Saturday, April 30, 2011

Grab Bag

I'd like to share a few bands that I've been familiar with for some time, though I haven't gotten around to picking up an album from any of them yet. On top of that, I'm extremely tired, so I'll spare you from any grammatical errors that I'll likely make by keeping my thoughts short.

1. I have unintentionally been posting quite a bit of power metal lately. Good thing it isn't the cheesy variety. Though the song I'm posting has an addictive old school heavy metal attitude, Bloodbound are a heavy/power metal hybrid band at heart. It's tough to dislike this one because it's so much fun.


2. While Heaven Wept are an interesting band because they aren't one subgenre of metal. Rather, they choose to utilize their artistic freedom and dabble in a few from progressive to power to doom. My mind was blown the first time I heard this song, and I'm sure yours will be, too.


3. Iron Mask take neoclassical influence to an extreme. About five years ago, I was introduced to the band through a new music show (BREAKING BONE!) that XM Satellite radio ran weekly on a station called The Boneyard. Sadly, bankruptcy forced XM and its prime competitor, Sirius, to merge and it went down the drain, along with all the programming. I guess good things never last. Many of the bands I discovered through those new music shows stuck with me, however, and here we have the mighty Iron Mask with a ripping track.

 

4. While they certainly have a death metal tinge, thrash metal is still at the core of Abomination's music. I vividly remember unearthing these guys during a video hopping spree that I had on YouTube. Too bad their E.P. is long out of print, selling for outrageous prices. Otherwise, I would have snagged it a long time ago.


 5. An epic intro = an epic song, right? In this case, yes. Every death metal fan should listen to this song at least once, although I guarantee they'll listen to it again because it's so darn good. The choir gets me every time.


6. Three words: pure heavy metal. No other description needed. Call me lazy; I'll call you a twit for not knowing of this song and Brocas Helm beforehand.


-TMA

Friday, April 29, 2011

My Reaction Should Be "Whatever," Right?

Apparently Anthrax is working on a new album, as well as some kind of tribute to Judas Priest. That's all fine and dandy, but how many years has it taken the band to get their shit together? Exactly. There always seems to be an internal struggle between the members.

I'll sum it up for you guys:

"Hey Joey [Belladona] and Dan [Spitz], you're no good for the band anymore. Run along, we'll find someone better."

(About 13 years later)

"Okay, see ya John [Bush], we want Joey to come back to the band. No wait, Joey wasn't a good idea after all. Let's find some other dude."

(In 2007)

"Hey I found a guy named Dan Nelson." - Scott Ian
"Who the heck is that? Actually, who cares, we'll take him anyway." - The rest of the band

(2 years later)

"John, you gotta come back. Actually, we want Joey instead. Bye."

"Oh yeah, we switched guitar players multiple times over the years too. Whoops."

Why isn't Dan Spitz back in the band with Joey Belladona? That would complete the legacy lineup, although Anthrax probably wouldn't be able to stay together that long anyway. Regardless, the band has been a basket case and hasn't released anything that can oust their golden years material off its pedestal.

I suppose we should relive Anthrax's glory days through a song; "Among the Living" is the perfect one to do it with.


Hear that? That's how the band is supposed to sound. It's just a shame that they've gone so far downhill, making it tough to have high hopes for their new album with Joey. We'll see.

-TMA

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Seven Kingdoms - Brothers of the Night and Seven Kingdoms

My discovery of Seven Kingdoms was probably fate. About a month and a half ago, I was surfing around on Amazon, as I usually do when I want to purchase some new music, and the band popped up in the suggestions section. I took a closer look, finding the band intriguing merely on one album cover and took a risk, choosing both albums the band have released, Brothers of the Night and Seven Kingdoms.

The band's debut, Brothers of the Night, isn't bad per say, but it doesn't have any substance that grabs a listener right off the bat, like that guitar riff or melody. In addition, the production used on the drums is incredibly irritating. Keith Byrd supposedly played the drums, but I've always held skepticism it being a drum machine due to an incredibly inorganic sound. To make things worse, vocals on the album are tremendously weak. Actually, scratch that. The clean vocals are tremendously weak. Am I implying that there's another style of vocals on the album...?

Yes.

For some reason, Bryan Edwards (all vocals) utilized a technique called growling on nearly every song.  For those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, growling is a common vocal characteristic of death metal--it doesn't work in power metal.

---

The second disk, Seven Kingdoms, sat next me, ready to be removed from its shrink wrap. As you probably expect, I didn't open it excitedly. Even so, I popped the album into my CD player and began listening.

I'd like to think the band sought redemption with me because the album has quickly fought its way to the top of my most listened list, and I was completely surprised to find that the band had changed vocalists. Vocals on Seven Kingdoms are done by a female (Sabrina Valentine), making it a drastic change from the first album. She's quite good. The drum sound was cleaned up to boot, with no production nuisances to be found.

In a similar fashion, the guitar parts are largely improved over the debut, meaning they are cleaner than Brothers of the Night's somewhat sloppy playing that got under my skin. Whether it was due the production or a lack of care, I'm not sure. Remnants of growling are scattered throughout the album, but they are far and between, making the listening a much more pleasant experience. I can effectively call their sophomore effort a success!

-TMA



Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Metal Based on Literature

Literature as a source of inspiration for a song or album isn't an uncommon occurrence in metal. I'll provide a few examples that are barely enough to scratch the surface.

Sometimes the idea for a blog post comes from the funniest place. As I was sitting in my Medieval and Renaissance Literature class today, my professor decided to pull up a painting of man that William Blake had illustrated. Challenging us, he asked us if we knew who it was, to which no one piped-up to answer. The man, Urizen, from William Blake's work, The Book of Urizen, had me think of "Gates of Urizen" from The Chemical Wedding (Bruce Dickinson). I'm not quite sure of the connection yet, but I'll be reading these works this summer.


The Chemical Wedding is also home to "The Book of Thel," which is based off of William Blake's poem of the same name. Calling this song incredible would be an understatement.


Iron Maiden are well known for basing their songs on literature. A number of tracks center on the subject, but this one is arguably the best of all, and the end-all epic for fans of heavy metal. This is one song that this post wouldn't be complete without: "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," more specifically.


 “Day after day, day after day
we stuck nor breath nor motion
As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean
Water, water everywhere and
all the boards did shrink
Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink.”


Heavy/power metallers Jag Panzer released an album in 2000 based on the The Tragedy of Macbeth. I've lent my copy of it to the same professor that showed my class the painting of Urizen, but I haven't gotten it back yet, so I'm assuming he's enjoying it. To be honest, it's a lot more fun listening to the story told though a metal epic than reading the play.

I wanted to post the song "Bloody Crime," but it's not available on YouTube. Even so, this song below is just as good. I've included the lyrics as the track features dialogue between the Three Sisters, Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and Macduff. Click the link, scroll down to the song, and click "show lyrics."

http://www.metal-archives.com/albums/Jag_Panzer/Thane_to_the_Throne/2026

A fair amount of Blind Guardian's material is based around J.R.R. Tolkien's work like The Lord of the Rings. If you've ever read any of it, you'll know who the Noldor are. This track is from 1998.


If had to choose my favorite death metal bands from the the subgenre's early rise to prominence, one pick would be Baphomet.  The New York-based asct formed in 1987, played for a few years, and then released The Dead Shall Inherit in 1992. They didn't draw their influence from one piece of literature, but rather a collection. The record is based off of multiple horror stories from authors like H.P. Lovecraft.

 

-TMA

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Song and an Album to Go to War with

Ah, yes, Sabaton. I've only heard their most recent album, Coat of Arms, but they have rapidly become one of my favorite power metal bands, if not the most enjoyable I've heard in the last few years. If you share the common perception that all power metal bands are cheesy (as many people do), then you're flat out wrong. You won't find any Kraft cheese sprinkled over Sabaton.

Lyrically, Sabaton tend to concentrate on military history, and Coat of Arms is no different. Subject matter ranges from the 1944 Polish resistance to the Nazis at Warsaw to aerial warfare to a lone sniper picking off his victims, which brings me to "White Death," a song that involves the lone sniper slowly stalking his victim(s), with many men dying by his simple pull of a trigger.

I'm not embarrassed to say that I've had this song on repeat for a half an hour before because it's that good. The opening riff gives me a tiny bit of a Randy Rhoads vibe, and that's certainly not a bad thing. Because the band's members are of Swedish origin, Joakim Bróden, their vocalist, has an accent in his singing, which definitely gives the band a unique flavor. And now that I think about it, I can't pinpoint another group that sounds exactly like Sabaton.

Based on Coat of Arms (and "White Death") I feel the band know where their roots are. A number of riffs would be right at home on a heavy metal album and not one supposedly filled to the brim with stampeding double bass and spitfire guitar riffage. Sabaton are like a heavy metal band that got ahold of steroids, causing a mutated, gruesome transformation--and they benefit from every dabble on either side, making for a sound that's, mark my words, going to grow more popular with each passing day.

-TMA

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ghost - "Ritual"

Ghost claim to introduce people to Satanism with Satanic lyrics wrapped in a catchy, melodic, hook-filled package and, unsurprisingly, some people think that Ghost are a bit cliché.  Cleverly, the guys in the band have chosen to keep their true identities a secret, causing some speculation in the metal community as to who they are, and some people conclude they are a gimmick. But, really, who cares? Their debut album, Opus Eponymous, is absolutely fantastic, and a breath of fresh air for metal with its haunting, yet dulcet tones.

Ghost aren't hard to describe. They're essentially a mix of Blue Öyster Cult and Mercyful Fate, with a dash of Black Sabbath and Pentagram. I even hear some influence from Deep Purple and Uriah Heep with their usage of an organ in a number of the songs. Of course, Ghost is a bit more melodious.

This cut, "Ritual," would be Ghost's single if they had chosen to release one, although I'm not sure it would have flown well inside the mainstream due to the "Satanist" lyrics. Honestly, though, how naive do you have to be to think that they actually believe that?

"Ritual" opens with a lighter guitar riff, which transitions into heavier one, and it works quite well up to the chorus, where the song explodes with big melody. My personal favorite part of the song is the closing section where a nice little guitar solo is played courtesy of...well...I don't know. Remember the guys have chosen to conceal themselves.

-TMA

Sunday, April 24, 2011

1976: The Year the Gods Stormed the Earth

Did you guys hear that K.K. Downing has retired from Judas Priest? They've replaced him with some unknown named Richie Faulkner...Who the heck is that?!?!?!? Even Jeff Loomis and Van Williams decided to leave Nevermore. It's been a hard couple of days for metal.

As a little tribute to K.K., I figured I'd post up my favorite Judas Priest song. No, it's not the "Living After Midnight" or "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" that you probably know even if you're a casual metal listener--it's something better. As far as I'm concerned, both of those songs can be completely erased from Priest's catalog, along with a number of their other songs from '80s. If you know Priest well, you know the songs I'm talking about.

Judas Priest's material from the '70s and very early '80s trumps anything that they ever released afterward. Yes, material from that time period even tops the mighty Painkiller, which in all honesty isn't an easy feat. However, if you've never head any of their material from the '70s, do yourself a favor and type Amazon.com into your search box and purchase a few of their early albums.

The thing I specifically like about Priest's '70s material is that it's so much more emotional than anything they did later. And did I mention that most of it was completely outrageous back then? It was among the heaviest, only rivaled by bands like Sabbath, Pentagram, Motorhead, and a few others. Take a listen to the track "Exciter" for further evidence. Priest knew how to shred.

The song I'm posting here is called "Tyrant." The opening riff is a classical example of a heavy metal riff, Halford's vocals are among the best he's ever done--though I can say that about any of their material from the '70s--and the lyrics are straight awesome. I suppose I'll just let the music do the talking. It's hard to hate a cut as good as this one.

-TMA


New to this...

Hey,

I've decided to start a blog, posting one song a day, sharing my thoughts about it. I suppose my motivation to start looking into my own blog was because I wanted to find a better way to share music with my dad and a few other friends that have a similar musical taste. Don't worry, this won't be a metal only blog. Metal just happens to be a very large part of my listening base. I plan to blog about some jazz, blues, classical, and other genres as well.

Hope you guys will enjoy this as much as I will.