Quick Music Review: CATHARSIS by Machine Head (Nuclear Blast)

MachineHead-CatharsisI’ve been a fan of Machine Head’s music since 1999’s The Burning Red — an album that divided long-time fans of the Oakland bruisers’ earlier albums (1994’s Burn My Eyes and 1997’s The More Things Change…). I’ve loved most of their output ever since. During my undergraduate years, I was also lucky enough to interview drummer Dave McClain at a Roadrunner Road Rage gig in Newcastle, when I was running my music fanzine (the sadly-defunct-but-fondly-remembered MWRI. While I’ve found their previous couple of albums very good, I don’t think they did much to move the band forward. With Catharsis, however, Machine Head have done a lot to reinvent their sound while at the same time staying true to their thrash/metal roots. Continue reading

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Music: Five Finger Death Offspring…

Yesterday, during one of my many YouTube music-video binges, I stumbled across the new video for Five Finger Death Punch’s “Gone Away” (above). I had missed its release entirely (despite 5FDP being one of my favourite bands), and quickly realized it was a (very faithful) cover of The Offspring’s song of the same name. It’s been a long time since I last listened to anything by Offspring (which is strange, because I love their earlier albums), but it was amazing how quickly the lyrics came flooding back. So, naturally, I sang along. It was a welcome trip down memory lane.

5FDP’s cover appears on their greatest hits (so far) collection, A Decade of Destruction. The original song (video below) appeared on Offspring’s Ixnay on the Hombre album (1996) — the follow up to the appropriately-named Smash (1994).

Quick Review: A HISTORY OF HEAVY METAL by Andrew O’Neill (Headline)

ONeillA-HistoryOfHeavyMetalUKAn entertaining romp through a comedian’s history of heavy metal

The history of heavy metal brings brings us extraordinary stories of larger-than-life characters living to excess, from the household names of Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Bruce Dickinson and Metallica (SIT DOWN, LARS!), to the brutal notoriety of the underground Norwegian black metal scene and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. It is the story of a worldwide network of rabid fans escaping everyday mundanity through music, of cut-throat corporate arseholes ripping off those fans and the bands they worship to line their pockets. The expansive pantheon of heavy metal musicians includes junkies, Satanists and murderers, born-again Christians and teetotallers, stadium-touring billionaires and toilet-circuit journeymen.

Award-winning comedian and life-long heavy metal obsessive Andrew O’Neill has performed his History of Heavy Metal comedy show to a huge range of audiences, from the teenage metalheads of Download festival to the broadsheet-reading theatre-goers of the Edinburgh Fringe. Now, in his first book, he takes us on his own very personal and hilarious journey through the history of the music, the subculture, and the characters who shaped this most misunderstood genre of music.

There is so much to love in Andrew O’Neill’s A History of Heavy Metal. O’Neill’s love for the genres is clear and rings true throughout. He’s opinionated, clear in his opinions, and damned funny. As he mentions at one point, metalheads are nerds, and this book is packed with nerdy details for all metal fans of any age. For me, it evoked my favourite music journalism from the ’90s and early 2000s, but with extra humour. Continue reading

Music Recommendation: POLYPHIA

Polyphia-Renaissance2016

I stumbled across a review of Polyphia‘s latest album, Renaissance (Equal Vision Records), in a recent issue of Outburn (they have a huge review section, including reviews of a broad range of albums). The reviewer wrote very highly of the group’s music, so off I went to YouTube to find a music video. The top search result was “Euphoria”, and I fell in love with it pretty much immediately:

Here, also from Renaissance, is the music video for “Nightmare”:

The band members are incredibly gifted. I highly recommend Renaissance to all fans of instrumental, rock and guitar-led music. Superb, and easily one of my favourites from the past 12 months.

Review: DARK DAYS by D. Randall Blythe (Da Capo Press)

BlytheDR-DarkDaysUSBlythe recounts his arrest, time in a Czech prison, and offers plenty of thoughts on life, music and sobriety in the process

Lamb of god vocalist D. Randall Blythe finally tells the whole incredible story of his arrest, incarceration, trial, and acquittal for manslaughter in the Czech Republic over the tragic and accidental death of a concertgoer in this riveting, gripping, biting, bold, and brave memoir.

On June 27, 2012, the long-running, hard-touring, and world-renowned metal band lamb of god landed in Prague for their first concert there in two years. Vocalist D. Randall “Randy” Blythe was looking forward to a few hours off — a rare break from the touring grind — in which to explore the elegant, old city. However, a surreal scenario worthy of Kafka began to play out at the airport as Blythe was detained, arrested for manslaughter, and taken to Pankrác Prison — a notorious 123-year-old institution where the Nazis’ torture units had set up camp during the German occupation of then-Czechoslovakia, and where today hundreds of prisoners are housed, awaiting trial and serving sentences in claustrophobic, sweltering, nightmare-inducing conditions.

Two years prior, a 19-year-old fan died of injuries suffered at a lamb of god show in Prague, allegedly after being pushed off stage by Blythe, who had no vivid recollection of the incident. Stage-crashing and -diving being not uncommon occurrences, as any veteran of hard rock, metal, and punk shows knows, the concert that could have left him imprisoned for years was but a vague blur in Blythe’s memory, just one of the hundreds of shows his band had performed over their decades-long career…

This is a really interesting memoir. It was also not what I was expecting. I’ve been reading a fair few music biographies and memoirs, recently, and this one is a stand-out. It is by turns engaging, insightful, funny, and even heart-wrenching. I am not as familiar with lamb of god’s music as I am most of the other bands/musicians I’ve been reading about, but they have been popular so long, that to be even a little interested in metal, I’ve frequently come into contact with their albums and read stories about them in the many magazines I read. That being said, the events covered in Dark Days happened during a time when I wasn’t really following music news at all, and I only heard of his arrest and, later his release. So, I was eager to give this a read to learn the full story. Continue reading

New Music: TRIVIUM and FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH

Here are a pair of new music videos for two of my favourite bands: TRIVIUM and FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH.

Trivium, “Silence in the Snow”

A great new song, this time with a power metal influence creeping in?

Silence in the Snow released by Roadrunner Records on October 2nd, 2015.

Trivium-SilenceInTheSnow

Five Finger Death Punch, “Jekyll and Hyde”

Amusing intro, followed by a now-typical 5FDP stomper. Reminiscent of “The Pride” from American Capitalist (2011).

Got Your Six is released by Eleven Seven Music on August 28th, 2015. The other song already circulating from the album, “Hell to Pay”, is also very good.

5FDP-GotYourSix

Slipknot Continue to Release Great Songs with Messed Up Videos…

I’ve liked Slipknot’s music since the beginning, really. I was going through my angry teen phase when their eponymous album was released (although, without the “angry” side – I was always more curmudgeonly than angry). Their musical aggression and interesting interviews always kept them on my playlists. As new albums were released, and the band evolved, they remained there. Side-projects emerged – Stone Sour the best by miles. But always Slipknot remained waiting in the wings to drop a new album just when fans were starting to get impatient.

Their fifth album, The Gray Chapter will be released on October 21st by Roadrunner Records. Two singles have already been released: “The Devil In I” and “The Negative One”. Both, naturally, have really messed-up, horror-influenced music videos. And may even one-up Marilyn Manson, this time around. Here they are:

THE DEVIL IN I (the better of the two, in my opinion)