Tales from the Jugular

Staff Round Table: Buy, Borrow, Bust --Overkill, Halestorm, Saille, Black Oak County, Our Place Of Worship Is Silence
Our Personal Opinions on Five Various New Releases

By: Maximum Metal Staff
Published: Monday, April 24, 2017
Tons of new releases have crossed our desk this year and in the spirit of a good ol' sit down, digital round table, we grabbed a handful of various albums from various styles and put in our opinion of each. Where we try to cull our biases out of regular reviews, in here personal feelings are apt to raise their gnarly heads. Instead of our normal scoring system, we simplified it down to the 3-choice options of: "Buy, Borrow, or Bust" --Buy: I'd put down some cash for it, Borrow: I'd stream it or snag a copy from a friend, Bust: I'd physically crush this into little pieces with a heavy vehicle.

In our DIY age with thousands of releases each year, getting noticed is half the battle. If you're not into critical commentary, at least you'll know the album is out so you can go listen and form your own ideas whether they agree or disagree with us. So, without any further intro blather, let's spin the wheel on Black Oak County, Halestorm, Overkill, Our Place of Worship is Silence, and Saille; and see where it lands...

Album: Black Oak County - S/T
(Hard Rock)
Eric: Damn, this is the most fun I've had in months with a record. Denmark's Black Oak County are a heavy four-piece that slide perfectly into that niche between hard rock and heavy metal. This debut album comes by way of Mighty Music (Tygers of Pan Tang, Sea), a Danish label that seems to be the newest rising force in artist development and execution. Opener "Someone Else" is a rhythmic mosh rock with heavy distortion amongst it's faster paced groove set. Guitarist-vocalist Niels Beier is a charismatic front man and has a rougher edging around his mostly clean vocal delivery. I like the backing vocal trade-off in the chorus, which makes this a fun opening statement. The album single, "Mad Dog", is symbolic of what to expect from the band and album. It's a faster song, using the down-tuned strings to add a little bit of swinging charm to a ferociously heavy cut. Likeable cuts are the accessible "Save Me" and "Laughing with the Crows" while the heavier songs are highlighted by aggressive number "The Boogeyman". The record's polish is handled by producer-engineer Jonas Haagensen (Aphyxion) at Jacob Hansen's Hansen Studios in Denmark. Looks like a winner. Sounds like a winner. Gotta be a winner, right?

Frank: Pretty solid set of bluesy hard rock. Vocals have a nice bite and the drums keep the pace up. However, these ten songs don't have much variety or nuances to catch on repeat playing so I'm not tempted enough to outright buy it all. I'd grab around half the singles, so this one gets a...

Greg: Mix of classic rock and modern alternative music from Denmark. A little repetitive but pretty decent listen.

Troy: Excellent grungy hard rock in the vein of Black Stone Cherry and Alter Bridge. Beier's vocals hit with a likeness to a Keith Caputo & Zakk Wylde lovechild. Lead single "Mad Dog" sets the stage for ten kick ass tracks layered with massive riffs and miles of solo's. Including the infectious groove of "Nothing to Say".

Album: Halestorm - ReAniMate 3.0: The CoVeRs eP
(Hard Rock)
Eric: Halestorm is just a ton of fun. 'Reanimate' is a series of cover-tunes EPs the band does every few years. Enjoyable stuff that you can throw on and not need a brainstorming session. The first volume was released in 2011, the second in 2013 and a new one this year. "Still of the Night" (Whitesnake) sounds great. Lzzy's vocal range can do Coverdale justice. One of my favorite songs of the 90's is "Fell on Black Days" (Soundgarden) and that is represented sort of "middle of the road" here. The middle part that Cornell nails is washed out with the guitars. "I Hate Myself for Loving You" (Joan Jett) and "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" (Sophie B. Hawkins) are always entertaining selections. "Heathens" (Twenty One Pilots) I'm not familiar with but it sounds okay. I think the main event for most is "Ride the Lightning" (Metallica). The timing changes at the 2-minute mark is a bit mechanical and not as smooth as the original. That's me just being picky. It's a killer cover.

Frank: Third in the Halestorm series of cover EPs which are always a diverse mix of hard rock, metal, and whatever pop they want to throw in the bucket. "Still of the Night" (Whitesnake) snarls and showcases Lzzy' immense lungs. "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" (Sophie B. Hawkins) keeps the longing of the original. "Heathens" (Twenty One Pilots) should hit the younger fans. "Fell On Black Days" (Soundgarden) felt underwhelming without the treble of Chris Cornell. Anchor song "Ride the Lightning" (Metallica) has the vocal power, especially on the choruses, which only Lzzy has. Production is a bit heavy with the bass giving the rock songs more beef, but the metal tunes lose some of their guitar bite. At less than 30 minutes, you can't really find a central heart in 3.0. It was probably knocked out in a day and an indulgent tribute to their own favorites. Personally, I liked it better than 2.0, but less than 1.0. The cover is an odd one. It looks like a Cubist version of Metallica's new Hardwired... release.

Greg: Another cover album from Halestorm with some very odd choices for covers. Rather underwhelming.

Troy: Lzzy Hale has a big voice and several songs here like "Still of the Night" and "Fell on Black Days" show her diversity. I like what she attempted to do with "Heathens" but it comes out a bit flat. Overall an enjoyable listen as are the other cover albums but not worth a purchase.

Album: OUR PLACE OF WORSHIP IS SILENCE - The Embodiment of Hate (Death)
Eric: 'The Embodiment of Hate', this California's band first album, hits the nail on the head with its title. Thick walls of ripping guitars are wrapped in bone-dry production to perfect the moment of anguish. Its sludgy rhythm isn't a far cry from Morbid Angel's "Where the Slime Lives", albeit spread out over seven tracks instead of one. The vocals are growling deeper than normal and stop occasionally to delve into mournful wails that border on cleaner singing. Hard to argue with the intensity of this thing, yet it still reeks of sameness. Is it pushing this crowded death metal genre forward? When I can't tell where one song ends and another begins...what is that saying about the band or me? Perhaps they really are pushing the genre and I'm not budging? At any rate, call this album the non-denomination cathedral, it welcomes all listeners...but bring some headache powder if you are a non-extremist near the front.

Frank: Production makes it sounds like music that you'd hear in a abbatoir. Effective use of multiple vocals for creepiness. Gives me visions of some nightmarish medievil torture chamber. Not something I'd listen to week to week or even month to month, but it'd sound good on Halloween.

Greg: The death metal album of 2017! Menacing vocals, bone jarring riffs, oozing evil, what else can you ask for?!?

Troy: The Embodiment Of Hate leaves me wanting something more and puts me in a state where I can't say I like it or hate it. It's punishing death metal with some muted grooves that doesn't live up to it's full potential combined with production that helps and hinders at the same time. My advice is to wait for the next release and go with something more technical like the new Hour of Penance.

Album: OVERKILL - The Grinding Wheel
Eric: Overall "The Grinding Wheel" is one of the better Overkill albums since "W.F.O.". It's certainly a career highlight and one that prolongs the band's career/destiny. I'm going 4.5 on it only because some of the songs are a little longer than necessary. With that touch up, it gets a perfect score. The album's opener leaves you with a bit of familiarity but around the halfway point the temp slides to a slower pace and we hear the first of many album moments where Blitz is singing his ass off again. It's a conscious effort to better the vocals and the effort pays off throughout. Blitz sounds amazing on "Shine On", again halfway through he sings slower verses for the betterment of the record. There's new life on the strings too, that song in particular has some of the best leads I've heard in a long time. Check the minute mark 4:48 for exhibit A. The title track is tremendous and one of the better songs this decade from anyone. The closing moments are very European with the chanting, dare I say Accept? "Let's All Go to Hades" is fun as Hell (no pun intended) and "Come Heavy" is just a freight train of groove.

Frank: Best Overkill album since 2010's Ironbound! For 37 years they have been an unwavering wrecking crew of violence, energy, and power. When I listen to them, I can feel my blood pressure rise. The Grinding Wheel is 60+ minutes of fast-paced, demolishing heavy metal. As straight-forward and unrelenting as it is, they add some small turns to the freight train path.

Greg: The new Overkill shows these Jersey Boys can still hold their own in the thrash world! Solid effort from the band on this release.

Troy: It's incredible how his album took me by such a surprise. That's not to take anything away from previous albums but when you can outdo yourself 18 albums into your career that is a damn statement and testament to your craft. Plus the fact this album may contain the best song they have made in over 10 years with the title track "The Grinding Wheel".

Album: SAILLE - Gnosis
Eric: These Belgium extremists have been perfecting their craft since 2008. 'Gnosis' is the band's fourth effort to date, once again released on Code666 Records. The album promises to "explore the world of the Promethean ideal and its Luciferian counterpart". They do that by focusing on formula driven black metal that incorporates the typical elements - blast beats, blender guitars, screeching vocals. Throughout its 45-minute duration I'm not sure it connected with me though. Kudos for the timing changes, symphonic elements and the spoken word vocals to break up the monotony. It has some flow, but it isn't converting this traditionalist.

Frank: I'd refer to this one as "Black Metal for people who usually don't like Black Metal". I really liked the orchestration. Reminds me of a few extreme bands where there is some kind of accessibility to the traditionalist metalhead. Would be a good album to slide a person into the purer, rawer BM.

Greg: Belgian symphonic black metal that is quite accessible. Prior albums lean toward the Lovecraftian but things move in a different direction with "Gnosis".

Troy: A solid traditional black metal offering that dabbles in some doom and thrash elements. Gnosis is a dark and powerful vision interlaced with a variety of instruments and structures. This band captured my attention enough to cull through their prior releases.

Overkill BUY BUY BUY BUY 8
Our Place of Worship... BUST BORROW BUY BUST 3

* Points: Buy=2, Borrow=1, Bust=0

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