By Bill Ketzer
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Killed the Prom Queen
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.
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.
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.
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
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?