album review

Going the road by yourself in the music world is an admirable goal, but one that is difficult to obtain. The digital marketplace of the modern millennium makes the DIY journey more palatable, but it remains obtrusively difficult to break through in the absence of a record label; their finances, marketing power and presence can do a lot for an artist.

Anette Olzon was, like many singers before her, put into an impossible situation. Replacing a unique and beloved vocalist is next to impossible, especially when the band in question does nothing to help the cause. Anette seemed like an odd choice to join Nightwish after Tarja's departure, and her two records with the band offered mixed results. There were flashes of brilliance, but they were obscured by a band that wrote songs without realizing they had a different voice singing them, which did no favors to either side.

Heads up, fans of early 90's metal. Prong is back with a new album. But before we get to just how awesome the new album is (sorry for the spoiler), I have my very own, albeit unexciting to anyone but me, Prong story.

We've talked about this before, but watching a band evolve and grow is one of the preeminent perks of being a music fan. When an artist adds a few pieces to each successive effort, the feeling as a listener is one of encouragement - you inherently want to see that artist turn the corner from being a talented band that hasn't quite put it together to a unified force. Tennessee's Whitechapel has managed to improve on each album, and so fans and media alike were hopeful for this new record "Our Endless War".

Certain images come to mind when you think of dark, heavy, doom-laden metal. None of those involve two blonde women tapping into the seedy side of music for their inspirations. We've come to be conditioned to think of certain people in certain roles, and there's a disconnect that occurs when our conventional wisdom is breached. It can be uncomfortable, and it often leads us to second-guessing in times we normally wouldn't be prone to such things, but it can also open our minds to new possibilities.

Emmure is one of those bands people love to hate. While a quick scouring of the internet seems to suggest that straight-up nobody likes this band, the pertinent truth is that somebody must, because Frankie Palmeri and company continue to release music. Somewhere out there, Emmure means something, and their persistence in the face of a continual stream of vitriol is worth investigating. So, with that in mind, we tackle the new album, “Eternal Enemies.”

How's this for a heavy metal story - a band works on an album at their own studio for the better part of a year and, just as they near completion, the studio burns and destroys most of the contents. One of the few surviving items are the master tapes of the album. This is what happened to Gamma Ray and the tapes that made it through the fire became their latest offering, "Empire of the Undead". It makes sense, though. Everyone knows metal cannot be destroyed by fire.

Every now and again, we need an album like this. A concise record that isn’t particularly concerned with technicality or image and instead seeks only to slake our thirst for the base impulses of metal as we know it. Anti-Mortem’s “New Southern,” the debut record from the band hailing from Oklahoma, hangs its hat on the idea that metal burns brightest in the furious furnace of the heart more than the unchained imagination of the mind.

The thing about concept albums that often gets forgotten is that both the artist and the listener have to truly be invested in the story for the album to work as intended. Without that sincerity, they amount to nothing more than bloated albums that use art as a means of excusing their weaknesses. When a bad idea comes along, like writing a double concept album about a mystic charlatan who was the medieval equivalent of a carnival huckster sitting in front of a crystal ball (yes, I'm talking about “Nostradamus”), there is no hope of the album ever overcoming the subject matter.

Triptykon’s debut full-length record from 2010 “Eparistera Daimones,” was a confused affair, even though it was greeted with unqualified praise from the reviewing universe. It lacked direction, rambled on in random progressions, and never established a musical purpose beyond trying to cram as much force-fed anguish into the product as possible.