AncarA – Garden of Chains
Location: Tuusula, Finland
Label: Concorde Music Company
There are some albums that you listen to and immediately think “there’s no way this can be performed in a dive bar in front of 20 people.” The music is just too “big” sounding, too grandiose, so all you can picture is an arena full of screaming fans (think Journey), with huge pyrotechnics and flashy lights. Garden of Chains by Finland’s AncarA is one of those albums, with the kind of catchy choruses and soaring melodies that absolutely beg to played in a huge amphitheater.
Sonically, AncarA have elements of power metal, progressive arena rock (along the lines of Journey), and modern hard rock similar to Breaking Benjamin. The guitars have a pretty heavy crunch, but manage to keep melody at the forefront on songs like “Changes Come” and “Perfect Enemy,” though there’s always a little bit of an 80’s rock vibe. The overall sound on Garden of Chains is really synthesizer and electronics heavy; while perfect for the live setting, the heavy-handed use of synthesizers somewhat neuter the guitar tone. The vocals match the mood of the music perfectly; though a mostly clean-sounding tenor, the lead vocalist also gets a slightly raspy, grittier edge when the tone of the music gets a little heavier.
The production is pristine, with plenty of layers in the mix, giving the album a larger-than-life tone. There is an abundance of electronics in the mix, including vocal distortions, giving Garden of Chains a very modern, arena rock-sounding vibe, with “Feeding The Fire” being one of the best examples. For fans of the AOR type bands like Journey and Foreigner that are looking something with a little more of a modern (and occasionally heavier) edge, this latest release from AncarA will be a welcome addition to their album collections. The band plays together with an enviable chemistry, but the songwriting isn’t the most original thing I’ve ever heard. Still, this album sounds like it would be pretty kick-ass in a live setting.
Dead Earth Politics – The Mobius Hammersmith
Location: Austin, Texas
Texas-based Dead Earth Politics have been active for over a decade, shared the stage with some of the biggest names in metal, and released some top-notch records over the years. With each release, they continue to grow as musicians, and have become a pretty well-oiled machine, as can be heard on this new release, The Mobius Hammersmith.
If you’re new to Dead Earth Politics, now is as good a time as any to get acquainted, since The Mobius Hammersmith is the band’s strongest release to date. Dead Earth Politics play a heavy, thrash-oriented form of groove metal that also mixes in the melodic lead-guitar bits that made bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest famous. Album opener, “Runescarred,” gets right down to business, with a fast, chuggy riff, and gruff vocals that are somewhere between singing in screaming, similar to Lamb of God and Mastodon. There is a great balance of crushing heaviness, technical prowess, and melody, as can be heard on the title track, “The Mobius Hammersmith.” The production is on par with just about any major label release you can get your hands on, and highlights the excellent musicianship, particularly the flashy guitar work and solid vocal performance.
If you’re a fan of groove bands like Lamb of God, but want a little bit of classic heavy/speed metal mixed in, Dead Earth Politics are right up your alley. The Mobius Hammersmith is an excellent release from an up-and-coming band, and it’s really just a matter of time at this point before someone signs these guys. Be sure to listen to this is at the highest volume setting for maximum effect.
Death of Kings – Death Comes to Life
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Label: Boris Records
There are so many thrash bands out there, that it’s really hard to find one that really gets your attention. The genre has been around for so long, and so many famous bands populate it, that it’s often hard to create something memorable. This is why Death of Kings really took me by surprise.
From the very opening of “Hell Comes to Life,” and through every hit of the drums, and every time the picks hit the strings, I was absolutely connected. Despite being made up only two songs, this EP packs more energy than many seasoned bands are able to pack in a double album, and it is truly relentless in its ferocity.
With vocals that hit a higher register than most thrash performances (they even reminded me of the wails of Huntress’ Jill Janus, or Cryonic Temple‘s Glen Metal), and melodies that really seem to be made to create chaos in the moshpit, Death of Kings have created a truly amazing piece of music. Heavily influenced by Kreator (particularly the Enemy of God era), and even with some minor hints of power metal (“Hell Patrol” really reminded me of Cryonic Temple, even beyond the vocals), this is the kind of thing thrash fans should not miss.