Your occasional source for heavy metal, progressive rock and hard rock coverage. Whenever I feel like it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Ronnie James Dio doing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". From the awesome dudes over at Metal Sucks.

Get well soon, Ronnie!

Carol of the Bells

Another kind of Muppet Christmas Carol.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Album Review: Rob Halford: Winter Songs

The latest solo album from the Judas Priest frontman, Halford 3: Winter Songs is a holiday-themed record and a wonderful holiday surprise. Christmas music in the heavy metal style has a long history (going back to King Diamond's "No Presents For Christmas") but what makes this disc rise above the others is the serious nature of its content and the power and commitment of Halford's voice.

"Get Into the Spirit" opens the record in thunderous fashion, making its title more of an order than a plea. The band evokes Painkiller with its go-for-the-throat style. "Winter Song" is a powerful ballad about love and isolation, and "Light of the World" is an old-fashioned Priest-style rouser, very much in the style of British Steel.

The record is split evenly between the five original songs d five covers of classic Anglican Christmas carols. It's interesting that Halford chose to do "sacred" material on this disc--there is nothing "holly" or "jolly" about these songs. "We Three Kings" (which might be the most serious Christmas carol ever written) is an urgent gallop. "O Come O Come Emmanuel" is given drive and power, a real plea for redemption. "What Child Is This" (sung to the melody of "Greensleeves") is delicate and contemplative.

Rob Halford knows that you've been very, very naughty....

"O Holy Night" (delivered here with the full lyrics, including the plea for tolerance and peace that somehow gets 'left out' in some churches) is a real vocal challenge, which the Metal God meets admirably. The album closes with a powerful version of "O Come All Ye Faithful" has a dual purpose, summoning those who believe in God and those who revel in the power of heavy metal. It's not a joke. It's not an embarrassment. Winter Songs is a commendable solo effort, a holiday offering from one of the greatest singers in all of heavy metal.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Metalhead's Twelve Days Of Christmas

Lemmy knows you've been very naughty...

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas,

Lemmy sent to me...

Twelve-minute drum solos

Amps turned to Eleven

Ten dudes a-moshin'

Nine guys from Slipknot

Eight critics snarking

Seven-string guitars

Six beastly numbers.

Five death growwwwls

Four hammered roadies

Three banged heads

Two leather jackets

And an un-opened case of J. D.

Merry Christmas, all.

From the Hair Whip

Friday, December 18, 2009

Songs for a Snowy Weekend

With a blizzard bearing down on the East Coast ("like a shotgun full of snow!"--Kent Brockman) here's the Hair Whip List of the Ten Best Winter Songs to crank up when you're stuck in the house.
No particular order….

The Zero Decade: Albums Of the Year: 2000-2009

My fsvorite album cover of the 2000's:
Megadeth: The System Has Failed

For the most part, the last ten years were good for heavy metal and progressive rock. Big acts regained their old spark. Bands like Mastodon and Opeth clambered toward the top of the heap, only to find Metallica still up there, renewed with the release of Death Magnetic. Radio and record stores continued to die a slow death, but downloading and services like Pandora point the way to a bright future.

  • 2009: Porcupine Tree--The Incident
    This album sums up the strengths of Steven Wilson's quartet: tight interplay, keyboard textures and a melancholy longing that defines the band's appeal. The tour featured the band playing the entire first disc as one huge set opener.
  • Runner-Up: Alice in Chains--Black Gives Way to Blue

  • 2008: Metallica--Death Magnetic
    The triumphant return of the greatest metal band on the planet. New bassist Robert Trujillo and new producer Rick Rubin revitalized Metallica, giving fans the album that should have followed …And Justice For All, albeit 19 years too late.
    Runner-up: Judas Priest--Nostradamus

  • 2007: Rush--Snakes & Arrows
    Rush made their first worthwhile album in 15 years with a powerhouse production and a back-to-basics approach that recalled their glory days of the late '70s and early '80s. The furious anger of Neil Peart's lyrics helped. 
  • Runner-up: The Nightwatchman--One Man Revolution

  • 2006: Mastodon--Blood Mountain
    These Georgia boys get up the hill in record time. Crystal skulls, crushing, jackhammer grooves and a prophetic, Cyclopean sasquatch make this a dizzying heavy metal hayride into the depths of the wilderness--and the heart of darkness. 
  • Runner-up:: Tool--10,000 Days

  • 2005: Opeth--Ghost Reveries
    This is a brilliant gem in the midst of a decade of great Opeth albums. A dark concept record, Ghost Reveries is a fan and critical favorite that highlights the band's virtuosity and the contrast between Mikael Åkerfeldt's clean singing and death--growl. 
  • Runner-up: Dream Theater--Octavarium

  • 2004: Motörhead--Inferno
    Of the five(!) albums released by Lemmy and the boys this decade, this is the finest. Strong, well-written songs, ("In the Name of Tragedy" is killer) thunderous Mickey Dee drumming and Phil Campbell's underrated guitar playing make for a strong outing. It ends with "Whorehouse Blues", the only acoustic country blues in the band's catalogue.
  • Runner-up: Megadeth--The System Has Failed

  • 2003: The Mars Volta--De-Loused In the Comatorium
    This is a swirling, stomping beast of a record, with jagged guitars, pounding tribal percussion and a distinctive vocal screech that recalls early Geddy Lee. It also helped trigger the prog-rock revolution of the 2000s, bringing complicated music newfound critical respect.
    Runner-Up: Opeth--Damnation

  • 2002: Dream Theater--Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
    This magniicent double concept album encompasses everything that is good about Dream Theater. It also contains the band's longest song, the eight-part title track which examines six different psychological disorders over the course of 45 minutes of pure prog insanity.
    Runner-up: Porcupine Tree--In Absentia

  • 2001: Tool--Lateralus
    From the punishing opening riff of "The Grudge", this is the quintessential Tool album, one of the records that helped redefine heavy music for this decade. And what a rhythm section.
    Runner-up: Rammstein--Mutter

  • 2000:Iron Maiden--Brave New World
    In the year of weak metal albums, cultural marginalization and the arrival of Britney Spears, Maiden got their act together and put out their strongest album since the 1980s. With Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith back in the fold, and strong songs like "The Wicker Man" and the title track, this was a return to form and the first of three great Maiden albums released this decade.
    Runner-up: Pantera--Reinventing the Steel

Art by Mike Learn © 2004 Megadeth

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Top Ten Album Releases for 2009

Porcupine Tree: (l.r.) Colin Edwin, Richard Barbieri, Steven Wilson and Gavin Harrison

Well here it is, the first of what is hopefully many year-end top ten lists here at The Hair Whip. We hope you are all having a festive and metallic holiday season. So here's some stocking stuffers for the metalheads on your list. (Non-Metalheads need not worry--there's some prog and old-fashioned rock and roll on here too.

  1. Porcupine Tree--The Incident
    Their best album yet looks back to the band's psychedelic past while surging ahead with powerful songwriting and a concept about the horrible experience of being squarely in the center of the media spotlight.

  2. Mastodon--Crack the Skye
    Brilliant, heavy and searching. This is a heavy metal head trip par excellence that has something to do with the life and death of Russian mystic/Hellboy villain Grigori Rasputin. Mastodon keep getting better and better.

  3. Alice In Chains--Black Gives Way to Blue
    I am still stunned every time I cue up the new AIC and the raging chords of "Check My Brain" cause my own to melt. New singer WIlliam DuVall fits Jerry Cantrell's songwriting style perfectly.

  4. Heaven and Hell--The Devil You Know
    The renamed Dio-era Black Sabbath re-sell their souls for rock'n'roll on this crushing, heavy effort. Bassist Geezer Butler is the real hero here, his nimble fingers lending support to Tony Iommi's crunch and Ronnie James Dio's howls from the depths of the abyss.

  5. Slayer--World Painted Blood
    Tom Araya regains his trademark howl of rage on this solid Slayer set, the band's best record in many years. WPB recaptures the power and fire of classic Slayer and takes the band in dark new directions.

  6. Queensrÿche--American Soldier
    Geoff Tate and band come up with another concept that works: a blow-by blow examination of life in the military. Finally free from the twin-guitar format, Michael Wilton whips off a dizzying display of axe-work. Disquieting and heavy, this is classic Queensrÿche.

  7. Steven Wilson--Insurgentes
    Brilliant, spacy solo album from the songeriter/guitarist/writer/producer who fronts Porcupine Tree when he's not otherwise occupied with his umpteen side projects. Steven Wilson is the Jack White of prog rock, always forging ahead with new music and new alliances.

  8. U2--No Line On the Horizon
    This is a difficult U2 record, but rewarding in its multiple textures and global approach to songwriting. Influences from Ireland to America to Africa are processed through Larry Mullen's powerhouse drumming and the Edge's shifting, shimmering guitar work.

  9. Masters Of Reality--Pine/Cross Dover
    Probably the most unexpected new release on this list, this brilliant pair of mini-albums finds the Masters metamorphing again and re-discovering their Black Sabbath roots behind Chris Goss' sweet tenor.

  10. Megadeth--Endgame
    How Dave Mustaine Got His Groove Back. And all he needed was to get pissed off and find another great young guitar player, Chris Broderick. Endgame proves that once in a while, Dave can smoke his former bandmates when it comes to quality speed metal.
Honorable Mentions Go To: Dream Theater--Black Clouds and Silver Linings; Devin Townsend Project--Ki and Addicted; Marillion--Less Is More; Chickenfoot; God Forbid--Earthsblood; Them Crooked Vultures; Bruce Springsteen--Working On a Dream; Chimaira--The Infection; Dååth--The Concealers; Trans-Siberian Orchestra--Night Castle