Saturday, September 20, 2008


I forgot to post for like a month. Things have been mega-busy in real life: I'm working on a new piece, teaching on the weekends (and during the week), and basically trying my best to stay afloat and keep that P.M.I. that HR from the Bad Brains likes so much going strong. Nevertheless, I apologize to you, the loyal few, who read this blog, as I feel that I've left you in the lurch for the last month or so.

So let's talk about new metal releases. Specifically, the most exciting non-Metallica developments in metal this month (OK, and maybe some Metallica too, who am I kidding).

First off, the new Cynic album, Traced In Air. SHIIIIIIIIITTTTTT. These guys have picked up right where they left off with their 1993 opus, Focus (get it? opus? focus? hocus pocus? PUNS) and continued to make unconventional death metal in a way that only Paul Masvidal, Sean Reinert, and Sean Malone can. The robo-vocals are back, but the former harsh vocoder textures have been discarded in favor of a smoother, almost T-Pain-esque sound. Altogether, this album does not remind me of anything so much as the last Between The Buried and Me album. I know I'm probably going to catch a lot of flak for this, seeing as how BTBAM are basically a hodgepodge of Cynic and Cryptopsy riffs with some breakdowns and Queen-style choruses thrown in for good measure, but it seems to me like Cynic have been carefully dissecting the stylistic choices of their successors and consciously attempting to create something genetically similar, while still pushing the envelope. High points: the first fast riff of "Evolutionary Sleeper, the Fripp/Holdsworth-isms of "Integral Birth's" first riff and the solo in "King of Those Who Know", and all of "Adam's Murmur". The mix is great on this album: the vocal balance is a bit of a weak point, with the death growls pushed too far back, but this is more of a compositional problem than anything else. The balance of sections between growled, vocodered, and clean vocals seems off to me: I wish that there was more brutal growling and less melodic contribution; although it's not inappropriate given the melodicism of the riffs, I just want more death metal. Won't somebody PLEASE think of the death metal?

Thankfully, Bloodbath have thought of the death metal. There's nothing new to speak of on the latest Bloodbath release, The Fathomless Mastery. Not to say that Bloodbath have ever been concerned with pushing the stylistic envelope, and why should they? They crank out the best Swedish death around, taking cues from Entombed and Dismember, two worthy predecessors. Mikael Akerfeldt is back for this go-around, which is great for me (I love his growl, and I never get enough of it on his oftentimes tedious Opeth releases). The riffs are thick, the guitars cut like proverbial buzzsaws, and the cover art is bad. This is a group of men who are dedicated to the concept that death metal has never been better than it was in 1993, and, while they aren't entirely right, they aren't entirely wrong either. There's nothing wrong with not pushing the envelope as long as you're setting the bar for the status quo so high that no one else can reach it (whoa, mixed metaphors much? Somebody rephrase that for me.).

High points: I would list high points, but, honestly, it's all just the same shit, but done with different and better riffs and Akerfeldt back behind the mic. Bloodbath is the mark of quality. That's all you need to know.

The most surprising leak of the last month, however, has been the new Gojira record, The Way Of All Flesh. I will be the first to admit that I thought, and still think, that From Mars To Sirius was slow, plodding tripe. There weren't enough fast riffs to satisfy me, and the slow riffs weren't crushing and destroying; they just sat there. Gojira have heard my cries, apparently, and responded in kind by creating an album that is all over the map, fast, and heavy as hell. At times recalling Trendkill-era Pantera, the group also covers ground well-tread by Strapping Young Lad and Mastodon. The brothers Duplantier have stepped up their game, improving upon the muddy production of From Mars To Sirius with a phenomenally-well-notched mix. Every instrument is clear and crisp. The riffs are faster and heavier (there's Dimebag riffs in them thar hills), and Joe Duplantier's voice is rawer than ever, moving farther away from the Sepultura worship of their early work, and into some very interesting territory reminiscent of Phil Anselmo gone death metal. Most exciting to me, however is Mario Duplantier's continued resolve to eschew the conventional trappings of death metal drumming (blastbeats, fast double bass ostinati, etc) in favor of a more funk/fusion-oriented approach. While sometimes the compositions do demand those stylistic conventions, Duplantier avoids using them as a crutch, as do so many death metal drummers. This might be the metal album of the year.


And, lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't at least MENTION the new Metallica release, Death Magnetic. I didn't have much hope for them, after seeing them earlier this summer (great show, but the new songs sounded lame), and catching the initial single releases. However, things started looking up with the release of "My Apocalypse", and, by the time the full album dropped, I'll be the first to admit that I was enthused. My impressions? Rubin's mix is terrible. The man has made a career out of eschewing reverb, but you know what? When your drums sound so dead that they might as well be countertops, you have not produced well. The goal of production is to accurately recreate the sound of the band playing live, like they're sitting in front of you in your living room blowing you away, except you can hear everything with perfect clarity. Rubin/Ulrich's drum sound is atrocious. It's time to get rid of Lars and replace him with someone like, oh, say, Derek Roddy. Sure, it might be a band of ringers, but who cares as long as they thrash? Oh, and by the way, they DO thrash. And it's glorious. It's the fastest and thrashiest that they've been since Ride The Lightning, which is their fastest and thrashiest album (and my personal favorite). I could do without the late-stage James Hetfield vocal histrionics, but Kirk's leads are gold, and James can still write one hell of a rhythm part. In grand Metallica traditon, Rob Trujillo's bass parts are nominal, uninteresting, and shoved back in the mix, but this is really part of their sound.

High Points: umm, the return of thrash Metallica. Bang your heads, assholes.

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