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!