MACHINE FUCKING HEAD LIVE
Machine Head is one of the most intense live metal acts out there today. To me, they have filled the void that was vacated by Pantera's demise and the softening of Metallica as a live act. While this band is the single most plagued band on the planet healthwise, when they do hit the stage they are as intense an experience as you can ever witness. Additionally, they have a catalog that has a lot of brilliance in it, and for the most part they pull primarily from the better stuff when they take to the live stage.
30 YEARS OF HEL
After 30 years, you could safely assume that a band still existing but having never had mega-success might just be a tired shell of their former selves. We've all seen these second tier bands reunite and embarrass themselves from time to time because it becomes more about hanging with their buds than it does to being serious about their music and their craft. After 30 years though, it's clear that Helstar might actually have more direction and aggression than they ever exhibited before. Led by diminutive vocalist James Rivera, the ferocity of Helstar is definitely far greater now than it was at any time in their long career. With the release of their new live collection 30 YEARS OF HEL, Rivera and company have proved that they were not only a great band back in the day, but still continue to bring it as strong as any thrasher band out there today.
DARK ROOTS OF EARTH
Without question, Testament is one of my favorite bands of all time. In my mind, they really are yet to do a bad album, even in the wake of health scares, hiatuses and a seemingly endless see of lineup changes. While they have missed the mark on occasion (ELECTRIC CROWN, DEMONIC), their bad albums are still a quality listen! As for their great ones, well they are as good or better than anything in the history of Thrash Metal. A few years ago, they stormed back onto the metal scene with the brilliant release THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION, and for that reason alone, expectations were sky high for this new disc. For the most part, they deliver once again...although without the immediate punch that past records have featured from the opening seconds of a listen.
A GIRL CALLED CERVEZA
As a thrash fan, I always try to give all these bands the benefit of the doubt. Tankard is one of those bands that has just never done enough to grab me though. I don't know why. I don't know if it's the silly imagery, or the fact that they really don't write much more than silly, frat boy thrashers or what, but for whatever reason, this band has never caught fire with me.
A GIRL CALLED CERVEZA doesn't change that one iota. Listening to this release does pretty much what every Tankard release does to me - it forces me to think about a lot of better bands of the same genre and wish that I was listening to them instead of Tankard. Songs like "Witch Hunt" are a prime example. Technically, all the elements of a good thrasher are there, but the riffs just sound tired, as do the vocals of Andreas Geremia. For me, Geremia is a big part of the problem. His mish mosh vocals just don't have the fire of a Blitz Ellsworth, Tom Araya or even a Rob Dukes for that matter. They just lay there over song after song, which makes a full trip through A GIRL CALLED CERVEZA a struggle of epic proportion.
Creating the magical moment in a band's history can certainly be a blessing. it can also be a curse though. Throughout the history of recorded music, most long term bands have created their "epic moment", and then followed it up (generally unsuccessfully) for the next several decades trying to recapture that moment once again. While I'm sure people will question the band's apex moment, I'll state that ENDLESS PAIN (and specifically the brilliant track "Flag Of Hate") was Kreator's grandest moment. While they have been one of the more excellent thrash bands since then, they never really lived up to that album...until 2009's HORDES OF CHAOS. There was a level of brilliance with that release that most didn't think these guys had anymore. That was the blessing.