Archive for the Music Category

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.

Tons Of Rock: Slayer, Emperor, Awesomeness.

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music with tags , on June 25, 2017 by slateman

My trip north on Friday was amazing and it’s one I will not soon forget. Seeing Emperor play all of Anthems and seeing Slayer for the tenth time…In Norway!? Just amazing. I’ve written up my review replete with some good photos, but I’ve also uploaded a video with some short snippets from the show. Figured I’d share here as this is the most updated section of my site. Enjoy

Nargaroth: Era Of Threnody – Spectacular!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music on June 9, 2017 by slateman

I’ve never listened to this German band, but I’m quite impressed with this album. Barring a pair of so-so rock-inspired cuts, the rest is a gritty, harsh and eclectic mix of black metal, Italian-sounding arrangements, melodic interludes and straight-up awesomeness. Hardly a review, this is just a friendly suggestion to check the album out. It’s got it all and will certainly be among the top albums of the year six months hence.

Upcoming Release Dates

Posted in Blog, Games, Movies, Music, Uncharted on May 25, 2017 by slateman

The usual “for my reference only” posting. Looks to be a promising second half of 2017!

Videogames
Jun 02 – Tekken 7
Jun 20 – Nex Machina
Jul 11 – Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Aug 22 – Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Sep 12 – Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana
Sep 19 – Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite
Oct 10 – Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War
Nov 14 – Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2
Dec ?? – God Of War

Music
May 26 – Alestorm: No Grave But The Sea
Jun 09 – Anathema: The Optimist
Jun 30 – Vintersorg: Till Fjälls Del II
Jul 07 – Blind Guardian: Live Beyond The Spheres
Jul 21 – Wintersun: The Forest Seasons
Aug 11 – The Lurking Fear: Out Of The Voiceless Grave
Aug 25 – The Haunted: Strength In Numbers
Sep 08 – Arch Enemy: Will To Power
Sep 22 – Satyricon: Deep Calleth Upon Deep
??? ?? – Dimmu Borgir: TBA
??? ?? – The Black Dahlia Murder: TBA

Live Shows
Jun 23 – Emperor/Slayer – Norway
Sep 21 – The Haunted/Witchery – Pustervik
Oct 20 – Satyricon – Pustervik
Nov 11 – Soilwork – Brewhouse
Nov 24 – Scorpions – Scandinavium

Television
May 26 – Bloodline (Season 3/Final)
May 30 – House Of Cards (Season 4)
Jul 07 – Castlevania (Netflix)
Jul 16 – Game Of Thrones (Season 7)
Sep ?? – How To Get Away With Murder (Season 4)
Oct 22 – The Walking Dead (Season 8)
Oct 31 – Stranger Things (Season 2)
Nov 27 – Vikings (Season 5)
??? ?? – Taboo (Season 2)
??? ?? – Westworld (Season 2)
??? ?? – The OA (Season 2)

Release Dates: 2017 Edition

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Books, Games, Lists, Movies, Music, Street Fighter, Tolkien, Uncharted on March 3, 2017 by slateman

The usual ‘post so I can check back and remember’ release-date listing! This is for my interests only, really. I should mention it’s been a good start, with a great Kreator record and a solid outing for Overkill. RE7 was a spectacular game as well. However, I’ll be honest, I don’t see 2017 as being a tremendous year. There’s no major music on the horizon and movies??? That’s kind of frustrating. Surely something will be announced at E3, right?

Today: The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
07 Mar: The Americans (Season 5)
29 Mar: Proof Set 2017
14 Apr: Dimmu Borgir – Forces Of The Northern Night
16 Apr: The Leftovers (Season 3 – Final Season)
26 May: Bloodline (Season 3)
30 May: House Of Cards (Season 5)
01 Jun: J.R.R. Tolkien – The Tale Of Beren And Lúthien
23 Jun: Emperor/Slayer in Norway
30 Jun: Vintersorg – Till Fjälls Del II
xx Jul: Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
22 Aug: Uncharted 4: The Lost Legacy
19 Sep: Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite
31 Oct: Stranger Things
15 Dec: Star Wars: Episode 8 – The Last Jedi

Other Records
–A Perfect Circle
–Arch Enemy
–The Black Dahlia Murder
–Dimmu Borgir
–The Haunted
–Satyricon
–Skeletonwitch?

Other Shows?
–Taboo (Season 2?)
–Westworld (Season 2 – 2018)
–The OA (Season 2 ordered)

Emperor: Anthems In Norway!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music with tags on February 15, 2017 by slateman

A ticket has been secured. I am going to see Emperor reunite to perform one of the best albums ever in its entirety…In Norway! Its only a few hours north of me and I haven’t a clue how I’m actually getting to the place, but who cares? The show will be held in Frederiksten Fortress, a 17th-century fortress which was the site of no fewer than a half-dozen Swedish invasions! Oh, and I suppose it’s worth mentioning that SLAYER will be playing as well. (listens for someone yelling the band name in the distance.) It will be my 10th time seeing them, but let’s be honest: Emperor. Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk. I cannot explain this excitement. I hope to get a shirt this time around. :) So psyched!

Mini-Review: Kreator – Gods Of Violence

Posted in Blog, Music, Reviews on January 31, 2017 by slateman

Barring People Of The Lie and a brief interest in the band in the late ’90s (I saw them in March of ’96, the night I met Bobby Gustafson and Sid Falck!), I never got into Kreator. However, with buzz about their new album and a little spare time on my hands, I figured why not test out the thirty-year-veterans. Gods Of Violence, the title track, astonished me. It was riffy, catchy and heavy. The harmonies were great and the double bass kicked in right when it needed to! Opting to listen to the whole album, I was pleasantly surprised to find the whole thing is solid! The production isn’t quite what it could be, but beyond that, the album has everything I love about metal. Solos and fills and screams and riffs and clean sections and fast songs…as ineloquent as that comes across, it surmises how thus far (one month), it’s the clear Album of the Year!

With utter certainty that crown shall be bestowed to another, but for now I’m thoroughly enjoying a band I never thought I’d be listening to. Maybe at 20, but not at 40! This is a spectacular record and I’m so happy I decided to check ’em out. Kick-ass!

New Bone Fire MP3: 2017-001

Posted in Blog, Downloads, MP3s, Music on January 10, 2017 by slateman

Once again this is more of an excuse to record than a genuinely good piece. It feels like it’s been forever. And getting back into the swing of things isn’t easy. This entire song is off time and getting my bass sound was a chore (thus it being low in the mix). BiasFX is being an asshole and wanting me to buy more stuff (no) and my input buffer seems longer, I swear (=delay between playing and recording). No excuses…it was more to just do something than to record this so try to enjoy it. :)

Bone Fire: 2017-001

Best Albums Of 2016

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Lists, Music on December 20, 2016 by slateman

Jumalten AikaA pretty solid year with some stand-out records. This year I have a top-10 list, but first there are a few honorable mentions to list. You can read this and the past 20+ years of this list on my Best Records pages on my main site. Though, this year’s top record really is no surprise. I’ve known what it was for eight months now. Anyhow, let’s begin!

Noteworthy Mentions

Witchery – In His Infernal Majesty’s Service
Exactly what I expected here.

October Tide – Winged Waltz
So much better than the boring last album. But I never find myself putting it on. It’s heavy as hell at least!

Borknagar – Winter Thrice
So much weaker than the 2nd-best album of 2012. The disappointment is hard to swallow.

Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
In Flames – Battles

So, I moved to Gothenburg and within two months two of the most notable Gothenburg metal bands release albums? Both are good, DT has been solid the last few years and IF is catchy. Good albums.

Final – Live Reprocessed – Birmingham 2009
Justin Broadrick is prolific as ever and his diversity is his 2016 efforts. JK Flesh, Final and Council Estate Electronics all had strong albums, one making into my top-10.

Ghost – Popestar
A poppy new song and four covers? They may not be my favorite style of music but they are spectacular at what they do. I expect album #4 to be wonderful as well.

Now to my Top Ten!

Top-Ten Of 2016

10: JK Flesh – Rise Above (UK)

JKB conjured up a 2016 version of Techno Animal for a gritty entry into the top 10. It’s heavy and bleak and is what I’ve been missing from his discography as of late. It’s been 15 years since TA folded and even without K. Mart, Justin proves he still has what it takes to push the genre forward.

9: Abbath – Abbath (Norway)

After Abbath’s well-publicized split from the mighty Immortal, he issued an impressive and blistering-fast ‘debut’. The record feels a bit uneven, with some that I will often skip and others I’ll listen to far more frequently. This is a memorable record worthy of the top 10 and some songs are staples of my “I need speed” playlist. I’m curious to see what Demonaz and Horgh can pull together to counter this.

8: Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct (USA)

It was the summer of ’89 and I, a 13-year-old boy, had just gotten into Metallica. It was prime because that is the critical point where Metallica was the best band that had ever existed. I still stand behind this. The 1989 version of Metallica was the best any band has ever been. I think we can fast-forward 20 years with no real issue as we know that story.

Death Magnetic was probably the second-best album in 2008 and I knew there was no way this double-CD (why?) could live up. However, the twelve songs could be culled down to make a pretty kick-ass EP. The singles were about the best songs on the album, of course barring the epic finale. Spit Out The Bone is clearly the album’s best. Just writing this makes me want to listen.

However, some of the songs on that second disc are just cringe-worthy. I respect the band. Essentially they can do whatever the fuck they want. Of anyone, they’ve earned that! OK, I’ll say this album is ranked #6 in their 30+ year library. The classic four, DM and then this. We fast-forwarded past it, but oh how I loathe that black album. Just writing this makes me angry. Let’s move on.

7: Einherjer – Dragons Of The North XX (Norway)

This isn’t fair. Dragons Of The North was released 20 years ago and it remains a classic in the era of budding Scandinavian metal. Just after I got into Einherjer I got their ‘new’ album. Odin Owns Ye All was my first purchase and after hearing their awesome, trademark sound, I was left utterly disappointed. Sure, they came back later with maybe the second-best album of 2003, then broke up, then released the best album of 2014…but back then, I wrote them off.

And here we are, the twentieth anniversary complete re-recording issued as Dragons Of The North XX! It sounds better. Sections were tinkered with and overall it’s a spectacular record. Does it belong on 2016’s list? I don’t care. This album is just as good as it was then and the outro of Conquerer is actually improved. So good.

6: Amon Amarth – Jomsviking (Sweden)

I was in radio when Once Sent From The Golden Hall came out and I’ve followed this band ever since. My interest waxes and wanes but they’ve yet to really put out a bad album. I listen to each and like each and then they get shelved. Perhaps due to 2016 being a very weak year for the first half (or 2/3rds!) I listened to this a lot. Perhaps it’s due to it being a solid and fun album! The metal anthem Raise Your Horns is deliberately catchy but The Way Of Vikings is the album’s best. It’s altogether heavy and memorable and it ends on a high note. It’s the first Amon Amarth record in a while that I’ve put on again after listening to it…always a sign of a solid entry.

5: Alcest – Kodama (France)

Alcest was done. You know how it goes. You love a band and then they change and well, that was fun. You know they’ll never get back to the form that you loved. And after 2014’s Shelter, that was where I was at. Nothing will live up to 2010’s Écailles De Lune. While that’s true, Kodama destroys the last album and when, on the third track, Neige lets loose, I lost it. They’re back!!! I don’t need a full album of raspy vocals. But when that contrast hits, it stands out all the more. This is the first victim of genre bias. At one point this album was my #2. But since my numbers 4, 3 and 2 are more of the style I’m into…Alcest dropped. Not fair, but what will I go back to and listen to in 5 years? Despite that unfairness, Kodama still made the top 5. Pretty solid for a band that was done, right?

4: Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake (USA)

I know their last two records were good and people quite liked them, but I never loved them. But, the band has not really made a bad album since the entirely-forgettable The Ritual album 25 years ago. And here we are, almost 30 years after The Legacy with a consistent, solid and spectacular 11th studio LP. It is a heavy and crushing record from start to finish with impeccable production. Hoglan’s drumming is the relentless and mixed perfectly. Skolnick’s solos are the most metal he’s done in years (far less jazz influence IMO) and I welcome back DiGiorgio after a 15 year absence. I always felt he was better than Christian anyway. Peterson’s writing is top-notch, riffy and catchy, heavy and melodic. And Chuck is in top form, doing everything right. His voice has that natural deep end and this is among his best efforts.

Brotherhood is a great album front-to-finish, with more fun, anthem songs breaking up the thrashy groove. To me, this album is right up there with the best in their catalogue. Not as good as 1999’s The Gathering, but much better than anything since (well, only 2 LPs came out). This one will be a record I go back to and a reminder, it sounds fantastic. Just like they did in ’99, there’s no excuse for any album to sound less than this. Guitars, bass, vocals, drums…all sound perfect.

3: Skeletonwitch – The Apothic Gloom (USA)

The only problem with The Apothic Gloom is that it’s a mere four songs long. The twenty-minute listen is essentially perfect despite its brevity. While many people rue the loss of their original vocalist Chance, I was never really loyal. A new vocalist in tow, the band’s new EP tinkers with some new concepts including a 7-minute epic (by Skeletonwitch standards). The four songs offer a more mature feel without losing anything that made me love the band on prior releases. Like the record, this review has little more to say. It feels as if it’s over as soon as it begins. So, like the record, go back and re-read this review again. I promise it’ll be just as good, if not better, each time!

2: Insomnium – Winter’s Gate (Finland)

I never stopped liking Insomnium like I did with Alcest. I just figured they wouldn’t recapture the magic that made me love them so much. My experience with “our new album is going to be one long song!” concepts always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Green Carnation’s Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness comes to mind. Sometimes you just want to hear that one bit, but oh, damn, it’s 40 minutes into the song and I’m not fast forwarding that much! (that was mostly a pre-digital complaint).

So, with the band’s last really not impressing me and with the one-long-song concept, my expectations were low. But the long-song idea gives the band time and freedom to explore lengthy passages before returning to their best metal segments in a decade. The melodic parts are beautiful and the heavy parts crush. The album flows and feels like a journey through the frozen seas in search of a fabled island. The record has everything I love in music and it’s why I placed it above Testament and Skeletonwitch. The clean sections are beautiful, Niilo’s vocals are equally strong in singing and growling segments, and the production is spectacular. I’m fortunate enough to have the record split into seven tracks for easier digestion, but it wouldn’t matter. This record doesn’t suffer the issue that Green Carnation did. The whole thing is fucking awesome. Finland represents again as it has been in recent years, and if only it weren’t for that pesky Moonsorrow, this would be #1.

1: Moonsorrow – Jumalten Aika (Finland)

It took me about three days. My first listens resulted in, “This is good. Not as good as Varjoina, but good.” By day #3 or so, it was Album Of The Year. I’ll remind you that this LP came out on the 1st of April.

There was no question. The epic scope of a Moonsorrow song (the four main songs average 14 minutes in length) cannot be immediately appreciated. But if this was already deemed AotY on the 4th of April, imagine how much I loved it two weeks later. It was spun endlessly. Despite the so-so nature of Suden Tunti, the other four are just utter masterpieces. Let us not diminish the strength of that word. Masterpieces they are, embarking upon a musical trek of vast proportions. Additionally one of the two bonus tracks is among my favorite cover songs of all time.

I know of no band whose sound is like Moonsorrow’s and I know of no way to perfectly convey what a glorious gem Jumalten Aika is. In the eight months since its release, I’ve gone back to it thinking, “Is it still *really* that good?” And after I listen to the entire thing, I somehow marvel, not only at its brilliance, but at how I could ever have doubted it. Pagan, folk, black metal? I don’t care what genre it is. It is hands-down the Album Of The Year much as its predecessor was five years ago. As good as that one? I can’t say, but since that was probably favorite album of the last 15 years, it could be forgiven if it were #2. This is the best of the year without question. Finland #1 and 2 this year. Impressive.