I'm never sure what to think of an album when the press material that comes along with it spends most of the words talking about the artist's other career, and the collaborators who contributed to the music. Neither of those is important in the slightest to the final product, which will have to survive on its own merit. Knowing a famous name was associate with it, or that the artist once did something in a different industry that was interesting, is not going to make me think any differently of the music I'm listening to.
Progressive metal is in a rough period right now. The old guard are either releasing sub-standard albums that only make it more obvious how far they have fallen, or they are drastically uncool with anyone who didn't become a fan when progressive metal was first being created. Progressive today tends to mean djent, a style that has sapped all the life and humanity out of music, turning metal into a math equation of time signatures, and not songs that anyone can actually remember.
There is usually a gaping chasm between the bands and albums that get critical acclaim, and those that get popular acclaim. Part of that stems from the way that critics think about music, which evolves into a pseudo-intellectual statement of one's own musical literacy. The other part is that quality rarely equates to popularity, so many records that get acclaim from people who live an breathe music are likely to go straight over the heads of the masses. Some bands are able to win on both fronts, and one of the more unusual cases has been Primordial.
I am a naturalist when it comes to music. When I listen to a band, I want to hear music that sounds like it's actually being played by real people. That's why the vintage resurrection has been a welcome change of pace, even if many of the bands have not figured out how to write songs as effectively as those of bygone times. The fact that they went back to organic productions that sound like the band plugged in and are playing in the same room as you is eminently appealing.
Anyone who has read these pages knows that I am not much of a fan of pure death metal. Having it mixed into more progressive sounds (a la Opeth) or played with melodic passages (a la Scar Symmetry) is just fine, but I have rarely ever sat down and played a pure death metal album end to end. That being said, there are a couple of exceptions to that rule. One of those is Bloodbath, who have shown the rare ability to make death metal that is both ferocious and catchy.
If I didn't know any better, by listening to enough heavy music, I would swear that the gods of rock and roll are the same ones worshiped by the Vikings. Rarely have there been songs written about the Greek and Roman gods, not that they didn't have some twisted stories that could make for interesting heavy metal, but something about the Norse has made them to go-to deities for metal bands. Skálmöld takes up their heritage, as many others have, with a bombastic style that pays tribute to those gods, while making us all feel a little bit more like an avenging warrior along the way.
Metal bands are cannibalistic. I don't say that in the sense of a Cannibal Corpse lyric, but in the sense that it's hard to find new metal bands popping up that don't have members of already established bands in them. It seems like practically everyone plays in three or four bands, which is great for fans of those players, but not so much when it means every band begins to sound even more like every other band. The members of Asphyx have been guilty of this, populating their main band, along with Hail Of Bullets and Grand Supreme Blood Court, and now Soulburn.
Alternative rock, or what passes for it these days, is not something I keep apprised of, so much of the rock music the greater populace knows about are the sorts of bands that have slipped past my radar. Trail Of Dead, as I will shorten the name for the sake of my sanity, are one of those bands that for whatever reason I have never had the opportunity to experience. I have heard the name countless times, and it seems like I have known their music, but I haven't.
Machine Head are one of the few metal bands out there that make an attempt to be larger than life. Their music over the last few album cycles has tilted towards the epic, bringing back the scope and vision of when rock and metal was able to fill arenas. “The Blackening” is hailed as a modern classic, and Machine Head are one of the most talked about bands, even if the reason for it is not always positive.
There is no word scarier to most metal fans than 'pop'. The thought of pop music seeping in and destroying the heavy beauty of metal is one of the things that unites the majority of the metal universe, and it's one of the reasons metal has remained in the underground. Metal is not at all about embracing any of the themes or sounds that are popular, which means that when a band dares to do so, they are almost branded heretics by the faithful. Heavy guitars aren't supposed to be able to meld with synthesizers and drum loops, not without recalling the brutal horror of industrial slaughter.