Over the past few weeks I’ve been quite the “consumer whore,” as Gene would say. With my recent transition back to bachelor status and a nice raise at work, I’ve had a lot more cash laying around. Because of this, I decided to splurge on some music that’s caught my attention. Over said few weeks, I’ve picked up three albums by Amorphis, two by Meshuggah, and one each by Megadeth, Killswitch Engage, Demiricous, and Iced Earth.

Out of all of the albums I picked up, the Iced Earth album (“Framing Armageddon”) was the only one I had any plans on picking up. It’s the first half of a sci-fi-ish narrative Jon Schaffer has been brewing up for some years now. He laid the foundation of the story quite a while back with the “Something Wicked” trilogy, and things have come to fruition. I was kind of thrown off by the style of the album. It has a lot of the signature Iced Earth elements like Jon Schaffer’s robotic-arm triplet-riffing and a strong vocal presence, but the music has a distinctly different feel in many places. I’m not saying it’s bad, but its not what I expected out of Iced Earth. Since the story is divded into two parts on separate CD releases, it’s my guess that the first CD is a more subdued lead-in, kind of the calm before the storm. We’ll see once the second half is released I guess.

I’m really digging the two Nordic components of my purchases – Amorphis and Meshuggah. The former used to be much more of a doom/deah metal band, but they’ve expanded on the typical musical palette of those genres greatly and incorporated clean vocals and an assortment of typically non-metal instruments (such as saxophones, flutes, and sitars). The result is a very cool blending of styles, and it’s quite pleasure to listen to. Meshuggah, on the other hand, could probably be quite painful to listen to if you weren’t into their particular way of doing things. They’re abrasive, intense, and their compositional style is downright weird. The current description probably says it better than I ever could.

Among the band's most recognizable qualities are lead guitar player Fredrik Thordendal's abrasive, chaotic and dischordant solos, singer Jens Kidman's vocals, which resemble manic screams and shouts; the churning, dissonant rhythm guitars and the polymetric drum beats. In a typical Meshuggah song, drummer Tomas Haake plays two separate rhythms: a standard 4/4 beat with his hands, and a completely different metrical subdivision with his feet. The guitars mostly follow the bass drum work, creating an awkwardly pulsating rhythmic pattern to work as the basis of the song.To give an example, the main riff of the song "New Millennium Cyanide Christ" from their 1998 album Chaosphere follows the aforementioned blueprint. Haake beats a rather slow 4/4 rhythm with his hands, while the bass drums and guitars play a repetitive 23/16 rhythm pattern on top of it. As the subdivided pattern is repeated, the pattern's accents shift to different beats on each repetition. After repeating the 23/16 pattern five times, a shorter 13/16 pattern is played once. These patterns sum up to 128 16th notes, which equals exactly 8 measures in 4/4 meter.

Speaking of “New Millenium Cyanide Christ” – its music video has to be one of the funniest I’ve ever seen. A band air-guitaring to their own song on their tour bus. Genius idea. Anyway, I digress. Dispite its chaotic nature, I find their stuff quite easy to work to. I found myself getting quite a bit done the other day when I was listening to it at work. Strange.

The remaining three albums have been outshined by the aforementioned works, but I’ll listen to them more eventually. The new Megadeth CD (“United Abominations”) is pretty good. I’ve come to expect their newer stuff to be much more hit-and-miss than their defining works, and this is no different really. There are some pretty fine moments on the CD, and some others that are less stellar. Overall, I’d have to say that its more consistently better than its predecessor (“The System Has Failed”), though. I’m completely in love with Demiricous’ style. A lot of people seem to dog them because they sound a lot like Slayer, but what’s so bad about that? They have certain aspects that sound similar, but overall I think there’s enough differences to keep them from sounding completely derivative. They’ve got a new album coming out in a few weeks, which probably means my trend of CD purchases won’t stop soon. The Killswitch Engage CD I picked up has really been eclipsed by all the other stuff I’ve picked up. I’ll listen to it more, I swear!

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