album review

Answering a question no one asked can be a dangerous enterprise, because the greatest uncertainty involved is in assuming someone cares about the answer. It’s Casual, the punk-ish band with roots in Los Angeles, is the erstwhile answer to the question “What would a mix of Black Flag and Rush sound like?” While that question seems to land on the spectrum somewhere between ‘untenable’ and ‘impossible,‘ the evident answer lies in the band’s new record “The New Los Angeles II”

It's time for a little theology lesson. Stryper has gotten a bad reputation over the course of their career for their beliefs, but the people who criticize them are either intellectually lazy, or dangerously ignorant. For all the bands that sing about, if not outright praise, Satan and other demons, they miss the bigger picture. The opposite of God is not Satan, it's nothingness. Like yin and yang, light and dark, you can't have one without the other. So congratulations all you heathen black and death metal bands, you may not know it, but you're exactly like Stryper.

Whoa, what is this?

You ever seen the Robert Redford movie “Sneakers?” There’s a scene where the character Whistler (played by one of the all-time great character actors David Strathairn,) figures out that the computer hardware his crew stole is the most powerful decryption tool ever created; that possessing it gave him complete access to every secure network in the United States. Whistler’s reaction, accompanied by a symphonic crescendo, is “Whoa.” That’s how I feel about Warbringer’s new album “Empires Collapse.”

If I've learned anything about black metal over the years, it's that it's as much about an ethos as it is about music. Black metal has become a philosophy for people who don't understand what philosophy is (I'm a philosopher, so I'm allowed to say that). The legions of black metal bands, and the fans who pledge allegiance to the crusty heaps of brutality they create, use music as sort of a religion. Instead of worshiping a deity, they grovel at the feet of misanthropic noise.

Chemistry, or the study of the composition, properties and behavior of matter, was not a favorite subject of mine in school but I do enjoy mixing things together to see what happens. So, lets break out the blender. Combine equal parts thrash, hardcore and punk, add a splash of anger and a generous amount of distortion. Now grind that mother. Pour the mixture into an album cover featuring a syringe-toothed cobra, surrounded by eyeballs and you've got yourself the "Chemistry of Consciousness".

Not being a thrash fan, nor of a certain age, the name Sepultura exists to me as an artifact of history. I've read about the band's tumultuous history, but having not lived through the controversy it created, nor being retroactively interested in the music the band made, I have no opinion to offer on the subject, nor any biases one way or the other to color my opinion on this record. Sepultura, for all they have accomplished, and the legacy they've created, is just another band to me.

Consistency is a difficult thing to deliver, particularly over a long period of time. To churn out a high caliber or product over and over again, particularly in the arts, where one must constantly find new inspiration, is a herculean task, and attaining or failing consistency has been the respective hallmark and demise of countless artists and musicians over the last couple centuries. Soulfly, still the bedrock of Max Cavalera's current musical career, has been extremely successful at continually turning out a product that fans will recognize, embrace, endorse and consume.

The origins of hard rock and heavy metal lay in the blues (Black Sabbath started out as a blues band, after all), yet I have never found much appeal in that particular form of music. Whether talking about the original wave of blues artists, or the later blues revivalists, or the blues-rockers who use it as a way to sell lousy rock records, none of it has ever made an impact with me. I find that funny, since I tend to specialize in all manner of downbeat and depressing art. For whatever reason, the blues has eluded me.

When I take a step back and try to figure out what's going on in the world of metal these days, two radically divergent things become apparent. There's a schism going on, with a set of bands trying to move us forward into whatever god-forsaken trend is going to take over the world next, while another set is trying to move us backwards to a time when music was simpler. I tend to cast my lot with this latter group, the bands that ache for a time when 'studio magic' meant making people believe a warlock was helping you record, not a computer playing your parts for you.

Those who know me know I am a huge fan of so-called old-school thrash. It was the soundtrack of my adolescence and became the outlet for my teen angst and rebel nature. Among the bands who helped destroy my still developing neck was Death Angel. With that background, you can imagine my excitement when the new release from Death Angel, "The Dream Calls For Blood", came across my desk.