Toxic Holocaust make total annihilation such a blast

I live not terribly far from an atomic plant, and after that 9/11 dealie, we kept hearing about how that could be a target of some sort of attack by the badies. Fear mongering. It’s my favorite.

But still, it’s not like I didn’t at least think about that from time to time, and weirdly (or not so), that always took me back to my teenage years when I was in the midst of the classic 1980s thrash era, which overlapped with the nuclear paranoia of the late Cold War years. We were taught a lot of scary, creepy stuff in school about what a nuclear explosion and fallout might be like, and considering I lived in the land of the steel mills, Pittsburgh always was mentioned as some sort of a target if the Russians ever decided to let loose and blow us away. Naturally that made bands such as Voivod, Megadeth and, quite obviously, Nuclear Assault resonate with me. By the time I got into most of those bands, the nuke threats were less of a reality, but having those fears imbedded inside of me made these bands’ style of paranoia and terror all the more ominous.

Now I pretty much know better. I go back and listen to those bands with great excitement, and their messages actually ring nostalgic with me and don’t keep me awake at night. Also, other bands that sort of hold onto that aesthetic always are of interest to me, and Toxic Holocaust is no exception. Formerly just a one-man project led by Joel Grind, the band has grown to a full roster, and they constitute one of the truest throwback acts going today. And no, not all of their songs are about nuclear holocaust, but that material certainly has been there over TH’s four full-length efforts and countless split and mini efforts. There also is homage paid to all-out war, horror, zombies, and all kinds of fun things like that. I find their music a fun time, an escape, something I don’t have to think too much about because Grind and his pals just sound like they want to plug in and obliterate your sense. I love that.

Their latest album “Conjure and Command” (the first where the whole band plays and Grind doesn’t just handle everything himself) is the follow-up to 2008’s “An Overdose of Death …” and it’s the band’s second overall for Relapse. If you’ve been a fan of the Toxic Holocaust all along, you won’t be too surprised by what you hear on this record, because they pretty much stick to their style. It’s vintage punk-flavored thrash, really, with Grind’s growly vocal assault, and there are tasty solos and crunchy thrashing everywhere. The record is slightly, and only slightly, more mainstreamed than their previous work and the production is crisper, but that’s probably only noticeable to someone who has knowledge of their back catalog. Anyone new to the band who also digs on Warbringer, Evile, Bonded By Blood or Municipal Waste probably will find this band is right up their alley and might even find they’re better than the ever-expanding group of throwback thrashers running around with back patch-emblazoned jean jackets, bullet belts, and white high tops.

Grind, joined by properly monikered bassist Phil “Philthy Gnaast” Zeller (who may or may not be paying homage to former Motorhead drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor ) and drummer Nick “Nikki Rage” Bellmore, blast open this bastard with “Judgment Awaits You,” a short, nasty barrage of power, where Grind howls about “nuclear fire,” bringing back that theme of total annihilation. From there it’s on to zombie tale “Agony of the Damned,” where Grind warns, “The dead will come back to life”; burn-the-witch crusher “Bitch”; “I Am Disease,” a meatier, more calculated song that isn’t too hard to decipher just from the song name; “Red Winter,” which is full of violence and animal instinct, as Grind promises, “We are the fucking dogs that turn on our masters”;  the lightning-fast “Revelations,” a violent end-times masher that clearly blazes down the speed metal path; and closer “Sound the Charge,” that’s more of a rise-up anthem that so many bands pumped out in the 1980s. Yeah, that idea can seem kind of cheeseball in this era, but it fits this genre and is a roots-style jam that should get fists pumping in unison live.

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to overdosing on metal that’s overtly dark and serious, but sometimes it’s cool to have something that both kills and lets you have a good time. This is swimming pool thrash, where you can put this thing in, do a ton of cannonballs into the water, have a hundred beers, get sunstroke, vomit, and do it all again the next day. It reminds me of what lit my world on fire when I was getting into harder metal in my early teens, so I certainly have that emotional connection to this stuff. Toxic Holocaust should make you bang your head and make you smile, and if they don’t, you either don’t like the music, don’t get it, or are too damn straight-laced for your own good. I feel sorry for you, if that’s the case, but I’m going to keep indulging in good times for the sake of my own release, and so should you.

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

To buy “Conjure and Command,” go here: http://shop.relapse.com/store/product.aspx?ProductID=43896

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

CTTTOAFF incinerate their surroundings on ‘Visceral’

Considering the smoke and blazes that are choking parts of the Western United States, perhaps it’s an ill-advised time for a new piece of music from Denver’s Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire, but surely they could not have predicted this sad turn of events.

Related tragedy aside, this band deserves a higher profile, and perhaps their new EP “Visceral” will help them get there. I’m actually shocked their last full-length, 2010’s “Songs of Ill Hope and Desperation,” which was their first for Prosthetic, didn’t get them more notoriety. It was a steamrolling, suffocating album that ran 13 tracks in just under 34 minutes, mixing crushing grindcore with downtrodden doom metal. It sounded and felt evil, which is kind of a turn from a lot of grind lately where it feels more fun and exciting. This was more depressing and bleak, like you wanted to lie down in a dark room and contemplate life when it was over. It was a really eye-opening record and seemed to indicate this band was one to watch as time went along. And with this new six-track EP effort, that hope remains for this band.

Having Clinging on their roster is one of Prosthetic’s shrewder decisions the past few years and is one of many lately that have made the label’s roster even more muscle-bound. They’ve long been the home to bands that have achieved mainstream success such as Lamb of God (who went on to Epic) and All That Remains, but they also have bands that haven’t quite broken through to that same level but still have represented themselves quite well, including Neuraxis, the Acacia Strain, Skeletonwitch, Animals as Leaders, Gojira, Landmine Marathon, Book of Black Earth, and one of my favorite bands Withered. They also have signed some serious underground bruisers recently such as 1349, Trap Them, Black September, and Dragged Into Sunlight, rounding out what’s become a pretty impressive collection of troops.

This all takes us back to Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire and the six new cuts on “Visceral,” being released on 10-inch vinyl and download only. Like their last full-length, there is a healthy mix of doom and vicious grindcore, and there’s also one hell of an explosion of anger in these tracks. Instead of feeling like life is shit when it’s done, like I did when listening to their last album, you instead have a desire to incinerate everything that’s making existence such a burden. So it’s a bit of a different reaction. This collection sounds like a band that’s growing more and more aware of their agenda and is increasing in confidence, and that should only be good for the CTTTOAFF going forward and a plus for their fans who buy their albums. It took me one listen to realize just how hungry this band is, and while it may be premature to say this, I can’t wait to hear their next full-length record and what it’s going to sound like.

The EP opens ominously with a noisy intro cut that leads into “Lower Than Life, Higher Than the Sky,” a title you certainly can read into and wonder about their thinking. The first part of the song is muddy and calculating, but then it just blows up and goes into a full maul. “Garbage” also is full throttle and thrashing, with a flurry of blasts that offer zero mercy; while “Special Education” and “Biracial” are both over before you get a chance to blink, each attacking your senses and dragging you underwater for a struggle for your existence. Closer “Asthmatic” is the longest cut on here by far, running 5:29, and it is imbedded with feedback, damaged, downturned doom, off-kilter drubbing and lightning-fast outbursts. All in all, it’s a fantastic EP and one that, as mentioned, should help this trio grab much-needed, much-deserved elevated respect and admiration from their peers and record-buyers. Just try not to do any damage to city hall, the post office, or whatever else may ail you. Just listen and vent vicariously.

The band also is in the midst of an American tour, so perhaps you can go out and get your chest flattened live. The tour dates will follow after the band, merch, label links below.

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

To buy “Visceral,” go here: http://clingingtothetreesofaforestfire.bigcartel.com/

Also here: http://store.prostheticrecords.com/index.php/bands/clinging-to-the-trees-of-a-forest-fire/clinging-to-the-trees-of-a-forest-fire-visceral-10-vinyl.html

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

To see the band on tour, go to one of these places:

July 14: Denver,CO @ Blastomat
July 15: Cheyenne, WY@ Ernie November W/Reproacher
July 17: Boise, ID @ House of the Rising Sun W/Reproacher
July 18: Richland, WA @ Ray’s Golden Lion W/Reproacher
July 19: Seattle, WA @ The Black Lodge W/Transient, Reproacher, Scourge Schematic, Numb
July 20: Portland, OR @ The Alleyway W/Burials, Basement Animal, Transient
July 21: Redding, CA @ Tremont Cafe w/ Transient
July 22: Oakland, CA @Hazmat W/ Transient, The Burial tide, Man Among Wolves, Feast, Boar Hunter
July 23: Los Angeles, CA @ 3861 Dwiggins St. W/Transient
July 24: Los Angeles, CA @ The BLVD W/Transient
July 25: Flagstaff, AZ @ Big House W/Transient
July 26: Elpaso, TX @ house show. Communion of thieves are helping. ask them.
July 27: Austin, TX @ Red 7 W/Boars, Transient
July 28: San Antonio, TX @ The Korova W/Transient
July 29: New Orleans, LA @ Siberia W/Transient
July 30: Atlanta, GA @ TBA W/ Dead in the Dirt, Transient
July 31: Nashville, TN @ 1318 little hamilton W/Transient
Aug. 1: Greensboro, NC @ Legit Biz W/Transient
Aug. 2: Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter W/Transient
Aug. 3: Columbus,OH @ Carabar
Aug. 4: Chicago, IL @Albion House
Aug. 5: St Louis, MO @ Fubar

Uncommon ground: Baring Teeth, Peste Noire, Crone

We have, how you say, a backlog here at Meat Mead Metal. It happens more often than you think.

Because there is a log jam of records I need to address, I’m going to knock out some of them today so that I can relieve the pressure on my psyche. I barely sleep at night as a result. I figured since I’m pumping out my takes on three records today, I’d make them as diverse as humanly possible. There could be some crossover – obviously I got into all three – but if you’re more inclined to prefer one style over the other, maybe these won’t all be for you. Maybe you’ll hate them all. I can’t decide these things. Let’s get to this so we can get Monday the eff over with.

Baring Teeth

Baring Teeth put out their debut full-length “Atrophy” on Willowtip, and it’s a dizzying, technically-smashing, deliriously fun record that should find fans among math metal, prog and death audiences with very little problem. The Dallas-based band began at Soviet a few years ago and, after they changed their moniker, punched out a demo that led to their joining Willowtip. And considering the bands that make up Willowtip’s roster, there probably isn’t a better home for this band.

Comparisons can be drawn to Meshuggah, Atheist, Dillinger Escape Plan and Between the Buried and Me, and the eight-cut album is both exploratory and vicious. The trio of Andrew Hawkins (guitar/vocals), Scott Addison (bass/vocals) and Jason Roe (drums) certainly get as techy as can be, so that should please people who like to nerd out over prowess, but they don’t fall victim to their talents and have a knack for writing memorable songs you won’t mind experiencing live. “End” is my personal favorite cut as it’s shifty and quaking and contains some of the meatiest thrashing on the entire record. “Distilled in Fire” had some crazy, loopy guitar lines that can make your brain feel kind of funny. Actually, while on some very strong painkillers a couple weeks ago for an injured ankle, this song freaked me out huge. That was pretty awesome. “Scarred Fingertips” is doomy and bubbly most of the way, and finally toward the end, a guttural growl assault fires up, while “Anti-Holy” is like death metal designed to soundtrack a bizarre cartoon chase scene. It’s a really promising debut that hopefully will catch on and keep these guys working both on the road and toward another record.

For more on Baring Teeth, go here: http://www.baringteethmetal.com/

To buy “Atrophy,” go here: http://www.willowtip.com/store/details/baring-teeth-atrophy-cd-tshirt-preorder-package.aspx

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

Peste Noire (Eyeball.fm)

I’ve always thought it takes a lot of patience, a sense of humor, and some tolerance to get along with French experimental black metal band Peste Noire, and their latest album really is no different. It’s sort of like a black metal show set up stage in the middle of a carnival, and all of the assorted players decided to throw their two cents into the performance. Never has this been a band for everyone, but those who get this whole thing, chances are their admiration for Peste Noire (bubonic plague in English) borders of psychosis. They also have been a rather influential band during their time together, and their roster has been fairly revolving door-style ever since the band came to be (Neige of Alcest/Amesoeurs/Forgotten Woods), yet they’ve kept going, terrifying people along the way.

It also would help if you speak French and whatever other languages they throw into this thing, and bandleader La Sale Famine de Valfunde (or DJ Famine, if that’s easier for you to say) certainly is at his most verbose on “L’Ordure è l’État Pur.” This album, that runs five lengthy tracks, is bizarre, noisy, abrasive, insane, ambitious, experimental, clown-like, all sorts of different things. In a write-up I did elsewhere about this record, I compared this album to gypsy-like indie bands such as Man Man, Gogol Bordello or DeVotchKa trying to take their philosophies and apply them to evil and blackness of metal. The song titles are equally as taxing if you don’t speak the French (and I don’t), but you can feel the madness that pours from this band, as they employ various musical elements such folk dashes, mournful strings, Medieval-style beer hall sing-alongs, explosive thrashing, and human-made farm noises. That’s not a misprint. It’s such a difficult record and band to describe, and no matter how long I write about them, I never feel like I hit the nail on the head. Basically, put aside your judgments, forget what black metal is “supposed” to sound like, and get lost in their bizarre world.

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

To read their insanely detailed and messy Wikipedia page, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peste_Noire

To buy “L’Ordure è l’État Pur,” go here: http://mesnieamerique.com/

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

Jeff Caxide

The dissolution of ISIS, one of the most important, influential post-metal bands of all time, was a huge surprise and a big blow. But it also felt kind of natural that the band came to its end, as they seemed to have sort of finished the journey. Plus, it was obvious that the band members would go onto other things. Aaron Turner, singer/guitarist, popped up first on the second Mammifer album “Mare Decendrii” alongside mate Faith Coloccia, and it organically and spiritually expands on what the group achieved on their debut “Hirror Enniffer.” Now, bassist Jeff Caxide has reported back with his new project Crone and first record “Endless Midnight,” an incredibly riveting, stimulating instrumental album that’s perfect for a nighttime setting.

The five-track, 50-minute effort also has appearances by his former band members Bryant Clifford Meyer and Aaron Harris, and Turner and Coloccia contributed photo and artwork, so it almost seems like it was a family experience after all. The music is dream-like and gorgeous, and I’ve found myself listening to this record a lot at night after all the lights have gone out, my wife and animals have gone to sleep, and I’m awake with my thoughts. It lets my mind wander and expand, and it’s great music to absorb when trying to slip into consciousness each night. It, of course, it not exactly metal. It’s more ambient than anything, but people who like bands such as Nadja probably will be into this. I know I’ll keep going back for more, especially at night when I’m buried under covers thinking about aliens and ghosts.

For more on Crone, go here: http://waylonrecordings.blogspot.com/

To buy “Endless Midnight,” go here: http://translationloss.com/store/

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

Helms Alee unleash scattered storms on ‘Weatherhead’

As much as I like sitting around listening to furious, depressive, philosophically-twinged, hidden context-encrusted, sometimes suicidal metal – it’s the highlight of any weekend, really – there are times when I want to hear something that just makes me forget the heavy shit going on around me.

This is why I balance out the above with some Bolt Thrower, Helloween, Iron Maiden, hell, Mercyful Fate. You don’t really have to immerse yourself in any darkness, and in Helloween’s case, their music’s so goofy you pretty much have to ignore everything else but the music. It’s like good-times music for me, and it’s an essential part of my collection. While they don’t sound even a little bit like the bands I mentioned, I put Helms Alee in that same category. Their last record “Night Terror” was an expansive, heady, sometime post-rock-style platter that, while it didn’t break any new ground musically, was something you could just put on and enjoy for the sake of the music. Sometimes I’ll put it on at night when trying to go to sleep, and not because it bores me, but because I can just relax and go with the band’s flow. I appreciate having that option with a band (the new Crone also is serving that purpose).

Now comes the band’s second record “Weatherhead” (out on Hydra Head), and from some of the other reviews I’ve read, I appear to be one of the few writers who have thoroughly enjoyed this record. It’s certainly a bit of a departure from “Night Terror” and there is quite a bit of trying on new threads as this record goes on, but I’ve dug every listen. Maybe all the jumping around is too much for some people, and there is a lot of that, but it’s not like their experimentation results in trainwrecks. For me, it’s basically part of what holds my interest through this 14-track album, because you can’t really guess accurately where they’re going next until you go there with them, and that’s kind of cool. That’s also what makes this a fun listen, something you don’t have to sit around and analyze and dissect, but rather a record you can put on and enjoy for the sake of the music it contains. That’s still OK to do, right?

For those new to the band, here’s some quick background: Ben Verellen (Harkonen, These Arms Are Snakes), bassist Dana James and drummer Hozoji Margullis comprise Seattle-based Helms Alee, and each member shares vocal duties. Verellen handled the bulk of the duty on “Night Terror,” and he has a large role here (with a bit more singing to go along with his harsh shouting), but the ladies get a bigger say, making “Weatherhead” a more diverse listen. For the most part, the band plays sludgy metal with a pop awareness, sort of like labelmates Torche, but they do a lot more than that, conjuring other bands such as The Pixies, Veruca Salt, Baroness, Neurosis, the Breeders and The Foo Fighters. This is so clichéd, but there really is something for everyone on both Helms Alee albums, and for those who can digest all parts, then it’s even better for you.

“Weatherhead” begins inauspiciously enough with the brief instrumental cut “*” that leads into the screaming missile “Elbow Grease.” It’s enough to make you think you’re tearing into a total fireball of an album, but then things change. “8/16” admittedly sounds like 10 different songs and 10 different genres stitched together, with each member of the band playing an equal role, but there’s something about it that works despite its apparent lack of focus. “Music Box” actually is kind of pretty and meanders a bit, but it’s one of the strongest representations from the female contingent of Helms Alee. The rest takes you globetrotting, from the slight AC/DC guitar bite to “Pretty as Pie” to the early Pink Floyd-meets-modern-metal of “Mad Mouth” to ’90s college rock flavors of “Pig Pile” to the gnarly, gutter punk-style title cut closer. In fact, that song makes me want to see people fight. Yes, as many a reviewer has pointed out, this band tries to do a lot of stuff here, but I think it works. The songs are good, they demand repeat listens, and they open up more each time I go back to “Weatherhead.” That’s all you can ask from any record, really.

I will say I think I prefer “Night Terror” to “Weatherhead,” but it’s not by a wide margin. And as time goes on and I toggle back and forth between both records, that opinion very well could change. This is one of those records where you shouldn’t put too much credence in any one review, this one included, because “Weatherhead” is bound to strike each listener differently. And the fact there are so many varying opinions at least tells you there’s something exciting going on here and that it’s not a mundane listen where you won’t remember much or feel a thing as it plays out before you. No matter how you ultimately feel about “Weatherhead,” you do have to give Helms Alee credit for making something conversation-worthy, and for me, they’ve given me another record I can take on for the pure enjoyment of music and not for any philosophical noodling. Plus, it’s great beer-drinking music. I can’t believe it took me thins long to say that.

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

To buy “Weatherhead” (and check out their awesome new T-shirt elsewhere on the site), go here: http://www.bluecollardistro.com/hydrahead/product_info.php?products_id=3996&cPath=4_135&store=

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

To check out Helms Alee on tour with Torche and Big Business, go to one of these places:

July 8: Baton Rouge, LA @ Spanish Moon
July 9: Birmingham, AL @ Bottletree Cafe
July 11: Tampa, FL @ The Orpheum
July 12: Miami, FL @ Churchill’s
July 13: Orlando, FL @ The Social
July 14: Atlanta, GA @ EARL
July 15: Greensboro, NC @ Greene Street Club
July 16: Washington, DC @ Rock and Roll Hotel
July 17: Baltimore, MD @ The Ottobar
July 19: Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
July 20: Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
July 21: Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Downstairs
July 22: Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place
July 23: Cleveland Heights, OH @ Grog Shop
July 24: Newport, KY @ The Historic Southgate House
July 25: Grand Rapids, MI @ The Pyramid Scheme
July 26: Detriot, MI @ Magic Stick
July 27: Indianapolis, IN @ The Hoosier Dome
July 28: Chicago, IL @ The Bottom Lounge
July 29: Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club
July 30: Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room
July 31: Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
Aug. 2: Salt Lake City, UT @ Club Vegas
Aug. 3: Boise, ID @ Neurolux
Aug. 4: Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s

Mares gallop into town to slay you

Calgary sludge metal destroyers and friends of Meat Mead Metal Mares of Thrace have some exciting news for you if you want to go get your face beaten in at a live show.

The duo of G. Thérèse Lanz (guitars/vocals/dragon slayer) and Stefani MacKichan (drums/scary spider and insect collector) will be hitting the road for a quick tour this summer that you should go out of your way to see. For me to go out of my way, I’ll have to travel to godforsaken Ohio (though I do have some inking business to attend to in Columbus) since the ladies decided not to book Pittsburgh. Not that I’m bitter. In perhaps unrelated news, Lanz just wrapped live bass duties with KEN mode on their recent sojourn, another damn tour that missed Pittsburgh. Oh well.

That’s not the only exciting thing happening in Mares world, as they also have posted a new demo track “The Gallwasp” from their upcoming new album, which is tentatively due for release next spring. The track, quite obviously, is pretty raw, but it sounds mammoth. Lanz’s brutal, doomy riffing and penchant for bloody, catchy melodies remain intact (that’s one of things I liked so much about their last album “The Moulting”), as she goes more for a guttural approach to her vocals before unleashing some banshee cries toward the end. MacKichan, of course, gives her kit no mercy, keeping a vicious pace and outright assaulting her cymbals when the need arises. It’s a nice, meaty song that bodes well for what’s in store for their next record.

To hear the new Mares of Thrace demo, go here: http://www.maresofthrace.com/the_gallwasp.mp3

To read about the gall wasp, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gall_wasp

If you’re new to the band, I’ll add a link to my review of their excellent album “The Moulting” below. The record came out last year on Arctodus and easily registered as one of my top 10 favorite metal albums of 2010. It’s also an album I still listen to pretty regularly, and as someone who listens to anywhere from 500-1,000 new albums every year (no exaggeration), to have one truly stick out among all of that and remain a go-to record is something special. For me, that is. I mean, I’m some guy in Pittsburgh sitting on a couch with a cat, so keep that in mind, but you really are missing out on one of metal’s freshest, most exciting new bands if you don’t check them out. Below are the dates for their tour, so if you’re in one of these locales, go see if the live power matches the studio output. I’m guessing it will.

Aug. 3 Calgary, AB Undermountain

Aug. 4 Saskatoon, SK Lucifest @ Amigo’s*

Aug. 5 Winnipeg, MB Arsonfest @ The Death Trap*

Aug. 7 Thunder Bay, ON @ Black Pirates Pub*

Aug. 8 Sault Ste Marie, ON @ The Rosie*

Aug. 9 Ottawa, ON @ Café Dekcuf*

Aug. 10 Montreal, QC @ Katacombes*

Aug. 11 Quebec City, QC @ Bar le Kameleon*

Aug. 12 Toronto, ON @ Parts and Labour*

Aug. 13  Hamilton, ON @ the Casbah*

Aug. 14 Detroit, MI @ The Shack*

Aug. 15 Dayton, OH @ Blind Bob’s*

Aug. 16 Columbus, OH @ Legion of Doom*

Aug. 17 Nashville, TN @ Little Hamilton*

Aug. 18 St Louis, MO @ APOP Records*

Aug. 19 Chicago, IL @ The Mutiny*

Aug. 20 Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club*

Aug. 21 Minneapolis, MN @ The Rat Hole*

Aug. 22 Fargo, ND @ New Direction

Aug. 24 Boise, ID @  Visual Arts Collective

Aug. 25 Portland, OR @ Plan B

Aug. 26 Seattle, WA @ the Funhouse

Aug. 27 Vancouver, BC @ the Waldorf

Aug 28 Kamloops, BC @ the LBH

*With Enabler (from Milwaukee, ex-members of Today is the Day and Trap Them) http://www.myspace.com/enablermilwaukee

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

To sample more of their music, go here: http://maresofthrace.bandcamp.com/

To buy “The Moulting” or any of their merch, go here: http://maresofthrace.bigcartel.com/

To read my review of “The Moulting,” go here: http://www.metal-army.com/?p=15213

‘Peace Sells’ as vital as ever 25 years later

In the 25 years since “Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying” was released by Capitol Records, so much has changed with the legendary thrash band Megadeth, yet so little else has been altered. The government remains a shady entity, people still judge others based on what they see on the surface, seedy dudes still slip into bed late at night — well after their girlfriends or wives have gone to sleep — with the filth of the evening still cake on them.

A quarter century after its November 1986 release, Capitol is releasing a re-mastered version of the album (yes, again) and it will come out in two forms – double CD or mammoth box set. It’ll depend on just how much you love this band when deciding on which version you’ll choose to purchase. And really, OK, I get it, people download these days. No one buys physical products, right? I mean, I do, but whatever. That said, this is one of those albums you need to own in physical form. It’s a landmark, a touchstone, and no matter how you feel about where this band went since that time, it can’t be denied how great and influential this record has been over time. So go buy a copy because it’ll make you a better person and a more-informed metal fan.

Anyhow, this record followed the band’s unsteady, incredibly unpolished, yet still quite good debut “Killing Is My Business … and Business Is Good,” that came right off the cusp of band frontman Dave Mustaine being unceremoniously dumped by Metallica. That, of course, led to plenty of animosity between the two bands, and it’s been said Mustaine always felt he had something to prove for the scorn he felt. But imagine if Mustaine never got tossed? We’d have missed out on “Peace Sells,” “Rust in Peace” and even decent efforts such as “So Far, So Good … So What!” (they did love the ellipses) and their last effort “Endgame,” that was a pretty decent album from a veteran band that seemed to find its way back to the path of righteousness. Imagine not having those records in our metal lexicon. That’s a gigantic gap. Not having seminal songs such as “Peace Sells,” “Wake Up Dead” and “Devil’s Island” from the “Peace Sells” album would be as great a crime to humanity as some of the atrocities Mustaine has touched upon over the years. That’s a bit over the top, sure, but these songs are such a strong part of the fabric of my middle school and high school years, I can’t imagine what it would have been like not having these songs as anthems.

With this 25th anniversary collection, we get another redone version of the “Peace Sells” album that sounds absolutely sparkling. Megadeth’s music is such that the better production you can get, the better, or at least that’s how I feel. So being able to put these songs on my iPod and have them sound just as lively (or as lively as digital music can sound) as the rest of my vast collection is a cool thing to have. Plus, since I already had the original CD version of “Peace Sells” and never bought the previous reissue, this is a valuable addition for me. The two-disc version contains the re-mastered album on one CD, and a 13-track live performance, from their first world tour in 1987, on the other. The live document is raw and feels like it was plucked right from that era, and if they did any cleaning up of sound, it isn’t obvious. I like that touch, and the live cuts feature a hungry, youthful band whose best years were ahead of them. Well, at least Mustaine and bassist Dave Ellefson would go onto greater glory with Megadeth, as drummer Gar Samuelson and guitarist Chris Poland exited the band following the album’s cycle. It would be the start of the great Megadeth revolving door. Funny enough, only Mustaine and Ellefson remain to this day, and that’s after Ellefson took a long, bitter break from the band, only to return in 2010.

The box set version of the project is for diehards only. You get the same two discs as the two-CD version, but also included are two “Peace Sells” remix efforts, one by Dave Mustaine for the 2004 reissue project, and one by Randy Burns (and handful of which appeared on the 2004 reissue). To be honest, I don’t hear a great deal of difference in the remixed versions of the songs to justify listening to these two discs more than once. There are some nuances that feel a little different, and if you have religiously listened to this record for 25 years as I have, you’ll notice some neat quirks, but it’s more something for completists than anything. There’s also a fifth disc that contains the original “Peace Sells” album and the live performance in high-resolution audio. Also with the box set are three vinyl LPs, the first with the re-mastered album, the second two with the live show. That’s a lot of the same thing over and over again, but whatever. You also get two 8X10 photos (remember those?!), reproduced vintage concert flyers and a concert stub. A big surprise is, included with both versions, liner notes written by Mustaine and … Lars Ulrich? Just think about how surprised you’d be in 2004, when the last reissue came out, if they told you this would happen with the box set. You’d punch the person delivering this silly information, would you not? Shows you how far these bands have come personally. Well, that and both participating in The Big Four series.

I’m a big fan of these types of projects, and I’d previously written about last year’s like-minded pieces that came out on Pantera’s “Cowboys From Hell” and Queensryche’s “Empire.” It’s cool to have a fresh version of an album that’s important to your life and musical upbringing, and for newer or younger fans, it’s a way for them to enjoy some history. This is definitely worth your time and money, and while I may find the box set a little tedious, I’m sure there are tons of people who will spend hours with all five discs and all three LPs. All of this also sets up nicely for Megadeth’s run on this summer’s Mayhem fest and their upcoming new studio album. This is one of the most important documents in heavy metal history, one that still speaks to us 25 years later. It can mean as much to today’s high school kids as it did to me when I was struggling to find my place in the world.

(NOTE: Huge thanks to Capitol for getting all this material to me.)

Road warriors: Mutilation Rites, Textures

Mutilation Rites destroying

It’s a little bit of a slow day here at Meat Mead Metal, what with the holiday passing and my damaged ankle still throbbing with pain. And I’m out of pain meds. So … you see how the rest of my day is going to be.

We have some interesting things planned this week, including a look at the new Helms Alee, the debut from Baring Teeth, and the 25th anniversary edition of Megadeth’s classic “Peace Sells …But Who’s Buying” that is getting re-master and box set treatment. I also have some new stuff and a few things I missed that are highlighting my listening this week, including records from Embers, Woods of Desolation, Soror Dolorosa (which is more on the moody, goth rock side), Avichi and YOB. Don’t want to say too much about YOB yet other than the vocals are insane, with Mike Scheidt channeling his inner Ozzy (from the Sabbath and early solo years, of course), and that it’s going to take more listening to get my head around the thing.

Today, we’re going to take a quick look at two bands whose tours are getting ready to launch in the States, and I’d imagine each group will draw a diametrically different crowd.

***

Mutilation Rites are preparing to level audiences with their beastly carnage alongside tourmates and headliners Batillus (with whom they’ll share a 7-inch split effort on Shinebox … MR’s part of the cover you can see imbedded here). Their scary, evil-encrusted approach to black metal will set themselves apart on the bill, and it’ll be interesting to see how crowds take to this band, who certainly lay waste in the studio setting and, from reports I hear, are just as volcanic live. Their debut full-length effort is planned on Forcefield Records and will be recorded soon. But if your hungry, bleeding ears can’t wait that long, then below is a link to the stream of their track “Goliath” from the aforementioned split. It’s epic and wholly destructive, a warning shot that hopefully will put their genre peers on notice. Really excited to hear the full-length. Tour dates appear below (thanks to Catharsis PR). Go check them out.

July 8 – Providence, RI @ Machines With Magnets

July 9 – Ithaca, NY @ The Haunt

July 11 – Toronto, ON – Hard Luck Bar*

July 12 –-  Detroit, MI – Corktown Tavern*

July 13 –  Milwaukee, WI – Quarters

July 14 – Madison, WI @  Lothlórien Co-op

July 15 – Minneapolis, MN @ Medusa

July 16 – Fargo, ND @ The New Direction

July 17 – Appleton, WI @ Maritime Tavern

July 19 – Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle #

July 20 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Melody Inn !!

July 21 – Cleveland, OH @ Now That’s Class

July 22 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Helter Shelter

July 23 – Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus

# w/ Nachtmystium, Sourvein, Lord Mantis

!! w/ Coffinworm

* No Batillus

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

To stream “Goliath,” go here: http://stereogum.com/736911/stream-batillusmutilation-rites-split-7/franchises/haunting-the-chapel/

To buy the 7-inch split, go here: http://www.merchdirect.com/shineboxrecordings

For more on Forcefield Records, go here: http://www.forcefieldrecords.org/site/

***

Textures arrive this fall

Dutch progressive metal band Textures will reach the United States for a maiden tour alongside like-minded acts Periphery, The Human Abstract and The Contortionist, a jaunt set to kick off this fall. Their journey to the States will coincide with the release of their fourth album and follow-up to their last disc “Silhouettes” (releases in 2008 on Listenable). The new platter is being recorded at the new Split Second Sound in Amsterdam, with guitarist Jochem Jacobs handling producer duties.

The band’s upcoming record also will have a very different lineup than did “Silhouettes.” Vocalist Eric Kalsbeek (ex-CiLiCe), who took over for Pieter Verpaalen after the band’s debut “Polars,” has left the fold, and Daniël de Jongh will debut as the new frontman on this record. Also, Uri Dijk will assume synthesizer duties,  taking the place of Richard Rietdijk. The band’s new, as-of-yet-untitled album, will be their first for new label home Nuclear Blast, who surely will be able to expand audience awareness for the band and swell their sales. Below are the dates for the “Frak the Gods Tour,” if you hope to catch these guys this fall.

Sept. 3: The Brewery — Raleigh, NC
Sept. 4: The State Theatre — St. Petersburg, FL
Sept. 5: The Masquerade — Atlanta, GA
Sept. 7: Warehouse Live — Houston, TX
Sept. 8: Trees — Dallas, TX
Sept. 9: House Of Rock –Corpus Christi, TX
Sept. 10: White Rabbit — San Antonio, TX
Sept. 12: Launchpad — Albuquerque, NM
Sept. 14: Martini Ranch — Scottsdale, AZ
Sept. 15: The Rock — Tucson, AZ
Sept. 16: Chain Reaction — Anaheim, CA
Sept. 17: Epicentre — San Diego, CA
Sept. 18: Key Club — West Hollywood, CA
Sept. 20: The New Parish — Oakland, CA
Sept. 21: Branx — Portland, OR
Sept. 22: Studio Seven — Seattle, WA
Sept. 23: The Venue — Boise, ID
Sept. 24: The Complex — Salt Lake City, UT
Sept. 25: The Marquis Theatre–  Denver, CO
Sept. 27: Fubar — St. Luis, MO
Sept. 28: The Bluestone — Columbus, OH
Sept. 29: Mojoe’s — Joliet, IL
Sept. 30: Rave Bar — Milwaukee, WI
Oct. 1: MXTP — Grand Rapids, MI
Oct. 2: Wreck Room — Toronto, ON
Oct. 3: La Tulipe — Montreal, QC
Oct. 5: The Palladium — Worcester, MA
Oct. 6: Gramercy Theatre — New York, NY
Oct. 7: First Unitarian Church — Philadelphia, PA
Oct. 8 The Ottobar — Baltimore, MD

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

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

Best metal (and there’s a ton if it) of 2011’s second quarter

Loss: Depression at its darkest

I sat down this week to make a list of metal albums I wanted to consider for my favorite of the second quarter of 2011, and after doing so, I realized something: There is a ton of great stuff that came out the last three months.

I was considering doing two separate posts about the best of April-June, but that seems like overkill. So we’ll just get it all out of the way now. Plus, you’ll be too drunk or hung over Monday if you live in the States (it’s Independence Day, after all) to endure a second post, so consider this mercy on you.

I’ll try to break this down a little differently than we did the best of the first quarter of the year so I can mention everything I want to get into this space. I’d also be interested, if you’d like to add your two cents, what records from the past three months you’ve liked the most. And again, this isn’t me declaring these albums the greatest artistic achievements of the second quarter, but rather these are the collections I’ve personally enjoyed the most.

We’ll start off with a label, that being Profound Lore, who we discuss quite often on this site. They’ve put out a handful of really strong stuff, from Dark Castle’s “Surrender to All Life Beyond Form,” a hulking, Eastern-influenced, sludge-doom package, to Krallice’s dizzying and explosive third record “Diotima,” to A Storm of Light’s “As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade,” to Altar of Plague’s death-enveloped “Mammal,” but we’ll put focus on funeral doom merchants Loss and their astonishingly depressing “Despond.” I didn’t do a review on this site because I have something about the record in the upcoming issue of Outburn (No. 60, out later this summer), so I didn’t want to repeat myself. “Despond” is one of the finest examples of pure funeral doom I’ve heard this side of Mournful Congregation (one of my favorite bands), and the Nashville band captures perfectly those desperate times, when life is at its lowest point and could end by your hand at any moment. The hour-plus album certainly will not fill you with joy, and if you have a medicine cabinet full of pills to battle depression and anxiety, this can only push you further toward the edge. A highlight of the record for me is “Silent and Completely Overcome,” where the band is joined by Pallbearer’s Brett Campbell on a dirge that encapsulates hopelessness and sadness with such power, it seems anything but eternal darkness is not even tangible. “Despond” is incredible, and as long as you’re mentally stable enough to handle it, I highly recommend you find this.

To buy any of these titles, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com//index.php?option=com_ezcatalog&task=viewcategory&id=2&Itemid=99999999

Black metal has been interesting and, as usual, all over the map. There weren’t any true black metal albums I selected as my favorites from the last three months, but these have those roots and take them to the outer reaches of wherever they choose to travel. Blut Aus Nord’s “777-Sect(s)” (out on Debemur Morti) is the first of a trilogy that’ll continue in September and finish up in November, which is ambitious to say the least. Three records in one year? Who do they think they are, Kiss? Anyway, the dissonant melodies and overall mind-altering compositions likely aren’t for everyone, especially if you just want to sit around and play air guitar. But if you’re cool with letting yourself wonder/wander and imagine what other physical planes have to offer, this one will help you explore. Of course, Ireland’s Primordial are always fodder for best-of lists, and they’ve never steered us wrong. Their latest album “Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand” (released by Metal Blade) finds the band growing even more melodic and epic in their songwriting, and Alan Averill’s biting words and venomous vocal approach both remain the most effective in the business. This album isn’t as instantaneously contagious as their past work, but considering it’s on this list, it obviously grows on you in a major way and refuses to let go. San Francisco duo Deafheaven put out their spacious and emotionally draining debut full-length “Roads to Judah” on Deathwish Inc., and it’s one of those that always has a unique effect on me every time I hear it. It’s shoegazey and atmospheric, savage and beautiful. Some people tag this as having an early screamo feel, though I don’t get that from it at all, and it’s only the first step on what should be a long career path.

To buy “777-Sect(s),” go here: http://www.eitrin.com/

To buy “Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand,” go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/11882/

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

There’s a whole slew of death metal albums that I’m going to touch on really quickly, and like the black metal albums, these records are kind of all over the place sonically and philosophically. That makes for an interesting batch. Vastum’s awesome debut “Carnal Law” (out on 20 Buck Spin) is a weird paradox in that it sounds like old school death metal but doesn’t mess around with the same lyrical content. Instead they explore psychological and sexual behaviors (um, not in the same way as, say, Poison) of humankind, and it’s an intelligent, pulverizing album. If you need more, this band is made up of members of Acephalix, Saros and Hammers of Misfortune, so there’s that. There also were two techy, mathy efforts from veteran acts Obscura with their rock-solid, widely more accessible “Omnivium,” (out on Relapse) and from Origin with their spine-rattling “Entity,” their Nuclear Blast debut that I, apparently sacrilegiously, like more than 2008’s “Antithesis.” Either way, both will baffle you with their musical wizardry. Also still digging Hate Eternal’s new record “Phoenix Amongst the Ashes,” one of their best efforts in a few years.

To buy “Carnal Law,” go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/site/releases/spin040-vastum-carnal-law-cd/

To buy “Omnivium,” go here: http://shop.relapse.com/store/product.aspx?ProductID=42166

To buy “Entity,” go here: http://store.nuclearblastusa.com/Item/Origin_-_Entity/37731

To buy “Phoenix Amongst the Ashes,” go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/11946/

There are a few albums that can’t really be grouped with anything you see above, so we’ll discuss them here. “Path of Totality,” the second full-length from Tombs, and “Furnace,” the first full-length from Batillus, likely would have to battle it out for my favorite of the past quarter if we were keying in on a No. 1 overall. But we’ll save the bloodshed for now. Tombs still have a knack for sooty black metal but also have added some elements of Joy Division and vintage Celtic Frost to their cauldron to make what could be their landmark effort. Batillus always have been a massive live act, but they managed to capture that power and fury on this six-song effort that was released by Seventh Rule. They’re due to hit my town this summer, and for sure I will be in attendance. Finally, classic doomers Gates of Slumber returned with their latest album “The Wretch,” an effort that calls back to the late 1970s but has enough of a modern touch not to sound dated. I’ve enjoyed this Gates record as much as anything they’ve ever put out, and it also has stuck with me longer than have their previous albums. Plus, they have a song called “The Scuvrge of Drvnkenness,” one of the best titles this year. That also, I’m sure, will describe many an Independence Day celebration.

To buy “Path of Totality,” go here: http://shop.relapse.com/store/product.aspx?ProductID=43222

To buy “Furnace,” go here: http://www.seventhrule.com/store/

To buy “The Wretch,” go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/12258/