Sunday, November 30, 2008



On their last release "The Crusade" I was hailing these guys as the next thrash metal kings. Moving from the more metalcore style of their previous album "Ascendancy" I was floored by the monstrous riffing and great vocals on "The Crusade". Even vocalist/guitarist Matt Heafy's voice had evolved into a near carbon copy of Metallica's James Hetfield. It was truly an amazing release. So now, on their forth album "Shogun" the band has taken yet another leap in their sonic journey to combine all the elements of their past sounds and bring us a heavier and even more powerful album. Employing seven string guitars and bringing back Heafy's screaming vocals into the fray, "Shogun" is a powerful tour de force. Heafy's vocal prowess has become quite impressive. He can easily move his voice from screams, to his "Hetfield" yells, to what has become a much improved singing style. The musicianship is of course, outstanding. Unlike Dragonforce, Trivium know how to write great riffs, play insane shredding solo's and manage to have the restraint not to overplay and leave space and texture in the songs when it is needed. The songs themselves delve into Japanese and Greek mythology and are four to over six minutes in length with the exception being the almost twelve minute closer "Shogun." To be honest, I could have done with less metalcore screaming and more of his (Heafy's) other vocal styles, but regardless, Shogun is definitely on the best metal albums of 2008.

- Craig Harvey

Cradle Of Filth

Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder

The most well recognized and popular gothic/black metal band returns with their most vile, horrific and blackest album yet. "Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder is a return to their older works in terms of speed and tempo, but still retains the clarity and more riff oriented elements of their previous release "Thornography." Never one to shy away from controversy, Dani Filth and his cohorts in foulness have outdone themselves this time. While a previous album (Cruelty And The Beast) enlightened us to the horrific crimes of the blood countess Elizabeth Bathory, we now are told the tale of one of the earliest serial killers history had all but buried in it's deepest dungeons; Gilles de Rais.
This 15th century nobleman fought along side Joan Of Arc, (and was rumored to have loved her) but after her death, he became dark, evil and immoral beyond words. After his vast fortune was exhausted, he delved into the occult, searching for ways to accumulate his wealth once again. This path took him into the black realm's of Satanism, child sacrifice and terrible sexual deviancy. His abominable deeds became the stuff of nightmares. After he was caught he did express remorse for his crimes and was pardoned by the church, but then hanged (and possibly burned). Cradle of Filth's take on this story is of course embellished to give it a sense of drama and tragedy, but none the less, one of their most thought provoking albums yet.
As I said before, the intensity is amped up and brings to mind earlier albums, but has a much better production quality I think. Paul Allender's guitar work is a raging inferno of wicked riffs, speedy single note lines, and fleet fingered solo's. Dani Filth's voice is just as blasphemous as ever, with ear piercing demonic screams, and raspy growls he has never sounded more in his element than now. Dave Pybus bass work along side Martin Skaroupka's drums are a thunderous force that conjures up the bowels of hell itself to hold everything together. Old friend and partner in darkness Doug Bradley ("Pinhead") once again provides narration between songs, as he plays the role of Gilles de Rais himself. He of course, is as the Brits say "spot on" with the part. Female background vocals are again done by Sara Jezebel Deva who has been part of the Cradle family for some time now. So I can say without a doubt, this is one best Cradle of Filth albums to come about in a while and assuredly their most disturbing.

- Craig Harvey


Ultra Beatdown

I first heard Dragonforce on their last album "Inhuman Rampage" late one Saturday night when Headbanger's Ball played their new single "Between The Fire And The Flames". I was impressed. It was kinda like Dream Theater on speed. The song flew by a breakneck speed, the vocals clear and soaring, the guitars, keyboards and drums played at imhumanly fast tempos, and oh yes, there was plenty of amazingly fast shredding guitar solo's. So of course I bought the album. That's when the disappointment set in. After six tracks I couldn't take it anymore. It was all the same. It sounded like a swarm of angry bees had flown into a video game arcade. The talent was there but these guys had no sense of writing a catchy riff. One or two tracks like this would be ok, but the entire album? I love extreme metal, power metal, black metal, metal period. But this was on the verge of being ridiculous.
So, why do you ask would I think their latest album would be any different? I have no idea. Especially when it's entitled "Ultra Beatdown". Maybe I wanted to give these guys a second chance and see if they could slow down and give me something to bang my head to and not dislocate my neck from my shoulders. To my dismay it's exactly what I feared (it's probably even worse), with the exception of one (count that, one) slow ballad. I bet guitarist Herman Li and co-guitarist Sam Totman were having speed withdrawals just waiting to get done with this song. I know that this is their gimmick, and what their fans want to hear, but I just can't get into it. It's a shame really, because as far as I am concerned, it's great musical talent gone to waste.

- Craig Harvey

Chemical Brothers


While it may be true, that the electronic dance phenomenon that swept through the nineties has gone underground and out of the limelight, the artists that help spawn those magnificent days gone by are still around and still very valid. One such artist is The Chemical Brothers. Their contributions to the particular music scene could easily be described as nothing short of brilliant, rivaled by only a handful of their respected peers. So, in honor of the historic musical achievement that these lads have graced our ears with, Astralwerks has put out a beautiful 2 disc box set of their greatest singles and a limited disc of re-mixes that are quite rare, entitled "Electronic Battle Weapons 1-10".
There are fifteen wonderful tracks that will surely bring back memories for those who have followed this duo from the beginning. Even if you were not all that familiar with them, you surely heard a few of these songs somewhere in your travels. Not all of the songs are from older works however, as this set chronicles all the way to some of the most recent singles as well. The Chemical Brother's defy categorization as they seamlessly blend house, techno, psychedelia, and every other aspect of electronica you can imagine into their own wicked brew that has (and continues to rock clubs today). I can't recommend this enough for fans of great dance music.

- Craig Harvey


Lord Don't Slow Me Down

On the surface, what seems like a yob's eye view of "Eat the Document" or even Radiohead's "Meeting People Is Easy" tour documentary quickly becomes so much more. The plot is a simple and familiar one within rock n' roll: band tours the world, deals with all the attendant highs and lows that come with the surrealities of "pop stardom." "Lord Don't Slow me Down," much like the aforementioned "Eat The Document" or even Nick Cave's "The Road To God Knows Where," is less concerned with what happens onstage - songs are only presented as snippets, bookends - and instead concentrates on what happens in between the concerts. The endless promotional grind of clueless interviews (Noel, why don't you like Liam? Liam, why don't you like Noel?), planes, buses, trains, sitting and waiting for the show, sitting and waiting for all of the hangers-on to leave the backstage area, a procession of bars and late nights followed by punishingly early mornings. What elevates this particular film from a "tortures of fame" pity party is that Oasis are so fucking grumpy and bemused and funny about the whole affair. Noel Gallagher and Liam Gallagher clearly enjoy being rock starts, but as they start to get a little older, it's just as clear that they realize just how ridiculous all the rituals are; even though it doesn't kill their crucial/original love of music. An unselfconscious encore of The Who's "My Generation" proves that.

Didn't I say funny? The movie begins with a backstage party where Noel is unable to open a comically large bottle of champagne, leading every band member to have a go, with members of their entourage joining in too. It's only after several minutes and ever-more ridiculous scheming that the bottle finally yields, to relieved cheers. A few minutes later, Noel is incredulously asking an interviewer, "You do know I'm not Liam, right?" Then there is a shot of Noel at a radio interview in New York, giving a "What the fuck" look at the camera, as the hosts prattle on about nonsense from ten years ago. Even later, when a reporter asks Liam how he prepares for a gig, he doesn't even hesitate before deadpanning, "Wank."

The use of black-and-white film stock lends "Lord, Don't Slow Me Down" a hazy, timeless feel. Even more interesting, given that the subject matter is gonzo anthem factory Oasis, is that the camera work of director BaillieWalsh is subtle, non-linear and strangely beautiful. But then again,wasn't smilin' Paul McCartney the Beatle who introduced the rest of the group to tape loops and avant-garde music? It ain't all appearances, pally. The editing jumps from scene to scene, the camera blurs out the principals to focus on one small seemingly inconsequential detail in the frame, there are beautiful landscape shots from every country they visited, nighttime becomes magical, airports look like alien realms, backstage green rooms look like small fishbowls, their fans drunkenly stumble about, and the closing scene is a voiceover of Noel expressing doubts about their future of a touring band juxtaposed against an endless sea of audience. But when the members of Oasis do the long walk onstage, they look every bit as iconic as that famous walking shot in "Reservoir Dogs."

Oasis is a very lucky band, while it's clear they'll never recapture their initial rush of creative energy and commercial fame, they're in no way tethered to a particular song or album. Oasis are still a productive band, and despite their apparent stodginess and obstinance, they're able to change and adapt to the times every so subtly. And beyond that the Gallahaghers give great interview. Approximately 70% of the fun of this film is listening to Liam and Noel banter and belittle each other, anyone within a twenty foot radius, and every rock band ever. Their delivery is so unforced and deliciously deadpan, it's like "Zelig" by way of Roger Daltry and Stephen Fry.

The package is an essential one for the Oasis fan. Included is the documentary film, a commentary track featureing the entire band (priceless), and a full live set from their home city of Manchester, filmed in sharp, cinematic color. Even if you're not an Oasis fan, you'll get a kick out of all the surreal indignities of the entertainment-industrial complex writ large upon a group of mouthy Brits, without actually having to put up with any but the best bits of their music.

- Matthew Moyer

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Devils In My Details

Nivek Ogre reunites with long time partner Mark Walk to bring us Devils In My Details. Ripe with gripping orchestral moments, sharp samples and a darkness as creeping and menacing as classic Skinny Puppy albums Too Dark Park or Last Rights but all the while these many devils remain signature OhGr tracks. Originally conceived as one massive musical piece then dissected into the individual details, Devils departs from the previous two offerings from the demonic duo leaving the more expected dance tracks to the wayside for more surprising esoteric device. Stepping into unlikely territory on offerings like "Feeling Chicken" which lends whimsy but remains no less sinister then the rest of the album which starts off running and continues to build track after track to a brooding triple climax with the first single "Timebomb," followed by "Smogharp" and finally the soaring "Witness." Devils is another stunning opus in the ever expending history of one of music's most prolific performers.

RELEASE DATE: 11/18/08

- Max Michaels

Friday, November 7, 2008

Empire Auriga

Auriga Dying
Moribund Cult

Michigan duo Empire Auriga (Boethius on vocals and 90000065B on machines) continue the American mutation of black metal with their intensely individualized take on the core materials of the genre. To wit, "Auriga Dying" is just as reminiscent of early Swans, Death in June and Non's "Total War," as metal oddballs like Burzum and Xasthur. And a sprinkle of Godflesh and early Swamp Terrorists' masochism. Face it chum, "Auriga Dying" is going to be VERY tough going for the corpsepainted doppleganger wearing an Immortal shirt. Hell, they're probably going to hate Empire Auriga. Fucking good, I say. Isn't one of the hallmarks of extreme metal supposed to be that it's not for everyone, that it purposely bucks movements? No blast beats, no headbanging, shit, nothing even resembling a rock beat, no solos, no goblin vocals. The sound of Empire Auriga is a malignant brew of post-industrial sonics and machinery, lashed to rusted radios, the occasional hint of gothic grandeur and the ground-down hopelessness of a Grief or a Khanate. Mournful guitar, martial, fascistic beats, and decaying electronics all presided over by vocals that sound like Ian Curtis's personality encoded into a Commodore 64 computer. Wave after wave of ghost-in-the-machine funeral doom and elegiac 8-bit paranoia come pulsing at you. Hotly tipped, I should hope.

- Matthew Moyer