“Album Of The Day” is a Last Rites Facebook feature we started whose purpose is quite straight-forward: highlight one album per day and say a few words about it. Understanding that not everyone chooses to participate in the booking of faces, we thought it might be nice to toss in a feature that gathers the albums in a single piece on a weekly basis.
Here are the seven albums we picked for the week of August 5th — August 11th.
Sunday, August 5th
Helloween – Keeper Of The Seven Keys, Part II (1988)
The original set of Keepers is likely the pinnacle of the first wave of power metal—the sheer scope of the pair, the epic songwriting, the performances of the classic Helloween line-up at their peak… I generally flip-flop on which is stronger, but on the days that I’d tell you that it’s this second part, I’d tell you that’s because of the overwhelming sense of fun in songs like the almost-big-hit “I Want Out,” the goofy “Dr. Stein,” the classic “Eagle Fly Free,” the almost silly bombast of the thirteen-minute title track… Michael Kiske’s voice is godly, soaring in one moment and almost snarling in the next, while Herrs Weikath and Hansen turned in a stellar batch of tunes, and the speed and power of it all is pushed to the next level by Ingo’s machine-gun drums and Markus’ fluid bass licks. This one’s easily one of the career highpoints of the band that virtually invented European power metal… [Andrew Edmunds]
Monday, August 6th
Cathedral – The Carnival Bizarre (1995)
Cathedral had some very serious material and some very silly material. Cathedral also had some very good material and some very bad material. The two scales did not always line up. The Carnival Bizarre, for example, is among their silliest albums, but it’s also one of their best, being loaded with golden Gaz riffs, doom thumps, infectious drives, and more charismatic and idiotic Lee Dorrian vocals than is advisable. And like Dorrian’s self-indulgent performance, the album is bloated and over-stuffed in the best way, switching between lengthier doom tracks like “Electric Grave” and “Night of the Seagulls” to stoner anthems like “Hopkins,” to this day one of the catchiest tunes in the doom-related arts. In the middle of it all was the irresistible title track, itself with a center of delicious nougat in the form of a 12/10, all-time great bridge riff. Getting dumb has its rewards. [Zach Duvall]
Tuesday, August 7th
Black Sabbath – Born Again (1983)
Black Sabbath’s brief merger with Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan is both a great example of rock’s excesses at the time (“Stonehenge” influenced a certain Spinal Tap gag, while Sabbath actually covered Deep Purple on the tour!) and a lesson that you can’t necessarily force a lineup out of convenience. But hidden within the hamstrung lineup, the so-bad-it’s-actually-wonderful cover art, and rotten, almost lo-fi production, and there’s actually—believe it or not—a pretty good and varied set of songs. Sure, “Digital Bitch” remains a little embarrassing, but “Zero the Hero” shows off the swagger of Sabbath’s original power trio playing together again and “Keep it Warm” lets Gillan do his crooner best. Chief are “Disturbing the Priest” and the wailing title track, both of which find Sabbath in as haunting a mode as they ever were post-Ozzy, and reveal that the Gillan era—cynical though the motives may have been—had some real potential before being cut short after one tour. [Zach Duvall]
Wednesday, August 8th
Rotting Christ – Triarchy of the Lost Lovers (1996)
Although their second album Non Serviam (released in the peak second-wave black metal year of 1994) is an absolute classic, Greece’s Rotting Christ both bettered it and ushered in a new era of beautifully melodic black metal with Triarchy of the Lost Lovers. Triarchy is significantly less aggressive than what preceded it (both from Rotting Christ and the Greek black metal scene as a whole), but it introduces a spacious and almost dreamlike sound of inimitable melancholy. Sakis Tolis’s (Necromayhem, if ya nasty) guitar leads are as confident and freewheeling as they would ever be, and the relatively longer-form songwriting allows him plenty of space to explore the possibilities of this particular black art. The band would continue exploring this style on A Dead Poem and Sleep of the Angels before moving on, yet again. If Rotting Christ’s career has always seemed prone to wandering, in some way the fire lit here by these kings of the stellar war always shines through. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Thursday, August 9th
Atlantean Kodex – The White Goddess (2013)
If you happened to have your ear to the metal ground during the fall of 2013, you undoubtedly remember the glorious blaring of “SOOOOOOOOOOOOL SOOOOOOOOOOOOL INVIIIIIIIIIICTUUUUUUUUUUUS” announcing the return of all of Gondor’s armies to the might of Minas Tirith. Or something along those lines. Really, the song was a masterful, unforgettable beginning to an album that maintained this level of grandiosity throughout its near-hour run time. Through the deft touch on the vocals in “Heresiarch,” into the not-so-subtle Bathoryisms of “Enthroned in Clouds and Fire,” and through to the bombastic title track, Atlantean Kodex held their listeners in a type of wondrous rapture. Their mix of doom, “slow power metal,” and progressive scope wasn’t necessarily anything new, but The White Goddess brought an elite level of divinity in their delivery of earworms and dynamics. The Goddess is in the title, but the holiness is in the music. [Zach Duvall]
Friday, August 10th
Raven – All For One (1983)
Raven were not the most popular of the NWOBHM bands, nor even the most accomplished, but they were undoubtedly the most energetic. Dubbing their brand of riffy melodic speed metal “athletic rock,” the trio even performed in a hodge-podge of sporting equipment—sure, it was a ridiculous gimmick, and one that would’ve been unbearably silly had their records not upheld the promise of “Sledgehammer Rock.” This third of their three straight knock-outs doesn’t necessarily improve upon the first two—sophomore album Wiped Out might even edge it out in terms of the band’s highest point—but it nearly equals them, which means that it’s still rock solid, built upon tracks like “Hung Drawn & Quartered,” the title track, “Mind Over Metal,” the dueling tours-de-rock both “Sledgehammer” and “Athletic.” The combo of Wacko’s hyperactive drumming, Mark Gallagher’s razor-sharp Telecaster riffs, and John Gallagher’s gravel-to-a-scream vocals is pure rough and ready early metal gold still, even thirty-five years later. Pick up the expanded edition for a fun cover of “Born To Be Wild” featuring co-producer Udo Dirkschneider on guest vocals. [Andrew Edmunds]
Saturday, August 11th
Final Conflict – Ashes To Ashes (1987)
The Reagan era may not have been a particularly good one for everyone, but at least, those eight years certainly spawned some great hardcore punk. Released at the tail end of the Gipper’s presidency, Final Conflict’s monstrous Ashes To Ashes is a venomous take-down of the then-current sociopolitical climate, a potent blast of political California hardcore with clear nods to UK82 and a metal-ized crossover reliance on speedy riffing. From the opening blast of “Apocalypse Now,” it’s clear that Final Conflict were not here to screw around—this is pit-inducing mosh-worthy hardcore, fueled by righteous rage, and taking no prisoners as it scorches the earth beneath it. But hey, don’t just take it from me: Take it from the likes of Sepultura, who covered “Inhuman Nature” on Chaos AD, or take it from the likes of Napalm Death, whose Shane Embury and Barney Greenway contributed to the reissue booklet two praise-filled testimonials to Ashes To Ashes‘ eternal appeal. Collectors and fans note: Pick up that reissue and get the bonus disc of Final Conflict’s 1985 demo, which is even more raw and feral, and equally killer. [Andrew Edmunds]
See you next week.