Saturday, December 19, 2015

Review: Queensryche, "Condition Human"

Condition Human marks the full return of the Queensryche that I know and love.

While I really enjoyed the band’s eponymous debut with new singer Todd LaTorre, I thought, in places, the dynamic hadn’t quite come together. That’s not the case with the band’s second record with LaTorre. It hits right in Queensryche’s late ‘80s/early ‘90s progressive metal powerhouse, yet manages to not sound dated.

I had my doubts. The first song that I heard was album opener “Arrow of Time,” and while it’s not a bad song, it’s not a standout either. But then along comes “Guardian,” and all is right with the world. An aggressively catchy guitar riff, combined with some driving beats from drummer Scott Rockenfield, puts the listener in mind of some of the band’s more aggressive early work. The huge chorus, though, is firmly rooted in the Mindcrime era, which Queensryche backs up with a lyrical nod to that album. For me, it’s easily one of the best hooks of the record — and with Todd LaTorre wailing like a young, in-his-prime Geoff Tate, it’s a thing of beauty.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Review: Amorphis, "Under the Red Cloud"

I didn’t think that Finnish folk/death metal outfit Amorphis would ever top 2009’s epic Skyforger. But their latest, Under the Red Cloud, certainly gives it a run for its money.

Under the Red Cloud may be Amorphis’ most folk-influenced record to date, but that makes it no less crushingly heavy when it needs to be.

We see the two sides in the first two songs. The title track opens softly, playing heavily into the folk elements before transforming into a ripping rocker with just a few growls from vocalist Tomi Joutsen. Second track “The Four Wise Ones,” digs in for some good, old-fashioned melodic death metal. We get a break in the middle with some effects-laden vocals from Aleah Stanbridge (Trees of Eternity) before the song ramps back up. Even in its heaviness, though, “The Four Wise Ones” plays to the folk elements with whistles and pipes running throughout.