album review

One of the questions that has long puzzled me as a music fan is to what degree an artist's standing as an innovator and genre-definer should be incorporated into their legacy. While being the first to travel down a certain path does necessitate a historical remembrance of that person's efforts, it doesn't mean that the work done to blaze that trail is worth remembering.

An awful lot of noise. That’s the first gut reaction to “Bloodstreams,” the new full-length album from Australian do-it-all duo DZ Deathrays. For just two people, this is a full-bore effort, ripped from the core of punk’s heart and rock and roll’s soul.

Brendon Small’s “Galaktikon” is as much a story about finishing what you started as it is the divorce of the galaxy’s most popular superhero. Halfway invested prior to the recording of “Dethalbum II,” Small shelved this ad-hoc unfinished project until such a time as he could return to it and complete it. From that end, “Galaktikon” is anything but a typical vanity project, and shows not only Small’s dedication to his artistic exploration, but also his loyalty to Gene Hoglan and the musicians who helped him create it. He doesn’t want their work to be for nothing.

Mainstream rock has been a forgotten son of the metal family for almost as long as I have been aware of the music. Ever since the grunge explosion (the merits of grunge even being a definable sub-genre not withstanding), the singles that populate rock radio have had immeasurable influence from the bands that came out of Seattle. The post-grunge movement, as it became known, is known most of all for two things; bands that prefer angst to any other expression of emotion, and a wave of productions that made the bands indistinguishable from one another.

What seems like a lifetime ago in 2003, I remember doing a music news report for my college radio station detailing how Cattle Decapitation had announced that their upcoming album, to be released in 2004, was to be called "Humanure." Little did I know that nine years later, Cattle Decapitation would not only evolve into a real thing, but would still be making music for a prominent label.

Certain styles of music seem incompatible with long careers. Death metal is high on that list, with the focus on brutality and shredded vocal chords standing at odds with the rigors of aging. If it's true that people tend to mellow with age, it would stand to reason that death metal would not be populated by elder statesmen. Yet it seems to be that conventional wisdom, once again, is wrong. Death metal finds itself seeped in figures from the early days still cranking out new music.

Fewer things test the patience of a rock or metal fan more than hearing the word 'pop' used to describe the music they love. Is it a stereotype? Yes, but not without merit. Rock and metal fans love their music for the power and aggression, the aspects that keep their favorite bands from breaking into the mainstream in almost every case. When they hear the word 'pop' come from a reviewer, or a press release, there's fear dripping from their pores. Pop music is for teenagers and people who never had the good taste to discover Led Zeppelin, not for tenured fans of 'real music'.

Allegaeon took the internet reviewing world fairly by storm with their heady debut "Fragments of Form and Function" in 2010. Critics saw an aggressive but honest extreme metal band, tap-dancing on the boundary between noise and craft. 2012 sees the band follow up with "Formshifter," an album that takes cues both visual and musical from the latest incarnation of heavy metal stalwarts Fear Factory. While commonly seen as European, extreme metal is mostly a shared invention of countries on both sides of the Pond, with Allegaeon simply carrying the torch for those before.

What does a progressive metalcore musician do with their down time? For most, the answer is to start another death metal band and continue making and playing their favorite style of music for as long as they can. Band-hopping and side-projects are not a new thing, nor a bad thing, and they aren't going away anytime soon. They don't often hold the kind of interest they should, because they rarely extend beyond being a continuation of the artists' main project.

Recent years have been awkward for power metal and its fans. Guitar Hero opened the door for a renaissance of the genre, with Dragonforce making it cool to play happy, major-key metal. Despite the opportunity being presented, the genre has instead seen countless bands taking a turn away from tradition, injecting large doses of classic metal and hard rock into their sound. Always unappreciated in the eyes of most metal fans, the bands did little to take advantage of their chance in the spotlight, ironically by moving in more commercial directions.