Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Witch Mountain: South of Salem (2011)

If you've read anything about Oregon's Witch Mountain, you may have thought, "Great, another female-fronted doom band." Whether you meant that as a good thought or a bad thought, you ought to reconsider them entirely.

Putting a woman in front of a doom band is usually a good idea, as higher-register voices stand out against the heavy grooves, giving balance and contrast to the music. That's why Ozzy worked so well for Sabbath. And sometimes a female-fronted doom metal band sounds just like you might expect: a female-fronted doom metal band. No suprises there. But Witch Mountain's new vocalist Uta Plotkin gives an entirely different spin on things.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Call for Contributions

You may recall a while ago I called Atlantean Kodex's The Golden Bough one of the worst albums of 2010. I also noted that the only other review gave it a perfect score. Well, now it has another perfect score.

I don't mean to pick on this guy for disagreeing with me, but what I do want to pick up on is the angle he took. He titled his review "True anti-poser metal at it's [sic] finest". The highlight of the review:
[L]et me say as my title states this is true metal at its finest and not for posers or fans of modern metal.
Since I don't like it, I guess that means I'm a poser.

This kind of mentality is far too prevalent in metal. Each and every band or album is given the thumbs-up or thumbs-down, and if your opinion does not match approved canon, then you're a poser.

Well, I want to do something about it, by giving a voice to others regardless of whether I agree with it.

I want your contributions to this site. As you may already know, I have twins on the way, and they're coming very soon. For the first month or two I won't have enough time to keep the site updated as often as I'd like. So, I'm asking for contributions from others. If you run a blog of your own (on any topic) this is an opportunity to generate traffic and cross-pollinate readership. If you're in a band, this is a chance for exposure. If you don't have the time and/or energy to run a full-time blog, this is a chance for you to talk about something you feel strongly about, without the commitment.

You can write on just about any topic you want, with the following guidelines:

1. Give me something original. Don't plagiarize, and don't submit something you've already posted somewhere else on the Internet.

2. Connect it to metal in some way. (But it doesn't really have to be about metal.)

3. Make it more than simply an introduction of yourself, your blog, or your band. (If you want to talk about your local scene and include how your band fits into it, that's great.) Go straight into the meat of the article without introducing yourself, as I'll make it clear who it was written by and give a little information about you.

4. If you can, write something I would never write myself. Maybe you could talk about a topic I don't know anything about, like slam death or hardcore. Perhaps you'll want to write on a topic I never do, or maybe you want to extol the virtues of hair metal. If you're reviewing an album, you may want to tear down something I loved or build up something I hated.

5. Don't promote illegal activity or take a stance that's likely to get the site monitored by the authorities.

6. No Christ-bashing.

7. If the article is image- or video-intensive, be sure I can identify which image/video goes where, since I'll be doing the formatting.

8. Submit it to me at kelly [dot] hoffart [at] gmail [dot] com with the subject line "FMA" or "Full Metal Attorney". Include a little information about how you'd like to be identified, such as a link and/or some information about yourself.

9. This is by no means an absolute deadline, but try to have it to me by Monday, June 13.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Atlas of Metal: Angola

Angola is the first country in the Atlas of Metal from Sub-Saharan Africa. In other words, the very last place in the inhabited world where you expect to find metal. And it is as rare as you might think. Metal Archives lists only two bands from the country. Thankfully, both of them are currently active.

Before Crush is listed as a death metal/deathcore band, but they sound like pretty straight-forward metalcore to me. The Bullet for My Valentine t-shirt doesn't exactly give them a lot of credibility in my eyes--and the water pouring over the dude's head in this video makes it even worse. There's nothing original about it, and the vocals are terrible. Still, they get credit for trying, considering where they're from.

Neblina is listed as a heavy metal band in Metal Archives, and for some reason they have a Wikipedia page which calls them gothic metal. From the one video I'm sure is theirs, the gothic metal tag is appropriate, but there's also a distinct Latin influence (Angola was part of the Portuguese empire). I've found some more videos that may be from the same band, and if it is, then it sounds like they listened to a lot of ska . . . either way, I wouldn't be interested to hear anything else from them.

Outside of the archives, the only other thing I can find is Katingation, a death metal band who feature only a 15 second clip on their MySpace to let the world hear them. And it's not terribly promising, as far as offering anything new, but when it's that short it's hard to say. I would actually see them if they were opening for somebody else, though.

So. Yeah. That's metal in Angola. Not exactly an up-and-coming scene.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hate Eternal: Phoenix Amongst the Ashes (2011)


Phoenix Amongst the AshesEric Rutan's Hate Eternal sometimes gets flak for being an unoriginal, boring, pure-Florida style death metal band. That's wrong in at least two ways.

Phoenix Amongst the Ashes (the band's fifth full-length) has the band performing death with intensity and ferocity equalled by few others. In terms of the clean production, the death grunts, the incessantly machinegunning drums, and the massively grooving riffs, they sound more like Behemoth than their Floridian brethren.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pentagram: Last Rites (2011)


Last RitesPentagram has a mythical story going back four decades that would easily fit the mold of Greek tragedy. Mighty doom-bringers, they are said to be great enough to be America's answer to Black Sabbath. That is, but for the flawed character of vocalist/principal songwriter Bobby Liebling, whose attitude and drug abuse have thwarted them at every turn. But now he is supposedly sober, and reunited with born-again Christian Victor Griffin on the axe. Last Rites was anticipated and hailed as the band finally overcoming their problems to bring their full greatness to the world.

In reality, they're America's answer to Sabbath like Cactus is America's answer to Zeppelin. Who? Exactly. Like other semi-legendary bands of the underground, their influence on subsequent acts can't be denied. But as a listening prospect, they tend to be pretty hit-and-miss. That is definitely the case here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Korn: Korn (1994)

Motion for Reconsideration

Nu metal. The name itself is enough to gag any metalhead over the age of 35, and embarrass those between 25 and 35. As we all know, the genre started with Korn's self-titled debut in 1994, and it has been cause for revilement ever since.

KornBut the album isn't all that bad. In fact, I have fond memories of loving it as a teenager. So I tried to listen to it with fresh ears.

The guitar tone is the first thing that jumps out at me. It's crunchy, and the 7-string guitars let them get heavier than most metal bands of the time. Same thing with the clicky 5-string bass. It sounds dirty. And the drums, truth be told, are quite interesting. The vocals, not so much, but most of the time they're not bad.

If you took someone who had never heard Korn before, and played "Predictable" for them, you could (possibly) convince them this is a new sludge metal band. That's how heavy and dirty this sounds. And that's how the riffs groove.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Atlas of Metal: Andorra

Andorra is a tiny European country between Spain and France, with a population of only 84,000. It's unsurprising there are only three metal bands listed from the country on Metal Archives, and only two of them are active.

Nami is a progressive metal band. It's hard to tell what they sound like from the few videos I've found, but they seem to have a mainstream-friendly sound, with some edge to it, bearing a vague resemblance to Opeth. I couldn't find any complete songs on Youtube--in fact, this video is crap, and the others are very short live cuts, so it's hard to tell whether we should care about them.

Persefone is another progressive metal band, who have a definite melo-death base to their progressive tendencies, complete with keyboards and some Dream Theater-isms. I would interested in hearing more from this band.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Blood Ceremony: Living with the Ancients (2011)


The whole retro doom vibe is something that really interests me, and there are a few bands who shake up the formula just enough to make themselves stand out. Like Jex Thoth, Blood Ceremony uses a female vocalist to do the trick.

Living With the AncientsLiving with the Ancients is the Canadians' second full-length, and it doesn't have anything to make it seem consciously retro. Instead, they've adopted the old school and made it their own, making the guitars sound much thicker than the old and the production much clearer. They use electric organ on many tracks, like other bands channeling the 70's, but on other tracks they've done something different. Flutes. It seems like a good idea, maybe?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Coming Soon: Metal Dictionary

I've been working on a metal dictionary, off and on, for quite some time. But a big thing holding me back is the name. I have a few I've been thinking about, but I'd like to hear some ideas. Leave a comment.

Real-Life Zombies

This is pretty cool.
The fungus . . . was found living in carpenter ants in Thailand's rain forest, controlling their nervous system so they became a vessel with one purpose: helping the fungus reproduce.

As the fungus spreads through the ant's body it begins to act irregularly before it eventually dies . . . .
So, this is an angle that hasn't been explored, to my knowledge. It's almost always a virus causing zombification in the movies, or maybe a bacteria. But the fungus angle makes things even more interesting, as spores can do many amazing things (including survival indefinitely under harsh conditions--maybe even on a meteor in space?). Plus, the first scene of the movie practically writes itself: Teenagers get magic mushrooms. Zombification ensues. A perfect cliche beginning to a slight twist on cliche movies. Later on, you could have Dennis Quaid explain that this has been known to happen to ants in the rain forest, and he'll probably tie it in with something humans did to the environment. All nice morality tale veneers to a gory horror flick.

The ideal soundtrack would include Electric Wizard (for the opening scene) and any of the bands mentioned here, including Lich King, Bloodbath, Deaceased..., and Toxic Holocaust.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Artillery: My Blood (2011)


Despite my not being a big fan of thrash, I named When Death Comes, from reunited Danish thrashers Artillery, as one of the best albums of 2009. It was packed with aggression and instrumental prowess, necessities to the genre, as well as catchy songs like "10,000 Devils" and "The End". So of course I got their followup, My Blood.

My BloodIt still sounds like Artillery, as you might expect, with very strong playing by all members and excellent, attitude-imbued singing. And the first few songs continue the trend of good songwriting. Open "Mi Sangre" starts with a Spanish lick before going into full-bore thrash, although it is a tad confusing when they go into an Arabic/Egyptian thing in the middle. "Monster" is generic but strong, and "Dark Days" is bouncy--with an incredibly catchy chorus.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Altar of Plagues: Mammal (2011)

Altar of Plagues is a rising star in the burgeoning post-black metal scene. Their highly-anticipated second full-length, Mammal, was released last month.

MammalMuch like the terms "black metal" and "post metal" can describe any number of widely varying styles, "post-black metal" is such a woefully inadequate way to describe this style of music. Why is it only death metal gets a billion different sub-sub-genre descriptors? Altar of Plagues produces time-stretching music with depressing emotional impact. That's the key.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Exhumed: Horse

And Hell Followed With Him

Horse was a psychedelic rock band from the UK with some seriously catchy tunes and head-bobbing rhythms. They're pretty tough to find due to their not-Google-friendly moniker, but their self-titled album (released 1971) is killer. They also have some metallic elements, not just in their dark album art but also in their music. Check out opener "The Sacrifice":

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger Down, New Poll

Blogger has been down and having some problems for the last day or so. That's why some posts and comments have been disappearing and reappearing. Hopefully everything should be back to normal soon.

It's also the reason the poll I posted yesterday disappeared. I have put a new version of it up, with slightly altered language. If you voted on it before, please vote again on the new version of it.

Septicflesh: The Great Mass (2011)


So, was anyone else disappointed by Therion's past few releases? And is anyone else getting sick of how far Dimmu Borgir has fallen?

Great MassSepticflesh--and their eighth full-length The Great Mass--is the answer. These Greeks do symphonic metal the right way, using a solid core of extreme metal. In fact, the band proper sounds quite a bit like Behemoth, right down to the Nergal-like death growls. But on top of that, they add symphonic elements, including strings and choral-style vocals, and they do it in a way that blends the extreme with the symphonic like nobody has done since Death Cult Armageddon. In addition, the second vocalist adds some clean vocals, in a sense filling the ICS Vortex role in the band (although plaintive rather than dramatic).

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Roads to Judah v. Aesthetica

Roads to Judah v. Aesthethica

Hipsters have really been getting into black metal these days. I'm not quite sure what the draw is for them, but whatever it may be, they're finding their way into the more forward-thinking side of the genre, bringing far more major chords than we're used to with them. Two bands in particular have drawn my recent attention: Deafheaven and Liturgy.

When you see Deafheaven's band photo on Metal Archives, with the regular-looking guys in V-necks and button-up shirts with skateboards and a Che Guevara poster in the background, your hipster alarm should go off immediately. The cover art to their first full-length, Roads to Judah, isn't helping much either, resembling as it does the art accompanying Final Fantasy VI (formerly III in the US). Nor is the last review of it I read, which called it "extremely hip". I dared it anyway, despite my past bad experiences with post-metal, because what I heard intrigued me.