August 31, 2010

Album Review: "Formalities" by The Spill Canvas

The Spill Canvas is a band that comes from very different origins than one would expect. Lead singer Nick Thomas was guitarist and backup vocalist for now-defunct Christian metalcore act Nodes of Ranvier when he started The Spill Canvas in 2002. Eventually he quit Nodes of Ranvier and made The Spill Canvas a full-time project, and that decision has paid huge dividends. 2007's No Really, I'm Fine peaked at #143 on the Billboard 200, and the single "All Over You" has become an anthem among fans. So far in 2010, the band released a pair of digital EP's, Abnormalities and Realities, that contained some of the band's new material. The best songs from both EP's were then grouped with some acoustic tracks and other new songs to create the band's newest full-length, Formalities. This compilation shows some interesting development by the band, along with plenty of their traditional style.

Album Review: "Asylum" by Disturbed

There is no bigger band in hard rock right now than Disturbed. Over the past decade, they have helped to revolutionize the popularity of aggressive music, both in America and the world. From their stunning debut The Sickness to the thrilling masterpiece Indestructible, Disturbed is the face of heavy music for the majority of the world. They may not be the heaviest or most aggressive band out, but they are the one that people will name most often when discussing the genre. It also doesn't hurt that they are among the most intelligent, socially conscious bands in the world, and that their lyrics speak for the forgotten, abused, and neglected of an entire generation. Their fifth album, Asylum, sees Disturbed at their most ambitious since 2005's Ten Thousand Fists, crafting new and intricate songs that show a remarkable sonic evolution.

August 27, 2010

New & Noteworthy, August 27th - Healing Powers

Two weeks ago, Behemoth announced they were cancelling their upcoming tour plans due to singer Adam "Nergal" Darski being taken to a hospital for an undisclosed sickness. This past Tuesday, it was revealed that Darski was diagnosed with leukemia and is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. This news only adds to what has been one of the worst years for metal in terms of genre stability and vitality, although a positive report from Lamb of God's Randy Blythe does take some of the sting off. Despite the obvious irony of this, I will be keeping Nergal in my prayers for the coming weeks. Whether you subscribe to Behemoth's anti-Christian beliefs or not, send whatever form of positive thoughts and good wishes you choose to Nergal and his family in this time of great distress.

This week of new releases makes last week look like a cakewalk by comparison. The biggest hard rock band of the past decade tops the list with their fifth album, and a ton of young, up-and-coming bands are also hitting the charts. Read on and see what the future of metal holds.

August 22, 2010

Album Review: "Beyond the Gate" by Wretched

Sweden used to be the country that defined melodic death metal, and with good reason. The history of the scene that started in Gothenburg is undeniable, with legendary names like At the Gates, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, and so many others all emerging from that one area. However, in recent years, an American melodic death metal scene has begun to form, taking a whole new perspective on the subgenre by adding elements of thrash, hardcore, and technical metal into the core sound. This merging has resulted in a highly talented group of young bands playing very technical metal with solos and breakdowns in equal measure. Bands like Woe of Tyrants, Conducting from the Grave, and At the Throne of Judgment stand out from the sprawling metalcore and deathcore scenes with their unique blending of speed and brutality. Newcomers are starting to catch on to this style as well, including North Carolina-based quintet Wretched. Their sophomore album Beyond the Gate is another example of just how good this new style can be when played properly.

August 20, 2010

New & Noteworthy, August 20th - Festivus Maximus

Ozzfest is already almost finished rolling through the country for its six tour dates, while the Uproar Festival has churned its gears into motion this past week, covering much larger territory over a longer period of time. These two festivals are the last major summer tours of 2010, giving metalheads a few precious last chances to spend a whole day rocking out to their favorite bands on outdoor stages. Hopefully you've made it out to at least one of the numerous summer festivals that took place during the last few months. If not, definitely get out to the Uproar Festival for one last sweet taste of summer.

Unlike the festival calendar, the new release calendar is still scorching hot. There are an estimated 70 new releases scheduled to debut in the next six weeks, with plenty of time for more to be added to the list. I have a feeling I'll be re-living the insanity of early June all over again. So without further ado, let's get the ball rolling.

August 15, 2010

Album Review: "Exiled to Earth" by Bonded by Blood

There have been many waves of thrash metal in the course of the past three decades. The whole scene started in the early '80s with the Big Four - Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax - and the numerous American and German thrash bands that followed them. In the late '80s and early '90s as thrash started to fade, the second wave began, with the less-prominent American thrash bands and German bands attempting to keep the scene alive while the Big 4 stagnated or lost relevance. In the late '90s, a new wave of thrash bands from Europe, led by The Haunted and Darkane, took on the mantle of thrash revivalists, helping to bring the scene back. Now, in the last five years, a whole new group of young American thrash bands have attempted to bring back the old-school thrash style of the '80s with their fast, technical play and raw production. Bonded by Blood is one of the bands in this fourth wave of thrash, and their debut Feed the Beast showed a lot of promise. Their sophomore effort, Exiled to Earth, upholds the high standard they set for themselves and even sees them surpass it in some ways.

Album Review: "Stampede" by Hellyeah

The supergroup known as Hellyeah gained most of its notice because it was Vinnie Paul Abbott's triumphant return to the music world following the death of his brother, Dimebag Darrell, and the subsequent end of Pantera, Damageplan, and all other projects involving the two brothers. The group has found their niche in playing groove metal with a distinct Southern attitude and theme to it. However, the group's critics view this as a betrayal of Pantera's legacy, even though there are few core differences between the two groups. Bucking the critics and forging ahead with their ideals, Hellyeah give a sincere effort on their sophomore album, Stampede, which succeeds in some areas, but has a few weaknesses as well.

August 13, 2010

New & Noteworthy, August 13th - Sanctuary

This week, we will boldly go where no one has gone before, seeking out new life in the world of classic heavy metal. We will explore strange new worlds, and we will engage in new pursuits with one of the most classic, veteran acts in all of heavy music. With this band, not all good things have to come to an end. They are worldwide emissaries of metal, and they're back to take us on another voyage. We now enter THE FINAL FRONTIER! And yes, that's all the Star Trek references I can possibly fit into this opening paragraph (although bonus points go to the first commenter to tell me which Star Trek series has an episode that shares its title with the Maiden classic that is also the title of this week's edition).

Oh, and there are also some other albums coming out this week, despite what the hype machine would have you all believe. It includes the continued resurgence of a great 90s rock group, the premiere of a bizarre supergroup, and a remixed version of one of the most politically-charged albums of the past decade. They may not be receiving as much attention as this week's biggest release, but they're definitely worth mentioning, so read on and find out what else lies in store for us!

August 6, 2010

New & Noteworthy, August 6th - Pleasure and Pain

It was a week marked both by sorrow and celebration. On Monday morning, vocalist Mahk Daniels of Early Graves was killed in a tragic van accident in Oregon, striking another talented young band with terrible calamity. But there is also cause to rejoice, as Nightwish singer Anette Olzon gave birth to her second son last Friday night, and first with current boyfriend Johan Husgafvel, bassist of Swedish industrial group Pain. New life is always a good reason to celebrate, and it reminds us that even when we mourn those lost, we can be happy for those in our future.

This week marks the release of a number of excellent albums, beginning two solid months packed with high-quality albums. Read on for more reasons to rejoice!

August 4, 2010

Album Review: "The Pulse of Awakening" by Sybreed

When a band is named Sybreed, it's pretty easy to guess what their predominant themes will be. The Swiss quartet has been playing Fear Factory-inspired industrial metal since their inception in 2003, gaining a fair amount of notice in Europe with the albums Slave Design and Antares (the latter of which featured session drums by Soilwork/Aborted skinsman Dirk Verbeuren). Guitarist Thomas "Drop" Betrisey has also earned some recognition as an excellent remix artist, creating remixes for both Celldweller and Soilwork in recent years. Back now with their third album, The Pulse of Awakening, Sybreed focuses on expanding their sonic capabilities while still holding true to their core sound. They are successful in both areas, although there are certainly things that could have been improved as well.

August 2, 2010

No New & Noteworthy this week

Once again, I'm forced to cancel New & Noteworthy this week. I've been too busy to keep up with the news and other happenings as of late. Metal Insider will have the release-only version of N&N on Tuesday, so check them out for that. Sorry to do this again, but I'm in a pretty rough patch right now with some of the changes occurring at my day job. I'll try to get back on the ball once things settle down there.