Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Less Thrash, More Hash: Megadeth's Th1rt3en is Skippable (2011)

Not wanting to be one-upped by my buddy Gogs, who reviewed the album months ago, it's my turn to put in a word or two about Megadeth's latest. Surprisingly enough, when I went to purchase Th1rt3en shortly after it came out, I had a tough time finding it at Best Buy. BEST BUY. The most mainstream electronics store in the United States hardly stocked any copies of new material from one of the best known metal bands in the world. Is this signaling the death of the CD? In some ways, yes, but to not carry Megadeth's newest record in the compact disk section, no matter how small, is ridiculous to me. Certain music still sells, especially because Megadave got his cash in and recognition with Guitar Hero. Nevertheless, I grabbed one of the last copies. Was it worth it? Not really.

First thoughts: the new record sounds positively stale. Admittedly, Megadeth hasn't been great since 1992's Youthanasia, which pioneered a more heavy metal-based direction for the band, and though Countdown to Extinction signaled the beginning of the shift, year '92 perfected it. That was the last truly enjoyable thing Dave and his ever changing crew put out, but I digress. Th1rt3en comes across as compilation of left over rejects (Wait... "New World Order" and "Millennium of the Blind" didn't make a certain record...) Dave didn't deem suitable for one of the albums from the '90s, specifically Youthanasia. In short, uninspired is an excellent word for Th1rt3en's plight. At least a few great tracks call Endgame home, despite being largely forgettable; likewise, the new album has a few fun tracks, but I'd be fully content with never hearing it again in my life. So let's see here: Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth recently released bland, nondescript albums. At the moment, Anthrax is the guiding light. What the @#$%?

As much as it pains me to say it, Dave is probably too comfortable with his fanbase, who gobble up everything he releases, proclaiming it god's gift to man. We, the hardcore fans who appreciate good music, suffer. I can't say I blame him because his rocket to the top in recent years has been pure genius. While Megadeth without a doubt isn't the biggest name in metal today, the moniker is up there with the best of 'em.

Performance-wise, the band is tight enough, but the drive, charisma, and creativity, everything essential for a metal band, are missing. Dave's vocals are tired and weak. His riffs are bland. The only thing that reminds me of a healthy Megadeth are the suitably-placed political lyrics that I'd much rather have left out of my music. Nonetheless, they're there, and while they don't break anything, they don't make anything either. Although the band is in-sync, and I don't hear any obvious flaws floating around in Mustaine's little dream world, Megadeth seems to be playing it safe with toned down drumming and guitar sections. More accessible for the nonmetal audience, I suppose. Of course, this could totally be fault of the left over tracks from other writing sessions that just weren't good enough, but it comes across as a slap in the face, and I don't like it.

Well, Mr. Mustaine, what have you got to say for yourself? You haven't made me and a lot of other fans happy. It genuinely feels as if you rushed the album just to fit the record company's wishes. And if those rumors are true, I'm even more disgusted. Megadeth will have to come back with something utterly mind blowing to pull me back into the fold. Rust in Peace, Youthanasia, and Peace Sells... are calling my name. At least they won't let me down.

Tracks you should take away from Th1rt3en are few, far, and between, but "Sudden Death," "Public Enemy No. 1," and "Black Swan" are decent enough.


Sneak Preview of New Demetori Material!

I don't know about you guys, but I've been waiting for this announcement ever since I got into Demetori over the summer. Masaru is such a fantastic guitarist and has a great knack for writing memorable riffs that once I put a Demetori album on, I can't stop listening to it. As per some people on, I discovered a mash up clip of sneak previews from the upcoming record. I'm excited for it, even if it doesn't have much variation in sound from past material. As long as Masaru stays consistent in his adaptations of the music he chooses to base his compositions on, I'm entirely fine with that.

If you already liked Demetori, you'll be satisfied. If you're a newcomer, I don't think you'll be disappointed either.


Anyone Remember Spectre General?

Alright, so these guys aren't exactly metal in this particular guise, but does anyone remember the heavy metal band Kick Axe? If you're cool enough to dig into the depths of the internet like I am, you'll likely know the band changed their name due to legal troubles when they recorded two tracks for 1986's The Transformers: The Movie. I mean, seriously, was any little kid really going to put the pieces together and realize Kick Axe might mean Kick Ass? Absolutely not. Suggestive my ass.

Spectre General - "Nothin's Gonna Stand in Our Way"

Despite modern age society being overprotective over a word choice, not to mention other inconceivably small things parents threw fits about in the eighties (specifically W.A.S.P. or Judas Priest lyrics causing suicide: what a joke...), Spectre General are actually pretty decent; the music isn't too far removed from that of Kick Axe, though I've only heard one of their records, and it's great fun to rock out to, maybe air guitar a part or six. From the bands the producers could have potentially chosen from for the soundtrack, I'm not exactly sure how Canadians Kick Axe made the cut, but they definitely brought the goods and were certainly in line with what was popular in the mid eighties..

Hope I dug up memories for some of you with these tracks.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recent Hauls Part Six

Both share eerily similar cover art.
I stopped by one of my favorite record stores called Twist & Shout (located in Denver, CO), only to be overwhelmed with the amount of people browsing the selection of metal. Normally, I can waltz right into the back of the store and freely roam the few rows of metal CDs, but today there happened to be quite few metalheads sifting through the section, even a few ogling at the vinyl.

I managed to walk out with Agalloch's Marrow of the Spirit double LP (clear vinyl to boot!) and Gallowbraid's Ashen Eidolon, which I picked up used for tidy sum of $7.99. Gallowbraid's EP has been on my list for quite some time now, but I never knew just where to purchase it; I'm thankful some generous soul decided to let it go.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Recent Hauls Part 5

1. As of late, there has been an influx of bands playing in the vein of the fathers of death metal (old school death metal [OSDM]). Vallenfyre is riding the wave just like the rest of 'em, but there's one thing that sets them apart - enlisted are members of Paradise Lost, At the Gates, and My Dying Bride. First impressions lead to visions of nothing more than a metal super group, but the vibe quickly fades when the quality of the material is taken into consideration. Songs are composed in such a way that they don't come across as amateurish - wouldn't that be an embarrassment for highly experienced musicians such as these? In any case, A Fragile King merely feels like an attempt to bring back an old school sound laden with doom metal influences, all while having a good bit of fun. Highly recommended if you want something crushing with a razor blade guitar sound.

2. Sometimes music comes to me by chance. In the case of Kylesa, I received a free tour poster in the mail and decided it wasn't "right" to have a piece of memorabilia without owning any music. While it hasn't completely sunk in, Static Tensions is a very good slab of hardcore and sludge with a dash of metal sprinkled in a few places. Sometimes people will tag Kylesa as sludge metal, but I fail to hear enough of a metal influence over hardcore to call the band metallic. In the end though, music is music, and this album is very good, certainly an excellent introduction the band. Maybe now I can proudly display the poster on my wall and not feel guilty about it.

3. Yeah, yeah. I know I already submitted a post on Riot's Immortal Soul earlier today, but this is definitely one of the best albums released all year. Check out my blurb here.

4. I'm a closet k-pop fan. Actually, no. I'm openly a k-pop fanatic. I can't get enough of it. I finally got around to picking up a physical copy of 소녀시대's (Girls' Generation) latest record after having digital files since its release. The Boys is an excellent and entertaining record, definitely their most consistent, but not for the music connoisseur on a search for deep music. I wouldn't call it mindless, but I can throw The Boys on whenever I want something fun to chill out with and not feel obligated to analyze what I'm listening to. I don't recommend this unless you want to add something sugary and sweet to your musical diet, but if you're feeling open minded, go for it. Not your normal metalhead's cup of tea, but it checks all the right boxes for me.

5. Before I nabbed Wishbone Ash, my exposure to the band was limited to a song here and there. I always enjoyed what I heard, but I never got the "man, I gotta have this" feeling. Too bad for me beacuse I was missing out on some positively excellent '70s rock. Isn't this always the predicament? THERE'S TOO MUCH MUSIC OUT THERE! Two of the six tracks are over 10 minutes, so I suppose you might file this under progressive rock, but none of the record is fit for easy listening because the normal listener would call one of the six minute tracks "long beyond belief" (as serious music listeners, we know this is not the case). Nonetheless, I wouldn't have the group's debut any other way. "Errors of My Way" is an absolute monster, and probably my favorite from the record.

6. About midway through 2011, I fell in love with hip hop, most notably jazz hop; artists like bugseed, Haiiro de Rossi, and Funky DL are among my favorites, and I eventually decided I needed to make the jump over to regular ol' hip hop. After the suggestion from a buddy, I grabbed MF Doom's Operation: Doomsday. Musically, it provides an array of nice beats, but I never could get used to MF Doom's awkward sense of rhythm and tone of voice. This record is labeled as a classic by the hip hop community, so I found myself determined to get into it, and with enough persistence I made it grow on me, but, to be honest, it was tiring. I can't recommend it right off the bat, but only after you've explored what hip hop has to offer (check out jazz hop, hint hint!). Your perception of the album might be different than mine, however.

7. Much like Operation: Doomsday, Katatonia's Viva Emptiness is proclaimed a staple in the band's discography. As this is my only experience with the band and from what I understand after reading fan opinions, this is one the best albums Katatonia released after they switched from a doomy death metal style to a depressive rock/metal sound. I absolutely love the album musically, but some of the lyrics just make me cringe, especially the usage of cursing on a few of the tracks. I don't find profanity necessary at all. The bleak depression comes across sufficiently, and the cursing only makes me take it less seriously. Aside from that, I love the record and can indeed recommend it to those of you that haven't heard these Swedish metallers.


Riot - Immortal Soul (2011)

Maiden and Priest: start taking notes. This is how you do heavy metal, instead of overly boring and drawn out pretentious "creativity" you both committed to recording for your last albums.

It's been five years since Riot's last release. Despite not giving that record a listen, I was still very excited to see what the band had in store for 2011, and I wasn't let down even in the slightest. But I did have my doubts because, since reuniting in 2006, Riot went through a period of ups and downs, most notably losing Tony Moore once. Thankfully, he decided to return. 

Although Riot aren't exactly known outside of cult circles within the metal community, their importance can't be argued, and Immortal Soul carries on the tradition that began with Thundersteel, a culmination of heavy, speed, and power metal the band took up after they decided to move away from their heavy metal and bluesy hard rock roots. For Immortal Soul, this perfect Riot line-up is together once again, and the results could not have been more grand.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Vader - Welcome to the Morbid Reich (2011)

Let's preface this by saying this might well darned be album of the year. Prior to this record's release, I had very little exposure to Vader, but I was always intrigued by something about them, particularly their reputation as death metal veterans alongside Morbid Angel, Obituary, Death, and others. Vader had the "it" factor if you will, but I never got around to checking them out, which only hurt me because I missed out on some bloody exciting music. And not only that, I assume Welcome to the Morbid Reich's cover art pushed me over the edge with its positively old school vibe that oozes originality in an age filled with sterile computer-generated images. From an artistic standpoint, even the album cover is a plus to the experience.

But first thing's first: Welcome to the Morbid Reich is a fantastic introduction to death metal and Vader in general--its brutality kicks you in the face and keeps you down, but for some reason you still come back for more. The first day I had the album, I must have spun it, at the very least, five times because with each listen it grew better and better. The last metal record I remember having such an attachment to showed its face over two years ago, and that's saying something because I typically don't get overly addicted to music. Songs, yes. An entire album? Less frequently. Really, only once in a blue moon does such a thing happen.