JAMMIN' WITH FRIENDS
Have you ever watched some really b-level porn? Nevermind...y'all have and won't admit to it. When watching that porn, have you ever seen some of that more brutal "throat rape", where a dude literally chokes a woman to the point of passing out with an aggressive thrusting designed to blow out the back of her skull JFK style? Did you ever wonder what the chick was thinking at that exact moment? You have to image she was thinking, "man, this seemed like it would be a great idea before we started, but now I'm realizing just how awful this is and how detrimental this could be to the rest of my life." Listening to Bret Michaels' JAMMIN' WITH FRIENDS is pretty much the same. While it may have seemed like a good idea at the time, the result is just another horrific example of the fact that Michaels is barely a musician anymore; more interested in a name-dropping fest than actually putting any sort of effort into providing a quality product to the sheep that still buy his garbage.
I'd like to take a moment to thank the promoters and record companies worldwide. Thank you promoters for doing so absolutely little to expose Annihilator to America and so many other territories of the world. Thank you to all the record companies that just didn't think they could compete with the rest of the thrash bands in the world. Thanks so much for depriving most of the world from realizing the greatness of this band; a band so incredibly consistent and great that, had they been given a true push, probably would now be referred in the same breath as the Big 4. Annihilator was and is so good that they found their hardcore following in spite of the industry. As the music industry implodes, I can only smile and laugh as a fan of Annihilator. Ultimately, it is getting just what it deserves for the way it treated this band.
Nine Inch Nails
Before getting to some words about the brand new Nine Inch Nails release HESITATION MARKS, let me first share my opinion of Trent Reznor and his career to date. Personally, I think he's an innovator and a genius. His past work, in my eyes, is some of the most creative and aurally challenging material ever recorded. Sure, some of it has been easy to digest. Certainly PRETTY HATE MACHINE and THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL were simple to digest when we were all in our 20s with a lot of angst. Other releases though, like THE FRAGILE, were akin to new age versions of Pink Floyd's THE WALL or Roger Waters' subsequent solo release THE PROS AND CONS OF HITCHHIKING; all releases that really made you concentrate as much on the whole concept as much as the more simple pieces of the story that were divided into songs. People are making a big deal about Reznor coming back right now after a five year hiatus. Most are forgetting that his hiatus came on the back of three consecutive subpar efforts (YEAR ZERO, GHOSTS and THE SLIP). Still, Reznor has returned with a release that's being dubbed as "a return to the sound of THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL".
WHAT ABOUT NOW
Every couple of years, a new Bon Jovi album comes across my desk. This reminds me every couple of years that there was a time when Bon Jovi was actually a solid rock band. For all the metalheads that want to instantly dismiss this band, those of us that grew up in the early 80s remember very distinctly that in the world of popular rock and metal that for the first time dominated the radio, it was Bon Jovi and Motley Crue that were the first of the massively popular. To be honest, Bon Jovi's popularity dwarfed that of the Crue. It was so big, in fact, that you saw bands like Def Leppard change their style and mimic it to find superstardom for themselves. Now though, and really for the last 20 years, Bon Jovi has been a sellout joke that has led with an overplayed radio single that program directors at middle of the road stations eat up, and then they disappear until halftime at some corporate NFL event here and there. They have become more of a brand than a creative entity, and most of their albums since KEEP THE FAITH have been universally below average.
I'm really not sure how Havok has done it, but they have once again topped themselves musically and creatively. While creating music with a pretty rigid framework by purposely claiming themselves to be playing "90s era Thrash", Havok finds ways to improve from release to release. On UNNATURAL SELECTION, they just may have peaked. There really can't be much further they can go to get better. A seething cauldron of frenetic rage, UNNATURAL SELECTION finds Havok creating a thrash metal opus that would stand proudly and deservedly next to any Exodus, Overkill or Anthrax release from the past that you want to line it up against. Without question, this Denver band has their shit REALLY together these days.
SHOW NO MERCY
If BACK TO THE FUTURE was a real concept that could actually happen, it's my belief that Mad Margritt would be a name that every single one of you that owns Skid Row, Slaughter and Dokken records would hold in the highest esteem. You would see them still touring around playing package shows together with other bands that had their run "back in the day", and you would hear interviews with Eddie Smith about his upcoming book that details all the debauchery of being a superstar back in the heyday. Unfortunately though, BACK TO THE FUTURE is fake, which leaves Smith and company recording music they love and that, while solid, is hard to get people to listen to because their door on new music slammed shut the day Kurt Cobain reached #1 on Billboard. It's too bad that so many in that 40-50 age range are like that too, because they are missing out on a ton of music that falls right in their wheelhouse. SHOW NO MERCY is one of those they are missing.
Let's be honest. To the average person that hasn't been following along carefully, it's been hard to impossible to tell the difference between Drowning Pool and Soil for the last decade. Both have had multiple singers in their camp. Both have had Ryan McCombs as one of those singers. And both have released some fairly unmemorable work in the last 10 years. That said though, I'm the first to admit that I was a BIG fan of Soil with McCombs when they first came out. Their THROTTLE JUNKIES release was stellar, and while they traded down to be trendy on both their SCARS and REDEFINE releases, both were still enjoyable if you are accepting the musical style that dominated active rock radio in the early 2000s. Several releases with vocalist AJ Cavalier served as little more than times when people would hear their name and go, "oh, those guys are still around?" McCombs has returned, and the band has come charging back with WHOLE. While not as raw as their earliest days with THROTTLE JUNKIES or the EL CHUPACABRA EP, WHOLE is closer to the original sound than these guys have been in years.
I make no bones about it. I'm not a Dream Theater fan. To be blunt and to the point, I've always appreciated the immense talent they have as individual musicians, but I've always found them to be the single most undisciplined songwriters in the history of heavy metal. They have always written bloated songs that are more focused on getting everyone's individual parts into each song than on writing a cohesive 4-6 minute song that's digestible to the average metal fan (such as I am). That's just my opinion, and I'm sure the throngs of DT loyalists out there will react with their typical "you don't know shit, that's why they're brilliant" response. So be it. I won't convince you, and you won't convince me...so we leave it there. That said though, I've been a big fan of vocalist James Labrie's solo efforts since he started putting them out. Specifically with his release ELEMENTS OF PERSUASION which featured the killer song "Freak", Labrie has proven to be solid for a more traditional listener such as I am. With IMPERMANENT RESONANCE, Labrie has once again put forth a solid effort.
So, what were you really expecting? Did you think that just because vocalist Dez Fafara spent the Winter and Spring touring around with Coal Chamber that the next Devildriver release would be softer and more full of nu-metal elements? It's amazing to me how many times prior to this release making it's rounds that I read just that online. Fans really can be stupid sometimes. For those that need a revisionary lesson in history, Fafara formed Devildriver to be as brutal as possible and as "anti-Coal Chamber" as anything he could make. The odds are that Devildriver will never even resemble Coals Chamber, nu-metal, or anything with the word "soft" in it for as long as they are a band. WINTER KILLS is a seriously intense effort from the band I feel is the best extreme metal band of the last decade. Start to finish, WINTER KILLS does just that - kills.
So many 80s hair metal bands have come back unnecessarily. I mean, let's face it...some of them just didn't make enough of an impact back in the day to warrant a reunion now. I think for most of them, there's a record company offering a check to these guys that are now plumbers and carpenters, and they see it as a quick opportunity to finish a bunch of tunes that were left laying around when their short run back in 1989 crapped out. For most of them, the reunion records have been far less than good, for the simple fact that the magic of the moment has long since gone away. For a few of those bands though, there was still significant fire left in the tank. I'd say that King Kobra is one of those bands. While never bigger than a 2nd tier hair metal band back in the day, they created solid music then. With their reunion album, and now with II, they are not only rock solid creatively, but might just be better than they were back in their day.