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Music Reviews

Emperor

Emperor

Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise

Candlelight

Much has already been said about Emperor’s Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise, so I’ll just give you the facts: It is the fourth and, above all, final Emperor album; it was wholly written by vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Ihsahn while guitarist Samoth and drummer Trym were away touring with their other project, Zyklon; and, yes, it is as awesome as everyone’s saying it is. In a strong sense, Prometheus is the perfect marriage of Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk‘s fugue-like orchestration with IX Equilibrium‘s more deathly assault, but other than that, you’re better off reading other, more detailed reviews of the album (see October’s issue of Terrorizer or the reviews archive at Digitalmetal.com, where they’re offering the only free download of the “Empty” video) — again, a lot has been said about the album, and I’d merely be repeating it. If you’ve never heard Emperor — arguably, the most influential extreme metal band of the ’90s — you’re well advised to pick Prometheus up. In the meantime, I’m sitting back and getting lost in the Last Emperor.

Candlelight Records: http://www.candlelightrecords.co.uk • Emperor: http://www.emperorhorde.com

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Music Reviews

Europe / Accept

Europe

The Final Countdown

Accept

Balls To the Wall

Portrait/Epic/Legacy

Now this is what I like to see: two reissues that look like someone actually gave a damn more than turning a profit. What we’ve got here are two additions to “The Metal Masters Series,” Europe’s The Final Countdown and Accept’s Balls To the Wall, two platters of non-underground ’80s metal that, for as exemplary as they are of their eras (’86 and ’83, respectively), stand up pretty well today. Everybody knows the skyward title track to The Final Countdown • I believe the Chicago Bulls came onto the court to the song during the Phil Jackson years • but the rest of the album is far, far from filler: From the headbang-away-into-the-night thrust of “Rock The Night” to the adrenalized up-tempo stomp of “Ninja” to, hell, the simpering power ballad “Carrie,” the album is a timeless display of prime Euro-metal • classy, arena-ready, slightly sophisticated, and wholly “European” (i.e., graceful) • before the idiom degenerated into Rhaspodian bombast, a “classic” in every sense of the word. The same can definitely be said for Balls To the Wall, but by nature, the album is a different beast altogether. Much of this can be chalked up to the supposedly “gay” slant of the record • or, for that matter, nearly all of Udo-era Accept • but as the liner notes reveal, the mysterious “Deaffy,” who was their primary lyricist, was none other than their female manager, Gaby Hauke • now talk about straying from the metal norm! Curious lyrics they may be, the music here speaks even louder: Rough around the edges, vaguely blue-collar, but executed with both a cool precision and a burning intensity, otherworldly melodrama (again, vague) lurking just around the corner, Accept were a lofty proposition of seemingly no-frills metal back then, especially with Herr Udo belting out his best Bon Scott impersonation, the album secondmost in importance to predecessor Restless And Wild (proto-speed metal title track and all). So, couple the above contents with a copious amount of live/promo photos, a pair of bonus live tracks, full lyric sheets, (slightly) beefed-up sound compared to the original vinyl, and exhaustive, compellingly enjoyable liner notes (the ever-astute Don Kaye does a remarkable contextual job with Accept’s, whereas Diarmuid Quinn focuses more on Europe’s commercial success than context), and you’ve got a project that was lovingly undertaken and affectionately rendered. But, hey • I hear metal’s “making a comeback,” so perhaps there was cash in the label conglomerate’s eyes, dunno.

Sony Music, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211; http://www.legacyrecordings.com/listen, http://www.sonymusic.com

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Music Reviews

Anathema

Anathema

A Fine Day to Exit

Koch/Music For Nations

It’s a curious thing to see Anathema still regarded as a “metal band,” because frankly, they’re anything but now, and their latest, A Fine Day to Exit, emphatically proves this out. Which is also a curious thing, because already this year, we’ve seen the ubiquitous “return to form” from erstwhile veterans Godflesh, Kreator, and once-contemporaries My Dying Bride. Look at it this way: Along with said band and Paradise Lost, Anathema came to characterize the British doom/death metal idiom, and like the latter, with each successive album they’ve managed to mess about with artier, non-metallic idioms and stray even further from the “metal” tag. It hasn’t quite worked out for the better in Paradise Lost’s case; in Anathema’s, conversely, it’s worked out grandly. Sure, you could say Anathema discovered Radiohead and Jeff Buckley (indeed, they have — at a press-only acoustic set at this year’s Milwaukee Metalfest, they covered both artists) and decided to run with it, but goddamn, where does A Fine Day to Exit run! Go into it with a non-metal mind and you’ll be whisked away to the darkest underbelly of OK Computer, the angry cloud of doom n’ gloom hovering above Grace, and the non-dilettantish death knell of Dark Side of the Moon — guideposts, yeah, but apt ones, guaranteed. In fewer words, the album’s epic, ringing, uplifting, depressing, invigorating, tragic, and altogether painted in hues that aren’t “metal” per se, but metal in spiritual nature: Anathema are now coming to a new audience near you.

Koch Entertainment, 740 Broadway, New York, NY 10003; http://www.kochentertainment.com, http://www.music-for-nations.co.uk

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Music Reviews

Les Savy Fav

Les Savy Fav

Go Forth

Frenchkiss/The Self-Starter Foundation

A couple years ago, after witnessing Les Savy Fav frontman Tim Harrington on the live front, I conceded that he’s not the greatest freak, but he’s pretty damn weird nonetheless. The same holds true for his bandmates in the Fav. Not the greatest freaks around currently, but definitely damn weird, essentially because Les Savy Fav create tunes that, for as catchy-as-the-clap infectious as they are, remain smart, witty, and above all fancy-free, all a safe distance from the otherwise smarmy dictates of erstwhile indie dorks. Okay, some dorkishness can be forgiven in the Fav’s case, the least of which being their ties to the Rhode Island School of Design (Talking Heads hailed from there, go figure), but the template provided on the preceding The Cat and the Cobra gets ironed out even more blissfully on their latest Go Forth long-player. Now down to a four-piece and minus a second guitarist, Les Savy Fav somehow sound fuller and more fleshed-out here, as six-stringer Seth Jabour fills out the funk with a sparser yet more resonating tone, reverbed to all hell, probably more chorus and even flange, his skewed but scintillating melodies bouncing all around the walls and (more so) your brain. And The Funk is certainly in attendance here, the beats being more danceable yet diverging, Go Forth more prevalently looking like a bastard cousin of Gang Of Four’s pop-terrorizing Songs of the Free instead of, say, At the Drive In, a charge erroneously leveled by many a quad-bifocalled indie-snob. If the Fav could take over the airwaves, perhaps the national IQ would be exponentially higher.

Frenchkiss, 111 E. 14th St., PMB 229, New York, NY 10003; Self-Starter Foundation, PO Box 1776, Horsham, PA 19044; http://www.southern.com

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Music Reviews

Queensryche

Queensryche

Live Evolution

Sanctuary

It’s no secret that live albums are of incremental interest, and even then, only to diehard fans of a band. In a sense, the same could be said for Queensyrche’s Live Evolution, but in a more accurate one, you could also say that this live album serves as a better “best of” than last year’s incomplete Greatest Hits collection — and at two discs, it’s nearly the same price! What truly makes Live Evolution a gem is its (mostly) chronological order, where each disc is divided into two halves: On disc one, we have the “EP/Warning Suite” and “Rage/Mindcrime Suite,” covering all the band’s material from the ’80s, from the classic self-titled debut EP to the utterly masterful Operation: Mindcrime; on disc two, we have the “Empire/Promised Land Suite” and “HITNF/Q2K Suite,” covering all the band’s material from the ’90s, from their last great album, Empire, up through their patchy ’90s work. Sure, the track listing is slightly off and out-of-order in spots (Rage For Order‘s “Walk in the Shadows,” from ’86, is the second song on disc one, warp-speeding a good two or three years), but you can’t argue with the content: prime ‘Ryche, in all their prog-metal — nay, smart-metal — glory, rendered with the same passion and precision as the DeGarmo-era lineup, the whole thing lively yet still obeying of the originals. The sound quality’s big n’ expansive, the movement from one track to the next is flawless, and even their aforementioned post-Empire work, spotty as it is, gets new life once they’re ebbing from the earlier, by-all-accounts better work (in hindsight now, ’90s lynchpins Liquid Sky and Falling Down are friggin’ brilliant), the whole package spelling “purpose” for once in Queensryche’s flawed past decade. For the most part, frontman Geoff Tate’s in fine form here, still able to hit (most of) his upper register, the only notable exception being the epic recasting of all-time fave “Spreading The Disease” during the cathartic chorus — and that could merely be a choice of improvisation rather than an otherwise technical limitation. Take the above into account and add to it a classy, artsy fold-out cardboard layout (could do without Metal Edge editor Paul Gargano’s gushing liner notes, though), and you’ve got the epitome of a quiet triumph, and probably the finest introduction to the ‘Ryche money can buy. Oh, and did I mention the whole of Live Evolution was recorded over the course of two nights at Seattle’s Moore Theatre? Brilliant, even if that once-blinding light has dimmed a bit in the last 11 years.

Sanctuary: http://www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.com

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Music Reviews

Agnostic Front

Agnostic Front

Dead Yuppies

Epitaph

This late in Agnostic Front’s career (going on two decades), it’d be pretty damn foolish to expect another Victim In Pain or Cause For Alarm — hell, even a Liberty & Justice For… (my personal fave). To put it simply, I don’t need AF to deliver another masterpiece as awesome in its context as the aforementioned records — I’ll rely on other, newer bands in the hardcore realm to push the envelopes worth pushing; however, I do need AF to keep recording to keep my faith in hardcore intact. Their latest, Dead Yuppies, proves this out in few uncertain terms: Roger, Vinnie, and company can still furnish furious hardcore that belies their accelerated age, and for that reason alone is why the album is required listening, convert or not. Not so much the grab-bag of sundry punk/HC idioms its predecessor, Riot Riot Upstart, was, Dead Yuppies finds the Front sticking to their patented NYHC they — and they alone — jumpstarted, with no metal leanings anywhere to be found, possibly sounding a tad more updated through modern recording and playing techniques. The greased/roughed-up street-punk dabblings that earmarked their last two records are here, but (usually) immediately bookended by total barnstormers (see the couplets of “Liberty”/”Club Girl” and “Love to Be Hated”/”No Mercy”). Sure, you could say AF are washed up, but you’d be grossly missing the point — in any case, an exceedingly enjoyable half-hour from a jolly old crew of punters.

http://www.epitaph.com

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Music Reviews

Machine Head

Machine Head

Supercharger

Roadrunner

Can•t quite say that this is a highly anticipated release considering its predecessor, 1999•s The Burning Red, was something of a commercial flop (I believe), not quite raking in the big bucks Roadrunner was banking on. But that matters not, for Machine Head•s Supercharger is an obvious return to their more aggressive roots (1994•s Burn My Eyes debut), with a bit of that predecessor•s radio aspiration in tow (see obligatory leadoff single, •Crashing Around You•). Call it the proverbial and much-hackneyed •return to form,• but Machine Head get back to grooves here • like, HUGE grooves, ones that pummel and move ever forward just the same, ones that are, arguably, the most mammoth around outside the nascent acid-doom metal scene (Isis, Electric Wizard, 5ive, Warhorse, etc.). And call it a wise splitting of differences, but Machine Head also go for equally big choruses from time to time, vaguely scintillating like the Deftones• White Pony (see back-to-back combo of •American High• and •Brown Acid•), and elsewhere, it•s a considerably direct, nearly punk-rocked aggression abounding throughout the proceedings. Still, it•s all a bit monochromatic at this point, despite this jaded nu-metal abhorrer quite often getting reeled in and sucked under by said grooves. At the very least, an understated triumph.

Roadrunner Records, 902 Broadway, New York, NY 10019; http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com, http://www.machinehead1.com

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Music Reviews

Dirty Rotten Imbeciles

Dirty Rotten Imbeciles

Greatest Hits

Deadline

How Not to Reissue an Album or Compile a Retrospective, example #93: Dirty Rotten Imbeciles’ Greatest Hits. For fuck•s sake, is this any way to treat a legendary band?! Dubious title and track-selection squabbles aside, this compilation comes courtesy of the once-respectable/now-suspect, line-•em-up/ship-•em-out Cleopatra family, specifically its Deadline division, who are responsible for the shoddy reissue of Tiamat•s Sumerian Cry debut a couple years back (surprising that Century Media didn•t take their asses to court). That should tip off the more-astute of you, and then some. What we•re given in D.R.I.•s Greatest Hits is weak •remastering• (the original CD pressings sound as good, if not better, or at the very least louder), an all-fucked-up track listing (good thing I already own all of its contents, lest I should look like the fool), next to no liner notes (no track info and/or broad band history, but a tiny and inconsequential paragraph from somebody named •DJ Will,• presumably an old roadie/soundman of the band•s), zero graphic design (a bootleg probably would have looked better, basically because it would•ve looked like someone actually cared), and a song-selection solely focusing on their first three albums (Dirty Rotten LP, Dealing With It, and the ever-influential Crossover). It•s that lattermost element that makes me grumble the loudest and to no end, as Four of a Kind and Thrash Zone (1988 and •89, respectively) are no slouch by any means, and even as patchy and erratically recorded as their •90s output is, it•s still imminently enjoyable and certainly worth a nod. But seriously • this is Cleopatra we•re talking •bout here, folks. (Need proof? Check out all their horrendous tribute albums, piss-poor reissues, and bootleg cum official live albums • a real study in modern ineptitude if there ever was one.) However, there•s no denying the contents, as time-locked as it is, their thrash-meets-hardcore onslaught still resonating today, if not in a more vague form; consequently, •Nursing Home Blues• (from Dealing With It) still sounds as fresh today as when I heard it as a young skate-punk back in •88. Still, I can kinda understand the concept, but as for the execution? Sheesh•. Big question on everyone•s minds, though • where the hell was Rotten Records in all this? Latest D.R.I. update: played a thrashing-mad show at this year•s Milwaukee Metalfest (infinitely glad I was there).

Deadline Records, 13428 Maxella Ave #251, Marina Del Ray, CA 90292; http://www.cleorecs.com, http://www.dirtyrottenimbeciles.com, http://www.rottenrecords.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Crowbar

Crowbar

Sonic Excess in its Purest Form

Spitfire

Color me rejected and retarded, but I’ve never quite invested much time and effort into Crowbar as is probably warranted or necessary • and that’s not for lack of trying, either. I mean, they’re hard-working, they’re persevering, and goshdarnit, they’ve managed to locate an identifiable sound early on yet push it forward ever so slightly with each impending record, but there’s always been that “something” that’s eluded me in regards to Crowbar and, hence, how they’ve conspicuously eluded my record collection. However, if there’s one • and only one • Crowbar record to latch onto, it’s their latest Sonic Excess in its Purest Form. Making good on the overtly melodic underpinnings of last year’s Equilibrium, the misleadingly titled Sonic Excess in its Purest Form finds the four-piece remaining HEAVY • heavier than fuck all, even • in their sludge-metal aesthetic while imbuing the proceedings with an emotionalism rarely this harnessed nor uncharted. Take one listen to the aching “Thru the Ashes (I’ve Watched You Burn),” with heartache and bitterness bellowing forth from guitarist Kirk Windstein’s windpipe, and you’ll know what I mean: catharsis clear and cutting, and no shortage of shredded decibels, at that, in sight despite the sluggish, slovenly speeds the band characteristically moves at. Elsewhere, it’s business at usual • but, again, with a cathartic undercurrent and melodic miserablism that threatens to move all and sundry well beyond the bounds of sludge. And, for perhaps the first time in their decade-long duration, Crowbar step outside the boundaries of sludge and bravely take their largest steps, all for the better by most accounts. Hey, wudda y’know, they even get a respectable-looking cover/layout here, evoking visions of both their doom bombast and sweaty Southern roots better than anything imaginable (except maybe for a gargantuan, billowing barbecue pit flanked by a flock of vultures•or something). Speaking of which, there’s no forgiving, though, the shirtless shot of the band, weighing in well over 1000 pounds, strategically situated on the inside of the album’s liner notes. Whew. Someone should be fired for that one, and for all those no-budget covers that came before, but I digress• If there was ever a moment or opportunity to call myself a “fan” of Crowbar • lest I should look like the sympathizing critic • Sonic Excess in its Purest Form would be it.

Spitfire Records, 101 Bay Ave., Hicksville, NY 11801; http://www.spitfirerecords.com, http://www.infernalcombustion.com

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Music Reviews

Ill Nino

Ill Nino

Revolution Revolucion

Roadrunner

Q calls it “sports metal,” Kerrang! says “nu-metal,” and me? I’d simply label it “tedium.” Okay, that all-too-easy cheap-shot aside, Ill Nino’s Revolution Revolucion debut isn’t all that dodgy. In fact, if you’re not listening too closely, or more accurately still, not expecting much, the record could yet (briefly) pull you in, as guilty as that sounds; they’ve got the nearly stadium-ready Deftones-via-Orgy hooks, occasionally clean-tenored “sensitive dude” melodies, ultra-percussive aggression to spare, and goddamn if you can’t lift weights to this. And how ’bout it, the sextet sometimes play with an intensity like something’s actually on the line (see one-trick pony “Rumba”). But look at it this way: There’s miles between The Afghan Whigs-on-steroids narcotics of the ‘Tones’ White Pony and this, a record that will never have any remotely broad significance, basically because the whole platter is the epitome of “predictable” • as in, “Are you reaaadddyyyyyyy“-like mosh-groove to nowhere. Nonetheless, coming to a gym or tattoo parlor near you.

Roadrunner Records, 902 Broadway, New York, NY 10010; http://www.illnino.com, http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com