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Music Reviews: Barren Earth, Earth, Hurtsmile, Made of Hate, Whispers of Fate, The Pretty Reckless

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My view is blocked by a pile of snow on the porch and I am sore from shoveling… the joys of winter. However, the music needs to be reviewed.

Barren Earth: The Curse of the Red River

A supergroup with both current and former members of Amorphis, Swallow the Sun, Moonsorrow, and Kreator who released an EP in 2009 that was pretty well received by the melodic death fans. This album comes across as a mash-up of the two “eras” of Opeth, the death and prog metal bits of their career stuck in a blender. The only wee grumble with this band is the lead singer’s “clean” vocals are a tad wispy and weak, while his rough vocals provide significant oomph. They might want to add a second voice to add to the gravitas.

That said, this is a damn good release, and the vocal complaint may just be a quirk of mine. This bunch of Finns truly know the level of musicianship expected at this end of the metal scene. They deliver it in droves, while never getting hung up on getting over clever or poncy. There are touches of 70s doom and metal about in places. There is enough variety to keep the most pedantic, technical metal fan happy. It is no wonder why this band is being hailed as ones to watch. It will certainly keep you happy until the next Opeth or Therion opus comes out.

Earth: Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I

This bunch produce sludge metal as much as they do treacle metal. It’s slow and druggy stuff which almost stops time when you listen to it. Don’t expect to do anything that requires firing synapses while listening to this release. That said, there is something oddly compelling about its depth and intricacy. It’s more doom, ambient music than anything like Trouble. It’s mostly instrumental music, which is probably good as lyrics would just get in the way.

Although grunge is seen as a dirty word by some in the metal community, it is worth noting that what few vocals the band have used in the past, Cobain provided several instances of them. This band is probably the pioneers of the drone, doom scene. There is something about that evokes the pacific Northwest for anyone who has spent time there. This is certainly not party music but it’s contemplative stuff that is heavy yet mellow. They’re a band for your introspective movements.

Hurtsmile: st

If it weren’t for lead singer Gary Cherone (Yeah, that one who left Extreme ruining it, and then participated in the worst ever Van Halen album before trying his hand out at reggae.) you could give this release a break. Alas, Cherone and his brother on guitar have produced a collection of musical dross that almost defies belief. There is a heavy Christian element here and as well as hippy peace elements. Now rather than going for the fun style of Enuff Znuff, most of the tracks on here just come across as preachy. The cliché’ ridden lyrics on here are sometimes hard to bear.

That said Hurtsmile do produce a decent track on here that pleases the ear. Why they left the excellent “The Murder of Daniel Faulkner” to last is beyond me. This track fits nicely with Warrant’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. Its got that Johnny Cash quality to it, even though Cherone is doing his best Dylan impression. Why put it after the reggae version of “Just War Theory”, which already appears?

Remember Cherone for all the good stuff he did with Extreme, including their last album and give this a miss.

Made of Hate: Pathogen

Despite the name this band is not black or death metal of any sort. They are instead middle European, clever thrash metal. They hail from Poland and I have to say the power metal touches add to the attractiveness of this release. The first reaction is that it’s okay and nothing special, however with time some of the clever elements start creeping out. It’s a bit of a transition release for the band, as their lead singer has changed or rather been switched around. The rhythm guitarist is now lead singer and the vocalist is now just guitarist and backing singer. Some reviewers were critical about the quality of singing on their debut, so this might help the cause a bit.

Overall this a band that is trying to raise its game to the next level and you can see quite a bit of promise here. They might want to work on the songs a bit, as there is some similarity between them. This is certainly not ground-breaking stuff, merely a decent album from a band that is trying to kick themselves up a notch. This genre is pretty filled with bands all trying to carve out their patch, so the competition is tough.

Whispers of Fate: Embrace my Winter

Gorgeous symphonic gothic metal is pretty much the fare here. The whisper in the name might have to do with Betty the lead singer. Yes, it’s just Betty. She has one of those high, wispy elven voices that sound like it would be better suited to folk metal. Cleverly the band uses the keys to fatten her sound, which is very much high in the mix. Her voice is not exactly the belting operatic kick-arse types of Tarja or her ilk. That said this is good stuff if you give it the chance. If you can handle the high-pitched, rarely varying voice of the lead singer the rest will mostly fall into place.

Song wise, there is a bit of something missing here. They are all decent but nothing really jumps out and grabs you. In the crowed genre, this band is merely decent. Then again this is the band’s debut and they are finding their footing.

And one must not to be too harsh as it’s a self-released.

Maybe they can work with fattening up the vocals on their next release. Someone should sign this lot and take them under their wing. There is lots of potential here that needs to be harvested.

The Pretty Reckless: Light Me Up

I have never watched Gossip Girl nor will I ever find myself doing so. However, it seems that I am being forced to listen to one of the stars, Taylor Mowsen. Never has been being forced to dip into popular culture been less painful. It’s pretty obvious why this album spent six weeks at number one in the UK. It kicks some serious pop rock arse. It’s a bit like a harder Juliet and the Licks. There is nothing the slightest bit poppy teeny bopper about this stuff. It’s got that sneering angsty rock vibe down pat with no hint of being contrived.

Mowsen has a damn good voice that can be a belter when it’s needed. Tracks like “Just Tonight” and the opener “Factory Girl” really impress There is even track with Zombie in the title. “My Medicine” has a touch of sleaze about it that works nicely thank you. I really wanted to loath this and toss it in the “not to review” pile. But I just couldn’t because it scratch that itch you never realised you had. With all the crap that is on the radio these days, it’s nice to see this sort of thing still slips through. An extensive tour is about to launch for the next couple of months. Give it to your niece for her birthday, she will thank you and her parents won’t.

That is it for this week. Stay safe, warm and rocking until next time.

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