Vulgar Display of Power (1992) by Pantera

Categories: 1992 and Music.

I have not heard Cowboys from Hell but I have a hard time imagining that it’s significantly better than this onslaught of a record. I have no idea if this was is one of the first proper groove metal records (I doubt it) but, listening to it, it’s hard to imagine one that’s more definitive: with the exception of two semi-ballads that briefly suggest we’re in for a break (and then pummel us), this is wall to wall thrash metal with a groove (at times it actually sounds like Metallica with a groove). Also, I hear so many echoes of Read More

Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? (1986) by Megadeath

Categories: 1986 and Music.

Megadeath have been on my list of essential 80s bands to listen to for years, possibly a decade or more. And now that I’m finally getting to them I’m so, so disappointed I don’t really know what to say. This is some pretty damn heavy music for 1986, and that part is good and cool. But I don’t like Mustaine – I don’t like the guy personally, which is probably obvious, but I don’t like his lyrics, they’re worse than regular metal lyrics. And the mix forces his vocals way up front which makes everything less heavy. Having come at Read More

Bullhead (1991) by Melvins

Categories: 1991 and Music.

I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to like Melvins. They make loud music, I like loud music. They have charted their own course regardless of record industry trends. They have collaborated with members of one of my favourite bands. But this, my introduction to the band, and likely one of their most seminal albums, strikes me as quite one note. I get that this is sort of the point (at least at this stage) but I don’t like my metal one-note. I get that this is likely an important record, and I hope that I can give it a little more Read More

From Fear to Eternity: The Best of 1990-2010 (2011) by Iron Maiden

Categories: 1990, 1992, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2010, and 2011.

I accidentally picked this up thinking it was a compilation of their ’80s music. Ah well. I learned a couple of things from this record: First, Iron Maiden has a formula and they stuck to it (at least on the songs considered their “best”). Second, I should never get a live Iron Maiden album. It’s pretty clear from listening to this record that Maiden is just milking their sound for all its worth. Sure, some of these songs are pretty catchy and everything is very professional and competent, but so many of these songs follow the exact same formula. And Read More

Arise (1991) by Sepultura

Categories: 1991 and Music.

This is a solid Thrash record. It’s got some great playing and it’s pretty relentless. But I struggle to love it as much as I would like to knowing that they would go on to better things very shortly. And there are only brief hints of their expansive palette of later records that make this kind of samey, which is too its detriment. But I don’t actually dislike it – it’s great stuff, it’s just not quite as good as their later stuff. 7/10 Read More

Metal Evolution (2011)

Categories: 2011 and TV.

This is an in depth examination of metal by the man most associated with covering metal on film (though I have yet to see either of his movies). The positive side of this show is that it is a landmark: I don’t think there’s anything like it out there to focus on just a single genre of music. It’s an in depth, it’s informative, it’s enjoyable. The negative: despite it’s length, it somehow manages to miss a bunch of major subgenres (Black, Death, Stoner, Grindcore) but it also feels cursory in its examination of some major bands (FNM!). Also, the Read More

Killers (1981) by Iron Maiden

Categories: 1981 and Music.

I like this record, I do. But I can’t escape the feeling that I’ve heard this all before. This record sounds a lot better than their debut and that is great. But it’s no surprise to learn a lot of the music was written earlier and didn’t make the cut of the debut. It’s like their Strange Days – the band sounds more self-assured, everything is better produced, but the material just isn’t quite as good. 8/10 Read More

Come Clarity (2006) by In Flames

Categories: 2006 and Music.

Call me crazy, but of the two In Flames releases I’ve heard, I like this one more. It feels a little more varied than the other album of theirs that I’ve managed to listen to, and it feels like the band may have some (slight) versatility. This is still not my favourite stuff – the melodic vocals too often remind me of post grunge, for example – but I can appreciate their attempt to expand their boundaries (if only slightly) more than when it sounded like they were resting on their laurels. 7/10 Read More

Clayman (2000) by In Flames

Categories: 2000 and Music.

I struggle with a lot of the name metal bands out there because it feels like it’s not only acceptable but expected for metal bands to one thing (or, in this case, a couple things) well, stick to it.  But that doesn’t work for me. My favourite bands are almost all diverse; for whatever reason I like it more when a band can do many things well or even when a band tries to convince itself and its fans that it can do many things well, even if it sometimes fails in the attempt. And so I find myself listening Read More

Skullgrid (2007) by Behold…the Arctopus

Categories: 2007 and Music.

This is some utterly bonkers playing. These guys are clearly incredible musicians. Just incredible. But it’s half an hour of (almost) exclusively bonkers riffs and nothing else. There are a few moments (such as on “Canada”) when they move out of their (admittedly extremely difficult) comfort zone, but for the most part, these guys just shred and shred and shred. And eventually it gets kind of boring…or numbing. Anyway, extremely impressive from a musicianship perspective. But lacking in restraint (and songs). 7/10 Read More

Rust in Peace (1990) by Megadeth

Categories: 1990 and Music.

I have listened to a fair amount of Metallica and so I guess that instantly puts me in a “hey, this doesn’t sound like Metallica?” mindset which isn’t helpful. I feel like there is more of an influence on precision in this band, then the heaviness plus precision of some other bands. It’s a little too clean for me, I think. But that’s not to say there’s something wrong with it/I feel like, had I gotten into this early in my metal-listening career, I might have been a little more into it. It’s clearly a well done record, despite my Read More

House of Secrets (2004) by Otep

Categories: 2004 and Music.

Not having heard the initial album, where she apparently rapped, I can’t say what exactly about this is supposed to be nu metal (though I’m hardly a nu metal expert). To me it sounds more like what I might call emo metal, way to metal to be emo, but way to artsy fartsy to be straight up metal. Also, it’s signicantly more hardcore (or rather metalcore, yuk yuk yuk) than most nu metal I’ve heard.The relatively straight-forward metal is made less enjoyable by the sheer ponderousness and pretention of the concept, which makes me wish that some people just weren’t Read More

OU818 (1989) by Mr. Bungle

Categories: 1989 and Music.

This demo, their last before their major deal, starts out as a not very funny parody of a hip hop mix tape. Most of the actual musical material made it to the debut, and a lot of it is somewhat close to the sound of said debut, minus the production: the sound is clearly not up the Warner debut quality but also there is ample evidence that the band needed a producer (as in a person who would edit their work and tell them what works and what wouldn’t). And that may seem like an odd thing given that their Read More

Bowel of Chiley (1987) by Mr. Bungle

Categories: 1987 and Music.

This second Bungle demo is a lot closer to their “mature” sound than the first (if you can call early ’90s Bungle “mature”) but they kind of sound like a metal-influenced Camper van Beethoven on crack here. I guess that doesn’t give full credit to their weirdness – even at this early stage they were significantly weirder than CVB, but if CVB really was an influence on Bungle (and I can’t help but think they were) this demo reeks of that influence more than anything else they ever recorded. It’s way crazier than CVB ever got, but it’s also a Read More

The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny (1986) by Mr. Bungle

Categories: 1986 and Music.

Bungle’s first demo shows very little of the signs of their late demos that they were something unique in music, reviving a sound that had been dead since the late ’60s. And that’s weird. The demo is almost totally straight-up Metallica / Anthrax, albeit with a sense of humour that those bands never had. (Also, I hear Motorhead, but that comes through the Metallica influence. And there’s a death metal influence, I think.) The production quality is terrible. Only two songs on the album suggest this is not your typical thrash metal band: “Hypocrites”, a sort of ska pop song Read More

Lemmy (2010, Greg Oliver, Wes Orshoski)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

This is an engaging, entertaining and warm-hearted documentary about one of rock and roll’s most notorious survivors. It’s got all sorts of entertaining anecdotes from all over the music industry – and from outside the industry as well. Some of the people in the film seem odd choices for interviews, but I guess that’s where we are now. Some of the claims about Motorhead are downright ridiculous – multiple people claim Motorhead were, along with Black Sabbath, the first heavy metal band of all time (Motorhead’s debut was when exactly? 1969? What? 1977? Really? That’s odd.) – but musicians can’t Read More

Secret Chiefs 3 Live at the Drake Hotel, May 24, 2013

Categories: 2013 and Music.

So I have been a fan of SC3 since sometime in the early 2000s, but I had never seen them live and – due to my music addiction making music money scarce – I had not kept up with their musical output past 2004’s Book of Horizons, where the satellite band “concept” first came to the fore. I was unaware that the band still tours as these satellite bands, so I didn’t realize exactly what I was getting into. What I mean to say is that I should have booked tickets for both the May 24th concert and the May Read More

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008, Sacha Gervasi)

Categories: 2008 and Movies.

This really is Spinal Tap. Many years ago friends of mine dragged me to a metal show in Montreal (headlined, I believe, by Helloween). There were four bands, some better (or at least less bad) than others. But at one point, one of the bands launched into a “fantasy metal” song with narration. Aside from the missing embarrassingly small copy of Stonehenge, it was pretty much straight out of the “Stonehenge” scene from Spinal Tap. Life was imitating art. But only two of us in the entire place seemed to be aware of that. The story of Anvil has so Read More

In Rock (1970) by Deep Purple

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Deep Purple always seem to be the third wheel in the “(un)Holy Trinity of British [first wave] Heavy Metal”. Certainly if we are to judge by influence on the genre today, there’s no touching Sabbath, but if we go back in time to pre-BNWHM Zeppelin was the band. I think that undersells Purple’s role somewhat, as we can trace most metal genres to one of the three: black, doom, sludge, etc and the fascination with death to Sabbath; folk, world, funk, thrash etc and the fascination with fantasy novels to Zep; and hair, prog and “neo-classical” etc and the careless Read More

Until the Light Takes Us (2008, Audrey Ewell, Aaron Aites)

Categories: 2008 and Movies.

Here is a subject seemingly perfect for a documentary: why the founders of Norwegian black metal were compelled to commit the crimes that they did. And here are interviews with many of the principals which would also seem great fodder for a documentary: they are remarkably candid. And yet the film just doesn’t work: it is badly edited and paced, horribly over-scored (sometimes with music that seems ridiculously inappropriate to the subject), features some truly ridiculous location titles (“Oslo, Noway” is followed by “Oslo, Norway”…) and barely gives any sense of context if you are not from Norway, or if Read More

Devin Townsend Project live at the Opera House, September 19, 2012

Categories: 2012 and Music.

Though I enjoy metal – particularly some of the music that is labeled “alt metal” – I can’t say I eat up the relatively straightforward or traditional stuff, or the stuff that insists on playing only one micro-genre exclusively. It has been over 8 years since my last metal show, a show involving Helloween (and three other bands I can’t remember), and a show that gave me no desire to go see another one. (One of the opening acts did a very great / terrible impersonation of “Stonehenge” at one point; no it was not intentional.) However, I have been Read More

RIP: Jon Lord

Categories: Music and RIP.

Jon Lord was one of the earliest rock keyboardists – along with people like Keith Emerson – to attempt to fuse so-called “classical” music (actually it was usually romantic) with rock. He convinced his band, Deep Purple, to cover Richard Strauss, among others, to include his string and wind arrangements, and to eventually perform his “Concerto for Group and Orchestra” (certainly one of the inspirations for Metallica’s experiment with a symphony). All of this occurred before Deep Purple decided to try out (the early version of) heavy metal instead. After this change in direction, Lord was certainly one of the Read More