Long Players: Blastbeats and Breakdowns, New Metal Records
Mon, 22 Oct 2007 12:42:25
If there's a shortlist for Most Divisive Styles of Music, metal would probably land on it twice. After all, this is "love it or hate it" stuff by definition. Just consider the genre's beefy decibel levels and meathead tendencies for proof. Who can fault you if listening to Reign in Blood shirtless just isn't your cup of tea? Even so, you might be surprised to find out that volume and gore are far from metal's only selling points these days.
Today, plenty of stock is placed in guts—musical bravery and a willingness to push boundaries and experiment within the genre's (or sub-genre's) unforgiving confines. Below are a few new metal records that manage to stand out in a sea of sound-alike releases, either towering above the titans on Headbangers Ball, or making enough noise to convince the 'heads to take notice.
Puscifer — V Is for Vagina
You know him as the cerebral mastermind behind one of metal’s most enigmatic and engaging bands, but all bets are off when Tool’s Maynard James Keenan breaks out the Puscifier moniker. From woozy R&B covers, to butt-rock buffoonery, Keenan dusts this one off to have a good time and hang with a few pals—Young God songstress Lisa Germano, Primus' Tim Alexander, actress Milla Jovovich, King Crimson's Trey Gunn, NIN-cohort Danny Lohner and producer/mixer Alan Moulder all contribute.
Baroness — The Red Album
This album does more with sludge in 45 minutes than the combined efforts of every album released in the past five years. Talk about suffocating, massive, meaty riffs. Talk about big, cavernous drumming. Talk about sweaty, Southern metal stickiness. All breathtaking. But the best thing about this Savannah five-piece is its ability to stray outside of the box and get a bit heady without sounding avant-freaky. Nope, The Red Album doesn't rely on the cue cards, and instead carves a path for itself. Just check the mid-album acoustic interlude for proof.
OM — Pilgrimage
Fresh on the heels of another release from ex-Sleep guitarist Mike Pike’s High on Fire, this latest full-length from Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius (Sleep’s erstwhile rhythm section) is a series of four cadenced meditations. While nowhere near as flashy or sun-scorched as HoF, OM work their magic via punishing repetition, and a few trips to the bong. Perfect for doom riders, stoner lovers and even the navel-gazing avant crowd, Pilgrimage is brainy stuff that understands the power of brawn.
Wolves in the Throne Room — Two Hunters
Wolves in the Throne Room wrap Black Metal in swaddling clothing and return it to the manger, Mother Nature style. Yup, this is a band proudly comprised of three farmers from Olympia, Washington. Dudes who rattle off phrases like "black metal respects the divinity of the earth" in interviews. Crazy thing is: their music backs up all the hubris. With a field recording for every blastbeat, and a female-led funeral procession for every punchy tremolo picked guitar part, Two Hunters is a smartly-crafted album of epic proportions. And a beautiful love letter to the earth.
Down — Down III: Over the Under [Warner]
Supergroups have a tendency to disappoint. But the latest from Down—Pantera's Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown, Crowbar's Kirk Winstein and Jimmy Bower, and Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity—is anything but disappointing. Wearing the NOLA flag proudly, Over the Under is all whiskey swills and gnarled Mason-Dixon metal. Exactly what you’d expect from a few of the genre’s Southern pace-setters.
Thrice — The Alchemy Index Vol 1-2
No longer tethered to a major, Thrice looks to spread its "artist" wings on the first two volumes of its mature metal series, The Alchemy Index. The idea here is simple: the band is recording a set of four EPs revolving around the elements—fire, water, earth, air. Like a metalcore Captain Planet, Dustin Kensrue handily leads his OC four-piece in the first two outings, burning through the first disc, and backstroking through the second.
Serj Tankian — Elect the Dead
Everyone's favorite uber-political Armenian expat takes a break from System of a Down to release, uh, a System of a Down album. No surprises here. Tankian's solo debut keeps all the SoD pieces in place—surprising dynamic shifts, whacko structure, Serj's trademark opera-via-gremlin vocal delivery, and plenty of social commentary. "Empty Walls" is a fitful indictment of Western imperialism, while “The Unthinking Majority” is a rail against anti-depressants and the unfeeling masses. Yup, all systems go…
Jesu – Lifeline
Godflesh's Justin Broadrick has been stewing up his own brand of codeine metal for the past half decade. Utterly massive and incredibly slow, this stuff is propelled by nothing more than inertia. Lifeline is Broadrick’s latest short-player, and another installment in his ongoing “shoegazer on steroids” series, borrowing equally from Ride, Karp, Skullflower, Codeine, Isis and a host of others.
Avenged Sevenfold – Avenged Sevenfold
These Huntington Beach tattoo-casualties low-rode onto the Headbangers circuit with the deliciously snarled "Bat Country" from 2005's City of Evil. The forthcoming eponymous follow-up promises more of the same G'n'R-kissed metalcore. But this time M. Shadows & Co. get political. Just ask the troop-defending "Critical Acclaim," a kiss-off to the finger-pointing anti-war set.