Thursday, May 12, 2016

Amon Amarth, Entombed A.D., and Ex Mortus in Omaha: 05/09/2016

Monday was my birthday.  Luckily there happened to be a decent concert in the area so my wife had the wonderful luck to get to see a few death metal bands live at Sokol Auditorium.  Sokol is not my favorite venue since there is no seating and I generally don't like to stand for several hours on end.  But it tends to draw some decent bands.

Ex Mortus was the first band up and they ripped through a fast-paced, intense set filled with shredding guitar solos and leads and deep-throated growling vocals.  I have only heard one of this band's albums but their speed and impressive guitar work makes them a band to watch in the future.  The highlight of their set was the ripping version of "Moonlight Sonata" they played late in their time on stage.

Up next was Entombed A.D., obviously a reformation of the legendary Entombed, who were one of the leading bands in the Swedish death metal movement of the late 80's/early 90's.  Entombed's final album was the 2007 death 'n roll masterpiece Serpent Saints.  Three of the four members from that version of Entombed are currently with Entombed A.D.  The resurrected group played a number of songs from their newest album and also some classics from the Entombed era such as "Wolverine Blues", "Left Hand Path", and "Revel in Flesh".  Their classic tracks were the strongest from their set, but their other stuff was entertaining enough.  L-G Petrov looks a little rough these days, but he can still command attention from the stage.

Finally, Amon Amarth hit the stage.  True to their image, they looked like vikings and had a large viking helmet taking up much of the center of the stage.  The drum kit was stationed on top of the viking helmet.  At several moments during the show, a couple of people dressed to look like Vikings and carrying swords, helmets, shields, bows, and more took the stage.  I did not feel that was really necessary personally.  Amon Amarth delivered a strong set encompassing much of their catalog.  I have not yet heard their most recent album, but it appears to be fairly typical of Amon Amarth: mid-paced, crunching melodic death metal with deep, roaring vocals.  The only real problem with their set was that most of the songs were about the same tempo, making it a little difficult to stay interested in the show.  Some dynamics would have been welcome.  It was a very good show ultimately, but it could have been so much better.

My wife was less than impressed with it, which is not shocking.  Surprisingly she preferred Ex Mortus of the three bands.  She really hated Entombed A.D., which I found hilarious.  It was a damn good show, and a great birthday.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Ghost and Tribulation in Omaha: 4/20/16

On Wednesday, my wife and I left work a little early in order to travel to Omaha, Nebraska (about an hour and a half away) to see Ghost perform at Sokol Auditorium with Tribulation as their opening act.  Tribulation's most recent album was my Album of the Year and Ghost is coming off of a Grammy win, so I was fairly excited to see both bands.

I believe all of Tribulation's songs were off of their Children of the Night album, which really is a terrific album.  Their music was terrific, dynamic and powerful.  The band members were really into it as well, in particularly one of the two guitarists who was all over the stage, shrieking like a wild animal.  They played for about half an hour and included some of my favorite tracks from their latest album.  It was an impressive performance, though it annoyed my wife.

Ghost took the stage soon afterwards, after a long lead-up with some church choir vocal recording.  It was quite obvious that they have been building a large fan base as a large crowd gathered around the stage, many of whom were not in attendance during Tribulation's performance.  A number of people were also sporting makeup similar to Papa Emeritus.  Some were even wearing a mockup of priests' robes and collars.  One person had rubber goat horns strapped to his head.

The musicians of Ghost had their customary black robes and demon masks, concealing their identities.  Papa Emeritus emerged from the blackness shortly thereafter dressed in his customary evil pope robe and mitre.  He stayed in that costume for about the first half of the concert, but did eventually ditch the mitre and robe.  I don't know if that is normal for him, but it was hot in the auditorium.

Ghost played a good cross-section from all three of their major albums.  Of course "Cirice" was performed and drew a big applause from the crowd.  Ghost were terrific performers and Papa Emeritus was very charismatic and interesting to watch.  My wife enjoyed this concert quite a bit.  As did I.  I was somewhat skeptical at one point about seeing Ghost.  I have enjoyed their albums, though they have not been particular favorites of mine.  But they were so impressive live, that I have achieved a new appreciation for them.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Grammys Still (Mostly) Suck

Well I was reasonably impressed that Ghost won the Grammy last for Best Metal Performance.  I have seen the video of their acceptance of the award and I would have liked some reaction shots from the crowd, as Ghost definitely makes an impression visually.  Their song was the only nomination that I really like all that well.  The other bands nominated were Lamb of  God, Slipknot, August Burns Red, and Sevendust, none of whom I give a fuck about.  Ghost is apparently also going on tour soon with a concert date near here, I may have to go check them out.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Black Sabbath in Omaha: January 20, 2016

Last night, as part of my Christmas present from my wife, I got to see Black Sabbath finally.  The band had announced their last tour, entitled obviously The End.  Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Ozzy Osbourne all returned for the last go-around, but were accompanied by Tommy Clufetos on drums.  Black Sabbath kicked off the tour in Omaha, NE of all places, because, and I am quoting Ozzy here "why the fuck not?"

I was not sure there was going to be an opening band until someone took the stage.  That band was Rival Sons, a band I may have heard of at one point, but never really heard.  Rival Sons was sort of a 60's/70's blues rock band.  The singer was very impressive and they did have some damn catchy songs, but I was not really sure they belonged at this concert.  I would have liked to have seen Black Sabbath bring on a young metal band to showcase, rather than this type of retro rock, personally.  Nothing against the band as they were enjoyable enough.

A short while later, Black Sabbath took the stage and opened up with fittingly, "Black Sabbath".  It was pretty clear from the beginning that Ozzy was not having the best night vocally, but that did not stop him from being the consummate showman, keeping the crowd going and interacting with them frequently.  Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler on the other hand sounded terrific throughout.  Iommi proved why he is one of the greatest and most influential guitarists out there and Geezer's trademarked rumbling bass sound was impressive.

The set list was mostly culled from the band's first four albums, much more of a sendoff than a tour focusing on newer material.  In fact, only one song did not come from that era, "Dirty Women" and it was off of their seventh album Technical Ecstasy, which still featured the classic lineup.  Other than that, the band played a bevy of favorites including "Behind the Wall of Sleep", "N.I.B.", "War Pigs", "Fairies Wear Boots", "Children of the Grave", "Into the Void", "Tomorrow's Dream", and "Snowblind".  Of course "Iron Man" made an appearance and the band closed with "Paranoid", while purple confetti (the most metal of all party decorations) rained down from the rafters.  One of the highlights was "Wicked World" which featured an extended drum solo, and Clufetos is one hell of a drummer.

I was a little disappointed the band did not play any material off of Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath as that is one of my favorite albums by Black Sabbath.  As mentioned Ozzy sounded pretty bad throughout the concert, he was frequently out of tune and definitely did not have the ability to hit some of the higher notes.  He was fairly active on stage though, despite kind of shuffling around like an octogenarian.   

All in all, this was a damn good concert despite Ozzy's vocal limitations.  I am very glad I got to see them before they hung it up for good.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Top However Many Albums of 2016

This is going to be kind of an ambitious post from someone who has barely posted in the last year and a half.  Because of that, I feel like I need to cover all of the albums I have picked up over the last year.  So there will be some less than good albums covered, don't take this to be a top albums list so much as ranking all of the albums I have bought over the year.  This is going to be a long one.  Even though I have not been picking up nearly as many albums this last year, there is still a pretty hefty stack sitting on my desk.

So, without further ado, abandon all hope ye who enter:

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

R.I.P. Lemmy



I was never the biggest Motorhead fan, though I did enjoy everything I heard from them.  I just never bought too many of their albums.   That being said, their influence was undeniable.  Lemmy will be missed.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

So, My Wife Dragged Me to Two Concerts This Year...

I assume this is all in retaliation for dragging her to see Slayer.  She got us tickets to see two concerts which do sort of fit in here.  She has been going through a little bit of an 80's rock obsession, and in particular the hair bands.  I don't really get it either.

The first one came on the same night as our return from Las Vegas and was Def Leppard, Foreigner, and Night Ranger.  Going into the concert, my familiarity with the latter two bands was somewhat limited.  My mom used to listen to Night Ranger a lot, so I knew a number of songs pretty well, only one of which they actually played.  I had heard of Foreigner before, but did not really know any songs by them, or so I thought.  You see, Foreigner is mostly well-known for songs that make you stop and think "Huh.  I had no idea that was Foreigner."  Songs like "Cold as Ice", "Double Vision", "Jukebox Hero", "Head Games", "Hot-Blooded", and "I Want to Know What Love Is".  Def Leppard arrived at around the same time as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and did have a metal-ish album early on.  But they don't play any songs from that album because there are not any big hits there.  They played all of the songs you would expect from Def Leppard.  All told, this was not a bad concert, but I certainly would not have picked it out.

As if that was not enough, we went to see Alice Cooper and Motley Crue a couple of weeks ago.  Now this one was a little more interesting.  Alice Cooper was a big influence on other shock rock acts over the years and Motley Crue has some undeniably metal songs.  Alice Cooper was first to hit the stage and he played all of the songs you would expect from him: "No More Mr. Nice Guy", "School's Out", "Feed My Frankenstein", "Billion Dollar Babies", and "Poison".  His stage show was still very impressive despite his age.  The typical stage antics were there as well, the fencing foil with dollar bills stuck on it, the snake, the guillotine, the straitjacket, and the Frankenstein's Monster.  Motley Crue took the stage and played all of their big hits as well.  Vince Neil completely flubbed the lyrics to "Dr. Feelgood", which is one of the songs I actually really like by the band.  They did play "Shout at the Devil" and "Looks that Kill", which are also much more metallic tracks.  Tommy Lee did have a revolving drum set that moved across the auditorium on a track, often "playing" upside down.  I am not convinced he was actually playing.

The major frustrating part about the Alice Cooper/Motley Crue concert was that there was apparently a bomb threat and security (which was understaffed) was patting down everyone that came through the door.  This meant a nearly hour-and-fifteen-minute wait to get in from the time that we arrived.  Alice Cooper started his concert late and we made it just a few moments before he took the stage.  There were still a ton of people behind us that must have missed out on a lot of his show.

Neither concert was bad.  I have a new respect for Foreigner, though I am not likely to pick up any albums any time soon.  I did enjoy the show by Alice Cooper and can definitely see where groups like White Zombie, Marilyn Manson, and Gwar got their ideas.  Motley Crue sounded pretty good despite fucking up "Dr. Feelgood".  I would not have chosen to go to either concert myself, but I had a good enough time.  My wife was happier than hell and that is all that matters.  Now, next month, I will be seeing Black Sabbath.  That is one I am excited about.   

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I'm Back After a Long Hiatus

Sorry, I have been very busy with work.  I have a ton to catch up with.  Let's start with the concert I attended this summer: Slayer and King Diamond.  And Hellyeah too, but they suck.

I went to Council Bluffs, IA for the Rockstar Mayhem tour which only included the main stage bands, not a huge deal though I would not have minded seeing Jungle Rot.  Nevertheless, I was not going to pass up a chance to see King Diamond and Slayer for the first time.

I missed The Devil Wears Prada which is absolutely okay with me.  My wife and I both had to work the day of the concert and had to stop at Raising Cane's for some chicken fingers before heading to the concert.  I would not have minded missing Hellyeah either, but we managed to make it to their set.

Hellyeah was about what I expected.  The singer, previously from Mudvayne made one of those "metal saved my life" speeches which is kind of meh.  The music was pretty bland.  I have never been a big fan of Hellyeah.  I just think they are kind of boring personally.

King Diamond was next to the stage and they sounded amazing.  King's voice got stronger as their set rolled on and they played some great songs.  They did not play "Don't Break the Oath" to the dismay of one fan that kept screaming for them to play it.  I did enjoy the inclusion of some Mercyful Fate tracks.  The decorations were a nice touch to the stage and King made things very entertaining with his onstage antics.

I ran into Kelly from Full Metal Attorney and we spent some time catching up.  It was the first time I have actually seen him since law school.  We chatted about the bands and other concerts we have been to and laughed at my wife who was reading the first Game of Thrones book during the concert.

Slayer took the stage and played a blistering set hitting all of the typical Slayer tracks.  "Raining Blood", "Angel of Death", "South of Heaven", and "Dead Skin Mask" all were played.  I was a little disappointed about the lack of "Seasons in the Abyss" personally, but that is a bit of an oddity in the Slayer catalog.

All in all, it was a great time.  I don't get to too many concerts these days, but I had to make it for Slayer and King Diamond.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Blog Update

My plan is to get back to posting soon.  I am very sorry for bands that have sent me stuff that I have not responded to.  I will try to get to everything.

Decisions, Decisions

A couple of weeks back I missed an opportunity to see At The Gates, Pallbearer, and some other groups.  I was a little bummed by that, but it turns out there are three upcoming concerts that I would love to go see.  Unfortunately, I can't justify the expense in seeing all three so I had a decision to make.

Here are the choices:
1.  Judas Priest with Saxon.

2.  Volbeat with Anthrax and Crobot.

3.  Mayhem Fest featuring Slayer and King Diamond.

As much as I would love to see Judas Priest at some point (and I probably won't get another opportunity), I don't really care much for Saxon.  I saw Volbeat opening for Megadeth a few years back and don't care for Crobot, but Anthrax would have been interesting.  Ultimately though, Mayhem Fest was the way to go.  A lot of the other bands there are terrible, though I do enjoy Jungle Rot.  But I cannot pass up an opportunity to see both Slayer and King Diamond.  I may not have another chance to see either of them.  So I made my decision.  I will probably just show for the last two bands, have work and all that since the concert is a Tuesday and two hours from home.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fuck the Grammys

Call it morbid curiosity.  I really do not give a fuck about the Grammys, but I find myself checking out who won the Best Metal Performance Grammy each year.  Usually I do not even see the nominees until that night, but I check it out anyway.  This year saw Tenacious D win the Grammy for Best Metal Performance for their version of Dio's classic "Last in Line".  That is fucking ridiculous.  A cover version of a song written 30 years ago by a joke band headed by actor Jack Black is not a very good representation of where metal is today.  I'm not even mad about it, the whole thing is just so ridiculous that it defies explanation.  I would prefer it if the award show would just drop the Metal Performance Grammy altogether.  They have no idea about the genre and don't seem to care.  What's the point?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Odota: Fever Marshal (2014)

Some time ago I reviewed an album by a band called Talbot.  That was a pretty interesting sludge/doom album that I really enjoyed.  I was recently contacted by the former drummer/vocalist from the Estonian band to take a look at his new project under the name Odota.  Having enjoyed Talbot, I was eager to see what Odota had to offer.

Odota is actually quite dissimilar from Talbot, which is definitely not a problem.  It was just a little surprising.  Where Talbot played murky doom metal, Odota plays sludge-laden black metal with a bit of a psychedelic tinge to it.  It is fairly similar to the terrific Silencing Machine by Nachtmystium.  The experimental elements add a lot of depth and intrigue to the otherwise straightforward black metal riffing style.  The vocals are more aggressive black metal-style rasping which fits well with the music and distinguishes it from being too much like Nachtmystium.

There are some exclusively experimental tracks here, most notably "Staked Plains", that kind of drag things down a little bit.  I don't really understand the desire to throw in mostly atonal, noise tracks onto albums, but then it is not my decision.

I'm not really sure if there is some sort of lyrical theme here or not.  I do not have any access to any lyrics sheets, but the song titles seem to lead to the conclusion that this may be a Western-themed albums.  We have words like "marshal", "horse thief", "plains", "eagle", and "rattlesnake" in each of the titles.  Kind of odd choices really.  I suspect this is the first ever Western-themed psychedelic black metal album in history.

I thought this was a pretty decent release.  It is hard not to compare it to Jarmo Nuutre's other band, and I think it falls a bit short of Talbot.  But it is a very good effort and it will be interesting to see what this band can do in the future.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vanagloria: La Dinamica del Miedo (2014)

Power metalcore?  Powercore?  What would you call this?  Whatever it is, it is definitely a unique take on a couple of metal genres.  Vanagloria is a Spanish metal band that actually got their start playing plain old power metal, well there is not really anything plain about power metal.  Over time though, the band began incorporating more modern, mainstream metal influences to the point that we get to this.  The promotional materials describe it as black/death/thrash, but I am not sure that really accurately reflects this, maybe power/thrash, but there are some definite breakdowns at times.

Well enough about the genre, what do we have here?  The riffing style is at times edgy and aggressive, and at others incredibly melodic.  The band makes liberal use of keyboards and techno/industrial elements at times, particularly in the intro track.

The vocals are definitely on the extreme end for this style of metal, but not all power metal features particularly melodic vocal styles.  Just look at Helstar and the weird Finnish groups like Children of Bodom and their ilk.  On occasion, the vocals are delivered with a more extreme backing track, or the vocalist actually uses more extreme vocal styles at times.  There was also a female guest vocalist on one track which brought quite a bit of dynamics to the track.  The vocals are all in Spanish, which is not surprising.  My Spanish is a tad rusty so I have a little bit of trouble figuring out what they are singing about.

Despite the disparate styles of metal combined by this band, the songs were surprisingly cohesive.  There are definitely some unusual things going on at times, but the band is talented enough to keep things from turning into a mess.  In fact, the album is quite interesting.  It is likely one I will need to hear a few times to really get a good idea of what is going on.  But it was definitely good enough to bear repeated listens.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Top 14 of 2014

It has been a pretty bad year for me on this blog.  I have been a little burned out as I have been very busy with work.  It has been hard to find time to listen to new music as much as I would like.  I have been really bad with bands contacting me.  I still heard a lot of great new music though.  And I managed to put together a Best Of list.  Here we go:

14.  AT THE GATES: AT WAR WITH REALITY
The reunion of the year finds the pioneering melodeath band releasing their first new album since the landmark Slaughter of the Soul.  At The Gates manages to recapture the spirit of that album without remaking it.  Sure a lot of bands copied it over the years, but At The Gates still manages to sound fresh, even after all these years.
13.  SEPTICFLESH: TITAN
Other bands have come around that do what Septicflesh does better than them.  Rotting Christ does Greek mythology better and Fleshgod Apocalypse does symphonic tinged extreme metal better.  Nevertheless Septicflesh keeps going and they still do their thing damn well, as evidenced by this terrific album.
12.  OVERKILL: WHITE DEVIL ARMORY
If I had to name a favorite thrash metal band, I would honestly have to consider Overkill at this point.  Mostly due to the fact that the band has never really softened their sound.  Sure they were groove metal for a little while, but they were still good.  And they continue to put out amazing, kickass thrash metal albums.
11.  GOATWHORE: CONSTRICTING RAGE OF THE MERCILESS
Slightly disappointing after the terrific Carving Out the Eyes of God and Blood for the Master, this is nevertheless still a very strong album.  Goatwhore continues to put out uncompromisingly brutal metal.  They get more extreme with each release.
10.  EX MORTUS: SLAVES TO THE SWORD
Ex Mortus bring a lot of symphonic and classical influences to their style of riffing.  The solos in particular display these influences.  The band even goes so far as to cover "Moonlight Sonata".  Seriously.  The rest of the album is unapologetically cheesy and metal as fuck.  It's campy and fun, and we need that once in awhile.
9.  INSOMNIUM: SHADOWS OF THE DYING SUN
Finland's Insomnium are easily one of the best melodeath bands still going.  Their somber and melodic style comes as a welcome change from some of the other groups in the genre.  This is yet another melancholic masterpiece from the band that just keeps getting better.
8.  LORD MANTIS: DEATH MASK
Easily one of the most controversial albums of the year, particularly due to the album's insane cover art, Lord Mantis's third release is also one of the year's best.  Their take on filthy rotten sludge metal puts a lot of the mainstream sludge acts to shame.  Those who refused to check it out due to the cover are missing out.
7.  GRAND MAGUS: TRIUMPH AND POWER
Grand Magus makes this list every year they release something.  That should tell something about the quality of this band.  They just continue to put out terrific album after terrific album.  They are quite simply on of the best traditional metal bands going today.
6.  CORPSESSED: ABYSMAL THRESHOLDS
First of all, awesome name.  Secondly, awesome death metal album.  Corpsessed reminds me most of groups like Angelcorpse and Teitanblood, filthy, disgusting death metal that blows everything else out of the water.  This is just the band's first full-length album, which is shocking because they sound like seasoned veterans.
5.  VADER: TIBI ET IGNI
Vader is simultaneously one of the most consistent and most underrated metal bands in the world.  They just never seem to get the respect and notice that they deserve.  Every single album by Vader is terrific and the fact that the band has been doing it since the mid 1980's is astounding.  This is once more a very strong album in typical Vader take-no-prisoners style.
4.  TRIPTYKON: MELANA CHASMATA
Triptykon was the release I probably looked most forward to this year.  After all, their first album was my Album of the Year and it did not look at all like this would be a disappointing sophomore album.  While I do thoroughly enjoy this album, some of the songs seemed to be a little too similar at times and the band was often comfortable plodding along.  Certainly not the case with the opening crushing track.  All in all, a great album, but one that pales in comparison to the first one.
3.  MASTODON: ONCE MORE 'ROUND THE SUN
I have always liked Mastodon, but none of their releases have been so great that I listened to them frequently over and over again.  Until this one.  This album features some of the catchiest songs I have heard all year.  Mastodon seems much more focused on crafting songs rather than the meandering psychedelia the band once used frequently and they are that much better for it.

2.  BEHEMOTH: THE SATANIST
One of the most hyped releases of the year managed to exceed even my expectations.  Behemoth has always been a favorite band of mine, but some of their releases have lacked dynamics, focusing instead on simply blasting away.  This release is incredibly dynamic and therefore blows away everything the band previously released.

1.  INNSMOUTH: CONSUMED BY ELDER SIGN
The debut album by this Australian death metal act is incredible.  Dark and mysterious with an obvious Lovecraftian influence, the album features twisted riffs and psychotic, gibbering vocals.  It is one of those death metal albums that simply grabs you on the first listen and will not let go.  I have mentioned that certain death metal albums, particularly lesser-known ones, sometimes have an intense quality that makes it difficult to turn them off.  This one has that same quality.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

EP Briefs (I Need to Catch Up)

I am trying to clear out some emails here and figured since these were all shorter releases that a quick paragraph would suffice.  I found myself enjoying all three releases for different reasons, so don't take the brevity of the reviews as an indictment against them.

CREINIUM: PROJECT UTOPIA (2014)
Creinium is a technical extreme metal band from Finland.  It definitely starts out kind of weird, with some ambient synth work and some imposing narration but then kicks it into gear on the next track.  Creinium continues to use a lot of keyboards, giving the band kind of a death metal Dimmu Borgir sound, or a more technical Luna Ad Noctum.  The band combines a number of different metal genres into their sound, making a precise description somewhat difficult.  The keyboards are really the star here as they distinguish the group from others.  Without them, there would not be a whole lot to talk about.

PINEAL: SMILING CULT (2014)
This is the second post-metal band I have reviewed in the last week.  I suppose "post-metal" would be far too limiting a term, as Pineal clearly has a lot of sludgy riffs with some Alice In Chains-esque vocals as well.  The band is more of a cross between Crowbar, Alice In Chains, Neurosis, and some Tool for good measure.  The riffs are ridiculously heavy and of course slower-paced, and the haunting vocals add a sense of doom and gloom that carries forward through the entire release.  It is an overall dark and depressing release that sounds great on a cold, dreary night like tonight.

CRUSHING AXES: UNDEAD WARRIOR (2014)
Crushing Axes is a one-man death metal project from Brazil, although apparently a session drummer and bassist were used.  The vocals are the major standout.  Sounding something like Nespithe-era Demilich, they consist of deep, frog-like croaking, though not as extreme as the aforementioned Demilich.  The music is fairly simple mid-tempo groove-laden death metal with some interesting lead guitar work on the melodies.  The release in theme and sound does a pretty decent job of capturing the general feel of the catchier work by Amon Amarth.  I would like to see a Brazilian band like this cover some of Brazil's own badass mythology though.