I’ll always consider myself a student of heavy metal rather than an expert, but sometimes I’m still boggled by the bands that manage to fly below my radar. Case in point; I was entirely unfamiliar with Norwegian blackened thrash outfit Nocturnal Breed until the fine folks at Fresno Media put them right under my nose. Surprising considering my fondness for this type of thing, but better late than never, because their latest album Napalm Nights totally rips.
When traditional/proto-doom is done right, there are few things finer, and few if any bands are doing it better than Demon Head. The Copenhagen-dwelling quintet recently had a demo tape released by the venerable Caligari Records, and it’s a slow-burning scorcher that quite frankly blows recent big-name practitioners of the style such as Kadavar and Orchid out of the water. It really is that damn good.
In 1996, Metallica unleashed Load, an album which saw the band drifting even further away from the complex thrash metal they’d made their name on in favor of stripped-down, southern-tinged hard rock. They also toyed with their image, chopping off their once flowing locks and ditching black jeans and t-shirts for eyeliner and designer duds. Before it was even released, the band made seismic waves with the Samuel Bayer-directed, Hieronymus Bosch-inspired music video for first single “Until it Sleeps,” which seemed to exist in another universe both musically and visually from anything they’d done previously.
I distinctly remember me and my buddy Jon going out to our local Best Buy to buy the album the day it came it out; we excitedly popped the CD into his car stereo and… we thought it was awesome. You see, growing up smack dab in the Midwest with no access to a metal underground of any kind gave us a unique perspective; in spite of being familiar with Metallica’s back catalog we didn’t feel betrayed, rather we welcomed the band doing something different and not putting out The Black Album Part II. Maybe we were naive, but I’d like to think we were open-minded. At sixteen years old I wasn’t listening to albums with the critical ear I have now, and we had no concept of elitism or preconceived notions of what metal had to sound like in order to be “true.” The fact that we were raised on classic rock and loved alternative rock almost as much as we loved metal made it pretty easy to appreciate what Metallica were attempting, even if in retrospect their attempt was heavily flawed.
As recently as last year, I was still proclaiming my love for Load, stating that if any other band had released it, it would be hailed as a great hard rock album. As it turns out, a more thorough critical analysis reveals that only about half the album is as strong as I’ve previously proclaimed it to be, the other half is a combination of filler and failed experiments that make a strong case for Load and its sister album ReLoad being whittled down to a single combined disk (that could be a whole other piece unto itself… hmm…).
In the second part of our Metallica Letters series of collaborative posts, Last Rites‘ Jordan Campbell and myself tackle the bloated, quintuple platinum-selling beast that somehow propelled Lars and Co. even further into the stadium rock stratosphere in spite of its inherent weirdness. Check out our thoughts on Side A below and then head over to Last Rites for Side B.
When I offhandedly remarked via social media that I wanted to see more people writing about Metallica’s “crappy albums,” I had no idea that it would lead to the biggest crossover since Marvel vs. DC. But when Jordan Campbell of the mighty Last Rites called me out, challenging me to an inter-site throwdown on Lars and Co.’s dark ages, I had no choice but to put my money where my mouth is for a track-by-track death match. Head on over to Last Rites to read Jordan’s intro and us wreaking havoc on Side A of Metallica (aka The Black Album), and then come on back over to THKD for the Side B carnage below.
There are few things that please me more right now than this resurgence we’re currently seeing in the gothic sounds of the 1980s within the realm of heavy music. It appears that metal musicians have taken a shining to the the stuff of late, or maybe they’re getting bored with metal, or perhaps they always had it and are only now allowing themselves to cut loose and release the bats. Whatever the case, Helsinki’s Beastmilk are absolutely killing it with their debut album, Climax.
Normally, this is the part where I get all reflective regarding the year in metal. I had a scathing year-end rant all ready to go, an ice cold glass of haterade to throw in the faces of the all the people and things that annoyed, dismayed and pissed me off in 2013… and then I read what I’d written and realized that I sounded like a complete dick. What’s the point in dwelling on the negative when there was so much good this year? I had one hell of a hard time whittling down my list to just fifteen albums, and there’s still a lot out there that I’ve either yet to hear or yet to fully digest. It’s pretty darn easy to ignore the mountain of crap when there’s an equally tall mountain of greatness staring you in the face, and yet sometimes I forget that… I guess that’s what my anti-depressants are for.
When I first started thinking about how to approach THKD’s year end shenanigans for 2013, I tried to come up with ideas for different types of lists that would get away from the traditional top albums countdown. Turns out I’m more scatterbrained than creative, because what I ended up with was a bunch of stuff that really didn’t fit together or adhere to any sort of unifying theme. Instead of giving up on the idea, I decided to gather a few of these things together under one banner even though it didn’t make any sense whatsoever, just for the sheer joy of it, in addition to a more traditional year end list. So here it is, the second year end “bonus list” prior to the top metal albums countdown, which will be published on 12/13/13; THKD’s top 10 random-ass things I enjoyed in 2013.
I don’t need to tell you to listen to My Bloody Valentine. I don’t need to tell you what an important band they are. And yeah, I realize that MBV is the cliche token shoegaze band that metalheads like, and the band that metal writers automatically point to whenever a band exhibits a shoegaze influence (with Slowdive coming in a distant second on both counts). I know I’m guilty of it. But sometimes, when you discover one band that’s so fucking amazing and addictive, it’s hard to pull yourself away and explore the rest of what’s out there.
A man cannot live by metal alone. The problem is, I don’t keep up with other styles of music as obsessively and consistently as I do metal, so when I want something new to listen to that falls outside the genre, I’m often at a bit of a loss. Not sure where to turn, I recently started trawling Bandcamp to see if I could find anything of note that didn’t involve screaming, Satan, loud guitars and the like. Most of the bands I found were total duds, but after much intense searching I stumbled across the Los Angeles trio Ghost Noise, and suddenly all was right with the world.
At this point, my status as a Glenn Danzig maniac is far beyond well-documented. Between the Misfits, Samhain and Danzig, I’ve devoted more digital ink to the man’s music than to any other artist I’ve covered here at THKD. The last time I took stock of my music collection, the Evil Elvis dominated it with over twenty releases, not to mention all the t-shirts and other random paraphernalia I own. My one and only tattoo is based loosely on “Thirteen,” the song Danzig wrote for Johnny Cash (my favorite metal singer meets my favorite non metal singer). Cosmo Lee, the founder of Invisible Oranges, even based a post around my admission that I celebrate Danzig’s entire catalogue in my review of 2010′s excellent Deth Red Sabaoth.