As a total fan of hardcore metal, it's a genre that doesn't always make a lot of sense. Certainly, there's no real questioning why a band like Agnostic Front is the "Black Sabbath" of the genre. Equally, it's not much of a surprise that Biohazard was so well regarded as they broke the style into the mainstream with the big budgets that record companies put into a few of their early releases. What is surprising though is the almost complete lack of respect that Madball has always received. Now 20 years old, Madball is the single most consistent band of the genre. Each and every album has achieved a level of excellence that only a select few has come close to achieving. With that said though, they just never became one of those elite bands. No matter though, because those of us that know realize just how incredible this band truly is. HARDCORE LIVES just keeps the train of excellence rolling.
Accept continue to rage on. Since his debut with the band, it's as clear as can be that vocalist Mark Tornillo has completely revitalized this band. His first two discs with the band, BLOOD OF THE NATIONS and STALINGRAD, were both masterpieces that sit near the top of the Accept catalog...regardless of who the singer is. This is not to say that Tornillo is better than Udo Dirkschneider or David Reece or anything like that. Instead, it's just a testament to how one guy can completely change the energy for a band in a positive way. Back again quickly for a third time, Accept continue their trend of greatness for a third straight release. While this release is not quite as good as the past two, there's no denying the real, powerful energy that Accept continues to create once again.
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.