2016 Best of Metal List #19

Russian Circles-Guidance

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My girlfriend is a punk rocker.  We have endless discussions (arguments?) regarding which genre is mightier: Metal or punk rock?  Russian Circles is one of the rare bands in which she and I find common ground.  She went as far as to say the other day that this release might be her favorite to come out this year.  I don’t have it that high on my list, but it is still worthy of inclusion on the best of list.

I dig instrumental bands.  I dig that some bands just say, “Fuck it.  We don’t need the headache of dealing with a diva with a set of lungs fronting the band.”  It just goes against the grain of the traditional format for popular music.  To have the chops to compose a song that still has enough heft to connect with the listener on an emotional level without the use of words is an impressive feat.  Russian Circles has been nothing but consistent throughout their career and are, by far, one of the best instrumental bands in the metal field.  The latest album, Guidance, was released on August 5th.  This album is a melodic ride through melancholy terrain.  It’s a great album to have while taking a long road trip because it just adds a nice soundtrack to watching the landscape go speeding by.

We were lucky to get to see them perform the new album in full when they stopped by to play at Barracuda earlier this year.  These guys are all business.  Not only are there no vocals in their songs, but during the show, their is no cutesy in between song banter.  They come out.  They start playing.  They leave the stage.

Attached is a sample song from the album.  It should go without saying that if you like an album that I post on here, go out and buy it.  Support the artists you enjoy.  They aren’t doing this shit for free.

The list so far:

20(a).  Metallica-Hardwired…To Self Destruct

20.  The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation

19.  Russian Circles-Guidance

2016 Best of Metal List #20

The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation


The Dillinger Escape Plan released Dissociation on October 14 of this year and stated that it will be the last album of their career.  Appropriately enough, the swan song goes out with a giant chaotic bang.  These dudes have always been a spastic, schizophrenic mess of a band and the final album of their career is a fitting end.  If you’re expecting a linear structure and a simple 4/4 rhythm you can dance to, set your sights to easier listening paths.  Half the time when I listen to this album, I’m honestly not even sure if I like it.  Listening to it makes one feel as if you’ve been dropped into the middle of a horror movie.  It leaves you with a sense of unease because you are never really sure exactly what is lurking behind the next bridge or breakdown.  The songs will push and pull the listener in different directions at simultaneous times.  From discordant noise rock to abstract acid-influenced jazz to downright melodic beauty, this album will challenge you from the first note played.  I believe the resulting unease the album provokes is ultimately the genius of its songwriting.  This structure has been a hallmark of the Dillinger approach since its debut album.

I bid you a fond farewell, Ben Weinman and Co.  If you get a chance to see them tear it up live during their last ever tour, jump at the chance.  Their live show is as chaotic as their songwriting.  There are so many violently flailing limbs and guitars and dudes jumping with wild abandon off of amps that I’m always expecting someone on stage to lose an eye.

Below is a track from the album entitled Nothing to Forget.  This is one of my favorite songs to come out this year and just spoke to me as a lifelong introvert.  The plaintive chorus of “Please let me be by myself, I don’t need anything!!!” really struck a nerve.  I may need to get it embroidered on a pillow.

The list so far:

20(a):  Metallica-Hardwired…To Self Destruct

20:  The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation

2016 Best of Metal List #20(a) honorable mention

Metallica-Hardwired…To Self Destruct


2016.  Wow, did you ever suck.  Bowie, Prince, Lemmy, Leon Russell, Jimmy Bain (Dio, Rainbow), Piotr Grudzinski (Riverside), Nick Menza (Megadeth), Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake (the E and the L of ELP) and probably a few more that I’m just forgetting all left us.   Regardless of the genre of music you dig, there was an important figure that passed away and left a hole in said genre going forward.

The Metal world saw a great number of releases in quantity and I’d love to say that it was a successful year in terms of quality.  However, if I’m being honest, it really didn’t pan out that way.  There were a number of albums that I really had no doubt prior to release would absolutely amaze, but for whatever reason, the final products didn’t match expectation levels.  However, as you will see in the coming days, there were a few jewels that stood out amongst the rabble.  You’ll see this year’s list populated by established acts announcing that their creative wells haven’t dried up and up-and-coming bands making impactful statements announcing their arrival on the scene.

On the positive side of things, the live shows I was lucky enough to attend made up for the sub-par state of the new material released on the whole.  Standouts were Refused at Mohawk, Steven Wilson at the Majestic in Dallas, Gojira at Emo’s, If These Trees Could Talk in an intimate show at The Sidewinder, the Lamb of God/Anthrax/Deafheaven/Power Trip banger at ACL Live, Sumac at The Sidewinder and At the Gates/Decapitated/The Haunted death metal extravaganza at Mohawk.

I know, I know.  Get to the damned list already.  OK…here it goes.  I’m starting it out a little differently this year by awarding an Honorable Mention this year.  The mighty Metallica finally set aside a few days from their near constant touring schedule to hit the studio and released a double album November 18th of this year.  I debated and debated on whether to include it in the actual list.  Overall, simply based on the strength of the songs, it really didn’t quite measure up.  It is a solid release, but when you’re the largest Metal band on the planet, you really should be held to a higher standard than most.  Honestly, the only reason I’m even including it on the list is so I can discuss Metallica in general for a bit.

The album does have some memorable moments on it (title track, Atlas Rise!, Confusion, and Lemmy tribute, Murder One) and I do appreciate that fact that they seem to be fully embracing their Metal-ness once again.  I think my reservations on this album do more with whether this thing will have staying power or not.  Is this an album that I’m going to have an itch to pull out a spin a year from now?  I’m not really sure.  I’m not even sure if I like it more than Death Magnetic (which is an album that I do still pull out and play).

Metallica is just a bitter-sweet band for me.  When I was growing up as a little Metalhead, Metallica were a massive influence.  They were the band that lead me to embrace thrash and was directly responsible to leading my tastes into a heavier and heavier direction.  I’m not listening to Decapitated, Enslaved or Immortal if Metallica had not come into my life at such an impressionable age.  Their first four albums will forever enshrine Metallica as one of the greats regardless of the remainder of their career.  However, their career from the Black Album through the Load, Re-Load and St. Anger disasters really hurt their standing in the Metal world even as their status in the general world of pop music began to explode.  I think the thing that pissed most metal heads off (at least it did me) wasn’t that it seemed that they sold out, but it was that they seemed to look down upon their Metal roots.  In interviews and documentaries, they seemed to be almost ashamed of their Metal past.  It felt like a betrayal.  In a way, I think that is what is nice about Death Magnetic and the current new release.  They seem to be a Metal band again and they seem really happy about it.

Anyway, enough of that.  Attached is a song from the album.  This one stood out to me because it just seemed like a track that could have been included on …And Justice For All.  It would have fit perfectly sandwiched between Harvester of Sorrow and Frayed Ends of Sanity.  I give you, “Here Comes Revenge”.  Just a nasty little riff.

I’ll be back this afternoon with the actual #20 of the list.


King’s X at The Parish-Dec. 8, 2016

If you’re feeling down about your state in life, go put on a King’s X album.  These guys have always had an uncanny ability to reduce my usual jaded persona into one of hope.  Well, maybe not hope.  That seems a little too grand for my world view.  But at the very least, they put a smile on my face.

So, these guys haven’t put out any new material since 2008.  As a result, the set list ended up being a nice smorgasbord of material from across their 20+ year career.  It remains a shock that their frontman/bassist Doug Pinnick is 66(!) years old.  We can all hope to be this cool when reaching our AARP years.  I will also maintain to my grave that if I was starting a dream band that Ty Tabor would be my first pick for lead guitar.  His solos are dazzling without being overbearing or pretentious.  Drummer Jerry Gaskill is still bringing it after enduring two heart attacks over the past few years and having his house destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.  All in all, it’s a gift that these guys are still together and still playing shows.  Any chance you get to see them in person is a chance you have to grab.  No telling how much longer they are going to be performing.

This was just a lovely way to spend a evening and was well worth braving the frigid winds blowing through downtown on Thursday night.

Here are a couple of clips from the show.  First up, Vegetable from the Manic Moonlight album.  This is a personal favorite.  Funky side of King’s X.

Next is their classic Over My Head from Gretchen Goes to Nebraska. Gospel meets Metal.


Well, this has been a long time coming.  Seeing as though the entire world is turning into a giant dumpster fire, I feel like now is the perfect time to unleash a Metal blog upon the universe.  Maybe what I write here will contribute a small amount to making this place in which we live a little less of a shithole.  So, with much trepidation:  Here be my blog!  Let the mocking commence!

This site will serve as a depository of my thoughts on Metal album releases throughout the year, various concert reviews and other random ramblings.  I hope to be informative.  I hope to spread the news of new and underground bands in which you may not have been exposed.  I hope to make you laugh.  I hope to hit the lottery soon so this can become my full time gig.  I go forward with the knowledge that even if you, dear reader, never even show up that I will, at the very least, entertain myself.  At the end of the day, that’s enough for me.  If anyone out there gets a kick out of reading this, well, all the better.

Check back soon for the first substantive posts.  I’ll be seeing King’s X, one of my all-time favorite bands, play at The Parish here in Austin tonight.  I’ll likely share some thoughts, photos and video tomorrow or over the weekend.

Also, Monday will see the beginning of the fifth installment of my Best of Metal Albums List for the terrible, no-good year of 2016.  You’ll get an album a day starting with #20 and we will work our way to #1 on December 31 to ring in the new year.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and giving this thing a looksie.