Saturday, 19 July 2008

CD Review: Swampswong, by Kalmah (2003)


An astoundingly good heavy metal CD from Finland's Kalmah, Swampsong delivers a uniformly excellent songlist that sets a high standard and never disappoints. All nine songs are tightly controlled, distinctive, and feature memorable hooks and unique melodies.

The stand-out tracks are CD opener Heroes To Us, and the brilliant The Third, The Magical, with its exceptionally catchy interplay between Antti Kokko's guitar and Pasi Hiltula's keyboards. Doubtful About It All and Moon Of My Nights are just slightly less impressive, but still highly effective all the same as prime examples of melodic speed euro-metal.

This is Kalmah's third studio CD, and their sound continues to mature. Every song is both complex and well constructed. The music is written by Antti Kokko, while the lyrics are put together and sung in a melodic scream (appropriately mixed way back) by brother Pekka. The band has never sounded cleaner or tighter, and this is astounding considering that Kalmah's debut was already a near-perfect CD in terms of band sound.

Kalmah continue to prove that they are likely the world's best under-exposed heavy metal band -- and one of the best heavy metal bands, period.

Band:

Timo Lehtinen - Bass
Pasi Hiltula - Keyboards
Antti Kokko - Lead Guitar
Janne Kusmin - Drums
Pekka Kokko - Vocals, Guitar


Songlist (Ratings out of 10):

1. Heroes To Us - 10
2. Burbot's Revenge - 8
3. Cloned Insanity - 7
4. The Third, The Magical - 10 *See Audio Clip Below*
5. Bird Of III Omen - 8
6. Doubtful About It All - 9
7. Tordah - 8
8. Man With Mystery - 8
9. Moon Of My Nights - 9

Average: 8.56

Recorded by Ahti Kortelainen.
Mixed by Mikko Karmila.
Mastered by Mika Jussila.
Produced by Kalmah.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.



Sunday, 13 July 2008

CD Review: Follow The Reaper, by Children of Bodom (2000)


The third album from Finland's Children of Bodom is a mixed effort. It has an overall good quality feel, with no filler material. The songs all feature solid hooks, and tend to avoid Bodom's tendency for messy transitional sections where "any note will do". The band sounds tight and in control. Alexi Laiho's lead guitar is as energetic as ever, and the other band members provide good support. The band delivers their distinctive sound of guitar and keyboard driven melodic euro power speed metal, with vocals that are somewhere between spit out and sung by Laiho.

The disappointing side of the album is the "samey" feel to many of the songs, particularly in the middle of the CD. Children of Decadence, Mask of Sanity, Taste of My Scythe, and Hate Me are not bad songs; they just start to all meld together and don't offer enough to uniquely remember them individually. The lack of one killer track on the CD is also a disappointment. The best of the bunch is Bodom After Midnight, which is excellent, but in the overall catalogue of the band, there are many better songs.

The CD also ends with a whimper. Hellion, a weak cover of a weak W.A.S.P song, is a really poor choice, and Bodom does nothing original or clever with it.

But let's give credit for the overall relatively high standard of Follow The Reaper. The title song that opens the CD, as well as Everytime I Die, Northern Comfort and Kissing The Shadows (apparently hastily written by Laiho on the day it was recorded) supplement the quality of the aforementioned Bodom After Midnight, and make this CD a good, if not special, addition to the Children of Bodom career catalogue.


Band:

Alexi Laiho - Vocals, Lead Guitar
Alexander Kuoppala - Rhythm Guitar
Janne Warman - Keyboards
Henkka Blacksmith - Bass
Jaska Raatikainen - Drums


Songlist (Ratings out of 10):

1. Follow The Reaper - 8
2. Bodom After Midnight - 9
3. Children of Decadence - 7
4. Everytime I Die - 8
5. Mask Of Sanity - 7
6. Taste Of My Scythe - 7
7. Hate Me - 7
8. Northern Comfort - 8
9. Kissing The Shadows - 8
10. Hellion - 6

Average: 7.50

Produced by Peter Tagtgren and Children of Bodom
Engineered by Peter Tagtgern, assistant engineer Lars Szoke
Mastered by Mika "Count" Jussila

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.



Sunday, 6 July 2008

Film Review: Sex and the City (2008)


It's four years later. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) has settled into a relationship with Big (Chris Noth), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) has settled into life in Brooklyn, Charlotte (Kristin Davis) has settled into the role of wife and mother, and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has settled in LA, managing the career of her long-term lover.

None of this settling is without troubles brewing beneath the surface, as Carrie is longing for the re-assurance of marriage, Miranda has little time for wifely duties, Charlotte is about to receive a surprise and Samantha is gradually getting resentful that her life is not revolving around her.

And so we are off on a two-hour adventure with the ladies who forever transformed television, as they tackle life's latest challenges, this time on the big screen, dressed from head to toe in the latest designer clothes and accessories, visiting the trendiest restaurants, and in Samantha's case, seemingly spending every other day jetting from LA to New York and back.

There are no disappointments here for fans of the series. There is fashion, fashion, and more fashion, everything from out-there everyday outfits to wedding dresses (an excuse is found for a wedding dress photo-shoot), to haute couture (an excuse is found to attend a fashion show) to the latest designer shoes (an excuse is found for a pair of shoes to play a role in the storyline) to the latest designer handbags (yes, another role in the script is found for a handbag). Not an opportunity is missed to show a designer label, and no less is expected.

There are many gab-sessions over many meals and (mostly) many drinks. The full supporting cast from the series is back, and there is the welcome addition of Jennifer Hudson (of Dreamgirls and American Idol fame) as Carrie's new assistant.

What about the Sex, and the City? Plenty of both. Sex is near the core of the issues that Miranda and Samantha have to deal with, and as an added bonus, Samantha finds herself living next to a hunk who is always either (a) naked; (b) getting naked; or (c) naked and having wild passionate sex, with at least one partner. It's mostly (c), actually. As for the City, although the plot finds an excuse for a quick interlude at a five-star Mexico resort, and there are several scenes at Samantha's dreamy LA beach house, New York remains very much the fifth member of the group. Key locations that play a part in the film include the public library, the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, many restaurants, a luxurious penthouse apartment, and even City Hall.

The friendships, the fights, the misunderstandings, the make-up sessions, and the comedy are all here, appropriately proportioned to the big-screen experience, and as usual with Love being the emotion at the core of everything. Searching for it, finding it, being afraid to lose it, and trusting in it. It's also a nice touch for one of the other central themes of the movie to be the age of the central characters, now in their 40's, and a bridge is built to the next generation in their 20-somethings through Hudson's character.

It is rare for a TV series to translate so well to the big screen, but Sex and the City succeeds without the slightest stumble. It is highly recommended, of course for all women, and for all men who want to try and understand them.



CD Review: Ember To Inferno, by Trivium (2003)


This is the debut CD from Florida's Trivium, and one of the most impressive heavy metal debut CDs of the modern era. Out of the box, Trivium's sound is mature and polished, with sophisticated songwriting and engaging melodies. Often combining controlled speed with mid-tempo sections on the same song, Trivium's sound is made complete with vocals from Matt Heafy that are both screamed and sung. The result is a collection of tunes that is both engaging and aggressive.

Heafy, who plays the lead and rhythm guitar, was all of 17 years old when this CD was originally recorded, which makes it all the more impressive. Travis Smith's pounding drums and Brent Young's creative bass lines complete the talent. All three demonstrate terrific control of their instruments. Young was unfortunately no longer with the band when they started to become famous.

Ember to Inferno starts and ends with short instrumentals, and Ashes is another one in the middle. The title track is a mesmerizing heavy metal classic that combines pure power with a memorable hook, and it is preceded by three strong tracks: If I Could Collapse The Masses, Fugue, and Requiem. The second half of the CD is only slightly less consistent, with When All Light Dies another stand-out track.

The 2005 re-release included three previously unreleased bonus tracks. Both Blinding Tears Will Break The Skies and The Deceived successfully complement the original songlist by delivering the same potent mix of controlled speed, power and melody. Demon is taken from Trivium's original self-titled demo disc, and it strongly evokes Slayer. The fact that this is the only song on this debut CD that reminds the listener of another band speaks volumes about Trivium's achievement on Ember to Inferno.


Band (Recording Line-Up):

Matt Heafy - Guitars, Vocals
Travis Smith - Drums
Brent Young - Bass


Songlist (Ratings out of 10):

1. Inception The Bleeding Skies - no rating (short instrumental)
2. Pillars Of Serpents - 7
3. If I Could Collapse The Masses - 9
4. Fugue (A Revelation) - 9
5. Requiem - 9
6. Ember To Inferno - 10 *See Video Below*
7. Ashes - no rating (short instrumental)
8. To Burn The Eye - 6
9. Falling To Grey - 8
10. My Hatred - 8
11. When All Light Dies - 10
12. A View Of Burning Empires - no rating (short instrumental)

Bonus Tracks:

13. Blinding Tears Will Break The Skies - 9
14. The Deceived - 10
15. Demon - 7

Average: 8.50

Produced and Mixed by Jason Suecof, Travis Smith and Brent Young
Engineered by Jason Suecof
Mastered by Tom Morris

All Ace Black Blog CD Reviews are here.




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