Thursday, February 07, 2008

Best of 2007 - from #60 to #56

60. manowar - 'gods of war'
'Gods Of War' has turned, surprisingly, into the most divisive album of Manowar's long career. Sure, they have always been a factor of contention within metal as a whole. On one side you have the people who think they're silly and dumb, on the other all the fans who realize that the over-the-top posturing is exactly the point of Manowar and are therefore free to enjoy the music, that has been of a superior quality very often, something which is often overlooked because of the whole image the band generates. Few casual listeners think that Manowar actually have written, among other things, a haunting, crushing doom song ('Hatred'), gorgeous metal ballads ('Master Of The Wind', 'Courage', 'Heart Of Steel'), rousing epic cavalcades ('Black Wind, Fire And Steel', 'The Power Of Thy Sword', 'March For Revenge'), not to mention the 30-minute epic 'Achilles, Agony And Ecstasy In Eight Parts'. The one decision that is arguable about 'Gods Of War' is that they have applied the 'Achilles' concept to a full album, a concept album about the god Odin, but this time without the constant metal rumble that the opening track from 'The Triumph Of Steel' had. Of these sixteen tracks, only eight are "proper" songs, and one of them is a bonus track that doesn't really belong in the whole concept. This makes 'Gods Of War' a very difficult album to sit through if you're not in the musical equivalent of a let's-watch-Lord Of The Rings-the-whole-way-through mood. Symphonic intros and orchestral passages are remarkably well done, and the entire album flows exactly like a movie, but after superb heavy and fast blasts like 'Sleipnir' or 'Loki God Of Fire', sometimes you wish they'd just get on with it. However, if you think about it, that's really your problem. The music here is awesomely put together as a cohesive whole, and it's remarkable that a band well on their way to their third decade of existence still has the balls to put out something like this in today's current musical climate. Oh, and that bonus track - it doesn't fit, but it's terribly exciting in a silly true metal kind of way. It's called 'Die For Metal'.

ManOwaR - 'Sleipnir'

59. horna - 'sotahuuto'
It's Horna. After the black plague album, they wrote 'Sotahuuto' as a tribute to the old school and Bathory. It's fucking grimm trve BM, cold, raw, entirely shrieked in Finnish, preferably to be listened on vinyl and not made to be liked, so fvkk off. \m/

58. end of level boss - 'inside the difference engine'
[review published on issue #24 of Underworld magazine, translated and adapted for too.many.records.]
The riff that opens the first song, 'Selfishnegativevibemerchant', shows right away what End Of Level Boss are all about. A textbook example of what a stoner riff is, it serves as a basis for the song's development, which doesn't limit itself to heavy and slow. Just like the rest of the album, in fact. The dynamics on display here are the best quality of 'Inside The Difference Engine', with surprising structures and frequent detours over dissonant territory in the vein of prime-era Voivod that give the album a sort of industrialized feel. For once, the press sheet comparisons are right - End Of Level Boss do sound like the missing link between Kyuss and Voivod. Two huge names to throw about, but these guys can take their weight perfectly. Throughout the record, both oppressive ('Instinktivitus', scary!) and urgent ('Reticence') atmospheres are created, always with a guitar athleticism worthy of someone like Stinking Lizaveta (with whom End Of Level Boss have played, actually). This cross-genre exploration is possible because this band is musically very solid - the rhythm section is huge, and the vocalist sounds either like a steroid-filled John Garcia or a less schizo Mike Patton. Therefore, the predisposition to make up stuff is enormous, as the two last songs show, from atop their bizarreness. Whether they show the band's future sound or not, this is in any case a band that gives guarantees for the future. And if the leap to the next album is as big as the leap from 'Prologue' to this one, you'd better watch out!

End Of Level Boss - 'Instinktivitus'

57. el hijo - 'las otras vidas'
[review also published on issue #24 of Underworld magazine, translated and adapted for too.many.records.]
Good music does funny things to you, to the point of bringing down irrational prejudices (not that there are any rational ones). I do admit a certain personal distaste for songs sung in Spanish, but it's a distaste that's mostly part of the past right now, and it's all Abel Hernandéz's fault. Migala's former vocalist, after this band broke up, decided to get together a new band and throw himself at this very personal project. With the precious help of multi-instrumentalist and producer Raül Fernandez, the result was the writing of nine irresistible songs. It's very difficult to try to explain the appeal of the simplicity of 'Las Otras Vidas'. Although the album doesn't have a glowing factor of originality or any fantastically arousing moment in particular, it's one of those that insinuate themselves, underneath your skin, slowly, until you realize that you listen to the thing almost every day, especially when you want to take a break from all the hellish metal of doom that most of my readers probably listen to all day long. Just like it happens with a record like Nick Cave's 'The Boatman's Call', for example. The stand-out note is entirely Abel's voice. Sober, accompanied by various acoustic instruments, it's one of those full and low voices, capable nevertheless of the softest melodies that seem to come out without any kind of effort, a bit like Robert Fisher (Willard Grant Conspiracy) or Matt Berninger (The National). Songs vary between pop-folk and something more atmospheric, that will appeal to anyone who likes Iron & Wine and other similar bands. The comparison is necessary but very reductive. An album of this class and feeling should appeal to anyone who likes good music, full stop. Even to those who didn't like to listen to Spanish singing.

El Hijo - 'Vals De Los Besos'

56. exodus - 'the atrocity exhibition - exhibit a'
The revival of Exodus is a wonderful thing. With so many troubles that have happened to this band, it's a small miracle that they're still together at all. That they're actually still thrashing the house down with powerhouse albums like 2005's 'Shovel-Headed Kill Machine' and now this little baby. Vocalist Rob Dukes is a big part of this, as he's probably the best vocalist the band has ever had (no disrespect to the much-missed Paul Baloff, but he is), and succeeds in injecting that final bit of bile that these tracks need to work. By "work", I mean "punching you in the face and leaving your broken and messy nose for the rats to pick on", of course. As a final piece of the puzzle, original drummer Tom Hunting also returns to the fold on this album, beating his kit like there's no tomorrow. Just like the awesome previous album, 'Atrocity Exhibition' is a simply a shred-fest that will make you thrash all around (acting like a maniac?) and headbang from beginning to end. Varied, incorporating several tempos for massive killing capacity. Funnily enough, in the middle of a thrash revival and bands like Municipal Waste, Evile and SSS catching all the attention, old-timers Exodus are still by far the best thrash band around.

Exodus - 'Riot Act'


  1. Manowar's new album is one that will grow on me. I appreciate the concept, but was a little disappointed with the lack of solid Manowar power metal. Over several listens, I can respect the efforts and what this means from a band with a strong catalogue.

    This is the true test of metal faith Manowar has come to expect from their fans.

  2. I'm not sure about Manowar's album. I read some interviews with the band and they have openly said they didn't like the way the album sounded at the end. And honestly, me neither.