Random!

I dunno why I thought of this, maybe it’s seeing Bruce Campbell on Burn Notice weekly and recalling that iconic Army of Darkness line:

“Well hello Mr. Fancypants!  I got news for you pal; you ain’t leadin’ but two things right now. Jack and Shit… and Jack left town.”

Or maybe the damn song just showed up on my shuffle during a commute.  Anyhoo, check out Coulton’s awesome song Mr. Fancypants, also midi machines rock…..hard.

Metal(and other) Aquisitions and Commentary

Haven’t felt inspired to write up any full reviews recently, but here are some of my recent music purchases and some brief comments for those who might interested.

Protest the Hero (self-titled):  Solid progressive metalcore.  Some really interesting music on here occaisonally obscured by the typical metalcore screeching.  It’s good that the iTunes version of the album came with an all-instrumental version of the album.

36 Crazyfists, the Tide and It’s Taker:  Polished metal with great energy but a bit unoriginal.  I admit that the band’s name has thrown me in the past (it doesn’t sound very metal does it?) but their recent review in Metal Hammer straightened me out.  Of course Metal Reviews hated the album and is on the mark to a point, but I’m less inclined to be that harsh.

North Mississippi Allstars, Hernando:  Southern rock with influences from metal, hard rock, country, and even a little hip-hop.  These guys haven’t released a bad album yet, great summer tunes.

Rage, Speak with the Dead (2006):  My favorite discovery of 2008 (so far) and one of the hardest bands to find searching by name alone.  A great album but certainly not as groove heavy as Carved In Stone.  The album does have a more epic feel thanks to the backup orchestra.  I really dig lead singer/bassist Peter “Peavey” Wanger’s vocal style, I don’t know why exactly, I just do.

Powerwolf, Lupus Dei:  Horror themed power metal?  Sign me up!  Not as stunning as I’d hoped but a solid album that is a lot more fun than you would expect.  I liked it better than Maiden’s latest, take that however you may but there it is.

Metal Review: Watershed by Opeth

Progressive music, whether it’s prog rock or prog metal, is an oddity. The genre (if it can even be called that) is definitely an acquired taste. Songs tend to be on longer side (some might say longer than absolutely necessary) and they usually incorporate a wide variety of musical sources. Call it what it is: a mish-mash of music. Weird time signatures and crazy instruments from 15th century Asia are the status quo. Why play that solo on a guitar when you can play it on a lute? But for all of the excesses that prog has given us over the years, it can frequently be a satisfying style of music. The bands in the genre tend to be both intellectual and musically talented. And they have produced some stunning works of art over the years (see Rush).

Continue reading “Metal Review: Watershed by Opeth”

Metal Review: Flies & Lies by Raintime

Of European nations Italy is perhaps last on a short list of providing truly awesome metal.  An opinion, after having listened to this album, I may have to examine with a more careful eye.  Lacking the outright silliness of fellow Italians Rhapsody, and lacking the weak/odd/annoying vocals of American progressive acts such as Coheed and Cambria and Dream Theatre, Raintime manages to combine pain, beauty, aggression and musicality into an impressively powerful brew.  Vocals range from death metal style growls to clean metalcore tones to gruff hard rock wrung from the gut.  The keyboard work is impressive but never overstated and lends an appropriate majestic air to the proceedings.  The sound is majestic but never pretentious, hard but never overly aggressive and intimate but never ranging into melodramatic. Raintime walks a delecite line between various lines of metal sub-genres creating a sound at once familiar and something totally their own.

Having listened through the album several times I’m still not tired of it, and after a long days work, is a worthy listen on the drive home.  It is an album almost meant to be listened to all of one piece, from start to finish, in one sitting with absolutely no tracks that make me reach for the skip button.  And that includes a cover song.  If you think you know “Beat It” think again.  It feels like the song was written for these guys to play.  Give these guys a listen, either on iTunes or their myspace page, if you don’t like what you here there is definitely something wrong with you.

Metal Review (Pellet): Sanctity, Road to Bloodshed

Sancity’s debut Road to Bloodshed is to Trivium what The Confession’s first full-length is to Avenged Sevenfold.  An up and coming band produced by a member/producer of another band, in this case Jason Suecof who produced both Trivium’s The Crusade and Ascendency and served as song-writer on a number of that band’s songs, that leads to an album strikingly similar to that of another band (The Confession’s first full-length was produced by A7X frontman M. Shadows).   Road to Bloodshed isn’t a bad album though and even excels over Trivium’s in several aspects.  It’s a well nuanced album that, while familiar, features top-notch production and a very mature sense of pacing.  Never veering into ballad territory Road to Bloodshed features enough musical texture that the frequent growls of lead singer Jared MacEachern don’t grate nearly as much as Trivium’s Matt Heafy.  I think these guys are worth keeping an eye on.  It’s hard to say on album like this exactly how much the producers creative element influenced the band in question, given the album’s similarity to late Trivium efforts I would suggest a lot, but I’d be interested to see how a freer creative hand in their own output effects the quality of their work.   In the end this is a solid, if slightly derivitive, outing that fans of melodic influenced thrash metal would do well to at least give a whirl.

Review: Worlds Collide by Apocalyptica

I just recently noticed that Apocalyptica’s entire catalog has been loaded up on Rhapsody.  Presumably it’s part of a larger plan to advertise their new album, Worlds Collide, which seems to be the trend for a lot of artists that have been holding out on “monthly fee” services. Since I’ve been only listening to their second album, Inquisition Symphony, up until this point (because it was the only one on Rhapsody), this gave me a chance to see what else a metal band founded by four cellists can do.

The Bad: I’m fully convinced that the addition of a drummer to the original quartet stripped away some piece of the band’s uniqueness.  On the initial few albums, the percussion section was either dropped entirely or picked up by one of the cellos. Either choice results in a unique sound in a genre where the drummer is heavily emphasized and that’s now missing. The only other problem with this album is that the collaborations tracks with vocals are clear attempts at sacrificing their sound to garner some play on rock radio (success…I actually heard I’m Not Jesus on WMMR recently). The results are some tracks that tend towards generic hard rock.

The Good: The instrumental tracks are fantastic. The band does an excellent job of letting the beautiful sound of the main cello come through while still maintaining an overall metal sound that proves they really understand the genre despite being trained in classical music. After the novelty of “cello metal” fades for the listener, the band can easily stand on the quality of their music. As an added bonus for Rammstein fans, there is clearly a lot of overlap between the two bands since they toured together in 2005. Till Lindemann makes a guest appearance with a German-language cover of David Bowie’s Heroes. A longtime Rammstein producer is also at the helm of Worlds Collide. Combining that with Rammstein’s frequent use of strings results in a couple moments that could have come from either band.

The Verdict: A strong B+. Find a way to listen to this album. Just maybe skip some of the generic vocal tracks.

Metal Review: Zimmer’s Hole, When You Were Shouting at the Devil…

Zimmer's Hole

Artist: Zimmer’s Hole
Album: When You Were Shouting at the Devil
Release: March 11, 2008

I’ve been trying to get this review out for days now but kept getting side-tracked by actual work. Let me say that as of today, April 15, this is Album of the Year stuff right here. Is this serious metal? Yes and no. Yes because it is hard-hitting ferocious sounding musical thunder that borrows from almost every sub-genre of the metal and roars at you with the amps turned up to 11. No, because while at the same time as paying homage to the metal genre, and doing it well, it does so with a satirical tongue-in-check air.

Songs like We Rule the F*cking Land and Hair Doesn’t Grow on Steel make fun of the opulence and grandiosity of power metal while at the same time reveling in those self same traits. Vocalist “the Heathen” manages death metal growls, hardcore screams, and 80s style howls with equal applomb and tracks like the titular When You Were Shouting at the Devil….We Were in League with Satan and Alright combine the heavy crunch of modern metal with old-school 80s style vocals/effects and boils everything down to a delicious reduction. Indeed, a satirical metal romp would be nigh incomplete without the special guest on The Vowel Song who I won’t name but will say that he is THE figure in the satirical metal world.

For a musical genre that often takes itself far too seriously for its own good an album that makes you headbang while grinning like a madman (if not outright laughing) is a rare and treasured thing indeed. If you even dare to call yourself a fan of metal you should buy this album. A solid A album, recommended with absolutely no reservations what-so-ever.