album review

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.

You know, there was a time when beards were a rarity in the world of heavy metal music. Lots of hair, leather and spikes but facial hair was pretty hard to come by back in the day. Scott Ian of Anthrax developed some impressive chin whiskers and Kerry King of Slayer grew himself a mighty goatee. Nowadays, a formidable beard goes part and parcel with the heaviest of heavy metal and helping to sustain that trend is UK band Krokodil, who's modus operandi is "mostly beards and riffs".

Australia has a long and proud musical history, both in terms of bands who have come from there and bands who have gone there to play.  The people of Australia are clearly in full support of the musical arts, particularly rock and extending into metal.  Still, for all that exposure and support, death metal is rarely thought of as a genre born Down Under.  Set to try and break that stereotype is Hadal Maw, a fast-rising death quintet hailing from Melbourne.

 

If I didn't know any better, by listening to enough heavy music, I would swear that the gods of rock and roll are the same ones worshiped by the Vikings. Rarely have there been songs written about the Greek and Roman gods, not that they didn't have some twisted stories that could make for interesting heavy metal, but something about the Norse has made them to go-to deities for metal bands. Skálmöld takes up their heritage, as many others have, with a bombastic style that pays tribute to those gods, while making us all feel a little bit more like an avenging warrior along the way.

Metal bands are cannibalistic. I don't say that in the sense of a Cannibal Corpse lyric, but in the sense that it's hard to find new metal bands popping up that don't have members of already established bands in them. It seems like practically everyone plays in three or four bands, which is great for fans of those players, but not so much when it means every band begins to sound even more like every other band. The members of Asphyx have been guilty of this, populating their main band, along with Hail Of Bullets and Grand Supreme Blood Court, and now Soulburn.

After years of quiet (and some would argue disquiet,) from the collected musicians that made up KYUSS, there’s been a huge burst of productivity in the last eighteen months.  First, Vista Chino, which is essentially the pioneers of desert rock under another name released their ‘debut’ album “Peace,” to rave reviews.  Earlier this year, vocalist John Garcia released his self-titled record and now Brant Bjork returns with another band and has released a record under the banner of “Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band.”