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Music Reviews: The Ocean, Elvenking,Tankard, Testament, Weedeater

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New year means lots of new releases to ponder. So it’s time to run through the last of the stuff received last year, one very mixed bag.

CD reviews

The Ocean: Anthropocentric

This bunch of Germans truly try to evolve with every album and produce some heady stuff. This is post-grunge progressive doom or something somewhere thereabouts. It’s really hard to pin-down for anyone. There are elements of pretty much every type of metal that has come before them. The band have been around since 2001 and continue to amaze their fans.

It’s very modern metal more or less, but there is enough clever stuff going on with each track that it never bores. This is certainly not modern metal for the pogoing masses. After a few listens what comes out is the fact these guys craft their songs in detail, hiding cleverness behind what sometimes comes across as a wall of noise. Like bands such as Opeth and their ilk, they are not afraid of sticking whatever instrument in the song to add to the texture. “Wile Zum Untergang” is one of those songs that grows with each listen.

Like so much of the material I review in this column, this is certainly not for everyone. However given time, and I have to admit I was not that impressed first listen through, this album hides a wonderful aural reward. Fans of the band will be pleased at their evolution and it those with a healthy taste in the clever modern metal should take a listen.

Elvenking: Red Silent Tides

A bit more straightforward this bunch. This is folk-tinged power metal of the best kind. You know layered vocals, soaring choruses and almost every song a potential anthem. Despite the name there is nothing the slightest bit Lord of the Rings about the lyrics on here.

They are Italian and have all the flair you would expect from a power metal band from that part of the world. “The Last Hour” is a track that puts the power into power ballad. Yeah, it’s metal but it could work as a pop metal song as well.

There is a quite a touch of Nightwish about it. I was singing the chorus second time through, which is saying something. The major factor in the attractiveness of the songs on this album is the vocalist Damnagoras, who unlike many in the genre has a great voice. If he were a she we would be talking about this band in hushed tones and calling it “goth metal”. Then again with songs like “Silence du Mort” it’s not a hard case to make.

If you like clever power metal with a touch of folk then have a listen to this lot. They have that special something with raises them among the pool of merely decent bands.

Tankard: Vol(l)ume 14

Booze-inspired thrash that seemed great fun in the mid-80s, but now comes across as just a bit lame. This type of metal really hasn’t aged that well, then again it probably isn’t supposed to. The singer can barely sing English, and the band chug along behind him. The songs are daft as anything, with titles like “Rules for Fools” and “Brain Piercing of Death.” No doubt this music is meant to be listened to while you are off your face drunk on something strong.

While the lyrical content of some of the songs might be more about modern afflictions that getting pissed all the time, the music is the same ole. Some thrash bands seem to be able to remain fresh despite, their age, Tankard aren’t one of them. This strikes as one of those releases that is pushed out the door to given them an excuse to tour once again. Probably won’t be hearing any of these tracks when they play any of the European festivals.

All in all this album seems tired and rather boring. Not exactly the type of reaction you want to a thrash album. It’s sad to hear an obvious excuse-to-tour album from an old band. If you want some booze-soaked thrash try their earlier material.

Testament: Live at the Filmore

Testament is one of those bands that never really got their due. They were never considered part of the big four of thrash. Some would argue strongly that they probably deserved to be seen as one of the big ones over at least one member of that elite group. Call it thinking man’s thrash or progressive trash, Testament always had something else to their music. Frontman Chuck Billy was bruiser extraordinaire, but members like Alex Skolnick always had that “muso” vibe about them. The fact he now has his own jazz trio is no shock to anyone. Ironically he does not appear on this live set as it was after he left.

Recorded in the 90s post-major label dump, this was Testament making it very clear they weren’t going away any time soon. This is a re-release of the collection recorded at the famous Filmore theatre in San Francisco. The 14 set is reproduced here in all its glory. For those who already have it from its original release there are several acoustic bonus tracks in the form of “Return to Serenity”, “The Legacy” and “Trail of Tears”. Yes, you get to hear Testament being mellow and introspective, more importantly its an opportunity to understand just how good a bunch of players this lot are.

Pure class all around and something that deserves your purchase.

Weedeater: Jason… The Dragon

This is stoner metal at its heaviest and most deep. The title is amusing, especially if you get the reference. Then again with a name like Weedeater would you expect anything less. This is heavy sludge at its most turgid, a bit like walking through low-tide mud. The band seem to be trying to make metal that sounds like music for someone who heavily stoned off their gord.

I am not always sure what the attraction of this type of music is to anyone who is not bong-obsessed. It really doesn’t work at all if you are sober or not someone prone to smoking a bong or too of strong weed. This lot seem to be interested in recording the sludgiest and heaviest turgid stoner metal imaginable. Its an impenetrable wall of heaviness that is hard to listen to unless you are in the right sort of mood. Props for naming a song “March of the BiPolar Bear” however.

It’s so odd and turgid that its hard to tell if it’s any good or not. This is music for those heavily into their weed. Wonder if they will ever catch that dragon they are on about here or if it schasing them?

Well that is your lot; quite a bit to keep your ears warm. As always, stay safe and rocking as you go about the next week.

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