heavy metal

"Thrash /THraSH/ (verb) - to beat violently and repeatedly". This definition fits the band Conquest and their newest album, "The War We Rage", perfectly. Thrash metal as a genre has been around now for more than 30 years. To be defined as a thrash band requires you to stay true to certain compositional elements which were developed "back in the day" and repeated time and time again. These are generally low-register, "chugging" guitars, double bass drumming, high-register guitar solos and screaming vocals. Conquest is truly the definition of thrash.

Anyone who knows me, or has read enough of my writing, knows that I'm not much of a fan of death metal. Most of it is too sloppy, too noisy, or just too far removed from what I consider the heart of music for me to get a lot of enjoyment from it. I understand why people love it, but I would never be able to throw myself headlong into the genre. In a discussion I had with my colleague Drew a while back, I challenged myself to make a list of my five favorite death metal albums. Smack dab in the middle of that list was Carcass' landmark “Heartwork”.

It’s been a long, convoluted and indirect career path for Vista Chino co-founder Brant Bjork. Most readers probably associate Bjork’s name with the seminal band Kyuss, but after a long series of bitter fights and court battles, Bjork has started Vista Chino with fellow veteran John Garcia and is on the forward path again. Hoping to ignite a new chapter of his career with his new brand and familiar faces, Bjork sat down for a few minutes to talk about this chapter of his musical life, the past litigation and what desert rock means to him. Read on!

Music is art and, as such, there are endless interpretations and styles to be had. Throughout history, there have been many, many musicians who have used a basic and culturally approved composition structure to put together a product which is readily digestible by the masses and the "art" of the music becomes lost in a sea of glory-hounds and pre-cast corporate templates. Every once in a while we are treated to an artist who breaks the music down to it's most basic parts and attempts to create a product that pushes the boundaries of what we have come to expect from our musicians.

The bedrock of progressive metal as we know it is built upon two bands; Dream Theater and Fates Warning. With apologies to fans of Queensryche, it's the truth. No bands have been more instrumental in the development, propagation, and flourishing of progressive metal than those two standard-bearers. While Dream Theater has been earning accolades, and racking up bigger sales and a higher profile through the years, Fates Warning has faded into the background. After their landmark “A Pleasant Shade Of Grey”, Fates Warning has been the forgotten legend of progressive metal.

As time goes by, it becomes increasingly difficult to do reviews of GWAR albums. The simple fact is, there are only so many ways in common English that you can say “well, it sounds like GWAR.” Amidst all the blood and fluids that GWAR has dispensed over the last thirty years (or thereabouts, which seems unbelievable,) the band has quietly been highly prolific, never waiting more than three years to unleash a new album on their faithful followers.

I'm often confused by the things that become popular. My mind and my aesthetic aren't compatible with common wisdom, so I'm often at a loss when it comes to understanding how certain elements become wildly popular, while others that may have more obvious merit are left by the wayside. Tyr brings this to mind, here presenting us a concept album about the voyage of a Viking warrior riding off into battle to impress the Gods. Viking mythology is certainly interesting, but it baffles me how Viking -themed metal has become such a large part of what we hear every year.

Both as a journalist, and as someone with an interest in heavy guitar music, it's difficult for me to admit the staggering gaps in my knowledge. I wish I could say I know more than I do about every aspect of the music we cover here, but I came to the party late, and with a musical basis predetermined that makes it difficult for me to appreciate certain types of heavy music in anything but an intellectual way. One of those gaps in my knowledge is punk/hardcore.

By now, everyone and their metal brother has an opinion of ‘djent.’ My compatriot Chris has spoken about this phenomenon before, as well as its divisive nature and the splinter’s penchant for drumming up intense debate about how metal ‘should’ sound. I find myself a man without a country in this particular instance. I can’t in good conscience speak against an entire outlying genre when it’s entirely possible that someone out there can make it sound good.

Confession time, kids. I have long been, since my college days, a closet Saliva fan. I hear the rampant, frothing criticism already – ‘Drew, that’s less metal (and therefore worse,) than your general support for the mainstream Five Finger Death Punch and the cupcake that is Sick Puppies.’ I know. I get it. Bear with me. Just like those other two bands, Saliva has long distinguished themselves by being able to execute a quality formula for pop metal (if I can call it that.) while maintaining a certain credible edge. With that in mind, we venture forth into “In It to Win It.”