Archive for the Music Category

2020 – Music To Come

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Lists, Music on January 5, 2020 by slateman

I still haven’t even written up my AOTY for 2019, but the year itself was a bit disappointing. So, while I delay in getting that online, I’ve gazed forward and feel like 2020 may be more of the same. For now, here’s a brief ‘coming-soon’ list, none of which feel like possible contenders for this year’s coveted award. For now, it’s just a list for me.


10 Jan – Brothers Of Metal: Emblas Saga
31 Jan – Hällas: Conundrum
07 Feb – Sepultura: Quadra
14 Feb – Ihsahn: Telemark
21 Feb – Demons & Wizards: III
06 Mar – My Dying Bride: The Ghost Of Orion
13 Mar – Burzum: Thulêan Mysteries

Borknagar: Up North – OMFG

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music, Video on September 27, 2019 by slateman

I am not a lyrics person; I simply don’t care. This is why foreign-language songs or raspy, indecipherable songs are fine with men. I just don’t give a shit.

However, earlier in September, Borknagar offered up the second sample taste from their newest record: True North. I sat outside, overlooking Via Mergellina and the shadow of Vesuvius and listened. And was moved to tears.

WAT? That’s not metal! What is this of which you speak? Well, the song, titled Up North, talks about the circle of life. It talks about residing…well…up north. It speaks of how things are just right up there. Of the few things I’m certain in life, this I could relate to. ”

“Where the sun cast shadows at night, Where the day and evenings are bright, The place where I belong, Up north!

Where the pine trees meet the sea, Where the stormy sky will sing for me, The place I wanna be, Up north!”

Yes, please. I don’t know…moving to Sweden was such a jump and it was the perfect place at the perfect time in my life. And every day I long to return. In my core, I think of it daily: there is something simply right up north that I can only convey through a multitude of words. Yet this song sang to me. It sang to my heart.

Somehow, I hope to get back there. And every time I listen to this song, it brings me back to that place – that feeling. It’s both utterly wonderful and crushingly sad. But…it is what it is. And this song may be my favorite of 2019. The music, the vocals, the lyrics and the profound sensation I feel when listening. Just remarkable.

Mini-Review: Tool – Fear Inoculum

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music, Reviews on August 29, 2019 by slateman

Surmising several listens briefly: I like Fear Inoculum more than the last two albums combined. Tool holds a special part of my musical life – from getting into them back during Undertow to the game-changing Ænima. I saw the band four times and bought Salival at its midnight release back when Tower Records still existed. But their last two efforts left me desiring more, though Lateralus left more of an impact than its successor. The last time I saw them, I emerged bored by the second half, after a tremendously-exciting first half. And there we ended it – more than a decade ago – and with no real hopes or expectations for this long-gestating follow-up.

The first single released earlier in the month was promising and I don’t particularly like tracks 5 or 6. However, the remaining four songs are remarkable. They are familiar, yet new. The tracks sound wonderful and have a spectacular, heavy feel. But just like the prior album, something was missing. And it was easy to identify: Maynard. Part of what drove me to the band two-and-a-half decades ago was his fiery nature. He would unleash and it was amazing. But now, he’s rarely not monotone. He’s skilled – no doubt – but it gets boring. One song has this amazing buildup. Each bar comes with the promise of this culminating bomb! You feel the excitement…you wait for the inevitable…and you leave disappointed at the cliff from which you fall.

While I am highly critical of Maynard, he is quite adept at his craft, minus the aforementioned lack of fire. Just two or three perfectly-placed “AHHHHhhh!”s would make this album all but perfect. But it speaks to how good the rest is that it’s a solid record even without kick-ass Maynard. The songs are reminiscent of the past, which feels so familiar. That mix of new and nostalgia make me thrilled to put it on yet again – barring those two skippable tracks. I’ll have to look into the added digital ones. For now though, even on release day, I can proclaim this a superior record to the prior two.

Upcoming Metal Releases

Posted in Blog, Music on August 29, 2019 by slateman

Just a quick toss-up with upcoming release dates for personal reference. Still no easy AotY release.

13 Sep – Korn (The Nothing)
13 Sep – The Hu (The Gereg)
27 Sep – Borknagar (True North)
27 Sep- Opeth (In Cauda Venenum)
04 Oct – Insomnium (Heart Like A Grave) (1 Dec in Rome)
18 Oct – 1349 (The Infernal Pathway)
25 Oct – Alcest (Spiritual Instinct)
25 Oct – Mayhem (Daemon)
01 Nov – Blind Guardian (Legacy Of The Dark Lands)

Sulphur Aeon – OMFG

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Lists, Music on December 29, 2018 by slateman

This band’s last effort ranked #5 of 2015 and shocked me entirely at its outrageous heaviness, absurd speed and killer cover. Here I am, at the end of 2018, writing up my best albums of the year and I stumble upon its follow-up. And what have I here? An album that just crushes, easily surpasses its predecessor, whose cover is as nightmarish as the last and which very well could rival even my top-three of 2018. WTF?

The Scythe Of Cosmic Chaos is a grand continuation of the last masterpiece and is so goddamn heavy, it just has to bring a smile to your angry, Lovecraftian face. It’s fast, contains melodic breaks and has impeccable production. With me being so wishy-washy on the three records atop my list, it’s refreshing to have something just knock me on my ass. It may not be #1…but who knows…this album is that fucking good. \m/

Oh – and the full image of the last album…just because it’s so insanely awesome.

Ys VIII Begun!

Posted in Blog, Games, Music, Ys on August 19, 2018 by slateman

My Ys journey started almost 30 years ago on the TurboCD and the legendary series continues with a title that truly stands up to those iconic classics. Just last year I completed II, Felghana and Origin but entry #8 (by far not the actual eighth game!) would have to wait. And while I’d prefer play on my big-screen TV and PS4, the Vita will have to do, much as it did for those three aforementioned titles.

And I’m excited as the first three hours have been compelling and fun, not unlike countless Ys titles in the past. Reading reviews never helps convey quite how systems work and how fun they can be. What I can share, however, is the kick-ass overworld theme for the first section. I instantly fell in love with it and the tune captures that rocking exploration feeling the series is synonymous with. It’s immediately become one of my favorite Ys tracks ever… Quite the statement given the franchise’s heritage. Ah well, enjoy the song… It’s spectacular.

Dimmu Borgir: Eonian – Quite Good!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music with tags , on May 5, 2018 by slateman

I vividly remember 1997 and hearing Dimmu Borgir for the first time. That record remains among my favorite albums ever and the band never matched it in my opinion. I lost a little interest by the time Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropa came out but my interest was renewed with 2003’s Death Cult Armageddon. With only a pair of new-material, studio records since that, Eonian’s arrival didn’t really have me expecting altogether too much. The singles weren’t bad, I thought, but it turns out that in context, they are part of a rather grand presentation.

I’m not going to proclaim this the album of the year. However, my spins leave me wanting more. For whatever genre they’re in, symphonic black metal possibly, they do it well. As the weeks led up to release, the press has spoken of their ventures outside of their comfort zone. Words that leave a long-time fan hesitant. But the album is a rather solid outing and I’m thoroughly enjoying the adventure it takes me on. There are some killer albums on the horizon: At The Gates, and my most-wanted: Skeletonwitch. Though this won’t likely dethrone Kalmah or the potential of some of those aforementioned bands, it could possibly rank in the top-5 come December.

Kalmah Get! Album Of The Year?

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music with tags on April 6, 2018 by slateman

The mighty Finns return with album # 8 trying to trump the masterpiece that was Seventh Swamphony. The first singles didn’t win me over, but then again neither did the title track of album #7 and I’m thinking that may be top-20 ever. Really.

So, with the arrival of Palo – is Kalmah a shoe-in for yet another AotY victory? They took 2013, narrowly missed 2010, and won three times in the ’00s. Only fellow Finnish metalers Moonsorrow even mustered three AotY titles – could Kalmah make this their fifth?

Well, hold on now. We’ve got the mighty return of Dimmu Borgir ahead, Amorphis and even an Abbath-less Immortal record looming. However, neither of the two Norwegian bands ever captured an annual crown and Amorphis last flew their blue-and-white 24 years ago with 1994’s AotY Tales From The Thousand Lakes, truly a genre-defining album.

While some stragglers could pose a threat, there’s only one I can currently predict to genuinely battle the swamplords for the title. Yes, At The Gates is back! We’ve been treated to a pair of tracks from their second post-hiatus album: one an average filler song and the other which could vie for the best ATG riff ever written. That thing is a monster and made me salivate for the LP a mere eight seconds into the title track. The album arrives in six short weeks, plenty of time to devour this Kalmah opus.

And speaking of…just being a new Kalmah record is hardly enough to secure top honors for the year. Subsequent listens of those first singles has really gotten me on board, but some of the middle tracks haven’t hooked me yet. It ends well, with catchy grooves and some bloody-fucking-fast blastbeats. However, I’m not fully convinced it’ll lie atop 2018’s heap of music just yet. But come to think of it, the same thing happened with Vintersorg just last year. Let’s check back in a few weeks. They’ll inevitably reclaim the title as my top-played band, but beyond that – who knows. ATG might very well be that goddamn good!!!

It’s Official: Moonsorrow Is The Best Band Ever

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music with tags , on November 12, 2017 by slateman

In case you were wondering, the verdict is in: Moonsorrow is the greatest band to ever grace the earth.

If you weren’t wondering, then you either a) knew this to be true or b) are deluded into some nonsense.

After I proclaimed 2011’s Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maasa potentially the best album in a decade and Jumalten Aika the undisputed AotY of 2016, you’d think I’d have gone back through their catalog. You’d imagine I’d relish in their past successes as well! But no…I had yet to do that. The lengthy opuses were difficult to catch my interest. They were hardly passive listening experiences and so I never dedicated enough time to them.

Until now.

For some reason, with ample time on my hands (I guess I’m an author now), I decided to work in reverse. V: Hävitetty contains two half-hour songs. These are not easily digestible or easy to appreciate. However, once that appreciation arrives, it is enriching. The ebb and flow of an album like this spans both the obvious time as well as space. Its highs and lows are matched by shrieks and gentleness. Its grandeur – a word that can be attributed to every piece in this band’s catalog – can be reduced to the simple term: epic. This is massive and triumphant and remarkable. The only downside is that I’ve utilized all the superlative words in the English language before even moving on to the next record.

2005’s Verisäkeet contains four lengthy oeuvres and an outro. Each of those four songs has its own unique identity and since they three of them clock in at 14 minutes (the final at 19), they have enough breathing room to expand and explore. The third track, Pimea may be the album’s best and stands among the band’s greatest works and its outro is hum-worthy for weeks.

Kivenkantaja may be my least favorite LP so far, with very broad strokes, but less uniform vision. It is the only record that I might pick apart and listen to one song more than another. This album houses Raunioilla with the amazing choir voice of Janne Perttilä.

The band’s second LP, Voimasta Ja Kunniasta, was one I started later on. My initial spins were only appreciated at a low level, with the last few songs garnering the most attention. However, very shortly later did that appreciation grow to recognize this as yet another masterpiece by the band. From its folk-inspired intro to the tremendous Sankaritarina, there’s not a bad second on this album, despite being so early in the band’s catalogue. The finale is still a staple of the band’s live shows, and for good reason.

I have yet to really dive into Suden Uni. I’m taking my time with this stuff here. And I can’t forget Tulimyrsky, the behemoth EP that outclocks most band’s full-length efforts. The Metallica cover is unique, yet skippable, and the re-recorded songs are merely interesting takes on very early Moonsorrow songs. The remaining two tracks contain the 30-minute title track which has some of the rawest and fastest parts the band has written. Another epic ending stays with me for hours afterwards and the cover, Back To North lies next to Non Serviam as some of my favorite cover songs ever.

And let’s not forget, on top of this gush-fest of a post, that their last two albums are easily among the best albums of the 2000s, if not beyond. But, if you’re quick to mock my late arrival to the game, I’ll share with you this final point. At 41 years old, I’m living through a renaissance of incredible music. I’ve somehow managed to find the best band EVAR, after being an enormous metal fan for 30 years. And as my playlist is 99% Moonsorrow this past month, it’s the most exciting time I’ve experience in music since discovering bands like Opeth in 1996, or Slayer and Metallica almost a decade prior. And unlike those bands at the time, these Finnish geniuses have an entire catalog of awesomeness to appreciate!

TL;DR – Moonsorrow is the greatest band ever. Just go listen.

Vintersorg: Till Fjälls Del II – A Worthy Sequel?

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music, Reviews with tags on June 30, 2017 by slateman

The way I figure it, Vintersorg has gone through three phases. First, you had the original, folk-inspired, awesome, initial era. This was
followed by the progressive, non-Swedish and in retrospect, rather brief, second phase. I lost a lot of interest at this point. However, 2007’s Solens Rötter was a return to form that was all but perfected in the next releases. Jordpuls was brilliant and Orkan was 2012’s Album of the Year. Naturbål was no slouch, but perhaps more of the same wasn’t quite enough.

And while each release was solid and spectacular, I can see why something needed to change. So when it was announced that album #10 would be titled Till Fjälls: Del II, it piqued my interest greatly. But it also made me wonder. C’mon, how many bands can truly put out a sequel to something as awesome Till Fjälls? Can anything really live up to the first two LPs?

With a few spins under my belt, the answer simply is, “no.” Part II is on par with Naturbål and Jordpuls, but it’s no Orkan and it certainly isn’t in the same league as Vintersorg’s first few releases. Mathematically, it is sound. It is exactly what I would hope for. But it is not as rooted in the folky tradition. It is not nearly as catchy. There’s nothing as hum-worthy as För Kung Och Fosterland or the title track. Actually, Tillbaka Till Källorna is perpetually stuck in my mind these last few days. Additionally, the mix is questionable. Drums are awfully low, particularly bass drums, which is really quite strange.

In fact, the biggest downside of this album is its name. Just giving us the fourth and final entry into the earthly elements series would have been just fine. But that damn Till Fjälls name just gave me a sense of expectation that was almost impossible to live up to. (Edit: But with each subsequent listen, it grows on me.)

A side bonus is that I understand some of the lyrics and song titles now, with a little Swedish vocabulary.