Killswitch Engage- Incarnate
It's hard to believe that KSE is now 7 albums deep into their career. With some inner turmoil, member switches, the rise and fall of Metalcore come and gone; the band continues to be as stronger as ever with their latest release, Incarnate. While the band is not known for reinventing the wheel with every release, the band is known for putting out solid album after solid album. This album is no different.
The album starts with Alone I Stand. With a brooding intro that fades in, it attacks you with the legendary KSE mix of Metal, Hardcore, and melody. With a verse riff that is "oddly" in 9/8, the band continues to capture everything a fan of the band will love...and everything that a hater of the band will hate. The bridge of the song gets into some awesome breakdown/melodic moments that really helps the album begin to shine. Hate Be Design continues in the same vein as one of the heaviest opening riffs on the album. The verse is completely heavy and melodic with a soothing chorus. Near the end of the song is one of the band's few instances of guitar solos. Cut Me Loose starts with a tribal drum beat and ominous guitars. Oddly enough this becomes a song with minimal screamed lead vocals. This song has Top 40 radio potential all over it, especially in the chorus. The 2nd half of the song brings up a bit of a thrash riff that will bring a great circle pit live. Strength Of The Mind starts with an actually, kinda Djenty, breakdown riff before going into the KSE style Metalcore riffing. The chorus of this song is one of the highlights of the album. Perfect soothing cleans and a great message. Overall, a great song! Just Let go starts with a clean guitar riff in the vein of My Curse before kicking in the doors. While starting off slower, it quickly becomes one of the speedier songs on the album. Drummer, Justin Foley shows off his double bass blasts in the verses of this one and they are unbelievably clean. Embrace The Journey...Upraised starts off with an ultra heavy breakdown riff that is sure to get the crowd going wild live. This has the fastest verse in the album going into hyper-speed. This has a little bit of everything for everyone with it's breakdowns, speed and melodic choruses. The song fades out and leads way to Quiet Distress. The song starts with an acoustic guitar passage before going into a ballistic verse that simply destroys everything in it's path. The chorus brings way to a slower, yet uptempo moment. A great mix of thrashy and melodic. Until The Days once again brings in the Thrash mentality, specifically in the guitars. This is definitely a throwback to the beginning of the Metalcore days. A short and sweet kick in the face. This leads into It Falls On Me. A slower song for the band that is prominently beautiful in the music and clean vocals, yet, ferocious with it's growls. The atmospheric guitars really make this song one of the stand outs on the album as, to me, that was the best aspect of the band's last release, 2013's Disarm The Descent. The song quickly fades and leads way to the Thrash laded song, The Great Deceit. A very straight forward attack in the verses and one of the best choruses on the entire album. We Carry On brings in The End Of Heartache era of the band. Very slow and brooding, yet so melodic and catchy. Once again, the atmospheric guitars make an appearance in the chorus and make the song that much more special. A great slower song that is a great way to lead into the final track, Ascension. The song starts off perfect KSE form and, again, brings things back into the bands early sound of ...Alive Or Just Breathing. One big difference is in the per-chorus, it features Justin's use of Blasts (almost like a bookend to the album as the only other song to feature blasts is the opening track). The song ends on an ultra heavy breakdown riff and slowly fades away into the abyss.
There is no denying that Jesse Leach brings the inspirational moments to Killswitch Engage that helped make the band become legendary. A very positive message throughout the album, one that people with depression (like myself) can really relate to. Beyond catchy riffs, memorable melodic riffs, ultra tight musicianship from everyone involved. Incarnate is what you want, need, and crave in a KSE album.
Killswitch Engage- Incarnate is out NOW via Roadrunner Records
FFO: The Blackened Poppy Prog Metal Album You Didn't Know You Needed
Ihsahn, like Devin Townsend, strives to never make the same album twice. Whether it was with Emperor or his continuing solo work, every album has it's own distinct sound. With his 6th album, Arktis, the direction has gone in a way that no one would expect, yet, is oddly expected. How does this make sense in the slightest? Let me explain...
The album starts with Disassembled. Right off the bat it comes with a very proggy feel to it, much like the band, Leprous. This is expected as said band was Ihsahn's backing band until the band was big enough to be able to branch out on their own. Although they haven't fully left him behind as Leprous singer, Einar Solberg contribute his clean vocals to the song. As for the song itself, it ranges from proggy to very poppy to Ihsahn's recognizable blackened screams. A lovechild between Leprous and Shining (NOR) with Ihsahn curating the creation. Mass Darkness is next and it again goes into uncharted territory, very catchy modern metal. No doubt Ihsahn has this in mind when he asked Trivium's Matt Heafy to contribute his clean vocals to this song. It really feels like Trivium wrote an Emperor song yet could not take away their poppy and catchy elements to make it tr00. My Heart Is Of The North again feels like a track that would have been written by Shining (NOR). Such an oddly catchy and glorious track. While there is a little bit of electronic moments, they are pushed in the background for the jazzy and modern-ish black metal mix. South Winds brings in the most polarizing song on the album. It is 2000s dance keyboard driven. It is much like a dark rave mix that you would hear in a black metal BDSM club. The chorus brings it back into more of a traditional Ihsahn sound with a proggy driven chorus. Such an odd mix that works. In The Vaults is technically a ballad. It really has a big 80s metal vibe that got mixed with 2000s prog metal. Until I Too Dissolve again brings the 80s vibe in a big way. It honestly feels like a riff that The Scorpions would write. While, of course, there is Ihsahn's signature screams in moments, it is heavily a cock rock song, but an excellent cock rock song and one of the best tracks of the album. Pressure starts right off the bat with a Frank Zappa style opening riff that leads to some insane drumming by former Leprous drummer and Ihsahn and Shining (NOR) drummer, Tobias Andersen. Right about the half way mark of the song features the only Symphonic Black Metal moment of the entire album and it rips you apart! The song ends on a more sludgy feel before giving way to the next song, Frail. Starting off with an acoustic passage, it leads into a dark carnival/vaudeville style piano, circus style drumming, and 80s science fiction keyboards. For fans of bands like Stolen Babies and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, this is 100% up your alley. Crooked Red Line features Shining (NOR) mastermind Jorgen Munksby on saxophone (his 3rd time appearing on an Ihsahn album). The song is very reminiscent of the title track of the 2010 album, After. Very mild and eerie. It gives a 1930's US Noire feeling. Roughly half way through the song, it becomes slow, doomy, and filled with Munksby's distinct saxophone stylings before leading back into the Noire scene. Celestrial Violence is the last track on the standard edition of the album. It once again features vocals from Einar Solberg. The song starts with acoustic guitar buried in the background with piano before you get bombarded with a wall of blackened prog. If there was to say there was any traditional song you could expect from Ihsahn, this would be the one, but take that with a HUGE grain of salt. If you enjoyed what was done on the albums After and Eremita, this will be much more up your alley, but keep in mind, it very much fits in the style of this album. If you are fortunate enough to get the limited edition version of the album, you get an additional track, Til For Ulven. This is a 9 minute song that features Norwegian spoken word poetry and horror style piano that is in tribute to Norwegian poet, Til Ulven. The song begins to pick up about 3/4ths of the way through where Ihsahn goes into is black metal vocals and distorted guitar then it fades away. I won't pretend to understand the Norwegian language, so I don't know if this is one of Ulven's poems, or just in tribute to him. Either way, considering Ulven committed suicide in 1995, the music behind it perfectly fits the title.
This album is the Blackened Poppy Prog Metal album you didn't know you needed...until now! This reaches on so many different boarders of what one thought was possible. Black Metal, Avant-garde, Prog, Jazz, Pop, Rave; it's all there and it all makes sense. While you could not possibly comprehend the entire album in one sitting, upon repeated listens, you see how everything melds together and exactly what Ihsahn was going for with Arktis. Without question it will polarize many fans, but if you have enjoyed most of, if not all of what what Ihsahn has done in his solo career, Arktis proves to everyone that this is the next logical step in his career. And with being a little more accessible, maybe this will lead to a US tour? We can only hope so!
Ihsahn- Arktis available April 8th through Candlelight Records
Circus Maximus- Havoc
FFO- Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, AOR
Norway's Circus Maximus is a band whose light has been shining brighter and brighter since their debut album, The 1st Chapter hit back in 2005. Since then the band has gone through a major change as well that made it's first appearance with 2012's Nine. Instead of going full on progressive metal, the band explored much more into what makes the band tick. Exploring melodies, harmonies, and styles you don't see often in the prog world, which is of course, poppy, more mainstream moments. Havoc, despite having a very metal name, is not as metal as you would imagine. In all honesty, that is what makes the album shine.
The albums tarts with the first single, The Weight, which is quite polarizing for some fans. The organ driven, Led Zepplin's Kashmir style intro riff leads into a very melodic verse and overall melodic song. It almost have a Muse/Coheed And Cambria vibe to it as well. The middle section is where the prog begins to shine with a very technical and beautiful guitar solo that leads into a great prog instrumental section. Overall, a great choice for a potential radio single. Highest Bitter begins with a very Chris Cornell style vocal style with a proggy breakdown style that continues throughout the song. A dark song overall that would have fit well as a song from Dream Theater's Awake album. Without question the title track, Havoc is the most polarizing song on the album. You are either in for the ride or not. It is the song that is undoubtedly the poppiest and top 40 style. If you can't appreciate radio rock in anyway, just skip the song. If you can appreciate top 40 rock, there is a lot to like about the song and it makes you wish that more bands would sound like this on said stations. I know I wouldn't be disappointed. Pages sounds like a loving tribute to Lighting Shadows Off A Dream by Dream Theater. While being overall heavier than said song, the style brings out those great memories. The Instrumental sections are absolutely fantastic. A very mystical sounding song that works great in the middle. Flames starts with an opening keyboard and drum fill before leading into a guitar riffing and vocal melodies that remind you of U2. This is more of what the average CM fan would be hoping for in a poppy song from the band, poppy, yet filled with prog moments. A very beautiful song that I'm sure will sound fantastic live. Loved Ones is BY FAR the best song on the album. A very loving tribute to those that we love in our lives. This has everything that a CM fan could want in a song. Soaring vocals, the right amount of prog, majestic instrumentation and musicianship. It can really bring a tear to your eye. After The Fire starts with a bouncy keyboard line that hearkens you back to Pain Of Salvation's Remedy Lane album mixed with Matt Bellamy vocal melodies. This is carried throughout the songs as one of the proggy slower to midtempo numbers. This song proves that Circus Maximus didn't fully abandon their prog roots. Remember is another poppy tune that is filled with happy sounding keyboards and a very upbeat and uplifting feel throughout. The solo section is one of the coolest moments on the album. The whole song would have been cool enough to end on and give you that rise up and cheer moment, but alas, there's one last song. Chivalry is the song that is not like the others, but unlike The Electric Company, this song DOES belong. It starts off very ominous and sounds far away, it slowly builds up to become fully audible about a quarter of the way in and leads to the best chorus on the album. Slower to midtempo in speed, yet absolutely gorgeous. The instrumentation to this song working the way it does. and makes the very end of the song one of the highlights of the entire journey and makes the whole ride, that is Havoc, worth it.
Havoc is going to be a polarizing album for the band. Dream Theater's Falling Into Infinity as a great example. While it still features moments of what brought you into the band. it showcases some moments you never would have expected. Surprisingly pop friendly moments, shorter track lengths and what may or may not be, an attempt to reach a new audience. You either enjoy the ride or you hate it. For myself. I have listened to the album every day since I received the promo and enjoy it more with each listen. If you are looking for The 1st Chapter or Isolate, you won't find it here. If you enjoyed Nine, you will find something to love about the album. Havoc proves that there doesn't need to be boundaries between prog, metal and pop, good music is good music!
Circus Maximus- Havoc, available NOW through Frontiers Records
Sweden's Greenleaf has created a long lasting legacy of Stoner Rock over the past 17 years. With the release of the band's 6th album, Rise Above The Meadow, the band feels stronger and tighter than ever. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Vocalist Arvid Jonsson and Guitarist Tommi Holhoppa to discuss everything currently in the world of Greenleaf.
That Drummer Guy- Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. Thanks to your awesome PR, I just got turned on to you guys with your latest release, Rise Above The Meadow and I am heavily impressed with what you guys do. So with Rise Above The Meadow being the band's 6th album, what went into the writing and recording process this time around?
Arvid- I guess for the most part a lot of more live experience. Ever since we released the album before this one "Trails & Passes" we have been spending a lot more time on the road and I think you can really hear that on the new record.
TDG- What I really appreciate about the new album is the diversity of it all. No two songs are alike and everything feels completely strong and inspired. Does the songwriting process come off that naturally as it sounds or does it take time to really make it feel right?
Arvid- The songs are most of the time a result of some sort of jam, kicking of with one of Tommi's riff and then we'll kind of see where it will end up. But then when we kind of compare the songs to each other we tend to be more critical in choosing what actually gets to go on the album or not.
TDG- Was there any material written during the Rise Above The Meadow sessions that may end up on a future release?
Arvid- Yes there are a couple of ideas that maybe will appear on a later release. You never know til then, haha.
TDG- When in the writing process for the new album, was there any music you were listening to at the time that may have helped with inspiration?
Arvid- Well in general, I think we will always take our main inspiration from 70s-rock stuff, heavier things like Kyuss and even High On Fire and top it off with old blues. But I also take a lot of inspiration from pop-music that I like. Folksy things like Fleet Foxes and Junip are some of my melodic inspirations.
TDG- You have been playing a couple tracks off the new album live. How has the crowd reaction been to the new songs so far?
Arvid- I think very good so far. We are trying out a couple of new ways to play the groove and some stuff are a bit more mellow then before, but yeah people seem to dig it.
TDG- Has there been any talks of hitting North America for any kind of touring in the future? Even a possible one-off festival show?
Arvid- Yeah of course! And we are doing our best to make it happen. It's just a question about money really, but the goal is to do a US-tour at the end of this year. And that is all I know for now.
TDG- The band is turning 17 years old this year. What has kept the band feeling inspired for almost two decades to keep persevering?
Arvid- Probably in some ways the line-up changes helps hahaha. But also there is this "freedom feeling" of a idea with Greenleaf, that we can do whatever we want, sort of. And that we don't necessarily have to care to much about what everyone else thinks. As long as we can sit at home and listen to a new record and be happy about it, it's all good kind of, haha. And that is what makes Greenleaf so fun and why there is no reason to stop.
TDG- There is a ton of great bands in the Stoner Rock genre, which you have been able to share the stage with and many newer bands that are continuing in the tradition of the style. How would you say Stoner Rock has changed in the last 17 years since the formation of Greenleaf?
Tommi - In the early days when I started Dozer (my other band), and then a few years later Greenleaf, Stoner Rock consisted of mostly American bands like Kyuss, Clutch, Monster Magnet, Fu Manchu, Sleep etc etc. I think that is what started the whole Stoner Rock thing, people heard those bands and fell in love with the sound and then started their own bands. Since then the genre has had it's up's and down's, Queens of the Stone Age made it bloom again and then after a few years when it looked like people didn't really care anymore about this kind of music Witchcraft, Graveyard etc etc pumped life into it again. I'm not saying that stoner rock ever went away but there has been times when it has not been as popular as it is now.
Here in Europe I think it's more popular than it has ever been! And I think we (the bands) have the festivals to thank that for, Desertfest, Stoned From the Underground, Kröckbacken, Lake on Fire etc ect. The festivals have made stoner rock "hip" amongst the kids again...hahaha! So how has stoner rock changed in 17 years since we started Greenleaf? The genre has grown a lot! There's stoner rock bands in every city in every country in Europe and it's more alive than ever!
TDG- So what are the plans for Greenleaf for the rest of 2016?
Tommi- Shows, shows and the some more shows! Lot's of shows here in Europe but also (like Arvid said earlier) there's plans for us to come to the U.S in November.
TDG- With it almost being March of 2016 already, has there been any new music in 2015 that you have enjoyed or any new music this year that you are looking forward to hearing?
Tommi - Heard the new album with Black Cobra a couple of days ago and it blew me away! And also the latest one with Spidergawd is really good! There is probably a thousand albums I will check out this year because I'm a music nerd looking for new music all the time but I'm really looking forward to hearing the new album with Kaleidobolt from Finland.
TDG- Thank you once again for taking the time to do this interview. I am honored that I get to help promote Rise Above The Meadow. Before we go is there anything else you would like to mention that I haven't brought up yet?
Tommi - Well, if you readers get the chance to see us live come and check us out! We will do everything in our power to make your faces melt! Hahaha!
Greenleaf- Rise Above The Meadow is available NOW via Napalm Records!
That Drummer Guy: Radio DJ, Interviewer, Reviewer, overall...an OK guy.