Between the Buried and Me, The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues (Metal Blade)
U.S. Release Date: April 12th, 2011

I’ll admit there are times when I don’t approach every review the right way. I try really hard to come in without prejudice and just listen to the album for what it is but it’s inevitable that some preconceived notions are going to get in the way now and again. One of those preconceived notions is about anything labeled “metalcore.” To me, metalcore is the default music played by d-bag’s that think screaming will get them pussy (and it probably does).

Now I’m assuming that if you are reading this right now, it’s for only one of two reasons. Either you like reading metal reviews (and maybe even mine) and this just happens to be part of the post, or you have googled the band name to check out the pretentious asshole “critics” that are bashing your favorite band. If it’s the former, thanks. If it’s the latter, I have some weird news for you; The Parallax is excellent.

If you’re a fan of the group, the record has already been streaming around the web for days, maybe weeks now so I’m sure you’ve heard it and have formulated an opinion already. If you’re not a fan, my opinion probably won’t matter anyway so a formal review of the record seems almost wasted. But let me take another route instead.

I have never listened to a Between the Buried and Me album. Based on my description of what I think metalcore is, you can easily tell that I hate the music typically associated with the genre and therefore I try to avoid it at all costs. But this was sent to me to review from their new label home, Metal Blade and it’s only three songs, so I figured what the fuck, might as well give it a shot. I heard the opening orchestral passage, the immense technical aspect of the disc, the softer non-metalcore passages mixed in and an overall sound that I didn’t know metalcore was about. Now, I know that Between the Buried and Me isn’t straight metalcore to begin with, so that may make all the difference for me and I’m not all the sudden going to change my opinion on the genre as a whole but this album has definitely opened my ears to that fact that not all metalcore is exactly the same as I thought.

So now over the span of a year or so, I’ve enjoyed one metalcore album and new discs from Linkin Park and Korn. I’m scared of what’s happening here but also intrigued that I’m opening up a little more to the sounds that I would usually just toss aside. For that I thank Between the Buried and Me.

Rating (out of 5 I heart metalcore shirts):

 

Pentagram, Last Rites (Metal Blade)
U.S. Release Date: April 12, 2011

Yeah baby! Bobby Leibling and Victor Griffin back together again after some time apart. Last Rites is the first album for the classic Pentagram in six years. Apart from some excellent records like 1987’s Day of Reckoning and 2001’s Sub-Basement, the thing that I always remember Pentagram for are the photos of Leibling. I’m sure there are thousands out there but have you ever seen one where he doesn’t look just bat-shit crazy? He makes these faces on stage that looks like he’s possessed and of course those are the shots that make the web.

Adding Victor Griffin back into the mold is going to be great for touring as they’ll be able to fully recreate the sound of their heyday but the resulting album from their re-partnership is less than stellar. It’s not like their brand of heavy mixed with doom was ever upbeat but it was always intriguing and engaging. I don’t feel much of that within Last Rites. I guess it’s inevitable since they’ve been around in some capacity since the early ’70s, but Leibling sounds old and tame songs like “Treat Me Right” and “Windmills and Chimes” don’t fit the Pentagram moniker. Griffin’s solos on the record automatically put it a step above their last release — Show ‘Em How — but that also isn’t a major accomplishment as that record is the weakest of their career. It’s worth a listen for the nostalgia factor but don’t expect to hear anything close to what you remember Pentagram being unfortunately.

Rating (out of 5 crazy Leiblings):

Kingdom Come, Rendered Waters(SPV/Steamhammer)
U.S. Release Date: March 22, 2011

Oh yes, friends. This is “Kingdom Clone,” that band you thought was Led Zeppelin back in the late ’80s. Did you know that Lenny Wolf and a cast of musicians have been recording ever since that point? Granted, I think most of the records never made it to the U.S. but there has been a steady stream of Kingdom Come material since the late ’80s. I’m just wondering if any person in America knows anything about them other than the simple fact that all their singles sounded just like Zep.

“Kingdom Clone” is the moniker they were given back in the ’80s and they never overcame that, at least in the states. The fact that people thought they were a reunited Led Zeppelin gave them their 15 minutes of fame but also made them a virtual laughing stock. However, a lot of people really into hard rock from the decade think their first two records which generated pretty much everything you probably know, were fantastic records. I’m not one of them. They were good but nothing special and when the virtually unlistenable Hands of Timecame out in 1991 they were a faded memory to all but die hards.

So, that brings us to Rendered Waters, which I have to admit I was initially kind of torn over. And it wasn’t because I was never really a fan of the band or the likelihood that 20+ years later they would put out some new and fresh material was slim. It was because of the immediate contradictions brought forth by this album. Wolf has come out and said that he wants people to focus on Kingdom Come now, not what they were before. But Rendered Waters is three new songs and eight newly recorded versions of older tunes, not even including their biggest hit, “Get It On.” I’m not sure how I can focus on the present when the album mostly features the past.

Why am I torn, though? Because it’s good. Actually it’s really good. The new versions of “Should I” and “The Wind” bring a new dynamic to the songs that I don’t remember them having. New track, “Blue Trees” has a tremendous riff and doesn’t have any of that Zeppelin sound they were known for. Lenny Wolf sounds like he doesn’t quite have the vocal chops he once did but I didn’t do a side-by-side comparison of any of these songs. All I know is that I love the ’80s and Kingdom Come was never really on my radar. But for some reason, I can’t get enough of this album. If you can’t get past the fact that most of these are newer forms of older songs, then you’ll be missing out on a damn fine slab of hard rock.

Rating (out of 5 black dogs):

Septicflesh, The Great Mass (Season of Mist)
U.S. Release Date: April 19th, 2011

First of all, I must state the obvious that this is one of the most badass names for a metal band of all time.

With that out of the way, The Great Massmarks the 8th LP for Septicflesh and their second since reuniting in 2008 and signing with Season of Mist. The group has evolved over time from an atmospheric death metal band to an orchestral one. They always had an orchestral element as part of their music but their last album – Communion –  was the first one in their catalog to feature the Prague Philharmonic throughout the disc. The Great Mass also employs the same group but with even greater success.

I’m not a big fan of symphonic metal as the majority of groups either sound like a clone of a hundred other bands or the symphonic element completely takes away from the brutality of the metal – a group like Children of Bodom are a great example of the latter. I mention that name on purpose because there’s going to be comparisons to the two groups now that Septicflesh seems to have chosen this direction as a permanent fixture to their music but Septicflesh don’t cover Eddie Murphy and Britney Spears. Septicflesh doesn’t make music for teenagers. They do this right. The strings don’t completely drown out the metal. The brutality of their brand of death in fact seems even harder than it probably is due to the contrast between the two elements. “Oceans of Grey” is a track that has some prog-ish moments with operatic vocals in it and yet I still want to bash someones head open with a hammer after listening to it. There are some moments where the grand scale of the orchestra push the brink of being over-the-top but they never seem to fully cross that line. It does worry me a bit for the next record as The Great Mass is a rung closer to that point than Communion was and I’m not sure there’s any room left to be worked with but for now that means they’ve got a damn fine record right here.

Rating (out of 5 of that creepy thing from Communion):