Friday, December 27, 2013

Hexis - Abalam (2014)

Like Rorcal's Vilagvege, an album reviewed on The Metal Advisor earlier this year, Hexis' latest effort, Abalam, is a combination of two genres--black metal and hardcore--in which the musicians dabble to create music of catastrophic proportions. Spread across 12 songs, the record clocks in at only 26 minutes, making it a quick, but brutally devastating, ride.

The real eye opener, however, is the amount of disarray present in each song, a trait few bands enjoy.

As noted, the musical aesthetic is made up of two genres, though one is much more prevalent than the other--the hardcore influence tends to be limited to only a few vocal passages here and there, where a thick shout accompanies a shrill, black metal shriek. The majority of Abalam, in turn, leans toward the metallic side of the spectrum, which makes way for a clawing, apocalyptic feeling that's extremely tough to replicate in music. Despair is a better way of putting it, but just about any adjective interchangeable with a "bleak outlook" fits the bill nicely.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Year in Review: The Metal Advisor's Top 10 Albums of 2013

Welcome to The Metal Advisor's top 10 metal albums of 2013, a type of year-end list that hasn't happened in the past because I'm horrible at making up my mind. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy these lists because opinions vary from blogger to blogger, and a number of posts uncover some gems I might not hear otherwise. No matter how hard I try, it's impossible to discover every diamond in the rough.

But let's cut to the chase. Think of this selection as only scratching the surface of the sheer amount of music released over the past 12 months. Each year yields hundreds of records--some truly awful and others superb--and creates a sea of muck you're either willing to wade through or not. Therefore, year-end lists are excellent at weeding the crap out.


1. Paradox - Tales of the Weird

Feeling like a cross between teutonic thrash metal and Germany's earliest speed metal days, Paradox's sixth full-length, Tales of the Weird, takes the cake as best album of the year. I could go on for ages about the wonderful songwriting--innovative as hell for 2013, all while being melodic and aggressive--but what really makes Tales of the Weird deserving of the top spot is material that's as strong as the record Paradox built their legacy on, Heresy. While the band certainly has more than their fair share of great albums, Tales of the Weird finally proves they aren't a one-trick pony. The only downside is the title, which, until now, caused far too many people to overlook the music.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

After Oblivion - Stamina (2012)

Here, we have yet another review contributed by a TMA reader. My guess is that he'll be popping in from time to time, so, as always, stay tuned for more.

If you have already spun yourself a few Death records, chances are, making the decision to purchase After Oblivion’s debut, Stamina, could be somewhat of a struggle. After stumbling upon this band hailing out of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I have to say I’m thoroughly pleased with their first release. Originally, I had my doubts as I listened for the first time. I was, and still am, in awe at After Oblivion’s ability to imitate Death’s (later) sound with such accuracy, and the first track, "Deliverance," sounds as if they pulled it right from Death’s discography. This was disheartening at first for the fear of hearing a cheap imitation of Death, something I would shun without hesitation. Upon closer inspection, I see this band has a lot to offer and plenty of potential to grow.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Not So Bad After All: Judas Priest's Ram it Down

It's funny how taste can unpredictably change over the course of a few months. As an example, Ram it Down has grown on me immensely, to the point that I place it favorably in Judas Priest's eighties discography. Prior pieces on this blog indicate that I prefer the band's seventies output to any other period in their 30+ year existence and, while that's true, I'm starting to enjoy their later work as well, simplicity and all. There's a certain charm about it, if you get my drift.

My guess is that it all started when I snagged a well-worn, but very playable, copy of Ram it Down on vinyl from an antique mall. It was one of those things that had me saying, "Why the hell not? It's cheap!" One might call my find an impulse buy, but with used vinyl, I give the record a careful once-over before taking the plunge in order to determine if it will play smoothly or not.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Civil War - The Killer Angels (2013)

When four of Sabaton's six members suddenly deserted the band in 2012, the metal community reeled in shock, given the musicians were enjoying the height of their popularity. Speculation about the split appeared almost instantly across cyberspace's most prolific metal message boards, and yet not one claim supported the turn of events with reasonably placed evidence--a surefire sign that fans were jumping to hasty conclusions. The break remains a mystery even today, but in this particular instance, the good far outweighed the bad, and a new project called Civil War emerged from the fiery clash Sabaton produced only months before.

A troubled story told through music, Civil War's debut album, The Killer Angels, touches upon what is perhaps the United States' most iconic internal conflict: the civil war. Historically, Europeans dabble in their respective pasts, while Americans do very much the same, but these Swedes' effort proves otherwise and is an excellent stab at painting a vivid picture of the Yanks' quest to become a country built on shared ideals. The record serves as a reminder that, although not particularly special musically, innovation is still possible in the metal world, and lyrics are often all it takes to accomplish the task.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Vinyl Feature: Cara Neir's Portals to a Better, Dead World

Since destroying my turntable's needle, I haven't had the opportunity to spin my precious records but, as usual, that hasn't stopped me from acquiring more vinyl. Borrowing a turntable has crossed my mind, but that's inconvenient, and the idea of using a needle without knowing its history worries me a bit. I care for my records far too much.

Despite that, I'm positively smitten with Cara Neir's latest effort, Portals to a Better, Dead World, a mesmerizing collection of experimental music that mishmashes black metal and punk so well that you wouldn't know two entirely different genres jumped into bed together. Vinyl couldn't have been a better choice, either; the record can be had in either smoke green or black, with 100 copies available for the former and 400 for the latter.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Yeah, That Thing Called Blogging

What a wild year it's been. A new job, regrettably, has slowed down writing quite a bit, but I'm hoping to get the ball rolling again shortly. I've got one trick up my sleeve, which involves a curious email requesting a review that I'll be posting for all to see. We need some humor around here, after all.

Despite mangling my turntable's needle a few months ago, I've got a few vinyl features planned, too. In particular, Cara Neir's Portals to a Better, Dead World is up first, with an explosive collection of music that sounds as good as the cover might suggest. I'll also be including the last few purchases I've grabbed from Gogmagogical Records, who, sadly, is calling it a day from the record-making business. All the best, Mark.

And if that isn't enough, I'll be shooting for a year-end record list. I always find this incredibly hard to put together, given the amount of music that goes in one ear and out the other, but this time, it's actually going to happen. As long as I prepare and examine my collection a few weeks before hand, we'll be golden.

So, hang tight. I miss blogging as much as this post probably suggests, and I've got to kick my job's butt to tell it who's boss. Blogging comes first, you know.

2013 has been a great year for music, folks.

P.S. After two weeks of little to no internet connection, it's great to have it back.

-TMA

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Oh, Lordi, I've Done it Again: Musing on What Isn't a Guilty Pleasure

As much I as I enjoy Lordi's collective output, To Beast or Not to Beast is yet another record the metal community didn't ask for. Cheesy title and all, there are plenty of reasons why, among those being that the Finish rockers never seem to make a lasting impression, with music a bit too retro for current tastes. Gwar-like in appearance, yet with a sound wedged somewhere between Kiss and AOR rock, Lordi has one foot in the eighties and one foot in the nineties--essentially opposite ends of the spectrum that don't always match up favorably.

Onlookers often judge Lordi's material once they notice their physical appearance and music don't quite fit together, but that's not the point here. In theory, music should take precedence over all, not a bunch of glitzy costumes. But, unfortunately, that isn't always the case because hostility toward Lordi looms large in the metal community, particularly when listeners take the five-piece more seriously than they should. As a general rule of thumb, never take men (and a woman!) in monster suits seriously. In fact, if you're doing that, I reckon you need to take a good look in the mirror and reassess yourself.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Band Everyone Loves to Forget: Def Leppard

Sure, I'll admit it: I like Def Leppard.

There's no questioning that their first three releases are fantastic records--especially High 'n' Dry--that bridged the gap between hard rock and heavy metal. But here's the thing: after those albums, quality dropped a pretty measurable amount, putting Def Leppard among countless generic, poppy rock bands that found success in the eighties.

Many artists grow hungry for money, hence Def Leppard's change in sound. By 1983's Pyromania, the transformation was nearly complete--with the sugar-coated beast emerging from every corner of the band's music--and they would ride the trend until the pinnacle, 1987's Hysteria. Even so, traces of High 'n' Dry were still fairly prominent in the Pyromania's guitar playing, which is something that was sadly missing from the equation once Hysteria hit shelves. And much to hardcore fans' dismay, post Hysteria's good bits, Def Leppard's work isn't worth talking about, unfortunately.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Death Angel - The Dream Calls for Blood (2013)

Bolstering a string of excellent records starting in 2004, Death Angel continues to breathe fire with their latest effort, The Dream Calls for Blood, even after the loss of their original rhythm section. The personnel change has--for the better--introduced a shift in sound, in part due to a fresh drummer and bassist entering the fold. But compared with Killing Season, an album predating the line-up swap, The Dream Calls for Blood feels heavier and inspires confidence for future releases--something hit or miss in the past, particularly in the eighties.

Stylistically, The Dream Calls for Blood is very much in the same vein as Death Angel's previous album, Relentless Retribution: a production-polished, blistering assault focused on distortion-heavy guitar riffing and pounding drums. Even so, something appears to be missing when placed match for match against the record. For instance, while commendable, the quality of a number of guitar riffs seems kicked down a notch, bordering generic, palm-muted chugs, which, for a thrash fan, isn't desirable in the slightest.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Weekend Nachos - Still (2013)

Still, Weekend Nachos’ latest full-length, is anything but what the title might suggest. The record blasts along at hypersonic speeds, avoiding sticking to one punk subgenre, and it unleashes its innermost contents without musical boundaries in mind. It's undoubtedly impressive, but does the material live up to the hype? 

Indeed, in many ways it does, but that doesn’t mean the record is simple to shape into a tight ball of descriptive words. As with any review, creating a genuine sense of what the music is like—the texture, transitioning, and overall compositional prowess—is often tougher than it should be. And, of course, Weekend Nachos’ newest offering is a prime example of that.

Naturally, Still presents that sort of predicament, but in this case, it’s a good thing, as the music is a joy to explore and absorb with each successive listen. In fact, it’s fantastic because it speaks volumes of what Weekend Nachos has done with their newest effort—there’s never a dull moment because the music probes the vast expanse of what acts looking to play it safe tend to avoid when they settle into their niche. In other words, Weekend Nachos doesn’t really have a style that’s easy to pinpoint from the get-go and, contrary to the popular belief, they’re a better band for it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Toxic Holocaust - Chemistry of Consciousness (2013)

Joel Grind is undoubtedly one of the most reliable men in the modern metal business. With each new Toxic Holocaust release he retains a sliver of the identity that made his previous works wonderful, but mixes the pot ever so slightly with wacky guitar solos and riffing reminiscent of the thrash's hay day. Even so, the end product is often cliché feeling, like it's all been said and done before--the only real drawback.

But take a moment and consider this: think of Toxic Holocaust as the Motörhead of our generation. There isn't a bad record in their discography, and they better their sound with every piece of music they write, a lasting momento of their consistency. Fixing minor aesthetic issues with past efforts, the band's latest release, Chemistry of Consciousness, fits in soundly among contemporary albums, while still retaining old school charm--not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Metal Advisor Interviews Cory von Bohlen of Halo of Flies/Protestant

Since 2006 (or 2007, depending on how you look at it), Cory von Bohlen has been delivering heavy records to the masses with his punk/hardcore/metal-focused label, Halo of Flies. Going back even farther reveals his own band, Protestant, which has been in continuous operation since 2004. It's safe to say Cory has a lot on his plate at all times.

Cory appreciates the DIY aspect of music immensely. Both Protestant and Halo of Flies are the products of years of hard work, dedication, and experimentation, showing a passion few others can hope to match. He's had his fair share of hiccups along the way, of course, but he views those as an opportunity to learn and improve his approach to making and releasing new music.

Since discovering Protestant a few months back, I've admired Cory and what he does, and I couldn't think of better reason to ask him for an interview. He graciously obliged, so let's see what he has to say.

---

You've had your band, Protestant, since 2004 and your label, Halo of Flies, since 2006. Was Halo of Flies initially nothing more than a place to release your own music? 

Cory: Not exactly. I was planning to help with a Rhino Charge (R.I.P.) LP, whom Protestant was on tour with when these label ideas were being tossed about. But, yeah, it was a good excuse to start--I'll give you that.

Note: the first release didn't come out until February 2007...

You've certainly come a long way since 2006--Halo of Flies has a massive distro, and it seems like new releases are coming out every day. How do you manage to stay so popular? 

Cory: Well, thanks! I've been pretty lucky. The distro is there due to constant trading with other labels I've grown to know over the years. Funny, though: so many labels I used to trade with are gone or have moved on to "greener pastures," only to be replaced by others (for the most part).

As for releases, I'm at my limit pretty much all the time and have come to the point where I'm now booked eight to twelve months ahead. Let's hope nothing amazing falls into my lap that I can't say no to. I'm averaging roughly a release per month, which is manageable if it all times out as it should. But it never does and, recently, I had four releases drop in like 16 days. Still recovering.

I'm not terribly popular, I don't think. I stay in fairly consistent contact with dozens of people, and I think maintain a pretty personable "hands-on" approach. Re: I make friends where/when I can when it comes to people (labels, bands, etc.) I come into contact with via the label. Others seem to speak well of me, and I do have lots help in the press/hype department from BlackBirchPR. That was something I did as an experiment, and it has turned out wonderfully. Aside from that, it's just me trying to stay on top of a million things pretty much all the time, frantically replying to emails--et al--while trying to maintain a somewhat normal life.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Great Music Comes from Unexpected Places

At the moment, I'm reviewing Anneke van Giersbergen's (formerly of The Gathering) newest record, Drive, for another website. It might not be metal, but it's phenomenal. I just thought I'd leave a note here for others to pick up on.

-TMA

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2013: The Year Black Sabbath Re-Emerged

Since June, Black Sabbath's comeback has presented opportunities unknown for the past eighteen years, pushing their music to the top and made their name, as revered as it is, relevant again. Aside from Heaven & Hell's The Devil You Know--comprised of Dio, Appice, Iommi, and Butler--13 is the only recent release to come with a tour and mega merchandise priced at $40 a shirt, indicating that Sabbath is on an upward climb. But is 13 deserving of the success and limelight?

Indeed, 13 captures much of the "spirit" fans were hoping for with Ozzy's return, but with the spotlight comes a record lacking consistency and quality. Separating Osbourne's vocals from the mix reveals obvious computer aid, which, for a man with years of drug and alcohol abuse under his belt, is expected. On the other hand, the music, despite having moments that harken back to the golden age, tends to grow dull and plastic sounding thanks to a poor production job. Ultimately, the situation paints the album as a rather lazy addition to the Black Sabbath discography and as one hastened by the premise of easy money.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Vinyl Feature: Northless' World Keeps Sinking

Ah, yes, Northless' World Keeps Sinking, the recipient of countless glowing reviews and, in due time, the recipient of even more. Yet we still haven't seen a report covering the double vinyl pressing, which fans to tend splurge on as an alternative to the digital download. How well does it stack up?

Fortunately, like every other Halo of Flies release I've handled, it's worth every penny. The robust gatefold jacket--surely pricier to produce--holds two clear records, limited to 200 pieces worldwide. That's already enough of a reason to pick up a copy of World Keeps Sinking on vinyl for many buyers.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Sludgelord Hosts Auction to Benefit LaCraze Family


While I've been feeling a bit under the weather for the past few days big, generous things have still been happening in the metal world. Nearly a month ago, Joe LaCraze (of Eyehategod) passed away, leaving a legacy behind--and The Sludgelord has stepped up to help the LaCraze family by auctioning off merchandise to raise money.

Everyone can take part, no matter how little the offering. If you have an item that you'd like to donate to the auction, shoot The Sludgelord an email at thedoomentor@gmail.com. Every bit helps, and rest assured that you'll be contributing to a wonderful cause.

Head over to The Sludgelord for more information.

-TMA

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Metal Advisor Interviews Mark of Gogmagogical Records


I've loved Gogmagogical Records from the start. Mark, the label's founder, is an incredibly generous guy, giving bands a safe haven for their music, and the fruits of his labor are always incredibly well crafted and carried out. After featuring each of his vinyl releases, from Fister, Cold Blue Mountain, and Kingsblood, I finally caught Mark for a revealing chat about his development as a music lover and Gogmagogical Records itself.

---

Let’s start from the beginning, Mark. You like punk, especially the Misfits. Did your love of music start there? 

Mark: Not particularly, though love of metal definitely stemmed from there. My parents were very much of the stereotypical strict Midwestern “anti-KISS” variety when I was young and impressionable, so anything even remotely “dangerous” was impossible for me to acquire until I hit high school. Until then, I was very much in love with music but, admittedly, what I owned or listened to was what was popular on the radio. Once I was in high school - and especially once I had a job and a car – my exposure to other sounds and rapid acquisition of all that forbidden fruit had me veering toward punk and metal. Those were the days when record store clerks were the gatekeepers to all of the knowledge we now take for granted. Now we’d just branch along in Wikipedia and find a band’s entire discography or go somewhere like Last.FM for similar sounds, but then it really was an effort and a journey. That journey overall and the joy of what felt like real discovery was and still is what addicts me to music. Early punk that got me down this path was kind of the tongue-in-cheek variety: Circle Jerks, Meatmen, The Dictators, even the Dead Milkmen. It was likely the “initial-named” crossovers - D.R.I., S.O.D. and M.O.D. - that helped bridge the gap. 

All three variants of Kingsblood's release.
Exactly when did metal hit your radar? I assume a big name—Danzig’s connection to the Misfits—pushed you toward heavier music. 

Mark: I'll admit hair metal was a big factor. Some of the earliest impressions I recall are Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister, and I still love those guys to this day. My high school days were filled with Slaughter, Warrant, and Winger as this stuff was all over the radio. I still have a soft spot for the BulletBoys. Say what you will about the genre, but that stuff got onto the radio and did serve as a gateway. And, of course, we all find Zeppelin and Sabbath and the like somewhere during those years.

Like I just said, a lot of the punk encountered in high school was leading there but …And Justice for All is one of the earliest “real” metal records I remember encountering when it was released and, thanks to TBS’ Night Tracks, the video for “One” hooked me in.

I didn’t find Danzig until I was at a mall record store, and Danzig III was out on a new release rack. I remember vividly that a guy and his girlfriend were browsing, he picked it up and she said “absolutely not!” and he put it back and walked away all dejected. That denial combined with the Giger cover made it an instant blind purchase for me and it blew my mind. That was what we called a “telegram record” back then. You’d buy it, hear it, and immediately drive to a buddy’s house to hand-deliver and play it again together. And then to the next and so on. Something that is so good it has to be urgently delivered to another person. The first guy I played it for called me later and hooked me up with tickets for my first Danzig show and the rest is history.

Even when I was waist-deep into Danzig, I had no idea he was in the Misfits. Going back to the record store days, I would literally browse everything, A to Z, and remember seeing Misfits records and noting the font styles on the logos were similar compared to Danzig’s. I liked the aesthetic and bought Walk Among Us blind as well. When I popped it open and saw Glenn Danzig on vocals, it was another telegram scenario.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Rorcal - Világvége (2013)

With new music under their belts, Swiss metallers Rorcal push ahead with their third full-length, Világvége, bringing a plethora of furious riffs and an aesthetic gleaned from black metal along for the ride. From the moment the second track, a slogging four-minute affair unlike anything else on the album, explodes from silence, the record's bellicose nature becomes all the more apparent and tussles with listeners ensnared in its massive wall of sound. Those standing tall will be rewarded handsomely, however, with an immensely satisfying release that, not only breaks free of boundaries, but revitalizes heavy music as we know it.

Világvége is admittedly not too far removed from what the world has heard before; but its amalgam of riffs is aggressive enough that overall product feels fresher than material put forth by other bands hybridizing metallic music. Consequently, the way in which Rorcal mix and match their influences creates an experience one must brace for, as if to survive a treacherous journey ahead.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Concert Review: Iron Maiden + Megadeth @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, St. Louis/Maryland Heights, Missouri - September 8, 2013

On this leg of the Maiden England tour, Iron Maiden skipped Chicago on their trek around the United States and touched base in St. Louis. The choice was puzzling to say the least, but I happily made the four-hour drive from central Indiana to see my favorite band because they're worth every bit of money put toward gas and more.

Because it was my sixth time seeing Iron Maiden, I knew what to expect in a live setting. Their shows are always a bombastic affair--fire spurts, devil figures, and behemoth-sized Eddies lumbering around the stage--but the music and passionate performance is typically what pulls me in, doesn't let go, and keeps me immersed for nearly two hours. The crowd has a lot to do with that, of course, and the way Bruce and Steve, in particular, interact with the audience shows a genuine interest in the fans.

Maiden's green light show was a personal highlight.
Like Maiden's stop in Indianapolis last year, they had an excellent support almost every fan acknowledged as an ideal match: Megadeth. Standing outside the venue two hours before doors opened seemed to prove that, too, with a stronger representation for Megadeth than expected, with everything from Rust in Peace t-shirts to flags coloring the crowd. Even so, the majority was still there to see Iron Maiden. After all, there's a reason Britain's favorite metal band is headlining the current tour--their live show is fantastic and generally unparalleled in the metal world. 

The merch booths were positively bustling and, similar to when I saw Black Sabbath in August, proudly displaying t-shirts at $40 each. Never in a million years do I wear memorabilia purchased at concerts, so my closet is teeming with black t-shirts that I keep pristine and new looking. I promised myself I wouldn't buy one, either, but I ultimately succumbed, picking a 2013 Maiden England shirt displaying the "Aces High" and "Tailgunner" Eddies ready for a dogfight. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Vinyl Feature: Amber's Lovesaken

With yet another Halo of Flies release hitting my turntable, I concede to being obsessed with the label's roster and each artist that comes across my radar. Germany's Amber are the perpetrators this time around, and their second release, Lovesaken, looks absolutely gorgeous spinning at 33rpm, glimmering with every rotation and emitting wonderful noise only possible from a mixture of sludge and post-rock.

Like my previous feature on Cold Blue Mountain's debutLovesaken takes similar styling cues, blending clear and blue coloring. The combination is as excellent as it sounds and feels like a quality piece to the touch, just hefty enough to fit in among the rest of the popular 180-gram vinyl. Make no mistake, however; this is no overly thick piece of wax, but instead a properly proportioned release from a tremendous band and a tremendous label. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Metal Advisor Interviews Kosti Aho and Panu Rauhala of Liquorworks

As a two-man project from Finland, Liquorworks is relatively unknown to the average metal listener. Working tirelessly to release a record every few years, Kosti and Panu's only stipulation is that they truly enjoy what they're doing, loving music for the sake of creating art each time they pick up an instrument. The Metal Advisor talks to Liquorworks to better understand their long-term goals as a band and, in the process, discovers a gem of musical project.

---

How did Liquorworks form, and what is the story behind the project's name?

Liquorworks was formed in 2009 by Kosti Aho. It was the result of the passion for making original material and to express thoughts using a guitar.

Liquorworks is a way to forget everything else and just make music by ear and intiution. The music business can be serious and, of course, we like to get the songs as good as possible, but you also must remember to have fun with the songs. In this project, the music is the most important, not the money. 

Kosti: I needed a name for my project, and I liked the taste of liquor. That's about it. We are not alcoholics... yet.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

WARMfest Musing: Mina & the Wondrous Flying Machine

Indianapolis' lack of metal concerts is depressing, so, naturally, I tend to take what I can get regardless of the genre. With WARMfest in full force until Monday night and with a free three-day pass in hand, I drove to Broad Ripple Park with excessively low expectations because Indianapolis isn't exactly known for a thriving music scene, aside from a handful of phenomenal local bands.

Once I stepped into the Sam Ash-sponsored tent, discretely tucked away in the park's farthest corner, I took that back. One of the best acts of the day, Mina & the Wondrous Flying Machine, completely swept me off my feet with beautiful vocals, which stand as a testament to the raw talent hiding within the city. And while I certainly liked the jazz-inspired music, the vocals--oh, the vocals--are what lured me in because I'm admittedly a sucker for a good female voice.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Annihilator - Feast (2013)

With a lack of consistency only Jeff Waters could love, Feast is yet another ugly duckling in the Annihilator discography. Since Dave Padden's induction in 2003, the band's quirkiness has grown even more outlandish, welcoming pop-like song structures and influences from various musical genres into the mix. Waters' spastic riffing still spearheads the assault, of course, but with other elements at play, the end product tends to feel watered down and like a poor attempt at staying relevant.

Let's be honest; past 1990's excellent Never, Neverland, Annihilator has been a project destined for the landfill, and one distant from the collective metalhead radar. Record-to-record Waters has essentially been the only constant member, and his output reflects that with songs that can't back-up the power they boast through slickly presented instrumentation and a top-of-the-line production. And unfortunately for Feast, its track roster is like every other Annihilator release in recent memory: a mishmash of music that captures little semblance of the now-defunct sound Waters enjoyed in his golden days. After all, musicians can't stay creative forever and, post 1990, the vast majority of the band's offerings are better suited for fans hell-bent on completing their collections.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Vinyl Feature: Jag Panzer's The Scourge of Light

Jag Panzer's ninth studio record, The Scourge of Light, is a great addition to any vinyl collection--power metal fan or not. Both the CD and vinyl sit proudly in my personal collection because the music is fantastic and was a great album for the band to call it a day with after their break-up in 2011. Conklin's vocals are as good as they've ever been, and Jag Panzer lost little, if anything, with Broderick's departure for Megadeth.

As a double release, The Scourge of Light houses two dark-green records that shimmer under low lighting and sound as great as they look. Saying the album is one of the better colored releases I've had on my turntable would be an understatement; compared with the CD, the music breathes free of poor mastering and, like other vinyl, benefits from an enlarged cover that recalls times when each piece was drawn painstakingly by hand.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Protestant - Judgements (2010)

Reclamation, Protestant's latest offering, checks many of the right boxes for crust and metal fans with a black metal aesthetic that encourages destruction, death, and aggression. Best known for a mixture of genres, the sound's peak is Judgements, though, because it builds upon every aforementioned characteristic, but appears primitive and raw in presentation. Likewise, it never gussies itself up for mass consumption and sits at the other end of the spectrum as the opposite of Reclamation's posh polish.

Unlike other hardcore groups, and best seen in crust's prolific clash with black metal, Protestant make the most of their influences, generating intense momentum across Judgement's track listing. Member Cory Von Bohlen, in particular, heads his own record label and welcomes sludge, hardcore, and metal to its roster, so Protestant's pull of influence is no surprise. But classification as crust can certainly be misleading--even if the term is accurate--considering Protestant's eclectic leanings.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Concert Review: Black Sabbath @ Klipsch Music Center, Indianapolis, Indiana - August 18, 2013

With the smell of weed high in the air, I watched Black Sabbath on what would likely be their last tour. All things considered, they sounded fantastic--though I would have preferred Dio at the helm--and Ozzy largely defied years of drug and alcohol abuse by running, jumping, and throwing massive buckets of water into the audience. Was I satisfied? You bet. Was I completely happy? Well, not quite.

To be honest, it all goes back to Dio. Note-for-note, song-for-song, comparing 13 with The Devil You Know puts into perspective the cash grab Sabbath's latest album and tour present after Ozzy's debacle with Iommi. How could two people amicably settle such a serious issue as if nothing happened at all? And why would they tour?

Money.

Today, with Osbourne as frontman, Black Sabbath's material feels like a synthetic experience and, live, Ozzy appears to be going through the motions, saying the same things over and over:

"Let me see your hands!"

"I can't fucking hear you!"

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Metal Advisor Interviews Armand of Breathe Plastic Records


As a DIY label from The Netherlands, Breathe Plastic Records enjoys a medium long past its prime to everyone but enthusiasts. The label's founder, Armand, says he doesn't mind rewinding cassettes and dealing with the medium's quirks, but also acknowledges CDs, vinyl, and digital files as a great way to experience music, too--something most music lovers will stand behind. The Metal Advisor sits down with Armand to find what makes Breathe Plastic tick, how the label started, and the kind of music in store for the future.


---


First off, I’m very curious what attracts you to cassettes, Armand. The medium seems to have experienced a small resurgence lately; did that inspire you to make Breathe Plastic Records a cassette-only label?

Armand: Yes and no. It's not only the recent resurgence. My own first musical purchase was a cassette when I was 8 years old or so and on vacation with my parents. It was Duran Duran's Seven and the Ragged Tiger. I was incredibly impressed by their Wild Boys video at the time and thought that song would be on that album. It wasn't, but I liked that album a lot, nonetheless. 


After that, I spent years buying cassettes and taping songs from the radio, and later on, I was taping a lot of CDs that I borrowed from friends. So, cassettes have been a big part of my musical life. In the years after that, I mostly bought and listened to CDs, mp3s, and vinyl. Cassettes were a bit forgotten until one day my parents visited me with a few boxes that had been in their attic for years. One was stuffed with tapes, and it had all these old mix tapes, demos from friends' bands, and stuff I taped in the nineties--which I started playing on a regular basis for a couple of weeks from then on, again.

Around that same time, I noticed there were still quite some underground labels that did cassettes, and I ordered a few tapes from several labels which revived my enthusiasm for the format. One of the labels I ordered from was Dutch tape label Tartarus Records. 


A little while later, I was doing an interview with Richard from Tartarus about his band Ortega, and I asked him some questions about his label as well. In his enthusiasm, I recognized a lot of my own newfound enthusiasm for cassettes. We talked about cassettes more that period, and he explained how he handled and did things for his label, which made me even more enthusiastic. So, it's basically a combination of my nostalgic feelings towards the format from my youth and seeing other labels still releasing great stuff on cassette that inspired me to make it a cassette-only label. 

The Metal Advisor Interviews Xander Demos



For over 25 years, Xander Demos has wooed the world with his virtuoso guitar playing. In 2012, he released his first full-length record with his band, Xander Demos Band (XBD), to critical acclaim of shred enthusiasts around the globe and currently has a follow-up in the works, with even more scorching instrumental experimentation. The Metal Advisor checks in with Xander to learn more about his discography, and how he intends to carry on for the rest of 2013 and beyond.


---

Xander, let’s talk about your prominence as a guitarist. You’ve worked with James Rivera, who has done vocals for acts like Helstar and Malice. How has your experience with James been so far?

Xander: It’s really been amazing. James is an incredible guy [and] just a really down to earth person. He owns the stage during shows and it’s a real honor, and pleasure, to be performing next to such a tremendous talent. We did the Warriors of Metal show in Ohio earlier this year, which was his first “official” solo show, and it was just an unreal experience. I look forward to doing some more live shows and working on his solo record coming up very soon.

In terms of live performances, you’ve supported UFO, Adrenaline Mob, Lizzy Borden, and others. How would you say this has been beneficial to you? Perhaps promoting your name and guitar playing?

Xander: It has definitely helped in a lot of ways. First, it allows you the opportunity to watch and learn from some of these great acts. There are always things to be learned at shows. Everyone does things just a little differently, and if you can grab something that works from each act you open for, you will be that much further ahead. Second, it puts you in front of their fans. You get to perform in front of hundreds or sometimes thousands of metal fans, who are hungry for good music and a great performance.

If you can get on stage and rock out with them, they are more than likely going to buy your  CD or t-shirt, as well as the headliner’s. We opened for Buckethead in Pittsburgh last year, and we literally sold out of about 50 CDs in just that one night! So, you can definitely connect with more fans in a short period of time by opening shows.

Lastly, it does help to get your name out there and draw some attention, when people see that you’ve shared the stage with some incredible names. It’s like a “guilt by association” thing… if he’s good enough to open for those bands, then he must be pretty good, kind of thing.

Friday, August 9, 2013

In the News: The Sludgelord Contest, Wicked Mystic, and Junior Bruce

On Sunday, revered metal blog, The Sludgelord, and Gogmagogical Records teamed up for a week-long contest, with an opportunity to win a rarity: a test pressing of Fister's Violence. The vinyl, originally used to monitor and evaluate the record, is one of seven and sure to be a sought after item in the coming years. For collectors, this is a chance to win big time. Better yet, for doom metal lovers, this is musical ecstasy.

You have until Sunday (8/11) to enter. Follow the link here to score.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hollow - Modern Cathedral (1997)

Of the forgotten part of Nuclear Blast's catalog, Hollow is certainly one of the better acts, and one that got the short end of the stick. Despite making significant changes to the Queensrÿche-derived power-prog template, the five-piece never enjoyed a following and instead found their music buried under countless bands that brought nothing new to the table. Nonetheless, that didn't stop them from charging ahead with two full-length records, Modern Cathedral, released in 1997, and Architect of the Mind in 1999.

Originally issued on the now defunct MM Records, Modern Cathedral flopped or, at the very least, received little exposure. Nuclear Blast, noticing Hollow's savviness with unorthodox melodies and accessible songwriting, hastily added the band to its roster in 1998, giving the debut a renewed chance on life. Had the label rejected the struggling act, it's doubtful listeners would have the subsequent self-titled EP and second full-length at their fingertips today--which would be a shame, given the distinct flavor the entire discography offers.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Vinyl Feature: Protestant's Stalemate

One can't help but be drawn to Stalemate's dark cover-art imagery, curious of the content inside. Like other Protestant releases, the record is a gleaming slab of wax, allowing light to pass through the translucent material each time the album is removed from its jacket.

Different is the size, however; a compact 10" loaded with six tracks, clocking in at just over 21 minutes. Unlike the visually-similar Reclamation, Stalemate is smaller and housed in a thin sleeve, instead of a thick jacket normally associated with vinyl. This eliminates the need for a loose paper sheet, and both sides of the sleeve are used to reveal the record's backstory, as well as lyrics.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Metal Advisor Talks with Gaia of Baltic Metal Division

Founded only a year ago, Baltic Metal Division aims to promote a variety of metal bands, not only from the Baltic states, but foreign areas as well. From the few heralded veteran acts to ripe newcomers, the Division leaves no artist behind, as long as creating quality music is the ultimate goal. The organization expects a busy remainder of the year, so The Metal Advisor stops in to find out what the Baltic states' music is all about, and how the Iron Curtain previously affected the scene.

---

Baltic Metal Division promotes a variety of bands--how do you spread their music, and how do you connect with the fans?

Gaia: We make promotion, tour, and PR management both for Baltic bands and foreign bands--basically, all what promotion service can do, including shadow promotion, booking in [the] Baltics, and show/tour organization.

Recently, with partners at [a] local club, we launched Alternative Music Academy, where we organize rock and metal master classes, theme events, [and] public interviews, where each visitor has been given [a] chance to shine.

Obviously, your desire is to support music inside the Baltic states, but do you have aspirations to expose your artists to other areas like the United States or Western Europe?

Gaia: We are not caring parents to wipe their asses and protect from all evils... In fact, if you play horribly (technically), you won't be in Baltic Metal Division pages or recommendations, our main rule for promotion--professionally both in studio and on stage. 

We are cooperating with various managers and organizers around the globe, and when [a] band asks for help and [a] foreign manager for [a] band, we negotiate cooperation and support [a] band in tour.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Light Bringer - Scenes of Infinity (2013)

Often times, thinking outside the box is tough given what little room there is for evolution in power metal. Poised to break down this misconception, Light Bringer--perhaps Japan's rising star--combines mainstream hooks and odd time signatures, creating an oddly listenable product; and one that sounds absolutely divine next to the generic drivel churned out by their peers.

Thanks to vocalist Fuki's acrobatic range, and her experience dabbling in peculiar genres, the band's last two records are the ones to grab first. Light Bringer's 2013 release, Scenes of Infinity, builds upon what made Genesis so sterling: an amalgam of popish tendencies and crushing instrumentation that begs to be spun over and over. Like the rest of their discography, the five piece make their love for other music no secret. In fact, both records are littered with everything from bass noodling, simplistic melodic clichés, and a cultural influence only the most devoted otaku could love.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Vinyl Feature: Iron Maiden's Piece of Mind, Powerslave, and Live After Death



Saying Iron Maiden's original vinyl issues sound better than their 1998 CD remasters would be an understatement. Even chock full of dust, these records emit a glorious, uncompressed racket, and each instrument breathes as it should, sounding positively organic. Seeking out these worn but charming first pressings isn't necessarily a bad idea; in fact, it's just about the greatest thing one can do as a budding heavy metal vinyl enthusiast. 

Merch order form included with Piece of Mind
From my collection, Piece of Mind, Powerslave, and Live After Death are my favorite examples of Martin Birch's dexterous production work, a quality the remasters sadly tend to mask. While all three records were found pre-owned, I can't speak highly enough of their warmth and openness, even with minor crackles and, in Powerslave's case, a scratch on one side that reveals the fragility of the medium. 

Being a double album, Live After Death is a gatefold, while the other two are the tried-and-true slipcases that nearly all 12" vinyl call home. Especially neat is Powerslave--its textured, almost cracked-looking cover is far from the norm, which is quite tough to capture on photograph. Piece of Mind is closer to standard fare, but the release's inner sleeve showcases a young Iron Maiden, with a clever play on the album's title (check out that brain served up on a platter!), as well as an order form for vintage merchandise.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Maze of Thoughts: Women and Heavy Metal

Metal's most popular woman, Doro.
At heavy metal's inception, women were at the mercy of piercings, tattoos, and black garb (Don't believe me? Scoot on over to Google images and key in "heavy metal women!"). A "necessity," these traits conformed to a common stereotype giving street cred and recognition among a testosterone-dominated style of music. If a woman's appearance didn't match one of those characteristics, fans scratched their heads and took her less seriously, a tradgedy all things considered.

Today, a good portion of women (and men!) are as clean-cut as any pop artist. As metal has gained a larger following, people from all walks of life have dedicated their every waking moment to writing, crafting, and ultimately releasing heavy music. The juvenile idea that both genders must look and behave crudely has largely vanished, although it remains the perception for outsiders peering in.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Why Reckless Records is Great

A recent visit to Chicago's Reckless Records left me without a Twisted Sister album and with a reggae-like release I didn't particularly care for. Unfortunately, I failed to notice the mix-up until I had long departed the windy city, and I wasn't sure when my next visit would be, or if I would have time to spend in the store. That, however, didn't stop the chain's owner from going out of his way to correct the issue, surprisingly including a few stickers and "sorry" note in the process. At his own expense, he packaged up the 10-plus-year-old CD and shipped the album right to my door. Now that's customer service.

As I've celebrated in the past, the online marketplace is invaluable for sourcing hard-to-find releases and underexposed bands. In fact, a fairly large portion of my music collection wouldn't exist without the Internet, and I'm quite thankful for what places like Amazon, independent distros, and others have to offer. Nevertheless, there is no substitute for leafing through a stack of records, even with cyberspace's vast array of merchandise found at the click of a mouse.

Excellent customer service is what keeps me supporting brick and mortar establishments, and Reckless Records is the star-studded, shining example of how a business should carry itself if it wants to uphold good practice. Positive experiences draw customers back, often with a few extra people in tow each time, so Chicago's best undoubtedly has my money for the foreseeable future.

-TMA

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Axl Rose's Nemesis: Iron Maiden

Formed in 1985, Guns N' Roses hadn't even the slightest idea that their debut, Appetite for Destruction, would top Billboard's 200 chart and make them a household name. For most fans, the allure was "Sweet Child O' Mine"--the band's only single to reach number one--and monster guitarist, Slash, who helped lead them to success.

Following Appetite for Destruction's good fortune, Guns N' Roses were granted a spot on 1988's Donington Monsters of Rock festival alongside names like Iron Maiden, Kiss, and Megadeth. Being selected for the bill was certainly no small feat with one album under their belt, but the band filled the position with relative ease based on their debut's acclaim. Compared with the rest of the line-up, they were inexperienced, but that didn't stop them from showing the crowd what they had to offer.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Vinyl Feature: Kingsblood's Trudging Through the Field of Crows

Photo credit: James Fiend
Like other Gogmagogical releases, Kingsblood's Trudging Through the Field of Crows is offered in multiple colors: two red and one green, otherwise known as "dragon's blood." Previously lacking a record deal, Kingsblood have put forth the best artwork in ages and easily the finest in the Gogmagogical line-up, handily topping Cold Blue Mountain and just edging out Fister. But what all three bands share in common is the feeling of being handpicked for the roster because they are indeed quality and rarely does that happen in triple succession.

Aside from the cover art, the stunner is each color. In addition to the ghoulish-green, both reds are the hook for buyers and undeniably irresistible to even the hardcore purist who only purchases black. Not unlike Cold Blue Mountain's release, which sounded better colored, Kingsblood follow suit with clear, crisp dynamics and little, if any, surface noise.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Metal Advisor Talks Classic Rock Magazine and Sampler Disc, 24 Carat Gold

I blabber about Classic Rock Magazine and a sampler included with issue 184 called 24 Carat Gold over at Rockthought. The sampler is far from gold, of course, but that's the reason I'm letting loose some steam on it.

Check it out here: http://rockthought.com/the-metal-advisor-talks-classic-rock-magazine-and-sampler-disc-24-carat-gold

-TMA

Friday, July 5, 2013

Concert Review: Melechesh + Vreid + Lightning Swords of Death + Reign of Fire + Withering Soul @ Mojoes, Joliet, Illinois - June 25, 2013

I stood shocked at the attendance level for Vreid and Melechesh: at the concert's peak, 50 or less fans had shown up. The turnout was surprising, considering the following these bands have over the internet, but here's the thing: cyberspace is far from reality and often what's popular on message boards and music databases doesn't translate into real life. Oddly enough, I was okay with that because I easily grabbed a center position and happily soaked up every note the headliners belted out over the duration of the night.

That being said, I generally detest standing at the front because, not only is the sound muddy, but is it also less optimal for listening. In this particular instance, however, that was not my concern, as I was interested in seeing the two perform since they were purportedly masters in a live setting. The other three bands--Withering Soul, Reign of Fire, and Lighting Swords of Death--would be like icing on the proverbial cake if they were decent.

As I braced myself for the coming onslaught, I moseyed over to the half set-up merch booth and looked over a vast array of tees, vinyl, cassettes, and CDs. Being the massive Vreid fan that I am, I decided to nab a Welcome Farewell shirt and Vreid Goddamnit concert that is grossly overpriced on Amazon and, better yet, playable in United States-coded DVD players. Much to my dismay, patches and other memorabilia from bands not even performing would later appear at the booth. I definitely missed out, but I suppose that's what the internet is for.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Vinyl Feature: Atheist's Unquestionable Presence

Stepping into Chicago's Reckless Records often results in a treasure or two following me home. This time, Season of Mist's recent vinyl reissue of Atheist's Unquestionable Presence was the lucky winner and, despite being colored, not a purchase I regret. The pigment is astounding, with the transparent yellow a piercing glow against the usual boring drab, and easily among the most beautiful hues in my collection.

Unquestionable Presence is a record that, in my opinion, has long deserved a renewed spotlight showcasing its influence and place on metal's timeline. Season of Mist seemed to agree as well because, while the reissue is certainly plain, it offers a bare bones type of feeling that vinyl had in its heyday (and I suppose the early '90s, too, which was Atheist's heyday). I tend to appreciate things like that, considering the record's label is printed in traditional-looking text. How refreshing!

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Metal Advisor Interviews Jake Superchi (Lord Serpent) of Ceremonial Castings


An avid fan since high school, I jumped at the opportunity to interview Jake Superchi of Ceremonial Castings, a renown black metal band from Washington. The act commonly refers to their synth-laden music as "Bewitching Black Metal," which is all too fitting for their witch-obsessed and dark lyrical themes. The Metal Advisor catches Jake for a quick Q&A to uncover the upcoming few releases, as well as dig into the mind of an incredible composer. 

---

If you had to recommend one record from the Ceremonial Castings discography to a new listener what would it be? Why?

Jake: Hrm... That is hard to say, really. I think all our albums are different in some ways. I always recommend Salem 1692 because I think it is musically our best representation. It also has a lot of personal connection from our family bloodline, so it really does have an importance to myself and OldNick. 

What is the story behind the Lord Serpent, OldNick, and Bloodhammer aliases? 

Jake: I won't get into too much detail about this, or break down each name to explain them. But they all represent an "inner-devil" of ourselves. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Concert Review: Skeletonwitch + Windhand + Black Goat of the Woods + Summon the Destroyer @ The Sinking Ship, Indianapolis, Indiana - June 17, 2013

Since discovering Skeletonwitch seven years ago, I've missed their black sorcery every time they've made their way through Indianapolis. Much to my dismay, I usually space on tour dates and curse my mistake until they visit Indy again--until I notice, of course, that I've forgotten yet another concert, yet another time.

That wasn't the case yesterday evening. A day before, a good friend informed me that Skeletonwitch would be offering up their fire-breathing brand of metal in Indianapolis and, best of all, the show was completely free. Naturally, I threw on Worship the Witch, Beyond the Permafrost, Breathing the Fire, and Forever Abomination and hoped the Ohio-based act would be as great live as their fan base claimed they were.

Upon arriving at the modest bar Skeletonwitch were stationed to play at, I realized it was in no way suitable for a metal gig. In fact, when I took a gander at the venue's website, I noticed very few bands, if any, had made their way through the lounge-like tavern in the past. The Sinking Ship, as they call it, was woefully under-equipped for something as hectic as a metal concert, and the delays, minor inconveniences, and lack of space between sets reflected that.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Metal Advisor Interviews Metal Scholar Jeremy Wallach

Photo courtesy of Bowling Green State University

Jeremy Wallach, best known for his metallic academic work, hosted a metal music conference at Bowling Green State University in April. The gathering was an overwhelming success--surely a first for the genre in a scholarly setting--and proved that the music can be taken seriously. The Metal Advisor talks to Wallach to find out more about the conference, touching upon what helped get the idea off the ground, and how academic work on metal will continue to flourish

---

Last month, you hosted a conference with hopes of bringing together scholars and topics involving heavy metal. And you succeeded by attracting people from all over the United States—and other countries—to Bowling Green State University. Can you give a brief run-down on what happened, and what you talked about that day?

Wallach: The conference ended up being successful beyond our expectations.  The hardest part was only accepting half the proposals we received.  Since we knew we wanted no parallel sessions, abstracts went through a rigorous vetting process by the program committee and sometimes even students and colleagues of ours got turned down.  We also took the rather unusual step of not charging a registration fee (most academic conferences cost hundreds of dollars to attend) thus making the conference free and open to the public. In the end, close to 200 people showed up: BGSU students, faculty, community members, attendees from all over the US, as well as scholars from Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, and the UK.  

We had paper sessions on musical analysis, race, gender, globalization, national case studies, scene dynamics, and the rhetoric of sentimental nostalgia to name a few of the topics, and panel discussions on the origins and meaning of heavy metal, metal and community, and the Toledo heavy metal scene.  There were also three awesome keynote talks, by Niall Scott, Keith Kahn-Harris, and Laina Dawes, an exhibit on masks and facepaint, a book signing, concerts, film screenings, and lots of hanging out. A number of people were crucial in making the whole thing come to fruition. I’d like to send a shout-out to my fellow members of the Organizing Committee: Cláudia Azevedo, Amber Clifford, Esther Clinton, Matthew Donahue, and Brian Hickam. Thanks, guys!

Various publications have written about the conference (including the Wall Street Journal and hellbound.ca) and I’ve received a number of inquiries about whether we’re going to do another one.  That was never our intention—there’s no way we could repeat the success of the first one and the effort required to organize an academic conference of its size and scope is substantial indeed.  However, I can say that there is going to be an international metal conference in 2015 in Helsinki, Finland.