Sentenced

Hanging Garden – At Every Door Review

Hanging Garden – At Every Door Review

As I write this, it’s 15 degrees Celsius outside. The sun rises, but does not provide any warmth. Everything in my world is covered in a thin layer of ice, and things seem to be moving very slowly. In other words: it’s cold as shit out here. This is the perfect weather for some gloomy, atmospheric, slow-ass metal. And it just so happens that I have At Every Door, the new album by Finnish sextet Hanging Garden.

Decaying – Encirclement Review

Decaying – Encirclement Review

Are you ready for 2012? You better be, since it’s supposedly when the Mayans sell us down the river and everything goes BOOM! That means locusts, plagues, zombies, more Obama and a new Justin Bieber double album. Oh, the humanity! Anyway, as Steel Druhm sits in his Fortress of Reckoning, stockpiling ammo and firearms with varying degrees of legality, it seems a good time to do the first review of a 2012 release! What could be more fitting than a nasty slice of war-themed death metal from frigid Finland? Decaying got some big Steel love earlier this year for their Devastate album and here they are all set to launch their second campaign in 2012 with Encirclement. Taking the same basic approach as on Devastate, they rock a type of primitive, old school death of the European variety. After several spins, Encirclement reminds me of a forced merger between Bolt Thrower and Hail of Bullets with some Consuming Impulse-era Pestilence sprinkled on the wound. In all honestly, most of the album sounds like vintage Bolt Thrower with Martin van Drunen (Hail of Bullets/Asphyx/ex-Pestilence/ex-Bolt Thrower) on the mic. As you might then expect, its dependably chunky, clunky, ugly and reeks of a battlefield. What makes this notable amid the legions of death is the sheer length of the tracks. As with Devastate, there are some LONG ass death metal songs here (several between eight and ten minutes)! That can be a tricky feat to pull off and while Decaying largely succeeds in maintaining the interest factor, it can be wearing on the attention span at times. If the impending apocalypse make you hunger for epic-length death metal all about war, this is your huckleberry.

The Man-Eating Tree – Harvest Review

The Man-Eating Tree – Harvest Review

I’m part of a small minority of metal fans that heard of Finland’s Fall of the Leafe and loved what they did. Although they began life as a black metal band, they eventually morphed into a unique type of progressive gothic metal and their 2005 Vantage album is one of my all time favorites. It had a special, moody atmosphere that I return to often (largely due to the strange but brilliant vocal work of Toumas Tuominen). Sadly, the Leafe called it a day in 2007 and their compelling style was silenced. However, from the acorn of the great Leafe arose The Man-Eating Tree, another interesting forest-themed entity with Tuominen on vocals and many of the same winning characteristics and flavor. Their 2010 album Vine was a pleasantly moody, typically Finnish exercise in melancholy gothic rock/metal and their sophomore followup Harvest is more of the same but even better. The songwriting is tighter, more focused and immediate, the moods are more pronounced and honest and the whole album clicks in a way that recalls the finer moments of Fall of the Leafe without plagiarizing their sound completely. Although most similar to Fall of the Leafe, there are also flashes of Sentenced (same drummer), lighter Opeth and late-period Katatonia. This is not a very heavy album and at times, the material barely has anything to do with metal. Even the most aggressive material here won’t rattle teeth or inspire a raised fist. The sound is more about darkened, somber moods, not exactly doom but clearly not happy either. Regardless, this is a great album and deserves to be heard by anyone who likes dark rock overflowing with mood and emotion.

Shadowgarden – Ashen Review

Shadowgarden – Ashen Review

Shadowgarden is a side project of Draconian mainman Johan Ericson which is aimed at creating gothic rock of a different variety than his well-loved goth metal project. Breaking away from the beauty and the beast style and heading towards a much more commercially viable rock sound, the band has produced 10 new tracks of music for the consideration of all metal types out there to be released via Napalm records at the end of August (yeah, so this review is a tad late, but read on).

October Falls – A Collapse of Faith Review

October Falls – A Collapse of Faith Review

Depressed Finns are really no surprise in metal these days. It seems like Finns are a pretty morose bunch in general. A country famous for bands like Poisonblack, H.I.M., Sentenced, Insomnium, Black Sun Aeon and Swallow the Sun, it shouldn’t be terribly surprising that some pretty bleak and depressing stuff comes out of Finland. And let me be clear, that’s not even naming huge groups of bands that I’m sure others could probably come up with. But October Falls isn’t your standard “depressed metal” band from Finland. There are no silly ESL lyrics about being buried in a plastic bag or any of that jazz. Instead, October Falls is a “depressive” black metal band with folk sensibilities.

Poisonblack – Of Rust and Bones Review

Poisonblack – Of Rust and Bones Review

In the wake of Sentenced it’s no surprise that Poisonblack has continued strong, with support from fans of the previous band and has become bigger and bigger in Finland and throughout the world. Many miss the tongue-in-cheek depression that went hand-in-hand with later Sentenced records, at the same time as missing the band that once was. Of Rust and Bones, the new Poisonblack record (the band that features former Sentenced vocalist Ville Laihiala) basically continues on with the Sentenced legacy of mid-paced heavy metal with depressing lyrics, but doesn’t do it with the same kind of conviction or freshness that was embodied by the former band.

Scar Symmetry – Dark Matter Dimensions Review

Scar Symmetry – Dark Matter Dimensions Review

I remember the first time I heard Scar Symmetry very clearly. I was checking out some stuff on MySpace when I saw that they were going to be playing the House of Metal festival and I was blown away. Not blown away with how good they are, though talented one cannot deny they are, but how sickly sweet their melodic stuff is. I sat their and listened to it with my mouth agape thinking “really? Does this pass for death metal these days? How are these guys not a Top 40 band?” The answer to that is actually quite obvious: instead of dropping the death metal vocals, these guys have blended death metal vocals in with what I think is probably the most pop sensible writing I’ve ever heard in a metal band.

Amorphis – Skyforger Review

Amorphis – Skyforger Review

Amorphis is easily one of my favorite bands producing metal in the 2000s. Over the last few years I’ve seen a lot of the bands that I really got into when I was a young, impressionable metal guy start to get more and more popular as they got picked up by bigger labels, got put out on the market, and as metal got cool again (who’da thunk it?)–bands like Opeth, Enslaved, Amon Amarth and others. Amorphis, however, had fallen off my radar, and I think a lot of people’s radars, before they got themselves a new vocalist. A man of small stature, and huge personality and voice: Tomi Joutsen. For whatever reason, this breathed life into the venerable, and quite excellent, band taking them out of their temporary lull and pushing them to the forefront with the bands putting out the best modern metal has to offer.