Category Archives: Reviews

First Fragment’s “Dasein” — A Long-Awaited Album That Does Not Disappoint


First Fragment: Dasein (2016)


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Track Listing:

“Le Serment de Tsion”
“Mordetre Et Denassaince”
“Prelude En Sol Diese Mineur”
“Voracite (Apothe”ose Partie 1)”
“Psychan (Apotheose Partie 2)”

Band Members:
Vincent Savary: Bass
David AB : Lead Vocals
Phil Tougas : Lead Guitar & Vocals
Gabriel Brault-Pilon: Guitar
Samuel Santiago: Drums
Troy Fullerton: Session Drums (2014-2015) (Performed all drums on Dasein)
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The highly-anticipated full-length release from First Fragment has at last been released by Unique Leader records.  True to form, Dasein does not disappoint; in fact, the album is a ferocious display of superb songwriting, and utterly insane musical prowess.  With a dramatically improved sound in comparison to the band’s first full-length album and debut EP, First Fragment utilizes a virtually perfect production environment to deliver savage, mind-bending, and technically impressive death metal album.

MetalAteMyBabyy Album Rating:

Vocals: First Fragment frontman David has a powerful mid-level growl that generally complements the music playing behind him.  Some variation–such as the inclusion of highs and guttural lows–would further both the music and the singer’s command of the types of shrieks and rumbling lows present in other technical death metal releases  (7/10)

Lyrics: Though in French, First Fragment’s lyrics illustrate a level of dedication to meaningful and revealing storytelling that position the album as a singular and thought-provoking story  (7/10)

Lead guitar: Intentional or not, Phil’s lead guitar is the star of this album.  Driving, pulsating riffs and remarkably melodic solos demonstrate Phil’s ability to weave brutality with gut-wrenching melodic passages–an element missing in so many technical death metal albums  (10/10)

Rhythm guitar: Often overlooked on monster releases such as Dasein, the rhythm guitar is an integral component of any masterfully composed album.  Gabriel handles rhythm guitar duties flawlessly, providing the bone-crushing backbone of each First Fragment song and harmonizing with Phil’s beautiful leads  (9/10)

Bass: Simply put, the bass guitar brutality of Dasein is precisely how this instrument should be showcased by every technical death metal band.  Vincent deserves significant recognition for both his command of the bass guitar and his ability to utilize the bass perfectly to underscore the chaos that is First Fragment’s third album  (10/10)

Drums: No technical death metal album is capable of achieving the sheer brilliance of an album such as Dasein without a ferociously aggressive drummer.  To be sure, Troy–the band’s session drummer–not only meets the inherent requirements of technical death metal drumming, he obliterates them.  Never overdoing it, Troy serves as conductor of sorts for First Fragment, and his selective use of double bass, his knack for expertly composed fills, and his overall synergy with the band is a pleasure to behold  (9/10)

Technicality: Any commentary would be superfluous  (10/10)

Originality: The one element absent from many otherwise enjoyable technical death metal releases is originality.  The technical prowess is there, to be sure, but little variation exists from track to track.  First Fragment’s latest release obliterates this stereotype, with melodic guitar harmonies leading into extended bass solos, Spanish-inspired guitar segments beautifully slowing the otherwise frenetic pace of the album, and a plethora of other musically diverse elements that set Dasein apart from other technical death metal releases (10/10)

Diversity: See the Originality commentary above (10/10)

Cohesiveness: So many technical death metal albums feature individual tracks that wow the listener–but, unfortunately, the albums as a whole lack a solid, consistent narrative that is present in each and every album track.  Each track on Dasein is brilliant, but, more impressively, each track folds effortlessly into a larger narrative that makes First Fragment’s 2016 release a cohesive, consistent, and ultimately brilliant album (10/10)


Dasein is already in the running for the most impressive release of 2016.  Unique Leader Records also deserves credit for making the release of such albums possible.  In a nutshell: buy this album, support the band, and prepare to be blown away by one of the finest technical death metal releases in recent memory.

Total Rating: 92/100

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Concert Report: August Burns Red – Murray, Utah 02/10/2015 (The Frozen Flame Tour)

[Author’s note: The first movie I ever saw in the theater was Top Gun–and I did so at the Murray Theater (which, at the time, was a dollar movie theater) in 1986.  Over the years, the Murray Theater was renovated to accommodate a variety of events, including plays, private parties, and, of course, concerts.  When I learned that August Burns Red–who, in early 2015, I was listening to as much as many band–would be coming to Murray (the town in which I grew up), I knew I couldn’t miss it.  And despite the fact that I’m authoring this concert report a full 18 months following the show, I still remember the excitement of the crowd, the energy of the musicians on stage, and the superb playlist rendered by August Burns Red.]

February 10, 2015 set list:

“White Walls”
“Beauty in Tragedy”
“Thirty and Seven”
“Spirit Breaker”
“The Eleventh Hour”
“Up Against the Ropes”
“Marianas Trench”
“Back Burner”
“Fault Line”
“The Seventh Trumpet”
(Drum solo)
“Carpe Diem”


During this particular time in my life, I looked to August Burns Red for motivational guidance and inspiration as I faced a number of seemingly overwhelming challenges.  (In fact, I listened exclusively to ABR every day in the gym.)  The band’s motivational messages and testimony of the power of positive thinking resonated heavily with me–and, of course, I absolutely loved their music, too.

A friend of mine was kind enough to purchase tickets for both of us; furthermore, the concert represented the first time I’d been in my hometown theater in more than 20 years.  Predictably–and thankfully–the renovated theater made for an exceptionally intimate venue, creating an absolutely electric atmosphere within the facility.  The crowd took full advantage of the close quarters and remained at fever pitch throughout the 15-song set.

In fact, approximately three-quarters of the way through the show, the band informed us that we’d by far been the loudest, most enthusiastic crowd August Burns Red had encountered on their present tour.  While there is no question the band’s fans were fired up simply to see their heroes take the stage, a massive amount of credit for the energy in that theater belongs to the band itself.

In particular, vocalist Matthew Greiner’s stage presence was flawless, and the jubilant crowd reacted to his every word and movement with feverish screams and roars of applause.  The dual guitarists and bass player were equally energetic, seldom holding still and alternating between leaps off of front-stage amplifiers and slinging their guitars around their necks and back again in time to flawlessly nail the next note of the song being played.

In a refreshing change of pace, the band refrained from profanity and was otherwise extremely respectful.  Needless to say, I’ve been to my share of shows–think GWAR, Cannibal Corpse, et al–where profanity was more often utilized than the standard words of the King’s English.  To be sure, there’s a time and place for vulgarity, profanity, and even ruthless insults, but enjoying August Burns Red’s set without what is now seemingly ubiquitous profanity was a delightfully refreshing change of pace.  (The lack of vulgarity also helped put my date at ease–it was only her second metal concert in 46 years.)

Over the years, I’ve seen Slayer perform live nine times.  I’ve also seen In Flames four times, Trivium three times, and a number of other acts more than once.  After the superb performance delivered by August Burns Red during the cold Utah February night, I will undoubtedly do whatever it takes to see ABR rule the stage again.

— Jason


“Citadels”: Mandroid Echostar’s Magnum Opus

[Author’s note: I’ve caught a lot of grief from close-minded extreme metal fans due to my love for Avenged Sevenfold’s Sounding the Seventh TrumpetWaking the FallenCity of Evil, and Nightmare albums.  These close-minded fans seem hell-bent on ignoring the obvious musical talent and diversity inherent in the aforementioned Avenged albums due simply to the vocal style employed by frontman Matt Sanders.  I risk the same reaction by showcasing Mandroid Echostar, but I don’t mind.  Both bands are simply too talented and too melodic to dismiss.]

There’s no doubt bands such as Mandroid Echostar aren’t for every extreme metal fan.  The vocals can, quite simply, be extraordinarily alienating–indeed, the band deserves an immense amount of credit for releasing instrumental-only versions of each of their releases to make their musical brilliance more accessible to more traditional extreme metal fans.  And yet, I’ve got a confession to make: I think Mandroid Echostar’s vocals are an integral, indispensable part of the band, and my review below addresses the version of the song “Citadels” that incorporates lead singer Michael Ciccia’s extraordinarily unique vocals.

The song “Citadels” is the final track from the band’s EP of the same name.  A remarkably diverse release, Mandroid Echostar employes three guitarists, allowing the six-string slayers to incorporate a number of melodic passages while maintaining the depth and heaviness that only a third guitar can provide.  The bassist and drummer add further depth and complexity to each song comprising the 30 minutes of the Citadels EP.

While the entire EP is worth repeated listens, it is the record’s final track–also known as “Citadels”–that stands out as a hauntingly beautiful, subtly aggressive, and definitively memorable musical experience.  Beginning at approximately the 23-minute mark of the Citadels EP, the eponymous song brings an already impressive album to a chill-inducing conclusion.  At the conclusion of this review, a link is provided to the EP on YouTube that is timestamped to begin play just as the song “Citadels” begins.

VocalsAs suggested previously in this review, Michael’s vocals run the risk of alienating more traditional extreme metal fans.  Indeed, I will admit that I often subscribe to Unique Leader Records’ “no clean vocals” mantra, but, every so often, an exceptionally talented vocalist opens my eyes to the possibilities of progressive metal that utilizes a vocalist singing in tune to further accentuate the emotional brilliance of a given song.  In particular, Michael’s vocals over the last 90 seconds of the song are absolutely stellar, helping bring the song to a close in a way nothing short of legendary.  (8/10)

Guitar: Axe-mastery is where Mandroid Echostar truly excels.  With three guitarists contributing to every song, the possibilities–be they simply adding depth and heaviness or fusing in something more avant garde–are virtually endless.  YouTube features a number of play-through videos starring the three guitarists in Mandroid Echostar, and it is both instructional and entertaining to see how the trio works together to create richly complex riffs, harmonized solos, and an overall cohesiveness few other bands can boast.  (10/10)

Bass: With three six-string virtuosos flawlessly steering each song, Adam Richards’ bass guitar mastery is of critical importance to Mandroid Echostar’s sound–and, to be sure, he is more than up to the challenge.  While his bass tone is not particularly elevated in the mix of the EP, the experienced extreme metal fan will immediately note the clean, driving, and otherwise crucial nature of Adam’s bass playing.  Simply put, Mandroid Echostar would not be able to pull off the complex compositions found on the Citadels EP without Adam’s bass-playing prowess.  (8/10)

Drums: To be fair, the drum backbone of each Mandroid Echostar song is subdued to an extent, but I have no doubt this is by design.  Overpowering blast beats or incessant double-bass thunder simply would overpower the remainder of the band’s songs, particularly considering many of these tracks include acoustic guitar interludes and a softer approach to vocals.  (8/10)

As a Unit: This is where Mandroid Echostar truly excels.  No instrument–no strings, no drums, no voices–overpower the band’s music.  It is very clear the band has worked exceptionally hard to craft a delicate, balanced, and still heavy brand of progressive metal.  (10/10)

Subtotal: (44/50)

Technicality“Technicality” likely isn’t the first word that comes to mind among extreme metal enthusiasts upon hearing Mandroid Citadel.  The guitar leads, while utterly beautiful, lack the degree of difficulty found in, say, the music of Between the Buried and Me or The Black Dahlia Murder.  The drums and bass are delivered flawlessly–but, again, without the degree of difficulty many metal fans yearn for.  That said, the band manages to seamlessly blend these elements, creating a sort of complexity that comes with synchronizing a series of moving parts.  (8/10)

Originality: While the tone of Michael’s vocals might cursorily remind inexperienced listeners of more mainstream rock frontmen, there is, in reality, very little similar between the two.  Indeed, each song composition as a whole carries the mantle for a refreshing form of originality–one that is unafraid of what other metal fans may think of it.  To me, that’s worth quite a bit.  (9/10)

BrutalityThis is, after all, an extreme metal site, and brutality is a key component of virtually all of the music the MAMB staff enjoys.  Mandroid Citadel lacks such brutality, but there is no question that is a conscientious choice on the part of the band.  (6/10)

ThematicThe thematic aspect of “Citadels” drew me even closer to the song and deserves particular recognition.  Indeed, anyone with a failed romance will quickly find much in common with the lyrics of this masterful song.  (9/10)

Memorability: Only time will tell whether “Citadels” survives the test of time in terms of remaining memorable within the metal community.  Personally speaking, I haven’t been able to get the track out of my head for months, and I doubt I’ll ever forget what it was like to listen to the song, especially the final 90 seconds.  (8/10)

Subtotal: (40/50)

Total: 84/100





[Time Capsule] A Review of Nothgard’s “Warhorns of Midgard”–Five Years Later, and Every Bit As Good as the Day of Its Release

Melodic Viking death metal masters Nothgard are alive and well in 2016, having produced a number of superb albums over the past decade.  And while each album is worth owning, it is the band’s 2011 masterpiece Warhorns of Midgard that has best stood the test of time as a near-perfect execution of the pagan-themed metal many extreme metal fans have come to recognize as a fusion of modern, crushing metal, complete with harmonized guitar leads, the incorporation of folkish elements, and intelligent lyrics and song titles that reinforce the mythically thematic elements woven into each one of Warhorns of Midgard’s tracks.

Album Details

Track Listing

Cover Art

  1. Lex Talionis
  2. Arminius
  3. Under the Serpent Sign
  4. Einherjer
  5. Shadows Arise
  6. Blackened Sky
  7. Victory
  8. Warhorns of Midgard
  9. Spirit
  10. Ancient Heritage / Modern Warriors
  11. Rise After Falling
  12. Ragnarok
midgardListen to the full-length album here!

Over the past 15 years, the sub-genre of Viking-themed metal has grown exponentially, meaning there is no shortage of technically adept musicians seeking to honor the glory of the conquests led by Scandinavian explorers from the 8th through the 13th centuries.  All too often for fans of extreme metal, however, such records emphasize the folkish elements of pagan metal while sacrificing the speed and brutality that not only conjures the power of the AEsir but also provides the aggression and fearlessness of the fearless Norsemen who sailed around the world to discover and conquer.

Fortunately, Nothgard delivers both the folkish and the brutal in equal parts, making for a thoroughly enjoyable, motivating, and respectful tribute to those who came before us and risked everything to discover new lands for both plunder and settlement.  Simply put, Warhorns of Midgard does not let up from start fo finish, and each song offers a unique variation on the pagan metal formula.

As readers of know, only individual songs thus far have been rated according to a formal and numeric system.  Nothgard’s masterpiece will be the first full-length effort to be evaluated in a similar fashion, though, with this being a test run, the categories and rating system may seem crude and are subject to change moving forward.

As this is MAMB’s first attempt at formally quantifying the merits of an album, the categories may seem somewhat abstract–and perhaps even unrelated to one another.

Sheer Epicness: Viking metal is inherently epic, given that the music provides an exhilarating soundtrack for lyrics detailing the heroic exploits of our Scandinavian forefathers.  The galloping pace of Nothgard’s double-bass driven attack alone supplies an epic foundation for the rest of the band’s instrumentation, while twin lead guitars further play on the primitive instincts that lay dormant in every man and woman of Nordic decent.  (9/10)

Technicality: The elite pagan metal bands are as technically accomplished as many bands identifying as technical death metal outfits.  To be sure, Nothgard dispenses with erratic, unpredictable time changes and overly syncopated drum beats–and yet, ultimately, this restraint makes Warhorns of Midgard that much more listenable.  The technical prowess is there, to be sure, but it serves the thematic message of the music instead of overshadowing it.  (8/10)

Thematic ExcellenceThe cohesiveness of the thematic message featured on Warhorns of Midgard truly sets Nothgard apart from their talented counterparts within the pagan metal genre of extreme metal.  For example, the album’s second track, “Arminius,” tells the story of the titular character and his efforts to unite his clan in pursuit of freedom and happiness.  Two songs later, “Einherjer” recounts–in German–the inevitable consequences of taking up the sword and heading to battle.  Following an instrumental track, the second half of the album probes further into the choices, sacrifices, and consequences of living and dying by the sword, culminating with the album’s final track, “Ragnarok,” which, of course, reminds the listener that the pagan end of the world means “[T]he end of all / no one to escape.”  (10/10)

[Author’s note: Until finalizes the remainder of the rating system, Warhorns of Midgard and subsequent albums will be rated on a scale of one to 30.]

Total: 27/30

As mentioned, Nothgard is alive and well and continues to produce music well worth owning.  If you’ve never listened to this immensely talented band, start with Warhorns of Midgard.  You’ll become a fan upon your first listen.


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Song Review: “Aeon” by December Flower (2011)

From Lower Saxony, German, December Flower was active for just more than five years.  While extreme metalheads mourn talented bands that are unable to continue making quality music, a more appropriate attitude would be to be grateful for the material December Flower recorded during their half-decade as an offical band.

“Aeon” is a 2011 track from the band’s album entitled, When All Life Ends.  Astute In Flames fans will immediately note that both the band name (December Flower) and the name of the song reviewed below are both direct inferences to Jesper and Co.  Unsurprisingly, December Flower’s music is very reminiscent of In Flames’ style circa 1995-2001.  Fans of extreme music are often divided when it comes to such bands:  129228_photosome consider bands such as December Flower to be mimicking a two-decade-old sound, the time for which has long since based the metal community by.  Many others, conversely, respect and admire December Flower for preserving the definitive traits of Gothenburg metal and are very pleased there are talented bands committed to continuing to churn out high-quality melodic death metal music.

The first 45 seconds of December Flower’s “Aeon” are extraordinarily reminiscent of the golden age of the “Swedish Sound” of the mid- to late-1990s.  Retreat or reinterpretation, the music, vocals, and lyrical content ooze talent, and the music itself is simply fun to listen to, regardless of mood.

Vocals: Frontman Manual Siewert bring the rage and melancholy often associated with the Gothernburg sound.  That said, he fails to demonstrate much range and relies on mid-level growls, which, unfortunately, can become rapidly played out or disinteresting.  (6/10)

Guitar: Torsten Horstmann is unquestionably an excellent guitar player.  For “Aeon,” however, Horstmann relies on chunky riffs and a moderately intimidating atmosphere element.  An extended solo would have added a much-needed burst of adrenaline into “Aeon.”  (7/10)

Bass: Ben Bay does not allow himself to get lost in the swirling melodic guiars that define “Aeon.” Whether he isn’t given much time to shine within the band or simply understands his role as a bassist, the fact remains that he’s a very proficient percussionist.  (7/10)

Drums: The percussion work provided by Daniel Dickmann is solid, energetic, and in complete service of the overall musical direction of “Aeon.”   (8/10)

As a unit: December Flower excels at presenting a cohesive band with a unified message.  The band’s ability to forge the disparate instruments used by December Flower to create complete, cohesive songs. (9/10)

Subtotal: (37/50)

Technicality: December Flower isn’t overly technical, undoubtedly in part to the fact that the German band is more interested in melody and quality song-writing.  Each band member is obviously technical proficient, though these abilities don’t show through dramatically in “Aeon.”   (7/10)

Originality: December Flower suffers in this category in a similar fashion to the manner in which the band was slightly marked down in terms of Memorability.   (6/10)

Brutality: To be fair, laying down a brutal or technical death metal record was not December Flower’s concern when recording “Aeon.”  The down-tuned guitars, growled vocals, and inherent emotion in Manual’s vocals and the tuning of each of the band’s instruments, “Aeon” likely  as brutal as any melodic death metal song is capable of being.  (7/10)

Thematic: Instead of falling into the trap of mimicking In Flames’ lyrical themes, December Flower has its on lyrical agenda, the ambitiousness of such is clearly evident in “Aeon.”  (8/10)

MemorabilityWith the number of modern melodic death metal bands emulating In Flames, Dark Tranquility, Arch Enemy, Soilwork, and other Swedish heroes from 20 years ago, the song “Aeon” itself is not particularly member.  To be sure, it is a gorgeously constructed song; it simply isn’t overly memorable.  (7/10)

Subtotal: (35/50)


For a video version of the song, click here.

Total: (72/100)

— Jason

» December Flower on Facebook

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