album review

Have you ever received a gift in a "fake box"? You get a gift, thoughtfully wrapped in festive paper and you tear it open to reveal that thing you've always wanted; a new play station or an Ipod or whatever it is the kids long for these days. You open the box to expose the true contents... underwear or something equally unsatisfying. Has this ever happened to you? If it has, you'll understand how I felt while listening to the new full length from Hang The Bastard, "Sex In The Seventh Circle".

When bands like High On Fire, who lead the way in the world of sludgy stoner metal, get praised to the hilt, I'm often left confused as to what it is I'm missing out on. That particular brand of metal, with fuzzed out guitars and riffs upon riffs, taps into the primal need for heaviness that so many metal fans have, but seldom shows the care for songwriting that I dare say is necessary, no matter how heavy your band is. Stoner metal is called that for a reason, because it was long noted that being in an altered state was necessary to either play or enjoy so much of it.

At this point, attentive readers are well familiar with the career of Texas Hippie Coalition thus far.  For those not yet initiated, here’s the vitals in brief – a band of badass, sauntering Texans made a band that lives to the fill the gap between Pantera and David Allen Coe (a gap briefly filled by the Rebel Meets Rebel album as well, let’s not forget.)  They’ve just dropped their fourth album, “Roll On” to the world, featuring the recording debut of guitarist Cord Pool.  With all that said, here we go.

Certain phrases don't appear to make any sense. We hear them, and even without letting our minds pour over the intricacies language can convey, we instinctively know there's something wrong with them. I'm reminded of this as I prepare to listen to Khold's “Til Endes”. The album is described, in the accompanying literature, as 'groove-laden black metal', which is one of those things that doesn't sound like it should be. Black metal is the antithesis of groove, a frosty concoction of pain and misery, with no time or patience for such endearing qualities as 'groove'.

Orange Goblin have toiled in the metal circuit for a long time, longer than most suspect. It’s coming up on twenty years since their debut under the name “Our Haunted Kingdom” on a split EP with Electric Wizard in 1996. In that time, singer Ben Ward, a larger than life figure who was once described on these pages as a combination of Ozzy Osbourne and Al Snow, has captained his band, which has much the same lineup as ever, through the dark corners of metal’s underground and established a solid, respected career.

Of all the things that perplex me about the current state of music, maybe the most difficult to fathom is how power-pop, a genre that is about nothing but making catchy music for you to sing along to, became an underground genre. These purveyors of sunny, feel-good music have become vampires to the mainstream, surviving in the shadows that thrive on message boards in the deep recesses of the internet. There was a time when power-pop was huge, as it should have been, but somewhere along the way music fans have apparently decided they don't want their music to be enjoyable. Go figure.

I don't think it will come as any surprise when I say that metal, more than any other musical genre, is a lifestyle as much as it is a style of music. You've got your "heshers" who wear their love of metal on their sleeves. You've got your closet metal fans who look like normal folks by day but are the first to jump in the pit when the nighttime comes. Most of us fall somewhere in between. The lifestyle that stands out for me, and for which I have a deep appreciation for, is the over-the-top, bordering on cliche, metal gods.

Toronto’s Crimson Shadows understands their genre better than most. Melodic metal, even when crossbred with other subgenres, has always faced the criticism that it’s difficult to take seriously – the music isn’t dark enough, the message not bleak enough to accommodate a ‘discerning’ metal fan’s taste.

I come into contact with a lot of people who do not share my musical tastes, and I notice certain trends among them that often catch me by surprise. One of those is that fans of mostly extreme metal often have a soft spot in their hearts for traditional metal, despite all the clichés about it that their preferred style of music tried to eradicate. And among those fans who have such a proclivity, Wolf is one of the bands that often gets brandished as an example of what traditional metal should be.

Gaz Jennings is a name well known in the perpetual underground of heavy metal. As the songwriter and guitarist for the now-defunct Cathedral, Jennings helped pen and perform some of the great classics of doom metal, teaming up with Lee Dorian to energize the genre after a particularly fallow period.