album review

When approaching any album tagged with the label 'progressive', it must be kept in mind the two connotations the word carries. Progressive music can be an ethos, eschewing conventional structure to tell stories, or it can be a tightly defined form of music celebrating the virtuosic talents of the players. Oddly enough, for a genre of music that carries an air of intellectualism and musical sophistication, the expectations and tastes of the fans can be as narrow and insular as those of any other metal sub-genre.

Modern Day Escape is the black sheep of Standby Records' family, a wayward but still loving brother who treads a path ever so slightly different than their labelmates. All of the other children that comprise this "Rock and Roll 2.0" movement are caught between the two poles of emo-rock and heavy metal, while Modern Day Escape does not suffer from a similar crisis of identity and image.

The All-American Rejects make me feel old. As a member of an internet community supporting a not-to-be-named pop band, I was one of the first to come into contact with the then upstart kids. Their independent label first album gained traction and spread among pop-rock fans by word of mouth, building a fan-base before getting the major label treatment. What was evident in that first batch of songs was a knack for writing a hook. Saccharine as any fan of grittier rock music would call it, that debut album was a masterful piece of pop music, considering the youth on display.

Almost two years after announcing that a new album was in the works, God Forbid is returned to the land of the living with their new effort "Equilibrium." The album raises curious questions, as the particular splinter of heavy metal and hardcore that God Forbid helped pioneer may be nearing the end of its most effective window.

Several years ago, following their debut effort "Against the Grain," I wrote on these very pages that for their future albums, The Veer Union would be facing an ultimate choice. They had the talent to pursue one of the two thrones of modern rock and roll. Either they could chase Nickelback and try to carve a niche in the bloated party rock genre, or pursue the Foo Fighters for dominance in the radio-friendly but still skillful traditional rock and roll paradigm.

I have always had a curious fascination with Cannibal Corpse, the veteran metal band originally formed in 1988. Unfortunately for the band, my fascination with them is largely due to reasons totally beyond their control, and interests that likely do not coincide with their ideals. First and foremost, Cannibal Corpse has always been represented in my life by the nerdiest of metal fans; kids with big, tangled mops of unkempt hair, glasses with thick lenses and arms that have never done a push-up voluntarily, and certainly not in the new millennium.

A new Angel Witch album? What? This is still happening?

The answer to all of those questions is an unequivocal "yes." Angel Witch is back, still with lead singer and songwriter Kevin Heybourne parlaying his thirst for traditional British heavy metal into an album that introduces the purest form of that genre to a whole new generation. Of course, he's not leaving any of the old faithful (and they are out there,) behind; those who clapped and called along with the memorable chorus "You're, an, angel witch! You're an angel witch!" can feel safe donning their sleeveless denim vest again.

In the quickly multiplying and increasingly competitive world of folk metal, bands are given an early choice between two camps, each representing one of the possible idiomatic sounds of the genre. First, you could truly embrace the roots of the music you are channeling, incorporating an increased number of traditional or esoteric instruments and arrangement. The other path, equally valid in the halls of metal, is to bend more towards the melodic death metal trend, using the folk elements as garnish surrounding the main dish of metal being served.

Somewhere between the rock and roll of the White Stripes, the distorted two-beat fuzz of Nine Inch Nails' last album "The Slip," and the cadences of the Gorillaz lies the "No Sleep" EP from upstart Australian power duo DZ Deathrays.
Now, let's not get carried away too early. While the EP contains elements, that doesn't mean it is equal to the sum of all of them. Rather, the DZ Deathrays pick and choose their moments on this five-cut sampling of their talent

Zeroking touts itself as an all-out rock and roll band, but there's more going on here than just that. Based in West Virginia, the band is heavily influenced by the rock and roll ideal of the West Coast, and uses that as a base to launch their curious and devil-may-care mix of rock, piano and brass (or a close facsimile to them,) and down home country twang.