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!

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King of Metal

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Mercyful Fate and King Diamond are my second favorite metal band of all time. However, there are a couple of records I didn’t really get into at the beginning. No particular reason. I just had my MF/KD songs and I was happy enough with them. But now that it’s Fun-a-Day, I think it’s time. And I’m so glad I did!!

KDDay 24:
King Diamond – Fatal Portrait (5/5)
As I was listening to the songs, one better than the previous and only getting better, I was like “Really? It took me this long to listen to this pure gold?” My husband says that Fatal Portrait features the best bassist that King Diamond ever had, but I would say that all the musicians are as best as they come. The shredding riffs and solos that are undeniable in practically all of MF/KD’s tunes are just as dominant and mind-blowing in this album as they are in the others. The King’s vocals are nothing short of musical genius. He does the work of five different vocalists, if not more, including varying tones and background vocals, growls, clean, shrieks, all at once. He’s the only vocalist who can pull his trademark BeeGees-like falsetto and still sound completely badass. And the MUSIC, oh my goddess! I was laughing with delirium really trying to figure out what took me so long. Is there anyone more deserving of this title than King Diamond?

MFDay 25:
Mercyful Fate – 9 (5/5)
I find the main difference between King Diamond and Mercyful Fate is that KD is somewhat more “gothic” and dark, whereas MF is heavier and more intense. This album is no different from the MF I am used to. If anything I found it even heavier and so perfectly evil. The song “Insane” is so fast and angry, it didn’t even sound like MF anymore. I loved the holy hell out of it. The songs are catchy and the music is phenomenal as always. Just like King Diamond, Mercyful Fate can never disappoint. There aren’t many metal bands that can claim to stay true to their sound and style as Mercyful Fate has. On 9, every intro made me lick my lips with anticipation because I knew that what would come next would be pure musical deliciousness, and I was not disappointed. Not by a long shot. King Diamond’s vocals are incredible, and it never fails to amaze me how he manages to shift between intonations and pitches so swiftly and perfectly. Just like there is no one more deserving of this title than King Diamond, no one is more deserving of a perfect score than Mercyful Fate.

Peace, love and ugh, screw the rest of Fun-a-Day’s albums, I’ll just keep listening to Mercyful Fate

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!

Branded with Metal

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Fun-a-Day continues with some good wholesome metal.

KataklysmDay 19:
Kataklysm – Shadows & Dust (5/5)
Kataklysm returns once again to pillage, destroy and decapitate my very essence. This album was supposed to be the first one to listen to on Fun-a-Day, however the general rule says that good bands and good albums are always hard to find. But I finally did! This album is even better than Of Gods and Ghosts. The genre is different. It’s one of their earlier albums and it’s far darker than their recent works. It has more elements of black, more blast beats that characterize the genre. The lyrical content is also more demonic. The vocals shift between deep guttural growls and high-pitched shrieks, quite reminiscent of Glen Benton. In fact, whereas their later works reminds me of Arch Enemy, this record reminds me of Deicide, with the black death vocals and the shifting tempos of the drums and riffs. However, it still has its melodies, mostly in the guitar solos, instrumental interludes and quasi-melodic riffs. It’s absolutely incredible. I had shivers through my system pretty much throughout the entire record. It’s such a solid 5/5, I feel tempted to give it a 6! Six-six-six, bitches!

AstarteDay 20:
Astarte – Rise from Within (4.5/5)
I actually found a torrent that includes all of their albums including the one they released under the name Lloth (which I had to stream on the second day of Fun-A-Day). I am not that big of a fan of black metal, but the Greek band Astarte does it like no other, mainly because they include melodic instruments – piano and keyboards which sound like an orchestra – and often shift their tempos and riffs to add more color and nuance to their tunes. The vocals are magnificent. And I just found out that the earlier lineup does not feature Tristessa on vocals, but her predecessor is just as talented with her vocal acrobatics – rugged, bloody, purely black shrieks and screams. This record features some instrumental pieces which are not as great as the others, but this is an Astarte signature that is to be expected. They also have a 10-minute track. Ridiculously long, but pretty damn good. The melodies are phenomenal, the riffs are as black as they come, the vocals sweep you away like tidal waves on the Mediterranean shores of Greece. A superb record, highly recommended and a must-have for melodic black metal fans.

Peace, love and sizzling branding iron on my flesh

Riot Blah

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If you haven’t already figured it out, judging by the name of this blog, I am a huge riot grrrl fan, and I also identify as one. So it was clear that I couldn’t have a Fun-a-Day month of album-listening without some riot grrrl in it. I picked Bratmobile and Le Tigre because they’re bands that I already know and love but haven’t listened to all their albums. And I picked Julie Ruin because Kathleen Hanna is awesome. Unfortunately, the albums I picked didn’t reflect said awesomeness, to put it mildly. It was a terrific blow to my riot grrrl persona and I’ve never felt more disappointed in my choice of music.

Bratmobile-PottymouthDay 16:
Bratmobile – Pottymouth (3.5/5)
Back when I discovered riot grrrl, Bratmobile featured among my top bands along with Bikini Kill and L7. But back then, I just found a few of their songs on Limewire because HMV wasn’t selling any of their records. I listened to Pottymouth last Saturday expecting to hop around my living room to their fast beats, rough distortion and profane lyrics. But I didn’t. I mean, some of their songs sound like the same good old Bratmobile I know and love. But some of them just sound like grade-school playground teasing songs, with a profane twist. I’m pretty sure that this was exactly what Bratmobile was aiming for, judging by their name. But I think they could have done much better. A little more power, a little more spirit, and much more riot grrrl.

This_IslandDay 17:
Le Tigre – This Island (3.5/5)
I have Le Tigre’s self-titled album and I can honestly say that it is a completely different league than This Island. Le Tigre’s lyrics, vocals, distorted guitar and electro-pop sound effects are all so much better on their self-titled. Despite that, Kathleen Hanna’s vocals are as powerful as ever. But somehow, this record just didn’t do it for me. It needs to be said that TKO is an incredible song. I felt shivers up and down my spine when the verse flows into the chorus with a crescendo that multiplies by the guitars and the doubled vocals. If the entire record had been like that song, it would have been perfect. But with boring monotonous songs like “Nanny Nanny Boo Boo” and the title song, This Island is just bland.

Julie_Ruin_-_Julie_RuinDay 18:
Julie Ruin – Self-titled (2/5)
If Le Tigre and Bratmobile didn’t disappoint me enough, along comes Julie Ruin to finish the job. They sound just like Le Tigre, with less energy if that were even possible. I still love Kathleen Hanna’s vocals and a very few select songs are passable, but the music sucks. There is really no other way to say it. It sucks. There is no depth, no dimensions, no overwhelming sense of oh-my-god-I-can-feel-my-heart-swell. Where is the former brutality and rawness that is Bikini Kill? Julie fucking ruined it. I’m so disappointed and upset, I can’t get over it. Bikini Kill of the early 90’s is simply the best thing ever. No other riot grrrl projects can ever compare or even come close. Screw post-riot grrrl. So not for me.

What a stupid post to add on a riot grrrl fan site, seriously.

Fuck it, tomorrow I’m resuming my metal playlist with yet another CD of Kataklysm and then Astarte. Then some other metal bands I haven’t heard of before. I hope I will find some that will blow my face off like Winds of Plague did.

Peace, love and I miss growls.

Music for the People

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So these past two days, I focused on two Folk Metal bands – Arafel and Vogelfrey. Arafel, from Tel Aviv, Israel, sings in English and Russian, and Vogelfrey, from Hamburg, Germany, sings in the love-of-my-life German. And we got two sweeping 5/5’s!

ArafelDay 14:
Arafel – Second Strike: Through the Flames of the Ages (5/5)
This band unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore, but I was lucky enough to see them live in Jerusalem a few years ago at the Yellow Submarine, during a metal night called Battle for Jerusalem. Then I discovered the last CD they released, For Battles Once Fought, which I find is the best thing to ever come out of Israel’s metal scene. So for Fun-a-Day, I decided to give one of their earlier albums a shot. Again, finding it for download was impossible, so I settled for streaming, and my love for this album was as immediate as it was for Battles. They way they incorporate the violin and the keyboard with the black elements of blast beats and pig squeal vocals is unreal. Every time the violin kicked in, I felt shivers down my spine and exclaimed with glee “I have got to get my hands on a copy of this! FUCK!!” In some songs, the pig squeals were accompanied with guttural growls, sometimes the violin melody accompanied and doubled the guitar solo, giving the songs a dimension that is incomparable in any other band. Terrific arrangements. Phenomenal vocals. Perfect record.

VogelfreyDay 15:
Vogelfrey – Zwolf Schritte zum Strick (5/5)
I remember streaming a couple of their songs on YouTube before my husband and I went to Wacken in 2014. And I loved their songs so much I just had to check out a full album. If I haven’t already said it, let me reiterate: I. FUCKING. LOVE. GERMAN!!! It just sounds so perfect with any metal sub-genre. And Vogelfrey sings only in German. It’s pure folk, but some of their songs are also heavy and rugged. And though most of their songs have clean vocals, they don’t sound like fucking boy bands as other clean vocal metal bands tend to sound. Plus, they include growls that sometimes seem to come out of nowhere, and this twist makes their songs into sheer metal rollercoaster rides. I also love how they sometimes sound like Melechesh with their quasi-Middle Eastern beats, with distorted guits and double-bass drum beats. Listening to their songs, I wanted to get up and start bellydancing while headbanging at the same time.  Feed that corpse to the birds, bitch. Fucking LOVE Vogelfrey!

Peace, love and Folk Metal for all Metalfolk

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??