It's interesting to follow the progress, or lack thereof, that some bands make. Since 2004, Hydrogyn has been a band that has tried to market the hotness of their frontwoman Julie Westlake, hoping that it would overshadow their ultimately boring and clandestine music. Album after album, there's been nothing but photos and videos of Westlake to promote the band, and nothing behind it musically to fully capture any interest her looks might have enticed. By contrast, a band like Benedictum is also fronted by an appealing woman named Veronica Freeman, and yet the focus with them is always on the tunes and not Freeman's looks. Not surprisingly, they are a lot farther along, respected and known than Hydrogyn.
There's always bands that everyone knows, and then there are bands and musicians that made an impact on you that weren't what any would call commercially gigantic. For me, vocalist Leather Leone has long been one of those musicians. While she never broke through like a contemporary like Doro Pesch did, her work was always as good (maybe better, to be honest) than the reigning queen of Metal's output was. Be it the work she did with Rude Girl, the critically acclaimed recordings as the frontwoman of Chastain, or even solo, Leather Leone was almost never considered as a "female metal singer". Instead, her grit and integrity always left her known as simply a "metal singer".
REGRINDING THE AXES
What could be more useless in 2012 than a new Molly Hatchet studio album? Clearly the band knew. The correct answer is: a Molly Hatchet covers album. Look, I've got no real issues with Molly Hatchet. Every tractor pull and ribfest has to have their live band entertainment, and Foghat always needs a co-headliner. As far as recorded music though, I have to assume that Molly Hatchet recorded music stopped meaning anything to anyone around the time the replacement players started outnumbering the original members in the band. Still, they want to continue on, so God bless 'em.
I've long said it, and I'll continue to say it. Slash is the single most overrated guitar player on the planet. While I definitely acknowledge him as not only a solid player and someone that has a very distinct sound, I really laugh when I see him listed in the same sentences with Malmsteen, Van Halen, Dimebag, Zakk Wylde, Randy Rhoads, etc. If he was that unbelievable, he wouldn't have been able to have been replaced by whatever goof Axl Rose trots out from tour to tour.
BRING HEAVY ROCK TO THE LAND
Jorn Lande is one of the greatest living metal vocalists out there today, and yet there's surprisingly few people that truly appreciate his music. To think that he was chosen by the surviving members of Black Sabbath to stand in for the greatest metal vocalist ever to take a stage (Ronnie James Dio), one would think that alone would have seen his ascent to the elite position in metal reserved for such greats as Dickinson or Halford. For whatever reason, it hasn't happened though. Instead, Jorn Lande finds himself mixed into that collection of vocalists that everyone knows are brilliant but no one actually buys. That list includes guys like Russell Allen, Tim "Ripper" Owens and Primal Fear's Ralf Sheepers among others.
LIVE & INSPIRED
I'm sure I'll probably get killed here by my metal brethren, but I actually like Godsmack. Certainly, I realize they are a more metal version of Nickelback; a band whose sole goal is to create three or four radio hits on each album, sell a good amount of music and concert tickets, and basically be a key cog in the radio rock syndicate. I get it - it's less about the art of music than the business of music with them. That said, they have been consistently solid with their albums...so much so that most say they are the modern day AC/DC where there's NO difference from record to record. For Godsmack, all a new album means to most people is that they will be invading radio with the sames songs as always...but with different words attached to them.
For the purists out there, this version of Fear Factory that only features original members Burton C. Bell and Dino Cazares just doesn't measure up as the "real deal". To those people, I hope you enjoy missing out on one of the greatest resurgences in all of heavy metal. Without question, Fear Factory was at a point where it was time to give it up and do other things. Albums like ARCHETYPE and TRANSGRESSION were just shells of the former intensity that the band had possessed, and most thought these guys were done. Still, Bell rekindled his relationship with Cazares, pushed aside other original members, and forged ahead. If it did nothing else, the extremely solid MECHANIZE proved that the fire in the band was always spawned from the riffs of Cazares and the voice of Bell. With THE INDUSTRIALIST, they have seemingly taken it all the way back to their best era of the band.
Over the last few years, one of the most busy and biggest growing metal bands as far as reputation has been Havok. These guys have proven, right from the start, to be one of the most motivated and hardworking bands on the planet. They seem to be doing one of two things at every moment for the last 3 years...touring or recording. These new band creates what has to be considered the freshest dose of Bay Area Thrash throwback music the metal scene has seen in quite some time. There are other bands that have come along with them (Warbringer, Lazarus AD, Municipal Waste), but Havok is the only one that has seemingly stayed busy every step of the way and gained its share of attention.