album review

I'm never sure what to think of an album when the press material that comes along with it spends most of the words talking about the artist's other career, and the collaborators who contributed to the music. Neither of those is important in the slightest to the final product, which will have to survive on its own merit. Knowing a famous name was associate with it, or that the artist once did something in a different industry that was interesting, is not going to make me think any differently of the music I'm listening to.

As we approach the end of another calendar year I find myself asking reflective questions... is it time to change my impossibly high standards and the inevitable disappointment that goes along with them to something more realistic? Do I expect too much from people? Should I just be happy with what I have or should I continue to strive for more? Is "good enough" really good enough? And what about all this new music I've been hearing?

2014 has summarily been both the year of the side project and the year of the industrial revolution (pardon my co-opting of the phrase,) so it seems remarkably apropos that the year should just about wrap up with Emigrate’s “Silent So Long,” the second side album from Rammstein’s Richard Kruspe.


It’s not all that often that I go deep-ending into prog records, and even less often that I’m interested in three-song re-mastered demos from seven years ago.  But it probably says something about Haken’s “Restoration” that we’re even here having this discussion.


Progressive metal is in a rough period right now. The old guard are either releasing sub-standard albums that only make it more obvious how far they have fallen, or they are drastically uncool with anyone who didn't become a fan when progressive metal was first being created. Progressive today tends to mean djent, a style that has sapped all the life and humanity out of music, turning metal into a math equation of time signatures, and not songs that anyone can actually remember.

There is usually a gaping chasm between the bands and albums that get critical acclaim, and those that get popular acclaim. Part of that stems from the way that critics think about music, which evolves into a pseudo-intellectual statement of one's own musical literacy. The other part is that quality rarely equates to popularity, so many records that get acclaim from people who live an breathe music are likely to go straight over the heads of the masses. Some bands are able to win on both fronts, and one of the more unusual cases has been Primordial.

So, I'm sitting in my favorite chair with a turkey sandwich in one hand and a fresh cup of coffee in the other. The album I'm reviewing this week begins to play on the hi-fi. It starts off innocuously enough with your standard thrash guitar beginning. I take a bite of my sandwich. The song kind of sounds like something Testament or Death Angel might have done back in the day. Then, 48 seconds into the album, it snaps into some killer NYC hardcore straight outta 1993. Was I shocked? Indeed. I nearly dropped my turkey sandwich.

The thrash revival that began some twelve to eighteen months ago has nearly grown stale.  What we’ve seen is a stable of bands who understand the spirit of thrash, but ignore the most effective tenets of its execution.  Speed speed speed is the diet of the day, with nary a thought given to pace and cadence and musical design.


I am a naturalist when it comes to music. When I listen to a band, I want to hear music that sounds like it's actually being played by real people. That's why the vintage resurrection has been a welcome change of pace, even if many of the bands have not figured out how to write songs as effectively as those of bygone times. The fact that they went back to organic productions that sound like the band plugged in and are playing in the same room as you is eminently appealing.

Anyone who has read these pages knows that I am not much of a fan of pure death metal. Having it mixed into more progressive sounds (a la Opeth) or played with melodic passages (a la Scar Symmetry) is just fine, but I have rarely ever sat down and played a pure death metal album end to end. That being said, there are a couple of exceptions to that rule. One of those is Bloodbath, who have shown the rare ability to make death metal that is both ferocious and catchy.