Title: “Ashes Against The Grain”
Label: The End Records
Release Date: 8/8/2006
Genre: Progressive, Atmospheric, Experimental, Dark Metal
When you look to play some cool Atmospheric Doom Metal and your mind starts to seek out the region where some of the better stuff is generated from, you would be hard pressed to come up with Portland Oregon as all that inspirational. Yet, oddly enough the guys in Agalloch hail from there and call it home on top of doling out some of the most dramatic and brooding music of this kind. There is a refreshing, yet Dark and ominous sound on “Ashes Against The Grain”, an album that takes elements of Black Metal and Folk to the mix as well over the haunting guitar riffs. The guitars are rich in echo and decay and they use two styles of vocals (Growls and Clean) which together make the overall vibe of this enthralling CD stretches the boundaries on how genres can mix and be used together. Heavy, but by no means a display a screaming Metal prowess the listener gets drawn in to tracks like “Falling Snow” which at points use power chords that are reminiscent of Type-O-Negative. The blending of the vocals works especially well for the release as you often only hear the two in blistering Black Metal. I felt this gives a positive spin on those who perform different genre styles and shows it’s acceptable to use them in this format as well.
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Artist: Nuclear Assault
Title: “Third World Genocide”
Label: SPV Records
Release Date: 8/30/2005
Genre: Thrash Metal
Nuclear Assault was one of those bands from way back in the day of Thrash Metal that always had a strong cult following more than arena level touring capacity. The signing to SPV Records has brought us to “Third World Genocide” and if this is expected to be the bands return to the scene where they are held in high regard, then they could have done a little better at it. I can readily admit that I was not the most ardent of fans of the group but I did always give them some props for the often biting social commentary that was found in their lyrics. John Connolly is a force to be reckoned with onstage and literally screams his lungs out for two-hour sets and they always drew a tremendous crowd in their early days. The new CD has the pre-requisite Thrashing but nothing really stands out like it once had but perhaps to their diehards this is something seen a little easier. It is also layered with a fine dose of humor which is apparent on the songs “Whine And Cheese”, where an almost Sex Pistols like vibe comes across. “Long-Haired Asshole” is Country Metal if needing a genre qualification and you simply laugh as you wonder why a band so noted for brutalizing the ears was taking a seemingly goofy route. The band lineup remains the same as the old days with John Connolly on guitar and vocals, Danny Lilker on bass and vocals with Glen Evans on drums. The only exception is the absence of Anthony Bramante on lead guitar. The album tracks were recorded by Eric Burke but when I caught a performance shortly after the release the slot was being filled by Karl Cochran, who has worked with Ace Frehley on a number of occasions. “Third World Genocide” was not really high on my recommendation list, but again I could be missing something here that I am not designed to get. True fans might love it, but that will be a surprise to me. I expected a little more from “Old School” Thrashers, especially when what comes from bands like Overkill and Exodus still rings true with a historical glory.
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Artist: Britny Fox
Title: “Long Way To Live”
Label: Spitfire Records
Release Date: 2/6/2001
Genre: Hard Rock
When it came right down to it, Britny Fox were always one of those second tier Glam Bands, who despite having several solid rockers would not reach the level of success felt by their fellow Californians. They did have some catchy numbers in “Long Way To Love” and “Girlschool” both of which are present on this album – yet nothing else comes to mind as being super memorable beyond these two songs from the bands self-titled debut. Early on, the key presence in the group was “Dizzy” Dean Davidson, who as singer and guitarist held the fan focus very well. Dean left after the “Boys In Heat” record (1989) and be replaced by Tommy Paris who is present on this live recording. Paris’ voice seems more powerful and has a higher register than Davidson which makes some of the older stuff a little tricky on the ears since you are so used to hearing it a different way from the recordings. The rest of the lineup on this album remains original members with Michael Kelly Smith (lead guitar) and Johnny Dee (drums) and Billy Childs (bass). “Long Way To Live” is the only legitimate live recording from the group that fans can enjoy. If they seek music with former singer “Dizzy”, then they need to seek out one of the many listed bootlegs on the band homepage if they want it bad enough. This was a decent listen and I felt as far as live recordings go the set list included most of what you would hope to hear from the band. They certainly had the numbers I most enjoyed but if you are one of those people who are looking for more, perhaps you are better suited to a “Best Of” collection rather than a live effort.
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Artist: Paul DiAnno
Title: “The Live Beast”
Label: Spitfire Records
Release Date: 1/16/2001
Genre: Heavy Metal
Several months prior to this release, Spitfire Records issued a live CD from Paul DiAnno and his band recorded at The Whisky A Go-Go in Hollywood. If you are a Metal fan and you don’t know the name immediately then you need to switch genres as DiAnno was the original lead singer for the British juggernauts Iron Maiden. That CD featured almost a handful of classic Maiden songs with the larger focus being on Paul’s solo material. He didn’t have bad stuff but its not a secret to know what the world at large really wants to hear him sing. On “The Live Beast” fans get exactly what the original screamers was best known for and had been demanding be released in some fashion for them to enjoy on stereos everywhere. I was very happy to find this one while shopping one day and I think that every Maiden fan needs to focus their attention on it since it was that enjoyable. From beginning to end this is Iron Maiden classic after classic from the first two albums when Paul fronted the group. The two singers were like night and day from each other with Paul being a little deeper in overall tone and vocal style while Dickinson is a glass-breaking screamer at times. Dickinson showed what singers can become if the aspiration is high enough while Paul’s voice came off more as something that anyone could do if they put their mind to it. His normal register and obvious care for his vocal chords made the songs sound very close to the originals even decades later.
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Title: “Beauty & The Beer”
Label: Locomotive Records
Release Date: 9/12/2006
Genre: Thrash Metal
Since their inception in 1982, the band Tankard have been the self-proclaimed “Kings Of Beer”, and this title is held like a regal honor as the band delivers song after song about the glories of drinking and being drunks. While I am not sure about “Alcoholic Metal” being a new sub-genre of the Thrash angle I have to admit that this is a fun album to listen to. One can envision putting this one in the stereo and finding a circle pit being started around the beer keg. Since this is pure Thrash with little added experimentation the listener will find that musically there is a lot of repetition in the way the tracks hit you. The band keeps the same tempo and the same style on most of the songs but what saves them from becoming a boring listen is the rather amusing lyrical content. Almost every song is about the bands favorite past time – drinking beer and lots of it. Singer Gerre explains his very complex band song-writing process as first we decide on an album name, then we do the cover artwork and then songs get written around that. One cannot be sure if he is serious or just kidding around for when it comes to Metal music, the strangest circumstances come into play when it comes to play in song creation. The players of the group are definitely a tight unit with Gerr (vocals), Andy Bulgaropulos (guitar), Frank Thorwarth (bass) and Olaf Zissel (drums). Of the tracks presented here the best ones would fall to “Ice-olation”, “Rockstars No. 1”, and “Beauty And The Beast”. There is a very solid level of production on the album and it holds up across the recording very nicely allowing a certain consistency that one wants in this type of music. However, don’t expect anything that will make you change your mind if you are not a Thrash fan from this one, or expect to have your mind blown. You can expect that this record will get more amusing as more and more beverages are consumed in a single sitting and inspire a lot of “beer goggled” head banging. This is a group that the Budweiser and Coors people need to bring on as celebrity endorsers yet given their German heritage those two beers are probably an insult to the fine art of alcohol consumption. With all this beer talk I guess the best way to close this review is by saying “It’s Miller time”.
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