Album Review – Caliban / Ghost Empire (2014)

A decent Metalcore album from one of its biggest exponents in the European scene.

Rating6

Caliban_Ghost EmpireWe all know Germany is a very Heavy Metal country, with tons of important names such as Gamma Ray, Helloween, Kreator, Primal Fear, Destruction, Doro, among others, and almost all of those German bands have something in common: a very traditional approach in terms of their musicality. However, in the middle of this “cradle of tradition” there’s a band called Caliban playing a completely different type of music that people like to call Metalcore or Melodic Hardcore. Even being a band so different from their countrymen, they managed to survive through the years and gained a respectful legion of fans (you might have already seen some YouTube videos of their “Wall of Death” mosh pits in their live concerts), and now in 2014 they’re launching their 9th studio album, called Ghost Empire.

If you’re a very traditional Heavy Metal fan and do not accept anything different from what was done in the 80’s or 90’s, do not even waste your time giving Caliban a chance. What they do is more like the contemporary American Heavy Metal, with some similarities to bands like Five Finger Death Punch or Killswitch Engage, but I would say their music is a little bit more melodic than those. The first track of the album, called King, is a very good example of their modern heavy music, with singer Andreas Dörner doing a pretty decent job with his guttural vocals. It’s a good song for mosh pits, albeit I don’t like the clean vocals from Denis Schmidt at all. The next track is quite weird: Chaos – Creation starts really heavy then becomes kind of pop, but at least the riffs keep the energy high; on the other hand, Wolves And Rats is 100% heavy, especially its vocals and drums, and sounds good for some circle pits.

CalibanThe next track, nebeL, which has Bastian Sobtzick (from the band Callejon) on vocals, is a pretty cool song with an interesting chorus, while I Am Ghost has the best start of all songs and pretty heavy riffs, but gets really boring after a while. Devil’s Night has some cool lyrics and vocals and is one of the highlights of Ghost Empire, as well as yOUR Song with its awesome rhythm. These two songs should work well live and will probably be included in their future setlists. The same cannot be said about the next few tracks:  Cries And Whispers is the fastest song of the album, but the chorus sucks so bad it gets boring; Good Man is just a generic song that doesn’t make any difference to the album; and I Am Rebellion has a horrible smooth chorus. These songs explain why many diehard metal fans hate this type of heavy music with all their strength.

Fortunately the next two tracks put the album back on track: Who We Are is a lot better than previous tracks, especially due to its excellent heavy riffs; and My Vertigo is another “mosh pit” song that will please all fans of the band and even some people that know nothing about Caliban. The deluxe edition of Ghost Empire brings a very weird song called Falling Downwards, with Matt Heafy (Trivium) as guest vocalist. Matt kind of saves the song, in other words, without him it would have been the worst track of the album by far.

Last but not least, one of the best things in Ghost Empire is the album art, especially because it’s done by hand (and not by the use of a computer) and totally connects with the album name and its musicality. Maybe someone who is more into this type of heavy music would have given the album more than 2.5, but for me it lacks that punch only traditional Heavy Metal has. I wouldn’t mind checking Caliban out live at a festival here in Canada, but it’s far from becoming one of my favorite new bands.

Best moments of the album: King, Devil’s Night and yOUR Song.

Worst moments of the album: I Am Ghost, Good Man and I Am Rebellion.

Released in 2014 Century Media Records

Track listing
1. King 4:02
2. Chaos – Creation 3:30
3. Wolves And Rats 3:59
4. nebeL (feat. Bastian Sobtzick) 3:11
5. I Am Ghost 3:46
6. Devil’s Night 4:23
7. yOUR Song 4:26
8. Cries And Whispers 3:55
9. Good Man 5:07
10. I Am Rebellion 4:21
11. Who We Are 4:09
12. My Vertigo 3:15

 Deluxe edition bonus track
13. Falling Downwards (feat. Matt Heafy) 3:48

Band members
Andreas Dörner – lead vocals
Marc Görtz – guitar
Denis Schmidt – guitar, clean vocals
Patrick Grün – drums
Marco Schaller – bass guitar

Guest musicians
Bastian Sobtzick – vocals on “nebeL”
Matt Heafy – vocals on “Falling Downwards”

Album Review – Trivium / Vengeance Falls (2013)

Trivium join forces with Disturbed’s David Draiman to produce another good album with an infinite number of pretty cool heavy riffs.

Rating4

TriviumVengeanceAs I already mentioned a few posts ago in my Trivium & DevilDriver concert review, Trivium has become one of the most important contemporary Metal bands, and again with Vengeance Falls they justify why they’ve reached this level. It’s not a masterpiece, but a solid album to follow the great In Waves, with some new elements brought by producer David Draiman (the brain behind Disturbed). The opening track, Brave This Storm, was released a few weeks ago, and its amazing riffs and chorus still maintain it as my favorite song of the album. By the way, the whole album is a lesson in heavy riffs, so if you’re a guitar player don’t think twice and go get your copy of the new Trivium album.

Then we have the title-track Vengeance Falls and another one of my favorites, Strife (best chorus of the album), both with awesome guitar riffs that remind me of some of the old Disturbed riffs, probably due to David Draiman’s influence as the producer. It would have been really interesting if he had also sang one or two songs with Trivium! No Way To Heal has all the elements that are so characteristic in Trivium’s music, making it a very heavy and progressive song. The next track, To Believe, is another song that seems to have a lot of influence from Draiman and one of the greatest positive surprises of the album for me, which is not the case with At the End of This War: just an average song that sounds flat after 3 minutes. But things get back to normal (in other words, HEAVY and CREATIVE) with Through Blood and Dirt and Bone and its excellent “heavy riff and fast drums” work (and I enjoy a lot when Matt screams the chorus!).

Trivium-630x420Villainy Thrives has a good rhythm, which will certainly make the fans jump as the band requires during the concerts, while Incineration: The Broken World, one of the longest songs of the album, starts with another cool riff and has Nick Augusto doing his best job on the drums in the whole album. Closing the album we have Wake (The End Is Nigh), the longest song that starts slowly but then moves to a fast speed, showing a more traditional Trivium again. The bonus tracks in the special edition of the album are all very good, especially their cover for MisfitsSkulls…We Are 138, and if you manage to find the Japanese version, it has a different bonus: an interesting version for REM’s Losing My Religion.

The lyrics as usual are as crazy as they can be. Well, what else could we expect from Matt Heafy? “Burn us alive for our sins and our crimes / We are the wretched ones: malevolent slime” And regarding the album cover, I personally enjoy when it doesn’t explicitly show the name of the album or the band. In Vengeance Falls, the cover works as a complement to the album title, doing a cool job with the band’s logo. And last but not least, I didn’t mention anything about Corey or Paolo because I don’t need to: they’re awesome musicians doing a very consistent job as always, helping Trivium in being an important reference in heavy music today.

Best moments of the album: Brave This Storm, Strife and To Believe.

Worst moments of the album: At The end of This War, and the lack of the old screams from Matt in most of the songs. I know he cannot scream 100% of the time, but a little more would be great to the entire album.

Released in 2013 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. Brave This Storm 4:29
2. Vengeance Falls 4:13
3. Strife 4:30
4. No Way to Heal 4:05
5. To Believe 4:32
6. At the End of This War 4:47
7. Through Blood and Dirt and Bone 4:26
8. Villainy Thrives 4:54
9. Incineration: The Broken World 5:52
10. Wake (The End Is Nigh) 6:00

Bonus tracks
11. No Hope for the Human Race 3:59
12. As I Am Exploding 5:51
13. Skulls…We Are 138 (Misfits cover) 3:31
14. Losing My Religion (R.E.M. cover) 4:41

Band members
Matt Heafy – guitar, lead vocals
Corey Beaulieu – guitar, vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass guitar, vocals
Nick Augusto – drums, percussion

Concert Review – Trivium & DevilDriver (Phoenix Concert Theatre,Toronto, ON, 09/24/2013)

A celebration of music with two of the best contemporary Heavy Metal bands from the USA on a pleasant Tuesday night in Toronto.

OPENING ACTS: Sylosis and After The Burial

As I don’t live exactly in Toronto, it takes a while for me to get to the city whenever there’s a concert I’m attending, especially if it’s on a Tuesday after a full day of work. Seriously, only Mondays are worse than Tuesdays for Metal concerts, like the Rock Allegiance Tour with Volbeat & HIM that screwed up my whole week! The organizers should think about that when scheduling Metal concerts to the middle of the week: we don’t have seats and we don’t just watch the concert, we participate a lot! Heavy Metal demands a lot of energy from the crowd, so please, if you’re an organizer, try to book the shows from Thursday to Saturday! Going back to the opening acts, I completely missed Sylosis (which unfortunately suffered a car accident that same night going to their next concert) and half of ATB. From what I could see, ATB was pretty heavy and the fans had a great time there, so next time they open for a band I like I’ll do my best to be there and analyze their music properly.

DEVILDRIVER

devildriver-2This was the second time I had the pleasure to see DD live (the first was back in 2011, opening for Arch Enemy), and they were even better this time. From the very first song Ruthless to the violent ending with Meet the Wretched, the leader of the band, Dez Fafara, didn’t let any single person from the crowd remain quiet. I believe he mentioned the word fuck and its variations (fuckin’, motherfucker, motherfuckin’ etc.) at least a hundred times, plus other “nice” words such as pussy and shit, demanding that everybody banged their heads all the time and almost killed themselves in the mosh pits, showing why he’s a true frontman and not just a singer. He was pretty decent in the beginning of his career with Coal Chamber, but now he’s getting better and more violent on stage, which is awesome.

I enjoy concerts at the Phoenix Concert Theatre due to the proximity with the band and the quality of the sound (and of course, it’s easy to get a beer there without the hassle of huge and slow lines), and this time it wasn’t different. All songs were really well executed by the band, which was sometimes headbanging even more than the crowd, and there was a lot of interaction between band and fans. They played a lot of songs from their new album Winter Kills (which I really want to listen to now), including a very good cover for the song Sail, from the band Awolnation, mixed with some classics such as Clouds Over California, which was my favorite from this concert. I hope I can see DD live again soon!

Setlist
Ruthless
I Could Care Less
Not All Who Wander Are Lost
Before the Hangman’s Noose
Cry for Me Sky (Eulogy of the Scorned)
Oath of the Abyss
The Appetite
Hold Back the Day
Curses and Epitaphs
Sail (AWOLNATION cover)
Head on to Heartache (Let Them Rot)
Dead to Rights
Clouds Over California
End of the Line
Meet the Wretched

Band members
Dez Fafara – lead vocals
Jeff Kendrick – guitar
John Boecklin – drums
Mike Spreitzer – guitar
Chris Towning – bass

TRIVIUM

trivium-1They are heavy, they have the speed, the technique, great albums and are awesome on stage. Together with Volbeat, I consider Trivium the future of Heavy Metal. I had the chance to see them live at Heavy TO 2012, but as that was a festival and they were playing in the middle of the afternoon, they couldn’t show their full power. However, this time in Toronto they were able to provide their fans a fantastic concert! After the intro Divinity I, the band entered the stage and played three of the most complex and heavy songs of their entire career: Throes of Perdition, Down from the Sky and Becoming the Dragon, showing all of us that was going to be a special night.

Although I missed some classics such as Ember to Inferno and The Deceived in the setlist, there was a pretty good mix of songs from all of their albums, including two new ones (Brave This Storm and Strife) from their upcoming album Vengeance Falls, which sounded like old classics by the way the audience responded to them. And no matter which song they were playing, the riffs and solos were perfectly executed (I would say even better than the studio versions in most of the cases). I still believe the feeling is more important than the technique in Heavy Metal, but what the guys from Trivium do with their guitars is simply amazing.

The best songs of the night were for sure A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation (isn’t it one of the coolest song names ever?), with the crowd jumping all the time together with the band, and Shogun, a 12-minute masterpiece that sounds like if Dream Theater decided to become Megadeth or vice-versa. It can be really tricky for any band to play songs so long as that because the crowd can die at any minute, but fortunately for Trivium that wasn’t an issue at all as the fans at the Phoenix loved the fact they played Shogun.

The only (small) issues I see with Trivium now are first the drummer: I don’t know why but he sometimes seems to be out of sync with the rest of the band; and second the fact that Corey is doing 95% of the guttural vocals. Although I enjoy Corey screaming, it sounds a lot better when Matt does that. But as I said, nothing that will stop Trivium from becoming a Heavy Metal giant in the coming years, mainly due to the constant and brilliant evolution in all of their albums and to their exceptional performance on stage.

Setlist
Divinity I (tape/intro)
Throes of Perdition
Down from the Sky
Becoming the Dragon
Brave This Storm
Watch the World Burn
Strife
A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation
Kirisute Gomen
Shogun 

Encore:
Capsizing the Sea (tape/intro)
In Waves
Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr
One Winged Angel (tape/outro)

Band members
Matt Heafy – guitar, lead vocals
Corey Beaulieu – guitar, vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass guitar, vocals
Nick Augusto – drums, percussion