Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve Metal in the Mail - Septicflesh & Fates Warning

Thanks to my longsuffering mail carrier I'll be ringing in the New Year with four new records from two late-2011 discoveries, Septicflesh and Fates Warning (yes, I know I am 25 years late here).

My Septicflesh collection has now tripled, adding Communion (2008) and Sumerian Daemons (2003) to The Great Mass, one of my favorite discoveries from other folks' 2011 Best Record lists.

I dived into Fates Warning after passing them by most of my life and just this year falling in love with the Arch/Matheos record, Sympathetic Resonance. I started with their two earliest records in stock and available for immediate delivery, The Spectre Within (1985) and Awaken the Guardian (1986). I was shocked - and pleased - to find that the Awaken the Guardian was a triple-disc set with an extra CD of live and demo tracks and a DVD with a 12-track live show from that era's lineup (all for $13.28 brand-new - way to go, Metal Blade!).

I am looking forward to starting 2012 off with a lot of new music - and hope to spend the entire year in the same fashion.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Harvesting Habits - PoorWater - 2011

PoorWater may be on to something. This five-piece prog outfit from Mesa, Arizona have just released their recording debut, Harvesting Habits, and it has quietly worked its way into my regular rotation with the usual crew of heavies. It's not a perfect record (how many debuts are?) and seems frequently to be searching to find its place but, when it does, it shines.

The star is immediately evident. Lauren Jones on cello damn near owns the entire album, immediately recalling for me Jessy Greene's violin contributions to the Geraldine Fibbers (oh, to be back in '95...). Strings are nothing new or unusual on a progressive rock record but she's got a tone that demands the listener's attention and dominates from the get-go, instantly grabbing hold via the brief instrumental opener, "Found." The following track, "Answers," is one that flounders, unfortunately, with lead vocals on the track turning in what happens to be the weakest performance on the album, an over-emotive wail that fails to convince despite its hammy delivery, hung over a meandering melody that fails to ever find a groove. It's a rough start to the album and one I worry may send potential listeners packing too early.

Hang on. It gets a lot better.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

12 Days of Christmetal: Sympathetic Resonance - Arch/Matheos - 2011

I don't know Fates Warning beyond recognition of their name and do not believe I have ever knowingly heard any work of Jim Matheos or John Arch prior to grabbing Sympathetic Resonance earlier this year. I know I need to check out some of their mid-80s work and hope to resolve that gap on the shelf after the Christmas coffers have been replenished. I have been enjoying Sympathetic Resonance since Autumn and, while it didn't rank in my Top Ten for 2011, it is a solid - and very heavy - progressive metal record worthy of addition to the library of any fan of Rush, Dream Theater, Yes or the recent offerings from Cormorant or Opeth.

Prior to purchase I had read of listeners unhappy with John Arch's vocals but I found them to be perfectly listenable with an impressive range to boot - and certainly a good foil for the guitar architecture of Jim Matheos, whose body of work I now absolutely need to hear. I was also immediately taken with the percussion of Bobby Jarzombek (who I do know from the marvelous Demons & Wizards project as well as the Halford records) and it is not often I am much affected by the "tone" of drums but, in the case of Sympathetic Resonance, the man again distinguishes himself from his peers. Add in solos from Frank Aresti (OK, I really need to find some Fates Warning) and this record is a modern prog lover's dream come true. There are no keyboards to be found - just riffs, riffs, riffs, shifting tempos and sick leads all amounting to rock polished to a razor-sharp intensity. The lyric is intelligent though veers toward stereotypical prog pomposity but, really, the words are just a vehicle for the great Arch vocals. Sympathetic Resonance is great, technically-impressive prog with a hefty heart of metal and, top ten or not, one of the best records I heard in 2011.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

12 Days of Christmetal: Carnival is Forever - Decapitated - 2011

I don't know pre-tragedy Decapitated (apparently a 2007 automobile accident left the band's drummer deceased and vocalist in a coma) and recently grabbed the repopulated band's Carnival is Forever based solely on its inclusion in many 2011 Top Ten lists. It's an extreme, highly technical metal assault that comes across with a very present-feeling, almost live production quality. It's also just OK for me. I like it, will shelve it as opposed to selling it and will probably never replay nor seek any additional Decapitated music (aside from working the excellent "Homo Sum" into some iTunes playlists). This brief record, clocking in around forty minutes with eight songs (one of which is an instrumental), plays like an EP structured around a couple good songs (add "404" to "Homo Sum" for the essentials) with the bulk sounding like one chug-chug-chug after another slightly different chug-chug-chug.  If I had been invested in the band in the past I may have been more interested to hear this development of their sound but as a wholly new (to me) standalone experience, Carnival is Forever, despite its name, amounts to about 10 minutes of fun.

Friday, December 23, 2011

12 Days of Christmetal: Kvelertak - Kvelertak - 2010/2011

After simply titling this post I have used most of my energy spelling, checking and respelling "Kvelertak." Luckily, I don't have to get into individual song titles as, beginning to end, Kvelertak is solid. This eponymous '10 debut from Norway hit the US in 2011 and, while reportedly a record on the subject of Norse mythology, these English-only ears simply hear an original, energetic blend of punk and metal that rocks in spite of its foreign lyric. The John Baizley cover art alone is reason enough to label the record a must-buy and the entire aesthetic wrapped up in a single package has turned Kvelertak into my Christmas gift of choice this season, absolutely delighting those with whom I have shared it.

Mother tongue aside, the vocal instrument on Kvelertak recalls the inspired punk energy of Brainiac's Tim Taylor and the triple-guitar punk/metal/hardcore assault of the music has more hooks than a Hellraiser movie. Each track twists and turns and surprises so frequently that the listener is constantly on the edge of their seat - if not on their feet - and the record has yet to grow stale. It's a hell of a lot of fun and, whether they're singing about Vikings or pickled herring, as long as it sounds this good, I'm in.

Head on over to The Metal Advisor for an in-depth review of this monster and then buy a copy. You still got two shopping days left to stuff someone's stocking full o'Kvelertak.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

12 Days of Christmetal: Macabre Eternal - Autopsy - 2011

Well, this is the shit. Death metal pioneers from way, way back, Autopsy resurrected in 2009 after a fifteen-year hiatus and the sound, as evidenced on their first full-length since reforming, Macabre Eternal, has aged in the best possible ways. It's crusty and ugly and contorted and crude - everything you need it to be. The riffs grind like the rotors on any vehicle my wife drives, the solos know no speed aside from overdrive and, from now on, Cookie Monster's vocalizations will be described as derivative of those of Chris Reifert, who has taken the gastrointestinal gurgle to operatic heights. Macabre Eternal is the very definition of old-school and, man, is it a fun record.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

12 Days of Christmetal: Path of Totality - Tombs - 2011

Wow. Coming onto my radar as a late-season counterpoint to the underwhelming An Ache for the Distance, Tombs' Path of Totality is a sludge of a different sort, a dirge with teeth. It's a doomy slab of momentum, the same kind of forward power as Sabotage (though any real similarities end there). At the same time, Path of Totality has strata and comes on like a glacier, lumbering layers piled through the ages with the power to shape the very earth. In short, it's a motherfucker.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

12 Days of Christmetal: An Ache for the Distance - The Atlas Moth - 2011

An Ache for the Distance is the type of record that doesn't often make it into my collection anymore. There's lot of doomy sludge on the shelves, both indie and larger label, and there was a time when I wanted to hear nothing else. But time and tastes change and my collection has largely shifted away from that sound in recent years. Until, then, The Atlas Moth comes along with a record popping up all over 2011 Top Tens and featuring a nude, buxom woman all over its artwork. Done. Sold. So, An Ache for the Distance is good to look at but how does it sound?

It's a dense, heavy record and it's got more than a little psychedelic tinge that sets it apart from and a notch above run of the mill sludge. That said, An Ache for the Distance does not strike me as a record I will reach for often. Despite its edginess, its listenability in the light of its experimental sound An Ache... never quite settles into a satisfying groove, moving instead like an enveloping cloud of complicated sound that weighs heavy on the lungs and leaves you gasping at the end as if pulling away from an overextended bong hit. I've been there - and I've been very, very happy there - but I cannot quite go back again.

Monday, December 19, 2011

12 Days of Christmetal: Forever Abomination - Skeletonwitch - 2011

I know Skeletonwitch's Forever Abomination should have made my 2011 Top Ten and I had it in time to reasonably weigh it against my other favorites for the year. The problem is, I guess, with a band this good, this consistent, it gets way too easy to take them for granted. Forever Abomination builds from the strengths of its predecessors, hones the band's sound and delivers a fault-free, hard-as-hell heavy metal assault all wrapped up in a killer (embossed, even) sleeve.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

12 Days of Christmetal: Baldur - Skálmöld - 2011

I was excited for Skálmöld's Baldur as soon as I saw the cover. And then, when Metal Hammer labeled it "Amon Amarth-meets-Ensiferum-via-Iron Maiden" I made sure I had it in my hands. That was Halloween. I've played Baldur through several times. Metal Hammer could have saved some copy and just described it as "Ensiferum." I appreciate the historically accurate adherence to Icelandic verse and narrative tradition and, even with the lyric in a language most of the world's listeners will not comprehend, the booklet provides Cliff's Notes in English so we can follow the album's story arc, on that seems cool as hell (badass Viking's family is destroyed by a demon and he seeks revenge, dying and reaching Valhalla as he succeeds). I just wish it had rocked harder. While Amon Amarth may not represent all that is Viking metal (hell, they don't even claim the label for themselves), they certainly set a standard for heaviness associated with horned helms and battle-axes and Skálmöld's power metal approach liberally intertwined with folk elements makes for an experience that, while not entirely unpleasant, is certainly wimpier. And, given that cover, it's unforgivable.


Fucking Epic.

Saturday, December 17, 2011 announces Captain Beefheart Bat Chain Puller Release

Not a reissue but instead a proper first issue of the intended record that eventually became Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller). A $20.00 pre-order currently promises delivery by January 15, 2012. The communication and tracklist here:

12 Days of Christmetal: Welcome to the Morbid Reich - Vader - 2011

The Metal Advisor got it right again. Following his review from early December I grabbed Welcome to the Morbid Reich, my proper introduction to the music of Vader. And what a place to start. Purely coincidentally, I had Morbid Angel's debut, Altars of Madness, in my listening stack the same day Welcome to the Morbid Reich arrived and was terribly pleased to hear how this loosely Lovecraftian strain of death metal has progressed and deepened since that '89 record while still staying true to the roots of the sound (and it's noteworthy to me that both bands called Earache Records home during their beginnings).

Friday, December 16, 2011

12 Days of Christmetal: The Great Mass - Septicflesh - 2011

I just got Septicflesh's The Great Mass this week and I may well have played it to death over the course of the day today. Friday mornings are quiet at our office and for the few that come in early, we usually enjoy some coffee, conversation and, on occasion, crank up a little rock to start the day. This morning I popped in The Great Mass, unleashed "The Vampire from Nazareth" and the Sales Manager standing across from my desk could respond only with "That's fucking epic." We quickly agreed that music on this scale is best suited for riding large horses in slow motion through frosty, haunted forests, cloaked in animal skins with a battle axe in one hand and an unconscious maiden draped across the saddle.

It sure as hell beats scanning timeclock records for missed punches.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

12 Days of Christmetal: Dwellings - Cormorant - 2011

I cannot pretend to have been in the know regarding Cormorant prior to a tweet directing me to an NPR review a couple weeks back. I took the praise with a grain of salt, with any music on NPR generally leaning toward the headier side of world/folk/alt and generally not quite my thing. Still, the review featured a stream of Dwellings in full and, once played, I had to have it. A quick trip to the band's Facebook page offered the CD in its full, tri-fold physical glory as well as the immediate gratification of a full MP3 download for fifteen bucks. Sold. And I've been playing it ever since.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

12 Days of Christmetal: Heritage - Opeth - 2011

As I read through everyone's "Best of 2011" lists it is quickly apparent that I missed a boatload of incredible heavy metal this year. I've been ordering like a fiend, trying to catch up and round out my year, more or less gifting myself a'plenty prior to the actual holiday. In the tradition of partridges, pear trees, milky maids and all, I want to give a brief flyby to a dozen records I missed earlier this year, starting with Opeth's Heritage.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hell, yes. New Recordings Underway for Dismemberment, Kingsblood

The Christmas season always seems slooooooow for new releases but I am heartened as I follow two of my local Ohio favorites, Dismemberment and Kingsblood, and read that both are busy at work writing and/or recording new material due in the new year.

Just two weeks ago Kingsblood posted:
KINGSBLOOD will be hitting the studio in mid Jan. to record a 4 or 5 song EP. So far KINGSBLOOD has a full 4 songs now clocking in at 30 minutes of epicness and with a 5th probably around 36. The hits keep coming so prepare thyself. This shit is just getting more brutal.

The composition should be up for download on iTunes at the end of Jan and will be sold at shows as well. (Then shirts).

Dismemberment aurally kicking my ass back on 10/14.
Dismemberment's recording progress for their new EP can be followed both on the Facebook page and on the blog for Paper Tiger Studios. There are fabulous photos and videos here and I cannot wait to hear what these guys are cooking up for the follow-up to the magnificent The Condemned.

And, for those within any reasonable driving distance of Columbus, this weekend will see both bands onstage at a Very Bless the Child Christmas. Work schedules will keep me away (stupid sustenance...) and I am devastated that I'm going to miss this show, scheduled for 7:00 PM at The Dude Locker, 527 East Hudson. Only three bucks to get in or $2 a single canned food item to be donated to the Mid Ohio Food Bank. The massive lineup will be as follows:

I would love to hear from anyone who attends as I am sure it will be absolutely excellent. To add insult to injury, I had planned a trip to the Alrosa Villa for this Wednesday's birthday to treat myself to Kingsblood opening for Korpiklaani and read this morning that Kingsblood canceled this one last month due to conflicting work schedules (hey, Alrosa, update your website...). Sounds like work is fucking us all over. So be it. Rock and roll will endure.

Kingsblood. they get up at seven and go to work at nine.
seems to me they could live their life a lot
better than they think they am.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pursuit of Honor - Battlecross - 2011

I've owned Battlecross' debut in its Metal Blade incarnation since Halloween. While I gave it a couple listens right away, it got pushed back in the shuffle of Goathwore, Exhumed, King Diamond et al that dominated much of my November. I pulled Pursuit of Honor back out a couple weeks ago and kick myself for letting it sit unplayed for even a single day. It's a great, rugged record. My pre-write-up ritual is something like this: on a day I plan to write, I take advantage of my fifty-plus-mile morning commute and play the record uninterrupted beginning to end, composing the bones of the review in my head, jotting notes on a pad in the seat beside me (no accidents yet, Progressive). A good indicator of my opinion of the album, positive or negative, is how many times I hear a killer riff/lead/song segment and have to grab the case to see what track is playing. With Pursuit of Honor, I lost count. Looking at my pre-dawn, highway-affected scrawls I see multiple notations of "Kaleb," "Deception," "Man of Stone," "Breaking You," "Rupture," "Leech," "Better Off Dead," "Misery" - basically the entire tracklist.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

CRACK3D MACHIN3: The Beauty of Brainiac

So much of the power of music depends upon its place in time. I was lucky enough, then, to be in college, in Ohio, tuned into both local music and the alternative tidal wave (for better or worse - so much of it worse) just as Brainiac was born. I cannot claim to have been turned onto any of the initial 7" singles emanating from Dayton early, early on (and still haven't heard them) but I was an early adopter of Smack Bunny Baby in '93 and followed the band's recorded output very closely from that point out until the untimely death of frontman Tim Taylor in 1997 and, to this day, consider two of their three full-length LPs to be absolutely essential entries in my music library - and music history for that matter.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Live in London 2011 - Thin Lizzy - 2011

Prior to a very skeptically-approached Thin Lizzy show a few weeks back, I would have never considered giving Live in London 2011 a chance. After being blown away by the raging remnants of the almighty band, though, I quickly placed an order for this double-album, hoping that this lightning was indeed captured in a bottle from an outing that featured the always-excellent Vivian Campbell to boot. So, how was it? The quick version: ...ergh. The long version: just keep reading.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Don't Break the Oath: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 7 of 7

Across a recording career spanning over two decades and many, many high points, 1984's sophomore release from Mercyful Fate still stands as the pinnacle of King Diamond and company's output. Absolutely flawless, Don't Break the Oath came quickly on the heels of Melissa and, somehow, improved on that excellence. Requisite listening for anyone proclaiming metal fandom, Don't Break the Oath regularly tops "Best Ever" metal lists and rightfully so.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Puppet Master: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 6 of 7

The Puppet Master, from 2003, is a glorious little oddball of sorts in the King Diamond catalogue. It's a concept album on steroids, virtually a horror movie begging to be made (oh, if only there weren't already a basement-budget Charles Band franchise by the same name). Additionally, it's a divergence in sound, a proper power metal record with most lead vocals delivered in King Diamond's lower register. It's addicting, it's terrifying and, song for song, it sounds great. Likely largely unheard outside of King Diamond's own fanbase, it's a latter-era album from the man's career that deserves to be shelved alongside the acknowledged classics.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Melissa: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 5 of 7

Is it possible to overstate the importance and impact of Melissa? Powerful, deceptively simple yet evil riffs surrounded by insanely complex song structures all delivered by a dual-guitar attack lay out a blueprint for not only the career of a now-legendary band but for any heavy metal that was to follow. Add in the vocals of the then-largely-unknown King Diamond and the game was forever changed. Melissa is damn-near perfect, bested only by its insane follow-up (but that's another post...)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Eye of the Witch: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 4 of 7

"Eye of the Witch," while simply a great song from a great King Diamond album, also introduces the album's namesake amulet which, perhaps more than any other King Diamond invention (except Melissa?), crosses across multiple other albums, popping up in stories on The Spider's Lullabye and Abigail II: The Revenge. This self-referential cross-pollination of the band's own mythology is part of what makes King Diamond's music so very compelling. That and, well, the music.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Abigail: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 3 of 7

Abigail. Not just the 1987 album, but also its sequel, Abigail II: The Revenge. The original is an oft-cited all-time heavy metal classic and is undoubtedly the crown jewel of King Diamond's accomplishments - but, to be difficult, I guess, I have to be even more taken with the 2002 sequel, Abigail II. As we wouldn't have Abigail II without Abigail I end up in a conundrum attempting to proclaim the sequel superior while I still have to concede that nothing from the King Diamond camp (or many others, for that matter) will likely best the original. Luckily, we have both, and the chicken versus the egg matters not.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In the Shadows: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 2 of 7

Mercyful Fate's In the Shadows was a big deal. Released in 1993, it signaled the return of a band broken up since 1985 as well as the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between Metal Blade Records and the reunited band (as well as King Diamond solo). The '84 Don't Break the Oath lineup remained largely intact. In the Shadows, while nowhere near as revered as the band's first two records, is still highly regarded by many fans and, in this listener's opinion, renders the near-decade between records nearly nonexistent as the band seemed to pick up exactly where they left off.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

From the Other Side: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 1 of 7

After digging Abigail out of her grave for Halloween, I've been immersed in my own little King Diamond renaissance for the last couple of weeks. I dusted off a Mercyful Fate tee from a show way back when for last week's Priest event and a handful of like-minded fans in the know, some with their own Diamond gear, were not shy about stopping me to chat - rave, really - about the man they refer to simply as "King." With nearly two dozen King Diamond and Mercyful Fate albums on my shelf I thought this would be a nice opportunity to try for a multi-part series of posts, some focused on songs, some entire albums, dedicated to one of the earliest black metal pioneers and finest vocalists of all time.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

10 of '11 - My Favorite Records from this Year

With the 2011 release schedule drying out as we head toward the Christmas holiday, I feel pretty safe compiling the compulsory Top Ten for the year. Going through the shelves, re-reading old reviews and, above all, re-listening, it was tough to narrow down to ten - which is a nice blessing for a time in which the music industry is over-reported as less than healthy. There's still plenty good to be had out there, some mass-produced and marketed by huge labels and some handed off for a five-dollar bill at a live show from a band member working a card table before and after they take the stage. So, without any further ado, the best ten records to enter my library since January first:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Epitaph: Judas Priest • Black Label Society • Thin Lizzy - November 8, 2011 - U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio

Tuesday's lineup for Judas Priest's Epitaph tour was a great one for me, in theory. I'm a lifelong Thin Lizzy fan though, in my opinion (at least prior to this show), I could not conceive of a Lizzy post-Lynott and I was curious just to see Gorham (and Downey, I guess) in the flesh. Tony Conley recently wrote a great piece on this lineup and I was anxious to see how I felt about his assessment. Black Label Society has likewise been a favorite since their inception and having them on the bill was a great bonus, almost equivalent to co-headliners. Almost. Because for me, born in the early 70s, Priest is untouchable. Sabbath may have created metal but, let's face it, Judas Priest are the ones who brought it to the first MTV generation. To see them wrap up their live career (supposedly) as a largely intact unit still capable of producing great albums (at least through Angel of Retribution) was an opportunity I would not miss. In the end, though, the Epitaph stop in Cincinnati turned my expectations inside out and upside down.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Th1rt3en - Megadeth - 2011

Megadeth, never having really gone anywhere, seem to be staging a comeback of sorts. Riding high on the Big Four wave and celebrating the return of Dave Ellefson, Thirteen (I cannot bring myself to use the alphanumeric title more than once) almost demands more attention than more recent additions to the Megadeth catalogue, excellent as they may be. Dave Mustaine has settled all debts, resolving age-old feuds with his Big Four brethren and reconciling with his core bandmate, and Thirteen signals more rebirth than reboot. Vic Rattlehead turns away on the (admittedly less-than-exciting) cover and the reverse shows him laid to rest with bandmembers as pallbearers. Feels - and sounds - like a chapter is closing just as another opens.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Exhumed • Goatwhore • Havok - November 1, 2011 - Alrosa Villa, Columbus, Ohio

First things first: I missed Exhumed. I hadn't planned to. A text from home close to eleven o'clock let me know one of my children was ill and sent me packing early. Parental responsibility vs. was a tough call but the right one. My wife's willingness to care for the kids solo on any given weeknight while I drive ninety minutes away for a metal show is one perk I do not want to endanger.

So, no Exhumed for me but, goddammit, what a hell of a show the rest of the bill was. This was my second trip to the Alrosa Villa and I am hooked. Good folks on staff, great crowd, "regulars" I already recognize and, I must point out, some of the most simultaneously loud and clear amplification I have ever experienced in a small venue. The volume, skull-splitting, never gave way to distortion of any sort and much appreciation is reserved for the folks who make that happen.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Metal in the Mail - Skálmöld, Death Angel & Battlecross

Halloween turned out to be nothing but treats around here as the November issue of Decibel, complete with spooky Skeletonwitch cover, contributed to a nice metal mailday. The debuts from both Skálmöld and Battlecross landed in my mailbox along with some backcatalogue items from Death Angel. All of this on the eve of another trek to the Alrosa Villa to catch Exhumed, Goatwhore, Havok and the almighty Kingsblood (so far, anyway - they kicked my ass the first time I saw them and I am hoping round two delivers another knockout). Wrap this all up and Halloween is better than, well, Christmas.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Agnes, Abigail and Anna Müller - A Few Halloween Favorites

With Halloween upon us it seems natural, if not totally clichéd, to run through some Halloween-themed favorites. For me, the season is less about music and more about movies but both play an integral role in my enjoyment of this time of year. While certainly not the most esoteric list, there are a few things apart from Thriller and Friday the 13th to which I return to year after year:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Awesome shit that is awesome

So driving home, I turned off the Jungle Rot for a rare moment, switched to XM and rediscovered that nothing beats Whitesnake on the car radio. Really. Nothing. At least for a white dude who saw Witchboard in the theater. Coverdale is down on love and, once and for all, he doesn't give a damn. He has played the fucking crying game for the last time. Until the next time. Saints and Sinners, incredible as it is, pales in comparison to the soaked-in-Kitaen-stank eponymous '87 masterpiece which, for some reason, leads me right into '88 and Action Jackson. Sharon Stone nude when we needed her to be, Vanity nude when Sharon Stone wasn't and Craig T. Nelson as the baddest martial artist in Detroit. Who, by the way, can also drive a car up a fucking flight of stairs. Indoors. The whole damn exercise makes me want to throw someone out a window, across a street and through another window. Which Action Jackson does. The only thing missing is Arnold's bicep and, to remedy that yearning, Lich King's "Predator" hits the stereo as soon as I step into the house.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Condemned - Dismemberment - 2011

One of my favorite recent discoveries has to be Dismemberment, a death/thrash four-piece from right here in the heart of Ohio. I only recently became aware of the band due to their inclusion on the Immolation/Jungle Rot/Gigan bill and quickly fell in love with their The Condemned EP, most of which is available on their Reverbnation page. I happily reported a week ago that the band live more than delivered and am anxiously awaiting a full-length follow-up.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Kingsblood & Havok (oh, yeah, and Exhumed, too...)

Is Tuesday the new Friday? Just read Columbus-based purveyors of metallic excellence, Kingsblood, were added to the Exhumed/Goatwhore/Havok (and, apparently, no longer Cephalic Carnage) stop at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, November 1. I think I need to be there. Praying for more than three songs this time and, Crom willing, merch. And, goddammit, I gotta see Havok.

November 8 is Priest in Cincinnati and as long as Halford doesn't lay the Harley down I have faith it may rock as well.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Killer New Videos from Jungle Rot and Immolation

No, I cannot get over Jungle Rot and Immolation. Sorry. I will sometime but, right now, I am happy just to live in the past. And by "the past," I mean two or three days ago. So between repeated fond remembrances of the Alrosa Villa, I am more than happy to check out two new videos: Jungle Rot's "Rise Up and Revolt" and Immolation's "Illumination." And, yeah, you can still catch 'em live if you hurry.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Immolation • Jungle Rot • Gigan - October 14, 2011 - Alrosa Villa, Columbus, Ohio

Friday the 14th saw a marathon of metal invade the infamous Alrosa Villa as six bands lined up to deliver a bill headlined by Immolation, Jungle Rot and Gigan. I'd never been to the Alrosa before and was excited to make the 80-mile trek to see my own metal saviors, Jungle Rot, as close to home as possible. Of all the bands on the bill I was lucky enough to be excited to see three as The Metal Advisor had recently turned me onto Immolation and local (Laurelville, Ohio) band Dismemberment have a phenomenal EP up on Reverbnation that I couldn't wait to hear live.

The Alrosa Villa is your typical unassuming metal venue on the overgrown outskirts of town. Given its tragic spot in metal history you almost expect the place to be somehow sinister but, on the contrary, it was absolutely fine. Nice, even. Staff from security to the bar was friendly, there was ample parking, plenty of space and, above all, more than enough sound to go around.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vaulternative offers Frank Zappa at Carnegie Hall 4-CD Set from October 11, 1971 announced pre-orders today for a $42.00 four-disc set covering two complete shows at Carnegie Hall from October 11, 1971. The email ad advertises full-on "King Kong" and "Billy the Mountatin" as well as opening performances from the Perusasions. Check it out at Barfko-Swill right now. Scheduled to ship on or around October 31, 2011.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cruddy Video: Devil at the Wheel

ROCKTHOUGHT tweeted 'bout Halloween tunes today and got me runnin' down my mind's playlist. Crud's On Monster Island is still haunting my stereo and will likely ride right into the witching season. So, that said, enjoy a tune from their also-excellent debut, Devil at the Wheel, and, afterward, get your ass over to Crud313 for show dates, track samples, shopping and more.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Worth the Effort: Exit the Dragon - Urge Overkill - 1995

Remember 1995? The internet was still brand-spanking new and we all still bought records in record stores and you didn't swap files or sample snippets. You discovered great bands live, at the recommendation of a friend or simply by chance and followed them. Even researching a discography was a chore and you could still be surprised by a dusty record bin find of a platter you never knew existed by your favorite band. Alternative radio had experienced a boom since 1992 and for a music-loving kid in college, these were golden years.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Devil's Rain - Misfits - 2011

While there have been near infinite variations of Misfits lineups for recording and touring, including several vocalists who never did make it onto record, The Devil's Rain is the proper debut of original compositions by Misfits Mk3, helmed by original bassist and now lead vocalist, Jerry Only. Longsuffering punk side/axeman Dez Cadena marks his first decade with the "new" version of the band on his second full-length appearance and Eric "Chupacabra (formerly known as Goat)" Arce debuts on drums (based on the 'fits history, don't get too comfortable on that stool, pal).

Expectations were as low as could be yet, somehow, my hopes were high for The Devil's Rain. I did not hate the Project 1950 covers album though I saw no reason to call it a "Misfits" record. Why not "American Legends of Punk" as the exact same band was credited on the Osaka Popstar release? Likewise, I actually enjoyed the recent "Land of the Dead" single. And, besides, the Mk2 Graves era was almost impossibly good. Different, yes, but undeniably good. That couldn't all be Michale Graves, could it?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Beach Boys' SMiLE Sessions Box Set will be a Day One Purchase for Me

Out November 1, 2011, this set includes:

5 CDs / 2LPs / 2 7" singles
  • Three-dimensional shadow box lid featuring the original artwork of Frank Holmes.
  • 60 page case bound book
  • Timeline
  • Sessionography
  • Lyrics
  • Frank Holmes drawings
  • Producer's Notes
  • More than 60 previously unreleased photos
  • 6 panel folder holding 5 CDs and singles. Features photos of original session tape boxes.
7" vinyl singles
  • "Heroes and Villains" in sleeve art
  • "Vega-Tables" in sleeve art
Gatefold 2 LPs
  • Features full tracklisting of proposed unfinished album +Stereo mixes and session highlights (not available on CDs)
  • 12" x 12" booklet created for original release features:
  • Photos by Guy Webster
  • Drawings by Frank Holmes
  • 24" x 36" poster of Frank Holmes cover art
Available for pre-order at Amazon here and also available in a 2-disc version.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wallpaper Among Us: 13 of My Favorite Pieces of Danzig Art

a promo slick from the 6:66 era.
I like this one solely because labels
promoting bands in this manner
seems so quaint nowadays.
Long ago and far away, I was unmarried, childless and invested solely in selfish pursuits. One of the less chemical of these was lurking around record shops, collecting music like a fiend and befriending clerks and label reps in the process. I had many musical tastes but chief among these was - and has always been - the music of Glenn Danzig. As a result, I started to accumulate posters and swag a'plenty and, before long, had a home more or less exclusively decorated in homage to this master of the dark arts. A long overdue garage clean-up had me pulling many of these from dusty tubes this weekend and I thought I'd share in the event there may be any other nostalgic fiends out there who, like me, just cannot let go of this stuff. It's all in rough shape thanks to a frozen pipe way back when and, admittedly, years of neglect. Still, I am trying to convince the wife it just may liven up the spare room in, of course, the basement.

III - Chickenfoot - 2011

God bless Sammy Hagar. The man never stops. Van Halen and Montrose's best albums behind him (not to mention a slew of solid solo slabs), he has continued to crank out unapologetically big and loud rock and roll regardless of what happens to be en vogue at any given moment. And kudos to Michael Anthony, Joe Satriani and Chad Smith for going along for the ride as together they have created what, at the moment, may be the only big American rock and roll band standing that remains absolutely invulnerable to subgenre trappings.  Only their cross-pond cousins, Black Country Communion, offer a nearly identical trajectory and comparable discography.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Hunter - Mastodon - 2011

I have been playing Mastodon's latest, the much-anticipated The Hunter, since receiving it Monday and, specifically, during virtually all uninterrupted waking hours since my last posting two days ago. Not necessarily because I was immediately smitten but because, despite its 53-minute length across 13 songs, it flies by and the compositions, dense as ever, are so hard to digest in this fleeting form. It's also been a challenge to define what makes The Hunter so very different while at once so familiar. It's an album in the purest sense, a collection of songs in a single sleeve, not necessarily linked by any overarching theme apart from rock and roll by Mastodon. Fun-size nuggets of progressometallislopera replace the extended feasts we've become accustomed to and it's more than a little difficult for this listener to decide how best to dig in.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Unto the Locust - Machine Head - 2011

This week has been utterly blessed with highly-anticipated new music and the crucial decision today was which album to review first. The solution came easily as, simply, I wanted to write most about the one I have been listening to the most. Mastodon has been fantastic and Chickenfoot a hell of a lot of fun but Machine Head's Unto the Locust has been absolutely addictive. It's another peak among many in a discography whose highs outnumber its lows twofold and, by this point, Machine Head have melded all of those noises into a sound all their own; a ferociously deathly melodic thrash that sounds like, well, Machine Head '94 meets Machine Head '03 meets Machine Head '07.

Monday Metal in the Mail - Mastodon, Machine Head and Chickenfoot

For once, the stars aligned and the good old U.S. Mail brought me not one, not two but three new releases a full day early and I spent Monday evening in blissful listening mode soaking up Mastodon's The Hunter, Machine Head's Unto the Locust and Chickenfoot III.

Full-on reviews for each will follow this week as I give each a couple more spins to fully digest. Until then, in true Twitter fashion, first impressions in 140 characters or less:

Mastodon - The Hunter: Touches of The Sword and Queens of the Stone Age permeate a riff-heavy collection of songs tied together this time only by the gospel of rock.

Machine Head - Unto the Locust: All the signature elements are in place yet it never falls into "sounds like..." territory aside from, dammit, it sounds like Machine Head.

Chickenfoot - III: God damn, this is a band. Never knew Joe Satriani's middle name. Chickenfoot III makes it apparent: Joe Motherfuckin' Satriani.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Twenty Other Records I Love Almost as Much as Led Zeppelin II

I wanted to go outside 1,001 - or even 100 - of the usual essentials for that this post. There are certainly plenty of records populating the usual lists that I agree are indispensable. That said, there are also dozens rarely listed anywhere, even in genre sub-rankings, that I simply could never be without. My only criteria for this list, aside from general unlistedness elsewhere, is that the albums must be at least two years old in order to ensure it isn't just infatuation. Here they are, twenty records I will never part with, ranked only alphabetically by artist:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sammy Hagar & the Waboritas - September 17, 2011 - Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

the contest what got me there.
saved myself from a lot of miller
lite with this tweet
So, a couple weeks ago I just happened to be on Twitter when a tweet from @sammyhagar came across with a contest promotion for free tickets to a Columbus show. Provide a clever caption for a photo on his site and a pair were yours. A couple song titles and a few minutes later and I was all set to check out Sammy and the Waboritas in Columbus on Saturday, September 17th.

The show's openers were contemporary country artist Phil Vassar and 3 Doors Down. To be 100% honest, neither act is my flavor and while both offered sets that were very well received by the crowd, I'll forgo any review of their performances as it simply doesn't seem fair for me to try to comment on music in which I am simply not interested. It was apparent very early on that this was a production sponsored by Miller Lite as each artist mentioned the brand by name repeatedly and were sure to hold the cups and bottles just so for big screen monitor shots. I did not know until after the show but it turns out one could not even purchase tickets for this concert. Apparently the only way to get in was via local radio and bar contests or collection of Miller Lite "Taste Points." Who the hell saves points from their beers? And who the hell drinks enough Miller Lite to save enough points for concert tickets? Apparently about 12,000 people. That would explain why so many in attendance were pretty shitfaced from the get-go. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Welcome 2 My Nightmare - Alice Cooper - 2011

Alice Cooper has yet to produce a bad album. Whether as a solo act or as a band proper, every entry into the discography has merits. All the more impressive is the fact that Cooper has maintained a distinct sound while spanning a variety of styles of album: gritty glam rock (Love it to Death, Dirty Diamonds), hard hair metal (Constrictor, Trash), complex concept (From the Inside, Along Came a Spider) and more. He's also no stranger to sequels with a brilliant span of thematically linked records from The Last Temptation to Brutal Planet to Dragontown. 1975's Welcome to My Nightmare was not only Cooper's solo debut, it also stands as one of his most highly-lauded albums and offers a genre only he could master in Vaudevillian horror pastiche. Welcome 2 My Nightmare, the 2011 sequel, brings back not only legendary producer Bob Ezrin and guitar wizard Steve Hunter but, on several tracks, all surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band. This could be monumental. This should be incredible. So, how is it?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Worship Music - Anthrax - 2011

Worship MusicAny dedicated fan of horror films should agree that Halloween 5 is a damn good sequel, produced long after the series should have run out of steam. It maintains all of the conventional requirements of any good horror film, builds upon its immediate predecessor and still manages to honor the original while expanding the overall mythology of the series. Worship Music, then, is Anthrax's Halloween 5. No, naysayers, it isn't Among the Living or Persistence of Time. The band released four studio albums of originals following Joey Belladonna's departure and none deserve to be disregarded (save for maybe Volume 8, the Halloween III of the bunch?). Coming way too late after 2003's superb We've Come for You All, Worship Music, Joey Belladonna and all, is a continuation of the ongoing Anthrax saga and fits in very, very nicely with the arc of the band's sound across the last quarter century.