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?


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 Queensr├┐che-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.