The soundtrack for the truly excellent freeware game Hero Core by Brother Android is a just as good as the game itself. It’s typical chiptune music: blips and blops and noise and all the other elements you remember from old GameBoy games (or similar computers/ consoles from ages past). I’m often amazed at some of stuff that comes out of the chiptune scene, mostly because they manage to transcend the individual low-fi sound bites and create a unique and compelling whole.
What makes the OST to Hero Core stand out is that it manages to be just as compelling solo as in-game. Many game soundtracks suffer from the fact that they are excellent while you’re playing, but heard solo don’t work as well. And they rarely work well as an album, jumping between styles and moods. That’s where the Hero Core soundtrack succeeds admirably, it offers distinct and varied individual songs that still complement each other and that together create a consistent and unified soundscape.
Since Dark Tranquillity’s 2007 album was such a strong return to form after a few middling efforts, it was hard to repeat that sort of comeback. In that way We Are the Void is merely an excellent follow-up that might annoy Metal-purists with pretty catchy and accessible elements, but if you don’t mind it’s actually quite good and while not as impressive as Fiction was, worth your time.
None of the three big Gothenburg melodic death metal acts have made me like their whole oeuvre and At the Gates is no exception. After hearing their first three albums I was pretty disappointed, since they were boring and unremarkable. Nothing really outstanding, nothing that explained to me why they were so revered. And then I heard their last album. It’s not like they changed their style compared to the earlier albums, but they perfected it to such a degree that there’s a noticeable difference. Slaughter of the Soul is a perfectly coordinated brute force attack on your ears that still manages to be melodic, despite the heaviness of the sound.
While I’m overall not that impressed with the work of In Flames, one of the cornerstones of the Gothenburg melodic death metal scene, Whoracle is the exception. I can’t exactly put the finger on what makes this different form the rest of their output, but somehow it feels more unique than any of their others albums. The two following albums, Colony and Clayman, have inherited some of the energy of Whoracle, but they are more uneven and not as good.
This melodic black metal album was first published in 1997 and again in 2002 as an industrial metal remix. I actually heard the remix first, since I like industrial metal quite a bit and stumbled upon it through that line of inquiry. When the Kovenant re-released the original 1997 version in 2007 I had to hear it, since most reviews of the remix tend to be extremely negative and I wanted to know which is actually better.
I still like both versions, but I can understand why people don’t like the remix. If you don’t have any inclinations toward industrial elements, this must feel like mutilation. Depending on my mood I prefer one or the other, but in the end they’re both very good at what they’re trying to achieve.
The third album by the melodic death metal institution Dark Tranquillity and my favorite of their whole oeuvre. I found the first two albums pretty average, even the second, The Gallery, which is often thought of as a classic. The ones following The Mind’s I are good in places, some good songs here and there, but none are as excellent from start to finish as this one. Admittedly its an album whose excellence I didn’t saw on the first hearing. But there was something about it that made me try it again and again despite not being too impressed at first. And then it simply clicked.
After the breakup of The Crown (your average thrash/death metal band) vocalist Johan Lindstrand formed One Man Army and the Undead Quartet, who since then have made one excellent album per year (three so far). They fall into the category of bands that have found a receipt that works perfectly for them, even if it makes all their album sound a bit alike. That’s not really bad, if you happen to like it. Their style mixes the heaviness and deep growls you expect from Death Metal (and some melodic elements from Melodic Death Metal), with the speed and out front aggression of trash metal. Despite that it remains still accessible and varied, it’s raw power meets skills, not just boring loud noise.
Thematically it’s hard to pin down. The songs on 21st Century Killing Machine mention the common themes: death, violence, religion, anger, hate, destruction and so on. There’s no real context or overall theme, most of the lyrics work by inference, you know what they talk about, but the meaning is open to interpretation. Is it social criticism or just social commentary or just a conglomerate of metal buzzwords? Probably a bit of all, but it does fit the music.
Of all my interests, music is probably the one I have the least knowledge about. I never understood anything about it in school, thinking math easy while never managing to learn the musical scale. It may have as much to do with laziness as with my approach to it, music for me is something completely emotional, something to be experienced and not analyzed. I know what I like, but I rarely know why.
So, let’s start with one of my favorite albums, the third and final stage of the transformation of the German EBM/Industrial band Die Krupps to a full blown industrial metal act, called Odyssey of the Mind. It showed me that there may be other interesting stuff beyond mere metal and since then I tried some stuff from the industrial side of the equation. While I’ve heard and liked most of the other albums by Die Krupps, this one is still the best, the perfect mix of two styles, the aggressiveness from the metal side, the machinelike voices, electronic distortions and repetitive structure from the industrial side.