heavy metal

History has long taught us the axiom that ‘experience is the best teacher.’  That may explain the progress of Danko Jones on their new album “Fire Music,” the seventh full studio album in the band’s career, and possibly as a product of their figurative lifetime of experience, their most mature..  This new album is a much different experience than the band’s previous effort “Rock and Roll is Black and Blue” and mostly for the better. 

 

Metal has evolved in too many directions to count, but a hallmark of many of its offshoots is an increased propensity for technical virtuosity. In every sub-genre, as time goes on, there has been a focus on heightening the difficulty of the music, because there is a misguided belief (that I'm assuming was propelled by Guitar Hero) that the amount of finger-twisting riffs in a song has an impact on the quality of the music. I can't recall how often I've heard people who are fans of technical music criticizing other music for the basic fact that it wasn't hard to play.

In my mind, when I think of twisted darkness, I don't turn to the frozen north. While extreme metal has for so long been driven by the sensibilities of that geography, the real heart of artistic darkness rests in the Gothic nature of the Victorians. They were the ones who built real monoliths to the dark side, who could see the beauty that came from looking at the worst we're capable of. It's a bit disappointing, therefore, that extreme metal has not often reflected that influence.

For Toronto’s Cancer Bats, 2012’s “Dead Set on Living” was a triumph.  The record was pure power encased in turgid, overdriven fuzz.  Screamed anthems of relatable themes and the individual’s power (or lack thereof.  Also, one song about the Large Hadron Collider and gravitational physics,) dotted the landscape, building idols and tearing down others.  With their career hallmark to this point established, the heavy duty for the band now is to try and replicate that success with their new record “Searching for Zero.” 

 

I wasn't sure what to expect from a French metal band, especially a French metal band named The Inspector Cluzo. But a strange thing happened to me while listening to The Inspector Cluzo's latest album "Gasconha Rocks".  I liked it and I wanted more.

The songs on "Gasconha Rocks" are punk flavored. Somewhat in style but mainly in length. And the songs are good. Really good.

What I found surprising is The Inspector Cluzo is a band of two, count 'em, two members. The "band" is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Malcom Lacrouts and drummer/backing vocalist Phil Jourdain.

Putting aside my role as a music critic for a moment, one of the things that bothers me as a an of music, and someone who has dabbled in it myself, is the lack of productivity so many bands these days show. It is frustrating to no end when a band puts out a record (good or bad), and you know you have to wait four to five years for the next bite of the apple. Somehow, we have conditioned ourselves to expect professional musicians to write the equivalent of one song ever three to four months, without it being an outrage.

When we last heard from Enslaved, they were pushing forward with their blend of progressive and black metal, making a mixture of sounds that shouldn't work together sound unlike anything else. It was still a bit of a messy record, and I was far from in love with it, but Enslaved appeared to me to be one of the few bands in extreme metal that was doing something legitimately extreme; pushing beyond the assumed confines of the genre to explore what else lay beyond the horizon.

So here's how this week's review went down... I popped in the new album from Stormwitch, a band with which I was not familiar. I listened to it a couple of times, jotted down my thoughts and THEN moved on to the bands bio. Imagine how surprised I was to discover that not only is Stormwitch not a new band but they've been around for quite a long time. I had to double check my heavy metal encyclopedia.

There is an old story in the worlds of physics and metaphysics (very different things, by the way) about a confrontation between a scientist and what we will call a layperson. They were debating the origin of the universe, when she proposes that the world sits atop the back of a giant turtle. The scientist asks the obvious question, what is below the turtle? She scoffs, as the the question is ridiculous. The answer, she says, is another turtle. In fact, it's turtles all the way down.

Let us take a moment to stop and ask a rather odd question: what is death metal? It seems sill to be asking such an existential question about a genre that is close to thirty years old, but I'm not sure anyone has ever figured out what the true essence of death metal is. Is it the growled vocals that define death metal? The riffing style? The dark and disturbing subject matter? Some combination of these elements has been needed to truly be considered a death metal release for as long as I can remember, although I can't recall ever hearing an exact formula be spoken of.