Graveyard – Innocence & Decadence (Nuclear Blast)

Graveyard - Innocence & Decadence (Nuclear Blast, 2015)Graveyard have been one of my favorite bands for the past seven years because they haven’t let me down yet. I haven’t heard a single bad track, or been let down by their live performances. They may not be the perfect band for everyone, as some feel their sound is too rooted in the past. To that I say, what sound isn’t from the past? Every recording is a document of the past, whether the sounds were first heard 5 years ago or 40. Really what people are criticizing is that their particular sound is not currently in fashion. There’s a ton of hip-hop, R&B and pop in the charts right now rooted in styles that are already 30 years old. And I challenge anyone to find a band from the 70s that could actually be confused with Graveyard. Others have critiqued that the band can be emotionally unconvincing. That’s fair enough. Not everyone can relate to being choked by a demon in their sleep. I can, but not everyone. Continue reading

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The Birth Of Metal

The Birth Of Metal (From Black Sabbath Born Again back patch, 1983)

Was heavy metal invented by a single band? Was it dreamed up by a journalist? Was it born on a particular album, perhaps premature and deformed, denied by its parents and returned to live in an orphanage until it was adopted years later by a DJ, a journalist, a bunch of younger bands and some headbangers? Continue reading

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Golden Void – Berkana (Thrill Jockey)

Golden Void - Berkana (Thrill Jockey, 2015)Golden Void is one of a handful of bands that came out of nowhere and blew me away with a great, fully realized debut album full of brilliant songwriting that made my year-end top 13 in 2012. They had come up with a pretty unique blend of proto-metal and psychedelic folk, with nods toward Black Sabbath and a bit of Cream’s Jack Bruce and Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker in Isaiah Mitchell’s vocals. Three years later, the band replaces up front rockers on their second album, Berkana, with some twang, somewhat along the lines of Sweden’s Troubled Horse, who was another great band that emerged in 2012 (and I really hope to be able to hear their second album before the end of the year), particularly on “Dervishing” and “Astral Plane.” Continue reading

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Christian Mistress – To Your Death (Relapse)

Christian Mistress - To Your Death (Relapse, 2015)In 2012, Christian Mistress released their excellent first full-length album, Possession, which made my Lucky 13 for the year. They toured Europe, and then, they went home. No further promotion, no triumphant North American tour. Not a peep from the band, nothin. I was afraid one of my new favorite metal bands were breaking up. To my relief, they finally announced activity last year on their Facebook page, and after much anticipation, we have To Your Death.  Was it worth the wait? Considering it’s not only the best metal album to come out this year, but most likely the best of any rock albums, hell yeah. Continue reading

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Geezerpalooza: Pentagram, Motörhead & Slayer

It’s been a productive few weeks for long-in-the-tooth metal bands. Iron Maiden, who has been a band for 40 years, released their 17th album last Friday to pretty feverish acclaim (see my review).  Motörhead, who also formed in 1975, has been even more productive, putting out their 22nd album a week earlier. Pentagram has been around even longer, though less consistently, since 1971, only managing eight full-lengths, and arguably their peak work was recorded long before their 1985 debut album in the form of demos, gathered in two collections.  The youngest kids on the block, at least as far as these new releases are concerned, are Slayer, together just 34 years, with a dozen albums. Like AC/DC, the Ramones and The Fall, Motörhead in particular don’t worry about trying to experiment or break new ground. They got it right the first time, developing a completely unique, identifiable signature sound, and haven’t changed it much over the years. That of course can lead to a bit of catalog fatigue when a new album comes out. How could I possibly want more of the same? Yet they never have put out a bad album! Every time, Lemmy manages to pull more witty, clever lyrics out of his ass and lay them onto tightly constructed, rockin’ songs. Continue reading

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Mid-Year Post-Punk Rundown: Grave Pleasures, Algiers, Ought, Lunch + More


While summer is rarely a big season for new releases let alone post-punk, several albums snuck to the top of my playlists, with the warmer months bookended by Ceremony and Lunch in May, Algiers and PINS in June, and this past Friday, The Underground Youth, Gold Class and the highly anticipated Grave Pleasures (formerly Beastmilk), and Ought’s second album coming out in another week. Suddenly I’ve got a full batch, time for another post-punk rundown, a tradition I started almost exactly a year ago. For earlier 2015 releases, see my April rundown. Continue reading

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Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls (BMG)

Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls (Ingrooves, 2015)Iron Maiden are such a force of nature that there are several compelling stories about the band, so many that no documentary can cover the whole story, thus the release of “The History Of Iron Maiden, Part 1: The Early Days” in 2004 covering only up until 1983. It’s one of the reasons they remain so popular. For a band that formed way back in 1975, before heavy metal was even widely recognized by fans and bands as an actual genre of music, the band has done an amazing job in remaining relatively fresh and relevant. Leader Steve Harris, who’s roots lie solidly in early psych and prog like Wishbone Ash, Stray and Jethro Tull, has played an important role in both maintaining the band’s solid musical identity while also being willing to experiment. Continue reading

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Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats – The Night Creeper (Rise Above)

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats - The Night Creeper (Rise Above, 2015)I can’t say this was long awaited, as Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats have released four albums in six years, but The Night Creeper is certainly highly anticipated. After touring with Black Sabbath in 2013 only in Europe, they finally had mercy on their deprived North American fans and embarked on a successful tour in 2014. An enticing single, “Runaway Girls” was released, which didn’t even end up on the album. The cover strips away “the Deadbeats” from the name, I guess for simplicity’s sake and marketing. As far as I know, there was no official announcement of a change in band name. The improved production on their third album, Mind Control (2013) has also been abandoned, back to the bassless low-fi sound of their first demo tape Vol I (2010). My disappointment in this obviously intentional choice is balanced out by the fact that the songs are better than Mind Control‘s, matching the crawling pace of Vol I, while intensifying the creepy horror vibe tenfold. Continue reading

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Thin Lizzy Worship: Carousel, Black Trip & Dead Lord


This year has seen a flood of albums from bands paying tribute to Thin Lizzy. The fact that they generally happily admit to Thin Lizzy being a primary influence, even emblazoning it on the sticker such as the case of Valkyrie’s Shadows, shows how far Thin Lizzy’s legacy has been rehabilitated this past decade. While they were respected in their time, for some reason starting with their dissolution in 1984 through the 90s, they were seen as hopelessly dated one-hit wonders (“The Boys Are Back In Town”) in the same category as dinosaurs like Grand Funk and Foghat. Nothing could be further than the truth. Of their 12 studio albums, seven of them, between Vagabonds Of The Western World (1973) and Black Rose: A Legend (1979) are absolute classics. Throw in Live And Dangerous (1978), which many consider the greatest live album ever, it’s the most consistently great run of hard rock albums in the 70s. Yes, that includes Led Zeppelin. There’s several reasons for this. The twin lead guitar harmonies between Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson (and also Gary Moore and Snowy White) starting in 1974, served as a huge influence, along with Wishbone Ash, on Scorpions, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and many other New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands. And of course they had Phil Lynott, the charismatic Irish bass-playing Hendrix who partied too hard, but who’s Celtic poetic soul was the equal of Van Morrison, and rarely wrote a bad song and was a great storyteller. Continue reading

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No Whining in Rock ‘n’ Roll: Don’t Feel Guilty About Not Spending More Money on Music

Columbia House’s recent bankruptcy filing triggered all kinds of stories, ranging from fond reminiscing about early experiences with record clubs, to surprised reactions that they even still exist as a corporate entity, and a whole slew of whining about how they were killed by streaming services.

Their filing says that Netflix, Amazon, Spotify and Apple crowded it out of the market, preventing Columbia House from getting licensing agreements when it tried to offer streaming services for videos and movies last year. Yes, the more established competitors had an advantage over the new kid on the block. The young, clueless Columbia House, which has been in business since 1955.

Capitol Record Club Ad from 1972

Columbia House pioneered the record club business model, getting millions of consumers on board with the then still new 12″ vinyl LP format, introduced in 1949.  Their first year they had 125,175 members who had purchased 700,000 records (for $1.174 million net). By the next year, they had 687,652 members and had sold 7 million records ($14.888 million net), and by 1963, it commanded 10% of the recorded music retail market. By the mid-1960s, they had competition from other clubs, including EMI, Capitol and RCA. At that point, Columbia House was able to stay several steps ahead of the competition when the father of direct marketing, Les Wunderman took over the account. Along with direct marketing, Wunderman introduced innovations such as the database, the 1-800 number, the magazine subscription card, and the credit-card customer rewards program. For Columbia House he created the 12-albums for a penny postage-paid insert card, the Gold Box buried treasure Easter eggs that people could find in the advertising and redeem for free albums, in what he called “interactive” sales in a 1967 speech at M.I.T., decades before the Internet took off. It’s too bad they didn’t keep Wunderman on at least as a consultant to advise them. He’s still around, they should give him a call. Continue reading

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