We get a LOT of stuff sent out way believe me kiddies, from the smallest of bands to the largest of labels, and I know for a fact that many other sites get WAY more, but often we don’t get a chance to write about all of the things we would like to. Sure, we would LIKE to, but let’s not muck around here. As you well know, nobody gets paid, this is all purely a labour of love from many of us (here he fucking goes again, sook), and if the lawn needs to be mowed or a kids shitty arse be wiped then so be it!
We are lucky though that we DO receive so much, and although we have endeavoured to cover as many Nuclear Blast releases as we can, they are never ending in all truth! A label that started way back in 1987 that has featured many a favourite band of ours over the years is not to be taken lightly, so here we give you a few insights into some of their latest releases, and believe us, they have MUCH more greatness on the way this year alone.
You may have heard of some of these bands. You also may not of. But we can guarantee that each and every one of them is a leader in there chosen genre, from the oldest of them to the very new, and as always we hope you find something on here that tickles your fancy!
Many thanks as always to those that contributed!
The TMW team.
“Aggression Continuum” – Fear Factory
By: The PCO
Me and Fear Factory go back a long way. Around 1995, my world was bombarded by an asteroid. Namely a track called “Self Bias Resistor.” It was music like I had never heard, and it simply filled me with curiosity and excitement. How the kick drums were used in a really innovative way and how the riffs synced with them. Yet, the most mind blowing thing was the vocals. Switching from brutal to melodic was surely not a thing around then. How Fear Factory pulled it together was so damn fresh that it surely laid down a blueprint for the Killswitch Engage’s and such to follow. And that Industrial flirt… Damn! It really felt like “Demanufacture” had it all!
From those days onwards, I have followed everything they have done. And by this I mean everything. I have been with the band and supported them through the hard times and the triumphs. Even though they might not be today as hip as they were (regular cover stars of 90’s UK Metal Hammer etc.) the quality of Fear Factory albums has usually stayed top notch. Actually, their best album is not “Demanufacture“, “Obsolete,” or “Digimortal,” as the popular consensus seems to hint. Nope. In my book, that album would be “Mechanize“ from 2010. A far more recent work and very much less praised. Well, or at least it used to be the case.
2021 has been a year of exceptions for sure, but still I was rather minimally prepared for the utter greatness of what “Aggression Continuum,” the most recent album from Fear Factory which is without a doubt a closing of an era too for them, had to offer. Shit, it blew me away totally from the first listen, but yet – unlike those typical instant hit albums – it did NOT wear out after a spin or two. Vice versa. “Aggression Continuum“ has been regularly growing on me with every listen, to the point that it has become a daily ritual of eardrum shattering.
What makes the record great then, asks the skeptic. Oh, ye septic skeptic! Let me explain.
On a superficial quick glance (or listen if you will) not much has changed, that is true. There’s still tons of kicks everywhere, plenty of stop-and-go riffs, shouty vocals and clean choruses. True. Fear Factory music, without a doubt! Yes. That is a fact, but there is also more. Actually, a whole lot more, as “Aggression Continuum” would be easily described as THE MOST FEAR FACTORY sounding album to date. It has everything they are known for, only enhanced and perfected. Amplified and boosted. The heavy bits (“Collapse,” for example) are absolute neck breakers. Heavier than anything (Yes! Even heavier than “Edgecrusher!!”) they have ever done. The album also has the biggest Industrial flirt of their careers going on too, and the melodic bits – hell, they have gone simply through the roof! I’m not sure how much he was involved in the album arrangements, but the fact that the band has enlisted the former Yes keyboardist Igor Khoroshev in their ranks on the album seems to have added a world of class to the melodies and the harmonies here. The keyboards are carefully and stylistically laid out, 110% Fear Factory, but they seem to add to the melodic delivery so much and harmonize with Burton C. Bell’s trademark soar so well, that this album outshines everything they have done so far with utter ease.
Another musical marvel I would like to lift up here and who definitely needs to be mentioned is the drummer Mike Heller. People seem to focus way too much on the drumming of former Fear Factory skins men, Herrera and Hoglan, and forget how well Mike Heller fits into the band. He is more precise than Raymond Herrera and less drum machine-like than Gene Hoglan. A perfect combination of feel and clockwork precision. Having witnessed his performance live too, I have to underline the fact of the “Goddamn” with his abilities.
What about the main guys then? Well, Dino and Burton… The drama of these two legendary figures falling out with each other in recent years is well documented and has thousands and thousands of words written about it already, so I will not go further into that direction. All I can say here is that if this will be the last record of Burton C. Bell fronting the machine that is Fear Factory, he stepped out on a high note. Leaving the band after the best album of their career is a good moment to step down. His vocals are in great shape here too. Sounding more aggressive here (due to age maybe? There is a new kind of harshness to it all) and his clean delivery is nothing short of his trademarks. Dino, then again, seems to be completely re-born. His song writing has stepped up significantly and his guitar work is as sharp as ever. The perfect combo!
The Future for the band might be a bit blurred right now, but “Aggression Continuum“ is the best work they have achieved so far, due to everything before mentioned. I have actually stressed out the fact so many times already, that rumours of the PCO’s Alzheimer might be out as soon as this review is published, but hey – when one of your very favourite bands for 20 + years releases something this good, blowing more or less everybody out of the water in this goat forsaken year of 2021, I am more than happy to announce the following (drumrolls and goat sounds please): “Aggression Continuum” is the best Industrial Metal album of the decade so far, and is most likely to keep the position for the next nine years to come. It is everything you hoped for from Fear Factory and then some. It is the absolute testament of what has made them great (and legends!) and is the finest possible moment to close one chapter and begin anew.
Long live the legacy! Long live the legends!
“Go Ahead And Die” – Go Ahead And Die
I came into Go Ahead And Die with zero knowledge that the band included Max Cavalera or his son Igor. I first added the album to a new release list the week it came out based on the album cover and band name, thinking, “Hey, this looks like one I would dig!” Well, I was right and finding out that it was a Cavalera family project was just icing on the cake.
With their debut self-titled album, Go Ahead And Die have concocted a mixture of riffs and beats that call to mind a slowed down Napalm Death from “Scum” days. Yes, I said what I said. If you were to ask what “Scum” would sound like if you were to play the songs at less than breakneck speed and slightly more discernible lyrics, it might sound like “Go Ahead And Die.”
The album has an overall Crossover Thrash feel, with some Grindcore/Blast beats thrown in for good measure. I say that not so much based on the sound, but on the attitude. Which brings me back to the Napalm Death comparison. Like the Mick Harris era of that band, “Go Ahead And Die” above everything has the attitude of a Punk record.
My favourite track is definitely “Punisher,” a commentary on the gun-related homicide epidemic of the recent past. It also happens to start off as one of the fastest tracks on the album and ends with an almost Godflesh guitar line. “Worth Less Than Piss” (another speedy romp) and the closer, “Roadkill,” are also very cool, featuring some great drumming by Zach Coleman. Looking forward to hearing more from Go Ahead And Die in the future.
“Sarcoma” – Alluvial
By: VUK (The Magnificent)
Alluvial is a four piece Death Metal band from Portland, Oregon. Made up of both current and former members of bands like The Zenith Passage, Black Crown Initiate, The Faceless, and Thy Art Is Murder (among quite a few others), it isn’t difficult to imagine what Alluvial might sound like. Above average American Metalcore/Deathcore? That’s about the size of it, yes. But Alluvial exist within a portion of Extreme Metal where they’re capable of blurring the lines a bit.
First of all, Wes Hauch’s guitar work is fucking ridicuolus. To my ears, with music of this type, many times the guitarist’s technical abilities get in the way of any sort of soul that should be present within music. Robotic almost, and it’s hard to really get into Metal without any organic parts. But what Hauch does on songs like “Sarcoma,” “Exponent,” “Sugar Paper,” and “The Putrid Sunrise” is just plain old bonkers. This is the kind of guitar playing that could turn a kid’s head and make him start getting serious about crafting heavy melodies. Great, great shit.
Kevin Muller’s vocals, as strong as they are, come off a bit unidimensional at times. I think the reason for this is that Hauch’s work just overpowers the vocals. I’ve noticed this phenomenon before. In bands like Rings of Saturn, or Within The Ruins. Consequently these bands have released instrumental versions of many of their records. A move I think would benefit Alluvial immensely.
On the other hand, a song like “Anodyne,” or “40 Stories” are absolutely standout moments for both Hauch and Muller. “40 Stories” in particular, which Muller carries the entire time, with both clean and growled vocals.
“Sarcoma” is, as stated, an above average Metalcore/Deathcore record, and one that continues to grow on the listener with each spin. It is, perhaps, a bit of a Metal grenade; suspiciously comfortable… until it explodes in your lap. I think I’m going to come back to this one another time or two before I make any final judgments. It deserves to be listened to. No doubt.
“You Will Be the Death of Me” – Light the Torch
By: Your Grouchy Friend
Light the Torch released their impressive second album back in June to some fanfare given the pedigree of frontman Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage) and the strength of the first offering “Revival.” Having had the opportunity to speak to Hojo about this album upon its release, Your Grouchy Friend spent plenty of time with this release by way of preparation. It must be said that although this isn’t the usual thing I spin, it has been played several times in the interim: a testament to its puissance as an album. As a result, this review practically wrote itself.
Howard Jones possesses the critical ability as a song writer to distill experience into art that people identify with. His lyricism is evocative and universal, providing listeners with the bones of a felt concept: the flesh each listener will assign may be peculiar to their own life, but is resonant of the central theme. To some degree Jones is is hearing his soul in this finished product and has been quoted as saying the album is emotional and rewarding in every way.
The album is, as one might expect, vocally huge. Don’t be fooled by the production sheen on this record, this is very much Howard Jones doing the heavy lifting – a point that elevates his work in my grouchy opinion. In a genre proliferated by overly tattooed wanna-be frontmen being propped up by auto-tune and thick production, with an audience eager and conditioned to hearing it, Jones remains among the best of the best. His pipes are very much in full working order.
Joseph McQueen and Josh Gilbert of Sparrow Sound have crafted an absolutely enormous sound for this record. These two have manned the desk for some of the heaviest hitters in the modern metal landscape, particularly in the Metalcore arena, and their touch articulates the arrangements beautifully. It’s a big creative and sonic step from Light The Torch’s 2018 debut “Revival” with synths and loops being quite prevalent on several of the tracks, and a sense of texture affording the guitar sounds a fuller sense of depth.
Francesco Artusato (guitar), is reportedly the key proponent of the more adventurous arrangements and creative elements. There is little doubt that the way these songs are structured begins to surpass simple genre constraints. The huge choruses are testament to the voice of Jones and the arranging of Artusato – things quite simply need to be set up before they can be knocked down, and the pair have found a rare synchronicity in their songwriting with this album. There are some very anthemic Metal choruses going on here, and it is an easy record to run through again and again.
So much of “You Will Be the Death of Me” is simply infectious, a fact best exemplified by lead single “Wilting in the Light.” This one has a truly epic feel and it’s easy to see why it was chosen as the album’s commercial exposition. None of the musical elements try to do too much, but the sum of the parts is immense and provides a perfect platform for Jones to operate. The verse dropout sounds incredible with a simple beat from new drummer Alex Rudinger driving things along for a sweet piece of synth and guitar riff interplay to ride on. A perfect example of how great song writing and musicianship doesn’t have to be complex to feel incredible.
“Living With a Ghost” really rips into the Metalcore, with Jones unleashing some of his heaviest vocal work on the album. It’s a weapon he uses sparingly throughout the release, but this track in particular brings out the savage in him. It’s a cracking track replete with all that makes the album tick: pounding drums, engaging riffing, pulsing synths… and of course a huge chorus that stands taller for the insidious high growling on the lead up. Definitely a stand out track.
There is the odd flat spot on the album: “Something Deep Inside” springs to mind with its opening riff that feels quite genetic and probably the weakest on the album. The remainder of the song fairly rollicks along but without quite the same grandeur as the rest of the album. This may be simply a factor of death by comparison as the company the song keeps reaches some lofty heights.
Sure to polarise is the album closer: a cover of Terrance Trent D’Arby’s “Sign Your Name.” Fans of the original (count Your Grouchy Friend among their number) will be fearful of such an exquisite piece of music and more importantly such an exquisite voice being done justice. Fans of heavy genres may be fearful because… Terrance Trent D’Arby! Those who don’t know the original may be the most blessed as they are afforded the luxury of the track being a final statement (as if one were required) as to the sublime vocal ability of Howard Jones. He knocks this one out of the park, and Francesco Artusato again provides an arrangement that is exceptional.
It’s tough to be overly critical of such a well executed album. It certainly won’t appeal to those with narrower heavy tastes, but it’s simply inarguable that “You Will Be the Death of Me” is cut from some damn fine musical cloth. If big choruses are your thing, they don’t get much bigger than this.
Rating 4.5 out of 5
“Torn Arteries” – Carcass
By: The Great Mack
Can you hear that? Like some sort of global whiny noise. Listen harder.. There it is. A pack of “Music today sucks, I only liked then when I was a fetus” type of dudes are bitching about this one as we very speak. Why? Does it not reek enough for them? Do they have a history of Incarnated Solvent abuse? You know the type. “Metallica sucked after Master of Puppets,” “Slayer were better with Jeff Hanneman,” “Black Sabbath is only good with Ozzy” types. The ones that refuse to leave the past as a good thing but move on from it. They are not what this little black duck calls true music fans. They do not support a band through its career, they just sit and judge. I’m sure you know a few.
Carcass have copped a right slapping from these “so called” Metal fans with the release of “Torn Arteries,” precisely BECAUSE it doesn’t fit right up in their little pigeon hole that only mummy gets to wash when daddy is at work. I think a lot of them must be around my age, but somehow I grew up, just like the band has and my tastes and influences have changed a little as time has gone on. Once I worshipped Iron Maiden and Priest, then Thrash like Destruction and Anthrax, now I dwell more in the Death/Doom genre, but I have gone through phases as do most normal functioning human beings. I still love each and every one of them, but am always happy to listen to MORE from any band that I once cared for on any given day.
And yet, with each release since Carcass got off their proverbial bums again and started to do something new, the bitches started to sing in full chorus. “This is not Goregrind, this is not the Carcass I remember!” and sure as shit since the release of “Surgical Steel,” and the magnificent “Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel” ep, the voices rise. Even the release of the “Despicable” ep in 2020 was met with derision and scorn. Okay, it may have left some of us feeling a little flat, but ANY Carcass to me is better than NO Carcass. I’m a glass quickly drunk type guy, then I fill the cunt again to make me feel good. None of this half/full glass shite. Leave one of them in my house and you can get right royally fucked.
So to the point and the album after I have no doubt ruffled a feather or three I boldly go. Carcass are back, and with a bit of swagger about them to boot. No, this is not an incarnated reek, but it does have a bit of heartwork involved, and I think I heard a Swan honk in the distance. No huge surprises at all for those who have followed their path over recent years, but let us discuss a couple of choice cuts (see what I did there?) if we may.
“Dance of Ixtab (Psychopomp & Circumstance March No. 1 in B)” may be an utterly ridiculous title for a song for most, but then to others so may well be “Lavaging Expectorate of Lysergide Composition” from one of their finest “Necroticism,” who cares! A mid paced romp of magnitudinal riffery is what they unleash upon us here. And if Ixtab whoever the fuck he, she or it may be likes to dance to this then bloody good one he, she or as stated, it. Jeff and Bill steer (haha) the ship in all kind of directions that should please most of us, and that guitar tone is fatter than Rupert Murdoch’s bloated ego on any given day is it not! Massive stuff!
Second and last so this doesn’t turn into something the size of the film script from “Avengers: Endgame,” I give you the all out chuggery and thuggery of “In God We Trust.” A bit of a turn up on the old speedometer gives you a nice little kick in the rear end right here, and the solo work on display is to say the least both very much old school mid era Carcass, and fucking awesome. Why any fan would not dig this kind of shit is beyond me.
So there it is. As always one must keep a sense of humour about all things Metal, so don’t get your knickers in a twist if you feel alienated by some of my comments. I say what I think and if it gets your attention then all the better for it. Don’t be a stick in the mud, grab a copy of this one and sit down with a few beers or a bong or your favourite hairless cat, well anything that you find pleasing to be honest and give this one a good go. Much greatness is to be found within. Yeah they will never again, like so many bands, be what they once were, so why not just enjoy what they have to offer now anyway!
Rating – 4.5/5
“Helloween” – Helloween
By: The PCO and The Great Mack
PCO – So, the award for most anticipated Heavy Metal album for 2021 simply has to go to a bunch of reunited pumpkins… er, I mean Helloween. Three vocalists, three guitarists and tons of riffs and melody. Yes, this is what everybody was looking forward to. A true bombardment for ALL of the Metal senses.
Did we get the return to form that would blow even the mighty ”Brave New World” of Iron Maiden out of the water? Not exactly. I’m not sure if it were the superior expectations, but somehow the self-titled effort from Helloween felt a bit like unfulfilled promises.
It is not that the album is bad. Not at all. But it did not quite meet my expectations either. YES – it is the best album of theirs since 2013’s criminally underappreciated “Rabbit Don’t Come Easy,” but it is not “Keeper of the Seven Keys” quality. Not “Master of the Rings” quality, or “The Time of the Oath,” or “Better than Raw” either. In short: They have released much better albums. Lots of them!
Yes, Helloween’s “Helloween” does have some really enjoyable tunes, like the Billy Idol worship of “Best Time” (tunes like this were just exactly what I wanted to hear hear!), or the future crowd pleaser “Mass Pollution.” But the ultimate Heavy Metal classic from the album is the Kai Hansen penned “Skyfall.”
Balancing somewhere in between epic Gamma Ray–type tunes and lengthier 1980’s Helloween, this is an absolute eardrum pleaser, aimed for non-stop fist pumping and air guitar mayhem.
Then again, there are several professional sounding, but not quite as memorable tunes, that are absolutely everything we love about Helloween, but no match to their prime work. The same problem that has shadowed them on pretty much every album they’ve released for the last fifteen years. They know what they are doing, and do it well, but damn! If they would be just slightly more adventurous here and there, it would be perfect!
Nevertheless, “Helloween” is one of the better Heavy Metal albums to come out this year, without a shadow of a doubt. It is not their best album, but not their worst either. It delivers the expectations to something like 70% and that isn’t bad – but he! when you were expecting 110%, it falls just a bit short.
Rating – 3.75/5
The Great Mack – So I sorta gave up on Helloween after “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II.” I let the eagle fly free and said “I want out” because I had discovered a plethora of bands that gave me more of that instant KICK IN THE FACE that was far more heavier than those dudes did at the time.
So, why even comment? I don’t know all of the facts as to what happened to who, or who joined again and why they have sixteen guitarists or whatever. All I can say after listening to this one, is I FEEL like they have returned to a style I remember, and I don’t think this is a bad thing. Sure, read my Carcass review above about being a stick in the mud about how we ALL feel about bands that we grew up with. Maybe if this was different like some of their later stuff after “Keeper II” I’d have hated it.
But for me, this is a TRUE return to what I found I liked about them. Call me Jon Snow if you wish, but I do remember them, and I think many others will again. An excellent return to form is all I can say. Will they be on my roster for a time as per listens? Time will tell.
Rating – 4/5
So there you have it. As stated above, NB have a shit ton of more goodies to offer this year alone, so best you be paying attention is all we can say!