Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Alice in Chains Release New Song

I remember when Kurt Cobain, legendary singer for Nirvana, committed suicide. I was in middle school and a LOT of my friends were very upset. It did not bother me quite as much. Sure, it's sad whenever someone commits suicide, but I was never as big a fan of Nirvana as some of my friends. They had some decent songs, but I never bought an album by the band and it never even really crossed my mind to do so.

I grew up and started listening to music at the same time the grunge scene was exploding. Nevertheless, I only really liked the harder rock songs. However, two of the bands that were considered big parts of the grunge scene were actually metal bands. Alice in Chains and Soundgarden had major metal influences and actually played a style of music closer to traditional metal and doom metal.

Alice in Chains was one of my favorite bands when I was getting into metal. I was much more broken up when vocalist Layne Staley died of a heroin overdose than when Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Staley had a very distinct, tormented vocal style. When he died, so apparently did the band.

Now, almost 15 years later, Alice in Chains released a new song with William DuVall as their new singer. Honestly, it's pretty good. It features the same doom-laden, sludgy riffs as classic Alice in Chains and even the familiar vocal harmonics, giving the song an uneasy, eerie feeling. It's a decent song, and I will be interested in checking out their album. I never thought I would feel that way.

Monday, June 29, 2009

13 Year Old Gives Up His IPod for a Walkman for a Week


Lame. This kid decided to trade in his iPod for a Walkman for a little while. Hilarity ensues. Some of the more interesting quotes:

"When I wore it walking down the street or going into shops, I got strange looks, a mixture of surprise and curiosity, that made me a little embarrassed."

"It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. "

"Another notable feature that the iPod has and the Walkman doesn't is "shuffle", where the player selects random tracks to play. Its a function that, on the face of it, the Walkman lacks. But I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down "rewind" and releasing it randomly - effective, if a little laboured. "

"Personally, I'm relieved I live in the digital age, with bigger choice, more functions and smaller devices. I'm relieved that the majority of technological advancement happened before I was born, as I can't imagine having to use such basic equipment every day."

For fuck's sake, it's a fucking WALKMAN, not some piece of machinery from the fucking Renaissance. The technology is not that far out of step. I still have a Walkman that I got in high school, not much more than 10 years ago. It still works well. Hell it sounds great. I love my Walkman. I just used it today in fact, while mowing the lawn I was listening to my cassette of Voivod's Nothingface. I don't even own an MP3 player or an iPod. I can't imagine owning one. I am perfectly happy with my tapes, my CDs, and my records, thank you very much. Fuck off.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Metallattorney's Top Album of the 21st Century So Far: Destroyer 666: Cold Steel...For an Iron Age

Cold Steel is pretty much a perfect album. It is fast, intense, and aggressive and most of all, incredibly infectious. Destroyer 666 really outdid themselves on this album and they created an album that should go down as a classic in the heavy metal genre if there were any justice in the world. This album is amazing from beginning to end, but it does not get the respect it deserves because of the relative obscurity of this band. It’s a shame.

Destroyer 666 started out as a side project for K.K. Warslut of Bestial Warlust. It quickly evolved into its own entity, crushing everything in its path along the way. The band started as a relatively straightforward black metal band with occasional death metal influences. In other words, fairly similar to Warslut’s main band at the time and fellow Australian countrymen Abominator. As the band continued, more and more death metal influences began to show through, then even later strong thrash elements also presented themselves. Each D666 album is a little different from the previous one and this album is by far the band’s thrashiest, while still retaining some of their death and black metal influences.

This album features Destroyer 666 at their most stripped-down, aggressive, and razor-sharp. Everything about the album is tight and punchy and powerful. The band has discarded much of their grandiose, epic black metal in favor of a more simple thrash attack. Each of the individual elements are spectacular in their own way, but collectively, they add up to one extremely powerful listening experience.

Of course, the guitars are the most important aspect of the band. Shrapnel and Warslut play razor-sharp, jagged thrash metal riffs with the occasional tremolo line. The riffs come at the listener in a blinding fury. The blazing leads and solos coming out of nowhere are the true highlight of the album. The music will be very loud and workmanlike, when all of a sudden, a Slayer-esque solo will reach out and grab the listener’s attention. The leads on "Cold Steel" are particularly interesting, providing all of the melody, which is almost spine-tingling in the otherwise dark song. The riffs on "Raped" are very interesting, they have an unsettling feel, as if the composition of the riff is not quite right. It fits well with the song’s topic.

Warslut’s vocals mostly consist of a black metal rasp, although he has a couple of different pitches. He has a more high pitched rasp and a deeper, huskier growling rasp. The gang shouts that appear in some places further add to the dark and evil atmosphere of the music, while also making it seem a little more fun, particularly the spooky harmonic vocals on "The Calling". The lyrics are fairly simple, standard Satanic, anti-Christian, and warfare themes. The band does not feature great lyrics, with a couple of exceptions: "The Calling" and "Savage Pitch", but that’s not really the point of D666.

Mersus’s drumming is very prevalent in the mix. He is frequently pounding away, keeping the beat, but occasionally provides some nice fills when the riffs are repeating, especially on "Sons of Perdition". The drums are most interesting on "Cold Steel" where they really drive the song, pounding away and providing the energetic backbone of the powerful track. Berserker’s bass is audible, but for the most part he is playing the same riffs as the guitarists.

Some of the songs stand out for varying reasons. "Black City-Black Fire" opens up the album with a bang and sets the intensity level for the rest of the album. The band’s energy level never really wavers from this. "Cold Steel" slows things down at first, but keeps the intensity high. "Sons of Perdition" immediately speeds things back up after the cold, dark atmosphere of the previous track. "Raped" is a little more of a straightforward thrash metal song, with very few, if any, black metal influences. "The Calling" is perhaps the best song on the album. It also starts out slowly, building into a frightening frenzy. Once it does, it features the best leads, drums and vocals on the album, as well as the best interplay between the elements. "Savage Pitch" once again picks the pace back up, and the band does not relent until the end of the album, pausing only to provide unsettling vocal samples to close out the song "Witch Hunter". The band then works itself into a frenzy before fading out to end the album on "Shadow".

As for the flaws: there really are not any, other than things that have little or nothing to do with what is present on the album. The cover art is not very good, but reportedly the band did not approve it before the record company put it out, so they had no say in it. The album is a little on the short side, clocking in at barely over 35 minutes, but this is perfect length for such an album. It should not be too long and it should not be too short, and this album is just about right.

I bought this album after having heard the band’s name thrown around quite a bit on the Encyclopedia Metallum forums as a band to check out. I found this album at a used music store for fairly cheap. Not having actually heard the band, I decided to check them out anyway. It ranks as one of my best all time buys. This album quickly became one of my absolute favorites and I have checked out virtually everything else by this band I can find. None of the rest of their albums have quite the same explosiveness and power as this album. This truly should be a classic, not just for the band, not just for the scene, but the metal genre as a whole.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Metallattorney's Top 21 Albums of the 21st Century So Far Pt. 5

Well, I have passed Metalsucks now. They won't reveal their number 5 selection until next Tuesday. I will present numbers 5-2. Tomorrow (possibly) I will provide my number 1 album of the 21st Century so far, and it's not likely to be beaten out.

But, for now, here are the rest of the Top 5:

Behemoth has had a stellar career despite a dramatic shift in style. This album is probably the best example of their more death metal oriented music, although it still contains many traces of their black metal past. Behemoth is at their best on this album, mixing ferocious riffs and intriguing melodies into an atmosphere that can only be described as “evil incarnate.” This is the band’s best work to date.

Amon Amarth, like Behemoth, has never put out a weak album. Unlike Behemoth though, Amon Amarth has never greatly changed their sound. They have always been a melodic death metal band with a big emphasis on the death metal part. The vocals are always harsh, the riffs are always razor-sharp, and the songs are always catchy as hell. The band sticks fairly close to lyrical themes of Vikings, Nordic mythology, and ancient warfare and they even look the part. Don’t call them Viking metal though as the band only shares the lyrical theme in common with that sub-genre. It’s difficult to pinpoint their best album, any of them would fit. I’ll just go with this one because it is just a tad bit more aggressive.

In my eyes, this album is the pinnacle of death/doom. Extremely melancholic, but with some very heavy riffs. This is one of those occasions where the album cover art clearly fits with the mood of the album: dark and dreary. The vocals are typically delivered in a very deep death metal growl, but that is where most of the death metal elements end. There are some clean vocals once in awhile. The music is slow and depressing with melodic leads and booming drums. No other death/doom album comes close to this one. The cover of the Candlemass classic “Solitude” is amazing as well.

Immolation was one of the more evil early death metal bands. Their lyrical themes are explicitly anti-Christian and their sound is like a sludgier, more jagged and rough version of Morbid Angel. This album proves that this band keeps getting better as they go along. They have incorporated more melodies into their sickening brand of death metal, without any cost to their normal brutality. Immolation has been very consistent in their career and every album is worth owning.

That's it for today, tomorrow will be #1.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Holy Shit

As evil-looking as Heaven & Hell's album cover was, it's no match for this:
King's-Evil is a thrash metal band from Japan who obviously love Kreator. Total aggression and speed, a great unknown album. Unfortunately, outside of a demo, this is the band's only release. A shame.

Metallattorney's Top 21 of the 21st Century So Far Pt. 4

Here is the next set of albums:

Insomnium is part of a newer wave of melodic death metal bands coming from Finland, along with Mors Principium Est and Omnnium Gatherum. Insomnium is the best of the bunch. The band combines melodic death metal with death/doom influences from fellow Finns Swallow the Sun. The resulting sound is heavy, yet somber and melodic. It’s slower and not as aggressive, but the atmosphere is often extremely heavy and emotional. Truly a heartbreaking album to listen to, but amazing nonetheless.

Kamelot is a very talented and melodic power metal band from the United States. This album came when the band was able to balance their sense of melodicism with aggression and power. It is widely hailed as a classic of the genre, and I agree. This is Kamelot at their best. After this album, they would go a little too soft. They are still not a bad band, but they were better when this album came out. A very catchy and enjoyable release.

This album was discussed earlier in a post on Rotting Christ’s discography. This album blends gothic metal and black metal elements and throws in some Greek folk elements. It is one of the catchiest albums I have ever heard and is destined to be a classic album from this underrated band. Rotting Christ has gotten a lot of flack from their name and many people refuse to check them out for this reason. These people are missing out on a truly original and interesting band.

This album was a blind buy for me. I saw that the band did a concept album on Homer’s The Odyssey and decided to check them out. I am very glad I did. The band plays progressive power metal more in the vein of Iced Earth meets Dream Theater with a little more aggression. The album is consistently good throughout, but reaches it’s high point on the sprawling epic 20+ minute closer “The Odyssey”.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Metallattorney's Top 21 Albums of the 21st Century So Far Pt. 3

Here are numbers 13-10.

Thornafire is a young death metal band rising out of Santiago, Chile. The band has a very old school death metal sound. They mix influences from bands such as Death, Immolation, Incantation, and Morbid Angel. The mix provides a brutal, aggressive, yet somewhat sludgy take on death metal. Thornafire is one of my favorite newer bands and I am anxiously awaiting their next album.

Melechesh was discussed fairly recently on this blog on the folk metal post. This is truly one of my favorite albums and it continues to grow on me. The Israeli extreme metal band had been experimenting with their signature sound for years prior to this album. This album was when the pieces all fit together.

Finland’s Wintersun was also discussed in the folk metal post on this blog. The music here is fast and very melodic. The vocals are typically delivered in a harsh, Gothenburg-inspired style, but do include the occasional clean parts. Jari Maenpaa was the principal songwriter and guitarist for folk metal icons Ensiferum prior to leaving the band and forming Wintersun. He brings his considerable abilities to this band.

I admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for a good melodic black metal album. This one is quite good. The music is heavy, featuring blast beats, tremolo riffs, blazing guitar solos, and raspy vocals. The choruses are surprisingly catchy for this type of music and the lyrics can be heard pretty well. Naglfar does not deal with Satanism and other more cliche lyrical topics of black metal.

More to come tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Signs of the Apocalypse Pt....Who Fucking Cares?


Creed is reuniting (thanks honey, I REALLY appreciate you bringing this to my attention). I may have mentioned this previously, but the memory of this band is so painful that I am actively trying to block all knowledge of them out of my head. I still have nightmares though.

I hate Creed. My issue is not their religion. More power to them for finding something to believe in. It's their insufferable attitude toward their religion that drives me fucking crazy. Just look at the "Arms Wide Open" video and count how many seconds Scott Stapp stands in that crucifixion pose.

Metallattorney's Top 21 Albums of the 21st Century So Far Pt. 2

I will get through this faster than Metalsucks which just now released #11 yesterday (which was a horrendous choice by the way, their list keeps getting worse). Here are the next four albums in my list:

Amorphis has long been one of my favorite bands. However, during the early 2000's, their singer began going through the motions. It showed in the band as they began to look and sound tired. The singer was dispatched and I thought for sure the band was done. I was wrong. Tomi Joutsen re-energized the band. This album is their best in years. It is melodic, emotional, and beautiful. When’s the last time anyone has said that about a metal album?

This album is a terrific mix of traditional styles of metal, including doom and early power metal influences. The songs are extremely catchy, with great choruses, but never skimp on the aggression. This album made an immediate impact on me and I listen to it frequently. It’s metal the way it should be.

I admit, I am not incredibly well-versed in funeral doom metal, but I know what I like and I really like this album. The music is lumbering and slow, and it fills the listener with dread as it tells the story of Moby Dick. I have previously reviewed this album on this blog, so I won’t say much about it now.

Skeletonwitch is a band that arose as a result of the new wave of more traditional sounding metal bands. The band combines early thrash and black metal influences with some elements of the NWOBHM as well. The resulting music is fast, with catchy riffs and raspy vocals. The band essentially sounds like an amalgam of early Sodom, Venom, Dark Angel, and Slayer, with a little Iron Maiden thrown in for good measure. It’s an impressive mixture of sounds. Definitely a band to watch.

More to come tomorrow.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Metallattorney's Top 21 Albums of the 21st Century So Far

Metalsucks is slowly revealing one album each weekday, so it will be a little while before I will post about their whole list, and what a depressing list it is so far. I won't provide any details or opinions here but, my god. So here is my list. I will reveal four albums each day this week and if I get to a post on Saturday, I will reveal my winner. These are my favorite albums in the 21st Century (since January 1, 2000, which Metalsucks determined, not me), if anyone has any differing opinions, I would be willing to hear them. If anyone doesn't like any of my opinions, fuck you, it's my site and I don't care.

So, without further ado:

Opeth is not one of my favorite bands, although I do enjoy them quite a bit. This album is largely considered their masterpiece. I don't agree, but my favorite came before 2000. This is a great album though and effectively mixes their melodic side with their more extreme side. It is one of their better albums at keeping the listener's attention all the way through. Many of the other albums tend to get a little boring. On this album, Opeth provides very interesting riffs, exceptional lead guitar melodies, and the amazing vocals of Mikael Akerfeldt. The extreme parts outweigh the more melodic parts, but that is how I have always liked the band. A great album by a very interesting band.

Into Eternity is another progressive metal band, but they play considerably faster and blend influences from power metal, death metal, and progressive metal. The lyrics can be a little emo-ish, but the vocals are amazing. There are three different vocal styles present on this album: melodic clean vocals, death metal style growling, and high-pitched raspy vocals. The three styles often hit from all sides at the same time. The music is generally upbeat despite the nature of the lyrics. All in all, a great album by an up and coming band.

Scar Symmetry is similar to Into Eternity, but with more death metal elements and existing more on the Gothenburg/melodic death metal spectrum. Scar Symmetry had only one vocalist, who just recently left the band, who possessed the ability to sing in a very powerful clean style and deliver an impressive death metal growl. He switches between the styles effortlessly. The music is infectious and melodic, still possessing melodeath elements, but decidedly more musical and with frequent keyboard usage. An impressive release from a band who could have been huge had their vocalist stayed onboard. The bonus tracks are actually the best songs on the album.

Behemoth was previously a black metal band from Poland. By this time, the band had shed much of its black metal influences and become more of a death metal band. The music has a sinister atmosphere, almost Middle Eastern sounding. Nergal has some of the deepest vocals in the genre, particularly on this release. This album helped to propel the band into the mainstream despite its inaccessibility. Fairly impressive for this type of band.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 22: Anthrax: Sound of White Noise

This was the first Anthrax album that John Bush appeared on as vocalist. The singer for Armored Saint joined the band after Joey Belladonna left. This was also the first Anthrax album I ever heard or owned. This was the Anthrax that I was initially most familiar with.

Anthrax is one of the Big 4 of U.S. thrash, along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer. After checking out the band's earlier material, I realized I had missed out on most of their best material. Anthrax in the 1980's was fun, catchy, and fast. They were not nearly as serious or disturbing as the other members of the Big 4. However, when Belladonna left, the band's tone changed. Sound of White Noise is an angrier, more aggressive album, but it is also slower with more added groove. The band's riffs are heavier, but not as fast.

I covered John Bush in the Armored Saint post. My feelings about him as a singer have not changed. He sounded much more at home in the traditional, melodic heavy metal band Armored Saint than he did here. Bush is a better singer than Belladonna, but he doesn't match the atmosphere of the band as well as Belladonna did.

This is not a bad album and I do still listen to it frequently, however, it is the only decent album the band ever did with John Bush. The Belladonna material was much more consistent. A lot of metalheads hate this album, but this is just because the band sounded so different. It is a good album, it's just unfortunate that the band's style was forced to change so much.

Fear Factory Dispute

Another day, another band in legal troubles. Sort of.

Fear Factory is a band that blended industrial metal and death metal, at least on their earlier material. Later they continued to blend styles but chose to blend industrial and groove metal. They were fairly successful in the mid to late 1990's. Demanufacture and Obsolete are particularly good albums, possibly even classics. But, the band had some personnel problems.

Guitarist Dino Cazares left the band in 2002. At this time, bassist Christian Olde Wolbers became the guitarist and Byron Stroud of Strapping Young Lad joined the band to play bass. Burton C. Bell and Raymond Herrera remained with the band as vocalist and drummer respectively.

Fast forward a few years. Bell and Cazares have reconciled their differences and want to form a new band. This band's name is going to be Fear Factory. They also will have Stroud and drummer Gene Hoglan (rent-a-drummer, most known for time with Dark Angel). However, Herrera who is also a founding member, never officially left or was kicked out of the band. He and Wolbers still claim to be members of Fear Factory. The new band started by Bell and Cazares originally was not going to be called Fear Factory so it is, in essence, a new band. At least according to Herrera. Herrera and Wolbers claim they were never consulted about anything and they cannot be kept out of the mix if Bell and Cazares start a new band and call it Fear Factory.

I have said several times before that if the founding members (there are three still involved here: Cazares, Bell, and Herrera) leave voluntarily, they no longer have a say in what is going on. The real issue here is whether in fact Bell left Fear Factory to start a new band with Cazares, who left in 2002, Stroud and Hoglan. Stroud does not have any say as he is not a founding member in Fear Factory. Hoglan was never in Fear Factory before. If Bell left Fear Factory (Wolbers and Herrera) to start a new band, which by all accounts he did, then the name Fear Factory is still held by Herrera. Initially when news of Bell and Cazares reuniting came out, the name of the band was still up in the air. This shows that, at least at first, the band intended to start out new. Of course Bell and Cazares don't see it that way.

At any rate, I see a settlement check coming to Herrera.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 21: Pantera: Cowboys From Hell

It's hard to believe. There once was a time when Pantera had melody. There once was a time when Pantera had speed. There once was a time when Pantera's vocalist Phil Anselmo could actually sing.

Cowboys From Hell is recognized by the band as being its debut album. This isn't technically true. Pantera released FOUR, count them, four, albums prior to Cowboys. The problem is that the four albums before this are a little more glam-metal oriented. The tough-guy groove metal band doesn't want to admit that it had a more colorful past.

Cowboys is the bridge between the band's earlier material and their groove metal material. As such, it is considerably different than their later sound. It is melodic, fast, and thrashy. Anselmo's voice actually spanned several octaves. The riffs were razor-sharp, but were faster. Diamond Darrell, as he was called then, did show some of the tone that he later made his trademark, but he played much faster.

Some of the songs, such as "Shattered" and "Domination" showed traces of their later, dumbed-down material. Then there were songs such as "The Sleep" and "Clash With Reality" that were considerably more melodic. Then there's "Cemetary Gates", one of my all time favorite songs. This is a great power ballad. Melodic, but still sinister and powerful. A great song and completely out of character for the same band that wrote "Walk".

I once told someone that this is my favorite Pantera album, it still is as I barely listen to the groove metal stuff. Their response was that this is not a "real Pantera album". Fucking poseur. This is true metal. A great album by a band that forgot how to be great. Sure, if they had continued down this path, they may not have had mainstream success. So what? The music was much better. That's the most important thing. R.I.P. Dimebag.

Red Sox vs. Yankees Pt. 3

This is really late, because I forgot about it. I watched the games, I just forgot to write anything. The rivalry resumed last week at Fenway Park in Boston. The Red Sox rotation was lined up with Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, and Brad Penny going up against A.J. Burnett, Chien Ming Wang, and C.C. Sabathia. The Yankees came in to this series feeling pretty good about themselves, despite being 0-5 against the Red Sox. They were in first place, Alex Rodriguez was back from injury, their pitching staff was effective, and Mark Teixeira had begun hammering the ball. It wouldn't last.

The first game was an utterly dominating performance by the Red Sox and by Josh Beckett in particular. Beckett looked like the 2007 model when he nearly won the Cy Young Award. Burnett, who was partially signed by the Yankees because of his success against the Red Sox, and in Boston in particular, was bombed. He was knocked out of the game after only 2 2/3 innings. David Ortiz provided a little offense, hitting a home run and the team took care of business, winning 8-0.

In the second game, the Yankees sent embattled starter Wang to the mound to try to regain form. He wouldn't and was pulled again after only 2 2/3 innings as the Red Sox were staked to an early lead. Phil Hughes came on for the Yankees and provided an impressive relief stint, but despite attempting to claw their way back, the damage was done. Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis each provided home runs. The Yankees came within one run but could not tie the score thanks to the effective relief work from the duo of Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon. The Red Sox won 6-5.

The Yankees felt the third game was theirs. Their new ace Sabathia would take the mound against Boston's Brad Penny. Sabathia was rough early, allowing another home run to David Ortiz. He settled down though and pitched like the ace the Yankees wanted. However, he started to get fatigued and manager Joe Girardi left him in too long since he wanted to rest his overworked bullpen. Boston was patient, Dustin Pedroia worked a ten pitch walk which lead to J.D. Drew getting a base hit up the middle. Sabathia was done, but the Red Sox were not. They came all the way back and won 4-3. The Red Sox are now 8-0 against the Yankees this year.

The real stories mostly came after the games were played. David Ortiz has started to hit, finally. He will be needed. After the series, Red Sox owner John Henry sent out the following message on Twitter: "The MT curse?", possibly referring to Mark Teixeira, who Boston has long coveted but has spurned the Red Sox twice. Teixeira was not happy and said he would not engage in a war of words with a 70-something year old man. Henry is 59 actually. It was a little childish of Henry, Twitter has lead to people making some stream-of-consciousness type statements that the public can read. I would prefer that people think before they speak personally, especially when it comes to the owner of my favorite team. Oh well.

The Yankees then had a childish moment. Brad Penny plunked Alex Rodriguez with a pitch in the final game, despite having good command most of the time. The Yankees asked the MLB commissioner's office to suspend Penny for intentionally hitting Rodriguez. The teams were warned at the time, but Penny was not ejected. The problem here is that the Yankees are assuming Penny hit A-Rod intentionally which cannot be proven. Sounds like sour grapes to me. Yankees pitchers have hit Red Sox batters nine times this season. The Red Sox have not complained. Joba Chamberlain seems to enjoy throwing at Kevin Youkilis's head. The Red Sox have not complained to the commissioner's office.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Metal Hammer NWOTM Walkthrough

As I mentioned in an earlier post, traditional heavy metal has been on the upswing of late. Lots of bands have been emerging lately that have been playing forms of metal that have not been in style since the 1980's. That, however, does not mean that there is some kind of a movement underfoot. Metal Hammer included this free sampler disc along with one of their magazines that I bought for the earlier magazine review. They are trying to be ahead of the game here, but there is no game. Some of these bands have little or nothing to do with each other. There are some good bands here, and some not so good ones.

WOLF: Kicking things off is Wolf. Not exactly "new", Wolf has been at it for several years now. Still, this is the first time I have really heard the band, and I am impressed. They definitely strive for a NWOBHM sound. The vocals are a little irritating, but not bad. This band sounds like it would have been home in the late 1970's. I wouldn’t mind finding an album by Wolf, but would need to do further listening first.

CAULDRON: Nothing much to say here. I enjoyed this song so much that I bought the album, and it is one of my favorite albums this year. I reviewed it a few weeks back, so I will spare much commentary here. Suffice to say, the song is good enough to cause me to buy the album.

CROWNING GLORY: I really enjoy this song too. It is fast, fun, and catchy. I can’t place my finger on who this band reminds me of, but it’s pretty good. Everything here works well together and this is one of my favorite songs off this sampler. I will be keeping an eye open for their album.

BULLET: This band sounds like AC/DC with harsher vocals. I don’t like AC/DC. Next.

ENFORCER: For some reason I always thought of this band as more of a thrash metal band. This song shows I may have been mistaken. It sounds like an attempt at sounding like Judas Priest with higher vocals. I don’t care much for this. There just isn’t really anything all that interesting going on.

DESTROY DESTROY DESTROY: Congratulations, this is one of the worst names I have ever heard. Still, the band combines black metal type vocals with traditional metal, and keyboards. It’s an extremely odd mix on paper, but apparently this band figured out how to do it well. I am intrigued. I would consider the album. In fact, I have picked it up a couple times at the music store and then decided against it. One of these times though, I will inevitably buy it.

JEX THOTH: Bring on the dooooooooooooooom. How this name isn’t the name of a Star Wars character, I will never know. I had heard a lot about this band over the years, so I had high expectations. They were not met. They sound like Electric Wizard but a little lighter on the psychedelia. Not bad, just very slow moving and doesn’t really go anywhere, heavy as fuck though. The singer is a woman which adds a lighter feel to the song.

BLOOD CEREMONY: Another doom metal band with a female vocalist. This band is heavy on the flute. It kind of gives the song a mysterious, exotic feel. This song sounds like it could have easily been written by the Jefferson Airplane. Kind of weird. Not bad though. Not sure I would be interested in hearing more.

WHITE WIZZARD: This is better. This song is a lot like the Crowning Glory song earlier, fast with gang vocals on the extremely infectious chorus. Ah, metal songs about cars, we haven’t heard one of those in awhile. I would be interested in hearing more from these guys before deciding on an album though.

THE GATES OF SLUMBER: I already own this album. I bought it last year and it was one of my Top 10 albums from 2008. It’s a great album, traditional doom at its finest. As such, not much else to say here.

ICARUS WITCH: I already own an album by this band. They are a definite NWOBHM throwback. This song starts out a bit faster than anything they played on the album that I own, but it then calms down and remains slow for most of the rest of the song. I really like it, which is surprising because I have read a lot of negative reviews on the album this song has been taken from. The singer has a very unique voice and it fits well with the rest of the band’s sound. I would consider this album.

WIDOW: This one is kind of odd. The music is tradition 80's style metal. The vocals are layered a little weird though. There are two vocal lines going at the same time at different pitches, and the combination is a little strange. Still, it’s not a bad song, but it doesn’t offer anything some of the above bands do.

POWERDRIVE: What the fuck is this doing here? Okay, in putting together a sampler CD, you generally want songs that are representative of the featured band. I have no idea if this is what this band typically sounds like or not, but this is a ballad. This shouldn’t be here. I would definitely have to hear more from this band before making up my mind, but this was definitely not the best way to introduce a lesser-known band.

TWISTED TOWER DIRE: I have an album by this band so I knew what to expect here. Or so I thought. This honestly is not one of TTD’s better songs. Extra points for it being called "Snow Leopard" though. It’s certainly not a bad song, but it doesn’t have the same anthemic feel as some of the rest of their songs. They sound like they’re going for a Thin Lizzy sound on this one. Still a quality band.
I don't have pictures of this band,
so here's a snow leopard.

STUKA SQUADRON: This is just a joke, right? This is just terrible, I don’t even feel like describing it, it’s just bad and it really has no place here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Split Albums

Split albums are somewhat common in the metal underground. Two or more bands come together with a few songs each and put them all on one album. Sometimes a lesser-known band is invited to appear on a split with a better-known band in order to promote the lesser-known band. Other times, it’s a label construction to feature two newer bands. I like splits, and wish more bands would do them between albums. Unfortunately, they are also usually fairly rare.

Let’s look at the splits in my collection.

This split has already been reviewed previously. See prior blog entry for the review.

This split has already been reviewed previously. See prior blog entry for the review.

This split comes from two of Finland’s most extreme black metal bands.
HORNA: Horna’s side of the split has very low production values. The riffs are constantly repeating. The vocals are screamed in a raspy voice. The band is really interesting when they slow things down into a powerful groove. They do this frequently, making for an entertaining listen.
BEHEXEN: Behexen is even rawer than Horna. Swirling guitar riffs circle around the pounding drums and screaming vocals. It would have sounded better with better production. There just isn’t much here that other black metal bands don’t have. Their later full length was better.

This is a split between two of the better known bands from the black metal scene from France in the mid 1990's. This scene became known as the Black Legions or Les Legions Noires (LLN).
VLAD TEPES: The Vlad Tepes side consists of fairly simple, repeating riffs over simple drum patterns and raspy vocals. The production is not too bad, but the musicianship is not overly great. The music is just good enough to be catchy. It is mostly mid-tempo black metal.
BELKETRE: Take the simple repeating riffs and drum patterns from the Vlad Tepes side and simplify them even more. The musicianship is also not as good as Vlad Tepes, the vocals are raspier, and the production is even worse. There, you have the Belketre side of the split.

This is Part 3 of Stormspell Records' Thrash Clash. These two bands are from Latin America.
BLOOD EXILE: Blood Exile is a thrash metal band from Mexico. They play an old school type of thrash with fast riffs, blazing guitar solos, and harsh yelled vocals. What makes them interesting is their occasional use of traditional Mexican guitar lines. The melodies work well in conjunction with the old school thrash metal the band otherwise plays and is a welcome addition. I will be watching for a full length from this band. I am very impressed.
SACRILEGIO: Sacrileglio is a speed/thrash metal band from Puerto Rico. Sacrilegio is considerably more melodic than Blood Exile. The singer's voice is much better than Blood Exile's as well, but the music is not nearly as impressive. It is melodic, but it does not have the same energy and intensity as Blood Exile. That is not to suggest that it is bad in any way, quite good actually, however these are supposed to be thrash metal bands, intensity and power is a must.

This is Part 4 of Stormspell Records' Thrash Clash.
INFANTRY: Infantry is part of the thrash revival that has been growing in California over the last few years, along with Merciless Death, Warbringer, and others. A lot of these bands seem to have one Bay Area band that they work hard at emulating. This band actually seems to favor Possessed, which is a welcome change of pace. Their riffs are fast and intense, the vocals are ferocious, and the music as a whole remains interesting and catchy.
PYROTOXIC: Pyrotoxic is a Finnish thrash metal band with a female lead vocalist. They do play faster than Infantry, but their riffs are not as impressive. Vocalist Liisa has a decent thrash metal voice, but it's kind of buried in the heavy mix. Hopefully a better production job will coax that out a little. Pyrotoxic probably has a brighter future than Infantry, but at this point in time, is not as impressive.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Texas Black Metal

An ugly sound has been emanating from the hot weather in Texas for several years now. Bands are combining thrash, death, and black metal into a form potentially even more extreme than the Australian war metal scene. The music is harsh, brutal, bestial, and unrelenting. It is in defiance of everything that the conservative state holds dear. It is a reaction to the political and religious climate of the state. It’s not a scene per se, because these bands come from various parts of Texas, but they are all playing frenzied, dirty, and evil black metal. This is Texas black metal.

One of the earlier black metal bands to arise out of the U.S., Absu was also quite possibly the most important black metal band from the country. Absu plays a style that is more based in thrash metal these days, although they have never lost their blackened edge. They were fairly prolific early on, but this year’s self-titled album was their first in several years. The band still has it though. Proscriptor’s inhuman drumming is the most notable feature of the band. Absu was a big influence on most of the rest of the bands to be discussed in this post.

It’s unfortunate that this band is not more well-known. When metalheads in other countries think of USBM (United States black metal) they often think of bands like Xasthur, Leviathan, and Nachtmystium. Not that any of those bands are really bad, but if they knew of Averse Sefira, they would have a much better opinion of the scene in the U.S. Averse Sefira sounds like Immortal on steroids. They are not quite as fast, usually, but what the riffs comparatively lack in speed, they make up for in brutality. One of the heaviest bands in the U.S. without question and a unique take on black metal.

Bahimiron has a little more of a classic black metal sound, although this by no means suggests that this band is less extreme than the others in the scene. The vocals are insane screams over tremolo riffs and blasting drums. There’s actually some melody to the proceedings if one listens closely. The whole album has an evil, horror movie vibe to it. Dark atmosphere and crushing riffs combine to make this a very uneasy listening experience.

HOD’s pedigree is clear, they are made up of current and former members of Pillcrusher, Thornspawn, and Necrovore. HOD is a little more death metal-based than some of these other bands, but their relation to the other bands is very noticeable. They still have major black metal influences which manifest in the riffs and drums, as well as the vocals. HOD is a newer band and it will be interesting to see how they develop.

Obeisance has a little more of a thrash element to their sound than the other bands. Their thrash riffs are buried under distortion and a murky tone that makes the band sound truly filthy. The vocals are delivered with a rasp and what sounds like a mouthful of blood, with occasional high-pitched howls that sound like Tom Araya in the early Slayer days.

Thornspawn has a very raw, evil and primal sound. Full of blasting drums, shrieking vocals, blazing leads, and razor-sharp riffs, their music intense and pummeling. The band is influenced by early black and death metal bands such as Necrovore (also from Texas) and Beherit.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Heaven & Hell: The Devil You Know Review

Heaven & Hell is, of course, the lineup of Black Sabbath from when Ronnie James Dio was the singer. Or at least, most of the time, as Bill Ward was still Black Sabbath’s drummer on Heaven and Hell and was later replaced by Vinnie Appice who drums on this album. The band took the name Heaven & Hell in order to respect Black Sabbath who had recently been inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Tony Iommi, who at this time, owned the rights to the name "Black Sabbath" decided that this band should have its own identity and fans should not expect to hear "Paranoid" or "Iron Man" at a Heaven & Hell show. So thus, Heaven & Hell was born.

Prior to the name change, the lineup had gotten together for a tour and recorded three new songs for a Best Of compilation for the Dio-era Black Sabbath. These three new tracks laid the groundwork for the upcoming new album. But first, the band changed its name.

The album The Devil You Know is the first album of new songs recorded by the band, and is the first album of new songs recorded by any form of Black Sabbath. It was one of the most highly-anticipated albums of 2009 and for good reason. There had not been a new album from Tony Iommi since 2005 and from Ronnie James Dio since 2004. Knowing that these two icons had gotten back together and recorded new material was enough to send metalheads into a frenzy. When the new album artwork was posted, again fans were abuzz.

So, how is the new album?

Honestly, it’s something of a letdown. It is a perfectly good album, but it was a victim of its own hype. The interest in the album had risen to a fever pitch and very few albums could have adequately lived up to that hype. That is not to suggest that it was a bad album, very far from it. It just was not as good as everyone hoped it would be.

The band fits very neatly into the traditional doom genre. This was to be expected as Black Sabbath had been the purveyors of the doom metal sound. When Dio came on board, the band perfected that sound. Heaven & Hell is slow and extremely heavy and somber. There are some faster songs on the album, but even those still easily fit within the doom genre. The album does have a more traditional metal flavor to it as well, to go along with the doom elements. The album would not have been out of place coming out immediately after the Dehumanizer album, which also had Dio fronting Black Sabbath. It sounds that true to the style.

The music, as implied, is often very slow with lumbering riffs, and heavy bass. The bass is audible and is some of Geezer Butler’s best work in years. It is the driving force of the rhythms behind the riffs. Tony Iommi has not lost a step in his age. He is still very capable of writing some amazing riffs, and does so many times. It makes the album interesting to listen to and many of the riffs are infectious, getting stuck in the head and not leaving for days. Iommi also provides some great guitar solos, with a clean tone and good technique, particularly the solo on "Fear". The drumming is efficient but definitely not one of the major features of the band. It is there for rhythm only and filling in where needed, and while there are some interesting drum parts, it mostly takes a back seat for the riffs and vocals.

The music is mostly played in minor keys, obviously to take advantage of the natural tendency to sound more imposing. The band does do a decent job of staying away from standard verse-chorus-verse structure. This makes the individual songs stand out more and keeps the album from running together. Unfortunately, many of the songs do tend to stay at one speed. Some tempo changes would serve to make the songs stand out even more.

Ronnie James Dio is one of the all time great vocalists in metal, and perhaps any genre of rock music for that matter. His vocals are still great, despite his advancing age. He is still able to reach that awe-inspiring, rich tenor tone that he has become known for over the years, and his ability to continue to do so is one of the highlights of this album. His vocals also fit seemlessly with the music. He does not sound at all out of place as his higher vocals balance out the deep bottom end of the music. If anything, this interplay makes the music even doomier.

Lyrically, this is definitely similar to a Black Sabbath album. Many of the themes are dark. The only song that seems to have bad lyrics is "Rock and Roll Angel", which would have been a perfectly acceptable song in the 1980's but sounds pretty cheesy now.

The better songs on the album are "Bible Black" and "Eating the Cannibals". "Bible Black" starts out with a powerful, solitary guitar solo and the vocals of Dio. It then slowly builds upon this loneliness into a heavy power chord progression. The song is very similar to classic tracks like "Heaven and Hell" and "The Mob Rules". "Eating the Cannibals" is the fastest song on the album and is exactly the kind of song that fans expected out of the reunited lineup. It is a straight-ahead, classic metal track.

The album as a whole is a strong release and will probably be one of the better traditional metal albums released this year. However, it does not possess enough new and original ideas to match the hype that was built up for it. It is a very good, sometimes great album, that is a victim to its own impossible expectations.

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 20: Megadeth: Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?

Ah, Megadeth. Megadeth was probably my second favorite metal band after I discovered Metallica. Obviously what drove me toward the band was the fact that Dave Mustaine, the only constant member of the band, was also in Metallica early on. He got kicked out of Metallica due to his raging alcohol abuse which is kind of like a law firm kicking someone out because they are too argumentative. Mustaine has apparently never gotten over that.

This was my second Megadeth tape, and my first one from their clear thrash metal phase. I bought it, along with a Pantera tape, at the mall when I was beginning to really broaden my metal horizons.

Megadeth has always had a more political slant to their lyrics and this is very clear from the title track "Peace Sells". The song is an angry rant about the state of the country. Much of the rest of the album consists of fast-paced thrash metal. Mustaine has always been able to write good riffs and this ability is front and center here on the band's sophomore album. The riffs are memorable and the guitar solos are incendiary. Mustaine uses his trademarked snarl to great effect and his anger is very apparent.

The only problem with the album is the cover song. Willie Dixon's "I Ain't Superstitious" isn't the best song for a metal band to cover. But, this band also covered Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots", on their debut no less, so I guess I can't complain too much.

This album, along with the rest of the band's first four albums, are all essential listening for thrash metal aficionados.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

MetalSucks Presents the Top 21 Albums of the 21st Century

It's a pretty interesting idea, but I have my concerns with the way this list is going to turn out. I will probably have some follow-up posts about it, but this is the list of people they polled:

Chris Adler, Lamb of God
Dan And, Bison B.C.
Ben Apatoff, Apatoff for Destruction/Metal Injection
Jason Bittner, Shadows Fall
Tim Brennan, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Freddy Cai, Painkiller Magazine
Ian Christe, Bazillion Points
Reverend David J. Ciancio, Yeah! Management
Betsey Cichoracki, Relapse Records
Paul Conroy, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
J. Costa, Thy Will Be Done
Dallas Coyle, ex-God Forbid/Coyle Media
Doc Coyle, God Forbid
CT, Rwake
Anso DF, MetalSucks/Hipsters Out of Metal!
Vince Edwards, Metal Blade Records
Charles Elliott, Abysmal Dawn/Nuclear Blast Records
Brian Fair, Shadows Fall
Leo Ferrante, Warner Music Group
D.X. Ferris, author 33 1/3: Reign in Blood/Freelance Journalist
Mike Gitter, Roadrunner Records
Nick Green, Decibel
Matt Grenier, August Burns Red
Anthony Guzzardo, Earache Records
Kevin Hufnagel, Dysrhythmia
Mark Hunter, Chimaira
Steve Joh, Century Media
EJ Johantgen, Prosthetic Records
Kim Kelly, Metal Injection
Josh “The J” Key, Psychostick
Jason Lekberg, Epic Records
Eyal Levi, Daath
Bob Lugowe, Relapse Records
Matt McChesney, The Autumn Offering
Jake McReynolds, Psychostick
Marc Meltzer, The Syndicate
Josh Middleton, Sylosis
Matt Moore, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder
Vince Neilstein, MetalSucks
Sammy O’Hagar, MetalSucks
Anton OyVey, MetalSucks/Bacon Jew
Rob Pasbani, Metal Injection
Alex Preiss, Psychostick
Carlos Ramirez, NoiseCreep/NetReach
Brian Rocha, Fresno Media USA
Jeremy Rosen, Roadrunner Records
Axl Rosenberg, MetalSucks
Satan Rosenbloom, MetalSucks/Cerebral Metalhead
David Bee Roth, MetalSucks
Jason Rudolph, Heavy Hitter, Inc.
Amy Sciarretto, Roadrunner Records/NoiseCreep
Carl Severson, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Gary Suarez, MetalSucks/No Yoko No/Brainwashed
Geoff Summers, The End Records/Crustcake
Bram Teitelman, The Syndicate/Metal Insider
Alisha Turull, Heavy Hitter, Inc.
Christopher R. Weingarten, 1000TimesYes/Freelance Journalist

There are a lot of very mainstream metal bands in that list, and some bands, like three fucking members of Psychostick, who are pretty far removed from metal. They also talk to people from such shitty labels as Ferret (well-known hardcore label) and Roadrunner (I have already made my feelings about this label known). I will comment at length after all 21 have been revealed, and possibly once in awhile if the selection is particularly obnoxious, or good, who knows I may feel generous. For now though, after two selections were revealed, I am right to be discouraged. Slipknot was #21 and Shadows Fall #20. Shadows Fall is a much better pick than Slipknot, but still not a great one.

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 19: Ozzy Osbourne: No More Tears

This album began my long-lasting appreciation of the works of Ozzy Osbourne, most of them anyway. Before I ever bought any Black Sabbath album with Ozzy as singer, I bought this album. That's what happens when you are naive and growing up listening to metal in the '90's. Sometimes you come late to the game. I remember being surprised when I found out Ozzy sang for Black Sabbath at one time. I bought this album alongside Black Sabbath's Cross Purposes album, Queensryche's Empire, and one other album that will remain nameless because of its ability to impeach my perfect 100% metal persona.

This is a very good Ozzy album, but it was one of the last consistently good Ozzy albums as well. After this, Ozzy began devoting half of each album to ballads. There were a few on this one as well, but for the most part this was solid heavy metal. The production was a little on the weaker side, Ozzy's voice took the biggest hit. But that was okay, metal production at the time was notoriuosly weak.

The songs were very memorable and had a strange unsettling atmosphere. It was at this time, that Ozzy was starting to become well known as "The Prince of Darkness". All in all, this was a good Ozzy Osbourne album, certainly not his best, but definitely not his worst either.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Folk Metal

Folk metal has exploded over the last couple of years. Up until just a couple of years ago, one could count on one hand the number of folk metal bands that were making a major impact in the metal landscape. Skyclad and Ensiferum were arguably the first folk metal bands, although folk influences were present in the works of Amorphis, Moonspell, Rotting Christ, and Satyricon as well. Recently though, it seems like there is a new folk metal band popping up daily. Folk metal gets its name from bands who use traditional folk instrumentation and rhythms in their music. It can run the gamut from Celtic to Humppa to Russian depending only on where the band is from or draws its influences. Here are just a few bands that are flying the folk metal flag:

Borknagar was the first folk metal band I had heard. The band plays a mix of black metal, viking metal, and folk metal. Most of the folk influences can be heard in the rhythms of the music. The vocals are typical black metal rasping, however there are clean vocals present as well. The band has gone through several different vocalists including Garm from Ulver, ICS Vortex from Dimmu Borgir, and currently Vintersorg from the self-named band. All of the vocalists have in common their ability to go from a rasp to a spine-tingling clean tone without any hesitation. The band has been blessed with these unique vocalists.

Melechesh is probably my favorite of the bands I will discuss today. The band has developed an uncanny ability to take Middle Eastern rhythms and melodies and spin it into their black/death metal, creating a sound like no one else. Melechesh is originally from Jerusalem, Israel but create music based around Sumerian and Mesopotamian mythology. The band has been forced to relocate to The Netherlands to escape problems with the religious culture of their homeland. Melechesh has put together a couple of amazing albums that are personal favorites of mine.

Finntroll is the one of the first real folk metal bands I heard. I received their album Jaktens Tid in a Century Media Grab Bag. Pretty good use of money, actually. Finntroll combines Finnish humppa music (the folk music part of things) with black and melodic death metal influences. The lyrics are all in Swedish (bizarre as the band is from Finland, hence the name). Finntroll has had some extraordinarily bad luck with members. One singer left due to having a tumor on his vocal chords, another was fired from the band, and the original guitarist died after falling off a bridge (possible suicide). That being said, Finntroll's music is fun beer metal. The music has a good beat and is fast and surprisingly uplifting. The frequent folk parts make things bounce a little bit. The vocals are delivered mostly in a black metal style rasp, particularly with current singer Vreth, previously they were closer to death metal. Interesting stuff.

The name is strange enough. Thankfully they have recently shortened it to Slough Feg. The band is one of the most original-sounding bands in America today. Rising out of the San Francisco scene, Slough Feg combines classic rock, traditional metal, and Celtic music. The band essentially sounds like Thin Lizzy on steroids. The band essentially belongs to singer Mike Scalzi who has one of the more recognizable voices in metal. A great, underrated band.

Orphaned Land, like Melechesh, is from Israel. This band however does not play the same style of extreme blackened death metal as Melechesh, choosing instead to base their folk rhythms and melodies into progressive metal with occasional death and doom influences. Orphaned Land go so far as to create concept albums, their most memorable of which tells the story of Gilgamesh. It is seriously one of the most beautiful metal albums in existence. An amazing album that will take the listener's breath away.

When I first became aware of folk metal, I wanted to find bands that dealt with Celtic and Irish folk music. Cruachan is one of those bands. Cruachan focus more on their folk influences than their metal influences on the only album I have heard from them. There are actually only a couple of clearly metal songs on the album. However, the interplay between the male and female vocals and the Irish rhythms is amazing. A very good album, despite the relative lack of metal.

Primordial is similar to Cruachan in that they play Celtic/Irish folk metal, but this band is far more on the metal side of things. However, where Cruachan is often light-hearted and free, Primordial is dark and depressive. The band's metal influences come from black metal, and while the singer typically uses a clean vocal style, he will unleash an ear piercing scream once in awhile. They lyrics are sad, dealing with lost battles and loved ones perishing in them. The pain of the lyrics comes through in Nemtheanga's heart-wrenching vocal performance.

Eluveitie is a band from Switzerland that plays melodic death metal mixed Celtic folk influences. Next to Melechesh, Eluveitie is probably my favorite folk metal band, due mostly to my interest in melodic death. The band uses traditional instrumentation such as bagpipes, whistles, and even the hurdy gurdy to play lilting melodies over the top of the Gothenburg style guitar riffs. Vocals are growled in classic At the Gates/In Flames fashion and the occasional non-metal track comes across beautifully with female clean vocals.

Hollenthon is a very strange band. Coming out of Austria, the band plays a sort of symphonic/orchestral/folk/melodic death/black metal. It's tough to tell from one song to the next which style will dominate. Their music is very interesting and fun to listen to as they continue to keep the listener guessing. Hollenthon is a very good, underrated band that sounds like few others.

Skyclad was one of the first folk metal bands, if not the first. The band was formed by Martin Walkyier, formerly of the massively underrated UK thrash metal band Sabbat. Skyclad had the idea to combine folk elements from Scotland, England, and Ireland into traditional and thrash metal and fronted by the unmistakeable staccato shouting of vocalist Walkyier. The sound was new and exciting and influenced a ton of other bands after some time. However, until recently not many people noticed, which is a shame.

Ensiferum formed in 1995 in Finland, the major breeding ground for folk metal. The band played viking/folk metal influenced mostly by later Bathory. The folk elements mostly come in the form of the rhythms as the instrumentation is typical for metal. The band plays quickly, allowing for a few acoustic interludes here and there. Ensiferum was at the forefront of the rise in interest in folk metal. Guitarist Jari Maenpaa left the band and formed Wintersun, another great band with only occasional folk influences.

There are two bands named Arkona from Russia. This band is the pagan/folk metal band fronted by Masha "Scream" Arhipova. The band plays using Russian folk melodies delivered in heavy guitar riffs. Masha has an amazing voice and can sing, scream, growl, and more. Arkona also incorporates flutes and bagpipes in their music.

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 18: Danzig III: How the Gods Kill

Glenn Danzig is one of the more bizarre personalities in metal today. Clearly a nerd with short man's syndrome, Danzig is extremely muscular, temperamental, and did I mention short? He's also big into comic books and has built up an impressive library of occult books. It's tough to tell what part of Danzig's public persona is real, and what part is an act. However, I can judge his music.

Danzig's music in the early days took influences from hardcore, metal, classic rock, and the blues. He mixed and matched and came up with an impressive amalgam of some sort of gothic doom metal. Danzig was originally the singer for The Misfits, one of the few punk bands that I have any interest in whatsoever (and that is mostly because of my interest in Danzig). He took their well-known affinity for horror stories and darkened the music. Danzig's songs are mostly about occult themes, odd sexuality, horror stories, and other dark topics.

The music is exceptionally dark, with ominous atmosphere, and heavy riffs. This album features one of his better known songs "Dirty Black Summer", which has an amazingly catchy opening riff. The album also features the haunting "Sistinas" and several other more hard hitting tracks.

Danzig was one of the first metal bands I remember enjoying. MTV used to play the live video for "Mother" frequently and this song attracted me to the band. Danzig's Doors-esque crooning vocals grabbed attention, and the anger was enough to attract the attentions of listeners. Unfortunately, after this album and the following EP, Danzig started to go into a different direction. Soon after, he began to lose his trademarked vocal style. While he has returned to this sound, somewhat, the magic is gone.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

International Day of Slayer June 6, 2009

Today is International Day of Slayer. Slayer came up with this little jab at religion back in 2006 (6-6-06) to mock the International Day of Prayer. Ah, those incorrigible little scamps. Anyway, the idea is that people are supposed to listen to Slayer all day long. I love Slayer, but I won't go that far. I plan on listening a little, I have Show No Mercy playing right now. I have several of Slayer's albums, and do enjoy listening to them. Slayer is a great band, icons in the thrash metal scene. I would love to see them in concert before they retire.

Terrorizer Fear Candy Unsigned Edition Walkthrough

I picked up an issue of Terrorizer when I did the magazine reviews. Terrorizer was notable because it included two free sampler CDs. One of these was to showcase new or upcoming albums by established bands. The other was to showcase unsigned bands for a contest. I am looking at the unsigned bands album today to determine which of these bands I would most like to hear more from. Some of the bands are good, some are very good, some are bad, and some are fucking awful. Let's do this bitch.

1. BILOCATE: Not bad, actually kind of good. They play a sort of blackened death metal with some very melodic parts, including use of keyboards. The vocals are deep growls and they are fairly good for the genre. The guitar solo had a great tone to it. There are frequent tempo changes throughout. The music itself gives off an epic feel. The band is from Jordan of all places. I would be willing to check these guys out further.

2. COFFIN: This band plays a very raw form of death/thrash. It's fast-paced metal. The guitar tone is a little muddy, I think they were going for the Swedish buzzsaw guitar tone, but did not really succeed. The vocals are delivered in a staccato shout. This is not bad, but not something that hasn't been done tons of times before. I would want to see this band develop it's own sound before checking them out further.

3. MANUSCRIPTS: Bad name. I get the impression these guys are like 15 years old from their vocals. They play a sort of slow, sludgy doom metal on this track with some major hardcore influences present. Actually it's tough to tell which sound is more present. These guys should never attempt a guitar solo again until they become more competent. That was just painful to listen to.

4. VIRAEMIA: Yuck. Necrophagist clone, extremely technical death metal. The noodling guitars at the beginning give it away. I don't mind Necrophagist but some of the bands influenced by them take things to the extreme. No real riffs or melodies here, just overly technical guitar wanking. Very tedious listening.

5. TITAN: I can't tell what this is, some sort of progressive hardcore with metal influences I guess. It's not bad but there's not enough really here to capture interest. Space filler basically. Vocals are decent and the riffs are very heavy, but it's ultimately forgettable.

6. VERTIGO STEPS: This is not fucking metal. I don't even know what the fuck it is, it kind of reminds me of the song on Roadrunner United with the singer from Glassjaw. I hated that fucking song. This is no different. Overly saccharine sweet and going nowhere. Emo-ish vocals and lame guitar riffs. The name fucking sucks too. Oh god, the breakdown is horrendous. I couldn't even finish it, I had to hit the skip button. No thanks.

7. INTENTION: I can barely hear this song. It's essentially a fast hardcore song, maybe crossover if I'm feeling generous (I'm not after that last piece of shit). Bad vocals, bad guitars, sloppy. Short though, that's nice.

8. HELLISH OUTCAST: With a name like that, you pretty much know what you're getting into. Or not, this band is more of a death/thrash metal band, more emphasis on the thrash. Actually this is pretty good, especially after the last two atrocities. Extremely fast and blunt, but with hacking riffs and shouted vocals. I could get into these guys.

9. PROFANE PRAYER: Who guessed black metal here? Raise your hands. Very good. This one isn't bad either. Not just a Darkthrone or Mayhem clone, this has melody and good riffs. It's fast and intense. Pretty good, I'd like to see their full length.

10. DIABOLICUS: More black metal, this from Ireland I guess. Even faster and more intense than Profane Prayer. The vocals are awful though, I hate vocal effects. The riffs swirl around the pounding drums, achieving a bizarre melody in between vocal parts. If not for the vocals themselves, this would be really interesting.

11. NAETU: Even more black metal. Someone loves their early Immortal and 1349 albums. Extremely fast, even moreso than Diabolicus. This band also takes blastbeats to the extreme with constant blasting drums. The tremolo riffs are pretty well done. Not as good as Immortal or 1349, but it holds its own. Very interesting, I wouldn't mind hearing more from these guys.

12. BASEMENT TORTURE KILLINGS: Some reference to the BTK killer in Kansas I guess, and the song is called "Gore Bukkake" which presents all sorts of horrible mental images. I am not much of a fan of goregrind and this band does nothing to change that opinion. Next.

13. REVOKATION: Ah, intentional misspellings. Why is it always changing the C into a K? This band definitely has some slam in them. It's not a full-on slam death metal band, but they have some influences. They sort of combine Skinless with Devourment. It's a decent combination of brutal death and slam, so I am intrigued. I would be willing to hear more from this band.

14. GRIDLOCK TAKEDOWN: Horrible production values on this song. The band appears to be playing melodic death metal, but the sound is so muddy, it's hard to hear what's going on. No, now they're playing regular death metal. I'm not sure this band knows what they want to play. There's some talent here, I just wish I could hear it.

15. IMMORTAL EMPIRE: Could this name possibly give away the band's influences more? If this were a thrash metal band, they would call themselves Metallic Anthrax, if it were a death metal band they would be Cannibalistic Creation, hey those aren't bad, I'm gonna form a band. Yes, Emperor and Immortal influences are noticeably present here. At least they chose to be influenced by the earlier Emperor stuff. More horrible production though, the tremolo riffs sound very interesting, but they can't be fucking heard. The vocals are very high in the mix and the only things that can be heard well at all. Get some better production and I will listen again.

16. REPROBATE: It starts out with a nice lilting acoustic melody. Then it descends into some sort of attempt at industrial metal. Having heard Ayat last night, I know how good this genre can be. Having heard this, I know how bad this genre can be. This is just noise.

17. THE ENGINES OF ARMAGEDDON: This is pretty good stoner/doom style metal. Surprisingly the band is from the UK, not too many bands like this come from there anymore. It's become more of a Southern US thing. This band is heavy, I am definitely interested. Not enough good stoner/doom at all anymore.

18. I'LL EAT YOUR FACE: Charming. I don't even know what to call this. It's not terrible, but it's not good either. It's just drums and guitars, no bass, no vocals, nothing.

19. MORDANT: This is a decent way to end this thing. Mordant plays a form of groove/thrash heavily influenced by bands like Testament, Pantera, and Machine Head. The music is not particularly original, but it is decent, hard-hitting, aggressive metal. Not bad.

The bands I liked the most were Bilocate, Hellish Outcast, Naetu, and The Engines of Armageddon. Choosing between them is a little difficult. I probably prefer Bilocate or Hellish Outcast depending on my mood. I suppose I will go with Bilocate for today, but that may change.

There were several terrible bands here as well. However, none were as bad as Vertigo Steps. It was the only band I had to hit the skip button on. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard that song all the way through. Huh.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Random Thoughts About Ayat

Holy shit this band is fucking crazy. Essentially, Ayat is what one would get if they threw Ministry, Zyklon, and The Berzerker into a blender. The fact that the band is from Lebanon is another reason to be impressed. This album is loud and intense. There's no other way around it, they are fucking crazy.

The Reaper Playlist

I don't say much about my personal life, but decided it was time for something. My girlfriend and I have a blue heeler puppy. Due to his ferocious personality, he has been named Reaper, or better yet, The Reaper. Out of pure lack of anything better to do one afternoon, I scoured the Metal Archives for some of the best songs with The Reaper's name in it. Just to put together his own personal playlist or soundtrack. I have not heard all of these songs, the only criteria was that the name of the song had to include "Reaper". So without further ado, the terrifying soundtrack to The Reaper:

1. Angus McDeth: Fresh Corpse for the Reaper: The Reaper hasn't quite figured out he's a carnivore at this point, although he has been a constant headache for the cats and the other dogs.
2. Anticosm: Here Comes the Reaper: Cover your face, he tends to go for it and he can jump.
3. As Dusk Unfolds: Behold, the Reaper: And all of his smelly, horrible glory!
4. Autumnal Reaper: March of the Reaper: He doesn't march so much as trot.
5. Children of Bodom: Follow the Reaper: It's best to keep your eyes on him at all times in order to avoid him launching himself into your crotch.
6. Crucified Mortals: The Reaper’s Blade: Thankfully, The Reaper is not armed.
7. Dark Illusion: Reaper of Souls: Your soul will belong to The Reaper.
8. Dissection: Soulreaper: See above.
9. Hell-Born: We Bring the Reaper: Hopefully we leave him with you so he will leave us alone.
10. Hellhammer: Reaper: Simple, direct, Hellhammer.
11. Helvetets Port: Killed by a Reaper: It's a long, slow, painful death.
12. Horrid Corpse: Grim is the Reaper: Actually, happy and stupid is The Reaper.
13. Key of Mythras: Hail the Reaper: It's best not to do so, he already has a massive ego.
14. Loudness: Call of the Reaper: It's a shrill, high-pitched bark, not difficult to miss.
15. Mendeed: The Reaper Waits: Hopefully for food.
16. Mr. Jumbo: The Reaper was Faster: Damn straight. Running does no good.
17. Nifelheim: Storm of the Reaper: More of a pout than a storm.
18. Onward: Feast for the Reaper: Ah, puppy food.
19. Psilocybin: Reaper Attack!: Thankfully we have not taught him this command, he picked i up on his own.
20. Reapers Domain: Domain of the Reaper: It's a small kennel, occasionally with blankets that he likes to destroy.
21. Runemagick: Return of the Reaper: Damnit.
22. Sabbat: Possession of the Reaper: Probably already done, not sure though.
23. Satani Infernalis: The Reaper’s Stare: He's not great at maintaining eye contact, he is a puppy.
24. Six Feet Under: Shadow of the Reaper: He's about a foot and a half high, so it's not much of a shadow.
25. Soulreaper: Godless Reaper of Souls: See #8.
26. Sweet Sorrow: The Solitary Reaper: He's only solitary because he pisses all the other animals off all the time.
27. Wolf: (Don’t Fear) The Reaper: BOC cover, but still. You should fear The Reaper.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Occult Death Metal

There are several forms of death metal out there. There is the obvious gore-obsessed death metal from acts like Cannibal Corpse. There is highly technical and brutal death metal from bands like Suffocation. Then there are the overtly evil bands. Let's look at three of the leaders from the occult death metal movement.


Morbid Angel is the originator and most well-known of the sub-genre. Morbid Angel is also one of the first death metal bands ever. They arose out of the mid to late 1980's playing a heavier, more complex, and evil sounding style of thrash metal that then came to be known as death metal. Their lyrics were focused on Satanism and other occult themes. The vocals were extreme, much huskier than thrash metal shrieks, but death metal had not gotten to the guttural vocal style now familiar. Morbid Angel actually proved fairly popular in the early 1990's when thrash, and metal in general, was struggling.


Incantation took the Morbid Angel formula, added some doom elements and ran with it, to become perhaps the most evil-sounding band to date. Incantation's music is frightening. Slow, with jagged riffs, guttural vocals, heavy bass sound, murky production, and pounding drums. Incantation's leader John McEntee also owns and operates Ibex Moon Records, a label devoted to putting out releases from powerful death metal, acts like Dreaming Dead, Dawn of Azazel, Thornafire, and Estuary.


Immolation is only slightly less frightening than Incantation. They don't have the doom metal elements that make Incantation stand out, instead choosing a more straightforward death metal approach forged by Morbid Angel. Immolation has a knack for infectious, yet extremely evil lyrics and songs.

Others playing this style: Blaspherian, Drawn and Quartered, Nox, Angelcorpse, Thornafire.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Australian War Metal Scene

The War Metal scene is a name given to a bunch of Australian bands who draw influences from thrash, death, and black metal. They all play very fast, evil, chaotic sounding music. Guitar solos come out of nowhere in a frenzy of riffs and pummelling drums, and vocals typically consist of raspy death growling. This is one of my favorite scenes because of the extreme energy of the bands involved. Destroyer 666 is the most well-known of the bands, but there are several others. The scene gets its name because many of the bands prefer lyrical themes about warfare. Many of the band members switch from one band to another frequently.

Here are just some of the bands involved in the war metal scene:


Abominator was discussed briefly in one of the reviews, so I won't go into too much detail here. Abominator was one of the earlier bands in the scene. They took the groundwork laid by groups like Slaughter Lord and added various extreme elements to it. Abominator is much more of a death metal band with black and thrash influences than many of the other bands. They are heavier, dirtier, and rawer than some of the others. The band is still active, although they have not released anything since 2006.


Atomizer is probably my favorite band from this scene, next to Destroyer 666. Atomizer started off playing a style of blackened thrash with death metal influences. The vocals were harsh and extreme and there really was not anything making them different from the litany of other bands that played that style. Then, they started experimenting a little bit with a cleaner sound. It's tough for me to tell just what their other influences are, but the music got significantly catchier. The vocals were still harsh but were not quite as raspy, they were more spoken that screamed and it was much easier to tell what Jason Healey was saying. The music was a little more restrained, still fast with driving drums and frequent guitar solos, but not as out of control as it was previously. The music was calculated to be infectious and the band succeeded. They went a little too far away from the thrash sound on their final album, which was not as good as their prior albums. Unfortunately the original drummer Suds died in 2006 which is why the band split. A great band who had a bright future, it's unfortunate.


Along with Abominator, Bestial Warlust was one of the earliest bands in this scene. Unlike Abominator, Bestial Warlust has split up. However, their influence can be heard in many of the other bands. Bestial Warlust also played an extremely raw and brutal style of death metal with black and thrash influences. The production value on their albums is terrible, making them a little difficult to hear well, but the speed, power, harsh vocals, and blazing guitar solos that make up the war metal sound are all here. While Bestial Warlust was still together, guitarist KK Warslut formed a side project called Destroyer 666, the leading band in the scene. The band recorded two full length albums, each one extremely ugly and brutal.


Destroyer 666 is probably the most well-known band in the scene. I have discussed Destroyer 666 before, so I won't go into a lot of detail here. They play a frequently evolving mix of black, death, and thrash metal. On their earlier recordings, they were mostly a black metal band but they began mixing in the other genres as they continued to record. The most recent full length Cold Steel...For an Iron Age was essentially just blackened thrash and was an amazing album. They have recently posted a new song on their Myspace, so apparently a new album is coming, finally.


Destruktor is very similar in style to later Destroyer 666 and for good reason as former members of Destroyer 666 are in this band. They play mostly blackened thrash metal with some death metal influences. Their sound is fast, chaotic, and powerful. They play thrashy riffs with a heavy bass tone and feature similar raspy screams as Destroyer 666. They are not real well-known yet as they have only released a couple of EPs, splits, and demos, but they are a force to be reckoned with.


As ugly-sounding as many of the bands in this scene are, few hold a candle to Gospel of the Horns. Gospel is the only band that is far more influenced by black metal than thrash or death, other than the earliest recordings by Destroyer 666. The vocals of Mark Howitser are extremely raspy and half-growled at the same time. He achieves a tone rarely heard before, actually sounding like some of the instrumentation at times. Gospel does use a better production than many of the other bands from the area, but that doesn't make their sound any less filthy. The band's status is constantly changing, it would appear at this time that they have split up, but they tend to reunite quickly.


I am not entirely convinced of Grenade's inclusion in this scene. They seem to meet the style requirements, playing mostly blackened thrash with some death metal elements. The riffs are similar, the tremolo swirling guitar riffs are there, the vocals are raspy, but the lyrical theme is different. Grenade, despite the band's name, does not actually deal much with warfare. Many of their themes are anti-Christian, humorous, or about metal. Grenade is kind of a throwback band, with a lot of speed metal parts, solos that whizz by, and strange lyrical themes, it's easy to imagine them coming out of the 1980's. They have only released one full length so far, but it is a good one.


Razor of Occam is a band made up of Shrapnel and Matt from Destroyer 666. The band plays music mostly similar to Destroyer 666's Cold Steel. The lyrical themes do not always deal with warfare, choosing instead to deal with diverse themes. The band is actually on Metal Blade, which is a surprise for a mostly underground movement. Their first full length Homage to Martyrs was released earlier this year and is a frontrunner for album of the year at this point.


Slaughter Lord is another band that really doesn't belong in this scene, but I am mentioning them only because they were a major influence on it. Slaughter Lord is more of a thrash metal band taking influences from German thrash metal bands like Sodom and Destruction. They are long since broken up and only released three demos in the 1980's. The demos were collected together and released as a compilation in 1998. Other influences on the scene included Sadistik Exekution, Hobbs' Angel of Death, and Blasphemy (from Canada).


Trench Hell is a relatively new band to the scene. They wear their very clear Hellhammer/Celtic Frost influence on their sleeve, even covering the classic "The Third of the Storms" on their demo. They do play a little faster than the much doomier Swiss icons, but with the same punk energy, down-tuned riffs, menace, and even a pretty good approximation of Tom Warrior's husky grunting vocals. Thus far, Trench Hell has only released a demo, and EP, and a promo for the EP. I am eagerly anticipating a new full length album. Hellhammer worship is never a bad thing.


Urgrund is one of the lesser-known bands in this scene. Urgrund plays a slower form of thrash metal with black metal influences and filthy-sounding production. The band basically sounds like a combination of Kreator and Mayhem. The band is not as chaotic-sounding as groups above like Abominator and Gospel of the Horns. Instead, they are a little bit more restrained in the speed department, but make up for it in the heaviness. This band is extremely heavy.

Other bands that I have yet to hear include: Denouncement Pyre, Nocturnal Graves, and others.