Thursday, December 27, 2012

Platters, TDKs, and the Good Old Days

Promoting physical media since 2007.
It's hard for me to remember the last time I legitimately got excited about walking into a music store. Trips to random storefronts have often left me out in the cold and very few are good enough for a second visit, let alone a purchase. Amazon and online distros are unquestionably the best place to buy a record, but nothing beats the age-old experience of sifting through a pile of albums, finding a hidden gem and enjoying a treasure the same day, instead of waiting tirelessly for the latest release to arrive in the mailbox.

The point is the record store, in its best incarnation, is a dying breed. The larger chains are dilapidated wastelands good for nothing more than purchasing radio-oriented, top 40 pop and hip hop--effectively a shadow of what they once were and not what those looking to dig deeper into the artistic world salivate for. As most music lovers will attest, the high achieved by walking through rows and rows of albums is a glorious feeling, and those willing to stock anything and everything make that pleasure possible. How many share a similar mindset? Well, that's hard to gauge when the biz isn't profitable anymore.

Yes, Denver's Twist & Shout Records is majestic.
Nevertheless, my faith in brick and mortar businesses returned when I visited Denver's Twist & Shout Records. My buddy and I walked out with quite a catch; 18 albums between us and a shared enthusiasm no online distro could match. Even though we spent close to an hour in the store--if not more--the draw and experience of having a dedicated establishment to step into, take a load off, and ogle at pretty little album artwork made our visit so much more engaging. Despite making a trip to Twist & Shout near every time my plane lands in Denver, I can safely say this was the most booty and plunder-filled expedition.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Diemonds - The Bad Pack (2012)

Think Halford would be jelly of this bike?
Despite a vocalist lacking a stable range and deep roots in a beaten-to-death genre, Diemonds feel genuine in their attempt to be an incarnate of a hard rock band popular years ago. Inspired by classic horror films and novels, the Canadian five piece take the theme to heart, but the idea ends up a little too tongue in cheek for their videos, particularly "Get the Fuck Outta Here." The idea is no doubt a nice throwback to eighties cheesiness, but the apocalyptic imagery quickly grows old and poses the question: how long can a band rely on gimmicks before their fan base jumps ship for the next big thing? 

True to the musical pomp the guitars lay down, any cheese is hastily devoured, and the pursuit of the eighties seems less vain. Diemonds' sortie against a decade littered with throwbacks and imitators is admittedly tough--considering the absence of a prevalent female front woman in any metal era (aside from Doro)--but sassy, almost prissy vocals save The Bad Pack from the dreaded bargain bin at the local music store. Gritty, particularly in the tougher to reach higher range, Priya Panda saves the band from a slow, forgotten death among sound-alike after sound-alike.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Newk - Nuclear Weapon (2012)

Remarkably consistent are the only words that come to mind when thinking of South Korea's longest running metal band. A two decade existence and five full-length albums have afforded Newk an extraordinary career--if not one of unknown circumstances--making the group's first two records notoriously hard to find, with the most recent three easily located on various music distribution websites. Promotion for their fifth release, Nuclear Weapon, has been zilch, if any, and the band continue to build their fan base through quality album after quality album with no airplay or exposure--a decidedly Iron Maiden-like approach to music.

Unlike the previous two records, Nuclear Weapon wipes the slate clean and moves forward with very few English lyrics, placing most emphasis on guitar solos and vocals bolstered by guest musicians. A natural progression from Heavy Life, each track is still distinctly Newk, and the band persist with their patented take on traditional metal introduced nearly 20 years ago. For what the group has described as a "heavy metal symphony" the approach is surprisingly minimalist, but still enough change to garner a look from both existing fans and Newk newcomers.