Name that metal riff, version 1

September 30, 2008 at 3:32 pm (Name that riff) (, , )

Hey everyone.

I love to hear from readers, but I think that reviews and interviews don’t lend themselves much to feedback. So, I decided to do a “Name that metal riff” game for you! I created a Youtube account just for this, so if I get a lot of feedback and you all want more, I would be happy to do more videos.

These get progressively harder! Good luck, I bet most metal fans would be able to get a few. Only the TRUE can get all seven!! Leave a comment and let me know what you thought. Guesses, technical advice (My picking hand looks strange!), insults, whatever you want. The whole point of this is to hear from you.

EDIT: As of October 1st, 2008 we have a partial winner. Silence got six of seven right. Hats off to him or her, so if you’re stumped you can scroll down for the correct answers. If you want hints, I put some hints for the only remaining mystery: Riff 6.

Have fun!

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At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul review

July 24, 2008 at 8:11 pm (Reviews) (, , , )

At the Gates - Slaughter of the Soul art

At the Gates - Slaughter of the Soul

Slaughter of the Soul is one of the most important metal releases of the 1990s. The production style, atmosphere, and most importantly riffs forever changed melodic death metal. “They’re just At the Gates rip-offs!” is one of the most commonly heard criticisms of derivative melodic death metal bands. But when you write the book, you have to expect some sentences to be copied…

Slaughter of the Soul is their last album, but At the Gates have a respectable back catalogue of work. From more primitive, visceral Swedish death metal ala Entombed or Dismember on the Gardens of Grief EP to the very ambitious With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness full-length, their progression was slow but persistent. The EP before Slaughter, Terminal Spirit Disease, hinted at what would appear next: the oddly-picked rhythm guitars, Tomas’s increasingly desperate vocals and creative drumming were present, but the ingredients hadn’t solidified.

The first thing you notice about Slaughter of the Soul is the production. The drums are very apparent, the cymbals are bright and the bass drums have enough treble to pull them out of the muddy swamp that engulfs too many metal drum sounds. The snare cracks viciously while the toms are perfectly balanced. The guitar tone, product of a homemade speaker cabinet, is thick and deep while still distinct. The production has a definite clean, almost industrial feel. Aided by the machine-tight musicianship the album speeds forward with mechanical precision. The production is even more impressive after watching the “Making Of” DVD. It shows how low-budget the recording process was. For example, Tomas was forced to run towards a microphone while screaming in order to create a “fade in” effect.

Tomas’ vocals are perfect. On the previous albums his voice sounded forced and a little tiring, but here he performs with undeniable authority. He delivers lyrics with conviction and desperation. My favorite moment on the entire album is the break in “Cold”: the guitars drop out and Tomas pleads “Twenty-two years of pain/And I can feel it closing in…”. The lyrics are claustrophobic, simultaneously isolated from and overpowered by society. They paint images of modern day chaos: “There won’t be another dawn/We will reap as we have sewn” and “Only the dead are smiling”. Many of the lyrics repeat song titles from the album, lending Slaughter more lyrical cohesion. Other Gothenburg bands may have similar riffs and production, but no other Gothenburg album is as lyrically powerful.

The guitar parts on Slaughter of the Soul are unparalleled. Many bands harmonize intelligently while alternating between open strings and pentatonic notes. But the guitarist’s years of experience result in the some of the best riffs and song structure in the genre. Part of AtG’s unique sound is a product of picking style – root notes are sometimes simply alternate picked, or double picked, or “galloped” like Iron Maiden. Pay close attention, sometimes the guitars are picked with a mix of styles, a strange shuffling pattern that flits dangerously around the simplistic “Slayer beat” of the drummer. The songs are streamlined, usually with only four or five riffs. Slaughter of the Soul is perfectly lean. The band only allowed the best material on the album. A bonus track on the re-release called “The Dying” did not make the final cut, despite being better than most melodeath tripe released today.

A few beautiful instrumental interludes tie the album together perfectly, providing an ominous respite during the chaos. “The Flames of the End” works perfectly as the album closer. It plays out like the end credits to a movie. The album would be too jarring with out the closing track. It’s the final song after the musical soundtrack to the Apocalypse. As the ashes are settling the tension mounts one last time before the album returns to darkness. We are once again blind to the worlds within us, waiting to be born…

Links:

At the Gates myspace (includes current US tour/Euro festival info)

Link to official At the Gates guitar tablature (.zip file)

At the Gates official site

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Bloodbath – Unblessing the Purity

June 19, 2008 at 8:30 pm (Reviews) (, , )

Unblessing the Purity art

The arrival of Bloodbath’s latest four-track EP seemed to surprise everyone. In January of 2008 Bloodbath released a press release stating that Per Eriksson had joined on guitar, and Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt had re-joined the band after departing in 2003. In February 2008 the band released the cover art and tracklisting for Unblessing the Purity. And by now, mid-March of 2008, the EP has been circulating for days.

Unblessing the Purity‘s production immediately grabs your attention. It retains an intense thickness, with clearly and brightly triggered kick drums, an absolutely massive guitar and bass distortion sound, while remaining very cohesive. Åkerfeld’ts voice sounds horrific. Deep, wet, thick and commanding, every time he vocalizes he steals the show. Mikael has written some fantastic vocal patterns for these songs.

No longer an early Swedish DM tribute band, Bloodbath have evolved into modern death metal in its most commendable form. The guitar riffs are catchy, harmonized, and intense, without the muddy bassy “sunlight studio” quality emulated on Bloodbath’s first two releases. Martin Axenrot provides some very interesting cymbal and double bass work. When “Axe” blasts, it sounds completely comfortable and perfectly timed, making the blast beats worthy of anticipation as opposed to sloppier players (ahem, Flo…) who you wish would just stop blasting.

Anders Nyström writes some excellent heavy low-end riffs, but the standout moment on this EP comes in the second song “Mouth of Empty Praise”. Anders releases a haunting and captivating lead at 56 seconds into the song that is guaranteed to grab your attention. It melds beautifully with the rhythm guitars, before melting back into an instantly likeable stop-go assault of a riff. Anders has written some great songs for Katatonia, but his melancholic and haunting leads at their most effective over the canvas of Bloodbath’s brutal death metal.

While all of the individual members made obvious contributions to the four songs on this EP, what’s most important is the overall effect. The songs feel completely cohesive, brilliantly structured, and are the perfect length. Much like Suffocation’s Despise the Sun, Bloodbath’s Unblessing the Purity is ideal at its length. While these four songs are stunning, it was a smart move to quit while they were ahead. The end result is a mouth-watering taste of modern Swedish brutality. If you think the EP is too short, just put it on repeat… you’ll be “Blasting the Virginborn” for hours!

Links:
Bloodbath Myspace
Bloodbath Official Website

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