Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In Other News...

Busy, busy week here at the TMA HQ. Let's go through some new music video releases to cover until I can get back on track.

Newsted recently released a music video for "...as the Crow Flies," and while I haven't had a chance to hear the new record in its entirety, this song is bland and uninspired. I suppose it's decent for a first effort, but I'm not running out to buy the album or anything.



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Benighted - Carnivore Sublime (2014)

Thanks to That's How Kids Die, I stumbled across Benighted last week and left the site extremely impressed, despite my disdain for the vocal-lead opening of "X2Y." You see, being an avid death metal listener, and being of the old school mindset, I prefer deep and vicious gutturals like the sub-genre built its reputation on. And while Benighted has those in spades, because the music is one part grindcore and one part death metal, the hardcore aesthetic often overshadows the latter and can spoil an otherwise great listen. But like anything else, with repeated spins, growing accustomed to the angstier side of hardcore isn't out of the question--at least for Benighted--so I was hopeful  I could learn to enjoy the music down the line.

Indeed, of 2014's current release roster, Carnivore Sublime is one of the most demanding albums available because it takes experience with multiple styles of extreme music to understand. As That's How Kids Die put it, "...Benighted write songs like a brutal death metal band that doesn’t know they’re a brutal death metal band." Based on the fact that the French five-piece composes music without style in mind, and in this day and age--especially with the Internet being riddled with genre Nazis--I couldn't agree more and think it's fantastic that Benighted pushes limits in a stagnant sub-genre, in spite of how great musically it is.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Eat Your Heart Out, Ensiferum: Will of the Ancients - To Our Glorious Dead (2013)

A glorious title deserves a glorious cover.
When Ensiferum released their fifth full-length, Unsung Heroes, in 2012, fans complained, lashed out, and cried bloody murder, wondering what had happened to their beloved band. "Why?!" they exclaimed. "Where is the band that gave us From Afar and Victory Songs?" The situation certainly looked bleak, but given the history of popular music, it was all too familiar. Over an extended period of time, very few artists can keep up a string of brilliant records and often become victims of their own successes. All it takes is a single misstep to destroy a reputation worked so hard to achieve, and sadly for Ensiferum, Unsung Heroes just wasn't up to snuff.

Metal fans witnessed the same thing in 1990, when Iron Maiden released their first album of the decade, No Prayer for the Dying. With Adrian Smith's departure, the band embarked on a quest for a rawer, heavier Maiden, stripping down their sound in the process, but it was too good to be true. Because Bruce Dickinson's relations with the band were growing more and more tense, the music suffered, and his solo record, which he released earlier that year, gave indication of his ambitions to go out on his own. It didn't help that his enthusiasm toward touring with Iron Maiden had gone completely awry, either.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Vinyl Feature: Riot's Thundersteel

Ah, the 1980s; one of the greatest times for metal music and the era in which many of the classic bands emerged. Known as New York's hidden gem today, Riot took the decade by storm, despite releasing their first two records in 1977 and 1979, and made the most of their early years as a band. A classic, their opus, Fire Down Under, dropped in 1981, but Riot agreed a hiatus was in order only three years later, thanks to lack of a commercial breakthrough.

In 1988, the unthinkable happened--Riot burst back on the scene, revitalized and renewed. While their sound changed drastically, branching off into speed and power metal territory, the quality was very much the same, and the spirit matched anything found on their previous five records. Indeed, their then latest effort, Thundersteel, stampeded with double bass and tempos far quicker than their other albums, and stood as an unexpected addition to their discography.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Agalloch Returns with New Track, "Celestial Effigy"

By no means am I a fan of Pitchfork. I rarely, if ever, visit the site, but right now, they've done something superb--they've premiered a new Agalloch track called "Celestial Effigy." 

If you've ever been a fan of the Portland four-piece in the past, you'll inevitably find something to enjoy about "Celestial Effigy," because it's more of the same, and what makes Agalloch so great. As expected, whispered and rasped vocals are back, and the ever-so-important, melancholy, acoustic intro makes a triumphant return. In all honesty, this isn't far off from material one might find on The Mantle or Pale Folklore, but I'm all for either of those. Bring on the goods.

Head over to Pitchfork and listen to the track here.

-TMA

Monday, March 17, 2014

Black Coma - Demo 2014

There's no arguing that Metal Archives isn't an excellent resource for music and a valuable asset to the metal community. Because hundreds of new bands flood the database each week, the "latest additions" section is often a solid start for finding fresh tunes, and only a few short clicks of a button can lead to hours, days, and even years of enjoyment. Even so, treading carefully isn't a bad idea; in fact, it's smart, because the number of artists worth investing time in is typically quite low. Like any genre of music, wading through the shit is another day in the life of a junkie and a willingness to accept the fact that a few precious minutes will be lost in the process is just how the cookie crumbles.

Enter Black Coma. Sticking out like a sore thumb from the top of the latest additions list, their name seemed surprisingly normal next to the surrounding artists; one written in Cyrillic and the other a band called Amputate. Expecting a group of thrashers based on Black Coma's name alone wouldn't be a bad guess, but there has never been a better example of a wolf in sheep's clothing because a black metal band, and one that borrows all the right influences from all the right places, hides underneath. Fans of Darkthrone, Carpathian Forest, and even Dissection will feel at home with Demo 2014 because, from the moment the three-track demo opens, listeners are invited to trudge through a snow-covered forest, conifer trees and mountains all around. Black Coma has a unique trick up their sleeves as well--they're no Scandinavian band, but one hailing from Zarazoga, Spain, a city dating back to ancient Roman times. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Flotsam and Jetsam - No Place for Disgrace - 2014

Six years ago, Sodom made the decision to rerecord their first EP, In the Sign of Evil (in addition to unveiling a handful of new tracks). Fans scoffed, sneered, and jeered at the idea, but given the history of poorly rerecorded music, they had every right to be skeptical that the final product would come within close proximity of the original. No matter how perfect the material is, the original, in the eyes of the existing fan base, is superior. See reviews on Metal Archives as proof.

Fast forward to 2014. Last month, Flotsam and Jetsam served up a refreshed version of their perennial classic, No Place for Disgrace, a record that enjoys status as their best album even today. As the story goes, over the years, fans clamored for a remixed version of the record, but because the original master tapes weren't easily obtainable, Flotsam and Jetsam chose to rerecord the music. And that's when trouble in paradise set in. Common sense points out that No Place for Disgrace was released almost 26 years ago, and time is, unfortunately, rather revealing in what it can do to musicians. In this case, it's not so much the instruments but instead Eric A.K.'s vocals, which sound tired and lack the range he enjoyed at the height of his career. It's one thing to rerecord material when you possess the chops to match your previous performance; it's the other when you simply can't perform as you could in the past. Sometimes it's best to sit back and consider what you can and can't do.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Hipsters Can Make Metal, too!: Deafheaven's Sunbather

Last year, I remember seeing Sunbather and being perplexed by the bright pink cover art. Indeed, the pastel shade reminded me more of Easter, bunnies, and chicks than it did heavy metal, so I assumed something else was at play--something controversial enough to cause serious listeners to dismiss the music right off the bat. Because my Twitter news feed proclaimed the album as a pile of hipster drivel, I, too, skipped the record, thinking it was a waste of time. And that was my biggest mistake.

We've all seen the kind of music that hipsters and metal can produce, and the results often aren't good, for they lack depth and are filled with pretentious, self-serving musicians. Liturgy, for instance, is one of those, with each member labeling their music as art, for the betterment of black metal, heavy music, and "the scene." Well, that's what my recollection tells me, anyway, because it's been a few years since I've touched one of their awful records or heard an interview, but my point still stands.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How Un-Metal!: Beastmilk

By now, you've probably already seen Beastmilk plastered around cyberspace and on heavy metal blogs, despite the fact that they're not a metal band. To cut a long story short, their music is comprised of a number of different influences--Danzig, The Misfits, and Joy Division, to name a few--so that makes it easy to digest, regardless of preference for genre or style. It doesn't help, either, that the material is well written and fairly original, in spite of obvious idol worship.

But none of that means jack squat if the music flat out sucks. Fortunately, that isn't the case, and Beastmilk's debut full-length, Climax, is shockingly consistent, to the point that a handful of the tracks sound more or less sound the same. It's true; they don't venture far from one another in structure, instrumental, or vocals, but the atmosphere makes up for the same-y feeling that can set in after the first three or four tracks. It all depends on the listener, really. Personally, I had no problem with it.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Is the Church of Metal Still Holy?

Truth be told, I lost quite a bit of respect for Metal Church upon their 2009 break-up. The rumored reasons were silly: their (then) latest release, This Present Wasteland, sold 920 copies in its first week, which is abysmal, but not something to call it a day over, if you truly love making music.

Of course, it didn't help that their record label, SPV, filed for bankruptcy, either. Without a label to publicize the music, promotion for This Present Wasteland was limited at best and another heavy blow to Metal Church's morale. The situation looked bleak, no doubt, but because the band kept a tight lid on the actual reason for their break-up, one can only assume that lack of promotion, coupled with poor album sales, was the final nail in the coffin.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Albion, Newcomers to Female-Fronted Power Metal

As a fan of female-fronted power metal from Japan--like Aldious and Light Bringer--I couldn't help but be intrigued by Albion when I stumbled across their music a few days ago. The production and placement of instruments in the mix could use work, no doubt, but the spirit and musicianship is clearly there.

Interestingly enough, the guitar player chose a guitar with single-coil pickups, which is not usually considered a very "metal" choice. The alternative, the humbucker, typically offers a chunkier tone and can properly handle the absurd amounts of distortion metal often calls for--this is a decidedly Yngwie Malmsteen approach to guitar playing, because his Stratocaster is equipped with single coils, even though he plays heavy music.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Overheard at the Coffee Shop: Vesperia's An Olden Tale

On a whim, a friend (who is teaching English in China) and I decided to make a habit out of exchanging emails about music. Not knowing what album to pick for our first trade-off, I dug through my inbox and found Vesperia, a folk metal band from Canada, who had sent me a message about their latest release, An Olden Tale.

We want to keep this first exchange basic, but the plan is incorporate full-fledged articles, discussion, and really anything that strikes our fancy down the road. And, of course, we'll try to do this fairly regularly. Our goal is to keep the exchange casual, but organized, and not unlike something you might hear two dedicated metalheads discussing at your local coffee shop or cafe. Seems unthinkable, right? Well, it has happened. Trust me.

With that said, let's get to the good stuff.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

How Un-Metal!: Indiana's Roadmaster

Believe it or not, Indiana has a few musical gems, despite what people would like you to think. Modern Hoosier music is positively bustling, as areas like Fountain Square and Broad Ripple serve up new concerts every week--with appearances from the likes of Goliathon, Harley Poe, Summon the Destroyer, and others--but these newbies owe quite a bit to their elders, many of which are long forgotten.

Digging into Indiana's mysterious musical wasteland is sometimes a frustrating experience, because one needs to sift though the junk to find a single band worth the trouble. But even then, the trouble is most definitely worth it when a group like Roadmaster surfaces, offering a nice blend of seventies hard rock and orchestral sections typical of the decade.

Morbid Angel's Illud Divinum Insanus is Good Stuff... Sometimes

Bargain bin this shit.

No, seriously. Bargain bin this shit. If you can get it cheaply--from the forgotten, dusty bins in a record store--go for it.

It wasn't long ago that I was one of Illud Divinum Insanus' biggest detractors, but I'm admittedly coming around. There's a fun, give-no-fucks attitude about this record that I'm learning to appreciate.

When you do a 360 and play a completely different style of music, not giving a shit about alienating your entire fan base in the process, well, that takes total balls--balls I certainly wouldn't have if I were playing in a big-time death metal band.

The track roster still has its death metal moments, but the rocking, groovy, and industrial-ish stuff is what stands out for me--and drives 99% of Morbid Angel fans away. The much maligned "Radikult" is kicking my ass as I type this.