Another year, another Iron Maiden career retrospective collection

Look, I love Iron Maiden. Totally, completely, almost unconditionally. Almost because I can’t justify the Blaze Bayley era for even a second. Horrible, horrible choice for a lead singer, guys.

Anyway, as much as I love this band and even have grudgingly gone along with them on this progressive, epic metal they’re onto now, and have long celebrated their catalog, even I realize they are the masters of the cash grab. I have an entire section of CDs on my shelf filled with Maiden discs, and maybe only half of those are essential. “Number of the Beast,” “Powerslave,” “Killers,” “Piece of Mind,” “Brave New World” all are records every metal fan should own. For anyone furrowing a brow over “Brave New World,” give it another listen. Great record, one of the best of their catalog, one I listen to pretty regularly to this day (plus Decibel magazine named it the No. 4 metal record of the 2000s). When it came out I thought I dug it simply because Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith had returned to the fold, but no, it’s pretty excellent.

OK, but for all of those albums, there a ton of others I own simply because it says Iron Maiden on the spine: “A Real Live One,” “A Real Dead One,” “Ed Hunter,” “Live at Donnington.” Some others still are not exactly crucial but I at least can see a reason for their existence. “The Essential Iron Maiden” is one in a series that includes a ton of various artists, and if you’re one who doesn’t have the band’s catalog but wants the key songs, this is on OK historical document (sequencing and some of the song choices aside). I have the one that features The Clash and get a lot of mileage out of it. “Somewhere Back in Time – The Best of 1980-1989” is probably useless to classic era fans who have all the albums they culled from to make this, but it came out at a time when Maiden’s profile had risen again and they were taking on U.S. venues playing their classic songs (including that ill-fated Ozzfest stint, where Sharon “The Asshole” Osbourne egged the band, even after they filled headlining slots for her ailing husband how many times). And if any career retro deserves two discs, it was this one! But no. One disc.

This all leads us to the new two-CD collection “From Fear to Eternity: The Best of 1990-2010,” yet another gathering of period pieces for Maiden, but one I’d argue the world doesn’t really need. Their albums in that period didn’t exactly burn up the sales charts in America (though they did better since their 2000 Dickinson/Smith comeback), though the band remained steady in Europe and other parts of the world, so those folks probably will get even less out of this. But they didn’t really have any hits, per se, and while they released singles and made some videos, they didn’t have the same level of landmark cuts that they did in the 1980s. Best-of is subjective, really. This album feels like a way for the band to grab some money from their loyal fans (admittedly, I bought the damn thing, only because I feel like I need to have every piece of Maiden plastic on the market) and doesn’t feel like a crucial document.

The track listing is a mess. It is all over the map, with disc one opening with “The Wicker Man,” probably their most successful song in the past decade or so, then leading into “Holy Smoke,” from 1990’s terrible “No Prayer for the Dying.” From there, the track list bounces from album to album, with no coherent reason why the disc is put together this way. Disc two opens with “Be Quick or Be Dead,” a song from 1992’s “Fear of the Dark,” a record a little bit better than “Dying.” From there, it’s the same all-over-the-map sequencing, going to “Tailgunner” from “Dying” to “No More Lies” from “Dance of Death,” a record that’s sounds like a retread of “Brave,” to “Coming Home,” from their latest record “The Final Frontier.” Listeners not particularly aware of the band’s last two decades will be hearing a mish-mash of cuts, with no real historical perspective whatsoever. Why not set these tracks chronologically to make the collection make more sense? That way you’d be able to hear the band grow and develop into their middle-age years (personally, certainly not band-wise) and get an idea of the form the band takes now.

Something that amuses me about this collection is the erasing of Bayley from Maiden’s history. The songs that included him on the studio versions are replaced by live takes featuring Dickinson. That’s probably for the better, because Bayley, as noted, was a horrible choice to replace Dicksinson. I’m also morbidly entertained that “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter,” originally a Dickinson solo track for one of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies, is here in its “No Prayer for the Dying” form. No matter who tries this song – whole band, just Bruce – it sucks. Just a terrible, horrible song. Really, really bad and quite awful. They should not be proud of this song.

I want to make clear that the actual music on this collection, for the most part, is good. While it took me a while to adjust to the last two Maiden records and their turn toward much longer, more epic songs, I can listen to those discs and enjoy them. Certainly they’re not up to par with Maiden’s classic material, but for a band that’s been around more than three decades now, they’re notable achievements. I just don’t think we needed two damn CDs (or three vinyl picture discs!) in order to mark it. One might have been tough because the songs are so much longer, but did we even need this project at all? Is it only here because it was deemed necessary to follow up “Somewhere Back in Time”? If you’re a completest like I am, certainly you’ll have to buy this for catalog reasons (I got it for $9.99, so I’m not really sweating it). If you’re not a diehard, download the good tracks from their first two ’90s works (legally, of course), buy “Brave New World,” and proceed a bit cautiously with everything else that followed. This collection maybe can help you navigate that process, but you can save some cash by finding a friend who owns the band’s collection and having that person make you a mix. It is the ’10s after all. As far as it being something every metal fan must have, it just simply isn’t that.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.ironmaiden.com/

To buy “From Fear to Eternity: The Best of 1990-2010,” go here: http://www.ironmaiden.com/fromfeartoeternity/

Sourvein deserve to sink ‘Fangs’ into larger audience

I’m sure I’m revealing no secrets when I say there is a hell of a lot of sludge metal out there. There’s so much of it that when I try to think of bands off the top of my head (other than obvious veterans), I can’t.

While I’m sure that makes no sense to most of you, it does to me. The bands kind of cake together in my head, and I have a really difficult time pulling out names to cite as reference points because they all seem practically the same to me. Case in point, a friend of mine asked me recently to cite some good sludge bands so she could go find some new stuff to buy. My instant reaction in my brain was, “Uhhhh….” I need to work in this. It’s easy to rattle off older bands and the subgenre’s pioneers, but as far as newer acts, it’s a fruitless cause.

This leads us to today’s subject matter, North Carolina’s Sourvein, and their new full-length effort “Black Fangs,” out now on Candlelight, a label not exactly known for a roster full of this kind of stuff. So that makes Sourvein stand out on among Candlelight’s other acts because they don’t sound like anyone else on the label’s lineup at the moment. But that isn’t the only reason they’re a powerful signing for Candlelight. Sourvein’s also ridiculously good and awfully heavy, and they are one of the sludge bands that always stands out in my head.

Now, it’s not like Sourvein are a bunch of newcomers. They’re not. They released their first material way back in 1996 on a split effort with Buzzov*en, a band from which they took part of the sludge torch, and they didn’t register their first full-length until 2000’s “Salvation,” which featured in the lineup guitarist Liz Buckingham, who went on to become an integral part of doom metal crushers Electric Wizard. She also was on their only other complete album (until now), 2002’s “Will to Mangle,” and from that point, the band put out a slew of EPs and split efforts over the next nine years. “Imperial Bastard,” Sourvein’s 2008 EP, was the first released by Candlelight, and now we get “Black Fangs,” the third record of the band’s long career, one that features a totally different lineup than their earlier work, with only guitarist/vocalist Troy “T-Roy” Medlin left standing as an original member. That’s a pretty rough history I just supplied there, but it gives you a bit of an idea of where this band has been.

So again, it’s not like Sourvein are fresh-faced rookies, but they haven’t really had the profound effect on metal that they probably should have. Their music’s always been solid and crushing, and their new effort “Black Fangs” is no different. But for every reference to Eyehategod or Crowbar or The Melvins or Buzzov*en, there don’t seem to be as many name drops for Sourvein as there should be. Perhaps this new 10-track effort will serve to change all of that and establish these guys once and for all. At the very least, it should put them alongside currently operating bands such as Weedeater, Hail! Hornet, and Black Tusk as go-to acts keeping the sludge spirit alive and acting as the new standard-bearers.

The albums kicks off with a muddy, feedback-rich start on “Fangs,” as they ease into an evil, Black Sabbath-style groove, that leads right into the stomping, slow-driving pounding of “Society’s Blood.” “Holy Transfusion” lets their metallic fire-breathing tendencies rush to the surface, as a maddening gallop erupts, and T-Roy howls maniacally at you; “Nomadic” leans on a bluesy groove, and the vocals somehow find a way to become more vicious; and “Gemini” grows out of a thick bass intro and evolves with strong lead riffing and psychological carnage. As good as these songs are, Sourvein really shine when they go a bit more epic – for them, anyway. Six-minute “Night Eyes” feels like a million doom-encrusted hammers dropping onto your chest at once, as it slowly, calculatingly unfurls its intent, while closer “Nocturnal/Negative Phaze” manages to inject some psychedelic tripping and spacey gaze into an otherwise mangling piece.

There’s just so much sinewy stuff here in which to sink your teeth, and their drubbing pace will keep you nodding your head at will with their thrashy melodies. This is just a damn good record that strengthens an already steady Sourvein catalog. Also, as noted, this record should help them capture a larger audience since this style of music has become so damn prevalent as of late, so next time you go see the Sourvein live, don’t be surprised if you find yourself packed a little more snugly than you were in the past. These guys certainly deserve it.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/sourvein13

To buy “Black Fangs,” go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=1000&osCsid=926a5819f42fc7fffe328cdef575b297

For more on the label, go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/

If you want to check the band live, and you should, here are their upcoming tour dates:

July 6: Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA w/ Jucifer
July 7: Heirloom Arts – Danbury, CT w/ Jucifer
July 8: St. Vitus – Brooklyn, NY
July 9: Popeye’s – Peekskill, NY
July 10: Big Jar – Rochester, NY
July 11: Sidebar – Baltimore, MD
July 12: Now That’s Class – Cleveland, OH w/ Nachtmystium
July 13: Mac’s – Lansing, MI w/ Nachtmystium
July 14: 31st St Pub – Pittsburgh, PA
July 15: Ravari Room – Columbus, OH
July 16: Volrath – Indianapolis, IN
July 17: Pyramid – Grand Rapids, MI
July 18: Frank’s Power Plant – Milwaukee, WI
July 19: The Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL w/ Nachtmystium
July 20: Fubar – St. Louis, MO
July 21: TBA
July 22: The Hideaway – Johnson City, TN
July 23: Ground Zero – Spartanburg, SC

The outer edges: Barn Owl and Zombi

Barn Owl

I always thought it would be cool to ride on a spaceship. Not the Space Shuttle, but one of those old-style, 1960s models of spaceships from black and white movies, most of which got eviscerated on “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

If ever I did get that chance, I’d want some fitting music to go along with me, and unless I was watching a supernova or asteroid collisions, brutal death metal or blasphemous black metal really wouldn’t be a good choice. I’d want something that would let my imagination soar along with the stars, where I could feel in the element of passing by alien stars and worlds and wondering what they may contain. Maybe something like the dreamy haze of Nadja or even the doom drone of Sunn 0))). Sure, there are metal elements involved with both of those bands, no doubt, but there’s so much more going on than just that. You can read and think listening to those bands, and while that may not excite someone who’s looking to get face-planted in a pit, for the rest of us there’s something to this music that touches the metal realm that can be an excellent backdrop to trying to enlighten ourselves.

Two other bands fit that bill that aren’t really metal bands but do have some associations musically and spiritually. One of them is even signed to a label that’s known for championing grindcore and death metal, and their inclusion is another example of open-mindedness as a whole. The other, who we’ll discuss first, is not on a metal label at all, but they’re housed somewhere equally as liberally thinking where the band is pretty much right at home.

Barn Owl is a member of the Thrill Jockey roster, and as we know from the past, that label also claims Liturgy in its ranks. There’s a band that’s ruffled some feathers lately, huh? Good. That’s what metal’s supposed to do. But Barn Owl are entirely different than Liturgy and pretty much every one else in the metal medium. On their new EP “Shadowland,” something of a bridge between last year’s strong “Ancestral Star” and this fall’s “Lost in the Glare,” the instrumental duo of Jon Porras (synth, piano, guitar) and Evan Caminiti (guitar, synth, vocals when required, though you won’t find any here) slips into that cosmic weightlessness and sonic adventure with the opening cut “Void and Devotion.” It has a dark and somber feel, almost like a space opera funeral, and it eventually bleeds out, making way for the title cut. That track has some simple guitar jangles and a slightly dizzy melody, leading toward finale “Infinite Reach,” where the squall rises and volume threatens to bubble over, only to subside and level off into key blips. Again, not metal by sound necessarily, but anyone into drone and doom surely can find some worth on this brief but effective EP.

For more on Barn Owl, go here: http://www.electrictotem.com/

To buy “Shadowland,” go here: http://www.thrilljockey.com/catalog/index.html?id=105310

Zombi

This takes us to Zombi, whose new album “Escape Velocity” has been on the shelves for a few weeks now and likely will be remembered as one of Relapse’s most unique records of the year. That kind of happens every time this band releases an album. Those who are familiar with the band’s sci-fi, B-movie-style soundtrack-like records should be right at home here, because it’s not terribly different from what they’ve done in the past. Yet, it does distinguish itself from their last full-length, 2009’s “Spirit Animal” and stands on its own from the rest of the catalog. I know the last two sentences sound contradictory. What I mean is this band has a unique sound from which they haven’t strayed too far, yet they always find a way to make a new statement with each album.

The Pittsburgh duo – Steve Moore (bass, synth) and Anthony Paterra (drums) – has toured with some very metal bands such as ISIS and Daughters and didn’t seem out of place at all. Their new record also would be ideal for that deep-space sojourn, probably because it sounds creatively like they’re alongside you. The plinking, vintage keys and laser gun simmering on the opening title track gets you there right away, as does “Shrunken Heads,” which has a really sticky, dancey personality that sounds like the start of a new subgenre I shall dub moon dance music; the whirring, machine-like epic “DE3,” that I’d imagine would make great ring entrance music for a Japanese wrestler; and “Time of Trouble,” which feels awfully eerie when it opens but eventually settles into a deliberate drum groove and a babbling melody that dribbles out with electronic blinking. It’s a really cool sounding album, one I prefer over their last effort by a wide margin (and I like “Animal Spirits”). I imagine I’ll revisit this one quite often.

For more on Zombi, go here: http://www.zombi.us/

To buy “Escape Velocity,” go here: http://shop.relapse.com/store/product.aspx?ProductID=42897

Both Barn Owl and Zombi require that you exit your comfort zone if you’re strictly a metal-only person. There isn’t anything wrong with relying on a metallic collection only, but if you haven’t ventured beyond that realm before, these two bands might be good choices for some chance-taking. Plus, there’s a nice bit of crossover for metal fans into the aforementioned sci-fi, as well as horror and psychological dramas. If you’re one of those who like these types of films and shows, this music also may appeal to you because it might remind you of the soundtracks you’re used to hearing. It might even compel you to expand that rigid record collection or maybe even mull a trip into the cosmos.

Origin continue to frighten and enthrall us

Lineup changes, a bloated subgenre, and time have done nothing to diminish the vicious tech-death assault of Origin. They somehow keep figuring out a way to get more ridiculous, more effective and more dynamic, and their fifth record “Entity” is only going to contribute to all of this madness.

This is the band’s first record for Nuclear Blast and their first since longtime frontman James Lee, who had been with the band since 2001, fled the fold. Jason Keyser (formerly of Skinless) has since joined the band and will be the guy standing out front live, but on this record, guitarist Paul Ryan and bassist Mike Flores handle the vocal work, and quite capably at that. That’s all well and good, right, but as strong as the vocals are on “Entity,” that’s not the reason people are going to flock to this record. The mind-blowing musicianship and power tool-equivalent effectiveness is what has won Origin their accolades, and there is no shortage of brilliant carnage on this album.

Ryan remains a total musical force, with him registering a million and a half notes and stunning soloing and riffing that should frighten most people, especially those who claim the same instrument of choice. The man is not human. He just can’t be. As previously stated many times, I am not a guitar player so I don’t approach this with any level of actual knowledge, but just listening to what he does here and on other Origin records baffles and intimidates me. The other thing I like about his work is he doesn’t just show off, and really, would anyone argue if he did? He does have a knack for setting up thrashy, tasty bits that make you want to pound on something, such as during “Saliga,” a near-seven-minute cut that isn’t just noodling and wizardry. He remembers that the music also should be violent in a primal way, and he and the band achieve that here. Drummer John Longstreth also has a hand (well, two hands) in that as well, as his playing contributes to the punishment (complemented, of course, by Flores). Longstreth’s work, too, is to behold, from his double-kick rumbling to his near-blast smashing to his torrid pace-setting. In fact, I listened to this record a few times during my daily walks, and I notice I’m trying hopelessly to walk in pace with his work. As you can imagine, my walks are faster and more aggressive when I have “Entity” blasting over my headphones. My legs also are kind of sore, something that I’m sure would amuse Longstreth, who can’t be comfortable after a night behind the kit.

Something I should admit is that I’m not a giant fan of technical death metal, mostly because it often feels so antiseptic and soulless. Again, that may be because I don’t play and can’t appreciate the musicianship on the level of someone who does, but often I’m left cold. I feel like the expression comes more from one wanting to wow with prowess rather than heart. Not that I can’t note the music as being strong, but often these aren’t albums to which I return very often. Origin is one of the bands that breaks that mold for me. Their work always make me feel something, and usually they cause my adrenaline to surge. “Entity” is no exception, and one of the things I really like about it is its concise 36-minute running time. It’s perfect. Their songs are more compact, they throw a ton of things at you in a small window of time, they don’t waste time with long compositions for their own sake, and as a result, they make effective records. It this record was 50 minutes or 60 minutes, I’m not sure it would be as enjoyable or powerful. Luckily, that’s not something we have to worry about. Shit just blasts by, and it does demand repeated listens for you to keep things straight, but I surely haven’t minded doing that. That’s led me to find the juicy stuff, from “Fornever,” that sounds like a classical piece sped up to warp speed and made slightly demonic, to math metal blast “Committed,” with comically delivered high-pitched guitar and equally bizarre gurgly vocals, to punchier “Purgatory” that seems aimed at the thrash crowd, to mix-of-everything closer “Consequence of Solution,” that runs over seven minutes but really feels about half as long. That’s the sign of a strong epic song.

Origin’s powerful catalog and their intelligence help keep this Topeka, Kansas, band ahead of the tech-death heap. As stated, there have been tons of new bands trying this thing ever since Origin emerged with their 1998 mini-release “A Coming Into Existence” and their 2000 self-titled full-length debut, and there’s a reason this band never loses its grip: They’re just better than everyone else. “Entity” is another example of why Origin is admired and respected, and no matter what happens to this band, from lineup changes to label switches, they never lose their focus and fire. As long as that continues, and there’s no reason to think it won’t, Origin will remain the tech-death heavyweight champions of the world.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/origin

To buy “Entity,” go here”: http://store.nuclearblastusa.com/artist/origin/11490

For more on the label, go here: http://www.nuclearblastusa.com

Deafheaven, Touché Amoré sound different but hurt just the same

Deafheaven

We come to you today with two bands, both with their newest releases out on highly respected Deathwish Inc., and these two records could not be more diametrically opposed musically, yet they share a sort-of bond philosophically.

While a hardcore label at heart, Deathwish certainly doesn’t limit itself at all and has an open mind toward what it releases. That’s why, when their promos arrive, I never quite know what to expect. I anticipate the music will be heavy, uncompromising and honest, and lo and behold, it always is. However, their bands all have their own unique personalities, and none of them sound the same. That’s refreshing, and that’s what keeps Deathwish on my short list of labels that, when their records arrive, I make a point to stop what I’m doing and give them a listen. In addition, if you decide you want to be a patron of the label, they have one of the slickest, packed, reasonably priced web shops going, and if you fall in love with one of their bands, there’s no shortage of goods for you to enjoy.

Two of their more recent signings have new music in stores, one of which made one of my favorite records of the first half of 2011. We’ve had a few of those lately, have we not? Metal’s gotten pretty damn interesting the past couple months. The one I refer to here is the debut from San Francisco’s Deafheaven, who can be labeled as atmospheric black metal if you need a quick description, but they do much more than that, and their approach isn’t exactly in line with the rest of their genre. The other is from Touché Amoré, a young, hungry, bleeding-heart band that reminds me a hell of a lot of the groups that preceded the screamo, mainstream hardcore movement of the 2000s. Their music is raw, expressive and not necessarily something that’ll excite an old dude like me, but certainly they have a really bright future ahead of them.

We’ll start with Deafheaven and their debut full-length “Roads to Judah,” which has been in stores for several weeks now and is highly recommended. The band’s profile began to ignite right after the release of their demo last year, one that ripped eyes wide open and drew interest from labels that wanted to sign them. Deathwish was one of them, and while the interest was to do a re-release of the demo, the band instead opted to do the “Roads” record because they already had their vision and wanted to go full steam ahead. A wise choice was made by all it seems, because this album is a gushing, emotional effort that reminds me a bit of Wolves in the Throne Room and Altar of Plagues musically, but lyrically is built on themes of personal reflection and catharsis. So no Satan or blood or bedroom suicides or goats, and we’re thankful for that because that stuff’s overdone. Just from the gorgeous eruption of opener “Violet,” which begins with lucid post-rock before completely igniting, you can feel the heart and soul of this thing, and even if you don’t have the lyrics sheet in front of you, the personal journey being conveyed is obvious and sets up shop inside of you.

“Language Games” starts off sounding a lot more sinister, exploding like a drenching thunderstorm (which is odd as one is brewing as I type this) that may or may not have more dangerous elements. You just have to ride it out and see where you land. All the while, dangerous or not, you still find yourself oddly drawn to the cacophony. “Unrequited” seeps in quietly, with shoegazey arrangements not unlike, say, Explosions in the Sky or MONO, but eventually it rips itself apart, as the black metal lava rises to the surface, drums and cymbals are crushed, and fault lines are ripped asunder. “Tunnel of Trees” is pretty much the opposite, starting off in a whirlwind of hellish pummeling and savage shrieking before melting into a beautiful section of quiet guitar, lightly tapped drums, and tranquility. Even when the decibels return, it’s with a sense of melodic emoting and musical hope, even as the words, “A roaring river of blood, drowning the life out of all that was good,” lets you know that maybe isn’t the case at all. “Roads to Judah” is an infectious, moving, quite personal record that sounds like amends are trying to be made for past digressions, and perhaps the end result isn’t so bright. But that’s just one person’s interpretation, and chances are there will be many dissections. What can’t be disputed is the quality of this album, a collection that gives hope to black metal’s future and indicates that maybe new ideas, ways and means are possible and that the rigid rules are meant to be destroyed. I, for one, and brimming with hope that Deafheaven can redefine black metal as we know it.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/deafheaven

To buy “Roads to Judah,” go here: http://deathwishinc.com/estore/category/DEAFHEAVEN.html

To check their Shirts and Destroy shop, go here: http://www.shirtsanddestroy.com/deafheaven

For more on the label, go here: http://deathwishinc.com/

Touché Amoré

On the other hand are Touché Amoré, a Los Angeles band that reminds me a lot of early Thursday and their reckless expression (that band’s singer Geoff Rickly released TA’s debut album “… To Beat a Dead Horse” on his vinyl-only Collect, in conjunction with 6131). At times, Touché Amoré appear a little too honest for their own good on “Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me,” a little too unpolished, but that’s also what makes them stand out, so we’ll deal with that contradiction.

From the get go, frontman Jeremy Bolm stands out, his vocals not so much a hardcore-laced growl, but more like a dialog-driven shout. He’s talking to us, sounding like he’s reading straight from a journal or a hastily scribbled diatribe he wrote on a napkin or a menu, and clearly he’s a man finding his way through the world, dealing with past pain and transgressions, wading through current ones, sometimes putting too much of himself out there only to get stung in the process. I’d imagine – and please don’t read this as an insult or criticism – the audience for this band, and especially Bolm’s lyrics and approach, will appeal mostly to late teens/early 20s kids who are dealing with the same issues and sometimes just feel like lashing out and screaming into an empty room than taking time to settle down, breathe and figure out the best thing to do. We’ve all been there, and I’m sure some of our readers are still there, so it can be comforting to hear someone else saying – or screaming – the same thoughts that have gone through our own heads. I’d imagine older dudes like me, who just want to sit outside with a fucking iced tea, won’t get as much from this thematically, and I could see some of those folks perhaps being annoyed at such youthful self-torture. How soon we forget those dark, scary, confusing years. They don’t really go away, per se, but the things on which we dwell shift.

As for the music, it’s delivered in a compact package, with 13 songs ticking in a just a little under 21 minutes. That’s a major positive, because had this band gone further with the track listing or tried to drag these songs out longer, they could have had a problem on their hands. Instead, they pace and edit themselves just right, and it never overstays its welcome. They dash through the first four cuts, with opener “~” sounding a bit like early Against Me for its ferocity and unwillingness to conform, and then “Uppers/Downers,” “Crutch” and “Method Act” all blend together like one song, so it’s easy to lose track of where you are if you’re not paying attention. “Wants/Needs” is particularly bleak, with Bolm finding, “You learn a lot about a place when you see it for what it is”; and “Condolences” is built on somber piano, with unsettling ranting over top of it.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.toucheamore.com/

To buy “Parting the Sea Between Brightness and me,” go here: http://deathwishinc.com/estore/category/TOUCHEAMORE.html

Touché Amoré isn’t really my thing, to be honest. But again, that’s just me, and that’s not to suggest the record isn’t worthwhile (it is). I’m curious to hear where the band goes from here, and they seem to be a group that has serious potential that could become one of Deathwish’s major players. Again, as said, I imagine their audience skews far younger than I am, which obviously is to their benefit as part of my preconditions to going to most shows these days is that there is seating. Touché Amoré wouldn’t be too happy playing to a seated room, I’d imagine. As for Deafheaven, I think I’ve made my point. I’m about to take my daily walk, and that’s what I’m going to listen to while I’m sweating away in 90-degree temperature.  Whatever camp you prefer, you’re not going to be let down when it comes to pure emotion and an album that’ll drain you after spending time listening. That’s really all you can ask for in a world of disposable music from equally disposable bands.

Fucked Up come to life on classic epic ‘David’

“David Comes to Life” probably won’t be nominated for a Grammy, it won’t be one of those albums you see Best Buy sell for $6.99 and advertise in their circulars, and it probably won’t have any of its songs show up in TV ads, nor will they be played on your favorite late-night TV show (well, except for Greg Gutfeld’s “Red Eye”).

It’s all because the band is called Fucked Up. Is they were called Messed Up, Screwed Up, Fouled Up, or anything else, this Toronto-based punk/hardcore band would be all over the place, not only on the strength of this brand new opus, but on their crushing back catalog that’s both heavy and undeniably catchy. I do realize Cee-Lo Green’s smash hit “Fuck You” is everywhere. That’s because the song was given an alternate version “Forget You” so that it could be played on “Glee” and be in the soundtrack to every paint-by-numbers rom-com that comes out this year. Not so easy for a band called Fucked Up, who definitely would not be welcoming of such changes just to turn a buck.

If you’re not familiar with the band, go find the song “David Comes to Life,” from their full-length debut “Hidden World,” and tell me it isn’t a track that deserves to be trumpeted everywhere. Oh yeah, to be clear, that song isn’t on their new album of the same name. It’s confusing, but then again, so are Fucked Up. Their 18-cut new record is a rock opera, a four-movement story about a light bulb factory worker in 1970s England named David, who falls in love with Veronica, who together band together to fight oppression, only to have Victoria die during a bombing. David feels crushing guilt over losing the love of his life, because he thinks he’s responsible, and we get visits from his ex-girlfriend Vivian and narrator Octavio (who has something of a god complex) to flesh out the tale and eventually lead to David’s revival. It’s not an easy storyline to follow, and my rudimentary summary certainly is as bare bones as they come. Often it’s difficult to understand who’s even speaking to you, especially since hulking frontman Damian Abraham (aka Pink Eyes) handles both male characters, fitting since David and Octavio begin a sort of struggle over the telling of the plot. Cults’ Madeline Follin lends her lovely voice to Veronica, while singer/songwriter Jennifer Castle gives life to Vivian.

Plot confusion aside, the album itself is incredible, uplifting at times, rebellious at others, and always jammed full of both musical and vocal hooks that’ll have these songs burned into your brain by the time the album comes to an end 78 minutes after you hit play. While Fucked Up – their ranks also include lead guitarist Mike Haliechuk (10,000 Marbles), bassist Sandy Miranda (Mustard Gas), guitarist Josh Zucker (Concentration Camp/Gulag), and drummer Jonah Falco (Guinea Beat/Mr. Jo), among other contributors — certainly do have some abrasive moments that’ll remind long-time fans of the band’s past, they also branch out quite a bit here, with dashes of Midwestern rock, prog, and even some sections that remind of the heyday of The Who. That’s quite fitting considering that anthemic tales told by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend over the years, and their influences can be felt here, whether that was intended or not.

The five-song opening suite is highlighted by “Queen of Hearts,” a kick-ass number that has David and Veronica falling in love, with Abraham and Follin seamlessly trading lines and blending their stories. All the while, David keeps “waiting for another shoe to drop,” which it finally does on the second part, where Veronica dies. Guilt and despair rise up and capture David, the music sounds like awesome classic rock radio fodder on “Running on Nothing” and “Remember My Name,” and the section ends on a sad note, with raspy “Serve Me Right.” The third section finds Octavio taking a larger role in the play, and Vivian also works her way into the scene, with the piece peaking on the glam-punk awesomeness of “Ship of Fools.” The final five-cut section opens with “I Was There,” which has the hard-edged sensibilities of a band like The Foo Fighters, while “The Recursive Girl” mixes punk and classic rock guitar, and closer “Lights Go Up” is the curtain dropper, a song where David realizes, “Ours wasn’t a love for an audience.” It’s a lot to take in, for sure, and a lyric sheet is a necessity to even begin to completely comprehend everything that’s happening here (especially the very meta undertones), but you won’t mind as you’re being captured and stampeded by the music.

Fucked Up may not be a metal band, obviously, but there certainly is some crossover appeal. But whether it’s metal or not is beside the point. I said long ago this blog would go beyond metal’s realms when I felt the need to do so, and shining a light on this excellent album “David Comes to Life” is one of those times. This is just a great album, a landmark-style achievement for this band, and a generational happening. Few bands could pull this off, and even fewer should try it. But Fucked Up are one of those rare entities that are truly special and, when all the other bands of this era who are only here fleetingly finally fade away, this tandem will still be there, fighting and clawing their way to the top of the rubble, apparently “offensive” name be damned.

For more on the band, go here: http://lookingforgold.blogspot.com/

For more on the album (including lyrics), go here: http://www.davidcomestolife.com/

To visit their Wikipedia page, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fucked_Up

To buy the album, go here: http://store.matadorrecords.com/featured/david-comes-to-life

For more on the label, go here: http://www.matadorrecords.com/

Floodgate Tuesday: Tons of new records to buy, not enough money

Black September: No songs about the Olympics

If you happen to be anywhere near a record store today – they’re not exactly easy to find, but whatever – you might want to make sure you have room on your credit card or enough funds in your account, because there is a ton of new stuff out. Or just buy it online. It’s easier anyway.

This is one of the better release days of the year so far, with a plethora of interesting albums in a variety of subgenres, so you can come home with a handful of new discs that sound nothing like each other. There’s death metal, black metal, a really bizarre new record from a legendary band, and one hell of a great album from a punk band that might not even be able to get their album into a lot of stores simply because of their name. There’s a lot to get to, so here are some of what’s available today. There’s got to be something you’ll like from this selection.

Black September hails from Chicago, a city that has given us a ton of great metal bands (Nachtmystium, Pelican, Indian, Yakuza), and their brand of death metal is sort of in the same vein as Bolt Thrower, Discharge, and the band we’ll discuss next, with vocalist Jen McMorrow sounding like a woman unafraid to jam her foot into your chest and keep you writhing on the ground as she demonstrates her guttural dominance. The band’s music is violent and devastating, and Prosthetic is giving their debut “The Forbidden Gates of Beyond” expanded reissue treatment. There’s a lot of death metal out there today, and most of it tends to leave little to no impression, but Black September seriously breaks that trend. I’m excited to hear what they do next, but for now, it’s nice to see their debut full-length will reach the wider audience it deserves.

For more on the band, go here: http://blackseptemberchicago.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://prostheticrecords.com/?p=2696

Veteran death soldiers Arch Enemy are back with their new disc “Khaos Legions,” a tried-and-true rebellious, rise-up collection for which this band is known. You can say this band has had a pretty notable influence on the extreme metal world, as Angela Gossow is one of the first female vocalists to really break out in a male-dominated field and has led to many others finding success (hence, Black September). There aren’t a whole lot of surprises on this record (out on Century Media), their eighth, but those who just want a solid new Arch Enemy record will be wholly satisfied. Pair this with “The Forbidden Gates of Beyond” and you’ll be assaulted by two of death’s scariest, strongest ladies.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.archenemy.net/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/

Don’t want to go into too much detail with this next entry, as we’ll have a fuller piece on this later, but Fucked Up return with their new rock opera “David Comes to Life.” Sure, they’re not metal, but they have punk and hardcore roots that has some crossover appeal, and this is their best record hands down. It runs about 80 minutes and is a concept record about love, loss, rebellion, politics and coming of age, and it is chock full of emotion and hook-laden thunder. Plus, burly frontman Damian Abraham looks like a WWE wrestler and sounds like a guy who’s fronted more than one hardcore DIY matinee, so you can’t help but love him and the rest of this alias-adopting gang. Might need to go to an indie record store to find this simply because of the band’s name.

For more on the band, go here: http://lookingforgold.blogspot.com/

To buy the album, go here:  https://store.matadorrecords.com/

Another record we’ll examine in greater detail later in the week is the astonishing new slab of tech death from Origin. They moved from Relapse to Nuclear Blast for this one, and despite the lineup shifts, they unleash a mind-melting display on “Entity,” the follow-up to 2008’s “Antithesis” and their fifth full-length overall. The Topeka, Kansas, band long has amassed support from critics and fans alike, and it’s not just because they play like human machines and put together records that are bafflingly frightening technique-wise. It’s also because they write awesome songs that make you want to punch yourself in the face, and “Entity” is no different. I imagine this one’s going to make a lot of metal magazines’ and metal blogs’ best-of lists come December.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/origin

To buy the album, go here: http://store.nuclearblastusa.com/Artist/Origin/11490

The new record from Brooklyn trio Tombs seems like a crucial one for the band. They’ve slowly built a following and certainly have widespread support on the Internet, but it doesn’t seem like they’ve broken out to the masses in the way they should have. If their new record “Path of Totality” doesn’t do the trick, then it just cannot be done, because this is a masterpiece. Their sludgy, hardcore-minded black metal is there in full effect, but it’s their foray into doomier, even dark gothic coloring that really makes this stand out. It sounds like the Mike Hill-led band has been dining heavily on early Celtic Frost when they were writing this album, and it adds yet another element to this already impressive group.  Right now, if you buy the album online from their label Relapse, you get a copy of their first full-length “Winter Hours” for free. Can’t beat that package, and if this is your first experience listening to Tombs, get ready to be blown away.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/tombsbklyn

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.relapse.com/store/product.aspx?ProductID=43222

Last but not least … uh, well … is the new record “Illud Divinum Insanus” from legendary Florida death pioneers Morbid Angel, a record that has David Vincent finally returning to the fold for the first time since 1995’s “Domination.” This is one of the most anticipated metal records of 2011, one that has been long awaited and even has become something of a “Chinese Democracy”-style joke, and now that it finally has come to fruition, it has been met with some ridicule. There are electronic elements to the album, almost as if it’s sampling from the ’90s industrial scene, and that has not gone over well with a lot of people. That isn’t what the whole record sounds like, and there are some cuts that are more like the band’s classic days, but it’s a weird album. I won’t say too much more as I’ll let you judge for yourself, but perhaps approach this one with some caution.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.morbidangel.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://e-shop.season-of-mist.com/en/items/morbid-angel/illud-divinum-insanus-digipak-edition/cd-digipack/27094

These are just a few things you’ll be able to find, and certainly there are plenty of other records available today that might be more your thing (the debut of Cerebral Bore; the debut of punk-flavored hardcore band Touché Amoré, another record we’ll examine more closely very soon). But what we discussed above are some of the most noteworthy on a day where, if money really did grow on trees, most of us would be rampaging record shops with reckless abandon.

More awesome tour news: Enslaved team with Ghost, Alcest

Enslaved unleash their scowls.

So basically tap into your savings, right? You have some show tickets, and surely arm loads of merch, to buy.

The fully fleshed-out Opeth tour obviously is known now (and we had something on that a little earlier today), and now comes word that Nordic progressive black metal band Enslaved also will be hitting North America this fall. Enslaved still is touring in support of their excellent 2010 effort “Axioma Ethica Odini,” and they just put out an EP “The Sleeping Gods,” in conjunction with Scion AV. You can grab that one for free online. Last few times through the States, Enslaved played as support acts to Opeth and then Dimmu Borgir, so it’ll be cool seeing them get top billing.

To find “The Sleeping Gods,” go here: http://www.scionav.com/

For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/enslaved

Ghost totally ready to scare you.

Joining them on the tour will be Swedish metal band Ghost (not to be confused with the Japanese experimental/psychedelic band Ghost), who finally debuted on U.S. shores at the Maryland Deathfest, as they closed out the festival with what I’m told was a haunting performance. A friend of mine who attended the show said the band stood stoically as their two-minute intro played, and practically no words were spoken by the band until frontman The Ghoul With No Name invited the crowd to join them for the final ritual. They proclaim themselves Satanists, and the Ghoul takes the role as the devil’s pope, but I wonder how much of that is just for show. Their debut “Opus Eponymous” is catchy as hell, and if you didn’t know the thing was supposed to be dripping with evil, you’d think you were just listening to metal and rock’s next big thing. Ah, but there’s so much more behind the mask, is there not?

For more on Ghost, go here: http://www.myspace.com/thebandghost

To buy “Opus Eponymous,” go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/b/ghost/

Alcest round out the bill, and they just toured the States last year as headliners. Most of their songs are pretty long, so it’ll be interesting to see how much time they get and how much they can shove into their set. You can check out my review of their reissued/partially re-recorded EP “Le Secret” on this site. Shouldn’t have to scroll too far down to find that. Definitely a band worth checking out.

The dates, courtesy of our friends at Action PR, are below:

September 23       Springfield, VA         Jaxx
September 24       Pittsburgh, PA          Mr. Small’s Theatre
September 25       New York, NY           Gramercy Theatre
September 26       Boston, MA               Middle East (downstairs)
September 28       Quebec City, QC       Imperial de Quebec
September 29       Montreal, QC            Café Campus
September 30       Toronto, ON              Opera House
October 1              Columbus, OH          Outland Live
October 2              Chicago, IL               The Bottom Lounge
October 3              St. Paul, MN              Station 4
October 5              Winnipeg, MB           West End Cultural Centre
October 6              Regina, SK                The Exchange
October 7              Edmonton, AB           The Starlite Room
October 8              Calgary, AB               Dickens Pub
October 10            Vancouver, BC           Rickshaw Theatre
October 11            Seattle, WA                El Corazon
October 12            Portland, OR              Hawthorne Theatre
October 13            San Francisco, CA     Slim’s
October 14            Hollywood, CA           The Troubadour