album reviews

At the risk of sounding like a press release, John Garcia has managed to carve himself out a unique niche in the music world solely by being among the progenitors of his chosen style. Beginning with Kyuss and continuing through Slo Burn and then with Vista Chino, Garcia is a prominent face on the Mount Rushmore of desert music, whether it be called desert rock or desert metal.

For more than a decade, Otep Shamaya has played several parts in the metalsphere: rebel, lightning rod, provocateur. With no readily apparent sign of that train slowing down, it comes as a minor shock that this pillar of unbridled feminine ferocity would announce that “Hydra,” her band’s forthcoming album, will be the sunset of her musical career.

Not so long ago on these very pages, I remember thinking that Sister Sin’s “True Sound of the Underground” was far too calculating for its own good, attempting to capitalize on the broad and easy target of teenage angst without really offering a solution or an alternative. It was a highly marketable album, but one that failed resonate for anyone of college age or greater.

There’s something about German power metal that sets it wide apart from all other manifestations of heavy metal; it is even different than the power metal from other European nations. The strong identity of Germany’s entry into the genre seems to be brewed from a combination of that country’s robust tales of yore and musical idiom inexorably entwined with baroque and opera.

As a reviewer and music journalist, sometimes the toughest task is to remain impartial and objective about a new project that slides across your desk. I’ve run into this conundrum a handful of times, where I thought I already knew that a band would be great or reprehensible; it’s hard to stifle your natural inclination and judge something on its own merits.

After the release of the comparatively successful “Root of All Evil,” it became evident from the fans’ clawing that they wanted new material from Arch Enemy, and they wanted it fast. That album’s re-recordings of early AE songs was a fun romp, but only served to whet the crowd’s appetite.

So, “Khaos Legions” comes barreling out of the din, the first new studio material from the band since 2007’s “Rise of the Tyrant” which landed to generally positive but ultimately mixed reviews.

Under normal circumstances, when someone hears the words “Swedish band” and “graveyard” used in conjunction, it generally portends a musical world of spiked bracelets, corpse paint and songs about demons.

In this case, that summary estimation couldn’t be farther from the truth. Graveyard’s debut “Hisingen Blues” is one of the finest blues-rock albums this year, despite coming from perhaps the least likely source.

Over all the years, projects, lineups, albums and EPs, Chris Reifert has become nothing if not the picture of consistency. Reunited with original Autopsy members Danny Coralles and Eric Cutler, and joined by Joe Trevisano of Abscess, Autopsy has released “Macabre Eternal,” the band’s latest unapologetic assault on musical convention, trend and quite possibly good taste.

Huh. *shrug*

That’s my reaction to Gallhammer’s new album, “The End.” Cut down from three members to two after the departure of Mika Penetrator, the all-girl Japanese metal band has set out to try and push the boundaries of black and doom metal.

What’s become clear about Gallhammer over their existence is that front woman Vivian Slaughter does not give a damn about image, convention or traditional roles. She and the band are much more preoccupied with musical atmosphere and trolling the deep corners and shadowy depths of doom metal.

Red Fang’s sophomore effort “Murder the Mountains” is a wonderfully experimental, anything-goes affair that approaches the mores of kick-ass rock and roll with open eyes and robust vitality.

A product of musically oft-overlooked Portland, Oregon, Red Fang inked a deal with reprise Records, and was immediately paired with known producer Chris Funk. Funk’s previous experience with the Decemberists raises some eyebrows, but his steady hand makes a difference on the overall consistency of “Murder the Mountains” without changing the music’s intent.