Thoughts on 2017

Let’s hope that we don’t have quite the bloodbath of 2016.  That shouldn’t be too much to ask?  I mean, if you’re going to take someone, can we start with Jon Bon Jovi, please?

Looking at the album release schedule, 2017 is looking a bit sparse on major anticipated releases.  Probably the album I’m most looking forward to in the new year is Pain of Salvation’s In the Passing Light of Day, which is set to be released on January 13.  It’s been a long six years since their last album and it is always an adventure to see where Daniel Gildenlow and Co. are going to take us.  Another interesting album coming later in the year will be Pallbearer’s Heartless on March 24.  This Arkansas based doom outfit is said to have gone a tad proggy on the new album.  If they even manage to equal The Foundations of Burden, this should be an Album of the Year candidate.  One of the other major releases on the horizon in early 2017 is thrash stalwart, Overkill who will be releasing their 18th(!!) album, The Grinding Wheel, on February 10.  Of course, there is always that thin glimmer of hope that Tool finally gets off its butt and finishes their long gestating album.

Some other notable bands that have new albums coming out in the early part of the year are Grave Digger, Iron Reagan, Power Trip, Ex Deo, Soen, Sanctuary, Kreator, Sepultura and Iced Earth.

On the touring front, 2017 is starting out with a whirlwind of activity for the state of Texas. The month of February is going to age me by at least of couple of years.

Local heroes, Scorpion Child and Eagle Claw start things off during Free Week on January 14 at Barracuda.

February will see old school ex-Scorpions guitarist, Uli Jon Roth performing a slew of old Scorpions tracks while supporting his new release, Tokyo Tapes Revisited, at The Rock Box in San Antonio on February 11.  If you’re not familiar with Uli, go back and listen to In Trance, Taken By Force and Virgin Killer.  Seriously influenced by Hendrix.  The Scorpions just weren’t the same once he left the band.

The next night, February 12, at The Grizzly Hall in Austin, French blackened shoegaze masters, Alcest, will be performing their first live show in Austin.  This will be a very special show by a band that doesn’t tour much.

For a Valentine’s Day special, Pain of Salvation is making its very first trek into the state of Texas when they play The Scout Bar in Houston (actually waaaaayyyyy south Houston…near NASA).  Take time off from work and make the road trip.  These guys are one of the most forward thinking bands going today.  I’ve been waiting damn near 16 years to see these guys perform live.  Going to be a 2017 highlight.

The Cavalera Brothers are returning to their Sepultura roots by performing seminal Sepultura album, Roots, in its entirety at The Grizzly Hall in Austin on February 15.  I never got to see the original lineup of Sepultura perform, so this should be a cool show.

February 21 will see underground 80’s thrashers, Metal Church make a triumphant return to our fine city at The Grizzly Hall.  They brought long time vocalist, Mike Howe, out of retirement last year and put out a barnburner of an album.  This will bring my high school nostalgia back to the forefront.  I may need to reinstate the mullet before this show just to fully embrace the awesome of this show.

Not yet fully confirmed, but rumor has it that Pallbearer is going to play Barracuda on February 24th, which is prior to the release of their new album.  This is another not-to-miss show.  To go all Rogue One on you, Pallbearer definitely represents a new hope for Metal.

February 25th will also bring the nostalgia back is a serious way when The Killer Dwarfs come storming into The Rock Box in San Antonio.  The Dwarfs were an unsung hair metal band that really had chops.  If you were a fan of MTV in the early days, you may actually remember the video for Keep the Spirit Alive and We Stand Alone.  This will be a fun show and my new mullet will fit in at this show as well.

Heading into March, hipster black metal (yeah, it’s a thing) dealers, Deafheaven will be hitting The Mohawk  on March 7th along with San Marcos’ This Will Destroy You.  I think I’m as excited about the opener on this one as I am for the headliner.  Both bands put on a good live show.

On March 25, Katatonia will bring its brand of melancholic metal to The Grizzly Hall.  If you were a fan of The Cure, but always wished that they had a little more of a metal bite to them, Katatonia is the band for you.  Prepare to feel sad.

There should also be some metal shenanigans during SXSW.  I’ll probably give a preview of possible shows once we get closer to the middle of March.

Finally, we have a couple of other remaining shows already on the schedule for later in the year.  April 15 will see Finland’s Amorphis playing Fitzgerald’s in San Antonio and on April 11, Evergrey will be playing at The Rock Box in San Antonio.

Busy, busy, busy.  I’m still not really sure how I’m going to survive February.

2016 Best of Metal List #1

Fates Warning-Theories of Flight

And we’ve reached the glorious end of the list for 2016!  Thanks so much for sticking in there and seeing this thing to the very end.  Hopefully this last album will hit you in the guts like it did me.

Fates Warning is one of those bands that has just hovered underneath the consciousness of the Metal world.  Starting out in the mid-80’s as a kind of power/thrash metal hybrid, they grew into one of the strongest proponents of prog metal going.  Their heyday from the late 80’s to mid-90’s saw some very ambitious releases that seriously raised the bar for the prog metal sub-genre.  Awaken the Guardian, No Exit, Perfect Symmetry, Parallels, and A Pleasant Shade of Grey are all hallmark albums.  Leader Jim Matheos is just a master of crafting technically brilliant songs that also pack a very emotional punch.  His blending of melodically beautiful passages with jaw-dropping technical chops are not matched by many.

Fates had been somewhat put on the back burner for a few years as its members have explored side projects.  Fates has also seen a number of line-up changes over the past few years with the stalwarts of guitarist Matheos and lead singer, Ray Alder leading the charge.  The addition of Armored Saint bassist Joey Vera and journeyman drummer, Bobby Jarzombek has resulted in a very formidable group of musicians.

A couple of years ago, Fates came back with their first album in quite some time entitled, Darkness in a Different Light.  It contained some decent songs, but overall, I was a tad underwhelmed by it.  When I heard they were releasing a new album this year, I had tempered expectations.  Maybe that is part of the reason I was so taken with the final product.  This album grabbed with in a way no other album did this year.  This is classic Fates.  A long emotional journey told with skill that isn’t matched by many bands going today.  I don’t think you’ll find a better pairing that Matheos’ crunchy guitar sound, Alder’s soaring vocals and the solid rhytms pounded out by Vera and Jarzombek.

I hope you enjoy the following track.  Hopefully you’ve found some new music to pique your interest over the course of this list.  Keep coming back in the coming year.  I plan on checking in with new album reviews and concerts that I’m lucky enough to attend.  February of 2017 is already shaping up to be a monster concert month.

Have a lovely New Year’s Eve!  Be safe and enjoy your people.

The final list:

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

20.  The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation

19.  Russian Circles-Guidance

18.  Anciients-Voice of the Void

17.  Abbath-Abbath

16.  Death Angel-The Evil Divide

15.  John Wesley-a way you’ll never be

14.  Black Crown Initiate-Selves We Cannot Forgive

13.  Opeth-Sorceress

12.  Gojira-Magma

11.  Sumac-What One Becomes

10.  Scorpion Child-Acid Roulette

9.  Neurosis-Fires Within Fires

8.  Khemmis-Hunted

7.  Goatess-II: Purgatory Under New Management

6.  Testament-Brotherhood of the Snake

5.  Insomnium-Winter’s Gate

4.  Kvelertak-Nattesferd

3.  If These Trees Could Talk-Bones of a Dying World

2.  Anthrax-For All Kings

1.  Fates Warning-Theories of Flight

#FatesWarning #Anthrax #IfTheseTreesCouldTalk #Kvelertak #Insomnium #Testament #Goatess #Khemmis #Neurosis #ScorpionChild #Sumac #Gojira #Opeth #BlackCrownInitiate #JohnWesley #DeathAngel #Abbath #Anciients #RussianCircles #DillingerEscapePlan #Metallica

2016 Best of Metal List #2

Anthrax-For All Kings

Image result for anthrax for all kings

If anything, 2016 should really be known as the year that the 80’s thrash pioneers all came back in full force.  Metallica, Testament and Death Angel all released albums that have ended up on my list.  Even though they didn’t quite make the list, Megadeth came back with a really solid album, Dystopia. It’s really heartening to me to see so many bands this late in their careers release really solid and relevant albums.

Of the 80’s thrash bands to put out amazing albums this year, Anthrax managed to outdo them all.  Anthrax was a centerpiece band for me during my formative high school years.  I loved their hyper-aggressive style combined with the irreverent stage presence they brought to their live shows.  They were always a band that understood that live performances should always be fun.  Sadly, throughout the 90’s and early 00’s, Anthrax was a band that seemed to lose their way.  Once the grunge scene exploded, Anthrax just seemed to be grasping at straws to find out where they fit.  They hired John Bush from Armored Saint to take over on vocals and even though I’m a huge John Bush fan, he just never really seemed to gel with the rest of the band.  There are a lot of solid moments from the Bush-era albums, but they just never reached the pinnacle of Anthrax’s earlier career. In 2011, Anthrax finally got back with long-time front man, Joey Belladonna and released Worship Music.  This album was a breath of fresh air for me and proved to be a renaissance for the band.

The new album is a truly ambitious return to form for Anthrax and builds upon the momentum they created with Worship Music.  Interviews with the band directly credit the Big Four shows (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax), as to kickstarting the new found energy within the band.  Seeing them perform live earlier this year was exciting.  The band is clearly enjoying themselves again and seem very proud of the pure metal they have been creating again over the past few years.  Here’s to hoping they can keep harnessing whatever inspiration has been pushing them forward.

Attached is one of the album’s tracks.  This one is a bit of a different song for Anthrax.  A little more on the epic side of things.  Also, the video is pretty gruesome.  Squeamish folks may want to look away while listening.

The list so far:

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

20.  The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation

19.  Russian Circles-Guidance

18.  Anciients-Voice of the Void

17.  Abbath-Abbath

16.  Death Angel-The Evil Divide

15.  John Wesley-a way you’ll never be

14.  Black Crown Initiate-Selves We Cannot Forgive

13.  Opeth-Sorceress

12.  Gojira-Magma

11.  Sumac-What One Becomes

10.  Scorpion Child-Acid Roulette

9.  Neurosis-Fires Within Fires

8.  Khemmis-Hunted

7.  Goatess-II:  Purgatory Under New Management

6.  Testament-Brotherhood of the Snake

5.  Insomnium-Winter’s Gate

4.  Kvelertak-Nattesferd

3.  If These Trees Could Talk-Bones of a Dying World

2.  Anthrax-For All Kings

2016 Best of Metal List #3

If These Trees Could Talk-Bones of a Dying World

This Ohio sextet hasn’t been creating music for very long, but every album they have released in their brief career has been full of magic.  This is another instrumental group and they are the second group to make the list that employs a three guitar attack.  They really make good use of all three guitars as well.  Each one has their individual assignment as to what texture they bring to the songs and it creates a full soundscape.  Guitarist #1 handles the underlying power riffs that make up the foundation of the song.  Guitarist #2 provides a clean sound that works as the main melody.  Finally, Guitarist #3 supplies a subtle textured tremolo that lays over top of the melody line and adds that extra level of contour that rounds out the sound.  The bassist and drummer are simply solid as providing the needed structure to pull the entire thing together.  I have high hopes for these guys.

I was lucky enough to catch them play an intimate set on the inside stage at The Sidewinder this past summer.  This was their very first proper tour and the songs really came to life in a live setting.

Enjoy this taste of the new album and become transfixed by the hypnotic nature of their song craft.

The list so far:

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

20.  The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation

19.  Russian Circles-Guidance

18.  Anciients-Voice of the Void

17.  Abbath-Abbath

16.  Death Angel-The Evil Divide

15.  John Wesley-a way you’ll never be

14.  Black Crown Initiate-Selves We Cannot Forgive

13.  Opeth-Sorceress

12.  Gojira-Magma

11.  Sumac-What One Becomes

10.  Scorpion Child-Acid Roulette

9.  Neurosis-Fires Within Fires

8.  Khemmis-Hunted

7.  Goatess-II: Purgatory Under New Management

6.  Testament-Brotherhood of the Snake

5.  Insomnium-Winter’s Gate

4.  Kvelertak-Nattesferd

3.  If These Trees Could Talk-Bones of a Dying World

2016 Best of Metal List #4

Kvelertak-Nattesferd

Whenever I first meet people and they ask me what type of music that I listen to and I say “Metal”, a lot of the time I get a response along the lines of “Eww, I don’t like that stuff.  I can’t understand what the singer is saying.”  Well, you sad little sourpuss, have I got the band for you!  Take your favorite old Kiss riffs, but kick Paul Stanley out on his ass and replace him with a crazy no-shirt-wearing Norseman who screams the lyrics in Norwegian and you basically have Kvelertak.  Just forget trying to decipher what the dude is screaming and just feel the energy and power of the songs.  This is the essence of Metal.

Now on their third album, these guys are the pure definition of a good time.  Perfecting their own special brand of “black n’ roll” (classic and/or punk rock riffs combined with black metal vocal style) and a three guitar attack, I dare you to listen to this album and not immediately feel your facial hair growing in thicker.  You may even feel a strange need to start wearing a denim vest and combat boots.  This is another band who hasn’t made a U.S. trek as of yet in support of the new album, but if they do, put on your metal’s finest, raise your fist in the air and get ready to ROCK!!

Give a listen.  This whole album just screams nostalgia to me for the good time metal of the 70’s and 80’s.

The list so far:

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

20.  The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation

19.  Russian Circles-Guidance

18.  Anciients-Voice of the Void

17.  Abbath-Abbath

16.  Death Angel-The Evil Divide

15.  John Wesley-a way you’ll never be

14.  Black Crown Initiate-Selves We Cannot Forgive

13.  Opeth-Sorceress

12.  Gojira-Magma

11.  Sumac-What One Becomes

10.  Scorpion Child-Acid Roulette

9.  Neurosis-Fires Within Fires

8.  Khemmis-Hunted

7.  Goatess-II: Purgatory Under New Management

6.  Testament-Brotherhood of the Snake

5.  Insomnium-Winter’s Gare

4.  Kvelertak-Nattesferd

2016 Best of Metal List #5

Insomnium-Winter’s Gate

We’ve reached the Top 5 for 2016.  If I was a Grammy voter, these would be my nominees for Album of the Year.

We are starting with an ambitious album from Finland’s Insomnium.  I’ve been a fan of these guys from the early days of their career.  They have been a consistent force in the Scandinavian melodic death metal scene since their inception in 2002.  I have to say that their past couple of releases haven’t quite measured up to their earlier output and I was a little worried that the new album would follow suit in being decent, but not great.  They decided to try something a bit different with the new album in that it consists of a sole track of around 40 minutes in length.  Bands have tried this sort of thing before and many times it just ends up sounding like separate tracks consolidated under one title.  It’s rare for a band to actually pull off composing a single coherent track that is justly viewed as a single song.  Insomnium pulled this feat off with Winter’s Gate and truly delivered one of 2016 truly memorable albums.  The tale involves a group of Vikings (of course) bravely a treacherous frozen sea in search of a fabled island.

You’ll need to set aside a decent block of time to enjoy this one, but I assure you that it is well worth the effort.  I’m really hoping they make the trek across the Atlantic to play this thing in full for us in the States.

The list so far:

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

20.  The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation

19.  Russian Circles-Guidance

18.  Anciients-Voice of the Void

17.  Abbath-Abbath

16.  Death Angel-The Evil Divide

15.  John Wesley-a way you’ll never be

14.  Black Crown Initiate-Selves We Cannot Forgive

13.  Opeth-Sorceress

12.  Gojira-Magma

11.  Sumac-What One Becomes

10.  Scorpion Child-Acid Roulette

9.  Neurosis-Fires Within Fires

8.  Khemmis-Hunted

7.  Goatess-II: Purgatory Under New Management

6.  Testament-Brotherhood of the Snake

5.  Insomnium-Winter’s Gate

2016 Best of Metal List #6

Testament-Brotherhood of the Snake

Ooofff.  This one is a sucker punch to the gut.  Testament has not been messing around over the past few albums.  It’s rare for a band this far into their career to come out of the gates this much of a snarling, hungry beast as Testament has on this album.  This platter just operates with a confidence earned through slogging through the pits for close to 30 y ears. Peterson’s guitar riffs grab you by the throat and Skolnick’s leads add a classiness to the proceedings.  This is thrash in its purest form.  Pull up a seat and enjoy a slab of Metal’s finest.

The attached track just gives me the warm and fuzzies.  Pure aggression in musical form.

The list so far:

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

20.  The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation

19.  Russian Circles-Guidance

18.  Anciients-Voice of the Void

17.  Abbath-Abbath

16.  Death Angel-The Evil Divide

15.  John Wesley-a way you’ll never be

14.  Black Crown Initiate-Selves We Cannot Forgive

13.  Opeth-Sorceress

12.  Gojira-Magma

11.  Sumac-What One Becomes

10.  Scorpion Child-Acid Roulette

9.  Neurosis-Fires Within Fires

8.  Khemmis-Hunted

7.  Goatess-II: Purgatory Under New Management

6.  Testament-Brotherhood of the Snake

2016 Best of Metal List #7

Goatess-II:Purgatory Under New Management

Winner of the best album title of the year.  Soooo….I’m going out on a limb and guess that at least one of the members of this band has listened to Black Sabbath.

If you are a Sabbath fan, you will probably enjoy this record.  There are many, many, many Sabbath clones out in the world today.  The retro-Metal movement is saturated and it takes someone with either a different spin or a really polished presentation to stand above the majority of the rabble.  Goatess falls into this latter category.  They aren’t breaking any new ground, but, dammit, they have a slab of some really catchy songs.  Their lead singer used to front doom mainstays, St. Vitus, for a spell.  His voice is downright Osbournian.

Once again, not much touring out of these boys.  Hopefully that will change in the near future.

In the meantime, check out the following title track.

The list so far:

20(a) Metallica-Hardwired…To Self Destruct

20.  The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation

19.  Russian Circles-Guidance

18.  Anciients-Voice of the Void

17.  Abbath-Abbath

16.Death Angel-The Evil Divide

15.  John Wesley-a way you’ll never be

14.  Black Crown Initiate-Selves We Cannot Forgive

13.  Opeth-Sorceress

12.  Gojira-Magma

11.  Sumac-What One Becomes

10.  Scorpion Child-Acid Roulette

9.  Neurosis-Fires Within Fires

8.  Khemmis-Hunted

7.  Goatess-II:  Purgatory Under New Management

2016 Best of Metal List #8

Khemmis-Hunted

Here’s one of those albums from a band that just seemed to materialize out of nowhere. This happens every year and I just love it.  A band that I have never heard of just comes out with a monumental album.  The only thing that I really know about these guys is that they are from Colorado and deal in the Metal of the doom and stoner variety.  Heavy, sludgy riff upon riff together with some seriously epic songwriting.  Just look at that album cover.  You just know there is going to be a lyric about a dude getting his head caved in by a battle axe.  The closest thing I can compare them to is Pallbearer, except with a little more pep and a mix of death vocals.

The good news is that this album is getting seriously good press and is showing up on a ton of year-end lists.  I hope this exposure leads to a bright future for these young lads.

The attached track will give you a nice taste of what to expect from this album.

The list so far:

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

20.  The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociatioin

19.  Russian Circles-Guidance

18.  Anciients-Voice of the Void

17.  Abbath-Abbath

16.  Death Angel-The Evil Divide

15.  John Wesley-a way you’ll never be

14.  Black Crown Initiate-Selves We Cannot Forgive

13.  Opeth-Sorceress

12.  Gojira-Magma

11.  Sumac-What One  Becomes

10.  Scorpion Child-Acid Roulette

9.  Neurosis-Fires Within Fires

8.  Khemmis-Hunted

2016 Best of Metal List #9

Neurosis-Fires Within Fires

Mighty, mighty Neurosis comes back strong.  Well, honestly, did you really expect anything else?  These guys are another band that dispenses pain and misery in a really cathartic manner.  Definitely not an album you are going to throw on during a summer day at the lake.  Well, maybe, I would.  But, I’m kind of messed up.

This newest effort, release on September 23, is a little more stripped to the bone.  Consisting of only five songs, it is streamlined with no way of filler.  The songs are direct and to the point.  It really feels like a much more cohesive and less meandering effort than their last album.  It looks like their touring schedule on this album is a little more limited this time around.  If they make an appearance in your city, jump at the chance to see them perform live.  They are one of the really good live bands out there.

Attached track will illuminate the pain.

The list so far:

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

20.  The Dillinger Escape Plan-Dissociation

19.  Russian Circles-Guidance

18.  Anciients-Voice of the Void

17.  Abbath-Abbath

16.  Death Angel-The Evil Divide

15.  John Wesley-a way you’ll never be

14.  Black Crown Initiate-Selves We Cannot Forgive

13.  Opeth-Sorceress

12.  Gojira-Magma

11.  Sumac-What One Becomes

10.  Scorpion Child-Acid Roulette

9.  Neurosis-Fires Within Fires