Saturday, August 26, 2006

Anthrax - Sound of White Noise

For those of you who want a damn good metal album:

Anthrax - Sound of White Noise

"Be dangerous and unpredictable... and make a LOT of noise!" Those are the final words on this disc, a mantra that not only perfectly describes this disc, but the band as a whole.

The album's first song, "Potters Field", is a rude awakening to the fact that Anthrax is now a much more powerful, much more devastating force in the world of metal. John Bush's intense vocals and Scott Ian's new penchant for writing riffs with Charlie's drums proves to be an intense, downright terrifiying at times, force. John spits out lyrics like they're his last breaths, giving more depth to something like "I was told to love you/I was told to try/ I was born to save you/I was born to die."

But if this album is anything, it is a testament to what Anthrax can do. Admitedly, I was trying to avoid stating the obvious facts, but it's simply impossible; This album marked the beginning of the Anthrax of the 90's, fronted by John Bush. If John was anything for the band, he was simply the best thing to happen to them at the right time. It was only a year after their last album came out the world went grunge and Scott Ian was smart enough to know he had to change the sound, or at the very least get the same sound he was trying to achieve with the last record and extend it. John Bush was the perfect fit!

Just listen to this album once and you'll know exactly what I mean. "Only" has a hook so aluring that even Moby Dick would bite for it! It has even been described by James Hetfield of Metallica as perfect. The same goes for "Room for One More", with what has to be the single catchiest chorus Anthrax has written in their entire career!

Again, John shines through with "Hy Pro Glo", who seems to have his vocals virtually strike in dynamic patterns. It's almost like watching a baseball bat hit a window; It is intense, terrifying, but the pattern it leaves and weaves as the glass breaks, but doesn't shatter, is beautiful and incredibly interesting. It simply stands heads and shoulders as one of the best songs on this disc. Songs like "Packaged Rebellion" and "Invisible" burn with all the hatred, angry, and frustration of the world, balled up into songs that allow you to give a voice to your rage!

"Black Lodge" is the lone quite moment on the album. Opening with a beautiful guitar riff that echoes and sounds like your going back to a place in your mind you rarely ever go to. When the chorus comes in, you can almost see two bodies struggling to get along with one another in a way that educes the feeling of passion of sex and the resistance to actually follow through in the act.

"C11 H17 N2 O2 S Na" (a.k.a Truth Serum) and "Burst" are the thrasiest songs on the album, presenting a head-butt to the listener. Resistance is absolutely futile to not go around your room and mosh like there's no tomorrow to it! "Burst" has the added effect of the chorus "Kill someone, save a life/Don't do drugs, drink all night/ Worship Jesus, Praise Satan/ Opinions are all contradictions!"

The album closes on what I consider to be the most experimental song of their careers up to this point, and I think it paid off. "This Is Not an Exit" is a song where you will find your own meaning. "I know I'll never be free/ Change doesn't come easy/ And I'll never be free/ You'll live in Hell with me" burn you, and the rest of the song is just as powerful. The song builds and builds, never pausing. The song is always working away at something to bring you, the listener, to a point where you simply are boiling over with anticipation. Again, it is going to be up to you to decide if it's worth it. "I know I'll never save myself, dying from this immortality" stands as one of the most powerful lyrics I have ever heard Anthrax, or any other band, write.

On a personal note, this was the album I attribute to me being alive today. I bought it around the time my mom went into the hospital, and it was the one thing that helped to heal the pain. "Pain is my way of self-expression" almost became a mantra, and when I had to decide whether or not to keep mom alive, "Kill what I love" became a reality, not just a lyric.

The album ends with the sound of a gerny being pushed through a long hallway of doors, or of simply a lot of doors closing after the other as if your running down a hallway. There is no greater, more horrifying feeling, than to feel locked and trapped in something you can't escape, and the song captures it brilliantly.

The feeling of lost, the feeling of having fun... this album seemed to simply embody what my life was like for the year my mom sat in a hospital bed, trying to live... all while I was trying to deal with the pain and cheer myself up. This album is just that; brutal and devastating, but still one of the best times in your life when you look back on it. It may not have been perfect, and it may not be excatly what everyone wants you to say or think, but it's an album that will always hold a place in your collection for being one of the best.

That is why this album gets a 4.9 out of 5.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Lamb of God - Sacrament

If you like Pantera, Anthrax, Thrash Metal, Death Metal, or are looking for this generations Reign in Blood:

Lamb of God - Sacrament

Woah. Is this for real? Did I just wake-up from insane dream? I.... I can't believe what I just got done hearing, I really can't! Ladies and gentlemen, the single greatest achievement in the modern metal movement in the last 2 years has arrived, and it is Lamb of God's Sacrament.

The album opens up with "Walk With Me in Hell". This song has been on the internet for a while, and I refused to hear it until the album came out. Thank god I did, because the impact it had was simply phenominal! The production for this album is laboured for all the better, and this album shows what Lamb of God is capable off, with this song being the culmination of all things. This is the overture of the album, and if you don't like this song, stop calling yourself a metal fan, because this is as fucking good as it get's!

Randy's vocals have undergone as much as a radical transformation as the rest of the band, as they all perform on levels unheard of to this point in their careers. Mark Morton and Willie Adler are doing exactly what they said in 2004 during the Killadelphia-era DVD; They are going to new levels of guitar playing, levels that are going to leave all the other bands of this modern era in it's ashes. Chris Adler is as devestating as ever with his drums, and I tip my hat off to the man for what he's done! And Randy? He no longer is the fierce demon alone, but also a man who, gasp, sings clean at times to dynamic and chilling effect.

God, where to go next? "Again We Rise" seems to be a fierce attack on President Bush ("An Instant Rebel just add greed / lies are told with a southern drawl"), but hat could just be me. The song oozes with ferocity that it just done to a lazer tip, crying "Rise, again we will rise!" The layered vocals are almost operatic. "Pathetic", "Foot to the Throat", "and "Descending", to name a few choice tracks, offer up some of the best song writing by this band ever!

Highlights, my friends? There are many to choose from! "Redneck" sounds Pantera-esq, but done only as Lamb of God could do it! Randy introduces those cleaner vocals of his on it, and it will shock you when ou hear it! "Pathetic" slightly continues that same trend, actually giving off a slightly punk-ish feel to it. "Blacken the Cursed Sun" has an incredibly appocalyptic feel to it. Literraly. "More Time to Kill" and "Beating on Death's Door" are exactly what older fans will love; brutal lyrics and devestating classic guitar work. "More Time to Kill" have some of the best lyrics I've heard in a while; "I just got the news today you were dying / Hot Damn! We're already partying!" The song seems to almost be a tribuite to Overkill "I Hate" in many respects. "Beating on Death's Door" is old-school thrash at it's best!

But there is one song that I sincerly hope and pray is going to go down as a masterpiece, aside from "Walk With Me in Hell" from this album, and that is "Requiem". There is a feeling to it that I can not begin to subscribe acturately. The guitars level on top of the other, creating rich arches and columns of brutal metal might! It is sprinkled with the touches of Pantera, the intensity of the death metal, and sound bites that add to the rich tapestries that hang abound. In interviews, the band has stated that they were merticulous with each single note. If any song shows it as the most, it is "Requiem".

With that, the album is virtually flawless. It is literraly up to you to decide if there are in this case. Few will complain that it's not the same Lamb of God that was Burn the Priest, and that's because they grew up and learned to play better. Few will say it's way too melodic and death metal-ish, and that's because they always had that sound. Some will complain that their influences come through, which is foolish to bitch about since all bands tend to do it.

I also want to say this: It is simply remarkable how far this band has come. They went from 5 guys playing small clubs and releasing some insane records to a point where they have done what every band dreams of, and that is releasing an album that is going to last for a long time. This album will change everything you know about modern metal for the better, because there has NEVER been an album like this!

Folks, this album is simply brilliant! 4.9 out of 5. Period.


Monday, August 21, 2006

In Flames - Come Clarity

If you enjoy Shadows Fall, Lamb of God, Killswitch Engaged, and HATED Soundtrack to Your Escape, you'll love:

In Flames - Come Clarity

Is there anything close to a band returning to their old form? When bands change their sound, it's incredibly rare that they ever return to anything close to what they were once before, save they release an album so god awful they realize they need to go back. Helloween's album Chameleon comes to mind. But this is the closet thing we're getting to "classic" In Flames; a return, somewhat, of the guitar harmonies, wonderfully brutal vocal performances, and songwriting of the caliber that was lacking so much on Soundtrack to Your Escape.

The album opens up on a relatively harsh note; literally. The distorted guitars combined with the drums open up the album "Take this Life" with a feeling of getting clobbered in the head repeatedly! But, god dammit, it works out to be a damn good opening! That takes your life and takes you a sort of "outer-body experience" that leaves you feeling like you have just gone to heaven (or hell, your pick). The dual-guitar harmonies begin to swell and the ferocity returns with every verse, returning to a nirvana-like (not that Nirvana!) state with every chorus. "Leeches" is a combination of old-In Flames, new-In Flames, and some industrial elements. As odd as that may seems, that's exactly what it is, and it works so well!

"Leeches" is a combination of old-In Flames, new-In Flames, and some industrial elements. As odd as that may seems, that's exactly what it is, and it works so well! "Dead End" is a beautiful song! I am, quite frankly, shocked that the result came out so great; a female Swedish pop-singer, guitar solos, dual-guitar harmonies, and death-metal vocals and guitar work. Seriously, In Flames makes this work!

Tracks like "Scream", "Vacuum", and "Versus Terminus" all hail a return to the more thrash/death metal In Flames with the new stuff mixed in for flavor. Then you have the more melodic songs like "Pacing Death's Trail" and "Crawl Through Knives". They sound more like left-overs from Soundtrack, but with the same knowledge the band had back on Clayman.

As odd as it is, my friend has forced me to listen to Top 40 radio and Breaking Benjamin. Most metalheads don't give two shits about them, myself included. So imagine my complete and utter shock when I heard In Flames on the radio. The opening non-distorted guitar part, the overall melodic structure. It was a song so melodic and commercial, I found it incredibly odd and catchy. So imagine my complete and utter surprise when I heard "The Diary of Jane" by Breaking Benjamin. It is the same exact song, save a few technical flairs here and there, a lack of a guitar solo, and the words being changed. But a comparison of the two songs shows you that Breaking Benjamin stole the song by In Flames. That song is the title-track, "Come Clarity".

There is a lot of praise that this album deserves. First and foremost, like I said, it's a close return to form. It is, in other words, the result of old and new In Flames combined; a band that can write some brutal tracks, melodic hooks, guitar solos, and some nice lyrics. Save the incredibly-inane album closer, "Your Bedtime Story is Scaring Everyone", this actually is a great album on a whole. Admitedly, I'm a little hesitant to give even more praise to this album right now because it has the stigma of being so close to after Soundtrack and the album is a bit of a modern-day pop-metal offering than others by this band and of metal in general. I only say pop-metal simply because it actually is popular with modern metal fans, namely kids 13-21. Not that's a bad thing, but... well, fuck, I feel old!

This album deserves a 4.1 out of 5, and a gold star for effort!


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Shadows Fall - Fallout From the War

If you like Thrash Metal, Iron Maiden, Helloween, Death, and Lamb of God, you'll enjoy:

Shadows Fall - Fallout From the War

As I write this, the opening gunshots of Metallica's "One" are echoing through my mind. The sound of guns firing in a darken sky, of grenades exploding near you mere feet away from you... Shadows Fall's latest EP does, on many levels, come close to being as epic as that famous song.

This has been criticized by fans and critics before the album (or EP) came out, saying it was just a collection of scraps leftover from The War Within sessions and a few covers, equating to nothing more than a contractual obligation to Century Media before going over to their new major label. Although that is, to a point, true, it doesn't mean that this isn't a damn good record!

Starting off with "In Effigy", the Fallout begins, creating a landscape lush with melodic trash riffs and the hard-hitting vocals we have all come to love. "Carpal Tunnel" is a laugh riot, as it was written about all the people who hide behind their computers and criticize bands all days long. The truth of it all simply is astounding, no? "Going, Going, Gone" is very close to traditional hardcore.

One of the best things about a good Shadows Fall album is that it gets better and better with each listen, which is exactly the case here. Although I am the first to admit that most of the album feels like filler (Track 2, 3, and 4 all kinda just sit there), they add something to the overall feel of the album and can serve as a great introduction to someone just getting into the phenomenon. Although "Haunting Me Endlessly" is doing just that as I write; The riffage and the vocals sink in over time.

The covers on the second half, sadly, don't seem to add too much to the album other than to pay tribute to the bands that inspired them, save the last two. "Mark of the Squealer", at least to me, is an incredibly controversial pick to do simply because of the subject matter in relationship to modern day society in urban cities. While most kids who live in the suburbs or small towns, the entire "Stop Snichin'" campaign is unknown, but it has basically stopped people in most cities from speaking out against violent crimes. The song is incredibly eerie to me for that reason, but it is still incredibly entertaining.

The closer, a Danger Toys cover, is the highlight of the disc for me. If your like me at all, you grew up when all the nu-metal movement was going on and "tru" metalheads teased or, at the very least, looked down their noses at you for not liking some thrash band you never heard of because, well, you were 5 when they were big. If your like me, that never happened and you wound up liking hair metal in the 90's because it was a part of your childhood you wanted back. Myself? I'm a big fan of the Bulletboys album Freakshow. "Teasin' & Pleasin'" is a simply hilarious cover, done exactly as Shadows Fall should perform it! You can hear the playing as only they could! Although Jason McMasters sounds a little rough around the edges at time, it is a great tune!

Yes, this album gets a 4 out of 5. Damn good disc!


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Arch Enemy - Wages of Sin

If you like Iron Maiden, In Flames, Megadeth, Slayer, and Shadows Fall, you'll love:

Arch Enemy - Wages of Sin

Back in 2001, MTV had Headbangers Ball on every night. OK, take a deep breath and re-read that last sentence. Yeah, I'm serious, they had it on every single night! Only it wasn't called that. The name escapes me but around 2AM - 4AM every weekday morning on MTV2 from about 2000 - 2003 they would show heavy metal and hard rock videos from bands you and I may have never heard of, or of artists we knew and love. In fact, I recorded the first time Lamb of God ever had "Black Label" played on TV. I bring this up because back then (I was about 16 or 17 when I saw the video) I saw a woman who looked amazing and had the single most demonic voice I had ever heard, a voice I did not think was possible for a woman. I remember all the fog and the chains and the strobe lights they used. Angela looked incredibly hot in it too, not bad for someone only 25 at the time. That video was "Ravenous".

Fast foward to 5 years later and I finally got my hands on Rages of Sin. Immediately after putting it on, a feeling came over me that is incredibly rare for anything to do. It was the same feeling I got the first time I heard Iron Maiden - Powerslave, the feeling I got when I heard Testament - The New Order. It was the feeling that I was listening to what is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, one of the greatest metal albums ever made.

God, how many times have I said that? Seven times at least, right? But let's consider this; This is the type of praise I reserve for bands and artists who absolutely fucking deserve it. It is incredibly rare that an album, especially something recorded in the last 5 years, has that type of feeling on me, and it is my duty to let you know why.

I... I can't begin. I can't begin to tell you why you need to go out there and buy this album. It's just common-god-damn-sense!

Although this album belongs in "Melodic Death Metal", I think that's a bit of a mistake. The album has riffs that sound more like melodic thrash metal to me, but that's most likely because of the fact that that's the sound of metal now and this is the album that I think can be traced to, and consider to be, one of THE defining moments and albums of the metalcore movement. I must stress that I know how much of a defamation that term can be to some, but this album could be considered the major point in which it became more acceptable for that sound to be the norm.

Angela added something to Arch Enemy that would have left the band in obscurity, and that is sheer attituide. That... and she's a woman. There are so few women in metal, and most of the time when they are added, it's only as eye candy or because someone is fucking someone else in the band. But Angela actually proves she has a reason to be in the band, and she has a voice that I dare say can rival Randy Blythe's of Lamb of God as the official voice of Hell! Add to that the sonic ferocity of the guitarist brothers Amott and you have the three reasons why this album hails as a favorite of mine!

"Enemy Within", "Ravenous", "Burning Angel", "Web of Lies", and "Behind the Smile" all stand out as outstanding tracks, and there is not a single bad track on this album!

Disc 2, which is just a collection of rare and unreleased tracks, is just OK and I'm not taking it into consideration of the overall album.

This a 4.7 out of 5! Brilliant album!


Friday, August 18, 2006

Judas Priest - Angel of Retribution

Judas Priest - Angel of Retribution

One of the hardest things in the world for me to do is to write a review for an album that I love. I noticed that when I was trying to write one for both Testament's Practice What You Preach and Punky Bruster's Hooked on Phonics. I love those albums, track for track, and to me it's as obvious as light and day as to why they are worth your time.

Thankfully, that is not even close to the case here.

I remember having the same feeling as glee as I did when In Flames' Soundtrack to Your Escape came out, that I was about to get one of the greatest albums ever. Sadly, the reaction was the same; How the fuck could this band put out this crap?! As you can see, the album cover to this disc is simply killer. I honestly think it kicks ass, and I really enjoy it. So why is it that this album is just pure shit?

"Judas Rising" is exactly what this album should have been; a return to for for Judas Priest, offering up classic Judas Priest riff's as only K.K. Downing can do. And "Deal With the Devil" has some damn good riffage as well, offering up the best highway song they've done in a decade! "Demonizer" has a few decent moments, and that's about the highlight for the last 30 minutes of the album.

But then you get the other 8 songs which make you simply wonder if this was even worth Rob Halford returning to the band. "Revolution" is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the WORST JUDAS PRIEST SONG EVER! That's a tough thing to do, especially when you consider they wrote "United" and "Red, White, & Blue", both songs that are similar to "Revolution" as wanna-be fist-pumping anthems to get the crowd going, Simply put, god-awful song writing. "Eulogy" is nothing more than a second-rate "Epitaph". "Lochness" has to be one of the saddest attempts at a progressive metal song to ever grace my ears.

There is nothing truly redeeming about this album at all, save the first 2 tracks. In fact, this is the type of album that makes you wonder what people found great about Priest in the first place.

Can we be honest for a second and put away Halfor's cock for a second? (no pun intended) Judas Priest has one of the worst track records in metal history. They released 15 albums, and in reality, only 7 of them are decent. Can you honestly say British Steel and Point of Entry, especially the former, is worthy of being given the credit they have been given? Can you honestly say that all the work between Screaming for Vengeance and Painkiller is worth your time?

For Judas Priest to release an album this bad at this point of their career isn't surprising, especially when you compare it to acts like the Rolling Stones. Actually, they are like the Stones'; They haven't had a damn good records in years. But it's still sad to see since they are capable of doing so much better. They have a new one coming out next year, so more power to them!

With that, this album get's a 1.2 out of 5. This album is just an insult to metal fans who wanted a Judas Priest CD, not some generic metal crap.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Venom - Metal Black

Venom - Metal Black

For some insane, incredibly stupid reason, people who listen to metal, especially black metal, automatically write off Venom. That, despite the fact that they pre-date Metallica and actually fall into the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) movement. They were formed in 1978 and influenced by Motorhead, Judas Priest, KISS, and The Sex Pistols. Think about that. It's 1978, and Iron Maiden doesn't even fucking exist! The fact that they grew up and worshiped those bands describes them perfectly; A group of showmen with incredible musical talent and a knowledge of shock mixed in with talent. The entire Sex Pistols influence is obvious in the fact that they could barley play their instruments. Considering that without Venom there is no Metallica, Slayer, and essentially, no thrash metal or black metal, I think it's safe to say that this is a band worth your time, especially now.

It's been nearly 30 years now that this band has been around, with Cronos being the only remaining original member. But so fucking what? People bitch and moan about this person not being there or it's only one guy. gain, so fucking what? Metal Black is EXACTLY what Venom is; a Damn good Metal Band!

"Antechrist" and "Burn in Hell" open up the album, and also opens up a damn large can of whoop-ass! The thrash-riffs are a welcome introduction to the first significent Venom album in 20 years. "Rege Satanas" reminds me of older Venom tracks off the first two albums, while "A Good Day to Die" echo's that same sentiment, throwing in more of a Motorhead influence. "Maleficarvm" offers up some a very nice offering of metal might, proving to be brutal in it's attacks!

Admittedly, the album suffers at some points from things like odd tempo changes and odd vocal mixing, such as "Death & Dying", "Assassin", and "Lucifer Rising". That, in and of itself, doesn't actually hurt the album overall. Albums, for the most part, are about hills and valley's, and only perfect albums never have a dull moment. This, I think, is something we're actually losing in this era of lame-asses digitally downloading only the "popular" songs by a band; They're missing what may wind up being some great moments to them.

But back to the album, and the overall theme that is Metal Black. "Darkest Realm" is a song that sounds it was just made to be played live, with the line "Deafening Volume In Power and Black / Light up the skies in an aural attack". It offers up as one of the best songs on the album. Mykvs addition as guitarist is absolutely splendid, and his tenure on this album was simply brilliant! The album close, "Metal Black", simply seals this as a damn good album.

This return to form gets a 4.3 out of 5! All in all, this album is a must for any Venom Fan, anyone who likes Thrash Metal, and anyone who just likes metal!


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

In Flames - Soundtrack to Your Escape

In Flames - Soundtrack to Your Escape

No one, yet, has complained that all my reviews to this point have all been "Glowing" or "positive", and that I'm showing my true self; a guy who loves practically everything. Today, I am going to review an album I haven't listened to since the day it came out, but one where I've seen songs performed from it live within th last 2 months.

If there was ever an album worth being called a "sell-out disc", or if you ever wanted proof that America corrupts good talent now instead of making it better, this Americanized-Swedish Metal disc finds In Flames, which was formally the single finest example of Gothenberg Metal, turning more toward the American Mainstream. Gone are the incredibly lush tapestries of guitar work and guitar harmonies, replaced for more simple riffage and more "boring" moments. Anders vocals have gone from a more thrash-death metal tone to sounding like Johnathan Davis of Korn.

I have been an In Flames fan since 2002 when I was talked into buying Clayman. I loved that album, and after getting Whoracle, Colony, and the Jester Race, I truly knew I found an incredible band. But when this album came out, even I had to admit, something was wrong. People defend this album like it was their child, denying that In Flames "sold-out", crying out that Andes "doesn't sound like Johnathan Davis!", and the silliest of all, "They've had this sound since Colony". The last one, only in hindsight, can come close. The trend may have had traces in Colony, and some overtones in Clayman, but the real descent to the then-rampant Nu-Metal movement can be heard on the EP, ReRoute to Remain, as well as the Trigger EP. It was around that time that they did a video with Soilwork and the overall sound of the band was ore mainstream. Even then, even then I was able to enjoy them.

But Soundtrack to Your Escape is a travesty to their careers. It is, without a doubt, the album that almost killed the band in the eyes of longtime fans. The effect can be compared to that of Metallica's "Black Album", Nirvana's In Utero, Slipknot's Volume 3: The Subliminal Verus, but it can't. Why? Because, save Nirvana, they were actually GOOD albums, something that can not be said in this case. In Flames may have gained thousands of fans, but it was at the price of their artistic integrity and the loyalty of countless fans that helped get them there and in a position where they could get there in the first place.

The album plays out like any other mediocre metal release from the point up to 2002, only it was 2004; Simple riffs, down tuned guitars, Johnathan Davis-esq vocals at times while Anders struggles to find his new voice-

In fact, I'm going to stop right there. If Soundtrack is anything, it is the REAL LIFE VERSION OF PUNKY BRUSTER. "The Quiet Place" is their "Recipe for Bait"; They're not metal anymore, just commercial whores. Childish to write, yes, I will admit that, but the album has been defended by the band by declaring that they are sick of writing albums they way they did and wanted to "Grow" as a band. If this is growth, then my all means, I feel sorry for the band.

I would also like to point out that when this album came out,it was praised by countless metal critiques, and that makes absolutely no sense to me. Risk by Megadeth was just as much a "natural progression" from Youthanasia and Cryptic Writings, but Risk is still considered, especially at the time, to be their worst album, something even Dave Mustaine himself admitted. The point? That it doesn't matter if progression is "natural" or not, a shit album is a shit album, and I wish more critiques said it. I sincerly think that most of them were told they had to give the album a great review by their editors, were paid off by the record company, or something, because there is simply no way it could be hailed so high.

Thank god that they released Come Clarity in 2006.

With that, I'm stopping this review. It gets a 2 out of 5. Why even 2, especially since I destroyed it? Because, despite all the horrible shit on there, they at least had "The Quiet Place", the only decent song on there that, if recorded 3 years ago, would have been perfect.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Testament – Practice What You Preach

If you like Megadeth, Anthrax, Twisted Sister, or like Thrash Metal in general, you'll love:

Testament – Practice What You Preach

In 1989, I started Kindergarten. I have no idea what type of impact this album had when it came out, musically, culturally, etc. I have no clue how metal heads reacted to this offering at first, and I have no clue how many people jumped on or off the Testament Fan Wagon because of this album. With that, I would love to state that, thanks to all that, any albums I review that aren't from 2002 + will not have any real bias whatsoever, be it to save my “metal rep”, or to trash or praise an album once thought the opposite.

With all that said, I would like to say that, without question, Practice What You Preach is THE greatest Testament album of all time! Dealing with politics, the environment, and religion, the album is a simply unrelenting assult on all three, showing the reality of it all as well as displaying some shows of the occult. The album does something that any truly great album does, and that is give you track after track of entertainment and a flow that is hard to duplicate. Some have said that the album was recorded “live” in the studio, with no overdubs (save the occasional one of the vocals, obviously). I actually think there is a lot of validity to that claim as listening to it reminds me of Megadeth's album Youthanasia before the remix & remaster of 2004. There is a flow here that embarks feelings of a living organism of pure metal might!

The album starts off with a ferocious riffing assault with the title track, “Practice What You Prech”, delivering a one-two punch with the riffs and the lyrics, a fierce take on whatever, really, you want; Religion, politics... it's a rather open-ended song, really, and can be easily applied to anyone who doesn't follow the simple mantra of doing what you say. “Envy Life” is a nice, fairly slow rocker on the album, namely dealing with the classic themes of the occult. “Time is Coming” has a feel that I can only attribute to something such as being hurled through some futuristic corrupt city, like Chicago in Robocop, or Philadelphia in 2006. The flow of the song overall, thrown in with the venomous lyrics about the corruption of government, lends to a feeling of great movement.

How easily the hard-rocking and heavy-hitting track “Blessesed in Contempt” flows into “Greenhouse Effect” is simply more proof of what I mentioned earlier about it being a pure organism of ferocious metal might! “Sins of Omission” has always been a personal favorite, and I still claim that the opening sounds incredibly familiar to the theme to Night Rider! Honestly, listen to that and tell me it's not a little similar! But if the album has anything similar to a stinker, it's “Ballad”. Hearing Chuck trying to sing, albeit like a wounded animal on this one, is a little painful. But there is still something to that song that, within the context of the album, actually gives some validity to it existing. As a slow rocker and an attempt at a ballad (reminding me of Metallica's “Escape” form Ride the Lightning), it may fail, but it serves as a decent break during the album.

The albums closing tracks then serve as a ferocious reminder of the sonic assaults that Testament is capable of! “Nightmare (Coming Back to You)" has to be one of the fastest songs I have ever heard the song write and record, and lends itself more to it's punk influence with a style only Testament can bring. The instrumental that closes the album, "Confusion Fusion (Instrumental)", seems to be a mostly improved song, which actually lends nicely to the overall nature of the album.

In closing, warts and all, this has to be among one of the best metal albums of all time when listened to as an album. The tracks stand great alone, but it is together that they stand tallest, each one fitting with another to form a brilliant album.

With that, I give this album a 4.8 out of 5. Obviously, I had to take off points for “Ballad”.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Strapping Young Lad - The New Black

If you like Megadeth, Shadows Fall, Lamb of God, Anthrax, and extreme metal in general, you'll love:

Strapping Young Lad - The New Black

"Give Us All That You Are/ We Hate You / Give Us All That You Are." What better words to start a review for Strapping Young Lad than with those words from the song "You Suck"? I have seen and heard reactions to Strapping Young Lad ranging from people saying they have a stupid name, they are a "joke band", they are "too heavy" or "they make me homicidal", to the highest praises possible. The term's "brilliant", "insane", "insanely heavy", and "genius" have all been used to describe this band. Every single one of these terms is true. And I know that when I get to City, I'll say the same thing and more.

But let's address the "joke band" term used to describe Strapping Young Lad by some. These people heard of them in 1995 when it actually was a joke band and have never heard anything past it because of the initial response. So it makes sense that I mention Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing right now. The songs were insanely heavy, leaking brilliance that would show on in later releases. But the album got lost in it's joking ways, something that didn't happen on the Punky Bruster album he made the same year.

Fast-forward to 10 years later. If The New Black is to be compared to any album, it should be Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing, and for good reason; Devin isn't being very serious anymore. The last thing anyone should do is try to force genius, and in this case, I sincerly think that's what happened. On previous discs, you would get track after track of unrelenting emotional energy, from anger, to schizophrenia, to manic, and countless other feelings such as joy and sorrow. But on this album... this time, your getting the anger with no real reason.

As I said, I think this is the first time Devin Townsend was ever "forced" to make an album. Maybe it was himself, maybe it was Century Media, but Devin himself has stated that he was sick of doing SYL since he no longer has a ton of anger left.He's later gone back and said most of that was caused by doing some 100 interviews in 3 days, but I think he's serious. This is the firs time we've seen SYL release an album in less than a year apart!

On this album, your getting something that you need to be smart to truly discover, and yes, you do need to read the lyrics sheet to fully get it. With that said, I'm going to go head first into the opener "Decimator". The highlight of this song is the light, melodic riffing over the third line "God have you always been listening to me?". The song basically has to be the most emotional song on their, lyrically being similar to Alien and City, with a meaning that I take to be allowing your soul to become dark, evil, and corrupted. This could be taken as a metaphor for the entire "forced" thing I said before.

Now, let's just jump to the song I love, "You Suck". The line I used to start this review basically sums up most concerts I go to; The band is demanding that you give them your all, but they can just plain suck. Come on, how can you not laugh at lyrics like "Tell me how much they fucking suck....HELL YEAH THEY FUCKIN' SUCK!!!"? "Anti Product", "Monument", and "Fucker" continue to wave the generic-metal-anthem banner, doing it as only SYL can! "Far Beyond Metal" is finally a studio track on this album, a left-over from the original Heavy As sessions and on the live album by SYL, complete with Oderus of GWAR making a gues appearance! The track is furious, heavy as hell, and about as funny as a George Carlin album!

But the heart and soul of other SYL releases is here. "Wrong Side" starts out with "Woke up screaming on the wrong side of the head", a line that basically emobies the nature of most of the tracks on here. "Hope" is a borderline metal-anthem, with the same being said about "The New Black".

The things I think someone should get from this review is that if you like, love, worship, or even simply dislike Strapping Young Lad, you'll love this album. There isn't anything close to a bad song on here, and the main downside is that it can, to the experienced and knowledge SYL fan, show the blueprint of chaos for the band at times. Those generic moments are few and far in between, and can be attributed to Devin's current life.

In the end, this album gets a 4.4 out of 5. It's an album that is either going to hit or miss you on the first shot, and it is either going to grow on you or at least appreciate the band more.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Billy Idol - Devil's Playground

If you like Aerosmith, Shadows Fall, Billy Idol, or good music in general, then you'll love:

Billy Idol - Devil's Playground

OK, we're up to day 4 of my album reviews, and already this is becoming a chore. Why? Because, despite my massive 700+ CD collection (heh heh heh), it's hard to pick an album to review. That's because I don't want to blow a review on something I can honestly say I was more in the mood for one day that I wasn't for another. To add onto that, I'm only now getting a "rep" with this blog, so every review right now is either going to get me new fans, or turn people off.

Today, we are taking on a personal favorite of mine; Billy Idol.

For years, I heard tales of an infamous punk-rocker who took no God-Damn prisoners, sung of "White Weddings" and "Rebel Yells". Tales of a man who wrote songs that drove people nuts, but also had some mass appeal with it all. Tales that indicated that the man was, in fact, a punk rock god. This album finally gave validity to all those claims; Billy Idol had some god-damn balls! I had only bought one album by him before this, and that was Rebel Yell, which disappointed me to no end, and still does. Blasphemy? I don't care, it was not worth my time.

On Devil's Playground, we get the Billy Idol of legends; a furious man who can write songs that will grip you, make you do dirty things, and is unrelenting at times with his music! "Scream" has often been compared to, or considered and update to, "Rebel Yell". Whoever tells you that needs a good kick in the balls, because this is infiently superior a track to that! "Make me scream/ All night/ All night long" indeed! The song offers insane riffage, smooth verses, and a chorus that seals the deal, and that is that "Scream" simply kicks-ass! "Super Overdrive" offers the same furociousness in differnt form, offering up prime material for driving down the highway at 90 MPH.

Of course, it isn't a Billy Idol disc without the classic rockers, right? "Sherri" offers up nice Billy-Approved Rockabilly riffs, while "World Comin' Down" offers a more uptempo affair, perfect for a shit mood. "Yellin' at the Christmas Tree" is just hilarious, while "Romeo's Waiting" offers some damn good lyrics and riffs. "The Lady Do or Die" sounds like it could have been written by Johnny Cash, and the fact that Billy and co. wrote it give it a uniquieness thatt is quite enjoyable. "Rat Race" is a beautiful track, giving you an epic feeling of the world. The album closer, "Summer Running", offers both an nice accoustic guitar part and something that will, and I refuse to give it away, but it will blow your mind.

If there is anything I want people to get out of this review, it's this: This is a damn good Billy Idol album! Scratch that, it's a damn good album PERIOD! It's not perfect, but it's damn near close. I hate seeing people simply pass this album because they don't listen to Billy anymore! This is something that anyone who has liked Billy Idol should get, or anyone who wanted to finally see the man behind the legends of an infamous punk-rocker who took no God-Damn prisoners.

With that, I give this disc a 4.6 out of 5! It is, without question, a triumph of an album.

Note: As I write this, is selling it for $9.99, so buy the damn thing already!

Friday, August 11, 2006

GWAR - War Party

If your a fan of thrash metal in general, find groups like Lamb of God entertaining, or if your just in need of a good political fix, I recommend:

GWAR - War Party

I'm writing this "Album of the Day" review on 8/10/06 around noon on the east coast. Why a day early? Because the word has finally reached me, via the 12'o-clock news here that all flights to Britian from the U.S. are on Red Alert, and all other flights are now at Code Orange. All this while GWAR's "You Can't Kill Terror" is blaring through my speakers, causing me to bang my head like there's no tomorrow. Now, more than ever, do those words seem to hold true: "You can destroy an army / You can kill a man / But you can't kill terror / And Terror is What I am."The album was released in October of 2004, just one month before the infamous 2004 Presidential Elections in the U.S. For a band that started out as a joke and art school project, one thing must be said about GWAR; Even the times we live in can take a toll on comedians, for better or worst.

I wound up buying this album, although reluctantly, in August of 2005 after seeing them at Sounds of the Underground months before and at the urging of people on-line through message boards. I remember listening to "Bring Back the Bomb", loving the one song, putting it on my radio station, and not listening to the album again for about 8 months. Even then I didn't really listen to it. It wasn't until last month when I put it on my MP3 player because I was about to see them at Sounds of the Underground again (Whenever I go to shows, I take public transit, so I need an MP3 so I can hear music before and after the show) that I REALLY got to hear this album.

Starting off with "Bring Back the Bomb", the album has already stated it's mantra; "You say these devices must never be used / I say you're mistaken, let's get to the fuse" In other words, we're going to hit you, and hit you hard. Yeah, that was cliche as hell, but fuck, it's the truth! "Krosstika" is an attack on the reality of Nazi Germany that few dare speak about, namely how the Catholic Church turned a blind eye to the Holocaust. The rest of the album hit's every point possible, such as abortion ("Womb with a View"), the decline of Western Civilization ("Decay of Granduer"), and the current holy wars ("Lost God").

The album delivers insane thrash metal riffs with an incredibly focused band, bent not just on world domination, blood, and gore, but with delivering a damn good metal album! There are few flaws to be seen, namely how some songs seem to feel like filler after a bit. But the album on a whole is worth he time and money of any listener

The album gets 4.5 out of 5!


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Slayer - Christ Illusion

If you like Slayer's God Hates Us All, Seasons in the Abyss, and Show No Mercy albums, or if your a fan of thrash metal in general, you'll love:

Slayer - Christ Illusion

I just want to point this out now: I will rarely have a new album as "Album of the Day", but there are key points to this album that I want to point out about why this album is great, but the immediate impact it has had on the metal community, in the music world, and in it's real-world impact.

While it is hard to say, in any shape or form, that this is going to go down as one of Slayer's best albums (musically, it's no Reign in Blood or Seasons in the Abyss), it will be marked as an important moment in metal history for one reason; It made the Billboard Top 10 in it's first week. Never in the history of Slayer has one of their albums debut so high, let alone reach the Top 10! This is a phenomem that must be pointed out now so that, in later time, we can either laugh at how we reacted, or stand in awe that we were able to predict and nail the point on the head as to the reasons why.

We start with the point as to marketing of the album. Now, while this is suppose to be an album review, I want to point out that I will get to that last, only because this is what is making this album big right now. The marketing was phenominal! Countless ads in magazine and the internet, a high-profile tour with Lamb of God, Mastodon, and Children of Bodom on the Unholy Alliance Tour. Let alone the soon-to-be infamous press caused by the bus ads put in California which were taken down in one town, causing widescale press.

Speaking of free-press, 6/6/06 gave Slayer even more reason to be excited as, while the album didn't come out when it was suppose to and only the single, "Cult", was through Hot Topic stores only, the National Day of Slayer contribuited to the ongoing press, thanks to a fan.

Slayer did exactly what bands today should, and that's use every major media outlet possible to market your album! They got free press, but they also had a deal through Hot Topic to have the "Cult" single sold through them exculsively, the limited edition apperal, or the in-store apperances, not to mention the fact that they are selling the album for $10, Hot Topic, like it or not, has helped out Slayer more than us, the "old-school" fans, can enjoy, but they have done it; they made Slayer big again. But that is not to say MySpace had no part. Yes, everyone has one of those damn things, and Slayer streamed their entire album on it!

So, onto the album. I've heard it twice and, I must say, it's not living up to the hype to me. The main problem that people, in general, have with these kind of high-profile releases from old bands is that there is no real way to voice your opinion without being slaughtered for the first year. The overall hype for an album can cloud judgement over the actual album.

The album gives you, what else, Slayer! The insane guitar work of Kerry King, the double-base drums of Dave Lombardo is back, Jeff Hannmen's writing is back, and Tom's bass and vocals are back, as angry as ever! The album delivers some insane tracks, "Flesh Storm" and "Catalysty" offer up the classic thrash we all know and love, while "Skeleton Christ" and "Eyes of the Insane" offer slower tracks, reminsenct of Seasons in the Abyss-era Slayer. The true controversy comes from "Jihad", written to the perspective of the 9/11 hijackers. Lyrically, the song is something I recommend listening to with the lyrics sheet out so you can actually realize what Tom means when he says, "Fuck your god".

Overall, the album get's a 4.2 out of 5. It delivers the Slayer we all know and love, but still leaves you wanting some more.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Yes, I, Mark Skull, have submitted to the fact that blogs are now "in". But I decided that it was about time someone gave you a chance to create something to help you discovr great new metal albums, as well as a punk one here and there, and help expand your horizons.

Basically, I'll take an album I'm listening to, be it new or old, post it on here, tell you if it's good or not, and that's about it.


If you like Anthrax, Strapping Young Lad, and some punk like NoFX and Rancid, then you'll love:

Punky BrĂ¼ster - Cooked on Phonics

Released in 1995, the album is simply a satire on how, at the time, a lot of metal bands were turning more into punk groups in response to the ever-growing grunge explosion, as well as a result of Green Day and the alternative-rock movement.

I'm a fan of both metal AND punk, so this album was a special treat for me. A quick web search on the band will tell you the same thing a million times over, but here is the story:

"The Story: The cheesy death metal band Cryptic Coroner, in a sensational move, become the punk rock phenomenon of the century when they realise they are making no money!! At long last, after weeks of, the wise, wealthy and discriminate music lover, can experience this epic saga of deceit, betrayal, anarchy and decent marketing for yourself! Hear the authentic 'Punk-O-Phonic' recording quality! Gawk at stunning three-chord songs! Wince through a lot of bad filler material! It's all here for your twisted enjoyment! So join Dr. Skinny, Squid Vicious and Dances With Chickens in the wallet-chain wearin', middle-class white North American angst party known as Cooked On Phonics."

The main reason this album is among a personal favorite is because of the amount of humor on it. The lyrics are hilarious, and take on everything from death metal, punk, the music business, and what it means to sell-out. The album has a mostly punk-sound to it, but the riff's are metal enough for me! The entire album is a great journey, and there really isn't a dull moment on there. If your not laughing to "Recipe for Bait", then your banging your head and thrashing around to "Fake Punk". Tracks like "Metal Dilema" and "Heavy Metal Mama" keep the metal flame glowing, while "Wallet Chain", "EZ$", and "Oats Peas Beans & Barley" have a delicious punk flavor to it!

This album is one of Devin Townsend's funniest and hands-down best. I can't stop listening to it, nor do I really want to stop!

4.8 out of 5! I reluctantly took off 0.2 points because, while you can buy it now since it was reissued, the last track on the album is seperated into 3 parts instead of 3 tracks, something that annoys me to no end.