heavy metal

The word is out. Volbeat is far from a secret. Those not familiar with the Danish rock and metal powerhouse are officially behind in the count now. Playing the Best Buy Theater in the burning neon heart of Times Square, Volbeat had sold out the show weeks in advance. I had it on pretty damn good authority that industry people, journalists and an audience from all over Europe were flying into New York City to witness this show.

The Merciless Book of Metal Lists” proclaims to be the single most opinionated source on heavy metal in history. That statement by authors Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins not only sets the tone for the book, but in itself is an argumentative statement. The beauty of this book is that the authors’ gleefully expect you to disagree with them and they’re glad you do! The book tries to capture both the intrinsic debate among learned metal fans and the fraternal brotherhood of metal fandom.

While listening to Moss, it quickly becomes evident that this is one of those bands where the name is not just a title, but an idea. Think about the nature of moss: it grows directionless but persistent, deliberate and patient. Uninhibited, moss will overtake and consume any object nearby. This insight gives just a glimpse of the idea behind Moss’ new record “Horrible Night.”

Devil to Pay has established a long career in the underground, cementing themselves as the go-to for grungy American doom. All this while being based in Indianapolis, perhaps the least likely of hotbeds for heavy metal activity. Parenthetically, the fact that Devil to Pay has experienced success outside their home market is a solid testament to the penetration and efficiency of the accessible digital marketplace.

We all know the names of the legendary and influential bands that laid the groundwork for today's metal universe. Their legacies are undoubted, the influence massive. But for every band that became immortal, there were others that were forgotten, left behind, doomed to spend eternity in the shadows. It's a simple fact that only so many can make it to the top of the mountain, and only a few can be recognized as innovators, but they were never alone. There were always other bands, who didn't make it, who pushed them along on the path toward becoming legends.

It has been thirty years since Suicidal Tendencies’ self-titled debut album hit the shelves. At the time, lead singer Mike Muir was an energized, angst-driven twenty year-old churning out some of the best hardcore punk of the time period. Now, at the age of fifty, he’s back with a new Suicidal Tendencies lineup and a brand new material.

My wife is a very patient woman, who only takes a less-than-casual interest in heavy metal because it makes it easier for us to spend time together. The following conversation happened in our living room:

Me: “I’m not quite sure what to make of this album.”
Her: “Who is it?”
Me: “Finntroll. It’s their new record, it’s all over the place.”
Her: “Well, I don’t hate it. It sounds kind of fun.”

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.