By: Jamie Horsley
Well, summer’s over and — BAM! — we’re all runnin’ around like enraged zombies chasing a choir. (World War Z anyone? Don’t bother, it was terrible.) I dunno about you, but I’ve been ridiculously busy. And there’s been so much music! So much awesome music! On with the music! Since fully abandoning their original heavy metal-core style in favor of a more hard rock, riff-based approach to metal, Avenged Sevenfold have released their second #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 album chart and their third top 10. And it’s not just #1 in the US; also in Canada, UK, Brazil, Ireland and Finland, and top ten in nearly a dozen other countries. Hail To The King is metal for the masses. The 80s and 90s metal scene influences like Guns & Roses, Metallica and Slayer can’t be missed. ‘Doin’ Time’ is a relentless freight train of a headbanger. ‘This Means War’ follows as a groovy stomp-along. And ‘Crimson Day’ could very well take the Power Ballad of the Year award.
This album begins a new era in the musical career of these metal monsters.
If you like some good heavy music and aren’t one of the haters from the death metal forums online, you can’t go wrong with this album. If you have been looking down your nose with disdain at A7X, you’ll probably appreciate Carcass’s first release in 17 years. Surgical Steel could very well be the greatest comeback album any band has ever done. Ever. After nearly 20 years they still stand on top of their game, slaughtering the posers with the most brutal riffs and the goriest lyrics you can barely understand. As ‘Thrasher’s Abbatoir’ declares, “this is poserslaught.” So if you think you might like some heavy metal, this album is not for you. Strangely enough, no one ever looks at Gwar with disdain. Sometimes horrified confusion. Sometimes fear for the state of the world. Some just shake their heads and say, “Kids these days.” But no one scoffs at the alien metal band for fear of the wrath of the vile imagination of lead throatthing Oderus Urungus. With song titles like ‘Torture,’ ‘Raped At Birth’ and ‘Triumph Of The Pig Children’ on the new album, you probably still can’t imagine the unrepeatable lyrical content contained therein. Battle Maximus is the first album since the Flattus Maximus returned to the cosmos to be replaced with Pustulus Maximus, but Pustulus is stepping up to fill the giant mutant shoes of Flattus well. This album begins a new era in the musical career of these metal monsters.
In other news, Gwar may actually reach super-stardom if the petition currently circulating the internet gets enough signatures.
The (easily googleable) petition begs the NFL to give Gwar a spot in the 2015 Superbowl Halftime Show. As of writing this, there’s currently nearly 39,000 signatures, needing little more than 11,000 more to make the whole thing official. So if you wanna see something that’ll give big media far more to talk about than a split second nip-slip that needs 20x agnification and a team of scrutinizers to make it out, go sign this thing and let Gwar step on stage. I dunno why I started with all the metal reviews. I guess I got excited. Well, what else? How about the most
anticipated album of the month? Four tracks from the album were released ahead of Hesitation Marks, the first new studio album from Nine Inch Nails in five years.
The first major single got a music video directed by David Lynch but was otherwise a rather unexceptional NIN track. The next few releases kindled my expectations of the album nicely until the day ‘Everything’ debuted on NPR. The song shocked and horrified critics and fans alike.
Not that it was a bad song. Quite the contrary actually; it’s a great pop rock song. If anyone other than Nine Inch Nails had released it, it would have been the greatest thing since alternative rock. But alt-rock is off limits for Nine Inch Nails, as far as their fans are concerned. Aside from the debatable merits of that one song, this album is friggin awesome!
It reaches back to the days of Year Zero, with all the social commentary intact. ‘Copy Of A’ is a product-of-yenvironment song while ‘Came Back Haunted’ is about alien (or maybe government) abduction. And with all the being watched in ‘Satellite’ and all the nowhere to hide in ‘Running,’ listening to this album will make you as paranoid as watching an episode of the nightly news. This stellar, new, 28th addition to the catalogue of Halos is phenomenal and already has me holding my breath for a remix album. Speaking of remix albums, ya know who just released a really good one? Puscifer. All Re-Mixed Up is such a direct remix of Conditions Of My Parole that it has exactly the same tracklist (except, obviously, that they’re remixes). While many of the remixes are subtle, they are all worth it. Sir-Mix-A-Lot injects some bass and a lot of electrics into the country rock boulder that was ‘Conditions Of My Parole.’ But the coolest remix of all is the de-evolution of ‘Man Overboard’ from industrial to tribal in the ‘11AD’ remix from Alain Johannes. Puscifer fans shouldn’t overlook this album. And not really a ‘remix’ album per-say, but Everlast has released an album of acoustic versions of deep cuts from his past catalogue. What connection Whitey Ford has with Wes Anderson, Bill Murray or Mark Mothersbaugh is anyone’s guess — maybe he’s just a fan — but the album is titled The Life Acoustic and has a very Steve Zissou-esque image of Whitey on the cover.
At first glance I was hoping he’d get Seu Jorge and do some acoustic Portugese covers of ‘Ends’ or ‘What It’s Like.’ Unfortunately Seu Jorge is not appearing on this album. It’s just Whitey and his six-string (and a keyboard that sometimes slips out of its acoustic piano setting). Most of these songs hold up fine as acoustics but there’s really nothing overly spectacular about this album. It’s a good album to practice your guitar strumming to; he won’t show ya up too much. For something nearly as acoustic and with a far better and more prominent piano part, try Elton John’s brand new album, The Diving Board. It’s written, of course, by Bernie Taupin and Elton John, and produced by TBone Burnett, who also produced The Union in 2010. The album is full of good ol’ Elton singin’ the blues with his piano. Can you ever go wrong with that? ‘My Quicksand’ is a strikingly powerful memoir and ‘Home Again’ is a mournful homesick dream. The album’s not full of catchy hooks, instead it relies on emotion and mood. This is probably the best album to come out of the 60+ age group of rockers this
And if an album full of emotional piano ballads isn’t calm and quiet enough for ya, you should give a listen, or a nap, to Tales Of Us, the new album from Goldfrapp. A concept album of sorts where each song is about, and titled after, a different character, including ‘Stranger.’ The music on this album is as light as Alison Goldfrapp’s breathy voice.
If you put the album on as background music you’ll probably forget it’s playing, and if you sit down to listen to the whole thing you might fall asleep, but it really is beautiful. Five of the ten songs will eventually get their own videos (one for ‘Drew’ has already been released) and there’s rumours that those might fit together to make some sort of larger film.
The album’s not full of catchy hooks, instead it relies on emotion and mood.
Goldfrapp fans will love it, as will anyone looking for some nice light chamber music. If none of that’s doin’ much for ya, you must be looking for the catchy, radio-friendly, alternative rock with bright flashy lights. May I direct your attention to the brand new Loud Like Love by Placebo? The critics and Placebo fans are giving this mixed reviews based on the fact that it’s not as young and loud and gritty as some previous Placebo albums. But commendations are coming in on a cleaner, brighter, more mature sound. The first single, ‘Too Many Friends’ is the sadly all-too-true lament of the social network generation. The title track is the second single, and it’s bright and poppy, and your local radio station should be eating it up like cake any day now. It might not be their best album ever but it has certainly rekindled a more serious interest in the rest of their music, for me at least. Check it out.
If you’re looking for something from a farther off in left field, experimental dub / glitch artist Thriftworks is offering his latest eight track EP, Deviation, up for free (actually it’s ‘name your price’ and all good artists deserve to be paid) on bandcamp. I first heard of Thriftworks last year at Shambhala. I really love the downtempo groovy bass and the glitchy stylings that work together to create these unique soundscapes. It’s pretty hard to describe beyond that, but you can stream the whole album before you commit a handful of dollars and / or a few megabytes of hard drive space to the download. At least check out ‘Metal Tho’ and ‘Terminally Chill.’ This shit’s pretty cool And if you wanna up the ante on that a little, well then let Mr. Claude VonStroke drop a little acid house on your poor trippin’ brain.
Here’s another name I picked up from Shamb last year. Urban Animal literally just dropped as I was writing, but I was able to give it one full listen, so first listen review: It made me want to dance. Then it made me dance. Then it made me wish I was waaay higher. Then I started trippin’ on the tunes anyway. Excellent! If this one’s not on your brick and mortar shelves yet, you can certainly find it in iTunes Store and Amazon. Well that’s what I got around to listening to this month. There was tons of other great music released last month and the next couple months should bring lots more sweet surprises (like a new album from Moby coming up this month). If I overlooked something you think I shouldn’t have, or if you disagree, or if you agree, or for any other reason, drop me a line.