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 this...music.

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 Bandcamp.com 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.

      Saturday, November 6, 2010

      New Band: Mississippi Bones

      Also seen on Heavy Planet:

      Another article, another band that has been getting overwhelmingly positive reviews, another time where I don't really know why that is. Mississippi Bones is another band to join in on the southern stoner rock state of mind and they do it fairly well, it's just nothing amazing. I've read their descriptions of their sound on other sites as sounding like just s couple of guys jamming and having fun, and I can see that. The problem with this view is that the jams aren't great. To be a jam band (not that Mississippi Bones are call themselves a jam band) you need to be spontaneous and exciting, something that this group lacks. The recording quality is so-so, but in that style where you know it's that way on purpose; like they didn't want it sounding too polished. That's something I've never been accustomed to.

      Thursday, November 4, 2010

      New Band: Wheel

      Also seen on Heavy Planet:

      Lately, I've been complaining about the world of doom metal (mostly to myself because I haven't finished the article I'm working on), and the lack of quality in the 'classic' doom sound. As such, and for research for the article I'm working on, I've been trying to find the quote/unquote "best" (I don't know if that saying works in writing) new doom bands/albums and putting them to the test (I'm going to have to try the new Electric Wizard when it is finally released, but I've never been a huge fan of their either). Wheel is one of these new doom metal acts, and have just released their self-titled debut. They've been getting rave reviews, on numerous sites, so I decided to check them out. From my research (as I try to stay informed) wheel was formed in 2006 in Germany by some guys who have been in various bands before (so says The Metal Archives) - but no act that I've ever heard of before. Their band/album/website artwork is pretty cool, very classical and somewhat simple. I like it (--first impressions).

      Tuesday, November 2, 2010

      New Band: Titan

      Also seen on Heavy Planet:

      Titan was not what I was expecting. Mostly, it was because from the masses of nameless and un-listened bands i have in my collection, they had fallen by the wayside. When I actually decided to listen to their newest album, I was expecting some more akin to the psychedelia-tinged stoner rock that I have been listening to recently. Boy was I wrong.
      While the group is somewhere in the psychedelic stoner rock universe, they are at a distant end of it, perhaps somewhere between dimensions (to keep this nerdy comparison going). You see, on Sweet Dreams (their second release, I'm going to have to listen to their first now), Titan is downright progressive metal, and 90% instrumental, and it's awesome. In my review of Cloudkicker (and maybe in other places) I stated that I'm not a huge instrumental rock/metal fan due to the repetitiveness and general boredom associated with it. Titan only barely has this problem, and even then only in the last song, "Maximum Soberdrive," and I believe that is only because the song is over eleven minutes long; if it was trimmed a bit it could be another amazing song. The rest of the instrumental tracks are superb, leading to the only other lesser track being the only one with vocals, "Wooded Altar Beyond The Wander," an unusual surprise.

      Monday, November 1, 2010

      Albums Listened To In October (86)

      A month of ups and downs, October - with my favorite holiday, Halloween - is officially over. And with it we move onto the season of gorging ourselves for a weekend, with a flimsy grasp of the original reason, and sales sales sales! It also happens to be my birthday in a week. Yippie.

      Moving on:

      The Good
      I really liked the new Black Sleep of Kali, Our slow Decay, I still have their original EP/Demo release to get to yet, but I really like their version of doom/sludge. Thrills Kills and Sunday Pill by Grinspoon was an amazing display of alternative rock - one of the best I heard in a long time. It's an instant classic, and I immediately added it to my 'Favorite Albums' list. The collection of the Black Spiders EPs I have (three of them) is worth a listen. Their combination of groove, stoner and rock'n'rool is something to behold. I await a full-length release from this new generation of music and sound. The 2010 release by Titan was another great album to behold. Wonderful for anyone who likes progressive metal. I have a full-length article about the album coming up in a few days, so check back for more. Also, John Arch's A Twist of Fate was amazing, but I've already gone into that...