He was the "metal" in Metallica for years and years. He added credibility to a pretty much dead band like Voivod, as well as finances so they could produce a couple of fine albums along the way. Hell, he was the creative force behid Flotsam & Jetsam; a band that I love but clearly wasn't the same after DOOMSDAY FOR THE DECEIVER when he left. And yet, with all his heralded accomplishments, Jason Newsted somehow finds himself at a crossroads where he has to come out and prove himself and his metal merits once again. Newsted told me last month that he keeps the mindset always that he's only as good as his next record, no matter what the past has proven. Clearly, this is one guy that could rest on his laurels and his mountain of money and do whatever he wants. With all that said though, he returns with a simply smoldering EP that's as strong as anything he's done in the past.
Without question, Ektomorf's last two albums, BLACK FLAG and THE ACOUSTIC, are the one-two punch of disappointment that makes me really hate when bands forget what made them good in the first place. To be clear, I'm well aware that this is a band that's never been big and never will be, but every decade I tend to latch onto a few bands that never make it big but just kick my ass each and every time out. Bands like Skinlab and Stuck Mojo have filled that void previously for me, and up until recently, Ektomorf was one of those acts. They were my favorite Soulfly sounding band that filled the rare void between Cavalera albums. THE ACOUSTIC was a disastrous mistake in my opinion, as Ektomorf is just one of those bands that you don't want to hear play acoustically. Back to being heavy with BLACK FLAG, it's apparent there weren't a lot of fresh ideas this time around.
MACHINE FUCKING HEAD LIVE
Machine Head is one of the most intense live metal acts out there today. To me, they have filled the void that was vacated by Pantera's demise and the softening of Metallica as a live act. While this band is the single most plagued band on the planet healthwise, when they do hit the stage they are as intense an experience as you can ever witness. Additionally, they have a catalog that has a lot of brilliance in it, and for the most part they pull primarily from the better stuff when they take to the live stage.
30 YEARS OF HEL
After 30 years, you could safely assume that a band still existing but having never had mega-success might just be a tired shell of their former selves. We've all seen these second tier bands reunite and embarrass themselves from time to time because it becomes more about hanging with their buds than it does to being serious about their music and their craft. After 30 years though, it's clear that Helstar might actually have more direction and aggression than they ever exhibited before. Led by diminutive vocalist James Rivera, the ferocity of Helstar is definitely far greater now than it was at any time in their long career. With the release of their new live collection 30 YEARS OF HEL, Rivera and company have proved that they were not only a great band back in the day, but still continue to bring it as strong as any thrasher band out there today.
DARK ROOTS OF EARTH
Without question, Testament is one of my favorite bands of all time. In my mind, they really are yet to do a bad album, even in the wake of health scares, hiatuses and a seemingly endless see of lineup changes. While they have missed the mark on occasion (ELECTRIC CROWN, DEMONIC), their bad albums are still a quality listen! As for their great ones, well they are as good or better than anything in the history of Thrash Metal. A few years ago, they stormed back onto the metal scene with the brilliant release THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION, and for that reason alone, expectations were sky high for this new disc. For the most part, they deliver once again...although without the immediate punch that past records have featured from the opening seconds of a listen.