Pig Destroyer-Head Cage

I’ll admit that this is my first exposure to Pig Destroyer.  My background isn’t in the punk or hardcore scene.  So, there’s quite a lot of bands from the grindcore/crust punk scene that I’m just now exploring.  There’s a part of me that really digs this kind of music.  I really like the rage.  The energy.  The immediacy.  The unrelenting pummeling.  However, there’s the part of my musical history that still has a hard time with the short length of the songs.  I’ll find myself over and over just starting to get into the groove of a song and then, POOF, it’s over.  It’s like I’m used to settling into a 7 or 8 minute Iron Maiden epic.  These minute and a half blasters just leave me wanting a little more.  In some respects, grindcore feels like that eager little dude in high school who is having sex for the first time.  It’s sloppy and intense and awkward and it’s over in a minute.

So, where do I come down on Pig Destroyer on my first pass?  Well, pretty damn good actually.  It’s fucking rage personified.  It’s a perfect soundtrack for 2018.  The drumming on this thing is probably the thing that stands out the most for me.  It’s just so precise and holds the whole cacophony together just perfectly.  I’m not sure I’m ever going to be the biggest grind fan, but it definitely has its time and place in my collection.  I’m impressed enough with this album to go back and explore their earlier releases.  From what I’ve read elsewhere on the interwebs, it sounds like this album is a bit of a growth album for these guys.  Also, it really feels like this is one of those bands that is going to come across in a live setting way better than they do in the studio.  It feels like these songs really need the energy from a live audience to fully let them breathe.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Metal Allegiance-Volume II: Power Drunk Majesty

Another entry in the Metal Supergroup genre.  It seems like this sort of thing is just becoming the rage of late.  I guess dudes just get kind of stagnant in their main gigs and find these side projects energizing.

Anyway, this project is kind what I feel is the supergroup of supergroups in that it is an ever evolving beast.  This thing started out as the brain child of a dude named Mark Menghi, who from best I can tell is just a bass player/creative type dude living in Long Island, NY.  Somehow, he managed to wrangle in Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater and a multitude of other projects), Dave Ellefson of Megadeth and Alex Skolnick of Testament to form the core of what is Metal Allegiance.  At first these guys would round up a group of friends from throughout the metal world and they would put on these one-off concerts were they would play each others’ songs and a bunch of classic metal cover songs.  It seemed like a cool way for these guys to get together and have a good time bonding and playing music with people from other bands that they admire.

Well, a few years ago, they sat down and decided to morph this idea into something a little more substantial by delivering a full album of original songs by the core four members with a rotating cast of vocalists.  The interesting thing about the original songs is that they have managed to tailor the different songs for the particular vocalist used on that song.  For example, they came up with a song that sounds a hell of a lot like a song that Lamb of God would come up with.  Well, give Randy Blythe a call and see if he’ll come in and lay down the vocals on it.  Given the star power of the core guys, they have been able to pull in some really impressive names.

On the new album, you’ve got ten songs with the following vocalists taking part:  Trevor Strnad (The Black Dahlia Murder), John Bush (Armored Saint), Bobby Ellsworth (Overkill), Mark Tornillo (Accept), Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth), Max Cavalera (ex-Sepultura, Soulfly), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), Mark Osegueda (Death Angel) and Floor Jansen (Nightwish).  Overall, the album jams pretty good and is fairly cathartic on the lyrical front.  There is a lot of anger coming out about the state of our country.  All of the songs are kind of in that classic mid-tempo heavy metal sound.  The standout tracks for me are the Cavalera (Voodoo of the Godsend) and Blitz (Mother of Sin) songs, both of which will really remind you of the vocalists’ main gigs.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Clutch-Book of Bad Decisions

Clutch come rumbling on down the highway once again with a load of straight-ahead rockers.  This is album number 12 for the Maryland rockers and they honestly couldn’t have come up with a more Clutch-like album title.  Clutch is one of those amazing bands that has managed a career this long with the same four group of dudes for their entire recording history.  It’s an impressive feat.

This album is decent, but isn’t going to end up in the pantheon of great Clutch albums.  I think the biggest problem on here is the presence of too much fat.  The album clocks in at a total of 15 songs and, really, it could have easily been carved down to a choicer cut of meat with only 10 of them.

Fuzzy guitars, funky bass lines, solid backbone of drums (and cowbell) and Neil Fallon’s almost conversational style of vocals.  Seriously, a good chunk of what makes Clutch such an enjoyable band is the ability of Fallon to pen songs that come across more like short stories than anything else.  He creates these little capsules of misadventures and braggadocio.  They’re fun.  Hell, one of the tracks on the new album, Hot Bottom Feeder, is basically Fallon reciting how to properly make Maryland style crab cakes.  And it works.  The tune will get stuck in your head and you’ll want to head to the kitchen to whip up some cakes.  Win-win.  Fuck off, Rachel Ray.

Not one of the best, but still worth your time.  Weaponized funk, indeed.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

The Vintage Caravan-Gateways

It feels like if you’re going to jump on the retro/psychedelic wave that has been going on in the metal underworld, you’re going to have to do something different to distinguish yourselves from just another run-of-the-mill tribute-type bands versus a band with something fresh to bring to the genre.  A lot of bands just sound like Sabbath retreads.  A lot of these bands are cool at first blush, but the impact doesn’t last.  There’s zero staying power in just recycling old riffs.  I mean, if I want to listen to Master of Realty, I’ll go grab the damn thing off the shelf and put it on.

So, where does The Vintage Caravan fit into the scheme of things?  As you can probably tell, I’m getting to a point where I’m not easily impressed with bands trading in this particular movement.  And after the first listen, I have to be honest that I was left feeling like these guys were just another part of the great rabble of second-comers.  Especially after track one, Set Your Sights.  The guitar riff kicks in on this track and I’m immediately thinking this sounds exactly like Kadavar.  It’s cool and catchy, but it seems like it is just going to fall into the same recycled riffs that have been done a hundred times before.

However, give this one some time.  On pass number two, I started to see that there is a different groove going on with The Vintage Caravan.  Maybe it’s because these guys are from Iceland.  Maybe it’s because these guys are really young.  But, they’ve managed to take that retro-sound and make it into something of their own.  I’m hearing influenced of old Thin Lizzy and maybe a little Grand Funk Railroad throughout.  Especially some of their soulful numbers.  Seriously, listen to the last track on the album, Tune Out, and tell me the beginning part of the song doesn’t remind you of something off of Nightlife.  I don’t know.  Overall, this still isn’t breaking any new ground, but it has enough of its own style to keep the songs interesting.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Circles-The Last One

Man, that kid is about to get lit the fuck up!  It’s just happenstance that I’m reviewing an album with this cover on the day Florence goes tearing into the Carolinas.

So, what do we have on the insides of this awesome album cover?  Ummm…it’s kind of hard to pin down.  These guys are from Australia and seem to be in that same sort of modern metal vein where the likes of TesseracT, Coheed and Cambrian and The Contortionist dwell.  The music is not metal in the traditional sense.  I don’t see Maiden or Priest being touchstones for these guys’ inspiration.  The music is technically proficient pop metal and it is very clean in its production.  Actually, the production is almost anti-septic in its presentation.  This is the exactly opposite sound of the fuzzy doom of Sleep and Electric Wizard.  Overtop of this modern sound are the very clean and highly emotive vocals of Ben Rechter, who kind of reminds me of a crossover of Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria and Daniel Gildenlow of Pain of Salvation.

Overall, this album just didn’t do a whole lot for me.  I’m honestly not sure I’m the best demographic for these guys.  I just kept hoping that they would cut things loose a little more than they do.  The sound is just so conceptualized and clean that it just doesn’t feel dangerous or edgy in any form.  Metal really needs that aspect, in my opinion.  However, this is just one middle-aged, burned-out metalhead’s viewpoint.  As I said, I’m not really sure the dudes in Circles are really targeting dudes like me as their core audience.  At any rate, these dudes are talented musicians.  It’s just not really my cup of tea.  If you’re into any of the bands listed above, you’ll probably dig the hell out of this thing.

3 flip flops out of 5

 

Omnium Gatherum-The Burning Cold

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll discover a theme running through a lot of my screeds.  This is of the bands that just consistently churn out quality product, but still have a hard time gaining the type of recognition I feel they deserve.  These are bands that have been at it for years, have multiple solid albums and, while they tend to have loyal fan bases, they just don’t seem to breakthrough to the mainstream metal fans.  It’s rare to see these bands headline a tour and they usually end up in the third or fourth slot on a major touring bill.  Omnium Gatherum are the epitome of this type of band.  And it’s why I love them and will always root for them harder than I do for some more established bands.

These guys are a death metal group from Finland.  They don’t go for the overly technical side of death metal, but ply their trade in that more epic style of metal.  You can tell they are fans of Maiden, Priest, and Dio.  Kind of in the same tradition of Amon Amarth, with less Viking references.  Their sound is grand and it just belongs on a big stage.  I guarantee that you are going to find yourself doing air guitar poses.

The new album is exactly what you would expect from the Omnium guys.  It sounds a bit like the keyboards are highlighted a little more than on past releases.  Vocalist Jukka Pelkonen is reminding me more and more of Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth. The songs are catchy.  The sound is dynamic and large.  This one is just itching to be unleashed live.  Luckily, they will be heading around the States next month.  Sadly, they will be the opening slot for Moonspell, Amorphis and Dark Tranquility.  Make sure you get there early and go check these guys out.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Alice In Chains-Rainier Fog

In some respects, this is the matching album for Model I and II of Alice in Chains.  Model I, the Staley years, saw three full length albums and two very successful EPs.  With the release of Rainier Fog, we have arrived at the third full length release for Model II Alice in Chains, the DuVall years.

I don’t know where you fall on the dividing line of old or new Alice.  I was a fan of the Staley Alice years, but I can’t say that I was a rabid fan.  Their material from this time was fairly groundbreaking with them being one of the forefront bands of the Seattle grunge scene.  Their music from this era was challenging and abrasive.  It was a lot less accessible that Nirvana and Pearl Jam.  I remember when Dirt came out and I really didn’t care for it that much.  It was just so dark and dense.  It’s one of those albums that I go back to from time to time and realize what a masterpiece it really is.  Definitely a very forward thinking band.  It’s interesting to ponder where Alice in Chains would be today in Staley had lived.  Would they be the band they are today with DuVall fronting them or would they have morphed into something completely different?

I think the fact that I wasn’t a monstrously huge Alice fan during their initial run made it easier for me to accept William DuVall stepping into the shoes of Staley.  It also helps that DuVall didn’t try to cop Staley’s vocal style.  He’s got some similarities, but he has really made the position his own and it has helped Model II Alice mold itself into a separate entity from Staley’s version of Alice.  Model II doesn’t sound as dangerous as Model I did.  It’s still dark, but it is coming at the darkness from the other side of the tunnel.  It’s got a more mature outlook of someone who has been through the shit and managed to pull themselves out of it.  I honestly thought that the first two albums put out with DuVall were damn fine records.  They were fresh sounding and captured a band finding a new identity seven years after Staley’s death.

The new album finds the band still mining the sound that they have been going for during the DuVall years.  Alice these days honestly feels more in line with Jerry Cantrell’s solo material than with the older Alice albums.  The new album is one of those that starts out really strong, but doesn’t have the energy to make it all the way through.  Side A is definitely stronger than Side B.  But, the strong parts are still really good.  Cantrell can still write a dirty riff as well as anyone.  The harmonizing between DuVall and Cantrell just works so well.

Overall, this is probably the weakest of the DuVall era albums.  But that’s not a real big criticism.  It’s still a strong album and is worthy of your time.  I’m just happy that they have managed to find new life for this band.  It keeps the Staley era legacy going and creates a new one going forward with DuVall.

3.5 flip flops out of 5