Friday, September 22, 2017

Dark Tranquillity in Sioux Falls, SD: September 21, 2017

Well, I am really not sure about going to Sioux Falls for a concert more than once every few months or so.  Particularly if it is on a weeknight.  Not to say the experience was bad, but getting home at 3:00 a.m. and having to get right back up in a few hours is definitely tough on me.  I'm getting old.  Anyway, last night Swedish melodeath pioneers Dark Tranquillity appeared at The Icon Lounge along with Warbringer and Striker, and a couple local bands.  It was a long concert, but it was still a lot of fun.

First on stage was the unfortunately-named local band Tons of 'Em.  They were playing when we walked in and played only two songs that we saw.  The sound was interesting enough, somewhat technical, and a little doomy.  The most interesting aspect of the band was that the two guitarists and bassist were all in their 20's, while the drummer appeared to be in his 60's.  I made the joke to my wife that it was nice of the band members' dad to play drums for them.  Apparently that is partially correct.  He is only one of the members' dad.

The next band was Traverscion, a prog-death metal band from Sioux Falls, led by a Sheldon Cooper-lookalike and a Thor lookalike, which thrilled my wife by the way.  This band I really enjoyed.  Their sound had kind of a Lovecraftian murkiness to it and the three vocalists complemented each other quite well.  The times when they would play more melodic sections were the definite highlight.  I will be keeping an eye on this group.

Side story: I made a comment at the Kreator show to my wife that there would probably be some scary-looking guys there.  She responded that they are probably more scared of her than she is of them.  The ratio of men to women at most of these concerts probably bears this out.

And we are back.  Canada has become quite the fertile ground for traditional metal bands over the last decade or so.  And Striker is just one example of this.  I have heard one of their albums and quite enjoyed it, so I had a decent idea of what to expect, but for some reason I thought they were thrashier than they actually are.  They played a blistering 20 minute set with some of the catchiest songs of the night.  They definitely looked like throwbacks to 1980's metal too.  I will have to check out more of their material.  I wish they had had a t-shirt with their Armed to the Teeth album cover on it.  I would have grabbed it quickly.
Where was this t-shirt, Striker?
Hell, my wife would have bought one!

Next up was Warbringer.  I saw them about five years ago when they were an up-and-coming band in support of Overkill.  They played their entire new album Woe to the Vanquished.  A little unexpected, but that is a monster of a modern thrash album, so it was damn good.  Of particular note is the absolutely infectious neck-breaker "Remain Violent".  They looked like they were having a blast too, which was true of each of the five bands of the night.

And finally, Dark Tranquillity took the stage.  I have been a big fan of the band since I was in college, though I preferred their heavier material prior to their more gothic metal-influenced melodeath (my favorite of their albums is still the Of Chaos and Eternal Night EP).  That being said, they have some damn great songs and they played a lot of that material last night.  Mikael Stanne was a very charismatic presence and explained some of the stories behind some of the songs.    My wife stated that Santa Claus has a lot more tattoos than she remembered, referring to bassist Anders Iwers, who does bear a resemblance to a badass metal Santa.  The best song was "ThereIn" from the Projector album, which surprised me at its inclusion.  The band played in front of a projected screen that played music videos the band did, which also surprised me.  They were in top form last night and sounded just as potent as they do on their albums.

I was definitely glad I went, though my wife was not nearly as pleased.  It was a damn late night, but seeing Dark Tranquillity for the first time was well worth it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dying Fetus: Wrong One to Fuck With (2017)

Dying Fetus was one of the first brutal death metal bands I got into.  Much like Suffocation, the band has always existed somewhere on a continuum between grooving slam death and technical brutal death metal, but they marry the two seemingly disparate styles quite well.  I always make it a point to check out new releases by the band, but they have been away for about five years prior to the release of this album.  And there was quite a bit of hype for this one.

A few things were immediately apparent which did not even require listening to the album to be able to tell that this was going to be a very strong release.  First off, the band brought back their early band logo that has not been used since their demo days.  Secondly, the gory album cover, promising violence.  And third, the name of the album itself.  Dying Fetus has never really been subtle, but those three factors raised my hopes that this was going to be one hell of an album.  Dying Fetus did not disappoint.

From the beginning of this album, a highly technical lead riff leading into a pummeling opening track, it was clear that the time off has been just what Dying Fetus needed in order to rejuvenate their sound.  The rest of the album follows suit with equal parts technicality and brutality.  The production is crisp and clear, allowing each of the instruments to be heard well, which helps emphasize just how impressive John Gallagher's guitar leads are, the punishing throbbing of John Beasley's bass, and how impressively Trey Williams plays the skins.  Dual vocalists Gallagher and Beasley continue to complement each other well, barking their vocals in their own distinct extreme styles.

This is a damn impressive album.  I have been a big fan of Dying Fetus for about ten years now, but this is easily their best album they have released in that time.  Everything about this grabs attention and refuses to let go.  This is an absolutely punishing, uncompromising slab of metal that forces itself to be heard and does not let go.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Goatwhore: Vengeful Ascension (2017)

Goatwhore is quickly becoming the Motorhead of extreme metal.  They are amazingly consistent, yet most of their songs are fairly similar in structure, and led by rumbling riffs.  Speed and intensity are the name of the game.  They have become one of my personal favorite bands and I jumped at the chance to see them live earlier this year.  I also had to put their new album on pre-order as soon as I became aware of it and looked forward to it.

Unfortunately, this album was something of a letdown.  The band did not truly alter its sound in any way.  The album is very much in line with Goatwhore's releases that came before it.  The problem is that this particular album sounds a little phoned in.  It is too similar to the stuff that came before it, without much growth, and certainly without anything that stands out and demands attention.

The first track is something of a plodding crawl, at least as far as Goatwhore is concerned.  It is a somewhat slower track and not the most dynamic of openers.  Several of the following songs were more mid-paced and tended to blend together a bit.  A lot of the breakneck speed from earlier albums has been replaced with more of a rumbling groove.  Not to suggest that Goatwhore is suddenly trying to become Pantera, but they were always at their best when they were thrashing all around.  This is much more relaxed.  That is simply not something I am used to from Goatwhore.  "Mankind Will Have No Mercy" is probably the closest thing to the the sound I would expect from Goatwhore.

There is nothing really bad here.  All of the elements that one would expect from a Goatwhore album are present.  From Ben Falgoust's demonic vocals to Sammy Duet's Motorhead-inspired riffing to Zack Simmons's insane drumming, the band is every bit as talented and crushing as ever.  Unfortunately, they seem to have mostly become complacent in their songwriting.  Every band has a misstep, hopefully this is just that, and the band will return to the fire and fury of their earlier works next time around.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Suffocation: ...Of the Dark Light (2017)

After the last couple of albums, it appeared that Suffocation was mostly just spinning their wheels.  They still have yet to release a bad album, but most of their releases of late have been mostly the same.  Still good, but mostly unmemorable.  So it was with a little bit of trepidation that I checked out this latest release, their first since 2013.  But, this has to be the best Suffocation album in a very long time, which is saying something.

There are certain fundamental elements that are expected for a Suffocation album.  The first of these is definitely brutality.  Suffocation is not a subtle band and does not rely on melody.  Crushing, yet technical riffs, blastbeat-driven drums, and deep guttural roaring vocals are the band's calling cards.  Their music is violent and intense, but their best material is also infectious.  That has been the one thing that has been lacking of late, truly memorable material.

This is Suffocation's strongest album in years.  It contains some absolutely memorable songs, such as "Clarity Through Deprivation", "The Violation", and "Some Things Should be Left Alone."  The band has really not done anything differently musically on this album.  It just comes across as a tighter sound, with more energy and passion.  The band sounds rejuvenated somehow.  Perhaps this is due to new members Eric Morotti and Charlie Errigo at drums and guitar respectively, neither of whom had even been born when Suffocation released their first album.  Whatever it is, the band sounds better than they have in over a decade.

This is without a doubt, Suffocation's strongest album in years.  The band has re-captured the spirit and energy that made them one of the greatest death metal bands ever.  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

God Dethroned: The World Ablaze (2017)

God Dethroned is back!  The Dutch blackened death metal band has split up twice now, only to reform just a couple of years later.  Most recently, they split up in 2012, some time after I saw them in concert as one of the supporting bands for Overkill.  They were not gone too long as they technically reunited in 2014, but this is the first new material since then.

God Dethroned has found something of a niche in crafting their albums around the atrocities of World War I.  It started with their amazing Passiondale album in 2009 and continued with Under the Sign of the Iron Cross.  This is their third release in that vein.  This is never more apparent than on the terrific, heart-pumping "On the Wrong Side of the Wire".  Ah, trench warfare.

The lyrical content is not the only thing that has been re-created on each of the last three albums.  The general sound of the albums is also very similar.  No one will ever accuse God Dethroned of being mainstream-friendly (talking mainstream metal obviously), but the music is similar to the lighter material by Behemoth and tends more to melody than brutality this time around.  It is like the band took some of the more epic, dramatic moments that appeared on Passiondale ("No Survivors"), and stretched them out into an entire album.  Most of the black metal-leaning elements have been stripped from their sound, leaving a more streamlined approach similar to the melodic death metal stylings of Amon Amarth, just with a different historical period as a focus.  They have been trending in this direction for awhile now and this is definitely the closest to mainstream-friendly as God Dethroned has ever been.

The band can still dial things up when they really want to, and a lot of the time, they still sound like a well-oiled machine of warfare.  "Annihilation Crusade" is a loud, bulldozer of a song with riffing that sounds like heavy artillery firing.  And as mentioned, "On the Other Side of the Wire" is a monster track, with a fantastic lead melody.  The vocals are delivered in Henri Sattler's standard gruff bark throughout the album.

I enjoy this album quite a bit, though it is not as impressive as Passiondale.  It is a strong comeback album, even if it is significantly more melodic than we are used to from God Dethroned.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sepultura: Machine Messiah (2017)

Way back in the summer between my freshman and sophomore year in high school, I gravitated toward Brazilian metal legends Sepultura.  It was the first extreme metal band I was ever really into.  Of course this was at the time that Roots was released.  I picked it up and then quickly picked up a number of their other releases, including singles, EPs, and other oddities (including one bootleg).  Now, I recognize their earlier material as their best, but Sepultura was a very important band in my evolution as a metalhead.  Then, Max Cavalera left the band and after being very disappointed with the album Against, I stopped picking up new releases by the band.  Until just recently.

After Derrick Green took over vocal duties from the departed Max Cavalera, Sepultura cratered for a while.  Their sound went in more of a hardcore direction and the passion was simply not there.  It seems apparent now that the band was often following trends: evolving into a groove metal band when Pantera hit it big and then nu-metal when Korn was the flavor of the day.  Then when extreme metal came back into popularity, the band once again shifted in that direction.  That being said, the quality of the band's albums has been gradually improving over the last several years, to the point that I was actually impressed enough to pick this one up.

Things get off to kind of a weird start on the opening title track here.  Sepultura is not really known for their melodic sensibility, and we have a more subtle, softer sound on this track for the first few minutes.  Green eventually starts screaming, but the tone of the song remains more melodic and somber than their typical rage and anger.  It returns to that rage and anger from the second track on.  "I am the Enemy" definitely has more of a defiant punk edge to it, and the simple, groove-laden riffs certainly help.  The band still utilizes some tribal drumming ("Phantom Self"), an element that gained the band mainstream notice in the mid 1990's.  For the most part, this album is more of the same groove metal that the band has been playing for the last several years, but there is something much more savage and bestial this time around.

The album is something of a concept album, about technology taking over people's lives, and the problems that would likely arise from technology taking over.  Think Terminator.  I have not spent any time reviewing the lyrics to look at the story of the album, I just know it is there.

This is easily the best album Sepultura has released since Max left the band.  That really is not saying that much though.  It is probably better than Roots, but maybe not as good as Chaos A.D., so of course the older stuff still blows it out of the water.  Still though, it is nice to hear something decent from the band that I loved so much going into high school.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Exodus in Omaha: September 11, 2017

A few weeks back I talked about Bucket List Bands, bands I would love to see live some day.  That particular conversation was about Iron Maiden, which was definitely a band that qualified.  I went about formulating a list, and one of these days I will share it.  But one of the bands that made it onto the list was Exodus.  Now, I am not a massive fan of Exodus's entire catalog, but I have previously said that I believe that Bonded by Blood is one of, if not the, greatest thrash metal albums of all time.  On Monday night, Exodus came to Omaha, and my wife and I made the trip to see them.

The show was at the Slowdown, a fairly new venue, at least it appears that way.  It was a very nice venue and I hope to see more shows there.  Opening up for Exodus were a couple of local bands, one of which I have previously seen and the other of which I have heard before.

We were a little bit late, but did not miss much.  Orpheus was already on the stage when I walked in, while my wife decided to go for some ice cream.  I saw Orpheus as one of the opening bands at the Goatwhore concert a few months back.  I was pretty impressed with their brand of death/thrash metal at the time.  I was even more impressed this time.  Their music was fast and brutally intense and they were the biggest surprise of the night.

Narcotic Self is a Nebraska band that is reasonably well-known.  I would argue that they have the feel of a band that is right on the cusp of making a big name for themselves.  On their most recent album, they managed to secure the guest vocals of Soilwork's Bjorn "Speed" Strid.  And their brutal thrash metal sound is damn impressive as well.  They also have a very strong stage presence and really got the crowd into their set.  This band could be going places.

Exodus was next to the stage and they played a blistering set that covered much of their history.  Bonded by Blood was well-represented, as it should have been.  The band also played select songs from their most recent album (which I love) and the Atrocity Exhibit albums (which are not as impressive).  The band sounded like a band half their age.  There was a ton of energy and enthusiasm and some damn impressive riffwork.  Steve "Zetro" Souza sounded great as he screeched out his vocals and he kept the crowd involved, though some people got a little too into it.  One person had to be escorted out after getting into a fight in the pit.  "The Toxic Waltz" was a particular crowd favorite and really had the pit moving.  Overall, Exodus was terrific.  They were well worth the wait, though I am not sure my wife agreed.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Pallbearer: Heartless (2017)

Doom metal has been going through a massive resurgence over the last few years.  One of the top bands in the center of this resurgence has been the Arkansas natives Pallbearer.  Pallbearer released a monster of a debut album in 2012 and are on their third album with this year's Heartless.

Pallbearer's sound is epic, slow-moving, melancholic, and melodic.  The songs are typically longer with rather atypical song structures.  The songs are not in standard verse-chorus-verse compositions, and in fact they typically do not have choruses at all.  Therefore, the songs are not really catchy in the traditional sense.  Rather, they are infectious in their own ways.  The songs are typically dreary, with clean, heart-wrenching vocals and razor-sharp guitar leads.  The album is incredibly heavy and yet heart-breaking.  The vocals are so pained and tortured and the guitar melodies are so somber, that the emotion is impossible to not be contagious.  It is beautifully tragic.

The only real issue is that the album does tend to drag in places.  This is mostly to be expected with such a slow-moving release that is focused more on sorrow.  By and large, the depressive tone works quite well with the dragged out songs, but on occasion it seems to lose focus and meander a bit.  But the band does a great job of pulling things back together quickly.

It took me a while to get into Pallbearer initially.  There was a lot of hype for their debut release which often tends to turn me off.  But once I checked them out, I was hooked.  And this album hooked me almost instantly.  It is a terrific doom metal release with a ton of heaviness and emotion, two things that are often difficult to combine in such an effective manner as Pallbearer does here.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Kreator: Gods of Violence (2017)

I covered Overkill yesterday, so it is time to cover another thrash metal titan, this time Germany's Kreator.  I had the opportunity to see Kreator live earlier this year and see them play some of the songs from the album.  I will come right out and say that the band generally sounds even more ferocious live than they do in recordings.

Kreator's sound has changed a little bit over the last few albums, since their more experimental period came to an end.  Their sound has embraced more melodic death metal elements over the last few releases, and this has become a major part of their sound on this album in particular.  Some long-term fans have cried foul over this, but the band pulls it off fairly well.  It is simply a fact that the take-no-prisoners brutality of their 1980's material is not going to be revisited.  The band has matured and keeping up that level of aggression is not easy.

The band still has songs that bring to mind the Kreator that released "Endless Pain" and "Pleasure to Kill".  "Satan is Real" and the title track certainly have that kind of anthemic, fist-pumping, neck-wrecking energy.  Vocalist/guitarist Mille Petrozza has been the band's MVP for a long time now and his vocals sound just as pissed off as they always have.  His snarling has long been the band's most identifiable characteristic and it retains its power here.

Kreator is never going to release another "People of the Lie".  We need to learn to accept that and embrace the band that they have become.  They are more melodic these days, but they can definitely still break some necks.  This is a damn fine album for a band that has been going for nearly 35 years.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Overkill: The Grinding Wheel (2017)

I have never really been able to stick to a concrete list of my favorite bands.  My tastes are constantly changing and one bad album, or an exceptional album from a different band can tend to completely throw a wrench into things.  But Overkill has to be among my top bands because they are so insanely consistent.  That is not an easy thing to find in the world of thrash metal in particular.  Sure, Overkill did the groove metal thing for a little bit after Pantera success shocked everyone, but even those albums were great.  And so, when a new Overkill album is released upon the world, I have to pick it up.

Now, just because I said the band has been consistent does not mean that there is not a weaker album here and there.  Weaker in the sense that it does not reach the heights that other releases do and tends to be a little more middle-of-the-road.  Not weaker in that it is a bad album.  Overkill has never released a bad album.  Unfortunately, this is one of those slightly weaker albums.  It is not as dynamic as some of the band's other albums in this era of their careers.  It does not have the same ferocity as say, Ironbound, which was a true monster of an album and their best since the early 1990's.

The album definitely starts off strong, with the anthemic "Mean, Green, Killing Machine", which I imagine will be quite the popular song at their concerts (it has been several years since I have seen Overkill live and they did absolutely slay).  Unfortunately that song does kind of overstay its welcome over its nearly eight-minute run time.  And that is a lot of the problem with this album in a nutshell.  There are only two songs under five minutes, and those are just barely under.  It is hard for a band to maintain intensity over that long of a run-time, particularly a thrash metal band known more for speed.  The songs tend to meander a little and lose focus.  Now, Overkill has certainly made long albums before, but this album just loses something.

Now, again, this is still a damn good album.  It just does not quite hold up to the standard set down by the band over the last 35 years, which is a long time for any band to keep up this level of quality.  And Overkill has been consistently putting out great thrash metal throughout their career.  It is only natural that some albums will hold up better over time.  This is just not one of those.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Power Trip: Nightmare Logic (2017)

Since I have been doing this blog thing, no band has taken home Album of the Year honors twice.  Now, I really have not been doing this THAT long, and it is not as if bands have not been in the Top 10 more than once.  This year, that COULD change.  Power Trip's debut album was my Album of the Year in 2013 and this follow-up is definitely a contender for 2017.

Crossover is a genre that I have really gotten into in the last few years, and a lot of that has been due to Power Trip, who sounds like Nuclear Assault on steroids.  Power Trip manages to stick a little closer to thrash metal than punk on this release, but maintains the punk aggression and attitude.  The riffs are straight out of the early days of thrash metal, but are delivered with a fresh and modern flair so that the music does not fall into the trappings of the retro thrash wave of a few years ago.

Second track "Executioner's Tax" is led off by a fucking steamroller of a riff.  It is the clear highlight of the album, though Power Trip never wavers in intensity and each song is a neck-breaker.  This is a relatively short release, at just over half an hour in length and with just eight tracks, but it is a non-stop, crushing album from start to finish.

Nightmare Logic is a worthy successor to Power Trip's monstrous debut album, further refining their take-no-prisoners approach and contending for Album of the Year on this blog once more.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Nethermancy: Magick Halls of Ascension (2017)

Black metal has become such a varied beast over the years.  Other genres have seeped their influence into bands.  Regional styles have popped up.  There is just very little that sounds like the more known sounds of the early 1990's in Norway, which in itself was really the second wave of black metal.  There are certain styles of black metal that appeal to me, and certain styles that do not.  I generally prefer bands whose sound is based in thrash metal riffs with hateful-sounding vocals.  And luckily, Nethermancy is exactly that type of black metal band.

Nethermancy's sound is based in the old school.  It is the kind of black metal sound you would expect to hear from Norway in the early 1990's, with a little bit of early 90's Swedish black metal thrown in for good measure.  The riffs are tremolo-picked, repetitive riffs, played over blast-beat driven drums, with the occasional keyboard flourish.  The vocals are delivered in a throaty rasp.  If I had to pick one band to refer to for a point of reference, it would be the most aggressive stuff from Ancient.  The lyrics deal mostly with occult mysticism, similar to the works of Absu or the black metal output of Satan's Host.

This album manages to hit all of the right notes for me for a black metal album.  It is fast, aggressive, and intense.  The lyrics are dark, the vocals are definitely hateful.  The fact that this band came from Portugal and not Scandinavia is shocking.  It is less surprising to know that the band has been together since the mid 90's.  Their style definitely suggests they probably date back to that time period.  This is a very good, old school style black metal album.  I highly recommend it to anyone looking for black metal the way it used to be.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Scarlet Records Round-Up Post

I am going to try to catch up on the label submissions.  Not that some of these albums do not deserve their own posts (all of them do), but I am way behind and would like to start reviewing some of the albums I have sought out myself.  Here are the last of the Scarlet Records releases:

MY REGIME: DERANGED PATTERNS (2017)
My Regime is a Swedish thrash metal band, featuring legendary Spiritual Beggars singer/songwriter Spice and several other members from other Swedish metal bands.  Swedish thrash typically has a distinctly different sound, with an often cavernous guitar tone.  For some reason I have never gotten quite as into Swedish thrash as the German style.  My Regime's sound is rooted in late 1980's prime-era Slayer, with punk-like intensity, snarled vocals, and fast, crushing riffs.  My Regime has only been around for a couple of years now, but I definitely like their sound.  I am looking forward to more.  "The Sound of Dying Dreams" is the best song on the album.

SINHERESY: DOMINO (2017)
Italian band Sinheresy apparently started their career as a Nightwish cover band, and it shows.  Keyboard melodies and operatic female vocals are in heavy supply throughout this album.  As far as a Nightwish era that the band most resembles, I would probably suggest their earlier period, before they became famous.  There is an intensity and distortion in the guitar riffs that is more similar to that period.  The songs are catchy as hell, with some impressive vocal interplay between singers Stefano Sain and Cecilia Petrini.  I do not really listen to much Nightwish these days, so this album is a bit lost on me, but I can appreciate the songs on it.

ULVEDHARR: TOTAL WAR (2017)
You do not see too many Viking-themed bands come from Italy, but apparently that is what Ulvedharr is going for here.  This is a Viking-themed band in the vein of Unleashed or Amon Amarth, meaning that even if the theme is Vikings, the music is far more aggressive.  Ulvedharr play fast and intense thrash/death metal with pounding drums, sharp riffs, and growled, death metal-style roaring vocals.  This album could honestly sneak into my Top Albums of 2017.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

God Root: Salt and Rot (2017)

Reading through the description of the album, I came across the section "For fans of", which listed bands like Swans and Neurosis, and I realized that I am probably not the target audience.  I have never gotten into groups like Neurosis, and I have tried.  I have an open mind, but things were not looking good for God Root.

This is just a four-song EP, but it clocks in at just over 30 minutes.  I tried to keep an open mind, but after the first track was nearly six minutes of occasional drumming and meandering chords, things were not really looking too promising.  The second song started off well, but then eventually tailed off into the same guitar dissonant chord progressions, with shouted vocals.  The sound is definitely sludgy and eerie, but it is simply not doing enough to keep my interest.  The drumming is probably the highlight of the album, with some interesting complex rhythms.  The atmosphere definitely has a creepy vibe due to the dissonance and shouting, but there are no real riffs through most of the album and the songs mostly wander from movement to movement without a lot of structure.  That is likely the idea, and while it may appeal to a number of people, it is simply not for me.  The third track is mostly distortion and feedback picking up where the end of the second track left off, along with some drumming.  The final track is a slow burning ramp up into loud feedback and shouts.  It is probably the most interesting track here, but it too is mostly devoid of riffs until closer to the end.

Ultimately, post-metal simply does not do enough for me.  I suppose if you like Neurosis, you will likely enjoy this EP.  I personally never understood the love for Neurosis, so I do not personally care for this one.  

Kalopsia: Angelplague (2017)

Holy shit.  I have often talked about certain death metal bands having a quality, a certain intensity, that is hard to define but nonetheless makes the band an absolutely spell-binding listen.  I have attributed this quality to bands like Thornafire, Cenotaph (Mexican band), Apophis, and a few others over the years.  They are bands that I absolutely believe should be much better-known and are therefore criminally underrated.  Well, I am here to argue that Kalopsia should be added to that list.  This is one of the best death metal albums I have heard this year, if not the best.

This is an album of uncompromising old-school-style occult death metal in the vein of Immolation, Angelcorpse, Sinister, Morbid Angel, and others of that ilk.  The riffs are thrashy and aggressive, having much more in common with the earliest death metal bands, when the style was just starting to come into its own than many of the current bands going.  Perhaps it is this riffing style that is really the quality I am looking for.  The drumming and bass are thunderous and captivating.  It is clear that both musicians know their old school death metal.  The vocals are also steeped in early death metal style, delivered in a deep, blood-soaked roar.

All of the tracks on this album are incredible, but I want to specifically bring attention to "Scorched Earth and Blackened Skies".  When the band starts into the more melodic bridge sections, they come damn close to crafting the absolutely perfect death metal song.

The only complaint I have about this album is that it is too short.  Kalopsia are definitely front-runners in the death metal album of the year for 2017.  

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sacrificial Slaughter: Generation of Terror (2017)

California's thrash/death metal band Sacrificial Slaughter has been around for nearly two decades now, but have gone through a ton of lineup changes over the years and have been fairly inconsistent in releasing new material.  They have released just three full-length albums, and this EP is their first release in four years, which is a shame, because this is a hell of a good release.

There are just six songs on this EP and it clocks in at under 20 minutes long, but during that short period of time, the band exhibits break-neck intensity, crushing riffs, and psychotic vocals.  Sacrificial Slaughter fly through this release like a band possessed.  The band only changes gears on the Carnivore cover at the end of the album.  But even that song fits in just fine with the rest of the proceedings.

I am going to have to start looking into Sacrificial Slaughter's back catalog.  This short EP was terrific.

Epi-Demic: Malformed Conscience (2017)

Ah, here we go.  It is good to get away from the power metal stuff for a little while.  Epi-Demic is a Canadian thrash metal/crossover band releasing their second full-length album.  Canada has a reputation for some amazing metal bands, particularly thrash metal.  Slaughter, Sacrifice, Razor, and Voivod have all emerged from the Great White North, so I was pretty excited about this one.

Epi-Demic's sound is definitely more on the crossover side of things with a lot of punk energy and shouted vocals, very much like early Corrosion of Conformity, among others.  Guitarist Adam H.'s riffs are aggressive backed by pounding drums and throbbing bass.  The songs are all fairly short, with only a couple reaching three-and-a-half minutes and the entire album flies by in the blink of an eye.  The production is raw, emphasizing the ugliness of the sound.  This is absolutely not a melodic metal album.

Malformed Conscience is a non-compromising, angry slab of metal that is unrelenting in its assault on the listener.  There are no melodic interludes, no breaks in the action to catch breath.  It is pure, unadulterated violence from beginning to end.  Even the short instrumental is a fast-paced riff-fest.  I was definitely impressed with the release.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Excalion: Dream Alive (2017)

I have been inundated with power metal submissions lately.  Mostly that is due to Scarlet Records being fairly well-known for its power metal releases and they are one of the labels that sends me the most stuff.  This has been a little difficult for me, because power metal is not one of the subgenres that I am well-versed in.  But I am not going to argue.

Like Cryonic Temple and Cellador, Excalion has released their first album this year in several years.  Excalion's hiatus dates back to 2010.  Excalion is a Finnish power metal band.  The most well-known Finnish power metal bands are Nightwish, Battlelore, Battle Beast, Wintersun, and Children of Bodom.  So those were the reference points for me going in.  Which proved to be absolutely worthless, because Excalion does not sound like any of them.  Instead their sound is much more of an epic, bombastic power metal sound more similar to groups like Sonata Arctica.  That works for me.  I have made my affinity for early Sonata Arctica very clear on this page.

The songs are typically driven by keyboard melodies, with rhythmic riffs played underneath the melodies.  The music tends to not be terribly aggressive.  It is much more melodic.  The highlight throughout is the impressive vocal abilities of singer Marcus Lång.

The first three tracks are mid-paced, and while they are certainly impressive, they are ultimately a little forgettable.  However, the fourth and fifth songs kick things up a notch and instantly grab the listener's attention.  Excalion seems to be one of those bands, like the aforementioned Sonata Arctica, that does their best work when playing at faster speeds.  As the album continues, some of this energy is lost and the music suffers somewhat as a result.  The band does kick things back into gear for the last few tracks.

This is an extremely impressive album when Excalion is speeding through songs.  The slower songs are undoubtedly played well, but just do not have quite the same effect as the faster-paced songs.  It may lack some of the aggression and intensity of other power metal albums, but it is very impressive musically.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Decayed: The Burning of Heaven (2016)

Yep, very subtle.  We can definitely tell the opinions on Christianity held by the band due to the album title and the cover art here.  I kid, mostly because I find it very funny.  The Portuguese black metal pioneers Decayed has been around since the early 1990's, which is a very long time.  This is the first I have personally heard from them though, mostly due to Portugal not really being known for its metal.  Only vocalist/guitarist J.A. has been with the band since the beginning with the other members joining on within the last few years.

With a black metal band that has been around for as long as Decayed has, it is no surprise to hear that their style is rooted in the far more aggressive, hateful styles of the second wave bands from Norway and Sweden.  The thrash and punk influences are obvious from the riffing style, which is mostly simple and repetitive.  The album as a whole is dirty and raw black metal.  I certainly have no complaints about that, as I have frequently discussed my preference for this particular style of black metal.  The vocals are a fairly typical rasp, but not so much that the lyrics are not easily heard or understood.  The production is nice and crisp, which is something of a rarity in black metal, but which helps to really hear the instrumentation.

This is definitely not a retread of Transilvanian Hunger, despite the comments earlier about simple riffing style.  It is much more similar to later Darkthrone.  Some of the songs are quite lengthy with more progressive structures.  The band does not simply rely on one riff over and over again for each song.  In fact, the album does seem to be more of a concept album, with a couple of short interludes among the tracks.

This is a raw, dirty, thrashing black metal album.  It is exactly the type of black metal I love.  I love this album.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Deathless Legacy: Dance with Devils (2017)

Deathless Legacy started out their existence as a tribute band for Italian horror metal legends Death SS.  The band has since started recording their own material, but definitely still have the same horror vibe, so much in fact that Rob Zombie himself chose them to support his band.  This has given Deathless Legacy a lot more exposure and a potential breakout.  Dance with Devils is Deathless Legacy's third album, and their second in as many years.

A lot of bands over the years have attempted to marry horror imagery and metal music.  Chief among them is the aforementioned Rob Zombie, but there have also been Theatres Des Vampires, Cradle of Filth, and Lordi, among many others.  Some are more successful than others.  The real key is to present an interesting live show, but make sure that the music is high quality as well.  The hope is to appeal to more than just the Hot Topic crowd (is Hot Topic still a thing?  I have no idea).  It is obvious the horror elements are there on this release.  Song titles like "Headless Horseman", "Witches' Brew", and "Devilborn" give that away quite quickly.  From an audio standpoint, there are the cackling Wicked Witch-style vocals of singer Steva La Cinghiala, the frequent eerie keyboard melodies, and the skits performed between songs by members of the band credited solely as "performers".  I have read that the band puts on some impressive live performances, and I could believe that based on what I am hearing on this album.

Musically, Deathless Legacy are kind of all over the place.  Some songs come close to power metal, whereas others are more on the doom metal spectrum.  Others are barely metal at all.  So it is a little bit uneven and inconsistent from a musical standpoint.  The real star of the album is clearly the vocalist.  There are not many long breaks in songs where there are no vocals and most of the music is not terribly technical.  The music mostly seems to simply be there to support Steva.  Which is not to say that the music is bad at all, frankly I would like to hear it a little bit more.

For the most part, this album is quite catchy and the musicianship is certainly competent.  Steva has a very intriguing voice.  The only real issue is the lack of a real standout track.  It is a fun album and I am sure they are very interesting in concert, but I cannot really say the album has a lot of replay value.  Ultimately, I am not likely the target audience for this release.  I don't even know if Hot Topic still exists.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Von Doom: From Fear (2017)

Portland, Oregon-based melodic death metal band Von Doom has been around for a few years now, releasing an EP and a demo in their first go-around.  They then went on a brief hiatus before re-forming in 2015.  This single is their first new material since their reformation.  I was not familiar with the band prior to hearing this new song, so I cannot speak to whether it is at all similar to their previous stuff, but I can say that this is a fairly impressive song.  It is a fast, teeth-gnashingly aggressive song with bone-crushing riffs, psychotic vocals, and throbbing bass.  If this is what the band is going to sound like, I want to hear a full-length.

Cryonic Temple: Into the Glorious Battle (2017)

Everything about this, musically, lyrically, and thematically, reminds me of Sabaton.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, exactly the opposite in fact.  I really enjoy Sabaton, ever since seeing them opening up for Trivium last Fall.  They put on one of the more impressive live performances I have seen.  I am not saying Cryonic Temple copied Sabaton; I do not know enough about either band's history to know how they got to this point.  I do know that Cryonic Temple actually has been around for a few years longer than Sabaton.  But having an album title like Into the Glorious Battle, songs like "Mighty Eagle", and being a power metal band, the comparisons are obviously there.  Now, I will try to complete the rest of the review without mentioning Sabaton again.  Hopefully.

The album starts off with a light keyboard melody, complete with air-raid sirens, that sounds very much like the introductions that Sabaton (dammit) uses.  It then builds into the first real song of the album, "Man of a Thousand Faces".  Most of the songs are fast-paced, energetic songs driven by epic-sounding keyboard and guitar riffs, and featuring some very impressive clean singing and infectious choruses.  Helloween is the most logical reference point for the band's influence.  Many of the songs are about warfare, just like Sabaton (shit).

There is the occasional slower song on this album, such as "Heroes of the Day" and "This War is Useless", which helps to keep things interesting, making the album much more dynamic.  The slower songs are where vocalist Mattias Lillja really shines.  "This War is Useless" really takes a conflicting view from many of the other songs which are principally about the glories of warfare.  The real highlight on the album is the stupidly catchy "Can't Stop the Heat", which latches on and refuses to let go.

Cryonic Temple have created an insanely catchy, and mostly upbeat melodic power metal album here, mostly about the glory of warfare.  Just like Sabaton (fuck it, I'm out).        

Monday, August 14, 2017

Atlas Pain: What the Oak Left (2017)

Folk metal is an odd genre.  I doubt I am saying anything new.  Obviously there are a lot of different types of folk metal, depending on the region the band is pulling influence from, and the metal can be different depending on if the band is using melodeath, black, or power metal.  There are also varying degrees of what percentage the split is between the folk elements and the metal elements.  The best folk metal bands strike a healthy balance between the styles, usually without the folk elements completely overwhelming the metal riffs, while being more than just window dressing.  It is certainly not an easy balance to strike.

Here we have the debut full-length from Italian folk metal band Atlas Pain.  The band was formed in 2013 by Samuele Faulisi, who sings and plays the guitar and keyboard for the band.  Atlas Pain has previously released a demo and an EP.  As a fledgling folk metal band, it would be too much to expect Atlas Pain to be able to strike the right balance between folk and metal, and they do seem to struggle with it at times.  Honestly the keyboards sound somewhat out of place at times and really detract from the guitar work.  It is also difficult to tell what kind of regional folk elements the band is going for.  At times, it is pretty clearly Celtic folk, but other times the band sounds like they are striving to be more of a straight melodeath band.  It is this distinct lack of a cohesive identity that makes this album limited in its effect and longevity.

The other issue is that some of the songs veer very far into cheesy territory, making songs almost unlistenable.  The major culprits here are "Till the Dawn Comes" and "The Sword" which utilize a lot of bouncy, lilting keyboard melodies and sing-song choruses that come off far too upbeat.  It does not bother me when bands sound like they are having fun, I do enjoy Finntroll and Korpiklaani on occasion, but apart from the harsh vocals, these songs almost sound like they would be at home on a Disney soundtrack.  That is probably an overstatement, but they are ridiculously upbeat.

The album is not really bad.  The musicians are all competent, and the harsh vocals are reasonably impressive, though it would be nice to change things up a bit more.  I enjoy most of the lead guitar melodies and wish those would have taken center stage over the keyboard melodies.  Some of the songs are quite good.  It is actually kind of a fun listen, the biggest problem is that it is mostly forgettable.  The band seems to be striving to create the next Wintersun album.  Unfortunately, they just do not have that ability, yet.  Time will tell, the talent is certainly there.  The results just are not.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Arthemis: Blood-Fury-Damnation (2017)

I have never been quite sure what to think of certain modern power metal.  Just something about it does not really sit right with me.  I love the grandiose, epic power metal: stuff like Blind Guardian, earlier Sonata Arctica, Tad Morose, and groups like that.  But a lot of the more modern stuff sounds like a cross between American power metal and nu-metal.  I think it is the chunky rhythm and bass riffs that sound like they could have appeared on Soulfy's debut album.  Unfortunately, this album by Arthemis falls very much into that modern sound and this release kind of suffers because of it.  I say kind, because there are definitely good moments as well.

Italian power metal band Arthemis has been around for a long time, but this is the first release I have yet heard from them.  As implied, this definitely has a modern feel to it, particularly with regard to the frequent keyboard effects.  There is a lot of melody through the lead guitar and frequent soloing, but the music is principally driven by galloping rhythm guitar and bass riffs.  Singer Fabio D. (no, I'm not making that up) has a good voice, though it pales next to other power metal vocalists.  It is more of mid-range style with the ability to soar higher or sneer when necessary.

There are some damn catchy songs here, including the speedy "Blistering Eyes" and insanely infectious "Into the Arena".  The band has the ability to craft memorable hooks and choruses.  There is of course a much softer and slower ballad here, which is pretty common for modern power metal.  It does serve to make following track "Warcry" sound that much faster.  The tribal-esque drumming in "Firetribe" is another highlight.

Certainly there is nothing really wrong with this album.  It is fine and all of the musicians are clearly talented, it just happens to be a style that does not really appeal all that much to me.  To me, it is an interesting enough album when I am listening to it, but it is not likely one that I will specifically turn on all that often.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Wanderer: Way of the Blade (2017)

Let's do something really quick here.  Way of the Blade is a 7" limited to 200 copies from fairly new Portuguese metallers Wanderer.  The sound is the exact type of dirty heavy/speed metal that I have been obsessed with over the last few months.  There is absolutely nothing polished here, it is just fun old-fashioned tried and true metal.

There are just two songs on this release.  Side One features the title cut, a ripping seven minute full throttle speed metal attack.  Wanderer fits in well with the retro traditional metal bands like Cauldron, Enforcer, and Wolf.  The vocals are gruff and the hooks are infectious.  "Freedom's Call" is the sole track on Side Two and it is incrementally slower than the title cut, but still features the break-neck intensity.  The only thing I would have liked to have seen from this band would be shorter songs.  These songs are a little on the long side for the ideas presented and can be a little repetitive.

Wanderer has been for a few years now, but this two-song EP and a five-track demo tape are all that they have released to date.  If this is a sign of what they are capable of, count me in for a full-length.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Cellador: Off the Grid (2017)

Cellador is the most famous metal band to come from my home state of Nebraska.  That really is not saying all that much since Cellador is not real well-known, despite appearing on a big metal label, and they have relocated to Denver, Colorado.  But that pretty much tells all that is necessary to know about the metal scene in Nebraska.  Not that there are not good bands, but rising to fame is very difficult.

It has been more than ten years since Cellador released their debut album Enter Deception, which was reasonably well-received and was certainly hyped.  In the years since, previous vocalist Michael Gremio has left the band, leaving vocal duties to guitarist and only remaining founding member Chris Petersen and the band has moved on from Metal Blade Records to Scarlet Records.  Everyone else in the band is also fairly new.  The band has only released an EP since 2006, so this is essentially a new beginning for Cellador.

Cellador's particular brand of power metal is obviously influenced by Helloween and Gamma Ray, giving it more of a European aesthetic, blending epic melodies and speed metal riffing.  It is also damn catchy.  Petersen has improved as a singer and his soaring vocals blend well with the fast riffs of the dual guitar attack.  I might actually prefer Petersen's vocals to Gremio's from the previous album.  Some of the tracks are considerably more aggressive this time around.  "Shadowfold" kicks things off with one hell of a riff and the first two tracks each trample anything the band did on their first release.  The title track is the best song on the album with an insanely infectious chorus and some of the best solos the band has ever done, including keyboard solos.

On the band's previous album, they were frequently derided for being a Dragonforce clone, and some similarities are certainly still present, but Cellador's songwriting has eclipsed Dragonforce on this release.  The songs are much more accessible, flow better, and do not overstay their welcome.  The only misstep is the odd Cyndi Lauper cover.  "Good Enough" is a decent enough track, but it does not really match the tone of the rest of the album.  I applaud the band for taking risks and I have frequently mentioned that I love metal covers of 1980's pop hits, but it just seems out of place on this release.

This is really a terrific release by Cellador and it is a massive step forward from their good, but uneven debut album.  I am anxious to see this band continue, even though I will never forgive them for abandoning Nebraska.  I am mostly kidding.  Mostly.

Demimonde: Cygnus Oddyssey (2016)

This album definitely can not be pigeon-holed into one genre.  It is a massive, sprawling beast of an album with a lot of stuff going on musically.  The band was somewhat well-renowned around the turn of the 21st century in their native Czech Republic and released a fairly popular album in 2000.  However, the Prague-based band went on hiatus for nearly a decade-and-a-half before re-emerging with rumblings that this release was imminent, releasing single songs in 2014 and 2015.

The album kicks off in supremely weird fashion, sounding like a band that has spent many hours dissecting Nocturnus's The Key and kicking the keyboard parts up a notch, while dropping copious hits of acid.  Now, that is a fantastic fucking album, so I am definitely on board with the weirdness here.  However, at times it goes a little far.  The first real song on this thing, "The Generation Ship" is REALLY out there.  And then "Event Horizon" kicks in and things get even weirder.  And that is pretty much the story of this album.

As I said, it is real damn hard to try to explain this album in words.  There are so many odd keyboard lines, samples and avant-garde weirdness that it cannot be described adequately, but that is a lot of the fun of this release.  You really have to sit down and listen to it, because a casual listen will not uncover a lot of the oddities going on.  It is hard to even argue that there is a basis in any one particular metal genre.  At first listen, I leaned toward some sort of progressive death metal, but most tracks do not bear any similarity to death metal.  So I will call it avant-garde and call it a day.

The vocals are also something else.  Band vocalist De.polar typically uses death metal-style growls, but there are a number of guests who contribute crooning or operatic vocals throughout.  There are some gems on the release.  "Te Kore" is a very interesting track, despite the keyboards that threaten to overtake the song.   And "Singularity (Absolute Word explanation)" has a damn catchy opening riff, leading into the most straightforward metal track on the album.

The only downside is that there are a lot of moments where the band gets bogged down in crafting an atmosphere and experimenting.  When they are playing actual music, the album is very interesting, but it loses focus on occasion or goes too far with the odd moments.

This is definitely not a casual listening album.  It demands attention and can be very rewarding when attention is paid to it.  But that is the key.  If not listened to carefully, it becomes simply noise.  So, keep an open mind.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Ovenizer: SWM (2015)

I want to first off apologize to the members of Ovenizer, a band which may or may not exist any longer.  I have been absolutely terrible about reviewing stuff lately.  I have had this album for likely a year or so at this point.  I am going to try to get back into things a little bit at a time, work my way back up to posting regularly.
SWM likely stands for "Satan's Washing Machine", based on one of the song titles, which brings up the question, what does Satan put in his washing machine?  Does he have a lot of reds?  Does he have to separate them from his whites?  What about delicates?  For that matter, what is an "Ovenizer"?  What is the deal with this band and household appliances?  Did one of their parents die in a tragic refrigerator accident?

I have reviewed an EP by Ovenizer before, so I thought I kind of knew what to expect, generally something much spacier and ethereal than my usual listening preferences.  I mentioned in that previous review that post-metal is not usually my thing.  I have largely avoided groups like Isis, Neurosis, Tombs, and other such groups because I prefer my metal ultra-aggressive and immediate.  I tend to prefer thrash and death metal genres and the truly hateful black metal.  But every once in awhile, something softer is a nice change of pace.  And that Ovenizer EP appealed to me in the way that Amorphis's later material does.  However, this album is a little bit of a departure from that EP.

This time around, the songs are much more structured, with a lot of the trance-inducing guitar riffs removed.  There are moments that are almost grunge-like, sounding like something Soundgarden might have released in their Sub-Pop days, though with gruffer vocals, or the murkier moments from Alice in Chains.  And there is a lot more doom metal influence as well.  The songs are typically slower, riff-driven compositions with naturally-flowing structures.  One of the typical characteristics of post-metal is its tendency to linger and meander, and Ovenizer did a little of that on the previous EP, but it is not present here.

The fact that Ovenizer is Finnish becomes fairly clear as the album continues.  A lot of Finnish bands tend to be difficult to pigeonhole into one subgenre.  And that is certainly true with a number of songs here.  "Paddling in the Sky" features death metal growls over almost tribal rhythms and crooning vocals, whereas "S.I.B." is a standard-issue melodeath track, and "Watch" is prog-rock that would make Tool proud.

The constantly shifting influences make this an often surprising, interesting listen.  I was definitely taken aback by the significant departure from the EP, but apparently, that is just what this band does best.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Iron Fucking Maiden in Lincoln: July 9, 2017

I have been thinking a lot about "bucket list bands", bands I would most want to see once in my lifetime.  For a long time, Iron Maiden was absolutely at the top of that list.  So, when it was announced that Iron Maiden would be playing in Lincoln, Nebraska, I absolutely had to go.  And honestly, they were every bit as good as I had them built up in my mind.

But before we get to the Iron Maiden performance, I have to talk about the seats.  The venue was Pinnacle Bank Arena, a large structure built in the last few years and already attracting a number of large-market shows.  My wife and I have previously seen Motley Crue and Def Leppard headline shows there.  My father works for the company that built the arena and the company has luxury suite seats.  My dad got my wife and me tickets in the luxury suite.  We had free drinks and snacks, and very nice seats to enjoy the concert.  It was definitely a great night.

Opening the show was Ghost, who are embroiled in a bit of a legal controversy these days.  Singer Papa Emeritus has replaced all of the previous Nameless Ghouls with new Nameless Ghouls.  The difference is actually seemless.  We saw the band last year headlining at a smaller venue and they were just as good as they were back then.  It was obviously a shorter set, but most of the expected songs were played.  While not quite as dynamic as they were when they headlined their own show, Ghost still put on an impressive performance.

After a short set change, an animated sequence started up featuring Eddie in the rainforests of South America.  This was the Book of Souls tour, spotlighting the band's most recent double album, which was their best album since the Brave New World reunion.  Songs from the new album featured heavily, which was to be expected.  The band started things off with "If Eternity Should Fail".  The latest album has a theme revolving around the Mayan civilization and much of the stage design (and the Eddie design) reflected this theme.  The stage was set up to resemble Mayan ruins and even Nicko McBrain's drum set was shiny and gold (my wife thought it was pretty).  Bruce Dickinson at one point danced around the stage with a monkey mask on and even presented guitarist Adrian Smith with a banana, which seemed to surprise him.

Iron Maiden balanced the new songs with a bunch of old favorites.  Unfortunately due to some sort of legal dispute, "Hallowed be Thy Name" was not played.  They did play "Powerslave", "The Trooper", "Fear of the Dark", and other fan favorites.  Musically, the band sounded amazing.  It is extremely hard to believe that the members of this band are in their late 50's (especially with as much running around as they did).  They sounded extremely powerful, and Dickinson's voice was still amazing after all this time.  The band closed things off with "The Number of the Beast", "Blood Brothers", and "Wasted Years".

Between the music and the stage show, I can honestly say that this was one of my favorite concerts I have ever attended.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Dokken, Firehouse, Great White, and Hericane Alice at the Platte County Fair, July 8, 2017

My wife's music tastes have been improving over the last couple of years.  Lately she has been almost exclusively listening to 1980's hard rock/heavy metal.  Scorpions have been one of her favorite bands for several years, but she has really gotten into groups like Cinderella, Motley Crue, Poison, and groups like that.  Lately, she has been really enjoying Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P., Accept, and other legitimate metal bands.

Recently, we found out that Dokken, Firehouse, Jack Russell's Great White, and Hericane Alice would be playing at the Platte County Fair in Columbus.  Not the most exciting of venues, and I can not imagine that these bands are thrilled with the idea of playing small county fairs, but it was a pretty decent opportunity to check out some groups that my wife really enjoys.  And I will admit to liking Dokken quite a bit.

Hericane Alice was the first band to take the stage, and I will admit to knowing next to nothing about this band prior to hearing about this concert.  They do have a page on the Metal Archives, but I have never heard them before.  And this was not exactly the greatest of introductions.  Three of the first five songs they played were covers ("Radar Love", "American Band", and "Highway Star"), and most of those featured extended jam breaks.  They also played for quite a long time for an unknown opening act.  After their set was over, I was mostly irritated.

I was pretty surprised that Jack Russell's Great White was the next act to play.  Now, Jack Russell is the most identifiable member of Great White, so why the name is what it is is something of a mystery to me.  They have a number of hits, and played their most recognizable songs, including "Rock Me" (one of my wife's favorite songs), "Once Bitten, Twice Shy", and "Mista Bone".  They honestly sounded pretty good for a band that has been around for more than 30 years at this point.  Russell sounded terrific and the band was pretty impressive.

Firehouse was celebrating their 25th Anniversary this year.  I have never been a Firehouse fan personally and cannot name more than a couple of their songs.  My wife, on the other hand, has found several songs she enjoys by the group.  I will give them credit though, they were probably the band that sounded the best of the night.  I still would not say I will be looking into more of their stuff, but I do not completely hate them.  So, there is that.

Finally, and I do mean finally as it was after 11:00, Dokken took the stage.  Right away, it was pretty obvious that Don Dokken was not in the best of moods.  He complained about the heat and the time, and due to technical issues, the set changes took a very long time.  His voice was quite weathered as well.  Now, Dokken, the man not the band, had some medical issues recently, and that might have been a contributing factor.  Current guitarist Jon Levin was terrific, easily as impressive as former shredder George Lynch.  Dokken played most of their best songs, including "Breaking the Chains", "Alone Again", "Into the Fire", and "Don't Close Your Eyes".  Musically, Dokken was as good as I had hoped, but Don Dokken's voice just was not there.

It was a pretty decent show.  I likely would not have gone had it not been for my wife, but the bands were pretty good.  Of course, the best concert of the weekend would occur the next night.  Check back soon for that writeup.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Goatwhore in Omaha: May 18

Last night, the sludgy black/death metal band Goatwhore came to Omaha, playing with a number of local bands.  The venue was the Lookout Lounge, a small dive bar tucked away in a corner of a strip mall near one of the busiest intersections in the city.  Apparently it is an often-used venue for local metal bands and some of the more underground bands to come to the area.  I will have to keep an eye out for more shows there.  Four local bands opened up for Goatwhore: Drowning in the Platte, Exit Sanity, Orpheus, and Autopsick.  Many of them have strong local support.  It was the first time I had heard of any of them, but they all impressed me to varying degrees.

Drowning in the Platte is a two-person death/grind band from Columbus, Nebraska, a city about half an hour south of me.  The members are brothers and they originally had a bass player, but now exist with just two members.  They had a fairly short set, but had some decent songs, and I like the layered vocals between the two members, similar to Deicide.  Still though, it was missing the bottom end a bit.

Omaha's Exit Sanity was probably the biggest surprise of the night.  They had some terrific, catchy songs and their vocalist sounded like a cross between Phil Anselmo and Kirk Windstein of Crowbar.  Musically, the band blends a number of different styles together: some hard rock, sludge and groove metal elements.  On top of everything, they were there just to have a good time, and certainly looked like it.  The singer (and probably other members, we could not see well) was tossing back beer between songs and bantering with the crowd.  My wife and I were both very impressed with this band.

Orpheus took the stage next.  The local band played a combination of thrash and death metal with some aggressive riffs and shrieking vocals.  Where Drowning in the Platte was completely bereft of a bass guitar, Orpheus was notable for having their bassist stand out throughout their set.  And he was very impressive, though I am not sure that the sound was supposed to work out quite that way.

Autopsick was the last of the local bands to take the stage and their sound was rooted in old school death metal bands such as Immolation, Incantation, and Morbid Angel.  They were probably the most polished of the local bands, though based on some admittedly minor research, I am not sure that is really based on anything more than my own impressions from last night.  They did seem to have a bit of a local following.  I even saw some people come in wearing Autopsick t-shirts.  Apparently the band used to be known as Rotting Malignancy, which was more of a brutal death/slam band, and I now want to find more information about that inactive band.

Finally, the headliners arrived and delivered a blistering set.  Goatwhore has been one of my favorite bands for several years now.  Their music is fast, intense, and aggressive, with very little room for anything close to resembling melody or softness.  Between the grooving black/death metal riffs of Sammy Duet, and the rasping shriek of Ben Falgoust, the band's strengths were on full display.  The small, dirty, dank venue matched the band's own raw and filthy sound perfectly.  They played for a little more than an hour and their set spanned their entire catalog, even closing with a song from early on in their history, when they did tend to have a bit more of a melodic sensibility and used some clean singing.  It was a terrific show for the band and reinforced their standing as one of my current favorite bands.

There was originally some concern about going to this concert.  I had a lot of major hearings scheduled for the week and was not sure I was going to be able to attend this one.  After a few of the hearings dropped out, it became more likely that I was going to be able to go.  My wife was mostly concerned about some bad reviews she read about the bar, but it turned out that we both actually liked the place.  We will be keeping an eye out for shows there in the future.  And I can now say that I have seen Goatwhore in concert.  My wife even enjoyed them a bit more than she thought she would.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Testament and Sepultura in Sioux Falls: May 4

In the last month now, I have seen four legendary thrash metal bands.  Testament and Sepultura were just the latest after seeing Anthrax and Kreator in April.  This was a different venue for us though.  The show was at The District in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, about a two-and-a-half hour drive for us.  So it definitely made for a late night, but it was worth it.  There were actually four bands there that night, which I will get to.

Both Testament and Sepultura have been longtime favorite bands for me.  I have been a huge fan of both since I was in high school.  Sepultura was the first band of whom I bought a t-shirt, though I lost it at some point.  It just sort of disappeared at some point.  As for Testament, well, my favorite song of all time is "Return to Serenity" and I went to a signing before they played a show in Lincoln when I was 18.  Unfortunately I did not get to see them that night since it was a 19 and over show.  Chuck Billy had his cancer scare shortly after that and it would be years before the band got back together.

The first band was a relatively young band from Germany called Dying Gorgeous Lies.  I was a little skeptical about what the band would sound like based on that name.  The name suggests they would be more at home opening for The Devil Wears Prada.  But no, they are definitely a thrash metal band.  The singer is a woman whose voice reminds me very much of Holy Moses singer Sabine Classen, so I definitely am on board.  We missed the band's first couple of songs as we had a long drive and decided to try out a Cambodian restaurant before the show.  But what I heard of the band was impressive.  They are definitely a German thrash metal throwback and given my love for that style, I will have to check them out.

Prong was next to the stage, and this is another band that I have enjoyed since I was in high school.  I used to catch them on Headbanger's Ball quite a bit when "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" was out.  I have not been keeping up with them for a very long time so I was surprised that I recognized most of the songs they played.  They stuck pretty well to their first four albums for most of their set.  That is generally their best material anyway.  They definitely sounded good.  It has been over 20 years since I have heard any new material by the band, but their old stuff still sounds great.  They closed out their show with "Snap..." which was appropriate.

I have not been the biggest fan of Sepultura since Max Cavalera left the band, but their albums with him are some of my absolute favorites.  They did play a lot of material from their early years, which was appreciated.  Derrick Green's voice has grown on me a little over the years and after some uneven releases, they are starting to put out some better stuff again now.  Most of the stuff from their Max albums sounded incredible, and I did like the songs they played off their latest album enough that I may have to check it out.  Their last three songs ("Refuse/Resist", "Ratamahatta", and "Roots Bloody Roots") were really amazing and were the highlight of their set.  They were definitely hitting their stride by that point and their energy was infectious.

Finally, Testament took the stage and I finally got to see them after being disappointed back when I was in high school.  The wait was worth it as Testament was incredible.  They played a mix of songs going way back to their first album and generally covering most of their early releases and also featuring a generous sampling of stuff from the new album.  Everyone was in top form and each of the musicians was given the spotlight at one point to show off their abilities.  My wife was quite impressed with Alex Skolnick.  I was more interested in Steve DiGiorgio's bass work myself.  The only disappointment with their show was that they did not play "Return to Serenity", though since that is a slower song, I should not have been that surprised.

This was an early birthday present from my wife and it was a terrific show.  Sepultura and Testament are still two of my all-time favorite bands, Testament possibly being number one.  Definitely a good birthday present.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Kill/Thrax Tour in Omaha: April 29

There have definitely been a lot more interesting concerts around Nebraska lately.  The latest to hit the stage in Omaha was the Kill/Thrax tour on Saturday night.  Four bands, led by Killswitch Engage and Anthrax came through town on a rare Saturday night concert.  Which meant that we could actually sleep in instead of having to get up early and go to work the next morning.  Which is awesome.

It was cold Saturday night.  And raining most of the day.  Simply miserable conditions, so we were not in a big hurry to get there.  Besides, the other band we knew were playing was The Devil Wears Prada, a band I have made my disdain for on this blog very clear.  Unfortunately when we arrived at the venue, another band that we had no idea would be playing was on stage.  It was some group called Code Orange, who play a metallic hardcore style.  That can be done well, just look at Nails among other bands.  Unfortunately, I was not at all impressed with Code Orange, and my wife pretty much hated them.  To each their own I suppose, hardcore has never really been my thing.

After that, Christian hardcore band The Devil Wears Prada started their set.  I really dislike this band.  But I was curious about their name, because of course most people are aware of the movie starring Glenn Close and Anne Hathaway, which does not exactly scream badass rock band.  Apparently the band named themselves after the novel after misinterpreting one of the messages of the novel being an anti-materialistic stance (due to not actually reading the fucking thing).  After realizing they were incorrect, they decided to keep the name and create a new definition of anti-materialism in the name of God.  So apparently, they are idiots as well and did not bother to read the book that was the source of their name.  Their set was predictably annoying.  There was the occasional decent moment and singer Mike Hranica has a pretty good voice, but there is a reason I successfully avoided them when they opened for Slayer and King Diamond and tried to avoid them Saturday.

Next, Killswitch Engage played.  I will admit to not paying much attention to them for over a decade.  I honestly had no idea Jesse Leach was back with the band, and apparently that has been the case since 2012.  I was a little surprised then that the band played so many songs that I recognized from The End of Heartache and As Daylight Dies, the only two albums from the band I owned.  Leach sounded great singing them though, very similar to previous vocalist Howard Jones.  KSE was very charismatic on stage and definitely got the crowd going, a large number of whom were apparently there just for that band (lots of people left after their set without staying for Anthrax).  Overall I was pretty impressed with the band's set.  The highlight was them closing things out with a cover of the Dio classic "Holy Diver" which even featured Anthrax singer Joey Belladonna coming out and providing lead vocals.  That was definitely my wife's favorite moment as well.

Finally, Anthrax came out.  Anthrax was the last of the Big 4 thrash metal bands that I had yet to see.  I first discovered Anthrax during the John Bush years, and I still think that Sound of White Noise is an underrated album.  But nothing really compares to their earlier stuff with Belladonna and they played a lot of the classics.  They took the stage playing "Among the Living" and followed that up with "Caught in a Mosh", which got the crowd going.  They played a couple of newer songs, including the infectious "Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't" which is my personal favorite track off of Worship Music, their reunion album with Belladonna.  After that they ran through a number of other classics before closing out the set.  Honestly, I was even more impressed with Anthrax than I was with Slayer in concert.  I have developed a newfound appreciation for the band now.  I am going to have to dig out my old Anthrax albums now.  Even my wife enjoyed them more than she thought she would.  I had second thoughts at one point about going to this one, but I am definitely glad we went.  

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Kreator in Omaha: April 5, 2017

The Waiting Room in Omaha is quickly becoming one of my favorite venues.  I have now seen three shows there and they are all bands I was shocked to see in Nebraska.  Blind Guardian and Queensryche had been there previously.  When I heard that German thrash metal titans Kreator were going to be there, I had to go again.  I have been a big fan of Kreator for about ten years now, and their early albums are some of my favorite thrash metal albums of all time.

Kreator was supported by a couple of local Nebraska bands, which was cool.  I had not previously seen any Nebraska bands live.  Since I am somewhat isolated from Lincoln and Omaha, I only go to shows with bigger bands, instead of checking out local groups.  I was vaguely familiar with both of the supporting bands, so I had a general idea of what to expect.

Garoted was the first band to play on Wednesday night.  The death metal band from Lincoln actually put on a fairly impressive show.  They have been around for about ten years now and have released a couple of albums, so they had quite a bit of material to draw from.  Their music was obviously heavily influenced by early death metal bands and even the German thrash metal scene.  They even covered "Curse the Gods" by Destruction.  All told, I was actually very surprised by how much I enjoyed Garoted.  Even more shocking, my wife did too.

After Garoted came Ezra, the very long-running Lincoln band.  I remember seeing Ezra appear on a cable access show back when I was in high school, which was almost 20 years ago now.  The guitarist and bassist are brothers, though it is their other brother that is inarguably more famous: Cory Schlesinger played football at the University of Nebraska and went on to an 11 year career with the Detroit Lions.  Ezra was a little more raw-sounding than Garoted, but turned in a reasonably impressive performance as well.  I did not remember much about their sound from when I saw them on cable access before, so I don't know if their sound changed at all.

Kreator took the stage next and played a healthy mix of stuff off of their new album and several classics from their more than 30 year career.  I like their latest album, but not nearly as much as their albums from the 1980's and early 1990's.  Stuff from that era was what I was most looking forward to, and Kreator definitely played some good stuff.  "People of the Lie" is perhaps one of my favorite Kreator songs and the band played it fairly early in the set.  I was a little surprised to hear "Phobia" as that is from a mostly-reviled era of their career.  The band was a bludgeoning force all night, they sounded great and were as aggressive as their recorded output.  Mille Petrozza's voice is not as powerful as it was early on in their career, but that is to be expected.  The raw intensity was certainly present though.  Kreator saved the best for last of course, with a three song set at the very end of the show that included "Violent Revolution", "Under the Guillotine", and of course set closer "Pleasure to Kill".  It was great seeing a band that I had no expectation to ever see in Nebraska.  Now, if only Sodom can show up.

After the concert, I asked my wife what she thought.  She said she enjoyed the concert well enough, though the vocals were not to her liking and she was not sure she would like their albums.  That is as close to a ringing endorsement that I could have expected.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Steel Panther and Project Terror at the Aztec Theater, San Antonio, TX on March 18

This was my wife's idea.  I blame her totally for this.  I thought that last year was an anomaly.  Less than one year after we traveled to San Antonio, TX just to attend a concert, there is now a precedent for doing it.  And we found ourselves doing it again last weekend.

For reasons I can not really explain, my wife has really gotten into hair bands.  Groups like Poison, Motley Crue, Cinderella, and the like.  One band she has gotten into recently is Steel Panther, the hair band parody.  She watches tons of video interviews with the band.  They are pretty funny, I will admit, but I have never been really a fan of their music other than finding it mildly amusing.  "Death to All but Metal" is a pretty funny song, but that was about the extent of my prior knowledge.  My wife decided she really wanted to see this band in concert and I told her we could if they got reasonably close.  Well, they were not coming terribly close, but they were coming to San Antonio.  And so, we went.

First off, the Aztec Theater is amazing.  Decorated to look sort of like an Aztec temple, it was a beautiful locale.  It was a little more disturbing when we learned later that it used to used to show porno movies, but the design really was incredible.  The only real problem I had with the venue was that you practically had to take out a mortgage in order to buy a damn drink.  I am not that much of a drinker, but wanted to enjoy a beer that night, since it was my vacation and my damn beer cost almost as much as dinner for the two of us earlier.

The opening band was a local group called Project Terror.  They are a traditional metal band with strong roots in 1980's heavy metal and they played a fairly long set.  They were pretty decent.  The guitarists were pretty impressive, even to the point that the band did a very competent cover of a Yngwie Malmsteen song with Rising Force.  Vocalist Ronnie Stixx has been around for a while and had strong pipes.  The highlight was probably their song "Raise Your Fist", in which Stixx did a great Halford impression singing a Running Wild song.  Project Terror was pretty decent and was probably the highlight of the night for me.  I love discovering bands I have not previously heard before.

But the highlight for my wife was undoubtedly Steel Panther.  They looked typically ridiculous when they took the stage, like rejects from Poison.  Nothing less was expected though since they are what they are.  Bassist Lexxi Foxx was wearing brightly colored pants referred to as peacock pants.  Their personas were on full display and they spent a lot of time bantering between songs and insulting each other.  The bassist was the usual target of jabs and spent a lot of time preening and looking at himself in a bedazzled pink mirror.  I will say they are very talented musicians, particularly guitarist Satchel who performed an extended solo in which he stood at the drumset and kept time by playing the bass drum while shredding.  There was a fair amount of audience participation as well, usually the band pulling women onto the stage to embarrass them a little bit.  The performance was definitely entertaining.  I am still not really a fan of the band, but I had a good time, and it made my wife happy, which is nice.

The best part of the trip though was the food.  The last time we were down to San Antonio, we discovered a terrific Chinese restaurant in Austin called Ho Ho's Chinese BBQ and we had to stop there on the way there and back.  We also ordered Franklin BBQ, apparently a world-famous barbecue place, also in Austin.  I would definitely go back for the food alone.

All in all, it was a fun trip.  I can not say I would have ever considered going to see Steel Panther before, but I had a good time, and of course my wife loved it.  I will be getting back at her with a couple of the concerts we have planned over the next couple of months though...