For many of you, the name John Garcia doesn't mean a whole lot. I get that. For some of us - people that have long loved the world of Stoner Rock and Metal, John Garcia is every bit the musical God that people like Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson are in the world of "classic metal". With Kyuss alone, Garcia quite literally defined exactly what this genre is supposed to sound like. His post-Kyuss projects all ventured in slightly different directions and showcased an uncanny ability to add more and more to an already brilliant musical style. For the first time since Kyuss, Garcia seemed to truly put every creative thing together perfectly with Vista Chino. Much like artists do though, he immediately ventured away from that to do something again a bit different and much more personal to him. That project is the simple, self titled JOHN GARCIA. While it's not quite as accessible as Vista Chino was to the every day fan, this might just be his best work yet. The legend continues.
I must be getting old, because recently, I've noticed my attitude softening toward the dreaded "nu-metal" bands of fifteen years ago. Maybe it's just nostalgia for what I now perceive (incorrectly, I'm sure) as a simpler time, but the burnout and disinterest I felt circa 2002, the year I quit seriously listening to mainstream rock radio has mellowed of late. Don't get me wrong, I still won't go out of my way to listen to Creed (for just one example), but maybe I'm not going to dive through a glass door to get to the tuner to change the station before Scott Stapp's droning vocals start.
More singers should try to have their wives killed if the resulting project to come from that nightmare sounds like Wovenwar. Holy shit is this project great! Being perfectly honest, I wasn't much of an As I Lay Dying fan, so hearing that the surviving members were forming a new project and carrying on with a new singer and new name didn't exactly have me waiting by the email box for a download link. In fact, the music sat in my cloud about 3 weeks before I even gave it a listen. Big mistake. WOVENWAR is one of the most appealing modern metal releases of the last year; a flurry of modern guitar, great vocals, and catchiness that avoids so many of today's bands. Simply put, this disc rocks.
WHITE DEVIL ARMORY
Holy shit! Who saw this coming? In an astonishing detour off the band's well-trampled musical path. Their latest album ventures into heretofore uncharted territories, embracing such unexpected sonic offshoots as Eastern-tinged black metal, polka-dotted folk-metal, and, in what is sure to be a harbinger of trends to come, Tuvan throat-singing.
Nah, just fuckin' with you to see if you were paying attention. This kind of journalistic red herring is second only to starting off an Overkill review by talking about the band's remarkable consistency.
DO YOU WANNA START A WAR
All the stars are aligned for me to be an absolute worshipper of Fozzy. And yet, I'm just not. It's not that I don't want to be. I'm a huge fan of the WWE, which is where Chris Jericho calls home professionally at least part of the time. To that fact, I'm a fan of Chris Jericho in wrestling, as his in ring mic skills and his wrestling ability are far better than 9 of every 10 people in the sports entertainment world. Fozzy guitarist Rich Ward is one of my favorite guitarists of all time. I was always a gigantic supporter of his band Stuck Mojo, and his solo release (The Duke - MY KUNG FU IS GOOD) never goes more than a month without me rockin' out to it. Drummer Frank Fontsere also comes from Stuck Mojo, and I truly enjoyed hanging with him and Rich on many occasions outside in their camper at Ron's Crossroads in Akron before they played gigs there. And yet, for whatever reason, Fozzy releases disc after disc that just don't do it for me.
CONSTRICTING RAGE OF THE MERCILESS
Here's one for the stout of heart and strong of neck: New Orleans's Goatwhore have just barfed up their sixth album, and if you liked the last few releases, Constricting Rage of the Merciless is sure to appease your charred heart. If you haven't been following along, Goatwhore is sort of a supergroup, if having members of Soilent Green and Acid Bath in the ranks qualifies for that designation—and maybe it doesn't, given the incestuous nature of that city's metal scene. They started out playing pure black metal in the Norwegian style, complete with cumbersome, English-as-a-second-language song titles, but over the ensuing fifteen years, their sound has evolved to include healthy doses of thrash and death metal, and even an almost rock 'n' roll swagger here and there. As a result, when you see news items about them on websites like Blabbermouth, they tend to have laughably long descriptors. Stuff like, "New Orleans hardcore blackened-thrash death 'n' roll sludgemeisters."
It's not a secret that this whole retro movement in the worlds of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal has been an absolutely God sent for my musical palette. For so many years now, probably 20 or more, the ONLY band I've had to hold onto when I wanted new music from a band who's influences were steeped into the days of the late '60s/early '70s "war anthem" hard rock sound has been The Black Crowes. Every disc from them has been welcomed because it always accurately captured that spirit from a time that's long gone in music. Lately though, there's been a great many bands that have emerged and just have made my own personal listening experience better than it's been in years. SpiralArms and Scorpion Child were, without question, my favorites last year. Here at the halfway point of 2014, the runaway winner is Blues Pills. This soulful rock record is the very best thing to come across this desk this year, as it's as close to flawless as a disc can be.
Retro has become in these days, and there are more and more bands creeping up that have harkened their sound back to a time that left well over 30 years ago. The last 2 years have seen an influx of bands reaching back to the '70s. Bands like Blues Pills, Vista Chino, Scorpion Child and Rival Sons have all emerged with killer throwback vibes that are impressive. There's been a few bands that have come forward a little bit to the '80s, and have had varying success with that. So along comes Unbreakable; a band produced by Scorpions' legend Herman Rarebell that seemingly listened to a lot of '80s metal along the way. While I will say they are interesting, there's just something not fully clicking with this band. It's hard to put my finger on it, but there's just something not quite there.
RUNNING WITH THE DOGS
Admit it: you've just about given up on England when it comes to producing quality rock 'n' roll. The land that brought us the Beatles, the Stones, Zeppelin, and of course the revered NWOBHM--in the past twenty-five years, what have they given us? The Wildhearts? Come on. The Darkness? Come the fuck on!
The Treatment are a five-piece band that hail from that benighted former bastion of rock supremacy. Their 2011 independent debut, This Might Hurt, caused enough of a buzz to earn them a support slot for Van Halen's European tour (while we Yankee pigs were stuck with Kool and the Gang). Now comes the band's second album, Running With The Dogs.
The big story surrounding Arch Enemy's ninth studio album is that the band has done the impossible. They replaced their lead singer calmly, quietly, and without anybody knowing about it until it was already done—and somehow didn't miss a beat in the process. It's hard enough to replace a singer just once, but Arch Enemy has done it twice, and while there are still some people bellyaching over the loss of original vocalist Johan Liiva, it's safe to say Angela Gossow left a much bigger footprint on the band, and on metal in the new millennium. With her at the mic, Arch Enemy were one of the bands responsible for popularizing so-called "melodic death metal," if not in the mainstream, at least outside of the dank sub-basements of the underground. Plus, she reminded a new generation of female headbangers that you didn't need to be an opera singer, a goth chick, or a bassist to find a place in extreme metal.