Dark Age – Acedia (2010)

Dark Age – Acedia (2010, AFM Records)

  1. Kingdom Nevercome
  2. Devote Yourself To Nothing
  3. Neon Gardens
  4. Snake Of June
  5. Zeitgeist (Ghost In A Machine)
  6. 10 Steps To Nausea
  7. Halo Meridian
  8. Underneath These Burdens
  9. All The Unfulfilled
  10. Babylon Riots
  11. Myself Heretic

Band Lineup:
Eike Freese – Vocals & Guitars
Jörn Schubert – Guitars
Alex Henke – Bass
André Schumann – Drums
Martin Reichert – Keyboards

Producer: Eike Freese

Country: Germany

Total Time = 44:03

Dark Age
Dark Age MySpace page
AFM Records

Dark Age is a Melodic Death Metal band from Germany that I never heard of until ACEDIA dropped into my inbox. I thought they were a new band but Dark Age has been around since 1996 releasing 3 demos, 6 studio albums, and E.P. and a live DVD…..that’s not a bad career so far. ACEDIA is album number six, their first for AFM Records, and was released in November 2009 everywhere but North America. I received my North American copy at the beginning of the 2010 so I am counting it as a 2010 album…..whatever the back of the CD says!

Melodic Death Metal in it’s most basic form is a combination of the crushing thrash and guttural vocals with melodic rhythms of more traditional forms of Heavy Metal. As with any genre, over the course of time there are going to be added elements, embellishments and enhancements to the overall sound and that can include orchestration, keyboards, clean vocals and acoustics. In my quest for exploring more extreme forms of Metal this year, Melodic Death Metal makes the transition for Heavy Metal and Hard Rock to Death & Black Metal a little easier. I’ve been listening to some Melodic Death Metal bands all along and didn’t realize they fit that genre…..Amon Amarth, In Flames, At The Gates, Dark Tranquility. (We can debate the merits of each genre and where each band fits but that is always a matter of opinion.) What I can say about other Melodic Death Metal bands with my growing exposure is that I personally prefer their more aggressive songs and the harsher vocals…..and that is where I am conflicted by Dark Age and ACEDIA.

Overall ACEDIA has more of a modern Rock, Nu-Metal and Alternative Metal (Alt-Metal) sound to it than traditional Death Metal. There are a few songs where the music is heavy, thrashing in some spots, and the vocals are growling harsh but the overall balance of the album is clean vocals, electronica, keyboards and rhythms & riffs I heard 10-11 years ago when the Alt-Metal and Nu-Metal scenes exploded to FM radio. I have listened to this album over and over again and all I hear are the similarities to Linkin Park, Blink 182, Drowning Pool and the like. If you like that kind of music then this album by Dark Age will satisfy but if you want more Death in your Metal then I would look elsewhere. It’s almost as if each song has a promising riff and some solid growls but then it turns to an atmospheric sound with that whining drone of Linkin Park. I was actually waiting for the raps to show up in the middle of a few songs especially in the songs where their are no harsh vocals and the music is more akin to aggressive dance rock (if there is such a thing). This is music tailor made for today’s brain dead radio playlists and even then it sounds like something I heard on Ozzfest in the late ’90s/early 2000s. On the good side, the production is excellent, the album sounds good but it still isn’t my kind of music.

Bottom Line:
Definitely not an album for me! Maybe Dark Age has a harder and heavier side on previous albums but I doubt that I will be checking them out anytime soon…..and that’s what sucks about an album like ACEDIA, it can turn you off from checking out some previously good albums. I was never a fan of the Alt-Metal, Nu-Metal and modern Rock scenes so the overall sound this album has just turns me right off. I gave this album way too many spins because I felt like I was missing something but that feeling wore off mid-album because then I felt like I was wasting my time, I can’t find anything I like here except for maybe a few guitar parts and a few vocal lines. When you get down to it, all the songs sound the same! AFM Records has promoted Dark Age as a Melodic Death Metal band but I just don’t hear it, maybe in some parts of some songs…..I just feel like I have been a victim of false advertising. For me, one of the worst albums of the year so far.

Favorite Songs:

New Release Tuesday: Buckcherry – Black Butterfly & All That Remains – Overcome

Today was a big day as I had to run out and drop the $12.88 for the new Buckcherry album, BLACK BUTTERFLY. The cool thing was that I got another free pint glass from Newbury Comics, my local record store. I’ve been into Buckcherry since the debut in ’99 so this was a “must have” for me.

Of course that’s not all I bought! The new All That Remains album, OVERCOME, also came out today.

The sale price was $12.88 but I’m part of the Newbury Comics mailing list and the special coupon got me the CD for a cool $9.99! I just got into All That Remains late last year and they are very intense, plus they are from Massachusetts (right in my backyard!) so its good to support local area bands.

Total Cost = $23 (with a free pint glass!)

Hollenthon – Opus Magnum (2008)

Hollenthon – Opus Magnum (2008, Napalm Records)

  1. On The Wings Of A Dove
  2. To Fabled Lands
  3. Son Of Perdition
  4. Ars Moriendi
  5. Once We Were Kings
  6. Of Splendid Worlds
  7. Dying Embers
  8. Misterium Babel

Band Lineup:
Martin Schirenc – Vocals, Guitars, Bass & Keyboards
Martin Arzberger – Guitars
Gregor “El Gore” Marboe – Bass & Backing Vocals
Mike Gröger – Drums & Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Elena Schirenc – Vocals

Total Time = 46:17

Hollenthon official website
Hollenthon MySpace page
Napalm Records

OPUS MAGNUM is my first introduction to Austrian symphonic death metallers Hollenthon but the band has been around since 1999. Hollenthon is the brainchild of Pungent Stench mainman Martin Schirenc and the band has released two albums: DOMUS MUNDI (1999) and WITH VILEST OF WORMS TO DWELL (2001). The band has been on somewhat of a hiatus while Schirenc has concentrated on Pungent Stench but, now that they have broken up, Schirenc has focused his attention toward OPUS MAGNUM.

There is a blend of styles here aside from typical Death Metal, some call it Melodic Death Metal, but I hear more orchestration and folk in the music while retaining a pure heaviness. ‘On The Wings Of A Dove’ is a perfect example. The song opens the album with a heavy guitar riff and manic double bass drums but with an accompanying orchestration that includes choir vocals, keyboards, and strings (that probably come from the keys). When you add the harsh vocals of Schirenc then heaviness of the music stands out. Being a new fan of this type of Metal, ‘On The Wings Of A Dove’ is the type of song that gives me the general idea of the direction the band is going with the blending of many different sounds. The old saying is “you only have one chance to make an impression” and Hollenthon has made a favorable impression right away. ‘To Fabled Lands’ slows down a little bit compared to the opener but it is still heavy due to the double bass and crashing cymbals. There are more prominent choir vocals that remind me of some of Hammerfall’s output from their first two albums. I really dig ‘Son Of Perdition’, it has this hook between the guitar and keyboards that gets the fist pumping. The keys are a little more prominent at times but that main riff sticks right in my head. There are some more solid background vocals but it’s the gruffness of the main vocal that stands out to me. The song slows in the middle for some clean female vocals (a Symphonic Metal staple) and then they are incorporated in to contrast and compliment the main vocal towards the end. It’s a little different compared to the rest of the album, ‘Sons OF Perdition’ has more of a Power Metal vibe to it.

‘Ars Moriendi’ starts with a heavy orchestration and some serious soprano highs from Elena Schirenc that are kind of like Tarja (ex-Nightwish). After the beginning, ‘Ars Moriendi’ is a guitar feast with Schirenc and Martin Arzberger shredding all over the place, including a really good solo, until the orchestration kicks back in towards the end of the song. The tempo slows a little on ‘Once We Were Kings’ and incorporates the keyboards into the main vocal and also includes the choir like backgrounds and clean female vocals. This is one of my favorite songs on the album and it displays the myriad of sound that Hollenthon is using just like the album opener, ‘On The Wings Of A Dove’. ‘Of Splendid Worlds’ is more of the same Death Metal heaviness mixed with a Nightwish type orchestration at the beginning and then the symphonic elements kick out for the verses revealing the harshness. Towards the middle of the song a cool piano comes in to accompany the guitar. ‘Dying Embers’ starts out a little slow, a little quiet, with a clean vocal but everything picks up again with the blazing guitars and bass pounding.

The surprise of the album is the 8 minute ‘Misterium Babel’, a song that experiments with a Middle Eastern/Indian style along with the harsher elements. The contrast between the softer, cleaner side versus the harsher, Death side really makes the song. There is a perfect blend of sound between the heaviness of the riffs and drums to the subdued percussion and almost trance chanted vocals. The orchestration and female soprano weaves in and out almost mysteriously as does a flute! I was surprised to hear a flute pop in around the 6:40 mark of the song but it is there and done within the confines of the Middle Eastern flavor. Absolutely the best, and most different, song on the album!

Bottom Line:
I have only begun to explore the more extreme sides of Metal, my normal genres of choice being Traditional/Power Metal and Hard Rock. During the last year, I have started to listen to more Death and Black Metal and all of the spin-off styles that accompany them: Symphonic, Folk, Melodic Death, etc. So, while I’m not an expert, I do know what I hear and what I hear on OPUS MAGNUM is really good. There are plenty of guitar riffs that totally crush and some serious double bass pounding to go with the gruff vocals but what sets this band/album apart is the will to experiment. The orchestration is not overbearing, it’s blended into the heaviness. The female vocals soar and provide a good contrast to the death growls. One of the things that usually turns me off to Death Metal is that I can’t understand what is being sung, the good thing is that Schirenc is understandable under all the layers of vocal aggression…..to me, a big plus. The production is really great: everything is crystal clear, blended together well, and not overdone. It’s hard to understand how a band like Hollenthon has slipped under my radar but I can assure you that I enjoyed OPUS MAGNUM enough to give me the kick to go find the band’s first two albums.

Favorite songs: ‘Misterium Babel’, ‘On The Wings Of A Dove’, ‘Sons Of Perdition’, ‘Once We Were Kings’

Engel – Absolute Design (2008)

Engel – Absolute Design (2008, SPV)

  1. In Splendour
  2. Casket Closing
  3. Next Closed Door
  4. The Hurricane Season
  5. Propaganda
  6. The Paraclete
  7. Scyth
  8. Descend
  9. Trial & Error
  10. I’m The One
  11. Calling Out
  12. Seven Ends

Band Lineup:
Niclas Engelin – Guitars
Marcus Sunesson – Guitars
Mangan Klavborn – Vocals
Michael Hakansson – Bass
Mojjo – Drums

Producer: Anders Fridén

Total Time = 46:42

Engel official website
Engel MySpace page

(NOTE — ABSOLUTE DESIGN was released in Europe in late 2007, the U.S. release was May 20, 2008)

Engel is a band from Gothenberg, Sweden that plays Melodic Death Metal with Industrial influences. Usually I can’t get by the growling vocals and overdone blastbeats of Death Metal but I do like some and I find that the Melodic sub-genre of Death is more to my preference when done well. As for Industrial, I don’t like sequencing, sampling, and synth overclogging my Metal, it’s too Nu-Metal (Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach) for me and I’m more of a traditionalist.

Right away I noticed that the songs have more to do with the Nu-Metal and Metalcore movements than actual Death Metal. There are those trademark growling vocals (sometimes) but most of the vocals are clean and remind me of Linkin Park and the like. Actually, the growls are better than the clean vocals but the screams sound processed and not guttural. The background vocals seem out of place as well. I also don’t like the down-tuned guitars and the lack of speed. Good Death Metal has at least some element of Thrash to it and this sounds more like every other trendy band out there. Nothing really jumps out and makes me take notice, aside from the band members’ pedigrees: In Flames, The Crown, Evergrey.

Bottom Line:
Nothing really impressed me and I really tried to enjoy this album. I must have listened to this CD a couple dozen times over the course of the last few days and all I could picture in my head was some of the bands I’d seen on Ozzfest — Papa Roach, Linkin Park, Static-X, Incubus, Drowning Pool, Limp Bizkit, Korn. Everything sounds the same to my ears and, if I want to hear down-tuned guitars and a light mix of growls, screams, and clean vocals, I can turn on the local Rock stations that specialize in this type of music. I knew I should have known better when I saw pictures of the band with matching outfits!

Favorite songs: none