album review

Rob Zombie is one of those artists who, through incidental contact, I became a modest fan of. My college years exposed me to his unique take on the rock and metal form, and I was glad for the experience. Many of the songs he conjured up were a fascinating take on what could pass for pop metal, all the while being as thoroughly addictive as anything more sugary artists were putting out. While I don't pull those tracks off the shelf and blow the dust off them very often, they still bring a smile to my face.

To say that Arsis has had a long, convoluted career path is a wild, reckless understatement. Birthed in California, the band’s career lineup cycle has more twists and turns than your standard daytime soap opera plot. So it’s a testament to the hearty will of frontman James Malone that this new album “Unwelcome” even exists. Arsis continues to try and persevere in the chokes underground universe of technical death metal.

It is an irrefutable truth when considering any Melvins album that one of the only ways to appropriately discuss the music is to reflexively use the band’s name as an adjective. The Melvins, some twenty years after Kurt Cobain made them a musical household name, have carved themselves an undeniable niche that is populated solely by Buzz Osborne and his band. No one else sounds like this; no one can even being to capture the “throw it all out there and see what takes” attitude and creativity of King Buzzo.

Volbeat is the name on everyone’s lips these days. The hype surrounding this Danish band has been unmatched in this century by nearly anyone. Everyone wants a piece – everyone wants to be on the bandwagon. Ever since Volbeat made their big break by opening for, and being personally endorsed by, Metallica in 2009, Volbeat’s assumed potential has been limitless. Their previous record “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven” was seen as the coming out party, which means pressure is mounted on “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” to be a blockbuster.

Mark Lanegan, best known as a founding member of Screaming Trees, was also a member of Queens of the Stone Age for some of their best releases, “Rated R,” “Songs for the Deaf,” and “Lullabies to Paralyze.” Additionally, Lanegan has collaborated with a host of notable artists over the years including Isobel Campbell of Belle and Sebastian, Mad Season, and Melissa Auf der Maur. In short, “Black Pudding” is not Lanegan’s first rodeo; he is a seasoned veteran of the trade, always looking to try something new.

One of the things about the thrash renaissance that is most welcome is the remembrance of bands outside the Big Four. While the Bay Area bands, along with the New York scene, did define thrash and contribute countless classic records, the boundaries of the genre weren't compatible with America's. Thrash exploded everywhere, and nowhere more than Germany, which has solidified its legacy as the second home of thrash. In the dark years of heavy metal, when all but the biggest bands seemed forgotten, the German thrash scene was reduced to but a blip on the screen.

I don't know what to make of modern rock music. There was a time when I was in touch with the 'mainstream', and loved the sort of stuff that was aimed at radio play. I grew up on that music, and still consider many of those releases my favorites of all time, but I got lost along the way as modern rock turned into something altogether different. The music became darker, the sounds became darker, and everything I liked about the style was stripped away in the name of angst.

The Modern Rock genre can often be a difficult one to review. There is so much material out there that, eventually, everything starts to sound pretty similar. Sure, some bands are much better at captivating audiences than others, but it takes something truly extraordinary to stand out from the pack.

Avantasia has always existed in a world larger than life. Recruiting scores of heavy hitters to fill the ranks of grandiose concept albums, Avantasia has been the playground for Tobias Sammet's grandest experiments. The two part "Metal Opera" is widely regarded as a modern day classic, even if I seemingly disagree with the whole world on which half is the most vital.

There are concerns for bands that extend beyond the writing and playing of their music. Making an album can be a long, tedious, draining experience, but the job isn't done when the last note is given the final once over. Timing can be just as important as the actual music, the impact made by an album depending on when and in what mindframe the audience gets the chance to absorb the music. When it's written down, it sounds like a ridiculous complaint that an album was released at the wrong time, but we're human, and there's a part of human nature that compartmentalizes our lives by time.