Sunday, September 23, 2018

Judas Priest and Deep Purple in Council Bluffs: September 21

A couple of years ago I missed an opportunity to see Judas Priest in concert.  At the time, I had a decision to make whether to see Slayer/King Diamond or Judas Priest/Saxon.  I chose Slayer/King Diamond because I did not think the chance to see King Diamond would come back around.  I figured Judas Priest would come around again.  That turned out to be true.  And bonus, they were coming off an absolutely terrific new album, Firepower.

This concert was played at Stir Cove in Council Bluffs, IA, which is where Judas Priest played before and where I saw Slayer and King Diamond.  It is an outdoor venue, which is usually fine, but it was pretty cold Friday night.

The opening band was a blues/rock band from England called The Temperance Movement.  They were pretty good, catchy certainly.  The style is not usually my kind of music but it reminds me quite a bit of rock music from the 1960's/1970's.

Judas Priest was next on the stage and they were absolutely the reason I was going to this concert in the first place.  Even my wife was excited to see them as she has come to enjoy them quite a bit, particularly the early 1980's stuff.  She loves "Turbo Lover" for reasons I cannot explain.  Priest sounded terrific, though Rob Halford's voice is clearly aging at this point.  K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton are no longer in the band so the dual guitars are handled by Andy Sneap (Hell, Sabbat) and Richie Faulkner.  The new duo does a remarkable job at replacing the legendary Downing/Tipton.  Most of the Priest classics were played and though Halford's voice has weathered, he still managed a few blood-curdling shrieks.  The only song I noticed was definitely missing was "Some Heads are Gonna Roll".  The band sprinkled in some of the new stuff off or Firepower, which is currently one of my contenders for Album of the Year.  Priest was absolutely worth seeing live.

The final band of the night was Deep Purple.  Despite their status as one of the early influencers on heavy metal and even bordering on metal themselves, I was not overly familiar with most of their music.  I have of course heard "Smoke on the Water", "Highway Star", and some of the other certified classics, but I do not own any albums.  Ian Gillan's voice has also aged, but the band sounded amazing considering they are mostly in their 70's at this point.  The highlight of their performance was the extended keyboard solo by Don Airey.  I was never really excited to see Deep Purple, not nearly as much as Priest, but I was very glad I saw them.

I would have probably preferred the band lineup from when I missed Judas Priest a couple of years ago.  I enjoy Saxon more than Deep Purple, but this was a terrific concert and I was glad to finally see Judas Priest live.  Priest was a bucket list band for me, and one of the last truly legendary metal bands I had yet to see live.  There are a few black metal and death metal bands still out there, and a couple of international thrash metal bands, but that is about it.   

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Lamb of God and Napalm Death in Omaha: August 17

Honestly, I am not much of a Lamb of God fan.  There is only one reason I went to this show, and that was to see Napalm Death.  I missed a couple of chances to see them recently and determined that I was going to see them the next time.  I would have preferred to have seen them as the headliner, but this was fine.  Lamb of God was the headliner this time and the show was at Sokol Auditorium in Omaha.  My wife declined to go to this one with me again.  So I went alone.

Narcotic Self was the opening band, a fact I was unaware of prior to arrival.  The band is a local one and this is the second time I have seen them.  They are one of the better Omaha-based bands, with a sound rooted in a more modern thrash metal sound.  They also put on a terrific show.  They were excellent as they were when I saw them opening for Exodus last year.  Unfortunately I was a little late to their performance because I honestly had no idea there was a band on stage before 8.  Websites need to get a better handle on this.

Napalm Death was next on the stage and they were the only reason I went.  I was curious as to what their setlist would consist of as the band has had a number of sound changes over the years.  It turns out that most of the setlist was fairly recent, with a few songs from their early grindcore years sprinkled throughout.  The band members were fairly entertaining in their performances, Barney Greenway moves around the stage like a five-year old throwing a tantrum, and the other members look like guys you would see passed out at the end of the bar at last call.  The highlights of the performance were "Suffer the Children", one of the band's best songs, and of course, "You Suffer", the one-second song that had the band listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.  They actually played the song twice, to the delight of the people in the crowd who understood what was happening.  They ended with the fantastic cover song "Nazi Punks Fuck Off".  As promised by Greenway early in the performance, Napalm Death was unapologetically noisy as fuck.

I stuck around for Lamb of God though I am not the biggest fan of the band.  I enjoy Ashes of the Wake quite a bit, but most everything else I have heard from the band was mediocre.  They have some great songs, and played most of them: "Omerta", "Walk with Me in Hell", and "Now You've Got Something to Die For", in particular.  They were definitely an energetic live band and put on a decent performance, but they did not really play anything that made me want to check out more of their music. 

It was definitely worthwhile to see Napalm Death.  Had ticket prices been a little lower, I may have skipped on Lamb of God.  I'm glad I did not, but the band did not really change my opinion of them that much.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

YOB and Bell Witch in Omaha: July 11, 2018

I almost did not get to see this one.  I was scheduled for an evidentiary hearing on a kidnapping case late in the afternoon yesterday.  I resisted the urge to buy the tickets right away with the concern that maybe, I would not be able to see it.  That would have been pretty disappointing.  I have really taken to Bell Witch over the last year, starting with their impressive Mirror Reaper album and leading to me picking up each of their previous releases as well.  So I was pretty excited to see them.  But I had that hearing potentially in the way.

After my hearing went quickly, I rushed out of court and to my office to buy my ticket (my wife did not attend this one with me), and I was off to Omaha.  The venue was the Lookout Lounge, an entertaining place to look at all of the flyers from shows years in the past.  It is kind of hard to imagine Machine Head playing in such a small venue for instance. 

Omaha natives Processions was up first and the singer announced that this would be the band's final show.  Upon looking at their Facebook page, it appears the members just want to start a new project and stop doing Processions.  The band played some pretty decent death/doom and I have to say I was pretty impressed with their slow-paced, rumbling sound.  It is a shame that the band is stopping a real release.

Bell Witch was next and I made an effort to get closer to the stage.  Bell Witch is an interesting band, consisting of just two members: a drummer and a bassist.  No guitars, no keyboards.  Yet the result is some absolutely devastating funeral doom metal.  I was kind of surprised that the band ended up playing the only track from their latest album, though a somewhat abbreviated version of it.  I did not expect the band to play one hour-long song for their show, but they absolutely killed it live.  It is difficult to make such a long, slow song interesting in a live setting, but the ebbs and flows of the melodies worked and it built up to a crushing climax. 

YOB was next, and I have never really gotten into them.  This was my first extended exposure to the band and they were decent enough.  Their songs were a little long, which seems like an odd complaint from someone who was just praising Bell Witch for one hour-long song, but I knew what to expect with them.  YOB was definitely heavy and interesting enough, I just do not know if I will be checking them out further. 

I am glad I managed to make it to the concert.  Bell Witch alone was well worth it.  This is one of the more unique concert experiences I have had to date, but it was a great time.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Ghost: Prequelle (2018)

It has not been often that I can say that a band that I have been following for a few years is about to hit it big, but Ghost really has some hype building around them.  They won a Grammy two years ago and after a small headlining tour, turned some heads by opening for Iron Maiden last year.  Later this year, they will be embarking on their own major headlining tour.  This album released a couple of weeks ago and hit #3 on Billboard right away.  They also have a gimmick that may be losing its luster with underground metal fans, but which might just bring in a ton of new fans as the band's visibility increases.  Stardom beckons at this point.

This is the band's fourth full-length album and probably their most mainstream-accessible, a direction they have been heading for a little while now.  A lot of the Satanic lyrics have been toned way down and some of the songs are downright poppy, such as second single "Dance Macabre", a song which I would not be surprised to hear on Top 40 radio.

Prequelle is also Ghost's most varied release, an impressive feat since the band has not stuck to one single style since their debut full-length.  Lead single "Rats" features terrific Maiden-esque leads and follow-up track "Faith" bears a strong resemblance to Swedish doom legends Candlemass (a statement that I made a couple of weeks before singer Tobias Forge appeared on stage with members of Candlemass to perform "Enter Sandman").  "See the Light" is a microcosm of the album as a whole, going through a number of stylistic changes.  Then we have "Miasma", which is as close to spacey prog rock as the band has ever gotten, complete with a saxophone solo.  Several years ago I compared Ghost to Blue Oyster Cult, a comparison that seems to be becoming more and more apt.  Like BOC, Ghost has not been content to rest on their laurels with one genre with straight-ahead rock tracks, experimental tracks, and poppy classics.

One criticism that I have though is that the album feels a little bit rushed.  I get the sense that the band was knocking on the door of mainstream acceptance and decided to try to kick it down.  There was some bad press with several Nameless Ghouls leaving the band and suing stalwart Forge for breach of contract and Forge hiring all new musicians in response.  There are three instrumental tracks on this release.  The intro is not surprising, and I would not be turned off by an additional instrumental, but then the band throws in another one toward the end.  A track like "Pro Memoria" feels like the band tried too hard to get another "Monstrance Clock".  This would have made a great EP with just "Rats", "Faith", "Dance Macabre", and "Witch Image", but that may not have been commercially viable.

There are some great songs on this release, but I do feel like it was somewhat rushed.  That being said, it is clear to me that the band is headed for mainstream success.  "Dance Macabre" in particular is a song I think will catch on in a big way.  I am not one of those metalheads that would turn against the band for doing so, I really hope they do make it big.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Obituary in Omaha: May 16, 2018.

It has been a little while since I have posted.  Things have been very busy at work and I have not gone to many concerts lately.  I have a ton of new albums, but no strong desire to post anything about them.  But on Wednesday I attended a concert at The Waiting Room in Omaha, this time alone as my wife decided to stay home.  Obituary was headlining with support from Pallbearer, Skeletonwitch, and Dust Bolt.

Dust Bolt was the first band of the night.  I was not familiar with the band other than initially hearing of them when I heard about this show.  The German thrash metal band has been around for about a dozen years now and released three full-lengths so far.  Not many people had arrived at the venue yet by the time they took the stage, which is a shame because they were the most welcome surprise of the night.  Just some terrific old-school thrash metal which was surprisingly inspired more by the Bay Area scene than their countrymen Kreator, Sodom, and Destruction.

I was a little surprised that Skeletonwitch was the second band of the night.  Honestly, they were the band that I was the most excited to see.  I love all of the stuff they have put out to date and am looking forward to their first full-length since 2013's Serpents Unleashed.  The band has since replaced their original vocalist and released a pretty damn good EP in 2016.  Their new vocalist does a damn good job on the prior material.  Skeletonwitch delivered a blistering set that was every bit as good as I had hoped when I saw they were playing nearby.

It seems kind of strange that Pallbearer was on the same bill as the other much more high-octane bands that played.  Pallbearer's sound is a much slower, more melodic style of doom metal.  Their music is somber with tortured vocals.  The vocals were more tortured than usual as one of the singers was having some health issues that prevented him from reaching some of his normal range.  Pallbearer sounded good, but it definitely felt like a massive shift going from Skeletonwitch to them and then to the headliners.  I really enjoy Pallbearer's albums, but they seemed a little out of place.

Legendary death metallers Obituary were the last band to take the stage and they delivered exactly what one would expect: grooving death metal that sounds like it rose from the swamps.  Every aspect of their sound was terrific, from the desiccated vocals to the bass-heavy grooves to the searing guitar solos.  They did not do much speaking to the crowd, they just got up and played.  The band finished things off with arguably their best songs "Chopped in Half" and "Slowly We Rot".  It was a quick performance but definitely made an impact.

Skeletonwitch was definitely the highlight of the night for me.  I enjoyed the other performances, but honestly I may not have attended had it not been for the presence of Skeletonwitch.  I wish my wife would have come with me, but she may not have cared much for this concert.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Is Anthrax the Best of the Big 4 Right Now?

Honestly, throughout most of my history with metal, Anthrax has never really been one of my favorite bands.  They did not even make it into my 100 Favorite Bands series.  Even among the Big 4, Anthrax was rarely among my top two favorites.  They were my third favorite for awhile only because it took me a long time to start getting into Slayer.  A lot of this may have been due to the fact that when I started getting into metal, Anthrax had replaced singer Joey Belladonna with John Bush.  I do still think Sound of White Noise is a good album, but it simply does not hold a candle to the better works of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, or even any of Anthrax's earlier albums. 

That has been changing over the last several years though.  First came their 2011 reunion album with Belladonna which is honestly probably the best Big 4 album of the last ten years, and only really in competition with a couple of Megadeth albums.  Then came their live show with Killswitch Engage last year.  I enjoyed Anthrax more than any of the other Big 4 bands.  I have seen Metallica twice, Megadeth three times, and Slayer once, but Anthrax blew them all away.  Their energy is infectious and they sound terrific on stage. 

So, in the last few months I have been making an effort to plug in some of the holes in my Anthrax collection.  Two of these holes have been State of Euphoria and Spreading the Disease.  I can honestly say that I should have checked these two out a long time ago because they are easily my two favorite Anthrax albums right now.  Previously, that spot was held by Among the Living, which is still a damn good album, but these are better.  "Medusa" is probably the band's best song and I heard it for the first time at the concert last year. 

That brings me to the title question.  Is Anthrax the best of the Big 4 right now?   I honestly believe that the answer to that question is yes.  Here is a look at each of the others:

SLAYER
Obviously, Slayer has recently announced that they will be retiring from touring, but even before that, they have not released a great album in a very long time.  I have enjoyed all of their albums to varying degrees over the last twenty or so years, but nothing has come close to the heights of Seasons in the Abyss, Reign in Blood, or even Divine Intervention.  That coupled with their somewhat lazy live performances (Kerry King notwithstanding), and Slayer has been in decline for a very long time. 

METALLICA
Inconsistency has been the name of the game for the venerable thrash titans in Metallica.  Their Black Album signaled the death knell of thrash metal as we knew it in the 1980's and tons of bands tried to follow suit.  Metallica themselves disappeared for a few years before re-emerging in the mid 1990's with haircuts and a completely different sound.  They released three very odd albums in a row, a covers album, and a collaboration with a symphony, before a return to form of sorts in Death Magnetic.  But after that they released a forgettable EP and the ridiculously awful Lulu collaboration with Lou Reed.  Their most recent album was decent, but bloated, and nowhere near as catchy as the Anthrax material.

MEGADETH
Probably the closest competition among the rival bands is Megadeth who at least continues to put out some quality new material.  Their most recent release Dystopia is strongly rooted in their Rust in Peace sound.  But Megadeth has put out a couple of regrettable releases as well, most notably Super Collider.  They do still put on a great live performance, but they pale slightly when compared to Anthrax.

ANTHRAX
And so that brings us here.  Since reuniting with Belladonna, Anthrax has put out two great albums and has been absolutely on fire live.  Megadeth may be close, but Anthrax has definitely been the more impressive group over the last decade or so.  That is really all that matters at this point and makes them the band to beat among the Big 4.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Innsmouth: The Departure of Shub-Niggurath (2009)

It is not very often I have been able to add the demo tapes of established bands that I listen to frequently.  The only real exceptions have been Dawn of Azazel and Goatwhore, until now.  Innsmouth is definitely not on the same level as the other two bands (and in fact Dawn of Azazel is also several notches below Goatwhore), but their 2014 full-length was my Album of the Year.  Unfortunately that turned out to be the band's only full-length as they split up shortly thereafter.

This demo tape finds the band in its infancy, and yet still features my personal favorite track from the 2014 Album of the Year, "Thrice Blessed Shub-Niggurath".  It is obvious that the band members are big fans of the works of H.P. Lovecraft based on the song and album titles, and their sound reflects that as well.  Between the cavernous vocals, otherworldly riffs, and creepy atmosphere, this band definitely nails the feel of Lovecraft's stories.

I did not know quite what to expect from Innsmouth's demo, but I came away very impressed.  There is really not much difference between this release and their full-length album.  All of the elements that I enjoyed in that album are present here.  It is a shame that the band did not stick around.  I could have done without the cover though with the anatomically correct (maybe?) satyr.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Summoning: With Doom We Come (2018)

Summoning is one of those bands that I have long heard great things about but simply never got around to checking out.  I do not really have an explanation for this, I just never really got around to it.  Now with this album being released early this year, I figured it would be a good chance to finally check them out.

This is most likely a grower for me.  I did not really know what to expect in checking this band out, but I was a little taken aback by it.  This is certainly not a bad album, far from it, I was just surprised by the band's sound.  It is much more laid-back than I thought it would be.  There is really nothing aggressive about it.  The riffs move very slowly and the vocals are delivered in a variety of styles, some harsh and some clean.

I will grant one thing to the album though, it sounds like it would have made an excellent soundtrack to a fantasy epic movie.  Something sort of like the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movies.  I also really enjoy the percussion used throughout the album, in particular the use of timpani, which is not a real common metal instrument.  Plus, Summoning has a fucking awesome band logo.

So this one was a little disappointing at first blush, but by the end of the year, it is entirely possible that I will absolutely love it.  We will see.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Metal Mail: Landmine Marathon Cassette Box Set

For a short period of time a few years back, Landmine Marathon was the subject of a ton of hype.  Most of it was due to Revolver Magazine slobbering all over themselves at the thought of a pretty girl fronting a death/grind band.  Actually, that was damn near all of it.  Unfortunately, Landmine Marathon was much better known for Grace Perry than for their sound, which is kind of a shame.  I actually really enjoyed the band and picked up their first two full-length albums on CD when they were fairly new.  They were also featured in my Honorable Mentions post for my Favorite New Bands of the 2000's. 

I sort of drifted away from the band after their second album.  I did not even know they released anything else, much less two other albums before Perry left the band.  I do not really know why that happened, but Landmine Marathon attempted to move forward, replacing Perry with Krysta Curry.  Technically the band is still active but has not released anything since the switch in singers.  I am curious as to what Perry is up to these days.  It does not appear she stayed in metal.

This is not a complete box set collection, it only contains the second, third, and fourth albums out of the band's five total albums.  That is okay because these are the better albums from the band and contain two of the releases of which I am most familiar.  Landmine Marathon's sound is based mostly in the sounds of early death/grind bands like Bolt Thrower, Carcass, and Napalm Death.  Grace Perry is the star of the band on these releases, with her impressive full-throated roar, through she is not the band's driving force.

This could be a better box set if it included everything from the band.  It is nice to get a few of the albums together, but there are two albums missing.  And those are the harder ones to find.  So, not a bad set, but not as good as it could be.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Metal Mail: Rare Finds

I picked up both of these albums from a seller in Canada off of Discogs.  I'm not sure how I ended up with two underrated U.K. albums from the same seller in Canada, but whatever.

ONSLAUGHT: THE FORCE (1986)
This is actually my third Onslaught album, and thus far the best one I have heard.  I do not know nearly as much as I should about this amazing U.K.-based thrash metal band.  My first experience with the band was 2013's VI, which was a very good modern thrash metal album.  After that, I picked up the Steve Grimmett-led In Search of Sanity, which is apparently not terribly representative of the band's typical sound.  So I tried this one, and holy fuck I am glad I did.  You see, I am a big fan of Slayer, but my absolute favorite album by them is Show No Mercy which was their debut album and was more of a NWOBHM-influenced album than the brutal brand of thrash metal that most people know of their sound.  This album by Onslaught is very similar to Show No Mercy.  It is pure Venom-worshipping thrash metal with some absolutely incredible songs.  This is not only my favorite album by Onslaught, it might be up there with Sabbat's Dreamweaver as my favorite U.K. thrash metal album.

SKYCLAD: THE WAYWARD SONS OF MOTHER EARTH (1991)
Speaking of Sabbat, Skyclad is frontman Martin Walkyier's band after leaving the great, underrated thrash metal band.  Skyclad was one of the pioneering bands in folk metal, fusing Irish melodies and instrumentation into thrashy, Iron Maiden-esque riffs.  Of course the highlight of the album is Walkyier's staccato barking vocals.  Walkyier has one of the great vocal styles in thrash metal and it is on full display throughout this album.  As much as I love Walkyier's work, for some reason I have just not gone through much of his stuff.  I have just one Sabbat album, which I absolutely love, and now two Skyclad albums, both of which I really enjoy as well.  Well, that will likely become one of my goals.  There is really only one other Sabbat album, which will likely be the next one I check out, but there is quite a bit of Skyclad material.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Metal Mail: Rapid Fire Records

RUNNING WILD: DEATH OR GLORY (1989)
For some reason, I only recently decided to check out Running Wild.  The German power/speed metal band has been around for 40 years, yet I never took the plunge.  It was only a few months ago that I added Blazon Stone to my collection and loved it.  So I picked up this release which was the album that immediately preceded Blazon Stone and I love it even more.  Running Wild, along with Blind Guardian and Helloween, really helped usher in the European style of power metal.  This album is filled with terrific, pulse-pounding burners with infectious hooks and choruses. The middle tracks drag just a little bit, particularly with the instrumental "Highland Glory" and its oddly bouncy bass riff, but it picks right back up on "Marooned".  I was a little concerned when I saw the tile "Bad to the Bone" that Running Wild might be attempting an ill-advised cover, but this song is an original and quite catchy.  After two positive experiences, I will be checking out additional material by Running Wild.  There is a lot of stuff to go through yet.

NUCLEAR ASSAULT: GAME OVER (1986)
Nuclear Assault is the band that really got me into crossover.  I had heard groups like Suicidal Tendencies and Prong, and even the Corrosion of Conformity stuff that was more crossover-oriented, but it was when I checked out "Critical Mass" again that I was really sold on the genre.  I loved the album that that song appeared on Handle with Care as well.  So, when I had an opportunity to add their debut album to my collection, I jumped on it.  I do not like this one quite as much as the aforementioned album though.  The band had not fully grown into their sound on this release.  It is more of a straight thrash metal album than the later release.  There are a lot of great songs on this album, but some of the tracks are clearly done to be humorous and end up falling a little flat.  There is nothing inherently wrong with doing humor in metal, but it does not always work, and this is one of those occasions.  The more serious tracks are definitely the standouts and keep the album interesting. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Metal Mail: Gruesome

GRUESOME: DIMENSIONS OF HORROR (2016)
First of all, I love this album cover.  Just some excellent Lovecraftian-style horror.  I have been somewhat familiar with Gruesome for a little while.  The band was started by Matt Harvey (not the Mets pitcher, the guitarist for Exhumed, Dekapitator, and others) and some other longtime death metal musicians, as a way to pay tribute to Death.  The sound of the band is clearly based on the early works of the great death metal pioneers, particularly Scream Bloody Gore.  There is a breakdown in the title track that absolutely calls to mind one in Death's "Zombie Ritual".  Gruesome has only released one full-length album so far, which brings me to the only problem that I have with this release: it is just an EP.  Hopefully Gruesome will release a new full-length album soon.  In the meantime, this is some good stuff for anyone looking for something like the early Death albums.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Metal Mail: Random Tapes

These are just some random tapes that did not fit in with any real category.

FVRLVRN: DEMO 2016 (2016)
I am pretty sure that pronunciation is supposed to be "Forlorn", but I could be way off base.  This is an extremely quick and dirty demo from a band experimenting with combining black metal and grindcore, two styles that I am not sure get mixed together too often.  The band features two members of blackened slam (also two styles that do not get mixed often) outfit Hateful Transgression, a band whose demo tape I am still trying to find after originally ordering it from the label only to find that it was no longer active.  There are some interesting moments on this release, in particular the drum blast in opening track "Crawling Inside" that is so fast it sounds like a motor sputtering to life.  The black metal parts mostly come from the vocal style, which is often a rasping shriek rather than the more typical grindcore style.  There are some riffs here and there that are more black metal in nature as well.  Otherwise, it is more of a death/grind release.  Fvrlvrn deserves credit for trying something new.  I still prefer Hateful Transgression personally and will hopefully one day find that demo tape.  Fvrlvrn recently changed their name to Morgue Walker.

SEAX: SPEED METAL MANIA (2016)
Well, with a title like that, you pretty much know what to expect: balls-to-the-wall pure fucking metal, and that is what you get.  The Motorhead and Exciter covers hidden in the album cover art are some additional clues.  The combination of those two bands is a pretty decent way to describe the band's sound, definitely fast-paced with soaring vocals and sing-along choruses.  Seax has apparently been around for some time as this is the band's third full-length album.  There have been a lot of bands popping up in recent years playing this kind of retro heavy metal, so Seax has their work cut out for them if they want to break through.  They definitely have the chops though, as this album attests.

UNSPEAKABLE: EXPULSION OF THE TRIUMPHANT BEAST (2017)
I discovered Unspeakable through recommendations by various people on Facebook and Youtube.  The band is a black/death metal band in the vein of Archgoat, Black Witchery, and the like and from St. Louis.  This band is certainly raw and primitive-sounding, which I can definitely appreciate.  The songs are fast-paced and intense and sound like the kind of thing that would have been recorded in the mid-1980's.  Of particular note is "Fevered Dreams in the Witch House", not just for the face-melting riffs, but I dig the Lovecraft reference.  Final track "Unspeakable" caught me by surprise at first as I kept thinking this sounds a lot like very early black metal bands.  Sure enough, it is a cover of an NME song from their debut demo in 1985.  That makes sense.  I love this tape so much I ordered their previous release and will be keeping an eye out for a full-length, which is apparently coming soon.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Metal Mail: Tapehead City

I have been collecting all of my music on cassettes lately.  Not really sure why, I just decided that is the format I enjoy the best.  My wife thinks I am crazy.  She is probably correct.

ARMORED SAINT: RAISING FEAR (1987)
Despite how much I love Symbol of Salvation and John Bush's work with Anthrax, I never really checked out any more of Armored Saint's early work.  Part of this is likely due to not really enjoying the more recent output by the band.  Part of it may be due to simply lack of opportunity.  But after I saw them live in support of Queensryche a year or so ago, I decided I would take a chance on them again.  It seems odd now that I did not give their earlier work a chance because this album is terrific and is definitely closer to Symbol than their later material, which only makes sense because this album immediately preceded it.  Now, there are not any truly awesome songs like "Hanging Judge" or "Reign of Fire" on this one, but there are some damn good ones.  Ultimately, I will probably always prefer Symbol over this one, but this is definitely a good album, and much better than anything the band has been putting out in recent years.

BANSHEE: RACE AGAINST TIME (1989)
I have been on a 1980's metal kick lately.  I blame my wife.  It seems reasonable.  Anyway, I have been trying to find bands that were overlooked in the 1980's that definitely played metal.  I have been mostly using the Metal Archives as a source to look bands up when I come across them on sites like Tapehead City.  This album received some a very favorable review on that site, and it was cheap, so I took a flyer.  This album is definitely a product of its time.  It is a metal album, clearly there are metal riffs, but the band is more of a combination of U.S. power metal and the more popular styles of hard rock/heavy metal from the time period.  There are some damn catchy songs here, such as the title track, which absolutely would fit in on an album by Manowar or Helstar.  There are some other highlights as well.  This album would have been avoided based entirely on the super cheesy cover, but it is an example of why one should not judge an album just by its cover.

DREAD: RAVAGED (1996)
One of the things that I have really enjoyed since starting to really collect cassettes has been finding old demo tapes, particularly of bands that never made it.  And Tapehead City seems to have a number of obscure demos.  Demos from bands that are well-known are usually a bit pricey, so this is just fine.  I picked up this demo from a Massachusetts-based band based on the fact that they are listed as a thrash metal band on the Metal Archives and because it was pretty cheap.  Well, if they ever were a thrash metal band, they are not on this demo.  This is the last of five demos the band released in their short existence and it is very clear that the band was aiming for more of a Pantera/Machine Head/Exhorder style of groove metal.  It is not bad, but it is not really what I expected either, and I am not typically much of a groove metal fan.  It is interesting to note that one of the former band members from this group went on to play in Godless Rising and Goreality, two bands of whom I am familiar.

INTERNAL VOID: STANDING ON THE SUN (1993)
This was a little-known doom metal band that existed for a few years in the late 1980's/early 1990's.  They released this album, their debut, before going on hiatus for a few years, released albums in 2000 and 2004 before disbanding.  Recently, they have re-formed again.  This is the first time I have had a chance to check them out.  This is a very bluesy style of doom metal, calling to mind the early Black Sabbath albums.  The album is somewhat long and most of the songs are very slow, making it seem that much longer.  That is not really a problem, though it would be nice if there was a little bit more variety.  The better tracks are those that are faster-paced.  This is certainly an interesting album and would definitely appeal to the true doom metal fans out there.

LIZZY BORDEN: THE MURDERESS METAL ROAD SHOW (1986)
This is not actually what I ordered.  Usually I avoid live albums and I ordered one of the band's early studio albums.  But when it arrived, the J-card was correct, but the tape was this live release.  I gave it a shot anyway and I am damn glad I did.  I avoided Lizzy Borden for a long period of time due to assuming they were just another glam band.  Honestly, the band definitely looks ridiculous, however musically, they have more in common with early Iron Maiden than Poison.  This is 100% pure 1980's heavy metal with searing guitar solos, infectious riffs, and soaring vocals.  Yes, it is a live album, but the production is so good that the songs do not lose anything.  In an ongoing review of 1980's groups, Lizzy Borden stands along with W.A.S.P. as truly impressive metal bands in an ocean of forgettable glam bands.