There's an unwritten rule that I rarely follow here in Cleveland. That rule is that if a band is from Cleveland, I'm supposed to write all glowing things or else be called a hater by the local community. It's sad that it's like that, but the truth is what it is. For years I've lived with that stigma, to the point that I've almost completely removed myself from the local metal scene in order to be less "involved" with the bands when writing reviews. With this in mind, the new release from Wretch, called WARRIORS, has come across my desk. Being completely honest and forthcoming here, I REALLY liked their REBORN release a lot. It was a meaty, strong metal release that deserved good praise on the national and international level. They have returned with WARRIORS. While it's not terrible by any stretch, it's just not an overly strong release either.
BLOODSTONE & DIAMONDS
What happened to Machine Head really is a crime. Unfortunately for them, it's a crime they perpetrated upon themselves. With a mistake so many made in their youth, this band singlehandedly torpedoed themselves from ascending to the heights in metal held by only the select few like Metallica and Megadeth before them. After THE MORE THINGS CHANGE came out, they were on the cusp to be the predecessors to Pantera atop the heavy metal landscape. Low and behold though, they killed that dream by trying to incorporate a bit of trendiness to THE BURNING RED, and it killed that momentum completely. The followup SUPERCHARGER was a bit better, but still wasn't good enough to prove THE BURNING RED as an anomaly. That was the point that a lot of people jumped off. Sucks to be them really, because the last three releases, THROUGH THE ASHES OF EMPIRES, THE BLACKENING and UNTO THE LOCUST have all been as good as any metal album released in the last decade or so. Too little, too late I suppose.
A TRIBUTE TO MOTLEY CRUE
With the music industry pretty much dead anymore, nothing really comes off as shocking. After all, you have very desperate companies trying to hang on and make money from an industry that has about as much relevance today as the typewriter ribbon makers of the world still do. The current trend for the last half decade or so has been for bands to do cover albums to milk fans. Those are bad enough. Then though, there's this. If two things were ever made to NOT collide, it's country music and the works of Motley Crue. Simply, this is not music that translates universally. Kid Rock makes the kind of music that works in both medium today. Maybe Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Motley Crue? Just no. As you would suspect, the ridiculously titled "Nashville Outlaws" have delivered an almost comical release that is embarrassing to the artists involved as well as the namesake guys that actually seem to have endorsed this. This isn't fun. It's just terrible.
Texas Hippie Coalition
I tell this story often, but it's one of my favorites of the past year. I had the chance to interview the Texas Hippie Coalition earlier this year at Rock On The Range in Columbus, Ohio. I was in a small tent with a bunch of photographers. The tent was fairly quiet really, as the much bigger adjacent tent was where most of the radio guys were set up. It took all of 3 seconds for Texas Hippie Coalition vocalist Big Daddy Ritch to change the entire attitude of my quiet little tent. "I hope you motherfuckers don't plan on me keeping it down," he bellowed. "Big Daddy and the boys are here and you're gonna know it!" And with that, he grabbed me and belly bumped (as two fat guys are not going to chest bump) me damn near through the back of the tent. From there, it was just a fun, no bullshit interview with Big Daddy and the boys that EXACTLY complimented any preconceived notion you might have about these guys from hearing their music.
I get it. You are Sammy Hagar. You've seen huge success in virtually every world you've entered. In music, he was the main focus of Montrose. He parlayed that into a very successful solo career. That wasn't enough, so he joined the world's largest band at the time (Van Halen), and took them to commercial heights that even they hadn't seen to that point. When that ended, he went back to solo material and was successful there once again. He then needed something fun to do, so he formed Chickenfoot and found success there. He loves to drink, so he made his own tequila which then went on to make him a zillion more dollars. He needed a place to party, so he built the Cabo Cantina which has now become THE party spot in Cabo, St. Lucas, Mexico. Hell, I'd love to have Sammy Hagar take a second of interest in one of my businesses, just to see how "Midas" the guy really is. Lately though, it seems like he might be ready to just relax and have fun. Two of his most recent solo efforts, SAMMY HAGAR AND FRIENDS and LIVIN' IT UP, found the former Red Rocker mellowing out a lot and just having fun. More of the same here with LITE ROAST. Comprised of material he's performed over the years in a new, laid back "on the beach" method, LITE ROAST will likely only appeal to hardcore Hagar enthusiasts. At this point, I'm not all that sure Hagar cares.
There's always good news and bad news whenever Max Cavalera gets busy with new music. The good is that you get a whole lot of new music, seemingly all in a very short time. The bad news is it's generally spotty at best, because he simply writes and releases too much music at the same time. His band Soulfly released SAVAGES in late 2013, which was followed with another band, Killer Be Killed, being released in May. Six months later, we now have a new release from Cavalera Conspiracy called PANDEMONIUM. Like any fan of Cavalera's, a single 12 month period where I get 36 new creations from him is a good year. That said though, it sometimes comes with a bit of boredom, as it's just not likely that he's going to vary his writing greatly from project to project. And he hasn't. PANDEMONIUM features a bit of a deeper voiced, more death metal-like vocal from Cavalera, but the music is fairly similar to most of the other stuff he's done in the last year.
.5 THE GRAY MATTER
With a ton of speculation and even more wonderment on this band's ability to continue on without founding members Paul Gray and Joey Jordison, Slipknot has returned after far too long of a layoff with .5 THE GRAY MATTER. I've listened to this release multiple times a day for the last week or so that I've had it, not so much because I wanted to figure out if it was good or not, but to get my head past the considerations of "would this sound different with the other guys". While there are some things that probably would have been a bit different, overall .5 THE GRAY MATTER is EXACTLY what you would expect to hear from Slipknot. Not only do the songs measure well against their past work, but they comes with a lot of aggression and anger that has come from the turmoil of the last few years in the band.
Opeth simply fails as a band, at least to me. While I'll admit to never fully understanding the amazement and awe so many have for this band, I've appreciated them from afar. I've listened, and I've at least wrapped my head around what they were trying to do. Their fusing of death metal with progressive elements always made for an awkwardness that's rarely done creatively. While certainly not at all the same musically, that awkward allure has always been the draw to many to a band like Meshuggah (although again, not at all comparing the music they make at all). Still, it seems like Opeth just doesn't want to have that allure anymore. Instead, they want to be Pink Floyd. Well, in short, they aren't Pink Floyd, or King Crimson, or whatever progressive rock band they are taking influence from on PALE COMMUNION. While I'm sure this is inspired work where every note was scrutinized, it's a boring listen to people that make up the heavy music audience they once were playing to. Clearly that's not their focus anymore.
A SKELETAL DOMAIN
So really, what does anyone expect when you get a Cannibal Corpse release handed to you? Ballads, love songs and fun? Not hardly. There's an expectation of severe brutality which the band delivers time and time again. Certainly, it comes with different levels of acceptance to one's ears, but ultimately the only thing that matters if it says Cannibal Corpse on the cover is that you know you are in for an extremely heavy ride. They are one band where even member changes have meant very, very little to the overall sound (cue the Cannibal Corpse uber fans to write in and tell me how each member's departure change the "dynamics"...shut up!). Like I said, you know what you get with these guys, but sometimes the degree of playing is better than at other times. This would be one of those times. As a fan of the band, A SKELETAL DOMAIN is by far the most musical venture the band has taken, and it's by far the most adventurous musically. I'm sure to most that don't appreciate their version of "slaughtercore" it's just noise, but to a Death Metal fan, this is one of their best efforts to date.
BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT
Unless you call Testament a "thrash band" (which I don't personally), Exodus would rank as my favorite true Thrash band of all time. They have had good times and bad. Occasionally, like on FABULOUS DISASTER, they have misstepped along the way. But overall, they are one of the true powerhouses in the history of thrash metal. Since 2004 when they put the band back together, they have been far stronger than at any time in their career. For the last decade, it has been the polarizing Rob Dukes leading the band vocally. He was replaced earlier this year by the again returning Steve "Zetro" Souza; a move that has found both praise and criticism amongst the hardcore fans of the band. It makes sense, really. With Dukes, the band simply got heavier and more vicious. This leaves people to wonder what would happen with Zetro returning to the band. Well, they certainly didn't slow down. BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT is as heavy as anything the guys have done to date.