heavy metal

Gene Hoglan. The Atomic Clock. Testament. Dethklok. Death. Fear Factory. Strapping Young Lad. All these and many more are just a few lines on the resume of metal's most productive and prolific drummer. In truth, his name has become ubiquitous with high-end heavy metal drumming. By anecdote, he even gave the legendary Dave Lumbardo some tips. But the topic on this day is a topic that proved to be very near and dear to Gene's heart; Meldrum's long awaited, finally released finale, "Lifer." Read on to see a candid conversation with a thoughtful guy.

Mustasch, a heavy metal band from Sweden, has been around for a long time; too long, in fact, for them to be not be better known in the rest of the world. After seven albums, tours with the likes of Motörhead, three Swedish Grammy nominations and one victory to the tune of “Metal Album of the Year” in 2008, you would think Mustasch would be about as close to a household name around the world as heavy metal bands get these days. However, despite their Scandinavian success, Mustasch have yet to take the world by storm.

If you spend enough time listening to a narrow band of music, you will eventually hear everything. Not literally, of course, but you will hear so much music that fits into the same small box of cliches that nothing short of a revolution will be able to catch you off-guard anymore. You can't be surprised by what you hear, nor can you be overwhelmed by what might have, at a different time, been music that would have helped you define yourself. And so it is with any record that crosses my desk these days that isn't concerned with the latest trend.

Just read the press release for Mothership and you’ll learn there’s a lot to like about this band. (And for clarity’s sake, let’s get one thing out of the way; this band has nothing to do with George Clinton.) There are the stock-in-trade quotes about what the band is and what they want to be. There are all the conformist comparisons to who the band sounds like and allusions to who inspires their composition.

New York City has long been the proving ground for any number of musical acts in any number of musical genres. It is a place where dreams come true and can be shattered (as was painstakingly recorded and subsequently overplayed by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys.) Just as with their local sports teams (go Mets!) the New York music fan is well versed in his or her chosen paradigm, and impressing those individuals can go a long way toward making or breaking a career. So it was that a dutifully loyal crowd assembled at the Gramercy Theater to pass judgment on Turisas, Firewind and Stolen Babies.

“While there are many bands in the hard rock/metal world that like to play with fire, it requires a certain combination of insanity and balls to douse yourself in it.” This opening line of Psychothermia’s biography from the band’s website is certainly true, but if you’re going to play with real fire during a photo shoot, you better have the music to back up these incredibly unique and powerful images.

Melodic death metal is one of those things that, if you listen to a purist, will tell you cannot exist. Death metal, they say, is incompatible with the melodic elements other facets of the metal universe take for granted. The music should be uncompromising, focused on nothing but steamrolling the listener with riff after riff of unrelenting brutality. The bands that dared step outside that box and try to make their assaults into what conventional thinkers might consider songs were heretics, and the music they made was cute, but not really death metal.

Okay kids, gather round. It’s confession time.

Cults are bad things, or so we are told. The connotation that comes packaged with the word is one of evil, the occult, and brainwashed minions blindly following their leader. In that last respect, there is a grain of truth to the attachment of that word to certain bands, the ones who inspire a fan-base supremely devoted to their favorite artist. Slough Feg is certainly a cult band, if we put it in those terms.

When entering blindly into an album, the descriptions we use to categorize the music we hear aren't always good enough. Specifically, when we talk about doom metal, we neglect to mention that there are two radically different approaches to doom, a forked road that may take us to the promised land, but may also take us directly to hell. On the one hand, we have the doom bands that treat doom as the icing on the cake, spending most of their time playing a hybrid of traditional and stoner metal, merely a bit slower than usual.