Israeli band's fifth album to be released June 25
Orphaned Land, the Israeli progressive metal band who have done a splendid job over the years promoting cultural unity through their music, are set to release their fifth album All is One June 24 on Century Media. Always ones to make a point of bringing together audiences from all walks of life, the band made a point of recording the new album in Israel, Turkey, and Sweden – Jewish, Muslim, and Christian countries respectively – and that idea is also neatly reflected in the cover artwork, which incorporates imagery from all three religions.
As much as I’ve always admired Orphaned Land – 2004’s Mabool was a revelation – I was not a fan of their last album, 2010’s The Never Ending Way of ORWarriOR, which overall felt too stylistically busy, lacking a “less is more” approach that progressive metal so often needs. The two All is One tracks that have surfaced, however, sound outstanding, and bode well for the rest of the record. On both “Our Own Messiah” and “Let the Truce be Known”, the Middle Eastern musical influences are front and center, the former led by Kobi Farhi’s impassioned vocal melody, the latter dominated by a stirring Turkish string section. Listen to both songs below.
Aussie band breathes life into mainstream hard rock
Album of the Week:
Airbourne, Black Dog Barking (Roadrunner)
You know exactly what you’re going to get whenever Airbourne puts out a new album, and somehow, despite recycling the same AC/DC-meets-Rose Tattoo formula time and again, the Aussies’ music always sticks with you. The incredible thing is, weirdly, that they’re pretty much the only prominent band playing this kind of rock ‘n’ roll, as the rest of mainstream rock is stuck in a mire of post-grunge boredom and “active rock” gimmickry. What Airbourne are doing is no different than all those cliché-recyvling hard rockers from the late-‘80s – Dirty Looks, anyone? – but the key difference is that this particular foursome always makes damned sure that the energy is at full throttle on every single record. There’s no malaise to be heard on an Airbourne album. No jaded sentiment. No hint of being tired. Just simple, booze-fueled hard rock that’s perfectly suited for summer.
On their third album, interestingly enough, Airbourne and producer Brian Howes bring that raucous energy in spades, but add considerable polish to the package, to the point where it starts to bear a striking resemblance to Def Leppard’s High ‘n’ Dry. Of course, it doesn’t have the emotional resonance and nuance of that classic but it has that bite, feeling like a respectful homage rather than a rip-off, and on songs like “Animalize” and “No One Fits Me (Better Than You)” you can’t help but admit they do a fantastic job capturing that sound. Elsewhere, “Live it Up” is the kind of crowd-pleaser that the band excels at, while the title track, which closes the record, brings a welcome dose of nastiness to the proceedings. Of course it’s all predictable, of course it’s been done countless times before, but for anyone sick to death of the current depressing trajectory of mainstream hard rock – hello, Pop Evil – Black Dog Barking’s timing couldn’t be better.
Also out this week:
Burning Rain, Epic Obsession (Frontiers): Whitesnake shredder and Guitar World hero Doug Aldrich has resurrected Burning Rain for their first new album since 2000, and to no one’s surprise it’s stubbornly stuck in 1989, mining the last days of pop metal, from loads of Nuno Bettencourt knock-offs (“Till You Die”, “Pray Out Loud”) to faux-Zeppelin blooze (“Heaven Gets Me By”). It’s all horribly dated, and it’s certainly no Badlands – that cover of “Kashmir” has to go – but Aldrich and singer Keith St. John sell it, right down to the smarm.
Circle, Six Day Run (Ektro): While not an official “album” per se, this soundtrack for Mika Taanila's film of the same name is not only a cool little exercise for the innovative Finnish band, but a great listen for fans and admirers of experimental music alike. This project sees them offering instrumental variations on the minimalist krautrock sounds of Can, the six tracks locked into hypnotic motoric tempos but subtly exploring through improvisation. You don’t need to see the film to be affected by the music, which is the highest possible praise for the musicians.
Decaying, The Last Days Of War (Hellthrasher): This is war-themed death metal in the same vein as Bolt Thrower and Hail of Bullets, but while the young Finns do a good job depicting historical battles in their lyrics, musically it lacks the potency and robustness that the aforementioned bands deliver in spades, marred by pedestrian songwriting and lifeless production.
Death Of An Era, The Great Commonwealth (Artery): Stuttering, sputtering deathcore with the odd moment of inspiration when the death metal influences are allowed to rise to the surface, but while these Ohio youngsters can definitely play the hell out of their instruments, they need to sit down and listen to some metal and hardcore albums made before 2000 to learn that instrumental chops mean nothing if you can’t write a single cohesive song.
Extrema, The Seed Of Foolishness (Scarlet): While the Italian band tries a little too hard to sound American – something that annoys me to no end – their Machine Head-isms on this new album are passable enough to not be completely off-putting. Still, why bother with a pale imitation when the real thing is so much better?
Gaytheist, Hold Me...But Not So Tight (Good To Die): Punk, noise, and garage rock collide in a very fun way on this disarming new album by the Portland band. Catchy and bursting with energy, the second you start wondering if this is all a big put-on, the song ends, a new one begins, and you couldn’t care less. Stream and buy the album via Bandcamp.
Hebosagil, Lähtö (Ektro): It’s no KEN Mode, and it’s certainly no Melvins, but the latest album by the Finnish band is an adequately raucous, abrasive blast of sludge and noise. Sung in indecipherable Finnish, by the way, just for a little added mystique.
NK, Nothing to be Gained Here (Triple Crown): Featuring members of The Dillinger Escape Plan and Envy on the Coast, this is a rare band that takes the idea of post-hardcore and takes it into surreal, creative territory, creating songs that are alternately awash in sludgy guitars and lumbering grooves, or completely setting Warped Tour pop-punk on its ear, like Battles and Ween interpreting Fall Out Boy. If that wasn’t enough, a little ‘70s soul is tossed out in the form of “Vacation Days”. It’s a brilliant little album that shows everyone that Mike Patton doesn’t have to be the only person out there bucking convention in heavy music. Listen to the album via Soundcloud.
A Pale Horse Named Death, Lay My Soul To Waste (SPV): The band led by former Type O Negative drummer Sal Abruscato is back with their second album, and once again the Alice in Chains imitations are painfully obvious and distracting. I genuinely like its gothic bent, but the grunge influence has to go. This is like Godsmack with eyeliner.
The Poodles, Tour De Force (Frontiers): Channeling the fun of glam metal without the smarm that permeates the new Burning Rain album reviewed above, the Swedish band have put out another lively album that leans a little more toward the power metal of HammerFall and Edguy, but the pop element is never abandoned. Consequently, songs like “40 Days and 40 Nights” and “Shut Up!” charm their way into your head with their shameless, puppydog-like cheeriness. Who’s a good boy!
PTSD, A Sense Of Decay (My Kingdom): It’s 1995 all over again on the latest album by the Italian alt-metal outfit, as simple, down-tuned riffs mesh with mid-paced grooves and lavish electronic arrangements. If anything, it’s catchy stuff, featuring a very strong singer in Henry Guy. “Event Horizon” is a keeper.
Satan, Life Sentence (Listenable): It might not be receiving the same amount of hype that Hell and Angel Witch received in 2011 and 2012, but NWOBHM band Satan have reunited their complete 1983 lineup and put out a very good album, their first in 26 years. Continuing right where Court in the Act left off, Life Sentence keeps it simple, employing that old “fast and melodic” formula to great effect – the twin leads are often stupendous – led by the formidable bellow of Brian Ross. Led by “Cenotaph”, “Time to Die”, and the title track, this is a very welcome return by a band that deserves more recognition.
Svart Crown, Profane (Listenable): Following the leads of Gojira and Hacride, Svart Crown add themselves to the ever-growing list of creating metal bands coming out of France. In their case, though, more death metal permeates their music than that of their peers, the bombast of Behemoth mixing well with moments of creative atonality. It’s a compelling combination of the formulaic and the unexpected, and as “Intern. Virus. Human.” and “In Utero: A Place of Hatred and Threat” prove, a little subtlety and in such forceful music goes a long way.
Timo Tolkki's Avalon, The Land Of New Hope (Frontiers): The Finnish guitarist tries to one-up his former band Stratovarius with an ambitious power metal concept album loaded with guest musicians, but while it has some memorable songs (“Enshrined in My Memory”), it quickly becomes a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, the constant revolving door of singers making the album feel busier and more scattered than it has to be. Give this round to Stratovarius, whose new album is very good.
U.D.O., Steelhammer (AFM): Udo Dirkschneider’s latest album starts off as the kind of predictable, classic heavy metal fun that we’ve all come to expect from him, with songs like “Metal Machine” and “King of Mean” sticking to the same formula he’s used since his days with Accept. Whenever U.D.O. fails, though, it’s when he steps outside the box, and the longer this album goes, the more it starts to fly off the rails, marred by such softer fare as “Never Cross My Way” and “When Love Becomes a Lie”, and even worse, the egregious “Book of Faith”, which sees Dirkschneider trying to become the German Tom Waits, and failing miserably.
Zed, Desperation Blues (I And I): The San Francisco band’s second album is likeable, there’s no denying that. After all, they do the swinging, swaggering hard rock thing quite well. It wants to be on the level of Clutch, but lacks the personality and quirkiness to get there. In the end, it’s good, safe heavy rock ‘n’ roll, and despite feeling generic at times the energy and passion is palpable enough to make you let its shortcomings slide.
Doors keyboardist died Monday
Housecore Horror Film Festival to be held October 25-27 in Austin, TX
Everyone knows heavy metal and horror flicks go hand in hand, and on the weekend of October 25-27 Austin Texas will be the home of the Housecore Horror Film Festival, where underground metal and underground horror cinema will collide for a three-day bacchanal at Emo’s.
Created by Philip Anselmo and writer Corey Mitchell, the music/film fest “offer fans a mix of live concerts from at least a dozen of heavy metal’s heaviest hitters, and more than 70 screenings of full-length and short horror films, documentaries, true crime and heavy metal films, music videos, and more. Special guest appearances by revered and controversial horror film directors and other notable figures in the metal and movie worlds will give festival-goers the extreme experience they’re craving.”
Among the announced bands performing are Down, Crowbar, Philip Anselmo & the Illegals, Eyehategod, and Warbeast. In addition, several films will be scored live by guest musicians, the most exciting of which being Goblin, who will perform live their classic score to Dario Argento’s Suspiria. This is sure to be a blast; believe me, you want to witness The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with Mayhem’s Atilla Csihar gurgling into a microphone in the background, if only for the surrealism of it all.
More bands and films will be announced in the coming months.
Second song from 14th album 'Super Collider' to surface
To say that the premiere of the title track from Megadeth’s 14th album Super Collider few weeks ago was disappointing is an understatement, but judging from the second new song Dave Mustaine and his band have just posted, there just might be hope for the record yet.
Like “Super Collider”, “Kingmaker” is fairly straightforward, cut from the same cloth as the band's notoriously streamlined Countdown to Extinction album, but it’s a robust enough track that falls right into Mustaine’s wheelhouse, not to mention the rest of the band, who sound right at home churning out the catchy little “Children of the Grave” knockoff groove. It’s no “Head Crusher”, arguably Megadeth’s best song of the last decade, but it’s a step in the right direction. Listen to the track below.
Super Collider comes out June 4 on Tradecraft/Universal.
Thrash metal with a social conscience
Back in the 1980s more and more bands, especially in the thrash scene, started following the lead of hardcore punk a bit more and started addressing current events and political themes. But while Metallica touched on nuclear war, Megadeth lampooned the PMRC, and Anthrax sang a song about Native Americans, metal never really had much of a social conscience. Which, as some will say, is a good thing, because heavy metal was never meant to have a social conscience in the first place, being more fitted to escapism via record and communal aggression in a live setting, not talking about, like, issues and stuff. Issues were for the hardcore crowd. Metal music only took a passing fancy to social commentary, relying on vague sentiment and thinly veiled satire to get a point across, but it was never central to the music.
Nuclear Assault was one of the first metal bands to not only delve into such topics seriously, but have their music click with a large audience as well. Formed by bassist Dan Lilker after he left Anthrax in search of more aggressive music to play, he and guitarist John Connelly drew heavily from thrash, hardcore, and the nascent grindcore sound to create something fast, in your face, but also socially aware. The 1986 debut Game Over, while a very strong piece of New York thrash, was nevertheless underdeveloped lyrically, the band, rounded out by guitarist Anthony Bramante and drummer Glenn Evans, relying too much on heavy metal clichés (“Stranded in Hell”), the aforementioned vagaries (“Nuclear War”), and sophomoric humor (“Hang the Pope”). Two years later, however, Nuclear Blast returned with a clearer mission, all grown up with a remarkably mature album that displayed some real acuity behind the musical savagery.
Produced by Megadeth producer Randy Burns and recorded in January and February of 1988, Survive finally saw Lilker part of a fully realized band compared to the likeable yet derivative Anthrax debut Fistful of Metal and the classic crossover side project Speak English or Die by Stormtroopers of Death. The songwriting, while plenty fast and aggressive, was grown up enough to now place more emphasis on dynamics, and the end result is an album that, while not exactly innovative stylistically, nevertheless has a clear modus operandi not to mention a certain character that sets it apart from every other thrash record that came out that year.
In Connelly Nuclear Assault had one of the most peculiar lead vocalists thrash metal had, or has for that matter, ever seen. To say his vocal style is unique is an understatement. A twisted snarl that is practically impossible to describe, let alone imitate – Ryan Waste of Municipal Waste actually pulled it off when I interviewed him a year ago, which had me cracking up – Connelly’s voice gurgles like a Muppet and screeches like a hawk throughout the record. It’s a strange sound to get used to, but thankfully the strength of the actual songs make the effort a lot easier.
And the songs, simple as they are, are tremendous. Propelled by some throttling double-kicks by Evans, the fleet-footed yet robust “F#” is faithfully derived from NYC hardcore, its metal influence accentuated by some well-timed solos and Connelly’s vocal melody, which echoes the same guitar riffs. The brilliant “Great Depression” matches classic Anthrax every step of the way with its combination of double-time speed and stomping mosh riffs that are punctuated by Connelly’s chorus: “I don't recall asking YOU! TO! Stick your nose in my life!” “Wired” is a welcome deviation from the thrash, going for a slower, more sinister pace, while “Fight to be Free” is the closest thing on the album to an epic, managing to pack a lot of diversity in its four and a half minutes.
Survive is most memorable when that thrash proficiency meshes with strong lyrics. “Equal Rights” is a throttling, three-minute blast of straight-up hardcore in which the band is more thoughtful than aggressive (“Help make racial wars a distant unforgotten memory / Maybe hate will never die that doesn't mean we shouldn't try”). Reagan-era conformity and complacency is confronted on “Technology” (“I'm wasting my time, I'm wasting my breath, on people who choose ignorance”), but the real kicker is “Brainwashed”, a catchy and eloquent attack on radio, television, and newspapers (“See what they want you to see, our awareness is limited by network VPs”) that urges the listener to think for themselves instead of blindly follow. It’s a cliché now, but in 1988, few bands in metal were daring to step up like Nuclear Assault were doing on this record.
Survive isn’t an all-time masterpiece – its cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times” was ill-advised – but the rest of the album has aged very well over 25 years, enough to deem it a minor thrash classic. “Brainwashed” would prove to be a modest hit thanks to its accompanying video, and would help pave the way for the 1989 follow-up Handle With Care, which would turn out to be Nuclear Assault’s commercial peak.
Singer Tim Lambesis to appear in court June 10
A week after their singer was arrested for allegedly conspiring to have his estranged wife murdered, As I Lay Dying, to no one’s surprise, announced they were pulling out of their summer US tour with Killswitch Engage. Drummer Jordan Mancino, guitarist Nick Hipa, guitarist Phil Sgrosso, and bassist Josh Gilbert posted a statement late yesterday saying, “Given the circumstances, we feel that it is best for the band to be off the road while the current situation gets sorted. We’d like to thank all of our fans for their ongoing support at this difficult time.”
Tim Lambesis, who has pled not guilty, is being held on $3 million bail at a detention center in Vista, California. He is due back in court on June 10, and if found guilty – the evidence collected by undercover police seems incredibly damning – faces up to nine years in prison.
In the meantime, Killswitch Engage have announced that Darkest Hour and The Word Alive will be replacing As I Lay Dying on the summer tour. Miss May I and Affiance are also appearing on the bill. See the full list of tour dates here.
Continuing with the Lambesis story, which is one of the most disturbing stories to hit the metal world in ages, my esteemed colleague Natalie Zina Walschots has written a harrowing, intensely personal essay for the Toronto Standard about the public shaming of Lambesis’s wife Meggan by As I Lay Dying fans online, the cliché of the “Evil Ex” in popular culture and heavy metal, and her own past experience that mirrors what Meggan is going through now. It’s a brave piece. Read it here.
Hollywood Palladium to host tribute to the late Slayer guitarist
A special public memorial for late Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman has been scheduled for Thursday, May 23 at the 4,000-capacity Hollywood Palladium in Hollywood, California. Fans of all ages have been invited to the free event, and will be admitted on a first come, first in basis. It starts at 3:30 PM, and goes until 7:30 PM.
Hanneman, who was such a key component of Slayer, having written the bulk of their best songs and forming one of the best two-guitar tandems rock ‘n’ roll has ever seen with Kerry King, died on May 2 of alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver.
Not much has been divulged yet as far as the finer details of the memorial go, but it’s sure to be a very special, memorable event.