Thousand Year War – Tyrants And Men

The new album from Alaskans Thousand Year War creates a very satisfying blend of old school melodic death and black metal with other classic metal flavours resulting in an interesting and at times enthralling array of powerful and direct sounds. Tyrants And Men may not be exactly rippling in originality but it delivers metal that stirs up the senses with creative essences alongside its pummelling assaults.

From Anchorage and begun in 2008, Thousand Year War for this album is guitarist and vocalist Hiram Lohr with session musicians Kellen on bass and drummer Fredrik Widigs. Released via Abyss Records, Tyrants And Men took time to find its way into the world’s ears. While working as a commercial fisherman to finance it the album was recorded by Lohr at Garden Studios in Anchorage with Kellen, it was then upon the failure to find a skilled drummer at home sent across to Fredrik Widigs (The Ugly And Desultor) in Sweden summer of 2009 to lay down a drum track. Once passed on then to be mixed and mastered by Fredrik Lunneborg of Primecut Studios in Sweden, the album was presented before Dan Ferguson of Abyss Records leading to the band being signed and its release in September of this year. It may have taken time but has proven well worth the wait.  

The album, as a great many others have also said has a distinct Amon Amarth flavour to it and if a fan of their striking and powerful sounds Tyrants And Men will be a definite winner.  Rampant riffs, striking flowing guitars and incisive solos, plus a vocal mix of guttural growls and higher pitched screams fly from the tracks with ease and strong ability. Though the album does not venture often too far from expected melodic death metal sounds and craft it is definitely one of the more accomplished releases lately in sound and production.

Lyrically the album deals with the duality and opposition between the ruling evil elite running the world and the people, who are constantly battling to turn the world we live in around with truth, not power and wealth. The theme is as powerful as the sounds and adds a good deeper dimension to the release.

There is a good strong level across the album, each track holding its own and giving great satisfaction but some moments really show the band as a future force as well as a more than decent band right now. ‘The Sea’ is a lively blend of great melodic guitars and grooves rippling beneath the intense vocals and drums, and its successor ‘No Gods, No Masters’ an irrepressible blast of dark rock ‘n’ roll that eagerly pounds away with enthused energy. It may not be the more original track on the album but it is undeniably one of the more exiting. The one song that lifts its head highest is ‘Open Casket’, breaking out on a classic rock riff not out of place in a Maiden song the track brings in some smart and intricate guitar play that lights up the dark mood fuelling the song. Every song on the album has its moment though and it is impossible to find a weak track anywhere.

The downside to the album? There is not much apart from the previously mentioned lack of anything really new or unpredictable.  There is also an overall sameness across some of the tracks but with honesty could not that be levelled at the majority of releases these days to some degree? Thousand Year War has produced an album that more than can hold its own against any other and makes the thirty five minutes plus a very worthwhile and agreeable use of time and that can easily be repeated again and again.

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www.thousandyearwar.com

RingMaster 31/10/2011

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As I Lay Dying – Decas

Upon hearing the details of the new album from Californian metalcore band As I Lay Dying one just knew there would be a mixed reception towards it without even hearing a sound. The news of an album containing covers and remixes even with some original material was bound to cause a stir, because as loyal and passionate as metal fans are many do not like songs tampered with or classics tainted, or it seems even attempted in many cases. Decas is sure to split opinions once heard but as a celebration of the band’s 10 year anniversary it is a pretty fine and enjoyable release.

In some ways Decas feels like a filler between albums but if there is not enough new material ready why not pay tribute to the band’s influences. Obviously whether the choice of tracks suits the listener or not is immaterial and with all the songs extremely well delivered and interpreted one knows there was real effort and no sense that they spent an afternoon reeling them off in a hurry. One does hopes the original tracks are exclusive to this album and do not appear on the next as that would take the gloss off Decas but time will tell on that.  

The three original tracks are typically As I Lay Dying and typically impressive. ‘Paralysed’ kicks off proceedings with a solid dose of robust pummelling and insurgent riffs powered by the as usual impressive combined growls and clean vocals of Tim Lambesis and bassist Josh Gilbert respectively. The great melodic play makes the track not the most punishing the band has ever produced but does set things up for the crushing assault of ‘From Shapeless to Breakable’. Whereas the opener almost takes its time to consume this goes straight for the throat with a dark thrash metal aggressive insurgency. The drums from Jordan Mancino are attention grabbing and frame the song wonderfully as the guitars of Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso crash and entice in equal measure.

Moving Forward’ completes the trio of new tracks with a slightly mellower and more melodic flow, though the aggression especially from Lambesis and Manino never wanes. It is hard to think of a better contrasting and complimenting vocal duo than Lambesis and Gilbert anywhere their balance perfect more often than not. As with the first two songs this is impressive and continues the quality and levels of music from the previous album The Powerless Rise. There is no discernable progress from that release to be fair but as they sound this good not sure that matters.

The four covers are a mixed bag depending on one’s taste but they are brought forth with skill and character by the band. ‘War Ensemble’ is an excellent version of the Slayer track. Whether anyone can reach that band’s heights on their songs is debateable but As I Lay Dying get damn close as the track tramples all over the senses with its unbridled power and intensity. A great song matched by the Descendents cover ‘Coffee Mug’.  The band gives the punk classic real homage by not copying it but delivering their own distinct version and it is the highlight of the whole album. As much as the urge to go straight to the remixes is strong we have to mention the Judas Priest covers ‘Hellion’ and ‘Electric Eye’. Thankfully omitting the Halford screams in their version there is still no getting away from the fact if one does not like Judas Priest no cover will compensate enough to make them bearable enough.

It is not clear why the re-recorded medley of ‘Beneath The Encasing’ is included though it is decent enough obviously, this does feel like a late add on. The re-mixes are again varied and again the point of re-mixes misses the understanding of this reviewer other than to pad out something but that’s a debate for another time.  On Decas there is one track that actually works really well and engages wonderfully and though of course not a patch on its source is more than listenable. That is the Innerpartysytem remix of ‘The Blinding of False Light’, the song coming over with a flavour of The Browning without the intensity.

The Benjamin Weinman (The Dillinger Escape Plan) remix of ‘Wrath Upon Ourselves’ is intriguing if slightly too messy to fully get attached to but the last couple of ‘Confined’ (remixed by Kelly “Carnage” Cairn) and ‘Elegy’ (Big Chocolate Remix) are just window dressing and easily passed over.

Overall though Decas is a great and very enjoyable released and as a celebration of As I Lay Dying’s centenary is a more than worthy way to mark it.

Decas is available via Metal Blade Records November 8th

RingMaster 31/10/2011

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