Thursday, May 31, 2012

Heavy Metal Madness First Round Summary: Part Four

Post # 198
On May 19th, the last segment of the first round of Heavy Metal Madness came to a close, and once again there were some unexpected upsets, and tight races for these bands to make it to the next round.

For the Metalcore Block:
Tool beat Death by a comfortable margin of 39-11,
Bullet For My Valentine upset Opeth 26-19,
System of a Down narrowly escaped being upset by Amon Amarth, as they clung to a 31-25 lead at the end of voting.
...and Korn had the most convincing upset of the month knocking off the #4 seed, Shadows Fall 34-13.

In the Classic Rock Block:
Queen upset Guns N' Roses 31-18,
AC/DC topped the Scorpions 35-14,
Ozzy bested Van Halen 37-9,
and Led Zeppelin overcame Jimi Hendrix 34-14.

As the early pattern of voting has unfolded, it seems that the magic number for a 'safe' amount of votes to push a band into the next round is 30. In the closest races, the most votes collected by a losing band was 29 (Godsmack). Will this rule-of-thumb hold true for the rest of this tournament? Only time will tell...

With the first round now concluded, the matches are only going to get tougher. Fans will have a harder time deciding who to vote for. Those who's first choice of a Champion is now eliminated have the freedom to vote for another band in their place. At this point, many of your predictions can be thrown out the window. I know several of mine have been defenestrated.

So, now is the time to follow more closely than ever! Already, the second round is underway, and more upsets are brewing, while other favorites dominate. Inevitably, more face-offs will come down to a close decision. Help those bands whom you prefer by sharing this blog with your friends, and call for more fans of heavy metal music to cast their votes, and make their opinion count!

Now, as I have done before, I leave you with some of my favorite suggested tracks from those bands now eliminated from Heavy Metal Madness:
Death-Open Casket
Opeth-The Drapery Falls
Amon Amarth-Fate of Norns
Shadows Fall-Forevermore
Guns N' Roses-Welcome to the Jungle
Scorpions-Alien Nation
Van Halen-Source of Infection
Jimi Hendrix-Manic Depression

Sunday, May 27, 2012

MAYHEM FEST 2011!!! (8-5-11)

Post #197
In the summer of 2011 I attended Mayhem Fest for the second time. This time around it featured...
On the rotating Jegermeister and Rock Star Energy Drink stages: Kingdom of Sorrow, Suicide Silence, Unearth, Athiarchists, and Hatebreed.
And on the MAIN STAGE: Machine Head, Megadeth, Godsmack, and Disturbed

This year, I was lucky enough to receive a fan package as a birthday gift: 4 lawn tix, a T-shirt, bottle opener and arm-band! Totally hyped for this great line-up of bands, I called on some close friends to join me for some Mayhem...

We got there in good enough time, perhaps missing the first couple opening bands on the 2nd and 3rd stages, but still as early as I've ever arrived for an all-day metal fest. The first band we truly got to see on this day was Suicide Silence. They were intense; filling the air with shredding riffs, and screech/scream vocals. Essentially delivering on their hardcore/death metal sound.

Next up was Unearth. These guys were considerably less death-metal, more hard-core. Personally I liked them much better than Suicide Silence. The main thing was that the 4 of us were having a good time, and enjoying some metal music. Unearth were more of a straigh-forward, hardcore/metalcore band. Not too much shrieking, not very 'deathy' vocals, just hard-core power-screams, and of course, plenty of up-tempo heavy riffs! Before their set finished, a couple of their guitarists got on top of the tour bus and shredded some headbanging riffs up there.

Flip back to the other stage, and another band had began to warm up... or were they playing already? It didn't appear so, as there were only 2 guys on stage (maybe three if you count the roadie hauling some equipment around). We edged closer to see better what they were doing... On-stage were two scruffy looking dudes, jamming the hell away on guitar and drums. A banner with their name 'The AtheiArchists' hung in the background, and as the guitarist began singing some hardcore vocals, we assumed they had already begun their set. We didn't quite know what to think of them... We're they trying to be a super-fast, and super-heavy version of The White Stripes? During one numbed they started insulting and teasing each other, rousing some laughs from the crowd. Without a doubt, by the end of their set we gave them an 'A' for effort! They even closed with a cover of Slayer's 'Raining Blood'. If you look them up online you may find videos of them playing death-metal to rush-hour traffic out the side of their U-Haul-converted-to-stage vehicle.

Before I forget to mention it, during the entire afternoon of 2nd stage performers, there was a troop of stunt-motorcycle riders doing fancy jumps in the parking lot for entertainment. I believe they were called the Metal Mullitia. Pretty cool stuff!

Last act for the 2nd stage was Hatebreed. These guys were true to form: straight up, hardcore metal! They delivered plenty of killer riffs and hard-edged screaming vocals. I did catch a title for one of their brand-new songs, '  ', but beyond that, I am still not very familiar with Hatebreed's back-catalog. My group of friends and I decided after a song or two, to begin heading toward the lawn to get a good view of the main-stage. We were all much more hyped up for all the big-name acts!

This was my first time ever seeing Machine Head, but one of my buddies had seen them once before. We were both anxious to hear some of their new stuff from their Unto The Locust album. They came out and got the crowd going with a couple of their classic songs. Then they spoke to the crowd a bit to see who had been to a Machine Head show before, and who was seeing them for the first time. Only one of our group had been to a Machine Head show before, so the rest of us were being initiated. Then they mentioned their new album was just out, and gave us their performance of the title-track 'Locust'. It was a killer track, and featured a breakdown section with an eerie sounding guitar solo. Perhaps meant to imitate the sound of a plague of insects munching through that summer's crops...

That song was pretty long, and they only had time for 2 more songs before their set time was up. Then we prepared for the next course... Megadeth!

Megadeth had some t-shirt for sale at this show proclaiming it the 25th anniversary of Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? So I wondered if perhaps they were going to try to play the whole album. But on a huge fest like this, all the bands have shorter set-times, except perhaps the headliner, so they didn't play the complete Peace Sells.. They did feature the two most memorable songs from that album, 'Wake Up Dead' and 'Peace Sells' in their set. Otherwise they delivered a good mix of new and old tracks, plus they unveiled a new track from their new album Th1rt3en (which was released a couple months later), 'Public Enemy Number One'.

Next came Godsmack. By comparison to many of the other bands, they were perhaps not as heavy, but they came to win us over with music. Their lead singer, Sully Erna, walked onto the stage and said as much, saying they left out the pyro and fancy effects in favor of delivering a great rock n' roll show.
True to their word, Godsmack had the crowd rockin' with some of the best selections from their music catalog. The best part of their set had to be the drum solo/dual where drummer Shannon Larkin kept us entertained while a 2nd drum set was wheeled onto the stage, and Sully himself put down his guitar to do some drumming of his own! Toward the end of the drum battle, the rest of the band came back to the stage and commenced to jam on some classic rock and metal riffs, part of which included Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs', where the crowd sang the lyrics as the band played.

Last up was Disturbed, and they had a tough act to follow! Their stage included a huge video back-drop. During the intro, 'Remnants', the video played an interesting short-film, where David Draiman was catatonic. head-trippy images flashed intermittently between scenes of Draiman on a stretcher. At one point, on the film, David regained consciousness, just in time to run onto the stage to begin singing 'Asylum'. Disturbed had opened their set, and hit the ground running.

While the video screen kept playing different imagery during the show, the band pretty much kept jamming out their songs. They delivered on top-notch performances of the songs, but were a bit limited in their showmanship, largely due to their stage set. It was quite different from Godsmack's approach, but the metal was still enjoyable. Mayhem had been thoroughly enjoyed!

Now, as usual, I leave you with the set lists from my favorite acts from this show...

Sets for Main Stage:
-Beautiful Mourning
-Asthetics of Hate

-Hangar 18
-Wake Up Dead
-Sweating Bullets
-Head Crusher
-Public Enemy Number One
-Symphony of Destruction
-Peace Sells
-Holy Wars...

-Cryin' Like a Bitch
-The Enemy
-Forever Shamed
-Straight Out of Line
-Drum Dual
-I Stand Alone

-The Game
-The Animal
-Inside the Fire
-(Sickness Medley) Fear/Meaning of Life/Numb/Voices
-Another Way to Die
-10,000 Fists
-Down With the Sickness

Thursday, May 17, 2012

MONTROSE- A Debut of Legends

Post #196
With the recent passing of rock guitar legend Ronnie Montrose in April 2012 the world of rock music lost a talented musician who was very influential to hard rock and heavy metal, particularly in the late 70's and early 80's. As a way of paying tribute to Ronnie, I am finally reviewing his debut album, Montrose.

The debut album from Ronnie Montrose's namesake band Montrose, also happened to be the first recording of another legendary figure in heavy metal: Sammy Hagar. These two future icons were not collaborators for very long, but the music they wrote together in these early years speaks for itself. Ronnie would go on to pursue a jazz-rock fusion style of music, while Sammy Hagar went on to a successful solo career that is still thriving today, not to mention he would spend many years as the lead singer of Van Halen after the initial departure of David Lee Roth.

With Montrose's eponymous debut in '73 the band gave the hard rock genre an album to be reckoned with. The influence from this recording is apparent in many cases where other prominent rock and metal bands have covered the tunes. In a previous post I mentioned how Dave Mustaine of Megadeth once covered the Montrose song 'Bad Motor Scooter' in his early band Panic. In the early 90's, BulletBoys did a cover of 'Rock Candy', and Contraband (an early 90's supergroup of hair metal veterans) covered 'Good Rockin' Tonight'.

The album's first track is a great example of a band making a mission statement apparent with their song title: 'Rock the Nation'. A great hard rock tune, and somewhat prophetic, for these guys would go on to rock the nation for many more years, even if they would do so after parting ways.

I know that some of these songs have appeared on some of Sammy Hagar's hits collections over the years, but there are many others here worth checking out. Here are my favorites from this legendary debut album:
-Rock the Nation
-Bad Motor Scooter
-Space Station #5 (Intro sounds like it could be a Pink Floyd song, then they kick into full-swing and make this song rock!)
-Good Rockin' Tonight
-Rock Candy
-Make It Last  (Again, here is a song with almost prophetic lyrical themes, as Sammy sings about the way he was at earlier stages of his life, and what he hopes to be at future ages... this is a kind of 'slice-of-life' song, with a slow and steady beat...)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Eliminator-The One They Were Waiting For (2010)

Post #195
Eliminator were one of the independent bands I featured recently in a reader's poll. Although they did not win the 'Independent Band of the Year' title, I did discover a lot of their music during that competition. I was so impressed, and often times caught off guard, by their uncanny ability to meld the most diverse of rock and metal elements in their music that I must revisit their sounds for another review...

The One They Were Waiting For was truly the one I was waiting for...
The first track, 'Atish', does closely resemble their work from Breaking The Wheel, but the similarities quickly dwindle from there as the album plays on...

A spoken word interlude breaks the spell of the 18 minute black/thrash fest that is 'Atish' before the next song; a cover of Robert Johnson's 'Me and The Devil Blues'. Here is where Warchild and company depart from their evident path of finely fused black metal and thrash to deliver a remarkably honest rendition of this blues classic from the late '30's. The original song-structure is preserved for the most part, although the guitars and drums are still heavy and fully electric, while the vocal delivery maintains the demonic black-metal edge the band has established previously. There is an extended melodic breakdown where Eliminator add their own spin to this song, but after a couple minutes, they return to the classic blues progression to close the song. A truely memorable cover that will not easily be forgotten!

Another highlight of originality on this album is 'Honey Sacrifice' (which combined with 'Atish' accounts for over two-thirds of the album's total running time, as it clocks in at over 19 and a half minutes!). A heavy, rhythmic riff, with a throw-back rock n' roll feel, sets the early tone for this epic track. Throughout the song the music builds to the intensity of speed-black metal once again, then shifts gears with an extended clean and melodic segment near the end. A song absolutely similar to nothing I've head before.

Emilinator make it clear that when inspiration strikes, they roll with it, and let the music do the talking. There is more behind their direction than any genre, or trend, or fad, or scene, or anything you can think of... or perhaps it's just everything you can think of? Is it everything they can think of? Just wait and see. I doubt anybody can predict what this band will do next. Just wait for my review of thier 3rd release, And the Brokenhearted Balladeers...

For now check out these tracks from The One They Were Waiting For. Even if at first you might be left scratching your head, you may also be surprised how much some of these song can grow on you...
-Me and the Devil Blues
-The Man in the Picture... to Become What One Is
-Honey Sacrifice

And don't forget to check out their websites, many of which have songs available to stream online:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Droids Attack! - 002 Fatal/Error

Post #194
Hailing from Madison, WI, Droids Attack! are an intriguing independent band blending metal, punk and progressive rock in a manner that results in truly infectious grooves! They set a tone with their music focusing on a heavy low-end distortion, reflecting their self-proclaimed influences of early Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, Motorhead and Clutch. I originally discovered them in '09 while searching for independent bands to include in my 1st annual reader's poll of independent bands. Here's an in-depth look at their 2nd full-length release, Fatal/Error, from 2006.

The first track, 'The Lord', starts slowly, and instantly hits you with their low-end heavy guitar tones. Then the song's energy builds up, lead guitar adds a layer to the formula, then the tempo kicks up a bit and you can't help but bang your head. The opening track is one of a couple on this release that also have elements of heavy, progressive rock in the song structure. At the end of this track, as the last chord fades out, the next riff assaults your ears. The chord progressions are so similar on the second track, 'Steven Seagal', that if you're listening casually, you may think it's still the first track. You can feel this band is in a zone, and just jamming out these tunes with all they got!

With hardcore punk-style vocals, Droids Attack give you a great means for venting some emotion. Blended with this emotion are humor, wit, and some social commentary. In the end it's all for a good time, and their heavy, prog-rock/stoner rock vibe is liable to get you hooked before the last tune, 'Scythe in the Fire' has finished blaring out your speakers.

I've been very pleased with the listening experience I get with Fatal/Error, and fully intend to add their other releases to my collection soon. FYI, in 2010 they released the follow up to this album, Must Destroy. Give them a listen! They just might be the droids you've been looking for ;-)

My favorite tracks from Fatal/Error:
-The Lord
-Steven Seagal
-Dope Smuggler
-Blood of the Earth
-Scythe in the Fire

And don't forget to follow them on their various websites:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

HEAVY METAL MADNESS: First Round Summary, Part 3

Post #193
The March-April segment of the ongoing Heavy Metal Madness tournament again featured some exciting match-ups between some of the best bands in rock and metal music. While some heavily favored bands went on to comfortable victories, there were a couple surprises. Let me summarize the upsets first, then I'll give the full list of results.

In the #8 vs #9 match of the Alternative/Punk/Gothic Metal block, Rob Zombie (#9) pulled off the upset over Godsmack (#8) by the narrow margin of 35-29. In a bigger surprise, the #13 seed Lacuna Coil upset #4 Green Day in dominant fashion, doubling the vote-count 42-21!

The remaining results for this block were as follows:
Nirvana (#1) topped Stone Temple Pilots (#16) 48-19.
Alice In Chains (#5) beat Faith No More (#12) 50-12.

Meanwhile, in the Classic Metal/Thrash/Progressive Metal block, the results were a little more predictable, as each favored seed advanced.
Motorhead (#6) beat Dream Theater (#11) 42-18.
Megadeth (#3) dominated Testament (#14) 59-5.
Judas Priest (#7) beat Sepultura (#10) 52-11.
Slayer (#2) comfortably eliminated Exodus (#15) 53-8.

Vote results have been steady over the first 3 months of this contest. I hope this pattern can continue over the summer. Keep the votes coming! Keep sharing this blog and the polling contest with your friends and on your favorite social networks...

Now some recommended songs from those bands eliminated last month:
Stone Temple Pilots-Plush
Godsmack-Shine Down
Faith No More-Epic
Green Day-American Idiot
Dream Theater-Pull Me Under
Testament-Three Days In Darkness
Sepultura-Roots Bloody Roots
Exodus-Toxic Waltz