Friday, July 5, 2013

Metal Roundup - Miazma, Sabaton, Death Angel

Happy America week, folks! Time to celebrate our freedom to listen to whatever the hell we want with this assortment of awesome metal I've been digging lately. Check it out!

Miazma - "Bacteria of This Earth"

I've gushed about Miazma before, but since then I've only become more of a fanatic. Miazma are a band that a bit hard to pin down with a label, and that's just the way I like them. Their debut full-length "Bacteria of This Earth" is a volatile, progressive stew of death, black, and doom metal (but mostly death). As instrumentalists they are quite versatile, playing tempos ranging from a dirge to a riot with complex song structures that avoid stagnation. Vocalist Jackson Smith is a wonderful, diseased-sounding nail-gargler who actually pronounces real words... you could actually sing along to 80% of this. The whole thing is kind of like the cover: bleak, spare, surprisingly intellectual. Oh, and did I mention evil as fuck? Because yes. Rush to iTunes and buy this one.

Sabaton - "Carolus Rex"

Sabaton is a triumphant power metal band that really likes songs about battle and war, with one secret weapon that instantly sets them apart: Joakim Broden's awe-inspiring baritone. I love a good falsetto, but when you're writing battle music it's good to have a nice, powerful manly voice supporting those fancy guitar solos. "Carolus Rex" is a concept album about the rise and fall of Sweden's military might, and comes in a deluxe version featuring both English and Swedish language versions. Both sound good, but I think the concept plays better in the original Swedish, what with the nationalist bent of the whole thing. The band isn't flashy, but they never fail to get the job done. This is fist pumping mead-hall stuff, and when it was over even I wanted to march under the Swedish flag. Gott Mit Uns!

Death Angel - "Act III"

Death Angel's 1990 effort is one of a kind, the culmination of a strain of thrash that vanished shortly after it appeared, never to return. Nowadays thrash is the bastion of throwbacks and moshpits. There was a time, however, when some bands were pushing the music into new and unusual places. With "Act III" Death Angel finally conjured up strong songwriting to match their always top-notch musicianship for one shining moment, then broke up for a decade. This is a diamond in the rough.

In truth, the thrash label almost seems like a distraction here. The first two tracks do everything Anthrax tried to do with "Persistence of Time" only better. Having proved their thrash chops, Death Angel throw the first of many curveballs with "Veil of Deception". It's a melancholy acoustic ballad that is the strongest song on the record, and from then on anything goes. This isn't just unconventional for the sake of it though, rather the band has no fear in following their songs wherever they naturally lead. If this means spending a few minutes of "Discontinued" in an instrumental slap-bass funk-metal breakdown then so be it.

The only knock against the record is that there really isn't a single amazing track that I could point to and say "If you like this, buy the album!". But this is one of those magic records that is more than the sum of its parts. Just take my word for it: "Act III" is necessary for any thrash fan.

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