May 13

Triumvir Foul – Spiritual Bloodshed

Triumvir Foul - Spiritual Bloodshed

American barbaric death metal band Triumvir Foul are back again, with their sophomore album Spiritual Bloodshed. Their 2015 self-titled debut marked a polishing of their musical style from their first demo, with heavy influences from such prominent Ross Bay Cult legends as Conqueror and other inspired acts like Heresiarch, finding some sense of coherence amongst the chaos that they evoked.

Similarly, on Spiritual Bloodshed, the band once again presents their form of chaotic death metal. The hallmarks of filthy death metal, and the trademark sound that the band created on their last release are all present, as Triumvir Foul charges forth at breakneck speed, complete with the pick slides and dissonant riffs that reek of the musical stylings of ConquerorDiocletian, or Witchrist. Ad Infinitum also constantly makes use of furiously trem-picked lines that are rather subtly layered beneath the in-your-face, aggressive rhythmic sections, that keep the listener constantly on edge and leaves one with a growing sense of unease as the album progresses.

The production on Spiritual Bloodshed is cavernous, and the huge soundstage can be experienced on tracks like Disemboweled Pneuma. Along with the heavy riffs and air of negativity that the band summoned, listening to Spiritual Bloodshed is an almost suffocating, apocalyptic experience. The darkness that looms also brings in some slight comparisons to the crushing, and gloomy works of Grave Miasma, though obviously Triumvir Foul has the added element of chaos in their writing.

Within the pandemonium that is Spiritual Bloodshed, there is also a sense of catchiness incorporated in their songwriting, and one could easily find himself headbanging amid the filth that is Triumvir Foul.

May 10

Ayreon – The Source

Ayreon - The Source

As far as I could remember, there has always been some sort of rivalry between Ayreon and Avantasia, with the parallel between both projects in terms of music style, as well as the whole host of established musicians that appear on each project. Despite so, Avantasia had always been the preferable band over Ayreon personally, with their musical style being much more catchy and straightforward from the start, whether it was the infectious power metal of The Metal Opera and The Metal Opera II (both records being some of my favourite power metal albums of all time), or the eventual turning towards AOR with The Scarecrow.

Tobias Sammet always managed to retain this sexy image with Avantasia‘s music, and Ayreon always felt like that distant, boring, technical cousin with that lack of flair for attraction. The last time I attempted to listen to Ayreon was on the 2008 compilation, Timeline, and even my favourite vocalist, Bruce Dickinson‘s appearance on a track failed to excite me. When The Source was dropped, I didn’t have high hopes for the album, considering my lack of motivation to properly check out the project’s previous releases, but decided to take a dive and check it out any way.

The Source opens with the epic The Day The World Breaks Down, and immediately the star-studdedness of the album is apparent, first with James LaBrie (Dream Theater) introducing himself to the listener as The Historian. Before long, the powerful vocals of Nils K. Rue (Pagan’s Mind) takes over, fitting to the power metal of the backing band. But the real surprise comes in when who else, but Tobias Sammet himself appeared, and it seems that two great minds have finally come together to create a true masterpiece. Throughout the album, the whole host of guest vocalists add to the dynamics of the album, with each adding a different flavour into the mix, from the cinematic style of Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) to the operatic styles of Floor Jansen (Nightwish) and Simone Simmons (Epica).

But a superband is nothing without superb songwriting, and it is here where Ayreon truly shines. The 1 hour and 30 minutes of The Source walks the listener through a whole range of different musical styles, from your usual (and expected) power metal, to folk metal, and power ballads. Hell, just the opener The Day the Wold Breaks Down already puts together different styles together so coherently that one gets lost in the musical journey halfway through the track. Ayreon also seemed to incorporate some of the madness of Devin Townsend from their last collaboration, with Everybody Dies having an over-the-top, bombastic style that reminds one of the aforementioned.

Other notable moments include All That Was, where Floor Jansen and Simone Simmons engage in a beautiful duet in a folk metal backdrop, and one almost feels as though one were in the company of high elves. Also, Tommy Karevik does a good job in reminding me of Roy Khan, and his dramatic style left me anticipating for his every appearance like on Aquatic Race.

The production on The Source, as per past releases, is top-notch, allowing for every single nuance on the album to be audible. Particularly, James LaBrie‘s technical style of singing is clearly revealed on the record, like on Star of Sirrah, where the listener is not only able to hear his breathing, but also his ability to control his voice.

The entire album spans 2 discs and 1.5 hours, which would have easily put me to sleep with its sheer length alone. However, Ayreon has finally managed to capture, and more importantly, retain my attention with The Source. Truth be told, one major factor that made The Source a more enjoyable album over past Ayreon albums is the presence of familiar names on the album, compared to the largely unfamiliar faces on past releases.

The ensemble of notable guests, and the superb songwriting on the album makes this a major contender as one of my favourite prog-power releases of late. Any naysayer of Ayreon and their “boring” style should definitely check this out, and have their minds changed.

Source files: FLAC
Equipments used: Calyx 24/192, Shanling PH300, HiFiMAN HE-400i

Apr 29

Evoke Thy Lords – Lifestories

Evoke Thy Lords - Lovestories

Evoke Thy Lords [Russia]
Lifestories
2017
Full Length
Solitude Productions
Psychedelic Doom Metal

The only thing I remembered from Russian psychedelic death horde Evoke Thy Lords‘ last release, Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in your Cellar! was the lavish usage of flutes, and the heaviness of their music (oh, and of course their themes of psychedelia). Lifestories is their new album, and the band is here to remind you of their psychedelic style of doom metal.

The opening riff on Regressed immediately introduces the crushing style that Evoke Thy Lords play, somewhat reminiscent of the works of bands like RamessesElectric Wizard or With the Dead. Very quickly enough, the flutes that is featured so prominently on Evoke Thy Lords‘ style comes in, and it is interesting to see how this complements (or contrasts) everything else that goes on. While on Regressed this gives off a rather haunting vibe, on Heavy Weather, the flute provides some almost melancholic moments. Suffice to say, the flutes seem to be the most emotive emotion in Evoke Thy Lords‘ material, though this doesn’t discount the contributions of the rest of the band.

The dual guitars on Lifestories is put into full use, as each of the guitarists are playing different riffs at any point in time, with the lead guitars often contrasting the heavy, and suffocating rhythm section. Coupled with the usage of heavy distortion, and phaser effects on the guitars, as well as the emotions evoked by the flute, the psychedelic effect is amplified, leaving the listener feeling all sorts of fucked up.

With doom records as such, the influences that the band take are clear. Aside from other stoner/doom bands, the band also pays homage to the early doom of the likes of Black Sabbath. Songs like Life is a Trick bring in some bluesy moments, though intensified and made much heavier by Evoke Thy Lords. The usage of female vocals on this track is also a nice surprise, reminding one of bands like Windhand.

Being dubbed as the “key representatives” of the Siberian doom scene, the band certainly upped their ante with their brand new release, Lifestories, bringing listeners on a heavy, psychedelic trip.

Evoke Thy Lords on the internet:
Official website
Facebook
Solitude Productions

Apr 23

Blast from the Past: Wintersun – Wintersun

Wintersun - Wintersun

Wintersun [Finland]
Wintersun
2004
Nuclear Blast
Melodic Death Metal

I remember the first time I heard Wintersun‘s debut, self-titled album, and being instantly awe-strucked. I remember being a 15-year old kid, just getting into melodic death metal and folk metal, an avid user of last.fm, and finding this band high on the list of similar bands as Ensiferum. Little would I expect that 13 years later, Wintersun still has a special place in my heart.

The opening riffs on album opener Beyond the Dark Sun will always be stuck in my mind, being one of the fastest moments that I had encountered back then. The speed and ferociousness is matched by an equal level of melody, making for an enjoyable head-banging track for any self-respecting fan of melodic death metal.

Yet this is hardly the representation of the style that Wintersun plays, as the folk elements are clear as day throughout the album as well. Maybe it is his relation to Ensiferum back then (Iron remains one of my favourite folk metal albums), there are lots of folk metal-inspired moments that are littered throughout the album, through the usage of “heroic” vocals, to the melody of the lead guitars on songs like WInter Madness.

The songwriting prowess of Wintersun is evident, with a wide range of different styles here. Hardly surprising, considering the fact that the album contained songs written in different periods of time between 1995 and 2003, making this album album almost 10 years in the making. From the speedy Beyond the Dark Sun to the dark and broody Death and the HealingWintersun proves themselves to be master musicians and songwriters, there is hardly a boring or wasted moment on the album.

When a band releases an album that remains so highly acclaimed such a long time later, you know that they must have done something right. Jari Mäenpää may have encountered a string of bad luck over the years while attempting to record and release the follow up albums to Wintersun, but this has not stopped Wintersun‘s debut to remain a melodic death metal classic, and their follow up thus far, Time I, to be of equal quality.

You can support Wintersun and their third release through their Indiegogo page here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/wintersun-crowdfunding–3#/

Favourite tracks: Beyond the Dark SunDeath and the HealingBeautiful Death

Wintersun on the internet:
Facebook
Nuclear Blast

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