June 29, 2010

The Year in Music So Far: Six Months of 2010

Here we are at the halfway point of 2010, and as I have done in years past, I am going to give my thoughts on how the year in hard rock and heavy metal is shaping up so far. However, this year was also my first year as a professional reviewer, and as such, I have never listened to so much music in six months while simultaneously listening to so little (52 albums listened to out of 125 that I have in my iTunes library). As such, I will try to keep my thoughts brief on each individual album so that I can discuss as many albums as possible.

In previous years, I have discussed albums as either exceeding, meeting, or falling short of my expectations. But since that doesn't always give the most accurate picture of my thoughts, I'm going to simplify this and say what was amazing, what was good, and what was disappointing. I'll also give a preview of what's coming up in the second half of 2010, including what we should look forward to and what we should avoid. So read on and get the complete picture of the first half of 2010 in hard rock and heavy metal!

June 28, 2010

Album Review: "Deep Blue" by Parkway Drive

In music, sometimes two wrongs can actually make a right, and there's perhaps no better example of this than Parkway Drive. The Australian quintet has taken the two most hated metal subgenres of this decade - metalcore and deathcore - and blended the two together, creating an entirely new and somehow unique engine of pure destruction. 2006's Killing With a Smile showed lots of promise, but it was 2007's Horizons that really cemented Parkway Drive as a worldwide force of devastation. Their music had most of the clichés of both subgenres, but when brought together with Winston McCall's primal screams, the result was unlike anything heard on either side of the line - too heavy and breakdown-intensive to be metalcore, but at the same time, too melodic and well-structured to be deathcore. However, these positives may have been too high of a standard for Parkway Drive's newest album, Deep Blue, which sees the band moving backwards in their innovation rather than forward.

June 27, 2010

Album Review: "House With a Curse" by Coliseum

What separates Coliseum from the majority of other hardcore bands in the world is their obvious love of groove-laden alternative rock such as Queens of the Stone Age. Most of their songs are catchy, with great hooks and interesting structures. The genre fusion they utilize likens their sound more to stoner rock bands like The Sword, Baroness, and Cursed than hardcore bands. However, while that new approach does help them to stand out from the pack, it also has the potential to alienate traditional hardcore fans looking for simplistic song structures and sing-along lyrics. Coliseum doesn't seem to care about that potential problem, though, forging ahead with their sludgy hardcore sound on House With a Curse, their first album for new label Temporary Residence Ltd.

June 25, 2010

New & Noteworthy, June 25th - Run on Reissues

In a week where the Big Four not only played shows together, but even joined together for a one-off live cover song, this week is surprisingly devoid of thrash news. Maybe the awesomeness of the Big Four being in the same place at the same time was just too much for the rest of the thrash world to handle. However, I tend to think it's more of a reaction to the amazing thrash releases of 2010 thus far (Overkill, Exodus, and Annihilator leading the way) and anticipation for the thrash albums on the horizon (Death Angel, Flotsam and Jetsam, and Accept are the biggest names). Either way, thrash fans have slim pickings this week, but everyone else has plenty to get excited about!

This week sees a ton of albums getting re-released, either as limited vinyl pressings or special edition CD's. Fans looking for collector's items will be salivating over the names listed. But there's no shortage of good new releases this week either. Meanwhile, the touring calendar gets a huge update for the fall, with some big names preparing to hit the road. Read on to see what's coming your way!

June 22, 2010

Album Review: "Addicts: Black Meddle, Part II" by Nachtmystium

There are very few bands that can throw whatever they want into a song in whatever way they want to include it, and still end up with an excellent-sounding finished result. More often than not, bands with that format don't make it out of their basements. Not so with Nachtmystium, a band that has capitalized on their skill in crafting diverse, intricate songs with completely unexpected parts and inclusions. The seemingly random nature of their music is what makes them so appealing to listeners tired of the processed, sterilized nature of the modern metal world. Their 2008 breakthrough album, Assassins: Black Meddle, Part 1, established a new standard for experimental and psychedelic metal. The follow-up, Addicts: Black Meddle, Part II, takes a new direction in some areas, but maintains the core sound of the band and is overall a worthy follow-up album.

June 18, 2010

New & Noteworthy, June 18th - The Rush Begins

I apologize for my absence last week with New & Noteworthy. Hopefully you managed to catch New & Noteworthy on Metal Insider, in its second week as a regular column. If not, go read up on last week's new releases, which were few in number but great in significance!

This week begins what will likely be twelve weeks of being broke for music enthusiasts such as me. There are big-name albums coming out almost every week this summer. Here's just a few of the big names with new releases on the horizon: Candlemass, Parkway Drive, How to Destroy Angels, Hellyeah, Korn, Soilwork, The Acacia Strain, Chimaira, Ill Niño, Avenged Sevenfold, Comeback Kid, Black Label Society, Iron Maiden, Helmet, Kataklysm, Stone Sour, Accept, and Death Angel. If this isn't a huge summer for metal, I don't know what is!

This week features the long-anticipated return of everyone's favorite ex-Misfit, the hotly-debated new album from the Prince of Darkness, and plenty of other great new music, along with some serious summer tour announcements. Read on to see what's on the calendar!

June 14, 2010

Album Review: "Periphery" by Periphery

In the realm of entertainment and arts, everything is capable of being reviewed. There is no form of artistic expression that is completely unable to be critiqued, no matter what some critics might have you believe. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Roger Ebert. Man up and rate The Human Centipede, ya jerk!) That being said, there are some things in the realm of the arts for which reviewing is not constructive. These are forms of art that are best left to individual interpretation and opinion, because reviewing them cannot possibly present the entire experience that occurs when the art form itself is taken in. The new self-titled album from experimental metal upstarts Periphery is one such example of this. The album itself is more than just a mere collection of songs, but rather a twisted, fragmented musical journey that goes beyond almost anything currently in existence in the realm of heavy music. And despite my misgivings, I am going to give my review of this album, although in the end, my review means nothing, because there are almost no universal truths found within the notes of Periphery.

June 13, 2010

No New & Noteworthy this week

It's early Sunday morning, and I've been going nonstop for the past three days. I have had little to no time to write this week, and as such, I'm calling off New & Noteworthy this week. There's only five new releases, and the tours that were announced aren't very significant. Therefore, if you want to read New & Noteworthy this week, head on over to Metal Insider on Tuesday to read my thoughts on the new releases.

There is one piece of news I would like to discuss, though. According to a recent report, I.C.S. Vortex has rejoined Borknagar as the band's new bassist. He will also be functioning as their lead singer for at least their upcoming tour, if not longer, as lead vocalist Vintersorg will be unable to join the band due to "private commitments". I am really happy to see this news, and I hope that Borknagar comes to the states with Vortex as part of the lineup. He is an amazing singer and a very capable bassist. Some of Borknagar's best work was during the period that he was the band's full-time bassist and lead singer. Let's hope for a continued period of Vortex in Borknagar!

June 6, 2010

Album Review: "The Obsidian Conspiracy" by Nevermore

Nevermore is one of those rare bands with an unbeatable track record; the kind of band that somehow always manages to impress fans with each new release. Over the course of their sixteen-year career, the Seattle natives have defied every standard and bucked every trend in the metal world, while still maintaining an enormous following and garnering rave reviews. In the five years since their last studio album, This Godless Endeavor, Nevermore has released their first DVD, The Year of the Voyager, and also seen solo releases from lead singer Warrel Dane (Praises to the War Machine) and lead guitarist Jeff Loomis (Zero Order Phase). With anticipation and expectations running high, the band is finally back with The Obsidian Conspiracy, an album that displays the full spectrum of Nevermore's capabilities to great effect.

Album Review: "Invictus (Iconoclast III)" by Heaven Shall Burn

The hierarchy of German metal has begun with the "Teutonic thrash" bands - Kreator, Destruction, and Sodom - for almost a quarter century. However, in the past ten years, an entire scene devoted to metalcore and melodic death metal has exploded out of Germany, and several bands from that scene have enormous followings that make them just as relevant and important as the Teutonic thrashers. Heaven Shall Burn is the definitive leader of this group, because they are one of the most popular bands in the scene, and undoubtedly the most consistent. Since 2002's Whatever It May Take, the quintet has developed into a monstrous force of influence, getting faster, more aggressive, more thought-provoking, and just plain better with each release. However, Invictus (Iconoclast III) takes the trend to a whole new level, advancing Heaven Shall Burn above all of their contemporaries and vaulting them into the highest echelon of melodic death metal bands worldwide.

June 4, 2010

New & Noteworthy, June 4th - New Release Explosion

For those of you who might wonder how I keep track of all the new releases that appear in the metal world, the answer is that I have a wonderful program that lets me put Post-It Notes all over my desktop, and I have one gigantic note titled "ALBUM RELEASE CALENDAR" that I update every time I see a new release. And that Post-It is easily the longest Post-It ever constructed, with a scroll bar and everything, covering releases all the way into 2011.

Well, I can safely say that, because of that Post-It, I have been having anxiety attacks about this week's edition of New & Noteworthy for about a month now. Why, you might ask? Because there are 25 new releases to cover this week! It's as if every record label in rock and metal decided that June 8th was a good day to release at least one album.

Since I have so much to cover, don't be surprised if I'm rather brief with my thoughts on each album. There's a lot to read, so go take a look at what will be consuming your paycheck this week!