Imperium Dekadenz-Into Sorrow Evermore

I love how different subgenres in metal can be further divided down into even more particular sub-subgenres. Case in point with black metal. Sure, you’ve got your traditional Norwegian black metal that is primitive to the core and generally sounds as if it was recorded in a cavern. You’ve got your NWOBHM inspired traditional metal with black metal vibes ala Mercyful Fate and Venom. And then you’ve got what I feel is the black metal obsessed with nature and loss. This sub-subgenre is most closely associated with the Pacific Northwest U.S. I honestly find this version of black metal the most intriguing because it combines the best of the harshness and the beauty of the natural world. Imperium Dekadenz first crept on to my radar a few years ago and they perfectly capture this kind of metal. For the uninitiated, it probably seems very rough and harsh. But if you listen closer, there is such a beauty in these bleak aural landscapes. The music simply encapsulates the moments of loss and the ever present majesty of the mountains and forests of the world. This one is definitely more of an introspective put-in-on-in-a-darkened-room-by-yourself kind of album than a party pleaser.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Katatonia-Sky Void of Stars

Second review of the year and if this is any indication, it’s going to be a stellar year for album art and album titles. Katatonia is back with their recent obsession with the dark bird theme with this very Gotham-like landscape. Sky Void of Stars could basically be a summary of everything that Katatonia stands for. Bleak, melancholic soundscapes is the order of the day on this latest platter.

It’s really amazing to look at the trajectory of this band from their inception to the present day. Seriously, go put on Dance of December Souls and then listen to this latest album. How has the same band and creative duo of Jonas Renske and Anders Nystrom been responsible for both incarnations of the band. From primitive blackened death metal to this seriously polished and electronic looped flavored emo-influenced metal. It’s been one of the more interesting musical journeys out there. I’ve always said that if The Cure decided to make a metal album that it would sound a lot like Katatonia. This latest album follows right in line with the slew of recent releases from the band. It feels as though they found their comfort zone musically and are simply satisfied to reside in this softer realm of metal. Nothing really stands out in a seriously memorable manner on this one in comparison to previous releases, but it is still a solid listen from front to back. Consider this one simply in the domain of the good rather than the great.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Obituary-Dying of Everything

First review of 2023! Like I said in my year end review posts, I’m really going to try and stay up with things this year.

2023 starts in a very appropriate manner with Obituary’s latest. The combination of the album title and the album art couldn’t be more perfect to start out the new year. I honestly can’t think of a better slogan to sum up the last few years that we’ve all dealt with than Dying of Everything. And the album cover by the late Mariusz Lewandowski, who has created some of the most arresting album art for metal bands in the past few years, is simply stunning. Check out his stuff if you’re not familiar with him.

So, the packaging and presentation of this album is superb. How does the music inside match up? Pretty good, I’d say. It feels like they have muddied up their guitar sound a bit and it kind of reminds me of Vulgar Display-era Pantera sound-wise. John Tardy’s vocals sound as dry and harsh as ever. It always feels as though he has gone on a walkabout through the desert right before they hit the studio. He just sounds like a man who is seriously parched. This release is not as gore obsessed as their earlier output. It feels more like an angry record with topics pulled from a lot of the problem areas our world is facing these days. All in all, a good start to the year of metal releases.

I also want to give a shoutout to drummer Donald Tardy’s Metal Meowlisha, which is an organization he and his girlfriend started to help care for and regulate colonies of feral cats in the Tampa area. They conduct a trap/spay/release program and help feed many of the feral cat colonies. Dispatches From the Void is a very cat friendly forum and I’d like to invite you to check out this organization and donate if you can. These are good people doing good things for cats.

3.5 flip flops out of 5


First album review of 2022. If this sucker is any indication of the quality of release coming down the pike this year, we are in line for a stellar year of metal.

This is an epic blast of prog metal that simply hits that sweet spot. Sometimes an album like this can become a bit overblown. This one walks a fine line and it is a perfect example of how to craft a grandiose slab of prog. The scope of this album is kind of all over the place. You’ve got classic prog metal. A bit of symphonic flourishes. A dash of death metal. A splash of folk elements. This is simply a seriously ambitious album and they completely stick the landing. You will be able to hear all kinds of influences running through this thing from Rush to The Beatles to Opeth to dramatic movie soundtracks. The breadth of this one is truly staggering. It makes it all the more impressive to me since this is my first exposure to this band. Count me as a fan…one who wishes he discovered them sooner.

If you’ve got a prog itch, definitely check this one out.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

Trivium-In the Court of the Dragon

I really want to like Trivium more than I do. They seem like good dudes. They are all very talented musicians individually. They seem to be a very popular band. But, it always feels as if there is something missing from the whole that keeps them from becoming one of the truly great modern metal bands in my eyes. I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out exactly what is missing, but I just can’t come up with a way to articulate it. I don’t know. I guess their sound is just missing that special sort of “it factor”. Whatever that is.

At any rate, Trivium has a new album out. On the positive side of things, they decided to go heavy on this one. The last few albums has seen Matt Heafy focus on using his melodic voice rather than the harsher death-influenced growls. It’s not like they have been going for a more pop oriented sound, but they’ve definitely been presenting a more palatable-for-the-masses sort of production of late. It feels like In the Court of the Dragon is an attempt to flash more of a grittier metal sound. I welcome this direction because Heafy has a great growl and the combination of the growls and melodic voices gives Trivium a more complex and interesting sound. On the musical front, this album is pure sensation overload. At time, especially with the drums and the soloing over the vocal parts of songs, things can get a bit overbearing and the density of the notes and beats going on can simply overwhelm the song itself. As stated, these guys are great musicians. But, it feels like they need to reign in the impulse to shred indiscriminately. I think these songs may have been better served by focusing more on the riff backbone of the song and using their flash to add color and texture to the songs rather than have the flash simply take over the entire song. It’s just too much at time to be completely enjoyable.

Hell, maybe I’m just getting old. I used to be impressed as all get when someone would just shred like a maniac. There are some really tasty songs on here and I applaud the heavy turn, but it just feels as though there is just too much going on at times.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Between the Buried and Me-Colors II

Revisiting a classic album with a sequel is a fraught proposition. The only albums that I can recall off the top of my head didn’t leave much of an impression in light of the majesty of the first album. Queensryche attempted to craft a continuation of their Operation: Mindcrime storyline with Operation: Mindcrime II and it was a terrible decision (even with the addition of Ronnie James Dio as Doctor X). King Diamond attempted to go back to Abigail with Abigail II and, although it wasn’t terrible like Queensryche’s attempt, it certainly wasn’t really memorable in any way and didn’t come close to reaching the heights of the first album. Iced Earth tried to expand upon their Something Wicked Trilogy with a double album that expanded upon the mythology, but it also fell flat in comparison to the initial three song arc. Also, on this front, go fuck yourself, Insurrection Jon.

So, here we are with Between the Buried and Me going back to their 2007 album Colors. The first album was one of those touchstone moments where this band really started to make a statement that they were a prog metal force to be reckoned with. It was a massive slab of frenetic metal with odd segues into odd world music and other sorts of musical nerdery. It felt at the time that this was a band who was picking up the mantle that Dream Theater had started in the late 80s, early 90s of becoming the trailblazing prog metal band of their era. What Dream Theater was to the 90s, Between the Buried and Me has become in the 2000s.

So, I opened this package with extreme hesitancy. And, though there is much to like on this latest attempt at a sequel, once again the follow-up doesn’t quite reach the heights of the original. The feel of the music between the two albums is there. They’ve managed to capture the same sort of sound on this new album. However, it feels like those special emotional elements that make Between the Buried and Me such a great band are missing to some extent on this one. I can usually count on a few true goosebump type moments on each Between the Buried and Me albums and I just never found the music on this album pushing those buttons for me. Also, it feels like there were just a few too many quirky segues with cartoon/arcade noises thrown in at random places. I know this is kind of a thing they do, but it’s really starting to wear a bit thin. Hell, when they broke out the “Chugga, Chugg-owwwww” soundbite from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off I damn near had to pull the album off the player. This kind of stuff may amuse these dudes, but it effect o the listener is just jarring and, at least from my perspective, completely pulls me out of the vibe of the song.

All in all, a nice attempt, but not a completely satisfactory revisit of a classic album. I think I’d prefer a band to just keep progressing forward rather than revisit the past glories. The track record bears it out that it’s just not a great idea.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

KK’s Priest-Sermons of the Sinner

It’s almost as if the name KK has chosen for his band is aimed at something in particular. It’s subtle. Give it a bit and see if you can figure it out.

Damn, where to start with this one? There’s is a lot going on here. And, not much is good.

I guess the best place to start is with KK himself. Look, Judas Priest was a seminal band in forming my musical taste as a youngster. And KK was a huge part of that classic Priest sound. I’ve always loved the dude’s guitar playing. He’s simply a legend. Now, when he left Priest ten years ago, it sounded like he was just tired and done with the whole scene and was ready to retire. Cool. No problem, man. You’ve earned it. However, since Priest has gone forward without him and has even replaced him with a damn capable lookalike in Richie Faulkner, it feels as if KK has just turned into a jaded and bitter old guy who can’t stop bitching about how badly Priest fucked him over. Granted, when Glen Tipton was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and had to step back from playing live, I can understand why KK was upset and disappointed that Priest didn’t contact him and see if he wanted to rejoin the band. But, ultimately, KK was the dude that decided to walk away from the band. I think he kind of needs to take some sort of ownership in that.

So, it is in this light that we have the resulting band and album put out by KK. It’s ultimately a statement by a guy who feels as though he wants to remind the world that he is out there and that he can deliver the goods better than the current version of Priest at this point. Now, on the positive side, KK’s still got his guitar chops. There are frenzied riffs aplenty and searing leads for days on this thing. Lots of nods to Painkiller era Priest soundwise. Kudos to a dude who just turned 70 for being able to still blister a fretboard. On the negative, the songs just aren’t there. Lyrically, this thing is just cringeworthy. Lots out songs about being metal and about driving fast and kickin’ ass. The mindset on here is more 17 than 70. Some bands are able to pull this kind of thing off, but here it just feels sad. I mean, when the lyrics are “We’re Brothers of the Road….And we Rock! ROCK!!!! (revving engine sounds)” and “We’re Rule Breakers!! Hellraisers!!” I just want to curl up in the fetal position. There is one song called Hellfire Thunderbolt. I guess that’s cool. I’m not sure what it is, but sure, Hellfire Thunderbolt, indeed. Album closer is an attempt to revisit The Sentinel off of Defenders of the Faith. It’s probably the best song on the album, but it was still an interesting choice to include a direct companion piece to a classic Priest song.

The cherry on the top of this entire mess is the selection of Tim “Ripper” Owens as vocalist. Look, Ripper has a fine metal voice. But, at this point, he’s basically that retread, journeyman vocalist that everyone immediately thinks of whenever there is a vacancy in a metal band. He’s been in so many bands at this point and I have been racking my brain and I can’t really think of one that he has made better by joining. Look, I understand KK picking him since Ripper was the dude who replaced Halford in Priest and KK is trying to make this his definitive Priest statement, but honestly, the pick just feels lazy. I don’t know. It just feels like he could have spent a bit more time before making this decision. As to his performance, Ripper is set to maximum screech on here. He’s in the high register from the word go and he really doesn’t let up.

When I originally saw this album announced, I really had a bad feeling about it. And now that I’ve heard it multiple times, it pretty much lives up to every bad assumption I had made about it. And that makes me sad. KK, you’re better than this. I don’t see this tarnishing your legacy at all, but it’s not good. It feels like a desperate attempt to recapture past glory and to marinate in some old personal slights and grudges. Just not a good album.

2.5 flip flops out of 5

Rivers of Nihil-The Work

By and large, the albums that come out during a given year are just fine. There are a few good songs, a few mediocre ones and some filler. Most of the time, the albums all follow a familiar formula. Rivers of Nihil is turning out to be one of those bands for whom the standard is unacceptable. Each one of their four albums has seemingly upped the game from its predecessor. In a world of typical and uninspired releases, The Work feels like an important piece of art.

Rivers of Nihil began life as an extremely talented technical death metal outfit. They managed to turn the metal world on its collective ear when they released Where Owls Know My Name in 2018 simply for the progressive metal left turn it marked for the band. They added clean vocals, they brought in a saxophone player and they simply changed up their sound into something quite magical and unique. The Work continues to build on the framework laid down on Owls and simply takes it to further unexplored sonic territories. Hell, while listening to it I kept thinking to myself that we are witnessing the birth of the death metal Pink Floyd. Seriously. I say that with zero hyperbole. This is a band to be reckoned with not only in the death metal world or the metal world at large, but they should be held in the highest esteem in the general music world. These guys’ forward vision and willingness to takes risks puts them squarely in vanguard of bands at the forefront of metal.

You should be proud of this one, Rivers of Nihil. It is a fucking masterpiece.

5 enthusiastic flip flops out of 5

Ex Deo-The Thirteen Years of Nero

It seems like there was a joke going around a few years back that had the basic gist of “everything I know about history I learned from Steve Harris”. You’re reading a heavy metal blog so I’m assuming you get the joke, but if not, Steve Harris of Iron Maiden writes a shitload of songs centered on historical events. Ex Deo feels like a chop off the block of Mr. Harris.

Ex Deo is Maurizio Iacono’s (vocalist of Kataklysm) Roman Empire obsessed side project. In theory, I really dig this project. It’s an obvious passion project for Iacono and it feels like he puts as much effort into it as he does with his main gig. However, in practice, I’ve been quite critical in that, despite the differences in subject matter, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell where Kataklysm ends and Ex Deo begins. Musically, they are extremely similar in their very He-Man approach to death metal. Plus, a good chunk of Ex Deo’s lineup is composed of other members of Kataklysm. It’s really not much of a shocker that the two projects kind of blend into one another.

The latest album may be my favorite of the Ex Deo releases up to this point. The main reason being that this one stands further afield from Kataklysm than the other Ex Deo albums do. There are more orchestrations and use of traditional world instruments are this album that give it a bit more of an authentic feel than their past albums.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Insomnium-Argent Moon

Yet another pandemic resultant EP release. Seems like so many bands used their forced time off the road to write a few songs and we are now seeing a bunch of these songs being released in EP form. Insomnium has released this gracefully melancholy four song mini-album as their response to the pandemic shut down. It’s been one of the better direct responses to the uncertainty felt by many of us during this time.

Musically, this is pretty much straightforward Insomnium fare. It’s beautifully lush melodic Scandinavian death metal. They are continuing to incorporate more and more clean vocals into the proceedings.

I think the best summary of these songs comes from band leader Nille Sevanen in the liner notes. “In the spring of 2020 the world shut down. Everything was cancelled. Everyone was forced to stay home. Every fragile morning was full of uncertainty, fear and anxiety. As a band, we soon realized that we need to keep working. We need to keep writing music if we want to get through these strange times. And somehow the mood and atmosphere of those months were channeled into an idea of making an EP of ballads. Four songs, four videos. Something a bit different. Something we had not done before. These dreary tales and songs may seem desolate, but they really have the opposite purpose: to bring hope. For music, art and stories will carry us towards the new dawn.” I don’t get inspired by much, but this passage hit home with me. Listen to these songs and see if they don’t inspire you as well.

4 flip flops out of 5