heavy metal

When bands like High On Fire, who lead the way in the world of sludgy stoner metal, get praised to the hilt, I'm often left confused as to what it is I'm missing out on. That particular brand of metal, with fuzzed out guitars and riffs upon riffs, taps into the primal need for heaviness that so many metal fans have, but seldom shows the care for songwriting that I dare say is necessary, no matter how heavy your band is. Stoner metal is called that for a reason, because it was long noted that being in an altered state was necessary to either play or enjoy so much of it.

At this point, attentive readers are well familiar with the career of Texas Hippie Coalition thus far.  For those not yet initiated, here’s the vitals in brief – a band of badass, sauntering Texans made a band that lives to the fill the gap between Pantera and David Allen Coe (a gap briefly filled by the Rebel Meets Rebel album as well, let’s not forget.)  They’ve just dropped their fourth album, “Roll On” to the world, featuring the recording debut of guitarist Cord Pool.  With all that said, here we go.

Certain phrases don't appear to make any sense. We hear them, and even without letting our minds pour over the intricacies language can convey, we instinctively know there's something wrong with them. I'm reminded of this as I prepare to listen to Khold's “Til Endes”. The album is described, in the accompanying literature, as 'groove-laden black metal', which is one of those things that doesn't sound like it should be. Black metal is the antithesis of groove, a frosty concoction of pain and misery, with no time or patience for such endearing qualities as 'groove'.

Orange Goblin have toiled in the metal circuit for a long time, longer than most suspect. It’s coming up on twenty years since their debut under the name “Our Haunted Kingdom” on a split EP with Electric Wizard in 1996. In that time, singer Ben Ward, a larger than life figure who was once described on these pages as a combination of Ozzy Osbourne and Al Snow, has captained his band, which has much the same lineup as ever, through the dark corners of metal’s underground and established a solid, respected career.

I don't think it will come as any surprise when I say that metal, more than any other musical genre, is a lifestyle as much as it is a style of music. You've got your "heshers" who wear their love of metal on their sleeves. You've got your closet metal fans who look like normal folks by day but are the first to jump in the pit when the nighttime comes. Most of us fall somewhere in between. The lifestyle that stands out for me, and for which I have a deep appreciation for, is the over-the-top, bordering on cliche, metal gods.

Toronto’s Crimson Shadows understands their genre better than most. Melodic metal, even when crossbred with other subgenres, has always faced the criticism that it’s difficult to take seriously – the music isn’t dark enough, the message not bleak enough to accommodate a ‘discerning’ metal fan’s taste.

I come into contact with a lot of people who do not share my musical tastes, and I notice certain trends among them that often catch me by surprise. One of those is that fans of mostly extreme metal often have a soft spot in their hearts for traditional metal, despite all the clichés about it that their preferred style of music tried to eradicate. And among those fans who have such a proclivity, Wolf is one of the bands that often gets brandished as an example of what traditional metal should be.

Gaz Jennings is a name well known in the perpetual underground of heavy metal. As the songwriter and guitarist for the now-defunct Cathedral, Jennings helped pen and perform some of the great classics of doom metal, teaming up with Lee Dorian to energize the genre after a particularly fallow period.

It was only natural that once metal music became intertwined with video games that there would be a degree of co-mingling, that bands would start to soak up the sounds and influences of the games that took metal under their wing. It's odd, in a way, that a genre that tries to push boundaries would instead have a faction that aims to introduce regressive sounds, but that is exactly what has happened. The soundtrack of old 8-bit video games has seeped into areas of the metal culture, and has created an odd amalgam of sounds that I could never have predicted.

So, what do you do when you're a drummer and your dad is also a drummer but not just ANY drummer. He's one of the most iconic metal drummers ever. What is a son to do? Join a power trio and put out an album filled with some of the best hard rock this reviewer has heard in a long time. That's what you do.