Sunday, November 16, 2014

Manilla Road-"Out of the Abyss"

    The sky outside is dark and gloomy. A chill runs up my spin as I begin to write this review. All I need to make this moment even more haunting is a cauldron, ritual candles, Gilbert Gottfried dressed as a vampire, the Necronomicon, and of course, Manilla Road’s “Out of the Abyss.” 
    Yes everyone, the time has come for yet another reissue of one Manilla Road’s many horror themed metal albums. Shadow Kingdom Records is teaming up with the classic metal band from Kansas once again and will be re-releasing the band’s seventh full-length album, “Out of the Abyss.” A release date is set for next year, January 13th. Originally recorded in 1988, the album comes from a time when Manilla Road’s desired to play fast and had a more thrash metal sound. Eventually, this band would return to the classic more doom metal style, but “Out of the Abyss,” features some intense jams and aggressive compositions.    
    Compared to, “Mystification,” the album just before “Out of the Abyss,” the music on this release is definitely a bit darker. Also, the band writes more lyrics about H.P. Lovecraft stories, so the haunting occult themed lyrics definitely make for some very dark and heavy sounding songs. I even felt the vocals on this album were darker and the overall screams used during some of the songs sent chills down my spine. The guitar playing on this album is solid and maintains a ripping thrash metal tone. However, there are moments where the riffs slow down to create short spooky doom like atmospheres. The dynamics between the slow haunting riffs and fast aggressive riffs definitely creates a unique and distinctive sound. For example, the opening song, “Whitechapel,” begins with a sinister sounding furious thrash riff while the song, “Return of the Old Ones,” is slower and more classic metal sounding. The main bulk of the songs on this album are your semi-thrash type tracks with some galloping riffs and rapid fire drum rhythms.
    Manilla Road really enjoys writing lyrics based of off horror books and this can be found on all their albums. Also, the band becomes very descriptive with their lyrics and on certain songs it sounds like they are trying to narrate a book rather than sing a song. The song, “Black Cauldron,” describes a ritual sacrifice to Cthulhu and the sinister sounding thrash sound really compliments the lyrical content. Personally, I find the gimmicky horror imagery to get old after about five or six songs, but don’t get me wrong, I think Manilla Road does a great job describing their lyrics and matching the lyrics with the instrumental compositions. “Return of the Old Ones,” “Midnight Meat Train,” and “Helicon,” are creative metal pieces with plenty of heavy head banging riffs and lyrics that will make some people piss their pants.
    I think, “Out of the Abyss,” is well worth checking out if you are into classic horror themed heavy metal with a slight thrash metal edge. I am really glad that Shadow Kingdom Records is helping spread the word about Manilla Road amongst the metal community. Maybe this reissue will help pull Manilla Road out of the abyss of other old less acknowledged metal bands who deserve more recognition for their contributions. Just have to keep spreading the word, or reissuing albums each year...   

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Local Metal Show: Trial by Combat, Oden Sun, Lord Mountain, Condemned?

    With the cost of tickets being ridiculously expensive and most of your major metal shows usually being a hassle to get to since they are in the city, sometimes those local metal shows are just hard to pass up.
    The Sonoma County metal community was fortunate enough to have a solid four band show in Forestville, CA this past Saturday night. Not too far from Sonoma State where I am currently attending, Forestville is a small town that one might miss if driving through because it is so damn small. The venue was your typical dive bar with a decent stage area. Compared to some dive bar music clubs I have been to, this place had a decent floor space for the crowd and that would come in handy at this metal show.
    The first band of the night was Lord Mountain. This Santa Rosa, CA doom metal band really cranked up the volume. Their guitar section sounded massive with the two guitar attack. Also, they incorporated some killer harmonies into the dark heavily distorted doom jams. The only problem during their set, which was really not the band’s fault, was that the vocals were just not miked loud enough in my opinion. Compared to the guitar volume and drums, the vocals were getting drowned out. The singer’s voice sounded good too and complimented Lord Mountain’s classic Sabbath like doom sound. They were a strong opener and definitely got the metal crowd going crazy. I think the liquor was helping getting the crowd going crazy too and eventually some people were really having fun.
    After Lord Mountain was Oden Sun. By the name one could tell this band had a metal gimmick and during their set the singer would even take out a sword and start swinging it around. Before they even started, one of the guitar players was complaining about the lights. This guy thought he was Cher or something the way he kept complaining into the mic. Their singer lucky knew how to address the crowd and his stage presence was really good. Oden Sun’s rhythm section was solid and I felt the drummer and bass player helped to establish a heavy grooving sound. On the guitar side, it was really hit or miss. The diva guitar player who had complained about the lights seemed to get lost a couple times during his solos. The other guy seemed to know when and where to stop, but his style of soloing was nothing that you can’t hear when walking into a guitar center. Overall though, Oden Sun put on an entertaining set and the sword waving part was hilarious.
    The third act of the night was a band called, Condemned?. I think the question mark at the end of their name represented how this band can’t decide to be a punk band, a metal band, or a band capable of blending the two styles of music together. Their singer, who looked like Batista from the WWE, had vocals that seemed to be almost power metal like, but this style of their music had a metal/ punk tone to it. The guitarist was a madman and his solos were extremely chaotic. I will give him credit for showing great stage presence and really rocking out, however, his solos were just too overwhelming. The band’s songs also tended to drag out, so when I thought a song would be over the guys would start adding on some more verse riffs that sounded really unnecessary. About half way through their set I started looking around the venue at all the interesting concert attendees because I was so bored. Some fans were really digging Condemned?’s set and some of those fans looked stoned out of their minds. This one guy looked like Captain Caveman, or like he just crawled out of a cave!
    Finally, Santa Rosa’s Trial by Combat took to the stage. Even after rocking out to three bands, the crowd still had enough energy to go crazy during Trial by Combat’s set. If anything the crowd exerted the most energy during their set. The band opened up with a can of metal whoop ass and the aggressive death/thrash sound got the place raging. Compared to the other acts, during Trial by Combat’s set their was a little moshing going on and tons of front stage head banging. They really sounded tight and lead singer Dashiel Mckenzie had a powerful voice. Also, Birthday boy Jesse Palmer was constantly rocking out and with the aid of his wireless guitar, he was running all over the stage and even into the crowd. The riffs were constantly crushing and that double bass drum rhythm is still ringing in my ears. Without question Trial by Combat stole the show!
    For the cost and opportunity to support local metal music, this show was definitely worth attending. The small town of Forestville, CA was overrun with numerous head banging lunatics and guys that looked like Captain Caveman. If you ever have the chance to support local metal acts you should seriously do so, because you never know how enjoyable of a night you might have and who you might Captain Caveman.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Convent Guilt- "Guns for Hire"

Here is a group of classic Heavy Metal loving dudes from the land down under who are looking to steal your women and rock your face off! Convent Guilt sounds like they came straight out of the NWOBHM period. Their sound, image and overall musical attitude is unbelievably retro metal to the max! 
    These Australian’s offer up eight songs full of catchy riffs and triumphant sounding lyrics for this album titled, “Guns for Hire.” As much as you can hear a classic metal vibe throughout this album, there is this energetic punk attitude that comes across too. Still, the fist raising anthems are extremely Saxon and Judas Priest like. Vocally, I would have liked the singe to have a louder and more assertive voice. The lyrics are written in such a triumphant way that I find the lack of loud epic screams to give the music a very mellow tone at times. Still, there are some moments where the riffs are building up to that epic climax so the vocalist gets a bit of a boost.
    Overall, the band writes some really catchy songs. The opening track, “Angels in Black Leather,” creates this image of biker dudes riding down the road ready to raise some hell. Solid heavy crushing riffs and catchy drumming right away establish Convent Guilt’s old school classic metal sound. “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” is a slower very eighties sounding tune. It has that catchy dark sound and creates a mellow yet still heavy vibe. “Perverse Altar,” begins with more of a punk rock approach and I liked how the band repeated the chorus. The music gets stuck in your head for hours!
    Track number four, “They Took Her Away,” is very folk rock sounding with an acoustic guitar riff to start the song off. I reminded me a bit of certain Thin Lizzy songs. Overall, I enjoyed the mix of folk and classic metal, especially when the guitarist did a short electric guitar solo over the acoustic riff. The following track, “Guns for Hire,” begins with a blazing jam and never slows up. The music I felt could have used a bit of a kick, because the vocals did not really standout like I felt they should have. However, the vocals I notice start to pick up some steam towards the end of the album. “Desert Brat,” was a crushing song that was written with great catchy verses and blistering solos. “Convict at Arms,” my favorite song on the album, is extremely triumphant sounding and the vocals matched with the guitar playing, demand the listener’s attention. The last song, “Stockade,” starts off with a fast paced thrash attack sound that forms into a fierce chorus. I felt like the album consistently became louder and the music intensified with each song. A very rare quality these days.
    When the album is all said and done, and the metal biker dudes are riding off into the blazing Australian sun, I must admit that this was an overall enjoyable listen. The catchy and fierce classic metal sound can instantly hook listeners, and this style of music definitely has the potential to appeal to a wide range of rock/ metal fans. There are tons of bands who have that classic NWOBHM sound, and of course some do it better than others, but I would say Convent Guilt is one of the better bands. They also stand out from the other groups with that slight punk rock sound. If you are in the mood for some classic catchy metal sounding music, well put on your denim jacket and crack open a cold one, and then put on some Convent Guilt on. Get ready to rock until the neighbors call the cops!