Testament – Titans Of Creation Review

I don’t normally like to post reviews of records until I’ve had a while to sit with them and let them sink in, but given how long it took me to review Brotherhood Of The Snake, I thought maybe this time around I should strike while the iron is hot, so here goes…

Its 2020 and the 1980s Thrash Metal legends Testament have dropped their twelfth canonical studio album (ie. not counting First Strike Still Deadly, since that is re-recordings of old material). I was pretty hyped up for this album before it even arrived as the band have been on such great form for the last decade with no weak releases in recent memory. Their latest effort is called Titans Of Creation and has the same killer production style as the last two albums and also features the same line-up as the previous album Brotherhood Of The Snake, which is actually a rare thing nowadays as they usually seem to have at least one line-up shift on each new record since the ‘90s.

Interestingly though, although it has the same line-up as the last record, it kind of sounds like there has been a shift. The album is a lot less direct and a lot more technical and musically complex than ‘Snake was. Its also about 15 minutes longer. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still no intros and no ballads, just metal fury from start to end, and there are still some blunt force all-out Thrashers on there (see the red hot ‘WW3’ or ‘Curse Of Osiris’ for example), but they do take the foot off the gas a few times to flex their musicianship rather than just sanding faces off and full speed for an hour. It ends with a biblical sounding instrumental for example. ‘Symptoms’ goes down quite a technical and melodic route, that really lets you know the current rhythm section were both also previously members of the band Death. Single ‘Night Of The Witch’ should give you some idea of the direction of the record. Songs crammed with numerous tempo shifts, complex structures, virtuoso solos, loud and flashy drumming, as well as little hints of the mid-late ‘90s Groove Metal and Death Metal-influenced Testament style creeping in at points amongst their modern-Thrash style of the last four albums. ‘City Of Angels’ takes things even further, and is probably the closest thing to Low the band have done in a very long time.

Basically, the record takes the building blocks of the few previous records’ style, but really pushes it in several different directions and adds more variety. Whether you prefer this album to previous albums will really just come down to personal preference in issues of precision and succinctness versus experimentation and breadth. In terms of quality however, it is unquestionably as good as anything the band have put out since Chuck recovered from cancer.

In terms of highlights; I think my second favourite track on the album is the off kilter ‘Ishtar’s Gate’ which is very bass driven, has a nice eastern-sounding intro and guitar solo, and revolves around a very satisfying loud/quiet dynamic that reminds me a tiny bit of Annihilator. My favourite song however, and the catchiest song on the album, is probably ‘Dream Deceiver’ which could probably be described as the bastard son of ‘Electric Crown’ and ‘More Than Meets The Eye’ and which is somehow even better than that sounds. It is arguably the most memorable song they’ve written since 2008’s The Formation Of Damnation album (and this is coming from someone who loves the last two albums, so this is saying something!). Oh and in case you were wondering, its not a Priest cover, that was ‘Dreamer Deciever’ you’re thinking of.  

Overall; a damn fine modern day effort from a world class Thrash act, still at the top of their game, that is both similar enough to recent records that if you like them you’ll love this, but differnt enough that you haven’t just heard it all before. Highly recommended.

Ps. I am not usually a particularly sentimental reviewer. I don’t post many tribute posts when musicians pass away or get well soon posts when musicians are ill. However;  Singer Chuck Billy and bassist Steve DiGiorgio are currently recovering from Covid-19 at the moment, about a month after I was within sneezing distance of them at a recent concert, just before the world shut down. Sorry if its cheesy given the timing of this review, but I genuinely do wish them all the best.

Death Angel – Humanicide Review

Having been deeply impressed with Death Angel’s modern material after seeing them live, I rushed out and bought myself a copy of their latest album, 2019’s Humanicide. I’ve loved the band’s original output for years, but hadn’t checked out as much of their post-reunion material as I could have.

Turns out, that might have been a bit of a mistake because this album absolutely rips. A succinct and perfectly formed 10 tracks of Thrash. Fucking. Metal. Every bit as good as the latest albums by their Bay Area compatriots Exodus and Testament. Better in fact than some of the reunion albums by other Bay Area bands like Forbidden and Heathen. Heck… better even than the newest albums by most of the Big Four.

Stylistically, there isn’t too much material that you could say would fit on any of the band’s first three albums, it isn’t the youthful meathead Thrash of The Ultraviolence, nor the diverse and off-kilter Thrash of Frolic Through The Park and it isn’t the experimental restrained Thrash majesty of Act III… it is however, utterly perfect modern Thrash.

Drummer Will Carrol throws in such bouncy and creative patterns when possible amongst the relentless pounding, all four limbs flailing with powerful control. Damien Sisson is one of the more interesting bassists at this level. The lead guitars are spectacular from Rob Cavestany, even more impressive than the ‘80s output. Rob and Teds riffs are chunky and aggressive. On top of the furious musical canvas, singer Mark Osegueda demonstrates a wide array of different vocal styles, from melodic, to deep, to high, to harsh and several mixtures somewhere in between. He has a knack for memorable vocal hooks and catchy vocal rhythms.

Highlights include the utterly perfect title track, which opens the record and could be used as a study aid for modern thrash, as well as the much more diverse ‘Aggressor’ which covers a range of tempos and styles and really lets the band showcase their immense musical prowess, as well as the catchiest song on the record, the punkier ‘I Came For Blood.’ That’s not to say its frontloaded either. There is no real filler or unnecessary material here. Everything is good.

I really enjoy Jaon Suecof’s production job here. It perfectly suits the style and direction of the music. Guitars up front, vocals slightly lower than average, and a lot of presence for the drums.

Overall; this is a magnificent album, from an underrated band. Each song is a rager, it sounds good, each musician is great and the record doesn’t outstay its welcome. I’ve just been absolutely pasting it for the last week in the car and at home, can’t go a day without it.  I really wish I’d gone in on it sooner.

I went to go see Testament, Exodus and Death Angel live last night, on The Bay Strikes Back Tour at Bristol 02 Academy, on Tuesday 02.03.2020

I went to go see Testament, Exodus and Death Angel live last night, on The Bay Strikes Back Tour at Bristol 02 Academy, on Tuesday 02.03.2020.

As you probably know if you read this blog, I really, really like Thrash – it is my unquestionably favourite type of music.

Boy, I was so pleased when I saw this concert bill advertised. This is one hell of a concert line up! Three bands that I’ve been listening to since my teens, together on one bill, all playing Bay Area Thrash Metal, my favourite type of music bar none.

The media always likes to talk about the Big Four of Thrash Metal, (all of whom I’ve been lucky enough to seen live before!), but for me it has always been the Big 6 with Exodus and Testament in there too.

Exodus and Testament are so representative of everything good about Thrash. I can never decide which one is my favourite and it can change on any given day. In fact, Exodus and Testament logos occupy both the left and right shoulder positions on my patch jacket, equal in size and position. I’m also quite partial to early Death Angel and their Act III album in particular is one of my favourite Thrash albums.

[Trivia fans may also be aware that there are a few other connections between these three bands. I’ll type just a few here now – Death Angel’s demo was produced by Kirk Hammet, who was in Exodus, and Exodus’ singer Steve Souza was the singer of Testament before their debut album, back when they were called Legacy. Nice connections there].


I’ve been lucky enough to see Exodus before, back in 2016, when I lived in Manchester, on a bill with Prong and Obituary. That gig that got me into Obituary and properly into Prong where before I was just a causal fan. This is my first time seeing the mighty Testament live though, and I couldn’t be more excited. (Crazy as it sounds, sometimes I almost feel like I’ve seen them before though, as I have watched their Live In London DVD more than 50 times, to the point where reality blurs and my memories of it almost feel like I real memories and like I was there). Its also my first time seeing Death Angel live who are a perfect opener for such a bill.

As has become a habit of mine in recent years, I have been listening to these bands constantly in the weeks leading up to the concert, building anticipation. I also listened to them all on shuffle on the drive to the concert, which was in Bristol. This is only my second ever concert in Bristol, as I fear the unfamiliar and large city and much prefer the convenience and familiarity of Cardiff for concerts most of the time – but this line up is too good not to travel for!

I thought since it’s a bit of a stressful drive, I’d book the day afterwards off work, so I don’t go to work on less sleep than usual. Turns out I’m an idiot though, as I booked the day of the concert off rather than the day after! Woops! Oh well, at least I wasn’t in a rush to get there after work then. I tried to get some sleep beforehand to balance it out.

It was much less stressful navigating my way there this time as I made no wrong turns and I was familiar with the parking lot (which is down a weird cobbled side street that looks like you aren’t allowed to drive down) so everything went smoothly. After I queued up and got in, I was just in time to catch Death Angel’s first song. Somehow, I managed to get a good spot with a good view, only a few places from the stage slightly to the left of the venue, stage right.

Death Angel’s setlist was mostly a mix of tunes from their modern post-reunion albums. I only own one studio and one live album from the modern era so far, so it was a bit unfamiliar with the material they chose. They only played two and a half songs from the classic first three albums (‘Voracious Souls’  and a little bit of the title track from their debut album The Ultra-Violence and then the classic opener ‘Seemingly Endless Time’ from their masterpiece Act III). Nevertheless I had a great time.

Death Angel call for blood, and you’ve not spilled enough!

Their performance was great. Tracks like ‘Thrown To The Wolves’ and especially ‘The Dream Calls For Blood’ sounded really powerful and energetic live. There wasn’t much of a stage show, but they really didn’t need it. They really got the crowd gonig with their enthusiasm and crowd ineraction.

I was quite happy with how into it the crowd were. Sometimes the crowd doesn’t go for the opening act. When I saw Diamond Head support Saxon, the vibe was utterly dead for Diamond Head until their last song, but here, people treated Death Angel like a headliner. There were sections of people throughout the room singing every word and most of the crowd were thrashing like a maniac, so to speak. It was a perfect way to start the evening.

Death Angel

The sound was really well mixed. It was a thousand times better than Megadeth had been recently. You could hear everything perfectly but it still had a real crunchy, aggressive power. The vocals soared, the leads were clear and the drums hammered at you. The rhythm guitars hit that sweet crunch spot that makes Thrash so perfect.

In the gap between bands I managed to get closer to the stage still as people went off to find drinks and toilets. I’m not a push to the front kind of guy and am allways mindful of people behind or beside me’s personal space, so sometimes you can’t get the best view, but I got a pretty great view through sheer luck.

Next came Exodus. Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza is still fronting the band. Its nice to see some line-up stability, as there was a lot of upheaval over the years. Tonight was my first time seeing them with main guitarist Gary Holt in the band. Last time I saw them, Garry wasn’t there as he was busy touring with Slayer at the time, following the untimely passing of Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman. Tonight he played a little snippet of ‘Raining Blood’ and Zetro quipped about how he could do it legally now due to having been in Slayer.

Holt and Altus

[Trivia fans may also be aware, just for more Thrash connections, that Exodus’ current line-up featurs Heathen’s Lee Altus. Heathen have also previously had Exodus’ first singer Paul Baloff in their line-up briefly and they currently feature former Slayer drummer Jon Dette.

There are innumerable other trivia links between these bands. If you want to get on with the review, skip to after these brackets. Otherwise; strap in guys, this is a convoluted one…

Also worth mentioning since we’ve brought up Slayer, is that both Testament and Exodus have had Slayer’s second drummer Paul Bostaph behind the kit, and Testament have also had Slayer’s first drummer Dave Lombardo, and while we’re talking about shared drummers – both Testament and Exodus have both had John Tempesta on drums!

The aforementioned Paul Bostaph used to be in Forbidden, who have also had Glen Alvelais, and Glen was in Testament in the ‘90s and has been in Tenent alongside Exodus’ singer and Steve Souza. Testament’s current drummer is former Dark Angel drummer Gene Hoglan. Hoglan has also been in Forbidden briefly and done backing vocals and drum teching for Slayer in the early days.

Speaking of Hoglan, this not strictly Thrash, but he has been in Death with Steve DiGorgio, but it loops back around to Thrash, as DiGorgio is Testament’s current bassist – Its like musical chairs in the Trash Metal world!

I haven’t even gotten into all the Machine Head links yet. Don’t get me started. I had a whole blog about this stuff in my teens called The Thrashagram. Its proably kid’s stuff looknig back at it now, but at the time I was pretty proud of it].

Anyway… When I saw Exodus last time, their performance was great live. I remember writing at the time that if you get the chance to see them, no matter how high up or low down on the bill they are, you really must take it. They aren’t a nostalgia act, they’ve still got the fire in their eyes. This time however, they were even bloody better! They were utterly amazing. On fire. In the zone. Blistering. Whatever you want to call it, they tore the venue a new one. What a difference a Holt makes, am I right?

Zetro made a big speech about how Holt was back and how we were all lucky to catch him on his first UK date back in the fold, and by god was he right. The energy, chemistry and indescribable x-factor going on made the performance utterly captivating. Zetro made a few speechs that night, including one about Bay Area Thrash that really locked into my old teenage love of Thrash and made me smile like a goon.

Exodus’ set was more balanced between their modern and classic material than Death Angel’s had been. They didn’t have enoguh time to cover ever single album, but they hit all the key periods. There were a few tracks from their Paul Baloff-fronted debut Bonded By Blood, a few from the Souza-fronted ‘80s albums (my favourite era of the band), a few from the Souza-fronted modern albums and even one from the Rob Dukes era.

It is nice that they mix the setlist up. Last time I saw them, they didn’t play ‘Deliver Us To Evil’ or ‘Fabulous Disaster’ for example. Last time I saw them, they played ‘The Ballad Of Leonard And Charles’ from the Dukes era, and this time they played the cleverly titled ‘Deathamphetamine.’ I love how this band play material from all eras. It’s a lot better for us fans than situations where some bands have a line-up change or reunion and the returning old guy refuses to play material from his former-replacement’s era. Most fans want to hear it all.

Murder in the front row, crowd begins to bang!

The band were tight, the sound was great again and they played some of my favourite songs (I was so happy to hear ‘Fabulous Disaster’ and ‘Black List’). What a brilliant time. If the night ended here, I would have been utterly satisfied.


Finally came the headliner, Testament. This band’s first four albums absolutely defined my teens and their mighty comeback album The Formation Of Damnation was the metal oasis in my otherwise prog-centric first year of university.

Testament were great live too. Their sound was a bit more restrained and less savage than it had been for Death Angel or especially Exodus. Furthermore; Gene ‘The Atomic Clock’ Hoglan’s drumming is mechanical and perfect, compared to Tom Hunting’s crazed and exciting beast-man drumming style. This made for a nice contrast, and was suited for Testament’s more melodic parts, even if it was a little less pulverising in the heavy parts than Exodus had been.

Atomic Clock

What they lost in savagery however, they made up for in professionalism. Compared to the other two bands, Testament got more time and more of a stage show, with an hour-and-a-half set. Clearly the headliners then!

They had banners, smoke cannons, lazers and a much more colourful light show. The banners changed depending on what album they were focusing on. They had raised points for the guitarists to climb on during solos. Eric Peterson in particular was really impressive. Many of the solos I always thought were Alex from the newer records, were actually Eric. Live, he delivers them with such flare and precision it was a joy to watch.

Peterson slays!

Speaking of joy, after all those years of watching Live In London on repeat, my brother and I always talked about how much fun singer Chuck Billy has. The man looks like being in Testament is his dream come true and that he’s having the best time in the world. His huge smiles as he plays air guitar on his mic stand, and air drums in sync with all the cymbal catches are so infectious. I feel like he is Testament’s number one fan and his joyous enthusiasm is such fun to behold.

Native Blood

No setlist at any concert ever satisfies everything I want to see, and tonight I’d love to have seen the title track from Souls Of Black or something like ‘Alone In The Dark’ or ‘Apocalyptic City’ from their debut. Most of all, I would have really loved to have heard ‘More Than Meets The Eye,’ from Formation Of Damnation which I think may be the band’s finest hour, but overall I was really satisfied with Testament’s choices tonight. Their set list was a real mix as well, not just all old not all new. They covered early stuff, mid-period-stuff, and even a brand-new song from the as yet unreleased next album.

They also played a few songs from their most recent album, The Brotherhood Of The Snake which I’ve been meaning to review for ages now, but spoilers, they managed to play the best two songs from it! Huzzah! Combined with many of my favourite tunes like ‘Practice What You Preach,’ ‘Over The Wall,’ ‘The Preacher’ and ‘Into The Pit’ I was pretty chuffed.

Disciples Of The Watch

Overall, this night was a thrash fan’s dream night if ever there was one. Once again, if it had just been Testament and Death Angel, I would have been wholly satisfied. However; given the utterly perfect set from Exodus, this was a whole other level of good. (And to cap it all off, the traffic and roads were so good, I managed to get home in time to get a fair amount of sleep for work next day! Bonus!).

Next on my concert schedule: Rammstein in Cardiff this Summer, Helloween in Manchester around Halloween, and then WASP doing only tunes from the first four albums in Cardiff a few days after Helloween. (Possibly Sepultura too, depending on money, work and tickets – I’m thinking about it).


 


Atrophy – Violent By Nature

Arizona’s Atrophy aren’t the most well-known Thrash Metal band out there, but their 1988 debut album Socialised Hate is somewhat of a cult classic. Two years later they would follow it up with Violent By Nature on Roadrunner Records, before breaking up like many of the less successfully Thrash acts would as the musical landscape of shifted in the ‘90s.

Although their debut gets most of the attention, this follow up aint half bad either. There’s a song on here called ‘Forgotten, But Not Gone’ and that’s sort of the way I feel about this album. You won’t read about it in many metal magazines or websites nowadays, even in a Thrash retrospective special, but that doesn’t mean its not there, offering some value to those that are still interested.

The production is perfect, the length is perfect, the performances are solid and the musical direction is perfect if you like pure American Thrash that isn’t proto-death, proto-black or crossover, but rather just Thrash through and through. Musically, Atrophy are kind of reminiscent of Testament, with low pitched vocals, meaty riffs and speedy but satisfying drums.

This album takes on a slight Death Angel kind of bounce at times (check out the catchy beats of the Title Track). They also attempt to get a bit more technical, as everyone seemed to in 1988-1990 and start playing with complex structures and messing with their time signatures a bit more (check out ‘Slipped Through The Cracks’ to see them get a bit more ‘And Justice or Twisted Into Form in scope).

If you like Thrash, and just have to have some more, then this album is no disappointment and you should definitely check it out. Its got the crunch, its got the speed, its got the attitude. The only thing that’s missing is the killer songs. Its one of those albums like For Whose Advantage by Xentrix or Ticket To Mayhem by Whiplash or World Circus by Toxik that are brilliant if you like Thrash, but which are sort of hard to recommend them to people as they sort of offer nothing new to someone already familiar with the genre, and don’t have any unique selling point to draw in new fans. ‘’What do you mean they don’t blend it with west coast hip hop, vintage big band jazz and lengthy oboe interludes?’’

In summary; Like Thrash? Here is some good if unremarkable Thrash. End of story.  

Exodus – Blood In, Blood Out Review

220px-ExodusBloodInBloodOut (1)Exodus have had a lot of line-up changes over the years. Not as many as say Cradle Of Filth or Annihilator but certainly not as stable as the likes of Rush or Clutch. They’ve had three lead singers on record; firstly Paul Baloff on their immortal debut album Bonded By Blood, who was replaced by former Legacy (the band who would go on to be Testament) vocalist Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza. Zetro saw them through the rest of the ’80s and early nineties (on, in my opinion, their most important and seminal work and some of the best Thrash Metal by any band at all). He himself was then replaced by Baloff again in the late ’90s until Baloff passed away.

The band got back together with Zetro and released one of the best albums of their (or anyone’s) career in 2004’s Tempo Of The Damned. (Incidentally; If you don’t love ‘War Is My Sheppard’ then I just don’t know what to do with you). Then, just a year later Zetro was out and replaced by the then little-known Rob Dukes, who we were all very skeptical about but who fit the band monstrously well and eventually won a lot of people over, during the course of his tenure, lasting three studio albums, a live album and a remake compilation of Bonded By Blood. After two singers zig-zagging there was finally vocal stability and the modernized band was the going concern that would see them through to retirement.

[Before the angry comments flow in I know I mentioned line up changes and then just discussed the singers. It wasn’t only the singers. Guitarists have changed, bassists have changed. Drummer Tom Hunting has left and returned a few times (although that’s more understandable as he has a health condition). But for the last few years things had been nice and stable within the group more or less.]

Where was I? Yes… to see them through to retirement. ….Aaaaaaaaand then Dukes was out and Zetro was back again. What the hell? Do you know how hard it is to get fans to accept a third singer!? And to do so this late into their career. Imagine if Blaze Bailey actually won over Maiden fans. Do you know how rare that is? And then they go start over again. I didn’t buy this album for a full two years after I wanted it just out of sheer mourning for Dukes.

Oh well, at least it wasn’t a new singer again. As much as I love Dukes’ vocals on that run of albums its hard to deny that Zetro is an absolute legend and the definitive voice of Exodus for me. He’s who I’d want to see live and my dream setlist by the band is 80% Zetro era songs. It just makes sense. In fact, it took me catching the band live to get over the shock and realize things weren’t just reunion for reunions sake. Yes it is mentally untidy that their current singer is on their was their singer, then not, then he was again, then he wasn’t again and then he was again, and that his time in the band was ’86-94 and then not until ’02 and out again in ’04 and then not on the superb trilogy of albums between then and 2014.  Its untidy, but that’s Steve fucking Souza! That’s the guy who sang ‘Accelerating faster, devastating plaster, fabulous disaster.’ How can you deny him?

Anyway. That’s all a very long-winded bit of background to Exodus’ tenth studio album, 2014’s Blood In, Blood Out. The name presumably a cheeky wink to their history with line-up changes. The only reason to even mention all this background is that it sits there swirling away in your mind as you listen to this album. Can it live up to the monster of Tempo Of The Damned? Can it live up to their ’80s glory period? How will it affect their absolute top run of form on those previous Rob Dukes albums, are they just going to throw away all that good work?

Well the good news for all of us is that this album absolutely kills. After a strange industrial intro courtesy of guest star Dan The Automator (which if you didn’t know about beforehand would make you fearful Exodus have taken a funny turn and decided this album is going to go a bit Static X) the band burst into an absolutely ferocious and concise hour of blistering, up tempo Bay Area Thrash.

The songs are very catchy and memorable without letting up on the intensity. Its very restless, aggressive and pounding. Yet somehow there are tonnes of hooks to grab on to. The chanting gang vocals on some songs are undeniable. On some songs the razor sharp guitar solos get stuck in your head. Some songs have that one riff that is just irresistible and breaks a huge smile across your face. I mean just listen to the chorus to ‘Collateral Damage.’ You aint forgetting that any time soon! Hell; listen to its guitar solo. That’s not just any other guitar solo, its really rather unique. And that’s just one song. I can’t emphasize this enough: each and every one of the songs on the album, all of them, are catchy and memorable. There’s nothing that needs removing from the album. Nothing that should’ve been trimmed to make it more punchy.

The songs are generally less long and feature less repetition than on the previous few albums, and what is left is really just all the best parts. It may be less ambitious and less adventurous but it makes up for it in snarling, barking, high speed uuumph. It really is the pure essence of Thrash Metal writ large in modern production, triumphantly performed by absolutely bad asses who have only gotten better with age.

An interesting point here is the guest appearance from Metallica’s Kirk Hammet who we all remember was in Exodus before he joined Metallica (Tempo Of The Damed featured a song he’d written on). Kirk adds some guest guitar to ‘Salt The Wound.’ Its a nice touch. Speaking of guest appearances, Testament’s Chuck Billy also comes in and does guest vocals on ‘BTK’ and the title track. He is always a great guest. I loved it when he showed up on Forbidden’s reunion album Omega Wave and I love him showing up here (just as Zetro guested on Testament’s First Strike Still Deadly). I love the whole Bay Area Thrash camaraderie thing.

Side note: Does anyone else remember that fun, weird, N64 game ‘Body Harvest’ ? I can’t forget it now. Exodus have a song by that name here and now all I can think of is giant blocky praying mantis-looking aliens. Every time I spin this album all I can think of is those aliens, Chuck Billy’s smile, and how weird it is that Rob Dukes is out of the band and yet they totally make their discography make sense with this album. Oh, and while we’re at it; Best guitar solo on the album? Body Harvest!

After a brilliantly strong opening, the guest appearances, the great stomping ‘Body Harvest’ and its great solo and ‘BTK’ and all that stuff, you’d think the album may start to lag towards the end. That is a remarkably good first half, and by anyone’s standards they could dump a bunch of filler at the end and most people would still go away thinking it was a great record. Well, that is exactly what they do not do. The second half arguably mirrors the first for quality, for ferocity, for catchiness and for interesting memorable moments: ‘Wrapped In The Arms Of Rage,’ ‘Honor Killings,’ ‘Food For The Worms’ …these are all raging tunes.

Overall; despite line up drama, this is an absolutely ripping album from the Bay Area legends, and people like me were wrong to doubt them. The band are arguably in much better shape than three quarters of the rest of ’80s Thrash bands are at the minute, arguably stronger than ninety percent of new Thrash revival bands, and this album is arguably in the top half in not top quarter of their entire discography (and those are damn big words, but I genuinely mean it). If like me you are skeptical of yet further line up changes or just plain sad to see Rob go, don’t hesitate like I did. Blood goes in, Blood goes out, but Exodus are always bloody brilliant.

Get (Into) What You Paid For – Round 4: Episode 1 Day 7 (Part 2)

Now that I’ve covered the spend/temptation/distraction aspects of Get (Into) What You Paid For, its time to cover the titular aspect, by which I mean I’m getting back to reevaluating old purchases which I overlook, and try to get my money’s worth out of them.

S- AHiG

In honour of the return of Slipknot, I’ll kick things off by re-listening to their fourth real album, 2008’s All Hope Is Gone.

It opens with “.execute.” Their first two albums had clearly “intro” intros, and on their third they essentially made a proper song instead but acted like it was an intro. Here, they take the route Lamb Of God took on Resolution and confusingly stick the drum-introduction to a song (track 2, “Gematria (The Killing Name)”) in a previous track (track 1, “.execute.”) while simultaneously sort of re-doing the intro to “Pulse Of The Maggots.”

A few thoughts…. I wonder if Craig titled this intro? Why not just have this be part of “Gematria (The Killing Name)” like they did with “Pulse Of The Maggots”? When they play “Gematria (The Killing Name)” live, do they actually play that drum intro, or play that bit over the speakers and start where the CD cuts the two tracks?

[Quick side note – In my iTunes, “Pulse Of The Maggots” is now split into two different tracks, “Pulse Of The Maggots” preceded by “Intro Of The Maggots” which separates the speech into a separate skippable track, because… song.

Also, I do the same with Slayer’s “Hell Awaits.” The intro is “Awaiting Hell.”]

Anyway… The song opens nicely, with a sort of complex intro like they liked to do so much on Vol. 3 The Subliminal Verses. I like all the pinch harmonics. I think the quick d-beat bit is really out of place. I remember my brother really hating the lyric about “cigarette ash.” Listening to the song now, apart from the vague idea that it is pretending to be heavier than it is, I like this song. I like the fact that it has guitar solos. I like the DJ scratches. I like the catchy bits and the heavy bits. I like the big groove around 3.40. It might better (tighter) if it ended after that instead of continuing, but I think it’s a good song nonetheless.

Next up comes “Sulpher” which was never off music TV when this album came out. I remember being so sick of this song due to how overplayed it became. Now? Nice Death influenced intro. Brilliant main verse. The radio chorus, despite y’know…being a radio chorus… is awesome! I forgot that. I remember it being a sort of two-faced light/shade affair, but I didn’t remember that both sides were good. Nice guitar solo too, and the part under it is neat. Again, the Machine Head influenced big groove (which actually IS the ending this time) is awesome.

OK. Another good song. Call that the first two songs and it’s a 100% success rate so far. I’d easily put both of these in a “Best Of Slipknot” tracklist.

How about track four? “Psychosocial.” I remember thinking that this was trying a bit too hard to replicate the success of Duality. The main riff is actually kind of Ministry or Rob Zombie flavoured if you pay attention. The chorus, hmmm…. Its delicious but so out of place. Oh well, I like it. Who am I trying to please here? Some Blabbermouth troll in an Obituary t-shirt or MY EARS?

More lead-guitar goodness. Hoorah. The midsection with all the snares is cool. A bit “Hey, people enjoy The Blister Exists, what else can we do?” but hey, its cool. Get over it My Brain!

Also luckily, now, its been so long since I’ve watched music TV that its no-longer overplayed AND I’ve forgotten the viral video where its mashed-up with Justin Beiber. So its just a song. A good song.

Next up is “Dead Memories.” “Dead Memories” is awesome. Really nice drums. Some of the best Corey clean vocals in this band. Even though I struggle to accept this song as Slipknot and not Stone Sour and have a sort of principle thing against it, this song is excellent and I love it. Also…boy, oh boy was this thing overplayed at the time.

Wow. I’m really enjoying this record actually. I always think of it as their worst. The career nadir. Its not that bad, and I’ve just listened to the “one with the stupid lyrics” and the three overplayed ones. Now come the deep-cuts!

First up – “Vendetta.” Swirly, death-influenced intro riffs. Stompy feel. Kicks into a great main verse. It could do with having heavier vocals, I remember that being a discussion point against it at the time. I remember the first time I listened to it, in a cramped, smelly room. I remember thinking the band have lost their heaviness.

I think the song also takes a bit too long to get to the chorus. I like the chorus though. Could do with better lyrics… but whatever. I really enjoy this song. I don’t ever remember that this one is called “Vendetta” but I do remember every second of music. I like 80% of said music. This is a good track. The worst thing I could think about it at all is that some of the segments change jarringly, but even that’s stretching it.

“Butcher’s Hook” comes next. The first “weird one.” The Skunkworks one. All Slipknot albums have a few “weird ones.” Going right back to the demos, there was always a love of creepy, off tracks. Every album has a “Tattered And Torn” or “Skin Ticket” or “The Virus Of Life.” The ironic weird thing about this weird track is that it weirdly has a commercial chorus of sorts and despite its clear and obvious weirdness, it is somehow a normal song. If you follow. Its either deceptively digestible despite its progressive nature, or only weird in a token check-box way but actually a normal song. Either way, every part of it is good. I like it. I think of it as this album’s “The Shape.” “The Shape” was weird as balls but could fool you if you weren’t paying attention. But then I guess that’s this band. If you don’t concentrate, you miss the depth and subtleties of a nine-member band who hate conventional song structure and sneak in odd time-sigs without boasting about it.

“Gehenna” is next. It is a slow, creepy one. The lyrics feel like a sequel to the track “Iowa” but the music sounds like a sequel to “Vermillion” with a bit of “Virus Of Life” style synth in there too. The slow, drony verses have a Sci-Fi feel. That one bit where they keep throwing in the heavy snare rolls but going back to the slow dirge is cool. Then it does its own version of a clean chorus (kind of) and becomes a normal song. It kind of steals the song’s weirdness. But the vocal specifics and the part which follow it make me think its trying to be like Antichrist Superstar’s pained outcast artist vibe, and that its all a bit “Minute Of Decay” and we’re unfairly treating it as “Everlong”

Who is we? … cripes, I’m going a bit crazy here! You know what I mean right? I think on the one hand it seems deceptively commercial, but on the other hand it isn’t, its just clean prog not noisy prog. There! I’m not crazy, I’m just dorky! (And trying to please an imaginary, disapproving, super-nerd by protesting too much… totally a normal thing to do!)

Anyway, that song is fine. Not great, but not worth cutting either.

“This Cold Black” follows. This seems like a nice “Metabolic” or “Deluded” or “Welcome.” The good Slipknot. The deep cuts. The “this is Slipknot at their most Slipknot” Slipknot. That Slipknot.

I like this song a lot. The variety in the vocals is cool. I wonder if its Clown or Chris doing the backups, or just Corey putting on a funny voice? The chorus is a bit odd. Sort of jagged, and out of nowhere, and yet its catchy, and when it leaves it makes the next bit sound cooler by contrast. That and the build up with the broken key lyrics over it is cool. A build-up that doesn’t build up? Nice one!

Also, hooray for guitar solos and fast parts! Then that staccato part is nice. And the deathy transition riff doesn’t feel forced either. Definitely one of the better songs on the record. Shame it won’t get played a lot live.

“Wherein Lies Continue” comes. Comes like creepy mutant. Well, not that creepy actually. Pseudo-creepy. This is oddly tame, but still clearly another Skunkworks type thing. Its quite “Virus Of Life.” The heaviest of the three, its like Tattered And Torn if that wasn’t creepy. It does that clean chorus trick the previous ones did. The clean chorus is good though, so what’s the problem brain-jerk? The bit that follows that chorus is awesome. I love those multi-percussion bits in Slipknot. Then, wham! Another Machine Head influenced groove ending! Its not the ending…but, y’know it should be. And then it is, later, when it comes back…because OF COURSE IT SHOULD BE. Also some trippy robot-duck guitar hidden in there too, because layering.

“Snuff” follows. It is awesome. It has always been since first listen my favourite song on the album. Interestingly, for someone with so much difficulty accepting the clean vocals and commercial leanings of the album, my unashamed, un-ironic, honest favourite thing on the whole record is a ballad. A brilliant, powerful, non-cheesy and totally dramatic cinematic ballad. It is awesome. A masterpiece. Well done for writing it Slipknot! No matter what score you’d award this album, it is hugely boosted by this gem. There is more brilliance here than on the full rest of the record combined…. Kind of like how Motely Crue themselves think about Home Sweet Home/Theater Of Pain.

Then to close up the album, comes the final track, the Title Track, “All Hope Is Gone.” It has one of those Vol. 3 complex intros. It has speed. It has DJ scratches. It has noisy blast beats and death influenced riffs in the verses. The chorus is strangely a weird rolling post-chorus. Its quite impressive actually. Oh, that’s why, because its not the chorus, because there’s a groove, with a clean vocal instead. The whole bit before and under (during) the guitar solo is awesome, even if the solo itself isn’t amazing. Then a bit that is so massively Slipknot that it defies further comparison. What did Slipknot add to music that wasn’t there before, you ask? That! This bit!

OK. That song is decent too. This third and final time the chorus comes in its actually cool. I wonder would the song be better if that was the only time it was there though? Oh who cares…stop being so picky, jerkwad. This is a good song. This is a good album. Its still their worst. But now only by a hair instead of by a considerable margin. Jerk off, jerky jerk-impression! Your false memories, prejudice against Corey’s clean singing and sickness at the overplaying of the singles is now not how this album is. How this album is, is good!

PS. Oh yeah, and the bonus track, “Child Of Burning Time” which is pretty much Vermillion again. Only better. Maybe this should’ve been on it instead of “Gehenna” and also should’ve been a single? Considering that enjoying money is a thing…

Also, the decision to put a remix of a song from a track from a previous album in-between two proper songs from this album’s sessions is insane and so I’ve disallowed this madness from my iTunes. That song is put on the end of Vol. 3. The next song here is “Til We Die” because that makes much more sense.

“Til We Die” starts out like a creepy-ass sea-side song, in an alcoholic’s memories. Then suddenly turns into a powerful, real-song version of the intro from Vol. 3. (More real, I mean). It is awesome. This, the previous one, Dead Memories and Snuff are the best material here. They are better than all the ones that actually sound like Slipknot. Maybe they should’ve sold out harder…not tried to hide it with blast beats and death riffs.

[Or maybe it’s a good balance you knee-jerk reacting jerkhole. Maybe they aren’t “covering it up” but rather just mixing two things they enjoy.]

STOP HITTING YOURSELF, NUTCASE!

E – BbB

Next, from something with lots of derision to something with universal credibility in our world; Think 1985… Exodus’ Bonded By Blood.

At the time, even in the deepest throes of my Thrash-passion, from my first days of Thrash Obsession, I always felt that this album was poor. The title track was one of the best songs ever written by anyone and then the rest of the album was dull repetitive cack and the band were much better off on the fantastic next two records, Pleasure Of The Flesh & Fabulous Disaster.

Well; one listen and yup, the Title Track is fantastic. Perfect. No further comments, your honour. The defense rests.

The next song, the song actually called “Exodus,” opens up with a riff that kind of sounds like Dave Mustaine. The vocals are weirdly produced, painfully too-loud and kind of in a metal box. Not Metal. Just metal. That Mustainey riff is fun. The bit of the chorus with the “Get In The Way…” is catchy and sort of punky. I also like the little Iron Maiden-esque jangle before “…and Exodus attack.”

The song has a great guitar solo too. If the vocals were produced normally this would be a pretty perfect Thrash song. The deh-neh-nay-ne-neh thing sounds like early Overkill, which is a bonus. And some of the drum fills here are absolutely bad ass. The song only seems dull and repetitive but all the little touches really make it.

Then there’s the nuclear-themed “And Then There Were None” which opens up with a nice chugging riff augmented by a Tom pattern that I’m sure turns up on Nirvana’s Bleach album somewhere. Love Buzz, maybe? This is perfect mid-paced Thrash. It would be good DVD menu music. Or good under-the-narrator in a Thrash Documentary music.

Its kind of weird that the backing vocals just sing the melody. Like at an Iron Maiden concert…but in the studio. “AAAAAH, ah-ahhh-ah-ah-a-a.”

The whole adventurous mid-section and the fast bit which follows are excellent. I love it during the solo. This is a good song. I remember always wanting to turn the record off afterward though. I think it has that problem of the last few Exodus records that the song is just slightly too long. Of all Exodus records. Sometimes they have a song that’s just too long. They’re awesome, but sometimes they need an editor. Only sometimes.

Next comes one of the band’s then-signature songs (the other being “Piranha”) if my memory of various magazine articles from the time I bought this holds up, “A Lesson In Violence.” I remember resenting this song as a teenager for not being as awesome as it should be given how fond the band seemed to be of it. Interestingly, looking back now, these two are the two shortest and presumably therefor tightest tracks on the album. Free from that too-long thing then!

Oh yes, and the chorus is catchy and awesome. I remember hating the lyrics at first impression (essentially rhyming “lesson in violence” with “lesson in violence”) but now that I’m used to it for years and years, its just music, and that music is good. Also, I like the riffs, the speed and the solos. This is a good song. Bonded by Blood is better but this is still a deserving signature track. Consider me converted. Its great not being 14 anymore, isn’t it? 12 years in the future is a beautiful thing, ey?

Next comes “Metal Command” which I remember thinking sounding dodgy, but now it is charming and NWOBHMy and a sort of missing-link moment like early Overkill. Also the production on the solo is awesome and the brief little neoclassical noodle at the very end of the solo is neat. This song just got stars in my iTunes.

The aforementioned “Piranha” makes its appearance next. This song’s opening riff is kind of Slayer/Sodom/Kreator. It is for the mean-Thrash crowd. The people who don’t necessarily like Anthrax as much as they might. Then it kicks into a more bouncy part. The chorus is catchy. There are way too many effects on the vocals, but that’s a very minor complaint. Also, nice solo. The H-team always were awesome at guitar solos. This album in general is way better than my first impression of it was. I wonder if it was just the whole line-up changes thing messing my brain around with Exodus, causing side-choosing.

[Side note: Ohhh, ooooh. Remember that whole intro thing, like “Awaiting Hell”? etc. I do that with Exodus’ “Deranged” because…that intro makes me skip the whole of Deranged when really I should only skip the intro.]

Next up, a nice bit of variety. “No Love” opens up with a nice, fancy, tasteful Spanish Guitar, clean intro. That was a big thing on Thrash openers wasn’t it? – Sometimes separate tracks, sometimes not. – Pleasure To Kill, Alice In Hell, Ride The Lightning etc… they all have that. A little bit of Spanish guitar before the Thrash. I wonder why they didn’t make this the first track then?

Maybe they did, and then they realized that the title track was so absolutely fantastic that nobody had time to wait for it, and so that just HAD TO be the first track?

Anyway, once the Metal-bit starts, it’s a bit more midpaced again. In a slightly off time-sig that reminds me of a specific Dream Theater moment on Awake which I can’t remember right now. Also, the way he say’s “The Darkness Is My Lover” is clearly influenced by Accept. I would have never noticed that before. Also it sounds like he says “Leather” and not “Lover.”

Oh, there’s a neat NWOBHMy bit around 2.40. Then a neat solo. This song is full of surprises. And some bad-ass fills once it slows down around that next set of solos. This song is what we in the Thrash fan world call a mini-epic, and I never even realized. Shame. I wish I realized how good it was at the time I got it. Oh well. I know now.

Next up is “Deliver Us To Evil” which by its two-minutes-longer duration might actually be a mini-epic. It has some nice little touches. With its stop-start bit, and bouncy drums. It also has slightly choppy, but proggy complexity, which at the time I mistook for “not playing properly.” Woops. I guess my brain wasn’t developed enough when I got this initially.

It has a really fun Maideny/Priesty bit underneath the solos around the four-minute-mark. Some really fun riffs!

Lastly, the fast one. Back in the day, instead on ending on the obvious closer… they would usually end on a super fast, shorter song. That happens here. This speedy track could easily be described as a “teeth kicker.” This is pure Thrash. Absolutely pure. Almost too pure? I remember thinking this was too simplistic at the time. I was WRONG at the time. Good song, good album, good band. Good subgenre.

Oh yeah, and here’s a TOP 5s thing for Thrash:

Exodus :
1. Bonded By Blood
2. Fabulous Disaster
3. Brain Dead
4. Chemi-Kill
5. Seeds Of Hate

Testament :
1. The Preacher
2. Souls Of Black
3. Into The Pit
4. Practice What You Preach
5. Apocalyptic City

Metallica :
1. Blackened
2. Creeping Death
3. Master Of Puppets
4. Eye Of The Beholder
5. Ride The Lightning

Forbidden :
1. March Into Fire
2. Forbidden Evil
3. Twisted Into Form
4. Hypnotized By The Rhythm
5. Infinite

Kreator :
1. People Of The Lie
2. Coma Of Souls
3. Terrible Certainty
4. Stream Of Consciousness
5. Pleasure To Kill

Annihilator :
1. Alice In Hell
2. Road To Ruin
3. W.T.Y.D
4. Stonewall
5. I Am In Command

Anthrax :
1. I Am The Law
2. A.I.R
3. One Man Stands
4. Lone Justice
5. Death Rider

Megadeth :
1. Rust In Peace (Polaris)
2. Set The World Afire
3. Hook In Mouth
4. Peace Sells
5. Mechanix

Slayer :
1. Postmortem
2. Raining Blood
3. Blood Red
4. South Of Heaven
5. Crionics

Nuclear Assault :
1. Survive
2. Brainwashed
3. Critical Mass
4. Nuclear War
5. Game Over

Overkill :
1. Overkill
2. I Hate
3. Elimination
4. In Union We Stand
5. Feel The Fire

As for the bands who I don’t feel I can make a Top 5 for, my favourtie Sacred Reich song is “Whos To Blame.” My favourtie Death Angel song is “Veil Of Deception.” My favourtie Vio-lence song is “World Within A World.” My favourtie Exhorder song is “Un-born Again.” My favourtie Heathen song is “Pray For Death.” My favourtie Onslaught song is “Thrash Till The Death.” My favourtie Sepultura thrash-era song is “Beneath The Remains.” My Sodom song is “Agent Orange.” My favourtie Voivod song is “Tribal Convictions.”

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Vol. 3. Day 34 – More Little Thoughts

Its day 34 of my third Get (Into) What You Paid For challenge. I’ve been adhering to the challenge and haven’t broken the challenge yet. To be honest it hasn’t been too challenging. Challenge, Challenge, Challenge. So; Christmas has came and went, and the kind people in my life have provided me with a brilliant collection of very-well-thought-out gifts, which has definitely taken the urge to buy myself stuff away for a while.

I’ve been given numerous biographies on bands I like (including Sabbath, Megadeth, Slipknot, Jethro Tull); Power Metal albums from Iced Earth and Gamma Ray; Prog Metal albums from Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation and Tesseract; Thrash from Testament. Even a bit of Grunge in the form of the new Pearl Jam album. My listening habits from the last year are all very well served by this.

I’ve been given a massive load of comics from my friend Magnum, and I’ve been given the new Batman videogame. My gaming and reading habits from last year are all pretty well served by this too.

Pretty much, I’ve just had a massive influx of things I like and so that quells the urge to buy more things I like.

Another reason I’ve been doing OK with not buying things is that I’m completely and drastically broke. Its easier to exert some restraint when there’s more reason to do so. Maybe I’m fianlly an adult, now that I can confidently say I’d rather be able to pay my rent than buy myself something entertaining. I’ve got so bloody much stuff already anyway that its becoming easier to shrug off the itch to get more, I’m beginning to learn some perspective and tone down my overspending.

Taking this financial situation into account, and the fact that I didn’t blog as frequently on the subject this December as I had in the previous two GIWYPF challenge months, I’ve decided to extend this one into a two-month epic. That’s right. I’ll try not to buy any books, comic books, DVDs, Blu Rays, Band T–Shirts, Books, Music or Videogames for another month, making it a stretch from December 1st to February 1st. I don’t think I’ve ever went that long without buying something of this nature since turning 18.

But if I was going to break the challenge, what would I break it on?

Riverside’s debut, Haken’s whole discography, the two Psychotic Waltz reissues, some of the more famous Fates Warning albums, and DreamTheater’s Awake all spring to mind. As does Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff and Angra’s Angel’s Cry.

I’d also like to get the two most recent Batman collections, the Death Of The Family main story and side-stories books. Everything I’ve read from Snyder so far has been good and I’d like to be a bit more “In The Loop” with things, if it wasn’t so costly.

Oh. And there’s one new Arctic Monkeys B-side that’s came out during the challenge. I like to always buy those B-Sides pretty much as soon as they are released, this is the longest I’ve gone without getting an Arctic Monkey’s B-Side since the release of their second album.

To be honest though, I don’t think there’s much risk of me breaking the challenge. Having a massive exam schedule that requires serious, dedicated revision for, having no money, and having been given those excellent Christmas gifts should keep me busy and thinking straight.

So; today, having done my revision for the day, I’ll take a little break and do a quick little series of mini-reviews/thoughts of what I’ve been listening to lately. As you might imagine, most of it will be the gifts I got for Christmas that I’ve described above. Here goes:

I got a copy of Tesseract’s new album Altered State for Christmas. I went and saw them live about a month ago and was completely blown away by them. They were supporting Karnivool who I’d imagine were less big than them, but who weren’t. They had an annoying loud fan who wouldn’t stop screaming for songs they didn’t play (“Dead Man”) and making a clown’s horn noise. I wish that fan had kept their big mouth shut, but the concert was awesome. Tesseract’s guitarist is very tall… Anyway; This album completely lives up to my expectations. Its absolutely fantastic. Such incredible musicianship and utterly spellbinding vocals. I can foresee this band becoming huge, if there’s any justice. Also, there’s a Saxaphone solo. Always a plus for a Floyd/Tull/Crimson fan!

I think I’m going to be dedicating a heck of a lot of listening time to this record in the near future.

Keeping with the Prog theme, Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing. I’ve been craving Deadwing for quite a while now. Ever since I got into the band, Deadwing has been my number one, most-wanted album of theirs, although I’ve managed to get everything around it first.

Interestingly, on just one listen, I was able to tell instantly that is their best record. I’ve had about five or six listens now and am still firmly of that opinion. The title track and ‘Arriving Somewhere But Not Here’ are absolute gold, and ‘Lazerus’ is a haunting, magical ghost-ballad. If this had the three best songs of Fear Of A Blank Planet on it too, it would be one of the best albums of all time.

I think I might make some sort of Porcupine Tree best-of, with ‘Sound Of Musack’ ‘Drawing The Line’ ‘Normal’ and then the majority of Blank Planet and Deadwing on it.

What else have I listened to? I recently talked extensively about listening to Pain Of Salvation’s The Perfect Element album so I won’t go into too much detail about it again here. Anyway, I listened to it again while I was weightlifting and although I had understandably reduced-concentration on it, I really am impressed by this album. If you like any sort of Prog Metal you should really pick up a copy. Its only about £3 on Amazon.

Tesseract, Porcupine Tree and Pain Of Salvation are three very different bands, and they all scratch very different parts of my brain, but any way you look at it, Prog Metal is pretty well served by that trio of absolutely phenomenal records. What about Power Metal then?

I also got given Horror Show and The Glorious Burden by Iced Earth for Christmas. I’ve listened to them both quite a few times now. I like Iced Earth, they play 40% Judas Priest, 40% Testament and 10% Warning era Queensryche. Pretty well suited to me then. Both albums are great, as was Something Wicked, which I got given for my previous Birthday. The three of them together feel like one big album. There’s sort of a continum between the three of them. Its hard to explain.

On The Glorious Burden, there’s a nifty bit where the lead guitars play the rhythm of “Johnny We Hardly Knew You.”

Interestingly as well; The Glorious Burden has Tim Paper Owens on it instead of Matt Barlow, who at the time had left the band to join the US Police force in the wake of 9/11. He’s a perfect replacement for Barlow. Both are brilliant at high screams, both sing with manly authority and both do a fine impression of Forbidden’s Russ Anderson. I don’t know if its actually the guitarist doing those bits. Could be. They’re so similar across the two records. I’ve also got given their live Blu-Ray for Christmas, so I’ll have a look when I get a chance to watch it, and see if I can crack this mystery. Is Schaeffer the phantom Russ Anderson impersonator? Or do both Barlow and Ripper both have that one particular style really well honed?

This record makes me want to try out the two Ripper-Era Priest albums that I avoided. Tim is certainly an incredibly talented guy. Replacing Halford can’t have been easy. Just look Blaze Bailey. The fans really didn’t go for him even though he’s very talented. Also – Maaaaaaaan hunt. Maaaan, Hunt. Manhuntmanhuntmanhuntmanhunt.

In addition to the serious, Thrashy, USPM… I’ve been listening to the fun, bright, melodic German Power Metal of Gama Ray. I’ve been hammering their 2007 album Land Of The Free II recently; its met with mixed reviews, but I really like it. Its such a fun, energetic, and pleasant record. The guitar solos are magnificent. Kai is one of my favourite guitarists of all time. I read a lot of people complaining about stealing that bass-bit from Maiden’s Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner. Gama Ray frequently steal bits from Priest. They’ve even stole bits from Deep Purple. Its just something you have to deal with. Its still a good song. I don’t know, maybe I should be harsher, but, I just can’t help but love everything Gamma Ray do. Its difficult to listen to Gamma Ray and not just be put into a good mood. I’d absolutely love to see them live. I wish I’d been a fan when they did that tour with Helloween recently. That must’ve been brilliant to behold.

Also, after having listened to Tesseract, I had another listen to Periphery. Periphery’s album is such a shapeshifter. Every time I’ve heard it I’ve listened to it in a completely different way. Sometimes I hear it as a radio-friendly Metalcore record, sometimes I hear it as a crushing desne Messugah-influenced affair, and sometimes I hear it as a rapid-fire, all-over-the-place, highly technical, Protest The Hero style modern prog mish mash.

That’s happened to me before, with Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes. I’ve heard it in completely different ways at different times. Makes you wonder what your ears and brain are up to.

Its also interesting just how different it is to Tesseract’s album. Its like the difference between Anthrax’s Spreading The Disease and Megadeth’s Peace Sells But Who’s Buying. Both are defining albums of Thrash, but both sound vastly different. Same goes here. Animals As Leaders’ Weightless album is as vastly different as those two are from eachother yet again. Perhaps that’s throwing Slayer’s Hell Awaits into the second albums by Thrash bands analogy. If all those Djent bands are Thrash, then what does that make Messugah? Judas Priest?

Oh. Y’know what. I can add three more things onto the “to-do-list” / risk-of-me-buying-these pile. Skyharbour, Monuments and Circle’s new albums.

Anyway, there are some seriously brilliant songs on this record. I particularly love ‘Erised’ and the single, ‘Scarlet.’ The whole album is fantastic though; the musicianship and vocals are incredible. There are parts that are so heavy, parts that are floaty electronic dreams and a lot of memorable clean choruses. Periphery – Love that shit.

I forgot just how good Tool’s Undertow album is. I usually think of the subsequent three albums when I think of Tool. There are some seriously fun, memorable, enjoyable riffs on this album. Some damn catchy vocal parts, some interesting lyrics, and it’s a lot more succinct and serious than I remember. I guess having gotten into all the Tool-influenced bands recently also helped. And the grunge; there’s a slight bit of grunge about Undertow that I may previously have been put-off by.

Speaking of being put-off; I think the thing about the carrots made me forget about all the completely awesome songs on the record. Tool usually have one or two little comedy moments or unusual additions, so I don’t know why that particular one took over. Well, at least I know better now. Songs like ‘Intolerance’ and ‘Bottom’ are absolute gems. I can see this working its way into a much more regular rotation from now on.

Ok; that’s enough for one installment. I’m going to have to keep it up all the way through January. Let’s hope I stick with the whole financial-discipline thing a while longer, ey?