September 26, 2010

Album Review: "The Culling of Wolves" by Knights of the Abyss

When deathcore became a prominent genre in the middle of the decade, it ignited one of the fiercest debates ever among metal fans. But just as quickly as it rose to popularity, the much-maligned subgenre seems to be dying with similar expediency. Most bands are transitioning into the brutal technical death metal style pioneered by Suffocation and Immolation in the early '90s. The copious breakdowns and "pig squeal" vocals have been replaced with simpler tempo shifts and basement-level grunts and growls. It is a change that most metal fans are more than happy to witness.

However, the majority of deathcore bands choosing to make this change are not doing a good job of implementing it. Many cannot seem to get the song structures correct, either retaining many elements of their old sound or else writing in tempo and tone shifts that are clunky and unnecessary. Others resort to using traits of black metal and death metal as gimmicks to attract more fans. Thankfully, though, there are some bands that have made the change without hitting either of these two stumbling blocks. Arizona's Knights of the Abyss is among this group, sounding like a completely new and vastly improved band on their third album, The Culling of Wolves.

September 18, 2010

Album Review: "Man of Two Visions" by Valkyrie

Since the release of 2007's Red Album, Baroness has become the new hot band in the progressive stoner metal scene, a slot occupied by Mastodon, Isis, and High on Fire in the past. However, not many people know that Baroness guitarist Pete Adams, who joined the band in 2008, has had a much longer relationship with Southern metal. That relationship began in 2004, when Pete joined Valkyrie, the band fronted by his brother Jake. The band certainly had humble beginnings, recording their first demo at a local college radio station. However, since then, Valkyrie has garnered a bit more respect and recognition, even counting veteran drummer Gary Isom (Spirit Caravan, Pentagram) as part of their lineup for a year. The band signed with Meteor City Records for the release of their second full-length, Man of Two Visions. It is an ambitious album that harkens back to the origins of heavy metal while simultaneously incorporating both classic rock sections and elements of the modern Southern metal sound.

September 17, 2010

New & Noteworthy, September 17th - Raise the Banners

This week's top release, the sophomore album from ex-System of a Down singer Serj Tankian, was originally supposed to come out two weeks ago, but Tankian ordered the album pushed back when the plant manufacturing the liner notes ran out of tree-free paper, a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood-pulp paper. This action is just another in a growing list of examples of rock and metal performers adopting a cause or fund to support. The environment has been a pet project for Tankian for a long time - both of System of a Down's last two albums, Mezmerize and Hypnotize, as well as Tankian's solo debut, Elect the Dead, were printed on tree-free paper. The environment is a hot topic for support in the metal community, but the causes some musicians adopt can be as simple as helping teach others to treat people fairly. No matter what the cause is, seeing the metal community rise up in support of current issues is always a beautiful thing to see, and I hope we see it more often in the future.

Besides Tankian, there are only a few other artists releasing albums this week, giving us another brief respite before getting into October, a month that is positively oversaturated with new releases. This week will likely have prog fans excited, so read on to see the slim (but still top-notch) picks for this week.

September 15, 2010

News Commentary: And Justice for All - Swedish supergroup tackles bullying with new song

Bullying is an epidemic that unfortunately still plagues schools all over the world. No matter how many punishments exist for it or how many lessons are planned around it, the problem still pervades the lives of children and adolescents everywhere. Celebrities of all kinds, ranging from pop musicians and rappers to actors and TV personalities, have tried to raise awareness about the issue in a multitude of different campaigns and causes. Now, true to form, the metal community has stepped up and delivered its message on bullying.

September 10, 2010

New & Noteworthy, September 10th - Voice of the Voiceless

This past week saw Disturbed have their fourth consecutive #1 debut of their prolific career, an amazing feat in the era of file sharing and iTunes. Equally amazing is that Asylum is the third hard rock/metal record to debut at #1 in 2010, a year dominated by the likes of Eminem, Katy Perry, Usher, Lady Antebellum, and the child terror Justin Bieber. Following in the footsteps of Avenged Sevenfold and Godsmack, Disturbed has once again proven that fans of hard rock and metal are a force to be reckoned with now. And when one also includes the number of top ten debuts from hard rock and metal bands this year, it's becoming more and more obvious that heavy music is much more popular than mainstream America would like to believe.

This week assaults us with yet another overflowing list of new releases. There are actually two releases battling for the top spot in terms of appeal and significance. One is a reissue of one of metal's defining albums, a record that defined an entire decade and kick-started the legacy of a fallen hero of metal. The other is from a band that many would dispute as being metal, although they are definitely rock, and they have a history of debuting at #1 as well. Following behind these two albums are a multitude of amazing bands from all over the genre map. Much like the beginning of June, everyone should find at least one album on this list that they will like, so start reading and allocating your paychecks accordingly!

September 5, 2010

Album Review: "Audio Secrecy" by Stone Sour

Corey Taylor may be most well-known for his role as the lead singer of Slipknot, but it's in his hard rock side project Stone Sour that he utilizes the fullest extent of his talent. The group's self-titled 2002 album displayed a completely different side of Taylor from what was seen in Slipknot, as he bared his soul through more mature and diverse songs. Both "Get Inside" and "Inhale" received Grammy nominations for Best Metal Performance, but the clincher was the heart-rending single "Bother", showing just what a skilled and versatile singer Taylor was. 2006's Come What(ever) May furthered Stone Sour's reputation and recognition, leading to prominent touring slots and the group's third Grammy nomination, again for Best Metal Performance with "30/30-150". Returning for album number three, Audio Secrecy, Stone Sour continues to impress with their heartfelt lyrics and inspiring music.

September 3, 2010

New & Noteworthy, September 3rd – The Waiting Game

Last week, I mentioned that Maynard James Keenan had three releases coming out this week. Well now that number has dropped down to two, as the Blood Into Wine documentary has been delayed until an unspecified date. However, Maynard fans are likely more anxious to know when new albums from Tool and A Perfect Circle will be coming out. This also begs the question of how Maynard will manage to keep both projects together along with Puscifer. In the beginning of the decade, his involvement with A Perfect Circle caused a five year wait for the release of Tool's fourth full-length album. Now, Puscifer has led to a four year wait on a new Tool album, which is likely to become five years unless the band is further in the writing and recording process than they would have fans believe.

Still, though, the release of two prominent items for Maynard this week is good news for fans. However, other big releases take top billing away from the singer in this week's column, including another side project that is at the top of its game with their third album. Read on to see what else is making waves in the world of rock and metal.

September 1, 2010

Album Review: "Women and Children Last" by the Murderdolls

Horror punk is one of the most difficult and specialized subgenres to master. Not only do horror punk bands have to master the style created by genre progenitors the Misfits, but they also have to find a unique way to stand out from the forefathers. This is why most horror punk bands simply become Misfits cover bands over time, because the subtlety required to achieve this mastery is very rare.

However, a few bands have found the right balance necessary to be successful at horror punk. One of the most underrated bands in this elite group is the Murderdolls, the duo of vocalist Wednesday 13 and guitarist Joey Jordison, who also plays drums for Slipknot and Rob Zombie. Their debut Beyond the Valley of the Murderdolls made a huge splash in 2002, but they went on a six-year hiatus in 2004 due to Jordison's obligations with Slipknot and Wednesday starting his solo project. However, the pair reunited early in 2010 to record a new album, much to the delight of horror punk enthusiasts. Women and Children Last is just as good as fans hoped it would be, creating a new prototype for future horror punk bands.