Archive for Speed Metal

Preview: Heavy MTL 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2013 by Lightning Slim

And so the pilgrimage is set to begin again. Heavy MTL 2013 will (hopefully) be a good time that will rinse out the bad taste of encroaching cheapness that has overtaken the show of late. Main sponsor has switched from Budweiser to Molson Canadian, which is a bit like telling a captive that flogging has been discontinued in favour of foot-sole beatings.

Also, remember these?

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The beautiful holographic VIP passes and lanyards that have been a cool feature of the MTL experience are now gone. Paper tickets only. Wonder how MUNG those are going to get when we have to show them to security every time we want to get into the seating area? Also likely gone is any sort of physical schedule, which was slowly eroded from a full magazine/brochure until last year it was a single flyer, inaccurate and delivered late in the day.

For the first time, MTL has offered its own dedicated accommodation package; a set of rooms at the New Residence of McGill University (the building itself is a former 4-star hotel). This could either be the best decision we’ve ever made or the worst, as it is inexpensive and convenient, and populated entirely with heavy metal maniacs. You see the double edge of the sword here, no?

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Now, for the schedule. Here’s Saturday:

Sat Schedule

 

Although I’m a little sad that A7X takes pride of place over Megadeth, I totally get it. Dudes are old and tired. Not as successful as Metallica or grass-roots respected as Testament. Plus, Dave Mustaine is like three seconds away from pulling his pants up to his armpits and turning into cranky old Republican Clint Eastwood. Thing is, Eastwood has always been a “good guy with a gun”, and never wrote “Hook In Mouth” or covered “Anarchy in the UK”.  My crew will be hanging with Wintersun anyways.

Why are we forced to decide between GWAR and Blackguard while Halestorm is in the free and clear? Grr. Ah well, I can’t resist seeing what the inconsistent Antarcticans* can come up with in a festival setting.

Similarly, it hurts me that I have to run from interesting proggers Baroness to see a few minutes of jaunty, parodic Steel Panther.

Sorry, Newsted. A reformed At The Gates takes it. And a possible train wreck reunion of Danzig and Doyle is way more fun than All Shall Perish.

How about Sunday?

Schedule Sun

No interruptions to the silly fun of Huntress! Or Finntroll! Or the-real-reason-everyone-is-here Amon Amarth! Me likey.

Then there’s some time for a Dagwood sandwich, some people watching and a bit of a nap before Machine Head.

Thrash newcomers Havok would be in trouble if both Mastodon and Children of Bodom hadn’t played Canada 150 times in the past decade. I swear I’ve seen Mastodon more than the Dayglo Abortions, and it’s well-known the Dayglos will play your living room for $200 and a pizza if you can track them down. Looking forward to it, Havok!

While I actually enjoyed the mellow vibe Godsmack brought to their last appearance at MTL, I don’t need it again. Certainly not at the expense of missing Cryptopsy.

Zombie is never bad live – let’s hope he keeps his record strong.

 

Will report back afterwards, of course! Check my Twitter feed for on-the-day shenanigans!

 

* I love GWAR, but they can’t self-edit. Every record (excepting the first two) has at least one excruciatingly bad track on it. I made a “worst of” playlist and discovered they could play an hour long full set of filler.

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Album Review – Overkill “The Electric Age” 2012

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , on April 12, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  Overkill have always had two faces; they are capable of some very grim, dark, European-style thrash but they can also bust out road-racing, crowd surfing, beer metal when they want. Ironbound was one heavy, serious act to follow, so the band wisely decided to avoid repeating themselves and try a different approach. As a result, The Electric Age is a fun, speedy, rocktacular ride  with little pretense, and solidly entertaining throughout.

Second track “Electric Rattlesnake” is a great example of what’s going on. The base tune is a standard three-minute Motorhead/Chrome Division ditty, but Blitz and company manage to stretch it out to Purple Zeppelin size by doing what they do best: putting in more bridges than the Army Corps of Engineers. It has a loose, bar-band feel to it, which carries through to the more succinct. “Wish You Were Dead”. Other highlights include “All Over but the Shouting” and “Old Wounds, New Scars” which declares the band has “got a lotta mouth for a Jersey white boy”. Truth!

Unlike its massive, majestic predecessor, which settles in for a heavy winter drinking session, The Electric Age charges up to the bar, does a line of shots, flips off the crowd and books it. Good times. 8 out of 10 

Album Review – Blackguard “Firefight” 2011

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , , on September 27, 2011 by Lightning Slim

   Blackguard* wear their Children of Bodom influences proudly and prominently on Firefight, with an often frenetic race between the guitar leads and a keyboard that wants to get in on that speedy riffing action. These French Canadian power/death merchants craft a piece of flattery so accurate it could be the missing CoB record, occasionally with a vitality that outshines their Finnish muses. There’s also a bit more industrial clank and gothy ambience to the orchestral sections, perhaps a legacy of the band’s beginnings as no-frills black metal outfit Profugus Mortis.

The speed never threatens Dragonforce, and the anger doesn’t have a patch on One Man Army. Rather, Firefight treads a pleasant if derivative middle path. There’s nothing specifically new here, but it’s well put together and easily digestible. You can up my score if you’re big into Bodom, for you folks it’s almost a must-have. 7 out of 10 

*I wonder if they pronounce it all oldey-timey like “Blaggard”

Classic Album Review – Annihilator “Alice in Hell” 1989

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , , on February 16, 2011 by Lightning Slim

  It would have been very interesting for the metal world had Jeff Waters accepted Dave Mustaine’s invitation to join Megadeth on any of the three occasions it was on offer over the years; his blistering guitar skills would have been right at home inside the speedy ‘Deth machine and likely inspired even more envious youths in the basements and garages of the world. The barrier is that Waters has never been one to subordinate his creative vision to anybody, and even now isn’t about to join anyone else’s band. He has always gone his own way, and for better or worse this has helped make Annihilator a well-kept secret for over 20 years. Back in ’89, however, his self-recorded debut Alice in Hell tuned a lot of heads, those of Roadrunner Records and Mustaine included.
 
Things begin with “Crystal Ann”, a bright, instrumental opener that is strong enough to stand on its own and doesn’t sound tacked-on, which is something of a lost art nowadays. Ann’s playtime is cut short by the arrival of main event “Alison Hell”, a sprawling, complicated Mercyful Fate-flavoured behemoth of terror. Actually, King Diamond would sound right at home on any of this material. Alas, what we get instead is Randy Rampage, who is terrible   unique gives it his all on vocals, eventually winning us over with his dedication to the cause,  if not the strength of his pipes. The other tracks are a bit more compact, but no less ferocious. “Burns Like a Buzzsaw Blade” contains more than its fair share of narm, but as previously discussed,  the attempt to write a sexy thrash number was a strange preoccupation of the genre’s early years (I blame WASP).
 
Eighties hangover notwithstanding, it’s all a beautiful, complex, over-the-top time capsule that certainly belongs in your library. Bargain hunters take note: Alice in Hell is available in a “Two From the Vault” configuration packaged with Never, Neverland, an album which is actually superior to its predecessor in every way except the one that counts: the ability to inspire nostalgia. The enthusiasm of the all-star crew tackling “Alison” at the Roadrunner United anniversary concert shows us just how fondly this record is remembered: as the first surprise salvo in Jeff Waters’ one-man war with the world. 8 out of 10

Classic Album Dual Review – Helloween “Keeper of the Seven Keys Parts 1 & 2” 1987/1988

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , on February 1, 2011 by Lightning Slim

  The tale of Keeper of the Seven Keys is one filled with contradictions. Firstly, the two records share a name but are not really concept albums – other than the big, epic penultimate tracks on each there is little conceptual continuity (a long journey with magical objects to be thrown into various abysses; might have read something like that somewhere before). The pair are also separated by songwriting and tone, with Part I (being the serious sibling) penned mostly by future Gamma Ray wizard Kai Hansen and Part II’s looser, bluesy feel due to the influence of second axeman Michael Weikath.

The Keepers are also at war with themselves, perhaps a natural consequence of heavy metal’s evolution at the time – there are parts of Seven Keys which are as hard and fast as period Anthrax, and parts which sound like Jem and the Holograms. Both records are as relentlessly upbeat as they are bombastic, laying the foundation of what we now know as Power Metal and embodying all the contradictions inherent in that genre. Complicated arrangements of unsubtle emotional triggers are the order of the day – a bag of tricks that will sound familiar to any post-reunion Iron Maiden fan. Michael Kiske’s soaring vocals and Hansen’s masterful guitar fireworks recount irony-free legends of rainbows and dragons, although Part II has a bit of Weikath’s levity thrown in to undercut the pompousness via boobs and beer* references in songs like “Rise and Fall” and “Dr. Stein”. These goofy experiments in no way detract from the onslaught of speedy mayhem; they simply act as a bonus to Part II’s ability to match its progenitor song for song, even upping the ante by incorporating the sing-along  feel of crowd-pleaser “A Little Time” into addictive head-banger “I Want Out”.

  It all seems a bit silly now on the surface, but track after track the discs defy any attempts at skipping, with the occasional bits of cheese turned into a full meal by the beef of superior musicianship and crisp production. No matter your opinions on the current state of Power Metal, the twin towers of Helloween’s youth contain too many hits to be ignored. Part I: 8 out of 10, Part II: 8.5 out of 10

*They are Germans, after all.

Classic Album Review – Megadeth “Rust in Peace” 1990

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , on July 7, 2010 by Lightning Slim

  This is a tough one. Rust in Peace is a record that gets by on what it represents rather than how it sounds right out of the box. It’s the pinnacle of early period Megadeth, the orbit-reaching third stage of the rocket that took off with Peace Sells and soared skyward with So Far, So Good…So What? It’s the logical conclusion of their straight-up non-ironic speed and thrash movement, when it was still OK to follow up a political antiwar track with some stuff about wizards.

RIP has some Top 20 Megadeth songs on it, but they’ve done better. It has a couple of dogs on it too, but they’ve done worse. What it really has in its favour is a bit of swagger (as the band finally feel comfortable in their own skins) and some fantastic guitar playing by Mustaine and Freidman both. At its release, it also had a bit of luck in terms of timing. Fans happily pummeled by …And Justice for All the year before were looking for something with a bit more flash, Maiden were entering the stagnant years and many folks just weren’t ready for this thing called GWAR yet. Into this gap of expectation rode Megadeth with the answer for the day. It was clear that while the material had not matured, the players most certainly had. 

Rust in Peace is always worth a spin in the car on a hot summer day, but it’s really just a proof-of-concept that the band made to show their label and the public that they were ready for success. The fact that it was so well received allowed them the time , the tools and the means to make Countdown to Extinction. For that, it has my thanks. 7 out of 10 

One word of caution: the 2004 remaster is a bone of contention for many. It features clearer basslines (yay), new untreated vocals from Dave (boo) and a general air of sterility that removes much of the grit (and I think, the fun) from the record. Your mileage may vary.

Album Review – Overkill “Ironbound” 2010

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , on March 3, 2010 by Lightning Slim

Even though I said they didn’t have it in them, I may yet stand corrected. Ironbound is quite an achievement, containing all the things we love about Overkill (lengthy thrash epics, self-mythologizing, active basslines, clever lyrics which manage to be about nothing in particular) blended with something that’s been missing from their repertoire for many years: Under the Influence.
 
Now, I’m not claiming that UTI is anyone’s favourite Overkill record, but it marked a certain change in the flavour of the Atlantic years, adding a bit of flashy sleaze, some brighter tones to the solos and a pinch of L.A. to the Brooklyn sound. Ironbound remains true to their last decade of ain’t-broke-don’t-fix heaviness, but with a nod of the head to the heyday of Headbanger’s Ball.
 
We know the band’s a riff factory par excellence, but it’s nice to see them give Linsk and Tailer some room to breathe and even get their Maiden on in parts. The emphasis here is on their confident technical mastery of the genre, and they let the fun part take care of itself. See if you can spot the breakdown from “Phantom Lord”!
 
Overkill have seemed reluctant to up the ante before, perhaps in the name of “being themselves”. Ironbound makes the leap, becoming their elusive grail of a record that pleases everyone without sacrificing any of the OK style. 9 out of 10

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