Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Black Dahlia Murder – Nightbringers

 
The metal world has seen many bands who have been unfairly categorized for one reason or another. Unfortunately for these groups, it is often hard to break through that perception. The Black Dahlia Murder is a band that I have seen consistently written off, to the point where even I avoided them despite having no idea what they actually sounded like. One listen to “Nightbringers” made it clear that any pre-conceived notions I had of their music were totally wrong. The Black Dahlia Murder toe the line between melodic death metal and more traditional death metal, and do so quite effectively.

The band is admittedly modern in their approach, with a full production that would scare away anyone looking for something raw. This is definitely a clean, and well-executed effort, but “Nightbringers” still has plenty of brutality. The drum performance in particular features an impressive barrage of rhythms, incorporating thrashy beats, tons of double bass, and blast beats. Fortunately, The Black Dahlia Murder doesn’t overwhelm with the amount of blasting they use, as they’re able to mix it in fairly tastefully.

The real treat on this release is the quantity and consistency of the riffs. The previous nod to melodeath was because a lot of these riffs can get thrashy. There is a tinge of melody to the way the band writes riffs, but they ultimately tend to provide many high-speed downpicked riffs. This isn’t the only way the guitar playing shines, however, as there are plenty of guitar solos, many of which are virtuosic efforts that also show melodeath influence. The band only occasionally uses actual melodies over top of the riffs, which differentiates them from most melodeath groups who seem to focus more on leads than riffs.

If there is one clear weakness of “Nightbringers” is would be how overwhelming the vocals are. Trevor Strnad is an excellent vocalist: he can hit all of the highs and lows, and has no shortage of energy. The problem is that there’s almost no opportunity for the music to breathe. Several of these tracks feel like novels with how many words they can fit into 3 minutes. And since so many songs are just 3 minutes long, there isn’t a lot of room for the other instruments to shine. There are bands that excel at this sort of rapid-fire approach, but it tends to work best when the music is only about speed. To The Black Dahlia Murder’s credit, they have a lot more to offer than just playing fast, so providing a greater opportunity to showcase these riffs would be effective. 

Though “Nightbringers” is unlikely to be an album I’ll be jamming on repeat, it definitely deserves accolades for its competence. Fans of death metal that can handle some modern influences should enjoy this release. To me, it pretty much all sounds the same, but that’s not a bad thing given its short run time. The Black Dahlia Murder hits hard and fast, and if “Nightbringers” is any indication of their back catalogue, then their previous releases are probably worth exploring too!

Be sure to check out and like The Black Dahlia Murder on Ffracebook!

Highlights
All

Final Rating
3.7/5 or 74%.  

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Arisen From Nothing – Broken

At first glance, Arisen From Nothing’sBroken” has all of the warning signs. Lengthy band name? Check! American flag on the cover? Check! Unfortunate song titles? Check (“American Patriot”)! Yes, what we have here is something that is far too influenced by Pantera to be any good. While the legendary groove band may have had their own great moments, what they spawned consistently falls short.

In this case, the product is Arisen From Nothing, a 5-piece from Seattle. Their new EP, “Broken”, is the stereotypical tough guy metal sounding release. Of course, the mainstream’s tastes have hardened since Pantera broke through in the 1990s, so Arisen From Nothing’s vocalist's primary tone is quite a bit harsher than Phil Anselmo’s. Unfortunately, he falls just short of a death growl, landing at an awkward point between yelling and growling. In particular, he lacks the more guttural side. To make matters worse, there are moments on this EP where he tries to sing. This is yet another instance where mixing clean and harsh vocals just doesn’t work. The cleans in particular are incredibly weak and remind one more of Godsmack (or rather, what I imagine a band like Godsmack sounds like).

Arisen From Nothing seems to be trying so hard to both offend people and not offend people at the same time that it results in a very confused-sounding release. This primarily comes in the form of their lyrics and imagery, but the real problem is that they’re so inoffensive musically. They straddle so many lines without actually picking a style and committing to it (which really is a huge problem with any sort of groove metal, but that’s another discussion altogether). This EP would be 100 times better if they would thrash their brains out on one of these songs, or even if they added more shredding. “Better Off Dead” actually has a pretty good solo in it, but the band should just unleash their lead guitarist and let him go wild on every song. 

Broken” is a template of how to appeal to the people whose perception of metal doesn’t extend beyond Pantera. As a fan of thrash, however, it almost feels like an insult. It takes everything that is great about thrash and strips it away, leaving only half-baked riffs and the occasional aggressive moment. Arisen From Nothing obviously didn’t set out to be a thrash band, but they’re a great example of why groove metal is a fundamentally flawed subgenre. This EP might only be 20 minutes, but you’re better off listening to the first half of “Bonded By Blood” for the 1,000th time.  

Be sure to check out and like Arisen From Nothing on Facebook (on second thought, maybe not...)

Highlights
When it ends

Final Rating
2.0/5 or 40%.  

Friday, October 13, 2017

Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix

2017 has been a generous year to fans of Swedish power metal. Not only did Dream Evil return after a 7-year hiatus, but fellow countrymen Nocturnal Rites have just released a new record after 10 long years. Though it may feature a new face in the form of Per Nilsson on lead guitar, “Phoenix” picks up exactly where “The 8th Sin” left off. Fans of the bands earlier works may be disappointed to hear this, but Nocturnal Rites is far better at this brand of incredibly melodic, poppy power metal. While other giants like Edguy may have had a noticeable decline in quality when they slowed down musically, the same can’t be said for Nocturnal Rites. “Phoenix” shows the band perfecting this sound.

Most tracks on “Phoenix” plod along at a mid-paced tempo, but manage to alternate between speedier heavy riffing, and slower, huge choruses. The riffs tend to have a bit more groove in them than most power metal fans would be comfortable with, but as soon as Jonny Lindqvist’s voice enters the song, any weak riffs are immediately forgotten. He sounds every bit as good as he did 17 years ago on “Afterlife”, but he now has a much more soulful, emotional range. Tracks like “Before We Waste Away” and especially the slow-burning “Repent My Sins” are practically clinics in impactful songwriting. Unsurprisingly, it is the choruses that elevate these songs, and really the entire album, to another level.

Where “Phoenix” truly differentiates itself from Nocturnal Rites’ previous records is in the lead guitar playing. The slower feel of many of the choruses continues underneath the guitar solos, and unleashes huge pockets for Per Nilsson to impress with his fretboard gymnastics. While many guitarists excel at either shredding or more emotional playing, Nilsson succeeds at both, often times in the same solo. “Repent My Sins” again stands out as being a song where he absolutely dominates. Several tracks give him an extended opportunity to solo, and he’s so impressive that even more solos would be welcome. 

In fairness to Nocturnal Rites, there are a few times where they do something different. “The Poisonous Seed” is a speedier track that would feel right at home with anything released in the early 2000s. “Flames” is a somewhat stereotypical power metal ballad, but almost feels unnecessary due to several songs being able to create similar emotions in a much heavier format. Truthfully, Nocturnal Rites is at their best when they do this tamer, but catchier power metal sound. Although it might not be what old-school fans hope to hear, it is every bit as convincing as anything else out there in the scene today!

Be sure to check out and like Nocturnal Rites on Facebook!

Highlights
"A Heart As Black As Coal"
"Before We Waste Away"
"Repent My Sins"
"What's Killing Me"

Final Rating
4.5/5 or 90%.