Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quick and Dirty Initial Impressions Roundup

I am going to run through a few of my recent pickups here. There have been a lot of big bands with new albums in the last few months.


D666 is an amazing band. They keep putting out great recordings despite the fact that none of their such recordings sound much alike. On this one, the band takes its thrash influences and its black influences and mashes them together and adds some more melody. That's right, this album is significantly more melodic than their previous albums. This is quite possibly a finalist for Album of the Year. It's that good.


Dying Fetus manages to further refine their sound. Dying Fetus was one of the early bands to dabble in slam death, but at this point they are far more technical and brutal, becoming more of a Suffocation-type band minus the dirge-like grooves. Dying Fetus seems to get better every album. I did not know what to expect when I picked this up, but I am glad I did.


Thanatos is one of the more underrated bands in the death/thrash scene, possibly because the band comes from Netherlands, which is not exactly a hotbed of metal activity. Thanatos is one of the more brutal, powerful bands to come out of the early death/thrash scene and the first Dutch extreme metal band. This album is incredible, powerful, and melodic. There are two bonus tracks, both of which made up the 7" vinyl EP.


Vader is one of the most consistent extreme metal bands, as well as being the first major metal band from Poland. Not much to say here, if you enjoy Vader, you will enjoy this, if not, don't bother. Vader is one of my favorite bands, so I love the album.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Walmart Metal?

Apparently Walmart is selling a black metal costume for kids these days. Not sure if the local one is selling it, my fiancee will know. Anyway, there are no words to describe this. It is utterly insane.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 29: Nailbomb: Proud to Commit Commercial Suicide

Nailbomb is a side project of Max Cavalera, then of Sepultura, and Alex Newport of Fudge Tunnel. The band formed in the early 1990's and released one full length album and a live album, along with a live DVD. The band should have been the first clue that Max was a bit of a trendwhore as it featured a sound more like Ministry than Sepultura, more of an industrial thrash attack. This particular album was a bit of a disappointment as it is the live album.

Nailbomb was a decent side project. Typically, side projects should provide a creative outlet that the individual members cannot have in their main bands. Nailbomb is a good example as it allowed for Max to show off his industrial metal influences. However, Sepultura's sound changed so often that it's not clear why he could not attempt to sway the band's musical style in that direction. It would have been pretty awful and Sepultura fans would have abandoned the band sooner, but it was doable.

As previously mentioned, this is the live album, and thus the sound quality is not particularly great. No matter though, as industrial metal has never been exactly subtle. Max has always been a dynamic live performer, and that is still evident here. Nevertheless, I would have preferred the studio version of a lot of these songs. This isn't bad, it's just that I don't care a whole lot for live albums. At the time I bought it, I was unaware that this was the live album.

I first heard of Nailbomb when I was getting into Sepultura but never really checked them out. I heard the band for the first time on the soundtrack to the godawful movie To Die For. This is the first time I went and picked something out though. I may check out the studio album, just to have a clearer idea of the songs. This will do in the meantime. Passable.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 28: Intruder: Psycho Savant

One of the problems with a genre exploding in popularity is that a shitload of bands start playing that genre and suddenly record stores are swamped with bands of varying levels of quality. It becomes difficult to separate the good bands from those who really did not deserve any sort of recognition whatsoever. Such was the case with thrash in the late 80's/early 90's (and is beginning to happen again now). Still though, some gems get kind of lost in the shuffle.

Which all brings us to Intruder's Psycho Savant. This is actually an exceptional album and a completely hidden gem. I had never heard of the band until a few weeks ago when I was at the local excuse for a record store whose only redeeming value is the wall of cassettes in the back. I saw this tape in the bargain bin for $3.00 and decided to pick it up, guessing as to its metal classification only by the cover art.

As it turns out, this is a great album that came out right before grunge "killed" the metal scene and is thus an afterthought album. At a time when many of the bigger metal bands like Metallica were softening their sound, this album stands out as a last ditch effort to retain the glory days of early 1980's thrash. Sounding like a progressive-tinged mashup of Exodus, Anthrax, and Testament, Intruder clearly had technical chops, savvy songwriting ability, and infectious riffs. If only this album had come out a few years earlier, Intruder could have been a much bigger name than they are.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Juggalos Classified as Gang Now?

Huh. Maybe I should be watching my back.

I lived in a very small town for a couple of years. I know just how bored police officers can get. I was once pulled over for driving four miles over the speed limit on the highway. However, to classify a group like this as a gang is pretty absurd. I remember watching a documentary talking about straightedge as being a gang, and was surprised by that as well. Just because a bunch of fucking idiots hang out together and do stupid shit, does not mean they have organized as a gang.

The effect of the classification is that if, and when, any juggalos get in trouble with the law where they are so classified, they now have potentially more serious charges against them. All this for listening to a terrible band.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Great Band, Terrible Album Pt. 6: In Flames: A Sense of Purpose

For shame, In Flames. I am not talking about the typical albums that compel vitriol in most metal fans here, although this album is no less-derided. In Flames was one of the leading bands in the Gothenburg scene, and the first such band to really jump the shark. Their style of melodic death metal was infused with folk elements on their early material which were quickly filtered out. Nevertheless, the band remained strong through Clayman. After that is where a lot of fans bailed out on the band.

The music on Reroute to Remain was different, I will grant that. It certainly paled in comparison to their mightier melodeath material. But it was catchy, and emotional, and fun to listen to. Reroute to Remain was my first In Flames album, and perhaps that is why I feel the way I do about it. Perhaps if The Lunar Strain or Colony was my first, I would hate Reroute to Remain. Nevertheless, I loved the album then and still do now.

After that album came Soundtrack to Your Escape and Come Clarity. Both albums retaining that infectiousness from Reroute while being less than well-appreciated in metal circles. I still enjoyed them.

Then we come upon A Sense of Purpose which is where I will be getting off of the In Flames bandwagon. I do not honestly know what I dislike so much about this album. It seems like most of the elements from the previous three albums, which I enjoyed, are still here. Perhaps the songwriting has become stale, perhaps the modern rock elements have started to dominate the sound further decreasing the metal elements. I do not really know. All I know is that something happened on this album, something that has lead me to not enjoy it as much as their previous albums. Perhaps In Flames will catch themselves before they fall too far, perhaps not. It has been a fun ride while it lasted, but it's time for me to get off.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Metal History Pt. 3: Barren High School Years

Growing up in the mid to late 1990's was a little tough on a burgeoning metalhead like myself. MTV had completely disavowed all knowledge of the genre. The local radio station was soon bought by a national conglomerate and began referring to itself as a modern rock station, switching from heavy metal bands like Metallica, Megadeth, and Pantera to more mainstream friendly acts like Days of the New, Creed, Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Marilyn Manson. If you were lucky, occasionally you would hear something decent. The last straw with the radio station was when they stopped syndicating the Power Hour. That's when I knew it was a sinking ship. Years later, the station would overplay groups like Nickelback, Green Day, and U2, bands that they never would have considered in the early 90's.

Nu metal was almost inescapable and was really they only thing close to metal that those outlets allowed. As such, I was not as excited about music as I had been in junior high. My genre of choice was somewhat stale. Unfortunately, I had virtually no knowledge of the international scenes, which would have cured my issues with the genre as some truly astounding music was being made in Sweden and Norway at the time.

As mentioned before, nu metal was everywhere. People who claimed to be metalheads were listening to bands like Korn, Deftones, Slipknot, Staind, Sevendust, Static X, Rammstein, and more. I listened to those bands a little. But my favorite bands I was listening to at the time were bands like Testament, Fear Factory, Ozzy Osbourne (who I had developed a sort of hero worship to), Sepultura, Danzig, Prong, and Misery Loves Co. I was in a leadership position in the high school marching band, and as such often had to drive the younger members around. My car quickly became infamous with people as one to avoid if one had an aversion to loud music. I relished in that image.

It was during high school that I discovered my first issue of Metal Maniacs, a pivotal point in my development into a metalhead. I curse myself for throwing it away some time ago and am constantly on the lookout for it on ebay. As I recall, it had Pantera and Trouble on the cover and came out in 1996. I remember a lot of those articles well: articles on the aforementioned bands, Misery Loves Co., Helloween, Eyehategod, Kreator, Edge of Sanity, Skrew, Pan.Thy.Monium, Strapping Young Lad, and many more. This was my first exposure to a lot of these groups and I sought many of them out over the years. The magazine showed me there was so much more than the American metal scene out there. However, it would not be until college that I would really begin to experience that.

Toward the end of high school, I picked up a tribute album to Celtic Frost. I picked it up blindly, I had only heard one Celtic Frost song, which I had enjoyed. But I was anxious to check out some other bands and the H.R. Giger art on the cover caught my eye. This album freaked me out. It included songs from groups like Mayhem, Emperor, Enslaved, Opeth, Slaughter, Grave, Sadistic Intent, and many more bands that I had never heard of before. At first, I wasn't sure what to think. The music was so extreme, so angry, so unlike anything I had ever heard before. It wasn't long before this album was a favorite and I would go on to seek out music from those bands. My friends hated this album, and in particular the Mayhem track, although the back story of Mayhem became a favorite story to hear. I'll go into that some other time.

I survived high school as a metal head, but nu metal would soon overpower the rest of the country, making it that much more difficult to be a metal fan.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Megadeth: Endgame Initial Impressions

I am very happy about this album. I just bought it on Tuesday and have only had an opportunity to listen to it once through so far, but it appears as if Megadeth is officially back. This album reminded me a lot of Countdown to Extinction and Youthanasia. There are some thrash metal elements present, but it is largely more of a traditional heavy metal album. Still though, the fact that the band has retraced its steps into a more listenable time in its evolution is definitely a step forward. Most of the Big 4 thrash metal bands have changed their sound and released some clunkers (Slayer being the exception, though changing their sound, they never released a truly awful album). Megadeth's Risk was the worst of them all though. Which is a major shame, because Megadeth was one of the first metal bands I got into, in fact they were the second after Metallica. It's good to have them back.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Personal Post

As I mentioned before, I don't use this very often to delve into my personal life. However, I have news today. Last night, I asked my wonderful girlfriend to marry me. She, of course, said yes. So I just wanted to share that little piece of information.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Strange Album Covers Pt. 3: Nudity

Last night I went to a strip club with my friend (my girlfriend was aware of this and okayed it, in fact she wanted to go too but had to work). Afterwards we got to talking and my friend suggested that I do an album cover post covering nudity, apparently inspired by the events of the night. So without further ado:
This is about as metal as an album cover can get. We have a barbarian standing over the corpse of his latest conquest holding a sword in one hand and the head of his enemy in the other. A naked woman sits at his feet.

Akercocke has made a career of having beautiful, naked women on their album covers. This is my personal favorite. Unfortunately, their last two albums have not featured naked women.

This is my second favorite.

Here, we have three naked women laying on the rocks. The pictures on the inside of the booklet also feature naked women.

They're not naked, at least as far as I can tell, but they are kissing, therefore, they deserve a place here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Slaughter (The Good Canadian Band, Not the Shitty American Band)

Slaughter was mentioned in the worldwide thrash metal post earlier on. I truly believe this band to be the best band to come out of Canada. Slaughter was immensely influential on the burgeoning death metal scene in the mid 1980's and are often considered along with Death and Morbid Angel to be early pioneers in the style. Slaughter's own influences come from the usual suspects, bands like Black Sabbath, Celtic Frost, and hardcore bands of the time. Indeed, Slaughter's early music could be described as Black Sabbath playing punk music. Slaughter frequently utilized two vocalists, a higher pitched vocalist who shouted and a lower-pitched pre-death metal style vocalist.

The band's sound evolved significantly since their earliest recordings. I received the Tortured Souls box set for Christmas 2007 which features many of their recordings other than their only full length album. It includes early demos and live recordings that are extremely rare and hard to find. The early demos display a band that has not found its sound yet. The songs are fairly short, immature-sounding, and very much on the punk side of things. Nevertheless, there are occasional moments that show the potential the band had of becoming a creative force in metal. The early demos are mostly fascinating to listen to, to hear a band in its earliest stages making its first recordings. If this was all that it was though, it would not have been worth checking out. Demos can be interesting, but seldomly are as good as the full length albums. It is clear that the band was attempting some Celtic Frost/Hellhammer-style guitar tone but was not fully successful. The vocals are much more in a sneering punk style than their later vocals.

As the band's proficiency at their instruments increased, so too did the quality of their music. The riffs were not as simple, the instruments were layered more, guitar solos were present, and the vocals began to sound better. The band also began incorporating elements from more extreme styles of metal, such as thrash metal into its music. The songs they previously recorded were often re-recorded with an improved sound quality and possibly additional instrumentation and lyrics. The band was beginning to sound like it would on its first full length album. Also included on this box set are some recorded rehearsals which display the band's odd sense of humor and some live shows from around the time period of their only full length to be released, Strappado. These additional recordings further show the band evolving.

The songs on the first full length album were, for the most part, works in progress from the band's demo days. The songs on the album were fully fleshed out featuring the guitar tone the band had been striving for all this time. The songs were typically short, fast, and aggressive. The band had finally created its masterpiece. Strappado is well-regarded in the metal scene as an early death/thrash metal album, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, the band would never record another full length album.

Unreleased Material After Strappado
The best part about the boxed set was the inclusion of the band's final album, which was never actually released. The band had changed its name to Strappado after their first album to avoid confusion with the American hair band Slaughter, but they still released a few songs on demos as Slaughter. The unreleased album was to be called Fatal Judgment and featured re-recorded versions of songs from the band's final demos, but it was never released after Strappado broke up. The album featured more of a shift in genres to thrash metal exclusively and lyrically dealt with more science fiction themes, including a song about the eponymous Alien from the movie series. The band still had potential to be a force in the metal scene, unfortunately at that point grunge had taken over and there was not much of a metal scene left. The band called it quits, reuniting once to perform a song on a Celtic Frost tribute album, but were basically done. Oh, what might have been.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Slayer Controversy

Ah, Slayer. Slayer is one of my favorite bands of all time. There is no question that some of their subject matter can be a tad on the offensive side. For their entire careers, they have been plagued by allegations of Nazism, Satanism, and Anti-Christianity. For the latter two, deservedly so, although much of their message is delivered tongue-in-cheek. Admittedly, this does tend to get lost in the violent music.

There have been times though in music history that bands have been sued for the "messages" in their music. Slayer is one such band that was brought to court.

I'm not going to name names here, because I believe in the privacy of the victims' family. I just want to shed some light on the events and the lawsuit itself. I do feel bad for their family, however suing a music group for supposedly inciting people to commit murder based on the group's lyrics is outrageous.

The facts are as follows: A young woman was raped and murdered by three young men. The three men knew the girl, but it is unclear how well. The stated intention of the men was to kill her as part of a Satanic ritual in order to give their garage band the ability to go make money. They returned to the body several times to continue having sex with it. The body was only found when one of the boys converted to Christianity and told the cops. All three are now in jail serving long prison sentences.

Not content with the imprisonment of the perpetrators, the parents of the girl went after Slayer for their violent lyrics that they claimed incited the men to rape and murder their daughter. The case was originally filed in 1996, shortly after the discovery of the body but was delayed pending results of the criminal trials.

The original case was eventually thrown out by the judge who felt there were no legal grounds for holding the band responsible for the murder of the girl. The judge allowed the parents to try to amend their complaint, which they did citing the band for distributing harmful material to minors. This case was also dismissed when the judge found that there was nothing harmful, indecent, or obscene about the music to rise to that level.

Slayer's lyrics can be a bit on the extreme side, there is no question about that. However, U.S. courts have always required a little more than extremity in order to restrict speech. Speech must be indecent or obscene and neither of these is particularly true for Slayer. The speech may be a little disturbing, but it simply never rises to the level of the courts having the right to restrict it. Besides, in a way, Slayer's music already is restricted. Most albums feature the explicit lyrics sticker, which to some people is not much of a deterrent and may in fact make the album more attractive. But the fact remains that if the stores are doing things right, they are not supposed to sell albums featuring this sticker to minors. It's not Slayer's fault that their music gets into the hands of minors.

I have long had an issue with the blame media gets for violence. I was a senior in high school when Columbine occurred. I remember being outraged that the media was taking shots at bands like Marilyn Manson, Rammstein, and KMFDM and violent video games for the actions of two disturbed high school boys. The fact of the matter is that we don't know whether media incites people to violence or whether people who are already predisposed to violence seek out violent imagery. It's a correlation, not a causation and people NEED to be aware of that fact.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Strange Album Covers Pt. 2: The Bloodier the Better

In today's installment of Strange Album Covers, we are going to look at some truly grotesque covers.

Up first is Impaled on their album "The Last Gasp". Impaled has been mentioned before as being one of many bands featuring members that are also in Ghoul. Impaled plays a form of death/grind. I could be wrong, but I don't think that the person on the cover is gasping. Impaled said they used sausages to represent the internal organs that this person apparently had ripped out through their mouth or puked up. Very tasty.

Bleeding Through is not well-received in most metal circles due to their metalcore leanings, but this album cover is fucking brutal. I happen to like this album, the band blends metalcore with blackened death metal and some interesting keyboard parts. I haven't like much of the rest of their stuff though. I bought this when I worked at Target and my boss happened to see it. The next day he told me he had nightmares about it. Apparently this fellow has had his lower jaw ripped off. Tough to eat when that happens. This again is fake, it is done through CGI.

We come now to the band Blood Red Throne and their album "Affiliated with the Suffering". Blood Red Throne is a decent death metal outfit from Norway. This cover features some maniac standing over a pool of blood in the snow with a bit of a shit-eating grin on his face. I would not want to meet this gentleman, particularly not in the snow.

We come next to Autopsy, one of the first bigger death metal bands and their classic album "Severed Survival". This album had two covers. The one on the right was deemed too bloody for many stores to carry and seems to feature an individual getting the Hellraiser treatment, i.e. being torn apart by chains. The one on the left is potentially creepier as we get a patient's eye view of some maniacal doctors that are committing acts of unnecessary and painful surgery. I actually prefer the censored version better, which is weird.

Last, but not least, no bloody album covers exhibit would be complete without SOMETHING from the great Cannibal Corpse. This one is disturbing on many levels. I will leave it at that and not comment further. Wow.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Body Farm

Oh, what the hell, let me have a crack at this.

Here's the story for people too lazy and/or just don't want to click the link. Police in San Diego unearthed human remains in a man's backyard garden. Neighbors state that the man typically works in his garden while listening to heavy metal. A Cattle Decapitation album was found in his home. Said Cattle Decapitation album features a song called "A Body Farm". A news station is attempting to contact the band as "authorities" are suspecting possible copycat crimes based on the band's disturbing subject matter and lyrics.

So what have we learned? People are still a bunch of fucking idiots and I am speaking of the people investigating this and the nutcase who did it, no one is safe.

So here's what will happen, the news will absolutely run with this incredibly incidental link between Numbnuts here and Cattle Decapitation starting off another moral panic and cries that heavy metal is ruining our children and convincing them to do despicable things to others. Some relatives of the poor victims (presuming that this man was a murderer and not just finding the bodies elsewhere, such as digging them up) will sue Cattle Decapitation similar to what one crazy family did when their daughter was killed by some insane people who incidentally listened to Slayer. The story becomes even bigger. The lawsuit gets dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted/total idiocy. Only the lawyers get rich. Cattle Decapitation sells millions of albums.

Did I miss anything?

UPDATE: Dammit, I fell for it. This is just the set up for the video for the song "A Body Farm". It's all a joke. Fucking Cattle Decapitation, now you won't sell millions of albums. I suppose I'll tackle the Slayer issue this weekend. It's a long story.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Fond Farewell

No, I'm not going anywhere, but unfortunately one of my favorite stores is. Homer's is the name of the store I go to most often to buy music when I am in Lincoln or Omaha, Nebraska. I have been shopping there since I was in junior high. It has always been my personal favorite because of the selection and the ease of finding what I was looking for. My favorite aspect of the store was the fact that they had a metal section, most other stores don't separate metal from rock and one has to go through dozens of artists to find one metal artist.

There used to be several Homer's in Lincoln, where I grew up. In the last couple of years that number has dwindled to just one, but it was a great store and I went there almost every time I was back in town. Now, even that store is closing. There are three stores in Omaha, one of which is also closing. So, we will be down to just two stores in Omaha. I haven't figured out what I am going to do about the lack of stores in Lincoln yet. Of course there are places like Best Buy to buy music, but I always preferred the independent record stores. Much more underground selection.

This, of course, sheds a little light on some major problem plaguing independent record stores in recent years. With internet access and downloading, stores are not doing nearly as well. It's too bad, because part of the charm of going to stores was looking at something new that you may not have seen before. It's hard to do that online. I enjoyed just going there and looking around. Sometimes I would pick up something blindly and buy it and it would prove to be a great album. This is how I got into groups like Dark Tranquillity, Opeth, Meshuggah, In Flames, Iced Earth, and many more.

Homer's, you have been good to me. I will miss you.