Monthly Archives: April 2009

The resurgence of thrash

For quite some time now, true thrash metal has been almost non-existent. In parts of the country, in the underground scenes, and even in the mainstream, more bands are bringing it back. From the big Thrash bands back in the day (Sepultura, Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer, Exodus, Overkill, Kreator, etc.), few are still active AND still making thrash metal. While thinking about thrash metal without the legends who made the genre what it is makes metalheads sad, there is still a lot to look forward to.

thrash metal bands

If you look around on MySpace music through the “Thrash” genre tag you will find many things, most of which are not thrash. Some things that aren’t even metal. If you look deep enough, there is some good old thrash metal to be found. Most of these bands were either around in the 80’s, or are made up of teenagers who look and act like they were teens in the 80’s. Fatal, Ravage, Evil Army, and Razormaze are just a few of the up-and-coming young thrash bands out there. It’s not just the new guys, either. Slayer is still going strong, Metallica’s Death Magnetic was clearly turning more toward their old school sound, and Kreator just started a summer tour with Exodus – all well known bands in the thrash scene from the 80’s.

Given all the changes going on in metal, perhaps the resurgence of traditional thrash is the largest. Instead of bands like Shadows Fall, Chimaira, and Unearth adding the “trash” tag onto their music, real thrash bands are taking it back. A lot of more mainstream bands have been trying to bring the thrash sound to their band, like Bullet for my Valentine, Machine Head, and Trivium. Tough to say where it goes from here, but it seems as though thrash will soon be back again, and in a big way.

(disclaimer: I did not make the image above, nor am I taking credit for it – here is where I found it)

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Heaven and Hell – The Devil You Know [Review]

The Devil You Know is the “debut” album from Heaven and Hell. In all seriousness, though, it’s basically a Black Sabbath album (thankfully under a new moniker). The Album was released on April 28, 2009 on Rhino/Roadrunner Records.


Heaven and Hell The Devil You Know album art

Firstly, I want to comment on the awesomeness that is this artwork. It is everything album art should be: both visually appealing and informational. The art itself is fantastic (and goes well with the name of the album) and it tastefully and legibly gives you all the info you need. Two thumbs up for this one.

As far as the music goes, it is just what one should expect from Dio and the rest of the guys from Black Sabbath. This album is pure old school Heavy/Doom metal. I am still surprised at how good Dio sounds even this far into his sixties. It is pretty obvious that he struggles a bit for the really powerful wailing notes, but he still sounds amazing, and has a ton of attitude and character to his voice. In fact, he almost sounds better for the lower vocals than he ever did. The problem with Dio still being the same old Dio are his ridiculous lyrics. The most hilariously bad example on this album is in the song “Eating the Cannibals”. Let’s just say that the line ‘We’re eating the cannibals” is repeated numerous times throughout the song.

The best part about this album is that I have not heard this many Tony Iommi solos on an album in a long time (perhaps ever). Iommi is at the best I have ever heard him (to clarify: not better than the old stuff, but just as good). This album has more great riffs and solos than any Black Sabbath fan could ask for. Even Geezer Butler gets in on the fun and has some great bass parts throughout the album.

Quite easily the biggest flaw of the album is that it’s predictable. For anyone familiar with Black Sabbath and the Doom Metal genre, you can almost bank on the fact that you know the next part of each song already. It is nice, though, that some bands are staying true to the old heavy metal formula (granted, Sabbath were really the inventors of this).

All in all, I am quite pleased with the album. It’s not as memorable or legendary as most of the Black Sabbath stuff, but it’s still better than a majority of the heavy metal out there today.

Track picks: “Double the Pain” and “The Turn of the Screw”

Overall Score: 8/10

Success Will Write Apocalypse Across The Sky – The Grand Partition and the Abrogation of Idolatry [Review]

The Grand Partition And The Abrogation Of Idolatry is the first full-length release from Floridian Death metal band Success Will Write Apocalypse Across The Sky. The album was released April 3, 2009 on Nuclear Blast records.


Success Will Write Apocalypse Across The Sky SWWAATS The Grand Partition And The Abrogation Of Idolatry album art

When I first heard of this band, I really thought it would be a band along the lines of The Devil Wears Prada, The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, or one of those other bands with silly names. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this band is pretty much straight up brutal death metal. IT is still a real pity that this band had to pick such long and ludicrous names for their band and album.

The Grand Partition is a particularly refreshing dose of Death metal in times where most available music of this intensity and power is littered with cliché breakdowns. The most comparable band to these guys might be Skinless. Constant blast beats and machine gun-sounding double bass, along with brutal guitar riffs and gutter vocals abound. At time the album can steer in the direction of deathcore with the amount of tempo switches, time changes, etc. but it always seems appropriate, and never switches into breakdown mode (a refreshing change from most bands these days). As far as death metal goes, this band has got the brutal type under wraps. Beyond the fact that this fits very nicely into the genre, it sounds fantastic. None of the instruments are buried in the mix, muddy, or indecipherable (something that happens a lot to bands like this).

From the second it starts, this album grabs it’s listener from the genitals, and does not let go. The intensity level knob must have been broken, because this album never comes down from eleven. That is perfectly fine, because in a brutal death metal album that is exactly how it should be. The only real downside of this album (and every other recent brutal death metal album) is that there is not a ton of originality. But, as with genres like Power Metal, this can be a big plus if that is what you are looking for. For those looking to hear some good ol’ fashioned brutal death, this is a winner. For those looking for a brutal death album that is a bit more progressive, you have best look elsewhere. Regardless, this is an album that fans of the more extreme heavy metal sub-genes need to blast into their earholes.

Track picks: “10,000 Sermons, One Solution” and “One Must Imagine Sisyphus Happy”

Overall score: 9/10 devil horns

Metallica – Master of Puppets [Retrospective]

Master of Puppets, Metallica. Just thinking of this album is metal. Master of Puppets is arguably the most famous and influential metal albums of the 80’s (and all time). Sure, there was Reign in Blood, Number of the Beast, Operation: Mindcrime and others, but none of those albums were comprised entirely of iconic songs, nor are they as easily heard throughout modern metal music.

Metallica Master of Puppets album cover

When you think of the big four in Thrash metal, each band really has their magnum opus, all of which are legendary in the metal community. For those uneducated in the lore of metal, the big four in thrash are/were: Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer, and Metallica. Among The Living, Rust in Peace, Reign in Blood, and Master of Puppets are the bands’ best albums (respectively). All undeniably great albums, but none with quite as much clout and following as Master of Puppets. None of the other albums are as complete, either. Longer songs, bigger solos, more memorable hooks and riffs, better production, and just as pissed off.

The best (and perhaps most ironic) part about Master of Puppets is that the three best songs on the album were co-written Cliff Burton. This is unsurprising if you know about Burton’s history, and how he helped James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett how to theorize and harmonize. As Hetfield says, “without Cliff, we wouldn’t be where we are today.” Beyond the songs co-written by Burton, each songs brings a lot of technical prowess and songwriting ability to the album. One of Metallica’s most popular songs, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” perhaps is a prime example of this. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” has a unique song structure, beautiful (and skillful) solos, and among the greatest metal guitar tones ever used. The thing is, every song has most of these elements, showcasing them in a different manner every time – making for an extremely fresh and interesting listen no matter how many times you do so.

A must-have for every good metal collection, and a must-hear for anyone who wants to like metal, Master of Puppets is nothing short of iconic. It is Thrash metal, and then so much more. Unlike the the other bands in the big four, Metallica (and this album especially) have the ability to appeal to metalheads of every type and age.

Track picks: All of them, fool.

Overall score: 11/10 devil horns

Psyopus – Odd Senses [Review]

Odd Senses is the third full-length release from avant-garde/mathcore band PsyOpus, hailing from Rochester, NY. Odd Senses was released on February 17, 2009 on Metal Blade Records.

Psyopus Odd Senses

Psyopus. Holy hell. This band might be the craziest band I have ever listened to. Odd Senses is a very fitting album title. The lyrical and subject content on this album is very peculiar. Being somewhat familiar with Psyopus before hearing this album, I had a basic grasp of what I could expect but this album somehow still managed to chock me on my first listen through.

From the out of control time signatures and drumming to the incredible guitar licks to the strange and creepy voiceovers, this album can be a bit much at times. Then, without a moment’s notice there is a track like “A Murder To Child” – a nine minute jazz guitar and violin adventure with no lyrics, and is in a major key (something that is against the rest of the album’s sound). After that is an awesomely hilarious parody track in which, for two minutes it is one plain riff and they lyrics “One way ticket to hell” repeated over and over. For the remaining eighteen minutes of the track things just continue to get more off-the-wall and strange.

This might be the most technically impressive album I have heard in a long time, as well. Amidst all the craziness and non-sensical banter, there are some of the most well-written and performed bass, guitar and drum parts I have heard in a while. If I ever saw Chris Arp (the writer for everything on the album), aka “Arpmandude”, I would bow to him.

Odd Senses is really an album that is brilliant in the way that Primus is brilliant. Incredibly technical playing, lots of strange themes, and you never can be too sure what you’re getting into. Odd Senses is absolutely a must-hear. It really could scar you for life, and you will be sure to end the listen with a fried brain and a lot of confusion. The more listens you give this album the better it gets.

Track picks: “A Murder to Child” and “X and Y”

Overall score: 9/10 devil horns

Brutal Truth – Evolution Through Revolution [Review]

Evolution Through Revolution is the sixth album from legendary Grincore band Brutal Truth. It’s release date is April 14, 2009 on Relapse Records.

Brutal Truth Evolution Through Revolution

It takes something really special for a grindcore album to be a lot better than the other albums in the genre. Bands like The Tony Tapdance Extravaganza have figured it out with their last release, Danza II: The Electric Boogaloo. Brutal Truth, however, haven’t quite got the “it” factor on this record. It’s a very solid and pleasing grindcore record, and living up to their name, it is truthfully brutal.

For a grindcore album, Evolution Through Revolution is about as long as they come, clocking in at just over forty-one minutes. There is a ton of material on the album, but nothing that is really too interesting or different. This is both good and bad. For those who are simply looking for an all out brutal face-tearing riff and breakdown festival, this album is just that. There are no breaks, no breathers, almost nothing that steps out of the very little grindcore box. For such a long grindcore album, there should be a little more going on with it.

In truth, this really is one of the most brutal records I have ever heard, but with that being said, it gets boring fast. It sounds very chaotic, but it is pretty systematic from song to song (as much as a grindcore album can be, anyway). In the end, I enjoyed the album, and recommend it to fans of the genre, but would not really recommend it to anyone else. If you’re looking to check out Brutal Truth, one of their first two records would be a much better idea. Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses is their first and best album, but their second album, Need to Control finishes a close second.

Track picks: “Detached”, “Semi-Automatic Carnation” and “Sugardaddy”

Overall Score: 7/10 devil horns

Blind Guardian – Imaginations from the Other Side [Retrospective]

Number 48 on Metal Storm’s Top 100 Albums, number 19 on RateYourMusic’s top albums of 1995, and one of the best power/speed/heavy metal releases for all time. That’s right, you guessed it (or maybe not), Imaginations from the Other Side by Blind Guardian.

blind guardian imaginations from the other side

Every legendary metal band from years past have one album that seems to epitomize and embody that band entirely. Perhaps the most prominent example of this would be Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. For Blind Guardian, Imaginations from the Other Side is undoubtably the album that epitomizes them.

In a year in which the Gothenburg sound was bursting on the scene and seemingly taking over, Blind Guardian (along with Iced Earth and Gamma Ray) delivered their greatest albums. For Iced Earth and Gamma Ray, it’s more debatable, but Imaginations from the Other Side really is Blind Guardian’s magnum opus. Hansi Kürsch delivers his best performance of his career on this album (even including his work in Demons and Wizards). The lyrics are incredible, and take the listener on a grand adventure. Beyond that, he pushes the boundary to the extreme with his vocal power and presence. The heat on his voice throughout this album is simply incredible. André Olbrich is on his game in this effort as well. While he may not be the fastest or best guitarist around, his creativity and writing for the guitar parts is on par with the best in metal – ever. Somehow André found a way to stay true to what power metal guitars were supposed to sound like, but still write something that was not like everything else out there. His solos on the album are absolutely perfect. They are not simply sweeping, blistering solos. They have feeling and emotion, which all guitar solos ideally should have.

Now that I’ve established that the album was near perfect in terms of writing, I want to comment on the production of the album. With such a huge vocalist in power metal, it’s a feat to have everyone in check, and no one getting snubbed for the spotlight. Power metal is somewhat notorious for this, allowing the vocalist to overshadow everyone during the more powerful vocal parts – this only happens where appropriate (and written) for the vocalist to be overshadowing everyone. Aside from the balance of the different elements on this album, the sound of the “choir” (the gang vocals) is the best I have ever heard for a power metal album I have ever heard.

From top to bottom, this album is a masterpiece. It capitalizes on every element necessary for a power metal album, and then some. Full of big vocals, fast guitars, pounding drums, and an epic story line – this is easily one of the most quintessential metal albums of all time.

Track picks: Don’t be a fool. On an album this good, every track needs to be listened to. I will say, though, that the two singles from the album were “Imaginations from the Other Side” and “Bright Eyes”

Overall score: 11/10 Devil horns