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Scrap-Metal Salvage

By Bill Ketzer

Happy Gnu Year. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts left over from Bill Ketzer’s 2006 heavy-metal inbox. May they serve you well.

Venom

Metal Black (Sanctuary)

What a disappointment. I was en couraged by Conrad “Cronos” Lant’s appearance on Dave Grohl’s Probot, where his invigorating growl promised a brand new Welcome to Hell, weaving tales of warrior princes and the opening of gates and yelling and so forth. But instead we get sloppy, plodding, midtempo abortions like “House of Pain” and the downright puerile “Death and Dying” with its horribly inappropriate drum parts and dated lyrics. Perhaps it’s wrong to long for the band’s Neat Records glory days, but regardless, I tore the disc from the machine and Frisbeed it over to my dog, who snatched it from the air like a pro, only to hack it immediately back onto the floor in disgust. And this is a dog that eats escarole, mushrooms, cat barf, fertilizer . . . pretty much anything. Very telling indeed.

Priestess

Hello Master (RCA)

Excellent debut. Twelve tracks of just good, dirty, riff-sickened Canadian rawk. Take a little Sonic Temple-era Cult, toss in a dash of something Mark Arm would have written for the soundtrack to Over the Edge (if he wasn’t 17 at the time), stir vigorously with really fucking cool choruses reminiscent of Sweet, and maybe call Josh Homme for good measure here and there, and this is what you get. Sounds messy, but once the dough rises, it’s pretty jaw-dropping.

Motorhead

Kiss of Death (Sanctuary)

God bless the war pig that is Motor head. Like or loathe, we get something new from England’s loudest band every year, and unlike other seasoned bands with only half the frequent flyer miles, Team Lemmy still make slamming albums—sometimes. Releases like We Are Motorhead, Sacrifice and Inferno are every bit as felonious and blissfully deleterious as anything from the Fast Eddie Clarke years, but this one falls a bit short. It sounds more like a collection of B-sides that had been gathering dust, and then there’s the curious remake of 1916’s “R.a.m.o.n.e.s.,” which is less dandruff-worthy than the original. Why the need? But hey, there’s always next year.

Phoenix Mourning

When Excuses Become Antiques (Metal Blade)

From the wearisome but ironic “Niche,” with it’s recycled Papa Roach riff, to the flatulent “My Future Actress,” visions of these Floridians being eaten alive by Deicide’s Glenn Benton swam in my periphery like an invasive parasite. According to the accompanying press release, Phoenix Mourning play “spot on metal/screamo arena worthy anthems of youthful angst and personal discovery,” but instead offer only unremarkable potash, indistinguishable from several thousand wayward boys’ clubs who have been deluded into thinking that distracting, single-note-double-harmony hooks and bleak, hysterical vocals equal commercial viability, or that the term “emotional metalcore” isn’t the most ludicrous thing they’ve ever heard.

Misery Index

Discordia (Relapse)

Wow. Pretty brutal. Howling furies galore, but with some pretty cool old-school thrash parts. Former Dying Fetus bassist-vocalist Jason Netherton offers this intelli-gent exodus from the grindcore and death-metal viscera that defined his former band. Not that it’s any less damaging to most of the five senses, but a newfound infusion of melody, as grating as it can be, has found its way into these hearty and percussive adventures, detailing ignorance, self-destruction and capitalism. Not necessarily one of my favorites, but fans of the Relapse catalogue can surely find sordid Hessian pleasures here.

 

 

The Hellacopters

Rock and Roll is Dead (Gearhead)

Another fantastic band who don’t get enough respect. Initially the side project of Entombed’s drummer-cum-vocalist- guitarist Nicke Andersson, the Hellacopters rock harder than a Nigerian death scene, except they’re a tad (but not much) prettier. These guys totally freeball it. No distortion pedals, no frills or pithy nuances here, just gutsy hooks and dogged choruses played by unwashed Swedish heathens. Check out “Positively So Naïve,” “Bring it On Home,” “Before the Fall” and the Jagger-Richards splendor of “Leave It Alone.”

Drum Nation

Volume Three (Magna Carta)

What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend? Homeless! How do you get a drummer off your porch? Pay him for the pizza! What do you throw a drummer if he’s drowning? His drums! Bwa-haha! But seriously, the joke is on us if we underestimate the capabilities of this war-room ensemble of skilled skinsmen. Excellent original compositions here from Lamb of God’s Chris Adler, Shadows Fall’s Jason Bittner, Chris Pennie from Dillinger Es cape Plan and much more. This volume differs slightly than the previous compilations, focusing more on emerging artists rather than already established big guns, which gives them an opportunity (for some, probably the first) to carve out musical identities separate from their bands of origin. That said, you’d prolly only snatch it up if you’re a drummer. Or his girlfriend.

 

I Killed the Prom Queen

Music for the Recently Deceased (Metal Blade)

Inoffensively offensive, demo- graph i cally targeted band name? Check. Waifish, rail-thin Diesel jeans models with guitars? Check. Bomb-proof barf bag? Double check, and check, please. Here’s yet another pack of dandies melodramatically wailing to the hopefully unsympathetic heavens over major-scale arpeggios, wringing hands over incredibly average, horseshit problems. Edward Butcher’s “angry voice” sounds like my great uncle in hospice after a lifetime of filterless Pall Malls, yet his melodic choruses recall the Cutting Crew’s simpering Nick Van Eede working his way through “(I Just) Died in Your Arms” to about a dozen people in a Frankfurt pub on last year’s heartbreaking “reunion” tour. And the idea that blast beats are justified anywhere in this shambles is just insulting.

All That Remains

The Fall of Ideals (Prosthetic)

Of all bands fluctuating between growling, aggressive, 30-second-note sorties and swooning, digestible choruses, these guys are arguably the best at this point. Excellent production and tasteful songwriting make this, while not totally my cup of tea, a friendly, violent, fun listen nonetheless. The hooks are well- considered and the drumming is top-notch, cerebral and appropriate (it cannot be underestimated in this type of metal). Like their Bay State brethren Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage, All That Remains have the composing skills and vision needed to meld very different styles of heavy music into one evil, gap-toothed beast, although it will be interesting to see how such bands will be able to keep it warm over time.

 

 

Cataract

Kingdom (Metal Blade)

I’ve got my eye on these guys. Ha! Get it? Anyway, Cataract couldn’t make a radio-friendly record if they tried. Thank God, because this here’s a killer. But the one annoying thing—it may be the way the track listing is arranged, but—is that the momentum wanes after the first six tracks. I wish producers would rein these bands in and remind them that the greatest metal albums of all time clock in at less than 30 minutes.

Blasé Debris

Creep Cool (Altercation)

Right! Excellent, over-the-top zombie crunch that whacks the punk piñata to bits with gory bits of Grand Guignol goodness. Always the killer songwriter, Duane Beer prefers simplicity and an exaggerated fondness for pageantry over technical prowess or literal accuracy, and it works just beautifully with these heavy love songs from the crypt. Just what the fiend club ordered. Awesome.

If Hope Dies

Life In Ruin (Metal Blade)

If hope dies, there’s always a future in telemarketing. I hate to bash a New York band, especially one from central New York. But I will. While miles ahead of tripe like Phoenix Mourning in terms of songwriting and production, these guys are just trying waaay too hard, spraining the miserable tendons of inexperience in search of the perfect breakdown, the most desperate and forlorn and wronged and righteously indignant vocals. It’s like the nervous suitor spilling his guts on the first date, smothering that precious ability to objectively self-appraise and make the necessary corrections to close the deal. I still love Metal Blade Records; Brian Slagel almost single-handedly launched the careers of Slayer, Metallica, Overkill and Armored Saint with his now- infamous Metal Massacre compilations. But where is the metal? And where is the massacre?

 


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