Archive for the CD reviews Category

Rush Extravaganza

Posted in CD reviews with tags on August 20, 2010 by Natalie Zed

For Canada Day, featured several articles on Rush. Here are my contributions to that feature. You can read the originals here and here, along with other fantastic contributions from the rest of Team Hellbound.

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Favourite Rush song of all time: “Limelight”

I know that this is cliche as all hell, but I love it. I love the blatant Shakespeare references; I love the slight, lilting melancholy that infuses both the tone and the lyrics; I love the way Geddy Lee’s voice sounds simultaneously celebratory and scared shitless. This song is infinitely re-playable, and infinitely coverable. It reminds me of riding around Calgary in a friend’s beat-up Silver Volkswagon bug, eating chicken wings and scream-singing at the top of my lungs. Also, I am fairly certain that one of my boyfriends in high school asked me out solely because I knew every single one of the lyrics to this song.

Favourite Rush album of all time: A Farewell To Kings

Come on. “Xanadu” is an extended Samuel Taylor Coleridge reference. “Closer to the Heart” always touches mine. “Cygnus X-1” plays with all the strange, comforting imagery that draws me to science fiction. This album is perfectly aligned with nearly everything about my personality that makes me a shameless nerd; I am built to love it.


Postcards From Natalie Zed: Part Four

Posted in CD reviews with tags , on July 19, 2010 by Natalie Zed

I write a series of postcard-length album reviews for This is the fourth installment. You can read the original here.

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Sign Of The Southern Cross – …Of Mountains and Moonshine (Season of Mist 2009)

Sweat-stained and bourbon-soaked, this album sure knows what it’s on about. The sound is fat, humid and dirty is all the right places. SIGN OF THE SOUTHERN CROSS never lets the listener suffer too long from heat exhaustion either. Songs like “Weeping Willow” are as soothing as night air through a screen door on the hottest day of the year. I seriously dig this album, mosquitoes and all.

Korpiklaani – Karkelo (Nuclear Blast 2009)

I saw KORPIKLAANI with TYR, WHITE WIZZARD and SWASHBUCKLE at the Opera House on January 10th, and holy hell was it a good show. Every time I listen to Karkelo, I vividly recall being showered with beer, having my ribs crushed, and being hit in the face with a headbanger’s dreadlocks. I might love this album a little more than I should. I’m okay with that.

Dying Fetus – Descend Into Depravity (Relapse Records 2009)

I really, really wish I had something pithy and succinct and witty to say about this album. I wish I was inspired to talk about the beefiness of the sound, the quality of the production, or the tension that builds in my neck muscles as I listen. Instead, the 17-year-old boy who seems to have taken over my brain cannot resist pointing out that the cover art looks exactly like it should grace the box of a GTA-esque video game. Doesn’t it seem perfect for a murderous sandbox shooter? Also, John Gallagher sounds exactly like Nathan Explosion.

Persona Non Grata – Shade In The Light (Sensory 2009)

I like the progressive sound and the dominant keys that characterize Shade In The Light, but the vocals leave me quite cold. I wanted to sink into this album, relax into it fully, but kept coming up against a wall when it came to the voice.

Nirvana 2002 – Recordings 89-91 (Relapse Records 2009)

This is all there is, all that exists, of the “other” Nirvana.

I have a box in my room that is full of chapbooks, broadsheets, pamphlets. These small printed artifacts, stories and poems, line drawings and comics, were all produced by Canadian micropresses. Most of the owners and operators of these presses are my friends. They made things because they loved to, often just with their home printers and photocopiers and long-necked staplers, and once they had sold or given away the print run (100 or 50 or 25 or 10 copies), they usually couldn’t afford to make any more. I hold this box of ephemera among my most precious possessions. It is possible that some of the things I have are the only copies that still exist in the world.

This album is the musical equivalent to that silly, invaluable pile of paper I keep moving with me each place I go. This is ephemera in the truest sense of the word – an album made from recordings of rehearsals, live performances, demos. The sound is as fuzzy and degraded as any third-hand photocopy. This collection of all there is left to hear by NIRVANA 2002 is a monument to impermanence, a reminder that, every now and again, something that might have disappeared completely can be saved.

Death Angel –Sonic German Beatdown Live in Germany (Nuclear Blast 2009)

As someone who is inevitably drawn to lyrics, vocals are always terribly important to me. If the voice doesn’t do it for me, the album is probably going to leave me cold, regardless of the quality of the rest of the music. Live albums can be tricky for me as a result, since the vocals tend to suffer outside a studio environment. Happily, this could not be further from the truth on Sonic German Beatdown Live. Mark Osegueda’s voice kicks ass recorded on an outdoor stage.

Weapon – Drakonian Paradigm (AJNA 2009)

Sometimes what strikes me most about an album is the way my body reacts to it, especially when I am not paying attention. Sometimes I find myself outside, walking around my neighbourhood at a quick-march; sometimes I pace the hallway fretfully; sometimes I really want to punch something. Sometimes my legs unconsciously shake; sometimes my head bobs; sometimes my hands convulsively clench and relax. And sometimes I just find myself just giving up and sitting in the bathtub. This album, however, left me at a loss – my body did not know what to do, how to react. There is a buzz, and itch in my muscles, that isn’t easily placed or assuaged. I felt caught between the need to be perfectly still and tear a building down.

Mayhem – Ordo Ad Chao (Season of Mist 2007)

Lily the Pirate: “What is this?”
Me: “Mayhem.”
Lily the Pirate: “Huh.” *reads the copy on the sleeve* “Apparently this album ‘spits on you, rapes you.’”
Me: “And ‘leaves you rotting.’”
Lily the Pirate: “Mayhem: they’ll totally shit in your eyes.”

Culted – Below The Thunders Of The Upper Deep (Relapse Records 2009)

How ugly. How perfectly, perfectly ugly.

Urgehal – Urgehal (Season of Mist 2009)

There’s a separateness to each aspect of this album. I was aware of each instrument, including Nefas’ voice, as a distinct entity as I listened. This gives the album’s sound an unexpected sense of friction, a granular texture—and a strange sense of loneliness.

Postcards from Natalie Zed: Part Three

Posted in CD reviews with tags , on June 5, 2010 by Natalie Zed

I write a series of postcard-length album reviews for This is the third installment. You can read the original here.

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Keep of Kalessin – Kolossus (Nuclear Blast 2008)

The sheer grinding force of Kolossus‘ sound evokes lightning-blasted rock, a well-orchestrated sonic avalanche. Even more than the sound, the vocals hooked me. Whether screams or growls, black or death, every word with still clarion-clear. The meaning of the lyrics, clearly audible and comprehensible, and the force of the voice delivering those lyrics was a killer combination. Thebon has the voice of a dragon.

Trinacria – Travel Now Journey Infinitely (Season of Mist 2008)

Alchemy, the medieval pseudo-science that blended magic and chemistry, attempted to combine various elements to create something new – to turn iron into gold. The Trinacria (or triskelion) is an alchemical symbol representing movement and multiplicity. Alchemy is a perfect metaphor for this combination of Enslaved and Fe-Mail, taking disparate elements to make something new. While the end result is not exactly gold, it is rough and ugly and noisy and definitely magical.

Birds of Prey – The Hellpreacher (Relapse Records 2009)

This album is ugly. Some stories can’t progress, some protagonists cannot triumph, and the primary voice of this album is a voice that does not really have a chance. From the first line of this concept album, there is no respite, no out. The lyrics were difficult for me – especially “Juvie.” There is no way to navigate out of this maze of horrors , and the destruction of the voice is inevitable. It left me wrung out and thankful that, for all the ugliness I have seen, I have come out relatively clean.

Bonafide – Something’s Dripping (Black Lodge 2009)

Something’s Dripping may be one of the most comforting albums I have listened to in a while. Right out of the gates I knew what to expect, and BONAFIDE delivered my expectations every time. Listening was like stepping into the most worn and comfortable jeans that I own. You know what? I have never gotten laid once because I was wearing my lazy Sunday jeans. I prefer to be surprised.

Beneath The Massacre – Dystopia (Prosthetic Records 2008)

Sometimes I wonder if I see things that aren’t there, if my background in literature makes me see the world through dork-tinted lenses. Sometimes there is no doubt in my mind that I am on to something (I’m looking at you, KEEP OF KALESSIN – I’ve read Ursula LaGuin’s Earthsea novels too), and sometimes I am less sure. Are BENEATH THE MASSACRE referring to T.S. Eliot with a song titled “The Wasteland?” Or Edgar Allen Poe with “Nevermore?” Whether the references are intentional or not, I am willing to draw the parallel here, if only because the brutality of Dystopia seems perfectly in line with the bleakness of modernism. Shit – I feel like giving myself a wedgie for this one.

Kittie – In The Black (E1 Music 2009)

I’m honestly not sure if I dig this or not. I certainly dig female-fronted metal, and Morgan Lander has some pipes. I also dig the packaging – this incarnation is KITTIE is sleek and slick and cool. Even their photography is great. And still. Something about In The Black leaves me hungry.

Job For A Cowboy – Ruination (Metal Blade 2009)

Alright, JOB FOR A COWBOY. I have some aggression to work out too; if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here. But sometimes you don’t have to go straight for the viscera. Sometimes you can just drink a bottle of wine and eat Oreos in the bathtub.

El Grupo Nuevo De Omar Rodriguez Lopez – Cryptomnesia (Rodriguez Lopez Productions 2009)

First, let me just say that I think THE MARS VOLTA is the shit. My lady parts were all a-quiver when I saw this particular album was included in my loot, and I am pleased to say I was not disappointed. The sound is strange and alien, but never alienating. For all the experimentation and aural collage and raw noise, Cryptomnesia retains a plaintiveness and kept me rapt.

U. D. O. – Dominator (AFM 2009)

So, maybe it’s a little bit cold. Not bitterly cold, just a bit rainy and drizzly, so the city is chilled and asphalt-grey. You’ve been running ragged lately, too many deadlines, a bit underslept. Maybe you even go to the gym, and put in a good workout, so your body is tired as well as your mind. Then, and the end of this busy, cold, wet, just slightly shitty day, you come home to a warm apartment and find a rare steak and a bottomless glass of red wine waiting for you. Can you imagine a more satisfying meal, the perfect sensation of bloody meat between your teeth? That’s exactly how satisfying Dominator is.

The Gathering – The West Pole (Season of Mist/Psychonaut Records 2009)

Come on, ovaries.

Woods of Ypres — W4: The Green Album

Posted in CD reviews with tags , on May 19, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here’s my review of the latest Woods of Ypres album, W4: The Green Album, released by Practical Art Records in December 2009. You can read the original here, on

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A friend and I recently met to have coffee and talk about ugly things. She and I write similar material: dense, difficult poems that engage with disgust, undesirability, abjection, violence and loss. Both of us are simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by the material we write about, and occasionally even troubled by it. It was her turn to be revolted by her own work and worried about the potential ethics of putting it out in the world. She asked me what I thought our responsibilities are, as writers of ugly things, to our potential readers. The only answer I have since come to is this: you can lead your readers (or listeners) into any wood, no matter how dark or frightening, however many monsters might lurk in the trees, so long as you act as a guide. You can lead someone into a nightmare, as deep as you’d like, so long as you leave a golden thread for them to follow out again. “Out” may mean back to where they began (though altered by the journey), or straight through to someplace else altogether. Whether readers or listeners, you can lead someone anywhere, no matter how strange, and demand any transformation or bravery, so long as you’re willing to make the journey with them.

W4: The Green Album is a difficult journey. There is a great deal of darkness, and there are certainly wolves (and worse) in these particular Woods. But, as a listener, you are never without a guide. However difficult and painful it may be, this was David Gold’s journey before it was yours, and it is going to hurt him a lot more than it hurts you.

There is much that attracts me about this album. The instrumentation and composition is excellent, and all four members of the band perform admirably; the production on the album is by far the highest quality seen on a Woods of Ypres album to date. But it’s really the vocals, and the lyrics, that captured my attention. These Woods are made of words, and they are very dark indeed, but it is also with words that Woods, and David Gold, promises to lead the listener out again.

One of the first things that struck me about the album the first time I listened to it as a whole was the structure. I could not help but envision it as a classic theatrical tragedy, laid out in three acts, each with a different tone and setting. The emotional timbre of the album shifts in each section as well, and the first section, comprised of the first five songs on the album, is definitely the most devastating.

The pain you get out of The Green Album is equal to the pain you put in. This is established immediately by “Shards of Love (hurt forever),” which is easily the most difficult song on the album. It’s title is perfectly appropriate. Any lingering shrapnel that might be buried in a listener’s heart will bleed afresh. This song stands as a kind of sentry; if you can make it past this first monster, you can make the journey this album demands. “Shards of Love” rip the listener apart.

The Green Album is certainly not all pain and difficulty. There is a great deal of beauty here, and hopefulness too. Four sings into the album is “I Was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery,” which has a sweetness, a softness, and a slight upward lilt to both the sound and the lyrics that becomes real forward momentum as the tempo increases near the end of the song. Whereas “Everything I Touch Turns To Gold (then to coal)” serves as the perfect soundtrack for personal (therapeutic?) destruction, and “By The Time You Read This (I will already be dead)” perfectly encapsulates the feeling of swirling, inescapable negativity, “I Was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery” offers some relief in the promise of an escape, or at last a drastic shift away, from all the pain.

This promise of escape is fully defined and more completely explored in “Into Exile: “Can you get here in 10 days?” I’ve grimly joked in the past that my eventual autobiography will be called It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time, and so this piece struck a particularly resonant chord in me. It is a song about sudden decisiveness, movement in any direction out of sheer desperate necessity. It is characterized by motion, by a series of shifts, progressing from sung lyrics to spoken word, from Western to Eastern influence in the music. As Gold embraces his now inevitable exile, he submerges the listener into the strange. In the final moments of this song, the combined roar of the vocals and guitar, evoke the sound of a plane taking off.

The second section, or act, of The Green Album is characterized by the series of pairs formed by the next six songs. Some songs are defined by a frenetic, almost uncontrolled pace; others serve as pauses or respites. This section of the album is constantly shifting, moving between calmness and violence, acceptance and rejection, punching through emotional walls and then sleeping it off.

“Pining (for you)” opens this section, and once again this beginning is a difficult place. The pace of the song drives constantly forward, yet the emotional tone looks back longingly, resisting that forward momentum (though not defying it completely). Lyrically, this is song about absence, all that can no longer be attained or touched, while the music pushes inexorably forward and away from that loss. The other half of this pair is “Wet Leather,” which possesses a similar forward momentum and drive, but instead of yearning, there is violence here, inwardly destructive negativity. There is also some gallows humour here. Whereas “Pining (for you)” has a sense of genuine earnestness to it, “Wet Leather” is tinged with irony, a bourbon-soaked bloody grin.

The next binary pair are perhaps the most closely related to each other, and circle each other as tightly as twinned stars. Each is short, harsh, brutal and uplifting. “Suicide Cargoload (drag that weight!)” is a defiant celebration of effort, the sheer grinding labour of fighting through each day while healing, each moment of grief in an unfamiliar place. It is also a triumphant song. Not once does Gold suggest that putting down this unimaginable weight is an option. “Halves and Quarters” is another defiant statement, a marker of success and stubbornness. As someone who has taken herself off both painkillers and antidepressants at different horrible points in my own life, I immediately recognized the inherent victory celebrated in this piece: the need for smaller and smaller doses, cutting pills into halves and quarters. Both songs in this pair do not shy way from the horrendous difficulty of the tasks they commemorate – pushing emotional weight, abandoning a chemical support. In fact, Gold draws additional attention to that difficulty by using harsh vocals. Both of these songs coach the listener through pain management techniques.

The final pair of songs in this section of the album represents The Green Album’s softest moments. “You Are Here With Me (in this sequence of dreams)” may be my favourite song on the album. Showcasing the addition of a lovely classical guitar (courtesy of Musk Ox’s Nathanael Larochette), this song unfolds like a lullaby, folding and unfolding in gentle lyrical circles, soft as any cocoon. This sleep, this dream, promises not just relief from pain but a return to real comfort. “Retrosleep In The Morning Calm” reintroduces a poignant edge, the clarity of a morning. Whereas the opening notes of the classical guitar in “You Are Here With Me (in this sequence of dreams)” are tender and forgiving, the electric guitar opening immediately reminds the listener that there is still scar tissue, still sore places, that can’t be eased by the comfort of any bed. Both songs hold the promise of acceptance, the slow beginning of a deeper healing.

“Don’t Open The Wounds/Skywide Armspread” represents the emotional high point of The Green Album. While still constructed as a (grim?) reminder to protect one’s self from further harm, the final moments of the song unfold as a triumphant return to one’s self – whole if not healed, bold if not unbroken, and able to experience the first true moment of joy after a disaster. David Gold has finally lead the listener into a clearing, an open place with some real sunlight, for the first time. Listening to this album for the first time, I felt a great sense of relief when I reached this point, as though I had made it, had finally been lead out of the Woods and through to the other side.

But The Green Album is not done with the listener yet. There is another shift in tone and tempo here, as the third act of this tragedy begins. The darkness in this section possesses and entirely different texture, and there is a different pattern to this tangle of trees. It seems that this section of the album marks a return to the Western world, a return from exile in Korea, and that this return is in many ways unsettling. The world left behind after the first section of the album is still intact, a fact that David Golds wants us to feel is strange bordering on perverse. The next few songs in particular (“Natural Technologies,” “Mirror Reflection & The Hammer Reinvention,” and “Our Union (in limbo)”) give me the impression that Gold would have been far more comfortable to find Canada had been completely razed and built anew, and to find it still coldly standing drags the album back to a slightly melancholy place. There is a great deal of positivity too, and energy, and sheer defiance – particularly in “Natural Technologies,” which is a celebration of physical, sexual vitality and a return to desire, and also contains some of the most intense music of the album. But gradually the songs slow, cool, and begin to grope towards acceptance, a peacefulness that is not afraid of a little lingering pain.

Just as The Green Album seemed to promise, finally, to lead the listener out of the Woods, I found myself lost. The final song on the album, “Move On!,” left me behind right when I was sure I could see a glimmer of light through the branches. The song is good, and grim, and energetic, and manages to be both a little funny and merciless all at the same time. In many ways, it ends the album perfectly. However, it is not a song that I felt I could connect to in the same way I did the rest of the album, as both a woman and the person who, in my own tragedy, was the one left rather than the one leaving. This is no fault of The Green Album; it did mean, however, that it ceased to guide me. Rather than finishing the journey and emerging unscathed, I have felt lost in the green ever since.

I can’t say I mind. After all, these Woods are lovely, dark and deep.

Postcards from Natalie Zed: Part Two

Posted in CD reviews with tags , on May 19, 2010 by Natalie Zed

I write a series of postcard-length reviews for Here is the second installment. You can read the original here.

Skitliv – Skandinavisk Misantropi (Season of Mist 2009)

When a razor’s edge first splits skin, the shallowest cuts aren’t painful. Like slicing through elastic, each layer flexes, gives, and eases apart. First pain is a high note, a quick intake of breath. Breathe through it. Press. The deeper you go, the fatter the blood is; the sweeter the flesh. The pain deepens, grows darker, gains weight and texture. The pain growls. Here you might hesitate. SKITLIV presses still harder, past muscle and fat, seeking bone.

Light This City – Facing The Thousand (Prosthetic Records 2006)

Every single scrap of writing that exists about this album mentions the female vocalist’s hotness. And if I have to hear one more discussion about whether or not female vocalists have a place in metal, I am going to kill myself with an oyster fork.

Darkane – Demonic Art (Nuclear Blast 2009)

It’s easy to forget that the basic functions of your senses – vision, hearing – aren’t just passive abilities, but real skills that you learn and develop. The first time I saw some of my favourite horror movies, I was shocked and overcome by their “realness,” the apparent seamlessness between reality and the illusion. Gradually, with repeated re-watching, I learned to see the tiny mistakes, the tricks, and soon learned to see through the affect into the art. I had a similar experience with DARKANE. The sound on Demonic Art is so lovely and layered and complex, and clear, that it took me many listens to be able to hear it all completely. I am still learning to listen to it.

Wolf – The Black Flame (Prosthetic Records 2006)

I am convinced that there is an entire subgenre of metal that’s currently engaged in a huge collective consciousness experiment. These bands, WOLF included, think and behave as exactly as if it is 1985. There is nothing retro, or throwback, or homage about what they’re doing. They are simply willing 1985 into being. Judging by how much fun these bands are to listen to, I’d say the experiment is working. WOLF: Better Than a Time Machine.

In Flames – Whoracle (Nuclear Blast 2009) (reissue)

Since this is an established, even canonical album, I feel like I can dally here and talk about vocabulary.

I’m simultaneously at an advantage and a disadvantage in my relationship to language. I came to metal by way of literature, rather than vice versa, and so the words used to describe the music — and oh the wealth of genres and subgenres all cross-pollinating each other in a dense network of modifiers and adjectives and portmanteaus – still feel opaque and unfamiliar. I still think about them deliberately, consider their sound and texture as well as their meaning. Whoracle has been called Gothenburg – location-based descriptor, but also which sounds to me like a warrior’s reward, something to strive for.

Whoracle is something to strive for.

Death Angel – Killing Season (Nuclear Blast 2008)

For summer, when everything smells like tar and exhaust, the asphalt is melting to your shoes, the growl of metal is everywhere, and the coolest water you can find is still the temperature of blood.

Leprous – Tall Poppy Syndrome (Sensory 2009)

As a migraineur, I have a rather peculiar relationship to painkillers. Tall Poppy Syndrome is aptly named. The sound is as thick, syrupy, and luscious as any opiate. It does not negate pain so much as shift your value judgements regarding positive and negative sensation. Like any poppy derivative, this offering from LEPROUS let’s you consider your hurt from a distance rather than be endlessly re-wounded by it, to study desolation from the infinite comfort of the slightest distance.

Byzantine – And They Shall Take Up Serpents (Prosthetic Records 2005)

Snakes don’t frighten me. They’re cool and dry and muscular, with a hint of musk that reminds me of the way the smell of ash clings to your throat. Their patterns of movement are difficult to predict, shifting from languorous to lightning. BYZANTINE does not fully capture the slither they’re seeking, but there’s just enough sibilance here to make you catch your tongue between your teeth.

Through The Eyes Of The Dead – Malice (Prosthetic Records 2007)

The issue here has to do with units of measurement. The individual tracks blend into each other, resulting in an undifferentiated mass of music rather than individual songs. The album as a whole also feels watery around the edges; it starts and stops rather than beginning and ending. Malice is all middle.

Mumakil – Behold The Failure (Relapse Records 2009)


Postcards from Natalie Zed: Part One

Posted in CD reviews with tags , on May 19, 2010 by Natalie Zed

I write a series of postcard-length reviews for Here is the first installment. You can read the original here.

Blackguard – Profugus Mortis

I first saw BLACKGUARD perform with ENSIFERUM, EX DEO, and SWASHBUCKLE on December 1st 2009. Their energy, graciousness and leather pants left me smitten, as did the combination of a black metal aesthetic with the cheerful cheekiness of folk. Paul Ablaze is a charismatic bugger, and “This Round’s On Me” is positively infectious. The album, in contrast, is surprisingly chilly and stoic. The sound is dominated by the keyboard battling the guitar, and while it’s definitely a friendly sparring match, it is most certainly a fight. I was also surprised by the reliance on black vocals with no warmth or contrast. Like an evening of drinking gone slightly awry, I expected to spend an evening sipping scotch neat with this album, and instead wound up doing shots. (Nuclear Blast 2009)

Enslaved – Vertebrae

Any sensation, sustained long enough, however pleasurable or painful, will eventually fade into numbness. Hit the same nerve enough times in the same way and you’ll eventually stop feeling it. ENSLAVED are intimately aware of this, and actively combat the formation of an auditory callus with Vertebrae. The constant changes in texture and intensity prevents complacency — as soon as I’d start to settle into the album it would shift. Gentle without any comfort. A series of beginnings. Death by sandpaper. (Nuclear Blast 2008)

Testament – Demonic

My family is Russian. My grandfather, Vsevolod, taught me to do shots (with gingerale) when I was three years old. He also taught me to say the word “Nostrovia” (to health) as a toast. That word is also the final track on Demonic, which made me feel unexpectedly nostalgic. Even more unexpected was how that nostalgia provided an appropriate counterpoint to this experience. Despite being huge and towering and harsh, TESTAMENT handles the listener carefully. There is something warm under the death growl, something unexpectedly tender in this album that begins with a countdown to 666 and ends with a sincere toast to the listeners’ health. (Prosthetic Records 2007) (re-issue)

Skeletonwitch – Breathing the Fire

There are two ways to burn energy. Some labour exhausts you, lessens you, takes whatever reserves you have. You walk away dead tired and fall asleep still wearing your clothes and and a sheen drying sweat. Then, much more rarely, there is the labour that leaves you energized, electric. Breathing the Fire burns out of the latter category. However relentless the thrash, however hard it worked me over, I felt like I could take (and give) more. (Prosthetic Records 2009)

All That Remains – Overcome

I saw ALL THAT REMAINS at the Sound Academy on November 17th 2007, along with TAKING DAWN, MAYLENE AND THE SONS OF DISASTER, and LACUNA COIL. In the interest of full disclosure, I bought the ticket to see Lacuna, but ended up being completely pleased with the headliner as well. It certainly helped that their set had Tony Hawk-esque circle pit ramps. It was a chance meeting, an almost accidental flirtation that left me unexpectedly hot under the collar. Listening to the album, I thought, would be a continuation of that steamy introduction (with fewer teenagers who couldn’t control their elbows), a proper first date. Only expecting to be shown a good time, the album took an unexpectedly earnest turn around “Forever in Your Hands.” Expecting to be simply ridden hard and out a way wet, this album made me feel like I should call it the next day or at least invite it to breakfast. (Prosthetic Records 2008)

The Black Dahlia Murder – Deflorate

In case you hadn’t noticed: the album art features an obese, Giger-esque giantess covered in uterus-pods, sitting atop an insect throne/war machine, incinerating a trio of agonized penitents. Also, the drumming on this album is making me draw some uncomfortably delicious comparisons between an ear drums, a drum skin, and a hymen. Deflorate indeed. (Metal Blade 2009)

Drudkh – Autumn Aurora

I chose the worst possible moment to listen to Autumn Aurora for the first time. I was stressed and manic, over-caffeinated and behind on a writing deadline. What I found in DRUDKH was so anathema to that state of mind that I might have hated it simply for not giving me more angry, scattered energy. But by the time “Glare of Autumn” came on, I had stopped working or pacing and simply sat, listening.DRUDKH soothes without draining and refreshes without comforting. Strange and lovely. (Season of Mist 2009) (reissue)

Hatebreed – Hatebreed

I am completely willing to accept that this is one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” situations. You see, I hate to jog. Loathe and despise it, actually. I would rather be flogged than go for a run. I get the sense that were I the particular brand of masochist for whom the vice would be versa, I would love this album. It’s angry and fast and has exactly the right kind of aggressive drive to sustain gross physical exertion. Were I a runner, I would love HATEBREED. (E1 Music 2009)

Axxis – Utopia

Somewhere in the depths of my roommate’s hard drive, there is a video clip. This video clip may or may not depict me in my underpants, several bourbon-with-limes to the good, dancing around like an idiot and singing along to “Utopia” at the top of my lungs. If this video ever makes it on to the internet, you can safely assume that my roommate is also now dead. (AFM Records 2009)

Gojira – The Way Of All Flesh

In May of 2009, Lily the Pirate (my good friend, roommate, and fellow metal head) and I went out for a beer. On out way home, our streetcar stopped in front of The Mod Club on College Street. Unbeknownst to us, GOJIRA had played there that night (this was when my love for metal still bore its first blush and before 60% of my paycheque went to concert tickets). The show had just ended; suddenly the streetcar was full of sweaty boys all vibrating with excitement. Whenever one of them spotted a small herd of their damp-black-t-shirt-wearing brethren, they’d lean out the window and scream “GOJIRA” at each other. Lily and I looked at each other; we both knew that whatever had just happened was something that we wanted to get in on. This album is inseparable from the feeling I got sitting on that streetcar being completely surrounded by positive energy and the very best kind of exhaustion there is. (Prosthetic Records 2008)