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Album Review: TBA

Monday, January 30, 2012

Album Review: Corrosion Of Conformity - Corrosion Of Conformity

Pepper Keenan is another of those men with fingers in pies. If were the apple of his eye, then would be his sweet, sweet potato. His determined commitment to one or the other inevitably leads to a clash of interests and, sadly, this self-titled album is missing his influence. Despite rumors to the contrary, the band have finally buckled after one too many album-less years and forged ahead to create a new opus as just a three-piece, with Mike Dean leading the charge on vocals. As a kind of makeweight, it’s a thrill to see drummer Reed Mullin back on board, so recreating the line-up that produced the band’s breakthrough album, Animosity.

If you follow the band’s timeline and line-up changes, it was inevitable that this release was always going to be a return to the days before Keenan helped tweak their sound. So it is that much has changed, one of the agitators being the harsher recording which has been stripped back to the barest of bones. However, what this shift of stance has done is kickstart that 80s punk/hardcore vibe which so set fire to their early career; back when their albums bulged with virile, feisty ragers that gobbed in your face. The trio have also found time to chuck in a 70s rock n’ roll vibe to boot, perfect fodder for Woody Weatherman’s hungry guitar, until they’ve reached, by hook or by crook, the crossroads where meets via , , and . Yep, try sticking that lot on at once and see what you get.

For the old school metal warrior with a penchant for retrospection, this self-titled will be like being wonderfully dragged back in time. The flurry of hardcore aggression that crawls over “Leeches” and the snot-smeared punk attitude of “Psychic Vampire”, “River Of Stone” and “Rat City” (God only knows why ’s “Car Chase City” keeps coming to mind when I hear this) properly kick out the jams to connect with the spirit of those early COC albums. Dean’s reverb-soaked vocal goes on to peak at cosmic levels for “Your Tomorrow” before reaching a disengaged, querulous low during “What You Despise Is What You Have Become”. It’s all an experience that may prove a little confusing for those newcomers to the band. Fear ye not though, my stoner friends, for there are still little moments of bliss to be found – here, within the wallowing, mellow blues of “The Doom”, then here, following the curiously -like swagger of “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here” (where Dean summons some fiery Cornell passion into his aging vocal cords), and here, attached to the luxuriant, twangy instrumental of “El Lamento De Las Cabras”.

Try comparing their last release and my personal favorite, 2005′s In The Arms Of God, with this collection though, and the whole charade begins to fall apart. Dean’s sharper, less-attractive howl is a tough thing to accept when you consider what might have been. That hole left by Keenan’s linear guitar skills and deep, throaty power (the perfect accompaniment to the band’s more recent shift to breathing forth heavy-lidded, dirty blues and gurgling psych soliloquies) is gaping. It’s all to do with personal taste, of course, but Keenan just seems the far stronger singer, even when it comes to smashing up the neighborhood and breaking the speed limit. With Dean dredging the music of times past, this just feels so… dated.

So it seems, then, that your level of enjoyment is probably going to be dictated by when you first fell in love with . If you’re someone who prefers a dash of Pepper with your chow, then this crackerjack-strewn skid-pan might be a bit too much to stomach. However, if you’re a fan of that early-COC punch, then this will be exactly that, a shot in the arm.

Also online @ The NewReview =

Friday, January 20, 2012

Album Review: Lamb Of God - Resolution

This month ’s enigmatic frontman, Randy Blythe, launched a campaign via his blog, Randonesia, to be America’s next President. Considering the timing of the announcement, with the release of the band’s new album Resolution just days away, it’s quite clearly a tongue-in-cheek PR stunt. The question here though is will the album prove as determined as his campaign?

Historically, these Virginian heavyweights rarely fall short when it comes to honing real quality. As their album output has developed from sinister slabs of misguided anger into a study in the art of attack, they have built up a portfolio of killer material second to none. Following the raw bludgeon of their early efforts, including most notably As The Palaces Burn, where speeding cantankerous hardcore was doused in that signature cyclical death metal groove, they went on to hit the motherload when they also threw anthem-fuelled hard rock onto the flaming pile. Cue the utterly masterful assault course of Ashes Of The Wake which fed us neatly into the instant addiction provided by, first Sacrament with those half-spat shards and endorphin-loaded hooks, and then Wrath with its exploratory flashes of brilliance and swaggering ability to create memorable monsters. Consequently, the longing for Resolution and the continuation of discovery has become steadily unbearable.

Resolution divides its time between disconsolately hammering your brains out with spiked aggression and then piping through deeply-rutted rhythms that toss and turn themselves into yet more hook-in-mouth bloodlust. It takes the old, uncomplicated malevolence of As The Palaces Burn and combines it with the hands-to-the-heavens glory of Sacrament and Wrath. All this means yet more of those verses that jaggedy-jaggedy-jaggedy along, before rockstar-pausing to explode with a wham-bam-thankyou-mam into the colossus that is the chorus. Randy Blythe owns these parts with his earth-shattering whoops and throaty rasps that invigorate with their intensity, each one containing coherent, slick lyrics that demand repetition and naturally provide the opportunity for plenty of heartfelt hollerbacks. When they grubbily fall flat it is disappointing to find these sequences flooding a track to bursting point yet again but, when they shed the dirt and fire on all cylinders, there is nothing in metal today that gets the blood pumping faster. Such is the fine line that now find themselves treading, though only a true hater would dare suggest that, given their history and the talent on show, they are a one-trick pony.

We always knew he was a legend-in-waiting but, by actually getting fully-involved in the whole process of making an album (i.e.; not nipping off to indulge in his other projects whilst the band lay down the backing tracks), Randy has finally revealed his true value to the band by injecting more haranguing invective and raw-throated intensity than ever before. He warms hugely to his lyrics here, tugging at themes of self-destruction and isolation, with the album title left implying something much wider than just the political statement that the cover and a couple of the tracks suggest, and he delivers them with the conviction of a madman. The other tour-de-force here is Chris Adler. His rampaging drums do the work of two; an army of machine-gun peppering kicks loaded into a world of polyrhythmic intersplicing that will leave you gasping for air. He is a machine and with Resolution he finds yet another level to impress at.

Dug in amongst all this we get yet more progressive elements to savour. They lurk in tracks like “The Number Six” and “King Me” and add something spicy to the melting pot. The former plumps for gang chants and half-whispered messages (redolent of ’s “Crack Hitler”) whilst “King Me” is on a whole other level. There’s more portentous, hushed vocal but here it’s given an operatic backing (producer Josh Wilbur’s suggestion which should be roundly applauded) and the soaring dark heart, where Randy turns himself into an anvil-topped storm cloud, boiling and bubbling into a destructive twister that threatens to rip the top of your head off and suck out the contents, is mesmeric. When he finally blows himself out, you can actually hear the man collapse.

Other more intuitive tracks like the thrashy rumblings (where meets ) of “Guilty” and “Visitation”, the hunk of molten metalcore that forms “Cheated”, or the jerky, bawled punk of “Invictus” provide solid, if unspectacular, padding to absorb the smack of the money-shots like “Desolation”, “Ghost Walking”, “The Undertow” and “Insurrection”. They may be the album weak points, but they aren’t those obviously jarring dips in quality that your average album carries around as bulk.

In fact, considering the quantity of variation within, from the long doomy opening blast, via the snatch of acoustic riffing, to the snippet of clean vocal harmony, there is much keep you coming back for further listens over and over again. In fact, you’ll be amazed to hear they’ve even managed to in (pun intended) some bluesy stoner rock with “To The End”.

All this and yet the flow of the album is superb with parallel tracks linked together with re-worked riffs or just fiendishly simple wordplay and, with fourteen songs to run through, there’s plenty of bang for your buck. Okay, there is still the sense that they’ve held back, yet again, on really twisting our melons with something from left-field, and pound for pound it’s not got the star quality of say Ashes Of The Wake or Sacrament, but then it’s not lagging too far behind. An essential purchase, though? Well, put it this way, if I was an American citizen, I’d be voting for Randy!

Also online @ The NewReview =

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Article: Writer's Picks For 2012

I was recently commissioned to highlight a couple of bands with forthcoming albums that, for the coming year, were getting me a little hot under the collar. I plumped for these two...

When a new musical style begins to form, it’s rare that many take notice until it is well and truly established. This hardly seems to have been the case for the onomatopoeically-termed genre of ‘djent’. It first appeared in the early noughties, inspired by the signature palm-muted string hammering of the Swedish metal band Meshuggah, and has rapidly grown into a goliath with new bands piling on board each and every year. India’s Skyharbor and England’s The Safety Fire are two you may not yet have come across. Both have debut albums popping up in 2012 and both promise to be real game-changers. Having seen and heard the the former’s numerous little burps and squeaks popping up on various media sites of late and having experienced the latter’s storming “Sections EP” and explosive live show, I for one am already experiencing palpatations at the prospect of the pair taking djent to the next level.

Skyharbor will release the debut album ‘Blinding White Noise: Illusion & Chaos’ worldwide via Basick Records in early 2012.
You can listen to a sample of what they do here:

The Safety Fire will release their debut album ‘Grind The Ocean' via InsideOut Music on February 27th, 2012.

This short piece also appears online @ TLOBF =