Some bands just don't get the love they deserve from metal fans around the world. One of those bands is Benedictum. In a large way, I put them in the same bucket as an artist like Jorn Lande. Musically, they are continually stronger than most of the trendy dreck that's out there, but they are constantly overlooked for reasons that are just not fair to them. With Lande, he's got the stigma of sounding like Dio (which, to be fair to the metal fans out there he helped to perpetuate) which has led people to not take him as seriously as an individual artist as his music demands. With Benedictum, I'm quick to believe that the imagery of the beautiful and voluptuous Veronica Freeman does more harm than good, as the dumb metal stereotype of "chicks don't rock" will cause some to not give Benedictum a fair shake. For those metalheads, I can only say, "your loss, dumbass". As a band that simply gets better with each and every effort, Benedictum has created their best release yet with OBEY. Full of speed, heaviness and frenetic energy that is far above their previous releases, OBEY has high jumped the bar the band previously set with DOMINION, and cleared it by a mile.
Back in 2009, there were a lot of us that were less than thrilled with Metal Church announced they were disbanding. While not for all fans, there's a lot of people out there that considered their LIGHT IN THE DARK release to be one of the best in the history of the band. And while other releases in the Ronny Munroe era of the band have been hit or miss, they brought it strong in the live environment. Further, releases like WEIGHT OF THE WORLD and THIS PRESENT DARKNESS were not bad efforts per se. They just weren't as good as LIGHT IN THE DARK or the classic era material. Having seen the Munroe led version of Metal Church a few times, it was really disheartening to hear they had broken up. Thankfully though, they have brought the band back together after a few years away to regroup, adapt to the business model of modern recording, and just recharge the batteries. The resulting GENERATION NOTHING is a very, very strong effort from the mighty Metal Church.
THE PARADIGM SHIFT
Korn has always been one of those bands that either hits or misses with me. I've loved some of them (KORN, FOLLOW THE LEADER), and I've hated others (LIFE IS PEACHY, UNTOUCHABLES). Their last release, the dubstep flavored PATH OF TOTALITY, was pretty much unlistenable to me personally. It just turned into so much more of a Jonathan Davis solo project than anything else. For THE PARADIGM SHIFT, the band has returned to their roots in a lot of ways. They have brought back guitarist Head from his religious revival, and with him comes a lot of the older style flavor. While not perfect, THE PARADIGM SHIFT is one of the stronger releases from Korn in awhile.
THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART
It's been years and years at this point, and it's astounding to me that there's so many people that still talk about the former vocalist of this band each and every time they put out a new release. It's so silly at this point. I'm the first one to agree that releases like ARISE and CHAOS AD are some of the best that have ever been recorded. For so many though that have just written off Sepultura as "dead without Max", you've missed out on a lot of truly great metal. Two of the very best albums released under the Sepultura name (A-LEX and DANTE XXI) have come fairly recently and were fronted by vocalist Derrick Green. Going back to Ross Robinson to produce it and with more fire than they have had in 15 years, THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART is the most blistering release Sepultura has put forth since SCHIZOPHRENIA, MORBID VISIONS or the aforementioned ARISE. This is some seriously punishing metal, folks.
HEAVY METAL MUSIC
This review is being written at the request of a longtime Pitriff reader, who hit me up this week and reminded me that I had not yet reviewed this release from former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted. Being honest, I'm not sure how that happened exactly. Since he came out with his 4 song EP METAL, and right through to today, the new solo music from the project called Newsted has not been away from my iPod for more than a day or two. It doesn't feature anything overly special or anything. Jason Newsted is not the best vocalist in the world. The music isn't the best or more cutting edge heavy metal ever created. In essence, it's a fairly average offering with one mighty exception - attitude. That undying, undeniable metal attitude literally forces HEAVY METAL MUSIC to be loved in the ears of most metalheads. A release full of piss and vinegar without a shred of apology for any of it, HEAVY METAL MUSIC is one of the most enjoyable metal albums of 2013.
Shades Of Remembrance
For years and years, there have been many progressive metal bands that have struggled to be heard. For many, they never get the chance, and therefore never truly get out there. For others, their sheer will to be known pushed them to be discovered by fans. With progressive metal, it's difficult to really make a statement about your sound. Everyone looks and claims to sound like the next Fates Warning, Dream Theater or Queensryche, but with such lofty names to put as an equal to yourself, the actual music behind it lets you down somewhat. For Cleveland's Shades Of Remembrance, they can loosely claim the name Fates Warning as somewhat of an influence, but ultimately they are not a good counter to any of those named bands. While VEIL is a very good release, it's not really comparable to big name progressive metal bands. They are much more metal; more gritty and more raw then the uber polished approach the bands listed about have exhibited. Don't take that as a bad thing either, as it's refreshing to hear powerful progressive playing without some studio engineer "cleaning it up". This is a solid listen.
There are great recordings, and then there are releases that just get better each and every time you listen to them. SpiralArms new release FREEDOM is one of those releases. I loved it the first time I heard it, and it's done nothing but get stronger with each and every listen for me. Maybe it's the mood I'm in these days, or maybe it's just that great music is coming out fast and furiously, but it seems like for the past two months, each release has been better than the last. In the last 3 months alone, I've proclaimed "album of the year" twice before...Vista Chino's PEACE and Scorpion Child's self-titled debut. Now, I'm proclaiming it once again. Full of diversity and influences from all the right bands in the history of rock and metal, FREEDOM stands as the lone perfect listening experience of 2013 for me. This one is a stunner.
DARK ROOTS OF THRASH
On my radio show, THE CLASSIC METAL SHOW, we have a long running argument about the Bay Area Thrash bands. We talk about if you could only keep one band's catalog, whose would it be. Would it be Metallica? Megadeth? Or would it be this band, Testament. Certainly there is no denying the greatness of MASTER OF PUPPETS or RUST IN PEACE. But with Testament, you have no ST. ANGER. There is no RISK. There is no sellout period, with the exception of DEMONIC where they sold out to the darker side and took a stab at being heavier than they had been to that point. It's a tough debate, really. While I think I'd still take Metallica based solely on the brilliance of the albums up to and through the Black album, there really is no way you could go wrong with the Testament catalog.
FROM BEER TO ETERNITY
Ministry has been retired before, but this time might really be it. With the death of guitarist and collaborator Mike Scaccia just three days after the initial sessions for FROM BEER TO ETERNITY were completed, this might just be the final statement that Al Jourgensen wants to make to the world under the moniker of "Ministry". If so, he goes out in very strong fashion. While certainly not the best Ministry album, FROM BEER TO ETERNITY is an angry effort that is every bit as reminiscent as anything Jourgensen and company have done.
Black Label Society
It's no secret that I'm a very big fan of Zakk Wylde. I've gotten to know him over the years, and more to the point, I've truly apprecated the music the guy creates. For many, they just love hearing him play guitar. I can see that. For me though, my go to moments are not the heavier albums like STONGER THAN DEATH or ORDER OF THE BLACK, but the stuff that strays from the heavy where Zakk just lets loose as a classic rocker. My favorite thing Wylde has done is his solo release BOOK OF SHADOWS, followed closely by BLS efforts HANGOVER MUSIC VOL. VI and THE SONG REMAINS NOT THE SAME. "Darkest Days" from THE SONG REMAINS NOT THE SAME is, by far, my favorite song he's ever done, based solely on the raw emotion he puts forth singing it acoustically. Wylde has returned with a very interesting live show called UNBLACKENED; a sort of acoustic show where he and Black Label Society rework a lot of songs from his entire career for a one night only performance. It's pretty good stuff.