Thursday, December 14, 2017

Acid Cross/Sardu: Metalpunx from Beyond (2017)

I need to get caught up here.  I am going to try to finish a bunch of reviews for 2017 releases in the coming weeks before dropping my Top (Whatever) Albums by the end of January.  I like to wait until well after the first of the year to cover all of the new albums I might hear in the year. 
This is pretty much the quintessential Hells Headbangers release, which is why it is so weird that it is not from that particular label, not that there is anything wrong with that.  In fact, I only bring it up because I am such a fan of that label's output, so it makes sense that I would like this release.  This is a split album and both bands feature a very heavy punk influence to go along with their own twisted brands of black/thrash/speed metal, hence the name of the split.   Both bands are also from Canada, and I have made it clear that there is some surprisingly great metal coming from the Great White North.  Yet another reason to look into this split.

Acid Cross is the first band on the split.  Their sound is an unholy blend of Motorhead, Venom, and Bathory.  It is beer-and-whiskey-soaked rollicking metal with a punk sneer.  The vocals are snarled and raspy, sounding as if the singer just downed a pint of acid before taking the mic.  "The Glowing Ones" is the standout track here with some damn infectious, neck-breaking guitar riffs.  I could have done without the extended movie sample at the end of the last track on the side, which just saps a lot of the energy the band built up previously.  This might have been better earlier on in Acid Cross's material.

Up next is Sardu, and with a song name like "Metal Punk Exploding Master", you can tell that this group is not exactly super serious.  Sardu has an interesting back story as members of the band also created a cult zombie film called "Walking Among the Dead".  The vocals are a little more black metal-styled than Acid Cross, but the riffs are even more rooted in Motorhead and punk rock.  Their side is a little more even, without any truly weak moments, but they also do not quite reach the heights of the Acid Cross side.

What I usually like to do with splits is pick my favorite side.  Both of these bands capture the drunken mayhem spirit of Motorhead and mix it with some sleazy blackened thrash metal.  Both bands put on an energetic performance.  But, even though I will be interested in following both bands, I think I slightly prefer Acid Cross, mostly on the strength of "The Glowing Ones". 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Bell Witch: Mirror Reaper (2017)

First of all, I have to say, this is the best cover art I have seen in years.  It is incredibly creepy and imposing.  I would have probably bought this album just for the cover alone.  It looks so much better on the double gatefold vinyl sleeve.  But there is also the music, as Bell Witch has been rising as one of my favorite funeral doom metal bands over the last few months after picking up each of their recorded releases (including their demo) on cassette and vinyl.

Bell Witch's third album is an exercise in patience and attention as it is technically just one 84 minute long song called "Mirror Reaper (As Above, So Below)".  Several bands have attempted the one-song album over the years with some impressive results.  Just look at Edge of Sanity's Crimson, Sleep's Dopesmoker, and Insomnium's Winter's Gate, for examples of projects done well.  And Bell Witch have added their name to the list with this sprawling epic. 

It is not just the length of the album that requires fully immersing oneself into the music however.  As a funeral doom metal band, the music is painfully slow (in a good way) and drawn out.  There are no hooks, no memorable choruses, no real melodies.  It is just pure melancholic dread set to eerie, atmospheric, monolithic music.  Bell Witch accomplishes this task with just two members and no actual guitarist.  Their sound is bleak and massive without being heavy and loud.  It is a tribute to a former band member who had died.  In fact, one of the most poignant moments on the album is the use of previously unused vocal tracks recorded by the now-deceased band member, giving that much more weight to the heavy theme. 

Bell Witch have put out one of the great funeral doom releases with this.  It is so much more than just a terrific cover.  The music really fits in with the cover art and the music is dark and complex.  In my own opinion, it is much harder to make terrific slow music.  Bell Witch have made it an art form.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Jackyl in Sioux City: November 17

For now, my concert experiences have come full circle.  The very first rock concert I ever attended was Jackyl back when I was a junior or senior in high school.  At the time, Jackyl was going on an ambitious plan to play 50 shows in 50 days and they were playing a free concert in the parking lot of the local record store, back when we still had those in my hometown.  It was free, so I went, despite not knowing a ton about Jackyl.  I was a little late because I was at a basketball game before going, but I managed to catch six or seven songs, and again, it was free.

Now, Jackyl is not a metal band, but I figured I would make an exception for the blog, mostly because my wife really wanted to go to this one.  They were playing at the Hard Rock Casino, which makes three weekends in a row that I have attended a concert there.

The opening band was a group called Screaming for Silence from Omaha, Nebraska, and it is just like Nebraska to produce a band that is 15 years behind the times.  They were about as stereotypical a nu-metal band as you could possibly get, complete with guy with weird-colored hair, guy wearing sideways baseball cap, jumping around while playing, and vocalist wearing flannel shirt.  The green-haired guitarist was pretty decent, but by and large, the band was ultimately forgettable.

Jackyl took the stage next and played through all of the songs one would expect the band to play.  "Dirty Little Mind", "When Will it Rain", "Mental Masturbation", "Down on Me", and "I Stand Alone" are the band's biggest hits and were all played last night.  Jackyl sounded damn good for being a band that has been around for 25 years.  Their brand of southern hard rock has aged well and they can still bring it after all this time.  Jesse James Dupree's voice is as bourbon-soaked and raspy as ever.  Of course the band closed things out with "The Lumberjack" complete with chainsaw accompaniment, which was to be expected as they did the exact same thing when I saw them almost 20 years ago. 

I have never really been a big fan of Jackyl, but they do put on a pretty good show.  My wife really enjoyed it, which is the important thing.  I do kind of owe after that whole Mayhem concert thing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mayhem in Omaha: November 12

Well, this one was certainly interesting.  If you had asked me even a year ago if I ever thought I might see Mayhem live in concert, I would have laughed.  I never expected the band to come anywhere near here, yet there they were at The Waiting Room in Omaha last night.

Black Anvil was the opening band, and I honestly was not familiar with them.  I had heard the name of the band before, but maybe I had them confused with Black Tusk or something, because I had no idea they were a black metal band.  I was actually pretty impressed with them.  Their sound was definitely hateful and aggressive, but they are clearly not a pure black metal band.  There were a lot of hardcore and thrash influences in their sound, which is borne out by reading into the band's history, coming from Kill Your Idols.  They also had some softer moments reminiscent of the latest Watain album.  Black Anvil was definitely impressive.

The second band was Immolation, who have been a favorite death metal band of mine for many years.  They played a diverse set covering a number of their albums.  Immolation is mostly well-known for their jagged riffs and chaotic sound, and that was definitely on display on Sunday night.  Combining that with the fact that Ross Dolan is still one of the better death metal vocalists out there made this one of the better death metal performances I have seen.  My wife though was less than impressed and seemed annoyed with the facial expressions of guitarist Alex Bouks, commenting that duck lips had no place in metal, other than Steel Panther's Lexxi Foxx.  I did not notice.

After a long wait and a message about not using flash to take pictures so as not to upset the atmosphere, Mayhem was up.  The band definitely got some use out of their fog machines and burned some incense, which also annoyed my wife.  She says she has been sneezing all day.  Singer Attila Csihar was mesmerizing, with his theatrical movements, and his varied vocal styles.  He was wearing corpse paint and at one point moved around the stage holding what looked like a human skull.  At times, Attila seemed to be attempting to channel evil spirits on stage.  I was a little disappointed that his mic was not turned up a little higher as he was sometimes very difficult to hear.  Mayhem played the entire legendary De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas album, which ended up being their entire set.  I was happy about this as it represents the best of Mayhem's catalog.  Between the fog, lighting, and the intense music, this was probably the darkest atmosphere for any concert I have ever attended.

This concert was probably one of the most memorable concerts I have ever attended.  It was truly an experience to see Mayhem live.  As much as I enjoyed the Immolation and Black Anvil performances, Mayhem's performance was incredible.  This was a concert I will never forget.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Arch Enemy and Trivium in Sioux City: November 10

For the second time in less than seven days, I found myself at the Hard Rock Casino in Sioux City, Iowa for a concert.  This time it was a co-headlining show with Trivium and Arch Enemy.  I have seen Trivium once before, so the reason that I chose to go to this one was to see Arch Enemy.  My wife did not come to this one with me.  She had to dog-sit for her parents this weekend.  I am not sure I care much for going to concerts alone. 

The opening band was Fit for an Autopsy, a group that has started to make some waves.  I did not care much for their brand of deathcore personally.  The entire performance was basically one long breakdown.  There were a couple of decent songs, but this is not likely a band I will be seeking out in the future.  The second band was a metalcore group called While She Sleeps.  Now, this is a band I likely would have enjoyed quite a bit more in my early 20's.  They had some decent material and the singer was undeniably charismatic on stage, but again, I am not likely to seek them out further.

Arch Enemy was next on stage and they performed a fantastic set, dedicated mostly to their material since Angela Gossow took over as vocalist and extending into the Alissa White-Glutz era.  White-Glutz is a powerful vocalist, but the true highlight of the entire night was the incredible guitar performances by Jeff Loomis and Michael Amott.  Those two really put on a show.  Arch Enemy was absolutely worth seeing.

Finally, Trivium closed things out.  They played a little shorter set than I expected, and certainly shorter than last year's set.  They have a new album out, which I have not heard yet, and which I am not sure I will be checking out.  The new songs they played were catchy enough, but not as good as some of their earlier material.  Matt Heafy sounded as if he might be suffering from a little bit of a cold as his melodic vocals were not quite up to snuff.  But, Trivium had some impressive songs, just not as impressive as Arch Enemy.

This was only the second time I have ever gone to a concert alone.  Quite frankly, I do not much care for it.  Maybe if it had been a better lineup I might have liked it better.  Trivium sounded a bit off and neither of the opening groups were really impressive.  Arch Enemy was pretty much the only really good thing about the night.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Gwar in Sioux City: November 4, 2017

Well, I finally had occasion to see Gwar over the weekend.  I have missed out on several opportunities in the past to see them, but I decided that it was not going to happen again.  Of course it is a little disappointing to see them without the great Oderus Urungus fronting the band, but Blothar still does a pretty damn good job.  This concert occurred at the Hard Rock Casino in Sioux City, Iowa a venue I have not previously been to.  My wife was a little interested in this one too, given Gwar's theatricality.

The opening band was U.S. Bastards, a band fronted by Gwar guitarist Brent Purgason, aka Pustulus Maximus.  Their style is drenched in dirty, raw, Motorhead-influenced punk rock 'n roll.  To drive the point home, they even covered the Motorhead classic "Killed by Death".  I enjoyed them quite a bit more than I thought that I would honestly.  I am not sure my wife agreed.  She did not look up from her phone once during their set.

Up next was Doyle, a band named for bandleader, former Misfits guitarist and certified gigantic human being Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein.  Misfits were a rarity, a punk band that I truly loved listening to, due to their infectious songs, presence of Glenn Danzig, and crossing over into metal on occasion.  Their later material with Michale Graves was very close to metal and Doyle's solo band continued in this style.  Oh, there is still quite a bit of horror punk, but a lot of metal riffing as well.  Singer Alex Story introduced almost every song with "This next song is a bit of a love song, you can dance to it, if you like", a joke which got a little old after about the third time.  My wife liked Doyle, the guitarist, for reasons other than his musicianship.

Ghoul came next, and honestly I was more excited to see them than Gwar.  I just generally enjoy their music more.  This is where things got more theatrical as two people in costumes began doing a skit about finding some sort of portal to another dimension and talking specifically about the band, who then showed up, complete with burlap masks covered in blood over their faces and decapitating one of the people, spraying the crowd with blood.  Some of the prop usage left a bit to be desired.  One of the "soldiers" clearly had no idea how guns were supposed to work.  The show went on like this, eventually peaking with a Nazi-esque leader discussing building a "bigly wall" to keep out all the aliens before beating one of the Ghoul members with a nightstick.  Yes, the music was damn fun too.  Ghoul's sound is a mix of thrash and grind with very few moments of melody.

Gwar was next on the stage and they delivered exactly what I was expecting.  Lots of costumes, some sick humor, lots of body mutilation and fake blood spraying into the crowd, and some damn catchy songs.  They played a lot of material from the new album, but peppered in classics like "Black and Huge" and "Saddam A Go-Go".  Gwar brought out a Trump character as well, before disemboweling him and Blothar taking over as President of the United States.  About the only down side was that Gwar no longer feeds the World Maggot on stage.  But they still put on one hell of an entertaining show all the same.

This show was a lot of fun.  I am not a huge fan of any of the bands for their music, but Gwar and Ghoul in particular are bands that must be experienced live.  I am definitely glad we had the chance to go.  My wife enjoyed it quite a bit as well.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Suffocation and The Black Dahlia Murder in Omaha: October 24

Technically, The Black Dahlia Murder was the headliner at this show, but Suffocation is getting top billing in this post because that was the band that I really wanted to see.  Not to say that The Black Dahlia Murder is not a good band, I actually really enjoy the band's brand of At the Gates worship, but I would likely not have attended just for them.  Luckily, Suffocation was one of the openers, and three more bands were coming along for the ride.  Unfortunately, a couple of unwelcome surprises diminished the show a little bit.

The venue was The Slowdown, one of my favorite venues, though it was just the second time I have been there.  Exodus played there a few weeks ago.  The bar has a decent-sized stage and a nice bar area where, while you really can not see anything, at least you can easily hear.

We were just a little bit late again, as a result of having to drive two hours, but the opening band was still on the stage when I walked in while my wife ran out for ice cream, she was not super excited for the death metal-heavy show.  Wormwitch was the opener and they were incredibly impressive, playing more of a black metal mixed with later Entombed style.  They had some damn catchy songs and I may just have to check out their album.  Necrot was the next band on the stage, and I was fairly familiar with them, having recently picked up their Blood Offerings album, which is a fantastic slab of old school death metal.  I was so impressed, I picked up a t-shirt.  Both Wormwitch and Necrot had the kind of poise and presence as bands that have been around for decades, yet each of them have just recently released their first full length albums.     

The first unwelcome surprise came next.  Decrepit Birth was supposed to be at this show.  I have really enjoyed some of their albums, though I have not kept up with them lately.  Unfortunately, apparently their guitarist had some medical issues crop up last week and the band had to cancel the rest of the tour. 

Suffocation was next and unfortunately brought out the next unwelcome surprise.  Apparently, it is fairly well-known at this point that vocalist Frank Mullen no longer tours full-time with the band as he has a job that pays him well enough that he simply cannot afford to do so.  I did not know that, so I was a little surprised when the vocalist was clearly not Mullen.  It took some looking, but it apparently was Kevin Muller of The Merciless Concept.  Muller absolutely did a fantastic job filling in for Mullen, but it was still a little disappointing not to see the full lineup in action.  Their show was terrific though and they played a nice mix of stuff from the new album and classic songs such as "Liege of Inveracity", "Pierced from Within", and "Effigy of the Forgotten".  It was absolutely worth seeing Suffocation live.

Afterwards, I got a chance to meet this guy:
My wife took the picture.

Finally, The Black Dahlia Murder took the stage.  TBDM was very unfairly lumped in with the metalcore bands despite the fact that their sound was clearly melodic death metal a la Slaughter of the Soul-era At the Gates.  They played a blistering set and because their songs are so short and fast, they were able to fit 20 or so songs in to a little more than an hour.  They sounded damn impressive, playing a lot of stuff from their fantastic new album as well as some classics like "What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse" and "Miasma".  One of the more entertaining things occurred during TBDM when their merch guy was playing Connect 4 with some other guy.  My wife found that very amusing. 

This was a great concert, despite the surprises.  I would have liked to see Decrepit Birth and was disappointed Mullen did not perform for Suffocation, but all of the bands were very impressive. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Accept: The Rise of Chaos (2017)

Despite the band's high status as German metal pioneers, I have never really gotten too much into Accept's material.  That is not to say that I do not like the band.  Quite the opposite.  I love "Balls to the Wall" and "Midnight Mover".  I also really like "Losing More than You've Ever Had".  But for some reason, I never picked up my first Accept album until 2010's Blood of the Nations, a monstrous return to form for the band.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that Udo Dirkschneider is no longer with the band, but after getting that album, which admittedly took some time to grow on me, I have finally started to really open up to the band.

That brings us to this year's The Rise of Chaos.  This one is very similar to the 2010 classic, but unfortunately slightly pales to it in most respects.  The songs are not quite as memorable.  The riffs are not quite as sharp.  The vocals are not quite as savage.  That is not to say that this is a bad album, far from it.  It is a terrific slab of traditional heavy metal, it just does not live up to one of the band's greatest albums.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all.

One of the biggest issues I have with the album is that some of the lyrics are a little bit laughable.  I doubt they are all to be taken seriously, but songs like "Hole in the Head" which repeats the refrain "I need you...like a hole in the head" is positively juvenile.  I was also not sure quite what to make of the title "Koolaid", until seeing the lyrics, after which I came to enjoy that track quite a bit.  I can though really identify with "Analog Man" as I also prefer the old ways of vinyl and cassettes to our current computer-driven society.

Despite some of my minor gripes, this is still a very strong album.  Several tracks like "Die by the Sword", the title cut, and "Worlds Colliding" stand up quite well to any of the band's prior classic songs.  This is a band that has been at it for over 40 years at this point (two original members remain), and yet, they still sound fresh and powerful.  That is damn impressive.  Accept really should be on the same pedestal as contemporaries like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.

This is a terrific album that just does not quite live up to one of its predecessors.  Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as this album stands up quite well on its own.  One thing this album did do though, is convince me to go back and find their older releases.  I have a lot of catching up to do.   

Friday, October 6, 2017

Nightbringer: Terra Damnata (2017)

American black metal is kind of an odd beast.  There just are not that many long-lasting black metal bands from the U.S.  Certainly not many that have made a huge impact on the black metal genre.  Absu is about the only one that I can name off of the top of my head.  Many bands have been able to blend black metal with death or thrash metal for example, but very few great pure black metal bands have come from the U.S.

Well, Nightbringer is definitely a high-quality American black metal band.  Emerging from the harsh, desolate landscape that is Colorado, Nightbringer's sound is absolutely fucking hostile.  This is actually the band's fifth full-length album, though it is my first exposure to the band.  Things start off with a bang, with the highly caustic "As Wolves Amongst Ruins".  From there, chaos is the name of the game throughout the album.  There is absolutely nothing pretty or soothing here.  Even when the pounding drums and crashing riffs are not ruling the sound, the lead riffs or keyboard lines are ugly and foreboding.  And of course there is no respite with the vocals which are often delivered in a typical black metal harsh rasp. 

Nightbringer is proof that there is some incredible black metal coming from the United States.  The band's newest release is an eerie and cruel album.  I love it.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Night Demon: Darkness Remains (2017)

Honestly, my tastes have been evolving in recent years.  I have noticed it.  I am less and less interested in the extreme metal genres than I used to be and much more into the more traditional styles.  Thrash metal is still my personal favorite, but metal owing its roots to bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden are more and more appealing to me.  So it was with great interest that I jumped on this release, particularly after seeing others rave about it.

Night Demon has been making some waves in the underground metal scene since releasing their debut EP in 2012.  This is their second full-length album and it was subject to a lot of hype.  The band is truly a rising star among the other traditional metal bands.  The style has been enjoying a resurgence over the last decade or so. 

The band definitely wears their Maiden influence on their sleeve and the song "Maiden Hell" is Exhibit A in that.  That song references a ton of Maiden songs and their career in general.  Other than that, there are of course the galloping riffing style, heavy bass, and smooth and clean vocals.  There is also the visual aesthetic with the horror-influenced cover art.

But the album is not all Iron Maiden references.  Night Demon does forge their own identity, even if their sound is fairly derivative of other bands.  They do just enough to stand out from the pack of other trad-metal bands.  And they can definitely write some damn catchy hooks. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Stone Sour and Steel Panther in Omaha: September 24, 2017

Okay, this one was not on me.  My wife is a big Steel Panther fan.  So big, that earlier this year we traveled to San Antonio for the sole purpose of going to a Steel Panther concert.  Little did we know that several months later, the band would be playing much closer to home.  They recently began a tour in support of Stone Sour and played the first night of the tour in Omaha.  And so, we went and saw Steel Panther for the second time this year.  I am not a huge fan of either band, and this was definitely not the kind of concert I would have liked to have seen, but my wife wanted to go, and she does go to a lot of concerts she would prefer not to attend.

The crowd was about what I expected.  Some genuine metal heads, a lot of people just there to have a good time, frat guys, poseur metal heads.  The funniest thing I saw was one individual dressed all in black, with long hair dyed black, wearing a black hoodie, with the hood pulled over his face, trying to look scary and badass.  News flash: you are not scary and badass when you look like that at a fucking Stone Sour concert.  You just look like a fucking idiot.

Opening things up was an erotic performance art dance group called Cherry Bombs.  This proved to be a very popular opening act.  The girls danced, and performed various stunts.  Honestly, I could not see part of their show due to where we were in the venue.  This part I assume had something to do with pole dancing.  The women were scantily clad and very attractive.  As I said, this was quite a popular performance, though maybe not with most of the women in the audience.  The music played was mostly late 90's gothic/hard rock.  The weird thing was that the performance at one point simply ended, though the music kept playing.  There must have been some miscommunication somewhere.

Steel Panther was next on the stage.  They played a shorter set than they did the previous time we saw them, but that was due to the fact that they were not the headliner at this show.  Nevertheless, they did play a number of their live staples, particularly those that required audience participation, such as "Girl from Oklahoma" and "17 Girls in a Row".  Of course the banter between the members was present, Satchel making old man jokes about Michael Starr, Lexxi generally being derided for being a little dim, and the typical sex jokes.  Steel Panther do put on a fantastic live performance and really should be seen.

Next, the headliners arrived.  Back in my nu-metal phase, I will admit I liked Stone Sour a little bit.  I have not paid attention to the band in years though and honestly did not know they were even still going.  Their stuff really did not do much for me last night.  There were a few songs I recognized, such as "Get Inside" and "Through Glass", but the majority of the songs were new to me.  My wife and I left before they did their encore performance.  They were not bad, they just were not all that impressive.

As I said, this concert was not for me.  However, Steel Panther does put on an electric show and really should be seen.  Stone Sour on the other hand...meh.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Dark Tranquillity in Sioux Falls, SD: September 21, 2017

Well, I am really not sure about going to Sioux Falls for a concert more than once every few months or so.  Particularly if it is on a weeknight.  Not to say the experience was bad, but getting home at 3:00 a.m. and having to get right back up in a few hours is definitely tough on me.  I'm getting old.  Anyway, last night Swedish melodeath pioneers Dark Tranquillity appeared at The Icon Lounge along with Warbringer and Striker, and a couple local bands.  It was a long concert, but it was still a lot of fun.

First on stage was the unfortunately-named local band Tons of 'Em.  They were playing when we walked in and played only two songs that we saw.  The sound was interesting enough, somewhat technical, and a little doomy.  The most interesting aspect of the band was that the two guitarists and bassist were all in their 20's, while the drummer appeared to be in his 60's.  I made the joke to my wife that it was nice of the band members' dad to play drums for them.  Apparently that is partially correct.  He is only one of the members' dad.

The next band was Traverscion, a prog-death metal band from Sioux Falls, led by a Sheldon Cooper-lookalike and a Thor lookalike, which thrilled my wife by the way.  This band I really enjoyed.  Their sound had kind of a Lovecraftian murkiness to it and the three vocalists complemented each other quite well.  The times when they would play more melodic sections were the definite highlight.  I will be keeping an eye on this group.

Side story: I made a comment at the Kreator show to my wife that there would probably be some scary-looking guys there.  She responded that they are probably more scared of her than she is of them.  The ratio of men to women at most of these concerts probably bears this out.

And we are back.  Canada has become quite the fertile ground for traditional metal bands over the last decade or so.  And Striker is just one example of this.  I have heard one of their albums and quite enjoyed it, so I had a decent idea of what to expect, but for some reason I thought they were thrashier than they actually are.  They played a blistering 20 minute set with some of the catchiest songs of the night.  They definitely looked like throwbacks to 1980's metal too.  I will have to check out more of their material.  I wish they had had a t-shirt with their Armed to the Teeth album cover on it.  I would have grabbed it quickly.
Where was this t-shirt, Striker?
Hell, my wife would have bought one!

Next up was Warbringer.  I saw them about five years ago when they were an up-and-coming band in support of Overkill.  They played their entire new album Woe to the Vanquished.  A little unexpected, but that is a monster of a modern thrash album, so it was damn good.  Of particular note is the absolutely infectious neck-breaker "Remain Violent".  They looked like they were having a blast too, which was true of each of the five bands of the night.

And finally, Dark Tranquillity took the stage.  I have been a big fan of the band since I was in college, though I preferred their heavier material prior to their more gothic metal-influenced melodeath (my favorite of their albums is still the Of Chaos and Eternal Night EP).  That being said, they have some damn great songs and they played a lot of that material last night.  Mikael Stanne was a very charismatic presence and explained some of the stories behind some of the songs.    My wife stated that Santa Claus has a lot more tattoos than she remembered, referring to bassist Anders Iwers, who does bear a resemblance to a badass metal Santa.  The best song was "ThereIn" from the Projector album, which surprised me at its inclusion.  The band played in front of a projected screen that played music videos the band did, which also surprised me.  They were in top form last night and sounded just as potent as they do on their albums.

I was definitely glad I went, though my wife was not nearly as pleased.  It was a damn late night, but seeing Dark Tranquillity for the first time was well worth it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dying Fetus: Wrong One to Fuck With (2017)

Dying Fetus was one of the first brutal death metal bands I got into.  Much like Suffocation, the band has always existed somewhere on a continuum between grooving slam death and technical brutal death metal, but they marry the two seemingly disparate styles quite well.  I always make it a point to check out new releases by the band, but they have been away for about five years prior to the release of this album.  And there was quite a bit of hype for this one.

A few things were immediately apparent which did not even require listening to the album to be able to tell that this was going to be a very strong release.  First off, the band brought back their early band logo that has not been used since their demo days.  Secondly, the gory album cover, promising violence.  And third, the name of the album itself.  Dying Fetus has never really been subtle, but those three factors raised my hopes that this was going to be one hell of an album.  Dying Fetus did not disappoint.

From the beginning of this album, a highly technical lead riff leading into a pummeling opening track, it was clear that the time off has been just what Dying Fetus needed in order to rejuvenate their sound.  The rest of the album follows suit with equal parts technicality and brutality.  The production is crisp and clear, allowing each of the instruments to be heard well, which helps emphasize just how impressive John Gallagher's guitar leads are, the punishing throbbing of John Beasley's bass, and how impressively Trey Williams plays the skins.  Dual vocalists Gallagher and Beasley continue to complement each other well, barking their vocals in their own distinct extreme styles.

This is a damn impressive album.  I have been a big fan of Dying Fetus for about ten years now, but this is easily their best album they have released in that time.  Everything about this grabs attention and refuses to let go.  This is an absolutely punishing, uncompromising slab of metal that forces itself to be heard and does not let go.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Goatwhore: Vengeful Ascension (2017)

Goatwhore is quickly becoming the Motorhead of extreme metal.  They are amazingly consistent, yet most of their songs are fairly similar in structure, and led by rumbling riffs.  Speed and intensity are the name of the game.  They have become one of my personal favorite bands and I jumped at the chance to see them live earlier this year.  I also had to put their new album on pre-order as soon as I became aware of it and looked forward to it.

Unfortunately, this album was something of a letdown.  The band did not truly alter its sound in any way.  The album is very much in line with Goatwhore's releases that came before it.  The problem is that this particular album sounds a little phoned in.  It is too similar to the stuff that came before it, without much growth, and certainly without anything that stands out and demands attention.

The first track is something of a plodding crawl, at least as far as Goatwhore is concerned.  It is a somewhat slower track and not the most dynamic of openers.  Several of the following songs were more mid-paced and tended to blend together a bit.  A lot of the breakneck speed from earlier albums has been replaced with more of a rumbling groove.  Not to suggest that Goatwhore is suddenly trying to become Pantera, but they were always at their best when they were thrashing all around.  This is much more relaxed.  That is simply not something I am used to from Goatwhore.  "Mankind Will Have No Mercy" is probably the closest thing to the the sound I would expect from Goatwhore.

There is nothing really bad here.  All of the elements that one would expect from a Goatwhore album are present.  From Ben Falgoust's demonic vocals to Sammy Duet's Motorhead-inspired riffing to Zack Simmons's insane drumming, the band is every bit as talented and crushing as ever.  Unfortunately, they seem to have mostly become complacent in their songwriting.  Every band has a misstep, hopefully this is just that, and the band will return to the fire and fury of their earlier works next time around.