Opeth simply fails as a band, at least to me. While I'll admit to never fully understanding the amazement and awe so many have for this band, I've appreciated them from afar. I've listened, and I've at least wrapped my head around what they were trying to do. Their fusing of death metal with progressive elements always made for an awkwardness that's rarely done creatively. While certainly not at all the same musically, that awkward allure has always been the draw to many to a band like Meshuggah (although again, not at all comparing the music they make at all). Still, it seems like Opeth just doesn't want to have that allure anymore. Instead, they want to be Pink Floyd. Well, in short, they aren't Pink Floyd, or King Crimson, or whatever progressive rock band they are taking influence from on PALE COMMUNION. While I'm sure this is inspired work where every note was scrutinized, it's a boring listen to people that make up the heavy music audience they once were playing to. Clearly that's not their focus anymore.
A SKELETAL DOMAIN
So really, what does anyone expect when you get a Cannibal Corpse release handed to you? Ballads, love songs and fun? Not hardly. There's an expectation of severe brutality which the band delivers time and time again. Certainly, it comes with different levels of acceptance to one's ears, but ultimately the only thing that matters if it says Cannibal Corpse on the cover is that you know you are in for an extremely heavy ride. They are one band where even member changes have meant very, very little to the overall sound (cue the Cannibal Corpse uber fans to write in and tell me how each member's departure change the "dynamics"...shut up!). Like I said, you know what you get with these guys, but sometimes the degree of playing is better than at other times. This would be one of those times. As a fan of the band, A SKELETAL DOMAIN is by far the most musical venture the band has taken, and it's by far the most adventurous musically. I'm sure to most that don't appreciate their version of "slaughtercore" it's just noise, but to a Death Metal fan, this is one of their best efforts to date.
BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT
Unless you call Testament a "thrash band" (which I don't personally), Exodus would rank as my favorite true Thrash band of all time. They have had good times and bad. Occasionally, like on FABULOUS DISASTER, they have misstepped along the way. But overall, they are one of the true powerhouses in the history of thrash metal. Since 2004 when they put the band back together, they have been far stronger than at any time in their career. For the last decade, it has been the polarizing Rob Dukes leading the band vocally. He was replaced earlier this year by the again returning Steve "Zetro" Souza; a move that has found both praise and criticism amongst the hardcore fans of the band. It makes sense, really. With Dukes, the band simply got heavier and more vicious. This leaves people to wonder what would happen with Zetro returning to the band. Well, they certainly didn't slow down. BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT is as heavy as anything the guys have done to date.
...THE STORIES WE COULD TELL
As a fan of Mr. Big, I can't honestly say that many people thought that their reunion was much more than a cash grab opportunity for the guys in the band who, while immensely talented, failed to find solo success to match their collaborative efforts. It was never a question of if they could still play. Let's face it, this is a band that features Billy Sheehan and Paul Gilbert - two of the most gifted rock musicians history has ever seen. It was more of a question of if all that creative energy could find a way to not only co-exist again, but mesh like they did in the old days. The answer was an overwhelming "yes". Their return release WHAT IF...was on par with most of the material from their past. It was a fun, energized effort with some truly great moments. Well, the long and the short of it is that ...THE STORIES WE COULD TELL keeps it going. Some great songs, some really good ones, and zero fillers - this new release is pretty much what you would expect from Mr. Big.
WORLD ON FIRE
Hey Gene Simmons. The corpse of rock n' roll just had a baby. That baby is not an average baby at all. That baby was not stillborn, but came out kicking and screaming with an intensity rarely seen. This baby is destined for greatness. This infant is out to prove you wrong. While your days of spitting fire and shitting out records people care about may be over, assuming that the genre that abandoned you is dead is premature, sir. The legendary Slash, along with the great Myles Kennedy and his band The Conspirators, have delivered not only the best rock album of 2014, but one that's so strong that it might remind you of the impact Slash had once before around 1987. Simply put, WORLD ON FIRE is as good a rock record as has been released since the turn of the century. Rock n' Roll is dead? My ass!!
I had the pleasure of working directly with Davey Suicide as he prepped his debut release a few years ago for release. I got to work with him on some promotional stuff, some publicity stuff, his website and a lot more of that kind of stuff. In that work, I quickly found him to be far more than the typical "scene kid" that he seems to be consistently lumped in with. If anything, Davey is one of the most thought out guys in rock today. He plans everything out, from the material on his discs to his image to his second career as a portrait artist. Further, he has tremendous vision for someone that's not all that accomplished as of yet. I remember a conversation we had at one point. When asked what he hoped to happen with his debut release, he said, "I hope to be in a position to break through with the next release". Mission accomplished. Through some crazy hard touring, member changes and now the release of WORLDWIDE SUICIDE, Davey Suicide seems like the kind of artist that could break through to the next level.
LAST TANGLE IN PARIS
Al Jourgensen of Ministry has been threatening to take his ball and go home for a long time now. Quite frankly, I'm not sure I believe that he'll ever retire. Every time he says he's retiring, he seems to come right back with more music that's stronger, meaner and just better than anything in his past. Being quite honest, I've found his releases of the last 10 years (HOUSES OF THE MOLE, RIO GRANDE BLOOD, THE LAST SUCKER, RELAPSE and FROM BEER TO ETERNITY) to be the better half of his career; far stronger than the bigger selling stuff like PSALM 69 or FILTH PIG. Jourgensen is producing far more solid material than ever before, which makes it hard to understand why he would step aside now. Then again, with the industry pretty much dead, maybe now's as good a time as any. If he is truly done, at least he lives a lot of fans satisfied with some killer live music on LAST TANGLE IN PARIS.
ROCK YOUR FACE OFF
Kix might just be the last of the '80's bands to release new material. By now, it seems like everybody else you could name from the glory days of yesteryear has made a stab at making music in the new millennium. Of course, a lot of them, we wish they hadn't, and just left us to our misty-eyed memories. Others have released music that, while not stacking up against the old favorites, at least doesn't embarrass the band or tarnish the legacy. A bare few have been able to create something that rivals the classics.