THE KING OF METAL
It’s amazing how many people out there only know Blaze Bayley from the two Iron Maiden albums where Steve Harris went through writer’s block. Because of how lame THE X FACTOR and VIRTUAL XI were, Bayley always got blamed. Since most people weren’t familiar with the rest of his catalog, they seemingly went along with it. That’s a shame though, because those of us that know albums like BLOOD AND BELIEF and SILICON MESSIAH know there is some KILLER metal out there that Bayley has put his name on over the years.
Up the irons! Iron Maiden are back once again with what, according to Wikipedia, would be their 10th live album EN VIVO. That’s right, they are so good live that they require a live album EVERY time they tour these days. I’m sure they will claim that’s how they can reach those that couldn’t attend the tour. I’ll claim it as milking the diehards. it doesn’t matter though. It’s Iron Maiden, and even though someone like me knows it’s an unnecessary release, I’ll be one of those diehards who’s teet is being squeezed once again by England’s finest.
THE ELECTRIC AGE
If you are a fan of most of the big name metal bands and have been for 20+ years as so many of us have been, then you have really lived through ebbs and flows in their careers. For most of them, they are simply not as good as they once were. Sure, we still like what they do and support it, but let’s be honest about it. We do so out of respect for the past brilliance, and not because today’s stuff is of the same caliber. Pick a band – Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Exodus, Testament – some have put out strong releases, but can you say that their career in the last 15 years has been as strong as the first 10-15? Probably not. In my eyes, only one band of that ilk can say they are as strong, and I would argue they are stronger. That band is Overkill. While every album hasn’t been a home run (IMMORTALIS was kind of lacking), it’s pretty hard to argue that albums like FROM THE UNDERGROUND AND BELOW, IRONBOUND and NECROSHINE aren’t as strong or stronger than the classics like TAKING OVER or UNDER THE INFLUENCE.
Modern Day Escape
UNDER THE GUN
With so much focus on the current demise of hard rock and heavy metal today (and yes, this focus is justified for the most part), it seems that people are missing a lot of bands that are creating quality music these days. How could you not? It's easy to become very disenfranchised with an entire genre of music when it's flagship band is an uncreative band like Nickelback. Still, there are bands that are creating highly interesting, powerful hard rock that should be getting a lot more attention. One such band is Modern Day Escape. While the band seemed to find their audience with well conceived videos and decent songs with their last effort, HOUSE OF RATS, they have clearly defined their sound while stepping up their song and lyric writing with their latest, UNDER THE GUN. In all avenues, UNDER THE GUN features a tighter, more cohesive Modern Day Escape than we saw previously.
Some albums are just meant to be kept for personal use. I can always appreciate when a band wants to branch out and try something different. Sometimes, it’s a cool little gem for fans. As an example, I very much like Aerosmith’s HONKIN’ ON BOBO release where they stretched themselves by doing an album of Blues sub-standards. The obvious marker for a successful stretch outward would be Tesla’s FIVE MAN ACOUSTICAL JAM. The difference between those bands and a band like Ektomorf is pretty clear though. Those bands had an established audience. Maybe they do somewhere else, but Ektomorf doesn’t mean a whole lot to metal audiences here in the States. I like them a lot, personally, but I’m one person. In fact, the sad truth is that if you played a single song frrom Ektomorf’s back catalog for most fans, they would think it’s Soulfly.
LIVE AT THE US FESTIVAL 1983
The death of Kevin Dubrow a few years ago really put an explanation point on the hair band era. There’s really no doubt at all that Quiet Riot’s METAL HEALTH was the starting point to a decade of glitz rock and metal like none that’s been seen before or since. Dubrow’s death kind of put the final dagger in that genre once and for all, given that he was the face of this style’s initial rise to prominence. To many, the US Festival was the official launching point for this style of music, with both Motley Crue and Quiet Riot becoming huge largely due to their performances here.
Mike Portnoy sure did torch his career in short order, didn’t he? In the span of a year, he went from one of the most loved and respected musicians in the world to a punching bag amongst metal fans. The whole drama with quitting Dream Theater, joining Avenged Sevenfold, being thrown out of Avenged Sevenfold, then being blocked from rejoining Dream Theater was somewhat amusing to watch in a sad sort of way. In the wake of all this, Portnoy was left without a band and had to create a new one. Adrenaline Mob is that band.
THE FATAL FEAST
There are some bands that put out releases and you really, really know exactly what you can expect before ever playing a single note of one of their songs. Municipal Waste are one of those bands. Like all of their previous work, their Slayer meets early Anthrax approach to thrash hits you in the face with short blasts of aggression that leave you worn out after a full listen. Their lyrical outpouring pretty much stays the course as well; a litany of songs about horror, gore, and…well, sickness. These guys clearly don’t take themselves overly seriously, as is evidenced by songs like “Covered In Sick – The Barfer”.
It’s kind of odd really how time has worked with Max Cavalera. Back when Soulfly came out, the best quality of the band was that it took Max’s music fully into directions he wanted to explore bout really couldn’t with Sepultura. For many people, they will say quite a different thing, but hear me out. Far too many people criticized Soulfly for NOT sounding like Sepultura’s ARISE or CHAOS A.D., even though that really was never the intention. Somewhat predictably though, the years that have gone by has seen Cavalera progress (or regress depending on your stance) more and more toward the classic Sepultura sound. The last two albums, OMEN and DARK AGES, could easily have been mistaken for Sepultura reunion albums. The same can be said about Cavalera’s project with his brother, Cavalera Conspiracy. The same can now be said about ENSLAVED.
Meshuggah is a band that has a category all their own. I’ll call them Aspirincore. There’s only a few bands out there that play Aspirincore; Meshuggah, Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge, Candiria, probably a few more. With a term like Aspirincore, you might take that as an immediate negative, and you would be wrong. It’s just that these kinds of bands will give you a headache if you listen to them for too long at any point of any day. Their odd timings and even odder timing changes make them simply hard to follow along with.