Friday, December 31, 2010

5 Quick Album Reviews

I could have easily spun most of these off into a stand-alone review (as you'll notice in the overall length of the articles), but I am a busy guy, with a lot of music to listen to yet.

Wino - Adrift
Simply amazing. Best way to describe the legendary Wino's second solo release, as it has become one of my favorites for all year. It's a far change from what the master of all thing doom has ever previously released, coming off as more classic rock then doom or heavy metal. Adrift is a mostly acoustic album, with only the occasional electric guitar solo stopping it from being fully acoustic. These songs are not really metal, and the disc comes off with a very classic rock (circa-1975) feel. Think some good ol' Deep Purple or perhaps some Zeppelin to get what I mean. There are a couple of covers thrown in (Motorhead and Savoy Brown), something I was not expecting, but for the most part it is Wino at his core. I love his gruff voice, his abrupt singing style, and of course his amazing guitar-work. It's amazing what the man can do with an acoustic guitar, usually not something that one would expect to hear truly amazing work from, but Wino delivers! This album is another that I wish I hadn't waited so long in hearing, and it makes me want to go back through this amazing musician's history and re-listen (or listen for the first time) to his entire discography. It is that good.

5 Quick Album Reviews

The year's final installment

Agalloch - Marrow of The Spirit
Hauntingly beautiful meets downright dark. Agalloch has always been a mystery to me. I love them, but they are unlike 99.9% of the other music I hear. I don't much care for black metal, the only groups I listen to being the 'classic' black (Mercyful Fate, King Diamond and Celtic Frost (in certain parts)), but for some reason Agalloch breaks through these barriers. I think it's because I see them more as folk metal, then true black metal. Their albums cross several genres, black, folk, progressive, symphonic, and post-metal have all been attributed to the group. It all fits. Marrow of The Spirit continues on the group's previous style; the songs are mixed with haunting beautiful strings and pianos, ear-shattering thrash, and wailing vocals. It's an experience that is difficult to accurately describe, it is something you will just have to try for yourself. The vocals don't take the main focus of the record, and I think that is another reason why I like Agalloch; they seem to be - at times - another instrument, adding to the layer of sound. The songs are all long, multi-layered and part pieces, with almost everyone changing styles throughout. It's hard to choose favorite tracks, as the songs sometimes fall onto the sword of most long songs; they have good segments, and some not-so-good segments, and while Marrow of The Spirit doesn't have this dragging effect too much, it is still there, taking away from the whole sound. This effect is seen more on the later songs, "Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires" and the final, "To Drown," with the last song, being an instrumental, effected the most. Other then this, there is no complaint. I love this group, and they fall way outside my normal comfort zone - but I always say every genre has a few good bands - and sometimes you need something like that. Go out, get Agalloch, all of the albums, and feel the experience of the group.

Top 20 of 2010: Honorable Mentions

Albums that, for one reason or another, just didn't have the umph to make it onto my Top 20 of 2010 list. I'm sure you'll see some of your favorites here, and I await the hate mail.

Agalloch - Marrow of The Spirit
Agalloch does it again; another great, eclectic record. This is the only black metal I really listen too, and I think that it's because it's not too black as a whole. They mix in so many elements (folk, atmospheric, symphonic, post-metal, thrash) that it is hard to classify it into a style or genre. The songs from Marrow of The Spirit are a mix of beautiful elegance, and blast your skull metal. It would seem to sound horrible, but it truly works. I love this band and all of their releases, but as it isn't my chosen genres of love, it had no choice but to fall to the wayside.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 20 of 2010: 16 - 20

Finishing up my Top 20 of 2010 (besides the honorable mentions of course) almost brings a tear to my eye. It's been a year full of ups and downs - both personal and within the musical soundscape. The year was rocked by the monumental deaths of Ronnie James Dio (Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Solo, Heaven & Hell) and Peter Steele (Carnivore, Type O Negative), and I'm sure others. But we move on, being stronger and more metal with each passing day.

16. sHEAVY - Disfigurine
One of my favorite bands, and another act to release two albums within one year, sHEAVY continues to do the seemingly impossible: consistently evolve their sound, and yet stay the same. Eight albums in, and I can still hear the basic influences of Black Sabbath and Kyuss that was present on the first record. Disfigurine keeps up the tradition of a sHEAVY album every two or three years, except that this time, it was predated by the sonically different The Golden Age of Daredevils, which was released in May of this year. You see The Golden Age of Daredevils was given birth through the group competing in the RPM Challenge, held every February, which holds that musicians of all genres complete a full album (10 songs or 30 minutes) within the month. There are lots of applicants, and one of the bands I like quite a bit, Snailface, is directly from this challenge. Anyway, so sHEAVY joined the challenge, recorded The Golden Age of Daredevils and decided to release it (why not, seeing as you've already recorded it). The album from the RPM Challenge was a bit different then previous LPs from the group so I was a tad worried about their future, but all my worries were cast aside after I heard Disfigurine. The group picked up a new guitarist, so the sound has evolved a bit, this album being more straight-forward stoner rock, then their very doomy predecessors, but it's still all good. It's just the beginning of a new chapter for the band. While Disfigurine is not their best release, how could I compile a list of the best albums of the year without including these amazing rockers?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 20 of 2010: 11 - 15

This seems to be the more predominately 'stoner' segment of the Top 20 of 2010, but hey, it's all in alphabetical order, so it's of no fault of my own.

11. Monster Magnet - Mastermind (See Review)
Mastermind is one of the best releases in the long list of Monster Magnet albums. It is regarded (by myself and most other reviewers) as a return to the classic era of the group, along the lines of Powertrip or Dopes To Infinity. In my mind, while it doesn't have the few songs that act as hooks for the rest of the album (as most other Monster Magnet albums do), the overall song quality within Mastermind is much more level. I've been a long time listener of Monster Magnet, and while I like their spin-off act, The Atomic Bitchwax, a bit more, the group has always had a soft spot in my rock and groove heart. AllMusic already has a posting of the next Monster Magnet album, The Lowdown (albeit, it's not much), to be released sometime in 2011. If this is a full studio album, not a 'best of' or a live album, then it will be the quickest turn around for Monster Magnet LPs sense their first two (Spine of God in '92 followed by Tab...25 in '93 - which was really an extended EP but it's over 55 minutes long so I count it). After the superb release in 2010, I am with baited breath, waiting for this supposed album.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top 20 of 2010: 6 - 10

Day two of the top 20. Again these are in no real order, other then alphabetical. It was almost impossible to trim it all down to 20, let alone rank them. These are the 20 Best of 2010, if you haven't heard these yet, make sure they are the first thing you do in 2011!

6. Fireball Ministry - Fireball Ministry (See Review)
Simply superb, one of Fireball Ministry's more solid efforts. While it doesn't contain the usual mix of great songs with so-so songs, this release does deliver for the full album-length. Longtime fans of the group may find this album a bit boring or repetitive, but I see an act that has discovered what is their 'core' sound and has decided to push that forward. As I said (both here and in my short review), does not have songs that stand far beyond the rest, all of the songs are of like quality and style. Instead of a mix of all the sub-genres of stoner, Fireball Ministry (album) is filled with the fuzziest, groove-laden stoner rock that you have ever heard. Every song is filled to the brim with moving bass lines, rocked out guitars (and the fuzz), and solid drum beats. The vocals are all above average; in style, content and delivery. In all possible aspects, this album delivers.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top 20 of 2010: 1 - 5

Well this list began at 10, and then quickly grew to over 30 as I chose the best albums from 2010 in my vast collection. I've spent some time in whittling away at the list, trying to scrape it down to 10, and after i realized that was going to be impossible (too many categories to think about), I split the difference and decided on 20 - perfectly doable, without leaving too many great albums out of the cold. While this listy was still supposed to be only 10 albums, I was going to post one a day, from the 21st to the 31st, with a full-length article about each one. Because I upped it to 20, and because I didn't get a proper jump on this project, and also because I haven't even finished all the albums I wanted too before compiling the beginnings of this list, I am going to release it in four segments, five albums within each. Each album will have a short synopsis but that is all.
These lists aren't in a real order, it was too much effort just to get the list to 20, let alone order it in some fashion. It's all in alphabetic order; that's how I like it, that's how I'm keeping it.

1. Airbourne - No Guts. No Glory.
Airbourne does it again. Another balls-to-the-wall 80s throwback rock and roll classic. While not as groundbreaking as their first, Runnin' Wild, No Guts. No Glory. was a great release; following the mantra 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.' I really need to hear this one again, the last time being over six months ago, but don't worry the sound still carries. If you have heard their first album, then you will like this one. If you're a fan of the late 70s/early 80s simplistic rock (AC/DC, KISS to some extent) the you have found your replacement band for those times of fond memories. Rock n' roll at its finest. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

5 Quick Album Reviews

Because there isn't enough time!

Amplifier - The Octopus
I was looking forward to this one, way back when I made the Retrospective for Amplifier, but I thought it came out in 2011, not late this year, so I was very happily surprised! The Octopus continues the group's trend of changing their style a bit with each release. While with their latest release, the EP Eternity, I wasn't sure where the future was with the band - with what direction they would head - The Octopus points the direction clearly; the arrow points directly to prog! This is by far their most genuine progressive rock sounding album so far, with almost all of the alternative sounds of the previous releases vanishing. This album is two discs and two hours long, with many songs over seven minutes in length. It also walks hand-in-hand with psychedelic music; most songs have a very trance-feeling guitar/bass/drum section bleeding into the vocal passages. It's a very interesting direction and feel, given the band's history of only touching the progressive elements a bit. This is a swan dive into the pool! The Octopus has become my favorite Amplifier album so far; it's new direction is something I love. I now await an EP in 2011 to steer the group into yet another direction, followed by an LP in 2012 or 2013 (if the trend continues), pushing that direction even further. Amplifier is a band that is continuously re-inventing themselves, and they are damn good at it!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Nothing going on here, I am taking a day to myself. Writing an article a day everyday for the past month has worn me out. Go enjoy food, gifts and family. I am going to try and use this time to finish up my albums that I want to hear before the end of the year (five left). Tomorrow I have another 5 Quick Album Reviews, and I will have another one up before the end of the year. 
In other news, my Top 10 of 2010 has become a Top 20, because I can't trim the list. Also, instead of writing an article about each  one, it'll be in sets of five. Whatever I am burnt out, count your lucky stars you get this much.
In the new year I'll probably go back to the every other day thing, I haven't decided 100% but it's hard to remember to keep writing. Maybe I'll do every other day for decent articles (Retrospectives, New Bands, etc) and use the other time for videos and lists. Who knows, we'll see.
Enjoy the time you have, keep up the horns for the holidays!

Also, here is some GWAR I found, showing that even monsters from another planet can get into the spirit!

Friday, December 24, 2010

New Band: The Beards

I have found the greatest band of all time, bar-none, The Beards. This is a group of four Australians who take their facial hair vary seriously. All of their songs - and I mean all - are about beards and/or facial hair in some fashion. Whether it's about how awesome beards are, how they lost their beard (usually in some grave fight), how society doesn't understand beards (jobs and girlfriends who want you to shave it off), and how you need to grow a beard, it's all beards, beards, beards (which is also the title to their second album).
From the first song off of their self-titled debut, "The Beards Club," I knew I had found something special. Their music is the correct mix of rock and humor that makes me unsure if The Beards are a comedy troupe with some great music, or a rock band with really funny bits. They walk the tightrope like a pro. Of course there is the usual comparisons to make; being Australian one can't help but mention Flight of The Concords (even though they are Kiwis themselves), although there are more inclined to their music then FotC. Tenacious D references with rear their head as well, and although I see this more then FotC (aside from the accents), I also feel that a Stephen Lynch story-telling comparison must be mentioned. That's how I would (and have) describe these guys, an amalgamation of Flight of The Concords humor, Tenacious D rock, and Stephen Lynch stories. Do I have your attention now?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Album: Serj Tankian - Imperfect Harmonies (Part Deux)

Again, to give another look from The Pyro's point of view ...Imperfect Harmonies.

While it is an obvious fact that Serj Tankian was the leader of System of A Down, it is also evident that he was not the whole picture. His style is a definite throw-back to the days of SoaD, although it is not the same. I can't help but compare Imperfect Harmonies with Elect The Dead, try as I might. While within Elect The Dead, he strived for a stand-alone style (at least partially), mixing his really eclectic style with the alternative metal scene, with Imperfect Harmonies all of the originality (and eclecticness) has pretty much vanished. It's an album of dull, radio-friendly songs, attempting at being political but falling from the mark. It's not even a throwback to SoaD, it's just doesn't have the energy to compete with Serj's history.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Band: Ghost

Also seen on Heavy Planet:

Ghost is a band that showed up out of nowhere, gained critical acclaim and started joining in on some of the biggest tours in the world - all within a year. We don't know who the people are behind the name, because they wear hoods and masks on stage, and also because apparently the record company isn't saying. Being that we don't know anything about the group, it has lead many to believe that it's a publicity stunt; a revolving collection of nobodies, with only one person (or a record company-backed group) who is recording all of the music and lyrics and they pay the people to pretend to be 'Ghost.' I don't know about all of that, I mean I could easily see someone/some company do that, but it seem like a lot of effort for mixed results. Because of the anonymity and mystery behind the group, reviews have been mixed, with some being to concerned about what/who is behind the group and their sudden rise to fame. For me it's about the music, so after this intro, that is what I'll focus on; the music of Ghost and their debut, Opus Eponymous.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

5 Quick Album Reviews

Too many albums too little time:

Fireball Ministry - Fireball Ministry
I was looking forward to this one all year, and of course once it was released... I forgot all about it. Well I re-discovered it last week and wasted no time in listening to it, and let me tell you the boys (and girl) in Fireball Ministry did an amazing job! Easily one of their best works, and a solid entry into the best of 2010! For their fourth full-length, the group has chilled down a bit. Gone are the solid rock 'n roll songs, the really quick and jumping beats. Instead they are replaced by ten tracks of solid grooves. Each and every song is impressive; with a fuzzy bass and guitar medley, and the drums pounding on and on. While one of their least grandiose album - as far as musical scope - Fireball Ministry uses this specialty to finely tune and hone their sonic talents. It's hard to choose my favorite tracks, because there are so many! I can only pick out the one or two that falter a bit, but that seems like a poor way to describe this album. It is clearly their pinnacle effort; the album to herald their second coming (ironically it was not their second album, titled The Second Great Awakening). I may be acting like a bit of a fan-boy on this one, but I really have loved the works of Fireball Ministry for as long as I've known of their existence. While in the past, their records have supported a hand-full of hits and several that missed the mark, I believe that this album doesn't have the huge holes within it's track list. That it is truly a great album. Go and get it and see for yourself!

Monday, December 20, 2010

New Band: Ufomammut

Also seen on Heavy Planet:

Ok, I am now just getting the message that countless others before me have realized: Ufomammut is awesome! Their style of doom is a great rendition of the genre. Slow and menacing, heavy but minimal, with long songs (well, song) and few words, Eve is a powerhouse of an album.
Eve is the only album I have heard by Ufomammut so far, so while their Wikipedia page has them listed as 'experimental,' I only know them as doom, and perhaps a bit sludge, but only in the rare section. Eve is a massive tale; one almost 45-minute song, split (on some versions) into six sections/tracks, with each part bringing it's own little flourishes to the song. Because of the complexities in reviewing an album of this caliber (it is almost impossible to tell where one section ends and another begins), I cannot really give a decent - or long - review. Just know that Eve is an excellent display of new doom, with a splash of stoner, sludge, and psychedelia thrown in for flavor. There is supposedly a message in there somewhere, and I missed it, but it really doesn't matter. The music carries on where the lyrics fall short. I really want to hear more from Ufomammut, and because I have all of their discography (five more albums), I can have that chance.

...but not until the new year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

New Album: The Ocean - Anthropocentric

Also seen on Heavy Planet

After my write-up of the superb Heliocentric, I was expecting something sonically akin to it with The Ocean's next release, with mixed success. Anthropocentric, the second full-length release by the band, follows it's predecessor... sort of. While Heliocentric was a venture into the unknown, merging sounds and thoughts together in creative ways, Anthropocentric is more angry sounding, focusing more on the NWOAHM influences then anything else. While they do try to mix in songs into the mix, most notably "The Grand Inquisitor III: A Tiny Grain of Faith" which is beautifully haunting, they are just few and far between. While the album is still good - a really good collection of head-banging material - it isn't what I wanted following the wet-dream that is Heliocentric.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

New Album: The Ocean - Heliocentric

Also seen on Heavy Planet:

I threw on Heliocentric, what I thought was The Ocean's newest album (until I saw they had just released Anthropocentric), just to have some background noise after I got home from a dull day at work. I just wanted something that would fade into the background as I checked my email and chatted with the roommate. After the first song or two I realized that I had stumbled upon something different.
Where most post-metal albums (the ones I've heard anyway) tend to be atmospheric and trance-like, Heliocentric was the opposite. It contained songs with full thoughts and structure, Not only that but it also had songs of different composition and instrumentation mixed in. It wasn't the same old picture rehashed track after track.

Friday, December 17, 2010

5 Quick Album Reviews: Classics

New releases by 'classic' acts:

Annihilator - Annihilator
I've always liked Annihilator, thinking them above most thrash/groove acts that have come along. When asked the infamous question among metalheads; "Metallica or Megadeth?" I almost always answer "Annihilator," mostly to looks of confusion or disgust, but that's me and my tastes for you. Their 2010 self-titled album does not disappoint. It brings me back to their classic era of Alice In Hell or King of The Kill, back in the beginning of their career - not 21 years later. I haven't heard much from them within the last decade, but I may have to if it is all of this quality. Almost every song is great, they all groove, they all are angry, they all have amazing music. There is even a Van Halen cover! It's not their best song, mostly because it sounds like Van Halen and not Annihilator. I don't really know the song ("Romeo Delight"), but you would be able to tell of it's origin through the music. This is groove metal done right! While 'the greats' of thrash have fallen by the wayside Annihilator continues to put out classic albums. Here's hoping that they keep it up for another 21 years!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Band: Clagg

Also seen on Heavy Planet:

After my review of Cough's new album, Ritual Abuse, I decided to follow the sludge theme and continue on to Clagg. This one will be short and sweet, because everything that I said about Cough can be said about Clagg. Lord of The Deep is another foray into the sludge/doom style that I don't really like. The music is amazing - some of the best doom I've heard in a while - but the vocals are horrible. While Cough was a mix of growly and high-pitched and whiny, Clagg is all growl. And this is something that I cannot partake nor overlook.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Album: The Sword - Warp Riders

Also seen on Heavy Planet:

I don't know why I put this one off for so long, I loved the past two albums by The Sword, and I was ecstatic to finally get my copy... but for some reason it just never happened. I started to write a Retrospective for the group, going back to Age of Winters, then onto Gods of The Earth, then finally to Warp Riders, but that got stalled after just the first album. I will finish the article that I have half written, but that's for a later date and I really want to listen to this album before the end of the year.
I saw The Sword live about two years ago, opening for Clutch (my favorite band), and it was a surprise - mostly because I didn't think to look at who was opening the show - but also because I hadn't expected the group to jam as hard as they did. It was just as hard to understand they lyrics live as it is on their album (at the time having just released Gods of The Earth), but the band was amazing. I jumped with the crowd, I sang along to the two songs I knew the words to ("Freya" and "Barael's Blade"), and I moshed with the numerous fans of The Sword and Clutch. Good times. I have high hopes for this album.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Album: Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier

With any and all new Iron Maiden albums, I feel you have to listen to them a few times before you can cast any critical judgment of their work. Most of their songs are too complex for just a quick listen, requiring digestion of all the subtle nuances held within, especially from their newer albums. I had a die-hard Maiden fan explain to me the previous theory, and after careful consideration I had to agree. So now, with any 'classic' metal band, who choose to release new music (Ozzy, Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, etc) I give them the courtesy of at least two full run-throughs before I decree anything about them. It goes against my usual mantra; of how an album should be good the first time through, containing easily enjoyable songs as well as the complex ones that you ascertain at a later listen. I feel that the greats have earned that much from me. That being said, this is only the second time I have listened to The Final Frontier in its entirety, but I feel like I have to weigh in on this album finally (while it is at least semi-relevant).

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Band: The Grand Astoria

Also seen on Heavy Planet:

Now, I thought I had already heard the first album by The Grand Astoria (their self-titled) and was all geared up to do a double album review. As it turns out, however, I have not had the pleasure of listening to their first, so that plan is scrapped and I'm diving into The Grand Astoria II with no real prior knowledge of the band or their style. And here we go:
After reviewing The Divine Baze Orchestra, Sloath, and Barn Burner today I think that The Grand Astoria is a perfect blending of all of their styles. II contains slow doomy songs with no lyrics, ala Sloath, but with psychedelic grooves throughout, and less sludge/drone; more like The Divine Baze Orchestra. That was my thoughts on their first song, "Enjoy The View," and because of it, I thought the rest of the record was going to be another that treads the line between stoner and doom (not a bad thing!), but I was surprised.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tribute Series: Hammer of The Gods

As I was researching the horrible news of Mike Pornoy leaving Dream Theater I stumbled upon a series of tribute shows he, and several other musicians, took part in in the 2000's. I have not been listening to these in order (instead opting to listen in the order that most appeals to me), and so will not be reviewing them in order, but they are pretty sweet, and fairly unknown. So I think they deserve some sort of mention.

Continuing with the thread of amazing tribute bands, Hammer of The Gods is a tribute to the granddaddy of them all: Led Zeppelin, and is made up of Paul Gilbert (Racer X, Mr. Big), Daniel Gildenlöw (Flower Kings), Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs) and Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater).
After a lackluster representation of Rush, and a pretty damn good version of The Who, this version of Led Zeppelin is probably the best of the series so far. While the music isn't as tight as I'd like it to be, we can probably blame that on the live setting, and most likely the quickness of the project itself. All of the musicians present are different shades of amazing (with some more-so then others; Read: Mike Portnoy is amazing!) and do a great job with it. The vocals aren't dead on with Jimmy Page's, but who would expect them to be? They still hold true to the Zep sound - good enough for me anyway.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

New Band: Barn Burner

Also seen on Heavy Planet:

It's easy to write a lot about a band that is bad, or a band that has lots of ups and downs, but for the acts that are solid throughout, unless you listen to the album repeatedly - enough to fully digest it's complexities - then it is damn difficult to make a decent article about it. Barn Burner is one of those acts. Their debut (I believe) album, Bangers, is a solid rendition of rockin' and groovin' stoner metal. They play the blues-tinged, funk-riddled style of the genre which is my favorite. Every song - while great - sounds similar to the one previous and the one after, there is no way to pick the stand-outs, no song falls behind either, all are of the same caliber, all of them rock!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Retrosepctive: Shinedown

Everyone has heard (by now at least) ".45" by Shinedown.  When that song first came out, I was in high school still.  Myself and The Klepto were at a concert in Fort Myers, and the band list was decent.  Nothing spectacular.  Saliva was supposed to be the last band playing, but for some reason, they didn't show.  Instead, Shinedown flew in that day, and performed the closing act that night.  I have to say, it was one of the best show's I've ever seen.  Which got me hooked on their music:

Leave a Whisper                               

Shinedown's debut album.   I have to say, as soon as their set was over, I immediately wanted to buy this album.  I was not displeased.  Covering a wide variety of sounds, yet staying in the Alternative genre, these guys know how to rock.  The only qualm I have about this CD is that track 14 and track 6 sound exactly the same.  Even though track 14 is the (Samford Mix), which is supposedly different

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Band: Sloath

Also seen on Heavy Planet:  

This one will be short and sweet: Sloath's debut (aptly titled Sloath) is a droning/doom look into psychedelia. The album is forty-four minutes long, and only three songs - that should tell you the type of music we are dealing with here. And while there is nothing that truly stands out from this album (the crux of epicly-long songs) it still is one of the best of the drone genre that I have ever heard. While at times it does tend to get a little dull, it is by no means boring. There isn't the incessant repeating line over-and-over, there isn't huge sections of nothing, or just background fuzz or just the sound of a guitar repeating on itself perpetually, it's just not there. For a band that only uses six riffs (so the reviews say), their music stays fresh (at least semi) throughout this epic album. There are almost no lyrics, and what little that are there are incomprehensible, but seem to be focused as another instrument into the mix, but this doesn't take away from the music, it only benefits.
This album is crazy, not something I would normally rave about. It probably wont get a lot or repeats on my playlist, but sometimes that is ok. Their music is still out there, and here I am spreading the good word myself. If you want to read more, from people who go into better detail, check out these great reviews at The Soda Shop and Doommantia, some of the best.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Album: Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare (Part Deux)

The Pyro already wrote about this album, so I'm not going to go into to much detail with this one. It is not my intention to undercut his review (his being a positive one), but I intend to show an alternate view (mine mostly negative). Read both and choose your own fate. (Cue evil laughter)
I've never been a big Avenged Sevenfold fan; I have their album City of Evil, mostly for that song "Bat Country" and little else, but after reading The Pyro's review (and hearing from a few others) I decided to take a gander at Nightmare...which led to a waste of my time.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Band: Powerhead

Also seen on Heavy Planet:

Yet another band shown to me by Reg at Heavy Planet, show the man some love!

Powerhead is a band that tote themselves as doom metal, and while this is accurate, I think it needs to go a bit further. I see them as a melding of genres, sort of a 'doom n' roll' band. I say this only because, while they do have the elements of doom, they also have very up-beat and uplifting sections, which - if you are a true believer of doom as I - you know is not a staple of the doom genre.
The first song off of their album Celestial Frankenstein, "Spinal Spiral," is a perfect example of this; the guitars play a droning, doom/stoner rhythm (read: slow and few), while the lyrics and drums seems to be apart of a traditional metal band. At the end of the songs, all elements of doom are forgotten as the group goes into a grove metal beat; to me it sounded like the beginning of a new songs, and I was surprised that this 'new song' only lasted a minute or so, it was then that I saw it was the climax of the first track. It actually worked quite well.

Monday, December 6, 2010

New Album: Rhapsody of Fire - The Cold Embrace Of Fear (EP)

Originally, I assigned the newest Rhapsody of Fire album to The Pyro (as well as their previous release The Frozen Tears Of Angels), knowing that he likes symphonic metal and could do with a little bit more modern music in his repertoire. I still hope he does a write-up of the two albums as I would love to hear his take; but I just had to write about this one. About how simply bad it is.
For those who don't know, Rhapsody of Fire is a symphonic/power metal band who is known for grandiose albums and stories within. The first 'story' of The Emerald Sword Saga is explained throughout the first five albums, Legendary Tales (1997) to Power of the Dragonflame (2002), and began a new tale, The Dark Secret Saga, with the album Symphony of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret (2004), leading to the present. During this era they were simply known as Rhapsody, but after Symphony of Enchanted Lands II they changed to Rhapsody of Fire, due to a trademark issue. They continue under this new moniker, building bigger and bigger sounds and stories, much to the love of their fans.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

New Album: The Divine Baze Orchestra - Dead But Dreaming

Also seen on Heavy Planet

With Dead But Dreaming, The Divine Baze Orchestra picks up where their last album, Once We Were Born..., left off. It follows the same spaced-out, psychedelia trippy-rock that made their debut so successful. Most of the songs are pretty long (not Rush long, but you get the idea) and are minimalist on music and vocals - at least with having both at the same time. The songs are filled with sound and vocals that lead the listener to believe that there is a hidden meaning behind them, but for the most part, when the guitar and bass are playing their dueling tunes, the singer seems to be elsewhere. And when he does sing, there is usually only a simple drum rhythm (for the song "Origins" it sounds like a man hammering in a railway spike) or a repeating, droning guitar in the background. Very rarely are all of the parts in music harmony.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Month of December

Ok, I quick little article; this is what is going on in December: I have started to amass my '10 Best of 2010' and I've come to the discovery that out of the 270 albums (including EPs) I have for 2010, of which I have listened to about 2/3 of, there are 23 albums (AKA 19 hours of music) that I want to listen to before I fell I can adequately dissect the current year. These are all of the bigger named bands, and most of them are solidly in the metal bracket - the stand outs being Weezer and Jefferson Colby, I like their shit - and several have been out for damn near a full year already, so you'll see some older stuff pop up.
I am going to attempt to write a review for each of these albums, good or bad. Some will probably be pretty short, as I am trying to mash these albums in before the 20th, for that is when I'll begin the '10 Best of 2010.' Because of this, and because of the '10 Best of 2010' articles (10 of them for 10 days), and I have something else planned to bring in the new year, this month will be epic - far grander then anything yet seen on The Klepto's Guide To Awesome Music. I hope I can finish it, 23 albums in a few days is a lot, but the '10 Best of 2010' will happen, as will my as-yet-secret series of posts that will be posted hand-in-hand with them.

Here is the list of 23 artists that I am attempting to finish this month, keep in mind it might never happen: Accept, Agalloch, Annihilator, Barn Burner, Danzig, Earthride, Electric Wizard, Ghost, The Grand Astoria, Grand Magus, Grave Digger, High on Fire, Jefferson Colby, Meat Loaf, Place of Skulls, Rob Zombie, Serj Tankian, Sloath, The Sword, Ufomammut, Weezer (2 albums), and Wino. I think this is a good representation of all that is metal.

Stay tuned, tell your friends, I want to make it above the 2k mark for visits this month!

Favorite Albums: Orge - Dawn of The Proto-Man

Also seen on Heavy Planet

Ok, I have started this article at least five times (first draft was on June 5th!). Five times of writing half (or less) of a review, then not liking what I put, feeling that it doesn't correctly convey the amazingness of Dawn of The Proto-Man. Because I am sick of seeing these articles sitting under my 'draft' tab, I am going to bite the bullet and piece what I have together. It might not make a whole lot of sense, as there are several different thoughts (and writing patterns for some reason) that I am trying to collect into one, but I have to get it done. If there is only one thing you get walking away from this article it needs to be this: Ogre is awesome, and Dawn of The Proto-Man is amazing; I knew from my first listen that this was something special. It's that kind of an album that you know will live on forever - a hard conjecture to make with an underground band, but I stand by it.

The best way I can describe Ogre: a stoner/doom metal band with a singer that blends the vocals of the likes of Bon Scott (AC/DC), Ozzy Osbourne, Udo Dirkschneider (Accept, U.D.O.), and James Hetfield (Metallica), whose main lyricist majored in English literature with a penchant for science fiction. It sounds like an eclectic description (which is is) and it sounds equally like a horrible and an awesome idea, but it's the best description I have, and it works amazingly.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Video: Ace Ventura With Cannibal Corpse

Ok, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective was on TV last week and I just happened to see this scene. I had never before realized it (having not seen this movie is some time), but Cannibal Corpse is in the movie! Now as you all know (well most of you), I hate death metal, but the fact that the director/producers green-lit them to be in the movie... well that is magical. So watch as Ace eludes capture by his enemies (I forget the real reason, as I said I haven't seen it all the way through in probably a decade) and takes the stage as the front-man for the band. Funny and mettalicly relevant.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Album: Serj Tankian - Imperfect Harmonies

I didn't make the connection at first that Serj Tankian was the lead singer of System of a Down, but hey, that voice is unmistakable.  But I'm not here to review SOAD, I'm here to review Imperfect Harmonies - the second studio album by Serj.

Like most (if not all) of Serj's music (including SOAD), the music is different.  It is not the normal everyday, run-of-the-mill, "cookie-cutter", trying to be different band.  Which is why I, and I think others like his music.  Not to mention there is an orchestra backing him.  Which is just plain awesome.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Albums Listened To In November (62)

This month is a rarity, in which there are more albums that stand out as 'bad' then those who are overwhelmingly 'good.' Usually each month I rant and rave about the amazing albums and only have albums that fall into the bad category because I am nitpicking some detail. Not this month.

A newcomer here at The Guide, Jefferson Colby plays a really creative style of semi-progressive stoner rock. His album, Octopus, was something new and refreshing, and I look forward to hearing his other releases. The new Whores of Tijuana album, Psycholongevity, was a superb sophomore release from the group. Their self-titled debut showed promise and the group delivered with their second. Go check it out. A complete surprise was the brand new album by The Ocean, Heliocentric. I have heard a couple of albums by the group and have not been too impressed, I only put the album on because I had just come home and I wanted something to unwind to, and what better then some usually-dull post-metal? What followed was anything but. It was full of complexities and layered sounds and different focuses between songs. A complete surprise. I'm going to go into more about it, I'm working on the article now.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Band: Elixir

Elixir is a New Wave of British Heavy Metal band (NWOBHM) that formed in the early 80s, released two albums by 1990 and promptly broke up. They re-formed in the early 2000s, long after the popularity of NWOBHM was over. They continue the sounds and the trends of this (awesome) era, not caring that the music is passe, in the minds of the populous. Instead they jam to entertain those who miss this forlorn eon of metal history. I hear mixed reviews of whether or not they accurately pull it off, but with a genre that has its hey-day so long ago, it's hard to determine if it's the actual music, or if it's a general misunderstanding of the genre as a whole. It's one of those areas, and bands, that needs to be heard first hand to make that distinction. This is my challenge, it is my burden.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Band: Locrian

Also seen on Heavy Planet

I was given Locrian's latest, The Crystal World, by Reg of Heavy Planet, in his attempt to pander to my musical tastes (be that doom, stoner, or progressive) and I thank him for the thought. Unfortunately I cannot thank him for introducing me to this band. While Ed over at Doommantia could not get over how much he loved this album, I have to strongly disagree and focus on my view of

Friday, November 26, 2010

New Album: Swamp Sessions

Also seen on Heavy Planet:

I can't find a whole lot on this album, aside from the handful of blogs (both music news and download) that make a slight mention to it, but the Swamp Sessions are being compared as the European version (via Colour Haze) of The Desert Sessions. Although I haven't listened to much of The Desert Sessions (I really need too), the Swamp Sessions seem to follow the same line of desert rock, mixed with psychedelia. Six tracks come to almost one hour and twenty minutes of music (you can't get much more in an album), with the longest three tracks coming in at over thirty, twenty and ten minutes in length (respectively).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Band: Holy Grail

Do you like Iced Earth? Blind Guardian? Helloween? Then you will probably like Holy Grail. Their debut album, Crisis In Utopia, is one of the best examples of power metal by a new band. They don't go off the deep end, focusing on one aspect of their music (DragonForce), and they don't start off strong only to falter after a song or two (Charred Walls Of The Damned). They don't do anything really new with the genre, but they do what they do well, and that's enough for me.

Holy Grail's style is reminiscent of the early/mid albums of the groups I mentioned above, in that it is power metal through and through, but it also contains a splash of thrash - not to the level of the first Iced Earth/Blind Guardian/Helloween, but closer akin to their third or fourth. Where the bands begin emerging from the sounds of the mixed thrash with NWOBHM, and into the field of power metal, where they belong. The melody is there, the vocals are crisp and easily understood, the guitars and drums are dueling in the way that only power metal does it. Superb.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Band: VRSA

Also seen on Heavy Planet:

VRSA comes to me via Reg at Heavy Planet, after hearing of my love of all things stoner and doom. I tip my hat to him for this interesting foray into doom, stoner, and the un-understandable.

VRSA is a hard band to categorize, although everyone (on the net) calls them some form of doom, it's not the first thing I would think of. I mean that I can definitely hear the doom influences, and even the occasional spattering of stoner throughout (although I wouldn't call them a stoner band either), it's just not what I would expect to hear when handed a 'doom' album. It's almost like alternative doom, or dark metal or something....I can't classify it. The nearest comparison in style and sound is that of Baroness - but even that is a loose one. Certain sounds, styles and tracks (especially close to the end) do bring Baroness to mind, but only for a moment; then the group dives into another direction and the feeling is lost.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Band: Cough

Also seen on Heavy Planet:

Prior to listening to Cough's new album, Ritual Abuse, I was very excited. Every review of this album was amazing, heralding one of the best doom record of the year. How this was on par with the greatness of Electric Wizard (which is a band I've never gotten into before, so I guess that should have been my clue). Needless to say I looked forward to listening to these tracks - enough to do so completely sober (as I'd begun the disc a couple times drunk and decide I wanted to be in z clear state of mind) - and was confused by the end.

The good about Ritual Abuse, and it's a big good, is the music. This is doom metal; the drudging guitars the slow and heavy drum beats the essence of death and despair, this is all I love about the genre. It really is a throw back to the classic days of doom. Tag all the necessary comparisons musically to Pentagram, Sabbath, and the rest, and it all fits like a glove.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Album: The Smashing Pumpkins - Teargarden by Kaleidyscope Vol. 1: Songs for a Sailor (EP)

Normally I don't give much credence or time to EPs; normally they are either over too quick or are the band's experimental outlet and that's not something I'm really into. But of lat I've been rolling through a bunch of EPs, partially because of my discovery of and of the fact I don't have much time but I want to listen to something new, and a 15 minute EP is better then part of an 80 minute full-length. Regardless, this one will be short (ok, it ended up being a decent length, damn I can't do anything right).

Late last year (or early this year, I'm too lazy to look it up), The Smashing Pumpkins reported that they instead of releasing a new album in 2010, they would instead release one song a month for free (or donation) off their website. I didn't pay any attention to this because I thought it was kind of a dumb idea (I would have preferred an entire album), and I have a lot of music on my plate. Later, they ended up releasing what they had as an EP sometime later, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope Vol. 1: Songs for a Sailor, which is what I am listening to now. I know I am really late with this review (the first EP being released in May after all). This EP is a continuation of their sound from their latest LP, Zeitgeist (which is not a style I like too much), wherein they are continuing to stray from their progressive roots, or even their beginning sound of alternative metal, into a semi-spacy alternative rock. Trace elements of prog are still there, but it is bothering me a bit to put 'progressive rock' as a tag at the bottom.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Comparison: The Velvet Underground - Then And Now

I discovered The Velvet Underground in my freshman year of college and sucked to them for the sole reason that many people do the things they do in college; because it seems edgy and cool (I said 'seems'). Little did I know that this was not 1968 any more, and people didn't give a flying fuck about the real counter-culture and therefore The Velvet Underground. Instead they opt for the fake culture of hipsters and Che-varians. It's sad and it's happening, and it's got nothing to do with this blog.
I listened to The Velvet Underground, at first to be edgy, and later as my musical knowledge (and therefore my musical 'greatness') grew I latched onto bands and sounds like The Velvet Underground to separate myself from the other people who prided themselves as music nerds. When into an argument about my musical superiority, if I ever felt my back against a wall, with seemingly no way out, I'd drop the ol' VU, to confused looks and skeptical understandings. I had won, and that's all that mattered.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bands I Love: sHEAVY

Also seen on Heavy Planet:

Because I don't feel like going into a whole Retrospective of sHEAVY and their works, I am starting a new segment of The Klepto's Guide To Awesome Music: Bands I Love. This gives me a chance to write a smaller article about a band that I cannot help but rock out too every time they come on. A band like sHEAVY.
So far the only real thing I've told you lot about sHEAVY has been a video of their song "Savannah" (which indecently, is the song I have stuck in my head right now, which made me want to write this article), so I'll give a little bit more information about the group:
The band is from Canada, and formed as many bands do; with the intent of doing covers of their favorite bands - in this case Kyuss. After some time and a name change (originally being called Green Machine) they started writing original songs and put them onto the EPs Reproduction and Slaves To Fashion. Many of these songs made it onto their first LP, Blue Sky Mind, released in 1996. They got a record deal, and followed these releases with seven full-lengths, with two being released this year alone.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tribute Series: Amazing Journey

As I was researching the horrible news of Mike Pornoy leaving Dream Theater I stumbled upon a series of tribute shows he, and several other musicians, took part in in the 2000's. I have not been listening to these in order (instead opting to listen in the order that most appeals to me), and so will not be reviewing them in order, but they are pretty sweet, and fairly unknown. So I think they deserve some sort of mention.

The second album of this series I have heard, Amazing Journey is a tribute to The Who and consists of Paul Gilbert (Racer X, Mr. Big), Billy Sheehan (UFO), Gary Cherone (Extreme) and Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater).
When compared with their work on Cygnus And The Sea Monsters, One Night in New York City is a much better representation of The Who's catalog. The group hits all of their major hits, and even plays the majority of the album Tommy in it's entirety (skipping a few of the 'spoken word' tracks of the original), a real bonus. Some editions come with a bonus EP of another night's recording. All of the songs from this EP are already in the collection, so it's a bit odd of an add, but it's still nice to hear s different version of the songs (as live shows often vary from night to night).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Retrospective: Iced Earth (Part 2)

Days of Purgatory (1997)
Not really a stand-alone release, Days of Purgatory is a collection of the best songs from Iced Earth's first two albums, Iced Earth and Night of The Stormrider, re-recorded with their then-new singer, Matt Barlow. No 100% new tracks here, which puts me on the fence about the whole release. On one had it's nice to hear some of the songs redone with the clean, power metal vocals of Barlow (some songs he doesn't do so well at). On the other hand, re-recording the songs (even if it wasn't from my favorite era of Iced Earth's history) is like saying those first albums don't exist. The did a similar thing when Barlow was replaced for two albums by Tim "The Ripper" Owens; re-recording an EP (Overture of The Wicked) worth of classic Iced Earth tracks. It just seems like an odd path to take. It's worth the listen especially if you are a huge fan of the power metal days, but remember where these songs came from, and the men that composed them who are forgotten.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1998)
One of my favorite albums, check out my page on this album for more.

Horror Show (2001)
An interesting 'concept album' of sorts; Horror Show tells the various tells of some of our nighttime horrors: werewolves, clowns, ghosts, mummies, Dracula, and Frankenstein monster all have their own songs, as well as several others. This album is alright, a far cry from their previous release, but still pretty decent. It has it's ups and downs, not keeping a consistent level of quality in the music or writing. One great song and surprise is a cover of Iron Maiden's "Transylvania", an instrumental track and really something you would not ordinarily expect on any release. The song makes it onto my collection of 20 Cover Songs That Are Better Then The Original, a list I made some time ago. Again this album is above average, but after such a superb release as Something Wicked, I expected so much more.

Tribute To The Gods (2002)
Quickly following Horror Show, Tribute To The Gods is a cover album by the group. I'm not sure why they chose to release a tribute album, but it works for me. I love a good cover, if a band can release an old song better then the original, then I am sold. This album covers the greats, like Kiss, Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, and Judas Priest, hitting the classics, but also throwing in some lesser-known songs for flavor. Now unfortunately these lesser-knowns are my least favorite on the album, because to me if you're going to cover a popular song you can be average, but for a song very few can recognize, it has to be great, and they just couldn't pull it off. If you like cover songs/albums then Tribute To The Gods does not disappoint, if you want something spectacular then you need to keep looking.

    The Glorious Burden (2004)
    This is one of my least favorite Iced Earth albums; it just seems uninspired and forced, with lots of songs jammed together. The Glorious Burden is the first album, since Burnt Offerings, not to feature Matt Barlow as lead singer. During the writing of this album, Barlow decided to join the military and fight in Afghanistan (crazy!), being replaced by ex-Judas Priest singer, Tim "The Ripper" Owens (who replaced the original Judas Priest singer, Rob Halford, in 1997). This album is all about war, even going as far as to have a second disc (more like a bonus EP) with three songs dedicated to the Battle of Gettysburg. These songs are long and pretty boring, seemingly trying to echo the effect of the "Something Wicked" trilogy from Something Wicked This Way Comes, but to no avail. The only songs off these discs worth listening to is the first track "The Star-Spangled Banner" (how can you screw that up) and "When The Eagle Cries" - especially the unplugged version of the song (last track of the first disc). Other then those few songs, this is a poor excuse for an Iced Earth album, and I move it be stricken from the record!

    The Something Wicked Saga - Framing Armageddon (2007); The Crucible Of Man (2008)
    The only reason I combine these two album, aside for the fact that they are a double concept album, is because I have already gone into great deal about them. Otherwise these two albums are greatly different from each other, enough that one would never confuse them. Different singers and different sounds make these albums into two stand-alone albums, with fans of each.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Retrospective: Iced Earth (Part 1)

    One of the first power metal bands I had ever heard, Iced Earth used to be one of my favorite bands ever (still a great band, just not as much airtime anymore). Their style of guitar work and vocals (Matt Barlow is a god) was brand new for me, and I still marvel at it to this day. Starting with Something Wicked This Ways Comes in 1998 (my first album of theirs), they have paved the way for the American style of power metal. I am looking forward to their 2011 release.
    Iced Earth (1991)
    Iced Earth's first representation of their talents, their self-titled album is a long way from what they would become in the following years and releases. This album comes off downright thrash, with only a hint of the power influences, seeming much like early Iron Maiden, Judas Priest or some other NWOBHM band. Almost all of these songs were re-recorded for the album Days Of Purgatory, with the then-new singer, Matt Barlow, on vocals, some came out better, some came out worse. While this is nowhere close to my favorite Iced Earth album, it is not bad in the least. It shows promise and skill, both of which are worked on in later albums to perfection.

    Night of The Stormrider (1992)
    Night of The Stormrider continues right where their debut album leaves off; it is still reminiscent of early NWOBHM bands and still focuses on the relationship between the guitars and the vocals. This album is more melodic then its predecessor, with a little more variance on the sound produced by the group - it's not all quick thrash-influenced metal, but there is actually a difference in tempo between songs and even between verses. Still not their best work, but a step in the right direction. As with their debut album, many of these songs were later re-recorded on the release Days of Purgatory, with Matt Barlow for lead vocals.

    Burnt Offerings (1995)
    With the addition of the 'voice' of Iced Earth, Matt Barlow, for Burnt Offerings, the band begins to tweak their sound, opting into a power metal-style thrash mix. These songs are still very much thrash oriented, but with the cleaner vocal style of Barlow, the power elements can be heard. As I like the power metal era of Iced Earth this album is not too high on my playlist, and looking at the track list I really can only recall ever hearing one song, even though I know I have listened to the album a few times. It's a transitional album between styles, mostly forgettable, but necessary to get the band where they are now.

    The Dark Saga (1996)
    A semi-foolish concept album, The Dark Saga is where Iced Earth is first seen as a power metal band. This album begins the group's history with story-telling lyrics, layered guitars and soaring vocals - all things I love about the band. This is the beginning of the band in my opinion, where their previous works are stepping stones to this 'group.' The album itself is a concept album about the comic book character, Spawn, and his story of death, rebirth and retribution. An interesting idea, but it all seems to fall apart (as far as story goes). A large number of concept albums never quite get their concept across, this doesn't make them bad albums by any means, it's just that the group's envisionment of the ending product is not fully realized. A good and clear concept albums is a hard thing to find, probably one out of at least ten (most likely more), but that's not a good reason why people should stop trying. A fully-utilized concept albums is amazing, worth the risks.