and loved), Iron Maiden totally revitalized their sound, fuck even Anthrax released their best album in a long time. There’s been this old school revival going on and I’m very glad to be reviewing during this time. Flotsam and Jetsom obviously fell for this tale, and similarly, almost 30 years later, released an album to somewhat high acclaim that tries to modernize what originally made their debut a cult classic.

And it’s so close to working. So damn close. On the opener Seventh Seal Flotsam shows so much potential and demonstrates that they do have the chops to still create a fantastic album. Seventh Seal brings this perfect balance between heaviness and clean riffs, along with a perfect track length, opening the album in a way that unfortunately none of the rest of the album even comes fucking close to reaching. The first 4 tracks are all fantastic for the reason that they don’t overdo it on the heaviness and “chugs”. I put that in quotes because it’s not really chugging, but more stationary riffs that don’t go anywhere, to the point where they sometimes sound more like mediocre doom metal riffs than anything belonging in a thrash album. The moment Verge of Tragedy hits the album takes somewhat of a nosedive into sameness and mush. Aside from maybe The Incantation and Monkey Wrench (which is really one track that’s separated into two for reasons I couldn’t explain if I wanted to), the entire rest of the album feels like when you just ranked up in your favorite video game and you’re really happy but your dad comes into your room and tells you that you’re a disappointment to your family because you’re at your dad’s house playing video games with no job at 24. And it’s like “oh great, it’s only 12 pm” and the rest of the day you just sit there playing games but it’s all so tainted by the crushing realization that you’re a sack of shit so you can’t have fun with the games. It’s one big mess of bleh, ugh, and I want to kill myself.

The large majority of the album feels like a big bowl of “I can’t believe it’s not groove metal”, where it has this tinge of groove metal without actually being so, so it just feels awkward to listen to. It’s like that one bit of popcorn shell stuck in your teeth that you can’t quite tell if it’s actually there or your imagination. It doesn’t really feel too awful, but it’s annoying enough to drive you insane and ruin whatever activity you’re trying to enjoy. I guess I could just describe this as “really heavy, slightly mid tempo  thrash” and call it a day, but that just sounds like a cop-out.

I really do think that if they lightened up this album just a tad, and focused more of a faster paced kind of thrash, this would be very enjoyable. As it is, it sounds like an attempt to rekindle cult glory that just barely misses the mark, but that near miss pays a somewhat heavy price. The end result is an album that has moments, but ultimately sputters it’s way to a disappointing finish. It’s like going to college, except it takes 30 years, and you end up with a liberal arts degree and 200k worth of debut. At that point, it may be worth just quitting while you’re not as behind and things don’t get worse, because if this self-titled is Flotsam’s best attempt at a true revival, I really don’t want to see what happens when they get burnt out a second time.


Vektor – Terminal Redux

Believe the fucking hype. With Terminal Redux, Vektor didn’t just aim for the sky, they didn’t just aim for the moon, they aimed for fucking pluto and then zoomed past it into the next galaxy. The actual concept isn’t unheard of, plenty of bands have tried to make space adventure concept albums. However few if any have ever executed that concept as well as Vektor did here, especially in a genre so traditionally limiting like Thrash Metal. And in the process of succeeding where few have before, they created an all time classic that will be played, discussed, and thoroughly enjoyed for generations to come.

But you don’t get there by just doing what others have done previously, and in this case not even what Vektor themselves have done previously. This album is more entrenched in black metal than any of their other records before, the harsh vocals especially being almost purely black metal in style. Actually calling this black thrash wouldn’t be too much of a stretch on most tracks. However that’s not why this album is amazing. It is a reason I feel it differs itself from others, especially in that it combines such a sinister sub genre with an extremely technical and progressive leaning, but not why it’s the top of the ticket for this years list of AOTYs. What really sets this apart is in it’s comparison to other albums released as concept albums (or just albums in general really).

Concept albums tend to have the massive bother of being A. too long, and B. Not having enough content to be that long. If there’s anything any music listener knows, it’s that music artists tend to have a hard time making their music match their vision, especially with albums with large concepts, and ESPECIALLY in metal. Usually that’s a result of a lack of talent, but even talented artists fail at this simply because no matter how gifted you are, making 70+ minutes of music that’s not only consistent, and not only diverse, but ALSO centered entirely around a theme or story is just fucking hard. Many artists get some of those aspects right (and by some i mean almost always just one), but god damn is it almost impossible to get the triple play. And even albums that do get all three right typically suffer from being too tame, or playing it way too safe in a way that their album is a technical success, but feels underwhelming. It’s why I’m so quick to bash concept albums, it’s not that i hate them, it’s that executing them to the level of which I regard as acceptable is almost impossible. I feel like if you’re going to set the bar as high as possible, you have to reach that bar, fair or not.

Now it goes without saying that I feel like Vektor wins on all sides of the triangle of my arbitrary standards for concept albums. Sans some slight hiccups which I’ll get to a bit later, Terminal Redux is astoundingly consistent, with every track feeling unique and worth listening to. Even the one “filler” track on the album feels like it wasn’t wasted, as it leads perfectly into the track following. And not only is every track a hit, but every track sounds like it’s own being. I have to comment on how melodically diverse this album is, because that is a major rarity among metal albums, especially in fucking thrash metal of all things. I honestly believe every track but the 1 minute lead up track could be released as a single, which holds some truth, because 3 of them actually were. Normally something like that would be a sign of a band who has sold out, but not, 3 of the 10 tracks are singles because they’re all just so fucking good by themselves, let alone together. The best example of this I think are the final too tracks, Collapse and Recharging the Void. When I first heard Collapse, all I could think of is “wow, this would’ve made a fanatic closer”, and could taste that juicy 13:37, leet disappointment of a finale. I’m cynical as fuck, if I see a long track finale, and the shorter track before hand would make a great closer, even before I hear the final track I’m going to assume the band fucked up. But no, not only is Recharging the Void just as good as Collapse, it’s even BETTER as a closing statement. I would even go so far as to say it’s the perfect way for them to close this album, I really don’t think they could’ve pulled it of better. And that leads me into the most unique aspect of Terminal Redux, and what really separates this from the crowd.

The biggest problem with concept albums is that no matter how good the music is, if the lyrics can’t be heard, the concept is often lost upon people, because it’s really hard to tell a story via just music without either making it really obvious, or the listener knowing the story before hand from an external source. Vektor manages not just to masterfully tell a full story with music, but they make you feel the story as well. This albums feels like a blockbuster movie. A gripping, 73 minute, action packed, science fiction thriller that if made into moving pictures would probably be nominated for uh, idunno, probably a Golden Globe, the Oscars don’t really like nerd shit. Very few albums this long have the ability to make me just sit there listening to it without doing anything else, and being totally entertained at the same time. Charging the Void and Cygnus Terminal make me envision the hopeful start to a heroes journey throughout the cosmos. LCD to Pillars of Sand show me the action filled, perilous trials of the hero, enunciated on by the sinister and tense riffs. And finally we have Collapse and Recharging the Void, the triumphant victory of the heroes, shown by the proud and euphoric chords, and powerful noisy atmosphere. One small thing that I absolutely love is how Charging the Void and Recharging the void end with exactly the same riff, which implies to me that these heroes are not done, and that after a well earned victory, they continue to set sail for adventure. The album is at it’s best when it’s at it’s combining it’s harsh reality of peril and death with it’s ever ending optimism, when it combines both the positive and the negative, the major and the minor. It’s so refreshing to find a concept record that not only focuses on doom and peril, but the joy and idealism of an adventurous spirit. Plus it sounds pretty, what’s not to like about that?

Terminal Redux is one of those albums that we may not fully appreciate until 5-10 years down the road. We see it simply as one of the best metal albums this year, but further down the line, I can see this easily being not only a 2010s classic, but a thrash metal classic, period. Hell I wouldn’t be surprised to see this on some top 100 metal albums ever lists after the dust settles.

Are there flaws with this album, of course. I feel that tracks 6 and 7 feel just a tad bit too similar to each other, and one of them could’ve been taken off for the benefit of the album. Other than that, I can’t complain much. Could I spend an hour digging through the album to find flaws, you bet I could. I’m an asshole at heart, and if there’s anything more fun than praising an album, it’s taking a giant shit on it. But what the fuck would be the point? Nothing is perfect, and anyone who uses that as an excuse to not give something a perfect score is a massive memelord who should be ignored at all costs. Terminal Redux is not the greatest metal album of all time, nor is it perfect, nor is it worth the endless amounts of shitposting and memes it spawned. But if you even bother focusing on that fact, and not take time to just appreciate the album for what it is, you’re missing one hell of a ride.


Stam1na – Elokuutio

I think it’s time for people to step back and realize that maybe we should just stop with the whole concept album thing in metal. And that has about as much to do with the genre of metal itself as it does the people making them. First off, the people who actually want to make a concept album (usually power, heavy, progressive, thrash metal dudes) can’t ever actually make them, part of which is because power, heavy, and thrash metal are so limited in scope instrumentally, so you have to rely on either skits or vocals to tell the story (which lets be real, metal bands are exactly geniuses are writing lyrics), and progressive metal is just a trash genre right now. The other part is because the people who play in those bands are usually not “artistic” so to speak, which you kind of need to be to create a true concept album. I don’t think something like Program Music I would be possible in a metal album without adding lots of other subgenres to the tag list. Second of all, concept albums in general are overrated as hell. I don’t need the music itself to tell me it’s telling a story, the music IS the story. One of the great things about non programmatic music is how its meaning is totally up to the interpretation of the listener. I typically listen to a metal album and just enjoy the music for what it is, rather than the story it has to tell. Often times I don’t care about any story or even want one, I just want to listen rad jams. This album is exactly what you think it would be; it does a few things to fractionally grab your attention, but largely falls flat at any grand theme, and for the most part blissfully wanders into chugland. It’s not terrible to listen to, but it’s not really worth the entire 47 minutes of your time. True, the lyrics being in finnish do make it harder for a filthy american to understand the whole concept, but based on what I heard, I don’t think I’m missing much.


Coldsaw – Coldsaw

I don’t think I’ve seen a single band on bandcamp who has self labeled themselves as rock’n’roll and made really good music. I think those things just can’t coexist. They are also never actually rock’n’roll genre wise, and are always either cringe worthy and mediocre, or just plain awful. These guys manage to fall into just the mediocre category, albeit serviceably mediocre. It isn’t bad, but there’s really no reason to listen to it if you’ve ever heard a random local metal band play at a bar.


Deströyer 666 – Wildfire ALBUM REVIEW

I’ve played this through many, many times, and no matter how many times I go through it, I can’t get into it. It was really a journey for me to find out exactly what was the matter. And it turns out it’s something I’m sure most of you wouldn’t have though it was: it’s not extreme enough. I feel like I expected this to be a huge maelstrom of black thrashing, like a wild wolf savagely devouring its prey. Instead I get clean fucking vocals and parts that border on melodic black metal? What is this?

The production is so completely clean and professional that I can’t get into the aesthetic they’re trying to pull off. It’d be like if some 6’2″ blond haired, blue eyed handsome guy in a suit went up and started talking to me about how he just did a bunch of sacrificial murders in the name of satan and then ate the bodies. I mean I would probably believe him because let’s face it, if a guy actually walked up to you out of nowhere and started talking about the murders he committed, he’s probably delusional enough to be telling the truth, but the aesthetic wouldn’t be there (which is by far the most important aspect of a murder confession).

Aside from that, nothing on Wildfire at all stands out to me. Every track just sort of came and passed, wandering around the Tasmanian wasteland like I’m sure Deströyer 666 does when looking for creative sparks. The only tracks on the album that made any impact on me at all was Wildfire, Hounds at Ya Back, and Tamam Shud, all for very different reasons. Wildfire was the only track on the album that I liked, though I feel it’s only because the chorus of “WILDFIRE! WILDFIRE!” actually sounded pretty damn badass. The guitar tone was very early 80s black metal like, which coupled with the abrasive shouting of the title gave a really awesome look into what the band is trying to accomplish in this record: retro black thrash with a modern twist. I feel like the entire rest of the album feels like there’s much more modern twist than retro black thrash, which makes the whole message seem a bit disingenuous. Hounds at Ya Back is noticed for the entirely opposite reason, in that the chorus there sounds almost more like a harsh Sabaton than anything else, which just totally takes me out of the track, which had previously had a completely black metal vocal delivery.

That’s actually a major reason why I have such trouble appreciating this album. I feel like the black and the thrash never fully coexist for an entire track. It’s more like they’re switching back and forth, sometimes multiple times in one go. It never feels cohesive, almost like they’re competing for power rather than working together. It’s disjointing and confusing, but not as confusing as the entirety of the last track that left an impression.

Tamam Shud just shouldn’t be on here, period. It’s almost melodic black metal with clean vocals, on an album of which neither of those things should be present. I’ve talked about how I like it when albums have a final longer track that ties everything together, putting the band’s best effort forward. This is not an album that should have that. If anything, I would’ve been perfectly ok with Hounds at Ya Back being that track, despite the fact that I didn’t think it was great. Here we have this mid pace “epic” (I guess?) to finish an album that’s supposed to be fast and furious, in and out, coming and going faster than a virgin with a porn star. It just doesn’t fit anything else on here, which is ironically fitting considering the entire album feels like it just shouldn’t be here. Wildfire just doesn’t feel like the album it should be at all.

So yeah, I panned this. You can say I have shit taste for liking After the Burial and not thinking this is that great, that’s fine. That’s why opinions are great, because they vary from person to person, and nobody’s are exactly the same. Although it would’ve been at least kind of nice is Deströyer 666 had the same opinion as to what their music should sound like that I did.


Megadeth – Dystopia ALBUM REVIEW

Well let’s start out with the positives; it’s not a complete disaster like I thought it would be. Anytime an old school band tries to revive its sound through a concept album, normally things start to go arye pretty quickly. In fact, for much of the album, Dystopia is actually quite good. Really good in fact. The main riff from the title track is one of my favorites I’ve heard in this young year. The lyrics are shit, sure, but nobody would expect anything else, instead you just enjoy how fucking groovy and head-bang worthy the tracks are. The fact that an aging old man is desperately trying to sound edgy doesn’t dawn on you as the riffs and solos caress your ears like a mother feeding its baby some spiked milk. Sweet, with a bit of a kick to it.

And then they just… stopped. Like, Death From Within comes on and the entire rest of the album is complete mediocrity with good solos. There’s lots of chugging sure, but there some good grooves there, nothing really awful. At some points there are tracks where it is actually just a bunch of chugging until the solo, Post-American World being an example of such. It is literally just absolutely fucking nothing until the solo hits, then the song ends. And this isn’t the only track like that. But again, that’s generally forgivable.

What ISN’T forgivable is what I mentioned before, those god forsaken vocals. It’s just so damn obvious that this is sung by an old geezer, and it really takes you out of Megadeth’s aesthetic. You know that scene in 30 Rock where Steve Buscemi infiltrates a high school, arrives is dressed up in teenager cloths and goes “how do you do my fellow kids?”? That’s how I feel when I hear Mustaines voice. The dude is desperately trying to remain relevant and just can’t fucking do it, not only to a failure, but to a complete detriment of the album’s quality. The culprit of all of this is how precisely and clearly Mustaine states every single word, when it would be a really, really good idea not to.

Terrible lyrics in metal is not so uncommon. In fact, I’d even say it’s the norm. Metal is unlike most other genres, in that the lyrics are normally quite unimportant, which explains why much of the most highly acclaimed metal albums of all time have rather lackluster lyrics. Part of that is because you literally can’t hear them, which is I guess one way to mask being a shitty writer. In black metal, death metal, and even some sludge metal, it’s very normal to not be able to hear a single word spoken in the entire album. It’s why there is actually a distinction between vocals you hear and vocals you can’t, called “clean” vocals. Now I know pretty much everyone who is reading this knows this shit, but I feel like there is a lesson to be learned here. Even in bands with clean vocals, normally the lyrics aren’t that great, but it’s masked by the fantastic musicianship and melodic playing, with riffs and all that good shit. A lot of people only listen to metal because of those riffs in the first place. Basically, this is a very roundabout way of saying if you’re going to have shitty lyrics, have something to distract someone, or make sure they can’t hear them anyway.

Megadeth doesn’t do that. Instead they let their 9th grade reading level fupa hang out. And when it hangs, it pours. Because what they do is instead of masking their poor writing, they actually strip down the music so that you can’t focus on anything other than the lyrics. There really isn’t a eloquent way I can put it that’ll take up text space, this is just pure trash. The Emperor in particular is some of the cringiest lyrical garbage you’ll hear out of a major band. Not that there isn’t any other cringe on this album (the end of Poisonous Shadows gets a solid B+ in that department), but I think The Emperor easily tops them all, which is saying something.

I really wanted to like this. For the longest time I was holding on to the fact that this was a 7/10 and a great comeback. And I do think it’s a step in the right direction. But a step is just a step, and where they’re stepping from is one of the worst records in recent memory. In reality, while I dissing this a bit more than it deserves, Dystopia really is just average overall. If I was a major Megadeth band, I would really hope this would be their final record, because if this is all they got, there’s nothing left in the tank.


Aleph – Thanatos ALBUM REVIEW

Holy hell what year is it that thrash has produced some of the years best work so far? This album has a bit of everything in it. The combination of chill prog breaks and hardcore thrash metal with harsh vocals is awesome to behold. The one thing that really got me was how surprisingly complex the harmonies and chord progressions could be at times. It seems like the guys from Aleph really know how to write music. The drumming is also insanely intricate, pulling off poly-rhythms and off-beat, mathy stuff.

I will say the vocals are quite lackluster. Not only do they have no rhythmic cohesion with the music, being delivered in a more black metal, free form style, the vocal texture is just plain bad. The guy just doesn’t sound right or have any cadence. I’d hate to describe something in as simple a terms as “bad”, but there isn’t really a particular element that makes the vocals so subpar, it’s just overall a terrible performance.

But what makes this album really above average in my opinion is the final track, which is the weird combination of industrial samples, church bells, spoken word samples, glitch, atonal acoustic guitar, and whatever the fuck else they could fit in. I can’t even think of what genre the music would be, it’s just fucking spooky, and differentiates this album as a thrash album that pushes the boundaries of what thrash metal is. Thanatos is a really fantastic album that brings you a new idea every time you think it’s run out of them. I just wish had higher quality vocals to push closer to the potential AOTY category.