heavy metal

Two years ago Shear introduced the world to their debut full-length, “Breaking the Stillness,” which showcased the Finnish band as a band worth watching into the future. Two years later, the band releases “Katharis” to the world, the anticipated follow up that will put more cement in the band’s foundation and establish what trail they are attempting to blaze.

Have you ever found an album that changed your life or, at least, changed the way you listen to music? An album so good that, when it ends, you just can't wait to play it again from the beginning? So have I. Unfortunately, "Napalm Nights" by Nocturnal Breed is not that album.

Those expecting another Firewind record from Gus G will find themselves surprised by “I am the Fire.” The titular musician has said at length that for this, his first solo record, he wanted to defy expectation and shirk convention. While another guitar virtuoso, Jake E. Lee, released an album recently trying to prove he was still in the mold, Gus G is trying to break out of it. “I am the Fire” is Gus G’s personal release: his chance to write songs that feel good to him, regardless of how much discretion they do or do not require.

My review for this week is a couple of days late but I've got a good reason. No, the dog did not eat my homework. I don't even have a dog. I have cats. I used to have a dog but that doesn't matter much now. The reason I'm late is because I changed my mind.

Let’s start at the top – the first thing that attracted me to Dark Forest’s new record “The Awakening” was the cover art. I was pretty sure I had seen that cover on a ‘Magic: The Gathering’ card, definitely green, probably an enchantment. Anyway, while that’s obviously the least important aspect of Dark Forest’s new effort, it does speak to the continuing power of cover art, even during this new digital age.

I often lament the state of current metal, and how so many of us seem to have lost our way over the course of these many years. There was a time when metal bands didn't consider it a sin to write songs that were melodic, hooky, and memorable. If a song caught on with people who weren't the truest of the true, it was a good thing, because it meant more people might start listening. Nowadays, that attitude is all but gone, and anyone who isn't already a metal fan is shunned from entry, due to the retrograde thinking that has taken over metal songwriting.

It's not easy anymore for a band to come out and bend the rules of death metal, creating a sound that is utterly unique to themselves. There isn't much room in the sonic palate for diverse sounds, and the songwriting of death metal is formulaic enough that most bands wind up falling into a very narrow range. It's one of the things death metal fans love about death metal, and one of the things that makes it so hard for me to ever get into that kind of music. At a certain point, when everything sounds the same, there's little incentive to keep trying.

It's a fairly rare day as a music reviewer when you can be effusive in priase of something you don't totally understand, and rarer still when that statement is reflexive - that the not understanding is part of why you are being effusive. So it is with this wonderful mystery known as Destrage.

What makes a great album? There is no one thing that makes an album "great". Is it the quality of the music? The talent of the musicians? Sometimes, but some of my favorite albums were made by bands who were not what you would call "great musicians". The Misfits or The Ramones come to mind. Is it lyrical content? Again, sometimes but not necessarily. A song need not contain flowery prose or well executed poetry to make it great. So, what is it then? Art appreciation (and music, even metal, is certainly an art form) is subjective, to say the least.

…and so the thrash revival rolls on. Next up in the batter’s box is Hirax, the Southern California band originally formed in 1982 in the shadow of other SoCal acts like Metallica and Slayer. Through the ins and outs and machinations of a musical career, there have only been two constants in the extended history of Hirax – thrash and founding lead singer Katon W. De Pena. So what makes Hirax stand out? Well, they’ve got a thick and crunchy guitar sound, a badass attitude and a singer who looks a little like Tim Meadows. Let’s get to work.