CD review: “Extinction(s)” by Unearth

Metalcore Massachusetts act Unearth reach lucky number seven with its newest release, Extinction(s). The four year gap between Watchers of Rule and Exinction(s) has not dulled the band’s penchant for breakdowns and hardcore growls. The riffs are particularly pounding on “Dust” and Survivalist.” The former is an aggressive track showcases Unearth’s ability to meld the melodic guitar conventions of Swedish death metal with the dynamic brutality of American metalcore. Drummer Nick Pierce drives this track with relentless double bass and crushing groove. The latter track “Survivalist” shifts from breakdown to mid-tempo that will certainly incite multiple mosh pits at the band’s show. However, this track is rather generic especially since Unearth are capable of better songwriting. “The Hunt Begins” wades in to sludge metal waters with its thick guitars and slow tempo. Album closer “One With The Sun” is a fast paced affair with notable guitar work. However, the naff breakdown underwhelms an otherwise strong track. The droning choir provides a haunting effect that almost compensates for the song’s midsection.

Extinction(s) is a heavy record, but also a generic record. We have heard the riffs and breakdowns on hundreds of records. Unearth can write good music, but it seems the band dialed it in on half the tracks. This record has some strong points like “Dust” and “Sidewinder” but very little on Extinction(s) grabs the listener. Unearth need not reinvent the wheel, but on this record the band tried to keep things too simple. The album’s production is very sharp providing a thick wall of sound.

Unearth fans may like Extinction(s) if they need their fix of Unearth after a four year wait. People new to heavier metal should check it out, just know this is not Unearth at its best. Unearth still stand head and shoulders above its peers, which is why this release is a slight disappointment. The band is not going extinct, but needs to utilize its full capabilities to avoid endangerment.

Check out the band’s official Facebook page for news and tour dates:

https://www.facebook.com/unearthofficial/

CD Review: “The Aftermath of Lies” by Tribulance

Twenty-two years since its sole album, Trials and Tribulations, Arizona metal act Tribulance return with The Aftermath of Lies. The chugging riffs and soaring vocals are equal parts Pantera and Judas Priest, and that is not a bad thing. The American metal scene is currently saturated with tech death metal and bad doom metal groups. In that regard Tribulance’s vintage sound is somewhat refreshing. Sure, we have it before but nothing is original under the sun. The quartet gets straight to business on “Oblivious” which opens with pounding drums and a descending riff. The band transitions between a bumpy groove and thrash. Vocalist Mike Vidal’s lofty voice is Halfordesque and is certainly a highlight on this track. “Conflict” is a down and gritty hardcore track with punchy guitar riffs that sound like mallets hitting concrete. The title track continues in the same vein with its mid-tempo and swarming guitar riff. The only soft spot is the guitar soloing as Sal Flores just throws notes together and ends it with half hearted guitar tapping. Still, the band shoots for groove over virtuosity and it works. Album closer “Walk The Talk” is the heaviest track on Aftermath. It is a relentless thrasher with dynamic riffing and an aggressive attitude.

The Aftermath of Lies has a Nineties sound with its groove laden tracks and “street” attitude. It is not as confrontational as A Vulgar Display of Power or Burn My Eyes, but those records are a clear influence. It sounds like the angry younger brother emulating his older siblings and does a fairly decent job. There is little variety on the album. However, the clean vocals and decent guitar work keep things interesting for 39 minutes. The album’s brevity is a plus as Tribulance makes its point and gets out. The production is good considering the members produced it themselves. The guitar sound is thick but not overdone while Vidal’s vocals are very clear in the mix.

The Aftermath of Lies is worth a listen for fans of groove metal. It is a fun record that will keep your head bobbing. Tribulance would certainly do well to tour on this album as it will get a pit started. Tribulance proves you cannot keep the old school down.

Check out the band’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/TRIBULANCE-1432876726954942/

CD Review: “Creatures Watching Over The Dead” by Charred Walls Of The Damned

Heavy metal supergroup Charred Walls Of The Damned returns with its third record, Creatures Watching Over The Dead. Creatures is the band’s first record in five years, which is understandable considering the busy schedule of its members. Bassist Steve DiGiorgio currently plays in Testament and guitarist Jason Suecof is one of the busiest music producers in the metal genre. Suecof produced records for Battlecross, Deicide and Death Angel these past five years so his plate was full. Creatures is not a serious record, and the guys are having fun. The vibe on the album is laid back, but still carries a degree of intensity. The initial single “The Soulless” combines thrash with 80s power metal resulting in a catchy metal anthem. Richard Christy’s double bass drumming is lockstep with Suecof’s jackhammer riffing. Vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens’ operatic vocals soar like a falcon and do not seem out of step with the music. “As I Catch My Breath” is an interesting blend of clean guitars and a dissonant main riff. Musically, the track recalls Fates Warning and Megadeth due to the progressiveness of the music. The technical thrash of “Reach Into The Light” hits with the precision of a guided missile. Owens’ high pitched vocals are again in top form, but do not take away from the music.

Creatures is not an exhuastive record and that is a plus. The band does not waste time playing eight minute opuses, opting instead to play shorter songs. This keeps the songs interesting and the listener will not drift off or reach for the “skip” button. As I mentioned earlier, the band is having fun on this record. There is no need to make a 70 minute long album with long, drawn out epics for the sake of pretentiousness. Suecof produced the record and it is loud and clear. There is not much to pick out except that Steve’s bass should be higher in the mix.

Creatures Watching Over The Dead is a good metal record. It should satisfy fans of technical death metal or progressive metal that are not looking for something too deep. This record may get lost in the shuffle due to the other high profile albums coming out this year. However, one should not overlook Creatures as it definitely holds its own.

For news check out the band’s website at http://www.metalblade.com/cwotd/

CD Review: ‘The Poison Red’ by Nonpoint

Nonpoint’s ninth record, The Poison Red, is a mix of old and new. The band’s signature heavy groove is abound, but the band does a bit of experimentation on this record. The choppy riffing on “Foaming At The Mouth” recalls early Helmet and totally contrasts with Elias insouciant rapping throughout the song. The band blends heavy crunch with a laidback groove making for a strong song. Things pick up on “Bottled Up Killer Bees” with its scratchy riffs that sound like bees crashing in a bottle. The shredding guitar lead on “Bottled” is a shining example of Nonpoint’s underrated musicianship. These guys can play more than the typical nu-metal riff and are not afraid to prove that. “Standing In The Flesh” is another heavy hitter. The stomping drumming drives this song forward while the riffs churn like whirlpool. This is another hit for the band and will certainly be a fan favorite on the band’s tours. The band makes a defiant statement on “Radio Chorus” as the group wants to to do what it wants without judgement and the constant pressure of conforming. “El Diablo” is another track sure to be another staple at Nonpoint shows. The band’s Latin influence takes center stage and is strengthened with a memorable chorus.

The key word on The Poison Red is diversity. The band does not play it safe and stretches its wings a bit on this record. No, Nonpoint does not deviate to much from its sound, but it switches things up enough to keep the listener’s ears perked. This is good as the band does not fall back on conventions and it also solidifies Nonpoint’s status as a band that makes music on its own terms. Not too many bands can boast of staying together for 20 years, but Nonpoint can.

In the end, Nonpoint can chalk up another victory. The Poison Red fits along just fine with the band’s discography. It is heavy, soft, angry, uplifting and introspective. Fans of the band should pick it up as should anyone that want an introduction to Nonpoint’s music.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s website: http://nonpoint.com/

CD Review: “Trust No One” by Devildriver

Devildriver stays on the beaten path with its seventh record, Trust No One. The band get straight to business with “Testimony of Truth” which features nice guitar work from new guitarist Neil Tiemann. The double bass drumming propels this track. “Into the Night Sky” opens with a sludgy riff but stays on cruise control for the remainder of the track. There is a nice electronic ambient sample in the middle of the song that breaks the monotony though. The band adds a little Euro-metal influence on “This Deception.” The guitars are vaguely reminiscent of melodic death metal but the band reverts to its signature groove sound. It is another example of the band refusing to deviate from its comfort zone. This reluctance is prevalent on the record, as the band has the potential to hit metal gold but play it safe. The lead single “Daybreak” has a great chorus riff but it is mired on standard metalcore conventions. It is still one of the better songs on Trust No One and serves as an excellent lead single.

While Devildriver plays it safe on this record, it is understandable as the band has two new members in the fold, the aforementioned Neil Tiemann on guitar and Austin D’Amond on drums. It takes time to grow accustomed to new members and Trust No One is a feeling out record. They are both accomplished musicians and play Devildriver’s brand of metal well. Still, we only hear glimpses of what could be. The band could pull off a decent thrash or melodic death metal track but it does not for whatever reason. There is the possibility that the band takes it up a notch on its next record, but only time will tell.

Trust No One is a Devildriver record. Fans of the band will like it and the group’s detractors will not. There are some cool breakdowns and guitar leads sprinkled on the record, but nothing outstanding. Still, Devildriver soldiers on with 13 years and seven records under its belt. The band’s formula works for it and no point in changing it now.

For news and tour dates check out the band’s website:

http://www.devildriver.com/

CD Review: ‘Tango Umbrella’ by American Head Charge

Many folks born post 1993 are too young to remember the nu-metal era from 1996-2003. American Head Charge is one of the bands from that period that never enjoyed the success of bands like Korn or Slipknot. Tango Umbrella is the band’s first studio LP in 11 years and sounds like it. Songs like “Let All The World Believe” and “I Will Have My Day” have all the familiar conventions of late 90s nu metal. Simple industrial keyboards? Check. Downtuned riffs? Check. A vocalist wailing and yelling about teenage angst? Double Check. Metalheads old enough to remember the good ol’ days of Ozzfest and JNCO jeans will smile through the rose colored glass of nostalgia. There are some good songs on this record though. The initial single “Perfectionist” has a great chorus over a somber, yet catchy riff. “A King Among Men” is a touching piano ballad that is a tribute to a fallen friend, possible the group’s guitarist Bryan Ottoson that died in 2005. The uneven to and fro of “Suffer Elegantly” rocks like a train chugging down a mountain.

The production on this record is murky. I suppose the band wanted to capture a raw sound to match the grittiness of the songs. The results are a mixed bag as the guitars sound a bit too muddy. However, the bass is surprisingly strong on this record, especially on “Antidote.” Frontman Cameron Heacock has a limited vocal range, singing off key throughout the record. There is something somewhat admirable about this as he sings with conviction. Still, the vocals will turn off some people who prefer vocalists with a greater vocal range.

In the end, Tango Umbrella is a solid nu-metal record. Several trends have come and gone in the American metal scene and younger metal fans will probably avoid this record. Older metalheads wishing to relive their high school years will like this record as it captures all that was fun and corny about late 90s American metal. AHC will charge into the next decade with or without you, and that is that is the spirit of metal.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s website: http://www.headcharge.com/

CD Review: ‘No One Can Save You From Yourself’ by Walls of Jericho

An eight year absence has not dulled Walls of Jericho’s aggression. The stalwarts of American metalcore return with its fifth record, No One Can Save You From Yourself. Frontwoman Candace Kucsulain’s guttural vocals grab your attention on the colossal “Illusion of Safety.” The track is pure hardcore stomp with blocky riffs and pounding drums. The thrashing title track is notable for its blunt, yet empowering lyrics. Candace advocates the importance of self-improvement and that only you can help yourself. The urgency of the music complements the lyrics as the world will not wait on you to get it together. The chugging riffs on “Forever Militant” drive the song forward as Candace belts out that she is walking proud despite the scars she wears. This is just a heavy slab of hardcore that makes one stand tall and dignified. The bouncy “Fight the Good Fight” gets the blood pumping and a music video was filmed for it. It is one of the more accessible tracks on No One and will become a fan favorite. The album’s initial single “Relentless” is good summary of the track. It is a maniacal, fast paced song that jumps from thrash to breakdown and back again. Once again, the lyrics center around persistence and courage in the hour of darkness. You believe Candace when she yells “without struggle there is no strength!”

No One Can Save You From Yourself is metalcore done right. A common mistake bands in this subgenre make is playing too intricately or too simple. Metalcore bands are often criticized for attempting to play Swedish death metal and sounding watered down. On the other hand, some bands just play dumbed down hardcore. On No One, Walls of Jericho know when to play it straight and when to get technical. The songs are not dumbed down for the sake of heaviness nor does the band overdo the musical complexity. This makes the album a strong listen from start to finish.

The wait was worth it. No One Can Save You From Yourself only solidifies Walls of Jericho status as one America’s best metal bands. Fans of the band will appreciate the positive lyrics and no-nonsense riffs. Walls of Jericho struck gold and are once again ready to unleash relentless metal on the world. Keep fighting the good fight.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WallsofJericho