Friday, June 28, 2013

Five Albums That Changed My Life


"[T]ell us about the five albums that changed your life," says Islander. It sounds like the kind of question an amateur interviewer would ask. Because it's exactly the kind of question most people want the answer to. After I read the original post over at No Clean Singing, my first thought was to whip up a quick list and blast it out there in the comment form. But the question deserves more thought than that.

This isn't, "What are your five favorite albums?" That's pertinent information, yes. But it only tells of current taste. It doesn't tell you anything deeper. But this question asks for your history, your personality, your memories. It invites you to tell a story.

I've already done a thorough explanation of every aspect of my metal history, but how many people are going to read all of that? This breaks it down into something a little more digestible, in chronological order based on when it changed my life.

1. Metallica: Metallica (1991)

8th grade. Sleepover at my friend's house. He wanted me to hear his dad's tape, but he didn't think we were supposed to be listening to it. The first heavy chord of "Enter Sandman" forever changed me from the kind of person who did not care about music in the slightest to the kind of person who would eventually write several album reviews a week. I really can't overstate the impact this had on me. It was the first CD I ever bought, and while I don't hold it in such high regard today, nothing will ever be more significant.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Toxic Holocaust: From the Ashes of Nuclear Destruction (2013)


Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Hmmm. I am not quite sure why I am reviewing this. I did not realize it at first until listening to it for the first time that this is a compilation rather than a full-length release. I realized it finally when I kept thinking to myself "I know I have heard this song before". I guess it helps to pay attention occasionally.

Anyway, I am a big fan of Toxic Holocaust so even though this is a compilation, I enjoyed listening to it. This is a collection of tracks off of EPs and splits that the band has done over the years. Toxic Holocaust has a lot of music out there and this puts together some of the rarer tracks for easier consumption. That is what a good compilation does after all.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Vestiges / Panopticon: Vestiges / Panopticon (2013)

Splitting Vinyl

The Flenser is always out there giving it away for free in the hopes that people will feel compelled to buy the vinyl. It seems to be working out well for them. Among those releases is a Colin Marston-mastered split from Kentucky’s Panopticon and D.C.’s Vestiges.

Panopticon released the phenomenal Kentucky last year, earning the number three spot on my end-of-year list with a brilliant combination of black metal, Appalachian folk, and miner protest songs. Vestiges, on the other hand, doesn’t even have a Metal Archives page, so I went into that one blind.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Impiety: The Impious Crusade (EP 2013)


The esteemed Metallattorney should be writing this review. He’s written about them several times. In 2009 he wrote, “Impiety has been one of the most extreme, powerful bands in underground metal for years.” And I pretty much operate on the assumption that he wants to hear everything from Hells Headbangers. Because it’s completely within his realm of expertise, and he’s expressed such admiration for them, first dibs on anything from Impiety should have, by all rights, gone to Metallattorney.

I guess he just did too good a job at selling them. He hasn’t sold me a lemon for the better part of a decade, and Impiety is no exception to that winning streak.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Kylesa: Ultraviolet (2013)


The first time I heard the Pixies was at the end of Fight Club, and I didn’t find out the band’s name until about a year later. In other words, I was barely aware that there was such a thing as indie rock in the 90’s. Growing up in a tiny town in northeast Nebraska, I didn’t know anyone who listened to it, although I suspect my hipster cousin (who went to school in the nearby tiny city) was probably aware of it. Hell, I’m still barely aware of what indie rock is. I’ve listened to The Mountain Goats and sometimes hear whatever indie band-of-the-moment is on Letterman or some TV commercial, but that’s about it. I think Coldplay might have something to do with this conversation, but I don’t know. If you do know, and you think the references I’m making are completely off base, then all the better.

When people say that the Kylesa of today sounds like 90’s indie rock, I have only the vaguest idea what that means. It sounds right from what very little I’ve heard, but my exploring that angle would be disingenuous, asinine, and a complete waste of time. Instead, I’ll just say that I love the new Kylesa. They’re not the best metal band out there, but they are certainly one of the most unique and interesting.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Plant a Tree

I love to landscape at my house. To plant a tree and watch it thrive--there are few things better in this world. At my house I've planted a dozen or so trees and numerous bushes, and undertaken an erosion-reducing engineering project, among many other things. Our neighborhood has been in existence for 8 years, but I don't think it's an exaggeration to say we've done more landscaping in the 13 months we've lived here than anyone else has done in all that time, with the possible exception of one young childless couple. We certainly have more trees than anyone else. We even owned another house in the neighborhood for 4 years, and we've done more here than we did there.

There is still more to be done.

To work with your hands and see the concrete fruits of your labor is a wonderful thing. In our modern society there are few jobs where that can be done, and that's a shame. Who takes pride in doing one small piece of a larger puzzle? Who can stand doing work if it is work that can never be complete, that needs to be done over again every single day?

If you've never done it before, or it's been a while, you need to plant a tree. Watch it grow and thrive. It is one of the greatest things you can do in this world.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sidhe: She Is a Witch (2012)

Lacuna Mass

Around 2005, there was a time that I was really into female-fronted gothic metal. I devoured as much Nightwish and Lacuna Coil as I could find. (Don’t laugh. I heard about the stuff you were listening to.) It was a phase I outgrew quickly, but there are a handful of tracks from either band that I wouldn’t mind hearing again.

Italy’s Sidhe brings up a lot of those associations, at least with respect to Lacuna Coil. The singing style, and plenty of the music (like the riff which opens "She Is a Witch"), bears a strong resemblance to Lacuna Coil. But it also owes a good deal to Candlemass, in many other places (like “Witchcraft Way”).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Man's Gin: Rebellion Hymns (2013)

Doggamn, Don’t Let It Go

Any time you read the words “dark Americana” on this blog, you can blame Man’s Gin. Sure, I’ve always liked acoustic-electric material on the order of Alice in Chains Unplugged going back to my teenage years, but Smiling Dogs is the album that sent me down this rabbit hole. It’s the reason I listen to things like Steve Von Till, Dax Riggs, and Wovenhand nearly as much as I listen to Suffocation, Darkthrone, and Evoken.

Rebellion Hymns is the long-awaited follow-up to Smiling Dogs, and it is well worth the wait. Not only does it continue in the dark rock/country/folk of its predecessor, it builds on it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Solothus: Summoned from the Void (2013)

A Band to Watch

I reviewed the demo from Finland’s Solothus at the end of 2011, declaring them “a band to watch.” The record was straight-forward, simple death/doom but with a lot of great things going for it. There is just something special about certain metal demos.

Now the band is signed to Memento Mori and they’ve unleashed their debut proper, Summoned from the Void. They’ve kept a lot of what you could hear on the demo: dynamic tempos from slow to mid-paced and back again, hefty death growls, and a caveman level of sophistication, to name a few. But they departed significantly from their demo in at least two key respects, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Amon Amarth: Deceiver of the Gods (2013)

We March Again to Reach Valhalla’s Mighty Royal Gates

This would be the second entirely unnecessary review in as many weeks. Instead of writing a typical review, I considered writing a vignette of a Viking battle scene. At the thought of inviting such a direct comparison between my words and the experience of hearing Amon Amarth, I decided against that option.

Deceiver of the Gods is the eighth full-length record from the mighty Amon Amarth. They only need one more to have as many albums as there are homeworlds in Norse cosmology. If you’ve got any of their previous seven records you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. If you don’t have any of their previous seven, you need to buy this one, buy another one, or get the Hel out of here. There’s not another way. If you don’t love Amon Amarth, then you can’t claim to be a metalhead.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Comedy Button

Oh, Boy

I already told you about Roderick on the Line. That is an incredible podcast, and I think anyone who reads this blog would enjoy it. But that is not the only podcast I listen to.

I can't give The Comedy Button the same sweeping endorsement, because I don't think it will appeal to all of you. There are occasional Motörhead references. Their regular sponsor makes earbuds, which they specifically assure you can be used for listening to Ronnie James Dio. But there is very little that's metal about it.

Instead, it reminds me of the kind of guys I would have hung out with in college. They are all about my age (born circa 1980-1985) and were all video game nerds when they were growing up. One of them is practically a living caricature of a video game nerd. But it's important to note (I think) that they almost never talk about video games. They're more likely to talk about porn or booze, or joke about 9/11. They have the right cultural references, the right sense of humor, and they're all professional writers, so they know how to tell a story.

Sometimes I have to shake my head at them, but I love these guys.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Author & Punisher: Women & Children (2013)

What Is This? Does It Matter

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

I like the Crystal Method. I can shake my ass and nod my head to it. It’s electronic, but it’s large. It’s dance music but it’s excessive. It’s also kind of heavy. It’s got atmosphere – maybe not a metal type of atmosphere, but there’s a presence to the music that gets my attention. Maybe there’s not a lot of substance to it but there’s good songs there. I’m not really sure what type of music it is, but that doesn’t matter. It’s good and I want to listen to it.

I’m not really sure what kind of music Author & Punisher is, but I’m also not really sure it matters. The question is whether it’s any good and do I want to listen to it. At first I didn’t. I gave it a once-through and wasn’t really captivated or even interested. But then I played it again. And I got a bit more interested.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Goatess: Goatess (2013)

Born Again

Lord Vicar is easily one of the most underrated metal bands out there right now, creating traditional doom metal on the same level as The Gates of Slumber. A big part of their appeal is the vocal talent of Chritus, who sounds a little bit like Ozzy with a much fuller voice. So, when I found out Chritus had his own solo project, I had to check it out.

Goatess is said to be an outlet for Chritus’s “desire to create music that is based on atmosphere and the worship of the heavy riff, as opposed to the strictly structured doom metal of Lord Vicar,” according to the promo materials. That’s true, there is quite a bit of Sleep in the way they create memorable, ultra-heavy riffs and then ride them until the riff is tapped out. Opener “Know Your Animal” is the perfect example. But there is more to it than just that.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Dillinger Escape Plan: One of Us Is the Killer (2013)

Everybody’s Got One . . .

A new release by The Dillinger Escape Plan is, at this point, not really an opportunity to write an album review. Not a necessary one, anyway. The event is essentially the catalyst for everyone to voice their already well-established and strongly-held opinions, which fall into one of three camps. One, the people who don’t get it and don’t care. Two, the people who think they were great at Calculating Infinity but they began to suck more than any other band, ever. Three—and this is where I’ve pitched my tent—the people who love what they’ve been doing for approximately the last decade.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Grime: Deteriorate (2013)

I’m Nerding Out

Until about ten years ago, I was an avid player of Magic: The Gathering. (Every time you learn something new about me, I seem even cooler, right?) Swamps play a prominent role in the game, fueling spells centered around decay and the undead. In the last expansion I committed to, the setting was a world of metal, where the swamps brimmed with acid and belched caustic gas.

Grime belongs there, in the Mephidross of Mirrodin. As when I reviewed their debut EP, I still can’t believe these guys are from a port city in the foothills of northern Italy, so I’m going with the only account which makes any sense, even if it does involve a fictional place.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Call Your Sibling

I've been in a mood.

It's weird how a mind can work. My wife was getting Neapolitan ice cream for the kids, and my mind wandered to her dislike of dairy mixed with fruit. It then went on to her dislike of sweetened meat, and then to mincemeat pie. The last time I talked to my brother, he was talking about how he made mincemeat pie, and was thinking about bringing some to our Christmas get-together.

I wasn't too receptive to the idea. So now I wondered, was my reaction one of the many small things that put him over the edge?

He gave us a corkscrew willow tree last summer. I thought it was dead, but it's sprouted some suckers. Maybe one of them can grow into a real tree.

My oldest son wasn't getting along with his little brother the other day. I told him he should be happy to have a little brother. It's a very special thing.

Call your sibling, if you have one, and they're still living. Talk with them. Don't take a great thing in your life for granted.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Inter Arma: Sky Burial (2013)

Writ of Heavius Corpses (TM)

Wherein joanismylover takes issue with one of my reviews.

The issue on appeal is whether Inter Arma, as evidenced on Sky Burial, is “boldly combining influences in new ways, or do they lack identity?”*  The rule applicable is whether the release kicks enough ass to make the listener say, “Whoa, this some good fuckin’ shit.” (hereinafter “the kick ass good shit rule”).** Respondent argues in essence that the length of the release, combined with its allegedly mis-placed acoustic interludes and discordant influences present a confused but potential-laden release.  We granted this writ because it presents an issue of first impression – i.e. significant disagreement between FMA and joanismylover.  Because real-party at interest – Inter Arma – despite some minor mis-steps, ultimately satisfy kick ass good shit rule, joanismylover will, as explained below, give Sky Burial an improved rating.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Lux Interna: There Is Light in the Body, There Is Blood in the Sun (2013)

There Is Neurosis in the Wovenhand

If you’re sick of my talking about dark Americana and want me to stick to the death metal, you can stop reading this review right now. If you’re eagerly waiting for the next recommendation, or just morbidly curious, Lux Interna should be next on your list.

I have not heard this band before. From my written and audio research I think it’s fair to say they’re a neofolk band, though nothing so light and airy as Amber Asylum. With There Is Light in the Body, There Is Blood in the Sun it seems they’ve done the same transformation Wovenhand took on their most recent release: They decided to make dark Americana heavy, weaving in a thick layer of bass and touches of electric guitar.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Volbeat: Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies (2013)


For something like five years, I’ve been saying Volbeat should be big in the U.S. There is absolutely no reason they shouldn’t have the same status as the biggest bands to straddle that line between heavy metal and hard rock, like Godsmack and Disturbed (and yes, that those are the names I picked betrays my age).

I’ve also been defending their metal cred for just as long. But at my most recent opportunity to do that (a recent Opeth show), my defense was a less than zealous one. That’s because I had been listening to the band’s fourth release, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies. In contrast to previous albums, it’s tough to pick out more than a couple spots where they sound like a metal band.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Lair of the Minotaur: Godslayer (EP 2013)

More, Please

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

I have been a big fan of Lair of the Minotaur since I first heard their War Metal Battle Master album. Since then I have been able to track down most of their releases. LotM have not released a new full-length since 2010. I suspect this short EP was released to keep the fans happy while continuing to wait for the new release. This EP was released as part of this year's Record Store Day, an event which I have unfortunately never been able to attend as I do not live within two hours of any independent record store.