Bloody Thundering Alehorns On Mountaintops – Traditional Heavy Metal Reaches New Heights

October 1, 2013 has a pretty remarkable group of albums scheduled for release.

bloody-thundering-alehornsArgus – Beyond The Martyrs (Cruz Del Sur)
Atlantean Codex – The White Goddess (Cruz Del Sur/20 Buck Spin)
Horisont – Time Warriors (Rise Above/Metal Blade)
In Solitude – Sister (Metal Blade)
Iron Man – South Of The Earth (Rise Above/Metal Blade)
Twilight Of The Gods – Fire On The Mountain (Season Of Myst)

It may be seem to be anything more special than a bunch of metal releases to a lot of people, but to a growing number of fans, it’s an exciting trend of increased popularity and label support for what had been the long-suffering traditional heavy metal. Since metal splintered into thrash, speed, black, death and a thousand other subgenres in the 80s, it’s been considered passe by many to listen to anything that didn’t identify with the newer subgenres. The nineties were lean times for most metal genres, and while the big guns like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden limped through the decade with difficult lineup changes, there weren’t a lot of new bands flourishing. Continue reading

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Autumn Album Rundown – Part 1

Vista ChinoMore of a late summer edition, but it didn’t seem right evoking summer after the autumn equinox. While the release schedule in the summer slows down somewhat, I fall into a false sense of complacency when really there is a ton of music left undiscovered from the first half of the year, leaving me playing catchup when the the rush of early Autumn releases are unleashed in September. After a rare burst of good taste of mainstream consumers resulting in #1 albums by Vampire Weekend, Queens of the Stone Age and Black Sabbath in the early summer, things have gone back to normal with the likes of Jay-Z, Selena Gomez, Robin Thicke and Ariana Grande back on top, and doofus writers have gone back to proclaiming the death of guitars. Continue reading

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I Want A Wino Doll

Would you buy a Wino doll?

A while back I started a thread on which rock icons would make good action figures/dolls. Certain musicians seem to represent their particular style of music with such unique style and personality, they could easily translate into cartoons or toys. I currently have figures of Ozzy, Iggy and Lemmy at my desk at work. While writing my doom trilogy pieces and listening to just about nothing but doom all summer, I realized a big proportion of my favorites involved Wino. The quintessential underdog rock ‘n’ roll lifer, Scott “Wino” Weinrich is the perfect embodiment of the long-suffering doom metal genre, maybe not born to lose, but certainly born too late to attain the kind of status attained by the aforementioned rockers. Many of his bands (The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand, Place Of Skulls, Shrinebuilder, Premonition 13) often seemed on the verge of breaking through to crossover popularity, only to have fate pound them back to Earth and into their places as critically respected but merely cult favorites. Nevertheless, Wino’s passion and intensity never falters, and he pours every ounce of his energy into these bands with complete commitment. Continue reading

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Doom Goes Pop

God May Be Dead But DOOM Isn’t

Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum

Doom metal has always been about as underground as you can get for a metal sub-genre. I fondly refer to it as the most long-suffering of my favorite genres, the Rodney Dangerfield of metal. Perhaps because of its strong links to depression and alcohol/drug abuse, most of the early bands were so hapless they simply couldn’t get it together enough to put out an album in early years. That and the fact that the music was not considered remotely commercial and most of the initial recordings sounded like they were recorded in moldy basements with primitive 4 track recorders. Pentagram were rejected by all kinds of labels, and even KISS left a basement rehearsal shaking their heads. Their first album came out in 1985, a full 16 years after they first formed, and three years after the album was actually recorded. Pagan Altar’s debut album from 1982 wasn’t released for another 16 years. The Obsessed’s debut album stayed in the vaults for 5 years until it’s release. But despite several landmark albums from Trouble, Saint Vitus and Candlemass having been released by the late 80s, most metal fans had never heard of doom. Continue reading

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Cans of DOOM

skullcandy-aviator-dinosaurThe evolution of headphones has been fascinating to watch over the years. Pretty much everyone aged 50 and younger has grown up using headphones, and have owned many, many pairs. Some may remember the crappy headphones that came with the original Walkman and its progeny that would usually break long before the foam covers would wear off. They were an afterthought, although Sony’s 1979 introduction of the 3.5mm “minijack” stereo connector was useful. In some ways things haven’t changed much since then, as headphones associated with portable audio is still considered disposable. Good full size “over the ear” headphones existed of course, but were mostly used by audio professionals and audiophile hobbyists with almost art-deco/mad scientist looking tube amplifiers. Continue reading

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Neil Gaiman – The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

Neil Gaiman - The Ocean At The End Of The Lane (2013)I had just finished Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane earlier today as I got off the train coming home from work. A couple minutes later I passed by the Music Box Theater and saw that Neil Gaiman was doing a reading a book signing, right there at that very moment. It was sold out so I couldn’t go in, but it’s just as well, as my reaction when I finished was, “that’s it?!” For his first general novel in over eight years since Anansi Boys (2008), I definitely expected more. At 192 pages, it’s slight even next to The Graveyard Book at 320 pages, which was marketed for children. But my disappointment wasn’t that I wished it didn’t end so soon. It’s that I wanted it to end even sooner. Continue reading

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Goatess – Goatess

Goatess (Svart, 2013)Goatess may be a new name, but doom fans have been anticipating this album for years. As long as they don’t expect Chritus and his Swedish bandmates to repeat what they’ve done before, they should not be disappointed with the debut, released this week by hip (if there can be such a thing in the long-suffering doom/psych genre) Finnish label Svart.

Formed by Christian ‘Chritus’ Linderson of Count Raven, Saint Vitus, Terra Firma and Lord Vicar in 2009 (originally named Weekend Beast), this is not strictly traditional doom. While Chritus’ vocals are as Ozzy-esque as ever, the promo materials namedrop Sleep and Kyuss as key influences on this project. I would add Monster Magnet (and in turn, Hawkwind) to that list, with the mid-album psychedelic space-rock excursions. One of the highlights, “Tentacles Of Zen,” starts with a long soundbite from I, Claudius (1976) with John Hurt. The best line, “Copulation on a cosmic scale!” was so good they repeated it. Continue reading

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Spirits Of The Dead – Rumours Of A Presence

Spirits Of The Dead - Rumours Of A Presence (The End, 2013)

How in the damn hell did I miss this band? For the past year I have been harassing bands like Fellwoods, Dead Man and Elope to put out some new music, as I’ve had an itch for more albums that navigate that fascinating era of 1968-70 when bands floated in a musical neverland between psych and prog while mixing in some folk, proto-doom and modern fuzzy stoner rock sounds. Norway’s Spirits Of The Dead is pretty much the perfect embodiment of that aesthetic. And they’re already on their third album! I blame The Obelisk. H.P. Taskmaster gave The Great God Pan (2011) a solid but not completely enthusiastic review. I missed it and he did not rate the album in his year-end list. Revenge! Kidding, I love The Obelisk, which may not always align with my tastes, but covered this band when I remained in the dark. Their self-titled debut from 2008 is just as great. But despite claims of widespread raves, press coverage has been sparse. Here’s hoping that changes with Rumours Of A Presence, out now on Brooklyn based metal label The End records. I have to say The End have been dropping the ball, given that it was released on June 25, but not available in any of the usual places (Amazon, All That Is Heavy, Aquarius, Bandcamp) other than crappy MP3s on Amazon and iTunes. Per the band’s requirements with the label, the only way to get the CD at the moment seems to be to purchase it in a bundle with the vinyl for $30+. [Update: Previously I thought it was the label's decision. The band can do what they like, but I hate to see them limit their sales, and it doesn't make sense to me that they'd sell compressed MP3s but not full-bandwidth CDs or FLAC. ] Continue reading

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Rebuilding Sound From Scratch: Author & Punisher and Wardruna Invigorate their Genres from the Bottom Up

Many people are quick on the trigger to cry fowl when they notice recognizable influences in rock artists. Were they to be employed as time-traveling originality police, they’d be arresting Elvis, the Beatles, and pretty much every artist ever who got their start by covering favorite artists and paying direct homage to their influences. Given that the genre of rock music values such references to important architects, these people come off as ridiculous. The drubbing of Savages is one of the most recent examples. The irony is that most of them wouldn’t recognize innovation if it were whacking them in the face with their naughty bits. Author & Punisher and Wardruna are two such artists who have remained largely under the radar, despite making some fascinating music in new ways. Both create their own instruments, but in completely different ways. Author & Punisher’s Tristan Shone applies his engineering background by creating elegantly simple, but powerful sound machines. Norway’s Wardruna apply their studies in ancient runes and create new interpretations of hand made folk instruments. Both have backgrounds in heavy metal, a genre that is often derided for being backwards-looking, but is in fact a fertile ground for innovation. Both have been working years on their craft, creating stunning music without a lot of attention. This is hopefully starting to change. Continue reading

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Summer Album Rundown

A lot has happened in this year’s second quarter. An avalanche of good albums were released and I was suddenly buried in great music. With a demanding deadline at my job, I was barely able to keep up, let alone write about them. In the meantime, an interesting trend has developed with bands not normally overly mainstream reaching the top of the Billboard charts. After the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ warm-up at #5 after it’s April 16 release, Vampire Weekend, Queens of the Stone Age and Black Sabbath all hit #1. What does it mean? Probably not much, as Kanye took over this past week. Just a mini blip of good taste between the likes of Paramore, Michael Bublé, Kenny Chesney and Lady Antebellum. I’ve enjoyed some Kanye West in the past, but just can’t get into Yeezus, too ridiculous and tiresome. There’s way too many amazing albums to catch up on to worry about it.

Spirits Of The Dead - Rumours Of A Presence (The End, 2013)Spirits Of The Dead – Rumours Of A Presence (The End)
This is a late entry because while the album was supposedly released on June 25, it’s still not available beyond downloads on Amazon and iTunes and an expensive limited edition vinyl/cd bundle. And to be honest I’d never heard them before now, despite having released two other albums in 2008 and 2011. Which is really freakin’ crazy, as they’re right up my alley of psych prog mixed with folk and stoner/doom that I’ve been obsessed with for the past few years. If there are more bands like Spirits Of The Dead, Fellwoods, Dead Man and Elope that I don’t know about, somebody better tell me now before some blood and tears are shed. | Full Review Continue reading

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