album review

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.

It's a fairly rare day as a music reviewer when you can be effusive in priase of something you don't totally understand, and rarer still when that statement is reflexive - that the not understanding is part of why you are being effusive. So it is with this wonderful mystery known as Destrage.

What makes a great album? There is no one thing that makes an album "great". Is it the quality of the music? The talent of the musicians? Sometimes, but some of my favorite albums were made by bands who were not what you would call "great musicians". The Misfits or The Ramones come to mind. Is it lyrical content? Again, sometimes but not necessarily. A song need not contain flowery prose or well executed poetry to make it great. So, what is it then? Art appreciation (and music, even metal, is certainly an art form) is subjective, to say the least.

…and so the thrash revival rolls on. Next up in the batter’s box is Hirax, the Southern California band originally formed in 1982 in the shadow of other SoCal acts like Metallica and Slayer. Through the ins and outs and machinations of a musical career, there have only been two constants in the extended history of Hirax – thrash and founding lead singer Katon W. De Pena. So what makes Hirax stand out? Well, they’ve got a thick and crunchy guitar sound, a badass attitude and a singer who looks a little like Tim Meadows. Let’s get to work.

One of the more welcome developments in recent years in the corners of rock and metal that we cover is the increased number of women taking up the cause. Whether it's the siren singing in bands like Epica and Nightwish, or the more belting vocals of singers like Anneke Van Giersbergen and Dilana, the number of women whose voices power the albums I hear is a refreshing change of pace. There are times when it is clearly a marketing ploy, but for the most part, a woman's voice is able to bring a new and different feeling to the proceedings.

Kamchatka - A 1250 kilometer volcanic peninsula in the Russian Far East located between the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. Also, Kamchatka is the name of a blues rock trio out of Sweden. I'll let you guess which of the two I'll be discussing this week. I'll give you a hint - it's not a land mass.

When I first heard Monsterworks' unique brand of 'super metal', it was one of the most staggering things I had heard in years. Their music sounded like the aural equivalent of putting pieces from different jigsaw puzzles together, and yet somehow ending up with a beautiful picture when you were done. “Album Of Man” is still one of the more interesting albums I have heard, on an intellectual level, and one that gave me hope that I may have found a band that could both surprise and please me.

"Behold the rock of ages. There stands the gates of steel where destiny awaits us - heavy metal sanctuary" - Battleaxe. Metal is as much a lifestyle as it is a musical genre. Metal is a brotherhood that can't be understood by non-metal fans. Put two metalheads in a room together and they will converse for hours about the origins and evolution of the music they love. Metal is life and life is metal. That seems to be the credo of the English metal band Battleaxe.

Slough Feg is one of those bands that I should love, but just never find myself listening to. Last year I reviewed three of their early albums as they were re-released by Metal Blade, and despite how much I enjoyed “Down Among The Deadmen”, I haven't found it in regular rotation. “Ape Uprising!” is my favorite Slough Feg record, but again, I don't find myself listening to it very often. I can't explain why, since every time I do, I'm reminded of how great a band Slough Feg can be.