album review

My wife is a very patient woman, who only takes a less-than-casual interest in heavy metal because it makes it easier for us to spend time together. The following conversation happened in our living room:

Me: “I’m not quite sure what to make of this album.”
Her: “Who is it?”
Me: “Finntroll. It’s their new record, it’s all over the place.”
Her: “Well, I don’t hate it. It sounds kind of fun.”

It was less than a year ago that Six Feet Under revealed a revamped lineup to the world, unleashing “Undead” onto a death metal world that wasn't expecting Chris Barnes to make relevant music ever again. The band had been through some stagnant years, and the “Graveyard Classics” series of cover albums had destroyed much of their credibility with serious listeners, so the fact that “Undead” was able to resurrect the band's image was an act still a few steps short of a miracle.

For at least the last six or eight years, no band makes me more nervous than Clutch. Ever since the release of “Robot Hive: Exodus,” the band has left my fanhood on uncertain footing, slowly but surely making adjustments to their sound. As critical praise came easily to “From Beale Street to Oblivion,” many who thirsted for the “Pure Rock Fury” era felt left in the lurch. What were we to make of this new Clutch, with the mellower, more calculated sound? The crowds at the live shows began to shift demographic, skewing in new directions.

Over the history of death metal, an awful lot of adjectives have been used to describe the genre’s fare; fast, loud, harsh, brutal, noisy, nasty, visceral, and increasingly as the subgenre develops, technical. Though many of them paint part of the picture, none of those words accurately describes the whole of Hypocrisy’s new album, “End of Disclosure.” The painted portions that do apply to the album rest dutifully on the canvas of another word, one never used in death metal except in very rare occasions; measured.

Back in the ‘80s, Maxine Petrucci and her sister, Roxy, formed the band Madam X with Bret Kaiser on vocals and Chris Doliber on the bass guitar. After one album, 1984’s “We Reserve the Right,” and a revolving door of replacement vocalists, following the departure of Kaiser, which included Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach, the band eventually threw in the towel. To this day, however, Madam X remains the most notable line of Maxine’s resumé.

When you pare things down to their essence, truths become clear. When progressive metal is put through the sieve, two common strains stand out. The vast majority of bands fit into one of two categories; those who play technical metal in the mold of Dream Theater, and those who use metal as a framework for throwing in any crazy musical bit they can come up with. That's why we have countless bands that are called Dream Theater clones, and a rising number of bands that are impossible to describe, but very few who play Fates Warning's style of progressive metal.

I suppose it was inevitable and we all should have seen it coming. In thrash’s latent, momentous revival, we’ve come up with new names to buffer the genre and kept the lion’s share of the classics alive as well. As the wave of metal resurrection continues however, studious fans will note that every facet of old thrash has been revitalized save one: we’ve been asking the question “who will be the new S.O.D?” Carrying on the legacy of the Stormtroopers of Death is a deceptively weighty task.

Danko Jones, named after the band’s lead singer, has been around for over a decade, but despite their popularity in Europe as well as their native Canada, Danko Jones has failed to make much of a splash in the United States. With quality albums like 2003’s “We Sweat Blood” and 2010’s “Below The Belt” already behind them, it’s somewhat surprising they haven’t caught on in the same way similar bands like Buckcherry and Foo Fighters have, but Jones and his band continue to press onward.

I recognize that it probably seems wildly out of place for us to be discussing a band like The Tossers in this space. They’re certainly an odd fit with the likes of all the death metal, doom and thrash we tend to concentrate on around here, and their particular blend of Irish folk combined with punk and rock doesn’t even come close to fitting into the expansive catch-all of ‘progressive.’ So what are we doing here?

Over the last few years, as the remaining remnants of melodic death metal withered on the vine, the genre as a whole began to suffer. It wasn't that the turn of the millennium strain of melodic death metal was a cultural touchstone that needed to be saved, but what replaced it didn't account for the very reason it ever existed. Melodic death metal was the bridge between those people who listen to music simply to be pounded by the loudest mash of noise possible, and those who can appreciate heavier sounds but still need to have a conventional song to wrap them in.