Melodic death metal

Review: The Black Dahlia Murder – Abysmal (Deluxe Edition)

Location: Waterford, Michigan
Genre: Melodeath
Released: September 18, 2015
Format Reviewed: FLAC

By: Kris Kotlarik

For many years, I was unimpressed with The Black Dahlia Murder’s output. I tended to write them off as some Hot Topic butt metal band. But when they were in Columbus during the Decibel Magazine tour featuring Noisem, Carcass and Gorguts, they more than held their own as a live band in a lineup full of impressive performers. So I decided to look into their output further and I found that for me, their music has a niche. And that niche is workout music. Their seventh full album, Abysmal, fits that same mold.

This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. If I’m running a 5/10K, this is exactly the kind of album I would want to play. It doesn’t let up at any point in time from start to finish, which is fantastic. But at some point, when you dig deeper into the album’s sound, you start to realize that all the tracks kind of sound eerily similar to each other.

After the third track, I drifted into daydream mode because nothing was standing out as anything different from what I had already heard. So I had to go back again several times and listen to it, and each time, I had the same thing happen: I would zone out with Abysmal playing in the background.

You’re probably thinking I have ADD or something like that, and you’re probably right. My brain loves music that goes in a bunch of different directions throughout an album. But to be fair, this is a marked upgrade over similar albums by Arch Enemy and In Flames. In this case, being consistent and not letting up is to the album’s benefit. And although it’s difficult to remember standout tracks, there are plenty of standout moments, such as the fun dual-channel guitar interlude towards the end of “Vlad, Son of the Dragon,” and the impressive title track’s unrelenting blasts.

There aren’t any bad tracks, but there are very few that stand out among the others. The vocals remind me somewhat of The Dillinger Escape Plan mixed with a metalcore element. The production is also crisp, in line with their previous works. But the bonus tracks merely feel like an extension of the record itself. They don’t add much substance, but like the rest of the record, they are fun. And that’s what counts, right?

The last thing I want to point out here is that the run time (under 43 minutes counting the bonus tracks) is just about perfect for an album like this. If it were any longer, listener fatigue would set in. The band and label know that they don’t need to put 70 minutes of material on an album in order for it to succeed, and they got the run time here exactly right.

Overall: If you’re looking for a constant rush of energy, look here.

Rating: 3.0*

Buy the album here.

Review: Level 10 – Chapter One

Location: International (United States/Germany)
Genre: Heavy/Melodic metal, hard rock
Released: January 27, 2015
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Recent Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

Remember when Russell Allen was universally respected as the lead singer of Symphony X, a band that is capable of writing 23-minute songs about The Odyssey and an entire album about the perils of our society being overly dependent on technology? Let’s just say his reputation has taken a bit of a hit recently.

When he’s not putting together solid-to-amazing bandmates, he can be seen collaborating with the masturbatory Jorn in the soulless Allen-Lande project. There’s also the disaster that is Adrenaline Mob, a band that was terrible to begin with and has only gotten worse with each release.

The 2015 version of mediocre Allen comes in the form of Level 10, a collaboration between Allen and Mat Sinner, as well as various members of the German power metal band Primal Fear. And when I say this is mediocre, I am not exaggerating. This is run-of-the-mill heavy metal with some decent vocals behind it, but it often teeters on the edge of excessive cheese. “All Hope Is Gone,” for example, is a Sonata Arctica ballad in disguise.

The only songs that stood out in a positive way for me were “Demonized” and “When the Nighttime Comes,” both for various riffs that had potential but weren’t explored upon further. “Voice of the Wilderness” has some interesting vocal parts from what might be an outside choir that warrant several more listens. Everything else about this is completely forgettable.

Please, for the love of Krishna, get back to Symphony X.

Overall: This is what I think of when I picture music that I could listen to in the car if the only other option was listening to 107.5 or 106.7. Not familiar with Columbus radio stations? Don’t look them up. 

Rating: 1.0*

Review: Sylosis – Dormant Heart

Location: Reading, England, UK
Released: January 12, 2015
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Recent Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

Sylosis is a band I have heard a lot of good things about, but not from. Their fourth album, Dormant Heart, doesn’t do much to change that perception for me.

That sounds harsher than it actually should be taken; I don’t think Sylosis sucks. But they sound too much like Machine HeadArch Enemy, and Insomnium, among other bands that I don’t particularly like. These bands’ footprints are all over this record, and because of that, the good parts are only in bits and pieces. The titular track has a great intro to it, while “Victims and Pawns” and “To Build A Tomb” each have some nice riffs and guitar work that don’t last nearly as long as they should. Most of the other songs don’t develop into anything special and are entirely unremarkable; “Leech,” “Harm,” and “Mercy” come to mind as tracks to avoid.

All that said, the nine-minute “Quiescent” is an all-around good track that is more experimental than anything else on this album, yet still accessible for most metal audiences. It explores the more melodic aspects of their sound and is fairly light in comparison to what the rest of this disc puts in front of it, but reaches a nice fever pitch close to the end on a nice, lengthy crescendo. “Callous Souls” and “Indoctrinated” are also good tracks that sustain a more uptempo, aggressive energy throughout the song.

There are two bonus tracks; “Pillars Erode” is so Machine Head that it’s uncanny, and “Zero” is a cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ original hit. It’s not a good cover, although it did give me inspiration for another death metal karaoke rendition.

Overall: Very average, although “Quiescent” is one of the better tracks to be released recently.

Rating: 2.0*