Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pulverised Records: Three Blasts

Here are three short blasts from Pulverised Records, a Swedish label that seems to be finding niches for releasing quality old school thrash and death metal. Once again, these albums are being covered by other writers at Live 4 Metal, but, for what it’s worth, here’s my take on each album.

First up is the debut full-length from Swedish death metal act Tribulation. “The Horror” is a pure blast of old school death metal with a serious Sunlight Studios-era vibe going on. Huge blasts, tons of crunch, a growled rasp, and a beefy production highlight an all-out assault from Tribulation, definitely marking the band as one to watch. Throw in some well placed soloing, and even the odd moment or two of melody, and “The Horror” is a direct old school kick to the face. You can read Ellis Woolley's review here.

Tribulation MySpace (Offical)

Continuing the old school theme is Séance, yet another act from Sweden, playing a beefed up version of death/ thrash that sort of reminds me of a sped up version of Kreator on their third full-length, entitled “Awakening of the Gods”. Also of note is the fact that this is the first album from Séance since 1993 (some of the band members later served time in Witchery)! Kudos to the band for reforming and giving it another go as this is a great album from a minor band that I had not previously heard. I would be interested to hear the style of the band’s early full-lengths and do a comparison between those albums and some of the giants of the Sunlight-era that were releasing classics at the same time. Anyone out there care to comment if familiar with Séance’s prior output? You can read Marco Gaminara's review here.

Seance MySpace (Official)

Finally, we also have “Thrashing Heavy Metal”, the third full-length from Sweden’s Deceiver, a band with numerous connections to other acts, most notably the now-defunct Maze Of Torment. “Thrashing Heavy Metal” pretty much lives up to its title; that is, a mixture of thrash with elements of traditional heavy metal. I’m somewhat reminded of the early thrash of the 80s with a slower gallop being the norm with relatively simple riff structures. Luckily, the production has a fairly modern sound, as there’s also some serious crunch going on. In addition, the vocals are reminiscent of Lemmy’s “caked lung” rasp. Overall, “Thrashing Heavy Metal” is a good album. You can read Chris Davison's review here.

Deceiver MySpace (Official)

All three albums are quite good, but, after repeated listens, I’m finding that “The Horror” is the best of the three.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Heavy Metal 101 @ MIT: A Review!!!

Heavy Metal Seminar at MIT: A Review!

As some of you may have gathered, besides having metal flow through my veins, I’m a full-on science geek of the highest order. I do refrain, however, from letting my alter ego/ other life as a high school physics teacher encroach upon my metal writings (and vice versa for that matter), but here I must make an exception.

It’s been my experience that there are lot of metalheads also involved in the sciences, as I know a few other people from my own graduate school days and so on that are huge metalheads, as well (lots of former students, in addition, for that matter). So, when I heard about a Heavy Metal Seminar being conducted in the inner sanctum of physical science, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I just knew that I had to get some feedback on the event, even though I live on the opposite coast (Cal Tech would undoubtedly take me to task on the inner sanctum description, but, as far as I know, the seminar has not been replicated in Pasadena. Most of those guys are Lovecraft geeks, building sets of R’Lyeh in their backyards out of old boxes and mattresses, but, I digress).

At any rate, it turns out that I have some former students attending school at MIT, so I managed to convince a few of them to attend the event, even though they are all metal “newbies”. Moreover, I convinced my former student Shion to write up a brief review of the event! So, here it is!

“If my former AP Physics C teacher had not told me about "Bang Your Head! Heavy Metal 101 @ MIT", I would have never have gone to a heavy metal event. Heavy Metal to me is a word that evokes a mixed sense of awe and apprehension- mostly because I know little about it. Nevertheless, with the request of my pretty awesome physics teacher, I decided to check this event out.

I got to the room right when it was about to start, and I was surprised to find the room packed! Like many others in the room, I could not find a seat, so I found a corner on the floor and settled down. I looked around and noticed the diversity of the audience. Not only were there students but also professors and administrators and most of them did not seem like the "Heavy-Metal type". I was surprised to discover that the majority of the people in the room were like me- complete “newbies” to heavy metal. The speaker was Jeffrey Pearlin, a faculty member at MIT.

I personally did not know what to expect from this event. I was pretty sure that it was not going to be concert, considering the size of the classroom and the lack of a stage/band, but I wasn't expecting a college lecture either. In fact, the event turned out to be a nice mixture of both. I applaud Pearlin for covering everything basic about heavy metal- from its history to its evolution, the music theory to the types of heavy metal. He also talked about various bands and the global heavy metal culture. Through a series of Powerpoint slides, a good sense of humor, and audio clips of various heavy metal artists, Pearlin introduced us “newbies” to heavy metal.

I came into the event with the impression of Heavy Metal being a foreign, somewhat fearful type of music, and definitely held stereotypes. Through this event, we gained a solid understanding of what heavy metal is and ended up realizing that my own collection of music included some heavy metal. I also realized that heavy metal is not simply a type of music, but as Pearlin proclaims, encompasses "a culture of history, creativity, and energy". I may not be a metalhead yet, but "Heavy Metal 101 @ MIT" definitely got me interested.”

Thanks, Shion! Also, special thanks to Jeff Pearlin for his prompt reply to my inquiries!

Heavy Metal 101 @ MIT Website

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Brief Blast: Suidakra "Crogacht"...

My illustrious editor, Steve Green, is slated to give the latest full-length from Suidakra, entitled "Crogacht" and released on Wacken Records, a formal review for us at Live 4 Metal, and I was initially relieved. I also received the album from Wacken Records, but I was never really into this band, so I was fine with Steve writing the review (actually, Joe wrote the review, which can be found here).

I've heard bits and pieces of Suidakra over the years (and witnessing them live at the first incarnation of Paganfest last year) as they've morphed from a mediocre melodic death metal band into a mediocre pagan/ folk band with death metal touches. Imagine my surprise to find that not only is "Crogacht" easily Suidakra's best effort, but it's a damn fine album in its own right. Starting with a melodic death metal base with a generally mid-paced tempo, Suidakra piles on the folk melodies with just the right amounts of traditional heavy metal elements to produce a well written album with plenty of catchy songs and plenty of variation.

To some extent, "Crogacht" ("bravery" in Gaelic, by the way) still comes off as a less frenetic version of the mighty Ensiferum, but this is an excellent album nonetheless.

Suidakra MySpace (Official)

Upcoming at the Knitting Factory...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Melt Your Face! Meshuggah, Cynic, and The Faceless Concert Review...

Bands: Meshuggah, Cynic, The Faceless

Venue: House of Blues, Sunset Strip, West Hollywood, California

Date: February 3, 2009

North American metal fans have been salivating over the prospects of this tour featuring Meshuggah, the newly restored Cynic, and The Faceless, incredible technical musicians all, but I wasn’t necessarily one of them. Although I certainly appreciate all of these bands, none of them reside in my favorite genres of choice. Frankly, I wasn’t really planning on hitting this tour, considering the concerts and festivals that are going to be hitting Los Angeles this spring. However, after a truly horrible, and tragic, week (from my "other life"), and after finding out that all of my metal buddies were going to be there, I decided at the last minute to head out to the HOB Sunset Strip in West Hollywood to catch the show. Making matters easier was the fact that I had just won a couple of hundred dollars in a Super Bowl betting pool, and it was burning a hole in my pocket.

At any rate, I’ve seen The Faceless a couple of times previously and I was never all that impressed. However, “Planetary Duality”, the band’s second full-length and coming after some tour experience, is a good album, so I was hoping that would go a long way towards improving The Faceless’ stage craft. Luckily, my predictions were correct as The Faceless were very tight throughout their energetic set. The beyond sold out HOB crowd was very appreciative of The Faceless’ performance, going so far as audience members sort of inventing a new form of pit slamming featuring a crab walk of sorts. The Faceless were excellent throughout their short set.

Let’s be honest, Cynic can really no longer be considered a metal band; they’re a progressive rock band with a few heavy moments. “Traced In Air” has been well-received (see my review below), but the band that kick started a sub-genre of death metal in the late 80s/ early 90s is long gone. Nevertheless, Cynic were afforded the respect that they deserve as virtuosos by the HOB crowd throughout their set. Although technically precise, I found Cynic’s performance to be a bit too long, and low key, although the closer, “Integral Birth”, was up tempo.

The jam packed crowd at the HOB was there to see Meshuggah, who just dominated the stage with a crushing performance. To be honest, my level of familiarity with Meshuggah is close to non-existent, but I can attest to an overpowering performance from the band, particularly that of vocalist Jens Kidman. At any rate, the crowd certainly got their money’s worth as Meshuggah just roared. Maybe it’s time for me to go through Meshuggah’s back catalogue…

Overall, a good show, with a little something for everyone...

Here's the usual garbage...

The pics...

The Faceless



The t-shirt haul...

The awful video...

The Faceless



Here's my review of "Traced In Air" from Live 4 Metal.

Cynic- Traced In Air

(Season Of Mist)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I have a copy of “Focus”, the discographies of all the progressive/ jazz-oriented Floridian death metal outfits such as Atheist, Pestilence (yeah, I know, they’re Dutch), and so forth, but you probably wouldn’t be shocked to hear that my tastes have always veered towards the more brutal side of the Floridian genre. So, although many have been hungrily awaiting the long overdue second full-length from Cynic, entitled “Traced In Air” on Season Of Mist, I was just kind of sort of awaiting its release with mild interest. Well, it falls to me to review the album for L4M.

First of all, all of you technical musicians and/ or progressively oriented jazz aficionados out there will no doubt rejoice to hear that “Traced In Air” is a musical tour-de-force from Paul Masvidal, Sean Reinert, and crew with plenty of jaw dropping musicianship, stellar production, quirky time changes, mature songwriting and so on. But, then again, you would, of course, expect as such from such an accomplished group of musicians. So, with that in mind, for that audience, “Traced In Air” comes with my enthusiastic recommendation.

But. Yes, there is a “but”. Make no mistake, any traces of death metal from years past with “Focus” are now essentially long gone. There are one or two moments on “Traced In Air” with guttural vocals, and even a speedier moment or two, but this album is purely progressive rock (albeit with a heavy sound) with elements of free form jazz. In fact, I would be hard-pressed, at times, to label this as a metal album, as Cynic have embraced the melodious side of their musical natures in full, and seem to have dismissed death metal as a brief flirtation from their youth.

As artists, Cynic certainly can do whatever they wish in an artistic sense, but those of you looking for the next technical death metal masterpiece in “Traced In Air” may be disappointed. Still, “Traced In Air” is a great album, but it is what it is.

Cynic MySpace (Official)