Heritage is the Opeth album that not merely asks you to speak their musical language. It demands it. On its surface, the record speaks in softer tongues than the nine albums before it; but make no mistake: this will go down as the Swedes’ most “difficult” album. It will be Opeth’s most discussed, debated and discovered album to date. It’s likely a lot of old school fans may hate it at first.
Here are some broad strokes. There are absolutely no heavy vocals. No trace of the old death metal rifferama that once anchored at least half of the band’s epic approach. There’s nary an epic-length song to be heard: the average one clocking in around six minutes or under. Heritage certainly isn’t a return to the quieter meditations of Opeth’s Damnation album or the acoustic-y likes of “Isolation Years” or “Coil” from Ghost Reveries and Watershed In fact, Heritage is much more of a watershed than Watershed ever was!
Mikael Ackerfeldt doesn’t seem content to merely redefine the boundaries of what Opeth is about: this time around it feels like he wants to rip up the very nature of what progressive rock is supposed to be and put it back together. “The Devil’s Orchard” lulls you in with its “riffs-and-rhythms-in-freefall” hypno-groovola and a simple sung refrain: “God Is Dead”. “I Feel The Dark” is literally where the album’s “journey” begins: Mikael’s plaintive croon drifting over a quiet looping guitar that momentarily darkens and heavies up without losing the song’s baroque trappings.
There’s been much discussion about Heritage’s oft-esoteric vibe being recorded live on the floor as opposed to the “normal” over quantified and computer corrected metal production techniques. Drummer Martin Axenrot and bassist Martin Mendes are adroit enough as a rhythm section to become an active anachronism. They’re imperfect and funkier than anyone in the game, In the meantime, Acky does a fine job fearlessly channeling his own Ian Anderson (that’s from Jethro Tull, kiddies!).
“Hexprocess” and “Famine” feel like compositions from Hell’s very own jam band. They’re largely instrumental compositions that wouldn’t have fit on any of Opeth’s prior albums. There are plenty of moments here that would elude the more “structured” first nine albums. In fact, mixer, Porcupine Tree man main man and longtime Opeth co-hort Steven Wilson has quietly recorded an unreleased album with Akerfeldt that in its
Opeth operates on a truly strange nexus. They musically reach for stars on a foundation built from rock, jazz and metal’s “almosts” rather than its victors. I also maintain that Heritage, more than any of the band’s none prior “meditations” (that’s what they call ‘em) is the product of a very educated albeit hyper-headed music obsessive. Camel, Caravan, the lighter shade of Sabbath, obscure Swedish jazzers Lamberk (whom Opeth are guilty liberally borrowing from) remains the touchpoints. Heritage does a fine job penning its own love letter to Mikael’s encyclopedic record collection.
So is this a good Opeth record? Unequivocally yes. Disjointed? Yes. Like any of their prior catalog, it possesses moments of brilliance that will certainly cause debate amongst the cognoscenti as to whether they are truly “Opeth”. Warning: the surgeon general emphatically urges you to give this one more than one listen before you make up your mind as to what Ackerfledt & Co. are up to these days. To be sure, Heritage is a record where their ambition and talent are on equal footing.
Power of the Riff began last year as a one-day festival celebrating the heaviest edge of underground metal. Curated by Southern Lord label boss Greg Anderson, also known for his own volume-abuse in Sunn 00 and Goatsnake, as well as cohort and Nighthorse frontman Sam Velde, POTR scored in its second year. The festival’s inaugural installment was a sure-fire score: a collection of bands – including Black Breath and Trap Them (both of whom returned this year) and punctuated with reunion performances from C.O.C., From Ashes Rise and Goatsnake. How did they pull it off? Thank you Converse for corporate sponsorship money. And admission for all: free.
No sneaker money this year. Admission had to be charged. Rather than try and replicate last year’s festival, Power of the Riff focused on Southern Lord’s friends and family. Early Graves, the San Francisco band who were supposed to open last year but lost vocalist Mahk Daniels in a van accident, returned to open the show with one of the sets of the day. New frontman, the Funeral Pyre’s John Strachan makes an impressive addition to the band’s already blackened deathly grind.
Upstairs in the venue’s much smaller room, the likes of local black metallers Harrasor spit vitriol. Fellow locals Aegus bordered on heavy indie rock with members of 16 and Pelican along for the ride – they didn’t measure up to either’s better known “day gigs”. It was the low-end-worshiping, hardcore-worshipping sludge of Seven Sisters of Sleep who brought the room to life.
Acephalix frontman Dan had no issues jumping into the audience in the venue’s big room to incite a reaction. The San Francisco four piece less than subtly balanced elements of hardcore, death metal and grind giving the big bald man a backdrop of chaos to stomp around, not particularly afraid of intimidating the audience. On a big stage it was a bit of a mixed bag. In a smaller setting, this could be terrifying.
All Pigs Must Die was the day’s most anticipated and without a doubt took hold of the crowd and refused to let go to the bitter, bloody end. Frontman Kevin Baker has already proved himself a master of intimidation in The Hope Conspiracy. APMD pushes that into the red. They revel in raw, dark hardcore and metal at its most furious, coalescing together to create a live barrage loaded with a sizable “what the fuck” factor. On the big stage, they come across like a mean, grinding metallic machine. This is truly what hardcore is supposed to be.
Trap Them were a surprising disappoint as they were apparently breaking in a new guitarist with a surprisingly lackluster set. Pelican, by comparison, sounded, impressive utilizing the big room to work the crowd with a surprisingly on-point set of immense and often complex instrumentals. In the small room upstairs Skin Like Iron mixed a malignant sludge with hardcore leanings: what they do is enough to rattle one’s fillings.
One of the major surprises on the main stage at last year’s Power Of The Riff was Seattle’s Black Breath who, this year, closed the smaller room’s line-up (which ended promptly before the festival headliners took the stage). With a new guitarist in tow, they remain a rambunctious metal machine of the purest strain., their set, culled mostly from the Southern Lord released ‘Heavy Breathing’ LP, is a powder keg of old-School Swedish (Entombed and Dismember not At The Gates) sounds and hardcore ferocity. Black Breath’s intensity was only magnified by the closed-quarters in which they played. In short: the kids went off.
You don’t watch slo-mo underground legends Winter for their onstage aerobics. You bear witness to the shuddering sonics that roll from the stage like a tsunami of sound. The lights go down, the band shudders into “Oppression Freedom” from their only album Into Darkness. It’s not entirely without a bit of humor; when drummer Jimmy Jackson asks for more guitar in his monitor, bassist/vocalist John Alman tells him: “Don’t break character” with a Long Island accent worthy of fellow New Yorkers Suffocation. It doesn’t matter what they could possibly say that would usurp the mood. Winter’s cold, painfully slow musical movements speak for themselves.
Evening closers Eyehategod and Pentagram are near-opposites born from the same stew. EHG, The New Orleans-bred institution are a sloppy, punk-rock-in-intent bunch that prove themselves as vital (albeit vastly more sober) as they were during their day as major musical threat. The NOLA bunch’s set begins with frontman Mike Williams screaming something about keeping the houselights on seconds before the band launches into the classic “White Nigger”. There’s not a lot of pretense or nicety to this bunch. Then again, Eyehategod have always embodied metal at its meanest – nothing wrong there. By comparison, Pentagram, are a more poised sort of classic-rock often mistakenly called “doom”. Healthy, born-again frontman Bobby Liebling works the crowd like a man out of time that, in fact, he is.
The Echoplex remained full to the end: a sign that despite the lineup or price at the door that Power of The Riff was a heavy-volume success story. All hail the Lord – the Southern one that is.
The Human Abstract let the greatness that should have been theirs elude them on their last album Midhaven. They were the band that should have carried the torch from the likes of Thrice. They were Avenged Sevenfold’s ultra-nerdy brothers. They were heirs to the tech-metal throne. Here’s a couple reasons – guitarist and founding member AJ Minette had quit the band before the album was written, leaving a gaping maw in The Human Abstract’s sound: a battery of sweeps, arpeggios and a technician’s toolbox of six string heroics. Also, it had also become very clear that vocalist Nathan Elis was on “the outs” with the band. By all rights, The Human Abstract should have called it a day as the likes of Protest The Hero and Between The Buried and Me overtook their status as North American progressive metal major domos.
Now, witness the return of AJ Minette. Swoon guitar geeks. Swoon.
Thankfully The Human Abstract kept it together. Minette returned to the fold with new vocalist Travis Richter (ex-From First To Last) in tow and the Los Angeles band continued to make beautiful and often confoundingly complex music. Digital Veil is eight songs. The whole thing clocks in at just under forty minutes. At long last, The Human Abstract has made its statement. What was hinted at on their 2006 debut Nocturne is finally delivered upon. This thing is fucking epic.
The opening instrumental begins to tell the tale. It’s a quiet classical piece swells into something straight out of the Queen songbook. This is music that’s literally designed to be analyzed in guitar tabs by drooling Musician’s Institute students. That said, by the title track the meaty riff that drives the song does bring us back to the notion that The Human Abstract is indeed a metal band.
“Faust” does come off like its titular deal with the devil as it moves from section to section, overture to overture, piece to piece with little effort. The Digital Veil is quite the opposite of the Strum Und Drang the “C” word usually entails.
By the album’s final track, “Patterns”, The Human Abstract have more than made up for the sins of a sophomore slump. They’ve come together as a unit and aren’t merely trying to hold it together as they were on Midhaven. Now that we’ve given Minette more than his credit due, let’s not overlook Travis Richter. He not merely outbarks his predecessor but acrobatically jumps to a Matt Bellamy – esque croon that is new to the band’s arsenal. It’s clear that after a record their fans swore off and membership changes that would have sank lesser bands, The Human Abstract turned that chaos to their favor and have come with a record that is sure to hit year-end Top 10 lists. That’s a pretty mean feat considering it’s the beginning of March.
I’ve got a sweet spot for Emmure. “Why?” you ask. They are the most critically maligned band out there. I’m sure every single writer for Decibel hates this band. Yet, Their t-shirts sell like hot-cakes. They wanna make dudes dance the kill-everyone-kung-foo-mambo. They also make girls wanna go to their shows.
Emmure are a true anomaly.
So why does it exactly work? They certainly don’t have the cover-boy stature of Bring Me The Horizon. Songs? I wouldn’t call any of tracks here actual songs – just simple deathcore chugs and neanderthalic riffs. Plus, there’s the odd moment of Alternative Press approved electronics and dubstep interspersed amidst the chaos. If indeed you are true metal (or somewhere north of 25 years old) you’re not gonna get it. It has been explained to me that prior records had some boy/girl angst for the “Is The Anyone Up” set. This time, main MC Frankie is waxing cosmic. There are some clever song titles with references to Transformers, UFO’s and Marvel Comics’ cosmic planet-gobbler Thanos.
And of course, there is that dittie “Drug Dealer Friend”. No one ever accused vocalist Frankie of being a poet laureate but hey, he does get the message across – I think. Drugs are bad kids. So bad, in fact, that if they don’t kill you, Emmure will.
You get the distinct feeling that Emmure themselves are kids raised on Slipknot and Limp Bizkit. Let’s not forget that nu metal never died – it just moved to the “red states” and never went away. There’s no shame in that. Were you really expecting Death Cab for Cutie? Truthfully, the first half of the album is a better ride down this road than the second but any smart band knows that a good aural ass-beating will keep the peeps glued til the bitter end.
Here’s why it all works. Emmure isn’t making records for us adult types who have heard it all before. They’re blunt. They don’t leave a lot to the imagination. They know what their audience wants and they’re gonna bash ‘em over the skull with a lil’ flair to spare. Call them Asking Alexandria’s meaner, tougher older brother. They make brutality palatable for children of all ages.
Is this a “good” or “great” album? Does it even matter? It’s Emmure and they’re gonna get the sick mosh on whether you like it or not.
Agnostic Front may have defined New York Hardcore but they have had a much harder time defining themselves over the past few years. That’s a strange observation, eh? Well, many of their records did set the tone of hardcore in general. Victim in Pain might as well have been the blueprint for what was to come from NYC and in many ways was as significant as platters from the likes of SSD and Minor Threat. Its follow-up Cause for Alarm ushered in the age of “crossover” spawning the likes of Leeway and The Crumbsuckers who had no problem augmenting hardcore’s raw guitar attack with metallic riffery and the occasional lead flurry. (Fun fact: Carnivore and later Type O Negative’s late frontman Pete Steele helped write Cause For Alarm and penned the lyrics to their most controversial song “Public Assistance”)
The late 80’s showed a slow but sure growth for Agnostic Front culminating in One Voice, a record that in many ways can be placed on the mantelpiece of early metalcore without betraying AF’s roots. It was after that when things started to get a bit confusing.
QUICK HISTORY LESSON!
Something’s Gotta Give (1996), Riot, Riot Upstart (1999) and Dead Yuppies (2001) dabbled in the straight-ahead punk anthems, “Gotta Go” being the best of the bunch and still a crowd-pleaser. For the most part, those records weren’t what the die-hards were looking for – they seemed more a product of signing to Epitaph at the time Rancid were the rage. Follow-up albums Another Voice (2005) and Warriors (2009) started to bring back Agonistic Front’s hardcore and metal roots with a bit of help in the production department from Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta and Madball’s Freddy Cricien respectively. The only problem there may be that AF followed their producer’s influences a bit too closely.
I WILL CLING TO THE OLD IRON CROSS….
My Life My Way is the Agnostic Front record closest in spirit to the days of old since, well, the old days! Produced once again by Cricien with the addition of Eric Rutan, it reaches back two decades to rouse the sound that guitarist Vinnie Stigma and frontman Roger Miret forged when life in Manhattan’s Alphabet City was more about squats than sky-high rents and condos. “My City” opens the album with a yen for that time of yore when they actually had hardcore gigs down at spots like A7 and Great Gildersleeves rather than the overpriced bars and shi shi restaurants that have taken over that landscape in the past decade.
Make no mistake, AF like their unity chants. “Us Against The World” has the impact of a better-produced “Your Mistake” (from Victim in Pain). Not that My Life My Way is entirely retro either. The title track salutes the NYHC kids that Roger and Vinnie left in their wake: particularly H2O with the positive and pissed verve that “Until The Day I Die” makes a rallying cry for. What they’re clinging to the old iron cross for is sort of a catch-all (unity, straight-edge. you name the PMA-related cause) but Roger’s throaty, mush-mouth-meets-Travis Bickle bark gets the job done. Even in Espanol (“A Mi Manera”) he still sells the hell out of it.
My Life My Way isn’t Victim In Pain (If you want that go pick up Bridge 9’s excellent re-issue of VIP and the United Blood EP). It simply can’t be. Those records have already been added to hardcore’s mighty cannon, leaving the playing-field open for everyone for everyone from Emmure to Touche Amore to make damn sure the kids are still having their say. It is a damn good Agnostic Front album tho!
I dig Dez Fafara. Here’s a guy who pulled one of the best chameleon acts in metal I’ve ever seen. He’s seamlessly made the world forget that he was the frontman for one of the most reviled bands to come out of the late 80’s – the big truckin’ Coal Chamber – and in the process has also become one of modern metal’s most credible players.
Beast is great but not totally unexpected. It’s just another step in Dez’ plan to beat the world senseless. This isn’t a “return to form” or the steel getting’ reinvented. It just ups the ante with more speed and fury creeping into the mix. Death metal, black metal and ram-it-in-your-ass-metal all fuel what’s going on here just with more of a malevolent growl. Basically, it’s business as usual for Devil Driver…and business is doing pretty fucking well.
Opener “Dead To Rights” shows that Devil Driver isn’t about to reinvent anything about themselves. It’s the Lamb of God or Slayer route to success: give ‘em what they want – just keep pouring more fuel on the fire. Well, that’s what you get here.
Beast sounds like it’s trying to give Superjoint Ritual a run for its money only with John Boeklin’s drumming constantly on “10’ and the riff-happy guitar squad of Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer shifting from a bellicose six-string barrage on “Hardened” to the rousing, tastefully lead-driven “Shitlist”.
Keep in mind that Beast isn’t an immediate listen by any stretch. Keep it on while you’re vacuuming that house and it’ll all start to make sense and seep in. Once you’re a couple listens in, some of these feral ditties become pretty unforgettable. “Blur” is a great example of that with Dez continuing to reign as metal’s “Captain Hook”. Then again, no one ever accused Fafara & Co. of not being able to write a catchy tune. Whether or not these are Devil Driver’s greatest songs to date is almost irrelevant. Beast lives up to its title. It makes a helluva statement.
It’s towards the end of things that the album makes its most impressive statement: a cover of “Black Soul Choir” from alt-country heroes 16 Horsepower. It says a lot about the beast (pun alert!) itself. We all know by now that Dez, dedicated family man and fine wine connoisseur isn’t a spring chicken. He’s doing what any artist who’s spent years practicing his trade should be doing. Broadening the palate without forsaking a damn thing about what makes him great. Ask Lemmy for instance. An outlaw will always be an outlaw if ya know what I mean.
Killswitch Engage. I signed ‘em to Roadrunner. I worked on four albums and one DVD with them. I saw them play arenas, major European festivals and sell gold records. I’ve also had rough versions of several of the tracks that comprise this “reunion” of sorts between erstwhile frontman Jesse Leach and guitarist/cape-wearer Adam Dutkiewicz for over two years now. It’s been a while since I’ve worked with the Massachusetts Metallers but I have been jonesing to see this reunion between multi-instrumentalist and seasoned producer Dutkiewicz and the ever-busy Leach (currently fronting The Empire Shall Fall) released.
Let’s set two things straight here. This is not any sort of “reconciliation” between the two. They’ve remained friends since Leach bowed out of the vocalist’s spot in Killswitch back in the ‘Alive or Just Breathing Days’. It’s also not a conscious attempt at re-capturing any past glories. ‘Hymn’ is an album that came out the genuine pain and and frustration Adam went through while being bedridden after a near-crippling back-injury a couple years back. (Remember all those tours where Peter Wichers from Soilwork and Pat Lachman from Damageplan were filling in or the band simply played as a four-piece?) It literally was the hymn of a broken man.
Alive or Just Breathing 2 this ain’t.
Simply put, ‘Hymn of a Broken Man’ is a better record than the last self-titled Killswitch Engage album. It’s also not without faults. It’s the first effort from a real band just finding its feet. And a monster of a band at that.
Opener “Strength in Numbers” is an anthem straight out of the KsE playbook, not exactly all that far removed from AOJB opener “Numbered Days” with its militant opening march and Jesse’s declarations of: “One love! One truth!” That said, Times of Grace have little problem blowing past the formula that not merely Killswitch have adhered to but that Generation Metalcore has been founded upon. Let’s not forget how impactful it was on the modern metal the last time these two got together and laid KsE’s foundations.
The album’s second track “Fight For Life” sounds more like Leach’s “stoner-y” ensemble Seemless than anything you’d expect. Jesse’s also become a much more capable vocalist than on past efforts. The album’s next track “Willing” showcases Jesse’s talents further, singing with a range and grit he’s only hinted at before. No doubt, with Adam pushing the man, the results are on a level that Jesse hadn’t achieved since his KsE days.
The chemistry between these two is undeniable. Their voices intertwine perfectly on the album’s title track: probably the album’s strongest: melding expected and unexpected sensibilities with a Killswitch-at-their-most memorable chorus. “The Forgotten One” is a bit of a toss-up. The song comes across like Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive”: a strange left turn into Country & Western terrain well handled by Adam and Jesse. The song shows Adam D. a much more versatile player than he’s let on thus far. Likewise, when he takes center stage singing the album’s closer, “Fall From Grace”, metal’s mad professor proves once again how disgustingly talented he really is.
Hymn of a Broken Man is the work of two musicians who not only have made great music in the past together but also are intent on pushing forward with plenty unfinished business. This one feels like a work of passion and a new beginning for both.
Rating: A (a very partial A but I think you’ll agree nonetheless).
1. Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit (Profound Lore): The choice popular amongst fans, critics, pundits and the general hiperati. In other words, you’re a dipshit if you don’t love this record. Chief ‘loch, John Haughm has delivered a haunting album of Black Metal informed Post-Rock, the scope of which stretches from Emperor to Godspeed You Black Emperor!. This year’s hands-down classic.
2. Letlive – Fake History (Tragic Hero): So-Cal’s letlive take the post-hardcore ball from the likes of Thursday and Glassjaw and run with it. They already signed to Epitaph, who will re-release this album in 2011. Simply, letlive dodge all the usual cliches on their way to household-name success. Mark my words!
3. Dillinger Escape Plan: – Option Paralysis (Season of Mist): Benjiman Weinman gets the Thurston Moore Lifetime Achievement Award for looking at chaos as a valid part of pop songwriting. Possibly their finest, angriest and most career-defining moment. I still hear stuff in this one that eluded me the first 25 listens or so.
4. Watain- Lawless Darkness (Season of Mist): With the power of their onstage stench and mighty death-riffs, these Swedes ascend to Black Metal’s highest peaks. Whether they take the throne from the commercially aspirant Dimmu or the crash n’ burnt Gorgoroth remains to be seen. At the rate they’re going…
5. Tryptkon – Esparistera Daimones and Shatter EP (Century Media): Tom Fischer picks up where Celtic Frost’s brilliant and final death-grunt, Monotheist left off. Then exceeds it. I’ve included the Shatter EP as it feels like a natural part of the proceedings.
6. Ghost – Opus Eponymous (Rise Above/Metal Blade) Jimmy Page bought Aleister Crowley’s house. The Stones came with Goat’s Head Soup. Now Ghost take on three decades of hard rock and metal, offer it up to Satan and come up with a record already set to be the first metal “name-drop” for 2011.
7. Bad Religion –The Dissent 0f Man (Epitaph): The SoCal punks continue to craft paeans for the intelligensia with three chords and amazing three part vocal harmonies.
8. Cradle of Filth – Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa (Nuclear Blast): Oh, darker my love! Dani’s dark mob strips things down to basics and have made their most lethal concept record since Cruelty and the Beast.
9. Dimmu Borgir – Abrahadabra (Nuclear Blast): The equivalent of any Michael Bay movie with a dark metal soundtrack. It’s big, cinematic and has little to do with conveying anything like plot or storytelling (like Transformers). Dimmu have survived and surpassed recent lineup changes only to make an album that comes closest to a bit of semi-Black Metal for the mainstream.
10. Fear Factory – Mechanize (Candlelight): Dino and Burton kiss, make up and make a classic Fear Factory album. Easily the one that should have been slotted right between Demanufacture and Obsolete.
11. Enslaved -Axioma Ethica Odini (Nuclear Blast)
12. Shining – Blackjazz (Indie/The End)
13. Black Breath – Heavy Breathing (Southern Lord)
14. William Control-Noir (Victory)
15. Demiurg – Slakthus Gamleby (Cyclone Empire)
16. Underoath – Disambiguation (Solid State)
17. Deftones – Diamond Eyes (Warners)
18. Danzig – Deth Red Sabaoth (The End)
19. Overkill-Ironbound (E1)
20. Integrity-The Blackest Curse (Deathwish)
And a record I spent a ton of time working on that came out earlier this year….
Mutiny Within – Mutiny Within (Roadrunner): Dream Theater played by Killswitch Engage with a singer that stomps all over James LaBrie in the passion department. Why this New Jersey sextet (with a couple members by way of the UK) hasn’t connected yet is beyond me. Of course, the record is just a few months old. Popular opinion’s still out on this one.
And of course…..
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam): If you don’t like this, then you’re one of “douchebags” he sings about.
Discovering something this old school and just plain cool is often a revelation these days. While I certainly don’t profess to have been a fan of Demiurg’s past two albums this third record led by producer and multi-instrumentalist Dan Swano, has certainly been the biggest surprise I’ve had in months! So please indulge me this (rave) review several months after Slakethus Gamleby has hit the record racks.
With this, Demiurg’s third album running, their nationality is instantly recognizable. The opening riff on “Life In a Coma” might as well be straight off an old Nihilist demo. It’s that bloody good and memorable! The following 39 minutes that blast by embody some of the best elements of Grave, Bloodbath and Katatonia: no surprise on the latter, really. Swano is a co-hort of Mike Akefeldt in Bloodbath. Naturally, Swano’s production is crystal clear allowing every iota of melody to seep out. Whilst keys and female power-metal vocals lift the album above standard deathly fare, they never detract from Rogga Johannson’s (Ribspreader) old school growl or Gorefest/Hail of Bullets drummer Ed Warby’s tasteful rhythms.
“Travelers of the Vortex” travels into doomy turf replete with choral arrangements and clean vocals that almost get near (believe it or not!) Layne Staley territory. One of Slakethus Gamelby’s biggest strengths is how straightforward Warby’s playing really is. When Swano rips out a solo on the likes of “The Cold Hand of Death” it rips. You hear how much talent is actually on hand.
Demiurg have taken Swedish death metal back from the Gothenberg contingent. Three albums on, I sheepishly can’t but help but feel a bit late to the game. No matter, I get the feeling that their ascension from underground stature is only a matter of time.
It’s the second week of December and it’s pretty amazing to think that a year is now setting on the metal landscape of 2010. So how was it? Full of very high and very low points, that’s for sure. It started with the death of Type O Negative’s Peter Steele and ended up with Kerry King and Dave Mustaine sharing the same stage again.
Death was a pretty busy boy this year. The aforementioned Pete called it quits in his native Brooklyn: cause of death, a heart attack. Just as tragically – if not more so to more people, Ronnie James Dio succumbed to stomach cancer at age 67. St Vitus’ original drummer Armando Acosta also passed away. However, the one that seems the most tragic of them all is the passing of Slipknot’s Paul Gray at the tail end of May. Paul was a truly great and creative talent and a major creative force behind the “Knot”. He will be missed.
One very overlooked passing was that of Debbie Abono, literally the mother figure of Bay Area metal, who managed the likes of Exodus, Skinlab and a host of others. A grandmother at the time she got into the business, she literally started helping out bands when he daughter was dating Possessed guitarist Larry Lalonde.
Pretty good year for comebacks, actually. The best of the bunch lay with Mr. Tom Gabriel Fischer and his new band Triptykon. Their debut album Eparistera Daimones picks up right where Celtic Frost’s 2006 Monotheist album left off. Fear Factory’s Mechanize wasn’t merely a return to form – it was a rebirth. Burton C. Bell having patched old wounds with mainstay guitarist Dino Cazares, teamied with a new rhythm section featuring Young Lads, drummer Gene Hoglan (Dethklock, SYL, everybody else) and bassist Byron Stroud (SYL, Tenet, Zimmer’s Hole) and made a record that stands up with some of the strongest of the FF discography. Think of the disc that should have come between Soul of a New Machine and Obsolete and you’ll get an idea of how awesome it was.
Overkill’s Ironbound kept the old-schoolers very appeased as the East Coast thrash originals delivered yet another great album – not even a comeback, really, just a reminder of how overlooked this band truly is.
We also caught a few notable “let’s get the band back together again” moments. First and most notably, Soundgarden, who have ever murmured about a new album lately. Then, came the announcement of a a Godflesh reunion — who at least are playing live again for a couple upcoming festivals including 2011’s Roadburn.
The Animosity era of Corrosion of Conformity put it back together again with bassist/vocalist Mike Dean, guitarist Woody Weatherman and drummer Reed Mullin coming out of retirement while longstanding guitarist/frontman Pepper Keenan focuses on Down. A new Corrosion 7” appeared on the Southern Lord label showcasing a band that is just beginning to fire up its less Southern rock infused engines. Expect a full album on a label tba in 2011.
Not to be overlooked, the likes of Autopsy, Coroner and a few others that will probably start and fizzle their way back into obscurity decided to make some sort of go at it in 2010.
Anthrax reunited with former and longest-running frontman Joey Belladonna after months and months of trying to replace interim singer Dan Nelson. The last time Joey was back in the fold was following the departure of John Bush for a round of “reunion” gigs that only served to keep its name in the public eye. A round of European and US touring, most of which with former metal titans Megadeth and Slayer, have seen Anthrax solidified once again and up work once more on an album started with Nelson entitled Worship Music due sometime in 2011.
Not as surprisingly, especially when former Killswitch Engage frontman Jesse Leach filled in for a few dates last time KsE toured America sans vocalist Howard Jones, Jesse and erstwhile bandmate Adam Dutkeiwicz have finally unveiled Times of Grace. Whilst work on the debut album, Hymn of a Broken Man, began three years back, it’s release has been held back whilst Killswitch released two albums and exhaustively (read: exhausted) toured the world. Hymn of a Broken Man isn’t Alive or Just Breathing Mach 2 as it is an album that puts all of Dutkiewicz’ musical leanings up on the screen — metal, rock, indie — and gives Leach a canvas to similarly flex his vocals on. It’s due out in mid-Jan and worth your time.
(Coming: Part 2 – The Records, Tours and What Really Mattered in Metal 2010)