Friday, October 29, 2010

Music Review - Blind Guardian - At the Edge of Time

If this album shows anything, it's that after 25 years on the scene Blind Guardian is definitely one of the best bands out there. The last album was pretty weak, but this one more than makes up for it.

First off, Hansi's voice is immaculate. The guy's been singing like this for almost 3 decades and he's only gotten better. There's times here that he'll rip your face off with savage ferocity, there's times he'll shatter glass, and then he'll tone it down for a soothing ballad. The choirs sound perfect, as usual. Everything about the vocals on this album is pitch perfect.

The instruments are the same way; after 25 years these guys know how to play their music flawlessly. Guitars range from ultrafast leads, riffs and solos to more standard chords and riffs. It all sounds amazing and the tone the guitars have here is just fantastic. Crunchy, heavy but not obnoxious. The drums...well, Thomen Staunch is still gone. Frederik has gotten faster...but he's still not the same kind of jaw-dropping drummer that Staunch was. He does a fine job but tends to stick to standard patterns and speeds, which is perfect for the music here. He does play all the flutes and bagpipes you hear though (which are used brilliantly in the ballad "Curse My Name"), so that makes up for the slightly boring drumming. On a more positive note, the drums are used perfectly in "War of the Thrones and "Curse My Name" and add a real bombastic and dramatic feel to both those songs.

The production on this album is absolutely perfect; I'll go so far as to say this is the best mix Blind Guardian have ever had. Everything, from the orchestra to the choirs to the instruments sounds perfect and the louder you turn it up the better. This is such a solid mix, I really have to hand it to them for knocking it out of the park with that.

The songs themselves are all really, really good stuff. From fast and aggressive throwback tracks like "A Voice in the Dark" and "Ride Into Obsession" to huge, bombastic and dramatic ballads like "Curse My Name" and "War of the Thrones" to huge mid-paced numbers like "Sacred Worlds" this album has it all. The choruses are huge, the melodies are uplifting, the build-ups are dramatic and the catchiness still has yet to be rivaled by any other band. There's not really a weak track here, but if I had to pick one or two I didn't like as much, it'd have to be "Tanelorn"  and "Wheel of Time," as neither of them really have quite the same power behind them as the rest of the album. "Wheel of Time" in particular spends too much time playing around with a Middle-eastern sound, and it takes away from the orchestral bombast it tries to achieve.

While not the high point of their career, "At the Edge of Time" is a terrific Blind Guardian album that's leaps and bounds beyond the previous album. There's something for everyone on this album, and it's all put together so well that I highly recommend any music fan pick this up. Blind Guardian are masters of their craft and really show it with this album.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Music Review - Saviour Machine - Saviour Machine I

Gothic music, whether metal or rock, tends to be something I'm not a fan of. It's usually cheesy (there are exceptions) cliche, over-dramatic and generally lacking in quality. There's obviously good bands in the genre, but for the most part my experience has been negative.

The debut album of Saviour Machine, "Saviour Machine I," however, may very well be one of the best goth metal/rock albums ever released and is up there with some of the best music ever released, in my opinion. This is a powerful album, with real feeling and atmosphere, relying on the writing and composition of the music rather than walls of typically mournful keyboards.

Eric Clayton's voice is brilliant, period. I don't know if there is another vocalist in the metal/rock world who has the power and emotion that this man has in his voice. Whether it's bloodcurdling screams, deep baritones, soft whisperings, huge operatic moments, passionate and gut wrenching notes or mournful wailing, the vocals here are absolutely second to none. There are notes hit here that will chill you with how powerfully they resonate; Eric Clayton is one of the very few modern singers who has such perfect control over his voice.

The instruments...where do I begin. Everything here is masterfully played. The bass in particular, while not being super-fast or super-technical, adds such a good feel and flavor to the music and does much more than just provide a low end; often it carries the entire melody of the song. Guitars are breathtaking. The opening track, "Carnival of Souls," is a good example of the guitars on this album; there's some brilliant leads, solid, catchy riffs, softer and cleaner breaks and outstanding solo work with true emotion shining through. The drums do a perfect job here, driving the music with terrific beats and expert fills. While not insanely fast (except for the beginnings of the tracks "Killer" and "The Widow and the Bride") they are flawlessly played by someone who is obviously a master at his craft.

As a whole, this album deals with mostly end-times themes taken from the Book of Revelation, and deals with them quite brilliantly. The lyrics are very, very well written; controversial and sometimes graphic but never playing for shock value. This is a quality every Saviour Machine song has and something that really separates them from the typical love/loss/suicidal themes of most goth music. When subjects like those are addressed they are done so from a mature perspective that shows them in a very thought-provoking light and provide sound ways of dealing with them.

Highlights for this album for me are "Legion," with its piano driven melody and absolutely spellbinding vocal work and  "A World Alone," which may be the high point of Saviour Machines entire career (except for "American Babylon," which I will argue is their best song). "A World Alone" features a vocal performance that completely redefines soaring, with choruses so big and operatic that I'm hard-pressed to think of any comparable songs. Phenomenal writing and instrumentation make this one of the best songs I've heard in a long, long time.

To conclude, Saviour Machine, one of the most influential and well-respected Christian bands ever to form put out what I believe just might be one of the best metal/rock albums ever, goth or not. The fact that this is a debut album is almost astounding, as every second of this record is brilliantly and professionally put together. Please, buy this album, and see what heights gothic metal/rock is capable of reaching. Saviour Machine, with this debut album, set the bar as high as could be set.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


This is a rough table of contents for the "It's Not Always Shakespeare...but it's Genuine", project. Anyone who wants to be a part of it can participate, just get in contact with me via e-mail or blog comments and let me know what you'd like to write about.

It’s not always Shakespeare...
But it’s Genuine.

Thoughts and Commentary on Life and Faith.

(Some of these are tentatively titled)

• Finding the Open Door, by Lunkwill
• Theology, by Winnow
• Moderation in Christanity, by Will. R
• Faith/Culture, by Ghostkin
• Media Affects in Christianity, by M. Audrey
• TBA, Jeff B.
• TBA, by Josh P.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Music Review - Vardoger - Whitefrozen

This is one of those albums that's really stuck with me over the years. Though it's Vardoger's only release, it is a brilliant EP that shows a mastery of the folk/viking/black metal genre.

This is definitely one of the more unique albums I've heard; the drums play weird rhythms, the songs are structured weirdly and the vocals are just plain odd sounding. This isn't an experimental, schizophrenic album though; it just employs non-standard methods to achieve it's atmosphere of unease, cold landscapes and occasional uplifting moments.

The instruments are handled brilliantly, especially the bass; bass doesn't usually do too much in a black metal band but this is one release I wouldn't want to listen to without the bass. Kudos to the band for using the bass guitar so well on this EP. The rest of the instruments are also equally well used. The guitar has a good, heavy, strong tone, the keyboards are used perfectly and add some amazing atmospheric touches. The drums, like I said above, are a big part of the music here, playing odd beats, folk rhythms and actually adding to the feel of the music. Blastbeats and fast double bass aren't even touched upon here, and for that I give the band a tip of the hat. Playing viking/black metal without blastbeats and double bass is something I've rarely seen.

The best part of this EP though is how authentic the viking/folk atmosphere is. There's not a lot of folk instruments used (there's some brief violin and flute used) but this EP sounds more viking/folk than almost any other release I've heard in the scene.

Highlights for this album are the title track, composed of entirely clean chanting vocals alongside some brilliant lead guitar and "Footprints of Thunder", with it's clean vocal chorus and somber and mournful folk atmosphere. This is an obscure release, but if you can find it, do yourself a favor and pick it up. "Whitefrozen" is a terrific viking/folk/black metal release that rises above the crowded scene and really carve out their own unique sound.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Beer Review - Wychwood Brewery Hobgoblin Dark English Ale

Wychwood Brewery's Hobgoblin Dark English Ale is an interesting brew and is definitely different than the wheat based ales I've been focusing on lately.

. The aroma is that of fruit punch or cranberry juice, very sweet and fruity. The taste is at first sweet, almost syrupy feeling and has a slightly bitter finish. The initial taste took me by surprise as I wasn't expecting such a fruity tasting beer, but after a few more sips it became very enjoyable. The finish, while bitter, doesn't really stick around that long and I'm actually glad for that, as it's not a flavor I really enjoy that much. Each sip really brings out a lot of good, strong full flavors; there's no subtlety here.

With it's strong flavors and aromas, Wychwood Brewery's Hobgoblin Dark English Ale is a fantastic beer that I'd recommend to anyone, but beware: the first smell and taste may be a little overpowering at first, so make sure and give this brew the time it needs to be enjoyed.