album reviews

The press release that accompanied my copy of "Too Many Humans," the upcoming album from Montreal's extreme metallers The Last Felony spends a great deal of column space talking about how the band is ahead of their time and will revolutionize the Montreal metal sound. While I hate to be blunt, I don't see it.

One of the things I love most about Southern-style heavy metal is that there's very little guesswork, and almost no head scratching. Nothing that comes detuned from Texas is a complicated affair. Musical creativity is, for better or worse, sacrificed in the name of high energy, beer-swilling, head-banging mayhem.

On their previous best day, Godsmack's best efforts sounded akin to James Hetfield singing for Alice in Chains. With the dawning of "The Oracle," we may have a new best day to talk about.

On this new album, we see Sevendust, but not quite the Sevendust we remember. They've matured as a band and grown into their sound. The band has learned over the years how to skillfully temper their anger and emotion into a more balanced and tangible whole.

Sometimes, the only recourse as a metal band is to throw absolutely everything into a pot and see how much of it coalesces. At least, that seems to be the driving idea behind Heaven Shall Burn’s “Invictus.” In its base roots, the album seems like it has a metal skeleton not altogether different from any number of anonymous metal albums. Yet, the album both benefits and suffers from the disease of more. More guitar, more distortion, more percussion, more sheer noise.

While “Night is the New Day,” has barely cooled from the forge, Katatonia is capitalizing on the moment and released a companion EP, “The Longest Year.” Almost as if to say “Wait, we’re not done, there’s a piece we’d like to add!” Katatonia pushed two new tracks and two new mixes down the pipe, with a couple companion videos to go with it.

At some point, heavy metal is subject to the very same rules as quality hot sauce. You can't just burn people out with extreme heat; you have to actually give them some flavor. Lair of the Minotaur brings it hot and heavy; the beats are punishing, the guitars a distorted, rhythmic quagmire and the vocals are brutal and challenging. Still, there's only a fleeting glimpse of actual flavor.

Sigh. I had high hopes that "Sting in the Tail" would prove an edgy, fitting coda for the decades-spanning career of the once-mighty Scorpions. Instead, the album is a mediocre exercise in Scorpions-by-numbers, with far too many sections that are reminiscent of acts long gone by.

I am glad to report that the Scorpions have retreated from the edge of the cliff they were headed toward during the "Crazy World" era. Still, "Sting in the Tail" hardly comes back to the heady days of "the Zoo."

I'm extremely happy to see "Raw Power" digitally enhanced and preserved for future generations. Not only is the album one of the Stooges' preeminent efforts, but it is such a remarkable time capsule of its time. "Raw Power" is a glimpse into a very specific period of music and American culture.

I admit I may have been fooled. Or foolishly optimistic. Either way, the album “Human Resources” from up-and-comer It’s Alive is not what I suspected it would be. Hearing the band’s name, I hoped that I was in store for a monster-themed fun-loving alternative metal romp. Rather, I was faced with yet another album that wallows in quasi-emotional distress, complete with gravelly vocals meant to engender sympathy.