Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reviews...PANTERA!

Yeah I know, "what the fuck? Why are you talking about Pantera?" Well look man, once upon a time I was 15 or so and I saw this video on MTV by a band called "Pantera," and although the name was kinda weird to me the song was just heavy as fuck and the riff was really memorable. The title was "Cowboys from Hell" and I had to admit that the title was pretty cool too. I mean what the hell, were these guys from Texas? Never heard o' no "Heavy Metal from Texas!" hehe...Anyways, the video looked cheap and people were slamming and at that time I was really into Vio-Lence - who also had a similar video of themselves playing while a crazy pit was sloshing around them. I didn't see a difference as far as what it represented. It was killer, aggressive, underground Metal to my young ears. But kinda different. Kinda new sounding, but not in a bad way - and THAT was exciting to a kid who just barely missed the heyday of thrash by a few years. The singer also had a fucked up haircut. A "long hawk." I never seen that before, and he was all sweaty and, well...Philthy lookin! But at the time, that was actually cool and made me think he must be a badass to be able to own the stage so hard looking like that!

Anyways, it was just another video on the old "Headbanger's Ball" which I thought was cool enough to record on my VHS player - which was always ready to record when they stopped playing glam shit for 5 seconds! Then I saw a 2nd Pantera video, this time with much clearer film quality and all this high budget looking stuff going on. There's this pro sounding acoustic guitar and the singer comes in singing all amazing like it's a Judas Priest ballad or something. I'm like, "wait, the sweaty long hawk guy can sing his ass off?" The song was ballady, but it was worthy of almost "Fade to Black" proportions - and that's not common. That was when I ran to the store and found a cassette tape of the album "Cowboys from Hell."

I was a devout fan from that point until "Far Beyond Driven" came out. I'm not going to explain what happened all in between in detail. But basically, "Vulgar Display of Power" really impressed me (and alot of other people my age and probably older) and my personal feeling is that it is underrated by many "true metal" folks because it was so popular and influenced so much bad music of today. But I don't buy into that shit. If something is great, it's great. I used to listen to "Reign in Blood" on tape all the time around this same period. I had no idea it would become so popular over time. Did that make the music less good? No, I just can't listen to it as often or it'll get played out. Anyways, "Far Beyond Driven" had the same great songs as "Vulgar" for the most part. But something was wrong and I couldn't figure it out. I think the band blew their wad on "Vulgar" and just couldn't quite match it. The tones were more mechanical sounding and overall, just a bit more forced than seemed natural. Kinda like when you are screaming as hard as you can for hours, and grow a bit hoarse. Or should I say, a dead horse? Still, i had some killer songs and I went along for a couple more years based on their awesome caveman inspiring live show. But my interest in the band began to fade as I got more and more into Death Metal.

Now, I have finally decided - for no reason I can quite say, to actually check out the last 2 albums I never listened to. "great southern trendkill" and "Reinventing the Steel." Here's what I though of em. Note - when I refer to "the first album" anywhere here, I'm talking about "Cowboys from Hell," not "Metal Magic."

Pantera "The great Southern Trendkill"

Right off the bat I can see why this band got annoying and kind of silly. The opener is obviously trying to prove right away, "we're back and we're more brutal than ever!" with lyrics which are sorta too current to make them real timeless. "Fuck your magazines!" "Fuck yeah, that's right!" I get where Phil is coming from here and he's trying to be all "underground" but at this point in time it seems like he's tryin a little too hard to me. The music is kinda noisy, yet has a few sorta catchy riffs. But overall, it's a pointlessly brutal song, obviously created to prove something they already proved years ago much better. Fortunately, the band can still do MUCH better, and they do as the album moves on..."War Nerve" is a nice return to what Pantera does best - make seriously crushing riffs executed with a tone warmer and closer to the first couple albums. The bluesy riffs and solos that Dimebag is known for are in full effect here. Him and his brother are seriously tight on this album. Seriously. Unfortunately, Phil's vocals haven't really improved. They don't necesarily take away, but they don't match the music as well as they did before. And again, Phil is trying too hard..."Fuck the WOOOOOOOOORRRLLDD!" yeah, ok buddy - you're so angry I get it! This is where the "nu metal" mentality was born. Right here. Now comes "Drag the waters." This is an obvious instant classic. This coulda been on any of the first 2 Pantera albums. Even Phil locks right in here. No brainer. Very cool, and even kinda new sounding for them. Credit due here for this one. And by the way - that's the "bluesy" feeling in there, that ain't no nu metal shite - I don't care what anyone says. Dimebag knew the blues like fukk. So he had a badge to groove out all he wanted and I'm glad he did. "10s" is an interesting song that breaks things up nicely. I'm surprised Phil can still pull off vocals like this. Very similar to "This Love" but also fairly different. Pretty creative I'd say. "13 Steps" has that "jam" feeling that Pantera gets on the first album on a few of the songs. At times it's pretty cool, but doesn't completely work for me. It's a killer jam, but I dunno if it's a killer song. Not bad, but not sure if it really adds to the album either. "Suicide Note pt1" was a surprisingly moving song for me. A very somber ballad that is almost a little scary and believable. Especially having read what Phil was going through over the years when I wasn't really listening to the band. This one caught me off guard. Phil still has lots of talent here. But I feel like he has to reach more to get at it. "Pt II" is, of course extremely brutal. Unfortunately it's kinda stupid. I mean, Dimebag has a few riffs I can only call "sick" in the song. And I hate to use that word, but that's what they are. Fucking "sick." The vocals are "try too hard" for me, and I think it's a bit of a wasted song. In fact, the music is trying too hard to be extreme here as well. Their thing is just wearing thin. However, next song "living through me" brings the band back with some killer Thrash Metal riffing that plainly proves that Dimebag was way up there with the best Thrash rhythm guitarists - and there aren't many of them. Phil? Well again, trying too hard. Succeeding a little actually. "Floods" is a pretty cool experimental songs, mixing their soft side with the harsh drugged out side. In fact, "drugged out" is a pretty good description of this song. It's dark and I buy it for the most part. I do think Dimebag's style hits a wall a little bit here though. I'm not saying creatively, but stylistically, I just think he's not such a "sad" guy - he seems like a party dude to me. And I can almost hear him and Phil struggling to find middle ground. It's not bad - it's pretty cool at times. But something feels not quite right. "The Underground in AMerica" has a very obvious title and it's as stupid as it sounds. I don't care what Phil is talking about here. He sounds too high to realize how silly he's getting. The music is really heavy, and has a killer groove. But it feels forced again. Like Phil's trying to force the band to be "evil" but it just ain't happening. Why? Because these dudes just aren't evil! The band can do better than this. "Sandblasted Skin" has a nice stoned out fucked up Dimebag riff. It sounds like a psychotic opening into Phil's head. It's kinda cool, but to me, this isn't what Pantera does best. It's so effortless for Vinnie and his bro to jam endlessly. This is them jamming with Phil screaming all over. It's awesome at times, it sounds like shit at times. I respect them for experimenting like this - but I also hear where alot of really shitty bands came from! Overall, this album has some great songs, but a few do nothing for me. I give it a 80% rating. I respect it overall and once in a while I will check it out again.

Pantera "Reinventing the Steel"

First song...The band sounds pretty inspired, though I can't say the song is great. It's just kinda like "here Pantera! We're back, ya miss us?" I gotta admit - I kinda fall for the cheese of it. Phil is yelling his head off as usual, but it's less annoying here than on the last album. "goddamn electric" is a fun/cool song. Distinctly Pantera. Phil sounds kinda stupid here and there, but this is near classic. Clearly the band is in synch this time. "Yesterday don't mean shit." Some killer thrash riffs, some really generic nu metal sounding ones. The band sounds really fired up - just a bit too "generic suburb Metal." Next is "You've got to belong to it." In a weird way Phil's old charm really comes through in these song titles. I mean, when you are forced into a grin just reading a song title, you know Phil is on it. This is "type 5" Pantera song. Half fucked up trippy noise and half sick riffs. Yeah, I said "sick" again. I mean, that's the only description for these riffs. Sick. That used to be a compliment, and that is how it is intended here. I remember the Death Metal dudes used to say "sick" alot before the "wiggas" stole it. Pantera is a little silly - I think that's what Phil doesn't quite know how to come to grips with and what Vinnie and Dime still kinda can't shake from the "Metal Magic" days...Vinnie does some cool shit here. Tight as all hell. "Revolution" is almost industrial in it's crushing approach. Shit, I'm hearing newer Danzig here. The scary question is, who influenced who? I think it's clear. Very nu metally. Not totally my thing - but this is a sound they pretty much invented, so they are entitled to it. "Death Rattle" is pure nu Pantera in full effect. It's not for me. Again, they invented it and it is heavy. But..."Axe" is like "Mouth For War" pt II. Very similar. gets real fucked up towards the end and less "Mouth for War" like. "Uplift" is another absolute crusher. The band is on fire, just like the guy on the front of the album. I hate what this music influenced, but I can't deny the power and won't. "Disappear" keeps the krushing going, then the last song "I'll cast a shadow" unleashes probably some of the best Pantera riffs ever heard. These guys must have known what their best songs were, because this album seems to get better as it goes. The last riff was turning in my head hours after I stopped playing it.

Ok, I'm sick of Pantera again. I'll be revisiting these again in like 10 years or something.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Reviews 7.01.2012

Agalloch "Faustian Echoes" (ep)

2 song ep based on "Faust." Songs are hella long, so this ends up being over 20 minutes I guess. Very composed, moody, melodic, and somewhat unpredictable at times. The mood focuses on the brooding wintery sort of sound, with that occasional glimmer of hope, of course. But not enough to step on the dark toes of the whole thing. Overall, it's just too comfortable sounding. Nothing breaks out of the mold of countless other recordings and nothing violates the territory you would expect from such a band. This genre is at a dead end creatively. But unlike other genres which have run their course, cascadian black metal gives the impression that everything it does is artisically valid and amazing and far reaching themeatically. If this was the only recording of its kind, that might be true. But it's really lost in a sea of similar sounding albums - they just been doing it for longer than most.

Dying Fetus "Reign Supreme" (Relapse)

These guys have been around for quite a while and I imagine they have a very well established sound/following. The sound here is obviously evolved from years of trying to strike the balance between extremety and songwriting. I have to say they succeed on many levels. At times it sounds out of hand technical, but just as fast as I think that thought - they launch into a killer chugger riff. These guys know that bruality alone is not enough. there's plenty of killer riffs to satisfy the old school DM head - but enough technicality to probably make the tech kids happy. Not real innnovative or anything, but solid and no doubt killer live. Reminds me of Suffocation at times. What is up with that logo though? Fucking photoshop has better fonts!

Fastkill "Bestial Thrashing Bulldozer" (Pulverised)

Thrash Metal, unlike Death Metal, can get away with being kinda silly and rediculous - for it can enhance the chaos and brutality in an obscure way if done right. So here we have a singer who undersands full well that the more rediculous he sounds, the more his band will stand out. He has clearly found his own personal inner "Mille Petrozza" and has fully embraced it. The music is kinda aggressive the way "Terrible Certainty" is, but with an almost punk kinda over the top hyper hectic intent. With song titles like "Toxic Tormentor" and "In Thrash we Trust," these guys clearly have the intenionally retarded song title thing down. And considering they are from Japan, that's acually a feat. Because they are thinking up intentionally retarded song titles in a foreign tongue (not their own) and succeeding in making it fit with the traditional thrash sensibility. This is fun, and reminds me of random german thrash bands I hear from time to time, which shred most American bands I hear doing Thrash these days. But I'm not sure I buy Fastkill's act. It's all too obvious. Still, if I were drunk and feeling really retarded I'd probably be moshing to this if they came to town. Not classic, but fun for a one night stand.

Mantas "Death by Metal" (Relapse)

Mantas was Chuck Shuldiner's band before changing the name to Death. These are the early demos, so obviously they are important. I think it's Kam Lee on vocals but I am not sure. Not much else to say. It's an important archival document, but obviously not real high on the production value. This is not really for listening pleasure, it's for those die hards who want to take a trip into the past and explore the origins of Death,

Master "The New Elite" (Pulverised)

The Death Metal Lemmy himself returns! Paul SPeckmann is still at it, and before I say shit, let me just say every time I've seen Speckmann on stage his band has kicked total ass and not posed for one second of it! And aside from the rather silly album title, here Master jumps right into what they do best - show everyone how the fukk it is done old school DM style! Right to business and no fucking around. Just raw fukking Death Metal. Killer riffs, raw vokills, introspective lyrics that don't try to sound like broken English on purpose, and incessent raw brutality. I dunno what else to say. Master wrote the book, and here is another chapter. Kicking ass and ready to fukk you up when they come to town, which they usually do. If you wanna hear what the original shit sounded like before things got all fukking overly technikal and shit - check this out when they come to town. Pass the whiskey!

Sophicide "Perdition of the Sublime" (Willowtip)

Hella brutal german metal on the technical side of things. The guitar work here is very good, it just goes by so fast and spends so much time trying to maintain "brutal metal certification" that it is hard to get into the subtleties. What I like about this is that there are some good musical passages that stand out more than the typical "brutal death" band. If I am not mistaken, I'm hearing a little Helstar/Coroner influence. Or maybe it is just the classical bits I am hearing. I like what this band is doing guitar wise - but the vocals and drums are just standard "brutal metal" and that makes this a partially realised vision to me. Still, I'm gonna have to say this is pretty damned good considering how tired this genre has become. I would be very interested to hear what the next couple albums sound like.

Sons of Tonatiuh "Parade of Sorrow" (Hydro-Phonic)

Heavy duty baby. Molten sludge from the Eyehategod factory of hell. Stop taking showers and bust out the beeswax, because it's time to KRUST OUT with S.O.T.! I'm kinda bored with this shit, but it's well done. I'm just kinda over it.

Stonehaven "Concerning old strife and man banes" (Horror Pain gore Death Productions)

What the fuck is a "man bane?" I must be less intelligent than this band because I have no fukking clue what the hell that means. Anyways...the music is trying really hard to capture that old school raw black metal thing. They actually do a pretty good job of sounding like they are from Norway and writing music in 1993 - but when I hear this I just can't help but ask "why?" This is not bad, it's just that it might as well be a cover band - they wanna be Burzum/Darkthrone/Ulver so bad, it's kinda embarrassing. As I read the notes regarding the concept and art of this album, I feel more embarrased for them. It's like they wanna prove how fukking "Scandanavian" they are. They are from Kansas though. I'm so tired of these bands trying to be so fukking Nordic and European...

Strong Intention "Razorblade Express" (Patac)

Crusty deathy punky grindy stuff. Fat, thick production captures the grimey vibe well here. Not much else to it. SOme nice bluesy riffs! Some power violency blast beats. Singer sounds kinda like Bloodclot from Cro Mags at times. good ape man slam music.

Taurus "Life"

Who the hell comes up with this shit? This is 2 songs. "Life Part I" and "Life Part II." How fucking stupid is that? I can already tell this is gonna suck. Anyways, here we are almost 2 minutes into the first song and all I'm hearing is what sounds like a CD skipping. I'm serious, it's a sound skipping repeatedly. Ok now we have some ominous guitar which sounds like it is through practice amps. Intentionally cheap sounding for that "indy feel." Almost sounds like Weakling in a weird way. Oh man, what the hell is this? Now we have full on sound collages happening. Ok, if I was on acid this would be great. But I'm not, so it sounds like complete nonsense. Anyhow, "Life Part One" drags on for like 15 minutes. Tenatively, I proceed to "Life part II." Ok to be fair, I just want a riff - and this is not that sorta band. This is artsy noise collage shit that gets thrown in with Metal occassionally just because it is so loud and guitary - but seriously, I can't stand this crap. I mean, gimme some drugs and MAYBE - but otherwise stop the fucking CD before someone dies, please. I can't stand his pretentious artsy fartsy shit.

Windfaerer "Solar"

This ep was recorded at a place called "Frightbox." Why am I mentioning this? Because I think Frightbox is a way better name than Windfaerer. But then, I guess this band would have to change their sound to suit the name, which is decidedly UNfrightboxy sounding. Kinda reminds me of early Aeturnus or maybe a touch of the heavier Falkenbach. But closer to the early Death of Aeturnus. Basically, it's really epic Death Metal with a folky/blackish leaning. The music is pretty killer, but the singer sounds like a complete idiot. You know when you watch a high school play and the kids are doing shakespear or some shit? - some kid gets way too into the role he's playing, thinks he's the next Leonardo Decaprio or something, and over acts and you feel kinda embarrased for him? That's kinda how this singer sounds. He must know it too, because he doesn't sing much! It's kinda rediculous actually. I mean, is this a finished product? Some great guitar parts in here - but the rest really needs work. It almost gets away with it in a cheap classic demo sorta way. But the production is slightly too good. I'm not saying it's great production, but just not shitty enough to support the "accidentally classic demo" angle.

Zombiefication "Reaper's Consecration" (Pulverised)

Another EP. What is this, the year of Eps? This is good ol Death Metal in the veign of the Swedish style. And I don't mean the trendy hipster shit, I mean early grave, Nihilist, Unleashed, Dismember, early Darkthrone sorta shit. good and raw and thank satan they didn't carbon copy the Sunlight sound. This is good and raw and from the black heart of hellish Death. Rekkomended!