heavy metal

It’s easy to say that “Resolution 15” is a thrash band, but it’s harder to pinpoint the “how” of it all. While the band’s roots are firmly planted in the rich earth of thrash as we know it, the inclusion of electric violins in place of the traditional guitar immediately make their music an eyebrow-arching concern.

Yet, the mere inclusion of what could be seen as gimmickry does not an album make, so for “Svaha” to impress, it must bring more to the table than a banner headline about instrumentation.

Last year was a culture shock for a lot of people, as “50 Shades Of Gray” opened eyes to a world they had no idea existed. Luckily for them, words are a soft initiation into a world they won't be comfortable in. It amused me to see people who would never have thought of such things engrossed in a sado-masochistic fantasy. But then I had a thought; it's not much different than something I've encountered. There's a degree of romantic detachment and masochism that comes along with black metal, a scene I have never been able to understand.

Following the technically curious remix experiment that was “American Tradgedy Redux,” I resolved to give Hollywood Undead another shot. My logic was that if other musicians could do interesting things with the core music, then perhaps either A) there’s something there I’ve missed, or B) the band could learn and evolve from studying what others have done with their product. So I dove in, clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose as they say in Dillon, Texas.

I remember hearing about Riverside when their first album was just coming out. I wasn't yet interested in progressive music, but there was enough buzz about them that they were always in the back of my mind. By the time they got around to finishing their trilogy and releasing “Anno Domini High Definition”, I was ready to see what all the fuss was about.

You can't trust a musician to tell you the truth. It's a simple thing to keep in mind, but we idolize our favorite players so much that it's often difficult to remember proper perspective. Rather than being some almighty vehicle for divine inspiration, they're all too human, subject to the same fits and rages as the rest of us. And most of all, unless they have to, they will never retire.

For more than a decade, Otep Shamaya has played several parts in the metalsphere: rebel, lightning rod, provocateur. With no readily apparent sign of that train slowing down, it comes as a minor shock that this pillar of unbridled feminine ferocity would announce that “Hydra,” her band’s forthcoming album, will be the sunset of her musical career.

Over the course of the last year or so, two themes have stood out to me as I take in as much of the music scene as I can; 1) progressive music has come out of the shadows, and 2) vintage sounds have become more than merely a gimmick. And when the two trends come together, you can either end up with the hipster indie-rock equivalent of a metal band, or with something that recalls the olden days in the best of manners. For the sake of my sanity, Corsair is decidedly the latter.

Now here’s an interesting emergence. Creeper, emerging from the greater Dallas market, is a metal act billing itself as traditional metal. Yet, this isn’t traditional metal as it has come to be defined in recent years through releases from bands like Grand Magus, all of which hail back to genesis acts like Judas Priest. Rather, this is a traditional metal schooled in thrash, death ad speed. It makes one wonder if the genre has evolved far enough, or merely aged enough, where movements once revolutionary are now predominately historical.

As a new year is at its dawn, a wellspring of hope and optimism will once again flourish, the belief that the coming year will be better than the last. It's natural to think that things will get better, that something grand and great will be coming down the line to lift our spirits. It's why we celebrate the coming of a new year, when it's really an arbitrary delineation of where we happen to be in a never-ending orbit.

This year proved to be an interesting one for me as a music fan, and not just because it marked my official foray into the world of criticism. After a few albums in the last several years began the trend, this was the year that prog became a larger presence in my listening. While not all of them will appear in the following list, there were more prog albums I enjoyed than any other subset of rock and metal, a fact that caugth me off guard. But when confronted with solid albums from bands like The Flower Kings and Affector, which didn't even make the list, and followed up on with those that did qualify, it was a banner year for prog. None of the albums will top my list, as Dream Theater did last year with their incredible “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”, but this year was defined, in my mind, by prog.