Monday, March 19, 2012

Strych9Hollow- For Whats To Come

Post #190
In late 2011, Strych9Hollow released their recent EP, For Whats To Come, as the follow-up to their debut, Dying for a Dream, and when it comes to melodic hardcore metal, these guys have picked up right where they left off. The 5 songs collected on For Whats To Come again showcase a talented collection of heavy riffs, melodic guitar passages, brutal blast-beat drumming, and a well balanced mix of melodic and hardcore vocals. All-in-all a potent microcosm of the essence of the melodic metalcore subgenre.

This release is every bit as good as their debut, if not as long, but what's more is the overall recording quality seems a bit improved. The songs, as they roll out of your speakers, seem crisper, sharper, heavier, and louder. S9H developed a distinct sound on their 1st album, and For Whats To Come holds true to their core sound. Track for track, this EP seems to raise the bar for Strych9Hollow. Each song seems a more perfect blend of the brutal and the beautiful.

Here's my annotated break-down of each track on For Whats To Come:
-Vital Illusion (This song fades in with melodic guitar, soon joined by blast-beat drums, heavy rhythmic riffs, and clean-vocals from singer Wit Kolo. From there the song ebbs and flows back and forth between hardcore-screams and melodic elements both vocally and instrumentally.)
-Bleed to Live (Overall a little heavier and harder than the first track, though still a well-balanced number. Sounds like it could easily be a Killswitch song.)
-Ruins (Great, catchy riffs drive this song. Another hardcore number, though the choruses become melodic.)
-Day 1824 (Picks up right after the previous song closes. If you're listening casually, you might miss the transition. Specifically, this is my favorite track on this EP. Mostly because this is the final product of the riff that was teased way back on post #98, where I shared a youtube video that featured S9H guitarist Jackie Bergjans jamming in-studio with the band. Having played the heck out of this video, it was gratifying to finally treat my ears to the final version of this song.)
-Relentless Regret (Just when you think this song is more of the same-ole'-same-ole', Strych9Hollow break it down with some melodic guitar parts, accompanied by electric guitar leads that are so dark, and mesmerizing, I find myself thinking back to the first time I ever heard 'Welcome Home (Sanitarium)' by Metallica. This song is critical for S9H, as it is the best example of their versatility yet!)

"In regret we are truly alone, without a light to guide us home..." 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sebastian Bach (w/ Hessler), Live at Cubby Bear, Chicago (2-8-12)

Post #189
On Wednesday evening of February 8th, I got to see one of the greatest vocalists from the late 80's metal scene at the Cubby Bear in Chicago: Sebastian Bach, former lead singer of Skid Row. I have seen him in concert a couple times before (both shows reviewed previously on this blog), but this was the first time I got to see him as a headliner at a smaller venue. Touring in support of his newest album, Kicking and Screaming, I was pumped for a great evening of rackin' heavy metal!

Upon arrival I made my way to merch booth, checking to see if they were selling his new CD on-site. Indeed they were, and I asked the vendor if by chance Sebastian would be doing a meet-n-greet and signing after the show. Though they made no guarantees, they said it was a possibility. I kept this in mind, and browsed more of the merchandise. They also had music and shirts available from the opening band, a Chicago-area local band: Hessler. Always wanting to be on the cutting edge of the newest up-and-coming bands on the local scene, I signed up for their mailing list. I made my way back to the stage-area, making a mental note to come back for a CD between the opener and Bach.

I mingled with the crowd during the sound check and conversed a bit with a couple people I had met while waiting in line. Around 8:20 the lights went down, and we were about to get a dose of Hessler's style of rock n' roll...

When they hit the stage, I instantly saw why they would make a perfect opener for the likes of Sebastian Bach. These guys (and gal) were glam-metal enthusiasts to the core. Leather-clad, long-haired (slightly teased in some cases), and eye-liner make-up were a few of the visual elements they employed. More confirmation of their musical influence was aparent in their musical style: screaming guitar solos, melodic-heavy riffs infused with catchy hooks, and their singer, Lariyah Daniels, delivered the high-pitched, melodic scream that was the trademark vocal style from bands like Guns N' Roses, Dangerous Toys, or even Skid Row! Guitarist Igz Kincaid provided harmony backing vocals on several tracks, and intermittent lead vocals here and there as well.

Hessler were getting the crowd worked up for Sebastian Bach in stellar fashion. A few tracks before they closed their set, they even unleashed a cover of Kiss' 'I Was Made for Lovin You' (Igz sang lead vocals on this one). During another song at the end of their set, they employed some synchronized headbanging as part of their stage choreography... awesome!

Once they finished their set, I took a few minutes to stretch my legs a bit. I also made my way to the merch booth and snagged my copy of Kicking and Screaming (Crossing my fingers I have a chance to get it signed after the show.)

In due time Bach's band took the stage and let loose with the heavy riff from 'Slave To The Grind'! ...And then, a few seconds later, Sebastian stopped the show. What?!? Apparently there was some type of technical difficulty that needed to be corrected. So we waited for about 5 minutes longer... then, the band took the stage and let loose with the heavy riff from 'Slave To The Grind'! (again!) This time however, the show actually got rolling. After such a heavy first number, the band treated us to a couple tracks form the new album. The show was sounding great!

Sebastian and his band hit us with many Skid Row classics in between selections from both the new Kicking and Screaming album, and some from his Angel Down release a few years ago. One of my favorite new songs he performed is 'TunnelVision'; it had a melodic intro, solid groove, and catchy chorus. It was co-written by John 5 from Rob Zombie's band. From the 'oldies but goodies', I think my favorite moment was when they played 'Big Guns', the first track off the first Skid Row album. That was the first time I'd heard that song performed live.

Never mind that Sebastian had to stop the show 2 more times to have security kick out people from the audience who has started fighting, this was still an awesome show! But the best part was yet to come... Right before the last song, he announced that he'd stay after the show for a meet-n-greet with anyone who wanted to stick around, and sign souvenirs as well!

I took advantage of this opportunity, and hung around until the wee hours of the morning to get his autograph, and say a brief word or two to him. It was really cool of him, and his band were patient and friendly too. His new guitarist, Nick Sterling, was pointed out by Bach as having recorded his first album when he was 10 years old. Joking with the audience, he said that it was recorded 2 weeks ago (he did almost look like a kid on stage next to Sebastian Bach), but he was a great guitarist, and presented the classic Skid Row stuff as flawlessly as the new material. For what it's worth, I think Kicking and Screaming is the best album Bach has done since Skid Row's Slave to the Grind!

Setlist HESSLER:
-Windy City Wild Child
-Who Will You Run To
-Rising Sign
-Last Alive
-Gone Away
-Shark Attack
-I Was Made for Loving You (KISS cover)
-I Live On
-Hellion (W.A.S.P. cover)
-Crash 'n Burn

-Slave To The Grind
-Kicking and Screaming
-Dirty Power
-Here I Am
-Big Guns
-(Love is) A Bitchslap
-Stuck Inside
-Piece of Me
-18 and Life
-American Metalhead
-Monkey Business
-As Long as I Got the Music
-I'm Alive
-I Remember You
-Youth Gone Wild

Monday, March 12, 2012

Iron Maiden: The 80's (Part I: Paul Di'Anno Era)

Post # 188
Iron Maiden are the band most responsible for taking heavy metal to new heights in the 1980's. They dominated the genre for nearly a decade, and perfected elements of heavy metal that became a stylistic core from which several other bands took inspiration. For now, I will take a look back at Maiden's early releases, those that featured Paul Di'Anno on lead vocals.

When the topic of landmark debut albums arises in heavy metal music, Iron Maiden's eponumous debut is almost always in the conversation. It was both a solid, consistent album, with several tracks that remain permeated in Maiden's live shows, as well as it was a genre-solidifying release. Iron Maiden raised the bar a little higher in the (N)WOBHM era as they showcased two guitarists who brought speed and technique with the lead guitar to a higher level. Although the band's line-up would change a couple times over their next few releases, the songs were primarily composed by bassist Steve Harris. Harris has always been the primary composer of music for Iron Maiden, so there is that element of continuity present on their first album.

Essential Iron Maiden tracks from their debut:
-Prowler (The first track gives you a shot of Maiden's essence right away. Lead guitar melody that excels at technique and speed in the same breath.)
-Remember Tomorrow (A favorite track of mine. Underrated, perhaps because it has a slower, melodic feel, but it is no less of a classic!)
-Running Free (90% of Maiden's shows are guaranteed to feature this song as an encore or closing number.)
-Transylvania (an instrumental classic for heavy metal!)
-Iron Maiden (A classic among classics. Shredding lead guitars, fast and heavy riffs. ESSENTIAL!)

Iron Maiden's second album was, overall, very consistent with their first. Songs on this album begin to take inspiration from literary sources ('Murders In The Rue Morgue'), a method that Iron Maiden would repeat here and there throughout their career. Guitar intricacies are still found abundantly on this album. Though this would be Di'Anno's last album with Maiden, he still sings with a lot of emotion, and played a key role on these two albums in Metal's early days.

These first two albums also featured Clive Burr on drums. Killers did, however featured the debut of Adrian Smith on guitar. He has been with Maiden for the majority of their albums since, and has proven to be a natural complement to guitarist Dave Murray.

Songs that I highly recommend from Killers:
-Wrathchild (A good high-tempo heavy metal tune, gets the album rolling after 'The Ides of March' instrumental intro...)
-Murders in the Rue Morgue
-Genghis Khan (An instrumental track. Seems to aim at replicating the feel of 'Transylvania' on the last album. I prefer the former, but you decide which is better!)
-PRODIGAL SON (On this track we get a multi-faceted musical experience from Maiden. They show their true potential best on this track. Clean guitar sections have a neo-classical feel, particularly reminding me of Ozzy's 'You Can't Kill Rock N' Roll' or Ace Frehley's 'Fractured Mirror'. Some progressive elements can be heard, too, perhaps foreshadowing a style they would expand on extensively throughout their career.)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Heavy Metal Madness-First Round Update (part 1)

Post #187
In the first full round of Heavy Metal Madness 2012 the action got underway in earnest. A few of the matches were predictably lop-sided, however there were a couple surprising upsets. Here's a quick breakdown of the January matches...

Metallica defeated Danzig 52-4 in the most dominating exhibition so far.

Anthrax beat Ronnie James Dio 34-23 in a closer match.

Pantera beat Queensryche handily 47-9

Iron Maiden defeated King Diamond/Mercyful Fate convincingly 49-5

Foo Fighters upset Ramones 31-26 in the closest match since the play-in round

Rage Against The Machine bested The Misfits 36-18 for the biggest upset (as The Misfits were seeded #3 in their category)

Soundgarden beat Nickelback 44-10

and Pearl Jam bested Black Flag 42-12.

As before, I will leave you a suggested track for each band eliminated at this point. The bands that were victorious advance to face a new opponent before long...


Dio-Rainbow In The Dark

Queensryche-Eyes of a Stranger

King Diamond-Abigail

Ramones-Blitzkrieg Bop

Misfits-Where Eagles Dare

Nickelback-Rock Star

Black Flag-Rise Above

There you have it. 8 more bands that YOU have decided are not worthy of the title "Best Heavy Metal Band Of All Time". If you don't think the right bands are getting enough votes, TELL YOUR FRIENDS to VOTE!

Until next time... Happy Headbanging to all!