album reviews

AFI has matured considerably since we last saw them. The adolescent simple punk themes have been replaced with more ominous overtones and a more mature sense of self. Not to say that the pubescent themes have completely grown up. More likely, they’ve grown into awkward young adulthood, but each comes in its time. “Crash Love” is an exercise in introspection, a long question in being and state of mind. AFI is a band in transition, as it seems like they’re trying to forge a bridge between their old sound and something they themselves can’t quite define.

As a music critic, I feel that it's my duty to be at least informed in all manners of my chosen genre. So, I find myself led to Skillet, and their chart-topping new studio album "Awake." I can hear you already: Christian metal? Is that even possible? Well, I wasn't sure myself, it seemed like a contradiction in terms. If I've learned anything over the years, it's to never take anything for granted, and not judge anything until I've actually listened to it. So, I figured I had to delve into this subgenre and see what it's about.

In the history of heavy metal, there have been many hotbeds of activity. New Jersey, New York, Dallas, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the entire nation of Germany, and most of the Scandinavian states. In all that time and distance, no one has ever mentioned the town of Kenosha, Wisconsin. That sounds more like a town where serial murders happen. It sounds like a place where if you’re driving along the load and see “Welcome to Kenosha,” you know you’re lost. It sounds like a town where you drive fifteen miles down a dirt road, and just when you get to Nowhere, you take a left.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted the released video of "Cruise Ship Terror" from the band Swashbuckle, and proclaimed it one of my favorite videos in the past couple years. So, when their album "Back to the Noose" began streaming online, I had to get a listen of what would no doubt be an interesting experience.

I was absolutely right; "Back to the Noose" is a fun, side-saddled romp of consistent if unimaginative thrash metal with heavy old-school punk influences. Whether the album is...what's the word...good, is another argument altogether.

Maybe just because it's been long enough and maybe because it's overdue, the American thrash spirit seems to be undergoing a rejuvenation. Enter Havok, who is trying to shoehorn their way into a scene that has gone from being bare to suddenly being overcrowded. Still, in the eighties, there were four separate kings of American thrash: Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. Saying that Toxic Holocaust and Warbringer have assumed the pedestal, it wouldn't be impossible to envision Havok taking a place next to them.

When Audioslave released their first album, comparisons to Rage Against the Machine were inevitable. Unfortunately, they were also unfair. Audioslave had a whole different feel than Rage could have ever conceived, and musically was branching off in a totally different and new direction. The attitude was different, the affect was changed, the music was on a different path. To compare Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine was to compare the proverbial apples and oranges.

Hey, you remember “Repo! The Genetic Opera”? Well, Sean Lacefield, a guitar player who had more than his share of responsibility for the soundtrack, is now working with Los Angeles goth metal band “Ellsbeth.” They self-released their album “Well-Dressed Killing Machine” digitally, in preparation for a summer long tour beginning right about now.

DevilDriver's "Pray for Villains" is a remote control with just one button. And that one button gets mashed over and over again from the word "go." It is brash, loud and substantive, but totally lacking in imagination or variety. The album is one howling metal noisefest after another, with fuzzed-out guitars and so much double-kick drum that I became numb to it. It never relents but also never triggers any adrenaline. "Pray for Villains" is one pace, one sound, one theme, coupled with the usual spate of angry choruses.

Normally, when I hear the words “progressive” and “atmospheric” in front of the word “metal,” I run screaming from the room. So fearful am I of the genre’s technically proficient but terribly brooding boredom that I would rather stick a fork in my own ear. So I don’t know for what reason I took a chance on Madder Mortem’s album “Eight Ways,” but I did. I had heard just enough samples to want to see what it was about.

Coming from the least likely of all heavy metal havens, Scissorfight hails from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, home of....well, I don't really know. Wikipedia suggests that Portsmouth was once the home of naval hero John Paul Jones, lawyer Daniel Webster, and Betty Hill of the Hill UFO Abduction. It is also the birthplace of metal's own Ronnie James Dio.