I’ll admit it’s difficult to get me excited with new music these days. As I approach the middle of my glorious and confusing thirties, I start to accept the inevitable grumpy attitude that awaits my elder years. It’s certainly not like it used to be, when I was young and a friend could show me a new album and quickly get my juices flowing. Hell, I’d even buy an album for no reason other than it had cool cover artwork!
That’s actually exactly how I got introduced to the band Nevermore. My friend found the CD in a discount bin at a local Caldor department store (yes, it’s ancient history, I know), and we gave it a listen based solely on its cover art. Later on while listening we discovered the track titled Matricide, and had a good laugh over how absurd it was for such a heavy band to be singing about mother Earth.
Even word of mouth was enough to get my ears anxious to hear what could have been the next best thing in my music library. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for today’s music. Now is that because the music has changed, or am I just becoming bored and complacent? Most likely it’s my always increasing inner-curmudgeon to blame. That’s not to say all hope is lost, there are a few bands who’s new material is just enough to get this angry asshole out of bed in the morning.
I’ve always placed more than a bit of curiosity towards this strange looking skull faced fellow who was constantly plaguing the metal news headlines. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when I decided to actually give the band a shot. To my friends shock and surprise, I was apparently one of the last people on the planet who had yet to hear the ever so hook-inducing track, Square Hammer. I was indeed hooked after the first listen, and the second, and the two-hundredth. Word has it the band just received a major lineup change before recording their new album, which is said to be much darker than prior releases. I’m always on board for darker music, and such a unique band as this certainly deserves a spot on my playlist.
When I’m craving guitar riffs that remind me of a thick piece of chocolate cake suffocating in weed smoke, I reach for The Sword. Granted that’s an odd description, but this is an odd band in my opinion. Somehow they have managed to take the stoner formula, and give it a slick modern edge whilst remaining true to the genres classic dirty sludge roots. It’s been a while since their last record, and I’m sure as shit looking forward to whatever they release next.
Seriously? Yes. When you’re the absolute biggest metal band to rome the Earth, you’re bound to garner absurdly large amounts of both acclaim and disdain. What I love about Metallica is that they seriously don’t give a fuck. Plenty of metal bands pretend not to give a fuck, but these guys seriously don’t give a fuck. They make music on their terms, they released one of the most honest documentaries depicting the life of a band, and they’re still playing better than ever despite all the shit they’ve been through. I wasn’t a fan of anything they did after the black album up until Death Magnetic, but this new album Hardwired to Self Destruct has brought back the same goosebumps I got as a kid listening to Master of Puppets.
Females bring something unique to the table when it comes to music. They have a better vocal range, and the ability to shift their appearance like a chameleon in ways that draw both attention and controversy. I’ve always been a big proponent of metal bands giving up the whole Satan worshipping thing, and worship women instead. They can make people after all, and if you’re lucky enough to hear one who’s voice is so hauntingly unique, it’s the closest you’ll come to any form of spiritual enlightenment. This sums up why I’m so massively obsessed with Chelsea Wolfe, her music, her words, her voice, and her band. It’s a perfect storm of horrifically haunting bliss that my ears can never get enough of. She’s currently in the midst of writing a new album, which I’ve heard drool-worthy snippets of via social media. I have a feeling her career is going to age like a fine wine, a wine I will always be willing to get drunk off of, time and time again.
The first song I ever heard Mastodon play was March of the Fire Ants, and ever since, I’ve been obsessed with figuring out what makes this band tick. I’m a huge fan of layering sounds while recording an album, and the guys in Mastodon are nothing short of genius level when it comes to using this technique. Each of their albums follow a theme of some sort. Whether it be fire, water, Earth, or air, this band uses the elements to their aural advantage. Their upcoming release titled Emperor of the Sand is taking everything the band has learned over the years, and using that knowledge to bludgeon us over the head once again with mind numbing songwriting. I can only hope my sanity can endure another Mastadon record, as I have a tendency to go a little bat shit crazy trying to overanalyze their production techniques.
There’s a certain honesty I get with Satyricon that I feel no other band in this genre provides. Sure Dimmu and Cradle are great, but after all these years they seem more like a parlor trick than something genuine. I know that may sound harsh, but when I’m seeking out music that can be used to sooth what little of a soul is left in my body, I need something pure, something honest. Their production is raw in the most brutal sense of the word, and it lends itself perfectly to the bands overall sonic image. Each note lives in its own space, and isn’t drowned out by dozens of keyboards and orchestra layers. The vocals provided by mister Satyr himself are nothing short of amazing, and they are without question my favorite screaming vocal style from any extreme metal band. Lest we also not forget about the bands ace in the hole, their drummer, Frost.
What’s something you notice about metal albums altogether that’s typically the same no matter what band you’re listening to? In most cases, it’s the sound of the drums. Clicky bass drums to be more precise. You won’t find that here, and this is where the bands raw production really shines. The lack of reverb and processing on the drums allows them to breath power and life into the music. Something most metal bands assume they are achieving, only to have their sound eventually drowned in the vast ocean of similar sounding production techniques. After dealing with some pretty intense health scares recently, Satyr has pushed forward with the band, and is continuing to record new material as we speak. Given the amount of trust I place in this band, I have no doubt their new music will be just as good, if not better than the rest of their back catalogue.
As we wrap this up, don’t assume these are the only bands I’ve been paying attention to these days. There are plenty more to list, but alas my article must be narrowed down to a select few for the sake of those with less time to spare. So despite my best efforts at being the grumpy guy who shakes his fist at everything coming out of the music scene today, there are still plenty of artists out there to keep my blood pumping with an optimistic ferocity.