Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One and Done? Pt. 1: Sanctity

Well, let's do something new. I have lots of stuff in the works right now, all of which are requiring me to listen to multiple albums, so let's do a quick one just to prove I'm still alive. Believe me, you will enjoy the long posts coming up.

Sanctity is a melodic thrash metal band from North Carolina. They only released one full-length album (hence the title of this series). They did have a couple of demos and an EP, but only the one actual album. The band was unfairly lumped in with metalcore on account of their melodic music and occasional clean vocals. However, this album is truly catchy. It's not terribly aggressive, but it is undeniably metal. They were closely associated with Trivium, which did not really help the whole metalcore accusations.

The band is notable for perfecting the sound that Trivium and God Forbid were going for without making it sound forced. However, their vocalist left after his daughter was born and one of the other members left due to a personal situation. The band replaced the two members but were never really heard from again. I would have liked to hear something else by the band, as I believe they could have been a huge mainstream metal band, without sacrficing some of their sound.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blog to Check Out

This is absolutely fascinating. It's a post on Invisible Oranges featuring song clip remixes of metal songs into 8-bit format, or what those songs would sound like if they were on original NES games. I liked some of the game soundtracks from those days, and these sound great. Be entertained.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Weekly Recap: 8/22-8/28

I had a hearing on temporary custody orders this last week, which I managed to win for my client. That was pretty gratifying. I have also recently discovered that I enjoy cooking for my fiancee. It's not the cooking part I think, it's more that I am doing something for her. I have made a few minor changes to the site, mostly including links to some of the blogs I read and my metal collection on Encyclopedia Metallum. Check em out.

Alice in Chains: Dirt
Anacrusis: Manic Impressions
Annihilator: The Best Of
Anvil: Forged in Fire
Black Sabbath: Black Sabbath
Bonded by Blood: Exiled to Earth
Cadaver Inc.: Discipline
Carnifex: Hell Chose Me
Cephalotripsy: Uterovaginal Insertion of Extirpated Anomalies
Celtic Frost: To Mega Therion
Danzig: Danzig
Dawn of Azazel: Relentless
Deceased...: Beyond the Mourner's Veil
Decrepit Birth: Polarity
Defeated Sanity: Chapters of Repugnance
Despised Icon: Day of Mourning
Dio: The Last in Line
Dokken: Tooth and Nail
Dying Fetus: Killing on Adrenaline
Embalmer: There was Blood Everywhere
Enslaved: Below the Lights
Enslaved: Isa
Entorturement: Descend into Depravity
Exciter: Heavy Metal Maniac
Exodus: Bonded by Blood
Fates Warning: No Exit
Godless Rising: Rising Hatred
Helloween: Helloween/Walls of Jericho
Hour of 13: Hour of 13
I: Between Two Worlds
Infernaeon: A Symphony of Suffering
Inner Thought: Perspectives
Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier
Melechesh: Emissaries
Melechesh: SphynxMetal Edge Nov./Dec. 1997
Morbid Angel: Blessed are the Sick
Necrovation: Breed Deadness Blood
Nirvana 2002: Recordings 89-91
Orphaned Land: Mabool
Orphaned Land: The Never-Ending Way of ORwarriOR
Overkill: Feel the Fire
Pharaoh: Be Gone
Possessed: Seven Churches
Primordial: A Journey's End
Pyrexia: Sermon of Mockery
Razor: Violent Restitution
Slayer: Hell Awaits
The Black Dahlia Murder: Deflorate
The Crown: Possessed 13
The Gates of Slumber: Hymns of Blood and Thunder
Tsjuder: Desert Northern Hell
Voivod: Nothingface
Vreid: Pitch Black Brigade
W.A.S.P.: The Last Command
W.A.S.P.: W.A.S.P.
Watain: Lawless Darkness
Xenomorph: Empyreal Regimes

Compilations: Metal Edge Nov./Dec. 2007

This one is slightly better than the last trainwreck of a Metal Edge sampler. Onwards.

I always enjoyed Monster Magnet, particularly their spacy, drugged-out stuff of the mid 1990's. Dopes to Infinity is a great album, but then they became just another stoner rock band. There's not much to really distinguish them from Queens of the Stone Age anymore to be honest. They still write some catchy stuff, but the magic is gone. This song does not change my opinion.

This was the best song off of the newest Helloween album, which I own. For a brief moment, they have made a return to their speed metal days. Their last album was a magnificent return to form for the band and quite possibly their best since the Keeper of the Seven Keys albums. I already own this album.

I hate Seether with every fiber of my being. There I said it. They are the worst of the Nickelback clones, unoriginal and fucking boring. This acronym apparently stands for "Fuck me like you hate me". I do hate you Seether, but no, just no. NFM.

The other band that formed out of the ashes of Sleep, High on Fire is the other. Om is much more drawn-out and experimental than High on Fire. Om is a stoner doom metal band that specializes in slow dirges. It's not as slow as funeral doom however. It's an interesting song, and I do love stoner doom, but this one is not quite good enough to get me to check the band out further yet.

I own this album. The song title is a reference to a Castlevania NES game. TBDM often get unfairly lumped in with the metalcore scene, since they are from America and tour with a lot of those other bands, but their sound is clearly At the Gates-inspired melodeath. This is a great example. Very good band that I wish people would listen to before writing them off. I was guilty of it once too, but I figured it out.

A Motorhead tribute to The Ramones. I like Motorhead quite a bit but don't really care for The Ramones. It's an okay song, but I'll pass.

What a stupid band name. It starts out standard death metal with some keyboards but then this bizarre almost polka section starts. I'm not kidding. It's truly the most awful thing I have ever heard. This song blows. NFM.

Metal Edge was really pushing this album by Rob Zombie's former guitarist. My apathy is palpable. NFM.

I don't care for Demon Hunter. It's not the Christian thing, not at all. I have mentioned several Christian bands I enjoy in the past. It's the fact that they saw it as a wise decision to blend nu-metal with metalcore. Seriously. What the fuck were they thinking? NFM.

Probably the greatest stoner doom metal band ever. This is a fantastic, mesmerizing song, pulled out of an H.P. Lovecraft album. EW provides just the kind of slow, lumbering, horrifying music to fit the doom and gloom of the original story. I own this album. The band has a new one coming out soon, looking forward to it.

This is a progressive metal band in the vein of Dream Theater. This song is pretty decent. The choruses are definitely a highlight and feature some Queensryche-esque vocals. I actually like this quite a bit.

This is another terrible band that is inexplicably popular in the mainstream. I never understood it either. They're like a retro nu-metal band, a thing which I keep hoping does not come back but, against the wishes of us all, seems determined to do so. NFM.

Totally nondescript Nickelback clone. I was expecting something decent with the band's name, but this is worthless. NFM.

This is just terrible. I don't even want to describe it. I finally hit the skip button. NFM.

Oh lord. See above. I'm done, twenty seconds into this. NFM.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Year in Metal: 1985

I said last week it was getting very difficult to limit this to three. 1985 was particularly difficult, so I increased it to five. I will not go more than that for subsequent years though.

1985 was a huge year in the development of various styles of metal. At the center of the developing thrash, death, and black metal scene was one band: Celtic Frost. Formed from the ashes of Hellhammer, Celtic Frost utilzed a lot of the same riffing style, heavy and downtuned and fast as hell, and vocals, Warrior's famous grunting. This album is probably closest to thrash metal but the influence that the death and black metal genres took from it are plain as day.

This is pretty much the quintessential thrash metal album. It's fast and aggressive as hell with razor-sharp riffs, great songs, and manic vocals. Exodus is clearly having a blast on this album. It's the band's only full-length under vocalist Paul Baloff who had a very distinct vocal style. Unfortunately, Exodus would never exceed the mastery of their debut. They have put out good albums since this one, but never one quite as good. Bonded by Blood is a thrash metal landmark for very good reason.

As mentioned earlier, 1985 was an important formative year in metal. Power metal also really got going with this release by Helloween. The German band took the sound laid out by groups like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and played it even more melodically. They still had a lot of the speed of their predecessors, but the bombastic vocal style and melodic sensibilities laid the framework for the European power metal scene.

It's a tough call who came first. There's a lot of historical revisionism that seems to suggest that perhaps Overkill was the first thrash metal band, rather than Metallica. Whether that is true or not really does not matter all that much. This is Overkill's debut album and it is truly one of the great thrash metal debuts, in a genre full of them. The band's punk influences shine through on this, but it is undeniably metal. Overkill is easily the most consistent thrash metal band, never having put out a bad album.

Another landmark album in the formation of a major metal genre, this time death metal. Possessed is technically a thrash metal band but their heavier, down-tuned riffs, and extremely dark subject matter were influential to groups like Death and Morbid Angel, who took the candle from Possessed to keep the dark light burning. This album has some truly great songs on it and is mostly forgotten by the metal mainstream. But Cannibal Corpse covered one of their songs, so there's that. Criminally underrated by those outside the underground.

Honorable mentions: Anthrax: Spreading the Disease, Artillery: Fear of Tomorrow, Dark Angel: We Have Arrived, Destruction: Infernal Overkill, Kreator: Endless Pain, Megadeth: Killing is My Business...And Business is Good!, Slayer: Hell Awaits, Trouble: The Skull, W.A.S.P.: The Last Command, Watchtower: Energetic Disassembly

Bands that formed in 1985: Candlemass, Carcass, Dream Theater, Exhorder, King Diamond, White Zombie

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dear SyFy

I enjoy sitting around on weekends and watching your mindless movies. With very little plot, bad CGI monsters, and clunky dialogue, the movies on your channel are usually so bad they're entertaining to watch. However, once in awhile there is something in those movies so dumb, so frustratingly stupid, that I feel I cannot let go by. What I am talking about this time is a line in the movie Croc, in which two characters, supposedly experts on crocodiles, are on the internet and read that the saltwater crocodile "is the largest amphibian on the planet." SyFy, crocodiles are reptiles, frogs and salamanders are amphibians. Are you really that fucking stupid?


Random Thoughts: Martin Van Drunen

If I had to pick a favorite death metal vocalist, my pick would be Martin Van Drunen. Van Drunen has fronted several bands over the years and is something of a hired gun since he has rarely started any of them on his own. However, the Dutch singer has provided vocals for Pestilence, Asphyx, and Hail of Bullets as well as Comecon and his own band Submission. Van Drunen is so highly esteemed in the death metal genre that he was even brought into Bolt Thrower for several years while Karl Willets was out. He never actually recorded an album with Bolt Thrower but performed for several tours.

Van Drunen's vocal style is very distinct, made up of deeper-register, manic screaming. He also utilizes a lot of vocal sounds that are not words, similar to the grunts Tom G. Warrior is known for. Van Drunen was at his best in the early years of Asphyx, a band that played a style of death/doom that was virtually unheard of at the time.

Van Drunen currently fronts both Asphyx and Hail of Bullets after Asphyx recently reunited. Hail of Bullets will release their sophomore album later this fall. I am very much looking forward to it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Initial Impressions: Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier

The great Iron Maiden has returned once more with their fourth album since Bruce Dickinson rejoined. Their first album with him rejuvenated the band. Unfortunately, they have not been able to replicate the success of Brave New World since then. Nevertheless, their music is still good and I still look forward to a new Iron Maiden album.

The real difference between the new Iron Maiden material (or at least the material after Fear of the Dark), is that Maiden no longer writes very many short, tight, punchy songs. They have become very progressive and, some would say, long-winded. It was not always this way. Their earliest material is marked by their heavy punk influences which resulted in short songs that sounded good on the radio. As their songs have lengthened, they have also gotten slower. I suppose age will do that. Metallica has been churning out 80 minute albums for years. Iron Maiden still sounds good though, they're just not what they once were.

The album starts off with a bit of a throw-away track, at least for the first half. The album does take a little while to get going. Once it does, it is clear that Iron Maiden is attempting a sound that is a combination of their last three albums. That is to say that the songs are long, but there is less endless instrumental meandering. The songs are songs, with identifiable sections.

The galloping riffs Maiden built their career on do show up from time to time. There's not as much speed, but they are still there. The guitar attack, now blossomed to three guitarists, is still present and they do a fantastic job at trading off solos. Bruce Dickinson still sounds good, but his operatic vocals have long ago disappeared. It's just another example of age creeping into this band.

This is a good album. It's not a great one though. Iron Maiden has certainly aged, although they can still play very well. The songs are more memorable this time around and the album is, overall, their best since Brave New World. Make of that what you will.

Initial Impressions: Decrepit Birth: Polarity

I won this album in a contest. My fiancee unknowingly won a copy too as I used her email address to enter the contest as well, so she's not entirely sure what to do with hers. The contest was on Metalsucks and was one of their Completely Unreadable Band Logo of the Week contests where they present a very difficult-to-read logo of a relatively-unknown band and give out a prize for guessing correctly. In case you're wondering, the band is Vertical Section Dismemberment of Sexual Crotch.

Technical death metal is one of the harder genres for me to review. It's a difficult genre to get into as the music is often technical to the point of losing emotion and soul. Nevertheless, there are bands out there that have the ability to focus on technicality, but still write coherent music. Decrepit Birth is one of these bands.

Decrepit Birth sounds like a death metal band playing symphonic music. The music is very technical, but it sounds clearly classically-influenced. There is a lot of soul involved in the music. The guitar leads soar throughout the album and provide most of the melodies. The rumbling bass and blasting drums keep things in check.

The vocals are probably the weakest point on the album. With as much going on musically, one would probably prefer more than a one-note growler. The vocals seem almost superfluous at times. Here's an idea: instrumental technical death metal. It's been done before and this band could easily pull it off. However, the band's lyrics are surprisingly good and border on the mystical, so perhaps just doing more with the vocals is the answer. I don't know.

I like this album even more than Decrepit Birth's previous album, which I enjoyed quite a bit. The band has really captured a unique sound here. It's brutal, yet melodic, and very intense.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Random Thoughts: Death: The Sound of Perseverence

I wanted to do a brief post about this amazing album. I have always felt that this was Death's most ambitious and personal album. I also believe that it is Death's best album. Death has always been Chuck Schuldiner and whoever else he happened to have in the studio at the time. This album was clearly an intensely personal experience for Schuldiner. But I will deal with that in a minute.

Death's music on this album was incredibly progressive. Showing a technicality and melodic sensibility that was largely lacking in the initial albums by the band. That's not to say that they were bad albums, but this album has to be considered in a completely different light than their material that pioneered the death metal genre. The melodies are the key on this album, rather than the crushing monolithic riffs of their prior material. The guitar leads and solos sound amazing and Schuldiner's voice is higher-pitched and desperately emotional this time around.

What makes this truly an extraordinary album is the emotional impact. Chuck Schuldiner was dying when this was written and recorded. The album is incredibly spiritual and reflects the mortality of its writer. Songs like "Story to Tell" and "Spirit Crusher", as well as many of the other tracks deal with the personal journey of slowly succumbing to brain cancer. This album is amazing because even though Schuldiner was dying, he still managed to portray some uplifting emotions in it.

To close, I want to reprint the lyrics to "A Moment of Clarity":
I would describe it as an invisible darkness
Casting a shadow, a blinding black
Guarded by hope, my soul is kept from
The bloody claws
Look to beyond, what vision lets me see
Time after time, unneeded misery
Holding tight to my dreams
I own no price for you
I grip them tight and hope for sight
Open my eyes wide to see a moment of clarity
Confusion gone, it's in your hands
Your turn to ask why
Life is like a mystery
With many clues, but with few answers
To tell us what it is that we can do to look
For messages that keep us from the truth

Chuck Schuldiner died of brain cancer in 2001, just three years after this album was released.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weekly Recap: 8/15-8/21

Well I already covered the entire vacation, which took up most of the week. When I got back there was a pile of work to do and two of my cases have devolved into complete messes. Great, that's just what I needed. Other than that, not a ton going on.

Amorphis: Silent Waters
Amorphis: Skyforger
Archgoat: The Light-Devouring Darkness
Arghoslent: Hornets of the Pogrom
Arsis: United in Regret
Arsis: Starve for the Devil
Arsis: We are the Nightmare
Bathory: Blood Fire Death
Bathory: Twilight of the Gods
Black Sabbath: Heaven and Hell
Blood Tsunami: Thrash Metal
Bolt Thrower: Realm of ChaosBonded by Blood: Exiled to Earth
Brown Jenkins: Death Obsession
Carcass: Symphonies of Sickness
Decrepit Birth: Polarity
Defeated Sanity: Chapters of Repugnance
Destruction: Sentence of Death/Infernal Overkill
Einherjer: Blot
Enslaved: Ruun
Enslaved: Vertebrae
Finntroll: Jaktens Tid
Firewind: The Premonition
Hypocrisy: A Taste of Extreme Divinity
Iced Earth: Horror Show
Immortal: All Shall Fall
Insomnium: Across the Dark
Iron Fire: To the Grave
Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier
Kamelot: Ghost Opera
Landmine Marathon: Rusted Eyes Awake
Landmine Marathon: Sovereign Descent
Leaves' Eyes: Vinland Saga
Lecherous Nocturne: Adoration of the Blade
Lord Belial: The Black Curse
Mercyful Fate: Don't Break the Oath
Metallica: Death Magnetic
Misery's Omen: Hope Dies
Mors Principium Est: Liberation=Termination
Napalm Death: Time Waits for No Slave
Nevermore: Dreaming Neon Black
Nile: Those Whom the Gods Detest
Orphaned Land: The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR
Revocation: Existence is Futile
Rotting Christ: Theogonia
Sadus: Swallowed in Black
Scar Symmetry: Symmetric in Design
Scorpions: Bad for Good: The Very Best Of
Slayer: World Painted Blood
Sodom: In the Sign of Evil/Obsessed by Cruelty
Sonata Arctica: Silence
Teitanblood: Seven Challices
Terrorizer Fear Candy 82
Type O Negative: The Least Worst Of
Vorkuta: Into the Chasms of Lunacy
Warbringer: Waking Into Nightmares
Waylander: Honour Amongst Chaos
Wintersun: Wintersun
Witchery: Witchkrieg

Compilations: Terrorizer Fear Candy 82

Partway through the drive to our vacation destination last week, I lamented the fact that I did not bring a metal magazine with me. I had intended to pick one up prior to the trip but never got around to it as the preparations were fairly hectic. My fiancee also wanted to pick up a horse magazine, so we found a Hastings in Bozeman, Montana and each grabbed our magazines, a book each, and I picked up the Bonded by Blood and Defeated Sanity CDs. The magazine I bought was the newish Terrorizer with Grand Magus on the cover. Here's the sampler runthrough:

I kind of like Killing Joke. I had one of their albums a long time back, that I no longer listen to and probably got rid of. They are not a metal band, but rather a hardcore band from the early 1980's that experimented with some industrial elements. They are so old that Metallica covered them on one of their cover EPs in the 1980's. This song is okay, but does not make me want to try to find my old Killing Joke album.

Hey, I like the title. I have my first jury trial coming up soon. Probably. I really want to find this album but none of the stores I have been to recently have carried it. It's possible that it is not out in the U.S. yet I suppose. Grand Magus is a great band, sounding like old doom metal bands. A great retro-sounding traditional metal band. I am very much looking forward to this one. Their last album was my album of the year in 2008.

This sounds a bit like Motorhead with a death metal singer. It's not too bad actually. I like the riffs and the vocals sound pretty good along with it. It's pretty catchy. I may check into this band a little bit.

I already own this album and found it to be something of a return to form for Danzig. This is not one of my favorite songs from the new album, but it is a good one. It's a bit slower, but Danzig's voice sounds really good on this track.

This is modern death metal with lots of blasting. Modern death metal has suffered some in recent years. The band sounds like they're trying to sound like Apophis, a criminally-underrated death metal band, but does not quite pull it off. It's a little too extreme.

I'm drawing a blank here. I'm pretty sure this is a side project or something from Sweden. Possibly involving Dan Swano. Because he's involved in everything. Anyway, this is melodic death metal in the vein of older In Flames or Dark Tranquillity, before they became too pop-oriented, with a little Dismember/Entombed thrown in. It's pretty good and I will have to check into them more.

One of the better deathcore bands, which doesn't mean I actually like them that well. Deathcore is built on excessive brutality. This band is no exception, but they are still interesting enough to not be totally unlistenable.

I know Kelly over at Full Metal Attorney is a big Soilwork fan and I like some of their material too. But nothing after Figure Number Five. This actually sounds a little better than the Peter Wichers-less version of the band. Still not interesting enough for me to go back to the band though.

Limbonic Art is a black metal band. Plain and simple, nothing much more to it. The production on this song is terrible, I had to turn it way up to hear what was going on. But the music is good, they're actually from the second wave, I think. They still have that sound too, which is rare.

That's a terrible song name. Hopefully that's actually a legend or something, because if the band came up with that on their own, they should be shot. The music is actually really good, black metal with death influences. The vocals sound good too. I actually really like this song after hearing it. It's a little like Ancient, with some of the same absurdities that band is known for. The title is still fucking dumb though.

Kelly loved this band, so I am glad I have a chance to hear a sample. It's definitely sludge metal which I always thought of as an American phenomenon. Damn Europeans copying us. Just kidding. This sounds pretty good. After enjoying Baroness so much, I may look into these guys.

Fast, modern thrash metal. Nothing too terribly interesting here and instantly forgettable.

It was only a matter of time until that name was used by a metal band. The music is pretty good though, some kind of crossover-style music. The song is kind of fun and infectious.

I'm pretty sure this is a woman screaming. The vocals are terrible. It makes the song unlistenable. I can't even describe the music, because the vocals completely take the attention away. It's mercifully short though.

Essentially hardcore with some metal influences. I don't care much for this at all.

With a name like this, I was definitely expecting some thrash metal. Thankfully I got it. It's a great way to close this album out with a strong song. Excellent old school thrash vibe here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Year in Metal: 1984

It's getting harder and harder to limit these things to just three albums.

Okay, this was released only in Germany in 1984 and it is only an EP, but it was the first official release by the major German thrash metal band. They classified their sound as "black speed metal", which actually is a fairly good description. It's extremely fast and raw. These are not the most talented musicians at this point, but they are good enough. This was a very important recording in the development of the German thrash metal scene.

I did Mercyful Fate for my 1983 post, but when an album is this good, why pass it up? I still think Melissa is the better album, but this one is incredible in its own right. It's faster in general and more intense. King Diamond's haunting wail sounds great, although it's definitely a grower. My favorite part is the taunting by King towards the end of "Nightmare". Overall, there are some damn catchy riffs at work here, blazing guitar solos, and of course King's voice. This was one hell of an album. Mercyful Fate never rose quite as high again, but they do continue to put out quality albums, as does King Diamond.

This one is also only an EP, but it was massively important in the developing black metal and death metal scenes. The chaotic sound and raw feel of the album was very influential on upcoming bands such as Mayhem and Darkthrone. The EP is often considered one of the main albums in the proto-black metal movement. Sodom would back off from this sound and become a basic thrash metal band on later albums, but this was a huge step toward many of the metal subgenres we currently have.

Honorable Mentions: Anthrax: Fistful of Metal, Armored Saint: March of the Saint, Bathory: Bathory, Celtic Frost: Morbid Tales, Dio: The Last in Line, Dokken: Tooth and Nail, Iron Maiden: Powerslave, Judas Priest: Defenders of the Faith, Manowar: Hail to England, Metal Church: Metal Church, Metallica: Ride the Lightning, Overkill: Overkill, Queensryche: The Warning, Razor: Armed and Dangerous, Trouble: Psalm 9, Voivod: War and Pain, W.A.S.P.: W.A.S.P.

Bands that formed in 1984: Annihilator, Atheist, Blind Guardian, Candlemass, Celtic Frost, Iced Earth, Razor, Sadus, Sepultura, Soundgarden, Stratovarius.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Initial Impressions: Defeated Sanity: Chapters of Repugnance

A few weeks ago, I did a post on Pathology's new album and stated that it was an album that would be able introduce fans to slam death metal due to its relative accessibility. Following in the same vein, Defeated Sanity released their new album. It's definitely got slam parts, and it's definitely brutal, but it is still reasonably listenable for those people out there who have not gotten into Cephalotripsy and Vulvectomy.

The music is a mix of slam, technical brutal death, and even some more jazzy interludes. That's not to say there's jazz music here, but the band does use a lot of experimentation. The vocals are delivered in typical brutal death metal style. Very guttural and extreme. The music reminds me of a slam death version of Cephalic Carnage without a lot of the drugged-out weirdness that band is known for.

I enjoy this album quite a bit. It's a bit less accessible than Pathology, mostly due to its weirder experimentation, but it's a refreshing take on slam, a genre that is hardly known for being innovative.

Initial Impressions: Bonded by Blood: Exiled to Earth

One of the trends we are seeing in this new retro-thrash scene is bands naming themselves after famous songs by other thrash metal bands. This is the most obvious example, this band is of course named after the landmark debut album by Exodus. Well, if you're going to have the gall to name yourself after a huge album like this, you better back it up with something special. Bonded by Blood present the thrash metal concept album. Huh?

The concept has something to do with life progressing 600 years after an atomic bomb decimated the planet and reduced the world's population. Interesting stuff, but nothing terribly original. We're basically talking about the plot of the Terminator movies crossed with the Matrix movies here. Still, at least they are taking a risk.

The music and vocals are pretty similar to the band who created their namesake. They play very fast, razor-sharp thrash metal with very precise riffs and harshly shouted vocals. There are also frequent gang vocals throughout just in case you forgot this band was influenced by Exodus. The riffs are catchy and fun and this album, despite it's more serious lyrical subject matter, is an upbeat and entertaining listen. There is anger that comes across in the music, but I would not qualify it as an angry album.

This is an entertaining album and is one of the better albums from the retro thrash movement. I actually do not have much of an issue with that scene at all, as a huge thrash metal fan. I like that bands are paying homage to the old guard, as long as they are not just mindlessly repeating what has already been done. Bonded by Blood provides enough of their own character to keep things going.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Weekly Recap: 8/8-8/14 with Vacation

Okay, this recap will include my vacation which technically just ended yesterday, but rather than have two posts breaking up the vacation time, I will go through everything in this post.

Last week was uneventful until the vacation. We drove from our home to Sheridan, Wyoming the first day with a stop over at the Badlands National Park. I felt doom metal was an appropriate soundtrack for the drive through that park so we spent most of it listening to The Gates of Slumber. The second day we drove to Kalispell, Montana which was where we stayed the remainder of the trip. We had one stop in Bozeman where I bought a couple of CDs and a magazine at an awesome Hastings. My fiancee did have control over the stereo when she drove which resulted in a lot of country, pop, and other stuff. Not my cup of tea, but I suppose I deserve it sometimes. I was pretty nice to her though, leaving most of my very extreme stuff at home. That night we found a pizza place which is kind of a tradition in my family.

The first day in Montana, we went horseback riding and whitewater rafting. I have done the latter three times now and loved it everytime. My horse was kind of bitchy and mopey early in the day, especially as the trip wore on. My fiancee was not overly impressed with her horse either. But they lead a tough life. That night we found a Japanese restaurant to satisfy my fiancee's craving for Asian food. The next day we took the tram in Glacier National Park up to Logan Pass where we walked a trail to a lake in the valley. Very pretty up there. We should have taken more time up there because we did not come close to seeing anything. Oh well, that's a point for next time.

Monday, we began the long trip home which started with an all-day drive to Rapid City, South Dakota with only a couple of stops along the way. Tuesday, we went to Reptile Gardens and Bear Country. Reptile Gardens has some huge crocodiles, a komodo dragon, and some massive tortoises. It was quite a lot of fun. Of course Bear Country has bears roaming free. A couple came right next to the rental car. Then we headed home.

All in all, we saw pelicans, moose, eagles, ospreys, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, marmots, and some other random rodents on the trails. No bears in the wild though. I was actually a little disappointed.

Acid Bath: As the Kite String Pops
Asphyx: Death...The Brutal Way
Baroness: Blue Record
Beyond the Sixth Seal: The Resurrection of Everything Tough
Blind Guardian: Imaginations from the Other Side
Brain Drill: Quantum Catastrophe
Danzig: Deth Red Sabaoth
Death: The Sound of Perseverence
Demons & Wizards: Touched by the Crimson King
Destruktor: Nailed
Dio: Holy Diver
Enforcer: Diamonds
Ex Deo: Romulus
Fatal Embrace: The Empires of Inhumanity
High on Fire: Snakes for the Divine
Iron Maiden: A Matter of Life and Death
Kyuss: Blues from the Red Sun
Megadeth: Capitol Punishment
Megadeth: Hidden Treasures
Megadeth: Limited Edition Live
Mercyful Fate: Melissa
Metallica: S&M
Negura Bunget: Om
Ozzy Osbourne: Bark at the Moon
Skeletonwitch: Breathing the Fire
Slayer: Show No Mercy
Soundgarden: Badmotorfinger
Soundgarden: Superunknown
Stratovarius: Polaris
The Gates of Slumber: Conqueror
The Gates of Slumber: Hymns of Blood and Thunder
Thornafire: Vorex Deconstruccion
Watain: Lawless Darkness
Witchery: Witchkrieg
Wormed: Planisphaerium
Xenomorph: Empyreal Regimes

I'm Back

Okay, I'm finally back from vacation. It was a blast. I will have posts ready to go soon. The first will be the standard recap, and then I'll pick back up where I left off.

Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Compilations: Metal Edge Oct. 2007

To make up for the fact that this will be my last post until I get back from vacation midweek next week, I have decided to satiate the sadists out there and torture myself by doing a compilation post on a Metal Edge CD. I received two issues of Metal Edge soon after subscribing to Metal Maniacs because they couldn't figure out that I actually subscribed to Metal Maniacs. I made two angry phone calls each time I received this magazine. For those unfamiliar with Metal Edge, it's a metal magazine for people who have never heard that there is music out there other than the shit they show on MTV. So there you go.

Okay this is a good start. I love Overkill, but I get the feeling that the only reason this song is here is because of the guest vocalist, Randy Blythe of Lamb of God. Overkill does not really fit for this magazine, but Lamb of God certainly does. Anyway, I have this album so I don't feel the need to comment further.

The only thing I knew about this band before hearing this was that the singer was the male growler on that Evanescence song. After hearing this, I long for better days. NFM, Nickelback wannabe, but they're Christian. The only thing that makes Nickelback redeemable at all is the dirty songs. I'm guessing 12 Stones doesn't even do that.

You can tell you're in for a bumpy ride when one of the best songs on the album is by Dethklok. I am not saying anything negative about it, it's just weird. I actually really like the vocals, especially the rhythms. It's competent, but nothing mind-blowing.

There's been a minor retro-glam movement in recent years. This band is an example. The retro-glam movement is terrible. Thereby the transitive property, this band is terrible. Take that, logic. NFM.

Lame, lovesick gothic rock for vapid Hot Topic girls. No thanks. NFM.

Rob Zombie's onetime guitarist formed his own band and named it after a Rob Zombie song. Sounds basically like watered-down Zombie too. No thanks. NFM.

I've never been a fan of Lizzy Borden, but neither have I really minded them. They're pretty over-the-top glam metal, but it's not bad, and it's certainly better than most of the rest of the bullshit on this thing. Essentially, this is Twisted Sister playing speed metal with some Nitro thrown in. The vocals get a little annoying.

If Boba Fett raped a SoloFlex and it had a child? What does the name mean? More importantly, what the hell is this terrible music? It's a retro nu-metal band of all things. The world is coming to an end. NFM.

Semi-competent metalcore band. This is an okay song, and sounds great next to the rest of the crap on here. The vocals are obnoxious and this is certainly nothing I haven't heard a thousand times before by better bands, but it's still better than that Bobaflex bullshit.

Doom metal in the vein of early Pentagram. This is some good shit. Wow, I'm surprised I found a band to check out in this mess. This is old school stuff, very melodic and they even got the organ sound right. Wow.

Ugh, emo-sounding shit. Raping my ears. NFM.

Try pouring salt in them. This actually is not too bad. They're more of a groove metal band in the vein of Machine Head or Pantera. It's not at all original but it's not a total travesty either.

N3V3R 3NOU6H: "70 7H3 8O77OM"
Seriously? What the fuck is this shit, write like a normal person you text-message-obsessed, pointy-headed fuckface. The music is just as awful, possibly pre-dating the screamo crunk cancer that swept over the U.S. recently. Awful stuff, seriously.

Something these guys will never do. This is basically just a hardcore band with some very minor metal influences, and it fucking sucks. NFM.

That's it kids, see you in a week.

Year in Metal: 1983

My fiancee wants me to point out that this is the year she was born so, of course, it's the best year ever.

Fresh off of his stint with Black Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio formed his own band and released his first solo album in 1983. Holy Diver was an instant classic spawning hits like the title track and "Rainbow in the Dark". His lyrics were often fantasy-inspired, which can come off a little cheesy at times, but nobody could pull them off like Dio. His voice is one of the greatest in metal. This is a great album and started off a string of great albums by the diminutive Dio. Unfortunately, he passed away earlier this year.

The first full-length Mercyful Fate album is also their best, in my opinion. The album is inspired lyrically by horror themes. The title track is the name given to a skull that the band had in its possession at the time and used for shows. All of the elements that would make Mercyful Fate a great band were present on the debut: King Diamond's otherworldly vocals, the duo guitar attack of Hank Sherman and Michael Denner, and some damn catchy songs. The riffs from this thing stick in my head for days after hearing it. Another rock-solid debut from 1983.

Speaking of debuts, Slayer also had theirs. I fought with myself about whether to include Metallica's debut here or Slayer's. Since I have already had a full post devoted to Kill 'Em All, I chose Slayer. This album bears little resemblance to the Slayer that we have all grown to love however. On this album, Slayer was much more influenced by the NWOBHM and Venom in particular. Their music is more melodic and not as harsh. But the songs are amazing, the guitars are great, and Tom Araya's voice was surprisingly impressive. It may be blasphemy, but this is actually my favorite Slayer album.

Honorable Mentions: Dokken: Breaking the Chains, Iron Maiden: Piece of Mind, Manowar: Into Glory Ride, Metallica: Kill 'Em All, Motley Crue: Shout at the Devil, Ozzy Osbourne: Bark at the Moon, Queensryche: Queensryche, Savatage: Sirens, Suicidal Tendencies: Suicidal Tendencies, Venom: At War with Satan

Bands Formed in 1983: Bathory, Death, Fates Warning, Helloween, Master, Mayhem, Megadeth, Metal Church, Morbid Angel, Possessed, Queensryche, Savatage, Testament

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Megadeth Discography Pt. 2

Well I decided to go ahead and post a little look at some of my other compilations that I have by Megadeth. I will not look at the live concert I recorded off of the radio due to the fact that it is not an official release by the band, but there's a greatest hits compilation, rarities compilation and a bonus live CD.

This is a six-song bonus disc that came with the Countdown to Extinction album. It features a decent look at several of their big songs up until that point. No songs were picked from the debut album, but there is one song each from Peace Sells and Rust in Peace, and two songs from So Far, So Good and Countdown. The "Symphony of Destruction" track is my favorite because it is played faster and with more intensity than the album version. I have never been a big fan of their Sex Pistols cover, so I could throw away the last track. The rest are quality recordings of very good Megadeth songs.

This is an EP collection of songs that have appeared on various soundtracks and other compilations. There are some great songs on here, such as "Angry Again" and "99 Ways to Die". There's also a couple of clunkers, in particular "Problems", another punk cover. Overall though, this is a great pickup for a Megadeth fan as it has a bunch of their early rare tracks. The other way to get these at the time this was released was to pick up a bunch of soundtrack albums that may not be worth it. Of course now that there's downloading, this would no longer be necessary.

This is the first of the band's greatest hits compilations and features music up through Risk. It also features two new tracks, "Kill the King" and "Dread and the Fugitive Mind", the latter of which later appeared on The World Needs a Hero. It also featured a medley of a bunch of songs at the end. This is an okay compilation but there are not really any surprises on it and there are far too many later-era songs. The songs are all in reverse chronological order as well, which just is not that creative. Still it's a decent way to get most of the band's big hits.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Funny Youtube Video

Okay, well Australia (or New Zealand, sources differ) is getting in on the act, showing death metal to young kids. I'm not making any comment about the quality, just pointing it out.

Analyzing the Metalness of Soundgarden

I considered doing a post last week that would tackle both Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, but my feelings for AIC are much stronger and I felt they deserved their own post. A "new" Soundgarden track has been recently released on the radio that will appear on some upcoming compilation album or other. I put "new" in quotes because it was actually an outtake from Badmotorfinger.

I have explained on a few occasions that I was getting into music heavily when grunge was popular and that I was a little different than some of my peers in that I latched onto Alice in Chains and Soundgarden when they latched onto Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Soundgarden was not quite as much of a change as their later material stripped away some of their more metal influences, but at the beginning, they were very clearly a stoner/doom metal band. By the time the massively successful Superunknown was released, they were mostly a hard rock band with minimal metal influences, but up until that time, they were very heavy.

Unfortunately I don't have much of their material pre-dating Badmotorfinger because it's a little tough to find, or I haven't really looked much, but that's okay because I feel Badmotorfinger presents Soundgarden at their best and is clearly a metal album on its own.

Stoner doom was not nearly as prevalent at the time this album was released, but if it were, this would fall neatly into the genre.

The album starts off with the upbeat tempo of "Rusty Cage" with an extremely heavy bass riff and featuring the Sabbath/Zeppelin-like guitar riffs the band built its principal sound upon. "Outshined" features a massive riff during the verses. "Slaves & Bulldozers" is another slow-burning, psychedelic metal track. "Jesus Christ Pose" is the most infamous song on the album for starting off a censorship battle. It's also the most metal song on the album with a bit of a galloping bass riff. "Room a Thousand Years Wide" is my favorite track off of the album and starts with a primal scream from Chris Cornell. It features a grinding doomy riff and some pained vocals from Cornell, it even features a saxophone solo at the end. Good stuff. "Drawing Flies" has equal parts punk and metal in it, with a metallic riff played at punk speeds. "Holy Water" features a distorted bluesy riff that sounds as if it would have been at home on the first Sabbath album, or something by Trouble at least. "New Damage" closes things out with another doomy track.

There are some songs on here that are not as metal. "Face Pollution" is for the most part a punk song. "Somewhere" is just a slow rock song. "Searching With My Good Eye Closed" is a little more uptempo but still is more clearly a stoner rock song than a metal one. "Mind Riot" is another slower track.

Based on this album alone, I would classify Soundgarden as a metal band, due to their heavy riffs that are clearly influenced by doom metal bands like Black Sabbath. They add some psychedelic touches and stoner influences, but remain a metal band. There is a stoner doom subgenre, and this band seems to fit. Their earlier material is even closer to doom metal while their later material strips much of it away.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Weekly Recap: 8/1-8/7

Not much to say this week. Next week, my fiancee and I are going on vacation to Glacier National Park in Montana. Expect a late recap.

Alice in Chains: Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains: Black Gives Way to Blue
Alice in Chains: Dirt
Amon Amarth: The Avenger
Behemoth: Evangelion
Cephalotripsy: Uterovaginal Insertion of Extirpated Anomalies
Charred Walls of the Damned: Charred Walls of the Damned
Destroyer 666: Defiance
Diamond Head: Lightning to the Nations
Dying Fetus: Descend Into Depravity
Dying Fetus: Killing on Adrenaline
Entorturement: Descend Into Deprivation
Eyehategod: Dopesick
Fatal Embrace: The Empires of Inhumanity
Guillotine: Blood Money
Heathen: Breaking the Silence
Heathen: Victims of Deception
Helstar: King of Hell
Iced Earth: Framing Armaggedon-Something Wicked Pt. 1
Iron Maiden: The Number of the Beast
Judas Priest: Defenders of the Faith
Judas Priest: Screaming for Vengeance
Megadeth: Countdown to Extinction
Megadeth: Cryptic Writings
Megadeth: Endgame
Megadeth: Killing is My Business...And Business is Good!
Megadeth: Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?
Megadeth: Risk
Megadeth: Rust in Peace
Megadeth: So Far, So Good...So What!
Megadeth: The System Has Failed
Megadeth: The World Needs a Hero
Megadeth: United Abominations
Megadeth: Youthanasia
Motorhead: The Very Best Of Motorhead
Negura Bunget: Om
Nevermore: Dreaming Neon Black
Novembers Doom: Into Night's Requiem Infernal
Overkill: Feel the Fire
Overkill: HorrorscopeOverkill: Immortalis
Overkill: Ironbound
Overkill: Killbox 13
Pyrexia: Sermon of Mockery
Queensryche: The Warning
Raven: Wiped Out
Savatage: Hall of the Mountain King
Sinister: Diabolical Summoning
Skeletonwitch: Breathing the Fire
Terrorizer Fear Candy 65
Testament: Low
Thanatos: Justified Genocide
Vader: Necropolis
Venom: Black Metal
Venom: Welcome to Hell
Warbeast: Krush the Enemy
Watchtower: Energetic Disassembly

Compilations: Terrorizer Fear Candy 65

Okay, I'm pumped and ready. Let's do this bitch.

Surprisingly competent deathcore. I'm not a big fan of the genre but this is brutal enough that I wouldn't mind listening to it. Even moreso than Through the Eyes of the Dead, a deathcore band I do like.

Already own the album and think it's brilliant. No need to go into detail.

Obviously by the name of the song, this is pure Carcass worship. I like Carcass so I enjoy this a little bit. Probably not quite enough to check it out, since I can always listen to Carcass.

Pure grindcore. Not my cup of tea in general. Not bad though.

This song could not be more annoying if it tried. Starting off with a sample from "Spoonful of Sugar" and leaping into grindcore. At least it's only 47 seconds long.

This is Samael's return to black metal and it's awesome. I already own this album, so I don't need to say much more than that.

I had never heard of this band before, but man this is a good song. It's blackened death with some thrash metal and really primal vocals. I was expecting folk metal, this is better. I may have to try to find this.

Everyone's favorite vegetarian grindcore heroes return with another satiric look at humanity. Is it odd that I'm more offended by vegetarian/PETA members than I am by any given Satanic black metal band or the vaguely racist Arghoslent? Anyway, decent music though.

The Faceless emerged out of the murky deathcore scene to grab people's attention for their technical mastery. They are quite good at that. Not my favorite type of death metal, but it's okay. I'd still rather listen to Origin, Decrepit Birth, Necrophagist, or Mithras though.

Already own this one. Three words: Swedish death metal. Awesome band.

I already own this one too. One of the neo-thrash metal bands. They're pretty good and are trying to emulate Metallica and Testament more than any other bands.

Pretty lo-fi death metal. The production mars what is otherwise a pretty decent-sounding song. Too bad.

Some decent slam/brutal death metal going on here. I like this pretty well. Not terribly familiar with Nekrosis though.

This is somewhat technical death metal with lots of guitar sweeps. It also has some melodeath moments. It's okay, but nothing really special. I would need to hear something else before deciding whether to check them out.

Finnish death metal band that uses some occasional thrash metal riffs. They used to be fronted by ex-Cannibal Corpse growler Chris Barnes. That has since changed and it's good that the band is trying to forge it's own identity. This is pretty good old school stuff.

Excellent folk metal of the more Eastern European variety. This is catchy and really good. It features a lot of string arrangements as well. I may have to check this band out.

This is some more old school-sounding death metal. Always a good thing. I am intrigued.

That's quite the song title. This is more of a modern death metal song with some very heavy groove elements. It's pretty decent and definitely gets the blood pumping. I kind of like it.

I can't really tell. It started off with a long sample and then seemed to move into stoner metal. Then it delved into gothic metal territory. The guitar melodies often have a post-metal sound to them. I guess after fully listening, they sound like a cross between My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost. Not bad, just a lot to digest.

And we finish things off with a mostly ambient track. No thanks.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Initial Impressions: Fatal Embrace: The Empires of Inhumanity

I was at Hastings browsing for nothing in particular when this album caught my eye with its incredible cover art. I picked up knowing automatically that it was a metal album, despite never having heard of the band previously. I looked at the back and saw that the album was released by Metal Blade. And that's all it took, I bought it.

Well as it turns out this is a thrash metal band from Germany. Excellent. As I've said before, sometimes picking something up based solely on album art does pay off. Metal Blade seldomly steers me wrong either so that was another factor. The band bears some resemblance to the unholy trinity of German thrash metal bands, but to me, sounds more like they are channelling all sorts of thrash metal influences. I certainly hear some Sodom/Destruction/Kreator in the vocals and riffs, but I also hear a fair amount of Slayer (such as the soaring screams sounding like those that Tom Araya utilized in the early days), and a whole lot of Swedish thrash metal like The Crown and Witchery.

The riffs are blindingly fast and feature frequent lead guitar squeals over the top. The vocals are delivered in a harsh yell. This is true thrash metal delivered by a band that has been around long enough to have listened to its heyday. The best description of this would be Witchery playing Kreator. It is seriously a good thrash metal record without falling into the pitfalls of unoriginality. I am very glad I picked this up. It's been a pretty good year for thrash metal.

Analyzing the Metalness of Alice in Chains

Alice in Chains is one of the early bands that got me into metal. I have mentioned many times that I was in junior high when the grunge wave was taking over MTV. Groups like Nirvana and Pearl Jam were all over the place. I did like those bands, but never as much as I liked Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. To me, there was just something more to those bands that I could not find in Nirvana and the others. Well, that's because the music was more metal, and that was the music that for which I was becoming interested. I will discuss Soundgarden in more depth at a later time, but for now I want to focus on Alice in Chains.

I have heard many people state that Alice in Chains is not a metal band. I'm not sure what music by this band they are listening to, because it has never been less than obvious to me that they are a metal band. Sure, they have some hard rock influences and yes they are a part of the grunge scene, but grunge is not really a clear genre description as the band's never had a coherent, consistent sound. Even looking at the biggest grunge band, Nirvana, it's never clear just what their sound really is. Sometimes its punk, sometimes it's not. Grunge takes influence from a variety of genres, including some bands that are more influenced by metal. Alice in Chains is one of these.

The band originally formed as a glam metal band, but eventually dropped all of those influences and went for a darker sound, influenced by Black Sabbath, doom, and thrash metal. Guitarist Jerry Cantrell has even said that he primarily considers Alice in Chains to be a metal band.

I do not own this album, but have heard it. The songs "Man in the Box", "We Die Young", and "Sea of Sorrow" all appear on this album. "Man in the Box" was the band's breakout hit and features a very heavy riff that is slowed down and repeated throughout the song. Layne Staley's tortured vocals soar over the top of the riff. "We Die Young" is basically a thrash/groove metal song and is possibly the most metal track the band has ever done. Even "Sea of Sorrow" is clearly a metal track.

The band's follow-up album helped them break out to a much wider audience. The songs were shorter, tighter, and punchier. They still put out some longer tracks, but the band had streamlined their sound. The album begins with the incredibly heavy "Them Bones" and Staley's pained yowl. The main riff is definitely a metal riff with guitar solos layered upon it. "Dam that River" is basically a stoner metal song with a bludgeoning riff. The main riff out of "Rain When I Die" is a reworking of Sabbath's riff in "Electric Funeral". "Sickman" bears a strong resemblance to some of the heavier bands out of the Sunset Strip glam metal scene, but delivered in a minor key and heavier. Even songs like "Junkhead" and the title track, while being softer, are still at their core clearly influenced by Black Sabbath's doomy, sludgy style of metal. Many of the remaining songs also feature heavy main riffs delivered in a minor key.

The lyrics on this album deal a lot with the darker side of human existence: drug use, depression, and other heavy topics. The atmosphere of the entire album is cold and miserable. Staley's pain is felt clearly from his vocals and lyrics.

I think that a lot of people who do not consider Alice in Chains to be a metal band focus on the band's softer songs. "Down in a Hole" and "Rooster" are two of the band's biggest hits, yet neither can really be considered a metal song. They have some elements, but are more or less simply hard rock songs.

The self-titled album came a few years after Dirt. In between that time, the band released an EP with some softer, more melodic material. Some suggested a change in style. This album corrected that feeling. This was actually the first album I ever got on CD.

The undeniably metal tracks are "Grind", "Brush Away", "Sludge Factory", "Head Creeps", "Again", and "God Am". These songs are even heavier than the metal tracks from the band's previous album and the doom metal influence is very clear on a number of them. The riffs were clearly metallic, but there is some hauntingly beautiful music to go along with it. The band accomplished its goal of producing ugly music in an attractive way. "Again" in particular has an extremely heavy riff.

There are again some non-metal tracks on this album and the band does have a few mostly acoustic numbers as well. "Heaven Beside You", "Shame in You", and "Over Now" are beautiful songs driven by Cantrell's impressive acoustic guitar work.

Alice in Chains released their fourth full-length album in 2009 after a 14 year hiatus due to the continuing drug problems and eventual death of singer Layne Staley. William DuVall handled vocal duties on this album and he surprisingly sounds significantly like Staley.

As for the music, this is a very consistent album. It is extremely heavy and loud, but it is slow and somber. While the music is much slower than the majority of the music that came before from this band, it also appears to be very much a return to the sludgy doom of some of their heaviest material. I think this album can best be described as a stoner doom/traditional metal album. It sounds like something that would have come out in the 1970's. The riffs have a lot in common with groups like Sabbath and other heavy metal bands from the period. This continues throughout the album without much deviation.

Alice in Chains is a metal band that has had some non-metal moments. That is very evident from their full-length albums. The people who do not consider the band metal are mostly basing it on songs they have heard on the radio.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Year in Metal: 1982

Iron Maiden was reborn in 1982. The band started as a rather impressive NWOBHM band under the songwriting of Steve Harris and the vocals of Paul Di'Anno. Di'Anno though was never all that great of a singer, certainly not enough to be truly noticeable. Enter Bruce Dickinson, whose soaring classically-trained tenor became THE VOICE of Iron Maiden. Energized by their new singer, the band crafted a monumental album with several now-classic songs. The dueling guitars, galloping bass lines, and impressive vocals all add up to a monster album. This is not my absolute favorite Iron Maiden album, but it is certainly a great one.

Judas Priest scored a massive hit of their own in 1982 with this album. Priest had long ago left behind whatever progressive rock tendencies they had. By this point, their music was simple, direct, and not the least bit subtle. "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" is the enormous hit on this album, and it really was big. This album was essentially Priest at their peak. All of the songsd are classics, with a couple that stand out higher than the rest. They would grow to be more metallic on subsequent albums, heavier and darker. However they would never be quite as memorable.

Picking up where the last album left off, Venom released this album just the next year. You don't really see that much anymore. Their musicianship has tightened up a little bit, but they are still very raw. Their songwriting has also improved with several more complex structures on this album. This album's fairly simple riffs, fast speed and dark lyrics was an influence on the upcoming black metal scene, even moreso than the band's previous album. Hell, the genre even got its name from the name of this album. This is also Venom's best album in my opininon.

Honorable Mentions: Manowar: Battle Hymns, Motorhead: Iron Fist, Raven: Wiped Out, Twisted Sister: Under the Blade

Bands that formed in 1982: Artillery, Armored Saint, Corrosion of Conformity, Death Angel, Destruction, Dio, Exodus, Kreator, Napalm Death, Possessed, Sodom, Suicidal Tendencies, Voivod, W.A.S.P., Watchtower

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Megadeth Discography Pt. 1?

If I had to pick a favorite band that I have listened to since I first got into metal, it would be difficult to choose between Metallica and Megadeth. I have oftentimes enjoyed Megadeth's far more emotional style of thrash metal and politically-minded ravings than Metallica's workmanlike machinations. Vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine is a better musician than any given member of Metallica and his voice is more interesting than James Hetfield's. What makes Megadeth falter though is Mustaine's inferiority complex about Metallica. It has caused him to make some very poor musical decisions over the years resulting in some albums that do not rise to the level of memorability as much of Metallica's work, to say the least of mainstream exposure. Mustaine was kicked out of Metallica shortly before they recorded their debut album and has held a grudge against them ever since. He is also apparently difficult to work with as Megadeth has had 20 members over the years with only Mustaine being there the whole time.

However, when Mustaine wants to, he can still write some very good music. I have been a fan of Megadeth almost as long as Metallica. My older brother had their Countdown to Extinction album and I borrowed it frequently when I was getting into metal. Megadeth was the first metal band outside of Metallica whose album I bought. I got Youthanasia around Christmastime of my eighth grade year with a gift certificate.

I own every full length Megadeth album, as well as a live bootleg that was played on the local hard rock station in Lincoln, a live bonus CD, a compilation of songs for soundtracks, and a greatest hits compilation. I will use this post to only discuss the full-length albums and perhaps I will have a follow-up later on to cover the other stuff I have.

The debut album by Megadeth showed that the band was ready to take on the thrash scene. They played much faster than Metallica and were louder and more brazen. The best example of the difference in the bands' speed can be found in the song "Mechanix". This was the early version of the Metallica classic "The Four Horsemen", except it is much faster and more chaotic. In addition, Mustaine's air raid siren vocals and sinister sneer made their first appearances. Mustaine was nastier and angrier than Hetfield, adding a malevolent edge to the music with his unique vocal style. The guitar work is fantastic, but still a shell of what it would soon become.

Megadeth reached their full potential already as a thrash metal band on this terrific album. The production quality is not great, but it gives the songs a raw, dirty vibe. This album is a thrash metal landmark, but it came out at the same time as Master of Puppets so it does not get the credit that it so richly deserves. What distinguishes this album from others is the very impressive lead guitar work. There are almost constant guitar solos running through everything, a trait which would continue in a lot of Megadeth's albums. The bass is also incredible. David Ellefson is a very underrated musician. Mustaine's sneer has improved by leaps and bounds. The songs do not feature a typical progression and there are frequent, long instrumental interludes, but that's not a problem when the music is this good. The opening bassline for "Peace Sells" was featured as opening music for MTV News for years.

This album certainly has some classic songs, but it is evident that the band is attempting to break into the mainstream somewhat. A lot of the raw feel has been smoothed over on this album. This is the band's first album on a major label and it is clear that the label viewed the band as some sort of poor man's Metallica. Hence the production values. This album just is not quite as memorable as the two that came before it although, again, there is some great stuff here. Mustaine's lead guitar work has continued to improve, as have his vocals. The album is still fast and loud as hell, but the glossy sound kind of takes out some of the fun. It is nice to fully hear what is going on in the music, but the raw feel is greatly missed. The band did show off a rare somber side with "In My Darkest Hour", which I believe is the best song on the album.

This is not only the best album Megadeth has ever released, it is one of the best metal albums in history. I had it ranked #3 behind only Metallica's Ride the Lightning and Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. The songs are all amazing, with only one exception. The musicianship is incredible, and Mustaine's vocals sound better than they have before or since. The real key to this album is the solo contest Mustaine had with new axe-slinger Marty Friedman. He truly found a guitarist every bit as talented as he was and the trading solos on this album proved a bit of a friendly rivalry as to who could out-shred the other. The songs featured a little more of a progressive songwriting style and the genre of the album fluctuates between thrash, progressive, and traditional metal depending on the song. "Hangar 18" and "Tornado of Souls" are probably two of my absolute favorite Megadeth songs, if not metal songs in general. Megadeth would never be as good as they were on this album again, which is a major shame.

Countdown was Megadeth's bid to be more commercially successful and was mostly the result of Mustaine's continuing envy of the success of Metallica. The songs are much shorter and feature more traditional metal song structures, such as verses and choruses, something which had been lacking in their music previously. It was extremely successful and this is the band's best-selling album to date, featuring many hit songs such as "Symphony of Destruction", the title track, and "Sweating Bullets". The title track also won the band the Humane Society's Genesis Award for its spotlight on species extinction and canned hunting. Unfortunately, while many of the songs are good, this album was the album in which Mustaine really sold out, choosing radio-friendly songs instead of the thrash classics of the band's past.

This was the first Megadeth album I owned. The album was an effort to combine the radio-friendly aspects of the last album with some harder-edged more metallic elements. The songs were still very melodic, including the hit "A Tout Le Monde", but the album also featured some very heavy riffs, such as the one at the beginning of "Train of Consequences". This album essentially continued the downward turn from the prior album, but all was not lost as Mustaine's gift for writing catchy and interesting songs was still very much intact. The songs on this album were not as heavy as prior material, but they were interesting in their own way.

I'm not really sure what happened here. At least the last two albums prior to this bore some resemblance, however slight, to the albums that came before them. This album was a total shift in sound. There are very few moments where any signs of thrash metal still exist. For the most part, this album was produced in order to get Megadeth their long-desired #1 album. It was hugely successful as there were many radio hits on the album. There are still some harder songs, such as "The Disintegrators", "Vortex", and "She Wolf". However, many of the songs are lighter and geared towards modern rock radio. It is still mostly a metal album, but it fit in well with stuff on the radio at the time. At least the songs were good and catchy, and I still like this album better than Metallica's Load.

The name of the album says it all. This was a huge risk, and it did not pay off. After the success of the last album, Mustaine gave up more creative control over his band to a producer to again try for a #1 record. What resulted was a commercial and musical failure. This is one of my least-favorite albums in my music collection. I drag it out to listen to maybe once a year. Mustaine refuses to play any songs off of this album in concert, and for good reason. There is virtually no metal at all present on this album and Megadeth incorporates influences from electronic music, country, and several other areas the band had no business reaching into. Quite frankly, other than Mustaine's voice, this sounds nothing like Megadeth. There are very few decent moments and a whole lot of bad ones. It's odd that one band can supply one of my absolute favorite albums, as well as one of my most hated.

Thankfully after the mess that was the last album, Megadeth made a comeback of sorts. This album is not a complete return to form, but it does at least reach back to their more melodic traditional-sounding metal of the early 1990's. There are definite metal riffs and the album is significantly heavier than the last couple of albums. Mustaine's voice sounds great once again and his guitar solos have slowed a little but made up for their decrease in speed with improved technicality. Marty Friedman had left the band by this point because he did not want to return the band to its prior metal sound. It's unfortunate, but it did lead to Mustaine retaking the reins of the band and the spotlight. The album features some more personal songs such as "1000 Times Goodbye" and it also features a continuation of "Hangar 18" called "Return to the Hangar" with new lyrics centered around the same riff. This is a decent album, certainly better than their last couple, but not at the level as their early work and it really drags in the middle section.

This album basically built on the previous one. Megadeth were clearly on their way back, but they seemed to be taking baby steps. This album is a little more consistent and did not have a long dragging point in the middle of it, but they were not quite all the way back yet. Megadeth had gone on quite a long hiatus before releasing this album. Mustaine suffered a horrific injury that threatened to end his guitar-playing days and he broke up the band setting off major lawsuits with longtime bassist David Ellefson. He then found God and made a full recovery. His newly Christian values are apparent in this album with the last two tracks. Politcal rants re-emerged as the major lyrical topic. The guitar work is once again fantastic. At the least, Mustaine proved that he could definitely still play. Unfortunately there are not really any must-hear tracks on this one. They are all good, for the most part, but there are not any standouts.

Again building on the previous improvements, Megadeth is still fighting on this album to regain their place among the pantheon of thrash metal greats. They take another step closer on this album. It was well-received critically and commercially. Mustaine even managed to ruffle some feathers with the United Nations based on the title track and received a rebuttal of his claims in that song. That's pretty impressive that a metal band forced the U.N. to respond. This album also features a re-recording of "A Tout Le Monde" with Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna COil providing guest vocals. The only real issue with the album is that it does sound quite a bit like the previous two albums. It's clearly the best album Megadeth had produced since Youthanasia at least. It also again gave fans hope for the next album to be what they have desired for the next one. The old Megadeth was clearly on its way.

And they arrived. This is an incredible album. It's the best Megadeth album since Rust in Peace, better than all of the albums that came before it. Megadeth's aggression and anger came roaring back on this album with the blazing "Head Crusher" and "The Right to Go Insane". The album kicks off with a bang on "Dialectic Chaos", one of the best album opening tracks I have heard in a long time. The intensity level never backs off either. It is the most complete Megadeth album in a very long time. Even Rust in Peace had a throwaway track, but this album really does not. This was one hell of a comeback and was a very pleasant surprise. Even the frequent guitar soloing sounded like the old Megadeth. Hopefully the band continues in this vein.

Megadeth released some bad albums but they have been striving for a comeback for quite awhile. As far as the Big 4 of American thrash, Megadeth is probably the most musically gifted and they have also proven that they can still be viable in the metal scene. Slayer has been the most consistent, but none of their latest albums comes close to the latest Megadeth album. Anthrax has not been good in a long time. And finally, although Metallica put together their own colossal comeback album, it does not hold a candle to the newest Megadeth album.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dusting Off a Cassette Pt. 50: Testament: Low

What a great album this was, despite the massive change in sound. Testament started off as a run-of-the-mill thrash metal band from the Bay Area, sounding a lot like other bands from the same scene: Metallica, Exodus, Heathen, and Dark Angel. In the late 1980's they started experimenting with some more melodic, progressive music. Most of the thrash metal elements were gone. Testament was never really much more than a second (or third) tier thrash metal band. Despite all of that though, they were one of my favorite bands.

Then this album came out and it blew everyone away. This is quite possibly Testament's best album. It features a return to thrash metal, with elements of Pantera-style groove metal and even some death metal elements. The music is incredible and the musicianship is top-notch. Alex Skolnick was no longer with the band at this time, replaced by extreme metal mercenary James Murphy, who also did time in Death. The drums were capably handled by John Tempesta who would also handle those duties with White Zombie a short time later. Despite this, the music is incredibly tight.

The songs are great, featuring barn-burners like "Low" and "Hail Mary". It also includes the death metal-tinged "Dog Faced Gods" and bass solo "Urotsukidoji". This was an early favorite album when I was still buying cassettes because of its extreme sound and heavy riffs. It is still probably my favorite Testament album. It also remains proof that the mid 1990's featured some great metal albums despite popular conception.