Echobrain - Echobrain (Chophouse)
So Jason Newsted quits Metallica, the biggest Rock band on the planet today. Some said it was due to the refusal of Messers Ulrich and Hetfield to allow him to use tunes he penned himself. Too heavy, it was supposedly said. When news broke that he was forming a new band, people sat up and took note. Echobrain; kinda has a Voivod tag to it. Cool, folk said. Maybe he'll make the album Metallica are afraid to make, we asked ourselves.
Alas, no. "Echobrain" is, for those expecting "Kill 'em all" meets "Beneath the Remains", a huge disappointment. Not metal. I repeat, NOT metal. This comes across like the Foo Fighters jamming with Queens of the Stone Age at 4am in the morning. First track up 'Colder World' has the strangest drum beat to it, almost out of sync with the rest of the instruments. 'Spoonfed' is kinda groovy, a bluesy riff boogying throughout. 'Adrift' boasts acoustic guitars aplenty, with violins dancing merrily in the background, while 'I drank you' comes across as a late 60's hippy-trip straight outta the love-fields of San Francisco. Get the picture?
The two musicians Newsted has hooked up with, Dylan Donkin, vocals, guitar, and Brian Sagrafena on drums are excellent, they really know their stuff and together have produced an album that, while isn't bad in it's own right, will be not be appreciated by Metallifans the world over.
Down - Down II, a bustle in your hedgerow (Elektra)
The New Orleans 'super group' featuring members of Pantera, Corrosion of Conformity and Eyehategod return with this, their follow-up to the highly successful "Down" album released way back in 1995. And where I must admit not to have been taken with that previous release, I gotta say I think this rocks.
Album opener 'Lysergik Funeral Procession' erupts with nasty feedback and the kind of riff they use in construction sites before the lines "Pray to someone/I'm going out of my head" are spat forth. You can almost taste the weed and whiskey. Phil Anselmo's vocals here are incredible; in fact I would dare they are more convincing than on the last Pantera record. See the organ riddled 'Stained glass cross', or 'New Orleans is a dying whore'.
In fact, with several spins of this album, you can tell that the band had a blast making this record, you can just imagine what the atmosphere was like when they recorded the Zeppelin-influenced "Lies, I don't know what they say but …". I am not American but I use the term 'awesome' with conviction here. Yes, it's worth owning this album, simply because it sounds nothing like the crop of other metal albums out there today. It has soul. And if that's not enough for ya, then the riff at the end of 'There's something on my side' has got to be heard to be believed.
Motörhead - Hammered (SPV)
We all love Motorhead. Doesn't matter if you're a punk, hardcore or a metalhead, everyone's got a favourite Motorhead song, if not album. Personally I adore 'Another Perfect Day', yes, even over their classic 'Ace of Spades'. In my view, nothing they have recorded since even comes close, and the same must be said for "Hammered", their 17th studio release.
More of a trashy, rock n' roll record than a rock album, as soon as opener 'Walk a crooked mile' sleazes through your speakers you know what you're in for. Gone is the rawness, the Punkiness of earlier releases, gone is Lemmy's big distorted bass (more like a buzz in the background) this is the new Motorhead for the 21st Century, and why not, I guess? This IS Motorhead, after all.
However, as typical of newer Motorhead albums, "Hammered" has both good and crap tracks, 'Down the line', 'Brave new World' and 'Voices from the war' being the good, 'Dr Love', 'Mine all mine' and the really terrible 'Shut your mouth' being the bad. And consequently, me thinks that Motorhead need to revitalise themselves if they are to be taken seriously again, and by that I mean not going through the mill by releasing the same old albums year after year yet remaining famous for songs released twenty years ago. If anything, "Hammered" unfortunately proves this all too well.
NOFX/Rancid - BYO Split Series (BYO)
Two of the greatest punk artists recording each other's songs, a great idea (who would love to hear Slayer decimate some Metallica, anyone?) and one that works quite well, when all's said and done.
NOFX blast their way thru 'I'm the one', Olympia WA', 'Tenderloin', 'Antennae's', 'Corozon de Dro' and 'Radio' respectively, the latter a reggae-fuelled jiving bitch of a tune. Rancid, meanwhile, stamp their mark on such classics as 'Moron Bros', 'Stickin' in my eye', 'Bob', 'Don't call me white' (a horrible version, alas), 'Brews' and 'Vanilla sex'.
There's nothing original here, but if you like both bands, as a curiosity it's worth checking out.
Decapitated - Nihility (Earache)
Hot on the heels of Poland's Vader come Decapitated, four teenage upstarts who many see as the usurpers to the death metal throne. Sorry, but I can't see it. Sure, they're excellent musicians, fast and as tight as fuck, but it all means nothing if you don't have a good tune to your name. Tracks like 'Eternity too short' and 'Mother War' sound great, but dig deeper and there's nothing there you haven't heard a thousand times before on a thousand other DM albums. Even album closer 'Symmetry of Zero' blatantly rips off Cannibal Corpse, for shame!
There is hope, however. 'Babylon's Pride' shows promise, and, more importantly, song structure that is sadly missing on the bulk of the complex 'Nihility'. Perhaps I'm being too critical here, after all this is only their second album, but in a world where we have the likes of Nile, Vader and Morbid Angel to name but three, I personally think it's a tad premature to say Decapitated are 'saviours of death metal'.
December - The Lament Configuration (Earache)
Noisy gits December have made quite a name for themselves in the States, primarily due to porn entrepreneur Matt Zane playing their stuff before filming anal sex scenes. One can see why any actress would 'get into it', as it were, for December are surely one of the most brutal extreme acts out there today. One play of the track 'Vertigo' alone is guaranteed to leave you shell-shocked and have you reaching for the STOP button so you can catch your breath.
Reminding this listener of UK nutcases Annal Nathrakh for sheer intensity, December basically grab you by the scruff of the neck and drag you kicking and screaming into their world of pain. Believe me, it ain't pretty. One for audio-masochists only.
Insision - Beneath the folds of flesh (Earache/Wicked World)
White noise from Sweden. That's pretty much all you need to know about Insision. This album is your standard affair - a gut-bursting death metal album loaded with layer upon layer of brutal, pounding beats and grunted, "I've been kicked in the balls real hard" vocals. These bastards have landed and their making so much noise everyone is going to have to take notice.
Death metal may have come of age and gone through something of a renaissance period of late, with bands bringing in such diverse elements as melody. Insision laugh in the gore-splattered faces of these bands, turn away, and ignore them. These Swedish lunatics have stuck to the time honoured and tested death metal traditions. The guitar riff in 'Sado God' twists like a psycho let loose in the children's hospital. The blast beat drum attacks add fuel to this fury and urge on the onslaught. 'Temple of the flesh' comes equipped with a crunching, muted guitar breakdown before briefly ripping into a Kerry King-esque solo.
There's really little else to say about this. Just imagine every death metal album you've ever heard before, but with better drumming. If wall-of-noise, complex, growl like a grizzly bear with a poker up his hole metal is your thing then you could do worse. GGGGGGGGGRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Light Is The Language - The Void Falls Silent (Gladiator Records)
Light is the Language is an extremely powerful and tight metalcore act hailing from the swamps of Enfield, Connecticut. It's hard to pin down their sound (which is a good thing), but to say it is abrasive, complex and twisted is to do it justice. This is a band that's thought of something most metalcore acts haven't.
Opener, the eerie, spoken title track, sets a dark, pensive atmosphere that remains throughout. 'The Digital Wendingo VS the Little Guy' is perfect uneasy listening. The guitar work is unique and harsh, not just full-on white noise distortion for the sake of it. There is thought here. The lyrics are almost as brutal as the music. "You've bled for so long/now reconnect/I can't be anymore human that I already am", and "Can't you monsters take 30 seconds to protect yourselves before you start groping each other" being some choice examples.
"The Mating Habit of a Blind Misanthope" and "I was born a Vietnam Vet" are equally as crushing and disturbing. There is no let up until the outro of "Letter to the [R]evolution", another twisted piece of melancholy. A speech about the apocalypse, about a dead, dead world. A sign of things to come? I think so. Watch out for Light is the Language, they're going to be hard to miss.