Thursday, October 10, 2013
Carcass - Surgical Steel- rating: 4 out of 5 mutilated and eviscerated corpses Even though it's a few weeks out, I decided to post this review because its still a relevant album that was recently released. And what album is this? Carcass's long awaited new album, Surgical Steel. When news of an official Carcass reunion album were announced, mouths were agape and heads were ready to bang. It had been five years since official reunion, but questions remained about whether or not there would be any attempt from the band to put themselves fully on the map again with a new album. There were also the questions about what the musical content would be, would it be a return to the classic grind of the first three albums, or would it be more in line with the later more melodic strains of 1993's Heartwork? We all got the answer in mid September, when the band released their first album since 1996's Swansong. The album is (likely) a comeback album far more than say, the new Queensryche, as Carcass really seems to have made an effort to recall their glory days but with some new twists and turns as well. It is almost a missing link between Heartwork and Swansong, though with a few nods to previous albums such as 1991's Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious. It starts out with the harmony laden instrumental intro "1985" and quickly picks up pace with "Thrasher's Abbatoir", a fast paced song whose lyrics almost read as a more literate version of a typical 1985 Exodus "posers suck" song, complete with the "medical textbook" style lyrics that were a staple of their early work. It quickly goes into "Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System", a song that could definitely have fit well on Heartwork. On this song, a lyrical approach that combines the "goregrind" approach mentioned earlier is mixed with cleverly veiled and sardonic political lyrics (a theme which continues through the album). The album then continues with such future classics such as "The Master's Butcher's Apron" and other songs in the same vein (pun intended) and concludes with the (near) ballad (!) "Mount of Execution". 11 songs that would make newcomers as good as they are like Arsis or Obscura blush. The songs definitely have enough twisted (but accessible) riffs to recall the glorious days of yesteryear, in fact, even the production (by none other than Colin Richardson, who produced most of their classic work) recalls something from the mid-nineties rather than the overly compressed production jobs that are the norm today (though I will admit the mastering could be a little less brickwalled). Is the album perfect? In a word, no, its hard to really recapture the magic of a time long gone by, but it certainly comes close. It certainly stands with "classic reunion albums" that have been released in the past by metal and rock veterans such as "Perfect Strangers" by Deep Purple, or "Brave New World" by Iron Maiden (their classic 2000 reunion with the "classic" lineup of Maiden). And that is some great company to keep.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Decided to post a lot of the reviews I did for other publications and sites such as amazon, etc on this blog site. It will be to tide people over to the new reviews and interviews I will be posting here soon. Here are some short reviews of various albums over the years: John Arch - A Twist of Fate- 2003. Well, where to start? Its the return of one of my favorite singers of all time, John Arch. On the first three (my favorite) Fates Warning albums, he showed an awesome display of melody, and genius wordplay lyrically. I was awaiting something else from him for the six years I've been a Fates Warning fan. Finally the day arrives when I read on a website that he is returning to the music scene in a project from Dream Theater and Fates Warning members. I was 100 times more excited than when I heard about the OSI project. Now, on to the Ep: One glaring thing I noticed is : Its way too short! I mean, he was out of the music scene for 16 years, and now he only has 30 minutes to give us? Well, I have a feeling this isn't the last we'll hear from the guy, I think he was going for perfection and this is what we have: a stunning set of two epic tunes. The first song, Relentless, is the weaker of the two, similarities to latter day Dream Theater are obvious. While not a bad thing, it doesn't sound as unique with Arch's vocals, and Arch's vocals almost recall James Labrie in a way (or is it the other way around). Also this song is a bit more disjointed, which takes some getting used to. The musicianship is superb, with Portnoy's drumming displaying the usual virtuosity, and Jim Matheos' awesome riffs and spacey synths. The second song is where this album really shines though. "Cheyenne" is another epic song, which was the highlight of the album for me. It has the melodious resemblence to something off Awaken the Guardian, and almost exceeds anything from that album because of the improved production. John Arch is a lyrical/musical genius, and I'm sad that he turned down/or was turned down the Dream Theater spot. But now that he's returned, let's hope he takes it to the next level. Highly recommended epic Prog metal. Megadeth - Countdown to Exctinction (review 2003) 1991. In 1991 - the Infamous Black album was released, alienating many fans of Metallica (like me) while gaining alot of others. The commerical sheen and refined, stripped down songwriting inherent on the album was a formula for commercial success, while still being fully in the "metal" camp. Former Metallica lead guitarist Dave Mustaine had seen his band Megadeth as somewhat competitors to Metallica, and this is the first album that doesn't just equal Metallica's output (don't get me wrong the first four were classics but I'd say they were equals to Metallica's first four) - it surpasses it. Sure this album possesses "Black Album's" commercial sheen and relatively (to Rust In Piece) stripped down, mid paced songwriting- but it is the far better album of the two. What it doesn't possess is the meatheaded redneck lyricisms of the Black Album (Just compare Architecture of Aggression to Metallica's Don't Tread on Me) or the overtly "compromised" vibe. The Black Album also has more filler, while Countdown is filled to the brim with stellar songwriting. And another factor is that while Countdown is more refined than previous albums, it still has a technical edge that was not seen with many bands (example: the nearly prog metal stylings of Ashes in Your Mouth). So overall, this is a near classic by the legendary thrash titans. I hated it when it first came out, but with age and maturity I came to love it. Halford- Live Insurrection - 2003 Rob Halford surprised me with his "Resurrection" comeback. But even more surprising is this live album from his solo band. Even though some of its "liveness" can be put in question like Unleashed in the East, it contains some of his best singing EVER! The album runs the gamut from Stained Class era Priest, to Fight and of course his recent material. The songs from early Priest are old favorites of mine Priest haven't even played for years. The playing is tight and smooth, but the highlight is of course Halford himself. He sings with a renewed intensity not seen on the originals themselves even. This album is probably the best album for someone wanting to delve into Halford AND Priest in general - Highly recommened.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
I'd like to happily announce the relaunch of this blog, and am actively welcoming/seeking content from other writers/bloggers as well. I will also partner with some other content producers to get this blog to be the main hub of metal info in the area! Coming soon: Reviews of new releases including the new Carcass album, and new interviews!
Saturday, July 6, 2013
Its been asked by friends and others why I don't listen to a lot of modern albums. For awhile, I looked at it as just a sign of being jaded after hearing literally thousands of albums, having been a long time veteran of the Metal scene, etc. But as I dug deeper and deeper into self-analysis on this subject, something became clear. I found that the problem I have with a lot of modern Metal isn't neccesarily because of stylistic permutations or lack of songwriting skills (though sometimes this is a culprit), its been because the production on a lot of modern albums are lacking. What does "lacking" mean? Well its not some "necro black metal" trend of production or anything of that matter. As a matter of fact, I am a big fan of the mid-nineties Black Metal scene, and did not like some of the commercial derivations of that, including bands like Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir. Emeperor, Mayhem, or Satyricon may have sounded raw but their production had dynamics that were still exciting and entertained the listener. And it is well known my love for early punk and hardcore. So its not the rawness of a production that turns me off, and at the converse end its not a "slick" production either. Even if its lacking in songwriting power compared to their first four, I still find Metallica's Black Album to have a lushly sheen and very dynamic and full range of sounds. If you hear songs from it on "Solid Rock" or hard rock radio, it stands against the Shinedowns or Five Finger Death Punches which sound flat in comparison. And therein lies the problem. Many bands choose compression over dynamics, and "loudness" over quality in production. In this series I'll explore the history of the phenomenon and my theories on why it has permeated the music industry.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
About a year ago, the whole current debacle with Queensryche started with the band splitting in two camps: Geoff Tate with hired musicians, and Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield, Eddie Jackson and newcome Todd Latorre. I had done a review of the band's latest album "Dedicated to Chaos" previously, and reading articles through the recent years and seeing live clips, etc, it actually came as no surprise to a lot of people. The (alleged) knife wielding of Tate, the spitting on the drummer (though spitting on band members doesn't always have malicious intent, just ask Mike Portnoy!) as well as all the allegations in the press by Tate vs the rest of the band did come as a shock however. The remaining band's legal depositions came out in public, and me being the music nerd I am, read all of them. All of what transpired really stood out to me as being extremely similar to what had happened with Pink Floyd in the 1980's. Roger Waters had claimed to write all of the songs, (read Tate's "81 percent quote") and diminished the other band members contribution. Now Chris Degarmo was not Queensryche's "Syd Barrett" in the least, but a lot of what came out in the press was very similar. For one, let's look into Roger Waters and his claim of being the centerpoint of the band. Its true that he would come up with rough demos and sketches for the rest of the band to flesh out, but the whole band had come up with the music for many of the songs, including their high point as seen by many, Dark Side of the Moon. Roger Waters and Geoff Tate seem to both have the impression that lyrics and lyrical concepts= whole songs but that is just not the case (and as a side note, Roger Waters in recent history has kind of redeemed himself for many of the nasty things he said in the 80's). Geoff Tate plays saxophone, but if he had written "81 percent of Queensryche songs" as he claimed, why the increasing reliance of outside songwriters? Why not present us evidence in demos and guitar tracks he had written and recorded? The truth is already out there, on Queensryche song credits. They are credited to individual band members that cowrote the songs (or in the case of Degarmo occasionally wrote alone) with Geoff, and about 45 percent are Michael Wilton, 55 being Degarmo and occasionally someone else. The idea that Tate was the main SONGwriter (not main lyric writer) is preposterous and not grounded in fact. But a comparison can be made with Waters again as well, though at least Waters actually contributed to more than lyrics and vocal melodies. But listening to the solo demos that Waters did by himself for the Wall for example, its obvious that they were very rough and needed Bob Ezrin and to a lesser extent, David Gilmour, to make them shine. The ideas on Operation Mindcrime as far as concept may be Geoff's, but it took Chris Degarmo and Michael Wilton (alot of Wilton on that one, especially the faster songs and the whole first half) to flesh it out musically, many steps beyond what Floyd had to do with Waters demos. Roger Waters wanted Floyd to stop using the name, and they won the rights the name and had some of the most successful tours while Rogers (somewhat) floundered in comparison, Tate wants the Queensryche name for himself while the band outsold his version of the band nearly double and put out an album, while not perfect, had a lot of the hallmarks that once made Queensryche great. The idea that Momentary Lapse of Reason stylistically took a lot from 70's Floyd but with the flash and not as much substance is a solid argument, and one can also make the claim about Queensryche's new album, while good, doesn't cut as deep as the classic material. Time will tell what will happen with the name and the future history of the band. I will say this, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking album stomps all over Frequency Unknown a million fold, and that may be an understatement.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Saturday, December 8, 2012
In this blog I will be going over Ozzy's career and how PR and other factors contributed to the perception that he is the "metal godfather" that he is, when many of his lyrics and songs were written by outside sources! (It's not a bash on Ozzy per se, as I do like and enjoy much of his material, just want to shatter a few misconceptions regarding the artist and how he is portrayed in the media and seen by the general public.