heavy metal

It was less than a year ago that Six Feet Under revealed a revamped lineup to the world, unleashing “Undead” onto a death metal world that wasn't expecting Chris Barnes to make relevant music ever again. The band had been through some stagnant years, and the “Graveyard Classics” series of cover albums had destroyed much of their credibility with serious listeners, so the fact that “Undead” was able to resurrect the band's image was an act still a few steps short of a miracle.

For at least the last six or eight years, no band makes me more nervous than Clutch. Ever since the release of “Robot Hive: Exodus,” the band has left my fanhood on uncertain footing, slowly but surely making adjustments to their sound. As critical praise came easily to “From Beale Street to Oblivion,” many who thirsted for the “Pure Rock Fury” era felt left in the lurch. What were we to make of this new Clutch, with the mellower, more calculated sound? The crowds at the live shows began to shift demographic, skewing in new directions.

Over the history of death metal, an awful lot of adjectives have been used to describe the genre’s fare; fast, loud, harsh, brutal, noisy, nasty, visceral, and increasingly as the subgenre develops, technical. Though many of them paint part of the picture, none of those words accurately describes the whole of Hypocrisy’s new album, “End of Disclosure.” The painted portions that do apply to the album rest dutifully on the canvas of another word, one never used in death metal except in very rare occasions; measured.

Back in the ‘80s, Maxine Petrucci and her sister, Roxy, formed the band Madam X with Bret Kaiser on vocals and Chris Doliber on the bass guitar. After one album, 1984’s “We Reserve the Right,” and a revolving door of replacement vocalists, following the departure of Kaiser, which included Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach, the band eventually threw in the towel. To this day, however, Madam X remains the most notable line of Maxine’s resumé.

When you pare things down to their essence, truths become clear. When progressive metal is put through the sieve, two common strains stand out. The vast majority of bands fit into one of two categories; those who play technical metal in the mold of Dream Theater, and those who use metal as a framework for throwing in any crazy musical bit they can come up with. That's why we have countless bands that are called Dream Theater clones, and a rising number of bands that are impossible to describe, but very few who play Fates Warning's style of progressive metal.

I suppose it was inevitable and we all should have seen it coming. In thrash’s latent, momentous revival, we’ve come up with new names to buffer the genre and kept the lion’s share of the classics alive as well. As the wave of metal resurrection continues however, studious fans will note that every facet of old thrash has been revitalized save one: we’ve been asking the question “who will be the new S.O.D?” Carrying on the legacy of the Stormtroopers of Death is a deceptively weighty task.

As is our custom, we close the annual Tribute Project with submissions and thoughts from around the metal sphere, as promised. A couple dozen people were nice enough to take time out of their lives and consider our question: "Out of all the artists who debuted or formed in 1983, which one has had the greatest impact on you personally or professionally?" the answers are varied, some heartfelt, some hilarious and many in between. Nonetheless, each one provides insight into the artist who gave it, and gives a glimpse into their dedication and fanhood. But enough.


M.DREW:
Speaking of Queensryche songs, if you ever really want to make a serious ‘Ryche fan angrier than all get out, tell him or her your favorite song of theirs is “Jet City Woman.” Watch the reaction. There might even be an eye twitch.


CHRIS: