Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Undead - Six Feet Under - 2012

Six Feet Under's Undead arrives with such presence that it is, in the best of all possible ways, alarming. "Frozen at the Moment of Death" is there, working its way under your skin less than twelve notes in and you're infected immediately. A perfect premiere for its parent album, the lead-off track announces Undead as a widely-varied, highly-accomplished record that not only asserts domination of the death metal landscape but also explores its fringes and stretches its boundaries. There is a balance struck in Undead, a thread running through its entirety, between patterned groove and frenzied assault. It accomplishes a steady forward motion, flailing erratically all the while. It grabs the listener at a safe distance, hypnotic in its deliberate pace, and advances more quickly than one would expect, and, before you know it, all its deadly, infectious edges are dangerously close. You know, like a fucking zombie. Only a dabbler in their catalogue, I cannot proclaim Undead any sort of rebirth for Six Feet Under but I am extremely comfortable stating that it is easily one of the best albums I have heard in 2012.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Fatal Feast - Municipal Waste - 2012

The Fatal Feast was an easy purchase for me but not one for which I had particularly been clamoring. To be honest, it was the cover art by Justin Osbourn combined with the "Waste in Space" sequel theme that put it into my cart while I probably should have given precedence to the new Kreator or all this Sodom backcatalogue material I keep meaning to collect. Maybe it's the sunshine, maybe it's the Possessor in the stereo or the D.R.I., S.O.D., M.O.D. or any other similar three-lettered crossover sets I seem to dust off as soon as I can drive with the windows down. No matter what, The Fatal Feast may not have been a record I thought I needed but, regardless, it's one I'm glad to have.

I never put a lot of thought into the trajectory of Municipal Waste as, frankly, they were never a band I put a lot of thought into, period. There appears to be some half-hearted debate going on about their status as a "party band" and whether that was deviated from with Massive Aggressive and subsequently relapsed into - some say with no progression in quality - with The Fatal Feast. I say, "who the hell is putting this much effort into analysis of the band who gave us 'Abusement Park,' 'Lunch Hall Food Brawl' and 'Horny for Blood?'"

If there's any real disappointment to be found in The Fatal Feast it's that the interstellar theme associated with sequels waiting only to go next to "the 'hood" explicitly exists only in the artwork and its title track, easily the best number on the record. Otherwise, all the hallmarks are firmly in place and I don't think it's necessarily an insult to say the band's fifth record is pretty much interchangeable with anything that's come before (at least from what I've heard). The consistency between records exists in the microcosm between songs and the album plays like a loud, 37-minute party, never really varying noticeably until "The Fatal Feast" kicks in - and gloriously so - 13 tracks into the 16-track record. This is not a band I can pretend to have analyzed in any depth but, musically, The Fatal Feast is right-on, from a boatload of trademark thrash chords and riffs to unflagging drums to a stellar bass tone and vocals that could serve as an exemplar for the genre. It rocks tirelessly but, admittedly, too rarely hooks. That said, it's easy to enjoy and sounds better the louder its played. It feels like too much to expect any more from a band whose better material arrives in the form of "Covered in Sick/The Barfer" but, like my previous underappreciation for Overkill, it's a good enough record that I'm going to dig up a little more Municipal Waste. After all, it looks like we're in for a long, hot summer and these car windows will be down for days.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

City Built With Skulls - Possessor - 2012

Another in a long line of discoveries credited to the fantastic New Wave of Thrash Metal blog, Possessor's full-length debut, City Built With Skulls, worked its way into my, um, possession shortly following its late May release via CD all the way from Slaney Records in Ireland and in digital form via simultaneous immediate download upon purchase. For those like myself who still cling to a physical format, I love this model as I am instantly gratified with music to play on the iPod and then all the more pleased a few days later when some fun mail shows up. So Possessor started things off on the right foot. And then City Built With Skulls delivered the musical goods and then some. A kick-ass, 40-minute dose of thrash, City Built With Skulls is certainly destined to be labeled "old school" and, perhaps, rightly so. It seems to me that it's simply timeless, gimmick-free, intense metal masterfully played, produced and packaged, right down to its irresistible, intricate sleeve art.

Possessor is not subtle. Riffs, drums and vocals all are equal-opportunity assaulters and each seem to vie for volume, resulting in an all-out attack that outright challenges the listener to try and sit still. Give in and move. Robbie Rainey's vocals span from standard-issue thrash to the Halford-esque (listen to horror homage "Slicer") and the guitars of Kevin Chappell and Mike Martin frenetically muscle against one another toward the fore and the listener is left the winner in their sonic grudge match - just check out their minute-long six-string solo shoot-out in the middle of Blind Dead-meets-Eastwood epic, "Hellbound Drifters." Gage Shanahan on bass and Chris Soblotne on drums propel the sonic apocalypse and impressively executed variations in tempo belie the simplicity that one may assume based on a quick sampling of City Built With Skulls. It's a fun record - but not a dumb record.

Lyrically, Possessor run the gamut across familiar territories: the undead, apocalypse (nuclear and otherwise), Satan, swordplay and Death incarnate. You won't see a novelization of City Built With Skulls any time soon. Nor should you. These are words meant to be screamed, music meant to be felt. I highly suggest you check Possessor out and feel some soon.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Alice Cooper - June 13, 2012 - Fraze Pavilion, Kettering, Ohio

As I walked out of the Fraze Pavilion just after 11:00 PM Wednesday night following Alice Cooper's performance, I was eavesdropping on fellow concertgoers' comments. One exchange struck me as funny as a man asked his companion, "How did you like it?"

"It was OK," she replied, "but I'm sad he didn't do anything crazy."

Let's see:
  • Alice opened the show on a twelve-foot high podium, waving eight limbs, two of which spouted pyrotechnics;
  • He crooned an entire number with a live constrictor around his neck;
  • He slow danced (and more) with a life-size female doll representing admiration for both bleeding women and necrohpilic lust;
  • He built and brought to life a ten-foot-tall singing Frankenstein's monster;
  • Dressed as a militant fascist, Alice impaled an annoying photographer with a metal spike;
  • He was then beheaded via guillotine for his crimes;
  • He was resurrected, head and all, and closed the show clad in silver rhinestones, waving an American flag and sword, imploring the audience to elect him as Obama and Romney lookalikes pummeled one another onstage.
The funniest thing, though, is that she was kind of right.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Clockwork Angels - Rush - 2012

So, here we are. Just a mere century out from the inevitable totalitarian rule of the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx and a seeming eternity since Rush's last studio release (five years have passed now since Snakes & Arrows) - with a couple tracks ("Caravan" and "BU2B") previewed via single release almost two years ago and debuting in live incarnations on Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland - and, suddenly, Clockwork Angels is here. Their 19th full-length is a weighty presence upon arrival with anticipation building since at least 2009 and, lyrically, the most unified concept record from Rush since 2112. An undercurrent of steampunk, long bubbling along the fringes of the Rush aesthetic, drives the lyrical narrative of clash of order imposed by the dictatorial Watchmaker versus the anarchy of individuality as personified by the protagonist and narrator and, ultimately, the listener.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Analog Man - Joe Walsh - 2012

Writing up 1985's The Confessor, allmusic's James Chrispell proclaimed, "Joe Walsh just hasn't been able to produce a complete album of great material." Twenty-seven years and four albums later, he's still right. With Jeff Lynne at the helm I was somehow hoping for magic and instead I got what was the more likely outcome: a crisp, ├╝ber-clean package of dad-rock straining even for "pretty good" status that I want to like a whole lot more than I do.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Another One Bites the Dust: Loving the CD to Death

As a music collector who has been buying albums for thirty years I have been blessed to have started amassing physical copies of music in vinyl's first heyday, all through the lifespan of cassettes and, largely, in compact disc. Say what you will about the beauty of vinyl (I, too, love the art and audio aspects), the CD has been good to me. With its death knell tolling more and more loudly ever since the advent of mp3 and the like, I'm sad as hell to see it going but, simultaneously, enjoying every second of its demise.