Sunday, May 16, 2010

Static-X - Machine

A wall of death, surrounded in electronic circuitry as various fragmented visions of dance halls and killer machines with razor blades dancing around you head while you get to enjoy the show.

That is, essentially, why "Machine" by Static-X is a great album.

Released in 2001 in the height of the both the nu-metal movements as well as the industrial metal movements of the late-90's that demanded that the genre change, Static-X was lumped in with the former rather than the later because, in the end, they were just too metal for the industrial crowd at the time. Still riding high off the success of their last album, "Wisconsin Death Trip", Wayne Static continued on his journey of creating the ultimate "dance-metal" album, and on here we see him come close to that dream.

More like thrash anthems in a time where there seemed to be none and, to some, "not cool", songs like "Get to the Gone" and "Permanence" bring out the anger and range amidst a wall of sound similar at times to that used by Devin Townsend. Coming from me, that is the ultimate compliment, and these songs easily warrant it.

"This Is Not" is the biggest highlight on the album, and, yes, you can dance with to it easily in either a mosh pit or in a night club... although, to quote Motorhead, if you did "you might just break your neck to it!" The overall dance beat is adamant throughout the entire song, and the guitar riffs are just incredible! The amount of anger and aggression in it, mixed with some pop sensibility... its just amazing! Imagine Atari Teenage Riot... if they did more metal.

Even when the album tries to be a bit more commercial with tracks like "Black and White" and "Cold", the album works incredibly strong, although if you're like me, you can only chuckle as Wayne Static tries to "sing" on the later of the two songs.

"A Dios Alma Perdida" closes the album on a very smart note; a sort of cool-down song after kicking your ass for the rest of it, giving you a chance to soak everything in with the harsh industrial aspects mixed with a very light and airy keyboard at times, and the use once more of the "wall of sound" is very smart and well done.

Clocking in at a little more than 40 minutes, you are getting more than your money's worth on this album. This is Static-X at their peak, the single BEST Static-X album ever and the one most worthy of your time and effort.

This get's a stunning 9.2 out of 10!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Lizzy Borden - Master of Disguise

To the layman, Lizzy Borden is the name of some murder that existed long ago, a name that holds nearly no real relevance at all. To most metal heads, Lizzy Borden holds the same reverence... only there was no actual murder.

To a select few, Lizzy Borden was a metal band that was formed in the 80's with a theme similar to W.A.S.P. and hair metal, but with a respect held for the likes of the Bulletboys and, dare I say it, Kix.

To you, they're basically the band that you need to check out.

In 1989, Lizzy Borden (both the band and the man) set out to release the greatest album of their careers, "Master of Disguise". A quasi-concept album, it takes a cue from the Phantom of the Oprah and throws in songs about love and lust. OK, not so much a departure, but more of an updated take. "Sins of the Flesh" and "Love is a Crime" take on both subjects, respectively, with a ton of verbose and fever.

But one of the most interesting aspects of this album isn't the hard-hitting tracks (which there are plenty of!), as it is the overall orchestration of the album and the arrangements. Lizzy Borden has always been able to write incredible hooks ("American Metal" from "Love you to Pieces" is a great example), and that ability mixed with moments of progressive and, I dare say, power metal, lends itself well to this album.

The only thing I've had qualms with in terms of Lizzy Borden is Lizzy himself. He has remarkable talent and ability, can crank out incredible songs... but the voice, from time to time, is just a little too much. It isn't too over-the-top, but it does seem to be a few notes off at times. Like singing a flat when a sharp would be better kind of stuff. Its the biggest thing that I think held them back in the 80's, and something that still hurts him to this day.

That being said, its rarely a problem on this album. Lizzy has a range that works well with the music here, and like I said, it is one of their best albums.

On a whole, I give it a 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Halford - Resurrection

I have a working theory that Rob Halford needs Judas Priest less than Judas Priest needs Rob Halford.

In 2000, after nearly 3 years of work, Halford (the band) released their first album, "Resurrection". The result is an album that mixes classic heavy metal, hard rock, and outright speed and aggression in a way that bands like Shadows Fall and Lamb of God wouldn't get for another 5-7 years. the production on the album is simply top-notch, and lends incredibly well to the sound of this album.

All this, and it was only the year 2000.

Opening with the title track, "Resurrection" seems utmost fitting title. The song has some of the best lyrics ever:

Holy angel lift me from this burning hell
Resurrection make me whole
Son of Judas bring the saints to my revenge
Resurrection bring me home

Now THAT is awesome, especially in the context of the song. Everything you love about metal is here: Duel-guitar attacks, incredible solos, hard-hitting drums... the song is just perfect, the way it builds up and reaches a climax that actually leaves a long-standing impression on you. It's almost like Gothenberg-Metal in some ways.

"Made in Hell" is, by far, the best song ever written about heavy metal in general. Gone are chants of "metal never dies", replaced with the story of Rob Halford and, in fact, Black Sabbath's history. I mean, he describes working-class England like this: "Metal came from foundries where the midlands sound unfurled / The bullring was a lonely place of concrete towers and steel / The coal mines and the industries were all I had to fell."

Kick... Ass.

Now, for this review, I'm going off the track list off the remastered album, largely because one of the best songs on the album was only released in Japan at first and the new track listing is a little bit better.

There are a TON of thrashers on this album, and I could simply go on about each and every one of them. "Fetish" rips through the S&M scene rips with ease, and "Cyber World" explores the technical technology of today by taking the cue of a virus destroying the world at lightning speed. And "Hell's Last Savior" stars a demon screeching from Hell to try and save it from the Devil. These songs are truly epic and grandiose, and paint vivid landscapes.

The hard rock of "Locked and Loaded", "God Bringer of Death", and "Temptation" fit well with the album and are lyrically incredibly strong. It's a nice departure at times from the traditional metal assault, and the amount of intensity and strength behind each and every track is astounding!

One of the highlights on the album, and possibly one of the most important tracks, is "The One You Love to Hate", a duet between Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson (no pun intended). It's an incredibly powerful song and its incredible listening to these two guys belt out a song at the same time.

For me, my favorite song, hands down, is "Hell's Last Savior". Seriously, this song just plain has it all!

In the end, there are some weak tracks on here, like "Twist", but they don't hurt the album as much as the length of the album. While "Fetish" is incredible, you start to look after our watch after that, and by the albums end you may be satisfied, but not as if they ended it a littler earlier.

That said, this is still one of the best metal albums of all time, and worth a listen!

I'm giving this a 8.5 out of 10. SO BUY THE DAMN THING!!!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Megadeth - Endgame

Without a doubt, this was the single hardest album review for me to write.

I bought Megadeth's "Endgame" during the first month. For me, that's pretty rare; I actually tend to get it the day of the release. The main reason I held out was because of the lead-single off the album, "Headcrusher". I actually came close to just outright hating this song. To me, it was nothing more than Dave Mustaine doing some good guitar work, but destroying it with lyrics about getting your head crushed by some machine. It sounded a lot like the idea for "Thumb Hang" by Anvil for me.

On the first listen to the album, and by far the biggest flaw of the album, is the fact that you can virtually cherry-pick the riffs on this album from all of Dave's past work. Some "High Speed Dirt" mixed in with "Take No Prisoners", and a touch of "Mastermind"... basically a little bit off all of Megadeth's albums up to 1992. It was hard to get into these songs at first since I could basically play "name that riff".

That was then... this is now.

The best thing about this album is how quickly it actually grows on you. I wanted to start this review honestly, because as much as I love Dave for all he's done, I think it wouldn't be right to not acknowledge the flaws. But those flaws are actually minor in the end.

What you have is Megadeth not going back in time, but just releasing the album that was being built up since 2004's "The System has Failed" when Dave first came back to the world of metal. Every album since then has seen Dave and Co' step up their game and write fiercer and tougher songs. After 2007's masterpiece, "United Abominations", an album that rarely ever left my CD player OR my MP3 player, ANYTHING would fall in comparison to me on the first few listens.

The album starts of with "Dialectic Chaos", an instrumental in the vein of "Into the Lungs of Hell", but with an action-movie feel to it. It feels like this song could be theme song of "24" or Die Hard! Not only that, but the way it blends so well into "This Day We Fight!" is simply BRILLIANT! For all 3 minutes and 27 seconds, you're rushed through a nightmarish landscape of a battlefield, left to destroy the enemy "for what you believe". The same man who sung about the evil of men "turning plowshares into words" now cries out that we will "no longer turn the other cheek like a coward!" *Sniff* Our little man has grown up!

For more political intrigue, you have the title track "Endgame", a slow-moving, eerie, and electric track, based on the movie by Alex Jones. For those of you who don't know who Alex Jones is, he's a conspiracy theorist who believes the US Government was behind 9/11 and that the NWO is real. "Endgame" deals with a dystopian situation where all the nightmares explored in the movie come true and you must have the mark of the beast to live, and without proper ID a "legal US citizen can go to jail." But that's just silly! Wait, what's that about Arizona demanding papers to prove... you... oh.

Some of the best thrashers in 20 years are on here as well! "1, 320" is about drag racing, while "Bite the Hand" thrashes around with the best of them!

And "Headcrusher"? I take back every bad thing I said about it. It is BRILLIANT. The more you listen to it, the better it gets. It's a lot like "Crush 'em" only... well... BRUTAL!!!!!! Hell, if you don't wind up beating the crap out of someone while listening to it, you most likely weren't paying attention to it!!!

The album closes with "The Right to Go Insane". The dual guitars open the song with a setting sun and a man simply on the edge thanks to the economy going to pure hell. "How will I fact the day tomorrow/ If I can't Make it through today?", pleads Dave as he deals with staggering bills and a job that makes life tougher.

This album is great. To me, a great album is a lot like a great wine: It gets better with age.

The main reason I resisted writing a review for so long is because the hype around an image can easily blur how good the actual album itself is or isn't. Too often do reviews come out about an album is first released and is just a ringing endorsement and very little else. The album has been able to hold up easily on its own, and I dare say that, yes, it is better than "United Abominations". For me, on first listen, it had to compete against that, and the fact that one of my main loves of the album and this band is the political bent of it. Despite being disillusioned at first, they proved me wrong and I'm glad they did.

Folks, get this album. I'm giving it a 9 out of 10!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Sacred Reich - The American Way

It is a crime against humanity that not many people know about this album.

Released in 1990, Sacred Reich released this album at the highest peak of heavy metal before Nirvana reshaped the world forever. Spending the 80's as basically a straight-out thrash metal band, the band grew their sound at the dawn of the new decade by throwing in influences from everything they could; metal, funk, punk, jazz, and even rap. The result? The most potent and lyrically relevant album the band had ever released.

"The American Way" is a potent look at America in a post-Regan world. The title track contains the lyrics, "Lady Liberty Rot's Away" and screaming about "The poor are left to help themselves". The song pounds away with a ton of groove and melody, yet is insanely fierce! Thrashers like "Love... Hate" and "I Don't Know" are as true to their thrash metal roots as possible!

But the amount of groove on this album dares to even rival Pantera at times. "Crimes Against Humanity" crawls without getting boring or repetitive, with the band coming at you like a jackhammer as it pounds some sense into you about the horrors going in the world around you.

The albums best moment comes in about half-way through it with the song "Who's to Blame". Dealing with the censorship movement of Tipper Gore and the PMRC, which resulted in the Parental Advisory sticker, as well as the two suicides that were blamed upon the songs of Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest, the song demands that parents understand that music isn't too blame, but that the problem may lie in themselves.

This masterpiece of metal closes with the song "31 Flavors", urging listeners to listen to more than just metal, but everything they possibly can so that they can see that there's more out there and, well, a whole variety out there.

"The American Way" easy stands as one of the best thrash metal albums of all time, and can easily stand as one of the best metal releases of all time.

On a whole, this thing gets a 9 out of 10!

If you can, get this album NOW.