Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Eliminator-Breaking the Wheel

Post #164
Eliminator are an independent metal band out of New Jersey. When I first heard about them through another heavy metal music blog I follow, I thought, 'OK, here's another one out of countless black/death metal bands. What could it hurt to check 'em out?' In this case, I was glad I did. I downloaded their debut album Breaking the Wheel, and gave it an honest listen. The first thing that impressed me about the sound on this album was how they seem to hearken back to the early days of thrash and speed metal, rather than just grinding out riffs. I found enough intricacies in their guitar work to hold my interest.

Then I was further impressed by their song structures, which often incorporated significant break-down segments, where clean guitars were used in minor keys to enhance the dark, ominous tone and mood of the music. After further exploration of their music through their myspace page, I also discovered they have really begun to smash boundaries of their genre with their more recent works. Believe me, I don't use that term lightly. You really must hear it for yourself. But that's a story for another post...

For now, I am going to focus on Breaking the Wheel. This album bludgeoned my skull in ways it hasn't been abused since the days of early-era Sepultura. The guitar tones truly capture that early thrash-era tone. The drums fill a wall-o-sound with decadent blast-beats that challenge the upper limits of tempo. Warchild's vocals are demonic screams and shrieks, though he sometimes will drop into deeper tones that remind me of classic Slayer vocals.

Though it only contains 7 tracks, a couple of them are pretty long, making for a quality headbanging experience for about 40 minutes. The best ones I can easily recommend:
-World Obliteration (Eerie, old-school woman's voice begins your listening experience as she promises you 'Everthing is fine in Heaven...' Drums come into the mix, and after a few seconds kick into double-time. Just when you think Eliminator are ready to start thrashing out, you hear the drums double in tempo once again as the guitars come in at a break-neck pace!)
-Breaking the Wheel (The title track is my favorite on this collection. The song's most redeeming quality is found with the multi-tiered breakdown section about half-way through. The lyrics convey a message of fighting against cancer.)
-Prescription for Extinction (Closing number brings more speed-black metal riffage, but closes on an extended melodic break-down. Clocks in at over 8 minutes as the longest track on the album.)

To check out this album, and more of Eliminator's music visit their myspace page!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Iced Earth-Something Wicked This Way Comes

Post #163 [Poll Winner: Favorite Iced Earth album from the 90's]
Iced Earth released their debut album in 1990, and quietly built a strong underground following throughout the decade. By 1998, they had become one of the biggest names in American power metal. Something Wicked This Way Comes, their 5th album, saw the band touring more extensively than ever. The strength of fan support for this album also led to the recording of Iced Earth's first live album, Alive in Athens. Your votes last month for your favorite Iced Earth album of the 90's further confirms the significance of this release.

Something Wicked This Way Comes displays Iced Earth at one of the high-points of their career. Having established Matt Barlow as the band's main-stay lead singer, the band's stability was also at a peak. This album has several tracks that are now Iced Earth classics, as evidenced by their inclusion in both the Alive in Athens live album and their 2-disc compilation The Blessed and The Damned.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a well balanced thrash/power metal album, incorporating a variety of melodic guitar parts with Iced Earth's traditional speed-metal riffs. Matt Barlow's vocals are as strong as ever, as he displays his vocal range with mastery throughout this album. Jon Schaffer's songwriting and guitar playing are also above the standard the band had shown by this stage of their career. All in all, this is perhaps the best album Iced Earth have recorded. It certainly got your vote for the best album from this band in the 90's!

Though I have touched on this album before, I still have tracks to recommend, some repeats, some new:
-Burning Times (probably the best known Iced Earth song, a true classic!)
-Melancholy (Holy Martyr) (still a personal favorite of mine...)
-Stand Alone (this one has an anthem-like vibe in the chorus)
-Reaping Stone (a slow-tempo number, with plenty of dark-toned clean guitars mixed with heavy chord progressions)
-Something Wicked (trilogy); I: Prophecy, II: Birth of the Wicked, III: The Coming Curse (an epic 3-part concept suite depicting mankind's corruption, and the possible coming of the Antichrist... As intricate as these tracks are, Schaffer & company would return to this concept years later as the inspiration for a double-length concept album, but it began right here...)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DEADMANSWAKE makes Elbo Room debut on Sept. 27th!

Post #162
Hello again constant readers!

Today I'm writing to remind you that DEADMANSWAKE will be playing at Elbo Room in Chicago, IL on Tuesday, September 27th for the very first time! They're appearing as part of the "Project Independent Tour" along with Sins Of A Nation and several others. If you have no other plans for this particular Tuesday evening, why not come down and catch some great, live, Heavy Metal music?

Visit the Elbo Room for more details!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Remembering September 11th Through Music

Post #161
Two days ago, we observed the 10th anniversary of the Al-Queda attacks against the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon. Though this horrific event is doomed to live in the memories of everyone who lived and breathed on that infamous day, it is still a reminder that the values that unify the United States will always win out over anything that tries to divide us.

With this post I will share some songs that live in MY memory, forever connected with September 11th, and many songs directly inspired by the events of that day.

This song comes from the album 'God Hates Us All', which was released on September 11, 2001. Though obviously not inspired by the events, it seems an ominous coincidence that it was released on the same day many Al-Queda followers slaughtered thousands in the name of their religion. I certainly recall thinking 'How could God let these events transpire?' that day. Surely the faith of many was shaken as planes crashed into buildings...

From their 5th album, released one week after the attacks. One of Chicago's radio stations began playing this song, with audio clips from news casts of the attacks mixed in. It became a song that many clung to as they tried to comprehend this tragedy.

The next few songs were all inspired by 9-11, and the lyrics reflect each bands perspective, attitude, and interpretation of our humanity...
Dream Theater-In The Name of God
Iced Earth-When the Eagle Cries
Testament-The Evil Has Landed

All these songs are inseparable from the event in my mind, however the one song that first imprinted itself in my mind about September 11th, and has the most lasting impression of how we all felt in the days, weeks, and months afterward, is "My City of Ruin" by Bruce Springsteen. Though he had written the song before 9-11, he had tweaked a few of the lyrics by the time he performed it on September 21st as part of the 'America: A Tribute to Heroes' telethon.

I remember watching the entire telethon. It made me realize how truly powerful music can be. Healing, unifying, and inspiring in the same instant. God bless our fallen heroes from September 11th, and in the 10 years since then...

These are just the songs I thought of off the top of my head. Feel free to share your personal songs about 9-11 in comments below.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

HEAVY METAL MADNESS!! (Coming in 2012)

Post #160
For those of you who've been following this blog for a while, you may have noticed that I usually use the phrase 'favorite' in all my reader's polls as opposed to 'best'. This is mostly because saying a thing is your 'favorite' is easier. 'Favorites' can be based on one individual's opinion, and requires no further justification. To say something is the 'best' requires more justification and explanation. Sure, I can easily say whatever I think is the best, but that may differ greatly from what the next guy would say is the best. On this blog I try to let the reader decide for their self what is best.

Well, coming up in 2012, I might make one exception to this rule of thumb I've been following, and try to decide who is actually the 'Best*' heavy metal band. The '*' would reference the following footnote: 'based on reader opinion'. How does that sound to you, dear readers? It will be called HEAVY METAL MADNESS, and be designed after the NCAA's March Madness basketball tournament. Spanning several months (possibly the entire year), I will post numerous reader's polls each month. Each poll representing one match-up in the giant bracket.

The bands I choose to include will represent the most influential bands I can think of from the most relevant genres and sub-genres in hard-rock and heavy metal music, from the early 70's up 'til now. The reviews of each poll-winner will be much briefer since there will be several results each month, but essentially a summary of who advanced and who was knocked-out should suffice.

Hopefully this tournament-style reader-opinion poll will keep your interest peaked, as each month you invest more and more of your own fanaticism into HEAVY METAL MADNESS. I've found that when the NCAA tournament comes around, I'm always more interested in the results in years when I participate in an office pool or two. Hopefully this can have the same effect with Heavy Metal music. Would you agree?

We'll begin to find out in 2012! I plan to initiate this tournament very soon after this fall's annual Independent Band Of The Year poll (formerly called the 'Myspace bands poll'). If all goes well, it will prove to be the ultimate contest for the BEST* Hard-Rock/Heavy Metal band ever!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Blog Update: Check out new features!

Post #159
I want to take a minute to point out a few changes I've made to the blog recently. Most obvious is the relatively new banner at the top of this page. I've mentioned it earlier, shortly after I uploaded it. Again, thank you to Andy at Traynart Graphic design for that.

Next, I want to point out the box on the left hand column where you can now enter an email address for a quick and easy way to follow this blog. If you've enjoyed any of my posts, please take a second to enter your email, so you won't miss a single post!

Other changes I've made include the re-organizing of the links section. I've now split it into 3 sections. First are the links to off-shoots of this blog that I've created myself. These are called 'Happy Headbanger links', and include my Pandora radio station, a Facebook page, and Twitter feed. The second category 'Music, Rock, and Metal Blogs' includes the other music oriented blogs that I follow. The 3rd category, 'Other Blogs' contains the blogs I follow that don't necessarily relate to music or heavy metal in any way, but I still recommend them!

In my blog settings, I have now made comments open to all! This feature used to be restricted to google account holders, but not anymore. You should now be able to comment on any post, remaining anonymous if you choose.

Lastly, the "Coming Soon" section will slowly be phased out. I still want to write about these topics, so I will leave the list there until I get to each item on it. However, since I have a bad habit of adding items to this list faster than I get around to writing them, I'll simply stop adding topics to it.

The "Honorary Vice President" spot was created for the winner of last year's 'Independent Bands Reader's Poll'- DEADMANSWAKE. Unlike the 'President' spot, which lasts for a term of 2 years, the VP spot will last for 1 year (until the next 'Independent Bands Reader's Poll'). Watch for the new 'Independent Bands Poll' coming in October!

I hope these changes make the blog a more enjoyable experience for all of you! I am always open to suggestions. If you have any ideas, feel free to email me at happyheadbanger@gmail.com