Crystal Fairy-Crystal Fairy

Well, this was a jaunty romp that I didn’t see coming.  Side project of Buzz and Dale from The Melvins, Omar from The Mars Volta/At The Drive In and Teri of Le Butcherettes.  This album is way more metal than one would think it would be just looking at its members’ past efforts.  But, damn, this thing is a slamming, catchy ride from beginning to end.  Terry from Le Butcherettes puts her best riot grrrl foot forward on this thing.  She is snarly.  She is flirty.  She is a damn powerhouse on the vocals.  Buzz from The Melvins really digs deep into his metal warehouse and pulls out some really tasty riffs to push the proceedings forward.

If you are looking for a fun record to put on to bounce around the house on a Sunday afternoon in your undies, this album would fit the bill perfectly.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Power Trip-Nightmare Logic

This is the album I have been waiting for.  This is the album that our current state really deserves.  Angst driven thrash with some of the most precision delivered guitar riffs I have heard in a long time.  I seriously had a hard time not driving 80 mph in the car while listening to this one.  If you have any love of metal at all, drop everything and go buy this record.

I’m always critical of the city of Dallas because it is really just a plastic land filled with terrible plastic people.  But I need to give credit where credit is due:  they have produced some nice metal bands over the years.  Power Trip is one of these bands.  I first stumbled upon them during a SXSW fest in Austin a few years ago and was really impressed with their aggressive live show.  Their debut album, Manifest Decimation, was a solid release, but it didn’t entirely match the intensity of their live shows.

This new album, however, is the real deal and a serious statement to the metal world that this is a band to be reckoned with.  Like the first album, the vocals sound like they were recorded in a dungeon.  There is a ton of echo in the mix and it kind of adds to the raw nature of this band.  The guitars are way up front and they are just glorious.  All in all, this band sounds like mixture of Slayer, old Prong and old Metallica.

I seriously cannot recommend this one highly enough.  Go buy it now!

5 flip flops out of 5

Immolation-Atonement

Damn.  That is just a near perfect metal album cover.  And the better thing is that the album it presents is just as good as its packaging.  And thank you for going back to the old school logo.

Immolation is a New York band that has been at the death metal game for a very long time.  There are no gimmicks.  There are no compromises.  This is just very grim death metal presented by seasoned professionals.

I’ve always been a firm believer that a good death metal or thrash metal album, more so than other genres of music (maybe excepting jazz) needs a really solid drummer to lay an extremely solid foundation for the rest of the band.  Immolation gets this in spades with the work that drummer Steve Shalaty provides on this current album.  He just goes for grooves and time signatures that aren’t cut-and-paste.  There is a real creativity to the patterns that he brings to the proceedings and it just elevates the material.  This album would just not have reached the same level of badassedness had it not been for his performance.  And this is not to take away from the rest of the band.  These guys really have a knack at coming up with guitar riffs that drive their songs in really interesting directions.  These guys are next level death metal.

4 flip flops out of 5

Deafheaven, This Will Destroy You and Emma Ruth Rundle, The Mohawk, Austin, 3/2/2017

Deafheaven is a band that I find fascinating in that they present a bit of a conundrum for your average metalhead.  These guys are a band that deals in a vein of black metal in which they have imbued with their own individual flavor.  There are two things that are kind of working against them in relation to the metal community at large.  First, image.  Let’s face it,  metalheads are fairly conservative in their tastes.  By and large, you show up in some combo of black tour shirt, jeans, sneakers/boots, battle vest, leather jacket, etc.  In the black metal universe, the general rule is that you are going to hit the stage in corpse paint and some sort of leather warlike and/or gothic outfit with spikes and various armaments.  Deafheaven eschews all tradition by cultivating a hipster ethic in appearance.  These guys look exactly like any number of dudes you would see hanging out at your local specialty coffee shop.  Actually, they kind of look like every band nerd that you knew in high school.  One of the guitarists actually hit the stage in a Depeche Mode tour shirt last night.  There is nothing wrong with this at all, but for some reason, the way that the guys in Deafheaven look has created a bit of a ripple of controversy in the metal world.  It’s like metalheads are just insulted that Deafheaven refuse to embrace the “metal” look.  Which leads me to point #2 which is that Deafheaven not only is a black metal band, but that are black metal band that is in touch with its feelings.  Oh the HORROR!!  Really, if hispter emo black metal was a thing, then Deafheaven is its creator.  Black Metal is supposed to be the bleakest of the bleak.  Frozen wastelands, zero hope, complete desolation and, of course, God is an asshole.  This is what your black metal denizen expects and requires.  When the five hipsters from San Francisco roll out songs with titles such as “Baby Blue”, “Dream House” and “Sunbather”, the grimmest of black metal fans is going to start feeling conflicted and uncomfortable.

So, the weird thing about all this is what I experienced at last night’s concert.  I honestly think I may have been the only “true” metalhead in attendance.  Usually, metal shows are a smorgasbord of metal concert shirts.  It’s always part of the fun for me to see all the different shirts that people break out for shows.  I seriously didn’t see one metal shirt at all in the crowd.  This crowd was made up of hipsters as far as the eye could see.  I saw dudes in stylish hats. I saw dudes in floral pastel shirts.  I saw dudes wrapped in scarves.  I saw a dude in a kimono.  I saw all sorts of waxed facial hair.  This was a really weird crowd and it was composed of people that I really wouldn’t have guessed would be into black metal.  But they went absolutely nuts during the show.  They absolutely ate up what Deafheaven was throwing down.

So the conundrum is this:  Why are hipsters drawn to Deafheaven and not other black metal bands?  And, as a corollary, why do “true” metalheads tend to discount Deafheaven and view them as not quite “real” metal?  Late last year, I went to see the traditional black metal band, Belphegor, late last year.  It was a traditional metal crowd.  I didn’t see any of the type of people in attendance that I saw at last night’s show.

This whole thing is really irritating to me.  Deafheaven is a super band.  They are taking a traditional genre of metal and they are putting their own creative spin on it.  This should be celebrated.  They are really good musicians and the songs are just epic with numerous breaks in intensity and melodies.  I just think that if your typical metalhead could put aside the surface level issues that they would see that Deafheaven is METAL; regardless of how they look or the subjects of their songs.  On the same coin, I would love to see some of these hipsters branch out and come see some traditional metal bands.  Are you just into Deafheaven because they look like you?  If you dig the genre in which Deafheaven exists, then branch out and expose yourself to bands like Darkthrone, Immortal and Bathory.

Ultimately, I just want to bring people together.

So, beyond all that, how was the show?  Fantastic.  These guys just deliver live.

Also on the bill was San Marcos’ This Will Destroy you who really provided some seriously atmospheric rock landscapes.  It was just mesmerizing.

Surprise of the night was opener, Emma Ruth Rundle.  She was really fantastic in performing these atmospheric rock songs that would start out quiet and just crescendo into these blazing walls of sound.  Her voice was just amazing.

Here are a couple of clips of Deafheaven doing their thing.

Brought to the Water

Dream House

Ex Deo-The Immortal Wars

So, Ex Deo is basically Kataklysm giving voice to singer Maurizio Iacono’s fascination with the ancient Roman Empire.  This is album number three for the side project and the focus this time around is on the Empire’s conflict with its most notorious adversary, Hannibal.  Ex Deo is still in the death metal realm, but it is given a little more bombast than the Kataklysm sound by adding symphonic elements to the mix.

I honestly expected a little more out of this thing when I heard that they were working on a new album that was going to be centered on Hannibal.  This is such a rich story that it really could have been the basis for a truly epic album.  However, the album at hand really feels more like an EP than a full album.  At eight songs (with one being a symphonic interlude), this is just a breezy release that feels over as soon as it starts.  I can’t imagine this one having much staying power in the years to come.  Nothing on the album is bad, but it just doesn’t rise to the level of being anything remarkable.  It really feels that Maurizio and the guys were focusing more on the presentation of this band with the replica Roman Centurion uniforms and the gorgeous artwork that accompanies the album than coming up with better songs.

2 flip flops out of 5

Killer Dwarfs at The Rock Box, San Antonio, 2/25/2017

This was a fun show.

For the uninitiated, I need to provide a bit of background to the metal scene in San Antonio.  For many years from the late 70s until the early 90s, there was a really awesome metal/hard rock radio station in San Antonio called 99.5 KISS.  Their program director and main DJ personality was a guy named Joe Anthony, who was affectionately known as The Godfather.  The Godfather and his other DJ cohorts were given a great amount of freedom to push bands and songs in which they really believed.  Anthony was a great champion of small metal bands and his promotion of these band led many of them to become institutions in the city of San Antonio.  Talk to old school metalheads from San Antonio and you’ll hear stories about bands such as Moxy, Legs Diamond, Budgie, Riot, Saxon and tonight’s headliner, Killer Dwarfs.  Friends of mine used to joke that a copy of Moxy and Legs Diamond’s debut albums and Riot’s Fire Down Under were placed into the crib of every newborn child in San Antonio. These bands probably have a greater percentage of their fan bases located in San Antonio than anywhere else in the world solely because of the constant support Joe Anthony provided.  To this day, even though Joe Anthony passed away in 1992 and 99.5 KISS is no longer the metal station it was, when these bands play San Antonio it is a cause for celebration amongst the metalheads that remember the old days.  The idea of the classic 99.5 KISS just makes me nostalgic about having a radio station that allows its DJs to have the creative freedom to play songs that aren’t a part of some master, corporate-approved playlist.  In my opinion, this is a big reason music in general is just so homogenized and sanitized.  My winning-the-lottery dream is to buy a radio station and set up my friends that have an extensive passion and knowledge about a particular genre of music to craft and host their own radio show with no restrictions on what they play.

Anyhoo, on to the show.  As I said, this was just fun.  Killer Dwarfs’ heyday was the mid 80s to early 90s.  They were a little band out of Toronto that came out of the hair metal tradition and played a NWOBHM influenced metal.  In the early days of MTV, they actually got some fairly decent airplay with goofy videos for Keep the Spirit Alive, Stand Tall and We Stand Alone.  Even though the band hasn’t put out in new material in a good long while, they sounded absolutely great and broke out all of their well-known songs.  You could tell that they really love the city of San Antonio and got a charge from the energy coming from the crowd.  Sadly, singer Russ Dwarf didn’t break out his trademark tricycle for a spin around the stage.  It appears as though the tricycle is now on display at the Hard Rock in Toronto.

Here are some clips to give you a taste of the show.

Comin’ Through

Union of Pride

Stand Tall

Keep the Spirit Alive

Dirty Weapons

Overkill-The Grinding Wheel

Goddamn Trouble?  More like Goddamn Institution.  Here they come with album #18.  18!!!!

In many respects, the Second 4 (Testament, Overkill, Death Angel and Exodus) of iconic thrash bands have a more impressive track record than that of the Big 4 (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax).  The Second 4 bands have kept their collective heads down and just keep releasing solid album after solid album.  Metallica could definitely take some tips from Overkill on how to not fuck around with the creative process.  Overkill is one of the most consistent bands going in metal today.  Every year and a half to two years, you just know you’re going to see that green, bat-winged skull “Chaly” Overkill logo and hidden within that package, Blitz, D.D. and the remainder of the crew are going to bludgeon your head open with no-nonsense East Coast Thrash.

So, how does this new slab of metal stand up in the Overkill catalog?  This is not meant to be dismissive at all, but this is just about your middle of the pack Overkill album.  No surprises at this point.  You kind of know what to expect from an Overkill album.  Maniacal Blitz on the mike with his trademark snarl and impish attitude.  Blitz is honestly the closest thing we have to a modern-day Bon Scott.  His stage presence just cannot be beat and he just plays the part of a fun-loving scamp who has no tolerance for everyday stupid shit.  The band is in top form and old age has not softened the edges of the metal being pummeled by the boys.  Album opener, Mean Green Killing Machine, just sets the table and the neck-wrecking pace just never lets up through this whole platter of awesome thrash.

Go see ’em live when they come to your town.  These guys can’t be fully appreciated without seeing them in a live environment.

3.5 flip flops out of 5