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

Friday, May 8, 2009

Voivod: Back From the Dead

In August of 2005, guitarist Denis "Piggy" D'Amour of the French-Canadian heavy metal band Voivoid died of colon cancer in a Montreal hospital. However, before he died, Piggy spent his final months recording guitar tracks into his laptop, tracks intended to be used as the basis for a final Voivod album, and wanted his bandmates to complete the record.

That record, Infini, is now finished and is scheduled for release on June 23 in Canada. This is the first album in 18 years to feature bassist Jean-Yves "Blacky" Thériault on bass. Metallica veteran Jason Newsted is producing the record. A former member of Voivod himself, "Jasonic" has long cited the Quebec quartet as one of his favorite bands. Newsted also played on 2003's Voivod and the 2005 release, Katorze.

The first two tracks released from Infini, "Earthache" and "Global Warning" are available at Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles. According to the site, the band will remain together for some summer shows, with Dan Mongrain (from the band Martyr) filling in on guitar.

Korgüll the Exterminator lives!!!

The Cut-Out Bin: Damn The Machine

Damn The Machine was a collaboration between ex-Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland, his brother Mark on drums, and two guys named Dave--singer Dave Clemmons and bassist Dave Randi. This tight four-piece released one self-titled album in 1993, and promptly broke up, faced by:

Memorable cuts on this debut include the anthemic The Mission, the knotty Lonesome God and On With the Dream. Although not a concept album per se, the lyric feature a strong anti-authoritarian, pro-environment stance, with lashings of Ayn Rand and Aldous Huxley. DTM played a unique brand of jazzy melodic metal with a strong political conscience in the lyrics--think Rush crossed with King Crimson.

This was clearly Chris Poland's band, and the twelve cuts on their debut made plenty of room for Poland's angular, slashing guitar. He was the real star of the band. Dave Clemmons had a pretty decent tenor. (His current band, The Fullbliss is based in Berlin.) Finally, DTM had a tight rhythm section that was committed to serving the songs, not showing off.

They kicked ass live--I saw DTM open for Dream Theater at the Manhattan Center in 1993. Too bad there was never a follow-up. But there are copies of the debut on eBay, ranging from $10 to $45 a disc. As the album is out of print and the label (A&M) long defunct, this is a hard one to find but worth grabbing if you can get it.

A last note: the cigarette butts album cover was designed by Hugh Syme, who has done most of Rush's album covers and the last three for Dream Theater.

On with the dream....

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Return of SLAYER

According to KNAC and the much-admired Metalsucks.Net, the not-yet-titled new Slayer album is scheduled to drop on July 7th. The first single, Psychopathy Red came out last fall, and was recently made available on blood-red vinyl as part of Record Store Day.

If it's any indication, the band's followup to Christ Illusion will be heavier than Kerry King's leather-and-steel-nails arm gauntlet.

"Rush Box Set" on VH1 Classic

This product is not endorsed by this blog or any Canadian power trios.

VH1 Classic is currently airing a new Rush special, called "Boxed Set: Rush." It features clips from Rush videos, focusing mainly on the early '80s (through Power Windows) and the '90s period.

Interestingly, the show includes clips from the video for "Show, Don't Tell", from the Presto album, and "Half The World" from Test For Echo--two videos that I'd never seen before! The show jumps over Hold Your Fire, Counterparts and Vapor Trails, but goes all the way up to "Far Cry" from Snakes and Arrows.

The show does not include complete songs--that would prevent them from showing commercials for Enzyte and Cialis. However, the song excerpts are interspersed with interview footage with Geddy Lee, reminiscing about different songs and video shoot experiences.

The VH1 Classic website has links to all 18 interview clips (they are all about a minute or so long) and of course, all the Rush videos you could possibly want. We will try to ignore the fact that "Marathon" from A Show of Hands has been re-titled Marathon Man.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Coming Soon: Dream Theater--Black Clouds and Silver Linings

The tenth Dream Theater CD, Black Clouds and Silver Linings is now available to pre-order. Arriving on June 23, this new disc features six new songs by the prog-metal meisters. Also available: a 3-disc special edition featuring the new record, an instrumental version of the new record, and six yet-to-be-announced cover tunes. Finally, for those metalheads not currently hit by the recesssion, a deluxe "Producer's Edition" includes a numbered, signed lithograph by cover artist Hugh Syme and a chance to win an all-access pass for when the boys go on tour this summer.

2007's Systematic Chaos was of a decidedly metallic bent. So it seems logical that the new record will be leaning towards DT's progressive side. With two songs over 15 minutes each, and two more over the 10-minute mark, this sure to be a disc of complex, demanding, intricate music. In other words, like the first nine albums, but only more so!

Metal Hammer has already posted an album preview by Lifting Shadows author Rich Wilson. Here's a boiled-down version:

  • "The Shattered Fortress" is the climax of Mike Portnoys "Twelve Steps" suite.
  • "A Rite of Passage" (a.k.a. "Stonecutter Blues") is about Freemasonry. This will be cut down to five minutes and released as the first single.
  • "The Best of Times" (not a Styx cover) is about Mike Portnoy's father, who just died of cancer.
  • The band will take a shot at radio with the five-minute ballad "Wither."

You can pre-order the album here. Also, Dream Theater will be doing a second "Progressive Nation" tour this summer, with Zappa Plays Zappa, Pain of Salvation, and Beardfish.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Cut-Out Bin: Metal Church--The Human Factor

Seattle's Metal Church have battled music industry trends and a revolving-door lineup (including four lead singers) over the course of a long and uneven career. My introduction to the band was their excellent 1991 album The Human Factor.

This album featured L.A.-based howler Mike Howe, making his second appearance at the mic after the band's excellent Blessing in Disguise.. (He's the one with no shirt.) Although this incarnation of the band did not feature founder and guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof, he co-wrote the songs with Howe. Axe duties were ably handled by Craig Wells and John Marshall. Yes, the same John Marshall who served as James Hetfield's guitar tech and served a temporary onstage guitarist when the Metallica singer was injured in a freak pyro accident in 1992.

The songs are solid groove metal with an angry social conscience. "Blue collar metal" would be an apt description for these songs about credit card debt, (Date With Poverty) flag burning (The Final Word) and even child abuse (In Harm's Way.) These are thought-provoking songs, filled with complex textures and the odd surprise, like Duke Erickson's funk-bass solo in the middle of "Date."

Oh and by the way Metal Church fans, the band is still around! They released the excellent 2008 album This Present Wasteland, and arranged for the re-release of their back catalogue, including The Human Factor. Check out the band's official site, Metal Church Music.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Five List: Power Ballads that don't suck

The much maligned power ballad. With its roots in "Stairway to Heaven", Kiss' "Beth" and even Styx' "Lady", the slow-building operatic crescendo with the lead singer yowling his passion for some unattainable or absent loved one is a heavy metal staple. With that in mind, here are five slow-build ballads that always ignite my lighter.

  1. Tesla-- What You Give (from Psychotic Supper)
    "Love Song" is better-known but this gorgeous Southern-fried epic has real soul and an amazing moment when Tommy Skeoch roars "Whaaat you giiiiive, honey!". Simple and honest, like the best Tesla songs. This is the short single edit.

  2. Queensrÿche--Silent Lucidity(from Empire)
    The boys from Seattle got a lot of grief (and accusations of ripping off Pink Floyd) with this trippy track. Listen for the sonic details in the last verse, including the "collapse" when Geoff Tate sings the line about the walls tumbling down. Also, the cello part on the coda quotes Brahms' "Lullaby".

  3. Savatage--When The Crowds Are Gone" (from Gutter Ballet)
    The song that redefined Savatage and paved the way for their eventual transition and transformation into the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This is a live performance from 2002.

  4. Testament--The Ballad (from Practice What You Preach)
    More of a "thrash ballad" like Metallica's "Fade to Black", this starts with some gorgeous Alex Skolnick picking and builds to a thunderous double-kick climax.

  5. Ozzy Osbourne--Mama I'm Coming Home (from No More Tears
    One of Ozzy's best vocal performances, and Zakk Wylde's playing makes this song soar.

Spinal Tap: Where's YOUR Cucumber?

Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest, better known to us cucumber-stuffing metalfolks as David St. Hubbins, Derek Smalls and Nigel Tufnel, are going on tour as "Unplugged and Unwigged." The show will feature acoustic versions of songs from This is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind and Waiting For Guffman.

Meanwhile, there is a new Tap record in the works. Back From The Dead is scheduled for release on June 16. Dead will feature new versions of the songs from the classic movie soundtrack as well as brand-new and previously unfinished compositions. It's been confirmed that one of these new cuts is the 20-minute long epic "Short and Sweet." Another, the lead track from unfinished Tap musical Saucy Jack, is available for free download here.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Five List: Five best metal albums to come out in 2009 (so far, anyway!)

For some reason, this album cover is not being sold at Wal-Mart.

  1. Heaven and Hell--The Devil You Know

  2. Mastodon--Crack The Skye

  3. Queensrÿche--American Soldier

  4. God Forbid--Earthsblood

  5. Lacuna Coil--Shallow Life

    Honorable mentions: Lamb of God--Wrath, Chimaira--The Infection

Five upcoming albums I'm really looking forward to.

  1. Dream Theater--Black Clouds and Silver Linings. Due June 23, tour to follow.

  2. Chickenfoot (now streaming three tracks on the band's MySpace page.)

  3. New Porcupine Tree (no title yet, touring in the Fall with King's X!)

  4. New Slayer (first single, Psychopathy Red has been out for a while.)

  5. New Anthrax (first album with their new singer, Dan Nelson. No he's not one of the Nelson twins!)

The Five List: All the Rage

Five best songs to listen to when you're angry:

One of the great things about being into heavy metal is having your own IPod therapist helping you work out your emotional issues. Here are five good songs to play when you need to get that old testosterone/caffeine cocktail out of your system.

  1. "You Can't Bring Me Down" by Suicidal Tendencies

  2. "Caught in a Mosh" by Anthrax

  3. "St. Anger" by Metallica

  4. "Fucking Hostile" by Pantera

  5. "Painkiller" by Judas Priest

Note: Playing these five songs in this order may make you too damn tired to be angry anymore. Plus it will give people time to run away, which is useful.

Honorable mention: "Don't Call Me Dude" by Scatterbrain.

The Cut-Out Bin: Galactic Cowboys

Thanks to the resources of Swap A CD I just got myself a new original-graphic copy of the debut CD by that great lost Texan band--the Galactic Cowboys! Now, the Cowboys never really hit it big, but lovers of thrashy prog-metal should nap themselves up a copy of their first record. From the opening cow moo (!) of "I'm Not Amused", the Cowboys declare their surreal purpose. Mexican-style acoustic strumming gives way to full-on power metal, until the chorus lunges into four-part Beatles-style barbershop harmony.

The seven-minute opener gives way to the gentle groove of "My School", the pro-environmental krunch of "Kaptain Krude" and the anthemic "Someone For Everyone". The second side, (think early King's X, but more earnest!) is a strange five-song suite culminating in the very spiritual "Speak To Me" complete with somewhat unnecessary clarinet solo and those heavenly harmonies taking the listener into orbit.

Unfortunately, this lineup of the Cowboys only recorded two albums together before getting dropped by DGC and losing guitarist Dane Sonnier. The second, Space in Your Face is damned difficult to find--and I'm not even sure if it's been reissued on CD. But if I find a copy, I'll be happy to write about it here!

New Music: Heaven & Hell--"Bible Black"

Check out the first single from Heaven & Hell's new album, The Devil You Know. I got this record about a week ago and it completely kicks ass. Eleven tracks of slow-grinding, head-banging authentic Sabbath sludge.

Anyway, click here and let your neck whip!

Hairwhip--coming to a pit near you!

Hi folks!

Thought I'd try something new, writing about my love of hard rock, heavy metal, prog rock--hell anything other than classical music and opera. I'm doing this by myself, so I don't know how often I'm going to post. This will be a space to try out some new ideas, some new features, and even write the occasional article!