album review

When you pare things down to their essence, truths become clear. When progressive metal is put through the sieve, two common strains stand out. The vast majority of bands fit into one of two categories; those who play technical metal in the mold of Dream Theater, and those who use metal as a framework for throwing in any crazy musical bit they can come up with. That's why we have countless bands that are called Dream Theater clones, and a rising number of bands that are impossible to describe, but very few who play Fates Warning's style of progressive metal.

I suppose it was inevitable and we all should have seen it coming. In thrash’s latent, momentous revival, we’ve come up with new names to buffer the genre and kept the lion’s share of the classics alive as well. As the wave of metal resurrection continues however, studious fans will note that every facet of old thrash has been revitalized save one: we’ve been asking the question “who will be the new S.O.D?” Carrying on the legacy of the Stormtroopers of Death is a deceptively weighty task.

Danko Jones, named after the band’s lead singer, has been around for over a decade, but despite their popularity in Europe as well as their native Canada, Danko Jones has failed to make much of a splash in the United States. With quality albums like 2003’s “We Sweat Blood” and 2010’s “Below The Belt” already behind them, it’s somewhat surprising they haven’t caught on in the same way similar bands like Buckcherry and Foo Fighters have, but Jones and his band continue to press onward.

I recognize that it probably seems wildly out of place for us to be discussing a band like The Tossers in this space. They’re certainly an odd fit with the likes of all the death metal, doom and thrash we tend to concentrate on around here, and their particular blend of Irish folk combined with punk and rock doesn’t even come close to fitting into the expansive catch-all of ‘progressive.’ So what are we doing here?

Over the last few years, as the remaining remnants of melodic death metal withered on the vine, the genre as a whole began to suffer. It wasn't that the turn of the millennium strain of melodic death metal was a cultural touchstone that needed to be saved, but what replaced it didn't account for the very reason it ever existed. Melodic death metal was the bridge between those people who listen to music simply to be pounded by the loudest mash of noise possible, and those who can appreciate heavier sounds but still need to have a conventional song to wrap them in.

Death metal bands are at a disadvantage before I hear a single note of their music. Just by the nature of what they play, it's extremely difficult for any of them to stand out from the pack. Unlike every other genre, where voices and tones vary wildly, death metal is confined to a set of standards that make everyone sound more or less the same. While that's great for fans who are immersed in the music, and can pick out those small differences and magnify them, it leaves people like me weary from listening to album after album, band after band, that all blend together.

Listen to any of Buckcherry’s previous five studio albums and you get the idea they’ve done their fair share of sinning. That isn’t to say they’re promoting poor behavior, but…ok, maybe a little bit.

At this point in their lengthy career, there are a couple things about Darkthrone which are automatically true and indubitably awesome. First is that, good or bad or indifferent, Darkthrone is doing whatever the hell they want to do. Musically, this duo has moved into the rarefied air of having nothing to prove to anyone. Long gone is the corpse paint, the leather get-ups and most (but not all) of the scowling.

A few years ago, I thought we were about to experience a revival of 80's sleaze rock, to the size and scope thrash is currently seeing. Guns N Roses managed to finally put out “Chinese Democracy”, Motley Crue managed to resurrect themselves with a new album and an endless string of touring, and there were new bands like Hardcore Superstar that seemed poised to break out and become what their name already proclaimed them to be. It was that band, and in particular their song “Dreaming In A Casket” that made me believe in the sleaze renaissance.

A double album is one of the riskiest propositions in music. They are not constructed or regarded in the same manner as typical albums; not as a collection of singles surrounded by a supporting cast of others songs, but as marathon stories that must traverse the grounds of mood, message and tone. Double albums must hit multiple notes and resonate at periodic intervals. The truth that must be accepted is that no double album is perfect.