album review

2014 has summarily been both the year of the side project and the year of the industrial revolution (pardon my co-opting of the phrase,) so it seems remarkably apropos that the year should just about wrap up with Emigrate’s “Silent So Long,” the second side album from Rammstein’s Richard Kruspe.

 

It’s not all that often that I go deep-ending into prog records, and even less often that I’m interested in three-song re-mastered demos from seven years ago.  But it probably says something about Haken’s “Restoration” that we’re even here having this discussion.

 

Progressive metal is in a rough period right now. The old guard are either releasing sub-standard albums that only make it more obvious how far they have fallen, or they are drastically uncool with anyone who didn't become a fan when progressive metal was first being created. Progressive today tends to mean djent, a style that has sapped all the life and humanity out of music, turning metal into a math equation of time signatures, and not songs that anyone can actually remember.

There is usually a gaping chasm between the bands and albums that get critical acclaim, and those that get popular acclaim. Part of that stems from the way that critics think about music, which evolves into a pseudo-intellectual statement of one's own musical literacy. The other part is that quality rarely equates to popularity, so many records that get acclaim from people who live an breathe music are likely to go straight over the heads of the masses. Some bands are able to win on both fronts, and one of the more unusual cases has been Primordial.

So, I'm sitting in my favorite chair with a turkey sandwich in one hand and a fresh cup of coffee in the other. The album I'm reviewing this week begins to play on the hi-fi. It starts off innocuously enough with your standard thrash guitar beginning. I take a bite of my sandwich. The song kind of sounds like something Testament or Death Angel might have done back in the day. Then, 48 seconds into the album, it snaps into some killer NYC hardcore straight outta 1993. Was I shocked? Indeed. I nearly dropped my turkey sandwich.

The thrash revival that began some twelve to eighteen months ago has nearly grown stale.  What we’ve seen is a stable of bands who understand the spirit of thrash, but ignore the most effective tenets of its execution.  Speed speed speed is the diet of the day, with nary a thought given to pace and cadence and musical design.

 

I am a naturalist when it comes to music. When I listen to a band, I want to hear music that sounds like it's actually being played by real people. That's why the vintage resurrection has been a welcome change of pace, even if many of the bands have not figured out how to write songs as effectively as those of bygone times. The fact that they went back to organic productions that sound like the band plugged in and are playing in the same room as you is eminently appealing.

Anyone who has read these pages knows that I am not much of a fan of pure death metal. Having it mixed into more progressive sounds (a la Opeth) or played with melodic passages (a la Scar Symmetry) is just fine, but I have rarely ever sat down and played a pure death metal album end to end. That being said, there are a couple of exceptions to that rule. One of those is Bloodbath, who have shown the rare ability to make death metal that is both ferocious and catchy.

You know, there was a time when beards were a rarity in the world of heavy metal music. Lots of hair, leather and spikes but facial hair was pretty hard to come by back in the day. Scott Ian of Anthrax developed some impressive chin whiskers and Kerry King of Slayer grew himself a mighty goatee. Nowadays, a formidable beard goes part and parcel with the heaviest of heavy metal and helping to sustain that trend is UK band Krokodil, who's modus operandi is "mostly beards and riffs".

Australia has a long and proud musical history, both in terms of bands who have come from there and bands who have gone there to play.  The people of Australia are clearly in full support of the musical arts, particularly rock and extending into metal.  Still, for all that exposure and support, death metal is rarely thought of as a genre born Down Under.  Set to try and break that stereotype is Hadal Maw, a fast-rising death quintet hailing from Melbourne.