Monday, April 20, 2015

Iron Maiden - The Wicker Man (2000)

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Recently, while browsing a closing record store, I came across Iron Maiden's Wicker Man single for a measly dollar. Going-out-of-business sales are often great for treasure digs, and this time was no different, as I scored big after years of not wanting to pony up the money for an altered track for the radio. Admittedly, though, the song is excellent and features a slightly reworked chorus, where Bruce lets a smattering of harmonized vocalization shine. Overtaken are the nifty, melodic guitar leads that underpin the usual chorus fare on Brave New World, but it's still nice to hear Maiden mix it up, even for the sake of a single.

Curiously, one can't help but wonder if this version of "The Wicker Man" was a product of Maiden's or the record label's. You'd think that any decent label would know better than to mess with one of the most influential heavy metal bands of all time, who have have received very, very little radio support throughout their illustrious career, but big labels are businesses. They don't think rationally (in terms of the artist's historical past). They don't care about the consequences of their actions (if money is involved). And they sure as hell don't give a rat's ass what the hardcore fan thinks. Now is as good a time as any to get the money train rolling and cash in on success, they hastily justify.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mary Todd - Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel (2014)

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Time gets the best of us and sometimes we forget what we had planned for the weeks ahead. Back in November, Mary Todd enjoyed having their first-ever music video for "THC/Consensual Cannibalism" featured on TMA and, even though we weren't completely enamored with their music, we enjoyed having them.

A question we planned to answer was: how is the rest of the album? Well, to get it out of the way, Mary Todd and Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel aren't metal. In fact, they hardly resemble it, but the music is still balls-to-the-wall abrasive music, and thats good enough for us. Admittedly, it isn't the kind of music typically enjoyed by TMA and its readers, but we strive to help artists promote their music in spite the style.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Legionnaire - The Enigma of Time (2015)

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Most of us can agree that we need more traditional heavy metal in our lives, but the fact of the matter is that good examples are hard to come by. Being evocative of metal forefathers is a fine aspiration, but all too often bands reaching for "classic" status come off as cheap imitations and lack the creativity needed for lasting, memorable music. One band poised to break mold, however, is Legionnaire, a Finnish quartet with two rough demos to their name, in addition to the essential songwriting zest needed to reinvent the wheel. In a nutshell, their music is emotional, climactic, and, yes, filled with all the harmonized guitars and riffs one could ask for.

Looking more closely, Legionnaire's music isn't about a formulaic approach. In fact, it's far from it and varies tempo quite often, which keeps the songs from stagnating and dying a slow, painful death. Their sophomore demo, The Enigma of Time, in particular, shows a group tightening the reigns as they step ever closer to becoming a single entity in each song.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Phantom Blue - Built to Perform (1993)

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Although it doesn't appear impressive at first glance, Phantom Blue's Built to Perform is a scorcher, albeit with a subtleness to it that helped it fly under the radar for the last two decades. You see, initially, the music doesn't seem like much--it's basic and feels a bit has-been, in a sense that it's all been done before. But somewhere between five and 10 listens, it begins to click, because the music comes alive in a way that you never thought it would.

What makes Built to Perform quality, you ask? Well, for starters, there's a gritty, no-frills nature to the music that either makes or breaks every song. Broken is the word that comes to mind for the first few spins--the album just doesn't seem like anything special and lacks the glamor needed to push it into an otherworldly realm. As it sinks in, however, you begin to appreciate how the music's backbone is COMPLETELY exposed and never tries to hide under a compositional veil. Immediately, it cuts right through the bullshit and let's you know it's real. It doesn't try to overcompensate for lack songwriting skill and neither does it attempt be something it isn't.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Jupiter - The History of Genesis (2015)

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After Versailles' sudden split in 2012, many fans feared for the worst, nervously biting their fingernails when considering the members' creative well being and how they would endeavor to craft music in the future. Shocking, too, was the rift between vocalist Kamijo and the instrumental part of Versailles in which the two halves went separate ways to pursue their respective projects. Predictably, Kamijo launched a solo project under his own name, but lacked basic focus (re: sticking to a single genre), despite writing music uniform in quality. Jupiter, on the other hand, stuck to their power metal-based roots, releasing Classical Element the following year and The History of Genesis in 2015, which is arguably the more varied of the two and demonstrates progression and concentration as a band.

What's most surprising about The History of Genesis is not the level of quality Jupiter adheres to, but level of experimentation the band explores. Although Versailles alluded to it with tracks like "Zombie" as far back as 2008, the melodic death metal influence is readily apparent in "Darkness" and grows stronger in the album's second half when tracks "絶望ラビリンス" and "Sacred Altar" closely brush up against the sub-genre without compromising Jupiter's sound. There's something to be said of that, too, as truly good musicians keep a sliver of familiarly during experimentation to avoid alienating their loyal fan base. And, again, Jupiter does just that, introducing foreign elements while staying very much the same.