album review

Certain things, when you read them, are bounds for concern. When the press release for Bovine's new album called the music "sludge-soaked ghetto [rock]", I must admit that I was not exactly thrilled by what my mind was conjuring up. Sludge all too rarely manages to show the refinement in songwriting I expect from the music I listen to, and I have no idea what ghetto rock is supposed to be, but it sounds unpleasant as well.

It's almost a rite of passage that at some point in their career every metal band will either make a concept album, or will at least write a thematic suite of songs. Something about compositions that extend beyond the usual boundaries of a four minute song is like catnip for artists, the sort of thing they think needs to be done to prove they are indeed artists at heart. What gets lost in translation is how few concept albums actually work as a focused piece of music.

Originally called Dogz, Flotsam and Jetsam are probably best known for being the band Jason Newsted helped start before becoming the bassist for Metallica. After an on again, off again relationship with Metal Blade Records over the years, “Ugly Noise” finds the band, once again, with Metal Blade for their eleventh studio album. What’s more exciting for fans of the band, however, is the return of Kelly Smith on drums and Michael Gilbert on guitar. In other words, Flotsam and Jetsam is once again rocking their “Cuatro” lineup.

While listening to Moss, it quickly becomes evident that this is one of those bands where the name is not just a title, but an idea. Think about the nature of moss: it grows directionless but persistent, deliberate and patient. Uninhibited, moss will overtake and consume any object nearby. This insight gives just a glimpse of the idea behind Moss’ new record “Horrible Night.”

Devil to Pay has established a long career in the underground, cementing themselves as the go-to for grungy American doom. All this while being based in Indianapolis, perhaps the least likely of hotbeds for heavy metal activity. Parenthetically, the fact that Devil to Pay has experienced success outside their home market is a solid testament to the penetration and efficiency of the accessible digital marketplace.

Spock's Beard is known for three things; 1) having a silly name, 2) once having Neal Morse in the band, and 3) no longer having Neal Morse in the band. Simply put, their early run of albums helped to create the modern prog scene as it currently exists. What gets lost is that the band never stopped moving forward after Neal moved on to his solo career. Taking the Genesis route, Spock's Beard kept on going, even if they weren't receiving the same amount of attention they once did.

We all know the names of the legendary and influential bands that laid the groundwork for today's metal universe. Their legacies are undoubted, the influence massive. But for every band that became immortal, there were others that were forgotten, left behind, doomed to spend eternity in the shadows. It's a simple fact that only so many can make it to the top of the mountain, and only a few can be recognized as innovators, but they were never alone. There were always other bands, who didn't make it, who pushed them along on the path toward becoming legends.

It has been thirty years since Suicidal Tendencies’ self-titled debut album hit the shelves. At the time, lead singer Mike Muir was an energized, angst-driven twenty year-old churning out some of the best hardcore punk of the time period. Now, at the age of fifty, he’s back with a new Suicidal Tendencies lineup and a brand new material.

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.