Saturday, February 27, 2010

Weekly Recap Feb. 21-Feb. 27

This one will be short since there is little to no news this week.

My fiancee came down with a cold, or the flu, or something late this week. I am home today taking care of her. Poor baby.

I picked up the new High on Fire album earlier in the week, which I have already reviewed. Today I got a CD in the mail from a band called Rusty Eye who asked me to review their album. That review will be prepared by midweek.

That's it for the week.

3 Inches of Blood: Advance and Vanquish
Amon Amarth: The Crusher
Anacrusis: Manic Impressions
Ancient: The Halls of Eternity
Anvil: Forged in Fire
Apophis: Heliopolis
Arsis: Starve for the Devil
Atheist: Piece of Time
Behemoth: Pandemonic Incantations
Believer: Gabriel
Cannibal Corpse: Eaten Back to Life
Carnifex: Hell Chose Me
Cellador: Enter Deception
Celtic Frost: Monotheist
Dark Funeral: Attera Totus Sanctus
Dark Tranquillity: Damage Done
Dark Tranquillity: The Gallery
Dawn of Azazel: Vita Est Militia Super Terram
Destroyer 666: Unchain the Wolves
Dew-Scented: Issue VI
Dismember: Massive Killing CapacityDomine: Dragonlord (Tales of the Noble Steel)
Down: NOLA
Dying Fetus: War of Attrition
Enslaved: Ruun
Enslaved: Vertebrae
Gardenian: Sindustries
Grave: As Rapture Comes
Halford: Resurrection
Hammerfall: Threshold
Hecate Enthroned: Upon Promeathean Shores
Hell's Headbangers Compilation Vol. 2
High on Fire: Snakes for the Divine
Misery's Omen: Hope Dies
Misery's Omen: Misery's Omen
Nailbomb: Proud to Commit Commercial Suicide
Napalm Death: Fear, Emptiness, Despair
Orphaned Land: The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR
Portal: Outre'
Quinta Essentia: Archetypal Transformation
Revocation: Existence is Futile
Rotting Christ: Khronos 666
Rotting Christ: Sanctus Diavolos
Rotting Christ: Theogonia
Satanic Slaughter: The Early Years: Dawn of Darkness
Six Feet Under: Commandment
Skyfire: Spectral
Sonata Arctica: Silence
Testament: Souls of Black
The Crown: Crowned in Terror
Vader: Impressions in Blood
Vital Remains: Icons of Evil
Watchtower: Energetic Disassembly

Hell's Headbangers Compilation Vol. 2

This is a sampler CD from the label Hell's Headbangers, specializing in black, thrash, and death metal that is often infused with punk influences. This CD was given free when I placed a large order with the company. Many of the bands have more than one song. This was a good way to be exposed to more bands.

Evil Army:
Kicking things off with a militaristic snare drum cadence is the thrash metal band Evil Army who sound like a mix between Overkill, Dark Angel, and Exodus. They have two songs off of their EP. Their songs are short, fast, and violent, with just a trace of a punk edge to them. I would definitely pick up something by this band.

Gospel of the Horns:
I have discussed this band before. GotH is part of the "war metal" scene in Australia, providing lightning fast blackened thrash metal with vocals that sound like the singer just finished drinking a gallon of battery acid. I have two albums from this band already.

Another band from the "war metal" scene, Destrukor sounds most similar to Destroyer 666. This song is off their split with Bestial Mockery. I have one album and an EP from this band and have discussed them before.

This was a very early black metal band from the U.S. They are buried deep in the underground and only producing an EP and a couple of demos from their first go-round, but re-emerging 16 years later to bless (curse?) us with a full-length album. Their shows are extreme and their music is blasphemous. Their music is very simple and riff-based. Not bad, but I doubt I would check them out more.

Mutilated Messiah:
Similar name to Rotting Christ, but not very similar musically, Mutilated Messiah is an Irish death metal band with only an EP, a split, and an appearance on a tribute album to their name. The music is most similar to a very extreme Jungle Rot, which is saying something. If only they released something more substantive.

The legendary Nunslaughter formed in the late 1980's and have been deeply underground since then. The band runs this record label in some capacity and releases a ton of stuff through it. Their music can best be described as punk-infused death metal. It's short and aggressive as all hell. A great band. I own one of their albums.

It's Jehovah spelled backwards. You can already tell this band is blasphemous. That they were formed by Paul Ledney after Profanatica first broke up tells even more. They would actually be okay if you could hear what the hell was going on in the music. Pass.

Yet another Aussie band, this one is not as affiliated with the "war metal" scene, mostly due to the lyrical subject matter. Musically, they seem to fit in with their style being more closely in line with death metal. I have their only full-length as they broke up soon after releasing it.

Church Bizarre:
For some reason, I was expecting doom metal here, maybe that's because of the similar name to Reverend Bizarre. What we have here is actually a black metal band in the vein of Absu, but with a bit more melody and deeper vocals. Seriously, this is some good shit. I don't know why I haven't picked this up yet. I have plans to make an order with HHB later this month, perhaps it's time to do so.

The Danish thrash metal band was discussed earlier in my thrash metal bands of the world post. They play teutonic thrash metal similar to Sodom, Destruction, and Kreator. It's extremely fast and aggressive and is one hell of a good time. Excellent album too.

Witchtrap is a Colombian thrash/speed metal band. Their album was also reviewed in the same post as Victimizer's. Another great album, plus the first song here is called "Heavy Drinker". Ah, beer metal. We have Tankard to thank for that.

Evil Incarnate:
Evil Incarnate is a very extreme death metal band. Firmly rooted in the old school style, but harsh and aggressive, and very evil. Hence the name. They are similar in sound to Nunslaughter but noisier. This is a pretty good band that has been around for a long time. I may have to check them out further, one song on a compilation is not enough.

War Ripper:
War Ripper is a blackened thrash metal band that plays a very old school style. The sound quality is not good and the band has only released an EP at this point. We'll see what they do in the future.

Satanic Threat:
This is just terrible. The vocals are just yelled by what sounds like a 15 year old kid. The music is the same on both tracks, basically. Just bad. Pass.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Initial Impressions: High on Fire: Snakes for the Divine

High on Fire's roots go back a little ways. The band itself formed in 1998, but frontman Matt Pike has been at this game since the very early 1990's when he was in the extremely influential stoner doom metal band Sleep. Pike brings some of the stoner doom elements from his previous band and blends them with Bay Area thrash metal influences to create the sludgy thrash sound of High on Fire. Nowhere is that more obvious than on this album, which amps up the thrash metal influences considerably more than on prior albums.

Musically, all of the elements that have made the band so critically successful (at least in metal circles) have returned. The sludgy, thrash-inspired riifs, pounding drums, and Pike's gravelly vocals are all in good, working order. The songs are complex, and often a little long and tell stories of monsters and fantasy themes. High on Fire has been doing this for years now without any hiccups in the road. Until now.

This is a good album, but it suffers from one glaring problem that decreased the overall quality of the album. The sound is terrible. One thing that has made High on Fire such a formidable listen has been their beefy low-end of the sound: bass guitar and heavy drums. Somehow, the producer robbed the band of this important element to the band's sound. This makes the sound too high-pitched it does not have the same earth-moving feel as the prior albums. The sound is also too thin. High on Fire normally sounds like a lumbering monster, this album sounds more like one trying not to wake its victims tip-toeing through the house. It's still ugly-sounding, but not as powerful.

It's a shame, because this would have been a great album. High on Fire does not sound like any other band, only Lair of the Minotaur is really close, and that band is a little heavier on the thrash side of things than HoF. It is amazing how the wrong production can sink an album, but that's what happened here. Maybe it will grow on me in time, it's just so different from their last album. I hope it does.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Initial Impressions: Enslaved: Ruun

This album is often considered Enslaved's masterpiece from their progressive viking metal era. It is the culmination of what they had been building to for several years. Enslaved has become one of my favorite bands since I saw them in concert last spring and was thoroughly impressed.

The music retains the progressive elements that began to distinguish Enslaved from other Norwegian bands from the time period. It also remains rooted in black/viking metal for the most part, particularly where the vocals are concerned. This is one of the band's heavier albums from this stage in their career. It is also extremely melodic and powerful.

This is the album where everything came together for Enslaved. The progressive elements that had been becoming more and more prevalent over the years had materialized into a major area of the band's sound. Still, it featured enough of the old black metal aspects of the music to keep old time fans happy. This is quite possibly the band's masterpiece.

This album has a very well-deserved reputation in metal circles. It's not the most aggressive album, but it's not the most progressive either. The two sounds are in equal balance on this album. This is a terrific album by a very talented band.

Initial Impressions: Carnifex: Hell Chose Me

Yes, occasionally I still pick up an album by a band because the cover art is really cool. Yes, that's why I picked this up. It was also cheap and I had at least an idea of what to expect from this band. I knew they were a brutal death metal band, bordering on deathcore at some places. I knew that I had read a review which claimed a lot of their riffing style was based on melodic death. Sometimes, blindly purchasing an album based on the cover art works out really well. Unfortunately, this is not one of those blind buy surprise albums that will become a favorite in my collection.

The album is certainly brutal, there is no denying that. However, it is relentlessly brutal without any real variation. The riffs and pounding drums never stop or slow down, except for in the chugging breakdowns, which oddly mostly occur towards the end of the songs. The vocals are all deep throated growls, with the occasionally raspier shrieks. The guitar solos are decent, if very short-lived. Some of the riffing is somewhat reminiscent of melodic death, but without any change in tempo, it's often hard to pick up on.

Yes, there are quite a few breakdowns, which will probably cause people to label this a deathcore band. I'm not entirely convinced that's accurate, and if it is, then this is one of the better deathcore bands, with Through the Eyes of the Dead and others. But being a decent deathcore band still makes this a mostly mediocre death metal band.

This is not a terribly good album. It's okay for what it is and I certainly prefer it to groups liek Job for a Cowboy and Suicide Silence and others. However, unless you're a fan of deathcore, don't bother with this.

Initial Impressions: Anvil: Forged in Fire

Anvil has certainly made a name for themselves lately. Unfortunately, that's almost wholly the responsibility of the documentary in which they were featured. It's not as if music fans have rediscovered the band, or that their most recent releases were so good as to renew interest in the band. In fact, their albums are still somewhat difficult to find with only their most recent album being the exception. Even that one I have only seen at one Best Buy. No, their resurgence is completely based on that documentary which overexaggerates a little when it comes to the influence Anvil actually had. I have not seen the movie yet, but plan to, but I do not believe that Anvil's problems were just bad luck and bad management. Not all bands make it, not even the most talented. So where does Anvil fit?

This is the band's third full length album. Anvil plays a style of metal that is much more similar to NWOBHM and speed metal. The band sounds like a Canadian version of Judas Priest essentially. Anvil was one of the bands that had a strong influence on the development of the Canadian heavy metal scene in the 1980's.

Anvil does play fast, riff-oriented metal with an emphasis on catchy choruses and blistering guitar solos. The vocals do sound like a lower-registered Rob Halford without quite the same dramatic vocal acrobatics.

While this is a pretty decent album, I do not see what the fuss over this band is all about. There were lots of bands that sounded like this in the mid 1980's. Anvil were pretty good, sure, but they weren't so different and unique as to explain why, nearly twenty years later so much fuss is being made about them. I applaud the band for finally finding that success they have been looking for all these years without sacrificing their artistic vision, that success just seems as if it will be ultimately short-lived.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy vs. Revolver

Ah Revolver, what hell have you unleashed now?

A little backstory. Revolver has this thing called the Hottest Chicks in Metal issue. It's been going for awhile now and usually features pictures of girls in metal bands in some state of undress or other. Well, a few years back, Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy appeared the issue. Then she decided she did not care for the image that portrayed and refused to be photographed again. She wanted to be judged based on her talent, not her appearance. Well Revolver kept running the same pictures of her in subsequent issues. Gossow called them on it and one of the editors said that if she did not want to be in that issue, then the magazine would stop covering Arch Enemy.

Seriously, what the fuck kind of attitude is that? I don't have a problem with the women who want to show a little skin. Obviously that's their choice to be viewed in that way. I also don't have a problem with the women who decide not to show skin, that's their choice. However, I think we have to respect their choices both ways. For a magazine to flat out tell someone they will not cover their band because they don't want to be objectified is flat out wrong. By trying to force Gossow into this issue and threatening her with no future coverage of the band just for this one stupid issue is beyond pathetic. It's extremely sexist and Gossow has a right to be outraged.

The fact of the matter is that this is a fucking music magazine. There is no Hottest Dudes in Metal issue. Revolved hit upon a way to make some easy money by showing these women in their magazine. But that doesn't mean it should be required of the women in metal to shed their clothes in order to sell Revolver's magazine. After all, the issue has little to nothing to do with the music. They may mention what band each person is from, but they don't discuss the band.

This whole debacle just proves my theory that Revolver is not a magazine for the metal underground. It's essentially pop fluff aimed at people who have no minds of their own. It's for those people who have barely escaped the MTV world of image-conscious pop music and latched onto Hot Topic. I like seeing half-naked women as much as the next red-blooded American male, hell I have posted pictures of metal women on this very blog, but you can't force someone to take it off. That's what Revolver apparently decided to do.

Initial Impressions: Orphaned Land: The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR

My fiancee gave me this album for Valentine's Day. Orphaned Land is a majestic and epic progressive metal band from Irael. They incorporate various Middle Eastern instruments and musical styles into their extremely beautiful metal sound. This is metal that is at once melodic and powerful, yet aggressive. Despite forming nearly twenty years ago, this is only the band's fourth full length album. It takes a lot of time and effort to create this music and it shows.

This is the band's second concept album. It tells the story of a warrior of light in the battle against darkness. The album is made up of three parts. It begins with the life of an orphan who eventually becomes a warrior. As with the previous album, the singer utilizes different vocal styles to represent the perspective of different characters. Using clean singing for the protagonist and a rough style for the evil forces.

The music is sweeping and powerful. There are frequent moments with string sections and others with a female vocalist to add to the beauty of the arrangements. This is still a metal band and there are metal riffs played with varying degrees of aggressiveness throughout the album. Just do not expect a death metal or black metal band here.

I was extremely impressed with the band's prior album and so when I heard that this album was coming out, I was very excited. After all, it had been five years since they released their last album (two since I first heard it). It was worth it. This is an early contender for Album of the Year for me. It's definitely my favorite of 2010 so far.

Monday, February 22, 2010

CD Universe is Confused

So I checked my email today and noticed one from CD Universe, a website similar to Amazon that I have used in the past to pick up CDs. It was entitled New Heavy Metal Music. So, I checked it out. Not a bad bunch of albums, several of which I already had (Charred Walls of the Damned, Orphaned Land, Overkill), and one I have been looking for (Heathen). However, there's a few odd choices in there. Rob Zombie was the featured artist, and while he has not been metal for quite some time (or ever really since he left White Zombie), it's at least a somewhat understandable choice. No, there were two other choices that left me scratching my head. First, Santana. Now I kind of like Santana's blend of Latin music driven by 1960's guitar rock, but it's not metal. Not really even close. Then there was the other album: Nick Jonas and the Administration. Nick Jonas. Of the Jonas Brothers. The Disney Jonas Brothers. I hate you CD Universe. Fuck you. Fuck you to hell.

Initial Impressions: Enslaved: Vertebrae

Enslaved was touring in support of this album when my fiancee and I saw them last spring. Enslaved had been pushing the boundaries of black metal for quite some time and over the last few albums, most of the black metal aspects of the music have disappeared. What has emerged is a very strong progressive extreme metal sound. Touring with Opeth was quite natural for the band. Both bands have basically abandoned their root sound in favor of progressive experimentation, and both bands have been very successful at it. Enslaved was one of the first bands to really embrace the viking metal sound. It is still evident to this day.

The music on this album sounds essentially like a cross between Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, Opeth, and Norwegian black metal. The vocals are often delivered in a black metal style rasp, but there are often more cleanly sung vocals as well. There is a heavy use of keyboards as a backing instrument, but otherwise, the music is driven by very strong guitar riffs. The drums are thunderous and helped build each song into a powerful experience leaving the listener wanting more.

The songs themselves are somewhat long and winding, but never leave the listener feeling bored. There is a lot going on in any given Enslaved song. The band is one of the more talented bands in progressive metal. The songs do occasionally meander off into psychedelic territory featuring swirling keyboards and lengthy guitar solos, but the music remains very interesting and well-played.

It's difficult to determine which album is Enslaved's best. This album certainly makes a statement for consideration. It is melodic without losing any of the metallic intensity the band has built its career upon. While the band can not be considered a black metal band at this point, they have emerged as a very interesting and musically gifted band.

Initial Impressions: Arsis: Starve for the Devil

Arsis has been making waves over the last decade. The Virginia band plays a style of death metal featuring technical riffs and quite a bit of melodic touches as well. They have quickly become one of the better U.S. melodic death metal bands, without descending into the mainstream Gothenburg style.

This album finds the band honing their style and focusing on the melodic aspects of the music without sacrificing any of their technical abilities. The riffs remain as razor-sharp as ever and the guitar solos never cease to impress. The drumming is technical and powerful. The vocals are delivered in a deep growl, although they come close to venturing into black metal style territory at a few points.

One of the most underrated aspects of Arsis is vocalist James Malone's gift for dark poetic lyrics. Malone is a very good lyricist with a strong style and use of language.

Arsis has been going for about ten years now. They are not as brutal and technical as they were in the early days, but they have nevertheless been improving on each album. This album is further proof of their growth as a powerful American death metal band.

Blind Buy Surprise Album Pt. 1: Apophis: Heliopolis

This is the first part of a series on albums that I picked up as throw-ins to a larger purchase, picked up because the album cover was cool, or came across in some other way that have become personal favorites. These are albums I was not expecting much from but that have blown me away.

I bought this album along with four other albums off of an ebay seller. Each album cost a little more than $1.00. The other four bands were bands that I was at least somewhat familiar with: Dismember, Ancient, Domine, and Gardenian. I threw this one in just because of the extremely low cost. It became my favorite album of the group.

Apophis is a German death metal band with some heavy melodic touches. Essentially, they sound like Amon Amarth if the band was obsessed with Egyptian mythology, not Vikings. The band features some incredibly solid, melodic riffs grounded in death metal with frequent guitar solos. The vocals are very deep and growled. The production is murky, but not so bad that one cannot hear the music, it is just enough to sound dark.

I listen to this album fairly frequently and it never fails to grab my attention and get my blood pumping. This is how melodic death metal should sound. I picked up one of the band's other albums after this, and while featuring many of the same qualities as this, it does not leave quite as strong of an impression. This is a great, underrated album. And it should be able to be found cheap.

3 Inches of Blood

Since the Olympics are going on right now in Vancouver, I wanted to look at a metal band from the area that has not gotten much mention here on my blog.

3 Inches of Blood is a traditional-sounding metal band drawing a lot of influence from the NWOBHM scene. They are often very unfairly lumped in with the metalcore genre. This is perhaps due to being on Roadrunner at one point and the hardcore backgrounds of a lot of the band's original members. Nevertheless, it is extremely obvious that this is a metal band. And a pretty good one at that.

As mentioned, the band was started by some members that were not really into metal. Over the years, all of those original members had left the band. 3IOB brought Cam Pipes in as singer early on and his falsetto vocals reminiscent of Rob Halford and King Diamond quickly became the focal point of the band as well as its traditional-sounding metal riffs. Pipes was previously in a black metal band called Allfather. The band also used a hardcore vocalist to back up Pipes by the name of Jamie Hooper. Hooper eventually left the band and guitarist Justin Hagberg took over the backing vocals. At this point in time, 3IOB is made up of individuals who want to play metal. And it shows.

The band has released four full-length albums and have been steadily making a name for themselves. Their second album still has their strongest songs, especially the fist-pumping "Deadly Sinners".

3IOB started off a bit on the wrong foot but have become a very good retro metal band. There have been missteps but the band seems devoted to bringing the sound of early 1980's metal to the modern age.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Metal History Pt. 6: Concerts

I was thinking about concerts today, since I recently bought tickets to see Overkill with a bunch of other bands, and there are three other concerts this year that I am considering, but not necessarily definitely attending. I have been to several concerts in my lifetime. I want to briefly review them, even though many are not metal concerts due to Nebraska being a somewhat popular place for nu metal concerts some time ago when The Royal Grove still existed. I won't go into all the jazz concerts, since I don't remember all of them. I saw The Count Basie Band, Wynton Marsalis, and Arturo Sandoval as a result of being involved in jazz band in high school, but I don't remember much about those individual concerts. I only want to cover the rock and metal concerts.

I saw Jackyl outside of Homer's in Lincoln my senior year of high school. They were on some tour to play 50 shows in 50 days. Lincoln was one of the last stops before they stopped playing in different cities. Jackyl has never been a band I was much interested in, they play 1980's style hard rock, but it was a free concert. It was okay, but the sound quality wasn't terribly good.

My best friend and I went to see this concert at The Royal Grove our first year in college. I remember that P.O.D. and Fu Manchu were supposed to be there but couldn't for some reason. Disturbed was completely unknown at the time but broke huge pretty much the next week.

Sevendust was a favorite band of mine at the time. They were pretty decent. Lajon Witherspoon has a pretty good voice. The only thing that really stands out was the playing of Pantera's "Walk" and Lajon asking for weed. Disturbed stole the show. David Draiman was wheeled out on a gurney in a straightjacket and a muzzle. They let him out and he put on one hell of a show. Very impressive for the time. Trust was awful.

Static-X was again a favorite of mine. They were supposed to be in Omaha earlier with Powerman 5000 but the show was cancelled. My same friend, who I went to almost all of these concerts with, and I got tickets because we both liked Static-X. This was prior to their second album being released and they played a bunch of songs off of it. Godhead was decent, the singer wore a gasmask for a lot of the show. Pretty trippy stuff. Endo was awful.

This was a big concert festival in Council Bluffs, IA. My friend and I and several other people travelled out there to see the outdoor all day event. I may never do that again. Water prices were ridiculous, food prices were ridiculous, and I had heatstroke the next day.

I don't even remember much about the individual performances. I did not actually see Puddle of Mudd or Saliva. No loss there. I remember a lot of girls taking their tops off. That's about it. From Zero was awful. Oleander was awful. Buckcherry was really awful, and disgusting. Monster Magnet had strippers wearing pasties and thongs. Staind singer Aaron Lewis kept stopping the show to beg people in the pit to stop feeling up the girls. Cold singer Scooter Ward said that he didn't get out in the sun much, it was pretty obvious with his pasty skin. We did not stick around long when Marilyn Manson started, didn't really want to see him much. All in all, I remember this as kind of a waste of money. Monster Magnet was at least decent.

My friend and our respective girlfriends at the time (his future wife in fact and the girl I dated throughout the last half of college) went to this concert in Lincoln at Pershing Auditorium. It remains one of the most visually spectacular concerts I have seen. Rob Zombie is known for including pyrotechnics and elaborate stage costumes in his stage show. He played a large selection of White Zombie songs as well, making this a very good concert experience. Zombie performed even though he had a lingering throat infection. Very impressive for a singer.

Sinisstar was awful. They tried to use the lame "our record label didn't want us to play this song" shit at one point. The song was terrible. So was the rest of the show.

The most interesting moment came before Zombie's part of the show. A bunch of girls were flashing the crowd and my friend kept standing up to look at them. His girlfriend got tired of it and grabbed the bottom of his shirt and pulled him back into the seat. It was hysterical.

My best friend and I saw Metallica with Godsmack opening in Omaha at the Qwest Center. Metallica was on tour on some sort of greatest hits package. This was some time after St. Anger was released, but the band did not play many songs off that album. They played a lot of their earliest material, which was great. Godsmack did not leave much of an impression honestly. I think they were okay, but nothing compared to Metallica.

The second time I saw Metallica was in Des Moines with my friend and a bunch of his colleagues at Iowa State. Metallica was supporting Death Magnetic. This show was awesome and is one of my favorite concerts I have been to. I was also very impressed with the doom metal band The Sword, which is often derided for being hipster metal. I didn't see any reason for this. Down was awesome as well, even though there was a point where Phil Anselmo's microphone was not working.

My fiancee and I went to Kansas City to see this band for a Christmas program the weekend after Thanksgiving. This was one of the first trips we had taken together. This was also an incredible visual spectacle. The first part of the concert was for the most part their Christmas section. The second half was neo-classical power metal/hard rock. A very good show.

Last spring, my fiancee went and saw this concert in Omaha. I did a full review on it back then, so I won't go back over it this time.

Amon Amarth Rant

I wanted to say something. Amon Amarth is NOT viking metal. I see them frequently categorized as viking metal, they do not play viking metal. Viking metal bands include Einherjer, Enslaved, later Bathory, Borknagar, Ensiferum, and others. It is rooted in black metal but with a galloping pace and folk music elements. Amon Amarth may have Viking-themed lyrics, but their music is clearly melodic death metal. They have little to nothing in common with viking metal bands. Stop lumping them in with that genre. That is all.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Weekly Recap: Feb. 14-Feb. 20

Oh man, what a week it has been. It's been another somewhat slow week for work. I did have a deposition on Tuesday. Other than that, it's just been a few research projects and crap like that.

Valentine's Day was nearly a total disaster. We had a little bit of snow and a whole lot of wind, which coupled with the snow made driving conditions extremely hazardous. My fiancee and I had plans to go to Omaha for the Lipizzaner horse show at 2:00 in the afternoon. We left around 10:30 to get there, we planned to get lunch and go to the show then come home early that night. Well driving through the hills proved a little treacherous and we did see a vehicle that had gotten stuck in a snowdrift. We made it to a small town about 20 miles east of home when we were stopped by an emergency vehicle roadblock. Apparently there was a seven car pile up a little ways farther east and we were told to park in the small town nearby and wait it out. Unacceptable to my fiancee. She was upset, so we took our chances, went back to our town and went south to try to get there. We made it about halfway when we were again stopped by an emergency roadblock. We again tried to get there by taking county roads and made it to North Bend where the highway was closed on both sides. We were stuck and my fiancee was devastated. It was already 2:00. I called the Qwest Center to try to get a refund knowing the chances were slim. They told me they could exchange the tickets for the later show that night. Eureeka. We managed to make it to Omaha by 4:30 after they opened the highway back up. We grabbed a quick bite at Subway, shopped for a little bit at Homer's Music Store and then went to the show. My fiancee loved it and her Valentine's Day present. The road back home was also a little iffy but we made it in one piece.

The CD player in my car stopped working Sunday which meant we had to listen to the radio most of the day. We found a 1980's hard rock station and listened to groups like Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Billy Idol, and others most of the way home. Not bad, but not preferable.

I bought concert tickets for Lincoln in April to see Overkill, Vader, God Dethroned, Warbringer, Evile, and Woe of Tyrants. I'm excited to see those bands. Vader has been in Nebraska twice in recent years, once while backing up Nile and once on the Summer Slaughter tour and I missed them both times. I was pissed both times, but now I can see them. God Dethroned released one of my favorite albums of 2009. Overkill released a great disc this year and Warbringer and Evile are two great young thrash metal bands. Woe of Tyrants is the only band I am not familiar with.

I bought two albums this week from Enslaved, and albums by Arsis, Anvil, and Carnifex. My fiancee gave me the new Orphaned Land CD for Valentine's Day. It's a great album.

In metal this week:
Vocalist James Lee left Origin. That's a shame. Origin is one of the better technical death metal bands around these days. Lee had a distinctive deep death growl. Apparently the singer for The Faceless will be joining the band. I have no opinions on him at all.

This happened awhile ago actually but Harry Conklin has rejoined Satan's Host. He was in the band in the 1980's when they were a dark power metal band. Since Conklin left and focused on Jag Panzer, Satan's Host became a thrashy melodic black metal band. I am not sure what this means for Satan's Host. Will they become a dark power metal band again? Will they reissue their debut album? What will happen to former singer Eli? I actually liked Satan's Host's black metal stuff. I will keep an eye on this.

Mike Portnoy, drummer for Dream Theater, will be recording with Avenged Sevenfold. Blech.

Amon Amarth: Versus the World Bonus Disc
Angra: Temple of Shadows
Anvil: Forged in Fire
Arsis: Starve for the Devil
Black Sabbath: Heaven and Hell
Carnifex: Hell Chose Me
Charred Walls of the Damned: Charred Walls of the Damned
Cradle of Filth: Nymphetamine
Dark Moor: Beyond the Sea
Death: Symbolic
Dew-Scented: Incinerate
Dream Evil: The Book of Heavy Metal
Einherjer: Blot
Enslaved: Ruun
Enslaved: Vertebrae
Faith No More: The Real Thing
Force of Evil: Black Empire
Grave: Hating Life
Havok: Burn
I: Between Two Worlds
Immortal: All Shall Fall
Immortal: Battles in the North
Immortal: Pure Holocaust
Immortal: Sons of Northern Darkness
Impiety: Terroreign
Iron Fire: To the Grave
Iron Maiden: Powerslave
Judas Priest: Defenders of the Faith
Kamelot: Ghost Opera
Katatonia: Brave Yester Days
King Diamond: Abigail
Laethora: March of the ParasiteLandmine Marathon: Rusted Eyes Awake
Motorhead: The Very Best of Motorhead
Opeth: Blackwater Park
Orphaned Land: The Never-Ending Way of ORwarriOR
Overkill: Horrorscope
Overkill: Ironbound
Rumpelstiltskin Grinder: Living for Death, Destroying the Rest
Satyricon: Rebel Extravaganza
Sepultura: Arise
Sepultura: Morbid Visions/Bestial Devastation
Symphorce: Become Death
Testament: The Ritual
The Haunted: Versus
Toxic Holocaust: An Overdose of Death...
Vader: Live in Japan
Warbringer: Waking Into Nightmares
Warbringer: War Without End

Revolver Golden Gods 2010 Nominees

Two days ago, the nominees for Revolver's 2010 Golden Gods award show were announced. Last year was a clusterfuck. Let's see if they can make it worse:

Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. This is something I can agree with as Motorhead has been around for a long time now and were one of the early popular metal bands.

Rob Halford will receive the Golden God Award. Again, this is well-received as Halford has fronted Judas Priest for most of their albums and has also been in Fight and Halford, two underrated metal bands.

Performing will be Rob Zombie, Fear Factory, As I Lay Dying, The Devil Wears Prada, and an all star band picked by Brian Posehn, the nerdy mail clerk from Just Shoot Me. Zakk Wylde will also perform. Ugh. Rob Zombie really hasn't been good in years and The Devil Wears Prada is fucking awful. The rest of the stuff is just mediocre.

Hosts will be Andrew W.K. and Chris Jericho, the wrestler that also sings for Fozzy. Ugh again.

And now for the nominees:

Kirk Hammett (Metallica)
Tony Iommi (Heaven & Hell)
Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Street Sweeper Social Club)
Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)
Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society)

THOUGHTS: Did Tom Morello release anything this last year? Kirk Hammett? Slash? Wylde? What's the standard for getting a nomination? My pick is Mustaine.

Chris Adler (Lamb of God)
Brann Dailor (Mastodon)
Dave Grohl (Them Crooked Vultures)
Gene Hoglan (Dethklok, Fear Factory)
Dave Lombardo (Slayer)
Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan (Avenged Sevenfold)

THOUGHTS: "The Rev" was only nominated because he died recently, so he'll probably win despite being mediocre. Hoglan or Lombardo better win.

Jonathan Davis (Korn)
Ronnie James Dio (Heaven & Hell)
Neil Fallon (Clutch)
Lzzy Hale (Halestorm)
Serj Tankian (Serj Tankian, System Of A Down)
Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour)

THOUGHTS:Awful list. Dio is the only decent choice here.

Alice in Chains, Black Gives Way to Blue
Heaven & Hell, The Devil You Know
Mastodon, Crack the Skye
Megadeth, Endgame
Slayer, World Painted Blood
Them Crooked Vultures, Them Crooked Vultures

THOUGHTS: I'm sure Mastodon will win, but would like to see it go to Megadeth, Heaven & Hell, or Slayer. Them Crooked Vultures? Really?

The Devil Wears Prada
Lamb of God
Rob Zombie

THOUGHTS:What the fuck? The Devil Wears Prada? C'mon Metallica or Slayer.

Between the Buried and Me
The Black Dahlia Murder
The Dillinger Escape Plan

THOUGHTS:None of these bands are underground. Again, my definition of underground is a band you can't find at Best Buy. None of these bands qualify. I'm pretty sure Converge is only on here because every other metal magazine drools all over them. I doubt Revolver has ever heard of them. My pick is Behemoth.

Josh Barnett (MMA fighting)
Marc Colombo, Cory Procter, and Leonard Davis (NFL football)
Chris Jericho (WWE wrestling)
Mike Piazza (MLB baseball)
Jason Ellis (Pro skateboarding)
Jolene Van Vugt (Pro motocrosser)


Pearl Aday (Pearl)
Maria Brink (In This Moment)
Lzzy Hale (Halestorm)
Lacey Mosley (Flyleaf)
Alexia & Anissa Rodriguez (Eyes Set to Kill)
Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil)

THOUGHTS: This should go to my fiancee, but those bastards did not nominate her. It's gotta be Scabbia from these choices right?

Alice in Chains
Fear Factory
Heaven & Hell

THOUGHTS: Alice in Chains should be the favorite here due to length of absence, circumstances, etc. I could see an argument for Fear Factory, since they sorta broke up, and Heaven & Hell. Anvil never went anywhere, ever. Therefore, they had nothing to come back to. AC/DC has been churning out the same album for years, it wasn't that long ago that they released their last one. I don't give a fuck about Kiss.

So there you have it. Yikes. It's not as bad as last year, but there aren't any really compelling choices there either. Revolver still fucking sucks.

Initial Impressions: Landmine Marathon: Rusted Eyes Awake

This band has made a name for itself recently. It's just not entirely related to the sonic assault they provide in their music. Singer Grace Perry is a strikingly attractive woman who can shriek and snarl and growl as well or better than most male extreme metal singers. Ever since Arch Enemy hired Angela Gossow, there has been a long line of female singers drawn into extreme metal. Perry is even more powerful than Gossow.

If having a female singer were the only interesting thing about this band, Landmine Marathon would be considered a gimmick and their time in the spotlight would be mercifully quick. However, this band is actually pretty good. They have a gift for dirty, raw and primal-sounding extreme metal that is a mix of death, thrash, and early grindcore.

The riffs are fast, the drumming explosive, and the vocal shrieks ear-piercing. This is a band that definitely knows a thing or two about early grindcore. Sounding more like a band from the U.K. in the 1980's than Phoenix, AZ, Landmine Marathon has managed to put together a great slab of retro extreme metal. The similarities to early Bolt Thrower, Carcass, and Napalm Death are clear.

This album is short, sweet, and to the point. Landmine Marathon is still developing as a band, but with a dirty retro sound, and an extremely gifted frontwoman, they should have no problem sticking around for awhile. They are pretty raw right now and definitely have not reached their full potential, but this is a band to watch, especially this year with a new album coming out in the next couple of months.

Initial Impressions: Einherjer: Blot

Einherjer is often categorized in one of a couple of different genres: viking metal, symphonic black metal, or progressive black metal. Any of those genres is probably adequate to describe the band's music, but none of them individually tell the whole story. To really get an idea of what this band sounds like, the three genres must be combined.

The music on this album essentially sounds like latter-era Enslaved with symphonic flourishes and more use of melody. The riffs remain rooted in second-wave Norwegian black metal style. Einherjer was part of that movement. But added to the riffs are extremely melodic guitar leads and orchestral synth lines giving the whole feeling of the album an epic, grandiose feel. The structure of the riffs also has a more progressive flair to it, which brings in to mind the comparison to countrymen and progressive black metal masters Enslaved. The music is beautiful and captivating.

The production is extremely crisp and clear, allowing each of the riffs to be heard without straining. The drums and bass are also powerful in the mix. This album truly has a great sound quality to it. Somewhat unusual for the genre really.

The vocals are delivered in a fairly normal black metal rasp, though it is deeper than other such bands. The lyrics deal with Viking mythology and legends. The songs are reasonable in length with most songs clocking in between four and six minutes or so. The epic length "Hammer Haus" being the only exception. The music remains varied enough though that the album never drags, despite lasting over an hour.

This was a big surprise album. It was very cheap at my local music store, so I picked it up and was amazed at how well I enjoyed the album. I strongly recommend this for anyone who likes latter Enslaved.

Initial Impressions: Charred Walls of the Damned: Charred Walls of the Damned

Okay, here's the deal on this one. This band was created by Richard Christy, former drummer of Acheron, Death, and Iced Earth who has been on a metal hiatus for about five years since joining the Howard Stern show as a personality performing prank calls, song parodies, and all kinds of other bizarre stuff. That's quite the career. The name of the band is a reference to prank calls made on the Howard Stern show to a tradio show on a Christian radio show in which the host prayed for Christy's soul where he would be put in his "nails in the charred walls of the damned".

Despite the recent comedy background of its founder, this is serious music. Christy formed this band and recruited some of the musicians he regards as the best in the world: bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, Death, Autopsy, Testament, Iced Earth, etc.), vocalist Ripper Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Beyond Fear, Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force), and guitarist Jason Suecof (Capharnaum, producer for Trivium, All That Remains, etc.). That's quite the eclectic group of musicians, although three were in Iced Earth at one point, so that seems to be the jumping-off point from which this band's sound is derived.

The music on this album for the most part falls into the same general power/thrash metal as Iced Earth, but there are aspects that distinguish it. For one thing, the drumming and guitar riffs bear a closer resemblance to melodic death metal in parts. Indeed, oftentimes the only characteristic the music shares with power metal is the vocals of the very talented Ripper Owens, whose multi-octave range made him an ideal replacement for Rob Halford in Judas Priest at one point. The idea behind the music seems to be to combine some of the riffing style of more extreme metal with the power of early speed and traditional styles of metal. It works fairly well.

Richard Christy displays a remarkable gift for songwriting on this album. Despite being a very well-regarded and capable drummer, he has never really been the focus in a band before. The lyrics are well-written and do not venture into the silliness that Richard has staked his second career out of in recent years.

The guitar riffing of mostly metalcore producer Jason Suecof is another big surprise on this album. The only band he has spent considerable amount of time with from a music standpoint is the little-known technical death metal band Capharnaum with his brother and Trivium axeman/singer Matt Heafy. He displays his considerable ability for death and thrash metal inspired riffs on this album as well as strong solos.

Steve DiGiorgio and Ripper Owens are both known quantities and perform as well as expected. DiGiorgio is a big-name bass player in many old school death metal bands and brings this sensibility and playing style to the band. Ripper Owens's vocals are extremely powerful and melodic. He has had difficulty landing a long-term job, which is unfortunate as he remains one of the most gifted singers in modern metal.

This is a well-played, strong album from start to finish. It tends to drag a little bit in the second half, but it is fairly short meaning that this slight drag does not detract too much from the listening experience. It will be interesting to see where this band goes from here. Will they tour? Will they create another album? Or is this it for Charred Walls of the Damned?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Decibel's Albums of the Decade

I had been warming up to Decibel. I really was. This list almost single-handedly killed that change in stance. I wrote last year that Decibel is really a magazine for hipsters under the guise of a metal magazine. This list proves what lead me to that conclusion. Look, I don't give a fuck if you like a band and want to give it some publicity and whatever, but don't fucking call it a Best Metal list and include a bunch of noise rock and hardcore and shit. If you want to call it a Best Extreme Music list, fine, fucking do that, and then you can include whatever releases you want. But metal is a style of music, it has limits and boundaries. Many of these releases on this list, in fact, nearly one third of them, do not fit in with the definition of metal, existing more on the hardcore or hard rock side of things. As I said, do not call it a metal list and then include bands from other styles to take up nearly one-third of the spots. The problem with doing it that way is you leave off a lot of truly deserving metal albums.

As with Terrorizer, let's look at the Top 5, which only actually includes three metal bands, one of which I cannot stand.

1. Converge: Jane Doe: Again, what the hell is it about this band that has everyone fawning all over them? To call this the Best Metal Album of the Decade is an absolute travesty.

2. Cave In: Jupiter: Cave In are a horribly boring, uninteresting progressive hardcore band. Next.

3. Opeth: Blackwater Park: See my discussion about this album on the Terrorizer post. This is a legitimate pick. It's at least a good metal album.

4. Isis: Oceanic: As I have mentioned several times, I find Isis really boring. At least this is a metal album, sort of.

5. Mastodon: Remission: I don't understand. This is the other problem with this list, the writers seem particularly interested in seeking out the underground releases, or the less well-known ones. How did this one far outrank Leviathan? This one is not as mainstream accessible, that's how. Despite the fact that Leviathan is the far superior album.

Non-metal bands present: Battle of Mice, Coalesce, The Paper Chase, Psyopus, Drowningman, System of a Down, Fucked Up, Hatebreed, Converge (every album this band released this decade is on this godforsaken list), Deftones, Disfear, Jesu, At the Drive-In, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Between the Buried and Me, Shellac, Andrew W.K., Fugazi, Tragedy, Melt-Banana, Queens of the Stone Age, Cave In

I own 23 of the albums from this list, many of which are the same as on Terrorizer's.

Buy the issue here:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Terrorizer's Albums of the Decade

Two metal magazines recently released their top albums of the decade lists. With somewhat different results. Terrorizer and Decibel are pretty much the two leading metal magazines now that Metal Maniacs folded last year, an event for which I am still extremely bitter. Terrorizer has been mentioned in this blog for being a tad more devoted to extreme forms of metal. This is evident in their choices for the magazine. I agree with the Terrorizer list significantly more than the Decibel list. I don't want to repost the entire list, or even much of it at all. I would like to look at the Top 5 though. So here's Terrorizer's Top 5:

1. Electric Wizard: Dopethrone: I enjoy some good drugged out doom metal as much as the next guy, although I myself have never been stoned. That being said, it's hard for me to accept this being the album of the decade. I don't know, I haven't heard the whole thing through. I enjoy the band quite a bit, they just don't consistently hold my interest enough to consider them an elite band.

2. Celtic Frost: Monotheist: This album is heavy as fuck and twice as scary. The reunion album from Celtic Frost took everyone by surprise. It wasn't about fast distorted riffs anymore. It was about creating an atmosphere. And that atmosphere was pants-shittingly terrifying. It's too bad the band broke up again.

3. Watain: Sworn to the Dark: Watain is being hailed as the next Dissection. I personally do not agree as Dissection was one-of-a-kind to me. However, if somewhat melodic, but still cold and dark black metal is your thing, Watain is as good as any of the other bands to come about this decade. Seriously, their stuff is great.

4. Converge: Jane Doe: What IS it about this album that makes everyone go nuts over it? Seriously, I tried listening to some tracks. It's boring modern hardcore with some metal influences delivered chaotically and at totally random times. No thanks.

5. Opeth: Blackwater Park: I still don't believe this is the band's best album, but it's a hell of a good release. The progressive elements had fully ripened into a major part of the band's music by this point and were played much more convincingly. Unfortunately, after this album they would start to dominate the music.

I own 32 albums from this list. Not too bad really.

Nonmetal bands present on this list: Converge, Clutch, Lightning Bolt, Whitehouse, Melt-Banana, Tool, Rammstein, Big Business, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Between the Buried and Me, Disfear, Angels of Light, Laibach, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Porcupine Tree

Buy the issue here:

Initial Impressions: Overkill: Ironbound

One of the very early thrash metal bands, Overkill is probably the second most important American thrash metal band from the East Coast. Only Anthrax is regarded higher and that band does not have nearly the same consistent career as Overkill. To put it quite simply, Overkill has never released a bad album. NEVER. Only a handful of bands can say that and I can only think of one other thrash metal band that can say that: Sodom. This album is no exception.

Overkill still possesses the same general sound they have been operating with since their first album. They did have a period of time where they had slowed their hyperfrenetic thrash down to more of a groove metal-oriented style, but those days have passed. Overkill is about playing thrash metal in the vein of Motorhead meets 1970's punk meets NWOBHM. It's fast and riff-heavy, yet melodic. While the band does not play quite as fast as they did during their 1980's heyday, they can still outblaze many of their contemporaries.

The other thing that has not changed about Overkill is Blitz Ellsworth's sneering banshee shrieks. He has had one of the most distinctive voices in thrash metal for decades, with many bands attempting to copy his style of vocals.

This album is a very strong album for a band that has been around for more than three decades at this point. Overkill is still going strong. This is quite easily the thrash album of the year to this point and it will be interesting to see if any other band is going to top it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cover Songs Pt. 3: Black Sabbath Covers

Black Sabbath is, for obvious reasons, quite possibly the most-covered band in metal. It's possible that they are the most-covered band ever (I doubt it, but it's possible). Every metal band realizes that they owe a debt to Black Sabbath. That's just common knowledge. There are a multitude of full cover albums to Black Sabbath out there. I own three. Of course, with any covers, there are good and bad versions. I want to look at all of the Black Sabbath cover versions that appear in my music collection, beginning with the three tribute albums.

As with other compilations, the question is whether the band impressed me enough to pick up their other albums, so I included a little bit about that if applicable after each synopsis.NATIVITY IN BLACK: This was one of my first albums. After I got all five of the Metallica albums that had been released by that point, I needed something new. I bought this album and Megadeth: Youthanasia at a mall store called Camelot prior to a holiday visit to my grandparents in Indiana. I really liked the testimonials by band members about their experiences listening to Sabbath. This album helped shape many of the bands I would listen to in the next couple of years.

Biohazard: "After Forever": This one starts off really rough, with lead singer/occasional porn star Evan Seinfeld announcing the hardcore band's tribute to Sabbath. It does descend into a decent groove though and is significantly faster than the original. The gang vocals are a terrible touch. Not terrible overall, but not good either. I do not currently own any Biohazard albums, but did at one time.

White Zombie: "Children of the Grave": This one is great. This is one of Sabbath's heaviest songs and Zombie makes it their own with swirling guitars and one hell of a heavy riff. They also add their trademark, movie samples. This is a great version of a great song. The original's still better, but Zombie does a good job. I have a few White Zombie albums, and a couple by Rob Zombie.

Megadeth: "Paranoid": Somehow, the great thrash metal band made this song even faster than the original. Already one of Sabbath's fastest songs, Megadeth adds their own brand of breakneck speed to it. It's actually a little funny too because the drummer keeps going for a couple of bars after the band stops and we hear Dave Mustaine yell at him. I have all of Megadeth's albums.

1,000 Homo DJs: "Supernaut": I can't figure out what this band is, a side project or a oneoff project. Ministry's Al Jourgenson is the only recognizable name here. Why didn't Ministry cover it? This has industrial thrash metal written all over it. It's a monster of a song too.

Therapy? w/ Ozzy Osbourne: "Iron Man": The all time Black Sabbath classic is done reasonably well by this Irish hardcore band who apparently didn't want to attempt the vocals and so brought in Ozzy. It's a more distorted version of the song but that does not make it better. This is just a slightly interesting version of a song that should never be covered. No version does the original justice. I have lots of Ozzy Osbourne albums and used to own an album by Therapy?.

Corrosion of Conformity: "Lord of this World": The Southern metal band (at this point anyway) is well-equipped to handle a Black Sabbath song. All it takes is dirgelike, heavy riffs, something this band specializes in. This is pretty good, but it seems to last forever. I have three COC albums.

Sepultura: "Symptom of the Universe": My initial reaction when I first heard this song was "holy shit, what the fuck was that?" This was the very first extreme metal song I ever heard, other than the short Cannibal Corpse moment in Ace Ventura. It is much faster and heavier than the original and features Max Cavalera's angry vocals and then a somewhat pretty acoustic part at the end that's completely out of the blue. Holy shit indeed. It's a good cover though surprisingly. I have all of Sepultura's material with Max and even the album after Max.

Bullring Brummies: "The Wizard": This is a oneoff project. It features Judas Priest's Rob Halford on vocals, Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath on bass, Brian Tilse of Fight and Wino from Obsessed on guitar, and Jimmy Wood on harmonica. This song is pretty forgettable, not the least of which is because it was the only song this lineup ever recorded. It just isn't all that interesting. A shame, because each of these musicians is fantastic on their own. They should have picked another song maybe.

Bruce Dickinson w/ Godspeed: "Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath": This is another one that is not terribly impressive. Bruce Dickinson is the longtime singer for Iron Maiden and he basically phones this performance in. No vocal acrobatics on this song. The music is okay but Godspeed blasts through the melodic slow parts, affording no real dynamics.

Ugly Kid Joe: "N.I.B.": Surprisingly decent cover from the horrible band that brought us "(I Hate) Everything About You". Not much else to say though. If only the band sounded like this all the time. I used to have two of this band's albums, one given to me by my older brother, the other is really not all that bad.

Faith No More: "War Pigs": This one's bad. It's because it's a live recording and apparently Mike Patton forgot the lyrics partway through. He resorted to some kind of histrionic fit. The music is passable, but the vocals make it hard to concentrate on that. I have four Faith No More albums.

Type O Negative: "Black Sabbath": This song used to freak me out as a kid. It's scary, it really is. The original is scary too, but I heard this version first. This was the first ever doom metal song and the first song Sabbath released. Type O brings back that fear and adds to it with Steele's deep booming vocals. The additions to the end come off well too. The band did another version of this song from the devil's point of view later. Yikes. I have four Type O Negative albums.
NATIVITY IN BLACK VOL. 2: I remember being very excited when I heard that there was going to be a second volume to the Nativity in Black album. The musical landscape had unfortunately changed quite a bit, as evidenced by the multitude of nu-metal acts on this piece of shit. There's an occasional good song, but it's mostly crap. I was disappointed.

Godsmack: "Sweet Leaf": Godsmack sounds like Alice in Chains covering Black Sabbath on this song. They don't really add anything new, attempting to take the safe route of staying true to the original. Unfortunately, if it sounds like the original, why not listen to it instead? This song fails for that reason. I used to own a few Godsmack albums and even saw them in concert opening for Metallica.

Machine Head: "Hole in the Sky": See? Now this is interesting. Machine Head add an awful lot of distortion and bass-heavy riffs to this song. It gives the song a bit of a modern touch. This is one of the better songs on the album. I have four Machine Head albums.

Static-X: "Behind the Wall of Sleep": I used to really like this band when I listened to nu-metal. But even then, this song was terrible. The original is a more understated song, this version robs it of that status and replaces it with a thumping techno drum beat. It's horrendous and really makes it hard to listen to. I still think I have a few of this band's albums.

Megadeth: "Never Say Die": I never cared much for this version. It just doesn't sound like Megadeth. I'm not overly familiar with the original, but I know it doesn't really sound like Black Sabbath either. The vocals are the worst part. They're really grating on the ears. I hoped I would like this song, being one of the only ones by an actual metal band. But I don't. At least it's a little better listening to it now than it was when I first heard it. Perhaps it's the greater appreciation for real metal. No idea. As mentioned earlier, I own all of the band's full lengths.

System of a Down: "Snowblind": SOAD brings their typical bounciness to this song about cocaine addiction. It's actually not bad and the goofy lilting style of the music contrasts deeply to the seriousness of the lyrics. I used to own a couple of SOAD's albums.

Pantera: "Electric Funeral": The ultimate Black Sabbath riff played by a heavy band in their own right. Thankfully, Pantera doesn't do anything to take away the focus on the riff. The vocals are delivered in typical tough-guy style by Phil Anselmo, but it adds a rough edge to the already razor-sharp riff. The only problem is that the riff is somewhat buried in the production under the vocals, but otherwise not bad at all. I have four albums by Pantera.

Primus w/ Ozzy Osbourne: "N.I.B.": Les Claypool of Primus was once in thrash metal band Blind Illusion. He has always seemed to have an appreciation for metal, even trying out for Metallica's bass opening. It's for that reason that the band turns in a surprisingly good cover of N.I.B. and even brings in Ozzy to perform vocals. This is a pretty good version, bass-heavy, but good.

Slayer: "Hand of Doom": This one is the biggest surprise on the album. Taking a lightning-fast thrash metal act like Slayer and having them play the namesake song for the doom metal genre. And holy shit, Tom Araya actually sings?! What's up with that? The band is very faithful to the original, adding no Slayer-isms. This is a huge shock. I didn't know what to expect and years later, I'm still dumbfounded by this song. I think I would have preferred seeing them take on a different song personally. I have all of Slayer's full length albums.

Soulfly: "Under the Sun": Max Cavalera's nu-metal band after leaving Sepultura tackles this doomy, riff-heavy song. However, they play it too fast and Max's vocals do not fit the song at all. At the beginning it sounds fine, but once it gets going, it loses the listener as soon as the vocals kick in. I own one Soulfly album, somewhere maybe.

Hed P.E.: "Sabbra Cadabra": This would be the worst song on the album if not for the last one. This band is terrible. They try to mix hard rock, reggae, and rap and suck at all three types of music, thus failing in spectacular fashion. This trainwreck is barely listenable.

Monster Magnet: "Into the Void": Monster Magnet takes its drug rock nature to new heights with this mindfuck of a cover. It features loud ambient noises and mainman Dave Wyndorf's drugged out rambling for most of the song, occasionally even remembering to actually play the damn song. No thanks. Too bad, as I actually enjoy some of Monster Magnet's stuff and saw them in concert. I used to own three of their albums, but may be down to one now.

Busta Rhymes w/ Ozzy Osbourne: "Iron Man (This Means War)": This is an abomination. Calling it a Black Sabbath cover is a massive insult. Even worse is the fact that it's supposed to be fucking "Iron Man". This is awful, one of the single worst non-metal covers of a metal song ever. To call it a cover is even a joke because it's simply a sample of the main riff repeated ad nauseum while Busta raps and Ozzy occasionally croons. What were they thinking?!ETERNAL MASTERS: This is just a random cassette I bought one day in high school because I liked the other Sabbath tribute album so much. I had only heard of Cannibal Corpse and Sacred Reich before buying this. I really haven't gotten too much into most of the other bands on here with the exceptions of Cadaver and Exhorder.

Sacred Reich: "War Pigs": Sacred Reich has always been considered a third-rate thrash metal band, and they show why here. This version is sterile and lacks emotion. It's faster, but it doesn't have the same sense of dangerous political opinion as the original version. I own one Sacred Reich album.

Cadaver: "Sweet Leaf": The Norwegian death metal band Cadaver turns in a song that musically strongly resembles the original. But the vocals are delivered in a smoky snarling growl. It's different, but it actually works reasonably well. I own one Cadaver album, after they changed to Cadaver, Inc.

Cords: "Snowblind": I have no idea who this band is, they are apparently not a metal band. The song actually isn't terrible though. It's different. It has a female singer on it and the vocals are relatively well-done. The music is close to the original, but with a swirling guitar at the beginning.

Cannibal Corpse: "Zero the Hero": Totally bizarre. If you ever wanted to hear a Sabbath song done with extremely deep death growls, here's your chance. I actually kind of like it. I own several Cannibal Corpse albums.

The Clay People: "Paranoid": Did I say the last song was weird? The Clay People are an industrial band and they bring that trippy, futuristic feeling to this track. It's unique, to say the least, but ultimately disposable. I did own one album by these guys when I really liked industrial rock.

Coffin Break: "Hole in the Sky": This is a pretty decent version of a Sabbath song. Especially considering Coffin Break is a punk band. They don't do bad. It's nothing special, but for a punk band to sound like that is pretty impressive.

Exhorder: "Into the Void: The groove metal pioneers in Exhorder have created the best song on this album. It's heavy and very faithful to the original. The vocals are a little rougher, but not so much that the lyrics can't be identified. I have two Exhorder albums.

O.L.D.: "Who are You?": The original was full of keyboard effects. This version doubles them giving the whole song a spacy feel. This was never one of my favorite Sabbath songs and I don't like this version from the avant-garde metal/grindcore band.

Jesters of Destiny: "Electric Funeral": This is just terrible. The vocals are bad and often off time. The psychedelic metal band sounds like they have been smoking too much pot. This is one of Sabbath's best songs, and this version completely loses that feeling. No thanks.

Type O Negative: "Paranoid": They slowed the song way down and inserted the riff from "Iron Man" into the middle of it, increasing the length of the song two-fold. It's an extremely interesting cover. Type O definitely left their mark on it. As mentioned, I have four albums from this band.

Pantera: "Planet Caravan": This definitely does not sound like a Pantera song. The trippy, slow song is performed extremely well and extremely faithfully by the bruising tough guy groove metal band on their Far Beyond Driven album. I have four albums by Pantera.

Metallica: "Sabbra Cadabra": This is actually a medley that appears on the band's cover album Garage Inc. Metallica was not comfortable doing the more melodic singing parts of the original so they included parts of "A National Acrobat" from the same album as the original. It's a decent cover, but overproduced and James Hetfield's voice just does not sound right singing this song. I have all of Metallica's full-length albums.

Faith No More: "War Pigs": This is the non-live version of the song that appeared on the tribute album and it is a much better recording. Also, Mike Patton remembers the lyrics, so that's a plus. The big innovation in the song is the throbbing slap-bass addition. It gives the song a bit of a funk feel. As mentioned, I own four Faith No More albums.

Vader: "Black Sabbath": It's pretty unusual to hear a band noted for their speed and ferocity playing a song known for being incredibly slow. This is off the band's live album recorded in Japan. They managed to slow down adequately enough to play the song, with a little extra distortion. However, the singer's voice does not really fit, as he yells the lyrics out. Otherwise, they bring out an evil ferocity not found before. I have four albums from Vader.

Amon Amarth: "Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath": This is a rare recording found on one of the band's early demos. As it is an early demo recording, the production is really rough. The guitars have a tinny quality and everything else sounds like mush. It would be interesting to hear the band revisit this song, because it can barely be heard here. I know it doesn't sound terribly promising though. I have all of Amon Amarth's full-length albums.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Type O Negative: The Origin of the Feces

This is one of the most interesting, funniest albums I have heard. Type O Negative has always had a strange and twisted sense of humor. Nowhere is this more obvious than on this album. They have given us some strange liner notes at times, but this album really is the go-to point if you want to tell someone how weird this band is.

Let's start with the cover. This is allegedly a picture of vocalist Peter Steele's anus. Thankfully, people were angry and the cover was censored eventually. We do not need to really see Peter Steele's anus, thank you very much.

Now, the craziest part about this album is that it is supposed to be a live album. I say supposed to be because the band's label Roadrunner had it written in the contract that Type O Negative was to record a live album. However, the band allegedly took the money they were supposed to spend on producing the live album on cheap vodka instead. Realizing they needed to fulfill their contractual obligations, the band simply re-recorded their debut album Slow Deep and Hard, added a couple of songs and retitled some of the other songs and then added fake crowd noise.

But they did not stop there. It would be too easy to simply add in crowd noise. No, Type O Negative added in chants of "You Suck!" and improvised a fight between Steele and the fans with Steele yelling "You suck too" at one point in the album and then making fun of the crowd because he's getting paid to play and the crowd had to pay to get in. At about the midway point, the band claimed it had to stop playing because there was a bomb threat in the concert hall. After a few seconds of silence, they began playing again.

Beyond the insanity of the fake crowd, the music is very impressive and it does sound as if they are playing live. The first seven tracks are the fake concert and then the band adds in a very interesting cover of the Black Sabbath classic "Paranoid" for the final track. The musicianship is tight and is held together well despite the often changing tempos.

Type O Negative will never be mistaken for an incredibly musically talented act. But that is okay, because the band plays just well enough to sound fine playing the style of music they play. They have always been able to write long, multi-part epic songs and this has been their best musical quality. Here, for example, we have the fifteen minute opener "I Know You're Fucking Someone Else", which lays the groundwork for the rest of the album. The band's style is a form of gothic metal incorporating various influences such as Black Sabbath and The Beatles. They take those influences and slow them down and twist them to form a sound that is unlike any other band.

As for the instrumentation itself, the band has always relied quite a bit on the keyboards and vocals to drive the melodies home, in particular in the softer parts of the songs, of which there are many. This is true of this album as well. There is the occasional guitar solo and the riffs are plentiful, but they do not typically constitute the main melody of the song. The bass and guitar parts mostly lumber their way through the slower songs in a doom-laden dirge but are there to provide main support in the faster songs. The riffs drive the song forward, but it's the additional flourishes that shine through.

The major focus is on the vocals. Peter Steele has an extremely deep voice and it adds a haunting quality to the songs. Occasionally, Kenny Hickey or Josh Silver provide backing vocals to further emphasize the deepness of Steele's voice.

The songs themselves are mostly typical of Type O Negative: gloomy, dirge-like exercises in self-deprecation and depression. The songs deal with the betrayal of a cheating girlfriend and fantasies about killing her, and then actually going through with it. There are some other subjects too, but for the most part it details a relationship gone very wrong. The lyrics are often somewhat humorous despite the dark nature of the subject matter. This has become a well-known trait of the band that was in its infancy at the time of the release of this album.

Two songs are covers. The track "Hey Peter" is a rearranging of the Jimi Hendrix song "Hey Joe" about a jealous lover ready to kill his cheating girlfriend. Here Peter Steele replaces the gun with an axe. The last track is a morosely slow adaptation of the Black Sabbath classic "Paranoid". Somehow the band stretches it out more than twice as long as the original.

The production on the album is crisp and clean. It's the first real sign that this was not actually a live album. Most live recordings are not as clear as this album. That's fine though as it allows the music to be heard very well.

Overall, this is a very fun listen. The humor involved keeps things light and interesting, despite the very dark subject matter. Type O Negative never did record a real live album.

2000's Favorite Miscellaneous Metal Albums

Some albums are hard to define. Others are simply from genres that are not very large. Here's a list of some of my favorite miscellaneous albums.

Cynic: Traced in Air: Progressive metal band ditches most thrash and death influences in triumphant return after nearly two decades.

Down: III-Over the Under: Southern metal supergroup proves to be much more than the sum of their parts.

Eluveitie: Slania: Melodic death metal mixed with Celtic folk influences forming an amazing mix of music and one of my favorite albums from 2008.

Into Eternity: The Scattering of Ashes: Crazy mix of progressive, power, and melodic death metal with one of the greatest multi-voiced singers in metal.

Lair of the Minotaur: War Metal Battle Master: Unholy combination of doom and thrash and one of the greatest band names in recent years.

Mastodon: Leviathan: Difficult to categorize band on their finest album.

Opeth: Blackwater Park: Progressive extreme metal masterpiece from Swedish giants.

Orphaned Land: Mabool: Beautiful, epic progressive Middle Eastern folk metal centered around the story of the Great Flood.

Scar Symmetry: Pitch Black Progress: Power metal and melodic death metal thrown together with one of the best metal singers to come up in a long time.

Wintersun: Wintersun: Originally founded by a former member of Ensiferum and blending melodic death, black, progressive, and folk metal seemlessly.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ibex Moon Records News: Fatalist Releases Video

I have mentioned it before: I am a big fan of the label Ibex Moon Records. They handle metal the right way and put out some absolutely killer records from great bands. I subscribe to Ibex Moon's newsletter through my email and, at one point, apparently signed on to be a member of their street team. I'm not sure when I did that, if it was a mistake or deliberate, but whatever. I suppose based on that, I would like to pass on whatever interesting word I receive from the label about bands who deserve some publicity. I don't expect anything out of this, I just wanted to pass along some underground metal that should be more popular.

Of their band roster, I have ordered releases from Incantation (singer John McEntee runs the label), Thornafire (twice), Estuary, Denial Fiend, Dawn of Azazel, Nominon, HOD, Master, Dreaming Dead, and Asphyx. I have ordered all of those releases from the record label and have found their prices to be fair and their shipping to be fast and reliable. What else could a metalhead want?

With that being said, Fatalist has released a video:

Fatalist is a death metal band from California, who sound like they're from Stockholm, Sweden. Ah, Swedish death metal. Check out the video and the band.

Metal Pets Pt. 8: The Fish

My fiancee has turned into a fish fanatic. We currently have two aquariums. We have a small aquarium with a beta named Kashi, two corys named Wall-E and Bern-E, and a couple of neon tetras, both named Archimedes. This is a simple, small wall-mounted tank. We also have a much larger 55 gallon tank with a number of fish. We have two needle-nose gars named Harry and Harriet, two striped Raphael catfish named Henry and Henrietta, three black-finned sharks named Sharky, Slime, and Slick, a pictus catfish named Fluffy, and the pride of the tank: a black ghost knifefish named Spoon. I had little to nothing to do with the names of the fish.

I can't get a picture of the fish, because they don't sit still long enough to get a decent picture, but here's a stock picture of a black ghost knifefish.
The most interesting story so far with the fish is the time one of the needle-noses bit my fiancee. She had her finger in the aquarium while putting the divider on the top of the tank and one of them must have thought her finger was a worm. We still laugh about that. I haven't been bitten yet, but I'm sure my day is coming. I am after all in charge of feeding them live crickets occasionally since Mrs. Metallattorney does not want to sentence any living thing to death.

2000's Favorite Power Metal Albums

Helloween: Gambling with the Devil: German power metal pioneers have their strongest release in years.

Hibria: Defying the Rules: Brazilian power/speed metal that is extremely fast and extremely catchy.

Kamelot: The Black Halo: Melodic metal masterpiece from rising American band with European style.

Lost Horizon: A Flame to the Ground Beneath: Swedish power metal band on their triumphant sophomore album.

Manticora: 8 Deadly Sins: Outstanding progressive power metal from Denmark.

Nightmare: Genetic Disorder: French power metal band with an emphasis on "power".

Outworld: Outworld: Surprisingly great power/progressive metal band with only one album.

Sonata Arctica: Silence: Extremely melodic and fast-paced power metal from Finland.

Symphony X: The Odyssey: Epic progressive power metal album centered around Homer's The Odyssey.

Twisted Tower Dire: Crest of the Martyrs: Proof that there are some truly great traditional metal bands still out there.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Weekly Recap: Feb. 7-Feb. 13

This week started off pretty busy. Monday was a very busy day at work. But then, the week completely fell off a cliff and I had very little to do the rest of the week. It's Valentine's Day tomorrow, a holiday I have not cared much for historically. However, this will be the first V-Day since my fiancee and I moved in together. It will be a pretty special one.

I picked up albums from Overkill, Charred Walls of the Damned, Einherjer, and Landmine Marathon this week. I also bought the Terrorizer issue looking back on the last decade. I'll probably have a follow-up post about that.

In metal news this week, where it was a busy week:
-Bassist David Ellefson allegedly rejoined Megadeth. Ellefson was a constant member of the band until around 2002. He and Dave Mustaine then had a falling out and there was a dispute over ownership rights to the Megadeth name, with Mustaine eventually coming out on top. It's a lot more complicated than this brief synopsis though. It's good to have Ellefson back in Megadeth, but there is some question whether he is back to stay.

-Guitarist Jesper Stromblad left In Flames. A founding member of the Swedish melodeath masters, his leaving results in a big hole in the band. He has been in and out of rehab for awhile and decided for personal reasons to leave. Good luck Jesper.

-Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider has announced a sequel to his regrettable horror move Strangeland. The soundtrack was the only good thing about the original. I plan to look at it later on. The original was about a man, played by Snider, who was a strong advocate of body art and kidnapped young girls and tattooed and pierced them in awful ways as a means of torture. I think. I can't really remember, it didn't leave a lasting impression on me.

-We had new albums from Overkill and Fear Factory at my local music store. There were a lot more than that, but that's all my store is carrying. I bought Overkill. Fear Factory has let me down several times in the past so I am holding off until I see some more opinions on it.

-Lair of the Minotaur announced a new album. Can't wait for that as they are one of my favorite newer bands.

-Holy shit there are some good concerts coming to Nebraska in the next few months. Overkill will be in Lincoln with Vader, God Dethroned, Evile, Warbringer, and Woe of Tyrants. It's on a damn Monday night though so I have to figure out how to work that out. Also Mastodon will be in Omaha in May with Baroness, Valient Thorr, and Between the Buried and Me. I wouldn't mind seeing that one depending on how busy we are that weekend, although I am not a huge fan of any of the bands. Mastodon is pretty good and I haven't heard enough Baroness or Valient Thorr to form an opinion. I don't care for BTBAM.

The list:
Abominator: Damnation's Prophecy
Amorphis: Tuonela
Angel Witch: Angel Witch
Arkona: Ot Serdtsa K Nebu
Averse Sefira: Tetragrammatical Astygmata
Behemoth: Zos Kia Cultus (Here and Beyond)
Blind Guardian: Nightfall in Middle Earth
Blood of Kingu: De Occulta Philosophia
Dark Tranquillity: Character
Deicide: The Stench of Redemption
Destroyer 666: Defiance
Destruktor: Nailed
Destruktor: Nuclear Desecration
Dissection: Reinkaos
Evile: Infected Nations
Fear Factory: Obsolete
Gospel of the Horns: A Call to Arms
Graveworm: Collateral Defect
In Flames: Clayman
Insomnium: Above the Weeping World
Into Eternity: The Scattering of Ashes
Kalmah: They Will Return
Kamelot: The Black Halo
Lacuna Coil: Comalies
Lich King: Toxic Zombie Onslaught
Maniac Butcher: Cerna Krev
Mantic Ritual: Executioner
Master's Hammer: Ritual
Melechesh: Emissaries
Merciless Death: Realm of Terror
Metal Church: Metal Church
Metallica: Garage Inc.
Militia: Released
Mors Principium Est: Liberation=Termination
Nativity in Black: A Tribute to Black Sabbath
Nativity in Black Vol. II: A Tribute to Black Sabbath
Negura Bunget: Om
Nile: In Their Darkened Shrines
Novembers Doom: The Novella Reservoir
Nox: Ixaxaar
Omen: Battle Cry
Opeth: Damnation
Opeth: Still Life
Overkill: Ironbound
Pantera: Far Beyond Driven
Razor: Violent Restitution
Reverend Bizarre: II-Crush the Insects
Root: Madness of the Graves
Sarcolytic: Thee Arcane Progeny
Savatage: Hall of the Mountain King
Saxorior: Volkerschlacht
Scar Symmetry: Pitch Black Progress
Sepultura: Roots
Sigh: Hangman's Hymn-Musikalische Exequien
Skeletonwitch: Beyond the Permafrost
Skeletonwitch: Breathing the Fire
Slayer: God Hates Us AllSonata Arctica: Unia
Stratovarius: Polaris
Symphony X: The Odyssey
Tribute to Black Sabbath: Eternal Masters
Type O Negative: The Origin of the Feces
Warth: Hateful Speed
Wintersun: Wintersun