Overtures – Artifacts
Label: SLEASZY RIDER RECORDS
In Artifacts, Overtures burst out of the gate and amp up for a crushing progressive power metal performance. The vocals soar high, sounding like a cross between Edguy and Stratovarius with a handful of group vocals, growls, and near screams in the mix. The guitar bottoms out and plows through with forceful riffs that turn into solos with ease. On the track “Angry Animals” there are even some sections with serious groove that provide a fitting contrast to the bombastic, high energy approach.
While the album packs a punch, there are a number of flaws in its construction and elements that weaken its blows. About half the tracks feel fresh while the other half are stale and add no value to the performance. What makes matters worse is that the one track that is a winding ten-minute epic falls into the latter category and is worthy of skipping. As well, there are theatrics dumped in the performance in the shape of absurdly quiet piano bits and low crooning on the vocals that feel like an afterthought.
Artifacts has its enjoyable aspects and its weak moments. The energy and speedy tempo makes tracks that are easy to rock out to, and the occasional bits of funky groove provide a distinct taste. However, there are too many tracks that are forgettable at best and only clog up the pacing of the album. Artifacts is worth a spin to pick out the gems, but leave the dirt behind.
Skeleton Wolf – Skeleton Wolf
This album from self-described “extreme metal” trio Skeleton Wolf aims to fulfill that descriptor by effectively combining death metal and power metal, though the balance is usually pretty heavily in favor of the death (there’s also a few dabs of blackened atmosphere, which works surprisingly well). The biggest points in the music’s favor come from strong rhythms and chemistry between the instruments, and while the vocals are unlikely to be something you haven’t heard before, they’re belted out with enough force and feeling to make a decent go of it.
The songs seem very well-polished and plotted, deploying their breakdowns and crescendos with sharp timing, and getting away with as much extension of their lead riffs as can be decently included. Though the lyrics are kind of eyeroll-inducing (for reference, the title of “M.P.F.F.” stands for “Metal! Punk! Fight! Fuck!”, as you’ll hear several times while listening to it), that unabashed enthusiasm does a nice job of hearkening back to the ’80s, and considering how much glory death and power metal had in those days, it comes off as more of an homage than a lack of creativity. This is especially so considering the heavy arrangements Skeleton Wolf show themselves capable of devising, as with the multiple rises of “Whatever Demons (We All Have Them)”.
Really, the power of this album resides in the beats and riffs, so as long as you can turn off lyrical critique and let yourself flow along with those, you’re likely to have a pretty good time. This is Skeleton Wolf‘s first album, and on that metric, they do a damn fine job. Plenty of energetic hard-beat grooves packed into the tracks do their best to get listeners’ heads bouncing along in time, the band shows a clear concern with avoiding sloppiness or half-assed work, and they get to try out a few variations while keeping their central style clear and identifiable. Check it out if you’re in the mood for death metal with some pep to it.