heavy metal

The world of progressive metal is pretty insular, so when a band makes a splash, it's hard not to hear about it. Vangough was able to do that with their first two albums, the acclaimed “Manikin Parade” and “Kingdom Of Ruin”, albums I must say I never got around to checking out as fully as I should have. I heard the praise coming from all corners, but for whatever reason, I never managed to hear more than a song or two at a time. Album number three is now upon us, once again attracting a flurry of critical adulation, and this time I'm not going to let the band pass me by again.

Formerly an innovator in the world of hardcore, Boysetsfire frontman and general humanist Nathan Gray is dipping his toes into the pool of heavy metal. He's banded together with musicians of varied talents and backgrounds to create I Am Heresy, a band that is nearly certain to raise eyebrows with their ideology and unique blend of musical concepts. With their brand new record "Thy Will" bursting for release, Nathan took some time out of his schedule to sit down and talk about his band, his record, his passions, organized religion and social change as we know it. Equal parts thoughtful and provocative, read the transcript below:

When last we saw Sonata Arctica, the veteran band was in the midst of rebuilding their legacy, after a detour that alienated a large portion of their fan base. That record was a step in the right direction, but not one that was up to the standard that everyone has set for the band. For every great song they wrote, there was a ridiculous attempt at pop stardom, or a banjo-infused number that made little sense. By this point, Sonata Arctica has spent almost as much time rebuilding their credibility as they did establishing it in the first place.

Two years ago Shear introduced the world to their debut full-length, “Breaking the Stillness,” which showcased the Finnish band as a band worth watching into the future. Two years later, the band releases “Katharis” to the world, the anticipated follow up that will put more cement in the band’s foundation and establish what trail they are attempting to blaze.

Have you ever found an album that changed your life or, at least, changed the way you listen to music? An album so good that, when it ends, you just can't wait to play it again from the beginning? So have I. Unfortunately, "Napalm Nights" by Nocturnal Breed is not that album.

Those expecting another Firewind record from Gus G will find themselves surprised by “I am the Fire.” The titular musician has said at length that for this, his first solo record, he wanted to defy expectation and shirk convention. While another guitar virtuoso, Jake E. Lee, released an album recently trying to prove he was still in the mold, Gus G is trying to break out of it. “I am the Fire” is Gus G’s personal release: his chance to write songs that feel good to him, regardless of how much discretion they do or do not require.

My review for this week is a couple of days late but I've got a good reason. No, the dog did not eat my homework. I don't even have a dog. I have cats. I used to have a dog but that doesn't matter much now. The reason I'm late is because I changed my mind.

Let’s start at the top – the first thing that attracted me to Dark Forest’s new record “The Awakening” was the cover art. I was pretty sure I had seen that cover on a ‘Magic: The Gathering’ card, definitely green, probably an enchantment. Anyway, while that’s obviously the least important aspect of Dark Forest’s new effort, it does speak to the continuing power of cover art, even during this new digital age.

I often lament the state of current metal, and how so many of us seem to have lost our way over the course of these many years. There was a time when metal bands didn't consider it a sin to write songs that were melodic, hooky, and memorable. If a song caught on with people who weren't the truest of the true, it was a good thing, because it meant more people might start listening. Nowadays, that attitude is all but gone, and anyone who isn't already a metal fan is shunned from entry, due to the retrograde thinking that has taken over metal songwriting.

It's not easy anymore for a band to come out and bend the rules of death metal, creating a sound that is utterly unique to themselves. There isn't much room in the sonic palate for diverse sounds, and the songwriting of death metal is formulaic enough that most bands wind up falling into a very narrow range. It's one of the things death metal fans love about death metal, and one of the things that makes it so hard for me to ever get into that kind of music. At a certain point, when everything sounds the same, there's little incentive to keep trying.