When it comes to metal shows in Des Moines, it’s either feast or famine. The month of April is proving to be quite the feast, boasting tour stops from genre luminaries such as Broken Hope, The Lurking Corpses and Embryonic Devourment. But the show I’ve probably been looking forward to the most was a three-headed beast; a headlining set from legendary German thrashers Destruction, supported by Brazilian brutal death metal trio Krisiun and SoCal up-and-comers Exmortus.
With a name like Vampire, you might expect this mysterious Swedish quartet to be some kind of sappy, quasi-gothic nonsense, but fortunately for you, dear headbanger, nothing could be further from the truth, as evidenced by the gritty, greasy metal of their self-titled Century Media debut. Indeed, the infernal racket found here recalls the likes of Venom, Bathory and perhaps Darkthrone’s more recent work, but the vamps instill the tunes with enough of their own punky, garage-rocking fervor to distinguish themselves from the retro-metal hordes. Imagine Cronos, Tom G. Warrior and Fenriz jamming in said garage and you’re getting pretty damn close to the hellbound underground sound of Vampire.
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.
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.
It’s been two years short of a decade since the metal underground last heard from Thou Art Lord, and in the era of social media, where new music is snapped up with lightning quickness by the heavy metal hive mind only to be discarded and forgotten just as fast, that much time away can seem like an eon. However, 2013 has proven to be a banner year for veteran bands returning from the abyss of time with excellent new releases (e.g. Gorguts, Carcass, Sorcery, Summoning, etc), and with The Regal Pulse of Lucifer, the Hellenic quintet has come raging back with a fury that proves their time spent in the netherworld was not in vain.
My attempts to formulate an opinion of Black Sabbath’s 13 have been something of a roller coaster ride. I deliberately didn’t pay much attention to the hype that preceded its release, but the highly publicized sacking of original drummer Bill Ward was impossible to shield oneself from, and immediately left a bad taste in my mouth. The fact that the first album in thirty-five years from the original lineup of the band that invented heavy metal could be derailed by a petty contractual dispute isn’t exactly what one would call a good omen.
Somehow, VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show has been running for twelve(!) seasons. If you haven’t seen this show, let me give you a brief rundown: two horrifically unfunny comedians (Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine) wearing band t-shirts a stylist picked out for them attempt to talk metal and hard rock with a portly radio personality (Eddie Trunk) who prides himself in knowing everything there is to know about said genres, but instantly transforms into a butt-hurt five-year-old when it turns out he doesn’t know something, or when one of the comedians makes fun of him, or when one of the guests makes fun of him… basically he spends around 80% of the show being butt-hurt. Guests, which are occasionally people you’d actually want to see interviewed (e.g. Lemmy, Paul Di’Anno, Ace Frehley, Rob Halford, etc), but typically consist of a who’s who of hair metal has-beens, come on and have their asses kissed like they’ve never been kissed before, which is probably wonderful for their egos but pretty annoying to just about everyone else.
Maryland Deathfest 2013 begins tomorrow. I haven’t been to a music festival of any kind since Lollapalooza… 1996. Ok, that’s not entirely true, I did go to local hair band fest a few years back, but I got in for free and was only there for an hour to see Ace Frehley play and grab a tenderloin, so I don’t think that one really counts. Anyway, every year when MDF rolls around, there’s a part of me that wishes like hell that I was going. Take this year’s installment for instance; I’d kill to see the likes of Integrity, Manilla Road, Revenge, Aosoth and Bolt Thrower, what metalhead in their right mind wouldn’t?
I’ll be thirty-four this year; just short of halfway to forty. But I’ve never felt like I was getting older as a metalhead until recently. It occurred to me a few weeks ago when I was attempting to listen to a new album by a band that shall remain nameless and is being released by a well respected label; for the first time, I felt like the crotchety old fart who didn’t understand what the hell the young whippersnappers were doing. I simply could not wrap my head around what the appeal of this album was supposed to be or what the intent was. I shut it off after one track on my first attempt, after three tracks on my second attempt. And that’s when it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.
Jonas Renkse is a difficult man to photograph. For the entirety of Katatonia’s set Wednesday night at Wooly’s, the singer kept his face deliberately obscured behind a mass of hair; as if not wanting to face the crowd. But his jovial between-song demeanor and powerful performance spoke otherwise; his exquisite vocals the undeniable focal point of the Swedish quartet’s excellent hour long set opening for prog metal grand poobahs Opeth. In some ways, Herr Renkse’s locks could be a metaphor for Katatonia’s music; their underlying metal-ness often obscured by heaps of beautifully dark, multi-textured melancholia.