WHAT ABOUT NOW
Every couple of years, a new Bon Jovi album comes across my desk. This reminds me every couple of years that there was a time when Bon Jovi was actually a solid rock band. For all the metalheads that want to instantly dismiss this band, those of us that grew up in the early 80s remember very distinctly that in the world of popular rock and metal that for the first time dominated the radio, it was Bon Jovi and Motley Crue that were the first of the massively popular. To be honest, Bon Jovi's popularity dwarfed that of the Crue. It was so big, in fact, that you saw bands like Def Leppard change their style and mimic it to find superstardom for themselves. Now though, and really for the last 20 years, Bon Jovi has been a sellout joke that has led with an overplayed radio single that program directors at middle of the road stations eat up, and then they disappear until halftime at some corporate NFL event here and there. They have become more of a brand than a creative entity, and most of their albums since KEEP THE FAITH have been universally below average.
I'm really not sure how Havok has done it, but they have once again topped themselves musically and creatively. While creating music with a pretty rigid framework by purposely claiming themselves to be playing "90s era Thrash", Havok finds ways to improve from release to release. On UNNATURAL SELECTION, they just may have peaked. There really can't be much further they can go to get better. A seething cauldron of frenetic rage, UNNATURAL SELECTION finds Havok creating a thrash metal opus that would stand proudly and deservedly next to any Exodus, Overkill or Anthrax release from the past that you want to line it up against. Without question, this Denver band has their shit REALLY together these days.
SHOW NO MERCY
If BACK TO THE FUTURE was a real concept that could actually happen, it's my belief that Mad Margritt would be a name that every single one of you that owns Skid Row, Slaughter and Dokken records would hold in the highest esteem. You would see them still touring around playing package shows together with other bands that had their run "back in the day", and you would hear interviews with Eddie Smith about his upcoming book that details all the debauchery of being a superstar back in the heyday. Unfortunately though, BACK TO THE FUTURE is fake, which leaves Smith and company recording music they love and that, while solid, is hard to get people to listen to because their door on new music slammed shut the day Kurt Cobain reached #1 on Billboard. It's too bad that so many in that 40-50 age range are like that too, because they are missing out on a ton of music that falls right in their wheelhouse. SHOW NO MERCY is one of those they are missing.
Let's be honest. To the average person that hasn't been following along carefully, it's been hard to impossible to tell the difference between Drowning Pool and Soil for the last decade. Both have had multiple singers in their camp. Both have had Ryan McCombs as one of those singers. And both have released some fairly unmemorable work in the last 10 years. That said though, I'm the first to admit that I was a BIG fan of Soil with McCombs when they first came out. Their THROTTLE JUNKIES release was stellar, and while they traded down to be trendy on both their SCARS and REDEFINE releases, both were still enjoyable if you are accepting the musical style that dominated active rock radio in the early 2000s. Several releases with vocalist AJ Cavalier served as little more than times when people would hear their name and go, "oh, those guys are still around?" McCombs has returned, and the band has come charging back with WHOLE. While not as raw as their earliest days with THROTTLE JUNKIES or the EL CHUPACABRA EP, WHOLE is closer to the original sound than these guys have been in years.
I make no bones about it. I'm not a Dream Theater fan. To be blunt and to the point, I've always appreciated the immense talent they have as individual musicians, but I've always found them to be the single most undisciplined songwriters in the history of heavy metal. They have always written bloated songs that are more focused on getting everyone's individual parts into each song than on writing a cohesive 4-6 minute song that's digestible to the average metal fan (such as I am). That's just my opinion, and I'm sure the throngs of DT loyalists out there will react with their typical "you don't know shit, that's why they're brilliant" response. So be it. I won't convince you, and you won't convince me...so we leave it there. That said though, I've been a big fan of vocalist James Labrie's solo efforts since he started putting them out. Specifically with his release ELEMENTS OF PERSUASION which featured the killer song "Freak", Labrie has proven to be solid for a more traditional listener such as I am. With IMPERMANENT RESONANCE, Labrie has once again put forth a solid effort.
So, what were you really expecting? Did you think that just because vocalist Dez Fafara spent the Winter and Spring touring around with Coal Chamber that the next Devildriver release would be softer and more full of nu-metal elements? It's amazing to me how many times prior to this release making it's rounds that I read just that online. Fans really can be stupid sometimes. For those that need a revisionary lesson in history, Fafara formed Devildriver to be as brutal as possible and as "anti-Coal Chamber" as anything he could make. The odds are that Devildriver will never even resemble Coals Chamber, nu-metal, or anything with the word "soft" in it for as long as they are a band. WINTER KILLS is a seriously intense effort from the band I feel is the best extreme metal band of the last decade. Start to finish, WINTER KILLS does just that - kills.
So many 80s hair metal bands have come back unnecessarily. I mean, let's face it...some of them just didn't make enough of an impact back in the day to warrant a reunion now. I think for most of them, there's a record company offering a check to these guys that are now plumbers and carpenters, and they see it as a quick opportunity to finish a bunch of tunes that were left laying around when their short run back in 1989 crapped out. For most of them, the reunion records have been far less than good, for the simple fact that the magic of the moment has long since gone away. For a few of those bands though, there was still significant fire left in the tank. I'd say that King Kobra is one of those bands. While never bigger than a 2nd tier hair metal band back in the day, they created solid music then. With their reunion album, and now with II, they are not only rock solid creatively, but might just be better than they were back in their day.
There's just something about Philip Anselmo that most metal fans don't get. In fact, I would go as far as to argue that even most of those hardcore Pantera fans don't fully understand the motives and direction that Anselmo takes half the time. More than just about any other musician in metal history, Anselmo is the single guy that has taken a lot of varied metal styles to the masses. Through his notoriety as a legend with Pantera, Anselmo has been able to introduce much more extreme types of metal to the majority of metalheads that would probably have never listened otherwise. Speaking only for myself, my first exposure to such varied music as Anal Cunt, Necrophagia, Christ Inversion, Arson Anthem and Superjoint Ritual all came SOLELY because of Anselmo's involvement with those projects. It has NOTHING to do with any music at all that I heard prior to picking up those releases. To be honest, I haven't liked all of it, but I don't think that's really what it's about for Anselmo anyway. To his credit, he lives and dies metal...all kinds of metal...and he is out to create as much of it as humanly possible.
About every two to three years, a band comes along that I have never heard of that absolutely overwhelms me. A few years ago, it was Volbeat that came out of nowhere and really struck a chord with me. Most recently, that Halestorm record just stays in my player and gets play several times a week. Following an impressive performance at ROCK ON THE RANGE as well as a very fun hang with them after their performance, a new band has jumped on my radar. That band is Scorpion Child. With interest, their self-titled release found it's way to me a week after ROCK ON THE RANGE, and it's been stuck in my player (and my head) ever since. As of today, July 9th, 2013, SCORPION CHILD is the metal album of the year in my eyes. A new band for me to follow religiously has been launched to the world.
More than most releases, I've taken a lot of extra time listening to Megadeth's SUPER COLLIDER, if for no other reason than to figure out just why I don't think it's very good. With Megadeth, it's always a scenario where the first few listens remind you of a lot of other stuff they have done. You have to give them more time though, as the Dave Mustaine sound has a way of either sticking with you when it's truly brilliant, or just sounding tired when it's not. Certainly, any metalhead knows the difference between an album like RUST IN PEACE and another like THE WORLD NEEDS A HERO. It's the same guy, and literally the same audio quality of performance, but that spark is completely different between the two albums. With KINGMAKER, Mustaine and company just fall flat, even though it's a well recorded album that's unmistakably Megadeth.