You gotta face the facts, you will never be as cool as Ice-T. Never. He came from the streets of Los Angeles to become an iconic figure of Hip-Hop, movies and television, and Metal music. For some people, it seems like there is no mountain they can’t climb, and Ice is one of those guys. Sure, he could chill and sit back on the Law and Order: SVU Special Victims Unit money, and all those royalties. In actuality, he has been working harder than ever on music the last decade-plus, specifically for his groundbreaking band Body Count. All the evidence you need is on their new album, Carnivore. (Century Media). Continue reading
Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of Metallica’s And Justice For All (August 25th for some lucky folks in Europe). It was technically amazing, featured great songwriting, and immediately divided the fans. Sure every Metallica album has been an intentional departure from the last (see also David Bowie, Madonna, Deftones), but this album definitely jarred the fanbase when it first dropped. Sure we’ve heard over and over about the lack of bass or the inaudible bass, the “let’s see you play this!” long songs of over the top technicality, and the rushed solos Kirk Hammett recorded. Still, it’s an incredible, mostly heavy document of the band in one sense at a peak they have yet to return to creatively. Let’s take a quick look back at And Justice For All…Continue reading
Thirteen years is a long time. And lots of things have happened in the time frame since Coal Chamber’s last album, 2002s Dark Days. Let’s see what’s different. Physical copies of albums don’t sell all that well. Boy bands gave way to something even more horrifying in Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. Rock Band and Guitar Hero were an odd fad. EDM unfortunately exploded onto the mainstream.
Oh and Nu-Metal was swapped out as the popular sub-genre by Metalcore and/or the New Wave of American Heavy Metal. Even Coal Chamber’s frontman Dez Fafara switched scenes and released six consistently solid albums with Devildriver.
So the question becomes what can Coal Chamber, Nu-Metal pioneers that suffered a fiery first death, offer this brave new world of extreme metal? In new album Rivals (Napalm Records) just maybe their strongest and most focused release ever.
Lead single ‘I.O.U. Nothing’ sets an aggressive and confident tone that permeates the following 38 minutes. And confidence is the right word here as Coal Chamber sound like a new band as opposed to one trying recapture its former glory. It’s all mid-tempo crunch from there on out with über-producer Mark Lewis providing a clean, but menacing mix. It’s public knowledge that their 2003 onstage demise was dramatic and highly amplified by substance abuse, but time does really seem to heal all wounds here. Dez and Co. have taken years of successful and momentum gaining reunion tours and channeled it on Rivals. For the faithful, ‘Suffer in Silence’ and ‘The Bridges you Burn’ are straight Nu-Metal rippers from when the genre had teeth instead of gimmicks. But there is musical progression as well, ‘Another Nail in the Coffin’ and the title track are more in sync with Devildriver’s punishing groove than channeling the 90s.
Not every blow connects, ‘Light in the Shadows’ and ‘Empty Handed’ feel more like afterthoughts or songs that couldn’t quite crack it on Dark Days. But the important take away in Rivals is the energy and level of commitment. Especially from a band that didn’t need to release a new record and continue touring. Drummer Mikey ‘Bug’ Cox and guitarist Miguel Rascon had been toying in other musical ventures for years and we all know what Fafara has been up to. They didn’t need to, but the great news is that they wanted to.
Rivals is a solid recording even if you didn’t take Coal Chamber or the sub-genre they had been associated with seriously. And in defense of Nu-Metal, for how many kids (myself included) was that a gateway drug to other bands? Maybe I wouldn’t have eventually learned of Relapse Records if I didn’t start with Korn and Mushroomhead first. Maybe there’s a great column waiting to be written on the importance of Nu-Metal, but that’s for another time.
So if not for the strong music, respect Rivals and Coal Chamber for being available to a new generation of young and hungry metalheads.
If there is ever a time I get to go on a great road trip (outside of Maryland Deathfest this year) I will be certainly cranking albums like King Hitter’s self titled debut EP. For those not familiar, King Hitter consists of Karl Agell on vocals (Corrosion of Conformity/COC BLIND/Leadfoot), Scott Little on guitar (Leadfoot), Mike Brown also on guitar (Cutterhead), Jon Chambliss sitting behind the set (S.L.A.M.), and Chuck Manning keeping up the low end on bass (S.L.A.M.). Overall, I liked the groovy, southern personality this group brings on their first EP. Karl’s vocals may not be the harsh vocals the heavy metal culture is accustomed to nowadays, but I find them to be fitting. Even if this EP only has five tracks on it, each one has its own feel and vibe which kept me interested throughout.
The first track, properly entitled ‘King Hitter’, is a great sample of what these guys have to offer. A great southern, bluesy feel while still keeping it groovy. Karl’s vocal hooks are also very catchy and listener’s will catch themselves head banging for sure. ‘Drone Again’ and ‘Feel No Pain’ increase the ante by getting a little heavier on the guitars and, at times, had sections of instrumentals that sounded like a punk rock band. ‘Suicide (is the Retirement Plan)’ wins the award for most clever song title of the month by a landslide as we hit the second half of the album. However, even if this EP is coming to an end, King Hitter does not wind down at all. Arguably one of the heaviest guitar riffs on the album comes in the verse of this song. Lastly, we have the most appropriate song title to end any album, ‘The End.’ The mood of this song swings more than pendulum which I though adds to the insanity of all endings really. Halfway through the track we get the most bluesy guitar solo I may have ever heard from a heavy metal band.
Overall I did enjoy this EP and I look forward to see what else King Hitter has to offer. For fans of bands like Corrosion of Conformity, Down, and even Volbeat, I feel you should check these guys out. Even if none of the aforementioned bands interest you, check out King Hitter.
Last week at Atlanta’s storied Masquerade Theater, the classic 90s lineup of Stuck Mojo reunited for one night. Consisting of Rich “The Duke” Ward on guitar, Bonz on vocals, Corey Lowery on bass and Frank Fontsere on drums, Stuck Mojo was an innovative and ground breaking band that was a peer to acts such as Korn, Deftones and Rage Against The Machine, but also had elements of thrash, grooves and guitar solos that allowed them to tour with Pantera, Machine Head, and local brethren Sevendust.
For the first time since 1998 Rich, Bonz, Corey and Frank were on been on stage together, laying down thunderous grooves, lyrics rife with political dissent, and playing all of their hits from albums like Snapping Necks, Pigwalk and Rising (all for Century Media), with Rising going on to sell an almost unheard of 3 million copies in the mid-nineties. Hopefully the interest for these standard bearers for power-groove and Nu-Metal will rise as well, and we will see more shows in the future.
Check out these fan filmed videos of the show:
Stuck Mojo on Facebook
Demilich –Nespithe (Necropolis, 1993)
After all the noise being made about the giants of Sweden and the USA, it’s about time the Finns got a look in. Although don’t look too closely as you may not escape with your sanity intact after any length of time exposed to Nespithe, the single album by Kuopio’s Demilich, a quartet who decided to take death metal, dissect it in the most painful and morbid ways possible before reassembling it with alien technologies. The riffs and guitar lines make Voïvod sound like AC/DC, so complex, mangled and downright weird are the time signatures. The percussion and bass guitar are restless and almost jazz like, and as for the bizarre, almost burped vocals (recorded with no effects) and long-winded sci-fi themed lyrics, no one apart from the band had any idea what was going on. Too weird to live, Demilich, have reformed and split several times since the release of this thirty-nine minute monument to madness and maybe, just maybe it’s for the best.
diSEMBOWELMENT – Transcendence Into the Peripheral (Relapse, 1993)
Surely the North of England, with its bleak moors, freezing temperatures and morbid ethos was the perfect setting for doom/death, especially when you take into account the impact of the Peaceville Northern Doom Trinity of My Dying Bride, Anathema and Paradise Lost, right? Well you’d be dead wrong, for the finest example of that genre, then and ever, crawled out of the Australian bush twenty years ago in the form of diSEMBOWELMENT, who with the utterly peerless Transcendence Into the Peripheral mashed death metal and doom together not in some harmonious accord, but more like a berserk Victor Frankenstein drunk on the horror of his own creation. Nightmarish, drawn out doom sections sap your energy and will before rabid grind-speed blasting parts appear out of nowhere to pin you to the wall and spit blood in your face before retreating back into the darkness, while the sinister melodies and tortured moaning vocals do their best to make things even worse. An endurance test that few make to the end of, Transcendence Into the Peripheral proved that location meant jack if you hated yourself enough to begin with.
Thergothon – Stream From the Heavens (Avantgarde, 1994)
Just when you thought that metal couldn’t get any slower or depressive sounding, along came a trio of Finns who had other ideas, all of them in different shades of black. They were known as Thergothon, and with the forty minutes of anguish and drawn-out misery they committed to tape in the beginning of 1994, they not only explored more of the abyss than ever before, but created an entire new genre; funeral doom. Characterised by one-note downstrokes, haunting, ethereal keyboards and vocals alternating between diseased death grunts and stark clean-sung laments, the music captured was so wrist-slashingly bleak it’s no surprise that the band called it a day soon after. The host of imitators spawned was inevitable, but none yet have come close to capturing the barren, disfigured beauty on offer here.
Mysticum – In the Streams of Inferno (Full Moon, 1996)
Black metal was in a tight spot in the late 90s with the old guard past their best and the new school more interested in vampires and bloodsucking than darkness and extremity so thank fuck for bands such as Norway’s Mysticum who decided that the way forward was to look to the future. However, this was a nightmarish, militaristic future of deadly guitar riffs, merciless programming in place of live drums and an aesthetic that was just as grim as anything the Helvete brigade could ever conceive of. In short, Cyber-Black Metal was born, and were it not for the utterly shoddy efforts of the bands that followed in Mysticum’s wake, the black metal landscape would look very different today. Doubt the quality of this recording? Then head over to the band’s website where it’s free for all to hear.
Floodgate – Penalty (Roadrunner, 1996)
If you thought that Down were the only stoner/doom band with a singer recruited from a thrash/groove act that mattered, then you’ve obviously never heard Floodgate, and shame on you. Featuring the mightily refined and recognisable pipes of Exhorder’s Kyle Thomas, Penalty is a timeless classic that will appeal to anyone with a passing interest in rock and metal. The songwriting is stellar, with the effortlessly catchy grooves of ‘Through My Days Into My Nights’ and the loose, flowing rhythms of ‘Shivering’ lodging into your brain for days afterwards. Heavy without being abrasive and always enjoyable, it’s a tragedy and a mystery that Floodgate only ever recorded one album given the talents and resources at their disposal. As it is, we only have Penalty but it’s a record that keeps on giving and will never let you down, and for that we should be thankful.
As Machine Head puts the finishing touches on their highly anticipated new album, their first for Nuclear Blast Entertainment, the band has announced a 21 city, headline tour of the North America this fall.
A terrific lineup comprised of the modern kings of Bay Area thrash as headliners, with Children of Bodom, Epica and Battlecross in tow promises to be a fine show with a little something for fans of different styles of metal.
Rob Flynn of Machine Head commented about the tour in a press release:
“Machine Head raised the bar with concert production for 2012 ‘s ‘Locust’ tour, and now we plan to raise the bar again with our biggest US show yet, and the strongest line-up out there for 2014, PERIOD! This is a MUST SEE event for any heavy metal fan in America! I am stoked that we were able to join up with our friends in Children Of Bodom, one of the premier power metal bands of our time, and our friends in Battlecross, who we toured with on Mayhem last year, and are going to bring the old-school thrash vibe. Epica’s symphonic metal will add a touch of much needed class to the drunken shenanigans that will surely take place on this raucous tour. Come out and be a part of history ladies and gentlemen!”
All tickets go on sale this Friday at 10 AM EST.
10/04/14 Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
10/06/14 Dallas, TX – House of Blues
10/07/14 Houston, TX – House of Blues
10/09/14 Orlando, FL – Hard Rock Live
10/10/14 Atlanta, GA – Masquerade
10/12/14 Philadelphia, PA – Electric Factory
10/14/14 Toronto, ON – The Sound Academy
10/15/14 Montreal, QC – Metropolis
10/16/14 New York, NY – Terminal 5
10/17/14 Worcester, MA – Palladium at the Rock N Shock Festival
10/18/14 Cleveland, OH – Agora Theater
10/20/14 Chicago, IL – Concord Music Hall
10/21/14 Milwaukee, WI – The Rave
10/22/14 Minneapolis, MN – Skyway Theater
10/24/14 Saskatoon, SK – O’Brians
10/26/14 Edmonton, AB – Shaw Conference Center
10/28/14 Vancouver, B.C – The Vogue – Vancouver, B.C.
10/29/14 Seattle, WA – Showbox SODO
10/31/14 Oakland, CA – Fox Theater
11/01/14 Hollywood, CA – Palladium
After their work at Jingletown Recording Studios in Oakland California, Machine Head are completing work on their eighth full-length studio album at Trident Studios in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ghost Cult will be bringing you further coverage of this tour and MH’s new album as we get closer to the release date, expected to be announced soon.
Machine Head on Facebook
Children of Bodom on Facebook
Epica on Facebook
Battlecross on Facebook
Considered by many to be “New York’s answer to Lamb of God,” IKILLYA is back and better than ever with their sophomore full length entitled Vae Victis (Megaforce). As good as Recon (the debut full-length release of IKILLYA) was, Vae Victis has been able to improve the foundation already laid by its predecessor, but also experiment into new grounds. This album clocks in at just about 36 and a half minutes with 9 tracks that will leave you begging for more! Vae Victis has a characteristic that is so far and few between with metal and hardcore albums nowadays, and that is the ability to listen to it, front to back, and be pleased by every song. In fact, every since I got my dirty hands all over this album, I have not gone more than a day or two without a solid listen to the whole album!
It’s hard to really breakdown which songs were my favorite especially where every song brings its own feel, groove, and energy to the listener while staying fresh throughout all 9 tracks. Fortunately, I enjoy a challenge, so l would like to start off with the first track, the title track, ‘Vae Victis’. Wasting no time destroying your hearing as a quick drum fill opens up the album, and vocalist Jason Lekberg, immediately follows. This track was one of the more groovy tracks that you can’t help but keep head banging to. Just for those who did not study Latin back in school, how I envy you, Vae Victis is translated literally to “woe to the conquered.” As good as all the tracks are on this album, the guys in IKILLYA did a great job ensuring that the most in your face song was going to jumpstart the album. Another great tune I will admittedly enjoy yelling the lyrics to out the window on a nice day is the fourth track, ‘Jekyll Better Hyde’. Not only is this song title brilliantly worded, but the chorus tends to get stuck in my head throughout the long day. Jason’s vocals continue to grow on this album and this track proves it without a doubt. The outro of the song features a pretty sweet breakdown (don’t worry, IKILLYA did not become a deathcore band 4 songs in) with hair raising gang vocals, one of my favorite aspects adopted from the hardcore genre. One last song that really stands out for me is ‘Mission to Mars’, the seventh track. This track features a handful of bass breaks that will make just about any subwoofer go to its knees. I also was treated to more gang vocals during the chorus. The guitars also continue their very catchy riffs into ‘Mission to Mars’, but even a killer solo finds a nice spot towards the end of the song before the final reprise of the chorus.
As I mentioned prior, this album is great listen from the first snare hit to the final second of the last track, ‘Last Breath’ (which may I say, dips a bit into the good aspects of metalcore during the chorus). IKILLYA has yet again, impressed me with the few tracks they do release, yet keep me itching for more for the second album in a row. As for the Lamb of God reference, quite honestly, I really cannot find any other words to better explain it. This is only the beginning for these New Yorkers and I am happy to see them continue climbing the ladder to bigger and better things. However, I still have not witnessed these guys live yet, and this needs to change!
IKILLYA on Facebook
Steve “Zetro” Souza is a name tied to the history of the Bay Area Thrash movement. Having been the voice that launched Legacy, and later Testament, Steve is best known from several stints as the front man of Exodus and Tenet. His modern thrash band Hatriot is back with their most fully realized material on Dawn of the New Centurion (Massacre). Armed with a young and hungry band, which includes his sons Cody and Nick as the rhythm section, Zetro sounds as fierce as ever on this album.
From the opening track, “My Cold Dead Hands”, you get the idea that Steve is royally pissed off. The band sounds like many in the neo-thrash movement, but obviously have the veteran presence at the helm. After the famous Charlton Heston, pro-NRA sound-byte that opens the album, there is a lot of grandiosity in this track for a thrash song. It will activate the circle pits when they play it live. ‘Your Worst Enemy’ follows next, and you hear Steve at his snarling best. The real weapon of the band is shredder Kosta V., who really lays it down when it comes to his leads. ‘The Fear Within’ is the best track on the album and has an epic feel to it. When the main riffs kick in, you will get goose bumps.
‘SUPERKILLAFRAGSADISTICACTSARESOATROCIOUS’ is a fun song, and I dare you to say that five times fast. The song is heavy as hell, and gives a shout-out to Pussy Riot in the coda. This is not a politically conscious band, just one with a lot of lyrical themes speaking to injustice. ‘Silence In the House of The Lord’ and the power-groove laden title track also stand out. Juan Urtega has produced a lot of the greats of the genre, and like all of his albums these tracks sound very punchy and well balanced too. Maybe the only gripe I have with the album is Steve spends a lot of time growling and I’d like to hear him open up with more melodies next time out. When compared with a lot of the newer thrash bands, Hatriot not only stacks up well, they represent to the fullest.
KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES
Juxtaposing the careers and fortunes of Avenged Sevenfold and Metallica showcases a multitude of similarities. Both had early releases (Sounding The Seventh Trumpet/Waking The Fallen vs Kill ‘em All) that, while their respective genres (metalcore and thrash) were in their formative years, set the template for others to follow. These were followed by seminal recordings that took each band beyond the movements they’d previously been attached to (City of Evil and Avenged Sevenfold vs Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets) by creating anthems and developing their distinctive sounds and styles, nodding to the scenes that had spawned them, while moving (way) beyond them. Both bands suffered tragedies by losing much-loved and respected band members and responded with dark albums, littered with lengthy complex songs (Nightmare vs …And Justice For All).
And then Metallica released Metallica (aka The Black Album) which, for those who don’t know the story, established its protagonists as the most popular metal band on the planet, bar none, and far outsold any other metal album. By millions. At the same stage of their career, 22 years later, Avenged Sevenfold may have released The Black Album II.
Taking the same approach that Hetfield and Co did on their eponymous album, Hail To The King sees A7X simplifying their songwriting and focus on massive, straight-forward big riffs, powerful choruses, cavernous 4/4 drumming and producing great Rock/Metal songs. Much has been said of the way Hail To The King wears its influences on its sleeves, and much of what has been said is fair, but to write off Hail To The King as a covers album, or to undermine what A7X have done here, is missing the point. This is an incredibly strong album.
In an age where fillers populate mainstream metal albums that are structured like pop releases around a couple of singles, there are no weak moments amongst the 10 songs, with tracks as deep as #8, the Clairvoyant-esque ‘Coming Home’, a highlight with its melodic headbanging guitar refrains inducing the involuntary Claw as it builds to crescendo. Then track 9, ‘Planets’, wades in, dark and crushing. Hail To The King is littered with anthems at every turn, from the fist-pumping, stadium-filling title-track, the GNR sleaze of ‘Doing Time’, the black crunching slabs of the sinister ‘Requiem’, the riff every new bedroom guitarist will learn first, ‘Shepherd of Fire’ and the saccharine tones of the piano and strings led radio-hit-in-waiting ‘Crimson Day’.
Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance pull off that oh-so-elusive feat of meting out leads and solos that are both memorable and enhance the song, in a way Mustaine and Friedman did in their prime, while M Shadows convinces, dominating the album like Axl Rose or Sebastian Bach used to, putting in the strongest, most genuine performance of his career.
There are more than clear nods to Metallica (‘This Means War’ is a re-write of Sad But True), Guns N’Roses (‘Doing Time’), Countdown To Extinction-era Megadeth (‘Heretic’) and Iron Maiden – there are full on headbangs in their directions – but through it all, this is undeniably an A7X album.
Until now, I’ve never been much of an A7X fan, but credit is more than due, it’s been earned. They set out to write a classic metal record and they’ve not only succeeded in doing that, they’ve written the classic metal album of their generation. Underground and extreme this isn’t. Big, mainstream and filled with metal anthems for a new breed of the wretched and divine, this most certainly is.