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Music Reviews: Betzefer, Born of Osiris, Mercenary, Vicious Rumors, Amon Amarth

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This week, just in time for your spring mud season, we are looking into some of the heavier stuff in the virtual review pile. However, if you want something much mellower Timbre’s Little Flowers is a harping good time. Music for vegging in the hammock more than moshing.

Betzefer: Freedom to the Slave Maker

Not known for their huge metal scene, this Israeli band has the chops. This is their second album and one they hope will take them international. They have, however, played Ozzfest in Israel and opened for some of the big names of the metal genre including Megadeth, Machine Head, and Sepultura. They toured Europe with Soulfly and Lamb of God. And the band does not suffer from the bad pronunciation problem that mars so many releases from young foreign bands.

The music seems to have an immediate edge to it, like a band in fear for their lives. Considering they are Israeli, that might not be too far a stretch. The metal on here has the same hunger as a band like Sepultura. That raw, angry edge that certain bands are able to translate into aggressiveness and metal angst. Like many such albums, the attraction of this one is not entirely instant, but give it some time and the nuances come out to play. If you are looking for some damn good metal from a band who deserve a big break, then take a listen.

Born of Osiris: Discovery

This is a band of two halves. The music is very metal prog but the vocals are death metal and dirty. It’s melodic but brutal, or at least that is the plan. They seem to be trying to do an extreme metal version of Dream Theater. To be honest, I find the instrumental bits on this album a hell of a lot more satisfying than when the vocalist kicks in. Quite often he just seems to be in the way on the rather good tracks. It might have been better considering the music to have some clean vocals once and a while. The music, possibly deliberately, seems a bit disconnected between its different parts.

That said the production is tight and this is a well put together album. Like the album above, it does get better with listening. Going from quite frankly a bit samey and annoying to something that deserves at least a few listens. This sounds like a band in transition not sure of which way it wants to go. It’s pretty damn obvious they got the chops; they just gotta figure out what they want to do with themselves. A band to watch for sure, but this is only for fans and those who are brave in their choices.

Mercenary: Metamorphosis

Yet another band that seems to be in transition. They are going from something far heavier to something a bit more clever. On a song like “In a River of Madness” they seem to be heading for the melodic prog metal realm with a track that would not be out of place on a Dream Theater album. Yes, there are death metal vocals on here at times, but it’s very much progressive. The band seems to have dropped the whole death metal thing, which was melodic granted, and headed into clear power prog. That is not a bad thing if you have never heard the band, but it could be quite a shock to old fans.

What might explain this turn to the progressive is the fact that the band has been through an almost complete line-up change. On face value, I quite like this album as it adds nicely into the rick tapestry of power metal with prog and death tinges. “Memoria” is positively poppy in its melodic goodness, a “Pull me Under” with heavy vocals maybe. The purists will and have cried sell-out because of the material on this album. I suspect it’s a calculated move to increase the band’s potential fan-base. This is a solid power/prog metal release that is satisfying to these ears.

Vicious Rumors: Razorback Killers

This is great heavy metal delivered by guys who just love what they doing. Bowing to no trends, just straight ahead Megadeth-like heavy metal with Lizzy Borden vocals, this is everything you always loved about them. This release is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish. The high yelps, the driving guitars and drums are just what you want from this type of band. It’s as if grunge never happened and Metallica never went off the boil with Load.

As you might expect only one original member remains, but that 80s metal spirit certainly hasn’t passed them by. The choruses are catchy and the music just makes you want to raise you fist and yell. This is prime Headbanger’s Ball fodder back in the day. You either love or hate metal like this, but how can you dislike something like “Axe to Grind”? It’s all the metallic anthem that you ever want. I bet these guys are awesome live, with a heavy dose of head-banging. Lets hope you get to see them at a festival near you soon. Rest assured their “groove metal” experiment is well and truly over. No posing just true metal on this release, and there is little better than that.

Amom Amarth: Surtur Rising

So many bands try the melodic death route and fail so badly. Then again when faced with this sort of competition, it’s no wonder. This is awesome start to finish and it’s hard to find any fault with it. They are named for “Mount Doom” in Tolkein’s pantheon and they full encapsulate his epic vision. Named for the leader of the Fire Giants in Norse Mythology, this release would be perfect music for reading the Viking sagas. It’s epic and gritty, but never bogged down in the mire of its own heaviness. Amon Amarth and their lesser imitators are the bookends musically to the epic Viking goth melodic metal of Leaves Eyes.

“The Last Strand of Frej” is a stunning track that tells the tale of Surtur from an opposing perspective. It’s a great piece of song-writing, fully bringing the tale to life. Quite frankly this band have transcended the melodic death sub-culture and now are just a damn good metal band. They should be considered by any metal fan no matter what genre they are prone to liking. How can you not like “Wrath of the Norsemen”? The track has got a beat to it that is danceable, call it a Viking metal gig if you want. Grab your favourite mead receptacle, don your leather kilt and sit bare-chested as you listen to the Viking goodness seeping from your speakers.

On that epic note, it’s time to wrap this column up. Stay safe and rocking no matter where you are next week.

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