album review

Movies are not as powerful without their scores, and music is the soundtrack to our lives, which makes it curious that so little of the music we tend to listen to fits the mold. If life were a movie, the vast majority of the music I listen to would be fitting solely for a cheesy montage, not any of the day to day drama that propels us forward. Music is, in a way, a holding pattern meant to take us out of the moment, to normalize ourselves when there is nothing tethering us to reality. There are some bands who try to bridge the gap, but they fail because such an endeavor is fruitless.

Please tell me you've heard of Corrosion Of Conformity. If not, C.O.C. is a band who has been around for almost as long as I've been listening to metal. They started as a hardcore band and, through the years, morphed into a distinctly metal group. I remember hearing them back in the day, around the "Animosity" era, and I was pleasantly surprised when I heard them change their style on "Deliverance" in the 90's. I lost track of them through the 2000s because, as it turns out, they were "on hiatus" from 2006 to 2010.

On an esoteric level, I can appreciate what black metal means to the music world. There is certainly a place for music that seeks to convey the darkest aspects of the human condition, although I have never been able to understand the particular way in which it has been manifested. Whether through pure black metal, or other sounds that have pervasive black metal influence, the appeal of such music is entirely lost on me. The monotony of the frosty guitars, and especially the shrieked vocals, leave me cold, if you pardon the pun.

Look, we’ve had this conversation before and we’ve had it on these very pages. There will always be a place for a record like “Space Music for Cave People.” For all of metal’s twists and turns and evolutions both positive and negative, there is an intrinsic feeling of ‘home’ amidst the dirty, blues-base of overdriven thunder the likes of which is Crowned By Fire’s exclusive stock in trade.

Would I be going too far to call Buzz Osborne "iconic"? He's the guitarist/ vocalist/ songwriter of the Melvins who have been around since before 1986. He may or may not have invented grunge music. And even if he didn't invent grunge, he introduced Dave Grohl to Kurt Cobain and Krist Novocelic so he at least lent a hand. He is the guitarist for Fantomas, one of my favorites. He has awesome hair. No, I don't think it's too much to call him iconic.

Hailing from the hardcore halls of North Carolina, Wretched has come into some kind of stability and kept together the lineup that has solidified the band since 2011. The band returns with “Cannibal,” a new full length record that much like every album these days, promised to be ‘heavier’ than their efforts to this point. Veterans of the death metal tour circuit, Wretched is looking to break off a larger chunk of the pie and establish themselves in the vanguard of their chosen genre.

Perhaps the most depressing aspect of being a fan of metal in this day and age is seeing how 'fun' has become a dirty word. When reading through the lists of bands that are popular with both the people and the critics, they tend to have one thing in common; they're miserable. Metal today is a drab, colorless world in which everything has to be dark, ugly, and consumed with the depths of suffering. There is no place in the mainstream for rock or metal music that remembers that music isn't life and death, that we're allowed to have fun, and listen to songs that make us want to sing along.

So, there I am, listening to the newest album from Australian "progressive" metal band Voyager, "V", and my first thought is, "Did Duran Duran come back as an Australian progressive metal band?". Honestly, that was my first impression. I wasn't sure what was I getting in to? As I listened on, however, I realized what I was hearing was not your average heavy metal album. And it was not Duran Duran.

Seriously, the vocals of Daniel Estrin sound a lot like Simon LeBon from Duran Duran so I was not surprised when Voyager's own promotional material made the same comparison.

Arch Enemy is one of those bands whose career can be broken down into segments and viewed individually by vocalist. It all began with Johan Liiva, the grating grunter who teamed up with the brothers Arnott and brought the band to worldwide fame. Liiva’s tenure was characterized largely by noise, as Arch Enemy blended black and death metal with the heady tradition of European twin guitars.

Bands from all around the world have attempted to blend their cultural identities with that of the standard metal sound, but not all of the efforts have been successful. Many of the Scandinavian bands have found success fusing their dark folk music with metal's bombast and power, while bands like Angra and Sepultura have married tribal rhythms to the pounding beat of metal. These efforts have worked, because the culture they have added to the mix bolstered an element of the metal sound that already existed.