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Review Rundown: January edition - A quick look at January releases
Since articles at Metalrage were very scarce in 2017, lets see what 2018 brings. The new year is an excellent start for new traditions, failed resolutions and good starts to crash land somewhere a month later. So also time for a “new” feature that will work or will suffer the same fate as any other good idea (you remember the time, say first of January, that the new fitness subscription would work out and you will create a new and enhanced self. That seems a long while ago, right?).
What does this feature entail? It will be a monthly rundown of interesting releases just solely based on my taste. So unfortunately no one man black metal projects, 12 minute long post metal compositions or ear blistering grindcore records. No, this guy likes his metal and rock straightforward, not too extreme and with some good melody. These are also no long thought over reviews, with multiple listens, but more easy short cuts to albums that caught my attention. Some have been given more listens than others, but in the most cases if the first few listens are good, they are good.
The goal is to give an overview from the albums listened to per month, so it is not exactly the month it was released in, but more when it come on my radar.  Without further ado, hereby the January edition.
Machine Head – Catharsis
This one received an enormous amount of flack on the internet and also in the print magazines there was quite a division. Despite the released singles didn’t pull me in immediately as other Machine Head releases did, I still ordered the album when it was released. Disclaimer while reading this part, I am only one of few, but I actually liked Supercharger. With this in mind, it won’t come as a surprise that Catharsis is actually a nice album to listen to. It is no Blackening, no Unto The Locust, but I enjoy it already a lot more thanthe very mediocre Bloodstone & Diamonds, which for me sounded like a watered down version of Unto The Locust.
Catharsis is different yes and indeed people only interesting in the heavier side of Machine Head won’t find anything interesting here. The variety on the album is one of the strong points of the from my favourite song Bastards (a nice folky take on groove metal, something they could explore more in the future) to California Bleeding (brings some rap to the table). Not everything is a homerun though and the album is a few songs too long and I noticed myself losing attention after song 10/11.
The album starts really well Volatile, Catharsis and Beyond The Vale are typical groovy Machine Head monsters. Triple Beam is nice, if you don’t pay too much attention to the lyrics, which are cringe worthy. Kaleidoscope, Bastards and Hope Begets Hope are also songs that do well in the car.
If you like the more groovy side of Machine Head this is a good album, if you look more in the thrashy side of them or the more technical side and that is what appeals to you, then it warrants a few listens to decide if it is a buy or no buy. For me I am definitely not disappointed with buying the album.
Avatar – Avatar Country
For me Avatar is an excellent live band. The last few albums I have bought, there are some great tunes on it, but as a whole the albums don’t have a lot of staying power. With Avatar Country I have the same feeling. It is a short album, with 10 songs in total, and they close the album with two instrumentals, which aren’t really remarkable and with two in a row even too much. Also The King Speaks is a fun intermezzo, but after hearing it a few times you will skip it. That leaves with a grand total of seven songs and again it is hit and miss.
Avatar Country has been listened to only a few times without making any impression, perhaps when the songs are given a bit more time the album will open up, but for now there are much more
interesting albums been released in the beginning of the year.
Audrey Horne – Blackout
Audrey Horne gradually changed from a modern metal band during Le Fol to a more straightforward rock band. Both Le Fol as their selftitled album are still on rotation, Youngblood passed me by and Pure Heavy is recently bought and I had to get used to their “new” style. With Blackout they convinced me that the new rockier style fits them beautifully. Real solid songwriting, with a lot of diversity between the songs. From Audrevolution which is a nice straightforward rocker to a subdued mellow rocker in Rose Alley, everything they touch on this album works. One of their finest albums to date!
A must buy for all rock fans out there!
Black Label Society – Grimmest Hits
For some reason Black Label Society hasn’t been much on my radar. Didn’t come to mind to check one of their albums, while they got solid ratings. Too much music to listen to every year, month, week. So Grimmest Hits is my real first introduction to BLS. And it is a pleasant one! The soulful way of guitar play, Zakk’s voice that fits the music like a glove and on top of that interesting songs to boot.
This is still an album I need to listen to more frequently to come with a good conclusion on the separate the songs, but the album as a whole is convincing. When put on shuffle on my Spotify playlist, the songs of this album sticks out between a lot of other music on said playlist. Every time a song stops by, it shows how well the rock songs are put together and they peak my interest.
Good album, worth picking up.
Black Veil Brides – Vale
A much hyped band that appeals a lot to the younger crowd, while completely being demolished in reviews by the more experienced metal reviewers. I understand why, this music is so sugar coated and polished, it is more radio stuff than genuine, a bit “dangerous”, heavy rock. But this music has its audience and even quite a big one.
After a few listens I don’t really know what to make of it. The compositions are okay, but all really samey. It is a bit like the equivalent of rock elevator music. Excellent music to clean your house to, since it doesn’t warrant much attention, since it is so easy to digest. It doesn’t bother me at all and it all sounds okay, but it also doesn’t do much else. It doesn’t give me any emotion or the need to put it on repeat.
It is an okay album, but nothing more than that. If you like this kind of polished modern rock than you should give it a try. For BVB fans, they will already have put it in preorder. Personally this one will be skipped or it should be in a bargain bin for a few euro, because it is not a bad album by any means, but just a bit safe.
Earth Caller – Crystal Death
Some heavy hitting metallic hardcore from these Aussies! Music that is a bit within the early 2000s metalcore, but with a genuine hardcore twist, think TRC but also some NYHC. Next to that you hear some technical elements in songs that are reminiscent to the djent movement. But everything is delivered with a real hardcore element, I think Death Before Dishonor is quite a good comparison, with the song Suckafor example you can also hear some clear Madball elements in it.
Their take on hardcore is quite interesting, since it is a mix of a variety of styles, which is entertaining.
Personally I am quite the hardcore guy, when done well, I’ll eat it gladly. Same with Earth Caller, the album is interesting and while the song writing could use some work (I am missing some hooks in a few songs), people who are into this style of hardcore won’t be disappointed. Nice one!
Defecto – Nemesis
With Nemesis Defecto comes up with a modern rock/metal hybrid. On first listen I put it off as generic, nothing special. A sound we hear a lot especially in the States (As Lions, Starset, Imminence and those kind of bands) or in Great Britain. Basically a sound that tires me more and more, too polished, nothing really exciting.
But due to several positive review on the interwebs I gave them another try and after more and more listens, the songs really stuck into my head and it seemed that the album has more to offer than it gave away on first impression. I am returning more and more often to this album and especially a few songs keep drawing me in (Endlessly Falling and Nemesis for example).
This isn’t a must buy, since a lot of bands are operating in this genre, but if you do buy it and are into this modern sound, you won’t regret it. Nice solid album!
Mother Misery – Megalodon
The Swedes deliver us an alternative rock/metal hybrid. Normally this is one of my favourite styles, as long as it is not too clean and too sterile. I had some real fun with this disc! Ideal music for in the car and I really dig the vocals. There is some rasp to it, which sometimes lacks in this type of music. It is hard to compare to other vocalists, it has a bit of a grunge feeling to it, but also some old school heavy metal vibe. Ashes Of Your Crown shows this really well.
The music contains a lot of hooks and memorable melodies. Of course this isn’t too complicated and if you want challenging music, just go look a door further, since this is as straightforward as it gets.
Of course some lyrics are a bit mind boggling if you take them too seriously (like in Megalodon), but it is also part of the fun. How much fun can you have while screaming in the car about some seemingly (or perhaps not, who knows?) extinct mega predator? That is metal right?!?
Like I said I really like this album a lot. Already ordered the album at my favourite online music shop. Perhaps for some it is too much cheese, but for me it hits all the right spots.
Nordic Giants – Amplify Human Vibration
And now for something completely different, Nordic Giants! These progressive dudes bring instrumental music, but instead of being totally without voices, they use fragments of speeches to fill the gap the lack of vocals leave. This leaves a very powerful impression. The music seems almost written for the old speeches, as if this was really at the background while Martin Luther King was speeching. Really nice job from the guys!
Normally this kind of music isn’t something I listen to on a regular basis and it hit me from leftfield that it made such a huge impression. I have never heard something like this before and it was very welcome!
Nice, entertaining album. Definitely something you want to pick up, if you are in need for some more mellow music in your collection.
In Vain – Currents
In Vain impressed me big time with their predecessor Aenigma. A wild progressive death metal ride, with loads of atmosphere, excellent vocals and well written songs. It ended up in my top 10 of the year and rightfully so. They have been away for a while (5 years) and unleashed Currents, in two different versions. One consisting out of seven tracks and one with two bonus tracks. I have only indulged myself, which is a treat on its own, but it seems that both bonus tracks are quite essential.
Too bad that I can’t find this version in record stores online yet, because this album is a must buy!
It is a more melodic affair compared to Aenigma, but it has even more variety and the light/dark division is more prevalent. Interesting is also to see the name of Matt Heafy popping up, not a name I would expect on this kind of album.
Walking Papers – WP2
Their debut was a quite convincing one, although it has been quite some time since the last time I listened to it. Nevertheless it was a nice album, but it was missing some real “go-to songs” on it. Those special songs that you want to hear over and over again.
With WP2 the guys turned it down a notch. The music is very mellow and contemplating and light on the rock. Because of this, there is too less variation in tempo and therefore WP2 is for me not on the same level as their debut. The songs on itself are all from quite a high level, but the album as a whole lacks the variety to listen to it in one go.
Starting with high expectations, it was a bit of a let-down. The musicians at hand are more than capable song writers, so the songs on the album show us, but the album as a whole didn’t leave an overwhelming impression.
White Wizzard – Infernal Overdrive
White Wizzard is a well-known name in the old school heavy metal circuit. Infernal Overdrive  is my first proper introduction to them. It is quite a diverse record, since they don’t stick to the classic heavy/speed metal style, which I expected frankly. I hear some more modern rock sounds, some nowadays power metal anthems, progressive touches here and there and some older heavy rock influences. Quite a nice mixture of styles, which give this album just a bit more than expected.
The songs are on average quite long. Even too long to be honest. Voyage Of The Wolfriders for example starts really good and you expect that you are in for a treat, but not the whole song grabs you. Somewhere halfway you are checking the duration and if it is still the same song you are listening too. It is a bit all over the place. There are more of these kind of examples.
It is not to say that this album is a bad one. Far from it, I enjoy it quite a bit, but the songwriting could be a bit more focused.
I advise to give this album a few spins to sink in. At first listen it doesn’t do itself enough justice. Also when approaching this album, don’t do it in the mind-set I did. Just let them surprise you.
Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons – The Age Of Absurdity
As mentioned before I have a soft spot for just plain simple rock music, with some good hooks and melodies. And this band delivers it in spades! Music you just drive a little faster to and sing a little bit louder. Easy songs, but deceitfully well crafted and brought by some really soulful vocals.
Phil shows there’s life after Motorhead and with his sons and Neil Starr on vocals he is ready to write some new chapters to his rock ‘n roll legacy. The Age Of Absurdity comprises of no filler tracks at all. All songs deserve to be heard, if I have to nit-pick though is that I am missing a few really stand out tracks. Nevertheless listening to this album is a blast and the melodies kept finding its way into my head, a sign of well written songs.
What do you expect? Just go buy it and support the guys on tour!
January 2018 was an odd month, but in a positive way. I can’t recall a January month in recent years, that was so filled with worthwhile albums. If this is the step up for 2018, there’s something in the waiting for us rock/metalheads. Unfortunately the bank account isn’t unlimited.