(Here’s the latest installment of KevinP’s series in which he runs down his list of the best releases from the preceding month.)
I screwed up last month. And not just a minor oversight, but in a fairly big way. It wasn’t until after August’s column was posted that fellow contributor/friend Dan Barkasi messaged me that he was surprised I didn’t have Wolfheart on my list. My response was, “the album comes out in September”. Then I checked and realized I was wrong. URGH. I’m gonna assign partial blame to Mr. Saukkonen though, since he sent me a copy of the album many months in advance and mentioned September as the release date. Assuming his infallibility (based on his musical pedigree), I never bothered to double-check and learn that the label would change it.
So how do I address this grave misdeed? I was going to include it as part of this month’s Top 5, but that really wouldn’t make sense or be fair to the other releases. I’ll simply say this: Shadow World eclipses the debut. It’s another masterstroke in the arsenal of Tuomas the Finnish Freeballer who simply seems to be able to mine the same well and keep extracting new and exciting sounds from it. Would it have been the Number 1 album last month? It certainly would have been a toss-up between that and Majestic Downfall.
Now on to September, with no oversights (I promise):
5. Howls of Ebb – The Marrow Veil
The overriding theme you need to know going into this MLP (I’d hardly call 34 minutes an MLP but that’s just me) is: it’s DIFFERENT. From riffs to song structure to production, don’t expect to grasp this on your first few attempts. My initial reaction was to message Islander and say “what happened to this band?”. I had heard their debut album, Vigils of the Third Eye last year and didn’t think of it as that “out there”. But patience pays off big time, and you are treated with this hypnotic black/death soundscape. Another Home Run for I, Voidhanger Records.
4. Division Speed – Division Speed
Even though they have been kicking around since 2008 and released a few demos, splits, etc., this is Division Speed’s first full-length album. Old school German speed metal/thrash about war and death. No frills, no bullshit, just frantic riffs one after another. And even though that might sound all “been there done that”, it’s done with such conviction and ferocity that it has a character and flavor all its own. Don’t be a kleckermann!!!!!!
3. Destroy Judas – Forever like Stars…We Shine
To this day I own fewer than a dozen cassettes and fewer than half a dozen pieces of vinyl. Heck, I haven’t even owned anything to play those formats on in well over a decade. But I proudly kept on my 1990 Demo, 1992 Faded Dream promo, and the two 7″‘s released in 1991 from the mighty (and criminally underrated) Mindrot.
There’s a lineage going on here. From the ashes of Mindrot, guitarist Daniel Kaufman and bassist Matt Fisher formed Eyes of Fire, taking the Mindrot sound into a more post-metal direction on one EP and two full-length albums. The apathetic metal crowd shrugged its collective shoulders and let another amazing concoction fade into obscurity.
Not one to simply give up, Daniel Kaufman pressed on and took with him Nick Bernardi (drummer in Eyes of Fire) to form Destroy Judas. So where does this new beast sit musically? I’d say somewhere between those prior two bands. It still contains doomy sludge and the post-metal aesthetics of a California band, while retaining the soundscapes and grit of atmospheric death metal.
And if you like what you hear, you can also pick up their 2011 debut, Wake, as a Name Your Price download
Finally, these crusty boys are currently on the road across the USA, so if they are in your town, go check them out.
Sept 30th-Atlanta, GA @529
Oct 1st-Raleigh, NC @The Maywood*
Oct 2nd-Philadelphia,PA @Cha Cha’Razzi*
Oct 3rd-Brooklyn, NY @The Acheron*
Oct 4th-Boston, MA @The Non-Factory*
Oct 5th-Pittsburgh, PA @Mr Roboto Project*
Oct 6th-Chicago, IL @Live Wire Lounge*
Oct 7th-Omaha, NE @The Health Club*
Oct 8th-Denver, CO @3 Kings Tavern
* dates with ROZAMOV
2. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
I can still remember as an 11-year-old watching videos for “Run to the Hills”, “The Trooper”, and “Flight of the Icarus” on MTV. In our group of friends, someone had Number of the Beast on cassette and I had Piece of Mind. We marveled at the album covers and would discuss the lyrics to the songs. In 1986, I used the lyrics from Somewhere in Time’s “Alexander the Great” in a school book report. My teacher had to correct my grammar as I was too lazy to even change the song lyrics so they read properly — I just went with full plagiarism, LOL. In 1988, at 16, I was pitching in two baseball leagues and doing yard work at a neighbor’s house (which ultimately tore my rotator cuff and ended my pipe-dream of becoming a professional baseball player) and I would listen to Seventh Son of a Seventh Son on my Sony Walkman. And even at that young age I was an elitist prick as I felt, “damn, why is Maiden going soft here?”
So the reason I’m telling you all this is because when Iron Maiden comes out with a new album, it’s kinda a big deal. Now I get that if you didn’t grow up with them in your formative years, the whole nostalgia thing could mean little to nothing to you, and that’s fine (though I pity thee). But we are talking about a band that has had an influence on just about every heavy metal band since they started releasing albums in 1980. I’m not gonna sit here and proclaim that just because they are an old band that I liked as a kid means they can do no wrong, far from it. But generally speaking, they’ve been damn near consistent on 16 studio albums over 35 years.
Which brings us to The Book of Souls, the new 90-minute double-album. If you’ve been paying attention since Bruce rejoined the fold in 2000 for Brave New World, there really shouldn’t be any surprise about the “sound” you are going to get from a new Maiden album. It’s more a matter (not of Life or Death – wink) of can they keep things interesting and fresh at this point of their career? And the answer is still a resounding YES.
This is not a perfect record, and like almost any band that releases a double-album, there’s pieces of fat that could be trimmed here and there. Obviously, everyone and their mother has an opinion on this. No, it’s not their best album (a silly notion and expectation for any band at this stage of their career), but it’s also not a bad record (an even more ridiculous claim I’ve seen). This is just a flat-out enjoyable (and solid) Maiden record. That’s all I’m looking for. It’s also a grower, as every time I listen, I like it more. And if you want to consider the fact that they have never embarrassed themselves along the way and pretty much kept true to what they do, this makes it even more impressive.
(I normally include a link to the music, but I can’t find a proper encoded whole album. And it’s Maiden, you know where to find it if you want to.)
1. My Dying Bride – Feel the Misery
When the lead track, “And My Father Left Forever”, was released, I let out a disgruntled sigh. Really, again with the clean vocals? No death metal brutality? While plenty of people don’t necessarily associate those things with a My Dying Bride record, I DO! Being a fan of the band for over 20+ years (and just a death metal elitist prick in general), it’s my favorite element of their sound.
Obviously, I like everything they do to varying degrees, and the change of pace only helps to accentuate the more extreme portions of their sound. But in recent years the band have teased us with what they are really capable of if they just want to go balls-out crazy (i.e., “A Chapter in Loathing””, the beginning and end of The Barghest O’ Whitby”, “Var gud over er”). And like most times when you pre-judge a single song outside the context of the entire album, you end up being wrong.
I’m happy to report this album features the most harsh vocals the band have done since 2004’s Songs of Darkness, Words of Light. I won’t proclaim this as a “return to form”, as they have always changed and evolved over the years and have never taken a sudden left turn with their sound. But Feel the Misery is easily their finest work since 2001’s The Dreadful Hours (an album which has no flaws and not one wasted note). The parallels I’ll draw between TDH and FTM is that they both do an amazing job of showcasing the breadth of what the band has to offer. Doom, death, harsh and clean vocals, violin, keyboards, just rolled into a perfect harmony. As someone who has been clamoring for more than just the doomy gothicness that has pervaded their sound in recent years, it’s nice to have the lads and lass (I didn’t forget you Lena) back.
And if you missed my interview with guitarist Andrew Craighan earlier this month, you can check it out here: