heavy metal

Normally, I'm not one who goes for gimmicks in music. I find them tacky, and mostly useless appendages that try to mask a band's deficiencies. Taking a cookie-cutter band and dressing them up in stupid costumes, or writing lyrics about only one subject, doesn't make them any more special. Gimmicks usually expose the band's shortcomings, because the obvious facade only draws attention to their perceived need to distract. I can think of very few bands with a gimmick who have managed to keep my interest, because a gimmick alone is going to get old after a while. Yes, even if you're GWAR.

I'm not one to actively seek out so-called "symphonic metal" bands but if I were Holland is the first place I'd start looking. I am part Dutch on my maternal Grandfather's side but I've never been to Holland. My question is "what in the world is happening over there?". A word of warning to the rest of the world - If you're thinking about getting into the symphonic metal game, you've got your work cut out for you. The Dutch metal band Within Temptation has nailed it with their latest album "Hydra".

In 1991 in Poland, Behemoth was formed. Capitalizing on the momentum and popularity of Venom and learning from the mistakes of Mayhem, Behemoth became the logical extension of Venom’s musical trend – more expressive, more visceral, darker and dirtier. Behemoth also became the answer to an intellectual question about metal – how far down this path can we go? How scary and vulgar can metal be and still attract an audience? For years, Nergal and his compatriots answered that call and laid claim to the throne of extreme metal in Europe.

Every genre goes through fallow periods, where the bit hits stop coming, and eventually people stop paying attention. After years of being one of the most visible forms of metal, metalcore had found itself in one of those valleys, with declining interest in the bands that were still waving the flag proudly. Last year, however, metalcore got a welcome surprise in he form of a reunited Killswitch Engage, which not only reminded people that metalcore was still around, but put out a legitimately great record.

I really enjoy discovering new music, both from bands who have been around for a while and bands who are just starting out. Finding a band at the start of their career and following them as they ride the wave that is the music business is incredibly rewarding for me. Not to brag (well, maybe just a little) but I had the good fortune of hearing 311 (remember them?), Korn and Kid Rock before they hit the big time. This week I was given the opportunity to review the latest album from Denver's own Red Tide Rising.

At first blush, MaYaN’s new album “Antagonise” seems like an exercise in formulaic death metal with some melodic tangents, not so different from Soilwork, Susperia, Hypocrisy and a million different also-rans. Do yourself a favor; don’t let the first blush be your only consumption of MaYaN. There’s a lot more going on here than the initial impact alludes to.

When I reviewed Grand Magus' previous album, “The Hunt”, I remarked how unusual it was to experience a metal album that was actually fun to listen to. In the time since then, I have come to realize that “The Hunt” was not as well-received with most fans as it was with me, and metal being fun is a trend that has yet to catch on. For whatever reason, metal bands continue to work under the assumption that everything has to be angry, in a minor key, and put you in a terrible mood. Anything less, they think, shows weakness.

Do you like dirty, filthy, skanky rock and roll? Do you like it with a taste of Southern rock marinated in sex, drugs, drinking and debauchery? Then I think you're going to like "Up The Dosage", the latest album from Grammy nominated rockers Nashville Pussy.

Before we get too far down the rabbit hole with Hammercult’s “Steelcrusher,” let’s take a minute to appreciate the art in front of us. Take a look at that album cover. If you click on it, it’ll show full size. Have you ever seen something so masterful? That album cover, which like a certain rug tying the room together is made whole by the prominent middle finger in the middle of the image, is among the greatest iconography in heavy metal. No joke.

Music can be described using any number of words, but most of them aren't especially adept at painting a picture to represent the sound. When we call music beautiful, for instance, it can mean wildly different things, depending on who is doing the talking. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. Good and bad, heavy and light, none of these descriptions are able to convey the essence of a type of music to someone who has yet to hear it.