Chris C's blog

Album Review: Intelligent Music Project II: My Kind O' Lovin'

Every so often, there comes along a record that reminds us that music is more than a mere commodity, that it can stand for something and make a real difference in people's lives. That usually takes the form of social commentary, or deeply emotional songs that buttress people in their darkest moments, but there's a small collection of music out there that has been made for the purposes of giving back. These are the sorts of things we should celebrate more often, instead of the latest veteran band going through the motions simply to prime the money pumps.

Album Review: Sabaton - Heroes

When last we heard from Sabaton, they were a band in a state of flux. “Carolus Rex” was the last statement of a band that was fracturing, a dividing line that will make clear what constituted the Sabaton sound all these years. The band split apart, with the majority of the instrumentalists forming the lackluster Civil War, and singer Joakim Broden keeping the Sabaton tradition alive. Band politics are often juicy fodder for the tabloid aspect of our world, but they mean nothing to the music, which is the only thing that should matter.

Album Review: Vestal Claret - The Cult Of Vestal Claret

Doom metal has always been an underground scene, but even in doom there are levels of complete anonymity. While bands like Pentagram, Saint Vitus, and Candlemass managed to make their names known, even if their audiences were always small, the vast majority of doom bands never make it any further than the devoted fans of the genre. Vestal Claret, to this point, has been one of those doom bands that you would never have heard of unless you were deeply entrenched in the doom scene.

Album Review: Epica - The Quantum Enigma

For all the attention Epica has gotten over the course of their careers are the most visible and consistent of the female fronted, symphonic metal bands, they are a mystery to me. I have somehow managed to go this long without sitting down and listening to a full Epica album, no matter how much praise has been heaped upon it. There's something about their stated mission, the blending of light and dark, soft and heavy, that feels to me like a band intentionally putting on handcuffs.

Album Review: Xandria - Sacrificium

There was a time when the way a metal band could stand out from the pack was to be symphonic, to play with classic sounds and textures that most metal bands didn't have the musical skill to incorporate in their arsenals. Adding loads of strings and choirs into the music was not just a way of sounding bigger than your contemporaries, but was a way of standing apart and giving yourself a unique identity.

Album Review: Super Massive Black Holes - Calculations Of The Ancients

For the last decade or so, one of the paths down which metal has gone involves the fusion of genres that don't, on the surface, seem to go together. It started with Opeth's unique brew of death metal and somber folk, but grew from there to include everything from the death metal meets jazz of Farmakon, to the 'super metal' of Monsterworks, and the kitchen sink approach that typifies bands like Between The Buried And Me. What they all have in common is a desire to do something unique in a space where it seems every good idea has already been explored.

Album Review: Anette Olzon - Shine

Anette Olzon was, like many singers before her, put into an impossible situation. Replacing a unique and beloved vocalist is next to impossible, especially when the band in question does nothing to help the cause. Anette seemed like an odd choice to join Nightwish after Tarja's departure, and her two records with the band offered mixed results. There were flashes of brilliance, but they were obscured by a band that wrote songs without realizing they had a different voice singing them, which did no favors to either side.

Album Review: The Oath - The Oath

Certain images come to mind when you think of dark, heavy, doom-laden metal. None of those involve two blonde women tapping into the seedy side of music for their inspirations. We've come to be conditioned to think of certain people in certain roles, and there's a disconnect that occurs when our conventional wisdom is breached. It can be uncomfortable, and it often leads us to second-guessing in times we normally wouldn't be prone to such things, but it can also open our minds to new possibilities.

Album Review: Tuomas Holopainen - The Life And Times Of Scrooge McDuck

The thing about concept albums that often gets forgotten is that both the artist and the listener have to truly be invested in the story for the album to work as intended. Without that sincerity, they amount to nothing more than bloated albums that use art as a means of excusing their weaknesses. When a bad idea comes along, like writing a double concept album about a mystic charlatan who was the medieval equivalent of a carnival huckster sitting in front of a crystal ball (yes, I'm talking about “Nostradamus”), there is no hope of the album ever overcoming the subject matter.

Album Review: Edguy - "Space Police - Defenders Of The Crown"

No metal band has meant more to me over the years than Edguy. They were the first heavy band I got into, and have remained a favorite throughout the ensuing years. While many were criticizing their decisions, whether the comedy that crept in on “Rocket Ride”, or the modern darkness of “Tinnitus Sanctus”, I was firmly in their camp. Fans may have been wishing for the band to return to the style they perfected on “Hellfire Club”, but their refusal to stay in place is one of the things I like most about them.

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