As we approach the end of another calendar year I find myself asking reflective questions... is it time to change my impossibly high standards and the inevitable disappointment that goes along with them to something more realistic? Do I expect too much from people? Should I just be happy with what I have or should I continue to strive for more? Is "good enough" really good enough? And what about all this new music I've been hearing?
So, I'm sitting in my favorite chair with a turkey sandwich in one hand and a fresh cup of coffee in the other. The album I'm reviewing this week begins to play on the hi-fi. It starts off innocuously enough with your standard thrash guitar beginning. I take a bite of my sandwich. The song kind of sounds like something Testament or Death Angel might have done back in the day. Then, 48 seconds into the album, it snaps into some killer NYC hardcore straight outta 1993. Was I shocked? Indeed. I nearly dropped my turkey sandwich.
You know, there was a time when beards were a rarity in the world of heavy metal music. Lots of hair, leather and spikes but facial hair was pretty hard to come by back in the day. Scott Ian of Anthrax developed some impressive chin whiskers and Kerry King of Slayer grew himself a mighty goatee. Nowadays, a formidable beard goes part and parcel with the heaviest of heavy metal and helping to sustain that trend is UK band Krokodil, who's modus operandi is "mostly beards and riffs".
Here's a question... what if, instead of Ian Gillan, Black Sabbath had replaced Ronnie James Dio with a female singer? And not just any female singer. A female singer with power and soul who really knew how to belt out a lyric.
I think we have our found our answer in the form of the band Avatarium.
Avatarium is from the country that never seems to be short on new and interesting metal acts, Sweden. Hailing from Stockholm, they bring with them a sound that's part metal, part blues and a whole lot of intensity from vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith.
Few names are as immediately recognizable in the world of metal as that of Max Cavalera; founding member and former frontman for metal giants Sepultura, founder of the Brazillian flavored metal group Soulfly and now, after reuniting with his brother, former Sepultura drummer Iggor Cavalera, face of Cavalera Conspiracy. If you're a fan of brutal, in your face, unapologetic metal, Max and Iggor are here to provide it with the latest release from Cavalera Conspiracy, "Pandemonium".
How many metal shows have you been to where the opening act was solid but not inspiring? I've found myself in this situation more times than I care to remember. I am a supporter of music in all it's forms and I give due credit to any band that has made it far enough to have an album released and go on tour. It's their chance to show the audience what they can do. When the opening act comes on, I'm rooting for them. I WANT them to inspire me. I WANT them to succeed.
“There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.” ― Oscar Levant
The album I'm reviewing this week is a great example of what an artist can accomplish with talent, dedication, pushing the boundaries and just a wee bit of crazy. It's the latest offering from the Devin Townsend Project, a two disc set called "Z2". Devin Townsend's new adventure is metal to be sure but it's oh, so much more. Metal doesn't truly begin to describe what's happening on this record. It's exciting, complex and difficult to describe, but I'll give it a shot.
If we can all agree that Black Sabbath was the first true heavy metal band then heavy metal as a genre has only been around for slightly more than 40 years. And, if we use the traditional definition of a "generation" as being a 20 year period, then we are nearly a quarter of the way through the third generation of heavy metal music.
Have you ever received a gift in a "fake box"? You get a gift, thoughtfully wrapped in festive paper and you tear it open to reveal that thing you've always wanted; a new play station or an Ipod or whatever it is the kids long for these days. You open the box to expose the true contents... underwear or something equally unsatisfying. Has this ever happened to you? If it has, you'll understand how I felt while listening to the new full length from Hang The Bastard, "Sex In The Seventh Circle".
Imagine my surprise when I saw an album from a band called Electric Wizard in my inbox. I've been a Wizard for many years so I couldn't wait to hear what the electric version sounded like. As it turns out, Electric Wizard plays a style of music referred to as "doom metal" and hails from Dorset, England where all the best doom and dreariness comes from.
For those of you keeping score at home, "doom metal" as a genre is strongly influenced by the great Black Sabbath and tends to be, shall we say, a bit gloomy.