Friday, February 26, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Today's entry is King Diamond's 2000 album House of God.
It should be pretty obvious by now that I love talking Metal. A lot. All the time. And if you have a table full of seasoned Metal-heads drinking beers and eating BBQ before a show you are guaranteed a lot of lively debates. A common one is King Diamond solo versus Mercyful Fate. Another is which King Diamond album is better, Abigail or Them. For the first question my answer is always King Diamond, by a mile. There is one exception, and it will be a future As the Palaces Burned entry. However for the second conversation, most recently sparked in my presence this past Sunday, I usually remain quiet. It is easiest because my answer is neither popular nor expected. While I enjoy all stages of King Diamond's career my favorite is the work he did for Metal Blade, starting with The Spider's Lullabye in 1995. I am going to eventually cover all four albums he recorded during this period, but will start with the album that got me to revisit this era, House of God.
The first thing you have to understand about Metal Blade era King Diamond is that he and Andy LaRocque changed their sound. The technical and sometimes jerky song structures of their earlier work was replaced with a heavier and more direct approach. Personally I think asking anyone to sit through a full length horror themed fictional concept record with a singer who uses multiple characters and voices is already asking a lot. Streamlining the riffs and concentrating on song structures has been a great asset.
The other awesome thing you hear during this iteration of the band are the awesome sound textures that pepper the record. The standout example for me on this album is the track "Goodbye." It is a nice two minute guitar harmony and synth texture which propels the story along without overstaying its welcome.
So....the concept behind House of God. Fun silly little story about Jesus being kept alive in a French Chateau where he has children and legacy and some traveler who is seduced by a she wolf learns that God and Satan are pawns in a larger game. This story has been covered by everyone from the comic book "Preacher" to "the Da Vinci Code." King's twist? Glen Drover from Megadeth playing guitar opposite Andy LaRocque. That beats Dan Brown's shitty writing any day.
Anyone who enjoyed the early King Diamond material and started listening again for his last two albums The Puppet Master and Give me your Soul...Please should check out this masterpiece. And now that all four of these albums are nicely remastered by Andy LaRocque there is not better time like the present.
House of God:
The Trees Have Eyes:
Piece of Mind:
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
It might be artwork week here at BBB: I came across these guys because Metal Sucks did a post applauding the artwork for their as-yet-unreleased new album, The Farthest Reaches (and throwing in some props for the art on their first release, Myocardial Infarction, shown on the left below; the cover of The Farthest Reaches is on the right). It's not quite Howl awesome, but after hearing their music, I think I might be more likely to dig on what Sons of Aurelius is doing.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Above is the album cover from an upcoming release by a band called Howl that I came across on Friday on Metal Sucks. It is an awesome album cover: there's a hooded skull, it's on fire with some sweet stylized flames, there are hordes of floating eyeballs, and that geared circle supporting the band's logo ties the whole thing together really well.
This link goes to a post written by Reign in Blonde's Julia reviewing Howl open for Skeletonwitch (who know a thing or two about sweet album covers). It reads like Howl is a pretty sweet-sounding band - a bit of post-hardcore, a bit of prog, a bit of thrash, a bit of doom - so I checked out their MySpace page and, well...the stuff from the new album isn't up yet, but I hope it's more interesting than the stuff from their last release. Maybe they're a better band live, but right now Full of Hell is shaping up to be a waste of some sweet art.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
But this record melts every speaker system I have, down to my $40 ipod dock. If you can make my iPod dock sound this heavy, you have done your job right.
Anyone know any stories of how this album was recorded? I want to learn from these people. I also think the drums are real (not replaced).
Edit: there's a video. A video in which Arsis is channeling their inner Van Halen. I can't help but be struck with admiration:
Black metal = no compromise. If Keep of Kalessin wants to penetrate some unexplored areas in the homosexual community, I feel no harm done, yet we leave our crowd raped by other means than participating in vain and futile contests on something we consider a blasphemy of an art anyway.I'll be seeing Finntroll when they come to NYC in early April, so I guess I'll see just how explicit this nightly raping really is.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Today's entry is Black Sabbath's 1994 album Cross Purposes.
One of my pet causes when discussing music with like-minded Metal heads is raising awareness of how awesome much of the Tony Martin era of Black Sabbath really was. This album was released in 1994 right after Dehumanizer, the reunion record with Dio. You can hear a lot of that sound on this album. And although he can sometimes sound a bit too much like Dio, Tony Martin is an amazing singer with just enough soul in his voice to make it work.
Iommi is the riff king no matter what lineup he is playing with, and this album is no exception. "Virtual Death" opens with a classic Geezer dirge on the bass which is the perfect appetizer for a delicious meal of slow murky Iommi riffing. Bobby Rondinelli who was also in Rainbow provides the simple but extremely powerful drumming we've all come to expect from this version of Sabbath. He doesn't stray very far from the template written by Vinnie Appice and Cozy Powell, which is fine.
This is extremely solid Black Sabbath with a couple of unexpected members. After you get hooked on this album go back and listen to the Headless Cross. That album is the jam, and the absolute pinnacle of Tony Martin's vocal powers.
Evil Eye (co-written with Eddie Van Halen)
Cross of Thorns
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
A straight return to Hellfire would be boring, of course, but I wouldn't mind hearing the band finding a happy medium between Hellfire's brutality and Revelations...'s chaos to explore in their next release. Of course, if they're reverting to form, they could just be trying to get more than five people to show up to their next headlining show. We'll see: if the next album is more of the same, I vote they call it No One Likes Toiling in Obscurity.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
At some point in the past few years, black metal had a bit of a renaissance in the US: metal became big enough that it started spilling outside its previous listening circles, indie rockers latched onto black metal's lo-fi aesthetic, Mastodon demonstrated that it was possible for guys playing mix noisy metal with 70s rock to make a splash with the kids, and suddenly it was a big deal to be in band playing music that floated in one of metal's grayer areas. By choice or by accident, Nachtmystium put themselves in this camp over the course of the decade, and while Assassins Part 1: Black Meddle is the better known example of their black metal/70s rock cross, it was Wordfall, the 5 song release they put out in 2007, that caught my ear first.
My favorite track - and to my mind, one of the band's best songs - is the title track, which leads off the EP: seven minutes of bleak tied together by the dingy, gritty distortion on the guitars, rolling on and on without getting muddy or tiresome. It's the sort of riff that will stick in your head for hours, and it's an even more effective hook for the simplicity of the sounds floating above it: most of the lyrics are Blake Judd whispering, "worldfall...oblivion," over and over again. At one point, the song feels like it's trying to shake off its decent into madness and goes into a frenetic solo, but by the end, the sonic despair ultimately takes hold once and for all.
Things get a little more psychedelic on "Depravity," which intersperses a heavily-phased interlude halfway between a skillful execution of some standard black metal idioms, but really kick into high gear on "Solitary Voyage": droning guitars provide texture, but it's the spacey keyboard-sounding lead and anguished, echoey vocals that create the atmosphere. If ever there were a soundtrack for a doomed solo space voyage, it's this song, particularly at the end, when everything breaks into haunting arpeggios that seem to channel absolute emptiness.
After I saw the NYC date my brain went blank for the rest of the day.
This is the sixth installment of As the Palaces Burned. Of the six releases I have focused on this is the third record produced by Roy Z. I wonder if history will show him to have single handedly kept Metal alive during this bleak period. The man got Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford to make Metal again, is an amazing guitarist in his own right, and produced Helloween’s masterpiece from 2000 The Dark Ride. This is enough to forget for a moment that he gets pretty awful drum sounds and the big fail that was Judas Priest’s Angel of Retribution.
Oh Helloween, the band no one in
So you have this bizarre band with a weird name and a weird logo that always seems to get the shaft over here. And it is a damned awful shame. If the work I am doing on this blog turns just one person on to how amazing Helloween really is, I will have done my job as a rambling retro-reviewer.
Helloween is an awesome band. It is true they have virtually no original members anymore. The lineup that recorded The Dark Ride only has a tenuous link to Helloween’s past. Get over it. Think of them like a German Power-Metal version of Menudo. Helloween is a spirit and the lineup led by the fantastic vocals of Andi Deris lives up to their spirit perfectly.
The Dark Ride is the album in my fantasy Glee universe where Iron Maiden and Queen can be mashed up perfectly. For those like me who think Blind Guardian is too cheesy or Dragonforce don’t have strong enough songs, Helloween is the perfect band. After a brief keyboard intro the album kicks off strong with “Mr. Torture,” an incredibly nonsensical ode to a male dominatrix (dominator?). The first half of the album follows with incredibly strong traditional Power Metal.
Then the second half is where things start going bonkos. Notably the pseudo gothic new-wave of “The Departed (Sun is Going Down)” and the hilarious “I Live for your Pain.” This band is definitely not tied down to any formulas. “Immortal” is a keyboard driven pseudo-ballad that even the boys can get behind. What is a better way to express love than “I reigned as God/I'm monumental/Soon I will arise/With you by my side/And we will radiate the skies?”
So in summary, you need to start getting really into Helloween. This is a perfect introduction. Once you love this lineup check out Master of the Rings and Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 3.
The Departed (Sun is Going Down)
I Live for your Pain
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Then, a few weeks ago, following Tom Araya's successful back surgery, the bands rescheduled American Carnage for this summer and Megadeth seemed to indicate that they'd continue touring Rust in Peace. Slightly less consternation here in NYC...until we read that the show would still happen in New Jersey. New Jersey, you see, is difficult to get to on a weeknight, and the venue in question is a hockey rink that has (among other things) a history of idiocy when it comes to guiding visitors to the entrances. Not to mention that the show has now been on sale since late last year and the remaining tickets are two levels up in nosebleed territory.
Now Dave Ellefson announces he and Mustaine have patched up their second massive feud with a simple telephone conversation and he's returning to Megadeth. Fantastic news, but it doesn't open up any new tickets. Right now I think I'm living on the hope that his return spurs such an uptick in demand that they add a second show in NYC and I'll get to see one of my favorite albums performed in its entirety from somewhere closer than an overpriced nosebleed seat.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
h/t: Reign in Blonde
Friday, February 05, 2010
The same prospecting expedition to Wikipedia that produced this post led my discovering Dark Fortress, a German melodic black metal outfit that put out their fifth studio album, Ylem at the end of last month. Ylem is a deeply flawed album in many ways - most notably that it's really too damn long - and Dark Fortress has been around long enough that I suspect that the decision to write twelve songs with an average length of six minutes isn't something they're going to grow out of. However, I find them intriguing for the same reason I like Keep of Kalessin: with their melodic flavor, they've broke out of the stereotypical black metal mold, but they've got enough of a black edge to still sound pretty evil. "Hirudinieans," named after the scientific classification for leeches, is standard for the album: it's got some doomy material, some headbanging material, some melodic riffing and soloing, and the reasonably intelligible comparison between sycophants and parasites.
But Ylem's most interesting track is "Sycamore Trees," the album's final song. It starts out slow and soon plods forward with the speed and potential menace of an Ent, crushed by an ancient sorrow - a sonic representation of this picture. I'm not sure why, but after twelve songs of tonic madness, this one soul-dampening slog is enough of a taste of sweet sorrow to make me want to come back for more.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
"It was after closing time. I was at Fincken (gay bar in Bergen). Robin came to the club to look for his former boyfriend. I was buzzed on white wine, and suddenly I saw a glowing figure in the door. That was Robin. I thought to myself that he must be mine."
I'll admit it: despite its color, which does seem like it would have a certain appeal to those obsessed with the world's bleakness, I wouldn't have picked white wine as the choice of anyone who fronted a band that recorded a song called "Procreating Satan." I guess it's the more sophisticated side of the corpse-painted auto mechanic revolution Seth highlighted on Tuesday.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
I’m going to be in a lot of trouble this week. I have selected Bruce Dickinson’s Chemical Wedding as my choice. Not Accident of Birth but Chemical Wedding.
I like AoB. It is fine. It has some great songs like “Darkside of Aquarius” and “Taking the Queen.” But like Halford’s Resurrection album it is a safety record. A lot of the riffs are derivative and he tried too hard to sound like Maiden (although it could be argued that he was making better Maiden records than Maiden were without him during this period).
But Chemical Wedding was a risky record and an even riskier proposition since he still hadn’t regained his audience yet. Even before you open the jewel case you are greeted by one of William Blake’s paintings, “the Flea.” In fact I bought this in 1998 as an impulse purchase because of the cover alone. The William Blake art and song titles alluding to his body of work (“Book of Thel,” “Gates of Urizen,” etc.) were enough to get me to spend $15 while hanging out at the Borders by SUNY Albany.
Most of this record sounds like an alternate universe version of Iron Maiden where Dickinson, not Steve Harris, calls the shots. No version of “The Trooper” here for the punters. This is Dickinson being handed the keys to the kingdom and letting all of his eccentricity flow. Starting off with “King in Crimson” the down-tuned guitar riff shows off a much darker side to Bruce Dickinson’s sound than we had previously heard. Songs like “The Tower” are “Revelations” on steroids. The lyrics are cryptic blends of bible stories, the writings of Blake, vague allusions to Alastair Crowley, and generalized insanity.
From “Book of Thel”:
The burning sweat of poison tears/The river flowing red with blood
The cradle-robbing hand of death/Caresses every dreaming head
Waiting for the marriage hearse/To take you to the funeral pyre
So you burn the family tree /The generations burning higher
This is not “Run to the Hills” for sure. But the songs do have strong hooks and a lot of the great shout-along moments which make the Brazilians go nuts, as evidenced by the live record Scream for me Brazil.
Come for the exotic take on Maiden-esque Metal. Stay for the odd pseudo-mythology lessons. Revel in the amazing artwork licensed from the Blake estate. This album isn’t for everyone, but like Halford’s Crucible it shows the power and creativity Roy Z can conjure out of a classic artist trying to get back on their feet.
Live version of "Book of Thel":
King in Crimson:
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
01. Those Treasures Will Never Befall You
02. Running For Borders
03. I Am The Graves Of The 80s
04. Stylized Corpse
05. Circle The Wagons
06. Black Mountain Totem
07. I Am The Working Class
08. Eyes Burst At Dawn
09. Bränn Inte Slottet
I AM THE GRAVES OF THE 80s???? They pioneered a lot of the iconography which has become synonymous with Black Metal, but they are the goofiest bunch of fucks ever. I wish they would start playing live again. I want to get drunk with Fenriz. The first time I heard them was absolutely not what I expected. They are such a bunch of doofs.
Here they are being the epitome of evil
Monday, February 01, 2010
Here's another reason to hope the Tryptikon album doesn't suck: the album artwork is absolutely fierce - not surprising, since it's an H. R. Giger composition - and I want it in some sort of large format printed form. You can view a larger version of the CD version of the cover here and the cover for the double LP - for listening in the cold comfort of your achingly empty nerd palace - here.
On a related note: I get far more excited about album art releases than would seem to make sense for someone who listens to all of his music in digital (and generally portable) form.