Eagles Of Death Metal: Heart On


I didn’t want to review this album. I didn’t like their first two albums, so I wasn’t very excited about there third. But then Ipecac went and released the vinyl version and I felt obliged.

In the meantime there was Bataclan, which has to be the most publicity Eagles Of Death Metal have ever received. Honestly, I was somewhat impressed they were big enough to be the target of a terrorist attack. And then, oh boy, and then…. Lead singer Jesse Hughes blamed the incident on France’s tight gun laws, I guess because the lax gun laws in the United States are so successful at preventing mass violence. Apparently the guy’s been a nutter for a while, hates Muslims, and supports Trump, and maybe this horrible thing just pushed him beyond the pale.

And it was actually after that happened that I realized I was going to have to review this. I can’t say the guy’s despicable comments (check out that link, he accuses Bataclan security for being in on it, and, to be fair, issues a very good apology later for same comments) didn’t affect my opinion of the album. But I don’t think it’s very good.

This is basically the same as EoDM’s last two albums. They put together some good riffs, but the sound is as thin as Hughes himself and they have a really hard time putting together entire songs. There’s what seems like a cheekiness in the lyrics and the ‘tude, but then given Hughes’ general weirdness you just can’t tell. Whether serious or a gag, though, it doesn’t come off well. I mean, the world didn’t need another song about masturbation, cheeky or not, but here EoDM are with “Solo Flights” singing the praises of self pleasure and oh god it was somewhat outrageous when The Divinyls did it 20 years prior but Jesus Christ, yeah, we all love jerking off.

From memory, ‘cuz there’s no way I’m going to go back and listen to them, this is a bit better than the band’s first two albums, maybe a lot better. I mean, I can kind of stand like a third of it. And I was able to find my old review of Death By Sexy…, and it got 1.5 [clowns], so there’s a little more evidence for the band getting better over time.

Still, that third I enjoy rarely consists of entire songs and/or requires I be in just the right mood for it to hit me in the right way. No, there’s no reason to spend any more time with this than my rules say I have to, and I can’t believe enough people want to own this on vinyl that Ipecac decided to put it out, but EoDM and vinyl are two things I am clearly not the target market for.

Like: “Anything ‘Cept The Truth,” “I’m Your Torpedo”
Meh: “Wannabe In LA,” “(I Used To Couldn’t Dance) Tight Pants,” “Secret Plans,” “Heart On”
Dislike: “High Voltage,” “Now I’m A Fool,” “Cheap Thrills,” “How Can A Man With So Many Friends Feel So All Alone,” “Solo Flights”
Hate: “Prissy Prancin'”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading


Killing Joke: Pylon


I don’t know much about Killing Joke. My greatest exposure to their catalog is covers here and there, most notably Metallica’s version of “The Wait,” but also from a recent review of Prong’s Songs From The Black Hole. Still, I think I can safely say that the band has barely changed their approach in their over 35 years of existence. Everything is a new world dystopia, from the threat of nuclear war to corporations ruling everything. It’s almost as if they’re thrilled with the current state of geopolitical affairs so that they can inveigh against it. It feels like the band had to exert all of their effort just to refrain from mentioning Thatcher.

Musically not much has changed either, as far as I can tell. If you loved Killing Joke in the 80’s and want to hear them recording on more modern equipment, then you’re in luck. If you want 57 minutes of verse-chorus-verse and no other song development, hey, it’s really you’re lucky day. Continuing with the theme I introduced in my previous review, you could fit over three full Unpluggeds into these ten tracks. I don’t dislike any on this record (though “War On Freedom” comes close), and I had it pegged at three clowns for most of my listening (in part I think because the last three tracks are 60% of the album’s Likes, though even those are too long), but in the end it’s too repetitive and too much of an effort to get through. Even cutting 10-12 minutes and getting it down to an old school LP length would have been an improvement, though probably not enough to get it any more than three clowns. While most of this is enjoyable, there’s virtually nothing that transcends or compels you to listen to it again.

Like: “Dawn Of The Hive,” “Euphoria,” “Delete,” “I Am The Virus,” “Into The Unknown”
“Autonomous Zone,” “New Cold War,” “New Jerusalem,” “War On Freedon,” “Big Buzz”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Nechochwen: Heart Of Akamon


This album ended up on pretty much every heavy metal best of list for 2015, topping several of them, so I was super excited to listen to it. What a gigantic let down.

First, here’s what it’s got going for it: it’s unique. A West Virginia band paying tribute to Native Americans in part by, I’m told, incorporating Native American melodies and instrumentation throughout the record. So I mean I’ll give them an “E” for effort.

But I’m just not hearing anything beyond that. I have very little education in Native American music, but what I have studied is probably more than most, and I’m not hearing the incorporations here. “October 6, 1813” has what sounds like a pan flute in it, but it’s reverbed so heavily that it sounds like a cheesy version of what Hollywood tells us “Indians” [sic] sound like, not like what they really do.

While there are parts of tracks that are listenable, this album to me is mostly just boring stretches between those mildly compelling parts. And the vocals are undecipherable, which, if you’re making some statement on genocide or American history or whatever, is a big failure. I might like this more if I could understand what was being sung. I doubt it, but it’s a starting point.

I tried, but I’m putting this down as another naked emperor moment. Fat Clown wins again.

Like: “The Serpent Tradition,” “Lost On The Trail Of The Setting Sun,” “Skyhook”
Meh: “The Impending Winter,” “October 6, 1813,” “Traversing The Shades Of Death,” “Skimota,” “Kiselamakong”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Gloryhammer: Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards


So I was pretty hard on Gloryhammer back when I reviewed this playlist a couple of years ago. Turns out I didn’t get the joke. But that’s because the joke sucks worse than the music. Look at the font of that title; even by 1992 we’d moved past that font as futuristic. So it’s obviously all tongue-in-cheek. But the problem is that, while it’s all completely ridiculous, it’s not funny. (Of note: Gloryhammer shares a band member with Alestorm, whose song I also hated on that playlist.)

I’ve explored comic music a lot here, but what makes bands like The Darkness and Flight Of The Conchords work is that their songs are pretty good, too. They’re poking fun at a genre, but they’re steeped in it so well that they can actually write good stuff. Gloryhammer is completely steeped in fantasy metal, but it’s just standard fare (albeit fast and virtuosic), and so even the silly story of some intergalactic battle from 992 reborn a millennium later isn’t humorous to save it from sinking under its own weight.

But not only does Gloryhammer fail to be original musically, they completely whiff on the comedy aspect as well. If you think about a band like Steel Panther, they’re funny because they put a twist on something like, instead of singing about banging girls, they sing about the VD that goes along with indiscriminate banging. Gloryhammer, however, just ratchets everything that’s ridiculous about fantasy metal up a little bit. Like, all they’ve done is combined goblins and galaxies and created some silly word salad song titles. Given the already ludicrous nature of the genre, they’ve barely even amplified anything.

Without humor or songs, it’s hard to understand why anybody would listen to this. But I’ll give it a second clown for musical chops and for the stopped clock being right on a few tracks.

Like: “Rise Of The Chaos Wizards,” “Questlords of Inverness, Ride To The Galactic Fortress!”
Meh: “Infernus Ad Astrum,” “Goblin King Of The Darkstorm Galaxy,” “Victorious Eagle Warfare,” “Universe On Fire,” “Heroes (Of Dundee),” “Apocalypse 1992”
Dislike: “Legend Of The Astral Hammer”
Hate: “The Hollywood Hootsman”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Iron Maiden: The Book Of Souls


If this hadn’t been perhaps one of the most hyped metal albums in history it might have just gotten swept into the dustbin, along with the other regrettable entries in many metal legends’ discographies. However, coming five years after their prior release, being a double album (amazingly they only have 11 tracks covering the album’s 92 minutes), and suffering from delays due to lead singer Bruce Dickinson’s cancer treatment, this album was highly anticipated. Unfortunately, while being mostly inoffensive, it pretty much sucks from top to bottom.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Dickinson’s voice has not held up over time (or possibly hasn’t recovered from the surgery on his tongue). I noted a similar effect on Motörhead’s release from this summer, too, but a rough-voiced singer like Lemmy can pull off some weakening better than can the operatic Dickinson. I hate to criticize somebody’s performance when they’ve just had cancer treatment on their singing organ, but the band had no business making Dickinson produce this much singing on record.

And, really, the band had no business putting this much music on record. Again, this is an 11-track album that lasts 92 minutes. There is a 10-, a 13-, and an unbelievable 18-minute track included. The second longest song on the album, “The Red And The Black” is representative of most: the stanzas are paired in such a way that the first three bars of each are the same, but the melody of the fourth bar in the first stanza ascends at the end whereas that of the second stanza descends into resolution. There’s nothing wrong with that approach per se, but it’s certainly not progressive, and when it’s done over and over for 90 minutes it becomes incredibly tiresome. Another trope delivered all too often is that most of the songs, especially the longer epics, are introduced with a solo guitar playing a slowed down version of the main theme (that, again, we’re about to hear for another eight minutes or more, anyway). With every run through the pattern at the start of “The Book Of Souls” I’m begging for it to begin, and I’m disappointed too often.

Finally, there’s “Empire Of The Clouds,” the album’s last track. It runs 18 minutes (and one second, for good measure). It’s about a big ship and the difficulties of launching it. I mean I think it’s a flying ship, which makes it a little better, but at the point where the captain melodramatically drops the cargo when told she won’t sail, the last little flicker of interest I have dies out.

The band is at its best when they keep things short, at least relatively so, as they get to the point more expeditiously and don’t stretch things out when they don’t have anything else to say. See “The Great Unknown” and “Death Or Glory” for a couple of examples. Still, these are not great songs by any measure. In fact, the band’s ceiling on this album seems to be adequate.

Rock musicians have proven to me in the past two decades that, even when they’re old, they can still release great music and deliver energetic performances. But it’s far from guaranteed, and if you’re doing this in your 50’s and 60’s, you’d better be damned sure your material is solid. Iron Maiden came through the grunge/alternative era with their reputation probably better than it was when it went in, and in large part well-deserved due to the strength of their 80’s catalog. But good grief, The Book Of Souls is more preposterous than much of what Spinal Tap predicted.

Like: “The Great Unknown”
Meh: “If Eternity Should Fail,” “Speed Of Light,” “The Red And The Black,” “When The River Runs Deep,” “The Book Of Souls,” “Death Or Glory,” “Shadows Of The Valley,” “Tears Of A Clown,” “The Man Of Sorrows”
Dislike: “Empire Of The Clouds”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Love Spit Love: Trysome Eatone


Hey did you know that this band features Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs? Well if you didn’t, Butler will tell you himself as part of the lyrics on this album. “Believe” features the line “Richard’s not at home,” and on “Friends” you even get his last name included in the lyrics.

Also, if you’re like me, you always thought the best part of The Psychedelic Furs was their name. Even their biggest hit, “Pretty In Pink,” was basically a non-event in the universe I inhabit. It was on the soundtrack, yeah, but I never heard it on the radio or heard anybody humming it. It’s completely forgettable.

And I have no idea why Richard and his brother Tim needed to disband one yawn of a band to start basically the same exact band. The best thing I can say about this album is I can kind of hear what other people would like in it. The production is excellent, providing lots of great timbres and atmosphere and layers and places to get lost in.

But man, then there’s the songs. They’re mostly inoffensive but boring, but then when you add in that goddamned nasally British whine (I guess this is Richard Butler’s britpop album…the timing’s almost right, if late by a year or two) it’s just a giant turn off.

Two clowns might be generous, but I can tell there’s something here that appeals to a lot of other people, a nice variation in just how the boring-ness is achieved, and, like I said, good production.

Like: “More Than Money”
“Long Long Time,” “Believe,” “Friends,” “Fall On Tears,” “Little Fist,” “It Hurts When I Laugh,” “Sweet Thing,” “All God’s Children,” “November 5”
Dislike: “Well Well Well,” “7 Years”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Year Of The Goat: The Unspeakable


This review marks two Swedish bands in a row, and I’m learning from this Metal-Addicts link that they’re both categorized as “Occult Rock.” Hmm.

Well, I can hear the similarities. Vocally, it’s a clearly sung tenor. Lyrically it’s pretty mystical stuff; Year Of The Goat seems to more of a Wiccan bent, in opposition to the pretty clear Satanism of Ghost. Musically the genre seems to owe a lot to early 80’s metal, like Ozzy Osbourne or Dio (and I wouldn’t be surprised if “Occult Rock” traced its roots back to those artists), most of which is hardly recognizable as what passes for metal now. It’s got moderate tempi and a relatively clean guitar tone with plenty of room for all the instruments and even keyboards and background vocals to breathe.

The most prominent difference between this and Ghost’s latest album is the production, in particular the sound quality. I know it gets pretty broken record of me, but I’ve heard some pretty good sounding records in 2015, and it’s unfortunate that too often some very good songs here get buried under sound that’s way too hot and peaking throughout the entire song.

I don’t know that The Unspeakable would have got much higher than three clowns with better sound, as some of the songs are weak and much longer than they need to be (though they manage to pull off a nearly 13-minute long track to open the album admirably). The last two tracks, and in particular the penultimate, are the worst of the patience-pushers. I do know, though, that it would at least be three clowns with better sound, and I’d love to hear better-sounding versions of the stretch in the middle that runs from “Vermin” through “The Wind.” As it is, it’s just not that fun to listen to.

Like: “All He Has Read,”  “Pillars Of The South”
Meh: “The Emma”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading