July 23, 2010

New & Noteworthy, July 23rd - Playing the Spoilers

Two weeks ago it was Mayhem, last week it was Summer Slaughter, and this week it's…Over the Limit? Yes, yet another summer tour kicks off this weekend, this one headlined by Oceano and As Blood Runs Black. This tour is probably the most aptly named tour of the past five years, and it's also not really necessary, with a lineup that feels like the cast-offs of both Summer Slaughter and Thrash & Burn. More excitement will be generated by two other tours kicking off this week - the first leg of the American Carnage/Canadian Carnage Tour featuring Megadeth, Slayer, and Testament; and Cynic's "Re-Traced / Re-Focused Live" tour, which will also feature Intronaut and Dysrhythmia. Obviously, seeing three of the biggest thrash acts in history is a huge deal, but progressive/experimental metal fans will be salivating to see Cynic play their entire discography live. Where does that leave the Over the Limit tour? Well, it's basically the third wheel now - or, in the case of the whole summer lineup, the ninth wheel.

There are some new releases that are also acting as spoilers this week, looking to steal the spotlight from a major debut this week. Considering the debut comes from one of the most commercial names in metal, though, that is unlikely. Read on to see what's coming at you this week.

July 18, 2010

Album Review: "Attack of the Wolf King" by Haste the Day

Haste the Day has had to fight for their entire career to stay relevant in the world of Christian metal. With bands like Demon Hunter and As I Lay Dying drawing bigger crowds and selling more records, Haste the Day has almost always been overshadowed, despite being just as good as their contemporaries in the early days. Their first two albums, Burning Bridges and When Everything Falls, were viciously heavy, led by the unique vocals of former lead singer Jimmy Ryan. After his departure from the band, the band slightly shifted in style to better accommodate their new lead singer, Stephen Keech. Pressure the Hinges and Dreamer had more diverse compositions and a wider array of music styles, but lacked the all-out heaviness of the first two albums. Now, on their fifth album, Attack of the Wolf King, the band is forced to once again adjust their approach after more lineup changes. The result is still enjoyable, but it does not feel like the same band anymore.

July 16, 2010

New & Noteworthy, July 16th - Punch the Walls

The Mayhem Festival kicked off last weekend and was heralded by new releases from three of its artists. This weekend sees the beginning of another big tour, Summer Slaughter, headlined by comeback artist of the year Decapitated. And while no Summer Slaughter artists have new releases on July 20th (although there will be one on the 27th), there are still a plethora of loud and heavy artists hitting the streets with new albums this coming week. So everyone should be picking their driving music for the Summer Slaughter tour dates from the upcoming new releases.

The tour schedule for this week also sees plenty of heaviness hitting the pavement. But the biggest tour sees three-fourths of the Big 4 hitting the road together for the first time in two decades. Thrash fans will ensure that this tour is sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale. Keep your eyes open for the sale date of that tour, as well as all the other gems coming to a stage near you very soon!

July 14, 2010

Album Review: "The Panic Broadcast" by Soilwork

Few bands in the world can match the sheer raw talent that is held in Soilwork's lineup. Guitarist Peter Wichers, back in the band after a three-year break, is one of the best composers in all of melodic death metal, and newly-joined fellow guitarist Sylvain Coudret is incredibly well-versed in a multitude of styles. Bassist Ola Flink and keyboardist Sven Karlsson are both among the most underrated musicians on their respective instruments, and drummer Dirk Verbeuren is known around the world for his metronomic precision in Aborted, Scarve, Sybreed, and a number of other bands in addition to Soilwork. And of course, vocalist Björn "Speed" Strid is widely considered to be one of the best singers to emerge from Sweden in the past two decades, with his instantly recognizable voice and versatile range. With such a talented cast of players, Soilwork's newest album, The Panic Broadcast, has a high level of expectation surrounding it. This album not only meets those expectations, it blows them clear out of the water.

Album Review: "Meridional" by Norma Jean

To say that Norma Jean's career has been inconsistent would be an understatement, to say the least. In the space of four album, the Christian metal quintet from Georgia has played progressive technical metal (Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child), spastic mathcore a-la-Dillinger Escape Plan (O God, the Aftermath), melodic metalcore (Redeemer), and whiny, subpar post-hardcore (The Anti Mother). Fans of the band are firmly divided because of their inconsistency, unable to find common ground between the first pair of albums and the second pair. The only way that the band could hope to bridge the divide would be to release an album that musically walked the line between the two extremes of their sound, because releasing another album with a completely different sound would decimate the fanbase even further. Luckily, the band's newest effort, Meridional, manages to balance the band's technical and melodic sides into an album that has something for everybody.

July 13, 2010

Album Review: "Setlist: The Very Best of Judas Priest Live" by Judas Priest

It doesn't seem to take much for a band to release a greatest hits collection in this day and age. More often than not, it's just about surviving long enough to release enough albums from which a "greatest hits" list can be drawn. And what's the point of releasing such a collection when the only group that might be interested is comprised of die-hard fans that already have all the albums? A greatest hits album composed entirely of live songs is a fresh take on the idea, though, and the new Setlist collection from Legacy Recordings attempts to put that concept into action. Their look at Judas Priest, though, doesn't do much for the band's longtime fans, and has serious flaws that hold it back.

July 9, 2010

New & Noteworthy, July 9th - Start the Mayhem

For those who have been living under a rock for the past four months, the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival kicks off this weekend in California. It's only fitting, therefore, that three of this week's new releases come from Mayhem bands. In its third year as a major touring festival, Mayhem has become the default tour for lots of metalheads. With Ozzfest still mired in gimmicks and Sounds of the Underground long buried and forgotten, Mayhem is now the best option. This year is no exception, carrying a second stage filled to the brim with talented bands. Tickets are still available for many dates, so you cave-dwellers out there that haven't gotten your tickets yet know what you need to do.

The resurgence of one of the top nu-metal acts of the '90s tops the release chart this week, with a huge list of awesome albums following behind. The touring schedule continues to fill the winter months, and a certain one-shot event gets some big heavyweights (both literally and metaphorically) added to its lineup. All the fresh goodies you could ever want await you if you keep reading!

July 2, 2010

New & Noteworthy, July 2nd - True Heroes

The saga of Matthew Leone has left an incredible impression on me this week. I don't know of any other people that would try to break up a domestic abuse at great personal risk to self. The fact that the Madina Lake bassist wound up in a coma only makes his story more shocking and personal. Thankfully, though, Leone is conscious and aware now. I am in awe of the example he has set for people around the world and for musicians in the scene. Everyone should strive to be like Matthew Leone: selfless, caring, and just - in other words, a true hero.

We celebrate Leone and his actions this week, but we will take our standard look at the new releases and tours as well. There are quite a few Christian metal albums and another batch of reissues hitting the stores this week, but the biggest focus is on Trent Reznor's triumphant return to music. Meanwhile, bands are booking tours for the end of summer like it's going out of style. Keep reading and get ready for the heat!