UG Articles Archive

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Album Review: Kiuas - Spirit of Ukko

Okay folks, here's a curveball for ya.  I'm going to be reviewing an album released in 2005 by a band you've likely never heard of, one that I hadn't heard of until a week ago, named Kiuas.  Spirit of Ukko was Kiuas' debut album, and they have released 3 more in the years following, including one in 2010.  Hopefully I'll be getting to those later.

Kiuas is a heavy metal band from Finland, drawing on Power Metal, Folk Metal, and some Progressive and Extreme Metal influences to craft their sound.  The vocals are what stood out for me - the singer doesn't try to do too much with his voice, staying largely within a medium range.  There's little growling, and no high-pitched power metal wails or black metal screeches.  The clean singing is refreshing coming from a band with Kiuas' sound, which generally is associated with death metal growls a la Kalmah or folk metal screams like that of Ensiferum or Wintersun.

The guitars are tight and technically impressive.  There are definite power metal themes here, sustained chords on choruses, high pitched riffs here and there, high-pitched soloing.  However, Kiuas makes sure to keep the sound varied, and some tracks are honestly reminiscent of Dream Theater with a less obnoxious vocalist and less guitar wankery during solo sections.   "Thorns of a Black Rose" has some cool blues riffs and solos on it, which keep things varied even further.  The closing track even has some Spanish guitar solo sections on it, which provide an amazing contrast to the heavily distorted and amplified main riff. 

The drums are pretty standard power/progressive metal fare; lots of double bass, very few blast beats, restrained when necessary, and smashing loud the other 90% of the time.  Not much else to say here, they don't stand out particularly, and there's not a uniqueness of style, like that of the Rev or Slayer's Dave Lombardo.

The bass on this album is...pretty much inaudible.  

Spirit of Ukko is composed of 8 tracks, most of which are vastly different from the others, as befits a band with such diverse influences.  I've already hinted at some of the different styles of rock and metal guitar that can be found here, but I'll leave it to you to actually go through and pick apart each song if you're interested.  I bought the album on Amazon, (where it was only 8 bucks) after my friend Nat told me about them.  They're not even on any of the torrent sites, so don't even bother looking.  Or do, but this blog does not actively endorse that choice. 

Overall, I'd say that this album was well worth my money, though part of the enjoyment I got out of it was the pure fun of discovering a new band.  Kiuas (don't ask me how to pronounce it) may not be a metal powerhouse at this point, but they are a sick band that has, in this reviewer's opinion, a legitimate shot at becoming one.  Thanks again Finland, for continuing to produce awesome metal bands and hockey goalies.

Overall Rating: 7.4/10  

 Here's the title track for your amusement.  The intro is sick.

Monday, November 29, 2010

350+ Canadian artists petition government to add tax to MP3 player sales

This week, over 350 Canadian musical artists including Anne Murray, The Tragically Hip, Nickelback (no surprise on the latter, note the lack of RUSH, however) have signed a petition and submitted it to the Canadian government in hopes that they government would apply a tax or levy to sales of MP3 players, to be paid to the artists as a royalty fee.  The idea behind the move is that people fill their MP3 players with illegally acquired music, and this is a way for the artists to get the money they're owed. 

"...We know that you do not want to see a Canada that is devoid of musicians and songwriters, but without fair and balanced treatment, that may be the tragic consequence," said the letter.  Give me a break.

This may have made sense when mixtapes and mixed CDs were all the rage, because people were obviously copying and burning songs onto those media, but it makes little sense in today's world, where purchasing physical media is largely unnecessary.  These artists are making the assumption that all music on all MP3 players is there illegally and that the listener never paid them for their music.  This is of course total crap.  I know a lot of people that refuse to download music and take pride in the fact that their entire music library has been purchased legally.  To these people, the idea of an additional levy on MP3 player sales should really feel like a slap to the face.  Besides, the idea of added fees on CD-Rs and RWs effectively killed those forms of media, and drove people in even greater numbers to digital distribution and MP3 players.  Try to tax those, and they'll just move elsewhere, either to smart phones or, as I've been saying all along, microchips in our brains with in-eye display screens.

At least it's just the Canadians.  Hopefully this nonsense never makes it to the States.  If it does, well, I hope my Zune lives long enough for the scientists to get my brain microchip idea going. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

System of a Down expected to announce Monday that they're reforming in 2011

Vocalist Serj Tankian
And now for some news that you may or may not care about.  System of a Down, the Nu Metal powerhouse that split up in 2006 so singer Serj Tankian could pursue a solo career (not a bad one, either) is widely expected to announce on Monday that they will be reforming for a series of shows in summer 2011, and possibly beyond that. 

The only confirmed date so far is a Paris show on June 6th, but reports indicate that they will play a series of festival shows possibly including the UK's Download Festival, one of the largest rock festivals in the world. 

System was one of the bands that really got me into heavy music in the early to mid 2000s, and even though my tastes have progressed somewhat since then, I suppose I owe them some thanks.  I still love "Toxicity," "BYOB," and "Chop Suey," they're some of my most-played tracks.  If they end up on the Mayhem or Uproar festivals next year, I'll probably consider going if they pass near wherever I'm living. 

The cynic in me says that the guys from System are probably feeling the pinch of unemployment and are running out of money, but maybe they legitimately want to continue making music together.  If they end up making a new album, I'll be very interested to see how their sound will have evolved after 5 years apart and the fall of the nu metal genre.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Study: musical taste linked closely to personality

According to a recent study conducted by Professor Adrian North of Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, the music you listen to could say a lot about your personality.  The study surveyed over 36,000 people from around the world (the largest such study ever done), asking questions to determine their taste in music as well as their dominant personality traits.  What Professor North found was interesting in that it suggests that fans of certain types of music tend to have similar personalities, and linkages can be made between musical genres and their listeners.

"One of the most surprising things is the similarities between fans of classical music and heavy metal," said Professor North.  "They're both creative and at ease but not outgoing."  This isn't terribly surprising to me, but more on that in a bit.

The study also was able to generalize that shyness is common among fans of classical music, while fans of heavy metal tend to be gentle and at ease with themselves.  "The general public has held a stereotype of heavy metal fans being suicidally depressed and of being a danger to themselves and society in general. But they are quite delicate things" North concludes.  Jazz fans tend to be creative types, while country music listeners define themselves as "hardworking," first and foremost.

In an interview with the BBC, Professor North argues that shared musical tastes create similarities and common ground among people that transcend national and regional boundaries.  He states: "heavy metal fans in Scandinavia, for instance, have far more in common with heavy metal fans in Brazil, than they have with classical music fans or any other types of musical fans in Scandinavia itself."

As I said, I'm not terribly surprised that fans of classical music and metal have a lot in common.  A lot of modern metal, especially that originating in Europe, is heavily influenced by classical music.  Look no further than, say, early Children of Bodom or anything by Yngwie Malmsteen to find metal music that attempts to imitate and innovate upon the themes and styles of classical music.  Metal bands routinely use orchestral backing tracks and introductions, further solidifying the connections between the genres.  Any metal fan worth his or her salt will tell you that Vivaldi is pretty awesome (honestly, you could play "Four Seasons - Winter"  with distortion and palm mutes and it would sound like thrash), and that Bach is great listening.  EDIT: I HAVE PROOF! 

I am surprised, however, with my apparent perfect fit into the personality of a metal fan.  I would describe myself as being gentle, at ease with myself, and not outgoing, as well as somewhat creative.  All of these traits are typical of metal fans, according to the study.  But does the music make the person the way they are, or do people naturally gravitate to the kinds of music their personality type tends to go for?

Here's the full list, courtesy of the BBC and Heriot-Watt University.  Wow, sucks to be an Indie fan I guess:  "Low self-esteem, not hardworking, not gentle."  Actually that's pretty accurate.  Also, note that fans of Chart Pop are "not creative."  Brilliant!


BB King
High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease

Thelonius Monk
High self-esteem, creative, outgoing and at ease

Nigel Kennedy
High self-esteem, creative, introvert and at ease

Public Enemy
High self-esteem, outgoing

High self-esteem, creative, gentle

Dolly Parton
Hardworking, outgoing

Linton Kwesi Johnson
High self-esteem, creative, not hardworking, outgoing, gentle and at ease

Creative, outgoing, not gentle

Pete Doherty
Low self-esteem, creative, not hard working, not gentle

Creative, outgoing

Low self-esteem, creative, not hard-working, not outgoing, gentle, at ease

Kylie Minogue
High self-esteem, not creative, hardworking, outgoing, gentle, not at ease

James Brown
High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle, at ease

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wintersun frontman Jari Maenpaa issues update on upcoming album

Finnish metallers Wintersun have finally issued another update on the status of their next album, over 4 years in the making.  No updates have been posted on the band's website since February 2009 when singer, guitarist, album artist (seriously, he drew the cover art) and producer Jari Maenpaa announced the cancellation of all Wintersun live shows.

Wintersun's debut self-titled album is one of my all-time favorites, but waiting for the new album, tentatively titled "Time" has been sheer torture.  Jari has posted irregularly timed updates on the status of the album, and each update has been more and more disheartening.  In 2009 he claimed to have "writers' block" which rendered him unable to work on the album, in addition to complaining about not having good enough computer hardware to handle the mixing process.

This update, however, brings good news.  Jari now says that Nuclear Blast Europe has given Wintersun an advance to purchase better computer hardware, and he aims to start and finish the mixing process around Christmas.  In order to obtain this advance, however, Wintersun had to agree to play a short run of festival shows in Europe, so, once again, all of my European readers (lol) can celebrate!

Here's the full text of the news release:

Hi everyone! It´s been a while.

I´ve been working very hard with the synths&orchestrations and I can finally say that I´m feeling very positive about finishing this long and gruesome task by christmas. So hopefully around the end of December I can finally start mixing the album. I still have a few vocal parts unfinished, but I will be singing them meanwhile I´m mixing.

The only problem about the mixing is that my current computer gear simply cannot handle these insanely huge projects. And the other problem is that I have no money for new gear. So we have discussed about this problem with our label&management and they have agreed to help us with an advance to buy new and more powerful computer gear, but only if we agree to play a few shows and show people that Wintersun is still alive. So after carefully weighting all the different possibilies, we think we need to play these shows to help the completion of the album.

The shows will be for now:

Metalfest (3 shows)
Metalcamp (1 show)

There´s lot of work and preparation to do for these shows, ´cause we have to update our live gear as well, sort out technical difficulties and of course rehearse the songs. This will most likely affect negatively with the mixing schedule, so I can´t give any predictions with that yet. I also need to try out the new computer gear first and see how it handles these projects. The software is still not 64-bit, so the "infamous 4GB RAM limit" might also be a problem with the mixing, since these projects already eat about 3GB without any plugins. But I will do my best to overcome this challenge the fastest way I can.

And no worries, these shows will definitely not be cancelled. So we are looking forward to you guys, see you at the gigs! Who knows, we might even play a one new riff... I mean a song! ;)

Jari, Kai, Teemu & Jukkis

Friday, November 19, 2010

Eluveitie, 3 Inches of Blood to tour North America in February

This February, Switzerland's Eluveitie will join Vancouver, Canada's Three Inches of Blood for what is looking to be an awesome North American tour. 

I've just gotten into both of these bands in the last few months; I've posted about each of them a few times, but boiled down to their core I would describe Eluveitie as Folk Metal with celtic influences and Three Inches of Blood as the evolutionary form of Judas Priest - bluesy metal riffs with Halford-esque vocals.  Both bands are very talented, and both have released new albums in the last year. 

Eluveitie's unique brand of metal uses bagpipes, various guitars and mandolins, as well as the hurdy-gurdy, the handcranked instrument of choice of renaissance French musicians.  With 8 members onstage, all playing legitimate instruments (I'm looking at you, Slipknot) I'm sure Eluveitie can put on quite the show.  The pure power of Three Inches of Blood sounds like a blast to experience live as well.    

Here are the tour dates, gonna do my best to make it to the St. Paul show, we'll see what's going on in early February.

Eluveitie tour dates:
2/1: Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of Living Arts
2/2: New York, NY @ The Gramercy Theater
2/3: Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
2/4: Quebec City, QC @ Cercle
2/5: Montreal, QC @ Le National
2/6: Toronto, ON @ The Opera House
2/8: Chicago, IL @ The Bottom Lounge
2/9: St. Paul, MN @ Station 4
2/10: Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theater
2/11: Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater
2/12: Salt Lake City, UT @ Club Sound
2/14: Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
2/15: Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre
2/16: Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre
2/17: San Francisco, CA @ Slims
2/18: Hollywood, CA @ The Key Club
2/19: Mesa, AZ @ Nile Theater
2/21: San Antonio, TX @ Backstage Live
2/22: Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
2/24: St. Petersburg, FL @ State Theatre
2/25: Orlando, FL @ Firestone Live
2/26: Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Want to rake in some fly honeys? Try listening to Metal! How to get into the genre:

It has been proven that Metal is the world's most popular form of music (source: Metalocalypse, Lemmy sleeping with 1,200+ women--this one is true...I think) and is greatly adored by people from all subcultures and economic statuses. These days, you can't go to a bar or club without hearing Metallica's "Ride the Lightning" or Anthrax's "Madhouse," and you can't listen to a pop music station without hearing at least one Cannibal Corpse song. But Metal is a difficult genre to get into, but with enough patience, you can acquire its taste and in no time, the ladies will be swarming to you for your knowledge of all the words to "Number of the Beast."

"How do I start?" you might be asking. I will outline the three levels of Metal music listening and how you can pick and choose your own genres and advance to being a full-fledged fan of the music.

DISCLAIMER: this is my opinion of how one can sufficiently come to appreciate the genre, and I have been a fan for only roughly five or six years. Also, because Metal is a form of art, it is impossible to define correctly, so I remind you of the importance of forming your own opinions.

First I start with the Beginner's Tier. Here I recommend a number of songs that I consider to be the "foundation" of the genre; songs that every Metal fan has heard dozens of times. These songs are mostly from the 70s and 80s because they are the songs that helped define the genre, and are also the easiest to listen to. Although defining the "difficulty" of a song's listen value is a bit subjective, I feel these are the songs from which the most enjoyment can be received and have the best building power:
Paranoid, Iron Man - Black Sabbath
Detroit Rock City - KISS
Born to be Wild - Steppenwolf
Highway Star, Smoke on the Water - Deep Purple
Back in Black, Thunderstruck - AC/DC
Man on the Silver Mountain, Long Live Rock and Roll - Rainbow
Enter Sandman - Metallica
Rock You Like a Hurricane - Scorpions
Breaking the Law, You've Got Another Thing Comin' - Judas Priest

You can hear 90%--scratch that, 100%--of these songs on your standard Classic Rock stations, so just tune in to these stations for a few months and let the magic of the music work it's magic--don't "force" yourself to listen to it. Once you've got a powerful attraction to these songs, you're probably ready to advance to what I call the "Advanced Level" of listening. This is where you begin to select genres that you enjoy more than others, and the artists in this category are either the founders or significant contributors to their respected genres (while some of these artists inspired new genres for other bands to create). Below, I will list what I consider to be the biggest sub-genres of Metal, and I will also be grouping sub-sub-genres together as well, so when I list Death Metal, don't ask me why I left out Melodic-Stoner-Sludge-Black-Piano-Electric-Flute-Death-Metal. First, however, I will list a few more artists and songs that I consider "Advanced Listening," and from there, you can match band with the genre below. Most of these songs are from the 80s and 90s, as they are built off the inspiration from the songs I mentioned earlier, so we really begin to see the genres forming with these songs:

Raining Blood, Angel of Death - Slayer
Master of Puppets, Four Horsemen - Metallica
Peace Sells, Holy Wars - Megadeth
Hallowed Be Thy Name, Fear of the Dark - Iron Maiden
Heaven and Hell, Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
Scream Bloody Gore (album) - Death
Would?, Man in the Box - Alice in Chains

Thrash Metal: Inspired by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, created by the Big Four, Testament, Pantera, and Exodus. Generally very fast with shouted vocals, often makes use of violent imagery.

Power Metal: Inspired by Dio, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, created by Helloween, Stratovarius, Manowar, and Blind Guardian. Generally makes use of high vocals combined with thrash-y guitar work, often makes use of sci-fi or fantasy imagery.

Death/Black Metal: Loosely Inspired by Black Sabbath and Slayer, created by Death, Venom, and Possessed. Coined the majority use of growling/screaming of lyrics, generally dominated by morbid imagery, very fast guitar and liberal use of double bass drums.

Alternative Metal: Inspired by, interestingly enough, a rejection of the popularity of Metal's image obsession and borrowing Metal's guitar style, created by Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Tool. Generally contain Metal guitar styles with a wide range of vocals and tempos.

The Expert Level is the most blurry, because it's really up to you as an individual to decide how much further you want to go with your listening and in which direction. Many genres are similar to one another or borrow elements from one to form another so it's helpful to know how each is related. Below I will provide a handy flow chart to describe the basic evolution of Metal from the Documentary Metal: A Headbanger's Journey to help give you an idea of what you should listen to next (this chart is highly debated and is not the be all, end all of the genre. Also, if it is hard to read, do a Google image search for "metal genealogy"):

So there you have it, the best description of a cultural form that words allow me. Keep it mind that most of this article is up to interpretation, so it's up to you to define your own taste within the genre. Do not expect to gain a huge appreciation for the genre or one of it's sub-genres within a few days; it take a long time of occasionally listening to the genre when you truly want to and it cannot be forced. Enjoy and keep on rockin'!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Agalloch's new album, 'Marrow of the Spirit' available streaming through NPR's website

About a week ago, I discovered the music of Agalloch while browsing a metal forum.  I was immediately intrigued by their unique blend of folk metal, black metal, and traditional rock, all laid out in a sound that is more atmospheric than in-your-face.  Portland-based Agalloch creates scenery with their music, showing, rather than telling the listener of dark, frosty winters and foreboding, melancholy-inducing forests.  You should check them out.  Their newest effort, 'Marrow of the Spirit,' is streaming in its entirety on NPR's website (the write-up by the staff author is excellent as well): link.
I know what you're thinking.  Metal on NPR?  What is this?  Well, Agalloch is a band that I can see NPR understanding.  Their music is a display of concept and musicality rather than a beat-your-face-in jam.  It's atmospheric sound fits in well with NPR's laid-back approach to radio.  It's metal that is, at times, calming.  Seems strange, but give it a listen.  Here's one of my favorites, "Falling Snow":

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kirk Hammett accidentally kicks a kid in the face in Sydney

Today was a slow day for rock and metal news, aside from this video leaking from Metallica's recent show in Sydney, Australia.  For those who recognize this scene like myself, there are big Metallica beach balls that rain down from the rafters at the beginning of Seek and Destroy, then the house lights come on and the band plays with all the balls laying around and kicks them into the crowd to be bounced around and fought over. 

Around midway into the video you see lead guitarist Kirk Hammett kick a ball almost directly into a small child's face, punishing her parents for putting a small child in the first row of an extremely loud metal concert. Ok, it was clearly an accident, but the front row of a Metallica show is clearly no place for a small child. 

A roadie then picks up the kid and rushes her offstage to treat her boo-boos.  Come back when you're a little older, kid.  Sorry.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Oldest Metalhead in Britain!

Rob Zombie once said "Metalheads...they love it forever."  This 80-year old fellow by the name of Owen is the perfect embodiment of that statement.  An octogenarian who loves Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Saxon, he looks to have a sweet vinyl collection and good taste.  Hat's off to you, sir.  Keep on rockin' til you die.

"If you think you're too old to rock n' roll, that's because you are." - Lemmy Kilmister

Friday, November 12, 2010

WMG Purchases Roadrunner Records

In a move that should not have been a surprise to anyone, Warner Music Group has gained 100% ownership of another, smaller label, adding Roadrunner Records to their list of conquered competitors.  Roadrunner joins Atlantic, Warner Bros., Elektra, Rhino Music and many other record labels now controlled by WMG.

WMG has become famous, or perhaps I should say infamous, for swiftly and harshly responding to any and all cases of what it deems to be copyright infringement of its artists.  Use a WMG song in your youtube video?  It'll be taken down.  Upload a WMG song to youtube by itself?  Gone.  These guys really get marketing and maximizing exposure for their artists.  They really understand the ways technology is changing the music industry and they are clearly embracing the future.  Yep, WMG is a pretty great company to hitch your wagon to, Roadrunner.

But seriously, Roadrunner is currently home to some of the best names in rock and metal, and moving to WMG seems to me to be a horrible decision.  WMG is the definition of a mainstream label, and this move will only decrease Roadrunner's independence and ability to take chances on promising unsigned acts.  You know with Warner at the helm only the safest, most mundane and "commercially-viable" artists will be signed to Roadrunner, and this is very disappointing to me.

Roadrunner currently represents bands such as Dream Theater, Opeth, Killswitch Engage, Korn, Machine Head, Megadeth, Rob Zombie, Stone Sour, Trivium, and yes, RATT.  I'll do an experiment here and post RATT's "Round and Round," mostly to see how long it takes before WMG takes it down on youtube, and partly because it's a kickass song. 

Ultimately, I'm disappointed here, but in this day and age record labels are becoming more and more of a useless middle man.  I firmly believe that in a few years, the giants will fall and the music industry will be propelled not by gigantic corporations and their marketing machines, but by artists and the quality of their music.  Time will tell.  Have a good weekend, readers.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Ten Years' "Shoot It Out" makes me furious

I was just back home in the Twin Cities for a week or so, and in about 2 total hours of listening to the local "active rock" radio station, I managed to hear "Shoot It Out" by Ten Years 4 or 5 times.  Then, upon return to Madison yesterday and tuning into WJJO, the song was played twice in an hour and a half.  The song is currently #12 and rising on Billboard's Rock Songs chart, and while I suppose I can see the appeal, the song makes me want to bash my head against the nearest hard surface every time I hear it.

Here's the song, with lyrics:

Here's why I rage at the song :
0:18 "You can be rest assured"  - No, you can't.  You can rest assured, you can be assured, you can even be rested, but you cannot "be rest assured."  Rest is already a verb, there is no need for the word "be." This line already makes me think: "oh man, I'm listening to a song written by a total idiot" before I even get to the refrain.

0:28 "They feed and they suck until you're unconscious / it's never enough they kill your subconscious"  - Did he just rhyme unconscious with subconscious?  Come on, man!  That's such lazy songwriting!  How bout a sweet Biblical reference instead like "they feed ya to the wolves they're just like Pontius."  Anything but rhyming a word with itself!  Why my phone's not ringing off the hook with songwriting requests I have no idea. 
Note the TWO guys with mohawks - clearly hardcore.

0:36 "I'm ready to dieeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"  - This line comes off so whiny and emo that I almost wish he'd go ahead and die rather than sing about his feelings.  If you're gonna be a heavy band and try and pass yourselves off as heavy metal, don't cry about your feelings in a whiny little voice in the middle of your song. 

My criticism of the chorus section is similar to that of the "I'm ready to dieeeeeeeeeeeeee" whine, as it essentially expounds upon said pre-chorus teaser line. 

I have to hand it to them, though.  The riff in this song is awesome, and is the only thing that keeps me from turning the radio dial.  Ten Years has managed to write a song that makes me tap my foot to the riff and seethe with righteous indignation at the idiotic lyrics at the same time, and that, readers, is an accomplishment in and of itself.  Good job, Ten Years, you have caused a war between my ears and my brain, and they're locked in a stalemate.

Like the song?  Hate the song?  Well, you'll be hearing it twenty times a day on the radio for the next few weeks either way.  Happy Thursday. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November...

Before I begin, I'd like to officially state that I will begin to make Wednesdays my official day to make a guest post, so if you like my posts, be sure to check in Wednesday nights, and if you hate my posts, at least there's still six other days! :D

Unfortunately, I do not own a copy of V For Vendetta, so I was not able to celebrate Guy Fawkes day properly last Friday. In honor of Guy Fawkes Day coming and going, I present you with a random assortment of top five (five for the Fifth, it's clever!) lists relating to Rock and Metal. I will post comments on the choices and list that I feel need comments, otherwise I mere list my choices. As always, I welcome your own lists/variations of mine in the comment box. After writing my lists and running out of ideas for more lists, I realized that I conjured up five lists, staying true to the 5 theme! Go me!
For the tl;dr version of this article--because this article ended up being pretty damn long--look for the double asterisks (**) surrounding the title of each list and scan the beginning sentence of each number for my picks.

**Top Five best album covers: I had a bugger of a time uploading and resizing images for some reason, so I truly apologize for the random placement and sizes of the images.**
1. Pantera - Vulgar Display of Power: PUNCH! This one speaks for itself.

2. Alice in Chains - Greatest Hits: See #1, I just like Pantera's better. *shrug*

3. Amon Amarth - Twilight of the Thunder God: Viking + glowing hammer + dragon + thunderstorm = Metal

4. Iron Maiden - Stranger In a Strange Land (single): I was originally going to pick the Killers album, but that one is already extremely popular. Eddie just looks bad ass in this one.

5. Megadeth - Youthanasia: Lol, babies.

**Five best names for a band: whether I found them funny or just thought they sounded good or they were just a good "fit," here they are.**
1. Eagles of Death Metal - hilarity value for defying genre
2. Job For a Cowboy - hilarity value for defying genre
3. Sonata Arctica - sounds cool and is a good fit for their music style
4. The Rolling Stones - this one cracked me up when I was a young lad, though now I generally detest band NAMES (not actual bands) who have "The ____(e)s" as their name.
5. Cannibal Corpse - om nom nom

**Top five bands deserving a spot in the R&R Hall of Fame (if I were the commissioner or whatever):**
1. Rush
2. Deep Purple - many incarnations, many extremely talented musicians.
3. Alice Cooper - the God of Stage Theatrics, which made for even better shows.
4. KISS - not the biggest fan of their music aside from ~4 songs, but they are, by all accounts, rock gods, even if they are riddled with lawsuits and inner turmoil.
5. Rush - again...just because they're a "nerdy band" and not a female fave does not exclude their record sales and personal achievements alongside spectacular composition. Get Pop Music's dick out of your mouth, Hall!

**Top five underrated albums by five not-so-underrated bands:**
1. Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell: Of course Paranoid is probably their best album, I would, beyond a shadow of a doubt, put RJD's debut with the band at #2. All I have to say to disbelievers is to listen to the title track, which is probably currently my favorite song of any singer's era.

2. Judas Priest - Angel of Retribution: I feel this album is criminally underrated, because most Priest fans are in their 40s and are too ignorant to give the band's new work a solid try with blurting "NOT AS GOOD AS SAD WINGS/STEEL/VENGEANCE!" This album has fantastic slow, medium and fast paced songs, and it marked the long-awaited return of Rob Halford! Give Judas Rising, Hellrider, Worth Fighting For and Angel a listen.

3. Megadeth - Youthanasia: You may remember this album being mentioned earlier in the greatest covers list. Being a 1990s Metal album, this one is often quickly brushed over as being bad for not staying true to the Thrash sound. I would not call this album thrash by any stretch of the word, but it's a great straight-up Metal album. I would also go so far as to say that behind Rust in Peace, this is Megadeth's best 90s album--even beating out Countdown to Extinction. Hint: A Tout Le Monde is on this album, but this is only one of the great songs! Try Train of Consequences, I Thought I Knew it All and Family Tree.

4. Iron Maiden - Dance of Death: I would argue that all of Maiden's 2000-2009 efforts are underrated, but this one always seems to be near the bottom of other fans' lists of favorite Maiden albums. If you skip the fairly bland and uninteresting open track, this album is a start-to-finish masterpiece, with the shining examples being the title track, Paschendale, Face in the Sand and Journeyman.

5. Alice in Chains - Dirt: If you're looking for the true AiC experiences, then the greatest hits record (mentioned above) is still probably your best bet, but the less popular "filler" songs on Dirt are tragically forgotten by most fans. I won't mention the songs that get regular air play on radios (I love these songs, but you already know about them), but the title track, Hate to Feel and God Smack stay true to the classic sound of the band and are great listens.

**Top five Metal movies/videos/documentaries/concerts-on-film:"
1. Heavy Metal in Baghdad: finally a documentary about the Middle East I could relate to! There's literally millions of sob stories from American/European bands having a tough time starting out, but were any of these bands endangering themselves by play Metal? Acrassicauda, the focus band of the rockumentary, had a strong underground following, but could never truly evolve, being formed smack-dab in war-torn, heavily oppressed Baghdad. On top of that, their music was considered an affront to Islam and Saddam Hussein's rule by officials, causing the band to call themselves a Rock and Roll band AND to be forced to write a song praising Hussein as their leader. I lost a lot of sympathy for other bands when I watched how hard these guys worked and what they sacrificed to play the music they loved and the lengths they went to even acquire albums by the like of Slayer and Metallica.

2. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster: at the end of this movie, I was really shocked the band let some of the footage stay in the movie! This is a very ugly side of the three remaining members that is shown, and it's just a straight-up human story in probably the band's darkest era (both emotionally and in terms of quality of music). Just as important was the fact that several of my questions were answered by this movie (I can't recall any off the top of my head, but I do remember saying "ahhh" and "ohhh" a lot when learning something). I would recommend this mostly for fans of the band, obviously, but even non-fans can enjoy the human emotional element of the rockumentary.

3. This is Spinal Tap: if I hadn't watched this movie a second time, there is no way it would have made my list. On my first viewing, I laughed probably once (at the mini-Stonehenge), and thought the movie was overrated, on my second viewing, the movie just triggered my hilarity unit. Realizing that this mockumentary isn't as fictional as it seems considering some of the shit you see/read about along with some of the sill shit makes this movie a classic. If you're like me and didn't enjoy as much as you should have on your first view, I advise that you give it another try.

4. Flight 666: Canadian director Sam Dunn will be rounding out this list at #4 and #5. I automatically knew this would be a "good" documentary, since it focused on Iron Maiden (/fanboy), but this rockumentary--no, I never get tired of that word--flawlessly melds concert footage with off-stage footage and short bits of interviews, while also blending the tribulations of one of the most popular global Metal bands and the hilarious antics of the band members (especially drummer Nicko McBrain). If you're in the range of casual fan to fanboy, this movie will be both informative and awesome. Highlights include some of the best live performances of Aces High, Hallowed, and Rime.

5. Metal: A Headbanger's Journey: probably my first Metal documentary, this one truly opened the doors of the genre to me. Upon seeing this movie, I was at the beginning stages of being a Metal fan, and I don't think any other documentary could have covered the entire musical genre of Metal, the culture of the genre, the controversy and the stereotypes of the genre. If you're a beginner Metalhead, I recommend this movie over all the others--highly informative! Even if you're deeply involved with the genre, it's still good to use this movie as a refresher and to see a lot of your favorite musicians speak about their genre of music.

As always, I welcome your own interpretations of my lists, as well as another topic worthy of a top five list.

Keep on rockin' in a free world!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's election time, bitches! Again!

With as broad of a genre as Metal, you will often find clashes of ideas, opinions, and Titans. The beauty of these debates is that no one can ever prove themselves right! Just think about it, there's no objective way of proving that, say, the Beatles are better than Ke$ha. More record sales? That doesn't prove shit. Soulja Boi has sold an exponential amount more records than Bad Company, so are they technically better? Don't even try.

Below you will find your ballot for the Metal Election '10 containing some of the fiercest rivalries in Metal and Rock (hint: if you are reading this, you MUST vote! Post your ballot in the comment box below.) Divided in two halves, the first half gives you a few choices, allowing you to pick one of the choices, but if you really feel strong for another candidate, you may also leave an answer blank or write in an answer (please provide a short defense). Please remember that this is all opinionated and as music enthusiasts, we must be open to other peoples' opinions, but you must also not be a pussy and choose not to vote! Stand your ground and man up! Starting off, we ask you one of the oldest questions in Metal:

Thrash Kings: Metallica v Megadeth

Best rock band producer: America v United Kingdom

Best metal band producer: America v United Kingdom

1990's Metal Torch Bearer (who kept Metal alive in the 90s): Pantera v Alice in Chains

Metal's worst offspring: Glam Metal v Rap Metal

Hard Rock's biggest D-bag (personality wise, not a talent contest): Axl Rose v Gene Simmons

British Band (metal): Judas Priest v Iron Maiden

British Band (rock): The Beatles v The Rolling Stones

Metal Pioneers (who had the bigger influence on the genre, all things considered?): Black Sabbath v Led Zeppelin

Venue for a show (in warm temperatures, but factoring in unpredictable weather): Outside v Inside

Sabbath Singer (talent/style): Ozzy v Dio

Solo Career: Ozzy v Dio

Best joke/comedy band: Spinal Tap v Dethklok

Best awesomely terrible vocalist: Lemmy Kilmister v Dave Mustaine

Now, these next questions are all write-ins, but feel free to choose only the ones you wish to answer. Please try to stay within the genre of hard rock and metal for these polls--this is a metal blog, after all:

Most underrated band:

Most overrated band:

Most overplayed song:

Your personal favorite band:

Wipe one band from the history books and all of existence:

Favorite album from the favorite band mentioned above:

Most metal moment (in the musicians' lives/shows):

Best stage show:

Satanic Necromancy Ritual, bring one Metalhead back from the dead:

Best non-American/British producer of metal bands (country):

Best singer/songwriter/guitarist/etc. (all in one person, I mean, this one may also extend the entire genre of Rock):

Best debut album (once again, you may include any rock band for this question):

Metal's brightest hope for the future (best new [not nu] metal band):

Your prediction for next metal band inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame (even if it isn't until 2083):

I could go on forever, but these are the questions that came to my mind immediately. If you have some juicy debate topics you would like to add to the ballot, feel free to do so! Just a reminder that if you're reading this article then you MUST cast your vote! Vote or die motherfucker, motherfucker vote or die!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Gone Hunting

Well, the first weekend in November is coming around again, and that means it's time for me to head north, about 8 hours north, and shoot some animals.  As you might expect there's not exactly a lot of high speed internet up there, so there unfortunately won't be any new posts for about a week.  Maybe we'll get another post by Matt.

On a more substantive note, I may have discovered an awesome band today in Bolt Thrower.   They're a melodic death metal band that draws heavily on Warhammer 40k for their lyrics.  I have to listen to more of their stuff, but "No Guts, No Glory" is promising.  Nice riffage and vocals that aren't entirely unintelligible.  See what you think:

Have a good week, folks.  I'll let you know if I get anything.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday News Roundup

Hello again, hope everyone had a happy and unproductive Halloween weekend.  Today I thought I'd cover a little of everything in a wrapup of last week/weekend's news. 

Limewire Shut Down For Good
Remember Limewire?  That program you used in junior high to download songs and get your computer infected with spyware, trojans, and porn adware until it was essentially useless and you had to wipe the drive and start again?  Well, last week the RIAA succeeded in getting Limewire shut down for good, three years after everyone stopped using it.

To date, the Recording Industry Association of America has spent over $64 million suing people for filesharing, collecting a whopping $1.3 million in the process.  Way to go, guys.  Your business model is 10 years behind the curve, and you're wasting time in court instead of figuring out a way to make your industry viable again.  Best of luck to you, and happy trails, Limewire.  You'll be missed by all of the 12 year old girls that haven't learned how to torrent their Miley Cyrus songs yet.

James LaBrie Cancels Solo Tour
Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie is canceling his upcoming solo tour, citing trouble acquiring work visas for some of the crew as the cause of the cancellation.  I suspect low ticket sales may have been the real reason, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.  Most Dream Theater fans would agree that LaBrie's vocals are the weak point of the band, and the few times I've tried to introduce someone to their music, their first reaction is to recoil in fear at the sound of his voice. 

Stone Temple Pilots Working on New Album
The Stone Temple Pilots say they are working on a new record and plan to release it "very soon."  Drummer Eric Kretz says the band is "looking at putting out another record next year or touring some more and trying new ideas of how to present music, especially for downloading." I'm a big fan of bands releasing material in new ways, such as Radiohead's "pay what you want" model on their last record, and Nine Inch Nails' "Ghosts" release, which used a tiered value system for downloads beginning with a small set of songs for free, going up to a $700 box set (all of which sold out in a weekend, netting the band nearly $700,000 from box sets alone).  Hopefully STP experiments with something similar.

Big Four Live DVD Releases Tomorrow!
That's right, the Big Four live DVD from the show in Sofia, Bulgaria this summer will be released in stores tomorrow, Nov. 2nd.  I'll be picking up a copy, just as soon as I have disposable income.  You should too, it's gonna be sick.  Now if they'd only do a Big Four US Tour...

That's your news for the day, have a metal evening and go Rangers.