Sunbomb – “Evil and Divine”

 Posted by on September 20, 2021 at 17:23  No Responses »
Sep 202021

Stryper’s Michael Sweet and L.A. Guns’ Tracii Guns have come together to collaborate on Sunbomb, with “Evil and Divine” being their first album released via Frontier Music on May 14, 2021. The idea was initiated when Serafino Perugino, president and A&R director of the label reached out to Tracii and Michael, with the idea of a heavy metal album where Tracii wrote the songs and Michael was asked to add to the vocal duties. Although both the bands have had their unique styles and different political/religious standpoints, a collaboration would be of keen interest to the fans, as we hear influences of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest with hints of Doom Metal influence on the album.

I had my apprehensions but more than that I was curious and intrigued to hear the album, so I spun off the album which opened up with “Life”. An interesting guitar riff kicks off the song and a tremendous energy is felt right at the outset, in no time we hear Michael unleashing his tremendous vocal range as we breeze through the song, uplifted; the blitzing guitar solo brings the delivery a notch higher. “Take me away” reminded me off Black Sabbath, the song, an omnipresent Doom beginning with a haunting vocal delivery which quivers and wavers and jolts you out of your stupor, and the melting guitar solo that’s sure to sweep you off your feet.

Michael unleashes some crazed squeals in “Better End”, a catchy guitar riff drives the song forward and adds much meat on the song, I liked how Michael and Tracii level it out in a competing attempt to hit high notes towards the end of the song. “No Tomorrows” has an upbeat vibe with explosive amounts of energy that’s going to set you grooving and quite a crafty interlude that leads on to a crunchy guitar solo followed by Michael pelting out high pitched squeals one after the other. “Born to Win” starts off with guitar chops that’s definitely going to teleport you to late 70s, and is such a song best enjoyed with the volume cranked all the way up and hair let loose all the way down, if you get my drift. No comparisons though, the song did remind me a bit of “Good times Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin.

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Sep 022021

Frost Like Ashes have returned from a long hiatus with a much anticipated release that should live up to and surpass expectations of black metal and extreme music fans. Vocals ranging from high pitched shrieks to deep growls, blazing and cold guitar riffs, and a driving, pounding rhythm section combine to make this one of the best releases of 2021, breathing life into black and extreme metal.

For those who have never heard of or even simply heard, Frost Like Ashes, the legendary black metal band formed back in 2001 in Kansas City, MO out of the remnants of Possession and since formation the band has released the ep’s Pure as the Blood Covered Snow (2003) and Born to Pieces (2008) with the full length Tophet (2005) in between. Throw in a few random tracks here and there including a ripping rendition of “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent/O Come Emmanuel” on A Brutal Christmas (2002), and you have pretty much the discography of the band. While not releasing a lot of material, the band’s visuals with corpse paint and incredibly heavy musical presence has kept them continually present in the extreme music community, earning critical praise from both the Christian (unblack) and secular side of things.

Much like the release of Omen by fellow black metal legends Antestor after a lengthy hiatus, I had reservations around Fellowship of Suffering. Were my expectations going to have set a bar too high? Would the band live up to the ridiculous expectations I had set for them based on a release 13 years ago? Antestor didn’t disappoint and Frost Like Ashes doesn’t either. In both cases, what really struck me was the general feeling of confidence in the approach. Both bands know their strengths from years past and have seemingly honed, strengthened, and built on that during the time away. For Frost Like Ashes, we did get an early preview with the video for “The Weight of Ice and Fog”, one of the songs probably most similar to those on Tophet. The song kicks off with a keyboard rhythm, that quickly has a fast, thrashy guitar riff covering it and within 13 seconds, Azahel’s high-pitched shriek takes over and stays through the first verse section before shifting to a deep growl. Throughout the song, the rhythm section of Blastronaut on drums and Fire on bass, keep things moving a breakneck pace. The intricate drumwork is great throughout the album and this first song was a great preview of what is to come. Varied tempos, some fast double bass and of course blast beats populate the song and keep the track moving. Qoheleth’s keyboards add a sense of eeriness to the overall sound and Sebat’s guitars have more of an edgy tone which is different than the standard droning for black metal but fits within the song and adds a sense of power.

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Imari Tones – “Nabeshima”

 Posted by on August 12, 2021 at 00:58  No Responses »
Aug 122021

Christian metal band Imari Tones from Japan have had a long story getting here and have released a double album filled with furious guitars and a blend of heavy metal with traditional Japanese sounds to create their vision of what Christian metal in Japan would sound like.

For those curious about the band’s name, Nabeshima is derived from 17th century Japanese porcelain art of Imari porcelain, where Nabeshima was of the highest quality at the time. Seeing this art is what inspired guitarist/vocalist Tak Nakamine to make music of the same qualities and character of the porcelain art, “otherworldly, multi-dimensional, and simple yet compelling beauty with Japanese tradition.” Since 2004, the band has flown to Germany to record but not been happy with the results, returned to Yokohama to play shows, toured the US, started a Christian rock label in Japan (Calling Records), and now released Nabeshima. For the album, the band has a new lineup with the additions of bassist Marie and drummer Shinryu and chose a variety of styles from power metal to progressive and incorporated a Christian message amongst the Japanese elements, with half the songs in English and half in Japanese. The concept behind the album is a journey where samurai meet Christian faith.

The album opens up with “Passion” which also conveniently has a video to go with it. The listener is greeted with this awesome raw, rough guitar chords followed by a great awesome, fast riff. From there the song takes a bit of an odd change and Tak’s clean, higher register vocals, seem at odds with the rawness of the guitars. In the overall mix, things are heavily slanted to the guitar and vocals to the point, where one can sometimes forget there is a bass and drum as well. That being said, Marie and Shinryu provide a thumping backdrop for the guitar heroics of Tak. Oh, the guitar solos are straight fire on the album. I was at first reminded a bit of the early Blindside album song “invert” as that has a similar in-your-face guitar presence. Some of Nabeshima does almost seem like it is an unfinished demo though with the guitar-dominated mix….but that guitar tone is great… In terms of overall sound, I’m reminded of the bootleg Black Flag 1982 demos, which happens to be one of my favorite releases simply because of the live, raw feel and energy and though Nabeshima is musically different, that same rawness and power is still there.

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Aug 092021

Demon Hunter, an American Heavy Metal band formed by the two Clark brothers, emerged the scene in 2000, and are out with their eleventh studio album “Songs of Death and Resurrection” which was released by Solid State Records on March 5, 2021. Ryan and Don played together previously in Coalesce and Neurosis.

Ryan had previously played guitar in hardcore band Focal Point, and released an album on Tooth & Nail/Solid State when he was still in his teens. Don left the band to pursue a career in Graphic design and family obligations. As a headlining act, Demon Hunter helped introduce audiences to bands like August Burns Red. They’ve co-headlined with Red and toured as direct support for both In Flames and As I Lay Dying in the United States and parts of Canada. They’ve travelled to South America, Europe, and Australia, headlining major festivals and club shows alike.

Songs of Death and Resurrection is an acoustic album with some of Demon Hunter’s ballads stripped down and given a second life with a great emphasis on keys and ambient soundscapes. The album opens with a humble “My Throat is an Open Grave” which is hypnotic, melodic and has a darker theme which is accentuated by the pairing of keys with the fiddle. “Dead Flowers” starts off with a marching drum beat and beautifully strummed acoustic guitars, the vocals take the lead and move song forward to drive the melody through and through. The song perorates with the repetitive chorus and bagpipes in the end.

“The Heart of a Graveyard” lifts the overall mood as it takes a happy and groovy turn on the track-list, and as it gives the listener some hope and consolation. “Praise the Void” is built on great soundscapes that pours a multitude of instruments giving it the magnificence and the soul of the orchestra. “Blood in the Tears” a tad bit slower on the tempo, is supported with powerful verse, repetitive throughout the track, puts emphasise and leaves a mark.

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Shadows of Paragon – “Amendment”

 Posted by on July 28, 2021 at 23:08  No Responses »
Jul 282021

Sometimes bands take a long time in releasing a sophomore album and the Christian black/unblack metal band Shadows of Paragon have pushed that idea perhaps to its fullest, releasing their second album, Amendment, around 12 years after their debut.

For those like me who didn’t know the history of Shadows of Paragon, the Swedish band actually started in 2001 under the name Allsherjar, eventually changing their name and releasing a demo in 2004, which is still a long ways from 2021. An ep followed in 2008 after some lineup changes and then a full length, Through the Valley Within in 2009. Now a full 12 years after their debut album, Amendment is released.

From the opening riff of Amendment, Shadows of Paragon make it abundantly clear that this is a black metal album. As is always the case, some may prefer the term “unblack” over black based on the Christian content of the lyrics and viewpoint, but to me the “black” metal is more descriptive of overall sound and feel, so that’s what I use. “Amendment of the Heart” opens up with a characteristic black metal sounding droning riff, blast beats, and in this case, the deeper, raspy, growled vocals that one often hears in the genre. The guitars and drums drive the song along with little variation through most of it, but there is enough variation to keep things interesting in terms of rhythms and drum patterns. Overall production is good for the genre even if the vocals are a bit distant in the mix. Toward the end of the track the band changes things up a bit and brings in some slower, chugging guitars before returning to the style in the rest of the song.

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