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.
The common album cycle these days tends to run two or three years. A band composes a selection of music, rehearses it, perfects it, records it, masters it, markets it, releases it, tours on it. Probably twice. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Thus far in the supergroup’s experimental life, Adrenaline Mob has been a frustrating example of the total being mysteriously less than the sum of its parts. Upon hearing their first record “Omerta,” the idea of prog luminaries Russell Allen and Mike Portnoy being able to make downbeat, two-step rock and roll seemed plausible, but incomplete. Logic dictated that the musicians in question must have the know-how to produce this music, so the up-and-down effort had to be a product of not having enough time to gel, or simply not feeling out the songwriting process.
Normally, I'm not one who goes for gimmicks in music. I find them tacky, and mostly useless appendages that try to mask a band's deficiencies. Taking a cookie-cutter band and dressing them up in stupid costumes, or writing lyrics about only one subject, doesn't make them any more special. Gimmicks usually expose the band's shortcomings, because the obvious facade only draws attention to their perceived need to distract. I can think of very few bands with a gimmick who have managed to keep my interest, because a gimmick alone is going to get old after a while. Yes, even if you're GWAR.