Wednesday, February 28, 2018

5 Bands I Dislike, And 5 Bands I Don't Hate But "Should"!!!

Being a Metal Elitist or "Purist" isn't without it's issues. You can't win them all, as far as convincing others inside the Metal Milieu whether your taste is "justified" or not. Of course, "who cares what people think" should be the rule, but I figured an article like this would make entertaining fodder for discussion, as well as looking inside the mind of a Metal Fan who feels the Nineties (yes that decade) may have been the greatest decade for metal, at least in the underground and in Europe.

Without further adieu, here are 5 bands I just never could get into, and yeah, at times I've tried and tried and tried. I'll follow up those 5 bands with 5 more that according to my own standards and tastes, and more importantly (the hierarchical ideology of Metal "Elitism", which I'm using in a somewhat ironic and tongue in cheek way) I "shouldn't" like:

1. Korn.

I never liked Korn. I just found the mix of elements that they had (Alternative, Hip Hop, with a somewhat whiny "90's" clean vocal style when not screaming) irritating and just plain awful. I understand their "importance" and all that in the "nu (n-u, not "new") Metal" genre, I just can't for the life of me get myself into any of their songs.

2. Slipknot.

On that note, here's another band "lumped into" the maligned genre of NU Metal, though they kind of branched out a bit. They wear/wore masks. So what? So did MR Bungle. I just find the "heavy" riffs having the worst cliches of groove metal and that whiny vocal style again. I'll give you this- The first "album" (they now consider it a "demo") Mate Kill Feed Repeat DID have some Mr. Bungle style eclecticism (And some say they also got this from fellow Iowans Mushroomhead) that they unfortunately abandoned upon signing with Roadrunner,  and a few of their latter day albums contains PARTS of songs that aren't awful. Next.

3. Marilyn Manson.

I'd see Marilyn Manson live just for the show for sure. But when I first saw his act live, opening for Nine Inch Nails, I thought it had already jumped the shark, or so I thought at the time. I just thought it was a refined, watered down mix of what bands like Alien Sex Fiend, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, and even NIN themselves were doing. Actually a mix of those elements could sound intriguing, but to me the recipe that Manson and company came up with sounded dull. Still better than the last two though, and I have total respect for his fans, since a huge percentage of them will know about those other references I mentioned. Many Slipknot fans probably don't even know there are other thrash bands than Metallica on the other hand!

4. Killswitch Engage.

Metalcore to me was both a blessing and curse when it came to it's impact on metal. On one hand, I appreciated that many in the Metalcore scene would acknowledge 80's Metal and even 90's Metal that WASN'T Nu Metal, (especially the Gothenburg Melodeath scene) as influences (they were very influenced by Groove Metal as well of course though) something that many in the NU Metal idiom lacked, or at least did not show it. I remember an interview with Korn where they basically made fun of Death Metal bands like Carcass, and this instilled a lot of hatred from me towards them as well. In the nineties, you had to kind of hide your 80s Metal influences, and this carried over to a huge extent to Nu Metal. So when Metalcore finally came back with twin guitar harmonies, actual guitar solos, and other trappings that are arguably more "metal" than Nu Metal will ever be, I was happy. But one of the most popular Metalcore acts, Killswitch Engage, always irritated me. I liked their brothers in arms, Shadows Fall, but Killswitch Engage, from the vocal melodies that remind me too much of pop punk (seems to be a problem with Djent as well), to the to the screams that to me, even as a person accustomed to extreme metal vocals (trust me, it's different as I will mention) annoy me to no end, to the somewhat formulaic and commercial songwriting, this is not what I wanted when I said I wanted metal to "return" to prominence, probably uttered by me sometime in the nineties.

5.  Cannibal Corpse.

I tried to get into them, but I just can't sit through a whole album. I hate them less than others on this list though, lol

Now onto the bands I "should" hate but don't:

1. Disturbed.

I know I bash Nu Metal a lot, but I can't really fathom what it is about Disturbed that makes me not "mind" them over the other bands of their genre. Is it that the guitar tone is a little more compressed than say, Korn's tone making it more "metallic"? Is it that I find David Draiman's clean vocals to have some occasional catchy melodies? I don't know for sure, but I actually enjoyed their second album to a small extent. I know how that sounds, and yeah, I'll whip myself with a vinyl copy of Number of the Beast after I finish this article ten times for committing such a sin, but I can't help it!
Same goes with some System of A Down and even a few Sevendust songs I find/found catchy.

2. Trivium.

Speaking of Disturbed, David Draiman produced at least one of this Florida band's recent albums, though it was one of theirs I hated!

I can't help but like everything up to and including Shogun to a certain extent. For one thing, I can tell that Matt Heafy really likes Black Metal, he probably almost seems poseurish to die hard Black Metallers with all the Black Metal shirts he wears, but one thing is for sure: you can actually hear this influence in Trivium's earlier music if you listen VERY closely. An example is some of his clean vocal parts on Shogun remind me of Ihsahn's at times (and coincidentally, they're both friends) and the harmonic structures of the songs obviously signify a listening to classic metal, progressive metal and black or death metal. Also, the "scream" vocals of Heafy are usually more tolerable, as they are (slightly) more akin to extreme metal rather than usual metalcore screams. To a layperson, there's not much difference between extreme metal vocal stylings, but let's just envision this: Black Metal vocals usually sound like "Gollum", Death Metal vocals sound like an evil "Beast" from below, Metalcore often sounds like a possessed Fratboy getting a spike shoved up their ass by an alien!
Sure, they're one of the most hated bands in metaldom for various reasons (just read what people say about them on Metal-Archives), but some of their older stuff I find to my liking and I must say, their guitarists can really shred!

3. Avenged Sevenfold.

Now I'm REALLY pushing the boundaries of disclosure and risking far more embarrassment!

I find these guys appealing (to a lesser extent) in the same way that I do Trivium. They wear their influences too much on their sleeve at times, but if them blabbing in interviews about some classic metal albums gets a kid in Nebraska who wouldn't know better otherwise to purchase/acquire those said albums, then I'm all for them. I don't hate AX7, I do know they ripped off Overkill's mascot, blah blah blah. I do know they're corporate rock which is appropriating parts of underground metal culture, whatever, etc etc- I just can't bring myself to hate every single riff, song, or even vocal line these guys have done. And yeah, Hail to the King was a decent Metallica Black Album rip off. I remember the days when the band Sentenced were accused of the same thing, but LOVED for it!

4. Dragonforce.

Me and Dragonforce have a troubled history. It's hard to say that they're "hated" but the logical reason that I have expressed dislike in the past for them is one simple reason: The fans they made during their biggest years in the US (mid 2000's and beyond) many times had NO IDEA that they are not the first band to play the style of metal that they do! Gamma Ray did fast power metal in 1997 with Somewhere Out In Space, and the US Power Metal band Steel Prophet were putting "blastbeats" in Power Metal in the late nineties! So nothing that Dragonforce did was new, nor did the novelty always make for good music. I enjoyed the first two albums, then the novelty wore thin for me, and I proceeded to bash them when brought up in conversation. But something happened when they got a new singer and bassist. Their music became more varied, sometimes more concise and actually riff-driven at times (a lot of the power metal I don't like is because they lack the riff driven styles of yesteryear and they rely on gimmicks instead or are more vocal driven, like Sabaton for example). This was no doubt partially influenced in part by the acquistion of new bassist, Frédéric Leclercq, formerly of the band Heavenly, a band who had many tangible connections to the original German Power Metal scene with their guest musicians at one time including a certain Kai Hansen and a certain Piet Sielck (the latter who also produced their first album). Leclerq has had a huge hand in the songwriting of the last three Dragonforce records, and this has brought the band to newer heights of variance and songwriting talent. It's not that the earlier albums were a disgrace, but his hand is very obvious in the massive improvements that in my opinion that they've made.

5. Bon Jovi. 

I careened back and forth trying to find a fifth band. I didn't want to mention another Metalcore band, though I must say bands associated with that scene that I like other than the aforementioned (bands like Shadows Fall, Between the Buried and Me, or Protest the Hero) aren't really HATED per se (though it's ridiculous in ways that BTBAM aren't on Metal-Archives, purely my OPINION), so I had to delve a little bit deeper into my past. Bon Jovi, after all, were the first "hard rock" band I got into at the tender age of eight years old, and other than reenacting scenes from Back to the Future, was the first "air guitar" I ever played. Slippery When Wet was an integral part of my childhood, leading me later to greater things like Iron Maiden and Metal in general. Without going into a rant about Hair Metal, AOR, my newer found liking of them or otherwise, I will just say that I still find much of their material catchy, at least up to a certain point, and am not ashamed to admit it. Full albums are a struggle but there was a definitely a time, when these "posers" (and there's nothing more "poser" than a stand in bass player used live because he's "better looking" than the guy who actually recorded the bass parts) made songs that were irresistible. 

So that's it. I've exposed some of my guilty pleasures, but also maybe pissed a few people off in the process. Oh well. It's all a matter of personal taste, but I had fun writing this anyway!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Would Kiss have "made it" if not for their makeup and live show?

                                         Kiss, rare picture of the group sans makeup in the Seventies. 

Among the criticisms from the people who hate/dislike Kiss that's postulated very often is the assertion that, given that much of the popularity of Kiss comes from their "live act" and in particular, their makeup and costumes, that they would've never reached the heights awarded to them if they were just a regular "rock band" in the seventies, some going so far as to say they never would've made it to being an international act!

If one is to believe this assertion, then one has to immediately go to their music and analyze them in the context of seventies hard rock and metal acts who were their contemporaries. Also, we need to look at the building blocks of their music, and the fact that this is a lot of what people (often) ignore.

Culled from interviews, various other sources, and the band from their autobiographies, the band's influences and the musical (non theatrical) stamp they were trying to create is passed over by people who concentrate on the gimmicks that the band utilizes.

The band, self admittedly, were a confluence of 4 major musical stylistic influences.
One, there was the influence of Stones influenced Garage Rock and Shock/Glam Rock bands ranging from New York Dolls to Alice Cooper.

 Also, there is an influence of more basic rock bands coming from such bands as Free. This is reflected in many of the more basic songs on the first three albums, and also influenced the refinement of the other styles I will mention.

Thirdly, there was the traditional hard rock/early heavy metal influences like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple or Black Sabbath, bands that members like Paul Stanley or Ace Frehley especially mention.

The fourth influence on their music is something that is little mentioned and is an obscure one. The influence of early power pop on Paul Stanley cannot be underestimated. Bands like Big Star or The Raspberries feature heavily in his autobiography, and can be felt/heard in songs ranging from Strutter (even if some of it was a Simmons riff) to the songs on his first solo album or on Unmasked. Gene Simmons always cites the early Beatles as a huge influence on his music, and of course the power pop bands share this.

It's with the conjunction of these four major influences I am basing my hypothesis on, that contemporary and later critics, if not for the impression in their mind based on the "gimmicks" and stage show, that they would have been much more accepting of Kiss on their musical basis alone.

Also, I have another theory about the band that may be more tantalizing. And this theory is based upon the first three albums and Alive, because these albums were coming from a more purely musical basis, since much of the material was pre-makeup and even written or recorded by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons with prior bands (such as Wicked Lester).

 Subsequent albums like Destroyer were musically and lyrically influenced much of the time off of their stage show, whether consciously or not, and songs like God Of Thunder (even though originally written by Stanley, with a few lyrical and musical revisions became a signature track for Simmons) were prime examples of this.

If they never put on the makeup, Kiss may had gone in a different musical direction and may had even not done albums such as Dynasty, which caused a lot of consternation with their original fanbase.

 They may had gone into complete musical directions than they did, and had been able to keep their reputation intact in the eyes of the public (and even much of the critics).

But what would've been their reputation, what heights would they have achieved from a historical perspective?

This is actually easier to answer than first assumed, because in my opinion, they would've still maintained a level of success, and (with the last analysis in mind) maybe even been more respected by critics later on.

Kiss were second or third generation Hard Rock/Heavy Metal- not quite in the second generation like bands such as Uriah Heep (though album wise Heep may belong to the first), but not quite seen in the same light as bands like Aerosmith, The Scorpions, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, or Motorhead were as far as trajectory time wise.

Based on musical merits, they would've maybe been seen in almost in the same category (As far as being second or third tier to the Led Zeppelins or Black Sabbaths of the world) as bands like Blue Oyster Cult, UFO or Grand Funk Railroad (Note: I am not talking about a subjective perspective of such bands, after all, I personally like bands like UFO better than Led Zeppelin, but more from a perspective of influence, reputation, and historical perspective), and musically, their reputation may had followed suit.
 If not for the perception of Kiss, they may had, after all, gotten more deeply indebted to the nascent heavy metal genre, and gone off to a totally different path.

Conclusion: I will use a hypothetical alternate timeline to further demonstrate these ideas.

In the alternate timeline that I theorize, the one in which Kiss never puts on makeup or has quite the same live show, the band still releases Alive, and their success still happens. I use Alive as a starting point, because the album is both the culmination of their early albums, but also a benchmark as far as playing and performance goes. It's heavier and more intense interpretations of the songs were what initially brought the band chart success, and this is an important point to be made (as well as using it as the point of departure).

Since they are less of a spectacle, they may had acted on entirely different impulses when it came to their music. They may had even become heavier earlier on (doing a Creatures of the Night style album during the time the NWOBHM was rising in popularity), or followed a different musical path entirely.

In their subsequent career trajectory, their respect and place in history among the public is somewhere in betwen a band like Blue Oyster Cult and Aerosmith.

They still have a cult-like status about them, but people focus more on their musical accomplishments more than the "novelty" of the stage show, makeup, and personas.

Alive is still listed by bands and musicians as something that influenced them during their starting foray in music, though not to the level that in OUR timeline/reality is because of less attention given to it overall (because of the live show spectacle).

They would be loved and respect and maybe even hated for entirely different reasons.

Since they wouldn't be seen as pompous or pretentious, outlets like Rolling Stone magazine may had even seen them as a missing link between the New York Dolls, 70's Heavy Metal, and (even) Punk Rock (since it shared a lot of the Garage Rock roots) and even gained their respect, even if not so much lyrically (though maybe some would see it as satire or befitting of working class affectations) since they would focus more on the music rather than (their perceived) cynical motivations.
Who knows, they may even had toured with acts like the Ramones, rather than just Black Sabbath or others.

Critics would be softer on them as a result, and this may even had helped their success and not hindered it among those said critics (and helped with their success in general).

Overall, Kiss is listened to, not watched. People like the music because of timeless songs, not Gene Simmons' makeup. If they had never put the makeup on or done as much pyro in the first place, albums such as Alive would probably still be highly regarded. They would follow a different path more than likely, with all the pitfalls that a successful seventies band faced. Their music may have turned out quite different, but they nevertheless would have been a success for writing timeless songs.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Review: War Gods of the Deep - Robots, Rockets & Rampage

Recently, I have discovered a new band which delves into some interesting concepts, War Gods of the Deep. Their new EP, Robots, Rockets & Rampage has been released and its an interesting listen.

The Band is named (Seemingly) from a 1965 movie with Vincent Price, (which went by City under the sea in non US countries). In it,
The plot concerns the discovery of a lost city beneath the sea off the coast of Cornwall. Price is the captain overseeing a group of sailors who have lived there for more than a century where the peculiar mix of gases has allowed them to extend their lifespan.
The band, which lists Kiss, Queen, Van Halen, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Boston, the Eagles, Prince, Def Leppard, and Journey among their influences, as well as comics, science fiction, fantasy and pulp magazines, as well as Star Wars (tastefully and gratefully mainly the Original Trilogy :) ) has definitely a unique and fresh sound going for them. 

Upon listening to the first track, "Vasnetov", I was reminded a little bit of the militaristic vibe of bands like Sabaton, whom I like. Doomy riffs with almost chanted vocals spacey keyboards and super heavy guitars, almost Hetfield style vocals.
The keyboards (and other effects) add a great atmosphere. 

I've become spoiled at keyboards in metal. What was once controversial at the dawn of its onset of the beginning has become almost a standard and essential part of Metal music making, at least in my opinion to make things interesting. 

In the song melodic riffs alternate with near dissonant sections and the song almost reminds me of some space war chant in general with it's background vocals. 

The guitar solo is a bit dissonant as well.
It's not super shreddy, but does resolve at a melodic peak well.

On the release overall, the guitars are brutal and have great tone that others may envy. 

The second song"Mortal Cage" is a bit more traditional metal leaning, but that is not a bad thing, as the riffs are still dark
the vibe of vocals on this one almost
remind me of someone  like James Hetfield meets Nick Holmes of mid nineties era
Paradise Lost. 
This is not a knock as it makes the music heavier without going into super extreme metal territory. I would almost say in a way, that this band makes me think of Metallica if they made The Thing That Should Not Be extended to a concept
and template for a Metal subgenre.
 Epic, doomy, near progressive at times riffs that are heavier than a mack truck carrying nothing but Osmium, Diamonds and Steel, crushing all in it's path. 

It is too organized to be sludge metal, but it does have the heaviness of sludge metal at times, and the vocals are hooky but definitely not some type of pretty power metal wailer style. 

I like the ultra heavy yet somewhat airy production that the addition of keyboards and somewhat choir sounding vocals gives it.

 "This Evil" is the third song of the bunch and is also the heaviest and the most proggy with its odd timings.Circular evil
almost maze like riffs that take you on a journey as far as the music goes makes this song my favorite of the three. 

Criticisms? Well I would say if I have any, it's that the keyboards could be louder in the mix. I can think of albums like the classics by Devin Townsend that had expansive atmospheres mixed with crushing guitars. This may be a personal choice, but I think it makes it easier to get lost in the music when keyboards are raised. Overall, this is a promising new band with a very unique sound, I am looking forward to seeing what they have in store for the future, and by the way, their album cover art is incredible as well.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Review: Henry Metal- Deadlift Cowboy

Does humor belong in music? Frank Zappa once asked the question many years ago, and with him, it was almost more of a statement than a question, because obviously with his music it was a “yes”. Granted, his was often the biting type of satirical and sardonic humor that was incisive towards the mores and values of the day. The question also then arises to “does humor belong in metal”?

Metal has often been maligned as being either unfunny or extremely unintentionally funny, as any fan of the film This is Spinal Tap, or even Beavis and Butthead can attest. 

There have been gems of comedy scattered within the metal scene though, whether it'd be Scatterbrain who appeared in the 80's, Tenacious D's flirtations and appreciation of the metal idiom, Mr Bungle or Primus's careening towards the metal genre, or the underrated project Crotchduster from the early 2000's (featuring a certain Richard Chirsty on drums) or even comedian Brian Posehn's metal songs. 

Metal has had humor in it for many years, but only recently has it been acceptable to be into metal without being ironic but also be able to laugh at it (or yourself if you're into it). You can add Henry Metal to the list, who's new album, Deadlift Cowboy is a celebration of the absurd and the funny in the world, but done in a metal fashion.  

So, does humor belong in Metal? Yes!

Henry Metal is a multi-instrumentalist and producer based in LA and purportedly this project started in spring of 2017 and is on the 7th album already (gasp)!

Before we begin with the lyrical content, let's begin with the music first. One thing that struck me, to paraphrase the long departed Euronymous from the Black Metal band Mayhem, is that there is no core (as in any kind of metalcore) and no trends inherent in the release. In some ways, it reminds one of the aforementioned Tenacious D, but I can also hear bands ranging from Queen to Megadeth to even Ugly Kid Joe in there as well. 

The guitars aren't extreme metal heavy, but veer between hard rock and thrash metal at times, with some virtuosity but without an overemphasis on it. 

The vocals have the comedic element in tact, but are adequate enough at delivering the melodic hooks as well. The album begins with the Queenlike “Here Come the Injuns”, an epic track featuring some terrific piano accents and lyrics like “I have heard that cowboys like to eat baked beans but they only had pan and fire no oven or other means".

The next song is a slightly punky and grungy groovy thrash song (the sort of “title track”) "Deadlift", which extols the exercise in the title (I should try it at the gym sometime myself instead of sometimes wasting my time with the other exercises, which the song also mentions).

"Motivation" is a (somewhat) mellower fist pumper that features some tasteful keyboards and even more tasteful soloing. It features lyrics about, what else (?), motivation, especially at the gym!

"Indoor Scooter Man" is a groovy latter day Megadeth sounding song that puts the image of a decrepit looking guy riding a scooter in a mall, it would make for a totally tasteless but hilarious video!

Wild West” reminds me a bit of the theme of Manowar's infamous “Outlaw” song, but this time it's meant to be funny.

Idiot” is a ballad of sorts, and “Smooth Metal” contains sort of a mellow early 80's R and B vibe...until the awesome neo-classical guitar runs begin.

Sexual Harassment" is a song with very current subject matter, perhaps both commenting and at least in part satirizing the #metoo moment. Some more awesome thrashy neo-classical influenced soloing prevails in the second half as well, which I enjoyed.

Overall, this project is an excellent find, and
speaking of funny, the album cover art is a hilarious parody of Job For A Cowboy's style of artwork and logo, however, I must say I think Deadlift Cowboy is a far superior band (sorry JFAC fans).

I would highly recommend this band to anyone who's a fan of humor in music, or Metal, and the man behind the project also knows how to write hooks and riffs that get stuck in your head. Fans of everyone from Megadeth, to Freak Kitchen, to Tenacious D to Brian Poeshn may get something out of it. Looking forward to more releases in the months ahead. Who knows, maybe their discography will exceed 20 more albums in 2018!

All I know is that I'm definitely going to keep following the project in the future, as it will likely continue to deliver.

You can find out about Deadlift Cowboy from the following links,

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Review: Song Of Love- Babylon (Single)

It's not every day that you're sent a roughshod demo song to review, and a bit more of a challenge to do so than a finely honed product. Up until now, I have reviewed mainly professional releases, but was asked to do this, and will oblige. 

It's hard to describe Song Of Love, other than an amalgamation of hard rock and metal and progressive, their demo song "Babylon", is actually a charming number, while as rough and imperfectly produced as I described. 
Being a fan of diverse productions like the ones by artists even such as GG Allin or a lot of the more "Necro" Black Metal bands, I can deal with a rough production.

The song is an instrumental. The beginning parts of the song remind me simultaneously of Led Zeppelin but also latter day free jazz influenced Black Flag. It is followed by some progressive Maidenish melodic riffs, with some very odd timings done by the drummer. Then some more odd timed riffs embellish the songs and it picks up pace before going to a full on balladic part. Then it's on to more odd timed riffs, I didn't like this following part because it seemed shoehorned in, but then back to the "chorus" of the song which is admittedly catchy. 

Some soloing then comes in, and this is supported by some very good bass playing. Then it's back to those Flag style riffs again (if there is any doubt by the reader of this comparison, I suggest you listen to the instrumental songs off of Family Man or the Process of Weeding Out).

Then it's onto more classical sounding parts, probably the best part of the song. 

The song ends on that note.

I liked the song. I thought some of the performances could have been tightened up, and for what they were going for, the production could have been as well. 

The instrumental flowed well for the most part though, and I enjoyed where they were going with the song. I like instrumentals and also think instrumentals can really boost a project and also that in the music scene we could use more instrumental projects in general.

Overall, I think this is a promising start to a promising project. Once they get their kinks worked out, I think there is enough creativity to do something spectacular. 

You can find more info on this band at the following links: