album review

Deicide's career has been one long roller coaster ride. They helped set the standard of American death metal with their first two albums, then fell into disrepair as stagnation set in. As all this was happening, I was completely oblivious to anything they had done, since death metal still only existed in my periphery. It wasn't until the Deicide that became famous was fractured that I came on board. The resulting album, “The Stench Of Redemption”, was a remarkable album, and the shot in the arm the flagging Deicide brand needed.

Joan Jett may well be one of the most important women in the history of rock and roll. While this may romanticize the details, her breaking out after the dissipation of the Runaways to produce the Germs album and start the Blackhearts, experiencing commercial success on her own terms, makes her the Lucille Ball of punk rock and rock in general. Along the way, Jett proved that it was possible to have sex appeal while not being a teased, airbrushed and angel-voiced blonde, and also possible to have male fans who respected her musical ability.

When was the last time you actually had FUN listening to a metal album? Most metal is all angst and pent up aggression. All too often, metal bands take themselves WAY too seriously and try to out-metal each other. “I’m heavier”. “No, I’m heavier”. “Well, my lyrics are darker”. “No, MY lyrics are darker”. Well, your old pal Wizard is here to tell you that metal doesn’t have to be such a downer. And here to help me explain is Hammer Fight.

I chuckle as announcements roll out for albums, and every band that was formed sometime in the 80's described itself as 'legendary'. It's simply impossible for all of them to be such, but more than that, it amuses me how much revisionism has occurred of what the time was really like. Bands that have reformed and claim status as kings of metal were utterly forgotten during their initial runs, which makes it a little hard for me to believe anything they claim for a legacy.

I sometimes wonder about the people who make and listen to the most extreme types of metal; how they came to embrace such a fringe element of heavy music. I have a hard time imagining people jumping straight from what they would hear on the radio to full-on black metal or grindcore, and yet so little of the traditional forms of metal remains in those styles that I often struggle to find any connection at all. Surely, they must have been fans of less abrasive forms of metal first, but it's more a guess on my part than an actual statement of fact.

As the resident prog guy here, it's a bit surprising that this is my first experience immersing myself in a full Ayreon album. Arjen Anthony Lucassen's project has sprawled through a series of double albums, amassing some of the greatest talent in the rock and metal world, and giving him standing as one of the biggest figures in all of progressive music. This time around, after the ending of the original storyline and a hiatus for other projects, Ayreon returns with a new story, and a new focus.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love music - all kinds of music. Certainly I have my favorites but I can usually find something to appreciate in every genre... except Middle Eastern pop music. That's just something I can't get into. So, with that out of the way, I present to you the latest album from The Infinite Staircase, "No Amends".

The Melvins remain, after thirty years, part of the bedrock of underground alternative music. The steadfast genre-denial and complete inability to keep still of King Buzzo ensures that The Melvins will always be an entity unto themselves. For “Tres Cabrones,” (literally ‘three goats’ but in slang ‘three assholes’ in Spanish,) as if to accentuate the point, there’s a credit in the liner notes for someone playing a toy piano. With that reinforcing every belief about the eccentricity of The Melvins, “Tres Cabrones” rolls on.

Hail Of Bullets did something remarkable with their first album; they made a record that actually sounded like an army of enemy tanks storming into town ready to crush anything in their paths. These death metal veterans made a statement right out of the gate, becoming one of the biggest and most important death metal bands since the nascent days, all with one record. That they were able to then turn around and use their second album to further their sound with new elements and more expansive songwriting meant that this was no one trick pony.

There was a time when grunge was an indomitable empire. A musical transcendence that touched and shaped all corners of popular culture. For reason abound that empire crumbled quickly, vanishing within four years of its apex, the symbolic final nail coming in the form of Soundgarden’s dispersal following “Down On the Upside.” The Seattle scene fell silent and the embers went dead as they were either ignored, or worse mismanaged, by the bands that followed. Grunge went to seed, living on in memory and the shadow of Pearl Jam’s adaptive evolution into a popular, relevant rock band.