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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

From Hell

Rats & Ravens

Review by Gary Hill

This is the latest set from thrash/death metal band From Hell. This is a reasonably effective set. I should say that I'm not a big fan of screamed, extreme metal vocals, so I'm not the target demographic for this. The fact that I enjoy it as much as I do should be a testament to the quality of the metal included here. Another thing I don't understand about this genre, and this set does suffer a bit from it, is the lack of variety. I mean, when just about everything is frantic and incredibly heavy, that fast-pace and ferocity loses some of its impact. That's why albums that are more balanced have mellower tracks interspersed, to make the more rocking things stand out more. At times this (and a lot of this genre) tends to get too monotonous with one blistering song leading into another blistering song. Still, many people these days just listen to one or two songs at a time, making that less of an issue.

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Track by Track Review
Dark Heart
Less than a minute long, this serves as an introduction to the album. Keyboards bring it into being. Picked guitar along with chorale vocals create the musical textures as it grows outward from there.
They Come at Night
Powerhouse technical metal riffing comes in to bring this thing out of the introduction. It's screaming hot. It modulates to a particularly heavy stomper that is furious from there. As the vocals eventually join they are of the screaming extreme metal variety. This is without question a head-banger. This is fierce and pounding. A trippy kind of ambient keyboard-based section ends this and segues it into the next number.
Unrelenting in its pounding metal fury, this kicks out of the gate. Again, the vocals are screamed.
The Witch
The pounding, driving element is at the heart of this stomper, too. It's not a huge change from the cuts that have come before. I dig the guitar fills quite a bit. The drumming among the most powerful of the set.
Don't Cry For Help
Almost seeming to come out of the previous piece, this has a slower grind. There is a mean, dramatic sound to it. The variety of the slower pace, along with the general demeanor of this, makes it really stand out as one of the highlights of the set. It's dark and evil sounding. The vocals are still of the extreme type. This is just so powerful. While it's slower than the previous tunes, it's more mid-tempo than plodding.
Three and Nine
There is sort of a crazed, almost psychedelic goes thrash vibe as this thing starts. We're back into fierce driving modes. A dramatic, staccato kind of thing creates an almost ritualistic feeling for the first vocals. This has a real theatrical feeling to it. It has a crazed, almost freeform element to later parts of the piece.
Forest of the Screaming Trees
Atmospheric symphonic elements along with chorale vocals bring this into being. It works out to sort of a twisted sounding balladic, symphonic thing that calls to mind Alice Cooper just a bit. A new-classical guitar element comes in from there. They work thought out, modifying and transforming it into something that feels a bit like early Metallica. It explodes into more screaming (literally) ferocity around the two-minute mark. This keeps evolving from there with both epic metal and black metal elements serving as the concepts of the number.
Room For One
Thrash and hardcore merge on this frantic and screaming hot stomper. It's one of the stronger cuts here. Part of that comes from the riff that drives it. Part of it comes from the vocal performance. It's still extreme, but somehow gels better for me. I love the call and response part in particular. There is a chorale vocal ambient section at the end of this piece.
Body Rats
This pounds in after a tentative opening. It's furious and thrashing. This is definitely mosh-pit fare. There is a bit of a hardcore element at play here, too. I love the cool instrumental break later. It has some especially tasty guitar work. There are some more melodic vocals that come in as it comes out of that section. They are contrasted with the more extreme ones in sort of a give and take approach. This is another highlight of the disc. The frantic guitar solo that comes in after that is just so cool. The piece just keeps getting reworked and changed. Not only is this one of the best songs of the disc (perhaps even my absolute favorite), but it's also the epic of the set at over eight-and-a-half minutes long.
Am I Dead
More heavy and extreme pounding metal, this combines thrash, hardcore and more into another stomper. This is a solid cut, but not really a standout. That said, there is some neo-classical guitar soloing on this that's exceptional 
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