• First Impressions

    Jan 2 2009, 18h32

    Why is it that more often than not the first album I listen to from a band becomes my favorite? Is it nostalgia? Am I imprinting on it like some sort of surrogate mother? Is it incredible luck that I always pick the best album as my first?

    I’m talking bands that I’ve bought as much of the discography as I can manage. Band where I want to hear their progression and changes. Not just bands that I get one or two albums from.

    For example take Spiritual Beggars. The first album I heard from them also happens to be their first album as a group. Put out in the early 2000s it is self titled and has 10 tracks. I’m listening to it right now. Pelekas is killer. The Space In Between is even better. The whole damn thing is frigging awesome. Most fans say that Ad Astra is their best, and while it is good, the self-titled is my favorite so far.

    Another example is Grand Magus (yeah I know…). My favorite album is Monument and coincidentally it was the first one I bought and really listened to. It just gels for me. The songs kick ass and they seem to have come to some kind of identity to themselves; no longer just a Sabbath clone.

    Ok, so it continues with other bands as well. Sparzanza. Blake. Place Of Skulls. Candlemass. Social Distortion. Judas Priest. Volbeat. Deep Purple. Charon. Poisonblack. Sentenced. Type O Negative. Clutch. Primus. It’s weird and pretty constant. My first album is almost always my favorite.

    So yeah, there are exceptions. Aren’t there always? Case in point is Faith No More. My favorite album is Angel Dust, but it came on the heels of The Real Thing and I must have played that one 50 times when it came out. But when Angel Dust hit, I barely gave it a spin.

    Another exception is AC/DC. Highway to Hell is perfect, but Back in Black was the first album I heard. Monster Magnet is another…Powertrip was the first, but Dopes is the best.

    So what the hell do I think I can resolve with this babbling? Nothing. Just noticing.
  • 2008 Year in Review

    Dez 15 2008, 21h07

    I think I listened to and bought more new music in 2008 than almost any other time in my life. I guess after four years with an iPod I just got really, really tired of the stuff I had been listening to. Even though it’s all great stuff, I got bored. People think I’m nuts, but I don’t have any kids and spend plenty of time in front of the computer so this site has been huge for me.

    If you have no patience with clean vocals, read no further. Raised on Dio, Dickinson and Halford, harsh vocals just make me laugh. They’re so unmusical that my system can’t process them. I can take a certain amount of the ridiculous, but that’s where I draw the line.

    So this is what I was into this year, more or less in order of discovery -

    Samael – Swiss – Industrial metal
    Recommended by a person on another artist’s message board. Quickly became a favorite. Metal dragged through an industrial complex, harsh vocal just on the edge of incomprehension. Practically the only electronic band I can take, but I still consider them a metal flavor.

    Kyuss – American – Stoner metal
    Always knew of them, but somehow never clicked for me. This time they did. Not a favorite, but I appreciate the style and the influence. I listen to them when I want something in the background that is interesting, but not jarring.

    Hermano – American – Stoner metal
    John Garcia’s latest project. At least I think it is. Not as good as Kyuss or some of the earlier bands between Kyuss and Hermano, but decent. Discography is uneven though.

    Five Horse Johnson – American – heavy blues
    Brash, bluesy and just diverse enough to avoid monotony. Blues rhythms, heavy guitars, gravelly vocals and a skittering harmonica to keep things interesting. I really need more from these guys.

    Sasquatch – American – Stoner metal (heavy blues influence)
    Voice similar to Chris Cornell in spots, but heavier than Soundgarden or Audioslave were. Nothing really stands out, but it’s solid metal for a world weary ear and I find myself spinning them for many a drive home from work.

    Throttlerod – American – Stoner/blues metal
    A bit lighter than Sasquatch, but similar and more southern tinged. Vocals are a bit less growly. Due to some line-up changes, their sound has become blander and more like other hard rock bands out there. Less differentiated.

    Alabama Thunderpussy – American – Stoner/blues metal
    Brasher and harsher than either Sasquatch or Throttlerod, their earlier work has a distinct southern flavor that is tuned down in the latest release. Not a favorite, but I work it in now and then. Like a southern Scissorfight, but less like a locomotive if that makes sense.

    Pelican – American - sludge/instrumental metal
    Exactly what I needed to listen to while reading. I was getting tired of classical for this purpose and wanted something heavier. These guys are very talented and while their style is very constant, their execution varies a lot from piece to piece. Groovy, stonery, doomy, but not so much that you want to open a vein after listening.

    Earth – American - sludge/drone metal
    Eh, not my cuppa. Too droney. Bores me. The one CD I have is supposed to be the one that is the most out of the norm for this band which is probably why I like it and not their other work. Excellent Hendrix cover on the one I have. Weird vocals. Nearly Instrumental.

    Gordian Knot – American – instrumental jazz/rock
    More music to read by, this is off the metal chart and more on the hard jazz side of things. I don’t listen to jazz regularly so the distinct rhythms and patterns are really diverting. Not in heavy rotation, but I do enjoy it when I remember it’s there. Bassy and strangely soothing.

    Baroness – American –stoner/sludge metal
    Not precisely my style, but I do like this album. Vocals are a bit unoriginal, but the music more than makes up for it.

    Solitude Aeturnus – American – Traditional doom metal
    Ah, finally a doom metal band with clean vocals. On the whole I do prefer Candlemass though. SA is a bit too samey and it can be hard to tell the difference between songs if I’m not paying attention. No wonder Rob left and joined Candlemass.

    Symphony X – American – Progressive metal
    Highly technical, very accomplished and boy don’t they want you to know it. Clean vocals are a bit flowery and lack continuity in power. Can’t take them in large doses, but a song here and there is good. A bit too far off the prog cliff for me. Concept albums aren’t my cuppa.

    Scissorfight – American – Stoner/thrash metal
    Crazy band from my home state. Stoner in vibe, but thrash in execution. Deranged about sums these guys up. Hilariously crazy lyrics and bonecrushing delivery in both music and vocals leave you feeling beat up after listening. But in a good way.

    Nightwish – Finnish – Symphonic/gothic metal
    A gateway band to harsher metal for sure, aka Chick Metal. Very elaborate with full orchestration and clean female vocals that get a helping hand from clean male vocals. Change of singer alienated many fans, but I like this new girl better. Less operatic frippery is good by me. Don’t think I’ll buy more, but I do enjoy this once in a while. Instrumental bonus disc is a gem.

    Sentenced – Finnish – Gothic metal
    Hi, my name is Ville Laihiala and I cannot write a happy song to save my life. As much as I like the style, it’s too constant and 3-4 albums are quite enough for me. Vocals are decent. Gravelly and melancholy and just a touch pissed off. Guitar is very stagnant to my ear though. Nothing new here.

    Poisonblack – Finnish – Gothic metal
    Basically Sentenced Part Deux. Seriously, Ville, you could have just called the band Sentenced for all the change you made, dude. Once you got rid of JP on vocals, you pretty much sound like you always did. Good stuff, but hell, I’ve heard it all before and after listening to the new album once, I knew I didn’t need to actually buy it. Shame.

    Torche – American – Stoner/sludge metal
    Very much like Baroness…I seem to remember a connection between the two bands. Not in heavy rotation, but sometimes I work them in.

    Spiritual Beggars – Swedish – Stoner/heavy metal
    I love these guys even through all their line-up changes. Voice wise, Spice and JB are so different, but I like them both. They each embodied the approach of the band at the time. Spice more spaced out and wasted, JB more aggressive and in your face. The addition of an organ somewhere along the way adds a great dimension to things. Just frigging awesome.

    Soilwork – Swedish – Symphonic death metal - well, OK, Melodic death metal, happy? This old headbanger can't keep all the new shit straight.
    The only harsh vocal I can take because it’s mixed with clean vocals. The transitions are interesting and fairly dramatic and I like it. There is some traditional orchestration, but not as much as Nightwish. Not in heavy rotation, but mixed in lots of playlists.

    Truckfighters – Swedish – stoner metal
    Seriously, if these guys hit the fuzz pedal any more they’ll be Astroqueen. More of a jazz vibe to things than rock on occasion and there are some surprises that blaze a new trail. Interesting vocals and very straightforward stoner delivery.

    Charon – Finnish – Gothic metal
    A huge favorite. JP’s clean vocal delivery is powerful and music to my ears (given my love of Bruce Dickinson, this is no shock). Music is less elaborate than Soilwork or Nightwish and the female complimentary vocal works well to underscore JP’s baritone power. Like Ville though, JP cannot write a happy song. Roy Orbison’s Disease is rampant in Finland apparently.

    Fireball Ministry – American – Stoner/heavy metal
    Oddly light vocals on top of very in your face hard rock these guys have a lot of fun doing what they do and it comes across. Nothing self-conscious about them. Albums are a bit uneven, but I think that goes with the territory with a developing band.

    Life of Agony – American – Alt-metal
    Angst-ridden alterna-metal that I strangely don’t hate. It’s juvenile and silly, but fun. Not in heavy rotation. Reminds me of Tool in places.

    Halfway to Gone – American – stoner/heavy metal
    Sort of like an amped up Five Horse Johnson crossed with Sasquatch. Very heavy metal with one foot on the fuzz pedal. Very blues oriented, but so different from one song to the next on the same album that I don’t think these guys know what kind of band they want to be when they grow up. But hell, it’s got a gorilla with a fifth of Jack Daniels on the cover.

    Grand Magus – Swedish – Doom/stoner/heavy metal
    Clearly these guys are big Sabbath fans although they have morphed into a more traditional heavy metal sound as of late. They like to write about battles, wizards, kings, werewolves and the frozen north. JB’s big, powerful delivery is the perfect voice for this band and I hope he can continue to split time with Spiritual Beggars. Love them and both are in heavy rotation.

    Astroqueen – Swedish – Stoner metal
    Fuzzed out to the max. Nothing ground-breaking, but solid and just what I need most of the time. While it’s mostly sort of groovy and mellow, there are some headbanging moments in there.

    Blotted Science – American - Progressive/technical metal
    Wooh. It’s tiring listening to this. So much there that it’s almost too much to take in. While I like it and can appreciate it, I don’t listen much because it takes too much of my attention and I’m almost always doing something else while listening to music. Good thing there are no lyrics.

    Spirit Caravan – American - Stoner/doom metal
    Oh Wino when will you settle down? I guess you’re not a one-band man. Vocals are a bit weak, but the riffs and arrangements are solid. Borders on groovy at times. 60s ish. Trouble is that I have so much stoner that it all starts to run together after a while. My bad.

    Place Of Skulls – American – Traditional doom metal
    Changing line-ups keep things fresh. Love the gloomy, doomy vibe of this, but find myself unaccountably irritated with the Christian lyrics. Normally I don’t pay that much attention to lyrics and have never felt that I needed to align myself with whatever the singer is on about, but the God stuff grates just a tad. Still, this is very good before and after Wino’s inclusion.

    Pentagram – American – Traditional doom metal
    In the spirit of doing things backwards I listened to Place of Skulls before Pentagram. The production values of the CD I have are a bit weak and the vocals too much like Ozzy during his early Sabbath days for comfort. Not in heavy rotation, but they spin up now and again.

    Volbeat – Danish – Elvis metal
    Elvis Meta-a-a-a-a-l! If Elvis had lived and joined Metallica, this is what it would sound like. Or if Mike Ness fell and hit his head and Social Distortion became a metal band. Rockabilly backbone and metal muscle. Great stuff.

    Mustasch – Swedish – Stoner/heavy metal
    What would happen if Ian Astbury joined Black Sabbath? This is pretty much it. Early stuff is crunchier than later, but I like their casual approach to what they do. Like if no one else likes it, too bad, they’re just going to mess around and do what they want. Reminiscent of Clutch in that respect. Musically remind me of The Scorpions, too. In heavy rotation.

    The Awesome Machine – Swedish – Stoner metal
    Not quite as fuzzed out as Astroqueen or Truckfighters, but still pretty damn fuzzy. More of a straight up rock and roll vibe to them though (they remind me of Alabama Thunderpussy a bit). Decent vocals although nothing stellar; a bit muddy on some tracks. Good sense of melody and flow. Probably the closest to Kyuss in sound of any of the Swedish stoner bands I’ve heard so far.

    Blake– Finnish – heavy metal
    I can’t decide what category these guys go into. Some say stoner, but I don’t hear it. Some say they hard rock not metal. All I know is they kick ass. Seriously. Just my luck that they are hard to find in America and I could only easily get two albums. Great vocal…clear, open and slightly affected a la Elvis Presley. They remind me of Deep Purple in places. Mad rhythms and grooves while maintaining a hard driving, pure metal stance. 12 Steps to Hell, baby!

    Sparzanza – Swedish – nu-metal
    Yeah…I said it. Nu. Metal. That’s what I hear. Now don’t go hatin’, this is some seriously creative metal. They experiment a lot with both the music and the vocals. There are some odd timing changes and other nuances that just say nu-metal to me. No rap though. Clean singing with some gruff growling screamy talk thrown in. Slick production. Good harmonies.

    What better to do on Christmas eve while the husband slaves over a hot stove than edit my first and only journal entry?

    So I acquired an earlier Sparzanza record and now I hear the stoner element. Angels of Vengeance is a very different animal to Banisher of the Light. On this one they remind me of The Awesome Machine a lot. Stylistically it's a more cohesive record, but I really liked the chance-taking they did on the later one.

    On a Pale Horse – American – Stoner metal
    Some excellent grooves here. Good guitar work as well. Blues oriented with a seriously angry vocalist. Solid tunes with just enough differentiation to keep things interesting, but no compromise on their in your face, slightly wasted blues style. If you know what I mean. Some of their songs remind me of early Monster Magnet; kind of spaced out. Tight.

    Zebulon - Swedish - Stoner Metal
    The artist page for these guys is all f-ed up, but I managed to find tracks from the band I wanted and I dug them. The vocals are the weak spot with some being out of tune, but I think that might be deliberate. More aggressive in approach and less spacy and fuzzy than a lot of stoner bands.