Amon Amazing

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Well, WordPress sucks dick. I just wrote a whole review of the show and it didn’t save my draft. So here it is again.

Aside from having a blast with IZM, I was set to have another blast with the Amon Amarth show in Israel.

On July 27, my husband removed the baby car seat from the back of the car, we picked up three of our Jerusalem metalhead friends, and dived into the so-humid-it’s-virtually-a-pool weather of Tel Aviv. The venue was small for the likes of Amon Amarth, but was bigger than I expected. The size of the stage and the way the crowd piled up all the way to the edge of it indicated that there would likely be no pyro-techs.

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In a previous post, I wrote that there is no way that the band could reproduce the awesomemess of their Wacken performance, and I was right. But I also wrote that they would still deliver a kickass show, and I was right about that too.

The two performances cannot be compared – we’re talking about a gigantic stage in the open air with tens of thousands of German metalheads thrashing around, versus a small scale show, a small stage in a closed venue, with around 1100 people crammed inside, drenched in sweat.

But it’s Amon Amarth we’re talking about and they deliver. Johan’s vocals are second to none, the guitars and the melodies reproduced EXACTLY as they are in the records, with no stupid alterations of the solos as many artists tend to do in their live shows, no useless longass speeches between songs – only blasts of song after song after song, that kept me headbanging till my neck went limp, and screaming till my throat became all bloody.

I was delirious with joy. Every once in a while, when a song ended or began, I found myself laughing hysterically out of sheer pleasure. I was screaming, pumping fists, throwing up metal horns, and headbanging myself silly. I noticed a girl standing in front of me, looking back at me every once in a while with an expression that said “what the fuck are you doing?”

Well, to answer your question, I AM HEADBANGING MY BRAINS OUT, BITACH! How is it that you’re NOT?! Are you hearing this?!

So yes, Amon Amarth has that effect on me. And no lack of fireworks, or presence of a roof, or so much sweat on my face that my hair stuck to it, could ever change that.

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The best thing about it, as my husband said, was the fact that after such a long time of being out of the metal scene, we were finally back in. With my pregnancy and the birth of our daughter, we couldn’t afford to have a night of good old sweaty screamy thrashy metal show like we’re used to. We attempted to go to metal shows and metal nights when I was pregnant, but I kept being paranoid about the cigarette smoke and the loud music that could harm my baby. And we simply could not enjoy the show. And now we’re back, and we went back into it with a live version Pursuit of the Vikings. Fucking A!

Peace, love and metalheads forever!

Metalheads Recommend

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While I was making my list of Fun-a-Day records, I ran into a block after Day 25 and couldn’t come up with any other bands I wanted to check out, so I posted a request to my metalhead friends on Facebook to recommend bands to me based on my musical preferences (I should have probably waited a little bit with that request because now I have albums and bands to check out running all the way through to February!). Here are the results.

SMBDay 26:
Screaming Mechanical Brain – Policy of Unilateral Hate (0/5)
I’m not even kidding with that score. When the first song came on, I was like “OK, clearly Nu Metal, sounds a bit like Iwrestledabearonce.” I was even willing to give them a chance because their vocalist has potential when he stops screaming and actually starts growling a bit. But at some point through their ridiculous electronic sound effects, they broke into the absolute most horrible clean vocals I have EVER heard. One would expect that in Nu Metal, but if your clean vocals sound more like boy band vocals than Backstreet Boys, then you know you suck the hairy one. I usually try to listen to a full record before rating it, but since I was in the middle of lunch while listening to this regurgitated steaming pile of batshit, and since every time the clean vocals kicked in, I quite literally felt my undigested lunch going through my throat the wrong way, I didn’t get past half of the second song. I feel bad for the garbage juice that has to share a trash can with this CD.

A note about clean vocals in metal: Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica, other old school metal bands – clean vocals are their trademark. So that’s ok. King Diamond and Mercyful Fate – also their trademark. Some gothic black metal bands and folk metal – perfectly acceptable. HOWEVER! If your clean vocals sound like fucking Justin Bieber, you keep it out of your music, or you deserve to die!

einDay 27:
Einherjer – Odin Owns Ye All (2.5/5)
This band is clearly Viking Metal, but the only thing it has in common with Amon Amarth is the lyrics. The rest of the style is completely different. The vocals are clean (but still don’t sound like whiny boy bands, that’s a plus right there); the keyboards are very dominant; aside from the guitar and drums, there are a bunch of other instruments I can’t quite put my finger on that make the style lean more towards folk metal. They’re good. They sound like the kind of band that would open for bands like Tyr and Korpiklaani. But do I personally like it? I don’t know. They don’t have a sound that really sweeps me off my feet. They don’t have any special elements that make me say “Holy shit!” They’re far from boring, but they’re not the kind of band that I would keep listening to. Also, they sound a bit too power for my taste.

DypsDay 28:
Dypsomaniaxe – One Too Many (2.5/5)
This is not a metal band. It’s a punk band of the rocka/psychobilly variety. I am a huge fan of HorrorPops, so when the first song started, I thought I might actually like this because they sound somewhat similar. But it turns out that Dypsomaniaxe do not have the same crazy punkrock energy that HorrorPops have and all their songs sound alike. In fact, the entire record sounded like one big song with some breaks in the middle. They’re not a terrible band – they have a pretty good female vocalist, the lyrical content is nice and feminist at times – but their style and level of energy (or lack thereof) just didn’t speak to me.

WinterDay 29:
Winter of Sin – Violence Reigns Supreme (4/5)
Ah! Finally a great recommendation! I think what gave it away is that I had a bitch of a time finding a download link for this record and had to resort to streaming it from Bandcamp. Once again, if you are hard pressed to find a given band, chances are they kick ass. And Winter of Sin is no different. I love the melodic black metal style they adopted, and their vocalist is amazing. Just growls and black metal roars, no clean vocals. With all the raw and violent shredding riffs, beautiful catchy melodies wonderfully incorporated within the choruses and in between verses, unforgiving and unrelenting blast-beats, this band reminds me a bit of Astarte and Arafel. There were times where I found touches of Insomnium, which I didn’t really like, but there were very few, and the rest just blew my face clean off my skull. An absolute delight to the ears!

beDay 30:
Be’lakor – Stone’s Reach (1/5)
This band would have been excellent if the songs hadn’t been longer than the exile. The songs on this record last between just under six minutes and 10! The vocalist is incredible. The riffs and melodies are quite decent. But the length of every song is ridiculous. While listening to a song, I found myself checking back after a few minutes and thinking “Is this really the same song that started like seven minutes ago? Damn!” Actually, the shortest track is 2:48 minutes but it’s a boring and tedious instrumental piece – nothing more than an acoustic guitar. I decided to keep the shortest song and get rid of all the rest that my attention span is simply not willing to hear out.

PanteraDay 31:
Pantera – Cowboys from Hell (2/5)
This was a difficult score to deliver because the album itself is amazing. The songs, the riffs, the composition and arrangements, the tones that the vocalist reaches – this record is phenomenal on so many levels. The problem is that just the previous day, I saw a video recording of Phil Anselmo, former lead vocalist of Pantera (and on this record) giving a Nazi salute and yelling “White power” at the crowd. Also, as it turns out, this wasn’t the first time that Anselmo says and does something so disgustingly racist. After I saw that video, my husband (who suggested I add Pantera to my Fun-a-Day list) asked me if this will make me remove them from my list. I said no, but that it will most likely affect the way I feel about them. And it has. I mean, it wasn’t just a random wave to the crowd that was misinterpreted as the Ziegheil. It was straight-up Hitler. The way he looked, the expression on his face, the stomp of his foot coupled with the arm flying up in the air… it was a stab to the heart. As a Jew, I can’t help but let it affect me. On the other hand, I have a soft spot for the title track of this record since this was the song that opened the metal segment of our wedding. This was the track that cleared the dance floor for all our metalhead friends, and everyone went wild. So I’ll probably keep a few of the tracks on my iPod since Dimebag is still the shiznit. I just hope that my mental image of Anselmo’s version of American History X will slowly fade away over time.

Peace, love and even if Fun-a-Day is officially over, I got more albums coming up in February!

What I Learned from Sunday Metal

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The following bands are bands that were posted on the Jerusalem Sunday Metal group on Facebook. I decided to add Hatesphere to the Fun-a-Day list for no other reason than the cover of their record looks amazing. Omnium Gatherum also featured on the Sunday Metal playlist a couple of times and Gates of Ishtar were described as melodic death metal which is my favorite genre.

HatesphereDay 21:
Hatesphere – New Hell (4/5)
An interesting thing about metal bands: you hear the intro to a song and hold your breath for the vocals. Because really, sometimes, bad vocals are all it takes for a song to be completely ruined. With Hatesphere, the vocals aren’t catastrophic but they’ll take some getting used to. As for the music, it’s perfect, solid thrash. It’s got a shit-ton of energy, the riffs and drums are fast as hell as any good thrash should be, they even got some phenomenal melodies and face-melting solos in there. The vocals are mostly screamish, with great occasional growls. In fact, the growls are so good that if it was the dominant vocal style of the album, I would have rated it a definite 5/5. But it’s mostly screams, which I don’t dig much. One or two songs also have some clean background vocals in the chorus along with the leading growls or screams (sort of like in Arch Enemy’s “End of the Line”). I could have done without those, but they’re not common and dominant enough to affect the rating of this record. An all around excellent album. Once I manage to get used to the vocals, I can honestly say I love it.

OGDay 22:
Omnium Gatherum – Years in Waste (2/5)
The songs that were featured on Sunday Metal night were newer ones and had some clean vocals that I hate. The growls however were pretty decent so I figured their older material is probably better (that’s usually how it goes – a metal band starts out brutal, then realizes that emo boy bands get more attention and they start going all clean and wimpy). Anyway, the record did indeed have only growls and no clean vocals, which was ok and probably the only reason why I didn’t rate this record a big round zero. I was pretty disappointed with the songs which seemed to last as long as years, and a complete waste indeed. I was expecting more death. So when the keyboard effects kicked in, I wrinkled my nose in utter disgust. Keyboards do NOT belong in death metal. Plus, their emphasis on the progressive aspect is completely unnecessary. Prog coupled with the atrocious keyboard just makes them sound like Dream Theater with growls, and although I might get nice and blasted for saying this, I hate Dream Theater. Their songs just sound like a bunch of jumbled up nonsense. NEXT!

Gates of IshtarDay 23:
Gates of Ishtar – The Dawn of Flames (4.5/5)
The first two or three songs of this record were actually kinda boring, stale and repetitive. They didn’t draw me in or sweep me away at all. Which is why when the next songs came on, I was utterly surprised by how awesome they are. I had to check my iPod several times to make sure I was actually listening to the same band. Melodic death is the love of my life. What is interesting about this record is that it also features some black elements like snare blast beats and black vocals. The vocals also reminded me of another band but I couldn’t put my finger on it at first but I knew that it’s a band I love. Then it hit me – God Dethroned. The melodic riffs, the blast beats shifting into headbanging death beats, the guitar solos, the soft melodic interludes of acoustic guitar and piano, exploding back into brutality, with the bloody-pulp-throat shrieks and double kickdrum, so much like God Dethroned only somewhat darker and cleaner at the same time. Wow. Just wow. A terrific band-aid for my bleeding ears following the horror that is Omnium Gatherum if nothing else, Gates of Ishtar is now a member of the long and illustrious list of melodeath bands that make my heart go bang-bang-kaboom.

Peace, love and King coming up!

Songs of the Century

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Back in 2011, I downloaded the Century Media sampler they released. It featured some really awesome songs and I promised myself I would check out the featured bands’ respective albums at some point. Arch Enemy was one of them but I was already a huge fan of them way before then. So this week, I listened to the others that I liked.

IWDay 8:
Iwrestledabearonce – Ruining it for Everybody (2/5)
This band has elements of prog and industrial but they’re mostly nu metal. I was a bit into nu metal in my early years of metalheadom, mostly Otep and stuff. But after discovering Arch Enemy and the extreme underground, nu metal faded into nothing and I dropped it faster than you can say “poser”. The song that was featured on the CM sampler was “Next Visible Delicious”. I rather liked the way they shift between fast and slow beats as per the prog element, and also liked that the lead vocalist shifts between shrieks so brutal they leave you with bloody ears, and such beautiful clean vocals enough to put Mariah Carey to shame. But when I listened to their record this week, I found their songs to be far too repetitive and they all sound alike. At some point, it just became boring and quite annoying. I stopped listening to the record before it ended because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’ll just stick with the one song I liked – the one mentioned above – the rest will be deleted.

WOPDay 9:
Winds of Plague – Against the World (4.5/5)
The song featured on the CM sampler is “Refined in the Fire”. I figured if the rest of their album is just as good as this song, it’s gotta be one bitchin album. It is and it is! Their style is death metal, with a melodic twist here and there. Definitely the style that I love best. Brutal, powerful and so deliciously profane, it makes my metal taste buds ache. The lyrics are so fucking awesome, they made me growl along the chant-worthy parts in the damn office! I couldn’t help it. And any band that can accomplish that is bitchin indeed. There were only two songs that didn’t completely melt my face: “Only Song We’re Allowed to Play in Church Venues” and “California”. The former is an instrumental piece so not as exciting as the ones accompanied by guttural growls. The latter is pretty bad. The vocals are more hip-hoppish than anything, and the lyrical content reflects that as well, talking about the West Coast and “hands up in the air” and all that crap. Rap metal is absolutely atrocious music and Winds of Plague can do much better than that. “California” is a totally unnecessary song. But otherwise, this album is total brutal ownage par excellence.

Earth-Crisis-CoverDay 10:
Earth Crisis – Neutralize the Threat (1/5)
I tried to find this record online, downloading, streaming, even YouTube, but found only some of the songs, not all of them. Frankly, the rest don’t really interest me. What I heard was enough to conclude that this is a band that I can listen to for a very limited amount of time before I decide “OK, enough”. That’s usually what happens with all hardcore bands I listen to. At some point, it becomes redundant. The vocals never change to a point where they start to sound monotonous. There is no melodic element, which makes the monotony even more pronounced, there is no climax, no denouement, no intro. It just starts nowhere and ends suddenly. So the one song I can listen to before saying “OK enough” is “Total War” – the one I got from the sampler. That’s good enough. The rest is just a big huge pile of blahhh.

WarDay 11:
Warbringer – Worlds Torn Asunder (4/5)
This record would be better named Eardrums Torn Asunder. But not in a bad way at all because it’s really fucking good. The music is pure unabated and unapologetic thrash. The musicians are surprisingly talented (surprisingly because I’ve never heard of them before, which makes them totally underrated). The phenomenal guitar riffs and solos accompanied by the machine-gun drum blasts make for songs that are powerful enough to turn you into a rag-doll and toss you around the room as good thrash is supposed to do.  The lyrical content is incredibly empowering, revolutionary, violent and inspiring. The only thing that bugs me a little is the singer’s voice. He’s more of a screamer than a growler, and it can get a little annoying after a while. But Warbringer also has the added element of background vocals and varying beats within the songs, explosions and surprising twists, which make up for it. Super awesome record!

KrisDay 12:
Krisiun – The Great Execution (4/5)
Solid death metal. Shredding riffs. Mind-blowing solos. The vocalist growls to absolute perfection. And no drummer can drum that way unless he is fucking possessed by some speed demon of sorts. The songs and lyrical content is also powerful. Songs about revolution, war, taking back control, all the good empowering stuff there is. The only thing that I didn’t like was that most of the songs were a little too long. The songs range between 5 and 8:30 minutes. The 5-minute songs are acceptable. But as the song gets longer, my attention span gets shorter, and I get a bit restless. Also, they have a song in Spanish that sounds more like black metal than death metal, and it features both growls and shrieks that can get rather irritating. But besides that, the record is phenomenal. I can’t get enough of headbanging to all the songs.

VallenDay 13:
Vallenfyre – A Fragile King (3/5)
Today, I listened to this record on my way to work. I wasn’t completely blown away but I wasn’t completely bored either. I just found it to be an ok record. I think that it’s one of those albums that you have to listen to a few times before deciding if you like it or not. Some of their songs start off with a slow-tempo riff that sort of reminds me of Black Sabbath’s song “Black Sabbath” – an early stage of doom metal. But the tempo changes to a faster one in most of their songs, so the variety is refreshing. The singer’s vocals are deep and guttural as well, and it’s pretty damn good. But there is a certain badass spark that I find is… well, not really lacking but rather hard to find. The spark that is immediate and obvious in the previous records I heard by Krisiun, Winds of Plague, Kataklysm, and of course the spark that my favorite bands flaunt and flail around like a sword until it becomes a blaze – Arch Enemy, Amon Amarth, Mercyful Fate, Death, Arafel, etc. What I really like about Vallenfyre, that is so unlike Krisiun for example, is that their songs are mercifully short, mostly between 2 and 4 minutes. I’ll give it a few more listens and then decide.

Peace, love and can anyone find me an Arafel torrent??

Life Is Good. Death Is Better!

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20141001_194934Yesterday was my 32nd goyishe birthday. For the occasion, my boyfriend’s parents and family ordered pizza and a chocolate cake, and I got a few new shirts, a pair of pants and some birthday songs. My boyfriend already got me a Stephen King book from my Amazon wishlist, which I should get only towards the end of this month, plus a nice night of romance which I got last night.

Also, I got a free salad from my favorite salad place in downtown Jerusalem. I must say that I don’t recall ever getting a birthday wish or free stuff from any company or shop in Montreal whenever my birthday rolled around. But in Israel, I got a text and an e-card from my medical insurance company, a text from Hasalatia informing me of a free salad, and even my salary slip at work has a little note wishing me a happy birthday. My coworker says it’s probably the companies’ way of reminding me that they exist, as some kind of publicity, but I still thought it’s sweet, and made me smile.

Aside from all that, I also got a letter from my new penpal from Salem, Massachusetts, and the zine I ordered from Sweet Candy Distro!

So I was sitting at the post office branch in downtown Jerusalem, waiting to take care of some errands for my work, while reading my penpal letter and leafing through the awesome zine. A girl sitting next to me was sifting through a whole stack of bills she has to pay. This made me think of how much happier I am to find colorful envelopes in my mailbox and how snail mail can be so much more awesome when the packages you get are not just boring old bills and stupid flyers for shit you don’t need.

I can’t wait to write my Salem penpal back and maybe even send my recent Purple Myrtle Squeegy zine issue to Sweet Candy Distro for consideration!

Also, tonight there is a tribute for the awesome band Death in Tel Aviv. A couple of years ago we went to another Death tribute they had at Sublime, also in Tel Aviv. I recall it was fucking rad! Death is not an easy band to cover. Their musicians are as good as they come and their vocals are second to none. But that tribute was surprisingly good, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I don’t know how good this year’s tribute will be. My boyfriend says that the place where they will play (Barbi Bar) has terrible acoustics. However, this year they got musicians from several bands, including Magor who we saw at Wacken in August and at Festikassach last week, plus a drummer from Cradle of Filth. So that should be interesting.

I like birthday season. When the Zodiac turns to Libra, the stars tend to line up and all is well in the universe. I am really looking forward to fasting this Sabbath (Yom Kippur) and also to the full moon on my Jewish birthday (Succot).

Peace, love and health to all

So Wacken Awesome!

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Purple Myrtle Squeegy – A PMS Perzine issue 8 is now published. This issue is all about my Germany trip, the Wacken festival and my tour of Berlin. It is 50 pages long, size A6, printed in full color, featuring lots of pictures, and the regular Twigz comics section. Made by hand, paper, construction paper, scissors, glue, typewritten texts, and some funky backgrounds.

The zine is available for trade and also for sale on Etsy.

Here are a few excerpts:

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More Death, Less Metal

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CoverSo War Eternal,  Arch Enemy’s new record, came out a couple of days ago. I already downloaded it as I was sure it would take a while until Israel got any copies of it in a record store near me. I was also sure that once it did, I would order it or buy it or whatever.

My first taste of the songs was what everybody else got – “War Eternal” and “As the Pages Burn”. Two superb tracks, with the usual awesome bass lines, face-melting riffs, killer beats, and new but still amazing vocals, which are all integral parts of trademark Arch Enemy material. I figured if these two songs are decent representations of the album as a whole, this ought to be one of the best Arch Enemy releases, right up there with Wages of Sin and Rise of the Tyrant.

But it’s not. Not even close.

I still think “War Eternal” and “As the Pages Burn” kick ass, and so does the first song off the album, “Never Forgive, Never Forget”. The 10th track “On and On” is also somewhat ok and so is “You Will Know My Name”. The latter reminds me a bit of “I Will Live Again” (Rise of the Tyrant)  and “No Gods, No Masters” (Khaos Legions) – the songs that Arch Enemy released with a radio-friendly sound to them. After the video release of “War Eternal” and “As the Pages Burn”, I was sure that the next to come will be “You Will Know My Name” and I was right.

However, what really bothers me about the album is its extensive use of keyboards on almost all the songs.

Keyboards on Arch Enemy? I thought, Really?

I’m sorry, but keyboards are not made for death metal. They’re good for black metal, power metal, folk metal, opera metal, even sometimes for heavy metal. King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, yes. Absolutely. Other non-metal bands like The Doors, of course. They totally own the keyboards. But not death metal and certainly NOT Arch Enemy. The keyboards on War Eternal sound so out of place. It reminds me of some of the songs from Anthems of Rebellion, like “Instinct” which starts off sounding like some techno tune.

The next, and most recent video to be released from War Eternal is “No More Regrets.” This song has got to be the most awful Arch Enemy song I have ever heard. It starts off rather well. The first verse even got me headbanging a little. But then, on comes the chorus to bludgeon the track into the fiery pits of almighty hell. On any other times, that metaphor could be seen as positive when used to describe a metal track, but not this time. This time, it’s as horrible as it sounds.

At first, I laughed when I first heard the chorus, but now I cringe and then feel like crying. It sounds way too cheery to be an angry remorseless song as the name of the track would suggest. It actually reminded me of one of those French songs that my parents sometimes listen to, like Enrico Macias or some shit. I can’t bring myself to listen to it again. I finally deleted it from my iPod.

No way, I thought, I refuse to believe that such a terrible song was composed by a genius like Michael Amott.

But it was, and it makes me want to cry again.

The other songs, I can dig to a certain extent. But again, too many keyboard sounds, and every time they become obvious, I cringe yet again. I have to ask myself, is this where Arch Enemy’s decline begins? Where the death of the band’s greatness finally takes hold, and the true purpose of honest in-your-melted-face metal is lost?

The guitar riffs and solos and bass and drums are still as amazing as they come. Even the vocals are great. Even if it’s not Angela, Alissa does a pretty damn good job with her vocal work. So why throw up in there some regurgitated and utterly unnecessary keyboards and ruin the whole thing?

I’m starting to question my will to buy this record. I’ve also finally decided that in case Amon Amarth and Arch Enemy’s live shows do overlap at Wacken, I will go see Amon Amarth. I’ve seen Arch Enemy three times, with Angela in the lead, growling along to songs with no keyboards at all, or with a tiny bit of some minor and barely audible sound effects. So I can afford to miss them this time, especially if they plan on adding “No More Regrets” to their setlist.

Give me the good old sounds of “Ravenous” and “Blood on Your Hands,” and be done with it.

What a monstrous slap in the face.

Peace, love and *sigh*