Alexandros by Sacred Blood
I only give this album a horns up because Sacred Blood didn’t make a completely terrible album here. However, there’s nothing great, and certainly nothing new. The album’s pomposity outweighs any creative songwriting skill. The band relies on rhythms already played to death by everybody else. The vocals sound strained and sometimes flat. There’s too many interludes between songs to set up a sort historical context. The production on the album is pretty good, and considering the content, surprisingly not overdone. The drums sound too much like a drum machine in places, though. I wouldn’t recommend rushing out to buy this album, but it’s worth checking out as there are some decent moments on it.
333 by Hour Of 13
333 kicks off without an introduction track, instead relying on the first song, “Deny the Cross” to ominously build into the album. Even the slower parts are so intense that the energy is already there before the song gets to the fast pay-off. Every instrument is well produced and can be heard clearly. The bass is a little high in the mix, but that only adds to the momentum. The vocals could have been mixed a bit higher, but they are at least audible. Where “Deny the Cross” sets up the dark feel, the rest of the album fulfills the promise. Hour Of 13 released a quality doom metal album with this one. I give it horns up.
Felicity by Phobos Corp.
This E.P. by the gothic metal band Phobos Corp. shows promise. The songwriting is creative, albeit not terribly original (although the trumpet solo over an electronic bridge during the first piece is a nice touch). It will be a pleasure to hear what the band produces in the years to come, especially if they get around to releasing a full-length album. Horns up.
Withering in the Concrete by Minor Utopia
Progressive metal is good. Punk rock vocals are good. Mixing the two is bad. Sadly, nobody told this to Minor Utopia when they recorded Withering in the Concrete. Sadly, both of those aspects are actually well-done on this album. This is their debut full-length. Hopefully, if they record a follow-up, vocalist/guitarist Michel(-le) switches up her vocal style, or they at least write some parts that will accompany the style she uses here. This album gets horns up slightly because it does rock. It’s just too bad that it rocks in two different directions at once.
Mountains of Dead by Marasmus
Marasmus doesn’t offer anything new or highly original here, although that doesn’t seem to be the point. Mountains of Dead takes established technical/brutal death metal songwriting and kicks it up a notch. As this is their debut full-length, the band has something to prove. The production is extraordinary–they sound heavy without getting too “muddy.” The drums could have been mixed better, but at least they are played well. Mountains of Dead gets horns way up. Let’s see if this band can keep the horns up that high in the future.
Gather, Darkness! by Burning Shadows
The intro on this album is well-composed but is clearly performed on a keyboard. It almost sounds like its pulled from a video game. It then leads into a power metal song that has quite a good beginning, with powerful drums heralding… what, exactly? I ask this because the song gets rather sour. The drums remain mixed louder than the guitars. The vocals sound stale, both in the production and performance. The rest of the band perform well, but the songwriting lacks any originality. Starting with the next song, the album actually gets much, much better, including the vocals, although the drums are still too loud. The band shows quite a lot of promise, but this album falls short of the greatness it could have achieved. I give it horns up.
A.O.E. by Age of Evil
Age of Evil is one of those power/thrash metal bands that draws influence from the eighties. To that end, they know how to rock. With A.O.E. they released a solid sounding album that should appeal to fans of both metal and hard rock alike. Don’t expect any surprises here, just some good times. If I had any complaint, it’s that they sound too much like their influences at times. One could take that as either “Aw, man, not more of the same,” or “Great! More of the same!” I’ll let you decide that one. On my end, I give this album horns way up.