The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Thursday, April 30, 2009

CD Review: Slough Feg - Ape Uprising!

Slough Feg - Ape Uprising!
2009 Cruz Del Sur
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Either Slough Feg is going to be considered the next best thing to crawl out of the underground since The Sword or they're going to remain criminally the toast of music journalists and sludge-prog addicts alone.

Only Slough Feg can tease their listeners with a rowdy album cover straight out of the eighties punk and hardcore scene and deliver fuzz-crushed nirvana inside with occasional doom measures and bucketloads of delectable guitar solos, as if sweeping themselves to a mega-lit arena as the opening act for Thin Lizzy or UFO.

Now on their seventh go-round, Slough Feg's Ape Uprising! is both silly as hell with its campy simian death monger yarn as it is deadly serious from a musicianship standpoint.

Even better than their previous outing Hardworlder, which was already a tough act to follow, Ape Uprising! will have you busting a gut instantly with the opening song title "The Hunchback of Notre Doom," yet Slough Feg is spot-on with their homage to Pentgram and Black Sabbath there's hardly room for laughter.

If you're not sold by the sparkling solos from Angelo Tringali and Mike Scalzi on the have-a-nice-day rawk feel of "Overborne," you might as well skip--not mosh--over to Hot Topic and peruse their Generation Tech band samplers. Arrogant to say, sure, but Slough Feg is certainly not catering to the same demographic as those betrothed to My Chemical Romance. Not when you have the ten-minute epic "Ape Rising" complete with the seventies-kissed feel of Blue Oyster Cult, Thin Lizzy, Spock's Beard, Yes and Kiss in one progressive swoop.

Slough Feg relays perhaps the crunchiest example of articulation on the scene today. They virtually recreate a vintage tone homogenous to vinyl's original heyday within a digital realm which brightly accents the former and spitefully dispels with the latter. Then again, "Simian Manifesto" may sound like it deserves to be thought of as a lost seventies jam, yet its bursts of thrash amidst the hard-chugging pep and continuously changing grooves (not to mention some obscene guitar wails) makes it gloriously post-modern despite a relentless addiction for Carter-era rock.

Ape Uprising! is impressive at every turn, be it the bar brawl crush of "Shakedown at the Six," the larger-than-life NWOBHM finale to "Nasty Hero" or the tunefully raspy motorbreaths exhaled on "Ape Outro."

It's only the first third of the year and already plenty of hot contenders for year-end finalists have staked their claims. Consider Slough Feg one of those in contention. For their sheer bravado in turning a ridiculously smarmy tale out of Creepy comics into an ear candy rock spectacle, pencil Slough Feg enthusiastically upon the list.

Rating: ****1/2

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Whatyya Listenin' to Wednesday - 4/29/09

Okee dokee, so production is down here at The Metal Minute, my apologies, readers. It's that time of the month at the office where you never leave and tempers are way up and I'll just leave the drama out of my monologue this morning since it's chaotic enough.

Been up since 5:00 a.m. getting an overdue review of the new God Dethroned album for cranked out, then hustling the kid to school only to find I need to drop back there again this morning with overdue paperwork and extra provisions for the squirt. Second occurence this week, Jesus, and as I heard The Bangles' yummy take on Prince's "Manic Monday" this morning, I thought, yup, dead on, but what about the rest of the week? Every day is a day I wish my bed was already made, lyrically speaking...

Thus it's been absolute lunacy and falling flat on my face with things due left and right and interviews being rescheduled from both ends. It's fun, I tells ya! At least we had an enjoyable Sunday with friends, food and hiking, but that vibe was dashed the minute I set foot into my work shoes the next day.

So as a result, I've been stuck on the new Depeche Mode album which I can't get enough of and it's like alternative rock week for me with a lot of Candlemass wedged in there, repeat plays of Spiritual Beggars and a couple of promo slides including the new CKY album. Not very productive but I hope things can ease slightly enough to get on track here, so stayed tuned, everyone. The hits are still steady and I thank you all; I'll be getting some new material generated immediately...

Depeche Mode - Sounds of the Universe
Depeche Mode - Songs of Faith and Devotion
Depeche Mode - Black Celebration
Depeche Mode - Playing the Angel
Depeche Mode - Some Great Reward
Depeche Mode - Violator
The Cure - Japanese Whispers
The Cure - Head On the Door
The Cure - 4:13 Dream
Candlemass - Death Magic Doom
Candlemass - Nightfall
Candlemass - s/t
Candlemass - King of the Grey Islands
Spiritual Beggars - s/t
God Dethroned - Passiondale
CKY - Carver City
Luna Mortis - Absence
Heaven and Hell - The Devil You Know

Monday, April 27, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

CD Review: Candlemass - Death Magic Doom

Candlemass - Death Magic Doom
2009 Nuclear Blast Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

If you happen to be one of the stubborn lot who strayed from Candlemass because Messiah departed once again, shame shame shame on you. Robert Lowe more than capably fielded mike duties on Candlemass' last album King of the Grey Islands while his second tour of duty in the legendary doom unit is so convincing this band responds triumphantly with their latest speakers-busting album Death Magic Doom.

Heaven and Hell and Candlemass this year have put the doom sanction on full alert the stakes are raised so high it's going to take nothing short of a boisterous masterpiece to challenge either band. Candlemass especially brings their A-game on Death Magic Doom it almost coerces tears of joy to listen to such care and grace to an album this freakin' loud.

While Death Magic Doom heralds some of the trademark despaired shambles of this honored-style of metal on slowly-flogging tunes as "Hammer of Doom" and "Clouds of Dementia," Candlemass inflict as much technicality as can be painted amidst their blaring volume and punishing tempos. Soak up the sheer heaviness of "House of 1000 Voices" and bob that head proper; you will not be able to resist this song it's so goddamned metal.

Screeching and meticulous guitar solos are Lars Johansson's specialty, yet there's a youthful exuberance tugged out of his squeezed frets and pumping pedals you have to appreciate the genuine artistry here. Ditto for Johansson's quasi-romantic high pitch slides on the chorus of "Dead Angel." Doom metal this may be, Johansson's playing is undeniably beautiful on Death Magic Doom.

Another of Candlemass' maneuvers of excellence is how they begin certain songs with tapestried quietude before stamping down with dominant power riffs on "Funeral Dreams" and "Demon of the Deep," the latter especially generating exquisite thunder on the heels of Robert Lowe's swooning intro and later with supplemented organs. Leif Edling's bass would nearly fill the track by himself, if not for Lars Johansson's punctuated string shrieks.

As Death Magic Doom opens with the brisk rocker "If I Ever Die," Candlemass proves they have every ounce of strength, will and determination to keep their long-running litany of cacophony reading like a dark bible of the form. With Robert Lowe's confident swagger which bears only the smallest hint of his predecessor, the man proves he's no fluke. Whatever Candlemass asks of Lowe, he can nail it and on Death Magic Doom, he does it with such conviction you have to believe the entire band feeds off of his capacities. The way Lowe scales and dips his notes on the Gothic feel of "The Bleeding Baroness," the ultimate projection is like a metallic ode to the classic Hammer films of the sixties and seventies.

As strong as Heaven and Hell's The Devil You Know is, Candlemass actually bests their (slight) elders with Death Magic Doom. Perhaps Iommi and Butler wield mightier swords of distortion, but the team of Johansson, Edling and Mappe Bjorkman possess plenty of clang in their own right. Not that Robert Lowe is superior to Ronnie James Dio (who the hell is, save for Rob Halford?), but once you've spun Death Magic Doom a few times, the entertaining prospect of seeing Dio and Lowe together with both groups in booming arms at their backs is not going to be too astray from your mind.

Candlemass at this point in their career could've settled for a by-the-numbers effort, which many would hardly ask for more. Thankfully, the Robert Lowe era of Candlemass gives far more than the expectations. Heavier than your balls after an hour in a meat locker...

Rating: ****1/2

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ray Interviews Rob Halford and Trevor Phipps of Unearth in the Latest Hails & Horns

In the latest issue of Hails & Horns, I present my interview with the Metal God himself, Rob Halford, one of my favorite guests in this business as well as another favorite, Trevor Phipps, barker/vocalist for Unearth. Bob Vinyl and I have reviews together in the same block with Sepultura from Bob, Bison B.C. from yours truly.

Also be on the lookout for articles from the Hails staff on Enslaved, God Forbid, Demon Hunter, All Shall Perish, Kylesa, Attila, Impending Doom, Funeral For a Friend, Harpoon, Emmure and Winds of Plague amongst others.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 4/22/09

Hi hi hi, little droogies, thank you as always for keeping that mouse clicked here to The Metal Minute!

Though the past couple days have been beyond hectic with a rough way to go at the office but an amazing possible opportunity with my journalism pursuits, it's a been kind of a mind rape, particularly coming out of a very nice and highly productive weekend.

Saturday night after keeping after the little one all day and getting the house organized, I ended up at a local bar with an impromptu Class of '88 reunion, which a friend of mine has been politely after me to come out and hang with her and the gang. Only my busy schedule has kept us from getting together, but I was pleased to go out and find old close friends I haven't seen in 20 years and it's great when you just fall into rhythm like time never passed. The night was loud, crazy, yours truly actually got out and danced just to seize the moment, and it was honestly quite a cool thing to see a lot of people have grown up and matured. Maybe not everyone, but still, a great night getting reacquainted. Considering the rebellious slob I was in high school, I appreciated the nice reception I got this weekend.

Thus I break the midnight hour having knocked out a review of the new Gollum album, which took me five listens before I felt ready to write it up. I love albums that are so challenging you need to really investigate and prod the thing to draw a conclusion. That being said, I definitely recommend The Core by Gollum. I also recommend the new Heaven and Hell album; holy shit, that's hea-vy metal from the true masters.

Otherwise, I've been on a serious Police kick all week as happens to me whenever I pull them off the shelf. I can't just take one or two of their albums at a time; it's always the whole catalog and it's always relentless spinning thereafter. Ghost in the Machine outweighed the others even if I had to back up "Wrapped Around Your Finger" from Synchronicity a number of times, one of the most sensual songs ever written...

Also had a heavy dose of Nine Inch Nails, Prong, Kiss and the Japanese drumming ensemble Kodo. If you're a stranger to Kodo, get familiar at once! They assist Sepultura on a tune from their Against album, which is freakin' thunderous! This group lives on their own island, makes their own drums and instruments and tours the world in the name of unity and peace. As honorable a prospect as I can think of...

The Police - Outlandos D'Amour
The Police - Regatta De Blanc
The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
The Police - Ghost in the Machine
The Police - Synchronicity
Prong - Cleansing
Prong - Beg to Differ
Prong - Rude Awakening
Kodo - Mondo Head
Kodo - Nasca Fantasy
Nine Inch Nails - The Downard Spiral
Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth
Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero
Gollum - The Core
Candlemass - Death Magic Doom
Heaven and Hell - The Devil You Know
Edguy - The Singles
Edguy - Tinnitus Sanctus
Great White - Rising
Midnight Oil - Diesel and Dust
Kiss - Kiss
Kiss - Dressed to Kill
Orange Sky - Dat Iz Voodoo
Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way
The Pretenders - The Singles
Isis - Wavering Radiant

Monday, April 20, 2009

Meliah Rage - "Hour Glass" video

New joint from The Rage...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

CD Review: Edguy - The Singles and Tinnitus Sanctus

Edguy - The Singles and Tinnitus Sanctus
2009 Nuclear Blast
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Of all the back-to-the-metal-future bands who deserve to step into a time tunnel and root themselves snugly in the frontier of the original movement, Germany's Edguy is perhaps the likeliest. Whether or not you dig what they have to offer in the way of their throwback power rock and Saxon and Helloween-kissed thunder metal, you have to at least give them a hand for their persnikkety sense of humor and devotion to recreating arena-worthy live standards, much less outrageously jacked and commercially-teased music to back it up.

At times Edguy has their tongues wedged so firmly beneath their mischievous teeth they're enjoyably lewd. At others they incorporate smarmy operatic backup vocals behind frontman Tobias Sammet they're something goofily tainted between Helloween and Queen.

Take a song like "Judas in the Opera" from Edguy's 2005 Superheroes EP, one reissued as part of a new (well, kinda new) 14 track collection entitled The Singles. The fact former Helloween vocalist Michael Kiske lends a hand on "Judas in the Opera" is a brother-in-arms German metal facet. However, the song's inherent strength comes courtesy of blind speed reminiscent of Helloween, gloriously replicated on its mosh-minded face, yet the pressure-cooked lyrics about snobbish aristocracy is Edguy's true calling.

Fans of this group are no strangers to the fact Edguy are confirmed knuckleheads beneath their highly-polished old school veneer. Come on, you have to laugh at their chutzpah for releasing a three-minute soft piano ballad under the guise of "Superheroes (Epic Version)." It almost makes you forgive them for covering Warrant's "I'll Cry For You" on their Lavatory Love Machine EP, also corraled on The Singles. Then again, you can figure there's a cheeky subtlety to Edguy's motivations for taking on Warrant, particularly aligned with the pep 'n pop rock silliness of the two apposite versions of "Lavatory Love Machine." There's a deliberate cheesiness to the "stripped" version of "Lavatory" which sets up a similarly-toned take on the Warrant cover. Coincidence? You be the judge, but this is Edguy, after all...

Keep your mind in the same oblong frame as The Singles moves into the King of Fools EP selections. As proficient as Edguy are at their instruments and particularly at pulling off every avenue of eighties heavy metal from spectrums ranging from the poof to the iron, you find yourself occasionally at odds wondering when these guys are serious, if it all.

Well, if you're talking about the "rain is falling, pouring down on me" from "Holy Water," you can insinuate a smart-assed anti-religion gibe, not to mention the following cut "New Age Messiah," which rings stoutly like a mid-tempo Helloween tune with devilish thoughts of giving Christ a hotfoot. On the flipside, the blatant and curse-laden goofiness of "Life and Times of a Modern Track" is undermined by a deadly earnest tirade against bootlegging and pirating music.

However, backpedal to the Spinal Tap-ish "Spooks in the Attic" and if you're not busting a gut over the title, try keeping a straight face as the song bobs with cute and effervescent choruses and dancy synthesizers as Tobias Sammet delivers lines such as "I'm a family kind of man I've lately started number ten..." and "heading for the grail across the sea of lubrication..."

Too much.

If the bleeding ears of the marble Jesus on the cover of the chuckly-named Tinnitus Sanctus doesn't harden Edguy's mastery of roasting heavy metal's ingrained pomposity (particularly of the eighties major label variety), then you're simply missing out on the joke.

As "Ministry of Saints" pumps agreeably like a lost and refurbished Krokus tune (hell, even Sammet digs just a little deeper to pull off a convincing Marc Storace), Edguy reaffirms their qualms with organized worship, which spills into the next track "Sex Fire Religion." Knowing this is Edguy and hearing the slinky groping tempo of "Sex Fire Religion," count on it being a spit in the face towards hypocrisy and covered-up sins throughout the global church. In fact, its existence is reminiscent of the Jerry Fallwell crucifixions metal groups of the eighties were randomly known for.

Edguy steps on the amplifiers just a bit more on Tinnitus Sanctus and both Jens Ludwig and Dirk Sauer wail out slightly restained but far more bombastic riffs and solos; you have to wonder who wanted to get the upper hand between Ludwig, Sauer and the group's planted keyboardist while recording the louder 'n hell opening bars of "Nine Lives." Nonetheless, Edguy dips their wicks into the oils of what gives them life on the thrash-meets-Slaughter-meets-Queen nuttiness of "Pride of Creation," which can be read as the parable of Frankenstein's folly, yet it chimes closer to an indictment against God.

Regardless, Tinnitus Sanctus plays its hand at a medium pace throughout, particularly on the Dokken and Dio-peppered "Dragonfly." Quite an oxymoron on the front, but there's something kindred with Edguy's verses on "Dragonfly" to Ronnie James Dio's all-star project Hear 'n Aid and their towering charity cut "Stars," even if Edguy goes more orchestral on their song's choruses.

How can you not appreciate the blatant swipe at Mr. Rock of Love with Edguy's "Thorn Without a Rose?" Darkly sensual in the opening minute, Edguy not only attacks Poison in their ticklish demeanor, but also every cock rocker of the late eighties/early nineties. Take your pick who fits this tune best; this writer will go with Firehouse.

As "9-2-9" deliberately rings like a plunged rock cut in an estranged eighties action flick and "Speedhoven" amps up with a Helloween-fused metal hallejuiah, expect Edguy to finish in zany fashion with the anti-poser strike of "Dead Or Rock" and a hilarious hoedown ode to masturbation, "Aren't You a Little Pervert Too."

The bottom line to Edguy is they're not for all audiences, albeit in Europe they've long been quite the rage since their inception in the late nineties. The fact they gestated in a period where metal was flourishing except in North America is the instigating factor to this band. Everything they do is attuned with German and British power metal flanked with the glitzy glamour of American douche rock. This has been Edguy's sustenance and goddamn would they have been the toast of the town in 1988...

Rating: ****

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Albums You Can't Live Without - Kiss - Dressed to Kill

Seeing my high school writing teacher attend my featured reading gig last week, I was impressed beyond words one of the first things emitting from his mouth was, "I remember you having a really big thing for Kiss back then." Now, you're talking 1986 and '87 when I was in Mr. Day's creative writing classes, which means he's had over two decades of students since then. Guess I made some sort of impression...

Of course this naturally got me thinking about who I was in high school and the metal bands I was into, which were plentiful considering my obsession with the genre. At this particular point in time I'd transcended into thrash metal and punk, cautiously wandering towards death metal and the more extreme natures of the beast. Nevertheless, I was still devoted to some of the more mainstream hard rock acts like Ratt, Twisted Sister, Keel and of course, Kiss, the latter of whom were caught up in the glitzed, poofed and spandexed alpha-meets-omega caricature as much as any of the similar bands fighting for corporate dollars were whoring themselves out to replicate.

Regardless, I still considered Kiss my be-all-end-all band during the Animalize, Asylum and Crazy Nights albums. Neither album should be ranked amongst Kiss' best, albeit the former two have some very fine moments for the aggressive eighties sound Kiss had instinctively turned towards in the interest of survival as of the snub-nosed and quite heavy Lick it Up. It would be on the Crazy Nights tour when I finally saw Kiss live, and I was front row, stage right in one of the most memorable nights of my life, one filled with ups and downs, but the lows had nothing to do with the performance. Then again, Gene kicked the bedsheet I'd spent two weeks toiling over to a roadie, probably never to be seen again, while then-guitarist Bruce Kulick took note of the stunned disappointment on my face, strummed his way over, pointed to me and whirled me a guitar pick. Someone stole my concert T I'd bought while fighting for my rightful treasure, but all to the good come the end of the night.

Kiss was the biggest spectacle on earth even without their famed kabuki makeup and to this day I feel that lineup had far more cred than what Kiss has passed off to their paying fans since Ace and Peter jaunted off a second time following the cash-in reunion tours.

I need not get into my opinions about Kiss these days because the minute those incredible Kissology DVDs came into my possession it was the like magic was suddenly restored and there I was, eight years old again with black and white cat markings on my face and a Gene Simmons doll (now worth a fortune) clutched in my young paws with Alive II spinning as it did religiously every single solitary day of my childhood from ages 7 to 10. Talk about obsession...

So it came to mind after Mr. Day inadvertently ushered those memories back that I went to my dungeon and plucked off the best of the best Kiss albums, Dressed to Kill.

Now over the years my favorites have ranged from Destroyer to Rock and Roll Over to Alive II to the Ace Frehley solo record. All of those records leading up to the unspeakable Unmasked (albeit I'm a lame sucker for "Shandi") are jewels in the rough, to lyrically paraphrase the Kiss guys. However, Dressed to Kill is one of the genuinely perfect rock albums of the seventies, much less one of out Kiss' catalog.

While the first Kiss album bears some of their toughest, mangiest and greatest tunes like "Strutter," "Cold Gin," "Deuce," "Black Diamond," "Firehouse" and "100,000 Years," there's something agreeably finessed and ear-poppingly fantastic about Dressed to Kill. Perhaps it's because Hotter Than Hell was only a slight misfire in that Kiss tried to amp up instead of groove, but Dressed to Kill in 1975 proved you could bob and jive tunefully with some of the most kickass licks of the decade.

Just the raunchy notes of "Love Her All I Can" is enough to sell this thing, particularly if you listen closely to the stoner, garage and the more uptempo doom bands out there today. Tell me you don't hear "Love Her All I Can's" driving melody everywhere today...

Then you have the peppy (and almost urgent) "Getaway" in which all the members take a turn at vocals in some capacity while the thing just moves and shakes its ass and is joyously upheld with a greasy solo from Ace. For my purposes, I adore the mesmerizing acoustic intro to "Rock Bottom" which even after so many times hearing it I never want it to end, despite the rock part of the track is sheer goodness itself.

"Two Timer" is just filthy in sound while "Ladies in Waiting" comes off innocuous and naive musically, but you know the tune is about banging chicks on the road in first-come-first-serve order. Of course, there's the pick-up lines snarling lasciviously through the breathy "C'mon and Love Me," a song so danged good it was considered Kiss' first true radio hit. Never mind the song invites women to drop Kiss to their knees and grind their muffs in their perverted faces...

How in the hell did Kiss get away with selling musical porn to us kids and it went sailing over our nubile heads? The whole Knights in Satan's Service tag the right wing cooked up during the late seventies was likely fabricated to swerve such audile smut from their children's ears, but none of it worked. The costumes, the personae and the larger-than-life stage spectacles far superceded the music as far as us children were concerned. Still, the fact Kiss' music rocked so damned hard through most of the decade before Kiss put some disco bump into their platforms on the Dynasty album is truly the reason they're the legends they are today. It's why Gwar is a cult band and Kiss are gods of thunder, despite one out-goring the other by droves.

That's one of the reasons the sleazy "She" gets pulled off so convincingly, because Kiss embraces the hard edges they sought to impress with Hotter Than Hell and still find a way to make it melodic as all get-out. Once again, how were we kids to insinuate a damned thing even with Gene and Paul boldly throwing "when she takes off her clothes" into our clueless ears? Yeah, we got the joke eventually, but man, the opening riffs of "She" are the stuff of legend, while Ace's solos are juicier than tangerines. Who cared about naked girls? That came later.

Of course, today's audiences will flock to Dressed to Kill simply because Kiss' calling card "Rock 'n Roll All Nite" rounds the album out with a perfect, leave 'em wanting more but consider the matter closed air. Personally, I, like so many fans having been with Kiss for over three decades, can take or leave "Rock 'n Roll All Nite." Put into the context of Dressed to Kill, it belongs here instead of ostracized from the preceding bouncy reverb of this album and displaced onto blase hits and live compilations. Only on Dressed to Kill is "Rock 'n Roll All Nite" truly appropriate after a ridiculous amount of spins from classic rock and payola-constricted FM stations.

Not to beat a dead horse, but as Dressed to Kill opens with the trashy but oh-so-addicting "Room Service," you have to congratulate Kiss for getting away with bloody murder. No other band in the history of rock can say they pulled such an elaborate swindle over their listeners' ears where they bribe children to their toys and lunchboxes while sending horndog shouts into the chasms of prospective sperm recepticles. Indeed, they'll take the pleasure with the pain...

Any wonder why I dug this shit so much, Mr. Day?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

CD Review: Isis - Wavering Radiant

Isis - Wavering Radiant
2009 Ipecac
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

It's hard for me not to discuss Isis without bringing a personal slant into things. Simply put, of any band in this generation or one having worked its way into this scene's good graces, Isis has become my undeniable rock. Opeth, Mastodon and Lamb of God being some of the absolute best bands of this period in metal, I tout those groups' praises with due reverence, but I've come to grow a chemical dependence upon Isis to the point only my child can make the storm clouds of my life vanish faster.

The thing with Isis is their escapist brand of art metal is a conjecture filled with beauty and grandiosity and yet on the turn of a dime they can drop the floor on you and plunge you into a cumbersome tar pit of sonic din. There really is no experience like Isis (even if Pelican is the closest runner-up) to the point any new album--at least for my purposes--is going to be digested with the utmost private part of my ear, brain and heart.

If you have the opportunity to chat with frontman Aaron Turner (as I was fortunate enough to do a couple weeks ago), privacy to the point of near-confidentiality even in a public exhibition of his group's music is one of the fundamental aspects to what makes Turner and Isis tick. You will almost never get Turner to discuss fully what muse motivates his group's albums, and that's to the good, because any true artist leaves enough ambiguity for the audience to decide what the subject matter is about. Turner will blatantly state it is a simple matter of cheating to lay all of your cards on the table.

Which leads us from 2006's gut-wrenching In the Absence of Truth (this writer's respective album of the year pick) to their latest wondrous soundscape, Wavering Radiant.

Having won a Revolver magazine Golden Gods Award this year for Best Underground Group, Isis has worked itself slowly to this point which finds the group less focused on animalistic tone destruction ala their earlier works such as Celestial, The Red Sea and their calamitous masterpiece Oceanic. Following their bridge-crossing experimentations on Panopticon, Isis found a wholesome balance of aggression and elegance on In the Absence of Truth.

The biggest acceleration with Wavering Radiant is its profound cleanness. For the second album in a row, Isis has reduced the feedback miasma pounding their creative flow, yet Wavering Radiant is the recipient of twittering guitars from Turner, Michael Gallagher and Clifford Meyer which captures a newer cadence atop their traditionally fuzz-laced rhythms. Grounded with the always-methodic bass of Jeff Caxide, Isis is perhaps the most psychedelic they've ever been on this album, using the hypnotic, serpentine note lines slithering through "Hand of the Host" as an example.

That's not to say Isis has lost its boom. Roaring out the gate with vociferous yelling and low-end crunch on "Hall of the Dead," Wavering Radiant establishes itself with nods back to Celestial and Panopticon before weaving a customary thread of exploration in search of the composition's climax, which is raised upon full with fugue organs assisting Isis' thunderous finale.

As with In the Absence of Truth, Wavering Radiant is one of the most investigative efforts Isis has completed in its lengthy career. As Aaron Turner has stated numerous times, Isis tries hard not to replicate themselves from album-to-album, and the biggest evidence of that on Wavering Radiant comes in various measures such as the Kyoto guitar whispers leading the first number of bars on "Ghost Key" or the tear-inducing, gorgeous high-note swoons on "20 Minutes/40 Years."

It also manifests on the briefly mainstream rock-ish "Stone to Wake a Serpent," which would've had a fighting chance (assuming Isis was interested in cracking through) had the first minute not been concentrated with Turner's enraged woofing and the group's accentuated tripiness. However, we all know Turner's vocal dynamics are part of the ride and Isis itself is all about the journey. Try telling these guys to trim down for a radio edit. As if! The percussive slaps filling the gaps between the translucent verses on "Stone to Wake a Serpent" would likely suffer in such loss, which in their own way usher in the richer tones of the remainder of the constantly building track.

Though In the Absence of Truth is a more emotional listening experience, Wavering Radiant is still another majestic performance from this group in which the end reason of each song is long-realized and blessedly so. Isis is a band you spend consumptive amounts of time with, or you go elsewhere if you're in a hurry. With all of the band members in proximity of each other for the recording of Wavering Radiant (versus the members dialing in their parts from both coasts the last time around), Isis now sounds the most organic they ever have. All the better with which to sink into your couch and soak them up.

Simply stated, Isis is the indisputable leaders of their style and with the recruitment of Tool's Adam Jones for random touches on three of Wavering Radiant's songs, the fullest realization of Isis' potential is now at hand.

Rating: ****1/2

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 4/15/09

Hope y'all have your taxes done in time today. Can't believe our refund came and went into the wind with things around here breaking down and needing replacement. Good times. Or maybe not.

Well, yeah, there is some good despite some brutal days at the office that's making most of us testy, yours truly especially. However, last Friday I was featured at a poetry venue and I was more than honored to see my high school writing teacher there in attendence, Paul Day. This man is my mentor and as I've been reading in his chapbook he brought for me, he's quite a dandy scribe himself. I would say this moment was surreal, but moreso it was a true privilege getting to read for my old teacher who gave me tremendous support back in my formative years in school. Bless you, Mr. Day...

With continued lack of sleep and that poor lad o' ours continuing to be sick, I push into the wee hours many nights to keep things rolling, but I did take pause to watch a couple of Ingrid Pitt flicks, Countess Dracula and The Vampire Lovers, hubba hubba... I always did love the Hammer studio's sense of visual style...

Spin-wise, I'm still submerged into Isis as I prepare to bring you readers a review of their brilliant new album Wavering Radiant, so be on the ready for that within the next couple of days. Also spending of lot of time with Lenny Kravitz, Prong, Kreator and stuff outta Promoville. Looking forward to hearing the new Depeche Mode album once it drops. Yeah, not so metal, but I've loved that band since college, which now seems two lifetimes ago. Oy, I'm old...

Isis - In the Absence of Truth
Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way
Lenny Kravitz - Mama Said
Lenny Kravitz - Let Love Rule
Kreator - Coma of Souls
Kreator - Endless Pain
Luna Mortis - The Absence
Grateful Dead - Skeletons From the Closet
Hemoptysis - Who Needs a Shepherd? EP
Gulch - Uphill Both Ways
Iced Earth - Horror Show
Prong - Power of the Damn MiXXXer
Prong - Power of the Damager
Prong - Rude Awakening
Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
Kylesa - Static Tensions
Ministry - Adios...
Opeth - Ghost Reveries
Great White - Rising
IXXI - Elect Darkness

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ray Interviews Iced Earth, Enslaved, Bigelf and Gojira in the Final Issue of Unrestrained

In memoriam of the late Adrian Bromley, the editors of Unrestrained magazine have released the final issue as a free download to readers.

Yours truly interviews Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth, Grutle Kjellson of Enslaved, Damon Fox of Bigelf and Joe Duplantier of Gojira in the issue.

Also in Unrestrained #39 are interviews (including a plethora from Mr. Bromley, giving credence to his nickname "The Energizer") with Kreator, Amon Amarth, All Shall Perish, Darkthrone, Hammers of Misfortune, In This Moment, Arkona, Spylacopa, Sister Sin, Grayceon, Horna, Kampfar, Book of Black Earth, Intronaut, October Falls, Deadlock, In Mourning, Beneath the Massacre, Fetid Zombie and many others, plus a reflection upon the life of Adrian Bromley from editor Tate Bengston.

To download Unrestrained #39 click here:

Unrestrained #39

Sunday, April 12, 2009

CD Review: Prong - Power of the Damn MiXXXer

Prong - Power of the Damn MiXXXer
2009 13th Planet Records/Megaforce Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Remix albums are sometimes sketchy and almost always suspect by invitation, that is, unless you happen to be one of the electronic or rock artists called upon to tweak and reinvent an existing body of work. Though Trent Reznor has called upon the remix trade perhaps one too many times, there's no denying latency for creative influx as gestated by a masterwork such as Isis' Oceanic. The Oceanic remixes album is perhaps one of the finest excuses to spin cycle previously-released work, while the on the gross flipside you have Milli Vanilli's Quick Moves: The Remix Album. Dare anyone take that atrocious point further than need be?

At least Static-X has always translated well in remix form, while Maynard of Tool managed to create a remix album more than worthy of the original source in his offshoot experimental band Puscifer. Even Linkin Park managed to dress up their crowd-pandering Hybrid Theory album with a relatively meaningful remix endeavor Reanimation, which actually surpasses its senior by miles.

Industrial groups such as Ministry, Revolting Cocks and Skinny Puppy were fashioned towards inspiring the expansive minds of electro spin doctors via their coarse and abrasive loudness set to tapped-out pulses. However, it stands to reason the proposition of a genuine heavy metal act thrown into spindled anti-wax reinvention really treads the razor's edge of acceptability. Seriously, coming to a Prong album advertising tech-dripped remixes leaves a skittish gnaw in the guts by attrition.

As heavy metal has enjoyed a resurgence, pop and electronic music have accordingly taken interest, assuming you've been to any rave in the past few years to testify. You might even say as of the two Mortal Kombat movies and their loud and digitally-giddy remix-oriented soundtracks, the course towards Prong's Power of the Damn MiXXXer was inevitable.

Though Zakk Wylde and the late Dimebag Darrell unintentionally stole some of his thunder, Tommy Victor has remained one of metal's most reliable riff regals. Yet there's a decided difference between the original formation of Prong which recorded the Headbangers Ball-courted tunes from Beg to Differ and Prove You Wrong and the lone-wolf Victor version of Prong issuing latter-day slabs such as Scorpio Rising and Power of the Damager. Nevertheless, there's no denying if you're going to want the most kick-ass crunch chords to amp up your loop-happy motherboard, you'd be coming to right man with Tommy Victor. Just ask Al Jourgensen.

Prong's 1996 album Rude Awakening and to lesser measures Cleansing before it, provided peekholes into at least the potential for what has derived as of 2009 with Power of the Damn MiXXXer, a hot and occasionally cold scrambler session of Power of the Damager. Though the title song "Rude Awakening" is one of the band's most mainstream cuts, it's also one of their best. In its own way, that song, much less the rest of Rude Awakening opened the gates for Tommy Victor, much less an ensemble of beatmasters and metal dudes checking in on Power of the Damn MiXXXer.

Though Power of the Damager may not rise to the favorite position of Prong's devout, it was an appreciably gung-ho effort from Victor, who at least showed the metal world he wasn't about to merely settle for random appearances at overseas festivals and cashing in on the popularlity of "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck."

There are some seriously heavy moments on Power of the Damager, which translate into a slew of monster remixes for Power of the Damn MiXXXer, even if not every single one of them are gems.

Of the best, Pitchshifter's Jon Clayden does a crafty rip of "Worst of It," which, under his supervision comes off like a raging, groovy Filter cut as of Short Bus before turning loose Tommy Victor's crushing riffs when needed to reiterate their sheer heaviness. Xris Flam keeps the core drive and string squeals of "Can't Stop the Bleeding" bobbing through a juicy digi-tempo while Virus of Dope sets "Looking For Them" through the bouncy passes of an addictive electro-metal hop.

Power of the Damn MiXXXer's most interesting remixes come courtesy of the same song, "The Banishment" and its offsetting assemblers, Rob Caggiano of Anthrax and Clayton Worbeck of Revolting Cocks. In many ways, Caggiano's barely-metal techno bob rings more like Revolting Cocks (and LaTour, for that matter) than Worbeck's. Caggiano wisely hones in on Tommy Victor's primary riff tears and rhythmic vocals set to his implemented dry-humped gyration. This is not to say Worbeck's take on "The Banishment" isn't representative of his own group's influence since there's still a dirty grind to the remix; however, Worbeck's approach is harder on the bass throb and his beat sampling creates more of a smacked-down essence than Caggiano's rump shaker.

Greg Puciato of Dillinger Escape Plan creates a cacaophonous industrial garroting effect on his coldwave mix of "Bad Fall," which more or less isolates a riff splice and yowl from Victor set on a not-too-fun, dirge-filled loop indicative of the old Wax Trax days. Ditto for Seismologist's slow, bass-driven crust tempo on "Messages Inside Me," albeit their recut is far less cataclysmic; plus, there's a very cool fusion of violin fugue merged into Tommy Victor's blaring miasma. On the other hand, AK1200 & GENR8 do a hemped-up, spin-heavy twist ala Atari Teenage Riot on "Pure Ether," another of Power of the Damn MiXXXer's more exciting trips.

Power of the Damn MiXXXer is generated out of a love for hearing things so much outside the box there's capacity for new life, a trait very few cashola remix albums possess. When listening to "No Justice" from Power of the Damager, one of that album's nastiest tunes, being submitted to an altogether different tweak ala DJ? Acucrack's machina-fucked assertion, it's safe to say some people partake a body of work differently than others. It's the fact the artists tinkering around with Tommy Victor's work actually appreciate his tone richness so much they can envision something equally heavy scoped-out through different spectra.

Rating: ***1/2

Saturday, April 11, 2009

CD Review: Hemoptysis - Who Needs a Shepherd? EP

Hemoptysis - Who Needs a Shepherd? EP
2008 self-released
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Phoenix is starting to warm up, and I'm not talking about the temperatures or the Cardinals who made a spectacular run towards a barely-missed championship. Metal is kicking up dirt and scorpions in a hurry throughout Arizona and one of its up-and-comers is a hybrid death-classic power metal band called Hemoptysis.

Vocalist/guitarist Masaki Murashita leads this motivated band with raspy, spit-choked yelps and a wicked flying-V that he wields trustily like a thunder God of the past, i.e. Loudness' Akira Takasaki or Accept's Wolf Hoffmann. Though Hemoptysis' lead guitarist as of this five-track recording Brian Bieganski has long since hit the bricks, the group's somewhat raw debut EP Who Needs a Shepherd? indicates something way cool brewing in their future.

If Who Needs a Shepherd? has any real qualms, it's merely an occasional mistime on transitions between drummer Travis Thune (who is overall quite excellent, particularly on his double-trick mosh flights) and the rest of his band. There's also a minute choppiness to the songs, particularly on "A Traitor," however Hemoptysis can consider themselves ahead of the curve, this being their homebrewed debut.

What works best about Who Needs a Shepherd? is the distinctive marriage of vintage eighties power crunch ala Armored Saint, Loudness and Racer X bonded to the death metal anti-spirit skulking beneath the overall thrum of "And the World Dies," "Shadows of Death" and "All of You."

Groovy shredding, sparkly solos, a keen sense of melody and snarling vocals gives Who Needs a Shepherd? long-toothed fang. The capable bass work of Sunao Arai is left a bit astray soundwise in the mix of Hemoptysis' arrangements, but some tightening up on future albums should cure that immediately. In fact, give Hemoptysis a shoo-in vote as an inevitable radar band. What they've got going on right now is the groundwork upon which to build something truly great.

Rating: ***

Friday, April 10, 2009

Take 5 With Laura Pleasants of Kylesa

Photo by Jan Schwarzkamp

Absinthe is now legal in the United States as the choice elixir of Edgar Allen Poe has immediately become the new rage of the underground as well as those in the mainstream with the duckets to purchase the stuff. Take a long hit of absinthe and you're likely to feel yourself plummeted to a quick blur where the sounds of chaos are symphonic and the tangible world becomes a bit more free-floated.

Then again, you don't really need that powerful swill to produce the aforementioned effects in music so motivated and driven from efforts past it becomes the high. Though you can spot Kylesa tugging on absinthe on their MySpace page, their current album Static Tensions is derived of nerve-scraping boom, destructive punk tempos and raw blades of electric fuzz, all assisting the underlying hallucinogenic and psychedelic tones twittering beneath the cranial-punched aggression.

Guitarist/vocalist Laura Pleasants, along with shotgun runner Phillip Cope, are remnants of the Kylesa which officially began in 2001 with Cope and late bassist Brian Duke, both former members of the nineties grindcore band Damad. The Savannah-based Kylesa has grown to refine their sludge-o-matic din over the past seven years to include a second drummer as well as capturing the severity of their heat-rich, moss and kudzu-choked environment. Static Tensions, as stated in a review here at The Metal Minute, has been a moment in the making and those coming to Kylesa's cause are unlikely to leave the experience unscarred.

As they begin a road jaunt in support of Static Tensions, The Metal Minute caught up with Laura Pleasants for a quick look behind-the-scenes of Kylesa's exemplary new album.

The Metal Minute: Suffice it to say, Kylesa has had to suffer a good bit of adversity with a couple of departures plus the unfortunate passing of Brian Duke. Kylesa has always been a bricks-heavy band, but your latest album Static Tensions bears its namesake with some of the angriest riffage I've heard this year. Without meaning to be maudlin, would you say you have used this album to exorcise some demons?

Laura Pleasants: All of our albums seem to serve that purpose. I think Phillip and I have a lot of personal demons in addition to having gone through some hardships within the band.

MM: I've been to Savannah and Tybee Island before, plus a trek over to Atlanta and as there's been a lot of hungry metal blazing out of Georgia the past few years, what do you feel contributes to the collectively louder than hell sound of your mutual bands?

LP: The smothering heat? The oppressive nature of the South? I 'm not really sure. People seem to ask that question a lot but I couldn't give you a definitive answer. I know Phillip has been around for a long time. He and his old band Damad used to do shows with Brent and Troy's (Hinds and Sanders, respectively, of Mastodon) old band Four Hour Fogger. The guys in Withered have been around a while, too. Heavy music has been around in the South for a long time; EyeHateGod and Buzzoven attracted me early on. I think it's just recently been getting more attention due to Mastodon's success.

MM: More than likely, though there's no denying all of your bands pack a mean, distinctive wallop. One of Static Tensions' best assets is the dual drumming from Eric (Hernandez) and Carl (McGinley) that was touched on with your previous album Time Will Fuse Its Worth. This time around, I think the tag-team drumming lends monster presence to Static Tensions similar to the way Nine Inch Nails and Pigface utilized them. For your purposes, how important was it for Kylesa to capitalize on this aspect of your sound?

LP: It was very important. It was hard to hear the double drums on the last record and it was something we had only begun to experiment with with in terms of songwriting. I think we recorded Time Will Fuse Its Worth only a few months after getting with the two drummers, so there was lots of room to grow as far as what we could do with them. There was more of a blueprint this time around as to how to record the drums. We're also a pretty rhythm-heavy band, and the double drummers emphasize that a good deal.

MM: I dislike the term "post punk" and "post metal" since they present double standards in wording as both styles are well alive and kicking these days. Still, I can hear all sorts of varied punk modes on "Scapegoat," "Unknowing Awareness" and the Fugazi feel of "Almost Lost." First, what do you measure as the ultimate punk album and secondly, what stands in your mind as the best-felt punk vibe on Static Tensions?

LP: That's a tough question! There are several ultimate punk records, I think. I would likely have to go with Black Flag, probably My War. It's super-pissed with Greg Ginn wielding an axe of anarchy. They weren't scared to experiment and break away from molds. That, to me, is punk as fuck. I think the punkest moment on Static Tensions is "Scapegoat".

MM: Take us to the "American tension neighborhood" Kylesa lives in as depicted on "Nature's Predators" and describe what we might expect to see as relates to Static Tensions, much less your entire path as a band.

LP: We used to all live together in one big house. Phillip and his girlfriend live there now and the neighborhood itself is pretty good, but Savannah is incredibly spotty. One or two blocks in the wrong direction and you will find yourself very unwelcome. There's lots of poverty, lots of violence, and a lot of ignorance and indifference. Our surroundings are hard to ignore as they are in many ways a part of us. So we write about them. Kylesa is very much about the human condition.

Copyright 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Kreator and Exodus Live - Sonar, Baltimore 4/7/09

As promised yesterday, here are some photos from the opening night of Kreator's Hoardes of Chaos Tour featuring Exodus, Belphegor, Warbringer and Epicurean at the Sonar club in Baltimore, Maryland. Unfortunately I was locked down at the office too long to catch Warbringer and Epicurean's sets, while I was informed by Kreator's tour manager that Belphegor had experienced visa problems entering the U.S. and were forced to cancel Tuesday night's gig.

That only meant Exodus had a longer slot, which they made good on it, trust me. Exodus was terrific and Kreator was unbelievable. Yours truly was headbanging something fierce during both sets, which doesn't get easier at age 38 (and for 2.5 hours between both bands, yowza), but I was still way faster than the young 'uns in the 'banging department, though they've well-inherited the pit from me and all the old timers who showed up at this gig. The last time I'd seen Exodus live in '89, I lost my glasses in the mosh. Glory days...

Assume the stance, drop the shoulders low and rattle that goddamn head! Old school, baby!!!!



All Photos Copyright (c) 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 4/8/09

Just crawling back from the Kreator/Exodus gig tonight in Baltimore with bleeding ears even with plugs! Suffice it to say, both bands brought it old-school style; Exodus was spot-on aggressive, while Kreator was astonishingly thunderous. An amazing night of thrash though not without its adversities; however, those were overcome and as you can see in the pic above I managed to cross paths and chat with Exodus' Gary Holt for a quick minute as we'd interviewed together twice in the past for Metal Maniacs. I'd have to say yours truly looks like he stepped out of the proverbial cuckoos' nest in that shot, oy.

Stay tuned this Thursday for my photos of the Exodus and Kreator gig which will be running here at The Metal Minute. Pretty snazzy stuff, considering I wasn't aware my memory card had been pinched by wifey and I had very little space on the internal memory, thus I had to be on my game with only 35 available shots to me. Good times! I think you fine folks will pleased nevertheless...

Also want to give a shout to the young brothers from WIXQ 91.7 FM I met at the gig tonight. These dudes run their own metal station where they pimp "Fifteen hours of metal in one day" on Wednesdays. Check 'em out:

This Friday I have an open mike poetry feature performance where I'm on for about two hours minus time for a break. If you're in the Westminster, Maryland vicinity and want to attend, drop me a line and I'll give you details.

So needless to say, things are getting back on track life-wise. The boy is growing so quickly and he's a joy to have around and to watch him be so happy in our presence. He brings a certain love to the house that I'm sure all parents feel, no matter the hardships and the occasional combativeness kids have within their chemical makeup. This kid'll be moshing in no time!

As I was on a marathon to get seven assignments turned in within the timeframe of last Friday to this Monday, I'd have to say there was only time to watch this insane Japanese sex and gore flick, Cruel Restaurant for Horror, which has a punchline you'll have to see to believe. Honestly, that's the only tube time I've had since last Thursday.

Spin-wise, heavy doses of My Dying Bride, Rush, Mastodon and Isis with a bunch of review albums that needed to get out of here pronto, plus I'm still way stuck on that Heavy Metal film soundtrack, so let's give that one top spinner of the week, eh?

Hope everyone's well out there. I just want to thank all the people who wrote in about The Metal Minute winning the Metal Hammer award last week. I hate to sound like a broken record, but you all are the reason I keep this thing going so you have every bit to do with the award as myself. Cheers to all of you and bless you for sticking by this site. As Dio would say, we rock...

Heavy Metal motion picture soundtrack
My Dying Bride - For Lies I Sire
My Dying Bride - Songs of Darkness Words of Light
My Dying Bride - A Line of Deathless Kings
My Dying Bride - The Light at the End of the World
Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans
Isis - In the Absence of Truth
Isis - Wavering Radiant
Isis - Celestial
Isis - Oceanic remixes
Isis/Aerogramme - In the Fishtank 14
Arise - The Reckoning
Mastodon - Remission
Mastodon - Crack the Skye
Kylesa - Static Tensions
Psychostick - Sandwich
Rush - Hemispheres
Rush - Permanent Waves
Cream - Fresh Cream
Bulletmonks - Weapons of Mass Destruction
Thin Lizzy - Still Dangerous: Live at the Tower Theatre Philadelphia 1977
Gnaw - This Face
Hellsaw - Cold
The Funeral Pyre - December EP

Sunday, April 05, 2009

CD Review: My Dying Bride - For Lies I Sire

My Dying Bride - For Lies I Sire
2009 Peaceville Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

There's Goth metal and then there's My Dying Bride. Outside the indisputable masters of the magnificently maudlin, Opeth, doom and despair specialists My Dying Bride are unequivocally the next best thing.

At one point to be considered the UK's answer to Type O Negative, My Dying Bride are honing in on the closure of their second decade together, accounting for some personnel adjustment in 2006 and 2007. As gutturally impressive as they have been since the early days of 1994's Turn Loose the Swans and '96's The Angel and the Dark River, not to mention the frequently blistering The Light at the End of the World from 1999, My Dying Bride has reliably sieved out some of the starkest and gloomiest metal outside of Pentagram, Sunn O))) and Lacrimas Profundere.

As concussively depressive as The Cure's Pornography and Sisters of Mercy's Floodland only on a deeper-plunged, heavier scale, My Dying Bride are at this point the Faustian inheritors of a Goth subculture who champion this band as trad doom fans glom fanatically onto Cathedral and the stoner set upon Weedeater.

Whereas My Dying Bride created a miasma of Bachian fugue on 2004's Songs of Darkness, Words of Light, on their latest album For Lies I Sire, expect weepy, Dante-railed violins, melancholic piano swoons, savage yet romantic platitudes from Aaron Stainthorpe and of course brute-handed finesse chords designed to usher you straight to your exposed nerve endings in irresolute sadness.

What's particularly terrific about the epochal style of My Dying Bride's languished sorrow in how much respect they show towards their audience, which consists of everyone from vampires to literati to plain ol' doomheads. In fact, you might say My Dying Bride's overall constitution as a doom unit predates the transcendence of Goth as its own thread of fringe culture. As long as they've been doing this daunting form of veneered lugubriousness, it should come as no surprise that For Lies I Sire is spot-on, grief-stricken sophistication as only My Dying Bride can specifically convey.

"Shadowhaunt" caters to both the Goth sect and dark metal aficianados by gracefully swishing through the first couple of verses before turning up the amplitude (as well as letting Aaron Stainthorpe snarl a tad like the old days, a trick repeated later on the album's final song "Death Triumphant"), as do "Santuario Di Sangue" and "A Chapter in Loathing."

By the time the listener is plunged into My Dying Bride's eloquent lament, For Lies I Sire has already kicked into gear with the quixotic and blood-rained "My Body a Funeral" which grows downright bustled in the second half. This gives way the neck-provoking electric bob of "Fall With Me," complete with an exquisite marching breakdown that has nothing to do with metalcore's skidded interruption modes. "Fall With Me" grows from its breakdown with an uptempo groove and temporal guitars from Harnish Glencross and Andrew Craighan.

Suffice it to say, My Dying Bride is by no means everyone's cup of tea. Some prefer a little orange pekoe merely for its familiarity, while My Dying Bride is the equivalent to an Earl Grey nailed with a splash of absinthe. The effects of Katie Stone's funereal violins on For Lies I Sire are as intoxicating as Aaron Stainthorpe's Eldritch-esque despondent cleans. Ever since exchanging his demonic ralphs around the time of A Line of Deathless Kings for largely-full-time singing, My Dying Bride has become even more organic as a result. Organic as in a decomposing corpse left to the starving rats in a relentless downpour...

Rating: ****

Friday, April 03, 2009

CD Review: Arise - The Reckoning

Arise - The Reckoning
2009 Regain Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

This might be a new name to you, even though Sweden's Arise found themselves nestled on Universal Records in a blink of an eye during 2005. Of course, the mighty Mushroomhead did some time with the same label and were dropped despite outstanding sales--counting by non-conglomerate standards, of course.

Figure the same fate for Arise who were likely picked up by the big leaguers in the Swedish metal sweepstakes as Arch Enemy, In Flames and Soilwork became instant toasts of the At the Gates-revival party. Who wouldn't want to have their own Arch Enemy, not when punishing thrash and death metal motifs scored some voguish duckets only four years ago?

Of course, the year is 2009, record sales are in the air in light of floundering economies and Generation Tech imposing its MP3-addicted will upon music presentation. Arise find themselves on Regain Records, a label dedicated to some of the more extreme forms of black and death metal and one who, for the record, reissued Arch Enemy's hard and brackish debut Black Earth in 2007.

Suffice it to say, Arise is exactly where they should be, because their fourth full-length album The Reckoning is all that you want if Gorgoroth is too much for you to handle but you need something nastier than say, Parkway Drive. In fact, The Reckoning is stuck plumb in the middle of both extremes, which means it rocks like a beast.

There's assuredly a fine line between death metal and the newly-dubbed deathcore and Arise treads cautiously between these modes with a heavy lean towards pure death metal and wicked-paced thrash. Moving quickly and expediently through the opening cuts "Adrenaline Rush" (appropriately titled at a meager two minutes) and "No Memory of Light," Arise keeps all fatty tissue carved clean of their vicious and largely addicting tunes.

As Arise has been officially around since 1996 and recipients of the graceful production touch of King Diamond's Andy LaRoque for their 2000 demo Abducted Intelligence, this band displays professionalism equivalent to their experience on the scene with The Reckoning.

Though Arise had to suffer some personnel shifting, they sound magnificent on The Reckoning, particularly on "They Are Coming For You." Masterfully conceived, "They Are Coming For You" is built on straight-ahead thrash that waits until three-fourths of the ride before changing tempos, in particular a seriously bad-ass drum pump from Daniel Bugno which lets his guitarists Sternberg and L-G Jonasson jam loosely with him before finishing with an Arch-Enemy-esque stride.

While "Pitch Black" is a two-plus-minute instrumental sounding like a prolonged breakdown with various fills overtop (do you think this might be a cheeky stick at the metalcore youth?), Arise confidently assembles their tunes between traditional Swede stomp tempos and muscular thrash bursts. Daniel Bugno is particularly exciting throughout this album as he makes his boisterous splash cymbal sequences come alive like Japanese dragons at gong's beckon.

Other songs such as "Reclaiming the Soul," "End of Days" and the anything-but "Dead Silence" run fastidiously with genuine motivation and articulated melody, especially the hammering guitar chords on "Dead Silence." You think your local metal festival can get your ass shaking in the pit with brutal guitar strikes? Check this shit out...

Not that Arise has ever sold themselves out when finding the brief fortune to score a major recording deal, but it's evident as of The Reckoning this band is in it for themselves. Though you can hear quite a bit of what's red-hot in metal's various strains on The Reckoning, the effort Arise puts into their work is sincere. A truly entertaining album from a band who should've been on the same tier as their esteemed countrymen, but after you've heard The Reckoning, you'll be pleased as punch they're not.

Rating: ****

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Metal Minute Awarded Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine


April 1, 2009
Baltimore, MD

The winners of Metal Hammer magazine's 2009 Web of Death Online Awards were announced today and Ray Van Horn, Jr. was given honors in the category of “Best Personal Blog” for his website The Metal Minute.

The esteemed UK-based rock journal, in publication since 1984, recently hosted their internet excellence awards in response to Revolver magazine's forthcoming Golden Gods Awards. Metal Hammer's focus was designed to spotlight journalists and online heavy metal publications with their Web of Death Online Awards.

The Metal Minute fell into the company of other award-winners such as, Metal, Metal,,, and SMN

On winning a Web of Death Online Award, Van Horn notes, “I remember how difficult it was in the States during the eighties to hunt down Metal Hammer outside of deep-flung underground music stores, but it's nothing short of surreal to be given this nod of recognition from a journal I read frequently in my teens along with Rip, Hit Parader, Circus, Kerrang, Fangoria and Gore Zone. To be acknowledged from the traceable birth region of heavy metal means more than a measurable amount to me. I can honestly say there have been times when personal and professional changes within the past year made The Metal Minute's continuation rather suspect. My readers, my label providers, my publicist friends, my colleagues and especially the nomination from Metal Hammer made me dig deeper inside myself to make The Metal Minute a worthy source of journalism in support of a scene that refuses to let me go and vice-versa.

“I've seen some sad moments this year already with the passing of industry friends and the folding of respected magazines I've been on staff with for a considerable amount of time. Trying to find new homes to roost has presented considerable challenge while on the flipside, I have now been presented with a beautiful child I am about to adopt. In the same timeframe of hard adversity, I've had Rob Halford, Alice Cooper, Lemmy Kilmeister, Jon Schaffer, Trevor Phipps, Aaron Turner, Wayne Static, Mike Daly, Chris Poland, Ross the Boss, Grutle Kjellson, Damon Fox, Max Cavalera, Matthias Jabs and others on my phone. I have a featured gig in a local venue coming up next week, I recently lurched around as a zombie in an indie horror film and I have two new books to finish. Best of all, I am about to become a daddy and Metal Hammer has given my pet project blogsite a very humbling award. Life is good. Thank you to Rob Gill and the Metal Hammer staff for this generous bestowment.”

Since going online, The Metal Minute has now gained close to 300,000 hits from an international base of readers. Featuring numerous album and DVD reviews, special-themed write-ups and video streaming in addition to the reader-praised “Take 5” interview series, The Metal Minute looks forward to continued service of the heavy metal, punk and horror scenes.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 4/1/09

As of tomorrow, The Metal Minute will change its name and format to The Playa's Post...

Psych!!! Happy Idiots Day!

Man, 3/4 of a year down already! Sad but true what they say about time as you grow older; I never did take my grandfather's advice, which I'm sure he's chuckling at me from the afterlife for being such a disobedient sprat.

Good vibes in the making as we are officially going to adopt the baby, huzzah! Despite my wife getting laid off last week, a monster prospect is in her hands and we're awaiting final confirmation this week of a possible new job which will give her an emotional boost and yours truly a bit more personal freedom in the upcoming months as I reconcile daddy responsibilities with my side work here in Music Land. Nevertheless, the three of us enjoyed our first Saturday out as a threesome since November, which was as wonderful as it gets, truthfully.

I managed to conduct interviews with Aaron Turner of Isis and Chris Letchford of Scale the Summit for an upcoming ish of Hails & Horns, so be on the lookout for those pieces plus an interview with Time Flies When You're in a Coma: The Wisdom of the Metal Gods author Mike Daly.

Also check out my review of the new Queensryche album American Soldier at Dee Snider's House of Hair Online as well as my write-ups of the new Derek Sherinian and Wolf albums at Heavy Metal.

Spin-wise, I'm absolutely meserized by the new Mastodon album and of course the new Isis disc. Also spinning the Heavy Metal movie soundtrack a good number of times and changing things up with other assorted vibes as you can hedge from my crazy-ass playlist of the week. With deadlines coming up in a hurry, my reading and viewing time has been relegated to my review pile of Asian horror flicks for Horror, as well as Strangeland.

Stay tuned for more mayhem at The Metal Minute. I've lined up a big 'ol nasty stack o' stuff to review exclusively here at the site (My Dying Bride will be on tap with an EP from an unsigned band called Hemoptysis thereafter) and I've reached out to the Kylesa camp for a future Take 5 interview; my thanks in advance to those cool cats. So need I say, keep that mouse clicker and favorites menu tuned...

Mastodon - Crack the Skye
Mastodon - Leviathan
Isis - Wavering Radiant
Scale the Summit - Monument
Scale the Summit - Carving Desert Canyons
Heavy Metal motion picture soundtrack
Queensryche - American Soldier
Shakuhachi - The Japanese Flute
Cannibal Corpse - Evisceration Plague
Rush - 2112
Buddy Holly and The Crickets - The Chirping Crickets
Killing Joke - s/t
Killing Joke - Night Time
Thin Lizzy - Still Dangerous
Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans
The Time - Ice Cream Castle
The Time - Pandemonium
Dazz Band - Greatest Hits
My Dying Bride - For Lies I Sire
Paria - The Barnacle Cordious
Dolly Parton - Backwoods Barbie
Cream - Fresh Cream
The Donnas - Bitchin'
Hemoptysis - Who Needs a Shepherd? EP
Darkest Hour - Undoing Ruin
Iced Earth - Horror Show