When I saw the video for Blessed by a Broken Heart’s (hereafter BBABH) first single off of their latest album Feel the Power I was actually a little disappointed. The band’s previous album, Pedal to the Metal, as a guilty pleasure of pop-metalcore with copious layers of 80s influenced glam metal keys; that album’s “Move Your Body” has been a mainstay on my workout playlist for years now. That new single, “Forever” was enough a departure from that sound to leave me a little disappointed with that I heard. I don’t know what changed between that first listen and now, but damn do I absolutely dig the hell out of Feel the Power.
Yes, Feel the Power is slight departure from Pedal to the Metal but that same level of smooth pop-influenced slickness has been polished to a near mirror sheen and the incongruity of the Pedal to the Metal’s metalcore growls toned down to an absolute minimum. The result is an album full of slick riffs, big choruses, and copious amounts of high energy rock and roll. While the harsh bark of metalcore’s bark-like vocals still pops up on several songs it fits slightly better absent of synth heavy tracks. The faster tempo employed across the album and the crunchier riffs the speed each track along lend to a curious blend of a thrash and hair, with a slight lean towards hair, and I for one love it. While Feel the Power plays up the hair metal vibe by including one ballad (“I’ve Got You”) it never veers into the self-indulgent seriousness that marks the worst hair metal of yesteryear.
Indeed if one word can define Feel the Power that word is fun. This is an album that you toss of the car stereo and crank to 11 while cruising down the road with the windows down. This isn’t the kind of music that will change lives but it is the kind of music that well definitely make your day more tolerable. Every track is killer though several standout: “Deathwish,” “Shut Up and Rock,” “Love Nightmare,” the chorus-heavy “Forever,” the easy-to-sing with “Rockin’ All Night,” and “Skate or Die” stand out (if only slightly) from the rest of the pack. Bottom line if you are into fun pop-influenced metal then Blessed by a Broken Heart’s Feel the Power is well worth your time.
If I were browsing CDs in a store and came across Steelwing’sLord of the Wasteland it would have been album I bought on cover art alone.
I mean it has a robot vulture and a badass muscle car loaded with guns! It is ridiculous. It is awesome. It displays a sense of fun that the metal world doesn’t always show. If you haven’t guessed this is something of a concept album, though not the sort of epic over-the-top ridiculous other bands will go for, but a wild ride full of foot-stomping, head-banging post-apocalyptic metal. If it wasn’t obvious this 80s influenced band is part of the “New Wave of Traditional Metal” (NWOTHM) alongside groups like Enforcer, Holy Grail, White Wizzard, and others. This is the kind of metal designed for summer days driving down the highway with the stereo cranked up to 11. If you’re looking for fast, furious, epic metal with a large dose of fun Steelwing are the dudes for you!
I’ve actually managed to pick up a few (note: understatement) CDs over the last few months and figured I’d mention a couple that you folks out there might enjoy. Not all of the stuff was released this year but they’re things I’ve purchased and enjoyed.
Metal is getting more mainstream every day but folk metal is still very niche and Switzerland’s Eluveitieis perhaps a niche within a niche. Where folk metal pioneers like Korpiklaani tend to sing in their native languages, Eulveitie takes a different route, replacing their native language for the now extinct Gaulish. The band also frequently employs the hurdy-gurdy. Their latest album Evocation I: the Arcan Dominion is surprisingly light on the metal and heavy on the folk. As one amazon.com reviewer puts it “What was meant to be folk turned out to be more Pop.” I don’t completely agree with that sentiment but there is a broader mainstream appeal here that fans of more popular folk-influenced music that is a far cry from Eluveitie’s much heavier albums . Still, it is a more intimate affair than Crimfall’s debut but somehow slightly grander than much of Korpiklaani’s work and as whole an extraordinarily compelling piece of music. Vocalist Anna Murphy is absolutely superb at conveying emotion that transcends the linguistic barrier while at the same time remaining diverse in both tone and timbre. Metal fans might balk at the albums lighter production values but they would be missing out on some impresssive tunes that reveal a band willing to take risks with their art.
Changing gears a bit I also picked up Red of Tooth and Claw by southern “gothic country” quartetMurder By Death. Murder By Death isn’t completely dissimilar to in its somewhat niche-like appeal and certainly has a similar folk vibe. The opening track I’m Coming Home has a very Johnny Cash feeling but tinged with a bit of a darker tone, leaving one to question if that coming home is entirely in everyone’s best interests. Like on many of the track the more traditional use of guitar and drums in accent and, in my opinion (warning: former cellist) is enhanced by the addition of a cello that lends the stripped down sound of the band an very full sound. Red of Tooth and Claw is an album obviously influenced by the western genre and includes a decent tribute to iconic western film composer Ennio Morricone but the album also mashes together that western-film sound with more traditional rock beats and the occaisonal groove-heavy riff. Murder By Death has a sound that is both unique, familiar, and a sound wholly their own.
Changing gears again we have the latest from Hammerfall, No Sacrifice, No Victory. Somehow I’ve been missing out on this power metal outfit and I have no explanation as to exactly why. While on the one hand there are no real surprises on this album at the same time there is a quality to the production and a catchiness to the song writing that is difficult to ignore. I find that many power metal bands get caught up in their own acts (or maybe it’s just power metal fans) but there is a sense of fun to this album that is highly infectious. The anthemic opening track By Any Means Necessary grabs you from the start with its anthemic stadium-rock like chorus and galloping beats and the album doesn’t let up for a minute from there on out. The title track is damned impressive and is one those big songs that will have you nodding your head and raising your fist in the air to chant the main chorus along with the rest of the band. While it doesn’t really do anything new what it does do, classic power metal with big anthemic choruses, it does well. This album is just plain fun and fans of power metal everywhere shouldn’t hesitate to pick it up.
Last but not least is doom metal outfit Blood Ceremony. I came across this band on a CD from UK magazine Metal Hammer and was immediately enthralled and must have listened to it every day for almost a week before I gave in a purchased their album. While I didn’t find the full album as engaging as that one single, Hop Toad, they are a highly original band. If you heard them you’d be surprised to learn that they a new band, with a new CD rather than something recorded back in the 79s. With its dancing flutes, prominent Hammond organ, and supernaturally themed lyrics Blood Ceremony comes off like the product of a union between Jethro Tull and Black Sabbath. The flute and hammond, combined with female vocals and some groove-heavy riffs gives the band a surprsing and occaisonally off-putting balance of light and dark that, while not always a perfect combination, lends the band their own unique feel and manages to keep things very interesting. While I’m not sure I’d recommend a purchase outright fans of retro-influenced music, especially those who enjoyed the J. Mascis side-project Witch, should definitely give this old school band a try.
Ok, one last honorable mention. Though they don’t have an album yet (it’s due in July) you should definatley checkout the track High Speed GTOby White Wizzard. Pure fun, old school metal.
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).
Been meaning to write about this for a while but kept putting it off; now I’m a bit behind thanks to the new Rock Band DLC. I stumbled across Black Tide during a search for new music via the Playist over at the Kerrang! website; unfortunatley some genius broke the link. A short hop over to iTunes and I found the singles “Shockwave” and “Warriors of Time”…and was summarily $1.98 the poorer. In my opinion “Warriors of Time” far eclipses “Shockwave” in sheer badassery but both songs rock. Needless to say their album is scheduled for 3/18 and I’ll definitly be snagging a copy. In the meantime enjoy the studio cut and the live version (from Ozzfest this past August):
Portland rockers Agallochhave reached deep into the cold dark pits of their mortal souls and poured the black extract found therin into their latest album “Ashes Against the Grain.” Indeed there are few bands in the black metal/death metal genre(s) that manage to infuse their music with an emotionally rich sound and I am excited to report that Agalloch is one of that elite number. Indeed, Agalloch doesn’t just make music they paint landscapes with sound. Like their previous effort, “The Mantle,” “Ashes Against the Grain” is laden with mysterious overtones perfectly suited to a cold, gray winter morning. However, “The Mantle,” for all its triumph seemed to wallow in its own darkness. “Ashes Against the Grain,” on the other hand, is more diverse in both its musical and emotional content ranging almost equally between hope, beauty, anger and despair.
With songs that hover, on average, around the 8 or 9 minute mark Agalloch will never achieve a mainstream success. However, with solid songwriting and a sound that is wholly their own should endear themselves not only to longtime fans but to black metal enthusiasts the world around. Highly recommended.
Postscript: Kudos to the design of Agalloch’s web page (linked to above). Simple and elegent use of flash, comprised of obscure imagery true to the band’s style it is one of the better band websites I’ve seen in a while.
Despite having a name that should belong to whiny emo band, My Dying Bride, manages to kick some ass. Gloom or Doom metal featuring melodic vocals and a driving rhythm the band manages to be equal parts hard and beautiful at the same time. Certainly an interesting departure from much of metal saturating the market today.
A surprisingly hard solo album from former Sonic Youth frontman Sebastian Bach. It’s a shame that Bach’s vocal talents aren’t as well known as they should be. This album features three tracks with Axl Rose and I’m hard pressed to make the call on who tops who in the seeming battle for vocal oneupmanship. Solid rock album a far cry from most of what hits the market today equal parts retro and new.
Despite being a spoof on all things metal The Dethalbum sill manages to rock hard. Lacking the rather oppressive seriousness of most death metal bands the fellows over at Dethklok manage to turn out some damned entertaining tunes, hilarious in their over the top nature. How can one not smile at songs with such ridiculous names as “Hatredcopter”, “Bloodrocuted”, “Face Fisted”, and “Dethharmonic”. Hilarious metal fun.
80s metal “tribute” sung by a 15+ man chorus, with wicked guitar licks and simple easy-to-sing-a-long-with lyrics. No other album had me smiling as much as this one (The Dethalbum came pretty close) nor have I blasted any other CD quite so loud in a long time. If you’re a fan of 80s metal, Guitar Hero, or just fun music this is the album for you.