Chad’s Heavy Music Reviews: Week of December 2, 2016

This week’s reviews include releases from Avenged Sevenfold, Bethlehem, Crystal Lake, Enuff Z’Nuff, Ranger and Trivium. The ratings are on a 5 star scale.

Avenged Sevenfold - Best Of 2005-2013

Warner Brothers Records

Avenged Sevenfold – Best Of 2005-2013 (Warner Brothers)

Genre: Heavy Metal

Avenged Sevenfold just unleashed their latest album The Stage. Their previous label decided to release the collection Best Of 2005-2013 in close proximity, something the band wasn’t thrilled with.

The 18 tracks include A7X’s most popular songs such as “Bat Country,” “Nightmare,” “So Far Away,” “Shepherd Of Fire” and “Hail To The King.” The albums covered start with their third full-length, 2005’s City Of Evil through 2013’s Hail To The King. It’s a comprehensive collection of tracks from the band’s most successful era that’s tailor made for those who don’t already own the original albums.

Rating: 3.5

Bethlehem - Bethlehem

Prophecy Productions

Bethlehem – Bethlehem (Prophecy)

Genre: Black Metal

The German band Bethlehem have undergone wholesale changes since their last album. The lone remaining member on their new self-titled effort is Jurgen Bartsch. Drummer Wolz returns after a five year absence, joined by new vocalist Onielar (Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult) and guitarist Karzov (Bog Morok).

The revamped lineup explores the band’s mid-’90s black metal style with fierce riffs and tortured vocals, but also incorporate mellow parts and experimental sections that are strange, but work. It’s a compelling amalgamation of brutality and creativity, making for a unique sounding album that Bethlehem fans have come to expect.

Rating: 3.5

Crystal Lake - True North

Artery Recordings

Crystal Lake – True North (Artery)

Genre: Metalcore

The Japanese metalcore band Crystal Lake have been around for more than a decade, but last year’s The Sign was their first exposure to many North American fans, as it was their initial release here. A little more than a year later they are back with True North.

They blend intense metalcore with melodic moments and some electronica-laced parts for atmosphere. Some songs feature all or mostly harsh vocals, while others incorporate melodic singing and spoken word. While there’s a lot of standard metalcore tropes, there’s also a few twists and turns that give it some originality.

Rating: 3

Enuff Z'Nuff - Clowns Lounge

Frontiers Music

Enuff Z’Nuff – Clowns Lounge (Frontiers)

Genre: Hard Rock

The 2016 version of Enuff Z’Nuff is considerably different than the classic lineup of the group. The lone remaining member is Chip Z’Nuff, who has taken over lead vocal duties from Donnie Vie. The opening track features the current lineup.

However, the majority of Clowns Lounge is songs and demos originally written in 1988 and 1989 that have been cobbled together. They have the classic Enuff Z’Nuff sound with Vie’s vocals. There’s also the track “The Devil Of Shakespeare” that features the late Warrant vocalist Jani Lane along with Styx guitarist James Young. Hardcore Enuff Z’Nuff fans will find this collection interesting, but it won’t have a wide appeal.

Rating: 3

Ranger - Speed & Violence

Spinefarm Records

Ranger – Speed & Violence (Spinefarm)

Genre: Speed Metal

When you listen to Speed & Violence, you may think it was released back in the early ’80s, or that Ranger must have been around since those days. Wrong on both counts. It’s only the Finnish band’s second album, following last year’s debut.

They play old school speed metal with fast and loose riffs and plenty of shredding. The vocals are mostly sing-song with gang choruses and surprisingly powerful falsetto mixed in periodically. The production is all analog, giving it a throwback sound as well. Born too late for the original wave of speed metal, Ranger are bringing it back for us old fogies who grew up in that era and exposing the style to a new generation of metalheads.

Rating: 3.5

Trivium - Ember To Inferno: Ab Initio

Kiichi Chaos/Cooking Vinyl America

Trivium – Ember To Inferno: Ab Initio (Cooking Vinyl)

Genre: Metalcore

Trivium‘s debut full-length Ember To Inferno was released in 2003. It has been hard to find, and is now being reissued. The deluxe editions also include the band’s early demos. Nothing has been remastered or remixed, as the band wanted the material to remain in its original state.

Trivium’s sound has evolved since their younger days, but their talent was evident right out of the gate. What hardcore fans will really want to dig into are the 13 bonus tracks that include Ruber (The Red Demo), Caeruleus (The Blue Demo) and Flavus (The Yellow Demo) that are the band’s earliest efforts. The passion of a band’s nascent days can rarely be recaptured, and it’s interesting to hear Trivium’s beginnings.

Rating: 4

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