August 30, 2013

Yakuza - Beyul (2012)

First things first: listen to Beyul on Bandcamp.

Beyul is more or less a continuation of Yakuza's last album, structurally, at least.  Minus the intro track, the album's songs basically follow the same pattern as those on Of Seismic Consequence.

Musically, the album starts with the transformation that took place between Transmutations and Of Seismic Consequence.  There was a pronounced emphasis on clean vocals, which has increased here.  This can be positive or negative, depending on the song and melodic line.  "The Last Day" combines the softer, more contemplative side of the band with the crunching riffs and soaring vocals.  The arrangement twists around unexpectedly, making it a fresh listen each time around.

Two of the tracks are noticeably shorter and exhibit more punk or grindcore influence.  These stand in opposition to the rest of the record, which can get a bit grandiose.  That said, I appreciate the progressive nature of Yakuza's music.  They have a unique take on avant-garde metal, saxophone and all. Sure, it's easy to point to the saxophone and say that's what separates them from the pack.  Maybe it does.  But honestly, the band writes great songs.

There's also a bit in "Man Is Machine" where the band outdoes pretty much every doom band I've ever heard.  Just after the intro, there's a massive slowdown as the vocals come in.  Whatever metaphor you might think of for something so slow and almost painful to listen to (masochistically, of course), this part of the song embodies it.

I would classify Beyul as a step forward for the band, despite the similarities to the last album.  They continue to refine their attack and get better. Underrated.

August 29, 2013

The Bridge (US) - Episode 8 "Vendetta" Recap

No sex this week.  To me, that's a good thing.

Instead, there was an episode that cut out the meandering and delivered ~45 minutes of drama.

Spoilers ahoy in 3...2...1....

August 28, 2013

Vreid - Welcome Farewell (2013)

Vreid's sixth album is an enjoyable work of melodic blackness.

I wouldn't quite count it among the best of 2013.  The guitar tone and production are different than what you'd expect from black metal, though. And when a band is six albums in, I'd hardly expect them to be changing their sound too much in either direction.

Welcome Farewell is ultimately similar to its predecessor, V.  Given the clarity and biting guitars that dominate, it is a rather easy and inviting album.  That goes counter to the prevailing wisdom of the sub-genre.  If the point is to create destruction, then Vreid are looking at it from an almost avant-garde point of view.  But maybe that's more positive than not.  if the listener is a witness to the destruction, rather than collateral damage, perhaps something more can be gained from the experience.

Aside from "Sights of Old", which runs a little long, I would say that Welcome Farewell is quite effective.  I don't think this type of music will catch on and sprout a legion of followers, as melodic death did.  But maybe we're better off for that.

August 27, 2013

How's Your 2013? Plus, What I'm Looking Forward to for the Remainder

Maybe it's just me, but 2013 hasn't seemed like a good year yet.

I know, I'm a little late on this.  Or way early.  Usually, a post like this would be better if it were written around the halfway point, or at the end of the year.  My 2013 has been so filled with disappointment and such that I couldn't help but want to talk about it somewhat.

Of course, this is the kind of thing I've avoided since starting the blog last month.  I doubt people want to hear my bellyaching.  So if anyone else has a story about 2013 so far, positive or negative, let's hear about it in the comment section.

Two things I'm looking forward to: receiving my new PC, and going to Las Vegas for a week in October.  Both of those things should be good for relieving the malaise.

Also, there are a number of bands whose releases I'm anticipating for the next couple of months.  So far, these are just for September and October; I don't have any advance info on albums to be released in November and December just yet.  Either nobody I really like is releasing albums then, or they haven't told someone on the internet that they're doing so.  That's okay, I kinda like those types of surprises.  So here's what I'm looking forward to:

Gorguts - Colored Sands
SubRosa - More Constant Than the Gods
Sarke - Aruagint

Ævangelist - Omen ex Simulacra
Castevet - Obsian
Pelican - Forever Becoming
Corrections House - Last City Zero

With any luck, all of these will be awesome.  If they are, expect reviews of them to occur at some point.  And if not, let's never speak of them again.

I kid, of course.  Mostly.

August 26, 2013

Among Others, by Jo Walton (2011)

I recently finished reading Among Others, the Hugo & Nebula award-winning novel by Jo Walton.

I liked it well enough.  But I didn't love it.  More about that after the cut.

August 24, 2013

Mending the Moon, by Susan Palwick (2013)

Mending the Moon is a novel that tackles difficult subject matter.  In the aftermath of Melinda Soto's murder, her three best friends and adopted son deal with the consequences of this terrible act.  Elsewhere, the murderer's parents have their own issues to deal with, as their son commits suicide shortly after returning from Mexico, where the murder took place.

Interspersed within the novel are chapters concerning a comic book that a number of the characters enjoy, "Comrade Cosmos".  I felt that the first few chapters that dealt with Cosmos were a distraction from the main story.  But then Archipelago Osprey is introduced.  She sounds like a difficult person to get along with, given her characterization.  But for whatever reason, I like her and I find her to be quite compelling.  Her arc is believable and intriguing.

The Cosmos chapters are a bit lighter in tone.  Sure, Cosmos deals with disasters and drinks Guinness with his only friend to get away from it all. But on the whole, something about his chapters just seems less emotional, less engaging.

One thing I found amusing was the number of references to things that exist in the "real world".  The above mention of Guinness is one of them.  Bilbo's eleventy-first birthday party is another (though that one's fictional, it still exists, in some sense, in this world).  Some of them seem...well, a bit unnecessary.  But on the whole, I thought it was a good tactic in building a world that is indeed much like ours, if not the very same.

While I'm unsure about Melinda, I think the characters of Veronique, Rosemary, and Henrietta have their origins in Palwick herself.  As far as I can tell, pieces of the author were taken to create them.  A recent concern of mine has been how to write characters that are three-dimensional rather than "cardboard cutouts".  I haven't reached any definite conclusions in that area yet.  But it is evident that the characters in the novel are three-dimensional; they could be real people.  They are complex and deal with real problems that plague us in the "real world".  They might not be superheroes like Comrade Cosmos (though he's mostly realistic), but that's okay.

In the end, there's not much resolution to be found.  In this way, Mending the Moon is an analogue to life as we live it; we don't live in a fairy tale, and Palwick doesn't condescend to us by telling us that we do.  The emotions and conflicts are real and are dealt with accordingly.  That means that Mending the Moon can be a difficult read.  Still, I think it is a good one.

August 23, 2013

Burnt by the Sun - Heart of Darkness (2009)

First things first: listen to Heart of Darkness on Bandcamp.

Six years passed before Heart of Darkness was released.  It was the long-awaited follow-up to Burnt by the Sun's creative breakthrough (I'm not sure about how it sold, though I imagine it did well, relatively) The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good.  That's a mouthful of a title.  Heart of Darkness scales it back somewhat; a musical attack predicated on violence and guitar riffs galore was presented in a less ornamented way.  Gone are the samples and interludes.  What we have here are ten ass-kicking tracks.

True, there are a couple of them that are less focused.  "A Party to the Unsound Method" doesn't quite ring the same bells of truth and awesomeness that standouts like the opener, "F-Unit", or "There Will Be Blood" smack the listener in the face with.  Still, from beginning to end, there were few albums released in 2009 that provided so much bang for the buck.  As it stands today, as I'm writing this very blog entry, I've listened to Heart of Darkness over 400 times.  At least half of those listens were within a year of buying the album. I got the deluxe edition with bonus DVD and an awesome T-shirt.

For those who are unfamiliar with Burnt by the Sun's awesomeness: the Metal Archives approximates the genre they inhabit as "metalcore with grindcore influences".  Really, that's a fine way of putting it.  I certainly can't think of a better one.  Even though they do approximate a metalcore sound, there are things that are defiantly un-metal and un-hardcore, like the Rickenbacker guitars John Adubato used.  To my knowledge, those guitars were made for writing jangly pop songs like the Byrds or R.E.M., not to play ass-kicking metal.  I still think it's quite impressive.  And that's part of the reason Burnt by the Sun doesn't really sound like other metal bands, even the metalcore genre they were lumped into.  I'd even go so far as to say that no one who has come along since 2009 has really tapped into the same aesthetic.

A typical Burnt by the Sun song has a group of guitar riffs making a dog pile until the conclusion.  Another interesting element is that when the lyrics are over, so is the song, usually.  Abrupt endings are a specialty of the band. So is jackhammer drumming, courtesy of Dave Witte, veteran of...a bunch of bands, notably Municipal Waste and Birds of Prey.

My favorite track is the closer, "The Wolves Are Running".  Structurally and sonically, it is similar to "Rev 101" from the previous album.  As you can hear from clicking the link above, it is awesome.  It takes the best riffs and pounds them into the listener's face, while vocalist Mike Olender dispenses his rhetoric.  Instead of "fight or run for your lives", this time it's "fight till the death".  It's an interesting change; despite what happened in 2008, the implication is that we've got fewer options.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into it.

Burnt by the Sun was and is one of my favorite bands.  If Rush and Tool taught me that writing lengthy tracks is the best way to express yourself musically, BBTS showed me that economy is also just as potent, if not more so.  Though I'm still a bit upset that I won't hear new music from them as a unit, I think their decision to break up when they did has been vindicated in light of some recent releases by other bands I love who have not been quite so lucky.

August 22, 2013

The Bridge (US) - Episode 7 "Destino" Recap

The seventh episode of "The Bridge" has more sex than usual.  Go figure.

Spoilers ahoy in 3...2...1...

August 21, 2013

Tribulation - The Formulas of Death (2013)

First things first: listen to The Formulas of Death on Bandcamp.

This one's a bit difficult to get a handle on.

Tribulation is Swedish death metal.  However, unlike the glut of bands who are pursuing an old-school sound (complete with buzzing guitars and generally bad production), Tribulation has made a record which sounds good and doesn't sound derivative.  As to whether or not it is actually among the greats of 2013, I'm not entirely sure.  Perhaps it is being derivative under the surface somewhere that I haven't figured out yet.

The Formulas of Death is a long record.  It's 75 minutes worth of death metal with melodic twists and turns.  In fact, I'd say that for most of its running time, the band is pursuing melodic content.  Ample time of "Suspiria" and "Apparitions" (the two longest tracks) have clean guitars playing melodies rather than rhythmic devices.  Even when the guitars are distorted as you'd expect, the playing is something not quite what you'd normally hear.

Personally, I think this is something to be lauded.  Too few musicians take chances with the genre they're working in.  We've seen this in various metal sub-genres, but especially in death and black, where the codified tenets of each tend to be (pardon the pun) suffocating.  They're also unwilling to change, for the most part.

Next time, more riffs.  And maybe trim some fat.

August 16, 2013

Ludicra - The Tenant (2010)

First things first: listen to The Tenant on Bandcamp.

Overall, I think there are five killer tracks on this album.  Six if you count "Last Train" (it's a bonus, literally).  The other two tracks aren't bad, either. Well, to be honest, the title track doesn't really do it for me, and I think "Last Train" is a far better closer.

The Tenant is not really a black metal album.  There are certainly some aspects of the sub-genre that are readily visible, but on the whole it is something more creative and wide-ranging.  The drumming is energetic and idiosyncratic.  And the guitars sketch out lines that are progressive in nature, even when utilizing the ubiquitous tremolo picking technique.

The song structures are somewhat atypical.  I don't think there's an actual chorus on any of these songs, though verses do get repeated on occasion. Some riffs come out of nowhere (such as in "Truth Won't Set You Free") and then end up being the backbone for half of a track.

In case it wasn't completely evident, it's difficult for me to talk about this album in an objective way.  I love it that much, and I would periodically kick myself for not being more familiar with the band before.  As it happens, they broke up in 2011, which makes it look like they went out on top.  That's not such a bad thing.

I can only hope that I'm so lucky.

To me, The Tenant was the best album of 2010.  When the band is firing on all cylinders (i.e. "In Stable", "Clean White Void", the aforementioned "Truth Won't Set You Free"), they are pretty much unstoppable.  Even when they aren't, they're still pretty damn compelling.  A unique and powerful band that is and will continue to be missed.

August 15, 2013

The Bridge (US) - Episode 6 "ID" Recap

Some interesting developments this week on "The Bridge".  But what the episode really revolves around are two scenes; funny that both of them involve Marco.

Spoilers ahoy in 3...2...1....

August 14, 2013

Kylesa - Ultraviolet (2013)

I admit that I was looking forward to see where Kylesa would go with new album Ultraviolet.  Then I listened to the record a couple of times.

Obviously, this is not a record that I'm intimately familiar with.  But then again, it's not like there's a ton of depth to it.  Also, aside from opening track "Exhale", there's not a lot of heaviness or rhythmic intensity to really grab me.

To me, Kylesa's best album was and is Static Tensions.  I won't say too much about it, as I plan to review it in greater depth at some point.  Suffice it to say that it has the strongest set of songs that the band has written, before or since.  But there's one thing about the album that bothered me then and is an indication of how Ultraviolet came to be as it is.  Guitarist/vocalist Phillip Cope, in doing publicity for Static Tensions, noted the band purposefully shortened the songs.  I believe the stated reason was that they would be more direct if they weren't all six minutes long, or some such.  The move worked out, in the short-term.  But almost immediately, problems showed up.

A year later, Kylesa released Spiral Shadow, which most reviewers praised to the heavens.  I was less impressed.  It's difficult to say specifically why it's not as good; the songs just aren't there, plus there are some melodic bits that I find to be quite annoying.  What it indicated to me was that the band was moving further away from the sludgy sound they had come up playing. They had shortened the songs from epic-length to what might be considered "radio-friendly" (assuming that any radio station would play anything by the band, which I highly doubt even now) before adding more melody.

So in hindsight, I should have seen Ultraviolet coming a mile away.

After the opener, there are a group of tracks that modulate between a sort of forced aggression and half-hearted attempts at melody.  Neither of these poles sound all that convincing, plus a couple of the songs are less than three minutes long, which leaves precious little time to make a point.  The ideas in these tracks aren't all that compelling, either, which leads one to wonder why they would even bother including them at all.  I don't think that having 11 tracks on an album is necessarily the way to go.  In fact, seven or eight seems to be the sweet spot for most bands.  Of course, it's dependent on song length and sub-genre.  Then again, Kylesa is flirting with not even being metal any more.

"Steady Breakdown" is the last listenable track to me.  Even then, it's not really a good song.  There are hints of a good song in it; if the band had actually used the intro to then transition into something with more energy, it would have been a rousing success.  Instead, it just kinda moves along until it ends, with nothing really interesting happening through its length.

The less said about the last four tracks, the better.  But for the curious, I will note that "Low Tide" and "Vulture's Landing" are easily two of the worst tracks the band has written.  I also find Laura Pleasants' overly sweet-sounding vocals in the back half of the album irritating and confusing.  When I listen to Kylesa, I expect to hear Cope and Pleasants shouting, not singing melodically, and certainly not like what I hear at the back end of Ultraviolet.

I don't want to make more of this than what it is.  And for all I know, there's another album being prepped for release in 2014 that will trump this one completely.  Unless and until that happens, I've got to conclude that this is a misstep.  It's not necessarily disastrous, but another one like this and I can't imagine a response other than "I'm done with them".

August 9, 2013

YOB - Atma (2011)

I got a late start in 2011.  It was around July when I first began to delve into the new music released that year.  Then Atma was released and I was content to call the race; the album clobbered me into submission with sheer greatness.

One thing I remember most readily is that I first listened to the album on NPR.  Even with my best pair of headphones, the sound was not the best, but it was good enough to let me hear the intricacies of the record.  Then again, the record isn't that complicated.  What you've got are a bunch of riffs, some rock-solid, four-on-the-floor drumming, and unobtrusive bass that nevertheless manages to make an impact.

And then there's "Before We Dreamed of Two" and the mind-altering guest spot from Scott Kelly.

If that wasn't enough, there's also the excellent closer, "Adrift in the Ocean".

Let's go back to the beginning, though.  YOB plays doom metal.  And unless my ears are deceiving me (always a possibility), they're one of the few bands in the sub-genre that actually get it right.  Doom metal in general is meant to be slow, but that doesn't mean it has to be ponderous or a chore to listen to. In fact, YOB already has an album to their credit (Catharsis) that stands as one of the best.  There's an emphasis on guitar riffs as well.  Vocals can be a bit of a mixed bag; YOB guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt has a variety of voices at his disposal, from low growls to high wails.  In general, the vocals are more melodic than most and add an element of unpredictability to the mix.  One thing other reviewers have noted is the tendency for Scheidt to grunt at precisely the right time.  This tendency usually leads to massive headbanging by the listener.  If I had any doubts that these guys are professionals, they'd be assuaged already.

"Prepare the Ground" and the title track are both fairly straight-forward.  Here one might note that the production sounds considerably dirtier than their previous release, The Great Cessation.  Despite the instruments seeming to occupy the same space in the mix, the snare is quite clear and distinguishes itself.  "Atma" takes a detour into a reverse gallop rhythm (two sixteenth notes and then an eighth note, repeated) that is quite tasty.

"Before We Dreamed of Two" is divided into two halves, more or less.  The first half is slightly more uptempo, exploring a riff that sounds like a variation of what's been played in the previous two tracks.  Then it crawls to a stop and Scott Kelly steps in for what has to be one of the most effective guest spots in recent memory.  He and Scheidt have a nice exchange through the next 6-7 minutes.  It really ramps up around 12 minutes in.  This section is decidedly slower than the rest of the album, but it is so well done that I wish there was more of it.

The next track is the one weak spot on the record.  "Upon the Sight of the Other Shore" really has nothing wrong with it, besides dividing up the epic third and fifth tracks.  But for whatever reason, it doesn't hold my attention as well as the other songs.

"Adrift in the Ocean" closes the album.  It is divided into (roughly) three sections.  The first section is quiet and eventually builds into the main riff that anchors the second section, which has a fairly standard verse-chorus structure.  The riffs and vocals work really well in tandem here.  Basically, a melodic vocal line is married to the main riff of the song, which is then repeated at the end of the chorus an octave higher.  The effect is amazing. The third section includes an epic melodic line on guitar.  It builds up with multiple guitar tracks, sounding more like orchestration.  Scott Kelly adds some percussion here which stands as a nice break from the relentless pounding the drums normally provide.

Atma remains the best album of 2011 on the strength of its songs.  YOB created something here that transcends doom while embracing all of its trappings.  They have shown a way forward which few others have been willing to take.  A true achievement.

Tooth and Claw, by Jo Walton (2003)

I'm usually late to the bandwagon on most things.  In the case of this novel, for example, I'm ten years behind.

Tooth and Claw does what a great fantasy novel ought to do: it draws the reader into its world.  The world here appears to be one much like ours, except where the dragons live is called Tiamath.  The story appears to be about the Agornin family, a group of five siblings (two male, three female) that have gathered at their father's home to mourn his passing.  If I may quote from the back cover of the novel:
"A family deals with the death of their father.  A son goes to court for his inheritance.  Another son agonizes over his father's deathbed confession.  One daughter becomes involved in the abolition movement, while another sacrifices herself for her husband".
This would lead one to believe that the story revolves around these events. It's not precisely accurate.  Jo Walton uses a deliberate pace and tight control of language to draw us into this world and explores the various ways the members of the Agornin family relate to those around them and to the society that the dragons have created in general.  Thus, it is a novel about interrelation more than the story elements that I've quoted above.  In fact, most of those elements are either handled very late in the novel.  The conclusion is satisfactory, but it seems a bit rushed from the chapter titled "The Second Hearing" onward.  Another minor nitpick is the lack of explanation of the dragons' titles.  The order isn't quite clear from context.

Still, I think the novel is a success.  It is engaging and well-written.  I look forward to re-reading it at a later date, as I think familiarity with the contents will lend something to it that I did not have during my first read.  I also look forward to reading more of Walton's work and talking about it here.

August 8, 2013

The Bridge (US) - Episode 5: "The Beast" Recap

A couple weekends ago, I watched the first three episodes of "The Bridge" in a row.  Since then I've been watching the series as new episodes premiere.  I really like the show and I especially like the work of the male lead, Demian Bichir.  I was not familiar with his work previously, so this is something of a revelation.  I'm going to assume that people who read this entry are watching the series, but because I wouldn't want to ruin anyone's enjoyment of the show, I'm going to keep the spoilers below the cut.  If for some reason you haven't watched the series, by all means, get on it.  It's available on demand.

Massive spoilers of Episode 5, "The Beast" ahoy! in 3, 2, 1....

August 7, 2013

Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance (2013)

As is usually the case, my enjoyment of the new Darkthrone album is predicated somewhat on their previous release.  I really like Circle the Wagons and have gotten to know its charms a lot better in the last couple of years.  When it initially came out, I scoffed and was dismissive; I hadn't been into Darkthrone and was content with the other discoveries I had made that year (2010, for the record; some of those "discoveries" will probably get reviewed here at some point).  But then something happened: I gave Circle the Wagons a fair shot on its own merits.  And I found that I enjoyed it quite a bit.

I try not to compare The Underground Resistance to other bands in other sub-genres.  It's enough that it has to deal with the other albums in Darkthrone's oeuvre, isn't it?  Even then, it has a bit of trouble.  In other words, it's still growing on me.  That said, I feel like I have a handle on where its strengths and weaknesses lie.

First, the main weakness: Fenriz's vocals.  On Circle the Wagons, Fenriz was in fine form, at least, if I've got the tracks on which he's doing vocals nailed down correctly.  I'm still not quite sure how the division of labor went down there.  On The Underground Resistance, which is more clearly divided between tracks that have his vocals and those that have Nocturno Culto's, Fenriz is a bit like the fly in the ointment.  "Valkyrie" in particular suffers from an overly histrionic approach that exhibits far too much stretching and an over-emphasis on falsetto.  Falsetto is nice, but you have to pick your spots and not overwhelm the listener with it.  For whatever reason, the vocals in "Valkyrie" annoy me, and that tends to carry over through the next track, and sometimes the one after.

Nocturno Culto, on the other hand, remains strong throughout.  He even adds some lead guitar lines that are tasteful and appropriate to the song.

The standout track, obviously, is "Leave No Cross Unturned".  I'm a sucker for 10+ minute tracks, thrash, and good closers.  "Leave No Cross Unturned" is all of these, plus it has killer leads and a hilarious shout-out that is the highlight of the record.

However, when one stacks up these six tracks against the material on Circle the Wagons, one notices that there are a few things missing.  None of these songs match the attention-grabbing "Those Treasures Will Never Befall You" or "I Am the Working Class", for example.  Thus, while I like The Underground Resistance, I don't love it.

August 6, 2013

NFL Preseason and other notes

With the Hall of Fame game on Sunday, the NFL preseason is officially under way.  What does this mean, exactly?  Well, as of now, less than a month until football starts.  Other than that, not much.

How did the Cowboys look?  Besides the fact that the starters didn't play, they looked fine.  I'm not entirely sold on the 4-3 defense (teams went to 3-4 en masse because it seemed like the best way to slow offenses); was it the defense that surrendered leads last season?  Usually, all that's accomplished by trying to fix something that wasn't broken is creating more problems.  I'm not sure the Cowboys have the personnel to run the 4-3 effectively.  Nor am I sure that it's better than the 3-4 as a defensive scheme.  It's up to the secondary to cover receivers downfield better than they did in 2012.  And Romo has to minimize mistakes in key situations.  In other words, there is no change from the previous season.

The NFL season starts on September 5th (Thursday), with the full slate on September 8th (Sunday).  Every Tuesday during the NFL season, I will be running my weekly Power Rankings.  They are a simplified version of what you would see on other sports sites; what I do is rank the top ten teams, give a little bit of analysis on the week that just ended, and then highlight a couple of games in the next week that I consider to be "must-watch".  For those who were/are members of CBS Sports' site, you'll probably recognize my work. Since that site no longer allows users to maintain a blog (and tossed years of work into the dumpster), they'll be posted here instead.

Oh, and one other note: the Red Zone channel is awesome.  I can't wait to watch football on it again.

August 2, 2013

Christian Mistress - Possession (2012)

First things first: listen to Possession on Bandcamp.

Among the various sub-genres of metal, the traditional and power varieties are two that I listen to rather infrequently.  I usually find the emphasis on vocals annoying.  And there seems to be a disturbing lack of low end that I usually associate with metal as a whole.  In addition, I was not especially impressed with Agony & Opium, Christian Mistress' previous release.

Obviously, Possession blew my doors off.

In hindsight, of course, it's not that much of a surprise.  The rhythm section lays down the foundation, the guitarists explore genuinely intriguing interplay through the riffs and numerous leads, and vocalist Christine Davis sits above it all with her husky voice and understated singing style.  She's not using vibrato on every note she sings, nor does she sound like she's trying to out-do every other metal singer.  In short, she keeps the vocals listenable, and the album benefits greatly as a result.

The album's structure in interesting.  The best tracks are closer to the end of the album rather than at the beginning.  The first four tracks are generally shorter and to-the-point.  The title track separates these from the back four, which are generally more epic and more contemplative.

Speaking of the title track, I was surprised to find that it is a cover.  After hearing Christian Mistress' version...I really can't imagine what the original sounds like.

"Haunted Hunted" remains my favorite track.  It has the best riffs.  Not only that, but it's genuinely fun to listen to.  Not everything I listen to has that sense of fun.  Normally, it'd be a lot heavier, too.

I tabbed Possession as the best metal album of 2012.  Why the best?  For one, there isn't a weak track on it.  A number of albums that I heard throughout 2011 and 2012 had at least one weak track on it.  This one doesn't.  Not only that, but they pull off the neat trick of making a comparatively old style sound new and refreshing.  It's not an easy thing to do, as evidenced by all the thrash, death, and black metal bands who are so intent on rehashing the past while adding nothing new to it.