Review Of The Week – A Crap Load Of ‘Em

This week we review new albums by Benedictum, Alestrom, Barn Burner, Black Country Communion, Job For A Cowboy, Between The Buried And Me, Kingdom Come, The Black Dalia Murder, and In Flames.

Benedictum – Dominion

BENEDICTUM returns with their third album, their first for FRONTIERS RECORDS. What drew me to the band originally was VERONICA FREEMAN’s powerhouse vocals. They are a nice blend of GRACE SLICK and RONNIE JAMES DIO. As a matter of fact, the band has covered plenty of DIO and DIO fronted BLACK SABBATH material.

The album is a big step forward for the band; it seems as if they have combined all of the right ingredients this time around. Uncreation had some strong tracks, and I, like most fans of the band, waited attentively for the follow up Seasons Of Tradegedy. Unfortunately this album fell very short of expectations; aside from the title track, it was almost as if the band had taken the proverbial step backwards.

With this said, I went into Dominion with a lot of hesitation, hence the reason why it took me so long to give the album an opportunity. I’m delighted to say that I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the album. Although we had seen flashes of what PETE WELLS could do on previous albums, his work really stands out this time around. The rhythm section of CHRIS SHRUM and MIKEY PANNONE are really in synch this time around, and TONY DIAZ adds the right amount of keyboards without going overboard like so many other female fronted metal acts.

The album starts off very strong, with the title track “Dominion” before heading off into “At The Gates”, “Seer” and “Grind It”. From here the middle section varies from good to decent, before kicking into the “Epsilon” which is another highlight on the album. As has become customary for this band, they wrap the album up with two covers, RUSH’s “Overture/Temple Of Syrinx”.

The band has brought their game to the next level, adding more of a thrash aspect to their music, and including guttural vocal where needed. As mentioned above, guitarist CHRIS WELLS shines and rivals what VERONICA FREEDMAN brings to the table on Dominion.

Grade: B

Alestrom – Back Through Time

Marketers have invented all types of interesting terms to sell albums these past few years. So why should metal be any different? You have pagan metal, folk metal, viking metal, and pirate metal. ALESTROM is from Scotland, and they would be classified as the latter. They do after all dress like pirates, and have pirates on the cover of their albums, so this is a lob for most marketers. The reason I bring all of these other styles up is that they don’t vary all that much from one another. Ok, I’m sure someone out there is calling me a tool at the moment (or worse), for not brining up exact points regarding why they’re all different. The lyrical themes obviously change, but the music is very similar. Back Through Time isn’t a bad album, it’s just more of the same, and more of what a million bands are currently doing. The title track opens the album, and it is by far the strongest track on the album. If you’re a diehard fan of the band, or this type of metal, I’m sure you’ll enjoy what this album has to offer. For someone like myself, I’ll play select tracks now and then, and get my fill.

Grade: C+

Barn Burner – Bangers II: Scum Of The Earth
This album really stood out to me, I enjoyed it from start to finish. I should also say it kicks ass from start to finish. I had not previously heard of the band, and thanks to this album, it fueled me to listen to and review all of the albums that appear in this section. Good albums have always made me want to search out other good albums.

Bangers II: Scum Of The Earth walks the fine line between stoner rock, hard rock and some metal here and there. To make a poor comparison, think a stripped down version of MASTODON mixed with the structure and groove of the heaviest aspects of THIN LIZZY, the swagger of MOTORHEAD and a few NWOBHM moments in the vein of bands like DIAMOND HEAD and SAMSON.

The tracks are full of energy and very live feeling. They are so catchy you can almost imagine what it would be like to see them performed at a show or festival. The tracks that stood out me where the opener “Scum Of The Earth”, “Dark Side Of The Barn”, “Keg Stand and Deliver” and the album closer “Ghost Jam”.

Definitely recommend this album to fans of any of the bands listed in this review.

Grade: A

Black Country Communion – Black Country Communion II

I really wanted to like their debut album, but aside from the lead off track “Black Country” the album felt very sterile. Shortly after the first album came out, news came out that they were working on a follow up. I figured they just wanted to get their feet wet with the first album, and really follow it up with a monster the second time out of the box. Boy was I wrong.

The album has one great track, the lead off “The Outsider”, but aside from “Man In The Middle” which is more reminiscent of SAMMY HAGAR era VAN HALEN, “I Can See Your Spirit” which has a riff that sounds a lot like “Misty Mountain Hop” and the closer “Cold” the rest of the album is just that cold, sterile, and in my opinion forgettable.

This band has some monster players, GLENN HUGHES, JASON BONHAM, JOE BONAMASSA, and DERRICK SHERRINIAN. But they’ve relegated themselves to recording a third rate LED ZEPPELIN knock off albums. It is a very linear, pro-tooled album, with no dynamic what so ever, with Zeppelin it was quite the opposite. There is no dirt, there is no sloppiness, it is all clean, refined and almost too perfect sounding.

I would love for this band to go in and work with Jimmy Page, to see him get out of them what he could do with Zeppelin. It obviously wouldn’t compare to the work he’s done in the past with the legendary band, but at least there would be some type of dynamic, some type of feeling to the album.

Grade: D

Job For A Cowboy – Gloom

I’m going to admit that I’m not the biggest JOB FOR A COWBOY fan. As a matter of a fact, I have grown sick and tired hearing how great they are, and how this is the next big band, the chosen band of this generation, etc. With that said, I felt that I owed it to myself to give it a listen, put all bullshit aside, and see if I thought Gloom was any good.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with the first two tracks “Misery Reformatory” and “Plastic Idols”, especially with the first track. Think MAX CAVALERA era SEPULTURA meets ARCH ENEMY. The solo section itself sounds as the AMMOTT brothers had constructed it and gifted it to the band. The last two tracks don’t catch my attention as much, because it becomes more of the same that we’ve come to expect from the band, and pretty much any other band that is performing this type of metal.

Grade: B-

Between The Buried And Me – The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues

I’ve been meaning to write something up regarding this album for a while, but life somehow got in the way!

This EP has to be a marketer’s worst nightmare. The sounds like comparison could be a mile long, at times it sounds like so many things, that you could easily list twenty bands that have influenced each song. For example, dare I bring up names like FAITH NO MORE, QUEEN, MEGADETH, SATYRICON, RUSH, DREAM THEATER? And that’s just the first three minutes of “Specular Reflection”, which lasts eleven minutes, twenty one seconds! “Augment Of Rebirth” picks up where the first track left off, with a heavy FAITH NO MORE/SYSTEM OF A DOWN influence in certain spots. The third track on this EP is “Lunar Wilderness”, the “mellowest” of the three tracks. This track offers two extremes, the mellow side, and a swift kick upside the head when going into the heavier sections of the song.

Three track, thirty minutes, and possibly three of the best songs to come out this year.

Grade: A

Kingdom Come – Rendered Waters

LENNY WOLFE returns to a more meat and potatoes approach. His albums (including those with STONE FURY and solo) have always had a track here and there that were catchy, and stuck in your head. But the rest of the album, although not bad, was just sort of there, nothing that really stood out. This album is no different. The lead off track “Can’t Deny” is probably the strongest. But the main riff is a blatant rip off of MICHAEL SCHENKER’s “Desert Song”. “The Wind” is a decent track, as is “Should I”, but after this the album meanders into mediocrity. Again, it isn’t bad; it just doesn’t stick out to me.

Grade: C+

The Black Dahlia Murder – Ritual

This is another band that I’ve never really been into, so take my review for what you will. The lead off track “A Shrine To Madness” is easily the best track on the album. The band, as pioneering as it may be has fallen into the same trap that so many other bands before them have. Once you advance beyond the first track they quickly become a band that is just regurgitating what they’ve done in the past. If you’re not a diehard, that may not be a big deal. If you are a diehard, maybe this is what a lot of you are looking for.

But I’ve already heard/read so many things about this album, how it’s more of the same, and how other bands have surpassed them, etc. The album is alright, but nothing outside of the first tack, and maybe “Moonlight Equilibrium” really stands out. The rest sounds like your run of the mill material from the band.

Grade: C

In Flames – Sounds Of A Playground Fading

I saw IN FLAMES at the KOBETASONIK FESTIVAL back in 2009. I had never seen them before, and outside of a few odd tracks, I can’t say that I’ve been a huge fan of the band. After seeing them live I went out and purchased Clayman and A Sense Of Purpose. Although lifelong fans of the band sort of poo-pooed the latter album, I still managed to enjoy it.

So I waited attentively for Sounds Of A Playground Fading to come out. I started seeing the promos the band was releasing of them recording the album. Unfortunately I can’t help but draw similarities to VINCENT CHASE’s Medellin trailer! Check the series ENTROURAGE out if you don’t know what I’m referring to. The trailer had all of the right parts pieced together, and really hyped me up for the album. The first single “Deliver Us” came out, and I really started to get excited, until I heard the rest of the album, and thought to myself, wow the bird on the cover has pulled his skin over his ears to not listen!

This album is flat; the band has lost its bite. I’ve mentioned sterile in a previous review, and that’s how this album comes off. Aside from “Deliver Us” there is nothing else that sticks out. Well maybe them ripping off COMBICHRIST during “Jester’s Door”, but aside from that there is nothing that really sticks out.

This album is just a safe continuation of what they have been doing with their last two releases. Nothing challenging, and maybe this is just their stepping stone or way of dealing with the loss of founding member JESPER STRÖMBLAD.

Grade: C-