All Them Witches-ATW

I see what you are trying to do, All Them Witches.  You think you’re being clever in an attempt to get around my hatred for self-titled albums, especially those that aren’t debut albums.  But I see through your clever ruse.  ATW?  Really?  You think I can’t figure out that that stands for All Them Witches?  Well, the jokes on you, buddy!  I totally figured it out.

OK.  Thanks for indulging that bit of nonsense.

I’m new to the All Them Witches bandwagon.  From what I gather, this group of retro-rockers has been at it for a few years now and have released what is album number five with ATW.  This is a damn solid effort.  I have to say that the thing that impressed me most about this album is the diversity in tracks.  So many times, I will listen to an album and be left amazed at the homogenized nature of all of the songs.  I will have a tremendously hard time recalling individual tracks because they all tend to run together in my mind due to the similar structure of each.  Not so with this album.  Each track has its own vibe, its own character and its own story.  You’ve got a psyche influenced track.  You’ve a got stoner track.  You’ve got a straight ahead classic rocker.  You’ve got a bluesy track. You’ve got a grunge track.  And all of them are delivered with All Them Witches spin.  It’s just a really refreshing album to have so many distinct tracks rather than just ten songs which are just a rehash of each other.

I love everything about this one except for the title.

4 flip flops out of 5

Revocation-The Outer Ones

Back in the 70s, it seemed like bands never took any breaks.  It wasn’t unheard of for bands to release not one, but two full-length studio albums of original material.  There weren’t any of these double-digit year breaks between albums like you see with some of the bigger names in metal.  Revocation brings that old school blue-collar work ethic back.  This latest album is the seventh full-length LP released by Revocation in the past ten years.  They are a thrash death metal machine and I absolutely love them for it.

So, I’ve gushed about these guys before.  They remind me of old school Megadeth crossed with a modern technical death metal sound.  Dave Davidson should be this generation’s Mustaine.  He is just in a class of his own in terms of technical prowess and the ability to craft an innovative and catchy riff.  This latest album is right in line with what you would expect from Revocation, but it seems like the riffs are a little more harnessed or a little more focused this time around.  The album isn’t slow by any measure, but it just feels like things are a little less chaotic.  The results are a concise and extremely infectious album.  I know these guys have a solid underground base of fandom and I keep waiting for them to explode a little more in terms of mainstream metal acceptance.  Maybe this will be the album to fully blow them up.

4 flip flops out of 5

Voivod-The Wake

Voivod is just Voivod.  They are one of those bands that has truly invented their own little personal genre.  Not exactly thrash, not exactly punk, not exactly prog, not exactly space rock, not exactly NWOBHM (by way of Canada).  It’s a blender of all of the above set to puree.  The resultant gloppy mixture coming out is just Voivod.  It’s a taste you either dig or you don’t.

The latest album sees our Canadian heroes pounding out an album full of sci-fi meanderings and apocalyptic conspiracies as they are wont to do.  The music overall is frenetic and has that weird hollow sort of recording that is found on many Voivod albums.  In a way, it is kind of hard to fully describe a Voivod album if you aren’t already familiar with Voivod’s sound.  I go back to the beginning:  Voivod is Voivod.  And this is good Voivod.  Go check it out.

4 flip flops out of 5

Amorphis, Dark Tranquillity, Moonspell and Omnium Gatherum at The Rock Box, San Antonio, October 2, 2018

This was one hell of a quadruple bill of melodic death metal that rolled into San Antonio this past Tuesday.

Kicking things off in proper fashion were one of my favorite underground bands.  Omnium Gatherum is one of those bands that I just can’t help but root for.  And judging from the crowd’s reaction to their opening slot, I don’t think I’m the only one.  Normally, the first band out of the gate gets a fairly lukewarm response from the folks that bothered to show up early.  But San Antonio did me proud.  Omnium came out swinging and hellbent on making sure the crowd was an Omnium Gatherum crowd by the end of their set.  Lead singer Jukka Pelkonen had the crowd chanting and headbanging while the rest of the band’s energetic stage presence seemed to grab everyone in attendance.  I keep saying that these guys deserve a bigger stage and if they keep putting on performances like this one, I can see it happening soon.

The second slot of the evening went to Portugal’s Moonspell.  These guys were kind of the outlier for the evening in that they were the only band not from Scandinavia and in the fact that they are really more of a goth-influenced band rather than a straight death metal band.  They definitely didn’t lack for stage props and atmosphere.  Singer Fernando Ribeiro came out looking like an old-time town crier holding a lantern which was in line with Moonspell’s latest album 1755.  He even broke out a plague mask for one song.

The last two bands were basically granted dual headlining sets.  Finland’s Amorphis came out first and, in my opinion, really deserved the top billing for this show.  Amorphis has really helped define the entire sub-genre of melodic death metal over the course of their career.  Blending death and clean vocals over grandiose guitar and keyboard driven songs that play heavily into the folklore of their homeland, Amorphis is just one of the standard-bearers for this kind of music.  It’s a moving experience in a live setting.

One of the progenitors of the Gothenburg sound, Dark Tranquillity finished out the evening.  It’s always a little weird when a band comes out of stage and your first thought is, “OK, who the hell are some of these guys?”  Present were mainstays vocalist Mikael Stanne, keyboardist/programmer Martin Brandstrom, drummer Anders Jivarp and new guy bassist Anders Iwers.  But who the hell are these guitarists?  Longtime guitarist Niklas Sundin was not on stage (it turns out that he is currently on hiatus).  In turns out that Dark Tranquility had to hire two touring guitarists to fill out their lineup for this recent tour.  Luckily, one of the replacements was none other the Christopher Amott, co-founder of Arch Enemy with his brother Michael and current guitarist of Armageddon.  The other guy (Johan Reinholdz) I had never heard of before, but he was downright awesome.  As such, the band really didn’t miss a beat live.  This was probably as sharp as I’ve seen these guys in a live setting.  I’m not sure of the liklihood of either of these guitarist joining Dark Tranquillity on a full-time basis, but it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for the remainder of the band to consider it.

Omnium Gatherum-Over the Battlefield

Moonspell-1755

Amorphis-Bad Blood

Dark Tranquillity-Where Death Is Most Alive

Dragonlord-Dominion

So many side projects…so little time.

Dragonlord is the long shelved black metal side project of Testament guitarist Eric Peterson and Dominion is the long gestating album that has been 13 years in the making.  This one is a labor of love by Peterson and it is a project that sees the light of day only by his pure force of will.  Peterson provides both the guitar work and the vocals.

Even though this album is primarily a symphonic black metal endeavor in sound, you’ll find yourself noticing touches of Testament-style riffs sprinkled throughout.  Minus the symphonic flourishes, the female and choir backing vocals and Peterson’s Shagrath-inspired vocals, there’s a lot on this album that feels more like a thrash album than a traditional black metal album.  Less blast beats and more groove, if you will.

Overall, this one is a fairly standard entry for a black metal release.  There are some positive notes throughout, but nothing really stands out to make this one stand out as anything other than just an average album.  I hate to say it, but I feel like this one is destined to slip into the subconscious after a month or so.  However, bonus points for Peterson going full Abbath with the corpse paint and spiked leather in the following clip.

3.5 flip flops out of 5