(7/10) Settle Your Scores is a rather new band, still having a four year history. The guys started in 2014 and it was in 2016 when the debut saw the light of day. The Ohio-based band promoted the album by frequently touring across the US before the entered the studio again with some new material in their backpack.
“Better Luck Tomorrow” is the title of the sophomore longplayer, a record that includes 38 minutes of dynamic sounds that are split in 12 songs. Settle Your Scores is basically American punk rock that makes you think of bands like Green Day and Blini 182 The five-piece from Cincinnati, Ohio is in favor of straight-forward music that includes a solid portion of melodies. You could almost add ‘pop’ to the mix. The combination of elements is proven to be successful, but isn’t new either. In order to space-up things the quintet adds some metalcore screams to their music. These add a new dynamic to “Better Luck Tomorrow”, which certainly a good thing and needed too. What’s confusing though is the catchiness of pop-punk melodies next to the harsh shouts. I couldn’t get rid of the feeling listening to a band that is in transition; looking for an own musical identity.
With all the passion and sprit of the five guys, what’s missing with Settle Your Scores’ new longplayer are the real wow-moments. The album sounds good but not unique. There is quite some of this kind of music available and after a while I also could deny a feeling of the record becoming lengthy.
Good spirit, good vibe, too predictable and too little exciting.
Label: SharpTone Records
Genre: American Punk Rock
Release Date EU: April 13th, 2018
(7/10) “Erase Me” is Underoath’s first album since 2010 when the band released their latest record “Ø (Disambiguation)”. In the meantime the band disbanded in 2013 and came back two years later, with a next record another three years further down the road.
“Erase Me” marks the return of founding member Aaron Gillespie, drummer of the powerful band and also responsible for the clean vocals.
The album was written over summer last year and it was recorded with Matt Squire at the helm. Ken Andrews did the mix and the result is a melodic album that has some louder outbursts while aiming for a bigger audience.
The band’s eighth longplayer features eleven new songs that are as heavy as catchy. So let’s laser in on what the new album can deliver when it comes to tunes that found a spot on the tracklist. Underoath never takes things too far when it comes to adding extremes to their sound. Songs like “Wake Me” are definitely a dynamic wake-up call, but there’s also a lot of catchiness involved, which makes the tune to an easily approachable one. The same goes for the following “Bloodlust”. There are modern riffing guitars but there are also some keyboard and synthesizer moments, which adds too much sugar to the cocktail. But the most confusing song for me is “No Frame”. One thing is for certain; there is no frame that limits Underoath when it comes to their sound. Looking for guitars is an almost fruitless endeavour since the song is completely based on samples and keyboard. OK, towards the end things get louder but most of the tune remains being a confusing one.
The metalcore roots are fortunately present too. The opener is a clear statement of Underoath still being able to play hard and heavy, esp. when screams and shouts dominate over melodic vocallines. Another example of unleashed energy is entitled “Hold Your Breath” which is quite aggressive in the verse while the chorus stands for the melodic counterpart. Such a combination is not jaw dropping new, but it’s executed in a professional way, which makes things very entertaining.
“Erase Me” is an album that for sure doesn’t cause earache, but it also didn’t wow me. Things sound too clean and too less edgy. It misses the frictional sparks that ignites each of the songs to become a modern metal firework. “Erase Me” features good music that doesn’t include a lot of risk-taking.
Label: Fearless Records
Genre: Modern Metal
Release Date EU: April 6th, 2018
(8/10) German metalcore veterans Caliban worked two years on their next longplayer, succeeding the acclaimed “Gravity” record from 2016.
Caliban’s effort pays back with an excellent metalcore album. The band has the ability to combine modern riff fireworks and melodic elements to a bigger total that manifests itself in songs like the tremendous opener “This is War”. It a brutal metalcore attack that fires on all cylinders while maintaining a popular melody line in the chorus.
Another song belonging to the same category is “Ich blute für dich” which is kept entirely in German language. Tunes like “Set me Free” are not slowing down things. The opposite is the case. “Set me Free” sounds even more aggressive than some of the earlier songs even though the atmospheric start makes you think about something else.
There are songs though that reduces pace a bit without compromising on intensity. “My Madness” is a track that reflects this very well. A more moderate tempo gives the song a slightly different expression, still fitting in to the context of “Elements”. It’s the grooving parts that get more to forefront and the calmer middle section adds extra suspense to the mix.
Things stay on a high level from beginning to end. Also the later songs on this longplayer are a push in the face. “Masquerade” isn’t compromising anything and is a highlight on “Elements”, followed by “Incomplete” which another metalcore anthem on Elements.
I have to admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Caliban till now. “Elements” changes things. This album features excellent songs, breakdown-driven structures, it gains from a brilliant sound and offers a heavy load of energy to listeners. Good stuff.
Label: Century Media
Release Date EU: April 6st, 2018
(7/10) You might hear the name Light The Torch for the very first time, but if you’re into metal the name Devil You Know sound far more familiar. Now, Light The Torch and Devil You Know are the same. After going through some rough times in 2016 the band unveiled in 2017 their new name, followed by the first Light The Torch album as we speak.
The powerhouse from Los Angeles, CA consists out of Howard Jones, Francesco Artusato and Ryan Wombacher with Mike Sciulara who took place behind the drum kit.
“Revival” is the title of Light The Torch’s debut, comprising of 12 songs that bridges metalcore with modern metal and melody.
After spinning the album several times I must say that I like what I heard. What’s the thing though too with “Revival” is that I miss the some surprises, these jaw-dropping good moments that you haven’t expected.
No doubt, riffs are heavy (“Raise the Dead” and “Virus”) and brutal outbursts, like “The Sound of Violence”, are well done. Great craftsmanship, in general on a very high level, isn’t something unexpected, knowing the musical vita of the quartet. The album sounds to me like a first step of four guys to get back into a productive mode after some rougher days, weeks and month. Many ideas, that probably grew over the last years found a spot on this longplayer - a true 'revival'.
To sum up: “Revival” is a well-done modern metal album with some metalcore references here and there. It doesn’t provide many moments of wow and it doesn’t push the listeners out of the comfort zone either. The album is very much according to the book, which isn’t necessarily something bad. If you’re looking for solid and powerful modern metal record it’s “Revival” that can still your hunger.
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Modern Metal
Release Date EU: March 30th, 2018
(6/10) "I am Human" is Escape The Fate's 6th longplayer. The album will be released on March 30st which means that fans had to wait a bit longer since the release day was moved by a few weeks. However, here it is.
"I am Human" is slightly different. "Empire", unveiled as a video a while ago, gave already a first indication of what to expect. The band from Pahrump, Nevada always added a solid portion of melody to their postcore/metalcore songs, but this time the go one step further. Elements of pop music found their way into most of the songs on "I am Human", with synthesisers that are close to the edge of becoming cheesy. "Broken Heart" is such a song that has the bigger masses in focus and "Resistance" is more of a friendly 'No' rather than real 'resistance'.
Last but not least there is an acoustic ballad on the tracklist. "If Only" is the title of the distracting track that immediately brings up the question of why this song ends up on an album of a former post-hardcore band.
Some better moment, even though still being far away from post-hardcore, are the heavy "Digging My Own Grave" and harder "Recipe For Disaster". "Riot" is not too bad either and reflects the sleaze influences in a dominant way.
With having all this in mind I can't give more than points to an album that includes songs that are a bit too much mainstream-based. I can't get rid of a thinking that commercial success was steering too much and that's why the band played safe with "I am Human".
Label: Eleven Seven Music
Genre: Melodic Metalcore
Release Date EU: March 30st, 2018
Beginning of March I had the chance to witness a powerful metalcore package that's on it way through Europe at the moment. Trivium, Power Trip and Venom Prison embarked on a tour and I did some photos of the show for my friends of Zware Metalen. I don't want to withhold the photos from you, my dear readers. Therefor enjoy the photo-report and, if you have any chance, visit the show. It's worth it.
(7/10) Melbourne-based hardcore gang Earth Caller is a young hardcore outfit, inspired by bands like Madball and Terror. The five-piece powerhouse released their debut in 2015. "Degenerate" went right into the AIR charts with Earth Caller gaining quite some national attention.
It was US major label eONE that signed the quintet for recording a second album which was unveiled some days ago. "Crystal Death" is the sophomore longplayer, featuring eleven songs. Earth Caller's second disc stands for well-done hardcore that doesn't solely focusses on riffs, breakdowns and shouts. These ingredients are present, no doubt, but there is a solid amount of melody weaved into songs like "No Forgivness" and "Dying Beside You". And as if the guys wanted to create a counterpart to these tunes the album also contains songs like the raging "Exposed", a track that's mainly build on a lot of anger and brutal riffing.
"Crystal Death" is an album that lives by the unbound energy of youth, good songs and a rock solid production. I guess we will hear more of these guys from Down Under.
Release Date EU: January 19th, 2018
(9/10) Florida-based powerhouse Trivium began their winning streak back in 2003 with the debut, being the starting point of a rise that found a first peak with the sophomore “Ascendancy” and their third longplayer “The Crusade”. Trivium became a big player in metal music, leading to awards, award nominations and a big fan base that appreciated very much the bands contemporary metal sound in a modern outfit. I have to admit that I was also thrilled by these records and seeing them live was a pleasure too.
Even though commercially successful, the latest album doesn’t belong to the highlights of Trivium’s career. “Silence in the Snow” became very melodic with the heaviness of their sound going over board. For that reason I was very curious about Trivium’s eighth album which will be available in record shops on October 20st. Would it be a continuation of what “Silence of the Snow” gave us or would the guys return to a harsher sound that reflects the earlier day much more.
I’m happy to report that it’s the latter. “The Sin and the Sentence” became a brutal piece of music that’s refreshing and will please Trivium fans from the early days. A more than obvious sign of returning heaviness is the fact that frontman Matt Heafy uses screams and shouts again, something that was missing a lot on the previous record. Next to the very dynamic vocals the album also brings back the ferocious riffs and the twin guitars Trivium is known for. All these typical Trivium-trademarks get completed by a massive rhythm-section that includes with drummer Alex Bent a new band member. Even blast beats are returning after many years of absence.
The first tones on “The Sin and the Sentence” are a kind of introduction to the title track. The tune feels like a melodic start into the longplayer with Heafy singing mainly while adding gentle growls in the chorus. The songs good but it’s “Beyond Oblivion” that marks the first real highlight. The riffs and the scream in the beginning of this blast are blood-curdling and even though the tune has its melodic moments it stays a metal monster. “The Sin and the Sentence” contains more of these tracks that are a delight for Trivium fans. One of these numbers is the thrilling “Wretchedness Inside”, a brutal riff attack with a merciless groove and Heafy shouting as good as in the early days. Partly these shouts are part of "The Revanchist" too, even though being more embedded into a melodic framework. Since things are well-balanced, also this track is representing the reinvigorated Trivium in a good way.
Trivium followed a kind of ghost light with their previous longplayer and fortunately they could adjust the tack towards the brutal, but melodic, metal sound they are known for. This album blows away any doubt that came with “Silence in the Snow”. Silence is gone and metal is back. Thank you Trivium.
Label: Roadrunner Records
Genre: Modern Thrash Metal
Release Date EU: October 20st, 2017
(6/10) "Don't give a fuck about your feature in that magazine", that's one line in Eskimo Callboy's title track "The Scene", showing a band that seems to be fueled with self-confidence. It is great that the guys know what they want, making their journey.
The band from Castrop-Rauxel began in 2010 with a first EP. The debut followed in 2012 with two more longplayers that guaranteed a growing fan base, leading to top 10 entries in their home country Germany. The uniqueness of Eskimo Callboy's sound is the fact that they integrated Electro and Techno elements into their metalcore-based sound. The band called it trancecore and became the spearhead of a new genre.
"The Scene" is the band newest album and the first thing that's remarkable is that it gets out of the box a few weeks after the final delivery of most recent German "Bachlorette" season which was 'won' by the band's drummer. Even though it was communicated as a private thing it was amazing how often the band's name was mentioned during the season and how good the target groups match. Looks like a pretty good marketing idea and win-win situation.
However, let's focus on the music. Eskimo Callboy fine-tunes their trancecore sound and opens it to a bigger target group. Clean vocals get more to the forefront and songs like "The Devil Within" are definitely digestible for mainstream fans too. Also the short interlude "X" brings some more calmer tones to the scene before "The New Age" takes over, combining melody and harsh riffing. What comes next is "Frances" which also makes Eskimo Callboy attractive for the mainstream audience, not taking things to an extreme.
However, there are the metalcore songs too with the wild growls and shouts. The mentioned title track is such an angry songs and also "Rooftop" combines hooks with shouts.
"The Scene" is a logical continuation of the bands achievements to date. They shifted themselves a bit towards mainstream and I guess that some "Bachelorette" fans find their way into the band's sound and music. Anyhow, I can't get rid of the feeling that things are a bit too much dressed for success, but as long as fans love what their idols are doing the decided direction proves them right.
Label: Century Media
Release Date EU: August 25th, 2017
(7/10) Metalcore normally doesn't belong to the genres in metal that finds my full passion. However, there are a few bands that I think are interesting and one of these bands are While She Sleeps. This might be caused by the pretty impressive show the guys nailed down when supporting In Flames a few years ago with the latest longplayer "Brainwashed" that strengthened the good impression. In the meantime the band changed labels and it seems like if the journey continues as positive as it started.
Two years later the next strike will hit the shelfs on April 21st which the band's crucial album number three. Eleven songs made it on the record on which the band delivers again a balanced mix of angry metalcore parts which have a constant interlink with melodic vocal lines. The melodic parts go that far that, like in "Steal the Sun", things sound choir-like towards the end.
In general the rough and edgy parts dominate but While She Sleeps embeds some unexpected sidekicks like in the beginning of "Empire of Silence" in which a traditional metal expression is an exciting distraction. The song live up anyhow to its name since it's, except the shouts, a melodic tune that shows another side of this metalcore outfit. "Settle Down Society" is built on a similar formula and these are moments on "You Are We", when also a wider audience can get a foot into the door to the fields of metalcore.
The Sheffield-based band created a longplayer that continues with the positive trend the guys surfed on for the last years. While She Sleeps put a lot of passion and dedication into their work on "You Are We" and this pays back. This album will be interesting for more people than genre experts only.
Label: Arise Empire
Release Date EU: April 21st, 2017
(7/10) Being 'the son of' can open doors, but it can be a burden too. When it comes to Raven Age it's Steve Harris' (Iron Maiden) son George that is part of The Raven Age, being one of the two guitarist of the band. The guys had up to date one EP out on the market and put a lot of focus on touring activities. No surprise that the guys got the support slot for Iron Maiden as well as opening for Tremonti and being on tour recently with Anthrax.
These live activities benefited the band since they play quite tight and stand there as a rock. That’s a good base to build on but releasing the debut is the moment when the rubber hits the road. "Darkness Will Rise" is the name of this first full-length album that features 12 songs and one intro.
The title track is actually the intro that leads to "Promised Land" which is a six minutes songs that's very rhythm based. The tempo is kept quite moderate while the song lives from the pounding beat and melodic vocal lines. It's a good start into the album even though the story could have been also told in four minutes. "Age of the Raven" takes a similar road before "The Death March" comes with marching rhythm and a heavy riffing.
The first more silent tones are embedded in "Salem's Fate". The track begins slow and soulful, something that changes after a bit more than a minute. The track evolves to another alternative rocker that has some more classic metal influences.
One of the best tunes on the album is entitled "Eye Among the Blind" which is, in parts, heavier than the earlier mentioned numbers and also "Trapped Within the Shadows" belongs to the well done tracks on the album.
However, in the end I must say that the tunes on "Darkness Will Rise" are solid, but also done in a cookie-cutter approach. I had too often the idea that I listen to the same thing only different. The Raven Age's debut is a well-crafted alternative metal release that unfortunately misses the real 'wow' effect.
Genre: Alternative Metal
Release Date EU: March 17th, 2017
(8/10) Wovenwar got on my personal radar when they opened for In Flames on their 2014 tour. That was almost to the point two years ago and I can remember very well the power the guys unleashed. Their music electrified the audience in the 013 in Tilburg.
24 months later the guys from San Diego are back with their sophomore record named “Honor is Dead”. The band that rose from the ashes of As I Lay Dying continues their energetic metalcore endeavor with eleven new songs.
This longplayer begins with the mighty grooving "Confession". This song is a good choice for kicking off this album. It's hard, it's fast, it's grooving and it has a melodic chorus that perfectly fits to Wovenwar's wider approach. "Censorship" is the next strike that adds an additional level of brutality before the title track pays more attention to a melodic expression. This doesn't mean that "Honor is Dead" became a catchy song. It's still loaded with razorbalde-sharp riffs and raw power the Wovenwar-way.
In general I must say that "Honor of Dead" carries on what the band started with their debut. The mixture of the three 'm', melody, metal and metalcore, is exciting enough to open doors to a wider group of metal fans. Wovenwar unites these styles to a unique sound without making too many compromisses.
Even songs like the silent "Compass" add something to the bigger picture. Next to the fact that Wovenwar added a lot of emotion and lifeblood to this tune it still represents the band in a good way. It's actually a well placed moment on this energetic album that allows the listener to take a deep breath before the seong half demands again a lot. There's another moment though that takes things from a more relaxed point of view. "Silhouette" follows the same pattern as "Compass", showing the gentle side of Wovenwar.
Wovenwar's "Honor is Dead" comes without any filler. This longplayer is the bands next step, an album that will strengthen their position in melodic metalcore. This album is modern, dynamic and powerful - simply good stuff for your ears.
Label: Metal Blade
Genre: Melodic Metalcore
Release Date EU: October 21st, 2016
(9/10) My first Heaven Shall Burn moment was "Endzeit". For many years this was, at least for me, one of the best songs the band ever released. "Endzeit" includes this apocalyptic rage, translated into a music experience that was and is outstanding.
2016 is the year that I had to revise this perception. "Wanderer" is a true competition for "Endzeit" since the album, their eighth release, is a terrific one. I even would go that far saying that "Wanderer" is the strongest release of the five-piece. The guys put the hardcore and metalcore a bit aside which, as a counter effect, strengthens the metallic parts on their new longplayer. "Wanderer" became a blistering sonic attack that shows the entire spectrum of Heaven Shall Burn.
"The Loss of Fury" begins silent and harmonic, almost as a kind of embedded intro. But it doesn't take too long before the song turns into a slowly creeping track that's dominated by Marcus Bischoff's vocals and heavy riff by Maik Weichert and Alexander Dietz.
"Bring the War Home" means shifting up at least one gear. It's a highly dynamic metal track that includes some metalcore parts by, in general, moving more towards death metal. The harmonic guitars reminded me partly of Amon Amarth.
A relaxed prelude marks the beginning of "Passage of the Crane" which is the next highlight on the album. Also to mention "Downshifter", a brutal six minutes masterpiece with a perfect mix of anger, despair, power and groove. Very well done I would say.
"Prey to God" instead is the most uncompromissing tune on the album, a song that gets, with it's grunts and growls, very close to pure death metal.
"My Heart is My Compass" is a kind of halftime break before "Save Me" kicks-off the second part of "Wanderer". And in case you have the idea that these songs are less demanding you're wrong. The quality, the power, the message and the brutality continues. Best song on the 'b-side' is "Corium" which comes with a more moderate pace and a true death metal expression. The embedded melodic parts give extra spice to this track.
The end is close whenh the first notes of "The Cry of Mankind" reach your ears and mind. With seven and a half minutes it's by far the longest track on the album. It's a My Dying Bride cover with a guest appearance of Sólstafir's Aòalbjörn Tryggvason who joined Heaven Shall Burn for some vocals. The tune is a dark and progressive one. It has a certain melancholy included, sounds slightly different than most of the tracks and is still 100% Heaven Shall Burn. Some parts of this interpretation made me think of German doom thrasher number one, Undertow. It's the way how the clean vocal parts are arranged which gave me this impression. However, these moments are just a few while the track a slow paced death metal masterpiece that is a champion on an album full of winners.
Also to mention the great artwork, done by photographer Christian Thiele. The contrast and the common features of the visual expression and the musical outburst couldn't be done better. The peaceful calmness of the artwork and the raging energy of the music go together as a statement for the wandering through chaos, change and clarity, finding some more inner peace.
"Wanderer" is big. It's a milestone in German metal, done by a band that belongs to the most important ones these days. Hats off!
Label: Century Media
Genre: Death Metal
Release Date EU: September 23rd, 2016