Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sabaton - The Last Stand Album Review

If you've read my blog in the past, you know that I don't use too many swear words. In fact, I try to avoid swearing as much as possible. This review's going to be a little different. Expect some swearing. Fuck.


Sabaton is back baby! Heroes was kind of a weird album. The band had just significantly changed its line-up and they decided to go with more personal lyrics rather than focusing on an entire army or battle. It was still a good album (I even bought a copy), but it felt a bit weaker than Sabaton's previous releases. One of the main problems was the lyrics. A lot of them felt like they were just recounting someone's life rather than being an entertaining song that you can sing along to. For example, the chorus to Inmate 4859 goes something like:

Witold, Witold, who knows his name?

Inmate in hell or a hero in prison?
Soldier in Auschwitz who knows his name
Locked in a cell, waging war from the prison
Hiding in Auschwitz who hides behind 4859




Well call The Last Stand a return to form, because it's fucking awesome. There's plenty of parts to sing along to and shout out loud as they come up. From your Last Dying Breath to the samurai facing down an army in Shiroyama to the motherfucking Winged Hussars arriving. And don't get me started on Sparta, what an great way to start an album. I just want to punch shit as the hoo's and haw's are being shouted. Both times I've seen Sabaton live, they opened with Ghost Division, and I strongly suggest this gets replaced with Sparta. If it's not at least somewhere in their live show, then whoever creates the setlist should be fired. I don't care if it's the whole fucking band.

The Last Stand feels like a return to form to some extent. Sure, The Last Stand feels a lot like Coat of Arms and the tom drum parts of The Lost Battalion remind me of Carolus Rex, but both Coat of Arms and Carolus Rex are fucking amazing songs and both part of the reason I listen to Sabaton. Many classic Sabaton elements are in full display here, from the big operatic choruses to keyboard parts that add significantly to the songs. Let's just chalk up Heroes to growing pains after the line-up change.



I'd also like to mention the bonus songs. They're all fucking awesome. Special mention goes to All Guns Blazing.

So is The Last Stand Sabaton's best album? Maybe. Most of Sabaton's albums blend together for me. When I listen to them, I usually jump from album to album without giving too much thought where each specific song came from.What I can confidently say though is that there's no bad songs on The Last Stand. The only bad thing I can say is that The Last Tour is an awful fucking name for a tour if it's not your last! I don't care if it's a play on the album name. It was announced before the album was even out and it gave half your fanbase a heart attack. Fuck you. (Love you)

I don't give albums numerical ratings because it's largely just an arbitrary thing, but here's the information you need to know: if you like Sabaton even a little bit, go fucking pick up this album. Fuck. That being said, if you don't like Sabaton, I don't know if this album is going to turn you around on them. I'd call this a 'classic' Sabaton album, maybe even a quintessential one, but that's because they stick to their sound and do it really well. There aren't too many new ideas to be found on The Last Stand. If you're someone who doesn't like Sabaton (and I know there's at least one of you out there), let me know if this album made you like them. Thanks.

-Zombie Viking

P.S. RIP Thobbe, you will be missed and you were a great guitarist. But Sabaton replaced him with another fantastic human being; Tommy Johannson. He plays in a couple other bands, including a surprisingly good Christian metal band named Golden Resurrection (yes, really). But mostly, I'll always associate him with this video. What a great guy.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Gunsen - The Adventure of the Devil's Note Album Review

Hello everyone! It's been almost 2 years since I abandoned this blog for bigger and better things. But, almost as if someone is pressuring me to do this, I decided out of the blue to sacrifice my precious free time and write a new album review for your reading pleasure. So sit down, strap on some headphones, and get ready to go on an adventure. The Adventure of the Devil's Note.

Before we get into the review proper, I'll share the little background info I have on Mr. Gunsen. He's best known as one of the guitarists of the Polish power metal band Pathfinder. I've posted about Pathfinder in the past, they're a pretty good band and you should listen to them if you don't already. But they haven't put out any new music since 2012 and have only relatively recently replaced their old vocalist. So what has Gunsen been doing when he's not making guest solos for every band in Poland? I have no idea, but apparently he made an album at some point.



Hearing that an album is from the solo project of a power metal guitarist undoubtedly gives some expectations when listening to it. I'm happy to say that The Adventure of the Devil's Note subverts many of these right off the bat. I would have initially thought the Gunsen solo project would be something similar to Gus G's solo work. Instrumental guitar wankery with maybe some guest vocalists and stuff. However, this 'solo' project is actually more of a band. Gunsen the band is made up of Gunsen on guitars, Grzegorz Pastor Slomba on vocals, Arkadiusz E. Ruth on bass, and Grzegorz Hiero on drums (sorry if I got any of your crazy Polish names wrong). This gives the whole album a much more cohesive sound, there's no tracks with weird vocals that don't quite fit. All the songs are in the same style and it helps the album flow really well. Another thing worth mentioning is that The Adventure of the Devil's Note isn't even power metal, it's something a lot closer to melodeath. But don't worry, there's still all the guitar wankery you'd expect (and hope for) from a power metal guitarist.



The Adventure of the Devil's Note flys at a breakneck pace with plenty of blast beats, awesome screaming vocals, and epic keyboards (why do bands never credit whoever plays the keyboard?). Gunsen also isn't afraid to experiment with different elements, like the industrial parts in Time of Machines or different electronic and symphonic stuff spread out everywhere. The album runs at a cool 58 minutes and never slows down besides Kotoro, which spends the beginning and end of its 10 minutes building up an ancient Japanese ambiance. Because of this, it's definitely one of the stand out songs but not the first in a long line of unexpected twists on this album.

I'm not going to spend too long on the lyrics because this is metal and nobody cares. But there seems to be some sort of obsession with turning animals into freakish metal monsters (Metal Chicken, Super Pig, and Hellish Kitty). There's quite a bit of meowing on Hellish Kitty in particular. Anyway...

Gunsen brands his solo project as "total war against shit in mass media", and, well, there's no mass media shit in here. Maybe he should send music to Fox News or something to make it total war. But ignoring all of that, The Adventure of the Devil's Note is a solid melodeath/power album. It was totally not what I was expecting when I clicked play and I think it'll stay in my playlist for quite a bit. I hope that many of the music elements that were developed here will be used in the future on future Gunsen or Pathfinder albums.

-Zombie Viking

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Free Music: Neurotech - Infra Versus Ultra

Hey do you guys like free stuff? The industrial metal one man project Neurotech just released their newest album, Infra Versus Ultra. It's available on the band's bandcamp for free/name your price! This is one of the most atmospheric albums I've heard in a while. It's a beautiful combination of symphonic keyboards, electronic sounds, robotic vocals and metal guitars and drums. Honestly, just check it out.
A little about the band; Neurotech is the project of Wulf, a very talented musician from Slovenia. He makes music that he enjoys and then releases it all for free/name your price on his bandcamp. This is a guy who's making music because he loves it and you can tell. Everything is surprisingly layered and fine-tuned. The music itself mixes together the genres of metal, electronic and even classical to create something quite different from the vast majority of stuff out there. It's good stuff, what more can I say?

You can find Infra Versus Ultra right here: https://neurotech.bandcamp.com/album/infra-versus-ultra

Enjoy!
-Zombie Viking

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bloodshot Dawn - Demons Early Impressions

So Kickstarter backers got download links for Bloodshot Dawn's new album Demons yesterday. That's right, a full five days before the official album release I get the entire thing in digital form. There was no warning and I wasn't expecting anything until 2-3 weeks after the release date since it has to ship to me from England. More bands should do this!


Anyway, I've gotten a chance to listen to the album in its entirety about three times now so I thought I'd give some thoughts. It's awesome! The album starts off with Smoke and Mirrors, the first single released, and never slows down. Every single song has the same amount of speed and energy. Every single song is awesome.

To be honest, I was a tiny bit worried after I made my pledge. I went back and listened to the band's debut album and realized there were a couple songs on it that I forgot I didn't like (Dedication to a Dead Cause and Forlorn World). I'm happy to say that my fears were ill-placed. This album is definitely a step up from their first. It's a bit shorter at just 8 songs but this serves to make it more focused. Almost every song has its own thing going for it. There's plenty of face-melting solos including a couple bass solos, the vocals from every member are great, the drumming (welcoming new member Janne Jaloma of Deals Death fame) is fantastic and there's quite a few creative patterns and fills and there are absolutely no songs that I don't like! There's some songs that I like less than others, but trying to pick a favourite proved difficult. I just kept changing my choice to whatever song I was listening to at the time.



The only gripe I have about Demons is the guest musicians. I'm not quite sure how to feel about having 4/5 guests in the same part of the same song, but then I start listening to The Image Faded and I stop thinking about it. Those solos!

For those of you who didn't contribute to the Kickstarter, the album drops on October 26th. I definitely recommend you check it out. This will be an album of the year contender for sure for people who like to make that sort of stuff.

-Zombie Viking

Monday, October 20, 2014

MotS Mondays: Crimson Shadows

Being Canadian myself, it feels good to write about a Canadian band. Not only that, but they're from Toronto, the same city as me! I'm not the biggest fan when it comes to North American metal as a whole. There's just too much thrash and death (don't even get me started on the core movement). Every so often I come across a band that I enjoy, but very few actually blow me away. Starkill and Crimson Shadows are the only two North American bands in recent memory that not only play awesome European-inspired metal but have also gotten major record deals and worldwide recognition.



When Crimson Shadows was first introduced to me by a friend, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that their style can best be described as a blend of my two favourite genres: melodeath and power metal. They've got the fast melodeath guitars with awesome power solos. They've got a super powerful vocalist as well as clean choruses from the lead guitarist. They've got the double kick-heavy drums with the occasional blast beat. And they've got the cheesy but still epic lyrics that you rarely ever find outside of the most powerest of power metal. They call themselves Epic Canadian Metal. The only thing Crimson Shadows is missing in my opinion is some keyboards to make the sound even more epic. If used sparingly like Deals Death or even Starkill, it would add a lot to their sound.

Actually that brings me to my main complaint (err, let's call it a potential point of improvement) about Crimson Shadows. There isn't too much variety in their songs. Looking at Kings Among Men specifically, the only real difference between the songs is their length and if you've learned the words to the chorus yet. Wouldn't it be awesome if there were female vocals added to the chorus of Maidens Call or if the 'kingly' voice in Dawn of Vengeance was used throughout the song to give messages to the captured soldiers? In any case, this is still a young band with only two albums (only one of them being an 'official' record label album) so they have plenty of time to grow. They've done a good job of establishing their sound but this is a band that needs to evolve over time.


An area that doesn't need too much improvement though is their live shows. I was lucky enough to see Crimson Shadows live a couple months after I had first heard of them when they appeared as the local support for an Alestorm show. The epic sound translates really well to a live setting and I can tell the band made a few new fans in the audience. I made sure to help Kickstart (or rather, Indiegogo...go) their recent European tour with Alestorm. These guys make great metal and the only thing they need right now is as some more attention. The band hasn't quite gotten to the point where it's overly profitable yet, hence the need for an Indiegogo campaign. I want to see a band from my city get popular enough that they'll still be making music 20 years from now. Especially one that I've been listening to since their very first album.

If you like songs about epic battles or drinking, be sure to check out Crimson Shadows. There's quite a few young bands that have taken off in recent years and these guys are right up there with the rest of them. They've already got two albums, a record deal with Napalm Records and a European tour under their belts. We'll see what the future holds for these men, but I know for certain that the last time I saw them live won't be my last.

You can find Crimson Shadows at the following sites:
http://crimsonshadowsmetal.com/
Facebook
Twitter
Youtube
Metal Archives

-Zombie Viking

Monday, September 22, 2014

MotS Mondays: Deals Death



Do you like Swedish melodeath? Do you like pecs? Perfect, those are the only two requirements for listening to Deals Death. Coming from the home of melodeath, Gothenburg, these guys take the classic sound and add their own personal touch to create something of their own. Sure they may not be the most unique band ever, but Deals Death plays everything so solid that it may be just what you're looking for. It wasn't until I really started listening to this band that I realized "hey, no one really does classic Children of Bodom-style melodeath anymore, not even Children of Bodom themselves..." So listening to this band is actually quite refreshing.



The first and most important thing you should notice about Deals Death is vocalist Olle Ekman.No he doesn't ever put a shirt on. Yes he is an awesome vocalist. Yes he can do the screams and the growls. There's nothing I love more than vocal variety. And pecs. You may also recognize him from that Youtube video. The one I'm not going to post here.

Like I mentioned previously, Deals Death plays classic melodeath. They've got the high-pitched guitars. They've got the fast drums with plenty of double kick and occasional blast beat. They've got the right amount of breakdowns and a healthy dose of solos. They've even got keyboards in the background every so often. I don't know who plays them. I've got the booklet for Point Zero Solution right here and no one seems to take credit for the keyboards. But  I am a huge fan. In fact, Facing the Echoes is one of my favourite songs on the album mostly for its awesome keyboard line. The keyboards are used tastefully with the band only breaking them out when needed. It adds another layer to the music in my opinion.

I'm not exactly sure how popular Deals Death is currently, but surely they've gotten a decent push since becoming best buds with fellow countrymen Sabaton. Not only did the bands tour together, but Deals Death has landed a (what looks to be) permanent spot at Sabaton Open Air. I'm pretty sure the band isn't too popular yet, especially outside Sweden, so there's always room to grow. Of course I can say what I always say in that I hope they come to Canada eventually. Especially because Deals Death appears to deal good live shows. Check it out.



Yeah what he said! I don't understand Swedish!

If you enjoy the soothing sounds of melodic death metal (and honestly. who doesn't?) you should definitely check out Deals Death. They have a great vocalist and overall a surprisingly refreshing sound. After three albums releases the band just seems to be getting warmed up. They'll still be making awesome music for years to come.

You can find Deals Death at the following links:
Facebook
Twitter
Youtube
Metal Archives

-Zombie Viking

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SONATA ARCTICA/DELAIN/XANDRIA Concert Impressions

Before I even get into the concert stuff, let me just say that I arrived way too early to the venue. Just as a note to everyone reading this, parking in cities sucks and there's nothing to do while waiting for a concert to start. However, I joined the line about an hour and a half before the concert started and there were already tons of people there. I guess it's better than arriving late since the Mod Club is a lot smaller than I remember. When I saw Alestorm there previously the crowd didn't seem to be too bad. But this concert was jam-packed. Even though I got there relatively early I wasn't able to get a spot right at the front like I have for the last few concerts I've been to. Kind of a bummer but I still ended up getting a decent spot not too far from the stage. Also the people who were standing behind me in line kept talking about how awesome Sabaton is live, so now I'm even more excited for that concert. One more month!

The first band came out about 10 minutes after I got inside. And to my surprise it was Xandria up first, not Delain like I previously thought. Oh well, I like Delain better so it was a pleasant surprise. Xandria of course was also pretty awesome. About half the already tiny stage was reserved for Sonata's stuff, so Xandria had to squeeze in pretty tight. They didn't move around the stage too much, but the whole band danced in place and still seemed like they were having a pretty good time. The drummer was especially awesome. I didn't realize before how simple Xandria's drumming is, but he filled the void with all sorts of stick spins and other things to show off. The sound quality was also great. The drums only looked like it had one or two mics set up on it and the snare was almost just its natural sound with minimal amplification. For such a small venue this worked out really well as I could still clearly hear the drums and also the guitars and vocals. The songs sounded almost exactly like they do on the albums. I was also able to recognize every song they played because the setlist was solely taken from their two most recent albums. I'm fine with that as those are the only albums of theirs I've actually listened to. The first four albums may very well not exist and I'm totally fine with that. The set was pretty short but a good start to the night sound-wise.


Before I get into the next bands I want to talk about the audience for a second. It was pretty crowded in there but this was one of the weirdest audiences I've seen. This was technically my first power/symphonic concert so maybe the crowds for these are always like this but I was still left pretty confused. Now there was no moshing to speak of, not even a single jerk in the middle. Fine, this isn't aggressive music so I understand. But there wasn't much energy either. There were very few people around me jumping around or even headbanging. The bands had to prompt the audience to do everything from clapping in rhythm to even cheering. That being said, everyone seemed really excited to see the bands. All the cheers were deafening, even for the opening bands. And almost everyone was singing along to Sonata Arctica. Perhaps the majority of the people there were just inexperienced with concerts, but most of them just stood in one spot the entire show.

Anyway, next up was Delain. Instead of bringing a stage backdrop, they chose instead of set up a series of stands making up the album cover. I've got to give them points for creativity. They also brought out their own smoke machines which really added to the visuals. There were even points during the set where both guitarists stood on top of the smoke machines during instrumental parts of songs. A few things were pushed away but since Delain is one additional person to Xandria, the band was still a little crowded on the stage. Charlotte seemed to have the most energy, constantly jumping up and down and running around the stage. Her vocals were a little more squeaky compared to the album recordings but besides that everything sounded great. The setlist was a bit more varied than Xandria's, with the band playing songs from all their albums. It showed me that maybe I'm not as familiar with Delain's material as I thought. There were quite a few songs that I didn't recognize. For some I realized what they were playing when the chorus kicked in, but for others I still have no idea. That being said they still did play everything I was hoping for. I started to get a little upset at the end of one of their songs because it sounded like that was the end of their set and they never played We Are the Others. Lucky for me they played one more song and it was exactly what I was hoping for. As a final note, it really looked at certain points like Charlotte was about to pop out of her partially see-through top. Both of the female vocalists definitely had interesting outfits.


The stage was fully opened up for Sonata Arctica. They had a whole raised section for the drums and keyboards where the keyboardist and guitarists kept switching positions. They took out Delain's smoke machines but replaced it with every single light in the place. I had no idea that stage had so many different lights on it. The crowd also got significantly louder when Sonata came out. They even chanted the band's name, good for them! I'm writing this bit as somewhat of an outsider since I really came for the opening bands and only started listening to Sonata when this concert was announced. But everyone else looked like they were there for the headliner. Everyone was singing along with all the songs. Even though I didn't recognize too many songs, they all sounded really good. Tony is an amazing singer and the rest of the band did not disappoint. All the solos were spot on and all the backing vocals were just as good. The drums were a little louder than the opening bands since they used their own kit which actually had microphones on it, but I could still hear the other instruments. All in all everyone looked like they were having fun. When Paid In Full was played, I got a chance to join in singing with the rest of the audience since it's the only song I really know the words to. Let me say, it was really fun singing along and I can see why the rest of the audience enjoyed the show so much. Tony was also full of energy. I've never seen a vocalist act out all the words they're singing but it definitely added a bit to the show. And every time a solo was happening, he would pick up the mic stand and pretend to play along. Did I mention the vocals were fantastic? Well I'll say it again since he blew me away. He hit all the highs and even threw in some growls here and there. I could make out every word he was saying which is an odd feeling for me since I've mostly seen bands with harsh vocals. All their songs also seemed to sound better live, as I actually enjoyed when they played the stuff I had previously deleted from my music library in disgust. Notable songs that I hate from the albums and loved live are What Did You Do in the War, Dad? and X Marks the Spot.


Overall this concert was great. The bands were all fantastic with every song sounding like it does on the albums. The audience was dead even though they seemed to be enjoying everything, but that problem will probably be fixed if you catch this tour in a different city. The three bands went by really quickly, with the final encore starting at 11:15 and the show ending at 11:45. But they made up for it when Xandria and Delain went out to their merch booths after the show to sign things and take pictures. I only went to this concert in the first place because I listened to the opening bands previously and when I listened to Sonata they weren't too bad. If only one of these bands were playing I don't think I would have gone to see the show. But after seeing them all live, I would see any one of them individually if and when they decide to come back in the future. I just hope that it's in a bigger venue.

-Zombie Viking