album review

Sacrificial Bloods’s new record “SoulS for Sale” is a deliciously straightforward affair, unapologetic in its directness. I shall try to honor that by being equally direct in the discussion of it.

With all the image and promotion and jockeying for position and gamesmanship and preening that vies for our musical attention, it’s devilishly easy for artists to get drowned out by big voices and flashy showpieces. If you listen carefully, you can hear Sacrificial Blood calling all of that noise what it is; bullshit.

I like all sorts of music, from jazz to early rock and roll to standards to metal. And, when it comes to metal, I particularly enjoy metal with a groove. For our purposes we'll call it "bop-metal" (yet another sub-genre?). I like to bang my head with the best of them but metal you can also bounce to really turns me on. That leads me to this week's review.

If “Jurassic Park” taught us anything (and it most definitely did!) it was that ‘life finds a way.’ As the calendar reached the close of 2013 I noted one odd quirk in that musical year – my year end accolades did not contain any album that impressed me with the sheer volume and ferocity of its power. It was a conspicuous absence, to me at least; always there had been a Cancer Bats or an Indestructible Noise Command to whet my appetite for sonic destruction.

Rare is the occasion when a 'supergroup' lives up to the hype. Most of the time, they wind up being a collection of pieces that don't really fit together, cobbling together music that can be very good, but never matches the expectations we have built up. Transatlantic is one of those supergroups that obliterates the doubts I have over such projects. After a debut that showed promise, but was a band obviously finding their way, they released back-to-back modern classics in the form of “Bridge Across Forever” (my favorite prog album of all time), and the immense “The Whirlwind”.

The thing I love about self-proclaimed progressive music is that I never know what to expect. After listening to enough albums, it gets to the point where it's not hard to see where bands are going (especially new bands) after a couple of songs. They rarely change direction, and far too many bands these days play every song in the same tempo, with the same feel, and with the same tones. Eventually, it all blends together into one big song, and it almost never turns out to be a strength.

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.