The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Album Review: Opeth - Heritage

Opeth - Heritage
2011 Roadrunner Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

You have to feel maybe a hair sorry for Opeth. After scoring huge with the metal public on Ghost Reveries, the lords of Goth have been forced by attrition to keep up with their own hype. Not that Opeth are overtly concerned about hype, per se, but when you're reputed as one of the most articulate dark metal acts on the planet, well, it's difficult to top the stream of excellence ranging from Damnation to Blackwater Park to the breakout sensation that was Ghost Reveries.

It's been three years since Opeth released Watershed, an album that was well-received by the press and metal fans alike, however, it was clear that the ethereal mojo of Blackwater Park and Ghost Reveries had disippated. Instead, Watershed embarked Opeth upon a new path of rock and prog-driven exploration that allowed for hammering organs and the diving crunch chords of Deep Purple and early years Pink Floyd. In other words, hype be damned, Opeth is doing what they want--get on board if you're of like mind.

On their tenth "observation" (as Opeth likes to refer to their records) Heritage, the same motifs are embraced, only this time Opeth really goes for the gusto by hailing some Jethro Tull into their arcane music world. The rowdy flutes akin to Tull's Ian Anderson play a heavy hand in the later songs amidst Opeth's acoustic-laden, Mellotron-splashed and growl-removed Heritage. Hard to consider them death metal or even Goth metal, at least for this round. Instead, Opeth re-emerges with their classical training doing them much service along with their King Crimson affinities to create a hybrid of whispery prog-gloom that still reverberates. Opeth's reknowned signature swaps of the past are less the story on Heritage as the emphasis is more on modified textures and candlelit mood scapes.

Exchanging their thunderclapped climaxes for a more sensual attack to their songwriting on Heritage, Opeth proves yet again they're fearless artisans. The quietus woven by the piano-led intro piece, "Heritage" carries a subliminal jazz splash ala Vince Guaraldi, even in the midst of its melancholic crawl. You already know by instinct Opeth is branching for something beyond even their own studious capabilities. Though Opeth shakes out their limbs on "The Devil's Orchard" straight from "Heritage's" haunting apoplexy, stand ready for dips into Mellotron atmospherics and King Crimson progression in "The Devil's Orchard's" final stanza.

The thing with this album even more than any Opeth has written is that there is a commanding sway into classic prog ala King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Yes, Pink Floyd, ELP, Spock's Beard and of course, the more elaborate hoists of Deep Purple. Opeth more or less summons the subvert power of their acoustic dementia splayed out on Damnation and they accent, accent, accent all over Heritage. They climax in spurts, opting more for canvassing their Swedish fugue with the might of slow-rolling titania, but only after extensive periods of decorative sedation.

"I Feel the Dark" rides on a large caress of acoustics and Moogs while Mikael Akerfeldt courageously relies on the oomph of his clean vocals here and throughout the entire album. "Slither" afterwards merges its devil-may-care gust with a wildly-appropriate Deep Purple thrum, complete with rockout organs from Per Wiberg (who strangely left the band after recording this album) and guitar riffs that unabashedly attempt to mirror Ritchie Blackmore. All the juicier Opeth closes "Slither" with a Renaissance-flavored outro that even Blackmore himself would smirk at. At 4:03, "Slither" is a quickly-realized foray into pattern variance which feels complete yet strangely barren at the end.

Said barrenness is retained in the ghostly "Nepenthe," where the acoustics and keys are barely audible, creating a paranoid expectancy swirling lightly in a tempered jazz-rock mode ala Steely Dan. The pace abruptly shifts to quick outbursts of King Crimson prog detonations before settling again, resuming this methodology a few bars until wandering back into the ether from which the track began.

Hence, Heritage does require more patience and understanding for what Opeth is trying to achieve. This album is even more territorial than anything Opeth has recorded in the past and Akerfeldt's gutsy decision to throw out all demonic ralphs even in an album dedicated to the telling of good and evil will alienate a few people. The strength of his cleans, however, make Heritage more of a forceful enterprise, considering the vibe is well-stripped and luxuriant. The alluring details on "Haxprocess" would be cheated if Akerfeldt began chuffing at the expected pauses and tone shifts. Instead, "Haxprocess" relies more on reserved tapestries of acoustic, synth and reeled-in distortion to make a bold statement.

The same can be said of the lengthier "Famine," which at least booms periodically and channels through winding progression and maniacal fluting, all carried to rhythmic perfection on the sucessive shorter track "The Lines In My Hand." The latter song is where Heritage as an album climaxes and it's a loud and busy payoff for all the note-bled treading beforehand. A method to the madness, as the saying goes.

Thus the sweeping passages in the final two minutes of "Folklore" are maddeningly gorgeous. How could a band carry us through so many pastures of volume to crest on a stunning breeze we've expected all the way and yet never see coming in "Folklore?" As brilliant as the acoustic, electric, Moog and organ-hushed finale, "Marrow of the Earth," ending this venture on a jagged beauty even Mike Oldfield would be proud of.

Heritage has been described by a few as a creeper album since it makes the listener work as hard as Opeth themselves did to create it. When all is said and done, however, Heritage is the musical embodiment of a Heironymous Bosch painting where perpetual purgatory reigns with the uncertainty of salvation or perdition.

Heritage is a reflection of human fear and a cautious tread towards the banks of evil. Opeth has never been more seductive in their work and this is one of the most seductive bands in the world. Instead of clouting and routing their audience this time, they strive for high art in the vein of their cherished audile old masters. You may crave more explosions from Heritage, but when they come, you will feel more than elated. The rest of it, you'll be amazed by Opeth's daring craftsmanship, even more than you were the first time you heard Blackwater Park or Orchid long beforehand.

Rating: ****

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 9/28/11

Greetings, folks, still getting my bearings today, so we'll keep the chatter reserved to add the new Opeth album, Heritage and the Scream 4 DVD to The Metal Minute's immediate prospectus.

Likely most of you have already heard the new Mastodon album, The Hunter, while I'm still letting it swim around in my ears before coming to full judgment. What are your thoughts on it, peeps?

As always, your support of this site is more than appreciated.

Primus - Sailing the Seas of Cheese
Primus - Pork Soda
Primus - Antipop
Primus - Green Naugahyde
Mastodon - The Hunter
Opeth - Heritage
Gary Moore - Live at Montreux 2010
Black Pussy - On Blonde EP
Holy Moses - Queen of Siam
Holy Moses - Finished With the Dogs
Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies
Alice Cooper - Welcome to My Nightmare
Alice Cooper - Dada
Alice Cooper - From the Inside
Bitches Sin - The Rapture
Corrosion of Conformity - Wiseblood
Corrision of Conformity - In the Arms of God
Every Time I Die - Hot Damn!
It's Casual - Stop Listening to Bad Music
It's Casual - The New Los Angeles
It's Casual - Buicregl
Joan Jett and The Blackhearts - Greatest Hits
Grateful Dead - The Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead - Blues for Allah
Grateful Dead - Workingman's Dead
Grateful Dead - American Beauty
Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Tron: Legacy soundtrack
Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin'
The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Album Review: Gary Moore - Live at Montreux 2010

Gary Moore - Live at Montreux 2010
2011 Eagle Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Earlier in the year, we were stung with the loss of former Thin Lizzy and journeyman guitar genius, Gary Moore. Even more of a shock to hear of his passing when you consider Moore was reported by everyone who knew him to be musically invigorated and eager to rip away. Moore was said to be in excellent shape by those close to him and working on a Celtic-flavored rock album. If his unfinished studio work reflected even a miniscule shred of his final performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival last year, man, were we robbed as a listening body.

Gary Moore was no stranger to playing (much less attending) Montreux. One of the revered festival's recurring performers, Moore gave Lake Geneva a blistering display of his capabilities in 2010. Though nobody could've seen it coming, Moore had saved his best for last.

While Gary Moore has spent more than a fair chunk of his career slinging blues and jazz in the studio and particularly onstage at Montreux, it's this 2010 set where Moore lowers the boom and summons the loud. Fair to say Moore's reconnection with keyboardist and collborator Neil Carter unlocked some old rock chests that blows this Montreux concert up in a way some fans might've thought would remain locked. Still in cahoots with Primal Scream drummer Darrin Mooney along with former Jethro Tull bassist Jon Noyce, Moore's band gallavanting through last year's European Summer of Rock jaunt did much to elevate his stature.

A recent Thin Lizzy awareness (and reformation) likewise brought Moore back into the rock limelight as one of its most beloved members behind Phil Lynott. Even though Moore's most recent studio album Bad For You Baby was blues-oriented, it's clear as the thundering decibels in this set Moore was set to rock.

The Celtic rock album Moore was reportedly recording fueled his drive to slam and a few songs from that project are premiered on Live at Montreux 2010: "Days of Heroes," "Oh Wild One" and "Where Are You Now." Ranging from gallant to reverential, these new "previews," if you will, haunt happily of Thin Lizzy ("Days of Heroes") and of the experimental nature of his 1973 album Grinding Stone. The gin and the bangers waft about Moore's entire set, and it's clear his Irish pride has never waned. At age 58, Moore was even more the patriot of his motherland than ever. All he needed was some dulcimer and bodhran, but instead his frets did all the marching in this highly inspired performance.

Joyous for veteran fans, the majority of Moore's set is derived from his eighties' post-Lizzy solo work. "Out in the Fields" and "Military Man" check in from 1985's Run For Cover, as well as "Empty Rooms" from 1983's Victims of the Future in a mash medley alongside "So Far Away." Moore continues his revisit to the eighties with a selection from '89's After the War, "Blood of Emeralds." Though Moore's 1987 release Wild Frontier isn't always heralded by critics, the stout, Murphy's-fueled stomper "Over the Hills and Far Away" along with the whispery "Johnny Boy" make appearances. In fact, "Over the Hills and Far Away" leads the set like a mission statement, hauled out with a devastating guitar solo by Moore. Suffice it to say, his solos on Live at Montreux 2010 are some of the most captivating of his live recordings. The longer he wails, the more he bleeds into your ears.

Fitting, however, that Moore closes this spectacular set on an emotional high with an 11-minute extension of "Parisienne Walkways" from 1979's Back On the Streets, a song originally featuring vocal work and a co-writing credit by Phil Lynott. With six extra minutes largely dedicated to sparkling, piercing and adoring solo work, Moore could never know this would be one of his final moments onstage, but assuredly it ranks amongst his finest. This "Parisienne Walkways" just might've served as the parallel bridge to Lynott on the other side, and we can well assume the latter greeted his comrade with a loving embrace and some outrageous corn whiskey from a bottomless bell jar.

Though Moore's out-of-nowhere death is befuddling, he leaves behind a legacy as a face man and proto axe warrior in Thin Lizzy, BBM, Colosseum II, Skid Row (not the one of the Sabo-Bach variety) and his own diverse body of work. Rocker, metalhead, blues man, jazz master, Gary Moore has always been considered underrated by most music writers and deep fans. If you don't believe it, step up to Live at Montreux 2010 and become converted. You will seldom hear a more wrenching display of six-string finesse. Bless you, Gary.

Rating: ****1/2

Friday, September 23, 2011

Album Review: Black Pussy - On Blonde EP

Black Pussy - On Blonde EP
2011 Made in China Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Entering into the sexpot moniker sweepstakes behind Nashville Pussy, Alabama Thunderpussy and Pussy Galore comes Portland's Black Pussy. Also known as Black Pussy (IS GO), you can rest assured this is another gang of garage dwellers who may or may not toke as much as they would have you believe of their "stoner" tagged rawk.

Frankly, the term "stoner" has now become a passe buzz phrase carrying less buzz and more static. While Bongzilla and Weedeater are exactly the stoners they purport themselves to be--particularly in their tone-saturated hallucinogenics--stoner as a music description is now so broad it often hardly carries little of the pot element within its sound. The Mars Volta is considered by some to be stoner on top of mind-melding punk-prog. Such is the weird way of the music world.

Thus it's almost hopeless when a band marches in with a self-placed stamp of "stoner" upon its product, when subliminally you just know there's a marketing ploy behind it. There was a time when stoners were the riff raff of society. Now, thanks to Josh Homme, Fu Manchu, Wolfmother and The Black Keys, there's a strange pride to calling yourself a stoner band. Of course, Steppenwolf was there long ahead of the current crop and a lot of their music really was trippy beneath their blistered protesting. Let's not forget Redd Kross assisted in bridging this generation of young bands to the turbulent days of Hendrix and the Dead.

It's enough to have a provocative name like Black Pussy, but carrying a deliberate stoner sign overtop their heads (going so far as to mock the old sixties and seventies' album audiophile insignias with their coined "Stonersound" jibe) isn't anywhere near as provocative as their name. We could probably trip on the visual of a laidback hump-dee-hump with an afro-coiffed queen, swirling lava lamps, incense and strobes adding to the hazy-moist wet dream Black Pussy insinuates through their very being.

At the end of the day, though, it's the music that counts and Black Pussy makes no shame in plugging through the distorted channels of Kyuss, Fu Manchu and Fireball Ministry. Mastermined by Dustin Hill, who often mimicks Josh Homme vocally to great measures, Black Pussy's debut EP On Blonde shows a hint of promise even while offering the "stoner" genre very little it hasn't already seen.

There's an undeniable Kyuss-Fu kitsch to "Marijuana," "Swim(-A-)," "Ain't Talkin' About Love" and "Indiana" straight down to the lacing power chords, wood block/cowbell tempo taps, swirling sub solos and a drawn back vocal approach you know all too well. While "Can't Take Anymore" and "Blow Some Steam Off" pick up the pace with some gnarly acceleration, the theme of Black Pussy is to just take it easy. More than anything, it's evident Hill spent much time with Fu Manchu's California Crossing and King of the Road along with Josh Homme's entire recorded body.

There's nothing inherently wrong with Dustin Hill's songwriting ideology. Nothing wrong with nodding along to the juicy bass rubs oozing out of Black Pussy's amps on "Blow Some Steam Off" like, know, that. It's simply the shaky wherewithal behind the shock value of Black Pussy's name. A stoner band doesn't advertise themselves as such. They often shy away from the tag. A true stoner band just plugs in and lets the waves carry their vibe, not a pre-issued statement.

Rating: ***

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Album Review: Primus - Green Naugahyde

Primus - Green Naugahyde
2011 Prawn Song
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Historically there has been a friendly tug-of-war between the metal and alternative sanctions in staking claim to Les Claypool and Primus. While headbangers boast the one-upsmanship of Claypool's involvement in prog thrashers Blind Illusion, Primus is that rare entity where nobody on this planet gets full dibs on claiming them as their own. Indeed, Primus is Martian music crafted beyond the capacity of us mere Earth folk, and it's not just because their eighth album is titled Green Naugahyde.

The Great Gazoo himself, Claypool, might be this generation's Frank Zappa, but it so happens he plays an unworldly bass, and not even the mighty Steve Harris or funk fiend Flea can push themselves into the same nebula Claypool floats in. While Claypool decrees through snaggleteeth that everything is made in China on Green Naugahyde's "Eternal Consumption Engine," really, in his farflung mind, everything is made in a microprocessing plant on Space Station #5--to which only he and his associates have access.

It's been since 1999 that we've had a Primus slab (and truly if a band deserved the term "slab" applied to their recorded work, this is the one) with the frequently brilliant Antipop. Twelve years of inactivity might prove quite the task for many bands to overcome, yet Primus 2011 sounds like nothing was missed through hiatus. Green Naugahyde is the culmination of Frizzle Fry, Pork Soda and Antipop and for their longtime horde of fans, Primus still sucks, but only as an endearment.

Returning back to the fold is early years (and former Sausage) drummer Jack Lane, in place of Tim Alexander. Fortunately for Claypool's demented purposes, Lane is equal to the task of Alexander on Green Naugahyde, thus you'd really have to know coming into this album there was a switch-up behind the skins. Meanwhile, Larry LaLonde continues to drive alongside Claypool's throbbing hip and in some ways, LaLonde has surpassed himself on Antipop and The Brown Album. No doubt it must've been some sitdown with Claypool in the songwriting sessions for Green Naughahyde, since LaLonde not only casts his fly buzzing and wad-chewed twanging. The man surreptitiously decorates beneath Claypool's inhuman bass-o-phonics. Only LaLonde can smartly detail a luminescent series of sparkling notes and outrageous slides underneath Les Claypool's Transformers-esque bass robotics on "Jilly's On Smack." It's testament to both artists' instincts they gel as effectively as they do even after a lengthy layoff.

"Lee Van Cleef" is hilarious with Claypool's comical plying for the whereabouts of the western film legend, while LaLonde's jerkout tugs are well reminiscent of Primus' huckabilly South Park theme, lending to the jokey ambience. While in the process of nodding to their past, there's no denying "Last Salmon Man" rings true of "Here Come the Bastards" from Sailing the Seas of Cheese. Only difference is Claypool and LaLonde are thrice the musicians they were in 1991, particularly during "Last Salmon Man's" jam-spiced solo section. Jack Lane's slip and shuffle tempo behind them and his gut-checking floor tom echoes elevate "Last Salmon Man" into the here and now.

Lane impresses at every turn on Green Naugahyde and his percussion on "Eternal Consumption Engine" turns Les Claypool into even more of a cheery wackadoodle. Surely, Claypool "really likes it" with his tendency to set the song up like "Mr. Krinkle" but more to a carny flavor. Lane is fantabulous on the funkerific "Tragedy's A-Comin'" and "Green Ranger," where his hi-hat tripping is just as groovy as his White Men Can Funk rhythm. Somehow, you get the feeling a cameo by George Clinton or Bootsy Collins might not've been out of line on either of these songs. Further, we would no doubt be in for one hell of a treat to see Sly and the Family Stone's Larry Graham with Claypool in a bass throwdown for the ages.

Other crazy, cosmic trips you can look forward to on this album are "Moron TV," "Green Ranger" and the bombastic, slithering "HOINFODAMAN," the latter being born straight from the Frizzle Fry and Suck On This era of Primus and will no doubt become a huge crowd pleaser. In its own way, the nutty thrusting (and terrific percussion) beneath "Extinction Burst" comes straight out of the same hiss-popped skillet.

While Sailing the Seas of Cheese is widely considered Primus' calling card album, it's a box of chunky punk cereal in comparison to what this band is capable of now. Green Naugahyde is a complicated album but only in the sense that all three components of Primus demand your attention. One of the most rhythmic albums Primus has recorded outside of Antipop, Green Naugahyde serves you toast smeared with apple butter from its great space toaster where metalheads, altheads, progheads and gearheads can come together in strange harmony.

Mars needs women, since they're well-represented by musicians.

Rating: ****

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 9/21/11

Morning, fellow freakazoids! Welcome to another Wednesday check-in of your playlists. At the very least, welcome to the halfway point of the work week--or school week if that applies to you.

Last week began with immense promise as relates to a few personal projects and potential projects, then the week fell on its arse come the end. I lost the second of two Van Horn family members in the span of a month, and I'm still a bit shaken up, but as always, music is my savior and therapist and thus I fight on. Though the Grateful Dead occupied my ears most of the week, that certainly wasn't intended to provoke the karma wheel as my uncle passed away. To my Aunt Maxine and Uncle Carl, may you finally settle your differences in the afterlife and try to excuse whatever you see of me from your new vantage point of existence. I'm proud of who I am, but I know my subscription to life isn't for all tastes.

It doesn't help the following day we got stung with a monster car repair bill on my wife's vehicle that has been the bane of our existence the past few years. Once my wife can get rid of that piece of junk, I'm going to sledge the four-wheeled bitch, assuming it hasn't been traded in. And so it goes, and so it goes, and so it goes, like Nick Lowe (also figuring into my listening pleasures this week) would wag.

So with that, I'm hungry for a turnaround of fortunes this week and here at The Metal Minute we'll keep the machine rolling for your headbanging edification. Coming up in the immediate future we'll be checking out new joints from Primus, Doro Pesch, Hull, Black Pussy, Gary Moore, Wolves in the Throne Room, Chthonic, DC4, Crash Street Kids and Zeroking, not necessarily in that order.

I've received a ton of correspondence in email and tweeting form and I've been making all efforts to respond to each one of you. If I haven't, please stand by. I'm not ignoring you purposefully. You all are the real beautiful people, so don't change...

X - Under the Big Black Sun
Alice Cooper - Love it to Death
Alice Cooper - Alice Cooper Goes to Hell
Alice Cooper - Along Came a Spider
Alice Cooper - Welcome 2 My Nightmare
Landmine Marathon - Gallows
Saxon - Call to Arms
Primus - Green Naugahyde
Black Sabbath - Paranoid
Black Pussy - s/t EP
Slough Feg - Hardworlder
Grateful Dead - The Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead - Workingman's Dead
Grateful Dead - Aoxomoxoa
Grateful Dead - Wake of the Flood
Grateful Dead - Blues for Allah
Grateful Dead - From the Mars Hotel
Grateful Dead - In the Dark
Ratdog - Evening Moods
Kingfish - s/t
Peter Gabriel - Up
Saturday Night Fever soundtrack
Elvis Costello - When I Was Cruel
Nick Lowe - Quiet Please...The New Best of Nick Lowe

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Album Review: Saxon - Call to Arms

Saxon - Call to Arms
2011 Militia Guard Music/UDR/EMI
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

God bless Saxon. For a band once calling themselves Son of a Bitch, the dukes of decibel demolition are striking the lands with their 19th album. Likely nobody ever gave them that much of a chance back in the late seventies before Son of a Bitch switched to their time-honored moniker, Saxon. Still, here we are in 2011 and Saxon continues to survive with a couple of original members, Paul Quinn and the always stout Biff Byford. Call to Arms, Saxon's latest round of aural wreckage, shows a courageous wherewithal to stay true and thus becomes a mandatory grab if you're a power metal fiend.

Whether you've been paying attention or not, Saxon has been on quite a roll through the metal revival, officially starting with 2004's Lionheart, though most fans would give Saxon a mighty fist of approval for 1999's Metalhead. Still, Lionheart seemed to be the necessary oil to moving the re-affirmed juggernaut at full speed. Successive albums The Inner Sanctum and Into the Labyrinth showed the metal world Saxon still has the guts and the glory, while Call to Arms may yet become their proudest moment of the 2000s.

Some folks have been whispering Wheels of Steel and Crusader under their breaths whilst describing Call to Arms, and sure, there's cases to be made on the speedier selections such as "Hammer of the Gods" and "Afterburner." There's more to it than that. though. While Saxon turns a few knobs back to reduce some of the previous albums' beef, Call to Arms finds its groove on a charted throwback course while still maintaining a modern polish.

Saxon are sonic warriors on "Hammer of the Gods," "Chasing the Bullet" and "Call to Arms," making them nearly untouchable lords of loud. Yet they take a humble nod towards Thin Lizzy on "Ballad of the Working Man" on its verses and choruses before rocking the number with some wicked soloing. Thin Lizzy was always a working class rock 'n roll band, while Saxon might be the working class' metallic answer. Either way, "Ballad of the Working Man" is just as heroic for its stomping whiskey in the jar empathy as much Saxon's own will to prosper on "Surviving Against the Odds" and "Back in '79."

Maybe "Back in '79" and the two "Call to Arms" selections (the second appearing with orchestral supplementation) may be corny for modern audiences, yet metal has always had its teeth gnashed against a cob. Better the chewing come from the likes of the steel-jawed Saxon, who sells it better than most out there. When Biff Byford plies for you to show him your hands, you're not likely to argue with him. As one of the NWOBHM's eternal figureheads, Biff and Saxon take their roles seriously. "Back in '79" is a mean mutha autobiography of a band we should relish more than we do as a collective metal body.

Tempered by more recent ballads hailing little to no muckity muck such as "Mists of Avalon" on this album, we have long forgiven Saxon for the syrupy and limp noodled Rock the Nations and Destiny from 1986 and 1988 respectively. Saxon today has the system down pat and we're more than happy to oblige an occasional swerve into the slow, particularly when we get to rock out to "Chasing the Bullet," "No Rest for the Wicked," "Afterburner" and "Hammer of the Gods."

No reinventing the wheel of steel here, Saxon keeps the machine calibrated and moving past 3000 rpms. Call to Arms is a rocker and that's as apt a compliment as we can pay them.

Rating: ****

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Album Review: Landmine Marathon - Gallows

Landmine Marathon - Gallows
2011 Prosthetic Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Grace Perry is to Landmine Marathon what Angela Gossow is to Arch Enemy, Sabina Classen to Holy Moses and Krysta Cameron to Iwrestledabearonce. It just so happens Perry huffs and growls her innards to their straining point in a band that fancies a vibe plunged between Agnostic Front and Napalm Death with scant elbow room for much else.

Some might argue Perry has to work harder in a band demanding such a strenuous task from her, but already through four albums, you know where Landmine Marathon stands musically and Perry does too. She's up to the task, so you'd better be as well. Following last year's Sovereign Descent, Perry and her crashed-up marauders fire up the charges once again on Gallows, an album offering little differentiation than what they've released prior. No doubt exactly what their fans want.

Minus a concentrated effort of guitar soloing on Gallows which was practically remiss on Sovereign Descent, Landmine Marathon still retains the cacaphonous detonation of their namesake, a modus operandi not for the squeamish. Crunk and clunk served in brittle helpings on "Three Snake Leaves," "Liver and Lungs," "Cloaked in Red" and "Cutting Flesh and Bone," Landmine Marathon dishes it brutal and even more brutal--skip the appetizers.

"Knife From My Sleeve" may have a slow-winding intro, but there's little else (minus a few random tempo-skidding breakdowns) on Gallows that doesn't clock in past the shockwaves of a 50-megaton strike in a no-man's land gulch. Those just cozying up with Landmine Marathon for the first time might feel the impatient urge to grab some Madball, Terror and Morbid Angel after their introduction. At least "Cloaked in Red" has a badass punk groove and Slayer-esque death throes (not to mention a blinky King-Hanneman solo yank) to change things up a hair. As for their existing fans, they'll be headbanging on a constant from their media player into the mosh pit once Landmine Marathon hits their towns.

By now, there's no more geek factor to Grace Perry's animalistic yowling at the fore of a 'core-grind hybrid. Perry is the star attraction to Landmine Marathon, sure, but the bigger picture is this group can duke it out with the best of their ilk and God bless 'em, they have the tact to keep their work to a short running time. Smart maneuvering when you have a fairly redundant songwriting scheme. Then again, as the song title on track seven indicates, Landmine Marathon's only creative goal is to leave you beaten and left blind.

You've been served.

Rating: ***1/2

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy Friday, Readers...

Just because this makes me smile on a day I really need to so I can stay motivated. Happy Friday, all, back to business over the weekend.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Album Review: Alice Cooper - Welcome 2 My Nightmare

Alice Cooper - Welcome 2 My Nightmare
2011 Universal Music Enterprises
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Uncle Alice is back, not that he ever left. This is still one of the most pliable entertainers still haunting the scene. Alice Cooper may not have been given immediate due for his more recent albums such as The Eyes of Alice Cooper, Dragontown, Dirty Diamonds and 2008's groovy-freaky hedonism jaunt, Along Came a Spider, but the man's legend has surreptitiously risen even more beneath the radar. Recently Alice Cooper has been bestowed with a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction and iconic bestowments from Kerrang! and the Revolver Golden God Awards. Alice remains a king of his domain and best of all, he continuously delivers what his subjects want.

Perhaps all of this just fanfare inspired Alice Cooper to attempt something that almost never fully works: a sequel to his own best-known body of work, Welcome to My Nightmare. It takes a lot of stones to take on the task of writing a connector piece to an album written almost 40 years ago. Yeah, get your head around that a second, if you will. Alice has been on the scene for that long, and while Queensryche found themselves nailed to the cross more often than not for Operation Mindcrime II, Uncle Alice will be a lock not to suffer the same fate with Welcome 2 My Nightmare.

It's the respect for the original work, plus the respect for himself and his fans that allows us to give a cheerful thumbs-up to this project. The highest compliment we can pay to Welcome 2 My Nightmare is that this is its own beast. While there's undertones of the seventies on "I Am Made of You," "When Hell Comes Home" and "The Nightmare Returns," songs with subliminal tubular bells haunting their chiming melodies, this album is thoroughly updated with a powerful punch and an elder statesman's appreciation for what transcends the decades separating these bodies of work.

Alice Cooper best bridges his 1975 masterwork to modern life on "The Congregation," a song with enough Love it to Death era and Gary Glitter struts poofed up to a loud retro kick The Black Keys are no doubt taking strong note of.

"Caffeine" is a slamming bit of rock agitation with a PT Barnum blow-up beneath the cagey humor. Here Uncle Alice gives us a bit of nyuk nyuk explanation as to why he and his alter-alter ego Steven are wracked by this ever-continuing cerebral melodrama. A bad caffeine trip. If you've ever drank enough cups of coffee in succession, the near-paralysis and catatonic head trips left at the end of that java onslaught will toy with your noodle. Said from this writer's personal experience.

Now, are we to insinuate Alice Cooper has sold us a huckstering, nyeh-nyeh, fooled you rock opera, all plugged by the simplistic revelation that drinking too much coffee cooks you rightly? No, of course not. Welcome 2 My Nightmare is more the rock cartoon that Rob Zombie could've had with his Haunted World of El Superbeasto if the latter wasn't more obsessed with tit humor every other frame. It takes a gifted artist to know that hillbilly shakes and oom-pah bandstanding are riotous ways to portray a brain bake, conveyed through "A Runaway Train" and "Last Man On Earth" respectively.

Then there's the hilarious rock roast, "Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever," an intentionally nutty blast which is shrewder than you think. Consider this Alice's torching of the original disco era in which he was forced to tinker with on some of his late seventies' work, not to mention bits of the original Welcome to My Nightmare. It's also an acknowledgement that today's pop scene is lost in a disco revival and it well serves this new nightmare Alice Cooper is spinning for our consumption like the master showman he is. Alice's clownish rapping on "Disco Bloodbath" is nearly as funny as the "disco is hell, that's where we're at" choruses. Only he could get away with such lunacy, along with a hummable toe-tapper like "I'll Bite Your Face Off" that has planted blues and country beneath its twisted rock groove. Wait for the cadelabra-lit piano breakdown on that one. Riot. Nearly as much a riot as Alice's hung ten surfing bird, "Ghouls Gone Wild."

Also, only Alice Cooper could get away with bringing hip hop-pop megastar Ke$ha into his refined carnival of dementia. Their duet on "What Baby Wants" is sketchy on paper but ends up being a fun pop rock jerk-out, as catchy as anything else on Welcome 2 My Nightmare, and the hooks are out all over it.

Part of why this album works so much is due to the rogue's gallery of musicians and collaborators Alice corrals. Cool enough he has past associates such as Dick Wagner, Michael Bruce, Steve Hunter, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith coming by for the party. Welcome 2 My Nightmare is graced with the presence of Bob Ezrin, overseer of the original Nightmare and without a doubt, the alignment of theory and mind pays off dividends once again. Cameos by Vince Gill, John 5 and Patterson Hood of the Drive By Truckers on top of Ke$ha only add to this album's festivities. Always thinking in the moment, that Alice. No wonder Steven doesn't stand a chance in his three-ring sanguinary world.

While nothing here rings ethereal-eternal like "Cold Ethyl," "The Black Widow", "Steven" and "Only Women Bleed," Welcome 2 My Nightmare is a banging capsule of Alice's long standing in the music industry and for good measure, he sends out a breathy love note to his fans with "Something to Remember Me By." Written as if in 1975, this one has a pretty poison you just know has dastardly designs beneath the sweetness and effervesence. All implied, never stated, make sure you ask Uncle Alice to tip his top hat to make sure there's nothing murderous beneath as he croons "Something to Remember Me By" to you.

Welcome 2 My Nightmare didn't need to be stellar, but it did need to be worthy enough to carry its daunting title. It's more than worthy; it's a huge success and even more inspired than Along Came a Spider, which was damned fun in its own right. This is one is heavier in sound than Welcome to My Nightmare, while the latter is heavier in the classic sense. Put together, they're yin and yan separated by generations. Uncle Alice seems proud the world cares so much about him, because his pride sounds off resplendently on this album.

Run, Steven, run...

Rating: ****

To Buy Welcome 2 My Nightmare, click here:

Buy Welcome 2 My Nightmare

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 9/14/11

Hails, readers! Hope this week finds everyone safe, healthy and in good spirits.

Got much on the plate this week and those to come, so I'll keep things on the short end and invite you back for an upcoming review of the new Alice Cooper album, a sequel to his most revered body of work, Welcome 2 My Nightmare. Lots more action beyond that is in queue, so keep it bookmarked here, folks.


Red Hot Chili Peppers - Freaky Styley
Red Hot Chili Peppers - s/t
Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Uplift Mofo Party Plan
Red Hot Chili Peppers - I'm With You
WASP - The Headless Children
WASP - s/t
WASP - The Last Command
WASP - Inside the Electric Circus
WASP - The Crimson Idol
WASP - Unholy Terror
WASP - The Neon God Part 2: The Demise
WASP - Babylon
Alice Cooper - Welcome 2 My Nightmare
Grateful Dead - American Beauty
Roger Glover and The Guilty Party - If Life Was Easy
Fear Factory - Demanufacture
Fear Factory - Digimortal
Korpiklaani - Voice of Wilderness
Korpiklaani - Tales Along This Road
Korpiklaani - Tervaskanto
Korpiklaani - Korven Kuningas
Enslaved - Isa
Assjack - s/t
Judgment Night soundtrack
Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel (Scratch)
Foster the People - Torches

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Metal Minute's 100 Metal Albums You Can't Live Without: Post Discussion

As I mentioned when starting this list, I'm not the kind to put myself out there unless I really believe in what I'm doing. "Lists" should always come with the caveat of subjectivity because they only speak directly for those who compile them. They don't necessarily include the opinions of all because what we regard as universal truths will always be subject to scrutiny by a few or a lot of people with differing thoughts. It's why we're human.

Still, I did make the attempt to keep my readership in mind when generating a compendium of this nature. You have to include Guns n' Roses, Metallica and Pantera even if you're like me, the kind of guy who both loves and loathes radio. I'm a little mamby pamby, I'll admit, when it comes to radio. I'd be thrilled to pieces to accept an on-air gig, yet the nature of nurture FM can milk out of a single song has ruined my everyday appreciation of the aforementioned groups.

Nevertheless, Appetite for Destruction needs to be here. Master of Puppets needs to be here. Vulgar Display of Power needs to be here. You have to acknowledge the contributions of the artists who walloped the world with their craft and despite their mass appeal, you can't turn a snooty nose away from them, no matter how "street" you want to appear as a rock critic.

On the other end of the spectrum, I found it difficult having to slice out other albums I would consider mandatory to metal's evolution. You may or may not agree, but I consider the Scorpions' Lovedrive, Def Leppard's High 'n Dry and the self-titled debut by Metal Church to be worthy albums of the genre. Even if Def Leppard went pop from Hysteria on out, High 'n Dry and Pyromania are stellar albums. The Scorpions scored big with a handful of crossover cuts (of which two are played on the radio to the tune of a mondo glut) but that doesn't mean they're not an important band. Lovedrive was originally on this list and sadly got trimmed, no disrespect intended. I still think fondly of my interview with Mathias Jabs and almost feel the need to apologize to him and the band as they too, along with Judas Priest, bid us farewell.

As I stacked albums on my desk for consideration, I came across many underground bands I felt should at least be in contention for this list. Gonin-Ish, Korpiklaani, Long Distance Calling, Made Out of Babies, Darsombra, Blind Illusion, Wolves in the Throne Room, Agalloch, Rosetta, Mouth of the Architect, My Dying Bride, Katatonia, Bloodbath, Iwrestledabearonce, Nachtmystium...all bands I wish could've made it. I wanted Arch Enemy, Unearth and Shadows Fall to make the cut, and I'm sure there are many of you out there gritting your teeth having not seen them here.

Sometimes I picked albums where the artist had better selections. WASP's The Headless Children, for example. Should it have been on here? Oh, hell yes, it should've. Incredible album, as is WASP's The Crimson Idol, but in those cases, it came down to what should be considered indisposable by everyone who digs the genre, not necessarily a biased pick--and assuredly, this list is well-biased. If it wasn't biased, Iron Maiden (whom I consider the greatest metal band on the planet) wouldn't have had four picks, Priest three, Anthrax three, etc. This bias, however, was countered by how much of a cultural impact I felt the albums delivered.

Again, all subjective and honestly, this was a pain in the ass to hedge down, albeit it was a labor of love, as the colloquialism goes. I needed a break from reviewing as some new projects are being pitched my way. This was a fun diversion and a way to get my steam gathered up again.

So that being said, I hope you enjoyed The Metal Minute's 100 Albums You Can't Live Without and I invite everyone to express your thoughts here and offer up some of your choices for albums no metalhead should be caught dead without. The feedback I've been given to this point has turned up familiar names and a lot of obscure ones. Subjectivity at its best.

As always, I thank you for your continued support of The Metal Minute...

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Metal Minute's 100 Metal Albums You Can't Live Without: Numbers 10 to 1

10. Rainbow - Rising

This album deserves iconic status yet only receives one depending on certain circles. Arguably better songwriting than Ritchie Blackmore's time in Deep Purple and here is where Ronnie James Dio first made his name, not to mention Cozy Powell, Jimmy Bain and Tony Carey. Every song on Rising is letter perfection. "Stargazer" is heavy metal's answer to Zeppelin's "Kashmir," while the hyperactive band soloing on "A Light in the Black" stands as a heavy metal highlight worthy of constant re-investigation.

9. Opeth - Blackwater Park

The high priests of Goth metal. While I wanted to include My Dying Bride on this list, this sector of metal belongs almost exclusively to Opeth. Nobody of their breed possesses Opeth's collective song theory and precise sculptures of four bars in each segment to their music. You can sit there and count off the fourths, it's that exact. Rembrandts of their dark art, Blackwater Park has been said to have brought tears to some listeners and it is that emotional.

8. Mastodon - Leviathan

One of the most mind-blowing albums in the past ten years, much less metal's history. It's nearly too much to consume on the first couple go-rounds, that's how intricate Mastodon is. Detailed to excellence and heavier than your senior aunt's bra, there's not enough accolades one can heap upon Leviathan.

7. Metallica - Master of Puppets

This is an album I literally ran from my bedroom and up the train tracks to the music store to buy after borrowing it from a friend. I was that devasted by Master the first time I heard it. It rightly deserves a high mark on anyone's list, but nowadays, it carries an air of melancholy. I remember when Cliff Burton was killed just as Master was gaining steam in the metal community. And unfortunately, I just cannot stomach hearing any of these songs on "Mandatory Metallica" segments on FM radio because it's just too damned hypocritical.

6. Judas Priest - British Steel

Even non-metal fans love "Breaking the Law" and that's scary, but it's also testament to what a great freaking band Judas Priest is and how revered British Steel as an album is. We'll miss you, guys, the past decade-plus has been controversial, but thanks for British Steel and all the amazing works that stand proud in the name of metal.

5. Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction

It's fashionable for everyone ranking as a critic to a beer-drinking, living for the weekender to cite Appetite for Destruction as a world class album. Well, yeah, it is. I've reached the point where I could go without ever hearing "Welcome to the Jungle," "Paradise City" and "Sweet Child 'O Mine" on the goddamn radio again, but I could never live without having access to "My Michelle," "Think About You" and "Nightrain."

4. Black Sabbath - s/t

When everyone claims Black Sabbath to be the original heavy metal band, this is the album, not necessarily Paranoid (as great as the latter is) which backs all of it up. Black Sabbath still stands as one of the most confrontational albums the world's ever known. Diabolical in sound, yet carrying an urgency to call out social injustice, Black Sabbath were bigger hippies than most ever acknowledged them to be. Think about that, you hippie bashers.

3. Iron Maiden - Number of the Beast

This album is so much more about "Run to the Hills," the song which everyone will remember Iron Maiden for. So much more. Number of the Beast is one of the first genuine metal masterpieces boasting an improbable switch-up in vocals that surpassed anyone's expectations. Even the lesser-cited songs like "Gangland" and "Invaders" are sheer brilliance. In much shorter time than Iron Maiden's later albums, they carry their listeners on a metal odyssey very few can match.

2. Iron Maiden - Powerslave

This is my personal favorite heavy metal album of all-time. Everything preceding Powerslave are supreme classics, yet I have never felt anything for a metal album in quite the same manner as I do Powerslave. "2 Minutes to Midnight" and "Aces High" are a pair of Maiden's most-respected individual songs, yet I feel literally carried aloft by "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)," "The Duellists," "Flash of the Blade," "Back in the Village" and of course, the titanic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Creatively-speaking, this is Iron Maiden's most adventurous and escapist record, and not a single lick is out of whack. Powerslave and the final selection on this list are, in my opinion, the most perfect albums of the genre.

1. Slayer - Reign in Blood

This is the album we should all ask one another the question "What were you doing the first time you heard Reign in Blood?" It's this album that made the entire music world bend an ear and say "Whoa..." It's been empirically proven in studies that Slayer has reached more diverse professions than any other band in metal's history. A half hour is all they needed to lift everyone by their collective chins and knock 'em on their duffs. This is the penultimate metal listening experience for all generations and those to come. For the record, I was sitting on my bedroom floor in 1987 once I finally caught up to Reign in Blood (released the year prior) and saying "Whoa..."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Metal Minute's 100 Metal Albums You Can't Live Without: Numbers 19 to 11

19. Hanoi Rocks - Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks

Glam metal carries a stigma but not all of it is deserved. At times, glam is just as effective and nasty as you like it in metal. Hanoi Rocks are the uncrowned kings of glam and could kick every one of their contemporaries straight in the nards. It was an unspoken truth back in the eighties when glam spelled out big bucks for major label hair hucksters. Unfortunately, Hanoi Rocks wasn't told of the payout line.

18. Overkill - Feel the Fire

I'm always tempted to choose Taking Over before Feel the Fire because of the memories affiliated with the former album. Nothing said metal to me on a personal level than walking around with a boom box blaring Overkill's "Deny the Cross" from Taking Over and pissing off a crowd of old folks. I will always cherish that memory, yet Feel the Fire is Overkill's birthright album. As one of the very first bands to mesh NWOBHM and thrash, this is one record that never gets mentioned as a transcontinental bridge, though everyone does recognize its importance to metal.

17. Kiss - Dressed to Kill

Even though Creatures of the Night is the only true metal album Kiss recorded (and it's damned good one you do need to own), it's the dirty grooves and huffing raunch of Dressed to Kill which helped make Kiss legends beyond their kabuki makeup and fireball stage antics. One of the genuinely substantial albums Kiss laid down in a career filled more with plies for commercial acceptance, Dressed to Kill is pure swagger and a hot time from start-to-finish.

16. Boris - Pink

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Boris is the coolest band alive right now. They're cool because they don't know it nor do they care. This is a band with more ideas swirling in their heads and they have the capacity to give projection to all them. Evolving from a Sleep and Sunn O))) mode of bombastic tone drags, Boris can do it all. Sludge, rawk, blues, death metal, drone, prog, alternative and greasy rock 'n roll. All found on Pink and most of their recent offerings beginning with Akuma No Uta. This is one of the most important units around and I will always cherish both sets I've seen them play, on top of interviewing Atsuo through a Japanese interpreter.

15. Pantera - Vulgar Display of Power

For its widespread impact upon the genre alone, Vulgar Display of Power is a mandatory selection. I favor Cowboys From Hell for its rowdiness, but Pantera's shift from glammed up power rockers to the ultimate proto beasts of their day was realized in full on this album. Over the years, my enthusiasm for this band has waned due to overexposure, but Dimebag left an undeniable influence upon future riff-chug-oriented guitarists and Pantera gave us hope (for a little while, anyway) that metal in America was going to stick around during the nineties.

14. Twisted Sister - Under the Blade

I've come to appreciate You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll as Twisted Sister's best written album overall, but Under the Blade is one of heavy metal's crown jewels, even if the band doesn't necessarily agree. Woe be to your sorry ass if you don't know these songs.

13. Anthrax - Spreading the Disease

Not as consistently blazing as Fistful of Metal nor as streamlined as Among the Living, Spreading the Disease is still one of thrash's earliest "holy shit" albums. Scott Ian and Danny Spitz are pure electricity on this album and to this day, no matter how good Anthrax is, they have never recreated the overpowering sizzle of "Gung Ho," one of metal's greatest single tunes.

12. Alice Cooper - Love it to Death

Uncle Alice remains a pivotal figurehead of rock and metal and even though he's had a couple of random slip-ups in his career, very very few stand up to the regality of Alice Cooper. Gruesome theatrics and audile rock nightmares are only a couple dimensions to Alice Cooper's stature. Love it to Death boasts "I'm Eighteen," one of the cornerstone anthems of rebel rock, yet the album as a whole is daring, inventive and it should be considered one of the first authentic heavy metal albums along with anything Zeppelin and Sabbath laid down.

11. Accept - Restless and Wild

I truly adore Metal Heart and Balls to the Wall and wish there was room for both on this list, but Restless and Wild is the foundation of both Accept and U.D.O., not to mention damn near every power metal band of the eighties and beyond.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Metal Minute's 100 Metal Albums You Can't Live Without: Numbers 29 to 20

29. Melvins - Stoner Witch

The deep music heads know Nirvana was the punked-up version of the Melvins, whom Kurt Cobain held in huge regard. The stories of Cobain sitting in the basement where the Melvins practiced weaves a dreamy, wish-you-were-there notoriety that should lure you to these guys. Also one of the most thunderous club acts you'll ever witness, the Melvins are sludge royalty.

28. Deep Purple - In Rock

This is one the heaviest albums of all-time, period. Metal's roots stem beyond Sabbath, going all the way back to Link Wray's pivotal power chord. Yet the MKII era of Deep Purple showed how to project with volume, aggression, tenacity and a disregard for decibel maximization. Zeppelin has been credited as the loudest live band in history, but In Rock might be the loudest album in history.

27. System of a Down - Toxicity

As important an album, culturally-speaking, as the Bad Brains' I Against I. System of a Down leaves behind a short career filled with a masterful catalog. Toxicity may have broken the band to a commercial avenue nobody saw coming, yet it's quantifiably the I Against I and The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan of its day. Few albums seek to change the world before winning any proficiency accolades. Toxicity, like System of a Down's entire recorded body, is ethics-bound.

26. Ozzy Osbourne - Diary of a Madman

The second metal album I ever heard in-between Maiden's Killers and Dio's Holy Diver, Ozzy's Diary of a Madman is to me, his most important solo album. Blizzard of Ozz is his most acclaimed and certainly a must-have album, yet the cartoon character Ozzy later became is a strange cariacature of the dangerous and wreckless Ozzy Osbourne (with the loving textures of axe maestro Randy Rhodes) who put out this hallowed slab.

25. Venom - Black Metal

Speaking of cartoons, we come to Venom. I'll be honest, there was a time in my life when I was freaking afraid of this band. Moreover, I was afraid of what they represented. One day, though, I realized Venom were more satirists of satanism and paganism than actual proponents of it. Once you get past that and past Venom's sloppy, clunky performance style, you get them.

24. Iron Maiden - Killers

Let us not forget Paul DiAnno was no slouch on the mike. Few bands are blessed to have two dynamic powerhouses singing for them, and even though Bruce Dickinson remains forevermore the voice of Iron Maiden (sorry, Paul and Blaze), Killers is an exceptional display of metal vocalization and building song progression that would simply go bonkers on its successive album. Killers is a haunting album from the cover on down to its guts and every song here is just as classic to metalheads as Maiden's future body of work.

23. Dio - The Last in Line

Most people would take Holy Diver over The Last in Line and I have no arguments against it. That's actually accurate and though Holy Diver is superior, I hold a candle for this one simply for the amount of time I spent with Ronnie singing the title cut, "We Rock" and "Egypt (The Chains Are Falling)" into my ears as a teenager.

22. Van Halen - s/t

Frequently a starting point for many would-be rockers and metalheads, the first time you hear Van Halen's '78 debut will be aural masturbation. As crucial to the widespread panic of heavy metal and hard rock as Black Sabbath's Paranoid, Van Halen is one of the most sonically-disruptive and sensory-pleasing audile experiences you'll ever soak up in your lifetime.

21. Voivod - Nothingface

Yes, Voivod are simply that good to get three nods on this list. I once wrote a piece when Nothingface came out in 1989 in which I declared them to be the band of the future. They damn well should've been, but heavy metal became outlawed in North America and Voivod's responses after Nothingface varied from confused to outraged, though almost always interesting. Nothingface, however, is a prime example of how to effectively seam signature shifts and tempo changes. Prog metal owes everything to this album after King Crimson.

20. Megadeth - Rust in Peace

I will always root for Dave Mustaine and Megadeth and though the 'deth catalog has been filled with ups and downs, Rust in Peace is Mustaine's crowning achievement. One of the first true magnum opuses of thrash after Master of Puppets (no missed ironies, of course) and Reign in Blood, Rust in Peace still astonishes and it's just a bit more articulate than Master when you break the parts down. You go, Dave...

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Metal Minute's 100 Metal Albums You Can't Live Without: Numbers 39 to 30

39. Lamb of God - As the Palaces Burn

In the metal revival, there are few bands striking the limelight who produced a genuine future artifact like Lamb of God did on their way up the totem with As the Palaces Burn. This is one of the most agitated, alarming and beautifully maniacal albums of the modern age.

38. Sigh - Imaginary Sonicscape

Asia is red-hot with metal and punk acts. Gonin-Ish, Boris, Chthonic and Balzac are a few standout groups, while Sigh are on another planet altogether. Mostly considered a black-death hybrid, Sigh is equal to the speed of Chthonic yet are even more inventive when the urges strike. Imaginary Sonicscopes is an album that would bury less-capable groups with its 'round the bend mood changes and lunatic genre blends. By the final note, you've been subjected to one of the most intelligent tunnels of excavation you're going to stumble into.

37. Amorphis - Tales From the Thousand Lakes

Amorphis deserves credit, if for nothing else, their fearlessness in discovering a voice. That voice is subject to change in this group and each album is a suspenseful query prior to its release date. In a couple cases, Amorphis' bravado to change up their identity has hurt them, yet they maintain a loyal fan base and much of it stems from their early-on windswept speed-death metal odyssey, Tales From the Thousand Lakes.

36. Fear Factory - Demanufacture

Is there any other band outside of Slayer and Pantera who young artists wish to emulate more than this one? Raymond Herrera redefined metal drumming after Dave Lombardo, and his signature blast beat has been mimicked and modified by would-be double-bass crushers from all walks of life. On top of it, Fear Factory married metallic grooves with sequencers and electronica to create one of the deadliest, most ambient sounds out there.

35. Queensryche - Operation Mindcrime

Often referred to as "the thinking man's heavy metal," Queensryche penned an Orwellian masterpiece which will never be topped, even by themselves. Only Pink Floyd's The Wall is a more haunted rock dystopia, yet Queensryche (still with Chris DeGarmo in the fold) created a heaving, soaring and ultimately tragic caveat about mind control and violence that is still a magnificent story to submit yourself to--pun intended.

34. AC/DC - Let There Be Rock

Everyone has a favorite AC/DC album and it's usually Back in Black or Highway to Hell. Both are crucial albums by the band that accepted their roles as scruffy heathens and played them up to the max. Dirty Deeds and High Voltage are likewise mandatory, but for the ultimate ear-blasting, sonic clout upon your thrashing noodle, it's Let There Be Rock or bust.

33. Overkill - Horrorscope

One of the most endurant metal bands in history, Overkill has seldom let anyone down on their albums, even if only Blitz and DD Verni represent the halcyon lineup, bisected by the time Horrorscope was released in 1991. That being said, Horrorscope is still one of Overkill's biggest triumphs. Nobody then would've considered the follow-up to the ravenous The Years of Decay to be this good without Bobby Gustafson, but it sure as hell was.

32. Slayer - Hell Awaits

One of the most frightening metal albums ever recorded. The legacy of Slayer was imprinted upon metal with Reign in Blood, but it was already forged beforehand. Still capable of rattling your spine.

31. Judas Priest - Sad Wings of Destiny

If I wanted to, I could dot this list with a huge bulk of Priest's catalog, since Defenders of the Faith, Screaming for Vengeance, Stained Class, Point of Entry and even Painkiller deserve to make the cut. However, it must be said that Judas Priest's long standing in the music community is best served due to their earlier works of metal impressionism. Sad Wings of Destiny is a somewhat hazy verve of rough 'n ready exploration that by now should be considered high art.

30. Prong - Beg to Differ

Cleansing put Prong on the map and Prove You Wrong might be their finest bit of songwriting, while Rude Awakening had a lot of balls for its grooves and experimenting, but for me, it's all about Beg to Differ. One of the heaviest trios outside of Motorhead, Prong delivered a series of metalhead classics beginning with this one that had slivers of "Lost and Found" and "For Dear Life" hoisted onto the original Headbangers Ball for commercial break purposes after S.O.D. had ruled it. Put up against Nirvana at the time Prong started getting hot, the mass population would obviously go with Cobain and company, but we knew the truth.