Award shows that share a term with something you can call your grandma should be ignored anyhow

The most savage, angry, bloodthirsty, evil, menacing, murderous metal band of our time.

So the Grammy Awards are still around. I know. I’m shocked, too. I hear they had big blowout concert tonight for the nomination show. That’s like having a football game at the NFL Draft. But what are you going to do? I’m not going to watch these shenanigans anyway.

But each year we get the hilarious metal award nominees, now known as the hard rock/metal category because the people responsible for picking the bands probably think that metal’s a dying genre, and this year’s is no less hysterical than every other year. Now, sadly, we didn’t get a perverse nomination for Metallica, Motorhead, Ministry or some Black Sabbath song just because the band slithered out and did a version of a 40-year-old tune live. That’ll be next year. Instead, we got two bands that really belong elsewhere because they do not fit the parameters at all, but hey, the fossils who pick these bands have heard of them. Then we get three these folks either have heard of or know because the groups are on the grandkids’ Christmas lists. Here we go. So excited, right?

  • “On the Backs of Angels,” Dream Theater
  • “White Limo,” Foo Fighters
  • “Curl of the Burl,” Mastodon
  • “Public Enemy No. 1,” Megadeth
  • “Blood in My Eyes,” Sum 41

I know. Sum 41’s still a band?! Maybe they aren’t. Who knows? These are the Grammy Awards, after all. I guess they saw the word “blood” and thought it was so, so dangerously metal. Foo Fighters should just get lumped in with all the mainstream categories because, no disrespect, they’re basically an edgy pop band. But they’ll probably take home this year’s “metal” award, and Dave Grohl likely will feel stupid about it since he’s actually a metalhead. Actually, Foo Fighters are nominated in every category containing the word “rock,” including the Finest Field Recording of a Moon Rock slot. Someone’s going to feel dumb tomorrow. If the new FF album was blank, it still would get nominated. If I had to make the call, I don’t know what I’d do. Mastodon, I guess? Who cares?

I know there are millions of great metal records and songs that should get the nod for nomination. But the people behind this farce don’t even know they exist. Nor will they ever. So do as I do and miss the show and just laugh at the results the next day.

Also, want to thank everyone who stopped by for the Cormorant review. It was one of most-read first-day stories in our history. That thing just blew up. Good. Go buy the album.

Here's a furious wolf to counteract that garbage photo above.

Cormorant tackle trials, tribulation and death on life-changing ‘Dwellings’

When I was in college and was working a menial restaurant job to have some spending money, a friend of mine and I would discuss heavy metal. Now, he was devoutly religious and refused to listen to “the devil’s music” anymore, but he knew enough to have some opinions. One of them was that Bruce Dickinson was too smart to be in heavy metal. He cited “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the Iron Maiden epic classic, as proof.

Now, never mind that bassist Steve Harris actually wrote that song as well as the bulk of Maiden’s material, but he’s right about Dickinson’s intelligence. But how does that make him too big for metal, exactly? I always found that comment rather dismissive and insulting, because I was working my way through college, doing quite well, and soundtracking my marathon study sessions with tons and tons of metal. Did that make me some kind of rube? It also suggests that by playing in a metal band that you’re somehow too dumb to do anything else. That is patently ridiculous.

But let’s pretend for a moment that Dickinson (or, you know, Harris) is too smart for metal. Then what does that make Arthur Von Nagel, bassist, vocalist and primary lyricist for Cormorant? Is he too intelligent for music itself? Or is this just a stupid assertion that has no place in a music review other than to point out other people’s lack of understanding of the metal genre? Von Nagel and his band made a gigantic impression on the metal world with their incredible 2009 full-length debut “Metazoa.” It was a prog-metal landmark, an album so strong and accomplished that it’s amazing that labels weren’t ponying up tons of money just for the honor of releasing the thing. And maybe that happened, but Cormorant have maintained a DIY ethos while going way over the top with their music. Now comes their sophomore release “Dwellings,” one of the most emotional, thought-provoking, well-informed records in any genre this year. It’s an effort that should destroy once and for all people’s assertion that metal is only for unwashed mouth-breathers who are barely equipped to function in society. This record could be a thesis statement about humankind, the struggle for a place in the world, our eventual demise and the antagonistic forces that often impede our journeys.

“Dwellings” is an album that’ll force you to learn. You can’t just sit idly by while Von Nagel and his bandmates – guitarist/clean vocalist Matt Solis, drummer/clean vocalist Brennan Kunkel, and guitarist/mandolin player Nick Cohon – tell historical tales of the Aborigines, a failed Cosmonaut space mission, and Lope de Aguirre and the El Dorado myth and not at least go to Google to find out more. I certainly did that because Von Nagel’s lyrics are descriptive enough that you can find key words that can guide your search. I spent an entire afternoon doing that very thing, and while I knew some of the details of these events, such as the Russian space tragedy, I was able to fill in a lot of the holes in my head. I don’t remember the last time a record made me do that, and I’m thankful for the experience. Plus, the passion and emotion with which the band delivers these songs and the history-rich material is nothing short of moving. It’s all of these reasons, along with the music being an incredible concoction of prog, folk, power, black and death metal (with a little hardcore thrown in for good measure), that this album is being so heavily embraced. NPR just named it the best metal record of 2011. Isn’t it amazing it took a December record to finally crown a chart-topper?

The music and vocals on “Dwellings” are more aggressive, heavier and angrier than what’s on “Metazoa.” A lot of that can be pinned on the lyrical content of these songs focusing on atrocities and misdeeds that shook families, settlements and nations, leaving people’s lives forever altered. Von Nagel certainly seems to try to get into his characters’ shoes and walk their paths in order to properly convey his messages. He never fails to capture the heart and mind, the rest of the band steps right up and backs him with astonishing, soul-swelling, pure heavy metal magic that should touch fans of every genre and sub-genre of extreme music. “The First Man” opens the record with a power metal-style assault that’s made gravelly by Von Nagel’s growly, grisly vocals that are far improved from his work on “Metazoa.” And I have no qualms with his singing on that record. “Funambulist” is about wire-walker Philippe Petit who walked between the World Trade Center towers in 1974, and the song is as impressive for its attention to event detail as it is to making sure the ever-changing pockets of music fit the scene being described. Crushing and sinister “Junta,” that has a rousing hardcore section that could cause a furious circle pit, addresses the 2009 sexual assault wave toward women in Guinea during pro-Democracy rise-up rallies. “A Howling Dust” is raspy and thorny, but it also washes itself out in a storm of shoegaze, while its words tell of a man who wishes to forget his role in ethnic cleansing in a California ghost town Hornitos. It’s the darkest, most upsetting song on here. “Unearthly Dreamings,” the story of Vladimir Komarov, the first space casualty, is rumbling and furious as it should be, and it washes away with what sounds like a lost space transmission from a mission that was foolhardy from the start.

“Dwellings” is musically and emotionally stunning, a once-in-a-lifetime piece of work that should be this band’s crowning jewel. But it’s only album two, so I don’t want to assume they can’t go to even greater heights next time. You’ll devour this record like you do a good book that changes the way you see your life. You’ll learn things perhaps you didn’t want to know, but you’ll wonder how these events weren’t revealed to you on a greater level before. But don’t fret about that. Now you know, and you have Cormorant’s amazing new album to lead the way. You’ll think, you’ll hurt, you’ll rage, but most of all you’ll grow. Cormorant sure have as artists, and who knows how far they can go in the future? We’re sure to be here to find out.

For more on the band, go here:

For their Bandcamp site, go here:

To buy “Dwellings,” go here: