heavy metal

What a surprise out of left field. When you look at Skeletal Remains album “Beyond the Flesh” and consider the name of the band combines with the album cover’s Cannibal Corpse motif, you think you know what you’re getting.

Yet, you would be wrong! Okay, there are the given deathmetal and grindcore standards, including the scowling vocals, nightmarish lyrical themes and generally ghoulish presentation, but the twist comes in the unexpected form of catchy and melodic riffs and purely free-form Van Halen style soloing.

When you think of women in rock, the number of names that come to mind is small. When you think of women in metal, that number shrinks further. And when you think of women in metal who have been able to survive for twenty five years, one name comes to mind; Doro. For a quarter century, Doro has been defying stereotypes and putting out old-school metal that never fails to recall the days when the star of heavy metal burned brightest. Time may not have been the kindest to the style of music Doro has always stood for, but it has been kind to her.

What makes Dethklok unique among gimmick bands (which is not an insult, merely a fact,) is that the “band” plays the role totally straight. Most metal fans’ exposure to the blend of comedy and metal comes through bands like GWAR or Haunted Garage, who make no secret of their over-the-top motives. Even the mighty Spinal Tap played up their persona, skillfully reveling in and mocking the signature characteristics of metal.

Both as a fan of music, and someone who dabbles in it, I'm a big fan of the vintage revolution that has taken hold in large swaths of the rock and metal world. There's something about stripped-down, simplified, authentic music that is appealing on a level no amount of modern flash can replicate. As more and more bands find new ways to combine computerized sounds with nearly inhuman displays of fretboard acrobatics, the old-school approach of building a song out of a riff and then playing it as a band holds more and more power.

Halloween is unique among most holiday celebrations in that it revels in darkness and quirky activity, allowing otherwise normal individuals to act totally out of character, protected by a mask. The holiday has become the rallying flag for macabre media and fascinations of all kinds and just as horror movies are stacked in the Fall, so to are goth records.

Cradle of Filth is a band with a history and track record as long and winding as the image of paths through a creepy, haunted forest that they try to capture and imprint on disc. Under the steadfast and dedicated leadership of Dani Filth, Cradle has always tried to stay one step ahead of the heavy metal game.

Where Cradle of Filth has a reputation as a band given to theatrical presentations and the occasional flight of fancy, guitarist Paul Allender is a man who speaks much in the same way he plays; straightforward, without wandering decoration and totally unique to him. As Cradle of Filth gets ready to spring their new album "The Manticore and Other Horrors" on the world, Allender and I sat down for the second time to discuss the album, the band's history, the martial arts, and a small army of odds and ends. It was at all points an entertaining and enlightening conversation about the man and his music.

It seems almost impossible to think about The Sword’s “Apocryphon” without also thinking of their mammoth concept album “Warp Riders.” That record was nothing short of a modern masterpiece, masterfully blending blues-soaked doom riffs with the fiery grit of heavy metal, the end result a symphony of might and magic and science fiction. Fair or not, “Apocryphon” will be judged against “Warp Riders,” as the latter album was the exclamation point on The Sword’s rise through the ranks of metal.

Not so long ago on these very pages, I remember thinking that Sister Sin’s “True Sound of the Underground” was far too calculating for its own good, attempting to capitalize on the broad and easy target of teenage angst without really offering a solution or an alternative. It was a highly marketable album, but one that failed resonate for anyone of college age or greater.

Dark, cynical roadhouses lke Bogie’s in Albany, New York have been and continue to be the proving grounds or metal. It is here that the crowds deem bands worthy, encouraging their heroes with raised glasses of ale while passing judgment on inferior act with their austere silence. The lights are low, the die-hards are out, the Sword of Damocles dangles precariously over the musician’s necks.