Chris C's blog

Album Review: Monsterworks - Universe

When I first heard Monsterworks' unique brand of 'super metal', it was one of the most staggering things I had heard in years. Their music sounded like the aural equivalent of putting pieces from different jigsaw puzzles together, and yet somehow ending up with a beautiful picture when you were done. “Album Of Man” is still one of the more interesting albums I have heard, on an intellectual level, and one that gave me hope that I may have found a band that could both surprise and please me.

Album Review: Slough Feg - Digital Resistance

Slough Feg is one of those bands that I should love, but just never find myself listening to. Last year I reviewed three of their early albums as they were re-released by Metal Blade, and despite how much I enjoyed “Down Among The Deadmen”, I haven't found it in regular rotation. “Ape Uprising!” is my favorite Slough Feg record, but again, I don't find myself listening to it very often. I can't explain why, since every time I do, I'm reminded of how great a band Slough Feg can be.

Album Review: Van Canto - Dawn Of The Brave

Normally, I'm not one who goes for gimmicks in music. I find them tacky, and mostly useless appendages that try to mask a band's deficiencies. Taking a cookie-cutter band and dressing them up in stupid costumes, or writing lyrics about only one subject, doesn't make them any more special. Gimmicks usually expose the band's shortcomings, because the obvious facade only draws attention to their perceived need to distract. I can think of very few bands with a gimmick who have managed to keep my interest, because a gimmick alone is going to get old after a while. Yes, even if you're GWAR.

Album Review: Caliban - Ghost Empire

Every genre goes through fallow periods, where the bit hits stop coming, and eventually people stop paying attention. After years of being one of the most visible forms of metal, metalcore had found itself in one of those valleys, with declining interest in the bands that were still waving the flag proudly. Last year, however, metalcore got a welcome surprise in he form of a reunited Killswitch Engage, which not only reminded people that metalcore was still around, but put out a legitimately great record.

Album Review: Grand Magus - Triumph And Power

When I reviewed Grand Magus' previous album, “The Hunt”, I remarked how unusual it was to experience a metal album that was actually fun to listen to. In the time since then, I have come to realize that “The Hunt” was not as well-received with most fans as it was with me, and metal being fun is a trend that has yet to catch on. For whatever reason, metal bands continue to work under the assumption that everything has to be angry, in a minor key, and put you in a terrible mood. Anything less, they think, shows weakness.

Album Review: Sister - Disguised Vultures

Music can be described using any number of words, but most of them aren't especially adept at painting a picture to represent the sound. When we call music beautiful, for instance, it can mean wildly different things, depending on who is doing the talking. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. Good and bad, heavy and light, none of these descriptions are able to convey the essence of a type of music to someone who has yet to hear it.

Album Review: Red Dragon Cartel - Red Dragon Cartel

There was a time when Jake E. Lee was on top of the world. He was a huge star while playing in Ozzy Osbourne's band, and then when he started the cult favorite Badlands. I must admit that while Jake is one of the biggest names in guitar to have emerged from the 80s, I am not familiar with most of his career. Not being a fan of Ozzy in the slightest, I couldn't tell you anything about Jake's time in that revolving door, and I have probably only heard two Badlands songs in all the time I have known of their existence.

Album Review: Transatlantic - Kaleidoscope

Rare is the occasion when a 'supergroup' lives up to the hype. Most of the time, they wind up being a collection of pieces that don't really fit together, cobbling together music that can be very good, but never matches the expectations we have built up. Transatlantic is one of those supergroups that obliterates the doubts I have over such projects. After a debut that showed promise, but was a band obviously finding their way, they released back-to-back modern classics in the form of “Bridge Across Forever” (my favorite prog album of all time), and the immense “The Whirlwind”.

Album Review: Scythia - ...Of Conquest

The thing I love about self-proclaimed progressive music is that I never know what to expect. After listening to enough albums, it gets to the point where it's not hard to see where bands are going (especially new bands) after a couple of songs. They rarely change direction, and far too many bands these days play every song in the same tempo, with the same feel, and with the same tones. Eventually, it all blends together into one big song, and it almost never turns out to be a strength.

The Top Ten Albums Of 2013

This year has been one of remarkable depth. While every year features a few select albums I love dearly, not many have a wealth of others I would feel bad about neglecting. Often, by the time I get to the tenth slot on my list, I'm struggling to find choices that I feel passionately about. I'm not sure if that's an indictment of the quality of most releases, or a statement as to my particular taste. So the fact that this year I did not have to struggle to find albums to mention, but had to carefully consider which ones would make the last few slots, is a bit of a strange turn of events. Really good albums from newcomers like Witherscape and Caligula's Horse narrowly missed out on inclusion, and veterans Fates Warning put out their best album ever, again narrowly missing out on making the list. Leaving them out was a tough call, as was not being able to place Avantasia's latest album somewhere on the list. Avantasia is usually a sure winner in my book, so not finding them on the list is the single biggest surprise of the year.

Before we commence, I want to hand out some awards:

Label Of The Year: Inside Out

In what was another strong year for progressive music, no label did a better job of delivering it than Inside Out, who led the way with three albums in my Top Ten, not to mention the very good Fates Warning album that almost made the cut. It was a banner year for the label, and 2014 looks to once again be strong for them, with a new Transatlantic album leading my most anticipated releases list.

Best Album I Shouldn't Have Enjoyed But Did: Carcass – Surgical Steel

I'm not a death metal guy, which I've said more than once. But every so often there is an album of that kind that I can enjoy and appreciate because it transcends the usual standards. Carcass had done that before with their legendary “Heartwork”, and come close to doing it again with “Surgical Steel”. Clearly, this was the best extreme metal album of the year.

Best Newcomer (not made up of well known musicians): One Second Hotel

Here's a little band I caught wind of through a passing recommendation, and I'm glad I did. Their debut EP is available as a free download from their website, and it's definitely worth checking out. They mix modern heavy metal and progressive tinges with striking melody. I'm very hopeful for what a full-length album from them will sound like. If these songs are any indication, they have a world of potential.

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