album review

Perhaps the most depressing aspect of being a fan of metal in this day and age is seeing how 'fun' has become a dirty word. When reading through the lists of bands that are popular with both the people and the critics, they tend to have one thing in common; they're miserable. Metal today is a drab, colorless world in which everything has to be dark, ugly, and consumed with the depths of suffering. There is no place in the mainstream for rock or metal music that remembers that music isn't life and death, that we're allowed to have fun, and listen to songs that make us want to sing along.

So, there I am, listening to the newest album from Australian "progressive" metal band Voyager, "V", and my first thought is, "Did Duran Duran come back as an Australian progressive metal band?". Honestly, that was my first impression. I wasn't sure what was I getting in to? As I listened on, however, I realized what I was hearing was not your average heavy metal album. And it was not Duran Duran.

Seriously, the vocals of Daniel Estrin sound a lot like Simon LeBon from Duran Duran so I was not surprised when Voyager's own promotional material made the same comparison.

Arch Enemy is one of those bands whose career can be broken down into segments and viewed individually by vocalist. It all began with Johan Liiva, the grating grunter who teamed up with the brothers Arnott and brought the band to worldwide fame. Liiva’s tenure was characterized largely by noise, as Arch Enemy blended black and death metal with the heady tradition of European twin guitars.

Bands from all around the world have attempted to blend their cultural identities with that of the standard metal sound, but not all of the efforts have been successful. Many of the Scandinavian bands have found success fusing their dark folk music with metal's bombast and power, while bands like Angra and Sepultura have married tribal rhythms to the pounding beat of metal. These efforts have worked, because the culture they have added to the mix bolstered an element of the metal sound that already existed.

Before we get started, look at this album cover. There's an old saying, "You can't judge a book by it's cover" or, in the case of musical offerings, you can't judge a record by it's sleeve. Some of the best looking albums have absolutely nothing of value inside and, sometimes, the most bizarre record jackets have the greatest music you've ever heard in them. And that brings us to the latest album from Bloody Hammer, "Under Satan's Sun".

Full disclosure – I am a longtime fan of Powerman 5000, beginning waaaaay back in the “True Force” days. That probably makes me more forgiving than some.

Every so often, there comes along a record that reminds us that music is more than a mere commodity, that it can stand for something and make a real difference in people's lives. That usually takes the form of social commentary, or deeply emotional songs that buttress people in their darkest moments, but there's a small collection of music out there that has been made for the purposes of giving back. These are the sorts of things we should celebrate more often, instead of the latest veteran band going through the motions simply to prime the money pumps.

Let’s be serious here – if you were told to write down what you thought the combined sound of Soulfly, Mastodon, the Mars Volta and the Dillinger Escape Plan would be, what are the words that come to mind? Irascible, scratchy, virile, pummeling, cacophonous, noisy, and a thousand synonyms.

Let's play a little word association game. I'll say a word and you say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready? Swedish. Now, you might have replied with "meatballs", "fish" of "chef" but what comes to my mind lately when I hear the word Swedish is "death metal". The Swedish people sure do love their death metal. And this week we've got another example with the band Miasmal.

When last we heard from Sabaton, they were a band in a state of flux. “Carolus Rex” was the last statement of a band that was fracturing, a dividing line that will make clear what constituted the Sabaton sound all these years. The band split apart, with the majority of the instrumentalists forming the lackluster Civil War, and singer Joakim Broden keeping the Sabaton tradition alive. Band politics are often juicy fodder for the tabloid aspect of our world, but they mean nothing to the music, which is the only thing that should matter.