John Jackson

Nov 162022

Scarlet Oath have released their second album featuring a blend of black, gothic, progressive, death, and doom metal combined into the theatrical, providing a unique experience for the listener.

Let me just start with saying this album is like none I’ve reviewed before. Sure, I’ve covered a lot of extreme metal, black, death, goth, progressive, and even doom which I try to avoid, but I’ve never had to switch between all of those genres on one album, let alone try to make those changes within a single song. Granted there are only 4 songs on this 42 minute release, so the songs are long, but still there is a lot going on here. As a final piece of the puzzle, there is an unmistakable theatric element at play which does provide some context for the changes and that can best be seen in the video for the song “Ichabod” which frankly is mesmerizing.

Screams and sounds of suffering open the album providing a dark, foreboding atmosphere and the repeating clean guitar sounds like an intro to a Slayer song, so by now the listener is fully expecting something heavy and “Where Their Worm Dieth Not” does not disappoint. The early verse parts are delivered by a deep, spoken voice until the song picks up pace and heads toward the black metal side of things including the requisite shrieking vocals. Clean female vocals come in and then things quiet down, briefly before the guitars come back and the song shifts to a pounding, marching riff accented by keyboards and then guitars and more gothic clean female vocals. Production on the album is great, allowing all of the various elements and instruments to come through cleanly, highlighting the work of Derek Corzine (Alethian, Whisper from Heaven, Blood Thirsty) at Corzine Studios.

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Stryper – “The Final Battle”

 Posted by on November 14, 2022 at 19:49  No Responses »
Nov 142022

Stryper return with their 14th album, one that will not disappoint longtime fans and should win them some new ones if there is anyone who hasn’t heard of them yet. Don’t expect anything new, just great riffs and guitar solos, soaring strong vocals, a pounding rhythm section, and perhaps some nostalgia for the older crowd…

It’s been almost 40 years since Stryper debuted with The Yellow and Black Attack in 1984. Since then the band has sold over 10 million albums, had Top 40 hits, were nominated for a Grammy and were the first artist to have two songs in MTV’s Top 10 simultaneously back when MTV actually showed videos. For The Final Battle, the band had some things to overcome including Michael Sweet having to write lyrics while lying face down for a couple weeks after surgery. Given the band’s history and beliefs, subject matter on the album does in fact give a nod to themes of Armageddon with other topics including celebrating God’s love and mercy and finding relief in God during difficult times.

The album opens up with “Transgressor” and serves as the perfect introduction of what is to come. In fact the video will tell you everything you need to know about Stryper and the album. Fast guitar riff and some muted drums open up the track, building until Michael Sweet lets one of his signature screams go and then the song is off and running. Instantly, I was transported back to the late 80’s metal in terms of song structure, performances, and high quality production. Interestingly, Sweet must have been still recovering from retina surgery as he’s wearing a patch in the video is anyone is wondering about that visual element. Robert Sweet pounds on the drums and as you might expect there is a harmony guitar solo part and trading solos between Michael Sweet and Oz Fox, both of which are still at the top of their game.

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Ninth Sphere – “Uriel” ep

 Posted by on November 3, 2022 at 17:56  No Responses »
Nov 032022

When veterans from legendary black and death metal bands that include Mortification, Frost Like Ashes, and Sympathy get together expectations are high and Uriel from Ninth Sphere does not disappoint. Combining band members from Canada, the US, and Australia to form a death/black metal project, Jason Sherlock (Horde, Mortification), Nyk Edinger, aka Azahel (Frost Like Ashes), and Derek “Dharok” James-From (Sympathy) have created what can easily be described as a supergroup as their previous bands were notable in their own right and influenced so many other bands over the years.

Given the pedigree of the band, I had an idea of what to expect but even with that I was literally blown away by this ep. This is one of those releases that you simply must hear if you are a fan of black metal or blackened death metal. In strict terms, one could argue for both on the album depending on song or even parts of songs. Nyk Edinger’s vocals are instantly recognizable as similar to what he’s done with Frost Like Ashes in the past, the black metal shrieks are there as are the deeper raspy growled vocals. Derek James-From’s guitars really provide a soundscape with multiple parts layered in the mix and Jason Sherlock’s drumming includes everything from the expected blast beats to hyperfast double bass parts.

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Demon Hunter – “Exile”

 Posted by on October 27, 2022 at 10:13  No Responses »
Oct 272022

Demon Hunter is back with their 11th album in the 20th year of the band. Exile is everything you’ve come to know about Demon Hunter, from crushing heaviness and aggression to carefully crafted melodies, all of which tell the story of how tech has taken over in the not-so distant future.

For me it’s hard to believe the debut album from Demon Hunter came out 20 years ago. For those who don’t know, the band was formed by brothers Ryan and Don Clark in 2000. Over the years, the band has released 10 albums won Dove awards, been on mainstream movie soundtracks, toured and played with a wide variety of other well-known metal bands, headlined festivals, and sold likely over a million albums by now since they were at 500,000 in 2010. As Ryan states, neither him nor his brother were great guitar players, so the band typically added others to handle more of the technical guitar parts with Patrick Judge joining around 2009 gave the band more opportunity to explore changes to their sound and then Jeremiah Scott joining in 2011 solidified the band lineup which has remained constant since then. Similar to albums since Extremist (2014), Jeremiah Scott produced and mixed Exile. For Exile the guests include Max Cavalera (Soulfly), Tom Englund (Evergrey) and Richie Faulkner (Judas Priest) who just so happens to live near Nashville and had Jeremiah Scott build out his studio.

To me, the more recent Demon Hunter albums can be divided up into the heavy aggressive tracks and the more melodic, emotional tracks and Exile mostly fits into that. When you combine that with the idea that this is actually a concept album, those differences make sense given the story. In the expanded, deluxe version, there are interludes at various points with narration, but according to Ryan Clark the idea behind the album was to make sure each song could stand on its own, so it’s not your typical concept album in that regard.

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Oct 182022

After a 12 year wait, the power metal band Kaledon return with Chapter VII in their Legend of the Forgotten Reign saga, beginning a new trilogy based on the series.

Kaledon traces its roots back to 1998 as an idea of guitarist Alex Mele and the band released the first chapter in the Legend of the Forgotten Reign saga in 2002. Through 2010, the band continued the saga culminating in the first six chapters with Chapter VI: The Last Night on the Battlefield. During this time frame the band changed labels a couple of times and then from 2010-2016 the band toured Europe playing with the likes of Lordi and Rhapsody of Fire as well as headlining. Fast forward another 5 years and the band is beginning a new trilogy based on the Legend of the Forgotten Reign saga with the first installment being Chapter VII: Evil Awakens. For this new album the band recruited Nocoletta Rosellni (Kalidia, Walk in Darkness) to add vocals for “The Story Comes to an End” and James Mills (Hostile) adding vocals on “A Strike from the Unknown”. In addition to vocal duties, Michele Guaitoli mixed and mastered the album at Groove Factory Studio.

As one might expect given this is Chapter VII in a power metal saga, the albums opens up with an instrumental track filled with choirs, keyboards, and orchestral elements to set the tone and announce the arrival of the album, which explodes into the very fast beginning of “At the Gates of the Realms”. Even though Kaledon has been around for 24 years and released 11 albums, this was my first exposure to them and being a power metal fan, this album hooked me early in the second track. Michele Guaitoli’s vocals are perfect for power metal, with range and power and smooth delivery. The eerie interlude in the song with harsh whispered vocals and keyboards, breaks up the song nicely and the keyboard and guitar solos are well placed and performances are strong.

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