Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Super Huge Initial Impressions Roundup

Okay, this is it for new pickups for now. Let's do this.

This album kind of slipped by a bunch of people. I had seen the cover before but never really thought much of it. I wasn't even totally sure of the type of metal this band played. Nevertheless, I traded a bunch of old CDs in a couple weeks ago and picked this one up. Not a bad pickup really.

Infernaeon plays symphonic blackened death metal. The album starts off with a soft piano intro and quickly segues into a powerful thrashing riff and the deep growled vocals that will be present for the rest of the album. The symphonic parts do continue throughout adding to the eerie feeling of the entire album. The band essentially adds to the attempts by groups like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth by layering their symphonic elements onto the blackened death metal. The whole effect is basically that of a deranged, evil symphony.

This is a good album, but it is entirely too short and the band hasn't really been heard from since its release. We'll see what happens in the future. I have a feeling they just missed the boat as Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth have waned in popularity in recent years.

I needed to fill in some holes in my collection and this was a big hole. This is Black Sabbath's debut album, and therefore the first metal album ever. Wow. I have no idea why it took me so long to pick this up. Perhaps it is because Black Sabbath was basically just a real heavy blues rock band at this time while only hinting at what was to come on some of the songs. Nevertheless, there are some true classics on this album, and overall, it is a metal album, although no one knew what metal was at the time.

The album starts off with the incredibly evil title track (also the band's name). "Black Sabbath" is one of the most sinister songs of all time. It tells the story of one coming across a dark shadowy figure, allegedly a true story that happened to bassist Geezer Butler one night. The song uses the tritone to form the main guitar riff, once considered to be a way of summoning demons, it's clear that Black Sabbath was out to shock the world with it's debut. From there, the songs range from the mid-paced metal stomp of "N.I.B." to the heavily blues-inspired "Warning". All of the elements that would make the band famous are present and accounted for: Tony Iommi's flesh-melting, downtuned riffs, Geezer Butler's thunderous bass, Bill Ward's pounding drums, and Ozzy Osbourne's haunted vocals and demonic lyrics.

The fact that this album was released at the height of the hippie movement is icing on the cake. Black Sabbath took a happy, drug-induced movement and brought it to its knees. The band was hated early on by critics and never really achieved the same kind of hindsighted praise that Led Zeppelin did. Perhaps that's because this album was the beginning of heavy metal, a genre overall ignored by critics. It's a shame. This band was one of a kind. All hail Black Sabbath.

Ah Danzig. Danzig was one of the earliest metal bands I discovered. The band was somewhat popular at the time I was getting into metal on account of the live version of "Mother" off of the Thrall-Demonsweatlive EP. Somehow that track made it onto regular rotation on MTV. This was of course at the time that MTV a) played the occasional metal video during regular hours and b) played music videos at all, both statements now false.

This album is Danzig's debut album, although he had previously released albums with The Misfits and Samhain. The Misfits was something of a horror-influenced pop/punk band, a more intimidating version of The Ramones. Samhain took that and added a metal edge. Danzig delved even deeper into metal and gloom and doom.

This lineup released the first four Danzig albums together, afterwards the band became a bit of a revolving door of musicians other than the eponymous Glenn Danzig. The riffs were heavily blues-inspired and Danzig's vocals were sort of a grotesque Jim Morrison meets Elvis. The song topics were a little controversial, touching on perverse sexuality and evil.

Danzig was dangerous. This was just the beginning.

Ronnie James Dio left the relative obscurity of Rainbow and joined Black Sabbath after Ozzy Osbourne was booted. After a couple of very strong albums, he left and formed a band named after himself. Their first album was the iconic Holy Diver, featuring hits "Holy Diver" and "Rainbow in the Dark". This was the band's second release and it builds on the foundations laid out in the debut. This is good, powerful, traditional heavy metal that takes no prisoners.

The album starts out fairly strong with the anthemic "We Rock" and doesn't let go of the throttle. The album is catchy and powerful with Dio's terrific vocals leading the charge. The guitar riffs are rooted in traditional metal. The songs are all a reasonable length for the style of music that is played.

Dio is one of the icons of heavy metal. This was only his second solo album but he had been around for years before that. This is a great testament to one of the greatest vocalists in metal history. Get well soon Dio.

The great Slayer hit the ground running with their debut album Show No Mercy which was an album full of Venom and NWOBHM-inspired riff madness. This second album cuts much of the NWOBHM-isms and finds the band finding their own voice.

This album is a combination of two distinct sounds: the NWOBHM and the early days of thrash. Slayer has begun making the transition into the powerful, riff-hungry, thrashing death machine that would later completely encompass their sound and image. The riffs are generally faster, the drumming is louder, and the vocals are angrier.

The next album would be the all time class Reign in Blood. Unfortunately, that album kind of takes over much of the focus in the band's discography. Their earlier material was much more raw and edgier. It's a shame that most people don't even look at their material prior to that album. The band was truly something in the early days.

To be fair, this probably is not an initial impression of this album. I have heard most, if not all, of these songs many times in the past. Particularly since my older brother was a big Alice in Chains fan and this is then, one of the first metal bands I have had much exposure to.

Alice in Chains is a metal band dammit. There are a lot of purists out there who disagree with that statement, and maybe in certain songs in their later years they are correct. Not here though, this album is metal through and through.

This is the band's masterpiece. It contains many hit songs like "Would?", "Rooster", "Down in a Hole", and "Them Bones". This album strips everything down and is heartfelt, emotional, heartbreaking, and angry all at the same time. Layne Staley was having problems with drugs and his lyrics and vocals conveyed his pain and the music emphasized it. Jerry Cantrell's guitar solos were masterful and his vocals harmonized with Layne's provided a haunting soundscape of emotion.

This album is incredible. There is no doubt in my mind that Alice in Chains was an amazing band, filled with amazing musicians. It's too bad their time in the sun was spent hiding from the glare. Layne is sorely missed.

Late 1990's death metal was not real exciting. There was a bit of a lull in all things metal at the time. The genre was still reeling from the grunge movement which killed a lot of bands. Nu-metal was becoming much more popular and was drawing attention away from the genre. Many of the early death metal bands were declining in quality and there were not a lot of bands to take over.

Which brings us to Embalmer, one of the death metal bands to form in the late 1990's and do reasonably well. Death metal had become even more underground and there was a thriving scene in Cleveland, where Embalmer, Nunslaughter, and other bands formed.

Bands from the late 1990's death metal genre were typically a little more stripped-down and basic. Embalmer is a gore-obsessed death metal band that plays a very primal, raw form of death metal that is also extremely brutal. There is little technical proficiency involved. The band just plays straightforward riffs. There is a very thin line between brutal death metal and slam death and Embalmer seems to be toeing that line.

This is a collection of Embalmer's recordings and it is clear that this band was a decent entry into late 1990's death metal. The album is pure brutality from opening to closing. It is a quick and easy listen taking up less than half an hour. Not bad.

The Black Dahlia Murder is somewhat unfairly lumped in with the metalcore movement, often being mentioned alongside groups like Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, and Trivium. The truth is that the band actually has very little -core present in their music. The group is basically a throwback to At the Gates and other early Swedish melodeath bands.

TBDM play fast, extremely fast. The riffs fly by at a mile a minute and the drums pummel away. The vocals are often high-pitched raspy shrieks with some deeper death growls thrown in for good measure. This album is typical fo their current style, I'm not sure if they ever had any -core influences or not, but there are certainly none here.

I can't decide if I like this one better than Nocturnal or not, so I'll go with no. But it's not by much. TBDM is well-schooled in extreme metal and they typically show it. Since At the Gates is no longer around, this band steps into their shoes. They've always been considered one of the better metalcore bands, but that's selling them way too short. TBDM is not metalcore, they are clearly melodeath.

Primordial is a folk/pagan black metal band out of Ireland. They are a little strange for that genre though as they use frequent clean vocals. They also use some black metal-styled shrieking and growling, but the clean vocals definitely are the most recognizably Primordial.

This is one of their early albums that was re-released this year due to the band's burgeoning popularity after their last album. At this time, the band was not quite as melodic and melancholic as their latest album, but this is nevertheless a very strong album and a sign of things to come from the band.

As part of the reissue, there is a bonus live disc. I sometimes like to hear the live stuff because I don't get to go to a lot of concerts. All I have to say about this one though it that this band better sound better than this now. Maybe it's the really shitty production, but this sounds terrible. I really do not know if I will be listening to this live album much in the future. It does no justice to the band's sound at all.

Other than the live bonus, the album is perfectly fine. I like Primordial quite a bit. They are a bit softer than most other black metal bands, but there is nothing wrong with that. I can use a little melancholy now and again.

Morbid Angel is quite possibly the most important and best death metal band of all time. They put out three classic death metal albums early on and despite declining in quality afterwards, those three albums are still easily on par with any three albums by any other death metal band. This is their second album.

Morbid Angel's first album was all about extreme speed and thrashing, down-tuned riffs. Things are starting to slow down a little bit on this album, although it would be a few more albums before the band really opts for a mid-paced attack a majority of the time. This album balances the all-out blazing fast attack and slower, doomed-out madness. Trey Azagthoth's out-of-this-world riffs are still present as well as David Vincent's frightening vocals. The problem is that it just isn't quite as memorable as the albums that came before and after it. It's a great album to be sure and perhaps it will grow to be as favored as the other two.

I mentioned earlier being on a little bit of a 1980's metal kick. W.A.S.P. has always been a band that has intrigued me and yet I was never terribly familiar with their music. Blackie Lawless has always seemed like such a larger than life character. He wears a flame-shooting codpiece, throws raw meat into the crowds, was considered for the role of the T1000 in Terminator 2 (he was determined to be too tall), and in general is kind of a badass. He's also got some bizarre political theories which I won't go into here. Yet for some reason I never really got into the band.

I saw this double CD reissue of the band's first two CDs on a recent trip to the music store and decided to pick it up as the band was on my list of 80's metal bands to check out. These were not the optimal albums I wanted to hear, but no big deal, I figured if I liked them well enough perhaps I will find some of their other material.

W.A.S.P. arose out of the same scene as Motley Crue and Quiet Riot among other glam/hair rock/metal bands. So, of course their music is kind of sleazy and their lyrics are sex-obsessed and misogynistic. Oh well. The music is catchy as hell and the band was basically a joke anyway at the time so no one took them too seriously. The albums are similar, each one having some barn-burners, some slower tracks, and some mid-paced anthems. At this point the pattern of rock single, then power ballad had not yet been established. There are no blatant radio-manufactured songs on these albums.

W.A.S.P. was always a little sleazier than the other bands from those days. Perhaps that's what made them more interesting. This double album was a pretty decent pickup, especially for the price and the relative obscurity of the band's earlier material these days.

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