1.14.2019

ATROPHY - Violent By Nature

Artist:  Atrophy
Album: Violent By Nature
Year:  1990
Genre:  Thrash Metal

For a few weeks now I’ve been falling down a thrash metal rabbit hole by spending a large amount of time revisiting the music of my 14th year on this planet.  On a timeline, that would equal the majority of the year 1985 when I was neck deep into what was the most extreme part of metal at that time.  I traveled further and further down this hole by revisiting albums from 1986-1988, which were unarguably the strongest years for the genre.  There are just so many classic bands to pick from…Destruction, Whiplash, Holy Terror, Coroner, Dark Angel, Razor, Sacred Reich and so on and so on.  It’s been a fun little flashback to when music was all that mattered.

Just like the first waves of punk and hardcore, things started to fizzle out in the years to come.  By the time 1989/1990  hit, everything was on a decline.  The heavy hitters were putting out albums that, for lack of a better description, were boring.  Just check out Souls Of Black or Impact Is Imminent or State Of Euphoria and, yes, even And Justice For All and compare them to their predecessors.  The spirit was there, but thrash already sounded processed and tired.  By the time the 90s hit, thrash metal was entering its 3rd generation of bands who, for the most part, brought nothing new or exciting to the metal altar and was being overtaken by up and coming metal sub genres.  Some exceptions did exist, and Arizona’s Atrophy was one of them.

Atrophy’s short career consisted of two records, the debut Socialized Hate and their final release Violent By Nature, which were relatively interchangeable.  The albums are close to mirror images of each other in both writing and production.  Although it may not make any difference, I choose to prattle on about Violent By Nature because I feel it is a bit faster, heavier and is a touch more comprehensive than their first record.  Right out of the gate, “Puppies and Friends” lets you know they are not fucking around, and they put all the lessons they learned from the past masters into action.  Atrophy harnessed the energy of Violence and threw it together with the crunch of Exodus/Nuclear Assault.  Vocalist Brian Zimmerman is quite unique.  He never really goes over the top, but sounds as if he’s been on a three-day screaming bender prior to going to the recording studio.  To say he’s got grit in his delivery is an understatement.  His tone gives Atrophy some major identity and his words were not the typical slash and hack and burn the world lyrics and dealt with personal and societal issues. The album rolls on at a furious pace and although the production is pretty slick, it’s still raw, thick and heavy.  The song structures are done in a such a way that their technical nature doesn’t weigh it down.  There is a lot going on in the music, but Atrophy have a knack for making it sound straight forward so it doesn’t ever get boring.  I find myself revisiting Atrophy a couple times a year.  They are one of the few bands that were successful in trying to keep the thrash metal flame burning while everything was slowly becoming groove metal.  Thanks a lot Pantera.  Yes, that's sarcasm.  I hate Pantera.

Listen to "Puppies And Friends" here.

1.09.2019

Songs You Should Know #22 - Violators, Alcatrazz & The Mopes

Artist: Violators
Song: Summer Of 81
Genre: Punk
Artist: Alcatrazz
Song:  God Blessed Video
Genre: Hard Rock
Artist: The Mopes
Song: My Heart Won't Bleed For You
Genre: Pop Punk

12.19.2018

WATCH THEM DIE - Watch Them Die

Artist:  Watch Them Die
Album: Watch Them Die
Year:  2003
Genre:  Thrash Metal

Watch Them Die emerged from the ashes of Bay Area underground legends El Dopa and Grimple and took on a whole new thrash, bordering on Swedish death metal, sound.  They absolutely rip!  If listening to the song “Unleashed” doesn’t get your blood boiling, then you’re possibly dead.  If you’re not dead, Watch Them Die is putting every effort into killing you with music.  They are vicious and malevolent in their delivery as they spit forth venom in every note.  There is not a calm passage in sight and the next moment of brutality is hiding around the corner to scare the hell out of you.  This is another band that was gone too soon.  Both of their albums are easily worth your time!

Listen to "Unleashed" here.

11.29.2018

HEATHEN - Breaking The Silence

Artist:  Heathen
Album: Breaking The Silence
Year:  1987
Genre:  Thrash Metal

I’m sure I’ve rambled on about this previously, but 1986 and 1987 were the apex years for thrash.  The amount of monumental releases during those 2 years is astounding.  It was a very crowded room for the bands existing at that time, and the quality and quantity were difficult to get out from under.  I don’t recall another genre of music being this overloaded in such a short span of time.  It was difficult to keep up with and you could rest assured there would be a new release waiting for you at your local record store almost every week.

Heathen were one of those bands whose name floated around a lot in zines, but they never ended up on any compilations I owned or on any of the tape trading I did.  All I knew is they were part of the Bay area scene; and I was in awe and mesmerized by the burgeoning Bay area scene!  What did I love about the bands coming out of the Bay area?  Everything.  The crunch, the aggression, the attitude, the speed, the acceptance  and connection to punk and hardcore that other metal bands willfully ignored.  The competition factor was huge as no band wanted to be outdone.  The bay was the place to be even for bands not living in that area.  As a result, the quality of the music was elevated.  So when a band from that area was putting something out, there was no need to wait to hear it.  Well, in 1987, Heathen released their debut Breaking The Silence and I bought it with zero knowledge of what I was going to hear.  Still, to this day, it’s one of my favorite records I own.

As mentioned, the Bay area scene was a formula of speed and aggression, but steep musical ability was always included in the madness.   These were not bands just blatantly bashing away at their instruments; it just sounded that way.  Heathen were not as overtly savage as say Violence, Possessed or Testament, but they fit right in and brought a technical, bordering on speed metal, feel to the fold.  This could be due to the fact Lee Altus and Doug Piercy are godly guitar players and didn’t want to be held down by simplicity.  These two guys twisted and turned their riffs inside out with surgeon-esque accuracy, taking cues from their early 80s European brethren more than their local counterparts.  In no way does this mean you won’t be wanting to bang that head or thrash around like a maniac.  Heathen provide plenty of fuel to get the stage-diving madness going while proving their musical chops were a few steps above the pack.  Throw “Piece Of Mind” Maiden in with “Bonded By Blood” era Exodus, and you’d be getting close to what Heathen does.  Everything, including the vocals, were just a bit cleaner and didn’t sound as if the songs were dragged through every single pit of hell like their peers.  Whatever their formula was, it worked because the record is extremely listenable and still maintains its relevance 30 years later.  Their follow up record was pretty stunning, but just like so many greats from that era, Heathen were done by their second record.  What a shame.  But, also like so many greats from that era, they released a record almost 20 years later that I still need to check out.

Listen to "World's End" here.

11.05.2018

DEW-SCENTED - Impact


Image result for dew scented impact
Artist:  Dew-Scented
Album: Impact
Year:  2003
Genre:  Thrash Metal / Death Metal

Even though their name is supposedly an influence from Edgar Allan Poe, it's still one of the dumber monikers around.  Name aside, Dew-Scented are one of the bright spots in the amalgamation of thrash and death metal.  In a sorely over saturated genre of At The Gates duplicates, Dew-Scented offer a high quality, relentless attack of the senses.  The overall aggressive nature is impressive, but the true standout is the guitar work that twists and turns the songs in a way that, dare I say, is rather original.  Don't let the fact all their albums begin with the letter "I" scare you away from this beast of a band.  Dew-Scented have an impressive 10 releases to their goofy name, all which contain their bulldozing energy and off-kilter riffs structures which truly define the band.


Listen to "New Found Pain" here.

10.12.2018

VOIVOD - The Wake

Artist:  Voivod
Album: The Wake
Year:  2018
Genre:  Progressive Metal

What is it with Canadian bands?  When you give it some thought, Canada has produced some of the most important artists in music.  Neil Young, Rush, Skinny Puppy, Joni Mitchell, Nomeansno, The Tragically Hip, Bryan Adams and on and on.  Before you giggle at Bryan Adams, the man has sold an estimated 65-100 records and singles worldwide; pretty impressive for a pop artist.  Canada has a penchant for creating prolific musicians that don’t follow trends, but that actually lead the way and develop them.

Yes, that was just a random thought before I say that Voivod just may have stolen the metal crown for 2018 with their newest conjuring, The Wake.  Although the have nowhere near the popularity of some of the aforementioned artists, Voivod belongs on said list.  They have always been a trailblazer in the world of heavy metal and is one of the best examples of how not to be a stereotypical metal band.  They are highly revered for their fearless use of experimentation and their thinking-outside-of-the-box songwriting.  Somehow, the last three Voivod releases are putting up a strong fight against what is considered their “heyday” releases Killing Technology, Dimension Hatross and Nothingface; three iconic and seminal albums in the band’s history.  When a band has been playing music since 1981 like Voivod have, a general decline in output quality is often witnessed in the later years.  This is especially true for heave and aggressive bands.  Voivod impressively have yet to fall into this trap.

The current line up includes two original members and two members which were added within the last decade. The band sounds like they’ve been playing as a unit right from the start.  The music is unbelievably tight and precise, and the composition is experimental in all the right ways.  Even without the stringed genius of Piggy and Blacky, this sounds like a Voivod record.  Chewy is the perfect guitar player for this band and honorably compliments the unique style of the late Denis D'Amour.  The newest member, Rocky, takes the bass lines in a much different direction than we’ve heard in the past from either Blacky or Newsted and creates a whole new dynamic that is more paired with the guitar lines than it is the drums.  Just like the iron men they are, Snake turns in one of the strongest vocal performances of his life and Away proves why he is at the top of the metal drumming heap.  Those two have come a long way from the barbaric punk / thrash days of the first couple albums.  Their progression is rather amazing.  The music draws heavily from the Dimention Hatross / Nothingface era as it blends their love for Pink Floyd, thrash metal and post-punk to perfection.  Voivod aren’t afraid to get fast, to get heavy, to get trippy or to get plain weird.  It’s exactly why they are the best at their craft.  Admittedly, it’s difficult for me to get excited about a release from a band that’s been around 35+ years, especially if their prime long passed them by.  But, just like Voivod are the exception to the confining rules of heavy metal, they are also the exception to my skeptical ears.  I cannot wait for another record!

Listen to "Obsolete Beings" here.

9.23.2018

Video Mix Tape 07

Video Mix Tape 07

0:00  Strung Out
2:12  Amon Amarth
6:47  Mudhoney
8:59  Aerosmith
13:29  Holograms
16:18  Shades Of Grey
18:27  Nattefrost
21:10  No Fun At All
23:05  Falling Forward
25:52  In Defence

9.05.2018

THE FAINT - Danse Macabre

Artist:  The Faint
Album: Danse Macabre
Year:  2001
Genre:  Electro / New Wave

To qualify The Faint solely as a retro, throwback, copycat of 80s synth-pop is unfair.  Is that what they sound like?  Well, in general, yes…but there’s much more going on with this outfit from Omaha.  They capture the feel, sounds and best aspects of early electro-rock-dance-post punk-new wave, and filter it though through some pretty creative musicianship.  I grew up in the height of the 80s new wave and this makes me feel like a kid again.  When this came out in 2001, no one was doing what The Faint were, and very few have been able to encapsulate that era as they successfully have.  The Faint take their craft seriously and truly personifies this band as a trailblazer in the overcrowded world of music; not just some facsimile of a time long past.


Listen to "Glass Danse" here.

8.15.2018

CARLOS MONTOYA - Soleares

Artist:  Carlos Montoya
Album: Solearas
Year:  2004
Genre:  Spanish Guitar / Classical Guitar

Classical guitar is a bit of a departure from the typical music I rant about here.  I won’t say that I listen to it all the time, but I do enjoy it immensely and I can’t express my admiration for the talent these artists have.  Carlos Montoya is a favorite of mine because of the energy he creates.  He has the ability to make the music come to life and paints vivid soundscapes with only two hands and an acoustic guitar. Very few could compete with his precision skill and the sheer passion he exuded.  The man played intensely, intertwining beautiful melodies and pure, over-the-top speed that made you question how is that even possible?  He was just an absolute gift to the music world.  

Listen to "Farruca" here.

7.26.2018

COUNT RAVEN - Mammon War

Artist:  Count Raven
Album: Mammons War
Year:  2009
Genre:  Doom Metal

Firmly rooted in the Sabbath vein of doom metal, Count Raven offer up a rather cookie-cutter approach to their song writing, but damn if the riffs and the cool sounding Ozzy-esque vocals make this one fine head banging experience.  Count Raven isn't offering new ideas, but they have obviously studied the pioneering doom gods thoroughly enough to write a compelling and entertaining record.

Listen to "The Poltergeist" here.

7.09.2018

Songs You Should Know #21 – The Fluid, Arcturus & Joe Jackson

Artist: The Fluid
Song: Pretty Mouse
Genre: Alternative Rock

Artist: Arcturus
Song:  The Chaos Path
Genre: Avant-Garde

Artist: Joe Jackson
Song: One More Time
Genre: Pop

6.19.2018

AGENT STEEL - Skeptics Apocalypse

Artist:  Agent Steel
Album: Skeptics Apocalypse
Year:  1985
Genre:  Thrash Metal

Agent Steel are a band that clawed its own little niche in metal by using elements that were not typical of the burgeoning thrash movement in 1985.  My assumption is that they are one of those love ‘em or absolutely hate ‘em bands amongst metalheads.  The main reason is the polarizing vocal style of John Cyriss.  Lyrically, he intentionally strayed from the popular Satan/violence combination that dominated thrash and chose Sci-Fi, aliens and ancient rituals as his subject matter which were just as dark and fit the music perfectly.  Cyriss is a talented man whose vocals soar in the Rob Halford range for the majority of this record.  Now if you’re playing straight up power metal, that vocal delivery may sit a bit more comfortably when chugging along at a Maiden or Priest pace.  But, Agent Steel were not playing power metal; they were a full-bore thrash assault in league with Exodus, Razor and Slayer.  Skeptics Apocalypse is fast.  Very fast.  Yet, it is also musically brooding and violent, just as any thrash album worth its weight should be.  The riffs and song structures are tremendously akin to “Bonded By Blood” era Exodus and “Hell Awaits” era Slayer.  Then you add in the vocals, which, to these ears were initially a bit confusing, yet, ended up sounding exciting and original.  This record is a bulldozer.  Their second record is just as good, if not even more powerful with its superior production.  Although thrash was only a few years old in 1985, Agent Steel were already a welcomed change.  Like most bands, they did not get the recognition they deserved and called it quits a few years later.  Too bad.  They were on to something good.

Listen to "Bleed For The Godz" here.

6.06.2018

7 SECONDS - New Wind

Artist:  7 Seconds
Album: New Wind
Year:  1986
Genre:  Hardcore

“I’m not a ‘punker’, just a human being with the urge to exercise what’s in my heart and mind.”

Right or wrong, these are words I’ve held dear and lived by for a long time now.  7 Seconds recently announced their break-up and it’s hit me decently hard.  On one hand, I’m saddened that I will never see another show or ever get to hear a new record.  I’m much sadder to hear that health issues have taken this band’s 38 year career out of commission.  On the other hand, I’m thankful for the time I’ve gotten to spend with this band’s music.  The music, lyrics and people of 7 Seconds are more import and significant to me than any other band out there.   I’ve seen them live more than any other touring act.  They’ve been a personal and life-shaping experience.  I could sit for hours reciting the words and ideas of Kevin Seconds and attach them to social or situational aspects of my life.  Their influence on the way I compose songs is glaring to the few that have heard them.
 
My 32-year journey with 7 Seconds began with this very record after a review I read in my now yellowing copy of Death Row Zine from 1986.  I can’t say the review was overly glowing, but it was enough to make me check them out since I was diving into the punk world at that time.  After listening to New Wind over and over, I went on the search for the first two records…then the 7”s…and then waited for every subsequent release.  Anyone who has followed 7 Seconds’ path knows there have been some stylistic twists and turns, but, with all honesty, I can say I’ve loved close to everything they’ve produced.  Fanboy?  Yeah, probably.

New Wind saw the band make a hard pivot from their high-speed endeavors.  What was unusual was that the band was only 6 years old when they made the switch to songs that were slower and more melodic.  It’s as if they knew they would become like The Ramones if they kept going in the same direction.  Let’s be honest, only The Ramones can write the same record for 30 years and pull it off.  Only two songs on the album were reminiscent of what they previously released.  Of course, I didn’t know this and had zero preconceived notions of what I was hearing.  What I heard opened a whole new musical world for me and, maybe for the first time, lyrics had something meaningful to say.

When I listen to New Wind now, I get a whole different feeling than that angsty 16-year old I was previously, who really didn’t know shit about the world.  Many of the songs were written about some pretty heavy subject matters ranging from sexual assault, personal integrity, unity and keeping a positive stance in a dark world, and breaking the mold of the bullshit, typical tough-as-nails male facade.  Every song carries a message; some just aren’t as in your face as others.  The music is raw but melodic and has quite a unique sound.  Not full on punk or hardcore and not full on pop punk, but somewhere in between.  As stated, 7 Second let off the gas pedal a bit, but still retained the energy and spirit of their roots throughout the album.  They would keep evolving in this direction until their true return to hardcore on the awesome 1999 album Good To Go.

New Wind changed my world and opened my eyes and taught me to be a thinking, aware and caring human being.  It also created a life-long adoration for this pioneering band and the droves of punk and hardcore I plunged into after the fact.  I’m guessing this is the last time I write about this band.  Thank you Kevin, Steve, Troy, Bobby and the few other scattered members.  You have given me a gift that cannot be repaid.  I wish you well in all that is to come.

Listen to "The Inside" here.

5.30.2018

Video Mix Tape 06

Video Mix Tape 06
0:00  Psychedelic Furs
4:18  Angel Witch
7:43  The Wipers
9:31  Leaf Hound
12:45  Sicko
14:48 Horrendous
18:21 Token Entry
20:03 Every Time I Die
21:47 Part 1
25:16  Adrenalin OD

5.12.2018

BLOODLINE - Hate Procession

Artist:  Blooodline
Album: Hate Procession
Year:  2009
Genre:  Black Metal

Black metal has innovated, terrified and rebelled for close to three decades.  With all due respect, credit and love to Bathory, Venom, Hellhammer and NME, I’m speaking of the 2nd wave of Norwegian and Swedish bands that, literally, lit the world aflame around 1990.  The sound of those grim, cold, unrelenting pioneers has now been duplicated, emulated and transformed.  As the music spread and gained popularity, which was most likely unintended, bands from all over the globe conjured their version of what could be considered the world’s most extreme, dark and dangerous music.  With that said, black metal became a true example of quantity over quality and has sent listeners down endless rabbit holes searching for bands worthy of their time.  Occasionally a band claws its way to the top of the pile of enemy corpses to bring you something new and unique.  One of these bands is Bloodline and their album is Hate Procession.

Bloodline strays far from the cold, cave-like sound and rabid velocity of the early masters, yet, retains the abhorrent anti-human nature of those bands.  They move at a non-typical, sludgy pace that feels like trying to trudge through a murky swamp while being strangled; you want to move faster, but you cannot, which is the torturous glory of this record.  It’s an uncomfortable listen. Bloodline is smart and keep things simple.  The instrumentation is bulldozing but layered with smatterings of samples and keyboards to avoid a one-dimensional feel.  The vocals sound certifiably insane, are devoid of any positive emotion and are composed with pure conviction.  It has been a long time since I’ve witnessed such a pulverizing and abusive vocal performance that grows stronger as the album plays.  When the album finishes, an overwhelming sense of despair and hopelessness exists.  Once again, it’s an uncomfortable listen.  I believe that was the overall purpose of this album.  This is life-draining music. 


Listen to "Order Of The Parasite" here.