Monday, December 31, 2012

Yarrr!! Here there be Metal!

Dammaj – Mutiny

Par Records, Roadrunner Records – 1986

Muthas, there are some bands that release one killer LP or EP, and then fade away into obscurity without ever being heard from again.  Some prime examples of this are Witchkiller, Taist of Iron, Dark Age, Saigon, and Wizz. The best band to only release one LP is definitely Dammaj with their 1986 classic, MutinyDammaj was a California five piece who played tough as nails U.S. power metal which was loaded with a crushing bottom-end, ripping guitars and the excellent vocals of Greg Hill. Something unique about the band was that the guitarists and bassist were all brothers, and that helped make them tight as all hell.  The brothers really lock down on a groove or riff and exploit it to its fullest. 

One other reason why this album is an all time favorite of The Metal Blog of Metal is the absolutely molten mix.  If one didn’t know better, you would think this was an Ebony Records release because the drums sound like 75mm pack howitzers, the bass is pounding up front, and the guitars sound like buzzing ripsaws.  Fucking amazing! The engineer on the album was none other than Jim Morris of the famous Morrisound Studios in Tampa.  Morris and producer Dan Johnson did a hell of a job honing this album to razor sharpness!

 Mutiny was originally released on Par Records in the U.S. and Roadrunner in Europe, but the album was only on vinyl and never made it to a CD issue.  Unfortunately, the platter was very difficult to find and, as a result, was all but forgotten by the world except for a few diehard metalheads. There have been CD bootlegs of the album floating around for years, but the sound wasn’t the greatest and the booklet was a joke. 

Luckily, Skol Records has remastered and re-released Mutiny with five bonus tracks, complete lyrics and a booklet stuffed with photos. In addition to Skol Records, Blood and Iron Records has released the album on vinyl with four bonus tracks and a poster.  Hell yes!  It’s about damn time Dammaj get the recognition they so richly deserve.

Mutiny features grinding guitars, a crushing bass, pounding drums, and the Rhett Forrester-like vocals of Greg Hill.  In fact, Dammaj clearly knew how to mine the same rich ore that Riot used to craft their potent brand of Metal.  The band serves up the galloping “Leather Master,” the titanic title cut “Mutiny,” and the epic “Gladiator.”  Frankly, all the tracks are phenomenal, being both hooky and heavy, which is something many Metal bands can’t pull off without slipping into complete shit. Check out this fan made video for the title track below:

As longtime readers of The Metal Blog of Metal will know, we here are fans of not just the music on an album but the album artwork as well.  Mutiny features a pre-irony age doozy of an album cover with a pirate hanging from some rigging clutching a guitar.  Not just any old guitar, but a guitar that is either being struck by lightning, or shooting lightning up to Valhalla.  Either way, Thor would be thrilled because that shit is Metal as fuck. When yours truly got this album way back in ’86, I thought Dammaj was a Florida band because of the pirate, the Morrisound production and being on Par records like Floridian labelmates Savatage.  Pirate trickery knows no bounds!

You can order Mutiny from Shadow Kingdom Records, or directly from the band through their Facebook page. 

The Bottom Line:  Mutiny is an amazing piece of classic U.S. Power Metal and deserves a place in every self-respecting Metalheads' collection.  Buy this immediately, and if you are lucky enough to be out on the west coast, catch Dammaj live as they are playing shows again!  

As always, MAKE MINE METAL!          

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Melt Down Your Ploughshares

The Sword – Apocryphon

Razor & Tie Recordings – 2012

Muthas, that other little band from Texas, The Sword, is back with another album of crushing awesomeness – Apocryphon.  The band’s previous LP, Warp Riders, was a concept album, but thankfully, the new album is not because concept albums tend to suck ass.  Warp Riders was an exception to this rule because the story was muted and did not get in the way of the music.  Warp Riders did feature a more straight-ahead style of Metal, and Apocryphon continues this trend.  Some elements of Doom remain but The Sword is no longer primarily a Doom band. They have expanded their sound to incorporate many other 70s Hard Rock/Metal conventions. 

Overall, Apocryphon is superior to Warp Riders because of a complete lack of any shitty tracks.  This is one tight, focused album, packed with hooks.  The LP also flows beautifully due to the attention the band paid to sequencing, which is something most bands don’t seem to care about.  Further, the album is the perfect length at ten tracks, totaling forty-four minutes.  This is not some bloated, turgid victim of the CD age, but instead reflects the superior ethos of vinyl. 

 Tracks featuring the The Sword's signature sound include “The Veil of Isis,” “Arcane Montane,” and “Cloak of Feathers.”  All are excellent and should make it into their live set (“The Veil of Isis” already has been performed live.) “Execrator” is an under three minute blast of fury that recalls another The Sword classic, “Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians.” (I just mention this song so I could type it out!)  It’s quite the face-ripper and should get the rivetheads moving in the pit. 

The band has added some interesting keyboard garnishment to some tracks, namely the title cut and “Dying Earth.”  Don’t worry, as these aren’t some fruity, happy, power-metal keyboards, but rather something straight out of a 70s sci-fi film.  They fit the music excellently and really help get across the fantasy and science fiction themes favored by The Sword. Listening to The Sword is akin to finding a big stack of old Weird Tales Magazines and reading the amazing stories of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and Jack Vance for the first time.  Their albums are all about fantastic settings, sinister magic, space travel, and post-apocalyptic landscapes. Check out the lyric video for “Apocryphon“ and hear the awesome!

We are well aware here at The Metal Blog of Metal that some denizens of the Metal Universe consider The Sword to be secret hipsters and poseurs, who are either a completely fabricated band, or are only in it for the huge profits.  This is complete bullshit considering that (1) the band has been around for over a decade and (2) there is NO FUCKING MONEY in Metal!   Are you kidding me??  Why should anyone give two shits if a band is fabricated or not, or in it for the money or not, as long as the music is excellent?  If you are one of these TROO METUL RULZ!!! morons, do me a favor and click on the red x in the upper right hand corner of your screen and fuck right off.  You are too dumb to read this blog. 

The Bottom Line:  Do you like the retro sounds of the 70s with a touch of Doom and much rocking?  If so, buy this album and enjoy life.  It’s another superb addition to The Sword’s burgeoning discography and well worth your coin. 


Sunday, October 7, 2012

It's Going Down Tonight

Gypsyhawk – Revelry & Resilience

Metal Blade Records – 2012       

Muthas, how many of you love Thin Lizzy and miss their brand of soulful, street-wise rock and roll?  The answer should be all of you!  Well Phil Lynott is long gone but there is a band from So-Cal that’s keeping that style of music alive and well in 2012 – Gypsyhawk.  The band has just released their excellent second album, Revelry & Resilience, on which they have taken that Lizzy sound, along with other great ideas from the 70s and 80s, and the result is a head-banging, toe-tapping triumph! 

Gypsyhawk is fronted by bass player Eric Harris, who is also in Huntress, and was formerly in Holy Grail and Skeletonwitch.  Harris has a rough and ready vocal style that matches the classic rock influenced cuts perfectly.  The songs frequently feature those snakey, intertwining, twin lead guitars that were a hallmark of Thin Lizzy.  Check out the tracks “Frostwyrm” and “The Fields” for a taste of that Lizzy sound. 

We are not saying that Gypsyhawk is some Thin Lizzy rip-off band, but rather that they drank deep of the heady brew offered up by Phil and the boys, and they allow this influence to show.  Lyrically, the album features songs about fantasy, science, science fiction, and plain old rockin’.  “Overloaded” is one of those  tracks that blasts the listener's face off with a sweet-ass anthem about living in the now.  Hells yes! 

The band ares obviously huge fans of George R.R. Martin's fiction, with many songs about his fantasy series, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” AKA “Game of Thrones.”  The first single, “Hedgeking” is one of those cuts that is infectious, heavy and must be played repeatedly.  Check out the kickass video for it below:

Other highlights include the speedy "State Lines," the crunchy "Galaxy Rise," and an ode to the Buckeye State "1345." The album wraps up, appropriately enough, with a cover of Rick Derringer’s “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo,” and is a fine interpretation of that rip-roaring 70s anthem.  Hop in your van with a barbarian painted on the side, lay some rubber down the highway, and blast this album at top volume!  Ditch your black/death/disco/nu/symphonic/operatic/hipster horseshit and listen to some real damn music!

The Bottom Line:  If you like classic rock, Heavy Metal, Thin Lizzy or music that doesn’t sound like shit, then you should definitely run out and grab Revelry & Resilience.  Also, Gypsyhawk will be out on tour this fall with The Sword which is a hell of a pairing -- two rock solid bands that understand how to lay it down 70s style.  Get a ticket to the tour if you can, and buy these guys a beer.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

…About The End Of Days

Orchid – Heretic

Nuclear Blast Records – 2012

Muthas, San Francisco Doom merchants, Orchid, are back with an EP of pure, crushing Metal that continues their string of excellence.  Orchid is one of those bands that just gets “it” and know how to craft timeless songs that require repeated listens.  They also understand the importance of artwork in the presentation of their music to the listener.  Witness the amazing cover of the Heretic EP, which features two super cool retro fonts and a witchy woman clutching a skull.  You MUST drop the needle into the groove when you see this EP – it demands to be played! 

Heretic leaps to life with the rockin’ title track, which is a little ditty about being annoyed by proselytizing, religious wackos.  Orchid ain’t having none of that bullshit, as this song is a celebration of free will and freedom. Check out the track below and raise some damn horns!

The next song, “Falling Away,” shows the band really stretching themselves by incorporating a recorder and an organ into this mostly acoustic song.  It’s a mournful and haunting and is about a man realizing on his death bed that it’s time to pay the piper after the deal he made with the Devil.  It must be mentioned that it doesn’t sound like he’s full of regrets!  This track is the highlight of the album and sounds like it could be a long lost Black Widow cut, if Black Widow knew how to actually get their Metal on.

The last song on the digital version of the EP is “Saviours of the Blind” and is both grooving and groovy.  The bass is amazing on this track and once again proves that Orchid is talented as all hell.  Things really pick up around the 2:48 minute mark of the song with super tasty soloing that is a blast straight from the 70s.  The track conjures up images of muscle cars burning rubber down desert highways.  ROCK!!!!

The physical versions of the EP (vinyl and CD) feature a fourth song, “He Who Walks Alone,” which was on the band’s previous masterwork, Capricorn.  It kicked ass on that album and it still kicks ass on this EP.  I believe the only difference is that it has been remixed.  It’s another excellent track of the highest quality Doom Metal and will crush the skull of any lesser mortal who dares listen to it without the proper headgear, such as a Viking helmet.  


The Bottom Line:  Orchid can do no wrong and you should buy this EP if you like Doom, traditional Metal, 70s hard rock or music that doesn’t suck ass.  Buy the digital EP now, and snap up the CD or vinyl versions when they hit the streets.  Your other option is to suck at life.   

As always, MAKE MINE METAL!  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Teutonic Terrorism Part Zwei

Accept – Stalingrad

Nuclear Blast Records – 2012

Bangers, we all know that there are some bands whose consecutive albums that remembered together rather than individually. This linking can be because they are released in quick succession, or the production on them is similar, or even that the flow of the albums is the same.  Some examples would be Judas Priest’s  Screaming For Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith, Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules, Mercyful Fate’s Melissa and Don’t Break The Oath, and Ozzy’s Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. All of these are classics of the genre and represent a creative peak for each of the respective bands.  The same will probably be said of Accept’s Blood of the Nations and their latest masterpiece, Stalingrad. It continues right were Blood left off and sounds like it came from the same sessions.

Accept is firing on all cylinders right now and Stalingrad has 11 cuts of pure Solingen steel. The speedy, ripping song “Hung Drawn and Quartered” kicks off the festivities and is yet another Accept anthem.  The band follows that up with the epic and sprawling title track.  It’s a multi-layered affair that tells the tale of the titanic World War II battle, and even includes a bit of the Russian national anthem.  Thematically it’s a bit odd to hear a German band with an American singer telling the tale of a battle won by the U.S.S.R.  All that aside, the song kicks ass and slots in perfectly with other Accept classics.   Check out the track below:

The album is littered with other primo fast burners like “Hellfire,” “Flash To Bang Time,” “Revolution,” and “The Quick and the Dead.”  There are a couple of moodier, mid-paced tracks such as “The Shadow Soldiers,” “Never Forget,” and the excellent “Twist of Fate.”  Finally, the album closes with the absolutely phenomenal “The Galley” which tells the story of galley slaves chained to their benches.  It’s  goose bump city come the solo as the band chants, “Row, row, row” and the minds-eye conjures up the image of the poor bastards straining at the oars.  Now that’s Metal!!

However, there are two things about Stalingrad that separate it from Blood of the Nations - one bad and one good. The good is that the album is a couple of songs shorter, and as a result it is more focused than its predecessor. The bad is that the sequencing of this album is all wrong because the catchiest material is in the last half. For instance, the epic title cut is the second track, which is harder to get into due to its length.  I'd prefer to see it as the final track on side one of the vinyl. This is probably why many people are saying this album is inferior to Blood.  It’s either that or the critics are fucking morons.  You decide. 

The Bottom Line:  This is another Accept classic and is loaded with the highest quality German steel.  It’s the equal of its predecessor and a further triumph for the Mark Tornillo era of the band.  Get it!

As always, MAKE MINE METAL! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

The World Is A Manacled Place

Judas Priest – Screaming For Vengeance Special 30th Anniversary Edition

Sony Records – 2012

Hellions, 30 years ago the mighty Judas Priest released one of the defining albums of their career - Screaming For Vengeance.  To celebrate this momentous occasion the LP has been re-released in a special edition package that includes the remastered album with 6 bonus tracks and a DVD.  Today the album is considered a classic of the genre but it must be remembered that Screaming For Vengeance represented a course correction for Priest after the failure of the previous album, Point Of Entry. The band had attempted a more commercial direction on Point Of Entry, but the result was lackluster, with half the cuts being good and the other half being crap.  It would be considered Priest’s worst album if not for the execrable Turbo from 1986.  

Screaming managed to both solidify the band’s reputation as Metal royalty and also firmly established the leather and studs visual imagery for every other Metal band to follow.  Many a cow regretted the inner sleeve of the album which featured a picture of the band in full leather regalia bedazzled with a zillion studs.  All hail the glorious days before irony ruined music! 

Fully half of the songs from the album are still featured in the live set today with “The Hellion” and “Electric Eye” being the eternal openers on almost every tour.  The title track was a Speed Metal assault before Speed Metal even existed and was the band’s heaviest song to that point.  It’s a searing blast of shrieking awesomeness that is the sonic equivalent of the Hellion featured on the legendary album cover.  “Riding On The Wind” is another classic that both Priest and the Halford band play with regularity.  The most popular song of Priest’s career, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” is a masterpiece of anthemic Metal that espouses the perfect Heavy Metal ethos of success at all costs.  Some may say that the song is too simple and played out but they are fucking idiots.  You know you want to pump your fist and bang your head every time you hear it.  

There are some forgotten gems on the album as well, such as the excellent “Bloodstone,” the brooding “Fever,” and the tongue-firmly-in-cheek ode to bondage “Pain and Pleasure.”  “(Take These) Chains" was an example of the band using an outside songwriter to try and capture a larger audience with a power ballad.  It’s a decent song and worth a listen if you want to explore some deeper Judas Priest cuts.  The album closer, “Devil’s Child,” is a swaggering and pulsing treat that became a live favorite for years to come.

In addition to the album proper, there are 6 bonus tracks, 5 of which are live.  In fact, 60% of the album is represented in live cuts and they are all excellent. There is also the unreleased track, “Prisoner Of Your Eyes,” which was initially released as a bonus track on the 2001 remastered version of Screaming.  A quick note for audiophiles: the album is the same as the 2001 remaster and as such some will find it to sound very compressed.  Most people won’t notice the difference, but if you are a discerning listener with a nice stereo you can tell that the bottom end is overly loud. If you are hoping that this is a new remaster, you are shit out of luck.

The DVD is the real highlight of this package as it is the first official release of Priest’s US Festival performance from May 29, 1983.  The DVD is of decent quality, but the source tape does have the usual limitations considering its age.  Also, this is not a modern production with multiple HD cameras, cranes and jump cuts.  It’s a simple affair with mostly band shots, but that actually helps the presentation, as it really feels like a spontaneous live show and not some choreographed and soulless modern production.  If you weren’t one of the lucky 350,000 headbangers that saw the band that day you can now get the full experience on an official release and not a crappy 60th generation bootleg.  Check out the promo video below to get a taste of the DVD:


The Bottom Line:  Screaming For Vengeance is an all time Heavy Metal classic that must be in your collection.  If you already have it, the live tracks are a nice addition, but the DVD pushes this into must buy territory.  Snap this up and take a trip back to the days when Judas Priest were at the pinnacle of the Metal world.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Disciples of the Mosh

Testament – Dark Roots of Earth

Nuclear Blast – 2012

Muthas, Thrash titans Testament are back with their first album since 2008’s The Formation of Damnation and it’s a rip ride of metallic awesomeness.  The band serve up a disc chock full of their trademark blend of thrash and melody that is both immediately accessible and instantly memorable.  2012 has been a great year for the elder statesmen of Metal (see here for instance) and Testament continues this trend.  Dark Roots of Earth is an improvement over Formation, because the album is tightly focused and much hookier than the previous outing.  Also Gene “Atomic Clock” Hoglan lays waste on the drums like an enraged thunder god.  Great Odin’s Raven! The man is a beast behind the kit!

The festivities get started with the sure-to-be-a-future-live-favorite “Rise Up,” which is a thrashy, sing-along anthem.  Metalheads will surely be screaming WAR at the top of their lungs in the pit when the band cranks this up.  Continuing with the spinal cracking is “Native Blood,” which is the first single from the album and concerns Chuck Billy’s pride in being a Native American.  Check out the video for it below:

The title track is another melodic thrash masterpiece which has a very Megadeth-sounding intro and is about the Mayan apocalypse. Chuck and the boys crank it back up with the frenzied moshfest of “True American Hate.”  This is the best track on the album and will pummel your face with its intense riffery and unrelenting lyrical venom.  HAILZ!  Check out the lyric video for it below and bang that head!

Other standout cuts are the epic “Throne of Thorns” and the groove-metal majesty of “Last Stand for Independence.” Also featured is the first Testament ballad in years, “Cold Embrace.”  This is an epic and sweeping masterpiece that showcases the band’s exceptional versatility and writing prowess.  It's most definitely NOT a puffy-shirted, keyboard-laden crapfest but rather a ballad in the tradition of “Beyond The Realms of Death.”  

The album comes in several different versions: a standard 9 track jewel case CD; a digipack with 4 bonus tracks and a bonus DVD;  a double colored vinyl LP with 3 bonus tracks, and a Japanese release with one bonus track.  The version we have here at The Metal Blog of Metal is the digipack with the 4 bonus tracks.  Those tracks are killer, with covers of Queen’s “Dragon Attack,” Scorpions’ “Animal Magnetism,” and Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave.”  The last bonus track is an extended version of “Throne of Thorns” which is just slightly longer than the LP version.  Of note is that the Japanese version’s bonus track is a 2012 re-recording of ”Practice What You Preach” and it’s exclusive to that release.  We suggest you grab the digipack for the loads of bonus material and a really cool DVD that includes 4 songs from a live show.

The Bottom Line:  As of right now, this is the best album of 2012.  It’s that good, and is a must buy for Metal fans.  Testament is a well-oiled thrash machine and they do not disappoint.  Buy or die!