Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Act of Destruction with The Gory Details on June 29th

Post #361

On Friday, June 29th, 2018 HappyHeadbanger's Independent Band of the Year, Act of Destruction, return to performing live at Cheers Live Music Venue in Midlothian, IL! Alos on the bill that evening is The Gory Details.


Don't Miss this chance to catch Act of Destruction in action. And always remember to #GetDestroyed with some brutal thrash metal!!! Doors open at 8:00pm.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Foredoomed-Ordeal (2017)

Post #360

Foredoomed are a melodic death metal band from Joensuu, Finland. They have a very diverse style of death metal that incorporates elements of power metal, progressive rock, ambient rock, and symphonic metal to name just a couple. The best known band I can think to compare them to may be Amon Amarth, but they offer so much more.

Ordeal is their debut album, and after listening to it all the way through, I am blown away by the quality of production and mixing that is evident on these tracks. Their intro track 'Origin' is a beautiful, symphonic metal track with melodic female vocals provided by a guest musician, Mia Rouvinen. Then they hit you with 'Ghost Recurrence', a more aggressive thrasher, and it changes the game as vocalist/guitarist Atte Kymalainen proceeds to show you what he can do. Death metal growls dominate for much of this song, but elegant melodic vocals come into play for the last minute or so of the song. By now the listener knows what the band is capable of, and the rest of the album explores each element further.

 I first tried to listen to Foredoomed as a death metal band that has incorporated melodic elements and styles of power metal and symphonic metal into their sound. The more I thought about it, however, that seemed like a lot of things to incorporate into a death metal pallet of sounds. Then I stepped back, reconsidered, and found that a better description is perhaps a progressive power metal band with a heavy infusion of death metal style vocals. I found this to be a more comfortable context to appreciate their musical diversity, so that is how I shall refer to them.

While the vocal are indeed mostly death metal growls and screams, with deep guttural tones and ear splitting shrieks, they do incorporate a significant amount of melodic, and operatic vocals too. The musical formula that drives the band's sound it truly melodic in focus. Don't get me wrong, they are still brutally heavy and have moments of pure death metal ferocity, but there are lead guitars overlaying melodic phrases every time you turn around. There is also a near-constant presence of keyboards and/or synthesizers that serve to fill the sound, even in moments when they may be so overpowered by the grinding riffs you hardly notice them.

Foredoomed are a truly talented melodic death metal band. They incorporate such a balanced and abundant amount of melodic, progressive, and ambient elements that I do argue they are more a power metal band that incorporates death metal elements than vice-versa. Ordeal as an album, is a masterpiece of this infusion of metal formulas. I can't get enough of it! If you are a fan of Amon Amarth or even more traditional European power metal bands like Sonata Arctica then you will find much to like with Foredoomed!

Recommended tracks from Ordeal:
-Ghost Recurrence
-Search for Tomorrow (My personal favorite! Love the lead guitar melody and theme that recurs throughout this song.)
-Dualism
-Shade of the Darker Sun

Follow Foredoomed on:
FACEBOOK
BANDCAMP
Official Website
Check out their lyric video for Dualism!


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Motley Crue- Shout at the Devil

Post #359
[Poll Winner: Favorite Motley Crue Album from the 80's]

Motley Crue released their first album in 1981, but it was their second album, Shout At The Devil in 1983, that solidified their status among the developing Los Angeles "Glam Metal" scene, as well as establishing their trademark sound.

This album has stood the test of time with die-hard Crue fans for its level of grit, power, and consistency from track to track. Shout at the Devil yielded 4 singles and 2 music videos, which served to make the band a regular presence on both hard rock radio stations and MTV in the early 1980's. It wouldn't be until seven years later with 1990's Dr. Feelgood that the Crue had another album with more than 3 singles.

After Shout at the Devil, Motley Crue gradually pushed for a more marketable sound, and steadily included more and more ballads on each successive album. This made them accessible to a wider fan-base. This was all well and good for a 'hair metal' band seeking global success, and almost every band from this era did the same. But for new fans seeking to discover the darkest, grittiest, heaviest, and also one of the best albums Motley Crue ever recorded, you need look no further than Shout at the Devil.

Singles released from Shout at the Devil:
-Shout at the Devil
-Helter Skelter
-Looks that Kill
-Too Young to Fall In Love


HappyHeadbanger's Recommended Tracks:
-Bastard
-Knock 'Em Dead Kid
-Danger

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Proudest Angel- Fan Contest for Upcoming House of Blues Show.

Post #358

Proudest Angel are headling the House of Blues, Chicago on March 29th. They want you to know about it and share it! From now through this Saturday, March 17th anybody that uses #proudestangel on social media will be entered into a drawing for 2 tickets to the show, 2 shirts and downloads of both their albums.


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So jump onto your facebooks, instagrams, and twitters and spread the word for #proudestangel and their House of Blues show on March 29th!!!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Mac Sabbath with Galactic Empire at Subterranean, Chicago (2-17-18)

Post #357

Drive-Thru Metal meets Sci-Fi Metal? Count me IN!! On February 17th, 2018 I attended the weirdest tribute band show I ever saw. It was the "I Got a Bad Feeling About This" Tour with Mac Sabbath and Galactic Empire...

When it comes to tribute bands, I really appreciate true passion and talent in giving a nod to the artists that inspire you. But for a band to embody the passion of the music along with specific elements of a niche fandom, such as Star Wars, was truly something unique to behold!

Galactic Empire are that band. They have become internet-famous with their music videos, where they perform heavy metal versions of Star Wars soundtrack songs in full Star Wars costumes. They play the roles of Darth Vader, Death Trooper, Storm Trooper, Imperial Red and Boba Fett in the video. Not only that, but they insert fandom-themed jokes into the music videos also.

Seeing them perform live was every bit as entertaining as their youtube videos, if not more-so. They even had crowd participation, as someone from the audience was tapped to play the role of 'a Rebel Alliance traitor', and were then force-choked by Vader on stage. Since their first couple music videos, they have replaced Death Trooper with 'Kyle' Ren on guitar. During their live set they explained the line-up change, with plenty of dark-side humor!

Galactic Empire's arrangements of the theme music from the Star Wars franchise are near flawless and satiate the metal-head's craving for well-executed riffs and guitar solos. This was, after all, a "fully armed and operational metal band!" As a Star Wars fan, and also owning my own copy of their full-length debut album, I knew every song and was immersed in metal-infused Star Wars fandom for the entirety of their set. The crowd's most energetic moment came when they played 'Cantina Band', of all numbers. If you haven't heard that one yet, find it on iTunes and treat yourself!

I forget the exact sequence, but I know they played:
-Main Theme
-The Force Theme
-The Forest Battle
-The Imperial March
-Cantina Band
-Duel of the Fates

Download Galactic Empire's self-titled debut on iTunes!

Then it was time for Mac Sabbath. Their description alone says enough about them: A Black Sabbath Parody-Tribute band that mocks the food quality of the McDonald's franchise as well as the US FDA and food industry in general.

Mac Sabbath sometimes had a hard time taking themselves seriously, but the instrumentation and performance of the classic Black Sabbath riffs was worthy of any metal fan's respect! With the real Black Sabbath seemingly retired after their 'The End' tour, a chance to see any Sabbath tribute band is appreciated. This one was full of laughs as well. The music was well performed, and the lyrics were downright hysterical!

They do have a music video for 'Pair-a-Buns', but unfortunately most of their songs remain unrecorded in studio format. They do have a ton of youtube videos out there from various live performances that you can check out if you're curious, and have a strong stomach...

Since the show I've looked up the names of many of their parody songs, but the sequence may be off..
To the best of my knowledge, the setlist was:
-Black Sandwich (Black Sabbath)
-Organic Funeral (Electric Funeral)
-Chicken for the Slaves (Children of the Grave)
-GMO-Blind (Snow Blind)
-In Dreams (Roy Orbison cover?)
-SUPERSIZE!!! (Supernaut)
-Into the Void/Sabbath Bloody Sabbath/Megalomania  (Instrumental)
-Frying Pan (Iron Man)

encore(?)
-Mac Flag (Black Flag cover, 'Nervous Breakdown'?)
-Pair-a-Buns

Friday, February 23, 2018

ICED EARTH-Dystopia and Plagues of Babylon (2011-2014)

Post #356

A cold and snowy February calls for me to review Iced Earth once again! This time, I am taking a long-overdue look at the dawn of the Stu Block era. Stu Block had been the vocalist for Into Eternity prior to joining Iced Earth in 2011 to replace long-time singer Matt Barlow. From all I have read on Barlow's departure, between the official Iced Earth website, facebook page, and wikipedia articles on the issue, his departure from the band was amicable and seemed to be an honest retirement. (Barlow has since started a band called Ashes of Ares).

Stu Block stepped in and provided a voice for their 2011 album, Dystopia. As a long-time Iced Earth fan, I was naturally hesitant about another change of the vocalist role, but Stu's amazing range and stylistic emulation of Barlow's tone, and grit immediately put me at ease, and in the end the Dystopia album won me over completely.

Consistent with Iced Earth's recent trends, the album's title track opens with a slow anthem-like riff, and power chords that ring long and heavy. Then Stu Block unleashes a devilish scream, the tempo is kicked into high-speed, and a classic Iced Earth thrash-fest is underway...

While the title track 'Dystopia' thrashes along with the best Iced Earth classics, I cannot help be notice the uncanny, seamless transitions from deep growls to high falsettos that Block displays throughout the song. At some point this talent surpasses simple emulation of Barlow's vocal style, and approaches a 'King-Diamond-esque' mastery of range.

'Anthem' is the next track, and the clean guitar intro which transitions to a low-tempo, minor-key riff shows the listener that Iced Earth will again have all their talents on display for this album. The lyrics are a social criticism with a call for resilience among society's downtrodden classes. The plight of the homeless and poverty-stricken are present throughout. Never a band to shy away from social or political issues, it is clear that Iced Earth are also out to make some statements on this album.

Iced Earth show you their full repertoire on Dystopia, with songs that push the upper limits of intensity like 'Boiling Point' and 'Days of Rage', but balanced out by softer and slower tracks like 'Anguish of Youth' and 'End of Innocence'. Not only are the riffs impressive, but the lead guitar solos are better on this album than the past several Iced Earth albums.

Recommended Tracks:
-Dystopia
-Anthem
-Boiling Point (Intense! A really fast thrasher where Block's vocals really are more comparable to Ripper Owens than Matt Barlow)
-Anguish of Youth (A slower tempo ballad with the clean-heavy-clean transitions that Iced Earth fans are accustomed to)
-V (Heavy groove. Jam-riffing, V is for Victory! "Minds awakened, rid your life of tyranny" Excellent guitar solo!!)
-Dark City (Clean intro again, vocals again are acrobatic- again reminded of KD)
-End of Innocence (A sad ballad, and true masterpiece of a song. Inspired by the illness of Stu's mother. Lead guitars add melody, acoustic guitars add texture, yet choruses are heavy. The theme throughout is about finding inspiration.)

Plagues of Babylon picked up where Dystopia left off. Another concept album, this one actually makes some lyrical references to concepts explored on the Something Wicked, 2-part album. This album opens with a slow and ominous drum beat. Again, this serves as a build-up to the actual song, 'Plagues of Babylon', which shortly morphs into the classic Iced Earth thrasher-type of song. Stu Block's versatile vocals are on display from the get-go.

Block's deep growl is in constant contrast with his upper-range screams and mid-range melodic voice, which simultaneously surprises listeners with unexpected twists and serves the needs of each given song and just the right moments. As I mentioned before, he fits perfectly as a replacement of Matt Barlow, yet also draws comparisons to Tim Owens and even the legendary King Diamond.

'The Culling' is one of the songs that seems like a direct continuation of the concepts from the Something Wicked albums. Mainly a mid-tempo grinder of a song, it also contains a breakdown segment and an impressive guitar solo.

'If I Could See You' is a sad and touching Iced Earth ballad of loss. In much the same way as 'Watching Over Me' primarily featured clean guitar melodies and a minor key tone to convey the emotions of loss and grieving, this song displays the softer side of Iced Earth and is more about losing an inspiring role model than a friend or lover.

The Highwayman is a cover of the Jimmy Webb song made famous by the country super-group The Highwaymen. Here, in similar fashion, Iced Earth performs it as a quartet with different verses sang by Jon Schaffer, Stu Block and guest vocals by Volbeat's Michael Poulsen and Symphony X's Russell Allen. The presence of such big names in the current metal scene make this the best collaboration of talent in the genre since the Big Four of thrash metal performed the song 'Am I Evil?' together on stage in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Recommended Tracks:
-Plagues of Babylon

-The Culling
-Among the Living Dead
-If I Could See You
-Cthulhu
-The Highwayman

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

ACT OF DESTRUCTION-EXTINCTION (2015)

Post # 355

Act of Destruction are a thrash metal band from Chicago. They write aggressive songs with fast tempos, raw production, harsh vocals, intense guitar solos, and lyrics infused with political and religious criticism. Having recently won my Independent Band of the Year poll for 2017, here is my promised review of their 2015 release Extinction.

Extinction is a well-crafted, full-length debut album, with 12 tracks counting the instrumental intro. While they are firmly fixed in the aggressive side of thrash (they don't have any softer tracks that break from the aggressive pattern on this release), they do keep things interesting with top-notch lead guitars and plenty of solos. Extinction may not be a concept album, but it is a true listening experience.

Overture of Destruction is the instrumental track that serves as an intro to the album. It starts with thundering riffs that tease with bursts of power that are allowed to ring into one lull after another. Then they hit you between the eyes with Worldwide Hate- a furiously fast thrasher! "Now the fury is unleashed, Law and Order are deceased." the lyrics intone, and the atmosphere of chaos is set. Then, ascending guitar solos shred and the song's tone shifts to a breakdown. The intensity returns to close out the number, and you know you'll be banging your head.

That mood of chaos, darkness, and aggression holds throughout the album from one song to the next. While the riffs are constantly heavy and aggressive, there is always a lead guitar in the mix, often shredding intense leads. The soloing is frequent and extensive when it comes around. The lead guitars serve to maintain an element of  melody within songs. Often there are long stretches of guitar solos that bring new dimensions to the speed metal riffs.

The guitar tones remind me of Sepultura's early works, while the vocals seem to be comparable to Exodus. In both those comparisons the aggressive and relentless tempo also is an accurate benchmark. Lyrical themes range from political criticism to occult imagery. Though the vocal delivery may be one dimensional with the constant gritty screams, the lyrics still provide insightful debates on the subjects they choose to explore.

Overall, Extinction is a successful thrash metal effort. It harkens back to the early days of thrash, when it was truly synonymous with the term 'Speed Metal'. Aside from their obvious talent at maintaining lightning fast tempos, their is no talent lost in the area of lead guitars with this band.
Don't forget to stream or download Extinction through Act of Destruction's Bandcamp page!

Recommended tracks:
-Worldwide Hate
-Death Warriors
-Disciples of the Night
-Black Reality
-Corpses of the Dead (This one contains one of my favorite lines: 'The road to hell has become far too long'!)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Congratulations to Act of Destruction!

Post #354

This past October I hosted the 9th annual Independent Band of the Year reader's poll contest on this blog. After a month of promoting the contest and the bands pushing their fans to vote, a tight race concluded with Act of Destruction narrowly eclipsing Sinister Fate for the title of 'Independent Band of the Year'.

https://www.facebook.com/ACTOFDESTRUCTIONOFFICIAL/

Congratulations to Act of Destruction for pulling in the most votes!

I want to take a moment to thank all the other bands that agreed to participate this time around: Sinister Fate, Whale Bones, War Gods of the Deep, Our Broken View, Revenge Season, and Windowpane. Please see Post number 353 if you missed the chance to vote and wish to discover the music from these incredible bands. All the outreach and new page views this contest generates for this blog each year is truly appreciated. To those bands, I sincerely hope that you each gained a few more fans as a result of this contest as well.

For now, watch for a review of Act of Destruction's full-length album, 'Extinction' sometime in the next couple weeks. Act of Destruction's concerts and events will be promoted here throughout 2018. And continue to follow www.happyheadbanger.com for reviews of metal bands from the local scene to the international touring scene. The Independent Band of the Year polling contest will be back again next fall, with nominees from past winners, other favorite local bands and international independent bands hand-picked by yours truly. Until then, Happy Headbanging!