Essence – Smoke And Mirrrors

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Sometimes I listen to music and I just can’t get into it, even though every separate element on its own is to my liking, the final result just slightly misses my personal taste. Today’s review is about such a case: Essence is a progressive metalcore band from Belgium, and the guys are about to release their new EP Smoke And Mirrors on February 2nd!

As I said above, the quintet has all the ingredients to make me love the five songs: technically-sound guitar playing, solid drumming, enjoyable vocals, all wrapped in a matching massive production. But, in my opinion, it lacks one key thing: diverse songwriting with real highlights; which is a shame since the musicians seem to master their instruments quite well.

The other fact that kind of irks me, is the almost omnipresent “chugging”, which makes up almost half the time of these twenty-five minutes. Luckily, the progressive parts make up for that though, since they’re interesting enough to forget the rest. For me personally, an eighty to twenty ratio would have been the ideal mixture between melodic and heavy, but I guess that’s a subjective criteria.

The vocalist delivers a strong performance from start to finish, while solely relying on his powerful screams; sadly this is yet another tidbit where I would have liked some diversity. The usage of one singing style simply makes it hard to distinguish the choruses from the verses, which, to a melody-lover like myself, makes it hard to get into the songs.

I realize that this comes across as a negative review, but I’m actually really glad that I found out about Essence, because I’m convinced that, with a bit of tweaking, their approach to music has a lot of potential. Which is why, in closing, I can definitely recommend giving their EP a try, maybe you’ll enjoy it from the get-go. I, on the other hand, will follow their progress in the future and hope to get a chance to catch them live some time soon! Head over to their Facebook page for more information and watch their video below!

Tanatori – Stupids

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There are moments in my reviewing “career” where I don’t know what to think or say about the release that I’m listening to. Tanatori created one such instance with their debut, Stupids, that is going to be released on January 31st. Even after listening to it more than ten times, I’m still torn between calling it awesome-sauce deluxe and deleting it from my PC forever…but I tend toward the former.

Let me backtrack a little and explain: the musical range of the quartet is an interesting mix of thrash metal and southern metal with a healthy dose of groove! The resulting sound is truly remarkable and I felt absorbed from the first second of these thirty-eight minutes. The rich tone of the individual instruments is also a strong factor that contributes towards feeling right at home and having a sense of déjà-entendu.

The seven songs are a truly eclectic journey, that is reinforced by the uncountable vocal styles that the singer adapts, but therein lies one of the problems for me…kind of. If I didn’t know for a fact that the Catalans are a genuine band, I’d assume that Stupids is a metal parody, because at times I hear Phil Anselmo, followed by Ozzy Osbourne, transitioning into Zakk Wylde, only to end up in a crazy Mike Patton rendition.

Having said that, and knowing the facts, I can conclude that Tanatori has managed to pay homage to three great metal styles on a single record, while still bringing enough creativity to the table to avoid boredom! Obviously, this means that I give this the awesome-sauce deluxe stamp of approval and I can strongly recommend everyone, who has ever liked any of the above-mentioned genres, to give this one a spin. You won’t regret it!

In conclusion, let me tell you this ancient philosophy: if a band has a name that sounds like an Asian chicken dish, you give them a go. No questions asked. Head over their Facebook page and listen to the song below to get an idea of what they’re all about! ¡Ándale! ¡Ándale!

Lost In Pain – Plague Inc.

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If memory serves, I went to a private birthday party at a pub about four years ago, where I saw a band of youngsters cover some Metallica songs and, unless I’m mistaken, play some of their own songs and my initial reaction was: damn they’re good for their age. It took me a while to realize that I just witnessed my first Lost In Pain gig but I was severely impressed, a feeling that continued to grow every time I saw them play live. On January 23rd they’re releasing their second full-length, Plague Inc., and I was fortunate enough to get early access, so here’s my five cents!

As mentioned above, the Luxembourgish quartet’s main inspiration is quite clear and a well-known fact that has been talked about many times, so there’s no use beating a dead horse. What is worth mentioning, however, is the evolution that their sound has gone through in the past three years, since the release of their self-titled debut album. Time has had a very positive effect on the band members and their, already back then, respectable skills: the songwriting is way more structured, the riffs more interesting, the drums more precise and the vocals generally more enjoyable.

The ten songs showcase very versatile riffing, that will satisfy every thrash metal fan’s hunger and inspire many headbang outbursts, while at the same time bringing a very melodic aspect to the table. Which is exactly what I was referring to earlier: Lost In Pain knows how to write choruses that will be stuck in your head after the first listen; a fact that is a definite forte of their music. The technical prowess of the string department is also a factor that shouldn’t remain unmentioned, since there is a vast showcasing of crazy fast solos and many tasty licks, which spices things up quite nicely.

The adequate backdrop is provided by diverse drumming that never tries to steal the show with unnecessary parts. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not boring or monotonous, but simple enough to not take away the focus from the ensemble; a prime example of a well-executed piece of wisdom: less is often more!

All throughout the forty-six minutes, the singer delivers a powerful performance, that is mostly kept in a style akin to that of the frontman of a certain Bay Area band. To be fair, the singing is not just a cheap imitation, but rather used as a basis to add new elements and create even more melodic layers on the tracks, in the form of melodic screams, such as on Addiction, one of my favorites. I personally dig the vocals a lot, and I must admit that I can’t think of any other local vocalist that goes into a similar direction, which makes them even more interesting to me.

All in all, Plague Inc. is a second album like it’s supposed to be: an evolution of the previous one, while still keeping the initial idea! I can, without a moment’s hesitation, say that Lost In Pain have set a strong standard for 2015 when it comes to the Luxembourgish music scene and, in the same vein, that you should keep an eye on them in the future! In the meanwhile, you can visit their Facebook page and check out the video below. If you like what you hear, be sure to head to Rockhal this Friday, for the release show!

Salvation – Resurrect The Tradition

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I’ve set a personal goal for myself this year, which is to review as many different genres as possible, and after being off to a good start already, I’ll continue in the same vein with today’s band: Salvation! The Florida-based old-school hardcore formation is about to release its debut album Resurrect The Tradition on January 26th, so I’ll give you my two cents on it!

Before I do so, I should probably confess that I’m not a huge fan of traditional hardcore, especially in a live setting, but there are a few bands that I enjoy quite a lot. Today’s quintet, however, has all the elements that draw me toward this specific genre: massive amounts of groove, neckbreaking riffs and a no bullshit attitude!

On the other hand, it also highlights some of the factors that make me so picky when it comes to this type of music: too many chugging rhythms and generally-speaking a very repetitive songwriting. Which is why the eleven songs all seamlessly blend into each other and before you notice what hit you, the album is over. Luckily this doesn’t always necessarily equal something bad, because in this case I actually wanted to press the replay button.

During the thirty-five minutes, the singer mainly sticks to his aggressive screams and hardcore-typical spoken word-like singing, but occasionally he goes into deep growls and sometimes even into screeches, which gives the vocal front a nice multifaceted feel. Lyrically, I just can’t get around saying that it’s nothing I’ve heard on pretty much every record in the same genre that is out there already.

To sum things up, I’ll say that Resurrect The Tradition is exactly what its name suggests: a revival of many classic elements, with a dash of modern aspects, that managed to keep me interested but didn’t exactly blow me away. If you are into classic hardcore I can strongly recommend giving it a listen though! For more information, be sure to head over to their Facebook page and if you are curious, listen to the song below!

Tanya Tagaq – Animism

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I’ll be honest: today’s album is probably the weirdest shit I’ve ever listened to…but it’s good shit. Tanya Tagaq specializes in throat singing, a technique I had never ever heard of before this, which in itself is quite, for lack of a better word, special…but if you add eery and repetitive instrumentation to it, it reaches a whole new level of weird. After having a remarkable success in Canada, her album Animism is seeing a European release on January 26th…so let’s see what’s so special about it.

At the risk of sounding like an utter racist and offending an entire culture, let me say this: if I had to describe the Inuit throat singing, which is the core of these forty-nine minutes, I would compare it to a mixture of sounds that someone who suffers from severe lung cancer, coupled with extreme psychological disorders, while under the influence of strong narcotics, would emit. And I absolutely love it. In the process of discovering the album, I’ve looked into the technique a bit and it requires extreme skill as well as absolute mastery of one’s vocal chords, which I deeply respect and admire.

While the throat singing is definitely the major element of these eleven tracks, the instrumental backdrop is genuinely intriguing as well. It is comprised of several “classic” instruments, as well as electronic beats and while, or maybe because, it is fairly monotonous, it sucks you in and keeps you glued to your seat. Her regular singing is worth mentioning too, since it adds another layer to this multifaceted record.

While this review did turn out to be quite short, I honestly can’t tell you much more…because it’s really terribly difficult to describe what the listener of Animism is going through. Nevertheless, it’s one hell of a freaky “am I on acid or is this real?”-musical trip, provided you immerse yourself completely in what it has to offer. Be sure to visit her Facebook page and give the song below a listen, but be aware that it’s nowhere near the level of mind-boggling that can be experienced if you listen to the entire album!

Adventurer – Adventurer

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Today’s post isn’t really an in-depth review, but more like a brief introduction to a band that I only discovered very recently since they signed to Blue Swan Records, a label that has released three albums that were part of my top ten, last year. Let’s get down to business then: Adventurer‘s self-titled debut EP is the subject of the following couple of paragraphs!

If you are familiar with the label, it will come as no surprise that the Michiganders play post-hardcore, since every artist on the roster is part of the same genre. A fact that might seem boring to the ignorant, but the variety that can be found between all the bands is phenomenal! Personally, I’d rather have a label focus on a single genre and hand-pick every single group of musicians, thus ensuring a very high quality standard…a fact that is confirmed by today’s trio!

What equals complex guitar melodies, intricately rhythmic drumming and interesting songwriting? Correct! A seven track strong EP that is a blast from start to finish! If one considers that this is the first year that the band has been truly active, including touring and gaining inspiration, I can only imagine what the guys are going to come up with for their debut full-length!

Despite them being a three piece band, Adventurer employs dual vocals, with one covering the clean vocals, and the other one the screams and occasional growls. Throughout the twenty-nine minutes, the dynamic between both styles is always spot-on and guarantees a diverse ride! On a speculative side note: the cleans have a timbre that no other band on the label has, so a third superband in the near future could be a possibility…just saying.

This about does it for today. I’m aware that it reads more like a Wiki entry than a proper review, but I just felt like I had to spread the word and, hopefully, introduce some of you to them! You can listen to their entire EP below, and visit their Facebook page for more info on the progress of the recordings of their debut album, which will hopefully see the light of day this year!

Saint Rebel – Saint Rebel

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What are the first bands that come to mind when someone mentions Danish metal? Volbeat? King Diamond or Mercyful Fate? Right on! But over the past two years I’ve found out that there are many rather unknown bands that have a lot of potential to amount to something big! One of these is the quintet Saint Rebel, who are about to release their self-titled full length worldwide on January 12th, after a successful launch in their home country!

The guys from Copenhagen have a rather distinct style, which reminds me a bit of the classic 80s hair metal bands, but with a huge twist in terms of heaviness and groove. Elements of doomy stoner can also be heard in some instances, as well as some modern tunes akin to metalcore, but not quite. The resulting mixture is a highly captivating blend, that I’ve never heard so well executed thus far.

While heavy riffs and fast-paced drumming are predominant, there are also a couple of slower songs among the twelve tracks, which loosens up the whole experience quite nicely; hence repetition is not a word you can associate with Saint Rebel. In terms of production quality, every instrument is spot-on when it comes to sounding its best, which is definitely another positive aspect.

Last but not least, the main factor that contributes to my association with 80s hair metal, is the brilliant performance of the singer, who, with his mostly raspy voice, rounds of the forty-nine minute package off perfectly. But even here, it’s never monotonous…since his higher vocals are also an eye-, or rather, earcatcher. Coupled with the occasional screams and a strong sense for melody, I can’t really find anything negative to say.

All in all, this record is one that I can openly recommend to anyone who wants a fresh approach to mixing the old and the new, because it accomplishes it quite nicely! Personally, I have yet another Scandinavian entry on my ever-growing list of bands to follow in the future! Be sure to check out the video below and pay Saint Rebel a visit on their Facebook page.

Shredhead – Death Is Righteous

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Let me ask you: what better way to start the new year than with some kickass thrash metal? Shredhead are just what you need to wake up from all the partying these past few days, since their record Death Is Righteous is every thrasher’s wet dream!

I don’t know about you, but I was always pretty ignorant about the fact that Israel had a solid metal scene and it wasn’t until I came across Ferium in mid-2013 that my opinion changed greatly! Today’s quartet is originally from the same country and helps underline its importance in heavy music, since their modern approach to thrash metal is a blast from start to finish and doesn’t have to hide behind the big bands’ releases at all.

The eleven songs are a pure riff fest from start to finish and shower the listener in equal amounts of groove and fast-paced shredding. The influences are very wide-spread and at times you even get brief stoner metal moments to complement the gallop riff galore. One big thumbs up from me goes to the bassist, and the producer, since his instrument is clearly audible and noticeable on DIR! The strings are accompanied by very versatile drums, that make every genre enthusiast feel right at home with their relentless tempo and diversified beats, making the instrumental front an indestructible thrash tank!

Throughout the forty-two minutes, the vocalist delivers an extremely strong performance with numerous different techniques. Showcasing impressively fast screams, deep growls, high-pitched screech-like vocals and last but not least, almost, clean vocals in a few instances. From a lyrical point of view, it’s quite honestly nothing really surprising: zombies, death, violence and social criticism…but I’m fine with that. They are well written and to be frank: I don’t listen to thrash metal to discover life-changing points of view.

All in all, I can only say that Shredhead is a band to watch in the near future, because their future should be a bright one…or at least they have an album in tow that has a lot of potential. I believe that you will be able to catch them on quite a few European stages this year, so don’t miss out but meanwhile, check out their Facebook page and their video below until Death Is Righteous is out on January 12th!


Top 10 2014 by Yannick, Part 2

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#5 Secret Band – Secret Band

Starting part two off with another major surprise album. The band basically features all the members of Dance Gavin Dance, except the clean vocals, and holy shit does it rock! Utter craziness from start to finish…just the way I like it.

#4 Stolas – Allomaternal (review)

Continuing in the same spirit: Stolas managed to convince me as soon as I heard the first single of their new album. And the end product is just as amazing. A must for post-hardcore fans!

#3 Miss Fortune – A Spark To Believe (review)

Hands down my newcomer of the year, Miss Fortune have released an absolutely fascinating debut record. Here’s hoping that the band will go on, despite recent band-internal drama.

#2 Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter (review)

Must I say anything? How could this not be very high up on the list? However, it didn’t take the cake for me this year, despite awaiting this moment for six years.

#1 Issues – Issues (review)
Chiodos – Devil (review)
Slaves – Through Art We Are All Equals (review)
Hail The Sun – Wake (review)

Déjà-vu? I couldn’t decide last year, and it’s no different this year either…that’s why I don’t add scores or percentages to my reviews. I would consider all four of these records to be masterpieces in their own way. And I can strongly recommend them to anyone who might have some spare cash, each one of these is well worth your money. Trust me. If I did have to pick an absolute winner, it would probably be Slaves though; I can’t even count the number of times I’ve gone through that one.

That’s all I’m going to bore you with for this year. I hope to welcome back many of you, dear readers, next year! Until then: get drunk, stay safe and get laid! My personal highlights on the horizon are new albums by Lamb Of God, Devildriver, Pierce The Veil, Jonny Craig and Bring Me The Horizon! On the local level, the year starts with Lost In Pain‘s second album, for which I have high hopes as well! Well, read you soon!

Top 10 2014 by Yannick, Part 1

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2014 has been a truly eventful year, both in the musical department and the El Gore internal department. Our team has gone down from five to two people, which explains the lack of movie reviews in the past few months and the disappearance of the weekly Trash Mondays. Personally, it motivated me to work even harder and I managed to write sixty-nine reviews, a personal record, and thus ensured weekly content. But enough of tooting my own horn, back to the thing that matters: music. I can’t recall a year in the past decade that had so many great releases, so it’s been really difficult to compile the following list, despite upgrading it from five to ten. Either way, enjoy!

#10 Cosmogon – Chaos Magnum (review)

There have been many truly solid Luxembourgish releases this year, but for me personally this one just had everything I needed: catchy riffs, almighty groove and the necessary raw energy to make me bang my head at many shows.

#9 The Ghost Inside – Dear Youth

I’ve known about TGI for quite a while, but I never really cared about them. What a fool I was: after seeing them live this year, I could not await the release of this most recent record. The opener alone is worth checking this one out!

#8 La Dispute – Rooms Of The House (review)

There is seriously not much I can tell you here, except that you should check out my review or simply give the album a shot. But be warned: it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

#7 Betraying The Martyrs – Phantom (review)

The second full-length by the Frenchies is everything its predecessor was, and then some. I had high hopes, and they were not disappointed…making me even more anxious to see them live next year in February!

#6 Masked Intruder – M.I.

I had never heard of the US pop punk quartet, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw them live this year and they rocked so hard that I went ahead and bought both their albums. Good stuff!

Come back tomorrow for part two!