Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Concert Review: Night Demon, Iron Kingdom, Hell Fire and Midnight Chaser


The spirit of Heavy Metal was alive and kicking last night. On a mildly warm Tuesday night in SF, metal fanatics from around the Bay Area made their way to the Knockout, hoping to see some ass kicking metal bands. In the end, they would not be disappointed.
    Night Demon, Iron Kingdom, Hell Fire and Midnight Chaser, were the four bands who took to the stage last night. I had been highly anticipating Night Demon’s visit to the Bay Area and ever since I reviewed their first EP, I really wanted to see them live.
    Now, the Knockout is your typical SF dive bar that offers live musical entertainment. My main problem with the venue, a topic which I have furiously ranted about on my radio show, is that they are a 21 and up venue. That means no young metal heads were able to attend this show. I know a good amount of people who would have liked to go to this show, but couldn’t because they were under 21! I really wish metal promoters would realize that the only way to keep this type of music going forward and growing...is to not exclude the younger fans! Now, I understand the bands are trying to play anywhere they can, so I do not fault them. However, I believe bands would notice better turn outs at their shows. So promoters, try your best to set up all ages shows.
    Okay, had to get that rant off my chest (if I was to rant about this on air, I would be out of breath). Time to talk about the bands who all did a great job delivering classic sounding fist raising metal. First to take the stage was Midnight Chaser. A local group with an old school metal sound, the guys in Midnight Chaser were a suitable opener. They offered up a solid energetic set. In my opinion, their lead guitarist stole the show. This dude could shred and travel up and down that neck like Eddie Van Halen. For the most part, I really enjoyed Midnight Chaser’s guitar section. Vocally the singer did a good job and had plenty of personality. Now their drummer, well, he did a decent job but seemed to be a bit off at times. Once they finished their set I definitely think the crowd livened up a bit more.
    Taking the stage next was Canada’s Iron Kingdom. This band from the north really sounded and looked like an eighties metal band. Their singer/guitarist was wearing cloths that you would have seen on Steve Harris or Bruce Dickinson back in the eighties. They too had really good stage presence and brought plenty of energy. Compared to Midnight Chaser I noticed Iron Kingdom’s rhythm section brought a little more force. The bassist and drummer worked great together and it made their low end standout. Iron Kingdom’s vocalist really enjoyed hitting the high notes. He was no King Diamond of course, but a couple times he came close to that range. Also, I would say the band had some creative songs that featured a variety of ripping arrangements.
    So, after waiting for many many months, I would finally see Night Demon. They took to the stage with their cool backdrop banner. Smoke from a smoke machine began to rise around the band and lingered for most of the set. Wasting no time once the introduction audio finished, the guys started tearing away in classic metal fashion. Singer and bassist, Jarvis Leatherby, showed great stage presence as he passionately hit away at his bass and sang into the mic. Guitarist Brent Woodward played with fierce aggression and sounded great as riffed away on his flying V. Drummer, Diesel, destroyed behind the kit and did not miss a beat. Playing songs off the first EP like “Ritual,” “Ancient Evil,” along with some new songs and covers, Night Demon was simply on fire. Talk about an electrifying set that really got the crowd banging their heads and having a thrashing time. Hell, the crowd even wanted an encore because they were having such a great time! Right now Night Demon is one of the most energetic and passionate live acts I have seen in my life. Horns up! 
    San Francisco’s Hell Fire finished off the night with an extreme power thrashing set. These guys knew how to play their instruments and the singer was a highly impressive frontman. I really liked how he interacted with the crowd and his vocal delivery was phenomenal. This guy’s range and vocal tone sounded amazing. They were a great headliner and even though the crowd might have been a little tired after Night Demon’s set, everyone still rocked out until the very end.
    Watching all these metal musicians play together was a great reminder of how close this scene truly is. We all eat, sleep and breath metal, as cliché as it might sound. We all grew up listening to Iron Maiden, Metallica, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Saxon, Judas Priest and a large list of others bands that might have been sewed on some of the denim jackets last night. Being together in SF was a testament to the great legacy of metal.
    If you have a chance to see any of the four bands I just talked about, I highly recommend you do so, especially Night Demon. All of them capture the essence and passion of Heavy Metal. Glad they keep are continuing a great tradition of making ass kicking music. I wish all the bands the best of luck and hope they keep getting more people to check out their music. Keep on headbanging! \m/

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Protestant-"In Thy Name" LP

Band: Protestant
Album: In Thy Name

Review:


   
    Take chaotic sounding black metal, throw in some heavy grooving hardcore punk and the final result is Protestant’s, “In Thy Name.”    
    The extreme furious sound that can be heard on this Milwaukee band’s new LP is unbelievably stunning. Their unapologetic style of musical expression constantly demands your attention. When listening to this album I was left speechless at times because the music is very compelling. Protestant perfectly blends fierce sounding black metal with aggressive hardcore punk. Each song delivers in crushing form and there is plenty of dark passion behind their music. When the singer presents the words in his vicious style, the emphasis he puts on each word is tremendous. Musically this band knows how to combine intense sounding riffs with massive sounding rhythms. There are times on this album where the music is extremely chaotic, and then there are some areas where they can alter the tempo to create really hard grooving parts.
    Protestant starts the album off with a ferocious track called, “Vengeance.” The intense guitars tear away into a black metal onslaught as the singer begins his harsh vocal delivery. I really like the lyrical phrasing and find that it works well with the instrumental arrangements. The following track, “Carrion,” takes on a more straight forward aggressive approach. There are times during the song where the drummer really pounds on his kit to achieve an enormous thunderous sound. Mix his style of drumming with the guitars, and the sound is monumentally loud. Track three, “Never More,” demonstrates the band’s ability to strategical alter tempo which keeps the listener not knowing what to expect next. 
    Songs like “Vultures,” “Blood” and “In Thy Name/ Hell’s Insanity,” feature plenty of raw sounding emotion. Protestant maintains a solid intense sound and the band never relinquishes that extreme unforgiving mentality. After track seven “Forfeit” finished, I sat in my car hoping there would be another track because the band had me hooked by that point. Luckily for me there was an eighth and final song called, “Delusion.” Probably my favorite song on the album, “Delusion” closes in ultimate chaotic style. The guitars furiously attack and the distortion sounds like a gigantic ocean wave crashing against rocky sea cliffs. Protestant continues to bring that relentless extreme sound until the last guitar note slowly fades out.
    These guys really know how to create extreme meaningful music. Their aggressive style of expression and raw unforgiving sound makes “In They Name” a must listen for all fans who enjoy extreme music. With this album you will get sinister sounding black metal and intense hardcore punk all rolled up into one chaotic ball of nonstop fury. Warning: Protestant is not for those who like non-meaningful bubble gum type music. This is music for those who want to release their inner rage and not feel like a sheep trapped in a hollow controlled society. Easily one of my favorite releases of this year right now, and I can’t wait to hear what Protestant will do next.
https://www.facebook.com/PROTESTANTMKE

Monday, July 21, 2014

Recommendation: X-Cops-“You Have the Right to Remain Silent...”


To protect and entertain, that is what the X-Cops intended to do with their debut full-length release, “You Have the Right to Remain Silent...”
    Who better than the guys who gave the world Gwar, to create a band where the members all take on fake cop identities and make satirical punk/metal songs about law enforcement officers? Of course Gwar always carried an anti-authoritarian mentality and enjoyed poking fun at groups of power in American society. With X-cops, the guys from Gwar took on a whole new identity that focused specifically on the police. Each member cleverly came up with their own stereotypical cop name, along with their own unique identity. Dave Brockie of course came up with the most outrageous character, Patrolman Cobb Knobbler. The song, “The Party’s Over,” details his character’s insane personality.
    Following closely to the Gwar formula, each track on this album paints a whacky picture of a police force full of vulgar misfits, who I would probably not want patrolling up and down my street. The overall sound is very similar to early Gwar, but with a more noticeable metal edge. Each musician plays their instrument well and the music is really enjoyable. You can tell these guys were having fun when making this music. The songs convey plenty of personality and maintain a catchy punk and metal sound. Songs like “Barbells,” “Welcome to New Jersey,” and my favorite “The Party’s Over,” were written in a hilarious fashion that still pays attention to good solid instrumental structure. There are also some heavy thrashing songs on this album like “5-0” and “Third Leg.” I can hear where this type of music would influence some future punk and metal groups from the Richmond area.
    Another reason why I really enjoy this album, is that the band covered Deep Purple’s “Highway Star.” Of Course the X-Cops altered the lyrics to fit with the their theme. “Highway Star” is a classic song that plenty of bands have covered, but the way X-Cops approaches the song sounds amazing. When Deep Purple first made that song they were coming up with something that was raw and very aggressive sounding, especially for the period of time in which it was recorded. Having a punk/ metal band cover the song simply works, because X-Cops perfectly captures that raw aggressive sound. Also, Michael Derks and Peter Lee do a tremendous job tackling Blackmore’s guitar parts. Too bad, if Blackmore wasn’t off dancing with the fairies he could have collaborated with the X-Cops, or jammed “Highway Star” on stage with them. 
    This album shows that Dave Brockie and the guys in Gwar never stopped using their creative minds to come up with outrageous punk and metal music. X-Cops was a side project that had plenty of potential, but without question could never surpass Gwar’s already enormous status at the time. “You Have the Right to Remain Silent...,” will always be on of my favorite side projects and is also one of my favorite releases to feature the late Dave Brockie. All the songs on this album are catchy and full of hilarious lyrics. In the end the X-Cops came, arrested, rocked out and made us laugh, to which we shall never forget their great contributions to the punk and metal world.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Powerlord-The Awakening



    Thrash hard, or go home. Powerlord’s 1986 debut release, “The Awakening,” is a perfect representation of what eighties thrash metal was all about.
    This band does not mess around and delivers straight up nonstop aggressive thrash metal. Spawning from Oklahoma, Powerlord looked to take the metal world by storm with their blazing technicality and intense brand of thrash. Unfortunately this band, like many other groups from that eighties period, did not receive the complete recognition that they deserved. Powerlord’s music is just as electrifying and intense as Metallica’s early sound. I guess Powerlord must have not been in the right place at the right time. Now with help from Shadow Kingdom Records, a label that continues to spread the word about many great forgotten metal acts, Powerlord’s the “The Awakening” will be getting rereleased in August. Once again Shadow Kingdom has introduced me to a great lost gem, that I will now try to get all of you interested in checking out.
    In my last paragraph, I compared Powerlord to early Metallica. I feel both bands matched up well in the intense and aggressive sounding department. However, Powerlord’s style is a bit more technical and really explosive at times. The first track on this album, “Masters of Death,” is a ripping piece of music. The furious lead guitar riffs that match the heavy chugging main rhythm create a truly sinister chaotic vibe. You get immediately sucked into this overwhelming technical world of thrash. Powerlord’s singer uses his vicious high vocal range to narrate the evil sounding lyrics. He sounds like a mix between King Diamond and Tom Araya.
    Track two, “Malice,” is another thrash behemoth. The palm muted galloping madness is amazing and well pieced out. Also, the bass and drums lock into this extremely heavy groove as the guitar shreds away. The following track, “Silent Terror,” uses some unique chord variations to create a haunting thrash atmosphere. Again, the lead guitar playing is on fire and the guitarist puts great emphasis on the minor notes.
    “The Invasion of the Lords,” continues the musical assault with a blistering introduction. Very similar to early Slayer, the song really gets your adrenaline pumping. When listening to the final two songs, “Merciless Titans” and “The Awakening(Powerlord),” I was constantly head banging. This band brings plenty of technicality and intensity to the table, and there are no dual moments.
    If you are a wicked galloping guitar riff, double bass drum blasting and extreme screaming vocal fan, Powerlord is the thrash band for you. Hell, I think you might be knocked off your feet by this band’s fierce overall sound. Powerlord’s, “The Awakening,” is how extreme thrash is too be played. When listening to this album you will want to start running around in a circle and breaking chairs. Shadow Kingdom Records delivers yet another great forgotten metal release, that will hopefully inspire younger metal musicians to pick up an instrument and simply, THRASH! \m/

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Album Recommendation: Caladan Brood "Echoes of Battle"

Band: Caladan Brood
Album: Echoes of Battle


    In the world of music and movies, the creators very rarely utilize their full creative potential. The ability to create a magnificent world that fascinates people and draws them is beginning to fade in both industries. However, Caladan Brood’s debut 2013 release, “Echoes of Battle,” is an album that captured my imagination and opened up a whole new creative world of music to me.
    In the past, I never was an enthusiastic atmospheric black metal fan, and I am just becoming more acquainted with the genre. After watching a friend do a video review on Caladan Brood, I started listening to some of the tracks off of the album. I was amazed to hear such consideration for composition, along with the ability to create strong musical themes. The band incorporated flutes and other medieval folk instruments while maintaining a heavy black metal edge. Compared to other atmospheric black metals bands I have heard, the guitar riffs conveyed a sense of raw human emotion. Each chord followed along to the main rhythm and built this enormous sounding instrumental structure. Vocally, the band uses a variety of styles that range from a traditional black metal growl to narrate the main verses, and clear chanting parts during the choruses.
    A point to be made about this group’s creative nature is that there are only two guys in the band. Besides some guest guitar parts on a couple tracks, Shield Anvil and Mortal Sword are the ones behind Caladan Brood’s overall sound. “Echoes of Battle,” is probably one of the most well produced albums that I have heard in a long time, and the production definitely helps in presenting the album’s lyrical themes. All the lyrical content, and even the bands name, comes from a book series written by Steven Erikson. Although Caladan Brood took influence from an outside source for the album’s lyrical themes, (most musicians and Hollywood directors do too), the band presented the material in a very engaging fashion, and provided a refreshing interpretation that stands out.
    Another influence, this time musically, that can be heard on the album is from the atmospheric black metal band Summoning. Similar to Caladan Brood’s approach lyrically, Summoning takes influence from Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings series. Musically both bands work extremely hard to build gigantic musical landscapes that will allow their themes to be narrated in a fascinating and almost cinematic manner. Compared to Summoning, Caladan Brood’s whole ability to create vivid musical landscapes jumps out more, and never becomes monotonous. Don’t get me wrong there are some amazing Summoning albums, but the way Caladan Brood’s style is captured on, “Echoes of Battle,” is constantly exciting and engaging.
    The opening song, “City of Azure Fire,” is a great introduction to Caladan Brood’s creative musical abilities. This song is a perfect example of how to narrate and use different typos to allow a songs theme to freely flow. The song starts out with this fascination about a great city and the main guitar riff sets forth the road until the end of the song. Towards the end of the song, the overall tone becomes very triumphant as though I am standing in front of the magnificent city. Song two, “Echoes of Battle,” continues the epic journey like composition approach that can be heard on the first track. The guys cleverly arrange the guitar and drum parts to match the song’s constant changing sound. 
    My favorite song on this album, “Wild Autumn Wind,” is the first piece of music that I heard from Caladan Brood, and it is my favorite track off of this album. The dark melodic chord progressions used capture my imagination as the words take ahold of my attention. I found the guitar and piano riffs to match up harmoniously, and the singer’s haunting voice glides over the pleasant musical atmosphere. Another high point during the song is the skillfully executed guitar solo which adds a splendid emotional touch.
    “To Walk the Ashes of Dead Empires,” “A Voice Born of Stone and Dust,” and “Book of the Fallen,” are three strong songs that finish off the second half of the album. Each song is very distinct in style, mood, sound and lyrical presentation. “Book of the Fallen,” opens with a loud echoing chanting part that is so loud, the thunderous words could reach up to the top of a high snowy mountain. After going through a variety of amazing riff, drum and keyboard changes, the band finishes just like how they started by ending with some a cappella chanting.
    When this album finished, I felt moved and eager to hear more long atmospheric black metal epic pieces of music. Usually when people walk out after seeing a good movie, they are still thinking about the film a day later. Well, I guess Hollywood has not been doing there job because Caladan Brood’s, “Echoes of Battle,” is by far the most captivating form of art I have experience in the last couple years. Both musicians demonstrated tremendous work ethic, and their consideration to every sound and composition is a rare quality amongst most other current musicians. I can’t wait until these two get back in the studio for the follow up to “Echoes of Battle,” because I am confident after hearing this album that they will deliver another impressive epic release. Even if you do not know, or really like atmospheric Black Metal, this album’s vibrant overall musical sound makes “Echoes of Battle” a must listen.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Chiral-"Abisso"

Band: Chiral
Album: Abisso



Review:

    Ever since the beginning of Black Metal, bands have continued to incorporate other musical elements into this extreme sub-genre of metal. The push for a more progressive Black Metal sound is very common these days amongst the new bands.
    Italy’s one man band, Chiral, sets out with a debut EP titled, “Abisso,” hoping to capture the imaginations of a more opened minded Black Metal audience. The band’s sound still maintains traditional Black Metal qualities, but the deviations from the traditional formula really standout. One example, is that the band composes vibrant sounding classical acoustic guitar arrangements. These short moments of classical guitar soloing are a unique way to transition away from the extreme Black Metal. I was impressed by the overall arrangements, but sometimes when you are listening to extreme music, you really don’t expect the music to suddenly change from fast and aggressive, to soothing and melodic rather quickly.
    This album is written in a style that is very intricate, where the songs all fit together, but at the same time do not take on one common musical theme. The introduction “Atto I: Disceso Nel Buio,” is a slow ominous keyboard and guitar arrangement that builds up a strong ambient Black Metal foundation. The vocal style at first takes on a more low sounding death metal growl, but fades to make way for the instantly recognizable Black Metal vocal style. He sounds a bit like Abbath from Immortal, but with a vocal higher pitch. “Atto I: Oblio,” is an introduction to Chiral’s progressive Black Metal style. The song really took me by surprise once the intense riff faded and made way for an acoustic piece.
    The main focus of this album happens to be the third composition, “Atto II: Abisso.” This long piece of extreme music takes many musical turns and features a high level of complex musicianship. The guitar playing is simply amazing because he can create such grim frost bitten sounding riffs and then use his fingers to make technical acoustic solos. About half way through the song, this colossal dark atmosphere begins to take form. The sound is very climatic and slowly fades to a mellow acoustic guitar riff.
    From start to finish, Chiral’s, “Abisso,” will not lead you into a world of repetition and predictably. This is a form of music that hopes to change people’s perception of what Black Metal is by throwing in some unique elements. The programming and production, for one guy, is really good. I think my only complaint is that I felt like he could have pushed for even larger sounding musical atmospheres, but his approach works well with the sound he was going for on this EP. If you enjoy progressive Black Metal, extreme music that does not follow a repetitive blue-print, you will enjoy this album. Intense horribly distorted sounding riffs can get old after a while, so an acoustic riff might offer a pleasant deviation.