Oct 13, 2017 Music Releases (Samael, Enslaved, Fozzy, Stick To Your Guns)
"True View" By Stick To Your Guns
Genre: Melodic Hardcore
Orange County punks Stick To Your Guns blend together pure hardcore instrumentation and aggressive vocals with catchy melodic choruses similar in style to bands like Comeback Kid and Obey The Brave. The band does aggressive well. And they do melodic well. But they seem to have some trouble blending the two styles together on this record as seamlessly as they have in the past. The aggressive segments are enjoyable enough but when the melodic choruses hit the switch comes off too stark in contrast on most of the songs. There are exceptions however in the early tracks like "Married To The Noise" and "Delinelle". Also when the band fully commits to aggression or melody for a full song the track comes off cleaner. "You Are Free" and "The Sun, The Moon, The Truth: Pennance Of Self" are full on aggression and better for it. The more melodic "56" is one of the most melodic tracks with clean vocals through the whole song and is also a cut above most of the record. Outside of these examples however the formula of heavy verse to melodic chorus gets a little tired and brings down the album as a whole.
Score: 2.5/5 - The formulaic nature of a lot of the tracks dampen True View's quality despite its highlights. While not a dud the tried and true heavy/melodic blend has been pulled off with better execution on other albums.
"Judas" By Fozzy
Genre: Hard Rock/Heavy Metal
My expectations are always low with modern hard rock albums. Especially for one fronted by a pro wrestler like Fozzy. But as the old saying goes "don't judge a book by its cover". Judas surprisingly wound up being one of my favorite pure rock and roll albums of the year. Chris Jericho, while not an amazing singer, is more than serviceable for Fozzy's style and packs the album with catchy anthems. The first half of the album is pure hard rock fun highlighted by the arena anthem title track and light-hearted "Drinkin With Jesus". The second half of the album is much more metal centered with highlights like the gritty "Wolves At Bay" and "Three Days In Jail" which features an interesting feature choice in rapper Hyro Da Hero. Judas brings the fun of old school heavy metal with a modern twist and firmly demands your attention with a bevy of quality tracks.
Score: 3.5/5 - Jericho and company will have you banging your head and singing along as Judas keeps the spirit of fun rock and roll alive
"Hegemony" By Samael
Genre: Symphonic Black Metal/Industrial Metal
Switzerland has always been a hot bed of quality metal and the latest effort from Samael is one of the more unique examples of this fact. Several of the bands from the early black metal movements morphed into new identities as they progressed. Satyricon kept the lo-fi of black metal but put it towards more rock and roll compositions. Emperor's Ihsahn delved into the avant-garde with his solo efforts. And Samael decided to blend the symphonic into their sound as well as industrial elements. This unique blend of styles is refined on Hegemony where the grand nature of the symphonic elements is reigned in to be more direct with prominent guitars and driving rhythms. While other symphonic metal bands like Septicflesh go into film score territory with atmosphere to give an epic feel Samael follow the black metal ethos of staying to the point. And keep the guitars as the focal point rather than icing on the cake. A strong example of this is found in the track "Murder Or Suicide". The song is heavily riff driven with a headbanging mid-tempo groove while the piano and strings add atmosphere rather than be the leading instruments. "Black Supremacy" is another highlight that focuses more on the band's industrial side with a non stop drum barrage and electronics being the leading elements outside of the earworm chorus that slows the rhythm down for emphasis. With Hegemony Samael finds a happy balance between guitar driven rhythm and orchestral melody. All while staying heavy and guitar-centric. For those who prefer their symphonic metal with a little more punch Samael's latest is sure to provide.
Score: 3.5/5 - Samael enhance their symphonic elements immensely while keeping the guitar driven power more adeptly than many of their peers in the symphonic metal world.
"E" By Enslaved
Genre: Progressive Metal/Black Metal
Norway's Enslaved has been making a consistent transformation from black metal to progressive metal for a long time now. And with their latest record E that transformation sounds nearly complete. The band seems to have shed nearly all of their black metal roots aside from Grutle Kjellson's fierce rasp and with the amount of melody to be found on E the album sounds less prog metal and more prog rock than albums past. This is not a detriment however as the band's slow and steady progression to this style has made them more than capable of creating a more melodic record at this point. It also doesn't hurt that keyboardist Hakon Vinje has confidently taken a leading position vocally with his soothing performance style fitting the melodic vibe perfectly. The songs are not complex in their technical skill but are heavily layered in their composition. Each section of every song flows fittingly into the next and hold a very ethereal vibe. Some exceptions to this trend are "The River's Mouth" which may be the heaviest song of the record and "Axis Of The Worlds" which blends heavy swinging guitar grooves with its melodic keys lead sections. I always have to tip my hat to a metal band that can find ways to explore more melodic territory while keeping their sound unconventional and interesting. Enslaved has accomplished that feat with flying colors and boldly push their sound into exciting new directions.