Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Realmbuilder - Fortifications of the Pale Architect - 85%

The Tell of the Realmbuilder : The Epic Empire Will Live On

Prelude : There are some castles that will manage to succeed the test of time, hence preserving their cultural baggage with their solid walls. These structures will help the old age ideologists in their quest, a never ending homage to their gods, their influences, their mentors. In Realmbuilder's little but honest castle, there's an idol in the shape of a shark placed in the center of their chapel. Praise thy altar. Like the epic metal templars they are, criticism is nothing important, they'll keep fighting with the help of their proud sound. who cares what the more popular cults say, who cares what me, an apostle of no importance say.

Still, this is my testament to them. In my mind, in this era, this is a success in itself to follow the guidance of the Shark and his road to Manilla. Albeit being happy with the noble intentions of this duo from the New World, the great city of New York to be more precise. Before my continuation of this publication, I have to state that I am offering them my full approval. I'll gladly support their real metal crusade by offering my most sincere thoughts in a non apologetic manner.

Verse I  - The Painting on the Walls : The cover art is quite interesting, it was done by Czar (drums, vocals, lyrics) and I really appreciate the old 80s fantasy video game/tabletop role playing game vibe. We have a caped tyrant looking at his spires outside his castle window and there's huge mountains in the background. It's a bit amateurish, but for the style they play, it fits, just like Manilla Road's artwork always fits their music even though it's obviously not the prettiest drawings around. Epic metal is not something that we should take very seriously, it's something that we should enjoy with our child hearts just like when I play Dungeon and Dragon. It's touching our imaginary perception, it touched mine at the very least.

Verse II  - The Lyrical Approach : Czar, outside of his musical endeavors is also a novelist and screenwriter. So, we have a very vivid album with captivating ideas developed in an epic fashion. Nothing new that their forefathers haven't told us before though, we can read Howard's influence on Old Savage and A Conflict Between Dukes reminds me of the Dune saga by Frank Herbert. The lyrics are often simple, but full of imagery and they were fun to read. But in the end, they kind of fall short compared to some other songwriters such as Solstice or Atlantean Kodex. I'm sure the lyrics can be more complex and even more enjoyable.

Verse  III - The Construction of a Realm : A kingdom, if you're not Alexander the Great, will take a lot of time to be established. If your desire is to enjoy life itself, you'll be better served with small pleasures. Being a visionnary is harsh and it's not given to everyone. What these two guys do is passionate epic heavy/doom for the initiated disciples and it's definitely full of nostalgia. It can be perceived as a middle of the road band, but with the amount of this kind of steel released, I'll gladly take what I can. They're not a lazy band, they do not sound like a particular band, instead they're encompassing many old school influences and making them their own.

My principal criticism towards their music is definitely the vocals, J.H. Halberd's delivery is unorthodox and its power is lacking. Like Realmbuilder's overall sound, it took me a while to appreciate them and I'm still reluctant when I'm confronted with the album.I like the dynamic that we can find in a duo (I'm a fan of Darkthrone's modern and more traditional metal material) but I think the addition of a seasoned vocalist would be something welcome. He's not a bad singer, but I'd like more torque in his vocals. The moments with background/choirs vocals are well done though. His style is not nasal as Shelton or Baker, it's more subdued and he's at his best when it's slow and there's a traditional doom ambiance. Nonetheless, there's some really catchy vocal melodies like the ending of the title track, I was humming this part while I was walking in the cold and it's epic, memorable and immediate.

Fix the ladders/Stack the stones/We build the wall that shields the empire

Verse IV - The Epitome of a Grower and the Foundations of the Realm : When I first heard the album, I thought it was really underwhelming and incomplete, I learned to like it, the very good riffs tamed my opinion. They're mesmerizing and my only desire is to get vocals to match them. It's a duo but they do have a lead guitar guest, while necessary, the leads are not pristine and are a bit anticlimactic, especially in the doomy track Old Savage. The songs are truly epic, the atmospheric track Ascend to the Glass Kingdom is well done even if it's used as an interlude in the middle of the album, I'd like to see this side of the band more thoroughly. While the band can have really catchy moments on their more fast paced tracks (just like Cirith Ungol or Manilla Road), I prefer their slower numbers like the last track The Stars Disappeared from the Sky When We Uncovered the Bones of the First Gods (no, it's not a Bal-Sagoth song). Their blend of epic heavy and doom metal is charming and I kept trying to enter the realm, after three or four attempts, something happened, a door got unlocked somewhere. It's something that doesn't happen often to me, I either like something from the start or I don't. The bass could be more present and noisy just like their ancestors, it's a bit buried under the mix. Talking of the production, it's appropriate and without any frills and I guess that's how the band wanted it.

Postlude : This album is highly recommended to all epic metal aficionados worldwide and also to the Dungeon and Dragons geeks ! It's a better and more focused album than their debut Summon the Stone Towers and there's slower numbers. Talking of their doom dimension, maybe it's because I'm more a doom apostle than a traditional metal one, but I think it's really their forte. I would happily live in their realm, they took their time to build it, the foundations, the fortifications and materials are solid.

Some of my wish for the band's future : longer and slower songs, more intricate lyrics and songwriting and I'm sure it can be even more epic than it already is !

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Natur, Voor, Metalian & Barrow Wight Live Review - February 16th 2013 @ Katacombes

Here's the review of my evening at my favorite venue in Montréal, the Katacombes!

Barrow Wight
This band is a newcomer from the Canadian capital, Ottawa. A city not especially known for its metal scene but these guys
were cool. They're a mix of Venom, Darkthrone and NWOBHM mixed with Lord of the Rings. They're amateurish as fuck but that's literally what they want, the leader and founder of the band (bass/vox) is charistmatic and lead the 2 other younger than him high schoolers with an iron hand. The guitarist who were trying to be "theatrical" with his Hobbit cape was funny and it really was obvious than he's a new member because of some of the problems he had with the songs, still, the set was very fun and I appreciate their sound and attitude. Songs like "Anvil of Mordor" and "Nine Horsemen" and a tongue in cheek stage presence made this a succesful first presence for the band in Montréal.

PS: Fuck the drummer who had to bone his girlfriend before the show and this was apparently the reason their set was 30 minutes late and yep, I missed the metro because of this delay :/ No biggie, I went to watch a movie at HB's place, good way to end a very cool evening. Dude, you're not a rockstar!

PS 2: Thanks to Andrew for the beer and the demo, my first reward as a MA moderator! My awesomeness is finally recognized! :oh shit:

Local heavy/speed metal hereos, Metalian is simply fucking awesome and a lot of people were present for them. They completely destroyed with their awesome Maidenesque leads and their soaring high vocals, their energy is really contagious and the crowd response was awesome as always (it was my 2nd time seeing them too). They finished their set with an awesome cover of Phantom of the Opera, damn this was great!

Trash metal. God, I know these guys are kvlt and all, but I really thought their set was freaking awful. It's basically 2nd rate Possessed with lame old guy punky vocals. They had some good riffs here and there mostly from their 1985 demo Evil Metal but their new songs are very poor (with lame titles like "Don't bring a knife to a gun fight"). The crowd seemed to have been pleased though, I wasn't, I was bored out of my mind for their 45 minutes set. I would like to be a chauvinist and praise Voor simply because they're local, but I can't. There's some bands that are best kept forgotten. A Nuclear War Now! re-edition doesn't
make them good.

Man, I probably heard their first album Head of Death 4 times this week before the show, it's a very good trad/heavy with NWOBHM influences from New York. The lineup of the show was different from the album though (the bassist and the rhythm guitarist/lead singer were absent and they 2 other guys (albeit talented players) replacing them. The drummer Tooth Log and the lead guitarist (I wonder if it's their real names?) were great too, Tooth was the singer for this evening and there was no backing vocals, something that would had been nice. His vocals were cool but were suffering at the end, drumming and singing heavy metal must be very hard!

Their set were cool, perhaps a bit too short though (40-45 mins). They played The Messenger, Head of Death, Decion, Goblin Shark, Mutations in Maine and 2 new songs. These new tracks were also fantastic and more doomy than their first album. Natur certainly has a lot of potential!

Great evening all around!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Axxion - Axxion EP (2012) - 75%


Boobs, Beer and Metal!

Directly from Canada's metropolis, the cosmopolitan city of Toronto, Axxion is a new heavy metal and this EP is their first release. Comparable to their friends Cauldron, the band is influenced by many heavy metal scenes including NWOBHM, some USPM and even the Swedish traditional heavy metal bands (Heavy Load & Gotham City). They're a four piece with a very cute blond woman handling the drums (I'm happy we see more women in metal these days and not just operatic chicks in corsets).

While the passion is definitely there and the goods are delivered, this EP lacks something to be truly a beast. Nevertheless, this is s a first offering and the songwriting is quite decent and shows potential. It's very enjoyable, fun and if you like good honest heavy metal you won't be disappointed. There's more strengths than mistakes, really. The band has two very competent guitarists (Sir Shred really does honor to his name in a live setting and Devon Kerr is an awesome front man who can play his share of the leads/riffs). His vocals delivery is similar to his Ontarian brethren in Midnight Malice or the aforementioned Cauldron and it's definitely enjoyable. While not a very powerful vocalist, he has maximum charisma and can hit high notes when the songs are asking for it. He can shine on either faster or midpaced tracks, these later are my favorite songs of the album (Voyager and Savage Avenger). On the other hand, I usually prefer the epic side of traditional metal, I mean I think Harley Davidsons are cool but give me sword and sorcery and I'll be in Valhalla. While I'm talking about this, I think Axxion's lyrical identity is a bit weak, outside of the two more epic tracks, the three others are your typical heavy metal drinking and fucking songs ("Livin' into these crazy nights" or "ride your stallion through the night"). Not that I don't enjoy these kind of songs, but I prefer a certain cultured lyricism, that's why I'm a fan of Manilla Road or Slough Feg, call me a boring snob, I won't mind, I would agree with you. If you want to write a song about sex, find a cool and original subjects like teledildonics or something. I'm also not a big fan of samples in music, not really an important criticism but it must be noted (the one in Crazy Nights annoyed me a bit, I feel it's pausing the momentum of this fast paced and festive song)

The guitars and riffs are very fucking good, but I think the production is a bit weak and muddy, but this little problem will probably be solved in the near future if they ever do a full length, I certainly hope so. The solos are top notch and of the highest caliber in the style (check out the dual leads in Savage Avenger). I wish the bass was louder though, the rhythm section while good is a bit underwhelming compared to the guitars and vocals. Their song structures are rather normal and safe, but this was expected with the style they play. Still, I would to hear them play an epic 8-10 minutes song, they have the blistering solos and songwriting skills to nail something like that.

This 22 minutes release is a strong slab of pure lusty and passionated heavy metal but do they have what it needs to become a forerunner of the style ? Perhaps, they are a very strong live act and their music although catchy and competent needs some refinement. One thing though, this is becoming a saturated market and it's hard to create a fuss in the underground, especially here in Canada. I mean Skull Fist or Striker did it but it's sometimes only luck. Nonetheless, a thing they managed to accomplish here is to grasp the spirit of what heavy metal was in the 80s and what it should be today, I would certainly wear their patch proudly on my new kutte. Canada is still part of the Commonwealth and this NWOBHM inspired release would certainly please Steve Harris, the de facto king of England.

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