album review

One thing that can be said about progressive rock and metal musicians is that there's no short supply of ambition in their work. Whether talking about concept albums, hour-long songs, or star-studded lineups, there is no such thing as 'too big' for their thinking. In large part, it's this kind of boundless creative energy that makes progressive rock and metal such an interesting landscape. So many sounds, feelings, and approaches can fit under the banner and be accepted that there's always a bit of a mystery when you first hear a new band, no matter the pedigree of the musicians involved.

One of the questions that has long puzzled me as a music fan is to what degree an artist's standing as an innovator and genre-definer should be incorporated into their legacy. While being the first to travel down a certain path does necessitate a historical remembrance of that person's efforts, it doesn't mean that the work done to blaze that trail is worth remembering.

An awful lot of noise. That’s the first gut reaction to “Bloodstreams,” the new full-length album from Australian do-it-all duo DZ Deathrays. For just two people, this is a full-bore effort, ripped from the core of punk’s heart and rock and roll’s soul.

Brendon Small’s “Galaktikon” is as much a story about finishing what you started as it is the divorce of the galaxy’s most popular superhero. Halfway invested prior to the recording of “Dethalbum II,” Small shelved this ad-hoc unfinished project until such a time as he could return to it and complete it. From that end, “Galaktikon” is anything but a typical vanity project, and shows not only Small’s dedication to his artistic exploration, but also his loyalty to Gene Hoglan and the musicians who helped him create it. He doesn’t want their work to be for nothing.

What seems like a lifetime ago in 2003, I remember doing a music news report for my college radio station detailing how Cattle Decapitation had announced that their upcoming album, to be released in 2004, was to be called "Humanure." Little did I know that nine years later, Cattle Decapitation would not only evolve into a real thing, but would still be making music for a prominent label.

Certain styles of music seem incompatible with long careers. Death metal is high on that list, with the focus on brutality and shredded vocal chords standing at odds with the rigors of aging. If it's true that people tend to mellow with age, it would stand to reason that death metal would not be populated by elder statesmen. Yet it seems to be that conventional wisdom, once again, is wrong. Death metal finds itself seeped in figures from the early days still cranking out new music.

Fewer things test the patience of a rock or metal fan more than hearing the word 'pop' used to describe the music they love. Is it a stereotype? Yes, but not without merit. Rock and metal fans love their music for the power and aggression, the aspects that keep their favorite bands from breaking into the mainstream in almost every case. When they hear the word 'pop' come from a reviewer, or a press release, there's fear dripping from their pores. Pop music is for teenagers and people who never had the good taste to discover Led Zeppelin, not for tenured fans of 'real music'.

Allegaeon took the internet reviewing world fairly by storm with their heady debut "Fragments of Form and Function" in 2010. Critics saw an aggressive but honest extreme metal band, tap-dancing on the boundary between noise and craft. 2012 sees the band follow up with "Formshifter," an album that takes cues both visual and musical from the latest incarnation of heavy metal stalwarts Fear Factory. While commonly seen as European, extreme metal is mostly a shared invention of countries on both sides of the Pond, with Allegaeon simply carrying the torch for those before.

What does a progressive metalcore musician do with their down time? For most, the answer is to start another death metal band and continue making and playing their favorite style of music for as long as they can. Band-hopping and side-projects are not a new thing, nor a bad thing, and they aren't going away anytime soon. They don't often hold the kind of interest they should, because they rarely extend beyond being a continuation of the artists' main project.