Kingcrow-The Persistence

This album cover looks like something Porcupine Tree or Steven Wilson would put out.  Which is kind of perfect because Kingcrow is kind of in that same sort of vein musically.

The first time I stumbled across these guys was back in 2015 when they released Eidos.  Eidos was one of my favorite releases of that year.  That album was a fresh shot of awesome into the progressive metal field.  Their sound brings to mind the latter era-Fates Warning or the stuff that Redemption has been doing for their career.  Interesting guitar parts, unique rhythms and cool keyboard accoutrements are the order of the day.  Plus, over top of the musical prowess, you’ve got the outstanding clean and powerful vocals of Diego Marchesi.  This guy knows how to emote vocally without verging into the melodramatic or overbearing that has been known to happen in this genre.  He’s kind of like a cross between Timo Kotipelto from Stratovarius and Ray Alder of Fates Warning.

The latest album is really close sonically to the previous album.  It seems like the guitar parts are not as aggressive as the last album.  The album as a whole has a mellower feel to me than the last one.  Overall, it didn’t have as great of an impact initially on me, but there is a lot to like on here and if you are a fan of progressive metal, this one is one to check out.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

River City Rockfest, parking lot of the AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX 9/22/2018

Well, if you were a 90s kid, this fest was a trip down nostalgia lane.  Nine Inch Nails! Primus! Bush!(Who knew they were still a thing???), Scott-less Stone Temple Pilots! Joan Fucking Jett!(OK, not really 90s)  Clutch! Living Colour!

So, this whole thing seemed doomed earlier in the week.  The weather forecast throughout the week said 100% of thunderstorms in the San Antonio area.  My luck with fests and rain of late is not good.  My little bunch of ruffians and myself had pretty much resigned ourselves to having a cancelled fest and were already coming up with contingency plans to pass the time in our AirBnB (i.e. drinking).  But, lo and behold, the storm front was accommodating to our plans and decided to blow through the area the night before.  The resulting day was perfect for festing.

Out of the gate was our local Austin metal heroes, The Sword.  We were all looking forward to this show in lieu of their recently announced hiatus.  No telling how long we’ll have to wait until out next Sword show or album.  Sadly, even though the band played a decent short 30 minute set, the dude running the sound board absolutely murdered their set.  The sound was absolute mud with the vocals and guitar leads buried under the bass and drums.  It was a damn shame.

Next up was a band that I had never had the opportunity to see perform live before, but had always heard really good things.  Living Colour just absolutely tore it up.  Vernon Reid showed everyone in the crowd why he has such a legendary reputation.  Corey Glover just worked the crowd as well as any frontman I’ve come across.  At one point, he jumped into the crowd and just took a stroll from one side of the pit to the other while his band crushed their biggest hit, Cult of Personality.

Next up for us was the inimitable Clutch from Maryland.  Beginning their touring cycle for new album, Book of Bad Decisions, the band hit the new material hard.  Luckily for the band and for the audience, the sound dude got his shit together (or replaced by someone competent) and the sound issues seemed much better.  The crowd was treated to one of those cool fest-only type things when Les Claypool joined the band for a rendition of Earth Rocker.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts was another one of the bands that I had never seen in person before.  The 60-year-old Jett prowled the stage like the touring pro that she is while rolling out all of her hits from The Runaways’ Cherry Bomb to I Love Rock n’ Roll.  Shit, I remember jamming out to these songs when I was in elementary school.  I can’t say that I’m the biggest Joan Jett fan, but dammit, this was a treat getting to see her tear up a stage at this point in her career.

I didn’t bother to make it over to the secondary stage at all during the fest.  It just seemed like they had a sad mixture of metalcore and 90s stalwarts trying to relive some of their past glories.  I saw a few of the performances on the video screen at the main stage and things just looked kind of sad over there.  Bush is still a thing apparently.  I think the only real positive thing that can be said about them is that Gavin is still apparently hunky.  So, there’s that.  Stone Temple Pilots are trying to keep things floating in the wake of the deaths of Scott Wieland and his replacement Chester Bennington.  They managed to pull some random dude off of The Voice and he seems to be trying to do some sort of Scott Weiland imitation.  It really came off as sad.  This is one of those bands that should probably just stop before and further damage can be done.

On the main stage, weirdo metalfunk outfit Primus delivered their trademark infectious thing.  They brought out a wide selection of songs throughout their career.  The musicianship of these guys just has to be seen to be believed.  I’ve seen these guys a ton of times over the years and they just never disappoint.

Headlining the evening was Trent Reznor (and his big beefy right arm, as Punk Rock Fiance likes to call it) and his merry band of black clad industrial mayhem makers.  NIN brought out around an hour and a half set headlined by the performance of The Perfect Drug for the first time.  I’m guessing that because this was a fest set and not a regular tour date, the stage set was extremely stripped down to the basics than your normal NIN stage setup.  Lots of smoke.  Lots of strobes.  Lots of angst.

All in all.  Not the best fest I’ve ever been to, but still a really enjoyable day

The Sword-Tres Brujas

Clutch-In Walks Barbarella

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts-Bad Reputation

Primus-Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers

Nine Inch Nails-Less Than

The Skull-The Endless Road Turns Dark

When bands split into two separate camps and each in turn attempts to secure the “true” legacy of the original band, it’s always interesting to see how successful each camp is in its attempt.  It’s always painful to see bands’ original lineups fall apart, but sometimes it results in two separate bands that are equally cool in different ways.  Sometimes, you end up being surprised by which camp ends up putting out the more impressive post-breakup material.  This is the case with The Skull.

The Skull is one of the remainder bands that resulted from 80s-era Chicago doom band Trouble.  Back in the day, Trouble was one of the key underground bands of the doom scene.  More than anything, they were known for the double guitar attack of Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell and the fact that vocalist Erik Wagner based most of their lyrical content on his Christian beliefs.

The Skull is basically Trouble minus Franklin and Wartell on guitar.  This latest album does the original Trouble sound justice.  This album is full of crunchy down-tuned guitars with Wagner leaving behind the high pitch screams of his youth behind and finding a nice lower register that fits nicely over-top the songs.  He reminds me a bit of how Robert Plant is approaching his vocal style as he gets older.  It just works well and I honestly like his vocals more on this record than I did on many of the earlier classic Trouble albums.

This album kind of impressed me because I always kind of viewed Franklin and Wartell as being the creative drivers of Trouble.  However, looking at the recent output of both of these bands, I kind of wonder about how much of Trouble’s creative direction was a result of Wagner instead.

Also, a fun fact from this one.  You know you have a serious underground album on your hands when the liner notes include a “thank you” to a truck stop for the extra days off to complete the recording of the album.  That’s fucking dedication to your craft.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

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