Saturday, July 30, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 88: Skeletonwitch

They have not been around for a real long time, but Skeletonwitch has made a big impression on me. They get thrown into the thrash revival scene a lot, but that does not really make that much sense to me. First of all, they are not really a true thrash metal band. They have a lot of black metal influences, talking first wave black metal here. Secondly, they are a lot better than the Warbringer/Evile/Merciless Death groups. Skeletonwitch has a knack for great, catchy songs with great riffs and interesting solos. I am eager to see this band continue to grow.


Friday, July 29, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 87: Sigh

I don't think it's controversial to say that Sigh's music can be a little weird at times. The highly experimental avant-garde metal band never puts out the same album twice in a row. The band's foundation is in black metal but they have added lots of elements of other types of music into their sound for years. Their latest two releases included a lot of symphonic and classical music. One thing is for certain, Sigh is always interesting.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Random Thoughts: Bands Pulling Me Out of My Funk

For some reason I have been a bit of a listening funk lately. I have been so busy with work and the wedding planning that I had not been enjoying music as much. This has sort of manifested itself in a dearth of posts from me, other than the Top 100 which I kind of force myself to do. I suppose that is bound to happen every now and again. Anyway, lately I have been a little reinvigorated with the help of three bands that I am finding some new-found joy in.

It was a mistake not to include them in my Top 100. For some reason though they never really grabbed me like their peers in Sodom and Kreator. Until now. Their new material is probably even stronger than their aforementioned countrymen and their old stuff definitely has some impressive riff work. But it's their overall aggressiveness that has drawn me back into them. At this point, they are pretty even with the other two bands.

Germans just know how to thrash. Dew-Scented is a relative newcomer compared to Destruction, forming in 1992, but all they have done since then is put out great modern thrash metal album after great modern thrash metal album. Their music features a hefty death metal influence adding to their unstoppable brutality, but man nothing gets your fist pumping like "That's Why I Despise You". Their song "Retain the Scars" featuring Kreator's Mille Petrozza is not to be missed.

Yes, Priest made my Top 100. They had to. I could not ignore the original Metal Gods. But only recently have I really started to enjoy all of their musical eras. I absolutely love their early 1980's material, when the band really laid down the blueprints to every metal band that came after them. Priest has so much great music that it's hard to pick out just one album, but Defenders of the Faith has recently become a favorite of mine.

Reader Submission: Bitter End: Have a Nice Death!

One of the effects of the recent revival of thrash metal is that lots of obscure bands have reunited in order to take advantage of the market. Bitter End was a technical thrash metal band that formed in the mid 1980's, released one full-length album in 1990, and then disbanded in 1992. I first heard about the band when I was contacted by their label to listen to their new album released this year. This is an album of unrecorded material that was not released.

Bitter End is a technical thrash metal band. Think Watchtower, Heathen, and groups in that vein. They also sound like they are having a blast making music, with a sense of fun similar to 1980's-era Anthrax. I loved the more progressive and technical thrash metal days, so this is pretty much right up my alley.

There is definitely a sense of humor behind these songs, with clever and funny lyrics, particularly on "Tiny Minds". The vocals are clear and easy to understand. The vocal style matches the music quite well.

Musically, there is enough technicality and progressive song structures to keep things very interesting. The riffing style is aggressive and the guitar solos are extremely melodic, and based in blues. The bass plays a prominent role in the music, kind of rare for thrash. I definitely like it. This is an upbeat and fast-paced album with very few moments where the band slows things down.

The only complaint I have is that there are only six new songs here. There are eight additional tracks, demos and live versions of songs off of their 1990 release. I am intrigued by the band from this material and would like to check out their first release, but it seems I do not really need to with all of the extras here. I suppose if it was particularly hard to find, that would be one thing, but there appear to be several copies on ebay and Amazon. Nevertheless, that does not really affect the music so I won't be taking points off or anything.

This is a pretty good album. It's authentic late 1980's/early 1990's sounding thrash metal, when the genre was evolving into something more technical. I will be picking up their earlier album.

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 86: Sepultura

Sepultura was probably the first extreme metal band I really got into. I first heard them on a Tribute to Black Sabbath album covering "Symptom of the Universe". I was pretty impressed. I actually got into them when they were a bit past their prime. Roots was the first new album I got by them and I was blown away, at the time. However, I soon discovered their amazing past releases when they were one of the best brutal thrash metal bands out there. Even better was their proto-black/death metal material. Sepultura is now just a shadow of their former selves, but their early material still stands today as some amazing extreme metal.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 85: Scar Symmetry

When I discuss liking Scar Symmetry, I am referring to their first three albums while Christian Alvestam belted the vocals. Even though Alvestam did not do much of the songwriting and was not an original member of the band, Scar Symmetry really lost their way after he left. But enough of the bad, Scar Symmetry is one of the most infectious melodeath bands ever. They had such a knack with melodies that MetalSucks writers used to refer to them as "Death Jovi". Their first three albums were terrific examples of melodic death metal. Unfortunately, they have not been as impressive since.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 84: Satyricon

Satyricon does not seem to get as much recognition as some of the early second wave Norwegian black metal bands. I could be wrong, but I do not see their name mentioned as often as Emperor, Darkthrone, Mayhem, Immortal, or others, but Satyricon is every bit as worthy. I actually like Satyricon's early material better than a lot of the material by some of those other bands. They had a unique take on the genre and were more than just an extreme metal band. Their later material is still impressive, despite being much more in the black 'n roll style. No matter when you can produce music as catchy and impressive as that.


Monday, July 25, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 83: Satan's Host

I considered Satan's Host for this list even before hearing their latest album, but they were barely off the list. I liked their take on black/thrash/death whatever metal quite a bit but just not quite enough to make it here. That all changed with their latest release. Their new album is so incredible that it stands as the favorite to be the Album of the Year for me this year. Satan's Host has always been driven by Patrick Evil's guitar heroics, but this release was on a whole other level. The reunion with original singer Harry Conklin of Jag Panzer brought so much more to the table musically as well. Like I said, they were in the running to make this list before, but with this album, they sealed it.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 82: Rotting Christ

I was aware of Rotting Christ for quite a long time prior to finally checking them out. Like some others, I was a little put off by the band's name, not because I felt it was blasphemous (it certainly is, but that does not bother me), but because I felt that a band with that ridiculous of a moniker really could not be taken seriously as musicians. I was wrong. Rotting Christ are stunning musicians with a flair for melodies that is unmatched by almost any other band. Their music is truly unique, taking black metal, gothic metal, and Greek folk elements and throwing them all together. Since I discovered them, they have quickly jumped into my Top 10 favorite bands, not just my Top 100.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Reader Submission: Aittala: Haunt Your Flesh

I was recently contacted by Eric Aittala via email who requested me to review his band's newest release Haunt Your Flesh. I chose not to do much research on the band prior to hearing it for the first time so that everything would be new.

To begin with, the music does not really match the dark and disturbing album cover, but that is not a problem. The music is much more on the traditional and progressive side of heavy metal and hard rock. So I was a little bit surprised by that at first. Again, certainly not a problem.

This is a very dynamic and versatile album musically. Eric Aittala appears to be the only member of the band, tackling all of the vocals and music, except perhaps the drums. He does not seem to like to sit still in one style for very long either. Pigeonholing the Aittala sound is extraordinarily difficult because each song is unique. At times it sounds like later-era Iced Earth with Barlow on vocals, at times it sounds like a less angry Pantera, and a whole lot in between.

Aittala is a very impressive musician with a strong melodic sensibility. He writes some pretty good riffs and solos and some damn catchy songs. Keyboards are used to good effect in backing up the music and the occasional solo. The keyboards are not overdone, which is good. His lyrical style is mostly designed to tell a story in each song.

As mentioned, this album runs the gamut, from hauntingly beautiful piece "Eden" to the aggressive riff-laden "Holocaust". "Juliet" is particularly noteworthy and is a spine-chilling power ballad. Each song is unique making this a complete album, rather than just a collection of songs.

Eric Aittala is a very impressive multi-instrumentalist forging his own path. This is his second full-length album and the guy definitely deserves a look.

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 81: Queensryche

It's unfair that Queensryche gets dismissed with a lot of other mainstream metal acts of the 1980's as a "hair band". It's unfair because it is absolutely not true. Despite achieving a lot recognition for their ballad "Silent Lucidity", Queensryche's music never really fit in with the rest of the "hair bands". That song was not representative of the band's overall sound. Queensryche is a stunningly talented progressive metal band lead by Chris DeGarmo's excellent guitar playing and songwriting skills and Geoff Tate's powerful tenor. The band made their name with complex concept albums and politically controversial songs. Their recent output is disappointing, but during the 1980's they were incredible.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 80: Primordial

Ireland's Primordial began their career as a pagan black metal band, but over time, the black metal influences faded more and more. Now, the band still retains their pagan metal sound with only occasional glimpses of the black metal that they once had. Primordial is definitely not happy music, their sound is incredibly somber and painful. It is a stark contrast to other folk-oriented metal bands such as Finntroll and Korpiklaani. While Primordial does have some decent music, they would be just an average band were it not for vocalist A.A. Nemtheanga. His voice is perfect for the band and is their standout characteristic.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Initial Impressions: Amorphis: The Beginning of Times

Amorphis has never really failed me. At least not since I rediscovered them on their Silent Waters album. They continue to put out amazing albums about every two years. This one is a little different at times, but it is no exception. It remains a truly beautiful and captivating album that is bound to go down as a classic.

The album starts with the amazing "Battle for Light" which shows the band utilizing a little more keyboard melodies and some folk material than in their recent output. It also includes a lot more death metal vocals from Tomi Joutsen than previously. This appears to be more of a concept album and Joutsen makes a distinction with his vocal style on darker parts. These changes continue throughout the album with virtually every song introduced by a hauntingly melodic keyboard line.

Though Joutsen is not an original member of the band, this album really serves as a showcase to his tremendous abilities as a vocalist. He is amazing from a technical standpoint and his vocals really drive this album. Joutsen has really come into his own as a singer for this band and he truly fits in here, taking a lot of the spotlight with him.

None of this is to say that the music is any less impressive. Amorphis has always managed to produce highly skilled and engrossing compositions and this album is no exception. Though the band no longer resembles the death metal group with folk tendencies that they were on their earliest releases, this version never fails to impress.

This is yet another classic for Amorphis. Every time I hear that the band is releasing a new album, I get excited. This album once again shows why.

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 79: Paradise Lost

I discovered Paradise Lost early in my formative metal years. I think I was a sophomore in high school when I heard them on the radio for songs "Once Solemn" and "Enchantment" and got the album for Christmas. One of the songs even inspired my email name. The gothic/doom metal band was part of the English wave of similar groups in the late 1980's to early 1990's, arriving on the scene with My Dying Bride and Anathema among others. Their music is often hauntingly beautiful and powerful with effective usage of keyboards and guitar leads. They have gone a little too far with the gothic influences at times, but have still managed to continue to release quality material.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 78: Ozzy Osbourne

Not really a band per se, since Ozzy is the only permanent member of his solo act, but what list would be complete without the Prince of Darkness? Even though his most recent works have been terrible, his stuff up through No More Tears is for the most part, great. The former Black Sabbath singer has one of the most distinctive voices in heavy metal and really did not miss a beat between leaving the pioneering group and starting his own project. It certainly helps that he has always surrounded himself with high quality musicians, including most notably fantastic guitar players such as Randy Rhoads, Jake Lee, Zakk Wylde, and now Gus G.


Monday, July 18, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 77: Overkill

Lots of thrash metal bands have made it onto this list because I am such a big fan of the genre. Overkill is a band I was aware of for a long time but did not start getting into until after law school. I have no idea why. As soon as I started listening to them, I quickly realized that this is one of the greatest pure thrash metal bands ever. Overkill may have also been one of the first thrash metal bands. They have never really released a bad album, despite experimenting some with groove metal in the 1990's. They also have not lost a step despite playing this style for more than 30 years now. Their latest album is every bit as strong and aggressive as their early 1980's material. They also remain a spectacular live band.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 76: Opeth

Opeth is another band that I got into early on when getting into the international metal scenes. I first heard the band on a Celtic Frost tribute album that I bought on a fly, and their incredible version of "Circle of the Tyrants" blew me away. However, it was not until picking up Still Life, that I found out about the incredible depth and dynamics of this truly unique band. Combining death metal and progressive metal, Opeth can be relentlessly extreme one minute, and beautifully complex the next. They have truly been one of my favorite bands since I first heard them and were one of the first extreme metal bands I saw in concert.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 75: Obituary

One of the classic bands of the early death metal scene in Florida, Obituary took a massive influence from Celtic Frost and turned it into their own unique sound. Vocalist John Tardy consistently sounds like he drank a bottle of battery acid prior to entering the studio, owning one of the more unique vocal styles in early death metal. Not many have been able to duplicate his corroded vocals. Obituary's sludgy take on death metal is also extremely unique. Obituary reformed after several years' hiatus to release an album in 2005, they have been up to their old tricks since then.


Friday, July 15, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 74: Nocturnal Breed

This is a band that I have really only heard one album from, but that album is so impressive as to catapult the band into this list. There are not a lot of groups like that. Thrash metal is my favorite metal genre, and brutal thrash is a particular favorite style of mine. Well, there are very few thrash metal bands more brutal than Nocturnal Breed. Add to that the fact that this is a band from Norway, a country with a strong metal scene, but not well-known for thrash, and the fact that Nocturnal Breed formed in 1994, years after thrash metal was supposed to have died, and you get an extremely unlikely modern thrash metal masterpiece. And that is exactly what this one album is. I have not checked out their earlier work, but this album is so impressive, that even if it were a Nickelback clone, Nocturnal Breed would still be here.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 73: Nile

Nile is of course the world's pre-eminent Egyptian mythology-based death metal band. Of course there is not a whole lot of competition for that oddly specific niche, but there you go. Nile's music is pretty brutal and definitely epic. They do occasionally fit their Egyptian influences in to their music, but for the most part, the influences can be seen in their lyrical content. Nile has been one of the biggest American death metal bands from a popularity standpoint for several years now, and it is pretty easy to see why.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 72: Napalm Death

I have always liked Napalm Death, but when my wife bought me one of their 3 CD sets is when I really got into them. Napalm Death is widely viewed as a pioneering band in the grindcore genre. This is a well-deserved reputation. Napalm Death was also one of the first groups to experiment by adding in death metal elements to their grindcore sound. They have released albums with varying degrees of death metal and grindcore for nearly thirty years now and they still sound more aggressive and powerful than most of their imitators.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Opensight Video

A band that contacted me awhile back has recently released a music video. You remember those things right? They used to be on MTV before reality shows took over? No? Maybe you're too young. Anyway, here's the video.This was one of my favorite songs off their new EP and the video is kind of cool. It's not really groundbreaking, and I am not really sure why there are so many mannequins, but it's kind of cool nonetheless. Opensight is a damn good band and should rise to the elite of progressive metal.

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 71: Morbid Angel

I have not yet had a chance to hear their new album, but from all that I have read, it looks like that may be a good thing. Unfortunately, Morbid Angel has really only tarnished their legacy since their first three albums. But man, those first three albums were fucking great. Morbid Angel is the band that truly brought an evil atmosphere to death metal. Their extreme version of thrash, which became the benchmark for occult death metal, is full of razor sharp riffs, incendiary solo work, and murky production. They were one of the first major death metal bands, and for that reason, deserve their legendary status.


Monday, July 11, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 70: Moonspell

Moonspell is so far the only band I have heard out of Portugal, but they are a damn good one. They were one of the early bands I checked out from the international metal scene, having first discovered them sometime in my early college years. Moonspell has had a variety of sounds over the years, starting with black metal, then incorporating gothic and folk metal elements. Their sound has been some combination of those genres or other ever since. This is certainly not a problem when it is performed as well as Moonspell does it.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

My 100 Favorite Metal Bands Pt. 69: Metallica

Sorry about the lack of posts the last couple days. I've been a bit busy. Today, we come to Metallica. Their merits are so incredibly obvious it's probably a waste of time to even talk about them. Metallica transcends the metal genre. They are one of the biggest bands in the world period. Unfortunately, it's not due to their early material, it's mostly The Black Album, an album that I argued did as much as anything else to force metal into the underground. But the band does not ignore their early material, and neither should we. Their first four albums are as good as any band's, including Black Sabbath and The Beatles. And they were the first metal band I started listening to. It's obvious that Metallica deserves inclusion here.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Best Albums of 2011 (So Far)

I have not been able to check out as much stuff as I would like this year due to wedding plans and the opening up of my own law office, but here are my Top 10 so far. This list is subject to change at any time.