So as you will recall from part one, I went through a phase where I randomly selected albums that looked metal-ish from the bins at my local library. This is part two of that experiment. It occurred in the fall of 2010. Yes, it has taken me more than a year to post this.
Within Temptation — Silent force: passable, light symphonic rock with some Celtic flavor. Lead vocalist seems a bit too thin and warbley for the high parts. She should stick to the fast tempo songs because her voice sounds pretty good when she’s angry. Best track = “It’s the Fear.” The album also serves as a reminder that many metal lyricists need to work on using concrete imagery and/or building a real narrative flow.
Within Temptation — An acoustic night at the theatre: It has been so long that I have done one of these that I forgot that my last one was a Within Temptation album. Also, for some reason, it didn’t register with me that this is an acoustic album. What the acoustic setting does, though, is really bring out the weaknesses of this band. Again, the thin and warbly; the mid-tempo; the bland lyrics all conspire against the band. When the vocalist gets angry and sounds more like Kate Bush and less like a pop singer (or even in some cases kinda country), it gets much better. Stand out track is the faster “Somewhere” which is a duet with Anneke Van Giersbergen.
Zu — Carboniferous: So take a dissonant free jazz baritone saxophonist who has a thing for noise bands and lay his stuff over a death metal rhythm section and then add in electronica fuzz and freakiness and that’s what Zu is. This is a very good album. Mike Patton and King Buzzo (The Melvins) make guest appearances. Stand out tracks are three (Carbon), seven (Axion) and nine (Obsidian), but you also gotta check out the closing track — Orc — which starts out with these water swamp sounds and then gets in to some guttural chanting by Mike Patton and just gets weirder from there. It’s like ambient music for Gollum.
Jesu — Conqueror: This may be completely off base, but the best way I can describe this album is shoegaze guitars and vocals combined with doom metal rhythm section, tempo and song structure (as in long — as in all the songs range from 5-10 minutes with most in the 7-8 minute range). You know how with many really good albums, the songs all sound similar (or at least in the same family) but each brings some new pleasure? This album does this. And while the lyrics don’t amaze, they also don’t embarrass. I really like whatever strange hybrid it is. Standout tracks are four (weightless & horizontal), six (brighteyes), seven (mother earth) and eight (stanlow). Yes, that’s half the album.
Static-X — Cult of Static: Rather silly speed metal of the staccato hoarse vocals with lyrics chosen more for being syllabic than meaning much — not to mention made up words like Tera-Fied and Isolaytore. Tracks three (Terminal) and eleven (Grind 2 Halt) are somewhat interesting variations from the standard shout the verses, shout the chorus, go to guitar solo structure. Warning: the lead shouter is rather fond of the f-word.
Huh. According to wikipedia, the band is industrial metal. I guess. I thought the use of electronic sounds and programming was pretty weak.
Black Tide — Light from Above: pretty standard speed metal with hard rock posturing. Clumsy lyrics that barely even scan and have incredibly generic imagery and sentiments. Heck, there’s even a non-ironic track called Live Fast Die Young. Lots of guitar solos — only one of which I found somewhat interesting (the one at the end of Track 10 – Black Abyss). Track 5 (Let Me) is one of the most (unintentionally) hilarious come on songs ever. Oh, and there is some fondness for the f-word should you be inclined to check this album out (and I can’t see why you would be).
Disfear — Live the Storm: Raging anarcho, hardcore punk with death metal touches of the Scandinavian variety. This album is tight. Songs are short (10 tracks; 35 minutes). And they build off each other, but are all in the same (angry, anarchist) family. Vocals are shout-growled but you also get moments where the band chimes in and sing-repeats certain phrases and that adds a nice touch. The lyrics have an intensity and vivid imagery that while reflecting a rather one-dimensional, juvenile worldview, are crafted and coherent enough to give the songs some real force. The solutions are vague, but some of the diagnosis cuts deep. I like this album quite a bit even though I’m not much of a hardcore fan. A big part of it, I think, is that the overall sounds of the bass, the guitars, the drums are sounds I like and am familiar with and don’t come across as tired and cheesy to me. Best tracks are Track 4 (The Cage), Track 8 (In Exodus), and the one epic track on the album Track 10 (Phantom) which clocks in at 7:10. Also one or two f-word warning here. Best I can tell is that if one track uses the f-word 1-2 times you don’t get a Parental Advisory sticker. Go over that, and you get one slapped on.
Motörhead — Kiss of Death: Lemmy is a dirty old man. Seriously. Almost all of the songs on this album are specifically about wanting to get it on with a woman. So yeah, didn’t really work for me. Here’s what I learned though: Lemmy has a great voice that has some real texture and range to it and while he’s not an amazing lyricist, he does some clever things with rhyme schemes. The stand out track is 6 — God was never on our side. It’s a standard, anti-religion track, but it features a really great vocal performance.
Warning: the b-word and slut and whore get used. Like I said, not an album that really works for me in terms of subject matter.
I haven’t done much with metal since this experiment ended in October 2010. I’ve continued to listen to High on Fire and Torche (from part one).