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Category: heavy metal

A Bushwick Gig and a Couple of Hot Records From Cold Dice

More about that killer heavy rock quadruplebill happening at Our Wicked Lady on Aug 12 starting at 8.

Cold Dice open, followed at 9 PM by Certain Death, whoever they are, then at 10 PM the fuzzily surreal stoner sounds of Grave Bathers, with the sinister, female-fronted Castle Rat headlining. Cover is $12.

Cold Dice’s new single and also their debut cassette are up at Bandcamp as name-your-price downloads. They’re a power trio with an unusual lineup: bassist Aidan also fronts the band, joined by guitarist Frank and drummer Ben.

The single is Vengeance Calls: simple, catchy and riff-driven, with a tantalizingly short guitar solo welded on. The B-side, Lure of the Animal, is more of a punk song, with serpentine bass and a Dead Boys/Radio Birdman feel. Yeah, that good.

The cassette opens with White Ooze, a simple, thrashy punk-metal number. Demon’s Tongue could be the UK Subs at their most metal-ish with a more assaultive singer. Wild Irish Rose is a sort of cross between the two, a shout-out to daydrinking on a tight budget.

Side two begins with Walkin’ on the Wire: you don’t expect a band this heavy to have this much of a groove, but they do. It’s cool to hear such a good rhythm section playing something this loud. The last song is Unholy Union: follow the bubbling bass and the searing guitar solo all the way to early AC/DC. New York needs more bands like this.

A Killer Metal Show in Bushwick on the 12th

As we fight to derail Bill DiBozo and the World Economic Forum terrorists’ scheme to impose a Chinese communist-style surveillance state this September 13, there are still a ton of good concerts happening this month. One of this summer’s best is an epic bill on Aug 12 at Our Wicked Lady in Bushwick, with anthemic speedmetal band Cold Dice, at 8 PM, at 9 PM the debut of Certain Death – the house band from Pfizer or Moderna, maybe? – then at 10 PM the wild, fuzzy stoner sounds of Grave Bathers, with the possibly even more macabre Castle Rat headlining. It’s a lineup worthy of St. Vitus (and would probably be happening at St. Vitus if they were open right now). Cover is $12.

Castle Rat have a venomously catchy single up at Bandcamp as a free download. The epic A-side is It Isn”t Clean, frontwoman/guitarist Rat Queen’s cynical, lurid vocals hovering over the Count’s smoldering fretwork, bassist Dr. Mouse and drummer Sgt. Young anchoring it with a purposeful attack. The names may be cartoonish but the music is anything but.

The B-side is Different Dirt, a killer fuzztone doom metal song in an Electric Citizen vein. How long has it been since there’s been a metal quadruplebill this good in this city? Let’s not lose our music scene a second time after September 12!

Shiraz Lane: Metal Grit, Fearlessly Populist Wrath

While there are hardly any genuine artists who are extreme right-wingers, a few styles of music have always had an authoritarian streak. Hardcore punk is one; heavy metal is another. But Finnish band Shiraz Lane are different. When’s the last time you heard a metal band taking a stand for racial equality, or screaming truth to power about economic injustice – without being annoyingly p.c. about it? Their album For Crying Out Loud, a mix of crunchy three-and-four-minute 70s heavy rock songs, is streaming at youtube. Is this a sign of things to come, a paradigm shift? Let’s hope so.

“Fight the power!” frontwoman Hannes Kett wails as the guitars of lead player Jani Lane and rhythm player Miki Kalske come together out of a shrieking intro in the album’s first big punkish anthem, Wake Up. “We’re blinded by black and we’re blinded by white…wake up!”

An evil pickslide kicks off Momma’s Boy, a funny, strutting 70s style riff-rock kiss-off tune: “Go home, momma’s boy!” is the chorus. Here and there, a hip-hop influence rises to the surface: the early part of the catchy, slow-burning House of Cards reflects that. Kett’s unearthly wail gets unleashed pretty much everywhere as well.

Begging for Mercy is the really heavy hit Pat Benatar only wishes she could have written. The album’s title track and Same Old Blues are a pop ballads in disguise. The snide riffage of Mental Slavery is less cock-rock strut than sarcastic cautionary tale: “Still you keep on laughing when the joke’s on you,” Kett sneers at people who just don’t get it.

Behind the 8-Ball rises and falls in waves of heavy blues, with some of the album’s most focused, dynamic guitar work: “You’ll die behind the 8-ball!” is the warning. Bleeding is slow and sarcastic:the chorus is “Shoot me down, can’t you see that I’m bleeding.” The band wind down the album with M.L.N.W. (i.e. make love not war), an unexpectedly successful attempt to really rock out over an rapidfire, echoey U2 repeater-pedal riff.

Some peoople will hear this record and laugh that this is Aerosmith with decent lyrics and vocals that don’t suck, and sometimes that’s true. But Shiraz Lane bring a message of resistance to an audience that punk and hip-hop might not reach. There’s strength in numbers, and all those numbers count.

Swedish Metal Band Alastor Deliver a Morbid, Psychedelic Response to the Insanity of 2020 and This Year

Swedish metal band Alastor‘s riff-metal surrounds you in walls of distortion and fuzz, but with refreshingly oldschool production values and swirly organ which amps up the psychedelic factor. The band like slow, sludgy songs with tarpit acid blues solos and more interesting structures beyond simple verses and choruses. Only a couple of tracks on their new album Onwards and Downwards – streaming at Bandcamp – clock in at less than seven minutes. It’s interesting to hear a band that’s always been associated with doom metal switching out the usual macabre chromatics and horror riffs for a more circling, mesmerizing, immersive attack.

There’s cold clunk from Jim Nordström’s drums behind frontman Robin Arnryd’s spring-wound, growling bass as the opening track, The Killer in My Skull follows a slow sway, up to the distorted, circling chords and distant organ in the hypnotic, riff-driven midsection.

The second track is Dead Things in Jars, a toxically foggy update on Master of Reality riff-sludge with slowly shifting rhythmic changes, guitarist Hampus Sandell’s screaming wah lines winding down quickly to a slow space-blues interlude.

Death Cult is an unexpectedly fast, pounding, slurry number that’s a lot closer to Brian Jonestown Massacre spacerock. Sandell gets the fuzz and the distortion going with his hammer-on riffs as the bass and drums take a much slower prowl in Nightmare Trip.

They follow the brief rainy-day acoustic guitar interlude Pipsvängen with the album’s epic title track, slowly shifting from one anthemic, burning theme to another, making you wait for the big payoff. They close the album with Lost and Never Found, a grim metal take on a ba-bump stripper theme.

As a whole, the album is a response to the insanity of the past fourteen months. You may wonder why a Swedish group would be complaining about the lockdown, considering that Sweden basically didn’t (and their COVID death rate was much lower than regions that did). Well, Sweden is cashless: there’s no need for lockdowns when all citizens’ purchases and whereabouts can be surveilled. Public health, after all, is just a pretext for instituting a locked-down 24/7 surveillance state.

A Grimly Majestic Lockdown-Era Album From False Memories

False Memories play metal ELO. High Romantic angst boils over in the Italian band’s ornate, majestic anthems, which manage to be catchy yet unpredictable. Wild guitar solos are not their thing: their sound is built around roaring chords amid synthesized orchestration, with echoes of 80s dreampop and goth music. Their new album The Last Night of Fall is streaming at Spotify.

Frontwoman Rossella Moscatello is a brooding presence in the midst of steady, relentlessly unsettled, clanging changes that rise with an enveloping crunch and then recede in the opening number, Black Shades. Guitarists Francesco Savino and Moreno Palmisano hit a gritty mathrock interlude as the string synth wafts behind them, bassist Gianluca Zaffino and drummer Emanuele Cossu maintaining a surprisingly low-key pulse.

As you might guess from the song titles, Moscatello sings in English, with a wounded, sometimes sullen delivery; the gloom is unmistakable, the specifics of it much less so, especially when she’s half-buried in the mix. Case in point: track two, Rain of Souls, which could be an early 80s gothic Cure tune with a leadfoot rhythm and a woman who likes soul music out front.

From there the band segue into Voices and its slow but tricky rhythmic shifts behind an increasingly ominous haze. The chromatics get more grim in Hysteria, an absolutely priceless mockery of lockdown-era paranoia and totalitarian regimentation, complete with a litany of rules to follow.

The band build The Illusionist around a creepy music-box riff: it’s not clear exactly what the deception here is, but it’s definitely evil. Lingering clang, syncopated crush and symphonic swirl all come together in Erased, followed by White Crows, which is basically part two, Moscatello reaching for the rafters and then backing away mournfully. Everybody goes out in a vortex, rising out of the murk but never quite shaking off the muck in Unfaithful Dream, the album’s most dense and enigmatic track.

A desolate, funereal atmosphere contrasts with waves pummeling the beach, more or less, in Sea of Nothingness, the album’s darkest and most musically interesting track, complete with a tantalizingly brief guitar solo. Deep Breath – something we could all use right about now, right? – is a bleak, pounding tableau: “The ground is wet, but nothing grows there,” Moscatello observes.

The album’s final cut is Don’t Forget, a crushing, dirgey, familiar word of warning: we all know what happens to people who ignore the past. As strong and consistently interesting as this album is, Moscatello is an underutilized weapon in this band. Processing her vocals for the sake of dynamics would work: doing it on every track gets old fast. Singers like her cannot be caged: they wreak infinitely more havoc when they run free.

A Tantalizingly Short, Heavy Album From Ancient Settlers

Spanish metal band Ancient Settlers’ new short album Autumnus – streaming at Spotify – kicks off with a catchy, plaintively circling symphonic instrumental. The first song, A Monument Restored is just as catchy, an interesting mix of 70s heavy psych and art-rock set to a pummeling mathrock beat, with a tantalizingly brief twin guitar solo half-buried in the mix.

They follow that with Die Around Me, a big anthem in densely recorded, pounding disguise: it seems like some kind of sci-fi nightmare. The final cut is Diamond Eyes, building from an ominous minor-key sway to a fullscale gallop. It makes you want to hear more of what guitarists Carlos Chiesa-Estomba and Emmy Reyes, drummer Herman Riera, keyboardist Rene González and bassist Miguel Herrera have up their sleeves.

Tight, Gloomy Doom Metal and Psychedelia From Florida Swampland Band the Doomsday Rejects

Sludgy heavy psychedelic band band the Doomsday Rejects got their start playing at the edge of the Everglades amid rising swamp gases. What does a band sound like when weed mixes with methane? Their menacing new album Six Hundred – streaming at Bandcamp – might be the answer.

The first track is Burn. Jason Morgan’s growling bass and guitarist Roland Dean’s slurry chords and Stoogoid wah riffage prowl hypnotically over drummer Capo’s slow, steady sway, frontman Lenny Smith weaving in and out with his apocalyptic rasp. Much as this band likes long, spacious, psychedelic interludes, they have a tight, no-wasted-notes focus and riffs that will still be hammering your brain after the album’s over.

Brujas de Montana has more of a bludgeoning Orange Goblin fuzztone sway, but also hits an unexpectedly anthemic peak after the first series of twin guitar-bass riffs. These guys know every classic heavy psych trick in the book.

Open Your Eyes is a lot faster but even more hypnotic, decaying to a stygian halfspeed break with downtuned bass and a tantalizingly brief guitar solo. Devil’s Candy is a funny, slow march that could be a video game theme. Likewise, Satan’s Panopticom, a sludgy, brief death metal number: definitely a song title for our time, huh?

Built around a creepy chromatic riff and flaring guitar multitracks, Dementia 666 is the most menacingly catchy song on the album. The album’s most epic and psychedelic number is Tlazolteotl Holy Excrement, shifting between halfspeed and then back to a grimly martial swing.

There’s also a pretty straight-up cover of Black Sabbath’s After Forever – you know, the one that gets unexpectedly religious after “Would you like to see the Pope at the end of a rope, do you think he’s a fool?” This band’s rhythm section nails the same swinging groove that Geezer Butler and Bill Ward used on the original; true to Ozzy’s original vocals, White sings into a fan.

A Legend of 80s Metal, Still Going Strong

Who knew how prophetic Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime would become, thirty years after it came out? Did the band have a sleeper agent in Davos, keeping an eye on developments in predictive policing and data mining? Or did the group just have a healthy cynicism about transnational elites and their drift toward Orwellian totalitarianism?

And who knew that in 2021, the band’s frontman would still be going strong? Geoff Tate‘s vocals have weathered the storm well. In addition to fronting the Operation Mindcrime touring band, he also has a new album, Relentless, with his Sweet Oblivion project streaming at Spotify. His sound hasn’t changed much over the years: NWOBHM rock with cinematic keyboard ambience.

The opening track, Once Again One Sin immediately hits an ornate, symphonic drive, keyboardist Antonio Agate fueling it with his elegant minor-key piano and wafting string synth, much as he does with the rest of the album. The band reach for a steady, storm-brewing backbeat atmosphere in the second track, Strong Pressure, driven by bassist Luigi Andreone and drummer Michele Sanna’s leaden thump. Guitarist and main songwriter Aldo Lonobile contributes a careening, blues-infused solo.

It takes a lot of balls to name your own song Let It Be – this stomping, midtempo minor-key ballad is infinitely better than the one you’ve been subjected to on the Beatles’ worst album. Another Change, a breakup anthem, has some wild tapping from the guitar – it’s not clear if that’s Lonobile, Walter Cianciusi, or Dario Parente, the latter two also being Operation Mindcrime members.

Wake Up Call has a suspicious similarity to a famous Pink Floyd tune: “How do we get beyond the lies?” Tate wants to know. His wintry vocals hit an unexpectedly operatic peak in Remember Me: imagine the Psychedelic Furs playing metal.

The art-rock alienation anthem Anybody Out There is built around a familiar David Gilmour riff – but it’s not the delicate acoustic one you might be thinking of. As you might expect from a bunch of Italians, there’s a tune here titled Aria…and Tate sings it in dramatic Italian, with a twin guitar solo to match midway through. The album winds up with I’ll Be the One, a pretty generic, mostly acoustic ballad which could have been left on the cutting room floor, and then Fly Angel Fly, the darkest and heaviest track here and a strong coda.

Empire de Mu Raise a Lost Continent to Explosive Heights

We know from the spread of animal species around the world, from Africa outward, that there were once vast expanses of land where there is only ocean now. Accounts vary widely as to why these land bridges disappeared. The most commonly accepted explanation is the plate tectonic theory. Others believe that these once-fertile land masses sank because the earth’s crust had not yet solidified enough to keep them above sea level. A much more sinister theory is that they were destroyed by aliens using a beam weapon from outer space: an ancient precursor to 5G.

Empire de Mu build on James Churchward’s von Daniken-like tales of the lost continent of Lemuria, or Mu, in their colorful, explosive new album Spiritual Demise, streaming at Bandcamp. It’s a wild mix of angst-fueled High Romantic classical melodies, snarling metal and mathrock beats.

They open with a somberly cinematic, cello-driven overture, frontwoman Arianne Fleury leading a choir of voices up to the crunchy, constantly shifting rhythms of the first song, Submersion. Drummer Tommy pummels his way through the maze as guitarist David Gagné and bassist Sami El Agha solidify into a menacing chromatic theme. Throughout the album, Fleury sings and roars in French, English and Spanish, no doubt drawing on an operatic background.

In the second track, Under the Black Sun, it’s Gagné’s turn to build a thorny thicket of minor-key riffage, capped off with a supersonic solo as Fleury shifts from arioso drama to a death metal rasp. Ouloum II is much the same but shorter. After that, Fleury ranges from the top of her formidable range to the grim lows at the bottom in Death Lotus, Gagné building a savage web of tremolo-picking and minor-key chromatics.

El Agha switches to buzuq for the haunting, tantalizingly short Egyptian-flavored instrumental Souk: he could have gone on for three times as long and nobody would be complaining. It’s a good segue into Ruins of Lemuria, Gagné constructing his most ornate, grimly symphonic melodic lattice.

From there they segue into the frantic Naacalls, rising from low-midrange roar to yet another sizzling series of Gagné solos. They close with Faithed Sorrow, a tragic, Romany-tinged coda.

These days, some believe that humanity is in many respects reliving the end of the Lemurian Age. According to this argument, the lockdowners plan to use 5G microwave weapon satellites to crush any remaining opposition to the needle of death, lockdown restrictions and surveillance, by frying entire populations who refuse to comply. That would explain why free countries like Nicaragua and Croatia, and the fourteen free US states, have been allowed to liberate themselves up to this point.

Icon of Sin Put an Expertly Cynical, Smart Update on a Classic Metal Sound

Brazilian band Icon of Sin play a surreal blend of gritty, anthemic late 70s acid rock and early 80s British metal. They take the spirit of early Iron Maiden to its logical conclusion, but with more original and tuneful songcraft than most heavy riff acts. Frontman Raphael Mendes sings in English, in an operatic Bruce Dickinson baritone with a sinister wink. Beyond the drama, it’s not often obvious what he’s singing about, adding to the surrealistic factor. Bassist Caio Vidal plays with a Steve Harris snap, but closer to the ground. Likewise, drummer CJ Dubiella keeps the drive straight-ahead and uncluttered. Guitarists Sol Perez and Mateus Cantaleãno play catchy, anthemic changes with soloing that’s flashy enough to draw some blood but not so much that it becomes a cartoon. Their new album, streaming at Spotify, is one of the first rock records so far with the guts to tackle the ugly consequences of the lockdown, even if they do that opaquely.

They open with their brisk, propulsive theme song: hey, if you’re going to sin, you might as well do it iconically. The second track, Road Rage is an even harder-charging, thrashy number: run to the hills in your tricked-out Toyota. The guitar chords grow fangs but get even catchier in Shadow Dancer, which seems to be a celebration of all the things that can only be found when the sun goes down.

Unholy Battleground is a heavy biker rock tune in a Death Wheelers vein, peaking out with a tasty, bluesy solo: a war-on-terror critique, maybe. Nightbreed is just as grimly anthemic, a big backbeat tune with tinges of 80s goth.

Is the lickety-split, Motorhead-inspired Virtual Empire a cynical commentary on the lockdowners’ attempt to take all human interaction online, where they can spy on you 24/7, Chinese Communist style? It would seem so. The band keep things in the here and now with the even more corrosive Pandemic Euphoria, which could be the UK Subs at the peak of their metal phase. The album’s best and most epic track is Clouds Over Gotham, shifting between gentle, early Genesis-tinged interludes, a fullscale stampede and nightmarish symphonic angst…but if Mendes’ prophecy comes true, we will rise again!

Arcade Generation is a steady, midtempo metal take on Stiv Bators’ old observation about how video games train the kids for war. The band turn Japanese for a moment in The Last Samurai, with its elegant folk-tinged intro and rapidfire, bellicose Asian riffage. They nick a classic early 80s Maiden sound for in The Howling and stick with it for the closing cut, Survival Instinct. Let’s hope they survive to make another album as good as this one.