QUICKIE REVIEWS OF THE NEW PROTEST THE HERO, SCAR SYMMETRY, SYLOSIS, HAUNTED AND IN FLAMES ALBUMS
Here at MS we like to use the Reviews section to highlight smaller bands that we don’t otherwise talk about much throughout the regular course of our blogging. Said “regular course of our blogging” includes tons of articles about bigger bands’ albums, usually before release: song premieres (here or elsewhere), music videos, in-studio vids, album artwork, and so on and so forth. But when those albums do finally come out, well, a lot of the time they kind of fall off our radar. So what of those albums that we spend lots of time hyping? Full-on reviews are a royal pain in the ass to write, so today I’ll take a quick look at a few releases from the first half of 2011 and give them the proper review treatment in abbreviated form.
Scurrilous might not pack quite the same wallop as its predecessor Fortress, but our favorite Canucks certainly haven’t lost any of their gusto. Fortress was like nothing else I’d ever heard at the time, and a lot of what made it so special for me was that what-the-fuck?-ness about it — something that can never be repeated — but there is absolutely nothing less impressive about Scurrilous. The crafty arrangements, the impeccable chops, and most of all the songs. I’d even say the lyrics took a step up this time around with Mr. Rody Walker playing a more involved role.
Jonas Kjellgren has been coasting on his incredible songwriting talent since Christian Alvestam left the band, but his reserve tank of Death Jovi riffs may have finally run out of fuel. The Unseen Empire has a few gems (“Illuminoid Dream Sequence,” “Domination Agenda”), but for the most part the songs on this album aren’t as immediate as any of the band’s prior material, including the similarly Alvestam-less Dark Matter Dimension. To be clear, I’m not a fan of the goofy duo-vocalist approach Scar Symmetry has been employing since Alvestam left but the songs on Dark Matter Dimension were enough to overcome that. At least this time the band doesn’t go to great lengths to make the new vocalists sound like Alvestam, but the songs just aren’t quite there… and Scar Symmetry were always all about great songs.
In January I chose Edge of the Earth as my pick for Album That Will Fuck Your Face Off in 2011… and I hate to brag… actually, no I don’t: TOLD YOU SO! This album impales are sorts of aardvark babies big and small, skinny and fat, cute and ugly. Sylosis play the kind of metal I could best describe as Metallica-inspired; riff-driven, ferocious, tight and evil-sounding throughout, but not necessarily outright br00tal in the modern sense of the word. I’d place Machine Head and God Forbid in the same category. Edge of the Earth finds Sylosis stepping up the game considerably from their debut, dropping the tinge of metalcore that was in their sound, stepping up the technicality, attempting more ambitious songwriting techniques and most importantly writing FUCKING AWESOME RIFFS. Seriously you guys, the riffs on the record are completely unfuckwithable and they just keep coming and coming. The only fault here is that this record is way too long; with most songs topping 5 minutes by the time track 10 rolls around you’re downright tired. Sylosis would’ve been better off picking the 10 best tracks and saving the remaining 4 for an EP or something; there’s definitely some fat towards the tail end of the record that could be cut.
The Haunted – Unseen
This has proven to be a touchy subject, eh? I’m gonna defend the indefensible, contrary to Decibel’s infamous 0/10 review rating, and say that Unseen actually has something to offer. It’s clear that The Haunted have no interest in being the kind of band they once were, so let’s just Unseen on its own merit. The record has a few really solid songs. The Haunted aren’t trying to be heavy on Unseen so much as they’re trying to be weird, trying to expand from outside the box of what The Haunted is supposed to be. And it’s really difficult to fault a band for trying to grow artistically unless it’s an obvious commercial cash grab, which in this case it certainly is not. “No Ghost” and “Catch 22” are interesting un-Haunted like pieces of music and “Motionless” and “Unseen” are damn catchy in their own right. Still, years from now I don’t exactly think I’ll be picking this record to listen to over certain other Haunted albums, and there are lots of other records to come out in 2011 that will warrant relistening before this one.
Longtime fans of In Flames will be happy to know that Sounds of a Playground Fading at least sounds like an In Flames album; the guitars have guts and the drums are punchy, unlike the collective piece of cardboard that prior album A Sense of Purpose sounded like. Longtime fans of In Flames will not be surprised, however, that Sounds of a Playground Fading still isn’t really that good. Anders Friden is more into his half-sing-half-scream thing than he’s ever been, and good God, is it annoying. There are a few good riffs on Sounds of a Playground Fading a few mediocre songs, but nothing really all that memorable or special. Whether this has anything to do with the departure of Jesper Stromblad we can only speculate, but I’d guess not; the band has been going this way for a while, 2006’s excellent Come Clarity excepted. It’s hard to hate on In Flames given all the great albums they’ve given us, but there just isn’t that much here to like. “Darker Times” is my favorite album track.