Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thoughts on the Randy Blythe Situation

Unless you've either been living under a soundproof, 6 ton rock at the bottom of Atlantis for the last week. or just don't ever read the news, you've probably heard that Randy Blythe, singer of Lamb of God, Halo of Locusts and prospective candidate for President of the United States (might I add he'd be a whole hell of a lot better than Mitt Romney) was arrested in Prague for an incident that happened at a Lamb of God show back in May of 2010. The incident in question was a 19 year old fan climbing on stage during the show and being allegedly thrown off and/or beaten by Blythe, thus suffering a brain hemorrhage, going into a coma, and dying two weeks later. A lot of bullshit surrounds both the incident itself and the way the case is proceeding currently, namely that despite posting bail last Monday Blythe remains in a Czech prison and will so until next week. This article will mainly just be my thoughts on the entire sordid affair. If you want the full spectrum of news and other things relating to this, read GunShyAssassin's coverage of it.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Nile - At the Gates of Sethu Review

Nile have been around for Anubis knows how long, and every time they put out a new album we as death metal fans always give listen and be wondered by the insane speed, the furious intensity, and the Egyptian influences, both lyrically and musically. Their previous album, Those Whom the Gods Detest, was in my top 10 albums of 2009. Songs like Kafir, 4th Arra of Dagon, and the absolutely epic title track rank among the best songs Nile has ever put out. Now three years later we're holding audience to yet another new album by the South Carolinians, and to be honest there's not a lot here that we haven't heard from this band in the past. There's a multitude of problems, from the rather shitty production to the general feeling of "been there, heard that" throughout this album. Musically the album is sufficient, but in terms of memorability I don't think I'll be switching Cast Down the Heretic off for almost any song on here anytime soon.

One of the major problems I have with At the Gate of Sethu is that there's not a whole lot of new stuff here. As mentioned, there's a big old feeling of having heard pretty much every song here before, only on much consistently better records like Annihilation of the Wicked. Here and there there'll be something that pops out and makes you go "whoa, didn't see that coming", but for the most part I've heard most of these songs before, just on different records from Nile's past. The major reason for this is that Nile are a speed based band. I'm a big fan of fast extreme metal, but Nile's way of doing it can get very old very quickly. They thankfully do have a standard Nile doom metal epic though in the form of the album closer The Chaining of the Iniquitous. Tracks like When My Wrath is Done and The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu (yeah, almost every song title on the album is a run on sentence) start off slow and crushing, but quickly devolve back into the same monotonous hyperblasting and the same monotonous guitar tweedling. Even worse is that a few songs don't even have proper endings; they just sort of stop dead in their tracks. Case in point, I had to go back and listen to the album again before writing this review because I genuinely did not remember one thing about it aside from The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased. Hell, the tracks that stick with me the most even after another full listen are the two Egyptian music interludes, which are absolutely breathtaking. Shame there aren't more of them on here.

The other major problem I have with the album is the production. Holy fuck, this album sounds bad. The guitars do thankfully sound like guitars unlike some past records of Nile's, but they're still WAY too thin for my tastes. The drums are incredibly clicky and annoying, which is a shame because George Kollias's playing is probably the best part of the album. The bass is nonexistent, as is stupidly common in extreme metal productions today. While I applaud the production sound for not only having the guitars be audible among the musical cacophony as well as it not being compressed to hell, that's not saying much when the sound is as thin as it is. The individual musicians's performances on the record are superb, as one would expect from a band like Nile. Dallas Toller-Wade and Karl Sanders shred away on the guitars with skill and precision, and George Kollias once again shows why he's one of the best drummers in extreme metal today. It's a damn shame they couldn't write better material to compliment their skills though. The vocals on this album are, as many have pointed out on message boards and comment sections the internet over, very weird at times, and I like that. It's one of the few aspects of the album that didn't bore me to death. Both Dallas and Karl are very powerful vocalists, so you can always expect that aspect of a Nile record to be good no matter what the music is like.

Overall, this album is a giant bore. Aside from the vocals it doesn't really do much in the way of progressing Nile along the musical path. Sticking to one sound an entire career is not inherently a bad thing. Just look at Slayer and Cannibal Corpse. But whereas Cannibal Corpse has made slight variations to their sound over the years to keep listeners on their toes and attentive (and headbanging), Nile have made the same album again that they've made the last two or three times, only much less interesting than the last two or three albums before this one. And quite frankly, that to me is the sign of a band that is running out of steam. If you want some quality death metal that's been released this year, I recommend Torture by Cannibal Corpse, Global Flatline by Aborted, and the masterpiece of 2012 so far known as Monolith of Inhumanity by Cattle Decapitation. All are much more interesting than At the Gate of Sethu.

Final rating: 2/5

Monday, June 25, 2012

Illud Divinum Insanus: One Year Later

That pimple faced, horridly scraggly bearded fool in the video above is me a little over a year ago. The video in question was my immediate thoughts on Illud Divinum Insanus, the then-newest release of death metal titans Morbid Angel. I, like most other death metal fans, could not believe what I was listening to; Morbid Angel went all Marilyn Manson on us! They sold out! This sounds like dog shit melting in the hot summer sun! Well, a year has passed and my musical tastes have expanded beyond just extreme music or even just metal by itself. Looking back on the record, it's not as bad as I initially thought. Don't get me wrong, there's still stuff about the album that's mediocre, bad, or outright sucks (looking at you Radikult), but my opinion on the record has changed to be more favorable of it.

Firstly, if you haven't read my original full text review of the album, here's the version I posted on Metal Archives a year ago.

The biggest change in opinion is that there are a couple songs on the album that I despised before that I've embraced with open arms now, those songs being 10 More Dead and Destructos vs. The Earth/Attack. The former I listened to on my own about half a year after the record came out and I quite enjoyed it. It's got the vibe of Domination in the latter half of the song while retaining a very catchy, very headbang friendly feel throughout the entire track. I remember seeing a video before the album came out of Tim Yeung playing along to the instrumental track of it at a drum clinic, and looking back on it I don't know why I didn't like the song when I first listened to the album. Destructos I was tempted to listen to again after hearing from my fellow Sorrowseed compadre Morte McAdaver that the song was just pure goofiness and very enjoyable. Upon listening to it again, I became tempted to agree with him. It is a bit too long at seven minutes, but for the most part the track is a fun bit of industrial death metal. The lyrics from what I can gather are about an intergalactic alien military invading Earth with the intent to wipe out humanity; it's like a more serious Ziltoid the Omniscient, minus the coffee, or something you'd see out of a 1950s sci-fi B movie.

As for the other songs, my opinions on them remain relatively the same. Blades for Baal, Existo Vulgore, Nevermore, and Beauty Meets Beast, the only full on death metal songs on the record, are still the best tracks in the collection. Upon listening to Too Extreme! again, I wasn't as put off by it as I originally was, probably because since the album came out I've become a bigger fan of Nine Inch Nails and other industrial metal groups like The Kovenant and Death Stars. The biggest problem with the track really, aside from the incredibly stupid song title and lyrics, is that it goes on FAR too long. The track is six and a half minutes, which is quite a long time to listen to the same techno beat on loop. If the song was only three minutes or even four minutes it would be a hell of a lot more bearable. I Am Morbid has elements of the slower side of Morbid Angel, but also somehow has this radio friendly feel to it that can be very off putting even if you like the song as a whole. The chorus is quite good though, and the song is rather catchy too. Radikult still sucks; my opinion on that track will always be the same. It's like if nu metal and Marilyn Manson decided to have a very fucked up love child. Profundis - Mea Culpa, hilariously ironic name aside, is actually quite decent as well. It's very atmospheric and I could definitely see it as video game music, particularly for a fighting game like Mortal Kombat. The only real problem I have with the track now is the drum sounds. If they hadn't used electronic samples lifted right out of FL Studio, I think more people would be willing to give the song another chance. Still, the drum samples aren't as annoying as the drum sounds in Too Extreme!.

Overall, my opinion on the record has changed quite a bit. I like more of the songs from it now, and some of the songs I've hated before I can see the good in while also recognizing the problems they have. I'm sure a fair amount of you will probably want me hung from my balls on the flag pole in the town square, and I can understand why. I too once despised this album, thinking it to be the bane of my existence. However, my expanded musical tastes as well as having found MUCH worse music out there (fucking Lulu) have made me look back on Illud Divinum Insanus and realize that it's not so bad after all.

The remix album completely blows, though. Do not ask me to review that, because the entire review would just be 94 lines of "I FUCKING HATE THIS ALBUM!".

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ghost Are Awesome; Here is Why

The band in the video above is called Ghost. They're a semi-new band (formed in 2008) from the heavy metal Valhalla that is Sweden. As you can see from their appearance and music, they are indeed excellent. However, there are some people who sadly think that this band is in fact not awesome. They say that Ghost are unoriginal, boring, and that their gimmick is stupid. Those people are incredibly, incredibly wrong, at least to me. Here are my rebuttals to those three reasons listed.

1. They took a style of music that hasn't been popular in decades and breathed new life into it.

The band's musical influences are most clearly classic 70s rock and old school heavy metal, such as Blue Oyster Cult, Pink Floyd, and Black Sabbath. Pretty much everything that can be done with the style they play had been done, so Ghost mixed the Blue Oyster Cult/Deep Purple style with something resembling a slower, less metallic Mercyful Fate and that's what Opus Eponymous came to sound like. And that's not to mention that Ghost has helped breathe life into the retro metal style, with bands like In Solitude and The Devil's Blood becoming known worldwide since Ghost released Opus Eponymous in 2010, as well as Ghost themselves signing to Universal Republic's new imprint Seven Four Entertainment to the tune of $750,000.

2. This style of music is not for everyone.

Most of the people I associate with in music are fans generally of fast, loud, abrasive extreme metal. A couple of them that I know REALLY do not like anything slow or melodic. I love extreme metal too (hence why I play in an extreme metal band), but I also love slow, melodic, doomy music as well. Any style of music is not for everyone, but Ghost I've noticed have gotten a lot of flack for their quick rise to fame as well as their music being kinda minimalist. I personally love how their music isn't incredibly complex or difficult to play because it means that I can just sit back and enjoy without having to get into the various workings of a song. With Ghost, I can mellow out and be a fan of music.

3. Gimmicks are meant to be stupid.

Pretty much every Ghost detractor I've come across has made some kind of comment about how their gimmick in unnecessary or overused or just flat out stupid. News flash: gimmicks are supposed to be ridiculous and dumb. Just look at something like professional wrestling. I'm a massive wrestling fan, and I love how the characters and personalities in that universe would so not work in reality. Just look at a guy like The Undertaker. He was given the gimmick of an undead zombie that didn't feel pain and had mystical, otherworldly powers. On paper that sounds fucking retarded, but when you actually watch him in action you realize that he's made the character his own and can make you look past the general ridiculousness of it and just enjoy what he does. Ghost are the same way. I've shown people their music who had almost written them off because of their appearance and they were able to see past the black robes and Satanic priest attire and just enjoy the music.

So yeah, those are my reasons why I think Ghost detractors are wrong in their non-like of the band. I'm not saying you hafta love this band or I'll track you down, put your head on a pike, cut open your spleen and drink your fluids (50 cents and a cookie to whoever knows where that line is from), I'm just retorting the claims I see from them most often. I hope you enjoyed this latest rambling of mine. Subrick out.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Subrick's Picks #13 (An Inaugural Entry)

(A bit of backstory here to start. Subrick's Picks is a series that I started last year for Sick Drummer Magazine. For reasons I won't disclose here, I chose to discontinue this on that website and am now going to post them here whenever I feel like writing them, in addition to other random ramblings I happen to write about. This one in particular was the final one I wrote before I left the site, and it was not published until now, although I've edited it slightly to reflect updated dates and events. Enjoy.)

Welcome everyone to another wonderfully (a)rousing edition of Subrick’s Picks. I am the titular host for the evening, here to present to you fine readers the best in unknown metal drumming. In the time it’s been since I last created one of these articles, my own projects have taken off. In addition to New England based gothic rock band Pandora’s Toybox, I am also now the drummer for Boston, Massachusetts based extreme metal band Sorrowseed, which also contains members of Pandora’s Toybox. We are recording our second full length record that will be released before the end of 2012. I have also been tapped as a live session player for Massachusetts (see a pattern here?) based doom metal band Blacksoul Serpahim, containing, you guessed it, members of Pandora’s Toybox and Sorrowseed. When we will be playing live as Blacksoul is unknown, however Sorrowseed will be playing at The Raven in Worcester on Saturday, June 16th. I encourage anyone reading this that is close to the venue or from New England in general to come to the show and bang thy head.
Now, there are three categories on which I base my selections:

Playing Ability: Here, I look to see if a player is technically sound; timing is good, endurance and power are up to par, technique is sound, among other, more miniscule things.

Production Value: For videos I select I much prefer to have either good quality camera sound or studio quality. And by studio quality, I don’t mean the greatest production sound ever given. I classify studio quality as a drumming performance recorded with microphones and/or triggers. Electronic kits are very much encouraged (especially when using less conventional samples). Now, if you have sound quality that isn’t as good, that doesn’t mean you’re not included in my selection process. Everyone is eligible to be featured.

Kit Sound: Eyal Levi wrote an article for Sick Drummer Magazine about why drum performances are always sound replaced these days. For those who haven’t read, the basic gist of it is because drummers don’t know how to tune their fucking drums (as so eloquently put by Eyal). And considering that many drum videos I see on YouTube involve players that have really bad sounding kits; it seems rarer and rarer that drummers actually tune their drums.

Meet all three of these criteria, and you have a shot to be featured. You could be playing the most radio friendly Disney pop imaginable, but if I feel that your video meets these criteria, you could make the front page.

And with all that out of the way, let us get to the feature presentation.

This time the pick in question is Tama and Zildjian artist Michael Vafiotis, drummer for Australian thrash metal band 4ARM. In the video he performs the band’s track Submission for Liberty from their recently released album of the same name. Michael is the drummer that Lars Ulrich should be; just one look at his kit and you can tell that Lars is his biggest influence. His Tama Starclassic kit is pretty much identical to Lars’s, aside from some added pieces, such as a much needed ride cymbal, a tom to his left, and a splash cymbal. All of his cymbals are Zildjian, further adding to the Lars influence. Even the way he sits at the kit is identical to how Lars Ulrich. All of his cymbals are Zildjian, and they’re beautiful to listen and look at as always. His sticks are Ahead, and while I personally am not a fan of their sticks, I can see why someone would enjoy playing with them. In the ability department, Michael impresses with the thrash metal standards of fast skank beats, fast double bass, fast fills and rolls, and did I mention fast yet? The drums in this particular video are sound replaced, but there are some live drum cams he has on this website that show just how appropriately sick his kit sounds.

And go buy their new album, Submission for Liberty, from their official store.

That’ll just about do it for this edition of Subrick’s Picks. If you liked this article and are interested in seeing more of me (drum wise, not body wise. Fat guys shirtless are disturbing), subscribe to my Youtube channel, like/follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and like my bands Sorrowseed and Pandora’s Toybox on Facebook. And don’t forget that I will be performing with Sorrowseed on June 16th at The Raven in Worcester, Massachusetts. Until we meet again, Subrick out.