Black/Death is my favourite type of music, so when I heard there was a new release from Finnish band Proscription, I was beyond excited. I am pleased to say that every second of their full length debut not only far exceeded my expectations but completely blew away many contemporaries in the genre as well.
From the ashes of Maveth come Proscription and they have more than filled the void left by the former in almost every way. Not since bands like Veld, Negator or Deadspace have I found myself completely floored by such a masterfully executed black/death record such as this. It’s due in part to the outstanding vocal by frontman Christbutcher who is such an unstoppable and ultimate driving force on this record’s audio assault that it is simply impossible to deny.
Proscription play a blend of black/death that leans heavier on the former, with death metal style vocals taking the brunt of the low end as a result. Many of the stellar songs on this release remind me of what was found on the last few Sicarius records, a band that too plays a relentlessly oppressive and heavy form of blackened death metal in such an awe-inspired fashion.
One listen to the powerful behemoth that is To Reveal The Words Without Words will tell you everything you need to know about exactly what makes this band stand out from so many. Violent screaming lead guitars, accompanied by crushing chugging rhythm sections, and those flawless double kicks twisting and turning as the kaleidoscopic melodies warp into something diabolical is truly a feast for the ears.
Radiant Midnight starts off slow before swelling into forms from beyond the realms. The infectious riffing cascading viciously with the lead lines gets your head moving almost against your will. Voiceless Calling, the lead single released ahead of the record, is a highlight too. With an intro that comfortably thrashes around leading into the sickening, but hypnotic marching beat combined with the viral prowess of a guitar solo so mesmerising that it defies description. The dark melodies on offer that permeate many of the tracks on Conduit, remind me of black/death greats such as Zos Kia Cultus and The Last Supper in all the right ways.
Put it this way, by the time that the final few notes were played on the title track (ending the record) I was instantly overcome with the desire to start it immediately over again. Conduit has gotten inside my head and I could not be happier. If the amazing art is what drags you in, then the incredible music is what you will be staying for.
Meat Machine is the newest album by Spanish progressive metal act Obsidian Kingdom, and comes to us courtesy of the ever prolific Season of Mist, as it is as gloriously fragmented, crazy and diverse as you could ever dream of.
With a record label that primarily focuses on black and death metal artists such as: Tsjuder, Rotting Christ, Carach Angren, Urns, Saor, Solstafir etc. It’s a nice change of pace to experience something as vividly lucid and violently resistant to categorization. Obsidian Kingdom have always been a band that refuse to play into genre conventions and confine themselves to any one aspect of metal music, and I feel that on Meat Machine, they have perhaps hit the full apex of their stride.
In other words, this album is gleefully all over the place, in the best way possible. Upon first viewing, tracks such as The Pump and Mr Pan stuck out for their gorgeous amalgamation of harsh and clean vocals coupled with thick industrial guitars that are reminiscent of acts like Deftones and Voivod in their experimental nature and precipice cascading between the mellow and the verbose.
Post-rock elements and extensive use of moody synthesizers are everywhere on tracks such as Flesh World and Naked Politics. The former continuing with stunning female clean vocals performed by Jade Riot Cul as the soft nature of her almost angelic highs recede into a thick Spanish accent as dreamlike shoegaze inspired guitars rise and fall over alternating low toms and punchy snare drums. It is unlike anything I have ever heard before, but it’s safe to say that after a few listens of being outside of my comfort zone here, I found myself unable to escape the entrancing force of all these different moving parts colliding together.
Not to say that there are no moments of heaviness on display here. Meat Star melds the aforementioned post-rock elements with groovy screaming lead and powerful screams by guitarist/vocalist Rider G Omega. There are moments on this release that call my mind recent efforts by Japanese metal band Dir En Grey, their prowess in genre-melding and abstract attitude to making music.
Production wise this record is an audible marvel. It is extremely clean sounding with the percussion being a particular strong point here. The drums sound powerful and are used just the right amount to accent the eccentricities of the guitars, whilst also allowing space for the soaring male/female vocals to weave in as and when necessary. It is without a doubt one of the nicest sounding albums I have heard in a long time in terms of clarity.
My favourite song from the record is A Foe. It is a slow yet building ballad of singing and spoken word over beautiful acoustic guitar and dynamic piano that help the listener reflect on everything they have just bore witness to. Without mincing words or wasting time, it is an alluring few minutes that culminate into an eerie atmosphere as low toms belt out heavy as earthquakes. This was the moment I fell in love with the release.
The weirder parts of Meat Machine are going to be what keep people coming back to this album. It would be amiss of me to openly divulge everything in a written review though. This is a record that you need to hear yourself to truly appreciate it. I think it is going to be one that people either love or may get lost within, in my opinion, it is well worth the risk either way. This album was my introduction to the band, and I can confidently say that not only will I be experiencing their back catalogue as soon as possible, but actively listening out to what they do next in the future.
Slayer were a prolific thrash metal band from LA County, California. The original lineup consisted of guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman (RIP 2013) vocalist/bassist Tom Araya and drummer Dave Lombardo. Paul Bostaph would later replace Lombardo for duties behind the kit, Exodus’ Gary Holt would carry the legacy of Hanneman after his death.
Covering almost four full decades across eleven studio albums, it’s impossible not to mention important heavy metal music without Slayer’s name passing your lips, with no need for any further introduction, let’s take a closer look at the band’s extensive history, ranked!
#11 – Repentless (2015)
Slayer’s final album as a band and one that gets a lot of negative attention for reasons both deserved and not. Repentless was an album written lyrically by Kerry King, one of the only times that he had sole songwriting credit on a record, as primarily it would be the double act of King and Hanneman, and it’s safe to say that the writing here is the weakest in their history.
Musically Repentless plays it very safe but there are some highlights that elevate the material higher than you would expect from the stigma stuck to the album. The title track and Pride and Prejudice are great examples of aggression and that classic ruthless nature of the band’s earlier spirit. However, there are a lot of filler tracks and songs in the list that do absolutely nothing but diminish the legacy violently, to just being plain boring and passe. See: Implode, Take Control or Piano Wire for instance.
Does that make Repentless lazy or by the numbers? Maybe. Arguably this is a record that Slayer shouldn’t have even made according to many fans, It’s clear that listening to it that the omission of Hanneman’s input is sorely missed, may he rest in peace.
#10 – World Painted Blood (2009)
No sanctuary. World Painted Blood is a completely fine album with no real high points or obvious lows. The title track itself is a great time, but it’s a struggle to commit much more to memory from this 2009 effort. The musicianship is completely fine, vocals are good. It is business as usual, almost like the band are on autopilot, and that’s the reason this album ranks so low compared to some of their riskier efforts that we will get to later down the list.
#9 – Diabolus In Musica (1998)
Slayer go nu-metal and it was something that probably should never have happened but this record yielded some surprising diamonds amongst a lot of rough. For the most part, it doesn’t work. Though, Diabolus In Musica’s strong suit came in its oppressive atmosphere and the grinding and fierce nature of tracks such as Stain of Mind and In The Name of God.
The latter song especially has such a slick and sublime opening with a rioting, thick chugging guitar pulsating into a vile eruption of powerful snarls from frontman Tom Araya over that stunning infectious main riff. These kind of moments are peppered all throughout Diabolus In Musica, that seductive groove just rocks so fucking hard that it’s impossible to resist, hence why I can’t rank the record any lower.
#8 – Divine Intervention (1994)
What more can really be said about Divine Intervention apart from the fact that it’s Slayer’s sixth album? That may sound reductionist but hear me out. How the fuck do you follow up genre masterpieces from the late 80s such as: Hell Awaits, Reign In Blood and South of Heaven? It seems the answer with this record was simple, replace Lombardo behind the kit and try and speed up a little following Seasons In The Abyss infatuation with everything slow and heavy.
By no means a bad record, Divine Intervention just seems a little underwhelming when compared to the wealth of records that came before it and had large boots to fill. There is a lot to love here: The Killing Fields, 213 and Fictional Reality are incredible songs in and of themselves, but do they really match the heights of their predecessors alone? Not really. This album just didn’t do enough different to stand out in a positive or risky way.
#7 – God Hates Us All (2001)
Here’s where things get fucking controversial. Before I’m dragged out into the streets by raving fans and hogtied to the railway tracks, let me try to justify this entry for you. There’s a reason why songs like Payback and Disciple remained live staples for the band even when this record seemed to underperform critically and commercially, because they are powerful, aggressive and catchy as all hell tracks.
From the chanting chorus on the latter, to the formidable way that War Zone seems to entrance you into fighting an entire army bare handed (especially that opening riff) God Hates Us All remains to be Slayer’s most underrated album that they have ever produced. There is so much that is stellar about this one, it sounds grandiose and overpoweringly omnipresent with a modern touch that differentiates itself from Slayer’s early work.
#6 – Christ Illusion (2006)
With their tenth album, Slayer somehow managed to channel their unholy powers into creating a record that touched on elements of not only Seasons In The Abyss but the groovier parts of God Hates Us All too, whilst still harkening back to their roots all at once.
Jihad is a phenomenal that fits the description above in every respect. The slow acoustic intro leading into that thundering rhythm guitar main riff and mesmerising guitar solo. It sounds completely and utterly massive. Look no further than Skeleton Christ if you’re in any doubt that Slayer can’t make you fucking move on this record, it may sound simple musically, but it’s heavy as all sin and it is one of my personal go-tos when the band’s name is mentioned in conversation. Goes without saying that Araya shouting ‘Hail Satan’ is an absolute win too.
#5 – Seasons In The Abyss (1990)
Slayer started the new decade revitalized with this masterclass in pacing, progression and power oozing from every pore of this disgusting beast. As mentioned above, this was the album that the boys took a different approach on compared to their 80s efforts, slowing down and being more atmospheric and sinister in a way that paid off greatly.
Seasons In The Abyss is now thirty years old but stands the test of time beautifully for its simply flawless lineup of incredible songs. Choose literally anything featured on this record and you’re in for a winner. There are no low points, I have virtually nothing bad to say about Seasons and that’s because with outstanding tracks like: Dead Skin Mask, War Ensemble, Expendable Youth, Hallowed Point and Born of Fire, how could I?
That’s simply the caliber of the material that we’re dealing with here from this point on. Really, consider everything onwards as effectively completely interchangeable with one another. This is the Grade A stuff.
#4 – Reign In Blood (1986)
Widely considered by many to Slayer’s most brutal album, if not the most savage record ever at the time, what can I really add to the conservation about Reign In Blood that hasn’t already been said? It’s been dissected to death over the last three decades and for good reason, it’s one of if not the great thrash metal albums ever forged.
From the chilling album art to songs about Joseph Mengele (Angel of Death) and that unstoppable all-time classic Raining Blood, there’s frankly nothing new I can say, so what’s the point in trying? It’s Reign In Blood and it’s amazing, but you already knew that.
#3 – South of Heaven (1988)
South of Heaven was the fourth record that the band put out following a two year absence from Reign In Blood, and that time was used to strip back and refine their core sound into something darkly magical.
It might not be as immediately overt as the likes of what came before but the more primal yet controlled rage from Tom Araya and the steady, trance-like drumming from Lombardo are arguably a career best to this day. This record contains some of the most well written songs in the band’s history, included but not limited to: Behind The Crooked Cross, Ghosts of War and Cleanse The Soul.
Heaven feels like the culmination of their classic sound. It is not as violent as later entries, and it shares more in common with speed/heavy metal than the gut wrenching thrash it would later inspire, as it stands though with an album as well made as this, I can’t help but love every single second.
#2 – Show No Mercy (1983)
A bonafide classic for the ages to be sure. The original and many would say the best. A rare case where the origins of how this album came to be is nearly as interesting as the end result itself. Show No Mercy is an institution and it changed the face of not only thrash metal but shook the landscapes of the music world and pop culture for decades, even to this very moment in time.
Containing the almighty Die By The Sword, the spellbinding Black Magic and the insidious Evil Has No Boundaries, among others. I find myself often unabashedly praising this release almost every time the topic of metal music is brought up in any regard. Here was a record that single-handedly birthed so many genres and inspired so many generations of musicians across the world, it’s unbeatable.
#1 – Hell Awaits (1985)
Take everything that I’ve just said about Show No Mercy and amplify it by a million. Whilst Slayer’s debut is a landmark victory in music to be sure, their true prowess was unleashed masterfully in their sophomore record Hell Awaits.
Cast your mind back to the year 1985 and what were the hottest heavy metal records releasing at the time? Sure, there were strong efforts by the likes of Saxon, Exodus, Celtic Frost and Possessed, but there was nothing that matched the face melting speed or scorching brutality of Hell Awaits.
This was the album where Slayer shed their NWOBHM skin and struck out on their own with something incontestable, in every sense of the word an unadulterated monolith of sound that would not be caged or rivalled by mortal man. On a less hyperbolic note however, the track list is simply marvellous and nails everything you could ever possibly want in a heavy metal/thrash record from the surreptitious villainy of Necrophiliac, to the incinerating guitar solo of At Dawn They Sleep and beyond.
Slayer were and always will be an incredible band and a shining example of music as art. Sure, they had their missteps over the decades, but I would be remiss to deny them their rights as an irresistible force of nature. They will be missed, but they left one hell of a legacy!
It’s hard to think that Obituary have been a death metal mainstay now for well over three decades. Formed in 1988, Obituary hit their stride straight out of the gate with the iconic Florida death metal record Slowly We Rot. Whilst the band’s first outing was a monumental tour de force, it was only one mere year later that the group would redefine the genre with their sophomore release, and subject of today’s retrospective, Cause of Death.
Scour forums online or ask someone in the street what their favourite Obituary album is and chances are high that they will respond with this record, and why? Because Cause of Death was and still is completely timeless and indestructible.
The first thing you may pick on when listening to this record for the first time is the cleaner production quality than some contemporary records released at the time such as: Death’s Spiritual Healing, Deicide S/T, Cannibal Corpse’s Eaten Back To Life and Entombed’s Left Hand Path. Cause of Death features much more considered and layered instrumentation than some of the other albums mentioned above, with a slower but deeper feel and an earth shattering groove that is onerous to escape from.
On Obituary’s second record there is a cold aura that interlaces itself within the icy strings of a young Trevor Peres’ guitar assault as John Tardy’s iconic fierce bark permeates every second of this relentless record. It’s no secret that early on the band were inspired by the likes of Celtic Frost and Possessed (even covering the former on this very album) but their worship of these prior acts shed its skin quickly when delving deeper into exactly what makes their subsequent title stand out the way it does.
Take the second track on offer here for instance, Body Bag. We’re treated to a slow winding build up of thick chugging muted power chords before the double kicks and razor sharp shredding pierce their way through. Not to mention the screaming leads and stunning solo present that have almost a progressive and melodic quality that suit the music beautifully, riding off the rhythm rather than puncturing through purely for the point of being prolific.
It almost sounds like a criticism when I say that Cause of Death sounds delightfully lifeless in execution, but I assure you that could not be further from the truth. The sinister numbing feeling apparent on the release is like nothing you can find on those four albums mentioned above. Cannibal Corpse and Deicide may have been ruthless but there was life in those veins, a chaotic and almost fun/self-serving energy that ate off itself as it consumed all in its way. Obituary achieved that unsettling, morbid and completely deadpan seriousness in their writing here even with some of the grooviest flows ever heard in the genre, before or since.
Dark Tranquillity are a melodic death metal band founded in 1991 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Along with bands such as In Flames and At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity pioneered the genre, cultivating what we now know the Gothenburg sound.
With the upcoming release of the band’s twelve studio album, Moment, set to unleash in November 2020, the time has never been better to take a careful but critical look back at one of Sweden’s finest metal band’s discography.
#12 – Haven (2000)
As with every ranking list, sometimes hard decisions have to be made and occasionally that means throwing a great album to the bottom of the pile. Truth is, Haven is a fantastic alternative metal album. The caveat? Haven follows very much in the footsteps of 1999’s Projector and leans more on crafting rich atmospheric and moody synth and piano landscapes rather than the chaotic riffage and aggression of prior records.
Standout tracks include: Haven, Not Built To Last and Indifferent Suns.
Personally I love these two albums, but I can also strongly say that I like a little more bite when I switch on a Dark Tranquillity record. By no means bad, just a little different, and that’s why Haven is where it is.
#11 – Character (2005)
This record is just as strong as any that come after it on this ranking list, but what lets Character down from achieving any higher here is how most of the songs tend to blend together. Coming hot off the trail of their previous album (2002’s Damage Done) Character laid the blueprint for what would essentially become theDark Tranquillity sound going forward, that every album would continue to borrow from even to this day.
Not to say that Character is lacking for riffs, it certainly isn’t, and razor sharp songwriting in tracks such as Lost to Apathy and Am I 1? are staples in the band’s live catalogue for a good reason.
Why so low then? Well, with an album like this surely the only way to go is up. Simply put, Dark Tranquillity evolved and refined the formula found here so many times and so masterfully that time has almost made this record a lesser one in hindsight.
#10 – Moment (2020)
I would be lying if I said that I have spent a huge amount of time with this one, but here we are all the same. I’ve span the record a few times, and it’s a very bright and upbeat sounding album, something I wasn’t expecting, but a welcome surprise regardless. There’s something about this new release that I can’t quite quantify as to why it feels a little less special than the likes of We Are The Void, Atoma or Construct. What we have here is a great metal album, but a truly fantastic Dark Tranquillity record? I am not sure. My mind is really in two places with this one. It’s not a bad release whatsoever. I enjoy every song on here for different reasons, and the production is top drawer as expected, everything falls into place well.
I am just unsure as to why I am not more excited about the first DT record in nearly half a decade dropping. I think that summarises my feelings more than anything. It’s been four long years since Atoma, a record that was one of the band’s best, and same time, Moment doesn’t do too much to innovate on those principles. It’s unfair, as Moment is a few days old at time of writing, but right away, it wasn’t as impactful as that record, or some others on this list. In hindsight, maybe this will change. Keep an eye out for the end of the year list to see where Moment slots in, if it all. I may be singing a different tune. Key tracks: Phantom Days, Identical to None, Eyes of the World.
#9 – Construct (2013)
Accused by one detractors as an ‘album on auto-pilot’ but a record that I think is much better than a concerning amount of listeners give it credit for, Construct largely plays it safe and carries the general themes from prior musical outings that we will get to later, (Fiction, We Are The Void Etc.) this release has its shining standout moments in the form of songs such as Endtime Hearts, Uniformity and What Only You Know.
Really, it’s almost unfair to compare Construct to We Are The Void as that album, and precursor Fiction, contain songs that blew up for the band in a way that singles here failed to resonate with, for whatever reason.
#8 – Damage Done (2002)
Dark Tranquillity took the elements that worked on Projector and Haven and injected a little more bite of their prior sound into this record which shares its dna with the earliest of the band’s output whilst also benefiting from their more experimental ventures.
Monochromatic Stains instantly springs to mind whenever this album is brought up in conversation and The Treason Wall is always an easy crowd pleaser for brightening up an evening with some modern melodeath. It’s easy to see why Damage Done may have been overlooked by many fans, existing in a void between two very distinctive eras of an ever changing band and never really settling for either, but carving out its own identity between the cracks.
#7 – We Are The Void (2010)
In brief, a genre defining album from a band very set in their ways. It’s clear by this point that Dark Tranquillity’s blend of electronics, synths and pianos emulsified with fierce razor guitars and Mikeael Stanne’s fierce metal rasp is here to stay, as stated before, they could only go up from here.
We Are The Void features the incredible singles; Iridium, Her Silent Language and The Fatalist. These three songs in particular are so great that they easy push this record over the edge with what would otherwise be considered a safe and no thrills modern melodeath experience.
#6 – Projector (1999)
Without a doubt this is Dark Tranquillity’s most experimental and strangest album to date and for that reason I can’t help but love almost everything about it. What may have come as initially quite jarring from a band as rash and relentless as this to feature slow ballads, heavy use of clean vocals as well as lengthy piano passages, Projector proved that sometimes slowing down a little can pay off immensely.
Turn your attention a song such as Day To End for example, here’s a track with a Depeche Mode-style 1980s 808/synth beat as Mikeael’s low baritone cleans elevates the material beautifully. Auctioned is very much of the same vein, as you’ll also come to see on Dobermann too.
Not to say that the band have gone soft here. Bulldozers like Undo Control and The Sun Fired Blanks are more than sufficient efforts to the contrary and On Your Time is no slouch in that department either. Even if that’s only half the story.
#5 – Atoma (2016)
This is an album that would otherwise be held in the shadows of what came before, if it wasn’t for the simple fact that Atoma features one of the strongest sets of songs ever put together by the band, as well as some truly incredible singles and one absolutely flooring closing song.
Clearing Skies is my personal highlight on Atoma. Swelling atmospheric acoustic guitars violently cascade into some stunning lead guitar progressions and dreamlike underlyings of synth and piano that give way to Stanne’s most passionate vocal performance in a decade. Really though, many of the tracks on offer here largely follow suit. It’s catchy, with amazing atmospheres and gorgeous progressions from beginning to end, it would be criminal to give this a miss.
#4 – Skydancer (1993)
This album is essential listening for anyone even vaguely interested in Sweden melodeath or death metal in general. The only reason it doesn’t take top billing is because Skydancer is very much a primordial offering of a band that had yet to even really be called a band.
At the time, the Gothenburg scene as we know it wasn’t really anything more than a few young dudes in a quant Swedish town who lived near one another and enjoyed metal music. Vocals on this record were performed by the almighty Anders Friden of In Flames, just as current vocalist Mikeal Stanne was the driving force behind Lunar Strain that same year.
Everyone knows by now just how memorable and riff heavy this incredible album is from Nightfall To The Shore of Time all the way to Alone. It is an album that really deserves no further explanation, listen to it and love it, simple.
#3 – Fiction (2007)
Putting a modern melodeath album above a classic?! Am I crazy? Well, before you burn my house down in righteous anger, let me explain. Fiction was my introduction to Dark Tranquillity as they are now, of course I had heard all the classic albums, from Skydancer to The Mind’s I, but after that grace period, my knowledge of the band’s later output was conservative to say the least.
Then along comes Fiction and single handedly redefines exactly what melodic death metal could be post-2000 in a way that other Swedish bands never quite managed.
It’s difficult to even know where to start with my thoughts on this monumental achievement of an album, it really is that good. Do I begin discussing the lush soundscapes and pounding anthemic choruses of tracks like The Mundane and The Magic or Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive) or should I stop wasting time and divulge the divine greatness of Misery’s Crown?
If I don’t stop gushing now then just frankly we’ll be here all night, so I’ll leave it here. Listen to Fiction. If you like amazing metal then listen to Fiction, hell, if you enjoy music with a message and emotion of any kind, then you have no excuse to not spin this record immediately.
#2 – The Mind’s I (1997)
Take all the praise that I heaped onto Skydancer and amplify it by a million. The Mind’s I is the culmination of a band creating and then perfecting the perfect old-school Swedish melodeath sound.
The Mind’s I is Dark Tranquillity’s heaviest album and features a generous helping of infectious and tasty guitar riffs on top of more breathtaking guitar melodies that intertwine in an almost orgasmic fashion.
Irrevocably, this release is a complete and total triumph from start to finish and an album that I return to more than I care to admit. Three albums in and this era of the band were simply titans on top of the world, and give it a few minutes of your time and you will see why as well.
#1 – The Gallery (1995)
Is The Gallery the greatest Dark Tranquillity album ever released? Yes.
Is it the greatest melodic death metal metal record ever put to tape? It can certainly be argued. I am almost at a loss for words for describing exactly what makes this release flow so effortlessly, but in a way, isn’t that the kind of intrinsic, ethereal beauty that we listen to metal for?
One listen to Punish My Heaven or Lethe and I dare say that you may become addicted. I know after my first time that I wasn’t the same person I was beforehand. Stronger than any drug, a higher percentage than any bourbon on planet Earth, the sheer irresistible and immovable force that is, The Gallery! Words really don’t do this one justice, if you only listen to one album after reading this feature article, then do yourself a favour and make sure it’s this one.